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Ukraine is concerned about the position of the Republican administration regarding the prolongation and tightening of anti-Russian sanctions. In the US Senate, there is bipartisan support for sanctions against Russia. Most of the senators (97 out of 100) from the Republican and Democratic parties adopted the draft law "On Counteracting Russian Influence in Europe and Eurasia," which tightens anti-Russian sanctions and imposes them on certain zones of the Russian economy, including the oil and gas sector. Democrats are also interested in legislating the ban on the abolition of anti-Russian sanctions until Russia stops aggression in Ukraine. One of the supporters of tightening sanctions against the Russian Federation, Senator from the Republicans Lindsey Graham believes that if the president does not support the tightening of anti-Russian sanctions, this is equivalent to betraying democracy.
However, it is still unclear whether President Donald Trump would approve the tightening of sanctions against the Russian Federation. During the pre-election campaign, he allowed the possibility of lifting anti-Russian sanctions, recognizing Crimea as a Russian territory. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, commenting on the possibility of tightening sanctions against Russia, believes that it is necessary to show "flexibility" for the warming of relations with Russia and to maintain channels of rapprochement. In his opinion, the US does not impose more stringent sanctions against Russia, because unilateral measures are ineffective. At the same time, the US does not intend to abolish sanctions. In early June, Deputy White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders reported that the administration of Donald Trump is committed to the existing anti-Russian sanctions. Apparently, Donald Trump is in no hurry to tighten sanctions against Russia, wishing to agree with Vladimir Putin on cooperation in the fight against ISIS in Syria and the cessation of Russian aggression in Ukraine without excessive noise and pressure.
Petro Poroshenko has an opportunity to explain to the American partners the true situation in the east of Ukraine. The current package of US and European sectoral sanctions has no effective effect in forcing Russia to peace. More stringent measures are needed. The Kremlin continues to sponsor Donbas militants, providing them with weapons and ammunition. Russian troops are still standing in Donbas and continue to shell the positions of the Ukrainian Army and front-line settlements. The recent shelling of the Sartana settlement in sector "M" is yet another confirmation of Russia's unwillingness to promote peace in Donbas and fulfill Minsk agreements. Moscow still has not returned annexed Crimea back to Kyiv. Ukrainian president would try to persuade Donald Trump to recognize Russia as an aggressor country, to support the territorial integrity of Ukraine and to convince him of the advisability of tightening anti-Russian sanctions.
We should not expect that soon after talks with Peter Poroshenko Donald Trump would announce the toughening and prolongation of anti-Russian sanctions. As an experienced businessman and a man of action, he will first see for himself whether any agreements with Vladimir Putin are possible, and then he would decide on sanctions. Now the White House is probing the ground before negotiations with the Kremlin. This is evidenced by the meetings of Donald Trump with Russian diplomats in the White House.
The future of the Minsk accords
The Ukrainian leadership must understand the position of the new American leadership regarding the future of the Minsk accords. Part of the American officials from the Trump team supports the idea of fulfilling the Minsk agreements by the Russian Federation and see in them an instrument for the settlement of the armed conflict in Donbas. US State Department spokesman Heather Nauert stressed that the anti-Russian sanctions would continue until Russia fulfills the Minsk accords. The importance of the Minsk agreements for peace in Donbass was noted by US Vice President Michael Pence during a meeting with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin. According to the US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, the US does not intend to mitigate and abolish sanctions against Russia until the Minsk accords are met.
However, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who has already visited Moscow and met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and President Vladimir Putin, believes that the goals set by the Minsk accords can be achieved through other mechanisms. Secretary of State did not specify them. Given that Ukraine and Russia have different points of view on the consistency of the Minsk accords, Petro Poroshenko intends to clarify what exactly the White House intends to offer as an alternative. The facts are obvious. Russia does not comply with Minsk agreements, therefore they are ineffective. The settlement Donbas conflict has reached an impasse.
During the visit to the US, Petro Poroshenko has the opportunity to present to the American partners the position of Ukraine in achieving the goals of the Minsk agreements. It is important to persuade the White House to adhere to the following sequence in resolving the conflict: first, Russia is obliged to withdraw its troops and weapons from the territory of the occupied territories of Donbas and return to Kyiv control of the whole state border, and only then Ukraine would be able to hold transparent elections in Donbas and resolve the issue with "special status".
The Kremlin is interested in preserving its military presence and the power of the separatists in Donbas. To this end, Russians demand a parallel fulfillment of the political and military conditions of Minsk accords. In practice, this would mean the defeat of Ukraine: elections in Donbas would be held at the behest of Russian automatic rifles, and their results would be falsified. The Russian military would not leave occupied part of Donbas and would not transfer control over certain sections of the Ukrainian-Russian border to Ukraine, after the separatists legalize their power. Kyiv is interested in enlisting the support of the White House on the scenario of settling Donbas conflict, which would meet the interests of Ukraine.
