Ogryzko: Georgia Has the Same Place as Ukraine: in EU & NATO

First it was Moldova, then Georgia, and now it’s Ukraine’s turn - Kyev was granted a visa free regime from Brussels, and the citizens of Ukraine will be able to enjoy visa free travel across Europe as soon as early June. This, arguably, was a huge decision on the EU’s part – one of Europe’s biggest countries, Ukraine boasts 44 million citizens. While a big country, Ukraine has also big challenges, mostly thanks to its northern, even bigger neighbor. What’s in store for Ukraine and how do they plan to make use of the visa free regime? GEORGIA TODAY and Panorama TV Show asked former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Volodymir Ogryzko.

What’s the mood in Ukraine and what are people expecting?

Personally, I’m very happy because I started this process some 8 years ago in Brussels when I was a minister of Foreign Affairs. So, it is to some extent my personal victory as well. It is something that opens doors for Ukrainians because for more than four centuries, we have been artificially separated from our homeland, from Europe. This is the very first, but very important, step towards the European community and coming back to our homeland.

What impact will the visa free regime have on Ukraine? Do you perhaps expect a mass exodus to Europe?

We are really a very big country and we do have some problems, but I have yet to seen a country without problems. I don’t expect the visa free regime to produce some new problems for Ukrainians or for our European partners. It it is important for Ukrainians to better understand what it is to be in a democratic society. To have, to say, a fresh look on that. In this sense, I do believe it will accelerate our internal developments because of the very simple reason – if Poles or Hungarians can be successful, why not Ukrainians?

So, you expect Ukrainians will be welcomed in Europe?

That’s our goal. I do understand that, at least for the time being, not all the EU will be happy to have Ukraine on board, but it depends on the Ukrainians themselves. If we are successful with our homework, I really see no reasons to say no. In this case, I think Europe will be interested in having Ukraine and Georgia as new member states because it is important to have successful countries within but not without. After Brexit, one gentleman said: OK, UK out, Ukraine in! Probably a good idea.

What do you think Russia’s response will be? We read that Russian Deputy MFA Meshkov said visa free for Ukriane is a Carrot on a Rope.

Probably the same as Georgia expected. I believe it will be a very traditional reaction. I expect that for a couple of weeks we will have another wave of propaganda from Moscow saying that it is nothing new, it will have no practical impact on Ukrainian society, etc. But I am really convinced that the best answer will be a successful Ukraine and successful Georgia. If so, we will really reach our goals, which are very clear and understandable – full membership in EU & NATO.

In a recent interview, you predicted a superpower status for Ukraine: “In 22 years, Ukraine will be one of the leading countries in the North Atlantic dimension. A line connecting Paris, Berlin, Warsaw and Kyev will be the new spine of Europe that all the other countries will depend on.” What future do you foresee for Georgia in that time?

I’m convinced that we will be strong if we are united. I think that Georgia has the same place as Ukraine – in EU, in NATO. We should really be successful both in Tbilisi and Kyev and in this case it won’t be us asking for membership, they will offer us one. We should be strong and successful and then we will be invited.

What can Georgia do to be more attractive to the western blocks?

Georgia is already attractive – it has made great progress comparing to the state it was in some years ago. My understanding is that Georgia will be a very important state in the Black Sea region, one of the key regions in terms of security. Imagine Georgia a NATO member state and it will change situation in the Black Sea region significantly. If Ukraine will be a NATO member, too, it will mean that it will be NATO’s Black Sea. So, territory for peace, territory for democracy, territory for sustainable development. In this sense, both our countries can be very influential contributors to the stability in this region. Georgia is absolutely important in this process.

It’s an idealistic future but won’t Russia do everything to ensure it doesn’t happen?

I don’t agree it’s an ‘idealistic future’. I remember 1989 when we were discussing Ukraine’s independence. And there was no one who would predict that in 2-3 years Ukraine would be independent. Nevertheless, it happened. I remember US President George Bush, senior, who came to Kyev saying: “Look, Gorbi is a good guy, please, stick with him”. I remember British PM Madam Thatcher who said, frankly speaking, the same. But after a couple of months the geopolitical map changed dramatically. So, let’s have very concrete goals and let’s try to reach these goals. In this sense I believe this idealistic view will become a very realistic one.

You recently said that for every missile coming from the east, Ukraine should answer with three. Do you believe your country has the capacity to win this war?

Each and every day we lose Ukrainian soldiers. It is not a good practice. We should stop it. How can we stop it? In my view in two ways: by really showing Russia and Russian society that Putin’s regime has no future; that democracy is much better that autocracy. Once again, to develop effectively and to show a very good example. And secondly, to be strong militarily. To show Putin’s generals that even an attempt to continue this aggressive policy will have a very high price for them if not bring them to economic or military disaster. My understanding is that we should be successful economically and strong militarily. In this case we can really hope that our goals will be achieved.

This week, another Georgian soldier perished in Ukraine. The Georgian government views them as hired soldiers; mercenaries. What’s your take?

We are very thankful to all our friends who help us to counter Russian aggression, and especially our Georgian friends who have helped and are helping us now. All together we are in the same boat and we are fighting for our liberty because if there is disaster in Ukraine, I do not think that Georgia will survive. And vice versa – if Ukraine is successful, Georgia will be successful as well. So we should unite our efforts and in this sense our common goal and struggle is stop Russian aggression.

18 May 2017 18:29