I am pleased to welcome you to this hearing on Ukraine, an important partner for the U.S. and one of the largest countries in Europe – both in terms of size and population. An independent, democratic, and stable Ukraine is in America’s interests and vital to the security of the OSCE region.
Ukraine remains a country in transition, in part due to its tragic historical past. To visit, as I have, the memorial to Stalin’s Famine, Babyn Yar, and Chornobyl is to be starkly reminded of this. Despite this legacy, and especially since the 2004 Orange Revolution, there have been gains in political pluralism, media freedoms, and the holding of free and fair elections. Additionally, Ukraine is the only country among the 12 non-Baltic former Soviet states to earn the assessment of “free” by Freedom House. The country has recently witnessed presidential elections which the OSCE assessed as having met international democratic standards.
Ukraine faces myriad challenges. Clearly, President Yanukovych, along with the new Prime Minister and the Rada will need to accelerate economic and political reforms, tackle systemic corruption and overcome the rule of law deficit, including building up an underdeveloped judiciary. Will Ukraine – despite tangible progress in freedom and democracy -- be able to move beyond the stalemate that has stymied its ability to grapple with these difficult problems and slowed its Euro-Atlantic integration? Nothing would be more important in strengthening Ukraine’s independence, reducing its vulnerability to outside pressures, including strengthening its energy independence, and bringing it closer to its stated European aspirations.
Despite past disappointments, there is a genuine desire in Washington that Ukraine succeed as an independent, democratic, stable and economically successful state. Importantly, both the Congress and Administration continue to strongly support the right of Ukraine to decide its own fate, consistent with the principles enshrined in the Helsinki Final Act.
Today we will examine Ukraine’s future course following the February 7th victory of Victor Yanukovych, elections which the OSCE assessed as having met international democratic standards. Our witnesses will focus on policy implications for the United States, examining how the U.S. can best continue to encourage and assist Ukraine in the development of democracy, rule of law, and a market economy at home, as well as its relations with its neighbors, the United States and European institutions.
I look forward to hearing from our distinguished participants.