In many ways, Donbass will be Donald Trump’s first big test in foreign policy. It will be his chance to show pragmatism over dogma and moreover, to demonstrate his willingness to see the bigger picture in respect of potential good relations with Russia vis-à-vis loyalty to a fascist regime in Kiev which presents opportunities for no one and economic strain for anyone who puts money into the a regime that represents the second worst sovereign investment after Somalia.
For better or worse, because of the massive US presence in the Middle East, Syria, Iraq, Yemen and both Iran and Saudi Arabia’s relationship to each of the aforementioned conflicts, is of importance to the US. The US will not be able to exculpate herself from the Middle East (assuming she’ll ever want to do) without dealing with each of these issues head on.
The conflict in Donbass, by contrast, does not impact America’s medium or long term interests in any meaningful way. It is merely the inevitable historic outgrowth of a centuries-old regional conflict between Russia and powerful East European states, primarily the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and in more recent centuries, Austria and Germany. Today it is the German-dominated EU wrestling for influence in Russia’s borderlands. That being said the weak state of the EU means Brussels could barely win a wrestling match with a wet sack.
Where the US does stand to gain money and influence by her nefarious activities in the Arab world, there is little opportunity in any part of Ukraine as presently constituted, for the US. As Donald Trump accurately stated during the campaign, Eastern Europe as a whole is nothing but a money drain for America with little coming as a result of the investment. Any foreign policy realist could realize that.
Russia has no interest in any East European EU member state beyond issuing correct proclamations stating Moscow’s concern for the human rights of ethnic Russians in Latvia and Estonia.
The Donbass conflict is one with historic antecedents that long predate the existence of the United States. By contrast, the major conflicts in the Middle East are a result of both the ill thought out Sykes-Picot agreement and subsequent issues of post-mandate and post-colonial realities among new Arab nation states. In other words, these are 20th-century conflicts which continue to burn into the 21st.
Because of this, walking away from the Donbass conflict and the whole question of ‘Ukraine’ with clean hands, will be the ultimate test for Donald Trump’s credentials as a foreign policy realist.
Since 1991, Ukraine has been ruled by either semi-competent but ultimately corrupt Presidents (Kravchuk and Kuchma), corrupt leaders compromised by their own side (Yushchenko), corrupt leaders compromised by their own inadequacy (Yanukovych) and then, of course, one has the current leaders of the fascist regime.
Ask any Russian or American leader from the 1990s or 2000s how difficult it is to get anything resembling the truth out of these people and soon one realises that Ukraine is less the ‘bread basket of Europe’ and more like a cold weather Somalia, a perpetual basket case governed by a combination of out of touch fools and dangerous extremists.
There are however signs of hope that Trump will exculpate America from the ordeal. The official statement on renewed fascist aggression in Donbass spoke of the need for America and Russia to act as the responsible powers bringing a halt to hostilities. Reports that Trump’s phone call with Poroshenko was frosty at best would appear to back this up.
If Donald Trump can wash his hands of the mess Obama created, it would be a big step in proving to the entire world including Iran and China, that Trump is serious rather than frivolous, even when he and his associates get specifics wrong, specifics such as Iran being the number one exporter of terrorism or the idea that somehow the South China Sea disputes can be solved by aggressive manoeuvres against Chinese ships.
Ultimately, the state of Ukraine will fragment under the weight of historical inevitability. The current borders are totally inconsistent with realities on the ground as well as historical realities. A wise American government will allow this to happen without prolonging the misery that is Ukraine. Russia as the rightful steward of much of current Ukrainian land, ought to play a constructive role in the process rather than deny historical realities.