BRAMA, Apr 7, 2004, 1:00 pm ET|
Washington's Action Ukraine Coalition Meeting with Ukrainian Rada Member Borys Tarasyuk
by Natalia Gawdiak for AUC
The Honorable Borys Tarasyuk (R), Ambassador William Green Miller (L). (March 30 breakfast meeting in Washington, D.C.)
Washington, D.C., April 7 On Tuesday, March 30, participants in the third of a series of meetings held here by the Action Ukraine Coalition (AUC) heard from two Members of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, the Honorable Borys Tarasyuk, the featured speaker, and his colleague, the Honorable Roman Zvarych, While the previous meeting featured remarks about Ukrainian-U.S. relations from various representatives of the U.S. executive branch, Tuesday's meeting explored the same subject from the viewpoint of two men from the ranks of the democratic opposition faction, "Our Ukraine." The AUC, which is composed of the Ukrainian American Coordinating Council (UACC), the Ukrainian Federation of America, and the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation, hosted some 50 attendees, in a conference room donated by the Citizens Network for Foreign Affairs. Arrangements for the meeting were made by Morgan Williams, Editor of the Action Ukraine Report.
[l to r] Vera Andreczyk and Dr. Zenovia Chernyk of the Ukrainian Federation of America, Honorable Roman Zvarych, Moderator Ihor Gawdiak, Honorable Borys Tarasyuk, a representative of RAND Corporation, US Army General (ret.) Nicholas Krawciw.
The generations of Ukrainian freedom fighters were not dreaming about the Ukraine we have right now
In his introduction, Ihor Gawdiak, AUC moderator and president of UACC, reminded listeners that Mr. Tarasyuk is not only a member of the Rada, head of Rukh, and one of prominent leaders of "Our Ukraine," but also a former Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs in Ukraine. Gawdiak noted that throughout Tarasyuk's career he has promoted democratic policies in Ukraine, closer ties with the United States, and membership in NATO and European Union.
Mr. Tarasyuk thanked all those who have worked in Ukraine and in the United States for better relations between the two countries. He noted that the activities of the Action Ukraine Coalition are of "great importance to all of us in Ukraine," but, he continued, "I must say that in spite of our combined efforts, both in Ukraine and the United States, unfortunately we cannot be pleased about the development of events in Ukraine. The generations of Ukrainian freedom fighters were not dreaming about the Ukraine we have right now."
Mr. Tarasyuk nevertheless expressed his sincere gratitude to all representatives of the Ukrainian community in the United States for their "tireless efforts to help us in Ukraine, especially in helping to develop Ukrainian-U.S. relations." Mr. Tarasyuk noted that few Americans-despite all their efforts--had the degree of commitment displayed by his colleague at the table, Mr. Roman Zvarych, who gave up his U.S. citizenship and moved to Ukraine to take up Ukrainian citizenship.
Not a priority for this administration unlike the previous democratic administration
Posing the question of "how we see the development of Ukrainian-American relations under the current [Bush] administration," Mr. Tarasyuk began by observing that "To my mind the atmosphere in which Ukraine and the United States [has been] developing has been rather unfavorable." On the one hand, he noted the U.S. administration was busy from the very beginning with the process of establishing itself. At the same time, the U.S. Administration was very busy with fighting terrorism and fighting in Afghanistan, in Iraq, and certainly Ukraine "was not a priority for this administration and is not [now] a priority for this administration, unlike the case, if one wants to compare, with the previous Democratic administration."
Major General (ret.) Nicholas Krawciw poses a question during the AUC breakfast meeting with Ukrainian Rada Member Borys Tarasyuk.
At the same time, Mr. Tarasyuk continued, "I feel sorry that it was the fault of the leadership of my country which led to this situation of 'no interest' on the part of the U.S. administration towards Ukraine. Because I think that due to the deeds and misdeeds of our leadership in Ukraine, we may consider the recent three to four years as lost years in the Ukraine-U.S. relationship."
The beginning of Ukraine's "deep internal crisis," Mr. Tarasyuk avowed, started immediately after the reelection of Leonid Kuchma as president for his second term in 1999 and the beginning of 2000, when he made his first attempt to undermine Ukraine's Constitution by initiating a referendum to change it.
"Ukraine lost its position as a leader in the region in the late 1990's when it entered the current period of international isolation. The murder of Georgi Gongadze, the Melnychenko tapes scandal, the deviation from a strategic foreign policy course, the mass falsification of the 2002 election results, the attack against the opposition, and against everything affiliated with it-all have created an atmosphere which in Ukraine has the tendency of creating an authoritarian regime,' Tarasyuk said.
