Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visits Biden in Washington on Monday. The two leaders have much to talk about, some opportunities and lots of problems. The biggest one, Biden is drowning in a failed administration. Can Zelensky take any pressure off by reorienting the news off Afghanistan?
— Melinda Simmons (@MelSimmonsFCDO) August 26, 2021
Russian expert Yuri Vanetik reports in Newsmax that, “The two leaders, at their meeting set for next Monday the 30th, should agree to start erecting a stronger strategic alliance between their two countries, aimed at reforming and boosting Ukraine’s lagging economy and bolstering its defenses as a counterweight to their mutual rival—Russian Federation. A little bit of help could go a long way.
Ukraine shares a 1,200-mile-long border with Russia to its east, and it comprises the largest land mass with the richest natural resources in eastern Europe. The biggest obstacles in Ukraine: the oligarchs who control most major sectors of the economy and strangle it with corruption, bribes, and inefficiencies. Ukraine also suffers from exorbitantly high taxes and consequent widespread tax evasion; and a lack of foreign direct investment, as I reported here.
As a Ukrainian-born American citizen whose family fled the old Soviet Union when I was a young boy, I have argued previously in favor of building up Ukraine as a stronger rival to Russia. See “The Reign in Ukraine” at Newsweek.com, among other platforms. Now the case for U.S. assistance is even more compelling.
In the wake of the Afghanistan collapse, Russia and China are open to relations with the Taliban, and Russia is all too friendly with Iran, a dangerous agent for terrorism and now a friend, too, to the Taliban. In fact, last week (ending August 27) Iran restarted fuel exports to Afghanistan, receiving desperately needed cash from the Taliban’s “lucrative narcotics operations” to help Iran endure U.S. sanctions, the Wall Street Journal reported.”
But there are other obstacles along the way. A man we have covered before, post Soviet bully boy Pavel Fuks, is an outstanding issue. Fuks runs a criminal network in Kharkiv, a major industrial city in Ukraine. His clumsy tentacles stretch across the region, as do many post Bolshevik thugs who made out big after the red flag was lowered from the Kremlin in late 1991.
Fuks also has pals. Among them is lobbyist and “business” partner Andrey Telezhenko, a guy who was sanctioned in the US for election meddling. He’s part of Fuks’ criminal organization and is known far and wide for his alleged nefarious activities. Another player is part player and part sucker, former Ukrainian politician Vitaliy Khomutynnik. Fuks charged Khomutynnik and his wife Svitlana big bucks for attending the 2017 Trump inauguration. But Khomutynnik should have known getting inauguration tickets is not that hard. What the bigwig wanted was inauguration ball tickets, an altogether different fish. Fuks did not deliver the ball tickets. Sounds like a bait and switch. But the main point? Both men were trying to infiltrate the American politicial system.
Vanetik himself is actually optimistic about the future of Ukraine, a nation well poised for success in many ways. But the culture of the oligarchs, a way of life reminding of 1920s Chicago, stands in the way of real progress. If that and men like Fuks can be overcome the nation can transcend its current issues and truly join the concert of European nations.
It’s not that Fuks himself is the primary issue. It is his ilk. They still have considerable sway in Kyiv. Until that is addressed at the source American policy makers will have a hard time getting as close to the Ukraine as Zelensky desires and needs. First things first President Zelensky, clean up your act back home.