IN April, Ukrainian voters took a desperate gamble and elected as their president a television performer who played a humble 30-something school teacher, Vasyl Prtrovych Holoborodko, on a show called ''Servant of the People.''

On the show, a rant by Mr. Holoborodko against Ukraine's culture of corruption had gone viral, capturing the mood of a young country profoundly frustrated by the state of affairs and ready for change.

The question ever since has been whether Volodmyr Zelensky, the comedian who played Mr. Holoborodko and now leads Ukraine, is indeed the idealistic, modest and scrupulously honest corruption-buster whose guiding thought as president is :

''One should act in a way that doesn't evoke shame when looking into children's eyes. Or their parents'. Or yours.''

The infamous reconstructed transcript of Mr. Zelensky's telephone conversation with President Trump does evoke embarrassment.

The Ukrainian enthusiastically demeans himself before Mr. Trump, calling him a ''great teacher,'' joining him in trashing European leaders, bad-mouthing the American ambassador, Mr. Trump fired for all the wrong reasons and pledging to work on the investigations that Mr. Trump was seeking for his own political ends.

But whether that performance was Mr. Zelensky revealing his real self or his Holoborodko character colliding with crude reality is a tough call.

Ukraine, as Mr. Zelensky has noted is fighting two wars - one against entrenched corruption fueled by coterie of oligarchs, the other against rebel secessionists in eastern Ukraine propped up by Russia.

Contrary to what Mr, Trump and Mr. Zelensky said in their phone call, the European Union has been supportive of Ukraine, financially and diplomatically.

But only the United States can supply the military muscle Ukraine needs to resist Russia, and in Mr. Zelensky's view, only a meeting with the president of the United States would establish the standing and stature he required.

Mr. Zelensky was probably aware that Mr. trump continued to regard President Vladimir Putin of Russia as a soul mate; he may have been equally aware of Mr. Trump's disdain for Ukraine and belief in discredited far-right conspiracy theories that claimed Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election on behalf of the Democrats.

He may have been appraised of Mr. Trump's comments about Ukrainians after a briefing by the American delegation to Mr. Zelensky's inauguration :

''They're terrible people. They're all corrupt, and they tried to take me down.''

The young Ukrainian leader is jammed between the rock of Vladimir Putin's aggression and the hard place of President Trump's demands.

The honor and serving of the latest global thinking on politics and affairs of international relations, continues. The World Students Society thanks the authors, the editorial staff at NYT.


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