Western Self-Destruction Continues: US Eyepoking China, US Failed Muscling of Latin America, EU Commission Schemes to Admit Ukraine. To What End?

We’ll try to keep this post at a high level, since each of the three fresh examples of actual or expected own goals are part of a much longer list. But it’s baffling to see incompetence and hubris become a routine part of geopolitics, Western style.

The first is the continued US eyepoking of China, which began with the first US-China summit under Biden at US invitation in Alaska. It produced what by international standards was close to a public row. Since then, we were listing new jabs almost daily in Links, although they appear to have become less frequent after the war in Ukraine broke out.

Mind you, there are reasons for the US to be concerned about China, and not just of the “declining power threatened by upstart” sort. China has a large population and not enough domestic resources, particularly food and energy, to provide for them, let alone to support a further rise in living standards (mind you, the world can’t support the Chinese population living at a Western level absent radical conservation and other efforts to reduce commodities consumption). Focusing on Chinese acquisitiveness, by implication at the expense of other developing economies, could be a usefully rallying point, particularly if the West were to get serious about belt-tightening, or at least conservation.

But instead the US provokes China above all over Taiwan. Aside from the fact that it’s the fastest way to get China riled up, it’s hard to see the point. The deliberately ambiguous position of the West on Taiwan heretofore has allowed us to trade with both parties, if you conceptualize them as operating independently. I haven’t heard of a Taiwan lobby in the US with meaningful clout. Right now, the US arms merchants have plenty of buy orders coming in thanks to the need for the NATO members, and to some degree the US, thanks to the need to restock and update stores depleted by the Ukraine conflict.

Maybe the goal is to get neighbors like Japan and South Korea nervous and therefore have then cling to us. But it’s pretty clear that the US is stoking a conflict, and why should I be happy about the prospect of being dragged in?

Let’s contrast two sets of stenography from the Shangri-La Security Summit in Singapore, the first from the staunchly neocon Financial Times:

[China’s defense minister General] Wei [Fenghe] and [US defense secretary Lloyd] Austin were attending the forum at a time when Sino-US relations are in their worst state since the nations normalised ties in 1979, and with anxiety rising about possible Chinese military action against Taiwan.

Those tensions were on display over two days in Singapore, as both sides expressed concerns over the other’s activities. Austin accused the Chinese military of conducting dangerous aerial and maritime manoeuvres, while Wei described the US as an arrogant hegemon that was forming anti-China blocs under the guise of multilateralism.

Oddly, this article does not mention the row over a fresh security agreement between China and the Solomon Islands, which has Australia and the US bent out of shape. But among other things, the Solomon Islands were suffering from a serious rise in crime and its established patrons did nothing to help.

However, it does mention a fresh spat, where an Australian spy plane was buzzed by a PLA jet that dumped chaff that got into the Australia plane’s engines. The Western press has underplayed China’s justification, that the foreign plane was over what it said was Chinese territorial waters. From the pink paper:

Washington counters that surveillance flights by the US and its allies are in international airspace. One US official said PLA officers had in recent months told the Americans that the Taiwan Strait was not international waters — a position that is not recognised beyond China and one that Beijing had not pushed in the past.

General He said China was in a stronger position to push back against aerial surveillance missions in its vicinity. “The US military has done similar overflights many times before, but in the past, our capabilities were not sufficient yet to respond. Now they are,” he said.

Now let’s return to the first FT extract: “….with anxiety rising about possible Chinese military action against Taiwan.” There’s no mention whatsoever of the US provoking China by sending retired and more recently current US official to Taiwan when the US has for decades supported a “one China” policy. Consider this partial history fro an April post:

I am at a loss to understand why the US thinks throwing more force behind a clearly failed diplomatic strategy is a bright idea. Pushing China has simply made it more obvious and easier to explain to interested audiences (many!) why the US needs to stop trying to dictate the policies of other countries, most of all really big ones with nukes….

….the US has tried at least twice (three times with China if you count the recent China-EU teleconference with Xi) to get China to side with the West against Russia, pushing China into “What about ‘no’ don’t you understand?” terrain. Rather than hewing to the convention of having summits only after groundwork was laid so that at least nothing visibly bad happens, Team Biden set out to pick a fight with China at their first get together, in Alaska in March 2021, with the US springing new sanctions on China the day before the session….

Then in March [2022], Jake Sullivan was set to meet with Yang Jiechi in Rome and threatened China with sanctions. The pretext was disinformation in the form of a Financial Times story claiming that Russia had asked to buy weapons from China (this was clearly absurd because by the time the war had started would be way too late; Russia would have needed to procure and integrate equipment months prior).1 Needless to say, Yang didn’t give any ground.

So not taking no as an answer, Biden had the cheek to call Xi that very same week and ask for China’s help. Xi effectively said this wasn’t his problem: “He who puts the bell on the tiger is the one to take it off.” Biden also said he very much wanted better relations with China and gave lip service to the one-China policy in the chat. That allowed Xi to say he took that statement very seriously: What about all these American officials who were promoting a “wrong understanding” about Taiwan?

EU leaders and Xi then had a regularly scheduled EU-China teleconference. Chinese officials had signaled before the meeting that Xi was interested in EU-China relations, not Ukraine, so of course the EU officials started the conversation off with Ukraine. Xi again deflected the Western pressure.

I’m not double checking the dates, but my recollection is that it was shortly after the EU-Xi talk that the US announced new sanctions against China, mainly against officials accused of oppressing Uighurs. And we’ve just had the off the charts provocation of Nancy Pelosi, third in line to become President, going to Taiwan. Recall that trip has been postponed rather than cancelled. China has stated that there will be consequences if that trip happens.

And we expect them to side with us? It’s not the most important form of payback, but China has taken to stating regularly in official media that the war in Ukraine is America’s fault.

Now to the Chinese house organ Global Times:

The Chinese armed forces will fight to the very end if anyone dares to split Taiwan from China, said the Chinese defense chief in a speech delivered at the Shangri-La Dialogue on Sunday. Chinese analysts said this is the strongest warning China has sent to the US, as Washington has frequently used the Taiwan question to provoke China and encourage the separatist authorities on the island to worsen the region’s security situation….

On the Taiwan question, Wei said Taiwan is part of China, and the Taiwan question is China’s internal affair. “China will definitely realize its reunification.”

From the Trump administration to Biden’s, the US has continually used Taiwan question to serve its strategy of containing China, such as instigating the Taiwan separatist authorities to gain a diplomatic presence, which challenges the globally recognized one-China principle; and increasing arms sales, sending warships to enter waters around the island to disrupt the reunification process. Meanwhile, some US Congress members and officials, and even the House speaker, have visited or planned to visit the island, sending the wrong signals to the separatists and challenging the political foundation of China-US relations.

