Interview With Savik Shuster of TRK Ukraina
Secretary of State
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, many consider Ukraine to be a geopolitical experiment. Is it succeeding?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, that’s up to the people of Ukraine. I don’t know that I would call it an experiment, but I think it is fair to say that consolidating democracy and creating a functioning economy that produces prosperity and people – people’s opportunity in Ukraine is a long-term project. And there has been an impressive amount of progress, but I don’t think either of us would say that the future is secure. It has to continually be built and solidified.
QUESTION: So, but what dangers do you see for Ukrainian independence, say?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I think it’s very important, as I said today, that the United States and other countries respect the territorial integrity, sovereignty, and independence of Ukraine. Ukraine, as you know better than I, has been subjected to outside influence, to invasion, to repression, throughout much of its history. And now there has been such a clear claim on a different kind of future. Whether one is for the government or for the opposition, the fact that there was a successful election, that there was a peaceful transfer of power, was a very good sign. But now, of course, the government has to fulfill the promises of reform that it has expressed, and there has to be a commitment on the part of all the political actors to deliver results for the Ukrainian people.
QUESTION: And that’s as far as reform is concerned. But say, many people in Ukraine consider the main danger to be internal – internal, not external. In a sense, Ukraine is a divided country and it’s going towards unity but it’s a long road. And basically, if you don’t have civil institutions, if you don’t have freedom of press, basically, you can lose that sovereign country.
SECRETARY CLINTON: I agree. And both in my meetings and my press events with the foreign minister and the president, I stressed how critical it is to respect the fundamental rights that democracy stands for: freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, the basic building blocks that people have a right to expect their government to respect and defend. Certainly, I’m watching closely because I want to see Ukraine continue to progress. Any backsliding in the area of freedoms would be regrettable.
But I also want to add that in young democracies particularly, there’s a sense of personalized politics. People get so invested in candidates and in parties that are often closely identified with candidates. And it’s important in a democracy to work as hard as you can in an election but then try to close ranks as much as possible after an election. I ran very hard against President Obama in our Democratic primary and I was very surprised when he asked me to be the Secretary of State. But we both love our country and we both want to contribute to its well-being.
Similarly, here in Ukraine, there’s a time for politics and there’s a time for governing. But there has to be no time when either government or opposition or people turn away from democracy or allow the freedoms to be slowly chipped away.
QUESTION: I was not here during the Orange Revolution, but it was welcomed in the United States and in all democratic world as something new, a new wave in a post-Soviet country. And I came here and I really felt that freedom of the press was an achievement. And basically, it remained maybe the only achievement, real one that you can touch. And now my colleague journalists are very much worried and I think they expressed it to you personally that the freedom of press is being now sort of it’s closed. It’s not any more as open.
United States of America is the leader in Western democracy. Is it ready to go further than just remarks?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we’ve been very clear that we expect this government or the government of any democracy to protect basic rights, including and especially freedom of the press. And we’ve asked for certain assurances and actions that would give us the confidence to believe that these freedoms are being respected. So I think it’s clear that the United States and Europe are very strong in support of freedom of the press, but I think it’s also up to the people themselves internally to demand it. It can’t be just the province of journalists. It has to be a demand by people who understand that having a free press is a better guarantee of their own rights, and I certainly urge the Ukrainian people to make that known as well.
QUESTION: And as far as economic reforms are concerned, Ukraine is in very deep economic crisis, and it’s not hiding it. And of course, it turns to international aid. Now, are you going in some way support that Ukrainian position?
SECRETARY CLINTON: We do. We support the negotiations currently underway between the government and the International Monetary Fund. The IMF is in the midst of working with the government on a package of measures that would lower the deficit and create a more stable base for economic growth. But these are hard decisions. These require tough political decisions and sacrifices by people. So as in any of these IMF negotiations, it’s not clear where it will turn out. But we have said to the IMF and we’ve said to the Government of Ukraine that we want to and expect to see some agreement that will help to navigate Ukraine through this difficult economic period.
QUESTION: And there is also a feeling that United States, for instance, in the beginning of the 21st century, when the new president of Russia came to power, so basically, people said, well, in United States the people in government, we have chaos, now we have stability, and for stability we are ready to close our eyes for things that are going wrong.
Now, Ukraine, also a feeling that it was five years of chaos, now stability is coming, and for the sake of stability you can close your eyes.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, that certainly is not our position. But I think it is fair to say that we look at the full range of challenges: the economic challenges which can either lead to greater prosperity for the people or greater deprivation, so we support that; the political challenges to consolidate democracy and civil society, we support that; developing the energy sector; moving Ukraine closer to Europe; and of course, standing up for democracy and fundamental freedoms. It’s not either/or. It is a comprehensive approach. And therefore, we talk about all of that, as I did with the president and the foreign minister and the leader of the opposition. We talk about all of it because it is all important. And in today’s world, it is all interconnected.
QUESTION: How important is Ukraine for United States?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I think Ukraine is important, first of all, for Ukraine; secondly, for the region; thirdly, for the entire global architecture of stability and security. So the United States has a great commitment to Ukraine. We have a lot of family, cultural, historical ties, many Ukrainian Americans who are very proud of their ancestral roots. But when we come to Ukraine, as we have, to urge that the government adopt reforms in the energy sector so that Ukraine will be more independent, creating its own energy future, that doesn’t have direct effects on the United States because we don’t get energy from Russia or are not likely to get it from Ukraine, but we think it will create a more stable environment. And therefore, it is in Ukraine’s long-term interest.
So we see Ukraine as a vital partner. We have strengthened and broadened our Strategic Partnership Commission, discussing a broad range of issues. We were very pleased that Ukraine announced it would export out the highly enriched uranium. We see a lot of good signs of actions being taken by Ukraine.
QUESTION: As far as uranium is concerned, is it a sign of distrust towards Ukraine?
SECRETARY CLINTON: No, it’s – actually, it’s a sign of real confidence, because Ukraine has been a leader in this area since the early 1990s. And because of Ukraine’s example, it has been easier to make the case for nonproliferation. Ukraine is a producer of civil nuclear power, but Ukraine has been a leader in saying we can have nuclear power without nuclear weapons. And that’s a very strong argument for us to be able to make to other countries.
QUESTION: My time ends. It’s a pity, Madam Secretary.
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