End of the War, End of US Exceptionalism

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Yves here. It is hard to anticipate what the so-called Collective West will do when an undeniable proof of Russian success against Ukraine comes, such as Russia moving across largely open fields to the west bank of the Dnieper after crossing the final line of Ukraine defenses in the Donbass.

The need to forestall that event may be why, as Alexander Mercouris has described, that Ukraine has apparently committed more resources to trying to retake Bakhmut (on the second to last fortified line in the Donbass, but by all accounts more defensible that the final one) than to its much-publicized and almost completely unsuccessful counter-offensive in Zaporzhizhia, which has now entered its fourth month. The US/NATO disinformation has become shameless, with Ukraine still not have succeeded in taking the tiny town of Robotyne as tantamount to “piercing” the Russian first line of defense. Until the need to portray Ukraine as making progress became desperate, that first line of defense had always been described at the very heavily fortified, so-called Surovikin line, no a place in the crumple zone where Russia dug some trenches and laid a lot of mines.

I hope you will read John Helmer’s ruthless takedown of a new book about the Ukraine war Overreach by Owen Matthews, in full. It includes a delicious section suggesting the author is plenty spooky, since his pricey lifestyle is wildly out of line with what he could conceivably have earned from his claim to be a mere journalist, as well as dissecting Matthews’ sourcing.

But given this book as yet another example of wild distortions to serve Project Ukraine, what happens when the propaganda edifice finally falls down? The west might resort to tactical nukes, which as Scott Ritter has repeatedly warned, out, equals the end of the world as we know it. But before, and hopefully instead, we are also likely to see even more extreme denialism than US officials and the press flagrantly moving goalposts to depict a failed Ukraine offensive as finally making progress (it was none other than the outgoing chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mark Milley, who set off this disinformation campaign).

Lambert and I discussed how it’s disconcerting to be left with no explanations for persistent dysfuntional behavior other than psychologize or worse pathologize behavior among the elites. Nevertheless, we’ve seen troubling case examples in the comments section of Naked Capitalism, with formerly sound readers going completely off the rails on a topic where evidence has piled up contradicting their belief, and they simply can’t accept that, and lash out instead. I hope there are some sane people in the room when this starts happening on the geopolitical level.

By John Helmer, the longest continuously serving foreign correspondent in Russia, and the only western journalist to direct his own bureau independent of single national or commercial ties. Helmer has also been a professor of political science, and an advisor to government heads in Greece, the United States, and Asia. He is the first and only member of a US presidential administration (Jimmy Carter) to establish himself in Russia. Originally published at Dances with Bears

Doctors in hospitals for the criminally insane have reported that the sharpest pain patients with superiority complexes suffer is the belief there are others who are more superior than they are. Unless they are stopped, they kill to cure.

US exceptionalism is a disease of this type.  The American exceptionalists believe that if the US isn’t conquering and victorious —  great again as in MAGA —  it is defeating itself because, they think, the US can never be beaten by a foreign adversary on the field —   not on the battlefield, nor in the marketplace, nor in the mind and on the page. So this is where the whitecoats arrive today:  the Russian General Staff and the Stavka  are defeating the Americans on every front, weapon system, intelligence summary, and mind. This has never happened before. Failing to see and understand this is delusional; those who kill to cure this aren’t all hospitalised.

A book repeating the US, NATO and Ukrainian version of how and why Russia’s Ukrainian battlefield campaign began on February 23, 2022, is symptomatic, nothing new. “We have no idea of exactly how the conflict will end”, concludes Owen Matthews (aka Bibikov) in a fresh publication from the state-subsidised printing press of Rupert Murdoch. But “we already know how it will not end. There will be no complete victory for either Russia or Ukraine. NATO is too invested to allow Kyiv to fall to the Russian army… this war will eventually end — with a negotiated peace.”*

Incomprehensible to Matthews is that the terms of the negotiated peace will be those of the Russian non-aggression treaties for the US and for NATO of December 17, 2021,  and they will be dictated at the end of the war by the force which prevails. They will be as definitive as the German terms signed by the French in the Compiègne Wagon on June 22, 1940;   and the American terms signed by the Japanese on the USS Missouri on September 2, 1945.

Instead, Matthews dismisses the treaties in two paragraphs, based on what Matthews says an anonymous British Foreign Office official told him in March 2022 was “fantastical…[they] simply did make any sense…there was nothing in it that NATO could possibly agree to.”

What preceded, and also what followed those treaties, was the doing, in Matthews’s  psychopathological terminology, of “fantasies about anti-Russian fascists coming to power in Kyiv”; “paranoia over Western attempts to subvert and undermine Russia”; and other “lies and eschatological fantasies”. At the centre of this madness, according to Matthews, is the single figure of Vladimir Putin, advised by “Soviet-era fantasists and paranoiacs”; “on the point of paranoia about the [corona] virus”; “secluded and inaccessible in his Covid bunker”; obsessed by pseudo-historical revenge and “a kind of death cult”; surrounded by “the most deluded and most ideologically driven members of Putin’s entourage”; and speechifying “a set of unbelievably illiterate  conspiracy clichés…especially when the former Marxists in the Kremlin sincerely believed that inexorable historical forces were on their side.”

There is no question in Matthews’s diagnosis of who is in the madhouse, and who is superior. “By the time I met [Vladimir] Zelensky in Kyiv in July [2022] he cut a profoundly impressive figure – hard-eyed, emphatic in his speech.”

With unintended irony — the reader won’t take long to detect it — the book is titled “Overreach”.

Left to right:  the book;  the author; his wife, Zhenia Kravchenko, self-portrait;  grandfather Alexei Kravchenko, an early 20th century Moscow painter whose Russian homes Matthews lives in when he is Russia.

For an earlier version of Matthews’s misrepresentation of Russia’s World War II history, read this.

This time round Matthews wants readers to know how important he is himself. So important in fact that the Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, once invited him to lunch, and the then-US Ambassador, now CIA director  William Burns was “a frequent guest” at his wife’s summer dacha where he told Matthews that “Putin’s chief character traits were a mixture of insecurity and grievance”.  Matthews’s wife, Zhenia Kravchenko, is a little-known painter  compared to her grandfather, Alexei Kravchenko,   It is his apartment on Povarsky Street in the Khamovniki quarter of the old city of Moscow,  and his dacha which are Matthews’s admission tickets to the upper-class Moscow world he displays in the book for the tusovka (in-crowd). This is upper class in the pre-Revolutionary fashion in which the members of the intelligentsia used to think of themselves – and Mr and Mrs Matthews still do.

