Resignation of Kurt Volker: What does this mean for Ukraine?

Author : Natalia Lebed

As a leading expert on Europe and the post-Soviet space, Kurt Volker belonged to a cohort of ‘hawks’ who insisted on more active resistance to Russian aggression. He began his career under Bush, continued under Obama, and now under President Trump. He also worked closely with the late Senator McCain, another ally of Ukraine
08:54, 1 October 2019

NATO Official Website

The story of a possible impeachment to US President Donald Trump (which Ukrainian side was involved in) ricocheted one person known in Ukraine. We are talking about the special representative of the US State Department, Kurt Volker, who resigned amid the latest scandal. This is pretty bad news, because Volker belonged to the group of undoubted friends of Ukraine. In addition, it is not known whether this post will be retained in principle. The only positive in this whole story is that the information about the dismissal of Volker does not have  hundred percent confirmation yet. It came from the American media: The New York Times and CNN informed the reader that Kurt had verbally informed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo of his intention to resign.

Who is Volker and what happened?

This person is undoubtedly a radical, but not in Ukrainian sense. As a leading expert on Europe and the post-Soviet space, Kurt Volker belonged to a cohort of ‘hawks’ who insisted on more active resistance to Russian aggression. He began his career under Bush, continued under Obama, and now under President Trump. He also worked closely with the late Senator McCain, another ally of Ukraine.

The appearance of Volker in Donbas (in his new position) has made a splash. With calm restraint and courage, he visited the war zones and created informational campaigns with his uncompromising statements. One of them was to refer to the situation in the East as "a hot war, not a frozen conflict." The second thesis from Volker - Russia "is directly involved in the conflict (in Donbas)." The third well-known statement was that Moscow "miscalculated", because despite all the military might of Russia, "its attempts to seize this territory are not very successful."

At the same time, Volker admitted that it would be very difficult, almost impossible, to return already annexed lands from under the informal protectorate of Russia. And no one (even America) does not seek to fight with Russia, which is "too strong." However, one way or another it will be necessary to confront the Russian Federation. Personally, Volker saw a way out in the deployment of an international peacekeeping mission in Ukrainian East. And he was a categorical opponent of the sensational "Steinmeier formula."

The American special envoy was not afraid to voice unpleasant news for Ukraine, just as he was not afraid to “disturb” Russia's self-conceit. At the same time, he also acted as a contactee with Putin's assistant Vladislav Surkov. At one time, Olena Zerkal, the former deputy foreign minister, proposed expanding the bilateral format of the Volker + Surkov meetings, adding a Ukrainian representative to it. And someone even called this tandem a "Third Minsk" and laid special hopes on the negotiations of Volker and Surkov.

Now all this is in the past. After the start of the scandal regarding a conversation between Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Zelensky, Volker's reputation in America was under attack. Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani said that Volker was involved in organizing meetings with people from the Zelensky team, in particular, with Presidential aide AndriyYermak. He even posted on Twitter a scan of correspondence with Volker about organizing the meeting.

Volodymyr Zelensky and Kurt Volker

After the revelations of Giuliani, Volker would face interrogation in the House of Representatives. So far, no one has blamed him for anything, but Congressmen will probably want to hear something new about Trump and Zelensky “unregulated” relationship. "We still expect to hear everything he knows about this scandal," the Congress message said.

And the only fact proven today is that on July 26, Kurt Volker had talks with the newly elected President of Ukraine. Their conversation took place the day after Trump-Zelensky's call. At the same time, according to official reports, Volker and Zelensky only discussed cooperation between the countries and US support for Ukraine.

Response to resignation

"The disturbing news from Washington - Kurt Volker, US Special Representative for Ukraine resigned. His contribution to strengthening our strategic partnership with the United States is difficult to overestimate. And it’s hard to overestimate his firmness and strategic vision to counter Russian aggression," the ex-president of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko tweeted. In the next post, he noted that “with Kurt, we were more confident for a peaceful settlement, for progress on the path of reform, and for the role of the United States in Ukraine. You have set a high standard of trust and effective interaction. Sincerely grateful, Kurt! "

In informed circles, it is rumored that Poroshenko’s grief for Volker has an obvious personal aftertaste. After all, Volker worked for the BGR group. Poroshenko hired this company through the National Reform Council, led by his protege Boris Lozhkin, to lobby his interests.

A few good words for Volker were also given by ex-Foreign Minister of Ukraine Pavlo Klimkin. "Kurt Volker is the first not a political, but a real loss. He cares about us, it’s very rare in politics. Thank you, Kurt. It's a pity. This is only the beginning."

