For the most current version of this Note, see Background Notes A-Z.
Area: 233,000 sq. mi., the largest country wholly in Europe.
Cities: Capital--Kyiv (also transliterated as Kiev, pop. 2.8 million). Other cities--Kharkiv, Dnipropetrovsk, Donetsk, Odesa, Lviv.
Terrain: A vast plain mostly bounded by the Carpathian mountains in the southwest and by the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov in the South.
Climate: Continental temperate, except in southern Crimea, which has a sub-tropical climate.
Population (est.): 45.7 million.
Nationality: Noun--Ukrainian(s); adjective--Ukrainian.
Ethnic groups: Ukrainians, Russians, Belarusians, Moldovans, Bulgarians, Hungarians, Romanians, Jews, Poles, Crimean Tatars, and other groups.
Religions: Ukrainian Orthodoxy, Ukrainian Greek Catholicism, Judaism, Roman Catholicism, Islam, others.
Languages: Ukrainian (official), Russian, others.
Health: Infant mortality rate--8.98/1,000; life expectancy--62.37 yrs. males, 74.5 yrs. females.
Work force: 22.3 million. Industry--18.5%; agriculture--15.8%; services--65.7%.
Independence: August 24, 1991.
Constitution: First post-Soviet constitution adopted June 28, 1996, amended January 1, 2006.
Branches: Executive--president, prime minister, cabinet. Legislative--450-member unicameral parliament, the Supreme Rada (members elected to 4-year terms from party lists by proportional vote). Judicial--Supreme Court, Courts of Appeal, local courts, and Constitutional Court.
Political parties: Wide range of active political parties and blocs, from leftist to center and center-right to ultra-nationalist.
Suffrage: Universal at 18.
Administrative subdivisions: 24 provinces (oblasts), Crimean autonomous republic, and two cities with special status--Kyiv and Sevastopol.
Purchasing power parity GDP (2009 est.): $294.3 billion.
Nominal GDP (2009 est.): $117.1 billion.
Annual growth rate (2009 govt. est.): -14.1%.
PPP per capita GDP (2009 est.): $6,400.
Nominal per capita GDP (2006 est.): $1,746.
Natural resources: Vast fertile lands, coal, iron ore, various large mineral deposits, timber.
Agriculture: Products--Grain, sugar beets, sunflower seeds, vegetables, beef, and milk.
Industry: Types--Coal, electric power, ferrous and nonferrous metals, machinery and transport equipment, chemicals, and food processing.
Trade (2009): Exports of goods and services--$41.49 billion: ferrous and nonferrous metals, fuel and petroleum products, chemicals, machinery and transport equipment, and food products. Imports--$45.58 billion: energy, machinery and equipment, and chemicals.
The population of Ukraine is about 45.7 million. Ethnic Ukrainians make up approximately 78% of the total; ethnic Russians number about 17%, ethnic Belarusians number about 0.6%. The industrial regions in the east and southeast are the most heavily populated, and the population is about 68% urban. Ukrainian and Russian are the principal languages. Although Russian is very widely spoken, in the 2001 census (the latest official figures) 85.2% of the ethnic Ukrainian population identified Ukrainian as their native language. There are also small Tatar and Hellenic minorities centered mainly in Crimea. The dominant religions are the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (which practices Orthodox rites but recognizes the Roman Catholic Pope as head of the Church). The Ukrainian Orthodox Church is divided between a Moscow Patriarchate and a separate Kyiv Patriarchate, which was established after Ukrainian independence and which declared independence from Moscow. In addition to these, there are also the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church and representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad.
About 70% of adult Ukrainians have a secondary or higher education. Ukraine has about 150 colleges and universities, of which the most important are in Kyiv, Lviv, and Kharkiv. There are about 70,000 scholars in 80 research institutes.
The first identifiable groups to populate what is now Ukraine were Cimmerians, Scythians, Sarmatians, and Goths, among other nomadic peoples who arrived throughout the first millennium B.C. These peoples were well known to colonists and traders in the ancient world, including Greeks and Romans, who established trading outposts that eventually became city-states. Slavic tribes occupied central and eastern Ukraine in the sixth century A.D. and played an important role in the establishment of Kyiv. Kievan Rus Prince Volodymyr converted the Kievan nobility and most of the population to Christianity in 988. Situated on lucrative trade routes, Kyiv quickly prospered as the center of the powerful state of Kievan Rus. In the 11th century, Kievan Rus was, geographically, the largest state in Europe. Conflict among the feudal lords led to decline in the 12th century. Mongol raiders razed Kyiv in the 13th century.
