So What Is Up With Ukraine and Russia
and How Will It Affect Our Russia cruises
By Mark Stoddard
A Risk Assessment of the Russia/Ukraine Conflict
In predicting geo-political events it’s more fun and reasonable to predict the winner of the Super Bowl. Less stress. But we’re in the international cruise business and our first concern is how international events will affect our customers.
With the Ukraine vs. Russia conflict, we study everything we can to understand. In that we’ve had a hands-on approach to Russia and Ukraine that began while they were part of the Soviet Union, we have some perspective and ability to ask questions. Answers, on the other hand, are transitory -- ever changing. Rather than exact answers, we've listed below extrapolations that lead us to conclude, temporarily, the percent chance of something happening. What follows is our best extrapolation of how key questions regarding Russia and Ukraine and the USA.
Understand our point of view on these seven (7) subjects first:
1. Ukraine is a sovereign country and must remain so. However, it is terribly divided between Ukrainian speakers in the middle and northwest of the country, and Russian speakers in the far east and southern part of the country. It is unstable and has a history of corruption – all the hullabaloo over Trump collusion with Russia and Biden and his son over Ukrainian influence is caught up in this.
2. The USA official position since 2008 is to side with the NATO countries that Ukraine and Georgia should be invited to join NATO.
3. Russia considers NATO as much a national security threat as the USA did when the USSR put missiles in Cuba. We had the Monroe Doctrine and Russia has a “Ukraine Doctrine” when it comes to national security.
4. Crimea is now in Russia and is not going back. The USA political philosophy of people having the right to self-determination is fundamental to what Russians living in Crimea and eastern Ukraine believe. Tough to argue against that. The border of Ukraine, while ancient, was irrelevant during the Soviet Union and people lived in Donetsk, Ukraine considered themselves Russians and spoke then and speak now, Russian.
5. The USA views the world through three lens:
1) Economic lens,
2) Philosophical lens, and
3) National Security/Military lens.
Ukraine is of no importance to the USA economically or in terms of national security. We are concerned over the philosophy of democracy expanding (as we should), but that runs into quagmires when self-determination is thrown in.
6. 21st Century Mentality. While so many in the USA in power (all parties), keep thinking the world is made up of wiser people unconcerned with borders and all the messiness associated with nationalities, the majority of the world is still vitally concerned. Japan wants to be Japan. Mexico is Mexico first, and second. Germany has no sense of humor and never will. Few countries think we can all have a group hug and sing Kumbaya together. People consider their security first and economies second. Countries do the same. Their self-interests are of prime importance.
7. Profound Sanctions or those of Pablum Proportions. President Biden and others have thrown the threat of “severe sanctions” into the equations. Severe Sanctions could devastate Russia’s problematic economy, but what would they be?
1) SWIFT rejection. Russia could easily be prevented from using the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication swiftly, but hold on. Germany blocked that option and then said everything was on the table. Germany is a wild card.
2) Freeze moving forward on the nearly finished Nord Stream, the “system of offshore natural gas pipelines in Europe, running under the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany.” Key word is Germany. And blocking that is strictly verboten, although German Chancellor Olaf Scholz recently said a Russian invasion could cripple the pipeline! REMEMBER: At least 1/3rd of Germany’s oil and natural gas comes from Russia. Our president blocked our pipelines that would have allowed the USA’s oil and gas producers to easily fill the shortfall, but not now. In fact, the $88 per barrel price of petroleum is fueling Russia’s Ukrainian takeover efforts. Don’t look for sanctions to be meaningful.
That said, what are the chances of the following things happening in Ukraine and the world? Here are our best projections:
Be sure to watch this video from Political Science professor, Dr. John Mearsheimer given in 2016. His analysis has held up quite well.
NOTE from Eric Stoddard:
No guarantees. But we’re holding our cruises in Russia because we have no reasonable fears that we’ll have safety problems for our customers. We plan to have 10 post-Covid great cruises in 2023 so we MUST have a great cruise on August 19-Sept. 1, 2022. All aboard! '
P.S. from Elizabeth Stoddard:
At first glance this might be the worst possible year to go to Russia on a cruise… or to re-start our Russia Cruise company. But this is the year to see Russia with the most unique group of travelers probably ever assembled, led by Scot and Maurine Proctor.
This year the Covid and Ukraine situations serve as a “litmus test” of sorts and the best of the best travelers are joining this great adventure of 2022 – likely more than 100. If you are one of these elites, pat yourself on the back knowing you are traveling with the fewest tourists, best prices and most eager hosts (LDS Russians) and your presence will make more of a difference now than for many years to come.