Slouching Towards Reverse Colonialism

Forgive me for working through a not-fully-formed idea that hopefully is not half baked, that the current sanctions war has put the West in the bizarre position of implementing reverse colonialism, after spending hundreds of years of building wealth, and sometimes even empires, on building colonies so as to control and exploit key resources or high value goods, like spices.

Many independent commentators have made a seemingly-obvious observation that is for the most part verboten in official discourse: that it was not so smart to keep escalating sanctions with a designated bad guy, Russia, when said bad guy is a large supplier of many commodities on which goods production in advanced economies depend. This approach is even more dubious in the case of Europe, whose two industrial engines, Germany and Italy, were particularly dependent on cheap Russian gas.

Of course, it’s not so hard to see how we got here: our feckless leaders, after decades of believing their own PR about Russia, had convinced themselves that the shock and awe sanctions of late February would prostrate Russia, leading to the rapid ouster of Putin and Zelensky and Victoria Nuland toasting each other in Moscow.

They managed to miss the obvious: that unlike the late 1990s, the Russian banking system was not dependent on foreign deposits, so it would not obligingly fall over with the cutoff from SWIFT and the seizure of hundreds of billions of FX reserves. They also missed the degree to which Western companies would self-sanction in dealing with Russia. The business and political press cheered when big brand name companies like Ikea and McDonalds and L’Oreal stopped trading in Russia.1 However, the self-sanctioning even early on went beyond formal sanctions. For instance, the US made a”don’t blame us” statement over the summer, that Russian fertilizer was not sanctioned. But that didn’t make shipowners less worried about carrying that cargo, nor did it help African countries who’d had their banking ties to Russia cut by Western measures.

The US and EU, having only mediocre hacks in charge, could not admit error and try to find a sanctions Plan B, which could have attempted face saving by being more surgical (“Oh, we really want to pound those evil Rooskies, but these vulnerable populations are suffering too much, so here’s how we are refining the program.”) No, the answer to failed and self-harming sanctions has been even more failed and self-harming sanctions. And the media has evidently done a great job of covering for the sanctions disaster. Even with the start of some public pushback in America, the noise has been about shoveling ever-more taxpayer dollars into the Ukraine money pit and the risk of nuclear war, and not the sanctions debacle.

Consider where this own-goal economic program is winding up. Putin argued at the SCO that the US designs on Russia were ultimately colonialist in nature, and that put Russia on the same side as other victims of colonialism, which is pretty much everyone ex non-native North Americans and Europeans. Putin greatly sharpened his rhetoric at his speech commemorating the “liberated” territories joining Russia (which was actually not formalized until the following week):

When the Soviet Union collapsed, the West decided that the world and all of us would permanently accede to its dictates. In 1991, the West thought that Russia would never rise after such shocks and would fall to pieces on its own. This almost happened. We remember the horrible 1990s, hungry, cold and hopeless. But Russia remained standing, came alive, grew stronger and occupied its rightful place in the world.

Meanwhile, the West continued and continues looking for another chance to strike a blow at us, to weaken and break up Russia, which they have always dreamed about, to divide our state and set our peoples against each other, and to condemn them to poverty and extinction. They cannot rest easy knowing that there is such a great country with this huge territory in the world, with its natural wealth, resources and people who cannot and will not do someone else’s bidding.

The West is ready to cross every line to preserve the neo-colonial system which allows it to live off the world, to plunder it thanks to the domination of the dollar and technology, to collect an actual tribute from humanity, to extract its primary source of unearned prosperity, the rent paid to the hegemon. The preservation of this annuity is their main, real and absolutely self-serving motivation. This is why total de-sovereignisation is in their interest. This explains their aggression towards independent states, traditional values and authentic cultures, their attempts to undermine international and integration processes, new global currencies and technological development centres they cannot control. It is critically important for them to force all countries to surrender their sovereignty to the United States.

In certain countries, the ruling elites voluntarily agree to do this, voluntarily agree to become vassals; others are bribed or intimidated. And if this does not work, they destroy entire states, leaving behind humanitarian disasters, devastation, ruins, millions of wrecked and mangled human lives, terrorist enclaves, social disaster zones, protectorates, colonies and semi-colonies. They don’t care. All they care about is their own benefit.

I want to underscore again that their insatiability and determination to preserve their unfettered dominance are the real causes of the hybrid war that the collective West is waging against Russia. They do not want us to be free; they want us to be a colony. They do not want equal cooperation; they want to loot. They do not want to see us a free society, but a mass of soulless slaves.

Now this may seem a bit overheated, but the direction of Western capitalism under neoliberalism has been to weaken national sovereignity, which in turn allows multinational corporations to successfully contest nation-based efforts to protect their people, such as labor and environmental laws. And even before the off-shoring and globalization were as far advanced as now, the US saw fit to overthrow governments that stood in the way of its resource-grabs, witness the CIA’s successful 1953 coup against Iran’s Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh or the 1954 coup in Guatemala.

Consider the logic of colonialism: creating a system that allows for resource exploitation. In the modern era does not require subjugation of territory; captured leaders and national-sovereignity-gutting trade provisions like ISDS go a long way, although some argue US garrisons, um, bases, produce very cooperative host governments.

What is the logic of sanctions? Readers can feel free to correct me, but it strikes me as a new and improved blockade, designed to starve the cordoned territory or nation into submission.

But blockades run both ways: they deny they targeted population of resources, but they also prevent the party implementing the blockade from getting at the target territory’s resources too, at least until it cries uncle and submit.

The West has bizarrely refused to see that blockades for the most part don’t work. The most recent one that arguably did was the US denying Japan of oil shipments, which led to its Pearl Harbor attack. They failed with Cuba. The tiny island nation is poor but unbowed and has despite the sanctions has developed a world class biotech industry. They have also failed with the bigger and much more self-sufficient Iran.

It still boggles the mind that the clever folks in various US think tanks did not consider that Russia is the country best able to operate as an autarky, and unlike Cuba and Iran, is a critically important player in many essential commodities.

And Russia, save perhaps its excessive legalism over the globe-trotting Gazprom turbine, has not withheld supplies from the West. The restricted access to Russian materials is entirely of US and EU design.

Now the US has been going to countries like Venezuela, hit with both sanctions and regime change schemes, groveling for oil, only to come up empty. Saudi Arabia, despite have Presidents for decades go through ritual obeisance to the royal family, still jumped when the US snapped its finger. Now that the US is not longer a top customer and is also in a weakened position, Mohammed bin Salman and other Saudi officials are clearly relishing in defying the US. One can infer the US has been presumptuous and high-handed in these dealing. Festering resentments are finally getting an outlet.

We will give China short shrift from the moment, save to say that picking a major fight with the landlord and labor supplier of your manufacturing base (as well as most of the time actual owner/operator of these entities) is another reverse colonialism move. Quite a few business analysts have pointed out that many advanced chip makers in China will take significant revenue hits, to the degree that it will lead to cuts in their R&D budgets that are likely to exceed US subsidy levels. In addition, China’s military does not use these advanced chips despite the official patter; this move is strictly about trying to crimp China’s progress. But with the US continuing to eyepoke China, particularly over Taiwan, it’s reckless to assume that China will follow Russia and hold back from economic retaliation.

In other words, the US is already trying to selectively undo its soft colonialist exercise with China, but even these tactical retreats do not look as if they are likely to work out to America’s advantage, particularly given our weak executive competence across the board and distaste for industrial planning.

This is a long-winded way of saying that the degree of US self-destruction is even more fundamental than it seems. It isn’t just that the US is apparently unwilling to back out of deindustrializing Europe, which at best will only short-term gains for the US (cannibalizing important customers is just another way of eating your seed corn). The West through hubris and refusal to engage in any forward-thinking, is slamming into reverse gear as far as colonialism is concerned. That model did sometimes bring spillover benefits to the subject countries, like English law legal systems (which for Singapore later made it a highly desirable trade entrepot), early infrastructure investments. But it’s clear the big winners were the exploiters. And they are now in the process of breaking that model on the shoals of Russian resistance.


1 In the end, these were probably necessary reputational moves, plus the tightening bank sanctions would have made it cumbersome to keep operations going. Note, however, quite a few companies did quietly keep the option of returning open by mothballing as opposed to shuttering operations, such as continuing to pay rent.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. fairleft

    When the Asians come to visit Europe, they’ll want to see, and will pay good money to see, the colorful dress and dances of the native peoples. Tip: If you don’t have any, make something up. 🙂

    1. SocalJimObjects

      Xi Jinping is supposedly a big fan of Game of Thrones. Coming soon to the nearest European country.

