Europe considers different approaches in EU-Russia relations - Kosachev
The Parliamentary Assembly of Europe has made good steps in conflict management on ex-Soviet space, believes Konstantin Kosachev, the chairman of the State Duma International Relations Committee.
RT: The Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly refused to vote on the resolution assessing the humanitarian consequences of the war in South Ossetia. Why?
Konstantin Kosachev: Well, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe makes its fifth – I believe – the fifth approach to this conflict. And the previous discussions have been somehow blocked by the two radical conclusions made during the initial phase of this conflict, when everything was presented in a very simplified manner, like big and aggressive Russia taking over small but free, liberal and democratic Georgia.
At that moment the assembly made certain conclusions and afterwards the assembly cannot reach out of this framework and was more or less forced to repeat the same conclusions and formulas again and again, which does not take us anywhere.
This time we got a new rapporteur on this issue, one of the two has been replaced and the new one, which is Mr. David Wilshire from the United Kingdom, tried to take a different look at this conflict and how we can proceed, how we can make progress.
And he presented an alternative version, which was not compatible with the traditional one, so to speak. And this is how we were facing the two alternatives, and there was no way to combine them, to merge them, to make them as a single version. That meant we did not have a single text and could not proceed with any amendments or anything like that.
RT: How were those reports different? What did they say?
KK: I believe that major difference between these two versions is that Mr. Mátyás Eörsi, who is the author of the first version, the traditional version, he describes this situation as a conflict between Georgia and Russia.
And there’s nobody else, and people in Abkhazia and people in South Ossetia simply do not exist in terms of his draft.
Meanwhile, Mr. Wilshire tries to speak in terms of the four parties to the conflict – Georgians, Russians, Ossetians and Abkhazians.
And he speaks for better dialogue – direct dialogue – between all these involved parties, which is a good start at least.
RT: What was the Georgian reaction to those reports and to this decision?
KK: Georgians have all the time insisted on having a written resolution by the Assembly. But this time suddenly when they discovered that it’s not that automatic as it happened the previous time, that there can be different developments in the situation, they changed their approach totally, and suddenly they started to seek excuses for opportunities not to have a written text by the Assembly.
And as a prejudice they used the visit of Mr. Wilshire, the British rapporteur on this issue, to the South Ossetian embassy in Moscow, while he was there, preparing the report. I am absolutely sure that it has not created any problems for anybody, because I see that it has never been used by South Ossetians, or by Russians, as a pretext to say, “look, Mr. Wilshire has come to the embassy, which means he recognizes the independence of South Ossetia.” It would have been absolutely stupid to put it that way. So, this problem, if it exists, it exists only in minds of Georgian politicians and they just create an artificial problem out of it in order to get rid of Mr. Wilshire and to block the alternative version of what the Assembly should do more in terms of conflict management.
RT: What are the chances of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe voting for the resolution at the next assembly?
KK: I believe that the discussion, of course, will be repeated either in June, or in October during one of the next sessions. And yes, we will have a draft resolution on that issue sooner or later, but what is important is that starting from now we have two positions, two points of view, and neither of them can be ignored any longer, and this is a good step forward.
RT: And the voting on Holodomor in Ukraine. The report was changed. What were those changes, and why are they not acceptable?
KK: To start from the very beginning, this story has a long history. It was initiated a couple of years ago by a certain group of Ukrainian parliamentarians representing Mr. Yushchenko, the former president of Ukraine. And as you remember, Mr. Yushchenko was very much in favor of presenting this tragedy as a separate tragedy of the Ukrainian people and to declare it as a genocide against Ukrainians.
Already at that moment, when this initiative was presented to the Assembly, we objected and we insisted on changing the title of this report. It has been changed. It’s not a report on Ukrainian Holodomor any longer, it’s a report on the mass famine on the territory of the former Soviet Union, which makes a big difference, I believe.
And under this title we have definitely no problem to discuss that this tragedy has taken place. And the former Soviet authorities – the Stalin regime – are definitely responsible for this tragedy. And I have no doubts that the Ukrainian part of the Soviet Union was affected most dramatically by this tragedy, and we have no problem recognizing it.
The problem starts when somebody tries to keep it separately from the common tragedy of the former Soviet Union, which is simply not fair.
RT: President Yanukovych recently signed an agreement with Russia about the presence of the Black Sea fleet in Ukraine. His opposition called it a “betrayal of national interests” and called for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to give an evaluation of this deal. What do you think that evaluation will be?
KK: I do not believe that there is any space for that type of analysis and evaluation in the assembly because the issue of the Russian fleet in the Black Sea, as well as our agreements on energy supplies, are purely bilateral issues for Russia and Ukraine. So this is another attempt of the opposition of Ukraine to use any possibility to create further problems for the current government of Ukraine.
I am sure that, firstly, the actions of Mr. Yanukovych were completely legal, in accordance with the Constitution of the country, and secondly, I believe that what he has done corresponds 100% with the national interests of Ukraine. Ukraine, as a national economy, will simply not survive without proper economic cooperation with Russia, as with many other countries, of course, but one should not exclude the other. The mistake of the previous governments of Ukraine, I believe, was that they were trying to develop their relations with the West, excluding Russia out of this composition.
RT: Russia has offered unprecedented discounts for gas supplies to Ukraine. Why?
KK: The relations between Ukraine and Russia have been artificially damaged, destroyed by the previous president. What Mr. Yanukovych does is not specifically pro-Russian; he just repairs the damage, which is present there in many areas. And the gas deal between Russia and Ukraine is mutually beneficial, to my mind. Ukraine will get a discount, and this discount is made just to hold this construction of the fleet alive – there is a certain connection between these two issues, but of course if Russia would give any discount to anybody, Russia needs to understand why this discount is to be given. We have to have certain explanations for our own people, our own taxpayers.
The revenue of Ukraine is $4 billion a year, approximately, in terms of the current volume of gas being delivered to Ukraine, but this $4 billion is the damage to the Russian budget. It’s lost money which Russians will never receive, so for us, of course, it’s also important to understand why we will lose $4 billion annually, money which we could have got rather easily from Ukraine, but unfortunately, creating more and more problems for the Ukrainian economy. This is not our interest, we are very much interested to have Ukraine as a stable economy, as a stable democracy, and for that we need agreements like that.
RT: Recently Russia and the United States signed a new strategic arms reduction treaty. How difficult will it be for the two countries to ratify it?
KK: It’s much more difficult for the American side for one simple reason: Mr. Obama needs a qualified majority with two-thirds in the Senate, which he does not have.
He needs eight more additional votes in the Senate and after the November elections to the Senate, maybe he will need more than that. The Russian president, Mr. Medvedev, enjoys his own majority – we need a simple majority, by the way, to ratify the START treaty, and he has this majority. So here in Russia we will have hard discussions – yes we will have them because we speak about very serious issues which are related to questions of national security of Russia.
But again, it’s much more difficult in the U.S. That is why we want to synchronize our procedures and we will start working on that ratification as soon as these documents are presented to the State Duma and to the Senate. As far as I understand, that will happen sometime in the near future, and we will start working on that. My prognosis is that we will come to the final end of this story not earlier than the first months of autumn – September/October, something like that, in the best case.