Opinions 2015 06 01
G. Kirkilas: Ukraine must stay on democratic and European road
Interview of Mr Gediminas Kirkilas, Vice-Speaker of the Seimas, Chair of the Seimas Committee on the European Affairs, Lithuanian prime minister (2006-2008), to the Arseniy Yatseniuk "Open Ukraine" Foundation.
Which variant of events progression in Ukraine do you see possible and what apart from "Minsk agreements" can be proposed to the negotiators?
The situation remains very complicated. We can be idealists in our goals and visions, but in the daily, however, difficult matters, we must be realists. We should change things for the better where we can and maybe then things can change for the better, where they cannot be changed today.
Therefore, I believe that for Ukraine the most meaningful now is to stay concentrated on domestic political and economic reforms as well as determined for democratic consolidation and European integration. The fight against corruption is very important here, otherwise the post-Vilnius’ Maidan revolution might fail as did the Orange revolution after the initial success.
I only see visible the progress in step by step basis. It is essential not to lose what is gained and to aim at gaining back what was lost.
Do you think that what is happening in Ukraine is the clash of values (civilizations)? Which system of values is the future of Ukraine, Europe and the world?
The famous notion of the clash of civilisations proposed by Samuel Huntington in 1992, just after the end of the Cold War, is a good methodological tool for analysing domestic and international politics. However, we should not be too deterministic.
Yes, there is a clash between democratic and nondemocratic values, and Ukraine should keeping choosing democracy and human rights every day until it becomes mature democracy. Only democratic values and human rights are the future for Ukraine, Europe and the world.
How, in your opinion, could Russia be changed and when?
This is probably one of the hardest questions for policy-makers as well political scientists and historians.
The Russian political elite apparently are not willing to go for democratic change.
The Russian nation has not made any revolution since February 1917. The Bolshevik coup of October 1917 made the Russian nation very submissive to authority and power.
Today, only if Russia ends up in the deepest economic crisis, which cannot be taken anymore by the part of political elite and society, then the change is possible. However, Ukraine knows better than Lithuania, how hard and long can be democratic change, and the situation in Russia is much worse politically and value wise than it has ever been in Ukraine since the collapse of communism.
Moreover, Russia represents the society of great inequality, where only the privileged elite have all the wealth and the society at large has never experienced the good life materially. So, with all the Russia’s internal propaganda of the grand Russian state and the evil West, the Russian people find it difficult to aspire for the better life and democratic change,
Nevertheless, we must be also optimists, because history is unpredictable….
4. Almost two years ago, in an interview for some Ukrainian media, before all of the events that took place in Ukraine, you were rating the activities of the former president Yanukovych very positively. Of course, this was before he had "failed" the Association Agreement. Then you openly declared Russian pressure on Ukraine in this regard. Why nobody in Europe did not feel the impending war then? Why did Europe "overslept"?
Dankwart Rustow, a famous scholar of democracy, in 1970 wrote: “we should allow for the possibility that circumstances may force, trick, lure, or cajole non-democrats into democratic behaviour and that their beliefs may adjust in due course by some processes of rationalization or adaptation”.
Democracy is a regime of another chances and new opportunities. Therefore, then I gave a credit of trust to Yanukovych, hoping that he, being democratically elected by the Ukrainians, would comply with the democratic rules of political game. However, ultimately it didn’t happen, like it happened with the former Slovakian former prime minister Vladimír Mečiar, who, being calculative, changed from autocrat to democrat, when realising the EU benefits.
Europe did not oversleep, it has just kept believing in the project of peace after the unmeasurable tragedy of the Second World War. Europe also has kept a faith that Russia will not cross the certain boundaries in the 21st century’s Europe.
Also, Ukraine became very vulnerable politically and economically after the ultimate failure of the Orange revolution, manifesting through Yanukovych’s return into power.
Nevertheless, today Ukraine and Europe together are trying to find the way out of this deadlock.