Tag Archives: russia

About the Ukraine-Russia conflict. First, know what we don’t know.

Summary:  It’s another world crisis. As usual quite obvious things remain invisible to US geopolitical experts and even diligent readers of the US news media. Here is an attempt to fill in the blanks around the conflict in the Ukraine (putting it in a larger context), with links to useful sources of information about specifics of the conflict. Part one; see part two.

Grand Strategy

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“You just don’t in the 21st Century behave in 19th Century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped up pretext.”

— Secretary of State John Kerry displays awesome hypocrisy on Face the Nation, 2 March 2014

It’s sad to watch the belligerent, often ignorant, US hawks again go hysterical. Before enlisting yourself or your children, please read these useful things to know about the conflict in the Ukraine:

  1. Our weak response to this (strong rhetoric, weak actions) results from an incoherent grand strategy.
  2. History suggests that we (American public) don’t know what’s going on. Key facts are hidden from us, or lost amidst the propaganda barrages of both sides.
  3. Russia is acting according to historical norms. They violate the post-WW2 laws established by the United Nations Charter, …
  4. just as we have done so many times — and even more frequently since 9-11. Our betrayal since 9-11 of the post-WW2 order we built gives us little credibility in conflicts like Ukraine.

The last point deserves more attention. It’s the “clean hands” doctrine, which provides a useful lens through which to see this conflict:

A person coming to court with a lawsuit or petition for a court order must be free from unfair conduct (have “clean hands” or not have done anything wrong) in regard to the subject matter of the claim. His/her activities not involved in the legal action can be abominable because they are considered irrelevant. (from The Legal Dictionary)

First, there have been ample rumors of covert US involvement in the Ukraine — another chapter in the long list of US programs to destabilize or replace governments hostile to US political or corporate interests. Needless to say, these give us “dirty hands” when complaining about Russia’s violations of Ukraine’s sovereignty.

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BRIC building: the future of Brazil, Russia, India and China

Summary: Today we have a follow-up by Paul Schulte to Does corruption limit China’s growth, or pose a threat to its existence? He looks at the leading emerging nations, comparing them to the US and UK at similar point in their evolution to greatness.

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BRIC building: the future of Brazil, Russia, India and China

By Paul Schulte
Institutional Investor magazine, in press
Republished here with his generous permission.

The challenge of the BRICs

The November/December 2012 edition of Foreign Affairs Magazine had an article called “How the BRICS Are Crumbling” by Ruchir Sharma (head of Emerging Markets at Morgan Stanley). The tone of the article seems off the mark. The BRICs {Brazil, Russia, India, China} are slowing because they are trying to slow credit growth due to the links of their currencies to the US dollar. They are trying to slow down credit growth while the West desperately uses zero interest rates to accelerate credit growth. So, the West and the BRICs are operating at cross purposes.

The BRICs countries have dollar-linked currencies, so when interest rates are zero in the West and high in BRICs countries they will be bombarded with capital seeking a higher return. This causes their currencies to appreciate, jeopardizing growth. Or, the BRICs countries must intervene domestically to force banks to slow credit growth as these banks fill with cash. Either way they encounter forces which cause their currencies to rise and credit growth to accelerate. This is a classic cocktail for a real estate bubble and accelerating inflation.

Brazil and China are experiencing the same phenomenon now. Both are essentially trying to slow down their respective economies, although China has been more successful.

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The Syrian dominos

Summary: Today Tom Hayden briefs us on the situation in Syria, about what’s happening — and what might happen soon.

Photo from the Express Tribune of Pakistan

Civil wars are the worst type of warfare. However, we are not implying that there is such a thing as “good warfare.” There are only good causes.

In Syria we have a situation much like the Spanish Civil War (1936-39). As the fighting extends in time between the combat wing of the United Revolutionary Council and the despotic Assad regime, foreign players have begun entering the struggle.

  • Backing Assad, you have the Iranians, Russia and HizbAllah.
  • Backing the revolutionaries we have the Saudis, the Emirates, and to a limited degree, Turkey and Jordan.
  • The USA has sent aid, but best we know at this point it has been, we are told, only humanitarian aid.

