While greeting Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, U.S. President Donald Trump made what amounted to a highly offensive faux pas by referring to Poroshenko's country by a long outdated title previously used when Ukraine spent centuries under Moscow's rule, the Washington Post reported Tuesday.
In his brief speech to international journalists immediately after speaking private with his Ukrainian counterpart, Trump said, "It’s a great honor to be with President Poroshenko of the Ukraine, a place that we've all been very much involved in (sic)."
The term 'the Ukraine" was previously used by Imperial authorities in the Russian court and later by the Soviet Union as the official title of Russia's large Eastern European southern neighbor of 46 million people.
The definite article preceding the name was dropped in August 1991 as Ukraine regained its independence from Moscow following the collapse of the Soviet Union.
According to the Washington Post, "Some countries include the definitive article in their name. This typically occurs when the name refers to a geographic entity or a political organization — for example, the United States of America, the United Kingdom, the Philippines — though it is often not considered an official part of the name."
According to the CIA World Fact Book, only The Bahamas and The Gambia officially include "the" in their names.
"Ukraine is not referred to as "the Ukraine" in its own constitution or other official documents. In fact, there is no definite article in the Ukrainian or Russian languages. Ukraine is both the conventional short and long name of the country," a representative of the Ukrainian Embassy in London told the BBC in 2012. This name is stated in the Ukrainian Declaration of Independence and the Constitution."
Use of the definite article alongside Ukraine's name remains common in Russia and is the favored form of address used by Russian irredentists and Soviet nostalgists, the vast majority of whom reject Ukraine's internationally recognized independence.
"It seems to imply that Ukraine can only be defined by its relation to its larger neighbor, Russia, and the years of domination it suffered under Moscow during the Soviet Union and the Russian Empire before that. Calling Ukraine 'the Ukraine' would seem to question its sovereignty: a fraught thing after Russia's annexation of Crimea and support for rebels in east Ukraine," the Washington Post wrote Tuesday.
Trump, who is known for his weak grasp of history and a lack of geopolitical acumen appeared unaware of the mistake. His frequent slip-ups on foreign policy matters, including understanding the norms of diplomacy have included references to having "just returned from the Middle East" while speaking to a group of dignitaries in Saudi Arabia.
Source: The Washington Post