Philippe Michel-Kleisbauer: "France and the United States defend peoples’ freedom to self-determination.
Philippe Michel-Kleisbauer, MoDem MP for the French district of Var and member of the National Defence and Armed Forces Committee, is a member of the NATO-Ukraine Interparliamentary Council. He talks to us about the worrying situation in Donbass, a territory in eastern Ukraine.
As a member of the French National Assembly and a member of the NATO-Ukraine Interparliamentary Council, can you explain the situation in Donbass?
Since 2014, Donbass has been in the grip of Russia's annexation of Crimea and a civil war-like struggle in Donbass. This is about Ukrainian separatists who, supported by Russians, under the cover of private military companies, would like their region to secede in order to merge with Putin's Russia. This so-called low-intensity war, which is a war nonetheless, has resulted in more than 14,000 deaths and the displacement of at least 1,200,000 people. While we had reached a ceasefire at the end of 2020, the bombings and tensions have resumed in intensity since the beginning of the year, despite the opening of new border crossings and the exchange of prisoners on both sides. In this context of re-escalation, Russia on the one hand and Europe and the United States on the other find themselves mobilised in this conflict zone on Europe's doorstep.
Was the election of US President Joe Biden the reason for the outbreak of hostilities on the part of Russia?
We don’t know why President Putin decided to increase the number of his soldiers on the border after the election of President Joe Biden. Is it because of a recurrent demand from the Ukrainians to join NATO and the European Union, that Putin feared could become reality with the arrival of Joe Biden? Possibly. But it cannot explain this renewed tension at a time when Russia is participating in the Normandy Format negotiations aimed at bringing the Minsk peace process to a successful conclusion.
Is this reminiscent of the events of September 2014 with the invasion of Crimea by the Russian army? Are the fears as great now as they were then?
No, because in 2014, NATO and the United States put a stop to Russia's efforts and at the same time, France and Germany launched this peace process on the side-lines of the Normandy landings commemorations, hence the name. This format brought together the Ukrainian, Russian, and French presidents and the German Chancellor.
What is at stake for the EU in this conflict and regarding its cooperation with the US?
The European Union and the United States are absolutely on the same page as regards respect for the rules of international law that underpin their joint commitment to spread the format of liberal democracies around the world. France and the United States condemn the annexation of other territories by any state and defend the freedom of peoples to self-determination.
Do you think there is a way out of this particularly delicate situation? What are the possible scenarios for ending this crisis?
The best scenario for both sides would be the conclusion of the Minsk agreements with a package of 300 measures drafted by the OSCE for the Republic of Ukraine and obligations for Russia. By fuelling these conflicts, Russia has put itself in a difficult position. Fuelling this war or waging war in Ukraine would expose the Kremlin's most senior figure on the one hand to incomprehension or even loss of support of his people for waging war on their Ukrainian cousins and, on the other hand, to a Euro-American front that would not accept this state of affairs. It is also in the interest of the Russians that France and Germany, as arbitrators in this conflict, bring about these agreements for the sake of hope and peace.