Tensions Rising Over Ukraine War

In the past few days there has been a spate of news describing escalating tensions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

First, NATO announced a new strategic deterrence concept aimed at the Russia-China alliance, while President Biden warned Putin about escalating the Ukraine conflict saying, “Don’t. Don’t. Don’t. You will change the face of war unlike anything since World War II.”

Putin responded to these threatening words, announcing a partial mobilization of Russia.

Calling the moves “urgent, necessary steps to defend the sovereignty, security and territorial integrity of Russia,” Putin said that Russia is fighting the full might of NATO. The US and its allies, he said, are seeking to “destroy” Russia.

Radio Contra Ep. 184. NC Scout breaks down Putin’s speech

Then Russia announced that they could use nuclear weapons to defend the annexed regions of Ukraine. Russia had just the day before moved to formally annex the areas of Ukraine under control of Russia’s soldiers.

“If the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, we will certainly use all the means at our disposal to protect Russia and our people,” said Putin.

Then Russia restricted travel for young men as part of its national mobilization, and called up 300,000 reservists. Russia’s domestic airlines have halted all sales of tickets abroad to men aged 18 to 65 without a waiver from the Ministry of Defense. The BBC reported lines of Russians trying to flee through the Georgia border.

Nearby nations are preparing for escalating conflict. Estonia has decided to confiscate firearms belonging to Russians living in the country. Meanwhile the President of Serbia is warning that there may be a great world conflict in the next few months. Tensions have increased between Turkey and Greece as they have started to revisit territorial disputes since the start of the Ukraine war. The EU also recently called for a war crimes tribunal over mass graves in Ukraine where bodies showed signs of torture after Russian occupation.

How does this or could this affect you? While Ukraine has had political and economic issues for many years, now, it is still an agricultural powerhouse. When it was part of the Soviet Union, Ukraine was responsible for 25% of the entire agricultural output of the USSR. If Russia was able to control the entirety of Ukraine, it would approximately double its wheat and corn and production. Even without controlling the entire country, the eastern and southern parts of Ukraine grow the most wheat. Combining just the exports of wheat by Russian and Ukraine, the two would more than double the amount of the second place exporter – the US.

We’ve seen Europe’s dependence on Russian fuel and how the conflict has caused fuel prices to rise worldwide, but especially in Europe. Should Russia also start controlling the food, it’s hard to predict specific outcomes, but food prices have already risen as a result of uncertainty over Ukrainian wheat exports.

Russia may be seeking a second lever in its geopolitical arsenal, adding food to fuel. Or it may be preparing for a period of imposed international isolation by “stocking up” on its neighbor food and fuel. Either way the effects on food and fuel will be upward moving prices even without the conflict going nuclear or spreading to additional countries.

Putin notices that Ukraine is a little “light on defensive weaponry”

Herland Report: The Global Financial Revolution and the End of the PetroDollar Hegemony?

The Ukraine-Russia war and related sanctions have driven Russia to work with China to forward alternatives to the Swift banking system and the hegemony of the US Dollar in international trade. Much has been written lately about the possible collapse of the PetroDollar with some arguing that the the PetroDollar will never fail and others worrying over its imminent demise. If you live in the USA, the existence of the PetroDollar contributes to your quality of life by making the dollar stronger, increasing your purchasing power. If the PetroDollar were to cease to exist, then you would probably be paying more for all goods. Below are a couple of articles discussing the issue.

Herland Report: The Global Financial Revolution and the End of the PetroDollar hegemony?

Foreign critics have long chafed at the “exorbitant privilege” of the U.S. dollar as global reserve currency. The U.S. can issue this currency backed by nothing but the “full faith and credit of the United States.”

Foreign governments, needing dollars, not only accept them in trade but buy U.S. securities with them, effectively funding the U.S. government and its foreign wars, writes author attorney Ellen Brown, published at her blog. Brown is chair of the Public Banking Institute, and author of thirteen books, follow her website here.

But no government has been powerful enough to break that arrangement – until now. How did that happen and what will it mean for the U.S. and global economies?

First, some history: The U.S. dollar was adopted as the global reserve currency at the Bretton Woods Conference in 1944, when the dollar was still backed by gold on global markets. The agreement was that gold and the dollar would be accepted interchangeably as global reserves, the dollars to be redeemable in gold on demand at $35 an ounce. Exchange rates of other currencies were fixed against the dollar.

But that deal was broken after President Lyndon Johnson’s “guns and butter” policy exhausted the U.S. kitty by funding war in Vietnam along with his “Great Society” social programs at home. French President Charles de Gaulle, suspecting the U.S. was running out of money, cashed in a major portion of France’s dollars for gold and threatened to cash in the rest; and other countries followed suit or threatened to.

In 1971, President Richard Nixon ended the convertibility of the dollar to gold internationally (known as “closing the gold window”), in order to avoid draining U.S. gold reserves. The value of the dollar then plummeted relative to other currencies on global exchanges.

To prop it up, Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger made a deal with Saudi Arabia and the OPEC countries that OPEC would sell oil only in dollars, and that the dollars would be deposited in Wall Street and City of London banks.

In return, the U.S. would defend the OPEC countries militarily. Economic researcher William Engdahl also presents evidence of a promise that the price of oil would be quadrupled. An oil crisis triggered by a brief Middle Eastern war did cause the price of oil to quadruple, and the OPEC agreement was finalized in 1974.

The deal held firm until 2000, when Saddam Hussein broke it by selling Iraqi oil in euros. Libyan president Omar Qaddafi followed suit. Both presidents wound up assassinated, and their countries were decimated in war with the United States. Canadian researcher Matthew Ehret observes:

“We should not forget that the Sudan-Libya-Egypt alliance under the combined leadership of Mubarak, Qadhafi and Bashir, had moved to establish a new gold-backed financial system outside of the IMF/World Bank to fund large scale development in Africa. Had this program not been undermined by a NATO-led destruction of Libya, the carving up of Sudan and regime change in Egypt, then the world would have seen the emergence of a major regional block of African states shaping their own destinies outside of the rigged game of Anglo-American controlled finance for the first time in history.”

