A Cashless War

Like everyone on the planet with a smartphone, I woke up this morning, rubbed my eyes, then put on my glasses and reached for my phone. Time to check in with what has happened in the world since I popped a melatonin and headed for slumberland.

I have a routine of how I read my news. I start local: El Progreso and La Voz. Galician news first. Sometimes I will read Las Provincias. I did that today because we are flying there on Friday to see our lovely dentist, Sofia. I need to know what awaits us in the middle Med. Those Valencians can be an unruly, fireworks wielding bunch 😉.

Then I read the headline news of other European countries. Le Monde (Fr). Der Spiegel (D). The Independent (UK) – just to find out what the bumbling Boris Johnson is lying about today. It’s more like a sport where the UK’s leadership is fighting itself to the bottom of the credibility barrel. Then I head to CNN, before I land at the NY Times. I used to read The Seattle Times and The Oregonian but I’ve edited those out. Most of their news is bought off the wire and I’ve already read those stories somewhere else – days before. Jeff will often read out some interesting headlines from Reddit as he scrolls through his feed. This is all through my morning coffee.

We have a few things going on in Europe right now. For us in the EU, Brexit is in the rearview mirror. Not so much in the UK where the catastrophic impacts are revealing themselves as the Brits emerge from la pandemia. But the EU has other fish to fry right about now. An energy crisis. Much like the entire world. But our big elephant the room is the situation in Ukraine, with their country being surrounded by Russian troops. Not a good look.

Each day I read the top stories. Those ‘above the fold’ as we used to say before newspapers stopped being printed and went completely digital. And the headlines are a window into how one country or another sees themselves on the global stage during this crisis, And how that impacts the mood of the nation.

In the US news, Russia amassed on the border of Ukraine has dominated the headlines. And sometimes those headlines have contradicted what we read over here. If I just read the Spanish papers I would have to scroll to read about the situation in Ukraine. We have other immediate concerns. Election results and covid restrictions – can I go to a bar at 2am without a mask with 30 of my closest friends? That kind of stuff. I’ve not heard one person here freaking out about Ukraine.

I watch the currency markets a lot. Especially when I had to transfer $$ to €€ – before learning we were doing a business loan. The rate has been directly tied to US-Ukraine-Russia news reports in the US. You can watch it like clockwork. So I cared, but I wasn’t scared.

I like to read German newspapers. The French press are more emotional. Some might say passionate. The British are such a mess right now you have no idea if the headlines are meant to distract from Partygate or if they are actually true. So the Germans are my barometer in this crisis. They are, quite literally, much closer to the root of the problem. From our house to Kiev it’s 3860kms (2400 miles). Seattle to NY. But Berlin to Kiev is 1300kms (800 miles). Like Seattle to San Francisco. For the Germans, Ukraine is in their backyard. And the Russians are lighting up the bbq and threatening to host a party. But reading the German papers, the Ukraine crisis is below their fold. They are more concerned about Covid restrictions, compulsory vaccination, and that Serbian tennis player who still refuses to be vaccinated so he can play. <eye roll>

If I ever had nerves about Russia invading Ukraine, the Germans have assuaged them. Not that I really did fear this would happen. There is no upside for anyone. The stock market would crash. Currency markets would tumble. And the energy market? Forget about it. And this is not the Cold War of the 60’s and 70’s. The Russians are not isolated and sitting on a pile of worthless rubles. The 21st Century Russia has too much at stake, with broad investment all over the globe. With an invasion they stand to lose trillions. And that’s not including sanctions.

I have a feeling all parties involved have the same philosophy I have. I will put up with a lot of things for a long time. But you mess with my money and we will have a real problem. And that’s a good thing. Mutually assured destruction used to mean nuclear weapons. Hundreds of millions dead. Now it means money. And while some governments are OK with the loss of life, they are never OK with the loss of their personal wealth. In some twisted weird way, money might just save us from this war. Without firing a shot or spending a dime.

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