Achievements and Failures of Zelensky’s Presidency at its Midpoint
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Volodymyr Zelensky has reached the midpoint of his five-year presidency. The Kennan Institute hosted an online round table dedicated to the successes and failures of Zelensky’s presidency thus far. How has Ukraine changed in these years? What has President Zelensky and his team achieved so far? What remains to be accomplished from his list of electoral promises two and a half years ago?
“Ukraine’s bilateral relations have evolved throughout this past couple of years, especially because new president, new government, and new everything. You would think that a lot of changes would take place. The hope was, at the end of the day, to have better relationships with Western neighbors, to have an activization of relations with the E.U. and the U.S. and have some sort of conflict regulation on the way with Russia. Now instead, what we got is that the same problems keep persisting and the best case scenario is an unchanged situation but more often than not we see that the situation is worsened by time going by, which makes the likelihood of potential solutions less and less likely.”
“We’ve kind of gotten to a dead end, all kinds of negotiation or conversation between Kyiv and Moscow are basically just running into the same dead street. There is more focus on the Ukrainian side on good PR stunts than on actually improving these relations, and we can see now as well as back in April and over the summer that these Russian army units that have been deployed closer to the Ukrainian border, are causing a security crisis over and over again.”
“Zelensky started out with an incredible amount of credit with the Ukrainian people, as much as he seemed like an unlikely candidate, he was the underdog, he had so much trust from the people, and this trust persevered again in parliamentary elections and I think it took him all this time, it took him two years to run out of that credit, and he did run through, he ran through it by firing his ministry squad again and again, by sending it by for eve of the pandemic totally unprepared, and he made multiple mistakes, he came to the international arena multiple times with empty hands.”
“Overall...we counted 34 pre-electoral promises of Zelensky, and if you take everything, what he said before and immediately after elections, it can be 647 pre- and post-electoral promises. We made our own calculations at ICPS with our experts, and by just an arithmetical approach, 27 percent of his pre-electoral promises were fulfilled.”
“If three years ago, [Zelensky] was definitely different, he was absolutely from another world with an image which he imposed on us from his movie. It was not actually a human being playing resilience… he would come and transform the country in a way how he promised in the movie. And what we all experience these two and a half years it’s an absolutely different personality, absolutely different way of behavior and treating of people.”
“As someone who knows our president personally very well told me once, ‘he believes in his luck, in his star, and in himself.’ He doesn’t believe in reasonable alliances, consensus of interest, balance of different groups of influence, that’s why he encircles himself only with loyal people and you're either under him as his servant or your enemy.”
“We have a harmonization of standards and we are approaching the mutual recognition of the systems of confirmative assessment. We will have the common transit system, it’s much easier of course in the customs, we have just signed a common aviation area agreement mostly prepared but still moving forward here, we expect mutual recognition of electronic trust service agreements, so we are establishing the regulatory interrelation with the European Union, which also in the medium or long term should allow the country’s regulatory environment to be much more predictable."
“It seems that the economic policy is more like reactive to the current challenges, rather than there is a clear priority.”
“This is the economic policy, in some cases we are responding to the crisis, we are responding to situations but not like consistently moving forward.”
“The term Ukraine fatigue, which was very much in vogue for many years in the U.S. discussion about Ukraine, it really did seem to go away for a while and was of course replaced by crisis. The Ukraine crisis, the war, but to see the idea of fatigue returning while the crisis continues… it’s a very pessimistic reality and I’m not happy to see it.”
The Kennan Institute is the premier U.S. center for advanced research on Russia and Eurasia and the oldest and largest regional program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. The Kennan Institute is committed to improving American understanding of Russia, Ukraine, Central Asia, the Caucasus, and the surrounding region though research and exchange. Read more