- Billionaire George Soros hit back against nationalist critics in an interview with the Financial Times.
- Soros said criticism and smear campaigns would not stop his organisation the Open Society Foundation’s work promoting a liberal agenda.
- He said he believed Putin was behind many of the attacks against him.
LONDON – Billionaire investor George Soros said he would continue to fight the spread of nationalism, which has become the world’s “dominant ideology,” in an interview with the Financial Times.
Soros spoke about the recent attacks made against himself and his organisation the Open Society Foundation (OSF) by those he considers enemies to his liberal agenda, but said he has no plans to relax his efforts.
“It’s déjà vu all over again with one big change – the dominant ideology in the world now is nationalism,” said Soros. “It’s the EU that’s the institution that’s on the verge of a breakdown. And Russia is now the resurgent power, based on nationalism.”
The OSF controls billions of dollars, much from Soros’ personal fortune, and works in 140 countries worldwide making grants across various developmental projects. The Society works to “build vibrant and tolerant democracies,” its website says, and has given away nearly $US14 billion since it was founded in 1979. Nearly 20 semi-autonomous boards decide how the money is spent.
Soros, a Jewish survivor of World War II worth about $US25 billion, is best known in the UK as “The Man who broke the Bank of England” after he bet big against the pound in 1992 and made more than $US1 billion.
But Soros has been the growing focus of attacks in recent months by populists and nationalists who denounce his support for liberal causes.
Soros said he believed Russian President Vladimir Putin was behind many of the attacks against him. Putin “doesn’t like me,” he said, largely because Soros is critical of the Russian regime. In 2015, the OSF was expelled from Russia on grounds of security risks.
In October 2017, the Hungarian government launched a “national consultation” about Soros, accusing him of wanting to dismantle border fences and open borders to refugees.
Speaking to the FT, spokesman for the Hungarian government Zoltan Kovács said Soros had, “never been elected by anyone, the organisations – NGOs, human rights groups and so on – have never been elected by anyone.”
“[They are] clearly engaging in determining how political decisions should be made. And this is wrong,” he said.
Hungary-born Soros has been an advocate of allowing the resettlement of refugees in Europe since the beginning of the European migrant crisis in 2015, and said the attack was a “conspiracy” against him.
Tensions also flared up in Macedonia last year, where the recipients of OSF grants had their windows smashed in May, in retaliation against the collapse of the rightwing government.
Meanwhile, in February, the leader of the ruling party in Romania said Soros had “financed evil,” referring to his role in anti-corruption demonstrations. On the Israeli front, Eli Hazan, foreign relations director for the ruling Israeli Likud party, told the FT fighting Soros was a “pleasure.”
“If I can help other organisations or governments to work against Soros, I will do it with pleasure because it is a struggle of ideas that may shape the future in the world,” said Hazan.
Soros admitted he has not always made the right choices. He previously championed the former Georgian leader Mikheil Saakashvili, who is now under criminal investigation for allegedly taking money from a Russia-based oligarch to destabilise Ukraine. This taught Soros a “painful less,” he said, to “keep a greater distance from the internal politics of the countries where I have foundations.”
Despite the attacks against him, Soros said he intends to work harder to help foster liberal democracies and fight corruption worldwide. He said he plans to remain chair of the global board for another five years, or as long as his health allows.
“I think you can say I’m quite lucky with my enemies. It makes me feel more than ready to fight back and stand up for what is right,” he said.