PrintPrint EmailEmail ShareShare CiteCite


A Conversation with Viktor A. Yushchenko

Presider: Chrystia Freeland, U.S. Managing Editor, Financial Times
Speaker: Viktor Yushchenko, President of Ukraine
September 23, 2008
Council on Foreign Relations



(Note: President Yushchenko's remarks appear via interpreter.)

CHRYSTIA FREELAND: Good morning. I'm Chrystia Freeland and it's a real honor for me to be here today with the president of Ukraine, Viktor Yushchenko.

This session is on the record, and if I could please ask everyone to turn off any of those fantastic mobile devices they have.

It's really a great personal honor for me to be here with Viktor Yushchenko. I first met him in 1991, and he was the first Ukrainian bank official I found who actually could speak intelligently about banking operations. Knowing that he's here today I feel that actually he should probably be sent to Washington, because he's more familiar to most people here, I would imagine, for his very heroic role in Ukraine's Orange Revolution, but before that, he was the Paul Volcker of Ukraine and in his role in government actually tamed hyperinflation and stabilized Ukraine's currency.

Subsequently, Mr. Yushchenko did something very brave, which is he left the government, at a time when it was very unclear what the fate of people who did that would be, and led Ukraine's Orange Revolution. He doesn't like to speak very much about the personal price he paid, but you can see it a little bit in his -- in his face. We all know about the poisoning that happened on the eve of the election.

Events are interesting all over the world, but I think it's fair to say Ukraine lives in a particularly dangerous neighborhood at the moment. And so I'm really looking forward to President Yushchenko's remarks. He's going to speak for about 15 minutes, and then I will ask him questions for about 10 minutes and then we'll throw it open to you.

(In Ukrainian.)

PRESIDENT VIKTOR YUSHCHENKO: Honored guests, it is my pleasure to have a few minutes of your attention. I know that this room -- are gathered friends of my country, people who carry out an important role, especially in Ukraine and today's world. And it is possible for us to discuss some of the problems that are tied with Ukrainian life, where Ukraine (stays ?) today and what our goals and what is the core of our policy. In other words, I would like to thank each of you for that part of your time you have offered for Ukraine and for this conversation about Ukraine.

Many of you are familiar to me. And I'm very pleased to see you. And thank you for having the heart to worry about and think about our country.

So allow me to say a few words -- a little bit of my usual presentation, a few words about the foundations of my -- of our policy, where we see our Ukrainian national policy, our strategy, what are the challenges and how we intend to deal with them.

I'll start in general on the political aspect. If you take a short history of the new Ukrainian nation, which is 17 years old -- this doesn't mean our nation exists for 17 years. Our nation existed for thousands of years on this earth. And we've had our governments in various times and we have left a unique impact on national history and also world history. And I'll speak a little farther about our Ukrainian civilization, how it became to be and what pages of European history it has created.

But as for our recent history, these past 17 years and the 20th century -- so I would start with -- the desire of Ukrainians to have an independent nation has always been there. And fate has created a situation where the last 450 years, we were not able to have our own government and for that reason, the history of that -- of our times -- not one but many dozens of generations have fought for this, the creation of our independent nation.

In the 20th century, Ukraine declared the creation of an independent country six times. And five times, we lost. Starting from Hetman -- General Skoropadsky who created a government for only -- little more than half of year, then Petliura and then Vynnychenko. In our history, the 20th century, there were instances where we declared Ukrainian independence and sometimes it was less than for a day. But this is also -- this is also a major achievement. Avhustyn Voloshyn, for example, who -- understanding that he will pay a price for this political step, but he had the desire to declare a sovereign nation, which lasted less than 24 hours.

This and many other things -- I'm referring to this because we have always had the desire to create an independent nation. For 17 years, she exists as a new Ukrainian nation. What is our first question, in order to ensure the eternal continuation of Ukraine? There are several things we have to do. We have to take a lesson from the 20th century, and not repeat that which so tragically affected our sovereignty and independence.

Why did we have to pay so harshly for our attempts at Ukrainian independence? Why was Ukraine in the 20th century -- why were we inflicted with one of the greatest humanitarian catastrophes, the famine of '32 and '33, which took 10 million lives and famine of '21, '22, the collectivization of '29 and '30, when more than a half million families were settled to Siberia just because they wanted to be farmers on their own land? And we can only equate this -- the repressions -- also the repressions against the Ukrainian nation of '36, '37.

