Ukraine - US Relations
The dissolution of the Soviet Union in December 1991 brought an end to the Cold War and created an opportunity to build bilateral relations with the New Independent States (NIS) as they began a political and economic transformation. On December 25, 1991, the United States officially recognized the independence of Ukraine. It upgraded its consulate in the capital, Kyiv, to embassy status on January 21, 1992.
In Lisbon on May 23, 1992, the United States signed a protocol to the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) with Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan (those states on whose territory strategic nuclear weapons of the former Soviet Union are located). The protocol makes each state a party to the START Treaty and commits all signatories to reductions in strategic nuclear weapons within the 7-year period provided for in the treaty. Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan also agreed to join the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as non-nuclear weapons states. The treaty entered into force on December 5, 1994, the same day Ukraine acceded to the NPT.
Through FY 1999, the US Department of Defense provided $568 million under its Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR or "Nunn-Lugar") Program to eliminate strategic nuclear delivery systems in Ukraine. CTR activities are facilitating START I implementation and are helping to eliminate all strategic nuclear weapons systems in Ukraine, including SS-19 and SS-24 ballistic missiles and associated silos and launch control centers, heavy bombers and air-launched cruise missiles. The US has provided nearly $15 million to assist Ukraine in establishing an effective export control system. In FY 2000, the US will contribute over $14 million to projects aimed at redirecting former Soviet weapons scientists to peaceful research. In addition, the US has provided Ukraine more than $19 million in International Military Education and Training (IMET) and Foreign Military Financing (FMF) to promote military reform and advance Ukraine's ability to participate in NATO Partnership for Peace activities, including peacekeeping in Kosovo.
The United States attached great importance to the success of Ukraine's transition to a democratic state with a flourishing market economy. Following a period of economic decline characterized by high inflation and a continued reliance on state controls, the Ukrainian Government, under the leadership of reelected President Leonid Kuchma, began taking steps in the fall of 1999 to reinvigorate economic reform that had been stalled for years due to a lack of a reform majority in the Ukrainian parliament (Rada). The Ukrainian Government's new determination to implement comprehensive economic reform is a welcome development, and the US is committed to strengthening its support for Ukraine as it embarks on this difficult path.
A cornerstone for the continuing US partnership with Ukraine and the other NIS was the Freedom for Russia and Emerging Eurasian Democracies and Open Markets (FREEDOM) Support Act (FSA), enacted in October 1992. Ukraine has been a primary recipient of FSA assistance. Total US assistance since independence has been more than $2 billion. Total US assistance planned for FY 2000 is about $216 million, of which approximately $168 million is FSA funding. US assistance to Ukraine is targeted to promote political and economic reform and to address urgent humanitarian needs. The US consistently encouraged Ukraine's transition to a democratic society with a prosperous market-based economy.
US technical assistance in the 1990s to support Ukraine's transition to a market economy focused primarily on economic restructuring, development of the private sector, and energy-sector reform. US assistance priorities for Ukraine have included enterprise development, deregulation, macroeconomic reform, civil society development, community-based programs, and nuclear safety. US advisers have provided technical assistance in financial sector reform, tax policy and administration, bankers' training, land legislation, smallscale and municipal services privatization, agricultural development and agribusiness, corporatization of the electric power sector, energy pricing and efficiency, and public education concerning the environment. The Western NIS Enterprise Fund (WNISEF), announced by President Clinton in January 1994 to promote private sector business development in Ukraine, Moldova, and Belarus, has committed $74 million to 22 companies through 1999.
The US promoted Ukraine's democratic transition by supporting programs in the 1990s on participatory political systems, independent media, rule of law, local governance, and civil society, as well as a wide range of exchanges and training. USAID has provided Ukraine with technical assistance related to elections, the development of political parties and grassroots civic organizations, and the development of independent media. USAID worked in the 1990s with Ukrainian officials and nonprofit organizations to create a legal system supportive of a democratic government and a market-based economy. The State Department's Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) is promoting cooperation between US law enforcement agencies and their Ukrainian counterparts to reform Ukraine's criminal justice system. In 1997, the US Government launched a special initiative to combat trafficking in women and children from Ukraine, including efforts to promote economic alternatives for vulnerable populations, increase public awareness, and provide support for victims.
