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Date: Fri, 10 Jan 2003
From: "Julie Sawyer" <JSawyer@csis.org>
Subject: US Ambassador to Ukraine Carlos Pascual at CSIS

Center for Strategic and International Studies
January 9, 2003

US Ambassador to Ukraine Carlos Pascual spoke at CSIS about current US-Ukraine relations. He began by stating that Ukraine is a key security challenge in Europe as NATO has expands and Russia develops new relationships. Ukraine has a potential to contribute much to the West with its modern technology, it extremely fertile farmland and its large, highly-educated population. Although the US view is that Ukraine belongs in the Euro-Atlantic community, many factors hinder the integration process. Ukraine remains an unreliable country, despite its recent proclamation to join the West. Ukraine still has not set clear goals for Euro-Atlantic integration. Furthermore, despite economic growth, Ukraine remains weak and dependent on Russia.

Several factors threaten to leave Ukraine outside of the Euro-Atlantic sphere until they are addressed. Despite Ukraine's declared desire to define itself as democratic, the quality of Ukrainian democracy does not meet European standards. Although Ukraine held parliamentary elections in March 2002, the process was marred by continued abuses of administrative resources that favored parties loyal to the president and worked against those who opposed the administration. The media continues to face coercion to censor criticism against the government. Furthermore, the nascent civil society in Ukraine has been stifled by presidential forces.

Although US-Ukrainian ties have been strong in the past, the relationship has begun to erode in recent years. The murder of journalist Gyorgi Gongadze and the tape scandal have contributed to this erosion, as has the issue of arms transfers to Macedonia, as well as the mishandled crisis surrounding the Russian airliner shot down by Ukrainian missiles in 2002. Continued impingement by the Kuchma administration on civil rights in the media and the electoral process also mar the US relationship with Ukraine and have contributed to the US sense of distrust. Most damaging to the US-Ukraine relationship, however, has been the Kolchuga affair, in which Ukraine may have sold a passive detection air defense system to Iraq. Although Ukrainian authorities claimed to have investigated the issue and promised the US access to all information surrounding the possible sale, US and UK officials were not given full access. If nothing else, this revealed a disturbing flaw in the Ukrainian export control system. In the end, the US could not determine whether the radar was sold or not, leaving disturbing questions about the potential security of US and UK aircraft in Iraq.

In reaction to the growing criticism of Ukraine by the US, the Ukrainian people have grown increasingly distrustful of the US. Despite US efforts to voice its concerns with proper diplomacy, many Ukrainians believe that the US is conspiring to undermine Kuchma and replace him with Yushchenko.

The US sees Ukraine as having potential to join the Euro-Atlantic community, but believes that currently, Ukraine is not a reliable partner. Unlike other post-Warsaw Pact countries such as Poland and Slovakia, Ukraine is not sure of its own goals, which hinders its progress. Russia's strong influence in Ukraine also potentially complicates Ukraine's westward integration. Although official figures show that Russian foreign direct investment in Ukraine ranks 4th, evidence suggests that Russian interests are able to buy undervalued assets. This suggests that Russia may wield considerable influence over the Ukrainian administration and its policies. Because Ukraine is so dependent on Russia for energy imports, Russia has managed to gain much power over Ukraine in that sector as well.

The US has chosen to approach Ukraine with an incremental open door policy. This may allow for gradual creation of opportunities for communication and cooperation and consequently, the creation of more open doors. How Ukraine responds to the open doors will determine its future integration into the West. Ambassador Pascual offered a few suggestions for a future approach to US-Ukrainian relations. First, the US can help Ukraine reform its export system. Second, Ambassador Pascual encouraged continued engagement of US Congress with the Ukrainian Rada. Furthermore, he recommended continued reliance on the trilateral relationship with Poland to help Ukraine define and execute its plan for Euro-Atlantic integration. Pascual also suggested that the US continue to encourage the Ukrainian government to support a more democratic environment and civil society. He also suggested that the US stress to Ukraine the importance of recognizing and tolerating political opposition in a strong, democratic society. And finally, Pascual suggested that Ukraine continue to develop military-to-military programs to help downsize its overly large military force and to facilitate Ukrainian integration into Western military and economic alliances.

Summarized by Julie Sawyer

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