President Leonid Kuchma completed a visit to Washington on May 16 during which he co-chaired with Vice-President Al Gore a meeting of the U.S.-Ukrainian interstate commission. Agreements were reached on:
— U.S. technical assistance to help create a "market-based, competitive, transparent, and efficient" gas sector in Ukraine and to attract Western investments for that sector, with a view to achieving "energy security for Ukraine" — i.e., reducing Ukraine’s dependence on Russian gas.
— Bilateral cooperation in the peaceful use of nuclear energy, including U.S. nuclear fuel deliveries to Ukrainian nuclear power plants. Kuchma stated Ukraine’s "vital interest" in creating a closed cycle of nuclear fuel production, implying one independent of Russian deliveries of enriched fuel.
— U.S. financial and technical assistance toward scrapping all of Ukraine’s remaining SS-19 and SS-24 strategic missiles inherited from the USSR (whose nuclear warheads have already been removed). Kiev will consider the possibility of using some components of the SS-24s for commercial space launches, a matter on which the Gore-Kuchma commission will continue consultations. The U.S. will use its influence to ensure that Ukraine receives compensation for nuclear warheads and materials transferred to Russia.
— Participation of Ukrainian cosmonaut Leonid Kadaniuk in a U.S. "Shuttle" space flight next October. Kadaniuk, the first Ukrainian to participate in such a flight, is currently undergoing training by NASA. Washington and Kiev are drafting an agreement on protection of satellite technologies for early signature.
— U.S. assistance for Ukraine’s military reforms and for the fulfillment of bilateral military cooperation programs — "aiming to enhance Ukraine’s military security."
Gore and the U.S. side of the interstate commission will also recommend that President Bill Clinton ask Congress to grant Ukraine most-favored-nation status on a permanent basis, instead of subjecting it to annual review as is currently the case. This understanding is based on the U.S. State Department’s favorable assessments of the human rights situation in Ukraine.
The Ukrainian delegation and Kuchma personally assured the U.S. that Kiev will not cooperate with "problem countries" in the field of nuclear energy, and reconfirmed its decision to drop out of a tentative agreement to supply turbines for Iran’s Bushehr nuclear power plant. According to the Ukrainian delegation, the U.S. side agreed that Ukraine will continue producing conventionally-armed missiles with ranges of 300 to 500 kilometers while "guaranteeing" that it will not export them or sell the technology to "any" country.
During the commission’s meeting and in his talks with the International Monetary Fund and World Bank top managements, Kuchma reaffirmed his commitment to the package of economic reforms agreed upon last December. However, resumption of the disbursement of the $2.9 billion will continue to depend on the Ukrainian parliament’s adoption of reform legislation — especially new tax laws and the 1997 budget. Leftist forces in parliament have until now blocked that legislation.
The issue of combating official corruption in Ukraine figured high on the Kuchma-Gore commission’s agenda and also in Kuchma’s meetings on Capitol Hill and at the World Bank and IMF. It is seen as a significant impediment to Western investment in Ukraine. (Interfax-Ukraine, Ukrinform Western agencies, May 16-17)
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