Vice President Biden gave a speech in Kyiv today on U.S.-Ukraine relations, before departing for the second leg of his overseas trip in Tbilisi, Georgia. The Vice President praised Ukrainians for demanding justice, achieving free and fair elections, and a free press. He noted that today, Ukraine is one of the most democratic nations in the region.
While Ukraine has come a long way since the 2004 Orange Revolution, there is still progress to be made. The Vice President emphasized that the United States will support Ukraine as it works to become a democratic and prosperous member of Europe:
In any true democracy, freedom is the beginning, not the end. Freedom is merely the beginning, not the end. And here in Ukraine, yours is a revolution still in progress whose promise remains to be fulfilled.
More than anything else, I’m here to say this to the Ukrainian people: Ukraine, as it continues on the path to freedom, democracy, and prosperity, the United States will stand by Ukraine. These are your choices, not ours. But rest assured that we stand with you as you make those choices.
The Obama administration will not waver in its support of a strong and independent Ukraine. Charting the future course of Ukraine is, of course, a decision to be made by all of you, not by anyone outside.
Based on my discussions yesterday with the bulk of your political leadership, we want for Ukraine what it appears Ukrainians want for themselves -- a democratic and prosperous European nation.
The Vice President also talked about the President’s recent trip to Moscow, where the President aimed to reset relations with Russia. But, as the Vice President explained, this would not come at the expense of Ukraine:
I know it created some speculations that improving relations with Russia would somehow threaten our ties with Ukraine. Let me say this as clearly as I can. As we reset the relationship with Russia, we reaffirm our commitment to an independent Ukraine.
And we recognize no sphere of influence, or no ability of any other nation to veto the choices an independent nation makes as to with whom and under what conditions they will associate. We also do not believe in zero-sum thinking. We do not believe that a partnership with one nation must come at the expense of another. It has not. It does not, and it will not.
As I said, referencing the Munich Security Conference just weeks after taking office, it holds true again -- I want to reemphasize it. We reject the notion of spheres of influence as 19th century ideas that have no place in the 21st century. And we stand by the principle that sovereign states have a right to make their own decisions, to chart their own foreign policy, to choose their own alliances.
He acknowledged the difficult economic climate in Ukraine, and related the country's struggle to our own economic struggle. The Vice President pledged that the United States would help as Ukraine works to rebuild its economy and move towards energy efficiency and independence, issues that have been tied to democracy and the fight against corruption everywhere in the world.
As you take action, you will not stand alone. The United States wants to work with you to improve the investment climate, expand trade and investment between our two countries, and help in any effective way we can, knowing full well we do not have the answers. We are struggling economically, as well; a different struggle, but a real struggle.
Ultimately, democracy and free markets will flourish when they deliver on what people want most -– honesty, the elimination of corruption, a decent job, the ability to care for their parents and educate their children, physical security and economic opportunity, a chance to build a better life. No one wants anything more than a chance. When democracy and free markets deliver on these basic desires, then those promoting alternative forms of government, whether from within or without, are never able to gain a foot hold.
Nowhere is the relationship between democracy, development and security clearer than when it comes to energy. Right now, in the United States, we’re making significant efforts at some political expense, I might add, to diversify our energy supply, to invest in efficiency, and to make some very difficult decisions about how to deal with the carbon footprint we're leaving our children and our grandchildren and our great-grandchildren. None are without cost.
Just as it is in our interest to diversify our sources of energy and reduce the influence of those we depend on for our energy, I might add so too it -- so too is it in your overwhelming interest. Your economic freedom depends more, I suspect, in this country on your energy freedom than on any other single factor. Ukraine has abundant reserves of energy, and reform of your energy sector should reduce your dependence on foreign suppliers. Moving toward market pricing for energy is brave, but also absolutely necessary pre-condition.
Promoting energy efficiency and conservation also will go a long way toward increasing your independence.