‘Ukraine buying Turkish drones to defend itself’
Ukrainian foreign minister answers questions from Biden-Putin meeting to NATO membership, and Turkish drones
The Ukrainian foreign minister Sunday praised Turkish drones saying Ukraine is buying them to defend itself.
Responding to reporters’ questions on the sidelines of the Antalya Diplomacy Forum, Dmytro Kuleba said Ukraine is buying Turkish drones “because Turkish drones are very good.”
“Drones are needed to deter Russia so that Russia thinks twice, before planning, any escalation or any large-scale attack on Ukraine,” Kuleba added.
On Biden’s visit to Europe and NATO summit, he said Washington and Kyiv were in close contact over US President Joe Biden’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“President Biden spoke with (Ukrainian) President (Volodymyr) Zelensky to coordinate positions on the eve of his participation in the NATO summit, but also in his meeting with President Putin,” he said.
He said he received a call from Victoria Nuland from the US State Department on the next day of the Biden-Putin meeting on June 16, adding: “We are satisfied with the level of trust and transparency that exists between us and Washington.
“My impression from the conversations is that the level of trust, to what President Putin said, is very low,” he said.
On Biden’s visit to Europe, he said: “We are satisfied with the fact that as President Biden coins that America is back, that America shows great interest in ensuring security in Europe”.
On Ukraine’s NATO membership, the top Ukrainian diplomat said the alliance did not make a “single move” to implement a decision taken in 2008 in Bucharest.
“Back in 2008, the alliance in Bucharest said very clearly that Ukraine and Georgia will become members of NATO,” he reminded.
Adding that Ukraine has made many reforms especially after the 2014 revolution, he said: “Ukraine before 2014, and after 2014, are two different countries.”
“How many reforms exactly do you want?” he asked NATO to “give us a clear list.”
The recent NATO summit reiterated that Ukraine will be a member of NATO, according to Kuleba, but he also noted that “the alliance did not give any single hint on the timeline of the process.”
Ankara and Kyiv “cooperate very closely” on the issues related to Crimean Tatars, he stressed, saying the Crimean Platform Summit will take place on Aug. 23.
“As of now, we have many confirmations for participation in the summit at the level of heads of state, government, and foreign ministers. We’re still expecting more,” he said.
On the free trade deal negotiations between Turkey and Ukraine, he said both countries are “one step away from finalizing negotiations,” although describing it as the “most difficult step.”
Following are excerpts from the interview:
There was the NATO leaders meeting recently. And then Joe Biden was meeting with Vladimir Putin. Have you had any sort of contact from the Biden administration since these events about reassurances, about what they’re going to do to help Ukraine in terms of against Russia? But also Joe Biden said recently that they still want Ukraine to join NATO, but needed to tackle corruption more. Do you agree with that statement?
The entire European tour of President Biden’s started with his call with my president who is the president of Ukraine. And when we discussed this visit of President Biden to Europe with my American counterparts, they emphasized this point that President Biden spoke with President Zelensky to coordinate positions on the eve of his participation in the NATO Summit, but also in his meeting with President Putin.
Because we have a long-lasting rule: no deals on Ukraine without Ukraine. And when President Biden and President Zelensky spoke, the American leader assured that he would follow this rule very thoroughly, in his talks with President Putin.
We are satisfied with the fact that as President Biden coins that America is back, that America shows great interest in ensuring security in Europe. And in that sense, both the G7 summit and NATO summit produced language. And we consider this language to represent political commitment.
So the language that meets our expectations when it comes to identifying the real role, the destructive role of Russia on the continent, and the support extended to Ukraine, in its struggle for its territorial integrity of sovereignty.
On more specific issues, of course, our membership in NATO. Back in 2008, the alliance in Bucharest said very clearly that Ukraine and Georgia will become members of NATO. And at the very same summit, leaders instructed their foreign ministers to address the issue of granting both countries membership action plans.
Since 2008, if you ask me what has been done by NATO to achieve that, to implement that decision, I will give you a very honest answer: nothing. Since 2008, not a single move has been made by NATO to implement this decision.
