Thank you very much, Minister Gryshchenko. And thank you for the warm welcome and for hosting this meeting. This is my fourth trip here to Ukraine since 1995, but my first visit in five years, and it’s very exciting to see the progress that Ukraine is making.
And I think that last year’s decision to establish this commission was a clear demonstration of the importance of our relationship. In April, our two presidents jointly agreed that the United States and Ukraine should work to realize the full potential of our strategic partnership. And today, we have seen a shared commitment that we are going to work together to make concrete progress toward the goals that our presidents have set.
As you said, minister, today’s discussion underscored that this truly is a strategic partnership. The effort reflects the broad range of issues on which our countries cooperate, and the spirit of pragmatism and respect with which we approach common problems and opportunities. I think we can agree that our shared values and our shared interests provide a strong foundation for increasing cooperation – on trade, investment, energy, on strengthening democratic institutions, economic growth, and the rule of law, on protecting security and territorial integrity.
The United States very much is committed to seeing Ukraine realize its great economic potential. And we know that you are undertaking reform plans which we very much welcome. We hope that Ukraine will conclude an agreement with the IMF shortly, to advance this process.
Because we believe, as you do, that trade and investment are essential to progress in today’s global economy. Creating a good investment climate is a magnet for the kind of trade and business opportunities that will benefit the people of Ukraine. And we believe that it is also in our bilateral relationship to work to grow our economic cooperation. So, we are committed to working with you, to make our strategic partnership an engine of prosperity. And to that end, we do encourage the government to take further steps to create an attractive climate for investment that will lead to broad-based growth, through reforming the tax code, combating corruption, protecting intellectual property rights, and strengthening the rule of law.
We believe too, that energy is an important area of cooperation and a sector vital to Ukraine’s future. An energy sector built on transparency, market pricing, and efficiency can put a permanent end to the crises that have beset the Ukrainian energy market for some years, and give Ukraine more control over your own energy future, creating a strong, independent transparent energy sector rooted in Ukraine’s own resources.
Both of our presidents discussed this at the bilateral, and we know that investing in this energy sector is one of the best ways the United States and other countries can help Ukraine. We stand ready to do so, including in the nuclear energy sector as well as helping to develop the gas sector and create conditions for increased investment.
Today, we also reaffirmed our commitment to defense and security cooperation. Ukraine is a very important contributor to security and peacekeeping missions across the globe, and we thank the people of Ukraine for those sacrifices and the service of your men and women in uniform.
Ukraine has participated in nearly every NATO operation as a member of the Partnership for Peace, and we hope to deepen our security cooperation later this month with the U.S.-Ukraine SEA BREEZE exercise. Increasing our ongoing bilateral defense cooperation, particularly in Ukraine’s defense reform and military transformation is another area where we see great promise.
And regarding NATO, let me just say very clearly, Ukraine is a sovereign and independent country that has the right to choose your own alliances. And NATO’s door remains open but it’s up to Ukraine to decide whether or not you wish to pursue that or any other course for your own security interests.
Nonproliferation, as the minister said, is another essential area of U.S.-Ukraine cooperation and we applaud Ukraine’s leadership. I particularly want to commend the president and your government for its recent announcement at the Nuclear Security Summit in April that it will give up all of your highly enriched uranium. We are in the process of working with you to carry out that agreement. The United States also remains committed to helping Ukraine destroy SS-24 solid rocket fuel.
Ukraine has been a leader in this area and a great model for other nations. I want also to express U.S. support for Ukraine’s further integration with Europe. We hope to see progress in your negotiations on an association agreement, a free-trade agreement, and visa liberalization. Ukraine has already done a great deal to show that you belong in the European Union by setting a democratic example for the region, including through a vibrant civil society that was on full display in last year’s election. And Ukraine can move forward by cementing this progress.
Strengthening the rule of law is one essential step. We are encouraged by your government’s commitment to reaching European standards and your eagerness to work with the Venice Commission on judicial reform. We’re also encouraged by your government’s commitment to support freedom of the press and to take concrete steps to ensure the independence of Ukraine’s vibrant media. And together we look forward to collaborating on how we can work with you to advance democracy and the rule of law. Mr. Minister, Ukraine’s new leadership has already demonstrated a commitment to democracy. Your election was by all standards, free, fair, transparent, and involved the Ukrainian people in a very big-risk debate. As someone who has been in elections, and has won and lost, I know the importance of maintaining that democratic momentum. And you are demonstrating your commitment to do that.
Really, the future of the people of Ukraine is in your hands. The country stands at a very important turning point in history. We have a lot of faith that the democracy that Ukraine has fought for and maintained will deliver results for the Ukrainian people. And we wish to work with you in this strategic partnership to assist you in realizing the benefits of the sacrifices that have been made in so many decades past by the Ukrainian people.
Thank you, sir.
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