  2. DJG, Reality Czar

    Putin defines hubris: insatiability and determination to preserve their unfettered dominance

    Shades of Sophocles.

    I have had a couple of intimations of that hubris in recent days. It is thoroughly ingrained in U.S. culture–all the way down to the smart mouth, the snark, and the passive-aggressive wrangling. Which can only be assuaged by dominance and by money, both of which have overwhelmed U.S. culture and politics.

    Little did I know that Putin is also a Buddhist, or maybe a fan of Pope Francesco, who made the same diagnosis.

    When you have “insatiability and determination to preserve their unfettered dominance,” you also have people who cannot negotiate. Hence, the recent deliberate humiliation of the “Progressive” caucus, which then ritually rolled over and pissed on itself.

    And that Jamie Raskin quote, pink-washing the war. Ahh, yes, a woman as minister of defense and gayfolk in the armed forces–the insatiability of war even demands that gayfolk, formerly ejected from the U.S. army, now serve the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

    Like so many of us, I am not an enormous fan of Putin (and much less so of Ramzan Kadyrov, the Wagner Brigade, and the Russian Liberal Democratic Party). Yet a stable Russia means a stable Europe.

    (And the irony is that an unstable Poland is an unsightly local problem, something to keep the Lithuanians up at night.)

    Meanwhile, U.S. congresscritters wallow in money, foam at the mouth, take a knee in kente cloth, and proclaim themselves Exceptional, Insatiable people.

    And fans of Guaidó of Venezuela, liberator.

    It didn’t have to be this way.

    1. DJG, Reality Czar

      As to colonialism: There’s still so much money to steal from the “Third World.” So long as the U.S./U.K. institutions can steal, the colonialism will go on.

      To watch: What the U.S. does in the upcoming runoff election in Brazil.

      Brazil, another enormous country like Russia with a giant economy, that the U.S. of A. wants as a colony.

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      I don’t think Putin is much of a fan of Kadyrov, despite the necessity of acting that way. Kadyrov is completely unhousebroken and often causes problems for Putin by going way off script, and often in the CT direction (as opposed to the more expected direction, of saying things out of school). For instance, Kadyrov and another prominent Telegrammer went on a baseless attack on a general in theater (Lapin?). Amounted to slander of the general as well as denigration of the related troops. Others came in to show that the criticisms were false (and these weren’t gov’t connected people). Kadyrov didn’t apologize or correct his remarks despite obviously having done harm.

      It was admittedly many years back but Oliver Stone asked some pointed questions about Kadyrov and Putin had to tap dance a lot.

      Upon reflection, Kadyrov’s misbehavior may come from feeling he ought to be more of an insider than he is: “You don’t tell me what is going on so I have license to run my mouth.”

      1. Bruno

        But now Putin has successfully stifled the inconvenient Kadyrov by the most classic of means: “Promoting” him to the rank of General!

      2. Greg

        I think Kadyrov will be around for as long as he is useful, and will never get any closer to strategic theatre power. If I was to guess, purely from what I’ve read in the last 9 months, I’d say Kadyrov’s current primary function is to be the crazy foaming-at-the-mouth guard dog tightly chained in the yard. You want Putin around, because otherwise the dog might get loose.

        He has secondary functions that are important too. He’s absolutely fantastic for PR purposes inside Russia – the play acting at being a great general and the loose unit combat shenanigans go down very well with the war-pr0n market, who are otherwise starved by the tight opsec of the Russian military. This will be more important now LHR/DPR troops are under military rules, they were the other units that still had phones in combat zones previously.
        Lastly, I think the Muslim world is still very important to Putin, and Kadyrov’s boys are flagbearers for the value Russia places on its Muslim citizens.

  3. Patrick Donnelly

    The WHO, WEF IPCC have surely demonstrated that sovereignty is in the past. Bill Gates and others runs the world.

    They decide who gets invited to the WEF, Gold in Sacks top levels etc and become media backed super star politicians.

    The banking system is of no real interest to 90% of the world, the middle class are all mortgage slaves.

    Those who own most of the world find the system indispensible to move their borrowed funds into assets and then sell off those assets, bring real wealth to them.

    When the banking system failed, in Sept 2019, 10% overnight, they pressed a few previously prepared buttons. Timing is key. The end of cheap money, for them, was always going to happen and it will help them buy up the decent assets after the collapses.

    None of this should be a surprise? The WHO was an interesting fascist enrolment of previously trusted medical system, but with the Great Reset …

    We will own nothing. We will be happy.

    I wonder if the elite know what is coming with Solar disturbances climaxing in 2050 to 53?

  4. Candide

    This is the succinct, unblinkered vision the “mainstream” refuses to admit.

    Insight to the depth of Roosky hatred, built on decades of profitable
    anti-Russia fearmongering by the arms and political system is offered
    in a docudrama by a critic of Putin who began a long film to glorify
    a Western “human rights defender.” But investor William Browder cheated
    the Russian tax system of benefits intended for disabled workers, through
    shell companies and illegal tax breaks worth a third of a billion $.

    Halfway through “The Magnitsky Act: Behind the Scenes”
    filmed largely in Kiev, filmmaker Nekrasov confronted Browder as the facts
    contradicted the self-aggrandizing narrative that Browder published
    as he turned his theft into a US law creating sanctions against Russia.
    Browder’s wealth, applied through lawfare, prevented distribution in the
    US and Europe and meant that it only had sparse screenings, including one
    at the Newseum with Seymour Hersh leading the discussion. The film
    is a remarkable journalistic examination of the level of fraud possible
    when a framework of delusional ideology is firmly in place.

    Accessible here:
    One of the companies falsely accused in Browder’s narrative got a
    court ordered deposition in which the viewer gets to see the scam
    artist squirm. Six hours on Youtube.
    I had some long chores to do as the deposition ran in the background.

    1. Bob Gorman

      I’m reading Alex Krainer’s, Grand Deception: The Browder Hoax –

      Krainer’s twitter handle is:

      “Grand Deception” is a good chapter by chapter counter narrative to what eventually brought about the Magnitsky Act as outlined in Bill Browder’s: Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man’s Fight for Justice –

      Additionally, Chapter 4 – “Russia in the 1990s: The Missing Context” in “Grand Deception” is a very detailed recap of the Shock Therapy that contributed to Putin coming to power.

  5. Lex

    Yesterdays substack from commenter David is an excellent companion piece to this because it gets to the role of individuals in western politics and the liberal world order. (Trying to understand the world) And others have already noted the role of hubris. To the idea of neo-colonialism I’d add that sanctions and embargoes are generally considered acts of war under traditional international law. And the US uses them that way. So while capture and control of territory isn’t part of modern colonialism, coercion of economies very much still is. And that was always the point of colonialism.

    Colonialism is the primitive accumulation of foreign capital. And it appears that the US economy is as dependent on it as all the major European powers (poor and backwards in the 15th century) were from the 16th – 19th centuries.

    1. Revenant

      I was at a funeral last week (for the father of a friend) and some of our mutual friends came to support whom I have not seen in ten or fifteen years (one now a radical gender-queer tax reformer, the other His Majesty’s Ambassador to XYZ). I gave them a lift to the wake, out on the moor (glorious view for miles in the autumn sun), and over endless cups of tea and scones with clotted cream and jam, we caught up. It turns out His Excellency was personally responsible for managing the UK sanctions legislation against Russia. Contrary to conspiracy theory, it was a rush job rather than prepared for years. And they had not anticipated anywhere near the level of self sanctioning that occurred. Apparently they were very concerned about the unintended consequences! I’ll bet – I told him I had spent six months rescuing a portfolio company with a Russian minority investor and no Russian operations, whose bank had pulled its account even before the Russian was sanctioned!

      Both interlocutors had a bad case of the Putins but it was interesting when tax reformer took HMG to task for not trying to fix UK money laundering because all the biggest launderers have bought the politicians (or even worse, bought themselves sears in the House of Lords).

      Collegiality was restored when the texts that Liz Truss had been fired started arriving. They both approved of that. Apparently Penny Mordaunt was not liked as a replacement because she was thick as mince so Sunak it is….

      It was sad that the crusading zeal they both had had is now dissipated in identitarian politics and in reactionary foreign policy.

      I did enjoy teasing our Foreign Office man by mentioning Craig Murray repeatedly….

  6. Yves Smith Post author

    Apologies, launched an hour before fully done. If you were so kind as to comment before 7:55 AM, you might want to have a gander through the last bits.

