IN DEPTH: What can Putin and Trump Agree about Ukraine?

By Yuri Apukhtin

12 1,989

By Yuri Apukhtin – The approaching meeting between Putin and Trump is quite interesting because Ukraine is listed in the list of issues under consideration. The situation is fueled by reports that Ukraine may become a bargaining chip when the leaders of the two great powers consider other international problems.

The positions of Russia and the United States across Ukraine are diametrically opposed. Russia seeks to return Ukraine to its zone of influence, and the US – to preserve Ukraine in its current form as an irritating factor in the confrontation with Russia. What they can agree on is difficult to say. At least, it is possible to guess on what issues the agreement is most likely to be reached.

Starting positions of the parties before the talks are far from equal. Russia completely lost control over Ukraine, interference in the Crimea and the Donbass led to the imposition of sanctions against Russia, and the Minsk negotiation process on the settlement of the military conflict in the Donbass almost reached a dead end.

The United States has put under full control the power of Ukraine, provides political, military and financial support for the ruling regime, determines who and how will rule in Ukraine, and the existing state of affairs there quite suits them.

If for Russia the war near its borders and indirect participation in it is an irritating factor, then for the United States this is one of the planned actions in a global confrontation with Russia. For Trump, the Ukrainian crisis is one of the many in the world and is by no means the most important one. Moreover, he already said that the problem of Ukraine inherited him from Obama and he is ready to sit down at the negotiating table and discuss it.

When agreements are reached, one can assume what concessions the US can make in exchange for Russia’s concessions to other issues. Probably, the maximum that the US can afford is a formally neutral status of Ukraine with the preservation of its integrity and the return of the Donbass. About Crimea will be forgotten, since he is already a part of Russia. Other concessions are hardly possible.

With such an official or unofficial agreement, the question arises as to how this can be realized. To solve it, it is necessary to change power in Kiev, conduct denazification of the country and seek ways to integrate Donbass in Ukraine. The current Kiev power is fundamentally incapable of this and will not allow the transformation of Ukraine into a neutral state. Even with the consent of the United States, this power is not so simple to remove.

The unfolding presidential election campaign shows that among the powerful political elites, radical sentiments are very strong and all candidates for power and their political forces are not ready to make compromises. The rhetoric of political forces is basically militant, and today there are no candidates who could defend the course of Ukraine, assuming its neutral status and the establishment of at least good-neighborly relations with Russia.

The likelihood of winning moderate political forces in elections that can stand behind such politicians as Boyko, Muraev or Medvedchuk is practically zero. Even with the consent of the US and Russia to their coming to power, they are not able to do it. They have neither the strength nor the resources to win, and the ruling regime, with the help of well-trained groups of radicals, will not allow it by force of arms. All this can end only with foreign intervention and the introduction of peacekeeping forces, which does not suit anyone.

Consequently, any elections in Ukraine will lead to the same power of Russophobes or even more extremist forces who will continue the same course. That is, the implementation of the neutral status of Ukraine by evolutionary means is practically impossible.



A change of power can be made by organizing a coup d’état and overthrowing the ruling regime. This requires the strength and resources, which the supporters of Ukraine’s neutral status do not have. Such forces are only among radical groups operating in the interests of the Nazi regime. The resistance movement, which operated in the South-East in the spring of 2014, is completely cleaned by the regime and does not represent a united strength today.

The real power is the militia of Donbass, and it could seriously affect the situation in Ukraine. The militia has the strength and the means to carry out such actions, all the more behind it could be the “volunteers” and quickly establish order in the country. It is clear that under such a situation there would be no question of any neutral status of Ukraine, it would definitely enter the sphere of influence of Russia with all the ensuing consequences. Americans understand this perfectly and will not allow any agreements that could lead to such a scenario.

One of the most serious issues in such a prospective scenario is the inevitable integration of Donbass into Ukraine. With all the other nuances, this problem is most painful, and first of all for the inhabitants of Donbass. I had to communicate with them and, as soon as they hear about a possible return to Ukraine, react instantly and declare that they would rather take up arms than agree to live together with the Nazis.

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Hypothetically, this possibility exists, and all this is spelled out in the Minsk Agreements, where a special status of Donbass appears, after which federalization of Ukraine is viewed. This idea has been around for a long time, and it was expressed by high state officials both in Russia and in the US. On this can be built a compromise between the two great powers in case they agree.


This was said a lot in 2014, and then it still made sense. I struggled for its implementation, bringing people to rallies for holding a referendum on this issue. For a relatively calm Ukraine like before the coup, the implementation of federalization with broad powers of the regions made it possible to neutralize the detrimental impact of nationalists and prevent the escalation of the contradictions between the regions that resulted in the civil war.

At that time, something else could be resolved and ironed out the contradictions. After the coup, too many events took place, which led them to the extreme degree of hatred of the population of different parts of the country to each other, and there can be no compromise any more. Too much blood is spilled, and thousands of people killed on both sides. The war divided the country not along the front line, but on those who recognize the Nazi regime, and those who seek to get rid of it. It is already impossible to reconcile them.

Federalization also does not help. It is difficult to imagine how the Donbas will integrate even into post-nazi Ukraine, where a significant part of the population is infected with ukronazism. A real peace between them can not come. The confrontation went too far. There are no mechanisms for denazification of the country, without which it is simply impossible to realize the neutral status of Ukraine.


An attempt to “push” the Donbass into Ukraine will not lead to anything good. The special status will also give nothing: the Kiev authorities, whatever it is, will still strive to limit the independence of such a region, as it was with the Ukrainian Crimea. The unification of Ukraine with the granting of special status to certain territories or regions of the problem of peace does not resolve, since the main reason leading to the crisis is not eliminated-the desire of the Ukrainian elites to assimilate the entire population of the country and make all Ukrainians by Galichan patterns.

It is necessary to look for other ways to solve the crisis. Even the confederal structure of Ukraine will not solve its problems, it can be a transitional stage before the final divorce. Only a change in the ideological basis of Ukraine’s statehood will help create or divide state education in this territory that meets the interests of the population.

A compromise option in the talks between the two leaders on granting Ukraine a neutral status is unlikely, since it does not solve the fundamental problems of Ukraine. If it does take place and is based on the federalization of Ukraine, it will only prolong the process of the country’s liberation from the Nazi regime. Without stopping the vicious attempt to build an anti-Russia on this territory, Ukraine is doomed to conflicts and crises that do not bring peace or tranquility on this land.


Translated by J.Flores from Alternatio – If you appreciate what we’re doing, and can spare the cost of a few cups of a coffee once a month, please do consider aiding our Patreon. 


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