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The White House

Statement by Vice President Biden After Meeting with President Viktor Yushchenko of Ukraine

Office of the Vice President
For Immediate Release                                                       July 21, 2009

House with Chimaeras
Kyiv, Ukraine
VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: Mr. President, thank you very much for your hospitality. And on behalf of President Obama, I want to express our admiration, as well as our thanks -- our admiration for what you and your colleagues began in what was an inspiration to other parts of the world and your neighbors, the Orange Revolution, and also thanks for your cooperation and help in the Balkans and Iraq and Afghanistan. And I agree with you, I think we had a very productive meeting.
I come to Kyiv, Mr. President, with one simple, straightforward message that I don't want anyone to misunderstand. That is, the United States is committed to a strong, democratic and prosperous Ukraine.
Your success, Mr. President, we believe will be our success. We in the United States are trying to build a multi-partner world in which we work with like-minded countries to make common cause on common challenges. And quite frankly, the stronger our partners, the more effective that partnership will be.
We worked together to tackle, as I referenced earlier, common security problems -- threats in the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan -- and we meet what President Obama and I believe is one of humanity’s greatest challenges, and that is reducing nuclear arsenals and securing nuclear materiel.
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.
I reaffirmed to the President what I said in Munich, as I said, in the earliest days of our administration, and it's worth repeating again in a brief statement, and that is -- and President Obama, I might add, made it clear in his visit to Moscow this month -- the United States supports Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence and freedom, and to make its own choices -- its own choices -- including what alliances they choose to belong.
We're working, as you know, Mr. President, to reset our relationship with Russia. But I assure you and all the Ukrainian people that it will not come at Ukraine’s expense. To the contrary, I believe it can actually benefit Ukraine. The more substantive relationship we have with Moscow, the more we can defuse the zero-sum thinking about our relations with Russia’s neighbors.
We also talked about many important challenges facing Ukraine today, made more difficult by the economic crisis the world is facing. And we discussed ways in which the United States can help Ukraine undertake what are obviously tough reforms needed to build its democracy and economy and to strengthen its energy sector.
To that end, I was pleased to learn that the government has taken the final decision necessary to bring the Overseas Private Investment Corporation back to Ukraine. That will make it easier for American companies to reinvest in Ukraine, and invest in the first place, which will help both our economies in the current downturn.
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.
The United States, Mr. President, is committing to walking that path with Ukraine to see to it that it becomes a vital part of Europe.
And again, Mr. President, I want to thank you for your hospitality. I look forward to continuing the discussions we had today at a working group level, and I am -- I'm confident that Ukraine's democracy will take deep root in the 21st century.
Thank you, Mr. President.