US/NATO/Ukraine/Russia: Musical Chairs in Galicia
Musical Chairs in Galicia
[Image: Meeting between Blinken and Lavrov. By Ruptly, borrowed from Ritter’s article at ConsortiumNews.]
Publication date: 2022-01-20
Update 2022-01-20: added a new end section to wrap back around to McCoy’s analysis.
Update 2022-01-21: added an interesting idea from Anatol Lieven to sources.
Update 2022-01-22: added a brief analysis, with sources, on the short meeting between Lavrov and Blinken.
The ever thought provoking Alfred McCoy, the Fred Harvey Harrington Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has provided us with an update on his reading of the USA's geopolitical decline through the lens of the "great world island" view of Mackinder. The piece is clearly written, extensively referenced and a joy to read.
Our topic is the seemingly risky shenanigans going on between the USA and Russia over Ukraine. The Russian Federation (RusFed), under the strategic leadership of her President and Foreign Minister, laid down a draft for security cooperation in Europe to the USA and NATO. A string of concessions were then achieved before or on the day of negotiations. The Presidents would directly oversee the negotiations tracks (i.e. take political responsibility for their outcomes), the USA would not install offensive missiles in Ukraine, discussions about the placement of intermediate range missile systems in Europe and western Russia will be undertaken (i.e a resuscitation of the USA abondoned INF Treaty may be considered), and of course, the agreement to hold the talks themselves.
What has emerged over the last week, in combination with known national political dates, and some economic challenges, begins to show the complexities behind these discussions. The first and most obvious fact is that this is a mid-term election year for the USA, and the President's party has the slimmest of all possible holds over the senate at 50-50 with the Vice President holding the tie breaking vote (U.S. Constitution, Article I, section 3). The other clear background is that the weapons manufacturing industries in the USA have a strong influence on USA policies and nothing makes them happier than a war, or next best, a new NATO member. With a new member the USA tax payer gets to subsidize weapons sales to the new member as opposed to, say, a national health system.
As alluded to in an earlier article, global gas supplies are tight, and Russian gas supply to Europe is significant. There is no easy way to replace it. This is especially true for Germany which has shut down its nuclear power reactors and is some way off from replacing their capacity with alternate energy supply. In the meantime, Russian gas is well priced, stable and has the least of the carbon footprints for carbon based fuels. It is needed, until the reconfigured carbon neutral energy supply can be established. Or, to put it another way, if they lose the Russian gas, they increase mining of their brown coal to make up for some of the shortfall. This is a best to worst case transition for carbon fuels. Since the formation of Germany's new government, their Green party which was quite the Atlanticist during the campaign have pulled back their anti-Russian rhetoric. The author suspects someone got the memo about what happens if Germany loses its Russian gas supply. So, if a war between Ukraine and Russia is triggered, and the threatened economic sanctions are applied, how is Germany to pay for the gas? Hmmm? Thus, no gas, but economic and political turmoil.
On this topic, it is worth noting that it was Germany, not Russia, that proposed the NordStream II project. One is entirely unsurprised. It makes absolute sense. Germany needs both energy and raw materials for its excellent engineering and manufacturing sector, and Russia is a perfect trading partner from which to acquire those supplies and then to sell some of the finished products! Its called trade. Germany’s Foreign Minister has recently visited both Kiev and Moscow. Her Chancellor is very likely to follow suit in the near future.
Reports now issued on the nature of the discussions between the USA and RusFed indicate that the USA's negotiating team came woefully under prepared, or just had no intention of discussing the draft treaty in any detail. The mainline points were that no limitation on NATO membership would be acceptable and that the whole problem is that Russia has
a massive troop build up on Ukraine's border an Army on Russian soil.
Meanwhile the Mighty Wurlitzer was playing its "War is Almost Upon Us" and "Its All the Russians' Fault" tunes. Patrick Armstrong’s simple and direct response to this stupidity reads [emphasis mine]:
The current propaganda meme in Washington is that Russia is going to “invade Ukraine” and absorb it. It will not: Ukraine is a decaying, impoverished, de-industrialised, divided, corrupt and decaying mess; Moscow does not want to take responsibility for the package. Moscow is fully aware that while its troops will be welcomed in many parts of Ukraine they will not be in others.
He continues with a thought which inspired the sub-title for this article:
Indeed, in Moscow, they must be wishing that Stalin had returned Galicia to Poland rather than giving it to the Ukrainian SSR after the War and stuck Warsaw with the problem.
Serious analysts observe that the security architecture of Europe is in need of some tweaking. The continued expansion of NATO towards Russia is a provocation, which thus heightens tensions. If NATO really is a "defensive pact" this is counter to its intended purpose. This belies Lawrence Wilkerson's response to a question as to whether the expansion of NATO was really all about arms sales: "That's about half of it".
