It may prove unfortunate if Donald Trump’s view of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict has truly been influenced, or even shaped, by people like Paul Manafort, a former adviser to Yanukovych, and Carter Page, a former Merrill Lynch banker and fund manager with ties to Gazprom and Ukrainian oligarch Victor Pinchuk.
Manafort’s past services to Yanukovych are not a big deal by and in themselves. However, if Manafort picked up the habit of looking at the world through the eyes of a tentatively pro-Russian and definitely corrupt president of Ukraine, that’s hardly good news.
Likewise, if Page’s experience working with Gazprom left him with a view of Ukraine as a sleazy client and a scheming partner, he may have difficulty looking at the country from other angles, more important to understanding its predicament. His friendship with Victor Pinchuk, the son-in-law of former president Kuchma, could also be problematic because of Pinchuk’s business ties with Russia, even though the oligarch is hardly a Russian stooge.
On the other hand… Franklin Foer asks at Slate:
Why would Paul Manafort so consistently do the bidding of oligarchs loyal to Vladimir Putin?
Because there were no anti-Putin oligarchs in Ukraine until very recently: all the Ukrainian moguls had major business interests in Russia. Petro Poroshenko tried to break that debilitating bond when he supported the 2013-14 revolution, and was elected president shortly. But he still owns a candy factory in Russia – he has been unable to sell it at an acceptable price, unsurprisingly.
The gas import contract that Timoshenko signed with Russia in 2009 (amended in 2010) was no better deal for Ukraine than Firtash’s arrangement. After the Maidan, Ukraine has tried to have it voided but it cannot just go away magically unless international courts rule in Ukraine’s favor.
In other words, there were no good oligarchs in Kyiv before the 2014 revolution, which was one of the reasons it happened.