The first challenge by a major power to what became known as the petrodollar has come in 2022. In the month after the Ukraine conflict began, the U.S. and its European allies imposed heavy financial sanctions on Russia in response to the illegal military invasion.

The Western measures included freezing nearly half of the Russian central bank’s 640 billion U.S. dollars in financial reserves, expelling several of Russia’s largest banks from the SWIFT global payment system, imposing export controls aimed at limiting Russia’s access to advanced technologies, closing down their airspace and ports to Russian planes and ships, and instituting personal sanctions against senior Russian officials and high-profile tycoons. Worried Russians rushed to withdraw rubles from their banks, and the value of the ruble plunged on global markets just as the U.S. dollar had in the early 1970s.

The trust placed in the U.S. dollar as global reserve currency, backed by “the full faith and credit of the United States,” had finally been fully broken. Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a speech on March 16 that the U.S. and EU had defaulted on their obligations, and that freezing Russia’s reserves marks the end of the reliability of so-called first class assets.

On March 23, Putin announced that Russia’s natural gas would be sold to “unfriendly countries” only in Russian rubles, rather than the euros or dollars currently used. Forty-eight nations are counted by Russia as “unfriendly,” including the United States, Britain, Ukraine, Switzerland, South Korea, Singapore, Norway, Canada and Japan.

Putin noted that more than half the global population remains “friendly” to Russia. Countries not voting to support the sanctions include two major powers – China and India – along with major oil producer Venezuela, Turkey, and other countries in the “Global South.” “Friendly” countries, said Putin, could now buy from Russia in various currencies.

On March 24, Russian lawmaker Pavel Zavalny said at a news conference that gas could be sold to the West for rubles or gold, and to “friendly” countries for either national currency or bitcoin.

Energy ministers from the G7 nations rejected Putin’s demand, claiming it violated gas contract terms requiring sale in euros or dollars. But on March 28, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia was “not engaged in charity” and won’t supply gas to Europe for free (which it would be doing if sales were in euros or dollars it cannot currently use in trade). Sanctions themselves are a breach of the agreement to honor the currencies on global markets.

Bloomberg reports that on March 30, Vyacheslav Volodin, speaker of the lower Russian house of parliament, suggested in a Telegram post that Russia may expand the list of commodities for which it demands payment from the West in rubles (or gold) to include grain, oil, metals and more.

Russia’s economy is much smaller than that of the U.S. and the European Union, but Russia is a major global supplier of key commodities – including not just oil, natural gas and grains, but timber, fertilizers, nickel, titanium, palladium, coal, nitrogen, and rare earth metals used in the production of computer chips, electric vehicles and airplanes.

On April 2, Russian gas giant Gazprom officially halted all deliveries to Europe via the Yamal-Europe pipeline, a critical artery for European energy supplies.

U.K. professor of economics Richard Werner calls the Russian move a clever one – a replay of what the U.S. did in the 1970s. To get Russian commodities, “unfriendly” countries will have to buy rubles, driving up the value of the ruble on global exchanges just as the need for petrodollars propped up the U.S. dollar after 1974. Indeed, by March 30, the ruble had already risen to where it was a month earlier…(continues)

Continue reading “Herland Report: The Global Financial Revolution and the End of the PetroDollar Hegemony?”

19fortyfive: The Ukraine Crisis Could Spark A New Cold War (Or A Nuclear War)

What will be the long term term effects of the Ukraine-Russia war for which an American may need to be prepared? In the article excerpted below, Doug Bandow of the Cato Institute writes for 19fortyfive about how The Ukraine Crisis Could Spark A New Cold War (Or A Nuclear War). While much has been written over time on nuclear war survival and preparedness, what are the effects of a cold war? While many of have lived through at least part of the recent cold war between the US and the Soviet Union, would a new cold war even look the same?

Some of the main domestic effects of the last cold war were increased military spending (and attendant rise of the military-industrial complex) and high taxation. Toward the end of the cold war, during the Reagan presidency, the populace had become upset with high taxes and the administration switched from high taxation to high borrowing. High levels of government borrowing has continued to the present. High taxation leads to poor business conditions which leads to a weak economy as seen in the US in the late 1970s. High government borrowing leads to strange market and economic conditions, the result of which has yet to be realized, but in the worst case leads to financial/political crisis.

That said, would a new cold war necessarily be the same? Post World War 2 the US was in an enviable economic situation and was headed into its years of vast economic growth in world trade. The US was entering into its years of world hegemony, powerful and strong. Now, the US is a weakened nation and is coming out of two years of COVID-induced economic weakness with many citizens out of work or having closed businesses. There is little domestic support for a new war, cold or hot. A party that attempts to raise taxes or debt in order to finance a new cold war may not stay in power for long.

I am no expert on these matters, so my conclusions may be incorrect. I don’t know if the US is capable of sustaining a cold war like the continuous military buildup that occurred during the cold war with the Soviets. But it does appear that we entering a time of at least increased hostility and competition with Russia and China.

If China moves to establish control over Taiwan (which may be considered an invasion), will the US defend Taiwan or will we stand by as we have with Ukraine? Some people believe that the US is obligated to defend Taiwan, but there is actually no agreement to do so, and the US has followed a policy of strategic ambiguity in that regard. Failure of the US to defend either Ukraine or Taiwan may lead to further reduced US influence worldwide and reduced trust in US assurances. Reduced trust and influence may result in more rapid de-dollarization, all of which would have their own effects on the US economy for which to prepare.

From 19fortyfive:

Having sown the wind in Ukraine, Russia is reaping the whirlwind.

Its aggression is criminal and unprovoked. The US and its allies contributed to the conflict. But the decision for war—which already is resulting in significant death and destruction—was Russian President Vladimir Putin’s.

If there is one lesson of Moscow’s brutal and unjustified invasion, it is that aggressors should choose their victims carefully. As the Balkan Serbs learned decades ago, it is best not to attack people in Europe, which guarantees heavy media attention in Western capitals. This may be the first conflict in which the public is driving sanctions and boycotts, in this case against all things Russian, including individuals who had nothing to do with their government’s decision for war.

