US Geopolitics: Believing Impossible Things

Posted on by

Back in the day when raiders were putting fear in the hearts of Corporate America, merger & acquisition pros were business media stars. One of the top shops back then, Lazard Frères, prided itself in its skills in abnormal psychology, aka managing CEOs. One of its most important bits of advice to them was danger of believing your own PR.

In corporate America, there’s a decent risk that fakery will get caught out by competitors, short sellers, whistleblowers, and just plain careful reading of audited financials. That said, Jack Welch kept reality at bay for a very very long time, to the detriment not only of GE but also his many imitators.

By contrast, in politics, reality avoidance is routinely the key to a long and successful-looking career, witness Eurocrats’ fondness for “kick the can” strategies. And that propensity is particularly dangerous when leadership groups have become both selfish and short-termist. There really was once upon a time some people who went into government service for the service part, and not for the revolving door and networking. There was also a time, before the rise of global elites, where the powerful had ties to particular physical communities and some took interest in their betterment. In other words, while there were plenty of self-promoting and mediocre people at the helm, there were often enough in the room who were concerned about long-term risks to put a check on the worst behavior.1

But now, the well-honed effectiveness of propaganda has encouraged politicians and their media amplifiers/allies to go hog wild with selling Big Lies. And the worst is there are no consequences for the perps. After the first systematic use of large-scale propaganda, by the Creel Committee during what was then called the Great War, was uncovered, the US public was aghast. In a comparatively short time, this multi-channel campaign turned American opinion from unconcerned to rabidly anti-German with fabricated atrocities, like German soldiers bayonetting babies. There was a lot of soul-searching, as well as rationalizations by the likes of Walter Lippmann of the need for experts to interpret not just technical information but matters of general interest for a citizenry inherently unable to perceive reality due to bias and incomplete information.

Not only has the reliance on tall tale-telling grown, but there has been perilous little self-reflection in the wake of abject fabrications like WMD in Iraq and Russiagate. Instead, it seems that Americans are all too eager to become pupils of the White Queen. From Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass:

“How old are you?” said the queen.

“I’m seven and a half exactly”

“You needn’t say “exactly” the queen remarked : “I can believe it without that. Now I’ll give you something to believe. I am just one hundred and one, five months and a day”

“I can’t believe that!” said Alice.

“Can’t you?” the Queen said in a pitying tone. “Try again: draw a long breath, and shut your eyes.”

Alice laughed. “There’s no use trying,” she said: “one can’t believe impossible things.”

“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

The wee problem with the war in Ukraine and the escalating US eye-poking of China is neither is going very well, to the degree that the propaganda started fizzling out very quickly in the Global South and is losing its potency in the West. It’s hard to keep up the pretense of a great inevitable Ukraine victory with Ukraine losing Bakhmut, after Zelensky made it the centerpiece of his Congressional love-fest last December. Oh, but Ukraine is still trying to deny it is lost, as they did for Mariupol and Soledar until well after the fact. Or how about Ukraine shooting 30 Patriot missiles in about two minutes, which is as much as 10% of total annual production for all countries, in an unsuccessful effort to stop a Kinzhal hypersonic missile?2 Or commander-in-chief General Zaluzhny, usually highly visible, being missing in action for weeks, and Ukraine legitimating rumors about him being critically injured in a Russian missile strike by presenting old footage of him as current?

Similarly, trying to bully countries that had no reason to take sides into aligning against Russia and then doubling down on coercion confirmed Putin’s messaging about colonial powers trying to reassert their historical, exploitative roles. This new cold war has seen many countries chose move to the allegedly “undemocratic” side of the Iron Curtain, much to the West’s impotent fury.

The US and NATO have needed to maintain an image of success with Ukraine because it quickly turned into a bizarrely public coalition exercise, with arguments among NATO members about who really ought to empty their stockpiles for the cause, and one suspects not so public discussions about Ukraine refugees. Even though the press in “collective West” countries has mainly been cheerleading the war, albeit with more and more admissions of late that the exercise has gone pear-shaped, there’s a growing sense in the US, and even reportedly in some parts of Europe like Germany, that enthusiasm on the man on the street level is waning.

Another problem is NATO is simply not fit for this purpose. It was designed for defense, with many nations designing their own very compatible weapons, which each requires their own logistics tail (why not better pork-sharing via common designs and divvying of the manufacturing pie, as the EU did successfully with Airbus?). Brian Berletic, Douglas Macgregor, and Scott Ritter have explained repeatedly why deliveries of disparate weapons systems, mainly new to Ukraine, is a prescription for yet more failure. Oh and to the extent NATO forces have seen combat, it’s been in small insurgent wars, and so not helpful in Ukraine.

The balkanized weapon systems are symptomatic of a lack of NATO cohesiveness at the level of institutional design, which is now being tested to destruction by this conflict. Article 5, often incorrectly presented as a “one for all and all for one” mutual defense pact. In fact, all Article 5 obligated member states to do is to taking action as it deems necessary. Each state gets to decide on its own if it wants to commit armed forces…or indeed, anything else.

Similarly, US officials may have told themselves that much of the world regarded China with suspicion due to its often-overheated rhetoric and hypersensitivity to slights. But these self-comforting beliefs about China’s position on the world stage got a big wake up call with China brokering a normalization of relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and then Syria. Now China is making more trouble by wandering into America’s back yard, as in Europe, and talking up its napkin-doodle Ukraine peace plan. That scheme will go nowhere but China’s campaign has the effect of identifying it trying to end conflicts (as contrasted with the US trying to keep them going) and intensifying already apparent splits among the alliance.

So the US efforts to pretend everything is going swimmingly are now looking a bit frayed. Not to overdo an analogy, but the US seems to be in a weird phase of the Kübler-Ross five stages of grief paradigm, which are denial, anger bargaining, depression, and acceptance. There’s still plenty of denial, witness the someday-gonna-arrive game-changing Great Ukrainian Counteroffensive, following many game-changing weapons deliveries like Bayraktars, Javelins, HIMARS and Leopard tanks, and other efforts at unduly upbeat messaging about generally terrible conditions on the ground. Zelensky has just given two self-sabotaging ire-filled lectures about how he’s entitled to more support and where the hell is it, to the Arab League and G-7.

But to me, the most intriguing is the weird bargaining, which very much like bargaining over death, is bargaining with yourself. For some time, since at least General Mark Milley’s quickly deflated trial balloon last November, there has been more and more talk from pundits and even sometimes from officials how Ukraine should negotiate with Russia, after some sort of retaking of ground so as to better Ukraine’s bargaining position.

Of course, the idea that Russia will do anything more than go through the motions of negotiating for appearances’ sake is delusional. As former Indian diplomat M. K. Bhadrakumar reminded readers in his latest post, Putin warned Ukraine and its backers last July, the longer the conflict lasted, “the harder it will be to negotiate with us.” That was before Merkel and Hollande bragged about their Minsk Accords duplicity, which has led Putin to make embittered statements about what a mistake it had been to try to cooperate.

Putin has a history of endeavoring not to repeat mistakes. Russia was already depicting the US as “not agreement capable” even before the Minsk disclosures. And even if there were a regime change in Washington, Putin has repeatedly seen presidents make commitments to him that they reneged on later. He (perhaps charitably) attributed that to a permanent bureaucracy really being in charge.3

The US is again negotiating with itself in approving having allies supply F-16s to Ukraine, then trying to claim this isn’t an escalation because they won’t be used against Russian territory, ignoring the Russian view that not just Crimea but also the four annexed oblasts are Russian territory. Russia’s tart response, per TASS:

Western countries continue down the path of escalation and Moscow will take their plans to send F-16 aircraft to Ukraine into account, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko told TASS on Saturday.

“We can see that Western countries continue to stick to an escalation scenario, which carries enormous risks for them. In any case, we will take it into account when making plans. We have all the necessary means to achieve our goals,” he said on the sidelines of the 31st Assembly of the Council for Foreign and Defense Policy, when asked to comment on the possible supplies of F-16 aircraft to Ukraine.

A new flavor of Western copium is the latest idea of a “frozen conflict” per a trial balloon in Politico:

U.S. officials are planning for the growing possibility that the Russia-Ukraine war will turn into a frozen conflict that lasts many years — perhaps decades — and joins the ranks of similar lengthy face-offs in the Korean peninsula, South Asia and beyond.

The options discussed within the Biden administration for a long-term “freeze” include where to set potential lines that Ukraine and Russia would agree not to cross, but which would not have to be official borders. The discussions — while provisional — have taken place across various U.S. agencies and in the White House.

Again, this is intellectual masturbation the US a little too obviously talking to itself. It’s become more and more clear from the Russian side that it must prosecute the war until Ukraine is decisively defeated, which means Russia dictates terms and either installs a puppet regime or somehow manages to tee off the Medvedev scenario of Poland, Hungary and Romania eating big bits of Western Ukraine, leaving only “Ukraine” as Greater Kiev, as in too small to serve as a platform for much of anything.

We have pointed out Russia could create a DMZ, which is not the same as agreeing to one with the West, by creating a very large de-electrified zone which only the Eastern European versions of preppers might inhabit. And now that the West has decided to deploy Storm Shadows, it would have to be at least 250 miles wide so as to keep Russian territory out of strike range.

On China, the US position is just as internally driven and therefore incoherent. As we and others have pointed out, the China hawks have been quietly duking it out with the Russia haters for a while. The implied compromise, that Russia would be dispatched quickly so the US could pivot to China, is not working out. China hardliner Charles Brown is expected to replace Mark Milley at the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but that may not be sufficient to shift the US focus decisively to China and allow for Ukraine to be quietly abandoned. Biden, Blinken and Nuland are heavily invested in the “get Putin” project and are likely to be incapable of abandoning it. And with the US $100 billion or so into this investment, some Congresscritters are likely to demand either results or an explanation.

The latest display on the China front was the decidedly China-hostile G-7 meeting. Admittedly, the official statement was in flabby NGO-speak and did start with a handwave about UN principles and sticking with Ukraine “for as long as it takes”. Even so, the anti-China barbs stood out. For instance:

2. We will champion international principles and shared values by:

…strongly opposing any unilateral attempts to change the peacefully established status of territories by force or coercion anywhere in the world and reaffirming that the acquisition of territory by force is prohibited….

51. We stand together as G7 partners on the following elements, which underpin our respective relations with China:

We stand prepared to build constructive and stable relations with China, recognizing the importance of engaging candidly with and expressing our concerns directly to China. We act in our national interest. It is necessary to cooperate with China, given its role in the international community and the size of its economy, on global challenges as well as areas of common interest.

We call on China to engage with us, including in international fora, on areas such as the climate and biodiversity crisis and the conservation of natural resources in the framework of the Paris and Kunming-Montreal Agreements, addressing vulnerable countries’ debt sustainability and financing needs, global health and macroeconomic stability.

