The fact that a representative of the new administration, Antony Blinken, is coming to Ukraine together with Victoria Nuland, who has long been known to us, is a positive signal, experts say.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is arriving in Ukraine late tonight. He will be accompanied by Assistant Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland. Nuland flies from London, but will meet with Blinken in Kyiv. This couple has a lot to do: first, a meeting with Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba, then—with Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal.
Finally, tomorrow at half past eleven in Kyiv, the Americans will hold talks with the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Next is a rendezvous with representatives of civil society and employees of the US Embassy, both events will be held online. At ten minutes to four, Blinken will give an interview to the Ukrainian media, and immediately after that he will go to the airport.
Thus, the visit will hardly last one day. But it will be very meaningful, commentators interviewed by say. Meaningful, but one that will not bring any practical benefit, rather—great moral satisfaction. And this is not irony. Even the fact that Nuland will stand side by side with Blinken has a certain meaning signalling the continuity of traditions. As if US presidents come and go (Nuland worked with Obama, and then with Trump), but the friendship between America and Ukraine remains unchanged. Actually, Blinken is coming to us in order to "make friends" with today's Ukraine. But what other items are on his agenda?
Item one: to make acquaintance
"This will be a familiarization visit for Anthony Blinken. For Victoria Nuland, all the current leadership of Ukraine is also new. Because all the problems that were before Zelenskyy's presidency—Donbass, Crimea, etc.—they still remain, but in a different context," comments Volodymyr Fesenko, Chairman of the Board at the Center for Applied Political Research "Penta".
Basically, the purpose of their mission will be establishing cooperation between the new US leadership and the new leadership of Ukraine, he adds.
"Victoria Nuland does not need time to adapt, although there are many new things in Ukraine, and there are many new trends in bilateral relations, so there is a lot to study. It is Nuland who, obviously, will be responsible for the Ukrainian direction in the State Department."
Item two: to prepare for the Biden-Putin negotiation
Kyiv expects a kind of "test", visionary visit, because Biden was well-versed in what happened in Ukraine during the Poroshenko presidency, but does not really understand what is happening now, according to Bohdan Petrenko, deputy director of the Ukrainian Institute for Extremism Studies.
«Our partners need first of all to collect information. What for? In order to form an understanding of where the red lines of Ukraine lie before the meeting between Biden and Putin. And in order to clearly understand what exactly Biden will voice at the meeting with Putin.»
Other speakers, who commented on Blinken's arrival, share the same opinion.
«This will be primarily about security issues on the border with Russia—this will be a top subject. The second subject is the organization of military and economic cooperation between Ukraine and the United States—in the context of the upcoming meeting between Biden and Putin, and in the even more distant future—in the context of the meeting between Biden and Zelenskyy.»
And Vlolodymyr Fesenko, who criticized Biden for the delay in calling Zelenskyy, notes that when that call finally sounded, it was surprisingly timely. After all, it fell on the escalation on the eastern borders of Ukraine.
Blinken's arrival should be perceived in a similar way. "The visit demonstrates a high level of mutual relations, because Ukraine is the first of the Eastern European countries the US Secretary of State is visiting," the expert notes.
And he is visiting Ukraine primarily in order to prepare for the best counteract to Russia, to discuss further military-technical cooperation, to coordinate the movements of the two countries in the context of future negotiations between Biden and Putin, Fesenko says.
Item three: to discuss difficult but highly topical issues
Director of the Institute of World Policy Yevhen Magda considers the following as difficult but extremely important issues:
- defense capability of Ukraine;
- its ability to combat corruption;
- the ability to adhere to corporate governance standards;
- the influence of the oligarchs and de-oligarchization.
«There will be many fruitful discussions, but not all of them will be presented to people. Although Blinken's visit is more of a working one, so there is no need to wait for results here and now.»
Director of the Institute of World Policy
«Спектр вопросов широкий, недаром Блинкен едет вместе с Нуланд», — отмечает Кирилл Сазонов. Он также считает, что оф рекордс речь пойдет о корпоративном управлении, то бишь о проблеме «Нафтогаза».
