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The original schedule for this post was to discuss technology investment trends. But events in the Ukraine intercede. On Tuesday, BLPA completed its fourth FINRA audit (three year cycle). In speaking with the FINRA auditor, he expressed his wonderment about why we, the United States, should care about the Ukraine? Good question. Everyone in free Europe should be concerned about the Ukraine and the Soviet Union’s over reach, but why us?
The easy answer is that an unstable world is not in anyone’s best interest, except for those in power in the country doing the destabilizing. Observe how the stock markets swoon, and your 401-K plummets, at the prospect of armed conflict or instability in major areas of the world.
Russia has a long, long history of over reach. Anyone familiar with Polish history, or for that matter, the countries in that area of Eastern Europe, is well aware of the ever-changing country borders. Where there is no natural demarcation, the borders will change with the particular acts of aggression of the countries involved. In this case, Russia.
Here, it is useful to consider Russia’s consistently aggressive actions over the past century. This is not a one-off:
A misconception in North America is that the Nazis were the sole murderers during World War II. In fact, the Soviet Union of Joseph Stalin was Hitler’s partner in crime. To quote Norman Davies, FBA, Oxford “All the countries like Poland which lay between Germany and the Soviet Union felt the lash of both their neighbors and at war’s end they were denied any meaningful liberation.” He continues on “In reality, the Russian acronym, the GULag, stands for “State Board of Concentration Camps”. All the indications are that the Soviet instruments of repression consumed more human beings than their Nazi counterparts”.
The Auschwitz Volunteer: Beyond Bravery, is the 1945 Auschwitz Report written by Polish Army Captain Witold Pilecki. In the Forward, Rabbi Michael Schudrich, Chief Rabbi of Poland in 1911, says: “His [Pilecki’s] report provides firsthand information about less well-known aspects of Auschwitz—e.g., it’s initial function as a concentration camp for Polish political prisoners; the extermination of Soviet soldiers taken as prisoners of war; the first intimations and subsequent execution of the Nazi German “final solution” for Jews, which began in earnest in 1942.”
Anyone whose parents immigrated to the United States, as a result of the takeover of their country of origin, can feel for those in Kiev. My father literally could not return to Poland without the fear, and probably the certainty, that he would be murdered. Until my visit to Krakow, I had thought that my father was exaggerating. Now, I know he was most unfortunately accurate. The communists took over his family’s property, which was quite valuable. He never fully assimilated into the United States. The culture, society and values were so vastly different. Who would, if you had immigrated at the age of 36, with only a Canadian government job and your fare paid for by the Canadian government? In Krakow he had property, education, status. While I would argue that he did incredibly well in recovering, there was always that feeling of having been cheated out of his future and that he was a fish out of water.
The Ukraine is strategic to Russia, just as Poland was. Putin freely expresses his desire to reassemble the USSR; the Ukraine is his first step, with Crimea as the entry point.
I don’t have the solution. And yes, this is more of an issue for the Europeans to fight. With our support. But we can support the Ukraine with our natural gas, financial aid and economic sanctions against Russia. With the Europeans we can monitor and report events as they unfold. We can do something meaningful.