All of this has made China believe that it is necessary to send a clear warning to the US, and even if the US ignores the warning and continues its dangerous moves or even crosses the red line, China is ready to solve the Taiwan question once and for all, whether the process is peaceful or by force, experts said.

Although the Chinese mainland will continue to make the greatest efforts to seek peaceful reunification for the sake of the people on both sides of the Taiwan Straits, if the US and authorities on the island totally destroy hopes of peaceful reunification, the mainland will not hesitate to solve the problem by force, as China is not afraid of such a scenario, analysts noted.

This looks like another “What about ‘no’ don’t you understand?” that the US seems determined not to get.

Now, briefly, to a lower-stakes US effort to push other countries around that backfired, embarrassingly, because they were the sort that our State Department assumes will be subservient. The US was hosting the Summit of the Americas summit in Los Angeles but was not inviting Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela because we don’t deem them to be democratic enough. But right wing authoritarian regimes like those in Brazil, Colombia and Haiti get our Good Housekeeping seal of approval.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador decided to boycott the meeting, although his foreign minister was set to attend. The unraveling continued. From Responsible Statecraft:

The presidents of Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador declined as well. At the Summit, other heads of state openly criticized Washington for not inviting all the nations of the Americas.

Irregular migration was a main focus of the Summit, but between them, the countries excluded and those whose presidents stayed home accounted for 69 percent of the migrants encountered by U.S. Customs and Border Protection in April — nearly 180,000 people. Trying to formulate a strategy to stem irregular migration without engaging the governments of the migrants’ home countries is a recipe for failure.

Other issues on the Summit’s agenda — environmental protection and climate change, public health, organized crime — are also transnational problems that cannot be effectively addressed unilaterally. Therein lies the flaw in Biden’s Wilsonian disposition to only engage with democracies. Sometimes you have to engage with governments you don’t like in order to deal with urgent problems.

Responsible Statecraft effectively said the quiet part out loud: democracies = governments the US likes.

Now to the EU engaging in increasingly bizarre and self-harming behavior. It’s shocking to see the contrast between the regime under Jean-Claude Juncker versus Ursula von der Leyen. Juncker was a drunk who too often enjoyed speaking out of school with journalists. But when teamed with Michel Barnier on the seemingly-never-ending Brexit negotiations, he managed to rise to an approximation of statesmanlike. Barnier and Juncker were also careful, when the British team didn’t throw hopeless timing spanners, about respecting the primacy of the EU Council and briefing sherpas before those meeting.

By contrast, von der Leyen is a self-appointed Queen of the EU, and not a very capable one either. She’s also made it a point to relentlessly press EU members into signing up for aggressive anti-Russia policies that will hurt them more than Russia, the latest being the Russian oil sanctions.

We have yet another von der Leyen scheme being pushed forward this week: that of having Ukraine join the EU. If this happens, it will put the Union into a fast-terminal decline. Fortunately, the press is already reporting that Denmark and the Netherlands are opposed, which means there are likely others that haven’t yet gone public.

First, and least important, there are procedural issues. There’s a queue of countries ahead of Ukraine for admission to the EU. It makes a mockery of the idea that the EU had a disciplined and objective process to let Ukraine jump to the front of the line.

Second, no way, no how does Ukraine even remotely qualify for membership. The EU is already unhappy with Poland over its refusal to respect the primacy of the ECJ. It’s mad at Hungary because it’s a little country run by a popular authoritarian who doesn’t know his place. The EU refused to admit Turkey over human rights violations, such as purges after a failed coup, and lack of freedom of expression.

So how about our precious Ukraine? It has right wing thugs as a second military, under the Interior Ministry, to act as enforcer. This is the same parallel structure that Hitler used and for similar reasons: he wanted to be sure his shock troops would be sufficiently brutal (the regular army was often reluctant to kill rebels in Donbass). Politicians have been beaten and killed by various right wing groups; Zelensky himself was threatened if he implemented the pro-Russia policies he campaigned on.

Zelensky has since outlawed all opposition parties, shut down opposition papers, jailed an opposition leader, and disappeared journalists.

Oh, and that’s before getting to Ukraine’s massive corruption. As GM pointed out:

Ukraine is one the absolute most corrupt societies in the world, on all levels. The “oligarchs” barely scratch the surface of it — every daily transaction involves corruption there, education, healthcare, administration, whatever you can think of. Nobody can be trusted under any circumstances.

Third, admitting Ukraine into the EU means all those Ukraine refugees can live anywhere in the EU and take advantage of their new home’s social services. Think the neighbors can take the costs on an ongoing basis?

Fourth, Ukraine will be entitled to EU subsidies, when it’s sure to be a huge net drain. Ukraine was already the poorest country in Europe. Russia will be taking the east and a lot of the south, and even though those areas are economic basket cases, they are still more productive than the rest of the country.

Fifth, as a pretty obvious implication of number four above…Ukraine is losing! It’s beyond the point of any hope of turning it around. Even the English language press, having way oversold Ukraine’s capabilities and prospects, is more and more often running articles on how bad conditions are. Even Ukraine authorities are starting to come clean about the daily deaths and the overwhelming Russian materiel advantage.

And the longer the West tries to pump air into its balloon (and joining the EU would extend that exercise), in the end the more territory it will lose to Russia. So letting Ukraine into the EU will also be signing up for a reconstruction project in a rump and likely landlocked state.

Sixth, it’s not clear Ukraine can be regarded as a country, as opposed to a US colony. As we did in Afghanistan, we’re now funding the government budget. Before that, in 2020, the IMF approved a $5 billion facility, which as far as I can tell on a fast reading, rolled over existing loans plus extended new credit. The IMF gave Ukraine another $1.4 billion loan when the war started. The US has approved additional borrowing by Ukraine under a Lend Lease Act, although I can’t find the maximum authorized.

Seventh, another issue is that the Ukraine banking system is likely to need to be recapitalized. From what I can tell, most of the big banks are headquartered in Kiev or Kharkiv. In the areas Russia is “liberating”, it is converting banks to roubles, and rumor has it, wiping out debts. That actually makes sense, since old loans would have been made under Ukrainian law but not under a new regime. The write-offs will stimulate the local economies, create good will towards the occupiers, and leave big balance sheet holes for the parent banks. What’s not to like?

