On the same day that Rudolph Guiliani tweeted how useful Kurt Volker has been in the ex-New York City mayor’s continuing hit job against Ukraine, Volker quit as the U.S. special representative to Ukraine on Sept. 27.
Giuliani was using Volker to prove he was working with the U.S. State Department’s blessing in promoting his wild conspiracy theories that he feeds his client, U.S. President Donald J. Trump.
“Mr. Mayor — really enjoyed breakfast this morning,” Volker messaged Giuliani on July 19, six days before the infamous phone call between Volodymyr Zelensky and Trump, who is now the subject of a U.S. House impeachment inquiry into his attempts to strong-arm the Ukrainian president into investigating ex-U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden. Giuliani tweeted a screenshot of the message.
“As discussed, connecting you here with Andriy Yermak, who is very close to President Zelensky. I suggest we schedule a call together on Monday — maybe 10am or 11am Washington time? Kurt.” Apparently, Giuliani has many such messages from Volker and others in the U.S. State Department.
When will people learn that everyone in Trump’s orbit gets damaged, one way or another, sooner or later?
I have mixed feelings about Volker’s resignation.
His dalliance with Trumps’ hatchet man, Giuliani, was morally wrong, in my view, but he’ll have to justify it to the public and his conscience. He should have told Giuliani to get lost, as the Kyiv Post did in its Aug. 23 editorial condemning Giuliani for what turned out to be true: Trump was trying to condition aid to Ukraine and a White House meeting with Zelensky to the Ukrainian president’s willingness to force Ukrainian prosecutors to investigate the Bidens.
His help to Giuliani came months after Trump’s lawyer savaged ex-U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie L. Yovanovitch with false accusations, including that she interfered with Ukrainian prosecutors, leading to her abrupt removal in May.
And Volker’s help came months after Giuliani started spinning wild, baseless conspiracy theories about Ukraine interfering in the 2016 U.S. presidential election on behalf of Hillary Clinton and Joseph Biden trying to kill an investigation into Burisma, the shady energy company on whose board Hunter Biden was paid $50,000 monthly for five years.
What was Volker thinking?
Either Volker’s moral compass was off, or, as some people think more charitably, he was intervening to minimize the harm that Trump and Giuliani would do to Ukraine. In fact, he is said to have tried to help Zelensky and his administration “navigate” Giuliani’s demands and “contain the damage,” according to the whistle-blower’s complaint. This activity, if true, may have meant that it was just a matter of time before U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo fired Volker anyway.
If so, Volker could be a really valuable witness in the upcoming House impeachment inquiries.
As for Volker’s role “leading U.S. efforts to achieve lasting peace in Ukraine,” as he puts it in his Twitter account (dormant since Sept. 20) he ends it in failure, not his fault, but he was not able to stop Russian President Vladimir Putin. Some of the reasons why Volker was useless in ending Russia’s war in his role since July 2017 may yet come out in the Putin-Trump phone calls that the White House is guarding as state secrets.
But from my point of view, the Kremlin didn’t respect Volker in his part-time, volunteer role, which he took at the assignment of fired U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
He made no headway with Russian leaders and, to my knowledge, he hadn’t met with Putin aide, Vladislav Surkov, in many months. His recent attempts to meet with Kremlin leaders were rebuffed. And it makes sense. Why meet with Volker, when Putin has Trump in his pocket? It is also highly likely that Putin didn’t think much of Volker, given his association with the late U.S. Sen. John McCain, who despised the Kremlin leader. Volker was on leave as executive director of the McCain Institute for International Relations.
Another problem I had with Volker was that, while he talked a lot to journalists, he avoided independent media outlets with deep knowledge of Ukraine, where journalists would ask tough questions. He seemed to prefer Ukrainian news organizations aligned with ex-President Petro Poroshenko or whose agencies employed journalists who asked softball questions.
On the plus side, Volker articulated the Ukrainian story very well. He was a one-man wrecking ball when it came to debunking Kremlin propaganda. This was essential in keeping the U.S. Congress, both Republicans and Democrats, well-informed. He did seem to enjoy bipartisan respect. Volker helped keep U.S. government policy in support of Ukraine, even when it seemed Trump didn’t want to do so.
There’s a very instructive interview with Volker published on Sept. 27, the day of Volker’s resignation, by the Columbia Journalism Review, written by Keith Gessen. In the story published under the headline “How I missed the Ukraine story.” Volker gives Gessen insights into Trump’s thinking about Ukraine. They ring true and they are pretty ugly.
Trump has “a built-in, negative bias against Ukraine. He thinks it’s corrupt, they’re all terrible people, it’s a horribly corrupt country, you can’t fix it, and it’s not worth it,” Volker told Gessen, who is researching a book on U.S. policy in post-Soviet times. Trump’s horrible attitude toward Ukraine is what many of us in Kyiv have suspected all along.
At the time of last summer’s interview, Volker told Gessen he was “very, very happy” in his role. That would make Volker very, very unhappy today. He defended his decision to work with the Trump administration this way:
“If he wins,” he recalled telling his “never Trump” Republican colleagues. “He’s going to need good people in government. So why put all their names on a blacklist?”
And today, Volker stands as yet another victim of the Trump era, joining a long list of distinguished officials who have been fired or who quit, ending public service in frustration or disgrace. He likely won’t be the last one to leave before the destructive presidency of Trump is brought to an end, one way or another.
Let’s hope he soon tells the whole story, honestly and as he sees it, publicly.