TIME: 14th December 2016, 13:00 – 14:00
VENUE: House of Commons, Palace of Westminster, SW1A 1AA
SPEAKERS: Ambassador Natalia Galibarenko, Robert Brinkley, Olexiy Solohubenko
Chair: Rt Hon Sir Malcolm Rifkind QC
Rt Hon Sir Malcolm Rifkind QC
Right, would you like to sit down, please feel free to use any seats which you see are empty. If someone could perhaps close the doors, people may still arrive but they can still come in.
Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, I would like, on the behalf of The Henry Jackson Society, to welcome you all to this meeting, a meeting with a strong historic background to it, coming as it does 25 years after the end of the Soviet Union, the disintegration of the Soviet Union and of course the emergence of Ukraine as a new independent state, one of a number to evolve out of the former Soviet Union. I am grateful to The Henry Jackson Society, who is represented by Dr Andrew Foxall, for the organisation of this meeting.
We have three very distinguished speakers, I am going to invite them to speak first and then hopefully there will be plenty opportunity for those present to either ask questions or to make comments, whichever you prefer, relevant to the subject.
My own interest and involvement with Ukraine goes back quite a long way. I remember very clearly my first visit to Ukraine 24 years ago when I was Secretary of State for Defense and one of our speakers was reminding me he was present at the time as a journalist. I remember going to the then Ukrainian Defence Minister and we met in his office. On our side of the table, there were six of us, five civilians and the only person in uniform was the Defence Attaché from the British Embassy, the kernel. On the other side of the table there were six full generals, in full military uniform including the minister. The minister welcomed me and said we are now an independent country, we would like to be a little bit more like the West, do you have any advice? I said well, I couldn’t resist the temptation, I said well you have asked if there is anything that we can suggest, in Western countries there is a strong principle that armed forces are always under civilian control, and if you look at the two sides of the table you see there is clearly a distinction between Ukraine today and the United Kingdom. My Ukrainian host did not say a word but the following day, at the second session of talks with the Ambassador, all six of them arrived wearing lounge suits and the minister said well are you satisfied and I said it is an important step in the right direction.
A lot has happened over those 25 years, some of it very good, some of it not so good and that is what we can discuss today. So we are going to hear from first of all the Ukrainian Ambassador to the UK, Natalia Galibarenko, who has been here for almost one year, secondly, Robert Brinkley who is a former British High Commissioner in Pakistan but more relevant for today, a former British Ambassador to Kyiv and thirdly, Olexiy Solohubenko who is Ukrainian and is the News Editor for Languages in the BBC World Service. So I will ask them to speak in that order and then we will open up the discussion. Ambassador.
Ambassador Natalia Galibarenko
Thank you so much. Ladies and gentlemen before this meeting it was difficult for me to pick up what to speak to you about, the Ukraine, 25 years ago it was so different in terms of different events, transformations to make my country be seen how she is now. But then I made up my own list of the so called top advantages and maybe top mistakes that we made during this period. Of course this is only up to me to decide whether it was an advantage or mistake, you may have your own view on your side, but my idea is to give you my in depth though of our advantages and our mistakes we have made in the 25 years since our independence.
So I think on the top of our advantages of what we gained in the 25th period is we reserved our territorial integrity and sovereignty. I would like to be really specific on that and not to underestimate this point because for all period of its existence, during especially the Soviet Union just speaking at the Second World War, my country, my nation was under permanent danger and on the breach of its existence. Just imagine that we lost one third of our population during under this Soviet regime era. Many people and many politicians during the 90s were speaking of Ukraine as like on conditionality terms like oh we will see if they will sustain. Russians for example, President Putin was even speaking about how Ukraine was an artificial state which was created on the map of Europe because of some territories comprised in other countries. On top was the question whether the state will sustain and whether it will be going to exist as it is. Now 25 years ago we are on the map, we are a European state, a democratic state which I will be speaking about later. Maybe the fact that in 1991 we received our independence peacefully. Now the time has come for later, 3 years, we are paying the real price for this independence struggling with Russia and countering Russian aggression.
