Kyiv hosts world leaders in coming week; what will Ukraine get?
LONDON — This is a big week for Ukraine on the world stage. It kicked off with three conferences in as many days in London about Ukraine, plus a July 5 visit by Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman with British Prime Minister Theresa May.
The venue shifts to Kyiv, with the July 9 arrival of U. S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who will brief President Petro Poroshenko on the June 7 meeting between U. S. President Donald J. Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Trump-Putin conversation is taking place at the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany.
Besides Poroshenko, Tillerson will meet “with young reformers from government and civil society” in Kyiv before traveling to Istanbul, Turkey.
On his first official visit, Tillerson “will reaffirm America’s commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, while encouraging the government of Ukraine to continue implementing reforms that will strengthen Ukraine’s economic, political and military resilience.”
In an encouraging signal that Trump will be tough on Putin, the American president in Poland on July 6 called on the Kremlin to “cease its destabilizing activities in Ukraine” and join the international community of civilized nations. He also again called on NATO members to spend more on defense so that the alliance can prevail “on all battlefields” — from conventional to cyber-warfare and terrorism.
Trump also said that the U.S. will aggressively export natural gas to Europe, challenging Russian state-owned Gazprom’s dominance. “Trump said that Poland will no longer be ‘hostage to one gas supplier,’ hinting at Moscow’s aggressive energy policies,” Svitlana Zalishchuk, a Ukrainian member of parliament, wrote on Facebook, after attending Trump’s speech in Warsaw.
Stoltenberg & NATO
Also on July 9, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg will arrive in Kyiv for two days of meetings to mark the 20th anniversary of the NATO-Ukraine Charter on a Distinctive Partnership, which launched cooperation that has been intensifying since Russia’s war against Ukraine in 2014.
Stoltenberg will meet with Poroshenko, Groysman, address the Verkhovna Rada, open an exhibition at Mystetskiy Arsenal and christen a new headquarters for the NATO Representative Office in Ukraine at 4L Ihor Sykorsky Aircraft Designer St., near the U. S. Embassy in Ukraine. NATO has about 50 employees working in its Liaison Office, headed by Alexander Vinnikov, and its NATO Information and Documentation Center, headed by Barbora Maronkova.
While Ukraine has made joining the 29-member alliance one of its top goals, it will not happen anytime soon. Ukraine is simply seen as not ready.
For now, the best Ukraine can get is greater assistance to improve its defense capabilities and become integrated more closely with NATO standards. The more that Ukraine improves its defenses and democracy, the greater the chances of eventual membership, assuming the nation prevails against Russia’s war.
In London, speaking on June 6 at a UK government-sponsored Ukraine Reform Conference, NATO Deputy Assistant Secretary General James Appathurai, cited up to $40 million in NATO trust fund money available to help Ukraine in: command, control, communications and computers; logistics and standardization; cyber defense, medical rehabilitation and military career transition.
Appathurai said that Ukraine needs to show improvement in taking political ownership of reforms, governance, overcoming vested interests and in creating an institutional culture that rewards initiative.
NATO officials “see progress in all areas,” he noted. He also said that, in meetings between Russia and NATO, Ukraine is the “first item on the agenda” because Russia’s war is “a major cause of tension.” Ukraine’s success will provide “a major contribution to security for all of us here in Europe,” Appathurai said.
On July 12–13, the European Union will be represented by Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, and Jean Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission in a Kyiv summit. The agenda will focus on: Russia’s war in the Donbas and illegal annexation of Crimea, reform and the international situation.
Speaking in London on July 6, Valdis Dombrovskis, the vice president of the European Commission, noted that the EU has pledged 12.8 billion euros to Ukraine through 2020, but the aid is conditioned on making progress in specific areas of reform.
Dombrovskis told participants of the Ukraine Reform Conference that Ukraine should take advantage of its relative economic recovery to make progress on “ambitious reforms.”
He also noted a 25 percent increase in EU-Ukraine trade in the first four months of this year compared to the same period last year, without naming figures. But last year’s free trade total between the EU and Ukraine amounted to 30 billion euros, up from 27 billion euros in 2015. The trade is expected to increase with the start of an EU-Ukraine free trade agreement and because of Ukraine’s strategic shift away from Russia.
The summit will have a celebratory atmosphere, according to EU officials, not only because of the free trade agreement, but also because of the June 11 start of visafree travel for Ukrainians to most EU countries.
However, EU officials are also expected to press Ukraine harder to take faster and more decisive action to transform the nation, chiefly perhaps by instituting rule of law and punishing corruption. Ukraine’s high level of corruption and rampant impunity are seen as the main impediments to economic growth.
The UK’s Ambassador to Ukraine Judith Gough, in an interview with Interfax-Ukraine published on July 4, underscored the point: “The United Kingdom wants to continue trading with Ukraine. We want to build that trade relationship and that investment relationship. And the best thing that we can do right now to support that is to build strong institutions, particularly the judiciary, and tackle corruption, because the biggest obstacle to British investors coming to Ukraine or trading with Ukraine is concerns that they will not be able to have a fair hearing in the judicial process, as the judiciary is not strong. I think we will only see investors coming in if they believe that it is transparent and fair, and everybody is equal before the law.”
The London events included a July 5 conference sponsored by Chatham House assessing Ukraine’s transformation since the EuroMaidan Revolution that ousted President Viktor Yanukovych, the July 6 Ukraine Reform Conference and a July 7 investors conference sponsored by Dragon Capital.
French President Emmanuel Macron (R) and his Ukrainian counterpart Petro Poroshenko give a joint press conference after a meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris on June 26. (AFP)