Poroshenko’s American voyage
On Wednesday, March 30, President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko starts his visit to the U.S., with a series of meetings scheduled besides participation in the international Nuclear Security Summit. UNIAN figured out what Ukraine should expect from Poroshenko’s overseas trip.
The first Nuclear Security Summit was held in Washington in 2010, following U.S. President Barack Obama’s statement voiced a year earlier marking nuclear terrorism the most immediate and extreme threat to global security.
This year’s summit, which will be held March 31 - April 1, 2016, in Washington D.C. will determine the steps to minimize the use of highly enriched uranium, combat nuclear smuggling as well as prevent, detect and suppress any attempts of nuclear terrorism. The United States is committed to strengthening comprehensive global architecture for nuclear security, based on international standards, building up confidence in the implementation of the nuclear security of nations as a result of the decline in global stocks of nuclear weapons and materials, that’s according to U.S. State Department official Joshua Baker who spoke with UNIAN.
The U.S. State Department believes the world can’t afford to wait for a nuclear terrorist attack to happen, so there is a need for collective work on raising the standards for nuclear security.
In the past, Ukraine has done a lot for nuclear disarmament and for the promotion of a peaceful nuclear energy. Just a few years ago, on March 22, 2012, Ukraine fully complied with its obligations by exporting to the Russian Federation, with the assistance of the United States and the IAEA, of the last batch of highly enriched nuclear materials from Kharkiv Institute of Physics and Technology.
In addition, on the eve of the Summit, the Ukrainian president and the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine have test-launched a "Neutron Source" system in Kharkiv (a project developed with the U.S. support in the framework of programs for non-proliferation of nuclear weapons). The project will allow for modern research in various fields of science and technology, development of virtually the entire spectrum of radioisotopes for medicine and industry, as well as solving the problems of the nuclear power industry and extension of life of nuclear power plants. Besides, Ukraine resumes purchases of U.S. nuclear fuel for Ukraine’s NPPs, thereby reducing dependence on Russian producers who used to enjoy monopoly status on the Ukrainian market. Changing suppliers is also due to a threat of a disaster in case of supply disruptions...
Therefore, Ukraine sees this Nuclear Security Summit, among other things, as a major platform to remind the international community and, in particular, the United States, as the guarantor of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, that Kyiv in 1994 voluntarily gave up on its status of the world's top third nuclear power in exchange for guarantees of the signatories of the Budapest memorandum.
However, the experts urge not to overestimate the significance of this document. According to the diplomat, the expert at Maidan of Foreign Affairs foundation, Oleksandr Khara, a memorandum is an international legal instrument, which does not have such a status as that of an agreement or convention. In addition, despite the fact that the United States provide invaluable political support to Ukraine, they will not fight for us. "They will not be here for us to liberate Crimea and Donbas. It’s impossible to rely on the U.S., because we are not Washington’s ‘core interest’ in the region – we are just part of the puzzle," he said.
However, in his opinion, it is still important for the U.S. to demonstrate and maintain the principle that after World War II, the borders shall not be changed by force, and the occupied territories shall not be annexed by other countries by force either.
Actually, in this context, the United States is more consistent with regard to Ukraine than the Europeans, said deputy director of the Agency for Situation Modeling Oleksiy Holobutskiy. In particular, he said the United States made it clear that the events in the east of Ukraine are in fact Russian aggression.
In this pretext, it is likely that during Poroshenko’s visit, the United States will reiterate full support to Ukraine and, once again, assure the Ukrainian President that the sanctions against Russia will remain in place until full implementation of Moscow’s obligations under the Minsk Agreement.
A visit amid the crisis
However, the outcome of the trip will very much depend on how the international community will view the prolonged internal political crisis in Ukraine. The thing is that during the visit, besides participation in the Nuclear Security Summit, Poroshenko also plans to hold a series of meetings, in particular with U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Prime Minister of the Netherlands Mark Rutte, President of Poland Andrzej Duda, and Argentina's President Mauricio Macri. However, despite the expectations of the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry, a meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama is not on a schedule.
"We will continue to expand our areas of cooperation, including in the establishment of the new police force, the new prosecutor's office, the new cooperation between law enforcement agencies,” said the Ukrainian president ahead of his U.S. visit.
In other words, we have nothing interesting to offer to the world community, nor do we show any success in internal management. "Poroshenko is now flying to the United States amid the talks about forming the coalition, the internal political crisis. Therefore, in fact, there is no need to set up a meeting with Obama. You meet with Obama when you need to discuss large-scale diplomatic and foreign policy issues. But when it’s all about who would be Ukraine’s prime minister, or about the IMF assistance, it’s obvious that the U.S. president wouldn’t waste time on such issues," said political analyst on international affairs Oleh Voloshyn.
In this context, it’s enough for Poroshenko to meet with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden. Obviously, the negotiations will focus on the Ukrainian "race for premiership," on the coalition, as well on the question when any reforms will start in Ukraine, on the prospects of early parliamentary elections, which the Americans really don’t wish to take place.
This opinion is also shared by a diplomat, an expert at Maidan of Foreign Affairs foundation, Oleksandr Khara. He believes that the U.S. expects reform to be implemented in Ukraine, wants to see the results, rather than hear the assurances of an intention to implement them.
According to the expert, Barack Obama, who wants to complete his presidential term with something victorious such as the restoration of relations with Cuba, doesn’t see Ukraine as an example that he can show the American public. Meanwhile, "our country will resort to PR efforts around the fact that there is a dialogue with the U.S. at the high, or the highest, level; that the Americans support our territorial integrity and they don’t recognize the annexation of Crimea, and that they will help us in the implementation of the ‘uncontested’ Minsk agreements," says Khara.
However, in his opinion, there is no foundation under such beautiful statements.
Struggling to stay on the orbit
Political scientist, head of the Third Sector Center Andriy Zolotaryov believes that the main purpose of Poroshenko’s visit to Washington is an attempt to keep the degree of U.S. interest in the problems of Ukraine, as it was in the previous two years; and not to let the U.S. assistance shrink.
"The problem is that today, there is already a kind of fatigue from Ukraine’s problems, and the foreign press mentions Ukraine quite rarely. The Ukrainian issue is being pushed down from top agenda risking to slide to the periphery, so it is crucial that the president do something about it," he says.
It is obvious that the talks with Biden will include discussions on the fate of the Minsk Agreement, Zolotaryov said. According to him, the problems with its implementation are seen with a naked eye, as well as the weak and inefficient work of the European institutions, like the OSCE, who turn a blind eye on the actual positional battles that are a direct violation of a Minsk ceasefire deal. "In principle, there is a possibility of greater U.S. involvement in the negotiation process on Donbas, but that is unlikely, because the Obama administration only has time until this fall," he said.
By the way, as long as there is a presidential race in the United States, Ukraine shouldn’t expect any drastic steps in the Ukrainian direction. Obama, who is to leave office, traditionally tries to avoid steps which could be interpreted as a "radicalization" of the country’s course. Therefore, most likely, the U.S. support to Ukraine, in particular, in the sphere of military-technical cooperation, will remain at the current level. There is no way at all for any radical moves, including a possible supply of lethal weapons to Ukraine.