Once someone mentioned a very wise phrase to me ‘if you would like to understand the good, you should experience the evil.’ It was also the case with my country. Because of the Russian aggression and as a result of the Russian aggression, we received our inaudible advantages and things we can be really proud of. This is a real army because before there was no army at all before the Russian aggression. What we had before was some shadow economy which was only using the military state sector to only sell soviet era weapons. That was the armed forces of Ukraine at that time. But now we have a really real armed forces with the most important factor, with the real military experience, experience on the battlefield. We are not speaking unfortunately about how to encounter Russia in theory but we are doing it in practice.
The inaudible also is in my opinion, civil society and its volunteer movement. Now in Ukraine just unlike many countries in the post-Soviet era we have civil society as a real inaudible and also as a real leverage how to influence politicians and influence government to keep their policy in line with the European status. Many good things were achieved in my country just due to the influence and pressure of civil society. This should also not be underestimated.
I will maybe also separate another thing from civil society and volunteer movement is like, I will put it like, fashion for all Ukrainians. Also as a result of the Russian aggression, I see my country for the first time in 25 years that Ukrainians are really proud to be Ukrainians. This is not only about wearing national costumes or singing the national anthem during the holidays, it is more than that. It is about the readiness and desire to shout up and defend our country, because for years the Soviet propaganda was doing what, they was trying to divide the West and East of Ukraine, imposing on people different topics about what we have a different history, West is speaking only Ukrainian and East is speaking only Russian. These artificial, stereotypes, these were imposed and deeply rooted in the Ukrainian people. Now it is surprising to see that people on the West and on the East, they are existing together. Whilst the inaudible started to move massively from the East, from their homes, they were inaudible Western territory of Ukraine. There were no inaudible national problems which were quite expected inaudible…
Another branch I will mention is inaudible. As I mentioned for years it was a critical topic for Ukraine to stick together for East and West of Ukraine and to show that we are a real united nations even despite some of us speaking Ukrainian or Russian. I think it is really important for nations to flourish and to develop is to understand and to accept its history and to be brave to speak about some unpopular things because every nation did something wrong in the past. This understanding of what was done in the wrong way also gave us the possibility and the vision to move forwards. It is like learning by doing inaudible…
The final advantage I will mention and this is also important for Ukraine right now, European integration. I think that it is really important that from the very beginning European integration was mainstream in Ukrainian policy, however I can admit to critics that some leaders of Ukraine in the past they were not quite following the European hopes for Ukrainians but still I think that the revolution of Maiden had the main message that we would like to be integrated into Europe at some point, there are some questions but not to Ukraine about European integration and I will be speaking about that in just a minute.
The last one, this is the democratic way of development of Ukraine. We cannot underestimate this because if you look at the map of the post-Soviet countries, many of them just inaudible territories and outer territories and Ukraine now has a democratically elected President, inaudible appointed government and we start also the process of decentralisation. To preserve the democratic way in Ukraine is very necessary and important for this country.
For disadvantages, maybe not a very good point to conclude but for me the main disadvantage and the main mistake we made in the past is that from the very beginning we have not got security guarantees for Ukraine. It can be another discussion to speak about its mistakes and what was the price that Ukraine paid for abandoning its nuclear potential but to be short I will say that Russian aggression shows that Ukraine stays now without any security guarantees. Of course we are receiving Western support and Western help but on the battlefield we are standing alone face to face with Russia. Potentially the problem lies in the 90s when we sat at the Budapest memorandum and we really believed that the documents signed by such major players of the world will actually assure Ukraine the security guarantees. History shows that by breaching the Budapest memorandum, Russia actually just put it in the dustbin. The question of encountering Russian aggression lies only on our shoulders.
The next disadvantage/mistake I will mention, not enough resolute efforts of the previous leaderships to embrace Kyiv and Ukraine under passive reforms. I think we can and we are in a position to pass the same way as for example our Baltic neighbours, Slovak Republic but you know also for different reasons but I think the major reason was that we were, for years we were trying to balance between Russia and the West. Russia and the European Union and trying to sit simultaneously on two chairs which is not possible. I think that this lack of obvious strategy and obvious lack of direction for the country on how to proceed creates so many problems in Ukraine on the back of reforms and that is why we are now still facing the old rooted problems, for example, there is corruption in Ukraine.
