Welcome to the U.S. Future—It Looks a Lot Like the Ukrainian Past

Trump’s Shakedown Makes Washington Just Another Racket

Police officers stand guard during an anti-corruption rally in front of Ukraine’s parliament in Kiev, October 2016 Valentyn Ogirenko / Reuters

The impeachment inquiry into U.S. President Donald Trump has pulled my homeland, Ukraine, into the spotlight, and more Americans are talking about it than ever before. Yet few see it clearly. Some still call it—wrongly—“the Ukraine,” and few seem willing to spell the name of our capital the way that we do, which is “Kyiv.” Others foster grave misconceptions regarding Ukraine’s multicentury struggle against Russian colonial rule or about its continuing war against a Russian invasion.

Many Americans point out to me that the scandal involving Trump’s misconduct in a call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will never really be about Ukraine: it is all about the integrity of democracy in the United States. 

I disagree. This scandal is all about Ukraine, but not in the way most Americans expect.

Since the Trump-Zelenskyy call went public, many Americans have come to use the word “Ukraine” interchangeably with “corruption.” Let’s get the facts straight: Ukraine is not the most corrupt place on earth. According to Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, at least 60 countries are doing much worse than Ukraine. Among them are Russia, Mexico, Nigeria, and Iran. Moreover, Ukraine has recently made audacious anticorruption reforms and elected new leadership on the fiercest anticorruption platform in the country’s history.

My homeland used to be dreadfully corrupt, however. So corrupt that it robbed my parents’ whole generation of any chance at a decent life. Corruption robbed me of opportunities as well. But I’m not here to make you care about Ukraine’s multi-decade struggle with corruption. Rather, I think that understanding certain features of the corrupt Ukrainian past could shed some light on political corruption in today’s United States. 

Understanding certain features of the corrupt Ukrainian past could shed some light on political corruption in today’s United States. 

When I looked through that infamous readout of the phone call between Zelenskyy and Trump, I had a powerful flashback to my past in eastern

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