No More Red Lines with Russia for Using American Weapons in Ukraine - Ukraine's Ambassador to USA

Friday, 30 September 2022 — , European Pravda

Oksana Markarova is a representative of Ukrainian government officials who is significant to all authorities. Despite a complete government reset, she retained her position in 2019 as the Minister of Finance; in 2020, she resigned and became Ambassador of Ukraine to the USA very soon.

Since then, financier Markarova has been a diplomat. And if, at first, the criteria for her appointment were her good reputation and connections with the IMF. Now the ambassador of Ukraine has been "requalified" as a gunsmith.

Even before the full-scale invasion, the United States became the number one partner for Ukraine in supplying weapons. Their assistance is decisive in deterring the Russian onslaught.

So what weapons are subject to U.S. restrictions? Is it possible to take back Crimea with American weapons? When will the land-lease start, and why is it overvalued? Does the U.S. give money in addition to weapons?

To find out more, read the interview with the ambassador by the editor of EuroPravda Sergiy Sydorenko.


"Russia is not just a sponsor of terrorism, but a terrorist state"

- What is the opinion in the USA? Is Putin really ready to use nuclear weapons?

- Of course, this cannot help but worry all civilized people. We saw the reaction of President Biden in his recent interview with CBS when he answered: "Don't... Don't... Don't... Don't even think."

But such threats from the Russian Federation are not the first. Every time they lose on other fronts, they try to blackmail the world with a "nuclear war."

- They are not rattling weapons for the first time, but President Putin has personally used public threats.

- Over the past 220 days, the Russian Federation and Putin have crossed more red lines for those who could understand the true essence of the Russian regime.

Therefore, the threat is taken very seriously here, but I do not see fear. I do not see Putin achieving his goals with his threats.

Despite these threats, aid to Ukraine is increasing, and no one is afraid of his blackmail.

- So the USA believes this is blackmail and not a real intention to use weapons?

- Of course, any responsible leader cannot completely reject it and say: "This is blackmail. Therefore, we will not pay attention to it at all". There are also strong signals; the USA and other partners convey their warnings to Moscow, and not only publicly.

- Ukraine raised the issue of recognizing Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism. The USA, at the State Department and the White House level are officially opposed. Maybe before the nuclear danger, the U.S. will change its position?

- The nuclear threat is only one of the arguments. The Russian Federation has already earned this status even if Putin did not play the nuclear card. Russia is not just a sponsor of terrorism. It is a terrorist state itself. It must be completely isolated, 100%, not like now. So that everyone who makes decisions in the Russian Federation enables them to be sanctioned.

The status of a state sponsor of terrorism (SST), which exists in legislation, is the most powerful tool that achieves this goal and can be implemented quickly.

We are actively promoting it. Zelenskyy is publicly asking for it.

We understand the difficulties involved in adding Russia to the SST list. Because as soon as the country is on this list - it is required to stop all cooperation, reduce all humanitarian missions, etc. For example, concerning transatlantic unity, the European partners will have to quickly make decisions for which they are not ready. Another example is that the standard sanctions regime excludes food, such as grain, and there are no exceptions.

But despite all this, we are sure that if it is impossible to introduce this status for Russia, which will call it a terrorist state and introduce the same restrictions, then it should be added to the list of countries sponsoring terrorism.

- What will the United States do if Russia does carry out a nuclear strike? Is Biden ready to engage the U.S. military, such as conducting airstrikes, or will it only help Ukraine?

- I have no answer to this question. Biden has already said that he will not publicly talk about the consequences for the Russian Federation, but these consequences will be catastrophic. The thing is that "plan B" cannot be public. Once plan B becomes public, it is no longer plan B.

The only thing I can clearly say is that we see support for Ukraine is growing, and we see it from the outside. The U.S. understands this situation is much broader than the attacks on Ukraine.

- U.S. military aid is limited - for example, in terms of range. Does it have anything to do with fears about the nukes?

- I do not see it is connected. Although whether the weaponry aid will lead to escalation is being discussed. But I don't see any hard red lines on the weapons we're asking for.

We no longer hear in response to some request from Ukraine: "No, because it will never happen."

I will take a step back and remind you what we talked about Zelenskyy's visit to the USA in September 2021. We then signed a significant, non-public framework security agreement. By the way, right now, it helps increase the security assistance very quickly from December 2021.

