It has become the custom in independent Ukraine that there is not a single government ministry or agency and not a single political party in parliament besides the communists, where “quiet Americans”, or British, or Germans, do not stand by side to tell the Ukrainian politicians and officials how they should run the country.
And this is not likely to change if Vitali Klitschko becomes the next president of Ukraine. More likely this affliction will then be manifested in full. Lacking the knowledge and experience needed to govern a country, Klitschko will inevitably become a pawn in the hands of people who are about to raise him to the top of the state hierarchy hiding in the shadow of his “throne”. Among them will be the American consultants who work with the UDAR (“Удар” is “Punch” in Ukrainian) Party. It is interesting to take a look at just what kind of companies are mediating in contacts between Klitschko and the U.S. Congress and American government agencies, as well as advising his staff on organizing the early presidential race.
Until recently, according to UDAR’s political strategist Rostislav Pavlenko, the party was working with the American company PBN, which specializes in the field of so-called “strategic communications” on the markets of Russia, Ukraine and other CIS countries. According to PBN’s site, the key areas of the company’s activities are “corporate and crisis communications, public and government relations, and financial communications and investor relations.”
Considering that PBN’s board of directors includes such people as Mikhail Gorbachev’s former press secretary Georgy Oganov and chairman of the board of directors of the international investment company Alfa Capital Bernard Sucher, it is quite reasonable to assume that PBN is one of those Western organizations which have long attached themselves to post-Soviet countries like leeches in order to pump money out of them and into American banks using connections in the upper echelons of the government and big business.
The company’s Ukrainian office is headed by American citizen Myron Wasylyk, a former State Department employee, member of the supervisory board of the U.S.-intelligence-linked Eurasia Foundation, and member of the supervisory board of the International Centre for Policy Studies, founded on the money of George Soros. This center, by the way, contributed to the writing of a draft of a free trade zone agreement between Ukraine and the EU that the president of Ukraine considered a threat to the national interests of the country.
Wasylyk’s wife, Maria Ionova, has been a deputy of the Verkhovna Rada (Ukrainian parliament) for UDAR since 2012. It’s not clear right away, of course, how she went from being a small entrepreneur and deputy’s assistant in 2005 to suddenly becoming a consultant to the President of Ukraine (!) and then a member of his administration. This goes to show what kind of power the head of PBN’s Ukrainian office had after the “orange revolution”.
After the creation of UDAR, PBN started working with Vitali Klitschko’s team, helping it establish ties with the White House, Congress, the State Department and the U.S. National Security Council. PBN set up a number of visits to Washington for the party leader and his assistants. It was this company that introduced Klitschko to Senator John McCain, as well as a number of State Department and National Security Council officials who react especially nervously to everything connected with Russia.
In helping Vitali Klitschko establish needed connections in the American establishment, the head of PBN’s Ukrainian office mainly depended on his long-time acquaintance from his time at the Eurasia Foundation, Fiona Hill. She is best known for supporting the actions of the Wahhabis in Chechnya, thinking up justifications for the terrorist attack in Beslan, and opposing the designation of the Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir as a terrorist group at hearings in the U.S. Congress. During the presidency of George W. Bush, Fiona Hill was the national intelligence officer for Russia and Eurasia at the National Intelligence Council. She maintains close ties with the Ukrainian diaspora and considers herself a great friend of Ukraine (for some reason only the nationalist part).
Thus, if Vitali Klitschko becomes president (and it looks like Washington is pushing for just that, however much Arseniy Yatsenyuk and Oleh Tyahnybok might pout), the PBN Company’s opportunities will be just as great as they were during Yushchenko’s presidency. But then again, maybe not. Because, according to omniscient Ukrainian political scientist Kost’ Bondarenko, UDAR recently started working with a different American company, Greenberg Quinlan Rosner (GQR).
Greenberg Quinlan Rosner is an even larger consulting company with operations in 80 countries. It does the same kinds of things as PBN. But perhaps the main difference between it and PBN is that in the U.S. GQR is oriented more toward the Democratic Party than toward the Republican Party, like Myron Wasylyk’s organization.
The decision to replace one American coach with another is most likely connected with the fact that the closer the presidential elections in Ukraine get, the better those in UDAR are beginning to understand that now Vitali Klitschko needs to rely mainly on the American Democrats, who will still be in the White House in 2015. So reorienting on Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, which consulted on the election campaigns of U.S. President Bill Clinton and presidential candidate Al Gore and has helped the Democratic Party in congressional and gubernatorial elections, is a wise move.
GQR is not a newcomer to Ukraine, or to the former Soviet Union in general. In 2007, for example, the company worked with the party Our Ukraine (led by ex-president Victor Yushchenko). The party’s results were lamentable, but when UDAR was choosing a new partner, apparently old connections played a role. It didn’t matter that GQR’s previous election campaigns in Ukraine ended in failure; some pleasant aspects of collaboration apparently remained in the memories of Ukrainian and American colleagues. Maybe it was the pleasure of “carving up” the party’s pre-election budget, who knows? Such things are closely-guarded secrets in any tight-knit team of political consultants.
GQR also has had successes in conducting presidential and parliamentary campaigns in a number of countries. They met with success, for example, in Romania, Germany and Great Britain, where GQR still has connections in government and political circles. And this will significantly increase the spectrum of opportunities for GQR to provide services to the future president of Ukraine, if everything goes well for Vitali Klitschko. At least for a while. Like for Mikheil Saakashvili, who GQR also brought to power and then taught to run Georgia according to American formulas until the Georgians got sick of it.
How everything will go later for Ukraine is difficult to say as of yet. Maybe, as with Georgia, Ukraine will have yet another Maidan revolution. It’s already used to such things. Because however you switch American coaches, the result is still the same – not to the advantage of the country they are coaching.
Reprinted from Strategic Culture Foundation.