The Decline of the West and the Rise of a Multipolar World
January 2023, last updated 24/01/23
1. Conflict erupts in Ukraine
2. Soviet breakup and NATO expansion
3. US-NATO proxy war
4. Sanctions backfire
5. US hegemony versus multipolarity
6. Rise and fall of civilizations
7. Finance capitalism in crisis
8. Humans and spiritual progress
1. Conflict erupts in Ukraine
On 24 February 2022 Russia launched a special military operation in Ukraine. In an address to the nation, President Putin stated:
The purpose of this operation is to protect people [in the Donbas region of Ukraine] who, for eight years now, have been facing humiliation and genocide perpetrated by the Kiev regime. To this end, we will seek to demilitarise and denazify Ukraine, as well as bring to trial those who perpetrated numerous bloody crimes against civilians, including against citizens of the Russian Federation. It is not our plan to occupy the Ukrainian territory. (kremlin.ru)
The military operation marked a new phase in the civil war that broke out in Ukraine after the Western-backed coup in February 2014. That ‘colour revolution’ violently overthrew the democratically elected president, Viktor Yanukovych, and replaced him with Petro Poroshenko. The Yanukovych government had sought a balance between relations with Russia and relations with Europe; it wanted Ukraine to join both the Eurasian Economic Community (EurAsEC) and the European Union, but the EU told Ukraine that it could not be a member of both.
Signing an association agreement with the EU would have undermined Ukrainian industry and led to takeovers by foreign businesses, so Yanukovych opted for the more favourable EurAsEC deal. This sparked mass protests. There are reports that the snipers who fired on protestors in Kiev on 20 February 2014, killing over 80 people, were not government security forces but agents provocateurs. On 21 February Yanukovych agreed to form an interim government of national unity and to hold early elections, but the very next day he had to flee for his life.
The driving force behind the 2014 coup was ultranationalists from western Ukraine (Galicia), including Nazi organizations such as the Azov battalion, Aidar battalion, Right Sector, the Svoboda (freedom) party, and C14. After the coup, members of Svoboda, which a 2012 European Parliament resolution denounced as ‘xenophobic, racist and anti-Semitic’, were given three ministerial posts and three posts as regional governors. One of its founders, Andriy Parubiy, became secretary of the National Security and Defence Council.
The Azov and Aidar battalions were integrated into Ukraine’s military. According to the FBI, Azov is associated with neo-Nazi ideology and has helped train white supremacists from the United States. An investigation by Time in 2021 showed that Azov has become an influential part of global neo-Nazism. On 15 November 2022 Italian police arrested four members of the Order of Hagal, a neo-Nazi organization with ties to the Azov battalion, for planning terrorist attacks. According to the leader of C14, the Maidan protests would have been no more than a ‘gay parade’ if some 8% of the protestors had not been Nazis. (‘Maidan’ means ‘square’ and is a reference to Kiev’s Independence Square; the term ‘Euromaidan’ is also used.)
The Azov battalion’s emblem (left) includes the Nazi SS Wolfsangel symbol (centre) and the Nazi black sun symbol (right).
Around 1.5 million Jews were killed in Ukraine during its occupation by Nazi Germany. A leading Nazi collaborator was Stepan Bandera, who committed atrocities against Jews, Poles and Russians. In 2010 he was declared a national hero of Ukraine and his birthday was made a national holiday. The Western mainstream media used to expose the Nazi ideology of Azov and other Ukrainian organizations, but nowadays it tries to cover up Ukraine’s Nazi problem.
The Euromaidan regime wanted a racially pure Ukraine that excluded the country’s Russian, Magyar and Romanian-speaking minorities. It whipped up anti-Russian chauvinism and suppressed the rights of the Russian minority, including a ban on official use of the Russian language – this would be like the Canadian government banning French in Quebec. These moves sparked massive protests in the eastern and southern parts of the country, and led to violent clashes. On 2 May 2014, pro-Maidan activists attacked and set fire to the Trade Unions Building in Odessa, resulting in the deaths of at least 48 Russian-speaking Ukrainians; some of the victims were burned alive, others were strangled, shot, or clubbed to death (lafionda.com).
