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

A lesson in state-formation

For the first time in the history of the Summer School of Journalism, students met at the same time with three super-competent people – Ihor KABANENKO, Ihor SMESHKO, and Yevhen MARCHUK
1 August, 2017 - 11:43
Photo by Ruslan KANIUKA, The Day

These statesmen, who once held high offices in Ukraine, have visited the Den’s Summer School of Journalism before – but only one at a time. From this angle, the meeting between students and Yevhen MARCHUK, a public and political figure, ex-prime minister of Ukraine; Admiral Ihor KABANENKO, former Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine; and Ihor SMESHKO, a political figure, ex-chairman of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), was really unique.

“We have prepared a special intellectual menu for you,” Den’s editor-in-chief Larysa Ivshyna said, introducing the guests. “Our motto is ‘The best for the best.’ Undoubtedly, they are professionals with a background, that is, the baggage of positive actions. I can even say it is the crown of all our efforts on the home stretch of the 15th school. It is very important to us that young people should see that the popular belief that there is no elite in Ukraine is, to put it mildly, not exactly fair. It is here, albeit a small one.”

As Ms. Ivshyna aptly noted, “If we want to regain the territory, we must stand up for and seek the truth.” Our respected experts helped the students to understand what the truth is in the context of what caused the current situation in this country and what effects this may have. This meeting, which the summer school students had been looking forward to and preparing for, became a true lesson in state-formation. What really matters is to be able to heed. This applies to the entire society.


Anton SESTRITSYN: “Mr. Marchuk, Russia’s attack on Ukraine in 2014 was, in particular, the result of previous impunity. Russia had been preparing and showing its aggressiveness for a long time in all the years of Ukraine’s independence. What were the manifestations?”

Yevhen MARCHUK: “Indeed, the first signs of Russian aggressiveness towards Ukraine occurred when you perhaps did not yet go to school.

“A stage of emergency was declared in the Soviet Union during the abortive coup on August 19, 1991. A few days before this, Gen. Valentin Varennikov, Commander-in-Chief of the USSR Land Forces, arrived in Ukraine. There were three military and one border-security districts in Ukraine at the time. The 43rd Strategic Missiles Army was based here. What did this mean? It meant that 178 strategic missiles, each of which had 10 warheads equal to 10 A-bombs dropped on Hiroshima, were targeted on the United States of America. Almost no US air defense systems could intercept these nuclear vehicles. The 43rd Army could in fact wipe half the US off the map.

“So when Varennilov came to Kyiv, he, together with Stanislav Hurenko, First Secretary of the Ukrainian Communist Party Central Committee, and General Chechevatov, Commander of the Kyiv Military District, went to see the Verkhovna Rada Chairman Leonid Kravchuk. At the time, Ukraine was still part of the Soviet Union, although the Declaration on Political Sovereignty had been adopted a year before. Of course, an urgent meeting of Soviet Ukraine’s Council of Ministers… Varennikov tries to persuade Kravchuk to impose a state of emergency on Ukraine because the putschists declared this state in Moscow. Talks are underway, Kravchuk does not agree. Then, at night, an airborne division from Belarus lands at Boryspil. To ‘establish order’ in the sleeping and unprepared Kyiv is a matter of a day or two. In other words, the division seizes all the control centers in Kyiv, while the three military districts all over Ukraine, subordinated directly to Moscow, elementarily block all the management systems in the provinces. But we managed to lock up this division in Boryspil and come to terms with the Kyiv Military District command, and the division left in two days. So Moscow first tried – unsuccessfully – to resolve the Ukrainian question militarily on August 19-24, 1991.

Photo by Ruslan KANIUKA, The Day

“Now let’s take 1992-94 – the Crimea epic. The situation was also rather serious, almost 90 percent similar to the operation conducted in 2014, with some minor differences only. First of all, there was no law on political parties in Ukraine at the time, and several regional pro-Moscow parties were quite active in Crimea. Besides, the Russian Black Sea Fleet was based on the peninsula. This means Russia deployed quite a powerful force in Crimea. The Ukrainian Navy was in its infancy at the time and could not yet repulse an attack. Crimea was also rife with ethnic Russian retired servicemen. So it was a strong potential.

