July 2-3, 2016 in the city of Kyiv on the initiative of Andriy Biletsky, the leader of the AZOV movement, MP of Ukraine and the first commander of the AZOV regiment, was held the Inaugural Conference of the Intermarium Development Assistance Group. For the first time numerous Ukrainian and international civil initiatives seeking for an alternative vector of European integration gained a practical dimension and a focal point. In turn, the countries of Eastern and Central Europe obtained real prospects for uniting their capabilities in the strategic fields in the near future.
In the two-day conference took an active part delegates from the entire region, particularly Poland, Belarus and the Baltic states, from the government representatives to the volunteer organizations in support of Ukraine like NGO “Vaba Ukraina” (Free Ukraine) from Estonia. These states, along with Ukraine, are the most likely candidates for the membership in the Baltic-Black Sea Union, its core. However, representatives of Croatia and Slovakia were no less enthusiastic participants of the international event, thus showing that the second stage of integration as the Adriatic-Baltic-Black Sea Union is not far off. In addition, experts in the field of military cooperation (conference participants and guests from Sweden and Georgia) have shown that potential partner countries of the Intermarium are really worthy of this title, unlike Western partner “peacekeepers.” Finally, emerged a remote yet far-reaching horizon in the form of allied areas inside the Russian Federation, namely the autonomy project of the Kaliningrad region known to have a strategic nuclear importance.
Although the Group promoting the development of the Baltic-Black Sea Union, which united various national delegations, is a public initiative, military attaches of diplomatic missions from the key countries in the region (Poland, Hungary, Romania and Lithuania) also joined the conference as honorary members of the Conference Bureau and expressed the wish for further cooperation with delegates and the AZOV movement. Precisely welcome speeches by the leader of the AZOV movement Andriy Biletsky and military attaches opened the first day of the event, signifying the seriousness of intentions of the organizers. Panoramic presentation of the Baltic-Black Sea Union project by Mykola Kravchenko, deputy head of the Staff of the “AZOV” Civil Corps aroused great interest and dozens of questions from the audience and journalists. The detailed answers and comments to the analytical handouts could hear all who participated in the work of sections that elaborated on the presentation in the following pivotal areas: military cooperation and defense; economics and energy; geopolitics, science, education and culture.
Baltic-Black Sea cooperation in the field of defense got the widest coverage as it meets the main request of the region: setting up a regional security system after the international legal guarantees of peace in Europe and the inviolability of frontiers of sovereign states, especially the Budapest Memorandum, have turned out to be illusory. The ratio of speeches made by the “Azovians” (Olexandr Alf’orov, Andriy Dyachenko) within this section was also fully expected given that the real military experience gained by Ukrainian and foreign fighters of at first the volunteer battalion, now the exemplary guards “AZOV” regiment during the new-generation warfare waged by the Russian Federation in the Donbas and the AZOV movement’s contribution to the military and information security of not only Ukraine, but the whole region are the most persuasive arguments in favor of sustainability of the Kyiv-based Intermarium Development Assistance Group. In particular, quite a number of proposals for cooperation with the AZOV movement in the field of defense received Giorgi Kuparashvili, the head of the Military School of Colonel Yevhen Konovalets, who spoke on a unified regional system of military education on a basis of the Ukraine-Georgia cooperation.
The practical focus of the conference was also confirmed by the next section dedicated to the prospects of the region’s energy self-sufficiency and building a common economic space in Eastern and Central Europe. The guest from Belarus, expert of the analytical portal “Belarus Security Blog” Zmicier Mickiewicz revealed the possibilities for the military-industrial cooperation in the region, especially joint production cycles, on the example of the real interaction between Belarusian and Ukrainian defense industries after the outbreak of war in eastern Ukraine despite the official policies of Minsk. Active participant of both conference days from Poland Mariusz Patey, director of the Institute of Professor Roman Rybarski, discussed the ways of the win-win economic cooperation in the region, from the establishment of joint investment funds to the restoration of the oil pipeline project “Sarmatia” connecting Odessa and Brody that was meant to reach the city of Plock (already linked with the Polish city of Gdansk).
