"Kyiv Post": On 24th August 2011, Ukraine celebrates the 20th anniversary of its Declaration of Independence. What are Ukraine's accomplishments in the last 20 years? What has the country achieved so far in your opinion?
A.U.: For obvious reasons, most Ukrainians and many Western observers would take a critical view of the last 20 years. However, in historical and comparative terms, Ukraine's achievements still outweigh the many failures.
Above all, Ukraine has, if compared to similar countries, so far remained exceptional in that it has avoided civil war, on its territory. That might seem trivial. It is, however, quite an achievement, if one sees Ukraine's recent history against the background of what happened in Bosnia, Kosovo, Transnistria, Chechnia, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Nagorno-Karabakh, or Tadzhikistan.
A second achievement is that Ukraine is still - unlike Russia or Belarus - a "partly free" country, according to Freedom House. In 2005-2009, it was even the only free post-Soviet country, except for the Baltic states. The relatively prodemocratic development of Ukraine has been a major success.
A third achievement is that Ukraine is currently negotiating with the European Union a Political Association Agreement and, so far, unique Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement that will, if signed in due course, be not only Ukraine's, but also the EU's largest foreign treaty.
All that are phenomena which set the Ukrainian people clearly apart from their Eastern Slavic "brother nations" as well as from the peoples of the Caucasus and Central Asia - that means those countries which, like Ukraine, have been parts of the USSR since its foundation in 1922. That is why Ukraine remains an exceptional country, within the post-Soviet context.