The media portrays NATO — the North Atlantic Treaty Organization — as a force for good in the world.
The military alliance was created in 1949, with the promise of helping protect any NATO country that was invaded. Today, NATO is comprised of 29 states, including military giants the United States and essentially all of Europe.
Ostensibly, NATO’s goal seems to be protecting the world from Russian imperialistic tendencies. While imperialism seems to be a relic of the past, NATO justifies their current position as necessary due to Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, coupled with its current support of separatists in Eastern Ukraine.
While the western media sees Ukraine as a country in conflict with Russia, this couldn’t be further from the truth. The situation is predictable. In reality, the situation is more like a public relations stunt to try and manipulate uninformed people into picking a side. I call this geopolitical camouflage. The next step in this messed up geopolitical game, will likely be peaceful protests that will inevitably lead to an incident that sparks limited violence or repressions that has potential to turn into a civil war or international ideology conflict.
The basic definition of “insanity” is doing the same thing and expecting different results. Most conflicts are predictable, their countries leaders have subscribed to this philosophy of repeatedly doing the same thing and expecting different results, all while skewing statistics and lying to the people. The news cycle is currently fixated on Venezuela, where its President, Nicolas Maduro, is the firmest believer in the “repeat” ideology. The results are always the same: The winners in this game are the military complex, the business elite, and loyal party members. While the losers are “the other” everyday people — basically 99% of country’s population. Interestingly enough, there are no geopolitical or ideology winners either.
So, why does this seemly absurd military race continue? Why threaten each other with a bigger and more powerful bomb? Who needs additional territories in global, digital, all connected world in which natural resources of the country, including gas and oil, have much less importance than in 20th century. Why have wars over oil when expected underway disruption from alternative sources of energy will make it much less relevant in the near future? Why waste a generation fighting and dying for ideology, when everyone can peacefully coexist?
The answer is simple: quality of life. Right now, all political candidates for president in Ukraine are focused on how to reunite with the eastern part of the country. Politicians are overly competent at fear mongering. They effectively create this façade that danger is imminent, and that Putin will soon take over Ukraine. The public unfortunately gets fooled by this. Everyone — at least publicly — is not asking the right question:
Why did Putin not occupy all of Ukraine — instead option for just Crimea in 2014?
Unlike today, at that time Ukraine had no army to speak of and was in total political chaos. Russian businesses owned great deal of assets all over Ukraine and FSB (Federal Security Service) had influence at every level. In reality it would have been easy for Russia to annex the entirety of the country, due to commonalities in language and culture, unlike in Syria, due to lack of commonalities in language and culture.
By any estimate, the Russian Army could have been in Kyiv within two weeks. In early days of the conflict those heroes of Ukraine that fought and died for their country simply would have been overpowered with numbers and weapons. The most patriotic Ukrainians felt the social contract between themselves and the State had been broken. No NATO, US or any other force would have gone into military conflict with Russia over Ukraine, as they did nothing during annexation of Crimea. They will not go into military conflict with Russia even now unless directly challenged.
So why not take over Ukraine? The answer is obvious – weak, poor and economically toothless Ukraine is the Putin’s government’s ultimate goal to stay in power. That leads to the next question. Why?
Let’s set up a hypothetical. Ukraine hits 10% GDP growth — actually not too difficult considering its current low base — every year for next five years. Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) would be surging, creating a more dynamic and diversified economy. This would be followed by the oligarchy’s waning influence on the Ukrainian economy. This would result in income per capita for Ukrainians rivaling the levels of neighboring Poland. If that happened, economic migration would cease to exist and Ukrainians would no longer feel the need to leave the country for the EU, solely for better job prospects. This would ignite a quasi-reverse migration.
Educated expatriates, like myself, who have business experience and global network, would return to the country and add on ground support which would supplement the rapid economic expansion of Ukraine. We have seen this phenomena with China and India.
This hypothetical culminates with regular people from Russian Federation migrating to Ukraine in mass to achieve personal prosperity and professional growth. This will result in people of Russian Federation choosing a different path than the one Putin laid out for them.
