Poroshenko's show-off, Yermak's intrigue, and quiet Nuland. How was Blinken's visit, and what will happen next
On the night of May 6, a long motorcade of cars with diplomatic plates rushed from the Boryspil airport to Kyiv. The new US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his deputy, well-known to Ukraine, Victoria Nuland, sat in one of these cars.
In Kyiv, both American officials had an extremely busy meeting schedule: from President Volodymyr Zelenskyi to the Metropolitan Epiphanius, to whom Blinken came to St. Michael's Cathedral.
How the visit went and what it means to Ukraine and our politicians, the new Rubryka article explains.
Ukraine was encouragingly patted on the shoulder. But there are nuances
"We support the sovereignty, territorial integrity, and independence of Ukraine," Blinken said at a press conference with Volodymyr Zelenskyi on May 6.
It seems that one of the primary tasks of the Secretary of State on this trip was to reassure top Ukrainian politicians and demonstrate to the entire world that the broad shoulders of the United States are still covering Kyiv in its confrontation with Russia.
By the way, the moment for the visit was chosen extremely carefully. The threat of a new big war, which has been hovering on the Ukrainian-Russian border since January of this year, has not yet disappeared but weakened after the order to withdraw part of the Russian military. At the same time, hostilities continue: the Armed Forces of Ukraine suffer losses with the wounded and killed almost every day; for example, on May 6, one of the fighters in Donbas died from a gunshot wound.
Blinken's arrival is a logical continuation of the course to strengthen support for Ukraine, started by the United States under Joe Biden. However, there are enough difficulties in American-Ukrainian relations; the Americans have questions for Kyiv and they want answers.
"I think that personnel issues were probably raised at the meeting between Zelenskyi and Blinken. I don't think specific names were mentioned, but the White House wants to understand the Office of the President's decision-making policy. For instance, the dismissal of Andrii Koboliev from Naftogaz, what's this? A well-grounded decision or urge to put an insider there. The further development of our relations with the United States will depend on what answers Zelenskyi gave," Denys Shvets, an expert on international politics, said in an interview with Rubryka.
Besides, a meeting between Biden and Vladimir Putin may take place in a few weeks. The visit of Blinken and Nuland before this is an important signal to Russia that the United States will at least try to synchronize on key strategic issues with Ukraine. Kyiv was promised an increase in military, financial assistance, and, in fact, they approved the participation of the same Blinken in the Crimean Platform international summit, which Zelenskyi's team is going to hold on the 30th anniversary of Ukraine's independence.
"It is defining priorities in US foreign policy, especially amid risks and threats from Russia, in conditions when there's a concentration of Russian troops on our borders. This is a signal of support, and it's directed both to Ukraine and Moscow that the United States will support Ukraine in this confrontation and will restrain Russian pressure," Volodymyr Fesenko, a Ukrainian political specialist, Head of the Penta Center for Applied Political Research, believes.
However, at the same time, they made a very clear warning; the absence of a fight against corruption and attempts to limit the independence of structures like NABU will be perceived overseas extremely negatively.
Poroshenko's photo and an issue with Yermak
Blinken's arrival caused a serious commotion among Ukrainian politicians. It seems that everyone wanted to "get closer to the body," and then quickly demonstrate it on social media.
The first on Blinken's schedule was a meeting with representatives of the Verkhovna Rada, parliamentary leaders, and faction leaders. It was called a beautiful phrase "power breakfast," although only 20 minutes were allocated for this protocol event.
Ex-President Petro Poroshenko also attended the meeting, and after that posted a photo with Blinken on his social media but… a six-year-old one, when Blinken was the US Under Secretary of State. Now Blinken has gone up, but Poroshenko's status no longer allows holding individual meetings of this level, but apparently, he really wants to. However, everyone immediately saw through the trick.
"Petro Poroshenko wanted to show himself as the important one, so instead of a group photo of Blinken's meeting with all the heads of the factions, he posted his six-year-old photo with Blinken, when he was still the Under Secretary of State.
And when he came to the journalists, he tried to show in every possible way as if it was an individual meeting with him, which lasted more than an hour, although, in fact, no more than 20 minutes were planned for communicating with all the heads of the factions. A wonderful illustration of the 'making a splash is better than cash' expression," political expert Ihor Petrenko said.
Another interesting point was the presence of the Head of the Office of the President, Andrii Yermak, at the talks between Blinken and Zelenskyi. Allegedly, the White House demanded to remove one of the president's closest associates due to the recent release of the transcript of his conversation with Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani.
However, it turned out that these were just rumors: Yermak was present, and this suggests that the White House isn't going to be distracted by personalities, continuing to work with institutions. And Biden and his people aren't too worried about the internal squabbles in Ukraine.
Now Zelenskyi's next goal is to meet with Biden
They say that while Blinken played the role of "frontman" and held meetings under the flashes of cameras, Victoria Nuland managed to meet with several old acquaintances among Ukrainian politicians and the leadership of law enforcement agencies. Several personnel changes may follow.
In addition, many experts predict that heads may roll among the members of the Cabinet of Ministers; Rubryka wrote about the threat of Minister of Health Maksym Stepanov's resignation quite recently. The future of Finance Minister Serhii Marchenko is also questionable; if the issue with the new IMF tranche doesn't get off the ground most likely, he'll be replaced.
But Zelenskyi's next goal will be a personal meeting with President Joe Biden. In this regard, their meeting with Blinken is seen rather as an intermediate link. The question is when it will take place: there are practically no chances for Biden to come to the Crimean Platform summit, although the President's Office hoped till the last. Most likely, the meeting between Zelenskyi and Biden will take place in the United States, and the timing of this meeting depends on how well the president's conversation with Blinken went.