President George W. Bush recently welcomed Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko to the White House. Mr. Bush called it an "honor to stand with a courageous leader of a free Ukraine." The Orange Revolution, said Mr. Bush, is a sign of "the world changing for the better."
Mr. Yushchenko's inauguration marked the end of a tumultuous 2004 presidential campaign. Former President Leonid Kuchma used state resources, harassment, and intimidation to oppose Mr. Yushchenko and promote the candidacy of Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych.
The October 31st vote was problematic and the November 21st runoff election was seriously flawed. The Ukrainian Supreme Court invalidated the results and ordered a new vote be held December 26th. That election was judged to be much fairer by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and the Ukrainian people elected Mr. Yushchenko as president.
Mr. Yushchenko described the legacy he inherits as president:
"Ukraine, where the rule of law did not exist and human rights were not observed; where half of the national economy is a shadow. The humiliated profession of journalism, the journalists wanted to speak the truth and stood against official power, they could pay. . . .their lives for it. We're talking about a country where the number one problem remains corruption. We're talking about the country where the huge problem remains the problem of poverty."
Now Ukraine faces the task of reforming its economy, fighting corruption, strengthening democratic institutions, and improving respect for human rights after years of authoritarian rule. To help Ukraine with this agenda, President Bush has asked the U.S. Congress to provide an additional sixty-million dollars in aid. The U.S. also supports Ukraine's efforts to join the World Trade Organization and NATO.
Democratic developments in Ukraine are significant for authoritarian governments in Belarus and Cuba, says President Bush:
"The Orange Revolution may have looked like it was only a part of the history of Ukraine, but the Orange Revolution represented revolutions elsewhere, as well. And I look forward to working with you, Mr. President, in places like Lebanon and Kyrgyzstan."
President Bush said the U.S. and Ukraine "share a goal to spread freedom to other nations."
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States government.