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Ukraine's President Yushchenko to Visit Washington


Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko visits Washington for talks with senior U.S. officials.

This is Viktor Yushchenko's first trip to the United States since he was elected Ukrainian President December 26, defeating Viktor Yanukovich.

An earlier ballot in November, which proclaimed Mr. Yanukovich the winner, was declared fraudulent by international monitors. Hundreds of thousands of Yushchenko supporters then took to the streets to protest the results in what became known as the "Orange Revolution", named after Mr. Yushchenko's signature color. The Ukrainian Supreme Court invalidated the November election results forcing the December presidential ballot, won by Mr. Yushchenko.

Experts on Ukraine say one of the first things Mr. Yushchenko will do during his trip to Washington is thank the Bush administration for its support during Ukraine's election crisis.

Lucan Way is an expert on Eastern Europe with Temple University.

"One thing the United States did during the 'Orange Revolution' was that it unequivocally came out after the stolen election of November 21 and basically said this was a stolen election and this needs to be resolved in a democratic way," said Lucan Way. "I think this was very important within Ukraine, because it showed to the demonstrators that the world was behind them."

In addition to supporting the "Orange Revolution," the Bush administration has on several occasions pointed to Ukraine as a model for a peaceful transition to democracy.

While political issues will certainly be discussed when Presidents Bush and Yushchenko meet, experts say trade issues will be high on the agenda. Ukrainian officials have called for the U.S. Senate to repeal the 1974 Jackson-Vanik amendment, which tied loosening trade restrictions to the Soviet Union's emigration policies for Jews.

Anders Aslund is Russia expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

"Strangely, this amendment that was meant for the Soviet Union was then applied to all the former Soviet republics that never had anything to do with this in the first place," said Anders Aslund.

Mark von Hagen, Ukraine expert with Columbia University says there might be some movement on that issue.

"Various American politicians have promised to remove it from the books and I think now there have been senators who introduced a resolution to the current Senate - and at some point down the line, get this discussed and possibly passed," said Mark von Hagen. "And Bush said that he would support it if the Senate passes it."

For his part Taris Kuzil, Ukraine expert at George Washington University, says Kiev is interested in other trade-related matters.

"Ukraine would be seeking diplomatic and political support from the U.S. for its attempts to be legally defined as a country with a market economy and then also for the U.S. to back Ukraine's membership bid for the World Trade Organization," said Taris Kuzil. "All of these, in turn, are very important for future, potential membership of the European Union. Ukraine is also seeking to improve relations with the U.S. because it understands that the U.S. is key to its bid to potentially join NATO by the end of this decade."

Ukraine is currently a member of the alliance's "Partnership for Peace Program" seen as a first step towards full NATO integration.

Experts say the two sides will also discuss Ukraine's decision to remove its 1,600 troops from Iraq, the fourth largest international contingent in that country. Mr. Yushchenko made the troop withdrawal part of his election campaign, but Mr. Kuzil does not see that issue being an irritant between Washington and Kiev.

"Ukraine has been extremely careful in negotiating the removal of troops in such a way, that there will not be hostility on the U.S. side," he said. "It is not in Ukraine's interest to arouse indignation in Washington by the removal of its troops. So the troops will be removed in stages, they will be removed not quickly but by the end of the year."

Lucan Way from Temple University agrees.

"To the Bush administration's credit, it has not tried, as far as I know, to tie any aid or whatnot to Ukraine remaining in Iraq and Yushchenko has remained committed to and has in fact begun to remove troops from Iraq," he said. "But I think the Bush administration realizes that there are really more important issues in Ukraine than Ukraine's war in Iraq and that the main thing is to promote democratic and economic development in Ukraine."

In addition to meeting President Bush, Mr. Yushchenko and his entourage will hold discussions with businessmen and lawmakers. And on April 6, the Ukrainian president is expected to address both chambers of Congress.

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