KYIV, Jan 29 - U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will travel to Ukraine on Thursday as part of a five-nation tour in which he is expected to reassure the country’s leaders of unwavering support from Washington.
The rescheduled trip—which was originally set to take place after the New Year but was postponed due to tensions with Iran—will see Pompeo visit Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan after a stop in the United Kingdom.
Pompeo’s agenda is said to focus on promoting human rights, energy independence, and economic reform throughout the former Soviet nations that he will visit in a part of the world that Moscow views as its backyard and that has often looked to the United States as a counterweight to its larger neighbors, including China.
“Because the Trump administration has been criticized for being too friendly with Russia, it’s important for [Pompeo] to show that there is a Eurasia policy, not simply a Russia policy,” said William Courtney, who served as U.S. ambassador to Georgia and Kazakhstan and is currently an adjunct senior fellow at the Rand Corp, who was quoted by the Foreign Policy.
“A key part of that is supporting reforms in Ukraine. It isn’t a model yet, but everyone in the region is watching if it can succeed. If it can, Ukraine could be the cradle of the former Soviet space,” Courtney said.
Pompeo himself was pulled into the spotlight last week during a tense interview and ensuing confrontation with NPR’s Mary Louise Kelly about Ukraine and former ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, who was dismissed after Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, made unsubstantiated allegations against her.
Following the NPR interview, Pompeo reportedly cursed at Kelly, challenged her to find the country on a map, and asked: “Do you think Americans care about Ukraine?”
The Trump administration greenlighted lethal weapons sales to Ukraine’s military—something the Obama administration balked at—even as the president himself cast doubt on whether supporting Ukraine was worth U.S. investments and withheld military aid from Ukraine, an issue at the heart of the impeachment trial.
“Expectations are quite modest from the Ukrainian side for [Pompeo]. The main hope is that this is about reaffirming support for Ukraine as America’s ally and not a reelection mission for Trump,” said Alyona Getmanchuk, the director of the New Europe Center, a think tank based in Kyiv. (fp/ez)