by Rostislav Ishchenko
translated by Eugenia
Alexander the Blessed needed an extra year to finish the war with Turkey, train already drafted recruits, and deploy at the Western border against Napoleon not 200 thousand, but half a million-strong army, which would not have bothered to retreat into the heart of the Empire.
Iosif Vissarionovich Stalin needed another year to complete the technical upgrade of the army, formation of motorized units, and deployment at the border of the force capable of meeting the enemy on equal terms.
That by itself does not mean that thus deployed forces would have necessarily fought successfully. In 1809, Austrians and in 1939-1940 French and British had more than enough time and resources to deploy against Napoleon and Hitler, respectively, having forces at least equal, and in some ways superior to their armies. Austrians in 1809 as well as French and British in 1939-1940 had the initiative – they decided when to choose offensive or defensive action. In both cases, the defeats due the superior strategy of the Napoleon and Hitler Joint Staff were catastrophic.
Nevertheless, we all agree that before the war it is better to have an extra year than not to have it. The better you prepare for the war, the better you chances are to win it. Most importantly, your victory would come without an enormous cost in human lives and moral losses, which, as a rule, accompany wars started with failures.
This time we again need approximately a year
Ten years ago, in 2005 I had a conversation with a colleague of mine – an expert in economics and finances. I always valued his opinions, because he, a person of liberal views, was not dogmatic, but capable of reasonable evaluation of the system’s faults and often was able to describe its problem with more precision than the most able of its Marxist opponents.
Our discussion was focused on the inevitable (we both agreed on that) crisis of the dollar. I argued that the crisis is already happening, but Washington still has the resources to prevent it from bursting into the open, when it impacts all strata of the society and becomes only too apparent not only for the narrow circle of politicians privy to information, but to the whole population of the planet. My colleague did not agree with the statement that the dollar system has exhausted its potential, but argued that with the help of financial and bank instruments the illusion of wellbeing could be maintained indefinitely.
Let me emphasize that he not only knew the system inside out (probably, as well as Trotsky knew the Soviet system), but was also critical enough towards it, being aware that every system has its inherent faults, and none exists forever (each has a limited resource). With the faster pace of the historic process in the past decades, the lifetime of each system is measured at best in decades (by the time of our conversation, the Bretton Woods system had existed for 60 years and had already met with crises that resulted in its serious modifications).
I have never exceeded the limited amount of economic knowledge acquired in the political economy class offered in the history department of the Kiev University in 1987-1992 when I studied there.
That is why I always acknowledged the importance of the economics for the political decisions, but in my own evaluations of the political situation, including that in the economic sphere, preferred to rely on my knowledge of political mechanisms, which, by the way, could sometimes alter the economic reality beyond recognition.
How can that happen – the Ukrainian government gives us a demonstration. For 23 years, it has been acting against the national economic interests; having succeeded in almost completely eliminating the national economy, it set out to eliminate the population as well. Thus, the political force turned out to be stronger that the economic laws (the political power is incapable of making these laws work as it wishes, but can ignore them to the point of bringing about the complete breakdown of the state and society).
Therefore, I derived my conclusion that the dollar-based economy is already in crisis, and thus, pax Americana is also entering the crisis, from the evaluation of the processes in the post-Soviet territories undoubtedly initiated by the US. By that time, four attempts at “color” coups had taken place (two, in 2000-2001 and 2004-2005, in Ukraine, one in Georgia, and one in Kyrgyzstan). Three of them were successful. All of them were directed against Russia.
If the dollar economy were working normally, the US would not have any need to switch in its relations with Russia to the confrontational mode. What is important is that Washington, unlike its usual behavior, did not try to initiate economic war against Russia, but immediately engaged in the political, diplomatic, and informational confrontation, i.e. employed the mechanisms typically preceding the “hot” military hostilities or used in lieu of the latter, in the hope that the adversary can be made to capitulate without the use of military force.
