Andrius Kubilius. On 13 January 1991, the front line was in Lithuania. Now it is in Ukraine

Andrius Kubilius
Istorijos detektyvai

On 13 January 1991, 27 years ago, Lithuania stood up for freedom. Not only for its own. We defended the European future. But for the victory there and then, Lithuania and Europe would be very different today.

The same battle, in my opinion, is now being fought in Ukraine. I will venture to compare it to the 13 January 1991 events in Lithuania. The future of Ukraine is at stake, but not only that. The future of Europe and our own future is being forged there. A victory in Ukraine today will translate into transformation both in Ukraine, Lithuania, and entire Europe in 27 years’ time, transformation that will even reach as far as Russia. A defeat in Ukraine will mean a step back for all.

This is the reason why I attach so much importance to the cause of Ukraine lately, lobbying for it both in Ukraine and the West. This, as I see it, is our duty, the duty of those who fought and won on the 13 January front.

Back 27 years ago, Lithuania’s self-defence was the key priority. It is now high time we assisted in Ukraine’s self-defence. The way I see it, Ukraine needs help not only in defending itself from military aggression. It also needs pooled Ukrainian, Lithuanian and Western efforts targeted at paving the way for a successful pro-western reform.

Lithuania largely supports Ukraine in terms of sending weapons and experts, collecting donations, and doing advocacy in relevant international fora.

For the purposes of this text, I would like to make an overview of what has been achieved over the past year in the realm of advocacy for international support under the Marshall Plan for Ukraine. Most of my efforts last year were focused on that cause as it was an area of my utmost concern.

This text was drawn up in reaction to the most recent issue of the Foreign Policy, one of the most influential magazines revered by foreign policy experts. I came across an article published there by Michael Carpenter, former foreign policy adviser to US Vice-President Joe Biden. The article was entitled Ukraine Needs U.S. Help to Fight Corruption and extensively described and praised our initiative. I was truly surprised by the depth of understanding of our initiative demonstrated by the author.

After reading the article, I decided that Lithuania’s readers and electorate deserve being better informed on what has been done this year for the Ukrainian cause.

With this in mind, I am publishing a nearly unedited text I wrote during my most recent lobbying trip for the cause of the Marshall Plan for Ukraine on 16 December 2017 and made public on my Facebook account while waiting for my flight at the airport in Toronto.

What would General George Marshall say today?

I am on my way home, waiting for my flight to Frankfurt at the airport in Toronto.

This is my last journey this year. All of my travels this year served to advocate the Marshall Plan for Ukraine. All my efforts were focused on the fulfilment of this idea.

In 1947, General George Marshall, a hero of World War II and US Secretary of State of the time, was concerned on how to stop Stalin’s efforts of broadening his political influence in France, Italy and Greece, as these countries were devastated by war. Local communists under Kremlin’s orders were preparing to win the elections there by exploiting the natural dissatisfaction of local residents with the difficult economic and social situation. General Marshall proposed a plan envisaging the use of economic support measures from the US for the reconstruction of the Western European economies, concurrently aimed at destroying Stalin’s plans of political domination. The West won the fight…

In 2017 we proposed a Marshall Plan for Ukraine: an initiative aimed at the same objectives, i.e. at supporting the reconstruction of Ukraine’s economy through the use of economic instruments, while at the same time encouraging Ukraine’s political community to pursue difficult reforms. This is our chance to prevent Putin‘s strategic victory in regaining Ukraine and reasserting his political domination over Ukraine’s further development. Putin is interested in preventing Ukraine from reforming itself and becoming a successful state, because he needs Ukraine to remain in the grey area. Ukraine’s success would be dangerous to Putin, as the same idea could spill over to ordinary citizens in Russia, with Ukraine’s success leaving less space for Putin’s hybrid manipulation.

Finally, Ukraine’s success is the sole instrument the West has at its disposal to achieve a more complex and time-consuming result, namely, positive transformation in Russia itself. All the West can do to promote positive transformation in Russia is surround Russia by successful democracies, in particular Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, and later Belarus, Armenia and Azerbaijan.

This is the rationale behind the Marshall Plan for Ukraine, first outlined in early spring 2017 and followed by the launch of a proactive lobbying campaign in Western capitals and in Kiev. As a matter of fact, the initial success of the initiative led to setting new objectives and new tasks, making new journeys and confronting new challenges. Our trip to Ottawa completes this year’s intensive cycle of travels and meetings. Intensive as it was, towards the end of the year I saw foreign parliaments more often than the Chamber of the Seimas, and I saw hotel rooms more often than my family.

