Interview with Mykhailo PODOLYAK
Advisor to the Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine
Vasile SIMILEANU: We live in an ever-changing world. Attemps to build a new world have different approaches. In this sense, geopolitics plays an important role in establishing new strategies. From your state’s official point of view, what are these new geopolitical challenges and pressures?
Mykhailo PODOLYAK: For almost 80 years, the inter-national community has been building a modern system of international security based on the observance of inter-national law, both treaty and customary. When Russia attacked Ukraine, launching the largest war since the Second World War, it became clear that all international law is built on the goodwill of civilized countries. That is, any non-democratic country with a dictatorial regime can refuse to respect the norms of territorial integrity and sovereignty of its neighbors without incurring any legal liability.
This raises the question of the appropriateness of mul-timillion-dollar funding from international institutions if there are no consequences for refusing to comply with collective bargaining agree-ments and the security system.
The UN system has shown its inability to respond to new global challenges and threats. Among the permanent representatives of the Security Council who can veto any resolution is the aggressor state. For more than 18 months of full-scale conventional warfare, no international body has been able to adequately assess and decide on the settlement of armed aggression within its powers.
In addition, we cannot ignore the fact that the world, ideology and development strategies of states have changed since 1945. The fact that such global economic leaders as Japan, Germany, or the UAE are ceding influence to authoritarian Russia remains extremely strange and incomprehensible. Or the position on the countries of Africa, the Middle East, or Latin America, which are also not represented at all among the UN Security Council’s permanent representatives. It turns out that entire continents are deprived of the right to vote in the world’s main security body.
It is obvious that in the context of the Russian-Ukrainian war since 2014, the leaders of Western democracies have been following the old and ineffective policy of appeasement of the aggressor. There is a false impression that this will prevent further escalation, but any concessions to the aggressor only increase its appetite. Force must be met with more force.
A global crisis awaits the world, and it is necessary to prepare for it, not to keep silent in the hope that if we do not talk about it, it will not come. The world wasted time on preventive preparations between 2014 and 2022, despite Ukraine’s warnings that the war could escalate, so we need to respond immediately and decisively. No matter how hard someone tries to deny the reality, the war in Ukraine affects and will affect not only Ukrainian citizens. There will be no easy decisions, but we have a chance to make the right ones.
V.S.: Each state promotes its security strategies in the light of international developments. What are your state’s orientations in the international arena?
– International law, like national law, must have tools of coercion and mandatory responsibility. It cannot be based on goodwill, because state leaders and regimes change, and thus there is a threat of a new Hitler or Putin anywhere in the world.
– Reform of the main international body for global security and fair representation of each region in it.
– Gradual reduction of nuclear potential around the world. Prohibition of nuclear weapons for aggressor states in the future. Systematic monitoring by international institutions of the conditions of storage of nuclear potential and prohibition of threats with nuclear weapons to states that do not have them.
– Return to the mandatory observance of the basic principles of international law, in particular territorial integrity and sovereign inviolability.
– Security guarantees should be backed up by specific legally binding steps by the guarantor entities in the event of a threat or violation of security conditions.
V.S.: Geopolitics has, in the current international context, a high weight in the generation of politico-military and economic security strategies. Please comment on the main political-military, economic, social, cultural orientations for the promotion of national interests!
Mykhailo PODOLYAK: In its foreign policy, Ukraine is guided by generally accepted norms of international law – respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, the right of peoples to cultural identity and self-identification, maximum economic liberalization and respect for human rights.
Ukraine is a democratic state, which means that all of its activities are governed by the Constitution of Ukraine and duly concluded and ratified international treaties.
V.S.: Regarding relations with other states, how do you assess the strategies developed in relations with Romania, the USA, the EU, Russia and China? What about the Arab-Islamic world?
Mykhailo PODOLYAK: Ukraine is building relations with Romania, the EU, and the US in the context of Euro-Atlantic integration. In particular, we plan to have a common economic and security space for mutually beneficial trade and restoration of security in the region.
Ukraine is in a state of active hostilities with Russia, and we do not see the Kremlin leaders’ desire to end the war and restore Ukraine’s territorial integrity in the near future. Therefore, the strategy for developing relations with Russia is simple: Russia must withdraw its military armed forces, paramilitary groups and weapons from the territory of Ukraine within the 1991 borders, return Ukrainian prisoners, including military personnel and deported children, engage in the process of prosecuting those who committed war crimes and crimes against humanity, pay reparations and go through the process of atonement. Perhaps, after several gene-rations and a change of regime in Russia, our descendants will be able to restore diplomatic missions with Russia, but it is too early to say.
