Mar 10, 2021
Related Experts: Anders Åslund, Ian Brzezinski, Ambassador Paula J. Dobriansky, Melinda Haring, John E. Herbst, Alexander Vershbow, Oleh Shamshur
We believe that President Joseph Biden and the new US administration represent an opportunity to further deepen the strategic partnership and commitments between the United States and Ukraine and advance the interests of both nations.
President Joseph Biden has been an ardent supporter of the Ukrainian people and their democratic aspirations and understands the significance of a secure, independent, and prosperous Ukraine, firmly embedded in a Euro-Atlantic community that is “whole, free and at peace.”
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Ukrainian officials have made clear their interest in and commitment to a close relationship with the United States, President Joseph Biden, and the new administration.
We, American and Ukrainian politicians and diplomats, former officials, policy experts, and civil activists, strongly encourage the US and Ukrainian governments to develop an ambitious and comprehensive agenda that deepens our strategic relationship.
That agenda should advance mutual interests, contribute to the strengthening of security and stability in central and eastern Europe, promote Ukraine’s further integration into the European Union and accession to NATO, and outline and prioritize transformational democratic reforms necessary for Ukraine’s full economic development and progress on the transatlantic track.
We note that support for Ukraine and a robust US-Ukraine relationship has broad political support in the United States, including among both Democrats and Republicans. Likewise, there is wide support in Ukraine for a strong relationship with the United States.
The plan should be based upon the following key elements:
(1) An unbending mutual commitment to enhance democratic values must remain at the core of the US-Ukrainian relationship. This includes strengthening democracy and the rule of law, individual liberty, freedom of speech, a fully independent judiciary and anti-corruption agencies, greater transparency, accountability and open government, independent media, and vibrant civil society. Solidarity and concrete actions in advancing these values are needed to build greater trust, advance the democratic aspirations of Ukrainians, and provide a basis for the two countries’ common efforts.
(2) The United States and Ukraine should cooperate on measures to restore Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and deter further Russian aggression. This includes expanding our strategic partnership and defense cooperation, and the United States looking afresh to increase defense assistance with the objective of enhancing Ukrainian capabilities to deter further Russian attacks. This includes continued provision of lethal defensive assistance and strengthening naval forces. Other areas for possible military cooperation include the development of special operations forces, air defense, and coastal defenses.
(3) The United States and Ukraine should consult closely on how to change the Kremlin’s calculation of the costs and benefits regarding the ongoing Russian aggression against Ukraine. The United States should also consult closely with Europe on this question, including on the issue of strengthened sanctions. Those discussions, and discussions with Russia about Ukraine, should be based on the principle of “nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine.”
(4) As it consults with Ukraine and its European partners, the Biden administration should consider whether more active senior-level US involvement in the process now led by the German chancellor and French president could break the current stalemate and facilitate a true end to the conflict in the Donbas, the withdrawal of all Russian and Russian-proxy forces, and the restoration of full Ukrainian sovereignty over the Donbas.
(5) The United States and Ukraine should also consult on political, diplomatic, and economic steps that can be taken to restore Crimea to Ukraine. They should work together to promote internationally the principle that “Crimea is Ukraine” and to ensure that sanctions applied against Russia for its illegal seizure of the peninsula remain in place. We applaud the government of Ukraine’s efforts to organize the “Crimean Platform,” as it keeps occupied Crimea on the international agenda and reminds people, including in Russia, that Crimea is still Ukraine in the eyes of the international community.
(6) The United States and Ukraine should consult on steps to enhance security and stability in the Black Sea region including with support of NATO and European partners. The United States, together with its NATO allies, should continue its regular deployments of air, land, and sea forces into the region, where Russia, Europe, the Middle East, the Balkans, and the Caucasus come together. The region is at the center of four great forces: democracy on its western edge; Russian military aggression to its north; Chinese financial influence to its east; and instability in the Middle East to its south. Ukraine and the United States should work with other allies in the area to protect common interests and de-escalate tensions.
(7) In recent years, the United States and Ukraine have both been targets of Russian political interference, disinformation campaigns, and cyber incursions. They should exchange lessons learned from their respective experiences and share best practices for combating these and other forms of Russian hybrid warfare.
(8) The Nord Stream 2 pipeline, if completed, would threaten Euro-Atlantic unity and deprive Ukraine of significant transit revenue. The United States and Ukraine should consult on how to build and maintain a unified transatlantic stance against the pipeline’s completion as well as on what steps that Russia might take with regard to Ukraine that could lead to a removal of Nord Stream 2 sanctions. At the same time, Ukraine must undertake serious reforms to become more energy-efficient and root out corruption in that and other sectors.
(9) The United States and Ukraine should cooperate to advance Ukraine’s integration into NATO, with the ultimate aim of achieving Kyiv’s goal of NATO membership. The United States should hold firm on NATO’s “open door” policy and advise Kyiv on how Ukraine might best prepare itself for membership as was promised by NATO leaders at the 2008 Bucharest summit. Ukraine should commit to undertaking the necessary reforms and practical actions that will bring its military and other defense and security structures into conformity with NATO standards and norms. Ukraine’s membership in NATO will strengthen the Alliance, contribute to the process of the historic unification of Europe, and create the preconditions for transforming relations with Russia.
(10) A renewed US-Ukrainian partnership is tied to the Ukrainian government’s willingness to rapidly implement and uphold transformational democratic reforms and actions to protect and strengthen the independence of key institutions, including the National Anti-Corruption Bureau and others. A robust anti-corruption campaign requires effective reforms of the office of the general prosecutor and the judicial system. Ukraine also should strive to make irreversible the significant reforms already achieved, including land privatization, progress on state-owned enterprise privatization, the independence of the National Bank of Ukraine, decentralization, and fiscal and budget transparency in addition to gas price reform, government procurement reform, and transparency regarding the assets and incomes of government officials and parliamentarians.
(11) Also important are steps to eliminate the outsize political influence of oligarchs, to establish the rule of law with fair economic rules and practices for large, medium-sized, small, and foreign businesses, and to strengthen the institutional capacity of the Ukrainian state – all of which are critical for improving the lives of the Ukrainian people. Ukraine needs to safeguard property rights for all Ukrainian and foreign investors.
(12) The Ukrainian government should commit immediately to the implementation of reforms as a matter of urgency, and the United States should, in coordination with international financial institutions, the European Union, and G7 partners continue to provide advice and assistance to help Ukraine build a modern democratic economy that is fully compatible with the standards and norms of the European Union. The EU Copenhagen criteria offer a sound roadmap. That assistance should be linked to effective reform measures.
We offer these twelve elements as guidelines for fostering the strategic partnership between the United States and Ukraine and for advancing the goals that each country hopes to achieve through our pivotal relationship.