Despite all the doom and gloom from the western, and in particular USA media, USA Secretary of State Blinken, will meet Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov, in Geneva tomorrow on January 21, 2022. There appear to be wheels turning in the background.
Update Post Meeting
Lavrov and Blinken held a 90 minute discussion. The USA had failed to uphold its promise to respond in writing to the draft treaty published a month ago by RusFed. The BBC reports:
Russia's foreign minister said the US would send "written responses" to all of Russia's proposals next week but Mr Blinken only said America hoped to share its "concerns and ideas in more detail in writing next week".
So, the USA is stalling. Recent comments by Biden about considering a response based on the size of any Russian incursion into Ukraine drew plenty of diplomatic shouting from Europe, but seems to indicate a degree of disunity in NATO members. This makes absolute sense as launching massive economic punitive measures against RusFed will have little effect on them but a significant one upon the European economies, and flow on effects to the USA’s, as the USA’s Secretary of the Treasury advised the Whitehouse. A discussion between Ray McGovern and Scott Ritter on Sputnik’s The Critical Hour program lays out their analyses of the positives and vacuity on the table.
McGovern has penned an article, as has Ritter. Their analyses differ slightly, which is pleasing. McGovern gets the “best title” award. Godot, indeed.
There are multiple solutions to the tensions over Ukraine which the USA hawks-at-behest-of-military-contractors-or-cold-warriors created.
The first, laid out by Scott Ritter is neutrality. Its been done before. Hi, Austria! Another, is for NATO to declare a pause of one or two decades on considering Ukrainian and Georgian applications. This costs almost nothing because neither are in a state in which they could be considered for acceptance, and it will take quite some time for this situation to change. Anatol Lieven proposes another solution in which France just declares that it will veto any application by Ukraine or Georgia to join NATO for some time period.
Paul Craig Roberts asks if the existing USA foreign policy "team" are just a bunch of cold war Russiaphobes dominated by emotion rather than reason. Perhaps the arms industry has been providing some incense. But, their complete lack of ability to acknowledge current reality is certainly visible through the haze. Scott Ritter had published an article giving his view on what a war with Russia would look like on its European borders. The summary is: not what you expect, and no fun at all.
Paul Robinson has been publishing the odd article and joining a foreign policy discussion in which he exposes the hypocrisy of some UK politicians and he asks for a bit of reality awareness from foreign policy analysts, respectively. (See video sources, and time offset below for the panel discussion.)
Ray McGovern has been tilting at the windmills of the Mighty Wurlitzer with some cogent analysis. He holds a positive view that some significant things, like a new INF treaty, may be possible. It is worth noting that he was involved in the creation of the first.
Returning to the diminution of the anglophone empire, Caitlin Johnstone asks why all of a sudden "conspiracy theory" false flag operations are now being mainstreamed by the Whitehouse? This simple question actually begs quite a little consideration. Perhaps the cat was already out of the bag.
Vijay Prasad pricks our memories to cast our gaze on Afghanistan which is essentially being starved to death via the USA having stolen 9 Billion dollars of its wealth. One could say that the USA has moved from paying its military to kill people with expensive bombs to just stealing the nations money to prevent it from buying food to continue the slaughter. Of course, neighboring states, particularly Iran, are providing assistance, which is the entire point of the theft of Aghanistan’s monies, to place this burden upon them. The corollary, as should have been learned by all when the Bank of England stole 2 billion dollars of gold from Venezuela, is don’t put your money in western banks.
This author asks why it is that we are not being asked to worry about Taiwan anymore? Can't the Wurlitzer chew gum and walk at the same time?
To return to Professor McCoy’s analysis, another of Mackinder’s terms used in his seminal work on geopolitics was that of the “Heartland”. It is the core of the Eurasian landmass, the area in which the land based component of China’s BRI project is focused. The international political organisation shepherding the project is the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) which has a range of memberships from full member to observer.
So significant to the BRI mega-project is Kazakhstan that the project was announced at one of its leading universities, and Kazakhstan is a founding member of the SCO itself. The recent defense of Kazakhstan against a foreign instigated coup by the CSTO military alliance, as this newsletter reported on recently, gives this SCO aligned security organisation an increased role.
Recently, Iran became a full member of the SCO. This is unimportant in that running Chinese, Russian and Iranian naval drills in the north India ocean only implies that that you’d probably tell the Indians and Pakistanis about it, in advance. Back in September 2021 this newsletter published an article looking at the growing membership of the SCO. Two other factors have become clearer, that Italy has signed up to parts of the BRI, and that China has been buying controlling interests or outright ownership of significant ports in Europe, and others worldwide. Syria has also now signed up to the BRI. At this point, post the Kazakhstan debacle, the last big play for the anti-BRI brigade is, once again, Afghanistan. The Taliban are likely receiving lessons on “stable governance”. It will be very interesting to see what happens with the poppy crop next year and Afghan involvement in the international heroine trade. Perhaps they’ll transition to medical canabis?
