On June 20 President Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine began a working visit to Washington, which includes a number of important meetings with the US leadership. Particularly, the head of the Ukrainian state planned to meet US Vice President Michael Pence at 11:00 Washington time (18:00 Kyiv time). And, according to the White House press secretary, US President Donald Trump and his National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster were to receive Vice President Pence and President Poroshenko after the morning information briefing.
Poroshenko, who had arrived in Washington shortly before, said to a gathering of the Ukrainian community in the US capital: “We have a fantastic program. It is very important that my meeting, as of the Ukrainian president, in the White House will be earlier than Putin’s meeting. The point is that everybody should be ‘armed’ with information and no chances of injustice should be left.”
The president is accompanied by Iryna Herashchenko, Pavlo Klimkin, Ihor Nasalyk, Volosymyr Omelian, Kostiantyn Yeliseiev, Dmytro Shymkiv, and Viktor Muzhenko.
Poroshenko said he would meet US President Donald Trump, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, secretaries of energy and commerce, as well as the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank president.
“There never was such a powerful visit. And precisely in order to have the opportunity to talk about our cooperation in the security, political and economic spheres,” the head of the Ukrainian state said.
Photo by Mykola LAZARENKO
The president pointed out that Ukraine enjoys very strong bipartite support in the US Congress. He also noted that the US Senate’s decision to impose new sanctions against Russia was a nice gift. In his words, sanctions are a civilized mechanism to force the aggressor to get away from Ukraine, withdraw its troops and equipment.
John HERBST, Director, Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center, Atlantic Council, Washington, D.C.:
“It is a good thing that President Poroshenko met with President Trump before the US president meets with Mr. Putin. But the Trump White House chose to limit this significance by reducing the meeting with Mr. Poroshenko to a short encounter.
“The shortness of the meeting was probably a gesture by Mr. Trump to Moscow. At the same time, and this is more important, Mr. Trump announced additional sanctions on Russia just before the meeting. So on balance, this was good for Ukraine.
“Mr. Trump has not spoken much about Moscow’s aggression in Ukraine; but his senior advisers have. So it is good that President Poroshenko had lengthy meetings with Vice President Pence and Defense Secretary Mattis.
“It is good that the senate passed a strong draft bill sanctioning Russia and that Mr. Trump put down his own sanctions. But the administration should offer more economic aid to Ukraine in exchange for serious reform. President Poroshenko seems to do better as a reformer when encouraged by the West. The US should also do more to help Ukraine defend itself from Moscow’s ongoing aggression.”
Adrian KARATNYCKY, senior research fellow, US Atlantic Council; Myrmidon Group LLC, Washington D.C.:
“The most important signals from the Washington meetings came from announced expanded sanctions of Russian businesses and officials, from Sean Spicer’s comment that sanctions stay as long as Russian troops remain on Ukraine’s soil, and through the fact that a Trump-Poroshenko meeting preceded one with Putin. It is clear that Trump is delegating Ukraine relations to his VP, the secretary of defense, and the secretary of state. This is not an abdication of responsibility but a sign instead that the US wants to deal with Ukraine in a detailed and comprehensive manner and treats the Russia threat seriously. President Trump is focused on the domestic agenda and on his political problems. So a delegation of responsibilities makes sense.
“The overall atmosphere of the Trump-Poroshenko meeting was positive. There were smiles and they seemed comfortable with one another. On balance, this was a good meeting and a diplomatic success for Ukraine. The detailed meetings will follow. But with Russia-US tensions on the rise over Syria, I see no attempt by Trump to seek a rapprochement with Putin, which means solid support for Ukraine.
“As importantly Poroshenko’s visit and the earlier visit of speaker Parubii are building the already powerful support for Ukraine in Congress. So it is a very successful set of interactions between the US and Ukraine.”
Oleksandr MOTSYK, former Ambassador of Ukraine to the US, Kyiv:
“Firstly, it is extremely important that Trump will meet our president earlier than Putin. It is very important because the world knows very well that Putin is a past master of manipulations. So it is very important to show the US president and the current US administration the true picture of what we have as a result of the Russian aggression against Ukraine, the occupation of and the attempt to annex Crimea, as well as the occupation and war in the Donbas.
“Secondly, it is a really historic and very large-scale visit because the president is supposed to hold full-scale comprehensive negotiations with President Trump, Vice President Pence, Secretary of State Tillerson, Secretary of Defense Mattis, and the secretaries of energy and commerce. In other words, the whole range of the most important US-Ukraine relations is certain to be discussed. First of all, it is the situation in Crimea and the Donbas, and the implementation of the Minsk agreements. It is of paramount importance in this sense that President Poroshenko will be able to put across all of the information about the course of the ‘Minsk format’ talks and to explain that Russia has fulfilled not a single item of the Minsk agreements package as of today.
“Undoubtedly, the Ukrainian side will broach in the course of negotiations the problem of supplying lethal weapons and other defense materiel. Besides, we can expect raising the question of concluding a security agreement similar to the Security Treaty between the US and Japan signed in 1951. Ukraine has been working on this matter since the very beginning of the Russian aggression.
“Naturally, further US assistance in the economic, financial, and energy spheres will be negotiated. I think this aid will continue in the context of the previous assistance offered by the Obama administration. Poroshenko is also planning to have two urgent and extremely important meetings with IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde and World Bank President Jim Yong Kim. These talks are important in the context of the ongoing Ukrainian reforms, the measures to ride out the crisis and give a major impetus to economic development in our country.
“I am sure this visit will be very important for the further development of cooperation between our countries and with international financial institutions, and, in general, for the developments in our region.”
“It should be noted that our relations with the US is a one-way road. We really need America’s aid, but, at the same time, we want the US and Europe to play a leading role in stopping the Russian aggression and restoring the territorial integrity of Ukraine, including the Donbas and Crimea. Russia has violated international law, the UN Charter’s principles and norms in the most brutal way, has in fact flouted the Helsinki Final Act and the principles of the Budapest Memorandum. For us to be able to say that international law is ruling the word, it is necessary that, firstly, Russia be held responsible for its crimes, and, secondly, international law be restored for Ukraine. On its part, Ukraine is now defending not only its own land, but also Europe, European values, and principles of democracy.
“Therefore, Ukraine is the outpost of resistance to the Russian aggression. In this context, we are performing a very important mission, promoting democracy and protecting European values.
“Ukraine is situated in rather an important region for Europe and America, at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, at the intersection of northern and southern transportation corridors and roads. And the further development of the entire European continent will depend in many respects on the extent to which Ukraine will be successful, the extent to which we will be able to carry out reforms, restore our territorial integrity, and develop at a rapid pace. Europe without Ukraine is not a completed project. We have been saying it before and are saying it again now. And this is especially topical now that we are fighting against a foreign aggression.”