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by John Brian Shannon | January 24, 2016
Since 2008, Europe’s leaders have employed unexceptional management-style techniques to deal with the global financial crisis, the Greek crisis, and the ongoing refugee crisis — instead of creating a grand overriding vision that large numbers of citizens could buy-into in order to craft an ever-better EU.
What the leaders of any nation must remember is that whether it be a country, a corporation or NGO, a grand overriding vision and a mission statement that a majority of participants can agree with and work towards is of paramount importance.
Words like, “nebulous” and “pedestrian” and “amorphous” have no place in such contexts. Yet we’ve seen that in the policy response to the global financial crisis, to the Greek crisis, and especially in regards to the millions of refugees streaming into Europe.
And now, due to a lack of proper direction for the new arrivals — as to what constitutes acceptable standards of behavior for male EU residents — serious problems have begun to appear. And if they can’t act in a civilized fashion (even with proper education and direction provided courtesy of the EU country they chose to reside in) then they must (quickly) be deported to the general region from whence they came.
Yes, these males are adults and we expect them to act appropriately. However, customs in one country may be very different than in others. Governments — not corporations or citizens, are supposed to inform new arrivals about the norms of human behavior in their new country.
Make no mistake, what we’ve seen in Germany is just the beginning. Much worse is in the offing as a number of huge festivals appear throughout Europe over the next few months.
The spectacular Kölner Karneval is set to start in a few days, a carnival that has been a part of Cologne’s cultural fabric since 1823, and begins with (you couldn’t make this up if you tried) Women’s Carnival Day on February 4th. (Face-palm)
What could possibly go wrong?
From seemingly small and disparate incidents wars have begun in Europe. Imagine a melee with thousands of women getting groped, accosted, robbed, raped or gang-raped by uncouth men of Middle Eastern descent throughout the week-long carnival in Cologne. Now imagine the repercussions if a number of German women or German police officers were killed, think how that might change Europe…
WWI was sparked by the killing of only two people, while the underlying cause of WWII could be attributed to the unfair conditions set on Germany after WWI by the Allied Powers via the Treaty of Versailles.
In an event that is widely acknowledged to have sparked the outbreak of World War I, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, nephew of Emperor Franz Josef and heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, is shot to death along with his wife by a Serbian nationalist in Sarajevo, Bosnia, June 28, 1914. — History.com
From a relatively small incident (the assassination of two important people) millions of wartime deaths and atrocities occurred because the politicians of the day let things drift — no doubt hand-wringing all the way.
The present amorphous EU refugee system is a recipe for disaster
It’s just a matter of time before something goes really wrong and thousands of people become injured or killed.
The lack of vision and leadership on the Europe/Middle East/North Africa (EMEA) refugee matter has, so far, been appalling.
I very sincerely hope that I’m wrong, but I think February 2016 is going to become another famous month in European history for all the wrong reasons.
- Footprints: The growing divide in Germany (Dawn)
- Pulling Europe Back from the Brink (Project Syndicate)
- Cologne attacks: Police use water cannon and pepper spray on anti-immigration protesters (The Independent)
by John Brian Shannon | November 2, 2015
Some people in the West are making erroneous statements like this: “With Russia’s military invasion and annexation of Crimea, and the subsequent war in eastern Ukraine…”
What? Russia didn’t militarily invade Crimea, more than 95% of the voters in Crimea voted in a referendum to rejoin Russia at at time when Ukraine’s economy and society was unraveling in even faster-motion-than-usual. All of it has been widely reported by every reputable news source in the world. On those points, there are no gray areas. They are facts.
Whenever Anything Goes Wrong: Blame Russia!
And it is a complete fairy-tale to portray that all of Ukraine’s historic problems are “subsequent” to Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea (at the request of 97% of Crimean voters) or were somehow caused by Russia’s 2014 food aid convoys to the Ukrainian separatists (separatists have been operating there for several decades) in the eastern parts of the country.
Some are trying to make it all Russia’s fault retroactively and are carefully checking their calendars to find the first day of Vlad Putin’s presidency — because they’re sure that’s the day that all of Ukraine’s problems started. (Facepalm!)
Short History of Ukraine
Ukraine was never a self-sufficient country — not even during the time of Peter the Great nor at any time since. Czarist Russia and the USSR poured billions (trillions?) of roubles into Ukraine over a 300-year period in a failed attempt to stabilize that economy. And such stabilization only occurred for exactly as long as the massive subsidies were pouring into Ukraine.
Ukraine: Subsidized to the Hilt for 300-years
During the Cold War, the USSR spent more on subsidies to Ukraine than all of its satellite states combined. That stopped in 1991. Which is why, since the breakup of the Soviet Union, Ukraine has been in an economic tailspin. No other outcome was remotely possible.
Ukraine in Economic Free-fall Since the End of the Cold War
The economy, infrastructure and the level of social and other services provided to citizens by the government have since been in free-fall.
