Is Trump making the same mistake as Yanukovych did?
While Donald Trump and Viktor Yanukovych, a former president of Ukraine who is hiding in Russia now, are entirely different personalities, there are many similarities in their political careers.
The main electorates of both politics were past-oriented and wanted to achieve social and economic justices. Hence the mottos of presidential campaigns were similar. In Yanukovych campaign, he stated Ukraine would meet social standards that country had lost in the 90s. In Trump’s campaign, he wanted to make America great again by restoring its economic power.
There was also much populism in everything these politics said during their campaigns including blaming previous governments for all sins. Well, that’s not surprising at all, because both Trump and Yanukovych hired the same person, Paul Manafort, to make them elected.
Also, there is an interesting fact that both politics competed with women-candidates during the elections. Both women, Yulia Tymoshenko and Hilary Clinton, held high positions in the government during the election time and both were democracy-oriented. They both were blamed for doing something illegal by their opponents. In the case of Clinton, it was using private email server for official correspondence. In the case of Tymoshenko, it was signing gas contracts with Russia that did not make any economic sense to Ukraine. While Yanukovich was able to get Tymoshenko into jail after he was elected, Trump just said that he would start a prosecution against Clinton when he would become a president.
After being elected both leaders wanted to force some reforms that caused mass demonstration across countries. Yanukovych wanted to push his new taxation reform, which could kill a small business in Ukraine, so people went out on the streets to protect themselves. Fortunately, a compromise was achieved. Trump also went radically and banned people from 6 Muslim countries to enter the US. That also caused mass protests against this, and also a compromise has been later achieved.
However, there have been seen some economic growth during the presidency of both leaders as new jobs were created.
Yanukovych was able to put himself in the position to control all three branches of power. He started with unconstitutional reform that allowed his party to form the majority coalition in the Parliament by “stealing” deputies from other parties that were in the opposition. Then having support in Parliament Yanukovych easily assigned his pawn, Azarov, to be a prime minister. Also, it didn’t take too much time to replace all judges in Yanukovych’s favor.
Trump is behaving more carefully than Yanukovych simply because the democracy institutes in the US are highly developed and not letting him break the rules. However, he is trying to gain more power than he has now by replacing FBI’s director and the federal judges.
Sitting on two chairs at the same time
After Yanukovych had understood that his illegal actions could cause an immense dissatisfaction of the people, he started to lie to them and gave false hopes. He made an illusion that the government is working towards the association agreement with the European Union that many Ukrainians dreamed about. However, when the time came, Yanukovych made everyone understand that it was a bluff and that we would rather make Ukraine join Russia, than EU.
What I see when looking at Trump’s actions is that he is trying to be on the trend of American politics only because he wants to rule the country no matter what. Why does he need this? Now he agrees that the Russia interfered the US elections, he continues to support rebels in Syria, he pushes on the North Korea. At the other point, he is getting out of the climate change agreement, bans Muslims to enter the country, shows that he is a big friend of Putin and that he is ready to cooperate with him on the certain issues.
It looks like Trump wants to satisfy demands of different groups of people even who voted against him by doing things that were not initially part of his program. He has already shown that he can abandon most of his populist ideas to protect himself from being thrown out of the office. However, it is quite possible that when he gets more power and trust from people, he will start doing some crazy and unexpected things as Yanukovych did.
What will happen next?
That’s hard to say. It is easier for Trump to be impeached than for Yanukovych because, as I said, American democracy is more developed. However, if Trump continues to be a president and sitting at both chairs at the same time, it will be likely political suicide for him.
Let’s learn from Ukraine example. Since Euromaidan started in 2013 because Yanukovych changed his political course in urge, liberal groups were radicalized, and the whole society was polarized: while ones supported Russia and Yanukovych, others supported opposition and EU. There were even fights between two groups of people. That was a perfect condition which Russia used to take over Crimea and start aggression in Donbass.
Does America want such scenario? Of course not, and it would not likely to happen. However, the worst consequence of Trump’s presidency would be a long political crisis that can cause the USA to lose its world hegemony. Isn’t it what Russia, China, EU and Israel want?