In contrast, Washington has been bombing and invading nations in the Middle East, North Africa, and Central Asia for years. Despite wrecking entire states and ravaging their peoples, US policymakers have never been held accountable. The total number of victims in these wars—killed, wounded, displaced—the number in the millions. Washington typically tires of fighting and either downgrades its role or simply leaves, as in Afghanistan, without even apologizing. But no American has ever faced economic sanctions or been charged with war crimes.

Today Ukrainians and to a lesser degree, Russians are suffering. The long-term consequences for Americans and Europeans will be serious as well. No one knows how the fighting will end, but Washington should begin planning for the aftermath…

Washington’s chief responsibility today is not to save Ukraine but to prevent the US or allied involvement and possible war, especially nuclear war, with Russia. Washington and Moscow avoided such a cataclysm during the Cold War when the stakes were global and civilizational. Moscow’s brutal attack on Ukraine is a moral outrage but does not pose the same level of threat as the Soviet Union. There is no excuse for risking their societies and the planet’s survival today…

Finally, Washington should prepare for the endgame. The world is headed toward another Cold War, with a new Iron Curtain likely to rise wherever the reach of Russian troops ends.

Facing domestic unhappiness over the human cost of the war, deceptive cover-up, and impact of Western sanctions, the Putin regime likely will become even more repressive. Observers indicate that the situation already approaches martial law. Moreover, diplomatic retreats, economic penalties, and cultural bans have dramatically deepened Russia’s isolation. Some countries would make the West’s economic war essentially permanent. Opined Poland’s ambassador to the US, Marek Magierowski: “We have to be ready and determined to uphold the sanctions. Perhaps even for a decade or for 15 years or for 20 years, in order to see the real effects.”

Although Russia is a much-reduced version of the Soviet Union, significant dangers would remain. It likely would respond to a new Cold War by reinforcing its military. Most notably, what has been largely a political struggle would turn into an enduring military confrontation.

If so, Russia might become something akin to a giant North Korea, only better developed and with many more nuclear weapons. With less at stake in the international system and greater resentment toward adversaries turned enemies, Moscow would be more dangerous than today. Frontline European states would be even more insistent on American military protection. Violent competition would intensify in battleground areas elsewhere, such as Syria and Africa…(continues)

The American Mind: The Putin Variant

Tim O’Brien over at The American Mind writes The Putin Variant. The US, then led by President Obama and VP Biden, and its allies goaded Russia into invading Ukraine back in 2014, when Russia took over the Crimea. Back then not many people took notice of the invasion. When President Biden and the US allies again goaded Russia into invading the Ukraine in 2022, why is it so different? Invading another sovereign country is a bad thing, of course. Putin bad. But the outcome (an invasion) was not only predictable, but already happened once just seven years ago. O’Brien writes that the outrage this time is just smoke and mirrors to rally people behind the Democrat party for the upcoming elections. Excerpt:

The regime is repurposing its Covid-19 propaganda playbook.

The war in Ukraine is deadly real and could have far-reaching impact on the globe in the immediate future and for years to come. The global balance of power is unsteady as the West isolates Russia through sanctions, which seems to be driving China and Russia, the two non-American superpowers, closer together.

The world has seen this before. In 2014, Putin invaded Ukraine and came away with control over Crimea before things settled. President Obama did nothing to intervene militarily, just as President Biden is doing now.

Most Americans not only don’t remember the 2014 invasion, but at the time they were not much aware of it. There were no “Stand with Ukraine” flags, lapel pins, or stickers adorning American vehicles across the country. Social media users weren’t plastering virtue-signaling blue and yellow graphics on their profiles back then.

But the reaction to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine feels strangely familiar, as though we just went through something very similar. It bears a strong resemblance to the way in which the regime engineered mass hysteria around COVID-19 and the Delta and Omicron variants.

Timing is Everything

In fact, as COVID-19 wanes in the population, and masking and testing requirements fade away, Putin mania—strictly from a messaging and propaganda perspective—seems to be well-timed. Polls reveal the Democrats are about to take a beating in the upcoming midterm elections over mismanagement of everything, but especially COVID-19. It seems they may have found a non-COVID variant that allows them to deploy the same old tricks. Call it the Putin Variant.

After all, if Americans have demonstrated anything over the past two years it is they will respond to fear-mongering on a mass scale.

Vladimir Putin decided to invade Ukraine months after he’d seen the Biden Administration’s weakness with its disastrous pullout from Afghanistan, as well as soaring inflation.  

The regime’s reaction to its failed domestic and foreign policies and declining favorability numbers is to roll out the Putin Variant. If you can’t beat a foreign adversary back through diplomacy and you don’t have the stomach to confront it through the potential use of military might, you can always fall back on scaring your own populace into keeping you in power.

The Putin Variant

Variant propaganda starts with announcing the threat and making sure every American knows that it will affect them. It continues with using the crisis to at once blame the circumstances themselves, not the cause of those circumstances, for domestic hardships. Americans will need to learn to suck it up without complaint while enduring rising gas and consumer prices because global democracy demands it. To complain or question the regime’s policies will be an act of selfishness and even treason. Questioning the underlying logic of our Ukraine policy will soon become as cancellable and hateful as it was to ask why we all have to wear masks.

 Knowing that it has no plans to intervene militarily, and it is highly likely that Russia will take control of Ukraine, the regime makes a lot of noise on how all of its sanctions will work gradually and ultimately defeat Russia. This rhetorical strategy was last deployed through the emphasis on 100 percent masking and vaccination to achieve complete eradication and “zero COVID” status.  The regime knew their measures would not deliver on their promises then, just as they know sanctions won’t eradicate Russian troops from Ukraine any time soon.

What they really care about is the midterms. They want to use the Putin Variant to win in November. They will use the threat of risks to global and national security to rally American voters behind anti-Russia Democrat candidates—the same ones who brought us here. They will try this even as they know they have no intentions of going to war. They just want voters to think they have the will.

As with the COVID response, they will attack anyone who questions their pro-war messaging as spreaders of “misinformation” who must be censored, banned, cancelled, and de-platformed.

