The President of Ukraine committed not similar to Donald trump, thinks the historian.

Neil Ferguson is one of the most well-known historians and publicists of our time. His book about the history of civilization, development and decline of the countries and the causes of economic crises have become bestsellers around the world. In 2004 Time magazine included him in the list of 100 most influential people in the world.

He is now a research fellow at the Hoover Institute of Stanford University and the Center for European studies Harvard. talked to Neil Ferguson at the 16th annual meeting of the Yalta European Strategy (YES)


– Up to the election campaign you have advised Ukrainians to beware of “the Ukrainian trump” in the upcoming presidential election. You listened to? I see some similarities between presidents, presidential race?

Zelensky made not like Donald trump. The US President is an oligarch, who moved into television and then into politics, then how Zelensky is an artist who had a serious business career to television. Donald trump’s influence on people, relying on the emotion of anger and fear. Zelensky – a charming, self-ironic comic persona. Maybe soon it will be a new political form, and in the future, the comedian will take a leading position not only in Iceland and Ukraine. By the way, Stephen Colbert is already involved in politics in the States.

Zelensky is not exactly the Ukrainian trump, rather Ukrainian, Emmanuel macron. Political events in Ukraine remind the French that him promptly at the time of the “purified” National Assembly.

– How the victory of Vladimir Zelensky important in the regional situation?

– Big changes in power give a chance to change foreign policy. What you need to achieve peaceful relations with Russia? To reach a compromise in the Crimea, relations between Ukraine and NATO and the EU. But it will be a compromise, so now the government’s focus should be domestic issues and the mood of the population.

– For this you need the extension the channel format at the expense of the United States?

– Of course. One of France and Germany is not enough to limit the influence of Russia. I do not believe that the basis of German interests is Ukraine. Russia has said that States should be involved in the dialogue. But to make it difficult because of inconsistent policies trump, his contradictory impulses, I don’t think he understands well the region’s geopolitics.

In Washington I was struck by the split of opinion between the Republicans in Congress, who for Ukraine and the presidential administration, which, it seems, is not interested in the Ukrainian question. Therefore, the government Zelensky should be very careful to make friends in Washington, and carefully rely on them to lobby the accession of States to the channel negotiations.

Neil Ferguson
Photo: press service of YES

– What is the impact of the exchange of prisoners will have on the future dialogue in the Normandy format? What was the tactics of Russia to show some flexibility to the West or to set Zelensky on closer cooperation and to make in the future to consider the demands of Moscow?

– Based exchange – some morally problematic compromises. For example, from the Russian side it was kind of a false concession to create traps. Trap – to draw Vladimir Zelensky in the bilateral process. But nobody is in a hurry for a meeting, should focus on the US involvement in the broader process.

Ukraine must be very careful because Putin is not committed to anything except to undermine the independence of Ukraine. And he is likely to pursue that goal to the end.

Speaking about the international reaction, it is important to understand what he thinks about China. This is an interesting player in Central and Eastern Europe, which is pursuing a completely separate strategy for growth.

– Ukraine should be friends with China? How to do to bypass Russia?

– Yes, in the interest of Ukraine is to set Russia and China against each other. Since China thinks mostly about the economy, and Russia – geopolitics, you can refer to the economic interests of China, to attract their investments, and, most importantly, not to regard them as Pro-Russian. Suppose the new government is serious about land reform and foreign investments, then China can be an important source of these investments.

Recently, Italy has signed with China a Memorandum on the project “One belt and one road”. The parties promise to cooperate in the development of roads and Railways, bridges, civil aviation, ports, energy.

Ukraine could get a good advantage from such agreement.

You say to set Russia and China against each other. But what are their relationship? You say that the relations XI Jinping and Putin are the closest in the modern world, the fact that Russia is dependent on China because of the Russian aggression in Ukraine and Syria. So between them?

Since China and Russia are close, it is tempting to think of them as partners. But China pursues its national interests, which don’t actually coincide with Russia’s interests.

Putin allows China to gain the upper hand not only in Central Asia but even in parts of Eastern Europe. In order to carry out a progressive policy in Europe, Ukraine or Syria, in fact Russia agrees to the position of Junior partner of China in Central Asia and East Asia. This is an unsustainable strategy, which dooms Russia to a lesser role on the Eurasian continent, whereas China is there completely dominates.

Photo: press service of the APEC summit Beijing 2014

Until the 19th century, Russia and China were in constant conflict on the Eastern border of Russia. I saw in Beijing cards, they still include the Russian territory once belonging to China. The Chinese continue to think of these territories as its historical lands.

My prediction – the relationship between Russia and China will change for the worse over the next 10 years, and it will happen when Russia is clearly aware of the threat posed by China. It will be either domination or even absorption.

The deterioration of their relationship would be on hand to States and Ukraine.

– Whether this background will change the relationship between USA and Russia?

Maybe. For Russia it is preferable to be in the best relations with the West, than to be subservient to China. From the point of view of the United States, the Union of Russia and China is the worst thing that happened during the reign of Obama. Henry Kissinger (one of the most influential foreign policy strategists USA 1970-ies. – Ed.) insisted that the United States should be much closer to Russia and China than the latter in relation to each other. Now there is the opposite situation.

One consensus that can bring together Russia and the United States – Ukraine and the question of its sovereignty. It is, in fact, in the interests of Russia, because nobody wants to be second fiddle to China.

– Let’s fast forward to the European continent. What is the future of the EU you see in 20-30 years? And what role there will be to take Ukraine?

In an effort to create a United States of Europe, the EU has triggered a series of crises, the most obvious of which Brexit. In 20-30 years the EU will not be more integrated. Europe will remain a multi-speed with monetary core on the periphery. Any future peace Treaty with Russia would exclude the possibility of Ukraine to join the EU or NATO. What Ukraine needs is the free trade agreement with the EU to get any benefit from this big market.

– Offer to end up where you started, the phenomenon of success of Vladimir Zelensky. Five months after the elections, the activities of President Vladimir Zelensky happy more than two thirds of Ukrainians. Although the disappointment from the President predicted this fall. The secret of its success?

In early 2019, the elections in Brazil, won the populist leader of Air Bolsonaro. It was unpredictable, but less than a year, his popularity plummeted. Justin Trudeau was wildly popular, people were standing in line to take a selfie with him. Now with high probability, he will lose in the upcoming elections.

Populism – changing environment. Wow effect lasts usually no more than a year. Because Vladimir Zelensky need to react faster and work to achieve a year of great change in the country. Although the objective economic effect will not be instantaneous.

Vladimir Zelensky
Photo: press service of YES

The political world has fundamentally shifted to social networks. The social network – the strength Zelensky. The problem is politicians of the old school that they still rely on Newspapers and television. The transition from the fictional President to the real one – perfect political move of the 21st century.

I think Zelensky – the most futuristic politician in the world, because that is politics as entertainment. Unlike trump, Zelensky refers to light feelings of man, and not to dark. His populism makes you laugh, and if he stays himself, then he has a chance to be popular and attractive person at the international level. Then he will be able to do a lot inside and outside the country. But what he cannot do is to go alone to a meeting with Vladimir Putin. Such diplomatic meetings take place with the participation of international players. And here he need advisers.