“Ukraine 2030 — the freest and most digital country in the world. Without bureaucracy, but with strong tech industry. Cashless & paperless. This is the future we are building.”– Mykhailo Fedorov
These were the words of Ukraine’s Minister of Digital Transformation Mykhailo Fedorov, who posted a glossy video showcasing Ukraine’s sci-fi-esque future to Twitter. The video boasts of Ukraine’s plans (after its victory over Russia, of course!) to become the “freest and most convenient country in the next 10 years.”
In this theoretical scenario, Ukraine is “the first country to abandon paper money,” tele-health and tele-education programs abound, courts’ decisions are guided by artificial intelligence, and cities can even defend themselves with an “ultra-modern iron dome.”
But the juxtaposition between the video’s boasts and Ukraine’s dire reality on the ground grows more uncanny by the day.November 2022 reports quietly admitted that roughly 100,000 Ukrainian soldiers had been killed or wounded in action, and apparently leaked documents from April 2023 exposed Ukraine’s especially weak wartime positioning, where Ukrainian casualties outnumber those of the Russians four to one. Meanwhile, complaints of low ammunition — with Ukraine running through ammo faster than the US and NATO can replace it — run amok, and in Bakhmut’s “meat-grinder,” the estimated lifespan of Ukrainian soldiers in battle was reported as being a grim four hours in late February. Meanwhile, millions of Ukrainians have fled home as sky-high inflation rates and energy prices have slashed living standards in Europe and internationally.
But as the war drudges on, Ukrainian officials have zeroed in on the conflict’s alleged “silver linings,” bragging about the new technological developments and investment possibilities that have surfaced during the conflict, such as Ukraine’s “state in a smartphone” Diia app, the e-hryvnia, mounting technological capabilities spurred by corporate war-time involvement in Ukraine, a further crystallization of the public-private partnership as a civil society instrument, and Ukraine’s budding “green” revolution, which is slated to blossom during its prospective elite-backed reconstruction.
While these and other initiatives taking place as part of Ukraine’s war-time and reconstruction efforts are being done in the name of modernization, convenience, and democracy, these efforts instead contribute to a technological and political terrain that is conducive to depriving the civilians of Ukraine, and all nations, of their sovereignty, privacy, and dignity.
As I illustrate in this investigative piece, such efforts are part of the larger drive towards the related phenomena of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, today’s technological revolution that blurs the physical, digital, and biological spheres, and the World Economic Forum’s Great Reset, an elite-driven initiative to establish Klaus Schwab’s vision of stakeholder capitalism, where corporations are positioned as “trustees of society” to address the world’s economic and social woes.
At present, the two phenomena facilitate a new societal era where opaque and corporatized governance structures undermine longstanding governmental bodies and decision-making processes through the widespread implementation of top-down, transformative policy initiatives; public-private partnerships that consolidate power while diffusing avenues for public accountability; and crises that have expanded the elite’s hold over society.
If executed successfully, the end result of such efforts may well be a technocratic nightmare, where the Fourth Industrial Revolution’s digital advancements have been capitalized upon by the power elite to ensure and exert their dominance through global governance structures that have extracted themselves from the public’s reach.
Effectively stripped of its sovereignty after the 2014 US-backed Euromaidan, burdened by gargantuan debts, and pummeled around by a western “rules-based order” that actually craves war within its borders, Ukraine’s desperation and cannon-fodder status before and during NATO’s ongoing proxy war make it the ideal Great Reset testing ground, where various Fourth Industrial Revolution roll-outs are ongoing — and are soon to be foisted upon the rest of us.
The DIIA App: the “State in a Smartphone”
To jumpstart its technological revolution, Ukraine’s established a Ministry of Digital Transformation. Preceded by the State Agency for E-governance in Ukraine, the Ministry of Digital Transformation’s chief mission, as of 2019, is to establish a “state in a smartphone” apparatus — the Diia (Дія) app — and transfer all public services online. The Ministry’s other key goals include increasing Ukrainians’ digital literacy, internet access, and IT’s share of Ukraine’s GDP by 2024.
