Kyiv's diplomacy after the elections: Ukrainians do not want peace at any cost

Ukraine presidential elections explained by Brian Whitmore and Volodymyr Dybovyk

Show hosts

Marta Dyczok,

Alexandra Wishart

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Brian Whitmore

Kyiv's diplomacy after the elections: Ukrainians do not want peace at any cost
https://static.hromadske.radio/2019/04/hr-uc-2019-04-20.mp3
https://static.hromadske.radio/2019/04/hr-uc-2019-04-20.mp3
Kyiv's diplomacy after the elections: Ukrainians do not want peace at any cost
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Hello and welcome to this week’s episode of Ukraine Calling. I’m Alexandra Wishart for Hromadske Radio in Kyiv. We’re bringing you our feature interview, followed by some new music.

This week our host Marta Dyczok brings you two perspectives on the foreign policy implications of Ukraine’s Presidential election. She speaks to Brian Whitmore, Senior Policy Analyst in Washington and Volodymyr Dybovyk of the International Relations Department at Odesa Mechnikov University to get a view from inside and abroad.

FEATURE INTERVIEW: MARTA DYCZOK ASKS FOREIGN POLICY EXPERTS BRIAN WHITMORE AND VOLODYMYR DUBOVYK: WILL UKRAINE’S FOREIGN POLICY CHANGE AFTER THE ELECTION?

Dyczok: Ukraine’s presidential campaign has been colourful to say the least. Now there are two men who are still left in the running. Ukrainians will be deciding who will become their next president on Sunday the 21st of April. They are choosing between the incumbent Petro Poroshenko and the challenger Volodymyr Zelensky. Most of the campaign has focussed on domestic issues and the fact that Mr. Zelensky is a comedian and that he doesn’t have any political experience. But very few people have been talking about foreign policy. As you know Ukraine has been at the receiving end of a war for the last five years and what I’d like to talk about today are the foreign policy implications of what will happen if one or the other candidate will be elected. I am Marta Dyczok for Hromadske Radio and with me today I have with me two foreign policy experts on two continents. Brian Whitmore is the Senior Fellow and Director of the Senior Fellow and the Director of the Russia Program at the Centre for European Policy Analysis (CEPA), and Volodymyr Dybovyk is Associate Professor of International Relations at Odessa Mechnikov National University. We reached Mr. Whitmore in Washington and Mr. Dybovyk is in Odessa. Gentlemen thank you very much for finding the time to speak to us! Most elections are won or lost on domestic issues. But because Ukraine is on the receiving end of the war their domestic and foreign policy lines are I think are a little bit more blurred. Most public opinion polls are showing that Ukrainians want peace but there hasn’t been a whole lot of talk about this during the election campaign. I am wondering what you make of that, why that is. And I don’t know who’d like to start?

Dubovyk: I can start Marta.

Dyczok: Sure. That’s Professor Dybovyk.

Dubovyk: Right. It’s a combination of factors in this campaign, domestic or foreign, war or reforms and standards of living. It turns out that for a lot of people, for most people, the domestic concerns and priorities are the more important issue that they base their vote on. Even for a lot of people who are concerned about the war and who are pro-Ukrainian and who are don’t want to see any concession to Russia and would like for Donbas and Crimea to be returned to Ukraine. Even for a lot of them if you fight corruption, lack of reform or less of reform. Standard of living in the country is something that they care about.

Dyczok: Sorry to interrupt I totally agree with you, I mean those issues of corruption are important, but the war is a domestic issue because Ukrainian men are being called up to go to fight and be injured and die. So, this isn’t a foreign policy issue intervening in a foreign conflict. This is conflict on their territory, this is you know mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters that are affected by the war.

Brian Whitmore

Whitmore: Well actually I would like to pick up on that Marta, because this is exactly where I wanted to go. You really can’t separate domestic issues from security issues in Ukraine today. I would argue you cannot separate them anywhere but you certainly can’t separate them in Ukraine and in Ukraine today they are on the, Ukraine’s on the frontline of two different wars. Two connected wars…

Dyczok: They are connected that’s right!

