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Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

Brzezinski says Ukrainian oligarchs should share their wealth with people

27 February, 2014 - 10:49
Photo by Kostiantyn HRYSHYN

There is no denying the possibility of the Euromaidan becoming the breakthrough Ukraine has badly needed to occupy a place worthy of its glorious past and current gruesome realities in the community of European nations. Today, however, the bottom line is economic crisis which is getting from bad to worse. Europe and the United States appear to be prepared and willing to lend Ukraine a helping hand, but like Russia, they are expecting the emergence of a new administration capable of running this country. Its emergence was announced this week and I hope to God this administration will prove effective.

There are doubts, however, and I believe these doubts are shared by the West. The Financial Times carried Zbigniew Brzezinski article entitled “Russia needs to be offered a ‘Finland option’ for Ukraine.” The learned politician and analyst wrote that it was “even more urgent and important… for the EU to formulate a significant financial emergency package for Ukraine. Otherwise, the country will plunge into a destructive financial chaos. The lead in Europe should be taken in that regard especially by Germany and the UK. The latter’s role as haven for Russian and Ukrainian financial oligarchs gives London special leverage. But every EU country should make some sacrifice in an effort to avert a potentially catastrophic Ukrainian economic collapse. The Europeans and especially the UK might be more inclined to undertake such a collective effort if the top 10 Ukrainian oligarchs – principal beneficiaries of the country’s stunningly widespread corruption – were all ‘persuaded’ to donate one billion dollars each to their country’s financial rehabilitation. Mr. Yanukovych’s fabulously wealthy dentist son should be able to match the resulting 10 billion dollars. The Ukrainian public would certainly welcome such a collective contribution… Irrespective of what happens in the near future, I continue to believe that sooner rather than later Ukraine will be truly a part of democratic Europe. Later rather than sooner, Russia will follow unless it isolates itself and becomes a semi-stagnant imperialistic relic.”

The Day’s experts were markedly cautious about commenting on such recommendations.

Oleksandr OKHRIMENKO, president, Ukrainian Analytical Center:

“Theoretically, the Ukrainian oligarchs could invest more than a billion dollars in the domestic economy, but this could happen if the new administration could persuade them that there would be no re-privatization or grabbadization… This is precisely what they need. Then they would start investing. They would have to make sure that what has been divided/redistributed will remain so, that there will be no abrupt changes, no re-grouping. In that case Mr. Brzezinski’s recommendations could be translated into reality. Few know – and even fewer realize – that the Ukrainian oligarchs have kept investing in this country all this time. Back in 2013, their investments totaled some five billion hryvnias (not dollars, though). They invested in their businesses, but if one compares the situation to that in 2005, the sum total approaches 12 billion dollars. They are rich and they will keep investing after making sure no one will take away their wealth.”

Volodymyr PANCHENKO, director, International Center for Policy Studies:

“These people do not have the instinct of self-preservation (this subject is being investigated) and I don’t believe that either of them will part with a billion [dollars for the good of Ukraine]. If they had this instinct, they wouldn’t let our economy fall apart. This is history, more than ten years old. Nothing has worked out. Capitalization with the oligarchs kept on a downward curve. A man who worked for them explained the situation to me, saying that regular businessmen start by purchasing equipment and launching their businesses, but with the oligarchs that was not the beginning but the end. They bought equipment with central budget money, paying twice the price, getting their cut of the pie, not giving a hoot about the consequences. I have been monitoring our oligarchs for 15 years. No self-preservation instinct. I don’t believe that any of them will do anything for the good of Ukraine… they even lack the analytical facilities [to properly assess the current situation]. Even [Rinat] Akhmetov has no one to tell him what should be done for his own good under the circumstances. Instead of making the right kind of decisions, they rely on emotions and hearsay.”

Oleksandr PASKHAVER, president, Center for Economic Development:

“I believe that the Ukrainian oligarchs, being true to their nature, will meet the new administration halfway – they will have proposals. Such is the nature of any kind of capital. The rich must make friends with those ‘upstairs.’ I don’t know how this will be done in Ukraine. Paying a billion dollars isn’t a problem for any of them. I believe that they will pay, even if not for the patriotic cause. As an economist, I can state that a moneyed patriotic proprietor should manifest his attitude by paying from his own pocket. Capital per se must remain untouchable. Capital spells money invested into businesses that make more money, etc. Money can – and should be – spent when it comes to self-preservation. Of course, anyone can be a true patriot, but I’m talking about oligarchs as a special category, not the man in the street.”

Andrii NOVAK, chairman, Committee of Economists of Ukraine:

“Honestly, I’m not sure that our oligarchs will respond to Mr. Brzezinski’s message and part with billions of dollars for the sake of Ukraine. They could do so only if and when being sure of getting something for themselves that would make up for their spending, like business projects approved by government, at a profit. They are sure to act that way. They will pay, making a media-attractive gesture, but the big question is: who will receive or pocket their money; how their investments into specific business projects will be implemented?”

By Vitalii KNIAZHANSKY, The Day