Volodymyr Zelensky, Man in the Muddle

The young Ukrainian leader is jammed between the rock of Vladimir Putin’s aggression and the hard place of President Trump’s demands.

Comments: 77

  1. However much Zelensky set out to bring honesty and repute to his office, his intentions were corrupted by two self-serving bullies, Trump and Putin. We want the ‘good guys’ to win, but sometimes they can’t, especially when, as here, different world leaders aren’t on the same playing field.

  2. @NM What "good guys"? LBJ who defoliated the forests of Vietnam? Bush who invaded both Afghanistan and Iraq? Obama who arranged for the assassination of Gaddafi, leading to chaos in Libya? The "good guys" do not occupy the White House and never did.

  3. @Ludwig That’s false equivalence. Admittedly, it is more difficult to have good guys at the helm of a superpower which has intrinsic global responsibilities than when the leader has “only” to manage a regional power. But putting Obama and W at the same level in the same sentence is not being honest.

  4. Why not? Both used the aggression to 'protect the US' interests. Obama may be the better President than Bush, but aggression is aggression even if it is committed by 'good guy' .

  5. This President and his Administration played the typical role of "Bully" with President Zelensky. They took advantage of his inexperience, his newness as a political leader, and the desperate need his country has for military assistance. This was a classic shakedown, demands for information, false as it may be, in exchange for weapons. Trump believed he was immune from prosecution when he made the call, those listening in knew after the call that the President had committed some offense, and were frightened. Pompeo knows, and he too is now caught up in the congressional investigation. This story is just getting underway, stonewalling the inquiry will last for awhile, but the American people will make it know they "want answers" from the White House. This investigation will not go away anytime soon. Too much has already been exposed.

  6. @cherrylog754 What’s worse, Trump in his frenetic quest for ´dirt’ and mistrust in US intelligence services is vulnerable to an external manipulation and could allow Russian covert disinformation with FSB fabricated ´proofs’ to influence 2020. This is a very dangerous moment for US democracy.

  7. You need to analyze the Television connections of Trump, Manafort, and Zelensky From New York to Moscow.

  8. Absolutely correct. Putin's plants Trump and Zelensky are both TV guys. Both GROOMED by Putin who is a long-range game player.

  9. And why did Trump allow the Russian Television operation down the street from the White House to remain even after he deported the Russian diplomatic spies in the country?

  10. Now that Volodymyr Zelensky has agreed to knuckle under Donald Trump’s ham-handed fist, I have no confidence that he can run his country free of American interference. What’s more than troubling is that, now, Vladimir Putin senses the vulnerability of the comedian-turned-politician and may overrun Ukraine before the American president leaves office. President Zelensky unmasked himself as the puppet of a corrupt foreign “leader.” How can his countrymen and countrywomen ever think that he is acting in their best interests? They may all fear the Russian bear at their door—now ajar—as they wait desperately for the promised-but-withheld Javelins. Donald Trump, once again, curries favor with the violent and the dangerous and the devious and poor Ukraine has now joined the rogue’s gallery of countries that have found favor in Washington. Sorry, but Volodymyr Zelensky is not his own man—and it doesn’t look like changing soon. Why would America want a cowardly official as an ally? With Saudi Arabia, who needs friends?

  11. @Red Sox, this is grossly unfair to Ukraine! They couldnt refuse to go along with Trump since they need our help. We cant know what would have gone down once an 'investigation' had begun.

  12. "Vladimir Putin’s aggression" is little more than an attempt by Russia to defend itself against Western encroachment. If you look at the current list of members of NATO and a previous list of members of the Warsaw Pact, there is an enormous overlap. How did that happen? Ever since glasnost the West has been trying to surround and paralyze Russia - a stupid move considering the number of nuclear weapons which Russia has. Trying to entice Ukraine into NATO (while saying, "that is not what we want") turned out to be the last straw for Putin. If the West had not tried its devious tricks, Crimea would still be a part of Ukraine as it has been between 1976 and 2014. The West, especially America, has this habit of committing aggression and calling their victims the aggressor. It is dangerous game when the other party has several thousand nuclear weapons.

