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Spengler

Not Even Wrong About Russia

March 26th, 2014 - 4:05 pm

Wolfgang Pauli once said of a young physicist’s work, “It is not even wrong.” The put-down applies to Republican thinking about Russia: my conservative colleagues don’t even know what the ruckus is about. The Germans know, and that’s why Chancellor Angela Merkel today opposed sanctions against Russia except in the case of further aggression. Her position was echoed by former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt.

Sanctions would throw B’rer Putin into the Briar, er, Bamboo Patch.

A specter is haunting Europe, and that is the specter of a Russian-Chinese alliance at the expense of Europe. China is dynamic, and its dynamism is transforming the “Silk Road” countries that lie across Russia’s southern border. China is building high-speed rail and high-speed internet south to Rangoon and eastward to Istanbul, intent on transforming its neighbors into an export market for high-value-added manufacturing and high-tech products. It’s one of the most remarkable ventures in world economic history, and the most underreported story of the year. My conservative friends have been predicting China’s economic demise every year for the past dozen, and have been wrong each time. They notice the elephant dung, but ignore the elephant.

China’s appetite for Siberian resources, including hydrocarbons and perhaps including water, is limitless. The Russians and Chinese have every reason to suspect each other. But if they put their differences aside, the economic synergies would be extensive. What should worry the West is the prospective synergies in military technology as well. Russia is rolling out the S500 air defense system. We shuddered at the prospect that Russia might provide its 20-year-old S300 system to Damascus or Tehran; we really don’t know how much better the new iteration is, but it might be a great deal better. Chinese rocketry already is good enough to sink any American ship within several hundred miles of its coastline. We really don’t want them to get together.

That’s precisely what may happen if the West succeeds in “isolating” Russia, as Germany’s leading news organization Der Spiegel has been warning. Of course, all this is on the German language site, beamed to the homefolks; the Germans don’t bother trying to explain things to the Anglos any more. Use Google translate if you want to read it.

A fundament of American policy since Henry Kissinger engineered the great opening to China more than four decades ago has been to keep Russia and China from combining against the West. John Lewis Gaddis in his history of the Cold War claims that the U.S. opening to China was the decisive event in winning the Cold War; I have criticized this view in the past for underestimating the importance of the Central Front in Europe, but it surely was a critical dimension of U.S. policy.

Presently, we may undo the work of the Cold War era and stand godfather to a new Sino-Russian alliance. This without doubt would be the stupidest move in the history of American foreign policy. Russia’s economy is weak, but Russia has considerable latent resources in military technology. Russia has a limitless market for natural resources in China and a prospective partner in military technology. If we continue to dismantle our defense capacity while Russia and China nourish theirs, we will be in deep trouble.

The best response to Putin’s challenge would be a massive increase in defense R&D, with a view to neutralizing Russia’s perceived areas of strength in missile and air defense technology (remember how SDI cowed Gorbachev in the 1980s?). That would command China’s respect and reduce Russia’s attractiveness as a prospective partner. The Crimea was, is, and will be Russian, and it’s pointless to cry over milk that was spilled in 1783. We need to think several moves ahead on the chessboard. Otherwise, Chancellor Merkel is quite right: sanctions are pointless.

As for the West’s credibility: the stock price of Gazprom, the Russian state company that ships gas to Europe, jumped more than 5% today while Western leaders gathered to anathemize the beastly Russians. The market, as usual, has the last laugh.

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Top Rated Comments   
Putin practices Realpolitik.
Obama practices Diabolical Infantilism.
30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
What budget?

You know, I'm tired of the straw man "we spend more on defense than the next x-number of countries." Well, how about this: we spill more blood defending more lives and freeing more people than the next 20 nations. When natural disasters strike who does the world look to? When regions become unstable who does the world look to? When the UN needs troops, who do it look to for the military backbone and expeditionary funding?

Now, if our military is being cut to a pre-WWII size so the cost savings can go to social programs, what military budget remains to pay for R&D. Pull your head out of your a** you low-information moron.
30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
The fundamental issue is demise of US Dollar to settle energy contracts. Each year more and more Nations are dumping the USD to settle trade contracts...when enough settle outside USD collapse will be swift, sure and decisive.
US politicians are famously naive regarding geo economics and big picture. In the past 60 years requirement for nations to settle trade in US Dollars saved many bad decisions from actually playing out and taking their toll.
That is not the case any longer, and bad decisions will have serious consequences the day USD is not longer accepted by majority of trading nations. Pushing Russia and China together is just another bad decision in a 60 year string of naive foreign policy.
30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (119)
All Comments   (119)
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29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
The Roots of Russia’s Revanchism — Energy

Western energy disarmament is proving suicidal.

