The blockchain has become a proxy battleground in the Russo-Ukrainian War. As the latest in a line of suffocating sanctions, NATO recently halted Russian access to SWIFT, the society responsible for facilitating most international banking — so, essentially, the bogeyman responsible for billionaire tax evasion or the shadow government puppet masters’ dark money pools, depending on which side of the political spectrum you fall. It seems a simple, logical move. But it also created a layered gameboard of incentives, reflecting not only the conflict between the international actors in play, but the one faced by the web3 world at large.
With the ruble mutilated, cryptocurrency presents an obvious out for Putin, as a censorship-resistant option to circumvent the West’s economic warfare. In response, the White House is putting pressure on crypto exchanges to cut off accounts tied to sanctioned parties. Meanwhile, Ukraine increasingly relies on token donations to fund its defense, and would perhaps be impacted the most, should the crypto market respond in unexpected ways to these impending shifts. These are all complex use cases, difficult to either criticize or champion.
Cutting off all access to wealth for a man who surely intends to use it for personal gain, if not unspeakable violence, is obviously a desired outcome, yet equal access to financial resources is the key selling point of web3 technology for many. Crypto exchanges working in tandem with the government to limit individuals’ usage is crucial to the efficacy of our current foreign policy but sets a dangerous precedent moving forward. And making tangible contributions to innocent civilians under attack should be a priority for all Americans, but the technological capability to crowdfund a war should raise questions, as well.
Without clear, objective conclusions, I’d argue it’s more useful to consider these parties’ goals in the context of web3 as a whole. Frustrated with the status quo, a community rallied around a disruptive technology — the blockchain — hoping to change things for the better. By and large, they’ve been drowned out by those exploiting the technology, or silenced by those benefiting from the way things were. But, in the face of staggering opposition, principled voices persist. Those are the voices we intend to platform every week, and we’ve ensured we project today.
Point being, for parties like the White House and the Kremlin, their attitude toward the blockchain was predetermined. Whether in war or peace, when it comes to a new variable in the game of power, they’ll seek, respectively, control or manipulation. Meanwhile, the parties motivated by the forces at the source of our humanity — loyalty, preservation, freedom, peace — make at times messy but always innovative and progressive use of the technology. And they will be rewarded by history for it. We’re seeing it today in Ukraine’s Spartan resistance. We’ll see it tomorrow by those of you who believe, and do, the same.