The Putin Variant fits nicely with this strategy. Putin is, after all, a real person doing actually bad things. What the administration does not want Americans to know is what its own principals have done over the years to create an environment to embolden all that’s happening in Ukraine right now…(continues)

The Organic Prepper: How to Prep for the Ukraine-Russia War

What’s going to happen with the Ukraine-Russia War and how will it affect us here in the USA? Some things are hard to predict, while others can already be seen. Provocations on all sides seem to be increasing. BCA Research, an independent global investment research firm, recently wrote in a strategy report “we would assign an uncomfortably high 10% chance of a civilization-ending global nuclear war in the next 12 months.” So, many unlikely scenarios, recently thought unthinkable, are now being thunk.

Here is an excerpt from an article by Aden Tate at The Organic Prepper on How to Prep for the Ukraine-Russia War…and What Comes Next

…As has been pointed out here at The Organic Prepper before, the United States is going to experience a fertilizer shortage this year, and that is going to be just one factor impacting our food supply. I’ve discussed the other factors HERE.

Yes, I do think that stocking up on seed for your garden is a good prep idea, but I also think that you really need to consider canned goods at the moment. They’re ready to eat, they’re highly portable, and they store well. They make good barter currency, to boot. Canned goods don’t have to worry about radioactive fallout, as does a growing corn crop, either.

I’m a fan of freeze-dried meals, but I sincerely think that cyberattacks against our power grid are highly likely in the near future. You need warm water to make those. With a power outage likely (Cyber Polygon, anyone?), boiling water is just another step between you and eating a meal. If you are forced to shelter in place, inside, without power, this makes for a bit of difficulty with meal preparation.

MREs are another fine food item to consider at the moment. I have no knowledge as to whether or not the heat packs for MREs give off dangerous gasses as they heat up the food. (Let me know in the comments!)

This food supply not only allows you to shelter in place but helps you to avoid probable food riots in the future. Read history. Literally, every single time there is a shortage of food, violence increases.

(For more information on prepping your food, check out our free QUICKSTART Guide on building your 3-layer food storage system.)

Should you prep water?

Life without water sucks (haha, but not for long). You need it to stay alive, for cleaning, for cooking, and more. If you are forced to shelter in place without any access to power, are you going to have water to drink? A gallon jug of water currently sells for around a dollar. Why would you not pick up a few and stow them away?

I would look at solar options for keeping your well running if that is your primary water source as well. If you rely on city water, at the very least, have an EPIC Nano filter. I would highly recommend looking into Berkey filters right now as well. Neither of these is a radiation-reducing option, but instead are used to keep you in clean water should your city no longer have the electricity needed to create pure water.

If you are forced to evacuate, let’s say, from fallout being brought via wind, do you have water filtration that is portable?

Prep your communications.

China is one of the largest sources of electronics to the United States. We’re already seeing problems getting many electronic components because of a shortage of chips.

This is likely to continue in the near future, and should China invade Taiwan, you are going to see worldwide sanctions be leveled against China. The US will be no exception. When this happens, those supply lines are going to dry up overnight.

Your ability to get radios will then vaporize…

Having proper information can be the difference between staying alive and dying. Right now, you need to pick up a copy of Cresson Kearney’s Nuclear War Survival Skills. You do not want to be caught in the same situation as many Hawaiians did years ago when they found themselves at a loss for what to do when they received alerts via text that an ICBM was on the way.

PDF versions are available online for free, but I highly recommend picking up a print copy as well. Then, read it. This is an easy prep to accomplish.

I recommend looking into a shortwave radio as well. Should the grid go down within the US, you are going to want to be able to pick up information from the outside world so that you have some notion of what is going on. Anne Frank wrote about the importance of their radio and the hope it brought in her journals…

Naked Capitalism: The MIC, BARE and OGAM Conquer NATO

Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism has pretty good article about what is behind everything going on in Ukraine, Russia, and NATO members. America Defeats Germany for the Third Time in a Century: The MIC, BARE and OGAM Conquer NATO

Yves discusses the military-industrial complex, finance/insurance/real estate, and the oil, gas and minining complex and how they all benefit from the isolation of Russia. The article discusses some potential fallout or downsides of the situation as well. I would go so far as to say that everything presented is correct, but there is a lot of good information to keep in mind when thinking about the situation.

Excerpt:

…My old boss Herman Kahn, with whom I worked at the Hudson Institute in the 1970s, had a set speech that he would give at public meetings. He said that back in high school in Los Angeles, his teachers would say what most liberals were saying in the 1940s and 50s: “Wars never solved anything.” It was as if they never changed anything – and therefore shouldn’t be fought.

Herman disagreed, and made lists of all sorts of things that wars had solved, in world history or at least changed. He was right, and of course that is the aim of both sides in today’s New Cold War confrontation in Ukraine.

The question to ask is what today’s New Cold War is trying to change or “solve.” To answer this question, it helps to ask who initiates the war. There always are two sides – the attacker and the attacked. The attacker intends certain consequences, and the attacked looks for unintended consequences. In this case, both sides have their dueling sets of intended consequences and special interests.

The active military force since 1991 has been the United States. Rejecting mutual disarmament of the Warsaw Pact countries and NATO, there was no “peace dividend.” Instead, the U.S. policy by the Clinton administration to wage a new military expansion via NATO has paid a 30-year dividend in the form of shifting the foreign policy of Western Europe and other American allies out of their domestic political sphere into their own “national security” blob (the word for special rentier interests that must not be named). NATO has become Europe’s foreign-policy-making body, even to the point of dominating domestic economic interests.

The recent prodding of Russia by expanding Ukrainian anti-Russian ethnic violence by Ukraine’s neo-Nazi post-2014 Maiden regime aims at forcing a showdown. It comes in response to the fear by U.S. interests that they are losing their economic and political hold on their NATO allies and other Dollar Area satellites as these countries have seen their major opportunities for gain to lie in increasing trade and investment with China and Russia.

To understand just what U.S. aims are threatened, it is necessary to understand U.S. politics and “the blob,” that is, the government central planning that cannot be explained by looking at ostensibly democratic politics. This is not the politics of U.S. senators and representatives represent their congressional voting districts or states.

America’s Three Oligarchies in Control of U.S. Foreign Policy

It is more realistic to view U.S. economic and foreign policy in terms of the military-industrial complex, the oil and gas (and mining) complex, and the banking and real estate complex than in terms of political policy of Republicans and Democrats. The key senators and congressional representatives do not represent their states and districts as much as the industrial interests of their major political campaign contributors. A Venn diagram would show that in today’s post-Citizens United world, U.S. politicians represent their campaign contributors, not voters. And these contributors fall basically into three main blocs.

