February 22nd, 2022. A date future historians will have little trouble remembering -- an unfortunate mnemonic, that in any other time might have been remembered as an amusing coincidence, only to spell the moments leading to European war in our own reality. In the hours that unfolded, and emerging from a long history of events that culminated to this very point in time-- from independence, to coexistence, to occupation, annexation, and at last, total invasion of Ukraine by Russian Forces without any ambiguity or pretense by February 24th, 2022.
And yet in such a short period, a total sea-change has emerged in Eastern Europe. With the effects of the information age in full swing, readers from other continents are able to witness the fast emerging legends of resolve, such as the martyrs of Snake Island, or the rumors of the Ghost of Kyev. Put on full display is the reality of the Russian Military in its most up-to-date form; while the advances are undeniable, so too are the dilapidated states of the war machines, with tanks breaking down and running out of fuel, prompting more than one Federation conscript to appeal to Ukrainian civilians of all people for fuel.
Indeed, as obfuscated as the situation may be at times, we may already begin to tackle the confusion of the early stages of the conflict by a prompt analysis of the spreadsheets. War is only foreign policy by other means, and is only a phenomena made possible when it's sanctioned not only by the ruler of a nation, but by those people a ruler needs to keep by his or her side in order to ensure they may be reelected. There's little doubt that many of us wish to appreciate Putin's full perspective, and in answering the question "What prompted him to invade?" many choose to take a less than charitable observation. Far too often, we take some uneasy comfort in dismissing our politician's actions as the byproduct of mere stupidity. And while this is the case more often than chance would have it, the straight fact of the matter is that one does not maintain control over a national superpower for two practically uninterrupted decades by acting stupid. Rather, I think that the truthful approach is a fair bit more straightforward and boring than we'd like to admit.
Considering The Decision to Invade From the Perspective of an Autocrat:
Democracies rarely engage in combat against each other if they can help it -- the display of carnage is too often harmful for the polls of either nationality. Rather, democratic nations will vastly prefer the invasion of overseas nations, far removed from the eyes and ears of their own citizens concern. It's an unfortunate reality that Pakistani children on the receiving end of a US Tomahawk missile have little say in the choice for American president. If worse comes to worst, democratic nations may flirt with direct conflict via the use of proxy wars, but at such a point direct trade of resources is often less costly from both a material and a diplomatic perspective.
But from Vladimir Putin's perspective, there exists no such incentive. Putin has demonstrated time and again that he need not have the good favor of his citizens in order to remain situated in his seat of power. Just so long as his oligarchs are well fed, his tax collectors well trained, his fuel lines nicely primed, and his military well stocked, Putin has a comfortable point of stability in leading the Federation. As the last several decades have shown, it doesn't matter how much people protest against police brutality or in favor of gay rights -- protestors can easily be imprisoned without turning the tides for reelection.
Unfortunately, the reverse is also true. In autocratic nations, the primary tax revenue more often comes from some natural resource over the labor of civilian production. In a dictatorship that depends on exporting some number of oil barrels in order to pay the bills, one cannot turn to the public sector for an economic boost on account of its non-existence. Democratic societies provide roads and schooling and healthcare not because they love you personally, but rather because healthy, well-educated citizens with free travel are generally able to attain high paying jobs with high quality of life -- jobs that reap greater tax revenue than a nation of starving peasants.
By constructing a Federation heavily dependent on petroleum exports for revenue, during a time of financial hardships and constricted global supply lines, Vladimir Putin has found himself in a position where a ground invasion of Ukraine on the basis of resource acquisition has become nothing more than a rational, self-interested decision for ensuring a longer reign of power. Replacing a ruler during a time of war is always a gamble from the perspective of an oligarch or a general -- especially the ruler of a nuclear superpower. For all we know, the Kremlin may be waiting patiently to see if the invasion proves successful, therefore perpetuating the stability of the dictatorship.
But if war is foreign policy by other means, then counterattacks may also take unconventional form. In direct response to the invasion, NATO forces converged along the borders of Eastern NATO states -- forcing Russian troops to divide their resources, lest they leave a flank unguarded and vulnerable. Poland's government has opened boarders to Ukrainian refugees. Western nations from around the globe have provided contributions to Ukrainian civilian organizations, and have publicly condemned the invasion. Actions have been taken to seize Russian assets and to freeze SWIFT transactions between EU member states and Federation officials. With sanctions in place, the Russian Federation stands to be economically isolated from worldly affairs.
And just as would be the case for any war of economics, new frontiers have been explored. On February 26th, the Ukrainian Government's official twitter account released the following message. The addresses were later confirmed by the Minister of Digital Transformation.
