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RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report Vol. 4, No. 27, 23 July 2002

A Survey of Developments in Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine by the Regional Specialists of RFE/RL's Newsline Team

POLAND HONORED FOR FRIENDSHIP WITH U.S. Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski is only the second head of state to be invited to the White House on a state visit since U.S. President George W. Bush took office 19 months ago.

At a welcoming ceremony on 17 July and during a news conference later in the day, both Kwasniewski and Bush spoke of the closeness of Polish-U.S. relations and their agreement on dominant international issues: the war against terrorism and the state of the world economy.

During the White House welcoming ceremony, Kwasniewski said the two countries may be half a world apart, but they still think alike. "Never before have we had so much in common and never before has so much resulted from these bonds. Today Poland and the Unites States, despite the big geographical distance, are partners and allies," the Polish president noted.

Later, during a joint news conference, Bush spoke of Poland's contributions to the war on terrorism and how the two countries have very similar outlooks on international issues. "America and Poland see the world in similar terms. We both understand the importance of defeating the forces of global terror, and America appreciates all that Poland is contributing to this great struggle. Our nations also understand the importance of building a better world beyond terror, one where prosperity replaces poverty," the U.S. president noted.

At the news conference, Kwasniewski and Bush said they spent two hours discussing a wide range of topics, focusing on how the two countries work together on international security and Poland's efforts to make the difficult transition to a market economy.

As a NATO member, Poland has contributed materially to the U.S.-led war against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, just as it did in 1999 in the alliance's military action in Yugoslavia.

Poland also was in the vanguard of resistance to its socialist rulers a decade before the breakup of the Soviet Union and the demise of communist control of Eastern Europe. In the past decade, it has surpassed its neighbors in developing an open economy.

In an article published on 17 July in "The New York Times," Kwasniewski expressed pride in his country's economic transformation. He wrote that in 1990, more than 70 percent of Poland's gross domestic product was produced in state-run enterprises. Today, he wrote, more than 70 percent of Poland's GDP is privately produced.

Because Kwasniewski is in Washington on a formal state visit, he was greeted at the White House with a welcoming ceremony, complete with the U.S. Marine Band performing the anthems of both countries. The ceremony also included the presentation of the countries' flags and honor guards. The visit culminated in the evening with a formal state dinner in the White House's State Dining Room.

The only other foreign head of state to pay a state visit to the Bush White House is Vicente Fox, president of Mexico. Bush honored Fox because the U.S. president hoped to increase economic and other exchanges between the two neighboring countries.

Bush said inviting Kwasniewski for a state visit recognizes the great importance that his administration places on the friendship between Poland and the United States. Thomas Carothers, who specializes in eastern and southeastern Europe at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told RFE/RL that Bush wanted to honor Poland's economic success. "It's supportive of our basic economic and political and security interests, and there's just a deep attachment to Poland's successful transition in Eastern Europe. It's a leader in that region," Carothers noted.

Carothers believes that Bush also wanted to reassure Poles that his close association with Russian President Vladimir Putin poses neither a military nor an economic threat to Poland. "Some Poles, I think, have been a little concerned about America's much more positive relationship with Russia and [Russian] President [Vladimir] Putin, and possibly by giving full honors at this kind of visit, it's a way to assure them that we haven't forgotten about our very important relationship with Poland," Carothers said.

Ted Carpenter, vice president for defense and foreign-policy studies at the Cato Institute, another Washington think tank, agrees that Bush is interested in reassuring Poles, but not the Poles in Poland. Carpenter told RFE/RL that Bush's invitation to Kwasniewski was a cynical move based on domestic politics. According to Carpenter, Bush wants to endear himself to Americans of Polish decent and others whose ancestors came from the region. "If one looks at domestic politics in the United States, [Bush's honoring of Kwasniewski is] an appeal to an ethnic bloc, namely that of Central and East European descendants here in the United States," Carpenter said. "I think that's probably the main reason."

At the close of the White House news conference, Kwasniewski said he and Bush also discussed ways to bring Poland's neighbor, Ukraine, into the European mainstream.

Poland has served as a kind of mediator for Ukraine in dealings with the West, particularly the United States. Carothers said Kwasniewski is doing a good job acting on his neighbor's behalf, but he stressed that there is just so much Poland can do. He said it is up to Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma to embrace reform if he wants his country to join NATO, much less become an integral part of a new Europe. "I don't think we're envisaging Ukraine as a member of NATO any time in the near future, so it's not so much with NATO membership per se, but more about just trying to prevent a sense of Ukraine being isolated from the West," Carothers said.

