As we told you yesterday
, the Vice President is in Kyiv, Ukraine today, where he met with President Viktor Yushchenko. After their meeting, the Vice President gave remarks
to the press. He explained that his message to the people there is simple: the United States is committed to a strong, democratic, and prosperous Ukraine.
He reiterated what the President said during his recent trip
to Moscow, that the United States supports Ukraine’s sovereignty, and ability to make its own alliances:
We consider, Mr. President, Ukraine to be a vital European partner for advancing stability, prosperity and democracy on the continent. And the President and I agreed that the United States and Ukraine will work together in the months and years to come to strengthen the strategic partnership.
It is not for the United States to dictate what that partnership will be but to reiterate. And President Obama and I have stated clearly that if you choose to be part of Euro-Atlantic integration – which I believe you have – that we strongly support that. We do not recognize – and I want to reiterate it – any sphere of influence. We do not recognize anyone else's right to dictate to you or any other country what alliances you will seek to belong to or what relationships you – bilateral relationships you have.
(Vice President Joe Biden tours the Holodomor famine memorial site with President Viktor Yushchenko after the two laid flowers and planted a tree, in Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, July 21, 2009. Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)
During their meeting, the two leaders also discussed the many challenges facing Ukraine, and how the United States can help Ukraine build its democracy and economy:
I know it's hard, I know it's hard, and these are tough decisions that your government has to make. And I also know from experience of being in public life for a long time, it's harder to make tough decisions in election years. It's a difficult time in any democracy. I told the President what I will tell other officials with whom I'll be meeting today, that working together, especially in times of crisis, is not a choice, it’s an absolute necessity. And compromise, I might add, is not a sign of weakness, it is evidence of strength.
Ukraine has come a long way in the short time since declaring independence in 1991. And Ukraine’s vibrant civil society – and it is vibrant – its engaged and free media, as we witnessed here today – and its lively democracy show the world that Ukraine will continue on its chosen path toward a prosperous future as an integral part of Europe.