In his pitch for promotion in the New York book market**, Matthews also trots out his Jewish credentials which, combined with tsarist military officers and Jewish money, ran down the babushka line.  “There were to be 11 generals in the immediate [Bibikov] family between 1760 and 1942…It is with my grandfather, Boris Lvovich Bibikov, that my family’s involvement with Ukraine comes into sharp, personal focus. His father Lev had scandalised his anti-Semitic family by marrying Sofia Naumovna, a wealthy heiress to a Crimean flour-milling fortune whose parents had, like many Ukrainian Jews, converted to Orthodoxy to further their social ambitions.” Matthews omits to say if he has taken advantage of the Russian and Israeli passports for which these antecedents qualify him.

Propaganda doesn’t grow on trees. It is cultivated and is paid for. Who has paid Matthews? He’s not on the list of British government agents in the Integrity Initiative scheme although some of them endorse his books.    He lists himself as a working journalist: “Since 2006 he has combined the jobs of Newsweek’s Moscow bureau chief and Istanbul correspondent… He currently contributes regularly to Foreign Policy, Spectator, Daily Mail, Telegraph and The Critic.”  Where Newsweek’s money comes from, and how much of it shares with Matthews, are unclear.   Newsweek doesn’t list Matthews as its correspondent in Istanbul. The Istanbul files for Newsweek do not reveal a single article by Mathews since 2006.   The Newsweek Moscow archives has no article of Matthews since the start of the special military operation, or before it.  Instead, the bylines are those of individuals based either in New York or Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.   According to Newsweek, Matthews appeared intermittently between 1997 and 2018 and was never bylined from either Moscow or Istanbul. There has been no appearance in Newsweek by Matthews since September 2018.

The other publications Matthews claims to have been writing for as a freelancer were not paying enough to support at least three homes, international travel, children’s school bills, expenses, and the lifestyle of Matthews’ membership of the Khamovniki upper class.

The Newsweek publication file for Matthews stopped on September 17, 2018.   Matthews claims he is represented by Northbank, a  London PR agency,  but Northbank doesn’t acknowledge Matthews as a client.   

Following the money trail is one guide to the source of Matthews’s propaganda. Another is his use of the credibility by association technique. For example, in the back-of-book acknowledgements Matthews wants it to be known that he has been having dinner, other “hospitality”, and fifteen minutes of celebrity with Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman; the late Boris Nemtsov and his daughter Anna Nemtsova;  dacha neighbour and filmmaker Nikita Mikhalkov;  the ex-Polish foreign minister Radoslaw Sikorski, and the Alfa group’s London exiles Peter Aven and Mikhail Fridman.

Matthews has also extended the blind attribution method for sourcing pioneered by Bloomberg and the Financial Times in stockmarket promotions.  What Matthews has done is to identify 143 anonymous sources – one for every three pages — whom he footnotes and lists in the reference section of the book as “interview with the author”, with place, month and year. The places range from Przemysl, Poland, to Istanbul, Kiev, Donetsk, London, Rome, and Moscow; not one of the 143 is identified as a US official or an American.   Matthews and the Murdoch printing house have omitted an index from the print edition, which makes unravelling what Matthews has done, and with whom, difficult.

From this known background and the unknown money supply, Matthews has distilled many more than the 107 standard lies  in the Anglo-Ukro-American inventory itemised last month by Moon of Alabama commentator Arch Bungle  Matthews has repeatedevery one of them.

There are some novelties. He cites the Ukrainian Secret Service (SBU) as his source for several major findings without revealing how Matthews himself came by them; for example, he sources  an SBU report for the claim that there were Russian military special forces shooting at protesters on the Maidan in January and February of 2014. The Odessa House of Unions fire of May 2, 2014, which killed at least 46, was provoked by “a radical group of anti-Maidan protesters” who had been taking directions from Sergei Glazyev, then a Kremlin adviser. The downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 over the Donbass on July 17, 2014, occurred “one day the Buk [anti-aircraft missile] had successfully downed a Ukrainian transport plane” – a combination of missile firings explicitly ruled out by Dutch military intelligence reports and unsubstantiated by US military satellites; Matthews doesn’t identify his Buk firing source and ignores the Dutch and US evidence.

Unreferenced Ukrainian military intelligence is also Matthews’s standby source for such fabricated factoids as Russian Kalibr and Kinzhal missiles in their final descent on to Ukrainian targets “light up the sky with their tail-flames”; and that following US sanctions in March 2022 Russian factory production of T-72 tanks had to be suspended “due to lack of processors”.

There is another novelty in Matthews’s method; he calls it the “shat cat.” After all 414 pages of Matthews’s Westminster School and Oxford University- educated English, it is odd that he doesn’t appear to know the verb in English for defecation, or its past tense.  Instead, when describing in unusual SBU-sourced detail the state of the Kiev residence of the deposed president, Victor Yanukovich, Matthews reports that a pedigree pet cat had been left behind when Yanukovich left “which had shat on the carpets and upholstery after it was locked in the room.”

The book unlocks the Ukrainian room into which Matthews has firmly locked himself, revealing many such sphincter-type mistakes. The droppings include the report that Sergei Glazyev had been influential with Putin – “rising esteem and ideological closeness” — and that he had been “promoted” out of the Kremlin and into a post at the Eurasian Economic Union; in fact, Glazyev had been sacked by Peskov and other Kremlin staff; his new post was a demotion and  banishment to political oblivion.

The Nord Stream pipelines had been blown up on September 26, 2022, “almost certainly by Russia itself”, according to Matthews on page 129. But five pages later he wasn’t so sure, claiming they had been “mysteriously blown up”. Then after another 150 pages, Matthews claims the “mystery” had been solved “according to Swedish, Danish and UN investigators.” It had been Russian saboteurs, he wrote, who carried out the operation in “one of the most extraordinary acts of self-harm in the history of warfare”. Matthews forgot to identify the  Swedish, Danish and “UN” sources for this. That’s what creatures with pedigrees do when locked into rooms.

Matthews’s account of how and why Petro Poroshenko lost the Ukrainian presidential election of 2019 is more of the shat cat effect.  “Perhaps Poroshenko told the wrong lies, or failed to sell them convincingly enough. Or more likely Ukrainians were tired of years of war and confrontation with Moscow and preferred Zelensky’s promises to bring peace to Donbas and reverse discrimination against Ukraine’s Russian speakers.” At this point Matthews happened on the truth – but he then forgot what had been Zelensky’s election mandate when in secret he was  arming for a Ukrainian offensive against Russia and the Donbass territories – as ex-German Chancellor Angela Merkel and ex-French president Francois Hollande have admitted publicly to have been their NATO strategy.