Last but not least…this move is going to terminally alienate Turkey, which let us not forget is the most important member of NATO, by virtue of location and having the second biggest NATO armed force. As if the stunt of seeking to admit Sweden and Finland to NATO without consulting Turkey wasn’t enough of a diss, the prospect of admitting a degenerate basket case being propped up by the US over Turkey will further harden Erdogan’s hostility. Mind you, Erdogan is too cagey to tie his fortunes to Russia and China. But it’s reasonable to bet he’s only going to be accommodating to the West only when it suits him or the costs are very low.

But none of this will deter Queen Ursula! Full steam ahead!

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  1. Alan Roxdale

    But it’s baffling to see incompetence and hubris become a routine part of geopolitics, Western style.

    The only constructive explanation I can come up with is that politics’ external corrective systems — public debate, discourse, independent media and academia — have all stopped working or have become ineffective/drowned out. Hence, our political systems are without anchor and are effectively adrift with no ability for the insiders to change course. The car has steering, but nobody can see the road anymore.

    Outside of electorates’ (increasingly resisted) periodic ability to change political leadership, there’s no longer any way to correct the system. Certainly not while it is in the middle of making mistake after mistake.

    1. hunkerdown

      Bismarck’s sausage. What you’re seeing here is what you wouldn’t have seen under a less panoptical media regime. This isn’t a malfunction state. This is just how flexians work: without protocol.

      1. BillS

        Except Bismarck was actually competent. Like him or loathe him, he was a talented statesman. What can we say about the current crop of [family blogging] kakistocratic aristocrats? The sausage today tastes like sh!t. We are all becoming Ukraine.

          1. Foy

            I had to look it up and couldn’t stop laughing. Yep, word of the year! I used to live in South Africa for a while and ‘kak’ has a similar derogatory slang meaning, I’m wondering if it is an associated derivative!

            The word has been around since the 17th century, its not a new problem it seems.

    2. IMOR

      I think this is dead-on accurate. And so succinct! One could add the end of meaninful regionalism, pointlessly instant corrosive communication allowing no time for germination and growth of alternatives, and the drive toward a completely untethered impoverished worforce- but there’s no need. Thank you.

    3. José Freitas

      I think there’s a point at which you have to start questioning whether this level of incompetence is real, or if a part of the bureaucracy in the EU has in fact been corrupted/captured by the US corporate interests. I mean, they all end up getting cushy super well-paid jobs at US think-tanks and banks, etc…

      1. norm de plume

        ‘or if a part of the bureaucracy in the EU has in fact been corrupted/captured by the US’

        Those are the carrots, always employed initially, but don’t forget about the sticks… ‘threatened/blackmailed by the US’ would cover those bases.

  2. arte

    Yes, yes. The loans are gone, the Russian liberators are greeted with flowers. So great to have nothing, and to be happy.

    Sorry, my mistake: there are still the roubles of the Russians and then there is the rubble of the cities. When it comes to corruption, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Berlin 1945-46 comes to mind.

    On the last point: Turkey was obviously consulted beforehand, but Erdogan decided to change the deal and get everything he can while Turkey has the leverage.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Are you choosing to be obtuse? What is administratively and legally convenient for Russia also happens to help the locals and crash the Ukraine banking system. But you get pissy about having someone spell that out?

      I suggest you look at Kherson. It’s been occupied with pretty much no damage because Ukraine did not contest it.

      The areas in Donbass that are being shelled by Russia were bunkered by Ukraine. There are a shit ton of bunkers, second only to North Korea.

      Ukraine admits to continuing to shell residential neighborhoods in Donetsk. That’s a war crime. Residents also report the shelling of residential neighborhoods in Mariupol was overwhelmingly done by Ukraine, the shells came from Ukraine-held areas. Russia has made an effort to avoid residential areas because they did not want to hurt civilians and they wanted to minimize rebuilding costs.

      1. Polar Socialist

        One can also try to remember that many of the attacking “Russians” in Mariupol (and elsewhere in Donbass) have family or relatives living in the city, whereas the defending Ukrainians do not.

        Something that can happen in a civil war, like they had in Ukraine for 8 years.

        1. Paul Jurczak

          Add to this thousands of Ukrainians serving in DNR and LNR forces. They get no coverage in mainstream media, which propagandizes this conflict as a pure Russian invasion.

      2. Bart Hansen

        Just the other day Patrick Lawrence I believe, had a walking interview session with the citizens of Kherson in a family fun park with bumper cars and tilt a whirl rides. No signs of the war.

        1. José Freitas

          And interestingly, residents clearly felt safe in giving their actual opinions, even when it was very critical of Russia, in some cases, or “realistically” accepting of Russia control, even if they demonstrated great lack of enthusiasm. I am not sure this level of openness would fly in Kiev or Lvov. About half of those interviewed were not particularly pro-Russian, but were not fearful of speaking out.

  3. Dr. Phips

    It’s almost puzzling why the warnings of Chinese defense chief Wei last week in Singapore were not seen anywhere in the MSM. Something that serious would warrant at least some Opinion piece in the “establishment” newspapers. But no, complete silence. You had to get that news from Asian news outlets. I can only speculate that the powers to be, and the MSM associated with them, don’t want the people to know that we are marching on a slow and steady pace towards fully intentional confrontation with China. If the average person here or in the EU knew that China is definitely not going to take anymore the daily poking and provoking, soft and hard, they would very likely ask loud if perhaps the West would be better off to worry about its own issues instead of starting a nuclear war?

    1. Louis Fyne

      IMO, a confluence of factors….

      1. a foreign correspondence network is expensive, hence if the media outlet even has an Asia correspondent, that person is based in Tokyo and rehashing the Asia wire news;

      2. IMO, patronizing hubris among journalists and Establishment about Asia/China/India.

      3. a speech by a foreign defense minister doesn’t generate the clicks, eyeballs, angry comments prioritized by the analytics in the same way as a headline article about the US culture wars.

      1. Cristobal

        Yves is correct in that there is a dearth of real news from mainstream sources. We read NC and MoA and others to learn what is going on, and their reports are well sourced. Are the foreign correspondents you refer to attending too many cocktail parties to do somé research, or is It their editors?? For a story about a chinese minister to be noticed It needs context, a good lead and a headline. I put the blame on the editors.

        1. .Tom

          Politics is controlled by political donations and influence slush funds (PACs, NGOs, think tanks), insider investment opportunities, and revolving door while legislation is written by lobbyists and regulation is captured. The patrons of all that complicated control activity have a simpler route with the media: they own it. In the face of this, what can we really expect from either editors or foreign correspondents?

          1. norm de plume

            Agree. The buck stops at a level rather higher than editors. They may be cowards but the real knaves occupy more rarefied air.

          1. José Freitas

            A site named after a line from a famous Brecht music that was also sung by The Doors as Alabama Song.

