The Ukrainian Dilemma and the Bigger Picture
Hardy F. Schloer
Owner, Schloer Consulting Group - SCG
Advisory Board of the Club of Amsterdam
Being in the business of advising countries or their leaders in different places of the world, with often very different belief systems and cultural backgrounds, requires to be as neutral as possible; otherwise, such advising work would no longer provide an impartial and useful view of the world and its many problems.
Nevertheless, certain events of late make me break with tradition of neutrality and raise my voice in protest against dire collective human failure to recognize that the 18th and 19th century and its many misconceptions are over and that we need to do things very differently in the 21st century, if our global society entertains any hope of moving even beyond this current generation without destroying itself.
The events I am talking about are those in the Ukraine, specifically those of February and March 2014. In short, a portion of the Ukrainian people protested against their former president’s behavior and actions. Some sources even claimed, that these protests been initiated or escalated by some western involvement in Ukrainian affairs. We may only learn in the future, what the exact background to these protests have been; nevertheless, a significant number of them lost their lives because of this protest—a fact entirely inadmissible in a democratic society. In the end, their leader fled to Russia. Russia quickly took advantage of the confusion and moved to annex the Russian-speaking parts of the Ukraine, starting with Crimea. It was done quickly, smoothly and with great resolve. A true “masterpiece a la Putin.” One must respect his artful style. Indeed, this was great fencing or brilliant chess-play-- I’ll let you choose your metaphor. The west was totally caught off guard.
As these events unfolded in the Ukraine, they quickly involved the entire western world, and it is interesting to see who else will now look for some political or financial advantage to support one group or another, involved in this surreal political theater show.
One the one side, there is Russia, which seemingly sees a golden opportunity to expand its homeland and, under the pretext of protecting people’s culture, to regain strategic positions lost during the break-up of the Soviet Union. On the other side, there are the so called Western Powers that have set their greedy, investment-banking, eyes on the Ukraine and its business potential, in addition to strategic expansion of its financially and militarily controlled area of influence. Bankers and business leaders can’t wait to feast on the eastern expansion of Europe, having gotten plenty of appetite from Poland, Romania and the like, stepping therefore on the toes of Mr. Putin, who is not at all amused. Clearly, he has learned a very appetizing formula from the west long ago: Influence over Territory = Sales of Weapons + Financial Services + Energy Resources = Money + More Power = More Influence over Territory… and so on. I am sure you get the simple math.
It’s interesting to see how even former Soviet officials became, in the end, true believers and dedicated connoisseurs of real Capitalism, in its most hypocritical and most predatory form. Well done, all of you brilliant teachers from Washington, London, Paris, Berlin, and wherever else you are in this world. You taught Moscow well. Now you need to choke on your own lessons, masterfully served by a truly excellent tactician: Mr. Putin himself. If this situation would not be so sad, it would actually be very amusing.
But, I guess, these pious lessons in Capitalist Greed have sparked some real competition. All of the countries involved now have their Presidents and Ministers for Foreign Affairs sitting like nasty children in a big sandbox, throwing stones at each other, in the hope of destroying each other’s sand castles. The only problem is that the sandbox in question is a country with real people, who are already suffering from horrific corruption, dire poverty, and near economic bankruptcy. Now lives have also been lost, and that in a struggle that is totally senseless, to say the least.
There are no good or bad parties here. All are equally wrong. All are equally guilty. They are guilty of failing to understand that 19th century worldviews have no business in the 21st century. If anything, this entirely man-made crisis exposes the fundamental weaknesses in how we govern the world today. We have made great advances in scientific discovery and technology, but we have so far completely failed to advance in the art of managing society to the benefit of all humans on this planet. In my line of work, I have seen levels of poverty and corruption so deep that it can never be imagined by most of those who can read this article on a computer today.
There is human suffering in every corner of this planet, and in a depth that surpasses the worst Kafkaesque nightmare. Yet, few people seem to think that there is anything wrong with this. In fact, most people believe that these problems are a natural part of human evolution. Well, all I can say is that we better start evolving right now, and a lot faster, because what we are doing now is not only unsustainable with 7 billion people on the planet, but cannot continue without our technological reach outpacing our ethical constraints, and without harming each other on a totally new scale, which will usher in the proverbial Doomsday.
