Kuchma: “My Fabulous Talks with Yushchenko and Yulia Tymoshenko Might be Used Against Current Administration”…

KIEV, Ukraine -- Sometimes the ex-president seems to be forgotten. Kuchma rested in Karlovy Vary where he didn’t want to talk to the press until his ex-interior minister’s death. But even then he was “a man of few words”.

Recently Kuchma has showed up in the newly fixed office of his Fund “Ukraine”. He looked bad: dimmed eyes, paper-like skin. In general he seemed shabby.

This is the first printed Kuchma’s interview to UNIAN. The ex-president, as usual, accuses the new authorities of populism. He complains of moral pressuring on his family; he's boasting up with the economical achievements during his reign. He gives the new authorities a hint it’d better not bring all Melnychenko’s tapes in public…

Leonid Danylovych, what do you think, what should the new authorities do to make European prospects for Ukraine seem real? How should the results of the Orange Revolution be taken advantage of in order not to imitate the situation of 1994 when Ukraine became non-atomic state but got no profits in return?

We should stop declaring what has already been our goal. We’ve decided Ukraine is going to be European state. Now we need action. If we do not achieve proper gross domestic product rate no one will talk to us.

It’s that simple. The European Community can’t “grind” a country like Ukraine, sorry for such wording. You should understand them. We’re teasing them with these extra unnecessary statements. Do we have some improvement? Whatever you might babble, but the treaty “Ukraine-EU” signed this year is based upon the keypoints of the last year summit “Ukraine-EU” I took an active part in.

And one more thing. If you won with under the flag of democratic freedoms that shouldn’t be just a bold slogan. That shouldn’t be just the bold statements of the officials; everyone should feel the freedom, in economics in particular.

Do you feel any changes or just trend to some radical changes?

You know, it’s difficult to answer this question, ‘cause I’m out of this. I see, just after the changing of power lots of mass media painted themselves orange and that’s it. Neither authorities nor people actually need it.
And one more thing I’d like to pay attention to is marketing relations and marketing type economics. But I feel, instead, that we’re building up socialism. I’m talking about re-distribution of funds via central budget.

And the most important is that lots of economists (Pinzennyk including) claimed Yanukovych did wrong increasing 2 times pensions without raising salaries that will increase pension fund and thus allow carry out pension payment taking nothing from central budget.

Some people from the opposition stated the Pension Fund was sacrificed for the sake of election campaign. By the way, I agreed to some of the statements. The pensions should be increased differentially otherwise it will level those who worked all his life and those who didn’t work at all.

But today we did the same. Populism can win you a year or so but then you’ll have to pay for that. The economics will suffer ‘cause it’s in no condition to maintain such a high level of social grants. We don’t want Europe to say: “Well, guys, you’re talking about integration into EU community and you spend you budget on eating but not on further development of you country”.

Whatever people might talk about, democracy or high moral values, money rules the world. You have euro, dollars, rubl and here we go…people take you seriously. If you don’t have a thing they talk to you accordingly.

Leonid Danylovych, EU always emphasized Ukraine had to go on serious reforms to join Euroclub. Will Ukraine become EU member taking into consideration euphoria in Europe after Orange Revolution? What reforms should we start with?

You know, Europeans and Americans are very pragmatic. They count everything. They will analyze the steps made, the consequences of the actions performed, without any political or revolutional conjuncture.

The next 10-15 years it’ll be absolutely impossible for Ukraine to become EU member. That’s not gonna happen, under no circumstances. That’s why we’re to improve the living standards and maybe then…Personally I think it’d be better if we’re invited to EU, but we are applying to the European community instead.

Actually Ukraine has the right for “the place under the sun”. But it won’t get it the years coming. I’d like to repeat the truth for everybody to understand – we can’t be EU members ‘cause we’re just absolutely noncompetitive. Imagine we are EU members. What Ukrainian producer will stand tough competition on European market? The consequences are quite predictable.

But we can get certain preferences and benefits.

What preferences are you talking about? For example Polish agriculture got benefits and preferences from EU but do you how many agricultural farms have turned bankrupts? They have no market to sell their products. If we open our market for them they’ll bow and say “Thank you”. Europe doesn’t need their products but Ukrainians will eat up everything. EU membership is kind of a dream. But we are not Kremlin dreamers, we’re realists.

The accomplishment of reforms is of primary importance for us now. The politics has stopped the process; because of the unstructured parliament lots of unpopular decisions can’t be adopted. But we’ve done a lot.

The task of the former authorities was to prevent the industry from complete demolishing and destruction. We gave benefits to metallurgy, ship-building branch, aero-cosmic branch, agriculture. And we haven’t just survived but we have achieved the best results.

I understand that the period of my presidency should be analyzed. But do not destroy everything. For example, everybody knows about exhaustion of the main funds in economy. The government almost rejected capital investments in 2005. Besides, the budget deficit is lowered at the expense of taxation payments’ increase from 15 to 50%.

State enterprises are deprived of any means for development. Moreover they can’t even afford the current repairing and changing of equipment. The word innovation seems to have been successfully forgotten.

What would you change in the foreign policy of Ukraine? What mistakes would you avoid concerning EU, relations with Russian Federation?

I would have done exactly what I’ve done. Maybe I’d just correct something, polish it, so to say. It’s difficult to compare present Ukraine and Ukraine at the dawn of independence.

You probably remember pretty well that there was no oil, no gas, and no electricity as well as provision (it is now that our market is being supplied with 94% of domestic agricultural products). We had to manipulate, so to speak, not to take a single position, because such a one-sided orientation would only be harmful for us. Today there's no country carrying out a one-track policy of this kind.

