It has been seven months since the Ukrainian people rejected a stolen election and chose freedom, democracy, and the rule of law over corruption and intimidation. What has become known as the Orange Revolution has ushered in the prospect for change in Ukraine. Now, the promises of the revolution need to be translated into actual economic and political reforms.
The new government under the leadership of President Alexander Yushchenko faces a difficult environment in which to carry out reforms, including political opposition and high expectations from the electorate. Despite this, the government has increased respect for human rights. The opposition has freedom of assembly. The media operates more freely, although self-censorship and concentrated ownership of the media are still a concern. The courts appear to be more independent. The new Ukrainian government is more open about its business, and the press regularly reports on policy debates. President Yushchenko's administration has also moved to combat corruption by removing and sometimes prosecuting officials who abused their positions to enrich themselves.
Daniel Fried is U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs. He says the U.S. is encouraged by Ukraine's successes. But some critical free-market reforms have stalled. The Ukrainian government used price controls on gasoline earlier in the year, which produced shortages. The price-control measures were rescinded, but the decision raised questions about the government's commitment to free market principles.
U.S. assistance is aimed at helping Ukraine develop as a democratic country with a market economy. U.S. programs are helping Ukraine combat corruption, support media freedom, increase exchange programs, and join the World Trade Organization.
Ukraine has a historic window of opportunity to consolidate political and free-market reforms. The U.S. supports Ukraine's aspirations to become part of the Euro-Atlantic community. But, as Assistant Secretary of State Fried said, "Ukraine and its leaders must make the necessary decisions and take the necessary steps. Ukraine's future is in its hands."
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.