On seizing the Russian invasion to stop the Western decline and grow strong again

20-4-22

Dear Partners in Thought,

The Russian invasion was a wake-up call for the West, or the “Western liberal order” (as it is no longer a geographic concept), and especially the younger generations for whom war in Europe was only seen in movies and, if they still read them, history books. While collective historical memory of WW2 died away as those who fought or lived through it passed away and their children became grandparents, the people of the West woke up to a reality long-forgotten that unprovoked wars from another age can also arise in otherwise peaceful Europe. Most observers stressed the strong unity of the West in responding to Russia, which was all the more surprising considering its current station in history. For decades the West focused on the economy, leading to a point where money-making became naturally the prime objective of a business ecosystem – all while rising inequalities gradually became secondary, as the masses were gradually served for the last 15-20 years a power-grabbing populist menu of grievances, making them also forget what was going on in their daily lives. Not only this, but the Russian invasion happened just as the West had weakened itself in recent years. And while the West – and indeed the US – still have tremendous assets and power, it may not be premature to disagree with “Paris 1919” historian Margaret McMillan, in seeing the signs of a gradual decline and then fix it once and for all at this tragic but timely juncture of history.

While technology or “tech” has changed our lives for the better, and sadly also for the worse, we additionally see today many examples in the world of business and finance of grievous developments that have slowly helped destroy Western society and hurt the many for the benefit of the few, all while forgetting the core values that made the West what it once was. The combination of technology, business and finance has led many times to adverse societal change in the West and also the world. The behaviors of many Western leaders in the political and business worlds, at times mixing both, has also added to the debasement of the societal values upon which the West was once built.

A few developments seen in the last decade underline the weakening of the West into a new version of an Ancient Rome declining through “games and circus” – but also now greed. This Ancient Rome-like decline has been unwittingly encouraged by tech, small or Big, and the financial and business worlds on the altar of profit, and while finding all the justifications needed on the way – like job creation or customer satisfaction. Having said all that, it is clear that Winston Churchill’s legendary quote in 1947 should always apply to the West, in that it is also another word for “democracy”: it is indeed the worst form of government except for all the others. This admittedly long note is not only about the key problems facing the West but also and crucially the ways to fix them – so it should be read until its end with an open mind.

The key examples of Western demise stated below may be seen by many, who still wish to hope that thinigs are just fine, as unfairly stated. These are only inter-related features of a darkening trend. In 2022, the few key features of what has promoted the de-strengthening of the West over the last 20 years with marked acceleration over the past decade, especially in Europe and the US, are as follows:

Tech and the damaging loss of critical thinking. Tech, like Aesop’s tongues, is the best and the worst of things. While tech undoubtedly brought many societal advancements in the way we live – be it in science, medicine, telecommunication and many other key areas – it also lavished the world with tools that strengthened isolation, fixations and behaviors leading to natural selfishness that was not planned and happened unnoticed by users. This damaging tech user behavior is seen with video games, social media and people walking down the street while watching their phone. Tech unwittingly shaped a world where increasingly self-centered users started to think less for themselves while relying on ready-made tools not devoid of agendas (indeed like this blog) though increasingly extremist in their message to shape their views. It should be no surprise that the younger digital generations, as seen in France in the current presidential election, espouse more extremist views and candidates than their markedly more liberal elders. In other cases, now known as “predatory”, the likes of TikTok and Instagram would encourage teens and young adults to self-diagnose with mental conditions with expensive solutions being provided by their sponsors whose business ran unchecked. One of the latest developments allowing to escape the real world well beyond its virtual aspects is now the selling of the metaverse providing users with a parallel world and existence, sheltering them away from the reality that real shells would now destroy. It is clear that many tech creators and users would not know who Aesop is today, but they would also benefit from taking a back step while enjoying their tools. The Chinese leadership, while seeing the damage that tech selfishness could do to its overall system (and likely not only key autocratic feature) decided to control access to and usage of video games and the internet – drastic measures that are obviously not fitting the West and its values. There is a need for a collective wake-up call regarding tech behavior, which is indeed challenging to make happen – if not at the core family and school level for a start. One can argue ad nauseam about the part of the responsibility of tech in a Western decline, though critical thinking looks to be gradually on its way out.