Whitmore: Yes, you have essentially a hot war going on the Donbas you have a kinetic war going on in the Donbass you have a going war where people are shooting and fighting and dying in the Donbas. Ukraine is also on the front lines of a what I call a war of governance right now. This struggle between the kind of kleptocratic system that exists in Russia and the more transparent system that exists in the West and the way I see this I mean Ukraine is trying to break free from what the Russians call ‘systema’ This system of patron-client, corrupt kleptocratic relationships is really how Russia has always been governed, whether we are were talking about the Grand-Dutchy of Muscovy, the Russian Empire, the Soviet Union or the post-Soviet Union. And Ukraine’s trying to break out of that right now. That is front and center in the security issue right now, Ukraine can’t win this war unless it manages to break out of the Russian Soviet ‘systema’ and so I think these two things are interrelated.

Petro Poroshenko has done a very good job as a war president. He has played a very bad hand extremely well. After the Minsk agreement was signed my first reaction was Ukraine is doomed. And because basically Ukraine was dealt just an awful hand by that agreement which Poroshenko effectively signed with a gun to his head. But then he played that very, very bad hand masterfully. And the Ukrainian armed forces surprised everyone by fighting the Russians to a draw.

But Poroshenko has done less well on the war of governance. I am always been a glass half-full in Ukraine I think a lot has been accomplished but the public is not happy with what has not been accomplished. Ukraine needs anti-trust legislation. Ukraine needs an independent prosecutor general Ukraine needs to really step up the battle against corruption, and these things Poroshenko, fairly or unfairly, has bene seen as not delivering on. And he’s been unable to break the oligarchic pluralism that’s dominated Ukraine and so the public is, the voters are punishing him for that right now to the extent that they are willing to take a chance on somebody who let’s face it we don’t anything about.

Dyczok: Well, let me interrupt you here because the dissatisfaction on the lack of changes is palpable I mean that’s what the polls are showing but let’s reframe this to the foreign policy and security issues. Because what would happen if Poroshenko was elected what would happen if Zelensky was elected? Because what we have seen just in the last final stretch of the campaign is that there are both visiting European capitals and touching base with French president Macron and German chancellor Merkel, there’s talk about reviving the Normandy Meeting in May. So, what are the possible sort of scenarios there and how could that play out in the last phases of the elections and after?

Whitmore: Well, I don’t know if Volodymyr wants to jump in but I have some things to say about that.

Dubovyk: Go ahead Brian.

Whitmore: Well good. As far as the Normandy Format, the Normandy Format is dead. And it is very clear to me what Poroshenko is doing here, he’s kind of burnishing his image as the commander in chief by showing that he’s the one that’s going to go and set this up. But the Normandy Format let’s face it it’s dead, it’s going nowhere. There is going to be a war in the Donbas as long as Russia wants there to be a war at the Donbas. Russia sees it’s in its advantage to keep the war going there so there’s no point in any more Normandy Format meetings. But I understand politically exactly what Poroshenko is trying to do here. He is trying to show that he is the commander in chief and standing in contrast to this television comedian, that’s what he is trying to do.

Volodymyr Dubovyk

Dubovyk: Right, I agree absolutely with Brian. I think that the Normandy Format has never been an efficient one really. It was always more of a substitute of a real policy or vision of what needs to be done on the Ukraine-Russia conflict. Unfortunately, a lot of people I’ve asked are concerned about the ongoing Ukraine-Russia conflict and they don’t have a clear understanding on what needs to be done to help end that conflict. So instead they come up with all sorts of formats which are not productive really and Normandy Format is one of those. Not to mention there haven’t been a lot of meetings for a long time in the Normandy Format.

Whitmore:  Well, let’s face it, in Europe this is not on top of their agenda right now, to put it mildly. I mean they are already preoccupied with the Brexit.