Matthews’s explanation instead for Zelensky’s reversal of the Ukrainian vote is Putin’s “bullying” (page 147), “hectoring” (page 149), and “most fatefully, Zelensky also began strengthening Ukraine’s ties to NATO and accelerating its path to membership. To the Kremlin, it was further proof that Zelensky was Washington’s puppet” (page 150).  In Matthews’s locked room, these were  Russian “fantasies”, “paranoia”, plus shat cat – “a confluence of Western weakness in the aftermath of the humiliating withdrawal from Afghanistan, the retirement of Angela Merkel as Europe’s senior statesperson, the electoral weakness of Zelensky and a revamped Russian army seemed to present a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity[to] an elderly Russia over a young one, of paranoid Soviet-minded conspiracy theorists over a generation of post-Soviet, postmodern practical capitalists” (page 158).

After the special military operation commenced, Matthews was embedded on the Ukrainian side during the first days and weeks; his sources for what happened were either his interviews with anonymous Ukrainians, or the BBC, or the New Yorker.

Source: https://www.latimes.com/

Central to the book’s argument is that the one-day Battle of Antonov Airport at Hostomel, near Kiev, between Russian special forces and paratroopers and Ukrainian defenders on February 24-25, 2022, was more than a costly tactical defeat for the Russians.  The Russian failure “to establish air superiority was fatal to their assault on Hostomel – and would become a serious strategic weakness as the war progressed.”

Matthews claims to have Chinese and British military sources for his idea that there has been a  strategic defeat of the Russian war aims, and this triggered a warning by Chinese generals to their counterparts on the Russian General Staff not to use nuclear weapons. This, plus a glimpse inside a secret Sino-Russian security treaty, Matthews claims have heard tell by a “source who has regular personal contact with the leaders of the People’s Liberation Army.” Matthews footnotes this source in an interview he says he held in London less than a month after the special military operation had begun. The internal evidence is that this source is British, not Chinese. He may be the “Downing Street official with direct knowledge” whom Matthews identified two paragraphs earlier in his text, and also footnoted as having been interviewed in London at the same time.

Alternatively, the source might be the chop suey delivery man to the Chinese military attaché office on Portland Place in London. In Matthews’s locked room there is no telling which, and no reason in evidence for believing either.

He also reports a British Army source as telling him that Russian forces weren’t nearly so numerous on the Ukrainian border before their February 24 move as the US had been claiming its intelligence revealed, and the Anglo-American media had been broadcasting for weeks.  Instead, according to Matthews and the British Army, Russian forces were operating at 60% of their official manpower levels, and had too few men to operate their machines. This is another of the reasons, according to Matthews, that the Ukrainians have been winning the war. The numbers of casualties on the Russian side Matthews exaggerates; he minimizes or ignores the losses on the Ukrainian side.

Then he reports the US conversion of Russian battlefield defeat and positional stalemate into its opposite — Ukrainian victory. “The stalemate on the ground,” Matthews claimed for May-June 2022, “was about to be broken by an intervention by the United States not of men, but of game-changing military materiel”. Matthews was talking about American M777 howitzers and HIMARS rockets which began to be shipped to Kiev. He also claims “a UK source” for his  report that US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had spoken to Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu by telephone to “reassure Shoigu that the US was not about to enter the war and that aid should not be construed as a military attack on Russia”.

Russian military drone video showing identification of Ukrainian  M777 howitzer and its destruction.

The footnote says “interview with the author, London, June 2022.” Matthews appears not only to believe that Austin’s “reassurance” was the truth, but also that Shoigu should have believed the American to be telling the truth. Matthews omits to say why the reader should judge Shoigu to be as gullible towards Americans as Matthews himself — unless Matthews also believes that a man like himself who has had eleven Tsarist generals in his family since they lost the Crimean War to the British and French in 1856 is made of genetically superior material.

This difference between fact and fabrication, truth and falsehood Matthews explains himself as the difference between the Russian and the Ukrainian sides, and between Matthews and everybody else. “The truth doesn’t make you free if you don’t want to hear it” (page 253) he says about the large majority of Russians who support the war and its aims. Any evidence to the contrary, Matthews excuses, comes from “polling in a totalitarian state”; also from Russian “fantasies” and “paranoia”.

Matthews has confused a genuine point of difference between the two sides. Since the Battle of Antonov Airport, the Russians have learned from their tactical mistakes and errors, and adjusted their operational strategy accordingly. The Ukrainians and their US and NATO advisers have not. This is such a crucial issue for analysing how the war has been lost by the Americans first of all, it deserves a book.  But Matthews cannot write it; Murdoch cannot print it; there is no bookstore in London or New York which will sell it.  “Overreach” might even be its title, though without the irony.

Matthews also misses who on the Russian intelligence and political side in Moscow made the miscalculations leading to the Hostomel failure; and what role the Russian General Staff has played since then to change the dynamics of the decision-making in the Stavka, subordinating President Putin,  as he himself has conceded publicly. But to comprehend that this is what has happened, and that the Russian military success has followed, not from Putin’s personal direction but from his subordination to the collective decision-making of the General Staff and Stavka — this is a truth flying in the face of everything Matthews and his paymaster wish to believe, publish, pay for.

In his final pages Matthews quotes an anonymous “senior UK military official based in Kiev, as declaring in July 2022 that the war has achieved the “exact opposite”  of Putin’s war aims: “the country’s [Ukraine] real military capabilities were bigger by a factor of ten than they were at the beginning of the war. Ukraine had a million men and women under arms, with thousands being trained in Poland, the UK and US  in the use of NATO’s most sophisticated weaponry.” The British military advisor added: “That’s not propaganda, by the way.”

When one side fails to learn, and characterises the thinking of the other side as mad, there cannot be argumentation in good faith. There can be no evidence-based research. This is the political point of book, although it’s not a reason to give Matthews or Murdoch’s publishing company money for it. The point, simply, is that in this war between the US and NATO against Russia, there is no longer any method for proving facts, the truth, either beyond reasonable doubt – the criminal homicide standard in an Anglo-American court of law – or on the balance of probabilities – the civil fraud standard. In this war we are beyond the truth.

Are we, though, beyond the point of peace? That is going to be the outcome of this war. If that peace is inconceivable to the likes of Matthews and the exceptionalists, it will be achieved without them.

[*] In June 2023, seven months after Matthews had finalised his book manuscript, he told  Pushkin House, which had just awarded him a $10,000 prize for Best Book of the Year:  “The most likely outcome [of the war] is a Korean scenario with a line of control and a barbed wire fence.” Where the line and the fence would be drawn Matthews omitted to say. He also omitted to acknowledge that the US and NATO are now fighting to prevent the line and the barbed wire being drawn along the Dnieper River, between Kiev and the Polish border.  On the west side of the line is where the American exceptionalists and those with uncured NATO superiority complex will live.