And of course, this affected everyone who lived in Ukrainian lands. No group, no nation, was left without its losses. But I would like to put one question to you. Why is this so frequently that the thoughts and the desires towards independence could not be actuated? Because along these lines of these decisions there was never an international guarantee. We were doing this independently, on our own, declaring independence of Ukraine.

We had millions of patriots who were ready to lay down their lives and they did so. But as it turned out, in this world, to lay down a million lives for national sovereignty is not enough to have it. And when we speak today what should be the main aspect of foreign policy of Ukraine, how to draw the lesson -- my wife has just arrived. (Applause.)

I just said that with one goal in mind, because I stopped talking, so you would understand why I fell silent. (Laughter.)

So returning to what we're speaking about today, when we talk about what is the most important in the current policy in order to maintain our territorial identity and our sovereignty and independence, this is a model of security policy. What kind of security policy would be most appropriate for the interests of the Ukrainian nation? European -- European, general continental, Euro-Atlantic, model of collective security.

So when we speak about the first thing that Ukraine needs, the first service for 21st century, the 22nd century, this is our need to integrate into the Euro-Atlantic system of collective security. This is a global fundamental answer, how to preserve Ukraine and our history from those tests against it that every decade of the 20th century forced us to suffer. So when we speak about the main point of our foreign policy, this is the process of integration. We want the world to recognize Ukraine and Ukraine to recognize the world.

We're talking about European integration and we're talking about the -- Ukraine is a European country. It always was. And she is and she always will be European.

The last discussions that we had with our European counterparts and did successfully -- we achieved a political understanding what -- about the future agreements that will tie Ukraine and Europe. This will be an agreement for association. Not neighboring countries, as we spoke about a year and a half ago, not only a partnership and cooperation, as was talked about even a year ago or even three months ago, but an actual agreement for an association.

So it's most important for us -- for Ukraine to politically associate itself and to integrate itself with Europe. This is key. This is the key characteristic of our external policy.

If we talk about a practical aspect of this policy, we talk about integration and how this is to happen between Ukraine and the European Union -- it's actually happening every day on a whole string of concrete projects. We just started a conversation with export and maybe I'll start with that.

In 2012, Ukraine for the first time will be hosting the final championships of European football. This kind of a decision has never been done by the UEFA to -- though Ukraine is not actually east of Europe, but we consider ourselves center -- but this far to the east, the European Championship has never taken place. When we were doing this jointly with Poland -- this is a very practical aspect of integration. Even through sport, we are integrating ourselves into the European society.

Our commission has given an idea to integrate an -- energy system of Ukraine, to integrate it with the energy system of Europe. This is a direct form of integration. Right now we're also working with the European Union concerning an agreement about a common air space. This is a direct and practical integration.

We're working with the European Union concerning the providing of Caspian Oil through Caucasus, through the Black Sea, through Odessa to Brody and into the European Union. In my mind, this is one of the most successful projects, how to get Caspian oil to Central Europe, to Eastern Europe and to Northern Europe.

In this project, we have received appropriate financing of the European techno commission, and in a few weeks we will conclude and this will be presented as a completed agreement. So the technical, economical security of this line, all throughout the line -- we believe that this -- we will have a base agreement on the completion of this project.

And in my opinion, this is an example of that integration that for many years we have spoken about in Ukraine. We talk about the transportation system in Ukraine, which 80 percent of Russian gas is provided through our pipelines and our transport system. My policy is, considering the fact this is the largest oil and gas transporting system, to integrate it with Europe, not to consider it two sides, but to present it as a joint project of Ukraine and Europe, because this is one of the components of a stable energy policy. It cannot be divided.

And how do we find a niche for these unique functions that the Ukrainian government is completing? This remains a large question mark.

But from our side, the Ukrainian side, we have a full desire to be integrated. The problem is in that the Ukrainian Union -- the European Union right now does not have a single continental -- (inaudible word) -- policy. The gas market is actually built on two-sided relations, and Europe has not yet given one voice -- we have no rights, no principles, and there's no ability to forecast seriously. So Europe is -- still has some shortcomings, but Ukraine would like to see this integrated in the energy sector.

When we -- there are for these -- for these questions, even though there are other questions -- for example, higher education -- the question of higher education, we joined the Bologna process, which is a single European educational process. And Ukraine -- the Ukrainian graduate will start to receive a European diploma, which will be acceptable in any part of the European Continent, among all the member countries of the Bologna process. This is something that we were lacking.

And for many years past, when our relationship with Europe was not filled with these -- this many examples of concrete integrations in various areas, so we're heading in a very definite direction. We need European integration.

