Speech by Minister for Defence Peter Hultqvist at the Ukrainian seminar, Yalta European Strategy/Viktor Pinchuk Foundation
Munich, 15 February 2020
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Thank you, Dr. Richard Haass, for organising this meeting and thank you for your invitation.
I am of course honoured to take part in this seminar and discussion again. At the same time, it is with great regret that I come back to the MSC six years after Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and once more I am reminded of the fact that the conflict in Donbas is still going on and Crimea is still illegally annexed by Russia. So, the pleasure of meeting you aside, I wish we did not have to have this conversation.
However, let me start by saying that my country’s position on the situation in Ukraine remains very clear and at the same time very firm:
The illegal annexation of Crimea and the Russian aggression in Donbas (alongside the war in Georgia in 2008) are the greatest threats to the existing European Security order since the end of the cold war. Furthermore, they are clear examples of how a country that perceives itself as a great power thinks itself entitled to a sphere of influence where it can act at its will.
I have said this before here in Munich: we cannot allow the illegal annexation of Crimea and the Russian aggression in Donbas to become a status quo. This cannot be written in our history books as something which just happened.
For that reason, international support for Ukrainian territorial integrity and sovereignty, within its internationally recognized borders, is central. Not only to Ukraine but to all of us, and to the credibility of the European security architecture.
Furthermore, a successful Ukraine is an effective way to meet Russia’s challenges to the European security order. Promoting and supporting Ukrainian reforms is therefore also of key importance.
I welcome the constructive approach shown by president Zelensky. His determination to bring the conflict in Donbas closer to a resolution provides grounds for optimism.
The confidence-building measures agreed at the Normandy Summit in December are a step in the right direction.
While the Ukrainian ambition to seek solutions is admirable, we must also keep in mind the importance of all parties now honouring their commitments.
We must maintain international pressure on Russia to fulfil the Minsk agreements and to end the illegal annexation of Crimea.
The conflict started with violations of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. A solution to the conflict in eastern Ukraine depends on Moscow. We cannot allow that the constructive Ukrainian approach to be exploited and used as a way for Russia to move its positions further forward or to remain idle. So far, we have not seen Russian willingness to live up to its commitments under Minsk (withdrawal of mercenaries, control of the state border, unlimited access of OSCE SMM to non-government controlled areas etc). Instead Russia is further aggravating the problems, for example by issuing Russian passports to inhabitants of the territories not controlled by the Ukrainian government.
Now that we have a grave situation in Europe where the rulebook – I am talking about the European security order – is being challenged by one large country. In this situation the single most important factor for us is unity. European and transatlantic unity in meeting and confronting the Russian challenges is absolutely paramount.
We must not accept, directly or indirectly, the use of military violence as a political tool to interfere in other countries in Europe in the 21st century. The respect for the principles of the European Security Order, enshrined in Helsinki and Paris, must be restored.
I would also caution against some ideas currently circulating on regional consultation mechanisms between the great powers, while excluding the countries concerned. There can be no talk of spheres of influence, buffer zones, inequal right to sovereignty and territorial integrity. There can be no states “in between”.
One obvious measure from our side is to assure that the EU sanctions remain in place. They should not be allowed to be lifted nor eased until full implementation of the Minsk agreements.
Let me also say a few words about the OSCE.
As you know, Sweden will assume the chairmanship of the OSCE in 2021. We will focus on OSCE core business and our commonly agreed principles and commitments. The European Security Order and the concept of comprehensive security including democracy, human rights and equal rights for all, will feature high on our agenda. Likewise, we will continue the important efforts aimed at conflict-resolution in the OSCE area.
Dear friends, maintaining our existing security architecture and the commonly agreed European Security Order – as enshrined in the Helsinki Final Act and the Charter of Paris – is a core security policy interest for Sweden and, I believe, our whole region. The right of states to territorial integrity and sovereignty, and to freely choose their own security arrangements is not negotiable.
For that reason, what happens in Ukraine concerns us all. It concerns all European countries, including my own. Sweden is a medium-sized European country that has chosen to be militarily non-aligned. It goes without saying that what has happened in Ukraine is an intimidating scenario. That the illegal annexation of Crimea and the intervention in Donbas have been going on for six whole years puts European stability in peril.
This is not only about the fate of two parts of Ukraine. This is about our core values, our freedom, our sovereignty, our prosperity and our democracy.
Thank you for your attention.