Today President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky goes to America, where he will spend three days. First of all, he will participate in the 74th UN General Assembly in New York. The agenda of the session includes the climate issues, Russian aggression and situation in occupied territories. It is expected that Zelensky will make a few important statements. On the sidelines of the assembly, he will have the meetings with the leaders of other states. The culmination of the visit is the bilateral talks with Donald Trump. 45 minutes devoted for the presidential face-to-face on September 25. We want to think that this time the talk will be fruitful and useful. Because the preliminary talk of two presidents finished with the talks about the impeachment of one of them. The issue is not about Zelensky but about Trump who supposedly put pressure on the interlocutor to help him to neutralize Joseph Biden.
It is called, the talk took place
The roots of this scandal take place in the call of trump to Zelensky which took place on July 25. Dialing Kyiv, the American leader congratulated the colleague on the victory of Servant of the People Party at the parliamentary elections. But not only. It turned out later that the conversation of the presidents was tapped and recorded. A person who played the role of American Mayor Melnichenko is behind the scenes. But the security leak took place. This Friday The Wall Street Journal and other news agencies published the unraveling of Trump. It stipulates that the U.S. President recommended Zelensky to investigate the actions of Hunter Biden, the son of Joe Biden.
The persistence of Trump bordered on the political rudeness: the transcript shows that he returned to the topic of Hunter eight times. Moreover, something similar to the blackmail took place. Thus, Trump noted that not investigated corruption cases harm the relationship between the U.S. and Ukraine. The interest of Trump can be understood: Biden his main rival from the democrats at the presidential elections, which will take place in the U.S. the next year. To accuse the member of his family of the corruption and overshadow the reputation of Biden is highly lucrative for Trump.
The point of the story with Hunter is as follows. The son of Biden from 2014 until 2019 was the member of the Board of Directors in the Ukrainian gas extraction company Burisma, which is accused of the tax evasion. It is quite a mysterious structure, which poses itself as the largest oil-producing company in Ukraine. Its ultimate beneficiary is unknown; however Mykola Zlochevsky, the ex-MP from the Party of Regions and ex-ecology minister (at the time of Yanukovych”, considered to be the owner.
Formally, Burisma exists since 2002 but its flourishing peaked during the presidency of Viktor Yanukovych. Then Kyiv actively tried to involve the large international companies in the cooperation at the oil and gas market. Actually, the talks that Ukraine is able to provide itself with the fuel of the local production started not at the time of Yatsenyuk but a few years earlier. At the time of Yanukovych, particularly, the contract with Chevron Company was signed on the extraction of the shale gas in Western Ukraine. The contract on the gas extraction off the coast of Crimea with another American company – Exxon Mobile, also took place. All these plans were disrupted due to the revolution and war but let’s return to Hunter Biden.
So, after the Revolution of Dignity at the beginning of 2014, Vice President of the U.S. Joe Biden came to Kyiv. A few weeks later his son Hunter entered the membership of the Board of Directors of Burisma. Objectively speaking, these two facts might be not connected at all. Because Hunter is not the only person with the loud name who is present in the membership of Burisma leadership. Ex-president of Poland Aleksander Kwaśniewski also enters it.
However, Trump’s administration interprets the events in another way. America does not know purely Ukrainian term “nepotism” but the president of the U.S. hints that the son of his rival got the sinecures due to the political ties of his father. Whether or not that is the case? Such a possibility has not been proved or denied yet. Trump’s team states something else that Biden put pressure on the prosecutor generals (Shokin and Lutsenko) in due time not to investigate Burisma case.
Possibly, Joe Biden is really involved in the corruption scandal but yet this entire story mostly hits Trump himself. Even before his talk with Zelensky was published by The Wall Street Journal, the U.S. law enforcement bodies became interested in it. Now the American president is charging with the pressure on the foreign leader with the beneficial goal. In theory, all this case may go to the U.S. Congress and open the way to the impeachment. Despite the fact that there is little time until the end of the cadence of the current preside, the rivals-democrats use this situation to amount Trump to double nothing.
Not the first scandal
The relations of the American administration with Kyiv were quite difficult long before Zelensky. Let’s remember the scandal with the leak from the “accounting book” of the Party of Regions. In a few words, the story proceeded as follows. After the escape of Yanukovych from Mezhyhiria, the so-called black accounting of members of the party was found in his estate. Particularly, the “ledger” in which all payments from the register of the ruling party were carefully recorded. Paul Manafort, the Head of Trump’s presidential campaign, was among the receivers of millions; he also turned out to be the shadow adviser of Viktor Yanukovych.
The information about the activity of the Manafort became public in quite awkward time for Trump. It was 2016 and Trump was running for the presidency in the U.S. The scandal was severely disadvantaged for him but extremely desirable for Democratic Party of the U.S. and its nominee Hillary Clinton. Mrs. Clinton competed with Trump for the presidency and leak of the opposition research against Manafort was interpreted as the provocation committed in her interest.
The audio recording made by one of the MPs was spread on the Ukrainian web. The voice of the Ukrainian senior worker of the law enforcement bodies told how his office leaked the financial statements of Manafort to help Clinton’s campaign. The information bomb exploded lout and stained the reputation of all involved persons: Trump, Manafort, Clinton, Ukraine and the Ukrainian law enforcement system, as well as its parliamentarians as some of them, were geared toward the democrats and, obviously, had particular benefit due to such cooperation.
