Sanctions: America’s Greek Tragedy

9 Mar

Simply put, the USA has won the propaganda war, while Russia is winning the war itself.

Melkularanga Bhadrakumar (former Indian Ambassador)

Moscow and Beijing have formed a mutually beneficial “tandem” based on their respective strengths; Russia as a major military force willing to confront the US empire; China as a rising economic superpower. Empire managers had previously expected that Moscow would be forced to pivot to Washington as a member state of the empire. That it chose Beijing instead, to retain its sovereignty, is what set all this in motion.

Caitlin Johnstone

Thank God we’re now going to get our oil from ethically sourced places like Saudi Arabia.

Alan MacLeod (MintPress)


The hypocrisy is staggering. A US empire which has slaughtered millions in this century alone,  displaced tens of millions and weaponised jihadi terror accuses Russia of aggression in Ukraine.

AFTER THE LIES – “shock and awe” hits Baghdad, March 2003

And hundreds of millions across the Western world buy it …

A US empire which can pluck foreign citizens from any part of the world, place them in black spot hellholes and deny them the most elementary human rights – including the right not to be tortured – accuses its prime economic rivals, China and Russia, of human rights violations.

Based on documented events and photo evidence, an artist’s depiction of Abu Ghraib prison under US control

And hundreds of millions across the Western world buy it …

A US empire whose Hub jails whistleblowers, whose UK vassal has subjected the bravest of all to a decade and still counting of psychological torture, and which now blocks access to media challenging its control of the Ukraine narrative, 1 lectures the planet on open society values.

Seen on Facebook

And hundreds of millions across the Western world buy it …


I’m setting a broader context, you understand, to the precipice at which not only Ukraine and not only Europe but the entire world now stands. The risk being less of deliberate nuclear war – Washington & Co have no intention, at least for now, of putting boots on the ground or planes in the air to back the hapless clown they’ve egged on in Kiev – than of WW3 by miscalculation; by one round too many of play-chicken. Ominously, that “one round too many” may be in the arena of sanctions. The lines between military, fiscal and economic warfare are not carved in stone. Nations pushed into a corner make no such nice distinctions between the various forms an existential threat may take.

For more specific background on how we got here – vital, given the amnesia and mediaevalist ignorance in which corporate media leave us; as countless social media exchanges attest 2 – may I recommend two admirably succinct OffGuardian pieces by Kit Knightly? Both written in the form of timelines, the first is Euromaidan, the original “Ukraine Crisis”; the second, The Crimean Referendum.

A third piece – “Kiev’s “anti-terror” operations in Donetsk and Luhansk and the collapse into chaos and civil war” – is in preparation. (Useful when armies of the tragically played, taking to FB to shed genuine but misinformed tears and vent genuine but misinformed rage at Russia, speak volumes as to how eight years of civil war – with 12-14,000 dead from Kiev’s war crimes in Crimea, Luhansk and Donbas 3 – just passed them by. This too is a legacy of media lies of omission of the kind pinpointed here by Media Lens.)


And so to the main thrust of this post: sanctions. A recent post featuring former UK diplomat Alastair Crooke, one of the many gamekeepers turned poacher indicative of our extraordinary times, exemplifies a theme – Washington’s covert war on its “allies” – others have iterated.

One of those others being Michael Hudson, described by former Reagan Treasury appointee Paul Craig Roberts – another gamekeeper turned poacher – as “the world’s greatest living economist”.

Here then is Mr Hudson, writing yesterday in CounterPunch:

The American Empire Self-Destructs, But Nobody Thought That It Would Happen This Fast

Empires often follow the course of a Greek tragedy, bringing about precisely the fate that they sought to avoid. That certainly is the case with the American Empire as it dismantles itself in not-so-slow motion.

The basic assumption of economic and diplomatic forecasting is that every country will act in its own self-interest. Such reasoning is of no help in today’s world. Observers across the political spectrum are using phrases like “shooting themselves in their own foot” to describe U.S. diplomatic confrontation with Russia and allies alike. But nobody thought that The American Empire would self-destruct this fast. 4

For more than a generation the most prominent U.S. diplomats have warned about what they thought would represent the ultimate external threat: an alliance of Russia and China dominating Eurasia. America’s economic sanctions and military confrontation have driven these two countries  together, and are driving other countries into their emerging Eurasian orbit.

American economic and financial power was expected to avert this fate. During the half-century since the United States went off gold in 1971, the world’s central banks have operated on the Dollar Standard, holding their international monetary reserves in the form of U.S. Treasury securities, U.S. bank deposits and U.S. stocks and bonds. The resulting Treasury-bill Standard has enabled America to finance its foreign military spending and investment takeover of other countries simply by creating dollar IOUs. U.S. balance-of-payments deficits end up in the central banks of payments-surplus countries as their reserves, while Global South debtors need dollars to pay their bondholders and conduct their foreign trade.