[**] In New York Matthews has been ignored by the New Yorker, and trumped by the Russia war-fighting faction whose Moscow apartments are in quarters as upper-class as Matthews’s, and whose Jewish credentials are unembarrassed by Orthodox conversions and by tsarist army officers. Keith (aka Konstanin) Gessen also trumps Matthews as a Russia war-fighter by being American and Harvard-educated.  He signals the strategic realisation that the US should commence armistice negotiations with Russia for a “better outcome… because, bad as it’s been, it could get much, much worse”. As the line of the coming Russian winter offensive points across the Dnieper towards Lvov, the New Yorker is making a case for a Korean War partition and demilitarised zone, “freezing the conflict in place, and working to secure and rebuild the large part of Ukraine that is not under Russian occupation.” The timing is Christmas, when the Ukrainian Army will have lost all its strategic reserves, and before the Russian offensive begins. In the meantime, “let the Ukrainian counter-offensive play out. But at the end of this year, or maybe early in 2024, [the US] will have to talk with Zelensky about negotiations.” By Christmas, Gessen is signalling, Matthews’s book will have overreached itself and been consigned to the remainder table.

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  1. zagonostra

    “In this war we are beyond the truth”

    Yes indeed. If it were only the war that has slipped beyond truth… excellent article by John Helmer.

  2. John R Moffett

    A whole lot of projecting there on Mathews’ part, especially about the “paranoiacs” in Russia. The West is delusional and exceptionally paranoid (think McCarthyism and Russiagate to name just two examples). The West is also extremely narcissistic and infantile in their approach to others. Spoiled brat elites is an apt description. The danger lies in the fact that narcissists can never be wrong, and can never lose, which is what always brings me back to thinking about what they will do next to triple down on their failure, that in their minds, can never be a failure. I don’t believe they are dumb enough to go nuclear, but that doesn’t mean they won’t start sending long range missiles to see if that helps. Let’s hope they aren’t that dumb either as it will force Russia to escalate in turn and things will spiral out of control.

    1. Will

      My understanding is that the German and Japanese leadership knew or ought to have known they could not win when they started WWII and so it is a mystery as to why they did. I wonder if future generations, if any, will be wondering the same about Western leaders if things proceed as I hope they will not.

      1. The Inimitable NEET

        Mission creep is always part of the problem when it comes to waging wars: success breeds more audacious objectives and propensity for risk-taking. Both Germany and Japan accomplished their main goals pre-1941, and could’ve held onto their conquests if they didn’t seek further expansion. That’s the truly scary aspect of reflecting upon the war – the international hierarchy could look very different today if both sides were more circumspect.

  3. Carolinian

    Where Newsweek’s money comes from, and how much of it shares with Matthews, are unclear

    A look at Wiki says the onetime newsweekly has been changing hands throughout the 21st so it is a mystery although web rumors once suggesed a CIA connection,. But then you could offer the same speculation about the NYT and WaPo?

    As for how vital Ukraine is to NATO, if that is true wouldn’t they be making more of an effort? One suspects that the real goal all along has merely been regime change in Russia and now that the sally has failed they’d just as soon get this monkey off their back lest Biden and his various poodles get booted from power. That’s the theory of Alastair Crooke who seems a fairly dispassionate observer.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      NATO can’t make more of an effort even if it wanted to.

      1. Per the famed Return of Industrial Warfare paper, it would take the West 10 years to catch up with Russian weapons production, even before allowing for the fact that in nearly every major category, Russian weapons systems are better and Russia would not sit still while the West was trying to catch up

      2. NATO forces in Europe are designed for in-country, defensive wars. That’s why so many have their own systems, which among other things make projecting power outside their borders difficult due to different systems having different logistics tails.

      And that also makes many platforms not fit for a land war in Ukraine. For instance, the famed Leopard 2 tank is designed to travel on nice roads and have maintenance nearby.

      3. NATO decides to do things on a country by country basis. Even an Article 5 event requires NATO members only to consider responding. It does not obligate them to defend a fellow NATO member.

      I could go on…

      1. tet vet

        Your third point demonstrates that it is impossible to distinguish a difference between Ukraine being admitted to NATO and what is now going on. Apparently only Russia understands this. Arguing about this technicality that actually has no meaning is an exercise in futility since Russia understands that cobbling together another word salad agreement with the West is not an option. I don’t see how either side can accept any kind of negotiated settlement and the only way this will end is with the unconditional surrender of Ukraine. The West will ultimately have to adhere to Article 5 and “consider” no longer responding or just plain lose.

      2. Amfortas the Hippie

        on point # 1…where will the raw materials, let alone knowledge base, come from?
        i mean…i can make a saxon spear point in the shop over there, and all, but….
        everybody that still talks to me about all this(dwindling,lol) believes to the point of righteous anger that the USA! can simply turn a key somewhere and make all the war materiel we need.
        this, even and especially, from near-doomers….pseudolibertarians with newdealer features…and hate the gooberment, we’ll fight them with our shotguns types.
        it’s quite maddening, really…the mindf&ck, as i keep saying, has been masterful in it’s effects, these last 50 years.

  4. Aurelien

    I’ve long believed, and argued in things I’ve written, that the real issues here are psychological (and group psychological) rather than political. There are things that, at a personal level as much as an institutional one, we simply cannot bring ourselves to believe, because they are outside our frame of reference, and the consequences of them being true are too frightening. More importantly, when we are members of groups that all believe the same thing, and we are constantly reinforcing each others’ views, continued membership of that group is identified with sanity, and with the value of the sunk psychological costs invested in the policies adopted so far. As I’ve argued, I think we are going to see some kind of progressive nervous breakdown by PMC elites, together with a delaying action which will amount to (1) we never said that (2) OK we said that but it was misinterpreted, OK, we did say that but actually, if you read what we said extremely carefully, the worst imaginable outcome has been avoided, and so we won and we were right all along. How far this will stand up to the brute reality of events is questionable, because any foreseeable outcome now is going to fatally injure the notion of the unstoppable teleological progress of liberalism ever Eastwards, and it’s not clear to me that European elites, at least, whose main reason for fighting the war this is, will actually be able to survive such an outcome.

    A couple of points need correction. The NATO official who said that the Russian draft treaties of December 2021 were unacceptable was speaking no more than the truth. And I’m sure that the Russians, who are not stupid, would have realised there was no possibility that they would be signed given that they were completely one-sided and applied only to NATO. It would be the equivalent of NATO proposing in the 1980s that Soviet forces should withdraw to territories they occupied on 1 September 1939, without any matching concessions from the West. I think the treaties served two purposes: one was as a feeler, to see if the West was interested in an negotiation of any kind, accepting that it wouldn’t be on the basis of these texts. The other was to be able to claim that Russia had made an attempt at a diplomatic solution before resorting to military means. The intelligent thing for western nations to have done would have been to say yes to the possibility of negotiations, but to have worked up texts of their own, as is normal in such situations. But nobody ever accused western leaders of being intelligent. Whether such a response would have stopped the war is hard to say, but it would certainly have put the Russians on the back foot politically.