            1. drumlin woodchuckles

              I wonder if Moon of Alabama was inspired by Billmon’s Whiskey Bar because the homepage has the very same type of appearance and color scheme.

    2. H.Alexander Ivey

      Perhaps, to this “average person”, you could quit “divide and conquer” us, and either offer suggestions on getting out of this mess or offers suggestions on what we “average person” can expect in our daily lives with the mess our elites foster on us divided “average person”.

      Be helpful, not divisive. Thank you for your time.

  4. Carolinian

    Thanks. Barbara Tuchman once wrote a book about the history of international relations called March of Folly. Which is to say it’s not just now that the ruling classes seem foolish and self absorbed. Did Lyndon Johnson escalate in Vietnam because Vietnam was important to America–that “domino theory”–or because he vowed not to be the first American president to lose a war? Perhaps countries like ours are particularly prone to such foolishness because we have always been inward turning and celebrate individualism in contrast to more consensus based systems like the formerly communist Russia or the still somewhat communist China. Ironically it looks to some of us that the “progressives” in our current time are the ones clinging most fiercely to an aristocratic system desperately in need of reform. It was once thought that Vietnam gave America a needed comeuppance but it clearly wasn’t enough. With multiple disasters closing in an Age of Humility may finally be on the horizon if we last that long.

  5. Lex

    If I didn’t know better, I’d conclude that this goat rodeo was on purpose and that the US wants WWIII. But I do, because I’ve lived most of my life in the US. It’s the incompetence of US “leadership” that lives within a reality of its own creation; does not believe that it is subject to consequences; has financialized everything; is every bit as corrupt as Ukraine (wearing white gloves); is ruled by a gerontocracy; is wholly ignorant of the world beyond the front page of the NYT; and … well you get the idea. That list could go on for a while.

    There are no plans. No menus of optional responses. Just half-baked pitch decks that don’t step outside the bounds of what “leadership” wants to hear. This will all get worse before it gets better. We’re already into POTUS walking up to a microphone, saying “there will be food shortages” and just shrugging his shoulders.

    1. Bsn

      We have to remember that individual governments mean nothing anymore. They (especially western ones, US and the EU) have become puppets of Public/Private Partnerships and the WEF. The pawn chain is more and more obvious as the west moves in conjunction on so many fronts such as the Ukraine and Covid with it’s coordinated response of mandates and oppression of anything besides corporate vaccines. Without these supranational entities it would have taken forever for individual countries to decide on and then implement a thoughtful Covid strategy specific to their needs. Somehow it all came together within literally days. Funny that.

    2. Nick J

      I live in NZ, we are a microcosm of the Western / US systems of “democracy”. In effect our political class are captured by their own supreme self interest, in particular the bureaucrat class who are no longer public servants but our masters.

  6. The Rev Kev

    In thinking these developments over, I can only draw one conclusion. That the Biden regime is extraordinarily weak. They have no underpinning philosophy, no doctrine, no strategic plan of which direction that they want America to go in. Recently I heard the actions of the US described as ‘flailing’ and it is not hard to agree with that assessment. Point is, because of this semi-vacuum of directional power in the White House, this has given an opportunity for the different fiefdoms of Washington to push policies that they themselves want. So you have one major, Democrat-friendly fiefdom that has pushed for this NATO/Russia war – and did not have the competency to game out what the resulting effects of such a war would be. Then you have another major, Republican-friendly fiefdom that is pushing for a confrontation with China using the Quad, NATO, Aukus, Japanese re-militarization, etc. – though not many countries in that region want to be the next Ukraine. And the third example is that power block of ex-“patriots” based in Florida that want to destroy their governments in South America so that they can go back and loot the place. This last fiefdom is weaker than the first two and so during the Summit, Biden came up with nothing to convince those countries to accept American ‘guidance.’ I suspect that it was only held to shut that last fiefdom up but in doing so, strategically weakened America’s position south of the border. In a way, it is like something out of the middle ages that when you had a weak King/Court, powerful Barons pushed their own interests forward, even at the cost of war and the weakening of central authority and the country itself.

    1. John Zelnicker

      An excellent analysis, Rev.

      Not only does the Biden administration seem rudderless, it’s populated by incompetents who can’t comprehend anything beyond their own narrow ideology.

      I just have a hard time wrapping my head around the China poking, along with the complete lack of strategic analysis about how the Ukraine war was going to unfold. Or, how the sanctions would affect the public in the sanctioning countries. (I know, they don’t give a good g-d damn, but still.)

      Your third example is a new idea to me, but it makes perfect sense. I imagine the Florida immigrant contingent is not made up of folks who crossed the Rio Grande hundreds of miles away, e.g., Cubans. I suspect they are mainly folks who had the wherewithal to leave their home countries without trekking hundreds of miles to cross a river.

      I’m only speculating, but it would all fit together.

    2. Kurtismayfield

      The problem is the US political system is so controlled by the 0.01 % that there is no incentive for competency to be involved. They want a puppet regime every four years, and the political system is designed to not let any outsiders in.

      A long slow decay if the US was already baked into the cake

    3. Deak

      Kev, your comment got me thinking if there was a logical framework that could be used to sell the ongoing attempts to goad China into invading Taiwan given it seems to have bipartisan appeal within America. The best I can come up with is to argue that in the event of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan, the countries deemed to matter in Asia for economic or military reasons (Japan, South Korea, India, the Philippines, maybe Singapore) will be galvanised into more tightly binding themselves to the current international system of US hegemony. This will permanently weaken China’s regional aspirations, while coordinated sanctions from the twenty or so nations that apparently make up the world will sap China’s ability to present itself as a peer competitor economically.

      Further, while China’s centrality to international supply chains make the west vulnerable to counter sanctions, there would be an assumption that the communist party wouldn’t pull the trigger on such sanctions due to a fear of social unrest and lost of legitimacy resulting from higher unemployment. This would give Western corporations time to reorientate supply chains through low wage countries in the region that are perceived to be more pliant such as Vietnam, the Philippines or Indonesia. Beyond these geostrategic benefits the United States would also benefit through increased military equipment sales much as were seeing in Europe.

      Just to make it clear I don’t subscribe to any of the above – it seems incredibly stupid, but it was the best i could come up with over my morning coffee. Still, I do think there must be some logical framework being put forth to justify poking the dragon, even if it doesn’t seem connected to the real world

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        I remember one time back in grade school walking to school and I saw a big swarm of bees clumped up in a bunch of honeysuckle vines about 20 feet above ground. I pointed it out to him because I thought he would find it interesting. He began throwing rocks at it. Why? ” To see what they do.”
        ( I hope that fine young person has grown up to get every last bit of what he deserves in life based on what he already showed himself to be by that time).

