The UK nerve agent attack shows Russia has no "red lines" anymore, says Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin. In an interview with DW, he contends that Moscow's aggression against Kyiv could happen anywhere now.
DW: After Vladimir Putin's easy re-election as Russian president, you are warning that he no longer has any "red lines" and, with another mandate, will stop at nothing to get what he wants. What are you worried about? Ukraine? The rest of the world?
Pavlo Klimkin: It involves the whole democratic community because five years ago many people did not believe Putin could ever invade Ukraine. One year ago many people did not believe at all that [Russia] could organize, using nerve agents, on British soil. So, fundamentally, there are no red lines here. It's about a comprehensive and coordinated answer. Without such [an] answer, without a kind of platform for the whole trans-Atlantic community — and I understand Ukraine is an important part of the trans-Atlantic community — Russia will try to meddle in the democratic institutions.
So what you must be saying is that the response so far — sanctions, freezing, no "business as usual" — has not been enough.
But there are other measures; there could be more targeted sanctions. There could be more political pressure. There could be attempts to counter Russian unconventional threats. It could be about energy, it could be about cyber, it could be about many issues.
You've suggested nobody should go to the upcoming football World Cup in Russia.
Definitely! Look, how can you say that Russia deserves such a football championship now after what basically has happened: us in Ukraine, Crimea, Donbass, so many cases of meddling into elections in Europe and all around the democratic world. But using nerve agents on British soil, endangering British citizens and doing it — raising the stakes intentionally just one week before the presidential elections in Russia. So we need a tough coordinated answer to the Russian threat.
There has been some criticism of Ukraine for not letting the Russians in Ukraine vote in the Russian election on Sunday. Why did you do that?
Firstly we said very clearly the whole elections are not legitimate on the territory of occupied Crimea because the Russians have one single constituency. The issue of legitimacy for this election is definitely under question. But there is another point about security and safety around Russian diplomatic representations in a very emotional way. How should I explain to people who lost their brothers in arms or their relatives or their loved ones because of the Russian aggression that Russian elections should go just this way? So we have to care also about people and I believe it was good in the sense of safety and security yesterday in Ukraine.
No no no, I am not saying that. But what I did say and it's very important, is that the EU — both nationally and at the EU level — should act against such persons because they keep driving projects, Russian projects, which are supported by Russian companies, which are under EU sanctions and which are used now as a tool in the sense of Russian meddling into the European Union.
So on lobbyists like Gerhard Schröder, there should be a clear understanding, what is their role, and there should be a clear understanding, what is the way forward. It's not about sanctioning them tomorrow and after tomorrow. Let's be fair. But in a political sense, I believe people like Gerhard Schröder totally lost their credibility. And in this sense there should be a political drive enacted against them.
German member of the European Parliament David McAllister said he agreed that it's a shame Schröder is doing that. Do you think sanctions are something that could happen as people try to drill down harder on Moscow?
Of course, because it's the only way forward. Otherwise Moscow will come and simply try to meddle in the whole way democratic institutions here in the European Union, in the whole civilized world, [operate] and Russia has been already doing that. Tolerating that would mean Putin could do something else any other day. And remember what has been tested in Ukraine — Russian propaganda, May 17 invasion, cyber, terrorist attacks, everything — now could be tested here. And the same pattern of propaganda and fake news after May 17 now come back with the Russian denial of what happened in Salisbury. So everyone should be acutely aware of it.
You've just seen the EU foreign ministers. Does it seem like Europe is going to mount such a response?
I believe the mood is good for shaping up such a response. What kind of measures will be taken I can't say — you should ask [EU foreign policy chief] Federica Mogherini on that — but the mood is definitely different from before.
It sounds like this is sort of a zero-sum game for Russia and Ukraine — the worse Russia behaves, the more the EU understands what you've been telling them for years ... the more NATO sees they need to protect you.
Unfortunately, the understanding of Russian behavior and Russian intention had not come from the very beginning and some people needed time to understand what is Russia about ... what this Kremlin regime is about. But it's coming, it's coming definitely into this sense of clear understanding what Russia is able to deliver or how Russia is able to meddle in the sense of democratic institutions.
Pavlo Klimkin is the foreign minister of Ukraine. He previously served as his country's ambassador to Germany from 2012 to 2014. Klimkin spoke to DW at NATO Headquarters after meeting NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and European Union foreign ministers.