Between the Centers of Power

Ukraine in the USA — China — Russia Triangle

 

 

Victor Hvozd
Doctor of Military Sciences

 

According to the conclusions of political scientists, who are finding increasing evidence, including in the publications of our website, the main content of modern geopolitical processes is the formation of a new bipolar system of world order led by the United States and China, and which also includes a number of less mighty centers of power at sub-regional and regional levels, the main ones being Russia and the United Europe (European Union).

The goals of these countries and the forms and methods of their actions are well known and are subject to constant attention of analysts. The results of studies on this topic are widely covered both in special publications and in the media. At this, rather controversial are the role and place of other actors in international relations, which on the one hand do not constitute separate centers of power, but on the other hand are important for the world’s leading states.

 

…The main content of modern geopolitical processes is the formation of a new bipolar system of world order led by the United States and China…

In particular, this applies to Ukraine, which is at the intersection of US/European and Russian interests, and is also of some interest to China. The reason for this is a number of aspects characteristic of Ukraine that distinguish it from other countries of Central and Eastern Europe and the Western region of the former USSR. The most important are as follows:

  • first, Ukraine’s significant influence on the balance of power in Europe between the West and Russia. Despite the loss of Crimea, the armed conflict in the Donbas and the problems of the Ukrainian economy, Ukraine retains considerable potential in the demographic, economic, military and military-technical spheres. In fact, its potential is the largest among the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, with the exception of Poland’s. That is why Ukraine’s switching sides would largely determine their advantages over each other;
  • second, Ukraine’s geographical position in the south of Central and Eastern Europe and in the Black Sea region. For example, Ukraine is in fact a “buffer zone” between Russia and the southeastern flank of NATO and the EU. At the same time, it is also a link between Russia and the countries of South-Eastern and partly Central Europe. Besides, Ukraine controls the northern Black Sea coast and part of the southwestern Black Sea coast. In view of this, it is from Ukraine’s geopolitical choice between the West and the East, or Russia’s ability to return Ukraine to its sphere of influence, that their positions in the region will depend;
  • third, the availability of a strong transport and military infrastructure on the territory of Ukraine, including railways and motorways, airfields and seaports, military bases, training grounds and prepared positions for various weapon systems. Gaining access to them is important for both the West and Russia, in terms of the ability to use them in their own trade, economic and military interests. In particular, in the military sphere, such interests include a possibility for the parties to deploy their troops in Ukraine closer to the enemy’s borders, as well as to turn the Ukrainian territory into the battlefield in case of an armed conflict between them.

 

All this determines the world leading states’ goals and directions of their policy towards Ukraine.

…While the United States and Europe support the independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine, Russia is pursuing an openly aggressive course aimed at de facto destruction of our country…

Thus, Moscow’s main goal is to restore control over Ukraine, which is considered a necessary condition for the revival of Russia as a “great world power,” as well as increasing its ability to oppose the West and carry out external expansion in building the “Russian world.”

In turn, Ukraine is important to the United States and Europe as one of the strategic factors holding back Moscow’s neo-imperial policy, as well as weakening Russia as China’s main partner in its confrontation with the West over the redistribution of the world.

China’s interests in Ukraine are more pragmatic and include making it part of the transport system of the Chinese “Belt and Road” initiative, as well as access to Ukrainian markets and high technology. In addition, China’s special interest is to resettle part of the surplus Chinese population in Ukraine.

At this, while the United States and Europe support the independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine as a guarantee of the possibility of realizing its interests, Russia is pursuing an openly aggressive course aimed at de facto destruction of our country. In contrast, China has a neutral position on Ukraine and is guided by its own economic interests.

 

As part of this approach, since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia has been making consistent efforts to involve Ukraine in various integration initiatives in the post-Soviet space. First it was the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), then the united CIS Armed Forces, then the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), and finally the Customs Union (now the Eurasian Economic Union).