A perfect marriage of the latest in tech with the state, the Ministry’s flagship Diia app is perhaps the Fourth Industrial Revolution’s most obvious manifestation in Ukraine. Unveiled in late 2019 as the Ministry for Digital Transformation’s “state in a smartphone” project, the Diia app is now a “one-stop-shop” for 120 digital government services such as business registrations, applying for government benefits, paying taxes, and obtaining documents like digital ID, digital driver’s licenses, and digital biometric passports which, as of 2021, are all recognized in the same legal capacity as their paper equivalents. “Diia” means “action” in English.
Within two days of Diia’s 2020 official launch, 360,000 Ukrainians had downloaded digital driver’s licenses using the app, which the Atlantic Council posited as reflecting the “huge appetite for digitalization within Ukrainian society, especially among younger Ukrainians.” About 18.5 million people, approximately half of Ukraine’s pre-war population, now use the app as of early 2023.
Diia may be state of the art, but its hyper-centralized, “one-stop-shop” model concocts a bevy of ethical concerns. Such widespread use of Digital ID and other digital legal documents through Diia, for example, should raise alarm bells. For instance, a 2018 WEF report on Digital ID even admits the tool’s propensity for exclusion, positing that “[f]or individuals, [verifiable IDs] open up (or close off) the digital world, with its jobs, political activities, education, financial services, healthcare and more.” Despite this consequential acknowledgement, the report’s writers and other advocates ultimately insist that Digital ID is a key tool for “financial and social inclusion” in an increasingly digital world (of course, on the precondition that a Digital ID would be given to everyone.)
Critically, Diia’s normalization of the Digital ID and the online availability of other government and social services has only sped up the process of mass digital identification, and thus the multitude of privacy- and freedom-related issues this is likely to pose to the populace, both in Ukraine and internationally. Despite ongoing concerns that digital ID could facilitate a “papers, please”-style checkpoint society (a la 2021-2022’s vaccine passport phenomenon, which was largely conducted through QR-code based passports and smartphone applications) or otherwise used or weaponized to discriminate against marginalized populations. Juniper Research estimates that governments will have issued about 5 billion digital ID credentials by 2024, and a 2019 Goode Intelligence report suggested digital identity and verification will be a $15 billion market by 2024.
Diia’s Digital ID feature thus means Diia is used to verify users of other apps, such as banking apps for institutions like monobank and the Bank of Ukraine, private mail-carrier Nova Poshta, and even eVorog, a chatbot where Ukrainian citizens, whose identities first are verified through Diia, can send the Ukrainian government tips about Russian military efforts in real time. Diia has also provided wartime subsidies of 6,500 hryvnia (worth about $176 USD in April 2023) to citizens most affected by the conflict, and also accepts military donations, suggesting Ukraine has decided that Diia might as well directly assist its war-time efforts.
Of course, crisis is a major catalyst for Diia’s roaring success. In an Atlantic Council blog post, Fedorov noted that the Coronavirus pandemic accelerated Diia’s use in Ukraine, where the restriction-burdened populace could often only access the digital versions of public services they had previously used in person.
In fact, the Diia app helped enforce COVID restrictions, producing COVID-certificates that are valid across the European Union. According to the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, “[a]doption [of the Diia app] was partly driven by its use as a Covid certificate platform and the introduction of ePidtrimka (“eSupport”) — a one-off payment of 1,000 UAH [about $27 USD in April 2023] for fully vaccinated Ukrainians linked to a digital bank card.” In Ukraine, restrictive COVID vaccination passports, which functionally banned unvaccinated people from public life, were also instated via Diia despite low injection uptake amongst Ukrainians, implying Diia’s technology and widespread use further amplified social coercion to take the shot. At the time of writing, Ukrainians have downloaded or accessed over 10 million COVID certificates.
An app at the fingertips of tens of millions, Diia has also been capitalized upon as a media hub, allowing users to watch prominent programming including Eurovision, CNN, and the FIFA World Cup Final. While this aspect of Diia was subsequently shelved, Ukraine’s Ministry of Digital Transformation also had plans with Apple to conduct the 2023 census over Diia.
