Not a guy I usually quote a lot, Karl Marx got one thing right in keeping with the blind squirrel rule. He said, “History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.” In Ukraine, after the tragedy of Russia effectively slicing off an eastern part of the nation, we now have a man whose primary job before this week was farce (he played the president on a TV show) elected real-life president on Sunday in a landslide.
Volodymyr Zelensky beat the pro-Western NATO fan incumbent, Petro Poroshenko, with a massive 73 percent of the vote. He campaigned on anti-corruption, economic progress, and working to end the crisis with Moscow over the eastern region of Donbas. He was backed by a very influential Ukrainian media mogul, Ihor Kolomoisky. The tycoon noncoincidentally owns the station Zelensky appeared on.
That makes Ukraine, Italy and the U.S. (as Trump could have had a career as a Borscht Belt ace) all nations with leaders who can yuk it up with the best of them. Two of them, sadly not the U.S., have leaders who were actual working comedians, Beppe Grillo of the Five Star Movement in Italy and Zelensky.
The incumbent opined that the Russians may approve of the new guy, as he wouldn’t deal with the Kremlin as roughly as he had. Not so fast, Petro. Vlad loves an enemy who is no real threat, like you. Thus Putin uses him as a convenient whipping boy on a host of levels. The new guy in the Ukraine starts with a clean slate and goodwill from the electorate, given his overwhelming mandate. So if he does wake up and smell the Stoly he won’t be so easy to cast as the bad guy.
The membership in NATO and the EU that the incumbent championed? Well, bringing another country on the Russian border into NATO may be overreach, and what sane government would want to belong to the EU now anyhow? Staying out of each would make Moscow less belligerent on the Donbas question and a deal might be struck for the membership status quo in exchange for a Russian pullout.
And something does have to be done about the issue. Up to now, tough posturing or not, nothing has worked and the Russians still occupy the region. They made their move there around the time they also stole the Crimea away from Ukraine in 2014, a naked aggression so blatant the snickering emanating from the Kremlin must have been deafening.
So we’ll see where this TV star goes with his policies and politics. If former TV stars in office as of late are any indication, he may not do badly at all.