We Join Mark Sleboda on the Latest Gonzalo Lira Roundtable at 2:00 AM EDT

I hope you’ll be able to take the time to watch Gonzalo Lira hosting a discussion with Mark Sleboba, an international affairs and political security analyst and faculty member at Moscow State University, and your humble blogger on the escalating financial and geopolitical stress and possible military moves coming out of the conflict in Ukraine.


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  1. BillC

    Sorry your connection went down hard during the last 10-15 min. Would really like to have heard your response to a couple issues that then arose:

    * Italy having milder weather and more gas transport alternatives, it may suffer less social/industrial degradation then its EU co-conspirators. I might agree wrt food supply and residential heating, but even if its gas supply is less diminished than Germany’s, won’t EU-wide gas prices harm Italy’s industrial base at least as much as Germany’s?
    * Where will Europe be in 5 years?

    BTW, as I hope you heard, Gonzalo gave NC a strong, fact-based endorsement at the close.

  2. BillS

    Great conversation! I caught the last hour and I am sorry that Yves dropped out.

    Re: Italy –
    1) The country’s industry relies heavily on gas and is suffering badly. Confindustria has issued warnings, but unfortunately, some seem to have drunk the “EU price cap” koolaid. (https://www.confindustria.it/home) For example, metals industry is under threat. All forms of manufacturing seem to be winding down, contributing to supply shocks. Cement production costs have skyrocketed. Even the famed Murano glass industry, a centuries-old part of Venetian culture, is dying.
    2) Italy is in many ways still an agricultural country, but energy inputs are high here as well. If you can’t get chemical fertilizers, then you need animal manure – but animal raising is also energy intensive as well (for producing animal feed and hay/straw). There is no way out. There are many “hobby farmers” that experiment with things like permaculture, but this is not at the level where you can feed 60 million.
    3) I keep hearing that “Italy is a warm country.” Those who live in the extensive Italian alpine regions would take issue with that. Despite global warming, temperatures for those living above 1500 meters dip to -10 to -20 degrees C on a regular basis. Heating is absolutely essential under these conditions. Granted, in many mountain communities, wood heating is common, but gas is still the main heating fuel in modern houses.

    I cannot predict where things will go if the crisis continues. Italians (and probably many other Europeans) seem to have descended into a kind of depressive funk mixed with seething anger. They do not know what to do yet. I think the Nordstream sabotage has been a bit of a wake-up call. I know of no one who believes that the Russians are responsible for it, but there is a hesitance to believe that our own allies and governments would self-harm to such an extent. Also, all the nuclear talk is bringing out a wide range of behaviors – from “eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die” to anguished depression. Mark my words, people are VERY angry, but they are not yet sure where to direct their anger.

    1. Revenant

      THIS! “Mark my words, people are VERY angry, but they are not yet sure where to direct their anger.”

      My feeling is that the situation in the European periphery only takes a spark.

      The periphery is Italy, the UK, France these days, and the Netherlands, which is very truculent these days.

      I don’t think the situation is as febrile in West German, Austria and Switzerland nor in Denmark and Scandinavia because these countries are the geographical and political centre of the EU/EFTA and have the strongest welfare systems to blunt the pain. Not in Spain and Portugal either, they have their own energy arrangements so the tinder is not so dry there either. Certainly not in Eastern Europe, they are hopelessly in thrall to their own russia-phobia and they still have a higher personal and system tolerance for austerity from communist days.

      1. Werther

        You mention the Netherlands in the aspect of anger and just a spark needed…

        I don’t see it at this moment. There’s a general scepsis, trust in the government is lowest since the 2013 austerity-period. From my own experience, I hear complaints and sometimes outrage when expiring household energy contracts lead to exploding new bills. I see the protest banners along countryside roads and on farm-yards against the nitrogen-policy. But it is not canalized in a comprehensive movement, bound in a coherent analysis and headed by competent spokespeople.

        As for me, you may call me defeatist… I can not see how, outside of my own small scope of influence, I could have any impact on general providence. Even within that small scope I sense a strong dislike with people to even discuss the whole situation in a nuanced, not one-sided fashion. Some colleagues believe most or all stories of ‘Russia war-crimes’. My friends at a Sunday-afternoon pub-visit laugh about Putin’s failure and bragg on the Ukies resistance.
        The news-media are awfully one-sided. Politics? There’s just one small right-wing party that loves poking up attention by endorsing Putin’s leadership. They’re the focus of theatrical disgust for all other politicians.
        So there’s that… the situation might change when things become a lot worse.