“They began to attach political coverage to this operation, instituting the office of Crimean president. That was a serious blunder of the Ukrainian parliament. The pro-Russian Meshkov was elected president of Crimea. He invited Russian economist Saburov to chair the government of Crimea. So there was the Black Sea Fleet, an information machine, pro-Russian president, political parties and government. Then President Meshkov dissolved the local parliament, and the Ministry of the Interior, other public administration elements and a TV company were seized. They also wanted to seize the Security Service but failed to do so, for we airlifted a task force with my first deputy Valerii Malikov at the head and a special Kyiv-based antiterrorist unit Alpha on helicopters at night. They were also planning a referendum on Crimea’s statehood. So it was a scenario fully similar to that of 2013-14. The only difference is that we managed to stop it at that time, but not in 2014. We know that the central government was ruined after the Maidan, and Russia took advantage of this moment, brought into play the strong-arm mechanism and seized Crimea.

“There was one more attempt – the Tuzla reckless scheme in 2003. It is a small islet in the Strait of Kerch, a part of the spit that went from the Taman peninsula, on the Ukrainian territory. In 2003 Russia began to build a dike to connect Tuzla and the Taman peninsula and establish an outpost there. At the time, Ukraine redoubled its efforts to join NATO in the future, while Russian propaganda shouted that they would not allow the Alliance’s ships to ride at anchor near Rostov. To allegedly prevent this, they needed to seize Tuzla. Both sides brought up military units. But the scheme flopped.

“I have given only three obvious examples of Russia trying to lay its hands on Ukraine in a military way. The year 2014 was a fourth attempt. This makes us draw the conclusion that Russia has been showing an expansionist attitude to Ukraine from all sides since times immemorial. Was it possible to adequately organize a counteraction? It is a separate topic. It will be explored in great detail, but not now. After the war. All I can say is that, instead of harping on the same tune – ‘Hold out!’ – Kyiv should have sent a special group of experienced servicemen to Crimea and hold a defensive military exercise there in response to the Russian war games near our borders. For a military exercise is a simulated war: all the strategically important facilities – military, managerial, governmental, maritime – are placed under strict guard. All the mechanisms and defense-related resources are tapped. There was a sufficient resource for this in Crimea at the time, in spite of what the Yanukovych clique had done to destroy it.”


Anastasia KHAZOVA: “Crimea is not an object of discussion at the Minsk negotiations today. Yet the American and some European partners often mention the peninsula’s question as a necessary step to restore normal relations with Russia. Firstly, did we have a chance not to allow Crimea to be annexed? And, secondly, in the framework of what format, just in what way can we regain our peninsula?”

Ihor SMESHKO: “My viewpoint has remained unchanged since the first days of the tragic 2014 events in Crimea. We were capable of defending Crimea. One of the factors that caused its loss was absence of professionals and career officers in the political coalition that gained supreme power in the country after the second Maidan and of individuals who had nonpartisan experience of work in the sphere of national security and defense. One of the coalition leaders asked me: ‘Is there a procedure and a possibility in our country to immediately arrest the two self-proclaimed leaders in Crimea?’ On the same night I had him meet two of my former subordinates, commanders of special-purpose units, who had combat experience. They said: ‘We will bring them to Kyiv within a day or two, but we need orders and adequate support for the operation.’ They never received orders, although new army and police chiefs had been appointed. So how could Crimea have been retained? A timely decision during the war is a guarantee of success in battle. If decisions are not made in good time, time will play against you. We could defend ourselves for up to five days. But no decision was made. The military do not decide by themselves – this kind of decisions is to be made by the leadership under the Constitution.

“What strategy should be pursued with respect to Crimea? Naturally, we will never accept the annexation of Crimea. It is a sovereign territory of Ukraine. Russia has acknowledged our borders in the ‘Big Treaty’ of 1997 and in the Budapest Memorandum of 1994. We should always insist that the norms of international law be restored in this conflict. The West is pragmatic, not romantic. They care about their national interests and their citizens. We should also drop the idea of paternalism – that somebody will come and do something for us. The Ukrainians should establish a powerful state, a real democracy, and a strong economy. Nobody will do this for us. The procedure and dates of regaining Crimea will depend on the strength of the Ukrainian state in four dimensions: the economy, the military, diplomatic, informational capabilities, and, accordingly, on the weakening of these elements in the aggressor state. Besides, we should persuade our Western allies diplomatically and informationally that the West has also had a glaring defect since 1991 – it is not united, it has no common strategy, it does not excel in protecting the Euro-Atlantic civilization and democracy. Therefore, the role of Ukraine in their defense is our common cause today.”

