Ukraine’s Quest for Mature Nation Statehood Roundtable XII:
“Compelling Bilateral Ties/Poland-Ukraine & Turkey-Ukraine”
Realizing the Dream of a Europe Whole, Free and Prosperous
as a Strategic Interest of the United States
Remarks by Baxter Hunt, Director, Office of Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus Affairs, US Department of State, delivered at Ukraine’s Quest for Mature Nation Statehood RT XII: Compelling Bilateral Ties/Poland-Ukraine & Turkey-Ukraine, held in Washington DC on October 19, 2010.
Thank you very much, Mr Pirchner. I am delighted to be here among these distinguished guests, and to share the podium with Ambassador Motsyk, Deputy Chief of Mission Pisarksi, Counselor Dogan and Mr. Sherr.
I am especially pleased that this conference focuses on three countries of personal significance to me. As Director of the State Department Office of Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus Affairs, my interest in Ukraine is obvious. My first Foreign Service assignment was in Poland, so that country has a special place in my heart. I also spent several years at the State Department working on U.S.-Turkey relations, where I had the pleasure of getting to know Turkish Ambassador Tan during his previous assignment to Washington. Counselor Dogan, I want to take this opportunity to reiterate U.S. condemnation of today’s terrorist attack in Turkey, and to convey my condolences for the deaths of so many Turkish citizens.
The theme for tonight’s session could not be more appropriate. Freedom and prosperity are goals that the United States pursues around the world, but that has been especially true for Europe, a region with which we have such close historical ties and one where American troops over the past century fought in two world wars, were on the front lines of the Cold War, and were called into duty again during the Balkan Wars. This is a region where the United States has its most important military alliance in NATO, and where many of our most important bilateral partners are located. We have invested heavily in this region over the past century, because realizing the dream of a Europe whole, free and prosperous helps to ensure the freedom and prosperity of the United States. Over the past twenty years, this effort has taken on even greater significance in the countries of Eastern Europe, including Ukraine.
Let me begin by giving a quick overview of U.S. policy towards Europe, which can be summarized in three major categories. First, the United States views Europe as our critical partner in meeting global challenges. On nearly every issue of international importance, Europe is a vital partner of the United States. Our cooperative efforts include the war in Afghanistan, fighting terrorism, dealing with the nuclear threat from Iran, confronting the global financial crisis, and supporting democracy throughout the world. On all of these issues and many more, Europe makes us stronger through its ideas and resources. Our efforts combined are much more effective than they would be separately.
Second, we work with our European partners on Europe itself. This concept dates back to the end of the Second World War through both the idea of Europe as a coherent whole, as well as the broader sense of what we mean by Europe and European. With our European partners, our relationships are not simply a series of horse trades. Instead, we work together because we have shared values as well as shared interests. The basis of our shared values is democracy and inside the concept of being a part of Europe is the idea that the members will demonstrate European values.
Achieving the dream of Europe becoming whole, then, means more than just incorporating geographic areas on the continent into the European Union. It means helping those governments realize the dream of being democratic and thus European and subsequently free and prosperous. Coming out of the Cold War, we could have simply viewed the world as divided along spheres of influence between large cultural blocks, as Samuel Huntington described in “The Clash of Civilizations.” One of Huntington’s fault lines ran through Eastern Europe, dividing, in his terminology, the Western world from the Orthodox world. But U.S. policy toward Europe and the rest of the world rejects those divisions, and indeed over the past 20 years we have seen the world becoming a smaller place, more tightly integrated, and more interdependent than ever before.
The third focus of our Europe policy is Russia and how Europe helps us advance U.S. interests in our relationship with Russia. President Obama recognized that his administration had inherited a situation with Russia that was not productive and did not serve the interests of the United States or its allies. We have common interests with Russia and by pursuing our common goals, without sacrificing either our values or our allies, we have accomplished things together over the past three years and moved this relationship in a positive direction. Our successes include the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, cooperation in Afghanistan, and transformation of the Russia-NATO relationship. These successes provide benefits to the United States, Europe, and the rest of the world. We have not checked our values at the door either. Even as we pursue cooperation with Russia, we also continue to speak out on issues where we have real differences.
