BRAMA, Dec 27, 2004, 1:00 am ET
Article added 12/27/04 12:00 PM
Remarks on the Conference 'Ukraine's Choice'
By Krystyna Litton
On Friday, December 10th, the American
Enterprise Institute (AEI) held a conference entitled
"Ukraine's Choice". The conference attempted to
assess Ukraine's geopolitical orientation, civil
society, and economy after the presidential
The AEI is one of the largest public policy think
tanks in Washington, DC. The conference was also
sponsored by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation,
Freedom House, the International Republican
Institute, the National Endowment for Democracy,
and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
Among speakers were well know politicians and
researchers such as Zbigniew Brzezinski, Radek
Sikorski, Vyacheslav Briukhovetsky, the chief of
staff for Viktor Yushchenko Oleh Rybachuk, Adrian Karatnycky of Freedom House, and
When planning the conference "Ukraine's Choice:
Europe or Russia?" the organizers at the American
Enterprise Institute did not realize how timely
and weighty the conference would be. Undoubtedly,
the conference speakers had to revise their
presentations due to the constantly changing
situations in Kyiv.
The conference covered such topics as Ukraine's
economy, civil society, armed forces, and
A video from recent BBC coverage of the Ukrainian
crisis opened the conference. This highly
informative video represented the viewpoints of
both sides in the political conflict. However,
the producers of the video made the same mistake
as many western informational and academic
sources often do. The video claimed that the
source of the crisis is the division between
Eastern Ukraine (Orthodox, Russian speakers,
supporting integration with Russia) and Western
Ukraine (Greek Catholic, Ukrainian speakers,
supporting integration with the EU). This cliche
was undermined during the 17 days of widespread
protests in Ukraine where people from the East
played a large role. The participation of both
Ukrainian and Russian speaking people justified
and legitimized the call of the crowd "for
democratic changes" (instead of "for the
interests of western Ukraine", as some think).
Therefore, the source of the crisis is the
conflict between democratic and authoritarian
forces, rather than the conflict between western
and eastern Ukraine.
Are Events in Ukraine Capable of Influencing
Neighboring Russia, Belarus, and Moldova? What is
the Nature of This Influence?
As Samuel P. Huntington once urged, the
democratic transition in one country could launch
similar transitions in other countries of the
region. The majority of speakers at the
conference, including Professor Vyacheslav
Bryukhovetskyi from Kyiv Mohyla Academy and
Adrian Karatnycky from Freedom House, agreed that
Ukraine will become such a catalyst for the
Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). Only on
how soon the changes would come did opinions
differ. In his speech, Dr. Brzezinski was
confident that the Ukrainian "Orange Revolution"
would boost Russian opposition and lead to
democratic revolution in Russia. If not for being
such an experienced real-politics player he would
be accused of being too naive and idealistic. But
Dr. Brzezinski seems to be right. Indeed, the
presence of representatives from Russian,
Belarusian, and Moldovan opposition forces at the
conference was quite noticeable. Their speeches
and comments were nurturing a hope for democratic
changes in their countries. Vladimir Kara-Murza,
co-founder of the "Free Choice 2008 Committee of
Russia" declared: "Freedom will come to Russia;
maybe not next year, but we are hoping for 2008
[the year of presidential elections in Russia]."
Someone from the audience noted that "the
parliaments of Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, and Belarus
were closely watching current events in Ukraine."
James Sherr from the UK Defense Academy, added:
"It shows them the possibilities of what could be
Zbigniew Brzezinski, trustee and counselor, Center for Strategic and International Studies spoke at
the reception held at Freedom House later that evening.
Thomas Dine, president of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty is standing behind Mr. Brzezinski.
