Transcript: Ukraine President Victor Yushchenko

On September 24, 2008, Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko spoke at a luncheon hosted by the Atlantic Council in New York.

Transcript by Federal News Service Washington, D.C.

FREDERICK KEMPE:  Mr. President, Ambassador Shamshur, and ladies and gentlemen, I’m Fred Kempe.  I’m President and CEO of the Atlantic Council.  It’s an honor for us to be hosting President Yushchenko at this Atlantic Council luncheon with Chadbourne and Parke at this historic moment for your country, for your region, for Europe, for Euro-Atlantic relations. 

Secretary of State Rice, who I met with last week, has called this period of time following the Russian invasion of Georgia a watershed and we’re looking forward to hearing your remarks if you agree with that, and if so in what respect. 

Before I introduce you for your remarks I do want to acknowledge Chadbourne & Parke, LLP, and particular thanks to Charlie O’Neill and Larry Rosenberg for your support of this luncheon and for your support of the Atlantic Council as corporate members of the Atlantic Council.

Some people around this table are familiar with the sorts of events that we do in Washington.  This is the inaugural event of the opening of our New York office.  We’ve moved the director here to look over the New York office, Elena Pack, and thanks to Michael DeSola of DeSola Group who will be hosting our office here. 

We have three board members here:  Bow Cutter, Managing Director Warburg Pincus; Brian Henderson, Chairman of Global Public Sector and Global Markets Investment Banking at Merrill Lynch; and Joe Robert, Chairman and CEO of Joe Robert & Companies. 

I won’t list all the work that we’ve done on Ukraine – I’ll spare everyone that – except to say that we’ve worked very closely with Ambassador Shamshur who is one of the most talented and gifted ambassadors in Washington.  And with his staff who are also very capable.  It’s some of the most important work we think we do because we consider the future of your country and the direction it takes to be one of the most decisive elements for the future of Europe. 

So there are many President Viktor Yushchenkos to introduce.  There’s the successful central banker of the 1990s when we first met.  There’s the prime minister who championed economic reforms, and many people underestimate the changes of Ukraine during the ‘90s that established an institutional framework that helped what happened afterwards.  There’s the political, the leader of Ukraine.  There’s the survivor of poisoning – TCDD dioxin – September 2004 where Austrian doctors said it was the highest ever measured in a human being.  But there is most of all now the president of Ukraine I’m introducing who came into office through free elections following what the world of course knows as the Orange Revolution, with the inauguration in January 2005. 

And finally, now there is the man to introduce who is at the middle of what some are calling a triple crisis in Ukraine.  The first is a governing crisis starting September 16th with 30 days now to decide what’s going to happen with the coalition.  And leading U.S. figures are calling it a governing unrest that could not have come at a worse time for Ukraine.  There’s a Russian-Georgian crisis which also has its reverberations for you.  And there is of course, perhaps not a crisis, but at least some questions coming out of the Russian-Georgian situation about the Moscow-Kyiv relationship, and particularly regarding the Russian minority population in Crimea and questions you yourself have addressed with some unease regarding the Black Sea port Sevastopol.  So we have lots to talk about. 

And with this, I could only thank you for honoring us with your time during this very busy week.  The floor is yours and we look forward to your comments and of course a question and answer session.

(NOTE: President Yushchekno’s remarks are delivered via translator.)

PRESIDENT VIKTOR YUSHCHENKO:  Honorable assembly, this is a great honor for me to speak to you today and have this meeting and discuss the whole range of issues that you’ve just mentioned.  I would like to speak very clearly and distinctly about the principle issues for us today.

I would start with the security issues.  Those issues are of highest priority for Ukraine when we’re speaking about its future.  In the 20th century Ukraine declared its independence six times and five times we lost it.  And there was only one reason: because there were never any international guarantees for our territorial integrity.  We paid tends of millions of lives for an independent Ukraine to happen, but if we’re not integrated into the national community it will be very hard to provide any response in terms of sovereignty and territorial integrity.     