        Personally, I see this all on a more abstract level. I was fifteen when the Club of Rome came out with their report. The graphs in that report all pointed to a collapse after 2020. I know the criticism. I know it was a model, it doesn’t exactly have to be a complete collapse. But I see no competent leadership to cope with the dénouement in a practical and humane way. This whole stand-off West-SCO (it’s broader than the Ukraine drama) is maybe one of many appearances of the collapse. The stupid fight for the last resources to support a doomed lifestyle.
        I fear our leadership and hélas the innocence of a lot of the populace may be heading to speed the collapse with a bang.

        1. Ignacio

          Borrell says it is now trendy in Brussels (the Brussels he sees and talks to) to talk about the “geopolitical awakening of the EU”. How out of line are these Brussels Eurocrats out of contact with the reality just outside their buildings and cafeterias? That’s a question I leave for you, not far from this.

    2. Acacia

      I know of no one who believes that the Russians are responsible for it, but …

      The Rev Kev had IMHO the best analogy for this:

      If you were playing cards and received two aces, would you burn them in sight of the other players to convince them that you were serious?

    3. Rubicon

      Our Italian friend who lives in Bologna, observes that the majority of Northern Italians remain quite complacent towards the huge rise in energy costs. He notes, in portions of Southern Italy, especially Naples, folks there are far more angry about the issue.

      Some of this northern complacency may be due to how Italy, Spain, Greece, Portugal were viscerally treated when they were forced, by much higher powers, into joining EU. Since then, civil service pay has hit rock bottom; including teacher pay. Taxes have increased radically, and the privatization of freeways has cost them dearly. As a direct result, hundreds of thousands of young Italians have long since left their native land.

  3. The Rev Kev

    Whew! Talk about a far ranging conversation – which was most enjoyable. Looks like those internet connections proved too much and knocked Yves out near the end and nearly knocked Lira himself off a coupla times. Gunna have to sit down tomorrow and listen to the whole thing again but it was nice that they spoke so well of Yves before they wrapped up their conversation. Lots of interesting tidbits to chew over in that conversation. Like that the Poles might have perhaps up to 5,000 of their people fighting in the Ukraine. If that is true, they might have to recruit soon to fill all the holes in their regular formations. Don’t know what NATO is going to do when the Russians go on their offensive and make deep inroads in the Ukraine. Hopefully they won’t lose the plot altogether. Maybe they can have the Pope decry all this happening again. :)

    1. Acacia

      Don’t know what NATO is going to do when the Russians go on their offensive and make deep inroads in the Ukraine.

      Yes they will have to figure out how to spin their losses, though we can prolly expect more sabotage à la Nordstream and Bucha ‘Putin didit’ type events, don’t you think?

    2. hk

      I’ve always had the hunch that the recent Ukrainian “success” was a bit of Tet moment in more ways than one. Whatever’s left of their “regular” military cadres, properly trained and equipped, but essentially irreplaceable in the medium term, must be nearly wiped out. The only “trained” force that the “Ukrainians” still have on hand must be a mostly NATO force in it’s composition, presumably largely Polish. (The reference is to the Tet offensive led to total destruction of the military force that the Viet Cong had been carefully conserving even if it scored major political points for them. After Tet, Viet Cong could maintain itself only by having entire regiments of North Vietnamese regular army transferred to the South. I don’t think it is too unlikely that, even now, entire battalions of the Polish Army have been discreetly sent to Ukraine to fight Russians.)

  4. Sibiryak

    Great show.! Yves was sharp and informative, as always, and Mark Sleboda made some excellent points. I’ve been less impressed with Gonzalo as of late, but he did make some arguments worth considering, eg. about Odessa, and he showed himself to be a decent moderator once again.

    Side note: I found Gonzalo’s personal attacks on Scott Ritter rather unseemly, but Yves steered him off that in a nice way when she sang out with a beautiful voice, “ad hominem fallacy!” lol!

    1. LorenzoStDuBois

      What’s the tea on the beef with Ritter?

      Is it the sex offender stuff?

      Lira seems to be one of those guys who doesn’t have great politics and is kind of a jerk, but he’s serving a decent purpose in the context he’s in.