It is no secret that at that time Russia was integrated into the American global financial-economic system and was making active attempt to get incorporated into the American military and political structure of the global dominance. What is more, Russia was willing to accept the role of a junior partner. The only obstacle was that being aware of its military (nuclear arsenal) and economical (unlimited natural resources), as well as positional (transit link through Eurasia) significance, Moscow wanted special partnership. That requirement in essence was aimed at occupying the position in the Washington political system a step above that of the EU.
The situation did not call for the sharp reaction on the part of the US. Within the existing system, Washington had an option of dragging the negotiations while playing for time and, at the opportune moment, hitting Russia with the “mercy strike” unexpectedly and instantly to destroy its economy the same way it destroyed the economy of Argentina or those of Asian “Tigers”.
In general, if we assume that in 2005 the appearance of the US corresponded to the reality of the processes going on behind the façade, America did not need to pay for color revolutions. Strangling Russia in the embrace could have solved everything cheaper and more effectively. Assuming the risk of the political and diplomatic confrontation with Russia (which would be the inevitable result of organizing color coups) the US gained only one thing – time.
But time becomes the key factor in one situation only, when you realize that you are getting weaker faster than the normal pace of historic events gives you a chance to triumph over your adversary. Simply put, you need to vanquish him faster than he gets the opportunity to destroy you. In case of the US, sudden critical weakness could strike only due to the crisis of the dollar economy – every other aspect of the US power is derived from the mighty dollar.
Knowing that the US elites are no different than the Chinese, Russian or Madagascar elites in that they see the crisis only when it is already upon them (they receive all sort of forecasts and always believe more pleasant ones; which is, by the way, how all these “Rand Corporations” make their money) I draw the only possible conclusion. If as far back as in 2005 the US organized the attack on Russia at such a scale that it could not be possibly interpreted as something unintended, insignificant provocation, or the result of thoughtlessness of one or two departments, it means that the American elite is fully cognizant of the crisis. They started to spend resources in order to hide it from the world and, having the knowledge of the available resources and of how fast they are used up, could predict that the time of the crush is within one or two years.
By the way, considering the certainty of my colleague that with the help of the banking instruments and other financial manipulations the US could feel pretty safe until 2020 and correcting for his optimism of the liberal economist, I came to the conclusion that the inevitable collapse of the system will occur between 2015 and 2020. That is why I wrote at the time that the membership in the Customs Union would have allowed Yanukovych not only remain president until 2015, but even get reelected for another 5 years, after which the problem of the US would have gone away, and he would have been safe. For the same reason, I keep insisting for the past one and a half years that the military solution to the Ukrainian crisis is possible at any moment starting from winter of 2014 and up to the beginning of 2016 (with the earlier solution being more likely than the later one), whereas the political solution is possible no earlier than the end of 2016 – beginning of 2017. It could even be later than that, since until the US capitulates nothing will be settled, but the US will not go easily and will fight till the bitter end as the Third Reich. They have everything to lose, and they regret nothing and take pity on no one.
I want to stress one more time that these conclusions are not supported by the columns of statistical data, the size of the army or the number and quality of weaponry, data on the economical growth, etc. First, it is almost impossible to obtain precise figures. Most of the time, even the data available to the government offices for the internal use are imprecise. Second, the data are less important than their interpretation by those who make decisions. Since we have no information about the decisions made, orders issued, or operations initiated under the cover of secrecy, we can only evaluate the political situation based on the moves we observe.
That is, in life and the game of chess, in war and politics, every move crosses off one set of possible solutions and opens up another. The more moves you have made, the clearer you goals could be seen (after all, you always purposefully avoid something and equally purposefully seek something). At certain stages of a disease, a physician can, based only on the objective medical data, diagnose it sight unseen, determine the prognosis and even approximately tell how long the patient has left to live. The same is true in our case – all sides have made sufficient number of moves to cut themselves off from the possibility of retreat. The variations of the victory could be predicted at this stage of hostilities just as easily as it was to foretell the victory in the Great Patriotic war in April of 1943.
