Sigh for the curtain

Posted by Marek Siwiec MEP on 02/04/14

Crimea’s takeover by Russia made some politicians think the following: If they (Russia) behave the same way as during the Cold War or even worse, let us isolate ourselves from them. Let us deploy the army on the Ukrainian-Russian border, let us impose sanctions on them – sanctions that would not bother us. And finally, let us introduce a technological arms race so that in several years new empire of Putin is brought to its knees again. There are also specialists who believe that the end of the arms race of the 80s was the time of a great economic growth for the West.

In my opinion these views are foolish and dangerous.
New reality is characterised by: globalization, with its own consequences of finance and resources ties, Internet and freedom of movement. On top of that there is another important element – 25 years ago there was no China as it is today. How we can isolate anyone in these circumstances?

The conflict started by Russia requires new thinking rather than “trying to make a salad with an old lettuce”. I can imagine the situation when the Russian Federation is pursuing their own vision of the world and we are pursuing ours. Borders must be guarded but we cannot close them.

The history will find its end in the wallets of Russians and Ukrainians in 10 years. If those from Kiev live better than those in Moscow, Putin’s philosophy will be in trouble.

First own goals

Posted by Marek Siwiec MEP on 20/03/14

Winners of the revolution in Kiev sometimes behave as if they did not understand how complex and delicate their position is. Those, who wish them well, suffer the most when they see another own goals shot by them. Yesterday’s behaviour of a deputy from Svoboda in a public television was simply obnoxious and stupid.
A group of discontented deputies from Svoboda, led by deputy Miroshnychenko, attacked the director of the national television and as a punishment for broadcasting Putin’s speech forced him to resign. Someone, however, recorded the assault and the whole Russia with half of the world are having a field day now.

The act was offensive since it was done with full insolence of the winners and against the law. It was also stupid because I believe that Ukrainians should listen to Putin carefully in order to better understand who they are dealing with. After all, Polish television also broadcast the speech and it did not even cross anyone’s mind to call for resignation of the director of, let’s say, TVN because of that.

The questions that are being asked also in Brussels corridors concern ideological and political profile of Ukrainian Svoboda. During the revolution in Maidan, the party’s homophobia, antisemitism and sigh for Bandera’s past were tactfully not touched upon. Now doubts are coming . If Svoboda does not modify its ideas, the whole coalition and government of Yatseniuk will have a big problem.

And finally, the third big issue- investigation on the killed at Maidan square. This case is completely in chaos. Recent comment of Estonian minister – saying that snipers in Kiev were firing at both sides of the conflict and it is probable that someone from new coalition was behind it – was eavesdropped and published which caused a lot of confusion. By the way, I would like to know what Estonian’s source of information was. The case of these almost 100 people killed should be subjected to a criminal investigation that would find answers to a few questions. What weapon was used? Where were the shots coming from? And finally, who was shooting?

If new authorities in Kiev decide that “everything will work out itself somehow” they will make a huge mistake.

The world according to Putin

Posted by Marek Siwiec MEP on 18/03/14

The coming years or even decades will probably be described as something similar to ‘cold peace’. 18 March 2014 will become a symbolic date of new era. Surrounded by Russian elite, Vladimir Putin signed its foundations. Russia is de facto withdrawing from all agreements which resulted in Euro-Asian order after the fall of Iron Curtain and collapse of the Soviet Union.

Putin has announced today that his country has a mission to consolidate Russian minorities and everyone who is eager to remain under his care. The international law which gives countries the right of self-determination will support him in these actions. Putin referred with gratitude to the aloofness of China and India with regard to this policy. He also appealed to Germany to recall the role of the USSR when they wanted to unite.

The world according to Putin is logical and coherent. There is a place for autonomy, federation, different languages, cultures and religions. There is, however, one condition; everyone has to accept the wish of Kremlin. This vision of the world is in sharp contrast with ours, although they both differ with only one thing- we accept everything apart from the necessity to become subordinate to Kremlin. There is no place in Europe such as anti-Kremlin.

I would like to recommend everyone interested to watch the speech of Putin. Not to read, not to listen but watch.

Kremlin dreamer or Resident’s mistake

Posted by Marek Siwiec MEP on 10/03/14

I would like to recommend you an article of Yaroslav Mendus, my Ukrainian adviser and a former deputy to Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine. The text was published in the online Ukrainian newspaper “Obozrevatel” – Marek Siwiec.

If it is forbidden, but you want it very much –
then you can do it.

Russian expression

As the heroine of Somerset Maugham’s novel “Theater” said: “The main thing – is the ability to keep a pause, the greater the artist – the longer he pauses”.

