U.S.-Ukraine ties: strategic partnership

By 1996 the U.S.-Ukrainian relationship had expanded to such a level that official visits between the two countries became commonplace, bilateral relations were normalized to the point where the Kuchma-Gore Commission was created to pursue specific areas of cooperation, and, for the second year in a row, both Republicans and Democrats in Congress agreed that U.S. aid to Ukraine should total $225 million. In the words of Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, "It is remarkable that in the relatively short time since Ukraine re-established its independence, the ties, cooperation and over-all warmth of our bilateral relations have developed to the point of a strategic partnership, where each country views the other as a sympathetic friend and ally."

On January 5 Defense Secretary William Perry, accompanied by Ukrainian Minister of Defense Valerii Shmarov and Russian Minister of Defense Pavel Grachev, traveled to Pervomaisk, Ukraine, to witness the destruction of an ICBM missile silo. The silo in Mykolaiv Oblast was the third of 130 that are to be destroyed by Ukraine by November 1998, in accordance with provisions of the START I disarmament treaty ratified by Ukraine's Verkhovna Rada in 1993.

After the silo destruction, a separate ceremony marked the turnover of housing built for Ukrainian officers by the U.S.-funded Cooperative Threat Reduction Program of the Department of Defense.

During his January 4-5 visit to Ukraine, Secretary Perry signed an agreement on closer military cooperation between the United States and Ukraine with Minister Shmarov; discussed NATO expansion and the possibility of trilateral military training exercises during a meeting with Ministers Shmarov and Grachev; and met with Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma.

On January 21 a 12-member delegation from the Verkhovna Rada arrived in the United States to participate in a 10-day study program on legislative rules and procedures. The delegation of national deputies and Verkhovna Rada staff met with members of Congress, participated in several sessions at the General Accounting Office, and attended the opening session of the Maryland State Legislature.

The program was coordinated by Indiana University and the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation, a not-for-profit organization promoting democratic and economic reforms in Ukraine, as part of the Parliamentary Development Program. PDP is a three-year project funded by the United States Agency for International Development.

Throughout the year another U.S.-Ukraine Foundation program, the Non-Governmental Organization Project, sponsored five workshops designed to foster the development of the NGO sector in Ukraine. The one-year NGO program, funded by USAID through the Rule of Law Consortium ARD/Checchi, trains Ukrainian NGOs to become effective public policy advocates in Ukraine.

On January 26 President Bill Clinton signed the Foreign Assistance Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 1996 into law, making Ukraine the third largest recipient of U.S. assistance after Israel and Egypt. The $12.1 billion legislation mandated "not less than" $225 million for Ukraine and "no more than" $195 million for Russia. Bucking the trend of over-all cuts in foreign assistance, Congress earmarked $75 million over 1995 levels for Ukraine in 1996, with the caveat that Ukraine undertake "significant economic reforms."

On the same day, the Central and East European Coalition, a non-partisan group of 18 national organizations representing more than 20 million Americans with roots in Central and Eastern Europe, sent President Clinton a letter and its position paper on the expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

The CEEC, of which the Ukrainian National Association and the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America are members, decried U.S. foot-dragging over NATO expansion and recommended that the United States: propose a timetable for expansion by the end of 1996; introduce a NATO resolution declaring that any attempt to restrict the sovereignty of any Central or East European country will be opposed collectively by NATO countries; issue a statement by the U.S. president that establishes the limits of Western tolerance to threatening behavior by Russia; and enhance the defense potential of Central and Eastern Europe during the transition period preceding admission to NATO by expanding bilateral military cooperation under the Partnership for Peace program.

Two weeks later, on February 12, CEEC representatives were invited by the administration to meet with President Clinton at the White House to discuss NATO expansion and U.S. foreign assistance. During the 45-minute meeting, the president assured the coalition that he would not delay or abandon the timetable for NATO enlargement and agreed with coalition members that Russian rhetoric had gotten irresponsible on the question of NATO.

