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Ukraine: Fixing a Broken Country

HISTORY:

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.

Op-Ed: Russia’s got a point: The U.S. broke a NATO promise (LA Times)


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.

Why Donbas is at the heart of the Ukraine crisis (CNN)


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.

 

Written by John Brian Shannon

Brexit? Done! Post-Brexit EU Trade Deal? Done! Tying-off Remaining Odds & Ends? Erm…

1653-days after the UK held a referendum giving Britons their first opportunity to vote on EU membership, the Conservative government of the United Kingdom has succeeded in Brexiting from the European Union and agreeing a basic free trade deal allowing mostly uninterrupted trade to continue between the two European neighbours.

While the timeframe (4.5-years!) seems a long time, keep in mind that it takes two to tango and that the EU seemingly did everything in its power to delay Brexit and a post-Brexit trade deal, and it only relented when British politicians showed the strength and resolve to get the job done.

Very noteworthy is that every time the UK government seemed to dither or lose confidence, the EU quickly ramped-up their effort to quash Brexit and the post-Brexit trade deal that followed-on a year later.

“Every day we teach others how to treat us.”

Indeed! Therefore, European Union leaders have taught United Kingdom leaders to firmly and resolutely pursue all future goals with the EU and to never, ever, show weakness or indecision.

I hope that lesson has been learned by UK politicians. If it hasn’t, someone has been busy studying far less important matters.


As Expected, There Have Been Some Delays at the Ports

Of course, this was expected. How could it not occur when both sides spent 4.5-years bickering, rather than solving problems?

But, you get what you pay for.

Perhaps if we paid UK Parliamentarians double the remuneration we do now, we’d be twice as happy with them? Hmmm…

Minor gripes aside, the Conservative government of Prime Minister Boris Johnson has gotten the job done — and that, in the middle of an unprecedented Coronavirus pandemic! Well done, Boris!

Yes, some minor adjustments will be required. It’s been reported by the BBC that some Northern Ireland shipments have been turned back or refused, and UK residents will face more paperwork than ever if they want to visit the EU, especially if they want to bring their pets along.

In summary, the whole process could’ve been smoother, faster and more complete. But aside from the few things to be worked out, Brexit and its follow-on trade deal with the EU has been delivered as promised by the Prime Minister and his government.


Hearty Congratulations to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, to his Conservative Party, and to other Brexit Supporting UK Parliamentarians!

Rather than suffering a failure of statecraft, the leaders of the United Kingdom and the European Union got the job done in the middle of a massive COVID-19 pandemic and they deserve a huge round of applause and our undying gratitude!

Finally, the UK can begin to maximize its opportunities and again become a full partner in the world community of nations.

Finally, the UK can forge its own trade deals with other countries and blocs.

Finally, the UK can design its own foreign policy to benefit the interests of the United Kingdom and its people.

Finally, the UK can create its own domestic policies to benefit Britons and visitors to the United Kingdom.

Finally, the UK can renew and re-energize its relationships with the other Commonwealth of Nations countries.

And the UK can begin to concentrate on what works best for itself and its people, instead of having to clear everything with a foreign power, first.

Even while we’re still under the shadow of the horrible Coronavirus pandemic, its clear to see that the UK’s future is going to be bright and prosperous. Just give it a few months and we’ll see a reinvigorated country — one that no longer hesitates to reach for better and produce better than ever!


Now the UK can Get On With Building a Better Britain!

Now that the EU restraints have been cast-off, the UK will have a free hand to solve its domestic and foreign issues, and to become all that it can and should be.

Brexit has occupied 4.5-years of time and effort, and there was precious little oxygen left in the room to discuss other matters needing attention.

First on the list must be to complete the campaign to eradicate COVID-19 from the United Kingdom, to further assist both individual Britons and those businesses hurtfully impacted by Coronavirus, and to reset the economy when it is safe to do so.

