Zbigniew Brzezinski: “Europe from Cabo Da Roca to Kamchatka”

KIEV, Ukraine -- I may be wrong, but my impression is that the only purpose that brought Zbigniew Brzezinski, National Security Adviser to President Carter and professor of political science, to Kyiv was to contribute to the reconciliation between Yushchenko and Tymoshenko.

Zbigniew Brzezinski (R) meeting with Viktor Yushchenko

I do not think he is going to persuade, reproach, or frighten the two parts of the orange team with a potential loss of power. He seems willing to explain to them the historic importance of a democratic Ukraine’s success, its geopolitical impact, and implications of its failure. He could be planning to remind the divided Maidan leaders about their responsibility, both to their country and to the civilization at large. What arguments will the prominent political scientist be driving home? The following is what Zbigniew Brzezinski said in his interview to ZN.

- Mr. Brzezinski, George Bush and Condoleezza Rice have repeatedly stated their satisfaction with the expansion of the zone of democracy by nations where democratic revolutions have been won. They have both spoken of the “key role” that Ukraine has to play in the process. A year has elapsed since Maidan. Do countries that have not yet undergone democratic transformations view our country today as a positive or a discouraging example?

- In general, it is a positive example. Only utopians could have expected that everything would be perfect and a cardinal aim like this could be achieved within a year. There is a perception that something fundamental happened in Ukraine. It made clear its intention to be a democratic and an independent state. I emphasize that it is both today.

Of course, Ukraine has not been too successful in combating corruption. Nor has the country addressed all of its social issues. There is deep disappointment inside Ukraine. To some extent, this disappointment can be traced to the rip in the Yushchenko-Tymoshenko’s team. Besides, there seems to be a lot of opportunism at the top. However, the basic reality is that Ukraine is both independent and democratic, which is decisive for the post-Soviet countries, in historical terms. First of all, it is critical for Russia as Ukraine’s example is more pertinent to it than the Polish one.

- Yet democratic and undemocratic societies alike attach great importance not only to the situation with human rights and freedom of expression, but also to living standards and economic development. Ukraine is now facing numerous internal economic challenges, and on top of it Russia will probably send its gas prices soaring. Why has the USA, recognizing Ukraine’s symbolic meaning and potential as a success story, rendered practically no assistance to it over the year? There have been neither substantial loans nor serious investments. Even the Jackson-Vanick amendment has not been abrogated.

- In my opinion, the Jackson-Vanick amendment is a silly rudiment of the Cold War. It survived due to the effort of some veto-wielding congressmen. Yet one should not overestimate the impact of this amendment.

Speaking of loans and investments, they will come once the country creates favorable conditions. It takes years to ensure an enabling investment climate. And nobody is going to do that for Ukraine. Poland got serious investments, but it paved the way for them by becoming attractive for foreign capitals. Ukrainian elite should realize this and work towards that end.

- Don’t you think the present Ukrainian political elite has had its day? For the most part, it seems to have exhausted its potential. It is incapable of communicating with the civilized world, generating “breakthrough” ideas, and putting them into action. The new generation has not emerged yet. The outdated elite, having stood its ground at the 2004 presidential elections, will further enhance its power after the 2006 parliamentary elections. Do you see a problem in Ukraine’s having to live with this elite for another five years?

- Yes, I think this problem exists and, unfortunately, it makes the difference between Ukraine and Poland more evident. Of course, Poland got its independence much earlier than Ukraine. And people there have idealized memories of the way in which this independence was gained. Besides they had Solidarity, which established an alternative elite. Yushchenko and, to a certain degree, Tymoshenko have not done enough to mobilize the new, young elite and infuse its energy into the government and public administration. The new elite is surfacing in Ukraine, but the state leaders have not raised it to, say, an operational level. Therefore, your main revolution is still ahead - it is a bloodless revolution of the generation change. This is where Yushchenko and Tymoshenko could have achieved more than they have to date.

