EVENT TRANSCRIPT: “Ukraine: 5 Years on from Maidan”
DATE: 1:00 pm-2:00 pm, 24 January, 2019
VENUE: Thatcher Room, Portcullis House
SPEAKER: Ambassador Natalia Galibarenko and Robert Brinkley CMG
EVENT CHAIR: Lord Richard Risby
LORD RICHARD RISBY:
Ladies and Gentlemen, may I first of all welcome you here to Portcullis of Westminster, and I know on behalf of everybody you would want me to thank the Henry Jackson Society for arranging this. And I would just like to say that the Henry Jackson Society is such an incredible addition to the life of this country, providing outstanding speakers and themes to pursue here in the palace at Westminster, which is of course open to the public, and we are very, very grateful for what you do.
Now, I am Richard Risby and I [inaudible] the Henry Jackson Society so it’s a particular pleasure for me to chair this event. I have on my left the Ambassador of Ukraine, who is, as I work with her very closely, proving an outstanding emissary for her country. She had very considerable experience before she came here, working within the framework of the EU, the OSCE, and other international organizations. She’s certainly made her mark between our two countries where we now have such an excellent relationship and it’s so good you’re here. Now Robert Brinkley was one of our finest ambassadors in Kiev, and what is so wonderful is that he continues because of his role at Chatham House, to be very involved but with also the wonderful and admirable Catholic University in Lviv and chairs the Ukrainian Institute in London. Those are just some of the things that continue to connect him to a place where he established a very firm reputation. In other words, we have two people who understand the subject, who are very familiar with it and are very committed to both Ukraine and out bilateral relationship. Ambassador, may I ask you to start first?
AMBASSADOR NATALIA GALIBARENKO:
Thank you so much, and thank you for organizing this event. However, frankly speaking the topic chosen is, like, you know we can sit here and discuss it for like five hours and that definitely will not be enough to have even a general look at what was going on and is still going on in Ukraine. But I would like to make some, now retrospective trend to guide you from where we are standing to 2013, what was accomplished, what was failed, and what have been the most unexpected obstacles that we have met during the past 5 years.
Even despite the fact that 5 years has passed since Maidan, I still have discussions with people who are still arguing what was the main driving force behind Maidan. Some people tend to believe that this was the refusal of the former president Yanukovych to sign the association agreement with the European Union. Some people tend to believe that the main driving force was the internal corruption, the lack of justice in the country, and the people were so tired of this attitude of the then Ukrainian authority, the Yanukovych family, that there was their objective result of the dissatisfaction with the bad behaviour of Ukrainian authorities.
I think that both opinions are right, of course, but for me? Looking at this five years later already, actually the main driving force behind Maidan was the second reason, so the lack of justice in the courts and everywhere, corruption in the police, in the state bodies, the weakness of the civil society, and the fact that people felt they were not influencing their destiny. Some of the Ukrainian politicians at that time, they were even simply calling the Ukrainian nation as a [inaudible]. They were not people, they were not a nation, they were just [inaudible], people who were supposed to come once in five years to just cast a vote. And that was the main destination of the people as settled by them, the so-called Ukrainian politicians. Of course that association agreement suggests the desire of the Ukrainian people to have the association agreement signed was also the argument standing behind Maidan. But I think, for me, it was a detonation factor, but not actually the main reason and in fact the association agreement turned out to be an easier task, of course, than reforming the country and eradicating the problems which I mentioned before, which was the main source of peoples’ dissatisfaction with the Ukrainian authorities.
So that was the context. So now when Yanukovych and his family fled from the country and in one month we will be celebrating this anniversary, and when the [inaudible] was there. The very feeling among Ukrainians was that Maidan already won. And that all its goals were already achieved and there would be only, you know, light in the tunnel and happiness for everybody and overall welfare—overall wellbeing. But unfortunately that didn’t happen. While we were celebrating the victory at Maidan, at the same time in Crimea through green man, through fake referendum, through Russian-based fleet in Crimea so rations started, the annexation of Crimea, and our biggest tragedy was that we were not capable of defending our country. It has lost territory, and the main reason of course was that we had no army. Just for you to understand, when I say no army I mean literally no army at all. So people sitting in the leadership of the security services, half of them were traitors who fled to the Russian Federation after Maidan, they burned all the documents and archives just to eliminate all evidence of their activities. Soldiers and the royal navy who were stationed in Crimea, they also betrayed Ukraine, because they had families already in Crimea and after already 5 years they are writing on Facebook like “why should I fight with Russia? Why should I fight, risking my family? I have everything settled down, so why not change Ukraine to Russia? There is nothing changing for me.” And this is now also the biggest tragedy of the country. While it is occurred that quite an enormous number of people, they were just not recognising themselves to be Ukrainians, as being part of this country. So except for the lack of army, that led to the simple fact of why we lost Crimea.