During the 1999 meeting of the US-Ukraine Binational ("Gore-Kuchma")Commission in Washington, the US announced the Next Generation Initiative, which will double the number of key exchange programs, refocusing US assistance on Ukraine's youth. Since 1993, the US Government had brought nearly 11,400 Ukrainians to the US for long-term study or short-term professional training and will bring an additional 2,300 over the next year. Ukrainian entrepreneurs, journalists, academia, local government officials, and other professionals have participated in these exchanges. US exchanges and training programs have enabled Ukrainians to participate in a broad range of programs in the United States. The US Commerce Department's Special American Business Internship Training (SABIT) Program and the US Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Cochran Fellowship Program brought nearly 500 Ukrainian business executives, scientists, and agriculturists to the US for internships and training programs. In addition, a $5-million joint US-EU civil society project is supporting civic education, NGO development, good governance, and parliamentary exchanges, expanding Ukraine's contacts with Americans and Europeans, and Peace Corps volunteers are working in Ukraine with a focus on small-business development and English teaching.
The US assisted Ukraine's efforts in the 1990s to maximize equity in reform and to sustain social welfare and stability during and beyond its market economic transition. Toward this end, USAID is providing assistance to local governments in redefining the roles of the public and private sectors in providing social services to allow government to focus limited resources on key social sectors. Training and technical assistance are being provided to Ukrainian institutions and government agencies on reforms of health care financing and delivery of medical services. A number of medical partnerships between US and Ukrainian health care institutions have been established to improve both patient care and institutional management. Also, USAID is providing training and technical assistance on ways to improve reproductive health, focusing on providing family planning services and reducing the use of abortion.
Between 1992 and 2000, the US State Department's Operation Provide Hope provided more than $416 million in humanitarian assistance to Ukraine. In 1999, the Office of the Coordinator of US Assistance to the NIS expended $3.8 million in transportation and grant funds to deliver $77 million in humanitarian assistance to targeted groups in Ukraine. In 1999, Operation Provide Hope funded a total of six humanitarian airlifts and 544 deliveries via surface transportation. A total of $18.5 million in US Defense Department excess medical equipment, supplies, and pharmaceuticals was delivered and distributed during the 1999 August-October period to 18 hospitals and clinics in Ukraine's Kharkiv Oblast (Region).
The US-Ukraine Trade Agreement, effective June 22, 1992, provided reciprocal most-favored-nation tariff treatment to the products of each country. Since January 1994, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) has approved investment insurance totaling more than $23 million for three projects in Ukraine. OPIC also has sponsored conferences and exchanges to encourage joint ventures between US and Ukrainian companies. US Export-Import Bank signed a project incentive agreement with the Ukrainian Government in 1999 but has yet to approve any projects in Ukraine. A treaty on avoiding double taxation is close to completion.
Ukraine's democratic "Orange Revolution" led to closer cooperation and more open dialogue between Ukraine and the United States. The United States granted Ukraine market economy status in February 2006. In March 2006, the United States terminated the application of the Jackson-Vanik amendment to Ukraine, providing Ukraine permanent normal trade relations status. The United States and Ukraine signed a new Trade and Investment Cooperation Agreement (TICA) on April 1, 2008. The TICA established a forum for discussion of bilateral trade and investment relations and will help deepen those relations. US policy remains centered on realizing and strengthening a democratic, prosperous, and secure Ukraine more closely integrated into Europe and Euro-Atlantic structures.
A cornerstone for the continuing US partnership with Ukraine and the other countries of the former Soviet Union has been the Freedom for Russia and Emerging Eurasian Democracies and Open Markets (FREEDOM) Support Act (FSA), enacted in October 1992. Ukraine has been a primary recipient of FSA assistance. Total US assistance since independence has been more than $4.1 billion. US assistance to Ukraine is targeted to promote political, security, and economic reform and to address urgent social and humanitarian needs. The US has consistently encouraged Ukraine's transition to a democratic society with a prosperous market-based economy.
In December 2009 Ukraine completed a 3-year $45 million Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Threshold Program agreement. This program aimed to reduce corruption in the public sector through civil society monitoring and advocacy, judicial reform, increased government monitoring and enforcement of ethical and administrative standards, streamlining and enforcing regulations, and combating corruption in higher education.
In December 2008, the United States signed the US-Ukraine Charter on Strategic Partnership. The Charter highlights the importance of the bilateral relationship and outlines enhanced cooperation in the areas of defense, security, economics and trade, energy security, democracy, and cultural exchanges. The Charter also emphasizes the continued commitment of the United States to support enhanced engagement between NATO and Ukraine. To fulfill one of the key tenets of the charter, Vice President Joseph Biden and President Yushchenko established the Strategic Partnership Commission during Vice President Biden’s July 2009 visit to Kyiv. The commission’s first meeting took place December 9, 2009 in Washington, its second meeting took place in Kyiv on July 2, 2010 in conjunction with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to Ukraine, and its third meeting took place in Washington on February 15, 2011.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s September 2014 visit to the United States ended without the achievement of its chief goal: being officially recognized as a special non-NATO ally to the US. The White House declined to award Ukraine this status and also refused to supply Kiev with weapons, though it promised political and financial support. The White House refused to supply Ukraine with arms or grant it the status of special strategic NATO partner in the military sphere. However, Washington promised to continue providing political support to the country and allocated $53 million in financial assistance.
