Win­ners & losers of 2018 Yalta Euro­pean Strat­egy

Kyiv Post - - Opin­ion - BY KYIV POST

Ed­i­tor’s Note: The fol­low­ing as­sess­ment is from Kyiv Post jour­nal­ists who cov­ered the 15th an­nual Yalta Euro­pean Strat­egy in Kyiv, held Sept. 13–15, and spon­sored by Ukrainian bil­lion­aire oli­garch Vic­tor Pinchuk. For the fourth year, the Kyiv Post was a me­dia part­ner of the event. Peo­ple can form their own opin­ions from watch­ing videos from the con­fer­ence speak­ers at yes-con­fer­ence.org

WIN­NERS Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko

Last year, Ukraine’s pres­i­dent looked to be on the po­lit­i­cal ropes and ob­struct­ing rule of law and stand­ing in the way of needed re­forms. He mocked the idea of an anti-cor­rup­tion court, for in­stance, say­ing that Amer­ica doesn’t have such an in­sti­tu­tion. Ex-U.S. Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry called him out on this is­sue, say­ing that, in Amer­ica, all courts are anti-cor­rup­tion courts. The con­trast is stark: In Ukraine, judges are dis­trusted, take bribes and don’t dis­pense jus­tice — of­ten, to the con­trary, they pro­tect the cor­rupt in power. This year, how­ever, Petro Poroshenko em­braced the anti-cor­rup­tion court and por­trayed him­self as its cham­pion. He is ob­vi­ously hop­ing that vot­ers will have a short mem­ory by the time they vote for a new pres­i­dent or vote to re-elect him in March 2019. Poroshenko’s chances of re­elec­tion are look­ing brighter all the time for at least two rea­sons: A weak po­lit­i­cal field with only singer Slava Vakarchuk as the po­ten­tial fresh new face that Ukraini­ans are seek­ing. If Vakarchuk doesn’t run, Poroshenko’s top two chal­lengers are ex-Prime Min­is­ter Yu­lia Ty­moshenko and ex-De­fense Min­is­ter Ana­toly Gryt­senko. Not only are they not new faces, they will have a hard time beat­ing Poroshenko.

Yu­lia Ty­moshenko Mem­ber of the Ukrainian par­lia­ment, 2019 pres­i­den­tial can­di­date

The two-time prime min­is­ter looked good com­pared to moder­a­tor Stephen Sackur, who suf­fered from a lack of de­tailed knowl­edge about Ukrainian pol­i­tics. She bat­ted away his crit­i­cism of her op­po­si­tion to hik­ing house­hold gas prices, say­ing she’s all for mar­ket prices if the en­ergy sec­tor was truly com­pet­i­tive. In­stead, it’s dom­i­nated by oli­garchs who would gain an un­de­served fi­nan­cial wind­fall from mar­ket prices, she said. The prob­lem with Ty­moshenko is that she’s Ty­moshenko. Most peo­ple re­mem­ber how she got her for­tune in the 1990s un­der the tute­lage of con­victed crook and ex-Prime Min­is­ter Pavlo Lazarenko. Her stints as po­lit­i­cal pris­oner un­der ex-Pres­i­dent Leonid Kuchma and ex-Presi- dent Vik­tor Yanukovych are un­likely to con­vince a ma­jor­ity of vot­ers to back her can­di­dacy. Rather than see­ing new ideas from her, vot­ers will likely see the same old Yu­lia — some­one who many of them dis­trust and detest.

Go­gol Bordello Amer­i­can gypsy punk rock band

The YES Con­fer­ence’s clos­ing act show­cased the best Ukraine has to of­fer: ram­shackle cre­ativ­ity, scream­ing diver­sity, and a lit­tle bit of chaos. The Go­gol Bordello, a New York-based “gypsy punk” band whose front­man, Eu­gene Hutz, hails from the Kyiv sub­urb of Bo­yarka, fin­ished off the con­fer­ence with a 90-minute set of the band's great­est hits. Fans and the unini­ti­ated alike were given the chance to not only ex­pe­ri­ence the group’s sig­na­ture mix­ture of Ukrainian folk, punk, and reg­gae up close, but also got to see ag­ing Ukrainian and for­eign muck­ety mucks let loose on the dance floor. The Go­gol Bordello won the show with its en­ergy — giv­ing the con­fer­ence’s ex­hausted par­tic­i­pants a well-de­served send­off.

