“Ukrainian newspaper” (information-analytical weekly), #14 (346), 13-19 April, 2005, “Smeshko’s security rules”

(Unofficial translation)

Our today’s interlocutor has made a breath-taking career in national special services and it seemed that he has already proved his professional viability. After that the Orange revolution took place and he, together with other influential members of his old team, suddenly disappeared from the public life. Although, does a person, who used to have access to big state secrets and once started a grand reform of special services, have the right to disappear? Again, why the new ruling team so easy breaks away from people, who proved their professionalism?

It is believed that the change of public management principles as well as internal values of the state system is occurring. Ukraine tries to transform its own state from a repressive body for suppressing public initiatives into a standard supervisory (arbitral) body of the European type. Changing the state management principles, undoubtedly, also requires total renovation of new state cadres. But the question is: how qualitative is today’s managerial staff? Second question: does a new state have the right to so cruelly throw away all those, who made a career in the times of previous power? Power structures, including Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), are undergoing total reformation too. Future will show to what extent this reformation will be systematized, and whether the replacement of 2-3 dozens of “top bosses” will change the internal content of the system. Though, even now one could possibly try to answer several key questions. What was the role of the Ukrainian special services in the Orange revolution? Why did special services “miss” the revolution? Where is the distinction between transparency of the special service and its viability? We address these questions to Igor Petrovich SMESHKO, ex-chairman of SBU.

- Igor Petrovich, what in your opinion, happened in November-December, 2004 in Ukraine? One side calls this Orange revolution, when the society tried to change state management principles and did it. Another side, whose active followers are daily downsized, depicts this period as an “orange putsch”, which resulted in willful capturing of power in the country. And what actually happened?

- There was no willful capturing of power in Ukraine. Presidential election took place. At the same time, it is still early to talk about some radical change of the state management principles in the country. I think that the exact definition of what happened in November-December of 2004 in Ukraine is a business of political scientists. However, only historians could possibly answer this question at the end, upon approximately the lifetime of one generation. At least historical experience teaches us so.

From my personal point of view, in November-December of 2004 serious prerequisites for completing the evolution and, happily, still bloodless process of transformation of the multinational, post-socialist society, which lived on the territory of the former Ukrainian Soviet Socialistic Republic within the USSR, into Ukrainian nation took place in Ukraine. I would like to underline that so far it is possible to speak only about prerequisites. It is good that these events simultaneously entailed the formation of basic elements of a civil society of a European type in Ukraine, without which the building of a democratic government system as well as our Euro-integration aspirations is utopia. This imposes additional responsibility on those, whom the people entrusted all its fate and hopes at this crucial point...

- Lately, many speculations about “the role and place of SBU” in the Orange revolution. According to some foreign media sources, SBU appeared in the role of almost a basic savior of the revolution as well as a state body, which kept the then authorities and its hawks from organizing bloody battles in the streets of the capital city. Although, the Ukrainian periodicals, especially some opposition politicians who defected to the side of new power, state that this is only an attempt “to come off clear”, an attempt to save their reputation and… escape from a punishment. But still, what drove SBU chairmanship during crucial November days – force or wisdom?

- Immediately, I’d like to clarify the basic question about the “role and place” in the revolution… SBU didn’t take part and couldn’t take part in any “revolutionary” actions. It follows from our status – we are servicemen who made oath to the people of Ukraine, but not a “combat element” of any party. In view of this, myself and my closest colleagues in the then SBU leadership wanted to become participants or “heroes” of any revolution less then all. Any revolution, by definition, is a violent capture of power. In the process of such capture not politicians who organized such revolution but ordinary people, saint in its faith and which we swore to defend, pay with its blood, as a rule. That is why my task was exactly opposite: to absolutely exclude any violation during handing the power over in the country during the election campaign. And I am happy that this task was fulfilled thanks to professionalism, feeling of officer’s duty and love for Motherland from the side of my former subordinates, SBU officers. The rest is left for historians. Only they, after some time had passed, with all necessary materials will be able to soberly assess to what extent threats and risks on the part of both opposing sides in the times of elections were adequate to operative countermeasures by our special service. Once again I’d like to emphasize that our basic purpose at that moment was to absolutely exclude the bloodshed in the country during the change of power…

