Archive for March, 2019

The Imperial Collapse Playbook

2019-03-28

First published on December 30, 2014

Some people enjoy having the Big Picture laid out in front of them—the biggest possible—on what is happening in the world at large, and I am happy to oblige. The largest development of 2014 is, very broadly, this: the Anglo-imperialists are finally being forced out of Eurasia. How can we tell? Well, here is the Big Picture—the biggest I could find. I found it thanks to Nikolai Starikov and a recent article of his.

Now, let\’s first define our terms. By Anglo-imperialists I mean the combination of Britain and the United States. The latter took over for the former as it failed, turning it into a protectorate. Now the latter is failing too, and there are no new up-and-coming Anglo-imperialists to take over for it. But throughout this process their common playbook had remained the same: pseudoliberal pseudocapitalism for the insiders and military domination and economic exploitation for everyone else. Much more specifically, their playbook always called for a certain strategem to be executed whenever their plans to dominate and exploit any given country finally fail. On their way out, they do what they can to compromise and weaken the entity they leave behind, by inflicting a permanently oozing and festering political wound. “Poison all the wells” is the last thing on their pre-departure checklist.

• When the British got tossed out of their American Colonies, they did all they could, using a combination of import preferences and British “soft power,” to bolster the plantation economy of the American South, helping set it up as a sort of anti-United States, and the eventual result was the American Civil War.

• When the British got tossed out of Ireland, they set up Belfast as a sort of anti-Ireland, with much blood shed as a result.

• When the British got tossed out of the Middle East, they set up the State of Israel, then the US made it into its own protectorate, and it has been poisoning regional politics ever since. (Thanks to Kristina for pointing this out in the comments.)

• When the British got tossed out of India, they set up Pakistan, as a sort of anti-India, precipitating a nasty hot war, followed by a frozen conflict over Kashmir.

• When the US lost China to the Communists, they evacuated the Nationalists to Taiwan, and set it up as a sort of anti-China, and even gave it China\’s seat at the United Nations.

The goal is always the same: if they can\’t have the run of the place, they make sure that nobody else can either, by setting up a conflict scenario that nobody there can ever hope to resolve. And so if you see Anglo-imperialists going out of their way and spending lots of money to poison the political well somewhere in the world, you can be sure that they are on their way out. Simply put, they don\’t spend lots of money to set up intractable problems for themselves to solve—it\’s always done for the benefit of others.

Fast-forward to 2014, and what we saw was the Anglo-imperialist attempt to set up Ukraine as a sort of anti-Russia. They took a Slavic, mostly Russian-speaking country and spent billions (that\’s with a “b”) of dollars corrupting its politics to make the Ukrainians hate the Russians. For a good while an average Ukrainian could earn a month\’s salary simply by turning up for an anti-Russian demonstration in Kiev, and it was said that nobody in Ukraine goes to protests free of charge; it\’s all paid for by the US State Department and associated American NGOs. The result was what we saw this year: a bloody coup, and a civil war marked by numerous atrocities. Ukraine is in the midst of economic collapse with power plants out of coal and lights going off everywhere, while at the same time the Ukrainians are being drafted into the army and indoctrinated to want to go fight against “the Muscovites.”

But, if you notice, things didn\’t go quite as planned. First, Russia succeeded in making a nice little example of self-determination in the form of Crimea: if it worked for Kosovo, why can\’t it work for Crimea? Oh, the Anglo-imperialist establishment wishes to handle these things on a case-by-case basis, and in this case it doesn\’t approve? Well, that would be a double-standard, wouldn\’t it? World, please take note: when the West talks about justice and human rights, that\’s just noise.

Next, the Russians provided some amount of support, including weapons, volunteers and humanitarian aid, to Ukraine\’s eastern provinces of Donetsk and Lugansk, which declared themselves People\’s Republics and successfully fought Ukraine\’s so-called “anti-terrorist operation” to a stalemate and an imperfect, precarious cease-fire. Very significantly, Russia absolutely refused to get involved militarily, has withheld official recognition of these republics, has refused to consider breaking up Ukraine, and continues to insist on national dialogue and a peace process even as the bullets fly. According to Putin, Ukraine must be maintained as “a contiguous political space.” Thus, the Russians have responded to the Anglo-imperialists\’ setting up of an anti-Russia in the form of Ukraine by setting up an anti-Ukraine in the form of DPR and LPR, thereby shunting the Anglo-imperialist attempt to provoke a war between Ukraine and Russia into a civil war within Ukraine.

You might also notice that the Anglo-imperialists have been getting very, very angry. They have been doing everything they can to vilify Russia, comparing Putin to Hitler and so on. This is because for them it\’s all about the money, and they didn\’t get what they paid for. What the Anglo-imperialists were paying for in corrupting Ukraine\’s politics was a ring-side seat at a fight between Ukraine and Russia. And what they got instead is a two-legged stool at a bar-room brawl between Eastern and Western Ukraine. Eastern Ukraine accounts for a quarter of the Ukrainian economy, produces most of the coal that had formerly kept the lights on in the rest of the country, and contains most of the industry that had made Ukraine an industrialized nation. Western Ukraine is centered on the unhappy little rump of Galicia, where the political soil is so fertile for growing neo-Nazis. So, paying billions to watch a bunch of Ukrainians fight each other inconclusively while Russia gets to play peacemaker is not what the Anglo-imperialists wanted, and they are absolutely livid about it. If they don\’t get the war they paid for PDQ, they will simply cut their losses, pack up and leave, and then do what they always do, which is pretend that the country in question doesn\’t exist, which, the way things are going in the Ukraine, it barely will.

Note that leaving, and then pretending that a place doesn\’t exist, is something the Anglo-imperialists have been doing a lot lately. When they left Iraq, they did succeed in setting up a sort of anti-Iraq in the form of Iraqi Kurdistan, but that all blew up in their face. Their attempts to set up an anti-Syria or an anti-Libya died in their infancy, and they don\’t seem to have any plan at all with regard to Afghanistan, unless it is to repeat every single blunder the Soviets made there as carefully and completely as possible.

What\’s more, it\’s starting to look like they are about to get kicked out of Eurasia altogether. Most of the major Eurasian players—China, Russia, India, Iran, much of Central Asia—are cementing their ties around the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, to which the United States isn\’t even admitted as an observer. As for the European Union, the current crop of EU politicians is very much bought and will be paid for upon retirement by the Anglo-imperialists, but the only reason they are still in power is that there are lots of older voters in Western Europe, and older people tend to cling to what they know even after it stops working—for them or, especially, for their kids. If it was up to the young people, the Anglo-imperialists would face open rebellion. In fact, the trends in voting patterns show that their departure from the region is a matter of time.

Here is a preview of possible coming attractions. On their way out, the Anglo-imperialists will of course try to set up an anti-Europe, and the obvious choice for that is Britain. Of all the European nations, it is the most heavily manipulated by their Anglo cousins from across the pond. It would take minimal effort for them to hurt Britain economically, then launch a propaganda campaign to redirect the blame for the bad economy toward the continent. They wouldn\’t even have to hire translators for their propaganda—a simple “spelling-chequer” (or whatever) would suffice. And so, to make sure that their efforts to provoke a large-scale, hugely destructive, festering conflict between Britain and Europe fail, Europe would do well to set up an anti-Britain within Britain.

And the obvious choice for an anti-Britain is of course Scotland, where the recent independence referendum failed because of… the recalcitrance of older voters. A dividing line between the Anglo empire and Eurasia running through the English Channel/La Manche would be a disaster for Europe and moving it somewhere west of Bermuda would pose a formidable challenge. On the other hand, suppose that line ran along Hadrian\’s Wall, with the traditionally combative and ornery Scots, armed with the remnants of North Sea oil and gas, aligning themselves with the Continent, while England remains an ever-so-obedient vassal of the Anglo-imperialists? That would reduce the intercontinental conflict to what Americans like to call a “pissing contest”: not worth the high price of admission. Yes, there would be some strong words between the two sides, and some shoving and shouting outside of pubs, and even some black eyes and loose teeth should diplomacy fail, but that should be the extent of the damage. That I see as the best-case outcome.

So that\’s the big picture I see heading into 2015, which I am sure will be a most tumultuous year. Not to make a prediction as to timing (don\’t worry, you won\’t ever get one out of me!) but 2015 could be the year the Anglo-imperialist franchise finally starts shutting down in obvious ways. We know it will have to shut down eventually, because failing all the time is not conducive to its survival. The bonus question is, what sort of anti-America will these parasites set up inside America before they abandon their host and scatter to their fortified compounds in undisclosed locations around the world? Or will they not even bother, and just provoke a war of all against all?

I would think that they would at least try to leverage their expensively engineered red/blue divide within the United States. This fake cultural/political divide, with all the pseudoliberal/pseudoconservative indoctrination and university- and church-based brainwashing that put it in place, cost them a pretty penny. It was engineered to produce the appearance of choice at election-time while making sure that there isn\’t any. But could it not be pressed into service in some more extreme manner? How about leveraging it to organize some sort of rabidly homophobic racist fundamentalist separatist enclave somewhere down south? Or perhaps one somewhere in the north, where zoophilia is de rigeur while heterosexual intercourse requires a special permit from a committee stocked with graduates in women\’s studies? Now, fight, you idiots! Don\’t you see how well that could work in practice? Would they waste such a nice opportunity to set up a system of controlled mayhem? I think not!

I leave all of that up to you to imagine.

The Care and Feeding of a Financial Black Hole

2019-03-26

First published on June 30, 2015

A while ago I had the pleasure of hearing Sergey Glazyev—economist, politician, member of the Academy of Sciences, adviser to Pres. Putin—say something that very much confirmed my own thinking. He said that anyone who knows mathematics can see that the United States is on the verge of collapse because its debt has gone exponential. These aren\’t words that an American or a European politician can utter in public, and perhaps not even whisper to their significant other while lying in bed, because the American eavesdroppers might overhear them, and then the politician in question would get the Dominique Strauss-Kahn treatment (whose illustrious career ended when on a visit to the US he was falsely accused of rape and arrested). And so no European (never mind American) politician can state the obvious, no matter how obvious it is.

The Russians have that pretty well figured out by now. Yes, maintaining a dialogue and cordial directions with the Europeans is important. But it is well understood that the Europeans are just a bunch of American puppets with no will or decision-making authority of their own, so why not talk to the Americans directly? Alas, the Americans too are puppets. The American officials and politicians are definitely puppets, controlled by corporate lobbyists and shady oligarchs. But here\’s a shocker: these are also puppets—controlled by the simple imperatives of profitability and wealth preservation, respectively. In fact, it\’s puppets all the way down. And what\’s at the bottom is a giant, ever-expanding, financial black hole.

