Rostislav Ishchenko: What Trump’s Snubbing of Poroshenko at Davos Means

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard


In the US Congress a scandal is erupting around the report of the chairman of the United States House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Devin Nunes. Devin Nunes is a Republican. He investigated the events associated with the so-called “Russia-gate” — accusations against Trump and members of his team of having ties to Russia.

As a result, Nunez came to the conclusion that the FBI and the US Department of Justice repeatedly violated US law by collecting dirt on Trump and members of his team. The congressmen who read this report affirm that it is a shock that is larger than Watergate, and expressed confidence that this affair will not finish solely in resignations, but will also reach the criminal prosecution of high-ranking officials. The most incorrigible optimists even hint at the possibility of the criminal prosecution of Clinton and that the report seriously compromises the National Committee of the Democratic party.

The Republicans were able to competently organise a counter-attack against the team of Clinton, which almost crippled Trump via accusations of having ties with Russia and bound his hands, both in foreign and in domestic politics. However, the Democrats still, although unwittingly, but effectively play along with their political opponents. In particular, in the course of inner-party voting Congressmen from the Democrats voted even against all members of Congress reviewing the Nunez report, not to mention its open publication. There is no doubt that interest in the report now wakes up with a vengeance, because forbidden fruit is sweet.

Regarding the content of the Nunes report and the evidence and allegations contained in it, speculation will be supported by periodic leaks. Since man is prone to exaggerating real troubles and problems, there is no doubt that the unpublished Nunes report will cause an even bigger shock in society than a published one. People will invent what is even absent in it.

However, even though what we already know is enough to destroy a large number of political careers and to seriously complicate for the Democrats the coming by-election in congressional and presidential elections. And the Democrats will have a hard time in the elections of governors and legislative assemblies of American states.

The fact is that the illegal collection of information about a presidential candidate and their team by the intelligence agencies in favor of another candidate is treated by the American public unambiguously — as interference in the elections with the aim of perverting the will of the people. I.e., a conspiracy against the United States, with the purpose of depriving the people of their constitutional right to choose their own government. With such accusations it is possible to not be jailed. Professional lawyers in court can destroy the position of the prosecution. But moral losses, losses in the eyes of public opinion, and the loss of voter support can be disastrous. If Trump can competently play the situation surrounding the Nunes report, then not only the Democrats, but also his opponents within the Republican party will forget for a long time (if not forever) about the attacks on his administration and will be forced to go on the defensive.

Moreover, it seems that the hands of the American President already start to be untied.

Remember the visit of Poroshenko in Davos. Poroshenko couldn’t not go there. Not all Presidents attend the Davos forum, and not every year too. It is Groisman who could go there in order to ask for money. For him, as the head of the government responsible for economic policy and for the practical implementation of the requirements of the IMF, it would be even more fitting. Besides this, the image of Groisman, unlike Poroshenko’s, hasn’t had the time to become familiar. “Partners”, not knowing him in person, could simply not be able to run away from him [like they do from Poroshenko – ed].

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But Poroshenko flew to Davos. He flew there in the firm belief that there will be a meeting with Trump. Confidence was so great that the meeting was officially announced by the administration of Poroshenko and the Foreign Minister Klimkin. Despite the lack of official confirmation from the American side, the Ukrainians had no doubt that the meeting will take place.

Remembering the previous meetings of Poroshenko with Trump, it was necessary to take this confidence into consideration. All of them took place according to the same scheme: initially, the White House and the State Department don’t confirm anything. Then, literally at the last moment, information follows that the meeting will nevertheless take place. Then, footage of the protocol conversation emerges. Finally, as a final chord, the White House leaks information that the “conversation” lasted 2-5 minutes and did not go beyond a formal handshake and a few standard phrases.

There was the impression that Trump at all costs tried to evade meetings with the Ukrainian President, but is under strong pressure and, in the end, he was obliged to agree to receive Poroshenko, although in a maximally abridged format. After this, being in a state of irritation, he gets a bit of revenge by leaking information about the shortened format, the blunders of the Ukrainian President, and also about the humiliation that the US President subjected him too, up to the extent that he was thrown out of the White House to give a press conference in the street.

Obviously, the Ukrainian side expected something similar in Davos too. Moreover, judging by the level of confidence, this meeting was promised to them by influential American politicians. Most likely it was the Democrats from the Clinton camp, which brought this regime to power and cared for it. But, they had to act in contact with the hawkish opposition to Trump within the ranks of the Republicans.

Before the appearance of the Nunes report, backers of the Kiev regime in Washington managed to put the clamps on Trump every time. But in Davos, things went differently. Trump didn’t just shy away from a meeting. In his characteristic style, he publicly humiliated Poroshenko, stressing, thus, how he is irritated by the Ukrainian President. It was possible not to meet and remain silent, but the State Department reported with emphasis that the US President met with the President of Rwanda, after which he didn’t have time for Poroshenko and he left Davos.

As it’s not a secret for anybody that the meetings between Trump and Poroshenko are usually about five minutes, the phrase about the lack of time was very harsh. Especially since time was found for the President of Rwanda. And the point here is not that Rwanda is not the most prosperous of African States, but that the United States is now integrated into five major crises – Ukraine, Syria, DPRK, China, and Iran. Virtually in all of these cases, Russia is either the opponent of the United States, it supports local powers that oppose the US, or (according to Washington) it doesn’t support American initiatives actively enough.