The Prosecutor General’s Office tried to investigate the leaks from the “accounting book” but like many other high-profile episodes, this investigations ended with nothing. However, the U.S. jury trial found Paul Manafort guilty on eight counts and he was imprisoned. This circumstance hardly made Trump’s attitude to Ukraine better. Now, the new challenge because of “Bidengate”, threatens Ukraine-America relations.
So far, official Kyiv denies putting pressure on Zelensky by Trump through Minister for Foreign Affair Vadym Prystaiko. He calls the phone talk of two presidents “long and friendly”. Another interesting nuance: ex-advisor of Arsen Avakov, the Interior Minister Anton Herashchenko stated in the comment to The Daily Beast that as soon as the official request from the U.S. authorities comes, Kyiv will consider the case on the ties of Hunter Biden with Burisma Company. In other words, in case of need, it will finish off the reputation of Biden.
Such a strategy may be considered right if the team of Zelensky is betting on Trump. But it is not worth to insult the democrats. Moreover, the cadence of the current owner of the White House will end at the beginning of 2020. On the other hand, possibly, Zelensky simply has no choice. The Washington Post states that Trump threatened Ukraine to block the $250 million military aid in the case of the refusal to investigate the activity of Biden in Ukraine.
However, on September 12, the administration of the American president “unfroze” money for Ukraine. And not $250 million but $400 million. These funds aim for the purchase of the military equipment and weapon for the Ukrainian army. A year ago, Ukraine received 37 American fire-and-forget anti-tank missiles Javelin. The Ukrainian defense department states about the necessity to purchase another batch of Javelins, which can be used not only for the offensive purposes but also in the case of the large-scale escalation of the war.
In any case, it is unknown whether the pressure from Washington took place. Trump denies all the blackmail allegations. In his Twitter, he wrote that the talk on July 25 with President Zelensky was “nice and routine”, in other words, the parties said pleasant things to each other and said nothing in fact. It is hard to disagree with the observers noting a particular difficulty of the moment in the relations between Ukraine and the U.S. and considering that Volodymyr Zelensky is caught in the crossfire.
Because, in fact, it is not America in 2020 but Ukraine in 2019 forcibly chooses for whom it stays – for the republicans or democrats, for Trump or his most rated rival Biden.
To see Trump and…and not to die
Now the case with the announcement of the impeachment to Donald Trump is on pause. Joseph Maguire, the Acting Director of National Intelligence received the recommendation from the Justice Department not to pass the complaint against Trump to the Congress. However, the Congress, being acknowledged about “Bidengate” not worse than any American common man, is able to give impetus to the suspension of Trump from the authority. It will be enough if two-thirds of the congressmen stand for the beginning of the impeachment procedure. It has not taken place yet but, according to American lawyer George Conway (by the way, husband of Trump’s advisor), the situation is critical.
In such circumstances, President Zelensky is recommended…to cancel the visit to the U.S. Ex-MP Andriy Artemenko believes that from his statements and actions a lot of things depend. “Each word spoken by Zelensky in New York will be taken apart by the local media up to the micron and it will not be able to straddle both worlds anymore; he will be forced to choose one side,” Artemenko said.
Political analyst Denys Haevskiy, conversely, believes that the Ukrainian component of the American policy is too exaggerated. Moreover, Biden has not won the inner-American primary election yet. In other words, if he will not be the nominee from the democrats, the hysteria about Hunter Biden loses its sense.
It should be noted that despite the fact that the visit of Volodymyr Zelensky to the U.S. starts today, the format of his meeting with Trump is not known finally. The connoisseurs of diplomacy say that Washington attaches immense significance to the details of the protocol so the “full-fledged” meeting with the American leader will not take place but the “protocol” one is planned. Therefore, the lasting bilateral talks can be treated as “the sign of the special attention and friendship”, while “Ukraine does not belong to the top priorities of the American administration” as Oleksandr Sushko, the Director of Vidrodzhenia Fund said.
The schedule of Zelensky in the U.S. plans that the second half of the Wednesday, September 25 (from 2 p.m. up to 9 p.m.) is booked as “events on the particular program”. It is likely that the last mean short “showing” organized for Zelensky by Trump. Zelensky’s team puts the main emphasis on his participation in the UN General Assembly.
“We bring the speech. The president will speak at the General Assembly, when he will bring the messages to the world on the place of Ukraine in the world society, our position, how we will develop, fight against corruption, what will happen with our inner policy,” Zelensky’s Assistant Andriy Yermak said. He calls the meeting with Trump unofficial, underlining: “They are two not ordinary politicians, it is important for them to establish a personal contact”.
However, contact may be quite tough. “Knowing the direct approach of President Trump, I predict that he may give an ultimatum in which he will “tie” the further help of Washington with the notorious “Burisma case”, - Kostyantyn Yeliseev, the ex-advisor of President Poroshenko wrote. He added: the main thing in this situation is to remember that “no matter how tempting the tactical advantages are, we should defend the strategic interests of Ukraine in the relations with the U.S. The elections are temporary, while the bipartisan and bicameral support is the reliable asset of Ukraine; it should be kept and developed at all costs”.
In other words: Volodymyr Zelensky should lead the game in such a way to have the whole political establishment of America in the role of the allies, not some of two of its constituents. But may this task be really fulfilled? And the main issue, whether our sixth president will be able to do it?..