Do you like your black hole? If you aren\’t sure you like it, then let me ask you some other questions: Do you like the fact that your credit cards still work, or that you can still keep money in the bank and even get cash out of an ATM, or that you are either receiving or hope to eventually receive a pension? Do you like the fact that you can get useful things—food, gas, airline tickets—for mere pieces of paper with pictures of dead white men on them? Do you like the fact that you have internet access, that the lights are on, and that there is water on tap? Well, if you like these things, then you must also like the financial black hole, because that\’s what\’s making all of these things possible in spite of your country being bankrupt. Perhaps it\’s a love-hate relationship: you love being able to pretend that everything is still OK even though you know it isn\’t, and you wish to enjoy a bit more of the business-as-usual before it all goes to hell, be it for a few more days or another year or two; but you hate the fact that eventually the black hole will suck you in, after which point things will definitely… suck.

In the United States, so far the black hole has been sucking in individual families (although it does sometimes suck in entire cities, like Detroit, Michigan, or Bakersfield, California, or Camden, New Jersey). With the help of the fraudulent mortgage racket, it sucks in houses, and spits them out again encumbered with bad debt. With the help of the medical industry, it sucks in sick people and spits them out again, bankrupt. With the help of the higher education racket, it sucks in hopeful young people, and spits them out as graduates, with worthless degrees and saddled with mountainous student debt. With the help of the military-industrial complex, it sucks in just about anything and spits out corpses, invalids, environmental damage, terrorists and global instability. And so on.

But the black hole can also suck in entire countries. Right now it\’s busy trying to suck in Greece, but it\’s having a hard time with it, because Greece is, of all things, a democracy. This has the black hole\’s puppets in quite a state at the moment, and starting to clamor for “regime change” in Greece, so that Greece can be made to capitulate before the black hole gets hungry.

The way the black hole sucks in entire countries is as follows. If the black hole doesn\’t have enough to suck in for a period of time, it gets hungry and makes the financial markets go into free-fall. The financial instruments of countries that happen to be farther away from the black hole—out on the periphery—fall faster. In search of a “safe haven,” money floods out of these countries and into the “core” countries that are clustered tightly around the black hole—the US, Germany, Japan and a few others. The black hole gobbles up this money, but is then hungry for more. But since the periphery countries are now financially too weak to resist, they can easily be turned into black hole fodder. This is done by saddling the country with a foreign debt it can never repay, then forcing it to keep making payments against this debt by making it a condition for maintaining a financial lifeline—keeping the banks open, the ATMs stocked, the lights on and so on. To be able to make the payments, the country is forced to dismantle its society and economy through the imposition of austerity, to privatize everything in sight turning it into collateral for more loans, and to surrender its sovereignty to some transnational organizations, such as the IMF and the ECB, which are directly involved in the care and feeding of the black hole.

Who is in charge of all this? you might ask. If all there is is the black hole, the puppets charged with its care and feeding, and its hapless victims, then who is making the decisions? Well, it turns out that the black hole is sentient. But it is also very, very stupid. And the way is enforces its will is by destroying the minds of its puppets—by making them unable to understand certain things. However, stupidity is a double-edged sword, and in enforcing its will in this manner the black hole also thwarts its own purpose.

For example, some time ago the black hole happened upon a rather large item it wanted to suck in, but couldn\’t. The item is called Russian Federation. It controls a huge territory that is full of all sorts of natural resources the black hole would love to turn into loan collateral and suck in. The problem is that it is full of Russians, who are a difficult people for the black hole\’s puppets to deal with. They keep telling the puppets to please keep their toes on the other side of that red line over there, and if they don\’t then click goes the safety on their guns, precluding further discussion.

This situation calls for negotiation, but the black hole, which, as I mentioned, is very, very stupid, has just one negotiating tactic. It makes its demands, and then waits for the other side to capitulate. If that doesn\’t work, it applies pressure: imposes sanctions, attacks the currency, complicates financial transactions, arrests the country\’s foreign assets and so on—and waits for the other side to capitulate. And if that doesn\’t work either, then the country gets bombed to rubble by NATO or, if NATO doesn\’t want to come along, by the US alone. That generally works, but in the case of Russia it doesn\’t. But the black hole, if you recall, is very, very stupid, so it keeps trying anyway. As it does, the minds of its puppets get really warped, to a point where they don\’t understand what\’s going on at all.

For example, everybody knows by now that pressuring Russia doesn\’t work: according to Newton\’s Third Law, every action produces an equal and opposite reaction, and Russia is big enough that pushing it doesn\’t cause it to move at all—it just causes whoever is pushing it to hurt themselves. It\’s like trying to shift the Earth\’s orbit by jumping off a chair while keeping your knees locked—which is a good ploy if you are clamoring for medical attention. In fact, the Russians are rather grateful for the sanctions, because now they have a reason to finally get serious about investing in domestic economic development and self-sufficiency. But the puppets, having had their minds warped by the black hole, cannot see that, so they just keep pushing, wrecking their own economies in the process.

Since the sanctions don\’t work, it is time to exercise the military option. Doing so requires concocting a casus belli—a reason to go to war. The black hole does this by hallucinating: Russia invaded Crimea!—sure, a few hundred years ago, and has been there ever since, most recently based on an international agreement, but never mind! (Oh, and legally Crimea was never actually made part of the Ukraine because Nikita Khrushchev botched the paperwork when handing it over.) OK, never mind that, but then Russia invades the Ukraine!—on every day that has the letter “D” in it, but it\’s very sneaky and withdraws its troops before anybody can snap a single picture of them there. OK, never mind that either, but then Russia is poised to invade Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, and maybe Poland too. Invade how? You mean like take a bus to the music festival in Jūrmala? Consider it done, but the festival is already over and the invading music fans are back home. OK, never mind that either. But the puppets keep saying “Russian aggression!” over and over again. It\’s the brain damage caused by proximity to the black hole. Look at this poor guy, for instance. He keeps flapping his lower jaw, going “Russian aggression! Russian aggression!” while trying to self-soothe by fondling the rump of his imaginary pet cow. God help him.

Back to the real world: the poor puppets are unable to understand that there is no military option when it comes to Russia: it\’s a nuclear power with an excellent strategic deterrent, a well-defended territory, and no aggressive intentions against anyone. But the puppets, with their warped minds, cannot see that, and so they pile various kinds of obsolete military junk along Russia\’s borders, and are even threatening to bring into Europe the entirely obsolete Pershing medium-range nuclear missiles. They are obsolete because the Russians now have the S-300 system with which to shoot them all down. The military option just isn\’t going to work, but don\’t tell that to the puppets—they cannot absorb such information without sustaining further neurological damage.

Back to Greece: tiny Greece certainly isn\’t mighty Russia, but it nevertheless refused to capitulate to the demands of the black hole. It was asked to completely wreck its society and its economy as a condition for maintaining its financial lifelines from the IMF and the ECB. Most inconveniently for the black hole and its puppets, Greece is not some obscure “third world” country peopled by dark-skinned people you wouldn\’t want your daughter to marry, but a European nation that is the cradle of European civilization and democracy. Greece managed to elect a government that tried to negotiate in good faith, but the puppets don\’t negotiate—they demand, threaten and cause damage until they get their way—or until their heads explode.

This one will be interesting to watch. If the black hole does succeed in sucking in Greece, then which country is next? Will it be Italy, Spain or Portugal? And, as that process continues, at what point will enough people say that enough is enough? Because when they do, the black hole will shrivel up. It\’s not a real black hole that\’s made up of incredibly dense matter—so dense that its gravitational field traps even light. It\’s a fake black hole, made up of everyone\’s combined greed. It has greed at its core, and fear all around it, and it sustains itself by feeding on fear. If it can continue sucking in people, families and entire countries, it can keep the greed at its core alive, but if it can\’t, then the greed will also turn to fear, and it will shrivel up and die. And I hope that when it dies all of its brain-damaged puppets will snap out of it, realize how deluded they have been, and go find something useful to do—farm sheep, grow vegetables, dig for clams…

It\'s really very simple

2019-03-21

First published on July 26, 2015

There are times when a loud cry of “The emperor has no clothes!” can be most copacetic. And so, let me point out something quite simple, yet very important.

The old world order, to which we became accustomed over the course of the 1990s and the 2000s, its crises and its problems detailed in numerous authoritative publications on both sides of the Atlantic—it is no more. It is not out sick and it is not on vacation. It is deceased. It has passed on, gone to meet its maker, bought the farm, kicked the bucket and joined the choir invisible. It is an ex-world order.

If we rewind back to the early 1980s, we can easily remember how the USSR was still running half of Europe and exerting major influence on a sizable chunk of the world. World socialist revolution was still sputtering along, with pro-Soviet regimes coming in to power here and there in different parts of the globe, the chorus of their leaders\’ official pronouncements sounding more or less in unison. The leaders made their pilgrimages to Moscow as if it were Mecca, and they sent their promising young people there to learn how to do things the Soviet way. Soviet technology continued to make impressive advances: in the mid-1980s the Soviets launched into orbit a miracle of technology—the space station Mir, while Vega space probes were being dispatched to study Venus.

But alongside all of this business-as-usual the rules and principles according which the “red” half of the globe operated were already in an advanced state of decay, and a completely different system was starting to emerge both at the center and along the periphery. Seven years later the USSR collapsed and the world order was transformed, but many people simply couldn\’t believe in the reality of this change. In the early 1990s many political scientists were self-assuredly claiming that what is happening is the realization of a clever Kremlin plan to modernize the Soviet system and that, after a quick rebranding, it will again start taking over the world. People like to talk about what they think they can understand, never mind whether it still exists.

And what do we see today? The realm that self-identifies itself as “The West” is still claiming to be leading economically, technologically, and to be dominant militarily, but it has suffered a moral defeat, and, strictly as a consequence of this moral defeat, a profound ideological defeat as well.

It\’s simple.

1. How can they talk of the inviolability of private property while confiscating the savings of depositors in Cypriot banks?

2. How can they talk of safeguarding the territorial integrity of countries while destroying, in turn, Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Ukraine?

3. How can they talk of free enterprise and then sign contracts to build ships but refuse to deliver them because of pressure from Washington, as happened with Mistral ships which Russia ordered from France?

4. How can they talk of democracy and then use naked threats against the premier of Greece—the birthplace of European democracy—forcing him to ignore the unprofitable results of the Greek national referendum?

5. How can they talk about fighting racism while in the US they are constantly shooting mass quantities of unarmed Negros, all the while forbidding people to call them Negros.