  13. @Ludwig, you write: "If you look at the current list of members of NATO and a previous list of members of the Warsaw Pact, there is an enormous overlap. How did that happen?" This happened in large part because these former members of the Warsaw Pact were finally given an opportunity to choose which geopolitical sphere they wanted to be aligned with and they chose NATO. Do you really think the people of Poland, Hungary, et al, wanted to remain under Russian influence after the appalling conditions foisted upon them during the communist era? Russia might not like the encroachment of the west on their doorstep but it's reaping what it's sown.

  14. They did choose, but their choice left no choice for Russia except fight to protect its own sovereignty against aggression of the West. Why would Russia want to repeat the date of Serbia or Iraq?

  15. @yulia I remember a time when there were short-lived talks about Russia joining Nato. Accepting the demands from the other members of the Warsaw pact to join Nato only made sense at that time. And eventually it was their right. And eventually Russia chose a confrontational path instead of cooperating with the West.

  16. At the demise of the Soviet Union, Ukraine had over 5,000 nuclear weapons within its sovereign borders, which ranked it with the third-largest nuclear arsenal in the world right after the two nations who are now clawing at it like a cheap prize in a country arcade. In an act of faith and statecraft, Ukraine agreed to dispose of all nuclear arsenal under the condition that its borders be respected. This understanding was reified as part of the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances. Perhaps it was the delerium of Glasnost's hopeful reforms in the post-Soviet era alomg with Ukraine's own disastrous encounter with Chernobyl that led it to believe that abandoning its stockpile would actually liberate its pursuit of its own destiny away from the global chessboard of the West and Russia. A longer historic view might have instructed Kyiv that it would inevitably stay on the interlopers' paths to regional domination either from the East or the West; whether through military force or diplomatic extortion. History might have informed the fledging republic that its best tactic for self-preservation was self-reliance. While the prospect of yet another nuclear power on today's stage seems a horrific price for stability, the faithless behavior of both its powereful neighbor and its powerful benefactor can only leave Kyiv ruing the day it placed its fate in the honor of other nation states by stripping itself of its most powerful means of defense.

  17. You provide a great justification for any country to have nuclear weapon, after all it is seems like a guarantee against any aggression be it from Russia or from the US. Should we be so angry on Iran trying to get the nuclear weapon in the face of the American aggression in the region?

  18. @yulia Nice Julia that you recognize Russian aggression on Ukraine. And to your argument, diplomacy did not workouts in Ukraine, maybe because Budapest memorandum did not have a status of international treaty, at the time. there was a or of trust between the parties, Iranian are not threatened by anybody, maybe and the nonprofilation worked, they have enemies and rivals but no existential threats

  19. Iranians are threatened by aggression of the US, Israel and the Saudi. Unfortunately, aggression became normalized by the US and accepted by other Western countries in this century. Russia just follows the suit. At time the Budapest agreement Russia believed that the World would be peaceful place, and NATO will be dissolved or at least not moving to Russian borders. It didn't happen, so Russia have to protect itself, and the US showed how the protection of own interests could be done.

  20. I hope President Zelensky doesn't feel too trapped. Certainly, none of us on the left blame him for doing the best he could in a difficult situation. We continue to stand with Ukraine and against Russian aggression in Crimea.

  21. @M We will stand by nine if he volunteer to give us his side of the story..in regards to all this mess

  22. So, democracy in Ukraine so far hasn't worked out very well, otherwise why would Ukrainians take the gamble? And Ukraine supposed to show Russians the benefit of democracy, in case if they missed these benefits from their own history in 90s. Really convincing show! of course, it does seem like democracy turned the country in another pawn of the Western politics, but this role is so seductive, that I wait for Russians to depose Putin any moment now.

  23. On the streets in any bad neighborhood anywhere in the world in any language, its called "putting the squeeze on." trump and Putin want the world to be bad neighborhoods that they can be in control of. They want to be the Sadam's of their own countries. Known as the only man who can keep things under control. The fight for power has gone from geopolitical to religious and now to politically structured organized crime. If the Oligarchs and Despots can discredit and disregard laws at will the prospects for Democracy worldwide are at risk. The repubelicans need to remember the place of their loyalties and rise to the occasion by standing up for true freedom. American Democracy is in trouble because there is a slim chance of them doing that.