I will maybe put a stop here just to give my colleagues time to speak but not to conclude on like a bitter note, I would like to mention that Ukrainians are very quickly educated people and not like one of the European well educated nations, we are also quite quick in educating something new. My hopes are quite high for my country with our support and with our deep resolution aside we will do a real success story. Thank you.
Rt Hon Sir Malcolm Rifkind QC
Ambassador thank you very much. That was a very valuable insight into Ukraine and what has been achieved over the past 25 years. If I may say so, I very strongly agree with your remarks on the Budapest memorandum because for those who may not be aware, that was the understanding which Ukraine handed over its nuclear weapons which were based in Ukraine at the end of the Soviet Union at the request not just of Russia but the United States and other countries and of course the reputation of what happened in Crimea of the territorial integrity of Ukraine, has not only had serious consequences for Ukraine but has also damaged nuclear non-proliferation efforts in other parts of the world because it is not a good precedence to quote. Thank you very much too drawing attention to that. Could I now invite Robert Brinkley to speak.
Thank you very much and may I thank The Henry Jackson Society for organising this event. I am going to follow the questions which have been set, to ask what has Ukraine gained from the collapse of the Soviet Union, what has it lost, missed opportunities and then look ahead a bit, even to the next 25 years. Inevitably some of what I will say will overlap with what the Ambassador has just said in her analysis but from my perspective.
So what has Ukraine gained? First of all, independence. If you recall in December 1991 in the referendum, 92% of Ukrainians voted for independence and there were majorities right across the country in every region. Every opinion poll which has been done since then on that subject have also found majorities for independence. Ukrainian identity and language, despite Russian efforts over the years to deny or to supress the Ukrainian language, it is a separate Slovak language and it is now widely used both officially and unofficially. In the 1980s Kyiv was largely a Russian speaking city, now it is a Ukrainian speaking city.
There is diversity and pluralism when you look at politics, business or media. There are competing political parties, there are successful new businesses, such as in the IT sector. Admittingly in politics and business it is pretty rough and ready but this is a very long way from Soviet era humanitarian control.
As the Ambassador said there is a strong, civil society which is set against weak state institutions. More and more Ukrainians are taking responsibility for the future of their country. Some research has been done which has found that the values of most Ukrainians are like those of Southern Europe, in other words valuing horizontal networks of family and friends and rather a disregard for governments which tend to come and go, except in Crimea and the Donbass which have values which are more Eastern European, more like Russia, respect for a strong state in a vertical of power.
I want to mention also as one of the gains, the restoration of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic church with some 5 million faithful, most of them in Western Ukraine. Some of you will know that is was prohibited in 1946 and became the largest banned religious organisation in the world until Gorbachev allowed its restoration in 1989 so that was slightly before the independence of Ukraine. The Ukrainian Catholic University were I’m very proud to be a member of the board was established in Ukraine in the 1990s with no state support and has become one of the most respected universities in Ukraine, committed to high academic and ethical standards. Here in London it has an Ukrainian institute.
What has the Ukraine lost in the last 25 years? It is no longer part of a bigger whole and that has an effect both on security and the economy. As the Ambassador has already mentioned, Ukraine was the third biggest nuclear weapon state in the world by number of weapons. Ukraine transferred those weapons to Russia at the urging of Western states in exchange for the Budapest memorandum which has proved to have no teeth. As a result many people in the Ukraine now draw the conclusion, which is an unfortunate conclusion, that they would be safer and better off if they still had nuclear weapons.
Economically the republics of the former Soviet Union were very much economically interconnected. These economic linkages over the years has given Russia the means to apply pressure on Ukraine, notably through gas supply or cutting off gas supply. Now since the last two years, Ukraine no longer imports gas from Russia and that has removed an important source of pressure and of corruption and overall trade between Ukraine and Russia has declined very significantly in the last two years. But Russia has lost too. Even two years ago it was still dependant on Ukraine for some key defence technologies.