"Now, it seems to me, Mr. Tarasyuk continued," the situation is becoming better in our bilateral relationship. This is not because the United States has reconsidered its position to my mind [nor] because Kuchma and the clans surrounding him have changed their attitudes. It is not because they started to respect human rights, to respect democratic values and standards, but this is because of a very pragmatic reason. After the United States started its operation in Iraq, you will remember that Ukraine agreed to join this operation by sending a battalion to neighboring Kuwait and later sending 1,600 military to Iraq. Ukraine is having the fourth largest military contingent in Iraq. Certainly this gesture was noticed by the U.S. administration, and this led to the improvement of our bilateral relationship."
Mr. Tarasyuk described the dismay felt by Ukraine's opposition forces who are concerned that this somewhat improved relationship may be interpreted by the Ukrainian regime as a license for the Kuchma regime to continue its oppression of democratic forces, of the opposition, of its attack against democracy and civil society in Ukraine. He noted that the American side protested against this viewpoint during the recent visit of Deputy Secretary of State Armitage to Kyiv and during Tarasyuk's own meeting the previous day (March 29) in the State Department. "But at the same time," he continued. "I would like to urge all of you who are trying to help Ukraine, please do not let these steps of the Ukrainian authorities be interpreted as an honest activity. They are just trying to break [through] the international isolationism in which they have found themselves."
At the table left to right: Myroslava Gongadze, Steven Nix of IRI, Ambassador William G. Miller, Major General (ret.) Nicholas Krawciw.
"This is a similar story to [Ukraine's] announcing NATO membership as their objective. They are not behaving like any other democratic country which has joined or is in the process of joining NATO," he said.
Having witnessed the previous day's installation of seven new member countries into NATO, Tarasyuk said, " I had a dream that Ukraine would join these nations as soon as possible, but unfortunately, while this regime is still in power it is useless to talk about Ukraine's membership. But we have to do our best to prepare Ukraine for the period after this regime in order to expedite our early membership in NATO and association agreement with the European Union."
U.S. administration not doing enough to persuade ukraine to come back to democracy
" [T]he European Union has sent very negative signals to Ukrainian authorities in connection with the so-called political 'reforms' [and] the undemocratic behavior of the current regime, especially against free media, against freedom of enterprise. The European Union was rather unequivocally speaking against those undemocratic moves from the Ukrainian president and from the government and from the majority which has been created by the president and his clans."
"Unlike the statements we heard from the European Union and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, we have not heard similar statements from Washington and that's a pity. I think that Kuchma and his clans are receptive to the criticism [if it were to be] sent from the highest authorities here in Washington, and in this regard I think that the United States administration is not doing enough to persuade Ukraine to come back to the road of democracy," Tarasyuk concluded.
Mr. Tarasyuk went on to discuss the negative developments in Ukraine's relationship with Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States. He termed Kuchma's signing of the agreement on the Single Economic Space as a first instance since 1991 in which Ukraine was put into a position which may result in the loss of its economic independence. "Never before has Ukraine been so close to losing part of its sovereignty as it is currently with Kuchma pushing the ratification of this agreement with Russia, which actually would subordinate Ukraine's economy to the economy of Russia," Tarasyuk noted.
"Recently, Kuchma made another concession to Russia and signed an agreement on the so-called "common use" of the Kerch Strait and the Azov Sea, which is absolutely contrary to the national interests of Ukraine and which puts in doubt the existing borderlines between our countries," he added.
Ending on an upbeat note, Mr. Tarasyuk said that "not everything is that bad. Today we have the 'Year of Poland in Ukraine,' officially started and inaugurated in Kyiv during the visit of the Polish Prime Minister to Ukraine. Hopefully this will be much more successful than the past 'Year of Russia in Ukraine,' which some people refer to as the last 350 years of Russia in Ukraine!"
Although Ukraine is not a democracy by Western European standards, Mr. Tarasyuk said that if one were to compare his country with Belarus, Central Asian and the Caucasus nations, Ukraine does have a democracy because, "we have a strong opposition," he said. "Our Ukraine is the largest faction out of 450 seats we have 100. Our leader Viktor Yushchenko is the most popular political figure in Ukraine," he said, with 24% of support, far more than the next closest candidates. He felt very confident that "if we are going to have fair and democratic elections October 31st, Victor Yuschenko has a chance to become the next president of Ukraine, despite all efforts to undermine the credentials and powers of the future president of Ukraine, but this is another subject."