And Europe is 35 percent our trade partner -- it was a first trade partner and 35 percent of our exports are to the European Union. We have agreed that within eight months, we will work on to creating a free trade zone between Ukraine and European Union. This is an unprecedented event. We never had such a strong agreement as what right now we are preparing with the European Union. This agreement includes zone of free trade -- not all these -- not all our previous agreements included this, but ours does.

Secondly, also unprecedented, in our agreement about association, we will have security -- European Union will support the principles of territorial integrity, sovereignty and the immovability of our borders. This is -- we have returned now full-circle where my discussion began. This will be first time that we'll have a guarantee of Ukrainian integrity and sovereignty and the immutability of our borders.

The third component is an agreement which will foresee the beginning of discussion about a visa-less regime for the visiting of Ukrainian citizens with countries of the European Union.

This is an excellent package. It's not such an easy thing. I'm not saying it's going to be -- we're going to go through it in a year or two. Of course we will have to spend a lot of time and effort, but what we have done on the political level, what we have found -- unique synchronicity and agreement and understanding. We have some magnificent European friends, as far as European integration is concerned. This is a self-evident fact.

And finally, I would like to summarize with this thought. Three years ago, in Europe we were not even acknowledged as a country that has a market economy. Just three years ago, Europe did not recognize us to have a market economy. Now we are the seventh round in discussions of a free trade zone between Ukraine and the European Union. This is a magnificent policy, and we need to applaud it. This is exactly where we need to go.

As far as the second component -- I would like to phrase this correctly. From the other side, though, I'd like to put it succinctly.

Ukraine is clearly aware of her position in continental security policy. We do not see another alternative which would be able to guarantee our territorial integrity. It seems that this is a one-sided process, but this is not true. I'm convinced that what happened in the Caucasus really accents this, that this is not just a problem between Russia and Georgia. This is not even a problem of the general Black Sea area, though this is where the worst impact will be. But I believe that this is a European and a continental and a world problem.

We need to make sure that the zone of peace, the zone of security should go farther and father east in Europe. And Ukraine can be one of these first pieces that can seriously expand the zone of European security. And that's -- for this we are building our democracy. For this we have delineated how to bring the rule of law, freedom of the word and -- freedom of the press and journalists that will not be shot -- and there are other problems that we need to solve in what political process calls European-style democracy.

I'll tell you honestly that as I look at the aspects of European civilization, we can see that Ukraine has always been part of the value system of European civilization. It always has been, all the way back to King Yaroslav the Wise and the time of Mozepa and the time of Pylyp Orlyk and Hetman Skoropadsky.

I am convinced that our values, Ukrainian values, that we are dedicated to them, just like other nations are dedicated to them in Europe. For one example, in April of 1810 (sic/1710), the current hetman of Ukraine, Pylyp Orlyk -- and I'm saying this -- and American people, I know what kind of reaction there is going to be. But he wrote the first constitution, in 1710, which was, I believe, 70 years earlier than the American Constitution and 90 years earlier than the Polish. I know, I know, it's a sensitive point. (Laughter.)

Maybe I shouldn't have said that. But in principle what I wanted to let you know, that when Europe and the positions -- the posts of -- and the emperors' chairs and chairs of royalty, when they were passing on inheritance of the rule, Ukraine already had election of leaders. The headman was elected.

And this was done 500 years ago. And there was no other way of electing -- no other way of choosing a leader. And many other aspects -- the role of the church, the role of social morality -- this was all included in this constitution of Pylyp Orlyk.

So in other words, what I wanted to say is that we have always been a European nation. And the memorandum that was accepted a few weeks ago in Paris, where we have confirmed the Ukrainian core as a European one, this states this fact that we are an unremovable part of Europe.

So I would like to say a few words about our internal life. I would like to start with the economy. In the last four years, we have a dynamic of which we can be proud, and one answer which I would like to refer to macroeconomics is I'd like to say that in the last four years, or five years, we have succeeded in creating, at high level, professional macroeconomic policy, starting over the control of the deficit of the budget, balance of payments, balance of trade. All this gave us the opportunity to form the main motifs which we can illustrate with many different numbers, which we can define Ukrainian economy as a stable one.

In the last four or five years, we've had 7 percent increase, possibly right now 7-1/2 (percent) increase of production. This is one of our biggest gains in economy, and it's one of the largest in Europe. We have radically changed our relationship with the investor. For example, the last eight months, we're talking about foreign investment. We have $7 billion of investment. If you take the last 12 to 14 months, Ukraine has received more than $12 billion investment. If you take approximately 18 to 20 months, then the amount per capita of investment in Ukraine has doubled.

