Washington’s newly emerging interest in Eastern Europe could just as quickly fade away if another crisis in the Middle East is not resolved soon. The importance of this region to the U.S. today is much higher than the problems of all the post-Soviet republics combined.
After Iran’s final renunciation of its nuclear deal in 2015, the Islamic Republic has few potential allies left. European countries, even if their leaders are not particularly enthusiastic about Donald Trump’s decision to eliminate General Soleimani, will in any case not support the very possibility of nuclear proliferation.
There may be a number of high-profile statements in Beijing that will have no obvious consequences. China already has a hard time regulating its economic relations with the US, so it is obvious that its leaders are not in open conflict with Trump.
That leaves Vladimir Putin. Many people believe that the Russian president will also not enter into an open confrontation with the United States, that he is interested in agreements with Donald Trump, that he does not need a confrontation. Although it is worth noting that in the Barack Obama era, Putin was willing to risk the notorious “reset” of U.S.-Russian relations.
It was Russia that, through its participation in the construction of the Bushehr nuclear power plant and its unwillingness to abandon this project, has largely created the opportunities that the Iranian ayatolls now enjoy. Therefore, Iran itself will now be looking towards the Kremlin with more attention than it did a few days ago.
But it is not just the mood of the ayatolls. The main question, of course, is what tactics the President of the United States will choose. If for Trump the liquidation of Soleimani was really seen as an act of intimidation and pacification of Iranians, and as a result he will have an open conflict — will the President of the United States want this conflict to continue throughout the election year and question the prospects for his re-election?
And if Trump wants to get out of this conflict, will he not turn to Putin for help as Iran’s “last friend”?
There will be nothing new in this position either. Wasn’t Moscow an active participant in the “nuclear deal”, didn’t it convince Iranians when Americans and Europeans couldn’t get anything out of them? Didn’t Obama agree with Putin on Syria — which, in fact, led to a significant strengthening of Russia’s position in the Middle East and, consequently, a weakening of the American position?
The only news is that Washington, trying to focus on the Middle East, may lose sight of post-Soviet space and Central European countries. Recently, the American interest in the region has increased. And there has been a whole host of reasons for that.
Due to the impeachment scandal, Ukraine unexpectedly found itself at the center of American domestic policy — and that is why the situation in this country has already attracted the attention of congressmen and leading media. There was an understanding that in case of American inaction, the sovereignty of Belarus could be questioned, that Russia was about to swallow this country — with the corresponding consequences for the defense of Central European countries. And these countries themselves – such as Poland or Hungary – proved to be important allies of Washington in the Trump era.
Now all these considerations may seem insignificant. The scandal with Ukraine, against the backdrop of escalation in the Middle East, may fall into the third place. Belarus will no longer be of interest to anyone in a situation where it is necessary to find an understanding with Putin.
Also, if not to interfere with the Russians in their traditional “zone of influence,” then perhaps they will not only not prevent the U.S. from dealing with the Iranian problem, but even help?
Doesn`t this describe the content of the “deal” that Donald Trump may be thinking about? And if such reflections really become the mainstream of American politics, who in Washington in the near future will care about the interests of Ukraine or Belarus?
In this sense, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s cancelled visit to Kyiv and Minsk because of the events in Iraq looks like a sad and revealing symbol of possible changes.
The author’s opinion may differ from that of the editorial board.
Vitaly Portnikov for Belsat.eu