Victims of the Odessa massacre. (fishki.net)
US officials handpicked key members of the new Ukrainian government, even in defiance of the Ukrainians and Europeans. This is illustrated by a leaked telephone conversation between Victoria Nuland, Assistant Secretary of State for Europe and Eurasia, and Geoffrey Pyatt, the US ambassador to Kiev. Pyatt says that the EU prefers a different candidate as prime minister, and Nuland famously replies, ‘Fuck the EU!’ According to Nuland, the United States invested over $5 billion to promote ‘democracy’ in Ukraine.
At that time, Joe Biden was Vice President in the Obama administration, and was in charge of policy on Ukraine. After the coup, a corrupt Ukrainian gas company, Burisma, started paying Biden’s prodigal son, Hunter, $50,000 a month to sit on its board – at a time when Biden was calling on Ukraine to step up its fight against corruption. When Biden became president in 2020, he appointed Nuland Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs.
Ukrainian 2010 presidential election results: anti-Yanukovych regions in yellow, pro-Yanukovych regions in blue.
A small majority of the Ukrainian population opposed the Euromaidan regime. The economy was hard hit by the new policies and about 6 million Ukrainians fled abroad in search of jobs and safety. Following the coup, corruption and repression increased, several opposition parties were banned, and Ukraine became the poorest country in Europe. In 2015 the Foundation for the Study of Democracy published two reports (here and here) documenting the torture of Donbas residents by Ukrainian armed forces and security forces. Ukraine is yet another example of how Western meddling can turn a country into a failed state.
After holding a referendum in March 2014, Crimea seceded from Ukraine and again became part of Russia, which deployed its troops to prevent a US-Ukrainian takeover of its Crimean naval base. Ukraine responded by cutting off the drinking water supply to Crimea. The war against the Russian-speaking Donbas region, comprising the Donetsk and Lugansk oblasts (regions), began on 6 April 2014, and the next day rebels seized the Donetsk oblast administration building and declared independence. Several units of the Ukrainian armed forces defected and joined the local militias, taking their weapons with them. No regular Russian troops intervened directly in the fighting.
On 11 May 2014 referendums were held in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR), and the majority voted for self-rule. Russia said it ‘respected’ the referendum results, but refused to recognize the two republics and rejected their request to join the Russian Federation. Ukraine stepped up the shelling of the two republics, stopped the payment of pensions and salaries, and imposed an economic and financial blockade. By March 2015, 2.6 million Ukrainians had migrated to Russia.
Ukrainian tank fires on the Donbas.
In September 2014 the Minsk Protocol peace agreement was signed between Russia, France, Germany, Ukraine, the leaders of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), but the ceasefire didn’t last long. The Ukrainian army performed badly and was heading for defeat, but in February 2015 German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President François Hollande persuaded President Putin to sign the Minsk II agreement, which was unanimously endorsed by the UN Security Council. This would have allowed greater autonomy and guaranteed language and cultural rights for Ukraine’s minorities. But all Ukrainian governments have refused to implement it and the West did not press them to comply. Poroshenko has admitted that the Minsk deal was merely a distraction intended to buy time for Kiev to rebuild its military, and Merkel and Hollande have said the same thing.
Kristina Zhuk, aged 23, and 10-month-old Kira, killed by Ukrainian army
shelling of Gorlovka (Ukr.: Horlivka), Donetsk, 27 July 2014. (lafionda.com)
From 2014 to the start of 2022, over 10,000 civilians and 4000 military personnel were killed in the fighting; 80% of the civilian casualties were ethnic Russians. Volodymyr Zelensky, a comedian by profession, was elected president in April 2019 after promising to implement the Minsk agreement and make peace with Russia. The head of the ultranationalist Right Sector militia then declared that Zelensky (who is Jewish) would ‘hang on some tree’ if he went ahead with these plans. Zelensky’s main financial backer, the Jewish oligarch Igor Kolomoisky, also funds the Azov battalion and other extremist militias. The Pandora Papers revealed that Zelensky and members of his inner circle had stashed large payments from Kolomoisky in offshore accounts.
Since 2017, representatives of Western governments and corporations have held annual conferences promoting neoliberal policies in Ukraine: market deregulation, decentralization, privatization of state-owned enterprises, weakening of labour protections, lower taxes on the rich, and Euro-Atlantic integration. A 2018 poll found that only 12.4% of the population supported privatization of state-owned enterprises, whereas 49.9% opposed it.
