The relationship between Ukraine and Poland has always been active, even in periods of difficulty. Warsaw tried to support Kyiv during the so-called tapegate scandal and the Kolchuha affair. Polish President Alexander Kwasniewski played a major role in defusing the recent political crisis in Ukraine. He came to Ukraine on a personal invitation from then President Leonid Kuchma.
Stanislaw Ciosek, foreign policy aide to the Polish president, held various governmental posts in the 1970s and 80s. He was one of the initiators of the Polish Roundtable Accords and an active campaigner for a dialog with the opposition. Between 1989 and 1996 he served as Poland’s ambassador to Moscow. Last week Mr. Ciosek visited Ukraine to attend the Ukrainian-Polish Press Club established by the nongovernmental organizations Democracy and Development Center (Ukraine) and European Fund “Dialog” (Poland). The press club discussed Poland’s concept of the European Union’s eastward policy. Meanwhile, in the following interview with The Day’s editors Mr. Ciosek openly discusses issues relating to European integration, NATO, and the relationship with Russia. He pointed out, however, that he was voicing his own opinion and not the position of the Polish government. It is also worth noting that Mr. Ciosek accompanied President Kwasniewski to Ukraine during the recent political crisis. Therefore, he has first hand knowledge about many of the events that unfolded in Ukraine recently.
“Brussels recently announced ten proposals supposedly aimed at promoting relations between Ukraine and the European Union. Do you think this is a step forward?”
“Ten, nine, eleven proposals...What matters to me is whether Europe gives a definite ‘yes’ to Ukraine. When this occurs (and I think Europe will agree to Ukraine’s EU accession), the ball will be in your court. Then you will face some hard work and serious problems. There will be thousands of specific tasks for you to fulfill. The Poles have paid their price for EU membership. You will also be welcoming bow-tied gentlemen from Brussels, who will be comparing your cows with Europe’s. EU standards literally regiment everything. I’ll give you one example. It turned out that the water Polish villagers cooked food with did not always meet European standards. Large investments were needed. The EU allotted just 15-20% of the required funds, and we supplied the rest, including the farmers.
“This will be a difficult time for Ukraine, its journalists and intellectuals, because the grassroots will show fierce resistance to European integration. Poland even saw the creation of an anti-EU party and all kinds of movements, not to mention criticism in the press.”
“Can the European Union set Ukraine such conditions that its ‘yes’ will actually mean ‘no’?”
“Let’s wait and see. We will be ready to help you, but your efforts will also be very important. Today’s Ukraine is practically divided into two camps: Viktor Yushchenko’s voters opt for Europe and Viktor Yanukovych’s are against it. Things were a bit different in Poland, but our agrarian sector strongly resisted EU accession. Incidentally, we often said that if we opened our borders to European foodstuffs, they would glut us and ‘choke’ our farmers. We did open the borders, but the result was just the opposite. Western Europe began to import our produce. I couldn’t buy Polish apples that I like so much! This is a problem, of course, but not the one that was predicted. On the other hand, our producers began to receive EU subsidies. You should explain to Ukrainian voters that the European Union is like a cooperative: we admit a new member and give him some of our money to raise him to our level. Then he too will pay for the next members. Today, we receive far more money from the EU than we give back, although Euroskeptics predicted there would be a zero balance. In a few years we’ll be helping others, the way Germany is now. So we are taking a sober approach to this matter. Whereas in 1989 a German worker produced eight times as much as his Polish counterpart, now it is only four times. We have made tremendous strides in 15 years.”
“Speaking about Euroskepticism, can you comment on the statement that was heard in eastern Ukraine during the elections: ‘The Poles and the EU support Yushchenko because they want to sell Polish coal here, while Yushchenko will shut down our mines’?”
“That’s ludicrous. Our coal will be more expensive for you because Polish miners earn far more than Ukrainian miners. Our production costs are higher than yours. So Ukraine would be going against all market laws if it chose to buy Polish coal. By the way, we were the ones who were afraid of your coal and Russia’s.”
“Still, many people keep asking the question, what is the real reason why Poland is backing Ukraine?”
“That’s very simple: it is in our interests. Why did Germany support Poland? The cheapest and most reliable way to provide security for one’s country is to have an affluent and well-off neighbor. We want Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus to live in peace, be helped by the EU and be part of an undivided European civilization. Unless Ukraine and Russia enter our common family (of course, Russia is not going to formally join the EU), I won’t feel that my daughters and granddaughters will live safely. There is no threat to us in the West. Of course, there also is an ethnic basis for our relations with Ukraine. We are Slavs and close to each other.”
“Relations between Poland and Russia cooled considerably after Warsaw came out in support of Ukraine’s Orange Revolution. Not only did some political scientists speak about a ‘Polish conspiracy’ but President Vladimir Putin, too, rather impolitely advised Aleksander Kwasniewski to mind his own domestic affairs.”
“Now everything has calmed down, the rift has been healed, which the Krakow meeting of the two presidents confirmed. No matter what the Russians say, we were not conducting any ‘American spy mission.’ Gleb Pavlovsky said there is a certain ‘Kwasniewski doctrine’ aimed at isolating Russia. But we don’t have this kind of doctrine. It’s another matter that Europe must also say ‘yes’ to solving Russia’s problems, and the Russians themselves must say ‘yes’ to Europe. You pronounced these crucial words on Kyiv’s Independence Square.