6. How can they accuse the Serbs of genocide while refusing to acknowledge what they did to supposedly “independent” Kosovo, which has been turned into a European criminal enclave specializing in the production and distribution of narcotics?

7. How can they claim to oppose extremism and terrorism while training, arming and financing ISIS and the Ukrainian Neo-nazis?

8. How can they talk about justice while the US maintains the largest prison population in the history of the world and has executed many people subsequently discovered to have been innocent?

9. How can they talk about freedom of religion after the US federal government exterminated the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas, and then imprisoned the survivors, even though the government\’s allegations against the sect have subsequently been proven to be false?

10. How can they accuse others of corruption after the colossal financial embarrassment of 2008, in the run-up to which obvious financial bubbles that were ready to bust were assigned the highest ratings?

What has happened is the worst thing that could have possibly happened: in full view of the entire world, “Western values” have been demonstrated to be null and void.

If you think that these are just some specific examples of difficulties or mistakes that could potentially be overcome in some dim and foggy future, then you are wrong: this is all of the “Western values” worth mentioning, and they have all been invalidated by observation. Note the past tense: they already have been invalidated. Are there any “Western values” left intact? Oh yes, just one: the rights of sexual minorities. But it is not possible to maintain Western civilization on the strength of gay marriage alone.

Is it any wonder then that the rest of the world is trying to put as much distance between itself and the morally bankrupt “West” as it possibly can, as quickly as it can? China is working on developing its own model, Russia is striving for self-sufficiency and independence from Western imports and finance, and even Latin America, once considered the backyard of the US, is increasingly going its own separate way.

The ranks of the fools who are still buying the West\’s story are shrinking, while the ranks of the rebels are growing. There is the truth-teller Edward Snowden, who was forced to flee to Moscow to avoid persecution back home. There are European parliamentarians who recently broke ranks and visited Crimea. There are French and German military men who are volunteering to defend Eastern Ukraine against Western attack. There are the many European businessmen who came to the Economics Forum in St. Petersburg to sign trade deals with Russia, never mind what their politicians think of that.

On the other side, the rapidly emerging new world order was recently on display in Ufa, capital of the majority-Moslem Republic of Bashkortostan in Southern Urals, Russian Federation. Leaders of more than half the world\’s population came there to sign deals, integrate their economies, and coordinate security arrangements. India and Pakistan set their differences aside and walked in through the door at the same time; Iran is next. “The West” was not represented there.

Now that all Western values (other than the rights of sexual minorities) have been shown to be cynical exercises in hypocrisy, there is no path back. You see, it is a matter of reputation, and a reputation is something that one can lose exactly once. There is a path forward, but it is very frightening. There is the loss of control: Western institutions can no longer control the situation throughout much of the world, including, in due course, on their own territory. There is the abandonment of the Western narrative: Western pontificators, pundits and “thought leaders” will find that their talking points have been snatched away and will be reduced to either babbling apologetically or lapsing into embarrassed silence. Finally, there is the loss of identity: it is not possible, for the non-delusional, to identify with something (“The West”) that no longer exists.

But the most frightening thing of all is this: behind a morally bankrupt civilization there are morally bankrupt people—lots and lots of them. Their own children, who will be forced to make their way in the world—however it turns out to be—will be as disrespectful of them as they were of their own vaunted civilizational values.

The Power of “Nyet”

2019-03-19

First published on July 17, 2016

The way things are supposed to work on this planet is like this: in the United States, the power structures (public and private) decide what they want the rest of the world to do. They communicate their wishes through official and unofficial channels, expecting automatic cooperation. If cooperation is not immediately forthcoming, they apply political, financial and economic pressure. If that still doesn’t produce the intended effect, they attempt regime change through a color revolution or a military coup, or organize and finance an insurgency leading to terrorist attacks and civil war in the recalcitrant nation. If that still doesn’t work, they bomb the country back to the stone age. This is the way it worked in the 1990s and the 2000s, but as of late a new dynamic has emerged.

In the beginning it was centered on Russia, but the phenomenon has since spread around the world and is about to engulf the United States itself. It works like this: the United States decides what it wants Russia to do and communicates its wishes, expecting automatic cooperation. Russia says “Nyet.” The United States then runs through all of the above steps up to but not including the bombing campaign, from which it is deterred by Russia’s nuclear deterrent. The answer remains “Nyet.” One could perhaps imagine that some smart person within the US power structure would pipe up and say: “Based on the evidence before us, dictating our terms to Russia doesn’t work; let’s try negotiating with Russia in good faith as equals.” And then everybody else would slap their heads and say, \”Wow! That\’s brilliant! Why didn\’t we think of that?\” But instead that person would be fired that very same day because, you see, American global hegemony is nonnegotiable. And so what happens instead is that the Americans act baffled, regroup and try again, making for quite an amusing spectacle.

The whole Edward Snowden imbroglio was particularly fun to watch. The US demanded his extradition. The Russians said: “Nyet, our constitution forbids it.” And then, hilariously, some voices in the West demanded in response that Russia change its constitution! The response, requiring no translation, was “Xa-xa-xa-xa-xa!” Less funny is the impasse over Syria: the Americans have been continuously demanding that Russia go along with their plan to overthrow Bashar Assad. The unchanging Russian response has been: “Nyet, the Syrians get to decide on their leadership, not Russia, and not the US.” Each time they hear it, the Americans scratch their heads and… try again. John Kerry was just recently in Moscow, holding a marathon “negotiating session” with Putin and Lavrov. Above is a photo of Kerry talking to Putin and Lavrov in Moscow a week or so ago and their facial expressions are hard to misread. There’s Kerry, with his back to the camera, babbling away as per usual. Lavrov’s face says: “I can’t believe I have to sit here and listen to this nonsense again.” Putin’s face says: “Oh the poor idiot, he can’t bring himself to understand that we’re just going to say ‘nyet’ again.” Kerry flew home with yet another “nyet.”

What’s worse, other countries are now getting into the act. The Americans told the Brits exactly how to vote, and yet the Brits said “nyet” and voted for Brexit. The Americans told the Europeans to accept the horrendous corporate power grab that is the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), and the French said “nyet, it shall not pass.” The US organized yet another military coup in Turkey to replace Erdoǧan with somebody who won’t try to play nice with Russia, and the Turks said “nyet” to that too. And now, horror of horrors, there is Donald Trump saying “nyet” to all sorts of things—NATO, offshoring American jobs, letting in a flood of migrants, globalization, weapons for Ukrainian Nazis, free trade…

The corrosive psychological effect of “nyet” on the American hegemonic psyche cannot be underestimated. If you are supposed to think and act like a hegemon, but only the thinking part still works, then the result is cognitive dissonance. If your job is to bully nations around, and the nations can no longer be bullied, then your job becomes a joke, and you turn into a mental patient. The resulting madness has recently produced quite an interesting symptom: some number of US State Department staffers signed a letter, which was promptly leaked, calling for a bombing campaign against Syria in order to overthrow Bashar Assad. These are diplomats. Diplomacy is the art of avoiding war by talking. Diplomats who call for war are not being exactly… diplomatic. You could say that they are incompetent diplomats, but that wouldn’t go far enough (most of the competent diplomats left the service during the second Bush administration, many of them in disgust over having to lie about the rationale for the Iraq war). The truth is, they are sick, deranged non-diplomatic warmongers. Such is the power of this one simple Russian word that they have quite literally lost their minds.

But it would be unfair to single out the State Department. It is as if the entire American body politic has been infected by a putrid miasma. It permeates all things and makes life miserable. In spite of the mounting problems, most other things in the US are still somewhat manageable, but this one thing—the draining away of the ability to bully the whole world—ruins everything. It’s mid-summer, the nation is at the beach. The beach blanket is moth-eaten and threadbare, the beach umbrella has holes in it, the soft drinks in the cooler are laced with nasty chemicals and the summer reading is boring… and then there is a dead whale decomposing nearby, whose name is “Nyet.” It just ruins the whole ambiance!

The media chattering heads and the establishment politicos are at this point painfully aware of this problem, and their predictable reaction is to blame it on what they perceive as its ultimate source: Russia, conveniently personified by Putin. “If you aren’t voting for Clinton, you are voting for Putin” is one recently minted political trope. Another is that Trump is Putin’s agent. Any public figure that declines to take a pro-establishment stance is automatically labeled “Putin’s useful idiot.” Taken at face value, such claims are preposterous. But there is a deeper explanation for them: what ties them all together is the power of “nyet.” A vote for Sanders is a “nyet” vote: the Democratic establishment produced a candidate and told people to vote for her, and most of the young people said “nyet.” Same thing with Trump: the Republican establishment trotted out its Seven Dwarfs and told people to vote for any one of them, and yet most of the disenfranchised working-class white people said “nyet” and voted for Snow White the outsider.

It is a hopeful sign that people throughout the Washington-dominated world are discovering the power of “nyet.” The establishment may still look spiffy on the outside, but under the shiny new paint there hides a rotten hull, with water coming in though every open seam. A sufficiently resounding “nyet” will probably be enough to cause it to founder, suddenly making room for some very necessary changes. When that happens, please remember to thank Russia… or, if you insist, Putin.

A Thousand Balls of Flame

2019-03-14

First published on August 23, 2016

In light of recent developments, a slight update is needed here. First, Russia has demonstrated its latest weaponry, which is both cheap and effective and largely neutralizes anything the US is able to throw at it. Most recently, Putin announced the new Zirkon delivery system which flies at speeds above Mach 20 and cannot be intercepted by any means, either existing or imaginable. Putin also announced that in case the US attacks Russia, Russia will counterattack not just the launch sites but the sites where the decision to attack Russia will be made. \”Question is, can they [the Americans] do the math?\” he asked. The answer is no: all I\’ve heard from the US since then has been preposterous talk about a \”new arms race.\” There is no recognition at all that the arms race is over and that Russia won it. So I did the math myself, and have discovered a very simple, obvious fact: if the US launches a first strike against Russia, its leaders will not be around to find out whether any of their missiles or bombs got through and reached their targets within Russia; they will all be dead well before then. But there is no reason for Americans to fear Russia, for Russia will not attack. Instead, they should fear their own leaders, who may be insane and ignorant enough to attempt a preemptive strike against Russia—and fail. What can Americans usefully do in this situation? Unfortunately, there is but a single, very short answer: repent—just in case their leaders do the suicidal thing, for if that happens they won\’t get any warning.

Russia is ready to respond to any provocation, but the last thing the Russians want is another war. And that, if you like good news, is the best news you are going to hear.