A moratorium on the sale of land to foreigners was imposed in 2001 but was repealed by the Zelensky government in 2020 in return for a $5 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Between 3.4 and 6 million hectares of Ukrainian farmland are now in the hands of foreign agribusiness corporations and Ukrainian companies with foreign shareholders. However, the most fertile agricultural land is situated in the Novorossiya region – much of which became part of the Russian Federation in September 2022.
By early 2022, Zelensky’s support had fallen to 23%. As his ratings fell, there were increasing moves to ban opposition parties, prosecute political opponents and confiscate their property. The alliance between Ukrainian neoliberals and radical nationalists is based on their shared hatred of Russia.
After the Euromaidan coup, NATO began training and arming the Ukrainian armed forces and far-right paramilitaries, and thousands of kilometres of heavily fortified defences were built in the areas of the Donbas still held by the Ukrainians. The Ukrainian army became one of the largest and best-trained armies in Europe.
On 16 February 2022 there was a dramatic increase in Ukrainian shelling of the Donbas. About 150,000 Ukrainian troops were massed in the southeast, and the plan was to overrun the Donbas and then invade Crimea. On 21 February Russia finally recognized the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, and signed friendship and mutual assistance treaties with them. On 23 February the two republics asked Russia for military assistance, and it responded the next day by launching the special military operation, as permitted under article 51 of the United Nations Charter.
Jacques Baud, a former Swiss colonel and intelligence officer, states that ‘the Ukrainians were pushed to prepare an offensive in the Donbass in order to make Russia react, and thus obtain an easy defeat through devastating sanctions. This is cynical and shows how much the West – led by the Americans – has misused Ukraine for its own objectives.’
2. Soviet breakup and NATO expansion
The Ukraine (‘Ukraine’ means ‘borderland’) was part of Russia for nearly four centuries. An independent state – the Ukrainian People’s Republic – was first established in June 1917. Although it claimed a large part of modern Ukraine, it controlled only a small part of the claimed territories.
Following the Russian Revolution in November 1917 and the Bolsheviks’ victory in the subsequent civil war and their defeat of the invading foreign armies, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was founded in December 1922, replacing the Russian empire. The Russian and Ukrainian socialist republics were two of the 15 republics composing the USSR. The USSR was dissolved in December 1991.
The Donbas and the Black Sea region of the Ukraine were included in the Ukrainian socialist republic of the USSR, despite the high percentage of ethnic Russians living there. During and after the Second World War, Stalin added some of the territory of Poland, Romania and Hungary to the Ukraine, and Poland was given some of Germany’s territory in return. Crimea became part of the Russian empire in 1783, and in 1921 it became an autonomous republic within the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. In 1954 Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev transferred Crimea to the Ukrainian republic in a gesture of symbolic solidarity.
In January 1991, the people of Crimea voted in a referendum to restore Crimea’s status as an autonomous republic within the USSR. In 1992, after the USSR was dissolved, the Crimean parliament proclaimed the Republic of Crimea, and later declared its independence from Ukraine and created the office of president. In March 1995 the Kiev government sent its special forces into Crimea to annexe it and overthrow its president. Crimea then became an autonomous republic again, under Ukrainian authority. A friendship treaty was signed between Ukraine and Russia in May 1997, which laid down linguistic, religious and cultural guarantees for the Russian-speaking population. When the Maidan government installed by the 2014 coup violated these provisions, the Crimeans voted in a referendum to secede and rejoin Russia.
Territories incorporated into the Ukraine. Yellow: the Donetsk-Krivoy Rog Soviet Republic, proclaimed in February 1918 but disbanded a month later. Red: Crimea, transferred to the Ukraine in 1954. Blue: Galicia-Volhynia, seized from Poland in 1939. Green: Transcarpathia, a Hungarian-speaking region taken from Czechoslovakia in 1939 and 1944. Orange: territory taken from Romania in 1940. (t.me/grigoriev_maxim)
The collapse of the Soviet Union and the communist-run regimes in Eastern Europe in the early 1990s was the result of economic and political stagnation, social discontent and the lure of Western consumerism. It precipitated an economic and social catastrophe. Under the alcoholic, pro-Western president Boris Yeltsin, and with the assistance of Western economic advisers, Russia’s state-owned enterprises and natural resources were privatized, plundered and sold for virtually nothing to a new class of oligarchs. At the same time, mass unemployment returned, price controls were lifted, and subsidies for food, housing, education and healthcare were abolished. During Yeltsin’s rule from 1991 to 1999 (the US helped rig his reelection in 1996), Russia’s GDP fell by 40% and hyperinflation wiped out the savings of many citizens. A 2001 UNICEF study found that this harsh capitalist ‘shock therapy’ caused 3.2 million excess deaths in Russia and other ex-Soviet countries in the 1990s.