The foolish valuations of profitless tech companies. While tech (and not only Big Tech) rose to new heights in the last decade, a huge number of tech start-ups were created worldwide. While the venture capital industry was long known to be an area of finance where fund platforms were as a whole struggling to make any returns, as in private equity and its larger, more mature deals, the times suddenly changed. The new Thomas Edison times were born when venture capital firms focused on selling dreams and the motto that “profits will come” was heard again after a 20-year lull since the dotcom Bubble. The new Edison times reached incredible heights and indeed status when in 2019 a famous company called Uber was listed on the New York Stock Exchange at a market valuation of USD 90bn – without having made any profits in its ten years of existence. Based on its name, Uber, while being a simple car ride hailing company, had attracted the dynamics of offer and demand (often the key issue in a world with too much money) while subsequently losing USD 30bn in market value over 12 months. Venture capital, belonging to an ecosystem of “supportive” investment bankers and lawyers earning huge fees, went through a new age when anything was possible. This new era – sold as one of “progress” – was emblematic of money-losing start-ups active in attractive fields like an AI start-up being listed in 2021 at USD 35bn, only to lose half of its value in nine months – all while the ecosystem was becoming very wealthy if only for venture capitalists via the carried interest rewards of venture capital firms and involving minimal financial investment and risk-taking. Tech venture capital today is driven by a numbers game and is akin to gambling, where the key skill is to know when to leave the table, which invariably is very early post-listing and when legally allowed to do so for the principals behind the scheme. At least the real value is there in identifying early tech start-ups that will make investors dream. However, the lack of link between the results and the market value of these tech firms is a direct attack on rationality and reflects the declining Ancient Rome aspect of our current Western world. Investing in tech companies and promoting them to listed stock exchange status should not be about “when to leave the casino table” to cash in before the expected fall.

The advent of the cryptocurrency gamble. Cryptocurrency, started with the now-famed Bitcoin twelve years or so ago as an experiment based on fashionably libertarian-put “decentralization” (read: that no entity controls or indeed “unregulated”) and was emulated by many crypto-firms and now exchanges. “Crypto”, that is gradually becoming a poster child for “innovation is not always good”, is another example of the Western demise and is likely a worse example than the profitless tech start-up market valuations (which at least reflect real companies and their strategies). The basis for the value of cryptocurrencies is non-existent, while the “market” is being fed tech stories that it is to be found in what is known as “mining” in caves walled with computers like in Kazakhstan. Crypto is not only valueless and driven by irrational offer and demand, with huge daily price gyrations – but is also a terrible blow to the green world given its abysmal electricity consumption. Crypto, which has been largely unregulated thus far, is the favorite financial transaction means of the criminal world, which has found a tech way to shelter its activities, while Russian oligarchs have tried going crypto to evade sanctions and saving some of their kleptocratic assets. Young people, including teenagers, are known to buy fractions of cryptos to fund their lifestyle, seeing it as easy money until they lose it. Turkish citizens facing a declining Lira at home buy fractions of cryptos just hoping to get by. The problem with crypto and its often-huge daily value gyrations is that its time is already probably behind passed, even if there was a peak during the Covid years due to too much time “at-home”. Making real fortunes, however temporary, unless again bold enough by leaving the table early enough (usually too hard a move), implied more of a buy in the mid-1990s when crypto was still a relatively low-key “tool”. While initially cautious for a decade, many western financial institutions and well-known investment banks have jumped carefully on the crypto bandwagon not to let the “techies” be the sole winners of the fashion that became more popular under the pandemic. In one of his outbursts, libertarian tech investor Peter Thiel, founder of PayPal, early discoverer of Facebook and early 2016 Trump supporter, recently attacked Warren Buffett as the “sociopathic grandpa of Omaha” while similarly describing JP Morgan Chase’s Jamie Dimon and Blackrock’s Larry Fink as “finance gerontocrats” for locking cryptos out. On the free market libertarian side, some US legislators comprising pro-business advocates and leftwing technology utopians would have started to create a “crypto caucus” in Congress, where ideology takes over business sanity. However, and in spite of what appeared as an upward trend, while crypto would apparently follow the stock market recently, the values of most cryptos has taken a dive over the last nine months. While a strangely slow process, crypto is also getting more under regulatory scrutiny in most of the Western markets while China has expediently banned it (perhaps to launch its national version) and Russia had taken a rare sane move in recent times against it too. Only El Salvador – under the aegis of its young reverse cap-wearing President – has decided to make crypto a national treasure and role model for the world. In spite of the founder of Binance, a leading crypto exchange, claiming it, crypto is not an asset class (while amusingly, as if a great admission, recognizing it is not a currency as it was initially promoted). Crypto is not about investing and is totally about gambling, which should be regulated as such. In the meantime, cryptos and Non-Fungible Tokens or NFTs (or virtual art, such as the famed drawing of the “bored monkey” strangely valued at exorbitant amounts) hurt Western society and gradually the world by debasing the notion of sheer financial value while perverting the mind of too many people, all the more among the younger digital generations given their fittingly innovative tech flavor.

