How a Phone Call With Trump Put Ukraine’s Zelensky in a Double Bind

How a Phone Call With Trump Put Ukraine’s Zelensky in a Double Bind
President Trump meets with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at the InterContinental Barclay New York hotel during the United Nations General Assembly, Sept. 25, 2019 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

With every day, a new thread seems to emerge in the ongoing impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump, which centers on Trump’s efforts to pressure the government of Ukraine to dig up dirt on Joe Biden, the former vice president and now Democratic presidential candidate.

According to multiple whistleblowers and a released rough transcript of a July 25 phone call, Trump urged his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky, to investigate Biden. The request put Zelensky in a tough position, caught between his need for American support to fight a war in eastern Ukraine against Russia-backed separatists, and his desire to avoid becoming entangled in America’s domestic politics.

Meanwhile, Zelensky’s efforts to bring the war in the east to an end by granting greater autonomy to the restive regions of Donetsk and Luhansk sparked massive protests across Ukraine last weekend.

For this week’s interview on Trend Lines, WPR’s Elliot Waldman is joined by Steven Pifer to discuss Zelensky’s difficult balancing act in his relations with the U.S. and Russia, as well as the road ahead for peace in eastern Ukraine. Pifer is a retired career foreign service officer of 25 years, which included a stint as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine from 1998 to 2000. He’s now a William Perry research fellow at Stanford University.

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Relevant Articles on WPR:
How Much Damage Will Trump’s Scandal Do to Zelensky in Ukraine?
Can Zelensky, Riding High, Negotiate an End to the War in Eastern Ukraine?
Will the Ukraine Scandal Sink Trump’s Presidency?
In Ukraine’s Donbas Region, Life Amid the Ravages of a Forgotten War

Trend Lines is produced and edited by Peter Dörrie, a freelance journalist and analyst focusing on security and resource politics in Africa. You can follow him on Twitter at @peterdoerrie.

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