|14A058 Baiting the Bear by Jim Davies, 11/22/2014
Russia has half America's population, but one sixth of our GDP. The nation also has 2¼ times the population of the UK, but only slightly more GDP; and nearly twice the population of Germany but with only 80% of her GDP. I drew this data from the CIA World Factbook, and they set the following in perspective. Russia is important, but no superpower.
On November 9th her elder statesman Mikhail Gorbachov spoke at the Berlin celebrations about The Wall, which he had helped demolish; he said a new cold war was beginning. He was right, and all the blame lies on the US government and its allies. Economic sanctions have been racked up, which deliberately seek to impoverish his country.
The background, as Gorby well remembered, was that in 1989 a deal was done; the USSR was not to interfere with the movement to reunite Germany and liberate Eastern Europe, while the US and Western Europe promised not to extend their power into the Soviet Empire then about to break up. The Russians kept their side of that bargain, but the Europeans, with US encouragement, did not keep theirs.
It was an oral contract, and by no means easy to honor; what was the West supposed to do, when each of the former Soviet satellites applied to join them in a united economic zone? That was the reality, and Gorbachov's successors probably understood it. But thrusting influence under Russia's belly, as it were, to turn Ukraine against it, was something else; something like the start of an encirclement. And governments hate to get encircled.
Ukrainians have good reason to dislike Russians, or at least the Communist sort; in 1932 Stalin's thugs confiscated their harvest so as to stave off starvation and revolution in the Bolshevik heartland, but leaving about eleven million Ukrainian farmers to die for want of food. This was a holocaust nearly twice as big as Hitler's, and very well explains why his invaders were welcomed in Ukraine ten years later.
Last winter Ukrainians divided; most wished for closer union with Europe and overturned their pro-Russian government, while some in the East preferred the opposite and Crimeans voted heavily for union with Russia. Elsewhere in the East the outcome is still in doubt. The extent of US encouragement for the former is still unclear, but what is not unclear is their serious hostility towards Russia after Putin accepted the Crimean vote and annexed that area, which had been Russian anyway until the 1970s. Russian encouragement for the Eastern rebels is real also, but there should be no question that the destruction of goodwill between Russia and the West is the primary doing of the latter, and according to this article, the FedGov may even gave charged the country 21 tons of gold for their help. They are baiting the bear.
Why? - to ask the question is to suppose governments are rational, which is a big mistake. Even so, I'll take the risk of guessing that it's more than a mere coin-toss, and can detect three possible reasons: Russia's Putin took most-wanted Ed Snowden under his wing, then he frustrated KerryBama's plan to replace Assad with a US "asset," then thirdly he failed to bow meekly when the US strutted as above into Ukraine in his front yard. Oh, what audacity! He actually stood up to the mighty Emperor! Off with his head!
And indeed, the hostile actions are biting. The rouble has dropped 25% against the dollar in the last four months, and the country's prime export - fuel - has been hit by a 33% tumble in the price of crude oil - resulting probably more from a Saudi price war against the US, than from some mysterious manipulation by that Peace Prize winner in the White House. I've no idea how Putin will retaliate. But I don't expect him just to sit and take it. Bears don't.
This is a deliberate destruction of the friendly relations that have prevailed since 1990 between Americans and Russians, and given the hostility operating in the previous half century, I see that as a profound tragedy. Obama is the culprit, though I don't say Romney or McCain would have done better, had one of those been elected; quite possibly, worse. The government is creating an enemy where none need exist. Why?
An elegantly reasoned answer appeared November 12th, by Joe Salerno of Mises.org and I recommend a read - the time will be well rewarded. He develops the argument that in any society where government exists, it must be oligarchic; that is, a minority must always rule the majority. Otherwise, the ability of a ruled minority to feed everyone would soon collapse.
Salerno summarizes: "We thus arrive at a universal, praxeological truth about war. War is the outcome of class conflict inherent in the political relationship — the relationship between ruler and ruled, parasite and producer, tax-consumer and taxpayer. The parasitic class makes war with purpose and deliberation in order to conceal and ratchet up their exploitation of the much larger productive class. Thus, a permanent state of war or preparedness for war is optimal from the point of view of the ruling elite." [Emphasis added.]
War (as in the Mid East) and preparedness for it (as, now, in the mounting tension with Russia) is optimal to the ruling élite. It's exactly what they want, for it better enables them to conceal the permanent conflict between them and everone else. That's quite an insight. It follows that all "peace talks" are bogus. They may not want large-scale nuclear war, for that would bring blowback in the shape of destruction of Menda City, D.C.; but their ideal is to maintain anxiety as high, otherwise, as can be. While government exists, this is a "universal, praxeological truth."
But when government ceases to exist, that deadly universal truth will also disappear.