The US`s contribution to Ukraine`s economic development is positive
Some political forces in Ukraine say that the US is not fulfilling its obligations vis-a-vis Ukraine and that Washington is controlling Kyiv... Did the first US president`s visit to Ukraine meet the expectations of the Ukrainian side?... Interview with the Ukraine`s Ambassador to the US
Some political forces in Ukraine say that the US is not fulfilling its obligations vis-a-vis Ukraine and that Washington is controlling Kyiv. Do such statements correspond to reality? Did the first US president`s visit to Ukraine in seven years meet the expectations of the Ukrainian side? Is it important for us that the US recognizes the Holodomor as an act of genocide against the Ukrainian nation?
These and other questions are raised in The Day`s interview with Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Ukraine to the US Oleh Shamshur, who took a direct part in preparing for the US president`s visit.
We are conducting a very intensive dialog with the US, one that is not always simple
[The Day] With regard to the role of the United States in the world, one can see that the US is not so invincible and that things have not always been good with respect to its obligations.
Many people cite examples of Ukraine`s rejection of nuclear weapons and the advantageous contract to supply turbines to Iran`s nuclear power plant in Bushehr, yet Ukraine has not received any of the promised compensations from the US.
On the other hand, some political forces say that Washington is controlling our state. Could you comment on this?
[Amb Shamshur] "I will start with the second question. The active and dynamic character of Ukrainian politics, the presence of powerful political forces and parties, a free press and developed civil society are probably a guarantee of the fact that this is not happening. Under these conditions, it is difficult to imagine any country exerting influence on the formulation of critical decisions.
On the other hand, it is a positive thing that in all sorts of ways the US has supported and continues to support the democratic character of the development of Ukrainian society and economic reform, and is providing assistance to resolve such questions as the struggle against corruption and AIDS and overcoming the consequences of the Chornobyl catastrophe.
The US`s contribution to Ukraine`s economic development is positive and corresponds with the main line of Ukraine`s development.
As for the rejection of nuclear weapons, this was a correct and timely move. Ukraine thus focused on resolving truly essential questions and did not start living with illusions of grandeur because it possessed nuclear warheads.
The Bushehr situation is more complicated. But I would like to underline that in our country people do not know that a number of important projects for Ukraine have been completed.
The best example is Sea Launch. I would like to emphasize that the fact that we have normal, constructive relations with the US does not mean that we will not insist on resolving Ukraine`s most important problems. We are conducting a very intensive dialog with the US, one that is not always simple, in those spheres where we see that our interests should be better guaranteed."
[The Day] Is there any progress on the question of utilizing rocket fuel at the Pavlohrad Chemical Plant? This was also one of the US`s obligations vis-a-vis Ukraine.
[Amb Shamshur] "The dialogue continues: that is all I can say here without going into details because this topic is rather sensitive. The US has made concessions on certain key questions, and where others are concerned we still have to convince the American administration about them. This question has been included in the Road Map at our proposal.
Thus, this is a guarantee that we will continue to defend our approach in the constructive dialog. This also includes the question of fighting against biological threats. Here we also have some differences of opinion. But we are making joint efforts to overcome them."
[The Day] During the meeting between presidents Bush and Yushchenko emphasis was laid on the partnership relations between our two countries.
So can one expect that for Washington we will be the same kind of partners as Lithuania, Latvia, and the Czech Republic, which have signed a visa waiver deal with the US?
[Amb Shamshur] "The question of liberalizing the visa regime is on the agenda. Our Road Map talks about the task of `strengthening bilateral cooperation through exchanges and visits.
It also says that the US and Ukraine agree to promote personal contacts among citizens and to focus their attention on the sphere of cultural and educational exchange programs. Thus, we are continuing to discuss the question of liberalizing the visa regime with the Americans.
I want to emphasize that this question is among the most complicated ones. We expect to prolong visas. There are some positive signals in this sphere. I believe that one should not expect a visa waiver regime at this particular stage.
This is not a reality for all the new members of the European Union either. I think that the crucial argument will be the regularization of migrant exchanges between Ukraine and the US.
Frankly speaking, the smaller the number of Ukrainian illegal migrants in the US and the fewer visas refusals, although this process is a rather subjective one, the more arguments there will be to insist on canceling visas.
We regularly cite the example that on our side a 90-day stay does not require a visa. I would like to assure you that we are working on this, and this problem is a regular part of our negotiation agenda."
It is important that the US president spoke about a free trade zone
[The Day] When will the free trade zone with the US be created, as was announced during the presidents` negotiations? More importantly, will Ukraine benefit from this?
There are frequent reports in the international mass media about loud protests in many protests against signing such an agreement, particularly in South Korea.
[Amb Shamshur] "Ukraine`s accession to the WTO and the signing of an agreement on cooperation in the sphere of trade and investments are the first steps on the way to the possible creation of a free trade zone.
Without a doubt, such a zone will be created only if it is beneficial for Ukraine and the US. Nothing will come of this unless there is mutual interest.
