As delivered by Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland to a Special Meeting of the Permanent Council, Vienna
March 3, 2014
Because Ambassador Kelin’s remarks were intermittently addressed to us, I thought it best to respond immediately to the parallel reality that was presented here to the situation that the vast majority of the rest of the delegations here see in Ukraine.
First and foremost, the assertion that EU nations or the United States “pushed an Association Agreement on Ukraine”: Just to correct the record there, it was President Yanukovich’s own choice to seek association with the European Union. We were at the time supporting the choice of the freely elected government of Ukraine in seeking association with the European Union, but it was very much a European Union project. And it was President Yanukovich who pursued that policy for six months, including seeking some 18 conforming pieces of legislation approved in the Rada, and only one week before Vilnius stepped back from that. So I don’t know how anyone can speak of the United States or anybody else “pushing” that choice on Ukraine.
Second, we were supporters of the February 21st Agreement: We commended the work done by France, Germany and Poland to mediate and negotiate that agreement, with Russia very much in observance, and we would have been prepared to support its completion. But it was President Yanukovich who chose not to sign the first piece of action pursued in the Rada, the changing of the constitution pursuant to the agreement. Not only did he not sign it, but he left the city – he fled the city – packing himself and his family up, and left the seat of the presidency vacant for two days, during which time the democratically elected Rada nearly unanimously voted him out of office, including every single member of his own party turning against him. So, from where we’re sitting, there is no way a person who takes those decisions can be considered still the legitimate leader of his country.
Third, the notion that the current government in Kyiv is “illegitimate”: Yes, the vast majority of representatives in the government are either from a small handful of political parties or from civil society, many of them having never served in government before, and representing broad constituencies across Ukraine. But that is not because this government does not have broad political support across the spectrum and across the country – in fact, the government was voted in with a very, very broad mandate, including from the Party of Regions, from the independents, from the Communists. However, those parties chose not to accept invitations to participate in government; they’ve publicly explained that they want to distance themselves from having to clean up the mess that Yanukovich left, and they want to run on their own platforms in the May 25th election. So, it is incorrect and inaccurate to assert that either nations of the West destroyed the February 21st Agreement, or that the current government is illegitimate – it was elected into office by a very broad mandate from a democratically elected parliament and was the result of President Yanukovich fleeing the scene.
Last point – aggression, intervention, who’s responsible for violence: From where we sit, there is no way to justify a deployment of some six-to-eight thousand troops, all across the Crimean Peninsula, effectively taking operational control of all of the ground of Crimea, including ground troops, airborne troops, tanks. There was no situation on the ground anywhere in Ukraine to justify unilateral military action of this kind. Once you go down the road as an OSCE State of asking your parliament to justify military intervention in anybody else’s country, where does it end?
So, from that perspective, I would like to again reiterate our call that we end this here – that Russia roll back its occupation of Crimea and avail itself of the opportunity to have any concerns it may have with regard to the situation in Ukraine addressed through direct mediation with the government of Ukraine, which all of us would be prepared to support, and/or by taking advantage of international tools like those available in this institution and in the UN.
In my opening intervention, I neglected to mention one key tool that the OSCE has, which is the opportunity to assist Ukrainian authorities – and they have already requested this – with demobilization of irregular forces on the streets of Ukraine and the collecting of weapons. That’s an additional tool that this organization has available.