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Anförande vid Atlantic Council

Anförande i Washington DC, USA

It is always a pleasure to come here to the Atlantic Council. And this time I'm doing so at a truly critical time.

New dangers and challenges seem to be rising wherever we look. In East Asia we see a more assertive China.

In Africa immediately south of the Sahara we see new areas of terrorism threatening the region as well as all of us.

And in Mesopotamia and the Levant we see an entire region engulfed by new sectarian divisions and fundamental threats to the previously existing order of States. This is happening on the very doorstep of Europe.

These are not easy times, and they call for clear-headed strategic assessment of the challenges we are facing.

And for a deep and sincere dialogue across the Atlantic on how we can and must work together in this changed, more difficult and ultimately more dangerous strategic landscape.

At the moment, of course, the EU is busy with the task of setting up its new leadership team for the next few years after the recent European Parliament election, although our High Representative Catherine Ashton is still busy leading efforts to reach a nuclear agreement with Iran.

But I hope that soon there will be the opportunity for such a deep dialogue. In the meantime, the public debates and discussions on both sides of the Atlantic are also an important part of our efforts to understand the new landscape and shape the necessary policies.

This morning I would like to focus on one of these challenges - on the new challenge of a revisionist Russia aiming to overturn the post-Cold War order in Europe.

These days, many are looking back to the days in July 1914 when the world sleepwalked into the catastrophe that came to define the 20th century.

A hundred years ago to the day, the then Permanent Undersecretary at the FCO in London wrote to the British Ambassador in Vienna that for all the tragedy of the terrorist murder of the Archduke and his wife in Sarajevo, he was confident that the consequences would be limited to Austria.

This, as we know, turned out to be wrong.

I'm not saying that we are once again sleepwalking into disaster.

But I think the lesson of those days in 1914 should make us focus on the fundamental issues at stake in any given situation.

Europe didn't really come out of that darkness it descended into a century ago until the wall came down in Berlin and the European empire of the then Soviet Union started to crumble.

And as that happened, the statesmen of the day sat down and tried to forge an agreement on the principles upon which a more lasting order of peace and stability in Europe could be built.

It was indeed an ambitious concept of peace that was laid down in the Charter of Paris of 1990, and later of course the present Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe emerged out of the principles embodied in it.

There were the three famous baskets:

  • of key principles for States' security;

  • of economic cooperation and integration;

  • and of democracy and respect for human rights as another foundation for lasting peace and security. Let me focus primarily on the first.

It meant that countries should no longer use military force against each other. It meant that borders should not be changed, at least not by force.

It meant that each State had the right to choose its own future.

And it meant that any dispute should be resolved through dialogue and mediation.

The sanctity of the existing borders and boundaries was seen as fundamental to all of this.

And in the agreements on the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the Yugoslav Federation, this sanctity of the existing geographical architecture was enshrined.

The Belavezha Accords that ended the Soviet Union made it clear that all of the constituent republics of that Union had the right to independence, but independence within the existing borders between them.

And at the beginning of the profound Yugoslav crisis, the Badinter Commission set up by the European

Community firmly laid down the very same principle.

Independence, yes. Self-determination, yes. But borders must be respected. And any change must be agreed by everyone concerned.

There were very sound reasons for this.

The borders of Europe are more or less all drawn in blood through centuries of brutal conflict, ethnic cleansing and population movements.

Sometimes they might seem logical to the modern eye.

But there are certainly cases - many, but not all, of them in the former Soviet Union or in former Yugoslavia - where that can hardly be said to be the case.

And to open up those cases, and invite others as well, is to open up for the blood to start flowing again. That's why we have taken a fundamentalist line on this principle.

Throughout the decade of wars in the Balkans we insisted on it.

We insisted on the territorial integrity of Croatia. We refused to contemplate the dissolution of Bosnia.

And we said that northern Kosovo should remain northern Kosovo and southern Serbia should remain southern Serbia.

There were those who suggested that we should abandon the principle and start to adjust borders and boundaries, but I remain as convinced now as I was then that this would have made everything far worse.

And let us remember that we also respected the very same principle when it came to Russia.

We were often horrified by the conduct of Moscow's forces as they tried to put down Chechen calls for self- determination and independence.

But in spite of this we never wavered in our support for the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation.

And when Russia itself violated these principles in its war with Georgia in August 2008, we still stood firm on the principle of territorial integrity.

When, in February this year, Russia invaded, occupied and annexed the Ukrainian territory of Crimea it was a grave violation of this fundamental principle of European security.

And when we reacted strongly against it, we did so out of concern not only for the immediate fate of Crimea, but out of deep apprehensions about what this could mean for European - and indeed global - security.

