Howard Buffett says private sector can increase investment in Ukraine

Howard Buffett says private sector can increase investment in Ukraine

Half of The Howard G. Buffett Foundation's funding is going to support Ukraine

Philanthropist and executive Howard Buffett, who recently returned from his 10th trip to Ukraine since Russia's invasion in 2022, is imploring the U.S. – including the private sector – to ramp up its investment in the war-torn country.

"It would certainly contribute to the confidence of the Ukrainian people to see more companies step up their investment in Ukraine," Buffett told FOX Business. 

Buffett, the son of Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett, believes "the Ukrainian people will prove to be worth any investment made in them today over the long run."

While many eyes will be focused on U.S. presidential campaigns and the war in the Middle East, Buffett said aid needs to continue flowing into Ukraine. 

Through his work helping the most impoverished and marginalized populations with The Howard G. Buffett Foundation, Buffett has stepped foot in some of the most devastated communities in the world. 

Ukrainian troops in the Donetsk Oblast fire a howitzer at a Russian target in Marinka. (The Howard G. Buffett Foundation)

Ukraine, however, has stood out among them all due to the devastation from Russia's invasion of the country in February 2022.

"I've seen some really, really brutal things done in Congo and Sudan. But if I take… all of the experiences together that I've had, Ukraine is like all of them in one," he said. "It's way more destruction. I went through five villages on this trip where every single home is destroyed, the churches are destroyed, the schools are destroyed, the cemeteries are destroyed. Everything is destroyed." 

It wasn't long after the war broke out that Buffett got on the phone with his team and told them that they would be using half of the foundation's funding on the country.

While his foundation – one of the largest private charitable organizations in the U.S. – is deepening its financial commitment to help Ukraine, fearing the "significant" impact a loss could have on the U.S., he knows it's not enough. 

Howard G. Buffett helps distribute food boxes funded by the Howard G. Buffett Foundation in partnership with Global Empowerment Mission (GEM) to residents in Kherson on Dec. 30, 2023. (The Howard G. Buffett Foundation)

The foundation has already poured almost half a billion dollars into the country, expanding funding for war crimes investigations, demining efforts, emergency food aid and broader food security. The issue is that it will take billions to help the country recover.

"We're going to push forward harder. Ukraine has to win this war. We have so much at stake," he said."They can absolutely win if we give them what they need." 

For one, "there are things that the private sector can do during a war, and there are things they're not going to do during war," he said. 

In particular, he noted that "logistics is an area where the U.S. or European companies could be investing in the country." 

A team in Kharkiv searches for anti-personnel mines and other ordnance. It is estimated that 30% of Ukraine is mined, an area twice the size of Austria. (The Howard G. Buffett Foundation)

Buffett said companies can hire Ukrainians to do the work, and won't have to send employees abroad.

While logistics companies will have some trucks exposed, Buffett explained that those vehicles will be dispersed. 

He also noted that there are other areas that warrant investment and that some agricultural companies "have really held back." He also noted that U.S. irrigation companies are, "skittish about doing anything in Ukraine right now," though it appears that one of them may start doing some work, Buffett said. 

Throughout Kamianka, a small village in Kharkiv, there are remnants of the fighting that took place in February 2022 when Russians occupied the town. Originally home to about 1,200 residents, by early January 2024, only around 70 families had returne (The Howard G. Buffett Foundation)

"I'm not saying there's no risk. There's always risk. They're at war. But there are areas that are safer than others," he said. "There are areas where I think you can make an investment without taking a significant risk in what you're doing."

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