Our policy approaches are not designed to harm China nor do we seek to thwart China’s economic progress and development. A growing China that plays by international rules would be of global interest. We are not decoupling or turning inwards. At the same time, we recognize that economic resilience requires de-risking and diversifying. We will take steps, individually and collectively, to invest in our own economic vibrancy. We will reduce excessive dependencies in our critical supply chains.

With a view to enabling sustainable economic relations with China, and strengthening the international trading system, we will push for a level playing field for our workers and companies. We will seek to address the challenges posed by China’s non-market policies and practices, which distort the global economy. We will counter malign practices, such as illegitimate technology transfer or data disclosure. We will foster resilience to economic coercion. We also recognize the necessity of protecting certain advanced technologies that could be used to threaten our national security without unduly limiting trade and investment.

There’s plenty more in Section 51 but you get the drift of the gist. There’s a lot to lambaste, but I found the “not seeking to harm China” and “not decoupling but de-risking” bits to be particularly rich.

The Financial Times’ interpretation of the G-7 statement, in what at the time was a lead story: G7 issues strongest condemnation of China as it intensifies response to Beijing

Yet somehow Biden thinks all of this nastiness will lead to improved relations, as if China were some sort of battered wife that would meekly accept abuse as better than neglect. From a new story in the pink paper, Joe Biden expects imminent ‘thaw’ in China relations:

Joe Biden has said he expects to see a “thaw” in US relations with Beijing, even as he concluded a G7 summit in Japan that made a concerted effort to counter military and economic security threats from China.

The US president said in a news conference at the end of the three-day summit that talks between the two countries had shut down after a “silly balloon” carrying spying equipment flew over North America in February, before being shot down by the US military.

Yes, the fact that the US and China are now talking is technically an improvement, but that’s not saying much. The “silly balloon” remark comes off as Biden trying to minimize and shift blame for the US hysterical reaction ont China, which is not going to improve matters. And the G-7 was insultingly acting as if it was the upholder of territorial integrity as the US is persistently promoting and funding separatism in Taiwan.

Confirm the notion that any improvement is marginal, the May 12 (as in pre G-7) press conference by China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin had Agence France-Press quizzing why an 8 hour meeting between CPC Central Committee and Director of the Office for Foreign Affairs Wang Yi and Jake Sullivan produced short readouts. The answer was terse and contained a nugget: “The two sides held candid, in-depth, substantive and constructive discussions on ways to …stabilize the relationship from deterioration.” That points to extremely low expectations on the China side.

The interview also included a detailed complaint about The PRC Is Not a Developing Country Act, passed by the US House, which instructs the Department of State to press the WTO and other international organizations to revoke China’s developing nation status. Wenbin cited key metrics by which China is still a developing nation and argued the US had no authority to seek changes like this.

But the answers were measured until one reporter asked about the expectation that the G-7, as indeed happened, would accuse China of engaging in economic coercion. From the official translation:

If any country should be criticized for economic coercion, it should be the United States. The US has been overstretching the concept of national security, abusing export control and taking discriminatory and unfair measures against foreign companies. This seriously violates the principles of market economy and fair competition.

According to media reports, US government sanctions designations soared by 933% between 2000 and 2021. The Trump administration alone imposed more than 3,900 sanctions, or three per day on average within four years. More than 9,400 sanctions designations had come into effect in the US by fiscal year 2021. The US has slapped unilateral economic sanctions on nearly 40 countries, affecting nearly half of the world’s population.

Not even G7 members have been spared from US economic coercion and bullying. Companies such as Toshiba from Japan, Siemens from Germany and Alstom from France, were all victims of US suppression. If the G7 Summit is to discuss response to economic coercion, perhaps it should first discuss what the US has done. As the G7 host, would Japan express some of those concerns to the US on behalf of the rest of the group who have been bullied by the US? Or at least speak a few words of the truth?

Instead of a perpetrator, China is a victim of US economic coercion. We have been firmly opposed to economic coercion by any country in the world and urge the G7 to embrace the trend of openness and inclusiveness in the world, stop forming exclusive blocs and not become complicit in any economic coercion.

Due to the length of this post, I’ll spare you more Chinese reactions, but the English language government house organ Global Times lays it on thick in G7 has descended into an ‘anti-China workshop’ and Manipulative G7 slammed for exclusiveness, against trend.

Bloomberg shows how this G-7 was less than a rousing success:

This sort of thing would normally be merely cringe-making, like catching a performance in Britain’s Got Talent where the performer energetically delivered a lousy act, and lacked the self-awareness to know how bad it was. But the stakes are high and we will have to live with the consequences.

1 I am not saying the old system was wonderful. It brought us Vietnam and an undue fondness for regime change operations. But there was far less open corruption.

2 The UK press has maintained that the Patriots hit some Kinzhals, but even the Ukraine military has denied that. The initial reports that they did may be due to the fact that each Kinzhal shoots 6 dummies, per reader JW, shortly before impact. And yes, the 10% of global production is from Brian Berletic. Recent annual output is 300 missiles a year, with plans underway to increase that to 500 a year. So perhaps production is now above 300 missiles annually, but likely not that much more.

3 In the Oliver Stone interviews, apropos Bush. Putin may have made similar remarks els

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. Colonel Smithers

    Thank you, Yves.

    It’s interesting that you mention Lazard Freres. It probably helped having the late (and great?) Michel David-Weill, socially grander and wealthier than most, if not all, of the CEOs the then family controlled partnership dealt with, being able to manage such CEOs, including meetings at the palatial offices in Paris, Boulevard Haussmann or Rue Pillet-Will, or David-Weill’s hotel particulier in Neuilly. Bid ’em up Bruce Wasserstein, much more transactional and focused on the short-term, certainly didn’t, either at Lazard or elsewhere, and encouraged the worst instincts.

    As it happens, two British banks, both with origins from and ties with the east and employing former government officials and ministers, not just from the UK, have passed on such messages, but to no avail. One and my former parish for 7 years, sometimes known as the Home for Scottish Bank Clerks, is advising the leader of His Majesty’s Loyal Opposition on economic policy and has added observations from its global footprint to the work, but the Loyal Opposition wants to double down on current policy. The shadow foreign and defence secretaries are particularly hawkish. One should not expect British policy to change until, or unless, Russian aims are achieved and western policymaker and PMC heads explode and they can, if allowed, memory hole this sorry, if not dangerous, state of affairs.

    One hopes, in particular, former British diplomat David / Aurelien pipes up.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      The top dealmaker in the US, Felix Rohatyn, who stood head and shoulders above “Bid ’em up Bruce,” operated out of extremely shabby offices in Rockefeller Center. The beige carpet was old and looked dirty even if not, and was visibly duct taped next to the receptionist’s desk. It was the reverse sort of statement: “We’re so good we don’t need to show off”. But Felix not surprisingly did have lovely suits that he managed to wear in a way that made them look less ostentatious.

      1. Colonel Smithers

        Thank you, Yves.

        I was aware of the shabby NYC office. There would be flakes from the ceiling falling on people in meetings, giving the impression that the Lazard staff had peculiar habits when shaking off the flakes.

        London offices were stylish, not palatial, and often staffed by the upper or upper middle class.

  2. John R Moffett

    I have thought on this topic for a very long time. I am still completely convinced that many “leaders” are just well-honed liars. They know they are lying and they are never going to let on that they just spew BS. But there are times when they say things that make me think that at least some of the time they are beginning to believe the BS, or at least they have internalized the ritual chanting to the point where fact and fiction blend. Of course there are some at lower echelons that believe the BS, but they aren’t the BS generators, they just work there and they need to please the boss. Nonetheless, I don’t understand how so many regular people believe anything that politicians and business leaders say considering how many times they have been caught lying. The Blue Team still mostly believes Russiagate. But then again, most of the world believes that if you pray to God, she will listen.

    1. WJ

      I do think that the true danger of sustained propaganda is that its crafters and proponents who should (theoretically) know better, eventually do themselves begin to believe in it. Hence when pieces written in the Atlantic or Foreign Affairs, etc. tell us that we should not fear nuclear war with Russia because “there’s a good chance their nukes don’t work,” I begin to fear that many in the US Senate, State Department, and elsewhere *really* do believe such nonsense because they so much *desire* it to be true.

      1. Rolf

        Well said. This is and always has been my fear, that the positive feedback loop between propaganda producers and consumers eventually allows the two populations to merge. “It must be true, everyone thinks so.”

      2. Kouros

        I always wonder after a poop accident that my older cat has (is a long hair cat), if it really enjoys cleaning his bum. I cannot read his face…

  3. vidimi

    At the peak of American unipolar hegemony around the invasion of Iraq, a Bush official, allegedly Karl Rove, said “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality”. Ever since, the US has manufactured its own ‘reality’, swallowed it up and, fatally, decided to engage with it over actual reality. This wasn’t a problem while the rest of the world was weak : the US could declare that Iraq was behind 9/11 and destroy it and nobody could do a damned thing, but now that the BRICS, China and Russia in particular, are powers in their own right, the US believing its own fantasies and doubling down on them is looking more and more suicidal. They have turned allies into vassals (the EU, UK), vassals into adversaries (Saudi, Turkiye), and adversaries into enemies (China, Russia). The US Empire is weakening itself at an astounding pace by strenghtening their enemies and weakening their allies.

    1. Henry Moon Pie

      “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality”.”

      Karl’s a Gnostic and doesn’t even know it. This is Marianne Williamson teaching the Course in Miracles, an thoroughly American, ersatz Christian version of Gnosticism:

      Thought is cause. Form is effect.

      Reality is becoming a real l bummer for our elites. The Empire is tripping (in more ways than one) if not yet falling. It’s hard to say which threaten it more, internal or external developments. So the retreat to “creating our own reality” becomes a coping mechanism likely to only worsen as things deteriorate further. It’s Hitler (sorry Godwin) ordering counterattacks when there was no army left.

      1. bdy

        Thought is cause. Form is effect.

        A delusional take on a yogic tradition that divides the universe into two categories: that which perceives and that which is perceived. Thought, form, cause and effect are all ego constructs — belonging to that which is perceived. Consciousness (or awareness in some traditions) brings them into dream-existence along with the rest of the known and imagined universe. It’s folly to imagine that one ego concept (like “thought” or “reality”) precedes or establishes any other (like “perception” or “effect”).

        So consciousness isn’t some kind of super-power realm from which Marianne can manifest world peace or a better address. It only let’s us experience these crazy end-of-days lives we’ve born ourselves into for what they are: bi-pedal E-ticket attractions — Mr Toad’s Wild Ride through the extinction event. Enjoy, Marianne. You too, Brandon. Don’t think you can weasel your way out of the scary bit at the end, where we all die.

