European Ambassadors: How Russia’s Unprovoked Aggression Against Ukraine Concerns Nigerians

European Ambassadors: How Russia’s Unprovoked Aggression Against Ukraine Concerns Nigerians

Two years ago, President Vladimir Putin pushed Russia to launch a war of aggression against Ukraine, challenging Ukrainians’ “aspirations for a better future and for getting closer to the EU.” The European Union believes it was an attack “not just against Ukraine, but against freedom, self-determination, and democracy.”

Yet, Ukraine has demonstrated “remarkable resilience in the face of this brutal” attack, with the EU noting that this is about the “strength of a nation fighting for its rights and aspirations. Ukraine’s resistance today stands as a beacon of hope for freedom-loving people everywhere.” The conviction remains unwavering that “Ukraine will prevail,” with Europe standing by its side as long as it takes.

“Ukraine has proven the power of a nation and a people fighting for something. For themselves first and foremost. But also for us and for everything that we believe in. Our freedoms, our democracy, our hard-fought rights and aspirations. Some were surprised by Ukraine’s heroic action. But no one should have been surprised that when faced with oppression, subjugation and tyranny, they chose resistance,” said Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission.

To mark the second anniversary of the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, on February 24, European (Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, The Netherlands, Romania and Sweden) ambassadors to Nigeria in this interview talk about Russia’s “unprovoked and unjustifiable aggression” against Ukraine, reiterating their determination to stand by Ukraine “every step of the way.” Excerpts:

Why should we in Nigeria care about Russia’s war against Ukraine? 

Countries have agreed on rules of engagement for the benefit of their citizens. The United Nations (UN) Charter provides a clear framework aimed at preserving peace. This includes respect for the sovereignty of a country, whether a neighbouring country or a country further away. Russia’s war against Ukraine goes against international agreements and the United Nations Charter. The illegal Russian invasion of Ukraine creates a dangerous precedent for the rest of the world. Sovereignty and territorial integrity are the cornerstones of international order. Russia undermining Ukrainian sovereignty undermines the international institutions we have built together. 

Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine has also disrupted global food and energy markets. Ukraine is among the world’s most important grain producers. The illegal Russian invasion has severely affected Ukraine’s production and export of grains, leading to higher prices worldwide. European countries and Ukraine are working together to keep global food prices stable by protecting the production and export of grain to countries, particularly on the African continent, for instance through ‘Solidarity Lanes’ and the Black Sea Corridor. 

On this day, we mark a tragedy and a serious violation of international law. It has been two years since the full-scale illegal Russian invasion of Ukraine. Two years in which Ukraine has been defending its citizens, its schools and hospitals, its waters, its industries and its independence with tooth and nail. Two years of too many lives lost and too much pain endured. 

We are aware that there are more conflicts happening in the world and that people are suffering in various places. We support a just international order where people anywhere can benefit from peace, stability and prosperity, in Europe, Africa or elsewhere. With geographical distance, there is the risk of information being lost. So today, while we stand together on a day we wish we didn’t need to commemorate, we would like to share more information on questions we often get.

Are European countries prolonging the war in Ukraine by sending weapons to Ukraine? 

Our countries are not at war with Russia. Our countries support Ukraine with weapons because it has the right to defend itself. Russia attacked Ukraine without justification, violating international law and the UN Charter. Since its illegal invasion of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula in 2014, Russia has breached almost 400 international treaties. Ukraine has the right to defend itself. Russia can end the war at any time and withdraw from Ukraine. For Ukraine however, an end to its defense would mean the loss of its territory and the oppression of its population. Not supporting Ukraine would mean accepting Ukraine to fall under Russian submission. 

Why are Ukraine and Europe not negotiating with Russia?

Ukraine and our countries are always open to negotiations. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has put an offer for sustainable peace on the table with his 10-Point Peace Plan, but Russia refuses to negotiate on it. Russia can end this war at any time. We continue to campaign for Russia to end the war and to withdraw from Ukraine. We support Ukraine’s Peace Formula. But there can be no peace at the price of Ukrainian independence, the freedom of its people and the destruction of the international rules-based order. 

Did Europe or NATO provoke Russia?

People sometimes claim that Europe or NATO provoked the Russian attack. We are not at war with Russia, nor do we seek confrontation. Before the illegal invasion, European countries like ours and Russia enjoyed certain levels of cooperation, including through trade. NATO also did not look for confrontation with Russia. NATO is a defensive alliance. Countries can request membership of NATO and NATO respects every nation’s right to choose its own path. 

Russia breached the Budapest Memorandum (1994) where it agreed to respect independence, sovereignty and borders of Ukraine, by its 2014 invasion of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula. Since then, Russia has continued to breach international law. The illegal invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022 marked a further escalation of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine. 

Why do you not support other countries with weapons like you do with Ukraine?

Globally, we are committed to contributing to safety and stability. In West Africa for instance, we finance the UNDP Regional Stabilisation Facility in the Lake Chad Basin in Niger, Nigeria, Chad and Cameroon. We have also been very clear that we support ECOWAS as a regional organisation in relation to the developments affecting the security and stability of the region. Furthermore, our countries have given assistance to Nigeria’s fight against insurgency multiple times, including support to Nigeria’s military.

Concerning Ukraine specifically, the Russian war against Ukraine also has a direct impact on the security of Europe. For that reason, continued military support remains crucial for Ukraine to defend itself against Russia, but also for Europe as a whole. 

Does Europe’s commitment to Ukraine affect its work with Nigeria?

We are committed to our partnership with Nigeria and other African countries. Our work with and in Nigeria encompasses many issues, such as private sector development, agriculture, climate change, security, health, human rights and humanitarian affairs. We are among the top trading partners for Nigeria, have ongoing commitments of more than 600 million euros to Nigeria and our companies create thousands of jobs here, for instance in the field of agriculture, tech, health, and energy. We remain strong partners of Nigeria and Nigerians and we intend to strengthen our partnership even more.

Related Articles