Where does Trump’s acquittal leave US-Ukraine relations?

Ukraine was at the centre of the bid to impeach US President Donald Trump and ties are now expected to be reset.

Trump meets Zelenskyy in New York during the UN General Assembly meeting in September, 2019 [File: Evan Vucci/Reuters]
Trump meets Zelenskyy in New York during the UN General Assembly meeting in September, 2019 [File: Evan Vucci/Reuters]

Kyiv, Ukraine – Oleksandra Hromyko lives next to the epicentre of a political maelstrom that nearly cost US President Donald Trump his presidency and pushed Ukraine into the limelight of global politics.

The 63-year old retiree resides in a shabby, Soviet-era nine-storey building in northern Kyiv adjacent to the business centre that hosts the offices of Burisma, a natural gas company that employed former US Vice President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, as a board member between 2014 and 2019.

Biden’s job was an apparent sinecure designed to protect Burisma and its owner, former politician and oligarch Mykola Zlochevsky, from money laundering charges.

In 2016, Ukraine’s parliament sacked Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin after Biden accused him of corruption and threatened to withhold $1bn in aid. A year later, charges against Zlochevsky were dropped.

But Hromyko is indifferent to the Burisma affair that triggered an impeachment inquiry into whether Trump coerced his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskyy into investigating Biden, one of Trump’s top political rivals in the 2020 presidential race.

Trump has already proven himself as a politician who doesn't just forget personal offences, but remembers the favours he has not received.

Alexey Kushch, Analyst

“Honestly, I don’t care, got enough problems of my own,” the bespectacled woman in a grey knitted hat and a long coat told Al Jazeera, citing her challenges – high heating bills, soaring prices and deteriorating healthcare.

“The politicians will sort it all out, it does not affect my life.”

But according to some Ukrainian analysts, it might.

“Trump has already proven himself as a politician who doesn’t just forget personal offences, but remembers the favours he has not received,” Kyiv-based analyst Alexey Kushch told Al Jazeera, referring to Trump’s July 25 phone call, in which he asked Zelenskyy for a “favour”, the investigation into the Bidens.

However, Ukrainian political consultant with close ties to Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, thinks that the president, who was acquitted on Wednesday, holds no grudges.

“There will be no vengeance, just a reset of our relations with the United States, with the Trump administration,” Andriy Telizhenko, a former diplomat who helped Giuliani during his trip to Kyiv in December, told Al Jazeera.

UpFront: Will Trump’s presidency remain tainted by impeachment?

‘Do you think America cares about Ukraine?’

The top diplomat of the US seems to have shown an example of Trump’s “forced” support to Kyiv.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met Zelenskyy on January 31, just a week after rhetorically asking an NRP reporter: “Do you think America cares about Ukraine?”

Ukraine “is not just the geographical heart of Europe, it is actually a bulwark between freedom and authoritarianism in Eastern Europe”, Pompeo told a news conference, standing next to Zelenskyy.

Despite offering a $700m aid package and assurances that Washington stands by the ex-Soviet nation of 43 million, Pompeo fell short of inviting Zelenskyy to Washington, DC.

“When the time is right – they’re both busy people – we’ll find a right opportunity for [Zelenskyy] and the president to meet,” Pompeo toldABC News shortly after meeting Zelenskyy.

”He

”Mykola

could have asked Americans for anything, but he just blew it, because Trump is invincible now.”]

Pompeo’s meeting with Zelenskyy irked Moscow; Russia still calls the 2014 Euromaidan revolution, the massive pro-Western protests that deposed pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych, a “coup”.

A Russian analyst compared Washington’s ties to Kyiv to a “suitcase without a handle” – something too uncomfortable to carry, but too valuable to leave behind.

“Euromaidan and the coup d’état in Kyiv in 2014 became a geopolitical triumph of the US in its task of taking former Soviet republics away from Russia,” wrote Irina Alksnis, an analyst with RIA Novosti. “But five years later, the victory seems increasingly Pyrrhic.”

The talks with Pompeo, and Trump’s acquittal, have not appeared to help Zelenskyy.

In February, his approval ratings have for the first time fallen below 50 percent, according to two independent polls.

Some believe his campaign promises were too populist and vague and say he has made little progress after eight months in power.

“He has done nothing,” Mykola Zarubinets, whose five-storey apartment building surrounded by potholed sidewalks stands a stone’s throw away from the Burisma office, told Al Jazeera.

He thinks Zelenskyy missed an opportunity to milk the White House.

“He could have asked Americans for anything, but he just blew it, because Trump is invincible now,” the 49-year-old construction worker said angrily.

Zelenskyy’s government and ruling Servant of the People party that largely consist of political first-timers, staunch opponents of previous administrations and his former colleagues from the District 95 comic troupe, has been criticised for the handling of peace talks with Moscow and the separatists, a failure to investigate and convict corrupt officials and to reform an economy crippled by Russian sanctions.

In mid-January, Zelenskyy refused to accept the resignation of his Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk, a 35-year-old lawyer who said in a leaked conversation that the president had a “primitive” understanding of economic matters.

But Zelenskyy’s falling ratings do not affect Ukraine-US cooperation.

“Ukraine is toxic, really toxic,” Kyiv-based analyst Igar Tyshkevich told Al Jazeera. “I very much doubt that both political camps in America will somehow initiate a change of the cooperation – at least until the election day.”

Source : Al Jazeera

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