The collapse of the Soviet Union left the United States as the sole surviving superpower. Since then, the US and its allies have carried out a series of military interventions aimed at remaking the world in their own image. A major reason for Russia’s intervention in Ukraine is its security concerns arising from NATO’s continued eastward expansion. In principle, every country is entitled to adopt its own security system and enter into military alliances. However, the 1999 OSCE Charter for European Security and the 2010 OSCE Astana Declaration laid down the principle of equal and indivisible security, which means that a country should not strengthen its own security at the expense of the security of other states.
NATO claims to be a purely defensive alliance that poses no threat to Russia. Calling NATO ‘defensive’ is a bit like calling the Ukrainian police state a ‘democracy’. NATO is an aggressive, expansionist force and has been accused of a long list of war crimes.
In 1990 Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev was given assurances that NATO would not expand an inch eastward if the Warsaw Pact were dissolved and East and West Germany were reunified. The promises were made by President George H.W. Bush and Secretary of State James Baker, Chancellor Helmut Kohl and his foreign minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, her successor John Major and their foreign minister Douglas Hurd, President François Mitterrand, CIA Director Robert Gates, and NATO Secretary-General Manfred Wörner. Gorbachev was extremely naïve to withdraw Soviet forces from Eastern Europe without demanding written guarantees that NATO would not expand eastward.
The Warsaw Pact disbanded in 1991, but instead of following suit, NATO began to absorb all of the Pact’s former signatories. There have so far been five waves of NATO expansion: Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary were admitted in 1999; Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia in 2004; Albania and Croatia in 2009; Montenegro in 2017; and North Macedonia in 2020. NATO needs to manufacture a ‘Russian threat’ to justify its continued existence.
After being elected president in 2000, Vladimir Putin, a former KGB foreign intelligence officer, put an end to Western attempts to loot Russia of its oil, gas and mineral deposits and sought to restore its sovereignty. That’s why he is vilified and demonized by the West. He established a centralized state, strengthened the military, and renationalized several companies in strategic sectors of the economy; he made a deal that the oligarchs that they could keep their holdings if they stayed out of politics. By 2008, industrial production had returned to pre-Soviet-collapse levels.
Putin believed that friendly relations with the West, especially Europe, were in Russia’s best economic interests. He supported the US in its ‘war on terror’ (or ‘war of terror’ as some call it) and floated the idea of Russia joining NATO. He was surprised when Western intelligence agencies supported Islamic terrorists in the Russian republic of Chechnya in the 1990s and 2000s. NATO’s ‘humanitarian bombing’ of Serbia in March-June 1999, aimed at driving Serbia’s forces out of its Kosovo province, was a further wake-up call. The US also sought to destabilize ex-Soviet countries bordering Russia and turn them towards the West.
At the Munich Security Conference in 2007, Putin challenged the concept of a unipolar world, ruled by the United States, and criticized NATO’s ongoing expansion, and immediately became a pariah in the eyes of the West. The 2008 NATO summit in Bucharest declared that Ukraine and Georgia would be allowed to join NATO. The same year, Russia proposed a European Security Treaty that would not permit any state to strengthen its security at the expense of the security of others, but this was rejected. In August 2008 Russian troops intervened in neighbouring Georgia to stop its attacks on the pro-Russian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. To the West’s dismay, Georgia’s NATO-trained and -equipped army was defeated in five days – a setback for its incorporation into NATO.
The Maidan coup in Ukraine in 2014, the West’s failure to enforce compliance with the Minsk accords, and the subsequent ramping up of Russophobia further convinced the Russian leadership that the West was not a trustworthy partner. In 2015 Russia sent its troops into Syria at the request of its president, Bashir al-Assad, to assist the government’s fight against Western-backed radical Islamists, and successfully stabilized the situation, but the US continues to occupy northeastern Syria and has so far stolen over 18 billion dollars’ worth of its oil and agricultural commodities. Russia also developed close ties with Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Bolivia and Iran, and helped them survive the trade sanctions imposed by the United States.
