Thursday, November 6, 2014

George Soros is Bullish on Ukraine and Says Europe Should be Too

Petro Poroshenko President of Ukraine

Ukraine, which gained its independence upon dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, has been much in the news since the Sochi Olympics.  I wrote about Ukraine generally before the Olympics here, and I wrote about Russia and its winter Olympics here and here.

I also wrote about John Mearshimer and his real-politik view of international relations, which leads him to suggest the West should leave Ukraine in Russia's orbit here.

Since the Olympics, Ukraine has been busy.  They have had a peaceful revolution--ousting Russian aligned president Viktor Yanukovich and replacing him with a newly elected government headed by president Petro Poroshenko.  Russia has annexed Crimea, and Russia has invaded the industrial Eastern region of Donetsk and Luhansk. The Ukrainian government in Kiev and rebels have fought a low grade war. In the process a Malaysian airliner with 300 people aboard was shot down over Eastern Ukraine this last July. After several months of escalating fighting Russian supported rebels and Kiev signed a ceasefire agreement on September 5, 2014.

The situation is tenuous.

Last week (Nov. 3) the Donetsk rebels proceeded with an election considered illegal by Kiev.  In response Kiev is stopping $2.6 billion in public sector wages and pensions to the rebel held areas.  Russia continues to train and support rebel forces. There is sporadic fighting.

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In the current issue of the New York Review of Books, George Soros chimes in on Ukraine. Soros has personal experience. He established a foundation there in 1990 with a Ukrainian board and staff and has visited the country many times, most recently this year "to witness the birth of the new Ukraine."  He vouches for its promise and potential if only we would provide the necessary support.
"[Upon my visit this year] I was immediately impressed by the tremendous improvement in maturity and expertise during that time [the last decade] both in my foundation and in civil society at large. Currently, civic and political engagement is probably higher than anywhere else in Europe. People have proven their willingness to sacrifice their lives for their country."  
He thinks Europe should back up Ukraine. His view appears to be that nation building would be a more rewarding exercise in Ukraine than in Iraq and Afghanistan (to take our most recent disappointments). We should do this by providing direct assistance to Ukraine, not by imposing sanctions on Russia. Sanctions, Soros says, are not effective and they also drag down Europe. If we assist Ukraine by providing weapons, training, support personnel, IM F loans, and trade we would stimulate the European economy.  A win-win.

A win-win so long as it doesn't lead to full out armed conflict with Russia.

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