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Zelensky’s Future

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My latest at 1945 takes a look at how Ukrainians think about Volodomyr Zelensky…

Much of this praise was muted, which seems odd in the context of his continued high approval ratings. A couple of Ukrainians made the comparison with Winston Churchill, but they were always careful to explain the totality of that comparison. Winston Churchill was wrong about a great many things in his career and right about one big thing, but the big thing turned out to be the biggest thing of all. Churchill (notwithstanding his errors) was perhaps necessary to British survival in World War II, for which his place in history is secure. When the war was over, the British electorate turned him out in favor of a government that constituents believed would be better able to handle the duties of peacetime reconstruction. 

Left mostly unspoken is the other dynamic that might leave Zelensky a one-term president: the idea that peace will come at an enormous political cost to whichever Ukrainian leader signs a cease-fire with Russia. Although few Ukrainians seem willing to discuss it openly, there is an underlying sense that recapturing every inch of Ukrainian territory may not, given the costs, be strictly necessary to the survival and prosperity of the state. 

I was surprised to find zero, absolutely zero evidence of a cult of personality around Zelensky in Ukraine. He is admired but not worshipped, even to the same extent that Obama or obviously Trump were worshipped in the US. By and large Ukrainians were proud of this point, offering it as a contrast between their approach to democracy and the autocratic systems that have taken hold in Russia and Belarus.

I would also be remiss in failing to mention this article on Zelensky by my friend Mike Desch (formerly of the Patterson School). I respect Mike, but the stench of desperation with respect to pinning this war on the United States and on Zelensky is palpable; he’s fighting a battle over NATO expansion that was lost more than a decade ago and he can’t grasp how deep underwater he’s slipped.

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