Trump may prove to be a friend of Ukraine, Kyiv analyst says

Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump (Credit: AP/Andrew Harnik/Nati Harnik/Photo montage by Salon)

Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump (Credit: AP/Andrew Harnik/Nati Harnik/Photo montage by Salon) 

Analysis & Opinion, Politics

No former Soviet republic has been more worried than Ukraine about the consequences for itself of the election of Donald Trump as US president, given the his statements during the campaign about his admiration for Vladimir Putin, his willingness to lift sanctions against Moscow, and the possibility that he will recognize Crimea as part of Russia.

But Kyiv analyst Denis Popovych argues that despite such fears, there are many reasons to think that in the end Trump may turn out to be a friend of Ukraine and that at the very least fears of an American betrayal are “premature.”

Indeed, he argues, there are two reasons for believing that “Donald Trump may present Putin with a number of unwelcome surprises” as far as the Kremlin leader is concerned: the candidate’s own words and the three traditional positions of the Republican Party concerning national defense and Russia.

With regard to the first of these, Popovych says,

Ukrainians have focused only on Trump’s statements about Russia and Crimea that are worrisome and not paid attention to other statements he has made that should be encouraging for Ukrainians instead.

Thus, he points out, candidate Trump not only said that Putin hadn’t invaded Ukraine but that

“the US had supported Ukraine but more in words than in deeds. [Barack Obama] is insufficiently strong and he is not doing for Ukraine what he should. We call this talk without action, and part of the problem of Ukraine and the US is Putin does not respect our president.”

With regard to the second, Popovych points to what he calls “three facts”:

  1. First of all, he says, “one of the chief ideological positions of the US Republican Party which nominated Trump for president is increasing spending on defense and national security and also a tough foreign policy.”
  2. Second, he continues, “it is extremely difficult to call the Republican friends of the Soviet Union and of the Russian Federation which arose on its ruins.” It was Ronald Reagan who helped bring down the USSR and his successor George H.W. Bush supervised its dismemberment.
  3. And third and most important, Popovych concludes, is the following: “Republicans have always spoken in support of Ukraine.” George W. Bush pushed for a membership action plan for Ukraine to eventually become a member of NATO, and in response to Russian aggression against it, Republicans like John McCain sharply criticized Obama for “insufficient attention to ‘the Ukrainian question” and urged that Washington supply Kyiv with lethal weapons.

Consequently, Popovych says, Ukrainians should not fear an American betrayal now or be so disappointed by Trump’s election. Instead, he says, they should feel exactly the opposite because the elections of Republicans to the presidency mean “a strengthening of the foreign expansion of the US, efforts to bring Ukraine in its orbit, and various stages of cooling in relations with Russia.”

“There is no reason to think that now will be different,” Popovych says.


Edited by: A. N.

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  • Robert Drake

    Unfortunately, Popovych is an idiot. At the Republican convention the Trump campaign largely left the Republican party policy platform alone, with one very energetic exception. They specifically went in and forced the platform committee to remove the strong language of support for Ukraine. This was the only deliberative change that Trump’s campaign made to Republican positions. Combine this with the fact that Trump’s Soho and other properties and tax fraud schemes that were managed along with Bayrock and Felix Satter, Russian mafia figure connected to Russian oligarchs AND the Gambino crime family in New York… and the likeliness that Ukraine will suffer is real. And last though not least, Paul Manafort and Podesta’s PR firm both worked for and hid their support for Yanukovych… who hopefully people realize by now did not have Ukraine’s best interests at heart in favor of benefiting from corruption and the friendship of Putin.

    • Vlad Pufagtinenko

      Fortunately, the person writing this, Robert Drake, is an idiot… are all Putin backside licking trolls.

      • Robert Drake

        At least I know how to read, and know the definition of the phrase “wishful thinking” as practiced by Popovych here. Trump’s election is not good for the Maidani or Ukrainian independence. I am an American. My fiancee is Ukrainian. And I have no common interest with Vladimir Vladimirovich. I think that Pravi Sektor’s Yarosh was essentially correct about the present Rada re-constituting the corrupt structures and the oligarchy, and betraying the Maidan and the volunteers who held the Donetsk airport. I was sorry to see Shakaashvili resign as Odessa’s governor, his reforms of the police and police corruption in Georgia had improved the function of the government there immeasurably. I’m pretty sure that Yarosh is still on a list of persons to be arrested and or liquidated by Putin.

