Ukraine in 2022
NV publishes the full version of the speech by Kristina Kvien, the Chargé d’Affaires a.i. at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, which she gave during the NV discussion "Ukraine and the world ahead in 2022," on Dec. 16.
When I first got here in May 2019, President (Volodymyr) Zelensky had just come into office, and we all focused on the turbo regime of reform and everyone was very excited, I think, to try and make a lot of progress. But nearly two years ago we were all faced with the COVID-19 pandemic – the world has faced the pandemic – and we’re still struggling with that.
Finally, Ukraine is facing massive troop buildups on its border. These continue even as Ukraine fights illegal Russian occupation of Crimea, and de facto Russian occupation and aggression in Donbas.
But despite the challenges that we’ve all faced in the past two years, Ukraine and its international partners, including the United States, continue to work hard to advance the reforms that Ukraine needs to address the challenges it has today, and the challenges it will have tomorrow in 2022.
I’m by nature an optimist, so when I look ahead to 2022, I try to focus on opportunities.
And I think that 2022 is a real opportunity to build on the good work that has been done in 2021. On the reform front, the Verhovna Rada has passed several very important pieces of legislation that, when implemented this year, will make significant improvements in the lives of ordinary Ukrainians.
First is judicial reform. The judicial system in Ukraine is often considered a major stumbling block to international investment. The Rada and President Zelensky have both made progress this year in starting that very important process of judicial reform.
Another important goal to accomplish in 2022 is the selection of new heads of Ukraine’s anti-corruption bodies. Having two independent heads leading these important bodies will really help make a difference in combatting corruption in Ukraine, ensuring that corrupt individuals are held to account, and send a powerful signal that nobody in Ukraine is above the law.
There are also a lot of other reforms that I won’t go into. Health, corporate governance, banking, security sector, and land ownership, which I think was mentioned by the prime minister (in his speech). All of these reforms will make Ukraine more resilient and more democratic in 2022 and beyond – and completely benefit Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic integration.
But, … unfortunately 2022 also brings an external threat that Ukraine knows well, and that tragically is beyond its control.
Today, nearly 100,000 Russian troops are poised on Ukraine’s border, in an unmistakable attempt to coerce Ukraine and its Western partners into accepting an ever-expanding list of revanchist “red lines” that appear to have the aim of dragging Ukraine back into the Soviet Era, and Ukraine’s partners back into a Cold War dichotomy. Russia is attempting to roll back the progress of the past thirty years and re-divide Europe.
In the face of this, the United States remains Ukraine’s steadfast partner, and we are working closely with the European Union and NATO to prevent a crisis, and ensure that Ukraine continues its path of NATO and EU integration.
Those are choices that belong to Ukraine: These choices do not belong to Russia.
As (U.S.) Secretary of State (Antony) Blinken said last week, “We've made very clear that one country trying to tell another what its choices should be, including with whom it associates, is not an acceptable proposition. Changing the borders of another country by force is also not an acceptable proposition..."
The United States was founded on the principle that the citizens of the country should determine the path that their country takes, and that’s a principle that Ukrainians share, and have showed great will and determination to uphold. Their determination was strong enough to fight two revolutions in 2004 and 2014.
And it was strong enough to have fought and won against Russia’s attempt to take over all of eastern Ukraine in 2014. The cities of Dnipro, Kharkiv and Mariupol, and others, battled back against Russian proxies who tried to seize their cities. Ukraine’s brave soldiers continue to fight back against Russian proxies in Donbas today, proxies who are illegally and immorally killing Ukrainian soldiers on their own soil.
It is the United States’ deepest hope that Russia chooses to de-escalate its unilateral aggression on Ukraine’s border.
Just one week ago (U.S.) President (Joe) Biden spoke with Russian President (Vladimir) Putin about Russia’s intentions. The president and Secretary of State Blinken have also engaged their Ukrainian counterparts and EU and NATO allies and partners.
Our message to all is the same: There are two paths forward, one involving diplomacy and de-escalation, or one of confrontation and conflict.
We believe diplomacy and dialogue is the only way forward, but if Russia decides differently, then it can expect severe and enduring costs.
So one constant that I think will continue for 2022 and beyond is the United States’ unwavering support for a strong and prosperous Ukraine, secure in its borders, and for a Europe whole, free, and at peace.
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