I think that the competitiveness of the Ukrainian economy will be a key factor for us, as well as the accessibility of Ukrainian goods reaching the United States. So, I don`t doubt that this will become a reality for us only if there is mutual interest and it is mutually beneficial. Nobody is foisting this zone on anybody.
Certainly, the US has a rather complicated attitude to this. In observing the debates, especially the statements made by the candidates from the Democratic Party, one can say that they treat this in a very cautious and skeptical way.
On the other hand, there are many politicians and experts who assert that NAFTA and other agreements are beneficial for the United States. So, this is a long road but the prospect is present.
By the way, on April 1 the US president spoke about the free trade zone. And this is very important."
"We have a unique situation where all the presidential candidates are aware of Ukraine"
[The Day] At the press conference Bush said that 10 months remain before he leaves the White House. Speaking about the future relations between Ukraine and the US, which of today`s presidential candidates would be the best one for Ukraine?
[Amb Shamshur] "I consider myself a diplomat of the traditional school; therefore I try to avoid giving commentaries on the domestic situation of the country where I am accredited.
However, if you look at the personalities, knowledge of Ukraine, and even contacts with Ukraine, we have a unique situation where all the presidential candidates know about Ukraine, have contacts with our country, and have already shown their eagerness to actively cooperate with Ukraine.
This was most evident in the support for Ukraine getting the MAP. Hillary Clinton was the first to show her support, and the very next day Barack Obama`s statement appeared, and a statement was made by John McCain at the Munich Conference. I had an opportunity to meet McCain as well as Obama and Clinton several times when they were in Kyiv.
We are following their activity and I have no doubts that they will be interested in developing productive relations with Ukraine in all spheres.
One can only guess which of them will be the most active. But in principle I think that we have every reason to be optimistic about each of them."
[The Day] Let`s talk about whether the recent visit of the leader of the world`s most powerful state met every expectation?
[Amb Shamshur] "It met every expectation to a certain extent. They were met from the point of view of the content of the political dialog, primarily on the question of the MAP and other issues that were discussed. They were justified from the point of view of the personal contact between the two presidents.
It was also important that several important agreements were signed during the visit. President Bush`s visit did not have a declarative nature; it was filled with a lot of content. Moreover, some agreements were being developed for a long time, so this visit gave the opportunity to accelerate the pace of work.
The Road Map contains practically everything, starting with Ukraine`s Euro-Atlantic integration to the HIV-AIDS program: these are absolutely practical things. The approach to them envisaged that this would be a practical concrete document.
I can also mention the signing of important agreements on space and cooperation in the sphere of trade and investments as well as a couple of important contracts.
The agreement signed with the Westinghouse Company means a serious diversification of energy supply, while the agreement signed with the Holtec Company talks about creating conditions both for storing our power plants` spent fuel and, what is very important, for their possible usage in the future, which may become a `gold reserve` for the development of a nuclear
Business structures should see clear benefits, transparent and clear conditions, and stability
[The Day] Does this mean that after signing the agreement in the sphere of trade and investments, large American investments will come to Ukraine? Do big American investors still have fears about investing in Ukraine?
[Amb Shamshur] "Will they come or not? Irrespective of President Bush`s visit, being in touch with American business structures, first of all, with the American-Ukrainian Business Council [U.S.-Ukraine Business Council (USUBC)] and the US Chamber of Commerce in Ukraine, I can say that there is serious interest.
It is extremely significant that within the past half-year the council`s [USUBC] membership has nearly doubled. Now it includes over 60 American companies.
There is interest in different branches. There is eagerness to start working intensively in Ukraine. Indisputably, the further improvement of the investment climate is a crucial question. We can expect investments when they are beneficial to business structures.
We are not living in Soviet times, when a political agreement would be signed, say, to give access to Coca-Cola or Pepsi-Cola to the Soviet market Business structures should see clear benefits, transparent and clear conditions, and stability.
The more the investment climate improves the larger the investments that will come. It is important that the problems with VAT reimbursements have been resolved."
We are doing everything necessary to bring the truth about the famine in Ukraine to the attention of the American community
[The Day] I would like to touch on the topic of the Holodomor. Even during the Soviet period the US held sessions on the Holodomor in Ukraine and a corresponding resolution was approved. Is it important for us that the Americans move further and recognize the Holodomor as genocide against the Ukrainian people?
[Amb Shamshur] "In 2006 a law was approved in the US to grant Ukraine a plot of land in Washington for the construction of a memorial. The text of the law states: `the construction of a memorial to the `famine genocide in Ukraine.` I hope we will succeed in laying the foundation for this monument by the end of this year.
We have information that some Congressmen are considering the possibility of submitting a new resolution. This is absolutely important for us.
We are doing everything necessary to bring the truth about the famine in Ukraine to the attention of the American community. In my opinion, the ceremony of laying flowers at the memorial by the US president was very important."
[The Day] Can one expect, then, that the US will assist in the process of the UN`s recognition of the Holodomor?
[Amb Shamshur] "This is a complicated question that depends on many factors. Incidentally, the Road Map says that Ukraine and the US will cooperate closely with the goal of commemorating and increasing the level of public awareness about the Holodomor, including within the framework of international organizations."