Kol (abomvubuso) wrote in talk_politics,

Throwing Ukraine under the bus

The US election didn't just shock America and its allies in West Europe. It sent ripples that reached as far as Ukraine as well. For instance, the Ukrainian foreign minister hastily erased some scathing comments about Trump that he had made in FB prior to the election. Trump's cordial attitude to Putin doesn't promise anything good for Ukraine. The Ukrainians are concerned that these two love birds could decide their fate behind their back, without consulting them. Like in Yalta. They're afraid that the US could withdraw from East Europe and allow Putin to do whatever he wants there.

There was a recent WSJ analysis by Victor Pinchuk, a prominent Ukrainian oligarch who argues that Trump's victory in the US and the rising populism in Europe could force Ukraine to make painful compromises. He says Ukraine should quit its NATO aspirations for the time being and keep neutrality, while looking for alternative ways to guarantee its national security. A potential EU integration would also have to be postponed.

Pinchuk also says Ukraine should abandon its maximalist aspirations and allow local elections to be conducted in Donbass, even if those would almost certainly be rigged, due to the Russian military presence there. Even more controversially, he argues Ukraine should take Crimea off the table at the negotiations with Russia, in the hope that the Crimeans would choose to come back to Ukraine at some later point, the way DDR did during the unification of Germany.

Naturally, these proposals caused an outrage in Ukraine. Some have called them "criminal" (like Hanna Hopko, a liberal MP and chairlady of the foreign relations committee at the Rada). She said it's a crime that some are exploiting Ukraine's territorial integrity for political purposes. Other MPs have called Pinchuk a national traitor. Konstantin Yeliseyev, the president's foreign relations advisor has rejected any postponement of Ukraine's attempts to join NATO and the EU, saying such a step would betray the country's independence and sovereignty, and pull it back to its Soviet past (not that Ukraine hasn't retained its Soviet-time norms even to this day, including its inherently oligarchic system).

Indeed, it seems Ukraine now has very little time left to sort out the lingering conflict in its eastern provinces. Now that Trump is stepping in the White House, they won't be able to rely on the US any more. And Putin will sniff the opportunity there, and try to squeeze out more concessions. The situation will certainly be getting sharper and more dangerous from now on. Ukraine will attempt to at least join the EU to get some protection, but NATO looks like a diminishing possibility at this point. As for Crimea, all Ukraine can do is pursue an elaborate procedure that would make the peninsula an autonomous region, under the condition that all Russian troops are withdrawn from there. The problem is, few people in Ukraine would agree to any of this. But the alternative is even more disastrous.

Of course, there are some other, more unconventional scenarios. Leonid Kravchuk, Ukraine's first post-Soviet president, recently said a committee of experts should be convened from all sides involved, and Ukraine should participate there with people who don't have any past political baggage. Its sole function would be to solve the conflict. Whether this is easy to achieve, remains questionable. The thing is, the Ukrainian society is already very tired of all the conflicts, and it may be prone to making concessions for the sake of peace. In any case, the only way to solve this would be to sit at the table and start discussing the problems in an open manner, rather than rattling sabres around. Whether Putin would be emboldened by Trump's inauguration, and gain the upper hand at those negotiations, remains to be seen - although it's very likely.
Tags: russia, ukraine
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