This monetary privilege – dollar seignorage – has enabled U.S. diplomacy to impose neoliberal policies on the rest of the world, without having to use much military force of its own except to grab Near Eastern oil.

The recent escalation of U.S. sanctions blocking Europe, Asia and other countries from trade and investment with Russia, Iran and China has imposed enormous opportunity costs – the cost of lost opportunities – on U.S. allies. And the recent confiscation of the gold and foreign reserves of Venezuela, Afghanistan and now Russia, along with the targeted grabbing of bank accounts of wealthy foreigners (hoping to win their hearts and minds, enticed by the hope for the return of their sequestered accounts 5 ), has ended the idea that dollar holdings – or now also assets in sterling and euro NATO satellites of the dollar – are a safe investment haven when world economic conditions become shaky.

So I am somewhat chagrined as I watch the speed at which this U.S.-centered financialized system has de-dollarized over the span of just a year or two. The basic theme of my Super Imperialism has been how, for the past fifty years, the U.S. Treasury-bill standard has channeled foreign savings to U.S. financial markets and banks, giving Dollar Diplomacy a free ride. I thought that de-dollarization would be led by China and Russia moving to take control of their economies to avoid the kind of financial polarization that is imposing austerity on the United States.[2] But U.S. officials are forcing Russia, China and other nations not locked into the U.S. orbit to see the writing on the wall and overcome whatever hesitancy they had to de-dollarize.

I had expected that the end of the dollarized imperial economy would come about by other countries breaking away. But that is not what has happened. U.S.  diplomats themselves have chosen to end international dollarization, while helping Russia build up its own means of self-reliant agricultural and industrial production. This global fracture process actually has been going on for some years, starting with the sanctions blocking America’s NATO allies and other economic satellites from trading with Russia. For Russia, these sanctions had the same effect that protective tariffs would have had.

Russia had remained too enthralled by free-market neoliberal ideology to take steps to protect its own agriculture and industry. The United States provided the help that was needed by imposing domestic self-reliance onRussia. When the Baltic states obeyed American sanctions and lost the Russian market for their cheese and other farm products, Russia quickly created its own cheese and dairy sector – while becoming the world’s leading grain exporter.

Russia is discovering (or is on the verge of discovering) that it does not need U.S. dollars as backing for the ruble’s exchange rate. Its central bank can create the rubles needed to pay domestic wages and finance capital formation. The U.S. confiscations of its dollar and euro reserves may finally lead Russia to end its adherence to neoliberal monetary philosophy, as Sergei Glaziev has long been advocating, in favor of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) …

Continue reading Michael Hudson’s piece in CounterPunch …

* * *

  1. For an instance of this censorship, see what happens when you click on my post of February 23. It linked to a short video of Vladimir Putin saying what Russia wants. That video can no longer be seen. The Western public cannot be trusted, and must form its views of Putin and Russia on the basis of what corporate media say about them. I like to think followers of my blog are smart enough to see where this road takes us. And on the subject of blocking out alternative media, Executive Producer Oliver Stone has said his spellbinding Ukraine on Fire  is being taken down by Youtube. At the moment you can still buy it on Amazon (worthy, in that it helps the film makers recoup their costs, but also ensuring few will see it) or view it (for now, but do hurry) for free on Vimeo.
  2. On the hows and whys of corporate media corruption, see two posts on this site. One is Monolithic control at the Guardian? The other is Britain decides! Disregard those unduly specific titles: what is discussed applies to all corporate media.
  3. Speaking of war criminals, see today’s Yes, Ukraine is in the grip of Nazis! – posted a few hours after this.
  4. See also my March 7 post – The real purpose of sanctions on Russia? – and Dave Hansell’s scintillating below-the-line reply to a comment by Zoltan Jorovic.
  5. A short opinion piece in the Guardian yesterday, March 8 by Olga Chyzh reflects the mandatory view that Putin Has To Go – never mind that Russians, having seen living standards recover after the nightmare years of that other Boris, overwhelmingly disagree – but does offer a few insights on why hitting a few expat billionaires won’t cut it.

20 Replies to “Sanctions: America’s Greek Tragedy

  1. I’ve read Alistair Crookes latest posts and also Scott Ritter and Chakraborty and of course your own posts(including the Feb 23rd), Greg Mello on the Los Almos Study Group, Robert Parry, Jon Pilger, Max Blumenthal, Steven Gowans and probably a dozen more well respected names with so many more Blog sites of worthy note.