        • Vlad Pufagtinenko

          It’s sad when a Ukrainian female settles and marries Russian

          • Harley Quinn

            Holodomor was not good for your brain

          • Vlad Pufagtinenko

            You should take a math course

      • Robert Drake

        Troll my engagement to a woman from Mykolayiv whose friends have died fighting for Donetsk. Read more carefully next time. You will also find that Trump’s early campaign manager, lobbyist to the torturers, Paul Manafort, did not simply ‘appear’ by chance in Yanukovich’s payoff ledgers or because he was anti-Putin. Which is a lot better measure of friendship than hoping Trump is not himself an oligarch or that I am a plant from St Piter… even John Podesta’s (Hilary’s campaign manager) brother’s public relations firm was in bed with Regions and Yanukovich’s public interests in Brussels … and I really cannot stand vatnik’s btw even when they are Americans voting for Trump or claiming he is a friend of Ukraine …. IE Putin’s useful constituency, within the Russian sphere of influence. Look it up…

    • Turtler

      As somebody who helped rally the vote for Trump among my family and supported him, you say the painful truth. There’s no denying it.

      Trump has kissed Putin’s backside and praised him. Putin and a lot of other thugs. His betrayal at the convention is something that can never be justified and were it not for the combination of him having all but secured the nomination and the crimes of Hillary it would have made me turn him down. Alas, I felt I could not.

      So I expect he’s going to still try and kiss Putin’s @$$ and appease him, like a number of politicians, bureaucrats, and businessmen have before him. I will try to push against that and stop him and I will not be alone, but for the immediate future I wish my Ukrainian friends be careful.

      The silver linings I see to this turdbowl from the Ukrainian point of view are twofold. One being that most Americans on both sides of the aisle (outside the psychos on the Far Right, Far Left, and Ostrich Center) support Ukraine.

      And the second is that Trump is a thin-skinned egotist.

      This may seem like an odd benefit, but given how we Know Putin’s a thin skinned, egotistical psychopath who is even worse. I think Putin will continue his long running vendetta with the West and part of that will be attempting to humiliate the sitting POTUS, as per his usual MO.

      I do not see Trump taking that kind of bullying well. Putin has a gift for Pi–ing people off and I think if he applied it to Trump that will swing him behind the consensus.

      But even that is hypothetical.

      • Robert Drake

        Al Capone would be a good deal if he would keep the Paris agreements. As it is, there is not that is going to be much except criminal if carbon energy is increased, Dodd Frank repealed, and 20 million people returned to no health care options. Putin is a Russian patriarch.. who requires respect and will do what is necessary to get that and promote his interests.

        It is normal that he took Krim in retaliation for the disrespect shown by deposing his man Yanukovych. Predictable even, the war in Ukraine exists because he does not want people there to forget that he is in control. Which is why many think the answer is to arm the Ukrainians, as Putin will not respect anything else.

        • Turtler

          “Al Capone would be a good deal if he would keep the Paris agreements
          or the Budapest Treaty.”

          I will agree with you on the latter.

          Unfortunately it seems like it’s a bit too late, and it’s another thing that reminds me of Japan’s invasion of China (mirroring the Nine-Power Treaty). It’s already been breached, and if anybody does enforce it I expect it will be years late.

          “Putin is simply a Russian patriarch… who, consistent with the
          internal culture in Russia, requires respect and will do what is
          necessary to get that, and to promote his personal kleptocratic economic
          interests – that are also within Russia expectations of their leaders.”

          I’d agree with caveats. He’s a Russian patriarch with a background as a minor KGB bureaucrat and an almost bottomless well of indifference to human suffering. Including suffering that eats away at the foundation of his power (as the AIDS epidemic alcoholism, and Dedovshchina do.)

          Say what I will about the Ivans, Moneybags, the Great, the Terrible- but while they were ruthless despots they at least recognized that too much internal dysfunction hurt.