Most of the territory of what is modern Ukraine was annexed by Poland and Lithuania in the 14th century, but during that time, Ukrainians began to conceive of themselves as a distinct people, a feeling that survived subsequent partitioning by greater powers over the next centuries. Ukrainian peasants who fled the Polish effort to force them into servitude came to be known as Cossacks and earned a reputation for their fierce martial spirit and love of freedom. In 1667, Ukraine was partitioned between Poland and Russia. In 1793, when Poland was partitioned, much of modern-day Ukraine was integrated into the Russian Empire.
The 19th century found the region largely agricultural, with a few cities and centers of trade and learning. The region was under the control of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the extreme west and the Russian Empire elsewhere. Ukrainian writers and intellectuals were inspired by the nationalistic spirit stirring other European peoples existing under other imperial governments and were determined to revive Ukrainian linguistic and cultural traditions and reestablish a Ukrainian state. Taras Shevchenko (1814-1861), national hero of Ukraine, presented the intellectual maturity of the Ukrainian language and culture through his work as a poet and artist. Imperial Russia, however, imposed strict limits on attempts to elevate Ukrainian culture, even banning the use and study of the Ukrainian language.
When World War I and the Russian revolution shattered the Habsburg and Russian empires, Ukrainians declared independent statehood. In 1917 the Central Rada proclaimed Ukrainian autonomy and in 1918, following the Bolshevik seizure of power in Petrograd, the Ukrainian National Republic declared independence under President Mykhaylo Hrushevsky. After three years of conflict and civil war, however, the western part of Ukrainian territory was incorporated into Poland, while the larger, central and eastern regions were incorporated into the Soviet Union in 1922 as the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic.
The Ukrainian national idea persevered during the twenties, but with Stalin's rise to power and the campaign of forced collectivization, the Soviet leadership imposed a campaign of terror that ravaged the intellectual class. The Soviet government under Stalin also created an artificial famine (called “Holodomor” in Ukrainian) as part of his forced collectivization policies, which killed millions of previously independent peasants and others throughout the country. Estimates of deaths from the 1932-33 Holodomor alone range from 3 million to 7 million.
When the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, some Ukrainians, particularly in the west, welcomed what they saw as liberation from Communist rule, but this did not last as they quickly came to understand the nature of Nazi rule. Nazi brutality was directed principally against Ukraine's Jews (of whom an estimated 1 million were killed), but also against many other Ukrainians. Babyn Yar in Kyiv was the site of one of the most horrific Nazi massacres of Ukrainian Jews, ethnic Ukrainians, and many others. Kyiv and other parts of the country were heavily damaged.
After the Nazi and Soviet invasions of Poland in 1939, the western Ukrainian regions were incorporated into the Soviet Union. Armed resistance against Soviet authority continued as late as the 1950s. During periods of relative liberalization--as under Nikita Khrushchev from 1955 to 1964 and during the period of "perestroika" under Mikhail Gorbachev--Ukrainian communists pursued nationalist objectives. The 1986 explosion at the Chornobyl (Chernobyl in Russian) nuclear power plant, located in the Ukrainian SSR, and the Soviet Government's initial efforts to conceal the extent of the catastrophe from its own people and the world, was a watershed for many Ukrainians in exposing the severe problems of the Soviet system. Ukraine became an independent state on August 24, 1991, and was a co-founder of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, although it has not officially joined the organization.
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
Ukraine has a parliamentary-presidential system of government with separate executive, judicial, and legislative branches. The president nominates the defense and foreign ministers, and the Prosecutor General and Chief of the State Security Service (SBU), each of whom must be confirmed by the parliament. Beginning in 2006, a majority of deputies in the 450-member unicameral parliament (Supreme Rada) forms a coalition, which then names the prime minister, who in turn nominates other ministers. The Supreme Rada initiates legislation, ratifies international agreements, and approves the budget. Its members are elected to five-year terms. Following free elections held on December 1, 1991, Leonid M. Kravchuk, former chairman of the Ukrainian Rada, was elected to a five-year term, and became Ukraine's first president. At the same time, a referendum on independence was approved by more than 90% of the voters.