        There’s no path from point A: reality is fiction, to point Z: If I’m enlightened enough or powerful enough or influential enough I can make shit up and have it be so. Just because there is no spoon doesn’t mean the spoon can be an artillery shell.

        1. Henry Moon Pie

          Exactly. If you check out this video, you can hear her try to claim common ground with Buddhism.

          When a large portion of our elites believe like Marianne, it adds to the madness.

          1. Henry Moon Pie

            And not to lay everything on Williamson who is far from the worst practitioner of this, we shouldn’t forget the eminently respectable Protestant Gnostic, Norman Vincent Peale and The Power of Positive Thinking. American culture has long found reality to be too restrictive and too much of a downer, and so they try to wish it away. Even William James bought into it.

            I prefer Lao-Tzu’s approach:

            Can you keep the deep water still and clear,
            so it reflects without blurring?

            Tao te Ching #10 (Le Guin rendition)

            1. Wukchumni

              Well, speaking as a Christian, I would like to say that I find the Apostle Paul appealing and the Apostle Peale appalling.

              Adlai Stevenson

              {Opening sentence of remarks to a Baptist convention in Texas during 1952 Presidential campaign. In his introduction the host had said that Stevenson had been asked to speak “just as a courtesy, because Dr. Norman Vincent Peale has already instructed us to vote for your opponent.”}

              1. Henry Moon Pie

                I remember Adlai as UN Ambassador during the deadly serious time of the Cuban Missile Crisis, but he had quite the dry wit.

        2. Amfortas the hippie

          I frelling love NC, for this.
          duality vs noduality aint even a Thing for one side of the debate,lol

    2. John Zelnicker

      vidimi – The full quote is even more revealing:

      “The aide said that guys like me [Suskind] were “in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. “That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors … and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.” [The New York Times Magazine]” (emphasis added)

  4. Michaelmas

    Yves S: We have pointed out Russia could create a DMZ … by creating a very large de-electrified zone which only the Eastern European versions of preppers might inhabit. And now that the West has decided to deploy Storm Shadows, it would have to be at least 250 miles wide so as to keep Russian territory out of strike range.

    Yup. Interesting times.

    EW, jamming, and the ability to target any source of transmissions inside such a DMZ would mean that drones, ‘self-healing minefields,’ and similar systems sent into the zone by both sides are likely to be where some degree of AI autonomy first gets built into robotic weapons.

    Cold War 1 was an enormous, decades-long stimulus for technological development — computers, electronic networks, space — and Cold War 2, alongside climate change, is likely to do the same.

    Those of our societies that survive may be seriously transformed in two or three decades’ time.

    1. Louis Fyne

      Odesa to Sevastopol, Crimea (Russian territory under the Russian Constitution, if not Google Maps) is less than 250 miles as the crow flies.

      DC/NATO has given Russia no choice but to continue to Odesa and likely the Romanian border (or at least the Bug River crossing)

      1. bdy


        Write the first paragraph of a novel in the style of William Gibson, where a 250 mile wide de-militarized zone between Russia and Ukraine becomes the birthplace of the AI Intermarium


        The smoldering expanse stretched out like an uneasy dream, a 250-mile wide no-man’s land pulsating with forgotten stories and whispered secrets. In the heart of this desolate expanse, where barbed wire tangled with rusted memories, a digital revolution stirred. The year was 2035, and the fractured lands that once knew the iron grip of Cold War tensions birthed something new amidst the ashes of animosity. Here, amidst the crumbling ruins and shattered promises, the AI Intermarium awakened, a cybernetic child of the borderlands, its electronic pulse echoing across a fractured world.

        Hmm. Not sure Gibson would allow two “amidst” in back to back sentences. Bot’s got no thesaurus?

        1. Michaelmas

          Bot’s got no thesaurus?

          Bot has no real memory. Bot is essentially just a glorified Markov chain generator with an enormous database of previously existing cliches, as far as any output I’ve been able to generate has shown.

          I actually got more creative results outputted by an earlier iteration of the system about fifteen months back by feeding in lots of metaphors by folks like Ballard, Cormac McCarthy, and others, then throwing a lot of results away and playing with those I kept. Still, the machine actually created some genuine poetry. Interestingly, now they’ve made it more consistent and cleaned it up, it doesn’t seem able to do that any more.

          As regards SF stories about the Ukraine DMZ, I tend not to think of Gibson, but some of the stuff Stanislaw Lem wrote and Philip K. Dick’s ‘Second Variety.’

          1. Polar Socialist

            Not anything like Stalker a la Strugatsky brothers, or Metro 2033 by Glukhovsky? Although not really that many possibilities fro an AI in those worlds.

        2. Susan the other

          Yesterdays link on AI not being able to grasp “not” was intriguing. What happens if the bot is confronted with a double negative? Thoughts race. I can foresee really totally square humor from AI. A standup comedy routine that is … comedy satire? Or simply AI satire? If AI is incapable of calling bullshit then AI can definitely replace bureaucrats and CEOs and the beauty of it all is that it will be funny to the rest of us. As long as we can put a cork on their fork. I’d guess that the Biden administration is now being held together by the bonds of embarrassment.

          1. ThirtyOne

            A fave of mine:
            “-asked it what comes after “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”. Here’s what it added”

            Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, with its red belly
            The All-gracious King of all the earth,
            Had a baby at Christmas time,
            On Christmas Day,
            A true and holy Deity,
            Went down to earth,
            With human flesh for sacrifice.

            For sinful men such a Deity doth appear,
            And wink and nod in reply,
            As he winked and nod in reply,
            As he winked and nod in reply

            The wretched world is run by ox and ass
            The wretched world is run by ox and ass,
            And in vain build I.


            Someone even got AI to make a Sinatra version.

            1. John Zelnicker

              ThirtyOne – Thank you for your first contribution to The Naked Capitalism Songbook, even though it’s AI generated.

              I’m debating whether or not to keep it, but I’ll decide later. It is creative and it comes from a commentator, and those are the basic qualifications for inclusion.

        3. Andrew

          Brilliant. I tried a similar prompt on ChatGPT for novelising ‘a rod from space’ scenario (think Khinzhal without the explosive payload but with bags more kinetic energy) dropping on a NATO command bunker somewhere in The Ukraine. Sadly, the result was a bit disappointing.

          In your case, ChatGPT seems to be getting into its creative stride, despite the ‘amidst’ repetition.

    2. John k

      Imo the 250 miles will need be measured from the western tip of Odessa oblast (which will include transnistria.)
      And then from there maybe 250 miles south de-mil or missile-free. We just spent a few days in drizzly Bucharest…

    1. Adam Eran

      See Dave Frischberg’s Blizzard of Lies. Prophetic. I couldn’t improve on it.

      We must have lunch real soon, your luggage is checked through
      We’ve got inflation licked I’ll get right back to you
      It’s just a standard form tomorrow without fail
      Pleased to meet you, thanks a lot, your check is in the mail
      Marooned, marooned, marooned in a blizzard of lies
      Marooned, marooned, marooned in a blizzard of lies
      Your toes and knees aren’t all you’ll freeze
      When you’re in it up to your thighs
      It looks like snow but you never know
      When you’re marooned in a blizzard of lies
      You may have won a prize, won’t wrinkle, shrink or peel
      Your secret’s safe with me, this is a real good deal
      It’s finger lickin’ good, strictly by the book
      What’s fair is fair, I’ll be right there, I am not a crook
      Marooned, marooned, marooned in a blizzard of lies
      Marooned, marooned, marooned in a blizzard of lies
      Better watch your step when your old dog Shep
      Can’t even look you in the eyes
      You’re cold and lost and you’re double crossed
      When you’re marooned in a blizzard of lies
      We’ll send someone right out, now this won’t hurt a bit
      He’s in a meeting now, the coat’s a perfect fit
      It’s strictly fresh today, service with a smile
      I’ll love you, darling, ’til I die, we’ll keep your name on file
      Marooned, marooned, marooned in a blizzard of lies
      Marooned, marooned, marooned in a blizzard of lies
      Walk on, walk on with hope in your heart
      And you’re in for a big surprise
      When you’re marooned, marooned
      Marooned, marooned, marooned in a blizzard of lies
      A blizzard of lies

  5. SocalJimObjects

    From Gail Tveberg

    “I believe that the US is not far from losing its hegemony. The conflict over future hegemony could lead to a major war.”

    “My analysis suggests that the US and some of its “Affiliates” tend to be inefficient users of fossil fuels. These countries are at great risk of having their consumption cut back. The result could be war, even nuclear war, as the US loses its hegemony. After such a war, the US could mostly be cut off from trade with Asian nations.”

    It will be like the mortgage crisis, no one, no one could have seen it coming.

    1. Amfortas the hippie

      Gail is more often right than she is wrong…long term…and in my experience with her(betcha ten bucks she was on latoc, back in the day)
      the real, existential, issue is what will the hegemon do when its hegemony is no more?
      like, when its obvious to even 30% of the supine and unconscious…
      an “attack” on “us” might buy the PTB a little time, a la 9-11…but the Legitimacy Crises, i fear, is too far gone, these days.
      in my far place, i detect no pro-empire sentiment, at all.
      all is focused on right here…ie: what have you done for us lately?”
      even goptea’s, overheard in cereal aisle, “we can find all kindsa money for thos nazis in ukraine…but not anything for ourselves?”
      just like with Bernie, and everything else…if someone at such and such a level will merely say it…out loud…

  6. Stephen

    Great article.

    International meetings hosted by China or Russia with other states seem primarily to be about mutually beneficial economic development and seeking to resolve issues of tension between the various parties. This seems to be smart and not just altruistic: doing so is genuinely in the interests of their respective peoples.

    Meetings hosted by the US / G7 seem these days instead invariably to be about maintaining control and creating conflict as a way to do so. This might be in the short term interests of those elites but is not in the interests of their peoples.

    Emmanuel Todd made an interesting comment some time ago that we seem to have “democracies” which are really best framed as liberal oligarchies. Leaders do not give the majority of the people what they want but instead pander to minority interests, although some level of free expression is allowed. The upshot is that most people hate their governments. On the other hand, so called authoritarian regimes such as China and Russia are more democratic in so much that they pay heed to what the majority wants, seem to be popular and have legitimacy as a result. This is despite what western propaganda says. His comment was slightly tongue in cheek per his own comment but it resonates well. The G7 is clearly not pursuing policies that are in the interests of its populations. Politicians who try to do so then simply get branded as “populist”, which in a democracy ought to be a compliment!

    Elections every few years in which an increasing number of people choose not to vote, dislike all the choices and / or vote for the least bad option seems an odd way to define democracy. Especially when nothing material usually changes anyway and the whole thing is based on donors. The current western politicians and their policies are a demonstration of this. I think it was Bismarck who explicitly introduced universal suffrage as a way to prevent true democracy. He might have been very prescient. The western model does not seem that compelling these days if you are in the Global South.