Stephen Sackur Host of BBC World News HARDtalk

Stephen Sackur is more cheer­ful at the YES con­fer­ence than he is on the BBC’s HARDtalk show. The skilled TV host knows how to keep an au­di­ence en­ter­tained and how to ask the right ques­tions.

Per­haps he could have done a lit­tle more home­work and asked the Ukraini­ans who are most likely to be run­ning for pres­i­dent in Ukraine’s up­com­ing elec­tions — Svy­atoslav Vakarchuk, Yu­lia Ty­moshenko and Ana­toliy Gryt­senko — tougher and more spe­cific ques­tions.

But he didn’t leave out the most im­por­tant ques­tion, one that has be­come his stock ques­tion for four years run­ning: Name one “big fish” put in jail for crime or cor­rup­tion? Prose­cu­tor Gen­eral Yuriy Lut­senko gave the typ­i­cal re­sponse of Ukrainian of­fi­cials — shift the blame on some­one else..

Sackur also gave a chance for an­other jour­nal­ist, from the Kyiv Post, to ask a ques­tion to Lut­senko in front of the au­di­ence, a rar­ity at the YES con­fer­ence.

Too bad Sackur wasn’t the moder­a­tor for Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko. In­stead, it was Richard Haas, pres­i­dent of the Coun­cil on For­eign Re­la­tions, who asked mun­dane ques­tions.

Kurt Volker U.S. spe­cial en­voy to Ukraine

While Kurt Volker lacks pow­ers and hasn’t per­suaded Rus­sia to call off its war against Ukraine, he’s smoked out the Krem­lin’s lies and ar­tic­u­lated the truth of the sit­u­a­tion so per­sua­sively that Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin has lost all cred­i­bil­ity on the in­ter­na­tional stage when it comes to the Ukrainian is­sue.

Fa­reed Zakaria Host of CNN Fa­reed Zakaria GPS

Fa­reed Zakaria brings a charm and class wher­ever he goes and it was no dif­fer­ent at the 15th YES con­fer­ence in Kyiv. Zakaria, an In­dian-Amer­i­can jour­nal­ist who grad­u­ated from Yale in 1986, was also the man­ag­ing ed­i­tor of For­eign Af­fairs at the age of 28 and later got Ph.D. in gov­ern­ment from Har­vard Univer­sity. But with such high aca­demic ranks, Zakaria keeps a hum­ble ap­proach as he min­gled among Ukraine’s elite. He’ll talk to any­one and re­tains a big smile all the time. And de­spite his un­der­stand­ing of global pol­i­tics, Zakaria is still up-to­date on what is go­ing on in Ukraine. He un­der­stands that Ukraine’s big­gest prob­lem is not the Krem­lin but the coun­try’s cor­rup­tion. He is also no fan of U. S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and has a strong sus­pi­cion of his pres­i­dent’s ties with the Rus­sians.

Ker­sti Kalju­laid Pres­i­dent of Es­to­nia

The Es­to­nian leader got one of the evening ses­sions on the first day of the YES con­fer­ence but none­the­less man­aged to gather an au­di­ence and keep them hooked un­til the end. Es­to­nia has been able to build a dig­i­tal na­tion where 99 per­cent of pub­lic ser­vices are avail­able on­line. But in­stead of just tout­ing her coun­try’s ac­com­plish­ments, Kalju­laid spent most of her time ex­plain­ing the ad­van­tages of tech­nol­ogy for any so­ci­ety to the far less tech savvy for­mer Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Tony Blair us­ing the most ba­sic ex­am­ples: “Moth­ers with ba­bies can work from home, young girls from Africa can learn from the book­keep­ers in the Nether­lands, e-gov­ern­ment in­creases gov­ern­ment trans­parency,” etc.

When Kalju­laid spoke of Es­to­nia’s first biobank of its cit­i­zens’ DNA, which helps study and pre­vent genetic dis­eases, and “e-iden­tity,” which al­lows Es­to­ni­ans to vote from any­where in the world, Blair looked in­tim­i­dated. Com­pared to him, Kalju­laid ap­peared re­lat­able and rel­e­vant. It clearly ex­posed the gen­er­a­tion gap be­tween them — both in age and po­lit­i­cal vi­sion. Kalju­laid also mocked Blair for his ten­dency to­ward long-winded ques­tions, say­ing “I will re­ply in a lit­tle less com­plex, house­wife-ish way.” She also al­luded to Bri­tain's tra­di­tional so­cial class di­vi­sions, when talk­ing about the equal­is­ing power of tech­nol­ogy and mer­i­toc­racy.