Inequality of Central and Eastern Europe with unofficial leaders of the European Union, especially Germany and France, in solving economic issues, which was discussed within the previous section, was also raised in the light of the Baltic-Black Sea Union namely as a geopolitical alternative of the European Union within the final conference section on regional cooperation in the fields of geopolitics, science, education and culture. All more evident EU crisis after the refugee issue exacerbation, which symbolically resulted in the Brexit, encourages accelerating efforts towards the Baltic-Black Sea Commonwealth, which is united not only by the common security and economic interests, but also by similar understanding of cultural values and the historical destiny. The success of Croatia in defending its cultural identity in spite of globalization trends in the EU was the subject of journalist Leo Marić from Croatia, including in the context of the Adriatic-Baltic-Black Sea partnership initiated by President of Croatia Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović. Activity of the Adriatic-Baltic-Black Sea Group and current geopolitical developments in this area, both strengths and risks of the search for an alternative, highlighted in her speech Gintarė Narkevičiūtė, frequent participant of the Intermarium related events, Director for International Affairs at the Ronald Reagan House, Vice-President of the IYDU and Ambassador for the Lithuania Tribune.
During the concluding conference section also took floor Taras Osaulenko, organizer of the First Baltic-Black Sea Forum in Kyiv, MP of Ukraine of the 7th convocation and the head of the NGO “International Initiative to Support Ukraine,” which is the best proof for the consolidation of civil forces aiming at the formation of natural for Ukraine and the entire region geopolitical union in the context of the common security challenges of today. Speeches by other Ukrainian participants on the geopolitical, educational, scientific and cultural topics (Olexandr Maslak, Olena Semenyaka, Edward Yurchenko and Svyatoslav Vyshynsky), among others, made especially clear that the “eurointegration” line of the current Ukraine’s government was artificial and untimely.
After the closing ceremony guests and participants of the first conference day expressed their vision of the Intermarium in the short interviews that will soon be published online. In turn, the opening of the conference was preceded by a series of thematic video conversations with the speakers which will also be brought to the attention of Ukrainian and international audience.
The first day of the two-day event, which took place on July 2 in the conference hall of the Radisson Blu Hotel, on July 3 continued at the headquarters of the “AZOV” Civil Corps. The second conference day, which was attended, among others, by the leaders of youth branches of political parties and nationalist movements of the Baltic-Black Sea area, was no less important. During the intensive work of the delegates from Lithuania, Poland, Croatia, Belarus and Russia was discussed a wide range of issues, from the political system of the Intermarium as a geopolitical union to specific ways of joint information resistance to the Kremlin’s lobby in Eastern and Central Europe.
It should be noted that it was the case of not merely joint resistance to the Russian threat, but a truly historic breakthrough in international relations resulting in the establishment of close cooperation between Ukrainian and Polish nationalists, on the one hand, and Polish and Lithuanian nationalists, on the other. Baltic-Black Sea Union as a supranational idea of Eastern European countries’ alliance released an enormous amount of creative energy previously wasted on useless debates about the conflicts of the past and promises to evolve into fruitful publishing, touristic and even government projects aimed at enhancing the cultural, educational, academic and scientific cooperation and overcoming ethnic tensions among the countries of the region.
Mindaugas Sidaravičius, head of the youth wing of the party “Lithuanian Nationalist Union,” which is essentially a separate organization, Witold Dobrowolski, editor of the Polish nationalist magazine “Szturm,” Michał Orzechowski, a journalist of the “World Solidarity” portal from Warsaw, a representative of the “Baltic Vanguard of Russian Resistance” (BARS) who suggested an alliance of the Kaliningrad region with the future Baltic-Black Sea Union, already familiar from the first conference day Mariusz Patey, Leo Marić and Zmicier Mickiewicz, Andrey Kuznetsov, chief editor of the information portal #Orange and, last but not least, Denis Vikhorev and Alexey Levkin, representatives of the “Russian Center” as the main coordination platform of the Russian nationalist exile in Kyiv, and now all the supporters of the Intermarium idea on the territory of Russia, who prepared for the participants an informative brochure about the madness of neo-Soviet revanchism in Russia, – these are the faces of the second conference day, Ukrainian “delegation” aside, who have already started implementing tasks to promote the development of the Baltic-Black Sea Union: the creation of a joint information platform, outlining a program of actions and the directions of lobbying the Intermarium project at the local, national and all-European levels.
In addition, on the final conference day was presented a spectacular film about two years of the national revival and struggle against the invader by the Ukrainian people on the example of achievements of the AZOV movement, as well as were distributed materials of “Orientyr” – the first Ukrainian publishing house founded by the fighters and volunteers of the novel national liberation war.
Livelytalks on the sidelines and making plans for further systematic cooperation between national delegations, which summarized both conference days, allow saying with certainty that the Baltic-Black Sea Union from the “alternative” geopolitical project and integration vector turns into the major.