Let us consider the situation as it developed. When the US initiated the “color” attack on Russia, Moscow was unprepared to respond adequately in the political, economical or military spheres. Russia was completely incorporated into the dollar economy, and any attempt to damage the US economy would have resulted in the manifold amplified boomerang effect for the Russian economy. At the beginning of the 2000th, the today’s political stability could only be dreamed of – oligarchs were still fighting with the state for the real control over the country. At the same time, growing anti-oligarch sentiments in the society could have at any moment resulted in the popular “senseless and unmerciful” uprising, after which nothing would have been left of the state. The Northern Caucasus has not yet been stabilized; the country was facing the terrorist threat. And, finally, the only strength of the Russian army at the time was the nuclear arsenal, but it is not wise to start the nuclear war at the slightest provocation.
Thus, the Russian leadership started positional external fights sometimes retreating when it was entirely impossible to hold on, sometimes counter-attacking as, for example, in Georgia and Syria. Nevertheless, Moscow acted very carefully, avoiding suspicion of deliberate opposition to the American plans. Kremlin kept insisting on the partnership and accommodated American requests (like proving transit to Afghanistan). Public Russian diplomacy almost humiliated itself begging the West to return to the constructive dialog. Counter-intrigue with the establishment of Russia-friendly NGOs in the countries subjected to the “color” attacks were not apparent, and the undercover work with single structures was invisible and could not possibly counterbalance the massive actions of the US.
In general, the main goal was to gain time, preserve critically important strategic positions and reform the internal political and informational space, as well as the relationship between the Russian and global economical and financial systems in such a way that would give Moscow a chance to wrangle with Washington not only on equal terms but even with some tactical advantages. At the same time, clandestine work in the international field, or, simply put, the search for potential allies and preparation for alliances was being done. And the army was being trained and rearmed.
Actually, precisely these plans of rearming the army and navy prove to us that Russian leadership considered the period between 2015 and 2020 as critical. By 2015, the army was expected to achieve the ability to conduct one limited in time strategic operation in the European theater while providing security along the entire Russian border perimeter. By 2020, the army (judging by the timing of the delivery of weapons and equipment) will have reached the level of preparedness for the full-scale war in Europe.
In order to accomplish all this, it was necessary to convince the US that Russia will not breach the established relationships. In that sense, even the Moscow reaction to the Georgian aggression on South Ossetia was exquisitely measured and did not, it seems, raised serious suspicions in Washington. The use of the Russian troops after the attack on Russian peacekeepers was understandable to Washington. A government that refused to respond adequately in such a situation would lose the public support and might face the resentment in the military. That the Russians refrained from taking Tbilisi and destroying Georgian statehood also had a calming effect. Even more so, because at that time Medvedev was the president of Russia.
Let us recall a widely used not so long ago but now forgotten term “tandem”. Before the association Putin-Medvedev emerged, Kremlin long demonstrated to the West a struggle between the liberals and “siloviki” (power ministries) scaring the US that if “siloviki” win, all hell would break loose. But the “liberals” won. By the way, I am convinced that in Moscow the liberals and “siloviki” honestly believed that they were engaged in an unrelenting struggle with each other (and did do it). Otherwise, the information would have leaked long ago that all this was just bluff. As the old chap Muller used to say: “In the Reich, you cannot believe anybody. But you can believe me”. However, long before that sentence of Bronevoy from “17 moments of spring” movie, all well-known “political technologists” (from Shang Yang to Machiavelli) advised the rulers, if at all possible, not to share their plans with anybody, lest they become known to the enemy. As we know, better safe than sorry.