After, also maybe one factor to mark in this sense about Crimea, so lack of army, maybe the lack of national patriotism among Crimeans to stand and support Ukraine also the absolute disorder in all the Ukrainian authorities, because as I mentioned some traitors already fled to the Russian Federation, so there were no authorities, no President, we only fixed a new date for the elections. And at this stage the West was concerned, then deeply concerned, and telling us all the time “Do everything but do not shoot at Russians, otherwise you will be risking losing your country as a whole.” And somehow we believed and we went through this, but then a few months later Russia started annexation on the east of Ukraine. At that moment it was already obvious to everybody that if we will not be standing for our country, nobody will. The West again was concerned, then deeply concerned, but ordinary people together with people in the armed forces who were staying loyal to their country, stood together and stopped the Russians, otherwise, and I am not exaggerating, Russian militants realistically speaking were going to two major cities on the east of Ukraine.
That was also the sequence of Maidan, and I cannot deny this, because Russians were having some aggressive plans against Ukraine in the past, but never enacted. But Maidan was the factor who made Putin act and to show who is the big guy with a big stick, and also to just educate Ukraine in that sense. But surprisingly, Putin did us a very good service. I am speaking about the fact that when the war on the east started, Ukrainians voluntarily started to unite, to help soldiers on the front, to help organize humanitarian aid to the east of Ukraine, to help refugees coming out of the eastern Ukraine into the central Ukraine or the western Ukraine. In that sense, he made the nation understand and to be proud of what it is to be Ukrainian, and how to value your nationality, your independence, your sovereignty. In that fact, Maidan made a reboot in the minds, and for teaching Ukrainians to value political integrity and independence; Maidan played a large role in this.
However, with reforms it was also going—not to say that the glass is full or the glass is totally empty—because we now, in order to meet the expectations of people after Maidan, we started different, very important reforms. We established a number of anti-corruption bodies to tackle corruption. We carried out the reform of the court system. Also in the pipeline are very revolutionary, I think, educational, medical, pension reforms, [inaudible] reform. But now we’re aware it’s all about the speed of reforms, so of course people were expecting that they would be faster and that they would be bringing results faster. And now that the expectations which were laid out for anti-corruption bodies, they were not implemented. So we put a very big amount of money into creating independent anti-corruption bodies, we introduced very revolutionary electronic declarations system. But in fact if you look at the people who were convicted, I mean among the top officials, you will find the ex-head of the tax service of Ukraine, but now surprisingly he has made his candidacy for the future president. So I think this is another discussion for us to say who is guilty. The courts? Or the anti-corruption bodies? But still I can state the fact that the anti-corruption fight is not bringing results which we Ukrainians were looking for. And that would be another challenge, to try and face and try to change the situation.
Now there is also economic hardships still. So reforms, even if they are very good and revolutionary, they cannot make you more wealthy and happy in such a short period of time. And that’s why, you know, I have some statistics to share with you, and I am not surprised at these statistics. It was in December that social polls show among all Ukrainians 70% said that the biggest problem of the country is war, but at the same time, out of this 100, 55% said that the biggest problem of the country is economic hardships, including tariffs, prices, and production. You see that the difference is not very big. Economic hardships problems with corruption, which we are attempting to tackle, are still standing in the minds of the Ukrainians and their perception of the biggest challenges their country is facing. And so in looking forward to the next election, I think that people are expecting from the politicians to promise that they will be tackling exactly these challenges as I said.
