What has changed in the relations between Ukraine and the United States in the ten years that have passed since the establishment of the diplomatic relations and opening the American Embassy in Ukraine?
According to people who had been here from the very beginning there was a real sense of excitement and fragility about this experiment in Ukrainian independence. Whether it would last was a question. Now, ten years later, after the tenth anniversary of Ukraine’s independence we saw in July and ten years of our relationship it’s clear that this experiment has worked. I use this term following the term “the American experiment in democracy.” This is a process and we have to go through it.
Ukraine is a sovereign and independent country. It has accepted its role and responsibility on directing its own future. There have been certainly ups and downs, but I think all of us understand that Ukraine’s future is for Ukraine to decide, and I believe this one of the major developments of the last ten years.
What is Ukraine’s pace in going through this process? What are the differences in its
way compared to other countries which are often cited as an example?
I think Ukraine right now is moving towards democracy and a free market economy. Every country walks towards those things at its own pace because of its particular circumstances: history, geography, or the natural resources that it has. I think all this forms the experience Ukraine is going through right now. As we look back over the last ten years, this kind of transformation, becoming a democracy rather than a part of the Soviet Union, is huge and requires a lot of time and transformation not only in the legislative system but with the people. That can turn out to be the most difficult. There are some real accomplishments including the new Ukrainian Constitution, the Land Code, the Civil Code, the budget bill, etc. There have been lots of things that had happened that rely the foundations for kind of state that Ukraine wants to be.
How is this movement seen now, a year after the immense disappointment of the West in Ukraine due to the cassette scandal and other things? Can we say now that a clear policy toward Ukraine has already been
worked out by the Bush administration? If so, how does it differ from the Clinton administration’s policy?
Over the last ten years there has been a lot of interest in Ukraine in the United States. We have been fortunate in that there has been a two party consensus such that Republicans and Democrats agree on what are the interests of the United States in Ukraine and on the policy that we should have. That is reflected in the Bush administration policy toward Ukraine, which is a continuation more than a break from the Clinton policy. There is an agreement that Ukraine’s choices are for Ukraine to make. We would encourage these choices to be an attraction of democracy, market orientation, and integration into Europe.
Free and fair elections are a cornerstone of this. It is important that the media should have been allowed to report what they view here, that in context of elections all politicians have access to the media. The rule of the law, independent judiciary – I’m sure you’ve heard that before many times, but this is our view of what is in Ukraine’s interests, and we support that. We believe it in our interests to see a stable and prosperous Ukraine that is integrated into the united Europe.
How much will US policy towards Ukraine depend on who wins the parliamentary and presidential elections and who are the country’s leaders? Are there any preferences?
I think it’s a little too early to talk about what we are going to do after parliamentary and especially presidential elections. But what the US will look at is how elections are conducted, and the actions of Ukraine as a country. That will ultimately determine our reaction. Ukraine’s politicians are for Ukraine to choose.
The political relations between Ukraine and the United States became notably colder a year ago, especially on the high level. Perhaps it was the first year in recent times that the presidents had no meetings. Isn’t this pause too long? I mean exactly the high level.
President Bush has only been in office for exactly one year. It is true that there had been no contacts between our presidents yet. But this does not mean that President Bush is not very much engaged in thinking about the region and about Ukraine. Ambassador Pascual was in Washington for consultations a couple of weeks ago, and he had a conversation with the president about Ukraine, and the president was very engaged. We have interactions with the government of Ukraine at many different levels. Last May Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was here; National Security Councilor Condoleezza Rice was here in July; in August we had Beth Jones and Senator Lugar as well as a number of congressmen. Then in the fall the prime minister and foreign minister of Ukraine went to New York and Washington. Recently, in December, we had the Economic Policy Committee chaired by Ambassador Taylor, immediately followed with the Foreign Policy Committee, where the former ambassador of the United States to Ukraine, Deputy Secretary of State Steven Pifer was present.
There have been many comments in the US, Russian, and other countries’ press after the warming in US-Russian relations that now the US policy towards Ukraine will be determined by the development of the relationship between Russia and the United States. How does the appearance of such speculations itself correspond to the US interests; are there any foundations for them?
