Getting real about Ukraine

27 Jun

I won’t be saying much in this post; rather, handing over to others. Followers of this site over the past four to six months know of my insistence that it’s just plain stupid to suppose that Ukraine coverage by corporate media of any stripe could possibly advance a meaningful understanding of what is happening and why.

In fact I’ve stopped responding to folk who tell me the latest ‘analysis’ by the Guardian’s Patrick Wintour is a must-read, or urge me to check out a “really insightful” Economist piece. I’m pretty good with words but I don’t have the imagination or inclination to find new ways of saying what I’ve already said a thousand times: that on matters vital to ruling interests, corporate media are debarred by their business models from speaking the truth …

Media are large corporations selling privileged audiences to other corporations. Now the question is, what pictures of the world would a rational person expect to emerge from this arrangement?

Noam Chomsky

… the US proxy war on Russia in Ukraine, it should go without saying, falls into that category.

Mostly my posts on Ukraine have been dedicated to the relatively simple and straightforward task of showing, not least through repeat airings of maps like the two below, that we are being lied to on a monumental scale – by the most extensive, the most sophisticated and the most multidimensional propaganda system in history – about the causes of the war.

But we are also being lied to about the progress of the war – specifically, that Ukraine forces are slowly gaining the upper hand. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Cue for my first handover, once again to the unfalteringly cogent vlogger, Alexander Mercurios. While I do wish he’d use maps from time to time – and recommend that viewers have in front of them a decent one of eastern and southern Ukraine as they take in his spellbinding analysis – that’s just me nit-picking. What follows is thirty-seven minutes of pure gold.

 

As it happens, there’s an order to my selections today. Toward the end of his talk, Mr Mercurios moves from the military situation on the ground to the self inflicted pain of Europe in the shape of staggeringly predictable blowback from its economic war on Russia.

Which segues nicely into this piece in Strategic Culture by former UK diplomat – and member of that burgeoning club of empire gamekeepers turned poacher – Alastair Crooke. He too has featured before on this site. This latest piece, from six days ago, has the cryptic title, Zugzwang, which I confess I had to look up on wiki:

Zugzwang is a situation found in chess and other turn-based games wherein one player is put at a disadvantage because of their obligation to make a move; a player is said to be “in zugzwang” when any legal move will worsen their position.

Mr Crooke begins:

Europe’s future looks bleak. It is now pressed by its own imposition of sanctions, and the resultant spike in commodity prices. The EU is lumbering around in a daze.

Western self-destruction – a puzzle defying any unique causal explanation – continues. The examples where policy is pursued in apparent indifference to anything resembling rigorous reflection, has become so extreme as to provoke a former British military chief (and former head of NATO forces in Afghanistan), Lord Richards, to huff that the relationship between strategy and any synchronisation of ends has become hopelessly broken in the West.

The West pursues a “let’s see how it goes” ‘strategy’, or in other words, no real strategy at all, Richards contends. Many would say that a cult of unrelenting, untethered, positive spin, has asphyxiated mainstream critical faculties. How is it that the West, awash with ‘think-tanks’, invariably gets it so wrong? Why is it that facile memes and illusions, posing as geo-politics, get little or no challenge? Compliance to official and mainstream narratives is all. It is baffling to observe this becoming routine, without apparent cognizance of the risks which this entails.

The key epicentre to today’s spiking geo-political instability is the state of the western economy: So complacent have the authorities been – that inflation would never ruffle the waters of the reserve-currency-based U.S. economy – that cyclical recession was assumed to have been ‘eradicated’; it would never sully the consumer (electoral) sphere again, thanks to a money printing ‘vaccine’; and anyway, ballooning debt ‘does not matter’.

This facile view assumed that ‘reserve status’ in, and of, itself eradicated inflation – whereas to the outside world, it was always the petrodollar system compelling the entire world to purchase dollars to finance their needs; it was the flood of cheap Chinese consumer goods; and it was the cheap energy sources made available to western industry by Russia and Gulf States, that kept inflation at bay.

Read in full …

 

As a matter of fact I was alerted to the Alastair Crooke piece via a post yesterday – Exile on Main Street: the Sound of the Unipolar World Fading Awayby geopolitical analyst, Pepe Escobar. As usual his high octane style at times makes me – an Englishman for god’s sake! – wince. And as threatened by his choice of title, he does rather labour a series of Rolling Stones wordplays. But, also as usual, this well connected Brazilian delivers too much valuable stuff to be ignored on account of such triflings.

Pepe begins:

Let’s cut to the chase and roll in the Putin Top Ten of the New Era, announced by the Russian President live at the St. Petersburg forum for both the Global North and South.

[NB the piece linked from this first paragraph is a mere 1320 words. I strongly advise reading it – especially with this one only 100 words longer, at 1425. Together the two pieces barely exceed the length of your typical undergraduate essay.]

The era of the unipolar world is over.

The rupture with the West is irreversible and definitive. No pressure from the West will change it.

Russia has renewed its sovereignty. Reinforcement of political and economic sovereignty is an absolute priority.

