Petro Poroshenko's rise to great wealth coincidentally began at the very same time as his political career. The 1990's were a heady time in the former Soviet Republics. It was out with the old and in with the new in a massive wave of disruptive "disaster capitalism" that swept away the old order.
What emerged was an entire generation of wealthy men and a few women (Yulia Tymoshenko comes to mind) who came out on top in that mad scramble in which the former Soviet states privatized their public domain. In virtually every case this new breed of billionaire came from the class of mid-level functionaries who knew their way around the old system and recognized a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity when they saw it. Poroshenko was one of many.
His political record is notably pedestrian. He veered left or right depending on which way the winds of opportunity were blowing. He was a Ukrainian patriot when the moment demanded it, but also a pragmatist who profited mightily from his connections with the Russian business and political elite. He was certainly never the "Russophobe" on display this week on his cap-in-hand tour of the Americas.
Which is why he is totally up against it, backed into a corner, and screwed, screwed, and screwed again as he attempts to navigate a course for Ukraine that dodges the machinations of both the former super-powers as they turn Ukraine into a proxy battlefield.
On the one hand, he has shown a sensible willingness to accommodate the reasonable demands of the separatists in the east. On the other hand, he continues to make provocative statements that make him sound like a ventriloquist's dummy sitting on Joe Biden's lap. "The rebellion will be crushed in days, not weeks or months," quoth Biden through his dummy.
We know how that's gone. And all the ludicrous pronouncements about a Russian invasion have not enhanced his credibility either. In fact, his tour of the Americas demonstrated that even the most ardent supporters of anti-Putin provocations in Canada and the US are loathe to offer much more than rhetorical support.
Meanwhile, as leader of Ukraine, he has way more on his plate than carrying out American neocon fantasies about sinking Putin. Ukraine is in deep, deep shit no matter how you look at it. Whereas Russia had the good fortune of a leader emerging to reign in the oligarchs, in Ukraine the entire economy has been and continues to be the playtoy of the kleptocratic elite.
In Russia, Putin knocked a few heads together and threw a few arses in jail for the greater good, and the oligarchs soon figured out who was in charge. In Ukraine, it's been one government of corrupt oligarchs after another systematically looting their own country, all along with the blessing of the US, because the powers in Washington want to see Ukraine a failed state they can make an American dependency on Russia's border.
Poroshenko is just the latest pawn in America's long term plan for Ukraine.