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Kyiv Post | 20Dec2016 | George Woloshyn

Is Yalta II possible under President Trump?

Much attention has been focused on whether Russians interfered with America’s electoral system and who benefited by it. As between Donad Trump and his partisan supporters on the one hand (who do not know what only the intelligence community can know), and the intelligence community, it is obvious that Russians did the hacking -- either directly by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) or through their contractor. Further, it is obvious -- from Vladimir Putin’s and the Duma’s celebration after Trump’s victory -- that they much preferred Trump to Hillary Clinton.

But that is not the issue. The issue is whether (a) Trump’s team was simply the passive recipient of whatever advantage was provided by the hacking, or (b) was complicit in the hacking. The former should have no bearing on his presidency or the legitimacy of his victory; while the latter would be a huge cause for concern.

So, pending the outcome of a more extensive investigation now under way, let’s leave this whole issue behind and stipulate to two simple facts: (a) the Russians hacked in the hope that Trump would win, and (b) there is no evidence that Trump had anything to do with it. Despite Democratic efforts to delegitimatize his election, Trump is the clear winner.

What is of far greater importance -- not only for Ukraine, but for NATO, Europe and what remains of the “free world” -- is what Trump and U.S. Secretary of State-nominee Rex Tillerson have in mind with their references to some sort of alliance with Russia to solve global problems, including the turmoil in the Middle East. Unless someone has a reliable crystal ball, the only thing that pundits, columnists, and bloggers like myself can do is take the Trump-Tillerson team at its word and speculate as to their expressed or implied sentiments. Since neither of the two has any prior public policy experience or distinguished himself as an expert on foreign policy (other than its impact on their business dealings), we can only hope that their sentiments will be tempered by hard facts and strategic U.S. interests. For example:

Fact: Putin’s Russia is a piranha-like country. Its body (i.e. economy) is as small as Italy’s, but it has big, sharp teeth. Its KGB-oligarch dominated government is dependent on the sale of natural resources to sustain itself and build up its military. Tillerson’s Exxon had a multibillion-dollar deal with Putin to develop Russia’s Arctic oil fields which would have greatly augmented Russia’s carnivorous appetite and ambitions. U.S. President Barck Obama’s sanctions frustrated Exxon’s deal, so Exxon lobbied against them. Now the question that Tillerson will have to answer – in light of Russia’s role as America’s “primary existential threat” -- is whether U.S. security would be strengthened or weakened if the Exxon CEO had his way.

Another fact: During the last 2+ years, Ukraine started from nearly ground zero to now having one of the most powerful , battle-ready conventional land forces in Europe, and has fought Putin’s juggernaut and all his embargoes, transport restrictions, cyberattacks, etc. to a stand-still. In doing so, Ukraine has not only deflated Putin’s dream of reconstituting the USSR, but has defended Europe and bought time for NATO to mobilize. Now the question is whether Trump will reward Putin by legitimizing his land grab of Crimea, (thereby encouraging similar land grabs throughout the world) or by withdrawing even the very limited diplomatic and logistical support that the U.S. has provided Ukraine.

And (the last) fact: Throughout its quarter century of independence, Ukraine has been a strong and steady U.S. ally and “strategic partner” in providing troops and other military support to fight America’s wars, hold joint military exercises, participate in “peace-keeping missions, and support U.S. policies in regional and international forums. Ukraine had even taken the lead in implementing one of America’s top global priorities -- nuclear disarmament -- in exchange for U.S. assurances of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity. NOW, the question is whether Trump and Tillerson will reward America’s most implacable and ruthless foe, Russia, by violating its commitments and betraying a country that has embraced western values, is ridding itself of corruption, and is paying with its blood for its right to “life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness”… while Putin’s corruption-ridden government is taking Russia back to its oppressive past.

In February 1945, just three months short of Victory in Europe day, America, Britain and its allies stood alone in the world as the supreme military and economic power. Their armies had retaken north Africa and were on the verge of retaking most of nazi and fascist occupied Europe; their homelands and factories were largely intact and producing military supplies, armor, aircraft, etc. faster than the Soviets could ever dream of; and America alone had the atomic bomb. To the East the Red Army was moving like locusts through ravaged lands from a homeland filled with hunger and devastated roads, towns, and factories. But then, at Yalta, American and British leaders snatched defeat from the jaws of victory: Eastern Europe and its millions of residents were turned over to Russia’s “sphere of interest” and occupied by “Uncle Joe’s” murderous thugs for nearly half a century. At Yalta Roosevelt even referred to the greatest mass murderer of all time as “a Christian gentleman”.

Although “friend” Putin’s completely unprovoked wars against Ukraine, Chechnya, Georgia, and Syria and the resultant butchery of tens of thousands of innocent men, women, and children can not be compared with “uncle” Joe’s record levels of carnage, can America ever be “great again” in teaming up with such a murderous gang of corrupt oligarchs? Can America be “great again” if it legitimizes what it has no right to legitimize -- the unprovoked invasion and occupation of a peaceful nation’s land? Can America ever be “great again” if it betrays those who share its values and aspirations and who have trusted American assurances in exchange for the third largest nuclear arsenal in the world? Can America ever be “great again” if it accedes to gangland-style division of “territories” into “spheres of interest” -- as it did in Yalta?

America’s “greatness” is not in its wealth or in its military power, but in its principles, values, and traditions…the “shining city on the hill” that Ronald Reagan recognized as a beacon of hope to all those living in darkness. The fatigue and sacrifices of World War II led to the terrible tragedy of Yalta and an indelible stain on America’s greatness.

Will there be any such excuse for Yalta a second time around?

As we start the New Year I am certain that America’s new president will live up to his promise to “make America great again.”