U.S. Administration Loves Ukraine More than Congress

WASHINGTON, DC -- Wednesday the U.S. Congress held a hearing about relations with Ukraine, which was organized by a subcommittee of European Countries Connections. The Congressmen were wondering why the U.S. is not in a hurry to fulfill the promises given to Ukrainian president Vladimir Yushenko during his visit to Washington in April.

U.S. President George W. Bush and Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko (L) shake hands at the end of their press conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, April 4, 2005

During Yushenko’s visit to Washington, the administration and Congress promised him a lot: to recognize Ukraine as a country with a market economy and to provide it most favorable nation status in trade with U.S.; to lift the Jackson-Vanik Amendment; to help the country join WTO and NATO. However, from April there was no step made to fulfill the promises. The participants of the discussion were trying to understand the reason for the delay. The U.S. position on the hearings was presented by Deputy Secretary of State for Europe and Eurasian Daniel Frid, who recently returned from Kiev. Also, there were other active participants in the discussions such as the chairman of the Congressional subcommittee Elton Gallegly and professor for the Institute of European, Russian and Eurasian Research at George Washington University Taras Kuzio.

Gallegly stated the fire by admitting that “Congress is too slow with lifting the Jackson-Vanik Amendment and provision of most favorable status to Ukraine.” Answering Kommersant’s question of when he thinks Congress will start acting, Gallegly answered: “It doesn’t look like any changes are going to happen this year.”

Such a situation does not satisfy the U.S. administration. Daniel Frid directly stated that the White House expects Congress to lift the amendment and “to move in this direction ASAP.”

One of the reasons for the sluggishness of American lawmakers could be heard from the corridors. “Many, many people are unhappy with Yushenko’s decision to withdraw the troops from Iraq,” one of Kommersant’s sources in the Capitol said. “They think that the Ukrainian president should not give such a promise during the election campaign.” Knowing about such thoughts in the Congress, Frid tried to persuade the lawmakers that withdrawal of Ukrainian troops should not create a negative reaction—this process would be gradual and will be finished by the end of this year. “Besides, we and other allies agreed with this step,” Frid concluded.

The Deputy Secretary of State let it be understood that most favorable status and admitting Ukraine to the WTO are not in the too distant future. But, Kiev has to do its part as well. Frid positively appraised “the uneasy joint success of President Yushenko, Prime Minister Timoshenko and Speaker Litvin in adaptation by the Ukrainian parliament on July 6-7 of important laws that would help the country to join WTO.” One of the amendments to these laws was protection of intellectual property in Ukraine, which according to Frid is an important step. As a response, the White House might be able in the nearest time to delete Ukraine from the blacklist of countries that constantly break intellectual property laws.

Frid thinks that the issue of giving Ukraine most favorable nation status with market economy might be resolved in the middle of January 2006. However, to achieve it “Kiev would have to clarify some of its actions in front of Western investors.” The deputy secretary of state did not precise what he meant, however, Kommersant’s source in Congress said that he was talking about “Kiev’s reconsideration of some privatization results.”

All speakers were coming to the conclusion that “the situation in Ukraine remains pretty difficult.” “The opposition to reforms is still very strong,” Frid said. He explained that by the example describing how “anti-corruption campaign of Yushenko hurt interest of powerful groups.”

Frid confirmed that the U.S. supports Kiev’s intention to join NATO. However, the speed of joining the alliance, according to the deputy secretary of state, will depend on Ukraine’s desire and readiness to follow the standards of this organization. “The key to entering NATO for Ukraine will be completion of the political and economic military reforms as well as free and honest parliamentary elections in March 2006,” Freed stated.

When the Kommersant correspondent noted that Russia is not pleased with the possibility of Ukraine joining NATO, Frid expressed surprise. “I am really upset if it is really the case,” he said. “I think, NATO is not an incompatible organization with Russian.”

However, the participants of the hearing let it be understood that the date of Ukraine joining NATO will also depend on how fast it will be able to settle some sharp contradictions with Russia—from their point of view the alliance should not get entangled in the Russian-Ukrainian confrontation. Gallegly, for instance, thinks that “Kiev must settle with Moscow presence on Ukrainian territory of the Russian Black Sea Navy.”

Taras Kuzio did not quite agree with that point of view. According to him, Washington would not wait too long while Russia gives yes for Ukraine joining the alliance. “The attitude of the White House toward Moscow and Kiev drastically changed,” he said. “If during the first presidential term of Bush they thought about Putin well, and thought bad about Kuchma, now Putin is being considered an enemy of democracy and Yushenko is well received by Washington.”

Source: Kommersant