What’s “On the Table” in Ukraine

April 21, 2014 By Zach Silberman

Vice President Biden arrived in Ukraine today, as well as a House Foreign Affairs Committee delegation led by Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) and Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D-NY), so what will their message be? Well, with military options “off the table,” the other tools in our national security toolkit, diplomacy and development, will be front and center.

Ukraine is desperately in debt, so strengthening its economy in the face of Russian aggression is a big priority. And to further provide stability, America must reinforce support for the Ukrainian government as it seeks to hold free and fair elections in May.

There’s a lot going on behind the scenes to improve Ukraine’s economic situation and prepare the country for elections. The U.S. civilian response has been coordinated by our development agencies. Recently-confirmed Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment Catherine Novelli led a trip to Ukraine with leaders from USAID, USTDA, Ex-Im Bank, and OPIC to address the pressing economic crisis and implement effective reforms to combat corruption in order to revitalize the economy.

Most of the news about a U.S. response recently focused on the assistance package enacted by Congress with a $1 billion loan guarantee to stabilize Ukraine’s fragile economy. And with worries of Russia jamming signals, $10 million was included to strengthen Radio Free Europe broadcasting to citizens of Ukraine and neighboring countries.

Leading up to the elections, the U.S. has provided $11.4 million in assistance “support for domestic and international election observers, transparent and effective election administration, and voter education campaigns among other activities.” Administrator Rajiv Shah argued that USAID remains “committed to helping citizens realize the democratic aspirations.” Drawing on its experience in country, USAID has focused on helping reform Ukraine’s energy sector and improve energy efficiency.

IRI and NDI are already on the ground assisting the Ukrainian government with preparations for the upcoming elections. Both are working to increase cooperation between Ukrainian political parties and civil society organizations, as well as conduct pre-election assessments in order to improve the mechanisms to hold a successful election.

No one can predict what Russia’s next moves may be, but one thing America can do is help the government and people to improve their economy and build the effective democratic processes they want for themselves and deserve.