Andrii Nikolaienko, Ukrainian politician, diplomat, the head of the “Osnova” (The Basis) political party, tells the FD about his vision of the future of our country, its potential partners and allies at the international arena, and what kind of danger is hidden in the certain European integration processes for the national economy.
Mister Nikolaienko, you have a very interesting political biography. You have a professional diplomatic education. To which extent did your education and your diplomatic and management experience affect your decision to create a political party and to take part in a political struggle?
– My managerial and diplomatic experience allows me to evaluate political activity in a critical way in order to understand clearly all its flaws. I saw the system of public administration from inside and I can argue that the institutional imbalance that exists in this system is very complicated for any attempts to reform the state machine. On the other hand, I see that such a situation can lead to deepening of the economic crisis and finally to the loss of statehood. That is why, we, the “Osnova” political party, decided that we should not simply reform the system of public administration, but to change the very basis of the state.
You are the leader of the “Osnova” political party. What can be offered by this political party to the Ukrainian voters? What is the key difference between your party and the rest of the political forces in our country?
– In Ukraine, about three hundred and sixty parties have been registered. However, most of them are either social or business projects that are aimed at solving very situational, transient problems. These formations do not have political ideology; therefore, they are hard to be called the real political parties. Which of the three basic components should a tangible political party consist of? First, party must have a strategy for change in the state, must have a clear vision of the country’s future. Second, the party should be a team of like-minded people, a team of professional and decisive people. Thirdly, the party must have its own powerful financial resources in order not to serve the interests of “sponsors”. The “Osnova” party has all three components. In particular, we have the Doctrine of balanced development named as “Ukraine 2030”. The representatives of Ukrainian business and the academic community – the five best universities in the country, several institutes of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine – took part in its development. We have a team of people who clearly understand the orientations and goals of the party. They are the leaders in their field – in business, teaching, medicine, etc.
“Ukraine must have an example of success shown”
We clearly understand what we will do when we come to power. Not being a parliamentary party, we have been already preparing people that can be called what is called “the ministers on a turn-key basis”. We have been building a party based on a system of values. This is our main difference from the rest.
What is your party’s strategy? What is the system of its values?
– When the founders of the party made a decision of its creation, we gathered to discuss the main directions of Ukraine’s development until 2030. A systematic approach is always needed – and especially when it is about the governing of the state. The doctrine of balanced development, “Ukraine 2030”, sets specific markers that will define the right way, in our opinion, for the development of the country.
Basing on this strategy, we have to get the gross domestic product of 710–750 billion US dollars by 2030.
Our party values are also reflected in the Country Development Program, which gradually describes how to build a strong state.
Whiсh strategies are needed to address the problem of occupied territories?
– History does not know the conditional way “If …” I am definitely sure that we lost some of our territories not because Russia was strong, but because of the weakness of state institutions in Ukraine. There was a real opportunity to prevent the occupation of Donbas as well as to behave differently in Crimea. But – alas – happened what had happened.
In Donbas, we have in fact a “frozen conflict”. The situation with the Crimea is even more complicated.
And the party “Osnova” today is the only political force that presented a realistic plan for a phased settlement of the conflict in Donbas. In February 2017, one of the party leaders Serhii Taruta presented it at the Security Conference in Munich. This plan is entitled “Three Fundamentals: Legitimacy.
Security. Trust”. After two years since this conference, not only the Ukrainian authorities, but also our international partners actually began to realize the position of our plan – for example, the idea of introducing UN peacekeepers to the Donbas that was firstly expressed by Mister Taruta. We have an understanding of the real problems of Donbas, and we do not look at Donbas “from Kyiv”. By creating a peace plan, our party has accumulated the best international experience in resolving conflicts that are similar to this one that takes place in Donbas. We have offered a well-balanced, comprehensive solution – yes, we would like to have peacekeepers in Donbas, but in our plan not just “Legitimacy” is mentioned earlier in the “Security”. Why so? Because the legitimacy of power in the uncontrolled territory of Kyiv is the cornerstone of the conflict settlement.
As a model, we have taken the example of the settlement of the conflict and the subsequent return to Croatia of a separatist East Slavonia region. Legitimacy in this region was achieved through the introduction of an international interim administration, and then peacekeeping forces were introduced. The international interim administration and peacekeepers, together, have prepared a ground for the reintegration of this region into the Croatian state. Such a bloodless variant of the solution of the “Donbas question” is, in our opinion, the most optimal one. As for the Crimea, then, obviously, our Western partners will apply the Baltic variant.
They will not recognize the annexation of the Crimea in the same way as they did not recognize the annexation of the Baltic States by the Soviet Union in the early 1940s. But I would not want to wait for 50 years for the return of the Crimea. In order to accelerate this process, Ukraine should show an example of success. If Ukraine does not succeed, Crimea will not return to us even in the event of Russia’s collapse. It will rather join Turkey. And this is not the best solution of the problem for the Ukrainians. We must make Ukraine better and more successful.
Is it possible to return to the economic situation of 2013 and, in general, do we need such a return?
– In fact, the country needs to surpass this level without repeating the structure of the economy in 2013. Today, GDP growth comes at a dynamics of 2–3% per year; Ukraine needs growth – from 10%. Everything that is below means the delayed bankruptcy. In addition, the problem is the outflow of the talented, young and able-bodied people abroad. We must create such social and economic conditions under which young people will remain in Ukraine, and small and medium businesses will be developed.
Which countries, in your opinion, are the main allies and partners of Ukraine at the global arena?
– Many countries perceive Ukraine as a potentially attractive economic partner. Finding partners exclusively among those countries that have not only economic but also political interests in Ukraine is a false tendency. Cooperation with such states will sooner or later lead to sad consequences. Countries in South-east of Asia, China, Southern Korea, India and the Middle East countries, for example, have no political interest in our lands. They are interested in powerful and long-term investment projects. If we are talking about a valuable, civilized choice of Ukraine – it is undoubtedly Europe. As far as the search for economic partners is concerned, the world is too big to raise the issue of Russia: the EU or the Russian Federation.
What are the main demerits and merits of the European integration for Ukraine at the actual period of time?
– European integration cannot be carried out when the national interests of Ukraine are totally neglected. We must become a partner, but not an EU raw material. Unfortunately, the difference in the development of the economic systems of Ukraine and the EU, the difference in the development of the financial and banking sectors, make the normal cooperation between us at the actual period of time the impossible one.
A well-known modern economist Eric Reinert noted that when a less developed economy joins a more developed one, it suffers losses and turns into its application. I do not think that economic cooperation between Ukraine and the EU under such conditions would be an exception and we would be able to have a quality income from this cooperation. But, I must emphasize that in revising of our economic cooperation with the EU, we must keep political cooperation with Brussels up and first of all, in such areas as the standards of democracy, the protection of human rights and the fight against corruption.
What is your life motto?
– Keep running. In Ukrainian language it can be translated as “Do not stop.” Stopping traffic is nothing else but a step back. Recently I am fond of marathon running, and from my own experience, I know that in order to overcome the distance, you need to keep moving – without slowing down, without stopping – both in sport and in life. It is not worthwhile to stop the movement either of a person or of a whole nation.
Mr. Nikolaienko, we record this interview on the eve of the Independence Day of Ukraine. Would you like to congratulate Ukraine and the Ukrainians on this holiday?
– I congratulate your readers and all Ukrainians on the Independence Day! I want all of you to be truly independent: politically, economically, and mentally. And yet, I wish you to evaluate politicians by what they do, not by their words. Today Ukraine is in a need of compromise to get peace and suссess. Only people will find a compromise.