Foreign Policy Research Institute

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Foreign Policy Research Institute

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INTERNATIONAL WEEKLY № 15 (15.08.2018 – 30.08.2018)

Ukraine-United States: Bolton's visit and new US sanctions against Russia

On August 24, 2018, on the Independence Day of Ukraine, John Bolton,  President Trump's national security advisor visited Kyiv. He met with the President of Ukraine, the Prime Minister and other politicians. The Head of State thanked for the Crimean declaration, which ‘clearly demonstrated the position of the United States in relation to the illegally annexed and occupied Crimea’. He emphasized that this position was supported by many international partners of Ukraine[1]. 

John Bolton noted the opportunity to discuss the current situation in Ukraine, the challenges facing the country today and the issues of international format. ‘President Trump expressed solidarity and our support for an independent Ukraine. You talked about the declaration we made, not recognizing the illegal annexation of Crimea. It all comes from the American tradition of non-recognition of illegal annexations’, he said[2]. 

In addition, the Advisor to the US President said that the United States will support Ukraine in the Euro-Atlantic aspirations. At a press conference in Kyiv Bolton noted: ‘The Bush administration proposed in 2008 that the program for admission to NATO be accelerated for Ukraine and other countries, but unfortunately our European counterparts did not agree. But I think that now our administration [of President Donald Trump] is actively considering this issue based on Ukraine's interests. Several steps have been taken, but much depends on Ukraine – how Ukraine will fulfill the conditions, both political and military ones. But there is progress’[3]. 

Particular attention was paid to discussing sanctions against Russia. The President of  Ukraine thanked for the sanctions imposed by the United States against the Russian Federation. ‘And this is not a punishment. This is a motivation for Russia to return to a civilized society, to withdraw its troops from Crimea and Donbas, not to use chemical weapons against other states, carry out a civilized foreign policy and respect international law’, the President underlined.

As it known, on August 27, due to the poisoning of the Skrypal's family in Salisbury the first part of the new US sanctions against Russia came into force. The White House acknowledged the validity of the accusations against Russia. The US has frozen Russian assets for hundreds of millions of dollars. In accordance with the Chemical and Biological Weapons Control Act and Warfare Elimination Act of 1991, the US Government is obliged to impose a set of five types of sanctions: the termination of foreign assistance, Termination of (a) sales, Termination of all foreign military financing, Denial of United States Government Credit or Other Financial Assistance, : Prohibition on the export to Russia of any goods or technology[4].   The Swiss Credit Suisse bank, under the pressure of American sanctions also froze Russian oligarchs' money.

After the warm Helsinki meeting between Putin and Trump, the international community somewhat doubted the reality of sanctions against the Kremlin. However, the introduction of a sanction regime once again proves that, despite Tramp's bizarre behavior and statements, he does not solve the issue of foreign policy and security alone.

The report of the United States Department of the Treasury, issued on August 21, says that the United States realizes that American opponents, against which imposed  the sanctions, are trying to undermine democratic institutions by interfering in elections, committing cyber attacks, grossly violating human rights, supporting dictatorial regimes, including the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria…As a threat to the world order, the report mentions annexation of the Crimea by Russia[5].  The US Department of the Treasury noted that Russia, under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin, attacking the Free World.

Obviously, these US sanctions give a clear signal on the eve of elections to Congress. In particular, Bolton in Kiev said: ‘And President Poroshenko and I agreed that we would look at steps that the United States and Ukraine could take to look at the election meddling here. We can do that through normal law enforcement channels and through other mechanisms. It is a threat that a number of countries in the West have seen; we’ve made it clear what our position is, and so we’re prepared to work with the Government of Ukraine to prevent such meddling here’[6]. 

Bolton's visit to Ukraine, the imposition of US sanctions on Russia is a good sign for Ukraine. These shows the immutability of the US geostrategic interests and weakens the pressure on the White House after the Helsinki meeting. Thus, the US government shows support to Ukraine and confirms that Trump's social networks are not the official position of the USA. Some analysts believe that Ukraine became closer to the strategic partnership with the United States.

In addition, the visit of the President Trump's national security advisor showed the prospect of cooperation between the United States and Ukraine in the context of countering Russian propaganda and future elections in the United States and Ukraine.

As the head of the British Foreign Ministry, Jeremy Hunt, said: ‘The global democratic order is under threat, and the West must unite to fight internal and external enemies, among which the first is Russia President Putin’[7].  Ukraine can play a significant role in such a Western union, since during the years of the hybrid Russian war it has gained invaluable combat experience in confronting the Kremlin. Ambassador of Ukraine to the United States Valery Chaly believes that: ‘America shows both to Russia and to the whole world: we are here, we will support Ukraine, we see your warriors, we see how many lifes  you give  for our common security, and we are with you’[8]. 

Ukraine should be consistent and cautious. Although Bolton's visit is positive and symbolic, yet the US President can occasionally make his unexpected adjustments.