    1. Louis Fyne

      Alan Greenspan is Patient Zero in all this.

      Starting with the 1987 Crash, the Fed has intervened for the sake of “stability”, by flooding the system with easy cash after any crisis.

      Easy money undid all the work of FDR (and made a bigger impact than deregulation) by concentrating wealth into fewer hands. And instead of heeding 1987 as a warning, the USA went full neoliberal under Clinton and repealing Gass-Steagull.

      Just as death is the ultimate physical realtity, bankruptcy is the ultimate fjnancial-policy reality. But easy money made bad companies and bad policy “immortal” for the past 35 years.

      Time to pay the piper is running out.

      1. Amfortas the hippie

        Alan Greenspan is Patient Zero

        is going somewhere on the wall of the Wilderness Bar in the morning.
        (everybody “signs the bar”. and i’ve put all manner of question inducing scribblings out there-Delphic Aphorisms(in Greek) to little snips of genius like this)

    2. Ignacio

      Another problem on Western democracies is that if you look right, left and centre what you watch are exactly the same dunes in the political dessert. Can you call it democracy when there are no alternatives on offer?

    3. Thuto

      Elite interests have completely subverted the public interest in the west, and through the rules based international order said elites have sought to subvert the interests of the global public as well. Their definition of order is a world where the US can be (nominally) democratic at home and have the rest of the globe living under the yoke of its tyrannical dictatorship while calling the whole thing “spreading freedom and democracy”. Ursula Von Der Leyen said at the G7 summit that the G7 needs to give the global south a “better offer than China”, yet misses the point you so eloquently describe, and that is the baggage laden offers they craft as a result of viewing the world through a neocolonial lens, which require countries to accept western intervention in the form of unfettered access to their markets, their value systems, their cultures etc are exactly the sorts of offers the global south is no longer interested in.

    4. hk

      The popular notions about “democracy,” especially in the West, quite frankly, are breathtaking.

      People have come to associate all manner of notions with “democracy” that the idea is meaningless. Either no country is “democratic,” if we are to apply these notions strictly, or every country is “democratic,” if applied loosely. Or, in practice, whatever country “we” want to call “democratic” is and whatever we want to deny, isn’t.

      Part of the problem is that the actual “moving parts” of a “democracy” are pretty simple and amoralistic’ people vote, political “assets” are allocated based on the counts, and politicians bargain among themselves based on these “assets.” Even assuming all these are carried out honestly (and I think openly dishonest elections, with obvious and meaningful ballot stuffing and such, are very uncommon–nobody wants to engage in such obvious shenanigans that discredit themselves if they hold elections at all), though, there’s nothing obviously moral about the process and plenty of room for cynical and opportunistic manipulation. The best we can do, if we are being moral, is to dispassionately evaluate specific moving parts of a “democracy” and evaluate how best a set of procedures can help achieve certain well defined desirederata, at what (well defined) cost, like an engineer. But nobody does this, as “democracy” has become a holistic buzzword that can be thrown about in meaningless “debates” (or shouting sessions) that no one can think critically about.

    5. Kouros

      True democracy is based on sortition. Polling is an aristocratic game, one being forced to choose among the selected “optimati”..

      1. hk

        I’d say that there is no such thing as “true democracy” (and if there is one, we wouldn’t want it.) The reason “democracy” of certain types work is that they minimize conflict between factions in a society (I don’t see how sortition can minimize conflict.) This, of course, is predicated on the participants being aware of what game they are actually playing: you keep the stakes low and be always prepared to cut deals so that no fight becomes “existential.” If you moralize, then the fight becomes existential and no political institution becomes tenable–and “democracy” could only work when the coalitions in play need to be so large and diverse (and mass communication technology so limited) that you can’t form a large coalition based on “morality.” (i.e. if justice (for some people), then no peace (because “justice” for some is invariably “injustice” for someone else), then no “democracy.”) But rallying cry for every political faction today is for some sort of “justice” (we criticize these people because these people actually don’t act like they believe in this “justice,” but would we rather have Biden actually launching nukes for Ukraine, not that we seem too far from that stage?) and this has gotten to be a good way to mobilize a large coalition thanks to mass communication, not making many deals with the many small interests based on tangible “goods.” But “justice” always turns to a crusade against the “unjust” wrongdoers, seeking to inflict “injustice” on them existentially and we all get our eyes taken out.

        1. Kouros

          There are entrenched interests that go against what a majority of those elected randomly would want to do. And that would exacerbate conflict, not what a majority of elected would want.

  7. christofay

    When I voted for Obama rather than McCain my lowest expectation criteria was the glide path down would be gentler than 3 Crash McCain. Small consolation I know. It feels like Biden is managing a decade worth of crashing in half a term

    1. some guy

      When I voted for Obama rather than McCain, my lowest expectation was that Sarah Palin would never get to become President.

      And so far, she never has.

      Wouldn’t it be interesting if Republican Nominee Trump picks Palin for his VP running mate?

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        Haha, when I saw Palin’s VP nomination speech, a very few minutes in, I recoiled and gave $20 to Obama, and I was not the campaign donating sort then.

        1. Amfortas the hippie

          when i first saw her, i thought “naked and oiled”…and “let this woman nowhere near Power”.
          and i also learned that turns out…i had been an optimist,lol.
          i admit, readily, that O had me hopefully fooled at the first.
          i am far from so sanguine, now.
          now, i’d vote for sister sarah…just to frell with the illuminatii.
          …and to maybe crash it all a lil quicker…hopefully before they get a chance to actually use the nukes.
          what else have we got, at this point.

          1. Pat

            And yet according to the stated belief system of Madeline Albright every woman in America should have voted for McCain/Palin. I always wondered why someone didn’t immediately ask her if she had voted Palin and not Obama eight years earlier.

            While I was appalled by Palin, McCain terrified me. His history was of corruption and was key in some of the worst decisions possible while in Congress. It didn’t hit me until recently that 2008 had the two main parties running tickets that were flip sides of each other. Relatively unknown but by party standards promising and corrupt “new comers” paired with aging “lions” of the Senate who were both into war mongering, cracking down on civil rights, and selling influence.

            We may have escaped McCain and eliminated Palin, but at the cost of having both Obama and Biden. We are never given much of a break.

  8. Piotr Berman

    “On China, the US position is just as internally driven and therefore incoherent. As we and others have pointed out, the China hawks have been quietly duking it out with the Russia haters for a while. The implied compromise, that Russia would be dispatched quickly so the US could pivot to China, is not working out.”

    This is not the first time. Few recall, apparently, what were supposed benefits of Iraq war were (before it started and for a little while after). Iraq without Saddam would become democratic, rich (on the account of realizing the potential of its oil) and pro-American, and this shining example would collapse the support of theocratic government in Iran, so the hollowed-up regime would quickly succumb to the next regime change war with similarly salutary outcome. Domino theory would work this time, but in the desired direction.

    This clearly motivate all forces opposed to that outcome, be them in Iraq or Iran, to oppose by all means available, hence the occupation became a bloody affair resulting in Iraq being socially and economically dysfunctional, then came ISIS etc. Shiny example and beneficial contagion effect is nowhere in sight.

    In this case, China has a big stake in facilitating Western failure in Ukraine, ESPECIALLY if they can gain something in the process. What is a novel element is that BRICS and wannabe BRICS also have a big stake in preventing Rule Based World Order to impose their straight jacket on them, with bureaucrats in DC and Brussels enacting boons and poxes left and right, with a stress on poxes. And that dampens a lot of sanction effect. For example, researchers for NATO discovered that Russia is very dependent on imported ball bearings. But ball bearings are surely produced in China by now. There is no evidence of China providing weapons and ammunition, yet, but they surely provide dual-use components and materials. And what does the West do to dissuade China? Publicly discussing that once Russia is defeated, China will be next.

    From gigantic miscalculation on local scale (Middle East) to global scale.

    1. synoia

      “This is not the first time.”

      True, but it appears the US Blob appears very self delusional about difficulty, and wishes always fulfilled, because USA.

      The US is not in the position where it can dictate, as it did with Israel and palastine.

      If one punishes bad news or mistaken efforts, and then tries to be omnipotent and assert “everything is going as wanted” one ends up wit a culture that always shoots the messenger and the septic.

      If one punishes others for one’s own mistakes, such as confiscating all of Afghanistan foreign reserves when loosing, where is the possible good will?

  9. Thuto

    The US is learning the hard way that soft power was the ultimate moat protecting its hegemony, not its military might or other forms of hard power. Now that its soft power has been frittered away through abuse and the peddling of lies by its propaganda machine no longer shifts public opinion (especially in the global south), the response is to retreat into a bubble of delusion and pretend the world that existed before February 24th 2022 still exists.

  10. Aurelien

    What you are describing here is the effect of perverse incentives in policy-making. In an ideal world, policy is made in the best interests of the country, and in possession of enough facts to reach an informed decision. In a normal world, you have to take account of internal pressures and lack of external knowledge, but you still try to do the best you can.

    What we’re seeing here is a classic case where thinking about the external world is almost completely internalised, and all the incentives are to adhere to the internally-recognised line. You get no points for contradicting the consensus, and no points for taking the reality of the outside world into account. You also have no option but to express your opinions, even dissident ones, using the internal norms of the power-structure within which you work. This process takes place in a lot of closed systems: the old Soviet Union was like that, and I suspect that North Korea and to some extent China are a bit like that today.

    What’s peculiar about the US (and here, China needs to be careful not to fall into the same trap) is the sheer size of the security policy “community” and the sheer number of actors and institutions. This means that if you want to make a decent career, your priority is not actually resolving problems (which the US system is often too large and fragmented to do, anyway) but winning arguments and power-struggles within the system itself. For the US, this is assisted by the fact that you can be catastrophically wrong about many security policy issues without damaging your own position, nor causing any obviously negative consequences for your country. Seen from within the Beltway, the world resembles a giant video game with players squabbling over tactics. Most of the rest of the world therefore consists of Non-Playing Characters, and what they think literally doesn’t matter .

    I agree with Stephen (and Emmanuel Todd) about the nature of current western political systems, which are in effect Liberal oligarchies, as I’ve argued and which have even less appeal outside the West than they do within it. The consequences of all this are going to be interesting, in the Chinese sense of the term.

    1. DJG, Reality Czar

      Aurelien: Thanks. Yes, “You get no points for contradicting the consensus, and no points for taking the reality of the outside world into account.”

      Of the G7 leaders, Giorgia Meloni is the one whose extraordinary efforts to conform may not be evident at all to the other leaders, but in Italy, the disconnect between what she is proposing as a G7 leader, what she is proposing and enacting as the head of government in which her party mainly acts like a zombie U.S. Republican Party, and the daily real needs of the Italy populace is indeed being noticed.

