Discussions on social networks about whether it is necessary to spend “Russian money” on ungrateful neighbours amuse me. Firstly, because, as a rule, “Russian money” is considered by those who in life didn’t even earn money for a doghouse and dream that “the USSR, in which everyone was given everything for nothing, returns”. Secondly, and this is much more important because if it is still possible (although not always and not all of them) to accuse the Bolsheviks of having the desire to spend “Russian money” for world revolution, then it is difficult to suspect that numerous governors of Russia ― from Ivan III to Nicholas II ― slept and saw how to take some more ungrateful folk on “Russian upkeep”.
All gains, captures, “peaceful advances”, and “voluntary accessions” of peoples to Russia happened because the state interests demanded it. Have you ever wondered why Ivan the Terrible, having occupied the Kazan and Astrakhan khanates, refused the proposals of colleagues to begin a war for the accession of Crimea, and got involved in a long, complex, and disastrous for both the country and the dynasty Livonian war?
It wasn’t at all because he was angry or inadequate. Just the opposite, in this case he showed not just adequacy, but also great wisdom. Crimea controlled trade routes across the Dnieper and Don to the Black and Azov seas. Its capture led to an obligatory long conflict with Turkey, but did not give any serious dividends. At that time, there was no tourist business a priori, and trade still rested on the Straits controlled by Turkey and the rest of the Black Sea coast. In addition, the Dnieper trade route was controlled by the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. I.e., Russia would take a piece of the barren land with a disloyal (gravitating towards Turkey) population, would have secured a conflict with one of the strongest military powers of the time for centuries to come, and would receive nothing in exchange.
By seizing the lands of the Livonian order, Russia ensured free access to the Baltic Sea ― at that time one of the main trade regions. Swedes, Danes, and the Order tightly corked the Russian exit to the sea in the Narva and Neva rivers. Not only was the sea shallow and did not contribute to the organisation of a serious port (Pyotr built Petersburg at a different time, with other technologies and with a different military-political weight of Russia), but also any privateers (and back then almost all merchant vessels were as such) could freely stifle Russian Maritime trade, not even allowing ships to reach the expanses of the Baltic Sea.
Meanwhile, the capture of the Kazan and Astrakhan khanates made Russia the full owner of the Volga trade way through which the road to Persia, India, and further to the east, bypassing Turkey, lay. It is possible to understand how important this is at least because European countries fought for 300 years to break the Turkish barrier. By the way, Russia fought for control over the Volga trade route starting with Svyatoslav Igorevich’s campaigns (the third Prince of the Rurik dynasty on the Kievan throne). Svyatoslav’s campaigns, in principle, anticipated the main directions of Russian foreign policy by 1,000 years. He, controlling the Dnieper trade route, tried to establish control both over the Volga over the Danube (he planned even to transfer his residence to the mouth of Danube), and over the Bosphorus Straits and Dardanelles.
The scope was too big (there were not enough resources), which is why Svyatoslav’s campaigns ended unsuccessfully. But since then the Kievian princes have constantly aspired to secure free trade through the Straits, even by military force, or by diplomatic efforts, while the princes of North-Eastern Rus, from which the Moscow state first grew, and then Russia, starting with Andrey Bogolyubsky, went to the Bulgars, trying to establish control over the Volga trade route.
But all these routes did not come to an end in Moscow, Vladimir, or Novgorod. Their logical conclusion was in Europe. Those who controlled the Baltic ports also received the main profits. That is why since time immemorial the Danes, Swedes, Germans, Lithuanians, and Poles sought to close the Russians’ access to the Baltic Sea, and the Russians tried to open it. Crimea to Ivan the Terrible was excess encumbrance, and Baltic lands were a logical conclusion of his many years of work. That is why he waged the most difficult Livonian war, which lasted 25 years, practically to his death. And as soon as Russia departed from the horrors of the troubles, the successors of Grozny did not fight for Crimea, but all went to the Baltic Sea. It was not just expansion, but economically and financially motivated expansion. Victory, as shown by the example of Pyotr, quickly recouped all expenses and started to make a profit.
