Three former us ambassadors to Ukraine immediately appealed to President Trump with a proposal to take advantage of the historical opportunity to return the Donbas to Ukraine and take the Crimea from Russia. In their opinion, very soon the coronavirus and the oil crisis will make Moscow poor and compliant, which gives the West a “window of opportunity”. But the most important thing these people did not take into account.
The initiative of Steven Pifer (who was US Ambassador to Kyiv in 1997-2000), John Herbst (2003-2006), and William Taylor (2006-2009) is transparent but crooked. In short, these three suggest that Trump offers Russia a deal: Moscow “ends the conflict” in the Donbas, and in return, sanctions are lifted from the Russian Federation, then Crimea is returned to Ukraine – and “other sanctions can be lifted.”
In reality, such a “deal” has long been proposed: the abolition of the economic sanctions regime is repeatedly and vocally linked to the implementation of the Minsk agreements, i.e. the settlement of the Donbas conflict in an internationally recognized form. And in connection with the change of jurisdiction of the Crimea, sanctions were imposed only on the Crimea itself.
Thus, according to the latest American thought, either the Russians should “return” Crimea just like that, or the terms of the deal are being tightened, and now the package of restrictions is divided between concessions on the Donbas and Crimea.
If we put aside the political subtleties (including those that Moscow’s influence on the Donbas elites is not absolute, and the mechanism for “ending the conflict” is not clear, since the Minsk process was buried by Ukraine itself), the deal turns out to be not just unprofitable for Russia but mocking. What are the chances that Moscow will respond to an offer that is unacceptable to it, if previously it categorically (“the status of Crimea is not discussed,” the Kremlin stressed) refused a more generous one? Americans believe that there is a chance – thanks to the coronavirus.
The position of our diplomats is that the quarantine measures associated with the epidemic and the fall in oil prices will soon ruin the Russian budget and the country’s largest state-owned companies. International loans could be a way out of a difficult financial situation, but everyone knows that they are limited to the Russian Federation due to sanctions. As a result, Moscow will be expected to turn on the printing press, and already on expectations, the ruble will collapse into the abyss, which will finish off the national economy. In the end, the costs will be so high that Russia will prefer to return Ukraine to the borders of 2014, as long as it is given a loan. In Crimea, the Americans have already responded (spoiler: keep your pocket wider), and that the “return” of the Donbas to Ukraine on Ukrainian terms in fact means a new war. There is little to add to this: the appeal of the three diplomats simply does not encourage a substantive conversation. Even if you consider the genres of apocalyptic and brazen blackmail (they say, the food will end – then you will dance) conditionally acceptable, this is a surprisingly frivolous offer for such serious people.
A word, for example, no mention of what coronaries will turn Ukraine itself, the Ukrainian economy and yesterday’s popular President, Vladimir Zelenskiy, which is terrible losing support and under IMF pressure, was forced to urgently push through Parliament of the deeply unpopular law on the sale of land – otherwise, the debt will not, it will end tomorrow.
What Ukraine will be like in the very near future and whether it will “return” Crimea to whose hands in six months or a year is an open question. But the Ukrainian budget has absolutely no money for either Crimea or the Donbas right now. the lost territories have become an “unaffordable pleasure” for Kyiv. Former ambassadors can’t help but know this, but they didn’t think or didn’t want to think beyond the publicist formalization of their initiative. The very fact of such a statement was important to them.
Here you can wander for a long time why it appeared at all and what really prompted the diplomats to sign this text. Perhaps “Varenichnaya diplomacy” worked-memories of a hopelessly poor, but hospitable Eastern European country. Perhaps these individuals are part of a colonial scheme in which Ukraine is used by American elites as a space for earning money. In any case, the idea is most likely asked to issue directly from Kyiv.
And what they paid for – or freely convertible currency – now we do not know, the ambassadors themselves do not recognize.
The Ukrainian origin of the text is indicated by the audacity of the proposed “deal”, and the lack of reflection on the possibilities of Ukraine itself during the crisis, and the obvious doom of such a proposal to fail. It’s a scream into the void, but instead of a scream, you should have mentioned a different sound – a less decent one.
There are no special questions for Pifer – he has long retired from active political activity. The same can be said about Herbst, but the character is much more interesting. This experienced and talented diplomat headed the American mission in Kyiv during the “orange revolution”. After Viktor Yushchenko came to power, the level of influence of the American Embassy and the degree of its involvement in the political life of Ukraine increased many times. In the end, Herbst even became one of the organizers of the reform of the Interior Ministry and actively distributed money to “free and independent media” of an understandable orientation (that is, literally distributed-lobbied for their funding directly from the US state budget).
It is not difficult for these two to sign up for another appeal in defense of Kyiv and allow someone from the Ukrainian foreign policy managers (the foreign Minister, for example) to report to President Zelensky in a spirit. We are working, they say, three American ambassadors supported us the third day – the victory will be ours.
Such a shake of the air should demonstrate that the President’s team is still carrying out any international activities to “return lost territories”, and not only promises to carry them out.
However, the autograph of the third signatory-William Taylor-makes the entire initiative obviously unviable. If, of course, we proceed from what was said: not from the fact that someone in Kyiv needed a shout into the void, but from the fact that Trump should listen to these arguments and offer the described deal to Putin.
We must think that when trump sees the name of Taylor, he will rather want to drop a bomb on Kyiv than make Ukraine feel good. In the eyes of us President, this man is a traitor and a rat.
Unlike the other two ex-ambassadors, Taylor is associated with the Republican party, not the Democratic party. The captain, a Vietnam war veteran, was sent to Ukraine by George W. Bush, and before and after that, he was mainly involved in the Middle East region, including Iraq and Syria.
He was supposed to return to his former position in the Ukrainian capital in 2019-and indeed returned but in the status of a temporary attorney. This happened after the White House finally realized that the diplomatic team working in Kyiv cares primarily about its own interests (including financial ones), covers up the sins of the Obama administration (primarily the case of Burisma) and weaves intrigues against trump. The core of the mission, including the Ambassador and special representative, was recalled urgently and ahead of schedule, and captain Taylor flew to Kyiv.
Four months later, he became one of the first prosecution witnesses to appear before the US Congress at the impeachment hearing for Trump. And he gave exactly the kind of testimony about the pressure on Zelensky that the Democrats needed. And most importantly, he richly provided his speech with his own reflections on how far the President has gone in his criminal intent and how important American assistance is for the people of Ukraine.
As a result, the impeachment, as we know, was passed, but trump was predictably acquitted by the Republican Senate. Taylor was packing up – instead of being re-appointed as an Ambassador, he was dismissed.
It is believed that Trump is a vindictive person. They also wrote that Secretary of state Mike Pompeo had a great effort to justify himself to the chief since Taylor was his creation. In any case, it is easy to imagine what reaction the President now has to this person’s requests and proposals, especially those related to Ukraine.
In other words, there is no surer way to bury any initiative in Trump’s eyes than to attribute it to Taylor. But in order to create an information bubble that would inspire Ukrainian patriots and demonstrate the “international support” that Kyiv values so much, it will do just fine.