I can think of only one other case in modern history when a regime suddenly militarily grabbed and annexed another State or part of a State, claiming some sort of more or less relevant historical justification.

And that was Saddam Hussein's invasion, occupation and annexation of Kuwait in 1991.

The international reaction then was swift, strong and effective, and I believe this was very important in preventing anyone else from harbouring thoughts of similar adventures.

In much the same way, I believe it is very important that we stand very firm on what the Russian invasion, occupation and annexation of Crimea really means, and that we are clear about never accepting either its legality or its consequences.

If we should waver on this, I see a clear risk of further Crimeas further down the road. Perhaps not tomorrow, but perhaps the day after tomorrow.

Perhaps not there, but perhaps somewhere else.

If we don't see that risk, then yes, history might well see us too as sleepwalkers at a crucial moment in history. I stress the issue of Crimea because of the fundamental importance of the principles at stake.

But the invasion was of course part of a much bigger picture of Russia trying to deny Ukraine the right to choose its own future.

Indeed, in the midst of the crisis, some voices even started to question whether Ukraine's secession from the Soviet Union had been legal.

When we initiated the Eastern Partnership of the European Union - an initiative by Sweden and Poland in early 2008 that was embraced by the entire Union late that year - it was intended as an answer to the demands for a deeper relationship with the EU coming from these six nations themselves.

And it has been clear all the way that we have been listening to their demands and their wishes - certainly not trying to impose something on them against their will, and also not going as far in terms of explicit EU perspectives as some of them clearly want.

Indeed, when Armenia, in autumn 2013, made a sudden U-turn and declared its wish to join the Moscow- centred Customs Union instead of the already negotiated agreement with the EU, we just took note of this fact and moved on with the other countries.

Armenia also has the right to choose its own direction.

The negotiations on the Association Agreement with Ukraine, with its Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade provisions, were concluded already in early 2012, and throughout the period of negotiations, as well as during the entire period up until late last summer, there were no signs of interest in this whatsoever from Russia.

But then everything changed, and from late summer of last year we suddenly saw a strong and concerted Russian effort to turn Ukraine away from its European choice and, preferably, have it join its Customs Union and later a Eurasian Union.

Whether we reacted sufficiently early and sufficiently strongly against this is debatable. I don't think we did.

It took some time for a number of capitals to wake up to the new realities we were faced with. Some might still be in the process of doing so.

What happened since then is, as they say, history.

But let's be clear about one thing: this is a crisis initiated and driven by Russia in every single respect. By starting its large-scale trade and economic pressure on Ukraine.

By more or less forcing then President Yanukovych to turn around and refuse to sign the EU agreement that he had negotiated and endorsed.

By then encouraging him to use violence to suppress the large Maidan demonstrations that erupted as a result.

By invading, occupying and annexing Crimea as President Yanukovych, for reasons that are still not entirely clear, abandoned the February 21 agreement, his presidency and his country.

By having the Federation Council approve authorisation for invading all of Ukraine, and then massing forces along its borders.

By launching a massive information and propaganda war not only against Ukraine's European aspirations, but also to fuel fears and encourage divisions inside the country.

And by encouraging and supporting an armed insurrection to fracture the country, obviously aiming at the setting up of a Novorossiya semi-state in its eastern and southern parts.

This was and is a destabilising strategy of an order we have not seen in our part of the world for a long time. The consequences of this succeeding would be profound.

Certainly for Ukraine, but obviously well beyond that.

The appetite grows with eating, it is often said, and there was certainly enough in the important March 18 annexation address by President Putin to fuel fundamental fears across a large part of our continent.

One could note that even Belarus President Lukashenko, not a close friend of the European Union, has sounded distinctly nervous in the last few months.

Gradually, we have forged a policy to meet this challenge of destabilisation and revisionism. And I think we have so far been doing better than we are given credit for.

For all the discussions that have taken place on sanctions or other measures against Russia aimed at encouraging its leadership to take another path, our most important efforts have been and must continue to be focused on helping Ukraine.

Ukraine is probably the most misgoverned of all the post-Soviet States.

Former President Yanukovych left a legacy of massive corruption, inefficiency and deficits, but it must be recognised that the problems go far deeper than just his years in power.

There are probably those waiting for Ukraine to descend into deficits, disorder and dysfunctionality as a consequence of both the failure of the past decades and the strain of the measures taken by Russia during the last year.

This must clearly be prevented. And I don't think it will happen, provided that we pursue the correct policies. The May presidential election was a watershed.

We should recall that this was an election that Russia tried to delay and which pro-Russian separatists in some areas did their utmost to prevent.