Second, the UK needs to level-up the incomes of those stuck in the bottom economic quintile — thereby ending homelessness in the UK. Maybe the government will create a programme to pay unemployed Britons a minimum wage (or better!) to plant 1-billion trees per year in the UK, neatly solving three problems at once; Homelessness, Unemployment, and helping the UK to meet its CO2 Reduction Targets via their natural photosynthetic process whereby trees store carbon for up to 500-years, in the case of oak trees.

Third, the UK needs to put a major push to become a major exporting country like Germany. I can hardly wait for that! However, it is inappropriate to spend money, time and effort on this in the middle of a major Coronavirus pandemic.

Fourth, the UK needs to finish the many projects still on the books — like HS2 and others. But closely following those projects should be a plan to reclaim 100-square miles from the sea surrounding the UK, annually. In a country of 68-million (as of last week) all the existing land will soon be spoken-for, and thankfully, much of the sea surrounding Great Britain is shallow and therefore perfect to build-up and fill. Beside the obvious benefit, is that seawalls at 40-feet above the high tide mark will build resiliency into the UK’s shorelines with easily available rock and gravel/soil. Doing so at-scale means creating half a million good-paying jobs and building dozens of scenic golf resorts and hotels, thousands of seaside homes, and themed communities to support them.

And that’s just the beginning of the benefits of Brexit, folks!

Thank you again to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, to government negotiators, to the UK Cabinet, and to all MP’s and Lords who followed the instructions of Britons and voted for Brexit and a post-Brexit trade deal! Well done!


Written by John Brian Shannon

1628-Days Since the 2016 Referendum and Still No Deal!

Well, I told you so.

And I’ve been writing since 2016, telling you that politicians on both sides of the English Channel haven’t got the horsepower to get a trade deal done that would benefit citizens, industry, and governments in both countries. And I was right!

Former Prime Minister Theresa May was ready to ‘sell the farm’ to the EU — virtually handing the entire UK over to the EU in a deal worse than what the UK already had with the European Union! — and even that wasn’t good enough for Brussels.

Which should’ve been the first warning sign. Don’t you agree?


The EU Doesn’t Want a Deal, They Want Things ‘Their Way’ or No Way at All

And I understand that. Nobody likes to be dumped. And there’s no rule that anyone is required to be happy about being dumped.

The EU had things ‘their way’ since 1999 when the UK joined the EU without Britons getting any say on the matter, and British taxpayers have paid £10 billion more per year into the EU annually (on average) than the UK received back from European Union in the form of ‘entitlements and benefits’. Some may use the term ‘subsidy’ but when you pay it to yourself (overpay) it really isn’t a subsidy, is it?

Certain EU politicians have been more petulant about the UK leaving the EU than has been seen in the entire history of world politics. It’s been an embarrassing spectacle. So un-cool. So un-European.

Not that some UK politicians have done better. Either they were ready to betray their country for 60-pieces of silver, or they were actively trying to destroy the UK so that it would have no choice but to stay in the EU, or they were making ridiculous assertions against the EU’s right to exist.

But what politicians and citizens on both sides of the Channel must realize is that the UK has already left the EU — and it’s in the best interest of citizens, industry and governments that both sides arrange a trade deal by January 1, 2021.


Run, Boris, Run!

But any deal the EU would agree to sign Britain’s Prime Minister would be wise to avoid — because the only deal the EU might sign would be so skewed in the EU’s favour that it would be detrimental to Britons, to UK industry, and to it’s trade relationships with other countries.

Therefore, Boris… Don’t Sign any deal with the EU!

Life will continue, tariff levels will be adjusted to WTO standards (the default trade standard between nations) and the UK will have the ability to sign trade deals with other countries/blocs without EU regulatory interference.

Snowflakes on both sides of the English Channel will be bleating that ‘The sky is falling, the sky is falling, the sky is falling!’ but in reality, little people, it’s just snowing.

Oh, the trauma!

So, rather than despair, get yourself some outdoor time, take some long walks in the winter wonderland, enjoy the holiday season, and stop trying to arrange a trade deal that (for different reasons) neither side wants. And let’s get ready for a No Deal Brexit, just as I predicted would happen since 2016. And people, let’s make our 2021 slogan ‘Live and Let Live’.

Happy Holidays!


Written by John Brian Shannon

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