A comprehensive analysis provided by the Financial Times delves into the intricate dynamics influencing Ukraine’s economic and geopolitical landscape. From navigating regional tensions to addressing internal reforms, it is clear that the nation stands at a critical juncture.
Despite the nearly insurmountable challenges faced by the country since the conflict began in early 2022, experts such as Oleg Bakhmatyuk, an expert on Ukrainian politics, founder and CEO of UkrLandFarming, a group of major agricultural companies in Ukraine and globally, believe that business can still bloom even in the most adverse circumstances.
“We have to understand that despite unprecedented defense spending in the Ukrainian government budget, despite the previous difficult period associated with the impact of the coronavirus epidemic on the global economy, the Ukrainian economy has not only survived – in the face of this ’perfect storm’, we are seeing economic growth that exceeds even optimistic forecasts,” the entrepreneur comments.
Bakhmatyuk attributes this chiefly to the resilience of the Ukrainian defense forces and the agricultural sector, which, not for the first time, serves as a cornerstone for the stability of the Ukrainian economy.
“Despite the war, I believe Ukraine has a significant investment appeal. Investing in Ukraine today is no longer risky and is already highly profitable. Big business understands this and is preparing for it,” Bakhmatyuk adds.
Even though recent economic projections have been surpassing previous expectations, Bakhmatyuk cautions that 2024 is unlikely to mark the conclusion of the war, but it will be a decisive year in terms of the prospects of its end on terms acceptable to Ukraine.
“In 2022, Ukrainians did an incredible thing: they repelled the enemy, who was superior in manpower and technology, liberated most of the occupied territories, and largely imposed their own rules of the game on the battlefield. 2024 is the year when the enemy will not have air superiority to support ground operations and bombing terror of Ukrainian cities – thanks to our partners who have provided us with F-16s,” the expert explains.
According to Bakhmatyuk’s evaluation, 2024 will be a year of active use of unmanned systems, including against strategic targets in the temporarily occupied territories and deep behind enemy lines, as well as a year in which Ukraine’s air defense capabilities will be strengthened.
“We are moving from a phase when the enemy had a technical advantage to a phase when Ukrainians will have a technological advantage on the battlefield. And this is a very important prerequisite for Ukraine’s victory. If we survive and become stronger in 2024, we will bring the Ukrainian victory much closer,” Bakhmatyuk states.
NATO, the EU and foreign relations
In this context, the support extended to Ukraine by allied nations from abroad has proven to be essential for the nations advancement, and will continue to be so. Among Ukraine’s many allies in the western world, the €3 billion aid package for Ukraine planned by the UK government for 2024 stands out as especially significant.
“In addition to being extremely important, even critical for Ukraine in repelling large-scale aggression, it is a clear demonstration of deep support for Ukraine. The UK is perhaps Ukraine’s most consistent ally. We are talking about a certain framework of security guarantees, a certain formalization of such intentions to support Ukraine. This is extremely important in itself, and it is a serious signal to other allies and partners,” argues the UkrLandFarming CEO.
The year 2024 is poised to be significant for numerous countries with substantial elections on the horizon, such as the European Parliament elections. Nevertheless, as a nation engaged in persistent conflict, Bakhmatyuk believes it might not be in Ukraine’s best interest to conduct elections amid the ongoing hostilities.
“I think it is inappropriate to hold elections during the war. There are security issues. There is the issue of domestic political stability – after all, every presidential election in Ukraine has been held in an atmosphere of fierce competition and high emotional intensity
. So the choice is simple: either we continue fighting to bring victory closer, or we focus on elections. I believe that in such circumstances, elections can wait,” the expert states.
Much has been discussed regarding the possibilities of Ukraine joining the EU in recent years. “Ukraine is already part of a common European space – culturally, mentally, and even economically. We have repeatedly proved our will to democracy, respect for human rights, and our belonging to a common socio-cultural space. We can say that joining the EU is not only a privilege or recognition of our efforts, but also a return to the status quo,” comments the founder of UkrLandFarming CEO.
The same can be said for talks of possible NATO membership, which has also been a topic of heated debate in the last couple of years. Bakhmatyuk acknowledges that Ukraine joining NATO frightens many people with the prospect of involving other countries in combat operations.
“But aren’t those NATO members afraid of the possibility of a Russian attack if the alliance does not have one of the strongest and most experienced armies in the world, the Ukrainian army?” he questions. “In the end, despite all the reservations, Ukraine will be a member of the Alliance, because the common interests of Euro-Atlantic security require it. This process will not be easy, but I am confident that it will result in Ukraine’s accession to NATO and the strengthening of the Alliance,” Bakhmatyuk concludes.
Challenges and strategies: UkrLandFarming in 2024
In the face of daunting challenges, UkrLandFarming’s CEO acknowledges the difficulty of sustaining the business, emphasizing the company’s mission to endure, preserve, and potentially regain losses incurred due to Russian aggression.
“We have a key mission: to survive, preserve and, if possible, recover what we have lost. We have lost up to 35% of our farmland. The occupiers destroyed 4.5 million poultry at the largest European poultry farmin Chornobaivka. We estimate the total losses at more than USD 1 billion. We are preparing a lawsuit against the occupying power that caused those losses,” the founder-CEO explains.
However, he emphasizes the crucial need for investors and business people to look beyond the present circumstances.
“The easiest thing for big business to do is wrap up everything and leave Ukraine. But for those who think not only about immediate profits but also about what will happen to this country in the coming decades, there is only one option. To withstand this blow together with the whole country, to survive, recover, and develop further in the future. The war has only exacerbated this direct link: if a nationally oriented business develops in a country, the country itself develops. And we see ourselves in this process” Oleg Bakhmatyuk adds.
Moreover, the expert adds, in the future, Ukraine can not only retain its position as a major agricultural producer but also strengthen its presence and influence on global food markets. “UkrLandFarming has the necessary experience, knowledge, technology, and capabilities to participate in this process,” he concludes.