Washington Conference Focuses on Triumvirate: Poland, Ukraine & Turkey
New York, NY (UCCA) – On October 19-20, 2011, the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America co-hosted the twelfth annual Ukraine”s Quest for Mature Nation Statehood Roundtable” forum, held in our nation”s capital. This year”s forum explored two relationships that carry deep strategic significance and powerful cultural and historical meanings for Ukraine. The discussion addressed Compelling Bilateral Ties/Poland-Ukraine & Turkey-Ukraine,” focusing on interrelations of Ukraine and Poland (which presently holds the presidency of the EU), as well as Turkey (which has been a very important player with a growing economy in the Middle East). As discussed throughout the two-day conference, strengthening these bilateral relations can prove to be very important in Ukraine”s political and economic development, as well as Ukraine”s stated goal of integration into the European Union.
The conference”s host moderator, Dr. Walter Zaryckyj (Center for U.S.-Ukrainian Relations) opened the proceedings by asking the forum”s three focus countries, namely: Ukraine”s Ambassador to the U.S., Oleksandr Motsyk; Deputy Chief of Mission of the Embassy of Poland to the U.S., Maciej Pisarski; and, Consular of the Embassy of Turkey to the U.S., Huseyin Dogan, to provide words of welcome.
Following their remarks, key note speakers addressed the compelling bilateral relationships in the broader context of Seeking a Europe whole, free and prosperous.” The U.S. perspective was elaborated upon by Baxter Hunt, Director of Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus at the U.S. Department of State. In his remarks he underscored that the United States is pursuing a policy that encourages Ukraine to choose a democratic future, because, …Ukraine”s political and economic development as an independent nation is a vital part of our efforts to realize the dream of a Europe that is whole, free and prosperous. We support Ukraine”s European integration in part because it will lead to long-term stability for Ukraine and the region as it did for Ukraine”s formerly communist neighbors to the West, such as Poland. We also support it because the Ukrainian people want freedom and prosperity, and even, during this period of financial crisis, we are convinced of the EU”s transformative power and that a Ukraine that is closer to Europe will be a Ukraine that is freer and more prosperous.”
James Sherr, Director of Eurasia Programs at the London-based Chatham House addressed whether Europe is still interested in seeing itself whole and free. He underlined the ambiguity of Europe”s position and made clear that they would soon have to take a decisive stance.
The evening concluded with the bestowing of the UCCA”s prestigious Hrushevsky Award in honor of Ukraine”s 20th anniversary of independence to the Honorable John Herbst, former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine who served from 2003 to 2006. Michael Sawkiw, Director of the Ukrainian National Information Service (UNIS), and Tamara Olexy, UCCA President, presented the Ambassador the award for his efforts in advancing Ukraine”s cause.” In his eloquent remarks Ambassador Herbst thanked the UCCA for bestowing upon him this honor, and thanked those with whom he has worked to promote democracy in Ukraine.
Jason Bruder, Senior Policy Advisor on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee greeted the participants on the conference in its opening session on Thursday, October 20, 2011. Mr. Bruder read a statement from Sen. John Kerry, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in which the senator noted: Ukraine is a dynamic country with a strong civil society, and our relationship with its people is important to the United States. I”m delighted that Vice President Biden was able to visit Ukraine in 2009, and I hope that similar bilateral visits are possible in the future…Ukraine needs and deserves trade and investment, and the United States could be an important partner in that effort. But that cannot happen until the Yanukovych government takes steps to improve the political climate in the country and restore confidence in its institutions.”
The second day continued with the presentation of Yevhen Burkat, Deputy Head of Euro Integration in Ukraine”s presidential administration. Outlining the government”s reforms to bring Ukraine closer to European standards he stated, … a potential gap exists between general European aspirations of the society and actual awareness of how everyday life should change to improve its values for each and every Ukrainian home. Education is key, but it takes time and resources, resources of which we are still short of.”
The morning panels addressed the Ukrainian-Polish relations in the past, present and future. Both Krzysztof Bobinski (Unia & Polska) in reviewing the past and Janusz Onyszkiewicz (former Minister of Defense of Poland) in assessing the present made it clear that a Polish-Ukrainian entente would have enormous positive consequences for the region. However, both stressed that without Ukraine”s full acceptance of European standards such an entente would not be possible. Jan Pieklo (Polish American Ukrainian Cooperation Initiative/PAUCI) and Oleh Rybachuk (New Citizen, Ukraine) in looking at the future bilateral relationship reiterated the previous panel”s sentiments but added, in the spirit of the conference, that a Polish-Ukrainian-Turkish entente would have global consequences.
