Citizens of Ukraine have never harbored any illusions about the willingness of the international community to stand with them in their bloody conflict with Russia. The Ukrainians are beginning to collectively rotate the eyes every time one of their well-meaning friends abroad expresses its deep concern over the aggression of Moscow, because similar sounding words are rarely followed by concrete action.
But at least they knew that they could rely on the Americans.
Between Ukraine and the United States over the last nearly 25 years have friendly relations. And for the last two years — since the invasion and occupation of Crimea, Ukrainian territory, and followed soon after this invasion of the Eastern territory of the country — Ukraine was always seen in Washington, its most important diplomatic ally. This became especially obvious in the moment when it was time saving and the imposition of sanctions aimed to curb Russian military.
But now this existed for a long time, the Alliance seem to have ceased to exist. On January 28, President trump spoke by phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The General view was that this conversation took place in a spirit of friendship and reconciliation. A few hours after its completion, suddenly there was a surge in fighting in Eastern Ukraine. The number of attacks recorded by the observers of the Organization for security and cooperation in Europe (OSCE), has increased dramatically, from 420 (26 January) to 10330 (31 January) and this is the biggest increase recorded by the observers.
Targeted attacks on civilian infrastructure left perhaps tens of thousands of people in the region without water, although the temperature dropped significantly below freezing. Ukraine is now faced with a serious humanitarian crisis, and as a result thousands of civilians in the government-controlled Avdiyivka, being in the dark and in the cold, subjected to intense fire from the combined Russian and separatist forces.
This frightening situation has caused public outrage in several countries. However, against the background of escalating armed clashes that many Ukrainians are expecting a strong statement in their support by their biggest ally — the United States. But it was not done — at least it was not in the form in which they had hoped.
Few people in Kiev have ever been illusions about the fact that the new President will continue the policies of his predecessor in regard to criticism of Russia and its deterrence in response to the violation of her territorial integrity of Ukraine. Many Ukrainians are suspicious of the Trump. For many years partners of trump was earning big money in Ukraine, providing their services as consultants and advisers to the extremely corrupt former President Viktor Yanukovych. As a candidate, trump quite clearly outlined his attitude, refusing to meet with Petro Poroshenko and showing his admiration for Putin.
Nevertheless, the gap between the two allies has occurred much faster than expected in the Ukraine — Yes, even in the most inopportune moment.
The state Department took two days to respond to the escalation of hostilities. Finally, on January 31, the official representative in Washington, presented shocking in its coldness statement, which never mentioned Russia. This indicates a decisive departure from past United States language, with which obligees and recognized the leading role of Moscow in this conflict.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Embassy in Kiev was limited to a single message on Twitter in which concern was expressed about children in the area of armed conflict. During the crisis of 2014 — 2016 Ukrainians are accustomed to seeing in the American Embassy effective team communications, producing round-the-clock application support. In fairness it should be noted that currently the Ukrainian political elites enthusiastically embraced a surprisingly strong statement, US Mission to the OSCE, in which the escalation of the conflict against the Russia. It was made several hours before the reaction of the state Department. However, it soon became clear that this statement was the only exception, and maybe it was a last desperate move on the part of some American officials who wanted to follow in line of the previous course.
The Ukrainians cheered after the application of the new permanent representative of administration trump the UN Nikki Haley (Nikki Haley), who condemned the “aggressive actions of Russia” and confirmed its intention to maintain the sanctions as long as Moscow will not abandon its control over Crimea. However, in Kiev it seems too obvious that her feelings will not be done by one person, from whom everything depends. Only the sharp wording from the state Department or the White house could eliminate the damage, but Ukrainians do not really hope so.
In any case, the refusal of the United States to take a strong stand against the military conflict in Eastern Ukraine sends Kiev a clear signal — the friendship is over. And it does not matter whether this shift is the result of skilful manoeuvring of the Kremlin or to some concessions the administration of the trump out of sight to society. The United States ‘ reaction to the latest massacre in Eastern Ukraine is a disturbing snapshot of a new geopolitical reality emerging in the present.
The lack of interest in the United States also allows the radicals within the Ukrainian political elite to reject all restrictive elements of their behavior. Some members of Parliament recently visited the front line and joined the extreme-right parliamentarians in their requirement to establish illegal “economic blockade” occupied territories. The sudden disappearance of a strong international support of Ukraine led to a halt of key reforms, as corrupt elites unexpectedly turned to feel any pressure, forcing them to take specific actions to implement the conditions associated with Western aid packages.
The end of the us-Ukrainian Alliance would also have dire consequences for civil society, which continues to play a crucial role in the ongoing transformation of the country. It is almost impossible to count over the last three years, all those cases when the pressure from the government of the United States, sometimes it is not especially notable, and helped activists to repel the attacks on independent journalists, to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) or to carry forward essential reforms.
All this should give some idea of the damage that politics trump is already causing in the Ukraine. And, I suspect, it will affect not only our country.
Maxim Eristavi — visiting fellow at the Atlantic Council (Atlantic Council). It is also one of the founders of located in Kyiv independent media group Hromadske International.