(Some) Western Politicians See Opportunity Rising in Allowing Ukraine to Dwindle
Of course, after the Cold War ended, some European politicians were deluded into thinking that Ukraine would eventually fall into their lap and then they could just waltz into the country and pick its bones, leaving the problem regions and problem people to the government of Ukraine to deal with.
Which is a fine idea if the EU had no soul. Let’s hope it does. We’ve already suffered through two world wars, let’s not make it a three-peat.
However, the Mindset of Westerners Have Become More Sophisticated Since the Cold War Ended
The world has become less naive since 1990 and the cherry-picking of Ukraine, and using that country’s economic distress in a way that works to beat up Vlad Putin to score cheap political points, isn’t going to work for long.
In this modern social media world no amount of government censorship of the traditional media can suppress citizen journalists (bloggers) or the thousands of non-journalist citizen tweeters or Facebook posters about the things they witness on the street.
The EU will not be carting away the best of Ukraine and leaving the problems to the Ukrainian government to solve via the World Bank, the IMF, or even the ADB.
Social Media as a ‘Check and Balance’ on Politics
Citizens nowadays are too informed, too activist, and too impatient to create a better world for everyone on the planet, to allow it to happen that way — and social media routinely travels faster than traditional (and sometimes censored) media.
Somebody Please Tell Western Politicians that the Cold War is Over
We need to scrap this Cold War mentality that persists in some capitals. The Cold War is over because the brightest minds in the world declared that it was over and that it wasn’t conducive to the best outcome for humanity.
We Stand on the Shoulders of Giants
Those diplomatic and military giants upon whose shoulders we (should humbly) stand are the ones who brought an end to the Cold War, and less brilliant minds should not now (nor ever) be allowed to overturn their logical and profound vision.
We should be looking at Ukraine in the following way:
- Ukraine was a state within Czarist Russia and later the USSR, for more than 300 years.
- Due to the economic failure of the Soviet Union in 1990, it was forced to stop subsidizing Ukraine and the USSR allowed the country to leave the bloc.
- Ukraine’s economy has been in various states of free-fall since then.
- Allowing the West to cherry-pick Ukraine is not going to happen. Even considering it should be ‘far below’ the standards of any country.
- Ukraine can’t survive without massive subsidies. It’s simply an economic reality.
- Since 1990, the West has not stepped-up to heavily subsidize Ukraine — why would they now? And the fact is, they won’t, because all of Europe acting together couldn’t afford to pay Ukraine’s bills.
- Had the West been showing TLC to Ukraine since 1990, and had it taken over the role of multi-billion euro per year benefactor since 1990, a very compelling moral and legal argument could’ve been made that Ukraine, had de facto, become a part of the West. I myself would’ve made the case for Ukraine’s accession to the EU and worked to convince Russia to forego any further claims on Ukraine!
- But that didn’t happen. Therefore, the West has no moral nor legal right at all in regards to Ukraine. And is in no moral position nor does it have any legal right to lay claim to one square foot of Ukrainian soil — no matter how ‘anti-Putin’ some Western politicians are — as if that’s a qualifier of legitimacy of claim.
- Crimean’s voted 97.1% to rejoin Russia and we should respect their democratic vote if we’re going to continue to pretend that we care about democratic values in other countries, not just our own.
- Whichever eastern republics want to hold a referendum to rejoin Russia, they should not be interfered with. Democratic values must be respected. Not just in our own countries, but in all countries. If a majority of citizens there vote to rejoin Russia, so be it. That is well within their rights. No caterwauling allowed.
The West long ago gave up any moral or legal right to influence, obtain any part of, use, or gain from Ukraine’s present distress — by studiously neglecting to give any meaningful amount of TLC or economic assistance to the country during its time of prolonged economic trauma.
1. It’s clear that the Ukraine economy cannot survive without massive, external subsidies.
2. The West has missed its chance with Ukraine.
3. To Russia, and the voters of Ukraine and the voters of eastern Ukraine: Your move.
4. No sour grapes. We’ve had our chance since the end of the Cold War and we blew it.
Allowing Ukraine to dwindle for 2 1/2 decades and then swooping in at the last moment to cherry-pick the country and concomitantly attempt to embarrass Vlad Putin — is just not up to the world class standards of behavior that we expect from civilized nations.
- The Return of Geopolitics to Europe (Project Syndicate)
- Ukraine Crisis Highlights Ugly Global Energy Truths (The Tyee)
by John Brian Shannon | February 18, 2015
During the Cold War it was widely known that the Western forces (except for the Swiss and the Swedes who were politically neutral) could hold the Warsaw Pact countries for only one week before they would need to ‘go nuclear’ against the invading Soviet Army.
Therefore, no matter how bravely the Western European armies, air forces and navies fought and no matter how bravely the U.S. and Canadian forces fought, the numerical superiority of Warsaw Pact (especially in tanks, troops and war matériel) meant that they would completely overwhelm Western Europe in a week.