In 2021, even "Stingers" seemed unattainable because the U.S. had many concerns that are not present today. That's why we get much more serious weapons.

The USA no longer doubts whether Ukraine will resist, whether these weapons will fall into Russian hands, because Russia will take over us, etc. We see M777 howitzers, HIMARS, and other weaponry in Ukraine. Although a couple of months ago, there was a lively discussion about whether it would even be appropriate to hand it over to Ukraine. We have convinced them that it is expedient and already real.

Now the issue of longer-range weapons is on the agenda because we really need to reach a distance of 300 km.

We also have requested armoured vehicles, aircraft, etc., but we understand that these weapons will not end up on the battlefield immediately. It is all about training, logistics, etc. But with our successful counteroffensive, responsible handling of weapons, and a clear approach to what and how we do - we confidently convince our partners that this is also necessary.

"We are talking with the U.S. about three types of weapons"

- What exactly stops the USA from providing Ukraine with the latest weapons? For example, long-range weapons, ATACMS missiles?

- There are many reasons. For example, some modern weapons operate only in the integrated NATO system, which we are not a part of. But we actively discuss all the capabilities and specific challenges and how to solve them to get these weapons items.

This particular weapon you mentioned has technical issues that I can't disclose. There are also availability issues.

It seems to us that the NATO countries have some bottomless places where they keep weapons. The only question is to provide them - but this is not true. Unlike Russia, modern countries did not prepare for the wars of the previous century.

That is why the U.S. initiated Rammstein, bringing allies together.

Are we satisfied?

We always thank them. We understand that without the USA and its efforts, the situation at the front would be completely different.

But we are asking for more because we haven't won yet.

- Some restrictions are purely political. Defence Minister Reznikov has already admitted that the USA forbids using their weapons to strike Russia. Is it only about Russia or also about Belarus?

- Do you mean the HIMARS thing? Yes, there is a condition not to use them against any other states.

- Does this apply specifically to HIMARS?

- This applies specifically to HIMARS.

- Is Crimea also a prohibited zone for it? When the Armed Forces of Ukraine struck bases in Crimea, everyone emphasized the weapons were not American.

- This question is even surprising. Crimea is Ukraine - was, is, and always will be.

Therefore, there are no restrictions on (using weapons in) Crimea. The USA has never recognized the illegal annexation and occupation of Crimea.

- Ukraine raises the question of removing certain restrictions in the event of nuclear weapons use, such as the range and the ban on striking the Russian Federation.

- Regardless of nuclear threats, we are now discussing three types of weapons with the USA.

The number one weapon is what we need on the battlefield right now. We are looking for it worldwide with our partners.

The second is what we need in the coming months the mechanism of "presidential dropdowns" right now and later by procurement programs to be delivered quickly. These are various drones, kamikaze drones, etc.

The third type of weapon is what builds the army of the future, like aircraft. We need to discuss everything now, but we understand that even when we see it in allocation decisions, these weapons will not be on the front line for some time. This will not help us change the situation on the front line now. We need all these weapons regardless of Putin's decisions.

Because we need to win.

Regardless of whether he mobilizes or not and what weapons he uses, we have only one option - to defend ourselves and win this war. That's why we need weapons.

And the U.S. supports us in this.

We understand that there is a huge armada on the other side. Let it be unmotivated, criminal, unprofessional - but there are many of them, they have many weapons, and they cause a lot of damage. That's why we need a lot of weapons. At the same time, it must be complied with all procedures, including oversight by Congress, so that American taxpayers are sure everything is done correctly.

- September 30 is the end of the fiscal year in the USA. Does the U.S. have time to use the funds allocated for Ukraine?

- We had two budget changes for Ukraine this year. The first, for $13.6 billion, used completely - weapons, humanitarian and financial aid to Ukraine. From the second program of about $40 billion, we have already received almost all of the $8.5 billion that was supposed to go to the Ukrainian budget.

It is important to note that the United States is the number one partner in providing us with irreversible budget assistance. The $8.5 billion is also the largest grant budget aid the United States has provided to other countries.

Humanitarian funds in this $40 billion program have also been spent. Regarding the military assistance for Ukraine and the financing of partners on the eastern flank of NATO, there is hope that the U.S. will make it possible to use the remaining funds after the end of the budget year. 

