Today I reported on a forthcoming letter by dozens of Ukrainian anti-corruption leaders, across government and civil society, warning that President Biden’s approval of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline is a gift to the Kremlin and harmful to counter-kleptocracy efforts.
One additional aspect that I didn’t get to convey in detail in my report (which you can see here) is just the sheer extent to which they feel betrayed by Biden, who previously pledged to stand by Ukraine and then, as president, approved a project sure to increase Vladimir Putin’s leverage over Europe and ability to destabilize their country.
Gennady Kurochka, co-founder of the Ukraine Crisis Media Center and organizer of the letter I reported on, elaborated on this feeling of betrayal in a text message:
Many of the letter’s authors are representatives of the civil society in Ukraine – activists, volunteers, veterans – those who have personally met with Joe Biden when he visited Kyiv. Maintaining eye contact, he spoke about Russia, about the Nord Stream, about things which are consonant with our position. Furthermore, he later recalled these meetings with a warm attitude and the atmosphere of a mutual understanding. Now, as President of the United States, Joe Biden says and does things that are often exactly the opposite, and we would like to convey our disappointment with him and remind him of the common values and ideologies that we shared in the past.
Kurochka also offered a comment that struck me as particularly resonant in context of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan: He emphasized that Ukraine is pulling its weight and fighting its own battles. Biden’s efforts to blame the Afghan army for the country’s collapse seem to have made a significant impact on U.S. partners:
This letter is first and foremost addressed to the President of the United States, and its purpose is about shared values and interests. You can take a trillion dollars and try to instill democracy in a distant medieval country, but that would be the same as just burning the money. And at the same time refuse to support a European country, whose people, in fact, with their blood, the lives of their sons and daughters, have proven their adherence to the values shared with the American people. A country, which for seven years now without American weapons, without American troops on its territory, which has been one-on-one defending its freedom against one of the strongest armies in the world.
Ukrainians, and many others who might depend somewhat on the U.S. for security, want to emphasize that they’re pulling their own weight, as they attempt to avoid drawing the ire of American presidents eager to end “forever wars.”