These BRI trade corridors, and by extension trade interrelations, are all through Asia and extending into Europe. Through them, China and Russia and the SCO are achieving influence via the trade mesh.
Post WWII, the USA did magnificent things with various programs to invest its massive surplus in countries which had been devastated by the war throughout western Europe and east Asia. Through this it achieved great political influence. The policy approach changed after much of the reconstruction was complete and when the USA took its dollar off the gold standard in 1971. This prevented central banks from exchanging their USD currency reserves for gold, as agreed at the 1944 Bretton Woods conference. What is known as the Petro-Dollar emerged. The idea was to cycle the world’s trade, particularly oil, through USA banks and not worry too much about trade deficits. The IMF and World Bank began to be used as methods of looting foreign economies through loans which gave massive contracts to USA construction and engineering companies or provided ownership in core civil infrastructure sectors to USA companies (water, power, communications, transport). Loan conditions often included the destruction of a nation’s own food production to become reliant on the USA’s subsidized food production for core grain crops like maize, rice and wheat. More recently that tactic has changed to changing the seed supply to be patented GMO crops. “You shall grow mangoes for export to the USA, not Sago”. Documentaries like Confessions of an Economic Hitman (John Perkins) and The War you Never See (John Pilger) highlight these gangster tactics of subjugation via economic tactics and control of national essentials like food and water supply.
Chinese and Russian academics either then or since have learned from these methods. The BRI is a trade influence network similar to that created by the USA post WWII. The Asia Infrastructure and Investment Bank is a Chinese/SCO/International Bank organisation to facilitate the BRI and other projects by offering loans which can offer better terms that those offered by the IMF/World Bank or other western international banks, and thus undercut their offers and undermine their influence. It is China declaring to the USA and the West “thanks for the demonstration”. China wishes to never again suffer the “century of humiliation” imposed upon her by the West, particularly Britain, France and the USA.
The USA spends over half of its disposable tax income on its military and has in excess of 800 foreign military bases. China has one military foreign military base in Djibouti. It is also investing in its military, but at a far smaller scale. It is investing far more in its people and trade infrastructure. History will be the judge of which strategy is better for maintaining one’s independence and building and preserving influence networks.
Eurasia’s Ring of Fire, The Epic Struggle over the Epicenter of U.S. Global Power, Alfred McCoy, TomDispatch, 2022-01-16
RUSSIA, UKRAINE ET AL: WHAT NEXT?, Partrick Armstrong, his Website, 2022-01-19
The Case for Neutrality to Defuse Crisis With Russia, Scott Ritter, Consortium News, 2022-01-14
Diplomats & experts: negotiate, or expect ‘drastic escalation’ by Russia, Anatol Lieven, Responsible Statecraft, 2022-01-20
If the Russians were in Scotland …, Paul Robinson, Irrusianality, 2022-01-19
Can We Trust Russophobes with Our Foreign Policy?, Paul Craig Roberts, Unz Review, 2022-01-20
Breathe Easier: Blinken, Lavrov Meet Friday, Ray McGovern, Antiwar, 2022-01-20
As Blinken & Lavrov Fly Into Geneva…, Ray McGovern, his website, 2022-01-21 (There is an audio interview, but the text is what is being referenced).
False Flags Suddenly No Longer A Crazy Conspiracy Theory, Caitlin Johnstone, Her Newsletter, 2022-01-16
Are Western Wealthy Countries Determined to Starve the People of Afghanistan?, Vijay Prashad, Counterpunch, 2022-01-17
Russia/Ukraine Panel Discussion, Paul Robinson, Irrusianality, 2022-02-16
At 00:28:53 Paul pulls the discussion out of the clouds
German FM Baerock Flies to Moscow as Desperate Germany Seeks Way out of Crisis with Russia, Alexander Mercouris, his youtube channel, 2022-01-18
In which Mercouris speculates about changes in Merkel’s foreign policy calculations during 2014 to 2021 to explain Germany’s ever shifting position:
How Emmanuel Macron can end the threat of war in Europe, Anatol Lieven, Responsible Statecraft, 2022-01-21
Post Meeting Sources
The security crisis on Russia's border with Eastern Europe is at a critical point, Ray McGovern and Scott Ritter interviewed, Sputnik’s The Critical Hour, 2021-01-21
UKRAINE CRISIS: US ‘Toolboxes’ Are Empty, Scott Ritter, ConsortiumNews, 2022-01-21
Godot Likely To Arrive Before Russia Invades Ukraine, Ray McGovern, AntiWar, 2022-01-21
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