For Zelenskiy, it was a far-reaching diplomatic disaster.
Zelenskiy’s comments to the Republican Trump, disclosed in the summary, will likely irk U.S. Democrats, risking the bipartisan U.S. support Kiev requires while irritating France and Germany whom Zelenskiy criticized in the same exchange.
Locked in a geopolitical standoff with neighboring Russia after Moscow annexed the Crimea region and backed pro-Russian separatists fighting in eastern Ukraine in 2014, Ukraine needs all the international friends it can get.
It relies heavily on Washington for aid and diplomatic help, and European countries like France and Germany are trying to help bring about talks aimed at breathing life into a stalled peace process over eastern Ukraine.
“Unfortunately the main consequence of this is that Ukraine could become toxic,” said Alyona Getmanchuk, director of the New Europe Center in Ukraine.
“Maybe not as toxic as Russia became during the Mueller investigation, but toxic,” she said, referring to a two-year U.S. investigation into contacts between Trump’s successful 2016 election campaign and Russia.
The timing of the latest scandal is awkward for Zelenskiy, who is keen to reinvigorate parts of a stalled peace deal over eastern Ukraine, something for which he needs European and U.S. diplomatic muscle.
The White House memo summarizing the call shows Zelenskiy promised to reopen an investigation into a company that employed former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden’s son and voiced frustration about what he said was a lack of support from German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron when it came to enforcing sanctions on Russia.
It also showed Zelenskiy had agreed with Trump that the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine – Marie Yovanovitch – was “a bad ambassador.” Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy speaks as he and U.S. President Donald Trump hold a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York City, New York, U.S., September 25, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
‘EAGER TO INGRATIATE’
“Zelenskiy does not come out looking good from this – giving the ex-U.S. ambassador a kicking, Merkel and the Europeans a kicking, and then agreeing to do Trump’s dirty work on Biden,” said Timothy Ash, a senior emerging markets strategist at Bluebay Asset Management.
“(He) seems very eager to ingratiate himself with Trump.”
International investors have been hoping that Zelenskiy will make good on pledges to refashion Ukraine into a fully fledged transparent graft-free democracy. Ash’s comments reflect growing scepticism on that score in some quarters.
The French foreign ministry declined to comment and the Elysee was not immediately available for comment. But French officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Macron had gone out of his way to meet Zelenskiy before he was elected, something that was uncommon in normal protocol.
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