"Crimea Declaration": Will Donbas be swapped for Crimea
The Crimea Declaration of the United States is another confirmation of the American position, reiterating their non-recognition of Crimea annexation by Russia in 2014. This position was originally voiced at the time of the Obama presidency and later confirmed by various statements signed off by Donald Trump (for example, the NATO Summit statement explicitly states that the West does not recognize and will never recognize the annexation of Crimea). Now this position was fixed in a separate statement by the US Department of State.
What are the reasons for the emergence of the U.S. Crimea Declaration? First of all, this is due to the various rumors that arose around the Trump-Putin Helsinki summit, as well as the "leaks" claiming that on the eve of the G7 summit Trump was hesitant on the issue of Crimea. Incidentally, these rumors have not been confirmed, and the White House has fixed the situation, clarifying that the U.S. position on Crimea remains unchanged.
Incidentally, rumors that Trump is hesitant on Crimea have not been confirmed, and the White House has fixed the situation by clarifying that the U.S. position on Crimea remains unchanged
As there were many assumptions about what had been happening behind the closed doors at Trump-Putin talks, and since the U.S. president was not clear enough on whether Russia meddled in the elections or not, and nearly doubted the work of the U.S. intelligence community, Trump was forced to explain himself.
The U.S. leader has been subjected to tough internal political criticism, not only from Democrats but also Republicans, all demanding explanations and a more rigorous stance of the White House. The Mueller probe into Russia's meddling in the U.S. elections and Moscow's possible ties with the then-presidential candidate Trump is also continuing.
Besides, the U.S. is facing an election campaign to the U.S. Congress where the House of Representatives will see a totally new composition while the Senate will be upgraded by one-third. This is very important because today in the Senate, the Republicans have too fragile a majority. The election outcome may change the political landscape in the Senate.
Against this criticism of Trump's stance, he needs to show that he does not give up on the U.S. position and that he continues to support Ukraine's territorial integrity, in particular, on the issue of Crimea.
I believe this internal political factor has played a significant role in the ultimate approval by the U.S. Department of State of the Crimea Declaration.
Officially, the West will never change its position on Crimea, while the Crimea-related package of sanctions will remain in force.
It is difficult to say how this could affect U.S.-Russian relations in other areas because, of course, Russia seeks to swap Donbas for Crimea. That is, Moscow would go for concessions on Donbas, but not on Crimea. But anyway, the official position of the United States will always be that Crimea is Ukraine.
Russia seeks to swap Donbas for Crimea. That is, Moscow would go for concessions on Donbas, but not on Crimea
For example, we can recall that America has never recognized the annexation of the Baltic States by the Soviet Union, but it also had different periods of relations with the Soviet Union: for the most part this was the Cold War, but along with that, there were periods of de-escalation in the 1970's, agreements were being signed with the USSR in various fields (we can even mention the joint Apollo-Soyuz space mission).
It is obvious that the each of the parties will keep holding its ground on the Crimea issue. At the same time, Crimea-related sanctions introduced by the United States and European Union will also remain in force. While EU sanctions are reviewed and extended every six months, the restrictive measures imposed by the U.S. have no review schedule, and are set to be lifted only when Ukraine's territorial integrity is restored and Crimea returned. Moreover, the legislation is in place that actually puts Russia on a par with North Korea and Iran, which means the U.S. president cannot make an independent move to lift anti-Russian sanctions without the consent of the U.S. Congress.
In general, America is trying to engage in dialogue with Russia on a range of issues of common interest: Iran, Syria, and DPRK. Bilateral dialogue is underway on Ukraine's Donbas. On these issues, Russia will try to bargain with the U.S. for some concessions. In turn, Ukraine should closely monitor the situation and deliver its comments, including requesting from the U.S. administration information on the progress of bilateral U.S.-Russia discussions on Ukraine. Kyiv should also make use of bipartisan support of Ukraine in the U.S. Congress.
Oleksiy Haran is a Professor of Political Sciences at Kyiv Mohyla Academy in Kyiv, research director of the Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Foundation