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Henry M. Robert

Trump’s signal

US president emphasized Russia’s responsibility to fully implement Minsk agreements
16 May, 2017 - 12:23
Photo courtesy of the Embassy of Ukraine in the US

Recently US President Donald Trump received Ukraine’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Pavlo Klimkin. The two sides discussed further support of Ukraine by the United States. It was the first meeting between the US leader and a Ukrainian top official, which was a pleasant surprise for us on that day. The Ukrainian Ambassador to the US, Valerii Chalyi, said that Klimkin’s meeting with the topmost US leadership was a clear signal of support for the people of Ukraine and the Ukrainian diaspora in America.

It will be recalled that in the morning of the same day the world media spotlighted the meeting between the US president and Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Nobody expected the occupant of the White House to receive the Ukrainian minister just a few hours after a “very good conversation,” as Trump said at a joint press conference, with Russia’s No. 1 diplomat.

In a commentary to The Day, John HERBST, director of the Atlantic Council’s Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center, ex-US ambassador to Ukraine, noted two particularities in the US Administration’s public statements on the meeting with Lavrov. “Positive impressions and no details. This means both sides showed interest in the improvement of relations and a wish to publicly discuss moot points, such as Ukraine,” the expert said. In his words, the mentioning of Syria means that the two sides think it is useful to discuss this topic and would like to see if there are grounds for cooperation.

Meanwhile, what drew the attention of Adrian KARATNYCKY, managing partner of the Myrmidon Group LLC, was the Russian minister’s statement that the question of sanctions was not negotiated at the White House. “I think even Lavrov knows that the US has no grounds to change its position here,” he told The Day.

The photographs of Klimkin with Trump somewhat contrast with the way the US president’s meeting with the Russian minister was covered. This suggests the conclusion that it is Vice President Michael Pence who is in charge of Ukraine in the Trump Administration. Our minister negotiated in detail the Donbas developments with none other than him.

It is also positive for this country that, receiving Klimkin, Trump broached the Ukraine problem and, according to the US president’s press office, “expressed his Administration’s commitment to remain engaged in resolving the conflict and stressed Russia’s responsibility to fully implement the Minsk agreements.”

As is known, some experts express concern that the US may sacrifice Ukraine in exchange for cooperation with Russia in Syria. Mr. Herbst thinks that these assumptions are groundless. “It would be very difficult for President Trump to offer Moscow concessions as far as its aggression against Ukraine is concerned, in exchange for cooperation in Syria. Senior Congress members from both parties, including Senate majority leader McConnell and House of Representatives Speaker Ryan, have come out against easing the sanctions, as the Kremlin continues its aggression in Ukraine,” he emphasized.

“IT IS A NEW STAGE IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF OUR BILATERAL RELATIONS”

Oleksandr MOTSYK, ex-ambassador of Ukraine to the US:

“It is really a very important event for the US-Ukraine bilateral relations, especially at this crucial moment of our history. In spite of some concern over the election of Trump, we can see today that the new administration has confirmed step by step almost all the key points in the Obama Administration’s attitude to Ukraine. Firstly, the White House supports Ukraine’s territorial integrity, including sovereignty over Crimea. Secondly, it has said clearly that sanctions against Russia will remain in force until the Donbas and Crimea are liberated and returned to Ukraine and, accordingly, international law is restored.

“Recent meeting of Foreign Minister Klimkin with President Trump and Vice President Pence is a new stage in the development of our bilateral relations. Naturally, the two sides negotiated the issues that are of interest to both Ukraine and the US. It is, above all, the situation in eastern Ukraine and Crimea, and the necessity to implement the Minsk agreements. This means that Moscow must withdraw its troops and weapons from the Donbas, militants must be disarmed, weapons must be put into storage under OSCE supervision, which will in fact restore Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

“This meeting’s bottom line is that the US is taking a basically positive attitude to Ukraine. We must go on adhering to these principles and saying that sanctions should not be eased – on the contrary, they should be increased because Russia continues to commit aggression and break international law. And, quite obviously, Ukraine will continue requesting defensive weapons from the US, including antitank and antiaircraft systems which we need for defending our land and people. Besides, it is important that the US and the EU continue to render financial aid so that we can go on reforming our country.

“As for the Trump-Lavrov meeting and the fact that the White House press release stressed Russia’s responsibility to fully implement the Minsk agreements, it is, of course, an influential factor. The current Russian leadership has received a clear signal that the Minsk agreements must be carried out and any cancellation of sanctions will be out of the question until Ukraine’s territorial integrity is restored. It is a very clear signal.

“Moreover, Russia is now waging a war not so much against Ukraine as against the entire Europe, against the European values for which we aspire, for which the Revolution of Dignity fought, and because of which Russia has occupied some of our lands. Therefore, it is a joint cause of Ukraine, Europe, and the whole civilized world, and we are in the first line of fighting for European values.

“We expect the new US administration to understand that European stability will always be open to question unless the Ukrainian issue is resolved, i.e. unless Ukraine’s territorial integrity is fully restored. On the other hand, this may affect non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. As Ukraine once agreed to decommission its nuclear weapons under certain guarantees or ‘assurances,’ it is still a commitment from the viewpoint of international law. But if these guarantees are not worth a red cent, this will present a major problem for non-proliferation.”

By Mykola SIRUK, The Day

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