December 14, 112 Ukraine TV channel to publish an interview with former Polish President Aleksander Kwaśniewski. We publish a fragment of a conversation, where Kwaśniewski talks on BURISMA company, which was drawn into the campaign of Donald Trump and the Democrats. Kwaśniewski is a member of the Supervisory Board of the company. Earlier, the son of US Vice President Joe Biden, Hunter Biden, also was on its list.
Pavlo Kuzheev: Speaking of political independence, Ukraine needs to become more attractive for investors. We might witness a scandal in Washington and in Kyiv concerning BURISMA company. You have been part of this company for more than five years. How can you describe this period of time: for you personally, for the company, for the entire energy sector of Ukraine?
Aleksander Kwaśniewski: It is important for Ukraine to create such laws and conditions that would attract investors, giving guarantees, that they can assume that there would be an opportunity for investment, for profits, etc. I have no doubt that Ukraine’s capabilities are big. And it should use them. As for BURISMA, I was invited to the Board of Directors in 2014. Five years have passed. [This office] is called “director,” but we work there primarily as strategic advisers. I accepted this proposal because the independence of Ukraine strongly relies on gas: to what extent Ukraine will depend on Russian gas and how much will have its own gas.
BURISMA makes great success - it produces more than a billion cubic meters of gas annually. This is 5% of the gas used by Ukraine, 10% of all imports. And this means a lot. The company has good opportunities to grow. This is a very modern company with a full cycle: exploration, production, processing, and sells this gas to Ukrainian companies.
We took these positions of advisers, directors because this company wanted to work in accordance with European, international standards and laws. I wanted to be a modern, international company, which would not only operate in the Ukrainian market but would be a company in the European, international sense. It turned out that the company works very well, successfully. According to my information, it pays taxes, it is the third taxpayer in Ukraine. Over 255 million USD taxes were paid. The company has a very good, large program, which we call social responsibility: it helps regions, helps people, builds schools, etc.
Of course, everything that is happening now is good for the company, because if they asked America what the most popular Ukrainian company, everyone would say: BURISMA. I don’t know how BURISMA enjoys such popularity, but I need to understand this from a political point of view. But politically it must be said that this company turned out to be like a boat in the center of a cyclone. This is not about BURISMA, I am talking about a fight in America. BURISMA is the kind of tool that President Trump is using because he started this fight against his rival in the 2020 election, Joe Biden. And, of course, this fight will continue because Biden will be a Democratic candidate. So BURISMA will be mentioned in all media until November 20th. But it is a victim of this political struggle in Washington. It is not the cause of this struggle, not the goal, it is not taking part in this political confrontation. It happens.
Until recently, the son of former US Vice President Biden was a member of the BURISMA Board of Directors. What is your impression as a member of the Board of Directors about this person?
I did not know him before. He came to the company a few months after me. He is a professional person who helped the company as a good lawyer. As a person who participated in the boards of directors of good, large American companies. It was very useful when we talked about the culture of company management, about strategy in the international market, about the capital market in America. He gave us information on which equipment is good because most of the equipment used by BURISMA is made in the US. I remember him as a professional member of these councils. We met every year, twice as a council, and BURISMA organized it four times, and for the fifth time, it organizes a large international conference on energy security in Monaco next year. He took part there as a speaker and spoke there about the US, about the world, how it looks from that point of view. I consider him a normal, professional member of the board.
That is, the whole story around this company is not so much a story about gas, but about politics?
100%, even 120% about politics. It began with the fact that President Trump himself and his strategists realized that Joe Biden was the most dangerous competitor in the next election for him. And they began to look for what could be found on Biden, what would help us win the elections. I personally don’t know Joe Biden. I have never met him as a vice president. And as a Board of Directors, we also never met with him. We had no desire to meet. We did not need him for anything. And we did not ask Hunter Biden to help us arrange a meeting with his father. I once, as president, met Biden when he was a congressman. It was a meeting of several congressmen with me. And that’s all. Finding something personally against Joe Biden is very difficult because he is a very honest person. He had no big scandals. But it was necessary to find something, so they found that Hunter was working for a Ukrainian company, and promoted it. This is, above all, the struggle between the president and his rival from the Democratic Party.
