Although cooperation between Ukraine and the United States of America in the context of bipartisan support has traditionally remained unchanged, in recent years relations between the two states have become rather static, and during the last two American election campaigns, they tended to deteriorate. This year there was a revival of bilateral contacts at a highest level, but this process was the result of increased Russian military activity around the Ukrainian border, and not an actual intensification of US-Ukrainian cooperation. Therefore, the visit of Volodymyr Zelenskyy to the United States was considered by the Ukrainian leadership as an opportunity to give a new impetus to the strategic partnership.
In Washington, Volodymyr Zelenskyy signed a number of framework documents. In particular, the Defence Framework, which became a part of a whole set of agreements that were included in the Joint Statement on the Strategic Partnership of Ukraine and the United States of America published after the meeting of the presidents of the United States and Ukraine. One of the main achievements enshrined in the Joint Statement is the intention to revitalize the Strategic Partnership Commission (SPC) and update the Ukraine-US Charter on Strategic Partnership. Following defined goals, on November 10, 2021, at a meeting of the Strategic Partnership Commission in Washington, Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmitry Kuleba and Secretary of State Anthony Blinken signed an updated document, which, according to the Ukrainian leadership, must meet the new geopolitical realities which have undergone a radical transformation since the signing of the previous Charter in 2008.
The updated 2021 document broadly replicates the 2008 Charter. Structurally, it is divided into a preamble and 4 main sections:
1) Principles of cooperation
2) Security and countering Russian aggression
3) Democracy and rule of law
4) Economic transformation
The first section states that cooperation between the two countries is based on the principles of respect for democracy, support for sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and inviolability of each other's borders. The issue of democracy and the rule of law are stressed throughout the revised Charter, reflecting the United States' expectations of real democratic changes from Ukraine. The first chapter, in addition to outlining common ideological principles of cooperation, enshrines the intention to continue cooperation in the field of security and defense, while the role of a stable Ukraine is associated with the stability of the whole of Europe.
Compared to a 2008 document, the new version contains expanded security section from 4 to 12 items. Most of them relate to joint counteraction to aggression by the Russian Federation and security in the Black Sea region and freedom of navigation. This section notes the intention to prevent direct and hybrid aggression in the military, economic and energy spheres as well as in a cyberspace. It is emphasized that the United States does not and will never recognize Russia’s attempted annexation of Crimea and reaffirms its full support for international efforts, including in the Normandy format, aimed at a diplomatic settlement of the Russian-led armed conflict in Donetsk and Luhansk regions on the basis of respect for international law. In this context, the support of the newly created Crimean Platform, the first format on the de-occupation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, is emphasized.
The parties do not specify what measures will be taken to counter energy pressure from the Russian Federation. Apparently, the current administration of Joseph Biden is guided in its policy by the intention to improve relations with Germany, the main European lobbyist of Nord Stream-2, in order to to ensure the support of the most powerful EU country in the global confrontation with China. Today, the United States is not ready to take decisive action on this project and therefore the point of counteracting energy pressure from Russia is rather a convention which is not specified, while the name of the threat – «Nord Stream – 2» is not specified in the document, although Ukrainian party probably intended to enshrine a clause on the gas pipeline in the new Charter.
The provision on Ukraine's Euro-Atlantic aspirations has changed significantly. The 2008 charter contained a reference to the decision taken at the NATO Bucharest summit, which stipulates that Ukraine will become a NATO member. The 2008 provision contained a clear message, while in the updated Charter, the United States only «supported the right» of Ukraine to decide its own future foreign policy course free from outside interference, including with respect to Ukraine’s aspirations to join NATO.
The section on democracy focuses on the US readiness to further support the reforms that Ukraine is implementing in accordance with its commitments. These are strengthening the rule of law, promoting the reform of the legal system and law enforcement structures, as well as combating corruption. The updated Charter also contains a section on the importance of combating racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and discrimination, including against Roma and members of the LGBTIQ + community.
The principles of economic cooperation in general remained unchanged. However, the focus of Ukrainian-American economic cooperation has evolved under the influence of the green agenda of the current US administration. The United States remains committed to supporting Ukraine's energy security and intends to support Ukraine's efforts to become energy independent, decarbonise its economy, reduce government regulation of its energy sector, and «transform» its coal industry. Ukraine made similar commitments to reduce methane emissions in early November at the climate summit in Glasgow. The economic bloc has fixed the positions of both sides, however, the dictates of the current US administration agenda are clearly visible. Given the dependence of entire Ukrainian cities on the coal industry, the question arises as to how Ukraine will carry out energy transformation without damaging its own population?
The updated Ukraine-US Charter on Strategic Partnership does not radically change the principles of cooperation between the two countries and repeats the principles enshrined in the 2008 Charter. The document was updated in accordance with modern conditions and signed after a series of meetings at the highest level. The resumption of the meeting of the Strategic Partnership Commission, at which the document was signed, can be considered to be the most important achievement that will contribute to the further development of the Ukrainian-American partnership. For several years, the partnership between the two countries was conducted without the bureaucratic dialogue which is necessary to maintain effective communication. The revitalization of the dialogue between the United States and Ukraine has the potential for further development, and the signing of the new Strategic Partnership Charter is a signal and a step that shows the readiness of the parties to realize this potential. At the same time, the evolution of the US position on Ukraine’s possible accession to NATO hits the country’s Euro-Atlantic ambitions and shows that Ukraine is currently further from joining NATO than it was in 2008.