But when Petro Poroshenko was elected President on May 25, he was so with a stronger and more unified mandate than any of his predecessors.

In every previous election, the country has been politically divided roughly along the river Dnieper. But this time, and for the first time, every single region, including the East, delivered the same result. The crisis and the challenge have united Ukraine in a way we have not seen before.

This will not last forever, and it is of the utmost importance that we help the Ukraine authorities to carry through the deep and comprehensive reforms that are possible during this unique window of opportunity in order to turn the country around in the years ahead.

There are many aspects of this.

The EU agreement is clearly important. Over time, it has the potential to modernise the economy and make the country a truly attractive investment location.

But it is not enough.

The reforms included in the IMF agreement and support package are critical.

While it is understandable that much of the focus now is on handling the armed separatist challenge in less than 10 per cent of the country's territory, it is important that Kyiv also keeps a focus on the economic measures and reforms that are key to the future of the remaining 90 per cent of the country.

And here I believe the IMF needs to be attentive to the new strains on the economy imposed by the Russian- inspired separatists over the last few months. We need to help.

We also need to be ready to counter new Russian efforts to inflict economic damage on the Ukraine economy through trade measures.

Changing energy policies is an important part of this.

I don't hesitate to describe the policies pursued by successive governments in the country in this area as insane. Subsidies for fossil fuel use amounting to 7 per cent of GDP make even Egypt look reasonable in comparison.

And in addition to these critical economic challenges, there is clearly a need for further constitutional and political reforms to meet the aspirations of all parts of the country.

Work is already underway on these issues, and I do hope it will very soon be possible to make the transition from a military to a purely political phase in the efforts to bring stability even to the easternmost parts of the country.

In all of this Ukraine will need our understanding, support and help in the critical years ahead.

Building a democratic, stable and successful Ukraine is the single most important contribution we can make to counter the revisionist danger that is now threatening in the eastern part of Europe.

But it must of course go hand in hand with our efforts to help the other countries that have embarked on this road, notably Moldova and Georgia.

Fundamentally, this is also in the interest of Russia itself, provided it remains open to the vision of free trade from Lisbon to Vladivostok that it has often spoken about in the past.

A more prosperous Ukraine is good for the economy of Russia as well.

And I vividly remember how, as recently as 2010, we discussed a partnership for modernisation with Russia that included most of the components of the agreement we now have with Ukraine.

A couple of weeks ago, however, at a Moscow Security Conference organised by the Ministry of Defence, it was proclaimed that the greatest threat to the security of Russia was the so-called 'coloured revolutions'.

Even President Putin endorsed this idea in his message to the conference.

And it might of course be here, in addition to Russia's efforts to build a new bastion in the form of its Eurasian Union, that we see the real motives for the aggressive and destabilising Russian policies towards Ukraine we have witnessed since late last summer.

Once upon a time it was natural to see Russia as a strategic partner to the European Union.

This does not sound entirely right these days, although there are of course important areas where we continue to seek and value cooperation with Russia.

If at some point we are to find a new relationship, it must clearly be based on respect for the fundamental principles of European security I mentioned earlier.

Russia must understand that we will never recognise the annexation of Crimea, and that it will burden our relationship for as long as it lasts.

And Russia must accept that Ukraine, like the other countries of the Eastern Partnership, truly has the right to continue on its democratic path and to choose its own European direction.

This does not mean that we ignore Russia's fundamental interests.

The EU has been ready to have extensive talks with Russia on the economic aspects of these agreements.

And these talks have clearly refuted the propagandist claims of damage to Russia that we have heard. Further talks, on a political level, will be held in Brussels today.

We are certainly ready to take Russia's security interests into account, as long as they don't go against the security of other States in the region.

And if a new relationship is to be possible, it will clearly have to include important elements of cooperation and even, over time, integration.

The fact that the negotiations over a New Agreement between Russia and the EU, to replace the 1994 Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, have stalled in recent years is solely due to the reluctance of Moscow to agree to further trade liberalisation.

If we succeed in bringing stability to Ukraine, and thwarting the schemes to destabilise and fragment the country, it might well be that by the time of the next Eastern Partnership Summit in Riga in late spring next year, we can start to discuss the integration of the integrations in the wider European area.

This should be in our mutual long-term interest. We continue to have a profound interest in the modernisation and economic development of Russia.

But in the meantime we must be clear-headed on the magnitude of the challenge we are now facing and conscious of the consequences of our failing to bring stability to Ukraine.

A deep dialogue across the Atlantic on these issues is a necessity.

It is - here as elsewhere - only by acting together that we have any chance of success. But if we do, there is no reason why we should not prevail.

We did it before. We can do it again.

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