At the same time, Russia has been trying to bring its lobby to power in Ukraine and create obstacles to its European and Euro-Atlantic integration processes. At this, Moscow has been making efforts to divide the Ukrainian society and inflame conflicts on the territory of Ukraine in order to disintegrate it as a whole state. Thus, the first attempts to provoke a conflict in Crimea were made by Russia in 1993–1994, and to disintegrate Ukraine — during the Orange Revolution in late 2004 through the creation of the so-called South-Eastern Ukrainian Republic.

And after the failure of such attempts, Russia launched an armed aggression against Ukraine in the form of a “hybrid” war, during which Crimea was captured and the conflict in the Donbas was provoked. The goals of such actions by Moscow are well known and again were intended to actually liquidate the Ukrainian state with subsequent establishment of control over its territories.

As a result of the attack on Ukraine, Moscow did achieve some of these goals. First of all, it concerns Russia’s capture of Crimea, which allowed it to significantly strengthen its position and military presence in the Black Sea region. Besides, Russia has created significant problems for Ukraine and gained some leverage over it by organizing the conflict in the Donbas and keeping it in a permanent state of tension.

 

However, all this, in fact, is only of tactical importance. At the strategic level, Russia was defeated, which makes virtually impossible implementation of its geopolitical plans.

…At the strategic level, Russia was defeated, which makes virtually impossible implementation of its geopolitical plans…

Thus, the Putin regime’s aggression against Ukraine has led to qualitative changes in the mood of the Ukrainian society, — awareness of the hostile nature of Russia and Ukraine’s need to join Western systems of collective security. As has already been done by the countries of Central and Eastern Europe and the Baltics. This is evidenced by the results of opinion polls in Ukraine, which show an increase in the number of supporters of NATO and the EU.

In turn, this provided the United States and Europe with very clear grounds for including Ukraine in its area of responsibility, as well as providing it with comprehensive assistance in the confrontation with Russia. At the same time, the United States, the European Union, and NATO have significantly increased pressure on Russia by imposing and gradually toughening anti-Russian sanctions. As a result, Russia not only lost the ability to establish control over Ukraine, but also faced the problem of weakening of its positions in the world.

At this, Russia’s annexation of Crimea and occupation of part of the territories of the Donbas not only did not hinder the processes of European and Euro-Atlantic integration of Ukraine, but, on the contrary, stimulated them. Manifestations of this are the conclusion and successful implementation of the Association Agreement and visa-free travel regime between Ukraine and the EU, as well as a number of other agreements and treaties in different spheres.

 

Significant progress has also been made in cooperation between Ukraine and the US/NATO in the military and military-technical spheres. Thus, since 2016, the leadership of the North Atlantic Alliance has been implementing the so-called Comprehensive Assistance Package for Ukraine. The NATO-Ukraine Annual National Programs, which are similar in content to the Alliance Membership Action Plans, have also undergone qualitative changes.

The main components of these programs are US/NATO assistance in strengthening Ukraine’s defense and bringing it up to the Alliance’s standards, conducting joint military exercises, deepening military-technical cooperation, and Ukrainian military units’ participation in NATO peacekeeping and other operations. In addition, units of the Special Operations Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine are involved in the operations of the NATO Response Force.

On June 12, 2020, Ukraine was recognized by NATO as Enhanced Opportunities Partner

Based on the successes achieved in the cooperation of the parties, on June 12, 2020, Ukraine was recognized by NATO as Enhanced Opportunities Partner. The program envisages strengthening the interoperability of the armed forces of NATO countries, which allows them to establish a qualitatively new level of cooperation in joint military operations.

Of course, this is not a guarantee of Ukraine’s accession to NATO in the near future, but it is a strong signal of strengthening support for our country by the United States and other leading members of the North Atlantic Alliance. With this in mind, quite symbolic that Ukraine was recognized as Enhanced Opportunities Partner on June 12 — the so-called Russia’s Day, which is a national holiday of the Russian Federation and a symbol of its revival as a “great power”.