The rapid rise of easy money financial structures like SPACs. One of the recent developments to raise capital and do big deals has been the development of SPACs or Special Purpose Acquisition Companies. More than 1,000 such SPACs were set up since the beginning of the pandemic in a times-fashionable “SPAC mania”. They each floated on stock exchanges worldwide, promising to merge with an amazing private company to make their investors very wealthy. The SPAC fashion was promoted by financially illiterate celebrities in exchange for SPAC shares in the same way Kanye West and other luminaries promoted new cryptos and received free ones in exchange in a no-lose and win-win potential upside game. Politicians, sports stars and even Wall Street greats joined in the game. After two years, in the midst of Covid, 600 SPACs are still looking for a partner while some of the latter have been known to make incredibly false claims as to their potential achievements (a segment being electric car-making where incidentally revenue-inexistent Rivian, heralded as a rival of Tesla, was listed at a market valuation of USD 100bn in late 2021). The shares in the USD 40bn merger or de-SPACing Grab, the largest tech SPAC in Singapore, saw their value going down by 70% in three months while other de-SPACing entities showed revenues at 20% of what they were forecast. Only 63 SPACs were listed on stock exchanges in the first quarter of 2022, an 80% decline on 2021. SPACs are now under heavy scrutiny as if regulators had learned from their clear ineptitude in dealing early enough with the vagaries of tech market listings or cryptocurrencies. Regulators like the SEC have now decided, faster than with crypto, though they look at it now too, to stop the abusive schemes and make the sponsors and their bankers more accountable on the promises of future SPAC successes as well as disclosing fees and other costs. Finally, an 18-month deadline would be set up for SPACs to merge to avoid the current stagnant situation. In the meantime, a large number of class action lawsuits (admittedly also benefitting lawyers in the contemporary American fashion) have been launched in the US. SPACs exemplified the desperate need from investors to buy growth stocks in an indiscriminate manner led by the dream driver not dissimilar to that found with profitless growth stocks or easy-money crypto. At least this nightmare seems to be on its way out and may seem with hindsight like a very bad hiccup.

