Georgia and The Stakes For Ukraine

By Victor Yushchenko
Monday, August 25, 2008

KYIV, Ukraine -- The conflict in Georgia revealed problems that extend well beyond our region. Recent events have made clear how perilous it is for the international community to ignore "frozen conflicts." The issues of breakaway regions in newly independent states are complex; too often, they have been treated as bargaining chips in geopolitical games. But such "games" result in the loss of human lives, humanitarian disasters, economic ruin and the collapse of international security guarantees.

Ukraine has become a hostage in the war waged by Russia. This has prompted Ukrainian authorities and all of our country's people, including those living in the Crimea, to ponder the dangers emanating from the fact that the Russian Black Sea fleet is based on our territory.

The tragic events in Georgia also exposed the lack of effective preventive mechanisms by the United Nations, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and other international organizations.

We in Ukraine hope that the Russian Federation will heed the opinion of the global community so that the issues at hand can be settled through negotiations. We want an end to the looting and destruction of Georgian infrastructure. We must do everything possible to prevent provocations and avoid further massacres.

The ongoing conflict between Russia and Georgia affects my country's interests. Military operations have taken place close to our borders, and the Russian Black Sea fleet was directly involved. The question of Ukraine's national security was acutely raised. Given the activities of the Russian fleet, I had to issue a decree regulating its functioning on the territory of Ukraine.

Under these circumstances, Ukraine could not stay silent. We, along with other nations, engaged to seek resolution of the conflict. From the first day of hostilities, Ukraine called for an immediate cease-fire by all parties and dispatched humanitarian aid to victims regardless of their ethnicity.

Ukraine upheld its firm support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia.

On Aug. 12, I, together with my colleagues from the three Baltic states and Poland, visited Tbilisi. Our proposals seeking a solution to the conflict were in harmony with the European Union settlement plan. We highly praise the efforts of the United States and the E.U. presidency, led by the French, to achieve a cease-fire. Their actions proved efficient in putting a halt to war and bloodshed.

Ukraine favors a wider international representation in the peacekeeping force in the conflict area. A new multilateral format mandated by the United Nations or the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe is the only way to guarantee security in the conflict zone.

I strongly hope that that plan will be strictly implemented by the conflicting parties. We are ready to join international efforts to provide relief and help victims resume their peaceful lives. Ukraine also stands ready to take part in the U.N. or OSCE missions by sending peacekeepers.

It is clear that in addition to the political dimensions of issues involving breakaway regions, we need to cope with the social and economic aspects of this phenomenon. Many of these provinces are beyond the control of the respective governments or the international community. In many cases, the absence of monitoring has turned these territories into havens for smuggling as well as illegal trafficking in arms, people and drugs. Corruption and human-rights abuses are rampant. These areas are marked by their lack of democratic electoral procedures and their unfree or biased media. The ethnic dimension of the problem is often exaggerated to help conceal the criminal practices.

Moreover, an area home to such activities poses a threat to the prosperity and development of adjacent nations. Official authorities are compelled to counter attacks from separatist paramilitaries. But they are not always successful. Before large-scale combat erupted in Georgia, Russian peacekeepers failed to prevent the shelling of Georgian territory by South Ossetian separatists. Indeed, that activity intensified in the days before the greater conflict.

This weekend Ukraine celebrated the anniversary of its independence. This conflict has proved once again that the best means of ensuring the national security of Ukraine and other countries is to participate in the collective security system of free democratic nations, exemplified today by NATO. In accordance with national legislation and its foreign policy priorities, Ukraine will continue following the path of Euro-Atlantic integration. This is the path of democracy, freedom and independence.

The writer is president of Ukraine.


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