Dubovyk: Like in the United States…

Dyczok: That’s true the US also is preoccupied with other issues. Let me reframe my question, because what I am really interested in and I want to know your views is will it make a difference in Ukraine’s foreign policy who wins this election? Will Ukraine take a different foreign policy direction if Zelensky the challenger comedian wins? Or if Poroshenko wins he’s likely to stay the course. But is there likely to be a difference depending on who wins.

Whitmore: In essence, I don’t think there can be a difference because I think Ukrainian society has made its choice. And every president has to deal with the choice that society has made. So, the parameters are pretty much set. You could make changes along the margins. And again, let’s face it, we’ve seen this through how many Ukrainian elections? We have we seen this, and we thought the sky was falling. Marta, do you remember in 1994?

Dyczok: Kuchma.

Whitmore: You and I, we thought the sky was falling when Kuchma won. And despite his faults, specifically in the second term, but Kuchma was supposed to [it was feared] deliver Ukraine right to the step of the Kremlin. And he didn’t do that. He didn’t do that at all. We thought the sky was falling when Yanukovych won. And to an extent it was possibly falling, but it didn’t fall because Ukrainian civil society didn’t let it fall. Right? So, one of the things I said to people in Kyiv is you survived Yanukovych you can survive Zelensky. And we don’t even know what Zelensky’s orientation is. He’s sent out very mixed signals. There’s business on the referendum on NATO that I find disturbing because I consider that a settled issue in Ukraine so why raise it, and it’s obvious it’s politics. A lot of the support comes from the portion of Ukrainian society that doesn’t support NATO integration, so he has to throw them something. But the way he’s framed it is actually pretty acceptable to me. If and when Ukraine gets to the point where it gets an invitation to join NATO then you put that to a referendum I mean that’s what all of the new member states did so there is nothing wrong there.

Something when you watch his program, the Servant of the People one thing that bothers me when I watch that program and I wonder to the extent to which this speaks to what Zelensky is all about is the word that’s missing from the entire show is the word Russia. If you watch this show, you get this impression that Ukraine is some island in the Pacific that’s fighting with itself over something, there’s no outside power agitating this or causing it, and that bothers me a little bit. Another thing that bothers me is his comedy often pokes fun at Ukrainians and Ukrainian national stereotypes and I think that is a little bit disturbing. Is that going to translate into something as president? I mean, I’ve been watching how the Russians are handling, are kind of portraying this, and I don’t think they know what to make of him.

Dyczok: That was going to be my next question for both of you is what is Russia saying about all this?

Whitmore: Russia is- I mean, I decided to put myself through the torture of watching Russian television cover the Ukrainian elections because I just wanted to see it, and what they’re doing is just making fun of the Ukrainian election. First of all, they’re cherry-picking every thing that could possibly be construed as some kind of an electoral violation, which is funny because these elections were, like most, like almost all Ukrainian elections, were deemed free and fair by all international observers but they were picking at any little thing to show that oh, the Ukrainian election is so corrupt, and I came to the conclusion that if the Russian authorities are half as concerned about democracy in Russia as they are about the democracy in Ukraine then the Russians would be living in a democratic nirvana, right? But the whole vibe has been, oh it’s just these silly, unsophisticated Ukrainians can’t even have an election and look how chaotic it is, this clown is leading. That’s the vibe. In terms of Zelensky himself, I haven’t really seen any kind of signs that they see him as ‘their man’. Now there have been rumours out there and allegations that he’s getting finance from Russia but that hasn’t been proven yet. So, I don’t know. Volodymyr, what have you seen?

Dubovyk: Right, let me say a few things on the previous Marta’s question because I didn’t get a chance to react to that.

Dyczok: Oh, sorry about that.

