The next world war, which could start on December 24, 2012, if you adhere to the Mayan calendar, will start, if it starts, on the Ukrainian border. The Russians will attack either to free the Russian ethnic minority from ‘oppression’ or to unblock the pipelines transporting natural gas to European markets. In either event, America will be morally obligated to respond, because James Baker III and Mikhail Gorbachev cut a deal twenty years ago trading Ukrainian nukes for an American guarantee of Ukrainian territorial integrity. In 1989, the USSR and the USA were so concerned that the Ukraine would turned into a rogue nuclear state that they were willing to take an equally dangerous gamble that would eventually square the superpowers off against one and other.
Right now, Ukraine is the flash point for global conflict. It is the new Afghanistan, the new buffer zone, separating the power blocks / media bubbles in the ‘Great Game’ – Russia, West and Islam – from one another. It is the place where the energy to heat and light Europe is pumped thorugh a bottleneck of old and leaky pipelines.
Unfortunately, the Ukraine is beset by a litany of intractable problems. Its population is declining at the fastest rate of any country in the world. To date, no economic theory has come up with a remedy for de-population. Historially, population decline has led to unstability and ultimately conquest by a more fecund ethnic group. Its industrial base reminds one more of the 1950’s than the 2010’s and except for tiny pockets of software programming, has nothing of interest to world markets except obsolete Soviet weapons systems and commodity steel. Its political system is unstable and demoralizing as nouveau riche elites immaturely jockey for power and wealth.
Last winter’s gas pipeline dispute is an example of how the Ukraine can quickly throw the world into conflict. The Russians wanted the Ukraine to pay for the gas crossing the border at the market price (ironically pegged to oil). The Ukrainians wanted the Russians to pay the market rate for transporting the gas to the Slovakian border. After a three week stand-off orchstrated by some shadowy figures in a tax haven in Switzerland trying to preserve their monopoly on gas transport, a straight forward, market deal was cut but not before the sabers had begun to rattle on both sides.
The upshot of the gas dispute and the general world economic crisis is that now the Ukraine is in serious economic trouble. It had been subsided for years by below-market Russian gas siphoned off as it was being pumped acrossed the country. With these subsidies gone, a new source of cash needs to be found.
So the G-20 was very wise to put an extra $750 billion in the International Monetary Fund (under the control of a Frenchman) to bail-out the collapsing economies of Eastern Europe, especially the Ukrainian economy. This money will head off the conditions that could lead to war for the foreseeable future, at least until December 24, 2012 when the current fourth Mayan epoch ends. Congratulations to the G-20 for being so level-headed and prescient.