Vladimir Kornilov: In Hiroshima, Zelensky proved he remains a ‘Servant of the People’ – but not the Ukrainian people
Every May, Vladimir Zelensky makes a show of proving that he remains what Ukrainians elected him to be: a servant of the people. This is part of the comedian-turned-politician’s myth, borrowed from the eponymous TV show he fronted prior to seeking high office.
On the anniversary of his inauguration, every May 20, he gives a showpiece performance in the form of a report on the past year of his rule. He plays the role of the “servant,” informing his “masters” – the voters of Ukraine.
Just two years ago, and it seems like ages now, Zelensky chose the Antonov aircraft hangar and a huge, unfinished Mriya cargo plane without wings (a Soviet project that independent Ukraine had spent 30 years talking about getting moving again) – as his backdrop. He went on to paint Ukrainians a beautiful picture of their country’s future, in which the Mriya (which means ‘dream’ in the local language) would finally take to the skies. Less than a year later, soldiers under Zelensky’s command bombed both the hangar where he held the press conference and the plane, which never managed to take off.
Everything seemed possible in Zelensky’s world, but he did forget one thing. Two years ago, when he was talking about turning Ukraine into a new Eden, he forgot the main promise that prompted Ukrainians to vote for him: his pledge to bring peace. Now, it’s even funny to remember the words the “servant of the people” uttered in his inaugural speech on May 20, 2019: “Our first priority is a ceasefire [in Kiev’s war with the Donbass]… I would not hesitate to lose my position for the sake of peace.”
Over the intervening years, Zelensky has remained true to his tradition and, on the anniversary of his inauguration, he has continued to report as a true servant. But as time has passed he has acquired new masters – the US leadership. This is a very significant change and confirms that, for Zelensky, Ukraine and its people have long been nothing more than a prop for his bloody adventures and their future well-being certainly is not part of the plan.
His visit to Japan for the G7 summit was yet another venue in which to beg for weapons. Ukrainian diplomats take great offense when elements of the Western press liken Zelensky’s foreign trips to a traveling circus, but that is the reality. The whole point of his many trips is to raise yet more funds, and promises, to keep the war going – and thus to keep Ukrainians dying. As retired Italian general Marco Bertolini rightly pointed out the other day, if Western arms supplies to Ukraine had stopped, “the war would have ended a year ago and would not have cost hundreds of thousands of lives.”
The worst part is that everyone understands this very well. The EU’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, says practically the same thing. However, even with the full knowledge that supplying Kiev with new lethal weapons means using Ukrainians as cannon fodder, the West keeps pumping in supplies. Of course, those same Ukrainians were promised Zelensky as a “servant” two years ago before he found himself some new masters.
In Hiroshima, Zelensky fawned over his current bosses as best he could. He pathetically likened his request for F-16 jets to seeking “wings for freedom.” A very unwise statement, given the parallels with his promises to give wings to the Mriya two years ago.
It was equally ill-advised to take the flag presented to him by the “defenders of Bakhmut” (Artyomovsk) last December to the US Congress. Now, sitting next to the US president, Zelensky had to explain the loss of the city he had long called a fortress, and ended up spewing nonsense about its current status on the same weekend it was fully occupied by Russian soldiers.
It was clear from his reaction how painful the loss of Artyomovsk was for Zelensky. It was not the news that the “servant of America” expected to deliver to his current masters gathered in Hiroshima. The only good thing is that he didn’t bring President Joe Biden a flag from another “fortress” – that would have been a bad omen.
To sweeten the bitter pill of the humiliating defeat in Donbass, the Ukrainian president is trying to label the West’s promises to provide Kiev with F-16 fighter jets as a victory. What this will look like in practice is anyone’s guess, and no one knows how close it will bring the world to a potential catastrophe.
Of course, Hiroshima is probably the best place to assess the consequences and understand how they could affect the entire planet. Especially the Ukrainian people, whom Zelensky promised to serve faithfully four years ago. But his promises to his new master are very different: not peace, but war.