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Possible ‘Big Deal’ Between Putin And Trump On Ukraine Emerging – OpEd


Ukrainians and their friends and supporters have been so worried that any grand bargain between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump will be a new “Munich” in which Ukraine will be handed over in whole or in part to the Kremlin that they have not considered fully just what any “deal” might look like, Petr Oleshchuk says.

The Kyiv political scientist who teaches at Shevchenko National University says that they should be given that such “’a broad accord’ between Russia and the US really is being considered at the evel of people who are responsible for foreign policy in the Trump Administration” (

This week, Rex Tillerson, Trump’s nominee to be secretary of state, said that the US could recognize Crimea as Russia if there were to be “a broader agreement which the people of Ukraine would recognize.” There are “several logical conclusions” which flow from this, Oleshchuk argues.

First of all, it suggests that people on Trump’s foreign policy team are considering just such “a broad agreement … that is ‘a big deal’” and something which is no longer in the realm of “conspiracy thinking but is a reality, although still only hypothetical,” the Kyiv analyst suggests.

Second, Tillerson’s words imply that any “’big deal’” would be possible “only if there were agreement on the part of the leadership of Ukraine.” Clearly, Trump’s people now recognize that any unilateral move by Washington on this question would “destroy the world order,” while that could be maintained if Ukraine itself agreed to a shift.

And third, Oleshchuk says, those who want a deal must thus be thinking about how to get Kyiv on board, perhaps by putting pressure on the Ukrainian leadership or perhaps by trying to buy it off or “most probably” by “a combination of the first and the second: promises of ‘Marshal Plans and threats of ‘a Russian attack.’”

To be sure, Ukrainians should expect especial generosity. “Even if one approaches Crimea as ‘a good’ to be exchanged, no one will give the real price for it.”

And there are two more aspects of the situation that Ukrainians must keep in mind. On the one hand, any grand bargain between the US and Russia will not be about Ukraine alone but about other issues including china. And on the other, if Trump can’t get a deal with Moscow quickly, then his interest in any such deal will wane quickly.

Consequently, if there isn’t “a Munich” this year, there is not likely to be one in the future, Oleshchuk says, a conclusion that makes an implicit argument of exactly how Kyiv should proceed.

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Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .

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