NOTHING HAS FINISHED YET
Wiesława Lewandowska talks with Anna Fotyga about too long silence of the world and ruts of the Polish Foreign policy
WIESŁAWA LEWANDOWSKA: – Since February 2014, Poland has been in the centre of diplomatic actions for the sake of solving the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. Have you corrected you critical evaluation of the foreign policy of the government in relation to it?
ANNA FOTYGA: – I will admit that I was surprised by this sudden change of the attitude among many political players in the Polish arena. It was a radical turning point. However, I think that it is not the time to be surprised by it, as there are more important matters. Today, when we are facing such a difficult situation in our region of Europe, we should, first of all, think about its safety because challenges are high. The high challenges commanding mobilization of all forces have happened many times in the Polish history and were well used – they were a big chance. It was so in 1918.
– Where can we see the big chance?
– The year 1989 brought sovereignty to Poland, and the following years – to many other countries in our region. Membership in NATO and EU improved their geopolitical situation, but the neo-imperialist policy of Russia became a danger. Functioning of Poland in EU and a few other neighbouring countries hindered the hegemonic tendencies of Germany, their close cooperation with Russia, realization of such projects as Nord Stream, being dangerous for our safety. The situation was worsened by the American reset in relations with Russia. We were alone among those who were playing over our heads. The Polish government did not oppose to those tendencies. Luckily, the situation started to change. This change was caused among the others, by the attitude of Ukraine. From my point of view, the situation of its slow descending into the sphere of impacts of Russia, with silent agreement of the West, was extremely dangerous for us.
– You were very criticized your vision of the foreign affairs….
– But now I do not need to verify my vision of the reality. Whereas, others – both the Polish and European politicians – will have to agree with the diagnosis of my political group, that in the Middle Europe nothing has finished yet, that it is still an area of potential conflicts. I remember that in May 2007, the Foreign Minister of Portgual, visiting Warsaw, was trying to convince me that the process of the collapse of the Soviet Union had finished, that there were no dangers in that region. President Lech Kaczyński and the government of the Law and Justice party, however, were aware of the dangers which came from the neo-imperial Russia. At that time, our opinion was shared by leaders of other countries in the region. The example of their cooperation was Georgia. However, the world was not ready to accept the difficult truth.
– Only the present Russian shock therapy is changing this attitude, isn’t it?
– Indeed, only now it is changing - although, in my opinion, very carefully – it is a look at Russia. And maybe, different wind will blow, also in the matter of the crash at Smoleńsk…
– Because this Russia, with which everyone wanted to have good and friendly relations, suddenly turned out to be different and is causing a trouble?
– Nothing happened suddenly. And this today’s surprise resulted from the fact that nobody wanted to find out earlier what was really going on, what this Russia of Putin looked like in fact. For ‘good’ of some important matters correct silence and obedience were chosen. Being satisfied with business relations, there were hopes that there would not be other groups of Chodorowski, Magnitski, that there would not be another such history, like the one of Shell in Sachalin… Recently I have met a Polish priest in the USA, who had spent 20 years in Ukraine and Russia; he told me about mysterious deaths of Catholic priests in Russia. And in Poland nothing was said about ‘little incidents’ because Poland and the whole world had more important things…..It was silence for holy peace – for the sake of relations with Russia…
– We all remember well how much was said about hopes for good relations between Poland and Russia after the catastrophe at Smoleńsk.
– I will admit that I was not ready and I am not ready yet to accept the fact that a kind of good might result from that tragedy…However, today the good is surely the fact that finally those who govern Poland, realized the fact and expressed their readiness to accept the difficult truth, difficult path. I think that such a serious reflection will be useful for everybody, also for the whole Polish society, all Europeans.
– As a Foreign Minister in the government of the Law and Justice party, you chose this more difficult path – against the current of Polish ‘velvet’ diplomatic routes designated by the team of Bronisław Geremek, which meant rigid opposition to both the West and Russia. It was said to be unreasonable.
– I think that in our times – that is, in the years 2005-07 – we opposed quite effectively to tendencies dangerous for Poland and the whole Middle and Eastern Europe, appearing in the international policy. I remember when after taking over the authority by the team of Tusk, I was comforted that our government, although it did not have much time, managed to discover such ruts in the foreign policy of Poland, from which it is impossible to depart.
– But they were departed…
– They were departed from because of conformity which diagnosed that it is impossible to reign in Poland, while opposing to the main trend of the so-called modern world. It was the ‘diplomatic calculation’, even if it was contradictory with Polish interests. In the beginning there were attempts to persuade Poles to think that it was all about the change of the style into the more world style. We – that is, ‘incorrect rightist-party’ were blamed that we brought embarrassment to Poland, although president Kaczyński was an intellectualist in any respect and to a bigger extent than among other politicians.
– Now it is the hour of return to the ruts suitable and good for Poland?
