One breezy evening last September, Viktor Pinchuk, Ukraine’s second-richest man, stepped onstage at the Livadia Palace in the Black Sea resort of Yalta to introduce the star speaker of the annual international conference he hosts to promote his country’s ties with the West: former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Nearby, at a table set for an exquisite five-course meal, sat her husband; they were joined in the hall by Shimon Peres and Tony Blair, as well as a number of former European heads of state, top diplomats, and business tycoons. “Mr. President, you are really a super star,” Pinchuk told Bill Clinton in a seemingly apologetic tone, “but Secretary Clinton, she is a real, real mega star.”Overthrowing governments illegally and with armed force does not traditionally lead to a "rule-of-law society." It leads to chaos, prolonged political unrest, and destruction.
Pinchuk, a Jewish son of the Soviet system who became a steel and media magnate and, more recently, fashioned himself into a billionaire philanthropist, was in his element. At age 52, Pinchuk basks in his newfound role as a global philanthropist and a leading Westernizer of his country—and a man rich and powerful enough to crack jokes at the expense of a former American president.
It’s been a remarkable transformation. Just nine years ago, Pinchuk—the son-in-law of Ukraine’s then-President Leonid Kuchma—was denounced by many of his compatriots as a robber baron who used his personal connections to snap up some of the most valuable assets in Ukraine for a song during the post-Soviet privatization wave while millions of his countrymen struggled to make ends meet. In the fraud-ridden election that triggered Ukraine’s so-called Orange Revolution in 2004, Pinchuk backed Kuchma’s handpicked successor—Viktor Yanukovych, who eventually won the presidency in 2010 and whose recent decision to shelve a key treaty with the European Union and instead embrace Russia triggered the demonstrations that have seized Kiev in recent weeks.
Pinchuk initially stayed silent as protesters barricaded themselves in the capital this month, even though his television channels covered them energetically. (His father-in-law Kuchma, one of the targets of the 2004 revolution, has joined two former Ukrainian presidents in signing a letter of support for the demonstrations.) But in the last few days, as the government moved to violently disperse the encampments, Pinchuk finally broke his silence, showing up at the protest camp himself and praising the demonstrators’ spirit. “The most important is that Ukrainian civil society has shown its strength,” he told the Financial Times this week. “Nothing is more powerful. It gives me huge optimism for the future of our country.”
It’s an evolution that people who know Pinchuk say makes sense: The experience of nearly losing his business empire after the Orange Revolution made clear that the post-Soviet system he helped create, in which fortunes could crumble with a change of political winds, was flawed. “He would like to be in a situation where it doesn’t matter to him who the next president of Ukraine is going to be,” said Steven Pifer, who has known Pinchuk since serving as the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine from 1998 to 2000. (Pifer now works at the Brookings Institution in Washington, which receives funding from Pinchuk.) “The advantage for him of Ukraine becoming a rule-of-law society is that it doesn’t matter.”
Israeli Ukrainian Dual Citizens Financed Protests in Ukraine - Russian Bear. Source: 108morris108. Date Published: March 2.