        So maybe that’s why our current governators are poking the dragon. ” To see what it does”. Because ” hey, its there and I have a sharp stick. So why not?”

  7. Dave in Austin

    I’ll leave it for others to decide how many zeros there are in a shit ton.

    The EU still has to pretend to be “on a course” to admit the Ukraine just as NATO spent a happy decade being “on course” to admitting the Ukraine to the Band of Brother before the present debarcle.

    The EU has a little problem called “Which borders?” Yalta? Donetsk? Who controls the border posts? If you think admitting Moldova is a bit of a problem and the Good Friday agreements are hard to square with reality, wait til’ you see the details of a Ukraine accession proposal. I can’t wait for the first Russian retired naval officer living in Sevastapol to show up at an EU border post and demand a residency card and medical care because he’s an long-time undocumented resident of the Ukraine.

    Pretending and issueing press releases is not a policy.

  8. DJG, Reality Czar

    Yves Smith: thanks for calling it self-destruction. At a certain point, the discussion is going to have to shift to how to get rid of these predators before they ruin everything.

    I note this gem in the entry for Hubris in Wikipedia: “According to studies, hubris, arrogance, and pretension are related to the need for victory (even if it does not always mean winning) instead of reconciliation, which “friendly” groups might promote.[8]”

    As I have noted more than once, and I’ll repeat myself: We are dealing with a distinct group, northern European / North American elites, the redeemed, who consider themselves Calvin’s elect (and, arguably, make a case that Calvinism isn’t Christianity). Hence their need for any kind of victory–just being invited to the right clubs, just getting that seat on the right board–rather than the hard work of reconciliation and lifting up the weak, which is now most of the population.

    Poking the Chinese over Taiwan is at the same level of morality as the Opium Wars (which, you will recall, were forced on China by the Elect).

    And Gramsci reminds us of the “morbid symptoms,” such as Biden, Blinken, Boris Johnson, U von der Leyen, Victoria Nuland, and the Media Creation Zelensky, who are only a few of our political / cultural afflictions. With a collection like that in front of him, why wouldn’t Medvedev call the West degenerate? (And Fatto Quotidiano points out today that Medvedev was pro-Western–and now has the special venom of those betrayed and cast off.)

    So many lifers in an amoral slice of the world, if you can call what they do a life.

    How will this end? These elites don’t want it to end. If Macron, who is about a preppy as they come, can’t get their attention, the bilious Erdogan in his baggy suits is unlikely to do so. The economic problems of the PIIGS don’t matter and don’t merit their attention. Let alone Turkey and the incredible disappearing yeni lira.

    Ursula announces that she wants to rebuild Ukraine–and what ever happened to Greece in her non-functional mind? It’s like Catherine the Great, who at least had some talents as a ruler and patron of culture (even if she *was* Putin’s grandmama). Ukraine, the Potemkin Crisis with real nuclear weapons.

    But it may come down to money. Just as Gatsby was a fraud (and so was F. Scott Fitzgerald, for that matter), what it came down to was money. Spectacular financial failure. A specialty of Anglo-Americans.

    So hubris made sanctions the punishment that these people want to mete out endlessly, and what goes around comes around. Maybe those sanctions aren’t such a bad thing after all (?).

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      Well . . . if they come around to the right people, and not to the rest of us.

  9. hemeantwell

    Yves’ point early on about the US creating increasingly tense conditions that frighten states into an alliance with it is utterly on point. This has been a leitmotif of US foreign policy since the end of World War II. Up until the formation of NATO in 1949 US elites gradually pulled together a consensus on portraying the Soviet Union as planning to invade Western Europe against a steady stream of internal reports — at times vehemently stated — that the Soviets had no intention of doing so and that the risks of war lay only in the Soviets misunderstanding Western military buildups as preparatory to assault. Once this stance coalesced in the first half of 1948 with Truman’s March war scare the basic game plan was set: arming against a nonexistent threat to prompt a military buildup by the other side, which then could be used to justify further “defensive” efforts, ad nauseum.

    This, to use Peter Gowan’s term, “brigading” of allies by militarizing interstate competition has been deployed over and over, most recently in the Ukraine crisis. Just as in the long Balkan crisis of the 90s, where the US pushing for Bosnian independence was widely seen as conflict-maximizing, deescalating diplomatic options like Minsk 2 were scuttled by the US in order to play into its strong suit, military power, and using the fabricated crisis to not only block resolution of the immediate conflict but also to block development of interdependencies between “allies” and the nominal aggressor. My only quibble with Yves’ analysis is that to criticize US behavior towards China as incompetent does take into account this trend in US strategy. It’s worked quite well in the past.

    1. juno mas

      …but in the past the US had an economic base that provided expectations for a better living. Now? Not so much. Russia, China and others see multi-polarity as a better world. (What’s left after climate change, anyway.)

    2. Monosynapsis

      Indeed, this ‘brigading’ strategy appears to me to be the only ‘competent’ rationale on can find behind the myriad of international destabillizing actions covert or overt by th US since WWII.

      For a long time I’ve been flabberghasted at the amount of shit stirring in all parts of the world by the US – very often seemingly against their own long term interests – and couldn’t come up with anything else than ‘arms industry promotion’.

      Thank you.

    3. Sibiryak

      On Peter Gowan’s term “brigading”, astutely referenced by hemeantwell above, see:

      The Globalization Gamble: The Dollar-Wall Street Regime and its Consequences


      Tactical Options
      We can outline some options available to a state with the resources of the USA for bringing
      the pools of labour and markets of the region permanently under the sway of the US and its
      economic operators.

      1. The old European imperial power approach: direct military coercion and subordination.
      2. Brigading the states of the region into a US-led alliance against some external threat: the
      classic post-war US approach to gaining hegemony over key centres of production.
      3. Launching all-round economic warfare against the region (including oil-war like that used
      by the Nixon administration against its ‘allies’ in the early 1970s).
      4. A more radical, activist strategic use of the multilateral organisations.
      5. Using a mix of carrots and sticks in bilateral and regional economic statecraft.
      6. Seeking domestic social linkages in target states through propaganda.
      7. Using the instruments available through the DWSR for currency and financial warfare.

