Ukrainians Protest Oligarchic Rule that has Stripped the Country of its Wealth
NO ADVERTISING, GOVERNMENT OR CORPORATE FUNDING
DONATE TODAY
 $115,248


  December 16, 2013

Ukrainians Protest Oligarchic Rule that has Stripped the Country of its Wealth


Economist Jeffrey Sommers says that although pro-EU Ukrainians have legitimate grievances, they have little to gain from trade agreements that would ultimately transfer ownership of industry to outside actors
Members don't see ads. If you are a member, and you're seeing this appeal, click here
   


audio

Share to Facebook Share to Twitter



The Real News is a vital answer to The New York Times, the house organ of the oligarchs. - Al Salzman
Log in and tell us why you support TRNN


biography

JEFFREY SOMMERS is an associate professor and Senior Fellow of the Institute of World Affairs at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He is also visiting faculty at the Stockholm School of Economics in Riga.  He is co-editor of the forthcoming book The Contradictions of Austerity. In addition to CounterPunch he also publishes in The Financial Times, The New York Times, The Guardian, TruthOut and regularly appears as an expert on global television.


transcript

Ukrainians Protest Oligarchic Rule that has Stripped the Country of its 
WealthJAISAL NOOR, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Jaisal Noor in Baltimore.

Massive demonstrations are continuing in Ukraine over the government's push for closer economic ties to Russia versus the E.U. After U.S. Senator John McCain addressed demonstrators in Kiev Saturday, he told NBC News on Sunday the U.S. Congress could pass sanctions on Ukraine if it signs a trade agreement with Russia.

Now joining us to discuss this is Jeffrey Sommers. He's an associate professor and senior fellow of the Institute of World Affairs at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He's also visiting faculty at the Stockholm School of Economics in Riga.

Thank you so much for joining us.

JEFFREY SOMMERS, ASSOC. PROF., UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN-MILWAUKEE: Sure.

NOOR: So can you talk about why John McCain traveled to the Ukraine, why he cares so much if the Ukraine signs a trade agreement with Russia or the E.U., and what elite U.S. interests are at stake here?

SOMMERS: Well, John McCain essentially has been fighting the Cold War even after the Cold War's been over for some 20 years. So for some four decades he has actually been engaged in this protracted struggle against the Soviet Union and now its post Soviet Union incarnation in Russia. Essentially, he's interested in making sure that a Russian state does not get reconstituted, which could include some of the other former Soviet republics.

Now, this has geopolitical implications for U.S. interests in terms of ensuring that there's not a very, very strong bloc in Eurasia that controls this vast store of energy and minerals and brings into its orbit the countries around its border.

McCain has been very active in terms of trying to break Belarus, trying to get Lukashenko out of power. Of course, he was very active in terms of supporting Saakashvili and the republic of Georgia, and had some part, really, in instigating the state of affairs in the Republic of Georgia which led to the disastrous little war that occurred there a couple of years ago.

So this is just all part of his ongoing efforts in the region.

NOOR: Now, talk about what's driving these protesters, which are focused mostly on Western Ukraine, to oppose the closer ties with Russia and why they want closer ties to the European Union. And the deal with Russia will be part of the Customs Union, which is the Eastern European equivalent to the E.U.

SOMMERS: Sure. Well, Ukraine is a deeply divided country. If you think about the economy of the United States prior to the Civil War you see something analogous to the Ukraine today, although it was even worse--or, I should say, it's even worse today in Ukraine than it is [incompr.] the situation that we had before the Civil War in the United States. It's a country which has half of its population more or less linked to the economic interests in terms of heavy industries supplying the economy of Russia with both raw materials, leather goods. And then, of course, you have Western Ukraine, which is really not linked into that Russian economy in the same way that the Eastern part of the country is. And ethnically it's different as well. So you have a very, very significant ethnic division.

Now, in terms of the protesters in West Ukraine, I actually have a lot of sympathy with them. They've been misruled by an oligarchy for the past two decades in post-Soviet Ukraine that's done nothing but just strip the country of its wealth and sent it off via offshore financial structures to banks in Latvia, Cyprus, London, etc. So the country has not been developed. Its wealth has been looted.

And so you have a young population that feels as if they have nowhere to turn to, as if they need some kind of external solution to their problems. And I very much sympathize with that. I just don't think that it's going to come through the E.U. as the trade agreement was constituted.

NOOR: And can you break down the role of energy and gas pipeline politics in the region? It's been widely reported now that the Ukrainian president is going to meet with Russian President Putin to discuss a possible deal with Gazprom, who currently supplies Ukraine with 60 percent of its gas supplies.

SOMMERS: Well, this, of course, has always been an important issue throughout Eurasia, and that is the transportation or the transshipment of energy, although becoming a little bit less significant as new energy drilling technologies are coming online. But still, nonetheless, quite important. It's over the course of the past couple of decades. Ukraine has served as one of the primary transshipment pipelines for natural gas from Russia, which goes through Ukraine, which then goes to Europe, the European Union. So they are very concerned about making sure that those supplies are safe and secure.

