Prague, October 12 – 15, 2014
1. I and my political supporters are strongly against the present Russia’s policies towards Ukraine: we are against the war between Russia and Ukraine. We do not agree with the annexation of Crimea, and all the present developments in South-East Ukraine are unacceptable for us. We are against the notorious policies of «limited sovereignty». I would like to stress this especially in Prague, where, since 1968, people better than anywhere else realise what such «limited sovereignty» means.
Implementation of the Minsk Agreements has been under way. This is beneficial and important, because these [agreements] can reduce the number of victims. These agreements have to be maintained and developed in all directions.
An international conference is needed in the perspective, where it could be possible to openly discuss the difficult and dangerous crisis between Russia and Ukraine, and on this basis, try to give answers to the basic questions. All the interested sides should take part in such a conference.
However, in the long run, even all this will not be enough.
A common strategy which would lead to achieving by Ukraine and Russia of substantially close goals: the movement of both the countries to Europe.
This means that Russia will abolish the anti-European course and its gradual movement towards European politics and the way of living. This alone can be the foundation for the real peace.
Let us recollect what a disaster Europe got into in the first half of the 20th century due to the two world wars. However, I must say that the victory over fascism – which was hard and cost so many victims, most of the losses were suffered by my country — was only a prerequisite for peace. A real chance to prevent a new war appeared when the European Union emerged. Therefore, I would like to emphasize that the actual anti-European policies of Russia present a serious threat and danger.
Answering the question whether economic sanctions influence Russia, I would like to say that it is a new course for Russia, rather than something incidental. This is the course towards the creation and strengthening of the corporate state based on the oligarchic authoritarian system. Therefore, this issue should be understood in this context, rather than a way of complicating things for some political figure or a company.
2. Now about Ukraine. I am not going to teach Ukraine what it should do. I support Ukraine’s movement to Europe, and I would like to say that Ukraine faces enormously complex problems. If we speak about the reforms that have to be carried out, then these should be as follows:
— establishment of macroeconomic stability and stability of the banking sector;
— reduction of corruption;
— increase of transparency;
— increasing people’s trust [to the government] by conducting qualitative reforms in education and health care;
— reform of the energy sector and many other things…
But there are, I believe, two key points:
1) First, Ukrainian oligarchy has to be dismantled, because under oligarchy any economic aid, any «Marshall Plan» will end in the offshores of Cyprus or the Cayman Islands.
2) Second, it is the problem of toxic nationalism and extremism. An open public debate on these topics is needed. I think that Ukraine will be able to deal with that.
There is another important issue to be addressed if Ukraine is going to Europe — this is the problem of the Russian language as the second state language. And even if this maybe not well-timed, [Ukraine] will have to return to this topic.
3. However, the main issue in the context of our discussion is what Europe wants? Europe has not had a real strategy towards Ukraine and Russia since 1991… We can say that after the collapse of the Berlin Wall, there took place the «end of the strategy», rather than the much referred to «end of history» (according Francis Fukuyama).
For example, how can we explain that Europe for many years agreed to shadow schemes of gas supply, when a small firm based in Switzerland and with a charter capital of 10,000 US dollars had a turnover of up to 8 billion Euro? Now we have to pay the price paid for such a shortsighted and unprincipled European policy.
All Europeans have to keep in mind remember that Ukraine is neither a buffer zone, nor a field for a new Cold War. Incidentally, such ideas that were widely spread in Europe led to the World War I and World War II.
What should be done? I think that in 30-40 years there will be two centres of economic power in the world: the North America and Asia. The question is as follows: can Europe be competitive and become the third centre? This question is very important. The essence is that a [common] economic space from Lisbon to Vladivostok should be created.
I am perfectly aware in what condition in terms of democracy Russia is at present. However, the idea of European integration, the European Union, turned into real political practices and was successfully implemented only decades after it had been declared. This is considering the fact that this idea was announced only two years after the end of a fierce mutual destruction in Europe. Half of Europe was under Stalin then. Nevertheless, it had the wisdom and courage to start this process in that period.
Therefore, it necessary to begin working now, create a strategy and work for a common future of Ukraine, Belarus and Russia as parts of united Europe.
For Europe, it is vital to have a strategy. And I would like to stress, that it is not a favor made by Europe to Ukraine or Russia. Creating an integration project is a fundamental interest of Europe as such.
Answering the question of the panelists about why 80 per cent of Russian citizens support the government’s policy towards Ukraine, Grigory Yavlinsky said that this was the result of total propaganda. The absolute majority of the population receives information from television news programmes and official channels that supply so much of deliberately false information.
Grigory Yavlinsky also pointed at the cameras of Russian television channels and invited the audience to look after their stories about the Forum. He said that it would be impossible to understand what was discussed from their reports, «This is very powerful propaganda, it completely distorts the repose of the people. I think the point is not that some special people live in Russia. Simply recollect what happened to one of the most enlightened nations of Europe — the Germans — after the Nazis came to power. After two years people turned into some strange [society], and a little further they began elimination of their neighbours in their country — Jews and Gypsies – whom they had been living side by side throughout their lives.»
Answering the questions from the participants of the discussion Grigory Yavlinsky stressed that Europe and the United States should not give Ukraine unrealistic promises, «We must act openly and honestly.»
* «Forum 2000» was founded in 1996 by Czech President Vaclav Havel. The main objective of the conference is to identify the main challenges facing the civilization and to find ways to prevent escalation of conflicts based on religious, cultural or ethnic discords. This year the theme of the forum is «Democracy and Its Discontents: A Quarter-Century After the Iron Curtain and Tiananmen».