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There are many
reasons why: to start with, U.S. policy since the fall of the Berlin
Wall has been to work to create a Europe “whole, free, democratic,
and at peace.” That remains our objective today and Ukraine is one
of Europe’s key unfinished pieces.

In addition,
Ukraine is a country with enormous potential. Ukraine has an
educated, talented population of 46 million people and plentiful
natural resources, especially some of the richest agricultural land
on the planet.

A Ukraine that is
fulfilling its potential — a prosperous, democratic and European
Ukraine — would be a great partner for the U.S., much as it has been
already in such important areas as preventing the spread of weapons
of mass destruction. This valuable partnership could help us
confront the many challenges that the world faces today: hunger,
climate change, terrorism, and religious fundamentalism to name just
a few.

Around the world,
our best partnerships are with countries that share our values:
democracy, the rule of law, human rights, free speech, and open
markets. A Ukraine that shares those values, a Ukraine in which
elections are free and where political opponents do not imprison one
another, would be a country that could serve as an example to those
of its neighbors who are also struggling with their own transitions
to democracy and free market economies.

While we can help,
it is up to Ukraine and to Ukrainians to realize their potential and
to assume a global role commensurate with that potential. The U.S.
has been Ukraine’s largest bilateral donor of assistance over the
last 20 years and we will continue to support Ukraine’s efforts.
However, real change must come from within and there are no easy
fixes.

Take for instance,
energy. Cheaper gas is not the answer to Ukraine’s economic
problems. It will not suddenly make Ukrainian companies globally
competitive or its bureaucracy more efficient and transparent. Quite
the opposite, it will only fuel dependency, inefficiency and
corruption as it did in the past. Ukrainians must, like people
everywhere, pay market price for their energy.

When this happened
in your western neighbors in the former communist bloc, consumption
of energy declined dramatically and the push to utilize domestic
sources of energy became profitable. The same thing would happen
here. Ukraine has enough resources to be almost energy independent –
especially given the “shale gas revolution” which began in the
U.S. — and Ukraine’s own potential shale gas reserves. Such a
development would fundamentally alter the energy relationship between
Ukraine and Russia, a co-dependency that serves neither country’s
best interests.

Gas prices at market
rates would also help Ukraine negotiate another agreement with the
IMF. A new IMF agreement is the best short-term solution to help
Ukraine deal with a very difficult financial situation in 2013.
Ultimately, however, Ukraine will need to borrow money to cover its
deficits, either domestically or internationally, or it will have to
stop running deficits. However, IMF agreements are only supposed to
be temporary packages to tide a country over until it can once again
manage its finances on its own. They are not meant to be a permanent
source of funding. That is why they include conditions that are
intended to help a country make the necessary reforms to put it on a
sound financial footing and on the path to sound economic growth.

When I first arrived
here, a Ukrainian official told me that some of the world’s best
computer hackers were Ukrainians. Wouldn’t it be better for
Ukraine and the world if those hackers were instead creating new
information technology companies; if the next Apple were a Ukrainian
company? What would it take for that to happen? It would take a new
business climate, one in which people with influence didn’t feel
empowered to harass and to shakedown private enterprises. And for
that to happen, Ukraine needs a new legal and judicial system, one
that protects the rights of the individual rather than the interests
of the state or well-connected insiders. Ukraine has taken some
initial steps toward this goal, such as implementation of the new
Criminal Procedure Code, but the nation still has work to do before
the justice system can effectively tackle problems such as rampant
corruption.

2013 will be my last
year as the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. I will be sad to leave but
that sadness will be lessened because I am so optimistic about the
future of this country. In my three years here, I have met many
impressive young Ukrainians: smart, honest and hard-working. I am
confident that these young people will accept responsibility for
making their country a better place – the sort of place in which
one would want to live and raise children, knowing that those
children had a chance at a better and more fulfilling life.

Children have been
much on my mind of late, since the tragedy last week in Newtown,
Connecticut. I would like to thank everyone in Ukraine who has
expressed sympathy to us over this senseless tragedy.

In closing, I would
like to recall U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s speech in
Kyiv in early July 2010. She spoke of the long journey that is
involved in building a democracy and society ruled by law. We
understand that our Ukrainian friends are only 20 years into this
process. The criticism that we offer Ukraine’s government and
society is offered in a spirit of friendship and solidarity.

Ukraine is an older
country than America with its own proud traditions from which we can
learn. I marvel every day at the strength and the resilience of the
Ukrainian people who have endured centuries of suffering and have
finally reclaimed their independence. I am confident that Ukrainian
strength and resilience is ultimately what will see you through to a
brighter, better future – з Новим
Роком.

John F. Tefft is
America’s ambassador to Ukraine.

Read also:

Expect more turbulence ahead with Russia

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Honesty would help

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