On February 20-22 President Kuchma visited Washington for the second time since taking office in July 1994, and won assurances from President Clinton of continued U.S. support for Ukraine's economic reforms. The Ukrainian president met with Mr. Clinton, Vice-President Al Gore, Secretary of State Warren Christopher, Secretary of Defense Perry and Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, and signed a Commercial Space Launch Services Agreement with Mr. Gore. During his visit the United States announced that it was raising its quota on imports of Ukrainian wool coats from 1.2 million to 2 million.

On February 21 President Kuchma was presented the 1996 Freedom Award in Washington for his "contributions to world peace, regional security and inter-ethnic cooperation" by Freedom House, the human rights watchdog organization. The Ukrainian president became the 43rd recipient of the award and shares the honor with past awardees such as Dwight D. Eisenhower (1945), Winston Churchill (1955), and the Dalai Lama and Vaclav Havel (1991). The award was presented by Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski, Freedom House trustee and chairman of the American-Ukrainian Advisory Committee; Ambassador Mark Palmer, Freedom House vice-chairman; and Adrian Karatnycky, Freedom House president.

President Kuchma's visit was marred by a February 20 report in the Los Angeles Times that alleged Ukrainian government involvement in the leasing of Antonov 32B's to Colombian drug traffickers. Mr. Kuchma was forced to counter those allegations on the lawn of the White House, stating that the planes are "owned by a company, not the state."

On March 6 the State Department released its annual human rights report, which noted that in 1995 Ukraine "continued to make significant progress toward building a law-based civil society." The report applauded the Ukrainian government's protection of religious minorities' rights, noting that Jews "have expanded opportunities to pursue their religious and cultural activities."

The report found problems in the "unreformed legal and prison systems, occasional government attempts to control the press, beatings by police and prison officials, limits on freedom of association, restrictions on foreign religious organizations, societal anti-Semitism, some discrimination against women, and ethnic tensions in Crimea," and blamed Ministry of Internal Affairs troops for using "excessive force" in July 1995 to break up the crowd assembled for the funeral of Patriarch Volodymyr in front of St. Sophia Cathedral.

On March 13, FBI Director Louis J. Freeh testified before the Senate Subcommittee on Foreign Operations that Ukraine's Ministry of Internal Affairs had approached the Federal Bureau of Investigation about conducting a joint investigation of the alleged use of Ukrainian planes by Colombian drug traffickers. Mr. Freeh also testified that Ukraine had taken part in special FBI law enforcement training programs for the new democracies of Central Europe and the former Soviet Union.

On April 15 the American-Ukrainian Advisory Committee held a roundtable with the ambassadors of Ukraine, Germany and Poland on Ukraine's relationship with its neighbors and its role in an expanded NATO. Established by the Center for Strategic and International Studies in 1993, the American-Ukrainian Advisory Committee, chaired by Dr. Brzezinski, is a group of nine Americans and 13 Ukrainians who meet yearly to discuss the state of the American-Ukrainian relationship and make recommendations, based on the results of the committee's working groups, to both governments.

In 1996 the advisory committee held working group meetings and roundtables with, among others, Carlos Pascual, director of Russian, Ukrainian and Eurasian affairs at the National Security Council, who assessed the current state of U.S.-Ukrainian relations; Ambassador Richard L. Morningstar, coordinator of assistance to the NIS, and Gregory Huger, USAID mission chief for the Western NIS, who addressed the role of U.S. foreign assistance programs in Ukraine; and National Bank of Ukraine Chairman Viktor Yushchenko, who outlined a government plan to alleviate the acute problem of non-payment of wages to state-sector employees.

(During the June 27 roundtable on U.S. assistance to Ukraine, Mr. Huger caught a bit of flack from Ukrainian Ambassador Yuri Shcherbak, who said "We are concerned that a significant portion of U.S. assistance has been spent, not on trainers, but on consultants and travel expenses," and from Charles Flickner, staff director of the Subcommittee on Foreign Operations of the House Appropriations Committee, who hinted that some of the subearmarks for Ukraine in the Senate foreign aid budget may have been written in more response to U.S. contractors' needs than to USAID or Ukrainian needs.)

