And what of the US?

Following on from yesterday’s first entry in a month, it is perhaps worthy of asking a few questions relating to this statement - and what it actually means, and where it leads - if anywhere:

“Indeed, the USA, perhaps due to, and in penance for, its rather expedient interpretation of the Budapest Memorandum, not withstanding witnessing international law being cast aside by The Kremlin, has been politically and diplomatically engaged from the very start in Ukraine when armed Kremlin aggression presented itself.”

Perhaps a little deeper thought should be given to that statement - particularly so in light of the imminent EU/EaP (Ukraine) Riga Summit at which the USA (nor The Kremlin) plays an (overt and vocal) part.

It is a summit at which the EU will probably concentrate on warm, deliberately fuzzy platitudes towards Ukraine, encouraging further painful reform, lauding (particularly amongst the new reformist finance team) those reforms and policy decisions already made during a hurricane of never-ending ill-winds.

It will also bemoan publicly by inference, perhaps even more bluntly, the less than swift reforms that generally relate to rule of law/judicial reform - for aside from financial reform, the EU benefits from neighbours that have the rule of law and an independent and reliable judiciary when comprehensive, ratified, trade agreements enter into force (very soon).

Also, as time passes, the EU regional influence will be forced to rely more and more upon “EU standards” and adherence there to - and less so on its ability to effectively use it weight in many other areas of traditionally projected influence within its neighbourhood - such are the problems of lowest common denominator policy generate by, and acceptable to, a many-headed hydra .  The technocrats and bureaucrats alike require approximated laws, common standards, independent and reliable judiciary, law-abiding/enforcing national pillars within those outside of “the EU club” to insure the interests of its business/economy generating community, and that “standards” are upheld.

Thus, whilst encouragement (and sweetly worded admonishment) will spew forth from Riga, definitive, definite and much sought hard dates will not.  “In the near future….”, “……as soon as conditionalities are met”, “we hope that very soon….” are far more likely to be the fuzzy time lines publicly given to Ukraine regarding issues such as Visa-free, rather than firm dates such as “from 1st January, if requirements be confirmed as met…”.  Indeed the only cast-iron date that will be reiterated from the Riga Summit seems likely to be that relating to the full and unchanged Association Agreement-DCFTA coming into force - no further delays tolerated, no amendments entertained.

What has this to do with US policy toward Ukraine (and perhaps by way of overlap, Russia)?

It is a question that is really rather difficult to answer - for what is the US policy toward Ukraine?

Despite claims to the contrary in some quarters, the US did not plan, instigate and execute the events at EuroMaidan.  It is difficult to see how it even effectively co-opted it once it started - whether it tried to or not.  It may have supported it and encouraged it, but it did not start it.  Indeed it was, once upon a time not so very long ago, US policy to prevent the potentially chaotic disintegration of the USSR and contain demands for “independence” from the constituent parts therein.  Was it sorry to see Yanukovych go?  Probably not.  But then neither were the majority of Europeans, and the majority of Ukrainians shed no tears at his departure either.

Anyway, US policy toward Ukraine since the illegal annexation of Crimea, and subsequent Kremlin shenanigans, has been publicly stated as, generalising, upholding international law, regional European security, and standing by the Ukrainians in their desire to be masters of their own destiny - whether or not The Kremlin likes the fact that it lost the political and governance beauty contest to European norms - and to some degree whether or not Europe likes the fact it was preferred.

However, be it acknowledged or not, there has been an incredible amount of diplomatic (far outstripping the overtly political) energy spent by the US on Ukraine that exceeds what perhaps would normally be expected when international law is broken at the cost to a nation in which the US has, prima facie, few direct interests.

Some may like to believe that the US has spent an extraordinary amount of diplomatic energy (and political time) on Ukraine, simply because Russia is the aggressor and the Cold War competition between the two nations has never really been reconciled on either side - though Russia is not the USSR, and will never manage to return to such status vis a vis the USA.  Indeed that may be true for some personalities involved on both sides.  Too shallow though?  Probably.

The US is simply putting democratic values before interests in this case (due to a perceived lack of direct Ukrainian interests?  Maybe - but maybe there really are fairies at the bottom of my garden too.

It may also be due to the USA recognising, almost immediately, that if left to their own devices, the Europeans would yield to belligerent Kremlin demands, sacrifice Ukraine, and in doing so sacrifice whatever notional ethics, honour and guardians of justice label others may perceive them to collectively hold - and that in turn would impact the USA one way or another, sooner or later, in a time when coalitions and international support are sought for “this and that”.

Perhaps far too much US energy, time, and money, has gone into Europe post 1945, to see it fray (or even collapse) at the sight of the first militarily,politically and economically aggressive dictator on the continent to challenge its very foundations from which European peace in recent history has been built upon - and a challenge by a leader that so clearly states he (and his nation whilst he is in control) do not want to be like the Europeans.  It was, no doubt, felt within “the Beltway” that the Merkel/Hollande tandem would need to be at the very least watched closely, and more than likely need their hand holding, in their dealings with such a leader having been forced (due to lack of volunteers) to pick up the European gauntlet.

If so, having arrived at such a conclusion (probably rightly), what is the US policy for Ukraine if its years of investment in Europe is now intertwined with the Ukrainian outcome, and the Europeans have reached - or almost reached - the limits of their collective responses to The Kremlin mischief - and support for Ukraine?

Will it now be forced to lead from the front when there is so much that can and should be done to both assist Ukraine and also counter The Kremlin subversion across Europe?  If so to where will it lead, and what are the consequences for Ukraine if the US once again has to dig the Europeans out of a quagmire, and with it in all likelihood Ukraine too, when facing down a toxic Kremlin?

Going beyond and behind the rhetoric of rule of law, freedom to choose, and the inviolability of territorial integrity that are genuine interests for most nations, the US being no exception, what are the deeper interests and drivers of the US in the Ukrainian outcome on a continent that is home to the majority of its (sometimes lackluster and feckless) allies?

Does the saving of Ukraine also mean the saving of the Europeans (again), who often form the general chorus line in support of the US on the international stage, or alternatively, does saving the Europeans by extension, mean saving Ukraine?

Once (and if) saved, what then to avoid a repeat in the future?  What are the consequences of failure having now invested so much overt and behind the curtain diplomatic and political energy already?

How long will it allow the current status quo to continue, which by perception only makes the US policy toward Ukraine appear to lack clarity, and thus the strength to get over an unclear finishing line - the lack of both of which suit The Kremlin far more than the Europeans or Ukraine.