“Russia’s aggressive actions cannot be forgiven, and Crimea cannot be forgotten” – that is the message from former NATO chief, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, ahead of Chancellor Merkel’s visit to President Trump and the three-year anniversary of Crimea’s illegal occupation by Russia.
The Friends of Ukraine group of former heads of state and government, and senior officials has today warned of the dangers of allowing inertia to set in towards Russia’s aggressive behavior in Ukraine. The group is calling on President Trump to give a clear and personal commitment that he will maintain economic sanctions on Russia so long as it fails to follow international rules, and that he will not allow Ukraine’s sovereignty to be traded away in exchange for cooperation with Russia in other areas.
Since Russia’s invasion three years ago, Crimea has seen its largest military build-up since the Cold War, with new bases being built, Russian troop numbers surging, the latest S-400 surface-to-air missile systems installed, and an increase in the naval presence. Russian Federation laws and citizenship have been forcibly imposed on the population of the peninsula and fundamental freedoms curtailed, especially for those who wish to express Ukrainian cultural identity or use the Ukrainian language. Meanwhile the Crimean Tatar community has been actively targeted in armed operations, police raids and other human rights abuses.
Ahead of the meeting at the White House, Former Danish Prime Minister and NATO Secretary General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Chairman of Rasmussen Global, said:
“With her significant experience, I am sure Chancellor Merkel will warn the President of the breakdown in international security that would follow if Russia were allowed to get away with illegally invading a sovereign neighbour. Likewise, other potentially hostile countries will also be watching to see whether they too can flout, without consequence, international rules that have kept the relative peace for 70 years.
“The leader of the free world and the de facto leader of Europe must join forces to prevent a dangerous status quo from developing in Ukraine. They should make clear that there will be no sanctions relief until Russia stops playing a disruptive role in eastern Ukraine.”
Other members of the Friends of Ukraine group: Marieluise Beck, Member of the German Bundestag:
“The Federal Chancellor will have to convey to the new American president that a democratic Germany will never again enter into any business adverse to the interests of its neighbors. This means that any “deal” aiming to return to good old terms with the Kremlin at the expense of a free and sovereign Ukraine is absolutely unacceptable.”
Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden:
“March 18th three years ago was the day when – upon annexing Crimea after having taken it over by a covert military operation – Russia gave up all pretence of accepting the order of peace and security that had been accepted by the European and Atlantic communities for decades, the basis of which was the inviolability of state borders. Support to the territorial integrity of Ukraine is support to the peace and stability of all of Europe.”
Pat Cox, former President of the European Parliament:
“Russia’s annexation of Crimea upended our international security order. This act must never go uncontested by those who believe that rule of law is paramount in the conduct of international relations…The West needs to do all it can to help Ukraine succeed.”
Mikulas Dzurinda, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Slovakia:
“Russia’s aggression and illegal annexation of Crimea has stunned the entire international community. Ukraine has had to fight a war on two fronts ever since – one with a more powerful aggressor in the east and another at home, aimed at reform and combatting corruption. Despite the difficulties, Ukraine is undergoing unprecedented reforms with support of the EU while Russia is stagnating under sanctions.”
Toomas Ilves, former President of Estonia:
“Europe may not want war, but the war in Ukraine is a reality regardless of what we want. If Europe can learn anything at all from the past, it is that concessions only cause the aggressor’s appetite for new demands to increase.”
Sir Malcolm Rifkind, former UK Foreign and Defence Secretary:
“For three years, Russia maintained its control of Crimea mainly by persecuting dissent, suppressing minorities or harassing the indigenous Tatars. It has also embarked on a large military build-up to levels unseen on the peninsula since the Cold War. To restore security in Europe, the West needs to keep the pressure on the Kremlin to return to the rules-based order.”
Alexander Vershbow, former NATO Deputy Secretary General, US Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, and Ambassador to NATO, Russia and South Korea:
“Now, more than ever, Europe and the United States must stand by Ukraine and help it on the path of peace, prosperity and Euro-Atlantic integration. The transatlantic community should make clear to Russia that any normalization of relations can only come with an end to Russian aggression against Ukraine and a return to compliance with the international rules-based order, based on respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all independent states.”