How Ukraine Got Caught Between East and West
In October 1994, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister, Borys Tarasyuk, came to Washington. There he met with Deputy Secretary of State, Strobe Talbott, with whom Tarasyuk raised the question of NATO enlargement. Tarasyuk noted Moscow’s growing discontent about NATO. In the event of enlargement, what was the American vision for Ukraine, Tarasyuk asked? Would Ukraine be consigned to a place in between, to the east of the West and to the west of Russia? A buffer zone? A gray area? Talbott acknowledged that he did not yet have a good answer. He was optimistic, however, about arriving at one over time.
This exchange appears in a new book by Steven Pifer, The Eagle and the Trident: U.S.-Ukraine Relations in Turbulent Times. Pifer was the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine from 1998 to 2000. He has served at the National Security Council and the State Department and is now a fellow at the Brookings Institute. Before 2014, his excellent study of U.S.-Ukraine relations would have garnered mostly specialist interest. Given the severe and ongoing downturn in U.S.-Russian relations, the origins of which lie in Ukraine, The Eagle and the Trident deserves a wide readership. It contributes materially to our understanding of international affairs in the present tense.