    Ritter is wrong about tactical nuclear weapons. The only tactical nuclear weapons NATO has are free-fall air-dropped bombs. They are relics of the Cold War, to be used against Soviet troop concentrations that had broken through NATO lines. No western or Ukrainian aircraft has the range to take them anywhere useful, and any aircraft that tried would be quickly destroyed. The only plausible Russian targets would also involve destruction of Ukrainian towns and cities and the loss of Ukrainian civilian lives, which I don’t think is quite the point. Moreover, such weapons are armed before the aircraft takes off, and any aircraft shot down will create its own private Hiroshima over Ukrainian territory. There are limits even to western stupidity.

    1. Carolinian

      Does NATO, post Cold War, really serve any purpose other than power projection by the US? Prior to our meddling in Ukraine did the European countries act as though they were afraid of Russia? Why should Russia make “concessions” to NATO if it in fact is little more than American neocons stirring the pot in a region where they have no business?

      The reality is that Soviet and now post Soviet Russia did withdraw from all those occupied Warsaw Pact territories and “concessions” from the West turned out to be nil. All Putin has been saying it that it is time to make good on the then verbal agreement that turned out to be a lie.

      Sorry but I don’t believe there are two sides to this argument. Russia’s belief that the British Empire and now the American Empire are out to get them is perfectly correct. It’s all in the history books.

      1. Aurelien

        It’s not an argument, and there are no sides. It’s just political reality. No government would have agreed to negotiate on the Russian proposals, no government would have signed such a treaty and no parliament would have ratified it. Since the Russians obviously knew this, I think it’s fairly obvious that they had wider and different objectives in view.

        1. nippersdad

          Re: “No government would have agreed to negotiate on the Russian proposals.”

          Then what is the point of having a diplomatic corps at all? Any proposal would necessarily have been for more than they thought they could get at the negotiating table, but that does not mean that they did not seek a new balance in European security measures, like getting NATO bases off of the Russian borders.

          The mere fact that the draft treaties were met with a blank refusal to negotiate said more about those they were presented to than for those who proposed them. The US and NATO proved themselves to be lazy and arrogant. They were unwilling to avoid the war they had spent so much time trying to start, and they are now getting the reward they sought.

          Just maybe not in the way they expected at the time.

          1. Aurelien

            Well, I set out above what the diplomats should have been used for. NATO should have said “thank you very much, this is an important subject, we don’t like your draft so here’s one we’ve made instead.” This is what you normally do, and it’s unforgivable of NATO, not to mention stupid, to have acted differently.

            1. nippersdad

              Yes, you did initially point that out and it fit well with your thesis of a groupthink consensus within the diplomatic corps. Unforgivable stupidity aside, I do not think a rational approach to Russian concerns would have put Russia on their back foot politically, though. That assumes that Russia had always wanted to go into the Donbass, and that has not been shown to be the case. If they had wanted to do that they could have gone in when they annexed Crimea in ’14.

              The fact that the Global South and China have always been appreciative of the Russian stance on negotiations (like Minsk) has shown that conclusively. In the war of public perceptions Russia has consistently won the high ground, and it all started with the US and NATO refusing to accept that Nyet really did mean Nyet. By the time of those new security proposals, it was just about our neocons last chance at credibility, and they failed that test very badly.

              1. Geoffrey

                To the best of my recollection, the two 2021 draft treaties were based on preceding agreements that the West and Russia had signed in the 1990’s, the Helsinki Protocol? and another on indivisible security. Indeed Russia wrote to the foreign ministries of all (OSCE?) signatories asking them to fulfill their agreed obligations on indivisible security. So the 2021 treaties took the view – as a starting point for negotiations, presumably – that there was a status quo ante that the West and Russia had agreed upon (in the 1990’s), that the West had reneged upon, and Russia wanted to go back to. t didn’t even ask eastern countries to leave NATO, just that NATO weapons wouldn’t be based in those eastern countries. Russia had said all these thing before, but had been repeatedly rebuffed and baboozeled.

        2. Carolinian

          Why is it a reality? What is Europe or for that matter America getting out of this?

          If you are saying the political reality is that Europe and America have poor leadership then indeed we have no argument. But that means Russia also had no choice which is what they have been saying. By this view it’s not that they were fishing for an agreement but that we are “not agreement capable.”

          Personally I blame our political system that puts people like Biden in power–and Trump too since he had a hand in this. It would be interesting to hear what the UK’s excuse is.

          1. nippersdad

            “it would be interesting to hear what the UK’s excuse is.”

            IIRC, the leak of the Downing Street Memo didn’t come until after the infighting had begun over the UK’s support for the Iraq war. Biden blocking Ben Wallace from the top NATO job and Wallace subsequently starting to question the cost all of the arms they are buying from the US may be the chink that shows such infighting has already begun.

            It may not be all that long before a new Downing Street Memo comes out. A country that cannot fill a football stadium with their troops must have some compelling reason to court nuclear disaster, and it will be interesting to find out what that was.

          2. Amfortas the Hippie

            Russia/Putin himself, have been saying the same dern thing since his quincenera Munich Speech…what?…2005?…2007?
            Our Betters(sic), here in the Enlightened West, have simply stuck their fingers in their ears and said, “nyah, nyah, i cant hear you” for all that time.
            it was perfectly obvious to me, for all that time.
            that Russia was serious about all this nato expansion up to their door…why wouldn’t they be?
            the Smartest People(tm) missed it…because they wanted to…and they needed to…because their narrative(holy) requires it.
            it shouldnt be as hard as it is to have these sorts of discussions in the produce aisle…in as deep of red place as i live…its complicated,lol.
            but we are an ahistorical people, falling from the turnip truck anew each mornin…all dewey eyed and ready to face a brand new world made just for us.

      2. nippersdad

        I am not convinced that the EU is afraid of Russia now. That they have unilaterally disarmed themselves during a time of war speaks more to the opportunity to replace old stocks of weapons with bright shiny new ones in the indefinite future than it does fear of invasion.

        1. Feral Finster

          Russia boasts some 15 air to air refueling aircraft, so if Russia plans to invade Europe, they apparently don’t think they’ll need any tactical air support. This is fitting for a military suited primarily for defensive operations.

          By contrast, the US has some 600 air to air refueling aircraft, as befits a military intended primarily for offensive action.

          1. dandyandy


            Exactly 40 times more expensive and cumbersome to operate and maintain. In the era of asymmetric warfare (as whole world is learning about presently), that says everything. Everything.

