“Sorosyata” or the “children of Soros” have been one of the most hottest topic in Ukraine over the last couple of months. Much of the discussion, conducted in tv channels and internet media outlets, has been strongly critical of the work of organizations and initiatives supported by the American financier and self-appointed philanthrope George Soros. These organizations have had a strong clout over Ukraine ever since the country’s independence and became even more assertive and visible after the 2014 “Revolution of Dignity”.

Ukrainians, however, have increasingly grown critical of them. The recent dismissal of the Honcharuk cabinet, whose ranks were filled by several people tied to organizations like the fund “Vidrodzhennia” (Renaissance), directly linked to the Open Society Foundation, USAID, the World Bank and others. Soros’ network has had a particularly strong influence in Ukraine’s recent political and societal developments.

People in Europe and America who know Ukraine only from a very safe distance or from the screen of a computer have been presented with a very simple and seducing version of the developments in the country over the last decade or so: there are the good, responsible citizens, who want Ukraine to become exactly like the West (whatever that may mean) and to join the European Union and NATO and there are the evil agents of Putin.

This extremely manichean view is also promoted by the Euroatlanticist forces that operate within Ukraine and work for Ukrainian audience. The only difference is that many Ukrainians over the years have, by virtue of necessity, developed a healthy form of scepticism when confronted with pompous rhetoric. Endless talk of “European values” and “war with Russia” did not help the incumbent president Poroshenko win his renewed bid for the top job in last year’s election for example.

But while individual citizens make up their mind freely about various issues in the country, this does not seem a thing Ukrainian civil society organizations tied to George Soros network can do. They continue to argue that there is no middle ground, no possible compromise, no truce: either Ukraine and Ukrainians must be firmly in the Western camp or they will literally be sold as slaves on the market in Putin’s empire.

The fact that Ukraine and Russia more or less happily coexisted for many decades at least does not stop to obsess them: a Ukraine at peace with Russia would be seen as a danger by them. The terrifying scenario of a reapproachment between Ukrainians and Russians would be a victory for Putin, they argue tirelessly. On the face of it, it does not look a very philanthropic ideal. But for institutional and strategic purposes, Western funded civic society groups cannot offer an alternative to this vision. And so Ukrainians got tired of them.

It’s a matter of political representation and adaptation to the local circumstances: how can one talk of democracy, when the agenda is set by overseas agents? All the beautiful proclamations and promises about Western values will not change Ukraine’s geographical reality and cultural and historical ties: Ukraine can sacrifice herself to be at the forefront of an ideological and geopolitical war with Russia but that could turn out to be a very dangerous position; or it can make a pragmatic and carefully thought through choice.

Stepan Antonov

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