Kyiv Security Forum-Atlantic Council statement on strengthening US-Ukraine relations

We believe that President Joseph Biden and the new US administration represent an opportunity to further deepen the strategic partnership and commitments between the United States and Ukraine and advance the interests of both nations.

President Joseph Biden has been an ardent supporter of the Ukrainian people and their democratic aspirations and understands the significance of a secure, independent, and prosperous Ukraine, firmly embedded in a Euro-Atlantic community that is “whole, free and at peace.”

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Ukrainian officials have made clear their interest in and commitment to a close relationship with the United States, President Joseph Biden, and the new administration.

We, American and Ukrainian politicians and diplomats, former officials, policy experts, and civil activists, strongly encourage the US and Ukrainian governments to develop an ambitious and comprehensive agenda that deepens our strategic relationship.

That agenda should advance mutual interests, contribute to the strengthening of security and stability in central and eastern Europe, promote Ukraine’s further integration into the European Union and accession to NATO, and outline and prioritize transformational democratic reforms necessary for Ukraine’s full economic development and progress on the transatlantic track.

We note that support for Ukraine and a robust US-Ukraine relationship has broad political support in the United States, including among both Democrats and Republicans. Likewise, there is wide support in Ukraine for a strong relationship with the United States.

The plan should be based upon the following key elements:

  1. An unbending mutual commitment to enhance democratic values must remain at the core of the US-Ukrainian relationship. This includes strengthening democracy and the rule of law, individual liberty, freedom of speech, a fully independent judiciary and anti-corruption agencies, greater transparency, accountability and open government, independent media, and vibrant civil society. Solidarity and concrete actions in advancing these values are needed to build greater trust, advance the democratic aspirations of Ukrainians, and provide a basis for the two countries’ common efforts.
  2. The United States and Ukraine should cooperate on measures to restore Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and deter further Russian aggression. This includes expanding our strategic partnership and defense cooperation, and the United States looking afresh to increase defense assistance with the objective of enhancing Ukrainian capabilities to deter further Russian attacks. This includes continued provision of lethal defensive assistance and strengthening naval forces. Other areas for possible military cooperation include the development of special operations forces, air defense, and coastal defenses.
  3. The United States and Ukraine should consult closely on how to change the Kremlin’s calculation of the costs and benefits regarding the ongoing Russian aggression against Ukraine. The United States should also consult closely with Europe on this question, including on the issue of strengthened sanctions. Those discussions, and discussions with Russia about Ukraine, should be based on the principle of “nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine.”
  4. As it consults with Ukraine and its European partners, the Biden administration should consider whether more active senior-level US involvement in the process now led by the German chancellor and French president could break the current stalemate and facilitate a true end to the conflict in the Donbas, the withdrawal of all Russian and Russian-proxy forces, and the restoration of full Ukrainian sovereignty over the Donbas.
  5. The United States and Ukraine should also consult on political, diplomatic, and economic steps that can be taken to restore Crimea to Ukraine. They should work together to promote internationally the principle that “Crimea is Ukraine” and to ensure that sanctions applied against Russia for its illegal seizure of the peninsula remain in place. We applaud the government of Ukraine’s efforts to organize the “Crimean Platform,” as it keeps occupied Crimea on the international agenda and reminds people, including in Russia, that Crimea is still Ukraine in the eyes of the international community.
  6. The United States and Ukraine should consult on steps to enhance security and stability in the Black Sea region including with support of NATO and European partners. The United States, together with its NATO allies, should continue its regular deployments of air, land, and sea forces into the region, where Russia, Europe, the Middle East, the Balkans, and the Caucasus come together. The region is at the center of four great forces: democracy on its western edge; Russian military aggression to its north; Chinese financial influence to its east; and instability in the Middle East to its south. Ukraine and the United States should work with other allies in the area to protect common interests and deescalate tensions.
  7. In recent years, the United States and Ukraine have both been targets of Russian political interference, disinformation campaigns, and cyber incursions. They should exchange lessons learned from their respective experiences and share best practices for combating these and other forms of Russian hybrid warfare.
  8. The Nord Stream 2 pipeline, if completed, would threaten Euro-Atlantic unity and deprive Ukraine of significant transit revenue. The United States and Ukraine should consult on how to build and maintain a unified transatlantic stance against the pipeline’s completion as well as on what steps that Russia might take with regard to Ukraine that could lead to a removal of Nord Stream 2 sanctions. At the same time, Ukraine must undertake serious reforms to become more energy-efficient and root out corruption in that and other sectors.
  9. The United States and Ukraine should cooperate to advance Ukraine’s integration into NATO, with the ultimate aim of achieving Kyiv’s goal of NATO membership. The United States should hold firm on NATO’s “open door” policy and advise Kyiv on how Ukraine might best prepare itself for membership as was promised by NATO leaders at the 2008 Bucharest summit. Ukraine should commit to undertaking the necessary reforms and practical actions that will bring its military and other defense and security structures into conformity with NATO standards and norms. Ukraine’s membership in NATO will strengthen the Alliance, contribute to the process of the historic unification of Europe, and create the preconditions for transforming relations with Russia.
  10. A renewed US-Ukrainian partnership is tied to the Ukrainian government’s willingness to rapidly implement and uphold transformational democratic reforms and actions to protect and strengthen the independence of key institutions, including the National Anti-Corruption Bureau and others. A robust anti-corruption campaign requires effective reforms of the office of the general prosecutor and the judicial system. Ukraine also should strive to make irreversible the significant reforms already achieved, including land privatization, progress on state-owned enterprise privatization, the independence of the National Bank of Ukraine, decentralization, and fiscal and budget transparency in addition to gas price reform, government procurement reform, and transparency regarding the assets and incomes of government officials and parliamentarians.
  11. Also important are steps to eliminate the outsize political influence of oligarchs, to establish the rule of law with fair economic rules and practices for large, medium-sized, small, and foreign businesses, and to strengthen the institutional capacity of the Ukrainian state – all of which are critical for improving the lives of the Ukrainian people. Ukraine needs to safeguard property rights for all Ukrainian and foreign investors.
  12. The Ukrainian government should commit immediately to the implementation of reforms as a matter of urgency, and the United States should, in coordination with international financial institutions, the European Union, and G7 partners continue to provide advice and assistance to help Ukraine build a modern democratic economy that is fully compatible with the standards and norms of the European Union. The EU Copenhagen criteria offer a sound roadmap. That assistance should be linked to effective reform measures.

