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Poroshenko’s visit to U.S.: expensive photo shoot amid economic collapse

Petro Poroshenko hosted by Donald Trump. Photo: korrespondent.net

Donald Trump’s election as U.S. president has become quite an unpleasant surprise for Ukraine’s government, which supported Hillary Clinton. Nevertheless, “the art of reorientation” is what distinguishes Ukrainian politicians. Immediately after inauguration of the U.S. president, Petro Poroshenko and his team persevered a meeting with Trump.

And they managed to do it with the help of U.S. lobbying organizations whose services cost high to Ukrainian taxpayers. In May, Trump allocated a few minutes of his personal time to Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavel Klimkin for a formal photo shoot and did not even invite the guest to take a seat. Despite this, the Ukrainian minister interpreted that meeting as a confirmation of “Washington’s readiness to press Russia over settlement of the conflict in Donbass.”

On June 20, Poroshenko travelled to U.S. and was received by Trump. The meeting pales in comparison with the meeting of 2014 when Poroshenko had a speech in the Congress enjoying standing ovations, had a vis-à-vis meeting with Barack Obama and received guarantees of financial aid.

Poroshenko’s meeting with Trump lasted about half an hour in presence of Ukrainian and American officials, which ruled out any meaningful dialogue. The sides made traditional statement and signed no documents. This did not hold Poroshenko from announcing a “fantastic support to Ukraine in U.S.” and to flood Ukrainian media with triumphal reports. All this was predictable, considering that Ukraine’s leadership considers any, even insignificant sign of attention by the West as an opportunity to retain their grip on power in Ukraine.

Noteworthy that both the presidents used the meeting to settle their own domestic political issues. Almost threatened with impeachment by the U.S. establishment over “plots with Russia,” Trump received Poroshenko trying to insure himself against a wave of criticism ahead of his meeting with Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of G20 meeting in Hamburg. The presidents of Russia and U.S. are likely to discuss the conflict in Donbass.

Noteworthy that trying to imitate that Ukraine’s importance on the international arena, Poroshenko said he needed to meet with Trump earlier than Putin would do. Yet, it is evident that the bill on reintegration of Donbass that was promised to Poroshenko was just an attempt to avoid implementation of Minsk-2, protracting and absurdizing the political-diplomatic settlement process.

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Poroshenko cared for the fact of the meeting rather than its content. Amid growing political turbulence when Poroshenko’s approval rating is low as never before and his political rivals keep pressing him, the later has to seek at least symbolical support abroad as a shield against opponents and growing wave of social and economic problems in Ukraine. Hardly anyone in Ukraine will risk overthrowing Petro Poroshenko “who protects Ukraine from Russia’s aggression on the international arena,” though his approval rating may keep falling up to the next snap presidential elections.

Since his election as president, Trump has managed to make several big commercial deals, including arms deals with Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Kiev has paid attention to that fact prior to Poroshenko’s visit. One cannot help thinking that Poroshenko is ready to lobby interests of U.S. fuel and energy complex in exchange for the chance to retain his power ignoring the Minsk Agreements. Poroshenko met with Rick Perry, U.S. Secretary of Energy, discussing purchase of coal in Pennsylvania (the problem has become acute with the Donbass blockade), supplies of liquefied natural gas from U.S., “implementation of joint projects in nuclear energy field” (read – increase in purchase of nuclear fuel from Westinghouse instead of Russian TVEL).

What may be theoretically interesting to U.S. is privatization of Ukraine’s energy facilities as well as recovery of natural and shale gas in the territory of Ukraine. Kiev pins hopes with Washington’s efforts to block construction of Nord Stream-2, which has become a reason for disputes between EU countries (main investor in NS-2, Berlin and Vienna) and U.S. Ukraine’s energy may mark the beginning of a new stage of “Ukrainian crisis.”

Following Poroshenko’s visit to Washington, two trends are possible. The first is activation of anti-corruption activity in Ukraine. It is no secret that many anti-corruption structures taking big funds were created with direct support of U.S. and corruption as such is an instrument to subdue elites of third-world countries. The second trend is activation of anti-social reforms, such as medical reform implemented under patronage of Acting Minister of Healthcare of Ukraine Uliana Suprun in favor of international pharmaceutical corporations, and land reform that implies opening of land market within the interests of TNC (U.S. agricultural holdings Bunge and Cargill are actively investing in grain terminals on the Black Sea cost planning to increase their design capacity to 102 million tons annually by 2020 as against current 66 million tons). Probably, Poroshenko discussed these issues with Vice President Mike Pence’s vis-à-vis.

Ukraine’s opposition public has already called Poroshenko’s visit to U.S. the most expensive photo shoot in country’s history. But this is just half the trouble. What scares them more is that Ukraine’s economic sovereignty is falling dramatically. A political sovereignty with economic ones is hardly possible.

Denis Gayevsky, Kiev

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