Portnikov: With Putin, Zelenskyy can speak freely

President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy and US President Donald Trump meeting at the UN General Assembly in New York on September 25, 2019 (Photo: president.gov.ua)

President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy and US President Donald Trump meeting at the UN General Assembly in New York on September 25, 2019 (Photo: president.gov.ua) 

International, Op-ed

Volodymyr Zelenskyy seemed genuinely perplexed by the very possibility of making public his telephone conversation with Donald Trump.

While answering questions from Ukrainian journalists, Zelenskyy even said that he had assumed that only the American part of their conversation will be published and expressed the opinion that talks between presidents of sovereign states should not be made public because of geopolitics.

In my opinion, such conversations should absolutely be made public and precisely because of geopolitics; because of national interests. Conversations between presidents are not their private affair as Zelenskyy tried to explain to reporters. No, these are negotiations of heads of state. Indeed, states are sovereign and independent of each other, but their leaders are not independent of the people who elected them. Or has the “servant of the people” already forgotten about this?

That is why such conversations cannot be kept secret. That is why they must be monitored by the relevant services. That is why they can be made public, as it now happened with the conversation between Zelenskyy and Trump, because a representative of the American intelligence community became concerned about the content of this conversation.

It was a representative of the American intelligence, not of the Ukrainian one. The only thing a representative of the Ukrainian intelligence community could do — even if he had access to the president’s conversations — it would be to anonymously leak a conversation to journalists. Because in Ukraine, we do not and cannot have any official procedure for monitoring actions of the authorities.

Because Ukraine, unlike the United States, is a fictitious democracy. In fact, it is a primitive post-Soviet feudal autocracy. And democracy here is supported not at all by elections and coordinated work of institutions, but by popular uprisings. If there were no uprisings, then even this illusion of democracy would not exist.

Ukrainians should have been worried about their president’s telephone conversations not when Zelenskyy was talking to Trump, but when Zelenskyy talked with Putin and when came up the request to transfer [the imprisoned witness of the Flight MH17 downing] Volodymyr Tsemakh to Russia. It was then that we began to wonder what else the Ukrainian president promised his Russian counterpart in order to secure the release of the Ukrainian hostages. If their discussion were made public, perhaps we would have seen that our worries were unfounded and Volodymyr Zelenskyy nobly defended the country’s national interests. Or perhaps we would have discovered that the only thing left remaining of these interests was the name alone.

But of course, we will never learn this, at least while Zelenskyy is [inthe Ukrainian president’s office] on Bankova. We also won’t know it, because Russia is the same primitive post-Soviet feudal autocracy as Ukraine, only without uprisings.

For these reasons, now Volodymyr Zelenskyy will be beware of saying too much in conversations with Donald Trump, Angela Merkel or Emmanuel Macron.

But with Vladimir Putin, the Ukrainian president can speak quite freely.

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Translated by: A. N.

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