Her face is on the cover of Bloomberg Businessweek (3/9-3/15/2015) next to a dramatic headline: Putin vs. the Accountant. Her name is Natalie Jaresko. And, if Bloomberg's Brett Forrest is to be believed, she and some of her colleagues may hold the fate of Western Ukraine in their hands. As the Minister of Finance, she must find a way to salvage an economy that is in free fall.
Forrest paints a flattering, sympathetic picture of a feisty expatriate determined to rescue Ukraine economically and from the clutches of the evil Putin. Jaresko is encountered visiting hospitalized Ukrainian troops wounded while attacking the resistance fighters in Eastern Ukraine or, as Forrest prefers: consoling “convalescing veterans of recent battles against Russian forces and their proxies in the Ukrainian East. 'When did you serve?' she asks, moving slowly from room to room.'How were you wounded?'”
Apart from recounting Jaresko's mimicking of the obsequious and opportunistic condescension of veterans displayed universally by Western politicians, Forrest offers a calculated adulation of the Minister that conjures many less laudatory questions and suspicions.
For someone who holds the fate of Ukraine in her hands, Jaresko appears to be somewhat of a carpetbagger. Her appointment to lead the Finance Ministry came before she was granted Ukrainian citizenship, a fact that would only be curious outside of a government where two other cabinet members were also not citizens when appointed: her counterpart in the Ministry of Economy and Trade, Lithuanian Aivaras Abromavicius, and Minister of Health, Georgian Alexander Kvitashvili. Jaresko, a US citizen, has two years to renounce her US citizenship. She and her other imported colleagues were appointed by Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsunyuk, the infamous “Yats” vetted by foul-mouthed US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Victoria Nuland.
Obviously the US and the EU had to scramble after they encouraged and supported the coup deposing the elected President in February of 2014. They had to reach outside Ukraine to find reliable clients to support the hastily elected candy baron, Petro Pershenko. The story of the clumsy construction of the post-coup government from non-nationals, careerists, and unstable rightists would make for an entertaining episode of House of Cards if Western journalists had the spine to tell it.
So what has Jaresko done to deserve a phone call from Nuland? Er, Pershenko?
Her credentials begin with a master's degree from the Kennedy School at Harvard, a training ground for those tasked with delivering the US ruling class message to friends and foes alike. Doors opened immediately at the State Department's Soviet Affairs division. She coordinated her work at the State Department with all of the big national and international trade and economic organizations. When Ukraine left the Soviet Union, Jaresko was perfectly suited to operate on the US State Department's behalf at the newly installed US Embassy. Her position-- Chief of the Economic Section-- was a trusted position of a type often calling for close collaboration with covert agencies.
She parlayed that experience into the creation of an “investment“ vehicle for Ukrainian businesses funded by USAID, again a position of great trust and associated in many countries with US influence peddling. Documentation of the modest seed capital from USAID-- $150 million-- can be found here. One would expect that a 30-year-old entrusted with this task surely had the confidence of highly placed officials in the US government.
Her 1995 venture was absorbed by a new investment management firm, Horizon Capital, which she founded in 2006. Journalist John Helmer documents the consistent losses of Horizon Capital in his detailed report on Dances with Bears (12-03-2014). Despite his discovering only two years of modest gains in a decade, both Bloomberg and Forbes laud the success of Horizon Capital.
Helmer also discovers the fallout from Jaresko's divorce from her spouse and business partner. Her former husband, Ihor Figlus, has accused her of saddling him with debt from “improper” loans. Their contentious relationship continues. Helmer comments: “It hasn’t been rare for American spouses to go into the asset management business in the former Soviet Union, and make profits underwritten by the US Government with information supplied from their US Government positions or contacts. It is exceptional for them to fall out over the loot.”
Jaresko's own account of her recruitment bears telling: “...representatives from a headhunting firm hired by the new government, WE partners, visited Jaresko at the Horizon Capital offices. They discussed candidates for various government posts before asking her if she would be willing to serve...” (Bloomberg Businessweek)
While some may find it odd that an independent, sovereign state would engage a US-based (parent company: Korn Ferry) headhunting firm to fill top political posts, Jaresko explains: “I think the president and prime minister wanted me to bring [my] experience.”
Within a week, she was vetted and appointed.
Anticipating skepticism, Bloomberg's reporter, Brett Forrest, notes that “Jaresko's appointment... provides fuel to conspiracy theorists...”
His apologetics continue: “No matter their origin, these ministers-- and the numerous Poles, Germans, Canadians, and other foreigners who've joined the government in senior and mid-level positions-- are pulling the same oar.” Forrest joins a host of Western journalists and commentators who find no contradiction in a rabidly nationalistic government staffed with foreigners.
Despite generous aid from the US, the EU, and the IMF, Ukraine has experienced a 21% loss of industrial production, a 69% drop in the value of the currency against the dollar and a 6.9% decline in GDP in the last year.
Estimates of Ukraine debt go as high as $40 billion. Recently, Jaresko announced that investors should expect a “haircut” which “...will probably involve a combination of maturity extensions, coupon reductions and principal reductions.”
Compare the matter-of-fact reporting of this announcement in papers like The Financial Times or The Wall Street Journal to the hysterical media response to the faintest hint of a possible reduction in Greek sovereign debt. Clearly assuming client status, selling your sovereignty to imperialism, earns generous debt forgiveness.
Despite the media-spun fairy tales about Ukraine's struggle for democracy and independence, the facts challenge that narrative. Behind the curtain of deceit and fabrication is a motley crew of foreign agents, corrupted officials, oligarchs, and neo-Nazis. But one would never know it from the Western media.