A whiff of World War III hangs in the air. In the US, Cold War 2.0 is on, and the anti-Russian rhetoric emanating from the Clinton campaign, echoed by the mass media, hearkens back to McCarthyism and the red scare. In response, many people are starting to think that Armageddon might be nigh—an all-out nuclear exchange, followed by nuclear winter and human extinction. It seems that many people in the US like to think that way. Goodness gracious!

But, you know, this is hardly unreasonable of them. The US is spiraling down into financial, economic and political collapse, losing its standing in the world and turning into a continent-sized ghetto full of drug abuse, violence and decaying infrastructure, its population vice-ridden, poisoned with genetically modified food, morbidly obese, exploited by predatory police departments and city halls, plus a wide assortment of rackets, from medicine to education to real estate… That we know.

We also know how painful it is to realize that the US is damaged beyond repair, or to acquiesce to the fact that most of the damage is self-inflicted: the endless, useless wars, the limitless corruption of money politics, the toxic culture and gender wars, and the imperial hubris and willful ignorance that underlies it all… This level of disconnect between the expected and the observed certainly hurts, but the pain can be avoided, for a time, through mass delusion.

This sort of downward spiral does not automatically spell “Apocalypse,” but the specifics of the state cult of the US—an old-time religiosity overlaid with the secular religion of progress—are such that there can be no other options: either we are on our way up to build colonies on Mars, or we perish in a ball of flame. Since the humiliation of having to ask the Russians for permission to fly the Soyuz to the International Space Station makes the prospect of American space colonies seem dubious, it’s Plan B: balls of flame here we come!

And so, most of the recent American warmongering toward Russia can be explained by the desire to find anyone but oneself to blame for one’s unfolding demise. This is a well-understood psychological move—projecting the shadow—where one takes everything one hates but can’t admit to about oneself and projects it onto another. On a subconscious level (and, in the case of some very stupid people, even a conscious one) the Americans would like to nuke Russia until it glows, but can’t do so because Russia would nuke them right back. But the Americans can project that same desire onto Russia, and since they have to believe that they are good while Russia is evil, this makes the Armageddon scenario appear much more likely.

But this way of thinking involves a break with reality. There is exactly one nation in the world that nukes other countries, and that would be the United States. It gratuitously nuked Japan, which was ready to surrender anyway, just because it could. It prepared to nuke Russia at the start of the Cold War, but was prevented from doing so by a lack of a sufficiently large number of nuclear bombs at the time. And it attempted to render Russia defenseless against nuclear attack, abandoning the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2002, but has been prevented from doing so by Russia’s new weapons. These include, among others, long-range supersonic cruise missiles (Kalibr), and suborbital intercontinental missiles carrying multiple nuclear payloads capable of evasive maneuvers as they approach their targets (Sarmat). All of these new weapons are impossible to intercept using any conceivable defensive technology. At the same time, Russia has also developed its own defensive capabilities, and its latest S-500 system will effectively seal off Russia’s airspace, being able to intercept targets both close to the ground and in low Earth orbit.

In the meantime, the US has squandered a fantastic sum of money fattening up its notoriously corrupt defense establishment with various versions of “Star Wars,” but none of that money has been particularly well spent. The two installations in Europe of Aegis Ashore (completed in Romania, planned in Poland) won’t help against Kalibr missiles launched from submarines or small ships in the Pacific or the Atlantic, close to US shores, or against intercontinental missiles that can fly around them. The THAAD installation currently going into South Korea (which the locals are currently protesting by shaving their heads) won’t change the picture either.

There is exactly one nuclear aggressor nation on the planet, and it isn’t Russia. But this shouldn’t matter. In spite of American efforts to undermine it, the logic of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) remains in effect. The probability of a nuclear exchange is determined not by anyone’s policy but by the likelihood of it happening by accident. Since there is no winning strategy in a nuclear war, nobody has any reason to try to start one. Under no circumstances is the US ever going to be able to dictate its terms to Russia by threatening it with nuclear annihilation.

If a nuclear war is not in the cards, how about a conventional one? The US has been sabre-rattling by stationing troops and holding drills in the Baltics, right on Russia\’s western border, installing ABM systems in Romania, Poland and South Korea, supporting anti-Russian Ukrainian Nazis, etc. All of this seems quite provocative; can it result in a war? And what would that war look like?

Here, we have to look at how Russia has responded to previous provocations. These are all the facts that we know, and can use to predict what will happen, as opposed to purely fictional, conjectural statements unrelated to known facts.

When the US or its proxies attack an enclave of Russian citizens outside of Russia\’s borders, here are the types of responses that we have been able to observe so far:

1. The example of Georgia. During the Summer Olympics in Beijing (a traditional time of peace), the Georgian military, armed and trained by the US and Israel, invaded South Ossetia. This region was part of Georgia in name only, being mostly inhabited by Russian speakers and passport-holders. Georgian troops started shelling its capital, Tskhinval, killing some Russian peacekeeping troops stationed in the region and causing civilian casualties. In response, Russian troops rolled into Georgia, within hours completely eliminating Georgia’s war-making capability. They announced that South Ossetia was de facto no longer part of Georgia, throwing in Abkhazia (another disputed Russian enclave) for good measure, and withdrew. Georgia’s warmongering president Saakashvili was pronounced a “political corpse” and left to molder in place. Eventually he was forced to flee Georgia, where he has been declared a fugitive from justice. The US State Department recently gave him a new job, as Governor of Odessa in the Ukraine. Recently, Russian-Georgian relations have been on the mend.

2. The example of Crimea. During the Winter Olympics in Sochi, in Russia (a traditional time of peace) there occurred an illegal, violent overthrow of the elected, constitutional government of the Ukraine, followed by the installation of a US-picked puppet administration. In response, the overwhelmingly Russian population of the autonomous region of Crimea held a referendum. Some 95% of them voted to secede from the Ukraine and to once again become part of Russia, which they had been for centuries and until very recently. The Russians then used their troops already stationed in the region under an international agreement to make sure that the results of the referendum were duly enacted. Not a single shot was fired during this perfectly peaceful exercise in direct democracy.

3. The example of Crimea again. During the Summer Olympics in Rio (a traditional time of peace) a number of Ukrainian operatives stormed the Crimean border and were swiftly apprehended by Russia\’s Federal Security Service, together with a cache of weapons and explosives. A number of them were killed in the process, along with two Russians. The survivors immediately confessed to planning to organize terrorist attacks at the ferry terminal that links Crimea with the Russian mainland and a railway station. The ringleader of the group confessed to being promised the princely sum of $140 for carrying out these attacks. All of them are very much looking forward to a warm, dry bunk and three square meals of day, care of the Russian government, which must seem like a slice of heaven compared to the violence, chaos, destitution and desolation that characterizes life in present-day Ukraine. In response, the government in Kiev protested against “Russian provocation,” and put its troops on alert to prepare against “Russian invasion.” Perhaps the next shipment of US aid to the Ukraine should include a supply of chlorpromazine or some other high-potency antipsychotic medication.

Note the constant refrain of “during the Olympics.” This is not a coincidence but is indicative of a certain American modus operandi. Yes, waging war during a traditional time of peace is both cynical and stupid. But the American motto seems to be “If we try something repeatedly and it still doesn\’t work, then we just aren’t trying hard enough.” In the minds of those who plan these events, the reason they never work right can’t possibly have anything to do with it being stupid. This is known as “Level III Stupid”: stupidity so profound that it is unable to comprehend its own stupidity.

4. The example of Donbass. After the events described in point 2 above, this populous, industrialized region, which was part of Russia until well into the 20th century and is linguistically and culturally Russian, went into political turmoil, because most of the locals wanted nothing to do with the government that had been installed in Kiev, which they saw as illegitimate. The Kiev government proceeded to make things worse, first by enacting laws infringing on the rights of Russian-speakers, then by actually attacking the region with the army, which they continue to do to this day, with three unsuccessful invasions and continuous shelling of both residential and industrial areas, in the course of which over ten thousand civilians have been murdered and many more wounded. In response, Russia assisted with establishing a local resistance movement supported by a capable military contingent formed of local volunteers. This was done by Russian volunteers, acting in an unofficial capacity, and by Russian private citizens donating money to the cause. In spite of Western hysteria over “Russian invasion” and “Russian aggression,” no evidence of it exists. Instead, the Russian government has done just three things: it refused to interfere with the work of its citizens coming to the aid of Donbass; it pursued a diplomatic strategy for resolving the conflict; and it has provided numerous convoys of humanitarian aid to the residents of Donbass. Russia’s diplomatic initiative resulted in two international agreements—Minsk I and Minsk II—which compelled both Kiev and Donbass to pursue a strategy of political resolution of the conflict through cessation of hostilities and the granting to Donbass of full autonomy. Kiev has steadfastly refused to fulfill its obligations under these agreements. The conflict is now frozen, but continuing to bleed because of Ukrainian shelling, waiting for the Ukrainian puppet government to collapse.

To complete the picture, let us include Russia’s recent military action in Syria, where it came to the defense of the embattled Syrian government and quickly demolished a large part of ISIS/ISIL/Daesh/Islamic Caliphate, along with various other terrorist organizations active in the region. The rationale for this action is that Russia saw a foreign-funded terrorist nest in Syria as a direct threat to Russia’s security. Two other notable facts here are that Russia acted in accordance with international law, having been invited by Syria’s legitimate, internationally recognized government and that the military action was scaled back as soon as it seemed possible for all of the legitimate (non-terrorist) parties to the conflict to return to the negotiating table. These three elements—using military force as a reactive security measure, scrupulous adherence to international law, and seeing military action as being in the service of diplomacy—are very important to understanding Russia’s methods and ambitions.

Turning now to US military/diplomatic adventures, we see a situation that is quite different. US military spending is responsible for over half of all federal discretionary spending, dwarfing most other vitally important sectors, such as infrastructure, public medicine and public education. It serves several objectives. Most importantly, it is a public jobs program: a way of employing people who are not employable in any actually productive capacity due to lack of intelligence, education and training. Second, it is a way for politicians and defense contractors to synergistically enrich themselves and each other at the public’s expense. Third, it is an advertising program for weapons sales, the US being the top purveyor of lethal technology in the world. Last of all, it is a way of projecting force around the world, bombing into submission any country that dares oppose Washington’s global hegemonic ambitions, often in total disregard of international law. Nowhere on this list is the actual goal of defending the US.

