The Foreign Service Journal, March 2020

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | MARCH 2020 23 weapons. These actions shredded the fabric of post-Soviet Euro- pean security. Tragically, more than 13,000 people have died in the continuing fighting in the Donbas, and negotiations to find a solution have yet to achieve lasting results. Even if a resolution of the conflict is eventually reached, however, residual antipathy from this war will likely make it hard for Russia and Ukraine to find the compromises necessary to build a lasting peace. v The United States has found itself in the middle of the strug- gle between Russia and Ukraine for more than three decades. Much of my Foreign Service career centered on this issue, as successive American administrations worked with the European Union and its member nations to help find a secure place in Europe for an independent Ukraine, while also trying to shape a cooperative relationship between Russia and Euro-Atlantic institutions such as NATO. To understand how we arrived at this point, we need to start in the days leading up to the end of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. On Sept. 4, 1991, not long after the failed August coup attempt against Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, Secretary of State James Baker held a press conference at the State Depart- ment and outlined what would become U.S. policy goals as the Soviet Union collapsed and the new independent states came into being. Secretary Baker was about to leave for a Commis- sion on Security and Cooperation in Europe meeting in Moscow where he would meet with Gorbachev, Boris Yeltsin and other leaders. He then planned to visit the Baltic nations of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, which had already declared independence from the USSR. Secretary Baker told the journalists gathered in the State Department Briefing Room that his discussions would be guided by five basic principles: • self-determination consistent with democratic principles, • recognition of existing borders, • support for democracy and the rule of law, • preservation of human rights and the rights of national minorities, and • respect for international law and legal obligations, espe- cially the provisions of the Helsinki Final Act and the Char- ter of Paris. It was already apparent when he spoke that the centrifugal forces that would soon break up the USSR were well advanced. His goal at the press conference was quite clearly to lay out U.S. policy guidelines for the historic transition already underway. This was particularly true in Ukraine. A strong, renewed spirit of national independence had been growing for some time. On Aug. 24, 1991, the Ukrainian Parliament, the Rada, led by Speaker Leonid Kravchuk, had voted to declare independence from the Soviet Union. On Dec. 1 a referendum was held, and 92 percent of the people of Ukraine voted in favor of approving the Rada’s Declaration of Independence. The turnout was 84 ROSEMARIEFORSYTHE