  24. It looks like Zelensky had mixed motives in his conversation with Trump. On the one hand there is the attraction of having a moment with the most powerful man on earth. Even much more experienced politicians worldwide are prepared to sacrifice a lot for such a moment. Quite a big part of America's influence is based on that. On the other hand Zelensky probably hopes that he can achieve better negotiation results with the EU, Russia and his own parliament when he can claim that Trump is his friend who will support him. The article is mistaken when it claims that the 400 million military support that Trump temporarily withheld is important. The conflict is frozen and only a small minority on the Ukrainian government side still dreams of a military victory. And under Obama the Ukrainian government did quite well without America supplying military hardware.

  25. The title and subheading of this article are not surprising. Ever since the region of the warring cossack bands became Russia Minor (Maloróssiya) or Ukraine, it has always been, and still is, unter the domination of Great Russia (Velikoróssiya). The surprising aspect of this affaire is, how did Zelinsky manage to get under Trump's wing.

  26. Here is what the Financial Times, hardly a far right publication, wrote in 2016 before the Nov election: “The prospect of Mr. Trump, who has praised Ukraine’s arch-enemy Vladimir Putin, becoming leader of the country’s biggest ally has spurred not just Mr. Leshchenko but Kiev’s wider political leadership to do something they would never have attempted before: intervene, however indirectly, in a US election.” So if the truth is worth it The Times has to correct its claim that the idea that Ukrainians intervened in the 2016 campaign is a conspiracy theory. Trump is awful, a major disaster but the media should not depart from a truth seeking, truth telling agenda however much he does it. And then in Jan 2017 before Trump assumed power Politico wrote an article entitled: “Ukrainian efforts to sabotage Trump backfire.” Zelensky was caught between a rock and a hard place but he is still in a good position to achieve détente with Russia and work with the leaders of France and Germany. He should not go down with Trump.

  27. "The infamous reconstructed transcript of Mr. Zelensky’s telephone conversation with President Trump does evoke embarrassment. The Ukrainian enthusiastically demeans himself before Mr. Trump, calling him a “great teacher”..." Under survival pressure Zelenskyy's ironic sense of comedy seems to have resurfaced. There is of course much truth in his calling Trump his great teacher, as in, welcome to genteel world of New York mobster politics. Zelenskyy was no doubt strongly advised to flatter extravagantly Trump's needy ego. Perhaps he trained watching Mike Pence videos on YouTube. Zelenskyy will survive this minor embarrassment if the White House summary stands up as the document of record. What he and Trump must both fear equally is emergence of a less sanitized rendition of the phone call, either through another whistleblower who witnessed the event live or release of the contemporaneous transcript now safely squirreled away on a top security computer. A racier version of the phone call could bring them both down.

  28. Between a rock and a hard place, indeed. Zelensky is what happens when you put a person with no prior experience in a presidency. He is unprepared to deal with the type of shakedown he was experiencing. He needed what Trump was holding back, and he had no clear path forward to obtain it without doing what other world leaders have been doing: flattering Trump. China showered Trump with flattery as did the Saudis. Everyone knows that you have to lay it on thick (as the UK ambassador to the US said) with Trump because his skin is so thin and his temperament so volatile that he takes offense at anything. This isn't Zelensky's shame; this is ours.

  29. "But whether that performance was Mr. Zelensky revealing his real self or his Holoborodko character" Zelensky , like many other leaders., is well aware that Trump will give away anything when his ego is stroked. If Zelensky's letter is embarrassing, it likely doesn't hold a candle to Kim Jong-un's, the one that caused Trump to fall in love with him.

  30. With Trump acting as Putin’s agent, while at the same time having the power of commander in chief of the US military, Zelensky had no choice but to play politic with Trump. Imagine having to navigate a course when your enemy and friend are indistinguishable in a fog of deception.

  31. "Mr. Zelensky was probably aware that Mr. Trump continued to regard President Vladimir Putin of Russia as a soul mate; he may have been equally aware of Mr. Trump’s disdain for Ukraine and belief in discredited far-right conspiracy theories that claimed Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election on behalf of Democrats." What's a new president to do when confronted by a powerful ally (on paper) who's running amok by linking your military assistance with several huge personal political favors? Ukraine has become a tennis ball in geopolitics, trying to appease two "masters", one who has tanks, the other deep-seated grudges and the funding to combat those tanks.. Doesn't it make Zelensky--and the world--wornder what's going on with the strange silent partnership beween Trump and Putin? Yesterday the Times revealed Russia's attempts to destabilize all Europe. Ukraine, on the doors step of to a man who sees it as rightfully his, is indeed caught between a rock and hard place, squeezed by a powerful enemey and and a conspiracy-driven benefactor.

