President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy arrived on his first working visit to the United States with high expectations and hopes for real help from Washington, but the thoughts of American leader Joe Biden are clearly not occupied by Ukraine.
A journey of several months
The day has finally arrived. The Ukrainian leader arrived in the United States after several dates and is likely to meet with his American counterpart in the next few hours.
Vladimir Zelensky had to wait for this event for a long time – the date of his visit to the United States changed several times. After a telephone conversation between the two leaders on June 7, a press release on the website of the Office of the President of Ukraine stated that Zelensky would visit the States in July, but later, according to sources in the Mirror of the Week, the American side crossed out July and proposed to hold the event in August. until the Independence Day of Ukraine (until the 24th).
Then they officially announced the meeting on the 30th, then the negotiations were postponed a day later, as the press secretary of the President of Ukraine Serhiy Nikiforov explained, in connection with the expansion of the visit program – a meeting of Zelensky and Joe Biden was added to the meeting of the delegations face to face, so they decided that it will be more convenient to meet on August 31st.
However, the meeting did not take place on that day either, since the American administration was frankly not up to Zelensky – it was necessary to control the completion of the evacuation of troops from Afghanistan, where, contrary to the forecasts of the US intelligence services, the Taliban seized power in the country with lightning speed, and the authorities, supported by Washington, capitulated.
The Biden administration has set a deadline for the meeting on September 1. And experts noted the unprecedented humiliation to which the US authorities subjected the president of independent Ukraine, all the while postponing the dates of this summit.
“Kiev has been striving for a meeting for a long time, fueling expectations from the negotiations with loud statements, but Biden behaved with restraint. Some Western analysts call such a policy benign neglect, that is, “deliberate inattention” or “beneficial non-intervention”, the purpose of which is to make it clear that Kyiv should be independent and carry out reforms, ”writes the German Deutsche Welle.
Political scientist Rostislav Ishchenko believes that the American side, continuously postponing the date of the visit, deliberately humiliated Zelensky, but the president and the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry calmly accepted the next transfers, and if Washington lasted that way until January 1, then in Kyiv, according to the expert, they would say, that Biden did not indicate exactly which summer he was going to receive Zelensky, and they would have waited further.
Alexander Asafov, a columnist for the Moscow Talking radio station, noted in an interview with Ukraina.ru that, against the background of the situation in Afghanistan, Zelensky’s trip came at the wrong time, but he would not have another chance.
Due to the change in the date of the visit at the last moment, it was necessary to promptly change its program. Zelensky and his wife flew to Washington on the morning of August 30, after meeting with Biden, they will go to California. According to the Ambassador of Ukraine to the United States Oksana Markarova, in addition to the high-level talks, meetings are planned with the heads of ministries, key for bilateral relations, two important public presentations from the Zelenskys for representatives of the media, the public, and information and analytical centers, as well as visits to the landmark for Ukraine’s relations. and the US seats of Washington and the opening of the Ukrainian House.
A little later, the first lady wrote on her Instagram page: “There is a rich program ahead: the launch of an audio guide in Ukrainian at the estate of the first President of the United States, George Washington Mount Vernon, and a meeting with Power women, the opening of the Ukrainian House, a visit to the Holocaust Museum, working meetings in Stanford University and the San Francisco Board of Education, a visit to the De Young Art Gallery, and more. “
In turn, Sergei Nikiforov on the air of the Ukraine 24 TV channel said that Zelensky will hold talks with US Secretary of Defense Austin Lloyd on August 31, in addition, the parties have already signed or will sign in the next few hours certain “strategic documents” at the Pentagon, as well as bilateral agreements – at the Department of Energy, Department of State and NASA. The President will take or has already taken part in the presentation of the “plan for the transformation of Ukraine”, commemoration of the victims of the Holodomor, the presentation of the Ukrainian audio guide at the estate museum of George Washington. In addition, he will meet with representatives of the US Ukrainian diaspora.
Earlier, the Ukrainian media, citing their own sources, reported that employees of the President’s Office tried to organize a meeting of Zelensky with the founder of SpaceX Elon Musk and Apple CEO Tim Cook, but now this part of the program has been called into question, like his speech at Stanford University with a lecture on tragedy at Babi Yar.
