“When is the West going to act?” is the question most frequently asked grudgingly by young and old Ukrainians in Kiev.  For almost two years, Ukrainians have borne witness to an aggressive Russia occupying and annexing Crimea, arming separatist rebels in the east, and even attempting to take more Ukrainian territory in so-called Novorossyia.  While the West’s response to the Ukraine crisis has been disappointing thus far, Russia’s new military adventure in Syria and deepening economic recession have opened a new window of opportunity for the United States and her NATO partners to help arm and train Ukrainian forces with sophisticated defensive weapons. It is time to take advantage of Russia’s diversion of political, military, and dwindling economic resources to Syria, and arm the legitimate government of Ukraine while President Vladimir Putin struggles to keep an autocrat and an ally in power in Damascus. For years, Mr. Putin rode high in opinion polls as he ‘restored Russian pride’ and paid for his adventures generously with abundant oil revenues. Those days are long gone. As Stanford’s Michael McFaul, who served as US ambassador to Russia between 2012-2014, correctly points out, Mr. Putin’s Russia is at a much weaker position today than it was just five years ago. Dropping energy prices has slashed Russia’s revenues significantly from sales of crude oil and gas.  Russia is now entering its second recession in the past six years and the country’s economy has shrunk by a whopping 800 billion dollars in just one year.  To make matters worse for Russia’s ailing economy, the United States and the European Union have imposed crippling economic sanctions in response to Mr. Putin’s land grab in Crimea and for violating Ukrainian territorial integrity in the east. Mr. Putin’s budgetary constrains have resulted in significant cuts in social spending and economic development. It was no surprise to see a much lower increase in Russia’s military budget this year despite a much anticipated twenty percent spending hike promised earlier by the Kremlin.  Add to that Russia’s decision this fall to intervene in Syria—a move not planned or budgeted for in the 2015 defense appropriations bill sent to the Russian Duma. Russia’s costly, and gradually expanding air campaign in Syria will only further drain the Russian economy as it is clear that Mr. Assad has neither the intention nor the ability to pay his Russian allies for services rendered. While Mr. Putin currently enjoys high approval ratings at home, the worsening economic situation, coupled with Russia’s increasing isolation by the international community, will alienate much of his support base who will begin to question Russia’s increasing and costly involvement in Syria, Ukraine, the Arctic, and now the Kuril Islands off the coast of Japan while their pensions can barely cover the basic necessities as the rubble loses more of its value each day. Critics point out that arming the Ukrainian military would only embolden Mr. Putin as he would justify his more aggressive military operations in Ukraine. Mr. Putin, critics say, would argue that he is defending vital Russian interests against direct Western (read American) military intervention.  Such critics may be correct as Mr. Putin’s behavior has proven his tendency to further escalate tensions by resorting to brute military force and without paying much attention to how that would burden the Russian economy and military.  But they seem to ignore the fact that Mr. Putin has already escalated tensions by sending over 12,000 soldiers and advisers to eastern Ukraine. His only other option will be an all out war.  One that Mr. Putin is neither interested in nor could afford. Burdened with a new, costly, and open-ended military engagement in Syria, cooler heads may prevail in the Kremlin to prevent an all out war in Ukraine.  Mr. Putin is aware that separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine do not make for reliable allies as they have defied him in the past.  He is also aware that his less than modern military lacks the capacity to engage in multiple military conflicts—not to mention the ailing Russian economy’s inability to sustain such adventures. Russia sees no clear exit strategy in Syria and that will be the single most effective barrier to further Russian aggression in Ukraine.  Mr. Assad’s forces may be able to retake some lost territory from the rebels, but will fail to re-establish his complete rule over Syria.  Iranian and Hezbollah ground forces will not resolve Mr. Assad’s manpower problems either. To secure its objective and to keep Mr. Assad in power in Damascus, Russia has to remain in Syria, and perhaps commit more manpower and strategic assets to prop up Mr. Assad.  And despite the current popularity of Russian intervention in Syria, the public opinion is bound to shift in the opposite direction once young Russian servicemen return home in flag wrapped body bags; an inescapable outcome of open ended military commitments of such sort.   This opinion piece was written by Arash Aramesh, a National Security Analyst who just returned from Ukraine and Moldova. He has previously published in the International Herald Tribune, The New York Times, Asharq al-Awsat, The Huffington Post, The Majalla, Stanford Lawyer Magazine, and The Diplomatic Courier, among others. He appears frequently on BBC World Service, BBC Persian, various BBC radio services, Al Jazeera English, Al Jazeera America, and Sky News. He can be found on Twitter at @ArameshArash

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, as a global community, to ensure inclusive and equitable access to quality education. We’ve already agreed to empower all women and girls, to ensure pure and clean water access for all, to promote health at all stages of life, and to end hunger.

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
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.