One easily overlooked aspect of the Ukraine affair is the ongoing damage it is doing to the young government of President Volodymyr Zelensky, who won a free and fair election in the spring by promising to tackle endemic corruption and end a grinding low-grade war with Russia and its proxies. Mr. Zelensky has made progress on both fronts, pushing anti-corruption measures through parliament and negotiating several confidence-building deals with the Russians, including prisoner exchanges and troop pullbacks.
Now, however, Mr. Zelensky faces a crucial juncture. He is trying to complete a new agreement with the International Monetary Fund, which will require him to decisively break with an oligarch who backed his campaign and is trying to regain control of the country’s largest bank. Meanwhile, Mr. Zelensky has a summit meeting scheduled on Dec. 9 with Russian President Vladimir Putin and the leaders of Germany and France, with the aim of advancing a long-stalled peace deal.
For years it has been the policy of the United States to stand strongly behind Ukraine at such moments — not just to support a struggling democracy but also to advance U.S. strategic interests, such as containing Russian aggression in Europe. Yet the chaos President Trump introduced into U.S.-Ukraine relations has created a de facto diplomatic vacuum. Virtually every senior official who worked on the relationship in the past two years has resigned or testified in the impeachment inquiry and been denounced by the president. [Continue reading…]