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Bush Sees Ukraine Leader, Offers Hope of Peace Corps

TIMES STAFF WRITER

President Bush met with Ukrainian leader Leonid Kravchuk on Wednesday and held out the possibility of a Peace Corps program in the Ukraine as the Administration continued to tread through the minefield of establishing relationships with individual Soviet republics without undermining the fragile central government.

After spending 45 minutes with Bush, Kravchuk, chairman of the Supreme Rada, or Parliament, of the Ukraine, said he had reaffirmed his republic’s goal of becoming a non-nuclear state, and its view that control of Soviet nuclear weapons should remain in the hands of the union leaders in Moscow.

The meeting reflected the tenuous nature of Washington’s evolving relations with what is being called the former Soviet Union as its components achieve greater degrees of independence. Bush is being careful not to undercut Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev, while seeking to establish productive ties with the republics that would be particularly crucial, if the union falters further.

The Ukraine holds a special place in the unsettled equation because its rolling plateaus produce major quantities of wheat, barley, oats and other grains to feed the rest of the nation. But Kravchuk told reporters that as a result of “outdated technologies,” the Ukraine is losing about 30% of its harvest, and is looking to the West for assistance.

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White House Press Secretary Marlin Fitzwater said that Bush “outlined U.S. steps to promote economic reform in the Ukraine, including consideration of a Peace Corps program and the provision of technical assistance.”

“Ukraine has a special place in the hearts of Americans. There is a vibrant Ukrainian community in this country,” Bush was quoted as having told Kravchuk.

Bush met with Kravchuk on Aug. 1, in Kiev, the capital of the Ukraine. Kravchuk is in the United States to address the U.N. General Assembly next week.

The diplomatic sensitivity of the Ukraine’s independence bid, enunciated in a letter sent by the government to Bush earlier this month seeking his support, was reflected in the handling of the issue on Wednesday. Asked after the meeting whether Bush told him what his republic needs to do to secure U.S. recognition, Kravchuk told reporters: “He did not interfere into the internal affairs of Ukraine. We know, ourselves, what we have to do. . . .”

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