By relative comparison on a world stage, Ukraine's government has been quite accepting of cryptocurrency as a concept. After a bill was set into motion in 2020, a near-unanimous vote by Parliament solidified the groundwork recognizing the legitimacy of cryptocurrencies as a means of transaction. The Ukrainian Digital Ministry says the latest call for donations is to "help Ukraine armed forces", implying that the funds are not strictly humanitarian in nature. Such appeals appear to be in direct response to the closure of the "Come Back Alive" Patreon page on the 24th of this year, with Patreon as an organization claiming their refusal to finance the training of armed personnel, as it violates their company policies. And to their credit, several other strictly humanitarian organizations are promoted on the page, opening a portal to contributions of an unambiguous nature.
But since cryptocurrency is a strictly decentralized medium of exchange -- one that transcends borders and law -- such a form of crowdfunding evades all regulation. As has been established by Ukrainian parliament, the practice is perfectly legal by their nation's standards. Anybody can contribute however much they wish from anywhere in the globe, and with little more than a miner fee taking the place of a foreign transaction fee.
What would follow in the hours to come was something truly unprecedented on the world stage. Both public keys have since received millions of dollars worth of Bitcoin and Ethereum tokens in donation. Second to Ether itself was the requested Tether USD, with third place going to the alternative stablecoin choice, USD Coin. At the current time of writing, seven Bitcoin have already been withdrawn, and the top individual donation rolls in at around three million US dollars.
I think the part I find so incredible is the sheer variety of cryptocurrency being donated. Since the address is public and open to scrutiny, anybody can see where and when the funds are being distributed and how much of what is being provided. A quick check on Etherscan shows Starlink, Dai, and Wrapped Ethereum sitting among others.
However, some people were not so content with a one-time donation. Others chose to take the matter a step further and ensure that the Ukrainian account was receiving a dependable crypto income. Since cryptocurrencies work in a decentralized manner, following only a series of protocol in order to continuing their trustless existence, anybody can spend or receive a transaction. However, carrying this a step further, anybody can appropriate their hardware to validate transactions for profit. And while most people choose to mine cryptocurrency for their own profit, there's nothing preventing anybody from mining to another address for altruistic reasons.
Within hours, several pools began mining cryptocurrency to the Ukrainian public address. On popular pools such as Flexpool and Ethermine, the hashrate quickly surpassed the Gigahashes. And while not every pool is perfectly transparent, it's a safe estimate from we know about the more popular pools that the Ukrainian government is currently receiving well over two-thousand US dollars worth of Ether on a daily basis from mining efforts alone. After all, not one person is prohibited from contributing the integrity of the Ethereum network. And through the combined dedication of computational resources, the income potential skyrockets.
Scrolling through the worker names paints a portrait of the lives behind the encrypted volunteer effort. Names such as "hongkongstandwithukraine", "-romania_fuck_russia-", "hopeithelps", "andmygpu" adorned the boards, with the last one, of course being the name of whichever miner GimliTheGamer doubtless chose to carry into battle. And while these names stood out the most to me, many others chose to name their workers simpler titles, such as 'blyat,' 'bruh,' and more than a couple 'fuckputin' workers.
In a previous post, I described my adventures with mining, protein folding, and gaming on a P106-90 mining card -- a unit deprived of a video output. While I've had my fun with the device, I recently made the tentative decision to conclude Ethereum mining on the device. I'd made enough payouts during the valleys of the Ether token's value, and had made a surprising and premature return on investment for how much I'd spent on acquiring the hardware. In my mind, I'd thought it wouldn't be worth it to continue pursuing payouts before the July deadline, when the POW for Ethereum was due to be retired.
I'm happy to announce that my mining card has been brought out of retirement -- if not for personal profit, then for the preservation of Ukraine's sovereignty. While it isn't all that much in the grand scheme of things, it's still for a better cause than what I would have gotten from the unit. And in dire times such as these, every hash per second counts.
In these moments, I find myself feeling morbidly grateful. While there's scarce little I can do for the sake of Ukraine and its citizens, I'm not above considering myself thankful for the opportunity to witness history unfolding before our eyes. The world of cryptography in particular shows us that no one person is prohibited from participation. As we watch Russian civilians take to the streets in Moscow in protest -- and take to the Bitcoin ATM as SWIFT accounts are frozen -- we might do well to consider the relevancy of cryptocurrencies in a global economy, particularly as it applies between nations and organizations at odds with one another.
I'm certainly not in a position to demand actions from my readers. But I can say with certainty that I very much look forward to seeing your own workers names appearing in the pools for the sake of Ukraine. And above all, I can say for myself that I look forward to a swift and peaceful resolution to the conflict. Something tells me that few people truly have their heart in it for the long term -- even if that's just my own wishful thinking.
EDIT: As some have pointed out, objectively greater good can be brought to humanitarian effort. Linked in comments below are Patreon's suggested organizations seeking donation. I personally always recommend Red Cross.