The amazing payouts and non-role model of corporate leaders and their related matters. In 2021 the median annual salary of US CEOs for more than half of the S&P 500 that had reported results by March-end was USD 14.2m. This staggering figure even created a huge gap with their highly-paid senior staff, this reflecting a world driven by greed where rewards have become out of proportion, while some regular people, often consumers of the goods and services of those business leaders, cannot make ends meet. The CEOs of Discovery, Intel and Amazon each made annual salaries between USD 178m and USD 247m. Even the CEO of Carnival Cruises operating in a badly pandemic-hurt sector, made USD 15m including a USD 6m bonus in 2021. This situation is not American-only, as seen with the furor arising from the EUR 19.1m payout of the CEO of Peugeot-maker PSA following its merger with Fiat, creating a major issue in the French presidential campaign with both Macron and Le Pen in a rare if tactically timed agreement to condemn it and what it means for the French workplace, this even if the CEO led a strong recovery for an ailing well-known automaker. One sign of hope and potential turning point on such matters was shown when only 64% of Apple shareholders endorsed CEO Tim Cook’s 2021 pay, the Norwegian oil fund voting no. Leading corporate billionaires now comprise figures like Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos or Mark Zuckerberg whose human values and charitable contributions are not what define them most – if at all. Times when Bill Gates (even if he had a few shortcomings the world did not know then) or a Warren Buffett (his hidden no-green side aside when it was not an issue) representing successful corporate and investment leadership are gradually gone, also from the very top of the Forbes billionaire ranking list. Again, our times would seem to show that the objective of entrepreneurs and business leaders is to achieve quick wealth and fame in the shortest time possible (for the former) or when the window of opportunity allows them to get away with it (for the latter), with not much consideration of such an impact to Western society. While many corporations still behave as they should, in too many instances basic morals no longer matter much any more, and rewards can never be excessive as long as they can be received – this creating a great disconnect with our Western world and its roots, not to mention common decency.

This unacceptable trend in corporate payouts has also been linked to and indeed reflects the financialization of most key sectors such as healthcare in the US which has affected a large number of families and as always and naturally gradually found “export markets” via the globalization of the major players in the healthcare industry. Another unacceptable slide into the maximization of profits is the rising cost of higher education in many Western countries, the US being again a market leader in the problem with the UK following suit. Such educational financialization ensures that meritocracy fails and that students face crippling debt that then becomes a political issue in terms of forgiveness. Sadly, the list of such slides is long and always efficiently rationalized by corporations or institutions and their leaders.

The bad behavior of former mainstream politicians. When Gerhard Schroeder left his position as German Prime Minister in 2005, he was known to have said that “it was now time to make money”. He then joined the Board of Russian energy company Rosneft, finding himself in the middle of the Ukraine invasion sanctions, not reacting swiftly to them and losing his reputation. Politicians, often with little added value but their public past to offer in business set-ups, find themselves able to maximize unduly the returns that past high public office can produce. David Cameron, an otherwise very acceptable (if not very competent regarding Brexit) British Prime Minister, and even a former minister from across the bench were caught unawares in the well-documented Greensill Capital scandal, trying to keep a very low but challenging profile. Many members of the House of Lords in the UK find themselves often in trouble having monetized their status through large numbers of board directorships and senior advisory roles for companies wanting to benefit primarily from their names and public image to legitimize their own operations. While many provide useful advice and guidance, quite a few do not provide adequate advice or governance, and at times put their own name at great reputational risk. Similar examples can be found through the Western democratic world. Once again, the driving factor in these poor developments is personal greed that affects the Western values that made a world as we knew it. Reforms are hugely and quickly needed to restore integrity in the way democratic leaders behave following their public roles and life. It is also a question of restoring confidence in the Western system and its leadership.

