As the world holds its breath to see whether the Ukraine/Russia situation boils over into a major international conflict, there are many lessons we can learn from the buildup of events in the Ukraine.
Here are just four of them.
1) Leaders: don’t live large on the Peoples’ dime.
– The ousted Ukrainian President Yanukuvich was living (without exaggeration) like Louis XIV. The contrast between his nation’s poverty and its President’s opulence was nauseating. But his friends, like former General Prosecutor Viktor Pshonka, were up to the same thing. [Presidential advisors, please take note.] Such wanton disregard for the public funds tend to make the plebes ornery. They take it personally when they see how you’ve robbed them to satisfy self-indulgent eccentricities. When plebes get ornery, things can turn ugly real fast.
2) A Disarmed People is a Neutered People.
– In 1994, The Ukraine agreed to divest themselves of nuclear arms. In return, they were promised that Russia would honor the integrity of their borders. Twenty years later, the Ukrainians still have no nukes, and now Russia is reneging on their terms. They will probably call to the West for help, but will they? And even if they wanted to, could they?
Whether you’re dealing with unfriendly nations, or unfriendly neighbours, the same adage rings true: when seconds count, the police are minutes away. Far better to have your own defence established, and not have to rely on the altruism of uncertain allies.
3) The Importance of Energy Independence.
– There are sectors of the economy, which if disrupted, will cripple a nation. Energy is one of them. We have seen how dangerous relying on one or two sources can be. Ukraine has had Russia shut off their natural gas supplies before — twice — and that was in winter, no less.
When your own nation’s security lies within the power of an unfriendly neighbour, you only have an illusion of freedom. The best way to dodge this bullet is to minimize reliance on outside sources. (more on the disrupted gas supplies here)
4) There are No Unimportant Freedoms.
– One of the reasons I keep returning to issues of freedoms (especially speech and religion) is simple. Any government is willing to abridge one basic freedom, will be able to justify abridging others. Ukraine protests have a different quality than Western ones. They are unashamed to pray publicly in such protests. Here’s the problem. Orthodox Priests showed up in large numbers to pray. They even showed up in their full liturgical vestments, standing in the no-man’s land between the riot police and protesters. (link to background and powerful photos)
The ousted Ukrainian government did not stop at just abridging religious freedoms, now, did they? Totalitarians never do.