In interstate relations, elements of blackmail as a method of diplomacy are quite commonplace. As for Ukraine, the vast majority of "pressures" were not advertised. At the same time, our recent history knows several high-profile cases. Not all of them were negative.
A TEST OF POLITICAL AFFILIATION
Did Trump put pressure on Ukraine? If you put this question to an American politician, you can easily determine his political orientation. A supporter of the Democratic Party will give an unambiguous answer: he pressed Ukraine crudely and cynically, in violation of the Constitution and all moral principles. A supporter of Republicans, including the president, will say that there was no pressure, that Democrats are liars and "witch hunters"...
Trump's opponents call "pressure on Ukraine" an attempt by his administration to urge the Ukrainian leadership to investigate the activities of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden.
In fact, "pressure on Ukraine" is nothing more than a great excuse for Trump's opponents to show the Americans what evil he is.
Trump's relationship with Democrats has long been toxic. And Democrats are constantly looking for opportunities to raise the issue of the president's impeachment. Earlier, the reason for this was Trump allegedly impeding Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe into Russia's interference in the U.S. presidential election. However, no evidence of Trump's collusion with Russia has been revealed.
So the Ukraine question has become a balm for Democrats: Trump involved a foreign state in his fight with their candidate Joe Biden!
The House of Representatives, which is dominated by Democratic Party members, announced unprecedented pressure from the U.S. president on Ukraine for his own political ends, which may well lead to impeachment. However, in doing so, the Democrats have exposed themselves. After all, the muddy details of Shokin's release have surfaced. It turned out that Biden also pressed Ukraine.
Joe Biden's son in 2014 was appointed to a leading position at Burisma, a gas company owned by oligarch Zlochevsky, close to Yanukovych. In 2015, former Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin undertook an investigation into the company's activities, but, according to Shokin himself, was interfered with by the U.S. authorities. In the spring of 2016, Joe Biden, according to his confession, raised before Poroshenko the demand to release Shokin within six hours, otherwise, Ukraine would not receive $1 billion in financial assistance. Shokin was released.
But the Trump impeachment case for Democrats proved more important than Biden's individual rating. Moreover, in the upcoming presidential election, Democrats could also be represented by Elizabeth Warren, who is right behind Biden, drawing level with him in the Democrats rating, and Bernie Sanders.
Of course, top-ranking officials do not believe in impeachment, although the House of Representatives will surely vote for it. People's support for the idea of ousting the president is slowly growing. Now it reaches 51-57 percent - according to polls conducted by different companies. Surveys ordered by Fox News, an agency that has traditionally supported Republicans, also proved disappointing for Trump (51%). Even among Republican supporters, 11% supported Trump's impeachment.
The complexity of the procedure leaves little chance of Trump being ousted, but information pressure is meant to bring down his rather high rating (40 percent of Americans are against impeachment).
During a phone call between the presidents of the United States and Ukraine on July 25, Trump asked Volodymyr Zelensky to help investigate the Bidens case.
Trump himself described the conversation with the Ukrainian president as "perfect."
Perhaps it would be perfect if some details being qualified by the U.S. president's opponents as blackmail had not emerged. To encourage Ukrainians to investigate the case, Trump ordered a freeze on $400 million in defense assistance to Ukraine, part of which was approved by Congress. Democrats call this assistance critically necessary for Ukraine to counter Russian aggression. It turned out, according to The Wall Street Journal, at the Office of Management and Budget, which is responsible for the movement of public funds, the freeze was controlled by "political appointee" Michael Duffey, associate director of national security programs.
It also emerged that Trump's personal lawyer, former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, contacted then Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko through two mediators from the former Soviet Union, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, who sponsored Trump's election campaign. In October, they were arrested in the United States and charged with violating campaign finance rules.
Three House of Representatives committees – on Intelligence, Oversight and Reform, and Foreign Affairs - are continuing to question in private the officials, diplomats, aides and advisers of Trump's administration, despite the fact that Trump has banned incumbent officials from working with these committees led by Democrats.
In short, confrontation is mounting. Hysterical comments, mutual insults filled the entire information space. At the heart of it all is "pressure on Ukraine" - a purely American formula, which is comprehensible only in the context of their domestic politics.
IN FAVOR OF UKRAINE
For Ukraine itself, which did not have the fortune to live without frantic external pressure from its northern neighbor, this formula is incomprehensible. What is the investigation into the activities of some politicians there compared to the requirement not to sign an Association Agreement with the EU, stay away from NATO, introduce bilingualism, buy energy at dictated prices, appoint the right leaders, etc.? The whole history of Ukrainian-Russian relations is a story of constant pressure and blackmail. For Ukrainians, with our extensive experience in relations with Moscow, Trump's manipulations look like childish antics.
So President Zelensky denied being under any pressure from Trump, not just for diplomatic reasons.
Moreover, in September the United States resumed the release of the promised assistance.
