Russia’s triumph goes beyond Ukraine

22 Mar

The universe is messaging me; I know this for sure. Yesterday I bumped into a dog-walking pal in the park. We fell to speaking of the need to triangulate information in an age where one of precious few certainties is that, on matters of vital import to those who beneath a chimera of democracy truly rule us, mainstream corporate media cannot be trusted. As I will keep saying:

On many matters ‘quality’ media serve us tolerably well but this truth enables a greater lie. They need to show good faith even when doing so may embarrass those in high office. (Not only does their long term capacity to influence opinion and manufacture consent depend on it. So too, on pain of losing market share, do their business models.) But the trust so gained helps them mislead us, more by omission than commission, on matters critical – above all the vilifying of states and leaders in the way of empire designs – to the power they ultimately serve

Not that alt-media can be blindly followed, even when intentions are good. Sometimes the fog of war obscures things; sometimes gaps in overarching worldview do the same. It’s the latter I had in mind when, as the woofers ran joyously wild, I said those I take seriously on Ukraine tend to be in the ‘political realist’ camp – some self avowedly like John Mearsheimer, recently seen in discussion with Piers Morgan; some de facto, like Scott Ritter, Alastair Crooke and Dimitry Orlov, all of whom have also featured on this site.

What the political realists tend to lack, I added, as we called in the canines to go our separate ways, is any notion of class. For instance I heard just the other day Jeffrey Sachs, who gets too much right to be ignored on ground of his sporadic bursts of naivete, wonder at the asininity of Europe’s leaders in allowing the trashing of its economies over Ukraine. A lot falls into place, of course, once we see that the agendas of Scholz, Macron and Sunak on the one hand, Von der Leyen and Borrell on the other, are not the same as those of most Europeans. In short, a lot falls into place when we factor in class and empire …

… or if that’s too big an ask, a smattering of basic political economy. Which brings me back to the universe messaging me. Hours after this parlay in the park I had an alert from Alain in the south of France. Coincidence? Well yeah, but it’s worth repeating what he – or strictly speaking Will Schyler, whose post on X he was alerting me to – has to say. Though it begins as a minor snark with Professor Mearsheimer, it’s more important as a short overview of how much Russia has emerged on top; more helped than hindered by the proxy war the West has waged against her since long before February 24, 2022.

Since the end of the Yeltsin era, in fact – if not the fall of the Soviet Union.

 The Myth of a Russia in Decline

I am very familiar with what John Mearsheimer was writing a decade ago, and I concurred with him on about 90% of his analysis. But he had then, and still has now a pronounced blind spot: his relative ignorance of macroeconomic realities. He believed then that Russia was locked into a steady decline. Others, such as @DanielLDavis1 , believe Russia will resume its decline in the aftermath of the current war in Ukraine.

Mearsheimer, Davis, and many others continue to adhere to the fantasy that Russia is a “one-dimensional economy”. This was false in 2014, and it is even more false now, as the past two years ought to have proven beyond dispute. It is a fallacious belief that current Russian economic vitality is solely due to its massive ramp up in war production. Production for domestic consumption has also grown rapidly in recent years, and its pace has not slackened over the course of the current war. Agricultural production has exploded. Technological innovation and high-tech manufacturing has advanced by leaps and bounds.

More importantly, Russia has forged strong economic ties with China, India, and many others of the Asian manufacturing juggernauts. The rapidly developing Eurasian currency and trade bloc represents the single most vibrant and potent economic force on the planet at this point in time. Russia possesses the largest repository of natural resources on the planet — a productive giant not only in terms of energy, but all manner of strategic commodities.

The epithet “gas station masquerading as a country” was never true. Russia is also the least indebted of all the great powers — by a huge margin. This is a factor that simply cannot be underestimated. The hyper-financialized western powers are doomed to a major debt-fueled economic calamity in coming years, whereas Russia is well-positioned to avoid that disaster altogether. And while, like all the major powers on the planet, it has significant demographic challenges, it is also focused on those issues, 1 and is now offering extremely generous incentives to address the problem — incentives that will, of course, require many years to come to full fruition.  

