Editor’s Note: Nick Giambruno and Doug Casey just returned from the war-torn country of Ukraine in search of their latest “blood in the streets” opportunity. Here’s a look at the incredible bargains they found…
Nick Giambruno: So Doug, why don’t you give a little background on our recent trip to Poland and the Ukraine?
Doug Casey: Well, my first trip to Eastern Europe was in the late ‘60s, during the Soviet era. But I've spent relatively little time in Eastern Europe, and this was my first time to Poland and Ukraine. I'm favorably impressed with both countries—the societies, the opportunities, and with the way things look. That’s contrary to what most people think, especially regarding Ukraine; they think of it as a warzone. But the secession in the Donetsk and Luhansk provinces doesn’t affect the rest of the country.
Nick Giambruno: It's my first time to the Ukraine, too, and it's definitely a lot different than what you would see in the media. Actually, this kind of perception gap is just the kind of thing we look for when seeking out good value around the world.
Doug Casey: Yes. The previous democratically elected president there was overthrown in a coup orchestrated by the U.S. government. He was terminally, even comically, corrupt; which is absolutely typical for ex-Soviet countries. The new guy is equally corrupt, but at least he's a U.S. puppet.
There don't seem to be any foreign tourists in Kiev at all; that’s a good sign. We're looking at real estate and stock prices, and they appear to present tremendous opportunities. Of course most people would say, “Well, there's no way I'm going to live in the Ukraine. That must be a horrible place.” But the fact is that Kiev as a city dates from the 500s. It's an ancient city. It's a beautiful city. It's a delightful place to be, totally undiscovered, and very, very cheap.
Nick Giambruno: In terms of lifestyle, and at least in the summer months, Eastern Europe is not a bad place to be if you want to have a high-quality life without breaking the bank. I’d rate it as far better than spending your time and money in, say, Paris or London.
Doug Casey: Oh, absolutely. If you walk down the street in Warsaw or Kiev, you're going to see that everybody's a Pole or a Ukrainian; neither place—but especially not Ukraine—gets many tourists. You walk down the street in London or Paris, I question whether you'll even see a Brit or a Frenchman. In London, the plurality seems to be immigrants from the subcontinent. In Paris, it’s immigrants from France’s defunct African empire. In both countries, the colonizers are now themselves being colonized.
Eastern Europe, however, for all the bad PR it gets, is generally crime-free. So popular perceptions and what you read about in the mass media are totally inaccurate, in my opinion.
Nick Giambruno and Doug Casey in Kiev’s Maidan, the scene of a recent and bloody revolution.
Nick Giambruno: When people think of these Eastern European cities on the Russian periphery they probably imagine columns of soulless, Soviet-style buildings. But that's not what we found here.
Doug Casey: No, not in Kiev. Although, in truth, I’m long past the stage where I visit old churches and government buildings almost anywhere. Of course, Warsaw was a little bit different because the Germans and then the Russians totally flattened the place during the Second World War. But Kiev is very much an old town with lots of culture.
The Germans like to joke that Eastern Europe should advertise itself by saying, “Come to Eastern Europe. Your car is waiting for you,” because most of the cars stolen in Germany are exported to the east.
Another joke about Eastern Europe is that the main import is stolen cars and the main export is prostitutes. Well, every country has its share of politically incorrect jokes. Regrettably, you hear less of them these days. Psychologically aberrated opinion leaders are trying to turn the whole planet into a dour and humorless “safe space,” where all the delicate little flowers are sheltered from even the slightest microaggression.
Nick Giambruno: Well our Polish colleague would say, “Yeah, so what? We steal a few cars. But, you Germans killed my grandfather.” A sad, but kind of funny joke, and it usually silences any complaints about the stolen cars.
Doug Casey: That's right. Germans suffer from a huge national guilt complex. You need only reference WW2 in the most oblique way to make them curl up in a ball and hide under the table.
We actually came to Poland because you, Nick, put together the highlights of my three financial books into a new book that covers economic and investing principles in a timeless, as opposed to topical, manner. We got along very well with the Polish publisher, Jan Fijor. I met him at La Estancia de Cafayate, incidentally. In Poland—like everywhere else in the world—the publishing and media business is very much controlled by statists and collectivists. So I go out of my way to support the rare individualist or libertarian.
My upcoming novel, Speculator, which is going to be released in a couple of weeks, is also going to be published in Poland. So perhaps I'll eventually relate to Poland the way Jerry Lewis used to relate to France.
Nick Giambruno: One thing that was particularly surprising was how large, and how knowledgeable, the free market libertarian community in Poland was. These guys were philosophically and intellectually sound. Was that surprising to you, too?
Doug Casey: Yes. It was hard to believe that when we gave speeches to the audience that Jan put together, there were over 700 people in attendance. These weren't just people rounded up from the highways and the byways, these were real libertarians. I would say that a third of the audience were anarcho-capitalists.
And this couldn’t have happened in any other place in Europe. I don’t think there’s another place in Europe where you could get even 50 libertarians in the same room. But perhaps Poland has an excellent tradition of freedom because it’s a borderland. They speak a Slavic language, but use Latin script. And the prevailing religious tradition is Catholicism, not a variety of Eastern orthodoxy.
Nick Giambruno: It might have to do with their history of dealing with aggressors. In particular the Russians and Germans.
We heard another funny anecdote from Poland. If the Germans and the Russians attack you at the same time, as a Polish patriot, who do you fight first? And the answer is, well, you have to fight the Germans first because it's your duty, and then you fight the Russians… for pleasure. So business before pleasure.
Doug Casey: Poland, like Ukraine, lies mostly on a flat, open plain that has made them something of a highway for invading armies. But I think that era in history is over, for a number of reasons—notwithstanding the best efforts of NATO and the U.S. to provoke the Russians. I could live very happily, and very inexpensively, in a luxury apartment, in either Warsaw or Kiev.
Nick Giambruno: That brings up another point, how cheap these places are. Temporarily cheap I should say, at least for people who hold U.S. dollars.
I thought Poland in particular was favorable. The ratio of the cost of living to the quality of life was heavily skewed in your favor. Poland almost reminds me of being the Argentina or Colombia of Europe, meaning it’s an excellent place to live on the very cheap. It’s an excellent place for “lifestyle arbitrage.” Did you get that same impression, too?
Doug Casey: I absolutely did. Both cities are very civilized, lots of people speak good English. And there’s reason to think both these countries will improve significantly.
Nick Giambruno: For example, from the middle of Warsaw to the airport we took an Uber taxi and it only cost $5.
Doug Casey: It's as cheap as it was in Argentina during the good old days, during the crisis. We went out to one of the best restaurants in Kiev. There were six of us. We spared no expense, far more food than any of us could eat. Excellent food, and far more wine and vodka than we should have drunk. The total bill, for drinks, dinner, dessert, including the tip, was $130 for six people for a veritable feast. I don't know what it would be in New York, probably five times or even ten times that much at a similar restaurant. I wonder if The Russian Tea Room near Carnegie Hall is still open…
Editor’s Note: Doug and Nick are expert “crisis investors.” They invest in markets that are bombed out, hated, and depressed. This strategy allows them to buy world-class companies at bargain prices… and to buy a dollar’s worth of assets for pennies. This sets Doug and Nick up to make big gains, like the 210% gain they made on the Cypriot hospitality business Lordos Hotels in the wake of that country’s banking crisis.
It’s all part of a strategy we believe anyone can use to “flip” financial chaos into a fortune. No matter their investing experience or level of wealth. That’s why Doug and Nick put together a video to show you exactly how to use this profitable technique. Click here to watch it now.