The following list provides summaries of the events that Streit Council Interns have attended from January - May 2012. They cover topics related to the Streit Council and the work we do – everything from the EU’s foreign policy, to testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and ending with the ailing euro. These summaries are prepared for our Facebook webpage, which is updated regularly, but are provided here for easier access to those of you not visiting Facebook on a regular basis.
The events are:
Ukraine at a Crossroads: What's at Stake for the US and Europe? - February 1, 2012
Ukraine at a Crossroads: What's at Stake for the US and Europe?
US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations - Hearing
February 1, 2012
It was no surprise that in the hearing Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) stated that Ukraine measured dead last as a democracy in Europe, even behind Belarus and Russia, concluding that because of this it would be “difficult if not impossible to deepen ties with the West.”
While the US values its relationship with Ukraine, the US has few direct strategic interests in the country. Rather, its European allies have more at stake as Ukraine is an important transit state for Russian natural gas. Additionally, the European Union has been holding talks with Ukraine about a deeper integration with the EU with the ultimate goal of offering member-state status to the country. Integration talks stalled with the jailing of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.
While a less than democratic Ukraine poses no immediate threat to US strategic interests, the US can make an impact with the close assistance of European allies. Diplomatically, the US must convince President Viktor Yanukovych to make the right choices for a more democratic Ukraine which contrasts with what he has done in the past two years. Alone, the US only has leverage in that Yanukovych desires a photo op with President Obama or another high ranking US official. Thus, working with the EU is the only way to increase American leverage. Pressures such as visa restrictions on Yanukovych and his colleagues would then be possible. Already, the IMF has refused to release a promised second round of funding due to a dispute over gas subsidies. The EU has also stalled further talks on an association agreement and has only allowed for technical progress on eventual membership.
Other leverage can be utilized by further engaging the vibrant Ukrainian civil society. Parliamentary elections are being held in the fall of this year and it would be in the US and EU’s interests to ensure that they are more free and fair than previous elections overseen by Yanukovych’s government. Providing additional foreign aid to civil society groups that focus on corruption would also put additional pressure on Yanukovych.
For her part, Eugenia Tymoshenko, the daughter of Yulia Tymoshenko, testified to the Foreign Relations committee about further abuses of power by Yanukovych. She mentioned that her mother was being charged with violating 1960 Soviet criminal code and that another charge had already been thrown out years before, a violation of double jeopardy. She called for additional pressure from the US and EU, hinting strongly at visa restrictions for Yanukovych and his party.