November 13, 2020



Ukraine relieved at U.S. election result

When U.S. media began to call the presidential race in Joe Biden’s favor on November 7, it was about 6:30 p.m. in Kyiv. Within hours, a former president tweeted that his country was “blessed,” an investment banker voiced hope for reforms, and a political analyst said fears that Washington might use Ukraine as a pawn in a bid for a Russia reset would fade. For many politicians, civil-society leaders and citizens in Ukraine, the news came as a relief. Barack Obama’s former point man on Ukraine is a relatively familiar face in Kyiv, and Mr. Biden, in turn, may be more familiar with Ukraine than any previous U.S. president. He made six trips to Kyiv as vice-president, five of them from 2014 onward – after Russia seized the Crimean peninsula and fomented separatism following the downfall of Viktor Yanukovych, the Moscow-friendly president pushed from power by the Euro-Maidan movement. Mr. Biden once joked that he spoke more over the phone with then-President Petro Poroshenko than with his wife during those turbulent years. And after watching the United States disengage from the world stage in some ways under President Donald Trump, Ukrainians who are happy with the U.S. election result hope the country will get a boost in its battles against both corruption and aggression from Russia, which continues to support separatists who hold parts of two eastern oblasts and whose simmering war with Kyiv has killed more than 13,000 people. “Ukraine is blessed to have a U.S. President with profound and personal knowledge of our country,” Mr. Poroshenko tweeted in English late on November 7, voicing hope for “committed trans-Atlantic leadership.” Current President Volodymyr Zelenskyy congratulated President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, tweeting that Ukraine “is optimistic about the future of the strategic partnership” with the United States. (Mark Raczkiewycz of RFE/RL)


How will Biden change U.S. policy?

As a candidate, Joe Biden said he would reverse many of the foreign-policy initiatives of the Trump administration, such as withdrawing the United States from international agreements, and work to repair the trans-Atlantic relationship that he contends has been the key to stability in Europe over the past 75 years. He has said he would take a tougher stand on Russia, expressed strong support for Ukraine, and would rejoin the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran, if Tehran holds up its end of the deal. He said he would take “immediate steps” upon entering office to strengthen alliances “and once more have America lead the world.” In contrast to President Donald Trump, who in 2016 called NATO “obsolete,” Mr. Biden has called it the “most effective political-military alliance in modern history” and said it must remain strоng while adapting to new kinds of threats from Russia. “To counter Russian aggression, we must keep the alliance’s military capabilities sharp while also expanding its capacity to take on nontraditional threats, such as weaponized corruption, disinformation and cybertheft,” he wrote in the journal Foreign Affairs earlier in 2020, in an article setting out his positions on a range of issues. Mr. Biden has said he would take a tougher stand against Russian President Vladimir Putin, and has called Moscow an “opponent” as well as the biggest “threat” to the security of the United States today. He has criticized the Kremlin for actions including the seizure of Crimea and for its role in the war between Kyiv and Russia-backed separatists in Ukraine’s Donbas region. He has also accused it of interfering in U.S. elections and of being behind attacks on Russian journalists and civil society leaders. “Unlike Trump, I’ll defend our democratic values and stand up to autocrats like Putin,” Mr. Biden said in a tweet in August. He has also threatened to punish Moscow if it interfered in the 2020 election and rejected Mr. Trump’s idea of inviting Russia back into the Group of Seven leading industrialized countries. “We must impose real costs on Russia for its violations of international norms and stand with Russian civil society, which has bravely stood up time and again against… Putin’s kleptocratic authoritarian system,” he wrote in the Foreign Affairs article. Mr. Biden supports the cancellation of the Kremlin-backed Nord Stream 2 pipeline to carry natural gas from Russia to Germany. Opponents of the pipeline say it would deprive Ukraine of significant transit fees from Russia and increase European reliance on Russian energy exports. Mr. Biden, who was President Obama’s point man on Ukraine as vice president, has expressed strong support for Ukraine’s independence and integration with Europe and has backed sending lethal weapons to Kyiv to help it battle the Russian-backed militants. (Todd Prince of RFE/RL)


Lack of trust in judiciary major obstacle

Dragon Capital reported that 48 percent of foreign investors think Ukraine became less attractive for investment, 42 percent consider the investment climate largely unchanged, and only 9 percent see improvements. These are some of the findings of the fifth annual survey of strategic and portfolio investors jointly conducted by the European Business Association (EBA), Dragon Capital and the Center for Economic Strategy (CES) at the end of October. The “lack of trust in judiciary” was named the main obstacle to foreign investment for the first time in five years, while “widespread corruption,” the previous leader, moved to second place. The same obstacles were named by both portfolio and direct investors. Market monopolization and state capture by oligarchs was the number three impediment, though strategic investors were also concerned about cumbersome and frequently changing legislation. Tomas Fiala, CEO of Dragon Capital and president of the European Business Association, said, “Last year, we hoped for quick market reforms, fair punishment for corruption, and a relaunch of government institutions through attracting professionals with strong moral convictions. Over the past six months, however, these hopes have given way to frustration over dubious personnel policies favoring oligarchs and corrupt officials.” (Ukrainian Canadian Congress Daily Briefing)


Poll: Negotiations needed for peace in Donbas

Over half of Ukrainians, 50.9 percent, believe that, in order to achieve peace in the Donbas, negotiations need to be held, according to results of a poll conducted on October 17-24 by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology (KIIS). At the same time, the poll suggested only two positions that the respondent could support: “To achieve peace in the Donbas, it is necessary to negotiate with Russia and representatives of the ‘DPR and LPR’ [Donetsk and Luhansk “people’s republics”]” and “It is impossible to make concessions to Moscow and Russia-occupation forces to achieve peace in the Donbas.” The second position was supported by 38.9 percent of respondents. According to the results of the poll, 52.4 percent of Ukrainians believe that Ukraine will win over the Russian Federation in the future, 10.5 percent believe that the opposite will happen, 34.5 percent found it difficult to answer this question. The survey found that 56.6 percent of respondents believe that in future the country will achieve peace and normalization of relations with the Russian Federation, 30.1 percent believe that Ukraine in the future will have tense/conflict relations with the Russian Federation. In addition, 52 percent believe that the independence and integrity of its borders are the most important for Ukraine, 32.6 percent consider the well-being of Ukrainian citizens to be the most important. At the same time, 53.3 percent consider the most important thing now to develop the economy, and 34.5 percent cited the need to win the war. During the study, 1,502 respondents were interviewed. The survey was conducted using the CATI method (telephone interviews using a computer) based on a random sample of mobile phone numbers on the territory controlled by the government of Ukraine. The sample is representative for Ukraine as a whole and for five individual macroregions (west, center, south, east, Donbas). The statistical error of the sample (with a probability of 0.95 and excluding the design effect) does not exceed 2.6 percent. (Interfax Ukraine)


Ukraine secures $100 M from World Bank

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says Ukraine has secured a $100 million loan from the World Bank for reconstruction efforts in the eastern Donbas region, badly hit by the six-year military conflict with Russian-backed separatists. In a Twitter post on November 7, Mr. Zelenskyy expressed gratitude to the World Bank “for supporting Ukraine’s territorial integrity.” He said earlier that a fragile ceasefire between the Ukrainian Army and Russia-backed forces, which has lasted for more than three months, could become permanent and help settle the conflict that has killed more than 13,000 people, destroyed infrastructure and prompted Western countries to impose sanctions on Russia. The World Bank has committed approximately $13 billion to finance about 70 projects in Ukraine since 1992. (RFE/RL, based on reporting by Reuters)