I remember when I was working in the national bank, we had a hope -- at that time we had $400 million of investment. It was our hope to reach $1 billion a year. And Poland was receiving $7 billion at that time, and that seemed like a dream which we could never attain. In the last eight months, we received more investment than Poland receives in a year. So this is a wonderful accomplishment.

In other words, Ukraine today presents itself as a serious, modern and interesting Eastern European market. We have learned to continue the process which approaches -- which attracts serious business. Today we were at the New York stock market, where we were very interest -- very big interest in organizing the matters of funding, and to bring in 10 to 20 important Ukrainian countries how to organize the Ukrainian market fund, and starting with technology, the direction of laws which are needed for the largest stock market, like, for example, in New York.

Today we have the lowest unemployment that Ukraine has ever had. And if you speak about even maybe a sad state for Ukraine; for example, the immigration of people to work in other countries, which several million people have done that over the past 15, 17 years, people have gone abroad to look for work. So I think starting from south of Ukraine, Nikolaev, Kherson, Odessa, and starting up and ending in Kiev, Jiniev (ph), you will see a different problem. We're looking for good workers. We need -- we're looking for laborers. We have a deficit not of economists and not of jurists, but builders, engineers. This is our biggest shortcoming. And this tells you that the economy is looking for -- is looking to achieve that level of technical accomplishment. And we're working on this with our higher education to pay attention to this lack.

One other comment concerning our economy. Ukraine has always been -- it's always been a characteristic for heavy machinery manufacture, whether rockets, factories, shipbuilding. Right now our machine building has grown by 28 percent.

As an economist and as a president, it's a pleasure for me to visit to a shipyard and see that there are orders for seven, eight years ahead. All the building, the heavy machine building is industrial core and is working with a great amount of orders and a very good dynamic.

So I would like to say on the whole that I would say that our economic strength is quite effective.

But you can't be happy with everything. There somewhere has to be a problem. So now I'm moving on to the problem, and that is in politics. And this is a serious problem. I don't want to tire you with the details, but the establishment of democratic viewpoints in the government is not an easy task. I think every country has to spend the appropriate time to form the political leaders who are ready to make these -- decide the -- (inaudible) -- country -- (laughter) --

QUESTIONER: (Off mike.)

YUSHCHENKO: The Orange Revolution was probably the first unprecedented example. That was when we all were unified around an ideal of democracy. Different people -- socialists, capitalists, the left and populists -- everybody gathered like America gathered on September 11th. Everybody forgets their political flags; they just remembered their American flag and we have to unify. And then there was tragedy and then the election, and every -- went in their camp, and everybody went their own road. But that's natural.

The same thing with Ukraine, but we did accomplish one thing. The road to democracy is today in Ukraine. This road -- everyone acknowledges this road.

And when you're talking about the essence of the current moment, I see not a tragedy and not a drama. First, what I think is important for everyone to remember -- Ukraine has ample democratic resource to find a democratic answer for the challenges which the parliamentary crisis is currently presenting, and we're not going to run tanks against the parliament, or artillery.

Just like a year ago, maybe through somewhere -- maybe it's not an easy way, but we will find a democratic answer for this crisis.

Right now we're having talks, and what happened on September 2nd, when the Tymoshenko Bloc did what Moroz did a year ago -- well, can I say that? Betrayal? It's uncomfortable to say that about a woman, because it lowers me as well. But it made it impossible to coexist in one coalition. As the president, I can understand why a leading coalition of our party and the BYuT Party -- why we cannot have one opinion on Georgia. I'm not saying what that opinion has to be, whether sterner or softer or completely soft, but it should be joint, because this is the government. Our world decides how to relate to this, and for some reason, the Ukrainian government cannot create a unified form. And so the party of Tymoshenko is the only one going to parliament without a resolution on this problem.

And the parliament, after this summer, it seemed like there's a mass of work just beginning the new session. And it started with a new majority, without discussions, without any forewarning -- the party -- the Tymoshenko Party, Party of Regions and Communists -- and began to set the work for parliament. And they started four laws about the cabinet of ministers, about the general (council/counsel ?), about security and the rule of law.

The first three laws take away constitutional powers of the president to propose a prime minister, general (council/counsel ?) and the director of security system and for parliament to be confirming this. But this is -- it's unconstitutional to take this away from the president. But nobody's even saying it is constitutional. They just presented -- this program of destabilization is being put into effect. They create a commission with the goal of impeaching a president -- these and for other things that have not been said, there was an idea which was an echo of the Georgian conflict to destabilize into Ukraine, a plan to destabilize, which was supposed to happen by December of this year, in order to create the exceptional elections of the president, parliament and local governments.

