Among Western foreign policy establishment elites, a growing realism has developed on the shortcomings evident in Ukraine. This reality partly explains the somewhat limited Western mass media coverage of the just completed Ukrainian presidential election, when compared to the ones that brought Viktor Yushchenko and Petro Poroshenko to power.
Notwithstanding, there’re some holdouts who cling to an inaccurate impression. Paul Goble’s April 21 Eurasia Review presentation of Russian and Belarusian jealousy over Ukraine’s’ presidential election, is part of an ongoing misread on the standing of the three former Soviet republics, who trace their history back to Rus. As has been true with a number of his other pieces, Goble (in this one) uncritically references the questionable opinions of some others. Upon his victory, the newly elected Ukrainian President Volodoymyr Zelensky has pretty much said the same thing, about Ukraine as a role model for some other parts of the former Soviet Union.
This depiction echoes what the late Zbigniew Brzezinski said of the so-called Orange Revolution back in 2004. At the time, Brzezinski spun a democratically spirited Ukraine eventually having a positive influence over Russia. Over the course of the post-Soviet period, a segment of the US foreign policy and media establishments have overhyped Ukrainian positives (real, exaggerated and false), while disproportionately highlighting the negatives in Russia and Belarus (real, exaggerated and false). The April 22 Imran Khan hosted Al Jazeera show Inside Story, with Valentin Yakushik, Uly Brueckner and Dmitry Babich, is an eclectically healthy break from the idealistic BS presented elsewhere. (I can’t quite say the same about the April 22 Nick Schifrin hosted PBS NewsHour segment with Matthew Rojansky.)
In his aforementioned Eurasia Review piece, Goble portrays a lively political discourse between the two main candidates (Zelensky and Petro Poroshenko) for Ukraine’s presidency. This take overlooks the limits of that dialogue, in addition to ignoring some other tangential factors. If anything, Ukrainians in Ukraine are more jealous that Russia has a president who has (to some noticeable degree) stood up to the oligarchs. Related to this point is the fact that since the Euromaidan in late 2013 (as well as beforehand), more Ukrainian citizens have migrated to Russia than Russian citizens moving to Ukraine.
Likewise, Belarus has relative stability when compared to Ukraine. The level of Russian economic assistance to Belarus is a contributing factor to this situation. Note that the Russian-Belarusian relationship has included Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko periodically making provocatively negative comments about Russia. Yet, his presidency remains in tact, which is a far cry from an overreaching great power, overthrowing the leader of a much smaller nearby country, because of the latter’s lack of subservience.
Within reason, Ukraine’s newly elected president is seen as a front for the major Ukrainian oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky. Zelensky’s predecessor Poroshenko fits the image of of an oligarch. Let’s see if Zelensky will break from that trend. For now, it’s quite premature to see him and his country as a positive model for Russia and Belarus.
As for the matter of political diversity (brought up by Goble), Russian President Vladimir Putin, has over the years faced live confrontational comments and questions from numerous individuals, including Megyn Kelly, George W Bush and Yuri Shevchuk. Putin has also had such interactions with accredited Ukrainian journalists. One case in point being Putin’s live end of year press conference in 2018. Compare that dialogue with the Kiev regime’s support for banning Russian media in Ukraine.
Regarding the rebel held Donbass territories, Zelensky’s call for an “information war” is an ill advised term. War is the direct opposite of peace. Part of his appeal is the belief that he might’ve a better chance for ending the Donbass conflict than Poroshenko. It’s foolhardy to believe that the rebel Donbass areas will succumb to the predominating Kiev regime slant via an increased propaganda campaign. Rather, some creative give and take, serves as a more successful option for bringing piece to the former Ukrainian SSR. Just how and when this could happen is something for Zelensky and his team to work on.