That’s why when we’re speaking about our foreign political strategies I’d mention two main things.  This is integration to the Ukraine Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance.  I’m sure that this is not only triggered by the Ukrainian desire, but this is also very important for the geopolitical issue.  This is the question: whether Ukraine goes back to the swamp under somebody’s cover like it used to – or, will it choose a different direction and go towards European integration.  That’s why our longing to join the Membership Action Plan and in the future to eventually become a NATO member, is a motivated and clear position that we would like to express. 

We are absolutely devoted to this pace.  Of course, however, there are still a lot of discussions as to whether Ukraine is ready to go that way and to succeed, and I would like to start by saying the following.  Of course, not everything and not the whole Ukrainian community is absolutely for integration into NATO.  And it was actually the same case 10 years ago with the Bulgarian Society, the Society of Czech Republic, and of Poland.  So this is the dialogue – the right dialogue that is going on inside the nation.  What kind of security models should we choose to ensure our sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity? 

The number of those who are for this position is growing while the number of those against declines.  So we are saying that right now we expect to be qualified as the Membership Action Plan participant, which is not membership.  We need this dialogue to organize a high quality dialogue inside of our own society, to bring new arguments to the society.  And I have absolutely no doubt that in time Ukrainian society will be able to provide the right answer, the approving answer, that was earlier given by Bulgarians, Poles, Romanians and Hungarians. 

However, there is still difference.  What we call Eastern Europe, starting from Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania in the north, and then straight down to Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia: they endured a communist regime for only 40 years compared to Ukraine’s 73 years.  And for about 60 years our population suffered massive disinformation and misleading information about the alliance and its targets and goals.

And I will be even more frank, saying that Ukraine goes this way with its full devotion and everything that Ukraine had to accomplish to be considered a candidate for the Membership Action Plan has already been done.  We are the only non-NATO member that participates in all the peacekeeping missions of the alliance.  We joined all the political statements recently made by the alliance.  And we actually support all the political and security principles of the alliance and – starting from what we say – the political and security components, and we fully support this idea.  We carry out the reform of the Ukrainian military forces, and the military-production complex has already been harmonized with NATO standards. 

Frankly speaking, I can’t find a single provision that somebody could use and say that we have not coped with the standards of the alliance.  Of course, the ball is not on the Ukrainian side of the field.  Of course, the allies will have to decide whether Ukraine is invited to the Membership Action Plan in the course of the foreign ministers summit in December.  And the recent developments in Georgia have once again proven that we have no other alternative to ensure our territorial integrity, our independence and inviolability of frontiers. 

Secondly, when we’re speaking about the Caucasus crisis and the conflict we need to take into account one thing.  This conflict did not only reveal the problems of relations between Russia and the Caucasus.  This is not only a Georgian drama, but I believe a drama of the whole region.  This conflict has shown that the Black Sea area does not have a sufficient and ample security balance.  This conflict was a baffling task for Ukraine because Russian military forces that are located in the Crimean Peninsula in Sebastopol were used for aggression, which means that with the current status of the Black Sea navy being positioned in the Crimean Peninsula, Ukraine could easily become involved in any conflict with third parties. 

And finally, last but not least, there is also one very important provision about our security.  The Caucasus crisis is by far a crisis for the whole European region.  And I’m sure that today both the European Union and NATO have to ensure peace in a larger eastern area, and Ukraine could perform this very objective.  And in this context we fully understand that NATO’s enlargement towards the east, towards Ukraine, is another component of this ensured security.  The benefit for the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance will be that it is able to ensure its ideals in a larger area.  And for us this is one of our fundamental national interests, because only under the aegis of NATO and the Euro-Atlantic common security can we ensure independence and security for our people. 

I can’t help but talk about the European integration of Ukraine as well.  This is another invariable component of our strategy.  Three years ago Ukraine was not even recognized by the European Union as a market economy.  We’ve come through intensive dialogue with the European Commission for the last three years, and as a result we now have the memorandum about association agreement with the European Union that was recently signed in Paris.

