Foreign Policy Research Institute

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Foreign Policy Research Institute

tel. +38 (044) 287 52 58

INTERNATIONAL WEEKLY # 12 (15.08.2017 — 31.08.2017)


On the August, 23, Kurt Volker – United States Special Representative for Ukraine visited Kyiv, where he joined to the US Secretary of Defense James Matthews at meetings with Ukrainian authorities. As former United States representative to NATO, Kurt Volker provided competent responses on Ukraine's prospects for Euro-Atlantic integration.

In his interview, he noted that preparations for membership in the Alliance takes a long time, although he acknowledged that Ukraine would be able to carry out all the necessary reforms [1]. ‘The United States, the EU, Russia – everyone should understand that Ukraine is an independent state. Nobody can say when to join NATO. But this is does not mean that Ukraine is close to getting invitations to join NATO. This process takes a lot of time’, -  said the United States Special Representative for Ukraine [2]. He also expressed doubts that Ukraine is ready to join NATO, and NATO – to take it in condition of current situation. According to him, on the beginning Kyiv should implement political and economic reforms, to fight corruption and to establish relations with its neighbors. Volker paid special attention to corruption, noting that the United States receives information on the level of problems, including from the American business that operates in Ukraine [3].

Thus, according to Kurt Volker, it is quite rightly concluded that Ukraine's accession to NATO entirely depends on the will of the country's top authority to implement reforms in this direction, in particular to fight corruption. But then they will have to fight against themselves. Therefore, basically, they are not interested in Ukraine's membership in NATO.

At the same time, recall that on August 21, 2017, a meet of Kurt Volker and Russian President assistant Vladislav Surkov in Minsk took place. The meeting was held closed for media. Significantly, Surkov is one of the organizers and developers of the Kremlin hybrid war in Ukraine. Obviously, he tried to impose his vision on the situation in the Donbass. Surkov expressed satisfaction with the meeting, calling it ‘useful and constructive’ [4].

Later, in his interview, Volker noted that it is necessary to clearly understand that there are Russian troops in the Donbas, in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. There is military equipment. The problem is that the presence of military equipment there creates a conflict. In his opinion, Russia's interest in the Donbas region is to destabilize the situation. In order to prevent this, it is necessary to create conditions for a real ceasefire. He also added that there is no difference between the Donbas and the Crimea for the US government, since in both cases it is an illegal occupation and annexation [5].

In his interview to the Financial Times Volker also note that relationships between Russia and the United States is important, but ‘they will ‘hobble’ because of this problem in Ukraine’ [6]. Volcker's statements indicate that the United States possess the issue of solving situation in Ukraine at the center of its policy in relation to Russia.

In addition, the statements from the White House about considering changing the position regarding the provision of lethal military weapons to Ukraine have already been heard. With such public statements, the United States is trying to show to the Kremlin that it has to take certain constructive steps towards the conflict solution. Thus, Volker's and Surkov's meeting was a definite ‘test the waters’ from the both sides. The United States tried to understand how much Russia is ready to compromise on the situation in the East of Ukraine. Moscow, however, sought to understand how much the United States was serious about intending to supply lethal defense weapons to Ukraine. Thus, the Kremlin can go on to ‘freeze’ the conflict in Ukraine, knowing that one of the conditions for joining NATO is the absence of a conflict situation on the territory of the applicant state. In this case,Russia should be in international isolation Volker has said [6]. According to Volcker, Moscow was most likely surprised by the resolve of Ukraine and the transatlantic unity on the sanctions issues, and after the election of the Presidents Trump in the United States and Emmanuel Macron in France, it wanted to know how thorough is this unity [7].

Recall, the post of United States Special Representative for Ukraine was created for the first time. Earlier, the Ukrainian issues in the US foreign policy department was assisted by Secretary of State for Europe and Eurasia Viktoria Nuland. Appointment of Kurt Volker, a former US representative to NATO as a special representative for the settlement of the Ukrainian-Russian conflict shows that Washington is aware of the scale of the problem of Russian aggression in Ukraine, which is a threat to all European security. Establishment this position also serves as an indicator that the United States is ready to take more decisive steps towards participating in the settlement of the situation in the Donbas, but looking for another format of influence to the situation beyond the Minsk process.

Kurt Volcker's statement that it is a real war in the East of Ukraine started by Russia rather than a counterterrorist operation is radically changing the emphasis in the perception of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. Firstly, the United States has realized the reality of the situation, and therefore will be ready to solve this ‘Ukrainian crisis’ by providing Ukraine with assistance in its defense, and Russia will be considered as an aggressor, and not as a ‘mediator’ in the Minsk process. Secondly, the ruling power in Ukraine can no longer cover its helplessness and inactivity with the hybrid peace. That is why, after 3 years of the war, it finally decided to call Russia an ‘aggressor’, and the territory of Donbas conquered the Russian troop called, ‘occupied’ intending to legally fix it in the new draft of law ‘On the features of state policy on the restoration of state sovereignty of Ukraine over the temporarily occupied territory Donetsk and Lugansk regions of Ukraine’.