Dubovyk: Yes, I would like to say that I think there is a high chance of Poroshenko’s continuation of foreign policy in the second term if he gets to there. In terms of Zelensky, indeed, we can’t say for sure. But I tend to agree with Brianthat there is a certain positioning of Ukraine in terms of domestic sentiments and in terms of international connections that wouldn’t allow big, dramatic shifts in this positioning if Zelensky becomes the president. We are going to still need Western support, we’re going to still have war on our hands with Russia. I don’t think that Russia is willing or ready to deliver any big concessions or big rewards to Zelensky if he becomes president. In fact they might even want more, and they want to try if they can get more from a new president who is often perceived for right or wrong reasons as a pro-Russian president. I mean politician.

Dyczok: Sorry to interrupt, what more would they want? You mean more military incursion? Or what is that you think they would be pushing for?

Dubovyk: They would like to see bigger economic presence. They would like for Ukraine to agree to the fact that Crimea is part of Russia. They would like for Ukraine to definitely give some broader autonomy to Donbas without really reintegrating Donbas, so there are many things. And of course, they would like Ukraine to publicly announce that we’re not going to become members of EU or NATO anytime in the future, just give up on this European and North Atlantic integration.

Whitmore: Yes, I would concur. Russia wants a bunch of things that Ukraine cannot give Russia.

Dubovyk: Right, exactly. So, Yes, we’re in agreement here.

Whitmore: It wants that Ukraine’s sovereignty be limited. And no Ukrainian president [will agree]. I mean, even Yanukovych had a problem with that. You know, what does that tell you, right? So, I mean, it’s something that Ukraine cannot give Russia. Marta, you said at the outset Ukrainians want peace. Well, I don’t think they want peace at any cost. I don’t think they want peace at the expense of their sovereignty.

Dyczok: Well this is my question, this is my question.

Whitmore: I don’t think- they don’t want peace at the expense of their sovereignty. And it’s become abundantly clear to everybody that what Russia wants at the end of the day is an end to Ukraine’s sovereignty de facto. And nobody’s prepared to give that up and any president that tries to give that up… I think we got a clear indication of what’s going to happen in the end of 2013 and the beginning of 2014.

Dubovyk: Right. There’s absolutely an urge for peace in Ukraine and no one here’s saying that we don’t want peace, but like you said Brian, it’s all a matter of when, how, and why we’re going to get peace, and if there are any conditions attached that are unacceptable to Ukraine then Ukrainians are not going to want to have peace. And exactly, Ukraine is going to have this problem in the conflict with Russia on their hands whatever happens. But who is more qualified to deal with that? I think the answer is more or less obvious, but yet millions of Ukrainians seemingly prefer to make their choice based on other priorities and how they see the situation going back to where I started. To a lot of people, you know, what they pay for their utilities, what kind of prices they have in shops, the rampant corruption and everything like that, is more important apparently than the issue of the war, even though, you’re right Marta, as you said previously, the war is not a foreign issue or an external issue really, it’s actually also a domestic issue.

Whitmore: Yes, I mean, I think Ukrainians want two things. I think they want somebody who’s going to be a war leader because Ukraine is at war. And Poroshenko has certainly distinguished himself on that front. But they also want somebody that’s going to do something about corruption and about the standard of living. And he’s not distinguished himself on that front, so we know he’s got one out of two on those things. We don’t know if Zelensky’s going to get zero out of two on those, or two out of two. We just don’t know because he’s not debated, he’s not held any campaign rallies. The way I described it when I gave an interview to Channel 5 I said he’s basically selling unicorns and rainbows and puppies here. And, you know, and we really truly don’t know. So, for the average Ukrainian voter this is a choice between the devil you know and the guy that ’s going to break all the dishes.

Dubovyk: Right. Two things though that I’d like to say here.

Whitmore: Go ahead.

Dubovyk: Yes, so one thing is we’re not going to say is that Poroshenko hasn’t done anything domestically. There have been reforms. They’ve been spotty, they haven’t been systemic enough and of course, it was naïve for any one of us who expected reforms and changes to happen overnight. So, they take time and it’s a massive system here in Ukraine as well that needs time to break it. Second of all is we don’t know what Zelensky will do domestically or internationally because we don’t know how autonomous, independent actor he is. And we know he’s an actor but in terms of a political actor, he’s going to be controlled by someone; who that someone will be? For me, he’s just a mold to put plaster in really, and what really matters is who would give shape to him when he becomes the president, if he becomes the president.