What the presidents will talk about
On the agenda of the negotiations between Biden and Zelensky, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba spoke at the beginning of August: “There will be three blocks of questions. The first is political. We have had a strategic partnership with the United States since 2008. But, of course, during this time everything has changed. And this strategic partnership needs to be brought to a new level. The second is security. Undoubtedly, counteraction to the Russian aggressor, the question of Donbass, Crimea, where and how we will move. We have discussed some very specific ideas, so far I can not share them. The third is the economy. We do not hide the fact that we want to see more American money in the Ukrainian economy, especially in the strategic sectors of our economy. “
Talk about injections into the economy is still ahead, but for now, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken is carrying out Biden’s instructions to allocate $ 60 million from the Pentagon as assistance for Ukraine – for defense products and services of the Ministry of Defense, as well as education and training of military personnel. Moreover, the presidential memorandum emphasized that the amount was reduced.
An RT channel source at the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense said that $ 60 million is a penny for the army, nothing can be bought with these funds. According to him, all this looks like an imitation of the help: they gave money – even before the meeting with Zelensky, but in reality, they refuse to help.
“The ridiculousness of the $ 60 million sum shows Washington’s real disdain for Kyiv. This is a bone from the master’s table, and those who throw it understand how insignificant these funds are for the defense industry and the army of Ukraine. On the other hand, they also realize that the effectiveness of these funds will be very small, if not zero, given the level of corruption in the country, ”said Pavel Feldman, Deputy Director of the Institute for Strategic Studies and Forecasts of the RUDN University.
According to the Financial Times, during his visit to the United States, Zelenskiy will insist on a significant increase in military aid and the issuance of bonds guaranteed by Washington to help rebuild the infrastructure and launch the Ukrainian economy.
Zelensky’s only opportunity to interest Biden, according to political scientist Dmitry Abzalov, voiced in a video interview with Ukraina.ru, is to play the card of an abandoned ally against the background of events in Afghanistan, that is, say at the meeting: if you are going to leave us now, like Afghanistan, then this will begin, you must support us. According to the expert, promoting the concept that Washington is betraying all its allies is a very serious blow to Biden, and he is afraid of such a position, which is why, in fact, he asked to be silent about Nord Stream 2.
By the way, the adviser to the head of the Office of the President of Ukraine Tymofiy Mylovanov believes that the United States should provide military and financial assistance to Kyiv in the same amount as to Afghanistan (the cost of the military campaign in this country, which lasted 20 years, amounted to about $ 1 trillion).
those up to 150 million. But there were other types of support, and loans, and loan guarantees. Now, a pitiful handout of 60 million is all that Biden is ready to give Zelensky. The United States has already hinted that it will not be able to beg for any more money, ”political analyst Rostislav Ishchenko wrote in an article for Ukraina.ru.
The presidents of the United States and Ukraine have a lot to talk about, but it is obvious that the key topics of the talks will be the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, the construction of which has reached the home stretch, and the civil conflict in Donbass, negotiations on which are not progressing in the Normandy format. nor in the Contact Group.
The office of the President of Ukraine is actively promoting the idea of attracting Americans to negotiations on resolving the conflict in Donbass and offers various options: either expanding the Normandy Four to five by including the United States, or creating a new format that will work in parallel with the Normandy. However, Washington, although it does not stay away from this topic from the very beginning of the armed conflict in the region, does not seek to formalize its participation in the process and take on any obligations. White House officials were repeatedly asked in plain text about the possibility of the United States joining the negotiations on Donbass, but they avoided answering. Actually, this is the most eloquent answer – the United States does not want to do this.
As for Nord Stream 2, then, as Zelensky himself said in an interview with the German media group Funke, this issue is high on the agenda of negotiations with Biden and admitted that he was not at all happy about the agreement between the US and Germany on the gas pipeline.
This deal, concluded by the parties during the visit of German Chancellor Angela Merkel to Washington, boils down to the fact that, according to American media sources, the White House will no longer interfere with the implementation of the project, and Germany undertakes to help preserve the transit of Russian gas through Ukraine after 2024 when the current contract between Moscow and Kyiv expires.