While waiting for my flight to Frankfurt, I am drafting an overview of the achievements of the past 7–8 months.

1. In March 2017, the Seimas Committee on European Affairs and the Committee on Foreign Affairs unanimously endorsed the Lithuanian support plan for Ukraine, co-drafted by Petras Vaitiekūnas, Gediminas Kirkilas, and myself. The plan included an initiative entitled The Marshall Plan for Ukraine.

2. The support to the Marshall Plan for Ukraine expressed in late March by the European People’s Party congress in Malta, with the participation of Angela Merkel and Petro Poroshenko, made us aware of the amount of work ahead and the need to make proper use of the support of European policy makers.

3. On his return to Kiev from Malta, the Ukrainian President Poroshenko made a public and vocal announcement that the Plan was one of the most important international initiatives of support for Ukraine. The Ukrainian society formed high expectations for the initiative and we rolled up our sleeves to meet them.

4. This was when we began to travel the world lobbying for the Marshall Plan for Ukraine. The delegation of representatives from the Lithuanian Seimas and the Ukrainian Rada mainly consisted of Andrius Kubilius, Gediminas Kirkilas, Hanna Hopko, and Ostap Yednak. Sometimes Žygimantas Pavilionis, Mindaugas Puidokas, and additional members of the Verkhovna Rada joined the group. Later, Ramūnas Stanionis from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs joined us as well and carried out an enormous amount of organisational and drafting work.

5. A delegation of the aforementioned or similar composition visited Washington (twice), Brussels (twice), London (twice), Berlin, Paris, Ottawa, Warsaw, and Tallinn. In addition, we took part in a host of travels to Ukraine, a number of individual visits to Brussels, Cadenabbia, Tallinn and elsewhere, where we kept advocating for the cause.

6. The Speaker of the Seimas, Viktoras Pranckietis, Minister Linas Linkevičius, other politicians and Lithuanian diplomats, in particular those working in Kiev and Brussels, contributed to the common effort to promote the Marshall Plan for Ukraine. Deividas Matulionis, Adviser to the Prime Minister, created a dedicated informal working group to coordinate the joint efforts. Robertas Stanionis was the main engine of the informal working group.

7. Major achievements:

(a) awareness of the Plan has been raised in a number of important capitals and institutions. The Plan’s visibility has grown in Kiev and all over Ukraine.

(b) good contacts have been established with the relevant decision-makers in many capitals, the European Commission and the European Parliament.

(c) a very close dialogue has been developed with relevant international financial institutions: the World Bank, the EIB, and the EBRD. We all have a shared understanding of the key challenges in Ukraine.

(d) thanks to our efforts both in Kiev and Brussels, it came out that in the aftermath of the Maidan Revolution Ukraine received between EUR 6 and 7 billion in financial assistance from various donors and international financial institutions to be invested in the real economy (infrastructure, small and medium-sized businesses). Ukraine, however, has so far only been able to absorb EUR1.6 billion. This owes to the fact that the Ukrainian authorities have very weak capacities to effectively draw up sizeable infrastructure projects for donor funding. Therefore, we propose that the Ukrainian authorities learn from our experience in setting up the Central Project Management Agency (CPMA) and establish a dedicated agency in Kiev with the mandate and the resources allowing it to efficiently draft the said projects and ensure that their implementation is transparent. When faced with similar problems of absorption of financial support, Lithuania established the Central Project Management Agency (CPMA) in 2002.

(e) one of the most important achievements reached thanks to an important contribution by Laima Andrikienė is the recommendation made by the European Parliament to the Eastern Partnership Summit in November that the leadership of the EU and EIB implement our initiative. The European Commission grows increasingly aware of the importance of the initiative. President Poroshenko was informed of that during his meeting with Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, and Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy. We also learned about this from our communication with the relevant officials of the Commission.

(f) in late June 2018, the second Ukraine Reform Conference will be organised in Copenhagen (the first was organised in July 2017 in London). It will be complemented by a high level investor and donor conference. This should mark the beginning of a new phase of implementation of the Marshall Plan for Ukraine.

(g) the Ukrainian side may present the Marshall Plan for Ukraine at the traditional Ukrainian Breakfast at the Davos Economic Forum in late January.

(h) in late January 2018, Vilnius will host an informal meeting: a seminar to which the main stakeholders of the Marshall Plan for Ukraine are invited, including representatives of the European Commission and Ukrainian authorities, as well as representatives of the EIB, the EBRD, and the WB. The aim is to demonstrate the CPMA experience and discuss the prospects of establishing a similar agency in Ukraine as such an institution is necessary for further implementation of the Marshall Plan. Such an agency in Kiev should be set up by the main donors and charged with drafting and oversight of implementation of projects. Its task should also be to ensure transparency of the process and monitor whether the Government of Ukraine efficiently implements the key reforms agreed with donors. In addition, the Agency should promote the visibility of the Marshall Plan in Ukraine.

