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Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

Richard LUGAR: Reducing of your own vulnerability will protect you against energy pressure

22 January, 2008 - 00:00

Co-Chairman of the US Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs Richard Lugar is nearly the greatest friend of Ukraine of all the foreign politicians. He has been visiting Ukraine since 1993, therefore he is very keen on Ukrainian affairs and challenges standing before our country. Can Ukraine’s joining NATO entail a new “curve of instability”? How should Ukraine resist Russia’s possible applying of energy gears? Is there among the candidates for the presidential post a leader able to lead America to meeting new challenges. These and other questions are raised in The Day’ s exclusive interview with American senator Richard LUGAR.

You maybe have heard some comments from the Russian politician Sergei Tarakanov, who said that inviting Ukraine to NATO — MAP — would create an arc of instability. So why are the United States and Ukraine insisting on making this step? Put another way, do you think that if Ukraine joins the MAP this will create another arc of instability between Russia and Ukraine?

Well, I, of course, respect Sergei’s viewpoint, and he is certainly a remarkable advocate of thoughtful rights and positions. I tried to emphasize during my press conference today and other public statements that the request comes from the three leaders who have signed the letter here, and that the United States’ position, as I see it, would be to support the decision of the people of this country. And I think that’s a little different idea than Sergei has conveyed: that somehow or other the United States and Ukraine are formulating a plan, either deliberate or inadvertent, for instability in relations with Russia. That certainly is not my intent and, I’m sure, not that of our president, who has worked arduously with President Putin and with others, as I have on a much lower rung in the arms control field. We had a celebration of Nunn-Lugar at the foreign ministry in Moscow, which was very warm. I just mention all of this to say that my thoughts are, obviously, for the strength of this country and its foreign policy and stability. But the support of the United States will come at a point when the people of this country react to the MAP idea and wish to move ahead toward genuine consideration for membership.

But will there be an arc of instability between the West and Russia?

I see these past few months as being months in which Russia and Ukraine have worked toward more stability. What could have been more arguments over gas prices and/or other points of contention have not been forgotten. But on the other hand, President Putin himself has said that he wants to make agreements that do not lead to instability and large clashes. I appreciate that. I think that is fair enough on the Ukraine side to say that they have been sensitive to this. The clash, such as occurred with the cut-off of natural gas, was well beyond what either country had comprehended might be, quite apart from the shock of the international community. So it seems to me that this is helpful. All of the countries are weighing carefully, not only questions of stability, but likewise in a pragmatic way of working together. Now that doesn’t lay aside the potential for rivalry or even a very tough conflict. Therefore, I also advocated in my press conference today that it would be prudent for Ukraine to develop more of the natural gas and oil resources that are here, although they are hard to get to. They require a lot of investment, time, and international infusion of capital. Those are difficult subjects for Ukraine to discuss, but probably have something to do ultimately with stability, when it’s apparent that this country is not weak on the energy side, it cannot be pushed, leaving aside NATO, just simply in the close relationships that are now there with Russia.

Last year, and I think the year before, you said some tough words against Russia. You said that Russia is a threat, the same as Iraq and Venezuela. Have you changed your opinion since then? How do you see Russia now?

Well, my characterization was with regard to Russian energy policies. I commented that there had come to be a trend in which nationalized energy companies had not only been competitors economically, but had begun to use the weight of their energy resources for broader political purposes. This is probably not the first time this has occurred in the history of the world, but nevertheless we’ve now had a spate of this, not only from the Russians. But I cited Iran and Venezuela as, I think, reasonable examples of countries that have understood, at least momentarily, the position they had vis-a-vis others on energy alone — not on armed forces, not on general trade issues — and were prepared to utilize that. Now I don’t think that’s healthy, ultimately, although I understand the temptations of leaders to act that way from time to time. All I’m suggesting is that the antidote to that is for countries to become much less vulnerable. One way they would do so is through energy conservation: for example, through the displacement of the need for imported oil by bio-fuels, or hybrid engines, or all the various other ways. Here in Ukraine we note clearly the two new nuclear reactors and the complexities involved with the possibility that I suggested at some conferences: the use of wind power to displace even as much as 15 percent of the electrical power. These are steps that really don’t end the potential for misuse of authority through energy, but mitigate its effects very substantially.

Would the United States help Ukraine if it ends up again in a situation where Russia raises the gas price? You have said that the gas pipelines are expensive to maintain and they are in much need of investment.

Well, I believe that the United States would advocate transparency in energy pricing. It is apparent that part of the problem for Ukraine came through the fact that gas prices charged by the Russians were very, very low. Now, the Russians made the suggestion that they were going to raise those prices, not to the European level, but higher than they had been. Obviously, this is a shock to the economy of Ukraine, based upon a much lower situation, but it’s one in which there could be some reason for aggressions to rationalize that in fairness to all parties, there is a European price, so there is a more universal world price. So it seems to me that the United States’ position is not to be based upon the fact that people are moving toward market principles. You could criticize how abruptly you do this, how humanely you proceed, but then the Russians learned that that was probably not the best thing to do on Dec. 31, to have these abrupt cut-offs. It led to all sorts of scrambling in Ukraine to siphon off gas from lines that then were headed to Poland or elsewhere, and the international predicament in which the Russians did not want to see their European customers. So all I’m suggesting is pricing in every country of energy is very sensitive. The subsidization of citizens of Ukraine is substantial but not unique here. Most of the governments that I have been visiting, despite the fact that they are busy in the oil and natural gas business, there are subsidies for individual citizens, in part to meet the problems of very poor people who are not prospering immediately, even though the wealth of the country may be changing. So it seems to me that there has to be a sense of realism as to the gradualism involved, but nevertheless the market’s supply and demand equate to a price. All of this has to be discussed in one package.

What do you think about the papers that are saying that there is not one person that can see the challenges and lead America? Do you see among the Democrats and Republicans someone who can lead the United States toward future challenges?

Well, I have not yet endorsed a man or a woman for the presidency of the United States, but I look forward to working with the successful candidate, as I have now with presidents from President Carter onward, and I’m grateful for an opportunity to be of counsel to these presidents, to take missions often on behalf of our country, which they’ve asked me to take either as Republicans or Democrats.

Can you say whether Hillary Clinton or John McCain, or some other Republican, would be more prepared to meet future challenges?

I think several have a good foreign policy background, so I’m not prepared at this moment to differentiate between all of my friends who are running for president. As you’ve observed almost every week, we have more primary elections, so we have some chance to sort out this field.

By Mykola SIRUK, The Day