During US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s trip to Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Belarus and Uzbekistan, a diverse number of issues should be resolved regarding foreign policy, as well as domestic political calculations and the plans of the American Administration.op
Pompeo’s trip to the former Soviet Union began on January 30th and should conclude on February 3rd. Each of the four countries in the post-Soviet space have their own specific aspects for American diplomacy, including in the context of US-Russian relations. The latter are obviously the key topic of the visits. Ukraine is in direct and open conflict with Russia.
Belarus and Kazakhstan are Moscow’s allies and partners in the CSTO and the EAEU (and, in the case of Minsk, also in the Union State of Russia and Belarus).
Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan are in a partnership with Russia and China (which is perceived by the Trump administration as Washington’s key global adversary) within the framework of the SCO and the Chinese Belt & Road Initiative (which is currently actively cooperating with the EAEU in the framework of the “confluence” agreements).
Uzbekistan under Karimov pursued a policy of distancing itself from various integration initiatives, including with Russia, but now there is an active discussion of the possibility of joining the EAEU or some other form of cooperation within the framework of “Eurasian integration”.
The post-Soviet countries have different meanings for American domestic politics. Ukraine was at the centre of the scandal over Trump’s impeachment; the other Countries, in this context, are not “tainted” by this scandal.
Finally, there is another issue that is important for American foreign and (to a much lesser extent) domestic policy. This is a possible withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan. Obviously, the countries of Central Asia bordering Afghanistan are important in this process.
The withdrawal of troops, if it really takes place (given the ongoing negotiations between the United States and the Taliban, its probability has increased), will dramatically increase the importance of Afghanistan’s neighbours. They will be called upon to solve many problems emanating from that country.
The domestic political significance of the withdrawal is also important. Now in the American media, there is an active “post-mortem” discussion regarding what went wrong in Afghanistan.
On the one hand, Trump has every chance to hold Democrats associated with the Obama administration (for example, Hillary Clinton as a former secretary of state and even Joe Biden as a former vice president) responsible for the failure of the AfPak concept and “reconstruction” of Afghanistan promoted by the Obama administration. At one time, Obama accused George W. Bush of shifting US attention from Afghanistan to Iraq, which undermined the efficiency in the fight against international terrorism, and did not solve the Afghan (and, at the same time, the Pakistani-related) problem.
A lot of money was spent God knows where, serious losses among American soldiers also should be somehow explained. On the other hand, if the US withdrawal is unsuccessful, the Democrats will be able to accuse Trump of yet another isolationist move that proved detrimental to American national interests.