Yves here. Ilargi provides a spare and clear-eyed account of the bizarre and distressing spectacle of EU leaders holding tenaciously to policies that are already doing fundamental damage to their productive sectors and communities. And far worse is obviously in store if they don’t relent. Yet they seem determined to keep harming their countries to hurt Russia, as if trying harder will finally cause Russia to buckle, as opposed to their societies.
Ilargi posits that this deranged elite behavior is the result of their disconnect from the lower orders. That might be true of the Davos crowd. But European officials read newspapers. They have to field questions at press conferences. They see data, particularly of spiking energy prices. They take meeting from members of important and presumably unhappy power blocs. So how can they keep convincing themselves, in the face of mounting evidence, that their present course is sound, when any objective observer would nominate them for a Wall of Shame of the worst leaders evah?
The only explanation I can come up with is that current Western leaders cannot grasp emotionally or practically that they no longer call the shots. Surely Russia will crack because Russia is a small economy (in their terms) with a lousy military and inferior people generally. Never mind the evidence in their faces of the reverse.
It may seem like a strained analogy, but in 1984 I was part of a team consulting to Citibank’s London Treasury, which among other things had the bank’s biggest foreign exchange trading operation. That Treasury had gone from being London’s biggest profit center to a money loser.
With the benefit of hindsight, the reason was simple. The bank’s top FX traders had grown up in a weak dollar environment. Their reflexes were all wrong when the dollar suddenly became super strong. But even if I as a young consultant had had the guts to state the problem that crisply, the client would have been very unhappy because there was no simple remedy. Fire once highly successful traders? Where could they find replacements who could be trusted to execute big transactions? Or at best, cut their limits until they retrained themselves?
This reading means, as others have suggested, that EU leaders need to be turfed out. But that won’t happen soon enough to forestall suffering and severe economic damage.
By Raúl Ilargi Meijer. Originally published at Automatic Earth
As I read through the multitude of daily news articles about Russia, Ukraine, NATO and EU, it’s getting ever harder to escape the idea that there is a controlled demolition of the continent happening. And that neither its “leaders”, and certainly not its people, have any say in this. All we get from those “leaders” are NATO or World Economic Forum talking points. The only independent voice is Victor Orban. Who is either silenced in western media or painted as fully insane.
But Orban’s Hungarians won’t freeze this coming winter. He just signed a new gas deal with Russia. The main reason that is provided for all the others not doing that is of course Russia’s Special Military Operation in Ukraine. Which is as insane as Orban is, and “totally unprovoked”, say the western media. Noam Chomsky summarized that best: “Of course it was provoked. Otherwise they wouldn’t refer to it all the time as an unprovoked invasion.”
And no, it wasn’t just Russia/Ukraine, way before that Europe had already screwed up its economies beyond recognition -if you cared to look under the hood. But why make it worse? I get a very strong feeling that those EU “leaders” have alienated themselves far too much from the people they purport to serve, and they’ll regret it. For now it’s obvious among farmers, for instance, but when people start freezing, they will want to know why. And if no answer is forthcoming that is both honest and satisfactory, many “leaders” will have it coming for them.
The entire energy and food crisis is being sold as “inevitable”, but it is nothing of the kind. They are the result of choices being made in Brussels, Berlin, Amsterdam etc., about which nobody has asked your opinion. Something I jotted down a few days ago:
Is the west using Ukraine as an excuse to commit mass economic suicide? And, you know, fulfill some WEF-related goals? Why else would they cut off all economic ties to Moscow, at a time when it’s obvious they have no alternative sources for much of what they import from Russia? Moreover, why does a country like Holland aim to close 10,000 of its farms when it’s crystal clear that that will exacerbate the coming global food crises?
If you don’t like Putin, that’s fine, but why should your own people suffer from what you like or not? And of course you can ask whether it’s a good idea that a country the size of a postage stamp is the world’s no. 2 food exporter. But it is. And if you try to change that by doing a 180º, also on a postage stamp, it is very obvious that is not going to go well. And all the so-called leaders know this. But they still do it.
Prices for heating, petrol, as well as food, are set to go much higher than they have already, mitigated only -perhaps- by the fact that ever fewer people will be able to afford the ever higher prices. But now it’s starting to look like this was all scripted. Because “we” could have kept communication channels with Russia open, “we” could have negotiated for peace for the past 6 months. Not doing that was a deliberate choice. A choice that you and me, another “we”- had no voice in whatsoever.