Three main oligarchic groups that have bought control of the Senate and Congress to put their own policy makers in the State Department and Defense Department. First is the Military-Industrial Complex (MIC) – companies such as Raytheon, Boeing and other arms manufacturers, have broadly diversified their factories and employment in nearly every state, and especially in the Congressional districts where key Congressional committee heads are elected. Their economic base is monopoly rent, obtained above all from its arms sales to NATO, to Near Eastern oil exporters and to other countries with a balance-of-payments surplus. Stocks for these companies soared immediately upon news of the Russian attack, leading a two-day stock-market surge as investors recognized that war in a world of cost-plus “Pentagon capitalism” (as Seymour Melman described it) provided a national security umbrella. Senators and Congressional representatives from California and Washington traditionally have represented the MIC, along with the Solid pro-military South. The past week’s military escalation promises soaring arms sales to NATO and other U.S. allies. Germany quickly agreed to raise is arms spending to 2% of GDP.

The second major oligarchic bloc is the rent-extracting oil and gas sector, joined by mining (OGAM) riding America’s special tax favoritism granted to companies emptying natural resources out of the ground and putting them into the atmosphere. Like banking and real estate, the aim of this OGAM sector is to maximize the price of its energy and raw materials so as to maximize its natural-resource rent. Monopolizing the Dollar Area’s oil market and isolating it from Russian oil and gas has been a major U.S. priority for over a year now, as the Nord Stream 2 pipeline threatened to link the Western European and Russian economies together.

If oil, gas and mining operations are not situated in every voting district, at least their investors are. Senators from Texas and other Western oil-producing and mining states are the leading lobbyists, and the State Department has a heavy oil-sector influence providing a national-security umbrella for its special tax breaks. The ancillary political aim is to ignore and reject environmental drives to replace oil, gas and coal with alternative sources of energy. The Biden administration accordingly has backed the expansion of offshore drilling, supported the Canadian pipeline to the world’s dirtiest petroleum source in the Athabasca tar sands, and celebrated the revival of U.S. fracking.

The foreign-policy extension is to prevent foreign countries not leaving control of their oil, gas and mining to U.S. OGAM companies from competing in world markets with U.S. suppliers. Isolating Russia (and Iran) from western markets will reduce the supply of oil and gas, pushing prices and corporate profits up accordingly.

The third major oligarchic group is the symbiotic Finance, Insurance and Real Estate (FIRE) sector is the counterpart to Europe ‘s old post-feudal landed aristocracy living by land rents. With most housing in today’s world having become owner-occupied (with sharply rising rates of absentee ownership rising since 2008 and the wave of Obama evictions, to be sure), land rent is paid largely to the banking sector. About 80 percent of U.S. and British bank loans are to the real estate sector, inflating land prices to create capital gains – which are effectively tax-exempt for absentee owners.

This Wall Street-centered banking and real estate bloc is even more broadly based on a district-by-district basis than MIC. Its New York senator from Wall Street, Chuck Schumer, heads the Senate, long supported by Delaware’s former Senator from the credit-card industry Joe Biden, and Connecticut’s senators from the insurance sector centered in that state.  Domestically, the aim of this sector is to maximize land rent and the “capital’ gains resulting from rising land rent. Internationally, the FIRE sector’s aim is to privatize foreign economies, above all to secure the privilege of credit creation in U.S. hands, so as to turn government infrastructure and public utilities into rent-seeking monopolies to providing basic services at maximum prices (health care, education, transportation, communications and information technology) instead of at subsidized prices to voters.

Wall Street always has been closely aligned with the oil and gas industry, back to the days of Standard Oil. These are the three rentier sectors that dominate today’s post-industrial finance capitalism. Their mutual fortunes have soared as MIC and OGAM stocks have increased. And moves to exclude Russia from the Western financial system (and partially now from SWIFT), coupled with the adverse effects of isolating European economies from Russian energy, promise to spur an inflow into dollarized financial securities

It is more helpful to view U.S. economic and foreign policy in terms of the military-industrial complex, the oil and gas (and mining) complex, and the banking and real estate complex than in terms of political policy of Republicans and Democrats. The key senators and congressional representatives do not represent their states and districts as much as the industrial interests of their major political campaign contributors. That is why neither manufacturing nor agriculture play the dominant role in U.S. foreign policy. The convergence of policy aims of America’s three rentiergroups overwhelms that of labor and even of industrial capital. That convergence is the defining characteristic of today’s post-industrial finance capitalism. It is basically a reversion to economic rent-seeking, which is independent of the politics of labor and capital.

The dynamic that needs to be traced today is why this oligarchic blob has found its interest in prodding Russia into what Putin evidently viewed as a do-or-die stance to resist the increasingly violent attacks on Ukraine’s eastern Russian-speaking provinces of Luhansk and Donetsk…(article continues)

Ukraine War Updates and Effects

Following are a few articles and videos on the Ukraine invasion and the effects on the rest of the world. First up is a video from S2 Underground. In their video On the Steppe, they give a good and heavily-mapped overview of what is happening on the ground in Ukraine. They also spend some time talking about what NATO is doing or not doing, and a little bit on the effects of sanctions, such as the price of fertilizer. Following the S2 video is an article by investment banker and market analyst Bill Blaine talking about how the world has changed with the invasion, especially focusing on market matters.

After Blaine’s article is a video of Ukraine President Zelenskiy calling on able Ukrainians to come forward so that Kiev an arm them. The general mobilization prohibits any male citizens aged 18 to 60 from leaving the country.

Forward Observer’s daily situational awareness video discusses soaring wheat prices. Following that is a short article from the BBC on prices which may increase as a result of the war, and then a longer article/interview from WWD on Russia’s motivations, goals, and implications for various future problems.

Blaine’s Morning Porridge: Hold the Narrative and Win the Game of Risk excerpt:

The world changed yesterday. Markets did not.