    1. DJG, Reality Czar


      Excellent ending (after the long Putin quote).

      A question back at you: “What is the logic of sanctions? Readers can feel free to correct me, but it strikes me as a new and improved blockade, designed to starve the cordoned territory or nation into submission.”

      I’d call it torture. The U.S. sanctions against Iraq and Iran have amounted to torture of the population. The U.S. elites seem to have no intention of removing sanctions (ask the Cubans and the Iranians), so the idea of a sanction as a correction or punishment is not accurate. Sanctions are torture.

      A question about the U.S. and self-colonization, too, is this: Other ancient cultures like Iran and China have old technology, old breeds of crops, and older methods of manufacturing to fall back on. Where does the U S of A go in case of a reversal? Back to the 1950s? But all of the train tracks have been ripped out. Back to the 1920s? But so many agricultural skills, species of plants, and breeds of animals raised for food are gone.

      Back to the 1850s, when the South was a colony ruled by cotton?

      Or: Canticle for Leibowitz. What happens then?

      1. Candide

        Along with driving up the cost of independence, like depriving Iranian cancer patients including children of meds, the population is nudged into irritation and anger over the deprivations and the defensive measures forestalling overthrow. Iran today has been prepared by years and years of Congressional appropriations plowed into destabilization activities, plus the media connections to hype the results, and slogans offered as were the colored jackets etc in the “color revolutions” made for TV. So after the torture of the population we in the West can rally around women burning scarves and cutting off their hair. Years ago I recorded an interview for a journalist speaking with prominent Egyptian feminist Nawal Saadawi, whose pre-interview by the radio program Fresh Air led to multiple reschedulings until she was forced to withdraw. Her sin was to speak of the native strength of the MidEastern feminists and the arrogance of paternalistic Western projections on them. Not allowed on our air.

      2. Lex

        “What is the logic of sanctions?” What an interesting way to frame the situation. My first thought would be war by other means, or more simply: economic war. US leaders are open about the intent to make life so hard for the sanctioned population that either the government capitulates or the population overthrows that government. These are the same ends that military force is applied to meet. Your choice of “torture” to describe them is apt as well.

        If colonialism is the primitive of accumulation of foreign capital, then classifying US behavior as self-colonialism either becomes problematic or self-evident. Given that US neo-colonialism is primarily economic and often debt related, it would be reasonable to argue that there has been heavy self-colonization since the 80’s. That raises the question of how much further self-colonization is even possible.

        1. jsn

          “US leaders are open about the intent to make life so hard for the sanctioned population that either the government capitulates or the population overthrows that government. These are the same ends that military force is applied to meet.” This is certainly what our betters think they are doing. Actually doing this, however, would require understanding of the details of how the impacted systems actually work, which is a “deplorable” occupation now, along with any other direct engagement with reality.

          The American Oligarchy has bought the Libertarian notion that their own genius allows them to expropriate all surpluses anywhere. Looting, to my mind, is a better description of the process than self colonization from the Oligarchs perspective. From the deluded heights of US political institutions, on the other hand, reverse colonization is apt: we sent all the value adding real capital abroad.

          I read Philip Bobbitt’s “The Shield of Achilles” back in the late 90s and found his “Market State” formulation of the end game to the Neoliberalism project completely incoherent. Turns out, it is. Here we are, obliterating Western Civilization on delusional ideological grounds.

      3. Greg

        Speaking just to what I know about – there is an escape hatch for the monocropping fortunately. The vogue for organic or faux organic farming in the last two decades has increased the number of traditional landraces being grown in the USA for important crops.

        Similarly, there are large germplasm banks based in the USA. Dedicated seed bulking could turn some of those samples of foreign populations into viable (but probably low yielding) local crop populations.

        It would take a year or two of starving times to begin bulking seed, and the threat will be that the seed gets eaten before it can be planted during that transition. But some biodiversity is there, in limited forms.

  7. DGL

    The colonial mindset stains all relations. Certainly, most of the USA and its citizens are treated as ‘natives’. The masses were always trode upon. I think the self consumption of the USA started in the 1970’s with acceptance of LBO’s and free money. We will all be bowing and tugging on our forelock soon it hopes of getting a position in the manor house.

    1. chuck roast

      My friends are starting to get it. I would tell them, “Well, we are all rentiers.” They universally responded, “What’s a rentier?” My response was that we here in US really had no interest in making anything anymore or doing anything really productive. We were more interested in acquiring some sort of asset that we could leverage into a steady income…municipal bond, air b&b, rental unit…whatever. They got it immediately. I think they liked the way the word sounded. It kind of rolls off the tongue. More importantly, it sounds so benign that the exploitative connotation recedes in importance. Now they use it in their own narrative when we have conversations. Unfortunately, it does not appear to be helping them move towards opposition to the manor house.

  8. Mike

    Clearly from all of this talk and our current trajectory we have to ask where is the opportunity for ourselves going forward? I ask that myself since I have much time left on this earth, and my current profession will go by the wayside when the American economy unwinds.

    This is where the ignorant Econ majors or MAGA folks think we will simply onshore manufacturing in the future and apply some good ol’ American ingenuity. But isn’t the barrier for entry extremely high on every front? From excessive regulation, raw material sources (which right now are global) high property costs, lack of expertise/lost knowledge, our levels of technological progress that demands the high level of expertise for the products themselves. At first it will be about getting back to the basics, not necessarily about high end chips, or replacing Chinese Wally World crap. It will be about the parts that go into you car, homes, basic industry, etc. This out of necessity I suppose will be my focus for my career at some point. I just hope I can be ahead of curve with opportunities so I don’t become poor/starving/dead, such an interesting problem to ponder.

    1. Amfortas the hippie

      how to transform the slew of such insightful things into agency.
      from Hudson’s myriad offerings here to this weeks Das to noah smith’s….
      i’ve been after autarky(not “Autarchy”) for 20+ years…at least on my 5 acre portion of the farm.
      pouring a slab for the cabin for my eldest, 20 years of picking through the metal pile at the dump paid off, and i saved more than $1K on the structural steel in the form…old bent t-posts and such.
      “Think Like a State” it says at the back door to the Wilderness Bar…and on the shop wall, it says “all i want for xmas is the means of production”.
      …even though…as constantly pointed out to me over the years by the more affluent and/or educated visitors…the current system doesn’t work that way:ie: i can’t sell what i can make, because of barriers to entry and numerous other distortions meant to kick down on self-sufficiency(see: ivan illych, the war on subsistence)
      we’ve had “Bootstraps, Baby!!” shouted at us for most of my life…but were not allowed to actually bootstrap ourselves into non-precarity…because the big boys cheated shamelessly.
      but i endured and was tenacious.
      and now find myself on the cusp of being more self sufficient than anyone i know.
      aside from finishing the infrastructure at long last, all i lack is independent electricity generation….and labor, of course.
      my plan for the latter has long been based on the expectation of increasing precarity…the disconnect between high rents in the Barrio(s) and low low wages would eventually lead to young folks needing a place to be and something to do…(in effect, i went along with the general trends on high towards neofeudalism…but insist that my feudal enterprise will be decidedly egalitarian and socialist)
      i’m rambling….there’s a lot to process…
      i inadvertently found this guy, again(“known” him online for 20 years):

      which fleshes out a lot of what ive been ruminating on all these years.
      (he’s even more long winded than i am, btw)

      1. Return of the Bride of Joe Biden

        I wish I had a few acres and not just a quarter. My 26 year old won’t leave and the best I can do is to put him in a trailer on our long driveway. Still too close.

      2. Tom Pfotzer

        Earned your pay again today, Amfortas. I hope people are paying close attention to what Amfortas has to say.

        On another blog, yesterday, I noted a post to the effect that small-time real estate developers are now buying rural plots, and renting out pads for mini-homes. Business is booming (so the poster claimed).

        This is another signal on the trend-line Amfortas is sketching out. If the macro economy doesn’t need you, you must design an economy that _does_ need you. Is the macro economy signalling that your future is secure?

        Amfortas identifies a key hurdle that must be overcome: When new, local production processes are identified and built-out, they are:

        a. New. Small-scale. Operated by inexperienced crew. Inefficient.

        b. producing products which substitute for products available from the macro-economy, yet cost more, are less reliably available, etc. All the problems of spin-up.

        and therefore the inventors / operators of these new, local production processes must simultaneously invent, perfect, and operate production processes that produce products that – at the outset – are often more expensive, less functional than those available from the old, macro-economy.