      * * * * *

      2. Brigading states into a US-led alliance against some external threat so that in exchange
      for US protection the states concerned open their economic assets to US operators: This is
      the classic US tactic of the Cold War period. Samuel Huntington has explained how US
      tactics worked: “Western Europe, Latin America, East Asia, and much of South Asia, the
      Middle East and Africa fell within what was euphemistically referred to as ‘the Free World’,
      and what was, in fact, a security zone. The governments within this zone found it in their
      interest: a) to accept an explicit or implicit guarantee by Washington of the independence of
      their country and, in some cases, the authority of the government; b) to permit access to their
      country to a variety of US governmental and non-governmental organisations pursuing goals
      which those organisations considered important….The great bulk of the countries of Europe
      and the Third World….found the advantages of transnational access to outweigh the costs of
      attempting to stop it.” 89

      And as David Rothkopf has added, in the post-war years “Pax Americana came with an
      implicit price tag to nations that accepted the US security umbrella. If a country depended on
      the United States for security protection, it dealt with the United States on trade and
      commercial matters.” 90

      The efficacy of the tactic depended upon two conditions: first, the ability of the US to
      persuade the local dominant social groups that they faced an external threat; and secondly,
      the US’s ability to persuade these same groups that the US and only the US had the resources
      to cope with the threat and the will to do so. In Western Europe the threat was, of course,
      the internal-external one of Communism and the dominant classes of the region needed little
      persuasion — on the contrary they were in many cases begging for US intervention.91

      The distinctive US organisational model of the giant corporation could thus enter foreign labour
      and product markets, spreading first to Canada then to Western Europe (facilitated by the
      EC’s rules and development) and then on to other parts of the world. In this way, rather than
      in the primitive militarist conceptions of realist theory, military power played a central role in
      post-war capitalist power politics.

      With the collapse of the Soviet Bloc, the Bush administration had still hoped that the United
      States role as controller of security zones and wielder of enormous military resources could
      remain a potent instrument for strengthening the position of American capitalism vis a vis its
      economic rivals. His great efforts to ensure that a united Germany remained in NATO were
      followed by his war against Iraq, one of whose main goals was to show the rest of the capital
      world that it had to treat the interests of US capitalism with respect. But this was a false
      dawn. With the collapse of the Soviet Union itself, the US’s ability to make political use of
      its extraordinary military superiority was bound to diminish.

      It has not, of course, disappeared. The fact that the US has military resources today greater
      than all of Western Europe, China, Japan and Russia put together is a fundamental fact about
      world politics. It is evidently determined to retain the capacity to fight and prevail in a war
      against the combined forces of Russia and China. 92 This is not, of course, because it wishes a
      war with these two states.

      But if these two states did form an alliance in hostility to the capitalist world, the US could cash its strategic military power again politically, by being able to brigade the rest of the core more firmly under its influence. And this military power also has another very important function: it can deter its ‘allies’ from making international political alliances which might threaten US capitalism. When Germany and other parts of Western Europe seemed, in the late 1970s to be moving towards a new regime of deepening economic co-operation with the Soviet Bloc (in the face of the economic stagnation and the chaotic conditions of the DWSR at the time), the US had been able to cut the movement dead with its battle cry against the ‘Finlandisation’ of Western Europe, with its missile deployments in Germany and Italy and with its general offensive in the second Cold War. This, in itself, rules out either of the two other triadic centres even contemplating mounting a direct challenge to American leadership of world capitalism. Neither Germany nor Japan has shown the slightest hint of an interest in such an adventure.

      But the problem for the US has not been stopping the other triadic powers from mounting a
      direct political challenge. The problem has been losing political leverage to secure its
      economic interests within their new, post-Cold War hinterlands: East Central and Eastern
      Europe and East and South East Asia. Insofar as such regions face no external threat whose
      tackling requires military resources such as only the US can supply, the instrument of Cold
      War diplomacy lose their efficacy. [ETC.]

  10. Susan the other

    In the bits and pieces that I catch but can’t trace I thought Biden made one of his honesty-gaffes and said something like “this is a catastrophic transition.” But nobody’s repeating that line. Regardless, I do think it is catastrophic – whatever “It” is. I’m assuming It is the end of a fossil fuel economy. Nobody really knows how things will twist and turn. Inflation has been intentionally unleashed worldwide – I’m assuming to provide the liquidity to deal with it all. All Biden is only allowed to say is that he is going to do some gigantic economic stimulus, etc. All of the pieces do fit when you look at them through this lens. But the old liberal paradigm of some level of democracy and human rights, and of course capitalism and growth and profit, has been swept away in a flood of emergencies. The most vulnerable part of the old liberalism is/was militarism. It is very expensive, highly polluting, extremely destructive, totally wasteful – but it was profitable. Grossly so. If that engine of capitalism is failing then we’ve got reason to be paranoid. We don’t know where we stand nor what we can continue to control. So if our BFF – the EU – now thinks it is a good move to make Ukraine a bonafide member of the EU is makes as much sense as anything else. As in no sense at all. It is a protectionist move at best. Control the eternal hinterland of Ukraine to protect the heartland of the EU. And that is maybe why Wolfgang Streeck is saying that NATO is the one thing that all Europeans in the EU seem to be able to support. Otherwise it makes absolutely no sense at all.

    1. GF

      ” It is very expensive, highly polluting, extremely destructive, totally wasteful – but it was profitable. Grossly so.” Capitalism explained succinctly. Thank you

  11. super extra

    Outside of the US people ask, how could the gun situation have gotten so insane? But most USians understand on a fundamental and general level that the people in office are paid off by the NRA to block anti-gun legislation, that it is easier and cheaper for a special interest to pay off a critical group of people to manipulate law passage rather than concerted programs to provide an alternative to the belief that everyone has to protect themselves. So outside the country the solution seems obvious; take away the guns, do a buy back like some of the other anglo countries did. But inside the country most know the score – taking away the guns is a baited trap to keep the ongoing fight at a fever pitch so that the status quo remains. [cue hysterical voice] “But who will protect me when the police don’t show up if I give up my guns???”

    Tactical calculations of that nature are the entirety of anglo neoliberal political “planning”. Literally every single big problem has been reduced to the short-term play of antagonize, observe, and escalate, because those are the only options when all real options have been excluded because everyone making the decisions has been paid off or otherwise manipulated to see only certain outcomes as acceptable. Even if a handful of politicans can see the problem and have an understanding that something “real” must be done, they will be undermined by all the others who have no personal benefit to doing the right thing, but immense personal benefit for continuing the antagonize/observe/escalate cycle, since they are paid by outside parties to keep that up and very likely will lose that income if they stop. Very few of the people who do this have employable skills if they lose their political assignments.