Vladimir Putin has been avoiding any comments to the press for two weeks, but in the last few days he has actually put the world on the brink of World War III.

And then, finally, the President of Russia gathered a group of journalists for an hour conversation, which confirmed the worst assumptions of politicians and experts who analyzed the invasion of Russian forces on the sovereign territory of Ukraine.

Such concerns were outlined most accurately by Angela Merkel in a telephone conversation with the President of the United States. According to the reputable “The New York Times”, the Chancellor said something like this: “Putin lives in another world and I’m not sure that he is in touch with reality.”

Similar characteristics with respect to even an average person will inevitably lead to relatives’ and neighbors’ reasoned concern, then guess what, when that is said about actually exclusive master of the country, who has the second nuclear strength in the world.

First impression of Putin’s press conference is the following – he still has not recovered from the shock caused by Ukrainian Maidan and complete destruction of Putin’s model of Russian-Ukrainian relations: instead of continuing relations with Yanukovych who is now devoid of any geopolitical maneuver, Putin needs to build a strategy of relations with politicians who are subordinated to Maidan and are strictly oriented to close partnership with the West.

Second, despite the traditional for the Russian leaders propaganda rhetoric about “neo nazi, nationalists and antisemite” in Kyiv authorities, he had to actually admit anticriminal nature of Ukrainian revolution, and therefore agree with the Ukrainian right to protest. It will just suffice to mention his phrase: “I understand, however, those people on Maidan, who still call not for some sort of repair of the facade of the government, but for fundamental change”.

Vladimir Putin has repeated several times like a mantra that “… corruption, enrichment and stratification” take place in Russia too, but no such turmoil will happen here. Well, blessed are those who believe – as Russians like to say.

If you try to summarize what the President of Russia has said in the light of the war initiated de facto against Ukraine, then main messages would be limited to the following:

• unconstitutional and armed seizure of power has happened in Ukraine;
• Ukrainian Parliament is partly legitimate, Government and Acting President are not legitimate at all;
• the President of Russia has a request of the current [in his opinion] President of Ukraine Yanukovych regarding engagement of armed forces of the Russian Federation to protect life, liberty and health of Ukrainian citizens. There is no such need now, but it may be and then Putin will take “a legitimate decision”;
• Russia does not recognize its obligations to ensure security and inviolability of borders in view of revolution in Ukraine and as a result a new country with which Russian Federation did not sign any agreements;
• citizens who live in a particular area should determine their own future themselves on the basis of the right of nations to self-determination.
Let’s look at the emphases placed by Putin from the international perspective that is slightly greater than the Russian one:
1. Legitimacy of Ukrainian authorities. It may be liked or not, but most decisions vital for the country are voted for in the Ukrainian Parliament by a constitutional majority. Horror stories about militants standing with guns held to temples of the intimidated deputies is an obvious exaggeration drawn from “five minutes of hatred” by Russian television luminaries.
As for the legitimacy of the government and acting President – it is confirmed by all major political players in the world except for Russia. Under these conditions the position of non-recognition looks at least counterproductive.
2. As for the appeal of Yanukovych and Putin’s right to bring troops into the territory of Ukraine: Verkhovna Rada promptly responded to the information about the availability of that letter, in particular it explained that according to Ukrainian Constitution (both current and previous version) the permit for stay of or bringing in foreign troops falls within the exclusive domain of the Parliament. Therefore, the international and legal weight of the appeal of the citizen Yanukovych is not more than of any other Putin’s supporter.
The right to ignore the Budapest memorandum is a more complicated matter. Probably the Russian President overestimated his role as an indispensable factor in resolution of acute international games. By the way, this role can indeed be seen in many cases. It is sufficient to recall Iran, Syria and North Korea. In the context of withdrawal of the troops from Afghanistan Putin’s permit to create a transit base in Ulyanovsk is very important for the United States. But … the Western world could not ignore Russia’s aggression because it was Ukraine who voluntarily gave up one of the largest arsenals of nuclear weapons, and members of the nuclear club guaranteed its security and inviolability of borders. By his actions Putin actually trenched upon the post-war security model of the world and tried to depreciate the value of international arrangements of the highest importance.
Against the background of the aspirations of the West to persuade the governments of Iran and North Korea to voluntarily give up the nuclear ambitions, this step of the Russian President caused resentment and a desire to prove that in the XXI century international law remains in force.
It was a real Putin’s blunder that, considering the intentions of the U.S. and EU, will have tangible effects for Russia in the form of political and economic sanctions.
3. Putin’s thesis on the right of citizens living in a particular area to act on their own is dangerous for Russia first of all given the multinational structure of its population.
Vladimir Putin himself has recently anxiously said: “If in the near future we do not implement practical steps for the development of the Far East, within several decades the Russian population will speak Chinese, Korean and Japanese”. And what if it does not just speak but also requires accession to the parent land?

