Ukraine should give more positive signals

Hanna Hopko on the results of the visit to Washington

Last week a Ukrainian parliamentary delegation, including Chairperson of the Foreign Affairs Committee Hanna Hopko, visited the US. This visit coincided with a lot of good news for Ukraine: President Trump signed the next year’s defense budget that provides for 350-million-dollar-worth aid to Ukraine, and the government of Canada approved putting Ukraine on the Automatic Firearms Country Control List. Meanwhile, not so good news kept coming from Ukraine itself, such as the ongoing conflict between the National Anticorruption Bureau and the Prosecutor General’s Office and the court hearing in the case of Mikheil Saakashvili, ex-president of Georgia and leader of the New Forces Movement political party.

Hanna HOPKO, Chairperson of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine’s Foreign Affairs Committee, spoke to The Day about the purpose and the results of the visit to Washington.

“The visit was part of the campaign to enlist support for the Ukraine Investment Plan which we and a Lithuanian team have been actively promoting since March this year in Warsaw, London, Paris, Berlin, Washington, and, twice, in Brussels. It is the so-called Marshall Plan, a plan of Western support for Ukraine that provides for growth-stimulating investments in the real sector of the economy.

“During the negotiations at the World Bank, we said it was necessary to check up on the political commitments the G7 countries took after the Revolution of Dignity – 25.5 billion dollars through bilateral projects and the International Monetary Fund. As Canada is going to assume the G7 presidency next year, it is time to review the utilization of funds, find out why Ukraine failed to use some of them, and to decide what sectors should be of top priority.

“Meeting representatives of the Senate, the House of Representatives, the State Department, and the analytical circles that form the policies of the US administration, we set ourselves a goal to promote a political decision on supporting the so-called Ukraine Investment Plan. This can be done by way of political signals that the US could send to the rest of the countries in order to reappraise the financial aid given and to be given to Ukraine.

“Taking into account that, while we were in the US, President Donald Trump signed the defense budget which envisions 350-million-dollar aid to Ukraine, it was also important for us to discuss the implementation of a law on sanctions, including the energy package. The very passage of this law has in fact helped stop Nord Stream 2, but now we want the Trump Administration to speed up the implementation and disclose the list of the Russian top officials in President Putin’s inner circle, who were involved in various crimes.

“I would like to thank the Lithuanian team, our friends, including Mr. Andrius Kubilius and MP Zygimantas Pavilionis, representative of Lithuania’s foreign ministry. Lithuania recently passed the Magnitsky Act. We discussed this, for the Ukrainian parliament is going to debate on a bill about expanding sanctions against Russia and passing the Magnitsky Act. This should be done in order to establish the responsibility of human rights abusers for financing the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine and to enable Ukraine to join the US, Canada, and Lithuania, which have passed the Magnitsky Act.

“We also discussed a humanitarian issue with our American colleagues: releasing the people who were detained and are kept in pretrial jails or POW camps in the occupied Donbas, the annexed Crimea, or Russia. We said this is a topical question now.

“As for supplying Ukraine with lethal weapons, the impression is we are approaching some kind of political decision. This coincided with Canada’s decision to allow selling defensive lethal weapons to Ukraine.

“In their turn, our partners were saying clearly that, to be able to promote Ukraine’s interests more effectively, they want to have more positive news and see efficient independent anticorruption institutions – there must be no pressure, for example, on the newly-established National Anticorruption Bureau. These institutions should be professional. In both the House of Representatives and the Senate, our allies strongly advised us to speed up reforms, emphasizing that the amount of aid to Ukraine will depend on our domestic ability to meet the existing international commitments, including those to the IMF.

“We discussed such a very important question as the bill on cooperation with Ukraine in cybersecurity. This document, drawn up by 22 coauthors, is now being studied by the Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, and New Menaces of the Foreign Affairs Committee. This law will help the government of Ukraine improve its strategy of cybersecurity, particularly, in such fields as installation of the most up-to-date security updates on public administration computers. These software protection systems are aimed at protecting critical infrastructure objects, reducing Ukraine’s dependence on Russian technologies, developing our own cybersecurity capacities, and participating in international efforts to ward off cyber threats.

