Savchenko supports Ukraine's integration into EU and NATO / Photo from UNIAN

Nadia Savchenko: "We need to feed our army, otherwise we’ll have to feed someone else’s. And God forbid we feed the Russian army."

People’s Deputy of Ukraine, member of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security and Defense Nadia Savchenko, who was recently released from Russian captivity, shared with UNIAN her view on the prospects for Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic integration and told us of her impression from taking part in the work of PACE and the Ukrainian Parliament

Savchenko supports Ukraine's integration into EU and NATO / Photo from UNIAN

What is your opinion on Ukraine’s possible NATO membership?

In 2006, when I was a cadet at the Air Force University in Kharkiv, the issue of Ukraine joining NATO was raised as well. Then I stood against this option for I believed that Ukraine, if entering any partnership, should do so on an equal footing. At that time, we did not meet NATO standards and were not moving fast enough in that direction. That’s why I believed it would be an unequal partnership. Now that Ukraine is on its path to Europe, we need to communicate on all platforms, including on the NATO platform.

Does this mean you support the idea of Ukraine's membership in NATO?

Yes, I do. If we are able to raise the level of our army to NATO standards by 2020, then we can go for an accession.

The need for the Armed Forces of Ukraine to meet NATO standards by 2020 is declared by the country's leadership. As a person who saw the army from the inside, do you think it’s accomplishable?

Is it possible to accomplish by 2020? Right now, this can be done, as never before. This can really be done if we launch the reform really quick, if the oligarchs realize quickly that they need to share their money, if the [procedure] will be properly drawn of special confiscation, if the money starts flowing into the budget which has been looted, and if the laws will be implemented on reforms in the Armed Forces... Our people are ready to move up to the international level of the very construction of the army and logistics. The only question is whether we have the political will and, most importantly, whether there a desire to give more than take.

Savchenko assessed the possibility of the Ukrainian army moving to NATO standards by 2020. / Photo from UNIAN

But do you believe that the oligarchs...

... I get it. Remember the gangsters from the 1990’s? In America, when they were getting out of crisis,  they taxed the rich in order to fill the budget did taxes for the rich, they filled the budget. The gangsters, when they later repented, brought their money to the church.

I harbor hope ... I understand that you're looking wild-eyed at my naivety, but I’ll be telling them that they need to share. Because if they [the oligarchs] want to continue to have something, they might not have anywhere to take from – the Ukrainian people have gotten very poor. Now we need to invest – someone will invest in some plant of the defense industry, someone – in army infrastructure. We need to feed our army, otherwise we will have to feed someone else’s. And God forbid we feed the Russian army. If we start off right now and if we are willing to make an effort, then starting this year, we can do it.

Are you ready to draw up this initiative at the legislative level?

I need to study the experience of other countries and draw up a unified system that would work for Ukraine.

Savchenko: We need to feed our army, otherwise we will feed someone else’s / Photo from UNIAN

What about the prospects for EU membership?

Have you seen Strasbourg? I saw a stork right in the city. In our villages, they say that if the stork sits on the rooftop of someone’s house, it’s a happy house then. Here, there is a stork in the city. This is a happy city. Can you understand it?

Why don’t we strive to walk this path? Why don’t we have bike lanes? Today I was almost knocked down by a cyclist because I was not aware I was walking on such bike lane. We are not striving for anything bad as we move toward the EU. I believe that Ukraine should have its own path, a kind of a special one.

You said you will be making steps toward Europe. However, you submitted a bill that suspended the reform of the judiciary, earlier approved by the Venice Commission and favorably assessed by the EU. And still, you are saying that you are making steps toward Europe? Don’t you see contradictions?

I have studied this issue. The proposals which were provided by various European institutions regarding judicial reform in Ukraine have been greatly changed. A lot was deleted and plenty of provisions were added in order to retain the system to which we are accustomed – the system of corruption. When the bill was being agreed with the Europeans, they understood that Ukraine should take the path of reform. That’s why I think they turned a blind eye to many things, just to let something start here. They really want us to fight against corruption not on paper, not with our words, but with our deeds. And this law does absolutely nothing in practice. It only does it on paper, just to show that we allegedly want this. I believe that there should be action, right action.

I don’t stand against the law on judicial reform, I mind the way it has been spelled out and I oppose the way it is being adopted. We as parliamentarians have the right to discuss it. I believe I guided this reform on a more direct, simpler and more honest path, the European path. I don’t want us to go to Europe via Moscow as we are keen on doing.

Savchenko told about her work in PACE / Photo from UNIAN

You have been working in PACE for several days now. Is there a difference in this work, compared to Ukraine?

Yes, there is. Here the world is spinning and thinking more slowly. Probably, this is working, as it keeps your mind clear. We seem to be moving erratically, back and forth, and for some reason, were not doing anything right.

Iryna Somer

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