And maybe just to conclude, maybe from some of my personal experience, but once one of my foreign colleagues asked me after the deaths of the heavenly hundred, after the annexation of Crimea, after the war with Russians on the east of Ukraine, I was asked by my foreign colleague “Maidan was this tipping point, do you believe it was still worth it? That the people chose that form of protest.” And now just to think, just to make an adequate answer, I think we should understand some peculiarity about Ukrainian independence. Now, 28 years ago we got our independence peacefully; it was a result of the collapse of the Soviet Union. We were not really fighting for it, so at some point people just took this for granted. And then the time came, after Maidan, that there is now a real price, there is already a real struggle for independence, for your sovereignty, for your territorial integrity. For many people, it is both the simple and the complicated questions: Whether you want to be with Russia and sacrifice political ambitions for your country, but your refrigerator will be full of products and there will be cheap gas in the pipe, or whether you will be able to sacrifice those things and go the way that our Lithuanian—our Baltic state colleagues went through. Saving, struggling, sometimes losing, but going for their own independence and independence from the Russian Federation. This is still a question, but a question that is already eliciting a positive answer from Ukraine. So we will be standing, and we will be fighting for Ukraine. And the very last remark is that, you know, Maidan was also, I think, a good vaccination against any dictatorship in the country. And as I see the societies of other countries and how dictators are rising there, in many countries and different forms and shapes, I do believe that in Ukraine it cannot be repeated the same as it was under Yanukovych. So any other Ukrainian politicians will remember what happened five years ago and that Ukrainians are really living with freedom in their hearts. Thank you.
LORD RICHARD RISBY:
Natalia, thank you very much. Can I just make this observation? It is absolutely grotesque to think that in this century, a fellow European country, not only has part of its land appropriated, but is suffering all the consequences of death and internal displacement of people, and is now having one of its main ports on the Black Sea attempting to strangle it. You couldn’t make more of it up, that this is happening in a democratic country in Europe in the 21st century. I just neglected, when I mentioned the Henry Jackson Society, to mention of course Andrew Foxall, who really is an expert on the whole dynamic, if that’s the right word, of Russia and Ukraine and [inaudible]. Robert, we look forward to hearing what you have to say.
ROBERT BRINKLEY CMG:
Thank you, Lord Risby. Many thanks, too, to Andrew Foxhall and the Henry Jackson Society for organizing this event. I’m going to speak on a number of things which will complement what the Ambassador has just been talking about. I really found I agreed with just about everything she was saying, but my focus is going to be slightly different. To look first at what happened in Maidan 5 years ago, as a turning point in history, then to look forward to the elections which are coming up, because Ukraine is a well-established democracy, to remind ourselves that whatever the outcome of those elections, Ukraine does matter to us and our interests here. And finally, a few remarks about the importance of holding the rule of law internationally.
There are always key turning points in the history of a nation, which open up new chapters, and of course our own country is at such a turning point now as our elected representatives try to determine the way forward after the Brexit referendum, but I’m not going to say anything more about Brexit. For Ukraine, the revolution in the winter of 2013 to 2014, known as the Revolution of Dignity, Euromaidan, was such a turning point. As the Ambassador has said, Ukraine achieved independence in 1991 without any bloodshed, but with massive support. 92% support in a referendum right across the country. In 2004, when I was working in Kiev, I witnessed the Orange Revolution overturn the falsification of the presidential election, but again without any bloodshed; it was a peaceful revolution. Five years ago, sadly, over 100 Ukrainians, the “Heavenly Hundred,” lost their lives in the protests before kleptocratic President Yanukovych gave up and fled to Russia. Now many Ukrainians remembered that the promise of the Orange Revolution in 2005 had been squandered. I remember very well that feeling that, in the Orange Revolution, “We’ve done it! We’ve succeeded!” And now Viktor Yushchenko can do anything to save the country. Of course it wasn’t true, and within months the new leaders had fallen out with each other and the administration, sadly, had returned to the bad old business as usual.
