William Burns, U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, recently traveled to Ukraine where he met with President Viktor Yanukovych, Prime Minister Mykola Azarov opposition leaders, and business and civil society leaders, among others.
Under Secretary Burns stressed the importance that the United States attaches to its strategic partnership with Ukraine and the priority of deepening economic cooperation with Ukraine. Economic reform in Ukraine, he said, would create greater predictability and transparency and help attract additional investment. "The new tax code, for example," said Under Secretary Burns, "is the kind of signal that can have a positive effect on outside investors." He also spoke about strong American support for Ukraine's further integration into Europe.
Under Secretary Burns spoke about the importance of protecting the democratic gains in Ukraine over recent years. In this context, Under Secretary Burns noted that "there are obvious concerns about freedom of expression in Ukraine."
President Yanukovych has made some key statements about his commitment to protecting media freedoms and protecting reforms. As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made clear when she visited Kyiv last summer, the United States welcomes those commitments, but it's essential to translate them into action. It is very important for Ukrainians to make progress in deepening the rule of law, in judicial reform, in fighting corruption, and in strengthening a free and independent press. As Under Secretary Burns noted, "How can you fight corruption unless you have a media that's independent enough to hold people accountable and cast a spotlight on that kind of behavior?"
With regard to security and nonproliferation issues, Under Secretary Burns welcomed the decision taken by Ukraine to rid itself of its remaining stocks of highly-enriched uranium. The United States is committed to working with Ukraine to modernize its civilian nuclear research facilities using low-enriched uranium, which is becoming the global standard. "We see this as a win-win proposition," said Under Secretary Burns, "in the interests of both our countries and the wider interests of global nonproliferation."
Americans have stood by Ukraine and its people since independence, and we will continue to work to achieve the full benefits of strategic partnership and to support Ukrainians' goal of democracy, prosperity and fuller integration into Europe.