“We need our own Ukrainian Elon Musk,” – Iryna Vereshchuk

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“The Ukrainians are doomed to succeed. At what sacrifice, cost and when it will happen – depends on us”

Ukraine needs its own development strategy. The country has a huge potential. The participants of the International Centre for Baltic and Black Seas Studies and Consensus Practices are studying where to go and how to succeed. We are talking to its president, Iryna Vereshchuk, about what the centre does and what place Ukraine occupies in the world.

What does the Centre do?

– We have created an international platform. We have the Council of Major Elders, which includes 15 presidents of our Baltic and Black Seas space. We have decided that we will be opened for Russia. But for Russia that will be ready to work, to change institutionally and democratically. Not aggressively, not through tanks and weapons, but through diplomacy and joint projects. Stanislav Shushkevych (Belarus), Hennadiy Burbulis (Russia) and Leonid Kravchuk, Leonid Kuchma and Viktor Yushchenko (Ukraine) are the core of the centre. As you can see, there are three people in this core who signed the Belavezha Accords that actually confirmed the legal disintegration of the Soviet Union.

Therefore, I believe that it is from that time the countdown of independent Ukraine begins. We have a chance to build a new life in search for dialogue and peace. And that is why the main slogan of our Centre is “Through Dialogue – to Peace and Trust”.

What is the main task set by the Centre?

– It would seem we speak the same language – we all turn to English and speak calmly. But this is a different feeling of the same words. We set the goal to create preconditions for the dialogue. Now, the guns are talking. And we have decided: the louder every person from our platform will speak out, the quieter the sounds of guns will be.

We are forming such a platform, realizing that, nowadays, the victim is not only Ukraine. Everyone suffers of sanctions. It will not be possible to solve the problem only in Ukraine. We had to go to the international Baltic and Black Seas level, because Western Europe is a completely different world. Even in Europe itself, it is said they are developing at different speed. We have foreseen it all and realized that if we did not create it at that moment, then there would be no result in the future. And therefore we can prevent such conflicts, as, for example, now concerning historical monuments.

How should it be practically realized?

– In fact, it looks like this: I said about our Council of Elders, and the next body is the Council of Experts. We take the quintessence given to us by these authoritative people, along with teachers, intellectuals, opinion makers, and experts. We accumulate the material that we then present, for example, for governments, Prime Ministers or Presidents as a material for considerations and for possible making of decisions. Given, for example, not everything can be said by the current President. This platform is designed to help to find solutions acceptable for everyone.

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What are the most global challenges facing our country?

– Internal or external ones? From the internal main ones – our demographic crisis. When millions of people are leaving. When children are born much less than the population is aging. There are already not two pensioners for one employee. And every day we are lessening by one professor, a doctor. Because they all are going abroad. They are busy raising the economy there instead of giving Ukraine a chance. And the external challenge is the lack of a strategic vision of where to go. For example, the official strategy of the country states that the direction of movement is into the EU and NATO. The official strategy of the EU and NATO is as follows: “We cannot accept Ukraine and will not accept either today or tomorrow or the day after tomorrow.” Just annoying Russia with the intention of joining NATO is no longer funny or interesting. Why to tell there will be a referendum, if we are not admitted anywhere? And when it is said clearly: “You do not go to NATO”, then what’s the point of asking for it?

The state should keep a forward position and not change its strategies every day. We are not a business entity that can change its tactics, brand, and thus become the other one.

What is then to be done in this situation?

– We realized that we could help to our state. We studied the situation “why we are not being taken to NATO”. It was understood that this is not an answer and that it is not serious, if we are told: “You have a war in the east, so you are not taken to NATO.” The way out is that should build cooperation with the United States. This is a country that is ready to support democratic processes. And it does not matter who will be the president of America. The thing is that it is America. For more than a quarter of a century, we have constantly felt the support of this state. The US is interested in us as partners, albeit not strategic.

