Given how often “Ukraine” is mentioned in the on-going news cycle here in the US, you would think that Donald Trump and his impending impeachment by House Democrats, would be all the buzz in the struggling Eastern European nation. But you would be wrong. The Ukrainians say they have other things to worry about, and they do not like being cast into the spotlight of American politics.
According to reporting by Fox News and other outlets, “Ukrainians’ eyes are focused on their own issues of security and survival, far from the drama unfolding around the Capitol.” Many are lamenting that Ukraine’s long-running association with corruption has now been thrust onto the international stage.
“In Ukraine, very few people are versed in the matter deeply,” said Alexey Pristup, a 23-year-old television host in the Ukrainian city of Odesa. “I’m angry Ukraine was dragged into this. It spoils (our) image.”
Ukraine was dragged into scandal last month after it was revealed a whistleblower filed a complaint against President Trump in the wake of a July 25 phone call with Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky. That triggered the question of whether the U.S. president delayed sending military aid to Kiev as part of a more significant push to advance personal interests and pressure the Ukrainian government into investigating the dealings of potential 2020 political rival Joe Biden’s son Hunter, who served on the board of a major Ukrainian utility company.
In the days after Ukraine’s role in the burgeoning Washington scandal was unveiled, the issue hit the headlines across that country. While it the Ukrainian media has maintained a steady stream of related news and op-eds, most on the ground contend that their focus – and that of their press – is centered on more pressing domestic issues.
“Impeachment is an American-only concern and not really a massive issue in Ukraine, and will probably stay that way so long as it doesn’t impact current U.S. policy toward Kiev,” Christopher Hartwell, a professor at Bournemouth University in England and the former president of the Eastern European-focused Center for Social and Economic Research, told Fox News.
Indeed, observers say that the political drama that has America so enrapt and is the primary “water cooler” conversation across the nation, in Ukraine, it is mainly only discussed by academic, business, and political elites and is far from the mind of average Ukrainians.
“Other issues related to corruption, land reform, economic relations, and updates from the war are dominating Ukraine news cycles…and I am sure (President) Zelensky and Ukrainians know that Democrats are just using them as pawns in U.S. political posturing,” Hartwell said.
But The Ukrainians Do Know The Biden Name
The attention has, however, prompted some in the country to reflect on the past administration’s handling of the Ukraine situation and cast scrutiny on the Biden name — a name not necessarily widely known in the nation of 45 million and deemed the poorest in the region.
Viktor Panchak, a risk assessment in security specialist in Kyiv, echoed the sentiment that only a small fraction of the more privileged sector of the population is engaged in following the impeachment proceedings, but that those within the energy sector have long abdicated decisive views pertaining to Hunter Biden’s foray into the industry by joining the board in April 2014.
“There was a change when he joined the board, Burisma was treated as special,” Panchak acknowledged. “It was given top coverage by politicians. There is no fog without fire in this country.”
And the name Biden is one that elicits a mixed response.
“(Joe) Biden is a clever man with somewhat fraudulent leanings, but everyone is acting in the own interests of one’s families,” conjectured Valentina Iliana, a 49-year-old from Odessa.
According to Todd Rosenblum, a former senior Obama administration official, and Senate intelligence committee staffer, being catapulted into the limelight is making many in Ukraine “very nervous.”
“They are used to a political system with a fair amount of corruption, and a history of going after political opponents. It has got to be discouraging for them,” he said. “And they’re looking at the big picture of what is going on say in Syria, and with the U.S. pulling out so abruptly, how confident can they be in (U.S. protections). They don’t have any other options.”