Dyczok: You were both at a security forum in Kyiv recently. What interesting insight did you gain on Ukraine in the international context, the security issues, and how they’re related to this presidential election campaign?

Whitmore: Volodymyr, do you want to go first?

Dubovyk: Right, well, there were a lot of talks, basically almost the entire first day of the forum was talks by politicians including Poroshenko. Apparently Zelensky was invited but he didn’t come. That doesn’t come as a surprise to us because Zelensky is avoiding any public forums and that’s beginning to have an impact actually. If you look at the recent Kyiv International Institute of Sociology polling results, Zelensky is losing a little bit every day in the last two weeks.

Whitmore: Yes that’s true.

Dubovyk: And Poroshenko is gaining. The problem for Poroshenko is that it’s not enough time. It’s only two weeks. If we imagine, for instance, there would be like two months between the two rounds of elections, that would be 50/50, tough, even elections really for Zelensky. Right now, he seems to be destined to win. But this policy of avoiding public debates, of not showing up, of not talking to the electorate, not talking to the journalists, is beginning to have to, to actually, to deteriorate.

Dyczok: To work against him.

Dubovyk: Yes.

Whitmore: I’m actually curious about one thing, and either of you, because I just saw how the SBU is now going to be investigating Zelensky for possible financing coming from Russia. What is that? Is that just some utka, or is that serious?

Dubovyk: I don’t know, it might be serious, I don’t know. Might be serious, but it’s not going to rub off his chances to become president, it’s too late for that. On the other hand, Poroshenko is doing a pretty good job now in terms of actually going to the people and talking to the people and trying different formats. But, the question is, where he was before? I mean, why wasn’t he doing this before?

Whitmore: Yes, I know.

Dubovyk: At least for several months. Maybe the last year. Preparing for elections he saw the sociological polls of how large his anti-rating was for a while now. Why wasn’t he doing that? Crushing the TV channel, actual talk shows, doing these massive events with people, people who are actually responding to that. I’m hearing this on social media and everywhere.

Whitmore: Yes.

Dubovyk: People are saying, oh look, our president is actually having things to say and he has a vision, but why wasn’t he doing that for enough time before [earlier]?

Whitmore: It’s a good damn question. And, Volodymyr, I don’t know, at the forum, I don’t know if you walked away from Poroshenko’s speech with the same impression I did, but I saw somebody who was very bitter, very defensive, very angry, and who basically knew he was going to lose. That was my sense from watching that speech.

Dubovyk: Yes, I did had the same impression. I don’t think he struck the right chord there, and he talked, he doubled down on him being a tough commander-in-chief, and that kind of electorate he already got. Those people are already voting for him anyway.

Whitmore: Yes.

Dubovyk: He needed to expand. He needed to go out and say what he is actually saying in some radio messages like “I’ve made mistakes. I’m sorry. I’ll do better in the second term”. And to talk more about domestic issues as well, not about just the war, and not his opponent being a virtual candidate and Russia playing the whole situation to its advantage, but how he can do better in terms of domestic reforms. And he tried to do that in the recent couple of weeks, but that’s not enough, that’s not enough time for him.

Whitmore: Now one of the things I noticed in Kyiv, and Volodya this is probably isn’t big news for you because you are in Ukraine all the time, but I’ve never seen Ukrainians so angry at each other over – every discussion about the election turned into a shouting match among Ukrainians. And I was standing there watching this very, very surprised. People who are for Poroshenko are really passionate about it even though they don’t really like him. And people who are for Zelensky are really passionate about him even though they don’t really know him. I’ve never seen Kyiv so passionate and so polarized about something that, one of the candidates you don’t really like very much and the other one you don’t really know at all.

