The last time I visited Kiev in April 2014, when the city still felt an incredible energy. For many months, Independence square (Euromaidan, as dubbed it the Ukrainians, who sought to wrest Ukraine from Russian influence) was occupied by protesters and the police. The excitement caught the town at the height of the Ukrainian winter. When I was in Kyiv, the Euromaidan was still filled with a variety of Ukrainians, they demanded a more transparent government, a more democratic society and closer integration with Europe and the West. Major protests have declined by February, when under sniper fire tragically killed 100 protesters.
However, the protests ended with the victory of the Ukrainian people. By the time when our delegation arrived to assess the situation, former-President Viktor Yanukovych has fled to Russia, and Ukraine held the first days of the organization of the new government. As an American I will say, it was very inspiring. As a member of Congress, I note, it was necessary.
Now I again came to Kyiv, this time as a member of the intelligence Committee of the house of representatives, and I understand that US support for Ukraine is now more important than ever before. After the revolution, became known as the Revolution of Dignity, it became clear that the Yanukovych regime was not acting alone when violently attacked its citizens, emerged to protest.
The Russian government also provided support — financial and other — to spread disinformation, sow confusion and suppress the protests. In the following months and years, the ambition of the leader of the Kremlin of Vladimir Putin in Ukraine became even more sinister. Russian troops invaded the Eastern regions of Ukraine continue to occupy the Crimea and waging war in the Donbass (in Ukraine that is closest to Russia).
The policy of President Barack Obama regarding the Ukraine and Russia helped to keep the imperfect and the fragile ceasefire. But after his successor, Donald trump took office, the fighting in the town, an industrial city near the Russian border, has been intensified to levels that were not for a long time.
This is a test of strength for the new administration. And trump can’t cope. To date, the administration trump could not provide a coherent concept of foreign policy of Ukraine or Russia. News from Washington come at a furious pace — from the resignation of national security adviser Michael Flynn to reports of contacts between helpers campaign trump and Russian intelligence, and all this at a time when a growing body of evidence of Russian interference in presidential elections.
It is amazing that a President trump for reasons unknown still wants to resist Russian aggression — or in their own country or abroad. Of course, this was not a surprise for our friends in the Ukraine, the Baltic States and throughout Eastern Europe. Here Russia uses tactics of the Soviet type for many decades in an attempt to maintain its sphere of influence and power in the region. The spread of “false news”, the propaganda, the introduction of spies and supporters of a foreign government, blackmail, extortion, and interference in elections — all part of the same script.
Trump would have to prove the leading role of the U.S. in the face of these problems, but the American President seems inclined to repeat Putin’s words about the role of NATO in the world, calling the Alliance “outdated” and obsolete. I don’t think my opinion could be more different. Just last year, during a visit to Georgia I watched Russian troops literally moved the boundary fences encroaching on the sovereignty of the country. Despite the claims by trump, NATO remains the most effective deterrent, which prevents further advance of Russia, and which for more than 70 years manage to maintain the postwar world order. When Georgia and Ukraine were hoping to join the transatlantic Alliance.
Today, it sounds impossible, but this does not mean that the US should withdraw from these countries and leave them under the pernicious influence of Moscow. The new administration does not preclude the cancellation of the Russian sanctions, which were imposed in response to the invasion of Crimea and intervention in the US electoral process. No matter what known to the administration trump about hacking the election, completely unreasonable now to abandon the only leverage, especially when Russia is becoming more bold. The maintenance of a multilateral sanctions together with the EU is crucial for the survival of Ukraine as a democracy friendly to the West, and to prove the reliability of the United States in the world.
And if the President trump still wants to maintain a hard line against Russia, the Congress must take responsibility and confront Putin. During my conversation with President Petro Poroshenko, he reiterated his commitment to the position — which has bipartisan support in the House of representatives and the Senate that sanctions should be maintained until until Russia will not restore the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, including Crimea. Today, when I go on Khreshchatyk, everything is calmer, Ukrainians rushing for shopping and to work.
Government buildings that for several months crumbled and was covered with ash, now cleaned and restored. But the mood is different, and although patriotism that erupted as a result of the revolution of Dignity remains, but there is a feeling of fatigue. Reveals political differences, and fading confidence in the Verkhovna Rada, the Ukrainian Parliament.
President Poroshenko continues the hard work of building democracy, trying to stabilize the economy, eliminate corruption, create a free press and to reform the judicial system, and all this during a prolonged war in the East. After meeting him, it became very clear how important U.S. aid in promoting the implementation of these reforms. Sometimes the obstacles seem insurmountable. But, despite these challenges, the Ukrainians have to stay on the path that leads to democracy. But the United States and Europe should continue to go with them.