Since then nothing has changed. Leaving aside the short-lived Soviet period, when the economic benefit was often sacrificed to ideological dogmas, any expansion assumes obtaining benefits that surpass the costs. Any conflict assumes that the interests of two (or more) powers have clashed on a certain territory, and they believe that all the costs of the conflict will be recouped if they win. Once again I will remind that Russia waged 250 years of war for fully-fledged access to Baltic Sea, and only after this access was reliably provided did the income gained strengthen Russia so much so that it returned all western Russian lands (which were a part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth) in the shortest period (less than 100 years), attached the Crimean khanate, rushed to the Caucasus, and forced the Turks to reckon with the trade and military-political interests in the Straits.
Therefore, when we reflect on “Russian money”, we have to speak not about abstract expenditure, but about concrete investments that have to make profit, and to compare them to other possible investments, investing money where it is more profitable (only if there is a surplus, you can invest wherever you want, but again, provided that it will bring a profit).
Today Russia is approximately in the same situation as Ekaterina II before the partitions of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Yes, we lost some of Pyotr’s gains in the Baltics. And Crimea belongs to Russia not in the form of Tavriya and Novorossiya, but only as a peninsula (though strategically important). But modern industrial, trade, and military technologies make it possible to use the available territories with greater success than more significant territorial acquisitions were used under Pyotr and Ekaterina II. Russia has no critical need for Baltic ports, it has enough of its own, and the Baltic Fleet reliably protects our trade in the Baltic Sea, relying on bases in St. Petersburg and Kaliningrad.
Just as it was under Ekaterina II, Russia does not need western lands whose authorities have either already integrated or are planning to integrate into the EU. But there is a nuance. In the same way as it was in the second half of the 18th century, the West is not able to fully digest a limitrophe zone between themselves and Russia. At best, it lays claim to its westernmost border (Czech Republic, Slovenia, perhaps Hungary with Croatia, and as a last resort, but it is not obvious ― Poland). And only if there are enough resources that the West (Old Europe) is starting to lack.
Europe, in principle, has solved its problems in the limitrophe zone. It destroyed local economies. All these countries can live only on the condition of receiving European financing, which covers from a third to a half of expenses of the state budget. Even the most successful of them are simply integrated into the western system as representatives of one important, but not exclusive service (as a rule, it is tourism and related services). These countries are not competitors for the West any more, and, in the process of siphoning off resources from them, become a burden that the West with pleasure is ready to transfer to Russia.
This concerns Ukraine, first and foremost. It is difficult to find a country that was more ruined by the West not only in Europe, but also in Africa. Therefore, the West (at least its Russophobic part) is now ready to tie Russia’s hands via Ukraine in order to intercept the swaying Lukashenko and to Ukrainise Belarus, whose economy is not a masterpiece, but has survived and can feed its people, so, in terms of the West is subject to destruction.
It seems to some that we have in this case a wide choice. For example, it is possible to come to Ukraine and to appoint an authority there. It is possible to not come but wait for them to “come crawling”, and then to dictate conditions. It is possible, as the most overexcited suggest, to in general forget about its existence and not pay attention to what happens on these territories that are quickly turning into a wild field.
Actually the choice is not so vast. Firstly, an ownerless territory on the border can always become a springboard for a strong enemy. If there is no such enemy now, it does not mean that it won’t appear tomorrow. However, it is possible to consider that what we do not see today will never occur, and if such enemy appears, we will be able always to anticipate it. But there are, secondly, nuclear power plants, chemical plants, and other small enterprises that were plentifully constructed in Ukraine at the time of the USSR and are now working time bombs. Sooner or later these bombs will start to detonate, and the neighbouring regions of Russia with tens of millions of people will find themselves in the zone of destruction. Of course, not everyone will get sick and die, but both in organisational and financial terms, the plan of action for the evacuation of people and the disinfecting of the area will be comparable in terms of expenses to an military conflict of small or maybe average intensity and duration. And there will be losses, and noticeable ones at that. By the way, all this stuff will fall down not at once (on the principle of “we experienced once this horror and forgot it”), but a couple of decades in a row. During this time the population of four-five border regions of Russia will simply flee to the interior of the country.
Does this mean that Ukraine should be appended to Russia? No, by no means. For a start, the Ukrainian debts will be appended to us. This is not deadly, but it is a lot. Besides, why should Russia pay for what was stolen by Ukrainian oligarchs with the connivance (and in most cases, with participation) of the West? But money is not the biggest problem. If everything was limited only to them, then, as the Jewish proverb speaks, this would be not a problem, but an expense.