I want to emphasize that this is nothing to do with the neighborhood agreement as it was offered one and a half years ago.  This is not a partnership and cooperation agreement like it was proposed two months ago.  I think this is one of the strongest documents that the European Union has signed on a bilateral level.  There has never been a stronger association agreement than the one we are developing right now.  It provides for a fully-fledged free trade area and is the first time that a security component has been included, where the principles of territorial integrity, independence and inviolability of frontiers will be recognized.  And thirdly, we are now starting the process of ensuring a visa-free regime for the citizens of the European Union and Ukraine. 

To finish, I would like to touch upon a number of direct integration projects between Ukraine and the European Union and North Atlantic structures.  First, three weeks ago the European Commission issued a mandate to begin negotiations on harmonizing the Ukrainian electric energy system with the European one.  That’s how the common electric energy space is established.  Two years ago Ukraine joined the Bologna Process and in 2010 we will become the general and common European education space members.  Right now negotiations have started on establishing a common airspace – this is about practical and applicable integration. 

In 2012 Ukraine and Poland will be hosting the 2012 European football championships, and this represents a very good support policy towards the east.

We are also talking about the concept of establishing a common energy space between the Baltic, the Black and the Caspian Seas, which will be approved in Baku later this year.  The deal will mean supplying hydrocarbons from the Caspian regions through the Black Sea to the Odessa-Brody Pipeline straight to the European Union.  In October there’s going to be a large conference on the gas transportation system of Ukraine.  I’d like to also point out that the Ukrainian gas transportation system is one of the biggest in Europe and I am therefore willing to do everything for this system not to be monopolized.  The Ukrainian natural gas transportation system has to be integrated with the whole European market.  I have very positive feelings about the accomplishments that we’ve recently had between Ukraine and the European Union, which we never had four years ago.

And two years ago the European Union became the number one trade partner to Ukraine.  Thirty-five percent of all Ukrainian exports now go to the European Union.  I’d like to emphasize that we are now witnessing a new quality of relations both with the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance.  We don’t give any reason for somebody to doubt the clarity and purity of our intentions.

And once again, when we’re speaking about Georgia today, this is not an issue of bilateral relations only.  This is the question of geopolitical interests.  One side wants to go back to something while all the rest are saying that we have to support European and Euro-Atlantic integration and move through the democratic process.  And I’m sure there is no other alternative for Ukraine today than integration towards European and Euro-Atlantic structures. 

Of course, following those two paths will be hard or even impossible without support from the United States.  That’s why we truly value every single message of support coming from the United States: from the U.S. government, from the Congress or Senate – support for Ukraine’s intentions to be integrated.  And believe me, when the Caucasus’ conflict just occurred, the statement from the U.S. government was so important for us; it was very strong and it was so supportive because it was a principled and clear position above all else.  Where there are values there are principles and we can see what we protect.  And the strong message that President Bush made today during the UNGA once again proves our intentions and their clarity. 

A couple words about our domestic crisis.  I don’t see any tragedy here, no drama.  Moreover, I’m very optimistic about it.  I want to explain to you why.  Actually, what happened on the second of December and why one of our allies acted as they did can be explained.  This is about those obligations that were tearing the coalition apart in the past but that took place behind closed doors.  And when the moon came on the second of September to take one of the two positions – the choice between a democratic position and a pro-Moscow position – this is when many questions arose. 

Why wasn’t there any statement from the Ukrainian government about the Georgian conflict – I mean from the party of Yulia Tymoshenko, the prime minister?  Because this is a governmental party.  All the governments in Europe expressed and made their statements except for the Ukrainian prime minister.  Why? 

Two months ago there was a government resolution that I initiated regarding the movement of Russian military forces across the territory of Ukraine.  The government approved it but the prime minister refused to sign it.  She told me she was going to sign it in seven days, then it was 20 days, then it was 30 days, and after her vacation she said she wouldn’t sign it.  If you ever heard anything, a single word, Membership Action Plan – or MAP – from the prime minister, please tell me the date.  I’m not even talking about such a controversial word as NATO; I’m only talking about the MAP. 

