On November 10, 2021, the Strategic Partnership Agreement was signed between Ukraine and the United States of America (USA) in Washington. In the Strategic Partnership Document which was signed by Dimitriy Kuleba and Anthony Blinken, the Ministers of Foreign Affair of Ukraine and the USA, it is foreseen that the USA will support Ukraine in key areas such as economy, energy security and defense.
As it is known, Ukraine, which experienced serious energy crises with Russia in the 2000s, has significant weaknesses in terms of energy security. Due to the problems with Russia, these concerns of Kiev have increased even more. In this sense, it is quite important for Kyiv to take support of the Washington administration about energy security. In the document signed between the parties, it is stated that the USA will help Ukraine to become independent in the field of energy, to diversify its energy sources, to be included in the European energy system, to liberalize the energy sector, to rid its industry of hydrocarbons, to modernize the nuclear energy field and to reduce the use of coal. Besides, it was emphasized in the document that the parties would act together to continue the economic reforms of Kiev and transform the country’s economy.
In the Strategic Partnership Document, it was stated that the USA will not only be content with undertaking energy security for Ukraine, but also will work to prevent Russia from using its energy resources as a geopolitical weapon and to extend the agreement that foresees the transfer of Russian natural gas through Ukraine.
The third part of the Agreement covers the Ukraine’s defense and security issues. Confirming that it will continue to strongly support Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, the Washington administration emphasized that it will help make reforms in the country’s defense and security fields, and that joint military exercises will continue.
It is very important for Ukraine that Ukraine, which perceives a security threat from Russia and wants to strengthen its defense capability against Russia, has obtained the support of the United States and that the Washington administration shares Kiev’s concerns on this issue. As a matter of fact, in the press statement issued after the signing of the Strategic Partnership Document, Blinken blamed Moscow and stated that the military activities carried out by Russia on the Ukrainian border risked a recurrence of the events in 2014 and that they were concerned about the developments. In this context, US Secretary of State told that they would cooperate with their allies in order to make a pressure on Russia. Besides, the United States has clearly emphasized that they have taken some precautions so as to protect Ukraine from direct and “hybrid” attacks and will jointly fight against external threats in the Black Sea region.
Undoubtedly, the aforementioned agreement led to the reaction of Moscow. The Kremlin considers the Ukraine-USA Strategic Partnership Agreement to be one of the first steps towards Ukraine’s NATO membership. Moreover, it sees the arming of Ukraine and its integration into NATO as unacceptable. Anatoliy Antonov, the Russian Ambassador to Washington, who made evaluations on the subject, said that the document in question is not for the solution of existing problems; on the contrary, he stated that he intended to make the situation even more tense.
The Strategic Partnership Agreement is not the first agreement between the United States and Ukraine. However, it is an important document in terms of determining the boundaries of the relations in the near future between all three actors (USA, Ukraine, Russia). First of all, this agreement served the interests of Ukraine. With the document, the Kiev administration has achieved three main objectives. The first was to deter Russia through the United States. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmirtiy Kuleba also expressed this aim with the following words:
“The best way to deter Russian aggression is to show the Kremlin that Ukraine is strong and has a strong ally with which it cannot face Russia alone.”
Secondly, although Ukraine is not a member of NATO, it has succeeded in attracting Washington to get the support of the alliance members. Thus, the Kiev administration has once again made it accepted that it is a part of the Western club in the fields of economy, energy and defense in its struggle against Russia. In addition, the support given to Ukraine increased the courage of Kiev against Moscow. It also opened up more room for maneuver.
Thirdly, after the meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Joe Biden, Moscow’s efforts to get closer with Washington, at least in this regard, have been curtailed. With the agreement, Ukraine eliminated the risk of losing the support of the USA in the Russia-US negotiations.
The document signed with Ukraine also served the interests of the USA. The Washington administration has shown that it is still the dominant power in Eastern Europe. Although Kiev could not fulfill its NATO membership requests, it showed that it could defend Ukraine against Russia by mobilizing its other allies.
Russia has been the party that suffered the most from the US-Ukraine rapprochement. The problems that Moscow wants to solve with both Ukraine and the West have been delayed or interrupted. Moscow, which did not want Kiev to intervene in the Donbas region, started to worry that this possibility would increase if Ukraine was armed.
Undoubtedly, a weak Ukraine is in Moscow’s interests. Therefore, Russia is not the party that is causing tensions in the eastern regions of Ukraine, but Ukraine thinks it should be itself. The strengthening of Ukraine or its power superiority in the eastern regions carries the risk of drawing Russia into conflicts. However, the Kremlin wants to make the eastern regions of Ukraine a subject of bargaining with Western countries. Nevertheless, Ukraine’s taking the initiative will prevent this expectation.
As a result, the Ukraine-USA Strategic Partnership Agreement has shown that Ukraine is in the Western security system and Russia is excluded from it. In other words, Ukraine will continue to receive military and technical assistance from other NATO member countries, especially the USA. Equipped with more modern weapons and receiving military and political support from its powerful allies, Kiev will be able to act much more courageously against Russia. Accordingly, it will make plans for the control of the Donbas region to be transferred to him again. The Strategic Partnership Agreement with the USA is also an important development for the modernization of the Ukrainian Army. The Kiev administration will begin to acquire new weapons of the American structure. This will contribute to the increase of Ukraine’s defense power. Moscow, on the other hand, may increase the pressure on Kiev for the West to step back. This may increase the risk of war.