It is no wonder then, the Zelensky cult is finally losing its appeal. Thomas Friedman of the New York Times has recently written that the White House does not trust the Ukrainian leader, and other major Western media groups have visibly changed their tone on Zelensky. Writes Uriel Araujo
There has been a Zelensky cult going on – but there are signs that it is declining. Once a kind of posterboy for the West, he has been the target of some intense criticism, internationally. Ukrainian president Volodymir Zelensky, who was once in talks with the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to make an Oscar appearance (it did not take place), has been frequently addressing the parliament of a number of NATO countries, by videoconference, to make his points and, for months, enjoyed celebrity status in the Western media. This is changing, and there might be deeper reasons for such change.
For instance, when the Ukrainian president and his wife Olena Zelenskaya, who was wearing fashionable clothes, both posed for prestigious Vogue magazine (which had them on its cover), this was obviously a PR stunt meant to keep Ukraine in the news. With surging food and energy prices, the general public in the US, and in Europe particularly, is growing tired of the war, though, and the obvious insensibility and bad taste pertaining to posing for a fashion and lifestyle magazine amid one’s country being devastated has made the whole PR stunt backfire.
An ill-conceived photo shoot is however not Zelensky’s only concern. A recent Amnesty International’s report has exposed the fact that the Ukrainian forces have been violating the rules of war and putting hospitals, schools, and civilian residences in harm’s ways, thus suggesting that human shield tactics have been employed by the military. In fact, Kiev’s record on human rights for at least the last 8 years has been terrible, although much has been done in the Western press to cover it up, and there have indeed been previous reports on these issues by the Council of Europe’s International Advisory Panel, and Amnesty International itself, to name just a few. Ukrainian serious neo-Nazi presence amid its forces and government had been white-washed, but the ugly reality of its is increasingly getting more coverage.
In any case, the last Amnesty International report came at a bad timing, so to speak, and it has sparked a lot of controversy. Protesting the report publication, the head of Amnesty International’s Ukraine chapter, Oksana Pokalchuk, has resigned.
While the West has been winning the propaganda war so far, there are now signs that the narratives pushed are starting to erode. The truth is that no amount of propaganda can make American and European concerned citizens happy about their governments sending billions to Kiev in fiscal and military aid while their own domestic situations are far from glooming. Washington, for example, is sending an additional $5.5 billion in aid to Ukraine, beginning with a $3 billion disbursement this month. Although US inflation eased slightly in July, it is still close to multi-decade high (8.5%). There is still a shortage of baby formula and food insecurity is on the rise, with nearly 12 percent of Americans struggling to afford basic food items.
The European economy in turn has also been much impacted by the war (although its problems preceded it). It remains much dependent on Russian natural gas and the specter of a recession now haunts it. Headline inflation in the EU accelerated to 8.9% in July, from 8.6% in June. In countries like Estonia, though, the inflation annual rate has reached nearly 22%.
In fact, a July IMF World Economic Outlook Update predicted global economic growth slowing from 6.1% in 2021 to 3.2% this year. While the risk of a global food crisis has been blamed on Moscow, Kiev bears much responsibility in such a situation and this fact has been exposed. For example, it mined up all of its Black Sea ports which had thus made it impossible for ships leaving there freely. Only recently was the grain corridor reopened after a deal was reached in Istanbul between Russia, Ukraine, Turkey, and the UN.
Meanwhile, Volodymir Zelensky has been complaining that NATO should have treated his country as it did to Sweden and Finland and about the West’s “apathy”. The Ukrainian president keeps demanding more weapons although as little as 30% of the arms sent reach their final destination, as much of them end up in the black market. Reports on Kiev’s corruption are also starting to resurface.
It is no wonder then, the Zelensky cult is finally losing its appeal. Thomas Friedman of the New York Times has recently written that the White House does not trust the Ukrainian leader, and other major Western media groups have visibly changed their tone on Zelensky.
The US has a long history of betraying and abandoning both devout allies and “puppets” and in fact Zelensky, who might have become more of a liability than of an asset to the US-led West, could face precisely such a destiny. In this event, the West will be able to blame him for any Ukrainian defeat, while it can focus on the Pacific, after the recent escalation of tensions in Taiwan. This is certainly a possible scenario. As Friedman wrote: “It is Geopolitics 101 that you don’t court a two-front war with the other two superpowers at the same time.” So, rather than advancing its double encirclement policy towards both Moscow and Beijing simultaneously, Washington might have to choose which proxy war it wishes to prioritize.
Uriel Araujo, researcher with a focus on international and ethnic conflicts.
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