Ambassador Borys Tarasyuk, former Foreign Minister of Ukraine
Ambassador Borys Tarasyuk
Changes in Ukraine and Their Implications for Security in Europe
This is my 13th International Workshop. The first time I was invited to this workshop, in 1993, it took place in the first non-NATO country, in Budapest, Hungary. This year’s workshop coincides with the time that fundamental, tectonic change took place in Ukraine—the shift in power in Ukraine. Let me say that out of terra incognita, before the restoration of independence, Ukraine became a country that is a well-known contributor to peace and security in the region and in Europe—I dare say a net contributor to security in Europe. So, much now depends on what will happen in Ukraine and how Ukraine will affect international security and stability.
In this regard, I see my major task here as drawing your attention to recent developments that may remind you that Ukraine is one of the biggest countries in Europe: Number one in terms of territory and number five in terms of population. Ukraine plays a significant role in regional and global security. I would also like to draw your attention to the trends that, if continued, can undermine the success of democratization in the region and jeopardize security in Europe as a whole.
A week before the workshop, we summarized the first 100 days of the new president, Mr. Yanukovych, and his team. The result was a failure to launch the highly needed economic reforms so widely advertised to the people and the international community. Since occupying the highest offices, Yanukovych and his team have perpetually breached legislation, including the Constitution of Ukraine, and violated democratic fundamentals, such as freedom of speech and peaceful assembly. Yanukovych and his team’s deeds are inconsistent with the declarations made in such critical spheres as foreign policy, European integration, energy, and security.
What was the international response to this situation? Many times I felt bitter listening to comments from some very respected European politicians who labeled the current political situation in Ukraine as long-anticipated stability. I was very disappointed that some of my colleagues welcomed this kind of stability, which basically came at the expense of the rule of law, freedom of speech, and human rights—fundamental values shared by countries of the European Union and NATO. Well, today, nobody is questioning whether there is stability in North Korea, Russia, or Iran. Therefore, I have serious doubts that the international community would welcome the emergence of a new undemocratic, unpredictable, and dependent player in the very center of Europe, even at the cost of illusive stability.
This is not a groundless fear, but a sound possibility acknowledged by the Freedom House on June 3. I was very embarrassed to spot a note regarding my country in the report “Worst of the Worst: The World’s Most Repressive Societies 2010.” It concerned Ukraine turning from a free country, which it is now, to a partly free country—and to a place where it was before the Orange Revolution of 2004.
ILLEGITIMATE ACTIONS OF THE CURRENT AUTHORITIES
From the start, the Ukrainian Constitution and legislation did not stop the new authorities from power usurpation and constitutional mutiny. The first red flags were raised with an illegal coalition was established in Ukraine’s Parliament in March 2010 in an unconstitutional manner. Later, the Constitutional Court, while considering this case, made a ruling that demonstrated its lack of impartiality and an absence of checks and balances in the current Ukraine political system. This resulted in the illegitimate appointment of the prime minister and the formation of the government.
We are concerned that Yanukovych and his team will not stop at violating the Constitution, but will continue to break the democratic principles and European values in Ukraine. To this point I vividly recall a line from a recent concept paper called “Reshaping EU–U.S. Relations” that was created by a group of very prominent European politicians and experts, including Romano Prodi, Guy Verhovstadt, Jerzhy Buzek, Jacques Delors, and Joshka Fisher, some of whom I have the honor of regarding as friends. Assessing current global challenges, the authors looked into the foundations of political power and concluded that “the legitimacy of power is now just as important as power projection.” Current Ukrainian authorities and their actions explicitly lack the legitimacy that, in the view of European intellectuals, should be regarded as a security challenge and as damaging power foundations in the biggest European country.
