President Volodymyr Zelenskiy finally had his first face-to-face meeting with his American counterpart Joe Biden on Wednesday, September 1. Giving remarks ahead of the talks, Biden underscored that the US firmly supports Ukraine and said the partnership between the two countries will only grow stronger going forward. The US president also confirmed the allocation of a new $60mn security assistance package for Ukraine.
In turn, Zelenskiy made it clear that he came to Washington with security (including energy security) at the top of his agenda. The Ukrainian president said he planned to raise the issue of establishing a potential timeframe for Ukraine joining Nato, as well as the possibility of Washington playing a role in the Donbas peace talks. Zelenskiy concluded his remarks by handing over a list of Ukrainian prisoners held captive in Russia, Crimea, and the uncontrolled territories of eastern Ukraine. “There are 450 people, maybe more,” he said. “And we would like to have your assistance in freeing them and bringing them back to our country.”
The meeting lasted two hours instead of the scheduled one hour. Afterwards, the two leaders published a joint statement announcing plans to “reinvigorate” the Strategic Partnership Commission. The statement outlines future co-operation in five key areas: 1) security and defence; 2) democracy, justice, and human rights; 3) energy security and climate; 4) economic growth and prosperity; and 5) pandemic response and humanitarian assistance. Regarding Nord Stream 2, it underscores that both parties “continue to oppose” the Russian pipeline as a threat to European energy security. The US also promised to provide another $45mn in humanitarian assistance to Ukraine this year, as well as an additional $12.8mn in pandemic-related aid.
Zelenskiy arrived in Washington the day before his White House visit, accompanied by a large delegation. On Tuesday, he met with top US officials and oversaw the signing of a new strategic defence framework agreement focused on deepening co-operation in the Black Sea, cybersecurity, and intelligence. The US and Ukraine’s respective energy ministers also signed a joint statement on strengthening co-operation on energy and climate. In addition, Ukroboronprom signed three co-operation agreements with US defence companies totalling $2.5bn. And Ukraine’s state-owned Energoatom signed a memorandum with the American nuclear power company Westinghouse Electric on the joint construction of a new reactor in Khmelnytskyi, which is set to be the first of five.
Zelenskiy and his delegation are scheduled to travel to California on September 2.
Text of the joint statement by Biden and Zelenskiy:
Thirty years after the restoration of Ukraine’s independence, the bonds between the United States and Ukraine are stronger than ever. Our shared values and commitment to a Europe that is whole, free, democratic and at peace provide the basis for our strategic partnership. We are working together to address shared global challenges, including energy security and diversification, climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Our relationship serves as a cornerstone for security, democracy and human rights in Ukraine and the broader region. We are committed to Ukraine’s implementation of the deep and comprehensive reforms necessary to fulfil its European and Euro-Atlantic aspirations. We are also united in our commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of continued Russian aggression.
Ukraine’s success is central to the global struggle between democracy and autocracy. As we face this challenge together, we stand shoulder to shoulder, optimistic about our ambitious common goals to advance democracy, deliver justice, enhance prosperity and bolster security for Ukraine. Ukraine has achieved progress in building institutions with integrity and intends, with US support, to continue to counter corruption, ensure accountability, safeguard human rights, realise the aspirations of its citizens and create favourable conditions for attracting foreign direct investment and driving growth.
The United States and Ukraine are reinvigorating the Strategic Partnership Commission (SPC), reoriented and resourced to meet 21st century challenges. To memorialise the elevated status of our partnership, the US Secretary of State and the Ukrainian Foreign Minister intend to approve a new Charter at the SPC’s meeting in Washington this [autumn].
I. Security and Defence
In the 21st century, nations cannot be allowed to redraw borders by force. Russia violated this ground rule in Ukraine. Sovereign states have the right to make their own decisions and choose their own alliances. The United States stands with Ukraine and will continue to work to hold Russia accountable for its aggression. America’s support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity is unwavering.
• Standing up to Russian Aggression: Russia’s aggression, including the war in eastern Ukraine and its seizure of Crimea, has claimed more than 14,000 Ukrainian lives, destabilised Europe and the Black Sea region, and threatened the global rules-based order. The United States does not and will never recognise Russia’s purported annexation of Crimea and reaffirms its full support for international efforts, including in the Normandy Format, aimed at negotiating a diplomatic resolution to the Russian-led conflict in eastern Ukraine on the basis of international law, including the UN Charter. The United States supports Ukraine’s efforts to use the Crimea Platform to focus international attention and action on the humanitarian and security costs of Russia’s occupation of Crimea with the aim of peacefully restoring Ukraine’s control over this territory in accordance with international law. Together, we call on Russia to recommit to the ceasefire in eastern Ukraine and engage genuinely in conflict resolution efforts to end the war.
