1. I don´t pretend to be a specialist on Ukraine. I am also no aprioristic advocate or defender of Russia or Mr. Putin, but due to my life in communism I have been always opposing lies and manipulative propaganda. In this respect the life in communism made us very cautious and not to be easily persuaded and misled.
2. I see the current Ukrainian crisis as a domestic Ukrainian problem later heavily influenced, if not mostly masterminded from abroad. It started as purely domestic problem, but it has been gradually transformed into a fight about Ukraine and about the dominance in Eastern Europe and the world. The Ukrainians have been trapped in a fight where they are only instrumental and more or less passive objects.
3. I don´t possess any special knowledge about Ukraine but I – at least I hope – do have some special pieces of knowledge which may be relevant in the current controversy. I know something about the tenets of the postcommunist transition, about political, social and economic transformation from communism to freedom, pluralistic parliamentary democracy and market economy. I dare to say that as I see it Ukraine failed in this respect more than almost any other Central and East European country: the currently critical Ukrainian situation is the result of this failure, not the result of developments in the last year, not the result of external pressures or aggresions as it is often stated now. The external influences aggravated the problem, not created it;
- I have also some experience with the split of Czechoslovakia, which was also a divided country. Communism successfully blocked many much needed debates and disputes, including debates about states, nations, nationalities. When communism collapsed, all artificially united entities faced a similar problem: the individual parts wanted to go alone. We in Czechoslovakia made it possible and divided the country in a friendly and peaceful manner. It did not happen the same way in Yugoslavia or Soviet Union. Ukraine did not get a chance to deal with its built-in duality in a rational way. We see the results.
Already in April, in a commentary on the situation in Ukraine, we – in our Institute – stated that Ukraine is a heterogeneous, divided country and that an attempt to forcefully and artificially change its geopolitical orientation would inevitably result in its break up, if not destruction. The country was and is too fragile and its very weak internal coherence could not block it. It developed according to our expectations. Ukraine was misused. The West wanted a tension or conflict with more and more self-assured Russia and suddenly and unexpectedly offered Ukraine EU early affiliation. (I can confess that – attending many EU summits – the EU membership of Ukraine has never been an issue.)
The West, especially Western Europe, has accepted a very simplified interpretation of events in Ukraine. According to it the Ukrainian crisis is caused by an external Russian aggression. Internal causes of the crisis are being ignored and so are the evident ethnic and ideological divisions of Ukraine. A forceful external solution of a deep internal problem is being preferred.
The developments that have taken place since the spring 2014 have proved that this approach cannot lead to the solution of the problem. It only deepens the division of the country, increases the tragic costs of its crisis and further destabilizes the country.
It seems to me, that the governing political forces in Ukraine are not looking for a political solution. They don’t have any compromise proposal they could offer to the people of the Eastern part of the country to win their confidence. They rely on fighting, on repression and on unrealistic expectations of Western economic and military aid.
I don´t believe Russia wanted or needed this to happen. Russia was “dragged” into it. Dragging Russia into the conflict is a way to make Ukraine a permanent hot spot of global tensions and to create permanent instability in this country which would deserve – after decades of suffering under communism – a quiet, positive evolution.
Preserving this state of affairs can be neither in the interest of Ukraine, nor in the interest of the EU or Russia, because in the long term all of these players will be loosing. It is necessary to change the perspective, to concentrate on the internal causes of the crisis and to look for a compromise. But a compromise needs starting to talk seriously which is something I don´t see coming. And it requires stopping the one-sided propaganda.
Václav Klaus, House of Lords, European Union Committee on External Affairs hearings, Westminster Palace, November 10, 2014.