As we can see, Ukraine is a critical point from the perspective of the global US-Russian confrontation, and Rwanda is not. Thus, it would be logical if the US President made a choice in favor of a meeting with the President of Ukraine. But he chose Rwanda.

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And this can be a much more serious signal than we can imagine today. As we remember, the basis of the program of Trump on the return of America’s greatness was a focus on domestic issues. Returning industrial enterprises to the US’ territory, a protectionist foreign policy, anti-immigrant initiatives — all of these demand State funding.

If to take into account that Trump was going to not reduce, but increase military spending, then he could find the necessary resources only at the expense of a reduction in the level of activity of US foreign policy – by withdrawing from active participation in those crises that didn’t have principal meaning for the US. It is precisely this that he spoke about during his electoral campaign, and he clearly made it known that Ukraine is the first platform that he is willing to sacrifice for the normalisation of relations with Russia.

But Ukraine was a principled platform for Democrats. It was their project. In the same way that the Trans-atlanticism and the Trans-Pacific Partnership were also their projects, which Trump was able to bury. The controlled crisis in Ukraine gave Democrats the hope that after returning to power (they hoped that Trump would not last even the allotted four years) the US will still be an active player in the European field (which was completely in the shadow of this crisis) and that the new administration in Washington will be able to return to an aggressive globalist foreign policy concept. They also focused their European allies on the need to just to wait out Trump’s tenure with minimal losses.

Consequently, the refusal to meet with Poroshenko in Davos is a blow not only to the Ukrainian President. Trump can’t not understand that Poroshenko only had three arguments in an internal political debate with opponents dreaming of overthrowing him:

• Money (loans and aid from the US, EU, IMF, WB, EBRD, etc.) that has long ceased to be given, and obviously won’t be given again;

• Lethal weapons (the notorious “Javelins”), which were promised, but still haven’t been given, and Ukraine already ceased to believe that they will ever receive them;

• Meetings with leaders of the West — the US and the EU, which had to demonstrate to the Ukrainian establishment that the West supports Poroshenko.

The first two points haven’t been in play for a long time. As was said, money isn’t given, and the media effect from the “Javelins” has been exhausted, even though they haven’t yet arrived and may never arrive in Ukraine. This media effect was used so much both on and off topic to serve a reminder about the unfortunate anti-tank systems, which did not save the terrorists from al-Assad, but for some reason had to save a much weaker Ukraine from the much more powerful Russia.

Until recently, Poroshenko supported his political weight only due to meetings with the leaders of the West. For the Ukrainian political mentality it was clear: “If there are meetings, then it means that we are supported”. But in Davos, no meeting took place, and Trump was so busy with Rwanda that two minutes for a photograph couldn’t be found. The Ukrainian political mentality will also treat this unequivocally: “Trump dropped Poroshenko”.

By the way, Davos hadn’t even finished and internal problems emerged for Petro Poroshenko. Saakashvili, who prior to this swore that he had no intention to stage an anti-Poroshenko uprising and promised to stop street activity, suddenly announced on February 4th the beginning of a new stage of rallies demanding the resignation of Poroshenko. The press started writing about a future resignation. Even if it is just information planting, but they – firstly, defined a deadline (“Poroshenko must leave before the spring”), and secondly, coupled with the renewed activity of Saakashvili – indicate that the orderers of the coup in Kiev (Kolomoisky & Co) renewed the funding of the active phase.

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By dropping Poroshenko, leaving him face-to-face with Ukrainian oligarchs (in fact, to be eaten), Trump doesn’t just get revenge against Poroshenko for the unnecessary meetings, and doesn’t just cast aside foreign ballast. He also improves his internal political position.

If the current government in Kiev, which provides control – albeit weak – over the country, will be toppled, then it doesn’t matter who will replace it – the project of Democrats, in which tens of billions of tax payer dollars was invested, will collapse all the same. Moreover, it will collapse from the inside, which would testify to its original non-viability, i.e., to the political mistakes of the Obama administration that was drawn into this crisis.

Since the government in Kiev most likely will be replaced by a bloody and absolutely non-democratic regime, Trump will receive an additional trump card. In light of the Nunes report, he will be able to say that the people who initiated a conspiracy against the United States destroyed Ukraine, transferring it into the hands of absolute evil. An allusion that if they will breakthrough to power they will do the same thing to America will be clear to even the most distant from politics man in the street.

The fact that Trump felt much more freedom is demonstrated also by his attitude towards the so-called “Kremlin list” or “List of Putin’s friends”. It was assumed that the United States will make a list of representatives of the Russian elite who are close to Putin, and, by threatening them with sanctions, it will be possible to try to destroy the unity of the government, to cause a split in the elites, and to receive levers of influence over Russian policies.

As a result, the US Treasury published a list of persons who are either already under sanctions or cannot receive new sanctions. But the White House separately underlined that the “List of Putin’s friends” is not on the sanctions list.

The US’ right-wing is so hysterical that they even hint that it is Putin himself who made the “Kremlin list” for Trump because it is very beneficial to the Kremlin.

Overall, the US is a big and complex country. It’s far from being a fact that opponents won’t find against Trump some new moves that will limit his possibilities. And Trump himself, with his hands unbound, can still return to a sanctions policy. There are many zones of crises where Russian-American interests in the world collide, and the US can’t refuse any of them as calmly as they can when it comes to Ukraine.

But for Poroshenko the moment of truth arrived. Spring is not far off, and Trump beats the Democrats here and there, and even if they will be able to win the situation back, the regime of Poroshenko may simply not last long enough for a favourable situation, because he is too weak.

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