For the next 10-14 days – for that is how long it will likely take Russia to subjugate Ukraine – it will be wall to wall coverage. Already some fatigue with the streets of Kyiv is setting in. Our shock, horror and outrage will continue to be blunted – and by the time it’s over, other topics will be filling the screens.

Probably these other things will be surging inflation, soaring food prices, unimaginable energy bills, tensions in the Taiwan straights, and Europe bickering across every imaginable policy decision. For the next few years expect horror reports about brave Ukraine resistance fighters being massacred – or terrorists being dealt with if you watch Sputnik TV.

The reality is the world fundamentally changed yesterday:

There are the obvious issues; prolonged inflation for longer. We’re all aware that food prices will be impacted long-term. Russia is a major supplier of fertilisers, Ukraine is the number one sunflower seed producer, no 2 in Wheat and massive across agricultural commodities. (Some readers have already asked if it’s a “Ukrainian Chicken Farm moment” – the absolute top of the corporate cycle, named for the said poultry farm that launched a massively oversubscribed bond deal at an insane price, just days before SARs and Bird Flu caused it to shut with uninsured losses – but that is a story for another day…)

Energy is the other talking point – massive spikes in European Gas as we wonder where it’s going to come from. European nations are all eyeing each other – nervous the rest might cut a deal with the Kremlin to secure their own supplies.

It also confirms the critical effect of Geopolitics – and it confirms a massive tectonic shift has occurred as the world splits into new plates with their attendant conflict zones.

  • Putin is aware reproachment with the West will be a long-term play – and he won’t be counting on it happening soon. He’s pivoting (what a great word) to Asia – setting up Gas, Energy and Food deals with China.
  • China is happy to continue building its co-prosperity sphere in Asia. The more Russia and Europe can distract the US, the happier Xi will be.
  • The “West”, including our outposts in Japan and Oz will be wondering where they should stand.
  • The pundits expect Trump or a Trump Clone to lead the US into isolationism in 2025.
  • Europe will remain a tired, broke little grab-bag of ill-assorted nations pretending the like each other, at the end of very long supply chains dependent on what Russian Energy they can beg, borrow or steal.. (Steal in this context being breaking the climate change agenda to re-invest in Energy Security by opening coal, oil and gas facilities – prompting fury from climate activists who will accuse governments of stealing from future generations.)

That leaves Africa and South America up for play – the Chinese have learnt their debt lesson and will be loath to rely on further soft-power through lending. They may get… “outward bound”… As resources dip, populations rise, and climate change fries Africa the refugee crisis will further destabilise Europe.

I’m sorry if it sounds like a Game of Risk – but it’s beginning to look that way..

BBC news: Five Ways Life Could Get More Expensive excerpt:

The Russia-Ukraine conflict is expected to drive these [energy and fuel prices] even higher and has already caused the oil price to jump to its highest level in more than seven years, while future gas prices have increased 60% in just one day.

WWD: Worse Than a Crime, It’s a Blunder excerpt:

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has profoundly shaken the world order (such as it is) and raised a host of questions about Putin’s endgame, the West’s response, the alternative courses that neither side took, and the consequences for Ukraine, Russia, and nearly everyplace else. In search of some preliminary answers, Prospect editor at large Harold Meyerson and managing editor Ryan Cooper talked to Anatol Lieven, senior research fellow on Russia and Europe at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft and author of Ukraine and Russia: A Fraternal Rivalry. An edited transcript follows.

Harold Meyerson: What is Putin’s endgame, as far as you can discern it?

Anatol Lieven: Up to this morning, I would have said, on the basis of my conversations with people in Moscow, officials and former officials, that what they were going to do was take the Russian-speaking areas of the country in eastern and southern Ukraine and then, basically, offer to reunite Ukraine on the basis of federalism—in other words, basically propose the Minsk agreement for the Donbas, but into a kind of confederal state in which pro-Russian areas would have de facto control over Ukraine’s international alignment. And accompanying that with a treaty of neutrality. Now—and I think it’s still too early to say for sure—but after Putin’s speech and given what looked like Russian moves towards Kyiv, it may well be that they want more than that, they want to replace the government in Kyiv with a pro-Russian government.

Putin’s talk about denazification, demilitarization, punishment of Ukrainian criminals points in that direction, and the fact that they seem to have crossed the border on the ground from Belarus heading for Kyiv. The Russian bombardments, of course, extend across the whole of Ukraine, but that’s what you would have expected, a classic military offensive to knock out the military infrastructure through air power and missiles. But in the end, the political fate of Ukraine will be determined by what territory the Russian army occupies on the ground.

QRPer: Amateur Radio in Ukraine Banned Under Martial Law and State of Emergency

This article from QRPer talks about how amateur radio has been banned in Ukraine under the current state of emergency. This may be in part to protect the civilian population from Russian strikes that use radio detection to find targets, but also to prevent the release of Ukrainian troop movements or other defense activities. RigExpert antenna analyzers and, perhaps, Lab599 appear to be based in Ukraine, so these amateur radio products may also become scarce.

I have a number of friends (and many QRPer readers) in Ukraine, so it’s difficult to think of much else this morning after news of the invasion. From Reuters:

Russian forces invaded Ukraine on Thursday, assaulting by land, sea and air in the biggest attack by one state against another in Europe since World War Two.

Missiles rained down on Ukrainian cities. Ukraine reported columns of troops pouring across its borders from Russia and Belarus, and landing on the coast from the Black and Azov seas.

Explosions were heard before dawn and throughout the morning in the capital Kyiv, a city of 3 million people. Gunfire rattled, sirens blared, and the highway out of the city choked with traffic as residents fled.

The assault brought a calamatous end to weeks of fruitless diplomatic efforts by Western leaders to avert war, their worst fears about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ambitions realised.[]

Trevor (M5AKA) shared the following message via Twiter from Anatoly Kirilenko (UT3UY) of the Ukrainian Amateur Radio League: I’ve friends in both Ukraine and Russia and none of them want what’s happening here. My heart goes out to them. As with many of these situations, citizens have so little to do with the political, financial, and military interests of their leaders.