        The Amfortas-es of the world have to be particularly brilliant, and highly motivated by non-monetary rewards. They must also be supported by (bought from) people in the local community that understand the awful challenges these pioneers are facing (and in some cases, overcoming!).

        In spite of all the obstacles, of-the-people, by-the-people production processes are surviving,and in some case thriving. Think “farmer’s markets”. In spite of all their problems (set out above), people still buy from those local farmers, and do so more frequently every day.

        There is a great motivation for this return-to-local production theme Amfortas is championing. Survival in a macro-economy that’s hostile to the little people is starting to move to the forefront of the motivation-set. And for good reason.

        So when the Amfortas-es of the world propound these local-production ideas, it’s not some progressive frippery. It’s based on a survival instinct.

        Amfortas has good instincts.

        1. Mike

          Totally agree here. I am a general contractor who for the last while has been building warehouses. Big jobs, sexy jobs. Though most are distribution centers for the Chinese crap I mentioned. So although I am a “builder” which will always be in demand to some level, my skills will not be as useful in a post modern US society. The guys that really know how to build like wood framers will be in more demand ( like you mentioned “an economy that _does_ need you”) since there will always be lots of saw mills and trees to fell vs pouring 20,000 CY of concrete to build a 500,000 SF warehouse won’t be necessary.

          I would say my family and I have come to some ideas similar to Amfortas, but are years away from fully implementing which is scary. My lofty goal is to be ahead of curve hopefully and not be a victim though we shall see!

        2. Amfortas the hippie

          i’m not paid.
          i do it for Love
          “and Amfortas rode forth in Adventure…and his battle-cry was “Amore!!”
          for to stave off misanthropy.

      3. Bruce F

        Wanted to say hi to a fellow “Feral Scholar” reader. Are you familiar with Goff’s book “Mammon’s Ecology“? While I’m not a Christian, I got a lot out of it.

        Proverbs 22:22 enjoins the reader, “Don’t take advantage of the poor just because you can.” Mammon’s Ecology is a systematic investigation into the mysterious nature of modern money, which confronts us with the perplexing fact that, in the global economy as it is, we take advantage of the poor whether we want to or not. We destroy natural systems whether we want to or not.

        Ched Myers describes Mammon’s Ecology as a “workbook” about “the secret life of money.” Where Prather and others have shown that money is one of the perverse Powers described in Ephesians 6, Mammon’s Ecology details precisely how money exercises this peculiar power and outlines suggestions for Christians who feel trapped in this complicity–not just as individuals, but as church. Mammon’s Ecology is not a book about economics (which the author calls “the world’s best antidote to insomnia”), but rather a book about the “deep ecology” of (post)modern power and injustice. Read individually or as a group, Mammon’s Ecology will leave you unable to think about money the same way again.

    2. Eureka Springs

      My experience as someone without inherited wealth or a willingness to work in a predatory field of FIRE and such so I can look at myself in the mirror, says prepare to change careers every 5 to 15 years for the rest of your life. And only buy a house if your mortgage can be 15 yrs or less.

      1. Mikel

        People have already been in that changing career mode. And it’s bèen going on for a couple generations – at least. Ask the often ignored Gen X.

    3. hemeantwell

      I don’t have time to develop this, but for an idea of a way forward we might just look back at discussions in the early 1940s regarding the US response to growing fascist influence in Latin America. Though ultimately stopped by Wall Street, Harry White and Henry Morgenthau proposed building hemispheric economic ties that involved aid for investment along with allowing countries to maintain capital controls, the latter provision being essential to putting an end to financial plundering (although you have to have locals with a solid orientation to national development, not financial hypertrophy). Eric Helleiner covers the ground well in his States and the Reemergence of Global Finance.. It ain’t socialism but it would be a huge improvement.

  9. Carolinian

    Thanks for this. As for Putin’s speech, that’s a slice of truth there. Gore Vidal blamed our turn to empire on WW2. He also didn’t like FDR who sent Vidal’s boyhood lover off to die in Iwo Jima and himself to the Aleutians and lifelong rheumatism from the cold. But Roosevelt was an avowed anti-imperialist and perhaps if he had lived there would be no empire, MIC, CIA. And also perhaps it’s true that for nations as well as individuals character is destiny and we have some very bad characters running things now.

  10. Stephen

    I think you are right.

    When the history of the approximate era 1945 to 2022 is written, one of the key themes will be that western colonialism never died but simply transformed away from European style territory acquisition. Instead, it became smarter and more invidious through the US achieving de facto control of many other countries (possibly the largest empire ever seen) but without the formality of governance. We like to pretend that the Age of Imperialism ended in the last century but we are really still living in it. The west’s numerous military misadventures will no doubt be seen by history in exactly the same light as Britain’s almost annual colonial expeditions in the nineteenth century.

    For good reasons, given that sanctions are the key practical issue right now, you focus on the economics but the colonial reach extends to values too. Putin’s pushback in some ways is classic conservatism: he opposes universal values and US style “liberal democracy” needing to be the template for the world. He could almost be Alexander I opposing the French Revolution. Instead, he charts a way forward that is anchored in Russian history and culture. The Chinese leadership seem to have a similar historical and cultural mentality. Our urge to cut and paste modern day woke values everywhere is just an update of the medieval Crusader mentality or the missionary zeal of the nineteenth century. And, of course, these specific “universal” woke values have been depicted that way in the west for less than a generation but now we are supposed to believe that anyone who does not or did not share them in the past is evil. The British secret service / MI6 head has even tweeted that our Rainbow values are what marks us out from Putin.

    This universal values ideology is all part of the general arrogance of western elites that is linked to their arrogance over sanctions. There is at least consistency, I guess. But I do have one question or pushback. You are being rational in your piece. Given the ideological underpinnings of much of this, I wonder if “leaders” even care that the sanctions are not working. Think of it perhaps as a religious ritual to show how much they hate Putin. “Look we even punish ourselves and we do not care because he is so evil”. I know it is stupid but religion and ideology often are.

    I therefore question whether sanctions being self defeating even matters to our feckless leaders. Is it a feature not a bug?

    1. Louis Fyne

      your comment deserves to be stickied somewhere. alas the people who most need to read this comment are the ones who are the most self-righteous and smug about their worldview.

    2. Thuto

      Thanks Stephen, the point about values is an important one. As an African I can tell you how it feels to be told, in subtle and not-so-subtle ways, that your values are due an upgrade (civilizing the natives and all), and to have to defend against attempts to subvert your cultural agency. The western elites project their values as universal so they can claim moral authority over the rest of humanity, and moral authority is a good excuse to bestow upon oneself the right to appropriate cultural and (geo)political authority over the entire world.

      1. Irrational

        Oh yes, values! I thought the EU was supposed to stand for peace, democracy and transparency as well as protection of minorities. Instead we are sponsoring a war in a corrupt country that has banned all opposition parties and has been shelling what is supposedly their own population for 8 years.
        What is even more striking is the UN turning totally partisan, notably SG Guterrres and the IAEA.
        At least there used to be pretense, but the masks have really come off.
        I feel betrayed by and ashamed of our “leaders”.

    3. JW

      I wonder whether the ‘religiosity’ surrounding many issues; ukraine, climate change, covid/vaccine response, woke, is itself a contrived thing. Is it used to brainwash the masses, to produce compliant populations? The global ( or at least western) elites are able to do what they want with the support of their underlings. The media is totally supportive of these ‘religious’ movements.

      1. Paradan

        Its a social hierarchy function that elites generate amongst themselves for in-fighting and entitlement from the masses they govern. It is a substitution for constant interpersonal violence and also facilitates group consensus via ostracism. It’s probably just they way human brains work.

    4. hunkerdown

      It doesn’t, because they are also weakening their antagonists and challengers at home through trade restrictions. Perhaps the home-front objectives are controlling objectives, i.e. the reason the otherwise mostly futile Ukraine spectacle was considered and pursued in the first place.

    5. digi_owl

      I think the one thing that distinguish US colonialism from historical colonialism is the lack of outright mass migration of Americans to settle and work foreign land.

      US colonialism is more akin to the trading companies period, but without the mercenary armies (the USMC serving that role instead).

    6. Amfortas the hippie

      “Putin’s pushback in some ways is classic conservatism: he opposes universal values and US style “liberal democracy” needing to be the template for the world.”

      i think that, rather, Putin is a radical(root) Enlightenment guy.
      all of his statements ive seen, since Munich, have been consistently about foreign policy ideals that would not be foreign(lol) to JS Mills or even Rawls.
      read the guys public statements,,,before the whole world.
      hes been telling us who he is since Munich.