  32. There is quid pro quo in every interaction of a U.S. president, who when offering something to another country would expect something in return (for the U.S.). Trump, of course, was seeking something for himself. Trump doesn’t/cant deny telling Ukraine to investigate the Bidens. Even if he and his minions had never dangled $491 million, Trump and them seeking political help is heinous. Moreover, the law they are all violating applies to any American. When a president does this, it is far worse.

  33. Considering that he was hearing a brazen effort at extortion from Trump, Zelensky must have felt pretty strongly that what he himself was saying would remain a secret. He could play the role of pliant sycophant to the hilt, sacrificing his own dignity for the weapons he needed to hold off the ruthless existential threat of his Russian neighbor. So far, as a politician, he strikes me as a pretty smart and ethical comedian.

  34. The underlying cause to Zelensky's challenges is the mindset which still holds the imprint of 70 years of Soviet rule. It is the root cause of Putin, war in the east, pervasive corruption and nihilism and cynicism of the citizens in the lands formerly known as Soviet Union. This is a generational problem and is not easily solved. Of course, Trump neither understands that nor cares about any of it. He simply cares about his personal vendettas and any means of hanging on to a post he is clearly not qualified for. We put him in the position to be crude and ignorant with foreign leaders and we handed him the power to extract corrupt concessions from them. We chose him to represent us. So all of this is on us - the American voters.

  35. President Zelensky might not be ready for prime time, but I suggest a bit oof binging on "Servant of the People" before concluding that he was the dupe of this interchange. Very little editing would have been needed to fit President Zelensky's handling of Trump into the series. His fawning was transparent, bordering on slapstick--e.g. responding to Trump's "I invited you to the White House" with "but you didn't name a date" and matching "Ukraine is a beautiful country" with "I know. I live there." Based on this very limited exposure, it appears democracy--at least at the presidential level--may have served Ukraine much better than the U.S.

  36. Why do I keep seeing images of Trump in scene from a Tarantino movie dancing to "Stuck in the middle with you" while Mr Zelensky is tied up in a chair?

  37. The story is really simple. Ukraine needs those Javelin missiles, and our current president made him fear that he would not receive them unless he jumped through the hoops of the Biden and 2016 election conspiracies that our current president was forcing on him. What should he do? Watch his nation go down in flames or play nice with Trump. No choice, if you ask me.

  38. @Jeff As long as Trump has the upper hand then Zelensky and his country may go down in flame at any time. He could show if he is moral and if he is principled. Such a show of courage would serve him well in his public persona, even to his own people, and it would show that Ukrainia is a proud and worthy nation.

  39. Zelensky is not the only world leader put in a tough position. Other leaders opposed to Russian aggression and oppression have been similarly pressured. Trump and crew are criminals plain and simple- grossly unqualified by temperament and intellect to hold office. However, impeachment and imprisonment may not be enough. As the case for treason grows stronger- graver penalties may be needed. Their web of criminality is strangling this democracy. There is nothing men and woman of this ilk would want more than for people like me to give up the fight for freedom. But I won't. The Press won't. The House of Representatives won't. The lower courts won't. Civil society won't. And with any luck- the Supreme Court will uphold the Constitution.

  40. Any foreign leader knows by now that, whether you want something from Trump or not, Trump's overlarge ego demands sycophancy. The prime example, filmed for TV early on in the presidency, is the sickening flattery demanded and given (except by Mattis) of his cabinet. A replay of that nauseating episode should embarrass the cabinet members and their descendants forever. Of course Zelensky will be forgiven for doing the same, probably should be lauded for it. He knew what would work to loosen up that weapon delivery, badly needed in the defense of Ukraine. He is a patriot.

  41. Everyone who aligns themselves with Trump will, eventually, get thrown under the bus when it suits Trump’s purposes. One need look no further than Rick Perry. All of a sudden this “perfect” phone conversation with Ukraine’s leader was Rick Perry’s idea. Perry seems all too ready to play the stooge and take the fall. Trump will turn on Zelensky when the heat becomes too much or Vladimir Putin snaps his fingers. Trump always has Russia’s best interests at heart. For Trump, giving Ukraine aid was too much to ask without getting something in return.