Since the end of the Cold War, the United States has abandoned nearly all the arms control agreements achieved with the Soviet Union. It withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty in 2002, the Treaty on Open Skies (allowing confidence-building surveillance flights) in 2018, and the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty in 2019. President Trump justified withdrawal from the INF Treaty by claiming violations by Russia, but no proof was ever provided. As Jacques Baud explains, ‘the US was simply trying to get out of the agreement in order to install their AEGIS missile systems in Poland and Romania’; these systems can be used to launch either defensive anti-ballistic missiles or offensive nuclear missiles.
In December 2021, Russia presented Washington and Brussels with a draft treaty between the Russian Federation and the US on security guarantees, and a draft agreement on measures to ensure the security of the Russian Federation and NATO member states (including no further expansion of NATO). But the US and NATO responded dismissively. As President Putin said on 21 February 2022, NATO’s military infrastructure has reached Russia’s borders, triggering a European security crisis. He added that there is ‘good reason to believe that Ukraine’s accession to NATO and the subsequent deployment of NATO facilities has already been decided and is only a matter of time’.
... American strategic planning documents confirm the possibility of a so-called pre-emptive strike at enemy missile systems. ... NATO documents officially declare our country to be the main threat to Euro-Atlantic security. Ukraine will serve as an advanced bridgehead for such a strike. ...
The flying time of Tomahawk cruise missiles to Moscow will be less than 35 minutes; ballistic missiles from Kharkov will take seven to eight minutes; and hypersonic assault weapons, four to five minutes. It is like a knife to the throat. (kremlin.ru)
The Russians have not forgotten that both Napoleon and Hitler invaded Russia through the Ukraine. Nor have they forgotten that 27 million Soviet citizens lost their lives in the war to defeat Nazi Germany. Today, neo-Nazi ideology is alive and well in Ukraine, where ethnic Russians have become the new Jews.
According to Zelensky, NATO’s leaders privately told him that it would not admit Ukraine, but that they were not going to state this publicly. However, Zelensky was lured into believing that it would be easier for Ukraine to enter NATO after an open conflict with Russia, as one of his advisers confirmed in 2019. On 19 February 2022 at the Munich security conference, just days before Russia launched its military operation, Zelensky indicated that Ukraine might withdraw from the 1994 Budapest Memorandum and acquire nuclear weapons.
The West’s refusal to address Russian security concerns and stop its client regime in Ukraine from persecuting and killing ethnic Russians was bound to end badly.
3. US-NATO proxy war
Commenting on Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine, Jacques Baud wrote in early April 2022:
From an operational point of view, the Russian offensive was an example of its kind: in six days, the Russians seized a territory as large as the United Kingdom, with a speed of advance greater than what the Wehrmacht had achieved in 1940.
The special military operation started with massive air and missile strikes on key military targets throughout Ukraine. Within days, the Russians incapacitated the Ukrainian command and control structure, and destroyed most of the Ukrainian air force. Russian ground forces advanced from the north, south and east. In the south, Kherson and other cities were rapidly occupied with virtually no opposition. In the north, Russian forces advanced towards the capital, Kiev (Ukr.: Kyiv), where they met stiff resistance. This manoeuvre pinned down large numbers of Ukrainian troops and prevented their deployment elsewhere. As a former US Marine officer put it, ‘the Russians conducted a brief campaign of maneuver in the north in order to set the stage for a longer, and, ultimately, more important campaign of attrition in the east’.
The bulk of the Ukrainian army was stationed in the southeast of the country in preparation for an assault on the Donbas. The Allied forces – i.e. Russian troops (including Chechen units and Wagner PMC), plus the DPR and LPR militias – proceeded to partially encircle it, and then began the slow and laborious process of using their superior firepower to grind down the heavily fortified defences that the Ukrainians had built up over the previous eight years.
For the first seven months of the conflict, the Russian and DPR/LPR forces were outnumbered by between two to one and three to one. Ukraine began the conflict with about 200,000 troops, but since then there have been many mobilizations, and hundreds of thousands of men have been forcibly conscripted. Russia announced a mobilization of 300,000 reservists in September 2022, and over 70,000 volunteers have also signed up.