A leader’s personality, temperament has a role to play, too. Yushchenko is a democratic leader with a strong and holistic vision of democracy. Yet he is also prone to compromises. From a democratic standpoint, compromises are good but only in so far as they do not require people to sacrifice their principles. Tymoshenko is impulsive, bright, inspired. Only these two politicians’ concerted effort can provide conditions for an effective generation change. Yushchenko is averse to rocking the boat, while Tymoshenko is not. The key question is whether the Orange Revolution leaders can cooperate productively. In my judgment, the Orange Revolution marked an awakening of truly independent and democratic Ukrainians, not the former Soviet types but young and new ones.

- I agree. Nevertheless, there is very little hope that the Yushchenko and Tymoshenko blocs will put many new names on their respective election lists. The same applies to other blocs and parties, ranging from the “Regions of Ukraine” to the Socialists. The elections will hardly bring fresh blood into the legislature supposed to be the most influential branch of power following the political reform next year.

- What I see astonishes and disappoints me. Since the political crisis of several months ago, the Orange Revolution leaders have not taken any steps to mobilize the new generation’s energy. I do not mean university students. I mean those who are 40-45 years old today.

- Speaking at a conference on the Ukrainian situation in Washington, you argued that “too many compromises can cause indigestion.” Neither Yushchenko’s team nor that of Akhmetov-Yanukovych rules out a possibility for them to form a coalition in the next Parliament: “President Yushchenko - Premier Yanukovych.” Do you think it will be a viable partnership?

- It depends on which of them is going to give up or sacrifice more. A person with principles always surrenders less than the one with no principles.

- How will this situation be perceived in the West? Will it be interpreted as a revival of “Kuchmaism”?

- Things get more complicated here. This decision could result in the continuation of the “Ukrainian game” as I call it. This game is about acquiescence and evasion. Over the years of independence, I have often visited Ukraine as I have always taken an interest in your country. So I often met and talked with Ukrainian leaders, on some occasions on behalf of the U.S. government and American people. Ukrainian leaders always agreed with what I said. They assured me they understood how critical and useful the suggested steps were and promised to follow all recommendations. And they never kept their promises! It has always been characteristic of the Ukrainian authorities’ behavior. It could be an influence of the political culture formed over the last 400 years: we have always heard “yes” and saw nothing happening.

- In your opinion, on what platform could Yushchenko and Tymoshenko unite?

- Only on the platform of the Orange Revolution ideas and ideals. In other words, on accelerating the processes of building up a truly democratic Ukraine that will become part and parcel of a larger Europe. I always insist on it because I am sentimentally and strategically committed to Ukraine. And I am positive that as soon as Ukraine turns into a truly democratic and truly European nation, Russia will have to follow suit. Therefore, from the European perspective, Ukraine’s mission transcends Ukraine per se. Ukraine, successful in democratic and European terms, is a prerequisite for the formation of a transcontinental Europe.

Ukraine a la Yanukovych, Ukraine of the bandit oblast type, will eventually reinforce negative residual trends in Russia. In this case, Russia will establish itself as a quasi transnational state with a dominating nationalist or, more accurately, “nashist” ideology, snowballing controversies and a host of mini-Chechnyas. In the long run, this Russia will lose the Far East and Siberia to China.

Do you remember de Gaul’s famous words about Europe up to the Urals? Most probably, it was a poetic image, but the general must have meant that Russia belonged to Europe. The historical irony is that the Urals could be the edge of Europe if Russia lost or handed over to China all its territories beyond those mountains. I think a real hope and a historical prospect for Europe is the Europe reaching from its western-most point in Portugal - Carbo da Roca - to Kamchatka. In this arrangement, Ukraine is a core on which the strength of Europe’s meaningful enlargement will hinge. The existence of a democratic European Ukraine will encourage “Russia up to Kamchatka” to become part of Europe. That is why the Orange Revolution has a global, worldwide significance.

I think Ukraine has a higher level of political culture than Russia. Ukrainians have a much clearer national self-identification. Political culture in Russia is still retrograde, for the most part. There is still havoc in opinions as to what Russia is: is it a nation, an idea, a universal revolution or a great state? If the propagated ideology of “nashism,” akin to Nazism, prevails in Russia, it will be suicidal for that country. That is why Ukraine’s positive example and advancement are so important.