The guiding principal of American policy throughout this period had been to stand with the people of Ukraine and to underline the importance of restoration of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The US committed over 600 million U.S. dollars of assistance to support that effort, but the most important engagement was that which has helped to modernize Ukrainian defense structures and to optimize the main themes through which Ukrainian security leaders can enhance the capabilities of the Ukrainian people and Ukrainian armed forces.
US Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt said 31 July 2016 : "The oligarchs have become less powerful. We had this problem in the United States in the early 20th century with, for example, the Rockefellers and Carnegies, but we managed to get this problem under control. Ukraine is just starting that process – and it will take time. But Ukrainian society no longer accepts this unquestioned, and the media have become much more active. This is not a “frozen conflict" if one day two people are killed and the next day three. On the contrary: The security situation is deteriorating... The objective remains to restore Ukrainian control over the territory of the entire state. Russia is still far from implementing the obligations under the Minsk Agreement.... I am legally barred from commenting on US domestic politics. "
Comments by US Republican Party presidential candidate Donald Trump about the conflict between Ukraine and Russia, including Moscow’s annexation of Crimea, were not well received by Ukrainian politicians and analysts. In a television interview 31 July 2016 with ABC News, Trump said “the people of Crimea, from what I've heard, would rather be with Russia than where they were." He also said that, if elected president, he would “take a look at" recognizing the Black Sea peninsula, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014, as Russian territory. Trump's stance contradicted US policy, which continued to recognize Crimea as part of Ukraine. Following Moscow’s annexation of the peninsula, President Barack Obama imposed economic sanctions against Moscow that were still place. The sanctions were expanded after Russia started backing armed separatists in eastern Ukraine.
Former Ukrainian prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk wrote: "The United States is the leader of the free world. Without leadership and alliances, this world will be destroyed, by the Putins, Le Pens, Assads, Kim Jong Uns and dozens of other dictators, demagogues, populists. Americans deserve to have a responsible and reasonable president and commander-in-chief. It is difficult to overestimate the role of such a leader. The official U.S. presidential candidate is challenging the values of the free world, the civilized order and international law. It is difficult to call it ignorance. This is a violation of ethical and civilizational principles."
Interior Minister Arsen Avakov wrote in July 2016 "The shameless statement of U.S. presidential candidate Trump on the possible recognition of Crimea as Russia is a diagnosis of a dangerous outcast... He is dangerous both for Ukraine and the U.S., to the same extent. An outcast bowing down to Putin's dictatorship cannot be the guarantor of democratic freedoms in the U.S. and the world."
Ian Bremmer, president of the New York-based political risk consultancy Eurasia Group, told Bloomberg 15 November 2016 that two and a half years after Russia launched a covert military operation to back separatists in the Donbas, Ukraine’s interests are likely to be sacrificed as the new administration in Washington prioritizes cooperation with Moscow. “Trump will want to put points on the board and I think it is highly likely the U.S. under Trump will move quickly to re-establish the relationship with Russia, on Syria in particular,’’ said Bremmer. “That clearly throws Ukraine under a bus." The election on 13 November 2016 of pro-Russian leaders in EU-candidate Moldova and EU member Bulgaria underscored the sense that the geopolitical scene was shifting in Russia’s favor, leaving Ukraine increasingly isolated.
Kurt Volker was appointed U.S. Special Representative for Negotiations by Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson in July 2017. Having served as the U.S. Permanent Representative to NATO, Volker was tasked with seeking the restoration of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and achieving security for all Ukrainian citizens, regardless of ethnicity, nationality or religion. He worked in close coordination with the “Normandy Format" partners, France and Germany, to advance the full implementation of the Minsk Agreements, which includes provisions for a cease-fire and the withdrawal of heavy weaponry. He had strongly advocated for a UN Peacekeeping Force in the Donbass as a transitional mechanism between Russian occupation and restoration of Ukrainian government control.
The US State Department said on 22 December 2017 the United States will provide Ukraine with "enhanced defensive capabilities" as the country battles Russian-backed separatists in the east. Russian officials said a US decision to supply weapons to Ukraine is dangerous and will encourage Kiev to use force in eastern Ukraine. The new weapons, if approved by the US Congress, include American-made Javelin anti-tank missiles that Ukraine has long sought to boost its defences against the rebels, who have rolled through eastern Ukraine in tanks since 2014.