How they see us: ‘Ukraine-gate’ hits Ukraine
We now know that U.S. President Donald Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate a political rival, and even offered the assistance of his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and Attorney General William Barr. “In any normal country,” said Hubert Wetzel in the Süddeutsche Zeitung (Germany),“that would suffice to force the offending politician out.” The U.S. used to be such a country: During Watergate, members of President Richard Nixon’s own Republican Party told him to step down. Today, though, it’s hard to find a Republican in Congress willing to “put the good of the country before the good of the president.” Instead, Republicans are echoing Giuliani’s conspiracy theory that as vice president Joe Biden improperly pressured Ukraine’s government to fire a top prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, because he was investigating an energy firm that employed Biden’s son, Hunter, as a board member. There’s zero evidence that Joe or Hunter Biden did anything wrong. But Trump knows that “propaganda doesn’t have to be true, the people just have to believe it.” This scandal ought to destroy Trump, but in the upside-down world of U.S. politics, it could end up tainting Biden instead.
It could fatally wound Zelensky’s reputation, said Peter Conradi in The Times (UK). The former actor made his name in a TV sitcom in which he played a schoolteacher whose rant against corruption goes viral and leads him to be elected president. Zelensky campaigned for the May election as if he were that character, vowing to “bring the rule of law to his country.” The political neophyte has already begun reforming the prosecution service and courts, a crony-based system inherited from the Soviets. For the U.S. president to demand an investigation for political motives undermines that project—although Zelensky now says that his country “can’t be commanded to do anything.”
Zelensky must be furious at Trump, said Ivan Yakovina in NV.ua (Ukraine). Our president gave the White House permission to publish a rough transcript of the call between the two presidents—so long as his replies were excised. But the Americans left them in, and now Ukrainians can read how their leader abased himself to stroke Trump’s ego and bad-mouthed our allies in France and Germany. Still, this U.S. betrayal of Zelensky “could be avenged.” The call summary the White House released is “an edited text from which pieces were cut,” and Ukraine could provide the crucial and possibly damning missing lines. “If Zelensky helps to overthrow Trump and feed his political corpse to the Democrats, he will become a hero in Europe.”
Whatever happens, our relationship with the U.S.—our most important ally—is ruined, said Ivan Verstyuk, also in NV.ua. If the next president is a Republican, he “will surely remember that Ukraine almost cost him victory.” If it’s a Democrat, Republicans in Congress might block the military aid that Ukraine so desperately needs in our struggle against Russian aggression. It’s not our fault, but Ukraine is being “held hostage” to Trump’s scandal. ■