|NATO Has Slowly ExpandedTowards Russia|
Putin is slated to start a new six-year term after 18 years in power. This comes at a time of sharply deteriorating relations with a number of Western adversaries, who accuse him of military adventurism in Ukraine and Syria and hostile attacks on several countries ranging from election meddling, cyber attacks, and assassinations. Putin’s foreign policy, coupled with efforts to rebuild the Russian military, have been part of an effort by the 65-year-old former KGB officer to boost Russia’s standing on the world stage has helped make him extremely popular with his people even as Nato has slowly been expanding in the direction of Russia.
Several years ago I wrote a piece that urged America to stay out of a war in Ukraine. It also warned of the major advantage Putin held by having a huge well-armed army just across the Ukrainian border and that any army cobbled together to face him would most likely be unenthusiastic and politically troubled at best. At the time President Obama had pulled out all the stops to paint Putin with a brush dipped in all the bad colors. Every Sunday in interview after interview Washington experts were paraded across the screens of the talk shows that tell Americans what is happening in our nation’s capital and every single one of them denounced Putin as a “thug and a bully.” Ironically, just three years later we find that Russian President Vladimir Putin has just won re-election by a wide margin on Sunday with around 76% of the vote. This strengthens his hand and means the only thing that has really changed is Obama is gone and been replaced by Donald Trump. Who would have predicted that?
|Ukrainian Soldiers Killed In An Unwinnable War|
The reports from the front in Ukraine are often buried or hidden from public view but they appear to confirm that Ukrainian troops have been sent into a meat grinder. The drafted include men up to 60 years old with only a month of training before they reluctantly go off to the battlefield in eastern Ukraine. Putting more weapons into the hands of those unmotivated to fight for their corrupt state is merely adding fuel to this fire and doing more harm than good. Again, remember Ukraine is a financially failed state and while we can point to its potential, its massive oil and gas reserves by all rights should belong to the people and for their benefit. The IMF, however, points out that Kiev needs billion in loans and grants just to stabilize its economy after more than twenty years of massive levels of corruption. This debt and the deep, deep hole Ukrainians have dug themselves into flows from a series of bad governments after Kiev became independent of the Soviet Union.
The euro-zone currently faces a lot of problems without jumping into a proxy war against rebels in Ukraine. I use the term proxy because without the money and backing of outsiders things would most likely go quiet. The failed and bankrupt country of Ukraine would most likely break into two parts with the eastern half and its people who share strong ties with Russia aligning itself with that country and Kiev, and the western-oriented portion of the country drifting towards stronger ties to the euro-zone. What is the big problem with such a solution? Apparently, a great deal if you ask those in Washington that are pushing for more intervention in Ukraine. As to what really motivates their desire to turn the area into a giant killing field several possibilities exist but money and profit should not be ruled out.
|War In Ukraine Is About Money, Energy, And Power!|
Foreign policy has often been used as a tool to advance national interest which is often dictated by economics. When it comes to the economy energy is often considered the blood from which all strength flows and in the case of Europe the Nord Stream 2 (NS2) pipeline which after completion will carry natural gas from Russia to Germany is a bone of contention. On March 11, leaders from Poland, Latvia, and Lithuania signed an open letter to the parliaments of the EU states warning them against the construction of NS2 and cautioned them of how it is not a commercial project but one designed to increase their energy reliance on Moscow.
Last year, Russia’s Gazprom supplied the European Union and Turkey with a record 162 billion cubic meters of gas. Of that gas, 86 billion cubic meters flowed across Ukraine. Those opposed to the new pipeline make a strong case that “Gazprom” is not only a gas company but a platform for Russian coercion and another tool for Russia to pressure European countries. The U.S. State Department has even threatened European corporations that they will likely face penalties if they participate in the construction of Russia’s Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, on the grounds that “the project undermines energy security in Europe”. Under a provision in the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), Washington has indicated it may turn up the pressure to stop the project.
To confuse the issue and muddy the waters great efforts have been made at high levels by those advocating military action to paint Russia as an aggressor. These forces continue at a rapid pace to link Russias move into the majority ethnic-Russian Crimea region as a violation of Ukraine’s sovereign border. In this case, we should remember, the whole concept of sovereign borders is a little gem promoted by those in power, these borders are a creation of man and not visible to the birds flying above. This is an argument of convenience that masks deeper issues and the difference between “terrorist” and “freedom fighters” often depends on a person’s point of view. In this case, it is clearly the new American backed government in Kiev that is pushing to bring the eastern part of Ukraine back into the fold.
What this boils down to is that American companies want to sell and supply Europe with Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) and seems willing to start a war to make it happen. Whether it is for profit or to minimize the threat of natural gas shipments to Europe being cutoff and used as a key weapon in Russia’s political arsenal we cannot ignore the idea more is at play here than just doing the “right thing”. Many people in the “Tin Foil Hat” community have gone so far as to indicate they feel that America and elements of the CIA were involved or had a part in the overthrow of the former corrupt Ukraine government and its replacement with another corrupt but more pro Europe regime. At the time even America’s Vice President, Joe Biden, saw his son join the board of a private Ukrainian oil and natural gas company. One thing is clear, not only those involved in selling energy to Europe will profit from this but also the military-industrial complex stands to gain.
The odds of U.S. LNG significantly displacing Russian natural gas shipped by pipeline are slim. Piped gas sells at a large discount to LNG, which must be cooled to liquid form, shipped overseas and turned back into its gaseous form. Poland recently received its first shipment of U.S. LNG last month from what is currently the only export facility in the lower 48 states. While LNG trade between the United States and Europe would help Trump in his bid to reduce the U.S. trade deficit it also stands to improve energy security among the European countries by giving them an alternative to Russian gas. Everyone must concede it is not a cure-all, Russia can easily cut prices and adjust terms to maintain its dominant position in the European gas market and European countries are likely to continue buying most of their gas from the lowest cost supplier.
Bottom-line, Russia has traditionally been the major supplier of European gas. But it charges high prices, often in the form of long-term contracts linked to the price of oil. The overwhelming dependence on Russian gas leaves European countries from a national security standpoint vulnerable to a cutoff of crucial natural gas supplies. This would be devastating to their economies at any time but even more so in the depths of winter. For these reasons, it makes sense for Europe to consider alternative supplies and open its doors to U.S. LNG but due to Ukraine’s history of corruption flooding the country with weapons and using the people of Ukraine as pawns in this high stakes game violates all standards of human decency.
Americans should also be aware that our current policy drives Russia towards the East and into the open arms of China. This creates even more problems long-term than it solves short-term and borders on the edge of insanity. The war in Ukraine has not developed organically but appears to be the product of meddling. Mercenaries and money from America appear to be backing and propping up Kiev with America acting as the “champion” for this failed bankrupt country. The best way for the West and Kiev to prove they are on the right path is by letting the eastern part of the country seceded and then making Kiev a center of economic and democratic success.
H/T: Bruce Wilds