      1. Amfortas the hippie

        betcha a beer that hes read habermas.

        ie: the latters response to the perceived failure of the Enlightenment:” we need more Enlightenment…”

  11. KLG

    Well done! When Putin finally and inevitably responded to our consistent and outrageous provocation of extending NATO to his western doorstep, despite promises made by James Baker to Gorbachev that NATO would go no farther than the former East Germany, I remember telling a friend [PMC, naturally ;-)] that Russia would be just fine and probably prevail in the end, with all the food it needs and more energy than it could ever use. Besides, the Russians are tough and have a lot of “friends” that we never really had. No need for Russia to sell VW, Mercedes, Audi and BMW in the West, but Germany? Now it seems that Western Europe, including the NATO members of Central Europe, might freeze in the dark in the coming months. For no good reason, and any so-called advantage experienced by the USA would be fleeting. All I got back was “Putin is evil.” The notion that NATO ceased to have a raison d’etre after the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact is simply unbelievable, even if Dick Cheney held that view for about 15 minutes 30 years ago. These people still see Russia and think Stalin. Now? Nuclear sabre rattling from a gaggle of absolute lunatics. But what if our leaders had replied to Putin when he mentioned that Russia as part of NATO might be a good thing, “Hmm, that is an interesting idea; let’s talk”? The mind, it reels. Sometimes I am actually glad to be old.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      I think of all the Canada/Jesusland memes after the 2004 election between Shrub and an Iraq War supporter who promised to fight it but SMRTer or stories of Americans pretending to be Canadian. Deep down they know the US is a thuggish country, but they desperately want to believe “America is Back.” Trump’s obvious buffonnery was a godsend because the could hold onto the hope that all the bad was caused by the Bad Man. Team Blue types have spent the year pimping Lynne Cheney as a hero. If they can rehabilitate Cheney, they can be absolved of Israel bulldozing/stealing Palestinian homes, Pelosi and her fellow torturers, Iraq, and so forth.

      Putin is evil, but Biden’s foreign policyover the years was um…the result of rules based order…that absolves us of all sins!!!

      This is the underlying attitude. Then I think the managerial class especially knows how overvalued they are.

    2. Art_DogCT

      KLG, I am unreservedly glad to be old. In part that’s because I have avoided death a few times when educated opinion suggested I wouldn’t. But much more than that, I am glad I am very unlikely to witness the worst of what I see ahead. I pity any child born today.

  12. The Rev Kev

    Not sure how to word this but today I was flicking through videos when I came across one from the original 1996 film “Independence Day”. And this article really reminded me of it, especially with the west’s refusal to countenance negotiations, so I will modify some of the script-

    Russia – ‘I know there is much we can learn from each other if we can negotiate a truce. We can find a way to coexist. Can there be a peace between us?’

    Collective West – ‘Peace. No peace.’

    Russia – ‘What is it you want us to do?’

    Collective West – ‘Die….’

    Then it really got on the nose-

    ‘They’re like locusts. They’re moving from (country) to (country), their whole (financial system). After they’ve consumed every natural resource they move on. And we’re next.’ (2:32 mins)

    In the same way that “Starship Troopers” had a subversive message against fascism, maybe “Independence Day” had a message against predatory capitalism which is what Russia is really fighting against.

      1. Kouros

        Russia is against Capital holding political power. An economy needs all kinds of inputs to function, including capital. Allowing the owners/managers of said capital to dictate political decisions is not in the cards in Russia, or China for that matter.

    1. digi_owl

      There was an odd number of moves in the 90s ragging on unfettered capitalism, even 007 got in on the act as best i recall. But all of them has either been memoryholed or redacted (see the latest Matrix movie pissing all over the message of the first one, where agent Smith classified humanity as a disease killing its host) over the years.

  13. Kristiina

    Thank you – I have come to similar thoughts. Most baffling is that all the propaganda-clamor entirely covers up the reality. Virtue-posing for Ukraine gets all the eyeballs, while basically destroying our own ability to produce income gets no eyeballs. Can it be that somehow the ability to reason from cause to effect has diminished so much that this sequence of events is impossible to understand? Or is it that those making decisions and running the propaganda show feel so securely insulated that it does not matter?

    It is extremely strange – giving a leg up to all the (until now) colonised world in form of reasonably priced russian resources, while martyr-like forgoing buying those resources for ourselves because Ukraine. I mean, it is long ovedue to balance things out with the colonised parts of the world. Sort of like poetic justice that an attempt at directing hatered towards russia ends up harming the haters themselves, and benefiting those wo have long suffered from the same haters. Maybe this is exactly how this is meant to happen. The atttempt at western civilization just loses its energy and either goes with a boom or a whimper. Some other civilization will follow.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      The insulation is important. It’s like Sagan noted about bad ideas only dying out. Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton were the last two Team Blue nominees. Neither is fit for any job, but unfortunately, people like Bill and Obama have been on king and choosing the Team Blue nomenclature. They aren’t picking rationale and decent people but the types who will tell them how great they are.

      The guy who is supposed to lead the US is an Iraq supporter and long time advocate of the policies that deindustrialized the US. The phony promise of free trade was America was so great we could command the little people’s around. The problem is a narcissist like Biden is going to assume America is great by virtue of having Biden as President, so the promise of ordering the little peoples’ around will be his go to.

  14. Louis Fyne

    —But with the US continuing to eyepoke China, particularly over Taiwan, it’s reckless to assume that China will follow Russia and hold back from economic retaliation.—

    China does not even have to retaliate, the West is self-immolating itself on so many different fronts: economic, social, cultural.

    If Xi can hold back his domestic hawks who scream “do something,” China can prevail like Dr. Oz (China) likely will beat Fetterman (the West)

  15. LAS

    I urge reading Fiona Hill’s “There is Nothing for You Here” in which she discusses the problem of de-industrialization and populism in three nations: Russia, England, and the USA. These three countries are not that different in having to deal with massive de-industrialization and dis-investment, which in all three cases left large segments of population to struggle economically. The three nations do differ in how they assign blame however. By design, Putin blames the Western nations and holds control over internal communications/media so as to promote unity at home within Russia and its aligned republics. Whereas in the USA the assignment of blame is done carelessly, dividing the democracy and stigmatizing/faulting internal groups/interests. Although western subjects can do this themselves without much assistance, Russia is pleased to help promote this disunity in both the USA and Europe; it’s part of the Kremlin’s empire building strategy to promote disfunction among western powers, starting years prior to the DJT administration. Russia has paid good money to western enablers to pursue these ends and it has also paid large sums to the most prestigious western law firms to help fight sanctions.

    The reason national security types might suppose that sanctions hurt Russia is because Russia has behaved in the past as if the sanctions indeed do hurt Putin in particular. It shows in the way Putin has fought past sanctions, including the Magnitsky acts. And if you don’t believe me, you may learn more by reading Bill Browder’s new book, “Freezing Order”.

    There are great social polarities in Russia just as there are among the western nations. There is economic pain in Russia just as there is among the western nations. Not more than a few years ago there were mass protests in Belarus, Georgia, and other republics against domination by Moscow. Perhaps the Ukrainian war will be won by the world empire which maintains sufficient integrity the longest without eating itself up out of spite. What else is there to hope for?

    I do not think the Ukraine war is something Biden/Bliken ever wanted. Maybe a few US arms or energy sector merchants do, but no one else. I don’t think Biden wants to overthrow Putin’s leadership. Maybe a few Russians do, though. Maybe more than a few. Khordokovsky once said that he thought Putin was subject to manipulation by bueaucrats who posited to Putin that his political rivals might be gaining on him.

    In the past, around 2006 for instance, Putin used control over natural gas to punish Ukraine and Bylerus for gazing westward. So this too is part of Putin’s historical behavior. The west should probably have predicted it earlier and designed protections. One might ask why this did not happen.

    1. JohnA

      Re Russia is pleased to help promote this disunity in both the USA and Europe; it’s part of the Kremlin’s empire building strategy to promote disfunction among western powers

      I dont think Russia has shown any desire for empire building. The other soviet republics were a huge financial drain on Russia. Now it is about responsibility to protect Russian speakers in former soviet republics.
      Secondly the Kremlin is less bothered about promoting disunity in the US and EU as such, more determined to prevent athem promoting disunity/trying to break Russia up into smaller, weaker parts for exploitation of natural resources.
      As for what Biden wants, the war in Ukraine is what the neocons, the Kagan-Nuland gang etc., certainly want, with the aim of weakening Russia. Biden has indeed expressly stated the aim is to remove Putin on various occasions. As for Russians, sure Atlanticists and liberals there are against him, but otherwise Putin has an 80% or so popularity rating. Russians understand this is an existential war for them. As for punishing Ukraine, they were stealing gas by syphoning gas from the pipelines.

