Site Information:  Newly Independent States of the Former Soviet Union



Public Affairs Source: Bureau of Public Affairs, Office of Public Communication Description: Washington, DC Date: Aug 13, 19928/13/92 Category: Fact Sheets Region: Eurasia Country: Ukraine, USSR (former) Subject: History, Democratization, Trade/Economics, Cultural Exchange Map: Central, Eastern Europe, and the former Soviet Republics [TEXT]

US-Ukrainian Relations

On December 25, 1991, the United States officially recognized the independence of Ukraine and upgraded its consulate in Kiev to embassy status on January 21, 1992. The success of the political and economic reforms being undertaken in Ukraine is important to the US. President Bush has pledged to support its transition to a free, democratic society and efforts to develop free market institutions. Speaking in Kiev in December 1991, Secretary Baker praised Ukraine as being "at the forefront of those republics that are embracing those principles and values" laid down by President Bush as guidelines for US recognition of the new independent states: self-determination, respect of borders, support of democracy, safeguarding of human rights, and respect for international law. Ukrainian President Leonid M. Kravchuk met with President Bush, Secretary of Defense Cheney, and other senior government officials during his first official visit to Washington, DC, May 5-7, 1992. The two leaders signed a series of agreements designed to enhance economic, technical, and cultural cooperation between the two countries. These included a trade agreement which provides reciprocal most-favored-nation tariff treatment to the products of each country and an agreement to authorize the Overseas Private Investment Corporation to provide investment insurance, project financing, and a variety of investor services to US private investors in Ukraine. The US and Ukraine also agreed to end restrictions on diplomatic travel, to increase cooperation on environmental issues, to establish a Science and Technology Center in Ukraine, and to initiate a Peace Corps program emphasizing small business development. The United States pledged further assistance with the implementation of a new legal system, the establishment of news distribution and independent broadcasting stations, the improvement of food processing and distribution systems, and the development of a private sector housing market. The United States has received assurances from Ukraine that it will adhere to responsible security policies and to democratic principles. At the Conference on Assistance to the New Independent States held in Lisbon, May 23-24, 1992, the United States signed a protocol to the Stategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) with Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan (those states on whose territory nuclear weapons are located). The protocol makes the four states party to the START Treaty and commits all signatories to reductions in strategic nuclear weapons within the 7-year period provided for in the treaty. On June 5, 1992, Ukraine and the other new independent states signed the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty, which reduces existing stockpiles of tanks, artillery, and armored vehicles. The US has dispatched experts to Ukraine to consult on issues of nuclear weapons safety and dismantlement. To assist Ukraine in the process of transition to a free market economy, the United States is part of an international effort to provide technical and financial assistance. US initiatives also have included efforts through Operation Provide Hope to provide emergency humanitarian aid in the form of shipments of food, clothing, and medical supplies. The Freedom for Russia and the Emerging Eurasian Democracies and Open Markets (FREEDOM) Support Act proposed by President Bush on April 1, 1992, would expand the range of US assistance. The act would authorize funds for projects relating to demilitarization, defense conversion, non-proliferation, relocation of former Soviet forces, and the development of increased trade and investment opportunities. It would establish an International Science and Technology Center in Ukraine, similar to one already designated for Russia, to assist scientists and engineers in the development and funding of non-military projects. It also would authorize the US to continue its role in the multilateral aid and currency stabilization program currently being organized by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, and the Group of 7 industrialized countries.

Consolidating Democracy

Following free elections held on December 1, 1991, Leonid M. Kravchuk was elected President of Ukraine. A referendum on independence was approved by more than 90% of the voters, winning majorities even in areas with large numbers of ethnic Russians. On December 8, 1991, the former Soviet republic became a member of the Commonwealth of Independent States. Political groupings in Ukraine include former communists, "Rukh/Narodna Rada" nationalists (the largest and best organized of the popular fronts), and a new opposition group, "New Ukraine," combining economic reformers and environmentalists. The government of President Leonid Kravchuk is committed to continuing the process of reform necessary for economic recovery and full democratization. Ukraine has stated its intention to observe and implement the provisions of the CFE and START Treaties. It has indicated its willingness to transfer all nuclear weapons on its soil to Russia by 1994. Ukraine joined the United Nations in 1945 as one of the original members, following a compromise with the Soviet Union, which had asked for seats for all 15 republics. On January 31, 1992, Ukraine joined the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) and on March 10, 1992, it became a member of the North Atlantic Cooperation Council (NACC). Through contacts with the countries of the West, Ukraine seeks to increase consultation and cooperation in areas such as defense planning; the conversion of defense production to civilian purposes; and scientific, economic, and environmental issues.

Economic Conditions

Ukraine is important as an agricultural and industrial region. It is a major producer of grain and sugar and possesses a broad industrial base, including much of the former USSR's space industry. Although oil reserves are largely exhausted, it has important energy sources, such as coal and natural gas, and large mineral deposits. This year, Ukraine has liberalized prices and introduced a privatization plan designed to move toward a free market economy. Fuel, electricity, and food shortages have affected the country, in large part due to deficiencies in the country's transport system. Faced with these problems, Ukraine welcomes technical and financial assistance from the international community to rebuild its agricultural and industrial sectors. A farmer-to-farmer program to increase farm production and income will provide training in US-style farm technology and agricultural cooperatives. Projects currently are underway to upgrade oil and gas pipelines, modernize sugar mills and sugar refineries, and upgrade coal and electricity production. On April 27, 1992, Ukraine became a member of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Subject to approval by the IMF of a comprehensive economic reform program, it will be eligible for IMF and World Bank assistance.

Ukraine at a Glance

Ukraine's population of 52 million traces its origins to the 9th century Rus, a medieval civilization that introduced Orthodox Christianity in 988 AD. In 1392, the Grand Duke of Lithuania seized the territory of Ukraine, and in 1569, Lithuania merged with Poland. Ukrainian peasants who fled Polish efforts to force them into serfdom came to be known as Cossacks and earned a reputation for a fierce fighting spirit. In 1667, Ukraine was partitioned between Poland and Russia. In 1793, it was reunited as part of the Russian Empire. Despite a proclamation of independence in 1917, Ukraine was incorporated into the Soviet Union in December 1919. Between the two World Wars, a nationalist movement remained active and, unsuccessfully, attempted to restore an independent republic after the German invasion in 1941. During the war, Ukraine and its capital, Kiev, were heavily damaged. On August 24, 1991, Ukraine declared its independence. The territory of Ukraine is 233,080 square miles, slightly larger than that of France. It is primarily a vast plain bounded by the Carpathian mountains in the southwest and by the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov in the south. The Dnieper River has long been a trade route linking the Baltic coast countries with the Black and the Mediterranean Seas. Ukraine is a land rich in natural resources. It has a major ferrous metal industry, producing cast iron, steel, and steel pipe. Its chemical industry produces coke, mineral fertilizers, and sulfuric acid. Its manufactured goods include metallurgical equipment, diesel locomotives, and tractors. Conservation of natural resources is a high priority. Ukraine established its first nature preserve, Askanyia-Nova in 1921 and has a program to breed endangered species. As of January 1990, the population of the Ukraine was 51.8 million, about 18% of the population of the former USSR.

Principal Government Officials

President: Leonid M. Kravchuk Foreign Minister: Anatoliy Zlenko Capital: Kiev