      1. Librarian Guy

        Agreed!! I have appreciated some things he shared about Ukraine & Russia, but when (1) he goes off on a tangent about how Ron (“Don’t Say Gay”, beat up a “groomer”) DeSantis is the Great White Hope for freedumb in 2024, or (2) ends a video with a random denunciation of “catamites” unrelated to the topic (odd as he doesn’t seem to be a Bible thumper & additionally Catamite is such an odd word, obviously Greek-derived), I lose respect for him . . . I had thought Lira was sincerely anti-Nazi which I obviously respect. However, he appears to share with the 30s-40s Reich the belief that teh geys need to be beaten, jailed or exterminated. Kind of pathetic, frankly, but at least he isn’t hiding the hatred, I guess.

      2. Louis Fyne

        Not defending Ritter or Lira, but it’s nice to see 3 panelists who don’t agree 100% of the time, yet still have a civil, synergistic conversation.

        Lira may be a jerk, but he is self-aware that he is a jerk.

        1. Valerie from Australia

          Gonzalo Lira is just one of those people – some would call him eccentric – who says what he thinks but is basically a good guy. He is very humble about being corrected and usually comes out on the right side of things. He is conservative – but I have found he is willing to criticise the neoliberal order and seems to genuinely care about the suffering of vulnerable people. I get the impression that he doesn’t mind being disagreed with, and doesn’t shut people down who differ. Personally, as a listener, I don’t agree with everything he says but I think he is a person worth listening to.

      3. Valerie from Australia

        I really have a hard time believing that sh– about Scott Ritter being a sex offender (2001). How convenient that it all “happened” after Ritter told the truth about WMD’s in 1998. He was widely quoted the following years and those that had a lot to lose had to discredit him.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Lira did an unnecessarily nasty takedown of Ritter not long after Lira was detained by the SBU and had all of his channels taken from him by them, which led to Lira being demonetized.

          Lira’s beef was Ritter’s tendency to make sharp changes in his readings of the war, without similarly sharp changes in underlying facts. I had relied on Ritter unduly early on and was also persuaded by his bullish take on Russia’s prospects, and I think Lira was mad at feeling duped. Ritter was aggressively saying Russia would wrap up the war quickly, as in a few weeks. He then flip-flopped when NATO was going to arm Ukraine and said it would be a game changer. He’s also made questionable statements about NATO being effective at training, which might have been true when they had the leisure of time, but can’t be now if nothing else based on how the Ukrainians have to be trained out of country, in too little time (a mere 3 weeks for the ones in the UK) and too few in number. Ritter also declared Lira to be dead when he disappeared.

          If you read Ritter”s Wikipedia entry (and there’s no reason for the pro-Establishment Wikipedia to cut Ritter any slack), Ritter was found guilty 2x, both time stings, both time with no actual sex, just phone and IIRC sexting. The first time was supposed to be sealed. It was nevertheless presented in the second case, where Ritter maintained the woman he never met was pretending to be 15 but wasn’t.

          When he was being prosecuted, you can guarantee the police got his computers and communication devices. If they had found any kiddie porn or evidence of solicitation or sex with minors, you can be sure that would have been brought in.

          1. Robert Hahl

            If the story about peace being narrowly averted by Boris Johnson in late March is true, then Ritter’s prediction that Russia would wrap things up quickly was nearly right. Where he lost me was by predicting that the M-777 Howitzers would change the balance of power in Ukraine. That just seemed too stupid to be honest from someone with his purported expertise.

            1. Sibiryak

              Where [Ritter] lost me was by predicting that the M-777 Howitzers would change the balance of power in Ukraine.

              It wasn’t just the Howitzers. It was the massive increase of US/NATO military aid unleashed in May, and the new strategy of completely reconstituting, re-arming, reorganizing , expanding and upgrading the Ukrainian military under NATO guidance. THAT is what Ritter predicted would be a “game-changer”.

              This is from the video with Ritter, Garland Nixon, and Ray McGovern that caused the huge controversy:

              Scott Ritter – “The idea that the Ukrainian military has been eliminated as an effective fighting force is a flawed concept, and unless Russia broadens its special military operation– probably to the point of changing it form a special military operation to a war which includes the totality of Ukrainian battle-space–(then) this is a conflict that is dangerously close to becoming unwinnable by Russia which means that while they can complete their objectives in the east with 200,000 troops, they aren’t able to prevent Ukraine from rearming and reequipping when Ukraine is being provided with tens of billions of dollars of equipment by NATO —Whenever you provide your enemy with “safe space” to rebuild military capability, you’re never going to win …

              Yes, Russia is winning in the east which is what they said their objective was all along. And they are accomplishing that. That is the special Military Operation. But now we’re talking about “war”, and I don’t think Russia has made that transition yet.