• Deepening Strategic Defence Co-operation: The United States and Ukraine have finalised a Strategic Defence Framework that creates a foundation for the enhancement of US-Ukraine strategic defence and security co-operation and the advancement of shared priorities, including implementing defence and defence industry reforms, deepening co-operation in areas such as Black Sea security, cyber defence, intelligence sharing and countering Russian aggression.
• Supporting Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic Aspirations: As the United States and Allies reaffirmed in the June 2021 Nato Summit Communique, the United States supports Ukraine’s right to decide its own future foreign policy course free from outside interference, including with respect to Ukraine’s aspirations to join Nato. We also remain committed to assisting Ukraine with ongoing reforms.
• Providing Ukraine with Security Assistance: The United States is announcing a new $60mn Security Assistance Package, including additional Javelin anti-armour systems and other defensive lethal and non-lethal capabilities, to enable Ukraine to more effectively defend itself against Russian aggression. The United States has committed $2.5bn in support of Ukraine’s forces since 2014, including more than $400mn this year alone.
• Co-operating on R&D: The United States and Ukraine have finalised a Research, Development, Test and Evaluation agreement that provides a framework for pursuing bilateral armaments and military-technical co-operation.
• Enacting Defence and Security Sector Reforms: The United States welcomes Ukraine’s continued progress on defence and defence industry reforms, including the adoption of a new defence industry strategy. We intend to continue our robust training and exercise programme in keeping with Ukraine’s status as a Nato Enhanced Opportunities Partner. Ukraine plans to continue taking steps to enhance democratic civilian control of the military, reform the security services and modernise its defence acquisition process to advance its Euro-Atlantic aspirations. The United States supports Ukraine’s plan to reform the Security Service of Ukraine by streamlining and clearly defining its authorities and strengthening regulations that protect human rights and provide for effective public oversight.
• Collaborating on Cybersecurity: The United States and Ukraine prioritise cybersecurity issues at the leadership level. In October, the US and Ukrainian governments plan to hold the 4th US-Ukraine Bilateral Cyber Dialogue in Kyiv to bolster bilateral cybersecurity co-operation, information sharing, and US support for Ukraine’s cybersecurity capacity building, including in Ukraine’s financial sector.
• Increasing Situational Awareness in Space: The United States and Ukraine have signed a Space Situational Awareness MoU that enables more effective information sharing on space objects detected by satellites and ground sensors to facilitate space flight safety.
• Enhancing Risk and Cooperative Threat Reduction: The United States and Ukraine have reached agreement on maintaining a secure 24/7 communications link through the National and Nuclear Risk Reduction Center. We have also agreed to a seven-year extension of the Agreement Regarding Assistance to Ukraine in the Elimination of Strategic Nuclear Arms, and the Prevention of Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction, signed in 1993, to support mutual non-proliferation objectives and bolster regional and international security.
II. Democracy, Justice and Human Rights
The United States and Ukraine are bound by the universal values that unite the free people of the world: democracy, human rights, the rule of law. We also recognise that living up to these values at home is essential to defending and advancing them around the world. Despite Russia’s continuing aggression, Ukraine has made progress in implementing comprehensive democratic and human rights reforms. With US support, Ukraine is pursuing a reform agenda to transform the country in line with European and Euro-Atlantic principles and practices.
• Reforming the Judiciary and Combatting Corruption: Building upon the passage of judicial reform legislation, Ukraine plans to overhaul its judicial sector in line with international best practices. At the same time, Ukraine intends to build on the successful establishment of its independent anti-corruption infrastructure to implement critical initiatives that protect the independence and improve the effectiveness of these institutions in rooting out corruption and holding corrupt actors accountable. These steps include promptly selecting a new Specialised Anti-Corruption Prosecutor consistent with international best practices, and passing legislation to safeguard the authority of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine director as well as ensure a transparent and credible process for selecting a successor. United States’ assistance and advisory programmes support these strategic reform initiatives.
• Advancing Human Rights: With US support, Ukraine will continue to advance respect for human rights, civil liberties and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international standards and obligations, as well as to fight racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, and discrimination against the LGBTQI+ community. Ukraine plans to strengthen accountability for violence against all persons regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or political views, including through legislation. Ukraine and the United States intend to continue holding Russia accountable for ongoing systemic abuses in the territories of Ukraine controlled or occupied by Russia and to seek the release of political prisoners and hostages held in these territories.
