Ukraine is fighting a war on two fronts. The one you see on
television is taking place in the east of our country, where thousands of
Russian troops are engaged in an armed aggression against Ukraine’s territorial
integrity, including the illegal annexation of Crimea.
Less visible, but just as important, is Ukraine’s war
against the Soviet past and the legacy of corruption and misrule that has held
us back for so many years. These battles must be fought and won together because
they are essentially about the same thing — Ukraine’s desire to build a
prosperous and democratic future.
Russian President Vladimir Putin wants us to fail because he
knows that democratic ideas are contagious and that a free Ukraine would set an
unwelcome example at home. Russia’s military intervention is an attempt to
prevent change by forcing us to choose between security and reform.
Ukrainians are united in rejecting this choice. We know that
the only way to regain control over our future is to create a modern Western
society based on accountable government, a free-market
economy and rule of law. Instead of slowing the pace of political and economic
change, we are accelerating it.
Many landmark reforms have already been implemented.
We have ensured severe budget discipline and started
full-scale economic deregulation to cut away the jungle of red tape that
stifles enterprise and enables corruption. We are removing the distorting
influence of business tycoons in economic and public life. We have delegated
financial authority to local communities, which are closer to our citizens.
Our tough decision to impose large domestic gas tariffs will
simultaneously remove a main avenue of corruption, increase efficiency, boost
domestic production and reduce the need for Russian imports.
We have initiated a wave of corruption investigations and
arrests, including against senior state officials. We significantly reduced the
civil service workforce. The tax system is being simplified to encourage
investment and reduce fraud. And these are just the headlines of a much bigger
Responsibility for seeing these reforms through lies with
Ukraine alone. But we need the support of our partners to help us stabilize our
economy and deter further Russian aggression while we carry them out.
We are grateful for the help we have already received. We
would not have been able to stabilize our financial position without the
International Monetary Fund program agreed to in February. We will need more
support in the form of U.S. bilateral aid, technical assistance, private
investment and leadership within international financial institutions. We also
need international sanctions on Russia to remain in place until the Minsk
Agreement has been fully implemented.
No one should have any doubt what is at stake. The great
achievement of a “Europe whole and free” that marked the end of the Cold War is
under direct attack from resurgent Russian authoritarianism and imperialism.
Ukraine is bearing the brunt of that attack, but the consequences of allowing
our independence to be crushed would not be contained within Ukraine. It would
give rise to new threats and crises that would be even more difficult and
costly to resolve. The democratic idea itself would be undermined.
Together, we can prevent that. With our firm commitment to
reform and the support of our partners, we can fulfill
the dreams of our nation for freedom and prosperity. Democracy is the most
powerful idea ever conceived and never more so than when democratic nations
stand shoulder to shoulder. That has been the lesson of U.S. leadership over
the past century. It remains our inspiration today.