By Ben Norton / Geopolitical Economy Report
Ukraine’s Western-backed leader Volodymyr Zelensky sent a love letter to US companies, thanking “such giants of the international financial and investment world as BlackRock, JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs” for buying up his country’s assets.
“Everyone can become a big business by working with Ukraine”, he enticed, claiming that the reconstruction of his nation “will be the largest economic project of our time in Europe”.
Zelensky likewise praised the Starlink company of billionaire Elon Musk for its technological support, and he called for more Western weapons shipments, including Patriot missiles and Abram tanks.
The Ukrainian leader delivered these remarks in a January 23 video address to US corporate lobby group the National Association of State Chambers.
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“We are defending freedom and property”, Zelensky declared, portraying the proxy war between NATO and Russia in Ukraine as a battle for the soul of the Western-led capitalist order.
Zelensky’s government has imposed some of the world’s most aggressive anti-worker policies, passing legislation that “deprives around 73% of workers of their right to union protection and collective bargaining”, which even the US government-funded Solidarity Center of the AFL-CIO labor federation condemned as a “significant assault on worker rights in Ukraine“.
Zelensky’s staunchly anti-worker, anti-union, and pro-corporate ideology came through clear in the neoliberal rhetoric of the speech he gave to the US chamber of commerce organization.
He compared governing Ukraine to running a business, and thanked the corporate executives at the conference “for this opportunity to address those who create the globally important economic strength of America”.
The Ukrainian president’s office published on its official website a transcript of the speech, titled “After the end of the war, American business can become a locomotive of global economic growth”.
“Thanks to the leadership of the United States of America, which has consolidated the world in defense of freedom, we see how to win this battle”, Zelensky effused.
The speech sounded less like the words of a stateman and more like an advertisement by a used car salesman – except he is not selling cars; he is selling his country to foreign mega-corporations.
Zelensky boasted (emphasis added):
We have already managed to attract attention and have cooperation with such giants of the international financial and investment world as Black Rock, J.P. Morgan and Goldman Sachs.
Such American brands as Starlink or Westinghouse have already become part of our, Ukrainian, way.
Your brilliant defense systems – such as HIMARS or Bradleys – are already uniting our history of freedom with your enterprises. We are waiting for Patriots. We are looking closely at Abrams.
Thousands of such examples are possible!
And everyone can become a big business by working with Ukraine. In all sectors – from weapons and defense to construction, from communications to agriculture, from transport to IT, from banks to medicine.
I believe that freedom must always win. And, I invite you to work with us right now.
In comments clearly seeking to appeal to US conservatives, Zelensky also used the speech to repeatedly condemn “the Iranian regime”, which he demonized as Russia’s “terrorist ally”.
Zelensky was addressing the 2023 winter meeting of the National Association of State Chambers in Boca Raton, Florida.
The Indiana Chamber of Commerce tweeted proudly, “Our President Kevin Brinegar is among state chamber leaders at the National Assocation of State Chambers winter meeting in Florida hearing from Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. He thanked U.S. business leaders for support and for promoting free enterprise”.
Ukraine and its Western sponsors plan aggressive neoliberal shock therapy
In September 2022, Zelensky symbolically rang the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange via video stream.
The Ukrainian leader declared that his country was “open for business”, with more than $400 billion in “investment options”.
At the same time, Zelensky published an editorial in the Wall Street Journal calling on Western corporations to “Invest in the Future of Ukraine”.
Kiev’s economic ministry launched a program called Advantage Ukraine, which it boasted offers profitable “public private partnerships, privatization and private ventures”, with the help of a “USAID-supported project team of investment bankers and researchers”.
The Ukrainian government cited corporate executives at Google, Alphabet, and Microsoft, who urged more Western companies to buy up the country’s assets.
Geopolitical Economy Report has also reported on the Ukraine Reform Conference and Ukraine Recovery Conference, meetings in which Western governments and corporations have met with top Ukrainian officials to plan aggressive neoliberal shock therapy – like the kind that was imposed on the Russian Federation in the early 1990s, which led to 3.2 million excess deaths, according to UNICEF.
In a meeting in Switzerland in July 2022, Western and Ukrainian government representatives published economic blueprints that called for Kiev to cut labor laws, “open markets”, drop tariffs, deregulate industries, and “sell state-owned enterprises to private investors”.
Zelensky has used the emergency of the war to ram through harsh anti-labor legislation, suspending collective bargaining rights and essentially making it illegal for most workers to form a union.
Economist Michael Hudson compared Zelensky’s extreme neoliberal policies to those of Chile’s far-right US-backed former dictator Augusto Pinochet.
In December 2022, Zelensky held a video conference with billionaire Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager.
In a press release, the Ukrainian government made it clear that BlackRock is overseeing its reconstruction process.
Zelensky’s office said BlackRock will “advise the Ukrainian government on how to structure the country’s reconstruction funds”, and is “coordinating the efforts of all potential investors and participants in the reconstruction of our country, channelling investment into the most relevant and impactful sectors of the Ukrainian economy”.
This means that, under Western tutelage, Ukraine has essentially privatized and outsourced its economic policy to BlackRock, one of the world’s most powerful corporations.
BlackRock, which manages more than $8 trillion in assets, is a robber baron’s oligopolistic dream. The “big three” US asset managers BlackRock, Vanguard, and State Street are the largest shareholders in nearly 90% of S&P 500 companies.
Ukraine’s vice prime minister and minister of digital transformation, Mykhailo Fedorov, published a video in July 2022 that clearly illustrated Kiev’s neoliberal vision for the future.
The Ukrainian government’s economic plan looked like a scene out of a libertarian science-fiction film, where everything is privatized and corporations are free to exploit anyone without any regulation.