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Biden’s Factor

Joseph Biden

The U.S. President holds off on calling Kyiv, but he is already actively present in Ukrainian politics.

Joe Biden has been the President of the United States for almost two months already. This period has been full of very intense activities due to the need to change the White House team, as well as the urgent necessity to clear a backlog left by his predecessor. Of course, Ukraine realises that it is not a top priority for the American administration, but the fact that the U.S. President has not called Volodymyr Zelensky during all this time raises questions of ardent supporters of the Ukrainian president and causes delight of his opponents.

Interestingly, this circumstance coexists with the widespread belief in Ukraine that the activity of the National Security and Defence Council, which has intensified significantly after Biden’s inauguration, is encouraged directly by Washington. Again, in the eyes of supporters of the “servants of the people,” this indicates a special relationship between Zelensky and the American leadership, while critics see it as a sign of lack of independence of the Ukrainian leadership. It is as if without direct instruction from the United States, the President and the National Security and Defence Council would not have come up with the idea of a broad offensive against Russian agents of influence in Ukraine and would not have dared to launch it.

We have to agree that Ukraine would really feel calmer if Joe Biden showed a special commitment to the strategic partnership, finding time in his busy schedule to call Kyiv. Volodymyr Zelensky, who is still not a very experienced head of state, needs the support of the most experienced politician, the leader of the superpower who is also well versed in Ukrainian affairs. Moreover, Ukraine is at the forefront of Russia’s confrontation, which, as Biden’s headline-making interview with ABC once again shows, will be an important part of the White House policy. Here, Putin is a killer in the truest sense.

However, in order to act “in the spirit of Biden,” you don’t have to wait for your own steps to be in agreement with the American president. The very change in the U.S. leadership gives good reasons for Ukrainian politics to become more decisive: if Donald Trump was not very interested in Ukraine and the issues that were interesting to him primarily caused irritation (we must not forget the reasons for the first impeachment), the new president promised during the election campaign that America would return to Europe as an active player, restore and strengthen allied relations with NATO and the EU. It was said more than once that Russia would have to pay the price for the things that Trump forgave. On the other hand, Joe Biden was remembered during his vice presidency as a consistent fighter against corruption in Ukraine. We do not need to have a great imagination to understand his priorities in the policy towards Ukraine. We can and should start working already, without delay.

Of course, it is unfortunate that Ukraine needs additional external incentives for a coherent policy, but this state of affairs is understandable given the institutional weakness and chronic political illness. In addition, to have greater determination in the issues concerning Russia, we need to be sure that Ukraine will not be left alone with the enemy, which outnumbers us in military terms.

Joe Biden has just begun his presidential term, he has not given a call, not to mention a meeting with Volodymyr Zelensky which is delayed until uncertain dates, and Ukrainian politics has already experienced significant changes. There is every reason to believe that once his team works at full capacity, changes in Ukraine will become more systemic. Actually, a strategic partner is needed exactly for this purpose.

Leonid Shvets

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