U.S.-Ukrainian trade ties were expanded on May 2 with the opening of a West Coast Regional Office of the Ukrainian Embassy's Trade and Economic Mission in Los Angeles by Ambassador Shcherbak. The Los Angeles trade office is Ukraine's fourth in the United States; the other three are in Washington, New York and Chicago.

On May 16 Eugene M. Iwanciw testified before the Foreign Operations Subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Appropriations on behalf of the Central and East European Coalition. Mr. Iwanciw focused on the importance of Central and Eastern Europe to U.S. national security interests, and recommended: increased assistance for the nations of the region, earmarks of assistance to Ukraine and Armenia, assistance for the expansion of NATO, support for the Humanitarian Aid Corridor Act (which suspends assistance to any country that hinders U.S. humanitarian relief efforts to a third country), the use of ethnic-American organizations in the design and delivery of U.S. assistance, and specific program direction to USAID.

On May 21 Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole met with members of the CEEC to reiterate his support for U.S. assistance to Central and Eastern Europe. Sen. Dole discussed his position that NATO expansion should be accelerated.

On June 1-10, 120 U.S. troops from the 1st Infantry Division participated in peacekeeping exercises with members of Ukraine's 24th Mechanized Rifle Division at a training area in Lviv. The exercises, called Peace Shield 96, were designed to promote "regional stability through continued combined exercises with members of the Partnership for Peace program" and included soldiers from Poland, Moldova, Romania, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria and Russia. Peace Shield 96 followed Peace Shield 95 (Lviv) and Peace Shield II (Kansas).

On June 3 the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe - the Helsinki Commission - celebrated its 20th anniversary. The independent agency of the U.S. government was created in 1976 to monitor and encourage compliance of participating states with the Helsinki Final Act of 1975. Long supportive of Ukraine, the Helsinki Commission ensured that the plight of Ukrainian political prisoners and Ukraine's Churches were brought to the public eye during the Soviet era; published documents of the Ukrainian Helsinki Group; and monitored elections in both Soviet-dominated and independent Ukraine.

On June 9 Mr. Iwanciw, in an analysis for The Ukrainian Weekly of the State Department's semi-annual report on "U.S. Government Assistance to and Cooperative Activities with the New Independent States of the Former Soviet Union," determined that, despite being the third largest recipient of U.S. assistance worldwide in 1996, Ukraine has the third lowest rate of expenditure of all countries of the new independent states.

According to the report, only 51.33 percent of the budgeted funds were actually spent, in contrast to expenditure rates of 94 percent for Turkmenistan, 89.9 percent for Georgia and 64.01 for Russia. When the expenditures were calculated on a per capita basis, Ukraine fared no better. Per capita assistance to Ukraine was $11.70, the third lowest in the NIS. The NIS average per capita expenditure was 64.96 percent higher than that of Ukraine.

On June 12 Ukraine's minister for environmental protection and nuclear safety, Yurii Kostenko, told a press conference in Washington that G-7 countries have not been forthcoming with promised assistance to close the Chornobyl nuclear power plant. In the nation's capital to meet with government and congressional leaders, Mr. Kostenko said Ukraine is awaiting credits to complete the Khmelnytsky and Rivne nuclear power plants, estimated at $280 million, which will replace energy lost with the closure of Chornobyl; would need $1 billion in grants over 10 years to decommission Chornobyl, and from $1.6 billion to $2.5 billion to secure the sarcophagus entombing reactor No. 4. So far, he said, Ukraine has received only $500 million for the sarcophagus and all other grant needs.

During the press conference, Nadia K. McConnell, president of the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation, announced the foundation's latest initiative, "Chornobyl 2000," an information campaign to develop public support for the G-7 plan to close Chornobyl by the year 2000 and help Ukraine achieve energy self-sufficiency. The initiative was launched with the support of Ukraine's Ministry of Environmental Protection and Nuclear Safety and the Ukrainian Embassy to the United States.

