A LOOK BACK: UKRAINE'S PRESIDENTS IN THE UNITED STATES
White House meeting for Ukrainian president ends five-year hiatus
by Yaro Bihun
Special to The Ukrainian Weekly
WASHINGTON - When Viktor Yushchenko and President George W. Bush begin their meeting at the White House on April 4 it will end a five-year hiatus in the high-level dialogue between U.S. and Ukrainian presidents that developed and used to be almost an annual event during the latter part of the 1990s.
Ukraine's first president, Leonid Kravchuk, began the process in May 1992, when he arrived for a working visit, and came on an official visit in March 1994. His successor, Leonid Kuchma, came to Washington for the first time in 1994 and then returned in 1996, 1997 and twice in 1999.
During that series of meetings, a number of agreements were signed, reflecting the priorities of the two countries: dealing with Ukraine's de-nuclearization process - a U.S. priority, as well as security guarantees and economic assistance.
During the 1994 Kravchuk visit, Washington prepared a $700 million aid package for Ukraine, half of which was aimed to help Ukraine rid itself of Soviet-era nuclear weapons. The remaining $350 million was earmarked for economic assistance.
In subsequent summits, Ukraine was also given U.S. assistance in working with international trade and financial institutions, and in obtaining much-needed credits from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.
To facilitate the development of this bilateral relationship, the two governments established the U.S.-Ukraine Binational Commission (also known as the "Kuchma-Gore Commission"), with committees that worked on improving political, economic and business relations between the two countries.
After President Kuchma's last visit to Washington in December of 1999, however, the meetings and the momentum stopped. And, despite Ukraine's willingness to send a contingent of troops to Iraq, persistent reports about political and economic corruption in Ukraine, official complicity in criminal activities and shady arms sales to renegade states, including Iraq, appeared to put a damper on the relationship - until Mr. Yushchenko's hard-fought victory in the presidential election.
Mr. Yushchenko was not always in the opposition, of course, and he had been to Washington a number times in the past as part of the Kuchma administration team - as the chairman of the National Bank of Ukraine in the latter 1990s and as the prime minister in 2000.
His last visit here, in 2003, however, was as the leader of the Our Ukraine opposition forces in the Verkhovna Rada and the expectant opposition presidential candidate in the 2004 election.
Then, in addition to congressional leaders and members of Washington's foreign policy establishment, he got to meet with second-tier administration officials - Vice-President Richard Cheney and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage. This time he will be staying at Blair House, the official residence for visiting heads of state across the street from the White House, and he will spend a good part of his first day here meeting with the U.S. president.
All photos in this section by Yaro Bihun.
Copyright © The Ukrainian Weekly, April 3, 2005, No. 14, Vol. LXXIII
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