Washington (AFP) – US President Donald Trump greeted his Ukrainian counterpart Petro Poroshenko in the White House on Tuesday as Washington rolled out more sanctions against pro-Russian rebels, in a diplomatic coup for Kiev.
Amid speculation that Trump would refuse to meet the Ukrainian leader, Poroshenko had what the White House described as a “drop-in” with the US president.
“We’ve had some very, very good discussions,” Trump said as the pair sat side-by-side in the Oval Office.
“I think a lot of progress has been made,” Trump added, saying it was a “great honor” to host Poroshenko.
Trump did not touch on the thorny details of the relationship.
For three years, ties between Washington and Kiev have been dominated by efforts to contain a destabilizing Russian-backed rebellion in eastern Ukraine.
The crisis has left 10,000 dead and heightened tensions between the West and the Kremlin, which considers Ukraine inside its “sphere of influence.”
Ukrainian officials have long been frustrated by Washington’s refusal to provide lethal weapons and its insistence on linking financial help to deep economic reforms.
But that concern has intensified since the election of Trump, who has often appeared reluctant to put pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin to solve the crisis.
Last week, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson raised eyebrows by suggesting that the United States should not be “handcuffed” by an international plan to end the crisis.
Trump did not speak publicly about either of those two substantive issues, but described Ukraine as “a place that we’ve all been very much involved in and we’ve been seeing it and everybody has been reading about it.”
Despite the lack of substance, Poroshenko will likely see the meeting as a victory.
The sit-down was not announced in advance by the White House — as is customary — and when it was described, it was billed as something less than a full bilateral.
In the world of diplomacy, where symbolic actions can have real consequences on the…