We offer these twelve elements as guidelines for fostering the strategic partnership between the United States and Ukraine and for advancing the goals that each country hopes to achieve through our pivotal relationship.

The US Side:

Anders Åslund, Senior Fellow, Atlantic Council.

The Honorable Brendan F. Boyle, US House of Representatives.

Ian J. Brzezinski, Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Europe and NATO Policy.

Paula J. Dobriansky, Senior Fellow, Harvard University Belfer Center for Science & International Affairs and former Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs.

Eric S. Edelman, former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy.

Francis Fukuyama, Mosbacher Director of the Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law (CDDRL), Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, Stanford University.

Andrew J. Futey, President of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America.

Jeffrey Gedmin, Cofounder and editor in chief, American Purpose and former president of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. 

Melinda Haring, Deputy Director of the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center.

The Honorable Andy Harris, US House of Representatives.

John E. Herbst, Director of the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center and US Ambassador to Ukraine 2003-06.

Ben Hodges (Lt. Gen. Ret.), Pershing Chair in Strategic Studies, Center for European Policy Analysis, Commander of United States Army Europe 2014-18.

Natalie Jaresko, Nonresident Senior Fellow, Atlantic Council and former Minister of Finance, Government of Ukraine.

Jonathan Katz, Senior Fellow, The German Marshall Fund and former Deputy Assistant Administrator in the Europe and Eurasia bureau, US Agency for International Development.

David J. Kramer, Senior Fellow, Green School of International and Public Affairs, Florida International University and former Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.

The Honorable Tom Malinowski, US House of Representatives.

Thomas O. Melia, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State 2010-2015 and Assistant Administrator of the US Agency for International Development 2015-2017.

Michael McFaul, Director, Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, Stanford University and former US Ambassador to Russia.

Steven Pifer, Fellow, Robert Bosch Stiftung and US Ambassador to Ukraine 1998-2000.

Herman Pirchner, Jr., President of the American Foreign Policy Council.

Roman Popadiuk, President, Diplomacy Center Foundation and US Ambassador to Ukraine 1992-1993.

Michael Sawkiw, Jr., Director of the Ukrainian National Information Service.

William B. Taylor, Jr., US Ambassador to Ukraine 2006-09 and 2019.

Damon Wilson, former Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for European Affairs, National Security Council.

Kenneth Wollack, Chairman of the National Endowment for Democracy and former President of the National Democratic Institute.

Alexander Vershbow, Distinguished Fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security, US Ambassador to Russia 2001-05, US Assistant Secretary of Defense 2009-2012, and Deputy Secretary General of NATO 2012-16.

Kurt Volker, Distinguished Fellow, Center for European Policy Analysis, US Ambassador to NATO 2008-2009, and US Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations 2017-2019.

Marie Yovanovitch, Senior Fellow at Georgetown University and Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and US Ambassador to Ukraine 2016-19.

The Ukrainian Side:

Mykhailo Basarab, Senior Fellow of the Kyiv Security Forum, Member of the Non-Governmental Commission for the investigation and prevention of human rights violations.

Roman Bezsmertnyi, Ambassador of Ukraine to Belarus 2010-11, former Representative of Ukraine to the Trilateral Contact Group.

Valeriy Chaly, Diplomatic advisor to the President of Ukraine 2014-15, Ambassador of Ukraine to the United States 2015-19, Chair of Ukraine Crisis Media Center (UCMC).

Iryna Friz, MP, Member of the Parliamentary Committee on Anti-Corruption Policy, Member of the Parliamentary faction of the political party “European Solidarity,” Minister of Ukraine for Veterans’ Affairs 2018-19.

Volodymyr Handogiy, Ambassador of Ukraine to the United Kingdom in 2010-14, NATO 2000-2005, President of the Ukrainian Foreign Policy Association.