There have been missed opportunities or hands which could have been played better. I think that first of all mismanagement of the economy. In 1991 Ukraine had the same GDP per head as Poland now it is three times smaller. The main reason for that is widespread corruption which has been made easier by a lack of institutions in a new state which was being built on the rubble of the former Soviet Union.
I would say that the Orange revolution in 2004 was a big missed opportunity. I was in Kyiv at the time as Ambassador, and the expectations of Viktor Yushchenko and his team were completely unrealistic. He and his team threw a way a huge opportunity by squabbling and falling back into corrupt ways. Unfortunately two of the main squabblers were the man who is now President, Petro Poroshenkoand the lady who is leading populist opponent, Yulia Tymoshenko. Civil society didn’t stay on the case and hold the government to account and within five years the discredited Viktor Yanukovych was elected President. After the Maidan two years ago, civil society was determined not to see a repeat but to act as a watchdog of new authorities. I think that that is a very important change.
Is there an end in sight to the tension between Russia and Ukraine? I would say not yet. Not until Russia accepts that Ukraine is an independent country with the right to decide its own future. Russia unfortunately shows no sign of pulling back from its illegal occupation of Crimea nor for its support for the separatist war in Eastern Ukraine. International sanctions have had an impact, reducing investment and finance into Russia and even despite initially dismissing there effect, Russia’s persistent effort to have the sanctions lifted tells its own story. But the sanctions have not yet suggested the reasons why they were imposed so in my view they should be maintained.
Finally, a look ahead, what about the next 25 years? Well forecasting is a mugs game so I will offer you three different scenarios. The bad – unrelenting Russian aggression and pressure, Ukraine fails to tackle corruption effectively, the West loses interest in Ukraine, investment remains low, the population keeps on shrinking as Ukrainians lose faith in the future of the country and leave. Good scenario – change in Russian policy, perhaps coming together with a change in Russian leadership. Restoration of Ukrainian control over the whole territory of the country. Ukraine gets a grip on corruption, followed through by some very important reforms which have been started in the past two years, judicial reform, new anti-corruption bodies and prosecutors, transparency over public procurement, transparency over the income and wealth of all the top public officials. Under this good scenario the West stays committed to supporting Ukraine both through the association agreement with European Union and other support, foreign investment increases and Ukrainian emigrates start coming home. We have seen the same thing in years in countries like Ireland and Ukraine, when types are bad people emigrate, when times are better the emigrates come back. It can happen to Ukraine as well.
My third scenario is in-between. It is really a bit of what we have got now, it is a continuing struggle between the old, corrupt crony capitalist system and new ways based on the rule of law and open access for all. Familiar politicians co-exist with new faces, reforms are mixed with backsliding, and vibrant new businesses operate alongside loss-making, state-owned enterprises. I think the most likely is my third scenario, muddling through with ups and downs but it does help to have a vision of how good Ukraine could become. Ukraine has great strengths, its weaknesses and its ways to address them are well known. What is needed is the will. Thank you.
Rt Hon Sir Malcolm Rifkind QC
Robert thank you very much indeed and our third speaker Olexiy Solohubenko from the BBC World Service.
Thank you. After such excellent presentations, I had to urgently revise my presentation, so I will start with a bit of history simply because I had from the participants of the events of 25 years ago some interesting facts which were not reflected in what Mr Gorbachev said in his interviews to the Times and BBC. It comes from Leonid Kravchuk who was the first President of Ukraine, who until he became the President of Ukraine was ideology secretary to the centre of the communist party of Ukraine and I met him in both capacities, it is quite an interesting change. Mr Kravchuk said after they signed the documents in Belarus, everything was sorted. President Yeltsin came to him and took him to an empty room and said we have to be very careful because I just heard that we cannot fly out. He told Leonid Kravchuk that the pilots have been told not to declare your flight path and turn off your transponders. Both of them flew out secretly without declaring the route and flew out from Belarus early.
So it was tittering on the edge, it was very, very tough at the time. It was not a done deal that they came and signed and that everything was wonderful, there was a lot of resistance in the Kremlin, a lot of resistance through the KGB sources from which President Yeltsin learned about the threat. That is one thing.
