George Soros on Ukraine: Europe Is Sleeping Through Its Decisive Fight

Billionaire investment magnate and pro-democracy philanthropist George Soros has sounded what he says is a wake-up call to Europe (and to the United States) over a failure to see that it is “facing a challenge from Russia to its very existence.” You can read here his full 3,200-word essay for the New York Review of Books, or take in his main points, below:

  • Russia’s assault on Ukraine is an attack on Europe.  It undercuts “the values and principle on which the European Union was originally founded,” and “is based on the use of force …as opposed to the rule of law.”
  • The US has failed to help. Poroshenko’s visit to Washington last month “gave President Poroshenko a façade of support with little substance behind it.
  • Putin will make a post-election attempt to negotiate for a degree of control in Kyiv. He will “offer Poroshenko the gas [supplies for the winter] and other benefits he has been dangling on condition that he [Poroshenko] appoint a prime minister acceptable to Putin. That would exclude anybody associated” with Ukraine’s pro-European, pro-democracy, anti-corruption forces in the Maidan movement.
  • If talks fail for Putin, he may expand his invasion of Ukraine. He may seize the south of the country to gain a land route to Russian-occupied Crimea or Transnistria.
  • He may also offer a ‘Grand Bargain’ that the US should reject. Putin may offer to help against ISIS in exchange for a free hand in the former Soviet space. But “preserving the independence of Ukraine should take precedence; without it, even the alliance against ISIS would fall apart. The collapse of Ukraine would be a tremendous loss for NATO, the European Union, and the United States.” And encourage Putin to seek fuller Russian domination of Europe.
  • The West has failed to see the opportunity in the “new Ukraine” forged by a new generation at the Maidan. “The resistance on the Maidan was led by the cream of civil society: young people, many of whom had studied abroad and refused to join either government or business on their return because they found both of them repugnant.” This patriotic, engaged, new Ukraine is “adamantly opposed” to the return of the old-style, corrupt government, but it also is fragile.
  • Europe should spend to help Ukraine—and the EU economy. “It is high time for the members of the European Union to wake up and behave as countries indirectly at war. They are better off helping Ukraine to defend itself than having to fight for themselves. One way or another, the internal contradiction between being at war and remaining committed to fiscal austerity has to be eliminated.” The IMF should immediately provide $20 billion in new support for Ukraine.
  • And Europe needs a broad re-think. “It is also high time for the European Union to take a critical look at itself. There must be something wrong with the EU if Putin’s Russia can be so successful even in the short term. … The European Union would save itself by saving Ukraine.”

Image: A firefighter hoses down a blaze set by protesters opposed to a government cleanup of their longtime encampment at Maidan Nezalezhnosti. Ukraine’s economic crisis in the eight months since the Maidan ousted the corrupt regime of President Viktor Yanukovych has left many Ukrainians impoverished, dispirited and especially fearful of the coming winter. As Ukraine elects a new parliament, billionaire George Soros and former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt wrote this week that the fate of Ukraine will determine much of the fate of Europe. (Reuters/ Konstantin Chernichkin)