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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Biden Tells Ukraine’s Leaders to Get Along

KIEV — U.S. Vice President Joe Biden chided Ukraine’s political leaders on Wednesday, telling them that they had to stop “posturing” if the country was to seal its independence and economic development.

In a speech marked by a sharper tone that contrasted with Washington’s previous expressions of unflinching support, Biden said Ukraine stood at a historic moment in building on the gains of the Orange Revolution.

“Literally, you are standing in a moment in history that you have never stood at before,” Biden said. “Frankly, your success will bear on the successes or failures of many people in this part of the world.”

Infighting has pitched Ukraine into nonstop political turmoil since a heady week of street protests in 2004 against electoral fraud swept President Viktor Yushchenko into office.

“Ukraine, in my humble opinion, must heed the lesson of history. Effective, accountable government is the only way to provide a stable, predictable and transparent environment that attracts investments … the economic engine of development,” he said.

Biden suggested that 19th-century poet Taras Shevchenko, a national hero who opposed centuries of Russian dominance, would be critical of the disputes pitting Yushchenko against Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, his estranged ally from the revolution.

“I think he would also be wondering why the government is not exhibiting the same political maturity as the people,” he told a gathering of prominent Ukrainians.

“Why communications among leaders have broken down to such an extent that political posturing appears to prevent progress, especially now, especially in difficult economic times,” he said.

The sharper tone is part of a changed U.S. policy since President Barack Obama took over from George W. Bush, who aggravated ties with Russia by his push to expand NATO to Russia’s borders.

Biden said Washington would support any decision Ukraine might make on membership of NATO. Most Ukrainians remain opposed to joining, despite Yushchenko’s drive for membership.

Biden encouraged Yushchenko, Tymoshenko and other leaders to resolve differences ahead of a Jan. 17 presidential election. The infighting has exasperated the IMF, which has delayed the release of some of the $16.4 billion in crisis aid that it has agreed to loan Kiev.

“The path to renewed prosperity runs through the International Monetary Fund, which is offering a way out of the current crisis,” Biden said.

A senior U.S. official said late Tuesday that Washington would not offer Ukraine any extra loans.

Biden suggested that Ukraine could cut Russia out of its national security concerns by moving to reduce energy consumption, as its economy is three times less efficient than in European countries.

“If you lift Ukraine to the European standards, your need for energy imports will dramatically decline,” he said. “That would be a boom to the economy and an immeasurable benefit, I respectfully suggest, to your national security.”