Ukraine contributes more to US-Russia differences than the lingering cold war antagonism.
United States and Russia have had periodic sessions of association and dissociation since decades, which have now become “unnecessarily disturbing” and capable of nurturing a higher “spill-over effect”. Trump had always been forward-looking in terms of re-establishing a fresh association with Russia, which Putin seemed to have earnestly welcomed; but Russia’s notorious ambition of pulling Ukraine under its sovereignty makes the US and Europe wary of shaking hands with Putin. Ukraine has been an important link in US-Russia relations as it serves NATO’s geographical interest, and a possible ascension of Ukraine into NATO enables a strong military strength against Russia’s territorial ambitions. The future of their relationship is mysterious, as political miscalculations and quality of their diplomatic acts would embolden some reasonable assumptions.
Russia’s annexation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, an external but autonomous part of Ukraine, in 2014 was followed by a referendum in which majority opted to become part of Russia. The US and Europe, in particular, consider this referendum unconstitutional, being conducted under the presence of Russian army and pro-Russian rebels. Since it was an act of aggressive transgression, the US and EU imposed sanctions on Russia, which blurred every nearest chance of their relationship turning cordial. This further regressed Ukraine’s economic relation with Russia when it joined hands with the EU through a multilateral agreement. However, Ukraine experienced reduction in EU exports that dampened its foreign exchange earnings. After cutting economic ties with Russia, Ukraine buys gas from the EU, which is 30% costlier. Many in Ukraine believe that economic relations with Russia could make its economy self-sustainable.
The US, although wary of accepting Ukraine as a permanent NATO member, is suspicious of it meeting the minimum expenditure standards. Spending 2% of its GDP on defense is utterly impossible for Ukraine, when it is grappling with internal economic mismanagement and a tradition of unhindered political corruption, now accepted as a fundamental norm. The US insists on IMF’s support to Ukraine, which will again raise Ukraine’s sovereign debt obligations. It also indicates that the US is using Ukraine to tackle its cold war enemy, Russia, through financial lure and providing temporal protection.
Recent chemical attacks in Syria, and Trump releasing a missile bomb on Russian airbase in Syria further destroyed any chance of truce. US-Russia economic relations continues to decline, taking a 27.9% dip during 2016, amidst multiple sanctions, political inertia to steer the economy, and low oil prices. Highly unlikely that the two nations would cooperate economically unless the Ukraine issue is amicably resolved. These geopolitical miscalculations also count for the spill over effects on their joint will to eradicate global terrorism, precisely ISIS and the chaos in Syria. Ukraine has voluntarily trickled down its economic ties with Russia, though it benefited immensely than what it now receives from its ties with the EU. Russia counted for about 20.07% of imports to Ukraine in 2015 and 12.71% of Ukraine’s export. The trade deficit is supposedly self-inflicted.
US-Russia trade relations being significantly low, as compared to China and others, and Ukraine’s higher dependency of energy purchase from Russia at cheaper costs than alternate options, indicates the mismanagement of economic ties overshadowed by ambitious political agendas. US would continue to pressure Russia’s territorial claims by imposing sanctions and highlighting NATO’s military strength, and Russia continues to strengthen its Crimean sovereignty. This ill-constituted rivalry plays havoc on the citizens of these nations, who are forcefully accountable to arrogant leadership. Ukraine shall remain a more useful ally, both for the US and EU to restrict Russia’s territorial transgressions and ill-reasoned ambitions. In these nations, citizens are forcefully subjected to grave “externalities” of undemocratic and unreasonable interventions.