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The Eerie Parallels Between Trump’s America And Ukraine Under Yanukovych

A female candidate for President with a long record of public service is seen as overly ambitious and corrupt. As a “creature of the system,” the woman is thought by many to be out of touch with the needs of everyday citizens.

She faces off against a man with a documented history of wrongdoing, but “tells it like it is” and is thought by many to be a “man of the people.” Although he is not considered to be competent and his past crimes are well documented, enough people see him as “the lesser of two evils” that he wins the election.

No, I’m not talking about America in 2016, this is Ukraine in 2010. The woman, Yulia Tymoshenko, who Ukrainians tend to refer to as simply “Yulia,” much as in America, everyone calls Secretary Clinton “Hillary.”. Despite her widespread reputation for competence, the voters chose Viktor Yanukovych, a man with two past convictions for violent crimes and a well known penchant for corruption.

The parallels don’t stop there either. Both Yanukovych and Donald Trump often expressed admiration for Vladimir Putin and his authoritarian approach. Both hired Paul Manafort to smooth out their image and hone their populist rhetoric. Once in office, Yanukovych jailed his opponent, as Donald Trump threatened to do to Hillary Clinton.

The trend has continued throughout the presidency. Like Yanukovych, Trump has hollowed out the institutions of government and centered power around his family and a small cadre of associates with little or no qualifications other than their loyalty to the President. He has installed commissars to enforce political loyalty among career civil servants, has used his office for his own personal enrichment, attacked the judiciary and shown admiration of the world’s dictators.

Yet if there was any doubt of the peril our country finds itself in, the recent firing of FBI Director James Comey should resolve any question. This is a President that does not seek to uphold our values, our institutions and our Constitution. If anything, he seems hell bent on tearing them down.

Yanukovych turned out to be even worse than expected. His record of incompetence and corruption was unprecedented even in Ukraine, which had never been known for its sound governance. I remember living in Kyiv at the time and noticing how even basic services, like snow removal, seemed to grind to a halt. It was as if the country solely existed to enrich the President and his cronies.

Things came to ahead when Yanukovych backed out of a EU trade deal that had been a key campaign promise and the whole country erupted in what is now known as the Euromaidan protests. The regime brutally cracked down on the protesters, ultimately killing scores of them. Finally, even his staunchest supporters knew he had gone to far. He was ousted and currently lives in hiding, somewhere in Russia.

To be clear, America is not Ukraine and Donald Trump is not Viktor Yanukovych. We have been building our democratic institutions for 240 years and are the most powerful country on earth. Ukraine was dysfunctional long before the election of 2010. Donald Trump, for all of his warts, has never been convicted of a crime, much less a violent one.

Yet none of these things give me much solace. It takes much longer to build institutions, the respect for the rule of law and strong protections for freedom than it does to tear them down. Make no mistake, we have a President in the White House whose administration is being investigated for treason and, so far, he seems determined to do anything in his power to thwart that inquiry.

I have seen this movie before and I have little doubt how it will end. The only question in my mind is how much damage will be done before we take our country back and, like in Ukraine, even Donald Trump’s political allies can no longer stomach his lawlessness.

Written by

Bestselling Author of Cascades and Mapping Innovation, @HBR Contributor, - Learn more at — note: I use Amazon Affiliate links for books.

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