But certain politicians in Ukraine and the United States are blaming the activities of the BURISMA company itself. Are they true? And how does all this turbulence affect the life of BURISMA?
It doesn’t affect much, because the company works fine, it produces gas, sells gas, everything is going well. We will meet at the next Board of Directors, so we will say how it all goes. But from the information that I have, everything is going in the right way. Of course, this noise does not help the company. Psychologically, this is not good. For me, as for a person who looks a little from the other side, the most important thing is that there are no criminal cases against BURISMA. And in recent days, Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Ryaboshapka and the people of President Zelensky said: we have nothing against BURISMA.
And when do you think these “waves” around BURISMA would settle down?
If Biden has a Democratic nomination, then it will be until November 2020. One of the main arguments for Trump’s attack on Biden is that it will be Ukraine, BURISMA, this will be the role that Joe Biden played in Ukraine. And they will remember BURISMA many more times. But this will be a political noise, which, of course, is unpleasant for the company, but does not destroy the activity of the company. We need to get used to this and we must understand that this is an American issue. Not even Ukrainian. In this political struggle that the Americans started, they even wanted to say that this was an influence on the elections in the USA in 2016 like it was not from Russia, but from Ukraine. But now everyone knows that Ukraine had nothing to do with this influence on the elections. What impact can BURISMA have on elections? This is absurd.
Who would have thought about the role of Ukraine in choosing a president in the United States?
Yes, if I were the president of Ukraine, I would not like it very much. It would be a good plot for the American election as a module of positive development or transformation. In this sense, all the propaganda that comes from the Americans is unpleasant for Ukraine, because it repeats all the stereotypes that no longer exist, they are just false. Corruption is a big problem in Ukraine, and this is true. But I must say that Ukraine has done a lot in this fight. It has new institutions that are required to fight corruption, and they are really working. This stereotype is not good, it does not help Ukraine, and, unfortunately, the Republicans use it very much. I am sure that President Zelensky and BURISMA do not like this. Nobody should like this. Because Ukraine deserved a better opinion, because everything that this country has done in absolutely difficult conditions, from the very beginning of its independence, and especially after 2014, is for me an occasion for respect for Ukraine, and not for such insults.
Do you feel pressure as an independent director on the BURISMA board? Maybe from the Ukrainian authorities, maybe some calls from Washington?
No, there were no calls. I think all serious people understand the role of such a council, and nothing bad can be said about our activities as a board of directors.
And has Hunter Biden’s non-participation affected the work of the council?
We have another colleague from the USA. Of course, he also advises us those things, which were previously dealt with by Hunter Biden. I must say that this was Hunter Biden’s decision when his father entered politics again. The family thought that this was already the end when he refused the elections in 2016, but he decided to go to this election campaign of the Democrats. Hunter, in my opinion, correctly said that there might be some kind of conflict of interests, Republican media could be used against his father, and he decided to leave the Council. No one then thought that, in spite of this decision by Hunter, Giuliani and others would use Hunter as an example of something bad. But the council is working.
Here, perhaps, it would add some piquancy if BURISMA invited someone from the Trump family to the Board of Directors?
It’s a good idea, but I think that after the last experience, all the issues, related to the US, should be postponed by the end of their internal conflict. Because today the polarization of the American population, American politics is so strong that it is more difficult to negotiate and work with Americans than it was before. This is a big problem, and I think that President Trump does not even understand this, that America is losing its role as a model, as a country that was a champion of democracy. As we always say, there is a difference of opinion, but Republicans and Democrats, in the end, can always come to an agreement, can do something most important together. Now, this polarization is so strong that it is impossible. If you are with Trump, then you are against Biden, if you are with Biden, then you are against Trump. But you can work together for some purpose, for shared values. Now, this does not work with the Americans, unfortunately.