“The civilization that the USSR offered Eastern Europe has lost. Western Europe understood long ago that freedom, sovereignty, and democracy, which are valuable per se, are also instruments of development, because they promote enterprise and initiative. Now look at the East in tsarist and Soviet times: the elite and subordinates, and that was it. A strong state should use freedom for its development, while a strong state only for the elite, a state that only lives off oil and gas, is the path to disintegration. I once talked with Mikhail Gorbachev about a ‘Chinese model’ for Russia society. Gorbachev explained that this was impossible in Russia-too many liberal traditions, the Russian intelligentsia, and too few Chinese.”
“Does Ukrainian capital stand a fairer chance in Poland now that Viktor Yushchenko has come to power?”
“I think so. I can’t say that we are now going to ‘give’ the Ukrainians a certain factory or ‘present it to Yushchenko,’ but the atmosphere is going to improve and Ukrainian investors will stand as good a chance as others.”
“President Yushchenko has announced that European integration is Ukraine’s strategic goal. But he has said nothing about relations with NATO. The impression is that Russia has ‘the right of veto,’ as far as Ukraine- NATO relations are concerned.”
“No. However, it is normal to take Russia’s opinion into account. Nothing is threatening Russia from the West, and the Russians, the Russian generals, are fully aware of this. Incidentally, it was very wise of President Yushchenko to pay his first visit to Moscow. As for the prospects of Ukraine’s NATO membership, let’s wait and see. When there were Soviet troops in Poland, we never discussed joining NATO. When the last Russian, not Soviet, soldier went, so did we. We did not discuss this with President Yushchenko. It is more important now that Ukraine should not withdraw from Iraq too quickly.”
“In Poland’s view, what should be the optimal deadlines and terms for withdrawing the Ukrainian force?”
“Nobody can say this. Although we know the results of the Iraqi elections, we still don’t know the consequences. Should we leave the new Iraqi armed forces and police in the lurch? They are far fewer of them than the rebels and their sympathizers. I know that both our soldiers and yours are dying there. But if you’ve taken one step, you must take another. I think we must analyze the situation and decide what to do next: either the UN will take control of the situation, or the European force or the Americans will be maintaining stability. I believe a serious decision should be made about Iraq. Viktor Yushchenko still has to discuss the deadlines and terms of the withdrawal of Ukrainian peacekeepers. The Ukrainian president is very popular today. All the world leaders wanted to have their picture taken with him during recent forums in Europe, so we will wait for the time being (laughs).”
“Why is the Odesa-Brody oil pipeline question still open? What’s the problem?”
“Money-Russian, Ukrainian, and Polish-and, of course, politics. Russia would like to assert its right of a monopolist. For Ukraine and Poland, deliveries of Caspian oil are a problem of sovereignty and energy security. It is also an economic problem. When the USSR was falling apart, we reduced Russian oil supplies from 90% to 70%; then we managed to cut this share further because we built an oil terminal in Gdansk. We can organize the delivery of all the required oil to Poland by sea. This costs more but works in emergency cases.
“It is in the interests of Poland and Ukraine to have an alternative source of fuel supplies. We did not know until recently whether there would be Caspian oil. Now we know there will be some. President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan is going to pay an official visit to Poland shortly.
“It is private capital that is supposed to fund the construction of the pipeline as far as Plock, so that oil will flow in the projected, not reverse, direction. Private entrepreneurs often ask, ‘But where’s the oil?’ To complicate matters, the Kuchma government often changed its mind. Now we have a more stable political and oil-related situation. In my view, we must put it bluntly to the Russians, ‘We would like to have alternative sources of oil deliveries. This is nothing against you. This is business’.”
“There were reports of problems with the supply of Russian oil to Poland. Were they caused by economic or political factors?”
“Borderline meters were showing that the oil was running on schedule. It was a virtual problem. Although intermediate operators kept changing, oil was still being pumped. Putin told Kwasniewski in Krakow: oil was, is, and will be available. But there are business problems to be solved, as far as the YUKOS affair is concerned. There is no political subtext here. So far we’ve only had some indirect problems with Russian gas during the Moscow-Minsk crisis.”
“Aleksander Kwasniewski is popular in Ukraine, and we are not indifferent to the question, who will be the next president of Poland.”
“This is anyone’s guess, although several candidates are in the offing. Mrs. Kwasniewska, the most popular one among ordinary Poles, said a few months ago that she would not be running. Polish voters are tired of politics and dream about an unconventional presidential candidate, for example, Jolanta Kwasniewska. Incidentally, the popularity of our radical parties is on the decline. We are a peaceful people. We’ve had so many wars and violence in our history. Radicals, who threaten to wipe out their adversaries, will never come to power in a democratic way.”
“The change of power in Ukraine has brought in the buzzword ‘lustration,’ which everybody interprets the way he pleases. You were an active participant in Polish political processes in the late 1980s. With your experience of ‘revolution’ and reconciliation, can you explain when a country needs lustration and how it should be carried out?”
“This is a difficult question. Look at Lithuania: no one knows where a sizable part of the KGB archives is now. Destroyed? In Moscow? In my country, word had it that half or even two-thirds of all the documents had been destroyed. A Polish newspaper recently fired a journalist who had used a so-called agent list not corroborated by other documents. It turned out that the list included both victims and assassins. Sometimes it’s impossible to find the truth. Look at what the French have done: they still haven’t disclosed the names of people who collaborated with Hitler. With Hitler! There was lustration in Germany, but it was based on complete documentation. You must go about this very cautiously in order not to do great harm. Look at what’s going on in Poland and other countries. Don’t hurry. You have to think twice before starting the ball rolling, because it is not clear where the lists and files are, to what extent they are authentic, and what Moscow will say to all this.”