- The Washington Times - Friday, March 11, 2005

Ukraine’s Orange Revolution has also ushered in a new era in the country’s foreign policy, which is now firmly fixed on closer integration with the United States and the West, Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk said in an interview yesterday.

Mr. Tarasyuk also said he did not expect U.S.-Ukraine relations to be hurt by the decision of new President Viktor Yushchenko to withdraw the country’s 1,650 troops from Iraq by October.

Washington clashed repeatedly with former Ukraine President Leonid Kuchma on issues ranging from human rights and political freedoms to suspected arms sales by Kiev to Saddam Hussein.

“Certainly we now see a new beginning,” Mr. Tarasyuk, the highest-ranking Ukrainian official to visit Washington since Mr. Yushchenko’s inauguration last month, told The Washington Times. “But now we can have a strategic partnership between two democratic nations sharing the same values.”

He said Ukraine’s foreign policy suffered from the mixed messages delivered by Mr. Kuchma, who spoke of closer ties with the European Union and NATO when in the West, while talking of closer economic and political integration with Russia when visiting Ukraine’s giant neighbor.

Despite Moscow’s misgivings, “Our strategic objectives are to join the European Union and NATO,” Mr. Tarasyuk said.

Mr. Tarasyuk met yesterday with Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley on a visit to prepare for Mr. Yushchenko’s trip to Washington in early April.

The minister said it was “not news” to U.S. officials that Ukraine’s troops in Iraq — the fourth largest foreign contingent in the U.S.-led multinational force — would be coming home.

Mr. Yushchenko promised on the campaign trail to bring home the troops and the mission was deeply unpopular in Ukraine.

But Mr. Tarasyuk said the Kuchma government had sent the troops “as a kind of payment to break our isolation.

“For us, such a mission cannot be done as a payment for anything,” he said. “It is an issue of principle. We have had close consultations with the United States on this. We will continue to contribute to Iraq’s stability, but not in a purely military way.”

He said he was hopeful Mr. Yushchenko and Mr. Bush would make progress on a number of bilateral issues, including support for Ukraine’s bid to join the World Trade Organization by the end of the year and removing Ukraine from the trade restrictions of the Cold War-era Jackson-Vanik law.

Mr. Tarasyuk denied that Ukraine’s strong turn to the West would come at the expense of relations with Russia, noting that Russia is a powerful neighbor and a leading trading partner.

But in a press conference yesterday, he made clear the Yushchenko government had little interest in the “Single Economic Space” idea strongly pushed by Russian President Vladimir Putin. The proposal calls for tight economic cooperation, including a single currency, linking Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan.

Mr. Tarasyuk said the new Ukraine government may continue discussing the idea, but will sharply limit its scope to promoting greater trade among the countries.

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