Yevhen MARCHUK: “Do you know when the question of regaining Crimea can emerge? When, let us say, the president of Russia, the US president, the British prime minister, the president of Ukraine, and the president of France will hold negotiations at a certain stage. They will sit down and read the Budapest Memorandum. Let me quote two items from memory: the parties shall ensure territorial integrity and inviolability of borders, and, what is more, none of their weapons (i.e. not only nuclear) will ever be used against Ukraine. The document is registered in the UN Security Council. And Trump asks: ‘What’s the matter, Vladimir? Your predecessor, Russian President Yeltsin, signed it, did not he? It is registered in the UN Security Council, isn’t it? You must fulfill it.’ And all those present would support this attitude. Incidentally, when President Petro Poroshenko was visiting the US, he reminded the hosts of the Budapest Memorandum and the commitments the US took at the time. Still earlier, last April, on a visit to the UK, he also publicly reminded Ms. Theresa May of this. Now, after all the reminders, we should state the problem as follows: ‘So let us observe international treaties!’

“Some Ukrainian and foreign experts also entertain the idea of establishing an international nongovernmental organization of authoritative people, which would raise the question of responsibility under the Budapest Memorandum. For nobody has ever made a greater contribution to the US security than Ukraine. Do we have a moral right to raise this question? Certainly. Crimea is the territory of Ukraine! This question should be raised wherever possible.”


Maria ORYSHCHYNA: “Mr. Kabanenko, you have repeatedly said and written in your articles that Ukraine ought to build a light, the so-called ‘mosquito,’ fleet, but the leadership has adopted a different strategy. What do you think of the current condition of the Ukrainian Navy? To what extent are we protected from the sea?”

Ihor KABANENKO: “The protection of Ukraine’s sovereign rights at sea is a very acute problem now. Ukraine has lost 70 percent of its naval assets in Crimea. It is the bulk of the national navy – ships, naval bases, and the infrastructure. Unfortunately, a small part of naval servicemen have settled in continental Ukraine – in Odesa, Mykolaiv, and other populated areas. Today, we have just a couple of warships and a few motor boats – it is insufficient for defending Ukraine, and we do have things to defend. Very few know that Ukraine’s exclusive economic zone is a huge Black Sea water area of about 73,000 square kilometers, a sixth of the total Black Sea, three times as large as the area of Crimea. In accordance with international maritime law, Ukraine’s sovereign rights apply to these water areas, i.e., they are an element of our state’s sovereignty. It is also important that there is a continental shelf under the exclusive economic zone with enormous deposits of mineral resources, above all, hydrocarbons, such as oil and natural gas. This zone comprises intensive sea communications and major Ukrainian ports. For example, the Odesa hub consists of three largest ports: Pivdennyi, Odeskyi, and Chornomorskyi. This means about 63-65 percent of Ukraine’s total port transshipment (import and export of various cargoes, containerized shipments) and up to 250 vessels of different purposes in the daily shipping flow. This huge economic potential accounts for about 10 percent of the national GDP.

“But this zone, especially its north-western part, is today full of dangers that require an adequate response from us. These dangers range from sea mines to the likely use of high-precision weapons. There can be no vacuum at sea. In other words, in the absence of a deterrent to adequately respond to these threats, this space will be (and, unfortunately, is already being) filled with another state. This naval axiom has been confirmed by the historical experience of sea battles. As is known, there was a bloody rivalry in the 18th-20th centuries for Ukraine’s Black Sea littoral areas – from the Russo-Turkish wars to World War Two. The Cold War period saw all kinds of operations aimed at establishing the USSR’s domination, first of all, in the north-western Black Sea. Historical experience is convincing: to be weak at sea means to increase the vulnerability of coastal areas and allow the worst scenarios to occur.