Actually I’ve read these articles. There is no basis for it. International relations are not a zero sum game. It is true that the United States and Russia are coming closer together, but that does not necessarily affect the relationships of the United States with other countries. The current situation is a result of a positive choice made by Russia, the fact that Russia wants to integrate into the global community, so it is taking positive choices to that end. This does not mean that there are no problems in the relations between the US and Russia; there are, and we talk about them openly.
And we at least see an opportunity for Ukraine. As Ukraine was striving its way forward, whether it is European integration or a closer relationship with NATO, or the EU, or other European institutions, there were views that perhaps this is not the best idea because Russia would oppose it. But I keep that argument on that internal debates within Ukraine has now disappeared. So Ukraine can move forward on solving the issue. I think it’s in the interests of Ukraine that Russia wants to integrate into the global community and is looking forward to various reforms. I think that this can mutually reinforce Ukraine and West as well. One thing that will remain important is that Ukraine’s relations with Russia are transparent. On the political level, it is very important that when agreements are made – political and military or straight political ones – that the Ukrainian people know what those political decisions are and how the government came to them. And on the business side the deals that are made – that’s commerce, but again it’s important that they are transparent and the Ukrainians know their value.
What prevents Ukraine from establishing such a warm relationship with the US, then?
Nothing. Everything depends on Ukrainian actions. For example, if Ukraine wants a closer relationship with NATO and puts forward suggestions to that end, I think the United States and other countries would be happy to consider them. I think our relations are warm, and certainly they are multiple; we cooperate at all different levels, and that work will continue. After September 11 the Ukrainian government and Ukrainian people made a decision to support the United States, and the US is very grateful for this.
Which problems are most important among those still unsolved in the bilateral relationship?
Ukraine’s integration into Europe is a long process. It depends on internal decisions, including those regarding the market economy. We feel it’s critically important for Ukraine to develop an IPR regime that works and can be enforced. Obviously the protection of intellectual rights is important both for us and for Ukraine. And this goes back to the issue of internal choices, the connection between Ukraine’s internal choices and its external foreign policy. Until Ukraine has an intellectual property rights regime that meets international standards, Ukraine will not be able to join the WTO or the European Union.
I would disagree that the US-Ukrainian relationship is in trouble. There are some disagreements and disappointments, perhaps with Ukrainians thinking that we should provide more help and the Americans wondering why Ukraine isn’t moving faster. I think that in many ways this is a mark of a mature relationship. That first blush of 1991- 1992 was like first love, but now it’s a mature relationship, one that works. We have interaction with Ukraine at all levels on a huge variety of issues within both governmental bodies and non-governmental organizations.
What is your prognosis for the next ten years?
I hope that Ukraine will continue to move in the same direction, to lay a foundation for a strong economy and introduce laws like production sharing so that foreign investors, including American ones, want to come and invest their money here. It’s a critical thing for a democracy that the judiciary is independent so that foreign business partners have confidence that if there is a problem they will have a fair hearing in court.
So there is a lot to do on the political and economic front. One of the things that have really struck me in the five months that I have been here is the really close connection between Ukrainians and Americans. So many Americans who come here on a contract just stay because they found their place here and because of the really warm welcome. I hope that Ukrainians feel the same way when they go to America. Ambassador Taylor often talked how important Ukrainian visitors are to the US. A teenager who comes to the United States and goes to a high school for a year touches so many lives in some little town in Iowa, and this puts Ukraine on the map for the people of that town.
I know that such people-to-people connection will continue, and it’s something that will certainly make my time here very special.
How will the world change in this next decade, what basis will it be built upon, and how many poles will it have?
Well, I don’t have a crystal ball, but what September 11 has shown us is that there are no barriers; the terrorists are ready to take their fight to any country. I think we all believe the attack on the World Trade Center was an attack on the world. The civilized nations are going to unite in an effort to uphold our common values. We need to recognize that various countries’ contribution is different. Some might provide troops, others – assistance in finding the trail of the money and the financiers of the terrorist actions.
We are not really talking about a unipolar or bipolar world. Now we are looking at ways where we can all cooperate.