Ukrainian civil society leader focuses on Taiwan: Interview with Hanna Hopko

Hanna Hopko (on the left) and Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen. Photo provided by Hanna Hopko and used with permission.

Ukraine and Taiwan are sometimes compared as two democratic countries faced with direct threats — or invasion — by their authoritarian neighbours: Russia and China. How then should Kyiv and Taipei collaborate? Global Voices interviewed Hanna Hopko, one of the most vocal supporters of Taiwan in Ukraine, to hear about ongoing cooperation and dialogues.

For more on the Ukraine–Taiwan comparison, read ‘Ukraine today, Taiwan tomorrow': Is the comparison valid? 

Hanna Hopko is a civil society leader, former MP and plays a major role in Ukraine's public diplomacy in Asia, mostly in Japan and Taiwan, where she travels to inform local political and other decision makers about Ukrainian views, needs and willingness to collaborate.
The interview with Hopko took place in English over email after a meeting in Kyiv. It has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Portrait of Hanna Hopko, photo used with permission.

Filip Noubel (FN) : How did you get involved in supporting Taiwan’s democracy?

Hanna Hopko (HH): As a co-founder of ICUV — the International Center for Ukrainian Victory — I visited Taiwan for the first time in October 2022 to participate in the 11th Global Assembly of the World Movement for Democracy, which gathered over 200 global representatives to exchange ideas on how to best fight authoritarian regimes. The assembly became a fruitful platform for negotiations, as a result of which Taiwan allocated a new package of financial assistance, as well as a general strengthening of new partnership relations between the Republic of China [Taiwan's official name] and Ukraine. In addition to financial support, the Ukrainian side also discussed the possibilities of future democratic, in particular digital, reforms and the common experience of our peoples in opposing the authoritarian regimes of the aggressor countries.

One similar message was heard everywhere: China has ambitions for global dominance, which is precisely the goal of its expansionist policy. It is indeed China and Russia that work together to spread authoritarianism. Therefore, from the beginning of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Taiwan began to provide humanitarian aid to Ukrainians in various European Union countries, to cooperate with Ukrainian mayors by providing money to cities with destroyed infrastructure.

Russian aggression against Ukraine has been going on for ten years. This is why the geopolitical importance of the Ukrainian victory is felt very acutely in East Asia, where democratic states such as Japan, Taiwan and South Korea have found themselves surrounded by authoritarian regimes.

Our visit to Taiwan was an important step for establishing close ties, and we have since continued our collaboration: in April 2023, ICUV organized the first ever Ukrainian-Taiwanese round table on the topic of tension between China and Taiwan, and the impact of Ukrainian victory on the geopolitical situation in Asia.

The discussion brought together about 40 diplomats, Ukrainian deputies, representatives of civil society, analysts, representatives of donor funds, and journalists from Ukraine, Taiwan, Japan, the US, and Europe.

FN: Would you agree that most Ukrainian politicians and top government officials have a pro-Beijing attitude? Why is that so?

HH: Very few government officials really understand China. For years, all they did was to looked at Beijing as a trading partner that could play a positive role by replacing Russia, following Moscow's invasion in 2014.

More understanding and education is needed on this issue and more contacts with Asian democracies as well as European partners who can share their perspectives. This is why we organised the April discussion. It was an important step for establishing close ties, discussing parallels between Russian and Chinese expansion, and sharing experiences of resisting a powerful invader.

According to the DoubleThink Lab (a Taiwan-based think tank) China Index, Beijing is significantly present in Ukraine in the following areas: foreign policy, technology and law enforcement. While Taiwan maintains a trade representative in Kyiv, Kyiv has no official representation in Taiwan.

FN: You just returned from a visit to India to explain Ukraine’s views about the full-scale Russian invasion. Who in India is willing to listen to the voice of Ukraine?

HH: It was my second visit to India; the first took place in 2009 in Mumbai. This one took place in Delhi just before the September 2023 G20 Summit. Conversations there focused on the Global South, multipolarity, and India’s global strategy requiring steps and solutions to deal with Russia's aggression against Ukraine. One thing is clear: the faster Ukraine wins, the safer the world will be. That's why reaching a sustainable peace was one of the topic at many meetings. I spoke with Dr. S. Jaishankar, India's foreign minister, with the hope of seeing high level visitors coming from India to Ukraine.

India's role in securing sustainable peace and accountability punishment for Russia is so important to the “One Earth. One Family. One future.” concept [the theme India chose for the summit], to restore a global rules-based order, and to prevent new wars, including in the Indo-Pacific region. As we have seen, Russia is responsible for the weaponization of hunger because of the food, fuel, and fertilizers crisis it created. In this regard, the demilitarization of the Black Sea is critical.

We also raised at the summit the issue of ecocide: Russia's aggression against Ukraine has already caused USD 54 billion in environmental damage. Meanwhile, another 495 000 hectares of land , including national parks and biosphere reserves, remain under Russian occupation.

Our new ambassador to India Mr. Polischuk just began his mission. I hope we will also intensify our bilateral cooperation in different areas.  It’s important to see India more engaged in reaching sustainable peace through justice and by holding aggressors accountable.

The Peace Formula [a 10-point plan proposed by President Zelenskyy] remains the only realistic and comprehensive plan to restore Ukraine's territorial integrity and to guarantee security and justice for the entire international community. Its points were also reflected in the United Nations General Assembly Resolution “UN Charter principles underlying a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in Ukraine” adopted on February 23, 2023.

The Peace Formula is gradually gaining the support of the world majority, because it is universal in its nature and can be used not only to end Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine, but also to end other military conflicts on the planet and overcome global problems. This is why we look forward to participation of the Global South countries in this process.

Hopko tweeted about her visit:

FN: Where do you see the most realistic opportunities to strengthen Ukraine–Taiwan relations, as well as Ukraine relations with the Global South in the coming months?

HH: We work with the Kherson civic–military administration and Mykolaiv city to deliver the humanitarian aid provided by Taiwan. ANTS Network [a network affiliated to ICUV] is thankful to Taiwan's Foreign Ministry for helping Ukrainian cities.

It’s also very important to work with Taiwanese think tanks, and the expert community to focus on digitalization, security — maritime security in particular — and economic development issues.

Indeed, on July 17, Russia withdrew from the Black Sea Grain Initiative (BSGI) and started attacking Ukrainian ports storing grain intended for export. Within one year of BSGI work, Ukraine exported 33 million tons of agricultural products to 45 countries, sixty percent of the volumes going to countries in Africa and Asia. These figures would have been much higher if Russia had not systematically obstructed the normal functioning of BSGI.

Due to the blockade of the sea coast by Russia, the processing of goods by sea ports of Ukraine has decreased by 61.5 percent. Russia’s blockade of Ukraine’s food export by sea directly threatens global food security. The rise in world grain prices as a result of this blockade also benefits Russia as an exporter. But, even in these difficult conditions, Ukraine is ready to remain a guarantor of global food security. We are ready to continue exporting food to global markets. We call on all countries, especially those in Africa and Asia, which are most affected by rising food prices, to take joint global actions against Russia’s food terrorism. 


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