- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 30, 2000

Lower your sights

The U.S. ambassador to Ukraine yesterday told the country to check its ambitions for greater integration with Europe until it adopts deeper democratic and economic reforms.

"For Ukraine, it may be best to lower the sights somewhat, at least for the near term," Ambassador Steven Pifer said in a speech on U.S. perspectives of Ukraine-Europe ties.

Mr. Pifer said the United States supports the long-term goal of Ukraine entering Western institutions such as the European Union, according to reports from Kiev, the Ukraine capital.

However, the ambassador added, "Progress on transformation at home is key to the success of Ukraine's European choice.

"If Ukraine wishes ultimately to join the European Union, it will have to develop a political system and a market economy that reflect European values and priorities."

The State Department, in its annual human rights report, said Ukraine is making a "difficult transition" from the Soviet system to a market economy. The Ukrainian government interferes in the judiciary and imposes restrictions on the media, the State Department added.

"Ukraine's human rights record during the year was mixed," the department said. "There was limited progress in some areas, however serious problems persisted."

Mr. Pifer also said the United States sees no contradiction in President Leonid Kuchma's desire to build closer ties with both Russia and the West.

"Some in Russia, however, seem to believe that closer relations between Ukraine and Europe are a threat to Russia. That is unfortunate," Mr. Pifer said.

Russia opposes any further eastward expansion of NATO. Ukraine, which has joined NATO's Partnership for Peace, has been mentioned as a potential candidate for NATO membership.

A site for a statue

Alec Rasizade read in Embassy Row that Czech Ambassador Alexandr Vondra is trying to find a site in Washington for a statue of Tomas Masaryk, the Czech statesman who spent many years in this city.

Mr. Rasizade, a history professor in Washington, thinks a square near his Capitol Hill home would be an ideal site. Now it is mostly used as a dog park.

Marion Park is "a nice, empty square," Mr. Rasizade told Embassy Row.

"I pass this lovely but neglected square every day and would like to see it cultivated with an appropriate historic monument," he said.

Embassy Row reported last week that Mr. Vondra is seeking suggestions from the public for an appropriate site for a statue of Masaryk, who was born 150 years ago.

Masaryk was inspired by U.S. political philosophy when he was laying the foundation for a democratic Czechoslovakia in 1918. (The country split into the Czech and Slovak republics in 1993.)

"At the birth of Czechoslovakia, America was the midwife," Mr. Vondra wrote in the Czech Embassy newsletter.

He recalled that Masaryk spent much time in Washington, where he persuaded President Woodrow Wilson to support the Czech cause for nationhood after the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire at the end of World War I.

Masaryk drafted the Czech declaration of independence in what is today the Envoy Hotel on 16th Street NW. He also enjoyed horseback riding in Rock Creek Park. Masaryk married an American, Charlotte Garrigue.

Albright to Central Asia

Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright will make her first official visit to Central Asia when she leaves for Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan next month.

Mrs. Albright will urge the leaders of the three former Soviet republics to improve democratic institutions and move toward a capitalist economy. All three countries have poor human rights records, according to the State Department.

Mrs. Albright leaves April 14 for Kazakhstan's new capital, Astana. She will visit Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, and then Tashkent, Uzbekistan, before returning on April 20.

The secretary also plans a little sightseeing with stops in Samarkand and Bukhara in Uzbekistan, two of the oldest cultural centers in Central Asia.

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