• Investing in Ukraine’s Reform Agenda: Governance reform is critical to ensuring democracy delivers for the people. Ukraine has committed to prioritising reforms that strengthen its democratic institutions, bolster human rights and deliver justice. To that end, Ukraine is developing an ambitious and comprehensive Plan of Transformation, which will be considered at the next SPC meeting. In support of Ukraine’s reform efforts, the US government has provided Ukraine with nearly $2bn in development assistance since 2014 and plans to allocate over $463mn in assistance this year, including for programmes focused on democracy, human rights, local governance and decentralisation, privatisation and judicial reform.
III. Energy Security and Climate
The climate crisis has reached a critical point that demands urgent action, which we are both addressing. The United States and Ukraine are advancing Ukraine’s energy security through sustainable, effective and long-lasting policy solutions backed up by ongoing corporate governance reform.
• Establishing a Strategic Energy and Climate Dialogue: The United States and Ukraine intend to bolster collaboration on shared energy and climate goals through a reinvigorated Strategic Energy and Climate Dialogue, which will provide a strong platform to advance energy security objectives, enhance economic ties and achieve ambitious climate targets.
• Attracting Energy Sector Investment Through Reform: Ukraine and the United States intend to utilise their strategic energy dialogue to address systemic imbalances in the Ukrainian energy system, expand corporate governance reform at state-owned energy companies, increase the attractiveness of Ukraine’s energy industry, and attract the foreign investment needed to achieve energy independence, decarbonisation and clean energy goals.
• Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Promoting Innovation: Ukraine and the United States have both reaffirmed their intent to achieve ambitious reductions in their national greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 as communicated through our respective Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). Ukraine has joined the Agricultural Innovation Mission (AIM) for Climate and intends to develop renewable energy in a financially responsible manner.
• Addressing the Impact of Nord Stream 2: The United States and Ukraine continue to oppose Nord Stream 2, which we view as a threat to European energy security. The United States intends to continue using measures envisaged in legislation and energy diplomacy, including through the recent appointment of a senior advisor for energy security, to maintain Ukraine’s transit role and security of supply during this period of energy transition and to prevent the Kremlin’s use of energy as a geopolitical weapon. The US and Ukrainian governments support efforts to increase capacity for gas supplies to Ukraine from diversified sources.
IV. Economic Growth and Prosperity
Ukraine must be strong enough economically to choose its own future and to bend the arc of its national history toward greater justice and opportunity for the Ukrainian people. Ukraine’s continued adoption and implementation of reforms are critical to ensuring that its economy delivers for the people.
• Implementing Key Reforms: In alignment with Ukraine’s International Monetary Fund programme, Ukraine intends to reform state-owned enterprises, protect central bank independence, strengthen financial sector supervision and create a fair business and investment environment. The United States intends to continue working with Ukraine to support these efforts and promote robust and inclusive economic growth in both the US and Ukrainian economies.
• Expanding Commercial Cooperation: The United States and Ukraine have finalised a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on commercial cooperation, designed to promote commercial participation by US companies across the Ukrainian economy and by Ukrainian companies across the US economy.
• Providing Sufficient Funding for Growth: The United States and Ukraine have signed an MoU, which may support future transactions in identified sectors, including several key projects under discussion. The initial amount of $3bn in support from the Export-Import Bank (EXIM) of the United States for these potential transactions may be increased as the pipeline of projects in agribusiness, infrastructure, climate and energy develops.
• Growing Trade and Investment: The US-Ukraine Trade and Investment Council is holding its 10th meeting this [autumn] to confirm work plans to avoid regulatory barriers, eliminate the use of unlicensed software by Ukrainian government agencies, address other intellectual property issues, and co-operate on labour issues. Ukraine is also committed to passing legislation establishing a robust investment screening process. Ukraine and the United States plan to review the operation of the Trade and Investment Cooperation Agreement at the [autumn] meeting of the Council.
V. Pandemic Response and Humanitarian Assistance
The United States has been a steadfast supporter of the Ukrainian people in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and humanitarian needs resulting from the war in eastern Ukraine.
• Fighting COVID-19: The United States has provided approximately $55mn in COVID-19 related assistance and donated nearly 2.2mn doses of COVID-19 vaccines to Ukraine. The United States intends to provide additional assistance to Ukraine, to include cold chain storage support and an additional $12.8mn in COVID-related assistance drawn from the America Rescue Plan Act.
• Humanitarian Assistance: The ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine has left 3.4mn people in need of humanitarian aid. Since 2014, the United States has provided over $306mn in life-saving assistance to help Ukrainians in need, spanning food, shelter, safe drinking water and protection for the most vulnerable, including the elderly. The US government will provide an additional $45mn in humanitarian assistance to Ukraine this year.