05/24/2014 09:37 am ET Updated Jul 24, 2014

#UnitedforUkraine: Supporting Ukraine's Future

U.S. Embassy in Sweden

Based on remarks delivered by Ambassador Mark Brzezinski at Timbro in Stockholm, Sweden on May 23, 2014

As we approach May 25th when Ukrainian citizens will choose their next president, we should understand thatUkraine is a top priority. As Vice President Biden said, "This may be the most important election in the history of Ukraine." The Ukrainian elections are a pivotal moment for the country and the region, and we in the international community must do all we can to help Ukrainians exercise their right to choose their own future peacefully, freely, and fairly through the ballot box. We are working with allies, including the EU, NATO, the OSCE, and others to highlight the efforts of the Ukrainian government to ensure that the elections are free, fair, transparent, and peaceful.

These elections are an opportunity for all Ukrainians across the country to come together, exercise their right to vote, and express their commitment to a better future together. The elections and the future of Ukraine are and should be in the hands of the Ukrainian people. Elections and national dialogue are the best route to political healing in Ukraine, and an antidote to the mayhem and violence sown by separatists and their supporters. As Secretary Kerry has noted, the process of the roundtables coupled with the election provides the people of Ukraine with an opportunity to heal the divide. We also welcome this week's progress on constitutional reform. The Rada released proposed changes to the Ukrainian Constitution to decentralize power to lower levels of government, rebalance power between the President and the Rada, and reform the judiciary.

The United States is supporting the Ukrainian government - directly and through the OSCE - to ensure these elections meet the highest international standards and are a credible, free, and fair expression of the Ukrainian people's political will. These elections represent a stark contrast to the efforts of separatists who seek to impose their will through intimidation and the barrel of a gun. As our Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Toria Nuland has pointed out, "The pro-Russia separatists do not speak for the population of eastern and southern Ukraine. More than two-thirds of Ukrainians in the east report they plan to vote in the May 25 elections. And with more than twenty candidates running, representing every viewpoint and every region in Ukraine, these elections offer a real democratic choice. That is why the United States, Europe, and the international community are working so hard with the Ukrainian government to ensure free, fair elections take place across Ukraine, and in alternate locations for Crimeans, and if needed in eastern towns where that might be necessary, too."

In the vast majority of Ukraine, election preparations are on track. In those places like Crimea and Slovyansk where elections are not possible, Ukrainian citizens have been offered alternative voting sites to ensure they are able to exercise their right to vote. The focus of the international community - including Russia - should be on supporting these efforts. Any efforts to disrupt this democratic process will be seen clearly for what they are: the denial of the right of Ukraine's citizens to express their political will freely.

What happens in Ukraine is important to Ukraine, the region, the transatlantic relationship, and the world. These elections are critical to the fate of Ukraine at a time when the Russian government is attempting to destabilize the country. Russia's provocative actions in Ukraine, including its occupation and attempted annexation of Crimea, has challenged both the future of Europe and the world order, and undermines the fundamental pillars of international law. Any efforts by Russia and its proxies to disrupt the elections will be met with new U.S. and EU sanctions. Successfully holding the elections will help stabilize Ukraine.

The best way to deter further provocative actions by Russia and the separatists and to secure an independent, democratic future for Ukraine, is for the United States and Europe to remain united in support of Ukraine and the rights of its citizens to make their own choices.

The United States Government has been clear about our strategy from the start of this crisis. Our strategy is four-fold:

(1) Providing diplomatic and economic support for Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity, with the goal of letting Ukrainians decide their own future;

(2) Imposing costs in Russia for its violations of international law and making clear that the international community will impose additional costs if Russia continues to take actions that destabilize Ukraine;

(3) Reassuring our allies, especially in Eastern Europe, as we view a changed security landscape in Europe; and

(4) Making sure a diplomatic path - an off-ramp -- remains open for Russia, should Russia choose to support its April 17 Geneva commitments and de-escalate the situation.

This strategy is being implementing through a comprehensive set of policies: our loan guarantee agreement, our support for Ukraine's IMF program, our support for Ukraine's elections, our participation in Geneva, and our sanctions regime in coordination with the Europeans and G7.

Here in Stockholm, our Embassy is what we like to call "United For Ukraine." As you may have noticed, we put a banner on the side of Embassy ---"#UnitedforUkraine. Our goal is to send a strong message that our Embassy here as well as the entire U.S. Government is behind the people of Ukraine in choosing their own future. I've made that same point in several media interviews and I've also met with Ukrainian students and others to talk about ways that Swedes and Americans can work together to support Ukraine.

As Secretary Kerry has said, "Our message is really quite simple: Let Ukraine vote. Let the Ukrainian people choose their future and let them do so in a fair, open, free, accessible election."