    I don’t know what will break the cycle but prior to ~2/25/22 I thought I would be stuck in neoliberal hell world for the rest of my life. I now think it is likely there will be at least another major economic system in the world before I go, so that’s at least something. If what we’re seeing at leadership levels is a combo of narcissism and corruption, then possibly like clinical narcissism in normal humans, the leaders will step back from the ledge when they are confronted with a superior power, like that currently being demonstrated by Russia. Sometimes in normies that requires a physical blow or other real tangible humiliation before they stand down. The leadership is clearly not the caliber of the stone-cold psycho killers in the state department and cia in the 60s-70s-80s. Would those demons have risked nuclear war for monthy payoffs to ensure they still could make the face filler payments prior to the weekly tv appearances? Would they have waxed poetic about their guitar hobby on late night talk shows between sending Tupamaros to their deaths?

    1. hk

      The anti-gun talk is taking place in presence of a powerful counter trend: a lot of common people are fearful for their safety and are not trusting of public authorities. So they are buying up guns–a trend that got accelerated since COVID crisis. I saw a looong line of people waiting to buy guns in a very liberal and fairly affluent area of LA early on in crisis and I don’t think things had changed much. The uptick in gun violence, if anything, will only feed the broad public’s sense of insecurity and actually increase the demand for guns “in the hands of law abiding citizens.”. So the political pressure to “do something about guns” and the popular insecurity fueling the actual demand for guns will lead to some paradoxical outcomes that change nothing in particular.

      I honestly think there’s only one solution: increase actual sense of security for the public. With the public feeling more secure, fewer guns in circulation and less danger of guns falling through the cracks (and fewer people who’d use them if they are somehow dealt with in course of patching up public safety.) But this is not something people are talking about too loudly yet, esp on the left…..

      1. flora

        Or as one man said, ” The police response in Uvalde was the best ad for buying a gun.”

        When a police department in Michigan announces it’s gas money fund is so depleted it will take longer to respond to 911 calls and may not respond to some 911 calls, ….

        1. GramSci

          Which means, per hk, it’s all going according to plan. Göring’s simple prescription: “Tell the people they are being attacked.” It doesn’t matter by whom: crazies in elementary schools or police busting down doors in warrantless searches. It all sells gunz, stokes fear, and coerces consent.

  12. flora

    Great post. Thanks. This seems like “disaster capitalism” reaching its logical endpoint, now destroying its own platform.

    1. Bsn

      Yes. Recently re-reading N. Cline’s Disaster Capitalism for fun and comic relief. It’s from 2007! 25 years ago. Same Ol’ same ol’.

          1. flora

            From Bloomberg 2020 (paywall):

            Black Business Owners’ Ranks Collapse 41% During Lockdown
            .Study suggests outsize harm to African Americans and Latinos
            .Overall, 3.3 million businesses closed, largest on record


            Meanwhile, Wall Street was bailed out again, Wall St. stayed open, the big chains stayed open, even as their small independent business competition was forced out of business.

            And that was in 2020. Is it too foiley to think the lockdowns weren’t really about disease control or primarily about disease control, but had a disaster capitalism reason behind them? Destroy the small business competition for Wall Street’s gains?

  13. orlbucfan

    Very good and succinct, super extra. Many thanks! As an American, I’m wondering what dimension Ursula von der Leyen exists on? Certainly a stupid one. Will there be any Ukraine left worth admitting to the EU? If I’m understanding the current situation correctly, the Russians already control the parts worth keeping.

  14. David

    To understand what’s going on, I suggest keeping two interconnected concepts in mind: one is ego, the other is inertia.

    Governments and international institutions are used to acting in certain ways, and thinking that certain things are natural. When faced with a crisis, they tend to react according to past precedent for the simple reason that it’s easy and uncontroversial. This particularly applies to the EU, where the need for consensus means that what’s agreed is often the least common denominator. If anyone had said “let’s not introduce sanctions, they are ineffective and could rebound against us” it would have precipitated an internal crisis, and led to accusations that the EU was “doing nothing,” as well as enquiries about what alternatives there actually were: and there would have no agreement on the latter point. That would have been a crisis now, whereas the consequences of sanctions are a crisis for later; and later is better than now.

    The EU in particular has a very developed sense of itself and its importance, and there is an entire media and political community scrutinising it, and asking why it isn’t doing more, doing it better etc. It’s simply politically impossible for the EU not to act in a case like this. It has no serious military capability, so all it can do is sanctions, which, happily, it has a lot of experience of. Thus; the EU winds up doing something silly, but at least it’s “something” and it’s agreed by everyone. Those are two massive advantages.

    Finally, the EU (and the US for that matter) are used to lecturing others from not just a position of moral superiority, but from a position of economic and political superiority. This is their default behaviour, and their automatic assumption. They are continuing to do this although they don’t, in fact, have the superiority any more. Individual states may begin to realise this, but political inertia means it will take a long time for the new realisation to spread through the system and be accepted. And then what do you do?

  15. Judith

    Radoslaw Sikorski, spouse of Anne Applebaum, had this brilliant suggestion:

    The West could provide Ukraine with nuclear weapons to help defend itself against Russia, Radoslaw Sikorski, a member of the European Parliament and former Polish foreign minister, said.

    “The West has the right to give Ukraine nuclear warheads so that it could protect its independence,” Sikorski told Ukraine’s Espreso TV on Saturday.

    Sikorski, who served as Poland’s foreign minister between 2007 and 2014, argued that Russia violated the Budapest Memorandum.

    Under the 1994 document signed by Ukraine, Russia, Britain, and the US, Kiev agreed to surrender its Soviet-era nuclear arsenal. The signatories promised to “respect the independence and sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine.”

    On Sunday, Sikorski reiterated his position, accusing Russian President Vladimir Putin of threatening Ukraine with nuclear weapons and arguing that the West must “dissuade” him.


    1. Colonel Smithers

      Thank you, Judith.

      When Radek Sikorski became a minister in Poland, he and his wife had to declare their earnings. This revealed how much the pair earn from the US MIC and its proxies, on both sides of the Atlantic. It enabled the pair to afford homes in London and NYC and their rural hinterlands and send their two sons to Eton and Oxford, the latter Sikorski’s tertiary alma mater.

      Sikorski arrived in London as a child refugee and had his Oxford education paid for by his local authority, which was the norm in the UK until the Blairite reforms of the late 1990s. At Oxford, he pretended to be a mitteleuropa aristocrat and relative of WW2 general Sikorski and was admitted into the Bullingdon Club, overlapping with Johnson. The pair became friends, but fell out over Brexit.

      Sikorski and Applebaum are cynical frauds.

  16. Anthony G Stegman

    Overly confident is how I would describe the US government. Overly confident that its military and economic power is insurmountable, and that no nation or collections of nations can defeat the United States. So the US provokes Russia and China simultaneously. That both nations are nuclear armed does not really matter because the US believes that neither nation would EVER use nuclear weapons. They will surrender or buckle under before using weapons of mass destruction.

