Joe Biden's Trip to Ukraine and Georgia by zuw43706

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									No. 2565
July 27, 2009
             WebMemo                                          Published by The Heritage Foundation
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            Joe Biden’s Trip to Ukraine and Georgia
                                             Ariel Cohen, Ph.D.

    Last week, the White House dispatched Vice                 Biden pointed out that the promises of the
President Joe Biden to Ukraine and Georgia to              Orange Revolution of 2004 have not been com-
assuage fears that America may be abandoning its           pletely fulfilled. He publicly criticized the lack of
allies in the post-Soviet space, as Washington con-        cooperation between President Victor Yushchenko
tinues to try to push the reset button with Moscow.        and Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko, rivals in the
Instead, fudged messages and more confusion pre-           forthcoming January 2010 presidential elections.
vailed. As Biden visited Kyiv and Tbilisi, the Obama       And his team’s assumption that after the elections
Administration managed to dilute a key message—            Ukraine will scale down Euro–Atlantic integration
that Russia should respect the sovereignty and terri-      may be wrong.
torial integrity of its neighbors.                             The Vice President called for an intensified fight
    The mere fact that the Vice President ventures         against corruption, an effort to increase energy effi-
into what Russia calls its “near abroad” two weeks         ciency, and an improvement in Ukraine’s abysmal
after President Obama’s visit to Moscow indicates          economic performance (negative 14 percent of its
that the White House has downgraded its relation-          GDP). Ukraine’s dependence on Russian gas and its
ship with Ukraine and Georgia. In the past, a U.S.         inability to pay market prices to Gazprom are at the
President en route to Moscow would make a stop-            heart of the country’s strategic insecurity. Biden’s
over in the Baltic States, Ukraine, or another coun-       criticisms on these points were fully warranted.
try in the former empire. These visits were a signal           Biden also announced a meeting of the U.S.–
that Washington would not have “preferred part-            Ukraine Strategic Partnership Commission to be
ners” in the region.                                       held in Washington in the fall. The intention is to
    Things have changed since the Obama Adminis-           implement the U.S.–Ukraine Strategic Charter,
tration decided to prioritize the relationship with        signed in December 2008 by the Bush Administra-
Moscow in such vital areas as Afghanistan, Iran, and       tion, and to deepen bilateral cooperation in the
arms control. While the global agenda is important,        areas of security, economy, trade, energy, and the
so is U.S credibility. It is crucial to demonstrate to     rule of law.
U.S. allies near and far that the United States stands         Where Biden fell short was in the area of national
by its friends. Unfortunately, Joe Biden’s messages,       security. According to Kommersant Daily, in April
carefully monitored in Moscow, fell short of making
that case.
    “Tough Love” Toward Ukraine. Biden offered                        This paper, in its entirety, can be found at:
“tough love” to the political elite in Kyiv, and deserv-        www.heritage.org/Research/RussiaandEurasia/wm2565.cfm
edly so. However, his tone was pedantic, if not high                   Produced by the Douglas and Sarah Allison
                                                                            Center for Foreign Policy Studies
handed—something the Ukrainian political elite                            Published by The Heritage Foundation
will surely resent.                                                          214 Massachusetts Avenue, NE
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No. 2565                                   WebMemo                                                July 27, 2009