It’s a common fallacy in analyzing U.S. policy toward Ukraine to say that we are pursuing one policy or another to avoid pushing Ukraine toward Russia. Russian President Medvedev, referring to the European Union and the Eurasian Customs Union, remarked that “Ukraine cannot sit between two chairs.” We are not asking Ukraine to make choices like that or to choose cooperation with the United States over cooperation with Russia or its other neighbors. We are, however, encouraging Ukraine to choose a democratic future and we hope that choice will continue to encourage the spread of democratic ideals in the former Soviet Union. A good relationship between Ukraine and Russia is important for the development of both countries and for the stability and prosperity of Europe and we believe Ukraine has as much to offer in this relationship as does Russia. Ukraine’s energy cooperation with Russia, as the principal transit country of Russian gas to Europe, is one example of the economic implications of this relationship for all of Europe.
For the United States, like our European partners, Ukraine’s political and economic development as an independent nation is a vital part of our efforts to realize the dream of a Europe that is whole, free and prosperous. We support Ukraine’s European integration in part because it will lead to long-term stability for Ukraine and the region as it did for Ukraine’s formerly communist neighbors to the West, such as Poland. We also support it because the Ukrainian people want freedom and prosperity, and, even during this period of financial crisis, we are convinced of the EU’s transformative power and that a Ukraine that is closer to Europe will be a Ukraine that is freer and more prosperous.
The strengthening of U.S. ties with an independent Ukraine was reflected in the creation of our Strategic Partnership Commission in December of 2008. The commission’s work reflects the breadth of our relationship, including working groups that deal with defense, rule of law, energy security, science and technology, and non-proliferation. The sheer range of issues that the Commission covers indicates how important a partner Ukraine is to the United States and how our strategic interest for Ukraine is also that Ukraine realize its dream of becoming more free, prosperous, and democratic.
One example of our bilateral cooperation is in the critical area of nuclear non-proliferation. During the Global Nuclear Security Summit in Washington in 2010, President Obama and President Yanukovych agreed to remove all of the remaining Highly Enriched Uranium from Ukraine, material which we are replacing with low enriched uranium for energy and medical uses. Significant progress has already been made to achieve this goal before the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, and last month Secretary Clinton and Foreign Minister Gryshchenko signed a Memorandum of Understanding that re-affirmed this commitment.
The European Union has also been strengthening its relationship with Ukraine over the past 20 years, and is now negotiating an Association Agreement with Ukraine, including a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area, and visa liberalization. Poland, which has been one of Ukraine’s great advocates in Europe, was a co-founder of the EU’s Eastern Partnership, which has sought to support the development of Ukraine and other newly independent countries in the region.
While both the United States and the European Union want to build on these initiatives and deepen our ties with Ukraine, these efforts have been complicated by recent setbacks on the democracy front. We are deeply disappointed by the conviction and sentencing of former Prime Minister Tymoshenko on October 11 through a politically motivated prosecution, and we call on the Ukrainian government to release her and other former members of her Cabinet and to allow them to participate fully in political life, including in the 2012 parliamentary elections. I would stress here that our focus is not on Yulia Tymoshenko the person or whether her decisions as Prime Minister were good or bad for Ukraine. Instead, we are concerned about what her case says about the state of democracy in Ukraine, and how regression in this area threatens Ukraine’s integration with Europe.
Despite our concerns in this area, I want to end on a positive note. In the decades since the Second World War we have seen amazing progress in Europe on every front, from democratic institutions to security cooperation to economic development, and that progress has continued to move eastward over the past twenty years. Ukraine today faces significant challenges in its political and economic development, but twenty years is a short period of time in the life of an independent nation, and the potential of Ukraine and its people is limitless. And because Ukraine is a vital component of a Europe that is whole, free and prosperous, the United States will continue to work with our Ukrainian friends to realize that potential.
Thank you for your attention, and I hope that the work of this conference will better inform all of us on how Ukraine and its partners can work together for our mutual benefit.