“If you believe in yourself and decided – do not hesitate. Go, go, go … “
President of Ukraine (2014–2019)
If the Crimean Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic had not been formed in January 1991? If in the beginning of 1992 the Black Sea Fleet was pressed to swear allegiance to Ukraine? If Chornovil had won the 1991 election, not Kravchuk? If in 1994 the majority voted for the European vector of the country’s development, and not for “the restoration of ties with Russia”? And if even then our economy began to reorient to the EU market? If in the first years of the restored Independence the communist-socialist “group 239” did not block all economic reforms?
Back in the summer of 1993, Kyiv appealed to the UN Security Council with the first complaint about Russia’s territorial claims. What if even then we adequately assessed the threat of war and did not carry out a thoughtless reduction of the army? If Ukraine dared to tap into NATO in the mid and late 1990s, as our neighbors did while Russia was weak and no one in the West heeded its objections to Alliance enlargement? NATO membership itself, and not the empty Budapest Memorandum, should embody the principle of quid pro quo (service for service) in the context of Ukraine’s renunciation of nuclear weapons.
And if the law on languages of 1989 was at least a little similar to the law of 2019 and even then measures were taken to separate Ukraine from the Russian single information field and our humanitarian decolonization? If, in the end, the question of one’s own church was pressed in 1991-1992, as it was initiated by the November Council of the UOC in 1991? The questions are interesting, the answers are obvious, but history does not know the conventional way.
Thirty years ago, we Ukrainians chose an independent future, but did not dare to break with the past uncompromisingly. Confused in the arrows of multi-vector, tried to sit on two chairs. Constant looking at Moscow and the belief in mythical brotherhood, paternalism and socialist stereotypes are firmly entrenched in the minds of society, weights hung on their feet and prevented them from moving forward. The political elite, instead of leading the people, on the contrary, wandered in the tail, for a long time was captivated by populist electoral passions and mercantile selfish interests. The planning horizon did not extend beyond the next election campaign, and we were taught to make unpopular life decisions only after 2014.
The collective sin of the elite, accumulated over two decades, fell to atone for our team. History will put an end to the “and”, but I am already proud of the assessment of Ukraine’s foreign friends, who have repeatedly stressed that in 2014-2019 the country underwent more pro-European reforms than in all previous ones.
We, Ukrainians, as a modern political nation, have embarked on the main path of democracy, freedom, European and Euro-Atlantic integration. Independence has given us democracy and freedom that are still inaccessible to most of our neighbors in the Soviet camp. It has instilled in us a sense of civic dignity and national unity, taught us how to defend ourselves and opened up a European perspective. The middle class was formed and civil society emerged. The first post-Soviet generation with a new European worldview, which does not know what slavery is, has grown and matured. Now, as Vyacheslav Chornovil said, “we need a rich human state of free, wealthy citizens, confident in their future.” This is our next task. The economic foundation and spiritual foundation are equally important for the strength of the nation-state organism.
The Verkhovna Rada acted very wisely in August 1991 when it put the issue of independence to a referendum. The famous French thinker Ernest Renan said that the nation is an everyday plebiscite. Since the beginning of the Russian aggression against Ukraine in February 2014, Ukrainians have been voting every day for a united, independent, united, unitary, democratic, European Ukraine. The external threat accelerated the process of forming a modern Ukrainian political nation. Ukrainian-speaking and Russian-speaking, citizens who speak other languages… Ukrainians, ethnic Russians, Crimean Tatars and other ethnic groups – all stand firmly on the positions of Ukrainian patriotism. Side by side they defend our state with weapons in their hands.
Looking back on more than seven years of war, it is safe to say that the enemy has failed to accomplish any strategic task and has failed to bring Ukraine to its knees. Both university auditoriums, home kitchens and social networks are still debating whether we gained independence or won. For me, the answer is obvious: of course, they won. They won with intellect, they won with sweat, they won with blood. The restoration of independence was a natural result of our historical development, a joint victory of many generations of Ukrainians who fought and gave their lives for our national identity, state independence and our own color on the political map of the world.