The Western media largely ignored the main battleground in the Donbas, including the important fact that most of the active fighting there was initially carried out by the DPR and LPR militias, with the Russians providing air, artillery, missile and intelligence support. The Western propaganda machine magnified any minor tactical victories by the Ukrainian forces, while painting a comic picture of incompetent, ill-equipped, demoralized ‘Russians’ who were heading for certain defeat – despite the fact that even the Ukrainians’ official map showed that the Allied forces were gradually gaining territory. While portraying Russia as weak and backward, the Western narrative also claims that it poses a serious threat to the whole of Europe.
Western war propaganda.
At the end of May 2022, Russian troops and DPR militiamen finished capturing the heavily fortified city of Mariupol on the Azov Sea. Over 4000 Azov Nazis and Ukrainian servicemen were killed, and 2500 militants who had taken refuge in the Azovstal iron and steel plant surrendered. The Western media claimed that the Azov fighters had merely ‘ceased operations’ and been ‘evacuated’ – i.e. taken to the Donetsk People’s Republic as prisoners, where they would face the death penalty!
If Russia’s initial aim had been to conquer the whole of Ukraine, it could have adopted the US-NATO tactic of ‘shock and awe’, and bombed the country ‘back into the stone age’ – as the US boasted of doing to Vietnam. Instead, it launched a limited military operation, with the main aim of helping to liberate those areas of Ukraine with a Russian-speaking majority and destroying the Ukrainian military. Its soft approach was intended to spare the lives of both Ukrainian civilians and Allied troops, and leave more room for a negotiated settlement.
During talks in Istanbul at the end of March 2022, a peace settlement was almost reached between the Zelensky government and Russia: Ukraine would be declared a neutral, nuclear-free state, it would give up Crimea, the Donbas would have autonomous status, and all Russian troops would withdraw. This was torpedoed by the West: in early April, British prime minister Boris Johnson, with President Biden’s blessing, told Zelensky that if he conceded territory, no more weapons and aid would be delivered. Zelensky also faced opposition from the far-right elements of the Ukrainian security apparatus.
Believing its own delusional propaganda that Russia could easily be defeated, the US/NATO began to pour tens of billions of dollars’ worth of weapons and financial assistance into Ukraine in order to prolong the conflict and bleed Russia. By mid-November 2022, the US had allocated $91.3 billion for Ukraine – 33% more than Russia’s entire military spending for 2022. However, the advanced weaponry supplied to Ukraine is inferior to the Russians’ own weapons and falls far short of replacing the equipment that the Russians have already destroyed since the conflict began.
The US, Canada, the UK, France, Italy, Finland, Poland and Romania are providing thousands of mercenaries/volunteers/contractors (wearing Ukrainian uniforms) to fight in Ukraine. Jihadists from the US-controlled region of Syria have also been paid large sums of money to fight in Ukraine. In addition, NATO countries, especially the US and UK, are training Ukrainian soldiers, providing intelligence, and helping to plan attacks. For example, British military specialists were involved in organizing a failed aerial and maritime drone attack on Russia’s Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol on 29 October 2022.
In August 2022, Amnesty International confirmed that the Ukrainian army was using human shields:
Ukrainian forces have put civilians in harm’s way by establishing bases and operating weapons systems in populated residential areas, including in schools and hospitals ... Most residential areas where soldiers located themselves were kilometres away from front lines. ... In the cases it documented, Amnesty International is not aware that the Ukrainian military who located themselves in civilian structures in residential areas asked or assisted civilians to evacuate nearby buildings – a failure to take all feasible precautions to protect civilians.
While Russia sought to create humanitarian corridors to empty cities of civilians and leave only the Ukrainian militias, the militias tried to prevent civilians from fleeing, in the hope of extending their own life expectancy. As the position of the Ukrainian forces grew weaker, their shelling of civilians in regions under Russian control intensified. American HIMARS missile launchers, operated by Western personnel, have been used for this purpose, but this goes unreported by the corporate media.
Ukrainian ultranationalists run the Myrotvorets (‘Peacemaker’) website – a ‘kill list’ giving the names and addresses of about 187,000 ‘enemies of Ukraine’, including several hundred children. It was created in 2015 and is supported by the Ukrainian government and the security service (SBU). Many people on the list have been murdered, and are now marked as ‘liquidated’. They include some of Zelensky’s opponents, and also Russian journalist Darya Dugina, daughter of Russian philosopher Alexander Dugin; she was killed on 21 August 2022 in a car bomb attack just outside Moscow, carried out by a female SBU agent who then fled to Estonia.