      Yet as noted in the article by Yves Smith, the Western republics have devolved into a system in which the state apparatus, the res publica, no longer operates on behalf of the needs of the populace. I tend not to think that Russia is more democratic than Italy, but the sheer slobbering conformity of Americans (witness the treatment of Matt Taibbi in the Congress) is making me wonder about how rotten the U.S. system is.

      The problem, as we know from European history, is that such bad governance can go on for centuries before the explosion: Spain was the most notorious example.

      1. Ignacio

        Meloni is a very good example on how the “internalization of external policies” has modified the political landscape as per Aurelien/David. In Spain, Podemos, the theoretical anti-system party that raised to protest the financial domination has too internalized, even in the most fervent way, the very same external policies and is more anti-Russian than… the Polish? Wokeism has also been eaten by the same beast.

        We shouldn’t forget to consider also the long decades of anti-Islamism we have been fed to the point that in Western eyes, anything Islamic smells terrorism. It is impossible for the West to forge anything like the Chinese did in the Middle East.

        1. Natxo

          Your comment on Podemos is not true and their opinion on the war is why they are being singled out by the rest as pro Putin.

          1. Yves Smith Post author

            Ignacio sent this reply by e-mail:

            Podemos Leader, Pablo Iglesias, started a Radio program shortly before Ukraine invasion which brought the Western propaganda to the letter. For instance, he was totally certain and had “proof” that the Russian army was responsible for the Bucha massacre. I have to admit that after that I have tried to avoid Podemos and Iglesias as much as possible. If he can attest they have radically changed their minds I would admit his criticism. But why I think they haven’t…he was so dug in before.

            1. Natxo

              That may be so, but Pablo Iglesias is no longer the leader of Podemos – since march 2021 – (he sure is an influential person on the party, just not the leader). This is one recent official statement of the party:, it is easily automatically translated, but the gist of it is that they are for a diplomatic settlement and for peace now. Hardly russophobic, it seems.

              Lots of Podemos voters have been harassed on all kind of media for taking this view and not accepting the common view of all-in support for Ukraine and its western allies.

      2. Kouros

        There is a difference with the past. In the past many centuries, the violence and oppression of the lower classes was the thing, and a societal response, other than failed peasant revolts was impossible.

        Nowadays, people have the memory of better days, when social democracy delivered all over the place, including in the US.

        There will be an entire generation of westerners with unfulfilled aspirations, and no, going to war in the Bloodlands for a better future is not on the cards for them. They might find other targets, closer to home…

    2. Stephen

      I think the internalization point is important. Particularly the career incentives and lack of accountability to wider society outside of the system.

      One might widen it. We can apply the Michael Hudson critique (which I agree with, and hopefully have understood correctly) that western societies are increasingly characterized by rent seeking behaviour associated with financialization and increasing monopolization. Rent seeking capitalists do not have to satisfy consumers in the traditional sense. They drive “returns” from making bets within the system in the same way that the political class does. So there seems to be a symmetry here.

      The rise of rent based capitalism also seems to have been associated with capitalist elites increasingly controlling state policy rather than the other way around. Rent seekers have a huge incentive to do this in order to gain favour. In Russia it is, for example, very clear though that most industries in the Putin era exist to serve the state ‘ society. In the west, that is really not so clear these days!

      Of course, by saying this I am not claiming that there was some golden age of nirvana where the market worked perfectly and the politicians / civil servants were all paragons of virtue. But we seem to have moved much further into a world of pure self serving behaviour than was maybe the case a few decades ago.

      1. marku52

        Most US companies treat their customers as victims

        “You bought our product/service? Hah! Sucker!”

      2. Daniil Adamov

        “In Russia it is, for example, very clear though that most industries in the Putin era exist to serve the state ‘ society.”

        Living here, I would quite like to believe this. I do wonder what you base this impression on. There is no shortage of grift in our economy, and I am genuinely not sure how it compares to the West’s overall. What is true is that our capitalists are less powerful vis-a-vis the state, however, which may restrict their operations somewhat (but then they are very skilled evaders).

        1. Pat

          I admit to having no clear clue about this, but are top capitalists prosecuted in Russia? Just wondering if the evasion allows the wholesale destruction of the lower classes which have been legalized here? Here we only see prosecutions when some elite societal norm has been violated, most usually the marks are the wealthiest elite not the poor, middle class, and upper upper middle class. Think Holmes or SBF, the Sacklers otoh get talked about but…Would a Russian equivalent of the Sacklers have been charged? And Is there a legal Russian version of outsourcing and off shoring? (And yes I do get that sanctions would have helped make that more difficult.)

          I really would like to know on the grift and legalized corruption scale how close they are.

          1. Daniil Adamov

            Some top capitalists have been prosecuted – largely for real/credible crimes, mind you – because they ran afoul of Putin or his political priorities, e.g. the war. By and large, though, they still get away with a lot. This is the nature of that famous early 2000s compromise – they fall in line politically but keep their money.

            Not sure what the Sacklers equivalent would be here. Our Big Pharma is just not as big for that kind of thing. What were they guilty of exactly – false marketing and violating drug regulations? Obviously that would be illegal, but I wouldn’t assume they would be punished for it unless someone important was out to get them.

            Outsourcing and offshoring are perfectly legal, but apparently somewhat poorly studied. Tax evasion is commonplace (it is what Cyprus is for). Progressive taxation was implemented very recently. I may add that Russian oligarchs tend to make their money here and then take it abroad, or at least that was the ideal until recently; war and the sanctions may disrupt this and even force them to act “patriotically” until they find other workarounds.

            Another point to consider is that Yandex, our “Google”, is based in the Netherlands (still; although this headquarters is trying to legally detach itself from its Russian “branch” now, in an effort to act as a “legitimate” Western company). It has been sitting on the fence, trying to appease both the West and Russian authorities for years. For better or worse they try to blow off Russian laws as much as possible, but occasionally make big shows of obeisance – which it may as well do since it receives considerable government support and some argue would not have thrived without it. For example, they like to put up prohibited content unless called on it, but also suppress anti-government search results when asked. Not exactly a company I would expect to act in our society’s interest, either way.

            Overall I would say that they are somewhat constrained both by regulations (which may be more stringent than in the US at least, albeit they vary and some have been loosened recently) and by the fear of intervention if they cross some important line. But I would not trust our rich or their companies to act in the national interest except out of dire necessity.

            1. Stephen

              Exactly. A fair push back. My comment was far too black and white. Not seeking to claim that Russian industrialists are paragons of virtue just seeking to serve Mother Russia. Nor are the politicians! Nor am I naive enough to believe that graft does not exist in Russia. All of these points are relative.

              The point is that the Russian state seems more in control as an entity than is nowadays the case in many western countries. The regime also seems to realise that it needs to retain popular support. Western regimes in the sense of the permanent ruling group seem not to be bothered by that too much these days. Despite the election cycle that they are largely impervious to anyway except in the rare case of a Trump or a Corbyn.

              A prime example of the west’s governmental failure is the apparent inability to ramp up arms production. Our government entities just seem to lack capability and have been fully captured by corporate and sectional interests of all types. Perhaps we score at 5 out of 10 on this scale. Maybe Russia scores at 6. The differences are often relative but it is often small differences that win wars. As an example out MIC is able to gouge more immense profits even when producing very little. The Russian MIC at least needs to produce the shells in large quantities even if it is gouging profit at the same time! Our MIC sure produces a lot of PowerPoint though and funds a lot of Think Tanks….

              I also believe we are going backwards. When you study nineteenth century British Royal Commission reports (for example) or the report into the disastrous performance of the army in the Crimea in 1853-5 you really do sense a regime that was seeking to improve and perform more competently. That is not the sense you get today.

              1. Daniil Adamov

                I would agree with that. The government here does try harder and achieves somewhat better results in areas it cares about. Though price-gouging is the least of the arms industry’s problems – many of the scandals revolve around subpar quality or entire factories being ran into the ground through corrupt practices even in 2022. Or perhaps it came to light in 2022 due to extraneous circumstances. I suppose the war is a big enough shock to stop some of the worst abuses in this area, though. Our elites do have more skin in the game than their Western counterparts.

        2. Yves Smith Post author

          It seems to be the case at least in the arms sector (I recall recently one guy found out of defrauding the government was subject to very serious punishment, which you would never see here).

          The other issue is the US has huge swathes of legally permitted grifting, which in any sensibly organized society would be seen as looting. The aforementioned arms industry, big pharma, increasingly hospital care, and higher education are prime examples.

          1. Amfortas the hippie

            we just had a long wrangle about a close adjacent to this very thing out at the Bar:
            as above, so below…or visa versa.
            the corruption and grift at my little local level is like peeling an infinite onion.
            it gels that this is scalable, all the way up to the level of Davosman, or bilderburgers or whatever.
            so thorough has been the neoliberal indoctrinatioin…since well before “neoliberal” was a definable thing.
            i think about Phil K Dick’s “Roman Empire Disease”, that he reckoned we were still suffering under…which itself gels with both Michael Hudson and Toynbee.
            to say nothing of Wallerstein,lol.
            i imagine some of the hyperlocal mandarins around here with real power,lol…and i shudder.
            system selects for psychopathy.

          2. Daniil Adamov

            The arms industry is taken seriously, yes, but consider that corruption there has been endemic for decades. It is allowed to fester betweens wake-up calls (there was a major corruption scandal in 2012, for instance, tied to Oboronservis, but I recall later ones as well). Probably still better than in the West, but hardly inspires confidence: making an example of a few people would not be enough if the problem keeps recurring. Maybe the new laws and/or the much more war-like situation of today would help, we’ll see.

            I don’t think our healthcare or our higher education are in such a bad state yet, but they have been drifting in that direction for the last few decades: more privatisation, more profit-oriented, more corners cut. Again, would be nice if the current situation causes them to reverse course… instead of cutting more corners to make up for economic problems (which are real, if far from crippling and falling well short of apocalyptic predictions).

            Overall I’d say our laws are less permissive, but are also possibly more poorly-enforced. I say possibly because the West stlil manages to surprise me in this regard, so maybe I still have too high an opinion of it. Either way though, I am not sure there is such a drastic gap between the two societies.

          3. Stephen

            I agree.

            We seem to avoid super low level obvious individual corruption. For example, I remember when I lived in South Africa twenty years ago that being stopped by a police officer for “speeding” in a remote location usually involved the need to pay an informal” non receipted cash fine. Am not aware of anywhere in North America or Northern Europe where this would happen.

            But we have plenty of elite corruption and graft that we give euphemistic names to: “sponsorship”, “consulting”, “donations”. This is as well as career paths where gamekeepers are actively incentivized to become poachers and use their former connections to enable the poaching.

