Almost 15,000 kilometers, more than 24 hours en route, significant difference in time, summer instead of winter - Australia, until recently, has remained for Ukrainians a distant and mysterious country, in spite of a rather large and active Ukrainian diaspora.
Every cloud has a silver lining. The annexation of Crimea, sanctions against Russia, MN17 tragedy, conflict in the East – brought our countries closer. In late 2014, a Ukrainian delegation headed by the President visited the country-continent, and as soon as in March of the next year the Embassy of Australia was opened in Kyiv, and the Ukrainian cargo plane Mriya flew to the Australian distant lands in May of the same year. The promotion of bilateral contacts and support on the international arena grew into ambitious projects in the aerospace and energy industries.
In early July, parliamentary elections were held in Australia, which brought another victory to the ruling coalition. Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador of Ukraine to Australia Mykola Kulinich told about peculiarities of post-election prospects of the Ukrainian-Australian relations in an exclusive interview with Ukrinform.
‘CONTINENTAL’ MENTALITY AND FOREIGN POLICY
- Parliamentary elections have been recently held in Australia. Although the Liberal-National Coalition (LNC) has managed to remain in power, a significant progress of the Labourists, who literally were snapping at the ruling coalition’s heels, can’t be ignored. What changes in the Australian government’s policy may occur? How this will affect the foreign policy of Australia, what Ukraine should expect in this context?
- One of specifics of these elections, as well as a peculiar feature of Australian political life in general, is that the fact that the issue of foreign policy is on the periphery of public attention.
As for me, the specifics of mentality and worldview have an impact on many states located on the islands of Britain, for example. And as for Australia, a huge area of the country occupying the entire continent should be taken into account. With this regard, the Australians feel themselves totally self-sufficient. A “continental” mentality reigns here, instead of the “island” one.
Thus, one should not expect any crucial changes in the foreign policy of the new Australian government, as the Liberal-National Coalition declared no new foreign policy strategy in its election program.
- Have you already assessed the new parliament’s composition – who from the “friends” have remained? And weather the Ukraine-Australia friendship group is efficient with regard to Australia?
- “Friends of Ukraine’’ have remained in the new composition of the Australian parliament, but they number not many people Among them, Craig Laundy, the Chairman of the Ukraine-Australia friendship group, who has become a parliamentary deputy minister for industry, science and innovation. This is an extremely important position, considering the fact that the government of Malcolm Turnbull has declared the support for the development of innovation activities as one of his priorities.
Also, many members of this association from the parliamentary opposition have remained, in particular, Michael Danby, Richard Marles, who was the shadow minister for migration and border security in the previous parliament, and at present he is the shadow defense minister. By the way, it is worth noting that Richard Marles ran for the constituency in Geelong (satellite city of Melbourne), where a sufficiently powerful and numerous Ukrainian community lives, which support he traditionally counts on. Therefore, it gives reasons to the community to expect a response support.
- The issues of foreign policy were not in focus during the election campaign, but recent events in the world (Brexit, NATO Warsaw summit, Russian policy in Ukraine and Syria, the Arbitration on dispute in the South China Sea, preparations for elections in the United States, etc.) certainly haven’t remained unnoticed for Australians. Which side does Australia support? What kind of support Ukraine can count on in this context?
- Despite of the fact that foreign policy card during the election campaign was not practically played, it is worth noting that going beyond the above-mentioned "continental" boundaries and attempts to play a greater role in geopolitics have become a current trend in the political life of Australia in recent years. Therefore, the Australian elite, including the political one, is trying to attract more Australians to "global thinking", which they lack.
As to the issue on which side Australia is, then it has traditional allied commitments in line with the ANZUS Security Treaty, which was concluded in 1951, and which still operates.
For us, it’s very important that Australia supports Ukraine, supports sanctions against Russia, supports in general our idea of confrontation against foreign aggression and advocacy of universal values
AUSTRALIA-RUSSIA: PRINCIPLES AND TRANSPARENT HINTS
- At present people in the world are speaking a lot about the importance of establishing a dialogue with Russia, especially in the context of the fight against terrorism, abolition of sanctions policy, or at least gradual abolition. Australia traditionally has stronger trade ties with Russia rather than with Ukraine, so should Ukraine worry that it might lose its ally in the Asia-Pacific region?
Sanctions in their own are not a very popular tool within a country, which applies them, as this is a free-will refusal from trade and other relations, or at least their curtailment with a beneficial economic partner.
In addition, it is worth noting that Ukraine has never been the object of concentration of Australian interests, contrary to Russia, which they see as a Pacific country, and therefore, as an important partner.