The Dutch could have negotiated with their farmers, and slowly addressed their perceived problems with nitrogen oxides, while keeping food production going. And we could have found a way to keep Russian and Ukrainian crops available on world markets too. But it doesn’t feel at all like “we” wanted that.
Someone made a list of what EU won’t get anymore with the Russia boycott.: “nat-gas, rare earths, inert gases, potash, sulfur, uranium, palladium, vanadium, cobalt, coke, titanium, nickel, lithium, plastics, glass, ceramics, pharmaceuticals, ships, inks, airplanes, polymers, medical and industrial gases, sealing rings & membranes, power transmission, transformer and lube oils, neon gas for microchip etching, etc., etc.”
And that’s not all. Fertilizer!! Why they do it, I don’t know. Do they WANT to kill their own economies? It makes no sense. And this will not be over soon.
Reuters of course seeks to blame Putin. But he’s not the one who introduced the sanctions. He’s offered to let the gas and oil exports continue.
Cold winters helped Moscow defeat Napoleon and Hitler. President Vladimir Putin is now betting that sky-rocketing energy prices and possible shortages this winter will persuade Europe to strong arm Ukraine into a truce — on Russia’s terms. That, say two Russian sources familiar with Kremlin thinking, is the only path to peace that Moscow sees, given Kyiv says it will not negotiate until Russia leaves all of Ukraine
“We have time, we can wait,” said one source close to the Russian authorities, who declined to be named because they are not authorised to speak to the media. “It’s going to be a difficult winter for Europeans. We could see protests, unrest. Some European leaders might think twice about continuing to support Ukraine and think it’s time for a deal.”
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell wants Europeans to be obedient little critters, and take the punishment for the policies he and his ilk have carved out. Because “we” are destined to win. Mr. Borrell is planing to do just fine this winter, mind you. With the best steak your money can buy, real fine wine, to be consumed in comfortably heated homes, restaurants and offices. A picture of Marie Antoinette pops up in my brain.
EU high representative and foreign policy chief Josep Borrell gave a surprisingly blunt assessment of the Ukraine war and Europe’s precarious position in an AFP interview published Tuesday, admitting that Russian President Vladimir Putin is betting on fracturing a united EU response amid the current crisis situation of soaring prices and energy extreme uncertainty headed into a long winter. Borrell’s words seemed to come close to admitting that Putin’s tactic is working on some level, or at least will indeed chip away at European resolve in the short and long run, given he chose words like EU populations having to “endure” the deep economic pain and severe energy crunch. He cited the “weariness” of Europeans while calling on leadership as well as the common people to “bear the consequences” with continued resolve.
Borrell explained to AFP that Putin sees “the weariness of the Europeans and the reluctance of their citizens to bear the consequences of support for Ukraine.” But Borrell suggested that Europe will not back down no matter the leverage Moscow might have, particularly when it comes to ‘weaponization of energy’ – and called on citizens to continue to shoulder the cost. Who will blink first? …appears to be the subtext here. He urged: “We will have to endure, spread the costs within the EU,” Borrell told AFP, warning that keeping the 27 member states together was a task to be carried out “day by day.”
And yet, as some like Hungary’s Viktor Orbán have consistently argued since near the start of the Feb.24 invasion, it is inevitable that some will be forced to bear the “costs” much more than others. Already this is being seen with initiatives out of Brussels like rationing gas consumption, which has further led to scenarios like German towns and even residences being mandated to switch off lights or resources for designated periods at night. “More cold showers” – many are also being told. As we round the corner of fall and enter the more frigid months, we are likely to only see more headlines like this: “German cities impose cold showers and turn off lights amid Russian gas crisis.”
Talking of Marie Antoinette. Emmanuel Macron is the little man of grand vision. He foresees the ‘End Of Abundance’, a veritable “tipping point” in history. And he’s just the man to lead you through it. I’ll give him this: he’s got good speech writers. But speech writers don’t keep the people warm and fed.
France is headed toward the “end of abundance” and “sacrifices” have to be made during what is a time of great upheaval, President Emmanuel Macron told his cabinet on Wednesday upon returning from summer break. The country has faced multiple challenges lately, ranging from the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine to the unprecedented drought that has battered the whole European continent this summer. Yet, Macron believes that the crisis is actually of a much bigger scale and that structural changes are imminent.“
Some could see our destiny as being to constantly manage crises or emergencies. I believe that we are living through a tipping point or great upheaval. Firstly, because we are living through… what could seem like the end of abundance,” he said. The country and its citizens must be ready to make “sacrifices” to meet and overcome the challenges they are facing, he continued. “Our system based on freedom in which we have become used to living, when we need to defend it sometimes that can entail making sacrifices,” Macron added.