Shortly after becoming independent, Ukraine named a parliamentary commission to prepare a new constitution, adopted a multi-party system, and adopted legislative guarantees of civil and political rights for national minorities. A new, democratic constitution was adopted on June 28, 1996, which mandates a pluralistic political system with protection of basic human rights and liberties. Amendments that took effect January 1, 2006, shifted significant powers from the president to the prime minister and Supreme Rada.
Freedom of religion is guaranteed by law, although religious organizations are required to register with local authorities and with the central government. There is no formal state religion. Minority rights are respected in accordance with a 1991 law guaranteeing ethnic minorities the right to schools and cultural facilities and the use of national languages in conducting personal business. According to the constitution, Ukrainian is the only official state language. In Crimea and some parts of eastern Ukraine--areas with substantial ethnic Russian minorities--local and regional governments permit Russian as a language for local official correspondence.
Freedom of speech and press are guaranteed by law and the constitution, and authorities generally respect these rights. Prior to the 2004 "Orange Revolution," however, authorities sometimes interfered with the news media through intimidation and other forms of pressure. In particular, the failure of the government to conduct a thorough, credible, and transparent investigation into the 2000 disappearance and murder of independent journalist Heorhiy Gongadze, in which then-government officials have been credibly implicated, negatively affected Ukraine's international image. Three police officers were convicted and received prison sentences in March 2008; a fourth suspect, a senior police official, was arrested in July 2009. Freedom of the media and respect for citizens' rights increased markedly in the wake of the Orange Revolution.
The Crimean peninsula is home to a number of pro-Russian political organizations that advocate secession of Crimea from Ukraine and annexation to Russia. Crimea was ceded by the RFSSR to the Ukrainian SSR in 1954, in recognition of historic links and for economic convenience, to mark the 300th anniversary of Ukraine's union with Russia. In July 1992, the Crimean and Ukrainian parliaments determined that Crimea would remain under Ukrainian jurisdiction while retaining significant political, economic, and cultural autonomy.
The campaign leading to the October 31, 2004, presidential election was characterized by widespread violations of democratic norms, including government intimidation of the opposition and of independent media, abuse of state administrative resources, highly skewed media coverage, and numerous provocations. The two major candidates--Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych and opposition leader (and former Prime Minister) Viktor Yushchenko--each garnered between 39% and 40% of the vote and proceeded to a winner-take-all second round. The November 21 runoff election was marred by credible reports of widespread and significant violations, including illegal expulsion of opposition representatives from election commissions, multiple voting by busloads of people, abuse of absentee ballots, reports of coercion of votes in schools and prisons, and an abnormally high number of (easily manipulated) mobile ballot box votes. Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets of Kyiv and other cities to protest electoral fraud and express support for Yushchenko, and conducted ongoing peaceful demonstrations during what came to be known as the "Orange Revolution."
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) International Election Observation Mission found that the November 21 run-off election "did not meet a considerable number of OSCE commitments and Council of Europe and other European standards for democratic elections." Other independent observers were similarly critical. On November 24, the Central Election Commission (CEC) declared Yanukovych the winner with 49.46% compared to 46.61% for Yushchenko. The U.S. and Europe refused to accept the result as legitimate due to the numerous, uninvestigated reports of fraud. On November 27, Ukraine's Supreme Rada passed a resolution declaring that the election results as announced did not represent the will of the people. On December 1, the Rada passed a vote of "no confidence" in the government. On December 3, Ukraine's Supreme Court invalidated the CEC's announced results and mandated a repeat of the second round vote to take place on December 26. An agreement mediated by European leaders resulted in new legislation being passed by the Rada and signed by the President December 8. The electoral law was reformed to close loopholes that had permitted pervasive electoral fraud. The constitution was amended to transfer power, especially with respect to appointment of ministers, from the president to the prime minister.
