Ukraine turns to Germany

Ukraine turns to Germany

Ukraine’s President Poroshenko visits Berlin on Monday for discussions with Chancellor Merkel on his country’s ongoing separatist conflict. Mr Poroshenko

Photo: Reuters

Photo: Reuters

Ukraine’s President Poroshenko visits Berlin on Monday for discussions with Chancellor Merkel on his country’s ongoing separatist conflict.

Mr Poroshenko would have let out a quiet sigh of dismay on hearing of Donald Trump’s electoral success. While Ukraine has received some US backing in its struggle with Russian-backed separatists – particularly financial and logistical – it longs for more. Military aid is at the top of the wish list. President Trump is highly unlikely to fulfil these wishes and is, in fact, more likely to roll back anti-Russia sanctions.

In the absence of resolute US policy measures against Russian activities in Eastern Europe, Berlin has an opportunity to fill the void. Germany is already the strongest diplomatic player in the efforts to stop the conflict in eastern Ukraine, and on Saturday it agreed with France not to lift sanctions until there is progress in the Ukrainian peace process. That said, Germany’s robust trade ties with Russia ­­– from which it receives nearly 40% of its total natural gas and oil – will temper Ms Merkel’s approach. Berlin has not yet come out against the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project, which would increase Europe’s dependence on Russian gas and allow Moscow to bypass Ukraine as a transit country. However, there is growing resistance to the project within Merkel’s party, so it clearly will be a topic of debate in the federal elections later this year – elections that Poroshenko will be closely watching.

Nonetheless, Germany’s geographical proximity to potential hotspots in the Baltics, combined with its firm commitment to a muscular NATO presence in Eastern Europe, will provide some comfort to Ukraine’s leadership. Indeed, while President Poroshenko is expected to visit Washington in the coming months, he’ll find more sympathy for his country’s cause at Monday’s meeting.