  42. I can sympathize up to a point with Mr. Zelensky, but still believe that he has some real soul-searching to do in the near future. When this was going on in real time, I'm sure that kowtowing to the madman on the other end of the phone that he needed for critical military aid was his only option. It was totally unnecessary for him to attack the EU and Macron, both who have been very good to him and Ukraine (he could have remained silent on this when Trump was ranting). But now that this is out in the open, Zelensky needs to keep his campaign promise of cleaning up corruption. He needs to tell the truth. So far, he has been lacking in this area. He still has time to redeem himself, but if he continuees this fealty to Donald Trump, he will be stricken with the virus Trump infects so many of the people that work for him. This virus destroys their reputations and strips them of any moral credibility. Dozens of people have fallen to this in our government under Trump so far. My advice to Zelensky: Tell the truth about everything, otherwise, you will never be able to look your children, your people, or yourself in the eyes again.

  43. @qantas25 I can't imagine how I would talk to Trump as leader of a country in shambles and I was being toyed with by America. There's little gained by criticizing the leader of a foreign country. "Zelensky needs to keep his campaign promise of cleaning up corruption. He needs to tell the truth." In this regard, I feel far, far, greater condemnation for Trump and his aides, high and low that facilitate his intentionally evil ways. I found this essay shining a bright light on what we aim for as a liberal democracy, and a liberal foreign policy.

  44. @qantas25 I agree with the Editorial Board when it says that Pres. Zelensky was more the victim. It's very easy to be a moral judge of someone in a situation in which one has never been. I couldn't disagree more with the characterization that Pres. Zelensky "continues this fealty to Donald Trump." There's a monumental difference between "fealty to Donald Trump" and desperation in the face of someone who has a knife to your neck and who is more than willing to use it. I was assaulted once. I was in real danger. I told that man anything I thought he wanted to hear to keep him from hurting me. I groveled. I literally acted my way out of the situation. Pres. Zelensky has been in office a Whole Five Months. The Russians are invading from the north. 13,500 Ukrainians have died defending against Putin's takeover (a takeover I personally believe that Trump will facilitate if Zelensky ends up not "playing ball"). The $401M military aid dangled in Pres. Zelensky's face by Trump in that phone call was a matter of Ukraine's survival. Maybe we should avoid judging him from on high just yet.

  45. Clearly this whole situation is summed up by the quote herein: "The greatest beneficiary, then, would be Mr. Putin..."

  46. "Ukraine, as Mr. Zelensky has noted, is fighting two wars — one against entrenched corruption fueled by a coterie of oligarchs, the other against rebel secessionists in eastern Ukraine" Those problems are closely related. The extreme discrimination and ethnic abuse directed at the ethnic Russian part of the country was an outgrowth of the oligarchs from the other part abusing those not their own base, and making appeals to hate. The Ukrainian oligarchs drove out the Russian oligarchs. That is true even though the ethnic Russian oligarchs treated the ethnic Ukrainians no better. The Russians had someplace to go, and someone to help, and they took that route. Any minority treated that way would do so. But why was Putin willing to get involved? It was the American hawks, "You didn't get our promise in writing, you fools," who simply defied Russia to do anything other than be abused. They sought to do exactly what they'd promised not to do, all the way to taking Russia's 200-year old Black Sea naval base for use against Russia by NATO. What could anyone think would happen. The late great George Kennan, of the Long Telegram fame behind the Containment of the Soviets, had warned of this, specifically warned of not doing this, not long before he passed at age 101. A great many specialists backed him up on that. Our hawks did it anyway. Ukrainian oligarchs did it anyway. The fix? Don't do that. The new President of the Ukraine does have that choice, and he may be making it.

  47. Hang in there, until Trump and his cohorts are out of the government - it shouldn’t be too long. In any event, he and the Ukraine were never going to come out ahead on this one as long as Trump remains in charge and subservient to Putin. ‘Find’ dirt on Biden and there could be 4 more years of the same, without the guarantee that the foreign aid wouldn’t be cancelled, diminished, or subject to yet additional conditions until the Ukraine was bled dry, and its government overtaken by pro-Russians.

  48. Zelensky did what he thought he had to do to get the promised military aid. He acted -- maybe in humiliation -- to advance his country's best interests, as I believe many Ukrainians understand. He wasn't the one asking for a little favor. He was the one puzzling over just what Trump wanted in exchange for following through on aid approved by Congress. There's little fault to be seen in Zelensky's actions.