The rise of a new class of populist autocrats. The last twenty years have seen the rise of populist autocrats with their easy solutions to complex issues (leading to this blog birth) and whose main objective was to seize power in a democratic context, often to weaken the latter if the goal was achieved. The list of these personalities, not all evil, is long from Donald Trump to Marine Le Pen, Matteo Salvini, Nigel Farage or Viktor Orban or newcomers like the French media star Eric Zemmour with similar party leaders and personalities across the West. Some were once mainstream politicians having shifted to authoritarianism in style and deeds over the years like Orban. Others, like Boris Johnson, are also gradually adopting a tactical and expedient populist style to achieve their goals (like Brexit or redefining his Tory Party) while staying within democratic confines – if not always abiding by the rules. A tiny few were indeed elected to the top role in their country (Hungary and Poland or even Italy pre-Draghi coming to mind) this with diverse results and usually not staying more than one term (except for Orban as recently seen) or remembering history or basic funding gradually going back to more sensible approaches (the Polish government when now dealing with the EU Commission, this further helped by the war in Ukraine and its consequences). With the natural history-based exception of Poland, these leaders and parties were usually warm to or liked Putin (which for Orban and those who voted again for him is puzzling considering 1956, though knowing collective living history is gone, clearly in some of parts of Hungary unlike the Czech Republic for which 1968 may be closer). Those populist leaders strongly played the immigration card, especially when it was coming from Africa or the Middle East (apparently Ukrainian refugees are no problem so far for the Polish Law and Justice Party, unlike those from Afghanistan at the Belarus border two months before). Issues linked to crime rise-flavored identity politics, which is an easy and sadly also understandable tool to now convince unsophisticated even if average voters, has grown to be critical for many Europeans also, as a result of being long-neglected by mainstream parties as too uncouth or below what reasonable people should focus on – especially when those leaders were living in very upstanding neighborhoods in the quiet and uniform centers of their capitals. Those mainstream leaders, waking up too late, never saw the populist rise coming, allowing for new faces with simple programs to challenge and potentially or eventually ejecting them from power. Clearly the major test in the West will shortly be French when Marine Le Pen, who tried hard to soften her extremist image and is relatively unskilled at leading a G7 country, could surprisingly if still theoretically defeat Emmanuel Macron, a President molded in the elitist ENA technocratic fashion, who is competent but can irritate many as representing the ever-leading elite. Such a victory, while being worse than a Brexit for the West, given her issues with NATO (if probably no longer – in theory so far – with the EU and Euro) could also give an unexpected victory to the Kremlin given Le Pen’s historical admiration for Putin, even if she tried to distance herself from him recently, though hedging her bets later by stating that sanctions could one day be lifted and Russia be a natural ally of France (curiously the war in Ukraine that took Macron’s focus away from the campaign would appear to have affected only very few French voters in their voting intentions, which were more driven by domestic matters relating to cost of living – even if linked to the war -, security, immigration and retirement schemes, all points Le Pen tactically capitalized upon).

Where we are today:

One could be forgiven for seeing the West living in a culture of money, where existence is linked to it, and citizens are de facto thoughtless consumers being taken advantage of as they can no longer think for themselves in a traditional way. The West is felt to be going through its declining Ancient Rome phase, which Putin’s Russia took advantage of (though also might stop through the great wake-up call on what really matters). This is a unique opportunity in an ideal world for parents to lead their children to read history, stay away more from video games and social media and start re-developing an individual and autonomous thought process in a return to the roots that made the West.

There is a need to have the younger Western – and especially European – generations who now face the return of history very directly, and may live with it as they grow old if Russia stays the same, to go back to the values that make the West thrive ¬¬– this also away from a tech-enabled selfish and isolated existence. There is a need to restore Western value-based integrity all the more as the societal tech-driven developments (and admittedly also advancements) experienced over the last thirty years will be trivial in comparison to the ones we will know in the next thirty.

