Interview: Kostyantyn Gryshchenko

By Susan Glasse and Joshua E. Keating

Ukraine's foreign minister on what Egypt could learn from the Orange Revolution and the prosecution of Yulia Tymoshenko.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Kostyantyn Gryshchenko sat down with editors from Foreign Policy this week during a visit to Washington where he will hold a bilateral meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Gryshchenko was appointed by President Viktor Yanukovych in March, 2010. He has previously served as ambassador to the United States and Russia.
Foreign Policy: I guess I'm not going to be the first person to ask you about Egypt and what you make of the events in the Middle East in the last week. 

Kostyantyn Gryshchenko: Well, clearly, these events, they change the whole equation not only in the Middle East, but globally.  I'm not able to provide much special insight because I think that much will depend on the interaction of actors inside Egypt itself. External factors -- the opinions of world leaders, the European Union, United States, Russia, and other Arab countries -- will also have some effect, but to my mind it will only be limited in the initial stages.

So, we all need to carefully watch it and engage the new Egyptian leadership as it will appear. Obviously, we support democratic changes, but also responsible government. We in Ukraine know that leaders giving promises and speaking beautifully or politically correctly is not necessarily a recipe for responsible or efficient government.
FP: Yes, and many people have cited the experience of Ukraine in recent days as a cautionary tale, that street protests aren't necessarily a recipe for real reform. Is that how you look at it? What are the lessons of the Orange Revolution for thinking about Egypt?

KG: In Ukraine, I think the lesson is very clear that the quality of political leadership needs to be appraised by the people themselves, and also by mass media and the major stakeholders in democratic process, so that democracy is not hijacked by the demagogues and by those who are simply unable to effectively pursue reforms.
FP: So is that what you think happened, that democracy was hijacked by the demagogues in Ukraine?

KG: I'm convinced of that. Over the years of so-called Orange rule, the chiefs of various factions of the Orange leadership promised everything: to return people's money which was left in Soviet banks, to stop the draft, to raise pensions -- which they did for a certain period of time but then inflation ate it up -- to get into the European Union.

What they consistently did was essentially promise everything to everyone and then forget about it all. And then, they lost power through fair, free elections at the beginning of 2010. Not because there were anything specific done from outside. And not because we had a very flashy campaign -- the flashy campaign was done on their side. But simply because people started to understand that they were being taken advantage of.
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