On June 19 the Center for Security Policy in Washington held a roundtable discussion on the future of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, surrogate radio stations created by the United States during the Cold War which broadcast news to Central Europe and the Soviet Union about events within the listeners' countries that totalitarian media would not cover. RFE/RL had fallen victim to the U.S. budgetary ax and watched its annual budget shrink from $218 million in 1993 to $72 million, but the overriding opinion of the roundtable was that the stations continue to do a necessary job, do it well, and do it cheaply.

On June 26 Ukrainian Americans held a fund-raiser for Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Operations Subcommittee, in Washington. For several years, the second-term senator has been earmarking the foreign assistance budget and is the driving force behind the $225 million earmark for Ukraine. The fund-raiser was hosted by George Chopivsky Jr., a Washington businessman, with the assistance of Mr. Iwanciw.

On July 17 Deputy Secretary of State Talbott met with President Kuchma, Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko, Verkhovna Rada Chairman Oleksander Moroz, Foreign Affairs Minster Hennadii Udovenko and National Security Council Secretary Volodymyr Horbulin in Kyiv to discuss "ways of strengthening what is already an extremely strong bilateral relationship." The two sides discussed Ukraine's newly adopted Constitution, its ongoing integration into European, regional and global institutions, and the economy.

A day later, on July 18, State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns told a U.S. foreign policy "town meeting" that the biggest mistake of the Bush and Clinton administrations with respect to the new independent states of the former Soviet Union was in remaining Russocentric for too long - to the detriment of developing important relationships with Ukraine and the other republics. Mr. Burns also told the meeting, attended by Secretary of State Christopher and held at the State Department, that the United States made a mistake in being too slow in marshaling the resources necessary for building strong ties with the countries of that region.

On July 25 Ukrainian Prime Minister Lazarenko paid his first working visit to Washington. Fifteen days after being confirmed the head of the Ukrainian government, Mr. Lazarenko met with U.S. congressional and government leaders, and international lending institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, to reassure them that under his leadership Ukraine will stay the course of radical economic reform.

Foreign Affairs Minister Udovenko, a member of the prime minister's delegation, met separately with Deputy Secretary of State Talbott on July 26 to discuss the creation of the Kuchma-Gore Commission, similar to the U.S.-Russian Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission, and to pass along a letter to Secretary of State Christopher that outlined Ukraine's proposal for the creation of a nuclear-free zone in Central and Eastern Europe.

Also on July 26, the Senate approved the Foreign Assistance Appropriations Act for fiscal year 1997 with a $225 million earmark for Ukraine. The House of Representatives, which had previously passed the bill, did not earmark funds for Ukraine. It added a provision to the earmark in light of allegations made by The Washington Times that Ukraine and Libya had entered into a "strategic partnership." The provision stated that "Funds appropriated under this heading may not be made available for the government of Ukraine if the president determines and reports to the committees on appropriations that the government of Ukraine is engaged in military cooperation with the government of Libya."

The bill moved to the House-Senate conference committee to resolve the differences between the House and Senate versions.

On August 1 Rep. Benjamin Gilman (R-N.Y.), chairman of the House International Relations Committee, re-introduced Concurrent Resolution 120 "Supporting the Independence and Sovereignty of Ukraine and its Political and Economic Reforms" at a committee meeting. It was the first time in history that such a resolution was introduced in Congress. The resolution, which was initially proposed in December 1995, urges the Ukrainian government to stay the course of democratic and economic reform and calls on the president of the United States to, among other things, support U.S. security assistance for Ukraine and insist that the government of the Russian Federation recognize Ukraine's sovereignty. On September 4 the House of Representatives passed the resolution by a vote of 382 for, one against and 49 abstaining; on September 18 it was passed unanimously in the Senate.

On August 7 the new office director for Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova at the State Department, Jack Segal, briefed a group of Ukrainian American representatives on the state of U.S.-Ukrainian relations. Mr. Segal said the United States wants Ukraine to join the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty the U.S. signed with the Soviet Union in 1972, and pointed out that Ukraine recently joined 28 other arms-producing countries in the Wassenaar agreement, which obliges arms producers to notify each other about major arms sales. He also said Ukraine had agreed not to trade in dual-use products or technologies with states that sponsor terrorism.

