The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, Dmytro Kuleba, gave his views on a number of issues in an interview with Ukraine’s New Voice on Wednesday. Subjects covered included whether Ukraine would be ready to cooperate with Donald Trump in the event of his victory in the presidential elections, what Ukraine would do if it becomes a member of the EU, and whether it is ready to give up territories occupied by Russia for membership in NATO.
Interview highlights are summarized below:
1) Democrats and Republicans stopped heated discussions about aid to Ukraine
The minister is confident that Ukraine still has bipartisan support in the US and that the issue of war had not become a bargaining chip between Democrats and Republicans.
“Currently, there is a general political consensus in the USA that Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan should not be argued about, but should be supported,” says Kuleba.
However, Americans need to solve the problems on the border with Mexico and illegal migration.
“Another thing is that it was possible not to tie aid to Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan to the border issue, but America is entering the elections, and, as in any country, everyone begins to think exclusively in terms of domestic politics. Because the border is an issue with voters, and a very sensitive category of voters,” the minister commented.
He stated that the Senate comes back from vacation, on Jan. 8 and the House of Representatives on Jan. 9. Therefore, the Ukrainian government expects that a decision on the provision of assistance will be made shortly after that.
“Now two teams — Republican and Democratic — are negotiating. The subject of negotiations is exclusively the border, not Ukraine. They will hold negotiations next week as well, even though everyone is on vacation, but communication will take place, and there is progress in these negotiations.”
2) “Is Trump a person you can work with?”
Ukraine needs to prepare to work with Donald Trump if he wins the US presidential election in 2024, and Kuleba is certain there is no need to worry.
“Trump has perceived thanks to his, I would say, ultra-charismatic actions, his reputation, and phrases. But who sold the first American weapons to Ukraine? President Trump - Javelins. Who started the program of free transfer of the first naval vessels, Island and Mark-6 type boats to Ukraine? Trump. Who fought Nord Stream 2 and sanctioned the famous but now forgotten Russia's Fortuna vessel that laid this pipeline? It was Trump,” the minister recalled.
He also denied any deals between Trump during his tenure with Russian President Vladimir Putin: “Neither then, nor now, nor in the future, was a grand deal possible.”
According to Kuleba, “Trump is a person you can work with, you just need to be able to work with him.” If he gets to the election and if he wins, “he will be completely different than President Joe Biden, to whom we are extremely grateful for everything.”
3) “A thorough analysis of who has real influence on Hungary was carried out.”
Recalling the historic decision of the European Union to start negotiations on Ukraine's membership, Kuleba told how he managed to persuade the Prime Minister of Hungary, Viktor Orbán, not to vote against this decision:
“It was, I will tell you honestly, an extremely difficult task, work was carried out at all levels, and all factors influencing Hungary were mobilized. A thorough analysis has been carried out of who has real influence on Hungary in general in Europe. I'm not talking about Viktor Orbán personally. And conversations were held with these people.”
One request was made to all participants of the EU summit - presidents, prime ministers, foreign ministers: do not quietly support Ukraine.
When Orbán saw that he was alone, it created a completely different situation.
“When he left the hall [during the vote], he said even in public communication that if all 26 [EU member states] want to make this decision, then let them make it. It was a fundamental change to his sense of isolation,” Kuleba recalls.
But he also said that Ukraine expected a different decision from Orbán: “The signal coming from Brussels was exactly that Orbán would agree to finance [€50 billion in aid from the EU for Ukraine], but plans to block the opening of negotiations.
“Why did he agree to open the money? Because he knew that the only decision that cannot be bypassed and made without consensus is the decision to open negotiations. And money decisions can be made without consensus. Then, when he finally agreed to open negotiations, he could not give so much happiness, so he returned to the issue of money and said that he needed more time,” Kuleba explained.
Therefore, the discussion on the aid was extended by one month to avoid Viktor Orbán's veto.
If an agreement is reached, Ukraine will receive an aid package from 27 EU states. If this cannot be done, aid will be supported by only 26 states. “That's why I say that the money issue is resolved because the date of the next summit has already been set,” the minister asserted.
4) Ukraine needs to work hard for EU membership
Minister Kuleba could not make predictions about when Ukraine will join the European Union. While the year 2030 is most often referred to, the minister says that it is all conditional:
“The EU has one document, written and distributed by experts; it is about the reform of the European Union. Among other things, it is written there that, in theory, the process of reform and expansion should converge at one point in 2030. The year 2030 appeared from here. This is not the position of the European Union, but the position of intellectual circles that are trying to direct the discussion on the development of the European Union.”
He refused to set any deadlines. Only adding that “we need to work daily for the result, and then the result will come faster than expected.”
5) There is no fatigue in Ukraine
Kuleba refutes suggestions of a loss of faith in Ukraine's victory among allies, despite some assertions among the foreign media:
“In the offices, even in the most trusting conversations, there is no downfall. There is an understanding that we all face some problems and must look for their solutions. I assure you that such statements or allusions to them are not heard in public, nor behind closed doors. There is no such thing. Because people understand what is at stake.”
But he admitted that recently there were indeed proposals from friends of the state regarding Ukraine's accession to NATO, but without the occupied territories.
Kuleba’s answer to that was: “… read the Constitution of Ukraine. It says: ‘The territory of Ukraine is indivisible.’ No one in this country will be able to sign a document that would provide for the concession of Ukrainian territory, these are the basic things. Accordingly, the issue of territorial concessions is automatically removed from the agenda. But on an intellectual level, yes, it all went up, ‘let's do it this way, let's not do it that way’.
“And we say to them: let's just help us get more weapons, clamp the Russian economy in a stronger vice. And then you will see,” Kuleba said.
He believes that, above all, Ukrainians should not be pessimists. “We can win only if we are optimistic and work.” The minister is confident that all will be well.
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