HOMANS: Ukraine War

HOMANS: Ukraine War
Putin has declared war on Ukraine. Zelenskiy has been transformed from a comedian into a war-time president / WIIKI
By Robert Homans in Washington DC February 25, 2022

Putin has declared war on Ukraine. From what we’ve heard from my in-laws who are there, there is concern on their part that the government has provided very little advice and instructions to people, on where to go in the event of a Russian assault.    

TV stations are still operating, but apparently they are not being used by the government to provide citizens with civil defence information. Normal life in Kyiv seems to have quickly turned to a growing level of fear. I was on the phone with a friend of mine, whose wife is in Kyiv. While we were on the phone, his wife called saying that she was hearing explosions. They live on the southern end of Central Kyiv. God bless Ukraine!

Many people, including me, thought Putin was bluffing, and that he wouldn’t invade Ukraine. I have decided that it is wise to carefully listen to Putin’s speeches on Ukraine, going back to at least 2004, when he came to Kyiv to campaign for Viktor Yanukovich, his 2007 speech at the Munich Security Conference, and especially his April 2008 speech at the Nato Heads of State Conference in Bucharest, Romania, where he famously said to former President George W. Bush: “George, Ukraine isn’t even a country.” The lesson learned is that it is very important to listen to what Putin says, and assume that is his default position, that he will act on what he says, which he has.

Is President Zelenskiy growing into his job?  Last Saturday, in spite of 190,000 Russian soldiers on the border of his Country, President Zelenskiy flew to Munich where he gave an excellent speech on the current situation faced by Ukraine. It lasted for approximately 18 minutes. It was a strong speech, not asking for sympathy but instead asking for assistance for what Ukraine plans to do on its own – defend its territory. He also spoke truth to those in the audience, who needed to hear the truth.   

Zelenskiy wasn’t even heckled by the press, as Heile Selassi was when, at a speech to the League of Nations in 1936, when he asked for help to defend Ethiopia from Mussolini’s Fascists. Fortunately Zelenskiy got a nicer reception.

For the sake of Ukraine, let us hope that his speech last Saturday completed Zelenskiy’s transformation, from a comedian with a sharp tongue to a leader of a country in wartime. Prior to May 2019, when Zelenskiy was elected President of Ukraine with 73% of the vote, he was a successful comedian starring in a show, called “Servant of the People”. The show served as a campaign speech to propel Zelenskiy to the Presidency. During the campaign, and especially during a debate held at Kyiv’s Olympic Stadium, Zelenskiy tried to humiliate his opponent, Petro Poroshenko the former president, with his sarcasm. Zelenskiy displayed a complete lack of respect for Poroshenko, who became President of Ukraine in June 2014, at a time when Ukraine was also under Russian attack. Later, President Zelenskiy’s prosecutor brought charges of treason against Poroshenko.

During that time, President Zelenskiy’s polling numbers fell from 73%, when he was elected President, to the mid 20s. Until very recently, Zelenskiy was pushing the “don’t worry, be happy” message, saying that Easter is coming soon, and everyone will be able to go outside and have barbecues. Just now, there are reports that the government has done very little in the way of providing citizens with instructions on where to go, or general civil defence information.

It is possible for presidents, perhaps including Zelenskiy, to either grow into the job of being President of a country in mortal danger, or be underestimated and later held in high esteem when he or she successfully brings his or her country through the danger. America once had a President who entered the White House at short notice with low expectations. All he did was make the decision to drop two atomic bombs on Japan, establish the Marshall Plan and helped create Nato, for better or worse the most successful collective security agreement ever established.

His name was Harry Truman, the former haberdasher from Kansas City, Missouri. He was more successful as President of the United States than he was selling hats. As with Truman, Vladimir Zelenskiy is the only President Ukraine has. It is unclear whether Zelenskiy will rise to the occasion, or anywhere close.

For me, I have been sending out these emails from December 1, 2013, the start of the Revolution of Dignity, until now, when Russia has declared war on Ukraine. Maybe one day it will be possible to reflect.


Robert Homans is an international financial sector consultant based in Washington DC and tweets at @rhomansjr