When I was a teenager I read Ian Fleming’s James Bond spy novel. The world seemed less complicated, more simple in the assignment of roles for the good and the bad. Reagan would not discover the evil empire for another sixteen years. Now the world appears to be divided into so many different genres, so to speak. The only sure thing we know is that the enemy of my enemy is my friend until he becomes my enemy and my enemy’s friend. Sounds on par for dealing with any government regardless of citizenship. Now they hand out Nobel Peace Prizes to leaders in hope that such a leader will not start another war. It would be very funny if it weren’t so tragic. But progressive liberals aren’t know for their sense of humor.
For the past month or so we have read and heard any number of experts proclaim the immediacy of war with Russia. Putin has been backed into a corner and will strike out at any moment using his arsenal of nuclear weapons. It is amusing to think I just might have use for that late fifties fall out shelter in the back yard as other than a wine cellar. But if words were bombs we’d all be dead and the cockroaches ruling the earth as kings of the world. So what has the world come to, or better yet, why are we talking in such a wild manner or war and destruction? One would think Hitler had just won more concessions in Munich and we had achieved peace in our time. Why all the press activity? For that I believe we might need some perspective.
I would believe the case to be that Russia never finished its first revolution. That is, 1917 came and went and the absolute monarchy in the form of the Czar was dethroned but that revolt was diddled away until Stalin established another absolute monarchy in his dictatorship. Even absolute monarchies do not exist without sufficient help from the non royal family and the same may be said of absolute dictatorships. Just as many of the French nobility had taken the sides of the Citizens of France, many of those families are with us today and exercise a form of rule within the present government as elected officials or government appointees. The Russians, on the other hand, systematically eliminated all nobility and anyone with money who did not prove useful to the cause. So a new order of nobility imposed itself upon the government. The insiders always assumed some risk of becoming outsiders or worse, but both government department and family connections created this nobility, for without it Stalin was a dead man. This same system works in China and to a much lesser extent, it works here in the United States. Then came another revolution to what was then the USSR. Now note that the USSR was a collection of individual areas that were either independent or under the control of Czarist Russia. For many of them it took a lot of mass murder and ethnic cleansing to make them territories turned communist states of the Union.
Where there had been only a few government overlords in these places like the Ukraine and Moldava, the new Soviet rushed in administrative as well as military populations. Russian workers were sent to start up industries because the old populations could not be trusted. It was not until 1956 that the Ukrainian language was allowed to officially exist. Meanwhile some areas of these old countries that had been subject to foreign rule most of their lives found significant areas of their country being occupied by citizens of a foreign country and becoming the majority. The old animosities become stronger as they suffered from the formal and informal discrimination imposed by these foreigners. The history of the recent hundred years or so of the Ukraine has been one of years of partisan warfare. They were unwilling conscripts in WWI and in WWII. Many would fight on the side of the Germans against Stalin’s troops. And again, as Stalin imposed his will upon that country and language group they would turn partisan and it would take several years to root most of them out for either firing squads or Siberia. Would Putin order an invasion of the Ukraine again and then need to deal with a most hostile population? I don’t think he is that stupid. He has the Crimea, which was always Russian. It was attached to the Ukraine as a good will token by Khrushchev. What the Russians give they can take away. It is of minimal importance to the Ukraine and it is also a very poor area, needing or draining the treasury of that country. Let the Russians pay for their own misuse of resources.
What matters to Putin is that Russia gains those areas where the Russian population is the significant majority and keeps it. Thus the fear that if NATO and Western Europe and the United States interfere in terms of arms supply and even armed foreign forces, the current Ukrainian government would push for a recapture of these areas. Putin is content to let the West have Chernobyl. But back to this revolution in the USSR, for we have not quite finished that order of battle. Think of it as a group of crime families, which would not be far from wrong, in which there is a shakeout forming. Things haven’t been going well, business is off and the families have been spending too much money on the wrong thing. America won the cold war simply because the USSR could not keep up with the spending. In fact, I would believe that they went too far in debt. Now according to MMT, they had the perfect government monetary policy set up. They controlled how much the Ruble was worth, set prices and supplies for goods and services, what was there not to like? So why did the USSR crumble? In a word, Debt. Lesson number one, MMT people, you can spend what you don’t have unless someone gives you more. And if you can’t pay it back you’ve got a problem. Simply ordering something done is not good enough. Simply creating more credit does not create true economic growth. The USSR was self sufficient, how could it go under economically? By trying to produce too much of the wrong mix of goods and services. The problem with dictatorships is that the fiefdoms that such a government creates are less transparent than those in an elected democracy or similar government. In a democracy we usually wear our numbers so one can tell which side we’re on. In a dictatorship we all wear the same uniform and it is difficult to tell whose side we represent. Thus the constant struggle for turf, for advantage, and for spoils of government came to a head. It was not so much a reach for democracy as it was a grab for personal riches. Under the old rules it was difficult to hide one’s wealth and prevent others from taking it in the name of the state. But when the chance came to establish private ownership in a pirate sort of way, many took it and led the revolution. Yes, Russia may be a little more free these days, no more secret police taking down political conversations, but there is still the secret police and they have their duties to Putin.
