March 10, 2021
Good afternoon everyone. It is an honor and a pleasure to have the opportunity to speak to you all today. As the Biden Administration has affirmed, the United States remains committed to Ukraine as one of our closest partners and friends, and we continue to work together across the full range of our extensive mutual interests.
I know that all of us in this Forum are dedicated to continuing to advance U.S.-Ukraine bilateral relations even further, and this forum offers a great opportunity to both look back on what has been accomplished so far and share ideas on next steps.
I look forward to hearing your analysis and ideas for making the U.S.-Ukraine relationship the best it can be in today’s circumstances.
I will focus my remarks today on the current situation and the role the United States can play working with Ukraine to advance our shared priorities of resolving the conflict in eastern Ukraine and fighting the corruption that poses a significant obstacle to inclusive economic growth and Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic integration.
In addressing these priorities, President Zelenskyy has faced challenges. I think we can all recognize that.
On the Peace Process, Ukraine’s attempts to re-invigorate negotiations have been blocked largely by Russian intransigence.
On the fight against corruption, we have witnessed persistent attacks by vested interests, who seek to undermine the independence and effectiveness of Ukraine’s anti-corruption infrastructure in an effort to avoid accountability for their corrupt behavior.
These vested interests have also pursued a wide-ranging disinformation campaign here in Ukraine intended to discredit the reform agenda and Ukraine’s westward trajectory.
Despite the challenges, I am encouraged that some key and long-awaited reforms are advancing. Land reform is expected to be implemented this summer, for the first time creating a land market that will help unleash Ukraine’s vast agricultural potential. Security service reform has passed its first reading in Parliament, and the President has recently committed to pursuing comprehensive Judicial Reform, a very necessary step to reduce corruption in Ukraine.
Against this backdrop, I’ll say a few words on our policy going forward.
The basic elements of our policy on Ukraine enjoy widespread, bipartisan support in Washington and have been consistent across presidential administrations of both parties. We will continue to work with Ukraine to advance its Euro-Atlantic aspirations and build a prosperous future for all Ukrainians. Our partnership includes concrete support for the country’s internal struggle to advance rule of law reforms and economic growth, as well as its broader fight against Russia’s aggression in all forms.
The United States has provided $4.5 billion in bilateral assistance to Ukraine since 2014. Our support will continue to play a pivotal role in advancing reforms and enhancing security.
Our new leadership in Washington has been vocal and engaged in support of Ukraine. Both President Biden and Secretary Blinken recently reaffirmed our Crimea policy on the 7th anniversary of Russia’s occupation of the peninsula. Secretary Blinken also took a stand against corruption through the recent 7031(c) designation of Ihor Kolomoiskyy.
Secretary Blinken spoke to Foreign Minister Kuleba on February 1 and Defense Secretary Austin spoke with Defense Minister Taran on February 19, and we expect continued outreach between counterparts in the coming weeks.
President Zelenskyy has recently taken concrete actions against oligarchs and agents of malign foreign influence in Ukraine, including sanctioning a Chinese company attempting to acquire control of a sensitive technology company, sanctions against Russia-linked oligarchs, and indictments against individuals involved in financial sector corruption.
We will continue to support Ukraine in its efforts to curb malign actors, including though sanctions and legal action when appropriate.
We also see an opportunity to reinvigorate our bilateral relationship through the robust use of our existing engagement mechanisms.
These mechanisms include:
1) Our Bilateral Strategic Partnership Commission, which is traditionally chaired by our respective foreign ministers, and which seeks to advance broad bilateral agenda.
2) annual Bilateral Defense Consultations,
3) the Defense Reform Advisory Board,
4) the Trade and Investment Council,
5) our Strategic Energy Dialogue,
6) our Non-Proliferation Working Group, and
7) our Cybersecurity Working Group.
Are all mechanisms that should be reenergized across the board.
Last but not least, we will continue our work with Ukraine across the full spectrum of interests.
To highlight just a few of our current efforts:
We have been working closely with Ukraine to develop and strengthen the independent institutions that are so important to maintaining and defending accountability in any democracy. From the National Bank, to anti-corruption bodies, to the court system, the malign influence of vested interests cannot be curbed without strong, independent institutions.
We continue our work with the Ukrainian Armed Forces to make progress towards Euro-Atlantic best practices. Ukraine is an active participant in joint NATO exercises, contributes to NATO missions, and was recently recognized by the Alliance as an Enhanced Opportunities Partner.
We work with the Ukrainian Armed Forces to improve their ability to combat Russian aggression in the East, and we work through multiple U.S. agencies to help Ukraine support its growing population of military veterans who face physical, emotional, and economic challenges as they reintegrate into civilian life.
We have also worked intensively over the past year to help address the COVID-19 pandemic here in Ukraine, which has severely stressed Ukraine’s limited health care system and the country’s economy. So far, we have provided nearly $50 million in COVID-related assistance, including funding directed toward health and humanitarian needs and vaccine distribution.
I will conclude by stating that:
Despite these challenges, Ukraine and its people share our commitment to democratic government, the rule of law, and Euro-Atlantic values.
Our shared values are the foundation for our continued work with President Zelenskyy, Prime Minister Shmyhal and his Cabinet, the Ukrainian Parliament, independent institutions, and civil society.
And our support for a Ukraine that is successfully integrated into the Euro-Atlantic community will deliver greater security and prosperity, not just for Ukraine, but for the wider region and world.
So thank you all today, it has been a pleasure to join you and I look forward to your ideas and thoughts on Ukraine.