None of these justifications works vis-à-vis Russia. In dollar terms, the US outspends Russia on defense hands down. However, viewed in terms of purchasing parity, Russia manages to buy as much as ten times more defensive capability per unit national wealth than the US, largely negating this advantage. Also, what the US gets for its money is inferior: the Russian military gets the weapons it wants; the US military gets what the corrupt political establishment and their accomplices in the military-industrial complex want in order to enrich themselves. In terms of being an advertising campaign for weapons sales, watching Russian weaponry in action in Syria, effectively wiping out terrorists in short order through a relentless bombing campaign using scant resources, then seeing US weaponry used by the Saudis in Yemen, with much support and advice from the US, being continuously defeated by lightly armed insurgents, is unlikely to generate too many additional sales leads. Lastly, the project of maintaining US global hegemony seems to be on the rocks as well. Russia and China are now in a de facto military union. Russia’s superior weaponry, coupled with China’s almost infinitely huge infantry, make it an undefeatable combination. Russia now has a permanent air base in Syria, has made a deal with Iran to use Iranian military bases, and is in the process of prying Turkey away from NATO. As the US military, with its numerous useless bases around the world and piles of useless gadgets, turns into an international embarrassment, it remains, for the time being, a public jobs program for employing incompetents, and a rich source of graft.

In all, it is important to understand how actually circumscribed American military capabilities are. The US is very good at attacking vastly inferior adversaries. The action against Nazi Germany only succeeded because it was by then effectively defeated by the Red Army—all except for the final mop-up, which is when the US came out of its timid isolation and joined the fray. Even North Korea and Vietnam proved too tough for it, and even there its poor performance would have been much poorer were it not for the draft, which had the effect of adding non-incompetents to the ranks, but produced the unpleasant side-effect of enlisted men shooting their incompetent officers—a much underreported chapter of American military history. And now, with the addition of LGBTQ people to the ranks, the US military is on its way to becoming an international laughing stock. Previously, terms like “faggot” and “pussy” were in widespread use in the US military’s basic training. Drill sergeants used such terminology to exhort the “numb-nuts” placed in their charge to start acting like men. I wonder what words drill sergeants use now that they’ve been tasked with training those they previously referred to as “faggots” and “pussies”? The comedic potential of this nuance isn’t lost on Russia’s military men.

This comedy can continue as long as the US military continues to shy away from attacking any serious adversary, because if it did, comedy would turn to tragedy rather quickly.

  • If, for instance, US forces tried to attack Russian territory by lobbing missiles across the border, they would be neutralized in instantaneous retaliation by Russia’s vastly superior artillery.
  • If Americans or their proxies provoked Russians living outside of Russia (and there are millions of them) to the point of open rebellion, Russian volunteers, acting in an unofficial capacity and using private funds, would quickly train, outfit and arm them, creating a popular insurgency that would continue for years, if necessary, until Americans and their proxies capitulate.
  • If the Americans do the ultimately foolish thing and invade Russian territory, they would be kettled and annihilated, as repeatedly happened to the Ukrainian forces in Donbass.
  • Any attempt to attack Russia using the US aircraft carrier fleet would result in its instantaneous sinking using any of several weapons: ballistic anti-ship missiles, supercavitating torpedos or supersonic cruise missiles.
  • Strategic bombers, cruise missiles and ballistic missiles would be eliminated by Russia’s advanced new air defense systems.

So much for attack; but what about defense? Well it turns out that there is an entire separate dimension to engaging Russia militarily. You see, Russia lost a huge number of civilian lives while fighting off Nazi Germany. Many people, including old people, women and children, died of starvation and disease, or from German shelling, or from the abuse they suffered at the hands of German soldiers. On the other hand, Soviet military casualties were on par with those of the Germans. This incredible calamity befell Russia because it had been invaded, and it has conditioned Russian military thinking ever since. The next large-scale war, if there ever is one, will be fought on enemy territory. Thus, if the US attacks Russia, Russia will counterattack the US mainland. Keeping in mind that the US hasn’t fought a war on its own territory in over 150 years, this would come as quite a shock.

Of course, this would be done in ways that are consistent with Russian military thinking. Most importantly, the attack must be such that the possibility of triggering a nuclear exchange remains minimized. Second, the use of force would be kept to the minimum required to secure a cessation of hostilities and a return to the negotiating table on terms favorable to Russia. Third, every effort would be made to make good use of internal popular revolts to create long-lasting insurgencies, letting volunteers provide the necessary arms and training. Lastly, winning the peace is just as important as winning the war, and every effort would be made to inform the American public that what they are experiencing is just retribution for certain illegal acts. From a diplomatic perspective, it would be much more tidy to treat the problem of war criminals running the US as an internal, American political problem, to be solved by Americans themselves, with an absolute minimum of outside help. This would best be accomplished through a bit of friendly, neighborly intelligence-sharing, letting all interested parties within the US know who exactly should be held responsible for these war crimes, what they and their family members look like, and where they live.

The question then is, What is the absolute minimum of military action—what I am calling “a thousand balls of fire,” named after George Bush Senior’s “a thousand points of light”—to restore peace on terms favorable to Russia? It seems to me that 1000 “balls of fire” is just about the right number. These would be smallish explosions—enough to demolish a building or an industrial installation, with almost no casualties. This last point is extremely important, because the goal is to destroy the system without actually directly hurting any of the people. It wouldn’t be anyone else’s fault if people in the US suffer because they refuse to do as their own FEMA asks them to do: stockpile a month’s worth of food and water and put together an emergency evacuation plan. In addition, given the direction in which the US is heading, getting a second passport, expatriating your savings, and getting some firearms training just in case you end up sticking around are all good ideas.

The reason it is very important for this military action to not kill anyone is this: there are some three million Russians currently residing in the US, and killing any of them is definitely not on strategy. There is an even larger number of people from populous countries friendly to Russia, such as China and India, who should also remain unharmed. Thus, a strategy that would result in massive loss of life would simply not be acceptable. A much better scenario would involve producing a crisis that would quickly convince the Russians living in the US (along with all the other foreign nationals and first-generation immigrants, and quite a few of the second-generation immigrants too) that the US is no longer a good place to live. Then all of these people could be repatriated—a process that would no doubt take a few years. Currently, Russia is the number three destination worldwide for people looking for a better place to live, after the US and Germany. Germany is now on the verge of open revolt against Angela Merkel’s insane pro-immigration policies. The US is not far behind, and won’t remain an attractive destination for much longer. And that leaves Russia as the number one go-to place on the whole planet. That’s a lot of pressure, even for a country that is 11 time zones wide and has plenty of everything except tropical fruit and people.

We must also keep in mind that Israel—which is, let’s face it, a US protectorate temporarily parked on Palestinian land—wouldn’t last long without massive US support. Fully a third of Israeli population happens to be Russian. The moment Project Israel starts looking defunct, most of these Russian Jews, clever people that they are, will no doubt decide to stage an exodus and go right back to Russia, as is their right. This will create quite a headache for Russia’s Federal Migration Service, because it will have to sift through them all, letting in all the normal Russian Jews while keeping out the Zionist zealots, the war criminals and the ultra-religious nutcases. This will also take considerable time.

But actions that risk major loss of life also turn out to be entirely unnecessary, because an effective alternative strategy is available: destroy key pieces of government and corporate infrastructure, then fold your arms and wait for the other side to crawl back to the negotiating table waving a white rag. You see, there are just a few magic ingredients that allow the US to continue to exist as a stable, developed country capable of projecting military force overseas. They are: the electric grid; the financial system; the interstate highway system; rail and ocean freight; the airlines; and oil and gas pipelines. Disable all of the above, and it’s pretty much game over. How many “balls of flame” would that take? Probably well under a thousand.

Disabling the electric grid is almost ridiculously easy, because the system is very highly integrated and interdependent, consisting of just three sub-grids, called “interconnects”: western, eastern and Texas. The most vulnerable parts of the system are the Large Power Transformers (LPTs) which step up voltages to millions of volts for transmission, and step them down again for distribution. These units are big as houses, custom-built, cost millions of dollars and a few years to replace, and are mostly manufactured outside the US. Also, along with the rest of the infrastructure in the US, most of them are quite old and prone to failure. There are several thousand of these key pieces of equipment, but because the electric grid in the US is working at close to capacity, with several critical choke points, it would be completely disabled if even a handful of the particularly strategic LPTs were destroyed. In the US, any extended power outage in any of the larger urban centers automatically triggers large-scale looting and mayhem. Some estimate that just a two week long outage would push the situation to a point of no return, where the damage would become too extensive to ever be repaired.

Disabling the financial system is likewise relatively trivial. There are just a few choke points, including the Federal Reserve, a few major banks, debit and credit card company data centers, etc. They can be disabled using a variety of methods, such as a cruise missile strike, a cyberattack, electric supply disruption or even civil unrest. It bears noting that the financial system in the US is rigged to blow even without foreign intervention. The combination of runaway debt, a gigantic bond bubble, the Federal Reserve trapped into ever-lower interest rates, underfunded pensions and other obligations, hugely overpriced real estate and a ridiculously frothy stock market will eventually detonate it from the inside.

A few more surgical strikes can take out the oil and gas pipelines, import terminals, highway bridges and tunnels, railroads and airlines. A few months without access to money and financial services, electricity, gasoline, diesel, natural gas, air transport or imported spare parts needed to repair the damage should be enough to force the US to capitulate. If it makes any efforts to restore any of these services, an additional strike or two would quickly negate them.

The number of “balls of flame” can be optimized by taking advantage of destructive synergies: a GPS jammer deployed near the site of an attack can prevent responders from navigating to it; taking out a supply depot together with the facility it serves, coupled with transportation system disruptions, can delay repairs by many months; a simple bomb threat can immobilize a transportation hub, making it a sitting duck instead of a large number of moving targets; etc.

You may think that executing such a fine-tuned attack would require a great deal of intelligence, which would be difficult to gather, but this is not the case. First, a great deal of tactically useful information is constantly being leaked by insiders, who often consider themselves “patriots.” Second, what hasn’t been leaked can be hacked, because of the pitiable state of cybersecurity in the US. Remember, Russia is where anti-virus software is made—and a few of the viruses too. The National Security Agency was recently hacked, and its crown jewels stolen; if it can be hacked, what about all those whose security it supposedly protects?

You might also think that the US, if attacked in this manner, could effectively retaliate in kind, but this scenario is rather difficult to imagine. Many Russians don’t find English too difficult, are generally familiar with the US through exposure to US media, and the specialists among them, especially those who have studied or taught at universities in the US, can navigate their field of expertise in the US almost as easily as in Russia. Most Americans, on the other hand, can barely find Russia on a map, can’t get past the Cyrillic alphabet and find Russian utterly incomprehensible.

