Today, the interests of Ukraine and Great Britain complement each other. The UK is convinced that the future vector of regional development largely depends on successful changes in Ukraine, so the official London actively supports these transformations. This opens opportunities for the official Kyiv to satisfy its own interests while interacting with the British partners. This is the conclusion of the analytical note “Audit of Foreign Policy: Ukraine-the UK,” presented at Ukrainian Crisis Media Center.
According to experts, at this stage, London is interested in resolving the Russian-Ukrainian conflict in compliance with international law; ensuring effective reforms by providing financial and technical assistance; transforming Ukraine into a reliable partner at the international level and maximizing bilateral trade.
Ukraine, for its part, is interested in maximizing Britain’s involvement in strengthening its defense capability and increasing pressure on the Russian Federation to implement the Minsk Agreements in line with the Ukrainian vision and de-occupation of Crimea; receiving diverse aid to implement reforms; London’s active position on the international scene, despite its exit from the EU, and the attraction of British investment.
Among potential risks is the UK’s likely failure to pursue an active foreign policy on the European continent against the backdrop of its exit from the EU. Under these conditions, Ukraine will have to consider the situation more carefully. Another risk is the official Kyiv’s failure to demonstrate the necessary progress in reforms, which will lead to “fatigue from Ukraine”, given the UK’s significant direct and indirect involvement in this process. In order to avoid such developments, it is desirable to perceive this assistance as an investment in Ukraine and to focus more on critical areas – anti-corruption and judicial reform.
The third threat is a likely radical revision of US policy towards Ukraine by the new presidential administration, which will compel London to make a choice to continue the current course towards Ukraine or to change it in favor of Washington. According to experts, the official Kiev should appeal to the UK’s declared desire to continue playing an active role in Europe despite the Brexit, and use the relationship with the UK as an additional channel to communicate with the White House.
The first recommendation is to broaden Britain’s engagement in counteraction to Russia’s aggression. “Ukraine must look for standard and non-standard ways to attract the United Kingdom. The potential for such engagement exists and I belong to optimists who believe that even in the post-Brexit world, Britain’s role will be key to Ukraine’s security, because the UK’s sanctions against Russia may outweigh the sanctions of dozens of other European countries,” said Serhii Solodkyi, First Deputy Director, Institute of World Policy.
The second recommendation is to intensify the inter-parliamentary dialogue, although now it is quite active. “The last big visit was in October 2016. It is of interest that the visit was to the liberated territories in the east of Ukraine, and that the British deputies widely used the information they got in their report on the prospects of British-Russian relations and that the conclusions proposed in this report are in line with the Ukrainian national interests,” said Mykola Bielieskov, research fellow, Institute of World Policy. He also noted that thanks to MP Svitlana Zalishchuk’s meeting with the UK Prime Minister Theresa May before her visit to the United States, the British Prime Minister recognized it necessary to convince Washington that sanctions against Russia for the aggression against Ukraine cannot be canceled unless adequate progress is made in resolving the conflict.
IWP analysts also advise to develop a clear scale for the success of reforms; intensify interaction with opinion leaders to counter hybrid threats from Russia, in particular disinformation through the British media; develop cooperation with London to counteract money laundering; start negotiations on mutual trade without an Association Agreement, in order to be prepared for the post-Brexit interaction in the economic sphere.
Great Britain is also recommended to simplify the visa regime given this step has already been taken for a number of other countries – China, Oman, UAE. It is also desirable to organize a visit of the Prime Minister of Great Britain to Ukraine, as the 20-year break does not serve the declared strategic nature of our relations.
According to Judith Gough, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United Kingdom to Ukraine, “Brexit” will not worsen relations between the countries. “I don’t believe that Brexit will affect the UK’s relationship with Ukraine. And I think there is enough evidence to show that already: after the referendum, there were more ministerial visits to your country than before it. We may be leaving EU, but we are not leaving the European continent. Ukraine is a European country, Ukraine’s security is Europe’s security. You faced a very difficult aggressor, and we will continue to support Ukraine. (…) trough military training, technical assistance with reforms, humanitarian assistance to help those affected by conflict, through diplomatic support,” said the Ambassador.
Judith Gough noted that the intergovernmental conference on Ukrainian reforms, which will take place on July 6 in London, aims to attract global attention to Ukraine’s successes and consolidate international support around it. “We are very concerned that the news about Ukraine in the international media was largely negative. If you are reading about Ukraine, you are reading about conflict and crisis, you’re reading about corruption. But actually, there is a very positive story here that people need to understand: that over the past 3 years Ukraine has made more progress on the reform agenda than any previous government,” stressed Her Excellency. She emphasized that Ukraine should continue reforms persistently, decisively and enthusiastically. “Ukraine’s best defense against the outside destabilization and malignant forces is to have strong institutions and to tackle corruption … and to show that you’re a European country, sharing our values and our principles,” said Mrs. Ambassador.
According to Svitlana Zalishchuk, MP of Ukraine, today Britain is Ukraine’s most powerful ally in Europe; cooperation between parliamentarians of both countries and support of Ukraine by the British Parliament are maintained at a very high level. “Since 2014 the British parliamentarians in the PACE have played a decisive role in imposing sanctions on the Russian delegation. Actually, all the toughest resolutions against Russia were initiated and supported by Great Britain. […]. We can also mention the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, the OSCE, and the UN,” she recalled.
Volodymyr Khandohii, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Ukraine to the United Kingdom (2010-2014), President of Ukrainian Foreign Policy Association, reminded some interesting moments from the history of establishing relations between Ukraine and Great Britain, which indicate that their support to Ukraine has always been considerable. At the same time, he stressed the need to return to discussing the Budapest Memorandum. “In my opinion, the United Kingdom did not take full advantage of the possibilities of the Memorandum at the beginning of the Russian aggression against Ukraine. […] I think we should reconsider this issue and think how we can revitalize this document, which is absolutely necessary as of today,” he emphasized.
Commenting on economic cooperation, Vasyl Myroshnychenko, Director and Head of the Ukrainian office of the Ukrainian-British City Club, reminded that today the commodity turnover between the countries is about $2 billion. Potentially it could be larger. The same is true of British investments in Ukraine, which also reach $2 billion. In particular, it is desirable to stimulate the export of goods with value added. He also agreed with the recommendation to develop a mechanism to replace the FTA, which will cease after the Britain exits the EU. “I think that the Ukrainian government should begin to raise this issue for discussion with the British government. Currently, this issue is not topical to Britain, because they should rather decide on how to structure the exit [from the EU]. However, I do not see any unpredictable circumstances under which the effect of the FTA will cease after Britain’s exit,” noted Vasyl Myroshnychenko.