Bilateral cooperation between the United States and Ukraine also continues. Thus, under various programs, for the period from 2014 to 2019, the United States allocated 1.6 billion US dollars to strengthen Ukraine’s defence and security. Another 698 million US dollars are being allocated in 2020. Besides, according to the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, 250 million US dollars is allocated to Ukraine from the US Department of Defense budget for purchasing various weapon systems. This mainly applies to Javelin anti-tank missile systems, counter-artillery radars and communications equipment. In addition, special attention is paid to assisting in the restoration of the Ukrainian Navy by supplying our country with naval equipment.

The invariability of the USA’s position on Ukraine, as well as its strategic importance in deterring Russia, was confirmed by the US Department of Defense in June this year in regard with allocation to our state of the next package of the financial help. At this, the United States continues to urge all allies and partners to enhance their support for Ukraine.

 

…Ukraine is already seen by the United States/NATO as part of the Euro-Atlantic security system in Southeast Europe and the Black Sea region…

Moreover, Ukraine is already seen by the United States/NATO as part of the Euro-Atlantic security system in Southeast Europe and the Black Sea region. Based on this, it is virtually included in the Allied action plans as a leading echelon of the Alliance’s Joint Task Force “East”. Evidence of this are:

  • the coordinated nature of NATO exercises and joint exercises of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and the United States/NATO, which are conducted in the Black Sea region and on Ukrainian territory. The main ones are the NATO Sea Shield exercises, as well as the joint Ukrainian-American Sea Breeze and Rapid Trident exercises. In the course of these and other exercises, repelling Russia’s armed aggression is rehearsed, including in the interaction between the US/NATO and Ukraine;
  • strengthening the US/NATO military presence in Ukraine in the form of training missions for Armed Forces of Ukraine, as well as joint exercises. Due to this, the US/NATO: restrain Russia; increase the ability to respond quickly to Moscow’s actions on the far approaches to the Alliance’s southeastern border; study the theatre of military operations;
  • assisting Ukraine in strengthening its army and navy, as well as developing Ukraine’s military infrastructure. In particular, in addition to the above-mentioned arms supplies for the Ukrainian Armed Forces, the US/NATO allocated funds for the establishment or modernization of military and naval bases in Mariupol, Berdyansk and Ochakov, as well as the Yavoriv and Shyrokyi Lan training grounds. If necessary, they can be used by the US/NATO to deploy their troops. Besides, the Ukrainian port of Odesa is already systematically used by US and NATO warships as an advanced base in the Black Sea.

Besides, since 2014, the United States has been using Ukraine’s airspace to conduct reconnaissance of Russia’s territory, including in the interests of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. For this purpose, strategic-range unmanned aerial vehicles of the US Air Force RQ-4 Global Hawk are used.

At the same time, the possibility of action near the coast of Ukraine allows the US Navy’s Aegis-equipped warships to work out the issue of repulsing Russia’s missile strikes. This increases capabilities of the US/NATO missile defense system in Europe, in particular, complementing its components in Romania.

On May 29, 2020, a pair of strategic bombers B-1B Lancer of the US Air Force for the first time in history flew through the airspace of Ukraine

In late May 2020, a pair of strategic bombers of the US Air Force B-1B Lancer for the first time in history flew through the airspace of Ukraine on the route: the mainland USA — Great Britain — France — Germany — Poland — Ukraine — Romania — Turkey. During the flight, American bombers were accompanied by the fighters of these countries, including Su-27 and MiG-29 of the Air Force of Ukraine.

The B-1B stealth strategic bomber can break through enemy air defense systems and is capable of carrying 34 tons of weapons. In fact, the flight of B-1B bombers through Ukraine’s airspace near Russia’s southwestern border was a response to Moscow’s actions, which openly blackmailed the United States and NATO through Russian strategic aircrafts’ demonstrative actions on American and European directions.