“The best tool to fight pop­ulism is to cre­ate egal­i­tar­ian ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem. There are peo­ple who go to bad schools, then get bad jobs with bad salaries, and their kids go to bad schools. So there's no so­cial mo­bil­ity,” Kalju­laid said. “And tech­nol­ogy will help. Re­gard­less where a child lives or re­gard­less who their par­ents are, ev­ery child has a right to get ed­u­ca­tion and be able to en­ter any univer­sity. I can't de­fine pop­ulism but I see peo­ple who have lost hope that their chil­dren will have a bet­ter fu­ture.”

Vic­tor Pinchuk bil­lion­aire oli­garch

Vic­tor Pinchuk is no saint de­spite pulling off the 15th an­nual Yalta Euro­pean Strat­egy con­fer­ence by hir­ing big names such as CNN host Fa­reed Zakaria, BBC host Stephen Sackur and U2 front­man Paul Hew­son, bet­ter known as Bono.

Last year, the Kyiv Post grudg­ingly made Pinchuk as a win­ner of the event, and this year he’s a win­ner for the se­cond year in a row be­cause, aside from the Kyiv Post Tiger Con­fer­ence (to which we’re bi­ased in fa­vor), YES is the best con­fer­ence in Ukraine and has raised the na­tion’s pro­file in­ter­na­tion­ally. Boy­cotting it, as the Kyiv Post did for its first sev­eral years, is fool­hardy for jour­nal­ists, given all the news­mak­ers and ex­cel­lent de­baters as­sem­bled in one room.

Pinchuk was also a spon­sor in 2017 of the Kyiv Post Tiger Con­fer­ence Top 30 Un­der 30 Awards, set­ting him­self up — along with $125 mil­lion in char­i­ta­ble con­tri­bu­tions — as a pro­moter of Ukraine’s younger gen­er­a­tions. And he has cer­tainly helped a lot of peo­ple.

But Pinchuk has a hard time win­ning fa­vor in his home na­tion, no mat­ter how much money he lays out for in­ter­na­tional celebri­ties.

Peo­ple in Ukraine haven’t for­got­ten how he got rich un­der the au­to­cratic decade-long reign of fa­ther-in-law Leonid Kuchma, pres­i­dent from 1994–2005, when nepo­tism, cor­rup­tion and opac­ity ruled. Peo­ple suf­fered while Pinchuk and the rest of the oli­garch class came into bil­lions of dol­lars while stran­gling com­pe­ti­tion in the econ­omy and en­sur­ing that the law served them, not the peo­ple. As usual, no­body brought up the Sept. 16, 2000, mur­der of jour­nal­ist Ge­orgiy Gon­gadze, in which Kuchma was the prime sus­pect, an in­ves­ti­ga­tion he and Pinchuk were well-po­si­tioned to ob­struct and ob­fus­cate.

Oli­garchs cre­ate the im­pres­sion that the econ­omy needs them. But Western democ­ra­cies work in a dif­fer­ent way. Let Ukraine de­velop a strong mid­dle class and the na­tion will at­tract Bono our­selves, but this time for a con­cert where hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple can at­tend and not just the elite few.

Michael McFaul For­mer U. S. am­bas­sador to Rus­sia (2011– 2014)

Michael McFaul, the for­mer U.S. am­bas­sador to Rus­sia, would have a more re­cep­tive au­di­ence if he was less ego­tis­ti­cal. No won­der Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin couldn’t stand him. If it’s al­ways all about Michael “Me” McFaul, as it is usu­ally is when he talks, he quickly be­comes in­suf­fer­able.