The December 26 re-vote took place in an atmosphere of calm. While irregularities were noted, observers found no systemic or massive fraud. The OSCE Mission noted that "Ukraine's elections have moved substantially closer to meeting OSCE and other European standards." On January 10, 2005, after the CEC and the Supreme Court had considered and rejected numerous complaints and appeals filed by the Yanukovych campaign, the CEC certified the results: Yushchenko had won 51.99% of the votes, with 44.20% for Yanukovych. President Yushchenko was inaugurated January 23, 2005.
Ukraine held parliamentary and local elections on March 26, 2006. International observers noted that conduct of the Rada election was in line with international standards for democratic elections, making this the most free and fair in Ukraine's history. Unlike the first rounds of the 2004 presidential election, candidates and parties were able to express themselves freely in a lively press and assembled without hindrance. There was no systemic abuse of administrative resources as there had been under the previous regime. Pre-term parliamentary elections were held on September 30, 2007, and international observers judged this vote to be in line with international democratic standards in an open and competitive environment. Party of Regions finished in first place with 34.3%, and BYuT came in second with 30.7%. BYuT and Our Ukraine, which came in a distant third (14.1%), garnered enough votes to form a thin three-seat majority. The Communist Party and Bloc Lytvyn, headed by Rada Speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn, also crossed the 3% threshold.
The new coalition formed on December 18, 2007 nominated Yulia Tymoshenko as Prime Minister; she was confirmed December 18, 2007. The cabinet was split 50-50 between representatives from BYuT and Our Ukraine (which is now called Our Ukraine-People's Self Defense). For most of February 2008, there was a deadlock within the Rada due to objections by opposition leader Viktor Yanukovych and his Party of Regions to Ukraine’s request for a NATO Membership Action Plan (MAP). Beginning in 2008, the Rada experienced chronic deadlock, which was exacerbated by a feud between then-Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and then-President Viktor Yushchenko.
The first round of Ukraine’s 2010 presidential election took place on January 17. International and domestic observers assessed the vote as having met most international standards. As no candidate received 50% or more of the vote, the two candidates with the most votes--opposition leader Viktor Yanukovych (35%) and Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko (25%)--progressed to a second-round runoff. The second round took place on February 7 in a vote that observers again assessed as largely free and fair. On February 14, the Central Election Commission announced that Viktor Yanukovych had won the election with 49% of the vote, compared to Yulia Tymoshenko’s 46%. However, on February 17, the Administrative Court of Ukraine suspended the election results in response to an appeal by Tymoshenko alleging fraud. Tymoshenko withdrew her appeal on February 20, saying that the court would not consider her appeal fairly. Yanukovych was inaugurated as President on February 25. On March 11, the Party of Regions, the Communists, the Lytvyn Bloc, and 16 non-aligned members of parliament (MPs) established the “Stability and Reform” ruling coalition in the Rada composed of 235 MPs. Also on March 11, the Rada confirmed President Yanukovych’s nomination of Mykola Azarov as Prime Minister and replaced the entire cabinet of ministers. Opposition MPs and others argued the coalition had been formed illegally, as a coalition could only be composed of factions, not individuals. The Constitutional Court of Ukraine ruled on April 8 that the Party of Regions-led coalition was constitutional, stating that individuals MPs do in fact have the right to take part in forming parliamentary coalitions. The ruling consolidated the position of the Azarov government.
After independence, Ukraine established its own military forces of about 780,000 from the troops and equipment inherited from the Soviet Union. Security forces are controlled by the president, although they are subject to investigation by a permanent parliamentary commission. Surveillance is permitted for reasons of national security. Under defense reform legislation passed in 2004, Ukraine is strengthening civilian control of the military, professionalizing its non-commissioned officer (NCO) corps, modernizing force structure to improve interoperability with NATO, and reducing troop numbers, all with an eye toward achieving NATO standards. Current force levels are approximately 150,000 (plus 50,000 civilian workers in the Ministry of Defense). NATO offered Ukraine an "Intensified Dialogue on Membership Issues" in April 2005. Ukraine had previously signed an agreement with NATO on using Ukraine's strategic airlift capabilities and has been an active participant in Partnership for Peace exercises, in Balkans peacekeeping, and in coalition operations in Iraq. Ukrainian units served in the U.S. sector in Kosovo and served in the Polish-led division in Iraq and in Afghanistan. Currently, Ukraine participates in six United Nations peacekeeping missions and has up to 50 troops serving in supporting roles in Iraq. In January 2008 Ukraine formally requested a NATO Membership Action Plan, noting that a final decision on membership would be determined by a national referendum. In April 2008, NATO allies stated that Ukraine would eventually become a member of the alliance and that its request for MAP would be considered at some point in the future. President Yanukovych and his government have stated that Ukraine is adopting a “non-bloc” approach and will not pursue membership in any defense alliances, including NATO. President Yanukovych has, however, committed Ukraine to pursing close practical cooperation with NATO.