UKRAINE’S STRATEGIC AMBITIONS MUST BE BACKED UP BY CONCRETE ACTIONS BY ITS LEADERSHIP. THE MORE SUCCESSFULLY KYIV IMPLEMENTS REFORMS, THE STRONGER THE SUPPORT OF PARTNERS WILL BECOME
It would seem that three decades is enough time for Ukraine to stop being a phantom pain for the Russian Empire. However, there are people in Russia who are still itching for Alaska, which was sold more than a century and a half ago, and Finland or Poland, which gained independence more than a hundred years ago. Putin’s recent writing about “one nation” makes you want to clean your weapons and keep your fingers on the trigger. In the dry residue, the article formulates Russia’s territorial claims to Ukraine – and this is the main thing in it! “Our historical territories”, “territorial gifts”, “robbed Russia”, “people close to us living there”, “conditional nature” of borders in the post-Soviet space – these are the key words of this “study”, if we weed out all the verbal gender. Putin does not need Crimea and Donbass. It encroaches on all of Ukraine, because it denies our very right to separate existence as a nation and a state. Therefore, we will pass the point of non-return to colonial status only when Ukraine joins the European Union and NATO, receives effective guarantees of security and territorial integrity. As a participant in three NATO summits – in Wales, Warsaw and Brussels – I know that nothing is impossible if you set ambitious goals. It is a mistake to always rely on others or make constant claims on them. True leaders must succeed in the field of diplomatic competition. Our struggle for a free, integral and European Ukraine requires maximum concentration of efforts and high diplomatic skills or at least basic professionalism… In a word, what our government is sorely lacking. The right words about NATO can be learned. As a last resort – read from the prompter. Much more difficult with specific cases. To want is not enough, it is necessary to be able.
Ukraine’s strategic ambitions must be backed up by concrete actions by its leadership. The more successfully Kyiv implements reforms, the stronger the support of partners will become. The pro-Ukrainian coalition, formed in previous years, has reaffirmed its support for Ukraine. But the current government still has a long way to go to earn the trust of partners. In order not to squander the potential of international solidarity in the fight against the Kremlin and the implementation of pro-European reforms.
No matter how critically we assess the government inside the country, how real statesmen are ready to act with it as a united front on issues related to European and Euro-Atlantic integration, the international coalition in support of Ukraine, security and protection of the country from Russian aggression. Despite claims to Zelensky for corruption, economic failures and the curtailment of reforms, we as statesmen support the few steps taken by the government that are in the national interest.
Of course, we perceive the change of rhetoric from “what a difference” to a state rhetoric as a positive fact. At least formally, after two years of looking into Putin’s eyes in search of peace, the authorities were forced to show a legacy to our policy and somehow stick to our ideological platform, even if for them it is just an electoral game. However, the change in the public positioning of the government did not stop the attacks on postcolonial changes in the humanitarian sphere. The extreme attempt (namely the last, not the last, because there will be more) to revise the fundamental law on language in favor of the Russian-language film business, with a clear conflict of state interests, and “Quarter 95” was indicative.
To understand the scale of Moscow’s revenge in the church sphere, it is enough to review the video chronicle of the procession of the ROCOR and calculate what funds were poured into its organization with the full connivance of the authorities. It would not hurt to ask where they come from. Authorities have repeatedly stated publicly that they do not intend to comply with the law we passed to stop disguising the Russian Church as Ukrainian, for which it should mention in its name the connection with Moscow.
The arms exhibition, which opens on Independence Day, also demonstrates what our team has launched. Nowadays, it has become a bad tradition to approve a state defense order in late spring, when half a year has been lost for defense capability. And the financial security for front-line contractors has not been increased for two and a half years. “Army. Language. Faith ”as a decolonization strategy needs constant protection, and this struggle is part of our daily activities.
It is now clear even to our opponents that only European Solidarity can lead Ukraine to membership in the European Union and NATO. Unlike this government, we know how to implement extremely complex geopolitical plans and have proved it not in words but in deeds. It is obvious that until the next elections on the issues of Euro-Atlantic integration, Ukraine, unfortunately, will stumble on the spot together with the power of amateurs, who will uselessly pour the right words from empty to empty. This is, of course, a waste of time. But Ukraine’s real movement towards NATO and the European Union will be restored.
“If you believe in yourself and decided – do not hesitate. Go, go, go… ». So said Vyacheslav Chornovil, one of the founding fathers of the new Ukraine. Let’s do as he taught us. Ukraine will join both the European Union and NATO. And this, only this will be a guarantee of the irreversibility of our Independence.