Since 2008, Ukraine went through many difficult moments, twisting periods in our history. But in 2014, when the revolution of dignity took place, Ukraine made a very clear legal commitment, legal obligation and expressive, strong political will to continue the path of Euro-Atlantic integration, and we made many reforms.
Ukraine before 2014, and after 2014, are two different countries. And still, we did not get any closer to membership action plan.
So, now, at this recent summit, NATO reiterated that Ukraine will be a member basically the copy-pasted the language from 2008, which is a reiteration of political commitment.
And frankly speaking, we don’t care how we get to NATO. As long as we know that there is a political will, in the lines to bring us in and there is a clear timeline to achieve that goal.
So it’s not about map as such anymore. It’s about timeline. And the recognition of the fact that Ukraine achieved a lot on its reform path. When we speak about reforms, you know, it can be an endless story. So my question to NATO is, how many reforms exactly do you want? Give us a clear list. Because the more reforms we do, the more expectations with you.
So, having said this, the recent NATO summit reiterated that Ukraine will be a member of NATO. President Biden reiterated it in his numerous comments that he sees Ukraine as a full member of the alliance. This is the good side. The bad side is that NATO did not give any single hint on the timeline of the process.
Since the meeting between Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin, has the US administration been in contact with your government?
The meeting at the summit between presidents took place on the 16th of June. And on the, on the very next day, I received a call from Victoria Nuland from the (US) State Department, and she briefed me details about the meeting between two presidents, we exchanged views.
And I appreciate that she was very open and shared with me information not only about Ukraine-related discussion, but also about other issues which were discussed by two presidents. So in that sense, we are satisfied with the level of trust and transparency that exists between us and Washington.
Have you given any details?
Well, not all the details. But basically, Madam Nuland said that President Biden was crystal clear and tough on Ukraine. President Putin responded by saying, by basically reiterating his conventional line, that the Minsk agreement should be respected and is ready to work on the settlement of the conflict in line with the Minsk agreements, which we also share.
My impression from the conversations is that the level of trust, to what President Putin said, is very low.
Madam Nuland did not say to me, you know, clearly, plainly, but that’s, that’s my impression, I think that the trust between US administration and Russia is below the waterline. And they still have to make a lot of efforts to actually bring it at least at the zero level at the waterline level, before they start moving up.
But we have no doubts that America will stand by Ukraine, and that it will not make any deals with Russia behind our back. And this is enough for us to engage in further process.
Ukraine has bought some drones from Turkey. Why did you buy those drones from Turkey? And how does that fit into your concerns about Russia in your own defense plans?
Because Turkish drones are very good. Because Turkey did not lean under the pressure of Russia. Because Turkey is a country that respects itself and is respected by other countries, and we made a good deal beneficial for both sides.
Strategically, we want to do two things. We want Turkish drones to be equipped with Ukrainian engines. And we want to localize production of drones in Ukraine.
We are working with our Turkish partners on those on both of these tracks, and we’re pretty successful. I think everything in the plan will work out eventually.
I would like to ask if drones will be used in Donbas region?
Drones are needed to deter Russia so that Russia thinks twice, before planning, any escalation or any large-scale attack on Ukraine. And this goes not only for drones, but for any kind of military equipment Ukraine is purchasing.
We are not buying drones, buying military equipment, in particular drones, to attack. We are buying it to defend ourselves. And it’s a matter of principle, this is the distinction.
And I can tell you that Russia spares no effort to talk countries out of selling arms to Ukraine, because Russia wants a weak Ukraine, the weaker we are the easier for Russia.
So first drones is a deterrence tool. But of course, if Russia attacks and involves in large-scale military conflict with us, then we will be using drones in any part of Ukrainian territory to defend ourselves.
Will there be any new cooperation with Turkey on Crimea?
Turkey was among the very first countries that expressed support for the Crimea platform. We are heading towards the summit of the Crimean platform to be held on the 23rd of August.
The best evidence that this initiative is very important and efficient, is the fact that Russia treats Crimea platform in exactly the same way, as weapons being sold to Ukraine. They call everyone they can to talk them out from participating in the Crimea platform.
