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President Barack Obama set the tone for his administration in 2009 with the famous “reset” button for U.S. relations with Russia. This allowed both countries to restart their strategic partnership and work together despite the baggage of the preceding years.
What is needed now is a similar “refresh” button with Ukraine. It is, after all, a natural strategic and trading partner for the United States in Eastern Europe. In 2008, both countries signed a Charter on Strategic Partnership, but yet closer ties still need to be cultivated between our peoples and our business communities.
Ukraine is the second-largest country in Europe and a key geostrategic partner for the United States in the region. Given the importance of Ukraine maintaining good neighborly relations with Russia, a strong, independent Ukraine is crucial to keeping the region stable and peaceful.
We believe that the West has a great deal to offer Ukraine, and vice versa. Today, we are working to enact deep systemic reform of our economy, our judicial system and, ahead of parliamentary elections this fall, our electoral laws.
Our government and opposition were united last year on a decision voted on in parliament approving a new European-style electoral system — a move that was praised by the Council of Europe — and we have invited thousands international observers to our upcoming parliamentary elections later this year.
We have launched bold tax and pension reforms, heralded for their effectiveness even as we emerged from a crippling recession.
We have encouraged a free market in natural gas by opening our pipeline network — the transit route for the majority of the EU’s natural gas — to any and all suppliers.
Ukraine is consistently fulfilling its costly but vitally important reforms as a key member of the EU’s energy community. Furthermore, we have signed important contracts for shale energy exploitation with companies such as Chevron.
Ukraine has shown leadership on the world stage, too, giving up its nuclear weapons to become a non-nuclear state, and contributing to U.S.-led security and peacekeeping operations from the Balkans to Afghanistan to Iraq.
Our economic growth is getting back on track after a difficult recession in 2009. In 2011, our gross domestic product rose by 4.7 per cent, and this year it should grow by 3 percent to 4 percent.
In February 2010, Viktor Yanukovych won Ukraine’s presidency in a free and fair election. International monitors praised the democratic conduct of the election, as the country sought to move on from the bickering and sniping of the Orange Revolution-era leadership.
Ukraine has since made a determined choice to link its future with the West. We are committed to EU integration, a key priority for our country, and we recently initialed a long-awaited Association Agreement with the EU, including the first-of-its-kind deep and comprehensive free trade area. During the past few months, we have settled a long list of issues, which remained outstanding in our relations with the EU for ages.
We have also made it clear that Ukraine is seeking close cooperation with NATO, including the holding of joint military exercises.