“What is the way out of this situation? Some suggest refurbishing a guided-missile cruiser at the Mykolaiv 61 Communards Shipyard, building a series of multipurpose corvettes (‘pocket-size’ frigates by concept), and other cost-intensive, technologically unwarranted, and even adventurous projects of building a high-seas fleet in Ukraine. But we have serious problems in the littoral waters now, and it is here that we should set up a reliable sea shield. Experience and logic show that we should seek asymmetric and cost-effective means to solve the knotty problems of Ukraine’s weakness in the littoral zone, relying on the state’s real resources. Arguments are saying (even crying out) that we ought to grasp the ‘mosquito concept’ of building the national Navy. It does not mean at all to furnish the fleet with all kinds of ‘junks’ – it is about a large multi-role grouping of small high-speed (more than 50 knots) naval platforms (search-and-attack, amphibious, and anti-torpedo boats armed with high-precision missiles) that can respond rapidly and flexibly to the existing threats – from deterrence to an adequate impact, if necessary. This is the naval ‘architecture’ Ukraine really needs.”

Maria ORYSHCHYNA: “Taking into account all the threats, mainly the Russian one, of course, what are the weakest areas?”

Ihor KABANENKO: “In my view, there are at least two areas of this kind. In the Back Sea, it is the Odesa port hub with an intensive shipping traffic, a well-developed river network, a strategically important Zmiinyi island, and other factors. Historically, Odesa and the north-western Black Sea always were, and still are, geopolitically important. For example, if a commercial vessel gets blown up in this area by an ‘unknown’ explosive’ device (mine), this may interrupt maritime communication, with all the negative consequences. Moscow has redeployed a brigade of boats armed with long-range high-precision missiles from Sevastopol to bases in northern Crimea, much closer to continental Ukraine. Odesa’s outer roadstead is now in fact within easy reach of this rapid strike grouping. Unfortunately, there are also some other indicators of danger. Our partners are aware of the aggravation of threats – some most up-to-date NATO warships arrived recently at the Odesa port. Among them is a British air-defense destroyer designed to intercept aerial targets, including missiles.

“The other area is Mariupol, i.e., the Sea of Azov. There are some landing-accessible beaches there, which can be used if an attempt is made to break through the so-called ‘land corridor to Crimea.’ The sea can be also used to increase maritime activity on land – from creating zones of instability to conducting large-scale amphibious operations that involve various branches of service. For example, the April multi-branch exercise of the Russian Black Sea Fleet in Crimea involved not only the marines, landing ships, and aircraft but also airborne troops units. All this testifies to real threats and demands that the Ukrainian Navy be furnished with the necessary means as soon as possible.”


Ihor SMESHKO: “I’d like to continue the sea theme and advise you to read the second edition of the memoirs of Hetman Pavlo Skoropadsky. You will also see, unfortunately, in these memoirs that you can sometimes only change the names and still see though all the maladies of our society, state, and elite, even though 100 years have passed since then. In one of the episodes, Skoropadsky describes a visit to Berlin and a meeting with Kaiser Wilhelm II. One of the questions he raised was that of Crimea. If you look, incidentally, at the map of the Ukrainian Hetman’s State or the Ukrainian National Republic drawn in accordance with the Brest treaty, you will see that some territories of present-day Russia in Voronezh and Rostov oblasts and Kuban, mostly populated by Ukrainians, were part of Ukraine. But Skoropadsky looked forward to solving the problem of Crimea and the Navy in Berlin. He believed that ‘Ukraine without Crimea will feel as if it were without legs.’ I will remind you that the hetman was a professional serviceman, a lieutenant-general of the imperial army. He wrote that Ukraine had two seas, but if it had no Crimea, the ports of Odesa and Mariupol would remain unprotected.

