🔒 Boardroom Talk: Why we – and the WEF – are one-eyed on the Ukraine War

While sharing learnings of the past fortnight with our editorial team yesterday, one of them posed questioned our coverage on the Ukraine War.  

“You keep telling us we must strive for balance by putting both sides of the story,” he said. “So why is our coverage so biased in favour of the Ukrainians? The reports you and Michael (Appel) sent from Switzerland gave nothing from Russia’s side. Why?”

It opened the door to a subject I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about. A process once more in Davos by the World Economic Forum’s deviation from a usually rigid state-all-sides approach to issues.


So forgive me for turning this week’s Boardroom Talk into a philosophical discussion. But it is necessary, not just to explain the BizNews stance. But given rife disinformation from fake news factories about the WEF, it’s long overdue. I’m hoping it helps you better understand what it is that we do, why we do it, and why we intend continue doing so.  

Back to the subject at hand.

Last week in Davos WEF founder Prof Klaus Schwab (83) set the tone with an opening statement that “We stand with Ukraine”. That position was reflected in Zelenskyy’s forceful opening address; high-profile platforms given to Ukrainian Parliamentarians in attendance; and even a rebranding of Russia House into the “Russian War Crimes” exhibition.

For the first time ever, no Russian flag flew among those on the Kongressentrum roof displaying symbols of over 100 nations represented. There were zero Russians among the couple thousand participants. And in the numerous sessions devoted to the Ukraine War, mitigating arguments were raised for the invasion. There was simply no ‘other side’.

All of which seems extraordinary considering it was little over a year ago that Vladimir Putin was provided the WEF’s most prestigious platform to extol his now famous “anti-Utopian world” speech. Clearly, his unanticipated invasion of Ukraine has changed everything.  

To understand why, here’s a little background. The WEF was created in 1971 as an annual gathering in a remote Alpine town by Schwab, an academic. His intention was to encourage European businessmen to swap ideas. From the outset Schwab wanted the organisation to strive always for independence, impartiality and be free of special interests.

Why? In the WEF’s own words “we believe that progress happens by bringing together people from all walks of life who have the drive and the influence to make positive change.” In other words, its lofty ideal was exposing attendees to fresh ideas, changing minds and help them appreciate how could help make the world a better place.

Pursuing that mission is not universally welcomed. Which is hardly surprising.

Disruptive businesses always draw flak from incumbents. And in its mission of providing supporting progress through information and knowledgr, the WEF is disruptive. Vested interests always fight to retain the status quo. There is nothing those profiting from a system hate more than change.

Given the diversity of attendees, the WEF is also an easy target. Some strident voices among them, including CNN global economic analyst and FT columnist Rana Foorhar who yesterday opined: “I came away feeling the 0.1% was more out of touch with the state of the world than it has ever been in the 20-odd years I’ve attended the conference.”

Perhaps she’s right. But even in that highly critical discourse, Ms Foorhar did not mention the WEF’s stance on Ukraine. So if it’s a Forum, why has the WEF so obviously chosen sides over the War? And, indeed, why have we at BizNews done the same thing?

There’s an obvious answer. Every organisation, including forums like open-access publishers, need a North Star. A purpose. Ours, in a nutshell, is that we serve the BizNews community from cornerstones of promoting Democracy and Free Enterprise. We see these as the foundations for empowering individuals and thus unleashing human potential.  

Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and recent history preceding it, is the best example in my lifetime of an unbridled attack by an Autocrat on the Democratic ideal. In a local context, trying to defend it would be like attempting to justify South Africa sending an invading army into Zimbabwe because our leader didn’t like the way Zim politicians are running the place.

Former Oxford Don RW Johnson knows a lot about the Putin and the Ukraine War, doubtless influenced by his wife, Dr Irina Filatova, a Russian historian, academic and author. On Politicsweb today, Johnson writes “nobody doubts Russia’s imperialism now…..after Putin’s decision to invade a peaceful neighbouring country and annex of its territory.”

Imperialism is the converse of Democracy. If you stand for the one, you must be opposed to the other. As we do. Without apology.   


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