    How is it that so many excellent minds can be so right and yet the majority of the worlds peoples can get it so wrong even when so many off mainstream news sites are speaking truth to the(ir)governments lying propaganda. There is only so much that cognitive dissonance and bone idleness can explain and I think we are well past that as an excuse.

    It seems to me in my ignorance, that people are polarising between the perceived good guys and bad guys but with nothing more than deliberate bigotry. The world has known about the suffering of the Donbass peoples and still they tolerate accusations of Russia’s intervention in defence of Russian peoples under illegal warfare from neo Nazi elements in western Ukraine as “war crimes”. It can only mean that the Russian speaking Donbass are somehow less human than those murdering them and that is disgraceful, but I think true. That kind of thinking is in itself a form of apartheidism, fascism or neo Nazism.

    Whatever happened to the teachings of “treat others as you would wish to be treated yourself” which seems to have fallen by the wayside.
    Thank goodness for sites like yours Phillip with people like Dave(Hansell)as a commenter, if not for so many free and intelligent thinkers I would have retreated from the real world and cut myself off from it.

    Many thanks for your ceaseless work in exposing the dichotomy between right and wrong.
    Stay safe,
    Susan 🙂

    • You too Susan, though you do yourself down. Regardless of sites like this, you don’t strike me as the retreating kind!

  2. Its becoming a full time job simply trying to keep up in the present info-war and the many aspects/features.

    Anyway; this piece caught they eye:

    Question is, would the RF be viewing that action in the same way as it viewed the potential use of military aircraft taking off from Poland into Ukraine airspace which was touted – ie whoever was behind it is a legitimate target?

    And, as per previous statements those targets won’t be what are considered traditional conventional ones we have been used to – what we learned about at school in history lessons. They will be precise and specific – those who made the decisions. And with maneuverable (which is the key) hypersonic weapons (non-nuclear as well as nuclear) available to the RF but not the West that is achievable.

    Pentagon, Langley, EU Brussels HQ, could be only the tip of that particular iceberg? The big decision making players behind the scenes in finance etc – both those with a media profile and those without – may need to keep moving to avoid the same outcome which befell Qassem Soleimani among others?

    Moving on – to the sanctions blowback points raised by George in another thread on this site;

    Pepe Escobar is once again in fine form here:

    Two points stand out in the present phrase of the economic war being waged:

    The negotiations with Iran over the nuclear deal which Trump pulled out of the other year;

    “The JCPOA negotiations in Vienna may be reaching the last stage – as acknowledged even by Chinese diplomat Wang Qun. But it’s Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov who introduced a new, crucial variable.

    Lavrov made it quite explicit, as registered by NATOstan media: “We have asked for a written guarantee…that the current process triggered by the United States does not in any way damage our right to free and full trade, economic and investment cooperation and military-technical cooperation with the Islamic Republic.”

    As per the JCPOA, Russia receives enriched uranium from Iran and exchanges it for yellowcake; and in parallel is reconverting Iran’s Fordow nuclear plant into a research center. Without Iranian enriched uranium exports simply there’s no JCPOA deal. It boggles the mind that US Secretary of State Blinken does not seem to understand that.”

    Bottom line: If RF is ‘sanctioned’ on the import of enriched uranium from Iran there is no deal.

    Secondly, the desperation inherent here:

    “So the White House did send a delegation to talk to Venezuelan President Maduro, led by Juan Gonzalez, the White House top Latin America adviser. The offering is to “alleviate” sanctions on Caracas in exchange for oil.

    The United States government has spent years – if not decades – burning all bridges with Venezuela and Iran. The USG has destroyed Iraq and Libya, and excluded Venezuela and Iran to sort of take over global oil markets just to end up miserably trying to buy out both, and thus escape from being crushed by the economic forces it has unleashed. That proves, once again, that imperial “policy makers” are completely clueless.

    Caracas will request the elimination of all sanctions on Venezuela and the return of all its confiscated gold. Seems like that was not exactly cleared with “President” Guaido.”

    Escobar’s conclusion:

    “Social cohesion torn apart”

    The systems analyst Russel L Ackoff used to describe real world systems as a “mess.” If he were still alive today he’d have to invent a whole new concept to describe where we are and where we are likely heading.

    My advice? Make friends with someone has an allotment.

    • Just read Ritter, Susan, and skimmed the Los Alamos piece prior to a proper read later today. Yes, both useful and likely to be cited in future steel city posts.


  3. Very good. But I wonder whether the Hollywood Empire has won the propaganda war. It has in Canada and, no doubt, the UK but has it anywhere else?

    And what is going to happen the immediate consequences of the stunt that the White House pulled become apparent to the point of being beyond contradiction?

    It is one thing to persuade crowds of nitwits and politically ambitious conformists to ‘stand by Ukraine’ but it is something else trying to get tens of millions of people to grin and bear it and get ready for war, for reasons which are clearly false. This isn’t 1914.

