As Malaysians have recently celebrated the peaceful joy of Lunar New Year and embraced the beginning of the year of the tiger, threats of war loom in Europe. Russia’s unprovoked military threats against Ukraine remain at the center of today’s geopolitical tensions. Russia continues to launch aggressive disinformation and cyber campaigns even as it increases troops and heavy weapons in and around Ukraine, including in the illegally seized Crimean peninsula, under Russian occupation, and in parts of the eastern Donbas region, where Russia leads and supports armed groups.
The United States, the EU, and NATO are completely united in our response and our objectives. We’ve consistently spoken of the two paths Russia can choose: dialogue and diplomacy, or further escalation.
We continue to work tirelessly towards a diplomatic resolution of current tensions, and we’re prepared to move forward where there is the possibility of communication and cooperation if Russia de-escalates its aggression toward Ukraine, stops the inflammatory rhetoric, and approaches discussions about the future of security in Europe in a balanced and reciprocal way.
However, Russia’s ongoing blatant violations of international law are nothing less than a direct challenge to the international rules-based order. Ukraine is a member of the United Nations, an independent and sovereign state. Its treatment by Russia should be of concern for all countries around the globe, as a matter of principle. If Russia were allowed to limit the sovereignty of Ukraine by dictating Ukraine’s alliances and foreign policy choices, by blackmailing it and violating its territorial integrity, it could embolden others who want to expand illegal territorial claims, including in the South China Sea.
Undermining the principles of the international rules-based order weakens the foundation of international cooperation, and Russia’s violations threaten peace and stability on the European continent. We strongly reaffirm our unwavering support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, within its internationally recognized borders, extending to its territorial waters.
The intense and unprecedented cooperation and coordination between our countries and many other partners in support of Ukraine is very strong. This includes the joint preparation of severe economic sanctions should Moscow choose to further invade Ukraine. We’ve developed a high-impact, quick-action response that would inflict significant costs on the Russian economy and financial system. Russian choices will determine whether these measures will be implemented.
Together, we are also stepping up to provide assistance to Ukraine in various and mutually reinforcing ways, including to build resiliency in the face of Russia’s destabilizing acts. The EU is currently preparing a new emergency macro-financial assistance package of €1.2 billion, to address Ukraine’s financing needs.
Meanwhile, Kremlin disinformation around Ukraine is also intensifying, aimed at imposing the false assertion that Ukraine is the aggressor, and even going so far as to have started planning for possible false pretexts for an alleged “Western aggression” against Russia. Besides being fundamentally wrong, such narratives increase tensions and create uncertainty and confusion in the public. We are working closely with Ukrainian authorities and civil society by delivering technical and financial support to help them combat foreign information manipulation and interference.
The ongoing threats against Ukraine have coincided with yet another cyber-attack. A number of Ukrainian government websites and service platforms were defaced with deceptive messaging, and worse, destructive elements were found on some of the government and non-government IT systems. Cyber-attacks harm technical systems and are also intended to delegitimize Ukrainian authorities, spreading distrust and fear among the general population. Ukrainian authorities reacted promptly and remedied the situation. This was a good example of the resilience of Ukrainian society against the pressures they are facing. We actively support Ukraine in improving its defenses against cyber threats and attacks.
We continue to call on Russia to de-escalate and to abide by international law. It is important to support existing frameworks for the sustainable, peaceful resolution of conflicts, such as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and to call on Russia to re-engage constructively and in good faith in these established international frameworks. We have outlined areas in which NATO and Russia could make progress together to strengthen security for all of us, and indeed for the world. These include reciprocal actions around risk reduction and transparency, improved communication, and arms control.
A diplomatic path provides the only durable solution to the security concerns of Russia, Europe and the world, and we are committed to pursuing all diplomatic means to end this crisis. In this goal, the U.S., EU, and NATO are united.
(Brian D. McFeeters is the United States Ambassador to Malaysia; Michalis Rokas is the EU Ambassador to Malaysia.)