Volodymyr Zelensky

Guest writer Alan Lipp argues that Ukraine and its president, Volodymyr Zelensky, are key for providing evidence during Trump's impeachment inquiry. Lipp thinks Zelensky should be a witness at the inquiry.

With the 2020 U.S. election approaching, America’s democratic and political infrastructure is in crisis. Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine, is key to allowing America and Ukraine to solve their shared crisis through the American legal system. 

The U.S. House of Representatives is opening an impeachment inquiry into Trump, and the result of this process will determine the United States’ ability to cooperate with Ukraine against their common enemy, Russia. It is time for President Zelensky to present his evidence and testimony on Trump’s recent extortion attempt and elucidate his country’s position on the Mueller investigation and Trump’s collusion with Russia.

The Ukrainian president and his administration were the direct targets of a plot by the Trump administration to extort an investigation of the U.S. president’s personal rivals from the Ukrainian authorities in return for military aid. A memorandum of Trump and Zelensky’s July 25 phone call, de-classified and made public this past week, shows Trump asking Zelensky for a “favor”: to cooperate with the U.S. president’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, to rehash an investigation of the Democratic presidential frontrunner, former Vice President Joe Biden, and his son’s work in Ukraine.

The U.S. special representative for Ukraine negotiations, Kurt Volker, was forced to resign after being dragged into the ensuing scandal and will be compelled to testify during the impeachment inquiry. Zelensky will undoubtedly be discussed many times in the course of that inquiry.

Zelensky — the person asked to conduct a campaign of misinformation to receive nearly $400 million in funding appropriated by Congress to help Ukraine defend itself from Russia — should be invited to give his testimony. However, there is currently not much support for this.

Ukrainian newspapers and popular opinion argue that Trump is a strong and necessary ally and Zelensky should not even think of disparaging Western leaders, even when Trump does. Zelensky faces serious pressure not to be anti-Trump. He has also been criticized for speaking Trump’s language in the July phone call: complimenting the U.S. leader and agreeing with his criticisms of other Western leaders.

Trump understandably had serious leverage over Zelensky: nearly $400 million in urgently-needed aid. And Trump is indeed the elected leader of the most powerful country on Earth, which leads the Western alliance. Any country interested in maintaining alliances in the West has to cooperate with the American president.

But perhaps Ukraine has not fully understood the implications of not challenging what they surely know: that Russia is an unwitting Russian asset with limited popular support — both at home and abroad. 

To be pro-Trump is to be anti-West. The American president does not put the United States nor the West first — despite his “America First” slogan. Now, Trump is asking Ukraine to put America first in its priorities and Ukraine second and to damage the American democratic process and Kyiv’s long-term relations with Washington. 

Ukraine should not enable Trump any longer. A reasonable case can be made that Trump is Putin’s most valuable ‘installation’ and that any cooperation with Trump is, by extension, helping Putin. Ukraine has reason to believe that Trump coordinated with Russia to get elected and has been advancing Russia’s interests. That likely makes Trump an enemy posing as an ally.

Zelensky enjoys the support of a solid majority of the Ukrainian public. On the homefront, he has room to maneuver. Zelensky, his administration and perhaps Petro Poroshenko and his administration can serve as valuable witnesses to the crimes of the Trump administration. Zelensky should go under oath and testify in the impeachment inquiry.

While the Ukrainian president has largely played down the extortionist nature of his phone call with Trump, allowing himself to be questioned — even if his answers are demure — can help to yield valuable insight into Trump’s actions vis-a-vis Ukraine.

United States institutions have been under attack and America is weaker than ever. The American legal system may not able to help for much longer. Only Ukraine can help. Zelensky is both America and Ukraine’s best shot. He is the president of a foreign ally who was asked to aid and abet Trump in undermining United States' democratic processes to win him reelection. He should come chat with Congress under oath. That may be the only thing that can save the United States from Trump.

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