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The Orange Revolution: One Year Later

The Orange Revolution: One Year Later

Paula J. Dobriansky, Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs
Remarks to the American Enterprise Institute
Washington, DC
December 5, 2005

Thank you Leon for that introduction, and thanks to you and your staff for organizing this roundtable. It is a pleasure for me to be back at the American Enterprise Institute. I would like to recognize Anders Aslund of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and Taras Kuzio of George Washington University, who along with Leon will contribute to what I am sure will be a very insightful panel discussion.

Thomas Jefferson once said "We are not to expect to be translated from despotism to liberty in a featherbed." Then, and now, a stable, prosperous, orderly democracy is not something that any people can create in short order and without arduous toils. At times -- indeed frequently -- the obstacles can seem daunting and even insurmountable. But if you step back and look at the sweep of history, especially modern history, it becomes clear that this process often succeeds. Haltingly, in fits and spurts, democracy, liberty and the rule of law have taken hold in country after country. Such was the process in our own nation -- we weren't perfect at the creation -- and such is the nature of Ukraine. But the democratic evolution there is quite promising.

A year ago Saturday, the Supreme Court of Ukraine, acting on the clear signal from the people of Ukraine, nullified a flawed election, upheld the rule of law, and cleared the path that led to a true expression of the will of the Ukrainian people. It marked a turning point in a stunning series of events that would culminate in the inauguration of President Viktor Yushchenko.

I had the honor of accompanying then-Secretary of State Colin Powell, who led the American delegation to the inauguration. The atmosphere on that unforgettable day was truly electric. Thousands of people had lined the streets, many of whom had camped out. Orange banners, caps, and scarves were everywhere. There was joy and euphoria that Ukrainians finally had swept away the last vestiges of authoritarian rule and corruption, and emerged as strong stakeholders in building a new, democratic Ukraine.

The atmosphere was both exciting and auspicious when President Yushchenko made an official visit to the United States in April of this year. Congress gave him the honor of an address to a joint session, which I also attended.

Yushchenko expressed gratitude for being invited to speak from the same rostrum as great leaders like Winston Churchill and Lech Walesa. He noted that "The Orange Revolution gave evidence that Ukraine is an advanced European nation, sharing the great values of the Euro-Atlantic civilization. Its citizens stand ready to guard their rights and freedoms... For us, a European future is a powerful incentive to attain high political, social and economic standards."

He was also received at the White House by President Bush, where the two leaders launched a strategic partnership. President Bush noted that Yushchenko was the first foreign leader he called after his inaugural address last January, and said "You are a friend of our country and you are an inspiration to all who love liberty."

The New Century Agenda Joint Statement by Presidents Bush and Yushchenko focuses on concrete areas for cooperation. These include promoting democracy and freedom, fighting terrorism, combating weapons proliferation, supporting Ukraine's NATO aspirations, strengthening economic reform to increase prosperity, combating trafficking in persons, and cooperating to fight HIV/ AIDS.

One year later, the Orange Revolution and its promise continue to inspire Ukrainians and others. Much progress has been made. The Orange Revolution brought together Ukrainians with diverse political views, but who were united by the understanding that without a truly free democracy, their voices would not be heard. Their unity was decisive.

The tremendous diversity among the Orange Revolutionaries also meant that as the political process developed, differences would have to be addressed. There has been much discussion about the breakup of the Orange Coalition since the government was dismissed in September. Some question the stability and future of Ukraine's democratic trajectory. Others see a chance to rekindle the excitement and dynamism associated with the Orange Revolution.

Events of the past year remind us that we need to have realistic expectations. No country has made the transition from Communism to democracy and a market economy without some turmoil. This is normal, as the emerging democracies in new Europe showed in the 1990s. Coalitions, parties, alliances and individual players rise and fall -- this is part of the very nature of the evolution of democracy.

Ukraine has encountered difficulties in turning from the exhilaration of the Orange Revolution to the hard work of transforming Ukraine into a modern, European state. But it is important to acknowledge the progress Ukraine has made over the past year. Today, the Ukrainian people have a sense of ownership in their country that did not exist before the Orange Revolution. They understand the power of democracy and freedom, and they are exercising that power every day. Particularly impressive has been the development of civil society. Today, Ukrainian civil society is rich and diverse, featuring hundreds of groups, institutions and associations, which deal with a broad range of national and local issues. During my most recent visit, I had an opportunity to meet with some of the activists, who are using their new freedoms to unleash their talents and creativity in ways designed to solve problems, and empower people. It is, of course, the existence of a vibrant civil society that is a key ingredient of a stable and mature democracy.

Ukraine has made significant progress in democratizing, and the world will be closely watching the March Rada elections -- a real test of the Orange Revolution's democratic gains. It is important the campaign and election-day vote be free and fair, meeting international standards.