  17. Expat2Uruguay

    In this discussion presupposing that Western leaders are incompetent, there is another explanation put forward by Michael Hudson which *was featured here at naked capitalism just a week ago*.

    This suggests that what appeared in February to be a war between Ukrainians and Russia is really a trigger intended to restructure the world economy – and to do so in a way to lock U.S. control over the Global South. Geopolitically, the proxy war in Ukraine has been a handy excuse for America’s to counter China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

  18. TomDority

    A Nation of Sheep
    William J. Lederer
    Published 1961
    Goes into great detail of the incompetence of our politicians and departments regarding of state, and CIA and Etc. herein mentioned
    If anything the Western Self destruction continues at an accelerated pace from those days of 60 years ago.
    And then to what end? – I might suggest to keep the American way of life…Consumerism, consumption for consumption sake now evolved – or more ‘systematically created’ by “of business to make us wasteful, debt-ridden, permanently discontented individuals. And all under the pretense of “”keeping America strong”” things like planned obsolescence to encourage more purchases so business can survive. Change superficial items on durable goods to keep rolling them over and to hell with durability. Hedonism. The lust for the latest and newest …even if it has been crappified.
    Or as the last sentence in the book “The Waste Makers” by Vance Packard – pub 1960
    “Americans must learn to live with their abundance without being forced to impoverish their spirit by being damned fools about it”
    Again – thing have been getting worse since then and the business community still insists on the same damned course

  19. Mikel

    “From what I can tell, most of the big banks are headquartered in Kiev or Kharkiv. In the areas Russia is “liberating”, it is converting banks to roubles, and rumor has it, wiping out debts. That actually makes sense, since old loans would have been made under Ukrainian law but not under a new regime. The write-offs will stimulate the local economies, create good will towards the occupiers, and leave big balance sheet holes for the parent banks. What’s not to like?”

    If nothing else, it would be interesting to have this “mini debt jubilee” happen for the world to see.
    “Debt Jubilee” – more should become familiar with the concept.

  20. Beluga

    Before the Aussie surveillance plane got jumped by Chinese fighter jets and its intakes stuffed with chaff, two similar Canadian missions were jumped in similar fashion. Chinese aerobatic aces had fun with lumbering Lockheed turboprop Orions and Auroras.

    The US would-be hegemon has taken to having two numbnutz allies run these electronic surveillance missions close to Chinese airspace. It’s their way of getting the little guys to swear fealty and do the “Yes, sir, no sir” forced tapdance routine for the boss at the Pentagon/White House/whatever.

    China, replete with its own sense of hubris, has over the last seven years delivered no nonsense, rather highly haughty lectures to these two small powers on a variety of issues. You Americans never get to hear of such small stuff because it’s incidental to you, of no real import until recently. And besides, America regards its navel as rather more interesting than anything or anyone else. It takes something big for anyone in the US to take any notice. Johnny Depp/Amber Heard is more interesting. Even bright writers such as those here aren’t much interested, because residing in the land of the Head Cheeses gives you not the slightest clue what it’s like to be dominated by your money and media reach in other smaller countries. Let’s face it, who in the US gives a ratsass about its peripheral allies? I mean, really gives a damn? You’re all wrapped up fully in yourselves.

    The Chinese realize the offhand way the US treats its allies, only focusing on them when something happens that is interesting to Washington. So we get the hectoring speeches for free from the Chinese, who are secure in the knowledge that nobody in the US gives much of a damn most of the time about anything that isn’t directly directed at them. It delivers its own lectures to China in about the same boorish way China tells off Canada and Australia, and grossly misjudges its superiority over China in doing so.

    This state of affairs is unlikely to last long, because China is getting utterly teed off by the complete dopes and arseholes running the USA telling them how to behave and what to think. Democrats or Republicans makes not the slightest difference, they both treat China in the same way.

    Meanwhile, the intermediate nations get to be insulted/neglected/bullied by the USA and China in turn, with the occasional helping handful of general Russky BS in our North here in Canada. I’m getting somewhat fed up being treated like an also-ran by the big boys jockeying for position. Especially considering my ultimate fate is in the hands of all you push-and-shove jokers. But of course, there’s nothing I or we can do about it but suck it up, so we suffer the unfortunate slings and arrows of the big boys who couldn’t care less about us in the first place.

    On a different note, dear Ursula von Leyen with her dashing hair-style, running around in Europe as if she had real power, is a complete joke. The European Parliament has the EC as its bureaucracy and von Leyen is the head of that. Typically, if it really doesn’t suit them, EU member countries pay scant attention to various EC directives and with little consequence. Voting for European Parliament MPs is regarded as a bit of a joke by members of the public in each country. The only Euro MP who anyone ever listened to was that utter fool Farage in Blighty who wanted Brexit — name another MP of that useless body. You cannot, they’re nonentities. Be assured, when the chips are down, Germany or France will pay no heed to Ursula’s general bleatngs if they differ from national interests. Right now, it suits them to let her run free, an unelected neocon twit acting above her station.

    Similarly, I note that Russia has appointed two new Heads to run Donetsk and Luhansk so-called “independent” republics. These two appointees (essentially Prime Ministers) are winners of annual New Leaders Simple Service competitions in Russia. So, bureaucrats on the fast track. These two guys are as unelected as Ursula is, but actually do have power over elected legislatures. Now that’s Russia’s idea of democracy, one supposes. Take a wild guess as to whether those two “independent” republics of the Donbass will do anything but support Russia in the years to come.

    Yup, just another one of the big boys at work. Putin intones that countries should be sovereign and choose their own independent governments. But of course, it doesn’t hurt to have your own administrators running the little places next door.

    And a simply great time was had by all.

    1. Kfish

      To be blunt, until recently Australia’s leadership deserved to be spoken to like thuggish morons. The Morrison Government was made up of crawlers and social climbers, with a dash of Pentecostal exceptionalism at the top.

      We like to imagine we matter here in Australia, but every so often the US will let something slip that tells us how very little we really do.

    2. Fred

      You can’t post up a long rant about how no one understands you (as a Canadian) and then go on to display your ignorance on the east Ukraine.
      Well you can, but you’ll look like an as*.

  21. Altandmain

    The Western powers trying desperately to cling on to power.

    It is backfiring badly on them, but they are still trying. I think that the rise of China in particular has become a major challenge to their power grip and now an increasingly assertive Russia.

    They don’t want to accept a multilateral world. The US ruling class in particular seems to want total control, something that is not possible now.

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