I want the prime minister to be clear about her position on the Black Sea navy and about the problems that occur on the threshold of this presence.  This is a territory issue, an issue of assets, navigation spots, radio frequencies, and the status of the fleet after 2017.  Those are all urgent issues.  If you ever heard any position of the prime minister about those things, please give me the date and time.  And the fact that it was an intention to set up a new coalition by the prime minister with the communists and the part of the regions is just the start of making that formal.  After the prime minister’s visit to Moscow, communists were introduced in the Ukrainian parliament.  I mean, are those people – are those market people?  Is that our ideology?  No.

This is about the exchange of interests and obligations that are going far beyond national.  But this is the main strike and the main undermining of national interests.  The crisis that we currently have in Ukraine is similar to the Georgia crisis, but the crisis in Georgia is a military one.  Yet taking into account all the provocations in the governmental system, such a scenario happened in Ukraine.

On the second of September the prime minister introduced a new draft law that limits the authorities of the president to appoint the prime minister, which was the first provision of our coalition agreement because we cancelled a similar decision adopted 12 months ago in accordance with the Ukrainian constitution.  The same draft laws were introduced by the prime minister about the prosecutor general and the chief of the National Security Service with the aim to convey the authorities with the right to appoint and the right to propose the candidates for political office; in other words, for speaker of the parliament.

The prime minister also offered to have Viktor Yanukovich become the speaker of the parliament.  She also introduced a draft law on establishing the special investigations commission to impeach the president.  This is a tragedy of democracy – no, this is a purity of democracy.  This has nothing to do with democratic ideals.  When we try and analyze those processes, this is just about dismantling all the democratic reforms.

But I wouldn’t like you to perceive my speech as being very pessimistic.  We will cope with it in a brilliant way like we did three years ago, no tents, no mortars, no military people, no shots; only through democratic mechanisms and procedures and we will find a decent response.  The plan that was brought into Ukraine after the Georgian conflict to such people like the prime minister, it was only about one thing.  There was only one goal:  how to make the early elections – the early parliamentary elections, the early presidential elections and the local government elections – this September and change the whole geopolitical map in only one month on the level of president, the parliament and local governments.  That’s not going to happen.  That plan will break up.

But if you question whether something like that is possible in Georgia, maybe this is one of the options.  But it has different features there, because Ukraine is different from Georgia because there are many factors that can destabilize the country and bring democratic instability.  There is non-democratic support from some neighbors for this country to leave the democratic pace, to start confessing other values.  I’d like to say that this is a tremendously important test, an examination for the Ukrainian politicians today.  You know, you cannot hide it too long under the carpet, and what’s going on now is a brilliant moment for Ukraine.  You need to provide a response sooner or later to those challenges.

And the third issue that you just raised, I’d like to respond to it with only one phrase.  This is about Russian-Ukrainian relations.  I think you will never find another devotee who would be so much devoted to keeping friendly relations with Russia because this is in our national interest, both politically and economically.  But national values cannot be played as a trump card, especially in terms of security.  Of course, when we’re speaking about the security component it goes beyond the orbit of Ukrainian and Russian relations; this is a broader field and there are many more players.  That’s why Ukrainians can only state that these security issues are for us the essence of our existence, and we will be going this way, and we would like to ask the United States of America to provide their support.

And to our European colleagues I am always saying that we’re speaking about a mutually beneficial process.  This is not about gifts from one country to another.  This is a mutually beneficial and useful process where there are raw challenges, but we need to overcome them together.  This should not look like the Ukrainian side is a student knocking on the door saying, “Please open.” Those steps should be interlinked, like providing Membership Action Plan for Ukraine. There is hope that the issue of Ukraine’s Membership Action Plan will be resolved purely in the circle of the allies, not third parties.

