The charter on strategic partnership drawn up by Kyiv and Washington in 2008 resulted in the creation of a strategic partnership commission, which met for the third time on February 15, 2011, in Washington, D.C. Carnegie convened a Track II workshop, bringing together civil society experts and government representatives to discuss Ukraine’s economic and political development and its foreign policy. Following the Track II workshop, Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Relations Kostyantyn Gryshchenko discussed U.S.-Ukrainian relations, Ukraine’s international position, and the country’s domestic developments. Carnegie’s Ambassador James F. Collins moderated.

U.S.-Ukraine Relations

Kyiv’s relationship with Washington is important as Ukraine continues to develop domestically and assumes a greater role internationally, Gryshchenko said. He thanked the United States for its support in the international arena, citing Washington’s support of Ukraine’s 2013 Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) chairmanship as an example.

Gryshchenko said the U.S.-Ukraine strategic dialogue remains steady and forward-looking, focusing on pragmatic policy and cooperation. He expressed hope that as the relationship evolves, it will remain grounded in an understanding of Ukraine’s complicated domestic situation, which will help U.S. and foreign allies identify means of promoting development inside the country. 

International Arena

Ukraine is an active participant in the international arena:

  • 2013 OSCE Chairmanship: Ukraine looks forward to promoting the principles of the OSCE when it assumes the chairmanship in 2013, Gryshchenko said. In particular, Ukraine will continue to support ongoing processes to address the unresolved conflicts in Transnistria and Nagorno-Karabakh. 
     
  • Economic Potential: Ukraine has great potential to contribute to economic success in the region stretching from the Black Sea to the Baltic Sea. The economic climate is changing for the better, Gryshchenko said, citing Ukraine’s 4.5 percent GDP growth in 2010, renewed cooperation with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, and expanding infrastructure. Moreover, he added, the country’s business environment is becoming liberalized and some barriers to business are being lifted.
     
  • Expanding Partnerships: Ukraine has reset its relations with Russia and is in the process of exploring new potential for cooperation in the emerging markets of Asia, Latin America, and Africa, Gryshchenko said.

Democracy and Human Rights

While acknowledging that Ukraine’s commitment to democracy and human rights remains a concern for the West, Gryshchenko defended the country’s record on democracy, calling it the “undisputed basis of [Ukraine’s] statehood.”

  • No Turning Back: For Ukraine, returning to an authoritarian system of government and state-controlled media is not an option, Gryshchenko said. He argued that the country has a functional civil society and a level of transparency similar to Western democracies.   
     
  • Functionality: Ukraine’s economic and political apparatus suffers not so much from lack of democracy as from lack of functionality, Gryshchenko asserted, making it crucial that the country’s ongoing reform agenda is implemented effectively.

Reforms

Ukraine is transforming and reinventing itself, Gryshchenko said. Social, judicial, educational, and military reforms are already underway.

  • Difficulties: Implementing reforms has been a painful but necessary process, Gryshchenko said, but the alternatives to reform were unacceptable: a bloated bureaucracy and an unbalanced budget, among others. 
     
  • Four-step approach: To deliver on promised reforms, President Viktor Yanukovych and his government have adopted a four-step approach:

    1. Consolidating and streamlining the government;
       
    2. Making the government less ideological and more economically focused;
       
    3. Implementing a viable reform agenda; and
       
    4. Cracking down on corruption. 
       

European Integration

Ukraine has become an active participant in international affairs, but Gryshchenko acknowledged that it has not yet completed its evolution into a fully European state.

  • Adopting Legislation: In the past year, Ukraine has adopted legislation bringing it closer to European norms, including a law on state procurement and the freedom of information law.
     
  • Growing Self-Reliance: In terms of European integration, Ukraine is becoming more self-reliant, Gryshchenko said. Ukraine is increasingly valuing change from within, in the form of domestic European-oriented reforms, above political gestures on the part of the European Union.
     
  • Priorities: Ukraine’s top priority is to address issues relevant to its citizens, rather than seeking immediate EU membership, Gryshchenko said. Consequently, it values concrete steps like the new action plan for visa-free travel between the European Union and Ukraine.