We are working simultaneously on the additional amends to the budget that the administration has already submitted to Congress, worth $11.7 billion, of which $4.5 billion is proposed as a grant to cover the last three months of this year. $1.5 billion per month, and the rest is military aid.

The Biden administration is doing everything to ensure continuous support for Ukraine. We hope that the new Congress will also support this approach.

- In Ukraine, people often ask: where is Lend-Lease? Why is it not launched? Do we need it?

- Thank you for asking about this. In Ukraine, I very often see a misunderstanding of what Lend-Lease is and how it works.

Now we receive weapons from the USA through the so-called "presidential dropdowns" or "presidential allocations." It means we get as for free.

Instead, they will lend us weapons under Lend-lease.

We are still getting ready to launch the Lend-lease. But as long as we have the opportunity to receive weapons for free, of course, we will use them.

Instead, now in the framework of the Lend-Lease discussions with the USA, a lot of attention is paid to our strategic needs - for example, the air defense systems. Part of the decisions regarding the sky's protection have already been adopted - the first NASAMS complexes, I hope, will be in Ukraine soon. But this is not enough to protect all of Ukraine. Building such a defence is a huge and long-term project.

"The USA expects Ukraine to synchronize sanctions with them"

- Let's talk about security in general. Ukraine offered its partners to sign the "Kyiv Security Compact." What does the U.S. say to this?

- The first reaction is quite favorable. The U.S. understands security guarantees are crucial in achieving peace in Ukraine.

I personally am a supporter of our NATO membership. But unfortunately, NATO does not have unanimous support.

However, the experience of Finland and Sweden shows that it is possible. The common border with Russia is not a red line that does not let the country join the Alliance. Therefore, in the future, our road lies toward NATO.

- The USA has recently been skeptical about Ukraine's NATO membership, even recommending not to mention the MAP. Is something changing now?

- I disagree with you. In 2008 the USA actively lobbied for ​​providing Ukraine with the MAP - but could not sway its European colleagues.

- Germany and France.

- That is why today I call the USA not skeptics but realists. The U.S. supports Ukraine in our Euro-Atlantic aspirations, but they value transatlantic unity and, realizing that there is no unity on this matter, picked the position they did.

I am sure that if we continue to work with all our partners, we will join NATO. And the last almost 220 days have shown that Ukraine can strengthen the Alliance.

- One of the methods of pressure on the Russian Federation is economic sanctions. Does the U.S. expect sanctions to crush Russia?

- Not at all. Sanctions are one of the very important elements.

They have several functions. The first function is preventive, which did not work very well.

The second function is to punish individuals and companies for their actions.

And the third function is economic isolation, reducing Russia's resources and limiting its access to modern technologies and funds needed for the war. This is not the only but very important element that, together with security and financial aid to Ukraine, should motivate Russia to stop.

- Sanctions have such a feature that they work if many people apply them simultaneously. But Ukraine sometimes does not impose sanctions against many individuals and legal entities already under U.S. sanctions.

- A concrete example: Alfa-Bank is sanctioned in the USA, but it still works here.

- In this case, I have larger communications from Ukraine to the USA. We regularly share information about sanctioned individuals when we ask the U.S. to impose sanctions.

But, of course, as a citizen of my country, I hear the position of President Zelenskyy. His opinion has been the same since September 2021: everyone involved in this aggression, individuals, military, business, oligarchs - all must definitely be sanctioned.

Everywhere.Throughout. And in Ukraine as well.

- Is there any news regarding the seized funds of Russian oligarchs and the Russian state in favor of Ukraine?

- This is an important question. The USA has seized a large number of Russian assets.

The U.S. needs to regulate this issue legislatively, and we raise this issue as one of the key priorities. In Congress and the U.S. Treasury, a group is actively working on this issue. We have a complete mutual understanding. The main thing is to find a legally correct mechanism, so the decision is not appealed.

Work is also underway to find and identify all the property of Putin's henchmen. This property must be sanctioned and seized in the first stage and confiscated in the second stage.

We and the USA fully share the opinion that this should be one of the main sources of rebuilding Ukraine after the victory.

At the same time, not only citizens of Russia but also citizens or companies of other countries can fall under sanctions. No matter who you are, Russia's connivance in this aggression will not go unnoticed.


Interviewed by Sergiy Sydorenko
Filmed by Volodymyr Oliiniyk
"European Pravda"

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