So Crimea platform is a political weapon of Ukraine, to defend our territorial integrity, and to restore our borders in Crimea. I don’t think there are more closer friends on Crimea, than Ukraine and Turkey. We are two nations who care for this piece of land, care for people who leave them historically, for Crimean Tatars, for their culture, for their nation.
And of course, this makes it more than natural for us to Kyiv and Ankara to cooperate very closely on this matter.
It’s not only about politics, it’s also about supporting Crimean Tatars, who were forced to leave Crimea after the illegal annexation of the peninsula by Russia. One of the most recent initiatives of our president is to construct houses, apartment houses in Ukraine, for Crimean Tatars, who had left Crimea when it was occupied.
There are plenty of things which we’re doing together. And I’m sure that any initiative that Turkey or Ukraine might have on Crimea will be immediately supported by one of us depending on who will come up with the idea.
Regarding the Crimean platform, what was the reaction from Russia?
I just mentioned Moscow’s reaction when we announced preparation for the summit of the Crimea platform. The foreign minister of Russia immediately set up an inter-agency task force that has two objectives.
The first one is to discredit the Crimea platform as useless. The second one is to prevent countries from participating in the Crimea platform.
As of now, we have many confirmations for participation in the summit at the level of heads of state, government, and foreign ministers, which is pretty good. We’re still expecting more.
I have no doubts that the summit of the Crimea platform is already a success. And holding the summit will only reinforce this message.
Turkey and Ukraine want to increase their trade volume. In this regard, what would you say about negotiations over a free trade agreement between two countries?
We are one step away from finalizing negotiations on the free trade agreement. But I have to be frank, this will be the most difficult step to make for both countries, because we have to agree on trade positions, which are extremely sensitive for economists of both countries.
And we can reach that agreement only through compromise, that will be painful for both sides. Both of us have to make concessions. And we are eager to get it done. Because in our view, the success or output of the Free Trade Agreement, once it comes into force, will compensate all the concessions that were made in order to have this agreement concluded.
Our trade delegation is ready to come to Ankara to finalize to and to make another push to move forward on this. Because we are absolutely politically committed to concluding this agreement.
But of course, we cannot compromise our interests, we need to strike a balance. And to achieve that experts from both countries have to sit down. They were instructed by (Turkish) President (Recep Tayyip) Erdogan and (Ukrainian President) Zelensky to do that. So political commitment is present in both countries. It’s just a matter of this last difficult but eventually unavoidable step.
About the Antalya Diplomacy Forum, what does innovative diplomacy mean?
Traditionally, diplomacy and innovation do not walk hand in hand. Diplomacy is very conservative. It’s very reluctant to accept any kind of innovation except fax machine and email to speed up with the instructions coming back of course from the Foreign Ministry and capital and embassies.
And it takes a lot of effort and political will to modernize any diplomacy in any country. And Antalya Diplomacy Forum, for me, was good in two aspects.
The first one is actually because you finally feel yourself a diplomat. Since the beginning of pandemic, not a single forum of this kind of place, where you can do thousands of bilaterals, chat with colleagues in the corridor, participate, and listen to an interesting discussion. So this forum symbolizes that diplomacy is back after pandemic.
Secondly, of course, this forum was focused on innovation and have given pushing a or boosting the discussion on this in a much broader, broader context of how does diplomacy look like in 21st century.
And it’s not only about technology that is being used by diplomats. For example, I believe that the job of a diplomatic note taker will fade away, because we will have just a gadget that will do the whole thing that will record every word to every detail and tone of voice and then transcript it on the paper. But this is just a minor example.
But the question is also which issues diplomacy will have to address? How will we have to deal with high-tech platforms, with cryptocurrencies, with all these kinds of buzzwords, which symbolize the new era.
So to be effective in countering such actors, you have to think out of the box. And you have to have sharp teeth and sharp mind. If you have both, if you have all these three elements, you can be really successful.
And I think the change, the difference in Ukrainian diplomacy before 2014 and after is exactly this. We learned how to think out of the box. We’ve sharpened our minds. And more importantly, we’ve sharpened our teeth.
This article originally appeared in Anadolu Agency on 20 June 2021.