The interview was conducted by Myroslava Gongadze of VOA's Ukrainian Service
MG: Ukraine, as it now appears, will have Yushchenko as president, and his former rival Yanukovych as prime-minister – a scenario few people were expecting. Could you offer the US government’s reaction to this?
DK: The developments of just the past few hours indicate that it looks like Mr. Yanukovych will come back as prime-minister. We have constantly said that the United States will be prepared to work with whatever government emerges from a democratic process, that we are prepared to return to the full agenda we have between the United States and Ukraine and there is a lot of work to do. So, once the government is finalized, assuming that will happen soon in light of the recent developments, we’ll engage with that. I think it is important to acknowledge that what this has all emerged from is … the best election Ukraine had in March of this year - a very free and fair election that was acknowledged so by international monitors. The process that has led up to this point as of now has been a very peaceful one. We commend all the various political players for the roles they played. This is a Ukrainian decision to make, this is up to the people of Ukraine, to the leadership of Ukraine, to the parliamentary leaders of Ukraine to decide what kind of government they want. And the United States will be prepared to work with the government to keep it moving in a democratic, reform-minded direction.
MG: Do you think the people that were standing on the Maidan almost two years ago have been let down by last night’s compromise?
DK: I think how the people of Ukraine interpret the latest developments will be their decision. It will up to them to decide how they want to view what has transpired over the past few months, to say nothing of the past 24 hours or so. From our perspective, we have felt that this is a decision for people of Ukraine to make, for the government of Ukraine to make, for the president of Ukraine to make. It is for them to decide, not for the outside players. And I think if the voters feel one way or another based on what has happened, they will have another opportunity at the next round of elections to reflect their views and to vote accordingly. If they are unhappy with the developments, they can vote one way, if they are pleased with the developments, they can vote the other way.
MG: President Yushchenko, when he was speaking to the press late last night, stressed that the compromise will help bridge the existing divide between Eastern and Western Ukraine. Do you think that it CAN have a healing effect on the country with the two sides so opposed on many issues?
DK: I think it is important whoever would have become prime-minister, one of the issues that needs to be confronted is the division between East and West. I have always thought that this has tended to be overplayed. I think it was overplayed in 2004. I am not one of those who think that there is such an enormous gap between two parts of the country that it would be an enormous problem. Nevertheless, it is important for a prime-minister to be the prime-minister for the entire country, not just for one part of the country. So assuming that Mr. Yanukovych, if he is approved by the Rada, becomes prime- minister, I think one of the issues that he will face is to make sure that he leads the entire country, not just a part of it.
MG: Some people within the Yanukovych camp that had been accused of falsifications the 2004 presidential election will be in positions of power now. Is the US government concerned about that?
DK: We will judge the new government based on its actions and what it does. I think we do that in most countries, frankly, where the determination of how the government is doing will based on what it does, how it conducts policies, the kinds of policies it wants to have with other governments, with other countries, including no least the United States. So we will judge the new people that come in, assuming they come in fairly soon following this process, based on what they do now. There will be a new government in place, we will be ready to work with it, to help it [move] in a reform direction, democratic direction, market-oriented direction, dealing with problems of corruption and other matters. So we will judge the people who might be in there based on what they do in their new capacities.
MG: According to President Yushchenko, the accord signed last night will allow Ukraine to pursue the course he laid out after the presidential election, including membership in NATO and in the WTO. Some observers say it’s hard to believe that the Party of Regions reversed itself on these issues. Would you agree?
DK: I was in Kyiv last week and I discussed a number of these issues with a range of political figures. I also discussed issues such as NATO, WTO with Mr. Yanukovych and others. And I don’t expect, although again we will judge based on what happens in the policies that the new government will implement, I don’t expect that there will be radical changes. What we may see are variations in the pace and intensity of pursuit of various interests and policies. But I am not anticipating that there will be radical shifts in what President Yushchenko has laid out as his objectives and also what have been objectives stated even by the previous president, President Kuchma, who in 2002 expressed Ukraine’s interest in joining NATO and moving forward with deeper relations with the EU and also with WTO membership.
MG: With Mr. Yanukovych as prime-minister, will the US government work with Ukraine as it would have under an Orange Coalition?
DK: Hypothetical questions are never good ones to answer. We’ve always been ready to work with whatever government emerges from the democratic process. The latest indications are that the government will have Mr. Yanukovych as prime-minister, so we will be ready to work with him.
MG: Since a coalition appears to have been formed, can Ukraine expect a visit by President Bush now?
DK: It’s too early to speculate on the president’s schedule. The White House will certainly determine when the president might be able to travel to Ukraine or anywhere else for that matter. So, I think, at this point we look forward to seeing a new government, if it comes into office, take over and then we’ll decide and sort out how we engage it with visits and other kinds of activities.