Signing Ceremony of the Memorandum of Understanding With Ukraine on Nuclear Security Cooperation
Secretary of State
SECRETARY CLINTON: If I could, let me just say a word about the importance of what we have just done together. It is, for me, a great pleasure to welcome my colleague, the foreign minister of Ukraine, as we take yet another step in the strategic partnership between our nations. And in particular today, we are advancing our shared interests in making the world safer and more secure.
Ridding the world of nuclear weapons is a priority for both of our countries. And at last year’s Nuclear Security Summit, both President Yanukovych and President Obama vowed to work together to prevent proliferation and to secure all vulnerable nuclear materials. And in fact, President Yanukovych announced Ukraine’s decision to get rid of all of its stocks of highly enriched uranium by March 2012, when the next Nuclear Security Summit will convene.
The United States matched that old commitment from Ukraine with commitments of our own. We are providing Ukraine with financial and technical assistance to modernize its civil nuclear research facilities. We are helping convert those facilities so they operate on safer low enrichment uranium fuel. The United States is also building a state-of-the-art neutron source facility in Ukraine, where scientists will be able to expand their nuclear research and produce more than 50 different medical isotopes to treat cancer and other diseases. At present, these are isotopes that Ukraine must import from other countries today. The United States is committed to meet all agreed milestones for construction of the neutron source facility by March 2012 and to provide a fully operational facility by 2014.
The Memorandum of Understanding we’ve just signed formalizes our intent to fully implement the commitments our presidents made last year. I think it’s fair to say we’ve already made significant progress. Ukraine has already removed a substantial portion of its highly enriched uranium, and the United States has made progress on the neutron source facility project, and we expect to break ground in Ukraine soon. This deal is a win-win for both countries and both peoples. It provides tangible benefits for the people of Ukraine, and it makes the world safer for all people.
On another note, this year marks the 20th anniversary of Ukraine’s independence, and it gives us an opportunity to reflect on another key aspect of the strategic partnership between our nations, our joint commitment to democracy and shared values. It’s not been easy to build a strong democracy from the aftermath of the Soviet collapse, but Ukraine has made significant gains. As we know, democracies are built on checks and balances, fair and impartial institutions, judicial independence, sound election laws, and an independent media and civil society.
We believe Ukraine is on its way to achieving these goals, and we urge it to continue to press forward. We are very committed to democratic progress continuing in Ukraine. And therefore, it is vital that the government avoid any actions that could undermine democracy or the rule of law or political participation and competition. We believe that Ukraine stands at the cusp of achieving a stable, functioning democracy that will advance its prosperity and security, that will strengthen its relations with its partners and neighbors, and provide greater opportunities for Ukrainian citizens.
I enjoy working with the foreign minister and his government, and I look forward, on behalf of the United States, to continuing our work together. Thank you very much, Minister.
FOREIGN MINISTER GRYSHCHENKO: Thank you. If I may, a couple of words. I fully share what my colleague, the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, has just stated. We are working together to relieve Ukraine of the burden of having highly enriched uranium in the time when low enriched uranium is really an answer to many of the issues, to many of the challenges that Ukraine as a nation faces in the area of nuclear safety, future of nuclear energy, medical uses of isotopes, and many other areas of use of peaceful atom.
Today, we have signed a document that provides for practicalities, which clearly stipulates the obligations of each party, and we have full confidence in ability of both Ukraine and the United States to meet the stated goals and timelines.
On the issues of overall political dialogue and cooperation between two nations, I would like to stress that for us, United States has been for the last 20 years and will continue to be a major strategic partner in this global economy and in the politics of the world, where much of the risks happen or appear unexpectedly and need to have quick response from international community. The Ukraine has been active in so many of the problems where our role was crucial. The events in Cote d’Ivoire is just one example where, far from our borders, we were able to play a pivotal role in bringing peace and security to this African nation. But Ukraine is also participating in almost all peacekeeping operations led by United Nations, but also by NATO, among other institutions.
We believe that democratic developments in our country need to be based on an understanding that democracy brings with itself full responsibility of those who are elected or appointed to high positions in government. We believe that listening to the people, interacting with them, is important for our own future and our own success. In that respect, we are open and continue dialogue with the United States based on our common understanding of values and a future which should unite us in bringing the world to – closer to these standards for all.