PHILADELPHIA – Steven Pifer was the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine in 1998-2000; his 27-year diplomatic career focused on U.S. relations with the nations of the former Soviet Union and Eurasia.
His book “The Eagle and the Trident” appeared in July. The 374-page account is subtitled “U.S.-Ukraine Relations in Modern Times” and depicts Kyiv’s Maidan Independence Square on its blue-and-yellow hard cover.
On October 19, Ambassador Pifer spoke twice in Philadelphia, presenting his new book. His first appearance took place during the day at Manor College, where he addressed an audience of 50 people, the majority of whom were students. That evening he spoke to an audience of 30 Americans in downtown Philadelphia at the invitation of the renowned World Affairs Council.
Both presentations generated much interest and lively discussions on the topic of U.S.-Ukraine relations during the quarter century after the collapse of the Soviet. Union.
The ambassador clearly narrated the successes and failures of U.S. policy toward Ukraine. In his opinion, America overemphasized the need for Kyiv to eliminate its nuclear weapons, while not paying enough attention to Ukraine’s security concerns and endemic corruption. In response to questions on whether or not Ukraine should have kept its nuclear arsenal, the ambassador explained that this would have entailed huge expenses that Ukraine could not afford, and also would have resulted in international isolation of the newborn state.
Concerning the Budapest Memorandum, he underscored that the U.S. could not give Ukraine security guarantees (like NATO), but only assurances.
Ambassador Pifer provided a realistic analysis of Russia’s aggression in Ukraine and followed up with practical advice. He noted that the continuation of economic sanctions against Russia and providing lethal defensive weapons to Ukraine will increase the costs that Russia must pay for its war in Ukraine.
He also recommended increased ties of Ukraine with the European Union and NATO because much can be achieved even without full membership in these organizations.
Mr. Pifer also reminded listeners that the U.S must not forget about Crimea. In his view, Ukraine’s economic success will attract the Crimeans to Ukraine’s side.
The ambassador also stressed that combating corruption is just as important as the struggle against Russia.