“We must know and remember that Ukraine is an ancient state with strong historical traditions. The history of Rus’ is an ancient Gothic history of the Rurikids’ empire which made a decisive civilizational contribution to the development of Eastern Europe, as much as the empire of Charlemagne did in the development of Western Europe. Those who say that ‘Ukraine’ is an invented word do not just know history, for this is quite an old name that first appeared in the Hypatian Chronicle in the 12th century. French Captain Beauplan, who drew up the first map of our part of Europe in 1648 at the Polish king’s request, also used this name. It shows ‘Ukraine’ as part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Voltaire wrote the history of Charles XII, praising the hetman’s country, where democratic traditions were the most advanced in Europe. He used the name ‘Ukraine.’ Although Peter I introduced the new name, ‘Russia,’ for his empire in 1721, we should distinguish between Russia and Rus’, for these are different names and historical meanings. The people of Rus’ are those who lived in the three fourths of the former Rurikids’ empire with Kyiv as capital, and only the parent country was called Rus’, whereas all the dependant regions were called ‘lands.’ There were Pskov, Novgorod, Vladimir-Suzdal and other lands in vassalage to Kyiv. In the 17th century, Ukraine emerged as a Cossack state with democratic traditions that were almost inexistent in Europe at the time. Nor were there a united Italy, Germany, and the US at the time. So Hrushevsky was right to title his book History of Ukraine-Rus’. If this name had been immediately used in 1991, things would be in their historical places now.

“But a potentially powerful Ukrainian state failed to form its own wise national elite in the early 1990s. You see, it is impossible to build a strong state without a national elite and its professional component which takes centuries to form. Populism is a terrible thing! When the Orange Revolution occurred, the entire world saw what kind of a civil society we had. This society cut short the creation of a new dictatorship in the country. But a bad mistake was made: the uneducated new leaders of the state introduced a fallacious system of top political appointments in the ministries, agencies, army, and police. In the civilized democratic world, there is a clear legal distinction between apolitical professionals and politically-appointed officials. Unfortunately, this did not happen in Ukraine. One of the gravest problems still is that the professional component in the sphere of national security and defense has fallen to the level that poses a dire threat to the very existence of the state. Professionals have been ‘washed out’ all the time. Any political party that comes to power only dreams of extending the term of office. For when you are in power, you have finances and administrative impact. The legislative branch of power must supervise the executive one which ‘feeds’ off the budget and will do its best to make this budget work for its eternal political clout.

“Unfortunately, our presidents, especially those who wanted to wield dictatorial powers and were building an authoritarian system, did not see the difference between Russia and Ukraine. It is impossible to build a dictatorship in our country. The Ukrainian is a natural farmer and a free Cossack. This country is ‘doomed’ to being a democracy. But democracy has certain signs. One of the factors of democracy is a certain level of the middle class in the country. The middle class is small- and medium-scale owners, highly-paid teachers, doctors, engineers, and other high-skilled employees. Another factor is a certain level of political culture. Unless we raise the level of political culture among the critical masses of voters, we will be always making the same blunders. I don’t know any serious politicians in the West, who have switched sides at least once. This occurs very seldom, whereas it is a tradition in this country. We therefore need a critical mass of the middle class and a proper level of political culture.”


Oleksandr PODVYSHENNYI: “Ukrainian society has interpreted the appointment of Kurt Volker as special US representative for Ukraine negotiations as a serious signal that the United States are interested in resolving the Donbas crisis. Is it really a positive signal? We can see the special representative already doing active diplomacy – he has visited the Donbas and keeps meeting Ukrainian and European politicians.”

Ihor SMESHKO: “It is undoubtedly a positive step to appoint a brilliant career diplomat. He worked as analyst in the national intelligence system and has been a professional career diplomat for many years. Although the current US president is being criticized for having never been in government service, the American system is so well-balanced that it will lead anybody to the path where there are continuity of governmental policies, priorities in the sphere of national security and defense, and institutional memory. Kurt Volker is a professional, not a political activist. The statements he has begun to make are in line with the US national security course. It is important that he immediately went to the spot and called things by their proper names – it is a war waged by Russia.”


Oleksandr SAVCHENKO, serviceman, Armed Forces of Ukraine: “Mr. Marchuk, you said in an interview with the 112 Ukraine TV channel that the bill on changing the ATO format is right, albeit belated. You also emphasized that this draft law should be followed by a relevant governmental program. To what extent is it realistic to adopt these documents?”

