US servicemen march during Ukraine’s Independence Day rehearsal in Kiev © Valentyn Ogirenko / Reuters

US national security advisor John Bolton’s upcoming visit to Ukraine on its Independence Day demonstrates the true limits of this ‘independence,’ experts told RT, noting that Kiev seems to be fully reliant on Washington’s support.

Bolton will attend a military parade in Kiev and meet with virtually all key figures of the Ukrainian government, including President Petro Poroshenko, Prime Minister Vladimir Groysman as well as foreign and defense ministers, according to the Ukrainian ambassador to the US, Valery Chaly, who praised this visit as a display of the US “support to Ukraine.”

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In fact, Bolton’s visit is more of an “inspection” rather than a courtesy call, Vladimir Kornilov, a political analyst, historian and journalist, told RT, adding that it has recently become a sort of an “unhealthy tradition” for Ukraine to invite US officials as honored guests on its Independence Day celebrations. Top American officials attending military parades, like Pentagon chief James Mattis last year, shows “the true state of Ukrainian independence” and indicates who has long-since become “the true masters in the Ukrainian house,” he said.

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The Ukrainian government is “not so much worried about Ukraine as they are worried about their own fate,” believes Vladimir Zharikhin, the deputy head of the Institute of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). The current Kiev authorities have been heavily relying on US support since the 2014 coup that ousted Viktor Yanukovich and plunged Ukraine into crisis. Even though they apparently interpret Bolton’s visit as a sign of such ongoing unconditional support, Zharikhin believes Kiev might yet be in for a surprise.

“Ukraine has long been de facto living off US help and support,” Kornilov said, adding that it is “in no position” to demand any guarantees from the US. On the contrary, “it the US, it is Bolton, who will demand guarantees from Kiev that it will stick to its foreign policy, which was de facto dictated by Washington … since 2014 or 2015.”

Apart from that, Bolton will be able to assess the situation ahead of the March 2019 presidential vote and help decide whether Washington should back Poroshenko’s re-election bid. “The US is well aware of the fact that … there is no point in putting all eggs in one basket,” Kornilov told RT, adding that the US State Department will most likely review this issue and back various political forces in order to have “a number of fallback options.”

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The extent of Washington’s influence on Ukrainian political life was revealed by former US Vice President Joe Biden, who boasted it took him just “six hours” to sack prosecutor-general through threats of US financial aid withdrawal. However, simply following US directives might soon be not enough to save Ukraine from its financial troubles.

The situation with the Ukrainian national debt is becoming increasingly alarming; over the past five years it has soared nearly fourfold to some $71.7 billion as the government had to continuously borrow money to finance the crisis-ridden economy. The Ukrainian debt-to-GDP ratio jumped from some 40 percent to as high as 71.8 percent over the same period, due to the fall in the hryvna exchange rate, thus becoming one of the highest in Europe.  The country’s debt obligations will peak in 2018-2020 but it continues to pin its hopes on a new agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as its current $17.5bn program expires in March 2019, even though Kiev repeatedly failed to fully implement IMF recommendations.

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