By Steven Pifer
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spent January 31 in Kyiv underscoring American help for Ukraine, together with in its wrestle in opposition to Russian aggression. Whereas Pompeo introduced no main deliverables, simply displaying up proved sufficient for the Ukrainians.
The U.S. authorities ought to now observe up with steps to strengthen the U.S.-Ukraine relationship, which has been careworn by President Donald Trump’s bid to pull Ukraine’s management into U.S. politics.
A tough patch for U.S.-Ukraine relations
2019 was not the most effective 12 months for U.S.-Ukraine relations. President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, elected in April, discovered himself pressured to launch an investigation right into a long-discredited corruption declare about former Vice President Joe Biden and Biden’s son, Hunter, so as to profit Trump’s reelection bid. Within the course of, the White Home withheld an Oval Workplace go to from Zelenskiy and, for a time, congressionally-approved U.S. navy help.
Zelenskiy managed to stroll a slim path fastidiously. He didn’t contradict Trump by saying there was stress. Why would he? He and Ukraine had nothing to achieve by alienating the American president. On the identical time, authorities in Kyiv didn’t announce Trump’s desired investigation. Doing so would have unraveled the bipartisan help that Ukraine has loved in Congress for practically three many years.
In opposition to this backdrop, the Ukrainians warmly welcomed the secretary of state’s go to. Pompeo, who had canceled deliberate visits in November and earlier in January, grew to become the highest-ranking U.S. official to go to Kyiv in two-and-a-half years (Vice President Mike Pence reportedly was instructed by Trump to not attend Zelenskiy’s inauguration final Could).
Kyiv was so wanting to host Pompeo that Ukrainian officers neglected the secretary’s fake pas per week earlier than his arrival. In an interview with Nationwide Public Radio’s Mary Louise Kelly, Pompeo took umbrage when she raised Ukraine and questioned the secretary’s failure to talk up for U.S. officers referred to as to testify in Trump’s impeachment hearings. An indignant Pompeo requested: “Do you suppose Individuals care about Ukraine?”
The correct messages
Pompeo’s go to aimed to indicate Ukrainians — and Moscow — that Individuals do care. As Kyiv think-tanker Alyona Hetmanchuk appropriately predicted: “Pompeo will faux that he didn’t say something, and his Ukrainian counterparts will faux that they didn’t hear something.”
Pompeo had conferences with Zelenskiy, International Minister Vadim Prystaiko, and Protection Minister Andriy Zagorodnyuk. The secretary had no main new bulletins, however his public remarks following his assembly with Zelenskiy struck the best notes from the Ukrainian perspective:
- “The USA sees that the Ukrainian wrestle for freedom, democracy, and prosperity is a valiant one. Our dedication to help it won’t waver.”
- “We have now maintained help for Ukraine’s efforts to hitch NATO and transfer nearer to the European Union.”
- “In July of 2018, we launched the Crimea Declaration, which clearly said that Crimea is a part of Ukraine and america won’t ever acknowledge Russia’s makes an attempt to annex it. We are going to by no means settle for something lower than the total restoration of Ukraine’s management over its sovereign territory.”
Along with conferences with Ukrainian officers, Pompeo laid a wreath in honor of Ukrainian troopers who’ve died combating Russian and Russian proxy forces the previous six years within the japanese Ukrainian area of Donbas. He later visited wounded troopers.
The secretary’s phrases, wreath-laying, and hospital go to made the day a superb one for Ukrainians anxious for reaffirmation of U.S. help. The one discordant word: The secretary ducked a query as to when Zelenskiy may go to Washington. Zelenskiy, who obtained an invite from Trump final Could, however no particular date, made clear his readiness to journey.
Pompeo’s go to went some solution to reassure Ukrainians. By no means totally assured in Trump’s view of their nation, they grew to become extra nervous concerning the depth and resilience of American help final fall because the impeachment drama performed out in Washington. The U.S. authorities and Pompeo ought to observe up on his go to with steps to bolster the connection and Ukraine’s confidence.
First, the president ought to rapidly nominate an envoy to Ukraine. Since Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch’s unjust early recall final spring, the U.S. mission in Kyiv has been led by chargés d’affaires. The present chargé is a really ready and skilled profession International Service officer, however Ukrainians might be forgiven for pondering that the absence of a confirmed ambassador signifies that america doesn’t care as a lot because it ought to.
Curiously, throughout his February 1 go to to Belarus, Pompeo expressed hope that there would quickly be an American ambassador in Minsk. Ukraine issues way more to U.S. coverage pursuits than does Belarus. Pompeo ought to suggest a reputation for Kyiv to the White Home and urge the president to make a fast determination.
Second, the secretary ought to job Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun, who took up his workplace in early January, to dedicate a few of his time to Russia and Ukraine. Deputy secretaries on the State Division usually have one or two regional questions of their direct portfolio. Biegun is aware of the post-Soviet area effectively. He frolicked in Moscow throughout the 1990s. He’s accustomed to the Russia-Ukraine battle, having taken half in a Observe II effort to advertise a settlement.
The State Division has indicated that it doesn’t intend to switch Ambassador Kurt Volker, who resigned in September from his place as particular envoy for Ukraine negotiations. The division apparently plans to have the slack taken up by diplomats corresponding to Appearing Assistant Secretary Phil Reeker, who has deep European expertise, and Deputy Assistant Secretary George Kent, who is aware of Ukraine in addition to anybody at State. Including Biegun to the combination would sign heightened U.S. curiosity in facilitating an finish to the Russia-Ukraine battle and make sure that Ukraine will get acceptable consideration from the very best ranges of the State Division.
Third, the secretary ought to ask Trump to offer Zelenskiy a selected date to return to Washington. Throughout his time in Kyiv, Pompeo denied that there have been situations for a go to — a denial that flies within the face of testimony to Congress by present and former U.S. officers. Nevertheless, what higher solution to make the case than by extending an invite for Zelenskiy to go to now?
Pompeo’s go to helped put U.S.-Ukraine relations on a greater observe. When he returns to Washington, he ought to take the above actions to additional bolster that relationship.