Former White House adviser believes Washington will stop discussing the Ukrainian issue during dialogue with Moscow.
Written by Lucas Leiroz, research fellow in international law at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.
Ties between the US and Ukraine seem gradually more uncertain. Analysts believe that Washington is “tired” of Ukraine and that the intention of the Biden government from now on is to maintain the status quo and not put the Ukrainian issue on the agenda in bilateral negotiations between the US and Russia, considering the low probability of both countries come to a common understanding. For Kiev, this means a serious loss and an “invitation” for changes to take place towards a more neutral international stance.
In a recent interview, former George Bush adviser Thomas Graham, who is currently a professor at the Yale University, stated that his country no longer plans to discuss issues concerning Ukraine during the bilateral dialogue with Russia. Graham believes that US President Joe Biden is excluding Kiev from the negotiating agenda because of a real “tiredness” over this topic. According to him, the US government currently understands that the Ukrainian case cannot be resolved through international negotiations due to the difficulty of the US and Russia in reaching a common understanding, which motivates the White House to avoid seeking radical changes from now on.
Faced with the impossibility of progress in the dialogue, according to Graham, Biden’s strategy would be to maintain the status quo, avoiding escalation of tensions or new attempts of resolution.
These were his words: “Biden wants to maintain the status quo with Russia. He understands that the opportunity to advance on the Ukrainian issue is minimal, and not much progress can be made here. Therefore, he will try to keep everything so that there were no sudden movements in either direction. He would be pleased with that”.
In the same interview, Graham briefly commented on Volodymyr Zelensky’s visit to Washington, stating that bilateral relations between the US and Ukraine are currently sluggish and that there have been no further attempts to pressure Russia, mainly because, according to him, “Kyiv’s top priority today is solving internal problems”.
The former adviser’s diagnosis is correct in its essence: the US is tired of Ukraine. And there are many reasons for this. The structural corruption of the Ukrainian state, racist and anti-democratic policies that scandalize the West and several other factors prevent Ukraine from gaining legitimacy in the sphere of Western public opinion. Despite being an important ally of the West against Russia, Kiev is increasingly isolated in its Russophobic ultranationalism, which goes beyond even American interests.
However, one point that does not seem correct in Graham’s speech is pointing to a possible Ukrainian interest in prioritizing its internal problems. In fact, this position seems more in keeping with the current American situation than with the Ukrainian scenario. Kiev is progressively tightening its racist measures against the ethnic minorities and Russian citizens, intensifying violence in the Donbass region, boycotting the flow of water resources to Crimea, and endeavoring to demonstrate a rather violent stance against Moscow. Indeed, Ukraine is concerned about its internal problems, but the Ukrainian government sees Russia as the cause of all these problems.
On the other hand, for the Biden government, maintaining this type of posture seems less and less strategic. Washington does not plan to stop its encircling strategy or demilitarize the Russian border – which is currently the ground for several NATO operations – but it undoubtedly wants to improve the dialogue as much as possible so that relations remain peaceful. The legacy of the summit between Biden and Putin in June is very significant and indicates that, despite the extremely ideological aspect of the Democrat, Washington is willing to maintain diplomacy in some points and avoid an escalation of tensions at the military level. It is in this sense that “ignoring” Ukraine is beneficial for Russian-US diplomacy: Moscow will not change its current stance on Ukraine, so to insist on this point is simply to delay negotiations that might be beneficial on other issues. Biden has realized this and is willing to change his attitudes.
It remains to be seen, however, how the Ukrainian attitude will be in the face of this American “tiredness”. The anti-Russian hysteria of the Ukrainian government has reached ever-higher levels of late. Allegations of human rights violations against the Russian-speaking population are growing day by day and racist policies have already become a reason to even prevent the country from becoming a member of NATO. In fact, although Kiev strives to integrate with the Western world, it is increasingly far from it. Now, not only does entry into NATO seem impossible to achieve, but the very diplomatic partnership with the US is threatened. The Ukrainian government will no longer be able to rely on Washington to demand its interests in negotiations with Russia. And this must be taken as a very important lesson.
Relying on foreign powers to maintain a policy of polarization and violence is always a mistake. The US supports Ukraine against Russia, but certainly Washington will not risk raising tensions just to defend Kiev’s interests. Ukraine is truly alone at the moment, and this should be reason enough for the country to review its entire policy towards Russia taken since the Maidan in 2014. Taking a more neutral and respectful stance towards Russia would be the wisest thing to do for Kiev from now on.
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