Or “wither Ukraine?” some might suggest? But no, after nearly 30 years of serious economic stagnation and massive corruption, along with losing territory to neighboring Russia with whom it has on ongoing military conflict, things are looking up there. GDP grew at 4 percent annually last quarter. The hryvnia currency has been the second most rapidly rising currency in the world during 2019. There has even been a prisoner exchange with Russia. All this comes under its new president, Volodymyr Zelensky, who until recently was playing a Ukrainian president on a TV show. That sounds like a joke, but so far he seems to be delivering the goods, including an apparent effort to combat the deeply entrenched corruption practiced by both his pro-Russian and pro-EU predecessors.
A curious aspect of this so far successful presidency seems to be the effort by President Trump to undermine it, or at least not help it. $250 million in military aid has been canceled. Is this more payoff to Vladimir Putin for a future Trump Tower in Moscow? There have also been reported efforts led by Rudi Giuliani to get the Ukrainian government to open an investigation into alleged misdeeds by a son of Joe Biden who worked for a Ukrainian company for awhile. There have also been efforts to get them to denny charges made against former Trump campaign manager, Paul Manafort. Rumors are that the military aid is being held up until The Ukrainians deliver on the firrst of these items, which would be pathetic. So far they do not seem to be going along.
I was in Kyiv (Kiev) last weekk for a nonlinear economic dynamics conference and can confirm that the optimistic feelings are shared by Ukrainian economists I met there, some of whom I have known for a long time and who have not been like this in the past. Maybe it will not work out, but for now there definitely is optimism there. Ironically an advantage of not having had much economic growrth over the last 30 years is that there are few modern glass and steel buildings downtown, with many very beautiful per-revolutionary ones there, with sculptures on them and painted bright colors. This goes along with various historical buildings and sites dating back nearly a 1000 years.
I must note that in today’s Washingto Post it was reported that Trump has releasedthe $250 million in military aid for Ukraine he was sitting on as he was facing a bipartisan censure in Congress for holding up the funds.