On January 10, President Nicolas Maduro commenced another term as leader of Venezuela, a controversial development as several governments across the Western Hemisphere and beyond refuse to recognize the May 20, 2018 elections. Hence, Maduro’s inauguration ceremony included the presence of delegations from Venezuela’s few remaining allies in the world. Two individuals whose appearance in Caracas is worth noting are Anatoly Bibilov and Raul Khajimba, de facto presidents of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, respectively—two breakaway regions in Georgia.
Even though South Ossetia and Abkhazia proclaimed their independence after the 2008 Russo-Georgian War, only five governments recognize them as independent states: the Russian Federation, the Republic of Nicaragua, the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, the Republic of Nauru and the Syrian Arab Republic. Syria became only the fifth state to do so in May 2018, “in a gesture of thanks to its largest patron of late, Russia. Georgia responded by severing diplomatic relations with Syria,” Eurasia.net explains. A May 2018 article published by TASS, a Russian news agency, also mentions that Tuvalu and Vanuatu recognized the independence of the two regions in 2011, but these declarations were subsequently withdrawn.
Interestingly, the Venezuelan government has not provided much information about the visits of the two leaders to the South American country. A January 10 photo posted on President Maduro’s Twitter account shows the South Ossetian and Abkhazian leaders next to the few other heads of states that were present during the inauguration ceremony. Moreover, a brief press release by the Venezuelan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, dated January 11, mentions a meeting between Mr. Bibilov and Venezuelan Vice-President Delcy Rodríguez, but it simply states that the two sides “evaluated cooperation agreements.” The same was reported in a separate press release about a meeting between Vice-President Rodríguez and Mr. Dzhumkovich.
Unsurprisingly, the Latin American media covered these visits with curiosity. For example, Colombia’s El Tiempo’s headline was “South Ossetia, the non-recognized country that supports Venezuela.”
It is difficult to believe that Venezuela would have recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia if Russia was not a link between them. The decision by the Venezuelan government to do so in 2009 was influenced by then-President Hugo Chávez’ intention to strengthen relations with Moscow—anecdotally, the announcement that Caracas was going to recognize South Ossetia and Abkhazia occurred when Mr. Chavez visited the Russian capital. Nevertheless, since that declaration, there has been little, if any, contact between these governments other than a 2010 visit by then-Presidents Sergei Bagapsh and Eduard Kokoity, of Abkhazia and South Ossetia respectively, to Caracas and Managua. Trade between Venezuela and the two separatist regions appears to be non-existent.
It is unlikely that other governments from the Western Hemisphere will recognize South Ossetia and Abkhazia. There might have been a slight chance of that occurring a decade ago, when President Chavez was still around and there were several Chávez-friendly leaders in the region, such as Rafael Correa in Ecuador, Lula da Silva in Brazil or Cristina Fernández de Kirchner in Argentina. However, in 2019 the region, including the three aforementioned nations, is populated by generally Washington-friendly leaders, which makes the recognition of pro-Moscow separatist regions unthinkable.
Recognition is an important part of a country’s diplomatic toolkit. One obvious example is the Republic of China/Taiwan, which has lost a plethora of allies in recent years, including the Dominican Republic, El Salvador and Panama, as the governments decide to establish relations with the People’s Republic of China in order to benefit from access to the Chinese market and financial aid from the Asian giant.
In the case of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, neither Nicaragua nor Venezuela benefit directly from having relations with the tiny breakaway regions (South Ossetia’s population is around 50 thousand), but rather the objective is to cement relations with Moscow. Interestingly, in spite of recognition by Caracas, Managua, and most recently by Damascus (which has received substantial Russian support during its ongoing war), other close Russian allies like Belarus have not recognized the separatist states.
The support from South Ossetia and Abkhazia for the Maduro regime is symbolic at best, and this is essentially the most Venezuela can hope for from the international community in general. The limited number of heads of state and delegations that traveled to Caracas for the January ceremony highlights Venezuela’s dire situation in the diplomatic world nowadays.
About the author: Wilder Alejandro Sanchez is an analyst who focuses on geopolitical, military, and cybersecurity issues. The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect those of any institutions with which the author is associated.
But it’s difficult to think about value when we have no buoy for understanding it outside our traditional lenses: for example, our time, our job, and what others tell us they are worth in cash. This, largely, is the world’s paradigm for value so far. But understanding what value really means changes everything—and will be at the center of the decentralized revolution in global coordination that will unfold over the next decade. So, where do we begin?
Let’s start with gold.
Gold is an inherent value. When backing a market, gold allows us to grow a balanced economy well into the trillions. But why does it allow for massive stable markets to form around it? It is gold's permanence that creates stability. We understand that gold will always have value, because it is inherent in all of us, not just in one part of the world, but everywhere, not just today, but tomorrow and for the long haul.
In the 1930s when the gold standard was removed, we learned that the U.S. dollar didn’t need gold to back its economy to flourish. We learned that it was just a symbol for U.S. citizens to decentralize their coordination around the United States economy.
