By Lesia Dubenko. Published Aug. 24, 2022
Kyiv hosted Crimea Platform-2, the second high-level summit established in the Verkhovna Rada in December 2020, on August 23.
Aimed at bringing together leaders of states and international organizations, the main aim of the Platform is to strengthen the effectiveness of the international response to the ongoing occupation of Crimea, an endeavor that Russia has been vehemently opposing by turning the peninsula into a robust military base and “normalizing” the occupation through initiatives like Global Values, visited by the current Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hadja Lahbib, in 2021.
Compared to 2021, one diplomat told us, this year the event, which was held online due to Russia’s war on Ukraine, was not as ornate. However, the fact that the Platform managed to engage a greater number of high-profile speakers from the Euro-Atlantic space and beyond fully makes up for the lack of media gloss.
EU powerhouses finally step in
In 2021, the Crimea Platform, albeit making grandiose offline preparations, was marred by several circumstances, chief among which was the low-key presence of major EU powerhouses. Neither the former Chancellor Angela Merkel nor President Emmanuel Macron attended it. Other states like the U.K. and the U.S. also dispatched officials of less politically significant agencies than the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
In line with her cynical decades-long policy, Merkel even sent Peter Altmaier, the former Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy, who, according to the reports, was more interested in resolving sensitive gas-related issues than condemning Crimea’s annexation (Germany had earlier got the green light to complete the Nord Stream-2 pipeline, sparking criticism in Kyiv).
This year, however, the situation looked profoundly different. The event was attended by a host of prominent figures, including U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, Chancellor Olaf Scholz, the recently re-elected President of France Emmanuel Macron, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, and many more.
Polish President Andrzej Duda chose to visit the event in person, sitting alongside President Volodymyr Zelensky and Ukrainian Foreign MinisterDmytro Kuleba, who both wore traditional embroidered vyshyvanka shirts.
All of the attendees condemned Russia’s occupation of Crimea and the full-scale war, with Scholz pledging to send more weapons to embattled Ukraine and to build modern granaries, and Stoltenberg saying that the Kremlin has turned the peninsula into one of the most militarized places in the world.
Meanwhile, Macron, who also participated, advised not to show weakness and make no compromises with Russia – a solid statement given that he remains one of the few leaders to occasionally communicate with his Russian counterpart. The frequency of their talks, however, significantly receded following his visit alongside Scholz, Italy’s PM Mario Draghi, also present at the platform, and Romanian President Klaus Iohannis to Ukraine in June.
Looking beyond Europe
The fact that high-profile representatives from non-European countries took part in the platform, equally condemning Russia’s war on Ukraine, is, arguably, the main success of Crimea Platform-2.
While Ukraine has managed to secure the support of the West, its appeal to other parts of the world has been feeble throughout the years, not least due to its subpar diplomatic performance, which largely failed to push through its narratives in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
Crimea Platform-2 has taken a solid step towards mending this situation, with Japanese PM Fumio Kishida attending the event and describing Russia’s attack on Ukraine as “despicable”.
Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei, Liberia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Dee-Maxwell Saah Kemaya, and the Prime Minister of Belize, Johnny Briceño, also participated in the platform, condemning Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. Giammattei, in particular, noted that no country can stand aside in the current situation.
Yet, it was Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan who really made the headlines during the summit. In his televised speech, he bluntly confirmed that Ankara does not recognize Russia’s annexation of the peninsula and said that it must be returned to Ukraine in line with international law, striking a major blow to the Kremlin’s attempts to cozy up to the Turkish leader, who visited Lviv last week together with UN Secretary-General António Guterres.
For Ukraine, Erdogan’s statement is great news as Ankara’s behavior during the six months of war showed signs of ambiguity on several occasions. For example, the Turkish President, who is the key figure behind the Ukraine-Russia grain export deals, recently floated the idea of peace regardless on whose terms it is concluded as long as the Black Sea is not privatized by the Russians.
Despite the positives and the Ukrainian diplomat’s statement that “Kyiv has become an attractive magnet for initiating the most important problems pertaining to war and peace”, Crimea Platform-2 still proved how difficult it is for Ukraine to reach out to those parts where Russia’s influence remains tangible, and propaganda – rife. Among them are big regional powerhouses like India and Brazil, and the African continent as a whole.
As a rule, Russia should not serve as a source of Ukraine’s inspiration, but when it comes to replicating the recent moderate success of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s recent moderate success when touring Africa and Asia, Kyiv could learn a thing or two. And engage those same countries by offering counter-narratives and partnership deals.