Ukrainian analyst: Serbia is complicated for Kyiv, but still a partner

Mikola Kapitonjenko iz Kijevskog instituta za međunarodne odnose
Source: PrintScreen N1

Mykola Kapitonenko from the Kyiv Institute of International Relations assessed for N1 that when it comes to relations between Kyiv and Belgrade, Serbia was complicated for Ukraine but still a partner.

On the question regarding Ukraine's relationship with Serbia, which has a kind of special relationship with Russia, Kapitonenko responded that it depended on how Ukrainians perceived international politics.

"War makes people see the world in black and white, and emotions matter to them, so they may have a negative attitude towards all countries that do not support Ukraine enough or towards countries that are perceived as pro-Russian in some way. However, people who have a more pragmatic approach and understand nuances realize that both people and countries can have different interests that overlap in one sphere and conflict in another. And that there is history and that not everything is simple. Serbia is a difficult partner for Ukraine, but at the same time, an important and valuable one. I think it is the task of Ukrainian diplomacy to build constructive relations even with countries that may have a different attitude towards Russia over time. So, Serbia is complicated but still a partner," Kapitonenko said.

Commenting on the statement by French President Emmanuel Macron, who said that although there was no consensus on it, he did not rule out the possibility of European soldiers being sent to Ukraine, which had been immediately ruled out by the NATO Secretary-General, Germany, Poland, and some other countries, Kapitonenko said he also wondered why it had been said because it sounded completely unbelievable.

"But this war has made many things that initially seemed impossible possible. I cannot completely rule out that at some point in the future, there will indeed be talks about sending either a NATO mission or soldiers from some of the states to Ukraine. But currently, there is no chance for that. Also, I think there is a competition for leadership in Europe between Germany and France. The German Chancellor recently said that he was against sending Taurus missiles to Ukraine, and probably on the back of that, Macron decided to make a move and take the initiative, in terms of strengthening France's position. But everyone understands that this is very unlikely, and we have much more urgent issues on the agenda, such as sending weapons to Ukraine, which is already problematic. So, I think it's better to focus on that," Kapitonenko assessed.

Asked if the West was tired of helping Ukraine, he says that's not the case; rather, Europe is in a deadlock and lacks a strategy.

"Ordinary Europeans who are far from war, their attention can distance itself from the war compared to what it was a few years ago. However, political elites do not have the right to do so. They must identify and focus on security threats. And the Russo-Ukrainian war is still a major security risk. So, there is no chance that they will tire of Ukraine in any way. So, besides fatigue, there is a lack of strategy, and I think Europeans did not expect the war to go in this direction. They were not prepared for another long-term and large conventional war in the heart of Europe. They have different political interests and different political roles within their countries. They lack unity and vision, and I think this is more of a situation than being tired of Ukraine," Kapitonenko believes.

He adds that for Ukraine, this means "we are facing long-term difficulties in military supply, weapon supply, financial aid."

"The signs of this were clear as early as last year, but probably the Ukrainian leadership did not pay enough attention to this kind of signal. Now we fully feel that there are problems both in the US and in Europe. And the longer the war lasts, the more difficulties in the level of assistance coming from the West should be expected. And that's a problem," he assesses.

As for how the election of Donald Trump as the new US President would affect Ukraine, Kapitonenko says it could bring surprises.

"Many Ukrainians have been trying to prepare for this since last year when it became clear that Trump had a good chance of beating Biden. But there is no clear answer on how to prepare for it. We already have experience with Donald Trump as President, and he was the first US President to decide to supply weapons to Ukraine. The decision to send Javelins was Trump's decision, while before that, Obama consistently refused for a very long time. So, there is no firm opinion in Ukraine about what Trump will do, although his rhetoric is somewhat threatening. Because his insistence that he will be able to end the war quickly is probably perceived in Ukraine as insisting that Ukraine surrenders because there is no other way for the war to end quickly," Kapitonenko points out.

Kapitonenko suggests that rhetoric during elections is one thing, while broader US strategy is another.

"Ukraine is not an isolated issue but a part of a larger strategic vision of the US, which will likely be reformulated in some way, as it seems that Trump leans more towards new isolationism, but there are significant parts of US reputation and long-term interests already brought into question. I think they will have to carefully weigh all the risks and gains and see how it will negatively impact US security commitments and lobbying position worldwide if aid to Ukraine is withheld and Ukraine is potentially defeated. I hope they will think about it carefully," Kapitonenko points out.

As for interpreting the statement by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy that some countries were using Ukraine to pressure the EU, he says he's not sure who exactly he meant, but there is a very complicated relationship in Ukraine towards, for example, Hungary.

"The views of the Hungarian Prime Minister are often sharply criticized here. But that was the case even before the war, actually. Relations between Hungary and Ukraine were quite complex. As were the relations between Poland and Ukraine. They were very complex before the war, and then Poland took a very active position and the relations became very friendly; they opened their hearts and homes to a large number of Ukrainian refugees. And Poland is considered a great friend of Ukraine. However, recent events with border blockades and growing problems in trade and economic relations are now being interpreted differently in Ukraine. I think we need to be realistic. If we are serious about our intentions to become members of the European Union, then we need to take a more pragmatic approach to countries like Poland, and Hungary, and regardless of how difficult the problems are, we need to seek compromises," Kapitonenko states.