In the meantime the body count grows and is now over 30,000.

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The Truth and Beauty about Russia

Summary: The inaccurate descriptions of Russia in the western media shows its fraudulent nature. Today we have an excerpt from Truth & Beauty that gives a more accurate picture of one the world’s three great powers.

Today we have an excerpt from the September 14 issue of Truth & Beauty, by Eric Kraus and Alexander Teddy. They shine the clear light of common sense on Russia, cutting through the fog of misinformation emitted by the western news media. This is “Through Western Eyes – Russia in the Media”, about the politics and economics of Russia. Reprinted with their generous permission.

Contents

  1. About Russia?  The Good. The Bad. The Ugly.
  2. Politics
  3. Economics
  4. About the author
  5. About Truth & Beauty
  6. For More Information about Russia

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(1)  About Russia.  The Good. The Bad. The Ugly.

Truth & Beauty is seen as a vehement supporter of Putin and a perennial Russian bull, perhaps blind to the failings of our adopted land. This is a half truth at best – yes, we firmly believe that the rise of Vladimir Putin was the best thing to have happened to Russia for the past millennium (not, overall a particularly good one – happily, the millennium now just getting underway appears far more promising…), however we are blind neither to his failings, nor to the weaknesses of the system which he has put into place.

(2)  Politics

T&B has never subscribed to democratic fundamentalism. Indeed, some of the main weaknesses of the current system may be due to an obsession with at least the outer trappings of Democracy, and thus, the failure to at least pass through a Chinese-style system with continuity provided by a reformed Party, with individuals replaced as necessary, without affecting the continuity of overall policy.

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The Truth and Beauty about the Pussy Riot

Summary: The Pussy Riot episode revealed much about Russia, and the coverage in the western media shows its fraudulent nature. Today we have an excerpt from Truth & Beauty that explains both.

Today we have an excerpt from the September 14 issue of Truth & Beauty, by Eric Kraus and Alexander Teddy. They shine the clear light of common sense on Russia, cutting through the fog of misinformation emitted by the western news media. This is “Through Western Eyes – Russia in the Media”, about the Pussy Riot girls — what this episode tells us about Russia, and about the western news media. Reprinted with their generous permission.

Pussy Riot in custody

Contents

  1. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
  2. Blunder in the Cathedral
  3. Reporters Storm the Cathedral
  4. Political Implications: Vladimir Vladimirovich says “Thank You, Pμssies!”
  5. About the author
  6. About Truth & Beauty
  7. For More Information about Russia

(1) Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Nothing better illustrates the craven hypocrisy of Western coverage than the recent Pμssy Riot (PR) story; while it has received many hundreds of times the coverage it deserved, we cannot quite ignore it, given the indignant yelping of the tame Western media, as well as the truly extraordinary volume of political spin generated.

As an aside (and our personal feelings are here quite irrelevant) T&B feels sorry for them, as we feel sorry for almost anyone confined to a prison – from Bernie Madoff (with his medieval 150-year sentence for simple fraud) to the incarcerated PR provocateurs – but we feel sorry precisely as we would for someone who went looking for a gas-leak with a lighted match… it was not going to end at all well.

As is so often the case, what is interesting is not what it tells us about Russia (it is hardly a revelation that Russia remains a deeply conservative society, where the Church plays a role far greater than in secular Western Europe) but what it tells us about the West.

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Lessons for America from the Russo-Japanese War

Summary:  Just as tactical military victory does not guarantee strategic military victory, tactical victory at the peace table does not guarantee the accomplishment of national strategic goals. From the start through the termination of the Russo-Japanese War, at the strategic level, Japan understood this fact to a much greater degree than did Russia.  We could learn much from their example about the successful waging of war.

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“The Russo-Japanese War: Defining victory”

by Drew A Bennett (Colonel, USMC)
Originally published in the Marine Corps Gazette of November 2002.
Republished here with their generous permission.

