And the centre's not looking too good, either.
One thing undergirding all of these, I suspect (and I'm talking about more than just Russia, but "everything") is the state of fundamental epistemic dissonance, not unique historically to the West, but certainly prevalent now.
If people have at least basic agreement on what "Russia" is, they may disagree about what to do about it, but at least there's some basis for coming to an understanding--the shared understanding on what Russia is. But all these factions in the West couldn't even agree on what Russia is and rather than risk a confrontation (among themselves) over figuring out what Russia really is, they covered themselves up on obfuscation masquerading as grand (and vague) moralization. The catch, of course, is that, having done so much moralizing, they'd need to do something if they get pushed, but since these actions are really for covering their own collective a**es, they are always inappropriate for the situation (this, incidentally, makes things even more dangerous--I've been saying that F-16s will be a game changer not because they'll do any good, for example, but they will have to be operated by NATO pilots from bases in NATO countries, and they'll force (and Putin has warned as much) Russia to attack NATO bases that they are operating from.)
But is this really different from anything (really) else? A curious development that has come out of the strange strain of modern "LIberalism," I think, is the notion that the individual has the right to his/her/its own version of the Truth: not only do I have the right to believe whatever I want to believe (about the reality), I'm also entitled to have others treat my beliefs as if it is the Truth. Implicitly, if others dispute my beliefs, not only are they liars (because they are denying "self-evident" Truth), but they are intruding on my individual rights. "Political correctness" increasingly runs on this theme: it's not just that it's impolite to bring up too publicly things that are important to other people for various reasons, but it is that certain things (often of questionable veracity) need to be enshrined as the Truth and that criticizing them should be condemned as sacrilege and heresy--because those who hold these beliefs have the right to have these as the Truth.
The paradox this introduces is too obvious and, besides, the original proponents of Liberalism would be spinning as fast as anything possibly could at this interpretation. But it is also true that socio-political philosophy (Liberalism included) has never been too strong on rigorous epistemology (that's the realm of real science--and even there, what exactly the Truth is is far from obvious: there is, after all, a whole field of philosophy of science for this reason and, ultimately, even they seem to have conceded in the end that science is what scientists do--and scientists are still human, with all the human social and epistemic conventions that may not always be compatible with the Truth. So even the 18th century Liberals punted, as we say in America: the Truth is self-evident, so to speak (and literally stated in American declaration of independence.) Any and every "reasonable" people should be able to see it and agree on what it is. And if they don't, well, those who do not agree with the "reasonable" people must be "unreasonable" and must be reeducated by force or else. (This, incidentally, was actually a fairly common attitude in the middlebrow version of 18th century Liberalism--Robert Darnton's wonderful book, "The Forbidden Best Sellers of the Prerevolutionary France," gets into these--and apparently is still just as common among the modern middlebrow Liberals (of both liberal and conservative stripes, "ideologically" speaking.) The trouble is that LIberalism assumes "rational" individuals--but what is rational is never clearly defined. (Back in the days when I taught game theory, I'd joke to students that "rational" in this context literally means that we assume human thinking follows laws of math because, otherwise, what we are doing would not make sense. I'm not sure if they got what I was saying although that is in fact mostly true.)
Perhaps this is not atypical of bad "bureaucracies": But bureaucracies, in turn, are a product of "Liberal" thinking, that the problem to be addressed can be "measured" and a rational "solution" can be developed and implemented more or less "scientifically." If "rational" is the product of a particular epistemology, it should follow that murky epistemology should lead to confused "rationality" and Frankensteinian "solutions" that muddy the waters rather than converge on something workable.
Just yesterday, the US announced yet another "accounting error" that allows for the transfer of an additional $6.2 billion to Ukraine. How incredibly convenient, and just as Ukrainian forces were getting slaughtered yet again!
This is a clear signal, that the United States is going to keep doubling down, and that it isn't going to bother to ask Congress. Doubtless additional mysterious and unspecified accounting errors and suchlike will be discovered whenever these might prove helpful in the future. For its part, Congress is happy to not have to exercise any oversight, as this would involve having to take a stand.
Russia has made a lot of miscalculations in this war, most of them stemming from a failure to appreciate how lawless, arbitrary and sociopathic the West is, how quickly and effortlessly it jettisons Muh Rule Of Law! the moment it becomes inconvenient.
And I have zero doubt that NATO is looking to intervene openly.
This is one of the best articles you've written. Very well laid out arguments. However may I suggest another angle that you haven't touched upon.
From a very high level perspective the world is running headlong into an energy and resource deficit. The US and Europe need the massive pool of resources within Russia, especially their energy. There is no other alternative for either of them (yes the US is a very resource rich country but it's consumption is beyond what they have). Ukraine is their attempt at balkanizing Russia so as to plunder their resources.
Without these both the US and Europe will implode. They have no viable fallback position. Regardless of logic or common sense they will continue escalating right up to the end point as they have no other options. Both Russia and China have a clear eyed view of what's coming and have been taking very obvious steps to prepare for it.