    It would be good, but asking too much of them, if the various grouplings of refugees from New New Labour, proposing to campaign as socialists seized the moment to fill the void in politics where anti-imperialism used to be and began to organise around the issues of freedom of speech, getting out of NATO, looking elsewhere than America for international partners and ‘standing with’ the likes of Cuba, Venezuela, China, Russia.

    I remember organising our northern community to understand that the Gulf of Tonkin incident was an obvious scam. It was remarkably easy. And millions of people discovered how brittle and empty the imposing structures of The Establishment were. And how deep the distrust of the ruling class and its media is.

  4. I think it’s difficult to figure out who has won a propaganda war bearing in mind that propaganda is ongoing and, as it were, likes to flatter itself I.e. it not only lies about what’s happening but gives an impression that everyone believes it. I have even wondered sometimes if it’s possible for no-one to believe a story but for everyone to believe that everyone else believes it.

  5. John Helmer has an interesting interview with Andrey Nekrasov today:

    This is how it concludes: Russia is relatively weak, but, sorry for the platitude, what doesn’t kill them makes them stronger.

    The nightmare scenario for the West would be an alliance of nations and different cultures rebelling against the civilizational domination and arrogance of the West. The West claims that Russia is completely isolated, but it may be underestimating the underdog’s resentment across the world. Even if Russia loses in the current confrontation with the West, the world order, in my opinion, will not simply return to the liberal version of business-as-usual. And a defeat of Russia, which, for example, leads to a civil war, can be even worse for its European neighbours than its victory. is also good today: “U.S. Nailed to the Wall on Illicit Biological Weapons Labs in Ukraine”

  6. Couldn’t find out who Greg Mello is, except that he wrote the article in the LASG, but since they earned high praise from John Pilger I decided to check it out.

    His article is just short of halfway down and he titled it New Bomb, No Mission. Starts with…”The Government says it is no longer building new bombs. So why is it deploying the new version of the B61 nuclear bomb?” Obviously not a fan of US propaganda lies.

    The B61 falls under the category of gravity bomb classified under Thermo Nuclear Devices. Reading the categories and classifications of all the fissionable and nuclear bombs the US has was an eerie experience.

    I know what it’s like to get side-tracked into reading all over the place, but if the info is out there, I’m game. You can always disregard and concentrate on the specifics, which is what you do so well.

    Why does Dave Hansell not have his own blogg?

    • Search me, Susan. I’ll ask him. Maybe he and I should team up – since he’s a fellow Sheffielder we wouldn’t even have to change the name …

  7. Some more articles regarding the bio-labs:

    The next link will not post. Its a Yandex translation into English of Former Prime Minister of Ukraine Mykola Azarov, claiming his Government were overthrown in 2014 because they wanted to close US biolabs.

    The English translation is provided below:

    “Former Prime Minister of Ukraine Mykola Azarov, who held this post under the PresidentViktor Yanukovych, spoke about the activities of biological laboratories of the US Department of Defense on the territory of his country.

    In his Facebook post, the former prime Minister stressed that his government had nothing to do with the opening of these centers. The decision to start their work was made by the Cabinet of Yulia Tymoshenko.

    And the agreement between the US Department of Defense and the Ministry of Health of Ukraine on the creation of such laboratories was signed in August 2005 under the presidency of Viktor Yushchenko, whenTymoshenko was already retired.

    “Say what? Of course, no sovereign and independent country that thinks about its people and the future will let other people’s uncles into the issues of biological safety of the population, ” Mykola Azarov writes.

    He notes that the purposes for which these laboratories were created are unknown to this day, since all their activities are classified, and Ukrainian citizens are not even allowed to conduct work.

    “Since 2005, the United States has established laboratories in Odessa, Vinnytsia, Lviv, Kherson, Ternopil and a number of other localities in Ukraine. I emphasize that these are laboratories of the US military, ” the former head of the cabinet reports.

    According to him, after his government came to power in 2010, negotiations were started with the Americans on this issue. In 2012, Kiev started talking about granting access to Ukrainian scientists in these centers or about their complete closure. At that time, inspections of the activities of these laboratories were initiated.

    “With a sin in half, we were shown something, but what we saw did not suit us. In 2013, we sent an official letter toThe U.S. Government announces the termination of this agreement. You know what happened next: the coup d’etat, the Maidan, which, in fact, was organized by the Americans. Now these laboratories continue to operate in Ukraine. No one controls them, they flourish, ” Azarov concludes.

    Earlier, EADaily reported that the US Embassy recognized the presence of American biolabs in Ukraine. According to the official version, their goal is ” peaceful research and development of vaccines.”

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