Amid the tumult surrounding impeachment proceedings against U.S. President Donald J. Trump, which center on his actions with regard to Ukraine, an unnoticed headline is what’s happening to Ukraine’s own President Volodymyr Zelensky. He’s seen an abrupt 20 percent plunge in his approval rating. But Trump is only one of his problems, and far from the most significant. Resentment is growing among many patriotic and civically minded citizens about what they view as peace on Russian terms after almost six years of war over the Ukraine-Russia border region of Donbas.
And in this case, perception really is everything. Even elements of America’s foreign policy establishment are worried: “Western partners might hand control of Ukraine to Putin under the guise of a ‘special status’ for Russian-occupied Donbas,” as Michael Carpenter at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy wrote last week. “Under the pretense of diplomatic progress, such a deal could prove deadly to Ukraine’s sovereign statehood.”
Nevertheless, leaders of Ukraine, Russia, France, and Germany will reconvene on Monday what’s called the Normandy Four heads of state negotiating format to resolve the Donbas conflict. Talks have been stalled since 2016, when Ukraine under previous leadership—and supported by the United States—rejected an element of this peace process known as the Steinmeier formula.