Dubovyk: That’s because it’s all about Poroshenko really. For staunch supporters of Poroshenko, it’s all about him and for staunch opponents of Poroshenko it’s all about him. Zelensky is really a chance to deliver a blow to Poroshenko if you really hate him.

Whitmore: So, this is a referendum on Poroshenko in a lot of ways.

Dubovyk: You are quite right, I don’t recall an election cycle like this.

Whitmore: I’ve never seen anything like this.

Dubovyk: Bitterness, recrimination, quarrels in the same segment of people really. People who want reforms, people who are very pro-Ukrainian, many people who are very anti-Russian and even among those people, that crowd, there is a lot of animosity there.

Whitmore: And I’ve even seen some situations where, I’m not going to mention any names, Ukrainians who I know to be deeply Patriotic who are like “look out for him, he’s with Zelensky and he’s going to sell us out to the Russians” or “don’t talk to him, he is just a shell for Poroshenko”. And you are seeing this kind of recrimination that I am accustomed to in the US. But I had not really experienced before in Ukraine. Maybe in this sense if I want to look at it positively, like “Okay, Ukraine is joining the West and becoming just as polarized as the rest of us”. Who knows, but it was something that was impossible not to notice.

Dubovyk: And the one thing I want to stress is that people who are voting for Zelensky are not pro-Russian. They are pro-reform, they are fed up with Poroshenko. They don’t think he can deliver more than he did in the first 5 years, so they want to give a chance to someone else even at the expense of voting for someone who is a blank sheet of paper really.

Whitmore: The funny thing is, we always have to remember that Ukraine is not kind to its incumbents. Only incumbent president in Ukraine’s post-independence history has ever won re-election and that’s Kuchma. And that didn’t go so well in the second term right. So, I think Ukrainians are very cautious about giving somebody a second term. And Poroshenko, regardless of what he did may have fallen victim to this.

Dyczok: Can I just ask about Macron again, we didn’t really talk about that. What I found really interesting was that both candidates decided to go on a little trip to Paris and have photo-ops with the French president. We didn’t actually hear Zelensky speaking, it was just images. What do you make of this? I mean, why were they both going to Paris, how important is this and is it perhaps more significant?

Dubovyk: Well that was interesting of course, and we might not know enough details from those trips but it seems clear what Poroshenko was trying to do, he wanted to go to major Western capitals and boost up his image as an international player who is respected and who is welcome to talk to world leaders and stuff like that. When Zelensky tried to crash that and undermine this whole trip for Poroshenko by showing up there as well. What is interesting, or why Macron decided to meet with Zelensky is that…

Dyczok: Exactly

Dubovyk: I’m still puzzled

Whitmore: I’m not because it is obvious that he is going to win.

Dubovyk: Yes, but let him win

Whitmore: I mean look, I remember back in 2008 election, Barack Obama made a big European trip to meet with European leaders and that is kind of the normal thing to do and a normal thing to do for the sitting president to do because again, he wants to burnish his image as the commander in chief. And for Zelensky, I could do this too, that Ukrainian voters have to look at him and imagine him going to Paris or going to Berlin. So okay, I’m going to go to Paris so they can see that and it’s something that they can imagine. So, it’s not surprising and it’s not something unique to Ukraine.

Dubovyk: And I think Macron has his own intentions here. He wants to show that he is on top of things and that France is a big player and that France wants to meet with major contenders here in Ukraine. With his recent announcement with the new Independent Autonomous European Defense and Security policy or something like that. He is trying to position himself, with his domestic problems as well. He wants to resolve the situation and improve his rating as well. And the whole idea of the greatness of France with inviting Ukrainian contenders.

Whitmore: And another thing I noticed when I was in Kyiv was that Western diplomats whether they were European or North American, don’t seem that worried about Zelensky. And that to me was actually very telling. I didn’t see a lot of panic among the Western diplomatic corps. Whether thy were North American or Western European. And I think this is because Ukraine’s direction is fixed. It’s fixed and any president has to deal with it. Room for maneuver is not very high.