Now in 2014, five years ago, Ukrainian civil society decided that this time the sacrifices of the Revolution of Dignity should produce lasting change. And to a great extent, that has happened, although there is still much that needs to be done. Outside observers, such as the IMF and EBRD, have recognised that there’s been more real reforms since 2014 than in all the preceding 23 years of independence of Ukraine. Ukraine gained its formal, legal independence in 1991, but since 2014, in the face of Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and aggression in eastern Ukraine, which has led to over 10,000 deaths and over 1.6 million people being forced to flee their homes. Ukraine has come of age as a nation-state. Professor Serhii Plokhii at Harvard University has tracked the evolution of opinions in Ukraine. Pro-European attitudes, which were previously more characteristic of western Ukraine, are now mainstream across most of Ukraine. Ukraine’s center of gravity has shifted westward. Indeed, Russia annexed Crimea, but it has lost Ukraine.
In 2014, Ukraine finally concluded its association agreement and deep and comprehensive free trade agreement with the European Union. And the EU has become Ukraine’s major trade partner. Russia, which used to account for 1/3 of Ukraine’s trade, now accounts for only about 12%. Visa liberalization with the European Union has made it possible for over a million Ukrainians to go and work in EU countries, mostly in Central Europe. Ukraine used to depend on Russia for gas supplies, and twice in 2006 and 2009, Russia turned off the gas taps in the middle of winter. Now Ukraine has shown it can cope without buying any gas from Russia. Reform in the gas sector has also shut off a major stream of corruption and has saved Ukraine some $6 billion a year, or 6% of GDP which is what Naftogaz, the state gas company, used to suck out of the state budget. Perhaps the most far-reaching change was concluded earlier this month, at Orthodox Christmas, when the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople recognised the canonical independence of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. This overturned Constantinople’s provisional decision in 1686, over 300 years ago, to grant Moscow authority over the metropolitan of Kiev. The Church moves at a different pace from secular politics. Orthodox faithful in Ukraine can now worship in a Church which is officially recognised, which is not subordinate to the Moscow Patriarchate, and which does not refuse to pray for the Ukrainians defending their country from Russian aggression. This change marks Ukraine’s spiritual independence from Russia, and it undermines the Kremlin’s concept, actively supported by the Russian Orthodox Church, of a Russian world, a (inaudible), comprising of Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus.
Now as I mentioned, Ukraine is now a well-established democracy. It’s certainly not perfect, but it’s far more democratic than Russia, for example. Within months of the Euromaidan, Ukrainians had elected a new president and a new parliament. And this year, 5 years later, elections are due again, in March for the president and in October for the parliament. A lively campaign is under way, I’m not going to predict the outcomes, Ukraine has a lively democracy and all the uncertainty that comes with it. Opinion polls are showing very high levels of people who have not decided how to vote, or who may not vote at all, adding to the difficulty of prediction. Both President Poroshenko and his leading opponent, Yulia Tymoshenko, have been in politics since the 1990s. Both of them have very high negative ratings, that is, the proportion of people who tell opinion pollsters that they would not vote for them under any circumstances. Now despite this and the crowded field of candidates, it looks as though these two familiar rivals, Poroshenko and Tymoshenko, will be the main contenders in the presidential election.
But whatever the election results, Ukraine matters to us. So, we cannot afford to lose interest in it. Why do I say that? Because, Ukraine is the largest country in Europe by land area, second only to the European part of Russia, has rich mineral sources and fertile black earth, making it one of the world’s most important food growing areas, populated by over 40 million, well-educated people, and among other things, a fast-growing high-tech center. I see evidence in this at the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv, which over the last five years has developed a very successful Information Technology faculty, attracting the brightest students in Ukraine. Ukraine is moreover in a strategic location between the European Union, Russia, and Turkey. So instability in Ukraine, which is what Russia wants if it cannot control Ukraine, will have destabilising effects for the West. There is already very significant movement of people; Ukrainians make up the biggest body of migrants in Europe, mostly in search of better work. And as I’ve mentioned, 1.6 million people have been displaced within Ukraine by the Donbass conflict, perhaps another million have moved to Russia. Second, trade is being disrupted. Russia is holding up the passage of ships to and from Ukraine’s ports on the Sea of Azov, harming the interests both of Ukraine and of its trading partners. And third, Russia has launched a variety of cyber-attacks on Ukraine, some of which have had a wider impact. The so-called “NotPetya” virus, which was aimed at Ukrainian organizations, rapidly spread within international companies, causing some of them loses of hundreds of millions of dollars.