I’d like to add something: trying to work only in the existed legal field, many SBU officials really risked their shoulder boards and posts in those days. Some of them knew in advance that after the end of the elections they will have to quit not only their favorite profession, but also try themselves by humiliations and undeserved outrages. But they didn’t have the alternative. We had to perform our duty at that time, at that hour, and in that place where the God determined us to do this. By the way, our relatives and our children were also present on the Maidan. As for the statements about attempts “to come off clear” or “to outstrip from the punishment” we have nothing to prove our innocence in. We did our business – at a time of cruel resistance between two implacable sides, each of them ready to fight to the very end and the risk of civil war in the country was quite real. Common sense had won. Any drop of blood wasn’t shed on our Ukrainian land. The people had the possibility to make its choice and take the responsibility for that choice. The rest, as I’ve already mentioned, is the lot of political scientists. Nobody of us waited, asked and hoped for rewards or posts. There is nothing to thank us for. My colleagues and me are, first of all, professional officers. There is no need to teach us how to love our Motherland.

- Today not only the replacement of a number of key ministers takes place, we observe an attempt to reorganize the whole system of state management. Will this attempt be successful or not – time will show. Nevertheless, this is a systematized global reform, which Ukraine haven’t gone through since the independence in 1991. Is our state capable of going through such an administrative revolution?

- It is. Only new authorities just should remember that the trust of people is never given forever. It is very useful for the politicians always to remember about that. In the Holy Scripture there are such words: “They will be judged by their acts...”. By their deeds, not words. So, the credit of trust is limited in time. New power doesn’t have the time for learning. Our people is one of the most patient and most educated in Europe, who gave 13 years to its ruling elite to study state management. There is one way out: we have to secure professionals and learn how to love our political opponents. The struggle with the past takes time and energy, which are necessary to create the future. In this regard, I remember my talk with a Japanese military attachй in 1993 in Washington. We talked about economic situation in former Soviet countries, and my colleague mentioned: “…In order to raise the economy you will need investments from the East and Japan. But they won’t come to a country, which doesn’t respect its history and wasted its precious time for fighting its past. Less look back, and you will have a chance to reach more and go forward faster…”.

- One more popular subject today is lustration. Is it possible to say that all members of the past ruling team without exception should be responsible for failures in our internal and foreign policy? What is the responsibility for these sins? Is it possible to rule something without mistakes?

- Not-making mistakes means either doing nothing or take the responsibility, cheating others. It is necessary to distinguish unintentional mistakes from the crime. It is necessary to answer for the committed crimes according to the law. This is an obligatory condition for a nation’s self-purification. But an artificial transformation of mistakes in the crimes, or political “appointment of scapegoats guilty of crime”, using all levers of power, is a new crime, which leads to the degradation of nation. If everything that Ukraine has done in internal and foreign policy is a failure, than where the current ruling team came from? Was it trained to rule a state on the Moon? “Pregnancy” from the process, which completed in November-December of 2004 in Ukraine with successful creation of foundations for a civil society, began as far back as in 1994. Should in 1994 the first President of Ukraine Leonid Kravchuk used all possible administrative resources for staying in power, and should the second President of Ukraine Leonid Kuchma repeated the same in 2004, the change of power could probably succeed, although at the cost of a huge blood, split and detestation within the society. Thus, the process of creating civil society as well as the European future for Ukraine in the foreseeable future could have been destined to death. So, one could easily call our first two Presidents, Leonid Kravchuk and Leonid Kuchma “guilty of pregnancy with the democracy” of Ukraine, even keeping the eyes shut regarding all possible miscalculations and mistakes in their activities on the creation of a state system in Ukraine. Only take into account that they were the first ones to “pave a ski-track” in all directions of building the state and basics of the market economy. They didn’t have anyone from whom to learn.

To be continued

Igor Smeshko

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