Volodymyr Zelensky has been the president of Ukraine for only six months, but he has already learned the importance of tempering his expectations. In only six months he has learned that he cannot put his full trust in anyone.
In a recent interview, he candidly spoke about many things. He shared that he did not expect the first round of peace talks with Vladimir Putin on December 9 to end the war that has waged at the border for years. He added that he no longer expected much from his western allies.
On Saturday he sat down with writers from TIME and shared that despite being caught up in Donald Trump’s impeachment proceedings he knows that Ukraine still needs the U.S.’s support.
He also shared that if Donald Trump continuing to refer to his country as “corrupt” would greatly harm Ukraine’s ability to get financial support from abroad.
“When America says, for instance, that Ukraine is a corrupt country, that is the hardest of signals,” Zelensky said.
He also, again, denied that he and Trump ever discussed a decision to withhold American aid to Ukraine in the context of a quid pro quo involving an investigation into his political rival Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. However, he did question the fairness of Trump’s decision to freeze American military aid.
“If you’re our strategic partner, then you can’t go blocking anything for us,” he said. “I think that’s just about fairness. It’s not about a quid pro quo. I don’t want us to look like beggars. But you have to understand. We’re at war. If you’re our strategic partner, then you can’t go blocking anything for us. I think that’s just about fairness. It’s not about a quid pro quo. It just goes without saying.”
Zelensky made it clear that he was tired of Trump using Ukraine as a political chess piece.
While speaking to reporters at the White House Donald Trump doubled down on his assertion that Zelensky’s statements had exonerated him. He stated that the interview should mean that it’s “case over.”
In response to Trump’s statements Zelensky stated that“I would never want Ukraine to be a piece on the map, on the chessboard of big global players, so that someone could toss us around, use us as cover, as part of some bargain,” Zelensky said. “I would really want — and we feel this, it’s true — for them to help us, to understand us, to see that we are a player in our own right, that they cannot make deals about us with anyone behind our backs.”
Zelensky points out that Ukraine is not alone in having corrupt actors within its government. He added that it would not stop his efforts to work with the U.S. “With all they can do for us, for them really to understand that we are a different country, that we are different people.”