In Ukraine there are no political forces that would be ready to undertake management of an independent state, or even a Russian region. Those who would like to build a “Russia-friendly Ukraine” see it as a return to 2013, but without Yanukovych. This, however, is impossible. Ukraine does not any more have that resource potential that it had in 2013. It not only has no access to the Russian markets (access can be provided though), it has no enterprises capable any more of supplying something to these markets. If it has come to the fact that coal and buckwheat are exported from Russia to Ukraine, then it is difficult to imagine how Ukraine is going to feed its people, and Moscow does not need to finance “soft” European integrators who want to distance themselves from Russia using Russian money.
People who just want to integrate Ukraine into Russia are rare representatives of marginal political groups (10-30 people in each). They are very sensitive (were offended by Russia in 2014) and are ambitious (consider that they can control the universe, even though they have never managed their own family in their own life). They have no weight in society and can only imitate management by sitting on the Russian bayonets backed by Russian money. At the same time, they are not going to listen to Moscow but will build Ukrainian foreign and domestic policy however is most pleasant for them. In comparison with them, Lukashenko will seem absolutely obedient and tame.
Moreover, there is one more nuance that Russia already faced in Crimea and Donbass – corruption of a system from top to bottom. This is not just a problem for years. Such trouble can be overcome in a single region in a decade (some will have to be jailed, and some will become reasonable). But for one region, Russia, although it will not find enough trained officials to replace all local ones, nevertheless can choose the leaders of critical structures (the same security officers) and establish strict control over the rest. No forces will be enough for the whole of Ukraine, and those units that will be sent there by honest chiefs in only a few weeks will be “gobbled up” by local tradition. They will either be instantly disintegrated or substituted. I in principle feel sorry for any official who will agree to work in Ukraine, it is almost a guaranteed shameful end to their career, however wise, worthy, and noble the person was.
So, there is nobody to rely on there, there is nobody to hand power down to, and nobody to give money to. Does this mean that those who say that Ukraine should be forgotten about like a terrible dream are right? No, it doesn’t.
I, too, for a long time was haunted by a bad sequence: it’s not possible to take it and it’s not possible to abandon it, what should I do? And there seemed to be no way out. Until I remembered that it is not necessary to develop the territory with state funds. For example, the British budget officially invested nothing in India. Since 1600 until the end of the 19th century control and management of the territory were provided by the British East Indian company. Money was invested in India by shareholders (among whom there were also British monarchs, but they acted in this case as individuals), and profits were received by all of Britain. And such companies were not only in Britain.
It is possible to say, of course, that it is unfair. But, after all, it is unfair to once again force the Russian people to pay for their “half-brothers” who shirked the property allocated to them, and now ask to understand and forgive them. It is also unfair to squander Russian lands, all the more so since not only the blood of their ancestors poured on them, but even today millions of completely Russian people still live there. In general, a lot of things are unfair to do, and we need to somehow settle these injustices among ourselves.
May we involve private capital in the development of Ukraine on a commercial basis? Of course we can. Do you think that Russian banks for fun refused to leave from there until the last moment? Offhand I can say that Ukraine is of interest from a logistical point of view in case of establishing minimum order inside it. Its geographical location cannot be undone. In case of need it can be bypassed, but the shortest way to the Balkans and to southern Europe lies through its territory and will be always in demand. In a relatively mild climate with a minimum cost of labor (the population is absolutely impoverished), the cost of restoring railways and highways will be minimal. The restoration of pipelines will allow Gazprom not to fool itself with possible conflicts with the countries that the “Turkish” and potential “South” streams pass through, as well as the Yamal-Europe gas pipeline, and all American efforts to blockade “Nord Stream-2” will go to waste.
The land of Ukraine is perfectly adapted for the cultivation of all main types of products of agriculture both for internal consumption and for export. Of course, it will be necessary to take measures to ensure that cheap local products did not ruin Russian farmers, but such regulation is quite possible for the state, especially if to reorient the main stream of these products towards export (where it will compete not with Russian ones any more, but with European, African, American, etc.). For export, by the way, you will need port capacity, which is also at hand.
The logistics and agriculture, as well as the extraction of a limited range of minerals (ones that are profitable), can support a 20–25 million population. It is approximately how many are on the territory of Ukraine now, minus gastarbeiters. A part will leave for the EU (if they will still be accept there) to work as labourers forever. A part will be reoriented towards Russia, having brought in addition up to 5 million workers who are not superfluous, and who were raised in the Russian culture.
