The other day, Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky recorded and distributed a YouTube video message to Russian President Vladimir Putin with a proposal to meet in Minsk and discuss the state of Russian-Ukrainian relations as regards the Crimea and the Donbass region, involving the leaders of the United States, Great Britain, Germany and France.
When looking closely at Zelensky's words as far as the participants of the proposed meeting in Minsk are concerned, you will inevitably conclude that except Ukraine, the mentioned group is nothing short of the UN Security Council's constant composition – the only one missing is China which the Ukrainian President may have hastily forgotten to mention. Looks funny, no matter accidentally or intentionally done by Zelensky's team. It looks like a proposal to hold a retreat session of the UN Security Council on the highest level. A forward-looking proposal, with a two-issue agenda discernible.
One of the points is obvious and overwhelmingly interesting - how to teach Ukraine to get along with its neighbors? Poland and Hungary could be heard while considering the issue. The second point is how to help the Ukrainian authorities find a common language with their population, particularly in the Donbass region. In general, a striking thing is that Zelensky is explicitly afraid of substantive bilateral negotiations. This is why he angles for contacts with the leading Western countries hoping to enlist their support and protection, up to Ukraine's intention to maintain interstate relations only under their supervision.
One cannot but mention the tone of Zelensky's video message. The only proper word to describe it is indiscreet. In addition, the source he used to release it (YouTube) and the wording used ("let's talk") do not imply a serious consideration. The lack of respect for Russia is undisguised. Apparently, Zelensky needs to learn courtesy, otherwise a dialogue is impossible. So far, speaking in a polite tone as a sign of dignity and confidence, is not his cup of tea.
To be sure, his present-day tone in international relations is jauntily flattering towards the leading Western countries, jauntily avuncular towards the neighboring countries and just jaunty towards Russia. Apparently, he never managed to give up his TV image that made him popular. Resorting to the right tone is necessary for Zelensky not only as an external adjustment of his behavior; the more important thing is that it would reflect qualitative changes and indicate movement towards political maturity.
One might assume that Zelensky's words and tone are not intended for international perception at the political level, but are part of his election campaign to be completed as the Verkhovna Rada vote takes place. If this is the way Zelensky addresses his country's electorate after all, he is playing the wrong card and showing disrespect for the Ukrainian voters, considering them unable to perceive another kind of rhetoric. His words can excite emotions, but not affect the feelings and reach out to the souls; and emotions are known to be easily changeable.
Hardly anyone, except the current Ukrainian authorities, would dare refer to Ukraine's international performance as independent. It diligently mirrors the Baltic States' behavior pattern, in particular while seeking subsidies from the EU and other sponsors and offering an aggressive anti-Russian prejudice in exchange, defying their own national interests that are usually understood as population welfare.
Did the Baltic States succeed on this track? Let's abstract ourselves from GDP figures, because in the Baltic States it is mainly created and consumed by foreign capital. Let's consider things determining the quality of life – wages, pensions, social benefits, education, and health care. The Baltic authorities are shying away from accepting illegal immigrants under the EU quotas. One reason is that the benefits paid to immigrants by the EU headquarters are higher than Baltic wages and pensions, and can be hardly explained to the region's population.
Nevertheless, the Ukrainian authorities, despite the above-mentioned obvious facts and recent personnel changes in the upper echelons of power, show no inclination to change this course. They still believe in the need to cadge from the leading countries, instead of pursuing an aggressive Euro-Atlantic policy which will inevitably entail a bright future. However, it is once again worth paying attention to the Baltic countries that, despite their small size and "super-exemplary conduct", are not going to become anyone's dependents. Moreover, their allowances will be cut within the EU. And who will feed Ukraine? Who will bring prosperity to it?
The bottom line of these rhetorical questions is that the time has come for the Ukrainian politicians to realize the necessity of starting to work and break stones. It is obviously not as exciting as portraying themselves as global policy heavyweights. They have to make an effort and take care of their business at full pace, including the historical and territorial context, while appealing to the needs of the population.