In the 21st century we need to begin to embrace something that was known in former ages as Utopia. But, let’s remember that Utopia is always one step beyond what we can do today, but may well be able to do tomorrow. Before the first airplane managed to rise into the air, Utopia meant being able to fly. As soon as that was archived, Utopia became manned space flight.
To get to a political Utopia here on this planet, we need to begin by asking some extremely provocative questions:
Do we really need the concept of nations in the 21st century?
Do we really need bordered up countries, passports, visas, flags, and national anthems, which foster nothing, but buy more hypocritical, rampant nationalism? Why is it so great to belong to one nation, and not to another, or any nation at all? Can we even afford to continue along these lines on a planet that will soon house 14+ billion people, who need to live in intelligent cooperation with each other?
The short answer is absolutely NO!
One of the most compelling reasons comes directly from the US, which seemingly believes that Americans are much better people, with much more valuable lives than those of any other people in the world; and that, therefore, they deserve preferential treatment, or in some military cases, even special immunity above all others; except, ironically, when they are in their own country, where they are treated mostly as a cheap, mass-resource for the commercial and economic objectives of major multinational corporations, investment banks and the other ruling elites of the country. One may think I am embracing here some old ideas of Marxist communism, but nothing could be further from the truth, because communism is just as dysfunctional as capitalism, or any other dogmatic “ism.”
American policy makers often proclaim that their largely hypocritical and valueless values are much superior to those of any other population on the planet, and that they must, therefore, export these values to every other nation in the world, by force if necessary, in order to glorify Americanism in its most extreme form. This is not too different from the conviction-driven expansion of communism under Lenin, Stalin and their followers, not too long ago. Unfortunately, it is not the proclamation of independence or the beautiful bill of rights that the US leaders try nowadays to export to the rest of the world. It is cynical double standards, greed and uninvited control of economic and territorial assets. It’s all about Money and Power at any cost. Moreover, as they attack Russia on their illegal invasion of Crimea, they have forgotten their own illegal armed attacks on foreign soil, in Libya, Somalia, Yemen and Pakistan to name just a very few, without any U.N. security council authorization.
Yet, this same country that breaks international laws to export its so-called humanitarian values abroad has, at home, the highest prison population of the entire world; the greatest level of poverty; the most public and domestic violence, homelessness, and hunger, and, lest we forget, the most undereducated children amongst all the so-called developed nations. Today’s America is a total departure from the great ideas and principles once proclaimed in its founding and truly glories moments of 1776. All that is gone, and this nation has turned into an international predator by nearly any standard.
But let’s not stop at America. Look at Europe! It is just as guilty! Just as bad. Just as hypocritical. Just as obsessed with hard money and cold power.
After some 2000 years of barbaric mutual slaughtering, finally Europe had an unusually long 75-year period of peace. However, by trying to make Europe a continent-wide success of collaboration, European leaders only wanted to rival the US in its ability to export its own form of economic control and power. As a result, what we find of late is that cynical nationalism and poisoning xenophobia within individual nations are fully on the rise, creating the danger of returning once again to the old fragmented Europe; many are even calling for the dismantling of the historic Schengen agreement, to accommodate these nationalistic agendas of separation and cultural isolation. Strangely enough, it is these European nations, known for liberal agendas just a few years ago, that are now pushing in the opposite direction: Holland, Denmark and Spain, to name just a few examples. I guess both Russia and America welcome this agenda, as they never wanted to see a strong, free and emancipated Europe anyway. That way they can play one country against the other, which is so consistent with the old European tradition anyway.
Europe’s form of imposing on each other and the rest of the world is perhaps more elegant in style and articulation than that of the US today, but in principle it is just as hypocritical and as predatory. European investment bankers and major corporations are happily feasting at the rich dinner table they have been sharing with their US counterparts since WWII.
Now Russia is falling right into the same pattern, very artfully, too. Its organizational support of nationalism is rivaling that of the US, Holland or the UK. Now Russia is on a pious mission of bringing “home” (to the Russian empire) every Russian-speaking enclave in this world, by whatever means necessary. Mr. Putin claims to love his Russian people, but fails to see that most of them live in shocking poverty; that the average Russian life expectancy has fallen from 74 years during the days of the Soviet Union down to 57, due to the impossibly dire living conditions outside of Moscow. Mr. Putin even learned from the conservatives in America how to utilize and integrate the power of the Russian Church into his agenda. Just as the neocons in America embraced the zealous forms of Protestant Christianity as excuse for everything they did, Mr. Putin turned to the Christian Orthodox Church to create a very elegant and believable religious pretext of using military power in order to bring the proverbial “sheep” back to the “Church flock,” as a good shepherd is expected to do.