      Sadly, as was shown in the Trump impeachment proceedings, Fiona Hill is a rabid russophobe, while Browder is a fraudster who stole millions from Russia and has lied about pretty much everything related to Russia. Hardly impeccable sources worth quoting, TBH.

      1. LAS

        Fiona Hill is NOT a rabid russophobe. She does not think that Putin is the west’s worst enemy. She thinks that the west is doing its own self in by not understanding the nature of populism in the west. That is one of the things interesting in her analysis.

        1. hunkerdown

          Have you ever considered that the entire world ex the professional-managerial classes will be much better off when the professional-managerial classes and the whiny moral baby-drama they force on other people have been totally abolished?

    2. Polar Socialist

      In the past, around 2006 for instance, Putin used control over natural gas to punish Ukraine and Bylerus for gazing westward.

      There’s too much wrong with what you wrote it’s almost impossible to refute it all, so I focus on this claim.
      The gas dispute between Gasprom (Russia) and Naftogaz (Ukraine) has pretty much nothing to do with Putin punishing Ukraine (and even less Punishing Belarus!) for gazing westward. It had everything to do with Naftogaz being unable to pay* for gas delivered and then stealing gas it was supposed to transmit to EU. After several futile attempts by Gasprom to get the due payments and ensure safe delivery of the gas to paying clients, it promptly cut the gas flow.

      Then it became political involving politicians from Ukraine, Russia and EU. IIRC, eventually EU paid the bill (since it needed the gas) and flow was resumed. At the time Putin made it clear the Russian government had nothing to do with a business decision to not deliver gas to an unreliable client.

      A few year after this “incident” Germany and Russia started construction of Nord Stream 2 pipeline so that Ukraine could cause no more problems with EU’s energy access.

      * EU aid earmarked for this had disappeared somehow

      1. Stephen

        Thanks for this. I have seen other comments elsewhere alleging that “”Putin” played games with Ukrainian and Polish gas supplies in the past. Evidence as to the precise causes (as ever) was not presented so the type of thing that is hard to refute. This is very interesting.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Even Wikipedia, hardly a friend of Putin or Russia, has a very detailed account on the 2005-2006 gas dispute that disproves LAS’s claims.

          And he is completely Making Shit Up on his assertion re Hill not being a Putin hater. Just Google “Fiona Hill on Putin” and see the nonsense that comes up, like “Putin is engaging in nuclear blackmail.”

          I do not like having to spend time in comments cleaning up disinformation.

    3. anon in so cal

      Not to be rude but just about everything in that post is utter balderdash. Small wonder, since you reference fabulist Fiona Hill.

      Fiona Hill is only a few steps removed from Louse Mensch. Clinical-level Russophobes who truck in lies and smears. Fiona Hill was mentored by Richard Pipes and funded by UA oligarch Pinchuk while at the Brookings Institute (regime change, inc). Fiona’s task was to generate regime change schemes, along w Strobe Talbott, Clifford Gaddy, etc.

      Please read Lucy Komisar and others to learn what a dangerous liar and fraud Bill Browder is.

    4. OIFVet

      Does LAS stand for ‘Liberal Arts and Sciences?’ I ask, because reading your post gave me an unpleasant flashback to my own LAS days in an institution of higher miseducation right at the turn of the century. I remembered spouting (and submitting for grading) similarly uniformed and one-sided screeds. You see, my time in LAS coincided with Billy Clinton’s decision to pi$$ on James Baker’s promise not to expand NATO eastward and as a recent emigre from Eastern Europe I was very eager to get on with the program. I had a professor, though, who was rather hard on my and my classmates’ desire to argue for NATO’s expansion. His name is John Mearsheimer and we all thought we knew better than him. Some of us still think that, though I am very much out of that group.

      Why am I saying this? Because in retrospect I can see how LAS departments were beginning their transition from places of inquiry and exploration into places where dogma was created and fed into undergrads, with undergrads themselves demanding that transition as it would decrease the need for the intellectual exertion and cognitive dissonance which characterized traditional liberal arts education. So, if you are an undergrad, a graduate, or heaven help us, an aspiring LAS prof, I implore you – reconsider your ways and how much work you put into research and thought before you write something so risibly false and one-sided as to make me lose my breakfast.

      Thank you in advance.

  16. Tom Pfotzer

    Russia has won the PR war in the non-West.

    The U.S. is now in wreck-the-board desperation mode. Maybe the world will survive that tantrum. It’s uncertain.

    If it turns out that nukes are not used, then we Westerners will have to face the full wrath of the extortionists ourselves. If theft from others fails, then theft from us is next.

    If we are to defend ourselves, we’re going to need better communications, better team-building, and a galaxy of new innovation at the local (household and village ) level.

    We are next. Do you feel that we are prepared to face this challenge?


    Even if we weren’t facing gangs of thieves, we do now and will continue to face the problems of environment, and the systematic elimination of labor in the macro-economy production processes.

    If we weren’t trying to dodge nukes, these would be our ordinal threats.

    1. Thuto

      Tom, Russia didn’t even have to get out of second gear to win the PR war in the non-western world, it was handed victory on a platter by western arrogance and hypocrisy. When the global south was asking how this war was different from others waged by the US/Nato, the standard response was moralizing lectures employing the liberal use of the new term du jour, “whataboutism”. I think the Russians realised early on that trying to win the PR war in the west was a fool’s errand, too many brains were scrambled by the unprecedented wave of propaganda that was unleashed on westerners, and focused their efforts elsewhere. Much of western war propaganda elicits a collective yawn in the non-western world.

      Regarding the US being in “wreck the board desperation mode” we are on a terror alert here in Johannesburg issued by the US embassy. The timing of this alert is what has people talking, issued as it was a day after our government reaffirmed its stance on non-UN approved sanctions imposed unilaterally by blocs/countries by stating that the yacht of a sanctioned Russian billionaire currently sailing towards Cape Town can dock at any of the country’s ports and will not be seized as South Africa is not party to the sanctions. The empire is lashing out.

    2. LAS

      “Russia has won the PR war in the non-West.”

      Yes, and how exactly do they do that? Through autocratic control of the media and murder of journalists. Any criticism there and you’d better heave your ass out before you get arrested or killed.

      1. Thuto

        Russia has autocratic control of the media in the global south? And engages in extra territorial elimination of journalists? In which global south countries does Russia have autocratic control over the media? I get that the internet has no editor in chief but that’s no license to peddle nonsense like this…

      2. Polar Socialist

        And yet even the Western media just reported huge amount of criticism against Putin’s handling of Special Military Operation in Russian media. But no reports of legions of journalist being murdered.

        Remember that time, when Russian police tried to frame that one journalist as a protestor since they had detained him and the whole Russian media turned against the police officers who were sacked and punished. It was probably buried under all the demands to free Assange in western media. No, wait…

        I’m not claiming things are perfect in Russia, but it sure ain’t as horrible as it’s made to be. Rest assured that Russians don’t trust their media, no matter if it’s pro or against the government.

        And for what it’s worth, Ukraine has always been much more dangerous place for journalist than Russia.

      3. anon in so cal

        Russia does not kill journalists but the US does. That is arguably why Julian Assange is rotting in prison—for exposing this feature.

    3. OIFVet

      “If theft from others fails, then theft from us is next.”

      Tom, theft from us began long time ago. I think that NC has been reporting this very thing since the day it was founded.

  17. JohnnyGL

    “What is the logic of sanctions?”

    I’ll take a crack at this one. I think, partially, sanctions are an admission that attempts at regime change have failed and the strategy has switched towards one of ‘containment’ via exclusion through secondary sanctions.

    An independent country with a regime that is just too disagreeable to be accepted needs to be cast out of the club and made to look like an example of failure (at least on its face with economic stats) of a ‘problem child’ who refused to learn their lesson and now is useful to scare the others in the region. This is as much a propaganda operation on the US audience as it is on the locals who are subject to the sanctions.

    There can be (and perhaps needs to be) cast-offs from the ‘chosen’ people, but the cast-offs can’t be seen to be successful, lest others might seek to follow them.

    From that stand point, sanctions on Cuba are a success. Most Americans, by and large, don’t see Cuba as a ‘successful country’. They see it as a nation with unfulfilled potential, a victim of a callous regime that cuts them off out of spite and refuses to engage with the west because it’s worried about a 1990-style outcome since Cuba was the last domino left standing after the communist block countries embraced ‘democracy’ and ‘capitalism’.

