June 10, 2021 Special Dispatch No. 9390

Russian Political Commentator Bovt: Russia May Have Laughed Too Soon At Zelensky's Axios Interview

June 10, 2021
Russia | Special Dispatch No. 9390

On June 4, 2021, Ukraine's President, Volodomy Zelensky gave an interview to Axios that was broadcast on HBO. In the interview, Zelensky voiced his disappointment that President Joe Biden was not blocking the construction of the Nordstream-2 gas pipeline between Russia and Germany bypassing Ukraine. The Ukrainian leader also asked for a personal meeting with Biden before Biden's meeting with Vladimir Putin in Geneva.[1] This request was rejected by the Americans.

Senator Aleksey Pushkov chortled over Zelensky's discomfiture and his irritation that Biden had not warned him about the pipeline decision.

"Kiev made a grave mistake, in believing itself to be the center of the world due to its conflict with Russia", wrote Pushkov.

"Following the period that the West made a fuss of Ukraine...that corrupted Kiev by communicating to it a false sense of its own importance, a period of fatigue with Ukraine has begun. Now Kiev understands that its actual role in world politics is quite modest." Ukraine was a tool that the West used in its confrontation with Russia and China and could be easily abandoned, concluded Pushkov.[2]

In contrast, the commentator and political scientist George Bovt believes that Zelensky's criticism of Biden, and the administration's refusal to pencil in a meeting between Biden and Zelensky should not be interpreted as a falling out between Kiev and Washington. Nor did it mean that Putin will have his way in Geneva, when the Ukrainian issue comes up at the summit. Russia should also not be complacent over NATO's reluctance to admit Ukraine to membership in the alliance.  The US can deepen its military ties with Kiev by granting Ukraine major non-NATO ally (MNNA) status that will lead to US bases on Ukrainian soil. The implied threat to follow this route means that Biden can negotiate over Ukraine from a position of strength.

Bovt's analysis follows below:

Volodomyr Zelensky (Source:

"The US decided against inviting Volodymyr Zelensky to Washington on the eve of the summit between the Russian and US presidents, although previously the option of this meeting was considered. In recent days, Zelensky has made a number of statements in which he criticized the US for abandoning attempts to stymie the construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, and also spoke in favor of Ukraine's prompt admission to NATO.

"According to Zelensky, this issue must be resolved immediately, because Kiev is in danger and needs help.  Meanwhile, instead of a personal meeting, a telephone conversation between the US and Ukrainian presidents was organized. Are understandings regarding the 'Ukrainian issue' to be expected at the Russia-US summit in Geneva?

"The formal reason why a direct Biden-Zelensky meeting on the eve of the Russia-US summit did not take place was ostensively Washington's displeasure with the way Kiev messed up, regarding the management of the Naftogaz state energy company.

"In April, Ukraine's authorities replaced the company head Andriy Kobolyev in violation of all corporate rules. Even the powers of the supervisory board were suspended. Although Naftogaz' enormous losses furnished the reason for the incident, the way it was done is far from what the Western handlers teach the Ukrainian reformers.

"Meanwhile, if Biden wants to see at least some results from the meeting with Putin (and not just a mutual slanging match and exchange of claims and threats), then meeting with Zelensky, who has a long list of claims to Moscow, would not only be a defiant provocation, but also unbecoming a great power". A telephone pep talk and assurances of support for Ukrainian sovereignty and an invitation to pay a visit to Washington this summer was totally sufficient.

"Additionally, Biden will travel to Geneva for the meeting with Putin after the G7 summit, with a much more solid claim to speak at this meeting on behalf of the 'collective West.'
"The former U.S. Ambassador to Kyiv William Taylor is sure that no 'deal on Ukraine' between the US and Russia will occur at Geneva. He is probably correct. But Ukraine will certainly be one of the main topics. Biden, meanwhile won't give any guarantees that Ukraine will never join NATO. At the same time, there may be undisguised threats against Russia urging it to 'withdraw from the southeast [of Ukraine]," despite Kiev's unwillingness to fulfill the Minsk agreements. The US will undoubtedly support a policy of continued 'Euro-Atlantic integration for Ukraine.' Washington has never recognized the post-Soviet space as a zone of Moscow's special interests.

"There is no unanimity among the 30 NATO member-states regarding Ukraine's admission [to the alliance], not only due to the ongoing conflict in southeast [Ukraine] and the Crimea issue, but also because Russia will react to such a step with hostility, [viewing it] as a direct threat to the country's national security, and as an existential threat necessitating a military response. By the way there is likewise no complete unanimity on Euro-Atlantic integration within Ukraine itself.

"For example, at the end of May, 54% of Ukraine's citizens supported joining the EU, and 48% supported joining NATO; nearly a third of the respondents believed that it was unnecessary to join the alliance.

"On the other hand, the US can accommodate Kiev's desires on this issue on a bilateral basis. It seems that Zelensky had exactly that scenario in mind, when (after a meeting with the US Secretary of State) he announced that an important agreement with America is being prepared. For example, Ukraine may  be granted "major non-NATO ally" status simply under a White House decree, according to the 1989 US bill defining such a status. Such decree wouldn't even require US Senate consent or the consent of NATO member-states. Today, 17 different countries, for example Argentina, Australia, Bahrain, Afghanistan, South Korea, the Philippines and Thailand enjoy such a status.

"Allies with such status enjoy a number of additional military and financial benefits, for instance they are exempted from a number of restrictions introduced by the Arms Export Control Act [AECA]. They have more opportunities to engage in joint defense initiatives, including counterterrorist operations, and to conduct joint military research and development without US Congressional consent.

"Starting with 2014, the US has already allocated about 1.6 billion USD for military support to Kiev (and in toto, according to the State Department, aid to Ukraine amounted to 4.6 billion USD). This support could be increased even further, as well as programs for training and re- equipping of the 250,000-strong Ukrainian army to NATO standards.

"After granting 'the Major non-NATO ally' [status] to Kiev, the US might decide to deploy a permanent military base in Ukraine or temporarily lease the territory for such purposes (as it happened in Jordan and Israel). Washington may also deploy military personnel in the country, let's say, near the Donbass conflict zone.

"An agreement on a mutual defense treaty, which is concluded by the US with non-NATO states such as those that the US has with Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, South Korea and Japan, could be the next step. Considering such prospects, one can expect that Biden will conduct [summit] talks on the Ukrainian issue at Geneva from a position of strength."[3]

George Bovt (Source:



[1], June 6, 2021.

[2], June 7, 2021.

[3], June 8, 2021.

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