The Defense Post: Top US General Calls Russia, Ukraine Amid Reported Moscow Troop Buildup

In this article at The Defense Post, Top US General Calls Russia, Ukraine Amid Reported Moscow Troop Buildup. Tensions in the region rise after President Biden condemns Russia’s 2014 takeover of the Crimea peninsula and calls Russian President Putin a “killer.” Many organizations, including leftist ones, have asked the President to cease his “reckless” rhetoric with Russia.

The top Pentagon general called counterparts in Russia and Ukraine Wednesday as the US Defense Department expressed concerns about a reported buildup of Russian troops along Ukraine’s border and in Crimea.

US troops in Europe were on an elevated “watch condition” as Joint Chiefs Chairman General Mark Milley spoke to General Valery Gerasimov, the Russian Armed Forces chief of staff, and Ukraine armed forces Commander in Chief Ruslan Khomchak.

Meanwhile, White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan called the head of the Ukraine Presidential Office Andriy Yermak to reiterate Washington’s support for the country.

“We’re concerned about recent escalations of Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine, including violations of the July 2020 ceasefire that led to the deaths of 4 Ukrainian soldiers on the 26th of March, and the wounding of two others,” said Pentagon spokesman John Kirby.

“Russia’s destabilizing actions undermine the de-escalation in tensions that had been achieved through an OSCE-brokered agreement back in July of last year.”

He said the US military was aware of Ukrainian reports concerning Russian troop movements on the country’s borders.

“We’re discussing our concerns about this increase in tensions in ceasefire violations and regional tensions with NATO allies.”

On Tuesday Moscow and Kiev traded accusations of responsibility for an increase in violence between Ukraine government forces and Kremlin-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine, leading to a rise in deaths.

Khomchak denounced the “threat to the military security” of Ukraine by the Russian army, saying that some 28,000 separatist fighters and “more than 2,000 Russian military instructors and advisers” are currently stationed in eastern Ukraine.

Reports online suggested that Russia had located more military forces along the border and also moved more into Crimea, the Ukraine territory that Moscow seized in 2014.

Those reports could not be confirmed, but some observers have tied them to Russian military exercises.

Kirby said Milley’s call to his Russian counterpart was “to gain a little bit more clarity on what exactly is going on.”

“We obviously don’t want to see any more violations of Ukrainian territory,” he said.

In his call with Yermak, Sullivan “affirmed the United States’ unwavering support for Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, and Euro-Atlantic aspirations, in the face of continuing aggression,” according to a White House statement.

US forces in Europe were placed on a heightened watch level to “potential imminent crisis” in response to Russian activities, Kirby confirmed. He said that the watch condition “expresses combatant commanders’ concern about a potential threat.”

Liberty Blitzkrieg: Three Major Imbalances – Financial, Trust, Geopolitical

Somewhat related to yesterday’s article from Chris Hedges which touched on how no one in America trusts anyone in the D.C. establish at all any longer is this article from Michael Krieger of Liberty Blitzkrieg. In Three Major Imbalances, Mr. Krieger discusses the teetering financial system, the lack of trust in institutions, and rising tenstions between the U.S.A. and China, Russia, and elsewhere.

But greed is a bottomless pit
And our freedom’s a joke
We’re just taking a piss
And the whole world must watch the sad comic display
If you’re still free start running away
Cause we’re coming for you!

– Conor Oberst, “Land Locked Blues”

It’s hard to believe 2020 is just around the corner. If the last ten years have taught us anything, it’s the extent to which a vicious and corrupt oligarchy will go to further extend and entrench their economic and societal interests. Although the myriad desperate actions undertaken by the ruling class this past decade have managed to sustain the current paradigm a bit longer, it has not come without cost and major long-term consequence. Gigantic imbalances across multiple areas have been created and worsened, and the resolution of these in the years ahead (2020-2025) will shape the future for decades to come. I want to discuss three of them today, the financial system imbalance, the trust imbalance and the geopolitical imbalance.

Recent posts have focused on how what really matters in a crisis is not the event itself, but the response to it. The financial crisis of ten years ago is particularly instructive, as the entire institutional response to a widespread financial industry crime spree was to focus on saving a failed system and then pretending nothing happened. The public was given no time or space to debate whether the system needed saving; or more specifically, which parts needed saving, which parts needed wholesale restructuring and which parts should’ve been thrown into the dustbin. Rather, unelected central bankers stepped in with trillions in order to prop up, empower and reward the very industry and individuals that created the crisis to begin with. There was no real public debate, central bankers just did whatever they wanted. It was a moment so brazen and disturbing it shook many of us, including myself, out of a lifetime of propaganda induced deception.

It’s ten years later and central banks still can’t walk back anything they did over the past decade…

While massive and global, the financial system imbalance is just one of several. Another big one is a trust imbalance, which manifests as a widening disconnect between established institutions and the people living under them. As the ruling class has been forced to resort to increasingly desperate measures over the past decade to keep their gravy train going, they’ve exposed themselves more explicitly. What was once derided as conspiracy theory rapidly becomes conspiracy fact, and an increasingly significant number of humans have begun to simply assume (for good reason) that whatever comes out of the mouths of authority figures like intelligence agencies, politicians, mass media, corporations and think tanks, etc., are lies.

This situation isn’t getting any better either. It seems every day we wake up to new in your face revelations of how craven and dishonest the ruling oligarchy and its institutions really are. For example, this past weekend we learned how a Newsweek journalist quit because his bosses at the paper refused to let him publish about OPCW whistleblowers who dispute the official conclusion that Assad launched a chemical attack in Douma, an event that increasingly looks like a false flag event which led to the U.S. bombing Syria…

The trust imbalance between rulers and the ruled has become so massive it’s all but guaranteed to detonate in a variety of unexpected and consequential ways in the years ahead. The election of Donald Trump was just the first pubic manifestation of this well deserved lack of trust…

The other major imbalance I want to highlight is the geopolitical one. It’s something I’ve been writing about a lot lately as it’s come into clearer focus that the nexus of this tension will center around the U.S. and China. At the root of this imbalance is a U.S. national security state desperate to turn back to clock to the 1990s when the U.S. was the world’s sole superpower and could essentially call the shots on all matters of international significance with little to no pushback. Certain foreign power centers, led by China and Russia, have made it explicit they will not be rewinding the clock and are have focused their foreign policy around ushering in a multi-polar world. Like the other imbalances, the geopolitical imbalance becomes more volatile and less manageable with each passing day…

Everything being done today centers around propping up and extending a decrepit paradigm in order to further enrich and empower a ruling class that has lost the respect of the people. As the actions taken to sustain such a system become more desperate and mendacious (“this is NOT QE”), the more the veneer of credibility disappears. The more the veneer of credibility disappears, the more unstable these major imbalances become. Generational change is on the horizon, keep your eyes wide open.