    None of the above regarding Cuba is true, of course, but it sounds logical enough to Americans and it’s reinforced by the nutty Cuban exiles in Miami who comprise the primary source of information to an American audience. Inconvenient facts like Cubans’ longer, healthier lives than ours can just be airbrushed away.

    The ‘sanctions as exile and containment’ strategy is only upended by the rise of China, and now a few other big and/or strategically important countries (India, Pakistan, Turkey) that act as customers for commodity exporters. Without China as a buyer-of-last-resort, countries like Russia, Iran, Venezuela would all struggle much more than they are. The bone-headed foreign policy of the USA is very helpfully putting together an assemblage of ready-made vassal states for China.

    1. Anthony G Stegman

      Sanctions are merely war by other means. In the nuclear age it is too dangerous to militarily confront Russia and China, so sanctions and various trade rules are substituted for bombs and missiles. The intent of these actions by the West is to force Russia and China to capitulate without risking nuclear war. At least that is the thought process. However, it is easy to miscalculate and bring on the very thing you wish to avoid – a hot war involving the release of nuclear weapons. The Biden administration is playing a dangerous and reckless game. How did this happen? Can the world afford to wait until 2024 to be rid of Biden and his close circle of lunatic advisors?

  18. KD

    Quite a few business analysts have pointed out that many advanced chip makers in China will take significant revenue hits, to the degree that it will lead to cuts in their R&D budgets that are likely to exceed US subsidy levels.

    I assign the likelihood that R&D on new chips and fab production in China falls below US subsidy levels at zero. The nice thing about a Communist Dictatorship is there are lots of means of making sure things happen that you want to happen.

    One of the biggest economic risk of a Taiwan expedition is the destruction of the chip industry on Taiwan, so being able to substitute for Taiwan’s loss of manufacturing capacity is undoubtedly key to any long-term plan for the “liberation” of Taiwan from the foreigners.

    Further, Sanders was critical of the US subsidies, because there is no oversight to prevent the money being used for share-buy backs or overpriced mergers or the rest of the games executives play.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      You misread my remark, which I admit was not as clear as it should have been. We’ve banged on regularly with comments in daily Links about how the US chip sanctions on China will backfire, not immediately but over the intermediate to long term.

      The US advanced chip makers in China [and US sellers of advanced chips to China] are having their current large revenues from China cut off. The US companies are losing revenues that will lead to big reductions in their R&D budgets in excess of the US subsidy package just passed.

  19. Robert Hahl

    I feel that everything above misses the most important thing that has changed since the end of the cold war: Russia has won the arms race. I used to read Jane’s with professional interest but have not done that for twenty years. Imagine my surprise to see videos of Russia’s Ka-32 helicopter with counter-rotating main rotors. Why doesn’t the US have that? (I think I know why, it was too hard to do.) The Su-57 fighter strikes me like I am looking at an alien spacecraft. Anti-missile defense systems? I actually believed the official excuses for why these don’t really work (trying to hit a bullet with a bullet) and probably never will.

    So what does a fading power do when a rival is getting stronger as it is getting weaker by the day? Go to war as soon as possible, while there is still a chance. Why disable Europe? Perhaps because they might join the Eurasians, but certainly to strengthen the dollar by destroying the euro. Then “Biden” will figure out what to do next.

    1. juno mas

      The arms race that Russia has won is the development of military equipment that functions on the type of battle that destroys the enemy, at a reasonable cost of production: the helicopters, the fighter jets, the artillery, the rockets (Flamethrowers). While defending itself with technologies that either intercept or confound the enemies projections.

      But doing that required confidence in their ability sustain an economy and function in a New World Order; Russia’s ability to gain partners in their vision for a multipolar world.

      Ultimately, you’re correct. Diplomacy has no traction in the West, so it is Might makes Right.

      1. Acacia

        The ability to gain partners… like China? ;)

        And the US is now pushing the Chinese into a closer partnership with Russia.

    2. Polar Socialist

      On a slight tangent to this discussion the Russian MoD announced today the first combat kill by long-range R-37 air-to-air missile. Apparently a Russian Mig-31BM shot down an Ukrainian Su-24MR reconnaissance aircraft (scanning Belgorod area air-defenses) in Poltava region from a distance of 150 km.

      They also said that both the experimental A-100 AWACS planes have been deployed to support the SMO. They did not reveal if the Mig-31 got the targeting info from the A-100, though.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        Andrei Martyanov has been going on about the Russian military being fully networked, as in all major equipment talks to each other. A much better use of IoT concept than having your fridge spy on you.

        Even if only partly implemented, this capability would have massive implications.

        The reason I doubt it is it would take a shit ton of comms bandwidth and processing capability.

        Maybe Russia is building the capability into the nodes while refining the links and mother ship.

        BTW is this the same kill Martyanov talked about? He said it was 217km and thought it was a S400:

        Sorry a vid, relevant discussion starts IIRC at 15:00 or at the latest 16:00.

        1. Polar Socialist

          No. There were two long range kills in a few days; the other by S-400 and the other by Mig-31. I’m not totally sure about the range of the Mig-31 shot, since they only stated “at the limit”, which is about 150 km (in a direct attack mode, in a glide path mode against less maneuvering targets it’s much longer).

          Makes one wonder if they were just testing the operational limits of the system in real conditions or sending a subtle message regarding any possible 3rd party intervention. Maybe a bit of both.

    3. Yves Smith Post author

      Russia didn’t set out to prepare for a serious conflict with the West until 2014. That was the result of the Maidan coup, which in turn was over a trade deal to pull Ukraine firmly out of Russia’s and into the EU’s economic orbit. They were still developing a more battle-ready military but the serious scaling up did not begin until then.

      I recall one reader pointing out that Putin was having to run around the Russian hinterland ~2016 and basically apologize for certain program (infrastructure?) not delivering as much as they were supposed to. This reader surmised it was due to diverting resources to arms manufacture.

  20. Mikel

    Slouching towards?
    Could very well be shifting into fifth gear and about to put the pedal to the metal.

  21. Boomheist

    It is shocking, actually, to see us in the USA revealed as predatory colonialists, writ large and clear, unmistakably. Sanctions are economic warfare, period. Imagine the rage of those many peoples who have lived under such for one, two, three generations. I argued when this SMO began in late February that in the end it will be Russia that emerges as the primary power of the 21st century, not China, not India or Brazil, and not the USA, because while Russia and the USA both have land, energy resources, the ability to feed themselves, and an educated scientific community, the USA has deindustrialized, has twice the number of people, and contains a population that has no memory really of suffering, war, hardship, or disaster. Whatever Russia’s people went through in the 1990s after the collapse of the Soviet Union is exactly what we in the US will experience in the near future, I fear.

    Ironically, and sadly, there were some in the US who saw the future and what needed to be done, now over a half century ago. I am old enough to remember The Whole Earth Catalogue, Stuart Brand’s tome. You can buy a copy on Amazon now for $ 350, actually. While somehow that book was merged into a crunchy hippie-oriented view by the first “woke” peoples, the new environmentalists, if you actually remember that book it was a terrific primer in how to survive in scarcity, make do with what you have, prosper on a small scale. This was a toolbox matching the Small in Beautiful paradigm, which emerged at the same time. All now buried and forgotten, but today as true as ever. Truer, actually. This is the future we must face, and will face, as things come apart. The effect will be a huge and striking change in living standards, especially for anyone in McMansions or the suburbs, and cities, and we won;t react well to it, I fear. We will react with rage and violence. This is why, though we have land and energy, we won’t prosper, and why Russia will. We will eventually prosper, I think, after a damn hard generation, and in the end I see two sort of hedgemons – Russia in Eurasia and we in the Americas. Two autarkies, really.

    It is going to be difficult.

    1. LAS

      The US was born predatory or exploitative under Columbus and his fellow explorers, funded as they were by aristocrats and stock funds. But is the nation uniquely so? That I would question.

      1. Stephen

        It is not unique.

        Not uniquely evil but not uniquely virtuous either.

        The problem is that many people claim it is the latter and assert their right to rule the world based on that.

        All empires in history have done the same. The same Romans who fed people to lions saw all outsiders as barbarians.

        We understand the hypocrisy when it applies to other civilisations but fail to look at ourselves in the same way.

    2. JoeC100

      There are lots of versions of the Whole Earth Catalog available for less than $20! The current MIT press “Whole Earth Field Guide” and “The Essential Whole Earth Catalog” are two examples. I should have checked Amazon before I took my early versions (now very pricy) to my local recycling center!