And the authors of this plan would like to create a situation in the Ukraine so that the forces that will come to power in parliament would be able to form different attitudes on Ukrainian strategy, on foreign policy and internal policy aspects, and in one blow to solve all three problems, to question the course towards European Union, to enforce two different powers within parliament. The prime minister -- it -- there would be -- two parties only would be able to pass the 10 percent margin which would be allowed to present -- to represent the political aspects of the nation in parliament.

And when the party Nasha Ukrayina, Our Ukraine, came -- dissolved the coalition, this was a result of the actions which -- the party of Tymoshenko made it impossible for the coalition to remain intact.

I'm convinced that right now the process has begun which will, either within -- within the constitutionally allowed times, we will either create a new coalition or, in 60 days, a new election, which is also according to the constitution, period.

Thank you. (Applause.)

FREELAND: Usually it's journalists who get politicians in trouble, but President Yushchenko has now gotten me in trouble because of my absolute failure to discipline him on the length of his speech. It was, nonetheless, a really wonderful exposition of Ukraine's foreign policy, economic policy, and I particularly enjoyed hearing a politician admit that the politics are the one sore point. I don't often hear that in American politics.

Viktor Adriyovych, you in August traveled to Tbilisi and showed very strong political and personal support for President Saakashvili. Are you concerned now that Ukraine might be next and specifically that perhaps some sort of provocation in Crimea, similar to what we've seen in South Ossetia, might be planned?

YUSHCHENKO: I would start with the following: that I could not even imagine how any military plan similar to the Georgian to be expanded to Ukraine. I can't really imagine that, because there are many other circumstances that have to be taken into account, starting from the fact that the Ukraine is not Georgia. This is a country with different capacities, with different characteristics, different situations. We can say many, many other things.

But I'm not going to hide that the discussions that are currently going on, not only in press, not only in journalist circles or politicians -- orthodox politicians, but also amongst high-ranking official circles in Russia regarding the Crimean Peninsula, regarding Tuzla Island, regarding the fact that we have not a single meter of frontier with Russia marked --

we have not limited a single mile of the Black Sea shelf and the Sea of Azov. So of course that puts a lot of question marks that are -- that trigger concerns that we have to react on.

I'd say this is really sensitive. We believe that the situation that now characterizes Ukrainian-Russian relations, and I want to be frank, because this is one of the elements, of the policy that I've been formulating as president. This kind of policy is in the following.

We need to have the dialogue. We need to learn how to resolve the issues that have not been resolved for years in the bilateral regime. And so if you may, pay attention to the fact that for the last couple of months, starting from the negotiations, on the Black Sea navy, that issue has already been (rosen ?).

And about 10 days ago, during our last conversation with President Medvedev, we touched upon that issue, that we need to start negotiations on the problems of the Black Sea navy, including the land issues, assets, radio frequencies, navigation.

It was a very baffling task, to ensure the regime of the Black Sea fleet and other military forces, of Russia, movement across the Ukrainian territory. Because before that, we had the case, when you can get into the tank and go somewhere else, to a different place in the country.

Of course, that does not respond to our national interest. And I had to resolve a decree to regulate that issue. And I asked the Russian side to treat that with understanding, because we want to see our territory more secure when it is about any kind of relocation or movement of any military forces of Russia.

The same is about the border. Actually the military part has not been served yet, I mean, the military part of our relations. So the respective decree was signed, and I instructed the government as well.

That's why I believe that however hard it may be now, when speaking about our bilateral relations, of course, Ukraine will never sacrifice its own national interest and will never accept conditions to let our security feelings down.

And on the other hand, I will do everything possible as a president to have not only one side present at the negotiation table. But we need to resolve the complicated issues of our relations together. And I believe that this is not only related to the recent conflicts.

They were inherited 10 to 17 years ago. Just they were staying idle for a while. That's why everybody thought that it was resolved somehow on its own. But generally in the last couple years, I think, there were many lessons for Ukraine and for the whole world, when we're speaking about the Russian-Georgian conflict.

It's not only just how to start, how to stop that war. But this is how to, how to move all the forces, all the military forces on their previous positions and how to internationalize the peacekeeping continent. And the key lesson is that the Black Sea area should have no security disbalances. And I'm sure that the policy of the international community and the European Union is to be aimed at ensuring the balances in the Black Sea area that would keep such kind of conflicts away. And I think that this is the key point.

FREELAND: I'll ask one quick question and then throw the floor open to your questions so please, prepare.