Also consider that Russia’s defense establishment is mainly focused on… defense. Offending people in foreign lands is not generally seen as strategically important. “A hundred friends is better than a hundred rubles” is a popular saying. And so Russia manages to be friends with India and Pakistan at the same time, and with China and Vietnam. In the Middle East, it maintains cordial relations with Turkey, Syria, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Egypt and Iran, also all at the same time. Russian diplomats are required to keep channels of communication open with friends and adversaries alike, at all times. Yes, being inexplicably adversarial toward Russia can be excruciatingly painful, but you can make it stop any time! All it takes is a phone call.

Add to this the fact that the vicissitudes of Russian history have conditioned Russia’s population to expect the worst, and simply deal with it. “They can’t kill us all!” is another favorite saying. If Americans manage to make them suffer, the Russian people would no doubt find great solace in the fact they are making the Americans suffer even worse, and many among them would think that this achievement, in itself, is already a victory. Nor will they remain without help; it is no accident that Russia’s Minister of Defense, Sergei Shoigu, previously ran the Emergencies Ministry, and his performance at his job there won him much adulation and praise. In short, if attacked, the Russians will simply take their lumps—as they always have—and then go on to conquer and win, as they always have.

It doesn’t help matters that most of what little Americans have been told about Russia by their political leaders and mass media is almost entirely wrong. They keep hearing about Putin and the “Russian bear,” and so they are probably imagining Russia to be a vast wasteland where Vladimir Putin keeps company with a chess-playing, internet server-hacking, nuclear physicist, rocket scientist, Ebola vaccine-inventing, polyglot, polymath bear. Bears are wonderful, Russians love bears, but let’s not overstate things. Yes, Russian bears can ride bicycles and are sometimes even good with children, but they are still just wild animals and/or pets (many Russians can’t draw that distinction). And so when the Americans growl about the “Russian bear,” the Russians wonder, Which one?

In short, Russia is to most Americans a mystery wrapped in an enigma, and there simply isn’t a large enough pool of intelligent Americans with good knowledge of Russia to draw upon, whereas to many Russians the US is an open book. As far as the actual American “intelligence” and “security” services, they are all bloated bureaucratic boondoggles mired in political opportunism and groupthink that excel at just two things: unquestioningly following idiotic procedures, and creatively fitting the facts to the politics du jour. “Proving” that Iraq has “weapons of mass destruction”—no problem! Telling Islamist terrorists apart from elderly midwestern grandmothers at an airport security checkpoint—no can do!

Russia will not resort to military measures against the US unless sorely provoked. Time and patience are on Russia’s side. With each passing year, the US grows weaker and loses friends and allies, while Russia grows stronger and gains friends and allies. The US, with its political dysfunction, runaway debt, decaying infrastructure and spreading civil unrest, is a dead nation walking. It will take time for each of the United States to neatly demolish themselves into their own footprints, like those three New York skyscrapers did on 9/11 (WTC #1, #2 and #7) but Russia is very patient. Russia is ready to respond to any provocation, but the last thing the Russians want is another war. And that, if you like good news, is the best news you are going to hear. But if you still think that there is going to be a war with Russia, don’t think “Armageddon”; think “a thousand balls of flame,” and then—crickets!

Military Defeat as a Financial Collapse Trigger

2019-03-12

First published on September 19, 2017

Back in 2007 I wrote Reinventing Collapse, in which I compared the collapse of the USSR to the forthcoming collapse of the USA. I wrote the following:

“Let us imagine that collapsing a modern military-industrial superpower is like making soup: chop up some ingredients, apply heat and stir. The ingredients I like to put in my superpower collapse soup are: a severe and chronic shortfall in the production of crude oil (that magic addictive elixir of industrial economies), a severe and worsening foreign trade deficit, a runaway military budget and ballooning foreign debt. The heat and agitation can be provided most efficaciously by a humiliating military defeat and widespread fear of looming catastrophe.” (p. 2)

A decade later these ingredients are all in place, with a few minor quibbles. The shortfall of oil is in the case of the US not the shortfall of physical oil but of money: against the backdrop of terminal decline of conventional oil in the US, the only meaningful supply increase has come from fracking, but it has been financially ruinous. Nobody has made any money from selling fracked oil: it is too expensive.

Meanwhile, the trade deficit has been setting new records, defense spending has continued its upward creep and the levels of debt are at this point nothing short of stratospheric but continuing to rise. Fear of catastrophe is supplied by hurricanes that have just put significant parts of Texas and Florida under water, unprecedented forest fires in the West, ominous rumblings from the Yellowstone supervolcano and the understanding that an entire foamy mess of financial bubbles could pop at any time. The one ingredient we are missing is a humiliating military defeat.

Military defeats come in many shapes and sizes, and having the enemy slaughter all of your troops is just one of them. Equally palpable is the defeat of being unable to prevail against a weaker and smaller opponent. Accidentally inflicting damage on one’s own forces can also be quite humiliating. And the ultimate coup de grâce for a military empire is to be unable to join the opponent in battle at all.

We now have samples of all of these. We have fast US navy ships, equipped with all of the most modern radar and navigation equipment, inexplicably colliding with large, slow-moving cargo ships, resulting in the death of sailors. We have the example of Syria, where several years of concerted effort to dismember the country and dislodge its president have resulted in one disaster after another. And now we have the example of North Korea, which tests ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons to everyone’s great consternation while the US holds meaningless military exercises—meaningless because it has absolutely no military cards to play that wouldn’t result in the complete annihilation of the very same ally the US has sworn to protect.

The North Korean impasse is likely to drag on for some time, but the Syrian defeat is already very close to complete, so let us look at it in detail, because it provides a very interesting view into what makes the US, at this point, so much less than a military superpower. (Research credit for this goes to Yevgeny Krutikov in particular, and to others too numerous to mention here.) The Syrian defeat is not the result of a single operation, but an entire sequence of them, each resulting in what can only described as an epic fail. The entire US Syrian campaign can be described as a relentless pursuit of failure. It illustrates many of the features that make the US military machine worse than useless. Once upon a time the purpose of American military spending was to justify American military spending; now it can’t even do that. Key elements of this failure are:

• The complete inability to hold accountable those who are responsible for failure, be they politicians or military officers.
• The complete inability to learn from mistakes and adjust strategies, doing things that have been proven not to work over and over again.
• The complete inability to accept the truth of the situation, instead preferring to inhabit a fictional realm full of moderate terrorists, friendly tribal leaders, rainbows and unicorns.
• The complete inability to resist corruption of every sort, including fraudulent schemes that include outright theft of government property.

The entire US military involvement started back in the summer of 2014. At the time, there was some sort of armed compound near Raqqa, swarming with bearded jihadists that may or may not have been associated with ISIS. They held quite a lot of hostages that included Syrian soldiers as well as American and British citizens who had somehow ended up in Syria. After a lengthy analysis, the CIA decided that the compound should be attacked and occupied and the hostages released.

In early June, a few dozen special forces troops were dropped off in the vicinity of the encampment. After a three-hour battle (this already signals a failure; operations to free hostages should last minutes, not hours) the American troops killed five of the terrorists and took control of a perfectly empty building standing alone in the middle of the desert. There were no hostages, no high-ranking enemy types—nothing useful there. Later it turned out that the hostages were transported out a day before the start of the operation, giving rise to all sorts of questions within the CIA concerning possible leaks.

A few days later “Jihadi John” and his group of three British Arabs calling themselves “the Beatles” and acting under the pseudonyms John, Paul and Ringo beheaded a bunch of people on camera. Among them were the photographer James Foley, the journalist Steven Sotloff, humanitarian mission worker David Heins, British taxi driver Alan Henning (who worked for the same humanitarian mission as Heins) and, last but not least, Peter Kassig, a former member of the US military but at the time also working for some humanitarian mission with bases in Beirut and in Turkey, but regularly finding himself inside Syria—illegally and for unknown purposes.

Specifically, it was Kassig’s death that elicited a curiously strong reaction from Barak Obama, who declared that Kassig “was taken from us in an act of pure evil by a terrorist group that the world rightly associates with inhumanity.” This outburst was widely taken to mean that Kassig worked for either the CIA or US military intelligence. Notably, he was the only one who, while in captivity, converted to Islam and took an Islamic name.

Later, other strange facts began to surface. In particular, it became known that “Jihadi John” had negotiated with the US government and with the family of James Foley, demanding either a 100 or, for whatever strange reason, specifically 132 million dollars as ransom. The last communication from him was a week before the unsuccessful operation by US special forces, but the Americans refused to pay. Pentagon’s official representative Rear Admiral James Kirby blamed it all on the CIA. Most notably, those responsible for this amazing cock-up didn’t shoot themselves in the head like they should have as a question of honor but blissfully carried on with their illustrious careers.

To be sure, there were soon other, even more epic failures to behold. The US started up surveillance flights over Syrian territory, carefully mapping out the desert using first drones, then regular aviation, still not having the foggiest notion of what they were looking at. But apparently they saw pictures of things that looked like they would make nice targets, because in the fall of the same year Obama announced his intention to start bombing ISIS in Syria.

He also announced the start of a program to “train and equip” Free Syrian Army with the goal of overthrowing Bashar Assad. The CIA picked out promising groups, gave them weapons, and then watched as they joined either ISIS or Jabhat an-Nusra en masse. As this went on, US officials continued to refer to these eager new terrorists as “moderate opposition.” Eventually, the US-cultivated myth called the Free Syrian Army fell apart altogether, to everyone’s great embarrassment. But once again the embarrassment was insufficient to cause those responsible to do the honorable thing and shoot themselves in the head.

Done with fiasco number two—onward to fiasco number three. Once the fictional Free Syrian Army evaporated like the morning mist, the CIA decided to stake it all on the Kurds and Operation Timber Sycamore was born. It was declared top secret and authorized directly by Obama with most of the documents bearing Hillary Clinton’s signature. In many ways it replicated unlearned lessons from a previous American fiasco known as Iran-Contras or the Oliver North Affair.

Saudi money was used to buy up obsolete Soviet-era weapons, primarily in the Balkans, and then ship them to Turkey and Jordan, all using forged paperwork to avoid appearance of illegality. From there they were supposed to filter into Syria and end up in the hands of the Kurds, who were at the time defending the town of Kobani from ISIS. Quite unsurprisingly, none of this went according to plan. The arms black market in the Middle East started overflowing with weapons, including heavy weaponry. US intelligence officers started buying up Ferraris, refusing to accept bribes in paper money—only in gold bars. Small-time arms dealers suddenly became very rich and started battling each other over market share. Just one shoot-out at a Jordanian army base claimed the lives of two Jordanian officers, two American contractors and one South African. (What illegal arms deal can ever go down without a South African being involved?) When the scale of the fiasco became obvious, the Jordanians involved in it were fired, but nothing was confiscated. Hillary Clinton was particularly livid; she was made to look really bad when some smart person posted on an official US government web site a contract for the delivery of tonnes of weapons from Bulgaria to the ports of Tasucu (Turkey) and Aqaba (Jordan) and Wikileaks got busy digging up more details.