That said, one of the significant results of the Ukraine war will be the reassimilation of all the Russian-speaking areas east of the Dnieper, as well as the entire Black Sea coast to the Danube (including Transnistria). This represents an augmentation of the Russian Federation’s population by about ten million inhabitants, along with the most fertile and most productive manufacturing regions of the former Ukraine. 2 Additionally, one of the typical outcomes of victory in a major war is a pronounced boost in fertility. How pronounced that will be and how long it will last remains to be seen, but it must be kept in mind that demographic challenges exist throughout the developed world, and even a modest boost in Russian fertility will at least stem the tide of a major demographic collapse such as will engulf much of Europe, Japan, and even the United States if current trends continue unabated. 3

Very few people in the west appreciate the degree to which Vladimir Putin has set in motion a major cultural reawakening in Russia. Russians have rediscovered themselves and are brimming with more national vitality and self-confidence than at any time over the past few centuries. I expect that Putin’s influence will persist in Russia for multiple generations following his eventual passing from the human scene. Russia will absolutely NOT resume a trajectory of increasing weakness following this war. Russia is now ascendant, and will continue to be so into the foreseeable future.


Mearsheimer’s underestimation of Russia’s economy – hence, inter alia, her capacity to outfight the entire West in a war of attrition – was shared not only by politicians and economists who in so many words echoed John McCain’s crass put-down, “a gas station with nukes”. It was also shared by many on the Marxist Left who predicted Russia’s resounding defeat after an invasion they condemned no less severely, often more so, than they did the US empire whose continual provocations led us all to this point.

But there’s something else John got wrong and it too flows from political realism’s failure to reckon with class. In featuring his dialogue with Piers Morgan, I said:

While the professor at times voiced opinions I do not share – most importantly that the situation in China vis a vis  Taiwan in no way mirrors that in Russia vis a vis  Ukraine – he did so in a manner consistent with the political philosophy he has both advanced and in his way popularised.

In short, political realism leads John to think his country destined to fight China not as a fading empire raging at the dying of the light. Rather, because political realism leads him to foresee an inevitable clash of Great Powers in a Hobbesian world. This same worldview leads him to see war with Russia, even by proxy, as misconceived. That’s a view he shares with many within the American ruling class. See in this respect my post, Decoding Victoria Nuland’s “retirement” – even if I do oversimplify things by presenting as a binary opposition the split between Russia and China hawks. The latter are assuredly in the ascendant, as Nuland’s departure reflects, but prioritising China as the enemy does not preclude dragging out the war in Ukraine with the aim – however futile and even counterproductive – of sapping Russia’s ability to stand with China.

Here too the limits of political realism are as misleading as the tired mantras of the “vanguard” Left. And as with the latter, they offer valuable insights when we sift baby from bathwater. Just as I frequently refer to the excellent WSWS site, while ignoring its obligatory call, usually in the penultimate paragraph, for workers to overthrow capitalism – without getting bogged down on such triflings as how – so do I take what is of value in political realism before factoring in class and empire. But this, like the road to fast and irreversible decline Europe’s comprador leaders 4 are taking us down, is one for another day.

* * *

  1. The challenge of increasing population in many of the constituent republics was a key theme of Mr Putin’s February 29 State of the Nation Address, as referred to in my March 2 post, Gaza to Rochdale … The Russian Federation may be Europe’s most populous country but, as the world’s largest, is held back by low head count per square mile.
  2. Ukraine’s loss of its “most fertile and most productive manufacturing regions” is the RF’s gain but, notwithstanding the propaganda with which we in the West were and continue to be inundated, there is no evidence that the invasion of February 24, 2022 was a land grab – and plenty to the contrary; such as the small force initially deployed, and Russia’s withdrawal of forces close to Kiev as a goodwill gesture prior to peace talks kiboshed in April 2022. The tragedy for the Ukraine – in lost territory, lost lives and irretrievably lost productive capacity – is that a deal was in sight before Britain’s Boris Johnson, assuredly on Washington’s say so, told Zelensky to walk away from talks that would have left it territorially intact, and hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians still drawing breath.

