By Sergiy Gerasymchuk, Project Coordinator, Foreign Policy Council “Ukrainian Prism”.
Events, which happened at the beginning of October 2016 confirmed that the trend of recent months, when the dominant topics on international agendas were safety and finding ways to guarantee it, is still valid. The crisis in Syria, which caused the waves of migration and the failure of international players to join efforts to overcome existing threats are foremost among the major security challenges. Furthermore, international fragmentation is continuing to increase.
The Ukrainian question is again in the spotlight, due to the aggravation of US-Russian relations and the crisis in Syria. What does this hold for Ukraine?
Syria is one of the key issues on the international agenda
Despite US and Russian attempts to find common ground on resolving the conflict in Syria, the parties seem to be unable to agree on their actions in Syria. Negotiations are deadlocked. Now Washington and Moscow are exchanging ultimatums. According to John Kerry, measures to resolve the crisis in Syria will continue, despite the fact that Russia and the US stopped negotiations on joint work in this direction on Monday 3 October.
It is expected that EU foreign ministers will meet to discuss their own measures to resolve the crisis in Syria on the October 17. Europeans are concerned. According to some European diplomats, Russia uses the tactics in Aleppo, which were previously used in Grozny (Chechnya). The goal is the total destruction of the opposition.
Meanwhile, Russia has deployed its own missile systems S-300 at a military base in Tartus. In addition, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that the US withdrawal from negotiations indicated a US desire to shift the blame for the talks’ failure to the Russians. On the eve of the termination of negotiations, Russian President also said that Moscow has terminated the agreement on the recycling of enriched plutonium. This is a signal that in talks with the Americans Russia is ready to play the nuclear card and, moreover, to speculate on the question of the implementation of other issues related to nuclear disarmament.
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At the same time, according to a UN report released on October 5, the situation with supplies to the civilian population in Aleppo food and fuel is critical. Also the situation with access to water is critical. Over 50% of residents of the city would like to leave it at the first opportunity. The attack on pro-government Syrian city and Russian troops has led to such situation.
The aggravation of the situation in Syria is accompanied by a concomitant crisis in Turkish-Iraqi relations. On October 5 Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi warned Turkey, that the presence of Turkish troops in Iraq could lead to a regional war. This statement was the result of a decision of the Turkish parliament to expand military presence in Iraq to counter terrorist organizations (especially the Islamic state and Kurdish rebels). Baghdad urged Turkey to withdraw the troops from northern Iraq. Instead, Ankara stressed that the presence of its troops in Iraq and Syria does not threaten the sovereignty of states and is aimed exclusively at countering terrorist threats. The Turks also warn that they wouldn’t allow Kurdish rebellion in southeastern Turkey, that could be caused by strengthening of the position of the Kurds.
In this case, the Turks resorted to an argument sensitive to the EU. Ankara stressed that the withdrawal could lead to clashes in Mosul and new waves of refugees in Europe.
“Antimigration” referendum in Hungary
But at the same time, some EU states categorically refused to host new waves of migrants. In the course of the referendum, which was held on 3 October, Hungarians rejected quotas for accepting migrants, which were proposed by the EU. Although the number of referendum participants was insufficient to make its results compulsory, the Prime Minister of Hungary Viktor Orban has said that he will use the results of the referendum to put pressure on Brussels.
The turbulence of Brexit and the new growth poles
Amid the crisis in Syria and the aggravation of US-Russian relations, global markets are reeling due to the prospect of Brexit – the pound reached its record low in 30 years. This in turn led to the anxiety on Wall Street and among US investors.
However, the new UK prime minister has stated, that in March next year London will start the procedure for withdrawal from the EU.
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In a line of this, beginning of October became more successful for China. On October 1, despite the doubts some economists whether the Chinese yuan meets all the criteria of the IMF, the currency was appended to the “club” reserve currency IMF – till now only the US dollar, euro, Japanese yen and British pound sterling were in the basket of the currencies. This is the first currency added to the “basket” from 1999, and the summit of 16 countries of CEE and the Balkans with China in Riga, which will take place soon, could more clearly demonstrate Europe a new player in its field.
“Through the prism of Ukraine …”
At the first glance, either the events in Syria and the migration crisis, or Brexit and Chinese advances have no direct relation to Ukraine. But not least because of Syrian crisis, Ukrainian issue is also back on the international agenda. However, there is something that Ukraine is still seeking to avoid. The return is kept in a “package” with “Syrian question” and nuclear dialogue between the US and Russia. Actually in this context the visit of Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland to Moscow was held.
Russian Foreign Ministry, however, quite frankly said that the Obama administration has done everything to undermine trust between Moscow and Washington, and therefore, the Kremlin has been expecting the change of the administration to continue negotiating and trying to show that Democrats were quite unsuccessful in the field of foreign policy (Russia aim is to show American voters that Trump will be the best candidate).
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Although this change is unlikely to happen, in a line with the dynamics of the US campaign and prefer Clinton over Republican candidate after two rounds of debate. Kyiv should think. Ukrainian government should be conscious – even committed to Kyiv Democrats might seek concessions from Kyiv to get across to global players and Russia.
If this happens, Ukraine risks to remain on the sidelines of global processes and Ukrainian interests may become hostage to the global game, which is led by US, EU, China and trying to lead Moscow. GU