However, a question of principles arises here as it is one thing when it comes to trade and economic expansion as a way to promote the interests, and another thing is when someone starts a war. Then these are the challenges to interests and encroachment on traditional values, which are extremely important to Australians.
Australia is a country with strong and self-reliant economy, with powerful own resource basis.
- Recently the whole world has commemorated the second anniversary of MH17 tragedy. Ukraine and Australia together with other countries joined the MH17 crash investigation group. Do Ukraine and Australia have common positions? What is a formula for bringing those guilty to responsibility?
Australia, as well as Ukraine, really joined the international group to investigate the tragedy that occurred over the territory of Ukraine. Both countries are interested in identifying perpetrators and their just punishment.
At present members of the investigation group are approaching the final stage of their work. There is an agreement that they will announce about results of the investigation as soon as this autumn. I have no information about any contradictions within the group, and this is a reason to believe that our position with Australia is consolidated.
As for the issue of brining those guilty to criminal responsibility, then it can be carried out in two ways: in line with the national legislation by one of the countries, or by means of ad hoc international tribunal,
NUCLEAR FUEL, ANTONOV AIRCRAFTS AND WOOMERA ROCKET LAUNCH SITE
Ukraine and Australia signed an Agreement on peaceful use of nuclear fuel. What is the current state of this agreement? When Ukraine should expect first supplies of Australian uranium to Ukraine?
Surely, this deal is of great importance for Ukraine, as well as for Australia. That’s why the signing of the agreement on supplies of raw materials for nuclear fuel gives a significant support for the nuclear sector of Australia. Another important issue is the fact that Ukraine could become a country that will compensate for the non-supplies of nuclear raw materials to Russia.
For Ukraine, in turn, the signing of such an agreement is a vital step. As we bought nuclear fuel form Russia, with which we suspended trade relations for well-known reasons. Australia also expressed its willingness to cover 30 to 70% of our needs in nuclear fuel that can actually make it a strategic supplier of nuclear fuel for the Ukrainian nuclear power plants. That’s why this document is a huge economic basis for building our political cooperation, because it is not of purely economic character, but it also largely solves the issue of energy security for Ukraine, which is a component of national security.
As for the current state of this agreement, this document is a political frame agreement. Commercial contacts are needed to be established to realize supplies.
- The arrival of Ukraine’s Mriya cargo aircraft in Australia made a furor. Will this trend have a practical continuation?
- I am sure that it will have, because we have already moved to the first concrete steps towards the implementation of possible cooperation between SE Antonov and Australian partners. And this cooperation could be of various forms.
However, in my opinion, the Australian Antarctic Division is the unique and most likely partner for cooperation. This structure, which is based in Hobart (Tasmania) and which apart from its other tasks, provides logistical support to the most of Antarctic stations.
SPIRIT OF LIBERTY OF UKRAINIANS AND AUSTRALIANS
- The Ukrainian community in Australia was traditionally a powerful factor of influencing the Australian-Ukrainian ties. How significant are the tools of influence of our diaspora today?
- This country is extremely interesting for me thanks to the work with the community. This is the first time when I work with the Ukrainian community abroad – in fact, there was no established community either in Korea, nor in Japan. These are our compatriots, they all have their own history, and this is the history of not only Australia, but the history of Ukraine as well: they do not lose the ties with culture, language, homeland. Of course, they strongly support Ukraine. Much can be achieved due to the active support of the Ukrainian community in Australia and us.
Thus, for instance, I’d like to stress that the parliamentary support for Ukraine is based mostly due to our community in Australia, as it is a significantly strong electoral force. Event in spite of a rather small number – about 40,000 people – taking into account good self-discipline, similarity, the Ukrainian community plays an important role in political fight, as we can see.
- Many democratic countries, especially those where influential Ukrainian communities exist, provide humanitarian, consultative and military assistance to Ukraine. What position does Australia adhere to on this matter?
- Australia also provided military, technical and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine in difficult times, when the Russian aggression against our country begun. These were uniform, first aid kits and related materials. In addition, the training program was launched for the Ukrainian military at Australian military schools. This program is fully funded by the Australian government, it still is ongoing and is extremely interesting, useful for our officers. As Australia is a country with the experience of participation in armed conflicts, particularly, in current conflicts involving irregular military formations, the war in Iraq, Afghanistan etc. On the other hand, the Australian military is also interested in our combat experience of participation in modern hybrid war.
Ivan Yusypiuk, Canberra