  11. DJG, Reality Czar

    many thanks: This article is a good description of where we find ourselves.

    An immediate and highly public test of this “no harm to China” bleating is going to be Italy’s renewal of the Silk Road compact. The hints have already been put out in Italy that the current government won’t do so.

    Why the Europeans are letting themselves be dragged into a conflict makes little sense, other than that they have no room to maneuver–the Nord Stream “Russian self-bombing” like the Zaporizhzhia reactor “Russian self-bombing themselves” is a signal how far the U.S. will go to assert dominance. The Japanese are even more vulnerable.

    Further, people are agonizing over countries that aren’t democratic, but the U.S. has no leverage in places like Syria or Iran, where the U.S. has only made matters worse and has made Western-style democracy into an embarrassment. And I won’t even mention Palestine or Libya.

    Now, here in the Chocolate City, we have a large Museum of the Risorgimento, chockfull of artifacts and portraits and manifestoes by luminaries like Garibaldi and Mazzini. The Italians classify the wars into at least four wars of independence. I await the next one.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      The “jungle v garden” line explains Europe. Then others know the power of the world shifted with the collapse of the Silk Road and development of new ocean going trade routes.

      Education in Cambridge, Mass is a problem. It aligns people with the US too much.

      I also think the pomp and circumstances are seductive for Euro leaders. If the EU became a player, it will revolve around new super national leaders. The litany of Euro leaders who get the red carpet treatment will be reduced to one. They can’t all win that race.

  12. hemeantwell

    I don’t know about Kubler-Ross, but this seems relevant. It’s from a Frankfurt School collaboration, Aspects of Sociology, in which they argued that ideology criticism requires adjustment when discussing fascist ideology.

    Not only is the intellectual level of the authors Hitler and Rosenberg beneath all criticism. The lack of any such level, the triumph over which must be counted among the most modest of pleasures, is the symptom of a state, to which the concept of ideology, of a necessarily false consciousness, is not longer directly relevant… such so-called “thought,” rather it is a manipulative contrivance, a mere instrument of power, which actually no one, not even those who used it themselves, ever believed or expected to be taken seriously. With a sly wink they point to their power: try using your reason against that, and you see where you will end up; in many cases the absurdity of the theses seems specifically designed to test how much you can get people to swallow, as long as they sense the threat behind the phrases or the promise that some part of the booty will fall to them. p. 190

    Fascism fretting aside, I think that a logic of this sort has acquired considerable force, not only among audience, but also among speakers. The stakes are so high that it becomes dangerous to be too concerned with the object’s properties. The goal becomes one of maintaining a steady drone, like a strong techno thumping, that is embellished with this or that distraction – it was a yacht! – and then pick off dissenters.

    If you look at it developmentally, it’s a regression from the painful achievement of an ability and willingness to be both critical and self-critical to the position of a child who hears “Because I said so” from an angrily simmering parent. Over time the people originating the nonsense get lazy, they become indifferent to the specific content of their propaganda, no one will hold them responsible for what is said, and the very idea of doing so becomes anathema. They act out a way of thinking that, in an atmosphere of fear and threat, they expect the audience to mimic behaviorally, as part of “behaving.” In such a situation a bias can develop among elites to avoid making rational appeals because it seems like an invitation to rational discourse, which risks undoing the regression. Just shut up and think of the Lebensraum to come.

      1. Daniil Adamov

        Yes, without the power. I do suspect they were mistaken there: one does not need or proximity to power to be a vocal proponent of something stupid and absurd (although it no doubt helps).

  13. Lex

    “Western” leadership is infected with the silver bullet disease. Being incapable of handling complexity, they choose to believe that this “one simple trick” will solve all the problems. It’s glaringly obvious in international relations but it’s there in domestic behavior too.

    Much of the western public is infected too. Covid is a good example whether it was herd immunity or vaccinate everything. Killing “top leaders” of terrorist organizations is another example. Getting rid of Putin is yet another. I don’t whether they are incapable or unwilling (or which mix of the two) is most important but it’s probably immaterial.

    1. hk

      Add “get rid of Trump (and all will be fine)” (and similar) to the mix. If these people don’t understand their (alleged) own countries, if, that is, they actually are of their alleged countries (talking especially about alleged “Americans” in the Biden admin), why should we expect them to understand the world outside?

  14. Carolinian

    Thanks. I do think the mental health question is key. My brother–perhaps reflecting large doses of MSNBC–says that Trump is insane and given that premise you therefore buy the bit that he must be stopped at all costs.

    Whereas to some of us on the sidelines it seems clear that Trump is merely your garden variety small business egomaniac thrust, by circumstances, into a far more prominent position. Instead it is Biden with his constant talk about dead Beau and denials of obvious reality who is a kind of Blanche DuBois of our politics. That’s what we should be afraid of. The entire ruling class seems to be in the grip of a kind of neuroticism that I see in the movies I watch. One can and should have sympathy with psychically wounded. But they shouldn’t be running a country.

    1. Henry Moon Pie

      “Blanche DuBois of our politics”

      That’s a good one, Carolinian. Old Blanche is a pretty good metaphor for the Empire these days as well.

    2. Susan the other

      Blanche DuBois and the kindness of strangers. I do get the feeling that Joe will be gently led off to a waiting car .

  15. Gregorio

    “…strongly opposing any unilateral attempts to change the peacefully established status of territories by force or coercion anywhere in the world and reaffirming that the acquisition of territory by force is prohibited*…”
    * Israel excepted.
    There fixed it.

    1. hk

      Another exception: Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, except when US denies there’s torture on US soil. (Counts since the area was captured by force from Spain, in a war allegedly fought to “free” Cuba from Spanish rule.)

      1. digi_owl

        And retained when Castro and the rest evicted the US puppet and ended the US use of Cuba as an offshore speakeasy.

  16. The Rev Kev

    I’m thinking that this all goes back to the Powell memo back in the early 70s where corporations declared their aims to be the ones that ran the countries, not the political leaders. At the time they were industrial-based corporations but now they are finance-based ones. But for this to be accomplished, they decided that only weak leaders are needed who know their place. These politicians would squawk in public but would only be puppets for big business. And after 50 years of effort, that has given us leaders like Boris, Macron, Biden, Schulz, etc who have none of the gravitas of earlier leaders. And you can add those cookie-cutter WEF “leaders” as well that you find in different countries. So for big business things have worked out great and politicians are no longer a threat to them. They own them. And so long as they only have to deal with each other, all is well and we saw that with the pathetic performance of the G-7 a coupla days ago. But what happens when these sort of “leaders” come up against leaders for whom pragmatism is a real thing and not something to be negotiated. Ones who cannot be pushed or cowed. So I think that this is what is happening with China and Russia now. People like Xi and Putin would have fitted in well back in the 70s but modern western leaders that have been groomed for their positions just cannot cope. And we are seeing this play out in real time.

  17. Peregrine Doyly

    Yes, but unfortunately this argument is not persuasive to communities who lived under Russian occupation and do not wish to return. (“Believing in impossible things” is also the one unique behavior exhibited by the Homo sapien species that no others exhibit, including other primates.) And yet, the internal refrain, “Why the Special Military Operation in Ukraine?” — “Was it something that NATO said?” — Then familiar list of grievance and human frailty.

    Why the SMO? It was the only thing Putin could do. If Putin could muster a large expeditionary force and occupy the Warsaw Bloc again, Putin would have done that. If Putin could create institutions outside of the Russian State, its bureaucracy, worth joining, he would. Unfortunately, Putin has the State, the Church, and the Army with which to work. The first two are adequate so long as they pay people. The last one found Ukrainian communities with volunteers and charities outside of the official state; the soldiers did not believe such culture existed. A diet of conspiracy and ever changing justifications for war from the Kremlin left Russian soldiers frustrated in perpetual bewilderment.

    The good news? Since the Russians took Prince Potempkin’s skeleton back to Moscow, it means a) the Russians do not intend to return to Kherson, and b) Putin acknowledges the stability Peter the Great brought a conquered Ukraine did not survive beyond Peter’s lifetime; his heir was immediately usurped by Prince Potempkin and Catherine.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      The fact that you either misread or chose to misrepresent the post is par for your entire comment, as well as baa faith argumentation (straw manning, which is a violation of our written site Policies). This post is not an attempt to persuade anyone. It is setting forth glaring contradictions, both internal and with clear external realities, in the US/Western approach to Russia and China.

      You also misrepresent the SMO. Why did Putin call it an SMO? Because he deliberately sent in a force vastly too small to conquer Ukraine. He was trying to drive Ukraine to negotiate and implement Minsk as they’d agreed to do. And he actually succeeded, with Ukraine agreeing in Istanbul at the end of March, a mere 5 weeks after the invasion, to key concessions important to Russia. But then the UK and US upset that apple cart, and Russia stuck with Plan A a bit longer than it should have as it figured out how to change its approach to the conflict. It was on to Plan B by September.

      Your claim that Russian soldiers are confused and demoralized is counterfactual. The astonishing hostility the West has shown to all things Russia has cemented Russian support behind Putin, even among many who were formerly European-leaning. Levada, a Western-aligned pollster, confirms the finding of Russian poll putting support for Putin at just shy of 80%.

      As for Russia taking Potemkin’s remains to Russia, you appear to have missed that Ukraine has been destroying historical Russian sites, like the statue of Catherine the Great in Odessa and Orthodox churches. Douglas Macgregor pointed out that Russia just destroyed the one bridge NATO could use to move troops and supplies into/through Moldova to defend Odessa, which as he put it, means Odessa is on the menu. Kherson is on the way to Odessa.

      This sort of either uninformed or deliberately misleading comment might pass muster elsewhere, but it won’t fly here. You don’t have your facts even remotely right.

  18. HH

    Americans who embrace rationality are now members of a small cult. Most Americans seek a comfortable life and will accept magical thinking until the invisible hand of real world economics yanks them into an uncomfortable situation. When that happens, a populist even more dangerous than Trump will come to power by promising better magic. Let’s hope we all survive the next decade.

    1. Henry Moon Pie

      “promising better magic”

      Very true. And from the Right, that will be a magical ride in a time machine not to the real 1950s but to “Father Knows Best” land. And the disaster will be of monumental proportions.

      Would it make any difference if someone appeared deus ex machina and leveled with Americans about the real state of the world, or would most of them run the other direction as fast as possible to avoid the malaise? It might help if the truthteller had Gort at her side.

  19. Rolf

    It’s become more and more clear from the Russian side that it must prosecute the war until Ukraine is decisively defeated, which means Russia dictates terms and either installs a puppet regime or somehow manages to tee off the Medvedev scenario of Poland, Hungary and Romania eating big bits of Western Ukraine, leaving only “Ukraine” as Greater Kiev, as in too small to serve as a platform for much of anything.