Such developments posit Diia’s use not only as a government service, but as a hyper-centralized hub for much of daily life. As such a critical service, however, it’s hard to overstate the government-facilitated app’s potential for surveillance or even the manipulation of app-based public services for political gain. After Diia’s release was announced, at least, the issue did not go unnoticed in larger Ukrainian society: according to Rest Of World, the Ukrainian media initially ridiculed the app as “big brother in a smartphone.”
Data breaches on Diia, furthermore, could and already have jeopardized people’s sensitive information. As the NYT reported, hackers in January 2022 were able to cripple “much of the government’s public-facing digital infrastructure”, including Diia and a number of government ministries and websites.
Unsurprisingly, US hands are behind Diia’s development. After providing years of legal, financial and technical assistance to Diia, USAID Administrator and former US UN Ambassador Samantha Power voiced intentions at Davos 2023 to expand the app’s use to other parts of the world, especially in the global south. A January 2023 USAID press statement, further, highlighted the organization’s $650,000 allotment towards “jumpstart[ing] the adoption of Diia-like systems and the digital technology services that underpin them” elsewhere. As USAID is widely suspected to be a CIA front, the organization’s funding of and interest in spreading Diia internationally posits another dimension of surveillance potential through the app — data gathering for the intelligence community.
And despite pressing security- and ethics-related issues, Diia’s already inspired the creation of government smartphone apps elsewhere, such as Estonia’s mRIIK. In an interview with US-backed Radio Svoboda, Mykhailo Fedorov explained that numerous other countries were in negotiations about the possibility of introducing equivalent applications.
In other words, Diia and its counterparts, bolstered by COVID and the war alike, are poised to take the world by storm.
While the Diia app blossoms, the Fourth Industrial Revolution is also advancing through major changes being made to the financial system, especially with regards to the imminent roll-out of Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs). A country’s fiat currency in digital form, advocates of state-facilitated CBDCs frequently gloss over the e-currency’s potential for surveillance and control with promises of convenience, transparency, and modernity.
With respect to CBDCs, Ukraine’s version is advancing quickly, despite the war. Ukrainian officials hope to launch Ukraine’s CBDC, the e-hryvnia, in 2024. A creation of the National Bank of Ukraine (NBU), Ukraine’s central bank, the e-hryvnia aims to “effectively perform all functions of money and supplement cash and noncash forms of hryvnia.” According to the National Bank of Ukraine, the e-hryvnia’s implementation will further digitize the economy, boost both transparency and confidence in the currency, and promote non-cash payment methods in Ukraine. To encourage its use, Mykhailo Fedorov proposed to accept his salary in the new CBDC.
The e-hryvnia is likely to operate on the Stellar blockchain network, which Ukrainian commercial bank Tascombank partnered with for an e-hryvnia pilot project. An open-source decentralized blockchain network “designed with central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) in mind,” Stellar is a public network facilitated by the non-profit Stellar Development Foundation (SDF). According to SDF CEO and World Economic Forum Agenda Contributor Denelle Dixon, SDF’s mission is to strive towards “global financial inclusion” a buzzword elite groups like the World Economic Forum and the International Monetary Fund have used to garner support for and participation in the CBDC paradigm. As it strives to become a “global payment standard,” Stellar is poised to do much more than facilitate the roll-out of the e-hryvnia. The German bank Bankhaus von der Heydt’s selected Stellar to help develop a prospective European Stablecoin, and Stellar is also partnering with Mercado Bitcoin to develop a Brazilian CBDC.
A cornerstone of the Fourth Industrial Revolution for its exceptional capacity to securely store data, the distributed digital ledger technology system known as blockchain would also be institutionalized in Ukraine if the e-hryvnia is launched in collaboration with Stellar. Tascombank’s 2023 CBDC e-hryvnia pilot report emphasized the alleged benefits of issuing the digital currency via blockchain, such as “greater transparency and accountability,” “improved security and confidentiality of client data,” and the functionality and low costs involved using the system. Generally, proponents of CBDCs boast its convenience, potential as an anti-corruption tool, and as an inclusive way to bank the “unbanked,” i.e. those who do not use or cannot access traditional financial services.