“We also propagated (I have personally been doing so for a long time) the idea of a visit to Ukraine by President Donald Trump or Vice President Mike Pence, and of a meeting of the intergovernmental commission set up by President Kuchma and the then US Vice President Albert Gore as an effective mechanism of discussing bilateral issues.

“I also met representatives of the Voice of America, Radio Liberty, and their TV corporation. We discussed the importance of countering Russian propaganda not only in Ukraine, but also in all the neighboring Russian-speaking countries. Incidentally, what can eventually reduce the Kremlin’s influence in the Eastern European region is the parliamentary elections in Moldova in 2018 and the concerted efforts of the US and Germany to rebuff the threats and challenges which are possible, in particular, due to Putin’s impact on elections. We also spoke frankly about the importance of 2019. For one of the Kremlin’s strategies is to win here via its client parties – from the Opposition Bloc to Medvedchuk’s followers. For this reason, the improvement of people’s social wellbeing and the fulfillment of their expectations are very important.”

What is our American partners’ attitude to the idea of giving Ukraine the so-called “Marshall Plan” and lethal weapons?

“As for the lethal weapons, the political will of many statesmen is prompting them to approve a positive decision.

“As for the Marshall Plan, Lindsay Graham, for example, said clearly that they have a law on resisting Russian aggression and that he is very well aware of why the US should give, say, 20 million dollars and send a political signal to the Group of Seven. He says it is a necessary thing, taking into account the danger of populism, a revanche of the pro-Russian forces, and the fact that what really matters to people are reforms and visual results, such as an improved infrastructure, new roads, trains, etc. So he knows why this is needed and says they are ready to consider this.

“At the World Bank, we were clearly told: improve your investment capability in order to utilize more effectively the funds you have already received, take an inventory of the government, attract new people, and invest in them to utilize the already given funds (600 million dollars from the World Bank and 400 million euros from the European Investment Bank for agrarians). The organization emphasized that it would be prepared to launch new programs only when we showed a more rapid rate of funds withdrawal. In particular, the World Bank will help carry out the medical reform and consolidate achievements in the pension and education reforms as well as in privatization.

“Everything depends on us. They were saying clearly that Ukraine should give more positive signals and that we should stop trying to destroy anticorruption achievements, for this gives us no greater opportunities.

“To tell the truth, if we had a faster pace of reforms, we could seriously discuss the NATO MAP [Membership Action Plan. – Ed.] with the US, and the latter could become our advocate in this matter. If we fulfilled the Association Agreement by not 20 but at least 70 percent, had no setbacks in the anticorruption struggle, and saw a more rapid ‘de-oligarchization,’ we would not have to argue with the EU about whether or not to mention the prospects of our membership in the declaration – we would be saying in no uncertain terms that the Association Agreement is working and we need the next step – to begin to really discuss our membership. So, we were given clear signals in many aspects that if we want the West to do more for us, we must demonstrate our readiness.

“As for the security component, there is a chance to receive the abovementioned 350 million dollars from the US defense budget. This may be unfair, on the one hand, but, on the other, this is the reality. This aid will not reach Ukraine until we fulfill the 150-million-worth part of the demands, including parliamentary and civilian control and a civilian minister of defense. In other words, 50 percent of 150 million is given straight away, while the rest will only be made available if Ukraine meets concrete demands.”

When can we expect President Trump or Vice President Pence to visit Kyiv?

“I think they can be expected to do so next year. We don’t need a nominal visit. We need a visit that will produce concrete results – for example, a peacekeeping mission, with due observation of Ukraine’s all red lines, the supply of lethal weapons, or a new huge package of direct foreign investments (for example, an agreement with General Electric is being finalized now). The US is also very important to us as far as energy is concerned – the first shipment of LNG has already arrived in Ukraine, the construction of Nord Stream 2 has been stopped, but there must be next steps. In particular, the US should continue to stay in touch with Germany in order to finally block Nord Stream 2 in spite of the attempts of all kinds of top-level lobbyists.”