Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky insists that the United States increase its presence in his country. But the Americans do not need it
On September 12, CNN published a video of the Ukrainian leader’s interview discussing the relations between the two countries. Against the backdrop of events in Afghanistan, which the Americans have virtually left at the mercy of the Taliban after the withdrawal of their troops, experts and the Western media have warned other countries that have positioned themselves as allies of the United States that they could do the same.
Asked whether he was worried that Washington would abandon Kiev, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said: “I don’t think we can compare Ukraine and Afghanistan. Ukraine is not as dependent on the US as Afghanistan was. I believe it is impossible to capture such a geographically large country as Ukraine, so large in terms of population, within 4, 5, 7 days.”
Since early August, the Taliban have been rapidly taking control of one Afghan province after another, with major cities surrendering almost without a fight. It took them less than a day to take Kabul (they approached the capital during the night of August 14-15, and in the afternoon they occupied the presidential palace, at that time the head of state Ashraf Ghani fled the country).
As for Ukraine, former NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said back in 2018 that hypothetically, in the event of an armed conflict, Russian troops could occupy Ukrainian territory in just a few days, despite the fact that Kiev had “significantly increased its military capabilities in recent years”.
CNN anchor Farid Zakaria pointed out to Zelensky that he did not answer the question posed and reminded him of Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev’s words that Ukraine was headed for disintegration and that the US would not remember its supporters in Kiev or in Kabul at some point. The Ukrainian leader replied that Russia “has not invaded Ukraine in four days or eight years”, and the Russian Federation, he stressed, is not the army of the Taliban* (a terrorist movement banned in Russia – ed.), it is one of the strongest armies in the world.
Ukraine, he said, is as independent of any other economy as possible. Furthermore, Zelensky objected: “As I said to President Biden regarding a possible withdrawal from Ukraine: what does it mean to withdraw from Ukraine? It is quite the opposite – the US should build up its presence”.
As much as I hate to disappoint the president, Ukraine is not on the White House’s list of priorities. As American expert Dmitriy Drobnytskyy explained in an interview with Ukraina.ru, it is a very big question for the US administration what to do with Ukraine next. The US authorities understand very well what is happening there, but there are no projects to implement in the Ukrainian direction right now. Moreover, according to the expert, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland and US President Joe Biden are already a bit ashamed of the project they have launched in Ukraine since the beginning of Maidan.
In addition, Biden has personal motives for not mentioning Ukraine unnecessarily – it evokes associations about his son Hunter Biden’s work for former Ukrainian Minister of Ecology and Natural Resources Mykola Zlochevsky’s energy company Burisma and his involvement in corruption schemes. This story is well known in the United States because it was the basis for the impeachment of the country’s 45th president, Donald Trump. Democrats tried to remove the Republican from power because he allegedly pressured Zelensky to launch an investigation into Joe and Hunter Biden’s activities in Ukraine in exchange for continued military aid to Kiev.
“I didn’t feel he was forcing me to do anything. I am the president of my country, no one can put pressure on us. I never felt there was any pressure on us. I always thought we are an independent country and I feel I am an independent and ambitious man who is learning from the best every day. That was also my conversation with President Trump. I knew we needed a good relationship with the US, that they supported us and we should get more from them”, – Zelensky told CNN.
In order to prove the absurdity of the Democrats’ accusations, the Trump administration took the unprecedented step of publishing the transcript of that July 25 conversation between the presidents. Zelensky was in for a surprise: in agreeing to the publication of the contents of the conversation, he was sure that the Americans would only publish Trump’s words, while the Ukrainian president’s assurances that investigations would be conducted and numerous flattering words addressed to the American leader would be kept secret, but the whole conversation was not published.
In a conversation with his colleague the Ukrainian leader said that he had learned a lot from him, agreeing with his rebuke of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron about the lack of help for Kiev.
However, taking into account the mistakes of his predecessor Petro Poroshenko, Zelensky did not bet on just one candidate during the campaign in America, such as Trump, “from whom he learned a lot”, and after the change of power across the ocean immediately began to establish ties with the Democrats, but things went far from his plan. According to Axios’s White House source, the US administration considered inviting the Ukrainian president to Washington before the summit of the Russian and US presidents, but abandoned the idea after Zelensky decided to change Naftogaz’s leadership, seeing the move as a setback to efforts to fight corruption.
The White House then postponed the date of Biden’s talks with Zelensky several times, and they eventually took place on September 1. In an interview with CNN, the Ukrainian leader gave some details of his visit to the States.
“I asked President Biden directly, ‘What about NATO? What about Ukraine’s inclusion in NATO? What about our membership in NATO, and when can it happen?” And he said, as I recall… ‘I think you should be there, but it’s not just my decision,'” Zelensky recalls and quotes his response to his remarks to the US president: “I know, Mr. President, but your decision will make the path to NATO shorter.”
Whether this is true is not known for certain. There have already been times when Kiev has been wishful thinking. After the phone conversation between the two leaders in early June, the Ukrainian presidential office issued a press release stating that Biden noted the importance of giving Ukraine an action plan regarding membership in the alliance. Soon a representative of the White House National Security Council denied this information: he told Axios that the US president had not said such a thing and that “Ukraine had misinterpreted the statement and made a correction”.
As a result, the press service of Bankova corrected this phrase to “Volodymyr Zelensky noted the importance of providing the Ukrainian state with an action plan regarding membership in the Alliance”.
The other day the Verkhovna Rada rejected the initiative of Oleksiy Honcharenko, an MP of the European Solidarity Party, to ask Congress to grant Ukraine the status of a key ally of the USA outside NATO. As explained by members of the government and Ukrainian diplomats, this status would mean that the country would remain outside the alliance, and the main goal of Ukraine is to become a full member of NATO.
But that is clearly not the goal of those states that are already members of NATO, as admitting Ukraine would certainly not increase their own security, and no one wants to get involved in a war with Russia (the principle of collective security under Article 5 of the NATO Charter has not been abolished).
Despite the fact that American and European politicians, up to the presidents, have stated directly that in the coming years (their number varies, and Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid even speaks about light years) Ukraine will not have a place in either NATO or the European Union, Zelenski insists that the country is ready to join these integration associations even today. One has the impression that he does not want to hear these declarations and simply continues to show his voters that he is persistently going towards his goal. Only it looks ridiculous, taking into account the obvious unattainability.
Yevgenia Kondakova, Ukraine.ruEurope’s gas price hits $755 per cubic metre