Your argument that it'll essentially all fizzle out into Western impotence and squabbling factions is a good one but the energy and resource game of musical chairs that we are fast approaching on a civilisational level will, I fear, trump everything else.
> Indeed, one feature of the Washington bureaucracy is that no-one is ever really completely in control of anything, and “US policy” is in practice only an unstable compromise that different groups are more or less willing to support for the time being.
A few years ago I wrote here on Substack: "...the American system of power has the advantage of not being a centralized hierarchy of authoritarian power. It’s more like mafia families (i.e. corporations and the most wealthy actual families) who both cooperate and compete with each other to protect and enhance their own influence. So there is no single-point of failure and no class of subordinate bureaucrats that you might infiltrate. Nobody is in charge. Its a dynamic network constantly rearranging itself around who are the most successful psychotically greedy and domineering mafia bosses."
What I mean by "advantage" here is that the American institutions are more resilient to efforts at reform or revolution coming from the people they govern.
Whitney Webb has written about how big chunks of the federal government evolved and grew hand-in-hand with the mafia and other criminal organizations.
Excellent analysis. I agree that NATO will be paralyzed, unable to reach a consensus. But the west losing is an inherently dangerous situation. An event like Pearl Harbor or 9/11 could crystallize a new consensus like a seed crystal in a super saturated solution.
I worry that the people who brought us the Nord Stream attack will manufacture such an event.
Thanks. This is a really great analysis. You recognise the messiness and plurality involved in decision making (or perhaps lack of decision making....), as well as the difficulty of making predictions.
I recall a speech by AJP Taylor where he said that the historian cannot predict the future. This is because the historian is aware of all of the possible outcomes and understands that nothing is predetermined. Your analyses are very consistent with that reality. There is no cabal of elites dreaming up a master plan: just various people / groups coalescing around agendas that seemingly further their own interests.
As you seem to say too, those western elites of today are particularly low in ability and particularly disconnected from the concerns of non PMC members.
This is an excellent analysis, though it overlooks the driving financial aspects.
We tend to concentrate on the political, because it is the decision making function, but that is entirely within the financial and economic parameters laid out for it.
Government, as executive and regulatory function, is the central nervous system of the state. While money and banking amount to blood and the circulation system. With public government and private banking, the banks rule, as there is less oversight, they don't have to plan around election cycles and control the finances of anyone actually running for office.
Consequently the one real job the flunkies and moral prostitutes willing to sell their souls for political office have, is running up the debt the banks need to function. The secret sauce of capitalism is public debt backing private wealth. "The real money is in bonds."
We are linear, goal oriented creatures in a cyclical, circular, reciprocal, feedback generated reality, so while people see money as signal to save and store, markets need it to circulate. Consequently Econ 101 refers to it as bothe medium of exchange and store of value. Though a medium is inherently dynamic, while a store is static. Blood is a medium, fat is a store. Roads are a medium, parking lots are a store. The hallway is a medium, the hall closet is a store. Would doctors, highway engineers, or your more intelligent five year old confuse them?
The Federal debt has been growing since the New Deal, so not only was Roosevelt putting unemployed labor back to work, but unemployed capital, as well. Then World War 2 came along, as the largest public works project in history and the die was cast.
The fact is and should be apparent to any sentient citizen, that there isn't the investment potential for everyone to save individually, hence the derivatives market and all the other forms of gambling masquerading as investments, yet we do save for many of the same reasons, so the logical solution would be various forms of public commons and public works. Unfortunately the only one American culture can wrap its adolescent brain around, is the military.
Consequently the only tool in the tool box is the military and so our stage actors have devolved into psychopaths. Basically delinquent children with matches and gasoline.
That is why our politics is so totally incoherent and the only thing they can all agree to, is playing cowboys and Indians on the other side of the planet.
What will bring it all down, is when the dollar does implode, which it eventually will, given the drug dealer called the Federal Reserve is its only lobbyist.
Then states and regions will have to start issuing local currencies. Like when the big tree falls, saplings spring up in the light. At which point, foreign policy will be between Texas and California, etc.
Keep in mind, Russia and China have effectively returned to private government, with Putin and Xi as respective CEO's of Russia Inc. and China Inc. Specifically to control the oligarchs and would be oligarchs.
What we should be considering is whether it is time to make banking a public utility, as well.
As a medium, we own money like we own the section of road we are using, or the air and water flowing through our bodies. It's not our picture on it, we don't hold the copyrights and are not responsible for its value, like a personal check. It functions as a public utility, a contract between society and the individual and needs to be treated as such. The banks are certainly having their, "Let them eat cake." moment.
As for Ukraine, maybe one day, we extradite various of our neocons to Ukraine, to be tried by a tribunal of mothers and widows.
“There’s no indication that Merkel and Hollande themselves perceived their support for Ukraine, and the Minsk II agreement as hostile acts, nor, critically, that they believed the Russians would perceive them as hostile either.” This anodyne view of Merkel and Hollande’s intentions is comprehensively disproved by their recent admissions that they clearly saw the Minsk agreements as a cover to allow the Ukraine to be re-armed to a point where it could openly confront Russia.
