Game Theory & The Conflict
A source, known as Deep Throat, had reportedly advised two journalists, namely Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein (investigating the Watergate Scandal), to “investigate the source of the money“. William Mark Felt Sr (August 17, 1913 – December 18, 2008), the then Associate Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), had been the anonymous source Deep Throat. In 2005, Felt, at the age of 91, revealed to Vanity Fair magazine that, he, during his tenure as the FBI Associate Director, had been the notorious anonymous source, known as Deep Throat, who provided The Washington Post reporters Woodward and Bernstein with critical information about the Watergate Scandal. The Scandal ultimately led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon in 1974. Though Felt’s identity as Deep Throat was suspected, including by Nixon himself; it had generally remained a secret for more than three decades. Felt finally acknowledged that he was Deep Throat after being persuaded by his daughter to reveal his identity before his death. The advice of looking for the source comes to one’s mind, if s/he tries to understand the current political situation in Ukraine.
How the Oligarchs controlled the fate of Ukraine
While thinking about the various ups and downs in history since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the suggestion of Deep Throat comes to one’s mind, time and again. If a country falls into the hands of some business leaders (who control both Politics and Policy-making process), then that country starts suffering from Schizophrenia. In other words, the country starts exhibiting confusion, with scattered and conflicting thoughts. This was also the case for the ethnic Ukrainians, as well as the Russians. As expected, it triggered a tension between Eastern and Western Europe.
The story had begun with a meeting between the then President of Ukraine, Viktor Andriyovych Yushchenko, and Ukrainian businessman Dmytro Vasylovych Firtash in 2006. The former Ukrainian Prime Minister, Viktor Yanukovych, and some of his Cabinet members, too, attended the meeting. At that period of time, Firtash was serving as the head of his country’s Chamber of Commerce. He recently informed Financial Times that President Yushchenko wanted Ukraine to join NATO before Russia became powerful, and prevented Kiev’s move. Meanwhile, an angry pro-Russian Prime Minister Yanukovych left the meeting midway.
The main business of Firtash was transporting gas from Turkmenistan to Ukraine. He used the pipelines of Gazprom, the Russian majority state-owned multinational energy corporation. After the Prime Ministership passed to Yulia Volodymyrivna Tymoshenko, she put a stop to Firtash’s business, and also reached a direct settlement with Vladimir Putin and Gazprom. Then, the price of gas got raised sharply in Ukraine. It may be noted that Tymoshenko had co-led the Orange Revolution, a series of protests and political events which took place in Ukraine from late November 2004 to January 2005, in the immediate aftermath of the run-off vote of the 2004 Ukrainian Presidential Election that was claimed to be marred by massive corruption, voter intimidation and electoral fraud. The Orange Revolution ousted the pro-Russian President, and Tymoshenko became famous as Gas Princess. The main reason of her popularity was that she was able to get along with a personality, like Putin. Tymoshenko was master in playing with two opposing camps, as she knew how to win the game. Only her relationship with Firtash turned into a great enmity.
When Tymoshenko decided to run for the post of President in 2010, Firtash extended financial support to her opponent. In the past, Tymoshenko had defeated this opponent to become the Prime Minister. Firtash told the Financial Times that he did not support Yanukovych because of his pro-Russia or anti-Russia sentiment. Instead, his real intention was to reach an understanding with Tymoshenko. Later, the gas deal landed Tymoshenko in prison. Many, inside and outside Ukraine, considered this incident from a political perspective.
Firtash is just one of the many Oligarchs in Ukraine. Rinat Leonidovych Akhmetov is a much bigger player than him. Akhmetov, the founder and President of System Capital Management (SCM), and ranked as the wealthiest person in Ukraine, currently governs the Donbass. Donbass is a historical, cultural, and economic region in eastern Ukraine, although parts of this region are controlled by Russian separatist groups. These parts are the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic. Firtash and Akhmetov had reportedly controlled half of Yanukovych’s party members in the Parliament, as well as ministerial appointments. Both of them had improved their finances significantly.
Once, Der Spiegel, a German weekly news magazine published in Hamburg, had described political control of Firtash and Akhmetov as a Collective Business Venture. In spite of being expert tacticians, these two Oligarchs were busy handling their pawns on the eve of the Maidan Revolution (also known as Revolution of Dignity) of 2014. Firtash did not want the return of the Gas Princess to power. Ultimately, Yanukovych had to flee Ukraine and took refuge in neighbouring Russia. Later, an angry Putin seized Crimea, and pushed the separatist rebels back into the Donbass.
In 2014, a third Oligarch, Ihor Valeriyovych Kolomoyskyi, entered the stage. In the 1990s, Kolomoyskyi had joined hand with a fourth Oligarch, Gennadiy (Zvi Hirsch) Bogolyubov, and ventured into the banking business. Later, their PrivatBank became the largest bank in Ukraine. Kolomoyskyi became an enemy of Petro Oleksiyovych Poroshenko, who served as the fifth President of Ukraine from 2014 to 2019. Poroshenko, himself, is an Oligarch. His most recognised brand is Roshen, a large-scale confectionery company that has earned him the nickname of Chocolate King. Kolomoyskyi was forced to flee Ukraine, and his PrivatBank was nationalised in 2016 because of its owner’s alleged involvement in money laundering.
Kolomoyskyi returned to Ukraine just before the 2019 Presidential Election, and joined the game of politics, once again. His television channel began promoting Poroshenko’s rival and professional comedian Volodymyr Oleksandrovych Zelenskyy as the best Presidential candidate. Zelenskyy ran his electoral campaign, using the eradication of corruption as a tool, and won the Presidential Polls by a huge margin. However, he, too, is a part and parcel of traditional political history of Ukraine. In 2021, the Pandora Papers revealed that President Zelenskyy and members of his inner circle benefited from a network of some overseas business firms. Furthermore, he revoked the citizenship of one of his former sponsors a couple of months ago.
Hence, Ukraine has become a playground of Oligarchs, who continue to play with power. It is not a healthy sign, as far as the future of the former Soviet Republic is concerned. These Oligarchs have not only amassed huge wealth in Kiev, but also used the media to elevate or to trigger the fall of various politicians. They have further decided the portfolios of ministers and the price of gas. Meanwhile, the GDP of Ukraine has remained the same for the last 15 years (till the beginning the War against Russia). In fact, these Oligarchs have ruined the Ukrainian Economy. Right now, about one-third of Ukraine’s population are refugees in neighbouring countries. The darkness of uncertainty looms large in Ukraine, where the devastating light of nuclear explosion could flare up at any moment.
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