The Russia-Ukraine war has caused much misery. It has left dozens or hundreds of thousands of people killed and wounded, millions of refugees, a lot of suffering and misery. It has caused economic losses worth hundreds of billions of dollars, some of them irreversible. Obviously, this is a huge blow to Ukraine. Its domestic media space confirms this: in it, Ukraine looks like a country of sorrow, satire or sarcasm, and of those looking for problems in Russia neglecting needs of our country. The war has ruined Ukraine’s balance because all this is not Ukraine’s normal essence. But this will not last forever. Ukraine will rise high. This statement is not a matter of faith, but a result of analysis. Below are the points to prove this.
Remember that statement where success is 1% of talent and 99% of hard work? It may seem trivial to some. But work is experience. Hard and determined work is a lot of experience. And quantity always translates into distinct quality. Ukraine has more than just experience. It has a lot of distinct experience that most people in the world do not have. This means that Ukraine as a nation can potentially become a foundation for a fundamentally new experience on a global scale. Ukraine can become a qualitative, not just quantitative, gate to a new era.
If the rationale of the previous paragraph is confusing, I will use Israel to illustrate it. The world is amazed at the technological sector developed by this country, also dubbed as a nation of startups. Few understand the roots of this phenomenon.
Israel’s technological advances are a product of exclusively their national experience of living surrounded by enemies, amid a constant threat and a permanent need to maintain top-grade battle readiness.
When you get hit once, you can feel hurt, cry, run away or try to pay back in kind. But when you realize that the attempts to hit you will repeat day after day after you are destroyed, the problem evolves and gains a totally different sense, while most responses that work for a one-time hit become irrelevant. You get your act together, become serious and responsible, and look for the best solution. In other words, your perspective, priorities and values change.
In a nutshell, Israel’s national experience shaped the worldview of its population and the values that are seriously different from the other parts of the world that do not have and will never have this experience. For example, if you live in a high risk of missile attacks for decades, will you invest your earnings into real estate or other material assets?
If you answer no, this is your reason for huge investment in knowledge and technology that lead to a result: an educated nation and an advanced technological sector. When you can be hit with missiles anytime, you invest in whatever stays with you under any scenario. In this context, the national experience narrows down the mental framework in which the nation can evolve, while also directing society towards a path that nobody can predict under normal circumstances and that can ultimately prove extremely and paradoxically successful. It’s like choosing a door to a treasure room among a hundred similar doors while you are blindfolded.
If you answer yes, you will look for ways to protect your property from missile attacks or build it in a way to minimize risks for its residents. As you look for solutions, you end up with an iron dome and strong developers with a unique portfolio that can build a multifunctional wall on the border with Palestine and many other things. No governments, strategies or financial investment can provide what emerges from distinct experience. Just like you cannot intentionally enter a treasure room when blindfolded.
Experience transforms the system of values. A distinct system of values, when extrapolated to the entire society, creates the environment for genius, breakthrough and unpredictable scalable solutions. In this sense, globalization kills the diversity of national experiences and systems of values, and stifles the likelihood of a breakthrough. But that is a different matter for reflection. By contrast, Israel’s unique experience boosted the likelihood of a breakthrough. As a result, that breakthrough happened in many industries in Israel.
One detail is that Israel is a small country where the population is barely over 1/1000 of the global population. However grand its successes, it cannot become the gate through which the world will enter a new era. That would take someone else with distinct experience that can generate breakthrough solutions on a much larger scale. Ukraine can become that country. However painful this war is for Ukraine, it forces it to amass a huge amount of distinct experience. Below are just a few out of many illustrations of this.