Yet, critics note that CBDC is not a unique solution to the financial system’s current problems. As Martin C.W. Walker posits in the London School of Economics (LSE) Business Review , “it is not even obvious why CBDC is the best alternative.” Meanwhile, surveillance- and control-related concerns proliferate because government promotion of CBDCs suggests that authorities could easily obtain direct access to transaction histories. In the event that CBDCs become programmable, governments could theoretically program or otherwise direct how or when given users could use— or be blocked from using — their money, creating the potential for abuse. Researchers at Duke University concur in their FinReg blog, writing bluntly that “sovereign states might misuse CBDCs to serve their agendas for anti-money laundering, crime investigation and prevention, or social control reasons.” And European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde inadvertently disclosed CBDC’s capacity for social control in a prank phone call, admitting “there will be control” after an individual posing as Zelensky stated that “the problem [with CBDCs] is [people] don’t want to be controlled.”
Worsening the matter is the fact that CBDCs will likely be tied to Digital IDs. According to the Financial Times in 2021, the state of CBDC research and experimentation suggested that a creation of a digital currency outside some kind of universal digital identity or tracking system was “nigh on impossible,” and that “CBDCs will likely be tied to personal accounts that include personal data, credit history and other forms of relevant information.” In Ukraine’s case, an earlier e-hryvnia pilot used anonymous e-wallets while noting that the e-hryvnia can be either implemented anonymously or with user identification; for instance, the more recent Tascombank pilot followed standard Know Your Client (KYC) and Anti-Money Laundering (AML) procedures to identify users.
McKinsey posits that Digital ID can streamline such KYC and AML procedures, and Kyiv already has a functional Digital ID through Diia that can be used in a legal capacity. Thus, it seems plausible or likely that a prospective e-hryvnia would be connected to a Digital ID in the future, thus binding Ukrainians to whatever terms the Ukrainian government decides to utilize when launching and programming the CBDC.
While its e-hryvnia has yet to launch, Ukraine appears poised to develop and launch the currency on schedule as part of the larger digital transformation it considers vital to its success and future. If successfully rolled out, the e-hryvnia appears ready to saddle Ukrainians with the same prospects for mass surveillance, monitoring, and control – problems that the larger CBDC phenomenon poses elsewhere in the dizzying global drive towards the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Corporations, Public-Private Partnerships Fuel Ukraine’s War Machine and Reconstruction Efforts
Ukraine’s war-time destruction means that major reconstruction efforts will be necessary post-conflict. The elite propose to address such needs through private investments, solutions, and partnerships that are set to fashion a new Ukraine in accordance with the needs of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and Great Reset, while undermining whatever democratic processes still exist within previous power structures.
While institutions like the US State Department emphasize that public-private cooperation is key to Ukraine’s future, corporations like BlackRock, Google, Microsoft, and Palantir are also gaining control over Ukraine’s wartime and reconstruction processes through various forms of assistance, Memorandums of Understandings, and adjacent efforts to maintain Ukraine’s infrastructure and war-effort alike. While such arrangements give these groups significant leverage over Ukraine and its future, they have no electoral mandate and need not answer to the public.
Aware of the country’s abject desperation, massive debts, and ratcheting reconstruction needs alike, Ukrainian Officials appear eager to sell off Ukraine’s future to the highest bidders.”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,” Zelensky said at the virtual opening of a September 2022 New York Stock Exchange trading session. Zelensky, Fedorov, and a number of other Ukrainian public officials have appeared frequently at high-level events internationally to beg for such investments, assistance, and partnership, such as at Davos 2023, the 2022 Web Summit, and last year’s Viva Technology Conference, where Zelensky even appeared as a hologram to ask for assistance from the entrepreneurs and investors in attendance.
But Ukraine’s search for elite and corporate assistance is the end of the little sovereignty it has left. After all, a common denominator in these wartime and reconstruction efforts is the emphasis on public-private collaboration, especially through anti-democratic public-private partnerships, where public accountability mechanisms are diffused or disarmed through an obfuscation of long-standing power structures as private entities, which are largely unanswerable to the public, usurp responsibilities, resources, and roles that once belonged to governments. As of late 2022, Ukraine was even reforming its legal framework in order to better facilitate and encourage such relationships.