    The claim by a disgruntled former presidential advisor in Kiev that Ukraine had “won the war” is given the lie by subsequent events, but that of Boris Johnson having torpedoed the talks has ample corroboration. Though ‘Bojo’ – renowned not only for barefaced lies but for their childish ineptitude – dismissed the Arestovych claim as “utter nonsense” and “Russian propaganda”, even the BBC has him combining denial with the claim that “Putin is getting weaker by the day”. Well if that’s what Johnson (however misguidedly) believed – and why would the BBC lie on this? – then it beggars belief that he would not  have told Zelenski to eschew peace talks!

    Since then levels of trust have plummeted. (As I noted in December – After the war, can Russia win the peace? – Angela Merkel’s boasting, backed by François Hollande, about how they’d fooled Putin over Minsk didn’t help.) Russia’s declared goals were (a) niet  to NATO in Ukraine and by that fact on her border, (b) justice for the eastern regions and (c) denazification. It is now clear that whether or not Ukraine is formally in NATO, a hostile state on her borders would pose an intolerable threat to Russia. It is also clear, not least from the bad faith revealed by the then German and French leaders, that objective (b) can no longer be realised with Donbas and Luhansk, far less Crimea, enjoying merely semi-autonomous status within Ukraine, as per Minsk.

    Now the Western ruling classes are waking up to the extent of their folly, Ukraine – and a Europe deindustrialised by its leaders’ betrayals – are left with the bill as Uncle Sam once again walks away from a bloodbath designed in the USA. I say this regardless of whether, with its eye on provoking China, Washington pulls – as it so often does – all support for the nation it egged on with bountiful promises of “whatever it takes” , or chooses to keep the conflict simmering in the hope of weakening Russia and ipso facto  her capacity to support Beijing. I cannot stress too much that in the main these are not highly intelligent men and women who learn from mistakes the way, for example, Putin clearly does. Then again, this may have less to do with intellect than immunity to consequences. Two days ago I heard Dimitry Orlov, who featured in my new year’s eve selections, opine that the Ukraine war is not popular in the USA but nor is it getting Americans out on the streets the way Vietnam did. No body bags coming home, you see.

    (From the outset many anti-imperialists have consistently slammed US determination to “fight Russia down to the last Ukrainian” but none of us could match the breath-taking cynicism and blithe lack of nous shown by Lyndsey Graham. Addressing his country’s “appeasers” in respect of “aid” to Kiev (actually to a bloated military industrial complex as share prices for Raytheon, Northrop Grumman etc soar) Senator Graham (no prizes for guessing who funds him in that plutocracy risibly deemed democratic) called it the best money we’ve ever spent“. What better than have a country thousands of miles away pay in blood for Wall Street and MIC gain?)

  3. I take Will Schryver’s talk of “demographic collapse” as referencing an ageing population, most acute in Japan but looming for much if not all the “collective West”.
  4. As the Latinate term suggests, comprador is more commonly used to describe a small elite, within a colony or neo-colony, whose prosperity derives from colluding with the overseas masters. Though not usually used for a collaborative class or caste within junior imperialisms vis a vis  a greater power, I see the term as highly applicable here. In other posts on Europe’s treacherous and craven leadership, I’ve used quisling  and, once, the deliciously archaic poltroon.

3 Replies to “Russia’s triumph goes beyond Ukraine

  1. Philip, I can’t believe I haven’t run across you and your site before. The recommendation today came from a thread on Andrei Martyanov’s site.

    Anyway, great commentary and beautifully written . . . uncommon combo.

    • Hi Ingold and welcome. As for your kind words, a big “thank you”.

      I do frequently check on on the excellent Andrei. I was first alerted to him by the Brazilian pundit, Pepe Escobar. Lot of good people out there. All are needed; all vital voices even if, as with some of those mentioned in this post, I don’t always agree 100% with them.

  2. Indeed, Philip.

    As you say, all one can do is read and listen to many voices, some of which will over time become trusted voices, at least in terms of intent if not always of content. Each one brings their own experience and style to the mix. It’s a continual winnowing process, thankfully one I mostly enjoy.

    Once again, congratulations.

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