Ukraine

Rudy Giuliani’s Ukraine Meddling Isn’t Just Foolish. It’s Dangerous.

The U.S. should be supporting an ally in a critical region, not behaving in a way that serves Russian interests.
September 24, 2019
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Rudy Giuliani. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Why is Rudy Giuliani fronting for Vladimir Putin? His recent interviews calling into question the honesty of the new Ukrainian administration is a classic destabilization move. As the buffer between the Baltic states and Russia, Ukraine is one of our strongest allies in a critical region of the world. The country has a new president who is undertaking reforms that will allow the country to be considered as a member of the European Union, even as Russia continues to illegally occupy Crimea and is providing support to fighting in two other areas of Ukraine.

In July of this year I had the privilege of spending eigh days in Kiev as part of a National Democratic Institute (NDI) mission to observe this year’s parliamentary elections. This was my second such trip with NDI and the change from 2012 to 2019 was palpable. Since the Euromaidan protests and the recent election of President Zelensky, hope has returned to the citizens of Ukraine. The streets are filled with young and old enjoying the streetside cafes, and sidewalk vendors are doing a booming business. Hope for a better future permeates discussions.

Ukrainians are tremendously optimistic about the future, and 46 percent believe that the next generation will be better off (compared with 13 percent who are pessimistic) according to polls taken by the NDI. Among those surveyed, 66 percent believe that President Zelensky will make the changes that matter to them. Perhaps even more critical, 88 percent of Ukrainians believe that it is important that the country become a fully functioning democracy, the highest number NDI has recorded. 

As significant, almost 70 percent of those surveyed want Ukraine to join the European Union. Since his victory in the July parliamentary election, President Zelensky has proposed a series of reforms to meet the International Monetary Fund’s requirements for joining the European Union. In spite of the fact that Russia has illegally occupied Crimea and is supporting insurgents in two other areas of Ukraine, the population holds firm in its support of the West. In the areas closest to the disputed territories, with Russia as the 800-pound gorilla on their doorstep, the population and President Zelensky are committed to moving toward the West. Even with pictures of those lost in the fight for Crimea posted on walls for all to see, the country holds firm for democracy.

One would think that a country whose strong support for democracy and positive momentum in that direction would be a country that our government supported every way it could. Unfortunately, the Trump White Houses is not. There are a couple of possible explanations for why the administration slow-walked $250 million in promised military aid to Ukraine, and none of the reasons reflect well on this administration or our country. 

Whether it is because supporting the new Ukrainian government goes against Russia’s interests, or because the aid is being used as leverage to get the government to investigate Joe Biden’s son’s involvement in the country for President Trump to use in the campaign makes no difference. Both reasons would be despicable and a serious blot on our country.

Giuliani’s quote about Zelensky having anti-Trump people around him and some who are corrupt sounds like just what Putin loves to hear—anything to undermine a popular government that is moving closer to the West. This is meddling at its finest and undermines the security of the United States. Ukraine is the proverbial canary in the coal mine for Eastern Europe, and we should be doing all we can to support it, Russia be damned.

Christine Todd Whitman

Christine Todd Whitman is the former governor of New Jersey.