Thursday, 1 July 2010
What Can Ukraine Expect From Clinton's Visit?
KIEV, Ukraine -- U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will pay an official visit to Ukraine on July 2-3, in an effort to strengthen U.S. ties with partners in the region while trying to "reset" relations with Russia.
A political analyst said Ukrainian-American relations have not changed much with the change of power in Ukraine, but U.S. priorities have changed significantly after U.S. President Barack Obama took office.
Ukraine is "not included in the list of countries of priority importance for the United States," Taras Chornovil, deputy chair of the Ukrainian parliamentary committee on foreign affairs, said in an interview with Xinhua.
But the United States is also trying to find a balance and build a system of levers and counterweights to Russia, and therefore is ready to make some political concessions, he said.
Clinton is expected to meet President Viktor Yanukovych and senior government officials including Foreign Minister Konstantin Gryshchenko. She will also meet representatives of the civil society and the media.
The visit, the first by a senior American official since Yanukovych took office in Feburary, is in line with U.S. policy in Eastern Europe.
"We tried to make the 'reset' of relations with Russia and, at the same time, strengthen partnership with other key partners in the region -- in particular with Ukraine," Dan Russell, U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, said recently.
Experts had expected not only a rapprochement of Ukraine with Russia, but also a cooling-off with the United States following the election of Yanukovych, who is considered pro-Russian. Both Ukrainian and American diplomacy, however, have so far demonstrated flexibility and pragmatism.
Yanukovych confirmed the readiness of the new Ukrainian government to establish communications with the United States at a recent nuclear security summit in Washington.
Both sides avoided controversial issues, including the revival of a plan to establish a gas transportation consortium with Gazprom, which is contrary to the provisions of the United States-Ukraine Charter on Strategic Partnership.
In a gesture of goodwill, Yanukovych declared Ukraine's readiness to give up weapons-grade highly enriched uranium stockpiles by 2012, which experts said Ukraine does not need now. On top of that, Ukraine also expects to receive funds from international partners.
On the U.S. side, Clinton has voiced support for Ukraine to extend the stay of Russia's Black Sea Fleet in Ukrainian territory.
"I think it is clear that Ukraine is trying to pursue a balanced approach to its foreign policy," she told a press conference in Tallinn.
The White House also reacted calmly to Ukraine's plan to fix the non-aligned status of Ukraine in legislation, thereby effectually renouncing membership in NATO. Above all is "continuation of practical cooperation between Ukraine and the Alliance," Russell said.
U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine John Tefft listed five priorities for cooperation between Kiev and Washington, which will presumably be discussed by Clinton and the Ukrainian side.
The ambassador said the first priority is talks with the International Monetary Fund on possible cooperation.
The second is "strengthening democracy and press freedom," and the third is trade and energy, which is "no less important for the long-term prosperity of Ukraine."
The fourth is investment cooperation with a potential to boost U.S. direct investment in Ukraine with a sum of 1.4 billion U.S. dollars.
The fifth priority is fighting corruption.
Chornovil said what had been important at the time of former presidents George W. Bush and Viktor Yushchenko, including NATO-Ukraine relations, will not be important for either Yanukovych or Obama.
"The Americans will try to guarantee that on some international positions, where every vote is important, Ukraine will be loyal to the American position," he said.
Pragmatism will prevail during Clinton's upcoming visit, and it is possible that some of the "remote" issues will also be considered, including the U.S. policy goals in the Korean peninsula and Iran, Chornovil said.
It is also possible that the discussions will include potential Ukrainian participation in peacekeeping activities, he said.