— Nowadays, Russia repeats everything that the Soviet Union did in the 1980s. This is the finishing line before the collapse, — says the former Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, Volodymyr Ohryzko
The history of our country has divided into before and after 2014. Does the diplomacy of Ukraine meet the challenges, which face the defending state?
— The Ukrainians are on the path, which has separated one history of the country from another. But the corruption remained. We were in a system that eats itself, and we still remain there. This is one of the reasons why the country has such a state today.
We hoped that independence would be gained easily by us. But it did not happen like that. Until the Revolution of Dignity our political elite had, first of all, gas, corrupt business in common with Moscow. That was it which caused the Maidan. Then Putin and his entourage realized that it was the end of that system, and thus the end of excess profit, the real domination over Ukraine and the dreams of the restoration of the empire. Therefore, we need to look deeper. If we had built a different system during these 24 years, then we could get rid of Russian influence without bloodshed. We had such an opportunity in the 1990s. But we continued to be part of the corruption system operated by Moscow.
Was there an opportunity to carry out reforms at that time?
— Of course, there was. Why did the Poles succeed? The Slovaks? The Czechs? All our closest neighbours. They had political will for this and wanted real transformations.
But they were not in the Union for so long. They did not have so many people capable of change destroyed. It was easier for them, was not it?
— We had a sufficient number of people who could, if necessary, lead the state and carry out reforms. But so-called “political elite” did not want that. It was primed for the corrupt business with Russia. Therefore, there was a chance in the 1990s, but we did not use it.
It was then when the concept of multi-vector in foreign policy appeared in Ukrainian diplomacy. Why was it stopped?
— In the 1990s, this concept served to cover the corruption, which prevailed both in Russia and Ukraine. It was convenient. So it was explained that we were friends with everybody, that we had all the partners. It also suited Europe. I do not think that the West was burning with a desire to maintain Ukraine, as at due time Poland.
— Because Europe has become the part of Russian corruption as well. And when our western partners say that we have a problem with corruption, I agree. But I put a counter-question — how do you deal with it? How does Mr. Schroeder? How does Ms. Le Pen? How do many “journalists”, “experts”, government officials and parliamentarians?
Today, the Ukrainians and the Western community are paying for undemocratic forms of relations with the Russian Federation. It has corrupted the West via a gas pipe. Our political elite took part in this. And the people pay for it until today.
If we had nuclear weapons, would the situation be different?
— We did not have the opportunity to leave it. Another question is, whether we should have handed in all nuclear weapons immediately? This happened either because of carelessness or political ignorance, corruption, criminal negligence. This should be said by the prosecutor’s office. Was it possible then to live freely with such weapons? Ukraine could fall under rather tight financial sanctions of the United States and Europe. And given the economic catastrophe that unfolded in the mid–1990s, I do not know whether it would help us. But Ukraine has enough scientific, technical and engineering potential, which can solve any most complicated issues in the interests of our Armed Forces.
In 2014, was our foreign policy office ready for war and occupation?
— Nobody was ready for that. Neither diplomats, nor military officers. Even our western partners. It was a shock to everyone. Nobody thought that could happen. We seemed to be “strategic partners” with Russia. A pile of documents on cooperation had been signed. Let us recall the Budapest agreements and so on.
The West was corrupt on the one hand, and on the other hand, it was pleased that Russia could be coexisted with, not spending much on it. And this situation was comfortable for them. Europe did not think that it needed to develop some models, scenarios in case of a war. When that happened, I talked to the Americans. I was said then they had curtailed the whole system of studying Russia. Since Soviet times there were centers of Soviet science. Then they disappeared. This meant that they stopped studying Russia as a potential threat. It disappeared from the radar of the foreign policy, security and defense departments of the West. Moscow gradually took advantage of it. The first shot was in 2008 in Georgia. But they did not pay attention to it.
And how did Russia begin to be treated after 2014?
— Russia appeared on the American and European radars as a threat. It is very good that Americans understood first, what it was leading to. Because it was leading to blood. The Europeans have worse situation as they are more tied up with Russian corrupt business. However, they are well aware now that acting against Russia should be resolute.
There is a feeling that our diplomacy is losing out to the Russian one. Or not?
— I always stimulated myself and my colleagues to create events. What does it mean? If you take the first step, the rival answers. He catches up, reacts. This is a game with white pieces. You have an immediate advantage. Is it easy? No. To do this, you have to think, simulate the situation, and develop plans proactively. A good grandmaster thinks 8-10 moves ahead. A bad one — two. That is all the difference. We need to play that way.
If I had been a minister and my country had been put in the same row with North Korea and Iran, I would probably have shot myself. It is a worldwide shame. Russian foreign policy does not change for centuries. And no matter to this the policy belong to Alexander I, Nicholas II, Lenin, Brezhnev or Putin. Today, Russia repeats everything the Soviet Union did in the 1980s. This is the finishing line before the collapse. If Putin does not come to his senses next half-year, we will witness the dramatic events in Russia. The States can accelerate this by freezing accounts with stolen billions of Russian mafia highest ranks.
How probable is the full-scale invasion of the Russian army?
— I do not think it is possible. The one can enter, but cannot exit. This will only accelerate the collapse of the empire.
How will the situation in Donbas develop? How long can the armed hostilities last?
— The next year will be crucial. The situation will be clearer after the elections in Russia. Hopefully, it will gradually begin to crawl away.
How do you assess Minsk accords?
— This is neither a betrayal nor a victory. At that moment it was a compelled necessity. Imagine being in the lead of a country that had nothing to fight with. There was no combat capable army that could have opposed. Donbas was defended by “good will battalions”. And they were able to stop Russia. Due to Minsk in 2014 further fighting with the regular Russian army was stopped. If there were only pro-Russian mercenaries, our military officers would have been able to resolve the situation in a few weeks.
On the other hand, implementing the Minsk accords in their present form is not possible. It is a dead end. But getting out of it is only possible through intensifying the pressure on Russia and forcing it to return to the status quo of February 2014.
Obviously, Ukraine has all the trump cards on the diplomatic front now. How to use them?
— Unfortunately, our very tolerance destroys us and gives no opportunity to formulate our interests clearly. We must insist on the implementation of the Budapest memorandum. We need to talk rigidly about providing us with security guarantees outside of NATO, although we must soon become members of the Alliance and achieve this. And before that we need to have security guarantees. Then there will be an opportunity to develop our Armed Forces much more effectively. And what is more, we have to overcome corruption. It is impossible to build with one hand, and steal with the other one.