Investment behemoth BlackRock was accused Thursday of what author Naomi Klein termed “disaster capitalism” after war-ravaged Ukraine’s president announced he would work with the firm to coordinate foreign investment in the country’s reconstruction.
“The BlackRock team has been working for several months on a project to advise the Ukrainian government on how to structure the country’s reconstruction funds,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s office said Wednesday following the president’s video conference with BlackRock CEO Larry Fink.
Zelenskyy’s office said that the two men “agreed to focus in the near term on coordinating the efforts of all potential investors and participants in the reconstruction of our country, channeling investment into the most relevant and impactful sectors of the Ukrainian economy.”
In language evocative of Klein’sThe Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, Medea Benjamin, co-founder of the peace group CodePink, tweeted that BlackRock is “already trying to cash in on the disaster in Ukraine.”
Investigative journalist and Status Coup CEO Jordan Chariton predicted that “this is going to make the neoliberalism and privatization the U.S. inflicted on post-Soviet Russia look like child’s play.”
New York-based BlackRock—the planet’s largest asset manager—handles about $8 trillion in client assets and has around 70 offices in 30 countries. The firm has faced intense criticism for actions including being the world’s top investor in fossil fuels and deforestation, war profiteering, and doing business with human rights violators.
Zelenskyy had a message for foreign investors as he virtually opened the September 6 trading session at the New York Stock Exchange: “We are free. We are strong. We are open for business.”
“Ukraine is the story of a future victory and a chance for you to invest now in projects worth hundreds of billions of dollars to share the victory with us,” he added.
On that day Zelenskyy also launched the Advantage Ukraine initiative in a bid to draw $400 billion in foreign investment in a land of “superior growth opportunities.”
The program focuses on 10 key sectors of the Ukrainian economy, including the military-industrial complex, agriculture, pharmaceuticals, power, natural resources, and industrial manufacturing.
“It is necessary to invest in Ukraine now, and not wait for the end of the war,” Ukrainian Economy Minister Yulia Svyrydenko said in a statement touting the initiative.
In July, top officials from some of the world’s leading economic powers met in Lugano, Switzerland for the most recent Ukraine Recovery Conference. Last year’s conference agenda included core “shock doctrine” policies of “decentralization, privatization, reform of state-owned enterprises, land reform, state administration reform,” as well as “Euro-Atlantic integration.”
The Russian onslaught against Ukraine has devastated its infrastructure and economy. According to the World Bank, it will cost at least half a trillion dollars to rebuild Ukraine once the war ends.