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“If humanity proves unequal to the moment, it will inaugurate an era of irreversible and potentially uncontrollable global crises.” — Joschka Fischer, The End of Contemporary History, writing in Project Syndicate
Geopolitics on planet Earth are at a crossroads — and some recognize that fact for what it is, some don’t recognize that’s where we’re at, while others who should know better won’t admit that we’re at the crossroads and that the time is past where we should’ve chosen a new path.
Realistically, there’s only one path!
(There is another path, the path of status quo leading to nuclear Armageddon, which path is too stupid to contemplate. So let’s not waste time discussing that path)
And the realistic way forward is to learn from history, where we went from feudal city-states, to nation-building, to empire-building, and onward to multilateralism on the governance side and globalization on the economic side.
The Next Logical Step is to keep multilateralism (that part is working) and replace globalization with interdependence — a process already occurring in diverse places and at an uneven rate of change.
Globalization is the (mostly) unrestricted pursuit of a country’s economic goals, expressed through their domestic corporate environment, and it’s been a (mostly) fine thing.
The leaders of countries that saw this period for what it was in the early 1970’s took advantage of the moment to dramatically improve their economic standing: Japan (following the Arab Oil Embargo of 1974) Germany (since everyone began loving Mercedes Benz and BMW cars in earnest) and to Taiwan (since PC computers arrived because that’s where the majority of computer chips were made and continue to be made) and China (since every consumer loves the lower price of goods made in China) and all of it has been massively good for the global economy, ushering in an era of unparalleled economic growth across the world.
Other countries played their cards smartly — like Sweden which added a thriving defense export component to its economy, Norway which moved to simultaneously exploit its undersea resources / legislate high taxes on resource extraction / improve every social progress marker in the country / and thereby became the Happiest Country on Earth according to the UN Happiness Index (and also ranks very highly on the Social Progress Index, socialprogress.org) the OPEC countries, and the fascinatingly successful South Korean economy.
A hearty “WELL DONE!” to the leaders of all those countries — who took stock of the global situation as it then existed, researched the potential opportunities for their countries based on their available resources, and then worked very hard to maximize opportunities for their country’s industries.
An historic leap forward for those countries whose leaders were smart enough to seize the (then-present) moment.
Alas, the moment is gone, or at least, receding.
But something will replace it. Something always has, and always will. Because if it doesn’t, it’s human nature that our default mode is regression — and waiting at the end of that process will be nuclear annihilation and the ‘grey goo’ aftermath.
The Next Logical Step, “Interdependence” is on the horizon — and the best example also happens to be the least likely example — that of Russia and Ukraine combining forces to ship corn (this week) and wheat (next week) and probably sunflower seeds (the following week) and on and on, until the end of time. Let’s hope!
Interdependence means that instead of reckless competition that works to destroy each other, allowing their mutual competitors to utilize a ‘divide and conquer’ strategy to injure or destroy both — arrangements are made that when Russia ‘wins’, Ukraine ‘wins’ also. And vice-versa.
When a Turkish bulk carrier ship arrives in Odesa, Ukraine at the request of Russia, Ukraine and Turkey, to load corn that is sourced from Russia AND Ukraine — and both Russian and (hopefully, one day) Ukrainian naval ships ‘shadow’ that Turkish ship to ensure its safe passage across the Black Sea onto Turkey and then Lebanon — then we know it’s in each party’s best interest for that shipment to arrive safely in Beirut’s port.
Arranging things carefully means it becomes important to Russia that the shipment arrives in Beirut, it becomes important to Ukraine that the shipment arrives in Beirut, and because Turkey facilitated and supported this agreement it’s important to Turkey that the shipment arrives safely — then we have true Globalization v.2.0 — which I call “Interdependence”.
I can’t stress it enough: The countries that move quickly to Interdependence will outperform countries that don’t.
Remember the lesson of countries that enthusiastically embraced globalization in the early days — which advanced their economies by orders of magnitude — Japan, Germany, Taiwan, China, Sweden, Norway, the OPEC countries and South Korea have never regretted making globalization a priority.
So too, will be the countries that embrace Interdependence, carefully arranging every single thing they do, to the point that every operation becomes a ‘Win-Win’ operation for as many sides as are foresighted enough to participate.
The way to prove ourselves ‘equal to this moment in history’ is to embrace Interdependence and to utilize ‘Win-Win’ thinking as the vehicle to get us to our respective economic and social progress index goals.
Written by: John Brian Shannon
As far back as the early 1980’s the ‘Donbas region’ of Ukraine was a hotbed of separatist sentiment and was mostly ignored by the former Soviet Union although it was occasionally useful for Moscow to support the separatists to better control successive independent-leaning Ukrainian governments.
Over decades of time, this situation evolved so that whenever Luhansk or Donetsk separatists pushed their agenda in Ukraine too far, Ukrainian governments simply called Moscow to assist by delivering a military-style thrashing to the Donbas separatists, effectively ending further protests, demonstrations, or separatist leaders speaking on either Ukrainian TV or Donbas television or radio stations (and sometimes, illegal Donbas radio stations).