Yevhen MARCHUK: “I meant the future reintegration of the Donbas. Knowing the experience of many countries and international organizations in settling this kind of conflicts and being aware of the uniqueness of our conflict (our war), we should not fully copy anybody’s experience in our situation. At the same time, taking into account all the circumstances, I have long been putting forward proposals. Why have I been doing so? Getting ready for the Minsk negotiations, I contacted those who prepare this information and those who know very well what is going on on the other side. The occupied territory is beset with very serious phobias about the Kyiv authorities. It is the result of Russian propaganda and real military clashes because both they and we suffer from ruination. Besides, thousands of young people aged 14 to 18, who remained behind there, have grown up in the past three and a half years. These people have not been forming in a Ukrainian mentality or in a Ukrainian media environment.”

“I’ve been raising this rhetorical question from the very outset: ‘Imagine that a certain radical decision was made, and Russia withdrew its forces, a part of bandits ran away, and the Ukrainian authorities came to the Donbas.’ There must be not just a hypothesis for reflections but a governmental program of the actions the Ukrainian authorities will take once they enter the liberated territories. This is necessary for us and for the people who live there, as well as for international partners who help us. What and to whom will the authorities give guarantees? How and whom will they be helping? What about the lost property and business? Who will be held responsible and what for? Does anybody know it? OK, the Ukrainian authorities have come. Who exactly? For the information I have says that the local population is sure that when the ‘Banderaites’ come, they will imprison one half of the people and shoot the other half; some will run away, some will mysteriously disappear. It is not only Russian propaganda that incessantly fuels these fears. And, above all, in what way will the Ukrainian authorities come there? As interim administrations, under the auspices of international organizations, or at once by elections? Or in any other way? There are a hundred or so questions like these. It may seem to some a remote hypothesis. But it’s totally wrong to think so.

“I have broached a tiny fraction of the points to be explained not in the shape of comments but in the shape of an approved, signed, and announced governmental document. I mean this thing should come out ahead of other official documents on the Donbas reintegration. There are very many other matters of an economic and social nature, which I omit here.”


Maria NYTKA: “A Russian-Belarusian war game, West-2017, is planned to be held near the border with Ukraine in the fall of this year. Defense Minister Stepan Poltorak has already said that the exercise is of an offensive, not defensive, nature and Ukraine must be prepared for any developments. What strategic goal do you think this exercise pursues and how is Ukraine supposed to react?”

Ihor KABANENKO: “Russia has long kept silent about this exercise. Then there were commentaries that the war game is of a defensive nature, and so on. They are silent again. Neither the number of troops, nor the venue of the exercise, nor the units to be deployed is being disclosed. If it is a defensive exercise, these details should be made public, as the Vienna document requires. I must note that the problem with this exercise emerged quite long ago because the Russian General Staff planned to engage an enormous number of railway vehicles to carry Russian troops to the territory of Belarus – about 4,000 railway cars and wagons. So many trains can transport a whole army for a long distance. As for Ukraine, I fear that the West-2017 exercise may lead to the formation of an offensive grouping near our northern borders, sort of a mailed fist lurking in the north from Chernihiv to Kovel. There can be different scenarios, and I hope the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces is analyzing the situation and taking the necessary measures. We remember the way events unfolded in 2014, when the Russian troops were stationed not far from Chernihiv in the direction of Kyiv. In my view, Ukraine must be ready to respond adequately.”

Ihor SMESHKO: “There are four elements of a state’s strength, which are, incidentally, mentioned even in NATO’s guiding documents. It is the economic, military, diplomatic, and informational components. The strength of a state is measured by these four components. In Russia, the economic component is relatively weak today. There is a serious resource base which makes it possible to reap hard-currency revenues. But, for example, Russia’s GDP is equal to that of Spain. At the same time, it has a powerful military component – first of all, nuclear weapons. Russian diplomacy is also having a strong impact on West European countries. The informational component is one of the world’s strongest propaganda machines, which also works effectively inside the country, mobilizing the support of almost 90 percent of the population for the authoritarian regime. This exercise, ranging from the Kola Peninsula to Voronezh, will engage all the military branches, including even the Space Military Force. The war game is aimed, first of all, at testing the nerves of Ukraine and our north-western neighbors. It is a show of military force for both the local population and the Western world. It is important to us that NATO should wake up at last and understand that weakness provokes the aggressor, while force deters him, and also begin at last to apply all the four elements of state power to stop the aggressor.”


