We stand with Ukraine

February 28, 2022

Here is Robert Vlach’s editorial that has been included in today’s special edition of our Freeletter:

It goes without saying that here at — and as citizens of the free world — we all stand with Ukraine. The global response to Russia’s war on its neighbor has been overwhelming, and Nassim Taleb nailed it in these few words: “Most days, 99.9% of the news is noise. The last few days, it's all signal.”

I was born in 1978 behind the Iron Curtain in Czechoslovakia, which was, at that time, under Russian/Soviet occupation. We were being brainwashed in schools from an early age. Free-thinking, independent and wealthy individuals were harassed and oppressed. Some were put in prisons, labor camps, tortured, even put to death. Small businesses were abolished, and the state demanded absolute obedience from its people.

There’s no doubt in my mind that a similar playbook would be used in Ukraine, were it to fall. Soon, other free people would face a similar fate. The Russian invasion thus represents a fundamental threat to the world order and to the values that are central for most of us independent professionals as well:

Independence. Liberty. Freedom.

The evil that we now face has grown slowly. That is why I would like to mention a few resources here that put the current situation in a broader context, and the latest developments only confirm their relevance:

1) All the Kremlin's Men by Mikhail Zygar is a book that meticulously documents Putin's rise to power and how he thinks and acts under pressure. The seminal book on Putin's Russia indicates what to expect from him.

2) Red Notice by Bill Browder offers similar insights from an American perspective. Bill became one of the most successful Western investors in post-Soviet Russia, where his interests inevitably clashed with Putin’s over time. The result was the death of Bill’s close associate Sergei Magnitsky, under whose name he then pushed for tough Western sanctions against specific Russian officials. Now Browder favors seizing all Putin's assets parked in the West, along with longtime critic of Putin and author of Winter Is Coming, Garry Kasparov.

3) In this context, I must mention Alexei Navalny’s famous video about Putin's personal history and the opulent palace he has secretly built for billions of dollars in a well-kept and guarded location. He portrays Putin as a man obsessed with material wealth and Russia as a corrupt kleptocracy. The 2-hour video has already gathered 122 million views on YouTube and illustrates perfectly what Putin is all about.

4) I consider The Economist magazine to be the best and most balanced media outlet on current economic affairs. When it comes to global political events and their impact on business and markets, it always offers deep insight, intelligent analysis and knowledge of current and historical context. It is a good guide to any crisis, including the current one. Here's how you can try The Economist subscription for free.

Glory to Ukraine! ✌

Robert Vlach

P.S. Today, we have donated to humanitarian aid for Ukraine on behalf of our family via the Czech non-profit organization People in Need. Similar efforts are being organized all over Europe as well as worldwide. Please consider joining us with some sort of donation, help or support. Thank you 💙💛

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