Dark undercurrents of Zelensky’s new narrative

3 February 2022, 08:42 AM

President Zelensky’s address to the Ukrainian parliament served as a narrative extension of his latest press conference with foreign media, and raises a lot of questions.

It would seem the country’s top official has decided to use Ukraine as a testbed for the concept of national egoism. Hardly a novel idea for a number of other countries, but it is definitely wrong for Ukraine.

What exactly is wrong?

A “consumerist” foreign policy is taking hold, rooted in dependence on our partners, looking for more “cash and weapons” and less “judgement of what’s going in and around Ukraine.” This diplomatic metamorphosis is clearly caused by the international criticism Zelensky’s administration has endured due to its stalling anti-corruption and judicial reforms, along with prosecution of political opponents ahead of coming elections.

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Zelensky keeps imploring his fellow citizens to disregard the warnings from our allies and partners about security risks and threats coming from Russia. This flawed messaging led to Russia and China using Zelensky’s arguments during the Jan. 31 UN Security Council meeting to counter the rhetoric of our Western allies, who called the meeting in an effort to defend Ukraine and put more pressure on Russia.

How peculiar that during these strategic discussions between the Kremlin and the West, Zelensky had nothing to say about U.S. and NATO signals about the inevitability of Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic integration. Brussels, Washington and Moscow have most certainly noticed this. We are left to assume this silence is not an indication that Kyiv is open to compromise on the question of our NATO and European aspirations.

Jubilant odes, celebrating the revival of the Normandy Four talks (Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany) after one advisor-level meeting and overstating the significance of a communique it managed to produce, only serve to demonstrate the hopeless dead-end of Zelensky’s diplomatic efforts on this front. Zelensky’s accusations of the West playing up the Russian threat, his obsession with meeting Putin face-to-face, and his attempts to neuter pro-Western opposition in Ukraine – all are starting to seem awfully menacing, given the general context.

The flurry of visits to Kyiv by Western leaders and top diplomats is a powerful show of support and solidarity extended by our allies, as we face the risk of a large-scale Russian invasion. These visits came as a bit of a shock to the Kremlin. They are essentially a “diplomatic human shield” the West is trying to protect our country with, hoping that Putin wouldn’t dare to invade when Kyiv is hosting high-ranking foreign dignitaries.

National unity that binds together political parties, business elites and civil society – is exactly what Russia fears the most, and what Ukraine needs during a national security crisis.

Especially if such unity is accompanied by daily efforts to bolster Euro-Atlantic unity and the sanctions levied against Moscow, along with garnering greater and greater financial and defensive support from the international community.

A measured, professional and statecraft-minded Ukrainian government could have used the current crisis to shore up our stability and international standing. But, instead of thanking Joe Biden for his titanic efforts to mobilize the West to Ukraine’s cause, Zelensky decided to argue with him about whether the Russian menace is a phantom or not. A foreign policy like that irritates and demotivates our allies, potentially jeopardizing international community’s solidarity with Ukraine.

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