Karina KHACHATARIAN: “Petro Poroshenko publicly announced recently that Ukraine aspires to join NATO and expects the Alliance to give it a Membership Action Plan. Shortly before this, the Verkhovna Rada made certain amendments to the law. The West showed a lukewarm response to this announcement, emphasizing the necessity to carry out reforms. What are our chances?”

Ihor KABANENKO: “In my view, we are standing fair chances, but everything hinges on right strategies and the way they are applied. Yes, Ukraine must become an Alliance member, but the big question is the right organization of work at the working level. Routine contacts are important not only as part of the implementation of joint programs, projects, etc. It is a good way to establish friendly ties, for friends always come to one another’s rescue.

“Unfortunately, there are various stereotypes about membership in this security club. For example, it is said there should be no hot conflicts on the aspirant’s territory, but this was the case at the beginning of NATO’s enlargement. I think many things have changed in terms of geopolitics. Moreover, there is a hot conflict right in the center of Europe today, which affects the security of Euro-Atlantic civilization. One might as well not notice it, but it is a fact.

“In other words, we do have chances, but we must not miss them. We should focus our efforts today on such things as operational interaction, operational planning, and expansion of our working-level representation in NATO’s both strategic commands. We should pay more attention to the implementation of logistic projects, the concepts of the assessment and planning of forces, and other programs. We should work in such a way that the Alliance could see our aspiration, trust us and believe that we are really doing our best to join it. Then all this will produce a result. One more aspect: it is now being heatedly debated that Ukraine should not provoke Russia and adopt a neutral status. But practice shows that it is a road to nowhere.”


Ilona LOZHENKO: “After the war had broken out, the attitude to the Ukrainian military changed radically. The Armed Forces of Ukraine are among the top trust-winners of the Ukrainian people. What do you think about today’s military elite of Ukraine?”

Ihor SMESHKO: “I don’t think any European country could have an earthly chance to become a modern democracy if it didn’t have the military elite. Historically, there is not a single developed European democracy built without participation of the professional military. As a rule, the military build a democracy and then hand it over to civilians. Just look at the life stories of General Washington and General Bonaparte. The civil code of the latter is now the groundwork of civil law in all Western countries. Generals Mannerheim, Pilsudski, de Gaulle, and Ataturk, battlefield officer Churchill… In Israel, it is difficult to become an influential politician unless you have served in the army. The military elite are the people who are ready to sacrifice their life for the independence of their country at any moment. Not all the military can make good politicians, but most of them can make good state-builders. Conversely, I personally do not know instances when populists and merchants turned into state-builders. Unfortunately, our military elite have been in the process of elimination since 1991. The military are feared because, as human history teaches, when statehood and the nation come to the crunch, it is, as a rule, the military that curb the brazen and self-loving politicos.”

Bohdana KAPITSA: “Mr. Marchuk, you have said repeatedly that once Russia committed aggression against Ukraine, you carried out personal mobilization. To what extent do you think our politicians have changed after the war? Did they carry out their personal mobilization, have they become more responsible?”

Yevhen MARCHUK: “Undoubtedly, the war forced many to call Russia, at least publicly, an aggressor. But, unfortunately, there are very many of those who do not wish to take an attitude. So this process is still in progress. You, journalists, should clearly see through false patriotism. The truth is that we are still at war with Russia. A military intelligence officer was blown up in downtown Kyiv, similar things happen to SBU officers in the Donbas. Look into these questions more closely whenever you interview or simply chat with somebody. There are such rarely-mentioned but easy-to-use sources as websites of the SBU, the General Staff of the Armed Forces, the Foreign Intelligence Service, and the Tactical Intelligence Service. So ‘break this rock’ and put the truth across.”

Den’s Summer School of Journalism is supported by NATO Information and Documentation Center in Ukraine.

By Maria ORYSHCHYNA, Oleksandr PODVYSHENNYI, Oleksandr SAVCHENKO, Den’s 2017 Summer School of Journalism