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Ukraine: Fixing a Broken Country

by John Brian Shannon

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.

Why Countries Fail: The Politics of Dependency

Alright people, big topic, so put on your seatbelts and crash helmets, because I’m about to shatter your well-meant neo-liberal illusions as to why countries fail.

Hint: It’s all your fault.

Yes you — you paragons of democracy, you believers of humanistic values, you defenders of equality and equity, you bleeding-heart liberals — it’s all your fault.

“Why is it our fault, great voice communicating with us from the far reaches of the internet?”

Because for all your good-heartedness and do-gooderness, the very policies you’ve supported are the direct cause of most of today’s misery in developing nations around the world.

What happens out there in the real world is not what happens in wealthy jurisdictions like Aberdeen, Sheffield or Cardiff.

So, bear that in mind when Western military powers enter and control a country for the purpose of eliminating warlords, etc. — let’s say Somalia in this case, but it could be any number of African, Asian, or Arab countries, and stay there for any length of time — those countries operate under foreign military rule and the moment those foreign military units leave, the warlords re-emerge and resume their normal terrorist activities.

Which prompts many on-scene Western TV reporters to plead with their viewers to stop the government from removing their troops from that forlorn country. And good on them! It comes straight from the heart, there is no doubt that such reporters mean well and speak with years of experience in the region. I salute them for their very human response to what they must see as “America abandoning it’s allies” or “The West abandoning it’s mission to restore peace” or whatever.

But it isn’t what they think.

What’s really happening is that by sending powerful Western military forces into places like Somalia in the first place, the local population no longer feels they’re responsible for bringing peace and prosperity to their own country — after all, why do that when America shows up to do the job for them? And the longer the Americans and their allies stay, the more dependent local populations become upon ‘the Americans’ to operate their country.

It’s even worse than that.

What happens is that over decades of time powerful local lobby groups emerge that encourage some amount of home-grown violence to occur… so that ‘the Americans’ will return and restore order, and the population can then have another 5-10 years of relative peace and prosperity.

‘What’s wrong with that?’ Said every bleeding-heart liberal, everywhere.

What’s wrong with it is that by sending Western military units to ‘bring peace and stability’ to war-torn countries is that it prevents those populations from taking responsibility for doing it themselves.

Consequently, over generations of time, those populations work an unspoken deal with the warlords to cause trouble every time the Americans threaten to leave. (Warlords and their minions, by definition, are highly mobile and can easily slip across the border until the Americans leave) Not only that, but in cases where the Americans and their allies have already left, all it takes is a few dozen car bombs destroying a dozen city blocks (with many casualties) along with some carefully choreographed displays of civil disorder to get Western powers back into their country to restore order.

It’s nice that Western governments spend multi-billions per year in each war-torn country to restore order and bring about a peaceful standoff between the forces of terror and the forces of democracy. If only Western taxpayers knew the total combined cost of these military operations they might not think it so nice.

But it isn’t about the money, nor should it be.

The fact is, that by doing so repeatedly, the West is setting itself up for failure by sending troops to solve what are essentially, political problems. And political problems can never be solved by removing power from local populations, temporarily giving it to a Western military unit, and then, at length when that military power leaves, the situation again becomes highly unstable.

And it keeps happening again and again, all around the world.

The latest example of this is Somalia which has seen foreign troops come and go many times, yet as soon as they leave, it’s only a matter of time before the cycle of violence begins again — thereby necessitating yet another Western military intervention.

Today on BBC TV, another well-meaning reporter was pleading with the camera to keep US troops in Somalia because he (rightly) fears the situation there will deteriorate once the Americans leave.

And why will that happen? Because people there have forgotten how to govern. They’ve forgotten that they’re responsible for what goes on in their country, and they’ve forgotten that every developed nation has already gone through what they’re presently going through — and it seems a failure of human psychology that most countries can’t seem to get their act together until they’ve had a civil war or two. Including some Western countries.

Rather than shield countries from themselves by continually sending troops abroad to restore order, thereby preventing any form of organic self governance occurring, perhaps we should be awarding scholarships to their kids while our troops are still deployed in those countries — so that those students can live in the UK and experience an actual working democracy while taking their education — and hope that they study urban development or excellence in governance, thereby equipping them to return home with the knowledge to help set their country aright. That’s so much better than their local warlord teaching them how to fire an AK-47 at tourists and locals alike and to make improvised explosives.

Cheaper for us, AND better for them!

What’s not to like about ‘cheaper and better’?

What it will take to make this proposal a reality.

The UK can spend half of it’s foreign aid budget on ‘bullets’ or it can spend half it’s foreign aid budget on rescuing any child from a conflict-ridden Commonwealth country by giving them a proper education in the UK before returning them home.

Which is better, do you think?

In the short term, it’s easy to keep spending British treasure and blood to separate enemy combatants within developing nations. But over the long term it makes more sense to educate a new generation that there’s a better way to solve political problems than picking up an AK-47.

Thanks for your time, people. I wish you a wonderful week ahead.

by John Brian Shannon

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