Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 114

Bill Clinton, finishing his last European tour as U.S. president, stopped for six hours in Kyiv on June 5. After a meeting with Clinton, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma announced, as expected, the date of the closure of the Chornobyl nuclear reactor. The Number 3 power unit–the only functioning section at this site of the world’s worst civil nuclear accident, which occurred in 1986–will be closed on December 15, 2000. The U.S. pledged US$78 million to reinforce the concrete sarcophagus over the damaged Number 4 unit, and US$2 million to enhance safety at other nuclear facilities in Ukraine.

The Chornobyl closure was hailed worldwide as Clinton’s primary achievement in Kyiv, yet Kuchma’s announcement seems both circumstantial and convenient. Ukraine had long refused to set the date of the closure, accusing the G-7 of failing to fulfill its 1995 obligation to allot US$2.3 billion to Ukraine for Chornobyl. At the same time, the plant had to be closed: There were no funds to keep it operating, and internal technical regulations required it be closed in December 2000. Kuchma’s announcement meshed well with several major goals: to support, with hopes of financial assistance, the U.S. Democratic presidential campaign, and to secure U.S. support of Ukraine at the Berlin conference of Chornobyl donors scheduled for July 5. Ukraine wants to compensate for the loss of the Chornobyl capacity by launching two new reactors in Rivne and Khmelnytsky. For this, Western money is indispensable. The Social Democratic-Green governing coalition in Germany, which is a key donor, bitterly opposes this plan. Kuchma secured Clinton’s backing on this issue.

Washington extended a helping hand to Kyiv on several major issues other than Chornobyl as well. First, a bilateral agreement from 1996 on trade in commercial space services was canceled, meaning that some restrictions on Ukraine’s participation in international commercial space projects were scrapped. Second, Clinton pledged support of Ukraine’s bid to join the World Trade Organization and in negotiations with the International Monetary Fund on resumption of the Extended Fund Facility for Ukraine. Third and fourth, both a bilateral convention calculated to avoid double taxation and a program of cooperation in corruption and crime fighting for 2000-2005 were signed. During his one-on-one conversation with Kuchma, Clinton raised the issues of copyrights (Ukraine is an oasis for pirate CDs), official corruption and acceleration of economic reforms in Ukraine.

In a closing address to a crowd on St Michael’s Square in downtown Kyiv, broadcast live, Clinton called on Ukraine to curb corruption, protect the free press and speed up the economic reforms. He praised the reforming efforts of Premier Viktor Yushchenko’s cabinet of ministers and pledged American support of Ukraine’s integration into Euroatlantic structures. “We reject the idea that the Eastern border of Europe is the Western border of Ukraine,” Clinton said.

Kyiv underscored the symbolic significance of the event: Clinton chose Kyiv as his last stop in Europe. After difficult talks in Germany and Moscow, no major differences between Washington and Kyiv on bilateral and international issues were reported. The elated Kuchma said on June 6, addressing representatives of regional media in Kyiv, that Clinton’s visit should be a signal to Europe and to international investors that Ukraine is safe to deal with (Studio 1+1, UNIAN, AP, Deutsche Welle, June 5; Ukrainian radio, UT-1, June 6)