One more Russian proverb is worth mentioning in this context: “Don’t trouble trouble till trouble troubles you”.

And another material theme which was covered by the President of Russia – Tymoshenko’s theme. He remembered with nostalgia their joint constructive work and concluded: “If she wants to come to Russia, let her come.” What lies behind these words of Putin – could be, perhaps, the subject of another press conference.

In summary, impression of the Russian President’s press conference is twofold: on the one hand we can talk about de-escalation of the conflict, on the other – Russian military with and without identification marks continues to block highways and Ukrainian military units, quasi-self-defense of Crimea prepares illegal referendum, and quasi-citizens of Ukraine with Moscow residence, storm government buildings in the South and East of Ukraine.

When will Kremlin dreamer calm down? Not only developments in Ukraine, but also safety in the world depends on this.

Clashes on multiple fronts

Posted by Marek Siwiec MEP on 04/03/14

Russian will play “Ukrainian game” on multiple fronts simultaneously. Using an old technique – 3 steps forward and half step back – they want to create fait accompli to get their way.

Military area
Not even one shot was fired but Crimea is de facto occupied. Some people, well-armoured, without bars on their uniforms, appeared in a very coordinated way in the most crucial parts of the region. Someone is giving them food, someone is providing communication but noone officially knows who. Besides, there had been an ultimatum announced but apparently the idea was finally abandoned and continental army, although it has done some training, already returned to barracks.

Diplomatic area
It turns out that Russians entered the territory of Crimea at the request of legitimate at that time president of Ukraine – says Russian ambassador to the UN. It does not bother Russia that Yanukovych was then outside the territory of his country. They demand the agreement from 21 February to come into force. It was signed by Klitschko, Yatseniuk, Tiahnybok, Yanukovych, Sikorski and Steinmeier. The thing is, however, that on the document there is no signature of Lukin who represented Russia in Kiev then. At that time the deal was bad, today it is good. The agreement for the mission of international organizations exists and does not exist at the same time, there are phone conversations with world leaders but without any results, etc.

Public diplomacy
In accordance with Russian reasoning, a lie repeated several times might become truth. “Russians are in danger!” – shouts national Russian media at the whole world. It does not bother them to say these words knowing that there has been no Russian speaking victim so far and no act of aggression towards these people has been recorded. None the less, fascists and Bandera’s men are dangerous!

Silence on that issue. There have been no blockades, no special controls and no embargoes for Ukrainian products. So far.

Ukraine: We must look forward

Posted by Marek Siwiec MEP on 27/02/14

I would like to recommend to you an article by the Members of the Board of Yalta European Strategy (YES) calling upon Russia and the European Union to „support harmonious economic development of Ukraine”.

Marek Siwiec

Yalta European Strategy (YES) is the largest social institution of public diplomacy in Eastern Europe, providing an open and equal dialogue on global issues affecting the European Union, Ukraine, Russia and other countries.

Ukraine: We must look forward

On Maidan, flowers have replaced the cobblestones and barricades. They honor the heroes who fell one week ago for Ukraine and who will live in hearts forever. Their example is humbling.
But their disappearance must not – cannot – lead to the split of Ukraine: this would be to betray them in the most shameful way, to betray those who died so that Ukraine could live!
The Ukrainian people did everything they could and more: those who did not die fought, and those who did not fight showed their support in a thousand ways, which allowed Maidan to withstand day after day.
The Ukrainian people will, by vote, continue their efforts to re-establish the rule of law, wipe out corruption and embed democracy more deeply in Ukraine, so that everyone can live there in peace.
However, this time, the Ukrainian people cannot do it all alone. They are going to need help – they already need help.
It is no longer the time for great declarations of intention, cautious diplomatic statements or evasion: it is time to act.
We therefore call upon Russia and the West, especially European Union to assume their common responsibility: to support the harmonious economic development of Ukraine. We therefore ask them to set up a conference on the future of Ukraine as soon as possible.
Nothing substantial or sustainable will be accomplished unless these two historic partners of Ukraine reach an agreement.
If this means making compromises, then let’s make them! Ukraine and the Ukrainian people deserve better than a game of role playing in which each participant occupies a position that closes the door to any hope of progress.
If this means looking towards the future, then let’s do so! Ukraine and the Ukrainian people deserve to have everyone looking forward today and to have us all looking in the same direction.
The people of Ukraine need an act that shows the European Union’s recognition for all those who fought for its values – why not immediately rescind the revocation of the visas of Ukrainian citizens looking to travel to a member country of the European Union?
The people of Ukraine need urgent assistance to meet their immediate financial obligations – they are counting on Russia and the European Union to provide this assistance.
To pick itself back up, Ukraine is going to need the Ukrainian people, but also the European Union and Russia. It is up to the people of Russia and Europe to give the Ukrainian people back the ability to move forward together.
YES will be happy to organize such a conference in the historical Livadia Palace in Yalta, Ukraine, if the support of an independent NGO can be helpful. We hope the West, especially the EU, and Russia, will be ready to act.

