Bad News for Poroshenko: Why Rex Tillerson Came to Ukraine

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard


Immediately after the summit of “G20” in Hamburg the US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson went to Kiev. Firstly, he presented to 
local appointees the new person responsible for Ukraine from the White house Kurt Volker. Secondly, he reminded the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko that Washington since the beginning of the crisis in Donbass allocated to the country $600 million for its overcoming. In fact — he demanded a report.

Tillerson’s visit took place after Putin and Trump’s meeting, and as the Foreign Minister of Russia Sergey Lavrov noted, during it the Ukrainian question was also discussed. Presidents agreed to create a bilateral communication channel between representatives of Russia and the United States to advance the settlement in Ukraine. And it was made on the basis of the Minsk Agreements. “We count on the representative of the United States on the Ukrainian settlement will soon arrive to Moscow for consultations,” stated Lavrov.

It is indicative that now the new American appointees arrive to Ukraine already without that pomp with which Victoria Nuland arrived there, who during a five-minute telephone conversation was resolving all personnel issues of the new authorities, and at the same time putting in its place the EU and its wishes [“f*ck the EU” – ed]. Yes, the current acting administration in Ukraine would like it so that Nuland, Biden, Kerry, and Obama, retiring, took away with themselves the Ukrainian crisis and the Ukrainian leaders appointed by them.

Tillerson shows Poroshenko to what extent the US is dissatisfied with him, spending an hour from the two and a half hours of his stay in Kiev with the local “anti-corrupt officials”, who are on the salary pay roll of the State Department (they could have been summoned one by one or even all together to Washington or even to Hamburg so that they stated their opinion during the flight). And “anti-corrupt officials” persistently ask Tillerson to be rigid with Poroshenko. Trump’s administration reduces its programs in Ukraine and tries not to meet local politicians at all.

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But today Washington can’t just simply leave Ukraine without serious internal and foreign policy consequences. Too much forces and means were invested in this project before Trump, and his predecessors too rigidly forced European allies to take a pro-Ukrainian position in the relationship with Russia. Now the American administration can’t pretend that all this didn’t exist.

In order to substantiate those concessions that it is already ready to make, it needs a global compromise (concessions in exchange for concessions). But what is needed by the US, Russia can’t give without damaging itself. And it will not give.

And America doesn’t have in its stock any other offers. So now what awaits the sides during long negotiations is to develop such a format of compromise that could satisfy everyone. As a rule, its formula is based on nobody receiving what’s desirable, but everyone keeps what they already have. Now it is left to determine what belongs to whom.

In such a situation the Ukrainian question becomes a part of a global solitaire. It ties, firstly, with the attempt at a compromise on Syria, and secondly, with the attempt to settle the most complicated relations in the triangle Moscow — Washington — Beijing.

That’s why in Hamburg not only Donald Trump met Xi Jinping, but also Vladimir Putin, who saw his Chinese colleague literally on the eve of the meeting of the “Twenty”. So the Chinese-American contradictions play in the development of current global crisis not a no smaller role than Russian-American ones. Without a Chinese-American compromise the settlement won’t be complete, even if a Russian-American compromise will be reached.

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Thus, the sides did everything they could in the developed situation. They designated the start of the negotiation process and gave it positive dynamics with the help of the not-significant, but demonstrative agreement on one of the private problems of the Syrian crisis. That’s why, in fact, the meeting was evaluated positively by both American and Russian diplomacy. Although, seemingly, everyone also kept what they already had, but in practice during the meeting it was about the decision to take a step towards negotiations or to continue the senseless and dangerous confrontation. And the choice was made in favor of negotiations.

And it is this that inspires in diplomats careful optimism, although nobody doubts that negotiations will be long and difficult and that there will be attempts to break them by means of military and political provocations more than once.

Here it should be noted the informal, but essential role of the “G20” format. The Russian-American negotiations took place on the fields of the forum and can’t be directly connected with its program. Nevertheless, the “Twenty” format is more convenient for Russia than the “Eight” format, where Moscow hasn’t been called for three years, due to it being reduced to “Seven” again.

What is “Seven”? It is the US with its allies. When Russia joins them, it finds itself one against seven on the majority of questions. While Washington feels behind itself the support of the “civilized world”. In the “Twenty” format same “Seven” meet, but still Russia with its allies and some quantity of neutrals who are variously adjusted and hesitating between the centers of force. During meetings on the fields and plenary sessions the American diplomacy faces counteraction to its initiatives not at all from the side of Russia. Our common issues with Americans are being resolved tête-à-tête.

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In this case, before meeting Putin, Trump faced the big and difficult world, in which Americans have an array of problems and where it is far from being possible to come to an agreement so quietly and constructively as with Russia. Moreover, it is precisely there, in Hamburg, he held separate negotiations with ally countries of Russia, which were not against radicalizing the position of Moscow, to make it rigidly anti-American.

The US likes to refer to the “apprehension” and “requests” of their allies when they need to formally justify baseless aggressivity. And it is precisely the Ukrainian case. In Hamburg Trump had the opportunity to be convinced that Russia has much more basis to pressurise the US on demand.

After the military-political arguments discredited in Ukraine, Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan, after the financial and economic arguments that showed its insolvency in the course of the sanctions war of the West against Russia, the United States lost also their moral-political arguments.

If Washington, by justifying its confrontational strategy, could refer now only to the position of the Baltic States (the other members of the EU and NATO aren’t sure of the fruitfulness of further confrontation) and also of Ukraine, which is not even an ally, but a protectorate of the US, then Moscow can lean on the open offers of China and Iran not only to intensify the anti-American cooperation, but also to issue it legally.

So the atmosphere of “Twenty” itself helped American constructibility.

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