Nineteen-ninety-nine will go down in history as a landmark year in which the people of Ukraine produced a clear mandate: They want to join the Atlantic community. They do not want to return to the dark totalitarian past. In short, they chose accelerated economic reform and political freedom.
My political opponents and some Western observers, such as George Soros [op-ed, Nov. 23], contend that I controlled the election by manipulating the media. The criticisms ignore the reality that opposition candidates sharply criticized my platform and that these attacks were widely reported in the media, especially in the print media. Certainly frictions and accusations in a presidential campaign are plentiful in the United States, Germany and elsewhere in the West.
No one contends that the election results are contrary to the will of the people. I am proud that in our short nine-year history as a free state, we have successfully carried out two presidential elections, the results of which have been certified by neutral observers.
In this election, the Ukrainian people demonstrated that they no longer can be influenced by empty populist slogans; they understand that there is no alternative to reform and the sacrifices and hard work that reform requires. I am fully aware of the failures of the past five years as well as our progress. And I know the patience of our voters is not unlimited. Therefore I realize I must complete our march to reform.
My new mandate is not a reason for euphoria. Our legislature, to date, has no unified bloc of pro-reform members, even though a majority of them are in their individual ways in favor of reforms. But the opponents of reform, largely Marxists, are united. The result has often been gridlock, especially on critical issues of privatization and land reform.
I pledge my most urgent efforts to coalesce the pro-reform members of our parliament into an effective group to overcome the minority that clings to its commitment to a paternalistic, state-controlled society.
We have much to be proud of over the past nine years, including the successful removal of massive nuclear arsenals and the implementation of a wide array of economic reforms that were mandated by international financial institutions and that required heavy sacrifices by our people. We have established cooperative and friendly relations with all our neighbors, defused a dispute about Crimea and put in place judicial and tax systems that are in line with Western standards.
Contrary to those Western observers who seem to remain fascinated by Kremlinology, conditions in Ukraine are not related to or similar to those in Russia today.
The Ukrainian people are committed to a continued partnership with the American people. The financial, technical, cultural and moral assistance of the West has been tremendously important for Ukraine and continues to be critical. But we know that the bulk of the work must be done by us. I pledge that we will do that work.
The writer is president of Ukraine.