We say to them: do it!

The Members of the Board of Yalta European Strategy

Aleksander Kwasniewski, President of Poland (1995–2005), Chairman of the Board of YES;
Pat Cox, President of the European Parliament (2002-2004); Mario David, Member of the European Parliament; ; Stephane Fouks, Vice President, Havas Group and Executive Co-Chairman, Havas Worldwide; Victor Pinchuk, Founder of YES, Founder of EastOne Group, Founder of the Victor Pinchuk Foundation; Alexander Rahr, Senior Advisor, Wintershall Holding; Research Director, German-Russian Forum; Jean-Pierre Saltiel, President (1998–2004), Rothschild Сonseil International, France; Marek Siwiec, Member of the European Parliament; Javier Solana, High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy of the European Union and Secretary General of the Council of the EU (1999-2009)

Minority government

Posted by Marek Siwiec MEP on 27/02/14

I ma trying no to compare Ukraine 2014 and Poland 1989. Different times, different geopolitics and different people. I must admit, however, that there are some similarities. The following months in Ukraine might resemble the times of Tadeusz Mazowiecki’s governance in Poland: there was a majority in Sejm, frightened opposition from former Polish United Worker’s Party, OKP (Citizens Parliamentary Committe) forced reforms and changes and the rest approved them seeing that “Solidarność” had the nation’s support. Similar scenario may be repeated nowadays in Ukraine.

New government will win the Verkhovna Rada’s support but it will be formed by minority. Batkivshchyna and Swoboda make together slightly more than 100 seats. They are however additionally boosted by Maidan. Part of the Party of the Regions and Udar will raise hands for this government, but in every case on the table the prime minister will have to negotiate support. This situation might be a result of chaos in the Party of the Regions. It was abandoned by almost half of the members. The rest do not really know how to react to this new reality. Sooner or later they should sit in the Verkhovna Rada and take the benches of the opposition.

Slightly different is the situation of Vitali Klitschko. The leader of UDAR did not want to become a minister but he would have been happy to take a position of the speaker of the Verkhovna Rada for his party. This, however, was refused to him. He will observe everything from a certain distance, make reviews and prepare himself for the presidential election.

Out of the representatives of Maidan I would like to point out the person of Andriy Parubiy. He was a true commander of Maidan, he was governing. When in January, in the middle of the cold night he was showing us how demonstrators live and prepare for defence, I had no doubts that this deputy from Batkivshchyna was making his own history. He will be appointed Chief of National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine.

Another person in a long list of partners I know and with whom I cooperated.

Day after

Posted by Marek Siwiec MEP on 24/02/14

For the last several hours I have been trying to settle up my thoughts about what is happening in Ukraine. I would like to share a few remarks which will hopefully help readers understand the situation in our neighbouring country.

The agreement entered into by Sikorski- Steinmeier- Yanukovych- Yatseniuk- Klitschko- Tiahnybok on Friday initiated “a cooperation of all parties for the sake of its implementation”. After a few hours, the leadership of the opposition saw that the crowd would not accept it. As a consequence, the government of the country (president plus Party of the Regions) decided to flee from Kiev. It was, however, not until the following day that the facts about the escape have come to light. That day the history started to create a new scenario- scenario of revolution. The political emptiness left after the former government was taken by the deputies – those from opposition, but also communists and a few dozens of members from Party of the Regions led by Siergiej Tihipko. Three delegates appointed yesterday by the Verkhovna Rada (the army, services and prosecution) form some kind of a frame for a new provisional government, whose members will surely be coming from Batkivshchyna, Udar and Svoboda.

