Yves here. One minor caveat to a fine overview. Ilargi mentions at the end that Angela Merkel has said that it is prepared to let Greece leave the Eurozone if it bucks austerity. A regular reader of the German press who also read the report in Der Spiegel thinks this is a bluff to influence the Greek election.
And there is a bigger question that goes unanswered: why so much US warmongering and destructive, and eventually self-destructive behavior (blowback, anyone?). As Karl Polanyi mentions in passing in his The Great Transformation (see our recent post) because it seems so obvious, a peace consensus had emerged among the Great Powers in the nineteenth century, largely because domestic and international commerce were now a major social organizing principle, and businessmen correctly saw war as bad for business. So why has the peace faction been successfully supplanted by a war faction? Is it that (so far) the US wars are not inflicted on parties we consider to be contemporary Great Powers?
By Raúl Ilargi Meijer, editor-in-chief of The Automatic Earth. Originally published at Automatic Earth.
Iran has a – very – long running dispute with the US about its nuclear technology. The US wants Assad (Bashar Al-Assad) out of Syria, while Iran and Russia support Assad (Russia’s sole proper base in the Middle East), who’s an Alawite (a Shi-ite branch), a people historically persecuted by Sunni’s. ISIS (or Daesh in the region) is Sunni. So are the Saudi’s. Iran is Shi’ite. Bahrain is ruled by Sunni but has a majority Shi’ite population. And I could go on for a while. A long while.
All this plays into the oil game, the falling oil prices. Blaming OPEC for the recent price fall is seeing the world from a child’s perspective. OPEC and its major voteholder, Saudi Arabia, are no more to blame for the plunge than the US, Russia or other non-OPEC producers. Everybody produces as if there’s no tomorrow, and the Saudi’s have merely concluded that their only choice is to do the same. It’s a race to the bottom.
The reason is the fast declining demand for oil; China is nowhere near as mighty as we seem to think, Europe is a basket case, emerging economies are being strangled as we speak by the surging dollar and the Fed taper, and we’re just getting started. It’s cute and all that nobody wonders how much virtual money has vanished into the great beyond as both oil itself and the companies that get it out of the earth have lost half of their ‘values’ in Q4 2014, let alone the countries that depend on oil for their very existence. But cute doesn’t cut it.
Oliver Stone talks about ‘Ukraine: The CIA Coup’. I’ve talked about exactly that all of last year. While on vacation, Obama declares new sanctions on North Korea for hacking a Japanese company only the FBI claims it was guilty of. While US sanctions against Iran are ongoing.
America is trying to control the world by throwing it into confusion, emboldened by poorly understood theories about military superiority, and creating conflicts all over the place that look like they will never be solved. Whereas all it would need to do is make sure it secures itself, its own territory, not control the entire planet.
That was always a stupid idea. No big dream empire has ever lasted long enough to truly enjoy the fruits of its dreams for more than ten minutes or so. They’ve all ended in horrific bloodshed. The dark visions of impotent power hungry masters and servants have thrown overstretched empires into lethal turmoil for many thousands of years. It’s just that now, for the first time, it’s happening on a truly global scale.
The result will be the same; only, it’ll all go even more spectacularly wrong. It’s the way things go. But they won’t go the way our deluded powerbrokers think they will. That ‘mission accomplished’ message from W. back in the day is going to start sounding a lot more stupider as time goes by. You just wait and watch.
I found this bit interesting, from Reuters, it paints a good picture of how the confusion-all-around ‘strategy’ is supposed to supposedly work:
The Iranian deputy minister also criticised Saudi military involvement in Bahrain, which has been gripped by tension since 2011 protests led by majority Shi’ite Muslims demanding reforms and a bigger role in running the Sunni-ruled country. Abdollahian said Bahraini authorities’ continued detention of Shi’ite opposition leader Sheikh Ali Salman would have “serious consequences” for the government there.
Tehran and Riyadh accuse each other of interfering in the pro-Western Gulf island kingdom, one of several countries where their power struggle has played out. They also support opposing sides in wars and disputes in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen. Abdollahian dismissed United States efforts to fight Islamic State, also known by its Arabic acronym Daesh, as a ploy to advance U.S. policies in the region. “The reality is that the United States is not acting to eliminate Daesh (ISIS). They are not even interested in weakening Daesh, they are only interested in managing it,” he said.