In connection with the security of the Black Sea region, you've been a strong proponent of Ukraine's eventual admission to NATO. Are you not concerned that that policy right now might provoke Russia into greater hostility towards Ukraine?

YUSHCHENKO: I cannot exclude it. But what we are saying is that Ukraine is a sovereign state. And one of the principles, basic principles, of sovereignty is a right to form your own security policy, your own defense policy.

When taking into account the lessons of our history and those precedents of the years, we've come to the conclusion that a non-alternative policy is the whole European security policy that was adopted by all the countries of the former Soviet Union starting from Lithuania, Estonia, and Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Balkan states, thus all the countries that were building the prosperous socialist future together with Ukraine. And when other conditions came and the national sovereignty came as the issue, the first decision was to join the general European-North Atlantic collective security. And every single nation that I've just mentioned had enough strength to make this decision, and I'm sure that our position will also be filled with this content. The Ukrainian nation will come through the additional information time and will require additional and necessary knowledge to work out the right decision, and I was saying about that three years ago that we're going to inform the nation and then, through the national referendum, we will provide the best and the most efficient response to where Ukraine has to be in terms of security.

Right now, we are only speaking about a membership action plan, which is no membership. This is just a -- like a graduate class, but this is not membership. We are saying that we have the full right as a country to do that. Believe me, Ukraine has done everything what can be named as homework. We've done everything.

Right now the ball is not on our side of the field. Whether Ukraine will be invited to the membership action plan in this December is the answer that is not in Ukraine today because Ukraine has done everything for the response to be positive.

If believing in the regulation of NATO, then this right can be attained through a democratic procedure and a positive decision when this issue is considered. And I hope that this will take place in December. I hope that this is only the pure confidence of the NATO allies, but not the third parties -- at least that's what it says in the regulation.

FREELAND: Okay, we're going to throw it open to questions. I'll take two questions at once so that we can fit more in.

Please. Yeah, yeah. Yeah, of course.

QUESTIONER: Yes, thank you. David Remnick from The New Yorker.

You describe Ukraine as a democratic country. I'd like to ask you if you feel that Russia is

And secondly, who do you feel is in charge of that country, Mr. Putin or Mr. Medvedev?

FREELAND: Okay, you know what, I'm actually going to let President Yushchenko respond to that one right away. (Laughter.)

YUSHCHENKO: Yes, absolutely.

You know, this is not -- this is a question with the wrong address, but it would be more convenient for me to speak about what we are doing for Ukraine to remain a democratic country. Believe me, this is not a simple task; this is about colossal challenges, even for those political circles that were deemed to be democratic. But I'm sure that one of the most profitable businesses, if you want to think about the future of Ukraine, is its democratization, because it is profitable.

Being the president, as a person, I paid a big price for these words to be repeated from morning till done, but I still understand that there can be a lot of skepticism.

As for the Russian pace, I'm sure about one thing: democracy in Russia is so necessary like never before because Russia needs democracy to take its dignified place in the family of European nations and the international accordance.

I'm sure that this is a strong policy. The democratic policy is nothing about weakness; it is strong.

But taking into consideration all the comments, I think you should respond to yourself, who governs, Putin or Medvedev? Let's go on. Let's go on.

FREELAND: Okay, well, it was a nice try, David. I just follow it up on the Putin/Medvedev, and the president would like us to move on.

Mary, please.


Mr. President, were you satisfied with the European response to the events in South Ossetia of last August?

YUSHCHENKO: I'd say could any other answer be more important than the European? Yes, apparently so.

I'm sure that they expected some rapid and strong response from Europe, a clear response, because this is the issue that imposes its impact on the foundations of European security policy. There is still a big concern in a sense that the document that we call the summarizing document or conclusion document regarding the settlement of the conflict does not contain any recognition -- Russians' recognition of territorial integrity of Georgia, which is a big question mark itself whether this conflict can be deemed settled.

We're speaking about application of force. A big problem is also the formula of internationalization of the peacekeeping content -- peacekeeping force -- because this issue is actually -- actually triggered the conflict because peacekeepers failed to perform their functions, and because of that had to move on one of the conflicting sides.

I think these two problems, unfortunately, could not find the correct response in that document that we're referring to about the settlement plan, and that's why I believe that there is still a big room for work for us to be able to, frankly, say that we worked out the format of settling that conflict. There's still a lot of problems ahead of us.

QUESTIONER: Mr. President, I want to thank you for honoring us here at the council with your presence today. I'm Senior Fellow for Global Health Laurie Garrett here at the council, and I have a quick question for you about Abkhazia.

