Volodymyr Zelenskyy is a forgotten man fighting a forgotten war.
The Ukrainian president’s shooting star has lost much of its altitude and luster as the Russian invasion approaches the two-year mark.
An ancient war has turned into a bitter stalemate. The ballyhooed Ukrainian “offensive” has stalled. The promised “progress” remains stubbornly elusive – if at all. Deadly, tit-for-tat exchanges have unfortunately become the norm. Stoicism replaced anger. However it may be defined, “victory” is more than strategic or even conceivable.
The world, it seems, is tired of Ukraine. Worse, it’s exhausting.
So, columnists who once praised Zelenskyy’s courage and Ukraine’s resistance in saccharine homilies have largely abandoned both.
No more invitations to address Congress or US parliaments, where, dressed in his trademark green pullover, Zelenskyy is celebrated as a badass, unorthodox fighter and savior.
The mass demonstrations of solidarity in the “brave” and “just” fight in Ukraine disappeared months ago.
Ukraine is no longer urgent, sympathetic “news”.
Recently, the only “news” invited by Zelenskyy and Ukraine is mostly bad – courtesy, in part, of bad leaks from a skittish White House.
“Leaked US strategy in Ukraine sees corruption as a real threat,” the spiky headline of the popular online portal Politico reads.
The lead sentence of the story is both damning and an obvious sign that America’s – and, perhaps especially, US President Joe Biden’s – steady affection for plucky Ukraine is beginning to wane.
“Biden administration officials are more concerned about corruption in Ukraine than they publicly admit,” Politico warned.
The blunt, existential consequence of the evolving discontent with “Biden administration officials”?
“… that corruption may cause Western allies to abandon Ukraine’s fight against Russian aggression, and that Kyiv cannot stop the anti-graft effort.”
That’s trouble, big trouble, for Zelenskyy.
He knows, I suspect, that time and circumstances are not his allies. Soon, very soon, his good-time friends in Europe and Washington, concerned, as always, today, will lose interest in the rapid decline of the past. Their “iron will” is slowly, but surely, being transferred by resignation.
When the “will” evaporates, it is inevitable that the money.
And Zelenskyy needs a lot of money to keep a patient Vladimir Putin and his imperial plans going. Untold billions have been spent. Hopes that Congress and the European Union will continue to act as Ukraine’s flush piggy bank are fading. The pan-continental treasury is closing – fast.
So much so, that a grumpy “Biden administration official” was reduced, in effect, to begging for money. That, by any measure, is not a confident or reassuring view.
“I want to be clear: without congressional action, by the end of the year we will run out of resources to buy more weapons and equipment for Ukraine and to provide equipment from US military stocks,” the director of the Office of Management and Budget. of the White House wrote.
“There is no magic pot of funding available to meet this moment. We are running out of money – and almost out of time.”
The panic-tinged gamble has failed, so far, to move reluctant European and North American lawmakers wary of bankrolling a war stuck in the winter mud. A slog. A dead end.
However, the rhetorical resolution of Ukraine is intact. Its foreign minister assured other diplomats gathered in Brussels recently that Ukraine would not “back down”.
“We must continue; we must continue the fight. Ukraine will not back down,” said Dmytro Kuleba. “The issue here is not only the security of Ukraine, it is the security and safety of the entire Euro-Atlantic space.”
His rallying cry had lost its power. The call to shared purpose and goals seems off, like a skip on the record. The foreign minister’s bombast cannot hide the obvious: fatigue has set in.
On the horizon, a disturbing figure and a threat looms. Donald Trump must weigh Zelenskyy’s mind and designs like a heavy, terrifying albatross.
The possible return of pet president Putin to the Oval Office a touch more than a year from now could mean an abrupt end to many things, including the war and Zelenskyy’s career.
Meanwhile, another “war” is draining support for Zelenskyy and his vanishing cause. I think he understands this. He also understands that he has no power to do anything to touch or change Ukraine beyond being irrelevant and on the back page.
Hence the almost desperate plea made last week by NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg to his desperate colleagues to “stay the course”. A course – a common consensus agreed – without a destination.
The murderous madness that engulfed the Palestinians in the battered desert that remains in Gaza and the occupied West Bank, once again, exposes the fraud and gaping hypocrisy of Biden and sycophantic company that opposes Russia’s “aggression” but highlights Israel’s wanton inhumanity and brutality. .
Their defense of international law is a simple deception. Their defense of human rights conventions is a simple deception. Their defense of so-called “territorial integrity” is a convenient deception. Their defense of the supposedly sacred principle of the “responsibility to protect” is a simple deception. Their defense of the rules governing how “wars” are prosecuted and the weapons prohibited from being used against civilians is a convenient trick. Their quick reading of what constitutes a “war crime” is a confusing deception. Ultimately, their opportunistic reading of what constitutes “genocide” is a shameful deception.
Despite the predictable effort from predictable quarters to “distinguish” the horrors in Ukraine from the horrors in Gaza and the West Bank, it has not worked.
Millions of citizens that Biden et al claim to represent made that plain in the streets and promised to make it simple at the ballot box: everyone’s horrors must end.
Unless and until that happens, Zelenskyy faces what he fears most: apathy and obscurity.
That widespread indifference is the product of the myopia and miscalculation of “statesmen” who failed to consider or anticipate the many reactions to their wholesale rush to defend Israel unconditionally.
They are convinced that with the help of the ever-reliable keyboard cavalry that populates the establishment press, their outrageous deception can be buried behind stale, reductive bromides.
They were wrong.
The fate of Ukraine, as a result, has disappeared from most of the consciousness of the world seized, as it were, by the terrible fate of the Palestinians – abandoned by the same selfish powers that, in the appropriate and deliberate course, abandon the Ukrainians.
Volodymyr Zelenskyy knows that too.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial stance of Al Jazeera.