Even those countries which joined EU during its latest wave of broadening want to have good relationships with the Russian Federation. For France and Germany in particular the relationships with Russia are of the top priority. That is why I do not refuse anything. On the contrary, that was our mutual fault with Russia that we have lost a lot of time, that’s why those opportunities, those mutual economic projects, whatever they were, have not been yet finished. This concerns, first and foremost, aviation and space industry.

How can we persuade Europe and Russia that our Eurointegration will not cause any damage to the latter?

Personally I think, the European countries are rather afraid of Ukraine as a tough competitor at a certain level of its development. And Ukraine will compete the above mentioned France and Germany, at least I wish it were so. Europe is not afraid of our close cooperation with Russia, this is stability.

And as to Russia's negative attitude to the Eurointegration course of Ukraine, I think this problem does not exist at all. There's Putin's declaration that if Ukraine wants to join EU, be it so, if, of course, Ukraine is welcomed to. Russia is not concerned with EU, it’s concerned with NATO. It's natural, because this is safety. In addition, during the period Ukraine will be fulfilling its Eurointegration course, the situation in the world will change. Let's recall it, just 10 years ago Russia was considered to be an enemy. Today there's no such confrontation.

Today the world, first of all the US, considers Russia as a strategic partner and there are more than enough enemies on the basis of terrorism both in the US and Russia.

Zlenko wrote in his monograph how difficult it was for Ukraine at the beginning of its formation as a state to persuade the West that Ukraine was not the part of Russia but a self-sufficient state. Will it be easier for the next Presidents of Ukraine to persuade the West, Europe?

Zlenko is absolutely right. Nobody looks seriously at us, neither Europe, nor Russia. Europe thought we would not stand the test and would probably break apart, and if not all Ukraine, then the part of it for sure will go to Russia.

And the Russians thought that Ukraine, primarily, would not stand the world prices for energy resources, which was really a sort of a tragedy for us. But we endured everything and our development is not worse, perhaps, even better than that of Russia.

Ukraine strengthened itself as a state. That time, all were rather pessimistic about our development. But today nobody dares to doubt our success. Over the last 5 years Ukraine's national produce has doubled, our living standards have changed; even the faces of Ukrainians are different now.

And I remember those gloomy faces during the meetings. Today we are not the same. And the fact that the Orange Revolution took place also proves that we are different, because many people started to think not solely about the daily bread, but about something more global.

That is why I am deeply convinced that it will be much easier for the new government to function.

It should be mentioned that the West didn't make any single effort to help us over our problematic questions with the Russian Federation.

They kept an eye on us as the outside observers. Generally speaking, the policy concerning Ukraine was carried out in the light of the relationship between Moscow and the West. It's obvious when one takes a look at the geographical and geological map of Russia - there is an answer to virtually all the questions. Let's refresh in our memory the conflict around the isle of Tuzla. Did anybody comment on this?

Leonid Danylovych, do you feel comfortable now in Ukraine, taking into consideration that your political opponents, who are in power presently, declared that they didn't want to live in the Ukraine of Kuchma? Do you want to live in the Ukraine of the new government?

What comfort are you talking about; when my Fund has not begun functioning yet and they started its detailed examination! I do not mention lots of other facts. So, from the moral point of view it is a very serious test for me and my family. That’s clear. If somebody wants me to lose control, as some other persons have already lost one, let it be. But I don't have any intentions of taking such a step.

Are you going to live in Ukraine?

I never ask myself such questions. Of course!

You said that during your second cadence you failed to realize all your plans including those of the foreign policy, taking into consideration the "Cassette scandal" ("Tapegate") . Lately the new version has arisen about the Russian special services' implication. Could it be the Russian attempt on the state level to disrupt Ukraine's possibilities of moving towards Europe?

I don't believe in the Russian special services as well as in the American services. They were not related to this on the first stage. But then the whole world wanted to make use of it. I said that we had to follow that path; we had to sound off, to cover ourselves in mud and tell all the possible lies to the whole world.

Is it possible to take seriously the country which abuses itself? Lots of efforts were made to cut the soviet period out of the Ukrainian history, the same is being done with the 10 years of independent Ukraine, keeping only all those loud scandals and "…gates".

Then your statements that you knew about the recordings and the person interested in them sound awkwardly.

That's absurd! Petro Poroshenko said that I knew about the recording, because I was giving different commissions word for word as if I knew I was being recorded. The thing is that I have a good memory. Tell this to him.

I remember everything I said and that explains my "exact" commissions according to the cassettes. But there's no point in recording conversations in the kitchen. Only the official events were recorded.

This is the same as the transcribed "round-table" discussions during negotiations of the political crisis period. That was the official part. The most important things were discussed after those negotiations. So when they introduce the deciphering of those events, it does not reflect the real state of things.

Don't you think that the new authority may fall over the Melnychenko's tapes, Gongadze Case investigation, thus not realizing their plans and expectations? Because it looks quite illogical when at first resounding declarations are made about the disclosure of the case, but later it turns out that these declarations are not backed by some real actions.

The Gongadze case became too loud all over the world, so Yushchenko's burning desire to put an end to it is quite explicable. I do not exclude that my other fantastic talks with Victor Yushchenko, Yulia Tymoshenko , Plyushch and many other politicians could be printed equally well and then used against the present authority.

In my opinion, this is pure politics or business. And even Berezovsky joined this game. I think this is an attempt to spread hatred and distrust in Ukraine and towards Ukraine.

How much time does the new authority have, so to speak, of the society's "credit of trust"?

Mykola Azarov, the former Minister of Finance, who dealt with the everyday financial matters, told me that we had a solid reserve of nearly 1.5-2 years to avoid different political "headaches".

I agree that economics will work a couple of years mechanically due to what has been done.

This is at the normal course of events, when all the efforts are channeled into productive creation, but not into crushing everything on one’s way.