It turns out, common agreement is a philosophy for building shared economy.
And so it seems inherent value is a marker for us to begin exploring what the future could look like—a future beyond gold and the existing realm of credit. And so what else has inherent value? Is education as valuable as gold? What about healthcare? What about a vote that can’t be tampered with? What about an ID that can’t be stolen or erased? What about access to nutrition or clean water? You will find value everywhere you look.
It turns out, we’ve already done the legwork necessary to uncover the most elemental inherent values: The Sustainable Development Goals are commitments grown out of the drive to bring to life basic tenets of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights—the closest possible social contract we have to a global, common agreement.
We’ve already agreed.
Our agreements are grounded in deep value centers that are globally shared, but undervalued and unfulfilled. The reason for this is our inability to quantify intangible value. All of these rich, inherent values are still nebulous and fragmented in implementation—largely existing as ideals and blueprints for deep, globally shared common agreement. That is, we all agree education, health, and equality have value, but we lack common units for understanding who and who is not contributing value—leaving us to fumble in our own, uncoordinated siloes as we chase the phantoms of impact. In essence, we lack common currencies for our common agreements.
Now we find ourselves at the nexus of the real paradigm of Blockchain, allowing us to fuse economics with inherent value by proving the participation of some great human effort, then quantifying the impact of that effort in unforgeable and decentralized ledgers. It allows us to build economic models for tomorrow, that create wholly new markets and economies for and around each of the richest of human endeavors.
In late 2017 at the height of the Bitcoin bubble, without individual coordination, planning, or the help of institutions, almost $1 trillion was infused into blockchain markets. This is remarkable, and the revolution has only just begun. When you realize that Blockchain is in a similar stage of development as the internet pre-AOL, you will see a glimpse of the global transformation to come.
Only twice in the information age have we had such a paradigm shift in global infrastructure reform—the computer and the internet. While the computer taught us how to store and process data, the Internet built off that ability and furthered the conversation by teaching us how to transfer that information. Blockchain takes another massive step forward—it builds off the internet, adding to the story of information storage and transfer—but, it teaches us a new, priceless and not yet understood skill: how to transfer value.
This third wave kicked off with a rough start—as happens with the birth of new technologies and their corresponding liberties. Blockchain has, thus far, been totally unregulated. Many, doubtless, have taken advantage. A young child, stretching their arms for the first couple times might knock over a cookie jar or two. Eventually, however, they learn to use their faculties—for evil or for good. As such, while it’s wise to be skeptical at this phase in blockchain’s evolution, it’s important not to be blind to its remarkable implications in a post-regulated world, so that we may wield its faculties like a surgeon’s scalpel—not for evil or snake-oil sales, but for the creation of more good, for the flourishing of commonwealth.
But what of the volatility in blockchain markets? People agree Bitcoin has value, but they don’t understand why they are in agreement, and so cryptomarkets fluctuate violently. Stable blockchain economies will require new symbolic gold standards that clearly articulate why someone would agree to support each market, to anchor common agreement with stability. The more globally shared these new value standards, the better.
Is education more valuable than gold? What about healthcare or nutrition or clean water?
We set out in 2018 to prove a hypothesis—we believe that if you back a cryptocurrency economy with a globally agreed upon inherent value like education, you can solve for volatility and stabilize a mature long lasting cryptomarket that awards everyone who adds value to that market in a decentralized way without the friction of individual partnerships.
What if education was a new gold standard?
And what if this new Learning Economy had protocols to award everyone who is helping to steward the growth of global education?
Education is a mountain. Everyone takes a different path to the top. Blockchain allows us to measure all of those unique learning pathways, online and in classrooms, into immutable blockchain Learning Ledgers.
By quantifying the true value of education, a whole economy can be built around it to pay students to learn, educators to create substantive courses, and stewards to help the Learning Economy grow. It was designed to provide a decentralized way for everyone adding value to global education to coordinate around the commonwealth without the friction of individual partnerships. Imagine the same for healthcare, nutrition, and our environment?
Imagine a world where we can pay refugees to learn languages as they find themselves in foreign lands, a world where we can pay those laid off by the tide of automation to retrain themselves for the new economy, a world where we can pay the next generation to prepare themselves for the unsolved problems of tomorrow.
Imagine new commonwealth economies that alleviate the global burdens of poverty, disease, hunger, inequality, ignorance, toxic water, and joblessness. Commonwealths that orbit inherent values, upheld by immutable blockchain protocols that reward anyone in the ecosystem stewarding the economy—whether that means feeding the hungry, providing aid for the global poor, delivering mosquito nets in malaria-ridden areas, or developing transformative technologies that can provide a Harvard-class education to anyone in the world willing to learn.
These worlds are not out of reach—we are only now opening our eyes to the horizons of blockchain, decentralized coordination, and new gold standards. Even though coordination is the last of the seventeen sustainable development goals, when solved, its tide will lift for the rest—a much-needed rocket fuel for global prosperity.
“Let us raise a standard to which the wise and the honest can repair.” —George Washington