If I was Putin, I would be terrified of an economically strong Ukraine. If I am a guy running for president of Ukraine, I would only talk about economic actions that would lead to the prosperity and reintegration with the people of eastern part of Ukraine and Crimea. If people are on board, territories of Ukraine will return with people. If I am the US president or a member of Congress, I would use the current situation to push major strategic investments into Ukraine in order to create a new model of economic cooperation between US, EU, China, and the Middle East.
This would redefine the international order of the 21st century into a collaborative global effort. Unfortunately, the current dilemma asks: Who has a bigger military or more oil?
If I was a NATO commander, a major part of my vision and budget would be to protect NATO members from perceived or real threats from the Russian Federation is investment into economic growth of Ukraine not it’s military might. There is no way Ukraine’s military can compete with Russia in direct conflict for the next generation. That being said, Ukrainian people’s will for independence is a whole different story.
If I am Ukrainian citizen my vote this year will ignore all political bullshit to be based solely on my trust in the politician for president and parliament. In other words, someone I can trust to do the right thing. Without trust, there is no investment, there is not economic growth, there is no prosperity. Without trust we let Putin win.
Ukraine should be an MVP — or minimally viable product in start-up lingo.
I would set up an environment that companies from each country or region compete in Ukraine. It ultimately results in a guaranteed win for Ukrainian people. In order to ignite the competition, I would remove all known barriers and regulations and approve all the right economic incentives to do business within Ukraine and with Ukraine.
To accomplish that, I would take the best known practices, with proven results, from around the world. We do not need to reinvent the wheel. I would secure trust in policy and laws by adopting technology to create operating efficiencies for governments and business. Further, to expand trust domestically and internationally for alternative economic platform, I would use the latest advantages of distributed technology, popularly known as blockchain. To eject financial liquidity into the system, I would use new financial instruments, similarly based on distributed technologies and not International Monetary Fund (IMF) loans.
New fintech has the capability to unite people within and outside the country. The system, the technology, the liquidity and the vision will create trust like never before while eradicating corrupted and ineffective practices.
Some readers, will view my argument as too naïve or simplistic. They will have a point. There are too many moving parts, players with different social, military and economic agendas and motivations on the global level. How can such simple approach solve such a complicated matter? Add on top of it an individual. History over the millennia has proven that an individual’s desire for greed and power leads to catastrophic consequences for hundreds of millions of people.
On the other hand, we survived as humans because, unlike other mammals, we are capable of passing to the next generation experience and knowledge. Most importantly, we — the human race — have proven our ability to survive, adopt and prosper. So, in Ukraine’s case, knowledge and experience of last 28 years must guide the radical change that is needed for economic success. This would create security through prosperity for its people and force the beginning of the end to regimes that stand in the way of a better future.
The reality is that I am an American citizen. I also happen to be a patriot of Ukraine and for over a year a resident of Ukraine. The reality is that I am doing what I can do, and trying to make best of what I can out of this forespoken hypothetical reality. Further, personally, I am very apolitical. I think, like lawyers, politicians are a “necessary evil.”
Both industries are structurally fundamental to the function for the society and have quality people within. In reality, the vast majority of the population hate dealing with either. If Ukraine wants to be prosperous, politicians need to shine now.
I have been teaching my kids and students that if you want a different results, do something different. I always take this approach to projects I am pursuing, including this one. Find a way to change the game or reframe the discussion. Find a way to create a win-win solution that increases value for everyone involved. In simple words where 2+2=5. I think, I hope, and I believe that the new generation of political leaders in Ukraine will take a very different economic path.
The good news is that Ukraine has nowhere to go but up. Ukraine has everything it needs to change the game. It now needs the leadership that will have “brass balls” to remove all the noise in order to execute for the people of Ukraine. Let’s do something different.
Can’t get enough of my analysis? Take a look at the latest on Ukraine’s tipping point.
Henry Shterenberg is a Columnist at Grit Daily. He is the CEO of GTP, the Global Transformation Platform.