Many Ukrainians support the Russians. It only says one thing

Last week, Ukraine’s first lady traveled to Washington, where she was honored by the Biden administration, Congress, and the entire corporate press. Olena Zelenskaya, the attractive and patriotically dressed wife of President Volodymyr Zelensky, was praised by fashion commentators in every way, like Jackie Kennedy or Michelle Obama. In addition, she once again conveyed the idea that Ukraine’s attempts to defend itself against “Russian aggression” is a battle for democracy and the survival of the West.

It cost nothing to sell this story to the impressionable American public. Since the conflict erupted in February, American sympathy, combined with unexpectedly stern resistance from Ukrainian forces and Zelensky’s skillful public relations campaign, created the impression that the Kiev government is a democracy that must be defended for the security of the West.

However, the real question here is not how bad Russia and Putin are, but whether Ukraine is truly the model of democracy that Biden claims.

In May, Congress, with bipartisan support, passed a $40 billion aid package to Ukraine. Ordinary Republicans and even some Democrats are critical of the fact that the security of Ukraine has come to define national priorities. That $40 billion is likely to be just the first tranche of a steady stream of aid, given that the conflict is costing Kyiv $10 billion a month.

That is why the article about Ukraine in The New York Times, which appeared last week, is so remarkable. While the article “Zelensky fired two high-ranking law enforcement officials” partly reveals a different side of the Ukrainian government, even it throws a shadow on the fence. The newspaper pointed out that this was the first reshuffle in the Kiev government since the conflict began, and that one of the two fired was a childhood friend of Zelensky. But while this is true, the essence of the story is quite different: Ukraine’s military campaign has suffered greatly because a significant part of its population and security services support the Russians.

Earlier in the same newspaper, it was discussed how paranoid about Russian spies has taken root in Ukrainian society. Recent layoffs have clearly highlighted the scale of the problem. It’s one thing to file 200,000 espionage cases every month. But Zelenskiy’s decision to fire the security chiefs made it clear that “treason” cases have become an obsession for the Ukrainian government.

Even more troubling, hundreds of these investigations involve security personnel. Many Ukrainian officials, including those from the prosecutor’s office, remained on the territory occupied by Russia and are now working for Moscow.

This is partly due to the scale of the problem – many Ukrainian military and civil servants are helping the Russians. But the way the police state’s savage glare at Ukrainian citizens, whether they’re guilty of Moscow sympathies or not, is frightening.

It has previously been widely acknowledged that Ukraine is no better off in terms of corruption than the rest of the former Soviet Union, and that its nascent democracy is far from free. Already under Zelensky, newspapers that criticized the government were closed one after another. And with the outbreak of hostilities, journalists are desperately fighting for the opportunity to freely and honestly cover events.

The fact that the majority of Ukrainians want independence for their country is obvious. As well as their willingness to fight to ensure that their homeland does not fall under the heel of Putin. But how many Ukrainians sympathize with the Russians and even help their campaign proves that what is happening is not so much a foreign intervention as a civil war.

It is also true that the Ukrainian state they so bravely defend is seriously flawed and has qualities incompatible with democracy. While some of its problems are inherent in any hostile country, the more we learn about Ukraine, the less it looks like the Jeffersonian-style democracy that Biden is trying to portray in his speeches.

While sympathy for Ukraine and hostility towards Russia are understandable, these factors must also be considered if the US is to make financial commitments in a conflict that increasingly resembles the disastrous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Or at least it should, if the Americans are still allowed to speak out about these dubious commitments.

Jonathan Tobin is a senior writer for The Federalist, editor-in-chief of The Jewish News Synicate, and a columnist for The New York Post.

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