On Monday, an international conference - "A New Ukraine in a New Europe", took place at the 'Hyatt Regency' hotel in Kyiv.
Lots of distinguised westward-looking euro-integrators from the Ukrainian government, and foreign guests attended, but, as Tetyana Chornovil reveals in her 'write-up' of the conference, the atmosphere was not entirely pleasant. There were plenty of disagreements and personal 'needle' between speakers.
The conference started on a upbeat note with opening statements from Ian Boag, the head of the European Commission's delegation to Ukraine, and by Ukrainian minister of Foreign Affairs, Voldymyr Ohryzko who said that Ukraine: "Is counting on a positive response to its request for a Membership Action Plan." This was followed by pleasantries via video from Javier Solana.
Next spoke deputy vice-prime minister for European Integration, Hryhoriy Nemyrya [a close confidente of Yulia Tymoshenko] who delivered glowing praise [in English] for the 'leaderene's' efforts in pushing for Ukraine's entry into NATO. He claimed that BYuT were the only party during the elections that had clearly stated the importance of Euro-Atlantic integration for Ukraine - the aim of which was entry into NATO. This caused surprise amongst the others present because at no public meeting during campaigning did Tymoshenko mention this aim. All that she spoke of repeatedly travelling up and down the country was the need for a referendum before any final decision on NATO was to be taken.
The next speaker, ex-minister of defence, Anatoliy Hrytsenko, quickly shot down all the previous fanciful and lofty talk. He claimed tha while Ukraine is probably more ready for MAP that most of the countries who submitted their MAPs in 1999, there was one major obstacle: and that lays in the heads of politicians.
After the president, PM and head of the VR had all signed the letter to the NATO heads to consider Ukraine's MAP at the Bucharest summit in April, he was 70% sure that the decision would be positive. "But now I would say that it is only 20%, because I do not see any serious support from the government for the campaign." He particularly blamed Tymoshenko for not popularizing NATO in the Ukrainian media.
"Why didn't Tymoshenko announce that MAP was [part of] 'the Ukrainian breakthrough? [the name of BYuT's political programme]. Why was the meeting with the general secretary of NATO [last week in Brussels] only announced a few hours before it took place? Why did she not take any journalists with her to the meeting?"
And why had she still not explained to voters why she actually signed 'the letter'.
According to Hrytsenko, co-operation with NATO actually grew more under Yanukovych's government. When he finished everyone applauded passionately..except for Nemyrya.
The current minister of defence, Yuriy Yekhanurov, supported his predecessor Hrytsenko, explaining that remaining neutral for Ukraine, would be even more costly that joining NATO.
The shadow minister of foreign affairs, Konstyantyn Hryshchenko put forward PoR's line on NATO membership, but said he would not do this in English, "because there are already enough problems understanding the question of NATO in our own nation."
Many representatives from the embassies of NATO countries attended. The Polish embassador even claimed: "the greatest unity in Ukraine for entry into NATO existed in Kuchma's time." But former minister of foreign affairs, Borys Tarasyuk retorted that: "A colleague of Yanukovych had told him that they were sure that no-one would admit Ukraine into NATO, so the declarations at that time were only made to break the international isolation of Kuchma."
Other speakers complained of the domination of Russian media particularly televisual media, in Ukraine, which hindered presentation of a case in favour of NATO.
The US ambassador summed up his address saying, "If you want to join NATO, you should first [really] want to join NATO.."
LEvko thinks the blase optimism of some western commentators on Ukraine's quick accession to NATO is misplaced. But it will happen, eventually.
p.s. Yanukovych has been rather quiet lately. A man with his physical attributes would have been useful in the VR - where proceedings have been paralyzed yet again over NATO. Yanik is well known for possessing a 'useful pair of fists'.
He is to chair a meeting of the opposition on Wednesday afternoon. My bet is PoR don't quite know where they are going right now.