A lot of the discussion has focused on South Ossetia, but when Russian troops went into Abkhazia, British Petroleum shut down the pipeline from Azerbaijan to Turkey. And you spent a lot of time in your remarks discussing energy policy and the need to see Ukrainian energy as part of a European energy strategy. If -- do you believe that there is a possibility that your gas will be shut down this winter again? And if that happens, will you see this as part of a national security threat that Europe should be involved in?

FREELAND: (Off mike.)

YUSHCHENKO: You know, you are raising a very global question: how interdependent different sides are and how they should feel about that.

I would start answering with the following, that unfortunately, in my opinion, Europe does not have a single voice on that issue, and that pretty much diversifies the response, what can happen. I'm sure that going the two-side road towards that goal is not the best answer.

That's why around 12 months ago Ukraine, together with Poland, initiated establishment of the first -- initiated the first energy summit in Krakow, Poland. We had only one aim: how to create the mutual energy transit space between the Caspian, the Black and the Baltic Seas that would adhere to clear and mutual principles because the question that you were just asking is actually whether Ukraine is a reliable transiter. And I will always answer yes, it is.

Ukraine will fulfill its obligation to the very end. However, not everything depends on Ukraine. There are many things that are not formalized today, and without the international participation you cannot give sufficient and ample answer.

So starting from the Krakow initiative, we've come up to the decision that together with the European Union countries and with the countries that would like to get involved, we have to work out a concept of transit space between the Baltic, the Black and the Caspian Seas. We formed the working group that will be reporting about the concept in October. This will be the concept of gas transportation transiting space on the area of the Black, the Baltic and the Caspian Seas, where it will be the first time ever when, with the participation of the European commissioner and 30 different parties that were participating in the previous summit, where we'll be trying to work out the foundations, the norms and guarantees for the -- with the security and rate policy included.

So we want to put all those things in one single document and show to the market players, to those countries that produce, as well as to those that consume, this is a trilateral layout. Those sides have to once and forever determine the policy of energy resources transit so the transiters could guarantee and be capable of all the provisions to ensure successful supplies.

It was the first time ever when we offered to discuss that issue in a broad European circle. And we stressed that this is -- this is not only a Ukrainian problem, but this is the problem for all, because the recent development in Caucasus have shown how doubtful any transit policy can be when such steps take place, when the pipeline was paralyzed as well as well as the seaport, when any -- when no loads were -- and discharges took place, so everybody has to uptake liabilities and ensure the transit policy.

And I hope that through the Baku Energy Summit that will take place in a couple of weeks, we will be able to work out a formal document that could be an (invaluable ?) prerequisite of the energy charter or any other new document on the European energy policy. But with this we'd like to say that the transit policy is not only about the policy of some governments, but this is the policy of us all, and we want to be predictable and stable.

We are ready to give clear guarantees that the mission -- this mission is treated in a responsible manner and it will be performed in the highest level.

QUESTIONER: (Through interpreter.) Are you afraid that they can shut down gas supplies in winter?

YUSHCHENKO: I'm not afraid of it, but I have concerns about it.

QUESTIONER: Mr. President, Andrew Nagorski, now East-West Institute. You mentioned that the West has to make up its mind about NATO membership for Ukraine and Russia should not be a factor. But isn't there a third factor here, the rather weak popular support for Ukrainian -- for membership within Ukraine among the Ukrainian population, and how does that play into that? Thank you.

YUSHCHENKO: I'll start with the position of Ukraine if -- just recalling the situation 10 years ago about the position inside of the Bulgarian society, for instance, about NATO, or the position of the population of the Czech Republic or Slovak, I can say that it was no different from what we have today in the Ukrainian society.

It was a hard thing for every nation to give the right answer. The evolution was great, but discussions -- the first discussions were really, really tough. This is what's going on in the Ukrainian society now. Nobody wants to be an enemy for their children and grandchildren. Every one of 47 million Ukrainians has to give an answer to himself what kind of security model would you like to pass to your descendants.

So this is a personal question. This is not a question for the president only. And my attempt is how to put this question to every one of the 47 million. Just think which model and which security cover you would like to be living in and you would like to pass it to your children. You need time for that. You know, from the Czech Republic or Poland, we are only different in one thing. We will find the same prompt response as the Czechs and the Poles did, but we want the whole world and us to remember that communists -- communists entered Poland in only 1945 and they stayed for about 40 years; but unfortunately, in case of Ukraine, communists ruled for about 70 years.

Of course, we have a harder situation compared to the Poles because it was from misleading information and through different lies for 60 years, so much wrong was said to be occurring in population. No disinformation ever existed in any other country but Ukraine, and this is natural that the response is being worked out in a tough way.

