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Water control in Crimea sets stage for reversal in Ukraine war

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Peter Zeihan

Geopolitical Strategist

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Grain has been used as an important bargaining chip in the Ukraine war, but given the country’s appealing geography, the battle over water has been equally vital. Early on in the fighting, Russian forces destroyed a dam in Ukraine’s Kherson region that had blocked water access to Crimea. In the southeastern Ukrainian city of Mariupol, Russian soldiers cut off a strategic water supply, leaving its population without safe drinking water. Straight Arrow News contributor Peter Zeihan believes a turning point in the war is possible should Ukraine succeed in regaining control of the flow of water into Crimea:

In many ways water is the worst! It’s low value. It’s bulky. It sloshes. It is among the most difficult of things to move en masse. And yet and yet and yet it is absolutely essential to the human condition. Have water? You can be something special. Don’t have water? History is just itching to forget about you. Which has direct implications for the Ukraine War.

And for the issue of the moment, there is a canal that goes from the Dnieper River south to the Crimea. Now, at the beginning of this war in Ukraine in February, the head of that connection on the Dnieper River was in Ukrainian hands. Now it is not. So the Russians, since taking over, have opened that back up and are allowing water to fly to the Crimean Canal, which is allowing the farmers in Crimea to actually grow real crops for the first time, something besides dry season wheat. So for the first time this year, if the Russians hold the territory the whole year, we might actually see Crimea become self sufficient and food.

That’s going to be very important very soon, because the Russians are in the process of losing in Kherson Oblast. And if the Ukrainians succeed in retaking their city of Kherson they will be able to control that sluice gate that controls the canal. And then all of a sudden all of Crimea overnight is high and dry. And any progress that the Crimean excuse me any progress that the Crimean farmers have made will simply dry up and blow away. And that could be the first stage for major reversal in this war. 

Hey everyone, Peter Ziehan here coming to you from Banff, Alberta lake in the Sierra national forest where it’s been raining for the last 18 days, excuse me 18 hours well, I have been backpacking for two days, and I’ve only seen the sky once, it’s supposed to clear out today we’ll see what happens. Anyway, I’m hearing some mountain fog. And I thought this would be a great backdrop to talk about water. Now there’s a lot of talk about things like water wars, or how countries that are driving to come after countries that are wet. Sorry, folks, history really doesn’t work that way. You see, without a reliable source of water, whether it’s from a river or rainfall, you can’t have an advanced agricultural system. If you don’t have that you can’t get a big population. If you don’t have that you can’t industrialize, you can’t build a projection based military. So there are very few conflicts in history that are about a country that is dry going after a country that is wet. It’s usually the other way around, because the wet countries have the industrial wherewithal to go do things. So anyway, it’s not something I usually concerned about. There’s also the little issue of moving water from place to place. Now, as you remember, from grade school, there are three atoms in a water molecule to hydrogen, one oxygen, the oxygen has a very strong negative charge, the hydrogens have a very strong positive charge. And while the charges are not strong enough to force multiple molecules of water to bind together, it is strong enough to make water somewhat fictiony. Now when you put a drop of water on your finger, you can see it clean there, that’s a good example of what’s called hydrogen bonding. The same thing happens to any substance that comes into contact with water unless it’s like a surfactant advanced chemistry lesson. We’ll worry about that later. Anyway, point being when you’re moving water from place to place, it grabs on to things including each other. So when you want to pump it, it takes a huge amount of energy. So there are very few projects on the planet that move water using anything but gravity. So if you have a river system or a lake system, you could theoretically run a tunnel at a negative incline into another basin. It’s capital intensive, it can be done, but you’re not going to pump it at volume. Even the Chinese who are famous for their crazy industrial projects really don’t do much pumping of water. They’ve simply drilled a lot of holes to move water from their southern watersheds like the Yangtze to the northern watersheds like the yellow. Anyway, because of all of this, water is difficult to deal with unless it comes to you for free. And for the issue of the moment, there is a canal that goes from the Nieper river south to the Crimea. Now, at the beginning of this war in Ukraine in February, the head of that connection on the Nieper River was in Ukrainian hands. Now it is not. So the Russians, since taking over have opened that back up and are allowing water to fly to the Crimean Canal, which is allowing the farmers in Crimea to actually grow real crops for the first time, something besides dry season wheat. So for the first time this year, if the Russians hold the territory the whole year, we might actually see Crimea become self sufficient and food. That’s going to be very important very soon, because the Russians are in the process of losing and Kherson Olblast.  And if the Ukrainians succeed in retaking their city of Kherson they will be able to control that sluice gate that controls the canal. And then all of a sudden all of Crimea overnight is high and dry. And any progress that the Crimean excuse me any progress that the Crimean farmers have made will simply dry up and blow away. And that could be the first stage for major reversal in this war. There are a few port pressure points like that. We’ll talk about some of them in future videos. Anyway, that’s it for me until the next lake and maybe some sun bye

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