As one of my wife’s relatives, David Steinberg once said “He looks and talks like he just fell off Edgar Bergen’s lap.” With his stoic stare with nary a heartfelt emotion, the invasion of Crimea is likely to be one of the all-time political and economic missteps that will keep Vladimir’s shoes smelling for a long, long time. No one with a brain thinks that the invasion of Crimea was to protect the Russian ex-patriots. Those guys could have left the Ukraine and headed back to mother Russia any time they wanted. The real reason is likely that Vladimir was still chilled from the winter Olympics at Sochi and needed a place to go to warm up. Maybe he is looking for a site for the summer Olympics? In any case, the political move has isolated him and the Russian people from the rest of the world, politically, geopolitically, and economically.
The first tremor is the exclusion of Russia from the G8. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov reported said that being kicked out of the G8 was no big deal. Just wait and see. The G7 leaders have tentatively agreed to hold their summit in Brussels in June 2014, instead of the original venue in Sochi, Russia. Bazinga — Brussels 1, Sochi 0. Significant and damaging economic sanctions from rest of the world have begun as Canada, EU, Japan, and the U.S. have already started imposing sanctions. Investment from the West will cease and existing projects needing an influx of cash will be crippled. The mineral industry throughout Russia has been troubled by aging infrastructure, logistical nightmares caused by their internal isolation of operations for secrecy, and struggles to convert to the realities of the rest of the world’s industrial based economies. Just when it looked as if the monies might be invested to develop the rare earth-niobium Tomtor massif in Northern Siberia, beloved home of the shaggy-haired Yakutian horses, the money and markets are now frozen like a fierce Siberian winter.
Although the Russian ex-pats in Crimea may be singing along with the Beatles “You don’t know how lucky you are, Back in the U.S.., Back in the U.S…, Back in the U.S.S.R,” be careful of what you wish for. It isn’t going to get any better. Putin and Russia would have been better off investing money in the Ukraine to foster industry and jobs and win the hearts of the people. Now Crimea has joined Putin’s Vodka Society led by Mr. Potato Head (no offense to the toy or the company Playskool, which also makes a Mrs. Potato Head). Where is Vasili Samarsky-Bykhovets (Russian mining engineer 1803-1870) when we need him? It’s time to get back to finding rare-earth elements like samarium and some economic quantities of rare-earth minerals including samarskite-(Y).
Hey Russia, return to exploration, not exploitation.