UKRAINE: ‘Politics should not be limited to promoting self-interest’
Ukraine’s political landscape underwent a major upheaval in early September when President Viktor Yushchenko fired the government headed by Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, his populist ally in the Orange Revolution that brought their coalition to power last December. Tymoshenko wasted little time moving her party into the increasingly crowded opposition, from where she will challenge the president’s Our Ukraine party in a parliamentary election next March. Whichever party comes out on top will get to dominate the parliamentary process for electing a new prime minister, a post that will have increased power in a new arrangement that shifts power from the president to the premier, as agreed between Yushchenko and his predecessor, President Leonid Kuchma, as part of the transfer of power deal that ultimately gave Yushchenko the presidency over arch-rival and Kuchma pick, Viktor Yanukovych.
In the meantime, there are other players appearing on the political scene. One of the most important is the Republican Party of Ukraine (RPU), founded in January of this year by the previous head of Ukraine’s largest company, Naftogaz, a key player in CIS-Ukrainian-European energy markets, and Kostyantyn I. Gryshchenko, the last foreign minister under Kuchma.
The RPU was established in the image of America’s Republican Party, with a strong focus on individuals, families and local communities, as well as a commitment to foster a free market economy in which individuals can be responsible and express their creativity.
As one of a series of visits to Washington, Gryshchenko was in town to meet political leaders last week, and spoke with DiplomaticTraffic.com about his party and his views of the political situation in Ukraine today. Always articulate, he provided a big picture analysis of Ukraine and its current situation.
Progress of the Orange Revolution, in the light of Yushchenko firing his government
I think all revolutions have many common traits. One of them is that the people who were active in bringing the changes are not necessarily the best managers to achieve the goals which were proclaimed during the public demonstrations and outpouring of public indignation, which were so evident in November and December last year. The need for a professional, dedicated approach will maximize the opportunity opened to Ukraine is the priority for the Ukrainian nation, and the president has made a very difficult, but the only truly needed decision, to open up the government to a new wave of people who are committed to Ukraine’s future and who understand that only through hard work and through full commitment to what they perform while in government we can achieve a breakthrough that is needed by Ukraine today.
The breakthrough that is needed
The breakthrough should be the opening of European prospects to Ukraine more fully, and the active integration into the European space of common values. It is forming a partnership with Russia that will be based on mutual respect, and forming a set of common interests. Part of it is energy security, for Ukraine and Europe in general, strengthening our role as a transit country, and participation in major industrial and high technology projects that would bring us closer together, meaning Ukraine, Europe and Russia. We do not need to have artificial difficulties that are more a reflection of personal interests rather than national interests, creating tensions where they can be avoided and overlooking the opportunities that do really exist, and would be beneficial to everyone.
The United States
With the United States what is needed is the American standard of approaching problem resolution. If there is a problem, one needs to analyze it, to see the way out and to work together. That means political will and expertise in having it done, so that Ukraine will at last graduate from Jackson-Vanik, getting market economy status, getting the full support for joining the WTO, and bringing real, large-scale American investment to Ukraine.
All these issues were declared at the beginning of the year as not only achievable but ‘around the corner’, so to say. But we are still waiting for practical movement on having them realized.
Current changes are hopeful
The change in government opens a new page, and that is a sign of hope: that the president is responding to public expectations and really is attuned to what society hopes for and what the people of Ukraine do not accept as a way of doing government business in modern Ukraine.
Politics should not be limited to promoting self-interest. Government is a serious job that can be done by those who are fully committed to what they strive to achieve. It is not a part-time job, as many of the ministers seem to take it. They are doing whatever… being most of the time on TV and taking care of their ‘pocket’ political parties, but not working together within the commonly defined strategies. It looks more like a feudal type of system, where each of the lords thought that he was sovereign in his particular sector of responsibility, rather than working for the sake of the country under one leader, who is the only person elected by all of Ukrainians, the president. All the others represent certain groups, more or less, as members of parliament.
Ukraine’s strategic role
We have played with the notion of Ukraine as a bridge [between Europe and Russia] but nobody likes to be walked over! We see ourselves as an integral part of Europe. But it is in the interest of Ukrainians, Russians and Europeans to have the largest commonality of purposes and values, and from that perspective Ukraine solidly anchored in Europe is an important pull in the right direction for Russia as well. Our interest is that we should be in that larger space of standards and values where Russia, Ukraine and Europe will be together.