Dubovyk: Another reason is that people are not very happy about Poroshenko’s performance. And that’s not just from a foreign, but also talking to two people for the last several years. There is appreciation for things Poroshenko has done in the last few years and then there is always puzzlement over how he didn’t deliver more. And happiness and willingness to take risk with Ukrainians voting for Zelensky and see if there is new blood or see if there is a rotation in power and if there are new people coming.

Dyczok: Well, we’ll have to wait and see what happens on Sunday on the second round of the election and what the response of the international community will be. And if, in fact, there will be any changes. If you’d like to add anything quickly because we’ve just about run out of time.

Dubovyk: Two quick things, I had the chance to talk to two ambassadors, Mary Yovanovich from the United States and Roman Waschuk both have done a lot of good things to help Ukraine in this time of need. Yovanovich found herself under fire recently, completely undeserved. There were a lot of completely made-up criticisms of her work and even some insinuations and conspiracy theories behind it. And unfortunately, on the Ukrainian side, prosecutor general Lutsenko contributed to that as well. As for ambassador Waschuk, he’s been there for 5 years I think and he’s done a lot of good things. Actually, Canada came out very strongly and as a big friend, a major friend of Ukraine and we have to appreciate the support that came from both of those countries.

Dyczok: Well I saw a piece from the Canadian ambassador that came out yesterday or today saying that you don’t need to panic about the election in Ukraine so that echoes what both of you have already said. Brian, I’m sorry I interrupted you.

Whitmore: No that’s okay and I mean I’ve always been a glass half full kind of guy on Ukraine. I think the glass is more than half full, I think the glass is two thirds or three quarters full right now. The last hump that Ukraine has to get over is the most difficult one. This transition from oligarchic pluralism to real pluralism and that is a security issue, inseparable from a security issue. And it is the hardest jump to make. And what we are witnessing up close right now is the turbulence of that. It’s just going to be very turbulent but look at the big picture. If you can look at Ukraine’s history from the moment of independence to now. It’s been towards one direction, towards the West. Sure it’s been two steps forward, a step and a half back. But the direction is unsteady, messy and sometimes it isn’t pretty, but it’s going in one direction and I continue to believe it’s going in that direction. I’m a little bit worried but ultimately, I am optimistic. I can see how a Zelensky presidency may be good for Ukraine and I can easily see how a second term for Poroshenko could be good for Ukraine. So I’m optimistic, I’m not going to polyamish about it and say nothing to worry about, because there is a lot to worry about, there is a war going on. But ultimately I am optimistic, this country made a choice and when a country makes that kind of a choice, there is no turning back.

Dyczok: And that’s perhaps a note to end on. Thank you both for your insight, we’ve been speaking to two foreign policy experts on Ukraine Brian Whitmore, Senior Fellow and the Director of the Russia Program of CEPA which is the Centre of European Policy and Analysis in Washington and Volodymyr Dubovyk, Associate Professor of International Relations at Odessa Mechnikov National University. Thank you very much for your insights and we’ll have to have you on the show again.


MUSIC

“It’s worth taking chances in life.” “There’s no point in waiting.” These are lyrics from the song Sister by The Velvet Sun, a band from Kiev. Enjoy!

LOOKING FORWARD

Next week I will be interviewing Professor Mychailo Wynnyckyj about the results of the Presidential election, and we’ll have a round-up of the top news stories and some new music. So be sure to tune in for a new episode. And we’d love to hear from you. Write to us at: [email protected] I’m Alex Wishart for Hromadske Radio in Kyiv. Thanks so much for listening.

Interview transcribed by Malika Navruzova, Leah Wagner and Alexandra Wishart. Music selected by Marta Dyczok. Sound engineers Adam Courts and Andriy Izdryk. Web support by Kyrylo Loukerenko. E-mail distribution Ilona Sviezhentseva. Special thanks to 94.9 CHRW Radio Western.