Carpenter described Poland as being a broader role model for all the former communist countries of Europe. As for specific efforts to make Ukraine ready to join NATO, Carpenter said Warsaw has a blunt message for Kyiv. "As the club continues to grow, one doesn't want to be on the outside looking in," Carpenter said. "And I think that's perhaps the message that Warsaw is conveying to Kyiv: 'You'd better get your act together [and begin reforming]; otherwise you're going to be in an unholy triumvirate with Russia and Belarus as the only countries in Europe not eventually admitted to NATO'."

Nevertheless, Kwasniewski said at the 17 July news conference that he believes Ukraine should play what he called "a more important role in the region." Ukraine, a country of 50 million people, has great agricultural and industrial resources, and, as Kwasniewski pointed out, lies at the geographical heart of Europe.


REHABILITATION OF UKRAINIAN NATIONALIST GROUPS STIRS FURTHER CONTROVERSY. The announcement on 12 July that the Ukrainian government had prepared a draft bill on honoring the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) and its partisan force, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), as "fighters for freedom and independence of Ukraine" has stirred another controversy within both Ukraine and Russia. The government commission, which is chaired by Russophile Deputy Prime Minister Volodymyr Semynozhenko, now believes that from 1939 to the mid-1950s, the OUN and UPA organized a "resistance movement" "for the purpose of uniting and creating a unified [independent] Ukraine."

The main academic research that has led to this conclusion was undertaken by the Institute of History, National Academy of Sciences, under its prolific head, Stanislav Kulchytskyy. The institute recommended, and the commission accepted, that OUN and UPA veterans should finally be classified as having been subjected to repression and therefore should fall under the law on the rehabilitation of victims of political repression in Ukraine. This would then allow them to obtain social and other privileges accorded to other Soviet veterans.

At the same time, only OUN-UPA veterans will be scrutinized under this law to see if they committed "crimes against humanity." This one-sided application of the law to only nationalist forces is in line with post-Soviet and international custom since the Nuremberg trials of Nazis where the victor, e.g. the USSR, has never been investigated for "crimes against humanity." After 1939, NKVD units in western Ukraine committed wholesale atrocities against civilians (a mass grave containing 130 NKVD victims, including children, was uncovered in a western Ukrainian monastery this month). Investigation of Soviet archives by Ukrainian historians in the 1990s found evidence that the NKVD dressed in UPA uniforms and committed atrocities against civilians in order to turn the local population against nationalist groups. The commission headed by Kulchytskyy found evidence of unpleasant actions undertaken by both nationalist and "chekist," i.e. NKVD, forces, but only veterans of the former will be investigated.

The reaction of the Russian authorities was swift. As with the rehabilitation of nationalist partisans in the three Baltic states, Moscow has adopted Soviet-era rhetoric in attacking the OUN-UPA. The Russian media charged Ukrainian nationalist groups with fighting alongside Chechens against Russian forces in the 1990s in Chechnya. In the March parliamentary elections in Ukraine, Russia deliberately stoked an antinationalist campaign, with the support of the Ukrainian executive, to blacken Viktor Yushchenko's Our Ukraine among eastern Ukrainian voters (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 9 April 2002).

The seriousness with which the Russian Foreign Ministry looks at this question can be seen from its immediate and angry response to the draft government bill. The ministry demanded that the Ukrainian government condemn the activities of the "so-called UPA" and not rehabilitate its members. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Anatoliy Zlenko replied that this was "Ukraine's internal matter."

This move by the Ukrainian government is in many ways not surprising. It is taking place immediately after parliamentary elections, a period when western Ukrainian voters are traditionally courted by Kuchma. (The more numerous eastern Ukrainian voters are traditionally passive between elections and are only courted during elections.) The government move came after the city of Lviv wrote to Kuchma demanding that the OUN-UPA be rehabilitated. The newly elected parliament is also the least leftist of any elected since March 1990 and therefore opposition to the rehabilitation of Ukrainian nationalist groups is likely to be less difficult. In addition, Kuchma has little to lose in the rehabilitation of the OUN-UPA because he will not be standing again for re-election and may want to end his second term on a populist note. These reasons also allowed Kuchma to adopt the radical step of declaring Ukraine's goal of working toward NATO membership.