The EU has completely lost its political sovereignty. The current crisis shows the EU is not ready to play the role of an independent, sovereign actor. It’s just en ensemble of American vassals deprived of any politico-military sovereignty.

Sovereignty cannot be partial. Either you’re a sovereign or a colony.

Hunger in the poorest nations will be on the conscience of the West and euro-democracy.

Russia will supply grains to the poorer nations in Africa and the Middle East.

Russia will invest in internal economic development and reorientation of trade towards nations independent of the U.S.

The future world order, already in progress, will be formed by strong sovereign states.

The ship has sailed. There’s no turning back.

How does it feel, for the collective West, to be caught in such a crossfire hurricane? 

Read in full …

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What, you’re still hungry? Let me throw in at no extra cost this video talk – Ukraine War: an unmitigated disaster – by a leading exponent of the ‘political realism‘ school, the University of Chicago based John Mearsheimer.

At fifty-seven minutes it’s on the long side, which is why I didn’t include it in my three primary items, but the analyses of Professor Mearsheimer – yes, he too has featured more than once on this site – are head and shoulders above the tripe all mainstream Western media are putting out.

Let me add that from my ideological viewpoint, all four analyses are limited by failure to place class and empire at centre stage – or indeed, even to mention these elephants in the room. 1

(And by the way, those who think it possible to not have an ideological viewpoint betray a childish grasp of the i-word. On this if little else I’m in agreement with postmodernism.)

Yet these four pundits consistently produce analyses superior to most of those to the Left of me. I mean the people who, in a weird coinciding of the output of ‘vanguardist’ sects with that of left-liberals, cry a plague on both houses. The main difference between the specious moral equivalences drawn by the two groupings being that the vanguardista  have this ace up their sleeves: the rabbit-from-a hat call – their answer to all and any political problem, however immediate – for the workers of the world to unite (today would be good) and overthrow the imperialists they deem (with precious little of the empirical evidence it behoves Marxists to produce) no less prevalent in Moscow and Beijing than in Washington, Berlin and London.

Bah!

That’s two posts in a row featuring that expletive. I must double down on my efforts to wean myself off a Beano not that far ahead of the Guardian on the gravitas front.

* * *

  1. Actually one of the four, Pepe Escobar, does speak of empire. Often. What he does not do, however, is link imperialism in its modern sense (see the first two paragraphs of the invisibility of empire) to class. The prime driver of monopoly capital’s export from global north to south is the quest for boosted profits via super-exploitation of cheap labour – which is to say, the capital-labour relations dissected by Marx are now to a very high degree north-south relations. Another class aspect is that the export of capital is also the export of jobs. The largely non unionised labour-sellers in the West, now on casual contracts in the services sector, would forty years ago have had more secure jobs in the smokestack industries. Those who get this acquire a hearty distaste for the term, post-industrial society.

8 Replies to “Getting real about Ukraine

    • Again, merci. Good to know there are people out there prepared to put in the effort to widen the availability of marginalised views.

      (I was thrilled when, six years ago, one of my early posts on Syria was translated into your language – see Assad le tyran? in Le Saker Francophone, July 30, 2016.)

  1. The theme of Crook’s piece also fits in with aspects of observations frequently made by Andrei Martyanov. That of the appallingly poor calibre and quality of decisions and those who make them in the West. Which is a direct result of the Western model and mindset, along with its prevailing (now largely infantile) culture.

    This (approx.) 35 minute video of the current ‘G7’ circus provides a depressing illustration of the point via a conversation more reminiscent of a prep school Fourth Form Remove Common Room than a serious adult Geo-Political summit:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HlH38qWni7o&t=600s

    Boris Johnson (UK): “Jackets on? Jackets off? Can we take our clothes off?”

    Justin Trudeau (Canada): “Lets wait for the picture.”

    Boris Johnson (UK): “We all have to show that we’re tougher than Putin.”

    Justin Trudeau (Canada): “We’re going to get the bare chested horseback riding display.”

    Ursula Van-de-Layen (EU): “Oh yes! Horseback riding is the best.”

    Boris Johnson (UK) : “We’ve got to show them our pecs.”

    Whilst this example provides ample evidence for both Crook’s and Martyanov’s claims (among others) operating at arguably the highest level of decision making within the Western model the problem is further exacerbated as a result of this problem of quality and calibre being the norm right through the system at every level.

    Such is the extent of the (long developing) existing rot.

    To be frank, I did at one short point in time for a brief period breath a sigh of relief on retirement; thinking that at long last similar, regular (and often daily) experiences of this phenomena at work were now ended.

    Such illusions did not last long as everywhere you go, everything one encounters now throws up the same problem that nothing, literally nothing, works any more in a practical functional sense. Worse, there seems less than zero chance of any recovery via internal mechanisms. Any such necessary improvement will therefore have to be provided from outside the West.

    A West which more and more resembles a crashed computer (running any version of the completely shite Windows OS) requiring an externally sourced start up disk because it threw away its own start up disk a long time ago as an unnecessary cost.

    Which leaves the twin questions as to how long before complete systemic collapse and how messy will things get?

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