“It is unlikely . . . “ etc.There is evidence that the situation in the Ukraine was being planned at least 20 years ago in documents from the ‘Rand’ organisation and similar right-wing US think tanks. Numerous warnings were given to the US government since the breakup of the USSR that extending NATO - especially to the Ukraine would inevitably provoke Russia to action, but these warnings were ignored by Presidents from Clinton on. It is also a matter of record that Victoria Nuland (for one), was not some lonely individual, lost in a “much wider community”, but a very powerful person with a high ranking within the Biden administration (and possibly about to get an even higher position soon). This poisonous character played a leading role in the US coup on the Ukranian government. She (and I believe, Blinken) are of Ukranian ancestry, and have a deep seated loathing of Russia which has driven their lawless actions.
Your thesis (“Thus, the sense of panic . . . “ etc.) that Russia’s action came as a surprise to these people is not supported by the evidence - i.e as noted above, that this was a plan long in preparation. Further, your idea that there was no plan because NATO/the US/the MIC were not prepared for a long conflict is false because a) they all thought that sanctions would cause an almost immediate collapse of the Russian economy, and b) being people who “make their own reality” they also believed that the US is still a superpower with super weapons which were much superior to Russian equivalents. As you say,” Drunk on self-generated delusions of superiority and omnipotence“ and “they can come to believe (and even convince others) that they have the power to make it happen”. Well, news for you maybe, but Biden, Nuland, Blinken and their associates actually did make it happen, with the previous help of Clinton et al.
It beats me why someone with your breadth of knowlege would try to obscure this very clear scenario.
"There’s no indication that Merkel and Hollande themselves perceived their support for Ukraine, and the Minsk II agreement as hostile acts, nor, critically, that they believed the Russians would perceive them as hostile either."
What? Both Merkel and Hollande are on record saying Minsk agreements were a blind for them to train up now-404 country to conquer Russia. Maybe Russians did not perceive Minsk agreements as hostile acts at the time of signing, but after Merkel and Hollande essentially gloated that they were deceiving Russia at Minsk I & II, Russia said, in effect, "OK you want to do business with me. I will do business with you."
Am I misunderstanding your point, Aurelien?
Our host has discussed the effects of a (possible) Russian victory in the West. However, there might also be nonlinear repercussions in MENA after such an event, initiating sequentially or simultaneously in Syria, Iran, Israel and Libya, and then progressing through the entire region. This could lead to further disruption of energy supplies to Europe, and might mean the demise of both NATO and the EU despite “desperate efforts”. It would be poetic justice if La Baerbock were reduced to giving trampoline exhibitions wearing an Ukrainian flag to support the Green German Economy…
I like to bin analysis into categories of probability, such as likely, probable, possible, etc. These days I see a great many possibles but far fewer probables. It is probable, even likely, that Russia defeats Ukraine. Exactly how and what that means though is just a mess of possibilities. Like you the only thing I’m quite confident in is the incompetence of western elites and politicians. They are not capable of rising to the historical moment they’ve prompted. These are not serious people.
I worry about brittleness and cascading failure in official and unofficial institutions of the west because the people in charge of them don’t have the competence to hold things together. Are the people who’ve only ever written consensus memos capable of stepping up when someone needs to? I suppose we’ll find out.
Thank you for your work! And that comes from German born in USSR and educated in Ukraine.
Had a good laugh at the "Communique parody" !
I still remain amazed the Western media is so controlled by the "establishment" and their narrative, that they are not really reporting the Ukrainian defeats and losses with any real degree of honesty. I am not naive about the nature of politics & major media, but I would have thought there were enough true journalists left to push the boundaries. (I read the BBC every day and note their heavy pro Ukraine bias and laugh at the so called public, no doubt with a heavy Ukrainian propaganda presence, comments on the HYS that sometimes accompanies the Russian/Ukraine war).
I agree with Aurelien's comments about predicting the future (and as Yogi Berra said "It's tough to make predictions, especially about the future"). I follow quite a few commentators that believe a Russian victory will be disastrous and likely the end of the EU and NATO. So it was good to read a more nuanced perspective.
great overview of the possible scenarios forthcoming over this conflict.. thanks..
i especially liked this quote from you - "The problem arises, of course, when a fragile compromise policy like this runs into the buffers, and has to be re-thought. As I’ve pointed out, you should never underestimate the importance of inertia in international politics, particularly when large numbers of states are involved. Continuing to do the same thing, no matter how dumb, is always easier than trying to find a consensus for change."
I like this essay and am going to read earlier ones. Aurelien, I miss mention of the small but powerful class of big money, the actual imperial rulers dominating the PMC. These are men who want to rule the world, and when that proves impossible, they will cling to at least the rump of the empire. These ultra rich finance capitalists are going to inflict a lot of pain to their millions of subjects when defeat in Project Weaken Russia becomes a fact for everyone to behold. They will of course do that in any case, but I suppose it will be more virulent from now on.
Russia wins this - as discussed . . . https://les7eb.substack.com/p/washingtons-ukraina-grandioznaya
Same subject matter - different approach.