          2. Polar Socialist

            In Russian doctrine the tactical aviation operates only to 15-25 miles in depth over the frontline. Their tactical aircraft can operate from grass fields in the combat zone – no need for tankers.

            The doctrine is based on the fact that in Eurasia the frontline will always be at least 1000 miles, so there’s no amount of tactical aircraft that can cover it all 24/7.

          3. tet vet

            The overwhelming majority of our tankers are KC-135s which are refitted Boeing 707s first placed in service in 1958. Here is a link to an article about our air force planes mission readiness:
            Note the statement regarding Kc-135s: “The KC-135 Stratotanker, the backbone of the Air Force’s tanker fleet, reached 80 percent mission capable just three years out of nine.” Also, the very few KC-10s now in service are being phased out and the new KC-46 has a long list of problems. The only way we can project air power is in areas that don’t have even a minimal air defense capability and when we can launch from airfields close enough or refuel close enough to provide air support. Bottom line, any attempt to provide air support to Ukraine will end up with the base used to launch or the plane near enough to refuel will be shot out of the sky by the Russians post haste. The Russians are smart enough to know that air refuelers are nothing but easy targets in modern warfare and are smart enough to spend their money accordingly.

            1. Amfortas the Hippie

              so…even without …umm..rain…we cant get a billion dollar bomber plane anywhere near russia anyway?
              not Rome, but the Ottomans….just fizzled out, one day…

    2. The Rev Kev

      ‘As I’ve argued, I think we are going to see some kind of progressive nervous breakdown by PMC elites’

      Now that is going to be something that. So many people have made the Ukraine part of their identities by having Ukrainian flags outside their homes and in their social media accounts. They listen to the MSM and believe that the Ukrainians have broken the first Russian defence line and are approaching the second. That the Ukrainians are winning against the Evil Empire 2.0. What will they do when it all collapses? Perhaps for the US we had a preview of what might happen with the reaction to Trump winning the Presidential elections in 2016. Or, maybe like with Afghanistan, a few brief weeks of publicity and then it will all go away. Or maybe they will fixate on a new target – China. And I can see how our elites will encourage this to happen. But like you say, a lot of PMC types will not be able to cope with this happening and at the very least they will rage on social media and in the news of this happening and will seek someone to blame. But not themselves. Never themselves.

    3. Mark Gisleson

      There is a very real chance of nukes being used by the West and frankly I don’t think Jake Sullivan would make any courtesy calls to NATO or European leaders until after our submarines had launched their missiles.

      The clear and present nuclear danger now as always comes from the Oval Office and the neo-Strangeloves.

      1. Mirko

        I agree with them. But for one reason only, the Russians are not just lying off the coasts of America drinking vodka. The weapons are pointed at the cities. If that were not the case, NATO would have invaded Ukraine long ago. I live not far from the border with Ukraine, a drive through Poland obviously the extent, of the troops of Nato.

    4. hk

      As I understand it, NATO was perfectly willing to wipe out Germany with nukes to stop the Red Army. Wouldn’t they be willing to wipe out Ukraine now?

    5. Yves Smith Post author

      Former CIA analysts and daily briefer of three presidents, Ray McGovern, disagrees with you, He says the missile launchers installed in NATO countries aimed at Russia are designed so Russia has no idea what type of missile in in them (there is a term of art for this that I can’t recall right now). He says the Russians have said, and he agrees, that the West could put a nuclear missile any of them in less than a day.

      1. Aurelien

        I suspect we’re talking about different things. The only tactical nuclear weapons in Europe at the moment are air-launched, generally thought to number about 100. Here, for example, is the CFR’s account of the subject:

        A tactical nuclear weapon is precisely that: tactical (“battlefield” is a better term), in that it is intended to influence the outcome of an individual battle. In the Cold War they would have been used, for example, against Soviet Operational Manoeuvre Groups that had managed to break through NATO lines. They had to be short range and very accurate, which is why air-dropping was the favourite mode of delivery.

        I confess I don’t know what McGovern is referring to. To the best of my knowledge there are no conventional ballistic missiles in Europe “aimed at Russia”, and of course if there were, they would by definition be strategic and not tactical, anyway. There are some types of air-launched systems that are believed to be dual-capable, but again that’s quite a different issue. I’m not sure what he means by “missile launchers” either: usually these are battlefield systems for launching large numbers of small-calibre rockets in salvoes, as used by the Russians in Ukraine. I don’t know of any nuclear system which would be small enough to fit inside whatever remains of a comparable Ukrainian capability. (By comparison a B61 free-fall bomb weighs around 350 kg and is over three metres long: you can’t just stick that in a missile tube.) I continue to think that the idea of NATO being able to use tactical nuclear weapons on the battlefield in Ukraine, even if it wanted to, is a delusion.

        1. R.S.

          > I confess I don’t know what McGovern is referring to.

          Aegis Ashore installations in Poland and Romania. Those have universal tube launchers (mk41 IIRC) for interceptors. But as those tubes are universal, they can also accommodate at least Tomahawks (and probably newer cruise missiles as well), both in nuclear and conventional variants.

          1. Aurelien

            Ah, I wondered if it might be that, but then McGovern is not just confusing tactical and strategic systems, but also making assumptions about substituting missiles for interceptors. As far as I know there are no operational Tomahawks with nuclear warheads at the moment, and bringing nuclear warheads, or nuclear armed missiles to Europe and installing them would be impossible to hide, and impossible to do quickly. None of which changes the fact that NATO has no usable tactical nuclear capability that might affect the outcome of the war in in Ukraine.

            1. scott s.

              IIRC Biden admin (2022 NPR) ordered cancellation of ship launched nuclear cruise missile that Trump admin had initiated, but I’m not sure Congress has agreed to the cancellation. Currently the air-launched cruise missile is the only nuclear capability. Supposedly the W76-2 warhead provides some capability to Trident missiles but I have a hard time seeing an operations plan for use in the current situation, and certainly these aren’t going to be launched from some notional launcher.

              As far as GLCM, I think it was always intended as a bargaining chip back in the Carter days. Reagan kept ship-launched version but as a strategic (national) asset. Navy didn’t particularly like the cost of maintaining the capability and didn’t argue when Bush 41 retired it.

        2. hk

          Not ballistic missiles (US was never big on short to medium range ballistic missiles anyways) but cruise missiles. A big bone of contention was that “missile defense” launchers can accommodate them without any modification and that the missiles deployed with them are secret–Russia probably does consider them nuclear weapons with paper thin disguise.

          Another touch that came up was that plenty of nuclear artillery shells, including 155mm ones, were produced and they still exist. They could easily be supplied to Ukraine to stage some sort of incident.