Iryna Heraschenko, MP, Co-Chairwoman of the Parliamentary faction of the political party “European Solidarity,” Member of the Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs, First Deputy Chairwoman of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine 2016-19.

Arthur Herasymov, MP, Co-Chairman of the Parliamentary faction of the political party “European Solidarity.”

Hanna Hopko, Chairwoman of the Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs 2014-19, Chair of the Board of “National Interests Advocacy Network ANTS.”

Volodymyr Horbulin, Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine 1994-1999 and 2006.

Lilia Hrynevych, Minister of Education of Ukraine 2016-19, Vice-Rector of Borys Hrinchenko Kyiv University.

Mariya Ionova, MP, Member of the Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs, Chairwoman of the Sub-Committee on Legislative Support of Ukraine’s EU and NATO Membership, Member of the Parliamentary faction of the political party “European Solidarity.”

Yuri Kamelchuk, MP, Member of the Parliamentary Committee on Energy, Member of the Parliamentary faction of the political party “Servants of the People.”

Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze, MP, Chairwoman of the Parliamentary Committee on Ukraine’s Integration into the European Union, Member of the Parliamentary faction of the political party “European Solidarity,” Vice Prime Minister of Ukraine for the European and Euro-Atlantic Integration 2016-19.

Olena Kondratyuk, MP, Deputy Chairwoman of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine.

Gennadiy Kurochka, Co-founder and board member of Ukraine Crisis Media Center.

Serhiy Kvit, Minister of Education of Ukraine 2014-16, Professor at the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy.

Danylo Lubkivsky, Deputy Foreign Minister of Ukraine 2014, Diplomatic advisor to the Prime Minister of Ukraine 2014-16, Director of the Kyiv Security Forum.

Markiyan Lubkivsky, Diplomatic advisor to the Deputy Chairwoman of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, Ambassador of Ukraine to Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina 2006-09.

Myroslav Marynovych, human rights and civic activist, Founding member of the Ukrainian Helsinki Group, Vice-Rector of the Ukrainian Catholic University.

Oleksandr Motsyk, Ambassador of Ukraine to the United States 2010-15, former Representative of Ukraine to the Trilateral Contact Group.

Hryhoriy Nemyria, MP, First Deputy Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs, Member of the Parliamentary faction of the political party “Batkivschnyna.”

Volodymyr Ohryzko, Foreign Minister of Ukraine 2007-09.

Andriy Osadchuk, MP, Deputy Chairman of the political party “Holos,” First Deputy Chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on Law Enforcement.

Andriy Parubiy, Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine 2016-19, Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine 2014.

Natalia Popovych, Co-Founder of the Ukraine Crisis Media Center, Founder of One Philosophy Group.

Mykyta Poturayev, MP, Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Information, Member of the Parliamentary faction of the political party “Servants of the People.”

Kira Rudyk, MP, Chairwoman of the political party “Holos,” First Deputy Chairwoman of the Parliamentary Committee on Digital Transformation.

Ostap Semerak, Minister of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine 2014, Minister of Ecology of Ukraine in 2016-19.

Oleh Shamshur, Ambassador of Ukraine to the United States 2005-10, Non-Resident Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council.

Yuri Shcherbak, Ambassador of Ukraine to the United States 1994-98.

Inna Sovsun, MP, Deputy Chairwoman of the political party “Holos,” Member of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine Committee on Energy, Housing and Utilities Services.

Oleksandr Sushko, Director of the International Renaissance Foundation.

Oksana Syroid, Deputy Chairwoman of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine 2014-19, Co-Chair of the Lviv Security Forum.

Oleksandr Turchynov, Acting President of Ukraine 2014, Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine 2014-19.

Volodymyr Vasylenko, Ambassador of Ukraine to the United Kingdom 1998-2002 and Representative to the EU and NATO 1992, Judge of the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia 2001-05, Representative of Ukraine to the UN Human Rights Council 2006-10.

Svitlana Voitsekhivska, Member of the Board of Open Ukraine Foundation, Founder of the Ukrainian Women Congress.

Yelyzaveta Yasko, MP, Member of the Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Chairwoman of the Sub-Committee of the Inter-Parliamentary Cooperation, Member of the Parliamentary faction of the political party “Servants of the People.”

Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Prime Minister of Ukraine 2014-2016, Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine 2007-08, and Chairman of the Kyiv Security Forum.

Kostiantyn Yelisieiev, Diplomatic advisor to the President of Ukraine 2015-19, Ambassador of Ukraine to the European Union 2010-15, and Head of the Center of New Decisions.

Volodymyr Yermolenko, philosopher, Chief Editor at UkraineWorld.org.

Viktor Yelensky, Professor at Ivan Kuras Institute of Political and Ethnic Studies.

Yaroslav Zheleznyak, MP, Chairman of the Parliamentary faction and Deputy Chairman of the political party “Holos,” First Deputy Chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on Finance, Taxation and Customs Policy.

Josef Zissels, human rights and civic activist, Co-President of the Association of Jewish Organizations and Communities of Ukraine.