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Until Ukraine becomes part of NATO, Russia will continue its aggression

Author : Elina Beketova

Respondent : John Herbst

The fifth US Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to Ukraine and Director of the Atlantic Council Analytical Center John Herbst in an interview with Elina Beketova for 112 International Insight spoke about the changes in the policy of Donald Trump and Ukraine's prospects on the way to NATO. The conversation took place at the economic and humanitarian forum UKRAINIAN ID, where we sought an answer to the question of what it is necessary for Ukraine to be successful in an economy that is constantly changing.
19:36, 10 July 2018

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- On July 16, Putin will meet with Trump. What do you expect from this meeting?

- What we've seen over the past two years is that President Trump is extremely loyal to the Kremlin, and that's what many Americans really felt uneasy about, and they did not like that attitude. Now we see how the policy of the Trump administration has changed over the past few months, in particular over the past six months. Sanctions were strengthened, the Trump administration decided to provide weapons to Ukraine, and we see that a change in policy towards Russia has taken place, and in relation to Mr. Putin. But, of course, we cannot rule out the possibility that something can go wrong, in the interests of another state, and not in the interests of the United States.

- Do you think that some agreement can be signed? What kind of agreement can this be?

- There are a lot of speculations on this issue, in particular in the Russian media, that Mr. Trump wants to propose some kind of agreement to the Russian Federation and sign it with the Kremlin. There is a lot of pressure and stress in this situation. I would not rule out such an opportunity. But I'm also not sure that Mr. Putin generally agrees to sign such a treaty. Even before John Bolton was in Moscow, Russia has done everything possible to break the peace process and escalate the situation, in particular, in Ukraine, in Donbas.

- There were several statements by Trump regarding Crimea. Do you think Trump can officially recognize the annexation of Crimea and thus give the peninsula to Russia officially?

- We cannot say exactly what's in Trump's head. But he repeatedly stated that Crimea belongs to Ukraine and that it was illegally annexed. I do not think that the American policy will change in the near future. Recently we heard how representatives of the White House said that the sanctions would be toughened against Russia, and so on until Russia returns Crimea to Ukraine. And so I do not think that this situation will change.

- Even given Trump's recent statements, that if someone speaks Russian in Crimea, then he is Russian?

- Yes, it is true that there are a lot of people who speak Russian, but this does not mean that they are related to Russia. There are a lot of Ukrainians on the peninsula, and even a large number of Russians who understand that they are part of a repressive Russian machine.

- What is the possibility of Russia's return to the G-7?

- I believe that there is no support for such a decision. We heard this from Trump, but of course, the fact that we could hear it from him does not mean that American policy is such.

- We know that the Ukrainian hostage Oleg Sentsov has been starving for more than 50 days. Could he be released by Putin?

- Putin can release him because he is serving his sentence illegally. But whether he will be able to offer Trump some contract in exchange for the release of Ukrainian hostages – this is a question.

- What can influence this decision?

- I do not think he will do it, because he believes he can convince Trump that Russian politics is right.

- Do you think Trump can weaken sanctions against Russia?

- No, I do not think so, because Congress legitimately accepted these sanctions and did everything possible so that the president could not change it.

- And talking about the Nord Stream-2 project. Do you think that it will be realized or not?

- Now it is the moment when this project is actively promoted. But, I hope that it will not be realized. We know that the Kremlin has signed contracts to build gas pipes in some European countries, but we also know that Russia is under sanctions, and therefore it is very strange to negotiate with a country that is under international sanctions. And this project is no exception.

- When we talk about the NATO summit, what do you think about Ukraine's desire to join NATO? Does Ukraine have a chance to join the organization in the future?

- If Ukraine is not part of NATO, then Russia will continue its aggression towards Ukraine. Such statements were made recently. And that's why I think that such an idea - joining NATO, is extremely good, but it's very difficult to predict how long it will take and how long the modernization process will last before Ukraine joins NATO.

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