Washington, 5 March 1998 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright says she will be looking for concrete evidence that Ukraine is making efforts to resolve complaints from American investors about alleged official corruption when she visits Kyiv on March 6.
Albright says she will be carrying two messages to Ukraine. One is a restatement of U.S. friendship and support for Ukraine. The other, she says, is a strong warning that Ukraine risks losing substantial U.S. economic aid unless it can prove it has attacked the reported economic trouble spots.
Albright spoke Wednesday to members of the U.S. Congress. The hearing was called by the Foreign Operations subcommittee of the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee. The subcommittee is one of several that is currently reviewing President Bill Clinton's federal government proposed budget for the new financial year beginning next October. Albright testified about the State Department's request for funds for the entire U.S. foreign assistance program
Her comments on Ukraine were prompted by a word of caution sounded by the subcommittee chairman, Congressman Sonny Callahan (R-Alabama). Callahan said the Congress is very concerned about reports from private American businessmen in Ukraine who have charged that official corruption is widespread.
Callahan said that if the alleged abuses are not corrected, the State Department will have a difficult time getting all of the aid it wants for Ukraine.
President Bill Clinton has asked for about $225 million for Ukraine, approximately as much as it is receiving in the current financial year. However, the Congress has attached a provision that would withhold half the U.S. aid sum for Ukraine unless the president can certify to Congress that Ukraine is making progress in removing the obstacles to American investment.
When President Leonid Kuchma visited Washington last spring, American business leaders confronted him with a list of problems ranging from corruption to lack of transparency in government operations.
A number of major U.S. firms, such as Motorola corporation, have already pulled their investments out of Ukraine.
During his May visit, Kuchma pledged reforms that would simplify government procedures and make them more transparent. He also promised to tackle corruption.
Albright said the U.S. government is very concerned about the economic issues in Ukraine. She says the State Department is determined to do everything it can to resolve the problems.
Albright says that, while there has been some progress, the U.S. is still concerned about what she calls the fundamental pace of economic reform in Ukraine, and she says she will raise those concerns on Friday.
The secretary said part of Ukraine's economic problem stems from the fact that it has been unable to attract significant foreign investment, and one of the reasons for that, she says, is because Ukraine has been unable to undertake all of its economic reforms.
Albright declined to speculate about what recommendations on Ukraine's aid program she will make to President Clinton. However, she said she intends to make clear all of the U.S. concerns about Ukraine's economy.