This is the first book-length study of U.S. relations with Ukraine following its independence in 1991, and it is extremely well done: clearly written, deeply informed, and balanced. From 1991 to 2004, the period the book focuses on, Pifer served in a number of senior U.S. State Department and White House positions dealing with Ukraine, including as U.S. ambassador from 1998 to 2000. Every step of the way, relations were complicated and often frustrating for both sides. Pifer explores the history with dispassionate insight, beginning with the United States’ single-minded effort to get nuclear weapons out of Ukraine (too single-minded, in his estimation) and continuing on to the complications introduced by Ukraine’s vexed and often bitter relations with Russia and to the dashed hopes for economic and political reform. Looking back, he offers reflections on what the United States did right (navigating the complex process of removing nuclear weapons from Ukraine) and what it did wrong (frequently being oblivious to the intricacies of Ukrainian politics). He concludes the book with an analysis of the years since 2004, to which he brings similar lucidity and cool detachment, and with recommendations for the future of U.S. policy toward this troubled country.
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