However, for some of the participants of this process what I’m saying right now is like a fantasy.  They will keep listening and take other issues into account. In other meetings with the Russian President – the former president, President Putin – I mentioned that Ukraine is ready to discuss any item, any issue that is related to Ukrainian-Russian relations in the context of our integration to the Membership Action Plan and then to NATO.  Therefore, Ukraine is ready to discuss any new challenge that may arise for Russia from the Ukraine’s integration process, and Ukraine is also ready on the highest state level to eliminate any kind of threat that Russia may perceive from the integration of Ukraine.  And the news about a NATO base in Sebastopol should stop being spread; we’re ready to say that it won’t happen because this is what the Ukrainian constitution requires.

If there are any fairy tales about nuclear weapons, we are saying that 12 years ago Ukraine refused 2,000 nuclear warheads, which was an unprecedented case ever in the nuclear history.  We’ve taken all the international guarantees not to locate any nuclear weapons in our territory.  So what kind of friends can we speak about, whether it is about Ukraine joining the Membership Action Plan or NATO?  When there is any issue related to the use of Ukrainian surface or air or water, let’s sit and speak about it.  Let’s discuss it.  Maybe this will help to make our positions clear.

Or when we’re speaking about the location of some security systems, like missile defense systems or any kind of transit, we’re not hiding from anybody.  We want to consider all those issues in a public manner and to take them off the agenda.  Or otherwise, where there is any rationale in what they say, we are ready to perform on the highest level to provide all the international guarantees.

Lastly, I’d like to say that it may be very hard today for partners and allies to promote the issue of Ukraine’s succession, especially to the Euro-Atlantic structures.  I remember 12 to 14 years ago, after the Warsaw treaty collapsed, one of the Russian leaders drew a red stripe on a map showing where NATO limits will be reaching.  He drew the line through the western border of Poland, Czech Republic and Bulgaria, and it looked like nothing else would happen.  And then what happened was that through national referenda, through communication, discussions in society, those nations were able to work out their own position, starting from the Baltic states and straight down to Poland, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia.  All those nations defined their own positions and went on this pace purely through bilateral relations with the alliance and purely based on national interest.  We need to be devoted to our own values and go this way – to go through this road in every way.

I thank you very much.  I’m very sorry about being so long, not adhering to the regulations, and you have the right to take offense.

(Laughter, applause.)


Q:  (In progress) – was somewhat similar to the Georgian crisis.  Perhaps I’m reading too much into this, but is what you’re saying that there is a Russian manipulation of the domestic political situation for the Russians to get the outcome they want?  If so, could you go into more detail about that and tell us what is it you’re observing and then why you’re confident that you can stand up to this?

And the second part of that question is how would a governing coalition of Tymoshenko’s party and the Party of Regions change the Euro-Atlantic avocation, since that seems to be one of the possible outcomes?  And the other, it seems to me, is a coalition between yourself and party – excuse me, Our Ukraine and Party of Regions, and how would that affect it?

MR. YUSHCHENKO:  Well, first of all, none of the five political parties present today in Ukraine’s parliament wants early elections.  They already happened 12 months ago.  And that’s why there is a great motive to ensure the policy of dialogue with all the political forces involved.  The prime minister has been working with the Party of Regions and Communists to establish a new coalition, starting from April of this year.  Today, from the standpoint of a formal document, everything is ready, but it’s very interesting that they all are afraid of making that document public.  And this is because this document is not based on national interest.  There is nothing democratic about it, but this is just how to share parliamentary committees and MP posts, which is so irritating to the public already.  They don’t want to speak about it.

What they want is stability, meaning the nation wants the government to be consolidated around national priorities.  But to speak about the national priorities you only have to speak around five or seven different terms, different issues, starting from the language issue, local Unified Church, the map, the Black Sea navy, and privatization.  It is so important, and when you take the Georgian case it’s quite similar.  There is nothing about that in their agreement – it’s very hard to have a solid agreement without that.  That’s why there is a colossal protest in society towards that kind of movement.  The prime minister intended to go to the western part of Ukraine last week in the city of Lviv – and Lviv is actually the capital of Ukrainian democracy – but the community decided that they don’t want to see the prime minister because they believe that this kind of agreement and this kind of coalition is a pure betrayal.