China is currently taking a neutral position on the war in Ukraine, although the Chinese peace plan has a lot in common with President Zelenskyy’s Peace Formula. I think that China will gradually move away from Russia, which is finding itself increasingly isolated internationally. We are ready to talk to China and any other country to explain the nature of the Russian-Ukrainian war.
For a long time, the Gulf countries were unfairly neglected in Ukraine’s foreign policy. The situation began to change in 2019. It is impossible to ignore states that have such a strong economic and technological potential. Before the full-scale invasion, we were actively developing bilateral economic relations with Arab countries, in particular in the area of port infrastructure and leasing.
Now Ukraine has taken the right vector for the development of relations with countries on all continents. The world is changing dynamically, and adherence to the old rules of post-war settlement is no longer relevant. I am convinced that the war in Ukraine will give the global society new leaders, heroes and technologies.
V.S.: In terms of trade strategies, how do you assess the strategies developed by your country? What national interests are promoted in relations with third countries?
Mykhailo PODOLYAK: First and foremost, we are committed to European integration, so we are doing our best to fulfill all the requirements for integration into the EU internal market. We believe that this is the key to preserving the Ukrainian economy during the war and to a rapid economic recovery afterwards. This process consists of 4 blocks: adaptation of legislation, implementation of the free trade agreement, economic recovery and the role of international financial institutions, and integration of labor markets.
In addition, even in times of war, we are developing new ways to cooperate with markets that have traditionally been ignored throughout the existence of independent Ukraine. First of all, we are talking about the Middle East.
We want to develop trade relations within the framework of a win-win strategy, so that each party makes a profit, but remains sufficiently free and independent in its decisions. This is important, given how Russia has managed to make most European countries dependent on energy carriers in just eight years.
In the long term, Ukraine is seeking to develop closed-loop production, or at least strive for it, in order to sell not only raw materials but also finished products. Moreover, after the end of hostilities and in the process of reconstruction, Ukraine will become an attractive investment destination for foreign companies to locate production facilities.
V.S.: In numerous publications and activities, we have promoted new geopolitical approaches such as GeoIntelligence, the geopolitics of artificial intelligence, as well as approaches to the role of cultural and religious minorities in securing regional, regional and even global stability. How are these approaches perceived in your country?
Mykhailo PODOLYAK: Humanity is steadily moving towards a technological sin-gularity. The development of artificial intelligence contributes to this, among other things. While the twentieth century in world history was marked by an arms race, in the twenty-first century, states will compete for technological superiority.
Artificial intelligence will be increasingly used in the military and geopolitical spheres. Since AI can quickly and efficiently analyze large amounts of information on the web, it allows us to see a holistic picture of algorithms, trends, and even threats. Diplomats and politicians, having full information about the political, economic, and social dynamics of competitors and allies, will be able to make more informed decisions and develop effective strategies.
Since the Russian-Ukrainian war since 2014 has had a hybrid component of information propaganda in addition to its military dimension, we are trying to use technologies, including AI, to track cyber threats and current enemy information campaigns against the Ukrainian or Western population. In addition, AI sometimes helps to proactively identify enemy plans on the battlefield.
Unfortunately, Russia is also gradually realizing the benefits of using technological warfare rather than mindlessly slaughtering human resources. We must realize that in the future, AI may exacerbate existing tensions and rivalries between countries as they compete for dominance in the field.
V.S.: In view of our review, please say a few words to the readers and editors of GeoPolitica Magazine!
Mykhailo PODOLYAK: We are ready to talk to anyone who shares the values of global security and order.
Romania has opened its borders to Ukrainian refugees from the war and supports increased military assistance to Ukraine. 77% of Romanian citizens believe that Ukraine should become a member of the EU, and 72% of Romanians support Ukraine’s accession to NATO. According to Romanian Minister of Economy Florin Spataru, Romania plans to build a new gunpowder plant and create facilities for the produc-tion of ammunition.
We are united by a common desire to live in a world that is moving towards technological development and the rule of human rights, so further geopolitical strategies of international actors should unite rather than sow enmity.