In late March, the then-head of the presidential administration and currently parliamentary speaker, Volodymyr Lytvyn, called for a "balanced approach" to the UPA. "We understand how painful this issue is not just for Russia, but also for part of Ukrainian society. We must study all aspects of the matter," Lytvyn said. Then parliamentary speaker Ivan Plyushch also announced his support for moves to rehabilitate OUN-UPA.

Within Ukraine, the government's draft bill has arrived after a decade of gradual public rehabilitation. School textbooks and the military media have not had the luxury of waiting a decade to research this question and they have included the OUN, and particularly the UPA, alongside other forces that fought for Ukraine on different military fronts. They therefore have placed them on an equal footing with Soviet (as well as Polish and Canadian) veterans. Rehabilitation of the Galicia Division has not taken place, and is far less likely to. The UPA has therefore long been described in textbooks and newspapers such as "Narodna Armiya," an organ of the Defense Ministry, as fighting on a "second front" in World War II.

Among the oligarchic Social Democratic Party-united (SDPU-o) and the former pro-presidential For a United Ukraine (ZYU), now divided into six factions, there is no opposition to the government's move. One major reason is that centrist groups lack any ideology and this is therefore simply not an issue for them. SDPU-o Chairman Viktor Medvedchuk, now head of the presidential administration, claimed to be the author of the draft government bill, which he had hoped would attract western Ukrainian voters in the March elections.

The malleability of the ideologically amorphous SDPU-o was seen when Medvedchuk denied to Crimean voters that his party supported the rehabilitation of OUN-UPA, and SDPU-o-controlled Inter Television fanned the antinationalist campaign against Yushchenko. The irony is that Medvedchuk also at the same time played up the claim that his family was expelled to Siberia because his father was a member of OUN in Zhytomir Oblast. A book published during the election campaign titled "Nartsys" (Narcissus) by Our Ukraine member Dmytro Chobit told a different story. It unearthed controversial documents that Medvedchuk's father had actually served in the German police, not the OUN.

The only opposition to the government draft bill within Ukraine has come from the Communist Party and the nationalist Russian Bloc. These groups continue to use the same Soviet-era rhetoric denouncing the OUN-UPA as still used in Russia. The Socialists (SPU) have evolved toward accepting that the OUN-UPA can be rehabilitated and that the struggle against them was a Ukrainian "civil war." Nevertheless, the SPU rejects any equality between Soviet veterans and the OUN-UPA and maintains that those who allegedly committed "crimes" should be weeded out.

"RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report" is prepared by Jan Maksymiuk on the basis of a variety of sources including reporting by "RFE/RL Newsline" and RFE/RL's broadcast services. It is distributed every Tuesday.

BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT COURTS ILO CHIEF. President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has sent a letter to Juan Somavia, director-general of the International Labor Organization (ILO), Belapan reported on 22 July, quoting the presidential press service. "Fruitful social dialogue is regarded in Belarus as an important condition of harmonizing the interests of different strata of society. We are grateful to the International Labor Organization for [its] readiness to assist in this work," Lukashenka said in his message. The Belarusian president emphasized that Belarus will continue contributing to the achievement of the ILO's goal of securing proper labor conditions for everyone. Alyaksandr Bukhvostau, a trade union leader, told Belapan on 16 July that last week's election of deputy presidential administration chief Leonid Kozik as the chairman of the Trade Union Federation of Belarus (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 23 July 2002) took place under pressure from the executive and constituted a blatant violation of ILO rules. JM

OUR UKRAINE TO USE 'EXTREME MEASURES' AGAINST KUCHMA? UNIAN on 22 July quoted Our Ukraine lawmaker Roman Bezsmertnyy as saying that "the parliamentary elections and repeat elections have shown that there is no constitutional way in Ukraine's political realities to change the power system." Bezsmertnyy was commenting on the repeat parliamentary elections on 14 July in three constituencies -- No. 18, No. 35, and No. 201. A court invalidated the election results in constituency No. 18 in Vinnytsya Oblast where the winner was Mykola Odaynyk supported by Our Ukraine. Bezsmertnyy added that Our Ukraine is now pondering whether to use "extreme measures" against the existing power system. "It is becoming obvious that [the presidential administration] is working on scenarios to elect President Leonid Kuchma for a third term, and the repeat elections tested the mechanisms that will be put in operation in 2004," Bezsmertnyy said. JM

