The date of the first round of
After Yeltsin won, Time magazine put him on the cover—holding an American flag. Its story was headlined, "Yanks to the Rescue: The Secret Story of How American Advisors Helped Yeltsin Win.” The story was later made into a movie called Spinning Boris.
Now back to Ukraine. While Poroshenko’s obvious fondness for the bottle doesn’t quite match Yeltsin’s, he can take "credit” for a comparable performance in office. Ukraine, which was one of the strongest economic and technologically advanced Soviet republics, is now the poorest country in Europe according to the IMF. Basic consumer costs, especially gas for winter heating, have skyrocketed. The proxy war in the Donbass smolders and flares. Corruption is worse than ever. Nazi collaborators during World War II are officially proclaimed as state heroes.
Poroshenko’s one big "achievement,” besides enriching himself, has been to obtain visa-free travel for Ukrainians to the European Union. But the main result has been depopulation of Ukraine as people "vote with their feet” in a desperate bid to find work abroad. One in six Ukrainians of working age now migrate to Europe to work.
Around four million others are working in Russia, which Poroshenko calls an aggressor three times a day. These workers will not have a chance to vote as Poroshenko has prohibited the Ukrainian Embassy in Moscow from opening polling places in Russia. The same is true for the breakaway Donbas and Lugansk regions, whose residents Poroshenko and the Ukrainian parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, still claim to be citizens of Ukraine.
Poroshenko’s disapproval ratings exceed 80% so he is trying to change this with nationalist gimmicks. He staged a naval confrontation with Russia in Crimea’s Kerch Strait and has shamelessly meddled in the internal canonical order of the Orthodox Church, which is leading to violence across the country.
However, for the Washington’s swamp what matters is that Poroshenko is a known anti-Russian quantity. That’s all that counts, no matter that President Trump’s has said numerous times that good US-Russia relation are also good for America.
The best proof that Ukraine is in a huge and dangerous mess (thank you Western backers of 2014 Maidan coup) is that the front-runner in the race is comedian Vladimir Zelensky. But can Washington really trust Ukraine’s Bill Maher? For sure it’s safer to stick with the Russophobe we know.
It remains to be seen if the "Yanks to the Rescue 2.0” effort for Poroshenko in 2019 will be as robust as for Yeltsin in 1996 but one can be sure that Uncle Sam will not be too exercised about any electoral irregularities conducted for "a good cause,” as Woolsey put it.
Ironically, former President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili, who also got his job with Washington’s support both in Georgia and Ukraine, and who started a war with Russia in August 2008, and who himself is accused of massive embezzling from state coffers, now says about his old friend Petro: "I would like to wish Poroshenko success in finding a good lawyer who will protect him when he is tried for corruption, the theft of billions of dollars’ worth of Ukraine’s property, and the fact that he used his authority for personal enrichment, betrayed Ukrainians and, it’s possible, committed state treason.”
Finally, Ukraine’s constitution recently was amended by a parliament with a 93% disapproval rating to replace the country’s nonaligned status with aspirations for full membership in NATO – a virtual guarantee of a hot war with Russia and possibly World War III.
Is this what the American people want? On top of past rounds of NATO expansion, how does America benefit from some hot heads in Washington, Brussels, and Kiev seeking to use Ukraine as a forward platform to threaten the world’s security?
As President Trump has said repeatedly those who involved America in endless wars in the Middle East wasted seven trillion dollars of US taxpayers’ money and gave rise to ISIS. Do they want to push us to another war with Russia?
Whatever President Trump’s campaign pledges, these people now control his administration’s policy, including withdrawing the US from Reagan-Gorbachev nuclear arms control agreement. They wouldn’t mind two Slavic nations fighting each other since for them they are just pawns on a geopolitical "grand chessboard,” as the late Zbigniew Brzezinski called it.
But Ukraine isn’t a space on a chessboard, and this is no game. While this region is irrelevant to American security it is vital to Russia‘s. Challenging a nuclear superpower on its own doorstep brings America grave risks but no benefit. The whole world could end up paying the price of this folly.
• Edward Lozansky is president of the American University in Moscow. He is the author of the book Operation Elbe, which describes joint US-Russia anti-terrorist efforts. Jim Jatras is a former U.S. diplomat and former foreign policy adviser to the Senate GOP leadership.