“Faced with this, we have duties, the first of which is to speak frankly and very clearly without doom-mongering,” Macron stressed. The president called upon his cabinet to show unity, be “serious” and “credible” and urged ministers to avoid “demagogy.” “It’s easy to promise anything and everything, sometimes to say anything and everything. Do not give in to these temptations, it is demagoguery,” the president said, adding that such an approach “flourishes” today “in all democracies in a complex and frightening world.”
There is a pattern in the messages of today’s Marie Antoinettes. Borrell wants you to take it lying down, Macron wants you to do that for a long time (like the rest of your lives), and the Belgian PM makes it more concrete: you’ll be freezing for the next 10 years. After which, supposedly, renewables will have been built to keep your kids warm. Spoiler: they won’t be.
Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo might have spilled the beans about the duration of Europe’s energy crisis. He told reporters Monday, “the next 5 to 10 winters will be difficult.” “The development of the situation is very difficult throughout Europe,” De Croo told Belgium broadcaster VRT. “In a number of sectors, it is really difficult to deal with those high energy prices. We are monitoring this closely, but we must be transparent: the coming months will be difficult, the coming winters will be difficult,” he said. The prime minister’s comments suggest replacing Russian natural gas imports could take years, exerting further economic doom on the region’s economy in the form of energy hyperinflation.
From Greece, even more concrete: energy subsidies. €1.9 billion in one month. To keep the hordes out of the streets. Wait, that Belgian guy said this will last 5-10 years. How is the country going to pay for that? One thing that comes to mind is Greeks will vote for anyone in the next election who vows to talk to Putin ASAP, restore the countries’ good relationships and sign a gas deal.
A significant rise in the price of electricity announced by state-controlled Public Power Corporation (PPC) for September forced the government to raise its electricity subsidy for September to 1.9 billion euros, from €1.1 billion in August. The subsidy level inevitably follows the PPC’s pricing policy, since it is the dominant player in the market, with 63% of consumers choosing it. While PPC had the lowest price of all electricity providers in August (€0.48 per kilowatt-hour) it raised its September price to €0.788 for those consuming up to 500kWh per month and €0.80 for heavier consumers. In order to stick to its commitment for an actual charge to consumers between €0.14-0.17 per kWh the government had to adjust its subsidy level accordingly, raising it by over 72%.
How long will this last, you said? Well, according to AP, “Washington expects Ukrainian forces “to fight for years to come.” “Included in the package are advanced weapons that are still in the development phase..”
Years could pass before some of the weapons in the upcoming “largest ever” package of US military assistance to Kiev actually reach Ukraine, according to Western media reports. On Tuesday, a number of mainstream media outlets cited anonymous US officials as describing the impending announcement of a $3 billion package of military aid to Ukraine. If confirmed, it would be the largest of its kind so far. Washington is by far the biggest supplier of military hardware to Ukraine as it fights against Russia. However, some of the promised equipment “will not be in the hands of Ukrainian fighters for months or years,” according to NBC News, one of the outlets that reported the upcoming package. Included in the package are advanced weapons that are still in the development phase, it explained.
The same caveat was cited by the Associated Press, which said that it may take “a year or two” for the arms to reach the battlefield, according to its sources. Washington expects Ukrainian forces “to fight for years to come,” US officials told the AP. The AeroVironment Switchblade 600 drone is an example of a weapon system that was promised to Ukraine months ago but has yet to be delivered. Defense News said this week that the Pentagon plans to sign the contract necessary for sending 10 of the so-called “kamikaze drones” within a month. Last month, Ukrainian Defense Minister Aleksey Reznikov called on foreign suppliers of arms to use his country as a testing ground for new weapons. He pledged to provide detailed reports about the experiences of Ukrainian soldiers with the prototypes provided to them.
This is not going to go well. Not for the European “leaders”, not for the EU, not for Ukraine, and not for Europeans. We could start a little bet as to how many leaders will still be in place by spring, and I bet you Zelensky won’t be one of them. Putin will. As for the rest, Rutte, Macron, we’ll see. But don’t underestimate the wrath of people with hungry and cold children. It feels like almost an alien image for 99% of Europeans, but it no longer will be.
And there is no logical reason for this, there is only the ideology of a few handfuls of little men with grand visions. Hate of everything Russia has kept the west going for 100 years or more. And these little men feed off of that. They can only do that by refusing to talk. Because that’s exactly what Russia does not refuse. Only, they want to talk as equals.