Dr. Brzezinski distinguished three phases of the
recent waive of democratization in Eastern Europe
and CIS; the Warsaw phase, the Vilnius phase, and
the Kyiv phase. The Kyiv phase is characterized
by its soft constitutional transition from an
authoritarian to a democratic regime. As
Professor Bryukhovetskyi put it: "Ukraine showed
how to make a revolution without a violation of
the Constitution." The next four to five years
will show whether the Ukrainian 17 day transition
will become the first peaceful constitutional
democratic transition in CIS or the only of its
What is The Future of Economic Relations Between
Russia and Ukraine? What is the Future of the
Single Economic Space (SES)? What are the
Perspectives of the Fight Against Corruption?
What is the Impact of the Current Crisis on the
Ukrainian Economy? These and other issues were
covered in the first panel discussion concering
Ukraine's economy. Summaries of panelists presentations
Panel: Ukraine's Economy: Converging with the European Union or with the Common Economic Space?
L-R: Oleksandr Sushko, director, Center for Peace, Conversion, and Foreign Policy of Ukraine;
Larysa Denysenko, program director, Transparency International–Kyiv office;
Pawel Wolowski, director for Ukraine, Center for Eastern Studies in Warsaw;
Valery Pyatnyskyi, first deputy minister of economy and European integration of Ukraine.
Pawel Wolowski, director for Ukraine at the
Center for Eastern Studies in Warsaw, noted that
irrespective of the outcome of the elections,
Russia would remain a major economic partner of
Ukraine. Healthy economic relationships should
benefit both. However, Ukraine should implement
an energy security strategy to protect itself
from Russian attempts to manipulate the Ukrainian
Oleksandr Sushko, director of the Center for
Peace, Conversion, and Foreign Policy of Ukraine,
noted that according to Russian sources, 40
percent of Ukrainian economy belongs to Russian
businesses. He subsequently added that "it was an
overestimation but close to the truth." However,
he was confident that such a high involvement of
Russian capital in the Ukrainian economy "is not
a threat to the GDP and national security."
Larysa Denysenko, program director of the
Transparency International Kyiv office, stated
that some articles of the Single Economic Space
Treaty do not correspond to the Constitution, the
Agreement on Partnership and Cooperation between
Ukraine and the EU, as well as Ukraine's
commitment to adopt its legislation to European
standards ("Acquis Communnautaire").
Nevertheless, the Parliament ratified the Treaty
violating the Constitution and several
international commitments Ukraine had made.
Moreover, Valery Pyatnyskyi, First Deputy
Minister of Economy and European Integration of
Ukraine, underlined that "the Single Economic
Space, as a quasi-state creation, does require a
referendum." Thus ratification of the SES Treaty
without a referendum violates the Constitution as
As to the fight against corruption, Sushko
emphasized that "corruption in Ukraine is an
essence of the system...Even if Yushchenko is an
angel, I do not expect victory over corruption in
the nearest future. It is a structural problem."
Thus, Sushko underlined that only structural
changes, rather than treaties and declarations,
could help the Ukrainian economy.
Finally, Pyatnyskyi affirmed that the negative
impact of the current crisis on the economy is
not a major concern. "Although some populist
decisions were made destabilizing the financial
situation, Ukrainian economy is flexible enough
to deal with it next year."
Do Recent Protests Indicate the Formation of a
Ukrainian Civil Society? What are the Positive
Developments of Recent Weeks? What are the Future
Risks for the Development of a Civil Society in
Until recently, academics and politicians alike
had questioned the existence of a civil society
in Ukraine. The two weeks of nationwide protests
have changed everything. As Nadia Diuk, director
for Central Europe and Eurasia at NED noted,
"what happened in Kyiv during the last two weeks
was the flourishing of a civil society." Inna
Pidluska, President of the Europe XXI Foundation,
also stressed that "[in Ukraine] civil society is
not a question anymore." The extensive public
protests and vast opposition support stunned not
only outsiders, but also the leaders of the
opposition itself. Karatnycky noted: "Opposition
elites expected 50,000 or so protestors. They
were surprised by the vast public and
institutional support." Moreover, Briukhovetskyi
and Diuk pointed to other important developments
such as the birth of a middle class and the birth
of a modern national identity. Briukhovetskyi
noted: "Today we are enjoying the fruits of the
evolution process of the Ukrainian nation."