So I move on, finally, to the international rule of law. It is very much within our interest to stand up for the rule of law in international affairs and to oppose efforts to replace it with the law of the jungle. President Putin has made his attitude plain in saying “the weak get beaten.” That’s the law of the jungle. Russia does not treat its former Soviet neighbours, like Ukraine, as sovereign independent states. Rather, it regards them as part of Russia’s “Sphere of Influence and Privileged Interests,” which it even has its own name for it, it calls them the “Near Abroad.” It is no coincidence that since 1991, Russia has cemented or supported separatist conflicts in Moldova, Georgia, and since 2014, Ukraine. Russia annexed Crimea in violation of the United Nations Charter, the Helsinki Final Act, and many other multilateral and bilateral agreements in which Russia had explicitly recognised Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity within its existing borders –it says that—in treaties that Russia has signed. Then Russia started a war in eastern Ukraine, which continues to this day bringing more deaths and injuries every week. Russia has waged with war with personnel, including regular forces as well as special forces and mercenaries, military equipment, artillery bombardments from within Russia, financial and political support. The Malaysian airliner which crashed in July 2014, killing all 298 innocent people on board, was brought down by a Russian anti-aircraft missile.
Last year, Russia compounded its defiance of international law by building a bridge across the Kerch Strait to occupied Crimea. It then started interfering with freedom of navigation in the Sea of Azov, culminating in the incident in November when 3 Ukrainian Navy vessels were rammed, fired on, and seized, and their 24 crew members imprisoned, all without legal justification. And all of this, all that I’ve described, is being done by a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. Now of course that means that Russia can veto any proposed solution, such as an international peacekeeping operation, which it does not like. So we have to be realistic; a peaceful resolution of these conflicts depends upon a political decision by Moscow. What we in the international community can do is to influence Moscow’s calculation of the costs and benefits. That is the purpose of international political and economic sanctions, which have had much wider support and have lasted much longer than Moscow expected. It is very important to maintain this unity and resolve. Moscow may claim that the sanctions are not working, but the efforts it is making to get them relaxed or lifted suggests otherwise. The other thing the international community can do is to continue to give Ukraine all possible support short of going to war. It is very much in our interest to restore respect for the rule of law in international affairs and to restore peace and stability in Ukraine.
LORD RICHARD RISBY:
Well I think, ladies and gentlemen, we can all agree we’ve had two absolutely outstanding and insightful presentations and I am sure many of you would like to ask questions. So now I invite members of the audience to ask us—if you’d just be kind enough to tell us who you are that would be very good. At the back, the gentleman at the back.
Thank you all very much, Euan Grant from the Institute for Statecraft, I do work in the EU Border Research Commission in Kiev in its early years and indeed in the first few months [inaudible] was a very, very helpful ambassador. Apologies if I’m crossing over things that were said, I only came in after about twenty minutes, but my question is based on the chairman’s comments about the blockade by various means, and the extra costs of shipping and so on. Are there any signs of this potentially starting to spread by other means, non-kinetic means, to Kherson, Mykolaiv, and Odessa, and perhaps being a bit paranoid and looking ahead a number of years, given the growth of underwater, unmanned naval technologies which could be used to create disposable denial interruptions into shipping and so on, thinking outside the box, thinking outside [inaudible]. I don’t think it’s any coincidence, and I’m not being facetious here, Clive Cussler, a man who can get massive sums for his books and has close contacts in the American intelligence community, wrote a series of fictional books just a few years ago all centred in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea.
LORD RICHARD RISBY:
Thank you very much, thank you.
