“Winning hearts and minds,” apart from being a cuck move, is unfeasible anyway; even going so far as giving back Crimea will not restore goodwill and invite only well-deserved contempt. Going back to giving gibsmedats (e.g. gas subsidies) would also be idiotic. Even the kremlins have realized this that you don’t buy loyalty or friendship with that, though they have yet to extend that lesson to the rest of the Sovietstans.
Reunification through military means was ruled out – probably permanently – in May 2014, when Putin recognized Poroshenko as the legitimately elected President of the Ukraine. While certain nationalists, including on this blog, still entertain fantasies about invading the Ukraine and ruling it like a Reichskommissariat, that would be worse than just immoral – it would almost certainly fail, since it buys into the narrative that Ukrainians can only become Russians at the point of a gun.
At the same time, Russia has no obligation to tolerate the existence of a hostile anti-Russian project on its borders that furthermore has the gall to parasite on Russian history and culture on account of possessing so little of its own. The Ukraine needs to be strip mined of its human capital.
For inspiration, I would look to China’s “31 Steps for Taiwan” program.
On Feb. 28, it unveiled a package of 31 “incentives” to attract Taiwanese people and businesses to the mainland, offering tax breaks and subsidies for high-tech companies, research grants for academics, and a promise to allow Taiwanese companies to bid for government infrastructure projects and even become involved in China’s “One Belt, One Road” global development plan.
China called the measures an expression of its belief that there is “one family” on both sides of the Taiwan Strait. Taiwanese Vice Premier Shih Jun-ji cast it as an effort to undermine the island’s economy.
“China’s attempt to attract Taiwan’s capital and talent, especially high tech and young students, has clear political intentions,” he said at a news conference, unveiling eight countermeasures designed to keep people at home.
In 2012, Oxford Economics judged that Taiwan faced the largest “talent deficit” among 46 countries surveyed, and the research firm recently said that the conclusion stands today.
Taiwan’s performance on the Nature Index, a proxy for elite scientific output, has collapsed by 40% in the past five years – the largest collapse of any country. A testament to the success of the 31 Steps.
Meanwhile, the development of a separate Taiwanese identity, which had previously grown rapidly, has basically stalled in this same period.
Now in one sense, this will be harder, since China is much bigger than Taiwan, and Ukraine also has an association agreement with the EU. But in another sense, it will also be easier, because Russian wages are 3x higher than Ukrainian ones, whereas it’s the opposite ratio between China and Taiwan. Russia needs to come up with a program along the lines of China’s “31 Measures for Taiwan,” involving a complex package of subsidies, marketing, and immigration deregulation to strip mine the separatist entity of its human capital. By strip mining the Ukraine of human capital, I mean something more sophisticated than just open borders and handing out Russian passports like candy (though that should certainly also be done, even if Poland will necessarily do better for now on account of its higher wages).
I mean selectively targeting Ukraine’s remaining elites and O-Ring sectors for transplantation into Russia wholesale, which is specifically what China is doing to Taiwan – successfully, despite their triple wage differential (my post on how the small, complex O-Ring sector determines wages for the economy as a whole).