Vice President Biden in Ukraine – click to read


Subject: VPOTUS pool report #1 – Kiev arrival

Kiev, Ukraine
April 21, 2014

AF2 was wheels down in Kiev at 3:24pm local. Vice President Biden was greeted by several folks on the tarmac. Will send names. Motorcade traveled to U.S. embassy, where VPOTUS is meeting with staff.

A senior administration official briefed reporters toward the end of the flight. A transcript should be out soon, but here are some highlights:

Mr. Biden’s discussions will essentially focus on four areas: security, politics, economics and energy.

He will meet Monday with lawmakers on a CODEL in Ukraine, led by Chairman Royce. He’ll also be briefed on the situation in Ukraine by the US ambassador, and he’ll meet with US embassy staff.

Mr. Biden’s key message in his Tuesday meetings with Ukrainian officials is “national unity.”

He’ll urge the “urgent implementation” of the Geneva agreement.

Mr. Biden will speak about the short and long term energy situation in Ukraine. As he arrives there is a US “team of experts” on the ground in Ukraine working on the “reverse flow issue.” Team will be in Kiev and also Slovakia and Hungary to help address the issue of reversing the flow of natural gas to provide Ukraine with some measure of short-term supply.” He’ll also discuss with them medium and long term strategies to boost conventional production and begin to take advantage of unconventional gas reserves in Ukraine.

Mr. Biden will talk about various forms of assistance the US will be offering. This is new assistance. It’s a package of economic, energy and governance assistance he’ll be discussing. He’ll discuss with the government what more assistance is needed.

Energy assistance would be technical expertise and assistance: 1. How address immediate reverse flow issue. 2. Help Ukraine boost production in conventional gas fields. 3. Regulatory framework and technology to extract unconventional gas resources. 4. Energy efficiency to lessen Ukraine’s energy dependence and deny another country ability to use.

New US economic assistance does not mean money. It means teams US can put on the ground to make sure the IMF package and $1 billion loan guarantee from US is allocated effectively – including that all parts of Ukraine benefit from the assistance, ie the east and south.

The details of the violence that broke out on Sunday is “still very murky.” Ukrainian government says it was a provocation by pro-Russian forces. US doesn’t have any evidence that there was any Ukrainian security service involvement or involvement from people coming from Kiev. “We have nothing that suggests that there was either but we don’t have 100 percent of the facts on that.” Part of the reason for that is it’s been difficult for international observers to have access.

US has not seen the kind of progress required under the Geneva agreement “and we’ve seen certain activities that have been discouraging.”

US will impose “costs” on Russia in coming days if that doesn’t change. “This is not going to be an open-ended process. This is going to be a situation where we take stock and determine in the relatively near term what our next step should be.”

President Obama and Mr. Biden had a number of conversations leading up to this trip. Mr. Biden will speak directly to Ukraine’s prime minister about Mr. Obama’s perspective on the situation and US commitment to support the government in Kiev.

One Mr. Biden’s top goals is to boost the government in Kiev’s “increasing efforts” to stress to Ukrainians in the east and south that they’ll benefit from assistance to Ukraine, to figure out how to design a decentralization process that works and to address concerns of Ukrainians in east and south.

Mr. Biden’s trip came about through a conversation between the president and vice president, but it’s hard to say whether Mr. Biden asked to go or Mr. Obama suggested he go. They wanted a high-ranking US official to visit and thought Mr. Biden’s diplomatic experience in dealing with Ukraine made him the right choice.

Carol Lee
The Wall Street Journal