The tragic events in the Donbas and Crimea have brought together Ukraine and Australia. The latter nation has strongly condemned Russia’s aggression and imposed sanctions on Russia. However, our two countries are even more united in common grief, caused by the MH17 tragedy that happened in the Donbas sky in the summer of 2014. This disaster has given impetus to cooperation in the creation of an international tribunal to punish the perpetrators of the crime and prompted Australia to open its embassy in Kyiv. Last year, President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko became the first Ukrainian leader to visit Australia.
The recent appointment of rector of the Diplomatic Academy of Ukraine Mykola Kulinich as ambassador to Australia is a logical and consistent continuation of the deepening of our relations with that country.
Moreover, Kulinich is a specialist in the Asian-Pacific affairs and experienced diplomat. Before leading the academy, he spent a decade heading the diplomatic mission of Ukraine in Japan, where he was concurrently Ambassador to the Philippines, and several years working at the Ukrainian embassy in South Korea.
Kulinich, who is also an old friend of Den/The Day, visited our editorial office recently. He talked to editor-in-chief Larysa Ivshyna and received a valuable gift from her – Return to Tsarhorod, the latest addition to Den’s Library book series. The diplomat also noted that our newspaper was the first Ukrainian publication to “make inquiries with me as the future Ambassador of Ukraine to Australia.”
By the way, when leading our diplomatic mission in Japan, Kulinich gave the first interview precisely to The Day, which he said was much commented-upon at the Japanese Foreign Ministry.
Plans for rapprochement between the two nations as well as expected benefits for Ukraine from cooperation with Australia and the importance of Ukrainian Diaspora are all covered in our exclusive interview with Mykola Kulinich.
ON THE AGENDA
“For a long time, Australia was felt in Ukraine to be very remote, both politically and geographically. It was not just on the other side of the globe, but simply very far.
“It happened so that the fate sent me to the Asia-Pacific region. While serving in Japan and South Korea, no matter with whom I spoke about the economy or politics, it always came to Australia. This country is the largest exporter to the Asia-Pacific nations. Australia exports virtually everything to Japan, South Korea, and now China, including foods, ores, metals – almost all of the latter, including uranium. Incidentally, the nuclear plants of Japan run on Australian uranium.
“When I learned of my appointment to Australia, I immediately turned to bilateral agenda. It was formed by two principal factors.
“First, Australia itself, which is a unique geopolitical economic phenomenon. Unfortunately, until recently it was overlooked by Ukrainians.
“Second, we have become extremely close with Australia over the past year and a half. Our shared misfortune of the MH17 Boeing has brought together the two countries. But most importantly, the Australian spirit has much in common with the Revolution of Dignity and the Ukrainians’ courage.
“I remember that our first political contacts were at the level of the Honorary Consulate of Australia in Ukraine. The Honorary Consul of Ukraine in Australia was then my classmate Serhii Berezovenko. I asked him once: ‘How do you find your posting?’ He responded: ‘Australians are strange people, and their very strangeness is what keeps me there.’”
ON THE BENEFITS OF COOPERATION WITH AUSTRALIA
“Australia is a country that is shaping not only the political and economic climate, but also the world’s geopolitical configuration. The recent signing of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was a defining event for the 21st century. Few people have realized the importance of this. This document has opened 40 percent of the world market, thus creating a trade and economic association, which has no equals in the world.
“What Ukraine can get from cooperation with Australia? We need investment because we have not powerful industry, neither will we have one any time soon, because we need to restore and modernize it. However, investment will not come just like that. Currently, we are starting a complementary relationship with Australia.
“Traditional global investors are the US and the EU. Few know, though, that one of the largest and fastest growing investor countries is Australia. It has even created a sovereign wealth fund called the Future Fund. Australians look for a place to invest their capital.
“Ukraine has signed the Association Agreement with Europe. Imagine how much easier it has made dealing with Ukraine for Australians. They know that the product of our joint efforts could be access to Europe, because they have not yet signed an open market agreement with it. Moreover, few people even think about it, given the geographical remoteness of Australia.
“Australia is itself a unique location, a continent-spanning country. Did you know that 80 percent of Australian flora and fauna are endemic? There is nothing like it in the world. This country has one of the largest recreational potentials globally. It is becoming a worldwide resort, where tourists go in droves. Prices are not that high, and conditions are fantastic.”
