- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 22, 2005

As President Viktor Yushchenko is inaugurated today, Washington needs to throw Kiev a lifeline to help build the democratic and free Ukraine of the 21st century.

The exhilarating Orange Revolution has demonstrated the deep desire of Ukrainians for honest, responsive and democratic government. This was a drama worthy of the 1989 scenes in Venceslas Square in Prague and Solidarity’s surge to freedom in Poland.

Viktor Yushchenko’s electoral victory on Dec. 26, 2004, focused attention on the most effective Western package to help the Ukrainian postelection transition succeed.

The Bush administration should facilitate Ukraine’s membership in the World Trade Organization, lift Jackson-Vanik trade restrictions, encourage Ukraine’s European Union membership, expand NATO cooperation with Kiev, offer a bridging loan for economic restructuring, and unequivocally say the United States will not tolerate threats to Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

The Yushchenko administration faces multiple challenges. The new president’s primary concerns include polarization of the electorate, calls for regional autonomy, and the opposition of protectionist oligarchs, apparatchiks and thugs. Forty-four percent of voters favored Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, an ex-con who promised to tighten Ukraine’s ties with Russia and to introduce a system of dual citizenship.

A decrepit, value-subtracting, eastern rust-belt of coal and steel industries is the stronghold of Yanukovych supporters: Ukrainian oligarch beneficiaries of economic ties with Russia, who may launch an anti-Yushchenko political opposition.

Ukraine also finds itself in the epicenter of the East-West strategic competition. The Orange Revolution opened the door to Ukraine’s European reintegration. Russia’s influence in the country declined, though Ukraine’s relationship with its gigantic neighbor remains a long-term constant and a national priority.

The U.S. and the EU coordinated their policies on Ukraine, achieving a unified position in support of that nation’s transformation — an important post-Iraq achievement.

However, after the Ukraine revolution, the EU has proceeded cautiously. EU now must address its future relations with Ukraine along with the difficult accession of Turkey.

EU may pursue a good-neighbor policy, sign an associate member agreement or explore outright Ukraine membership that might take 10-15 years to achieve.

Ukraine-NATO relations is another promising direction for cooperation. NATO is a leading Western organization that can ensure Ukraine’s Western integration, as well as restore greater cohesion in trans-Atlantic foreign policy. However, Ukrainian membership may cause friction in U.S.-Russian, EU-Russian, and Ukraine-Russian relations.

U.S. interests lie in a stable, prosperous Ukraine integrating into Euro-Atlantic structures. At the same time, U.S. relations with Russia are also important, as the Bush administration seeks President Vladimir Putin’s support on future diplomatic action on Iran; reconstruction of Iraq; nonproliferation; and counterterrorism and energy cooperation. Support of Ukraine should not damage this relationship.

The United States will support Ukraine’s integration with the West and will encourage its admission to the EU. Therefore, Ukraine integration into European institutions and a bolstered Ukraine assistance package are proper U.S. policy approaches.

The Bush administration should convince the 109th Congress to repeal the Jackson Vanik Amendment for Ukraine. The amendment, which curbs normal trade status, is an irrelevant legacy of the Cold War so far as Ukraine is concerned.

The White House should direct the U.S. Trade Representative andCommerce Department to support Ukraine membership in the World Trade Organization and positively consider Ukraine’s request for approval of market economy status, subject to the six statutoryfactors that guide the Commerce Department determination of a country’s standing, especially that of openness to foreign investment

The State Department should encourage the EU to sign an associate membership agreement with Ukraine and begin preliminary consultations on accession, including the exact date for the beginning of negotiations.

The Pentagon should expand NATO’s Partnership for Peace program to further modernize Ukraine’s military; promote civilian control over the military; explore a “trusted ally” non-member relationship; and eventually consider Ukraine’s membership in NATO. The White House should work with the Yushchenko administration to reverse pre-election promises to withdraw Ukraine’s contingent from Iraq.

Treasury and the State Department should work with and through the international financial institutions (IFIs) such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund to diversify Ukraine’s Soviet-era heavy industries and provide, if necessary, a bridging loan to close unprofitable mines.

The U.S. should help Mr. Yushchenko’s government develop comprehensive reforms in the rule of law, including privatization, expansion of free trade and reduction and simplification of taxes. A civil service overhaul, including law enforcement, is a key to restoring Ukrainians’ trust in the state.

Washington should help Kiev promote regionally focused export-oriented projects in Ukraine; and should foster technical assistance and cooperation with the private sector to make Ukraine a foreign investment magnet.

Prior to Feb. 24 Bush-Putin summit in Slovakia, the State Department should find an opportunity to mention the United States’ full support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity. It should be made clear to the Kremlin that U.S. support of Ukraine is not intended to damage Russian political and economic interests, such as the Russian naval base in Sevastopol, investment, energy transit to Europe, overflight, etc.

Ukraine has presented a renewed opportunity for U.S. engagement in the region. Washington should demonstrate unwavering political support for Ukraine’s democratic aspirations. An ongoing, cohesive trans-Atlantic U.S. foreign policy toward Ukraine should be at the core of Bush administration support for Ukraine.

Ariel Cohen is research fellow in Russian and Eurasian studies at the Heritage Foundation’s Katherine and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute and the editor/author of “Eurasia in Balance: U.S. and the Regional Power Shift” (to be published by Ashgate).

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