  49. No, this is all on Trump (and us). Having seen Trump's interactions with other friendly leaders, Ukraine had no other choice if they wanted a dialogue with the US to continue. I thought he was clever in that anyone else would have recognized the Ukraine president as glibly pandering....but that's what Trump wants.

  50. The fact that Zelensky declined to sign an agreement written by Trump and his intermediaries speaks louder than his voice on the phone call. The Trump call was the final straw, the American President was personally telling him his demands.. Zelensky was aware of Trump's loyalty to Putin at the expense of the credibility of all US intelligence agencies. Trump put Zelensky the position to grovel, no favors equals no military assistance. Trump is the greatest threat to America and global stability.

  51. Zelensky faces grim reality! Russia and Ukraine are tightly bonded in history and culture. Ukraine is "the mother of Russia" and "the breadbasket of Russia". In the breakup of the Soviet Union, Ukraine hastily proclaimed independence from Russia, adopted the ill-drawn Stalinist boundaries of the Ukrainian SSR, and renounced its hard-earned claim to share the eternal and inexhaustible riches of Siberia. Thus began a pitiful saga of poverty and strife for millions of people inside a pseudo-nation of disparate sympathies and aspirations, and no future. Roughly, the western region of the Ukraine is the bastion of Ukrainian nationalists, the south has Russian military installations and a Russian-sympathetic population, and the east has a Russian-sympathetic population of former workers in Soviet factories and mines. After a succession of inept and corrupt governments Ukrainian nationalists overthrew the legitimately-elected national government in Kiev, and attempted to impose Ukrainian nationalism on the Russian-sympathetic southern and eastern regions. Civil strife and international meddling ensued. Russia has seized and annexed the Russian-sympathetic southern region of Ukraine. The civil strife in eastern Ukraine has morphed into a cruel proxy war between the US and Russia. So, Zelensky heads a nation that never should have been created!

  52. @AynRant “A pitiful saga of poverty and strife for millions of people.” And that’s not Russia, too? Any glance at 20th century history would reveal boundless reasons for Ukrainians to hate Russia.

  53. I would not put it past Trump to have delayed the Javelin rockets to Ukraine based on a request from Putin. Certainly, Trump has gotten very good at figuring out what Putin wants,mans he cares more about despots like Putin and Erdogan than he does about our friends like Zenenskyy and the Kurds. Heck even the way Trump physically pushed the Prime Minister of Montenegro aside during a NATO meeting was probably done to impress Putin after Putin failed at his 2016 attempt to assassinate the Prime Minister. Trump is a traitor to our country and a traitor to our friend.

  54. Zelensky had no way out but to agree or pretend to do, with everything the Impechee requested. Both will pay the price. Stay tuned.

  55. Germany and France support Zelinsky's efforts to negotiate a settlement with Russia. The NYTs wants to paint this as wrong. Of course the NYTs doesn't report that after the nationalist illegal coup against a legally constituted gov't the anti Russian nationalist illegal gov't immediately tried to consolidate their gains in ethnic Russian areas of the country. Ethnic Russians never supported the nationalist coup that was basically done at their expense. The NYTs has completely misreported the events leading up to the Russians annexing Crimea. The right wing nationalists were going to threaten Russia's position in Crimea. A region that was under virtual Russian control despite the fact that Ukraine was given Crimea during Khrushchev's rule. The province had always been Russian since the 18th century and was still a virtual Russian province. The referendum in Crimea to leave Ukraine made entire sense. Zelensky is showing leadership which these right wing Ukrainian and their US backers are howling about. The Ukrainian mess had US interference from day one. This all started during the Obama Administration. Obama himself was against escalating the violence in Ukraine. Now the Congress wants the Ukrainians to escalate the ethnic violence. This whole situation was an aggressive dangerous neo con effort to move NATO right up to Russia.

