UKRAINE: Elections show strength of participation in democracy
Thomas Cromwell

Thomas Cromwell

Ukraine in recent years has enjoyed strong economic growth, averaging 9 percent a year increase in GDP. However, presidential elections on October 31 this year were considered a critical test of the country’s progress towards becoming a modern democracy that can be considered for membership in the European Union and NATO. A second round will be held between the two leading candidates, on November 21. The two, who were neck and neck in the polling, are Viktor Yanukovych, the current prime minister, who is supported by outgoing President Leonid Kuchma, and Viktor Yuschenko, a former prime minister and Central Bank governor, who heads the opposition. Yanukovych is seen to want Ukraine to keep strong ties with Russia, whose President Vladimir Putin visited Kiev shortly before the poll to show support for him, while Yuschenko favors rapid integration with the European Union and NATO.

Ukraine’s ambassador to Washington, Mykhailo Reznik, recently responded to questions from DiplomaticTraffic regarding the significance of those elections, Ukraine’s participation in the US-led war on terror, and other important issues. What is the significance to Ukraine of the recent presidential elections?  

Ambassador Reznik: Under Ukrainian law, Ukrainian citizens elect the president for a five-year term by universal, equal and direct suffrage, by secret ballot. The electoral process is carried out on the basis of a multi-party system, free and equal nomination of candidates for the president. Guaranteed by the law are transparency and openness, freedom to campaign, and equal opportunities for all candidates in the election campaign.

Over 27 million Ukrainians voted for 24 presidential candidates at 33.200 polling stations on October 31. In addition, over 62,000 Ukrainians voted at 123 polling stations in 78 countries, including 5,500 in the United States. The elections not only drew a record number of voters, but also of official observers from other countries and international organizations. There were some 4,000 international observers in all, compared with 576 for the presidential elections in 1999. The largest delegations were sent by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), while the largest national delegations came from Slovakia, Russia, the United States and Poland.

With over half of Ukraine’s total population voting, the elections show the high level of participation in the democratic process by Ukrainians, who relish their independence and freedom. What role is Ukraine playing in the global war on terrorism, including its participation in the multilateral force in Iraq?  

Ambassador Reznik: The fight against terrorism and support for global and regional stability and security are top priorities of the foreign policy of Ukraine, and Ukraine is an important contributor to several regional peacekeeping missions, including those in the Balkans, Lebanon and Africa. In addition, since August 11, 2003 Ukraine has contributed over 1650 servicemen to the Multinational Stabilization Forces in Iraq. This decision was made by the leadership of Ukraine from our clear understanding of the importance of our active participation in the global fight against terrorism.

Ukraine also gave permission to allied forces to use its air space during the campaign in Afghanistan. US and Germany transport planes have been using Ukrainian air space since the beginning of operation "Enduring Freedom". In addition, Ukraine has donated $350,000 in military equipment and munitions for the needs of the Afghan National Army.

While in Iraq, Ukrainian servicemen have implemented more than 100 different humanitarian projects worth $5.5 million. More than one third of these projects focused on creation and strengthening of regional law enforcement structures. One result is that the security situation in Vacit province is among the most stable in the country and the Ukraine-trained 403rd battalion of the Iraqi National Guard is recognized as the Ministry of Interior’s best unit.     

Being sincerely interested in rebuilding Iraq, and in contributing to the prosperity of the Iraqi people, Ukraine is ready to provide the government of Iraq with experienced advisers, and Ukrainian businesses have a strong interest in contributing to the country’s reconstruction. We believe that Ukraine has enough industrial and technological capacities and expertise to reach this goal. A contract to supply the Iraq military with heavy trucks was won by Ukraine’s KRAZ company, confirms this. What is the current state of Ukraine-US relations? 

Ambassador Reznik: Friendly relations between Ukraine and the United States were established long before Ukraine’s official Declaration of Independence. They were developing mainly due to the presence of the large Ukrainian community in the US, which has made significant contributions to a better understanding of Ukraine in America.

The contemporary history of bilateral relations began with recognition of Ukraine’s independence by the United States on December 25, 1991. Official diplomatic relations between Ukraine and the US were established on February 3, 1992, when the US Consulate in Kyiv was upgraded to an embassy. A Ukrainian diplomatic mission was established in Washington DC in May the same year.

The development of relations between Ukraine and the US after 1992 can be characterized as dynamic and progressive. Thanks to initiatives from both sides, Ukrainian-American relations reached the level of a special partnership when Ukraine was given "most favored nation" status by the United States. Later in the 90s, Ukraine was one of the top three recipients of American aid. Ukraine highly appreciates the technical assistance that has been provided through the United States Agency for International Development and other US government organizations in reforming its economy and strengthening democratic institutions. The United States also contributed substantial financial aid to Ukraine for the purpose of shutting-down the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant and other projects dealing with nuclear safety. Today Ukraine is looking forward to continue cooperation with the US and other countries in order to clean up the effects of the nuclear disaster and to deal with a series of problems due to the station’s shut-down. What is the status of Ukraine’s relations with NATO? 

