The Orange Revolution comes to the White House
President George W. Bush talks with Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko in the Oval Office, Monday, April 4, 2005. White House photo by Eric Draper
Yesterday the Orange Revolution came to Washington, D.C., as President Viktor Yushchenko of the Ukraine met with President Bush. A video of their joint press conference is available here.
Excerpts from the two leaders' remarks are provided below. Although President Bush spoke first at the joint press conference, I have provided excerpts of President Yushchenko's remarks first below out of respect for the Ukrainian President. President Yushchenko still literally wears the scars from his election campaign against the corrupt, Putin-backed candidate, Viktor Yanukovych. Yanukovych - the former Ukrainian Prime Minister - apparently had Yushchenko poisoned with dioxin during the campaign. See here for some background.
President Bush and President Yushchenko shake hands after a press availability on Monday, April 4, 2005. The Ukrainian President and his wife visited the White House for the day. White House photo by Paul Morse
President Viktor Yushchenko:
* * *
Mr. President, dear American friends, for me, for my wife, it is a great honor and privilege to be received here in the White House and to hear the words that are addressed to my country, my nation, my homeland.
Our ideals are simple and eternal: We want democracy and freedom -- our apparent European aspirations, which we were discussing from the first days, many days before the Maidan events when me and my team went into the politics. This is my vision; this is the vision shared by my team. This is something that my father taught me.
The legacy that we inherited is a very difficult country; Ukraine, where the rule of law did not exist and human rights were not observed; where half of the national economy is a shadow. The humiliated profession of journalism, the journalists wanted to speak the truth and stood against the official power, they could pay dearly. Dearly -- I mean it -- they could pay their lives for it. We're talking about the country where the number one problem remains to be corruption. We're talking about the country where the huge problem remains the problem of poverty. We realize all those challenges. We realize that it's only -- the work that has to be done by the Ukrainian power will help cope with the problems that the country inherited.
However, it is very important, Mr. President, to feel that we have partners standing by, that we are not left in solitude in coping with these troubles. Our conversation began with my saying that, for Ukraine, it was a very long road to the Oval Office. I do appreciate the attention that you display and the words that you have said. And I would like to, once again, reiterate that the ideals of Ukraine are democracy, which we perceive as the priority of people's interests in political, economic and other areas of development. These are freedom of speech that are the oxygen for democracy, this is a market economy which grants equal rights to people, this is the reliable system of social guarantees that secure protection to the weak.
Shortly speaking, the ideals for the new Ukraine are the ideals shared by the Western civilization. I fully concur with my American colleague in his saying that the freedom is not the gift for America, this is the Godly gift.
* * *
President George W. Bush:
* * *
Thank you. It's an honor to stand with a courageous leader of a free Ukraine. Mr. President, you are a friend to our country and you are an inspiration to all who love liberty. Welcome to America, and we're pleased to welcome your wife, as well. We're looking forward to having lunch with you.
President George W. Bush gestures to Ukraine President Viktor Yushchenko Monday, April 4, 2005, during a press availability at the White House.White House photo by Paul Morse President Yushchenko was the first head of state I called after my inaugural address. I told him that the Orange Revolution was a powerful example -- an example of democracy for people around the world. I was impressed, I know millions of my fellow citizens were impressed by the brave citizens who gathered in Kiev's Independence Square and rightly demanded that their voices be heard. It's an impressive moment, Mr. President, and an important moment. I've oftentimes told our fellow citizens that the world is changing, freedom is spreading -- and I use Ukraine as an example, along with Afghanistan and Iraq, about a changing world. A world, by the way, changing for the better, because we believe free societies will be peaceful societies.
Mr. President, I appreciate your vision. I want to thank you for our discussion we just had. We discussed a lot of matters. We talked about the neighborhood, of course. We talked about your commitment to fighting corruption; your deep desire to introduce principles of the marketplace in Ukraine. I told the President that our nation will stand by Ukraine as it strengthens law enforcement, as it fights corruption, as it promotes a free media and civil society organizations. To this end, I've asked Congress to provide $60 million for new funding to help you in your efforts, Mr. President.
* * *
For more on President Yushchenko's historic visit, see this post at the excellent Orange Ukraine weblog.
I see a long, friendly, and productive relationship for the Ukraine and the United States going forward. Best wishes to President Viktor Ukraine as he works to end corruption in his country and as he works to bring freedom of the press and other individual liberties to the long-suffering Ukrainian people.
President George W. Bush and Ukraine President Viktor Yushchenko are joined at the podiums by first ladies Laura Bush and Kateryna Yushchenko on Monday, April 4, 2005, in the East Room of the White House. White House photo by Paul Morse
Some additional photos are available here.