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT QUESTIONS VIABILITY OF GUUAM. President Vladimir Voronin told the recent meeting of GUUAM members in Yalta that his country has grounds for concern about the organization's viability, Flux reported, citing a presidential office press release. Voronin told his counterparts from Georgia, Ukraine, and Azerbaijan that the results of GUUAM cooperation are not in line with "the declarations we make" on the occasions of summits. He said Moldova is "practically excluded" from debates when these focus on important projects such as Caspian Sea oil transportation, and that on such occasions he feels Moldova is occupying "the seat of an observer" because of the country's "reduced economic potential." Voronin also said he shares U.S. fears that GUUAM has become an "atrophied" body. He said Moldova wants the organization to "clarify" its relations with the CIS and the EU. "GUUAM must find its place and role in this dialogue, in order to make a contribution to the intensification of the process of global integration," he said. MS

"Georgia is Becoming a Transit Country" proclaimed the headlines of the website on 23 June. Indeed, much activity is underway in Georgia to increase the transit of oil, gas, and goods across the gateway country of the South Caucasus to the Black Sea. Giorgi Chanturia, President of the Georgia International Oil Corporation has greatly contributed to the creation of this reality. Chanturia, known as a political mover and shaker, is not an oilman by profession. As a former Komsomol leader from Tbilisi, ambassador to Azerbaijan, and now state business executive, Chanturia has worked hard to promote a vision of Georgia as a reliable transit country for the vast energy reserves of the Caspian Basin. "The Georgian Times" recently identified him as the second-most successful executive of a Georgian state-controlled company. His name has repeatedly been mentioned as one of the top candidates for high government posts in Georgia.

From his early experience in Komsomol, Chanturia has been identified as a talented, up-and-coming leader. Not long after his return to Georgia in 1992, President Eduard Shevardnadze envisioned a Eurasian corridor that would link the Central Asian space with Europe. In a speech delivered in Kyiv in spring 1993, Shevardnadze publicly announced his corridor idea. He viewed Georgia as the linchpin of the corridor, providing a gateway on the Black Sea for goods to move back and forth from Central Asia to Europe. The success of the corridor through the South Caucasus would link the fates of Georgia and Azerbaijan to one another. Imperative to this vision would be the establishment of friendly and mutually supportive relationships between energy-rich Azerbaijan and Georgia. Shevardnadze turned to Chanturia for this crucially important assignment.

In 1993, Chanturia was appointed as Shevardnadze's personal adviser for the development of the East-West Energy Corridor and Transport Systems. He served in this formative capacity until 1995. Shevardnadze's vision held that the independence of Georgia required the development of a reliable transportation system to export Georgia's agricultural bounty to markets and provide a secure transportation corridor for those countries wishing to connect with the Western world. The first marquee project was to lobby a two-pipeline approach for the Caspian "early oil" project. Georgia was in the throws of civil conflict and the aftermath of the civil war in Abkhazia. The presence of a multinational-supported pipeline would greatly enhance Western political attention to support the Shevardnadze government. It would also eventually produce much-needed energy transit fees as it traversed Georgia from the Caspian energy deposits. The success of the Baku-Supsa (a Georgian port on the Black Sea near Poti) pipeline provided an important measure of global political support that would be crucial for Georgia's survival. Chanturia was the key action officer of this effort. He became actively involved in promoting Shevardnadze's vision through international trips and contacts in the West and by cultivating support in the Azerbaijan capital of Baku.

Shevardnadze appointed Chanturia as Georgia's ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary to Azerbaijan in 1995. During this time he promoted the Baku-Supsa pipeline and Shevardnadze's vision of the Eurasia corridor. Shevardnadze established the Georgian International Oil Company (GIOC) with special decree number 477 on 11 November 1995. He then appointed Chanturia, still serving as ambassador, to be the president of GIOC and extraordinary commissioner. In February 1996, the GIOC was registered as a joint-stock company, according to the company documents. GIOC has continued to receive from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the British Know How Fund, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), and EU assistance to provide advice on the establishment of a credible transportation system in Georgia. With this international assistance, GIOC became one of -- if not the first -- local western-styled company in Georgia operating transparently and professionally with companies and governments both in and outside of Georgia. Chanturia's success at promoting and overseeing the construction and operation of the early oil pipeline between Baku and Supsa, which opened in April 1999, have won him the respect of many. He has become one of the longest-standing executives within the Georgian government and remains a trusted ally of Shevardnadze in building Georgia as a key transit country along the East-West Eurasian corridor. (PMJ)

NEXT WEEK: Chanturia's Diplomatic Overtures, Abkhazia, And Russia