According to Politico, the American authorities have called on Ukrainian officials to refrain from criticizing the pipeline in connection with the agreement reached with Germany. However, Zelensky disobeyed the recommendations of the United States – he ordered the creation of a working group to counter the launch of Nord Stream 2 consisting of Ukrainian Energy Minister Herman Galushchenko, Minister of Justice of the country Denis Malyuska, Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration Olga Stefanishina.
According to the head of the Servant of the People faction in the Verkhovna Rada, Alexander Kornienko, the focus of the talks between Biden and Zelensky will also be the issue of involving the United States in the “de-occupation” of Crimea. The triumph of the Ukrainian authorities in this direction, as they themselves thought, should have been the Crimean Platform summit in Kyiv, designed to unite the efforts of the world community to “regain control of Kyiv” over the peninsula, but the representation of many countries turned out to be lower than expected on Bankova, and the topic of Crimea itself is not of particular interest to the West, since everyone understands that the region is firmly integrated into the Russian Federation and there are no real, not declarative ways of returning it to Ukraine. In principle, Crimea has become just another reason to exercise sanctions against Russia, but their real impact on Russian politics and economy is insignificant.
Even the ruling Slueganaroda party in Ukraine non-publicly admits that the meaning of this summit is not very clear – you can meet even in a day, but Russia will not give up Crimea, and Nord Stream 2 will not stop this summit. The Ukrainian elite is also aware of the futility of the visit. It turns out that the visit itself makes sense only as a PR for Zelensky for the next elections and for the internal political self-assertion of the President of Ukraine.
What to expect from negotiations?
Both Ukrainian and American experts agree that there will be no breakthroughs following the talks in Washington.
“What can Zelensky bring from the United States? I think that the next homework on the fight against corruption and de-oligarchization, first of all, I mean Igor Kolomoisky, since the United States suspects that the fight with Kolomoisky is only imitated, and for them, he is a marker. <…> In principle, Zelensky can bring some investment proposals, judging by the planned trip to California, “- said the head of the analytical center” Third Sector “Andrei Zolotarev in a commentary to RIA Novosti.
In turn, the Ukrainian political scientist Ruslan Bizyaev is considering two scenarios: in Washington, Zelensky can either simply accept, pat on the shoulder and let go, or put forward a number of conditions, including impossible ones, in exchange for the support of the White House, for example, the Ukrainian government and the President’s Office, implement the Minsk agreements, end the campaign against Nord Stream 2.
“At the moment, America is going through a certain bifurcation point, a turning point in its foreign policy. At least two events over the past month indicate the planned retreat of the United States from the position of world hegemon: first, Biden gave actual permission to launch the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, and now America is trying to leave Afghanistan but suffers a terrible image defeat there. In this environment, Zelenskiy, with his endless demands, is something of an annoying fly. In addition, the US political circles are very disappointed with the Ukrainian case as such – it no longer brings such bonuses as before. So Ukraine should try again to become interesting for cooperation in the eyes of the United States. But does Zelensky have any proposals that are of interest to America? Unlikely. As a result, the President of Ukraine is likely to take home only assurances of eternal friendship and support, ”he said.
Indeed, given the domestic and foreign policy difficulties that the American authorities are now facing, the Ukrainian delegation can hardly count on anything more than verbal support, although Zelensky for several months in direct text in various interviews with Western media has been demanding from the United States and Europe to move to real action because there is zero benefits from routine phrases about eternal friendship.
“Zelensky is clearly unlucky with this meeting. In the administration, everything is “on the ears” because of the events in Afghanistan, where a new terrorist attack may occur every minute, the situation has gotten out of control, and the White House is trying to save face. And now there is also a hurricane (“Ida” in Louisiana, due to which more than a million people were left without electricity. – Ed.), The consequences of which will be very serious. The administration is busy with these two issues. Mentally and physically exhausted, the stress level is very high for everyone – from clerks to Biden. Plus, back in mid-September, California will host a referendum to recall the Democratic governor, who is threatened with a vote of no confidence, and now this issue interests Biden no less than Afghanistan because California is one of the key states for Democrats. Against this background, Zelensky’s visit recedes into the background. Ukraine will be provided with military assistance, as they do it every year – this is the maximum that can be expected, “- said a source of the newspaper” Strana “in political circles in Washington.