Sergii Leshchenko, Svit­lana Zal­ishchuk, Mustafa Nayyem Mem­bers of the Ukrainian par­lia­ment (2014–present)

These are three fa­vorite re­form­ers of the new gen­er­a­tion of Ukrainian lead­ers and the Kyiv Post re­spects the trio for their moral courage, es­pe­cially dur­ing the au­to­cratic rule of Pres­i­dent Vik­tor Yanukovych. But much more is ex­pected of them in speeches, at con­fer­ences and, most im­por­tantly, in lead­ing the na­tion. Their lunchtime speech at YES was full of plat­i­tudes about need­ing to cre­ate the rule of law, demo­cratic in­sti­tu­tions, fight cor­rup­tion and so on. The re­marks would have gone over well in 2014, the year that Yanukovych high­tailed it to Rus­sia dur­ing the EuroMaidan Revo­lu­tion. But this is 2018, and the trio needs to de­liver, in­clud­ing call­ing peo­ple out by name and root­ing out all these cor­rupt schemes. Lest any­one for­get, they are part of Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko’s dom­i­nant 135-mem­ber fac­tion, which has kept the oli­garchy in place. Some­times they seem too def­er­en­tial to the pow­ers that be and ei­ther too com­fort­able with the sta­tus quo or too en­am­ored with their star sta­tus.

Alek­sander Kwa niewski Pres­i­dent of Poland (1995–2005); Chair­man of the YES Board

Do the ends ever jus­tify the means? Maybe for­mer Pol­ish Pres­i­dent Alek­sandr Kwas­niewski knows the an­swer. Half­way through the YES con­fer­ence, news broke of Paul Manafort’s guilty plea. The for­mer Party of Re­gions ap­pa­ratchik’s guilty plea re­vealed that Kwas­niewski had taken money from Manafort as part of the so-called “Haps­burg Group,” an as­sort­ment of for­mer Euro­pean politi­cians hired to lobby on be­half of the Party of Re­gions. In Kwas­niewski’s case, how­ever, he was not “for­mer” any­thing — at the time he was al­legedly tak­ing cash from Manafort, he was on a sup­pos­edly in­de­pen­dent Euro­pean Par­lia­ment mon­i­tor­ing mis­sion to in­ves­ti­gate the pros­e­cu­tion of for­mer Prime Min­is­ter Yu­lia Ty­moshenko.

In Manafort’s and Kwas­niewski’s de­fense, the work was done in fa­vor of in­te­gra­tion with the Euro­pean Union, at the cost of Brus­sels agree­ing to over­look the pros­e­cu­tion of for­mer Prime Min­is­ter Yu­lia Ty­moshenko and the mass loot­ing of Ukraine.

The regime that Manafort and Kwas­niewski ef­fec­tively sup­ported ended up go­ing down in flames over its re­fusal to sign a po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic as­so­ci­a­tion agree­ment with the Euro­pean Union — but not be­fore mur­der­ing more than 100 pro­test­ers dur­ing the EuroMaidan Revo­lu­tion and rob­bing the coun­try of $40 bil­lion.

Yanukovych is gone, the as­so­ci­a­tion agree­ment is signed, and Ty­moshenko is now free, while

Kwas­niewski is bur­nish­ing his rep­u­ta­tion as some­one only in­ter­ested in mak­ing as much money as he can — from Pinchuk, from Manafort, from the shady Burisma en­ergy com­pany and from who­ever else he is pock­et­ing cash.

Tony Blair United King­dom prime min­is­ter (1997–2007)

He’s been in a non-stop pur­suit of money, rak­ing in mil­lions of dol­lars while serv­ing as an ad­viser to some of the most odi­ous peo­ple on the planet, in­clud­ing Kaza­khstan au­to­crat Nur­sul­tan Nazarbayev. We’re told that he’s heck­led and jeered on the streets of London. No won­der he’s be­come such a glo­be­trot­ter com­mand­ing six-fig­ure hon­o­rar­i­ums. All the bet­ter to avoid stay­ing in Eng­land.

Yuriy Lut­senko Prose­cu­tor Gen­eral (May 12, 2016– present)