Imagine being constantly harassed and humiliated by an inadequate neighbor. When someone in the street pushes you in line, you, being busy thinking about your neighbor, won't notice this "pressure." However, particularly sensitive people can see harassment here.
Political scientist Oleksandr Paliy believes that the announcement of American "requests" has played into Ukraine's hand. "We can assume that Trump could have stopped providing assistance because the logical and correct position of the Ukrainian authorities was not quite comfortable for him. [Ukraine's position is] to assist in the investigation, but in accordance with the law - through a formal request. And Trump was just trying to avoid any formality - his officials wanted the Biden publicity to be allegedly initiated by Ukraine," he said.
At the same time, Illia Kusa, an expert of the Ukrainian Institute for the Future, believes that it is quite difficult to get some benefits from this scandal. "The main thing is not to get involved in intra-American processes," he said. "These are not our elections, and we should abstract ourselves as much as possible from the political positions of both camps. Any action or statement on our part can be used by both Republicans and Democrats for their own ends," he added.
According to Kusa, formally, there was no pressure from Trump because he only asked for a favor - but after the Ukrainian president raised the issue of military assistance. However, it is now clear that the decision to delay assistance was linked to an investigation into the activities of Trump's political opponent.
According to the expert, military assistance from America is somewhat overestimated, since the funds allocated to Ukraine are not that significant. Moreover, this assistance is used mainly for the payment of salaries to U.S. instructors or for the purchase of American military equipment. Democrats call it "vital" as an argument in accusations against Trump, Kusa said.
MANY GOOD AND DIFFERENT PRESSURES
In general, pressure in interstate relations with elements of blackmail as a method of diplomacy is quite commonplace. If we do not take into account Ukrainian-Russian relations, the vast majority of such "pressures" in relation to Ukraine were not advertised and concerned mainly trade and economic issues, for example, abolishing the quotas for round timber exports. At the same time, Ukraine's recent history knows several high-profile cases.
According to Paliy, the pressure on the country can be both negative and positive. He said negative examples included the requirement of several countries, including the United States, to get rid of nuclear weapons in the mid-1990s, and Ukraine, with its third-largest nuclear arsenal, lost its status as a nuclear power in 1996. In his opinion, our country should have traded more preferences, also resorting to pressure in response. One of the negative pressures, according to the expert, is the request of former Vice President Biden to then-President Poroshenko to deprive Shokin of the post of Ukraine's prosecutor general.
According to the political scientist, the activities of former President Leonid Kuchma gave rise to numerous positive pressures. The United States demanded an adequate investigation into the murder of journalist Georgy Gongadze, which became known in the wake of the cassette scandal (2000). Ukraine was gently pressed due to the sale of Kolchuga passive radar systems to Iraq (2002), but these facts have not been confirmed. Together with some EU countries, the U.S. "positively" pressured Kuchma and Yanukovych during the 2004-2005 Orange Revolution, which to some extent contributed to the peaceful resolution of the political crisis.
There was also positive influence from the joint pressure of the U.S. and the EU on the Ukrainian authorities during the presidency of Poroshenko, when in exchange for a visa-free regime Western partners saw Ukraine take important steps to fight corruption – the introduction of electronic declaration of income and expenditures of officials, the creation of numerous anti-corruption bodies, etc.
The International Monetary Fund, which is mainly managed from Washington, is pressing, in Paliy's opinion, "more positively, in the interests of Ukraine itself." The granting of each loan is accompanied by the presentation of requirements the fulfillment of which, according to the IMF, is intended to contribute to strengthening the financial capacity of the state. Some of those include fairly high fees for utilities, bringing order to the banking sphere, scheduling an adequate budget deficit, and more.
At the same time, the political scientist did not recall any loud pressure from European countries. He attributes the signing of the Minsk agreements to Russian influence.
The exception is Hungary, which is trying to pressure Ukraine by resorting to outright blackmail. They say that if our country does not change its education legislation and give the Hungarian community any special language preferences, Budapest will block any steps by Kyiv towards Euro-Atlantic integration. This issue still remains unresolved.
* * *
"Trump's pressure on Ukraine," as we can see, comes from this series of pressures.
The United States government system is built so that any slight deviation from the established process triggers an alarm - even in the very presidential vertical. The delay of payment of assistance for Ukraine for one-and-a-half or two months confused employees of the Office of Management and Budget, caused anxiety in the Pentagon and worsened the situation at the State Department. U.S. Chargé d'Affaires, a.i. in Ukraine William Taylor, texting Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations Kurt Volker, said it was "crazy" to withhold military assistance to Ukraine.
How will the situation develop further? The pressure on Ukraine may be slightly offset by reports of rising tensions between the U.S. and Turkey over the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria and the accession of Kurds to pro-Russian forces. However, the evidence that officials continue to give in the "pressure" case will probably give some more piquant, even scandalous details.
Volodymyr Ilchenko, Ukrinform
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