Billionaire investor Soros, the chairman of Soros Fund Management and the Open Society Foundation, has been a vocal supporter of Western assistance to Ukraine.
The country was thrown into chaos in 2014. Political upheaval ushered in a new government in Kiev and a Russian invasion led to the loss of Crimea to Moscow. Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine unleashed intense violence.
Given these political and military crises which upended much of the country’s establishment, including its businesses and it was no surprise the Ukrainian economy faltered badly. By early 2015, according to Soros’ commentary in the New York Review of Books, the country was experience a balance of payments crisis, a public debt crisis, and a banking crisis.
Beginning at the onset of the crisis, George Soros was a frequent commenter. He repeatedly used his public profile both to condemn Russian aggression in Ukraine and to argue for a much stronger European response to the crisis.
As early as February 2014, Soros was writing op-ed pieces urging a unified European response to the crisis, noting how Russia had adopted a much more strategic posture towards Ukraine than the member states of the European Union had done. In particular, Soros argued that powerful German Chancellor Angela Merkel needed to act decisively to address the crisis.
While Soros continued to urge European action on the Ukrainian crisis throughout 2014, including this May 2014 article, he was particular vocal in early 2015, when the economic crisis reached a boiling point.
George Soros – Forbes
Perhaps his most poignant exhortation, co-written with the French philosopher Bernard Henri-Levy, waxed poetic about the birth of a “new Ukraine” in the wake of the Maidan uprising and Russian aggression. Addressing the need for an immediate tranche of $15 billion in aid from Europe, Soros argued that foreign support was required to give Ukrainian leaders the space to implement radical reforms.
Beyond that $15 billion tranche, Soros strongly supported a much larger package. This proposal, outlined in the New York Review of Books, was designed to create a stable situation going forward, allowing Ukraine to become desirable to investors instead of barely staying afloat.
At the same time, Soros recommended technical support to match the financial commitment. Such support would have, in Soros’ view, allowed Ukraine to apply the $50 billion investment more effectively, pruning the size of government and emphasizing government services that created space for businesses to grow and create jobs.
More than simply assist Ukraine, Soros endorsed Ñ despite somewhat mixed feelings Ñ sanctions against Russia for its’ aggressive posture towards Ukraine.
When Soros’ March 2015 policy recommendations were not heeded Ñ only a small tranche of funds was released, the country experienced dramatic pressure on its currency, and Russia and Ukraine reached the Minsk agreement and he again turned to his pen.
In an October 2015 piece, Soros urged German Chancellor Merkel to “do whatever it takes” to bolster the new Ukrainian government. As he had argued throughout the crisis, Soros again made the case that this demanded greater financial and technical support.
Learn more about George Soros: