Ukraine is facing the dual challenge of enacting political and economic reforms while at the same time fighting Russian backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.
In recent Congressional testimony, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland said the package of reforms already enacted by Ukrainian lawmakers is impressive. Budget reform has passed; pensions have been capped; and new banking provisions will stiffen penalties for financiers for stripping assets from banks at public expense.
With U.S. support, including a $1 billion loan guarantee last year and $355 million in foreign assistance and technical advisors, the Ukrainian government is able to help vulnerable Ukrainians affected by necessary economic reforms, improve energy efficiency, create a transparent government procurement process, and put a newly trained force of beat cops on the streets of Kyiv.
Even as Ukraine is building a peaceful, democratic and independent nation, Crimea and parts of eastern Ukraine are suffering a reign of terror, said U.S. Assistant Secretary Nuland in her testimony. “Today Crimea remains under illegal occupation and human rights abuses are the norm, not the exception, for many at-risk groups there — Crimean Tatars, Ukrainians who won’t surrender their passports, journalists, LGBT citizens and others.”
In eastern Ukraine, Russia and its separatist puppets unleashed unspeakable violence and pillage. This manufactured conflict, fueled by Russian tanks and heavy weapons, has cost the lives of more than 6000 Ukrainians and hundreds of young Russians sent to fight and die there.
Throughout this conflict, the U.S. and the European Union have together imposed successive rounds of tough sanctions. More sanctions will be forthcoming unless the latest ceasefire agreement is fully implemented. This means that in the coming days there must be a complete ceasefire in all parts of eastern Ukraine; full unfettered access to the whole conflict zone including all separatist-held territory; and a full pull-back of all heavy weapons under OSCE monitoring and verification.
The United States’ commitment to Ukraine is about more than protecting the choice of a single European country, said Assistant Secretary Nuland. “It’s about protecting our 25 year American investment in the prospect of a Europe whole, free and at peace and the example that sets for nations and people around the world who want more democratic, prosperous futures.”