By William Tucker – 3.21.14
http://spectator.org/articles/58462/roots-russia%E2%80%99s-revanchism-%E2%80%94-energy

On Wednesday, the New York Times published a very nice account of a speech President Vladimir Putin gave to a group of the Russian elite in the Grand Kremlin Palace. Reported by on-the-scene correspondents, it was free of the usual filtering that takes place in Washington or most of the country’s newsrooms:

In an emotional address steeped in years of resentment and bitterness at perceived slights from the West, Mr. Putin made it clear that Russia’s patience for post-Cold War accommodation, much diminished of late, had finally been exhausted. Speaking to the country’s political elite in the Grand Kremlin Palace, he said he did not seek to divide Ukraine any further, but he vowed to protect Russia’s interests there from what he described as Western actions that had left Russia feeling cornered.

This isn’t exactly the picture John Kerry and Angela Merkel are giving us. According to them, President Putin is “in another world, “behaving in 19th century fashion,” “completely isolated” and “has a huge price to pay.” Close your eyes, however, and you are listening to Hitler lamenting the humiliations visited upon Germany by the Versailles Treaty. They said the same thing about him. You know what happened next.

So why is Putin feeling so resurgent that he feels ready to hit the “reset” button back to 1989? The answer is simple. Practically everything that led to the downfall of Soviet Communism has now been reversed.

Go back and read Peter Schweitzer’s great book, Victory, chronicling how Ronald Reagan brought the Soviet Union to its knees. The first step was to go to the Saudis and make a deal with them to bring down the price of oil. At the time the Soviets were the world’s #2 producer of oil but outside OPEC, having no say in its price manipulations. Appealing to Saudi interests in the Islamic Soviet Republics, CIA director William Casey persuaded the Saudis to flood the market and drive down the price of oil — then at an unconscionable $14 a barrel. In exchange, the Saudis got AWACS to protect themselves from Israel and Iran. This meant placating Israel, which Reagan and Casey accomplished by allowing them to bomb Saddam Hussein’s nuclear complex. The Saudis opened the spigots and the Soviets lost billions in oil revenues.

That was just one piece of the puzzle. The Soviets were also trying to develop their Siberian gas resources and ship them to Europe through the Urengoy-Uzhgorod pipeline. But they lacked cold-weather drilling equipment and were preparing to buy it from Western oil companies. Reagan imposed an embargo on the technology and managed to slow the construction, although the pipeline was eventually completed anyway. This earned Reagan a reputation as a “warmonger” but the results paid off. By the late 1980s the Soviets were virtually bankrupt. Mikhail Gorbachev did not resist the Fall of the Berlin Wall and two year the Soviet Empire collapsed.

Now flash-forward to 2014. Russia is the world’s third largest oil producer, behind Saudi Arabia and the U.S, but coming on fast. When Putin came to power in 1999, the country was earning $41 billion from oil sales and Boris Yeltsin had just defaulted on a $40 billion debt. Today they earn $410 billion. Russia is also the second largest producer of natural gas, behind the U.S., and holds the world’s largest reserves. Europe now depends on Russia for 30 percent of its natural gas supplies and Gazprom is building a pipeline to the Pacific Rim where the market is even more attractive. Altogether, oil and gas exports earn Russia $160 billion a year and cover 60 percent of the national budget.

Moreover, the two strongest economies in the Western alliance — Germany and Japan — are both crippling their economies by abandoning nuclear power. Japan spent $68 billion on gas imports last year, more than half its $112 billion trade deficit. Germany is doing even worse. In a fatuous effort to substitute unreliable wind and solar energy for always-available coal and nuclear, it is driving its utilities to ruin. Last week RWE, Germany’s second-largest utility, announced its first annual loss since the founding of the German Republic in 1949. The company is hammered by grid regulations that require it to accept wind and solar whenever they are available. This means ramping coal plants and reactors up and down at a moment’s notice — virtually impossible — or running them for long intervals without being paid. On top of this comes special fees to cover the higher costs of renewable electricity. Last week, in a little noted transaction, RWE announced it is selling its entire oil and gas operations to — you guessed it — Russian oligarchs Mikhal Fridman and German Khan. No wonder Putin is feeling his oats these days.

The West’s unilateral disarmament over energy i
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
William Safire worked in the Reagan whitehouse and later went on to write for the NY Times. When William Safire told this story back in the 2004 he talked about a piece of subterfuge that resulted in an explosion of the trans siberian pipeline that was supposed to supply natural gas to europe and fund the soviet union in their arms race with the west. (The Russians stole some software with a bug.)
http://www.nytimes.com/2004/02/02/opinion/the-farewell-dossier.html
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
The moral of this story, then as now -- is that if you kill the cost of energy a lot of problems simply go away.

That's what strategic policy looks like. Reagan shows how men who think strategically behave.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
The way this is put in the military is that amateurs talk tactics. Professionals talk logistics.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
What is NOT wrong with Russia are these ...
Vladimir Putin is not trying to re-build the Soviet Union. It would be as absurd as David Cameron trying to re-build the British Empire.

Russians, incl Putin, hate the Bolsheviks. Khruschev, an ethnic Ukrainian from the west, handed Crimea to his mother region. Stalin kileed millions of Russians. Lenin, on his part, thought the Tsars as prison-gangs.

Second, the prospective take-over of Sevastopol by the new virulently anti-Russian new interim government in Kiev, was too much for Russia to contemplate. Russia's only warm-water port was worth more than anybody realised.