Along with this, was shown direct cooperation between Ukraine and the United States in the military sphere was witnessed, including in the field of strategic weaponry.

 

Given the above-mentioned circumstances, today the relations between Ukraine and the United States actually acquire the character of a strategic partnership. In this regard, the next step may be Ukraine’s designation as a major non-NATO ally.

…Today the relations between Ukraine and the United States actually acquire the character of a strategic partnership. The next step may be Ukraine’s designation as a major non-NATO ally…

Of course, it’s not all that simple. Ukraine will never be able to become an equal partner of the United States and will be forced to follow American policy, even if it is not in its interests. Besides, further escalation of the confrontation between the United States and China will have negative consequences for Ukraine. On the one hand, this will distract the United States from Ukraine, and on the other hand, it will encourage Washington to seek compromises with Russia. At this, we should not rule out a possibility of various US political forces’ using Ukraine for their own purposes.

The manifestation of such threats to Ukraine is the current President of the United States D. Trump’s subjective and largely irresponsible policy based on his personal interests. Evidence of this is D. Trump’s constant “flirtation” with Russia, as well as his use of Ukraine to discredit his main rival in the US presidential election — J. Biden. At this, in order to put pressure on Ukraine over the last issue, D. Trump even used such a step as the suspension of military aid to Ukraine.

However, the United States did not abandon Ukraine and did not leave it alone with Russia. As a result of the interference of the US Congress, Washington’s policy not only did not change in favor of Russia, but became even more severely anti-Russian. For one, June 10, 2020, representatives of the ruling Republican Party in the US Congress took the initiative to impose unprecedented harsh sanctions on Russia and its partners — China and Iran, which were called America’s “greatest adversaries”. The congressmen’s report recommends designating Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism, including because of its attack on Ukraine.

This fact once again confirms Ukraine’s strategic importance for the United States, which will be maintained under any leadership of the United States, despite possible fluctuations in Washington’s course.

 

The main methods of China’s action to realize its interests in relation to Ukraine are participation in all sorts of joint projects on Ukrainian territory, which primarily relate to the development of transport infrastructure and energy, as well as scientific and technical research. In addition, China is paying special attention to high-tech enterprises in Ukraine, in particular, in the aerospace and shipbuilding industries.

…China has a neutral position on Ukraine and is guided by its own economic interests…

In the political sphere, China supports the independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine. However, this is mostly formal. For example, China does not recognize the legitimacy of Russia’s annexation of Crimea, but opposes the application of sanctions against it. The reason for this is the pragmatic position of Beijing, which is guided solely by its own interests. For example, on the one hand, China is committed to international law, which is violated by Moscow, and on the other hand, it is interested in strengthening trade and economic ties with it. At this, in terms of its potential, Russia is a much more important partner for China than Ukraine.

The development of cooperation between Ukraine and China provokes a mixed reaction from the United States and Russia. For example, the United States is concerned about China’s access to Ukraine’s high-tech military technologies (including “Motor Sich” plant) and is trying to prevent it. In turn, deepening of Ukrainian-Chinese cooperation in economy, trade and investments contradicts interests of Moscow, which is making every effort to weaken Ukraine.

 

…Ukraine is the object of struggle between the world’s leading states, and sometimes becomes a hostage to their interests…

In general, the above-mentioned circumstances have both positive and negative consequences for Ukraine. For example, it remains the focus of the world community and retains reliable partners? Such as the United States and Europe. At the same time, Ukraine is the object of struggle between the world’s leading states, and sometimes becomes a hostage to their interests.

All this demands from Ukraine to pursue a balanced policy, which on the one hand should be focused on strengthening relations with the West, and on the other — to maintain a balance of own interests between the United States/Europe and China. At this, under any circumstances, Ukraine’s main adversary will remain Russia, which will never give up its attempts to regain control over our state.

 

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