So, what was the impulse for the building of
public resistance, and when did it happen (was it
given)? According to Roman Kupchinsky, former
director of the RFE/RL's Ukrainian Broadcasting
Service, "Without the Melnychenko tapes, the
revolution would not be of that magnitude." The
"Ukraine without Kuchma" movement that was formed
in reaction to the Gongadze case built up the
resistance. Although later it failed, it gave
birth to the consolidation of civil sources for
the future." Karatnycky also supported this idea
adding that media outlets, i.e. - internet, SMs,
cable and local TV, etc. - helped the
transformation of the civil society as well.
Pidluska and Diuk highlighted some positive
developments of the recent three weeks.
Achieving the rule of law in Ukraine is one of
them. The fact that the Supreme Court and the
Parliament played a big role in settling the
crisis indicates that the government resources
started protecting the people's choice.
The development of non-government organizations
is another positive development of the recent
events. Pidluska noted that the growth of
volunteer movements, NGOs, civil and grassroots
initiatives, and civil monitoring groups
indicates that people have started engaging into
the political process. She also underlined the
importance of development of educational
resources for mobilization such as "Znaiu" ("I
Paula Schriefer, director of programs at
Freedom House, commented on the extent to which
foreign organizations facilitated the formation
of NGOs and a civil resistance in Ukraine. "We
bring democratic values and funding for 1000
nonpartisan monitoring groups in Eastern Europe
and the CIS. Still, it is amazing that a country
of 48 million responded so well...What is
happening in Ukraine is in no way implemented by
the West... Every single slogan on flags,
banners, and posters was developed by Ukrainians,
not by the West."
Further, Pidluska warned that "the victory is not
preserved" and some major risks are yet to come.
"Society remains relatively weak and there seems
to be no plan to strengthen it...Ukraine is still
an ethnically divided society. The development of
policies to unite society should be the first
priority of the next president... In the long
term, the government should develop an effective
'public - authorities' dialogue."
Panel: Successes and Failures of Ukraine’s Civil Society
L-R: Adrian Karatnycky, counselor and senior scholar, Freedom House; Inna Pidluska; Vladimir Kara-Murza.
AUDIO: Adrian Karatnycky
So, what does the future bring for the civil and
grassroots movements? Karatnycky warned that some
NGOs will fragment. He noted that most Ukrainian
NGOs are based on immediate resistance to
authoritarian power, they do not have enough
capacity to influence the policy making process
on a routine basis. Thus, due to the lack of
forces to resist, some NGOs will vanish, other
will survive as watchdog groups. There will be an
increasing necessity for NGOs' transformation.
What is the Possibility of Separatism in Ukraine?
Will Ukrainian Armed Forces Go Against
Demonstrators? What are the Prospects of NATO
Membership for Ukraine? What are the Security
Concerns in the Region?
Panel: Ukraine's Armed Forces: On the Way to Join NATO?
L-R: Major General Nicholas Krawciw, U.S. Army, retired;
Igor S. Kozii, head, general staff of the Ukrainian armed forces, department for Euro-Atlantic integration;
Radek Sikorski (Moderator); James Sherr, UK Defense Academy
James Sherr discussed one positive and one
negative Soviet legacy related to the armed
forces and the foreign policy issues. The first
legacy carried by both Russian presidents and
Kuchma is the principle of "divide and rule." The
second legacy is that the Ukrainian armed forces
were "designed to protect the country from
foreign invasion, not to intervene into the
internal political process, and not to protect
the country from its people." Igor Kozii, Head of
the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces
at the Department for Euro-Atlantic integration,
also rejected the possibility of Ukrainian armed
forces taking action against the Ukrainian
people. Further he denied any chance for the
separatist measures in Ukraine.