  56. Zelensky is NOT a man in a muddle. He knows from whom he must take orders - his patron who financed his campaign -- Igor Kolomoisly. The IMF refused any loan to Ukraine because of the Zelensky-Kolomoisky ties. Who is Kolomoisky? He a gangster-oligarch who had a private army and a private bank and ran the Oblast, Dnipropetrovsk as if it were his private kingdom. Eventually Poroshenko seized his assets and exiled him to Israel. Kolomoisky is back in Ukraine thanks to Zelensky. Kolomoisky had secret holdings in Burisma and was believed to be responsible for the asset siphoning scheme which looted $1.8 billion from the company. Zelensky is beholden to Kolomoisky and in the final analysis he will do what Kolomoisky wants. Zelensky is not a man in a muddle, He knows in the final analysis he must answer to Kolomoisky. If you people would read the Kiev papers and other material published in Kiev you might understand the level of corruption in the country and who the major players are. What the US wants will only be granted if it suits Kolomoisky.

  57. Strange times indeed.

  58. Zelensky and Trump are both TV show guys ENDORSED by Vladimir Putin! guess what Putin's plans have been all these years...

  59. The " impeachment inquiry" supported by the Times Editorial Board contributes to "The Muddle" as part of the Trump Resistance tactic adopted the day of President Trump's election. First the "Russian Collusion" claim was aggressively pushed until its disintegration. in its place, is the "impeachment inquiry" alleging serious misbehavior by President Trump but highlighting the sleaziness of the Biden's trading political influence for money. The Clinton Foundation received many millions of dollars from foreign interests for political influence while Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State. The "Muddle" is a "Swamp" which justifies the low opinion of most Americans for politicians.

  60. Oh, for Pete's sake! The Ukraine shares more that a thousand years of history with Russia, not to mention an indefensible border more than a 1,000 miles long. I don't believe there are five Ukrainians who believe the US would be prepared to fire a single cruise missile, let alone loose a single Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine for its sake. Zelensky knows this, too. If he has to make a deal, he'll make it with Putin. And if, in the mean time, he can exploit the relationship with the US for the benefit of his country and people, he'll do that as well. In the end, geography wins. Besides, there is already a negotiation underway to increase the autonomy of the contentious areas around Donetsk and Lugansk. This would ease the tension and knock the rationale from under the EU's and the US's posturing. Nobody trusts the US anymore, and the EU has no teeth.

  61. In 2016 Vice President Joe Biden threatened to withhold $1 billion in U.S. loan guarantees for Ukraine unless Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko fired his prosecutor-general. Biden publicly bragged about the coercion, which produced immediate results. In a recent phone call, President Trumpasked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to help the U.S. Justice Department investigate the possibility that Joe Biden used his office to head off an investigation into Joe Biden and his son Hunter’s business dealings in Ukraine. (The Treaty With Ukraine on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters signed by President Clinton in 1998 requires the United States and Ukraine to assist each other in criminal investigations.) Zelensky has since told reporters that “I was never pressured and there were no conditions being imposed.” Trump merely asked Zelensky to provide assistance as required by the 1998 treaty.

  62. Looks like the Ukraine will be the cherry on top for the Republicans. There were too many shenanigans being played by the Obama administration. Biden, Pelosi, Kerry all get their kids on the boards of Ukrainian energy companies and nobody should say, “gee, that looks a little strange”? Trump has hit a nerve. While we’re at it, has anyone ever gone and taken a photograph of all the houses Biden’s brother built in Iraq with the $1.5 billion he got from the government to do so? At 100 grand a pop, there should be around 15,000 homes they built somewhere. How much you want to bet there is just a model home and couple shacks?

  63. If Trump had an ounce of integrity, he would not have put Zelensky in such a dilemma.

  64. I think Zelensky, in the long run, has damaged himself irreparably. He'd better not play the obsequious fool again or his country won't forgive him. And one way or another, Putin will take Ukraine anyway, just like he's taken the U.S. - one cyber-attack at a time.

  65. I can only hope Mr Zelensky can withstand all the pushing and shoving he is being subjected to. What with Putin already in the country and pushing hard to take as much as he can get, inch by inch and mile by mile, he doesn't need the trump Mafia trying to extort everything that isn't nailed down. And then he has his own Oligarchs vying for power and money. We can only hope that the EU and his own people recognize an honest man trying to weave his way through this onslaught and stand by him.