The second thing I just want to mention is that the routes of independence for Ukraine were born in one room. It is a room the union of writers of Ukraine, which is the former governors building in central Kyiv, almost opposite the Presidential administration building and the number of people who were accommodated in that room, I know it exactly it is 102 because that was the number of seats which were available in the room. This is where the leaders of the popular movement in Ukraine basically formulated their vision of what independent Ukraine would be and took this vision to the streets, to tens of thousands of people which was completely unexpected. They expected the sort of change in the Baltics because of the oppression but in Ukraine it was completely unexpected to have such a large number of people coming out on the street and listening to the slogans of future Ukraine which were completely a-communist and anti-communist and completely different. One of the key slogans was that the Poles in Ukraine should feel better than in Warsaw, Jews in Ukraine should feel better than in Israel, Russians in Ukraine should feel better than in Moscow and Ukrainians in Ukraine should feel better than in Canada.
There was a lot of meaning in it and I think if you look now at if you look what happened in Ukraine as a political nation not an ethnic nation, you get those vibes from this very interesting time when everything was formulated in smoky rooms and then taken to the streets and people accepted it and people wanted it. President Kravchuk I think 6 months before he was elected President, when he was asked do you anticipate to see the Ukrainian flag flying above Kyiv city hold, he said this is a provocative question, how could you do that, we have a Soviet flag but we are different colours. Six months later he was running on the national list ticket. Then 3 years later he gave power peacefully to the red director, to Mr Kuchma. I think that was the first peaceful transition of power in Ukraine which I think is extremely important because I was sitting in a room with someone who later became President Kuchma’s first secretary and for him and for Kuchma himself it was completely unexpected. They thought something would be done untoward and he wouldn’t be allowed to win. Then all of a sudden there was a count and it showed that Kuchma was winning and winning across large numbers of regions of Ukraine and lone behold he is the President. But he was a weak President and I think some of the issues with corruption with oligarchs are very much connected with what he became and what he wanted to construct in Ukraine.
With Kravchuk he had this idea of Unitarian, strongly run Ukraine amongst the communist party on imperial lines. With Kuchma it was different, he understood that he couldn’t control all the oligarchs and therefore he created clans, rather allowed clans, to prosper. Those clans were bad because the leaders of those clans could do whatever they wanted. But there was a silver lining. It created pluralism, pluralism of money. I think this pluralism of money is a very important factor in Ukraine because it resulted in pluralism of the media, because every oligarch wanted his or her own television station, newspaper and magazine. It resulted in the pluralism of political parties because every oligarch certainly wanted his own political party. I think now there are 27 officially registered in Ukraine, too many in my count. This whole situation created the rather weak central authority compared to Russia. In Russia the concept of Kremlin unfriendly oligarch is not on, it is either an exile, dead or imprisoned.
In Ukraine there are people that openly disagree with the President and yet they run their businesses, they run their media, little empires and they sometimes prosper, sometimes do not prosper but they are allowed a space to create wealth, to create jobs, to create their own wealth and fortune.
So I think there is a major difference in how the two countries, I am comparing Ukraine now with Russia and how the whole system of oligarchy structure clans develop. It has its negatives for the Ukraine in terms of corruption but it has a lot of positives. One of the positives I think also was the media. I have to say this because very often there is a misunderstanding, Ukraine does not do a lot of pluralism or balance or fairness in viewpoints in one media outlet. For the average user, for the viewer, for the listener, the plurality of views which are expressed in the media is absolutely massive. It is on a massive scale. Restrictions have been tried several times, I don’t think there is a lot of pressure now, maybe some pressure behind the scenes but not official pressure but I think it doesn’t work because society has moved in a different way and the expectation of people is that they will be getting multiple sources of information and they will be debating things openly and freely.