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That is, our vector of foreign policy should be directed to the USA, shouldn’t it?

– We should take the United States as a partner that will help institutionally. Because as we can see billions of infusions do not give anything. Therefore, it is necessary to develop a strategy in which the main priority is to define the United States as a partner country, which will help change. It is also worthwhile to define the EU as a partner. And certainly this platform, that we should create with our closest neighbours of the Baltic and Black Seas Alliance: Poland, Czech Republic, Romania, Hungary, Moldova, Belarus, Georgia.

Ukraine is approximately at the same level of development as these countries, so we will be able to climb up painlessly if we begin to change. It is also necessary to develop a policy of neighbourhood, that is to define what we consider to be neighbourhood, what we set as the red border, and will never consider to be neighbourhood and to explain it to our partners, neighbours.

Where should Ukraine be in the international arena?

– No one of experts will dare to say what there will be in five years. No one knows how the war will develop. Taking into account our economic and demographic situation, it is best to look for our place among the partners and states that are closest to us. Not hoping for big profits. The brand must be worked on. But if we do not work on our brand, our “fellow, friend and brother” – the Russian Federation – does it for us, so having infiltrated the information space that we begin to say: “Ukraine”, and we hear in response: “Mmm … Ukraine … It is unlikely you will do anything. “

We need to correct it.

– This is the first thing to do. It needs to be explained that the Ukrainians are normal Europeans, that people are really not killed in the streets, as all this is described, that we can hold Eurovision and no one will be killed. These things are very significant. We give ourselves much higher marks than we are evaluated from the outside. Because after 2014, after the Revolution, it was such an incredible jump, wherever we came, everybody knew Ukraine. I was then on a prayer breakfast at the US President’s. There was no need to explain to anyone what country we represent. Even everyone from Africa knew: “Oh! Ukraine! But you are so cool! You have such a spirit! We are talking about you here.” And it was a very strong splash. Now we have started to lose it. Not completely, but we are losing. System work on “our pattern in the world”, as the Poles say, is necessary.

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You say “We do not need to join NATO or the EU to be happy.” What should the Ukrainian dream be like?

– As for me, it was evoked by the latest events; this is our Ukrainian Elon Musk. And he is launching a mobile space airfield, which we have come up with and have become the only carriers of these technologies in the world. After all, there is everything for this. Ukraine is a space state and loses this potential with each passing day. And with the launch of Falcon Heavy, it loses this at all in a geometric progression – and we all rejoice!

We have very great potential in people. I believe in this. Just every year, more and more people are disappointed and leave the country. And this brand of the lost in the space and time Ukrainians is very negative. It is said in America: “Is he from Ukraine? Does he have Ukrainian roots? But he is already ours, a citizen of America.” And it is a pity. He then arrives and says about it: “I am from here, I am Stepan Wozniak.” But when he went there: “I am Steve, I am a billionaire.” That’s what we lack: to sink teeth into such people, to create oases for them.

What victories can we be proud of?

– First of all, we have a constant sport victory and this is already a brand. When we say: “Ukraine”, we hear: “Klitschko, Klochkova, and Shevchenko.” Now, already – Usyk, Muzychuk sisters, Svitolina. Secondly, we have our own distinctive culture. I am talking about fashionable trends now. For example, vyshyvankas has become our brand. In New York, our vyshyvankas were at the fashion-week.

And the most important victory is Maidan. We have some internal need for the Cossacks. Because we do not tolerate dictatorship, we have a desire for democracy. We are the bearers of a democratic code.

What is the main task for Ukraine this year?

– Not to slide into the new Maidan. I believe this will be absolutely painful and absolutely unnecessary. Only our enemies will take advantage of this. This cannot be admitted. Everyone has to get involved here. We have to stop now, understand that the process is going on and it is already irreversible. We are doomed to success. Just when and how? At what sacrifice, cost and when it will happen depends on us, not on anybody else.