Zu At the beginning of the week, British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly traveled to Brussels. Relations have improved significantly since the agreement between Brussels and the government of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on the Northern Ireland question – even if the exit has noticeable consequences, as Cleverly describes. Shortly before the NATO summit in Vilnius, he proposes making it easier for Ukraine to gain accession.
WELT: Mr Minister, your country is calling for “fast track” accession to NATO. Does this find support in the alliance?
James Cleverly: All NATO members agreed in Bucharest in 2008 that Ukraine would ultimately join. So we are only underlining the common position of the Alliance. Sweden and Finland can join NATO without having to go through the Membership Action Plan. Because we have recognized that both countries are very credible military partners are. We know how good they are.
WELT: Then that must also apply to Ukraine?
Cleverly: The Ukrainian Armed Forces have undergone an impressive transformation through their engagements on the battlefield. You now have experience with NATO equipment, with NATO tactics and with NATO doctrine. Over the past 18 months they have demonstrated their ability to adapt to NATO at a fantastic rate. Of course, I don’t know how long the war will last and how long it will be before accession. But the Ukrainian war effort has shortened the waiting time for NATO membership in any case. That’s our argument. It is only fair that we recognize the tremendous pace of reform in Kiev’s armed forces.
WELT: Do you think that Ukraine can regain all territory occupied by Russia?
Cleverly: We have seen how Ukraine – against all odds – resisted Vladimir Putin’s brutal invasion. How Kiev was defended and now the Russian troops in the east and south pushed back. The Ukrainian Armed Forces do this methodically, carefully and professionally. It also demonstrates an appreciation for human life that stands in stark contrast to Russia. Therefore, I am confident that in the end Ukraine will be successful in its desire to win back the entire country. Britain will stand by Ukraine until that happens.
WELT: Are peace negotiations a realistic option?
Cleverly: No country wants peace more than Ukraine. But we have seen what an incomplete or fake peace can mean because we have seen what happened in Crimea. And how wrong the idea was that Putin is satisfied if you don’t take a hard line on Crimea. This time we have to learn our lesson and that peace really has to mean peace. Putin must understand that he cannot take territory by force. And that he and his supporters will have to pay for the damage. That the stolen children come back to their families. Every peace negotiation must have the goal that the Ukrainians live in security in the long term.
WELT: How much have relations between your country and the EU improved?
Cleverly: The emotional reactions to Brexit have certainly subsided. We work very closely together to support Ukraine together. Many people have seen how much the UK still stands by the EU.
WELT: Does London still have influence on the EU?
Cleverly: From a British perspective, it is clear that we no longer have the pleasant simplicity of working together. As an EU member, we were regularly at meetings, EU ministers and British ministers were able to talk on the sidelines of summits. It was a fairly effortless way of working. Well, we have decided to leave the institutions. But we want to continue to maintain a good relationship with our European friends at all levels. For example, I have a very good one Relationship to Annalena Baerbock. The British side must now be very proactive in our ties, not just in terms of institutions. For me, that means hard work. I travel a lot. But that’s the choice we made. We are happy with this choice, but it means hard work.
This text appeared first in “The Republic”. Translated by Stefanie bolts.