Which is why the Western powers reserved the right to employ ‘First Strike’ capability (the right to use nuclear weapons as the first option in any conflict against Warsaw Pact nations) in the case that Western Europe was invaded. Logical, but harsh. (It kept the peace for decades, it must be stated)
After the Cold War ended, it was discovered that the Warsaw Pact powers would have won the conventional war even more quickly than we had realized due to other factors that were then-unknown to us.
The West would’ve lost in 3 days and we would’ve been caught ‘flat-footed’ and completely overrun. Yes, a complete rout in the conventional war.
If it really came down to it, that same situation could still play out in Europe in our century, as Russia still enjoys huge numerical superiority in tanks, military personnel, and other war-making capabilities.
In order to not lose all of Europe, we would need to go nuclear on Day 3 of a concerted attack, or we would lose the whole thing.
Which would invite an overwhelming response. Obviously. Let’s not pretend otherwise.
There is no military solution in Ukraine
Anyone who thinks otherwise, needs to go to War College for 10 years because they are not basing their decisions on the above-noted reality. Which can bite you.
The strongest defence against a Russian takeover of Europe is a strong and united society, one that is impenetrable and indivisible.
Such a society presents a major problem for any invader. With no means to divide and conquer, it means an extended conflict, à la the French Resistance of WWII. No invader wants that, whether political leaders who must deal with the political fallout of rising bodycounts on TV every night for months or years, or military leaders who recognize the devastating effect it has on overall troop morale, affecting their troops based thousands of miles away. See Vietnam War. See also, Soviet/Afghanistan War.
A bickering, splintered European society, and involving ourselves militarily in Ukraine could raise the temptation level of Russian military leaders to a place that we should always avoid.
All that is needed to empower the Russian military to gain undue and increased influence in the Duma and in the office of the Russian president, is a for social disorder to spread in Europe and a few European governments to fall in rapid succession.
As we saw in Russia, circa 1991, kinetic energy can quickly become a dynamic force
We know that Russia’s strong suit is the ability to wage conventional war in Europe.
We know that the Ukrainian separatists/pro-autonomy forces strength lies in their ability to hold their present ground — and at the very worst retreat into Russian territory for days, weeks, or months, to re-enter Ukraine elsewhere and fight from that location. It’s a huge border. There is no way to police it.
We know that Europe’s strong suit is Soft Power.
Why would we ‘fight’ Ukrainian separatists/pro-autonomy forces (who apparently, receive military and intelligence assistance from Russia) with our weakest hand (our conventional military forces) which happens to be Russia’s strongest hand?
Why not ‘fight’ Ukrainian separatists/pro-autonomy forces/Russian assistance with Soft Power — our strongest hand?
For one example of sending Russia a ‘Soft Power message’ — understand what lower oil prices have done to the Russian economy
That use of Soft Power happened (over the space of a decade) because both President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama decided to ramp-up North American oil production to record levels, resulting in a massive glut of oil which has worked to dramatically lower global oil prices.
Which policy netted a number of results. Gasoline prices for Americans dropped considerably and are still dropping, which boosted the U.S. economy. Due to the huge increase in American petroleum production affecting the global oil supply, global oil prices are still falling. America’s foreign oil imports dropped significantly. By 2017 at the latest, the U.S. will be a net petroleum exporter. Europe’s moribund economy began to improve almost instantly as the oil price fell. Russia’s huge oil exports suddenly became a huge liability for them and growth in the Russian economy has ground to a halt. All of that has happened via the use of Soft Power. Impressive.
Russia needs their oil to sell above $110. per barrel in order for it to be profitable
Unlike Canada where the tar sands oil (classed as #4 sour crude) needs to be priced at over $56./bbl to be profitable, and Saudi crude oil needs to be priced over $7./bbl (classed as #1 sweet crude, if there’s any of that ‘easy to extract and easy to refine’ oil left) and $22./bbl (classed as #2 or #3 medium crude) to be sold at a profit.
It’s the oil speculators (who live mostly in America and Russia, collectively known as the 1%) who profit on anything over and above production costs — whether we are talking oil or any other commodity. But you knew that.
There was no real 1% prior to high oil prices, nor was there a huge, profitable, and growing export market for Russian oil.
Ergo, the high oil prices of recent years are largely responsible for the creation of the 1% in both America and Russia, and the creation of the huge Russian oil export market.
In any potential war, or in cases of serious sabre-rattling, we need to look at who benefits — and ‘work it back’ from there
Oil prices always rise in during periods of convincing sabre-rattling or outright war, and both the oil price rise and any war that might result could ultimately impact many people.
In the case of Ukraine, the people who will benefit from any determined sabre-rattling or outright conflict there, will be relatively small numbers of people (the 1%) most of whom live in America and Russia.
I guess it’s up to citizen oversight to ensure that this situation doesn’t get out of hand.
- The Saudi project, part two (The Economist)