Ukraine In Context: How Its Politics Intersect With The U.S.

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, right, attends a ceremony during the National Flag Day celebration at the St. Sophia square in downtown Kyiv, Ukraine, Friday, Aug. 23, 2019. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, right, attends a ceremony during the National Flag Day celebration at the St. Sophia square in downtown Kyiv, Ukraine, Friday, Aug. 23, 2019. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

With Meghna Chakrabarti

So how did Ukraine find itself in the center of a U.S. political storm? We take a deep look at corruption and internal politics in Kyiv.


Jeanine Santucci, Politics NOW reporter for USA Today, covering breaking news and trending politics. (@JeanineSantucci)

Evelyn Farkas, resident senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund. She served from 2012 to 2015 in the Obama administration as deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia. Former senior adviser to NATO’s supreme allied commander for Europe. (@EvelynNFarkas)

From The Reading List

USA Today: "Updates on impeachment: Whistleblower to testify, lawyers' safety concerns and Trump tweets" — "It's been six days since Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., announced an official impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump over a whistleblower complaint related to Trump asking Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden.

"After the impeachment probe was announced last week, the White House released a summary of the phone call between Trump and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, and the whistleblower's complaint was declassified and made public."

Washington Post: "We aid Ukraine to help it fight Russia. By holding back support, Trump helped Putin." — "On several consecutive mornings in early 2014, I woke up with one agonizing plea: Please, Lord, let the Ukrainian service members still be alive. I feared that while I slept, Russians might have slaughtered thousands of outgunned and outnumbered Ukrainians trapped on their own air and naval bases.

"Hostilities between Russia and Ukraine began in that year with Russia’s lightning-quick occupation of Crimea, a region coveted by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Within hours, Ukrainian service members at various military installations were trapped on their own soil by Russian forces. If they had fought back, almost certainly they would have died. If they didn’t resist, it was unclear how they would fare. My job, as deputy assistant secretary of defense, was to lead a team drafting proposals for then-Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and President Barack Obama, outlining options for the United States to help Ukraine defend itself against further Russian aggression.

"The situation was urgent: Viktor Yanukovych, the corrupt, Russia-friendly president of Ukraine whose election was aided by Paul Manafort — Donald Trump’s future campaign chairman and, as of last year, a felon — had overseen years of government plunder. His military was under-resourced and gave up without a fight. The Russians seized dominance of the air and sea, illegally took over Crimea and started a separatist war in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine that persists today. At the outset, Ukraine’s government sought both lethal and nonlethal aid from Western nations. The Obama administration announced a $53 million nonlethal aid package later that year."


New York Times: "Trump Was Repeatedly Warned That Ukraine Conspiracy Theory Was ‘Completely Debunked’" — "President Trump was repeatedly warned by his own staff that the Ukraine conspiracy theory that he and his lawyer were pursuing was 'completely debunked' long before the president pressed Ukraine this summer to investigate his Democratic rivals, a former top adviser said on Sunday.

"Thomas P. Bossert, who served as Mr. Trump’s first homeland security adviser, said he told the president there was no basis to the theory that Ukraine, not Russia, intervened in the 2016 election and did so on behalf of the Democrats. Speaking out for the first time, Mr. Bossert said he was 'deeply disturbed' that Mr. Trump nonetheless tried to get Ukraine’s president to produce damaging information about Democrats.

"Mr. Bossert’s comments, on the ABC program 'This Week' and in a subsequent telephone interview, underscored the danger to the president as the House moves ahead with an inquiry into whether he abused his power for political gain. Other former aides to Mr. Trump said on Sunday that he refused to accept reassurances about Ukraine no matter how many times it was explained to him, instead subscribing to an unsubstantiated narrative that has now brought him to the brink of impeachment."

Bloomberg: "Trump Call Fallout Risks Stalling Momentum Toward Ukraine Peace" — "Fallout from Donald Trump’s phone call with Ukraine’s leader is reverberating far beyond Washington.

"A readout of the infamous conversation, which has prompted an impeachment probe in the U.S. and the resignation of Trump’s special envoy to Ukraine, showed President Volodymyr Zelensky lashing out at the same European allies he needs to push ahead with talks to end the Kremlin-backed war in his nation’s east."

Stefano Kotsonis produced this hour for broadcast.

Editor's note: During this show, we did not mention that guest Evelyn Farkas is part of a group of more than 300 former U.S. diplomatic and security officials that endorsed the congressional impeachment inquiry of President Trump. This is important context for our conversation that we were unaware of at the time of broadcast.

This program aired on October 1, 2019.



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