British government, Ukraine crisis, and London billionaires

This video says about itself:

London = Divorce: UK welcomes sue-happy oligarchs

20 November 2012

London Mayor Boris Johnson has urged the super-wealthy to use the city’s courts to sue — a wink and nod directed at recent high-profile cases involving Russian oligarchs — though the UK publicly discourages so-called “libel tourism.”

By Solomon Hughes in Britain:

Great Game of the oligarchs

Friday 2nd May 2014

Behind the Ukraine conflict are post-Soviet billionaires often residing in London, says SOLOMON HUGHES

If David Cameron really wanted to make a strong protest against Russia’s takeover of the Crimea, he has a big weapon to hand. Thanks to the growth of powerful business oligarchs in the former Soviet Union, and the business links between Russia and the West which they enjoy, economic sanctions would hit hard.

But it looks like Cameron, who has been keen to spill blood in other international disputes, is much more reluctant to spill money. Because the oligarchs and Putin-friendly businessmen have a major presence both in the City and among Tory party donors, Cameron is not really backing what would be a relatively effective protest. There is no real prospect — thankfully — of western military action in the Ukraine.

But Cameron, who backed war in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, would rather wave an ineffective sabre over Crimea than take some financial action. Wasting lives is fine for Cameron but wasting his City friends’ money would never do.

I think Russia’s Ukrainian intervention is a very bad thing. The right of nations to self-determination is one of the first building blocks of democracy — it’s hard to build popular sovereignty if you can’t even rely on having a stable country. We are used to seeing the ugly side of nationalism — there is plenty of it in the Ukrainian conflict — but nationalism rose alongside the democratic revolutions of the 19th century precisely because the popular revolutionaries felt they needed to have stable nations which could be controlled by their populations. Up until then national borders were sold and swapped and seized between kings, princes and emperors.

But the other building block of democracy is social democracy. It’s no good just having votes over parliaments if all the other parts of society — the economy, the police, and the courts — are an oligarchy. That’s why everyone from Rosa Luxemburg to Clement Attlee thought of themselves as “social democrats” — although their plans to make society more democratic differed.

All the former Soviet states suffer from a surfeit of oligarchs. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, people were hit with economic “shock treatment.” As they suffered, oligarchs grabbed hold of former state assets at bargain prices, becoming fabulously rich, and dominated society.

Some used their former positions in the Communist Party elite, some used fraud and some used outright gangsterism — like the “aluminium wars” of the 1990s, when oligarchs fought for control of Russia’s metal factories with guns and car bombs.

The Ukraine has its oligarchs, like Rinat Akhmetov and Dmitry Firtash. Akhmetov’s System Capital Management firm controls vast swathes of Ukraine’s steel, mining and industrial wealth. Firtash made his money by controlling the gas Ukraine imports from Gazprom. It’s not clear what Firtash added to the trade, but he took away a lot of money which he used to buy, among other things, a TV station.

You can get an idea how much money these men squeezed out of the Ukraine by looking at their houses. They dominated Ukraine, but live in London. Akmehtov lives in a £136 million apartment in One Hyde Park, the luxury development of Tory donating developers Candy & Candy. Firtash also lives in London and helps fund Cambridge University. Firtash’s associates also donate to the Tories.

These oligarchs undermined Ukrainian politics. In a diplomatic cable leaked by WikiLeaks, US embassy staff describe the Akhmetov-funded Party of the Regions — the party of deposed President Yanukovych — as made up of “pure criminals” and “long a haven for Donetsk-based mobsters and oligarchs.”

In another WikiLeaks cable Firtash is quoted admitting to working with Russian gangster Semyon Mogilavech to build his empire. Both men have since denied the content of the leaked cables.

Both men backed Yanukovych. Firtash’s block of MPs — he is so rich he has his own gaggle of parliamentary cronies — supported Yanukovych even as he enacted the “dictatorship laws” with which he hoped to crush rising protests.

The “Euro-maidan” demonstrations were in part fuelled by anger at “corruption” — by the way the oligarchs bought politicians, squeezed cash out of the Ukraine and left people poor. They overthrew Yanukovych. Since then things have not gone well.

It’s not uncommon for rebellions based on “anti-corruption” to be grabbed by the right — so for example Silvio Berlusconi came to power in Italy on the back of popular disgust with widespread Italian corruption in the “Tangentopoli” — or “Bribe City” — scandals.

The various right groups have similarly built political power in Kiev on the back of the corruption, then fall, of Yanukovych.

Putin’s political programme was in part a response to the economic anarchy of the Russian oligarchs. He stabilised Russia by prosecuting, imprisoning and marginalising some oligarchs whose pursuit of cash was destabilising Russia. But he did not replace them with social democratic power from below. Instead, he replaced them with more compliant oligarchs, binding them all with Russian nationalism and a dash of Orthodox churchiness.

Faced with the Ukrainian turmoil — and crass attempts by Nato powers to exploit it — Putin decided to increase the strength of the Russian state with the Crimean incursion and support for further pro-Russian protest in eastern Ukraine.

So the problem of oligarchs exploiting society has been transformed into competing nationalisms fighting on Russia’s border, with outside powers trying to get a foothold. It is only some exaggeration to say this is pretty much how the first world war started.

There isn’t any easy way out, but I think any decent solution is one which offers stability by giving more economic and social power to the people of Ukraine, less to the oligarchs, and reduces regional rivalry.

The West should not be making mischief by proposing to extend Nato ever closer to Russia. IMF-style loans won’t help, as they just further the “shock treatment” that made Ukrainian oligarchs so rich and Ukrainian people so poor.

If they want to take an economic stand, the West can start pressing on the oligarchs who have done so well from economic disruption of the former Soviet Union. It isn’t hard to find them — just look in the hedge funds and luxury properties in London.

And anyone whose voice can reach Putin, including the Russian people, should speak against military adventures in Ukraine. It doesn’t solve the economic needs of either the Russians or Ukrainians.

Ukraine reinstates military draft as NATO threatens Russia: here.

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3 thoughts on “British government, Ukraine crisis, and London billionaires

  1. With a democratic and social alliance against the Kiev regime and NATO

    The resistance of the eastern population against the reactionary pro-western government
    in Kiev has to be supported both from a democratic as well as an anti-imperialist point
    of view. Why the people should bow to neo-fascist right-wingers, pro-western nationalists
    as well as anti-Russian capitalists? It is incorrect to automatically suppose that the
    revolt would want to restore the rule of Yanukovych and its capitalist clique which are
    responsible for social misery also in the Donbass region.


    A presentation of Borotba, a Ukrainian popular anti-capitalist force

    The new authorities by all possible means try to prevent democratic referendums over the
    issue of self-governing in South-eastern regions – where protests against new regime are
    glowing. New rulers of Ukraine try to present these protests as only ‘pro-Russian’ or
    ‘inspired by the Kremlin’, but the union ‘Borotba’ is effectively fighting for wringing
    them out of the influence of pro-russian nationalism. We are irreconcilable opponents to
    the Putin’s regime that our Russian comrades are fighting with. We are against war and
    any interference into Ukrainian conflict as it may trigger the military confrontation of
    two imperialisms. Expecting the intensification of the current crisis, we are getting
    ready to take part in the process of organization of mass protests against anti-social
    reforms and far-right terror of new authorities. And in this context any international
    support is rather crucial for us. We are thankful for your attention and solidarity.


  2. Pingback: United States Vice President’s son grabs at Ukrainian gas money | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  3. Pingback: British millionaires richer, millions poorer | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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