THE BLACK SEA FLEET AND RUSSIA-UKRAINE “RECONCILIATION”
We have been very concerned that, having neglected democratic principles, Yanukovych would carry on, and, unfortunately, we were right. Recently the whole world was astonished by images from the Ukrainian Parliament that showed the appalling ratification procedure of the Russian-Ukrainian Agreement extending a lease for the Russian Black Sea Fleet on our soil until 2042. Those images reflected the ruthlessness of the authorities and the desperation of the patriots of Ukraine to defend national strategic interests, our sovereignty, and independence. Following Russian-Ukrainian documents were prepared without any prior consultations with Parliament, relevant governmental bodies, or the public. They were prepared in an unprecedented shady and discreet manner. By ratifying the Black Sea Fleet Agreement, the authorities once again violated the Constitution and the law by extending the lease; Ukraine prohibits the presence of international military bases in Ukraine.
We are convinced that the Black Sea Fleet of Russia is a serious threat to our sovereignty, a means to contain Ukraine in the zone of Russian interests and to oppose it against the democratic world. Furthermore, it may fuel secessionism inside the country, split Ukrainian society apart, and trigger political confrontation. The presence of the Black Sea Fleet provoked ethnic confrontation in the Crimea. It also poses the threat of our being dragged into armed conflict with third parties, including the Black Sea Fleet, where Russia applies force without the consent of the Ukrainian side, as was the case in August 2008 against Georgia. Moreover, further Russian military escalation with the Black Sea Fleet engagement in Sevastopol may provoke acts of terrorism against Ukraine.
The undoubted result of the new regime is the rapid reversal of Ukraine’s foreign policy, for the first time in the almost 19 years of our renewed independence. Following the embarrassing Russian-Ukrainian Agreement, the Ukrainian president rushed to drag his draft law, “On Fundamentals of Domestic and Foreign Policies,” through Parliament, reversing foreign policy objectives. Failing to offer a conceptual or an innovative approach to domestic and foreign policies, this document pursues a single goal: To exempt the provisions of Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic integration, that is, NATO membership, from the legislation. This dangerous step, if accomplished, will finally deprive Ukraine of its chances to ensure its security and to strive for a place among the world’s most mature democracies. Instead, the new regime promotes enshrining “non-block status,” which for Ukraine implies the role of a buffer zone on the European periphery, one exposed to growing global challenges such as arms proliferation, human trafficking, smuggling, terrorism, and human rights abuse. Unfortunately, Ukrainian authorities do not realize that pursuing this non-block status or neutrality is costly.
The scale and pace of Russia’s growing grip on strategic Ukrainian sectors, such as its acquisition efforts toward the atomic agency, the Antonov Aircraft giant, shipyards, and railway locomotion plants; its attempts to synchronize Ukrainian education and humanitarian spheres with Russia; and, most importantly, its gaining control of Ukrainian gas transportation and gas distribution systems would symbolize Russia’s absorption of Ukraine. This is clearly reflected in the recent Russian-Ukrainian “reconciliation” and paves a clear path for Russia to reinvent its dominance in the former Soviet Union area and in east-central Europe and Eurasia.
A shift in power in Ukraine may result in two scenarios. The first one, which I call negative, is this:
The second scenario, which is more encouraging from my point of view, would lead to combining the efforts of Ukrainian democrats and international democratic institutions, and this would result in the defense of democratic institutions and values in Ukraine. This scenario also enables a change of power as a result of the forthcoming 2012 parliamentary elections. Then we might see the return to an independent foreign policy and its objectives, including EU and NATO membership. For this to happen, however, both Ukrainian democrats and a united Europe must learn lessons from the past. Ukraine must also join NATO and the European Union, and for this we need the political support of our partners in both organizations.
As a result of the changes in the second scenario, Ukraine will again become a participant in achieving security and stability in Europe and the Euro-Atlantic area, and have the chance to return to its role of regional leader and to become a center of democracy building in the region. Currently the EU and the United States, which are largely engaged in a struggle to curb economic turmoil, may be underestimating the magnitude of these shifts in Ukraine. They may also, most dangerously, be missing the devaluation of democratic fundamentals that for decades cemented unions that we all now call the most prosperous and stable societies, and what we young democracies aspire to.