Although I mentioned the political nation, I think personally it is interesting because every nation has stereotypes and one of the key stereotypes for Ukrainians was this phrase ‘my house is on the edge of a village’ in other words, don’t bother me, I am an individualist. Back in 1861, Ukrainian peasants decided to leave their landlords and very quickly set up their own homesteads, individual farms, where most of the peasants of Russia wanted to stay with their landlords in a communal community where they later did something that became known as collective farms. So there was a different psychological attitude but I think in 2004 during the Orange revolution which you certainly witnessed as an Ambassador in Kyiv, I think that stereotype was thrown out of the window because all of a sudden Ukrainians, particularly the younger generations of Ukrainians realised ‘don’t bother me’ no longer works. They must be bothered, they must be active, they must come out on the streets, they must avoid what they think is important for their lives. I think this is the link which continued during the 2013/2014 revolution in Ukraine and Maidan. I think there is a generational change which is extremely important for Ukraine and the whole social society, the pressure that the NGOs and volunteers are now putting on the government, on the army, on businesses has its roots in this deep-seated desire to do something differently, to do something well. So out of those 102 people who came together in smoky rooms in the Union of writes society in Ukraine I think something interesting has come out.
One more thing I just wanted to mention, when we talk about hacking, when we talk about all sorts of media experimentation, let’s put it like this, in the United States during the elections and the elections here, I think this is not a new phenomenon. If you look at the Ukrainian experience in the 90s, the various things that were happening in Crimea and the various things which were happening through the links which we know now look quite genuine. The whole fake news idea, how it was presented, how it was created, may not necessarily be distributed through Twitter and through Facebook, they didn’t even exist at the time. Ten years ago fake publications, fake newspapers, fake political parties, that was the start of it and if there are students who want to explore this, I think this is a very rewarding area of investigation. It is worth looking at the roots, at the process and the outcome of how some of the fake news campaigns have started in Ukraine is certainly a good basis for that. Thank you.
Rt Hon Sir Malcolm Rifkind QC
Thank you very much indeed for that, we have had three fascinating introductions, it is now an opportunity for others to make comments or questions.
Could I just make one if I may, brief observation. In January of next year, that is only a month from now, the United States is going to have a new President. None of us know what his foreign policy in particular towards Ukraine is going to be. Some of the indications are to put it mildly, disturbing, that he has shown an interest in a new relationship with Russia which could be good or bad but he has also shown an interest in deal making as a way of dealing with international problems. Now if that led, and we have seen the appointment of a new Secretary of State who has very close links with president Putin and with Russia albeit from an oil industry background, if that does indeed lead to a summit meeting between the two Presidents when Trump takes over. There is a good scenario that might work which is conceivable, Putin wanting to get rid of sanctions and recognising that that requires concessions on the Minsk agreement, might find it easier to make concessions to a President Trump than he would have been able to make to President Hilary Clinton without appearing to be climbing down, that is at least possible. Perhaps in a more likely scenario of the two meeting together and doing a one to one deal with the country most involved not even being present round the table to ensure that an acceptable outcome is achieved. Of course the last two times that happened, in Munich in 1938 and Yalta in 1945. So we are going to have to be very, very careful over the next few months to try and ensure that whatever happens in the future in Ukraine in relations to sanctions against Russia and issues of that kind, that Ukraine itself must be deeply involved in any negotiation or any process and its consent as the country most affected by its outcome. It must be accepted, I never thought I would say this in the past, but it must be accepted by Washington as well as Moscow as not just a preference but an absolute requirement. That is just a few thoughts.
Can I now invite questions and comments, if you could briefly indicate who you are and take it from there going forwards.
Thank you very much, Euan Grant a former law enforcement intelligence analyst at the Soviet Union, who has worked in Ukraine, pre and post Maidan. My question is a serious one based on Mr Trump and his comments about air force one and the Ukrainian offer of a cut price air force one which demonstrates the country does have the technology and it is also based open the comment on the diaspora in Canada, I would like to ask the Ambassador do you think that Ukraine is effectively mobilising the considerable influence in Canada, US and parts of Europe on the diaspora and secondly in relation to things happening on the front line and to certain Ukrainian technologies and information, if you provide that to the west, are you satisfied that Ukraine will get meaningful gains in return whether asymmetrically or symmetrically?