IMF tranches and reforms
For Ukraine, it is important to understand the position of Donald Trump and members of his administration regarding IMF allocation of new tranches to Ukraine. In 2015, IMF launched a loan program for Ukraine. Until 2019, it was planned to allocate $ 17.5 billion to Ukraine. More than $ 6 billion were already received by Ukraine. IMF's prerequisite for the remaining amount is to carry out reforms in Ukraine necessary to improve the investment climate and stimulate economic growth: raising the retirement age and changing the land legislation, introducing the possibility of selling land to foreign businesses.
Support from the United States in the IMF is of fundamental importance for Ukraine. The share of US capital in the IMF is 16.5%. Countries whose share of capital in the IMF is 15% have the right to veto decisions of the financial institution. The Ukrainian government is interested in using the IMF tranches for "patching holes in the state budget." Negotiations with the Republicans about new tranches of the IMF can be difficult. President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have been working in the business sector for a long time. Before investing money, they would weigh all the strengths and weaknesses of any project. The weak point of Ukraine is the delay in land reform. People's deputies block changes in land legislation and oppose allowing foreigners to buy Ukrainian land. Also, the issue of pension reform has not been resolved, since increasing the retirement age, reducing pensions is an unpopular measure that would intensify criticism of the president and the ruling coalition. An additional negative impact on Ukraine's reputation is imposed by the corruption scandals that took place with the participation of senior government officials.
The US does not care about Ukrainian problems with the implementation of reforms. They are interested in the results.
Perhaps Poroshenko and the Republicans would discuss the prospects of granting Ukraine financial and military assistance. In 2016, former US President Barack Obama allocated $ 667 million to Ukraine. US financial assistance is necessary for carrying out programs in the sphere of public health, supporting economic growth and reforms, and strengthening the defense potential of Ukraine. The US budget for the 2018 financial year provides providing Ukraine $ 305 million of military aid, half as much as the amount allocated in 2016. An article of lethal weapons to Ukraine appeared in the budget too. Subsequently, the White House offered to replace military aid for loans. This applies not only to Ukraine, but also to the countries of Asia and Africa.
The economic policy of Donald Trump is distinguished by isolationism and protectionism. Donald Trump supports the idea of reducing US funding for any international initiatives. He has already called on the European NATO member countries to increase defense spending by 2%. The American president said that it was necessary to stop financing the UN. Savings would be used to implement programs in the social security of American citizens and would go to defense spending. One of the goals of Donald Trump's election program is to modernize the US nuclear shield and increase the effectiveness of the US Army, and support for veterans.
Ukraine could get under the hot hand of the American president. In the course of the talks, it is important to convince the Republican administration that Ukraine is currently the cornerstone of the policy of containing Russia within the framework of NATO's Atlantic Decisiveness, for which Washington continues to allocate funds and sends troops to the Baltic and Central Eastern European countries. Ukraine and our army are a natural outpost that covers Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary against Russian provocations. To spare money for strengthening the defense potential of Ukraine and offering loans instead of military assistance to the Americans does not make sense.
Supporting Democrats at the elections
Republicans can, by the way, remind Poroshenko of his flirting with the Democrats during the presidential campaign in the United States. Ukraine has made a serious mistake when, during the presidential campaign in the US, it was officially supporting Trump’s opponent, ex-secretary of state and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. Petro Poroshenko met and discussed prospects for Ukrainian-American relations with Hillary Clinton during the pre-election campaign. In the Ukrainian media, Donald Trump was hanged by the label of a pro-Russian politician. Undoubtedly, the American president himself created a reason for this, when he allowed himself flattering statements about Vladimir Putin and allowed the possibility of lifting anti-Russian sanctions and recognizing Crimea as a Russian territory.
The fears of Ukraine after the coming to power in the US, Donald Trump, have not been justified yet. But an unpleasant sludge and a lack of confidence in US-Ukrainian relations can remain until the end of the administration of the Republicans. By and large, Ukraine's behavior was no different from Russia's position during the presidential campaign. Only instead of the fanatical support of Donald Trump, the Ukrainian government openly supported Hillary Clinton. In fact, this is an snterference in the American elections. Only instead of veiled hacker attacks, our president defiantly supported the rival of Donald Trump.
The Republicans could surprise the behavior of the Ukrainian authorities, since the time of the Republican President George W. Bush, Washington has supported Bankova in relations with Moscow and Brussels. Republicans supported the first Maidan in 2004 and the resignation of Leonid Kuchma. Republicans supported the integration of Ukraine into the EU and NATO during the years of Viktor Yushchenko's presidency. In the conditions of the power of the president-democrat Barack Obama senators Republicans John McCain, Lindsay Graham were the first to talk about the need to tighten anti-Russian sanctions, offered to provide Ukraine with lethal weapons. During the presidential campaign of 2016/17, Ukraine created an image of a foreign ally of the Democratic Party, from which it would not be easy to clean up.