The local government sessions started with the condemnation of this policy made by – carried out by the prime minister and towards supporting the president.  Seven days ago they were about to get married already.  Right now there is only about a one percent possibility of the coalition being established, and this is not because they didn’t want it.  This is because society would never receive that, and this is why I’m happy about it.

How things go further we’ll see.  We’ll still have 15 days for continued consultations, but the majority of people perceive the early election as a full response to all those things, and basing our framework on the results of the early election, we’ll sit at the roundtable and we will be defining our democratic aspirations, those lighthouses.  At the end of the day, nobody will follow the Moscow scenario.

MR. KEMPE:  Thank you.  Let me gather two or three questions here and see who we can get around the table. 

Q:  My name is Bo Denysyk with Global USA.  Mr. President, you, in my opinion, very eloquently described the international aspects of Ukraine’s relations with the rest of the world.  You of course addressed the internal political issues within Ukraine.  You also remember, Mr. President, that approximately a year ago, about two weeks before the election, your popularity or rating was about 35 percent.  It’s down to perhaps much lower now, maybe 5 percent, while your colleagues in government, specifically Mrs. Tymoshenko and Mr. Yanukovich, their rating has stayed more or less stable.  First, what do you – how do you account for that drop in your popularity, if you will, and what strategy perhaps might you use to build that up again so that you can carry out the admirable goals that you’ve outlined in your presentation?

MR. KEMPE:  I also have a question from Chrystia Freeland, the Financial Times.

Q:  Just following up on that question, I wonder, Mr. President, how you access the national support for the very strong position you’ve taken in defense of Ukrainian sovereignty following the events in Georgia?  Do you think that your position on this particular point is supported, or do you think that there is more concern among the Ukrainian people about the dangers that such a position might bring with it of further provoking Russia and making Ukraine more of a target?

MR. KEMPE:  Thank you.  Okay, then let me add a third question, and that is – and I hate to be a pest about this but I wonder – I think the statement you made about Russian intervention in Ukrainian politics was a quite important one and will raise a lot of questions of what you really meant by that.  And I do wonder whether you can give us just a little bit more detail where you have seen it and how you have seen it.

MR. YUSHCHENKO:  I will start with the rating question.  Yanukovich has 18, Tymoshenko 16, Yushchenko 11.  This is what I read.  This is the data that I received when I was flying here, but this is not yet done.  Of course, the situation there will change and every single side believes they’re going to win, including myself.  (Laughter.)  Because this is the true case – because the biggest hit to the coalition and to the president was not made by Yanukovich but by Tymoshenko.  This is a very complicated story, and I don’t want to spoil your appetite – (laughter) – but this lady has never supported the spirit of alliance.  I don’t want to speak badly about a woman and about a politician, but unfortunately this is a big drama for Ukraine’s democracy because many people still need time to read between the lines about who is who in the Ukrainian politics. 

But I’m sure we will have a promising situation now from the standpoint of democratic consolidation and in the nearest weeks we’re going to be holding the uniting sessions of those political forces who are now represented in the parliament or who are presented beyond the parliament, and they will protect the democratic platform that we’ve been speaking a lot about today.  And I’m sure whenever there is early election the democracy will win.  In my previous meeting I tried to explain the fact of why what happened on the second of September, why was it planned in summer.  Prime Minister Tymoshenko started the process of amending the constitution in May this year, and that document was not written in Ukraine.  That document was prepared with the participation of Viktor Medvedchuk and then handed to Prime Minister Tymoshenko for implementation.