Principal Government Officials
President--Viktor F. Yanukovych
Prime Minister--Mykola Azarov
Foreign Minister--Kostyantyn Gryshchenko
Speaker of the Rada (Parliament)--Volodymyr Lytvyn
Ukraine maintains an embassy at 3350 M Street NW, Washington, DC 20007 (tel. 202-349-2920).
With rich farmlands, a well-developed industrial base, highly trained labor, and a good education system, Ukraine has the potential to become a major European economy. After a robust expansion beginning in 2000, Ukraine’s economy experienced a sharp slowdown in late 2008, which continued through 2009. Real GDP contracted 14.1% in 2009, but is forecast to grow over 3% in 2010.
Ukraine’s economy remains burdened by excessive government regulation, corruption, and lack of law enforcement, and while the government has taken steps against corruption and small and medium enterprises have been largely privatized, much remains to be done to restructure and privatize key sectors such as energy and telecommunications and to allow the free sale of farmland. Following his inauguration, President Yanukovych issued a decree creating a Committee on Economic Reform. The purpose of this committee is to work out a state strategy of economic reforms using international practices such as preparing legislative proposals for submission to parliament.
Ukraine encourages foreign trade and investment. Foreigners have the right to purchase businesses and property, to repatriate revenue and profits, and to receive compensation in the event property were to be nationalized by a future government. However, complex laws and regulations, poor corporate governance, weak enforcement of contract law by courts, and particularly corruption have discouraged broad foreign direct investment in Ukraine. While there is a functioning stock market, the lack of protection for minority shareholder rights severely restricts portfolio investment from abroad. Ukraine abounds in natural resources and industrial production capacity. Although proven onshore and offshore oil and natural gas reserves are small, there is now interest in oil exploration in the Ukrainian portion of the Black Sea as well as prospecting for shale gas. The country has important energy sources, such as coal, and large mineral deposits, and is one of the world's leading energy transit countries, providing transportation of Russian gas across its territory. Ukraine imports almost 80% of its oil and 77% of its natural gas. Russia ranks as Ukraine's principal supplier of oil and Russian firms now own and/or operate the majority of Ukraine's refining capacity. Natural gas imports currently come from Russia, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan, which deliver the gas to Ukraine's border through a pipeline system owned and controlled by Gazprom, Russia's state-owned gas monopoly. Ukraine owns and operates the gas pipelines on its territory, which are also used to transit Russian gas to Western Europe. Ukraine's laws forbid the sale of the gas pipeline network. The complex relationship between supplier, transporter, and consumer has led to intermittent bilateral tensions, resulting in severe gas supply disruptions for downstream consumers in 2006 and January 2009. In April 2010, the Rada ratified the Kharkiv gas-for-basing agreement in which Ukraine agreed to extend the Russian Black Sea Fleet’s basing rights in Sevastopol for an additional 25 years (until 2042) in exchange for concessional pricing of Ukraine’s imports of Russian gas.
While countries of the former Soviet Union remain important trading partners, especially Russia for energy imports, Ukraine's trade is becoming more diversified. The European Union (EU) accounts for about 30% of Ukraine's trade, while CIS countries account for about 40%. Steel constitutes nearly 40% of exports. Ukraine has a major ferrous metal industry, producing cast iron, steel, and steel pipe, and its chemical industry produces coke, mineral fertilizers, and sulfuric acid. World demand for steel and chemicals, which make up about 40% of Ukraine’s exports, dropped sharply in the second half of 2008. Manufactured goods include airplanes, turbines, metallurgical equipment, diesel locomotives, and tractors. Ukraine is also a major producer of grain, sunflower seeds, and beet sugar and has a broad industrial base, including much of the former U.S.S.R.'s space and rocket industry.