              This is a defacto proxy war between the west and Russia using Ukrainian forces as NATO’s sword.

              The object of this is to “bleed Russia dry”. And if Russia doesn’t change the dynamic, Russia will be bled dry.” Zelensky has indicated that he’s willing to mobilize a million people, at a time when the west is ready to provide the funding and equipment to turn those million men into a real military threat.

              So, I see what has been happening in the last few weeks as being decisive.

              The military aid the west is providing is changing the dynamic
              and if Russia doesn’t find a way to address this meaningfully, and to eliminate it as a military capability… then the conflict will never end.


              (Transcription obtained here.)

              1. anon in so cal

                Thanks for posting that. Ritter was correct that the massive infusion of equipment and what is certainly NATO’s direct involvement changed conditions.

                Yves was great and the entire discussion was excellent and informative. Finally got time to view it.

          2. Sibiryak

            Btw, I noticed this in Ritter’s Wikipedia entry:

            On April 6, 2022, Ritter was suspended from Twitter for violating its rule on “harassment and abuse” after he posted a tweet falsely claiming that the National Police of Ukraine is responsible for the Bucha massacre and calling U.S. President Joe Biden a “war criminal” for “seeking to shift blame for the Bucha murders” to Russia.

            Hmm, that’s interesting.

          3. Nobody

            Great discussion! I have questions/points…

            I seldom disagree with Lira, but I continue to wonder how he is able to say what he says from Kharkov. Does anyone here understand why the Ukrainians allow him to speak?

            I thought it a bit inconsiderate for Yves to continue to talk about Covid after Lira asked her not to.

            Someone should let Sleboda know that he would have no trouble accepting bitcoin contributions and then exchanging them into rubles. A DDG search on “bitcoin exchange in Russia” filtered for “this week” finds many exchanges operating in Russia. Even if there were no exchange enterprises, he would certainly have no problem finding a Russian, perhaps one wishing to leave the country, who would gladly sell Sleboda some rubles in return for bitcoin, which the Russian could then use in her new destination, which might not accept rubles.

            1. Yves Smith Post author

              The issue re Covid is I guarantee what got Lira in trouble was talking about vaccines (I said they were not terribly effective). There is no way talking about ventilation, which is what I said next, would lead to demerits. Absolutely no one has been suspended on Twitter or YT over ventilation and masking.

        2. CoryP

          I find Ritter’s enthusiasm to be offputting and I’ve learned to be more skeptical of his analysis.

          I still regularly read what he says, but take it with a grain of salt.

          (From what I’ve read about his legal troubles… it seems rotten. He was clearly targeted by the security state. The whole thing stinks. He behaved like many men would have done in his stead, rightly or wrongly)

  5. Stephen

    I caught the live conversation. This must have been an incredibly early (or late) time for Yves! It was a great conversation overall.

    Agree with Yves that the whole underlying issue with U.K. pension funds and Bank of England intervention is not well explained. I have not managed to understand it in any depth and I do have a finance background,

    With respect to the New Cold War and the collective west, I agree that the political will for conflict is not dissipating. Liz Truss allegedly seeking to declare China a threat is just ridiculous. On one dimension why would you advertise such a view, even if it is believed to be true? Surely, some level of strategic ambiguity is helpful. On a second dimension, what on earth does she think the threat is? Of course, China wants to build her economy and enrich her people but that is just life. It is what countries do. Get over it. Then on a third dimension, what does she think the U.K. (maybe soon to be England, Wales and Ulster) can even practically do? She is a Neo Liberal. Does she really want to reconstruct the entire manufacturing base that collapsed from the 1970s onwards. Back then, even London was in many ways an industrial city.

    Given our own involvement in the Opium Wars and so forth, all of this will rightly seem to the Chinese like latter day imperialism dressed up as something else. It is also a way to divert attention from domestic problems.

    It also of course assumes that being a puppet state of the Biden regime in the US is not a threat to us, when in reality it has potential right now to destroy the U.K. and the rest of Europe.

