Two friends of mine. Both radio heads. One, now a political operative in Brussels. The other, a Silitoe – a gentleman smuggler. Back then, we use to laugh at how Russia is “still lobbing around large formation of troops with the concept of COIN lost in the core of their mostly conscript run operations.” Both friends have elderly relatives and family members living somewhere near Hamburg, Germany and Grimsby, UK.
One of them – the poll head in Brussels, once had his day with Putin. There and then, he assumed best way to save pennies for the European Union was to insist that: he, Putin as the head of Russia is responsible for lives of Russians outside Russia, especially those in the former Soviet Republics. “Rather unperturbed,” as he commented later, Mr. Putin agreed, kept his promise.
My other friend – a born soldier. A naturally resourceful fellow and as always, creative and very very lucky. But not so this time, 2014. “All bloody doors, slammed shut. All corridors, blocked. Rats and rodents in alley ways, all scared off. For what!” He frustratingly exclaimed. Well, what happened? Somebody reversed the course of what used to be “an extremely easy run.”
The thing is, as soon as he heard of Ukraine versus Russia, he overlooked the fact that Ukrainian protesters are in the same mold as “Occupy Wall Street.” And might not have enough credibility to establish order talk less of keeping engine parts well oiled.
He hastily revived his old contacts in the Aegean Sea, Odessa and beyond. Plan – to start running Marlboro, Philip Morris, Virginia slim, Newcastle Brown Ale, Schnapps and a couple of German beers behind enemy lines. Sadly, someone other than Ukrainian protesters now control the transit channel. And that person will have nothing to do with any pale ale, talk less of beer and cigarettes. On the other hand, he has plenty of real Russian Vodka and a truck load of filter-less cigarettes to offer – if you can pay the cost of transiting through unauthorized tracks in Ukraine or the Black Sea port.
He wasn’t happy to lose “easy” business this way. So he called his friend in Brussels, asking him to “do something for Christ’s sake. Can’t learn new trade after almost twenty years on this road.”
This is an example of how bad Ukraine and the rest of Eastern Europe (except East Germany) have been treated since Soviet Union ceased. No concrete investment from Western European businessmen, no infrastructure, nothing. They kept on treating Ukraine and the rest as a transit point to get to Russia, the Orient, China and back.
Imagine if he had set up a warehouse or a distribution company in Ukraine! He will create jobs, create some sort of revenue for Ukraine and the situation might have been different. They simply wanted to do business with Russia and beyond. Nothing else matters.
As for my other friends in Brussels, well, if he had pushed for quick redrafting of European borders, maybe things would have been different now. But then, you can’t blame him for being a rational political operative after all. Why should anyone in the European Union inherit a huge jobless workforce and then have to start paying retirement benefits for thousands Soviet-Afghan war veterans?
Based on these socio-political quagmires, I implore Ukrainian leaders to please use language, location and kinship to the country’s advantage. You could be the next Constantinople or even Venice. Being unruly and fractiously heady is an art that even the Poles and the Fins are no longer interested in. They’ve learnt to do business on both sides.
Wise up like North Korean leaders did. Adopt the model of countries like Switzerland, Luxembourg and Liechtenstein. If North Korea’s Rason and Tumen in its northern corridor with Yalu river’s Sinuiju and Manp’o to its west, could become a revenue oriented transit points (providing land, train, air, sea ports, hotels and gambling resorts) between Russia, China, Japan, Taiwan and South Korea, Kazhakistan, Central Asia, the Causcaus and beyond so can Ukraine.
Japan is happy. China’s Shanghai port and financial hub is bustling. South Korean’s textile industry is booming. And Russia’s industrial mineral industry, oil, gas, iron ore, fishing and other agricultural exports in exchange for cars, textile and electronics has never had it so good.
Language, location and kinship provides you with the best of both worlds. Europe and the rest of the world is envious of your position. I don’t see you joining European Union soon or NATO either. Change course. Do not send your brightest and best to war and neither should your boys and girls go off to flip hamburgers – as new immigrants in European cities. Your education up to the age of twenty five years is free. Keep it that way.