December 15, 2019

What did the transcript of the presidential telephone conversation between Trump and Zelensky reveal?

“He [Zelensky] has made me more famous and I have made him more famous” – this is how Donald Trump began his joint briefing with Vladimir Zelensky this Thursday, hinting to the White House transcript of their conversation which took place two months before. Undoubtedly, this publication threw the brief meeting with the President itself in the shade, as it became a rare case of demonstrating behind-the-scene communication between politicians. What does this document imply and how will it affect the Ukrainian leader’s political perspectives?

My assumption that Zelensky pledged assistance to Trump with the Biden case has turned out to be true. At the same time, it seems to me that the transcript refutes the idea of the American President’s pressure on the Ukrainian one existing among the US Democrats. There was no apparent reason for that, because Zelensky appeared upfront and willingly elaborated upon the topic. However, even after the publication, the Democrats keep talking about the pressure. Of course, this term can be perceived in different ways. You can dig up evidence linking American assistance to the Biden case investigation in the text. But all the Trump’s words are out of all proportion to Biden’s public bluster as regards the dismissal of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine, when speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations in January 2018, the former Vice President said: “I said you [Petro Poroshenko] are not getting a billion and I’m going to be leaving here in six hours, if the prosecutor is not fired, you’re not getting the money. Well son of a bitch. He got fired. And they put in place someone who was solid at the time.”

But the Trump administration may publish similar transcripts of Biden’s conversations with Poroshenko. Or at least kick off a rumor that he inserted a lot more pressure than the current President, and the Democrats themselves will be interested in deciphering to add support to this rumor.

In the American press and speeches of American politicians, Zelensky only appears as a target (or a non-target) of pressure. His own remarks are generally neglected. There is no escaping the impression that he nearly came unscathed out of the scandal. But this impression stems from the fact that America is much more interesting for the world and especially for itself than Ukraine. The latter, however, ranks rather high in geopolitical calculations both in the Old and in the New World, so that to attract attention to Zelensky of those professionally engaged in its affairs.

And their conclusions will hardly be convenient from the Ukrainian leader’s viewpoint. Thus, in the mentioned conversation Zelensky did a lot to appear as a Trump-oriented populist. Which is an unacceptable sin for the globalists who dominate the international agencies Ukraine depends on. So it would be understandable if he just did not contradict Trump. But Zelensky, for his part, began the conversation by saying that the American President, this liberal world troublemaker, is a great teacher for him. Nobody forced Zelensky to talk, he could have said it was the American experience as a whole which is a showpiece for him.

Most of all, however, the globalists have to be worried by the fragment when Zelensky asks Trump to share information “to make sure that we administer justice in our country with regard to the Ambassador to the United States.” As can be seen from the following text, Zelensky made a slip of the tongue, referring to the US Ambassador in Kiev: “… as far as I recall her name was Ivanovich. It was great that you were the first one who told me that she was a bad ambassador because I agree with you 100 per cent. Her attitude towards me was far from the best as she admired the previous President and she was on his side.”

The idea of holding a trial (and the English phrase “administer justice” leaves no room for another interpretation) over the American Ambassador is a move worthy of a new Servant of the People series season. Of course, no one will judge Yovanovitch in Kiev, but Zelensky’s words are the best proof that he was not just making nice with Trump, but was really interested in helping him. Obvious is the Ukrainian President’s desire to get the most out of the situation, getting dirt on Yovanovitch in exchange for dirt on Biden. Just a reminder: the entire Biden case began in March this year with the statement of then Prosecutor General Yury Lutsenko that the American Ambassador gave him “a list of people whom we should not prosecute” already during their first meeting.

It is profitable to Zelensky to promote this case to consolidate his power. Because the total elimination of parliamentary immunity rushed by him through the Parliament, will ring hollow if really untouchable personalities will remain under Western embassies’ umbrellas.

As regards the attitude toward Zelensky in the West, his obvious interest in the overall game with a demonstration of his own benefit in it is more important than whether he has already provided any dirt on Biden or not.

A separate disadvantage is that Zelensky played along with Trump in critical statements about Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron, who allegedly do very little for Ukraine compared to America. It should be especially offensive for the French President, who invited Zelensky to the Elysee Palace back ahead of the second round of Ukrainian elections. Thus, in its article on the transcript, the Reuters agency refers to French officials who wished to remain unidentified and emphasizes that Macron took pains to arrange such a meeting going beyond his traditional protocol.

The headline of the same Reuters article says that transcript release was a “diplomatic disaster” for Zelensky. But in this case, the consequences are not going to be discovered right away. Undoubtedly, the globalist forces will treat Zelensky more cautiously and try to provide a counterbalance to him inside the country. Here their main hopes will be invested in the fact that both the deputy corps and the government comprise a lot of people who have received grants from George Soros’ entities. Certainly, not all of these people can be referred to as strong ideological supporters of globalism, most of them are ordinary careerists. But it is precisely due to their careerism that they are not Zelensky’s firm foothold. The Servant of the People is not an ideological structure. And at the end of the day, such politicians will put their stakes on the stronger one.

It is also beyond argument that the West will be even more critical towards the seemingly increasing role of Igor Kolomoysky in Ukrainian politics. Probably it is through a blow to Kolomoysky that they try to weaken Zelensky.

In such a situation, the Ukrainian President will lose the freedom of maneuver necessary for him to make complex decisions, in particular on the Donbass settlement. However, both the transcript of the conversation with Trump and the public speeches of the President of Ukraine in the United States raise doubts as to whether he really needs this settlement. Thus, with his genius for acting, Zelensky constantly says to the public that the Donbass war is a major challenge for him, but in the transcript, in a situation when it is not necessary to play to the crowd, he does without the words “war” and “peace”. And when at the September 25 joint briefing Trump expressed his hope that Zelensky meet with Putin and solve mutual problems, the Ukrainian President failed to take advantage of the situation and speak out on the same subject. Although regarding other things he was actively playing along with his American counterpart in their telephone conversation.

Alexander Ponomarenko, political analyst

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