          1. Aurelien

            Well, ABM systems these days operate by KE kills: colliding directly with the incoming missile in the mid-course phase, or through the use of a fragmentation warhead, neither of which is much use as an offensive weapon. (There may be confusion with the Russian A-325 ABM system around Moscow, which does have nuclear warheads.) But again, this is a different question.

    6. Feral Finster

      “..and it’s not clear to me that European elites, at least, whose main reason for fighting the war this is, will actually be able to survive such an outcome.”

      They will do what they have to do, backed up by their American sponsors, to maintain power.

      The Euroelites already have run roughshod over civil liberties and any pretense of democracy and thus cannot back down now, even if they wanted to.

      Rather, the concern is that NATO already will continue to double down, and every indication is that it will continue to abuse The Sunk Cost Fallacy to justify doing so.

    7. Tom Pfotzer

      This bears re-reading and deep contemplation:

      There are things that, at a personal level as much as an institutional one, we simply cannot bring ourselves to believe, because they are outside our frame of reference, and the consequences of them being true are too frightening. More importantly, when we are members of groups that all believe the same thing, and we are constantly reinforcing each others’ views, continued membership of that group is identified with sanity, and with the value of the sunk psychological costs invested in the policies adopted so far.

      This is what makes change so grindingly difficult. This principle applies especially to our societal response to environmental degradation, and to the attendant and prerequisite redesign of the economy we spent ourselves to build over the past 150 years.

      The price we must pay to regain our adaptive mobility is to decouple from our social bonds, and re-attach to other groups whose values are more consonant with our survival.

      “Whatever you have … has you”.

      Your social groups exert more influence on you than you do on them.

      1. dandyandy

        … and in the backs of their minds, I think that all thought capable people in the “garden” are aware, howsoever they tried to suppress these thoughts, that the world of abundance (h/t E Macron) they inhabited for the past 400-500 years, was based on robbery and genocide of the folks that resided in the “jungle”. And now the folks in the “jungle” are aware, thank you Facebook ticktock and YouTube. And the mood in the “garden” is of desperation on steroids. Stick the flags out. Oh no these don’t work. Get some other flags out. Call the police. Call the fire brigade. Call Lloyds. Get the canned good, get the toilet paper, you know we need it (thanks F Zappa).

      2. Susan the other

        We were the dupe of our own propaganda. As usual. It’s very sobering to lose yer exceptionalism and yer wolfowitz doctrine all at once in a blinding flash of reality. So very ignominious. Tsk tsk. And actually Putin did do it. Along with the rest of the world, all of whom are pretty sick of indulging us. The silver lining here is that all of the underlying intrigue and existential crises we face will turn out to be resolvable without war, aka plunder. IMO only without war because making war the final arbiter of our greedy differences just compounds them. If we put as much energy into cooperation as we put into provocation and military confrontation we would achieve substantial benefits. Maybe even survive. Make the Treaty of Ukraine a declaration to eliminate war. Si, se puede.

    8. Russell Davies

      “More importantly, when we are members of groups that all believe the same thing, and we are constantly reinforcing each others’ views, continued membership of that group is identified with sanity, and with the value of the sunk psychological costs invested in the policies adopted so far.”

      A couple of weeks ago I was researching the Trilateral Commission (TriCom) because Keir Starmer was a former member (2018-2022) and is now virtually certain of being the UK’s next prime minister. I wanted to find out what this membership might mean for Ukakania once he’s in power. TriCom is one of the institutions/think tanks which form the self-reinforcing group providing the foreign policy and economic thinking, as well as many personnel, for successive US administrations.

      What’s of interest here is that TriCom, which pulls together ‘elites’ from the US, Western Europe and Japan, along with the RAND Corporation, Bilderberg Group, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Brookings, National Bureau of Economic Research, and the Council on Foreign Relations, were all heavily networked into the Clinton, Bush (GW) and Obama presidencies. Each president had networks outside of this core group, but essentially this group was at the centre of US power for 24 years before it was interrupted by Trump. In Trump’s first administration not a single member of this group was connected in any recurrent fashion with Trump’s appointees – one of the reasons why Trump has to be destroyed? – (if anyone wants to know more about these networks, see the work of Nana de Graaff and Bastiaan van Apeldoorn). That this core group is back can be gauged by the fact that former members of TriCom Anthony Blinken, Jake Sullivan, Wendy Sherman and Mark Brzezinski, son of Zbigniew, are working for Biden.

      The careers of Victoria Nuland and William Burns are also indicative of the essential continuity across administrations. Burns served Clinton, Bush (GW) and Obama before becoming Director of CIA under Biden. Between leaving Obama and joining Biden (2015-2021), he was president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Nuland, currently Biden’s Acting Deputy Secretary of State, was chief of staff to deputy secretary of state Strobe Talbott (TriCom member) from 1993 to 1996, during the Clinton presidency, before becoming deputy national security adviser to Bush’s VP Dick Cheney (2003 to 2005). Of course, her husband is Robert Kagan, senior fellow at Brookings, one of the core group, and a co-founder of the Project for the New American Century.

      They all swim in the same policy pond, all promoting what de Graaff and van Apeldoorn call “Open Door imperialism”, a policy first formulated by secretary of state John Hay in 1899 in relation to China. Essentially, this is a foreign policy of continual economic expansion (backed up, in the final analysis, by military power), i.e. the firm belief that America’s domestic well-being depends on ever increasing overseas economic expansion, the opening up of foreign markets to US capital, under the twin banner of free markets and the rules-based international order, democracy promotion with democracy defined as that which promotes US notions of economic freedom, the characterisation of anyone who resists as ‘evil’, and who can therefore be destroyed, all under the concept of US exceptionalism, the idea that the US is not driven by power interests but by morality, that it has a divine mission to remake the world in its own image.

      Obama said at West Point in 2014 that “the United States is and remains the one indispensable nation. That has been true for the century passed and it will be true for the century to come.” When reality bites over Ukraine, the US will have to stare into the abyss of its dispensability, not an easy prospect for a divinity.

      1. nippersdad

        This is a very good commentary on the inbred nature of our foreign policy apparatus over the past thirty years.

        Just to add that Nuland was also the assistant secretary state for European and Eurasian affairs during the Obama Administration under Hillary Clinton.

        I have been wondering what the addition of Elliott Abrams to the team portends for the Ukraine conflict, but he would also take your timeline back into the Reagan Administration.

        1. Russell Davies

          Thank you for the link. It’s also worth pointing out that Peter Mandelson is a member of the Trilateral Commission, which shows how embedded Starmer’s Labour is in US foreign and economic policy.

      2. digi_owl

        It helped USA greatly in the century passed that much of the world had its industry blown to bits while USA was sitting pretty behind its twin oceanic moats.