For four years, Washington was hoping that Medvedev would be reelected for the second term. That hope was not entirely groundless – they received the appropriate signals from Moscow. Only in 2012, when Putin returned to post of the president, and Medvedev, in spite all liberal hopes and rumors about fierce competition inside the “tandem”, did nothing to stay in power, the Americans seemed to have begun to understand that they have been duped. But they were not entirely convinced. After all, the liberal government of Medvedev, so annoying to the patriots, still remained. Thus, the legend about the struggle between the liberals and patriots in the Putin’s surroundings appeared still valid. Many in Russia still believe in it. But not in Washington, not anymore.
But it was too late. Russia has won the needed 10 years for itself. If in 2004 the US had organized a confrontation of the same intensity reached in 2014, Moscow would have had little chance to withstand it. At that time, the economic sanctions would not have passed almost unnoticed by the majority of the population; half of the today’s allies would have been in the opposite camp, and the EU that today is openly sabotaging (at least, the “old Europe”) the American “crusade”, would have joined the anti-Russian ranks without a murmur. Also, the “fifth column” in Russia was still strong. And much more than that has been accomplished in ten years.
I know that it became to be in good taste to make fun of Putin’s “clever plan”, but I want to emphasize that the leadership acting without a strategic plan is hardly ever successful, particularly as successful and in such a critical situation. Russia of 2000 and Russia of 2015 are two different countries. If Putin has achieved such success without a plan, without a coordinated effort of a well-chosen team (even if not everybody on that team knew precisely what they were doing and why), if all of this is just a string of coincidences, then things are even better, since God himself is on Putin’s side. Such remarkable number of coincidences could only be explained by a strategic plan, or by divine intervention, or both. Everyone is free to select the explanation he likes best.
What is important for us, though, is that Russia managed to postpone by almost ten years the major confrontation with America and used that time to prepare for such confrontation, albeit not completely. Let me say that Yanukovych alone failed to notice the preparation for the coup in Ukraine. The timing was obvious – 2015. The false start of the coup in 2013 was an unpleasant surprise not only for Moscow, but also for Washington. Russia was forced into a direct conflict with America earlier than expected. The US was not yet sufficiently worn out and Russia has not yet gained enough strength. Nevertheless, the situation in Ukraine in October-November of 2013 gave grounds for cautious optimism. Moscow could have won and would have won that round, if it had not been for the pathological cowardice, stupidity, and in the end betrayal of Yanukovych, complemented by the total incompetence and venality of his associates.
The military capabilities of the rapid response type were sufficient for the Crimea. We can only guess whether they would have been sufficient for the entire Ukraine. Many still think that such risk should have been taken. Unfortunately, those “many” never commanded anything bigger than the rebel battalion and never directed anything more significant than their own family. That risk could have turn out to be justified, but also could have led to very unpleasant consequences. That is why it is called “risk”: it is impossible to calculate all possibilities, and the actions of other players are unknown. Thus, it is possible to gain big but also to lose just as big. In this case, Putin did not gamble – he was responsible for the fate of Russia. That is why he selected the surest option – to play for time.
Yes, the struggling Donbass gave Russia a gift of that extra year and paid for that year with its people’s blood. Now the time has come not just to pay back out debts. What has come is the moment of truth. Russia could not have counted to stretch the game of cat and mouse with Washington to extend the period of respite beyond 2015. We should consider ourselves lucky as it is. Russia is much stronger now and freed itself from the detrimental dependence of the dollar economy. The US has weakened so much that the economists that only a few years ago authoritatively pronounced even a thought of opposing the US to be impossible, given the size of US GNP, all of a sudden changed their minds and now pompously argue whether the US economy would crash this years or in 2016, and how exactly that would happen.
And now, finally, I have come to these few paragraphs that were the objective of this entire article. All written above serves the purpose of clarifying the train of thought. Let me remind you that, in my opinion, politicians always have a number of options that would allow them to ignore the real economic situation and the real needs of the national economy and to make willful decisions that, nevertheless, would be carried out and often lead to catastrophic consequences.