The success of these elections is doubly important as Ukraine has become an important player in, and role model for, building democracy in the region. Events in Ukraine have been an inspiration for those who still live under governments that are not in power with the consent of the governed.

Ukraine is already actively promoting democracy abroad. This summer, the presidents of Ukraine and Georgia signed the Borjomi Declaration, which calls for leaders of countries within the Baltic-Black Sea-Caspian area to create a Community of Democratic Choice. They called on participants to commit to "freeing our region from all remaining lines of division, from violations of human rights, from frozen conflicts, opening a new era of democracy." On December 2, I had the honor to represent the United States at the inaugural session of the Community for Democratic Choice forum in Kiev. Representatives from 23 countries, including nine heads of state, came to this Summit to affirm their commitment to working together to consolidate the democratic process through internal reform, and a sharing of best practices with one another. There will be follow-on meetings held throughout the region to develop and implement action plans. This project, which the United States strongly supports, is an excellent example of a region coming together on its own initiative to take action -- in the spirit of the Community of Democracies, and in response to the call for such action at the ministerial in Chile earlier this year.

The prospects for democracy and freedom reaching Belarus are significantly enhanced by international cooperation and aid involving Ukraine

We are also pleased that Ukraine continues to be committed to fighting terrorism, and has expressed interest in assisting Iraq in training and reconstruction projects. Moreover, we have valued Ukraine's role and contributions to many international peacekeeping missions.

Together we have made good progress on our non-proliferation agenda, and welcome Ukraine as a key partner in preventing illegal arms exports. Ukraine's recent ratification of the IAEA Additional Protocol is highly commendable.

The U.S. led the initiative to offer Ukraine Intensified Dialogue on NATO Membership Aspirations. Ukraine's relationship with NATO now depends on Ukraine -- its ability to forge domestic support for NATO membership and its willingness to meet NATO's performance-based standards.

Following the Orange Revolution, Ukraine has renewed its commitment to fighting corruption and strengthening rule of law. Some of the work in this area goes hand-in-hand with streamlining and clarifying rules of investment, so that abuses like the tainted privatizations of the Kuchma years will not happen again, and that future steps toward a market economy will be taken on a transparent basis. Fighting corruption is not easy -- but it is essential. Indeed, one of the key characteristics of the Orange Revolution was that it sought to bring in a new, clean team. Living up to those expectations is critical to demonstrate to the Ukrainian people the differences between the old and new government.

Ukraine has also reinvigorated efforts to join the WTO. It is a reflection of Ukraine's commitment to participate fully in the community of democracies and market economies. It is an important indication of Ukraine's desire to base its economy on a system based on internationally accepted rules.

Toward that end, the Rada has passed legislation that will strengthen protection of intellectual property rights and reduce barriers to trade. Other pieces of legislation needed to join the WTO have faced stiffer opposition by protectionist interests. We still need to see more progress before Ukraine will be ready to join, but we are working closely with Ukraine to realize that goal at the earliest possible date.

Ukraine now has law enforcement dedicated to fighting trafficking in persons. Senior Ukrainian government officials, including Ukraine's First Lady, have raised awareness of this key rule of law and human rights issue by speaking out against trafficking. We are encouraging Ukraine to keep up the pressure by ensuring convicted traffickers receive sentences that adequately reflect the heinous nature of this crime.

An important part of my trip to Kiev last week was bringing together American medical professionals, under the leadership of Representative Lincoln Diaz-Balart, with Ukrainian counterparts and government ministers, to determine how we can further assist the children victims of the Chernobyl disaster. The United States has already provided more than $52 million worth of humanitarian assistance, and we plan an additional $15 million shipment next year. There is also a strong desire on the part of private American citizens to help. I visited the Kiev Clinical Children's and Maternal Hospital, together with the Congressman and physicians, and heard directly from the Ukrainian doctors about their training and equipment needs, which we will seek to address through this public-private partnership.

The U.S. stands ready to assist Ukraine in all its efforts towards a better future. Free and fair parliamentary and local elections in March 2006, continued progress on economic reforms, and vigorous anti-corruption efforts are crucial. These are important initiatives that must be seen through to success: Ukraine's goal of joining NATO and the WTO are dependent on progress in these areas.

We have every expectation that they will succeed, and that the inspiring democratic transformation there will continue. When I spoke here at AEI, almost a year ago to the day, about events in Ukraine, I quoted the famous Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko. There is a monument dedicated to the Ukrainian people and him near Dupont Circle and he continues to serve as a symbol of the quest for Ukrainian freedom. "Will there be truth among people?" Shevchenko wrote 144 years ago, "There must be, otherwise the sun will rise and set on fire the whole land."

Today, to a greater extent than anytime in recent history there is indeed truth among the people of Ukraine. While hurdles to progress may at times seem insurmountable, as we look back to Ukraine before the Orange Revolution we can see very significant progress. It is my hope and expectation that this evolution will continue.

Released on December 7, 2005


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