      3. Amfortas the Hippie

        that was an excellent overview, Russel.
        real world meets mirrored bubbleworld via the burning laurels upon which they rest finally beginning to scorch their precious flesh…smoke gets in their eyes and nostrils…they are animal humans,after all…”The Horror…”
        the question is the same as it was in 98 or so….how will they react(not Respond), when Nemesis comes?
        and how much utility will that Reaction have?
        (short of nukewar, that is)

        and again…i use my covert narcissist mother as a proxy/representative of the PMC…
        she never got there, but has aspired to it all her life.
        that aspiration and fake-it-til-ya-make-it is at the core of her nonexistent being.
        perception and narrative control is all that matters.

        iow, ive got one in a box…that i can study, up close.

        they aint gonna give up.
        we failed them, etc.
        find a scapegoat!
        send it into the desert!
        anything at all besides take responsibility.
        (she’ll be 82 in 2months, so a lil bit pre-boomer…but is a fine representative sample of the general type, at least further up the wealth scale, such as it is)

    9. Ignacio

      Re: if you read what we said extremely carefully, the worst imaginable outcome has been avoided, and so we won and we were right all along

      I can imagine Russia remaining silent on this “worst imaginable outcome” if only to give the West room to negotiate on Russian terms. OK, OK, Leopolis County can now join NATO, you “won”.

    10. Roger

      Unless they have been decommissioned, the US is armed with tac nukes delivered by artillery. Eight inch howitzers are the delivery vehicle, if I recall.

    11. Piotr Berman

      “A couple of points need correction. The NATO official who said that the Russian draft treaties of December 2021 were unacceptable was speaking no more than the truth. […] The intelligent thing for western nations to have done would have been to say yes to the possibility of negotiations, but to have worked up texts of their own, …”

      The script of NATO/USA did not allow to address Russian demands “intelligently”. As we know from RAND report “how to over-extend Russia”, war was the goal. The only major deviation from RAND report that I have noticed was that the war was not timed at a period with glut of oil on world market, but that was not on the horizon. Were the goals consistent with some time of compromise, Minsk agreements were a good template, but they were not. After all, the goal is “full spectrum domination”, leaving the precise means and timing of war to be established later.

      Timing of war is tricky when both sides are in the midst of preparations. Russia was not ready, and Ukraine could be prepared better as well, so it remains an open question who would gain more by postponing the war for few months or a year. The West could “respond intelligently” if coexistence without domination was acceptable. The war is going on without a decisive break yet in either direction, but my impression is that the West did not lacked that much of intelligence, but lacked sanity.

      1. Aurelien

        It’s a mistake to put “NATO” and “goal” in the same sentence, or even the same paragraph. They have enough trouble agreeing the date of the next meeting. The whole point of documents like the RAND report is that they talk about things which are not being done and have not been thought of. There’s no indication that the Report had any more influence than the majority of such reports do. In general, such reports come out of interviews with people inside and outside government, more or less influential, and try to give visibility to ideas which are circulating but haven’t been formally adopted, or in some cases even discussed. It’s likely that NATO’s decision to reject the Russian draft treaties without discussion had an impact on the timing of the Russian decision to move, and doubtless Zelensky’s antics at the Munich security conference did as well, but that’s about the extent of NATO influence.

  5. NotTimothyGeithner

    I suspect the fear of rice bowls being broken is driving the elite behavior. Its like property values in Northern Virginia. With the exception of a few spots measured in city blocks, its a hole. Imagine the wailing and gnashing of teeth if government jobs began to be moved en masse. We’ve spent the trillions on the US’s great war of terror and student loan repay ends are restarting.

    BRICS+ is going to reduce the demand for US employees. The hammer is coming, and western pmcs are desperate to prove their worth. A Scholz level type might be safe, but his flunkies are at risk. Who knows what kind of liabilities they took on during their moment in the sun expecting eternal glory?

    A keeping up with the Jones mentality keeps everyone from voicing these concerns, but these people are like anyone else. What if they lose their job?

    1. ambrit

      “What if they lose their job?”
      ‘They’ will then become functionally just like the rest of us, here in the “deplorable” class. Politically however…
      This will be a reversion to the mean pre-industrial revolution socio-economic conditions.
      Will this emerging class of downwardly mobile PMCs become a modern Third Estate? We already have our “sans culottes,” the “deplorables.”

      1. Amfortas the Hippie

        to quote Smeagol…
        “they are young, they are fresh…”
        Feed the Poor.
        and all.

  6. Adam Eran

    About the “exceptionalism”…Inequality is a source of twisted thinking:

    In … Domination and the Arts of Resistance (1990), James Scott makes the point that whenever one group has overwhelming power over another, as when a community is divided between lords and serfs, masters and slaves, high-caste and untouchable, both sides tend to end up acting as if they were conspiring to falsify the historical record. That is: there will always be an ‘official version’ of reality–say, that plantation owners are benevolent paternal figures who only have the best interest of their slaves at heart–which no one, neither masters nor slaves, actually believes, and which they are likely to treat as self-evidently ridiculous when ‘offstage’ and speaking only to each other, but which the dominant group insists subordinates play along with, particularly at anything that might be considered a public event. In a way, this is the purest expression of power: the ability to force the dominated to pretend, effectively, that two plus two is five. Or that the pharaoh is a god. As a result, the version of reality that tends to be preserved for history and posterity is precisely that ‘official transcript.’
    – From (footnotes) The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity by Graeber and Wengrow

  7. Amfortas the Hippie

    late to the party…been running sheep and that yelling goat to the auction down in fredericksburg.

    this paragraph:
    “What preceded, and also what followed those treaties, was the doing, in Matthews’s psychopathological terminology, of “fantasies about anti-Russian fascists coming to power in Kyiv”; “paranoia over Western attempts to subvert and undermine Russia”; and other “lies and eschatological fantasies”. At the centre of this madness, according to Matthews, is the single figure of Vladimir Putin, advised by “Soviet-era fantasists and paranoiacs”; “on the point of paranoia about the [corona] virus”; “secluded and inaccessible in his Covid bunker”; obsessed by pseudo-historical revenge and “a kind of death cult”; surrounded by “the most deluded and most ideologically driven members of Putin’s entourage”; and speechifying “a set of unbelievably illiterate conspiracy clichés…especially when the former Marxists in the Kremlin sincerely believed that inexorable historical forces were on their side.””

    …is entirely projection…by matthews, not helmer.
    all those points apply to us.
    (save for the covid stuff…which is just singing from the current hymnal about how the pandemic is so over)
    idk who matthews is…again, working through this after a long day already.
    but he’s frelling perfect as a representative sample,lol.

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