I mentioned Ukraine as an example. I will once again remind you that in this country with eradicated economy, empty treasury, destroyed political and administrative systems, where mercenaries mixed with gangs act in place of police or National Guard, in the country torn apart by the civil war, the politicians (weak politicians, including in the intellectual sphere) remain in their positions for almost a year and a half despite the fact that all their decisions without exception go against the interests of Ukraine, the national economy, the survival of the population, and even common sense. This is due to the stability resource of the state, which keeps on going by inertia when the state structures are essentially dead. Like a chicken that runs for a few minutes after its head has been cut off.
Please, recall that Ukraine was pushed into a war by the US that did not even bother to conceal that what they needed was not the war of Kiev against Donbass, but the war of Kiev with Russia.
Currently the US is on the verge of economic collapse and, possibly, territorial disintegration due to the demise of the political and administrative structure. This scenario is real and America is facing it in the near future. Obama would be happy if that does not come to pass on his watch. Therefore, strategically the US lost the war to Russia without firing a single shot. However, Germany also strategically lost the War in 1943. That did not prevent Hitler from trying to win it tactically in the Battle of Kursk. We cannot say that such an attempt was completely without hope of success. Germans created a real threat and in places almost breached the front. The encirclement and destruction of the Kursk group of armies would have led to the loss of almost a third of the manpower and weapons that the USSR had at the front. That would have been the third massive defeat starting from 1941. The country’s resources, including human, are not unlimited. Hitler simply tried to force the USSR to lose as much as in 1941 – manifold more soldiers than Germany. The losses at ratio of 5:1 would have bled the USSR dry before Germany lost the ability to resist, so it would have been necessary to seek peace with Hitler.
Similarly, the Americans are trying to tactically win the war they lost strategically. The main approach has not changed – Russia must be at war. Only now the EU is being recruited in addition to Ukraine, at least the Eastern European members. Those who do not believe this, try counting how many times during the past three months different politicians from various EU countries have declared that Europe does not want a war with Russia, particularly for Ukraine. When there is no danger of war, nobody talks about it. Have you heard anybody in Mongolia stating three times a day that they have no intentions of going to war with Russia?
Since neither I, nor you, Putin, Obama, anybody, except God, knows when the US economy collapses, in 2016 or in 2020 – the US needs to organize a war already this year. They will not fight directly, naturally (somebody else must pull chestnuts out of the fire for them). But the war must start – there is no other chance for the US to save itself.
That is why I am saying that once again we lack an extra year. Whatever happens with the dollar and the US economy, the Kiev regime has no chance to survive until 2016. It already survived twice as long as should be reasonably counted on. The crash of Ukraine, which became Stalingrad for the US – a symbolic place – defeat there would lead to the loss of face and catastrophic decline in its prestige (too much was invested by the US into the Kiev coup and the support of the Nazi regime, too deeply their allies were dragged into the crisis – in general, too much was involved), as well as automatic refusal of Europe to participate further in the American ventures. That is why Holland and Merkel helped Putin to play for time with Minsk-2. The loss of Europe would mean the loss of global dominance and crash of the US financial, economic and political system witnessed by the entire stunned humankind.
Considering that the Baltic limitrophe states are ready to share the fate of Ukraine, that a Maidan is being prepared for Belorussia for the purpose of partial engagement of the Russian resources, that Poland is being embroiled deeper and deeper in supporting Kiev, that the US is pushing Romania (jointly with Moldova) to repeat the “feat” of Saakashvili, only not in Ossetia but in Transnistria, – all the elements of the war to be initiated came together. The US will be coercing the old Europe into participating as the events unfold. What is important is to have at least one country-member of the EU officially at war with Russia.
Since there are the suicidal Baltics among the newly acquired members of the EU, the war is at our doorsteps. It may not happen. During the past years, the Russian leadership got the country out of such traps that nothing seems to be impossible. However, Russia never since 1945 came to a war as close as today.
We need to survive this summer. After that the danger of war should decline. Unfortunately, we are not the only ones who know that, and there is really no party of peace in Washington.