Interview with Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Europe and Eurasia David Kramer
US Representation at GUAM Summit in Kyiv
I went to represent the United States at the GUAM summit meeting with leader of Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova and Azerbaijan hosted by the Ukrainians this year. Last year it was hosted by the Moldovans. And I was struck that is was an extremely efficient, well-run meeting, and it was a meeting at which the leaders clearly laid out a vision for what they want to stand for in their coming together as a regional group, in promoting free trade among themselves, working on law enforcement, border and customs issues. And I think the four countries are really taking leadership and ownership of the GUAM organization, which I think is a very positive change in development and something the United States very much welcomes.
Talks with Ukrainian Officials
I did meet with a number of officials, talked about the unfolding political situation. When I was there the Rada had not yet convened – it convened on Thursday – and it’s still an unfolding situation, and will be that way for quite a while. I got a sense that the negotiations are heating up, they’re becoming more serious, and from the time of Thursday’s convening of the Rada, there are 30 days now to agree on a coalition, and then 30 days from that – to agree on a government. Our hope and the message I carried was that they try to accelerate that schedule, that they move up the formation of a government and that they not wait for the full sixty days that they would have under the Constitution.
Possibility of President Bush Visiting Ukraine
The president’s schedule is still a bit up in the air in terms of stops that he might make in June and July. The White House has announced that he is going to Vienna for the US-EU summit, and so he will certainly be attending that. Other stops will be determined down the road.
Preconditions for a Ukraine Visit by President Bush
This obviously will be a decision made by the White House, and whether the president goes or not, the United States obviously is a very strong ally and friend of Ukraine. We want to see Ukraine continue on a reformist track, continue to deepen its Euro-Atlantic integration, and that will be facilitated by the formation of a new government as soon as possible. But in terms of the president’s schedule – that obviously will be determined by people at the White House.
Issue of Russian Representation at GUAM Kyiv Summit
I believe they may have had embassy representation sitting there – I’m not certain of that. And the meeting is not an exclusive meeting; it’s not a conspiracy against any other countries. The leaders of GUAM stressed, in fact, that it is an organization for something, not against something. And I think they demonstrated that by their commitment to establish a free trade zone, by their commitment to push forward on democratic development. They stressed the importance of democratization in the region as well as economic development. And so I did not detect any reason to think that the leaders there were conspiring against anyone. They were actually working together to try to promote improvement in the whole region, and I think that’s to the advantage of all countries in the region.
Concerns about GUAM being formed to serve as a substitute for the CIS
I’ve heard about these concerns that GUAM is supposed to be a substitute for CIS. I did not pick up anything at the GUAM meeting to suggest that there is any truth to those rumors or to those theories. Russia has nothing to fear from the GUAM meeting. These are countries that have common interests. They have an interest in promoting democratization in the region, economic reform. That’s all to Russia benefit. And so I think that the concerns that may exist out there really aren’t founded on what is taking place between and among the leaders of the GUAM countries. GUAM countries are trying to move forward on their agenda, try to move forward in improving the lives and standards if living for their citizens, trying to increase democratization and root out corruption, improve customs and law enforcement activities and cooperation. All those things and activities are in the interest not only of the GUAM countries, but of Russia and all other countries in the region.
Russia’s Criticism of Cheney Remarks in Vilnius
As I understand, President Putin was asked a question on the margins of the EU-Russia summit and was responding in particular to comments by the vice-president [Richard Cheney] that he made in Vilnius on May 4. And the vice-president did not really say anything new in his comments in Vilnius. He described concerns that we have made clear in the past on not only what’s happening domestically in Russia, on concerns about democratic back-sliding, but also as involves energy issues and policies towards the neighbors. And so the vice-president wasn’t breaking any ground. The secretary of state [Condoleezza Rice] has confirmed that what the vice-president said was nothing new, that she herself has conveyed a number of those issues and concerns, and so I think it’s understandable for President Putin to respond to those comments. And any concerns that we express are done so in a friendly way. We, as the vice-president said in his speech, and as the secretary [of state] and the president have said many times, we want to work with Russia, we have many common interests, we have a number of areas for cooperation with Russia, and President Bush is planning to go to the St. Petersburg, where he will have an opportunity to engage not only with the president of Russia, but with other G8 leaders as well.
Regional Energy Issues
Our interest has always been in stable energy supplies coming from Russia not only to Ukraine, but to all the states in the region and to many countries in Europe. Russia is a provider of energy to many countries in Europe. And I think the Europeans have a very strong interest in ensuring that Russia remains a stable energy provider. Our interest is also in promoting transparent gas deals to remove any corrupt elements that are a problem for all the states in the region. The energy sector throughout the region has been a source of considerable corruption – so it’s our hope that Russia, Ukraine and the other states in the region push and promote deals that would promote transparency, promote energy conservation and promote other ways to diversify supply so that any problems that may occur, whether natural or otherwise that pop up, don’t present problems for countries that receive the energy.