Two weeks ago, we noted - with some amusement - that Ukraine has defaulted to Russia on a $3 billion obligation. To be sure, the move wasn’t unexpected.
“I have a feeling that they will not pay us back because they are crooks,” Russian PM Dmitry Medvedev said previously.
Here, in a nutshell, is what happened.
Back in 2013, Putin bought a $3 billion eurobond from Kiev’s Russian-backed President Viktor Yanukovych. As Reuters noted at the time, “Kiev needed cash to cover its external funding gap, while the central bank's currency reserves are depleted by efforts to support the hryvnia and repay foreign debt.”
The deal was closed in December of that year. Two months (nearly to the day) later, Yanukovich was run out of Ukraine by protesters supported by the US and, most notably, by John McCain.
Later, as part of a deal to restructure some $18 billion in debt, the Petro Poroshenko (Yanukovych’s successor) government struck a deal with creditors including T. Rowe and Franklin Templeton that will see creditors take a 20% haircut on the way to improving Ukraine’s debt sustainability. Kiev offered Putin the same deal. Indignant at the prospect of having to take a 20% loss on money loaned to a friendly government but now owed by a country with which Moscow is effectively at war, The Kremlin refused. Ukraine defaulted.
We retell that story in order to provide some context for the following poll from Gallup which shows that incredibly, Poroshenko is now less popular than Yanukovych before he was ousted.
Despite signs last year that Ukraine's then-new president was starting to rebuild Ukrainians' trust in their leadership, President Petro Poroshenko is now less popular than his predecessor Viktor Yanukovych was before he was ousted. After more than a year in office, 17% of Ukrainians approve of the job that Poroshenko is doing. This approval rating is down sharply from 47% a few months after his election in May 2014.
Poroshenko's low approval rating largely reflects Ukrainians' disenchantment with their leadership, which many feel has failed to deliver on what protesters demanded when they took to the streets two years ago. Since the Maidan revolution, Ukraine's economy has been in shambles, the Crimea region joined Russia and fighting between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists in the country's East has claimed more than 9,000 lives.
Poroshenko is not popular in any region of Ukraine.
As low as Poroshenko's approval rating is, fewer Ukrainians have faith in their national government, which many have criticized for its slow pace of reform. Ukrainians' trust in their national government arguably did not have much room to fall, but the 8% who express confidence in their government is only one-third of what it was in 2014 (24%). It is also one of the lowest trust levels Gallup has recorded in Ukraine since 2006.
Just another US foreign policy, regime change success story...