    We really do have a political class that is hopelessly out of its depth, being advised by self serving pundits in precisely the type of echo chamber that was discussed by Mark (I think) on the call.

    In the case of Truss, I do not believe she has ever lived or spent much time out of the U.K. It shows in her approach. She also happens to be a member of the same accounting institute (CIMA) that I am in: fascinatingly there has no celebration that I have noticed of one our members becoming Prime Minister. She is for sure the first one. The institute is smarter than I thought it was.

    1. Carla

      Stephen, As a US-ian from the shores of Lake Erie myself, I really appreciate your perspective so much. It’s long past time for me to say thank you!

      1. Stephen

        Thank you, Carla. I love the American people and did live in upstate NY for two years in the late 90s. But Americans and British share many of the same issues when it comes to the propensity for our governments to carry out misadventures far away from home and not look in the mirror enough.

  6. Robert Hahl

    On the subject of turning on the sole surviving tube of the Nordstream pipelines, Mark said that was just Russia trolling the west, implying that there is no undamaged pipe. Is that the situation? Is there proof one way or the other?

    1. Polar Socialist

      I believe the trolling part is offering gas trough NS2, since current German leadership could never, ever allow that. I recall that Gasprom verified that one of the NS2 pipelines is indeed operational.
      Putin stating that all Germany has to do is to open the valve is kinda akin to asking “how is that bullet wound in your foot?”.

  7. Tom Pfotzer

    This is video is an exceptional learning opportunity. It’s two hours, but worth viewing twice, and book-marking for future review.

    I have not seen such detailed, thorough, well-grounded delivery anywhere else. That is not smoke-blowing. Watch this video in its entirety.

    One part stands out above the rest, and that’s Yves’ explanation about the economic and financial condition of the U.S.. This discussion starts at about 1:25. This section needs to get tatooed on the forehead of all Americans.

    The video addresses immediate-future trajectory of the Ukraine war, the condition of the EU economy (now and going forward), the global economic and political shifts accelerated by this war and the related sanctions, the politics of US, EU and UK, Russia, Saudi Arabia, OPEC+ and of course Yves’ extraordinary delivery on the subject of U.S. econ and fin conditions. The waterfront was well-covered.

    A fine job by all. Each of the three participants pulled their weight, and deserve more attention going forward.

    Lastly, my take-away remedy to “all these problems” … I always try to ID a solution…is on the dimension of “managing the narrative”. In future posts, I’ll bring up the subject, and if you listen to this video, you’ll see why.

    We’re in the hole we’re in because we’ve let others, whose interest definitely don’t align with ours, control the information flow.

    Until and unless we change that, we’re toast.

  8. downtownhaiku

    transcript please
    if it is not worth your time to write
    then it is not worth my time to listen
    there is a reason that appellate courts require
    written briefs (not just oral arguments)

    1. Tom Pfotzer

      Why don’t you do a transcription?

      Then you’d provide a useful service to yourself and others.

      Better yet, make a big donation, so NC can hire a transcription service.

    2. Valerie from Australia

      Seriously! A bit rude! You could have asked nicely! Where were you raised? A barn?

    3. Yves Smith Post author

      This is a video. Do you also demand transcripts of movies and TV shows?

      Courts are funded by the state and their budget includes professional court recorders.

      If you want a transcript, please send money so we can produce it. You are the only one of our 300,000ish monthly unique viewers to demand one and we aren’t in the business of catering to isolated asks.

  9. Valerie from Australia

    Yves! Thanks so much for another amazing conversation! I have already listened to the Roundtable twice!

  10. CoryP

    It’s so frustrating that Covid has polarized everyone on an entirely new and orthogonal axis.

    It’s like, if you even mention that it might be a real thing, the audience is immediately biased in a bunch of stupid directions. (I’m just upset at watching the live chat)

    It was a great discussion. Please keep doing these.

  11. IsabelPS

    I’ve watched most of it. Quite interesting to see how Yves is so much more surefooted than the other 2. Amazing the dismissiveness of the vote in the UN General Assembly…

  12. Rubicon

    Thank you for sharing the conversation between Gonzalo Lira and others.
    Recently, he seems to have taken a new direction -by pointing out the turbulence in the EU.
    He’s no longer solely zeroing in on the Russian/Ukraine issue and has pivoted some of his time on the immense problems EU citizens are facing via the US Financial/Military Hegemon.

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