In response to the sharp economic downturn in the country in late 2008, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved a $16.4 billion Stand-By Arrangement (SBA) in November 2008, conditioned on reforms in the banking sector as well as adjustments in fiscal and monetary policy. The World Bank has committed more than $5 billion to Ukraine since the country joined the Bank in 1992. Several projects are currently in the works, including a $750 million development policy loan, but these depend on a resumption of Ukraine’s IMF program, which ran off track due to political infighting ahead of the 2010 presidential election. As of May 2010, Ukraine was negotiating with the IMF over a re-start of lending and perhaps a new SBA.
Ukraine is a member of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and joined the World Trade Organization (WTO) in May 2008. In 2008 Ukraine and the European Union launched negotiations on a free trade agreement. As an interim step to an EU association agreement, , in 2010 Ukraine hopes to conclude with the EU a deep and comprehensive free trade agreement (DCFTA) as well as an agreement on visa liberalization. Some chapters, including trade, remain under negotiation.
Ukraine is interested in cooperating on regional environmental issues. Conservation of natural resources is a stated high priority, although implementation suffers from a lack of financial resources. Ukraine established its first nature preserve, Askania-Nova, in 1921 and has a program to breed endangered species.
Ukraine has significant environmental problems, especially those resulting from the Chornobyl nuclear power plant disaster in 1986 and from industrial pollution. In accordance with its agreement with the G7 and European Commission in 1995, Ukraine permanently closed the last operating reactor at the Chornobyl site on December 15, 2000. All urgent and required stabilization measures of the "sarcophagus"--the concrete shelter hastily built around the damaged reactor by the Soviet Union in the months following the disaster--including radiation and worker safety are complete. The contract for construction of a new shelter to be built around the sarcophagus was awarded in September 2007. Construction for the new shelter has begun, with the ultimate goal of its commissioning in 2012. The successful commissioning of the new shelter will provide a long-term, environmentally sound solution for the destroyed reactor. It should be noted that none of the 15 operating reactors in Ukraine, which generate about half of the country's electricity, are of the Chornobyl design. The United States Government has provided significant assistance to enhance operational and nuclear safety of these reactors. Ukraine also has established a Ministry of Environment and has introduced a pollution fee system, which levies taxes on air and water emissions and solid waste disposal. The resulting revenues are channeled to environmental protection activities, but enforcement of this pollution fee system is lax. Ukraine ratified the Kyoto Protocol in April 2004, and associated with the Copenhagen Accord on Climate Change in April 2010.
Construction of a shipping canal through a UN-protected core biosphere reserve in the Danube Delta, which began in May 2004, is an environmental issue of international interest.
The government has stated that it intends to pursue European integration, while also improving relations with Russia and strengthening its strategic partnership with the United States. Ukraine’s relations with the EU have been guided by the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) since 1998. At the December 2009 EU-Ukraine Summit then-President Yushchenko reiterated his desire to conclude an association agreement with the EU, but the negotiations that began in 2008 are still ongoing. In March 2009, the European Council endorsed the Eastern Partnership (EaP) initiative to help the EU’s Eastern neighbors (Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia) undertake political and economic reforms and to bring them closer to the EU. The EaP was launched in May 2009.
On January 31, 1992, Ukraine joined the then-Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (now the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe--OSCE), and on March 10, 1992, it became a member of the North Atlantic Cooperation Council. Ukraine signed a Charter Agreement with NATO in 1997, sent troops to Kosovo in close cooperation with NATO countries, and signed an agreement for NATO use of Ukrainian strategic airlift assets. It is one of the most active members of the Partnership for Peace (PfP), participating in all but one PfP operation. In April 2005, NATO offered an "Intensified Dialogue on Membership Issues" to Ukraine, and in January 2008 Ukraine requested a NATO Membership Action Plan. At the April 2008 summit in Bucharest, NATO allies decided to review Ukraine’s MAP request at a future date and affirmed that it would eventually become a member of the alliance. Following President Yanukovych’s election, Deputy Foreign Minister Yeliseyev stated that Ukraine intends to defer efforts to accelerate NATO membership. President Yanukovych has emphasized, however, that he intends to pursue practical cooperation with the alliance.
Since the election of President Yanukovych, Ukraine has pursued improved relations with Russia. Ukraine’s relations with Russia have recently focused on several bilateral issues including energy security, natural gas prices, and issues related to the stationing of the Russian Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol.
