Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) Comments on His Decision to Nominate President of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko for the Nobel Peace Prize and Other Related Issues
The interview was conducted on 2/4/2005 by Adrian Karmazyn, Program Manager, Ukrainian Service, Voice of America
Adrian Karmazyn: You and Senator [Hillary] Clinton have nominated Presidents [Viktor] Yushchenko of Ukraine and [Mikhail] Saakashvili of Georgia for the Nobel Peace Prize. Why did you decide to do that?
Sen. McCain: We think that both presidents represent the very finest -- courage, dedication and leadership which brings about freedom and democracy. We think that these two individuals represent exactly what Mr. Nobel had in mind when he started this prize many years ago.
AK: The Orange Revolution in Ukraine has been an inspiration for many people around the world. Do you think it will also inspire the US Congress and the US government to help Ukraine which has been kind of difficult for the last few years with President Kuchma in power?
Sen. McCain: I don’t think that there’s any doubt that we will be providing assistance to the Ukrainian government and people. We are grateful for the principles and the efforts that they are making. We also need to help Ukraine because they are so dependent on Russia for energy supplies in particular that they are going to need our assistance. But there has been a great upsurge in feeling throughout the United States of America as they observe this Orange Revolution take place, and particularly amongst our young people.
AK: You recently returned from a trip to Europe. I’m wondering, when you talked to the European leaders, that you feel the same sense that Europeans now are going to be more welcoming in terms of trying to integrate Ukraine into the European Union, because I know that that has been a big issue for Ukraine?
Sen. McCain: I think Eastern European governments are very supportive and will be of significant assistance. The more Western countries, such as Germany and France, haven’t been quite as supportive, but throughout Europe young people have celebrated this movement and this monumental achievement. And I would also add that there are many of us that believe that what happened in Ukraine and in Georgia can have a beneficial effect in Belarus, in Armenia, in Azerbaijan and other countries in the region.
Democracy is contagious. And so, I think it’s pretty clear that what happened in Ukraine and Georgia could very easily spread throughout the region.
AK: What advice might you have for President Yushchenko? He faces many challenges. Perhaps you’ve seen how other countries over the years have faced these challenges, these kind of transitions when they tried to take advantage of an historic opportunity?
Sen. McCain: I think that the transition is going to be very difficult. There [are] problems with corruption. We know there are oligarchies throughout Ukraine that have enormous power. But Mr. Yushchenko has the support of the Ukrainian people. I think there is a window of opportunity here that he is very well aware of that he has to take advantage of. And he has the goodwill and support of the entire West.
AK: Will you be supporting measures to graduate Ukraine from Jackson-Vanick and to perhaps provide some supplemental assistance to Ukraine this year?
Sen. McCain: I would be very strongly supportive of [the] repeal of Jackson-Vanick. It had its place during the Cold War and I am sure that there will be additional assistance proposed by the administration to Ukraine. The important thing in Ukraine is [the] restoration of the rule of law, [the] break-up of the oligarchies -- at least those that attained their wealth illegally. And there is a huge, huge issue about a journalist whose body has been found, but his head never has been. And I think that that story has to be pursued not only on behalf of him and his family, but also on behalf of a free press which is an integral part of any democracy, a vital part.
AK: I don’t know if you have had these conversations with your constituents in Arizona, but if there are businesses in Arizona that would like to cooperate with businesses in Ukraine or perhaps a travel agency that would want to set up tourism in Ukraine…What do you think Ukraine has to do to get Americans more active in Ukraine?
Sen. McCain: Well, there is a very active American-Ukrainian community in the United States. I think that they will do a lot of that work. I also think that at the appropriate time if President Yushchenko comes and visits the United States that will get a lot of visibility as well.
AK: It’s my understanding that you plan to visit Ukraine next week.
Sen. McCain: Yes, we go every year to a conference [International Conference on Security Policy] in Munich, and we’ll be going to Ukraine and then back to Munich and have a chance to meet with President Yushchenko and others and am looking forward to it. I was there last August and we had a very, very profitable trip.
AK: Are there any particular issues that you would like to raise with President Yushchenko?
Sen. McCain: I think at this time we [will be] there to congratulate him and wish him well. Advice is a very inexpensive commodity.
AK: Many of our viewers and listeners might not be aware of your Vietnam experience and, I’m wondering, might you share with our audience how that experience has influenced your interest in world affairs, perhaps some other people -- it might have turned them into isolationists?
Sen. McCain: Well, we lost the Vietnam War. It was a noble cause, in my view, to try to bring democracy to the people of South Vietnam. The South Vietnamese paid a heavy price when we lost. Thousands were executed, millions [put] in reeducation camps but it also gave me an appreciation for both the power of ideas and the limits of military strength when it’s not accompanied by the kinds of ideals and principles that lead to success over time. I believe that Ho Chi Min won because he had the support of the Vietnamese people, because they viewed him as a nationalist and not a communist. In South Vietnam we never had that kind of leadership that people could rally behind. That’s why, I think, president Yushchenko epitomizes the kind of leadership that can rally the entire people.
AK: If I may, I was asked by our English Service as well to ask you about the situation in Iraq. After the election and with Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz testifying on the Hill yesterday, what are your concerns about the situation in Iraq?
Sen. McCain: My concern right now is that we not be too euphoric. We should celebrate this election. It is a seminal event. But, we can’t delude the American people that there isn’t a lot of hard work to go, including, unfortunately, more American casualties. So, I think we should temper our enthusiasm and recognize that we still have a long way to go. And that has to do with the training and equipping of Iraqi police and military. Very tough job. We are not nearly where we want to be and it’s going to be a while before we get there.
AK: Anything else you would like to share with our Ukrainian audience today?
Sen. McCain: I find Ukraine to be a magnificently beautiful country. I visited Kyiv, but also the Crimea, and I recommend to all of my constituents, if they want to take a beautiful vacation in the summer time, Crimea is a wonderful place to go.
AK: Thank you, Senator McCain.
Sen. McCain: Thank you.