          “It is normal that he took Krim in retaliation for the Maidan’s disrespect
          shown him by their deposing his man Yanukovych. Predictable even. ”

          Agreed, ditto the deployment of troops into the East.

          “The war in Ukraine exists because he does not want people there to forget that he and Russia, and not the European west, are in control. Which is why many think the answer is to arm the Ukrainians, as Putin will not respect anything else.”

          Absolutely agreed.

          And on that note, I do think that is one reason why Trump will eventually be leaned into doing that. For whatever his sympathies are or the quality of his soul, I can’t say he does not value himself or his own power. So Putin trying to show he’s in control (and by definition snub the West- maybe starting out with the European West but I doubt it will stop there) will probably not sit well with him in the long term.

        • Quartermaster

          Fortunately, it seems that Ukraine is starting to recover from the economic consequences of Putin’s depredations. I hope that continues and Ukraine passes Russia on the way up, as Russia is on the way down.

          From what I’ve been reading, planning to steal Crimea started in 2010.

  • Turtler

    This is what I hope, and wish me and my fellows luck as we try and do it. But after playing Devil’s Advocate for Trump on this site for months, let me go the other direction and give some words of caution.

    Firstly, Trump’s wildly inconsistent on most of his issues. He spent much of the campaign talking out of both sides of his mouth on many- perhaps most- issues. This is ample grounds to distrust him, and the main reason I supported him even though it was a nosepin vote was because the alternative was a wildly irresponsible felon.

    Secondly: He got to power in part by promising to avoid foreign wars (except maybe ISIS) and vilifying- sometimes slandering- many people who did. Like the Bushes, Obama,and Clinton.* So I imagine he will be significantly less eager for it =given how it would likely hurt his PR>

    Now, this isn’t to say he will never go to war. He has vowed to fight ISIS and on another front i don’t think he really has a choice, since the various flavors of Islamist, Putin, the PRC, and other rogue states are the aggressors while the US generally isn’t. Wilson campaigned Literally on “He Kept Us Out Of War” only for German aggression against the US and atrocities against foreign nationals to drag him in kicking and screaming. But that might take time.

    And finally, he HAS been inexcusably cozy with Putin and has given lip service (much of it blatantly false) to the likes of the Assads, the late ingrate Saddam Hussein, and other nutjobs. Were it not for the imminent threat of a felon corrupting the office of Presidency these things would have been deal breakers for me. And in the immediate future I imagine he will try to stay warm with them.

    That being said, I do think he can be pushed with the application of a red hot poker iron from the public and exposure to reality. Because what I am banking on is that Putin is still a psychotic, egotistical git that is even worse than Trump, the Clintons, and Obama put Together. Ultimately he will try and push and bully Trump like has pushed everybody else , and this will wizz away whatever good feelings are between them.

    That and the significant support the Ukrainian cause has among my fellow Republicans and even across the Aisle.

    However, we’ll see.

    *(I utterly hate Obama and Clinton but they did not start the Libyan or Syrian wars- the Psycho Dictators named Gaddafi and Assad did- nor found ISIS, though they did let it happen.

    I find Obama and Clinton’s HANDLING of those wars sub par to say the least, but being a stupid, mishandling git does not make someone responsible for Gaddafi or Assad opening fire on peaceful protestors).

  • zorbatheturk

    A strong America is Vladolf Putler’s worst nightmare. America has two main enemies: RuSSia and China. Iran, DRNK, and IS are chump change. Focus on the big picture. It is Putin’s RuSSia and the Chicoms who are working day and night to try to reduce America’s power.

    Don’t be a chump, Trump. Help Ukraine and your NATO and Asian allies.

  • Dirk Smith

    Clinton was predictable, regarding ruSSia, and would have simply given fuel to the Kremlin’s propaganda. Trump is unpredictable. VP Pence took a hardline against ruSSia before the campaign had him tone it down during the home stretch of the campaign. ruSSia’s actions the last 6 months fully reveal their intentions towards the USA and the West. With a GOP-dominated Congress, Trump will have pressure to do the right for Ukraine vs. the mongols. Let’s see how this plays out.