Ambassador Natalia Galibarenko
Just that start with diaspora I believe that in the United States and especially in Canada there is the most powerful Ukrainian community and you know all during the 25 years they have been quite active in supporting Ukraine and now there goals are shifting, the country developing of course the goals of the diaspora are developing. There main primary goal before 1992 was of course to establish at some point to support the establishment of the independent state. Of course they were praising the victory when it happened but it is now really to show, especially after Russian aggression, these people also understand that their homeland is again facing to cease existence and of course they are trying to help us and using their contacts in the respective capitals, however the main potential in resolving this situation lies still in Kyiv. Even if the community will be helping everywhere in the world still there is central authorities in Kyiv should be responsible for what is going on in the country.
As to Ukraine in the battle field and our gains, I mean I think the situation would be quite opposite because especially from the very beginning, from the initial stage we were receiving Western intelligence information and we were using it. Even sometimes to show to the Russians that they are neglecting the fact and pretending that there are no Russian troops on our territory or they have not actually crashed the MH70 so we still have this very, very close collaboration however as I mentioned in my speech the main challenge for Ukraine as far as it goes to the battlefield, we are alone in defending our country because we are not in NATO, we do not have any security guarantees so that is quite enough story. Still we are grateful of what we receive in military and financial help to try an encounter Russian aggression and especially with this help it is very difficult to counter the Russian propaganda which is very aggressive and very wide across Europe.
Rt Hon Sir Malcolm Rifkind QC
Yes next question please.
Marina Pesenti, Ukraine Institute my question is to Olexiy Solohubenko to expand a little bit on the point about the Media in Ukraine. Olexiy when you were the first head of the Ukrainian language service for the BBC World Service 25 years ago, a lot of time has past since then Ukrainian media landscape has evolved and now we have lots media outlets which aspire to be tangent, unbiased and well informed. How do you see the role of the BBC changing in this regard and what is your view on projects like this?
I think many, many years ago we had 3.5 million daily listeners to our morning show but that was a time when it was beautiful to be an international broadcaster in Ukraine because there was no competition. Like in any other country, competition is huge, we don’t broadcast now, we have the website, we have quite a good presence on Twitter and social media. I think certainly the whole situation has changed, like with all international broadcasters we are global players but we are not necessarily local players. People come to us for global stories for take on Ukraine and an analysis of what is going on. We as the BBC, we send people to the frontline, we have sent people to Crimea, to Donbass and some local stations couldn’t do that for all sorts of reasons and we are trying to do the best we can on the global stories but we cannot replace the whole vibrancy of the Ukrainian media. I think it is at a completely different stage now, it is a completely different ballgame. Some of it, some of what I watch I like very much. I think it is state of the art, it is beautifully done, it is very well crafted. Some of the language which is used in the Ukrainian media now is something we at the BBC would certainly would not condone but you have to understand that the whole sort of issue of being under threat, under attack, the whole issue of separatist, non-separatist areas, the internal debate which all media organisations go through, in Ukraine they are particularly acute. I think that it is very, very important that in Ukraine there are some really excellent media organisations, which do not necessarily have any western help or any international help they do it on their own, on their own initiative. They want to be the best and want to set the standard and I think they deserve every support. You mentioned public radio, public television in Ukraine, they are extremely good and some of the people who are working there are top class. They deserve a lot of support.
Rt Hon Sir Malcolm Rifkind QC
Thank you very much.
Inaudible… my question is to you Olexiy, in regards to Russian propaganda around the world. As we know Ukraine was the first country to learn how to counter Russian aggression and propaganda on social media rather than other media. This particular experience, I believe Ukraine contributed a lot inaudible… election inaudible…. Also the experience in inaudible…. Where Russian media was trying to inaudible… terrible crimes that never happened inaudible…. US election…
Rt Hon Sir Malcolm Rifkind QC
Could you come to your question please…
So in relation to this Russian propaganda particularly where the UK is prepared to counter this threat?