The United States and its allies have carried out hundreds of air strikes against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Washington has also sent military support to Baghdad’s Shi’ite-led government but its role in Syria – where it has called for President Bashar al-Assad to step down – is more limited. Iran has sent Revolutionary Guard commanders to help its Shi’ite and Alawite allies in Baghdad and Damascus battle Islamic State and other Sunni fighters. But Abdollahian denied that Iran conducted aerial attacks on Iraqi sites.
“On the ground, where the U.S. should take serious action, there are no serious actions taking place. The US is not doing anything,” he said, accusing Washington of pursing a contradictory policy towards Islamist militants. “One day they support Daesh, another day they are against terrorism,” he said.
Abdollahian reaffirmed Iran’s commitment to Assad, saying the Syrian president must be involved in any political transition aimed at ending more than three years of conflict. He also criticized the latest U.S. sanctions on Iranian individuals and entities, saying they would not have a good impact on Tehran’s talks with world powers over its disputed nuclear program. “The United States must know that these actions make them bear a greater responsibility should the negotiations fail,” he said. “If the other side is honest in their actions, then we should expect these talks to reach a desirable conclusion.”
And then why not throw in a helping of Ambrose for good measure:
A sated China is as much to “blame” for the crash in oil prices as America’s shale industry. Together they have knouted Russia’s Vladimir Putin. The bear market will short-circuit at Brent prices of $40, but not just because shale capitulates. Marginal producers in Canada, the North Sea, West Africa and the Arctic will share the punishment. The biggest loser will be Saudi Arabia, reaping the geostrategic whirlwind of its high stakes game, facing Iranian retaliation through the Shia of the Eastern Province where the oil lies, and Russian retaliation through the Houthis in Yemen.
Mr Putin will achieve his objective of crippling Ukraine’s economy and freezing the conflict in the Donbass, but only by crippling Russia in the process. Controls will not stem capital flight. Mr Putin will have to choose between a dangerous loss of foreign reserves and a dangerous chain of corporate bankruptcies. He will continue to pawn Russia’s national interest to Beijing in order to save his Siloviki regime, but wiser heads in Moscow will question how a perpetual dispute with Europe and the revival of a dying NATO can possibly be in Russia’s interest. They will check his folly.
Ambrose sees only what fits his preconceived notions; pity, he could have been a great journalist. Putin didn’t seek a fight with the west, and his people, wiser heads or not, won’t blame him for being in one, quite the contrary. The most pervasive emotion in Russia today is deep-seated anger, versus the US, EU and NATO, for their blatant betrayal of both the country itself and the deals that were made ‘when the wall came down’.
Obviously, there’s plenty folk in Moscow, as there are in Kiev, that look to sell out to the US and scrape a million left and right out of that, but Russia is not Ukraine. You can’t just send in Victoria Nuland with $5 billion, organize a street party and expect to change another regime. Pepe Escobar clarifies why, to an extent:
[..] it will be all about further moves towards the integration of Eurasia as the US is progressively squeezed out of Eurasia. We will see a complex geostrategic interplay progressively undermining the hegemony of the US dollar as a reserve currency and, most of all, the petrodollar.[..] Internationally, the Chinese will accelerate their overwhelming push for new ‘Silk Roads’ – both overland and maritime – which will underpin the long-term Chinese master strategy of unifying Eurasia with trade and commerce.
Global oil prices are bound to remain low. All bets are off on whether a nuclear deal will be reached by this summer between Iran and the P5+1. If sanctions (actually economic war) against Iran remain and continue to seriously hurt its economy, Tehran’s reaction will be firm, and will include even more integration with Asia, not the West.
Washington is well-aware that a comprehensive deal with Iran cannot be reached without Russia’s help. That would be the Obama administration’s sole – and I repeat – sole foreign policy success. A return to the “Bomb Iran” hysteria would only suit the proverbial usual (neo-con) suspects. Still, by no accident, both Iran and Russia are now subject to Western sanctions. No matter how it was engineered, the fact that stands is that the current financial/strategic oil price collapse is a direct attack against (who else?) Iran and Russia. [..]
