First and last: Why there won't be a replacement for Kurt Volker?

Author : Natalia Lebed

Ukraine is again in the spotlight of the American press. The context is the same - the involvement of Ukrainian officials in the scandal with Trump and Biden, as a result of which the current US leader was threatened with impeachment.
23:27, 20 November 2019

U.S. State Department Special Representative to Ukraine Kurt Volker

But this article is not about Trump, it is about the former State Department special representative Kurt Volker, who recently left his post and is also involved in the impeachment inquiry. Most likely, Volker will no longer be replaced, and his position will be eliminated altogether. The reason for this decision is obvious - work in Ukraine becomes too toxic and jeopardizes the reputation of the politician. This is reported by Foreign Policy.

No Normandy "Five"

"The position of U.S. special envoy to Ukraine, formerly held by Kurt Volker, the first senior official to step down in the impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump, will likely be discontinued altogether, according to current and former U.S. officials," so begins the Foreign Policy article.

"The responsibilities of Volker’s role are expected to be taken up by other State Department officials whose portfolios include Ukraine," the article reads. "This move leaves Kyiv without a clearly designated U.S. diplomat to watch its back in talks as new Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky pushes for peace five years into a simmering war in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk that has killed more than 13,000 people," journalists wrote.

The magazine quotes the director of the New Europe Center Alyona Getmanchuk, who says that the abolition of the post of special representative is "the signal, to put it mildly, is not encouraging, but quite expected: the U.S. presence in peace negotiations on Donbas is approaching … zero."

Further Foreign Policy notes that there simply will not be anyone who wants to take Volker’s chair, given how threatening the work on the “Ukrainian” direction has become. Those who were involved in it and testified to Congress in the case of impeachment were faced with pressure from the lawyers of the Department of State. In addition, their career was damaged or even destroyed.

American journalists recall: Volker was appointed to the post by then Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in July 2017. This move, like Volker's newly created position, was seen as a sign that "the US presidential administration is serious about Ukraine and shares the hope that it can activate the peace process just when the Western capitals begin to feel tired of Ukraine."

However, all hopes were dispelled when Volker got into the investigation of Trump case. He himself noted that "can no longer be effective in his role," and voluntarily resigned. “It’s unfortunate that the US role in the diplomacy of Ukraine and Russia was completely leveled by scandal. This takes the United States off the playing field at a crucial moment on the eve of a possible Normandy Four summit,” says Andrew Weiss, vice president of the Carnegie Fund.

How Trump’s impeachment put an end to Volker’s Ukrainian career

But how is Volker involved in the Trump scandal? In early November, the U.S. House of Representatives unveiled transcripts of testimony from former State Department spokesman Kurt Volker and U.S. ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland. They were involved in the impeachment process of US President Donald Trump.

Volker is charged with the following. Allegedly, "the day after Trump’s telephone conversation with Zelensky, which took place on July 25," he went to Kyiv with a very specific mission.

"The mission was to strengthen" the demands of President Trump", that is, the actual blackmail of Ukraine, to which Trump resorted in conversation with Zelensky, according to the World Tribune. It was recalled that Trump’s desire for Ukraine was to more actively investigate allegations against Joseph Biden’s son in exchange for America’s military assistance.

Volker himself categorically rejects this version of events. He notes that he did not want to return to Ukraine at all until all the electoral passions subsided, and planned his trip not earlier than autumn. And when he nevertheless went to Kyiv, there was only one goal - to congratulate the new government on the victory.

Noting this, Volker turned to the rather unpleasant characteristics of President Donald Trump. He said the Trump administration was "obsessed with dirtying an opponent, not a fight against corruption in general." This is reported by The Guardian.

At the same time, the newspaper notes that its correspondent managed to ask Trump whether "the US military assistance was really tied to the Biden investigation"? And he answered: "No."

Related: Trump was skeptical of Zelensky's election victory, - Volker

And therefore it is obvious that one of the two defendants in the scandal - Trump or Volker - is telling a lie. Moreover, Volker testifies that Trump "showed a very deeply rooted negative look at Ukraine." And that Volker himself tried to do everything possible and impossible to prove to Trump that "the new government of Ukraine is different (from the previous one) and that it is necessary to meet with President Zelensky." Trump gave up reluctantly, but agreed to arrange a meeting," the Liberty Nation wrote.

"All American officials involved in Ukraine sought to see this (changes in domestic politics, ed.) precisely because it would be an important step in convincing Trump that Ukrainians are serious about eradicating corruption that has long plagued their country." Liberty Nation notes.

But the aforementioned Gordon Sondland changed his previous testimonies and at a Congressional hearing de facto confirmed that blackmail by the American president had taken place. "I now recall that I spoke separately with Mr. Yermak (Andriy Ermak - Zelensky’s assistant), and I said that the resumption of US assistance is unlikely to happen until Ukraine makes a public anti-corruption statement, which we discussed in for weeks, "the BBC quotes Sondland.

