How US elections may affect aid to Ukraine – expert interview

15 September, 08:10 PM
US President Joe Biden, September 11, 2023 (Photo:REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein)

US President Joe Biden, September 11, 2023 (Photo:REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein)

Jason Jay Smart, a special correspondent for the Kyiv Post English-language newspaper in Ukraine, explained in an interview with NV Radio on Sept. 13 how the upcoming presidential elections in the United Stated can affect Washington’s aid to Ukraine.

NV: Have you heard the version that Russian dictator Vladimir Putin is trying to extend the war until U.S. elections and hopes the situation in the United States will change and he can take advantage of those changes?

Smart: Yes, I also heard it, even the Americans are talking about it: he expects and hopes that [former U.S. President Donald] Trump will win the election once again and become the president. He expects that Trump will be ready to negotiate with Russia, trade with Russia, this is his great hope, because he sees that it’s simply impossible with [incumbent U.S. President Joe] Biden. Biden has repeatedly stated that the United States is ready to protect and help Ukraine until the end, until the liberation of its entire territory.

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NV: I have friends in the United States who believe that Trump is being demonized in Ukraine. And even I’m constantly reiterated that Ukraine received the first Javelins [anti-tank guided missiles] during the Trump administration. Do you think Trump’s victory will really mean a U.S. turn toward Russia?

Smart: The minister who worked with Trump outlined the Javelins issue, wanted to convince me that Trump would actually be ready to help Ukraine even more. And we simply don’t know, Trump himself did not say this, he didn’t say that he is ready to protect Ukraine. The war has been going on for a year and a half, and he has said very little, except that he would resolve the issue within a few days.

And that’s all he said. He didn’t mention that he would provide more weapons, financial assistance, he didn’t say that. So I doubt it, just that he might express it if he was thinking about it. But a year and a half has passed and he hasn’t said anything, it’s strange for me.

NV: At the same time, Vivek Ramaswamy is another candidate from the Republican Party. I saw U.S. polls, and he’s in Top 3 in terms of popularity among Republican supporters. He also made many statements.

He said that Ukraine wouldn’t join NATO and made clear the possibility of Russia recognizing captured and occupied territories. What do you think should be done about it? The point is not only that Ramaswamy is a presidential candidate, but it’s a certain system of political values.

Smart: Yes, I agree, that’s a bad thing he said. But the good thing is that he will definitely not become the candidate from the Republicans. He has a rather low rating that isn’t increasing. Whereas Trump, as you know, has about 45% of support, while [Republican presidential candidate] Ron DeSantis has 5%. Vivek has only about 5-6%. Such a low rating, I think it’s just impossible for him to become the candidate. The man who, frankly, has such a poor understanding of international relations, as he said the partnership between China and Russia is the greatest threat to the United States.

But it’s actually just illogical. China sells to the United States, we sell to China, and this is 25% of all exports, imports from China. With Europeans, this is another 22% of exports from China. Why would China want to lose these opportunities and work with us when they can make some kind of partnership with Russia? Russia is only 2% of China’s exports, it’s simply not beneficial to [to China]. Therefore, I think it’s illogical for him [Ramaswamy] to be afraid that the Chinese will work with Russia [more closely].

NV: As far as I know, Ramaswamy even talked about an alliance, even a military alliance between China and Russia. Formally, such an alliance doesn’t exist, perhaps he meant an informal partnership.

Smart: Yes, something informal. But again, he just doesn’t understand what’s going on in the world. We see this war in Ukraine has been going on for a year and a half, China is not ready to help Russia as it wants. We see Russia cannot do anything to help China regarding Taiwan. Who needs Russia now? It’s simply not beneficial to China. If it was beneficial to them, yes, they would do it. But I think they themselves know and admit that it simply won’t be beneficial to them.

NV: How is Russian propaganda seen in the United States? In Europe, Russian television channels were simply removed from platforms, both from broadcasting and satellite ones, their broadcasting was banned since they aren’t media, but Kremlin’s propaganda arms.

What do you think about countering Russian propaganda in the United States, will these measures be stepped up, given that this is not journalism?

Smart: I think Russian propaganda is always a threat. I think most of Americans who don’t understand what NATO is for, they just don’t know what NATO is, and this is probably most citizens. Why? Because they don’t feel it, don’t see it, most have never been abroad. They just don’t understand why we invest so much money in our [military] bases in Europe every year. And they just don’t understand.

I think, of course, there is Russian propaganda [playing a role] in this. There are also those who just don’t understand what is happening. And in the case of the United States now, I think it’s the same as always, people who haven’t faced the issue yet, haven’t met a European citizen, have never read history, they don’t understand what Russia is. They think it’s just a country, just a normal country. They don’t understand that this is actually a terrorist regime. I don’t know why they don’t think NATO is important.

