By Lili Bayer
March 31, 2016
But recent bilateral talks will not become another Yalta Conference.
Summary The United States and Russia have been engaging in high-level negotiations over Ukraine and the status of Eastern Europe more broadly. Both countries have fundamental strategic interests at stake and several cards to play. Russia is counting on its involvement in Syria to strengthen its hand, while the U.S. can fall back on NATO and military rotations through Central and Eastern European countries.
There are few places that evoke collective feelings of fear and betrayal the way Yalta does for the residents of Central and Eastern European countries. The seaside town in Crimea was the site of a historic meeting in February 1945, where U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill decided the fate of post-World War II Europe, shaping the formation of western and eastern blocs on the continent. For Central and Eastern Europe, Yalta has become a symbol of Western geopolitical considerations trumping their own aspirations for freedom and independence.
Today, watching high-level negotiations between the U.S. and Russia over Ukraine and Syria, the greatest fear for the region’s governments is another Yalta moment – a moment when the U.S. opts to grant Russia significant concessions in Eastern Europe in order to make a deal. But a Yalta-style deal between Washington and Moscow is not coming. Washington’s ultimate goal is to reach a negotiated settlement on the status of Ukraine, whether formally or informally, that would allow Ukraine to be at the very least militarily neutral, while also deterring Russian assertiveness and limiting Russian influence in the region.