When Ukraine got dragged into a scandal that could end in the impeachment of U.S. President Donald Trump, it didn't seem like good news – to put it mildly – for the country's anti-corruption crusader president.
Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine's comedian-turned-president elected by a landslide in April, had promised his supporters he would weed out rampant corruption and drain the proverbial swamp, according to POLITICO.
And yet the account released by the White House of the phone call between Trump and Zelensky seems to show another side of him: obsequious and ready to work with the president on his investigation of U.S. Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden. The Ukrainian press quickly dubbed him "Monica Zelensky."
Things went from bad to worse when Kurt Volker, the U.S. special envoy for Ukraine, abruptly resigned soon after. Following on the heels of the removal of U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, who was recalled for not being loyal enough to Trump, it looked like Ukraine had few allies left in Washington.
And yet, it's not all doom and gloom for the embattled country. There are several potential silver linings for Kyiv to the political crisis playing out in Washington.
First off, with all eyes on Ukraine, Trump is unlikely to attempt to strong-arm Zelensky into doing him any more favors. Congress – which unequivocally supports Ukraine over Russia – will be the one determining future policy, not the "quid pro quo" obsessed White House, and the legislative branch is likely to be more sympathetic to requests for military aid and other assistance needed to fight back against Moscow's aggression.
If the backlash against Trump is strong enough and a Democratic nominee goes on to win the 2020 presidential election, the new administration is also likely to take a much more muscular approach to Russia and step up American support for Ukraine.
Secondly, the current turmoil may remind Ukraine it doesn't need to compromise its principles for American support.
American help, after all, is more illusory than real. Ukraine's dreams of NATO membership are still unlikely within the next 10 years. The Javelin anti-tank missiles the U.S. State Department recently approved for sale to Ukraine are purely defensive in nature, as Ukraine is barred from using them on the front lines in eastern Ukraine.
The drama unfolding in the U.S. could offer Zelensky a window of opportunity to seek out alternative solutions to ending the conflict. Zelensky may find he has more leeway to push to de-escalate the situation directly with the Kremlin, instead of giving in to pressure from nationalists who like to pretend that Ukraine can win against a full-scale military assault by Russia.
It's even possible that with Trump facing impeachment and gearing up for a major election race, the U.S. president could decide to throw his weight behind a peace deal between Russia and Ukraine. It would be an opportunity to show the American public that his friendship with Russia's Vladimir Putin can reap political dividends. That's a big "if," but not impossible in this present climate.