      1. MaryLand

        I had an original Whole Earth Catalog and it was fun to peruse. But for a real practical DIY live on the land type book I prefer Carla Emery’s Encyclopedia of Country Living. It’s well organized (the Whole Earth Catalog is not) and full of tips gleaned from actually living on a mostly self-sufficient farm.

  22. KD

    Increasingly it appears that the Globalist’s and the Blob sat down and read Lenin’s essay on Imperialism and interpreted it as a how-to manual:

    The principal feature of the latest stage of capitalism is the domination of monopolist associations of big employers. These monopolies are most firmly established when all the sources of raw materials are captured by one group, and we have seen with what zeal the international capitalist associations exert every effort to deprive their rivals of all opportunity of competing, to buy up, for example, ironfields, oilfields, etc. Colonial possession alone gives the monopolies complete guarantee against all contingencies in the struggle against competitors, including the case of the adversary wanting to be protected by a law establishing a state monopoly. The more capitalism is developed, the more strongly the shortage of raw materials is felt, the more intense the competition and the hunt for sources of raw materials throughout the whole world, the more desperate the struggle for the acquisition of colonies.

    Imperialism is a striving for annexations—this is what the political part of Kautsky’s definition amounts to. It is correct, but very incomplete, for politically, imperialism is, in general, a striving towards violence and reaction. For the moment, however, we are interested in the economic aspect of the question, which Kautsky himself introduced into his definition. The inaccuracies in Kautsky’s definition are glaring. The characteristic feature of imperialism is not industrial but finance capital. It is not an accident that in France it was precisely the extraordinarily rapid development of finance capital, and the weakening of industrial capital, that from the eighties onwards gave rise to the extreme intensification of annexationist (colonial) policy. The characteristic feature of imperialism is precisely that it strives to annex not only agrarian territories, but even most highly industrialised regions (German appetite for Belgium; French appetite for Lorraine), because (1) the fact that the world is already partitioned obliges those contemplating a redivision to reach out for every kind of territory, and (2) an essential feature of imperialism is the rivalry between several great powers in the striving for hegemony, i.e., for the conquest of territory, not so much directly for themselves as to weaken the adversary and undermine his hegemony. (Belgium is particularly important for Germany as a base for operations against Britain; Britain needs Baghdad as a base for operations against Germany, etc.)

    1. digi_owl

      That is how it seems to play out again and again, stories meant to warn the publics turned into memes for the young and how to manuals for the powerful…

  23. Paul Harvey 0swald

    I haven’t fully read this post – I started at breakfast and can’t get back to it – so apologies if this already came up. I love the (likely inadvertent) typo disasterr in the fifth paragraph. The “err” at the end packs a wallop. Disaster + Error, with Error bringing with it the baggage of incompetence, or at least some brand of agency. I think I’m going to adopt this word. I wanted to get this posted before I forget entirely. And (if I am any example) posts generally don’t get read a day later. Carry on.

  24. Anthony G Stegman

    If history occurs in cycles, and empires come and go within those cycles, the US empire will end when a major conflagration happens. Those running the show in DC and London think they can maintain the Empire by constantly bullying the rest of the world. They are wrong. All they are doing is hastening the end of the Empire. History shows that the end will come, and attempts to preserve it will fail. Biden may well be presiding over the end of the US global empire. His feeble mind of course is unable to comprehend this. With this being said, the world will be better off with the collapse of the Empire. We should quietly applaud the colonialist West’s fecklessness.

  25. Otis B Driftwood

    Related to this is the backlist of Jennifer Briney’s Congressional Dish podcast. Started back in 2012 by someone with a peculiar nerdy interest in digging in to the goings on in the US Congress, Briney has several important episodes covering what our government has been up to in Ukraine. It is remarkable listening and predicts everything that has happened this year.

    Here are two from 2015

    CD068: Ukraine Aid Bill
    CD078: ISIS ISIL Bogeyman

  26. spud

    this is correct,

    “The West is ready to cross every line to preserve the neo-colonial system which allows it to live off the world, to plunder it thanks to the domination of the dollar and technology, to collect an actual tribute from humanity, to extract its primary source of unearned prosperity, the rent paid to the hegemon. The preservation of this annuity is their main, real and absolutely self-serving motivation. This is why total de-sovereignisation is in their interest. This explains their aggression towards independent states, traditional values and authentic cultures, their attempts to undermine international and integration processes, new global currencies and technological development centres they cannot control. It is critically important for them to force all countries to surrender their sovereignty to the United States.”

    and this,

    “I want to underscore again that their insatiability and determination to preserve their unfettered dominance are the real causes of the hybrid war that the collective West is waging against Russia. They do not want us to be free; they want us to be a colony. They do not want equal cooperation; they want to loot. They do not want to see us a free society, but a mass of soulless slaves.”

    also this,

    “Now this may seem a bit overheated, but the direction of Western capitalism under neoliberalism has been to weaken national sovereignity, which in turn allows multinational corporations to successfully contest nation-based efforts to protect their people, such as labor and environmental laws. And even before the off-shoring and globalization were as far advanced as now, the US saw fit to overthrow governments that stood in the way of its resource-grabs, witness the CIA’s successful 1953 coup against Iran’s Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh or the 1954 coup in Guatemala.”

    you have to remember, free traders see everything completely different than you and i, everything, and i mean everything is viewed as prey including their own seed corn.

    singapore is simply geographical luck.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Your comment about Singapore is incorrect. When it was cut loose from the UK, it has nothing going for it. No resources, no pre-existing wealth, no pre-existing commercial footprint. Papers on the rise of Singapore all stress these points.

      Lew Kwan Yew recognized that Asia needed a perceived to be clean business hub. He set out to produce a highly educated population and clean government. His formula for the latter was to pay top bureaucrats at the same level as top level private sector professionals (not top businessmen but top law firm partners, so as to prevent revolving-door incentives and to give the bureaucrats the perceived clout to stare down businessmen) and independent and extremely vigilant internal audit.

      Singapore is also not afraid to use less than upstanding methods outside Singapore. A colleague has a friend who was given a billion dollars by the Singapore government to get the big drug co’s to locate their Asian manufacturing in Singapore. You can be sure some of this was bribes as well as “incentives”.

      The Singapore government official remarked, “Well, my effort was a failure. I got only 17 out of 20.”

      There was also a lot of chicanery to get the major airlines to run as many flights out of Singapore as they do v. the better located Bangkok and even Kuala Lumpur.

      1. SocalJimObjects

        Not to mention, Singapore is also the number one choice of South East Asia’s elites when they need to launder money.

        Having lived in Singapore before for many years, A lot of Singaporeans know that it’s countries like Indonesia that are buttering their bread. It makes sense though. A couple of missiles into Singapore’s city center, and it’s pretty much bye bye Singapore so instead they chose to become the Switzerland of South East Asia. I said this in a different post, but with good management like they have in Singapore, karma might not come into play EVER.

  27. vegeholic

    Who is allowed to have a Monroe Doctrine? We have had one since the 1820’s and it persists today. I never agreed with the concept, but if we are going to have it, aren’t other major powers entitled to their own Monroe Doctrine? We shouldn’t be meddling in Cuba and Venezuela, Russia shouldn’t be meddling in Ukraine, and China shouldn’t be meddling in Taiwan. But our rules permit this behavior. I think the US is struggling in a transition from a (short lived) unipolar world to a multipolar world. Reindustrialization is part of this transition as is reassessing the forbidden topic of resource depletion, etc.

    1. caucus99percenter

      China isn’t “meddling” in Taiwan, unless one wants to take a totally ahistorical approach. A few reminders:

      What we now call “Taiwan” was long synonymous with the Kuomintang, a former government of China that invaded the island of Formosa after losing the Chinese civil war.

      In retreating to the island, the Kuomintang regime looted and took with it every bit of China’s financial and cultural assets it could steal.

      Toward the island’s original inhabitants, it behaved like an occupying power, in 1947 going so far as to murder 20,000 civilians.

      It occupied China’s seat in the U.N. and other international bodies for 30+ years.

      Officially, to this day it still defines itself as being the “real” government of China.

  28. HH

    There is a measure of poetic justice in the fact that the U.S. Neocons have become a monster that has turned on its plutocrat creators. Everything must now be sacrificed to enable endless economic war in the name of neoliberal hegemony. Apple, Amazon, and Walmart get to watch their asian markets and supply chains disintegrate as the Neocon zealots pursue their rules-based fantasies.

Comments are closed.