Category Archives: International Politics

Ukraine # 2 Respect, Brinksmanship and Cold War Tactics?


The RAF escort a Russian Bear bomber off the coast of the UK. 19th Feb 2015 Image: RAF/EPA

(Not a corporate topic but interesting from a culture perspective)

Russia is demanding the Wests attention when there are lots of distractions. What is it that Putin is up to and should we be listening?

Some time ago I skimmed across the events evolving in Crimea, Ukraine and Russia. Since then eastern Ukraine has become the hotspot with Russian backed separatists (and Russians) fighting the Ukrainian army. In the meanwhile there has been a disaster when hundreds are murdered on Malaysian Airlines MH17. For a country supporting an undeclared civil and state war this disaster turns out to be just an irritating distraction from the real business. On top of that, the Russian currency and economy is imploding not least because of the fall in gas and oil revenue. So what’s changed? Nothing really. The paranoid Military Class (Note 1) Putin belongs to is still in charge and threatened by NATO encroachment through EU expansion. They were buoyed by their success in Crimea reinforcing Putin’s power, tactics and egotistical self. As the economy withered there was a moment when the political class and the Commercial class seemed like they might be heard. But it was just a moment as the rich (commercial class) and the citizens are still secondary and they know it – An Enclave of Powerful Russians.

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Egos and Paranoia in Ukraine

Russia-Crimea You are probably aware of the situation. Vladimir Putin exercises his power, political judgement and ego. Russia with some military posturing assists Crimea in annexing itself from Ukraine and then legislates to join Russia. This follows public turmoil in Ukraine following years of economic malaise and rule by an increasingly oppressive and pro-Russian government.  The newly installed Ukraine Government rejects the annexing and defies Russia by looking to the west – the EU and NATO. That has to upset Russia. The Nato alliance and the UN complain about Russia’s behavior and threaten to implement economic sanctions particularly against wealthy Russian government officials. A simplified class analysis of whose at the big table making the decisions in this drama could be enlightening as to what happens next and as a way of seeing through a lot of detail.

The question is what classes of people are represented in the political class and those making the decisions? In Russia Putin and the key decision makers come from the Military Class (include police and any state secret service in this class as they act as the intellectual arm).  This class can get a bit paranoid. Is my army bigger than your army? Is NATO encroaching on our territory? It can also feed Nationalism (Whose team are you on? If you’re not with us then you’re against us.) They would generally prefer to have a fairly direct approach to a problem. When a military class is in ascendency then it is common practice to use the tools available as political instruments. These tools include media control (propaganda), prisons, physical intimidation and violence. Continue reading

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March 18, 2014 · 10:36 am

Ideology – A Source of Tyranny

Ideology often begins with the needs to explain, have solutions and for control of complex issues; personal, social, economic, even scientific and political. Ideology is a collection of beliefs, values, logics and practices. It quickly becomes rigid as the need to document it, reproduce it, to defend it and to be consistent emerges. New information, issues and situations need to be interpreted so as to fit into the existing ideological framework. Once in practice it is always at risk of becoming dangerous to those who agree with it (e.g. don’t use a condom in a high risk HIV community) and even more dangerous to those who don’t – see Stalin, Mao, McCarthy, any fundamentalist religion, bullying, tyranny, revolution, injustice and whistle-blowing.

One of my favorite quotes is, “All ideologies become tyrannies.” John Ralston Saul.

Every business and industry I have been associated with has a ‘story line’ or rationale  about how it works and why. One reason for the story is to make clear why it is different from other businesses and industries. It is also to make any choices appear rational and give the image of control. Such rationales are okay so long as they demonstrate adaptiveness and learning. If not then they are becoming ideology and the seeds of failure have been sown.

Where there is rigidity then check for ideology. It is not unusual for economists to sound ideological  – just saying.

Peter O’Reilly ©

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Filed under Corporate Culture & Strategy, International Politics