In relation to NATO membership, Sherr stated that
"Ukraine has all the conditions to be a strong
applicant." Yet, Sherr and Kozii warned that the
lack of money for Armed Forces reform could
become an obstacle for Ukrainian membership.
Sherr proposed establishing a team of experts who
could reassure NATO of Ukraine's willingness to
Panel: A Geopolitical Assessment
L-R: William Green Miller, former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine;
Steven Pifer, former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine;
Ron Asmus (Moderator), German Marshall Fund;
Keynote Speaker (2): Oleh Rybachuk, chief of staff for Viktor Yushchenko with Paula Dobriansky.
AUDIO: Oleh Rybachuk
Finally, with regard to the security of the
region William Miller, former U.S. Ambassador to
Ukraine, stated: "I don't see any invasions of
one country into another in the nearest future.
But the EU should move quickly [not to let it to
happen]." In addition, Sherr warned of "some
forces which will ensure that Yushchenko fails...
Too much is at stake." That is why "after these
elections the threat to the West will increase;
it won't be reduced as many think."
Keynote Speaker (1): Rep. Sander M. Levin, cochair of the Congressional Ukrainian Caucus
Impression from the Conference: Genuine Optimism or Misleading
Overall the conference was held in an excessively
optimistic spirit, not typical of rational and
pragmatic analysts from Washington think-tanks.
The overwhelming optimism at the conference
corresponded with the momentous nature of the
recent events in Ukraine. The passionate speech
of Oleh Rybachuk, chief of staff for Viktor
Yushchenko, especially intensified the emotional
character of the conference. The speech received
standing ovations and caused tears in the eyes of
On the other hand, in the foyer, some of the
attendants expressed the opinion that the
conference was too optimistic. It their opinion,
the reason for it was the one-sided
representation of Ukrainian political forces.
Orange color dominated the conference. However,
those who hold this point of view misunderstand
the nature of the struggle over the country.
Orange color does not represent the interests of
Western Ukraine. It just happens to be that
Western Ukrainians more than Eastern Ukrainians
support Yushchenko's Orange Revolution (and
ethnic division is only one of many reasons for
that). In fact, this struggle is not between the
Ukrainian-speaking West and the Russian-speaking
East. Instead, as Oleh Shamshur, Deputy Minister
of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine noted, it is a
battle of "free and fair elections versus fraud,
democracy versus double standard rules, social
life versus social indifference." That is why the
conference can hardly be called one-sided, unless
you agree on the presence of authoritarian ideas
at the conference as a counterbalance.
BBC footage of the November/December 2004 opposition protests in Kyiv's Ploshcha Nezalezhnist (Independence Square)
on screen; Roman Kupchinsky, Anna Pidlusky in the forground.
Myroslava Gongadze (pictured above), wife of murdered journalist Heorhiy Gongadze, believes that
one of the first acts of the Yushchenko government must
be to establish a commission that would investigate the criminal and corrupt elements from the previous regime.
The nation must be assured that justice has been done for all of the suffering it has endured.
L-R: Igor S. Kozii, Roman Kupchinsky, Nicholas Krawciw
L-R: Nadia McConnell (President, US-Ukraine Foundation;
William Miller; Nicholas Krawciw; Ihor Gawdiak, President, Ukrainian American Coordinating Council.
L-R: Olesandr Potiekhin - political counselor, Embassy of Ukraine;
Radek Sikorski; Nadia Diuk.
L-R: Cliff Downen (rear left), former member of Congress; Andrew Bihun, industry sector analysis program manager, U.S. Department of Commerce;
L-R: Oleh Rybachuk; Orest Deychakiwsky, staff advisor, Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe.
L-R: George Chopiwsky, Chopiwsky Foundation; Vera Andrushkiw, US-Ukraine Foundation; Radek Sikorski.
Audio tapes - courtesy of the American Enterprise Institute, converted to
digital format by Max Pyziur. Photos as credited. Images and content formatted for the web
by Hanya Krill.
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