Just to make it simpler for you, I’d like to state that Yulia Tymoshenko and Viktor Medvedchuk are the strongest allies in the Ukrainian politics.  They are number one partners, and it has been only a month or two months ago.  Twice when I introduced her candidacy in the parliament and twice when she was elected the prime minister did she come up to me and offer to make Viktor Medvedchuk the ambassador of Ukraine to Russia or a vice prime minister. I categorically said that that person will never be in the official government of Ukraine.

You probably know that the godfather to Medvedchuk’s children is the former president and current prime minister of Russia.

So they started dismantling the constitution, but the regulation requires that any amendments and changes to the constitution are to be initiated by a political party.  It can be initiated by the president of Ukraine or any political force president in the parliament.  So that political force did not want to show its relation and connection to the document, and they wanted to establish a constitutional commission in the parliament to adopt it.  Then Communists joined that are fully governed from Moscow because we don’t have Ukrainian Communists.  All those are Russian.

So this is where the breakup process started, and what happened on the second of September looks very natural.  So that side could not hide anymore their alliance with other alliances, but if you analyze this process, you’ll see who the first to suffer was.  It was the Our Ukraine Party and the president.  When we speak of what happened among the democrats, the fact was that the democratic values and the democratic aspirations were replaced by the biased stuff, and that’s why the biggest strike on Ukraine was not made by the opposition but by the allies, and that was well-thought-about work.  But I’m sure we’re already leaving this process.  We are recovering, and that’s what is positive because some other political forces are getting involved that are both in and out of the parliament with the intent to form the Democratic front.

And I’m sure for that we would need to live through what the Ukrainian politics is living through today.  This is not a simple response, not a simple answer, but this is an inarguable prerequisite.

MR. KEMPE:  Thank you, Mr. President.  Before I thank you and thank Chadbourne & Parke, I want to acknowledge Governor Pataki – thank you so much for joining us – and the counsel also for Chadbourne & Parke, I believe.  Thank you so much for going to the trouble on a day when it was difficult for you to get here, and I know this was in honor of you too, Mr. President.

This has been an extraordinary setting, first of all.  Thank you Chadbourne & Parke.  This is such a beautiful room and beautiful place.  You took this group seriously, and I think the statement you’ve made and the frankness with which you’ve answered questions at this important historical moment, we thank you for that, and I think we all walk away having learned quite a bit and also realizing the stakes.  And hearing your optimism through all the problems that you spoke about is also reassuring as well.

So on behalf of Chadbourne & Parke and on behalf of the Atlantic Council and everyone here, thank you so much for taking your time in New York to visit with us over lunch, and I promise you next time, if you come to lunch with us again, we’ll also let you eat.  (Laughter.)

MR. YUSHCHENKO:  I thank you very much indeed for these warm words, and I thank you very much for this opportunity to speak today.  I think that this is not the best topic to be discussed during lunch.  (Laughter.)  We could of course touch upon some more pleasant things, but those issues still deserve our attention because I’m sure we need to speak frankly about any losses, any damages or rating polls.  This is democracy.  This has to be analyzed because otherwise you’ll face some wrong targets and or misinformation.  So we need to find those reasons.  But I’m sure when we’re speaking about the Ukrainian democracy, about our integration into the world, this is the process that we will all be involved in.

And I want to say frankly that I’m not interested where I am in 2010.  I’m more interested to learn about where Ukraine will be at the time.  So this is the essence of my own service.  I have five children and I have grandchildren.  You know, I want to leave this country with such parameters and with such stability that I would like my kids to live in.  If there is need to fight more and more the pace that we’ve chosen, I will do it.  I will do everything possible for democracy to win absolutely in Ukraine, and international processes are an inviolable component.  This is a very, very sensitive examination on where the country is heading to, and the fact that somebody tried to stop it in September and the fact that society started reacting so harshly to it, is another political pleasure.  This is no more a school of birds that is following a provocateur bird, but this is a nation that can think.  They are fully conscious of what is good and what is bad.  This is what gives me my optimism.  This is about energy; this is about strength.  And once again I want to thank you for your attention.