This is the second of two articles by International Channels for Diplomacy on its third diplomatic discussion between Ukrainian, Russian and Western academics. This article aims to cover each dialogue partner’s reflections on the process.
Dr. Sergii Glebov
Professor and Dean of International Relations at Odessa Mechnikov National University
Host of Odesa Media TV-Radio Group “GLAS”
Dr. Vladimir Kozin
Professor and Advisor, Russian Institute for Strategic Studies
Russian Presidential Administration
Honorary Member, Russian Foreign Ministry
Dr. David Carment
International Affairs Professor, Carleton University
Fellow, Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute
Q: Dialogue Process
As the process required dialogue partners to suggest two or three topics and to focus on one specific topic upon group consensus, what are your thoughts about the effectiveness of this method?
Glebov: A more helpful approach would have been to propose a minor topic and to obtain reactions to it, or to start with an express round of three to five quick questions and answers (Y or N). This would help in getting an idea of each dialogue partner’s position before deciding to put them together. This can help avoid emotions and a wrong transmission of the reality of the conflict.
Kozin: If the group doesn’t have sufficient power and authority, any method is ineffective. After our correspondence, Kiev intensified military action and the West never imposes any sanctions on them. The Canadian PM’s approach is illogical and too hostile to Russia. It is very strange.
Carment: Having each panelist submit a diagnosis, prognosis and therapy ahead of time would help the mediator find common ground. It might also help all sides understand where there may be misunderstandings and disagreements. I would suggest however that both sides would spend their time finding flaws in the other side’s diagnostic at least based on the two persons who participated last time.
Having participated in the dialogue for over two weeks, how did the dialogue change your view on non-official mediation efforts and speaking with other dialogue partners?
Glebov: It’s important to have non-official mediation but greater effectiveness in bringing Ukrainian and Russian sides into a constructive atmosphere is needed. This did not happen because of the specific individuals involved and the deadlock atmosphere of the political and military process as itself in general. I had previously expressed my thoughts about the ability and possibility of the Russian dialogue partner to engage in a constructive manner. For the Canadian dialogue partners, I understand their intention to stay professionally neutral and not to express any support or sympathy for any side of the debate, but mediation could be more successful if we had at least a minor common thing to mediate. Instead, both Ukrainian and Russian sides showed lack of intention to be mediated and were trying to convince Canadian colleagues in those things which were out of mediation. You know, it is hard to mediate and to be mediated, if the third part (Canadian) expresses almost no personal position and reaction on what had been said by any side. Such position provoked both Ukrainian and Russian sides on repeating their endless mantra on who is “guilty”.
Kozin: The dialogue we have conducted so far has not produced any effect on me, except one predicament: Kiev is committed to more of the same.
Q: Small Positives
Although disagreements occurred throughout the majority of the dialogue, was there any area in the discussion that showed some sense of constructive dialogue or agreement?
Glebov: Yes, it was some minor achievement, when all sides agreed that there was an urgent need to stop fighting. Yes, the Canadian side was trying to do its best to prolong a dialog, but almost from the very beginning I did not get a sense of constructive dialogue or agreement.
Carment: The fact they consented to the dialogue is indeed a positive one.
What role did expertise play throughout the dialogue and how effective was it?
Carment: I could not find any expertise since the bulk of the time was spent blaming the other. There was little technical discussion or problem solving. Clearly neither side understood or wants to admit that a solution will be arrived at through mutual agreement even if Minsk II says otherwise.
Q: Canadian Participants
Are Canadian participants sufficient in knowledge and approach when addressing Ukrainian and Russian affairs? In other words, would European mediators be any better in an emailed-based dialogue in your thinking?
Glebov: Canadian participants are sufficient in knowledge and approach when addressing Ukrainian and Russian affairs. At the same time, as one of them wrote, both Ukrainian and Russian sides showed some specifics of the debate on Ukraine which were not well known in North America. Dialogue partners can benefit from understanding the strategical panorama of the situation while discussing a minor tactical issue. For example, discussing the implementation of a ceasefire may not necessarily be the same as the intention to stop the war in general.
Kozin: Canadian counterparts are not able to grasp the realities on the ground and real Kiev policy in Donbass because they have very limited true-to-life picture of the developments.
As tensions often takeover in a dialogue between Ukrainians and Russians, such as those between Kiev and Moscow, do you believe that a dialogue between people in Ukraine and Crimea could be more constructive? The context of this question is based on incentives as some Ukrainians want Crimea back and may more friendly and constructive in discussions with Crimeans.
Glebov: Yes, a dialogue between Ukrainians in the rest of Ukraine and Crimeans may be more constructive. At the same time, I don’t believe the Russian Federation are in favour of such a dialogue, as well as Ukrainians in the rest of Ukraine are not in favour of “excusing” Crimeans. For example, none of my colleagues and people whom I know are interested in visiting Crimea in such hostile conditions.
Kozin: There is no need to conduct any dialogue between Crimeans and Ukraine, because Crimea had been and now is a legitimate Russian land. This decision is final and undisputable by anybody.
Carment: Yes, it’s happening – we organized an event (“Engaging Crimea Prospects for Conflict and Cooperation” in Germany) on this topic involving parties from both sides and will publish the results soon.
Q: Canada and Diplomacy
What role do you think Canada can play at the official and non-official levels as the ceasefire seems to be weakening?
Carment: Formally, from the Prime Minister’s Office and the Foreign Affairs and Trade Department, very little, at least not until after the election. The OSCE, the G20 and the UN should be Canada’s main avenues for cooperation – we led the initiative a ear ago to give support to the OSCE monitoring mission. I’d like to see that support strengthened even more. I’m optimistic a diplomatic solution will be found as opposed to a serious escalation in conflict, which would be catastrophic for Poroshenko. Sanctions are hurting everyone and are not producing the expected outcome.
Q: Future of Russia-West Relations?
What are your thoughts to this statement and future relations between Russia and the West?
Kozin: The important issue to be debated between East and West is how to end the current phase of the Cold war and to revive the stalled arms control process (there are 15 unresolved issues between the USA and Russia in that area).
Q: Life and War
What impact has the prospect for war had on your life?
Glebov: So, you know my position and approach to this war, sides of the conflict, etc. As I already wrote some time ago, you may like or not Russia and Putin, but if you are mobilized into Ukranian army, you will have to fight, You know what I mean. The chance to be mobilized is extremely high upon any Ukranian. Prognosis are pessimistic. Many people have already died, and all of us have families. The taste of war is everywhere in Ukraine.
For a summary of the discussion, click here.
By Adnan Zuberi
Adnan Zuberi is a communications technologist and educator working in the field of e-diplomacy and citizen diplomacy. With former North American diplomats, he co-founded International Channels for Diplomacy, an NGO that fosters diplomatic communications between conflicting parties to deescalate conflict and restore peaceful relations. He holds degrees in theoretical physics and science education from the universities of Waterloo and Toronto, and a certificate in conflict analysis from USIP.