"The range of issues is wide, it's not for nothing that Blinken is coming with Nuland," notes Kyrylol Sazonov. He also believes that "of records" there will be some discussion on corporate governance, that is, on the Naftogaz problem.
As it is known, there was a personnel reshuffle, and the Chairman of the Executive Board of the company Andriy Kobolev was dismissed by a government decision, and his position was taken by Yuriy Vitrenko, who is called the protege of the Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine (OP), Andriy Yermak.
By the way, about Yermak. On the eve of Blinken's arrival, the American media BuzzFeed News for the first time published the full transcript of the infamous conversation between Donald Trump’s attorney Rudolph Giuliani and the then assistant of Volodymyr Zelenskyy—Yermak. The conversation took place on July 22, 2019. It, of course, concerned Trump's rival Biden, or rather, his son Hunter. Giuliani demanded to conduct an investigation into him.
This is a long-standing and well-known story, and political scientists interviewed by do not exclude that this issue will sound behind the scenes, although it will not overshadow Blinken's visit as such.
Item four: to support the Crimean platform and "security belt"
During Blinken's talks with the Ukrainian leadership, it will probably be determined who from the United States will come to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Ukraine's independence and, more importantly, who will take part in the constituent conference of the Crimean Platform, Volodymyr Fesenko suggests. Let us recall that the Crimean Platform is an attempt to consolidate the international community around the issue of the peninsula temporarily occupied by Russia.
We will not dwell on this project in detail now, just let us recall that before Blinken's arrival another intention arose—to create a kind of "security belt" on the borders with Russia. Kyrylo Sazonov reminded about this, referring to the recent five-sided meeting in Warsaw between the presidents of Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. During the summit, its participants signed a declaration of their dedication to continuing dialogue and cooperation.
Both this declaration and this summit caused some irritation in the capitals of "old Europe," Sazonov claims. Why?
«Because the Baltic countries, Poland, and Ukraine are also primarily focused on America. We, especially in the first years of the war, received the first real aid from the United States. Even now, based on Zelenskyy's actions, it is becoming obvious that he pays more attention to strengthening relations with the United States than strengthening relations with Europe. It is not surprising that this meeting causes both great irritation in Moscow and a certain discontent in the West.»
But what does Blinken have to do with it? The point is, he is brining a signal from Washington that they support such an initiative and the United States will also join this "big geopolitical game."
Item five: to appoint an Ambassador, a "new" Volcker, and actualize NATO
This is just an assumption, but it is likely that during the talks between Blinken and Zelenskyy, the name of the new US Ambassador to Ukraine will be announced, because this post has been vacant for two years, commentators remind.
"The absence of an Ambassador is a bad trend. It testifies that our state is less interesting to America than any other country where there is an Ambassador, "emphasizes Yevhen Magda.
And Volodymyr Fesenko recalls another vacancy: after Kurt Volker, the chair of the US Special Representative in the negotiations on Ukraine is still empty. Volker performed this function for two years—from 2017 to 2019. And although until 2017 his mission was, in fact, carried out by Victoria Nuland, who was and remains "responsible" for the Ukrainian direction in the State Department, it will not hurt to appoint someone to help her.
"The negotiation line between Nuland and Surkov was the first. Only after that Volker appeared, Fesenko recalls. "Now the position should be returned so that there is a person who would be exclusively engaged in the resumption of negotiations on Donbas," he notes.
Finally, Fesenko adds that in the context of European security, it is important that Ukraine's integration into NATO accelerates. "This summer, the Alliance summit will take place, and it is necessary that the issue of Ukraine in NATO be actualized. Actually, it is the United States that is our advocate in this matter," he notes.
But authorities should not demand NATO membership in such a form as Volodymyr Zelenskyy did earlier, Yevhen Magda is convinced.
"The Ukrainian leadership should get the most out of this meeting, but not make claims or make demands, but demonstrate how promising as an ally Ukraine is."
Director of the Institute of World Policy
Only then can the visit of Blinken, Nuland and the entire American delegation can be considered both fruitful and truly successful.