KIEV, Ukraine As freshly sworn-in U.S. President Donald Trump constructed his inauguration address in Washington, he promised to break with the foreign policy of outgoing President obama. Nowhere is the threatening ambiguity of that promise being felt more acutely than in Ukraine, which was a priority of the Obama administration and which continues to fight a proxy war with Russia in the east of the country that by conservative estimations has claimed some 10, 000 lives.
During his last week in office former Vice President Joe Biden was in Ukraines capital city Kiev to meet with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko for his fifth trip to the country since the Maidan protests that ousted pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych. Throughout his tenure at the White House, Biden played the unofficial role of the administrations special envoy to Ukraine, and since the 2016 election, has worked to instill Ukraines importance on the new administration. Asked if he thought his efforts were successful, Biden answered only that hope spring eternal.
Nowhere is the threatening ambiguity of ‘America First' being felt more acutely than in Ukraine.
Ukrainians are concerned about Trumps focus on his relationship with President vladimir putin and that relationships potential to halt U.S. support for Ukraine. On the campaign trail Trump regularly praised Putin, and according to American intelligence and law enforcement officials, U.S. examiners are currently in the process of looking into contact between Trumps national security consultant and a top Russian diplomat.
Trump also recently said that he would be willing to remove imposing sanctions on Russia if the Kremlin agreed to a reciprocal reduction in nuclear arms, breaking with the previous administrations position that removing sections be linked to ending Russian military involvement in Ukraine that international sanctions were originally enforced over.Kiev reacted to this proposition in an interview after Trumps inauguration, recommending the new leader not to remove imposing sanctions on Moscow.
Trumps praise of Putin has led Russias elite to publicly hope for warmer relations under Trumps presidency, with multipleinauguration parties being thrown in the Russian capital. Ukrainians meanwhile fret Trump could relegate them to Russias sphere of influence, denying the countrys Western aspirations.
Ukrainian society has long feared that the West could sell out Ukraine by forcing a bad peace. In 2014, Ukrainian social media accounts launched a campaign against German Chancellor Angela Merkel after perceiving her to be too close to Putin, labeling her Frau Ribbentrop after the Nazi foreign minister, Joachim von Ribbentrop, who negotiated the partitioning of Eastern Europe between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. With Trump, those fears have surfaced again.
Commentators constantly refer to the Munich 1938 agreement, implying that the West will once again attempt to appease the attacker, Kostiantyn Fedorenko, a political analyst at the Institute for Euro-Atlantic Cooperation, told The WorldPost. This, in their view, would be done via[ the] lifting of U.S. imposing sanctions on Russia.
Prior to the election, senior Ukrainian officials reportedly hoped democratic candidate Hillary Clinton would win, but since the election they have focused on trying to raise awareness about Ukraine rather than provoking conflict with Trump. In an op-ed in The New York Times, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin asked for Trump to be a strong leader for Ukraine as well as for the United States. In his remarks after meeting with Biden, Poroshenko said that he looked forward to working with the Trump administration, and Ukrainian media reported that Ukrainian Ambassador to the U.S.Valeriy Chaly said he recentlyspoke with Trump and tried to emphasize Ukraines importance.
To avoid Ukraine being forgotten, Poroshenko has also reportedly hired a $50,000 -a-month lobbying firm with strong Republican ties to amplify Ukraines voice in Washington. But it may be too little, too late.
For many Ukrainians, Trumps success in the U.S. has also been reminiscent of the history of corrupt practices and nepotism they tried to break with during the Maidan revolution that ousted pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych. In August, Trumps campaign took a surprising Ukrainian turning when Ukrainian anti-corruption examiners released handwritten ledgersindicating $12.7 million in money pays to Trumps campaign chairwoman Paul Manafort from Yanukovychs party. Manafort subsequently resigned.
In Ukraine, there has been frustration that American institutions have been unable to prevent the rise of a figure like Trump, who jarringly breaks with the values of liberalism and tolerance the U.S. promotes abroad.
We got a lot of lecturing and lessons[ about] how to behave and what to do. I expect the Americans to do likewise at home, Oleg Naumenko, a former communications consultant to the Ukrainian presidential administration, told The WorldPost.
We got a lot of lecturing and lessons[ about] how to behave and what to do. I expect the Americans to do likewise at home.Oleg Naumenko, former communications consultant to Ukraine presidential administration
Saturdays Womens March in opposition to certain carried values of the new U.S. chairman hope to Ukrainians that American other members of civil society was still vibrant, reminding some of the Maidan protests.
I am inspired by the ambiance and all the imagination. There are often anti-Russian slogans, Alex Ryabchyn, a member of parliament who entered politics after the Maidan protest, wrote on social media while in New York City observing the procession.
But while many express frustration with Trump, he has also spawned political transcript cats in Ukraine who are trying to take advantage of what they see as a new global political motion and a Trump administration willing to reward loyalty.
Former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, who received Ukrainian citizenship in 2015, said he attended Trumps inauguration and has are periodically praising him in interviews with American television. He has even adopted Trumps signature slogan, promising to make Ukraine great. In a press conference soon after Trumps election, Saakashvili also proved a video of him and Trump meeting while he was still chairman of Georgia in 2012. A Trump Tower was schemed at the time for the port city of Batumi.
Oleh Lyashko, a Ukrainian populist who utilizes a pitchfork in his partys logo, told on social media he had been invited to Trumps inauguration in Washington, but would instead invite Trump to his own eventual inauguration in Ukraine.
Because Trump has just been inaugurated and it remains unclear what he will actually do, many in Ukraine are waiting for his actions.
Nobody can say whether this administration will be worse, Ukrainian Member of Parliament and two-time former Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk, told The WorldPost. He added that only at the end has the Obama administration tried to take more definitive measures on Ukraine, leaving much to be desired.
Though the Obama administration was a boisterous public advocate for Ukraine, there havelong been annoyances over the failure to take more concrete measures. One of the most majorissues has been the failure to provide lethal military aid to Ukraine. The Obama administration opposed the move, dreading it would intensify the conflict and repeatedly ignored bills passed by Congress.