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Ukraine: A Democratic Society Holds Key To Secure Europe

U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright says a democratic Ukraine holds an important key for a secure Europe. Albright gave a lecture yesterday at a Washington think tank, outlining U.S. policies toward Ukraine and other countries.

Washington, 19 January 2000 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright says a democratic Ukraine is pivotal to building a secure and undivided Europe.

Albright said Tuesday in a lecture before a Washington think-tank (Johns Hopkins Paul Nitze School of Advanced and International Studies) that the U.S. will be focusing particular attention and resources on Ukraine this year. She said the other three countries Washington views also to be at a critical point along their democratic path are Colombia, Nigeria, and Indonesia.

The secretary of state said that since gaining independence from the Soviet Union eight years ago, Ukraine has made much progress toward a democratic society and market economy.

Albright said Ukraine has maintained internal peace. She noted that the country has held three competitive, albeit imperfect, presidential elections.

Last year, Albright said President Leonid Kuchma won a new mandate for far-reaching economic reform and further integration into European and global institutions.

Still, Albright said, Ukraine has its share of problems.

"Like many other countries in transition, Ukraine is threatened by economic decline, corruption and crime. Lower living standards have undermined respect for government and dampened public morale. Relations between the executive and legislative branches have been strained. Wealthy oligarchs have used their political contacts to expand their empires, and the independent press has been intimidated and harassed."

Albright said because the stakes are so high, the United States will continue to back Ukrainian efforts to promote democratic development.

"The United States has provided Ukraine almost $2 billion in assistance this decade. Our focus has been on nuclear threat reduction and democratic institution building, and this year we plan to double our most important exchange programs in order to help educate and train the next generation of Ukraine's leaders."

Albright said 1999 was notable for what didn't happen in Ukraine -- the economy didn't collapse and the communists didn't come back to power. She said the U.S. hopes that this year will be memorable for positive reasons, the most important of which would be to carry out long-delayed and much-needed structural reforms to protect Ukraine's economy, attract foreign investment and fuel its economy.

"It is in America's national interest that Ukraine succeed. To this end, we will continue to help our partner move down the path to deeper reform, fuller freedom, and sustained growth."

Albright said it takes money to back democracy and to help give it a chance to succeed. She noted that this requires support by the U.S. Congress and the American people.

The secretary of state said international programs are frequently dismissed as "foreign aid," but she said the truth is that they aid America. She said that by helping to build a stable, prosperous and a more democratic world, U.S. assistance to foreign countries makes American citizens more secure, creates new economic opportunities and reduces the likelihood that U.S. forces will be called into combat.