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FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: But first, here’s my take. Whatever happens in Ukraine over the next few months and years, the crisis has reminded me that there are really two kinds of rulers around the world, those who think about the past and those who think about the future. And if it weren’t abundantly clear already, it is now.

Vladimir Putin is the first group and his country will be the poorer for it. We’ve all learned some lessons in Russian history. Crimea was the first great prize for Russia, wrested from the Ottoman Empire and a mark of Russia’s rise to great power status.

It also gave the Russians something they never had, a warm water port with direct access to the Mediterranean and thus the wider world. Russia held onto the region even though it lost the Crimean War in the 19th century. Almost a century later it maintained its grip on the region after reclaiming it from the Nazis in early 1944.

Then came the strange and fateful twist in 1954 when Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev gifted Crimea to the Ukraine, an internal transfer within the Soviet Union. Why Khrushchev did that remains somewhat unclear. Whatever the cause, the consequences are lasting and dramatic.

That is the history. But history is bunk, as Henry Ford said. By that he did not mean that it was unimportant but rather that people should not be trapped by it, that they should not think backward but rather forward.

His exact words were, “History is more or less bunk. It’s tradition. We don’t want tradition. We want to live in the present and the only history that is worth a tinker’s damn is the history that we make today.”

The history that leaders make today has much less to do with geography or constraints from the past. When Singapore was expelled from Malaysia in 1965, the experts said that the small, swampy town in the middle of nowhere could not survive as an independent country. It is now one of the world’s great trading hubs with a per capita income higher than that of its erstwhile colonizer, Great Britain.

That’s because its founder, Lee Quan Yu (ph), thought less about the disadvantages of history and more about the advantages of the future.

When the Nationalist Chinese were abandoned by the world on a tiny island after the Communist Revolution in mainland China in 1949, most assumed the place would not survive. Yet in the most precarious position with zero natural resources, Taiwan became one of the world’s fastest growing economies for over four decades.

That’s because it didn’t worry about geography. It obsessed about competitiveness.

When Paul Kagame took over Rwanda, the country was more deeply ravaged by history than almost any nation. Scarred by a genocide of a speed never seen before in the past.

Rwanda’s also landlocked with no geographic advantages at all and a bloody war in the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo. But Kagame looked to the future, not the past. The result is a small African miracle, a country that is healing its wounds.

There are those who are still trapped by history and geography; think of Pakistan’s generals, still trying to establish strategic depth in their backyard while their country collapses.

Or think of Putin, who is, as Secretary of State John Kerry said, playing a 19th century game in the 21st century. What has he achieved? Ukraine has slipped out of his grasp, its people suspicious of Moscow even in Crimea the 40 percent who are non-Russian are probably restive and resentful.

Moscow’s neighbors are alarmed and once warming relations with Poland will be set back, trade and investment with Europe and the United States will surely suffer. Meanwhile Russia continues along its path as an oil dependent state with an increasingly authoritarian regime that has failed to develop its economy or civil society or foster political pluralism.

But no matter, Moscow controls Crimea. In today’s world, is that really a victory?

http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/1403/23/fzgps.01.html

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Posted March 24, 2014 by tmusicfan in Politics, Quote of the Day

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