Ukraine has been more or less pilfering gas from these pipelines for a couple of decades, and the Russians have more or less just had to put up with this. But also they've been playing hardball with Ukrainians by charging them really, really quite high prices for gas, which Ukraine really cannot afford. So now Ukraine is carrying some significant debt, in part because of very, very high prices. Russia is now offering to bring those prices down, trying to [incompr.] break and perhaps, you know, create a more sustainable situation.

NOOR: Finally, I want to end with a question that isn't often discussed in the mainstream media: what would a economic deal or economic reform in Ukraine look like that would actually benefit the people of Ukraine?

SOMMERS: I'm so glad you asked that question. That's the important one that's never asked. There's nothing wrong intrinsically with an agreement with the E.U. or the Russian customs union, and there's no reason that one cannot have an agreement with both, but it has to be a very different agreement. It has to be one which delivers resources to Ukraine, which is still a relatively poor country. It has to develop its economy in the fashion of, say, China over the past 30 years or, say, Japan in much of the 20th century. You need an agreement which invites investors in to partner with Ukrainian enterprises, not to buy Ukrainian enterprises up, but to partner with the Ukrainian create enterprises and help them develop the country.

An E.U. agreement, if one was signed, it should deliver significant structural funds to develop the country's infrastructure. It should have an agricultural regime of supports that doesn't drive Ukrainian farmers out of business, nor that just merely turns them into only exporters of grain to markets in the West. So an agreement which really develops Ukraine. And as Ukraine develops and produces goods, it therefore would have something to trade, and all parties would benefit. Everyone would become more prosperous as a consequence.

But that's not how trade agreements are constructed today. So, essentially I'm talking about a post-World War II Marshall plan for Ukraine and the kinds of trade agreements that were signed at that time, not just in terms of the aid, but in terms of how the actual trade agreements are constructed.

NOOR: Jeffrey Sommers, thank you so much for joining us. And we'll certainly keep following this story.

SOMMERS: Thank you.

NOOR: You can follow us @therealnews on Twitter, Tweet me questions, comments, story ideas @jaisalnoor.

Thank you so much for joining us.

End

DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.



Comments

Our automatic spam filter blocks comments with multiple links and multiple users using the same IP address. Please make thoughtful comments with minimal links using only one user name. If you think your comment has been mistakenly removed please email us at contact@therealnews.com

latest stories

Paul Jay On Our Need For Monthly Donors
Trump's Labor Pick is Millionaire CEO Who Blames Workers for Their Poverty
Baltimore City Council members Defend Resolution Condemning Trump's Bigotry
Climate Scientists Speak Out Against Trump's Plans to Cut NASA Funding
Green Party of Canada Adopts Endorsement of Sanctions Against Israel
Political Prisoner Leonard Peltier Facing Potentially Fatal Medical Emergency
New Anti-BDS Bill in Senate Would Criminalize Criticism of Israel
Why Thousands Are Staying in Standing Rock Despite Army Corps's Decision to Halt the #DAPL
The Real News of the Day - Friday, December 9
Trump Nominee for Homeland Security John Kelly Favors Draconian Immigration Policy
New Baltimore Mayor Plans Regional Approach to Problems Like Poverty and Drug Addiction
Vijay Prashad: The Battle for Aleppo is Over
Should the Electoral College Be Abolished?
Trump Picks Leading Climate Denier to Head EPA During Time of Climate Crisis
Following Oakland Fire, Baltimore Evicts Residents of DIY Arts Space
The Real News of the Day - Thursday, December 8
The People's Tribunal on the Iraq War, Day One: Philip Giraldi
Trump Taiwan Phone Call Not an Impulsive Act
There's No Issue More Burning Than Creating Our Global Climate Change Bureau
U.S. Planned to Go to War with Japan and Germany Before Pearl Harbor Attack
The Real News of the Day - Wednesday, December 7
Anti-Government Carson to Lead Dept. of Housing and Urban Development
UN Admits Fault in Haiti's Cholera Outbreak as Country Faces Prospect of Famine
The Real News of the Day - Tuesday, December 6
The People's Tribunal on the Iraq War, Day One: John Kiriakou
The People's Tribunal on the Iraq War, Day One: John Cavanaugh
Austrian Presidential Election Shows How United Front Politics Can Defeat the Far Right
Standing Rock Cautiously Optimistic Following Denial of Easement For Dakota Access Pipeline
Italian Referendum Defeat is No Victory for the Right Wing
The Global Networks of the Resurging Far Right

TheRealNewsNetwork.com, RealNewsNetwork.com, The Real News Network, Real News Network, The Real News, Real News, Real News For Real People, IWT are trademarks and service marks of Independent World Television inc. "The Real News" is the flagship show of IWT and The Real News Network.

All original content on this site is copyright of The Real News Network. Click here for more

Problems with this site? Please let us know

Linux VPS Hosting by Stack Star Hosting