- Today Ukraine still relies heavily on Russian natural gas for economic survival. So far the gas price negotiations have yielded no results. Under the circumstances, should Ukraine “needle” Russia by initiating the creation of a democratic belt along its border? Earlier this week, Kyiv hosted the summit of the Community of Democratic Choice attended by eight presidents. The Kremlin regards the new project as entirely and explicitly anti-Russian. Should Ukraine have initiated it given its economically vulnerable position?

- I do not think the idea of promoting democracy is anti-Russian. After all, one cannot develop policy looking back at the third parties’ likely reaction to or interpretation of this policy. But one should pursue this policy cautiously. A lot of people in Russia want to see their country a democratic state. I think it is vital that nobody substitute democratic policy with anti-Russian one. It is particularly important in the context of a larger Europe embracing both a democratic Ukraine and a democratic Russia.

As for the energy policy and its tactical dimensions, Russia is in no position to dictate its will to Ukraine as the major part of its oil and gas go via your territory. Besides, by trying to blackmail Ukraine, Russia will, de facto, be blackmailing Europe. I do not think it is to Russia’s best interest.

- Russia’s international role is intensifying in view of its plentiful natural resources, such as oil and gas. Half of European countries are their consumers. The U.S. leadership can fully appreciate the strategic importance of oil. Strategic power of the energy-supplying states will be growing every year. The trend is observed towards greater European dependence on Russian power supplies and a deeper penetration of Russian public and private capital into the European economy. Won’t Ukraine become a bargaining chip in strategic relations between Washington and Moscow or Brussels and Moscow?

- I do not think it will happen. You are speaking of obvious things. Yet there are factors at work, which are less obvious. For example, look at a growing interdependence: Russia gets some influence in the West as the latter partially hinges on its hydrocarbons; but Russia also gets increasingly dependent on the West for markets and investments in its economy. Today, any further growth in oil and gas production and energy generation is impossible without Western investments, technology, and know-how. Therefore, I optimistically believe in long-standing relations between Russia and Europe. I do not see any serious and objective grounds for the manifestation of Russian imperial ambitions. We could observe some of those in Chechnya and, to some extent, in Belarus but that would be it. If Russia pays attention to China and India, it will notice that 35 million of its citizens live in the Far East and Siberia, while the territory of an equal size to its south is a home to 3.5 billion people. Both China and India are enhancing their economic and military might. In order to survive as a state, Russia has to become part of Europe. And for Russia to become part of Europe, Ukraine has to turn up there first.

- You know, very few people in the EU seem to regard Russia and Ukraine as close to them, in Christian, societal, and cultural terms. Europe should think of its expansion as a civilization. For that, it should attract Russia and Ukraine, pull them towards itself. Yet this understanding requires broader horizons…

- You are right, few people think of anything but themselves, their own life today or tomorrow, at the longest. Thinking and discussing long-time prospects are the responsibilities of persons with a geo-strategic vision. When 45 years ago de Gaul spoke of Europe stretching up to the Urals, he sounded unrealistic. What I am saying today can sound equally unrealistic. Yet some of your readers will still be alive in 2050, and they will be able to judge if I was realistic or unrealistic in my forecast.

- And the other readers will probably recollect your predictions as to the USSR collapse and will pay closer attention to your today’s words.

- We will see.

- Sir, do you think it wise of the West to impose such an austere blockade against Belarus? Shouldn’t it engage in a more active dialogue with Lukashenko?

- It is a sensitive issue. On the one hand, I support the blockade. On the other, I advocate enticing. My policy towards the former Soviet bloc was based on these two methods. I knew that, on the one hand, the Soviet Union would not let the West have an upper hand in their struggle for leadership but, on the other, the Soviet elite was very susceptible to Western temptations. That elite was internally vulnerable. They wanted to have contacts with the West, to be invited to the White House, etc, etc, etc.

I met with younger Belarussians. I think the young generation is increasingly identifying itself with the Belarussian nation, with the whole country. Moreover, some of the Belarusian officials with whom I met felt uncomfortable about the Russian-Belarusian confederation. For example, Belarusian ambassadors do not want to be consuls in the Russian diplomatic service.

- Please, answer as candidly as you can: has Georgia become a more democratic state over the two years since their Rose Revolution”?

