The Eagle and the Trident

U.S.—Ukraine Relations in Turbulent Times

Steven Pifer
Release Date: July 11, 2017
Inside Look:

An insider’s account of the complex relations between the United States and post-Soviet Ukraine

The Eagle and the Trident provides the first comprehensive account of the development of U.S. diplomatic relations with an independent Ukraine, covering the years 1992 through 2004 following the collapse of the Soviet Union. The United States devoted greater attention to Ukraine than any other post-Soviet state (except Russia) after the breakup of the Soviet Union. Steven Pifer, a career Foreign Service officer, worked on U.S.-Ukraine relations at the State Department and the White House during that period and also served as ambassador to Ukraine. With this volume he has written the definitive narrative of the ups and downs in the relationship between Washington and newly independent Ukraine.

The relationship between the two countries moved from heady days in the mid- 1990s, when they declared a strategic partnership, to troubled times after 2002. During the period covered by the book, the United States generally succeeded in its major goals in Ukraine, notably the safe transfer of nearly 2,000 strategic nuclear weapons left there after the Soviet collapse. Washington also provided robust support for Ukraine’s effort to develop into a modern, democratic, market-oriented state. But these efforts aimed at reforming the state proved only modestly successful, leaving a nation that was not resilient enough to stand up to Russian aggression in Crimea in 2014.

The author reflects on what worked and what did not work in the various U.S. approaches toward Ukraine. He also offers a practitioner’s recommendations for current U.S. policies in the context of ongoing uncertainty about the political stability of Ukraine and Russia’s long-term intentions toward its smaller but important neighbor.


Praise for The Eagle and the Trident

“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.”
—Robert Legvold, Foreign Affairs
“How did Ukraine get into its current situation? Steven Pifer, in this remarkably well-documented book, shows us. From the euphoria of independence in 1991, to the elimination of nuclear weapons and working through a sea of corruption and venal politicians, here is the history of U.S. engagement with post-Soviet Ukraine, including what did not work. As Pifer demonstrates, there is more than enough blame to go around. The U.S. and EU do not escape unscathed. We need to rethink our approach to enforce reforms that will benefit the citizens of Ukraine.”—Richard Armitage, Trustee, Center for Strategic and International Studies, and former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State

“I am very much impressed by the political insights and broad historical perspective of The Eagle and the Trident. It should be an essential item in anyone’s operational library, given the high probability that Ukraine will continue to be an important issue for the United States, for East-West relations, and as a critical test of Russia’s ability to be a genuine European state.”—Zbigniew Brzezinski, Counselor and Trustee, Center for Strategic and International Studies, and former U.S. National Security Adviser

“In this persuasive account of a quarter-century of relations between Washington and Kyiv, Steven Pifer explains the important stakes for the United States in Ukraine. Drawing on his extensive experience of government service—including as ambassador to Ukraine—he chronicles the successes and failures of U.S. policy in supporting Ukraine in its two major challenges: implementing economic and legal reforms and dealing with Russia. This is essential reading for understanding the past, present, and future of U.S.-Ukraine relations.”—Angela Stent, Director, Center for Eurasian, Russian, and East European Studies; Professor of Government and Foreign Service, Georgetown University; and former U.S. National Intelligence Officer for Russia and Eurasia

“Ambassador Pifer has long been respected as a diplomat, policymaker, and commentator on the high-stakes challenges of our time. In The Eagle and the Trident, he has achieved a trifecta: an engaging memoir of his role in the painful rebirth of a long-oppressed nation; a must-read for historians and students of the post–Cold War period; and a highly relevant guide to the ongoing crisis among Ukraine, Russia, and the West.”—Strobe Talbott, President, Brookings Institution, and former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State

Steven Pifer is a senior fellow in the Foreign Policy program at the Brookings Institution, where he specializes in Ukraine, Russia, and arms control. A retired career Foreign Service officer, he served as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine from 1998 to 2000.

Media Coverage

The Odessa Review 15/01/2018

Former United States Ambassador To Ukraine Steven Pifer Publishes His Memoirs