The road from po­lit­i­cal prison to po­lit­i­cal sell­out is an ugly one. Lut­senko gave an­other com­mand­ing per­for­mance in show­ing that he is clueless and in­com­pe­tent about the job he’s sup­posed to be doing — prose­cut­ing crime and cor­rup­tion. He suc­ceeds in us­ing his post to pro­tect the wealthy and pow­er­ful, no mat­ter what crimes they’ve com­mit­ted. He tried to claim at YES that he can only go af­ter low-level cor­rup­tion — at the deputy re­gional gov­er­nor level and be­low. He said the big fish are for the cor­rupt and dis­cred­ited Spe­cial Anti-Cor­rup­tion Prose­cu­tor’s Of­fice. Not true, ac­cord­ing to our un­der­stand­ing of the law. And, if true, the two agen­cies should be work­ing to­gether to tar­get the big­gest crimes against the state. But they’re not. In­stead, Lut­senko is fish­ing around for jour­nal­ists’ phone records as part of his mis­sion for the cor­rupt elite to take down Artem Syt­nyk, the head of the Na­tional Anti-Cor­rup­tion Bureau of Ukraine, for the temer­ity of ac­tu­ally in­ves­ti­gat­ing cor­rup­tion cases with in­de­pen­dence and tenac­ity. Lut­senko leads a use­less and cor­rupt pros­e­cu­tion ser­vice that should be dis­man­tled. They should all be sent to study how real pros­e­cu­tors work by tak­ing lessons from U.S. spe­cial coun­sel Robert S. Mueller.

Larry Sum­mers Pro­fes­sor at Har­vard Univer­sity

The years have not been good to Larry Sum­mers. Once hailed on the cover of Time mag­a­zine as part of the “Com­mit­tee to Save the World,” the for­mer U.S. trea­sury sec­re­tary’s rep­u­ta­tion has plunged with the po­lit­i­cal for­tunes of the in­equal­ity-spurring poli­cies he de­signed. Fi­nan­cial dereg­u­la­tion in the United States led to the fi­nan­cial col­lapse, while he worked on the in­fa­mous “shock ther­apy” doc­trines that left mil­lions im­mis­er­ated across the for­mer Soviet Union.

And yet, judg­ing from his re­marks at YES, Sum­mers is happy to cash in. Tak­ing money from some­one like Vic­tor Pinchuk — whose In­ter­pipe busi­ness be­gan in the 1990s by trad­ing on ar­bi­trage be­tween state and com­mer­cial pipe prices — would seem like it should be anath­ema to a sup­posed free mar­ket guru like Sum­mers, but hey, it’s just busi­ness.

Most of the dis­cus­sion cen­tered on the pres­i­dency of Amer­ica’s Don­ald Trump, whose elec­tion in 2016 still baf­fles. Sum­mers did strike a note of con­tri­tion, al­beit with­out rec­og­niz­ing any role he might have played in cre­at­ing the con­di­tions that led to Trump.

And yet, his ad­vice evinced no re­flec­tion. Apart from desul­tory pleas to lessen mas­sive wealth in­equal­ity through global tax­a­tion agree­ments, it was a mix­ture of subtly de­flect­ing blame and more of the same poli­cies for the “in­creas­ingly bur­dened” U.S. mid­dle class (who did the bur­den­ing?) that’s he’s been ad­vo­cat­ing (and im­ple­ment­ing) for decades. Even for some­one with an al­ready tar­nished rep­u­ta­tion, it was grim to get an up-close look at who’s been in the driver’s seat.

YES com­mit­tee

The YES or­ga­niz­ing com­mit­tee needs to up­date its guest list and bring new faces. Ev­ery year we see a pre­dictably sim­i­lar ros­ter of speak­ers who are “for­mer” some­thing or an­other. Some reg­u­lar speak­ers, such as ex-United King­dom Prime Min­is­ter Tony Blair and ex-NATO Sec­re­tary Gen­eral An­ders Fogh Ras­mussen, bring less value to the con­fer­ence with each pass­ing year as they be­come more di­vorced from the re­al­i­ties that ex­isted when they were in power. The con­fer­ence is also over-sched­uled and suf­fers other lo­gis­ti­cal flaws, in­clud­ing the lack of quiet rooms for in­ter­view­ing and work, al­though the con­fer­ence — as we’ve said re­peat­edly — is one of the best in Ukraine, which is why the Kyiv Post re­mains proud to be a me­dia part­ner.

Par­tic­i­pants of the 15th Yalta Euro­pean Strat­egy an­nual con­fer­ence pose for the group pho­to­graph dur­ing the first day of the con­fer­ence on Sept. 14. (Sergei Illin/YES)

Ukraine's for­mer Pres­i­dent Leonid Kuchma (L) and oli­garch Vic­tor Pinchuk lis­ten to United States Spe­cial Rep­re­sen­ta­tive for Ukraine Ne­go­ti­a­tions Kurt Volker speak dur­ing one of the pan­els at the Yalta Euro­pean Strat­egy con­fer­ence on Sept. 15 in Kyiv. (Sergei Illin/YES)

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