  66. I always wonder what Trump really means when he says ´Ukrainians are corrupt’ Is it said with disdain or does he see that as an opportunity? Maybe both. He clearly tried to push for an investigation of unsubstantiated accusations, according an certainly unknown to him old NKWD/KGB principle: « give us a man and we will find a paragraph « . He must have expected that these utterly corrupt people will find or fabricate dirt on his opponents

  67. There is no way President Zelensky could be an equal partner in discussions with the United States president. Putin, the Pac-Man from the east, had already eaten Crimea and was pulling up to the table ready to feast on Ukraine's eastern oblasts. For Zelensky, ingratiating himself with our president remans a small price to pay for Javelins and his nation's very survival. Give him a break.

  68. When I read the transcript of the conversation between Trump and Zelensky, I immediately recognized the approach of Trump. It resembles that of a man trying to seduce a woman; first laying on the flattery, then instilling the notion that he is in need ("I need a favor") in order to get sympathy, then offering the reward for the victim if they acquiesce. All very predictable behavior from a man who has behaved like this for his entire life, with both women and men! I do not fault Zelensky for his response. He did what some women would do to "appease" this bully; agree politely, with tongue in cheek, and do not fall for the real motives of this monster!

  69. The context behind the call, which you perfectly laid out, is the most important part of the Trump Impeachment process. Zelensky had no choice but to adhere to Trump's wishes for the sake of his country. I certainly do not hold that against him. My only hope is that the Dems continue to explain this to the American people less knowledgeable on foreign affairs.

  70. One mustn't be too hard on Zelensky for trying to curry favor with the only political leader who can provide him with the muscle and support he needs to confront Russian aggression. There's an old Chinese saying: "Kiss the hand you cannot bite." Sometimes that's just what you've got to do.

  71. The empathic Mr. Volodymyr Zelensky reminds me of our Italian namesake, Bebbe Grillo. In 1986 he had been banned from public television networks after his joke on the corruption inside the Socialist Party. The joke had concerned a party delegation going to visit China: "If in China are all socialists whom they will steal to?" had quipped Grillo. Much later on, Grillo helped by an inspired software guru founded the "Five Star Movement" (Its themes being public water, environment, transportability, internet connections and development) which in 2018 election scored over 32%, and was, as Zelensky’s party, Sluha Narodu, Servant of the People, the most voted party. Like Zelensky, after the election, Grillo and his Movement’s front-runners, had to deal with the reality of the political arena. Today, after a first government experience with an unfair far-right leader who was “feverishly tweeting” and who is a utterly pro-Putin fan, the Five Star Movement is leading a second government in alliance with a healing Democratic Party. Therefore, going back to “Servant of the People”, he, in order to handle a supposedly “quid pro quo” request and for the Ukraine interest, had to appease a bit, because, and this article underlines it well, he was, and still is, squeezed between two huge, “Polonium tainted” rocks. Ukraine is made up of very mild, honest and hard-working people: that's why, here in Italy, most of the assistance to the elderly is managed by women coming from there.

  72. When I read the so-called transcript of the infamous phone call, I couldn't help but think that the comments attributed to Mr. Zelensky sounded an awful lot like how Trump talks about himself and wonder to what extent these were lost in translation, or edited to suit the Ego in Chief ... regardless, Mr. Zelensky was under great pressure to butter up the praise starved President in order to protect his country from its eastern threats. His remark during the UN prefering to stay out of American politics is likely his true feeling about the whole ugly incident.

  73. One interpretation of this article, which was excellent, is that theEuropeans, unlike many Americans know that Mr. Zelensky's job is to try to ensure the survival of his people against the Russian onslaught, not to help the Us by calling our horrific president to account.

  74. “a White House incapable of distinguishing between national and personal interests”? The White House has absolutely no conception of the national interest. Its sole guiding principle is the personal interests of Trump, his family, and GOP enablers like Moscow Mitch. If it weren’t for pressure from the “corrupt” news media which embarrassed the boss who knew all the best people, Ryan Zinke would still be Interior Secretary, and Scott Pruitt would still be running (ruining) the EPA.

  75. When the Dems sold 20% of US Uranium to Russia, did the media think something was wrong? When Mitt Romney claimed Russia was our biggest threat, and the NYTimes and Dems laughed at him (along with Obama), did we ever step back and re-analyze our bias? When Obama said he'd be able to work more closely with Russia after he was re-elected, did anyone have concerns? Does anyone believe that Russia hasn't been involved in elections and mis-information for the last 20 years? I know everyone hates Trump, he's not likable, but the hypocrisy is astounding.