Unrelenting value-less greed, too often seen at the top of what was a largely sound capitalist society and permeating it gradually, has weakened the West, even if unwittingly, which tech, while also bringing great advancements, has helped fostering through its many applications. While tech has been about tools, its many users are building on a daily basis a societal decline, even if they were unknowingly led to forget basic values by powerful business and political forces which wanted them first as a mix of consumers and voters. Democracy, through its many tech tools of our times that symbolized freedom and made people exist more may have heralded its own decline. In all fairness the good political side of tech is obviously also seen as a game-changer – from the Soviet days for those in Russia wanting to receive information not from the Kremlin, even if through challenging VPN set-ups in the current internet clampdown. Citizens of the West, and indeed the world, should welcome and enjoy the advancements that the tech tools have provided but not let themselves be taken over by them and change who they really are as a civilization.

It is possible that the Covid era worsened the Western decline, as it may not have helped in the rise of shiny cryptos as retail buyers, often unskilled at sheer investing, had too much time to spend at home while financial engineers could also focus on new breathtakingly get-rich adverse developments like SPACs. Such a Western decline may also explain why Putin may have seized the time he did for an opportunity to purify and expand Russia, however ill-thought, continent-destroying and self-devastating in the process. Putin may have felt the weakness of the West derived from its new Ancient Rome declinist habits would make it a sheer observer of his grand scheme as the music kept going and the bell had not rung.

What to do going forward:

How to fix the decline of the West can be expressed in four words: GOING BACK TO BASICS. This approach would entail both a review of who we are and have become and help refining the system that has defined the West for so long and until 20 years ago quite successfully.

Remaking ourselves: Remaking ourselves in the West is not about sheer politics or related to the old and moving left and right divide landscape that is so often no longer relevant. Remaking ourselves is about refocusing on what matters and linked to education which is where efforts should start, primarily at school so the young generations benefit from it but also, whenever possible, at family level. Things the West took for granted need to be seriously refocused on and strengthened. Education is key.

Key areas of focus should involve: i) multi-disciplinary education comprising old and new key themes and fields focused not just on job-getting but on mind-shaping; ii) reading books by authors who shaped Western roots, including ancient philosophers; iii) developing critical thinking to ensure tech tools and their derived products like social media are adequately managed; iv) understanding history so it does not repeat itself too often; v) learning the basics of economics so later individual decisions are wiser and; vi) receiving civic instruction so the workings of society are clearer, including in the EU member states the workings of the EU so its benefits are also known and rug salesmen do not cheaply prevail. These should be accompanied by seeing the elite for what it should be – as projecting skills and competence – and not only one created by privilege, but fostered by renewed meritocracy, however always imperfect, and aspiring to joining it through once-old fashioned hard work and achievements. These few focus areas would help going back to successful cultural roots and combining them with what tech can offer, without compromising the values and ultimate outcomes that made the democratic West. These few changes in attitude would greatly help remaking who Westerners were and should be – this leading to a stronger, more independent and healthier West.

Remaking capitalism: The Western liberal order is about democracy but is also about capitalism. Democracy and capitalism were indeed the two pillars upon which the modern West was built. The West was capitalism with its rules and ethos while capitalism was also the West. It is time now to go back to basics and take utter greed out of the capitalistic equation to make it more attractive to all anew. Capitalism is also a Western role model to promote globally as true capitalism is not at home with autocracy and can be a useful weapon, if deployed with integrity (indeed a far too often forgotten word), to promote global change. Capitalism finally fosters globalization which itself fosters peace as partners (and all the more, democracies) do not go to war against each other or launch unprovoked military tragedies.

The wealthy of previous generations are the well-offs of today while inequalities have grown and billionaires, having taken advantage of market developments, have benefited from a tax regime that is not relevant to our times and is also self-hurting image-wise. Billionaires should not be victimized, but they should contribute more of their wealth to the common well-being of Western societies. President Biden was right to decide for billionaires to pay more taxes so they can contribute more to – and be part of – society and more accepted. Higher taxes will not affect their wealth, while they will be a meaningful message about their contribution to society and the well-being of their fellow citizens. The West as a whole should once more follow the American lead.