Energy is one. The serious damage of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure from the war is a huge problem in the short-term, especially in the upcoming winter. But it has benefits in the longer-time future. Firstly, Ukraine will be able to rebuild its energy system as it wishes. Obviously, this will be done using new technology. Ukraine can be expected to become a field for experiments with new energy technology. And for new technology in general. Secondly, Ukraine’s distribution networks have been damaged the most. This might push Ukraine to make cities and villages self-sufficient to avoid having the power grid as a vulnerability. Thirdly, it is only natural that Ukraine can become a green energy hub, including a key supplier of green hydrogen to Europe – as it is seen in various strategies of the EU. This is a case where the future described on paper has paved a way for itself to being brought to life. Even if that path is challenging.
Military industry offers another illustration. Ukraine has tested weapons from all over the world in this war. This is a unique experience. More than that. This is the super unique experience that the world has not seen before and will probably not see after. With the talents of Ukrainian mechanics and engineers, Ukraine might well exploit this to develop its economy, country and the people. The main thing in this is to break the chains of bureaucracy.
Drones offer the third illustration. These include air and marine drones, and possibly land drones. These should not just be for military purposes. This war has shifted to a phase of drones. This phase could be the prototype of new wars. In this, Ukraine will lead the way on the strategy of such battles because it has experienced them. It might also simply start arming its army with drones, using public funds, despite huge resistance from bureaucracy, and become a frontrunner ultramodern army. Or it can learn to make drones that can quickly perform the tasks that nobody has set for them before. This offers vast space for development.
Healthcare is the fourth illustration. I keep hearing about Ukrainian surgeons performing miracles with the wounded during my service in the army. This, too, is the result of Ukraine’s experience, however sad and bloody. With time, Ukraine will be able to build an industry of new medical technology or develop medical tourism on this basis. Progress in new prosthetic technology is impossible without Ukraine too.
Postapocalyptic tourism is the fifth illustration. Ukraine has many places where dystopian films could be shot without special effects. This is what the ‘second army of the world’ has left behind. These locations could be something to gain rather than lose from. They could become a tourist destination that commemorates the victory of freedom over tyranny. They are filled with symbols. And such places attract people. Because these are places of power, even if unusual.
Cross border payments is the sixth illustration. Millions of Ukrainians live ‘there’ physically while staying ‘here’ in terms of their jobs, family, engagement in the information space and more. In fact, this is how people will exist in the future. This format requires certain mechanisms that will make such existence easier. The development of cross border payments is one. Or a global expansion of online-banking advances that Ukrainians are familiar with but that remain underdeveloped elsewhere.
Tolerance is the seventh case in point. Do you remember how ‘invalids’ were treated in the Soviet time? In a nutshell, they were treated exclusively, meaning that they were not accepted. Today, every Ukrainian without a limb is probably a hero worthy of the highest honor and respect. How can anyone look down on them? There will be a lot of such people. People will get used to having them as full members of society, and stop telling stories about inclusivity while forgetting to build ramps and other necessary infrastructure. Society will simply include them.
The variety of experiences is the eighth example. While all Ukrainians are suffering from the war greatly, the experience of Grad, missile or direct military damage survivors is different from the experience of those who moved and waited it out. Ukrainians will have to develop tolerance mechanisms. In fact, they were already developed in Ukrainian society before. But they will have to get to another level now.
Producing cultural senses is the ninth illustration. I think that the world will want to know how it is to be so free and fearless after Ukraine’s victory. Ukrainians will be invited for tours, doors will open for its business, and Ukrainians will be looked at like music idols are looked at by teenagers. Ukrainians have shown their national maturity to the world, and now they will reap the fruit of this economically, socially and culturally. Any country – including the ones that are neutral in this war – will be curious to speak and work with Ukrainians and learn about their experience that will possibly inspire generations.
These are not all examples. Ukraine’s distinct experience is still being shaped, accumulated and bringing new fruit. One thing is clear though: however painful this experience is, the Russia-Ukraine war has given Ukrainians the best asset for the next 50 years – unique experience. Ultimately, this asset could be decisive in taking the world to a new era.
We are struggling and suffering, and we are somewhat confused. But we are rich with experience, and Ukraine is rich with us. Let’s use this asset wisely.