– Finally, now we have a political agreement about the fact that the supreme raison d’etat commands us to demand acknowledgment and defence of our Polish interests. And it means that we are entering those ruts of the years 2005-07! I hope that the foreign policy of the current government is just departing from its side track on which it has been for 7 years. And now, I would like to hear ‘sorry’ from those holding the authority.
– For what?
– For president Lech Kaczyński, for mocking at his diagnosis concerning our region of Europe which is just appearing so dramatic in our eyes. Despite the grief that we had to experience so much evil, so that we could finally understand, we should act together as much as possible, or at least towards the same direction. At present it is our to be or not to be.
– And in the acute sense – to be or not to be for Ukraine.
– One things is out of a dispute and important for us – the Ukrainian society is trying to get rid of the post-Soviet system forever. Let it be the common aiming of the whole society of Ukraine, regardless of ethnic roots; also, or maybe mainly its Russian-speaking part. Solidarity with Ukraine is our ration d’etat today. Defending its sovereignty and integrality of the territory, we are defending ourselves.
– Pro-Russian sceptics predict that this new Ukraine – even if it will defend itself from Russia – will not be successful on its own…
– However, I am optimistic. I met both the prime minister Arsenij Jaceniuk and president Oleg Turczynow and also Andrij Paubij, the present chief of the National Security Office who was a commander of Majdan ( and once he was awarded by president Kaczyński for his cooperation with Poland). I have a good opinion about them, I think that they are able to manage the matters of Ukraine well. And in this direction, which will never be a danger for Poland. In the most important matter for us, in the sphere of safety, our interests are contradictory. And Majdan will become the founding myth of the new country and Ukrainian patriotism. It is a good course of events for us.
– Russia scares the whole world with unpredictability of nationalist elements of Ukraine. As Poles, we do not have to be afraid of anything, do we?
– After recalling of the December council of NATO-Ukraine in Brussels, with the parliamentarian Jan Dziedziczak, we suggested its calling in Kiev. And, indeed, in February an international meeting was held there, and interesting discussions. We were also walking in Majdan for a long time, with a white and red emblem and I can assure that we used to meet there only with friendship. I did not doubt at all, that it was an authentic social protest, carried out with determination. I did not notice any anti-Polish features in it. However, I told my Ukrainian interlocutors about Polish anxieties because they have their historic justification. They knew that I speak as a person who is friendly to Ukraine. I think that my remarks were accepted.
– Do you think that Ukraine will cope without Russia, but with strict demands of the West?
– In my opinion, Ukraine has such a great potential that its bad economic situation can be a temporary, short-term matter. The opposition is very serious in considering the necessity of a competent diagnosis of the difficult financial-budget situation and mobilizing a staff of specialists, and it has a big group of highly qualified experts, including Jaceniuk who was a vice-president of the central bank of Ukraine. When in 2007 in Oslo I met Arsenij Jaceniuk as a newly nominated Foreign Minister, I thought that he is a professional technocrat, young Ukrainian eagle seeing much higher benefits from the cooperation with the West. Today I see a mature and professional politician in him.
– Józef Piłsudski used to say that without free Ukraine there is not free Poland. Could we today add that there is not free Europe either?
– Somehow it looks so. Europe has just had a problem with overcoming many years of quite convenient businesses with Russia of Putin. And it is still a reason for which European actions for the sake of Ukraine are coming too quickly. If the western sanctions had been used in the first moment of persecutions of students, it would have brought an anticipated result, maybe today this whole Russian game would be carried out in a completely different way. Indeed freezing assets of some oligarchs by banks of Switzerland just after pacification of Majdan was the actual acknowledgement of the new Ukrainian government, the political world recognized it only declaratively and so far there have been and still are big understatements.
– Despite the EU extraordinary summit meeting with the participation of the prime minister Jaceniuk, despite his talks with president Obama?
– Constant announcement that in case of escalation of the conflict more painful sanctions will be applied as well as some actions, means that nothing has developed so far, that the world is afraid of Russia, does not want to tease it, in order not to lose anything. First of all, business-economic relations.
– Putin seems to know about it.
– It seems that business pressures in important European countries caused a situation that the attitude of the western world towards Russia is still ambivalent and even if it is changing, it is changing too slowly. Clearer changes about the evaluation of Russia are in the USA and on the both sides of that political arena there. Let’s hope that it will be transferred also onto the European ground.
– On Majdan there appeared such a dream that Russia and Ukraine could be European. Is it possible?
– What does ‘European’ mean? It would be good if in Russia any democratic elements could appear in Russia – however, we still hope because Russia is not only Putin. It would surely bring the Russian society closer to Europe. I do not think it could happen in the nearest time. Especially that Middle and Eastern Europe should create a democratic community which would be a partner of equal rights towards all big players of this world. However, at this moment I would not include Russia into this community. It has still got a long road ahead.