In a recent op-ed for The New York Review of Books, billionaire philanthropist George Soros once again waded into European politics to share some insights on the state of Ukraine since the annexation of Crimea by Russia and the continued violence that intermittently visits that country.
Political pressure has been constant for the European Union in recent years, which has strained their currency’s buying power and questioned the political power of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. This has a lot to due with the frequency of crises in member nations that seem to put the future of the union in jeopardy.
According to Soros, of the many problems the EU faces, Ukraine is the one that deserves the most attention because it is two-fold, placing the EU’s economy under strain and incentivizing antagonism from Russian President Vladimir Putin. Following the Maidan Revolution in February of 2014 and the annexation of Crimea the following March, Ukraine has rejected the rule of political oligarchies in favor of supporting their working class. There is a vacuum of partnership the EU can take advantage of that would benefit them greatly in terms of restoring political faith and establishing new trade deals.
Soros has had extensive dealings in Ukraine through personal investment in the country and his own Ukrainian foundation. Both were precedents in a way for developing strategies he shared with political leaders throughout Europe.
While Putin is using current sanctions levied against Russia in order to boot patriotism by igniting poor opinion of western countries, the EU could similarly combat these perceptions by showing a friendly face to Ukraine. Budgeting effective financial support, including incentives to help their private sector grow and the institution of reforms could make the country an attractive place for investment.
This would also have to include Naftogaz, the Ukrainian gas monopoly. Regulating their current price fixing could help with energy shortages in needy households. This is of particular interest considering the annexation of Crimea had much to do with Russia’s interest in energy control.
Such moves would make the Ukrainian and economic landscapes more fair, which could sway opinion within Russia among dissidents who’ve demanded similar reforms from their government for years. It would act as an effective countermeasure to Russia’s continued disinformation campaign that seeks to discredit all external political messages.
According to Soros, the biggest impediment to institution these reforms that would change the European political landscape and keep Russia in check in the US and EU’s reluctance to back another losing horse. Much like with the Greek crisis, the EU is afraid of placing their currency at greater risk. Then there’s the Minsk agreement following the revolution which has placed many economic restrictions on Ukraine which limit’s the EU’s options.
The bearer of responsibility in the failure to mitigate these circumstances rests with Chancellor Merkel. George Soros has criticized her handling of Greece’s emergency situation by providing meager loans at punishing rates, and rather than institute effective reforms they’ve micromanaged nearly every step of their recovery. So far, Merkel’s administration has continued to treat Ukraine like Greece despite this not being the same situation.
According to Soros, Ukraine, though not an EU member, is standing as a political and economic barrier against Russian aggression. That makes it an invaluable asset that could help the EU shoulder their current needs in housing refugees from the Middle East and contribute to their economy.