Upholding the Core Principles of the Transatlantic Partnership

I’ve just returned from a six-day trip to Europe, where I met with allies, partners, and friends in France, Moldova, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Ukraine. While we discussed our work in the fight against ISIL and the prospect of a transatlantic trade deal, the major thrust of our meetings was addressing Russian aggression and the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

There were a number of poignant moments during the week, but one stands out: during the Q&A session after a speech I gave in Berlin, a student asked why we were so focused on Ukraine. I explained our concern was about helping a European state attain its democratic aspirations, and about upholding the core principles of our transatlantic partnership. I said I truly believe that if Ukraine is not whole, if all of its people are not free, and if the country is not at peace, then in a sense Europe is not either.

Even more than that, our efforts to combat Russian actions in Ukraine are about defending the global rules-based system. We all have a stake and a collective responsibility to uphold the principle that the borders and territorial integrity of a democratic state cannot be changed by force and that only its citizens –- and not another country –- have the right to determine their own future. If this does not stand, countries around the world may presume that interests can be advanced at the barrel of a gun.

In France, Germany, and the UK, we agreed that the only way forward is full implementation of the Minsk agreement, which offers the promise (even if not the certainty) of peace, disarmament, political normalization, decentralization in eastern Ukraine, and returning Ukrainian state sovereignty over its territory and borders. In the immediate term, that means full Russian and separatist compliance with a ceasefire, the withdrawal of heavy weapons, and unfettered access by OSCE monitors to verify compliance. But implementation will only be complete when Russia returns to Ukraine full sovereignty over its international border.

We also agreed that if Russia and the separatists it controls make good on these commitments, we will start to roll back the sanctions that have been imposed on Russian authorities and their cronies. On the other hand, if they don’t, or if they take further aggressive action, we will increase sanctions and pressure. At the same time, we remain committed to Ukraine whose leaders have made some remarkable steps forward on needed reforms, especially given the trying circumstances they face.

Ukraine is not alone in dealing with Russian destabilization. I had the opportunity to meet with Moldovan Prime Minister Gaburici as well as President Timofti and Foreign Minister Gherman less than two weeks after the formation of their new government. During our conversations, I stressed to Moldovan leaders that they will need to act quickly and decisively to move on their promise of a reform agenda, and I came away impressed with the Prime Minister’s desire for its implementation.    

Beyond our partnership with the Moldovan government as it undertakes these initiatives, the U.S. will continue to support the Moldovan people as they pursue a more open and democratic future. While stopping by the U.S. Embassy to meet with our staff, I took part in a traditional Moldovan bread and salt ceremony and was given a red pin to celebrate Mărțișor, or the first day of spring. I was touched by the gesture, but also by the symbolism as Moldova seeks a fresh start for itself in the European community.

Visiting Kyiv at the end of the week, just over one year after violence wracked the Maidan, I saw where regular citizens –- students, business owners, veterans, grandmothers –- took to the streets to demand an end to corruption and a path toward a European future. I met with President Poroshenko, Prime Minister Yatsenyuk, Foreign Minister Klimkin, and Finance Minister Jaresko, and I commended them on what their government has done so far.

Theirs is a story that needs to be told more: Ukraine has signed the Association Agreement with the European Union. It held free and fair elections, not once but twice under siege. It’s been working to undertake deep and comprehensive economic and political reforms that include laws to enhance transparency in public procurement, to reduce government inefficiency and corruption, and to clean up Ukraine’s energy sector.   Much work remains, but after also sitting down with Ukraine’s leadership, as well as young reformers from parliament and civil society, I left Kyiv full of confidence that Ukraine has the minds, the tools, and the will to see these reforms through now and for the generation to come.

About the Author: Antony “Tony” Blinken serves as the Deputy Secretary at the U.S. Department of State.  Follow him on Twitter at @ABlinken.

 

Comments

Comments

Tom D.
|
United States
June 30, 2015
Great Article
Deputy Secretary of State Antony "Tony" Blinken pays his respects at the Shrine of the Fallen in Kyiv, Ukraine
March 11, 2015

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