(i) the number one concern of the nearest six months is to get a thumbs-up for our project from the G7. After the last round of talks in Washington DC and Ottawa, it would appear that the G7 could actually do so at the beginning of June this year during the G7 Summit in Canada. In fact, Canada has a large Ukrainian community which, in turn, has high hopes for support from the G7. Canadian authorities in charge of Canada’s G7 presidency are considering the matter. In view of their geopolitical importance, the Ukrainian affairs will definitely feature on the summit’s agenda and the Marshall Plan for Ukraine (currently called the European Plan for Ukraine) is an initiative that is new, appropriate and genuinely necessary. Also encouraging is the fact that Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chrystia Freeland, is of Ukrainian descent. It is up to Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the G7 to prepare all the agreements and decisions, including that on Ukraine. Importantly, the Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs visited Kiev in December.

(y) it is symbolic that, during a recent meeting at the US Senate, one of the most influential Senators and a distinguished expert in US foreign and security policy concluded the discussion by asking about a bank account to which the US could transfer $25 million for further development of our initiative.

(j) before the G7 summit in Canada, the Canadian Parliament and the US Congress are likely to consider special resolutions drafted by the friends of Ukraine and expressing support for the Marshall Plan for Ukraine.

(k) the pro-Kremlin Russian media takes every opportunity to nervously criticise our initiative, which is an indication that we are on the right track.

These are the results of my efforts and the efforts of the entire team made over the past six months. Some say I have forgotten Lithuania. However, from geopolitical security point of view, no cause is more important to Lithuania and the entire Europe than Ukraine’s success. It is feasible. Yet for achieving it, apart from advice, Ukraine needs real financial support from the West. It needs real money to be invested in roads, ports, and medium-sized enterprises. It needs swift economic growth brought about by the Plan we are advocating for.

In conclusion, here are the most important features of the Marshall Plan for Ukraine, co-drafted with our Ukrainian friends:

1. The Plan is based on the idea that there is a need to mobilise an annual EUR 5 billion investment package to be invested in the real economy in Ukraine, including infrastructure, small and medium sized businesses, and municipal projects. So far, most of the financial assistance from the International Monetary Fund was directed to ensuring macro-financial stability. A new investment programme under the Marshall Plan may run for up to 10 years. Its implementation would ensure the country’s economic growth of 6–8 %. The Ukrainian economy now only grows by 1–2 %. No new money is needed for the Plan’s initial rollout phase, since Ukraine already has more than EUR 5 billion allocated by various international financial institutions, a sum the country has not yet absorbed.

2. The funds under the Plan will reach Ukraine if and only if Ukraine is successful in implementing the agreed reform programme. A clear principle should govern our action: reform first, money afterwards.

3. For the Plan to succeed, Ukraine needs to establish a dedicated Agency for its implementation. It should be independent from the Government and established by the main donors in cooperation with the Ukrainian Government. The main responsibilities of the Agency should include: 1) proper preparation of projects for funding and oversight of their implementation; 2) ensuring transparency of the whole process; 3) monitoring of efficiency of implementation of agreed reforms by the Government; and 4) increasing the visibility of the Marshall Plan for Ukraine in Ukraine itself.

4. The main objective of the Plan, just like that of the Marshall Plan in 1947, is to win the war for people’s hearts and minds. If we do not help Ukraine, Vladimir Putin will be the winner.

Let me leave you with my final observation. I often hear critics say we cannot propose the Marshall Plan for Ukraine as the Ukrainian authorities are untrustworthy, the President is unreliable, the legal framework is far from Western standards, Ukraine is home to corruption, and its democracy continues to be weak. This may well be the case, but one cannot help but see the huge number of complex reforms Ukraine has already carried out after Maidan. All the talk about Ukraine’s weakness, to me, is an even greater proof that Ukraine needs assistance. Strong countries need no Marshall Plan. But if we forsake the weak countries and leave them to their own devices, they stand a high chance of failure. Therefore, Ukraine’s weakness today is the strongest argument in favour of a Marshall Plan for Ukraine.

If General George Marshall was alive today, he would definitely embark on implementing such a Plan. However, he is no longer there. Therefore, we have to do it ourselves. Our geopolitical security depends on this. And so does our future.

For more information on the Plan, see:

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