In such an atmosphere, late evening Majdan saw Yulia Tymoshenko on the stage. Emotions apart, I would say- different Maidan, different Yulia. Maidan is today much more demanding than before. It has also much more confidence in its strength. The gathering will definitely last long weeks in order to look over the shoulders of all those untrusted leaders. I can even imagine the situation that the most important decisions will be made at Maidan…

On Yulia Tymoshenko’s face we could see those 2 years of incarceration. We could feel also that her words were not getting to the collective emotions of Maidan. Thus, Maidan will be also problematic for her.

Yesterday, on the stage just behind her there was her daugther Eugenia and Arseniy Yatseniuk. Further behind, there was also Tiahnybok and four members of the European Parliament (Rebecca Harms, Anna Gomes, J. Saryusz-Wolski i and myself). Vitali Klitschko was not there which was a clear signal that the trilateral cooperation between Maidan- oposition leaders-Tymoshenko may not go so smoothly.

Finally, the most important comment. The Party of the Regions, which gathered in exile in Charkov made a huge mistake. Dangerous words about the division of the country were said there. If the leaders of the biggest political party so far wanted to defend their views, they should have stayed in Kiev. This is the beginning of Ukraine’s and Party of the Regions’ problems.

Important Tuesday tomorrow in Kiev

Posted by Marek Siwiec MEP on 17/02/14

Recent images of Kiev may be grounds for some optimism, however, they might be compared to one swallow which, as we know, does not make a summer. “Divisions” of the Right Sector left the building of the mayor’s office and the barricade at Hruszewskiego street won a hatch (or hole), through which there is a swinging traffic going on under a thorough supervision of the demonstrators.

Nevertheless, eyes of the observers are directed today at Berlin, where chancellor Merkel will be speaking with Yatseniuk and Klitschko. Before this visit a 4-hour conference of two leaders with Yulia Timoshenko was held. We do not know what was decided at the meeting, but we might be sure that there was at least one divergence. The former prime minister would not like to return to the constitution of 2004. Neither would the majority of the Party of the Regions.

What will then the Verkhovna Rada decide tomorrow?

The opposition does not have enough votes to reinstate the constitution. There is also not enough support to block the appointment of a new prime minister. What can thus happen tomorrow? The Party of the Regions is ready to choose a new prime minister out of them or appoint someone closely related. Five names are being mentioned.

One of the candidate is Deputy Prime Minister Arbuzov, who is, however, very unpopular in his own party. Another is Andriy Klyuyev, who on the other hand is popular in the party but he is also needed by the president as chief of the presidential chancellery. The former Prime Minister Yuriy Boyko whose political weakness is, ironically, his asset is another name on the list. If we were to search for more candidates, there is also former Prime Minister Anatol Kinach on the standby. Despite his links with the Party of the Regions, his position is much more independent. Another willing is Petro Poroshenko, former minister in Azarow’s government and now a rebel from Majdan. But in my point of view his chances are rather scarce. Appointing Poroshenko would, however, be a real give of a bit of power by the Party of the Regions, and it does not seem that Yanukovych team is ready for that.

Maidan fortress

Posted by Marek Siwiec MEP on 29/01/14

Nighttime, snow falling from the sky and frost create a special atmosphere when a “revolution” is going on. Yesterday, late evening after meetings with Vitali Klitschko, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Grigoriy Niemiria and Ruslan Kashulinsky we went to Maidan. Our host was a commander of the “fortress” – Andriey Parubi.

Indeed, Maidan looks like a fortress. Numbered barricades are more or less 3 meters high and 5 meters wide on the ground. They are built from sandbags. If there was no sand, snow was used. The barricades, each has its governor subordinate to the main commander. Inside the camp there are people living in tents. Around dozen of them staying in each. There is a great order everywhere, you cannot event find a single cigarette butt. I visited demonstrators from Kolomyia. Their mood is rather belligerent. It’s warm inside the tents and they are determined to stay there until the victory. In spite of the temperature at minus twenty degrees, all the time there is something going on the stage – a person is giving a speech or a movie is being shown. Yesterday there was one about Ukrainian Insurgent Army.

The last part of our programme is a visit to trade union buildings. The leadership of the protest is located there. They resemble old guerrilla buildings I think, this time, however, more of a large scale. Before entering we thoroughly wipe our shoes. Each floor is occupied by different parties. In other corridors and rooms there is a hospital and a “Right Sector” grouping. Party divisions are of no importance here since according to the leaders, they are the core of revolution. They do not treat themselves as extremists. To violence they react with violence but this is not forbidden.

The programme will be continued today

Marek Siwiec MEP on Poland & Europe rss

Marek Siwiec, Polish Member of the European Parliament, writes about European Neighbourhood Policy, defence policy, Polish Presidency of the EU Council, Polish politics and other topics related to European and international affairs. more.

  • Twitter