Indeed, Ukraine’s war effort is infested with public-private partnerships and corporate relationships that the besieged country ultimately has little agency over. In response to the war, investors and benefactors of questionable stripes are lining up through Ukrainian fundraising and assistance programs like the USAID-backed Advantage Ukraine and United24.
Furthermore, corporate giants including multi-national investment company BlackRock and mega-bank JP Morgan are all but buying Ukraine’s future. Zelensky and BlackRock CEO Larry Fink agreed in December 2022 to focus “on coordinating the efforts of all potential investors and participants in the reconstruction [of Ukraine], channeling investment into the most relevant and impactful sectors of the Ukrainian economy.” A Memorandum of Understanding between BlackRock Financial Markets Advisory (BlackRock FMA) and Ukraine’s Ministry of Economy formalized these agreements with “a goal of creating opportunities for both public and private investors to participate in the future reconstruction and recovery of the Ukrainian economy.”
Emphasizing the scale of BlackRock’s prospective involvement, Fink reportedly told Zelensky that “if you hire us…we’re not going to be creating new oligarchs, but we’re creating a new Ukraine.” But as the creators of a “new Ukraine,” BlackRock already manages tens of trillions of dollars in assets, thus “tower[ing] over the finance, insurance and real estate sectors” internationally, and is heavily involved in a number of major corporations and media organizations, perhaps making BlackRock CEO Larry Fink, as Joyce Nelson writes in CounterPunch, the world’s most powerful person. BlackRock’s interest in “creating a new Ukraine,” therefore, is likely par for the company’s predatory course.
Meanwhile, other mega-corporate assistance appears poised to capture much of Ukraine’s critical government infrastructure, at least temporarily. In addition to providing Ukraine hundreds of millions of USD in assistance in 2022 and 2023, Microsoft is storing the entire Ukrainian government on its servers, with Microsoft president Brad Smith explaining to GeekWire that $107 million USD went towards “literally mov[ing] the government and much of the country of Ukraine from on-premises servers to the cloud.” Online tech and sales giant Amazon has also transferred much of Ukraine’s national data, including the population registry, land ownership records, and tax related information, onto its “snowball” hard-drives.
Meanwhile, investment management giants and major agribusiness corporations including Vanguard, Kopernik, Kernel, and MHP are rapidly buying up Ukrainian farmland and now hold over 28 percent of Ukraine’s arable land, according to the Oakland Institute. Such oligarchs and agribusinesses, the Oakland Institute notes, are “substantially indebted” to western institutions like the World Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), which means such groups have both significant stakes in and leverage over what happens to Ukraine’s farmland. The report also suggests that Ukraine’s massive debts likely mean Ukraine’s creditors, bondholders, and major international financial institutions have influence over Ukraine’s prospective reconstruction efforts.
Noting that policy efforts surrounding Ukraine’s reconstruction, like the Ukraine Recovery Conference, center privatizing “non-critical enterprises,” the report concludes that “[e]verything is thus in place for further concentration of land in the hands of oligarchs, foreign interests, and large agribusinesses” in Ukraine.
In other words, Ukraine’s war-time sell-out has functionally become a rat race amongst the elite.
As its future is divided and sold off to unaccountable oligarchs, much of Ukraine’s war effort, save for the actual dying, has been usurped by the private sector. Google, for example, has assisted Ukraine on multiple fronts, creating an air raid alerts app to protect Ukraine’s citizens against Russian bombardment, while also expanding access to its free anti-distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) software, Project Shield, to protect Ukraine’s internet networks against cyber-attacks. Google is one of several tech companies defending Ukraine from cyberattacks.
In addition to providing 50,000 Google workspace licenses for the Ukrainian government, Google also boasts about its censorship of Ukraine war materials, with a blog post highlighting efforts to disrupt “coordinated influence operations from Russian threat actors.” Google has removed over 80,000 YouTube videos and channels about the war in Ukraine, and blocked over 750 channels and 4 million videos “associated with Russian state-funded news channels.”
