U.S. – Ukraine Relations:What Expectations from the Republicans?

U.S. – Ukraine Relations:What Expectations from the Republicans?

Since Republican nominee Donald Trump won the U.S. presidential election, some suggestions on changes in the policy of Washington have been expressed in Ukraine. To understand the way of actions of the new U.S. president and his team and to draw conclusions for Ukraine it is necessary to pay attention to programs of the Republicans, who also won a majority in the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives, as well as consider new global trends of tangible changes of the situation in the world.

Changing the political palette of the world

A number of this year's world events, especially the U.S. presidential election, Brexit and a start of the election campaign in France,has proved that the situation in the world is changing, and transformation of the political palette with its shift towards national-centric models is underway.

First, there are trends of resistance to total globalization and insisting on solving domestic problems that leads to the strengthening of national confidence in different countries. For example, more than half of respondents in Germany (57%), France (53%) and Italy (51%) did not support sending their national military forces to defend their allies - Poland and the Baltic countries - in case of Russia’s aggression against them.[1]In many countries, conservative political parties or politicians with populist statements, which met expectations of electorates, became popular. For instance, in his election speeches, Donald Trump promised to unite the country, deport all illegal immigrants and build a wall along the U.S.-Mexicoborder.

Second, weakness of international organizations and their inability to fulfill their primary mission to ensure peace and stability lead to frustration with their work in most countries. The situation in Ukraine, the Caucasus, the Middle East and Africa demonstrates powerlessness of the key international organization - the United Nations. Before the U.S. presidential election, the Republican Party declared that "American taxpayers, the chief funders of the UN, deserve full transparency in the financial operations of its overpaid bureaucrats".[2]

Third, the economic globalization transfers manufacture to countries with less-paid labor that leads to increased unemployment and discontent of population in developed countries. U.S. economic researcher Gail Tverberg said that one of negative effects of the economic globalization was a transfer of investments spending from developed countries to less developed countries.[3]Consultant of the Centre for Assessment, Evaluation, Research and Education Nicolas Pologeorgis noted that the economic globalization reduced employment in the USA and increased risks for small business.[4]In turn, Donald Trump promised to create for American companies such conditions that would force them to bring production back to the country.

Fourth, in many countries, new persons, who speak a clear for ordinary people language, show human weaknesses, feel moods of diverse groups of population, and have no "tail" of political activity, come to power.[5]Voters are tired of the same faces and seek the new ones. For example, the winners are former General Rumen Radev in Bulgaria and businessman Donald Trump in the USA. They were able to meet voters’ expectations in a strong leader who could ensure the national security and successful economic development that provided them the victory.

This is not an exhaustive list of the factors of changes in the world, but the victory of Donald Trump became a clear confirmation of them.

In such conditions Ukraine will face more difficulties to concentrate the world's attention on its main problem - countering the Russian aggression. Peoples in the world demand from their leaders to provide protection from immediate threats such as terrorism and crime, but not Russia’s aggression, which they consider remote. To attract international attention to countering the Russian aggression Ukraine will have to make additional diplomatic efforts in conditions of reduced effectiveness of the international organizations.

The victory of Mr. Trump at the presidential election in the United States does not mean that Washington will significantly soften its attitude to Moscow. This is proved by the political platform of the Republican Party and campaign positions of Mr. Trump.

Republican course in the U.S. foreign policy

After the long stay in power in the United States the Democrats were replaced by the Republicans. Besides President-elect Donald Trump, the Republican Party got majority in the U.S. Senate (54 of 100 senators) and the House of Representatives (244 of 435 members). Therefore, conceptual basis of U.S. foreign policy, advocated by the Republicans, should be considered, because the U.S. President is not a fully independent player and depends on the Congress decisions.

In 2016, the Republican Party updated its principles of domestic and foreign policies, which were fixed in the Republican Platform 2016. This Platform and the election platform of Mr. Trump[6]have the same key approaches.

In general, unlike the Democrats, the Republicans comply with the line of aggressive foreign policy of the USA and increased spending on the national security.[7] According to the Platform, they call themselves the party of "peace through strength", believe in exclusivity and power of America, want stability in the world and friendly relations with other nations, but at the same time they are “prepared to deal with evil in the world". Mr. Trump voiced the same postulates in his campaign speeches: "We will achieve a stable, peaceful world with less conflict and more common ground".[8]

The Republican Party is convinced that the United States should promote democracy abroad and the national defense system must be prepared to combat the threats of terrorism and nuclear proliferation. "American values are under attack by foreign enemies, and we believe the government, especially the State Department, must defend our ideals," - notes the Republican Platform.[9]

Paying more attention to domestic issues, the Republican Platform identifies the following key principles of the American foreign policy: maintenance of the status of the USA as the strongest and most respectful leader in the free world; the most professional and powerful U.S. Army in the world; the modernized American nuclear strategic forces; the U.S. adaptability to counter threats in cyberspace; protection of fundamental rights and democracy; free export of American energy resources to foreign markets; the migration policy that meets the national interests of the United States. Accordingly, Mr. Trump focuses on protection of the American interests, including economic ones, strong army, counter-terrorism, cyber security and updated migration policy.[10]

