The American apparatus of state is an extraordinarily formidable adversary. Already in the process of routing–and ultimately removing–its own founding nation, it has kept the whole of Europe at heel for 70 years and established a global acne of military blemishes from which Washington directives are enforced. This while deposing a long series of regional insubordinates. To all: you will be genetically blended, your traditions will succumb to our shifting cultural fashion, and most importantly…you will obey.
And with such a gracious offer extended, we can certainly understand the consternation over Putin’s refusal to accept on Russia’s behalf. Perhaps it was the engineered puppetization of a border state that housed millions of ethnic Russians and a key naval installation. Who can say for certain? Though everyone knows that a Chinese-led coup of Canada followed by southern-pointed missile batteries in Toronto would certainly not warrant a response from Washington. As we would be bound by our oft-displayed principles of national sovereignty. Though principles are much like the US constitution: things that losers of the future hope to rely upon today.
The realpolitik is that Putin didn’t submit and the USG went to war. And through the combined arms of commodity energy dumping, sanctions, and closed western capital markets, “we” and our retinue of unsovereign satellite states have hurt Russia badly. The ruble has been defenestrated at approximately half its earlier year conversion to the dollar (depending on what time of the wildly volatile trading day it’s marked). Capital outflows have been vicious, and Russian businesses are denied Western financing to meet newly converted obligations. Inflation is surging, and interest rates have been ratcheted to 17% in an effort to stem the flight into dollars. Of course this effort, much like global cooling, bears its own battery of cons, with the expected result being significant economic contraction in 2015. Already Russian GDP has receded to something approximating Mexico. That’s fairly remarkable. And as a result, Russian debt/GDP has spiked to 70%. For comparison, America’s rock-solid economy boasts an immaterial debt of only around 106%. But forget that.
The USG talks loudly, carries a big stick, and swings it at anything that moves.
And what it is swinging at presently is Putin’s head. Plainly we are back in regime change mode and hoping that the imposition of sufficient pain will motivate the Russian people to execute it on “our” behalf. But I wonder.
I mostly wonder about the wisdom of this fanatical aggression. I do not think that Vlad is going to be dragged out of a spider hole anytime soon for his march to the gallows. Though I do think the USG might foment a heady potpourri of fury and desperation in the Kremlin. And what could ever go wrong in that environment? Perhaps 4,500 nuclear warheads?
Putin has previously warned of nuclear consequences. I think most dismiss this as impotent posturing. Though I don’t think launching nukes is necessarily the consequence to which he is referring. What would you do if being financially strangled and in possession of thousands of extremely coveted firecrackers? If the pain became too acute, you might start marketing the surplus. And your first customers might be the enemies of your antagonist. I’m guessing Iran and NKorea would be interested. Maybe Brazil? Turkey? Saudi Arabia? They might even give a couple to Assad gratis out of spite.
I don’t know if such a scenario is remotely within the realm of possibility. Though I do know the range of infelicitous options weighs the scale far heavier than merely ceding a bunch of Russians in the Crimea and Donbass to their mother country. And that sort of thinking is why we don’t allow extremists into the U.S. government.