Statement of Honorable Doug Bereuter (R-NE)
Chairman, Subcommittee on Europe, Committee on International Relations
U.S. House Of Representatives, Wash, D.C., Wed, May 12, 2004
Congressman Doug Bereuter
Today, the Europe Subcommittee will receive an assessment of the
current political and economic environment in Ukraine and why Ukraine's future
should be of interest to the United States.
There are three areas we should explore when thinking of Ukraine today.
Geostrategically, Ukraine's position in Europe places it in a unique and
yet, challenging, neighborhood which has become a source of competition
between Russia and the West.
Ukraine now shares borders with the European Union and NATO as a result
of the recent enlargements of both organizations to include Poland, Hungary,
Slovakia and Romania. With its resources and economic potential, a strong,
stable, independent, and democratic Ukraine can be seen by many as an
important element in the stability of Europe and a natural future candidate
for the European Union. Similarly, many feel Ukraine could play a positive
role as a neighbor to, and perhaps eventual member of, NATO.
Ukraine also shares a border with Russia which is currently in an uncertain
transition. Ukraine's location, along with Belarus, is seen by Russia as a
natural barrier to an expanded EU and NATO and an important element in
Russia's Black Sea interests. A weak or unstable Ukraine, or one which is
shunned by the West, could again result in a Ukraine falling under the
domination of Russia.
Finally, Ukraine borders Moldova and Belarus which, by many standards,
represent the unstable pieces of that neighborhood. It would be far better
to have a stable Ukraine in that context which might play a useful role in
shaping the future of those two nations
Domestically, the country seems to be split over its aspirations for western
democracy and a free-market economy and its long linguistic, cultural,
religious and historic ties to Russia. At the very same time President
Kuchma has expressed his desire to bring Ukraine closer into the western
community of democracies, and perhaps one day into the EU itself, the
Ukraine Rada - Parliament - ratified an accord creating a single economic
zone establishing a free trade area and customs union with Belarus,
Kazakhstan and Russia which seems to present a contradictory economic
Similarly, while Ukraine government leaders are trying to mend fences with
the U.S. and Europe, a recent survey conducted by the Oleksandr Razmunkov
center for economic and political research suggests that up to 40 percent of
Ukrainians believe relations with Russia should be a priority; 28 percent
gave preference to the EU and although the U.S. appears to be well liked, a
mere 2 percent said that relations with the USA should be foreign policy
priority. Another survey suggested that almost 2/3rds of the population
could consider supporting a political union with Russia.
If these surveys are even remotely accurate, they paint a picture that
suggests the West has a lot of work to do.
Finally, the political environment in Ukraine has been the source of
constant irritations in Ukraine's relations with the United States.
Some suggest that Ukraine's political system could be described as a mix
of democracy, authoritarianism, and oligarchy.
However one wishes to describe it, the transition to democracy in Ukraine
over the past 13 years seems to have been slow, difficult and in many
instances, flawed. By any measure, however, no issue will be more important
to Ukraine's future standing with the West than the strength of its
The United States Congress attaches great importance to the success of
Ukraine's transition to a democratic state, with strong institutions and
with a flourishing market economy. Bilateral relations with the Kuchma
government over the past ten years have vacillated between rocky and
Bi-lateral economic and security relations such as in the case of Ukraine's
commitment to send more than 1500 troops to Iraq seem to work well.
Political relations, however, have been difficult such as with the case of
the Kolchuga radar issue and examples of Kuchma's abuse of authority.
U.S. policy must remain focused on promoting and strengthening a stable,
democratic, and prosperous Ukraine, more closely integrated into European
and Euro-Atlantic structures.
The next major political event in Ukraine involves the upcoming Presidential
elections in October. Based on the numerous problems of past elections in
Ukraine, concerns have already been raised about the openness and fairness
of the election.
The Congress, like the Bush Administration, has made the Presidential
election a litmus test of Ukraine's commitment to democracy. Several high
level officials of the Administration, such as Assistant Secretary Armitage,
have recently visited Kiev and have tried to stress the importance of free
and fair elections.
In two weeks this Member will travel to Ukraine. While discussions will
focus on overall U.S.-Ukraine relations, the importance of fair and
transparent elections in the fall will be one of my strongest messages.
We have a distinguished group of witnesses here with us today and I look
forward to hearing their views.
FOR PERSONAL AND ACADEMIC