2008, then-President Vladimir Putin told George W.        preted by some in Moscow as de-facto encourage-
Bush at the NATO summit in Bucharest that                 ment of a tougher line toward the Saakashvili
Ukraine is “not a real state.” Since then, he has pejo-   administration.
ratively referred to Ukraine as “Little Russia.”             While Biden was in Tbilisi, Russian Deputy
   Vice President Biden was tight-lipped in describ-      Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin warned that Mos-
ing what kind of security and military cooperation        cow will take “concrete measures” against any coun-
the U.S. and NATO can have with Ukraine. While            try that seeks to rearm Georgia. Particularly in this
he left the matter of potential Ukrainian Euro–           light, Biden’s declaration of a partial weapons
Atlantic integration to the Ukrainian people, Biden       embargo and refusal to provide “physical security
ignored Russia’s staunch opposition to the prospect.      guarantees” may be interpreted as an Obama
He also failed to call upon America’s European allies     Administration cave-in to Moscow’s pressure.
to step up Ukraine’s integration into the EU.                What Should the Obama Administration Do?
   “Finlandizing” Georgia? Biden’s trip to Geor-          The Obama Administration is walking a tightrope
gia was even more problematic, despite receiving a        between trying to improve the frayed relationship
hero’s welcome there. People lined the streets with       with Russia while simultaneously rejecting Mos-
slogans “Don’t Forget Us” and “No to Occupation”          cow’s spurious claims to a “sphere of exclusive inter-
in reference to Russia’s occupation of Abkhazia           ests” in the former Soviet Union and Eastern and
and South Ossetia in the summer of 2008. Biden            Central Europe.
met with the democratic opposition, which is                 To boost the confidence of U.S. allies while
demanding President Mikheil Saakashvili’s resigna-        ensuring that Russia remains in a cooperative mode,
tion, yet indicated that the U.S. will not dictate an     Washington should:
election timetable.
                                                          • Expand cooperation with NATO allies in formu-
   In a speech before the Georgian parliament,               lating and implementing a joint policy that
Biden correctly rejected Russia’s claims to a 19th-          clearly delineates security “red lines” in Europe,
century-style sphere of influence. He delivered a            including contingency planning for the defense
message that the U.S. is seeking a free, secure, dem-        of Eastern and Central European NATO mem-
ocratic, and united Georgia. Yet again, he fell short        bers—something that has so far been postponed.
of operational details.
                                                          • Continue to cooperate with, upgrade, and
   Biden’s call to the world not to recognize the            improve the militaries in the post-Soviet states,
independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia is the            especially Azerbaijan, Georgia and Ukraine,
minimum Washington can do, yet the Vice Presi-               which are interested in NATO membership.
dent rejected any “physical security guarantees” to
Georgia in case of a Russian attack. Nor did he artic-    • Work with post-Soviet states on developing
ulate any concrete roadmap intended to restore               democratic institutions, transparency, the rule of
Georgia’s sovereignty and hold Moscow to its com-            law, and good governance, as stronger institu-
mitments to the Medvedev–Sarkozy accords of                  tions and stronger states also enhance national
August 2008, which call for the restoration of the           security and improve the investment climate.
status quo ante along Georgia’s borders.                  • Announce a visit by President Obama to a non-
   Behind closed doors, Biden warned against any             Russian state of the region in the first half of
future use of force to liberate the Russian-occupied         2010. The President should deliver a strong mes-
territories—a position inherited from the Clinton            sage of support for their sovereignty, territorial
and Bush Administrations—and rejected Georgia’s              integrity, diplomatic and security cooperation,
requests for defensive weapons, such as anti-tank            Euro–Atlantic integration, democratic develop-
and anti-aircraft systems. Denying Georgia defen-            ment, and energy security.
sive weapons will hamper its ability to defend itself        “Don’t Forget Us.” “State sovereignty must be a
in case of another Russian attack and may be inter-       cornerstone of international order,” declared Presi-




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No. 2565                                  WebMemo                                                  July 27, 2009

dent Obama in his speech at the New Economic             be neglected. Nor can they be abandoned to the
School in Moscow on June 7. “Just as all states          geopolitical ambitions of those with transparent
should have the right to choose their leaders, states    anti-American agendas. President Obama and Vice
must have the right to borders that are secure, and to   President Biden should make certain that this mes-
their own foreign policies. That is true for Russia,     sage rings loud and clear even before their next visit
just as it is true for the United States.… That’s why    to the region.
we must apply this principle to all nations—and that        —Ariel Cohen, Ph.D., is Senior Research Fellow in
includes nations like Georgia and Ukraine.” Yet after    Russian and Eurasian Studies and International Energy
Biden’s visit, these words ring somewhat hollow.         Security in the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for
   The Administration is understandably focused          Foreign Policy Studies, a division of the Kathryn and
on Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, North Korea, and other       Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies,
priorities, but Eastern Europe and Eurasia, the heart    at The Heritage Foundation.
of the Eastern hemisphere, cannot and should not




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