Many other big-tech companies such as TikTok, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Apple, and Microsoft have followed suit, either restricting access or to blocking “Kremlin-affiliated news outlets,” while Google and Apple have pulled Russian news apps from their app stores. While Meta created a special operations center specifically focused on curbing “disinformation” especially from Russian state affiliated outlets, Meta’s Facebook platform temporarily permitted calls for violence against Russians and Vladimir Putin on its website, though the policy has since been rescinded.
Although Elon Musk’s Starlink has provided internet to many Ukrainians affected by conflict, its coverage has been partially rescinded to prevent Starlink’s use “for offensive purposes.” But other corporations, like data firm and effective CIA-front Palantir, defense contractor Anduril, and facial recognition service Clearview AI — companies funded, or in Palantir’s case, co-founded, by early Facebook investor and “predictive policing” style surveillance enthusiast Peter Thiel — are bringing the Fourth Industrial Revolution to war. While Palantir helps Ukraine with its military targeting of war assets including tanks and artillery, new weapons and technologies, like defense contractor Anduril’s autonomous Altius 600M drones, are being rolled-out on the battlefield. Further, Ukraine’s Defense Ministry is using Clearview AI’s facial recognition technology to “uncover Russian assailants, combat misinformation and identify the dead.” Widely considered an invasive service, Clearview AI has been prevented from selling its services to most corporations and organizations in the US (save for the US police). However, the ethical concerns it has raised elsewhere are of little concern on Ukrainian battlefields. In other words, the fog of war has allowed companies to test and advance controversial, deadly and invasive technologies with little scrutiny.
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s public-private partnership craze also dominates its tech-development efforts, including Diia and its CBDC roll-outs. In 2019, Fedorov explained that Diia’s development would rely “on an effective team and international technical assistance, public-private partnerships, volunteering.” And assuming current arrangements proceed, the e-hryvnia will also be established through a public-private partnership, where the Stellar Development Foundation’s Stellar Blockchain will facilitate the CBDC.
European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) researchers acknowledged the uncomfortable terrain that the Ukrainian government and private-sector war participants share, writing that “[t]ech corporations have become owners and rulers of the critical assets that a sovereign state requires to function.” Rather than question whether such a development, where Ukraine and other nation states have effectively lost their sovereignty to a myriad of elite power structures and corporations, is a positive one, the ECFR analysts wrote that governmental bodies “need to work more closely with the private sector: that is, to (successfully) fight hybrid wars, states need to become hybrid themselves” to “confront a deteriorating world order.” In other words, they recommend a world where the public and private sectors fuse their efforts even more closely, just like whose who push for the Great Reset’s stakeholder capitalism model.
US meddling in Ukraine’s Euromaidan and the West’s non-stop push for war already mean that Ukraine today has little sovereignty. But private stakeholders appear eager to consume what remains of Ukraine’s sovereignty through their creeping domination over Ukraine’s war-efforts, digital and technological advances, and prospective reconstruction to create a new Ukraine that satisfies the elite’s technocratic vision.
In short, the Great Reset is advancing rapidly in Ukraine, a country that becomes more pliable to its demands and initiatives with each new day of conflict.
Sustainability Efforts and a “Green” Post-War Ukraine
As the efforts to modernize wartime Ukraine have proliferated, so have the efforts to ensure Ukraine’s post-war reconstruction is “green,” especially according to elite protocols already established within policy frameworks such as the European Green Deal and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Much like COVID-19 jumpstarted green efforts, elite figures like BlackRock’s Larry Fink speculate the same will occur during the current war: Fink even posited that in the long term, “recent events will actually accelerate the shift toward greener sources of energy in many parts of the world,” even noting that “[d]uring the pandemic, we saw how a crisis can act as a catalyst for innovation.”
Fink’s comments on, and apparently intense interest in, the matter suggest that, like much of today’s environmental movement (as documented by journalists like Cory Morningstar), the “green” initiatives vying for Ukraine’s future have been co-opted by the billionaire class and are ultimately crafted to benefit the needs of the wealthiest. Even the Washington Post acknowledged in a late 2022 piece that the hyper-elite had usurped the reins of climate-related policymaking work, noting governments increasingly rely on oligarchs like Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and Mike Bloomberg, to get the job done.
Indeed, ongoing “green” and “green finance” initiatives proposed for war