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A conversation on 25 April 1975 in Hanoi:

“You know you never defeated us on the battlefield” – Colonel Harry G. Summers, Jr. (Chief of the U.S. Delegation, Four Party Joint Military Team)

”That may be so, but it is also irrelevant.” – Colonel Nguyen Don Tu (Chief, North Vietnamese  Delegation)

— From On Strategy: A Critical Analysis of the Vietnam War by Harry G. Summers Jr. (1982)

The Russo-Japanese War highlights the need for national leaders, both military and civilian, to understand long-term national strategic objectives and all of the elements of national power available to achieve those objectives. In the early 20th century, conventional wisdom on this conflict mistakenly evaluated the lack of war indemnities required from Russia as a lenient peace-a Russian success and a Japanese failure. This evaluation narrowly focused on the conduct of military operations and failed to consider the larger strategic implications of the Russo-Japanese War. Conventional wisdom of the day failed to comprehend that, despite the lack of indemnities, the termination of conflict established by the Peace of Portsmouth Treaty allowed Japan to achieve its limited objectives.

Nations do not accomplish strategic goals with military power alone. As stated in Joint Publication 1-02, the Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms, elements of national power encompass “all the means that are available for employment in the pursuit of national objectives” and include diplomatic, economic, informational, and military power. These elements of power must be constantly evaluated and applied across the spectrum of war and peace at the tactical, operational, and strategic levels.

Just as tactical military victory does not guarantee strategic military victory, tactical victory at the peace table does not guarantee the accomplishment of national strategic goals. From the start through the termination of the Russo-Japanese War, at the strategic level, Japan understood this fact to a much greater degree than did Russia.

Causes of the Russo-Japanese War

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Every day the new world emerges, yet we see it not. Like today, as Europe begs China for loans

Summary:  A crisis strips away our pretences, the no longer true beliefs to which we clutch out of fear — from our unwillingness to face the future.   Today we have a fine example as Europe begs for loans from China and the other emerging nations.  The new world order emerges before our eyes.

America loves our status as a superpower.  Europe and Japan relish their status as great powers.  We are all broke.  America has borrowed trillions from the emerging nations, but retains the delusion of hegemony.  Now Europe faces its test, and turns to the new great powers for aid.  Not Japan.  Not America.

BRICS in Talks to Buy Euro Bonds to Help Ease Crisis “, CNBC, 13 September 2011 — Opening:

The BRICS major emerging markets are in initial talks about increasing their holdings of euro-denominated bonds in an effort to help ease the euro zone debt crisis, a Brazil government official told Reuters on Tuesday. The talks are still in a “preliminary stage,” said the source, who asked not to be identified because the negotiations were ongoing. The BRICS countries are Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

With almost 3 trillion euros in reserves, the BRICs have the ability to rescue the European Monetary Union (i.e., BRICs means China plus the others; China’s reserves are almost 3x the other’s combined total).  Doing so would rebuild the global financial system, creating at last a system to replace the long-dead Bretton Woods framework.  But what would the BRIC nations get from this deal?

What do they want?  Probably leadership, or at least a voice commensurate with their growing power.  The BRICs have 14% of the votes in the IMF.  Increasing that would be a logical step, one that’s inevitable eventually.  That’s probably the least they will ask for.  As Europe’s crisis seems almost certain to deepen in the next few months, we (or at least western governments) will soon see their demands.

My guess:  the price might be hidden (much like the deal settling the Cuban Missile Crisis), but it will be high.  Perhaps very high.  The BRICs have no need to hurry, as Europe’s need for loans will only grow — unless (until) its leaders abandon for now the unification project.

Putting the above in perspective

The BRICs are a disparate group.  Very different internal conditions, few common interests, no signs of acting together.

China remains a poor nation, despite its rapid growth.  For example, despite China’s high levels of investment (too high say critics) it’s per capita capital stock is aprox 1/8 that of the US (at PPP, per GaveKal), aprox 1/5 that of Japan (where Japan was circa 1970).

The growing in the BRICs –esp China — lies in the future.  The shift of power has just started.  America’s political dysfunctionality accelerates that process (as our rich increasingly work to further concentrate power and wealth rather build America).

For more information

For all posts about this, see the FM Reference Page End of the post-WWII geopolitical regime.

About China:

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