THE TENSE situation in Ukraine continues to pose questions for Slovakia, especially regarding the potential security risks it could mean for the country. The Slovak Spectator (TSS) spoke to Alexander Duleba, analyst with the Slovak Foreign Policy Association (SFPA), about these questions.

TSS: Is there a risk that the situation in Ukraine could escalate into a civil war?
AD:
There definitely is such a risk. The situation is tense not only in Kiev, but also in regional centres. In western Ukraine people practically took over power and the state is not functioning properly there anymore. In the western, but also in the eastern regions of Ukraine, we have witnessed the protesters taking over the state administration, although only half-successfully, because the president’s forces regained control in four regions yesterday (January 26). There are only two regions left where there are no protests, Donetsk and Crimea. All other areas are engaged in a struggle between the protesters and governmental forces. I don’t know what name to use for this. It is not a civil war yet, although we have seen several people killed.

TSS: What would it mean for Slovakia if the tension and conflict in Ukraine continue?
AD:
The question is how long can it go on like this. For Slovakia, just like for all the neighbouring countries, it is important that a political solution to the crisis is put in place. The real problem for Slovakia would arise if a dictatorship emerged in Ukraine. But that is unlikely. Half of the country refused the government of Yanukovych, including all the western regions that neighbour Slovakia. But if theoretically Ukraine was turned into a dictatorship, we would face a wave of immigrants, as seen from the example of Belarus, where about 2 million people left the country, out of 10 million inhabitants. Ukraine has about 47 million inhabitants. That would mean millions of Ukrainians searching for new homes. On the other hand, if it is resolved politically, the system will change and the people will again believe that they can live a normal life in their country. That should be the solution for us and for them. In that case there would be no dramatic consequences for Slovakia.

TSS: Would Slovakia be a final destination or rather a transition country for the potential immigrants?
AD:
If we take the 2 million Belarusians, almost half of them stayed in Lithuania and Poland, the two neighbouring countries. So if Poland and Lithuania were good enough for the Belarusians, certainly Slovakia too could be acceptable for Ukrainians.

What specific steps can Slovakia or the EU take to help resolve the situation?
AD:
At the moment I don’t think there is anything left that Slovakia could do. It is in the hands of the Ukrainians now. They don’t need the negotiations to be mediated, because the government and the protesters are negotiating. They don’t need an international mediator. And I don’t see any other possibilities for Slovakia to intervene from outside. It is something that the Ukrainians need to resolve for themselves.