How well the UK is prepared? I don’t think the UK is prepared, I don’t think the European countries are prepared at all. I think it is only now that the European Union and others are starting to pick up on what is going on and I think the alarms which were sent to the United States with the Wikileaks dumps of information, the democratic national council and everything else, it is a cold shower. It shouldn’t be a cold shower because something like this was reported two years ago it was known that this would be done. However how to counter it, it is a different story. You can counter it passively there are Buzzfeed, organisations which try to stop the distribution of the news but they do it retrospectively after the people have already been hooked and read it. To be pre-emptive in this thing is basically lowering yourself to the level of your opponent and faking news yourself. I think the best example and the best recipe is to be truthful, to be accurate, to be fast, to be quick and not to allow things to slip. I think very often what happens you know, there is kind of yes this is Russia Today so let’s ignore it, we wouldn’t believe it anyway because we know how they are funded and that sort of attitude. I don’t think this is the right attitude, I think you need to pick up and challenge. The best interviewers also shouldn’t give way, they need to challenge the information. A lot of information is factually wrong and you can do that very quickly, it shouldn’t be left to these websites, it should be part of the mainstream investigation. I think British newspapers are certainly doing a lot more of this but I think if you want really high class analysis, I think Wall Street Journal. Washington Post and The New York Times are doing a really solid dissection of what is going on with fake news, with social media and propaganda campaigns now.
Rt Hon Sir Malcolm Rifkind QC
The only thing what I would add to that is that I am delighted that the BBC world service are getting a greatly increased budget and let’s hope that some of that will go to Ukraine.
We promise to spend it wisely.
Rt Hon Sir Malcolm Rifkind QC
We have only got another 2 or 3 minutes, any further questions we have got time for at least 1, possibly 2.
If the inaudible… of Ukraine was the price of inaudible… and losing Crimea is the price of Ukraine’s future matter?
Ambassador Natalia Galibarenko,
Crimea is not the price it is the result on the one hand of aggressive inaudible… Russia but on the other hand this is also the mistake of Ukraine authorities. For years we were quite blind to see now what is going on. For me when the decision was taken for example to enlarge the stationing of the black sea fleet on the Crimean peninsula, it is quite a thing and very much an evidence what is going on, what Russia was preparing for. But different times and different agreements which were reached they actually managed to add to this particular result. So I will not be saying that we should forget at least for some time about Crimea and we will do our development of a solo Ukraine because an element of solo Ukraine is West Crimea and we should not forget that 30% of the population on the peninsula are Ukrainians by estate and also 30% are Crimea inaudible which have been deprived already once of their homeland. So the question is, I will put it like this when? When will reintegration start and this is on the one hand, up to the Russian administration and we will need some change on their policy but I am not a believer in that perspective. I think that the second part is a more realistic way, that at some point, the development in Ukraine in general and also the development in Crimea will show to the citizens what is the best scenario for them. Just in terms of lifestyle walking and speaking about politics. That is I think a good engine for any development on this reintegration path.
Just briefly I wouldn’t agree with the premise of the question, I think the key difference is consent. If you go back to 1991 what happened as I said is the vast majority of people in Ukraine and in other republics said they wanted to be independent and eventually through the process which Olexiy described to us that had to be accepted and the Soviet Union collapsed from the bottom up. Crimea was not like that, it was a decision by Russia to take it over by stealth, they had a so called referendum which was done with Russian soldiers in operation that was not a free and fair expression of the people of Crimea. Very different.
Rt Hon Sir Malcolm Rifkind QC
It is worth remembering that after Stalin occupied the three Baltic States for the next half century, right until the end of the Soviet Union neither the United Kingdom or most other Western countries never recognised the legitimacy of what had been achieved so these issues remain unresolved until there is another outcome.
Sadly we have run out of time, I will just make one final point, if I may Ambassador. I think that was has happened over the last 25 years, Ukraine has shown not just on one occasion but on several occasions, government change by the democratic ballot of the people of Ukraine, something which Russia has sadly never been able to experience in any comparable way. Also what we have seen and perhaps this is thanks to Mr Putin, is Ukraine has come together and is much more united today, the old East/West distinction within Ukraine much less relevant than in the past. That is part of the formation of the permanent, national status of Ukraine as a member of the international community of nations.
Can I on behalf of our audience thank all three of our speakers and The Henry Jackson Society for making today possible and let us hope and work for the next 25 years to be even more successful even more than the last 25. Thank you very much indeed.