In January 2009 Gazprom, the Russian natural gas producer, cut supplies to Ukraine. The cutoff developed into a crisis as both the gas supplies intended for consumption in Ukraine and those in transit to the rest of Europe were cut off for nearly a month. Ukraine was able to meet most of its domestic demand with reserves, but consumers in other European countries were left without gas for nearly three weeks. A hastily-negotiated agreement was signed with Russia on January 19, 2009, which called for market pricing for gas and transit and the elimination of intermediaries. After Yanukovych’s public statements calling for a “just price” for Russian gas imports, the Azarov government signed a sweeping 10-year agreement with Russia on April 21, 2010 to exchange a 25-year extension of the Russian Black Sea Fleet’s basing lease in Sevastopol for a discounted price on Russian gas imports (which, Ukraine claims, could result in net annual budget savings of $3 billion or more).
Ukraine maintains peaceful and constructive relations with all its neighbors, though there are some unresolved maritime issues along the Danube and in the Black Sea with Romania; it has especially close ties with Poland and Russia. Ukraine co-founded the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) on December 8, 1991, but in January 1993 it refused to endorse a draft charter strengthening political, economic, and defense ties among CIS members. Ukraine was a founding member of GUAM (Georgia-Ukraine-Azerbaijan-Moldova) and has taken the lead with Georgia to promote cooperation among emerging democracies in the Community for Democratic Choice, which held its first summit meeting December 1-2, 2005 in Kyiv. In February 2009, the office of the Organization for Democracy and Economic Development GUAM was opened in Kyiv. In 1999-2001, Ukraine served as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council. Soviet Ukraine joined the United Nations in 1945 as one of the original members following a Western compromise with the Soviet Union, which had asked for seats for all 15 of its union republics. Ukraine has consistently supported peaceful, negotiated settlements to disputes. It has participated in the five-sided (now "5+2") talks on the conflict in Moldova. Ukraine has also advocated a return to democracy in neighboring Belarus. Ukraine has made a substantial contribution to UN peacekeeping operations since 1992.
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. The U.S. ambassador to Ukraine is John Tefft, the seventh U.S. ambassador since Ukrainian independence.
The United States attaches 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 began taking steps in the fall of 1999 to reinvigorate economic reform. 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 the Trade Act of 1974 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 establishes a forum for discussion of bilateral trade and investment relations and will help deepen those relations. U.S. policy remains centered on realizing and strengthening a democratic, prosperous, and secure Ukraine more closely integrated into Europe and Euro-Atlantic structures. In December 2008, the United States signed the U.S.-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.
U.S. Assistance to Ukraine
A cornerstone for the continuing U.S. 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 U.S. assistance since independence has been more than $3.8 billion. U.S. assistance to Ukraine is targeted to promote political, security, and economic reform and to address urgent social and humanitarian needs. The U.S. has consistently encouraged Ukraine's transition to a democratic society with a prosperous market-based economy. For more detailed information on these programs, please see the annual report to Congress on "U.S. Government Assistance to and Cooperative Activities with Eurasia," which is available on the State Department's website at the following address: http://www.state.gov/p/eur/ace/. Information is also available on USAID's website at the address: http://www.usaid.gov.
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. Information is also available on the MCC website at the following address: http://www.mcc.gov/.
[Fact sheet on U.S. assistance to Ukraine.]
Principal U.S. Embassy Officials
Ambassador--John F. Tefft
Deputy Chief of Mission--James Pettit
Political Counselor--Colin Cleary
Economic Counselor--Edward Kaska
Public Affairs Counselor--Christopher Fitzgerald
Consul General--Kathleen Hennessey
Management Counselor--Robert Needham
Commercial Officer--Rich Steffens
USAID Mission Director--Janina Jaruzelski
Regional Security Officer--Ronnie Catipon
Department of Energy Director--Wayne Leach
Agricultural Attaché--Ann Murphy
Defense Attaché--Colonel Richard Anderson
Peace Corps Director--Diana Schmidt
The U.S. Embassy in Kyiv is at 10 Yuriya Kotsyubynskoho Street, 01901 (tel.  (44) 490-4000). The Embassy's website is http://ukraine.usembassy.gov/.