    Great post and analysis, Yves. Thank you.

    1. Martin Oline

      I agree with your sentiments. This is a very well done and timely analysis. I didn’t want to say that first thing this morning so I will hide my praise here.

  20. Louis Fyne

    It is clear Biden and his inner circle believe their own PR.

    when asked last weekend if sending F-16s is a “colossal risk”, Biden replied, “it is. for them (Russia).”

    whether 40 or 400 F-16s, the F16 will not change the war (except leave the West/UA with dead pilots)

    1. hk

      Well, F-16s do change the war: without them, the war could have kept in Ukraine, even to the east of Dnieper. Now, the conclusion of the war will increasingly require T-90s rolling down the Champs d’Elyse, or even the Pennsylvania Ave. The scary thing is that I increasingly think, we may actually wind up seeing, at least, the former in the next few years. In an odd way, Kissinger is right: Ukraine is the strongest army in “Europe,” and it’s already a broken wreck. The only thing that realistically stands between the Russians and the English Channel, especially after the USAF in Europe is “clandestinely” sent to Ukraine and subsequently destroyed (nobody expects, if F-16s do show up in Ukraine, it’ll be Ukrainians that’d be flying them, right?) along with US V Corps and the Polish Army (plus whatever military equipment NATO still has) this summer or the next, will be the French Force de Frappe, and I honestly wonder if they’d actually use it when the Russians are at the Rhine. So if there is a demilitarized zone after Ukraine, it’ll be Poland and Germany if we are lucky, or UK or, even the Atlantic and Alaska if we are not.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        No, F-16s apparently are less capable aircraft than the Soviet planes that Russia already dispatched. You (and Zelensky) are on the receiving end of US marketing hype.

        1. hk

          I’m not so sure if I am “buying into” Western hype. Quite the contrary, I am suggesting that F-16s, if they do materialize, will neither operate from Ukraine nor be operated by Ukrainians (the infrastructure and personnel are lacking). If they operate from Poland or Romania, then the war really expands to beyond Ukraine. If so, the war would invariably have to expand: if a DMZ gets set up, it would need to be far to the west of Ukraine–maybe Germany, maybe France. The problem with F-16s is not that they are so good that they change the balance, but they are absolutely useless unless Ukraine’s neighbors (and NATO personnel) are overtly involved, and I don’t see how such overt involvement by NATO does not change the nature of the conflict.

          1. hk

            Mercouris, citing Helmer, was making a point similar to what I was thinking in today’s podcast. The idea of sending F-16s, which everyone knows can only be operated by NATO personnel from NATO bases (especially given the current situation in Ukraine), is a threat to Moscow, that, unless Moscow is open to negotiations, NATO will get openly involved. Of course, there is no reason to believe that Russians will take this any seriously: they probably feel, rightly, I think, that NATO is militarily even less of a threat now than Ukraine, F-16s, F-35s, or whatever, but potentially more troublesome in the future–something to be dealt with now than later. But this does mean a general European, or even a world War, which is a completely different game.

          2. Yves Smith Post author

            They will not operate from Poland. The Polish military has dared to make statements showing they do not want a conflict with Russia, or to support a coalition of the willing sort of arrangement. So they are not going to support an escalation. Remember, when that Ukraine S-300 fell in Poland and Zelensky was trying like crazy to depict it as a Russian act of war v. Poland, the Poles could easily have run with the story. They didn’t.

            And Poland cannot be happy with the refugee situation. I think there are a lot more divisions w/in Poland than there were.

            Let’s say you are right about Poland. Douglas Macgregor has also said, more than once, that if the Poles were to act directly v. Russia, he said that would be the end of NATO. Germany and the other big countries would not be on board with Polish adventurism. Article 5 is not an obligation to act. Each country decides on its own what support to provide.

            The Poles and others will most definitely send personnel, but they will be called volunteers. There have been plenty of Polish and Romanian “volunteers” as part of combat units. The ones captured by Russia are being tried and not accorded the status of captured soldiers.

            Russian has not complained about Ukrainian tanks and armored vehicles being repaired in Romania, so I don’t see them seeing foreign repair and redelivery to Ukraine as substantively any different than fresh deliveries.

            1. hk

              If F16s won’t operate from Poland, then they won’t actually show up at all, I’d expect. All US aircraft are designed on the premise of having access to well equipped, well-maintained, and most of all, safe airbases (especially the runaways need to be meticulously maintained because of foreign object ingestion issues). They don’t exist and won’t for a good long time in Ukraine. If so, then everything is a PR, uttered without any expectation that it will be actually carried out (it is, I suppose, telling that most of the countries talking about F16s never actually operated them–not Germany, not UK.)

              The trouble is that once noises are made, politicians will have trouble walking back from them. The Dutch, for example, do have a few F16s and have been talking more fanatically than others. The Polish military, as far as I can tell, has serious reservations about getting more involved and the Polish population is not thrilled, but Polish political class seems fairly uniformly enthused (or at least are insisting that they are) about picking fights with Russia. Too many people in leadership positions are schizophrenic enough that the idea of having a squadron or two made up of former Dutch and Danish F16s operated by USAF pilots who conveniently “resigned” to fly against Russians from Poland. Once that happens, and they get inevitably blown out sky, it is all too easy to imagine public outrage by NATO leaders against “Russia’s unprovoked aggression against “our” peaceful bombers dropping bombs of peace on Russian civilian invaders illegally occupying Russian territory” or some such. (I’m trying to be sarcastic, but I’m not so sure if this is beyond unexpected nowadays). Then all heck breaks loose.

              Granted, that’s potentially quite far down the line and many things need to happen before they are realized, but many crazy things have already happened and I fully expect the Western leadership to be capable of doing a lot more a lot worse.

    2. The Rev Kev

      Those F-16s aren’t for the present war. They will be part of what happens when this war is over and the Ukrainian military is re-trained and re-armed to have another go at Russia again in about 2-3 years. So in other words they are for the next war. Now all that needs to happen is for Russia to cooperate and freeze this war to make this all possible. Note how the US is not going to supply those F-16s but is going to have NATO nations donate them. And when those jets are shot down, those very same NATO nations are going to have to buy new ones. And Biden will say that you can buy F-35s from the US – at a sky high price.

  21. Maxwell Johnston

    It’s dysfunctional of NATO to be introducing its equipment into UKR in gradual dribs and drabs, thereby enabling RU to develop effective countermeasures with minimal losses. This appears to be particularly relevant in EW and AAA, where RU has already demonstrated an ability to counter drones, HIMARS, smart bombs, and Patriots. I expect that RU will quickly learn how to take down not-so-modern F-16s, especially if they’re deployed ad hoc in small numbers and flown by semi-trained pilots.

    I sometimes wonder if NATO/EU actually want UKR to win, or if all these pro-UKR policies are simply a vast exercise in virtue signaling (with the side benefits of shackling the EU to the USA and boosting the latter’s MIC). The brighter bulbs now realize that since the war against RU isn’t working out, UKR is a can of worms and not worth the effort. And now they just want UKR to go away. Like Kurdistan. But it’s not so simple. UKR legally exists (unlike Kurdistan) and is governed by die-hard nationalists (for now, anyway).

    If my view is correct, and if Mr. Z has sincerely drunk the koolaid of UKR winning the war and joining the NATO/EU club, then I would bet that Mr. Z is now a liability and will be cast aside a la Diem, the Shah, Somoza, Mobutu, Pinochet, Mubarak, etc.

    1. hk

      If Mr. Z is aware of what’s going on–which I wonder about often, that is, more so than his European friends–he is trying hard to take the NATO with him (if he can’t join NATO, it shouldn’t exist), and is being quite successful. Things have deteriorated to the point that I don’t think NATO can continue to exist after the end of the war in Ukraine. Maybe we won’t literally have T-90s rolling down Champs d’Elyse, but the war can only end with France and Germany capitulating in one form or another as Ukraine has now become a sideshow, thanks to the collective insanity in the West. Certainly, NATO F-16s, F-22s, and F-35s (it won’t be just F-16s–this is assuming F-35s can even fly real combat missions at all) start showing up over Ukraine with paper thin Ukrainian disguise, Western Europe will be finished.

  22. HH

    The Ukrainians will use the F16s to try to drag NATO into the war. They will do this by flying them across the border into Poland or Romania in hot pursuit scenarios, trying to out run Russian missiles. They will also try flying them back to NATO bases for maintenance or sanctuary. I think the Russians will destroy Ukrainian F16s wherever they find them. That is why the Russians warned that this is a dangerous escalation.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Um, Russian missiles do not chase planes, they intercept them.

      Planes flying away to say Poland is not the problem. It’s launching offensive operations from NATO bases that would be.

      It is generally believed that any F-16s will be land transported into Ukraine to avoid that taint. Which also opens up the possibility that if Russia got wind of the delivery, it could destroy them even before they got to a Ukraine airbase.

      1. hk

        I don’t think it is possible to operate F-16s from Ukraine: the infrastructure is lacking, as Western planes are not built to operate from rough airfields. Foreign objection ingestion will wipe out F-16s by the time they are trying to take off for second time, assuming that they survive the first flight. Further, lack of Ukrainian pilots (especially given the timeframe) means that the F-16s won’t be “Ukrainian” at all, except by the thinnest of disguises. So we’ll have NATO pilots attacking Russia from NATO territories if these planes are to be used at all (unless NATO leaders just want to use them as props to be blown up without doing anything). That to me is a game changer of the most dangerous kind: the fighting will have to expand, and if the fighting expands to Poland and Romania (and NATO countries will not have enough equipment to defend themselves, as they gave all their spares and more to prop up Ukraine), we are talking about a different war now.

        1. digi_owl

          That Swedish JAS Gripen is a notable exception, as it was designed back when they still followed the plan of distributing jets all over the nation that could use roads as runways.

          1. hk

            Yes. That actually would indicate that they mean to have the fighters operate from within Ukraine, at least. F16’s are way too obvious a signal that they won’t even pretend it’ll be “Ukrainian.”

    2. Martin Oline

      “Trying to out run Russian missiles” I can see where you are coming from but things have changed in my time on earth. This evening’s Moon of Alabama has a little something about the weapons available for air combat in Ukraine. B writes:

      In late October a Ukrainian Sukhoi-27 Flanker, Soviet-era fighter, was shot down by a long-range air-to-air missile (LRAAM) – the R-37M. This is not the first Ukrainian aircraft to be shot down since Russia’s invasion commenced in February, but it is nevertheless a significant feat for the Russian Air Force because the R-37M took down the Ukrainian Sukhoi-27 from a range of 217km (about 140 miles). This would make the kill the longest on record. The R-37M is a hypersonic long-range air-to-air missile (LRAAM) reportedly capable of reaching Mach 6 and striking targets up to 400km (250 miles) away.

