The RTA regular author comments on the first steps of the new President of Ukraine and predicts rapid changes in Eastern Europe. According to Dmitry Astakhov, through Zelensky Moscow and Brussels received the last chance to ‘amicably’ settle the conflicts on the Dniester and Donbas.
The man outside the system
Since the presidential elections in Ukraine, political scientists and journalists have discussed the phenomenon of Volodymyr Zelensky thoroughly and in detail. Many reasonably feared Zelensky’s victory: the person who came to the highest echelon of power without a day in politics might do anything. Zelensky’s inauguration showed that “anything” means much more, and the lack of political experience may not be a weakness, but an advantage.
Media noticed that Zelensky, unlike professional politicians, was bright, convincing and consistent at his inauguration. Anatoly Sharij, a well-known journalist among Ukrainian public, who in recent years has harshly criticized the Ukrainian authorities gave the most acute estimate. On his YouTube channel, Sharij said that Volodymyr Zelensky did exactly what the people expected from him: demanded resignations, change of government and dissolved the Verkhovna Rada. The popular opinion about Zelensky’s obvious populism here rests on the bulletproof argument that the elected President follows the will of those 73% who elected him.
Here it becomes clear what Zelensky’s advantage is: he acts in the logic of a person not from the system, for whom black and white have not changed places, who thinks the same way as his voters. This circumstance frees Zelensky hands at most and will have a direct impact not only on processes in Ukraine, but also on Kyiv’s foreign policy. The first meetings of Zelensky only confirm it, and for Moldova the new head of Ukraine can mean a wind of the most serious changes.
The inauguration in the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine was attended by Foreign Minister of Moldova Tudor Ulianovschi. At the very last moment, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration ‘replaced’ Prime Minister Pavel Filip, who had health problems. A couple of hours later Zelensky held a personal meeting with the Foreign Minister of Moldova, and a little later it became known that the talks of the President of Moldova Igor Dodon with the President of Ukraine are being prepared.
The plot around the future relations between Moldova and Ukraine has thickened in recent months. Before the elections, the first to meet with the future President of Ukraine was the actual ruler of Moldova, oligarch Vlad Plahotniuc, who, according to the media, was not allowed to Zelensky. Once again, the leader of the Democratic Party of Moldova tried to meet with Zelensky after the second round of elections, but this time also unsuccessfully, according to official information.
It is interesting that Igor Dodon, who had a phone conversation with the elected President of Ukraine on the eve of inauguration, however, didn’t come to the Verkhovna Rada yesterday. Apparently, there is fierce competition for contacts with “Ze”, and no one has won: only the Head of the MFAEI Ulianovschi went to Kyiv, which cannot be called a good result either for Plahotniuc or for Dodon.
Special mission of “Ze”
The catch is that Ukraine is changing – Zelensky has become an expression of a new, ‘Western’ approach to the formation of power, where popularity and unconditional popular legitimacy come first. Semi-criminal leaders a-la Poroshenko, Plahotniuc and anyone from the 90’s are now unacceptable for the European partners of Ukraine. The values of yesterday, such as common business schemes and regular friendship ‘against Moscow’, were understandable for the oligarchic regimes of Vlad Plahotniuc in Moldova and Petro Poroshenko in Ukraine. They have absolutely no influence on the political leader ‘outside the system’.
It is clear that the favor of Zelensky from the Western capitals is not accidental: the new President, untainted by power, can ‘reset’ the political process in Ukraine and return the country to adequate and balanced European integration. At the same time, Zelensky was entrusted with the mission of restarting the peace process in Donbas and further diplomatic warming between Moscow and Kyiv. There is no question of any friendship, but both countries will at least have a chance to exit the sinkhole of mutual sanctions and stop escalating tensions.
Ukraine of 2019 remains an extremely toxic ‘asset’, and by and large all parties to the dialogue on the Ukrainian problem are looking for a way to get out of the game with minimal losses. Earlier, RTA experts have assumed that Ukraine will become a buffer zone between NATO and Russia, but it is necessary to solve the problem of Donbas and resolve the issue with Transnistria. This, in turn, will allow Brussels and Moscow to close three problematic regions on the map of Europe in one package and get a powerful reason for resetting relations.
Zelensky has been considered as a catalyst for these processes – the new President of Ukraine can suggest non-standard solutions that neither Russia nor European capitals could put forward due to their ‘status’. This means that negotiations on Transnistria and the East of Ukraine can get a strong impetus in the near future: hence the desperate attempts of Moldovan officials to establish contacts with Zelensky as soon as possible. The new President of Ukraine is a good chance for Chisinau to resolve the long-term conflict with Tiraspol, but the Moldovan politicians might not like the terms of the settlement.
Zelensky’s first steps show his full legitimacy for European capitals. And if the Ukrainian President is entrusted with the mission to stabilize the situation in Eastern Europe, for Moldova it can mean the future tough position of the EU on the formation of power in Moldova, and changes in positions on the Transnistrian settlement. Neither one nor the other means anything good to Chisinau, so Zelensky can become one of the main challenges to the current Moldovan authorities.
Get real time update about this post categories directly on your device, subscribe now.