While venture capital is absolutely essential to society, and indeed brings in innovation often linked to tech, it would be wise and productive for our financial sector to launch a reality check on the way tech start-ups are valued, so sanity comes back in their initial investment rounds and later on the stock market. Venture capital, while keeping on selling dreams, should go back to a more rational valuation approach that is linked to the private equity and M&A sectors where companies are indeed valued at a multiple of earnings, this even if there could be a huge premium, even large but not in ephemeral and self-serving billion dollars, for the start-up dream. It is key for venture capital and associated parties like investment banks and law firms to redefine what this investment segment is about if they do not want regulators to step in and drastically overly-interfere with market dynamics. However, if no action is taken, regulators should step in to stop the casino from staying open as it is now.

Another area would be for the West to ensure that key areas such as healthcare and education – which are key to the good functioning of a fair and happy society – are not considered excessive profit areas for all business stakeholders, but are run at reasonable cost within a capitalist framework, and might even possibly imply state subsidies when necessary. The list of sectors needing a corrective approach is obviously longer than those two. Institutional shareholders, like large public pension funds, should take the lead in bringing sanity to what companies in which they are invested do, and how their top executives reward themselves, also as a self-preservation move, as increasingly seen recently for the latter.

This re-making of capitalism would also mean an efficient, rigorous and still fair regulation of the finance and tech sectors, which is in theory already done – this without fostering a police state hurting entrepreneurship, but to also ensure and trigger a change of behavior at the level of consumers dealing with tools they often did not fully understand in the past. Capitalism cannot be left unbridled on the altar of creativity and innovation as would be defended by too many in the current Western business leadership ranks, who are mainly focused on payouts for shareholders but also themselves. There is also a need for sanity, not only in terms of the fair functioning of the markets, but also of society, to avoid the adverse impact on individual consumers of such gambling slides as crypto and the like or the predatory methods used on social media, the latter that should also be more scrutinized by social media themselves as to contents, including fake news and hate speech. This regulatory drive, which is needed at government level to be impactful, while preempted by corporations themselves, would need to go in parallel with a realization at the individual and for the young at the family level that “remaking ourselves” is key to making us stronger and happier as a society and indeed civilization.

Remaking alliances: While the West should always focus on preserving peace and fostering a productive globalization that underpins the former, it should focus on building military strength in both Europe and this time also Asia. NATO should be the natural focus of European military strengthening with the EU taking a more committed role as proposed by Macron and now unequivocally supported by a new Germany. NATO’s new motto should be the tried and tested Latin “si vis pacem para bellum” so as the latter never happens (if you want peace, prepare for war) so as to keep an isolated and likely dangerous Russia in clear check, if it has not reformed in the distant future. In Asia, the times have come to build a NATO-like defensive-focused organization to make sure that China will be naturally inclined to focus on trade and globalization, not tempted by military adventures as seen with Russia in Ukraine. Such an organization could be WAPO (or the Western Asian Partnership Organization), a name that jokingly would be well received in DC due to the Washington Post, and could include on the same lines as NATO, the US, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, New Zealand and Australia (perhaps a different India, even if part of the smaller anti-China Quad and in spite of its “practical” trade-related neutrality on Ukraine) as key members. Such organization could supersede existing ones, like the recent AUKUS that combines the US, Britain and Australia through an Anglo-Saxon only club following the sudden French nuclear submarine sale cancellation. As both alliances would evolve, there would be merits in allowing WAPO members such as Japan to be involved in NATO operations and vice versa, like with large EU member states, the objective being to build a stronger and truly global Western alliance that would be the ultimate deterrent to any hostile power in both key world theaters.

Putin may have unwittingly helped the West wake up at a critical time in its history, including its younger digital generations who one day will run it, or for the most part live through it, when seeing what happens when basic freedom is violently stolen and war crimes happen in otherwise peaceful villages. Putin has given the West a unique opportunity to change its gradual and still comfortable southern course to oblivion and offer once again hope to those who want a better world. However, he will not be thanked.

Warmest regards,

Serge

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