Oleg Lyashko, leader of the Radical Party, also supported Volker: “Unlike many world leaders who called Russian aggression in Donbas either“ internal conflict ”or“ your problem, ”Kurt Volker clearly called things by their proper names. We all felt that in Washington, Ukraine was dealt with a true friend who did not pursue a fast peace at any humiliating cost. Therefore, it is obvious that his annoying resignation will slow down the process of achieving peace in Donbas,"  Ukrainian politician wrote on his Facebook page.

“Moscow drinks champagne today,” MP Iryna Gerashchenko notes on social networks. “In principle, you can gather the“ Normandy format ”... Macron and Merkel have heard everything about themselves, now this super-important communication has become history,” she writes, referring to the negative assessments that Trump gave to the mentioned leaders in conversation with Zelensky.

Open source

In general, "this is very bad news" for Gerashchenko. “Thank you for the constant and unchanging support of Ukraine. For openness and willingness to dialogue, for supporting hostage families, dedication to solving the problems of peace, ability and willingness to call a spade a spade, real involvement in the Donbas issue, dozens of visits to the front line, meetings with families of political prisoners and sailors, interest in working for the result, and not just formal participation in the process, fidelity to the norms of international law and democracy. We really appreciated this dialogue, "she summed up.

At the same time, the head of the political council of the Opposition Platform – For Life party, Viktor Medvedchuk was delighted with Volker's resignation. "The resignation of Kurt Volker is the result of non-professionalism of the US State Department’s special representative for Ukraine, who was negotiating with Assistant to the President of the Russian Federation Vladislav Surkov. Regardless of what became the trigger for this resignation, this event testifies: Volker finally and irrevocably failed peace negotiations on Donbas conflict,” Medvedchuk stated.

The politician hopes that his own assessment coincided with the assessment that Volker was given in Washington, but not everything is so simple here.

Is the era of ‘hawks’ coming to an end?

According to US media, Kurt Volker not only refused to help Trump with the "drowning" of his rival Joe Biden but on the contrary, he conveyed to the Ukrainian leadership the idea that it was not worth responding to Trump's whims. He supposedly just leveled all the negative impression of Trump’s and his lawyer’s pressure on the Ukrainian government.

Of course, Giuliani's interpretation turns everything upside down and exposes the role of Volker in a bad light, and makes him part of the Trump-Giuliani tandem, which sought Zelensky’s investigation into the case of Biden’s son. In this context, it is most intriguing what evidence by Kurt Volker will be given to the House of Representatives in the coming days.

At the same time, the founder of the "Gorshenin Institute" analytical center Kost Bondarenko believes that the role of Kurt Volker is too overestimated. And all thanks to Petro Poroshenko, who made this person a figure of international importance. But at the same time, "Volker’s resignation speaks of a change in US policy towards Ukraine, Russia and the Minsk process. What kind of policy this will be is not clear," Bondarenko notes. He also connects his activities with the "hawkish politics" of John McCain, but at the same time notes that Volker always acted strictly within the powers delegated to him at the State Department.

In other words, Volker alone is not a significant figure. And with the death of McCain, real (read: effective and influential) hawks became critically few.

Ruslan Bortnyk, director of the Ukrainian Institute for Policy Analysis and Management, recalls the resignation of John Bolton, now a former adviser to the US president. Bolton was also known for his pronounced anti-Russian stance, and President Trump, they say, did not mind agreeing with the Kremlin. The policy of Bolton and Volker ceased to satisfy the White House, in connection with which the first of them has already resigned, and the other is on its doorstep, Bortnyk believes.

112 Agency

Nevertheless, we shouldn’t reduce Kurt Volker to a pawn on a chessboard. “I can’t remember the American official who visited Ukraine more than ten times in two years, and he arrived not only in Kyiv, but also in Avdiivka, Mariupol, Kramatorsk. This person knew the situation in Ukraine quite well,” the director of the World Politics Institute Yevhen Magda writes.

"My biggest concern is that this post will be abolished altogether. The existence of this post in the structure of the State Department was a noticeable signal for international players that the United States is interested in the situation in Ukraine," Magda said.

Indeed, until 2017, the post of special representative of the State Department did not exist. Kurt Volker was the first to take it, and possibly the last. However, this is not the main issue yet. What is much more important is how Russian President Putin and Trump’s lawyer Giuliani will meet on October 1. Both of them will visit Yerevan that day. This event will clarify many nuances, including what kind of policy towards Russia President Trump will pursue in the last months of his current cadence.

Related: U.S. Special Envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker resigns

Related: Volker discussed with Giuliani meeting with Zelensky’s assistant Yermak

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