It took Mr. Putin a bit of time to get over the problems of a disintegrating Soviet Empire and the horrific economic legacy that Mr. Yeltsin left behind him, but make no mistake: when Mr. Putin understood and fully learned the game the west was playing, he graduated quickly, and started to play masterfully the territorial game of political monopoly, perfectly integrating into the web of global power and money. Now he appears better at it than his American and European counterparts.
Today, Mr. Putin uses the US and Europe as convenient banking centers and shopping malls for him and his rich, post-Yeltsin era, friends and corporations. Both Europe and America are eagerly providing very accommodating banking services for Russia’s many interests. Finally, Europe and the US have become one shadowy hedge-fund environment for dirty Russian money, serving Putin’s and his friends’ financial interests, the greedy bonus coffers of corrupt European and US investment bankers, and whoever else has his fingers in the pot.
Now we’ve just got one big happy family around the proverbial ‘G8 Dinner Table’, squabbling publicly over how the Ukrainian territory should be controlled and who should be profiteering from it, for how long and how much. Perhaps my sarcasm is not even reaching the depth of the real truth of things, because the reality is likely even much darker than this.
Meanwhile the suffering goes on. The people of the Ukraine, Russia and partly also of America are still starving, are still suffering from organizational corruption, are still running after the dream of being successful one day while treading day in and day out on the economic hamster wheel, searching for pennies to survive.
What we must do in the 21st century is to embrace people and culture; all cultures; all differences, and learn how to appreciate them, as they are an interesting diversification of our entire global species. We don't need borders, nations, visas, aggressive armies and any form of weapons to enjoy our global human species. We need a common way to govern ourselves by means of science, responsible technologies and peaceful human cooperation; by sharing our resources and technologies across all cultures and people, and by letting anyone live where they want, work where they want. We must think more in terms what we can do to make life better for all, rather then turning the world into 1000 ghettos, so that a few can live in disgustingly ostentatious wealth, while others can’t even provide milk for their babies.
In my life I’ve been fortunate to accumulate many American, Western European, Russian and Asian friends and partners in business and scientific research. When I travel to Russia, or Russian speaking countries, I feel very welcomed there by the people I encounter, and I truly appreciate their culture and customs. I never want to miss them. Equally, I have many American friends and collaborators who have, in some cases, been with me for decades. I would never want to miss them either. The same goes for all the wonderful people I worked with in Europe and Asia. I have built the most successful teams of people from all these nations. I worked with mathematicians from different places from Moscow to Siberia, computer programmers from the Ukraine and other Eastern European countries, scientists from all over the Americas, Asia, Europe and elsewhere. I can assure you, these have been the best times of my life. Mixing cultures and human experiences in an open, unrestricted and non-hostile environment has been a truly amazing enrichment of my life, not a burden or threat to my existence.
Keeping us humans apart and hating each other, or building borders and weapons and armies to kill each other, serves only the few who make money on this: the bankers, the weapon manufactures, and those who profit from the limitation of freedom, travel, self-determination and financial resources--all the results of the national ghettos that they are trying to perpetuate.
"Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" This was the urgent call by US President Ronald Reagan in a speech at the Brandenburg Gate near the Berlin Wall on June 12, 1987, commemorating the 750th anniversary of Berlin. Reagan challenged Mikhail Gorbachev, who was then the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, to tear the wall down as a symbolic gesture of the Soviet leader’s desire to increase political freedom in the Eastern Bloc through glasnost and perestroika.
Today, this challenge must be renewed and urgently expanded:
“Mr. Putin, Mr. Obama, and all you leaders of the western world: begin to tear down all the walls and boarders between us! Lay down all your weapons and release all armies! Let us all come together as one free people of this planet. Let us work together for the prosperity of everyone. Let there be nobody going hungry to bed at night! You know very well we have the resources to do this. Put freedom and cooperation amongst people before profits and exploitation! End the dark sarcasm of your greedy financial systems and institutions. And most of all, stop feeding tension and hatred amongst our brothers and sisters across all nations and cultures. Let us love each other, work and play together, and become ‘one people’ — the beautiful human race!”