According to the official, when Victor Yanukovych became president of Ukraine in February 2010, his first foreign policy priority was to repair what he regarded to be Ukraine’s badly frayed relationship with Russia. At the same time, his government indicated that Ukraine would seek a balance between its relationship with the West—particularly the European Union—and that with Russia. This seemed a sensible course for Ukraine in its current circumstances.
"Regrettably, the first two years of President Yanukovych’s tenure in office have seen a significant regression in democratic practices within Ukraine. That is unfortunate for the
Ukrainian people, and it is blocking the strengthening of Ukraine’s relations with the European Union and the United States. EU officials have made clear, for example, that the signature of an EU association agreement with Ukraine depends on Kyiv taking certain steps, such as releasing former Prime Minister Tymoshenko from prison.
Mr. Yanukovych’s domestic policies are seriously undermining his ability to balance Ukraine’s relationships between the West and Russia. That will complicate Ukrainian foreign policy, leaving it less connected to Europe and in a weaker position to deal with Russia on issues where Ukrainian and Russian interests do not coincide," Pifer said in his opening speech.
According to him, it remains in the U.S. interest that Ukraine develops as a stable, independent, democratic, market-oriented state increasingly integrated into Europe and institutions such as the European Union. Hence Pifer suggests the U.S. government should continue to underscore to Kyiv U.S. concerns about democratic backsliding and remind the Ukrainian leadership that its internal political policies have a significant impact on its relationships with the United States and Europe; keep the door open for a more positive relationship with Ukraine should Kyiv heed the message on democracy; and coordinate closely with the European Union to maximize the impact of Western policy on decisions by Mr. Yanukovych and the Ukrainian leadership.
"While engaging Ukraine at most diplomatic levels, the United States and European Union should continue what appears to be a de facto policy of minimizing high-level contact with Mr. Yanukovych until he alters his internal political policies. The West should seek to crystallize in Mr. Yanukovych’s mind the choice between a more authoritarian political system and a strong relationship with the West, and make clear that he cannot have both," the official summed up.
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