But those circumstances are no easier than those of our neighbors, and we need to all understand it. The nation is going its right direction and I'm sure the response will be positive.

Secondly, this is about how the European countries and how NATO allies define their positions. I'm not going to hide what happened before Bucharest summit. Of course we had concerns about the position of Germany and France. I'm not saying that we're not troubled by the Italian position now. However, it still looks like, through different circumstances, the German position and the French position were optimized. In other words, I wouldn't say that everything looks ideal, but I'm asking all the time to take one thing into account when we're speaking about the social component of the response. Let's put it that way -- we're not deciding on whether Ukraine to join NATO or not. We are only speaking about joining to membership action plan. Well, the membership action plan is not a complete response about the NATO membership. The response can take years. As you know, that sometimes the MAP operates for four or five or six years. So, in other words, you don't have to push too hard in the society because it's still developing.

We need to bring in new knowledge, new information. And with -- in time receive -- we will receive a more adequate and new social response. That's why it's groundless to refer to the domestic discussions and debates that are currently going on in the Ukrainian society regarding the membership or no membership for NATO.

And for those who would like to take care about democracy, I'll once again say that I gave my word as a president three years ago that the response whether Ukraine will be in NATO or not will be given by every single Ukrainian through the national referendum, which is the most democratic tool how to make everybody calm down both in the east and the west, because this is the way of harmony, how to answer to those questions. This will not bring any discomfort for anybody.

So when we're speaking about this very dimension, I'd like to emphasize that our longing for NATO integration is not based on the will to oppose to somebody and bring some more troubles to somebody. I guarantee you that if there is any trouble and any concern, we are ready to treat it on the most serious and the highest state level. But I'm sure that this does not bring any new trouble to any of our neighbors.

But in order to give birth to pseudo-arguments, somebody said that as Ukraine becomes NATO member, there will be a NATO base in Sevastapol, in the Crimea. Well, we say that the Ukrainian constitution prohibits the location of any foreign military base on its territory.

As for location of nuclear weapons or any antiaircraft systems, you know that I'd like to mention one thing, that Ukraine made an unprecedented act when refused from 2,000 nuclear warheads that were dismantled just in two years and removed from the Ukrainian territory. Tell me, is there any other country who did so much practical -- so many practical steps to ensure our nuclear security? We've done that. We not only guaranteed and declared, but we did it. And that's why we do not doubt anymore that our territory will be used for such kind of components, because we've sorted that issue 12 years ago, and this is not a threat to anyone. This is what I'd like to state.

When we're speaking about the use of our territory or the use of our space, we are ready to discuss that, that the Ukraine's accession to the membership action plan and further to NATO is an action that corresponds to the interest or the united Europe and it corresponds to the interests of Ukraine. It does not bring any new threats to anyone else. All the rest is all about speculations.

FREELAND: I hope that you will all join me in thanking President Yushchenko. (Applause.)

YUSHCHENKO: I would like just to say one single word, if I may. I would like to congratulate the National Geographic Council of the United States of America that has done so much to -- for our Ukrainian history and Ukrainian archeology to send so much interesting and so many interesting pages of history that enriches our nation. We have common plans how to make researches on the Tripolean (ph) civilization, how to show the history of Skists (ph) and Bospurs (ph), how to show the stone tomb existing in Ukraine that is so ancient. We want the National Geographic Channel to operate in Ukrainian, the Ukrainian language. And we have many splendid plans. And I would like to thank you very much indeed and thank the National Geographic Council for this work and for your presence in Ukraine.

I would like to thank Robert Bullard (sp) and Terry Garcia (sp). They are very welcome guests to Ukraine. I want to demonstrate that we have full support throughout all the projects that are related to our bilateral cooperation.

And taking advantage of this opportunity, I would like to invite the Council on Foreign Relations and the National Geographic Council to have their session in Ukraine that we will host. And it was a great pleasure.

FREELAND: President Yushchenko is not -- (inaudible) -- sort of complicated foreign policy. He's a very avid student of Ukrainian history.

So thank you very much.

YUSHCHENKO: (In English.) Thank you. (Applause.)









More on This Topic

Primary Sources

Wales Summit Declaration

This document was issued on September 5, 2014, after a summit with NATO leaders which addressed the instability in Europe between Russia and...


Media Conference Call: The Future of NATO

Speakers: Michael A. McFaul and Ivo H. Daalder

Listen to Ivo Daalder, former U.S. permanent representative to NATO and president of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and Michael...