The US vs. China: Which Country Will Influence Ukraine in 2021?

Ukraine will not be of strategic importance to China in the coming year, unlike the U.S., which may increase its influence in the world with Ukraine’s help.

In 2021, Ukraine-China relations will hardly change because the Chinese, unlike the Ukrainians, measure time in decades, not years, as we do. And what they approve at the next National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party will remain unchanged for at least the next five years.

Certainly, China will continue to implement its global “One Belt, One Road” initiative, but Ukraine actually remains beyond its reach. However, this is neither good nor bad for us because we are beyond China’s scope of interests among the countries in Eastern Europe.

In any case, Chinese expansion, first economic and then political, does not bode well for us. China has already taken the major technologies they were interested in from Ukraine. The only problem that Beijing will continue to solve in Ukraine in the coming year will be related to Motor Sich,* and the deepening of Ukraine-China relations will depend on this. But here we will have to take into account the activity of our Cabinet of Ministers; from the point of view of national security, we cannot provide China with such a high-tech enterprise, one which the Ukrainian military industry critically depends on.

As for changes in the relationship between Ukraine and China’s rival, the United States, on the contrary, we can hope to forge a relationship. It is obvious that Joe Biden will return Ukraine to the zone of U.S. strategic interests. This means that the United States will be more attentive to Ukraine’s national security issues. It means more pressure on Russia, pressure which had less impact on the Kremlin during Donald Trump’s presidency. Biden will also increase financial as well as military support to Ukraine.

Another prospect for 2021 may be Ukraine’s rapprochement with NATO, because the second strategic priority in Biden’s foreign policy, as he himself stated, is to restore euro-Atlantic solidarity, something which was disrupted by Trump’s unpredictable foreign policy. There is no doubt that Biden’s job is to strengthen NATO, as its position has been significantly weakened by both internal controversies and the military and political environment, especially in the Black Sea region. And, obviously, it is here where the United States will return to addressing one of its priorities. For us, this will mean an increased military presence in the form of ships in the Black Sea and an enlarged scope of joint military exercises to deter Russia from its revanchist policy.

Much of U.S. foreign policy will also depend on the consensus within the country between Republicans and Democrats, the tone of which will be set by Congress. It is no coincidence that Biden spoke of the desire to “stitch America back together,” referring to a country which has split into two camps since Trump came to power. But foreign policy will be a top priority; in addition to solving domestic issues, he still needs to return the United States to its leadership position with respect to major foreign policy after its recent decline.

The author, Hryhorii Perepelytsia, is a professor at the Taras Shevchenko National University in Kyiv. He holds a Ph.D. in political science and is a foreign policy expert. He is also director of the Foreign Policy Research Institute of the Diplomatic Academy at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine.

*Editor’s Note: Motor Sich is an international aircraft engine manufacturer that produces engines for airplanes and helicopters in Ukraine and manages industrial gas turbine installations there as well.

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