It turns out that altogether the Obama administration squandered half a billion dollars on just the Free Syrian Army and Timber Sycamore. Instead of blaming themselves, those involved (most of them still on the job, with nary a much-deserved bullet to the head among any of them) got busy blaming Russia for not letting them “finish the job.” Here is a very nice graphic, courtesy of Wikileaks, that details the staggering amount of funds squandered by the US on its mischief in Syria.

Done with fiasco number three—onward with fiasco number four. Instead of just tossing in the general direction of Syria tonnes of obsolete Soviet-era weapons bought up in Eastern Europe using laundered money and forged paperwork, the US decided to actually play an active role “on the ground.” In October of 2015 the first 15 American instructors were helicoptered into Syrian Kurdistan. From that moment on the Americans wholeheartedly dedicated themselves to cultivating Syrian Democratic Forces (the two largest Kurdish armed groups) plus, for the sake of ethnic diversity, a couple of local Arab tribes.

In May of 2015 General Joseph L. Votel, commander of US forces in the Middle East, was flown into Syria in (relative) secrecy and met with Kurdish commanders. He attempted to force through the idea of having American advisors in Kurdistan and of having them prepare the locals for action. The Kurdish commanders and the tribal leaders were unreceptive to these ideas, and demanded that the Americans supply them with heavy weapons. Luckily, Votel had no authority to do so, and so when the Kurds started besieging the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa it was the Americans who fired the mortars and the artillery, with American Marines providing security for them. The effectiveness of these actions remains questionable.

The Kurds have shown themselves to be willful and uncooperative as allies. Their main goal is to bite off as much territory as they can and to later use it in negotiation with the government in Damascus in order to establish the largest possible Syrian Kurdish autonomy. They are generally unwilling to venture outside of their established range. They weren’t particularly willing to fight even for Manjib, which is mostly ethnically Kurdish, and their interest in capturing Raqqa has been largely nonexistent.

And yet the Americans consider it reasonable to think that once ISIS is completely routed (a matter of a couple of months at this rate) these same Kurds will help them establish and maintain control over the entire eastern shore of Euphrates all the way to the Iraqi border. Not only are the Kurds quite unmotivated to do so, but the Syrians are currently busy fortifying a beachhead and erecting a pontoon bridge in Ayash north of recently recaptured Deir ez-Zor. In the past couple of days they have moved heavy weaponry across the Euphrates to its eastern shore, knocked ISIS remnants out of the surrounding villages and are getting ready to advance toward the Iraqi border. They have made no secret of their plan to reestablish control over all of Syrian territory.

Looks like fiasco number four is already very much baked into the cake. But as usual, this is not stopping the Americans from pumping in more advisors and weapons, who will advise people who will refuse to heed their advice and arm people who will just as easily fight for them as against them. They are also pumping in other resources into constructing military bases on Syrian territory, which they will not control for any length of time. There is the airfield in Rmeilan, a larger base in Kobani and yet another airfield in Tal Beidir. Syrian Kurdistan is now playing host to a few hundred Americans armed with light weapons, Hummers and Strykers who never cease complaining about the substandard living conditions and the lack of good intelligence about what’s going on around them.

Not content to wait for fiasco number four to run its course, the Americans have launched preemptively into fiasco number five: constructing a military base in the south of Syria. Amazingly, even after all that has happened, they saw it fit to try to breathe some new life into the Free Syrian Army, and also to find some use for their bases in Jordan which had been thoroughly discredited by their performance in Timber Sycamore. To this end, they cozied up to some obscure armed groups that had crossed into Syria from Jordan and with their help established a base at Al Tanf, sufficiently heavily armed to hold that territory for a long time, and possibly to serve as forward position for an invasion from the south.

What happened instead is that the Syrians and the Iranians quickly circumvented Al Tanf and took control of the Iraqi border (with full Iraqi cooperation), rendering the Al Tanf base completely irrelevant. In recognition of this fact the Americans started dismantling and evacuating the base while the obscure armed groups they had cozied up to gave up and either surrendered to the Syrians or ran off and joined ISIS. Fiasco number five is now complete.

Fiasco number four is still ongoing, but the end result is already clear. Pretty soon there will no longer be any ISIS left in Syria for the Americans to pretend to be fighting. Their position, both in the Middle East and all around the world, is increasingly weak. Other than Syria, the country that has the most to gain from this situation is Russia. Consider the following:

• Saudi Arabia has been the major financier of the Syrian conflict, but even the Saudis have grown weary of American fecklessness and are trying to work out deals with the Russians.

• When the Israelis recognized that Syria has been conclusively “lost” to them, Netanyahu immediately jumped on a plane to… Moscow, of course, to beg for a few crumbs off the master’s table.

• Turkey has decided that cooperating with NATO is no longer on strategy and has put a down payment on Russian S-400 air defense systems which, unlike NATO-approved, US-supplied weapons, are not hindered by an inflexible friend-or-foe identification system and are perfectly happy to shoot down NATO targets.

• Even Germany—America’s most obedient lapdog since the end of World War II—has just launched an investigation into arms shipments to internationally recognized terrorist groups in Syria that went through the Rammstein military base and are illegal under German law.

As ISIS is being destroyed by the Syrians, with Russian air support, the Americans, in keeping with tradition, are blaming Russia for their loss of face, if not outright strategic defeat. If that silly blame game isn’t a sure sign of extreme weakness, I don’t know what is. The end game may not be entirely clear yet, but what is already clear is this: in order for a superpower to cease being a superpower a relatively small military defeat is sufficient, provided it is sufficiently meaningful. American performance in Syria is such that the US will no longer be party to international negotiations over Syria’s future—because its position is now so weak that it can simply be disregarded. And when it comes to meaningful military defeats, a self-inflicted one is by far the most efficacious.

Syria is not the only place where US military power is turning out to be not the least bit powerful. There is also Afghanistan, where the Taliban is busy reconquering the north of the country—the part of it that was most easily “liberated” when the Americans first invaded back in 2001. And there is also North Korea, whose leadership has successfully checkmated the US, leaving it with exactly zero viable military options—a situation the Americans are constitutionally incapable of accepting. And so they trash-talk the North Koreans, who trash-talk right back at them, making the rest of the world laugh nervously.

In conclusion, let me go out on a limb and venture a guess as to where this is all heading. I think that now that all the evidence is in that America’s superpower status is just a bit of Cold War nostalgia what comes next is… punishment. What do mommy and daddy do with a spoiled brat who has maxed out his credit cards squandering money on bar tabs, fancy toys and hookers? Why, take the credit cards away, of course!

In the case of the US, this action goes by the name of dedollarization. Those who have attempted it before—figures such as Saddam Hussein and Muammar Qaddafy—were swiftly killed and their countries destroyed. But now such countries as China and Russia are heading up the dedollarization drive—countries that the US cannot hope to oppose, especially when they act in concert—and the American response so far has amounted to empty threats, toothless sanctions and a great deal of angry but incoherent mumbling.

To describe the situation in the simplest terms possible: the function of the US military is to intimidate other countries into letting the US buy whatever it wants by printing US dollars as needed, essentially robbing the rest of the world at gunpoint. Once their ability to intimidate the world into submission is gone so will be their ability to endlessly fleece the planet. And once that ability is gone all that will remain of the “richest country in the world” is a pile of worthless paper. When precisely that moment arrives is anyone’s guess, but you shouldn’t need to time it exactly provided you can plan for it. I recommend that you do so—if you haven’t already.

Imperial Collapse Markers

2019-03-07

First published on June 19, 2018

In thinking through the (for now) gradually unfolding collapse of the American empire, the collapse of the USSR, which occurred close to three decades ago, continues to perform as a goldmine of useful examples and analogies. Certain events that occurred during the Soviet collapse can serve as useful signposts in the American one, allowing us to formulate better guesses about the timing of events that can suddenly turn a gradual collapse into a precipitous one.

When the Soviet collapse occurred, the universal reaction was “Who could have known?” Well, I knew. I distinctly remember a conversation I had with a surgeon in the summer of 1990, right as I was going under the knife to get my appendix excised, waiting for the anesthesia to kick in. He asked me about what was going to happen to the Soviet republics, Armenia in particular. I told him that they would be independent in less than a year. He looked positively shocked. I was off by a couple of months. I hope to be able to call the American collapse with the same degree of precision.

I suppose I was well positioned to know, and I am tempted to venture a guess at how I achieved that. My area of expertise at the time was measurement and data acquisition electronics for high energy physics experiments, not Sovietology. But I had spent the previous summer in Leningrad, where I grew up, and had a fair idea of what was up in the USSR. Meanwhile, the entire gaggle of actual paid, professional Russia experts that was ensconced in various government agencies in Washington or consuming oxygen at various foundations and universities in the US had absolutely no idea what to expect.

I suspect that there is a principle involved: if your career depends on the continued existence of X, and if X is about to cease to exist, then you are not going to be highly motivated to accurately predict that event. Conversely, if you could manage to accurately predict the spontaneous existence failure of X, then you would also be clever enough to switch careers ahead of time, hence would no longer be an expert on X and your opinion on the matter would be disregarded. People would think that you screwed yourself out of a perfectly good job and are now embittered. Right now I am observing the same phenomenon at work among Russian experts on the United States: they can’t imagine that the various things they have spent their lives studying are fast fading into irrelevance. Or perhaps they can, but keep this realization to themselves, for fear of no longer being invited on talk shows.

I suppose that since expertise is a matter of knowing a whole lot about very little, knowing everything about nothing—a thing that doesn’t exist—is its logical endpoint. Be that as it may. But I feel that we non-experts, armed with the 20/20 hindsight afforded to us by the example of the Soviet collapse, can avoid being similarly blindsided and dumbfounded by the American one. This is not an academic question: those who gauge it accurately may be able to get the hell out ahead of time, while the lights are mostly still on, while not everybody is walking around in a drug-induced mental haze, and while mass shootings and other types of mayhem are still considered newsworthy.

This hindsight makes it possible for us to spot certain markers that showed up then and are showing up now. The four that I want to discuss now are the following:

1. Allies are being alienated
2. Enmities dissipate
3. Ideology becomes irrelevant
4. Military posture turns flaccid

All of these are plain to see already in the American collapse. As with the Soviet collapse, there is a certain incubation period for each of these trends, lasting perhaps a year or two, during which not much seems to be happening, but when it is over everything comes unstuck all at once.