AMBASSADOR NATALIA GALIBARENKO:
Thank you for your question and I would like to emphasise that everything started before the actual incident in, with our detention of our Ukrainian ships. So everything started, in fact, already when the bridge was built. And believe me, we were saying, diplomats and different European capitals, that we are expecting the creation of different practical and physical obstacles to our ships and to navigation. And not only to Ukrainian ships but also the danger of navigation of other ships in order to disrupt the economic potential of Ukrainian ports and unfortunately our partners were not listening to us. They were telling that “oh it’s just a technical thing, building a bridge, so Russians need some kind of a channel to get to Crimea so they just built this bridge, they simplify their transporting, and that’s it.” Knowing Russians better, I mean, we were right. And I think that with this accident in the Kerch Strait, they already use their tactics of showing who is the big guy with a big stick, as I mentioned. So, they think that they accomplished their mission, so I think they will be expecting that in any other situation like this we will be asking them for permission to go across the Kerch Strait; however, we shouldn’t as the Azov Sea is the internal sea of both countries. We have enjoyed the same responsibilities and the same rights, but another tactic that I mention, this is also danger that Russia is doing for international navigation. So already the decrees in Ukrainian courts of Mariupol and Berdyansk, is roughly about 10% of their [inaudible]. And I know from John [inaudible], who is not here today but he was personally in Mariupol and Berdyansk, and he was meeting people and he was meeting sailors and people made clear that some ports are already working three days a week. The economic blockade is already bringing negative impacts on the ports and this is about the wellbeing of citizens, the people who are living in Mariupol, Berdyansk, and other neighbouring cities. This is about jobs and about their salaries and the economic situation in general. So what to expect next? I mean, these five years fighting with Russia I don’t know, so it’s like a hide and seek game. Every time they invent something new and they can admit they are quite sophisticated in creating different problems for Ukraine especially on the eve of elections so that’s why we can expect any other provocation and in that sense I agree with my colleague Robert that only our solidarity and the ability to have a strong response is the best answer for Russians otherwise they will behave like an elephant in a shops. So using their military capabilities and thinking that, as Robert said, the weak should be beaten. Thank you.
ROBERT BRINKLEY CMG:
Yes, I don’t see signs at the moment, signs of this Russian interference in shipping spreading further west in the Black Sea. As the Ambassador has said, it has already had an effect on the economy of those Azov Sea ports, but there has been some diversion of trade of Ukrainian exports to other ports further west on the Black Sea. But one thing that the Russians are doing is closing off sections of the Black Sea, supposedly for military exercises. So that is another way in which they are causing disruption to shipping. The German government has been trying to help out. They have made proposals for observers under the auspices of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, building on the monitoring mission in eastern Ukraine to do monitoring of shipping in the Kerch Strait and the Sea of Azov. We will see if that proposal actually comes to anything.
LORD RICHARD RISBY:
Yes, the gentleman right at the back there.
William [inaudible], University of [Inaudible], perhaps Lord Risby could perhaps tell us about the detail in the opinion poll in [inaudible] about independence, or about the latest polls before this blow up. And my other question is about the British government and the Memorandum of Budapest which is one of the [inaudible] that the UK government in particular, and others for that matter, should be doing right now.
ROBERT BRINKLEY CMG:
Yes, thanks William. I mentioned the referendum at the time of Ukrainian independence in 1991 was a majority for independence in every single region, including Crimea. And there have been opinion polls subsequently since then asking “Are you in favour of independence of Ukraine?” and that has still shown majorities for independence right across the country, including in Crimea. So the figures in Crimea were a bit lower than some of the other parts of Ukraine, but they were still a majority for independence. Budapest Memorandum—yes, absolutely. And this was where Britain, France, the US, offered to Ukraine so-called “negative security assurances;” not a guarantee, it’s important to make that point, but it was misunderstood and I think it was sold as a guarantee it wasn’t a guarantee it was an assurance that if Ukraine gave up its nuclear weapons, then we would make sure that they were going to be alright. But if you look carefully at the text of the Budapest Memorandum, there’s no teeth in it. What it says is that if there is a breech, there will be consultation among the parties, which of course there was but was fairly meaningless. What it does impose, I think, is a very powerful political and moral obligation on the UK and on the US and France to help Ukraine. Because what we’re saying otherwise, to other countries who might be thinking of giving up their nuclear weapons, is “don’t bother, you’re better off keeping them.”