Click here to read the entire article at Liberty Blitzkrieg.

Related:

Kunstler: Two for One Holiday Special

Hillary Clinton sure got her money’s worth with the Fusion GPS deal: it induced a three-year psychotic break in the body politic, destroyed the legitimacy of federal law enforcement, turned a once-proud, free, and rational press into an infernal engine of bad faith, and is finally leading her Democratic Party to an ignominious suicide. And the damage is far from complete…

Breaking Defense: US Loses Badly in Wargames with Russia/China

In the article US ‘Gets Its Ass Handed To It’ In Wargames: Here’s A $24 Billion Fix, Breaking Defense reports that the US’s advanced military technology have some major Achilles’ heels which Russia and China have, intelligently, designed their military responses to take advantage. Many people in the US wrongly assume that American military technology is so far advanced that there is no comparison with Russian and Chinese forces. Unfortunately, that view overlooks the fact that smart opponents will devise tactics and techniques which target the weaknesses of an opponent. The US is extremely good at projecting offensive power, but after decades at the forefront of military technology the US has lost sight of the importance of defending anything from strikes. It’s like America has spent twenty years perfecting the jab and right cross, but is incapable of dodging or blocking a punch. In effect, Russia and China do not need to have more advanced weapons than the US (though they may have an advantage in missile technology) because the US cannot protect their weapons from being destroyed before they can be used.

The US keeps losing, hard, in simulated wars with Russia and China. Bases burn. Warships sink…

“In our games, when we fight Russia and China,” RAND analyst David Ochmanek said this afternoon, “blue gets its ass handed to it.” In other words, in RAND’s wargames, which are often sponsored by the Pentagon, the US forces — colored blue on wargame maps — suffer heavy losses in one scenario after another and still can’t stop Russia or China — red — from achieving their objectives, like overrunning US allies.

No, it’s not a Red Dawn nightmare scenario where the Commies conquer Colorado. But losing the Baltics or Taiwan would shatter American alliances, shock the global economy, and topple the world order the US has led since World War II…

F-35 stealth fighters are hard to kill in flight, but lined up on the runway, they’re easy targets.

big airbases on land and big aircraft carriers on the water turn out to be big targets for long-range precision-guided missiles. Once an American monopoly, such smart weapons are now a rapidly growing part of Russian and Chinese arsenals — as are the long-range sensors, communications networks, and command systems required to aim them.

So, as potential adversaries improve their technology, “things that rely on sophisticated base infrastructure like runways and fuel tanks are going to have a hard time,” Ochmanek said. “Things that sail on the surface of the sea are going to have a hard time.”

…Worst of all, Work and Ochmanek said, the US doesn’t just take body blows, it takes a hard hit to the head as well. Its communications satellites, wireless networks, and other command-and-control systems suffer such heavy hacking and jamming that they are, in Ochmanek’s words, “suppressed, if not shattered…”

Click here to read the entire article at BreakingDefense.com.

Every Kingdom Divided Against Itself

From Raúl Ilargi Meijer at The Automatic Earth:


Charles Sprague Pearce Lamentations over the Death of the First-Born of Egypt 1877In Matthew 12:22-28, Jesus tells the Pharisees:

Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand.

…While Americans believe so strongly in their supremacy, and have grown so accustomed to the idea, that they no longer see having the best weapons as a matter of survival for the nation. They have come to see their superiority as something automatic and natural.

The attack on Syria is seen as a sign of weakness. Because there was no need for it. Because the evidence is flimsy at best. Because the world has international bodies to deal with such issues. Because there is no logic in allowing the blood to flow in the Gaza and Yemen but cite humanitarian reasons for bombing alleged chemical facilities elsewhere.

What the world sees is bluster emanating from a deeply divided nation (and we haven’t even tackled Britain). It sees that less than 48 hours after the airstrikes, a former FBI chief talks about his former boss in terminology that nobody would dare use in most countries, and throughout most of history,

James Comey is beyond Shakepeare. And in America, the issue is who’s right in the Comey-Trump conflict. In Russia, China et al it’s not. They see a house, a country divided. A weak country has no diplomacy.

That’s how all empires end. Complacency and division. That is what North Korea sees when it watches America, what China, and Russia see. And they may even know how Jesus put it. He didn’t just say a kingdom divided would become less powerful or wealthy, he said:

Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation.

AmRRON Moves to AmCON 3, Apr. 13, 2018

UPDATE: AMCON has returned to AmCON 4 since this was posted.

From the folks over at AmRRON (the American Redoubt Radio Operators’ Network):

*13 APRIL 2018 UPDATE: *

//All Stations// Due to increased tensions and the maneuvering of military assets by multiple nations in and around Syria, we are raising the AmCON to Level 3. This increase in AmCON is to increase awareness of an increased probability of an event which could disrupt conventional communications. We will continue to monitor the situation. At this time, no immediate action is called for beyond the general guidance outlined for AmCON 3. More guidance will be forthcoming and will be posted on AmRRON.com. We will continue to evaluate and assess. The Staff, AmRRON

Action In Syria Coming Amid Expectations Of Air Strikes
Haifa orders townspeople to prepare for emergency
Russia says the US is about to strike Syria — and that it will strike back
Russia, Syria: Israeli Jets Strike Air Base After Alleged Poison Gas Attack In Douma
Russia TV Instructs Viewers How to Prepare Bomb Shelters For Nuclear War (Video)
Nuclear ‘Doomsday Plane’ Goes Airborne As War Fears Grow

***Information Alert***
– Russian UN Ambassador warns “cannot exclude” possibility of direct conflict with US over Syria.
-UK Cabinet gives PM May approval for action.
– Russia moves Backfires (SU-22 Bombers) into Iran