1. Alliances

As the Soviet collapse unfolded, former friendships deteriorated, first into irrelevance, then into outright enmity. Prior to the collapse, the Iron Curtain ran between Eastern and Western Europe; three decades later it runs between Russia and the Baltic countries, Poland and the Ukraine. Whereas in the post-war period the Warsaw Pact countries derived many benefits from their association with Russia and its industrial might, as the end neared their membership in the Soviet camp became more and more of a hindrance to progress, hampering their integration with the more prosperous, less troubled countries further west and with the rest of the world.

Similarly with the US and the EU now, this partnership is also showing major signs of strain as Washington tries to prevent the EU from integrating with the rest of Eurasia. The particular threat of unilateral economic sanctions as part of a vain effort to block additional Russian natural gas pipelines into Europe and to force the Europeans to buy into an uncertain and overpriced American liquefied natural gas scheme has laid bare the fact that the relationship is no longer mutually beneficial. And as Britain splits from Europe and clings closer to the US, a new Iron Curtain is gradually emerging, but this time it will run through the English Channel, separating the Anglophone world from Eurasia.

Similar developments are afoot in the east, affecting South Korea and Japan. Trump’s flip-flopping between tempestuous tweeting and conciliatory rhetoric vis-à-vis North Korea has laid bare the emptiness of American security guarantees. Both of these countries now see the need to make their own security arrangements and to start reasserting their sovereignty in military matters. Meanwhile, for the US, being incoherent is but a pit stop on the way to becoming irrelevant.

2. Enmities

During the entire period of the Cold War the United States was the Soviet Union’s arch-enemy, and any effort by Washington to give advice or to dictate terms was met with loud, synchronized, ideologically fortified barking from Moscow: the imperialist aggressor is at it again; pay no heed. This self-righteous noise worked quite well for a surprisingly long time, and continued to work while the Soviet Union was making impressive new conquests—in space, in technology, science and medicine, in international humanitarian projects and so on, but as stagnation set in it started to ring hollow.

After the Soviet collapse, this immunity against American contagion disappeared. Western “experts” and “advisors” flooded in, and proposed “reforms” such as dismemberment of the USSR into 15 separate countries (trapping millions of people on the wrong side of some newly thought-up border), shock therapy (which impoverished almost the entirety of the Russian population), privatization (which put major public assets in the hands of a few politically connected, mostly Jewish oligarchs) and various other schemes designed to destroy Russia and drive its population into extinction. They would probably have succeeded had they not been stopped in time.

Symmetrically, the Washingtonians considered the USSR as their arch-enemy. After it went away, there was a bit of confusion. The Pentagon tried talking up “Russian mafia” as a major threat to world peace, but that seemed laughable. Then, by dint of demolishing a couple of New York skyscrapers, perhaps by placing small nuclear charges in the bedrock beneath their foundations (those were the demolition plans that were on file) they happily embraced the concept of “war on terror” and went about bombing various countries that didn’t have a terrorism problem before then but certainly do now. Then, once that stupid plan ran its course, the Washingtonians went back to reviling and harassing Russia.

But now a strange smell is in the wind in Washington: the smell of failure. Air is leaking out of the campaign to vilify Russia, and it is putrid. Meanwhile, Trump is continuing to make noises to the effect that a rapprochement with Russia is desirable and that a summit between the leaders should be held. Trump is also borrowing some pages from the Russian rulebook: just as Russia responded to Western sanctions with countersanctions, Trump is starting to respond to Western tariffs with countertariffs. We should expect American enmity against Russia to dissipate some time before American attitudes toward Russia (and much else) become irrelevant. We should also expect that, once the fracking bubble pops, the US will become dependent on Russian oil and liquefied natural gas, which it will be forced to pay for with gold. (Fracking involves a two-phase combustion process: the first phase burns borrowed money to produce oil and gas; the second burns the oil and the gas.)

Other enmities are on the wane as well. Trump has just signed an interesting piece of paper with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un. The deal (if we call it that) is a tacit act of surrender. It was orchestrated by Russia and China. It affirms what North and South Korea had already agreed to: eventual denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. Just as Gorbachev acquiesced to the reunification of Germany and the withdrawal of Soviet troops from East Germany, Trump is getting ready to acquiesce to the reunification of Korea and the withdrawal of American troops from South Korea. Just as the fall of the Berlin Wall spelled the end of the Soviet imperium, the dismantlement of the Korean Demilitarized Zone will spell the end of the American one.

3. Ideology

While the US never had anything as rigorous as the Soviet Union’s communist dogma, its hodgepodge of pro-democracy propaganda, laissez-faire capitalism, free trade and military domination was potent for a time. Once the US stopped being the world’s largest industrial powerhouse, ceding ground first to Germany and Japan, then to China, it went along accumulating prodigious levels of debt, essentially confiscating and spending the world’s savings, while defending the US dollar with the threat of violence. It was, for a time, understood that the exorbitant privilege of endless money printing needs to be defended with the blood of American soldiers. The US saw itself, and positioned itself, as the indispensable country, able to control and to dictate terms to the entire planet, terrorizing or blockading various other countries as needed. Now all of these ideological shibboleths are in shambles.

• The pro-democracy rhetoric is still dutifully spouted by politicians and mass-media mouthpieces, but in practice the US is no longer a democracy. It has been turned into a lobbyist’s paradise in which the lobbyists are no longer confined to the lobby but have installed themselves in congressional offices and are drafting prodigious quantities of legislation to suit the private interests of corporations and oligarchs. Nor is the American penchant for democracy traceable in the support the US lavishes on dictatorships around the world or in its increasing tendency to enact and enforce extraterritorial laws without international consent.

• Laissez-faire capitalism is also very much dead, supplanted by crony capitalism nurtured by a thorough melding of Washington and Wall Street elites. Private enterprise is no longer free but concentrated in a handful of giant corporations while about a third of the employed population in the US works in the public sector. The US Department of Defense is the largest single employer in the country as well as in the whole world. About 100 million of working-age able-bodied Americans do not work. Most of the rest work in service jobs, producing nothing durable. An increasing number of people is holding onto a precarious livelihood by working sporadic gigs. The whole system is fueled—including parts of it that actually produce the fuel, such as the fracking industry—by debt. No sane person, if asked to provide a workable description of capitalism, would come up with such a derelict scheme.

• Free trade was talked up until very recently, if not actually implemented. Unimpeded trade over great distances is the sine qua non of all empires, the US empire included. In the past, warships and the threat of occupation were used to force countries, such as Japan, to open themselves up to international trade. Quite recently, the Obama administration was quite active in its attempts to push through various transoceanic partnerships, but none of them have succeeded. And now Trump has set about wrecking what free trade there was by a combination of sanctions and tariffs, in a misguided attempt to rekindle America’s lost greatness by turning inward. Along the way, sanctions on the use of the US dollar in international trade, especially with key energy exporting nations such as Iran and Venezuela, are accelerating the process by which the US dollar is being dethroned as the world’s reserve currency, demolishing America’s exorbitant privilege of endless money-printing.

4. Militarism

The Soviet collapse was to some extent presaged by the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan. Prior to that point, it was still possible to talk up the “international duty” of the Red Army to make the world (or at least the liberated parts of it) safe for socialism. After that point the very concept of military domination was lost, and interventions that were possible before, such as in Hungary in 1956 and in Czechoslovakia in 1968, were no longer even thinkable. When Eastern Europe rose in rebellion in 1989, the Soviet military empire simply folded, abandoning its bases and military hardware and pulling out.

In the case of the US, for now it remains capable of quite a lot of mischief, but it has become clear that military domination of the whole planet is no longer possible for it. The US military is still huge, but it is quite flaccid. It is no longer able to field a ground force of any size and confines itself to aerial bombardment, training and arming of “moderate terrorists” and mercenaries, and pointless steaming about the oceans. None of the recent military adventures have resulted in anything resembling peace on terms that the American planners had originally envisioned or have ever considered desirable: Afghanistan has been turned into a terrorist incubator and a heroin factory; Iraq has been absorbed into a continuous Shia crescent that now runs from the Indian Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea.

US military bases are still found throughout the world. They were meant to project American power over both hemispheres of the globe, but they have been largely neutralized by the advent of new long-range precision weapons, potent air defense technology and electronic warfare wizardry. These numerous “lily pads,” as they are sometimes called, are the opposite of military assets: they are useless but expensive targets located in places that are hard to defend but easy for potential adversaries to attack. They can only be used for pretend-combat, and the endless series of military training exercises, such as the ones in the Baltic statelets, right on the Russian border, or the ones in South Korea, are meant to be provocative, but they are paragons of pointlessness, since attacking either Russia or North Korea would be a suicidal move. They are basically confidence-building exercises, and their increasing intensity testifies to a pronounced and growing deficit of confidence.

People never tire of pointing out the huge size of the US military budget, but they almost always neglect to mention that what the US gets per unit money is ten times less than, for example, Russia. It is a bloated and ineffectual extortion scheme that produces large quantities of boondoggles—an endlessly thirsty public money sponge. No matter how much money it soaks up, it will never solve the fundamental problem of being incapable to go to war against any adequately armed opponent without suffering unacceptable levels of damage. Around the world, the US is still loathed, but it is feared less and less: a fatal trend for an empire. But America has done quite well in militarizing its local police departments, so that when the time comes it will be ready to go to war… against itself.

* * *
This analysis may read like a historical survey detached from practical, everyday considerations. But I believe that it has practical merit. If the citizens of the USSR were informed, prior to the events of 1990, of what was about to befall them, they would have behaved quite differently, and quite a lot of personal tragedy might have been avoided. A very useful distinction can be made between collapse avoidance (which is futile; all empires collapse) and worst-case scenario avoidance, which will become, as collapse picks up speed, your most important concern. Your approach may involve fleeing to safer ground, or preparing to survive it where you are. You may choose your own collapse markers and make your own predictions about their timing instead of relying on mine. But, having witnessed one collapse, and now witnessing another, the one approach I would definitely not recommend is doing nothing and hoping for the best.

Hiatus

2019-03-05

After a dozen years of virtually uninterrupted weekly blogging Club Orlov is taking a month-long break. I have scheduled reruns of the most popular blog posts from the past five years, which will auto-magically appear on Club Orlov every Tuesday and Thursday. Since I will spend the rest of March at an undisclosed location with spotty cell phone signal and no internet access, I won\’t be around to moderate comments and delete spam, and so I will leave comments off. I will return in April, refreshed and ready to push forward in several new directions. Thank you for your support, and I hope to see you here when I return.