AMBASSADOR NATALIA GALIBARENKO:
Yes, exactly. Just to add on about the Budapest Memorandum is that now the dissatisfaction among Ukrainians and Ukrainian society about the guarantees of the Budapest Memorandum was enormous. Enormous after 2014 when the aggression started so there were expectations that there would be some robust response—I mean, we were not wearing rose glasses, we were not believing that NATO forces will come to Ukraine and be defending our territory because we are not a NATO member state, and the Budapest Memorandum is not a legally binding agreement after all. But still there were expectations that there would be some sort of robust support and robust response to what the Russians were doing. In fact, this was not the case, even in consultations we failed several times because every time we would suggest something, to have some kind of consultations, we got a positive response from the countries’ signatories, and my thanks to the British side who always agreed to have such consultations, but Russia denied any possibility of consulting with us. And I do remember even how we were trying just also in other remark to what Russia was doing when already it was already the first round of Geneva consultations, which preceded the main process, and our then-Foreign Minister Mr. Deshchytsia only mentioned that we should discuss the Crimea issue and have it on the agenda of the international community so the response of the world was “is you will mention Crimea once again, I will take my plane and I will go back to Moscow.” So that was kind of the mood and the attitude toward any of our attempts to have international consultations with Russia.
LORD RICHARD RISBY:
Alright there are two questions we will take, one over here and then the gentleman behind you.
My name is Jamie I work for the [inaudible], and my question is very simple really: do you think Ukraine should join NATO, and do you think Ukraine will join NATO?
AMBASSADOR NATALIA GALIBARENKO:
I mean, my response to both is yes. The only problem is that—yes we should, and I think here were already have support of the Ukrainian population, which was not in fact there before the aggression of the Russian Federation started. So people now began to understand that in our modern world, and having Russia on the nose to be some kind of [inaudible] is, forgive me, is bullshit. So, and people now are understanding that joining NATO and to be in the European architecture of security is the way Ukraine should be and where we belong. But another part of your question, that will we be made a member state, here lies the problem. So this is about not only about our desire, and even our mutual desire because there is a mutual desire on both sides and the belief that we will join NATO at some point, but now we are not ready. And that is why we are not speaking now about the prospect of any immediate membership but more about reforming our defence and security system in Ukraine to do it, to have together different national military trainings, to cooperate as much as possible, exchange information, exchange different footage and also military technical information with NATO member states and did you know as I see what we achieved during these years I mean, I’m quite happy with the level of this preparation. When Yanukovych was in power, I can understand there was nothing. There were only political declarations just to be thrown in the crowd of Ukrainians that would say maybe we’ll join NATO, maybe not, because Russia was opposing was the main argument.
ROBERT BRINKLEY CMG:
I think NATO answered your question in 2008, there was a NATO summit which was considering whether Ukraine should have a membership action plan and the summit communique said that Ukraine will be a member of NATO, but then went on to talk about what was going to happen in the meantime. And it’s clearly not going to be a member of NATO in the foreseeable future, as the Ambassador said, not really yet, can we see NATO wanting to bring in Ukraine as a member while it is still fighting a war against Russia.
Hi my name’s Harry, I’m working at HJS. I was wondering what the panel’s view was of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, do you think this is the latest example of Germany advancing its national interest against the interest of the European Union?
AMBASSADOR NATALIA GALIBRENKO:
Thank you for your question, and I think everybody here knows our position that from the very beginning we were saying that Nord Stream was not about the economy. And the attempts of some politicians, including the German one, to depict it as it is, we do not accept this in Ukraine and our neighbours also understand our logic and support us within the European Commission. The problem is that I think the idea for simple decisions, can I put it like this, to have cheap gas or something, it overclouds in some people the issue of even their own security. After all, this is only about Ukraine, because Nord Stream would be another attempt for Russia to have a political tool, political influence on European states who will be depending on Nord Stream. And of course, we were expecting that the popular slogan in the energy diversification will not end up actually in building Nord Stream, it would be another tool of political dominance of Russia over the European states. And in fact, for Ukraine it would be of course a direct economic damage and now we are already seeing some enormous statistic that if we were to lose transit through our territory. Just last week we had a new round of trilateral consultations with the European Commission with Gazprom about what to do because the contract on transiting and gas transportation concludes in the end of this year. So in the Russian position was quite interesting, they suggested just to prolong what we have and that’s it. So the problem now is to see where is the trick, so to say. And not to be trapped by Russians any more, and the good thing is that already two years we spent without Russian gas and you see? We survived. So nobody is dead, nobody is frozen, so this shows with a smart energy policy, you can do this after all.