Russia’s government debt totals only 13.4% of its GDP. Its budget deficit in relation to GDP is only 0.5%. If we assume a US GDP of $16.8 trillion (the figure for 2013), the US budget deficit totals 4% of GDP, versus 0.5% for Russia. The Fed is essentially a private corporation owned by regional US private banks, although it passes itself off as a state institution. US publicly held debt is equal to a whopping 74% of GDP in fiscal year 2014. Russia’s is only 13.4%.
The declaration of economic war by the US and EU on Russia – via the run on the ruble and the oil derivative attack – was essentially a derivatives racket. Derivatives – in theory – may be multiplied to infinity. Derivative operators attacked both the ruble and oil prices in order to destroy the Russian economy. The problem is, the Russian economy is more soundly financed than America’s. [..]
Moscow’s key mistake was to allow Russia’s domestic industry to be financed by external, dollar-denominated debt. Talk about a monster debt trap which can be easily manipulated by the West. The first step for Moscow should be to closely supervise its banks. Russian companies should borrow domestically and move to sell their assets abroad. Moscow should also consider implementing a system of currency controls so the basic interest rate can be brought down quickly.[..]
Russia does not need to import any raw materials. Russia can easily reverse-engineer virtually any imported technology if it needs to. Most of all, Russia can generate — from the sale of raw materials – enough credit in US dollars or euros.[..]
Replacing imports with domestic Russian manufacturing makes total sense. There will be an inevitable “adjustment” phase – but that won’t take long. German car manufacturers, for instance, can no longer sell their cars in Russia due to the ruble’s decline. This means they will have to relocate their factories to Russia. If they don’t, Asia – from South Korea to China — will blow them out of the market.
The EU’s declaration of economic war against Russia makes no sense whatsoever. Russia controls, directly or indirectly, most of the oil and natural gas between Russia and China: roughly 25% of the world’s supply. The Middle East is bound to remain a mess. Africa is unstable. The EU is doing everything it can to cut itself off from its most stable supply of hydrocarbons, prompting Moscow to redirect energy to China and the rest of Asia. What a gift for Beijing [..]
Now imagine Russia and China jointly investing in a new gold, oil and natural resource-backed monetary union as a crucial alternative to the failed debt “democracy” model pushed by the Masters of the Universe on Wall Street, the Western central bank cartel, and neoliberal politicians. They would be showing the Global South that financing prosperity and improved standards of living by saddling future generations with debt was never meant to work in the first place. Until then, a storm will be threatening our very lives – today and tomorrow.
Escobar is nowhere near right on all accounts, but he has some good points. The US enters this self-fabricated and self-desired ‘battle’ with a huge debt disadvantage. However, it holds the reserve currency, and stories about the demise of the petrodollar are way premature. That petrodollar rules well over 90% of all international trade, and it’s going to take a lot of time before that changes in a substantial way.
But countries like Russia and China have plenty revenue coming in in dollars, plus they have huge dollar reserves. It’s not a winnable fight for the power behind the power in Washington, but they’ll fight anyway, partly because that’s all they want and understand, and partly because they won’t do the actual fighting. The way we’ve set up our societies assures the worst possible people rise to the top. That’s just the way it is. And the way we are.
Still, America is never going to control the entire world. And any attempt to achieve that goal will take it further away from it. But a lot of people will be killed in that doomed attempt. And down the line the fighting will go on until there are so few people left, and so little organization, that all that remains is communities of a scale people can actually comprehend. That seems to be the only possible outcome as long as we allow for the psychopaths among us to decide who gets to have their fingers on the nuclear buttons.
But before that, we’ll have other shades of entertainment, we’re not done yet by any means. Angela Merkel just told Der Spiegel that she can live with Greece leaving the eurozone. Though that would blow up the entire edifice. I don’t know that I would call her a psychopath, but I have no confidence in anyone who floats to the top in any of our present political systems. And Europe can’t stomach any one country leaving.
It’s high time for a new model and for new people. But the old ones, and their utterly and dramatically failed economies, hold the power, the media, the money, everything. So what other way out is there but mass fighting, mass casualties, a complete overthrow of everything that exists today, probably nuclear bombs dropping, and in the end a world none of us would recognize, let alone be able to survive in?
It’ll take a while yet to get there, and it won’t be a pretty while by any stretch of the imagination. The powers that be are not done yet pretending to rule the universe and playing God. We should kick ‘em all out today, but we won’t. Because we’re all too much like them.