ON AUSTRALIAN INVESTMENTS IN UKRAINE
“Australians will develop serious relationships if they have economic interest and see that they can implement their investment plans (there are some already). It is about more than the export of Australian capital to Ukraine. It is about the Ukrainian investment in that country as well. For example, it is no secret that Ihor Kolomoisky has assets in Australia. Other financial groups also have invested some capital there. However, all this is not done systematically. One should come there with strategy and system, as only these will bring success.
“In addition to mining industry where Australians have traditional interests, and want to invest in our mining sector, Australia is also interested in the opportunities offered by the Ukrainian IT sector. They understand that they cannot repeat the phenomenon of California’s Silicon Valley. They need young technology talents who will bring Australia to a new level of development. With a population of 23 million, it is very difficult to compete with Japan, home to 127 million, and even harder with billion-plus China. How Australia can compensate for this? Only by using new technologies. The government is launching new exchange programs, and the most gifted students receive Endeavour scholarships, which cover most diverse fields. This is to ensure that new generations of Australians make a qualitative leap, adequate to the size and capabilities of the country.”
ON MILITARY COOPERATION
“Ukraine is living through a troubling time now, as we are at war. Australia responded to Russia’s aggression and supported us not only morally, but also financially.
“Australia is the closest US ally. The military-political bloc ANZUS [Australia, New Zealand, United States. – Ed.] still exists, serving as a platform for the three nations to coordinate their actions.
“The government of Australia will not independently decide on sending arms to Ukraine. It will act in coordination with the US. Should Australians see that the White House begins practical implementation of the assistance program, I do not rule out them following the suit.
“Now, strange as it may seem, we are interested in other things instead of arms. Australia conducted one of the most successful reforms of the defense department anywhere in the early 2000s, involving civil-military leadership in managing their ministry of defense.
“In Ukraine, it is the volunteer movement that has seized the initiative. Where is the place of soldiers among volunteers and volunteers among soldiers? How to free synergies of this process? Australians have experience of this reform and we find it very interesting. Should we learn these principles, such an experience will serve us better than any weapons.
“Ukraine is proud of its aerospace complex, but few people know about it abroad. Australia’s only effective link with the world is by air. Everything connected with the aviation industry is sacred for them. Who invented flight data recorders? I was surprised to find out that it was Australians in the 1950s. Emergency inflatable ladder is another Australian invention.
“Ukraine could join forces with Australia in the aviation industry. Knowledge held by Australians combined with our capabilities and technologies would allow for very interesting and useful cooperation.”
ON THE UKRAINIAN COMMUNITY IN AUSTRALIA
“One of the world’s most organized Ukrainian communities lives in Australia. It is relatively young compared with the Ukrainian Diaspora in the US and Canada.
“Actually, the Ukrainian community in Australia was formed only after the World War Two. It originated with Ukrainians who were held in German concentration camps. After the liberation, they did not want to return to Soviet Ukraine, knowing that Joseph Stalin’s camps could be their fate. Therefore, these people sought every opportunity to stay in Europe or move to the US, Canada or Australia. The latter country was then mostly virgin land in need of development.
“The community’s life largely depends on its organization, mobility, and dynamism. The local Ukrainians are therefore very active. For example, there are 17 Ukrainian schools in Australia, as opposed to zero in Crimea at the moment.
“By the way, I have already met with a representative of the Ukrainian Diaspora in Australia. It was secretary general of the Ukrainian World Congress Stefan Romaniw. He just fascinated me with his energy and optimism.
“Romaniw already has a plan for the development of our bilateral relations. When we spoke with him for the first time for an hour and a half, he did not say ‘it would be better in this or that way.’ No, he said at once: ‘I have a plan!’
“My conversation with Romaniw instilled optimism in me: we do not need to invent anything from scratch, there are already ideas that meet the requirements of our time. We are effectively making up for lost time now.
“The First Forum of Ukrainian-Australian Cooperation OzUke2015 will be held in Melbourne on November 25-26. It is already known that it will be opened by Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop. We need to mobilize the best representatives of Ukraine to make sure that it will be attended by business elite rather than usual speakers only. It is also planned that Minister of Agrarian Policy and Food of Ukraine Oleksii Pavlenko and prospective investors from Ukraine will come to the event.”