Ambassador Reznik: Ukraine-NATO relations are developing in the framework of a multilateral forum for consultations and cooperation on political and security issues, which is the Euro Atlantic Partnership Council. For more specific, individual defense issues, including military cooperation and peacekeeping, there is the Profound Partnership for Peace (PFP) Program. Finally, there is Ukraine-NATO relationship in the “19+1” format, regulated by the NATO-Ukraine Special Partnership Charter. Ukraine was the first CIS state to sign a Framework PFP Document.

Since 1994 the Armed Forces of Ukraine have participated in various cooperation activities with NATO (under the PFP program). Since September 1995, there has been an annual Individual Program of partnership between NATO and Ukraine. In 1997 the Ukraine Mission to NATO was established in Brussels, and in April 1999 a NATO Liaison Office was opened in Kyiv.

The experience of NATO members is used by Ukraine in the program to modernize our armed forces. These national programs have a target date of 2010 for completion of the main overhaul. What are the main opportunities for investment in Ukraine? 

Ambassador Reznik: Cooperation between US companies and Ukrainian counterparts is developing, and the US is currently the number one investor in our country. As of July 1, 2004, US investments in Ukraine totaled $1.086 billion, 14.8 percent of all foreign direct investment in our country. Among the most attractive areas for US investors are domestic trade, the food industry, financial services, machine-building, metal processing, construction and communications. About 250 American enterprises which do business in Ukraine are major strategic investors. They include companies such as John Deere, Boeing, Procter and Gamble and many others. Such companies have long-term plans for investing in Ukraine, and we welcome further participation of US investors in large and small projects. Ukraine’s economy is one of the most dynamic economies in Europe today, with annual GDP growth rates of 13 this year. Can you explain Ukraine’s purpose for opening the Bystraya Canal in the Danube Delta, given environmental concerns for that wetland? 

Ambassador Reznik: First, let me remind you that recently Kostyantyn Gryschchenko, our minister of foreign affairs, in his article in The Washington Post stated the position of our country towards the Bystraya estuary project. He stressed that Ukraine is just making the existing natural branches (Bystre and Chilia) of the Danube River suitable for navigation. From 1830 to 1958 this waterway was navigable. As Danube Commission data confirm, in the 1954-1957 period the annual cargo turnover through it amounted to 800-900,000 tons. Later on, until the early 1990s, the waterway was reserved for the Soviet Navy and only occasionally used by merchant vessels.

The current project has two phases. Phase 1 envisages dredging works in the bar area of the shallow sea waters adjacent to the buffer zone of the biosphere reserve, and it will have practically no adverse trans-boundary environmental impact. Phase 2, planned for 2005-2007, will be implemented only after a thorough feasibility study is conducted, including the results of close monitoring of the environmental impact of Phase 1. Ukraine, more than any other country, is concerned with the environmental situation in the Danube Delta. It is quite a challenge to boost the economic development of the area while preserving the unique wetlands habitat, but that is exactly what Ukraine is currently doing.

Ukraine is well aware of the beauty of nature in the area. After considering ten different options, including long and heated public debates and thorough scientific and environmental studies, the current option was chosen to have the minimal impact on the environment. Taking this decision, Ukraine sought to harmonize the project with the requirements of European Union environmental policy and the principle of sustainable development.

Curriculum Vitae of Mykhailo B. Reznik, Ambassador of Ukraine to the United States

Mykhailo B. Reznik presented his Letter of Credence to President George W. Bush on December 4, 2003, becoming the fifth representative of Ukraine to the United States.

Ambassador Reznik's public service career began when he joined the Ministry of Trade of Ukraine in 1973. During the years in Kyiv (1973-1994) he occupied various positions in the Ministry of Trade (later renamed as Ministry of Foreign Economic Relations and Trade of Ukraine), including such as the President of State Procurement Committee (1986-1988), Chairman of State Foreign Trade Association "UkrTechMashImpex" (1988-1992), Deputy Minister of Foreign Economic Relations and Trade (1992-1993), First Deputy Minister of Foreign Economic Relations and Trade (1993-1994).

His postings abroad included Washington, D.C. (Trade representative of Ukraine from 1994 to 1997). Deep expert knowledge allowed Ambassador Reznik repeatedly represents Ukraine in Trade Committee of the European Union, UNCTAD, GATT and UNCITRAL. In January 1996 his was decorated with the award of the President of Ukraine - the title of "Honorary Economist of Ukraine". He served as Ambassador to the Republic of Korea from 1997 to 2001 and as Ambassador to the People's Republic of China from 2001 to 2003. In January 2000 for the high professionalism and considerable contribution to the state he was awarded with the Badge of the Order for Merit, 3rd Class.

Mr. Reznik graduated from the Kyiv Trade and Economic University in 1972 and, in 1977, from the Academy of the National Economy of Ukraine. He also completed the Senior Executive program at the Stanford Business School in the United States in 1992.

Mr. Reznik was born on February 5, 1950. He is married to Iryna Reznik and they have daughter Inna. He is a grandfather with granddaughter and grandson. Mr. Reznik enjoys playing golf, table tennis and chess.