The roundtable also provided a forum for leaders of Ukraine”s opposition to address many of the concerns transpiring in Ukraine. Chaired by Nico Lange from the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, panel participants such as Mykhaylo Sokolov (member of the BUT” Electoral Bloc), Volodymyr Ariev (Leading Member of the National Self Defense” Electoral Bloc), and Valentyn Nalyvaichenko (Head of the Our Ukraine” Political Council) shared their views on the current political situation and future prospects of Ukraine. All three speakers highlighted the current backsliding of democracy in Ukraine as well as the political repressions which have led to the arrest and detention of political opponents of the current regime, specifically Ukraine”s former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and former Minister of the Interior, Yuriy Lutsenko. The opposition panelists emphasized that hope still does exist, as the citizens of Ukraine see their future in Europe. They all agreed that reversing the anti-democratic tide in Ukraine lies with the upcoming parliamentary elections, and thus appealed to the international community to ensure that the 2012 elections are free and fair.
The most anticipated speaker of the Conference was Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski, former U.S. National Security Advisor under President Carter (1977-1981). As the third highlight focus speaker, Dr. Brzezinski, addressed The Global Benefits of Achieving a Europe Whole, Free, and Prosperous” and stressed that if Ukraine hopes to join the EU it must meet the standards of European democracy and pointed out that nations such as Poland became EU members only after first becoming NATO members. Dr. Brzezinski also noted that though the West has assisted and will assist Ukraine in its transition to the Euro-Atlantic community, the Ukrainian leadership must be resolved in their determination and provide effective means of governance to achieve their goal.
Following Dr. Brzezinski”s remarks, a Q&A session ensued during which there were many questions regarding the possibility of Ukraine”s turning away from Europe and towards Russia and how, if any, effects there are on U.S.-Ukraine bilateral relations given the official U.S. re-set” policy with the Russian Federation . Dr. Brzezinski shared his belief that there was no danger of this happening as he felt Ukraine would not be willing to isolate itself from the EU nor the United States.
The Thursday afternoon panels concentrated on the past, present and future bilateral relations of Turkey and Ukraine. In assessing the past, Dr. Lubomyr Hajda of Harvard University and Dr. Hakan Kirimli of Bilkent University, explored the historic inter-relations and cultural similarities of the two countries, even pointing out that the Ukrainian word Kozak is a Turkish word meaning “free person.” They also maintained that the two nations had traded and maintained friendly relations for centuries, from the time of the Kozak Sich, and that in 1914 the Ottoman Empire was one of the first four states to recognize the independence of Ukraine.
Moderated by Andrew Bihun of The Washington Group, Diba Nigar Goksel of the Turkish Policy Quarterly and Serhiy Korsunsky, Ukraine”s Ambassador to Turkey, shared their thoughts on the present and future bilateral relationship, stressing the importance of building the economies of both nations, as Turkey is a vital ally of Ukraine for trade and energy diversification due to its geographical location. One of the critical points reiterated was the importance of Turkey as a strategic partner, in light of the many challenges facing Ukraine, including: energy security, the Black Sea fleet, and the need to expand Ukraine”s economy through infrastructure projects. Also discussed was how Turkey can serve as a facilitator for opening up third world markets for Ukrainian businesses.
The final speaker of the conference”s highlight focus sessions, Stefan Romaniw, the General Secretary of the World Congress of Ukrainians, was introduced by UCCA President Tamara Olexy. Addressing the global Ukrainian Hromada”s” (community”s) viewpoint on Seeking a Europe Whole, Free and Prosperous,” Mr. Romaniw underscored that such conferences are important vehicles in highlighting issues of importance to the global Ukrainian community. In sharing his recent travel experiences in eastern Ukraine during the summer of 2011 he reaffirmed his belief that eastern Ukrainians ardently wish for a united and strong Ukraine. However, one of the main challenges that Ukraine faces is the establishment of a strong people”s movement, covering all vectors of society that would teach the citizens to believe in themselves and be prepared to take responsibility so as not to be manipulated by politicians and political parties.” He continued by stating, if Ukraine is to go down the European route, parties must agree to focus on the building and development of nationhood, statehood and everything that stands behind this.”
Mr. Romaniw added that Ukraine has a very long road ahead, but as the conference proceedings have shown, Ukraine does not need to take that road alone – Poland and Turkey can be its companions.
The Roundtable conference co-sponsors: American Foreign Policy Council, Center for US-Ukrainian Relations, Embassy of Ukraine to the United States, Institute for Euro-Atlantic Cooperation, International Republican Institute, Konrad Adenauer Stiftung/UA, Library of Congress/Open World Institute, Polish Ukrainian Cooperation Initiative, Ukrainian Congress Committee of America, Ukrainian National Association, and Ukrainian National Information Service – would like to thank their sponsors for their financial support, namely: Self Reliance (NY) Federal Credit Union, Self Reliance (NJ) Federal Credit Union, Cleveland Selfreliance Federal Credit Union, SUMA Yonkers Federal Credit Union, Ukrainian National Federal Credit Union, Ukrainian Home Dnipro Federal Credit Union, The Heritage Foundation of 1st Security Bank, the Ukrainian National Association and the American Foreign Policy Council.