The Republicans state that strategic challenge to the U.S. national security is military weakness of the United States, including slowing deployment of ballistic missile defense systems in Poland, the Czech Republic and Alaska "to curry favor with Russia", which strengthens its nuclear arsenal. Therefore, the Republicans define the priority for the President and the Congress to rebuild the U.S. military to be "the cornerstone of a strategy that seeks to deter aggression or defeat those who threaten vital national security interests". The Republicans call also the European Allies to fulfill their commitments and meet their need for greater investment in their armed forces, and, at the same time, support placement of NATO troops in Poland. The Republican Party is going to comply with the Reagan model of "peace through strength". Mr. Trump says the same: "Peace through strength will be at the center of our foreign policy".[11]

The Republicans identify common problems with Russia: terrorism and nuclear proliferation. Therefore, they declare their willingness to adhere to a friendly policy towards the Russian people. "For the people of Russia, we affirm our respect and our determination to maintain a friendship" - sais the Republican Platform. At the same time, the Republicans sharply criticize any territorial change in Eastern Europe imposed by force, namely in Ukraine and Georgia, and call on to punish perpetrators of aggression.

Therefore, the election rhetoric of Trump on a dialogue with Russia and review of the sanctions can be considered as an attempt to "reduce tensions in the world" and elements of technology to gain sympathy of voters who like such statements.[12] In fact, the Republican Party and the President-elect Donald Trump are going to adhere to a tough foreign policy position, including a position toward Russia, and make America powerful in the world that is reflected in the Republican slogan - "America Resurgent".

Ukraine at the map of the U.S. foreign policy

Ukraine is not mentioned in the election platform of Trump, but the Republican Platform states that the weak Administration under the Democratic Party allowed resurgent Russia to occupy parts of Ukraine and threaten neighbors from the Baltic to the Caucasus.

Although the main U.S. security priority for the Republicans is the Middle East in the context of combating ISIS and other terrorist organizations and control over global energy sources, but Ukraine will remain important for Washington as one of the largest countries in Europe, able to influence the situation in Eurasia as a whole. So probably the new U.S. government will try to resolve the Russian-Ukrainian conflict through dialogue but act decisively and strongly.[13]Once again Washington understands that Russia does not implement agreements and continues violating international law and its promises, Mr. Trump and the Republican team will move to other way of behavior. "We support maintaining and, if warranted, increasing sanctions, together with our allies, against Russia unless and until Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity are fully restored", - states the policy document of the Republican Party.[14]

In its Platform the Republicans also provided necessary assistance to Ukrainian Armed Forces that has already been implemented. The Senate and the House of Representatives approved theNational DefenseAuthorization Act for Fiscal Year2017, which increased amount of the aid to Ukraine security by $50 million to $350 million.[15]The assistance includes means and technical support to monitoring Ukraine's borders, training staff officers and senior militaries, as well as radar systems, anti-tank systems, intelligence and other technical assistance. In case of escalation of the situation by Russia, the USA will probably agree to provide lethal weapons, as candidate for the Secretary of Defense James Mattis supported that decision.

However, allocation of the aid to Ukraine depends on the fight against corruption and squander in Ukraine, which the Congress called a prerequisite. At different levels, the American side has consistently emphasized two key threats to Ukraine - lack of reforms and corruption. The Republican team is not be an exception. Its Platform states that corruption is "the enemy of reforms", and the Republican President should work with all countries to make progress against corruption. Taking into account more decisive methods of the Republicans, the Ukrainian leadership should resort to really effective fight against corruption, and establish a constructive dialogue with the USA.

In the energy sector relationships will not develop easy. On the one hand, declarations of the Republican Party on free energy exports to foreign markets mean for Ukraine increases of the U.S. oil and gas export to Europe, which will reduce its dependence on Russia. Ukraine could use this situation to diversify sources of natural gas. However, America delivers gas to Europe in liquid form, and Ukraine does not have a LNG-terminal and must find other ways, such as LNG-terminals in Poland or Croatia.[16]On the other hand, candidate for Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, being the president of Exxon Mobil, has forged close energy business ties with the Russian leadership[17], which, in the case of approval of his candidature by the Congress, could have a negative impact on the policy of Ukraine.

In general, Ukraine should intensify dialogue with the USA at all levels, especially at the highest level. During the eight years of the Presidency, Barack Obama has not visited Ukraine, despite the fact that in general his policy has been pro-Ukrainian. It seems that Obama has not had a strong message for Ukraine to bring it in course of an official visit. Therefore, after mistakes made during the American election campaign, concerning outright support to Hillary Clinton and refusal of the Republican candidate to meet the President of Ukraine, the Ukrainian leadership should make every effort to establish an effective dialogue with President-elect Donald Trump and organize his visit to Ukraine, which will be a strong impetus for the development of the Ukrainian-American relations.


UCIPR, Research Update, Vol. 23, № (7), 760, 2016


[1] http://joinfo.ua/inworld/1166409_Strani-ES-edini-kazhetsya-nemtsi-hotyat.html





[6] https://www.donaldjtrump.com/policies/foreign-policy-and-defeating-isis/


[8] https://www.donaldjtrump.com/policies/foreign-policy-and-defeating-isis/


[10] http://www.lemonde.fr/elections-americaines/article/2016/11/07/deux-programmes-deux-visions-de-l-amerique_5026444_829254.html

[11] https://www.donaldjtrump.com/policies/foreign-policy-and-defeating-isis/

[12] http://wz.lviv.ua/ukraine/187193-ukrainska-trampofobiia



[15] http://ukrainian.voanews.com/a/obama-signature/3629951.html



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