Trump’s victory as a chance for Ukraine: what Kyiv’s strategy has to be

05:12 PM 9-11-2016

Alyona Getmanchuk, Director of the Institute of World PolicyDonald Trump’s victory in the US elections can, in fact, become a chance for Ukraine.
This is a good chance for Ukraine to get rid of foreign paternalism, this time – American paternalism.

It’s not natural that the effectiveness of the Ukrainian president or Ukrainian government be measured solely by the level of Western support, particularly Washington’s. The speed and quality of Ukraine’s reforms should not depend on whether or not a figurative Uncle Joe calls and threatens the Ukrainian president with cutting off the money flow.

We in Ukraine knew different manifestations of Trump.
We knew Trump as a potential candidate for the Republicans who did not skimp on words of support for Ukraine. We knew Trump as an official candidate who balanced on the edge of the unacceptable in his statements concerning Crimea and Russian presence in Ukraine.

However, we do not know what kind of president Trump will be for America, the World, and especially for Ukraine. Moreover, I do not exclude the possibility that he himself does not yet know. We also do not know (although we hope) whether the fine-tuned American system has the ability to mold the new President, or if, vice versa, the new President can tame the Washington political machine.

We do not know if he will make even minimal alterations in his world view after the first American intelligence briefings, which traditionally are conducted for the newly-elected president. We do not know whether he will listen to his advisors. Or maybe, his advisors will find themselves in a situation where they will say what Trump wants to hear in order to secure their positions in his administration. We do not know whether or not Trump will continue to praise Putin after their first meeting and the first disagreements with the Russian president.

We do not know whether the Congress, where Republicans maintained their hold on both chambers, will be a mobilizing or deterring factor for Trump.

However, there are things which we can foresee or assume, relying on analysis.

Americans as a whole and Trump, in particular, do not like perpetual losers.
A Ukrainian success story does not automatically guarantee attention and support from Washington, but a story of failure will guarantee that under the new President Ukraine will be written-off of the foreign policy and security agenda for the US.

In contrast to Hillary Clinton, Trump is considerably less informed about the situation in Ukraine, having only sporadic contacts with certain Ukrainian oligarchs.

However, regardless of how paradoxical this may sound, this could be a plus. The complex of information regarding Ukraine that many members of Washington’s establishment have is quite often that “Ukraine= corruption.” The current view that Trump has of Ukraine is still forming, and thus we have an opportunity and a need to make sure that this view does not develop solely under the influence of Putin’s lectures to the new President that “Ukraine is not even a country.”

For this, it is necessary to avoid Kyiv’s traditional mistakes.
One of the mistakes which Ukraine has made for a long with America is to attempt to oblige the USA to help us. Such an approach with the new President will most likely not lead to success.

It is unlikely that Trump will pay much attention to agreements reached between Ukraine and his predecessors, especially those reached by Hillary Clinton’s husband, in particular, the Budapest Memorandum – even if these agreements are politically binding for Washington. However, this does not mean that old ideas and achievements have to be discarded.

We need to make Trump interested in Ukraine.

Until the new administration in the US will be interested in Ukraine – either because of our contribution to Euro-Atlantic security, or a reform miracle, or the presence of strategic American investors here – the US and Ukraine will have a strategic relationship only on paper.

To interest and not oblige must be the new slogan of Ukrainian diplomacy for America.

Of course, this work will not be easy, but we have no way around it. We shouldn’t consider it as just another regrettable international misunderstanding.

The results of the US elections are worth considering as one more signal that the international state of affairs for Ukraine is becoming more and more unfavorable. Concerning Russian aggression, at the moment we are left with one serious political ally capable of having at least some influence on the situation around Ukraine – Germany, in the person of Chancellor Merkel.

And even then, the certainty of having her support will last only until September 2017, when elections will take place also in Germany.

Unfortunately, the birth of a new Ukraine coincided with the birth of a new America and a new Europe. For them, a new Ukraine is of considerably less importance than for the old America and old Europe.

And it is necessary to accept as a fact.