How to get Putin to stop the war and what's wrong with Scholz, explains ex-ambassador Andriy Melnyk — NV interview

2 February, 03:52 PM
Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Andriy Melnyk (Photo:Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Andriy Melnyk (Photo:Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

During the initial phases of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Ukraine’s then-ambassador to Germany, Andriy Melnyk, had thoroughly annoyed the German political elite with his public lambasting of slow and hesitant German aid to Ukraine. But Melnyk believes that his seven years of experience in Germany had given him a reputation amongst the political classes and demonstrated his diplomatic chops.

In November 2022, Melnyk was appointed as the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine.

In the interview with Radio NV, Melnyk spoke about the difficult position of Germany, Ukraine’s outreach to the global South, and the West’s reaction to Ukraine’s anti-corruption drive.

NV: How could the pressure on Russia be increased? Do you have arms supply in mind, or are there any economic levers?

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Melnyk: I am convinced that we still have many economic topics – like the exclusion of Russia from the SWIFT bank payment system. You know that this decision only actually affects a few banks, and hundreds of banks, let's say, are untouched. And it is possible that there are dozens of schemes to bypass these restrictions.

The issue of sanctions on the missile industry, as well. Nuclear energy is also one of the areas where Russians are continuing making money, because they have billion-dollar contracts around the world. That is, even here there are lots of loopholes which can and should be closed. As they say, the field is not plowed yet. And we hope that our friends - both in Europe and in the United States - will act more assertively here, and not be afraid of the escalation about which everyone is talking about.

NV: Do you feel pressure right now, or are there hints from our Western partners that Kyiv should be more inclined to provide negotiations with Moscow?

Melnyk: Thanks God, there is no much pressure.

NV: If you read the Western media, there is a debate. In America, in Britain, sometimes in Germany they say sometimes that we took a very categorical position. Maybe if we showed that we are ready for negotiations more, everything would be faster and they would have less problems, they would not watch this news on TV anymore.

Melnyk: Indeed, these thoughts really exist. But they, thank God, are still in the minority. Discussions are still going on in Germany, in Europe, in the media, in society, because everyone wants to finish this war as soon as possible. Therefore, for this, they offer ideas to Ukrainians about being more flexible and less principled.

So, here you need also to find arguments and counterarguments. We do this in order to convince those political forces that use these theses for their electoral ambitions and just to stay in the social trend. But this cannot be downplayed.

But on the part of governments and on the part of our partners, such theses do not sound. I hope that they will not appear, because, looking at this war, at its genocidal character, I think, even behind the scenes, it is still impossible to imagine such conversations.

NV: You manage the diplomatic direction of South America. And I heard an unexpected thing from you that we do not have any embassy except Mexico, in Latin America. We have developed very friendly relations with Western Europe and North America. Why do we not have a relationship with South America? Why we don’t feel any support from there at all? There they have, at best, a neutral position.

Melnyk: I will make a slight amendment: we have embassies in Brazil, Argentina, Chile, and Peru. We did not have ambassadors for a long time and still do not. There are none in Brazil, there is still a vacancy in Chile. Just a few weeks ago, we appointed ambassadors to Argentina and Peru. But the question is not only that.

The issue of diplomatic presence is important. And these embassies actually worked there for more than a dozen years after the restoration of our independence. The question is how seriously we have taken the states of this continent until now. Did we look at them "there is a country, it is necessary to have an embassy in it". You know, it was an approach like that.

We have not always seen and felt our national interest in really deepening these relations and making them interested in Ukraine. Therefore, we really have an extremely difficult task before us.

These states are often called as a global South. I am skeptical of this term because it has a bit of a post-colonial flavor. There are 33 states on this continent, if we take into account the Caribbean, Central America, each of which deserves a personal approach. The other day I held negotiations with the states of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, or [January 30] - Trinidad and Tobago.

Each state’s vote, if we take the UN, has the same weight as the vote of the United States of America or France. And you know how important it is to us when the votes are taken: who voted for, who abstained, who left the hall, who, God forbid, was against. Why? Even for these reasons, it is very important to us during the war.

But now we see: these countries are very ambitious. Not only Brazil, Argentina, Chile are big players, but also smaller countries on the continent. We are now preparing an action plan to find a key to each of these states, to propose steps to the country's president to change this attitude. It is neutral. But, again, this neutrality is not enough for us. How can a state be neutral if there is a war of extermination?

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We will be proposing very specific things to do in terms of our business, media presence, diplomatic. I hope the president will support the idea of expanding our presence, because that is important too.

NV: You worked as the ambassador of Ukraine in Germany. You've had some pretty harsh tweets, harsh speeches. It seems to me that you forced the German establishment to think about the situation. How did Germans react behind the scenes? How did they perceive your speeches and tweets? Didn't you annoy them?

Melnyk: Obviously, I was annoying. And my advantage in Germany was that I spent more than seven years there. Although we have been at war since 2014, I arrived just one month before the Minsk agreements were concluded. Everyone knew me and I knew everyone. We all acted according to the usual, classic canons of diplomacy.

Therefore, when the great war came and when we felt literally in the first hours and days that Germany wasn’t hurrying to help us not only with weapons, but also economically, then we had to literally scream, call out through all possible channels - both television and radio, and in newspapers. And it was a shock for everyone. Everyone could not understand how this ambassador could allow himself to speak in such a tone with the host country. According to established principles, this is not entirely correct.

But on the other hand, everyone understood through this cry that something was wrong, that this war was something that put us on the edge of existence, on the edge of survival. And only because they knew the former ambassador Melnyk, who was absolutely adequate and was looking for common interests and smoothed out some sharp corners, they began to think.

Because how can you address the chancellor in a tone that goes a little overboard? And for the Germans, as a result, it became such a factor...

NV: Realizing that something very abnormal is going on there.

Melnyk: There is a disaster, there is horror. It was just a cry of desperation, if you will. And it worked. Many, of course, criticized it and are criticizing that approach still, but the vast majority, I have this feeling, understood us, heard this cry. It was a cry of the soul that eventually reached the hearts and heads of political elites. It was like a cold shower: “Wait, there is something's wrong. We thought that by deepening trade with Russia, strengthening this mutual dependence, we would make war impossible. And everything turned out the other way around. We have to do something, we have to act.”

NV: And how did our Western partners react to the series of corruption scandals that we had in the last few weeks?

Melnyk: There were different voices. In my opinion, the leitmotif was precisely the fact that these cases were and are like a knife in the heart and in the back for every Ukrainian, not only for those who are fighting at the front. It is a shame and disgrace for everyone.

It is important for our friends that we see this, we talk about it, that it is not hidden somewhere under the table, we do not say "now is a war, it is not the right time, after the war we will deal with it."

For me, this moment is important, because we created NABU, NAZK, and SAP. All these tools were created after 2014. They all exist. And in times of the war, they should do their same work, especially now when we are hoping for even more support, both in financial and reconstruction way.

Most of the feedback I got from my friends, critical journalists in Germany, was "okay, fine, you're talking about it."

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