Global Analysis from the European Perspective. Preparing for the world of tomorrow

Donald Tusk’s speech in Kiev

Once upon a time in a socialist country a man comes to a car dealer to arrange a purchase of a vehicle. The list of customers is very long whereas automobiles are in low supply. It turns out that the customer will be able to have his car in ten years’ time. The dealer sets the date for it. There only remains one thing to decide – says the customer – whether it is going to be in the morning or afternoon. How can it matter – asks the bewildered dealer – after ten years? Ah, because on that particular day – answers the customer – I am having a plumber in my place.

When President Ronald Reagan wanted to learn something about a nation’s economic or political condition, he would have his intelligence staff gather jokes told among that country’s citizens. Such items of information were worth to him more than reams of printed detailed analyses. What would President Reagan say in the run-up to the presidential elections in Ukraine upon hearing that according to the many pollsters it is Volodymyr Zelensky – an actor, a comedian, to be precise – who is the leading contender for the post?

(It is not that an actor holding this position would be much of a novelty in Ukraine: we remember Vitali Klitschko, the boxer, who put forward his candidacy for president some time ago.)

Born to Jewish parents,1)Volodymyr Zelensky, Wikipedia. though a lawyer by education, he has never practised this profession. Rather, made himself popular acting in the leading role in a comedy series “Servant of the People”. The film’s plot tells a story about a simple teacher whose raging and ranting against the country’s current political and economic situation are recorded by a student and posted on YouTube. There, the recording becomes hugely popular so that the simple teacher rises to prominence in no time, which in turn translates into his electoral success: he becomes the nation’s president.

Reality appears to be catching up with fiction. Volodymyr Zelensky, the actor, rose to popularity due to the airing of the film in which he voiced his concern about the political and economic conditions and by doing so he outdid the other two presidential candidates – Petro Poroshenko, president incumbent, and Yulia Tymoshenko, the opposition’s candidate – even before he announced his willingness to take part in the race.2)Opinion polling for the 2019 Ukrainian presidential election, Wikipedia.

At this point enter Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, with his Kiev visit and delivers a speech in Ukraine’s Supreme Council (Ukrainian parliament), attended by President Petro Poroshenko, to commemorate the Maidan events from five years ago and reassure of the European Union’s unwavering support. After the usual patting on the back for the nation’s endurance and perseverance in adversity and finger pointing at the “aggressive neighbour”, Donald Tusk went on to endow his audience with a list of well-meant pieces of advice that can be recapped as a suggestion to put an end to internecine strife, populism, nationalism and corruption.3)Speech by President Donald Tusk at the Ukrainian Parliament in Kyiv, European External Action Service 2019-02-20; Президент Євроради Туск: “Немає Європи без України!” (неймовірний виступ у ВР українською), YouTube 2019-02-19.

Who were these words addressed to in particular? Did Donald Tusk want to back up the current president or Yulia Tymoshenko, the would-be president? Could it be he was warning against electing a political outsider like Volodymyr Zelensky? Or was it only that Europe has long been experiencing what is diplomatically referred to as “Ukraine fatigue”?4)Европа уже не верит Украине: о чем умолчал Дональд Туск, Апостроф 2019-02-21.

The Ukrainian side was very much pleased with Donald Tusk’s speech. He read his text out in Ukrainian, quoted one of present-day Ukrainian poetesses, and despite his appeal to refrain from nationalism he himself stirred up intense patriotic emotions in that he said (contrary to historical evidence) that there could be no Europe without an independent Ukraine and he finished his speech with the Banderite greeting Слава Україні! (=Glory to Ukraine), an irritating affectation of Polish politicians from the whole spectrum for which they are not particularly liked by their compatriots to whom the name of Stepan Bandera is still bringing back painful memory of the 1943 Volhynia massacre carried out by the troops under his leadership.

(Contrary to what is being pushed in the mainstream official media, the resentment underlying the relationship between Catholic Poles and Orthodox Ukrainians is pretty much the same as the one between Catholic Croats and Orthodox Serbs with a comparable record of mutual intense animosities, atrocities and hostilities.)

Despite the fact that during the course of his speech Donald Tusk stressed that he was speaking also as a Pole (not many Poles would have subscribed to what he said in Kiev, though), it doesn’t take a genius to assume that it was the European Union that expressed itself through him. What did Brussels want to achieve? Ukrainian loyalty to the European Union is a given, whatever the cost, so the EU commissioners do not need to ingratiate themselves with Kiev in any way. For that matter the two-faced policy of Germany, which in the same breath both votes for sanctions against Russia, Ukraine’s “aggressive neighbour”, and continues business with Moscow in terms of constructing Nord Stream 2 as if nothing whatsoever had happened is a bitter pill that Kiev has no choice but to swallow. Perhaps the deepening rift between the United States and Russia, the former’s withdrawal from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty is a ray of hope for Ukrainian authorities: when push comes to shove, Ukraine may eventually be embraced by NATO and the EU. All depends on the tug of war between West and East. If neither of the mentioned parties prevails, Ukraine may be running a risk of being partitioned. The Crimea was a foreshadowing of what might happen on a much larger scale.

References   [ + ]

1. Volodymyr Zelensky, Wikipedia.
2. Opinion polling for the 2019 Ukrainian presidential election, Wikipedia.
3. Speech by President Donald Tusk at the Ukrainian Parliament in Kyiv, European External Action Service 2019-02-20; Президент Євроради Туск: “Немає Європи без України!” (неймовірний виступ у ВР українською), YouTube 2019-02-19.
4. Европа уже не верит Украине: о чем умолчал Дональд Туск, Апостроф 2019-02-21.

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