West prepares to plunder post-war Ukraine with neoliberal shock therapy: privatization, deregulation, slashing worker protections
While the United States and Europe flood Ukraine with tens of billions of dollars of weapons, using it as an to advance their belligerent foreign policy.
In his report “Woke Imperium
: The Coming Confluence Between Social Justice and Neoconservatism,” former US State Department officer Christopher Mott discussed the growing use of left-liberal social-justice talking points to legitimize and enforce Western imperialism.
Mott observed that the “liberal Atlanticist tendency to push moralism and social engineering globally has immense potential to create backlash.”
Western-backed liberals in post-socialist Europe have spent three decades creating a false dichotomy between either a liberalizing cultural project that can only be realized under US-led trans-Atlantic hegemony and neoliberal economic reforms, or a purely fictional socialist past whose political legacy is somehow reflected in right-wing anti-communist nationalist parties attempting to roll back advances that women had achieved under socialism.
Despite its patent absurdity, this narrative has won adherents among younger liberal intellectuals, especially in Central and Eastern Europe, who have little or no memory of the socialist period, and who face increasingly desperate career prospects outside of the Western-backed ideological apparatus.
On the other hand, right-wing nationalists like Hungary’s Viktor Orban posture as the only defenders of their countries’ cultural sovereignty against hostile outsiders, while also refusing to break from neoliberal capitalist orthodoxy.
In turn, organic local activists struggling for legitimate social justice causes find themselves portrayed as agents furthering the agendas of foreign powers.
At best, during peacetime, this undermines their work and hinders progress for their causes. In a country like Ukraine, where Western governments
have supported far-right
, neo-fascist groups
and eight years dragging out a civil war, this is life-threatening.
In Ukraine, what’s even left to loot?
On May 9, 2022, the US Congress passed the Ukraine Democracy Defense Lend-Lease Act, greatly expanding Washington’s authority to provide military aid to Ukraine.
Lend-lease provisions originated during World War II and were used by the US government to provide military aid to countries fighting Nazi Germany, including Britain and the Soviet Union, without formally entering the war.
Under this framework, the US provides military equipment as a loan; if the equipment is not or cannot be returned, recipient governments are on the hook to pay back the full cost.
The Joe Biden administration explained its use of lend-lease by the need to quickly move the bill through Congress before other funding ran out.
While many North Americans protested what they saw as a pointless giveaway of tens of billions of taxpayer dollars to a foreign country, lend-lease provisions are loans, not grants.
Britain, one of the United States’ closest allies, only finished paying back its 60-year-old lend-lease debt
in 2006. Russia settled
its former Soviet obligations the same year.
Given this historical precedent, Ukraine will likely be saddled with debts it can’t readily pay back – debts extended to corrupt Western-backed elites under wartime duress. This means US financial institutions will have further collateral to impose neoliberal structural adjustment policies on Ukraine, subordinating its economy for years to come.
Washington and its allies have a long history of instrumentalizing debt to force countries to accept unpopular pro-Western policy changes, and difficulties of repayment often compel countries to accept even more debt, leading to debt trap cycles that are extremely difficult to escape.
It was in fact the International Monetary Fund
, and specifically the refusal of Ukraine’s democratically elected President Viktor Yanukovych to accept IMF demands that he cut wages, slash social spending, and end gas subsidies in order to integrate with the EU, which led him to turn instead to Russia for an alternative economic agreement, thus setting the stage for the Western-backed “Euromaidan protests” and eventually the 2014 coup.
International Monetary Fund played a crucial role in precipitating #UkraineWar https://t.co/AXXCULv0Gn
— The Leaflet (@TheLeaflet_in) March 5, 2022
Meanwhile, in the current war, Moscow and Russian-backed separatist fighters are occupying and may annex what were historically the most industrialized regions of Ukraine, located in the east.
At the same time, much of what remained of the country’s pre-war industrial base has been physically destroyed by the war. And these same regions hold much of Ukraine’s energy resources, notably coal.
Millions of people have Ukrainians and are unlikely to return, especially if they are able to access work visas in the EU. Young and educated people are the least likely to stay.
The situation is even bleaker when one considers that, well before Russia’s February invasion, Ukraine was already the poorest country in Europe.
While Soviet Ukraine had thrived as a centre of the USSR’s heavy industry, and a source for much of Soviet political leadership, post-Soviet Ukraine has been a playground for rival elites supported by the West or by Russia.
Post-Soviet Ukraine has been devastated by persistent economic crises and rampant and systematic corruption. It has consistently had smaller incomes and a lower standard of living even compared to neighboring post-socialist countries, including Russia.
Ukraine has not been able to restore the size of the economy it had in 1990, when it was still part of the Soviet Union. And looking beyond raw GDP data, the quality of life for many Ukrainian workers and their access to social services has significantly declined.
With limited financial means to provide for basic state functions, much less to repay foreign debts, a post-war Ukraine could be forced to accept humiliating and dangerous concessions in other spheres – serving, say, as an Israel-style trying ground for weapons testing, or hosting Kosovo-style black sites for US covert operations, or providing Western businesses a Chile-style no-regulation environment for tax evasion and criminal activities – all while gutting what little remains of its domestic welfare state and labor protections.
Yet instead of advocating for a diplomatic solution to the war, which could help the Ukrainian government and people concentrate their resources on economic recovery, Western governments have adamantly opposed proposed peace talks, insisting, in the words of EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell
, “This war will be won on the battlefield.”
Washington and Brussels are sacrificing Ukraine for their geopolitical interests. And their Ukraine Recovery Conference shows they expect to keep benefiting economically even after the war ends.
Touched by the resilience, determination and hospitality of @ZelenskyyUA & @Denys_Shmyhal.
I return with a clear to do list:
1. This war will be won on the battlefield. Additional €500 million from the #EPF are underway. Weapon deliveries will be tailored to Ukrainian needs. pic.twitter.com/Jgr61t9FfW
— Josep Borrell Fontelles (@JosepBorrellF) April 9, 2022
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