Obama, of course, is having a field-day uttering blood-curdling threats. Meanwhile, Putin is keeping quiet. And the Europeans are having kittens.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
Spengler, what happened to your Russian Dying demographic thesis? Seems to me they won't be much of a threat with a low birth rate and rampant alcoholism.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
Demographics are rising, in 2013 they became again what they were in 1991

http://alexandrelatsa.ru/2014/02/demographie-russe-la-population-ne-baisse-plus/
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
Spengler:
"Chinese rocketry already is good enough to sink any American ship within several hundred miles of its coastline."

This has been demonstrated how? If it/them has been tested, then we already know quite a lot about it/them. If not, then these fabulous new systems are so much vaporware.
Before we throw our aprons over our heads and shriek, perhaps we should consider whether our own DoD has not also considered the potential threat and is already working on countermeasures. I was in this game for 40 years, when the principal devil was the USSR and we developed countermeasures (and then, in most cases, put them on the shelf against the time they would be needed) for all the horrid new Sov weapons. Unless our military-industrial complex has badly deteriorated I am content that similar exercises are ongoing now.
As for Chinese stealing our technology, there is a fairly straightforward solution that is too culturally insensitive to expand on here.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
I have this on the highest authority from US sources.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
Instanbul is west from Rangoon.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
Russia and China are already allies, mollycoddling them is a failed tactic. We need to bankrupt them by lowering the price of oil and natural gas around the world. Then we won't have to further bankrupt ourselves on the military industrial complex. We can add to our export, import balance and greatly stimulate our economy. In the meanwhile we need to defend Ukraine against further incursions. We made a promise to protect them if they gave up their nukes, now people like you want to forget all about that promise.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
We have 114 trillion USD in unfunded liabilities and now we should give away our resources? Yah... let's so do this.....XD.......

http://money.stackexchange.com/questions/10639/does-the-united-states-really-owe-114-trillion-dollars-please-explain-unfunde
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
CVI:

I did not compare Putin to Hitler – you did. I compared Putin to Mussolini, each being a violent man who can be a valuable ally if he is treated with respect. Like Mussolini, Putin has balls.

There are some similarities between Putin's invasion and annexation of Crimea and Mussolini's invasion and annexation of Abyssinia, particularly in how each is perceived internationally. Spengler's concerns about Putin getting pushed into the arms of China are similar to concerns in the 1930's about Mussolini getting pushed into the arms of Hitler.

Actually, Vladimir Putin is closer to Theodore Roosevelt or Andrew Jackson than to any 1930's dictator, although I doubt that very many Russians would feel flattered by a comparison between their hero to those American presidents – or comparing Russia's annexation of Crimea to the USA's annexation of Texas, Hawaii, or the Panama Canal Zone.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
Russia has every reason to worry about being a junior partner to anybody, whether China, Germany, or the USA. Russia understandably doesn't want to become anybody's catamite. Russia is also understandably furious over Kosovo. That said, if Putin were truly concerned about homosexuality, he would investigate reports of Russian army officers pimping draftees. He would move to stop hazing in the Russian military – the homoerotic overtones of hazing are well known. I hope Putin's homophobia is sincere rather than a political smokescreen to obscure rampant homosexuality in the Russian military.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
I have to say I am tired of seeing the Chinese coastal surface to surface missiles being held up as proof of Chinese naval ascendancy.

It betrays a misunderstanding of the differences between Sea Dominance, Sea Control, and Sea Denial. Generally speaking, Sea Dominance is the ability to use the sea space at will or nearly uncontested. Sea Control is the ability to use it when needed, but not totally nor necessarily at all times. Denial is not Control, but it represents the ability to prevent Sea Dominance and often Sea Control by an adversary.

The U.S. Navy is accustomed to having Sea Dominance or Sea Control. You only get the ability to project power over land (from naval forces) if you have either dominance or control. An adversary’s ability to prevent the USN from dominance or control in a certain region does NOT mean they themselves possess dominance or control. It only means they can contest the battlespace. Therefore, it is entirely to be expected that a great power like China would be able to contest the air and sea space within 200 miles of its coastline. I would expect nothing less. The ability of the Chinese Navy to project power from the sea over land is an entirely different issue altogether. As an example consider the issue of Taiwan, geographically speaking in China’s backyard, and it is far from certain that China, mustering its entire battle fleet, would prevail against tiny Taiwan if the U.S. Navy and Air Force chooses to intervene using forces in the region, along with rapidly rushed reinforcements.

China is an industrial power, a financial power, and a technology/engineering power, and the idea that it can contest the air and sea space within 200 miles of its shoreline is simply a reasonable expectation for any great power, but it is not nearly the same as an ability to project power away from its own shores. The United States is still the only country that has military weight outside of its own region.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
The worst part? We know the MSM lies to us about everything. We know that the MSM is the propaganda department of the Democrat Party and the progressive movement.

But ...when the MSM tells us that Russia is evil, we believe everything the MSM has to say. We buy it, hook, line and sinker. (Pick an issue. Conservatives do the same thing, over and over and over, again.)
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
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