In Ukraine, a sitcom is turning into reality as Volodymyr Zelensky becomes the sixth president in the country’s post-Soviet history.
Before running in this year’s election, Zelensky starred in the political comedy Servant of the People, where he portrayed an ordinary teacher who had become president of Ukraine. His character’s attempts to fix the country run into strong opposition from corrupt oligarchs.
As president, Zelensky’s challenge will be much the same: defeating the oligarchs who have so far blocked reform in addition to managing Ukraine’s relations with Russia and building a political support base of his own. Read more
Fetishizing Victimhood: From Poland to America
Poland’s ruling nationalist party has coined the awkward term “Polocaust” to describe the country’s suffering in World War II. At least one minister wants to dedicate a separate museum to the 1.9 million non-Jewish Poles who lost their lives in the conflict.
This comes after the government criminalized blaming Poles for the Holocaust and referenced its 123 years of partition by Austria, Germany and Russia when called out by the EU for illiberal judicial reforms.
Poland, according to the Law and Justice party, has only ever been a victim — until it came to power and restored Polish pride.
It is no coincidence that Law and Justice is popular in the eastern and more rural half of the country, where people have long felt marginalized by the Western-oriented liberal elite.
Nor is the party’s victim-mongering unique. Read more
Why the West Is Willing to Overlook Corruption in Ukraine
After the bungled arrest of Mikheil Saakashvili, a former president of Georgia and governor of Odessa, Leonid Bershidsky argues it is clear the West has backed the wrong man in Ukraine.
Saakashvili enjoys little popular support but had been trying to reinvent himself as an opposition leader by campaigning against corruption in President Petro Poroshenko’s government.
Protesters freed Saakashvili from a police van on Tuesday after he had been dragged from his apartment in Kiev by security forces. Read more
Ukraine Might Be Better Off If “Little Russia” Did Secede
Separatists in the southeast of Ukraine have declared a new country: “Little Russia”.
The announcement by Aleksandr Zakharchenko, the leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, amounts to little, argues Gwendolyn Sasse of Carnegie Europe.
She points out that leaders in Luhansk, Ukraine’s other breakaway region, have distanced themselves from it. Russia, which otherwise backs the Donbas uprising, hasn’t voiced support either. And the local population doesn’t want independence. A survey conducted earlier this year found a majority in favor of remaining in Ukraine. Only a third want to join Russia.
Yet it might be better for Ukraine if the region does secede. Read more
Rutte Persuades EU Leaders to Rule Out Membership for Ukraine
Other European leaders budged to pressure from the Netherlands’ Mark Rutte on Thursday to explicitly rule out future EU membership for Ukraine.
Rutte hopes the concession, together with assurances from the EU that is not committed to Ukraine’s defense, will be enough to persuade lawmakers at home to save an economic and security pact that Dutch voters rejected in a referendum in April. Read more
Rutte In Bind as Parties Balk at Endorsing Treaty Fudge
Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte failed to convince other parties on Friday to support his attempts to amend the Netherlands’ ratification of a European association agreement with Ukraine, despite warning that withdrawing from the accord could trigger instability on Europe’s eastern border.
“This is bigger than the Netherlands alone,” Rutte said at a news conference.
The leaders of the Christian Democrats, liberal Democrats and Green Party were not impressed. Read more
How Culture Keeps the Russians and Ukrainians Steps Away from War
The Ukrainian civil war has been easy enough to fall off the world radar; with headline-grabbing terrorism striking the heart of Europe, Donald Trump running his irrational mouth and the EU rendering itself asunder, the conflict in Donbas, the eastern province now split away from Kiev’s central control, seems like a whisper of a war we’d all forgotten about.
Now reports are abounding that Moscow is deploying large and powerful military units both within Donbas and in annexed Crimea. It all began with accusations that Ukrainian special forces had slipped into Crimea to bomb a highway full of officials. True or not, it resulted in a deployment of tanks and artillery on both sides of the de facto border. Worry emerged that both sides might begin blowing one another up.
While the Russians don’t seem keen on an all-out battle, and neither do the Ukrainians, the whole mess bears examination. There are essential truths to learn, both for Russia and Ukraine and the wider world. Read more