U.S. should restore strategic dialogue with Ukraine – Volker
The United States should restore a dialogue with Ukraine on the main issues of geostrategic importance as soon as possible, Former U.S. Department of State Special Representative for Ukraine Kurt Volker said.
"Ukraine's success remains as strategically important to the West as ever. Now is the time for the United States to renew its engagement and support. Secretary Blinken's call with Foreign Minister Kuleba was a good start. Next should be a call from President Biden to President Zelensky, and the launch of a renewed strategic partnership across the full range of issues," Volker writes in his column on the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA) website, published Saturday.
The diplomat notes that official Washington is rightly focused on battling coronavirus and reinvigorating the economy, along with dealing with racial and social justice issues. Dealing with great power competition, notably from China, dominates national security thinking.
"The rest of the world has great hope for a return to traditional models of American engagement and leadership, but recognizes it will take time for the new administration to get settled," Volker stressed.
At the same time he added that in Ukraine, however, "anxieties are growing" that can easily be dispelled by Biden's team.
"To lay these out from a Ukrainian perspective: President Biden spoke with President Putin about Ukraine after just one week in office, without first consulting Ukraine, which is the victim of Russian aggression. He has still not spoken with President Zelensky, yet has called well over 30 other Heads of State," the diplomat wrote.
He added that in the White House statement reporting on the Putin call, it said President Biden reaffirmed U.S. support for Ukrainian sovereignty. However, as Volker writes, this inadvertently omits stating that the United States supports Ukraine's "territorial integrity."
"Such an omission is critical, and noteworthy in Ukraine, given Russia’s continued occupation of Donbas and claimed annexation of Crimea," the former special representative of the U.S. Department of State believes.
The diplomat also recalls the violation of the ceasefire regime in Donbas, which has escalated over the past month.
"Just this week, three Ukrainian soldiers were killed by a Russian-controlled mortar attack. The Normandy Format meetings have broken down, and there are no serious negotiations ongoing to press Russia to end its aggression and restore peace and legitimate governance in Donetsk and Luhansk," the diplomat noted.
According to him, Ukraine "continues to seek clear signals of Western support that have not been forthcoming."
"Against this backdrop, the United States can do several things to demonstrate continued support for Ukraine, and in doing so, to advance U.S. interests," Volker noted.
The planned Biden-Zelensky phone call that should take place as soon as possible is named by Volker at the first thing that should be done.
The diplomat says that the two Presidents "need not become pen-pals," but it is important to establish contacts at the head of state level, to set the tone for cooperation among the administrations of both countries because it has become critical for Ukraine.
Also, the former special representative of the U.S. Department of State for Ukraine calls on the representative of the White House to express outrage at the suggestion by the Kremlin's RT proxy that Donbas should be annexed by Russia.
"This Kremlin trial balloon is illegal at every level, a provocation intentionally aimed at the White House, and easily deflected if the U.S. responds," Volker stressed.
He added that Secretary of State Blinken should reaffirm U.S. adherence to the Pompeo Declaration of July 25, 2018, in which the Uni ted States committed to refuse "to recognize the Kremlin's claims of sovereignty over territory seized by force in contravention of international law."
Volker also calls on the U.S. to re-establish a "Strategic Dialogue" with Ukraine on fundamental issues of geostrategic importance, noting that twice-yearly meetings of the Secretaries of State and Defense with their Ukrainian counterparts would put this on the right footing.
In addition, the diplomat asks Biden's administration to re-start implementing far-reaching reforms in Ukraine and join the EU, the IMF and other international supporters to help Ukraine enact far-reaching antitrust laws.
He explains that the U.S. can also help by "vigorously pursuing criminal cases already underway against certain Ukrainian oligarchs, and working with Ukraine to improve key anti-corruption and law enforcement institutions that have still not lived up to their potential."
"Such a roadmap can be easily and effectively launched by the United States. But the U.S. must act quickly, as the forces that oppose such an agenda are already mobilizing," he summed up.