It was such a small matter that Western policymakers criticised Soviet actions in the Donbas region less than once per decade. Nobody cared because eastern Ukraine was one of the least important places on planet Earth from 1945-onward.
MAJOR AIRLINE CORRIDOR PASSES RIGHT OVER DONBAS REGION:
In the 1990’s, the airspace above Ukraine suddenly became useful for transcontinental airlines which were able to shave hundreds of miles from their route when travelling from Europe to the burgeoning Middle East, India, anywhere along the refurbished Silk Road route (China’s One Belt-One Road route, first proposed by former President of China Hu Jintao in 1999) and Australia.
This huge surge of tourism created virtual traffic jams in the skies over eastern Ukraine — home of the Donbas separatists.
Airlines saved millions of dollars of fuel per year by taking the Ukrainian route to and from the Middle East, India and Western Australia. But the separatists were wary of such overflights. In fact, there were a number of aircraft shootdowns in the skies over Donbas since 1998, although the separatists were never directly implicated in these incidents.
NOTE: Since the Russian Army commenced hostilities with a view to complete occupation of the Donbas region on February 24, 2022, the world’s airlines have taken care to stay away from Ukraine as you might expect.
WHAT DOES EVERYONE WANT?
Russian president Vladimir Putin just didn’t wake up one day and suddenly decide to attack eastern Ukraine.
It seems that the Russians have become uncomfortable with a separatist region located near their southern underbelly. Several strategic Russian cities and military bases (including Russia’s largest and most secret nuclear airbase) are located within 600-miles from Luhansk, Ukraine = less than 30-minutes flight time for a western fighter jet.
You can be assured that more than any other security issue Russian generals face, it’s that nightmare that keeps them awake at night.
With increasing talk of Ukraine joining the EU and NATO, and the broken promise by Western countries to not invite the Baltic republics to join NATO (at the end of the Cold War in 1990, Western politicians agreed with Russia that Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania wouldn’t join NATO for 50-years) it looks like the Russian president decided that the West intended to again act in bad faith.
The EU leadership doesn’t want all of Ukraine:
1: Ukraine has always been an economic black hole — as far back as Peter the Great — and every year since, the country has been a drain on Russian and later, Soviet finances. Even since Ukraine won their independence from the former Soviet Union in 1991 it can barely afford to exist. It’s a ruggedly beautiful and harsh land, populated with durable people who somehow manage to grow millions of tons of hardy wheat, barley, and sunflowers every year. But not as profitably as the United States or Canada.
2: For it’s part, the EU doesn’t want to inherit a troubled eastern Ukraine that borders Russia’s most strategic region. If the EU were to attempt to solve the problem of the Ukrainian breakaway republics it would carry huge geostrategic implications for the EU-Russia relationship. And the EU would find themselves at a distinct disadvantage should the Ukrainian separatist republics call Moscow for military assistance. Never in history would a major power have willingly walked into such an obvious and well-laid trap. No way at all for the EU to win, even if the American military were to offer significant help.
Which is why the EU seems to be passively watching the convulsions in the Donbas while trying to provide maximum humanitarian assistance to those fleeing the conflict zone.
Eventually, Russia will fully occupy and control the Donbas region and those republics will simply and quietly become part of Russia and the remainder of Ukraine will join the EU.
And because the strategic eastern portions of Ukraine would by then belong to Russia, any future Russian president would see little remaining threat to whatever happens to be left of Ukraine, joining NATO.
The US and Canada don’t want to get involved in another shooting war in Europe:
Neither country wants a war with Russia, especially over two breakaway republics in eastern Ukraine, nor will they offer anything more than moral support to Ukraine, to the EU, or to NATO, combined with humanitarian support for the millions of Ukrainian refugees.
Let’s hope that North America’s greatest contribution will come in the form of humanitarian assistance by accepting Ukrainian refugees into their countries with easy entry requirements.
Other than the fact that eastern Ukraine was a useful flyover route for European and Middle Eastern airlines, there’s nothing in Ukraine of any real value to US or Canadian investors — no oil, no natural gas, no mining. It’s mountainous, swampy, brutally cold in winter, and the land there is only useful to those willing to engage in subsistence farming or timber production.
Vlad Putin wants the Donbas region; The EU wants the rest of Ukraine to join the EU; And North America is playing along:
The only factors then are time (because, given enough time these three goals will reach a point of convergence) and the unfolding humanitarian disaster.
Russia, the European Union, and North America need to dramatically ramp-up their response to those negatively affected by Russia’s military action in eastern Ukraine.
Each of these blocs must immediately begin to offer expedited travel and immigration arrangements to a people that are simply and profoundly victims of geography and circumstance. They’ve done nothing to deserve what’s happening to them and it’s up to Western countries do the right thing.
And so far, the response by these three blocs has been underwhelming.
Ukrainian refugees fleeing a war they didn’t start or want, deserve a Western response orders of magnitude better than they’ve experienced to date.