So how did America and Western Europe become involved in collective stupidity? Well, if Barack Obama actually had a single good idea on foreign policy I do believe it died from loneliness. If the Bush administration was bad enough on a lack of good foreign policy ideas, Obama’s administration seems to have gotten theirs off the back of a cereal box with no chance to trade the box tops in for a facsimile of a real foreign policy, assuming a toy manufacturer would bother to make such a deadly thing. If having any idea of what a foreign policy might be was a crime, I doubt Obama would ever be suspected of having one let alone indicted. One would think that Hilary Clinton would have had some idea of what foreign policy might be good for the country, but in the final analysis, I believe that the only idea she kept in her head was that she should be president because she was the rightful successor. As for Joe Biden, well, you can’t fix stupid. And then there is the military. But they only know how to fight wars, or so they believe. Besides, one needs wars for promotions and medals, particularly if one need not die for either one. So our foreign policy is, in that parlance of war, missing in action.
Enter boy economist idiot, Paul Krugman, one of the great arguments for abortion. Our economic problems are only temporary and just need more government spending. By the way, Obama, war is a sure fire pickup for what ever ails the economy. Just look what WWII did for the world. Well, sure, know a hundred million off the planet and jobs are sure to open up. Full employment for everyone. Economic sanctions will work miracles, just look what they did for us when it comes to Iran. Oh, wrong example, no broken windows in that country. Make them hurt enough and they will cry Uncle Sam and we’ve got another easy victory. Except the Saudis entered to fray. No, Obama did not sweet talk them into anything. True, we were doing their bidding in Syria in trying to depose Assad, but all that came to naught. No, there is a glut of oil on the market and the Saudis were complaining about it all. That may be why the Keystone Pipeline will be vetoed by Obama, keeps oil from Canada from the gulf coast refineries which now buy Saudi oil. No, The Saudis asked very politely of Putin to reduce the output of Russia’s oil well. In fact the Saudis asked several others to reduce output. the reason was that the Saudis are good at math and did the numbers. Output must fall if prices are to remain high. The shale oil and tar sands oil is raising output and is too strongly linked to high oil prices. They need 80 to 90 dollars a barrel to make their operations, which are fueled by large amounts of debt, to work, otherwise the house falls in. Putin said no, so the Saudis said screw you and pumped away, They are pumping as fast as they can and the price of oil is dropping like a lead balloon. Now the Russians are really hurting economically. But will a war, which is an expensive undertaking even if done by proxy, going to restore their economy? No, it will take Putin to either a firing squad or Siberia. Putin will not holler Uncle Sam but he will say, “Forgive me, Saudis, for I have sinned. I will reduce my well output.” We will see higher oil prices come the end of May or June, much higher. The Saudis aren’t stupid for they have raised the price of oil they sell to the Chinese for interfering with on Putin’s behalf.
There is speculation that Putin will use tactical nuclear weapons but I have my doubts. It may be an immediate advantage but long term it will be remembered adversely and Russia will lose what ever advantage it may have had with nations that oppose the United States. And there is too great a risk that by being the first to use such weapons would open the flood gates to acceptability in their future use. suddenly we might see the use of tactical nuclear weapons used against states or nations that we regard as terrorist or of harboring terrorist groups. And that would allow the Chechen rebels the right to use such weapons against the Russians, How could any world court hold them as war criminals? So what to do? If Putin gives in, he will appear weak and will be dethroned. If Obama gives in, well, no one will ever confuse him with stupidity. It’s not the first time he has dome stupid and walked away, why be out of character? Hell, he might even get another Nobel Peace Prize. Wouldn’t that be a kick in the head?