- Democratization is a process, even in the US. Two hundred years ago, we adopted a democratic constitution, but as recently as 80 years ago our women could not vote. Forty years ago most black Americans, de-facto, had no suffrage.

Looking at democracy as a process, one can state honestly: there is much more democracy in Georgia today than there was two years ago. Yet it is still not a fully sustainable democracy. It is still dominated by personified impulses. Saakashvili is a very charismatic person. He is more like Tymoshenko than Yushchenko.

- Mr. Brzezinski, is Yushchenko a politician that the post-revolutionary Ukraine needs? Or isn’t he?

- Yes and no. Maidan and Ukraine in general needed a leader who could bring them together, unite them. Yushchenko had this opportunity because he is a genuinely democratic person. On the other hand, one should be very careful not to cross the line of conciliation beyond which there is a territory of opportunism. This line is very subtle. Maidan was not the beginning of something apt to grow into a bloody revolution. Had blood been shed, the country would have had a different leader, a more passionate one, perhaps…

- Ukraine can benefit a lot from economic cooperation with Iran. However, the U.S. stance over Iran often impedes the development of these relations. The state’s maturity can be gauged by its leaders’ capacity to strike a balance between promoting universal human values, on the one hand, and fostering useful economic relations, on the other. What is the right way to reach maturity without running to extremes?

- There are no boundaries that could not be drawn on the map. And there is always a balance of interests. I think some sort of agreement between the West and Iran should be achieved. I do not support Iran’s complete isolation. It could bring about a unification of Iranian nationalism and Islamic fundamentalism. The more contacts exist between the West and Iran, the sooner and the more readily Iranian nationalism will divorce with Iranian fundamentalism.

- We have discussed Russia’s prospects 50 years from now. Looking at the near future, how do you visualize Russia after Putin?

- I think the overall tendency will be negative. Russia will strive to adopt a more authoritarian and chauvinistic style of political self-identification. Nostalgia will be fueled by many people’s Soviet mindset and understanding of the “great state” or “great Russia.” However, I think it will be the last sigh, the last gasp of the Soviet Union. As soon as the KGB generation leaves the political arena in 10-15 years, we will see real and drastic political reforms in Russia. There is a large gap behind the KGB generation, but it will, in due course, be filled in by a new Russian leadership that would evolve in a different political environment expediting different values. It will be a generation much more open to the outer world. Within this time, hundreds of thousands of people will graduate from Western universities. I won’t be surprised if in 2015 or 2020 we see a Russian president who is a product the Harvard School of Business, rather than of the KGB school.

- Kaddafi graduated from an American military academy, didn’t he?

- Well, he is a military officer… The Russian elite’s psychology is undergoing profound qualitative transformations. The people who, ascending to the top of government, will know that they are going to be the elite of a super power, will feel and look different. A generation will surface that will realize Russia can be successful only if its neighbors respect it, instead of hating it as is often the case today; when its largest neighbors such as Europe, America, or China have good relations with it and if Russia becomes ever more included in Europe, which will enable it to preserve its territorial integrity. This is a fundamental geo-strategic reality for Russia.

- How should Ukraine live through these 10-15 years?

- It is easy for an outsider to give advice. First of all, the Orange Revolution goals should be realized as soon as possible. You cannot let anybody divide yourselves; you should not accept compromises that could jeopardize the country’s future.

But frankly speaking, only Ukrainians can save Ukraine. A country relying on rescue efforts from abroad usually fails to survive. Your country’s future is in Ukrainians’ hands. For the first time ever! For the first time in Ukraine’s long history! It is the first generation of Ukrainians who, despite certain weaknesses and dependencies, have assumed responsibility for their homeland. Do not look at Moscow, do not look at Washington: just do everything to become a European state.

- But we have “two Ukraines.”

- Maybe, and maybe not. My impression is that people in the east of Ukraine feel something like this: “Decisions for my country should be made in Kyiv rather than in any other northern city.” I hope I am right, and if I am not - it is neither my mistake nor my fault. Still, I believe that something fundamental happened here last year, for the first time. There appeared a feeling of Ukrainian national predestination. Now you need leaders able to mobilize the people’s new energy and implement your plans. I won’t give you the names. Ukraine knows them.

Source: Zerkalo Nedeli