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NV: Do you think that Ukraine will receive the right signal from NATO at the Washington Summit in 2024 regarding Ukraine’s accession to the Alliance?

Smart: I really hope so. I think that joining NATO will be a long process anyway, I don’t expect it to be quick for Ukraine. While we’re waiting for that. I think it’s so important for Ukraine to sign bilateral agreements with different countries. For example, with the United States, Poland, the Baltic countries, to protect Ukraine in the future. Because this is something we can implement right now, it won’t be a long process, it would be quick. And this is very real as we can start this process right now.

NV: That is, you’re now talking about security guarantees.

Smart: Exactly.

NV: I think we’re seeing just a lightning-fast operation of the Armed Forces of Ukraine when a Russian military drydock in Sevastopol was destroyed in a missile strike.

I know Americans like success stories. Political discussions on the provision of [U.S.-made] ATACMS long-range missiles to Ukrainians. This will allow increasing the number of such operations both on the Russian-occupied territory and military facilities.

You mentioned Biden, saying that Putin would never come to an agreement with him. What effort should be made now so that Ukraine receives these missiles to develop its successful offensive, particularly in the south of our country?

Smart: To be honest, I believe it will happen later. I think the decision has already been made. I don’t know why it takes so long. But finally, they have already made the decision and it will happen in the near future. As for weapons, it’s obvious to everyone that this is exactly what Ukraine needs now. And if we say that we’re ready to help Ukraine defend itself, why don’t we give such weapons, such tools, so that Ukraine can defend itself and liberate its territory?

And it can still save many lives of Ukrainians, soldiers, so that they don’t shoot [in the war], so that there is an opportunity to destroy Russian bases from afar. I think Americans already know that this is necessary. That is, it will happen. Indeed, it will even happen this month.

NV: Jason, of course you follow what the U.S. media write about Ukraine. Do you notice a change in tone?

What do you say about the tone, both media and political, regarding the Ukrainian Army’s actions now, at the current stage?

Smart: You know, I read public opinion polls in the United States. And every time there is a big victory in Ukraine, like the offensive that took place a year ago, I remember that polls showed that Americans support Ukraine much more. That is, they support when they see that there is success. And they say in public opinion polls that they’re ready to give more money and weapons to Ukraine. Why is this so?

Because when they see that it can end soon, if there are all the weapons, if there are all the tools, all the money that is needed, when Ukraine can really defeat Russia in the near future, then it’s very interesting to them. Of course, the average U.S. citizen lives in his own world. He doesn’t think about war every day. He thinks about his life.

And they don’t think about such far-off things as war. But when there is top news everywhere and they see that there is a victory, that Russia loses, then it will be interesting to them. And they see it as, let’s say, a good investment. That is, Ukraine can really win the war with this help. And then they say in opinion polls that yes, we should provide new weapons to Ukraine.

NV: Do you think Ukraine will be able to maintain bipartisan support in the long run?

Smart: I think it’s very important to note that both parties are for Ukraine. Of course, it’s less [supported] by the Republicans than the Democrats. But nevertheless, these are those who have shown leadership in the Republican Party, Congress and the Senate. And they all fully support Ukraine. And these are the most important people. They decide what will happen in Congress and what will be legal.

NV: In the period before the presidential elections, what exactly can affect the development of the U.S. political situation? Are any drastic changes possible, particularly in the candidates’ rating?

Smart: Everything is possible. I think the problem is that Biden is very unpopular. He’s very unpopular. His rating is very similar to that of Trump: almost the same rating in both. Therefore, it’s quite possible that it will be Trump vs. Biden. And then it will be difficult to say who will win since Biden has his own problems. Americans don’t really like Biden.

Not because of what he does or doesn’t do for Ukraine. But because he did very little for the United States. That’s why it’s now so important for him to emphasize what he has been doing for the past three years as U.S. president, for our citizens. Because they feel as if he has done nothing.

NV: Do you think Ukraine’s success has any effect on the electoral situation in the United States?

Smart: To my mind, if there is Ukraine’s great success, yes, of course, it helps it. It helps Biden. Because Americans are looking for some kind of result, something he has done. That is, he invested $66 billion in Ukraine. And what are the results? Has Ukraine already liberated [the territories] or not? And if there is some success, particularly in the counter-offensive, that’s cool, that’s great. Because Americans like it. They will also think: Biden was right to help the Ukrainians.

NV: Under what conditions will U.S. business come to Ukraine? Agree, this is also very important. And is the first condition, in fact, the end of the war and Ukraine’s victory?

Smart: Of course. I believe that after Ukraine’s victory, many different U.S. businesses will be ready to invest and start their work in Ukraine. I even personally know Americans who were already interested in this. They’re already starting to learn [Ukrainian] just because they plan to open their own businesses or factories in Ukraine after the war.

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