And that will also serve the American interest because that will help expand the boundaries of freedom and the accepted standards of governmental and societal behavior, where it will be crucial for the future of mankind in this millennium.
The reason for establishing the Republican Party of Ukraine
After independence [in 1991] and in recent years most of the political structures and parties played to what is essentially populism without any particular ideological core ideas or structure. In most cases they are based on a so-called social-democratic set of notions, that are socialist in their coloring and presentation. The republican idea is needed in our country because it relies on the value of family and a responsible individual who is the greatest motor of change, stability and security.
Giving power to local electorates
That is why we put the local environment, the life of community, where 90 percent of the interests of individuals and families are concentrated, at the center of the political priorities of the Republican Party. The election of local police, of judges, at this juncture is very important, providing them with tools to solve local issues. [Currently, all police belong to a national government ministry, and the local community has very little to say about how they are appointed or appraised for performance]. It is a disconnect between the people who serve the community and the opinion of the people of the quality of service they are getting. Having adequate financial resources and a local budget is also a priority. It is not exactly what other political parties were doing in their programs before.
A base of self-made people
So we do have certain alternatives to propose to the Ukrainian electorate. Our electoral base is self-made personalities, be they in small and medium businesses, or intelligencia, who believe in their ability to take their life in their own hands and be successful.
Our mission is to support them in bringing about the changes needed to make Ukraine a truly modern society.
We believe the main resource of Ukraine is not so much the oil, gas and steel that we export, but it is the creative abilities and entrepreneurship of the Ukrainian people. Ukraine holds the fourth or fifth place in the world for truly qualified software developers. It is education and the ability to find the best engineering and scientific solutions to the problems that we have.
We believe [fighting corruption] can be achieved only through a very efficient and result-oriented program, which would not simply be limited to police action but would create incentives for all levels of government to work in a very transparent manner, and where all the elements of decision-making are formulated for the good of individuals and society in general and would be part of an inclusive formula where public servants have a high level of financial security but the requirements related to income would be part of a single system. Reform of the public sector is our priority, [including] medical services, so that they are more efficient and available to everyone. On the other hand, everyone has to be responsible for what they are doing here. The same goes for housing, where modern market systems should be used, not social recipes, [dependent] more on individual initiative and the ability to rely on oneself.
Biography of Kostyantyn I. Gryshchenko
Gryshchenko is a leading member of the Republican Party of Ukraine, established in spring 2005. Among other duties, he heads the party’s international relations. Gryshchenko has a distinguished career as a senior government official in foreign affairs. From September 2003 to early 2005 he was Ukraine’s Minister of Foreign Affairs. Prior to that, from January 2000 to September 2003, he served as Ukraine’s ambassador to the United States.
Other important positions he held for Ukraine:
Chairman of the UN Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters; Member of the College of Commissioners of the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC).
1998 – 2000
Ambassador to Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg; Head of Mission to NATO; Permanent Representative to the Organization for Non-Proliferation of Chemical Weapons.
1995 – 1998
Deputy Foreign Minister, Arms control and disarmament; Russian and CIS affairs; European security; bilateral relations with Asian, Pacific, African and Middle East countries; Deputy Chairman of the State Commission on Export Control Policy; Head of delegations on border delimitation negotiations with Russia, Belarus and Moldova; Chief negotiator for Ukrainian-Russian talks on division of the Black Sea Fleet; Member of the Foundation Council of the Geneva Center for Security Policy.
1993 – 1995
Chairman of the National Committee on Disarmament; Representative to the Joint Compliance and Inspection Commission under the START-I Treaty; Head of delegations to the Special Verification Commission under the INF, the Standing Control Commission under the ABM Treaty.
From 1981 to 1991 he was in the Soviet Foreign Ministry, and before that, from 1976 to 1980, represented the USSR at the UN Secretariat in New York.
Gryshchenko was born in 1953 in Kyiv, Ukraine. He has a degree from the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, Department of International Law (1975). He was awarded the Order of Merit in September 1998, and again in October 2003. He speaks Ukrainian, Russian, English and French.
He is married, has a daughter and two grandchildren.