The state does not need to invest. A contract, according to which it transfers a certain set of sovereign rights, except the right to pay debts, can be signed between some “Russian-Ukrainian company” with any nominal Ukrainian authority (for this purpose it is simple to appoint some nabob from the “past” or “future”). The contract is signed by the Company whose shareholders are interested large Russian companies. The company, at the expense of income gained from the territory, provides management, military, and police control over the territory and also its denazification. The Company does not bear responsibility for the observance of civil rights – this is the problem of the nominal sovereign power that collects taxes from the population and from businesses (including foreign ones, but not from the Company).
The petition of the Company facilitates the process of obtaining Russian citizenship, which gives the chance to leave Ukraine and to move to Russia. The Company also provides for the import of Ukrainian labour to its enterprises in Russia according to the stated quotas (after the expiration of the contract, these people can either apply for citizenship, or will be required to leave Russia within the period stipulated by law). The office of the Company in Ukraine is formed from both local staff and citizens of the Russian Federation working under contract.
Perhaps now such an approach will seem to some to be cruel, but a little time will pass and something will happen that no adequate expert or politician even in Ukraine itself doubts any more – the state will disappear completely and the life of ordinary people will become unbearable. That’s when the above conditions, assuming the presence of work and power to ensure order, will appear to the local population as something unattainable, a return to the lost “Golden Age”.
Neither Russia, nor its budget should spend anything. All expenses for the development of the territory come from the Company’s budget, which is formed at the expense of its income received in Ukraine. But here the Company will have to pay taxes to the state budget of Russia (possibly, not at once, but after a grace period for sure), as well as dividends to shareholders among whom there can be also the state. The issue of military-political control over the territory, as well as the issue of recovery of the local economy – non-competitive with the Russian one, are resolved at the same time. The problem of denazification is not simple to solve. In one generation, if there are still Ukrainians on this territory, their blue dream will be to get a Russian passport that opens the doors to the wider world. Russia and the Company are not responsible for Ukrainian debts – for this purpose there is a sovereign “government” that can declare a sovereign default at least every day. When and if Moscow sees fit, the Company will hand over full control of the territory to the Russian authorities.
If the Company unexpectedly collapses, it wouldn’t be anything grave. It is a private enterprise. By the way, in the article “The British Dominion in India” Karl Marx, rigidly criticising Britain for separate mistakes and non-European methods, nevertheless recognises Britain as a “tool of history” without whose actions the “social revolution in Asia” would be impossible. The article was written in 1853, the British East Indian company delegated the powers to a crown in 1858, so Marx speaks about a progressivist role of the Company acting as “tool of history” where the state could not interfere.
The previous paragraph is written especially for modern ultra-leftists who like to criticise the “bourgeois state” for “brutal methods”. In practice, a civilised state can neither rob its citizens for the sake of the population of the annexed territories, nor forcibly send them to develop these territories. It can only make them curious: in particular, obtaining a higher rate of return (higher personal income) in the annexed territories.
I want to note that Ukraine is just the first, but the modern history does not come to an end with it. In front of our eyes the entire limitrophe region – from the Oder to the Don and Narva, and from the Baltic Sea to the Adriatic Sea – is falling apart. Someone will surely profit from this. Why shouldn’t it be Russia (having tried and tested this mechanism in Ukraine), which over the past hundred or two hundred years has invested a lot of resources and human lives in this region. If profit-making will become a priority task, and “saving” turncoat limitrophes once again is a related one, then no problems with “Russian money” are expected. But if we simply ignore what is happening there, as in the case of a repetition of the Soviet mistake of financing “friends and allies” at the expense of our own interests, then we will have to pay more, but with much less effect.
By the way, I do not insist on using the mechanisms of colonial robbery characteristic of the 17th-19th centuries. It is possible to come up with something more modern, fairer in form, and in some places even democratic. The most important thing is not the mechanism, but the principle: “Those who are saved pay for their own salvation”. This is the same principle that is applied in the education of children. If a child wants to learn something, they have to first of all make their own efforts, and the help and support of adults is an important, but accompanying element. A person never values benefits that fall on them from the sky as if by themselves. Nor the giver of these benefits.
And lastly, for fighters for gratuitous “justice”: “Every labour must be paid”.
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