On August 23 the Embassy of Ukraine in Washington hosted a fifth anniversary of independence reception attended by White House and State Department officials, diplomats from other countries' embassies, visitors from Ukraine and Ukrainian Americans. Melanne Verveer, deputy chief of staff to First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, read a letter of greeting from President Clinton to President Kuchma.

Mr. Clinton congratulated the Ukrainian president on Ukraine's achievements in the last five years and reiterated his commitment to "supporting Ukraine through its ambitious and far-sighted reforms and to working with Ukraine and our European partners to promote Ukraine's integration into the European family." The U.S. president also noted the Ukrainian American community's contribution of "invaluable moral support and financial help that have sustained friends and relatives in Ukraine through this unprecedented and challenging transition."

On September 11 two Ukrainian ships made the first ever trans-Atlantic voyage and sailed into the U.S. Naval Base at Norfolk, Va. The Hetman Sahaidachny and the Kostiantyn Olshansky were the first ships of independent Ukraine to show the Ukrainian colors in a U.S. port. They were greeted by Ukrainian Ambassador Shcherbak and the commander of the Norfolk naval base, and remained in Norfolk for one week to conduct joint naval landing exercises with the U.S. Navy.

On September 16-19 Mr. Horbulin, the secretary of the National Security Council of Ukraine, met with Deputy Secretary of State Talbott, Defense Secretary Perry, National Security Advisor Anthony Lake, CIA Director John Deutch and FBI Assistant Director William Esposito in Washington. During his four-day visit, Mr. Horbulin finalized details of the Kuchma-Gore Commission; addressed a congressional luncheon commemorating the fifth anniversary of Ukraine's independence; and discussed the creation of a collective security system in Europe, Ukraine's relationship with NATO, and the possibility of Ukraine joining the Missile Technology Control Regime.

On September 17 the House-Senate conference committee on the Foreign Assistance Appropriations Act resolved all but one of the differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill and agreed to appropriate $625 million for the NIS, with a $225 million earmark for Ukraine.

The $225 million earmark was subearmarked for specific projects in Ukraine: $25 million as part of the U.S. contribution to the decommissioning of the Chornobyl nuclear plant; $35 million for agricultural projects; $5 million for a small business incubator project; $5 million for screening and treatment of childhood mental and physical illnesses related to Chornobyl radiation; $50 million to improve safety at nuclear reactors; $5 million for a land and resource management institute; and $15 million for commercial law reform. On September 30 President Clinton signed a $600 billion spending bill that included the $225 million earmark for Ukraine into law.

On September 19 the White House officially announced the creation of the Kuchma-Gore Commission, named the U.S.-Ukraine Binational Commission. President Kuchma and Vice-President Gore chair the commission and will meet annually to guide its work, which will be carried out by four committees: Foreign Policy; Security; Trade and Investment; and Sustainable Economic Cooperation.

On the same day the Central and East European Coalition presented its Distinguished Service Award to Sens. McConnell and Barbara Mikulski (D.-Md.) and Reps. Gilman and Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) for upholding the principles of freedom, democracy and the development of free-market principles for the people of Central and Eastern Europe.

On October 21-22 Foreign Affairs Minister Udovenko met Secretary of State Christopher, Deputy Secretary of State Talbott, Defense Minister Perry and Deputy National Security Advisor Samuel Berger during a working visit to Washington. Discussion centered on the expansion of NATO, which President Clinton announced on October 22 would expand to include the first group of East European countries in 1999. Throughout his two-day visit, Mr. Udovenko reiterated Ukraine's position on an expanded NATO: that expansion be evolutionary; that NATO strengthen its relations with Ukraine as it expands; and that NATO not introduce nuclear weapons on the territory of new NATO members.

On November 5 Ukrainian Ambassador Shcherbak hailed the re-elections of President Clinton and Ukraine's supporters in Congress. The election results, he said, assure "four more years of stable development of Ukrainian-American relations" and the continuity of the existing friendly and bipartisan U.S. policy toward Ukraine.

Copyright © The Ukrainian Weekly, December 29, 1996, No. 52, Vol. LXIV

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