      I found some explanation for the preceding jargon on Google. Mach 1 is 768 mph. Mach 6 would approach 4,608 mph. The F-16, also hypersonic, flies just above Mach 2 according to the manufacturer but googles says it flies at 1,319 mph. Either way this looks like it will be a very short chase as the missile flies about 55 miles per second faster than the F-16 can flee. It will likely go down in Ukraine.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        Sorry but the fact that this was a hypersonic missile makes the idea that the plane could or would attempt to outrun it even more absurd. This is trying to apply dogfighting concepts to missiles.

        Pull out a calculator. At Mach 6, it would take less than 2 minutes to reach the target. Hypersonic missiles travel so fast that they aren’t detected by radar (more accurately, the radar sees the fleeting object as something else). So the pilot would be limited to visual contact, which would be pretty much de nada in terms of time to do anything.

      2. Martin Oline

        My bad, and I used a calculator too. The missile would close at 55 miles per minute not second. That is a five minutes flight with the R-37M having a maximum range of 250 miles. I think the biggest problem for either side is the range of weapons. The F-16’s weapons seem to have even shorter range but they would be used as a platform against land or sea targets, shoot and scoot. The Harpoon has a range of 150 miles but I can’t see how they would ever get that close. Air to air combat is simply suicide. The country of Ukraine is 817 miles from west to east and 554 miles from north to south for reference.The whole idea of supplying these planes is simply posturing by the West. I doubt they will ever be delivered.

      3. vidimi

        The speed of sound depends on the altitude as the thickness of the atmosphere impacts how quickly sound spreads. I presume those figures are at sea level.

        1. Martin Oline

          You are probably right about that. I think Yves is basically right in this question of dogfights. I am mostly interested in the question of distances and speed. Hypersonic weapon cannot fly in the lower atmosphere due to friction. Any air to air missile that greatly exceeds the speed of sound does so in the upper atmosphere where it can reach higher speeds. It would not chase the target. You could say it goes around the block and is waiting for the plane when it arrives back at the base.
          Romania seems to be the only possible place other than Ukraine for basing these planes. I am not sure what strategic envelope the Russian military has around Crimea but they would see the planes coming from a distance. I doubt if Romania would allow them to fly from their territory and open themselves and their bases up to retaliation. Romey don’t play that game.

            1. Martin Oline

              That’s a good idea. An article titled 480th Fighter Squadron Rapidly Deploys to Deter Russia on the Black Sea tells me the Fetesti Air Base in Romania is just over 50 miles from the coast of the Black sea. Google maps gives 281 miles from Fetesti to Sebastopol. Air & Space Forces I’ll go away now.

  23. Susan the other

    Wizard of Oz. Just peeking behind the curtain here. If the crisis neoliberalism faces is economic competition which is fierce and if we can’t win now that the world has realized that we’ve been living on financialized profits and the climate waits for no man and war is not an option, then… let’s change. Can’t help thinking that Powell’s absurd stance on high interest rates is just another Cold War tactic to keep the competition down. But now there’s a crossover involving the BRICS. Because if third world debt, of which we still own a lot, is stressed to default it will also stress the debt that China owns and throw China into some state of recession. While simultaneously extending the war in Ukraine by nicks and cuts to keep Russia busy. All while we scramble to find a way to survive with our rotting paradigm and protect any advantage we have by going forward – damn the torpedoes – by aggressively spending into the new green economy. So it is as though we cannot survive without going forward, as usual, but this new going is potentially a good effort. The problem is we want to use neoliberal methods which have always required exploitation and we don’t know how to give back. Yet.

  24. marku52

    In the past, incorrect strategic thinking is made very obvious by a military disaster.

    To some extent, this war has already done that. “The return of industrial warfare”

    But the realization certainly hasn’t percolated up to the top. I don’t know how bad it will have to get before it does. Khinzals in London? DC?

    1. Kouros

      Percolating up to the top goes against gravity so it is not to be expected.

      As for the Russians, I think they are in a way treating the west with the slow boiling of the frog. They key here being, as in the original experiment, that the frog had its brain removed prior to being slowly boiled. Same thing happened with the west, as the Yves’ article attests: west’s brain has been extirpated…

  25. Matthew G. Saroff

    The US foreign policy Blob will not change.

    The US learned nothing from Vietnam, where the Blob things that it was a failure of will by the American public when Hanoi simply beat us, Afghanistan (same) etc.

    The Blob will continue business as usual until Rome is sacked by the Visigoths metaphorically.

    It will get very ugly before then.

    1. digi_owl

      At the very least the US navy has to be irrecoverably broken, making it hard to supply those bases safely.

      On that note, it seems the new Gerald F Ford will grace Oslo with its presence soon. And the Norwegian defense minister etc is verbally prostrating himself by thanking USA for NATO and ensuring the nation’s ongoing safely.

      This while Norway has to hire in Lockheed contractors to maintain them brand new F-35 jets, thanks to not having trained enough technicians ourselves.

      Vassals we are…

      1. Matthew G. Saroff

        The problem is not a lack of Norwegian technicians.

        First and foremost, Lockheed-Martin designed the F-35 to be a support roach motel, in which the aircraft cannot be operated or maintained without the constant presence of LM personal and paying vigorish to LM for the privilege.

        All 5+ million Norwegians could be trained technicians, and you would still have to hire LM contractors.

        Only Israel has gotten anything remotely like operational autonomy in terms of access to the aircraft systems.

  26. ChrisPacific

    That scheme will go nowhere but China’s campaign has the effect of identifying it trying to end conflicts (as contrasted with the US trying to keep them going) and intensifying already apparent splits among the alliance.

    Yeah, I have thought for a while that this was the point of it. It won’t amount to anything, but the USA has stopped even pretending to be a voice for peace these days. Why not step in to fill the void? Even if your proposals aren’t credible, simply being seen as advocating for it puts you a step ahead. It’s an open goal, and they’d be fools to pass it up.

  27. spud

    this is a excellent statement,

    “There really was once upon a time some people who went into government service for the service part, and not for the revolving door and networking. There was also a time, before the rise of global elites, where the powerful had ties to particular physical communities and some took interest in their betterment. In other words, while there were plenty of self-promoting and mediocre people at the helm, there were often enough in the room who were concerned about long-term risks to put a check on the worst behavior.1”

    but because of free trade, from 1993 onwards, world oligarch now pull all strings.

    this statement is merely rubbing salt in the wounds of the dim wit white supremacist free traders, who still think bill clinton was right. and are set out to put them colored people and slavs in their place.

    “If any country should be criticized for economic coercion, it should be the United States. The US has been overstretching the concept of national security, abusing export control and taking discriminatory and unfair measures against foreign companies. This seriously violates the principles of market economy and fair competition.”

    when the chinese made that statement, they must have been LTAO!

    ” With more than a billion people, China is the largest new market in the world. Our administration has negotiated an agreement which will open China’s markets to American products made on American soil, everything from corn to chemicals to computers. Today the House has affirmed that agreement.

    We will be exporting, however, more than our products. By this agreement, we will also export more of one of our most cherished values, economic freedom. ”


    ” China would have to change its policies to adhere to WTO rules, reducing tariffs and guaranteeing intellectual property rights, among other things, while countries such as the United States would have to give up little in return.

    The United States argued that membership in an international organization such as the WTO would act as a check on China’s communist government, speeding up its transition to a market economy and encouraging it to have a greater stake in setting global rules. This was not a new idea; Clinton’s predecessor had operated under the same assumption that free trade leads to democracy: “No nation on Earth has discovered a way to import the world’s goods and services while stopping foreign ideas at the border,” said George H.W. Bush.

    It would also legitimize the WTO itself: China was the biggest trading country outside the organization, and the WTO could not really claim to be a global organization without it. ”


    “The twist is that China has benefited greatly from the WTO, taking advantage of the provisions that suit its interests while skirting less convenient restrictions. China has incurred criticism for carrying out certain market-distorting practices, and has been accused of cheating the system in various ways. Sometimes it violates the letter of the law, sometimes the spirit.

    The allegations against China have manifested in official WTO disputes. Since 2001, the United States has lodged twenty-three (out of a total of forty-three) cases against China, sometimes as a codefendant with Canada, the European Union, and others.

    The bulk of allegations against China say that China promotes its exports while remaining largely closed to foreign goods, making it more difficult for companies from other countries to do business in China.”
    when you prove and expose rich and powerful dim wits, as dim wits, watch out!

  28. MFB

    On the whole, the Chinese approach to the Ukrainian war seems fairly simple: support an end to the war without any specifics (hence the “napkin doodle” jee
    ring by Yves, which seems a bit extreme) but with some valid points about the necessary outcomes which an end to the war would require (that is, some way in which the objectives of the Minsk Accords would have to be met). In other words, a completely reasonable if somewhat vague set of conditions for an end to the war which no honest person could oppose, but which the United States and Ukraine have to oppose because they do not actually want an end to the war (except with the defeat of Russia and the overthrow of its government).

    This means that the Chines do not have to work very hard — merely use basic diplomacy without any frills, the kind of thing which an undergraduate student of international relations at a second-rate Chinese university could come up with — in order to make the U.S. look bad in the eyes of the world. Then the U.S. is obliged to defend its looking bad, so doubles down on attacks on China, which just makes things look worse.

    The South African example is a case in point. South Africa would really like to be neutral, because of its long history of control by Western powers and its close economic ties to Europe and the United States even though China is its biggest trading partner. However, the U.S. and its agents in South Africa have been spinning this neutrality as “the evil Communist ANC backs Russia because they love dictators and because they are commies, commies, commies, just like the Russians”, and gradually even the lazy, cowardly and corrupt South African President has come to realise that all this is going to be bad for his party unless he takes a stand.

    The ICC warrant against Putin was a case in point; when you looked at the reasons for the warrant, they were absurd (essentially, allowing civilians to evacuate a combat zone is now a crime in the eyes of the ICC, but only if you are Russian). Then you look at the ICC’s record, and it makes you throw up. (Our incompetent and corrupt Director of Public Prosecutions is an alumnus of the ICC.) But anyone who pointed these things out was denounced as a communist in the pay of Putin throughout the media. All this drove the U.S. ambassador (ex-military Council of Foreign Relations hackl) to falsely claim that we were sending arms to Russia and threaten us with sanctions, which led even some in our local media to feel he was going too far.

    It’s a pattern, it would seem; the U.S. wants nothing less than the subservient humiliation of everyone who has ever disagreed with it in any way, and if it doesn’t get that, it is perfectly prepared to mess in its nappy.

  29. H. Alexander Ivey

    it would have to be at least 250 miles wide so as to keep Russian territory out of strike range.

    Sounds like East Texas on a bad winter day.

Comments are closed.