ROBERT BRINKLEY CMG:
I think you have to ask why is Gazprom, which is an arm of the Russian state, doing this. And the reason is that at the moment it depends, for part of its exports of gas, to Europe on transit through Ukraine. And the Russian state would be much happier if they had no dependence at all on Ukraine for transit, which is why they’re building pipelines in the north and the south to go around. But economically, the case doesn’t stack up. There has been some good analysis recently showing that the arguments that Europe needs this extra Russian gas are just not substantiated. It is not needed. But what it does do is undermine the efforts that have been made in the European Union since those earlier gas disputes and the cut off of the gas, to have a more varied source of supply. And of course this would go completely in the face of that, it would increase the dependence of Europe on Russia as a supplier. And if Russia succeeded in doing that and becoming completely independent of Ukraine for gas transit not only as the financial loss to Ukrainian budget—2-3 million dollars a year perhaps, but it would mean one less reason restraining Russia from further aggression in Ukraine.
AMBASSADOR NATALIA GALIBARENKO:
Just to add one remark if I may, that we also even notice looking at the maps when it was the action phase of military action in the east of Ukraine, separatists were doing everything to avoid the places where the pipeline is going, so that is to the point that if there would be no transit, there would be no trying to be more deliberate in their actions in Ukraine.
LORD RICHARD RISBY:
We have just reached 2 o’clock, but I guess I’ll take one final question.
Thank you very much, [inaudible]. Two questions if I can fit them both in. Both speakers, it seems to me, are talking about rule of law. One is the external rule of law, the other is the internal rule of law. On the international side, my question to Robert is there was much encouragement from the West to Ukraine in the process of change, I’m not sure how much support there would be, and I know the ambassador’s presentation has touched on this, when the fighting actually started. The appetite to join NATO is partly to gain support, [inaudible] the appetite for NATO not to join in is exactly the mirror image of that, they do not want to enter in a conflict. So my question to you is, is there any more that the West, or the UK if you prefer, should be doing? And if not, if it’s sufficient, what should we be doing at the moment? My question to the Ambassador, if I may, is on the internal rule of law, you have a huge task and you need to buy time to deliver the changes that will produce the rule of law. You have the elections coming up, now is the time to make new promises, not a time to deliver them. Expectation management is going to be crucial here, how are you going to buy time to deliver the rule of law in Ukraine?
LORD RICHARD RISBY:
Given the time we are at I am going to ask you both to be concise in your answers.
ROBERT BRINKLEY CMG:
Okay on the international front, I think the UK and other Western countries have shown in the last 5 years that there’s a lot we are prepared to do to help Ukraine. This is partly being political support in international bodies, imposing sanctions on Russia; it’s partly been financial support through the IMF, EBRD, through other bodies amounting to 17 or 18 billion dollars. This is a lot of money, and the IMF program has just been renewed. The UK government itself has substantially increased the amount of aid it is giving for projects in Ukraine. And there is also a significant effort of military training as well, of giving intelligence, of giving advice on training, and some equipment coming particularly from the United States. Could we do more? Of course there is always more that can be done, but don’t underestimate the amount of support that the West is already giving.
AMBASSADOR NATALIA GALIBARENKO:
I will also try to be precise; so of course everybody will agree that the pre-electoral time is not the best for reforms, and this is true not only about Ukraine, so this is true almost in all the countries. Also you should take into account the paternalistic part of Ukrainian society. So we have historically thought there would be someone elected who would bring happiness and justice and everything to our lives. And this is not true, so the time should and will come that we will be electing effective manager, not somebody who will come and resolve all of our problems, we should resolve them every time, every day together. My only expectation of the new president and of the new government is not to lose what we gained during these five years. Sometimes we tend to take everything for granted, but not irreversible unfortunately. So we should preserve this pro-European, pro-NATO reform oriented course, whoever would be the president or prime minister in this country. And I think here also the role of the international community of our Western partners is crucial.
LORD RICHARD RISBY:
A very good note on which to end. Forgive me we’ve overrun by four minutes, but I think it was worthwhile to hear those questions and answers. So please join with me in thanking the Ambassador and Robert.