Bunglers Wielding Blunt Instruments

The exclusion of Russia from the SWIFT system means that Russia escapes all of its outstanding foreign financial liabilities. Foreign investors will be hurt because their capital is now captive in the country, with the United States being the largest. Banks with outstanding swaps and other derivative transactions with Russian institutions now have no means of settlement and have had to suddenly carry a significant amount of new risk. Our leaders do not appreciate the interconnectedness of markets and other societal interdependencies, so they make blunt moves like this.

Their plan to force a green new world order by cutting fossil fuels supplies before any viable replacement energy alternatives had arisen had already weakened the entire west economically as well as made it more vulnerable and dependent upon Russian petrofuels. China and Russia have been working on an alternative to the SWIFT system for financial transactions, as well as an alternative to the dollar as a reserve and trade currency. De-dollarization of these countries would lower the USD so sharply that it could be seriously painful to everyday Americans. How confident are you that the Biden administration is being mindful and cautious about that ? As well, sanctions are not precise and effective deterrents. The sanctions on Russia for taking Crimea are still in place – they never did anything.

Today’s crop of incompetent western political leaders also don’t seem to make much effort to try to read what their opponent on the other side of the chessboard from them, Putin, may be thinking – they just presume that he thinks as linearly and shortsightedly as them. His conquering of Ukraine is taking longer and appears more troubled than they expected, but that is likely because they assume that his takeover bid automatically follows the US model of bombing and otherwise disabling the country’s critical infrastructure like Bush/Cheney did in Iraq to take rapid control. However Putin still has left over 50% of his military assets undeployed on the sidelines and many of the ones he did deploy are his less-experienced soldiers – something he would not do if he wanted a sudden capture of Ukraine. It appears that Putin prefers to take Ukraine with its assets (infrastructure and military) intact by cutting it off from the world, waiting (“starving”) it out, likely then coming-in with billions to assuage and settle with. The Ukrainians seem resolute against such a thing for now, but let’s watch – Putin is playing his hand the way he intended to. He is likely reserving his hard-corp troops to take the rest of Europe if those country’s leaders prove foolish enough to walk themselves into the morass.

He dramatically raised the stakes when he put Russian nuclear deterrent forces on high alert because of the “aggressive statements” of NATO countries. Belarus just changed its constitution and voted to deploy nuclear weapons. He also directly threatened Europe that if Sweden and Finland join NATO, there will be “detrimental military and political consequences”. China just aligned with North Korea, which has just resumed its missile testing. Russia reportedly already escalated the caliber of the weapons it is using to violate the strictures of the Geneva convention today by using cluster bombs as well as a vacuum bomb. This is a munition whose first burst disperses a fuel vapor throughout a large volume of the atmosphere which is then detonated to produce the main burst (which briefly creates a temporary local ‘vacuum’ due to the large amount of atmospheric oxygen that gets combusted). If ever we needed a leader with strong experience in negotiating toughly, but with strategic canny and subtlety, it is now. Sorry, but I do wish that Trump was our hope for leading us away from larger-scale conflict rather than Biden, who may well go down in history as the POTUS who drove the US and the west into secular decline as well as the one who setup the staging for and triggered WWIII.

I feel for the Ukrainian people and admire their backbone, but I wonder what Zelensky really expects by handing out rifles to civilians, urging them to make molotov cocktails, and then telling them to use those means to fight professional Russian soldiers. Piles of dead civilians certainly would raise the world’s existing opinion of Putin’s wickedness. China is watching closely and with Russian favor. Ming Jinwei, senior editor at the Xinhua News agency wrote: “China has to back Russia up with emotional and moral support while refraining from treading on the toes of the US and the EU.” Trade between Russian and China has dramatically increased, and they now annually exchange about $140 billion. The risk of large scale superpower war using the most destructive weapons is higher than it has been in decades.

I am pulling for the Ukrainian people who want to remain independent, and there is no doubt that Vladimir Putin is the culprit in starting this war. But the opportunity setting for him to invade was provided to him by the leadership of Europe and the United States, and their responses since have not been deft. No matter how the people in the west and in Ukraine feel about the conflict, how effectively it is contained will be determined only the policy priorities of western political leaders, as well as their countries’ pledges to support and to defend each other. And a number of their priorities are just askew now, as well as a number of them simply incompetent themselves. In Germany, Jennifer Morgan, the leader of Greenpeace with no geopolitical diplomatic experience, has been appointed Secretary of State, and for the US we have Antony Blinken. Biden will stammer through his state of the union address tomorrow, and I think I’ll just read the ‘Cliff Notes’ of it afterwards rather than watch him. Lately when he has found himself a bit nonplussed while trying to explain how he has addressed gravely serious matters, he pauses to put-on that lopsided smirk for a second or two. I hate that.

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