Putin is utterly mad but he has exposed our weakness.
How stupid of Uraine to let themselves be invaded by a tyrannical megalomaniac obsessed by the vision of a historical Great Russian empire that never actually existed.
Well, I find it impossible to believe the great nations of the world with their sophisticated intelligence and spy networks, did not suspect Putin would do something predictably unpredictable like begin a full-scale invasion. After all, they’ve only had 20 years to get to know what insanity the man is capable of! Unthinkable, them being “in-the-know”, that at least one of the West’s self-seeking, supercilious politician-types (US, EU, UK etc.) did not rush out a memo to the Ukrainian Government as soon as it occurred to them that something a bit nasty might happen. Forewarned is forearmed so to speak and in that event, the invasion may not have been too much of a surprise to everyday folk in Ukraine. Then again, perhaps they thought Volodymyr Zelenskyy would be too pissed to take in such earth-shattering intelligence or too preoccupied with some satirical comedy routine that he would laugh it off as alarmist propaganda. Perish the alternative idea that a memo from Ukraine’s “allies” was never sent or that it got lost in the post. Perish the alternative, alternative, idea that the powers that be in the rest of the world were fucking clueless about how to deal with Putin’s Kremlin. But it’s only politics.
20 years of being clueless. The totally un-funny thing is, everyone else knew!
But, to be fair, if the UN, NATO, the US, the UK, the EU, China, and every other “serious” Government and organisation in the world did miss the obvious hints that Putin would probably launch some kind of exercise in European geopolitical restructuring they must surely be forgiven because, after all, Putin hasn’t really got a highly visible track record of blitzkrieg or of being a lying scoundrel apart from incidental minutiae such as annexing Crimea, occupying Georgia, teaming up with North Korea in cybercrime, interfering in sovereign countries’ democratic processes, war-mongering in Syria and Afghanistan and Libya [etc. etc.], stripping Russian national assets in favour of creating mafia-style oligarchic industries, to mention but a few of his achievements. Oh, and Russia has only been sanctioned a few times since the 1950s, some as recently as 2014. But it’s only politics. And obviously, Putin and his oligrunts being so secretive and all, which of the West’s over-stuffed, overpaid, overindulged politicians and civil servants could have seen it coming? But it’s only politics.
Let’s build Nord Stream 2!
On the other hand, (now here’s a naughty thought) what if the leaders of these countries did understand the situation only too well but chose to do nothing? Well, not much anyway. Way too busy snuffling up as much of the oligrunts’ ill-gotten wealth as possible and fighting their own wars to bother with a gangster like Putin? If this is the case, and I’m not saying it is, then there could be one or two reasons Putin chose this moment to “surprise” everyone and bomb the hell out of Ukrainian citizens. Apart from the most conspicuous explanation being that he’s utterly mad.
Number one: America is weak. The US “Real Life” economy is on the rocks leaving the incumbent administration in control of insufficient funds to lift more than 45 million Americans out of poverty or to tackle medical debt which is more than the annual GDP of the United Arab Emirates. On top of all that, there’s the Trump legacy. But, besides the seemingly insurmountable domestic problems and the need to deal with them urgently, in international affairs, the USA over the last decade or so has increasingly withdrawn its focus from Russia and onto China. Another point Putin will have considered is the fact that America, for decades, has spent more on their military every year than any other nation by a long, long way and yet can’t win any conflict it begins or gets involved with. Like so many of us, maybe Putin can also see that America is all mouth and no trousers. Luckily, to an increasing degree, Uncle Sam can leave the problem of Russia in the hands of Europe’s superior economic and military capabilities. However, a transfer of power rarely comes without some chaos.
Number two: Europe is weak for different reasons. While Europe is the largest economy in the world and is, without doubt, a combined military and nuclear superpower in its own right, its potential weakness derives from the fact that the Union is in its infancy and the culturally ancient countries involved are still trying to find ways through their differences, both current and historical. On top of that, there is no popular appetite for Europe to become the global policeman as America has been in the past. Although that could change on a sixpence given that most countries in Europe have past experience of building their own empires.
Number three: The United Kingdom is weak. The Government is the most corrupt in British history as a result of which politics and some politicians are, to a large extent, funded by British, Russian, Chinese, Middle Eastern and American private and commercial interests. On the home front, civil liberties, human rights and Democracy itself are being systematically destroyed. After more than a decade of ideologically motivated Austerity, the “Real Life” economy is in tatters. More than 15 million people live in poverty. Personal debt stands at £1.7 trillion which is almost 95% of GDP. Taxation is at its highest level since WW2 (except for the wealthy). Housing is prohibitively expensive. The basic essentials required to sustain life are increasingly unaffordable. Abroad, Britain is regarded as a sedentary and submissive political entity, cast adrift on the fringe of Europe, a nation of great people saddled with Governments that meddle in the affairs of other nations often illegally and always without any genuine commitment or plan.
The list is far from exhaustive but there comes a point when I must stop because even I can lose the will to live.
In conclusion: the first rule of a General is to “forget your own disadvantages because these you can change. All you need to win is to know your enemies’ weakness”. And Putin knows, he knows only too well, because he has been exploiting those weaknesses for decades. People die because of politicians.
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© Rod McRiven 2022
Contributory thinking and further reading:
- www.foreignpolicy.com Stephen M. Walt, a columnist at Foreign Policy and the Robert and Renée Belfer professor of international relations at Harvard University.
- Erich Fromm – The anatomy of human destructiveness
- Chatham House
Real Life Economics is based on real-world experience rather than deductive “blackboard” theorising or projecting favoured by politicians, bankers etc. In short, real life economics is fact versus wishful thinking. As an example: fossil fuel prices are rising due to a range of factors. However, prices are set by speculative markets with the sole ambition of a small number of organisations and individuals making money off the top (adding to inflationary pressures) which adds additional and unassociated “cost” to consumers no matter how unaffordable the end price is. In the real world, prices are governed more by what end users are willing and able to pay direct with suppliers (no money market middlemen) within an agreed social framework.
A strategic measure employed by real life economics is the standard of living (levels of poverty, availability of health and welfare services etc.) enjoyed by populations, the metrics of which are set by a universal moral and social code i.e. No one is homeless, no one lives in poverty, education is universal and so on.
Regarding fossil fuels and other critical industries (water, food etc.), there is a strong real world economics argument that these should be removed from general trading (stock markets) and returned to national ownership thus helping to regularise supply and demand whilst also equalising costs.