Thus, it turns out that the truth is still on the side of Kurt Volker. But, despite this, the former special representative is twice injured. He lost not only job in Ukraine, but also the leadership of the McCain Institute analytical center in the USA. McCain's widow asked him to leave the Institute. “Kurt is a good person,” said Cindy McCain. But what happened "cast a shadow on the Institute and cast a shadow on what we are doing and what we are working for. So, the time has come," Mrs. McCain said.

Thus, a clash with Ukrainian realities turned out to be fatal for Kurt Volker. Even if he did not play up to Donald Trump in his attempt to push the leadership of Ukraine, but, on the contrary, stopped him in every possible way.

Insidious "Javelins"

However, the same American media claim that Kurt Volker also has his sins. At one time, he did not play the good and bad cop with Trump, but was on the same team with him, according to Politico.

It’s article says Volker could influence Trump when it came to the supply of Javelin missiles to Ukraine. The US president did not immediately agree to such a supply, but in the end gave the go-ahead. Not without the help of Volker, who was actively pressing on him. And it’s clear why. After all, Volker at that time held positions in the BGR Group, large lobbying firm as well as in the above-mentioned McCain Institute. These structures had financial ties with Raytheon, which manufactures Javelin systems and which earned millions on Trump's decision.

At one time, the Ukrainian editorial office of Radio Liberty asked the Javelins’ question to former US Ambassador to Ukraine John Herbst. Journalists were interested, in particular, whether the contract for the supply of weapons could be disrupted due to an investigation by Politico. "I think some interesting details may come up here, but on the whole it will not transfer  into a big topic that could somehow affect Ukrainian events and policies regarding Ukraine," Herbst replied.

He regretted that Kurt Volker had completed his activities in Ukraine, but at the same time added that there is someone to replace Volker, even not officially.

"I think it’s not good that Volker left. I would like him to keep this position. I would like him to do his job, as before, because he was really in his place. But, you know, in Kyiv there is a temporary attorney, a very talented person - William Taylor, and Ukraine will be able to share its concerns with him. William is constantly on the phone with Secretary of State Pompeo. There are good people who are the curators of Ukraine in the Department of State, and they can convey information to Secretary of State. Knowledgeable people work in the US Security Council. Therefore, I think there will be no problems. But then again, of course, it would be better for everyone if Kurt retained this position, "Herbst said.

Who is William Taylor?

Formally, the post of special representative of the US State Department in Ukraine was founded in 2017. But its prototype existed before. In fact, Victoria Nuland - the former Commissioner of the US State Department for Europe and Eurasia - played the role of Volker when he himself was "not yet in the project." She did not went to the front. But there was Euromaidan.

Everyone remembers how, in early February 2014, a telephone conversation between Victoria Nuland and the US ambassador to Ukraine, Jeffrey Payette appeared on YouTube. The interlocutors discussed the situation around the protests in Ukraine and the possibility of resolving the political crisis. On the record you can hear how a “voice similar to the voice of Nuland”, commenting on the role of the EU, says: “Fuck the EU”.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was very offended by this "Fuck" on Nuland. (It will take some five years, and Merkel will have a new reason for resentment - already because of the conversation between Trump and Zelensky, where the role of Europe was also exposed in a rather unsightly light.)

It is also interesting that, talking with Payette, Nuland noted that she did not see Vitali Klitschko (at that time the leader of the presidential ratings) in the "Ukrainian government." Actually, he didn’t get there, because after the famous coffee party in Vienna with the participation of oligarch Dmitry Firtash it was decided to promote Petro Poroshenko as president.

Did America’s reluctance to see Klitschko in the top of Ukrainian leaders influenced such a situation? All this is a long and complicated story, which, at first glance, has nothing to do with Kurt Volker, but perfectly illustrates the significance of a person delegated by the United States to “look after” Ukraine.

As for William Taylor mentioned by Herbst, now he holds the position of US Chargé d'Affaires in Ukraine. Taylor, 72, was once the US ambassador to Ukraine (2006-2009). And he perfectly oriented in the annoying Ukrainian realities. Recently, his correspondence with Kurt Volker appeared on the web. There are Taylor’s rather serious doubts: should he return to Kyiv again?

Taylor says deputy assistant secretary of state for European affairs George Kent warned him that there are "two snake nests: one in Kyiv, the other in Washington." And judging by the context of the conversation, Taylor does not express any disagreement with this assessment.

True, not the current power, but the previous one was meant under the Ukrainian "snake nest". That is, we still do not know what assessment Taylor would give to the current situation in Ukraine. But in any case, he now works in Kyiv. "Good man" and "curator" of Ukraine in the State Department, as John Herbst would say. That is, the story to be continued? ..

Related: Volker to testify in House of Representatives' public hearings

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