The Ukrainian war strategy is largely geared toward public relations victories. Ukrainian troops are often ordered to ‘stand and fight’ and not give up any territory, no matter how many lives this costs. As Baud says, ‘in Ukraine, operations are managed by the political leadership, while in Russia, operations are managed by the General Staff’. NATO officers provide training and advice, and ‘Ukraine’s weaknesses are therefore NATO’s weaknesses: they wage a war at tactical level, while the Russians are fighting at operational level’. This is because for over 20 years, the US armed forces and its allies have waged war against vastly inferior opponents and ‘somehow have lost the ability to fight at the strategic and operative levels’.
In June 2022 a Zelensky adviser stated that the Ukrainian armed forces were losing 100 to 200 men a day. Another adviser put the figure at 200 to 500 fatalities a day and 1000 casualties (dead, wounded, captured, deserters). The Mexican president summed up what he called NATO’s ‘immoral policy’ toward Ukraine as follows: ‘We supply the weapons, you supply the corpses!’ In November the Russian defence ministry put the kill ratio at one dead Russian soldier for every seven or eight dead Ukrainian soldiers. In mid-January 2023 US war veteran Colonel Douglas Macgregor estimated the number of Ukrainian dead at 157,000 plus over 300,000 wounded, compared with around 16,000 to 20,000 dead and 50,000 wounded on the Russian side.
Former CIA officer Larry Johnson explains:
Russia’s current military leadership is not following the tactics Soviet generals employed in WW II (i.e., mass troop assaults). Russia primarily has relied on massive artillery and rocket/missile strikes before launching a ground offensive. The Russian rate of artillery fire is unlike anything we’ve seen in history. More importantly, the accuracy of the artillery is enhanced by the use of drones and satellites to adjust fires, with updated coordinates relayed in real time to the artillery units. Another factor contributing to Ukraine’s horrendous casualties is its lack of air power and effective air defense systems to counter Russian batteries.
In April 2022 it was estimated that only 30-40% of the weapons supplied by the West were reaching the battlefield. If they do reach the frontline, there is a high risk of the Russians targeting and destroying them. The Russians are also extremely successful at shooting down missiles; Western analysts admit that Russia ‘possesses some of the most advanced air and missile defense systems in the world’. Some high-tech Western weapons have been sold to the Russians on the black market. Others have reportedly ended up in the hands of jihadists in Chad. The West will come to regret flooding Ukraine with weapons without proper monitoring.
The Western powers are in the process of actively demilitarizing themselves. The United States provided Ukraine in six months with more Javelin anti-tank weapons than it can produce in a whole year. By the end of 2022 most NATO members had run out of weaponry to give Ukraine. Much of the money earmarked for Ukraine ends up in the pockets of the mafias and oligarchs, but most of it goes to Western arms manufacturers, who are receiving contracts to replenish the West’s dwindling arms stockpiles.
In June 2022 the UK’s RUSI defence think tank admitted: ‘Currently, the West may not have the industrial capacity to fight a large-scale war.’ It estimated that the number of artillery rounds fired by the Russians in two weeks was equal to the number produced by the US in an entire year, and that the number of missiles fired by the Russians in three months was four times the US annual missile production. In short: ‘The Russian onslaught consumes ammunition at rates that massively exceed US forecasts and ammunition production.’ By mid-November 2022 the United States no longer had any excess 155 mm howitzer shells to send to Ukraine and was asking South Korea to provide 100,000 artillery rounds – barely enough to last two days if the Ukrainians, like the Russians, were to fire 60,000 rounds a day.
In September 2022, with the Allied forces overextended along the 1000 km frontline, Ukrainian troops launched several counterattacks to retake territory in order to demonstrate that the military aid it was receiving was paying dividends. The first counterattack was in the Kherson region in the south. It turned into a bloodbath for the Ukrainians as they had to leave their fortified positions and cross open terrain where they were decimated by Russian artillery.
Then came a counterattack in Kharkov (Ukr.: Kharkiv) oblast. The small number of Allied forces present withdrew to more fortified positions and evacuated many civilians, allowing the Ukrainians to retake about 2% of the territory that had been under Russian control. But as Colonel Macgregor says, ‘the price for Kiev’s propaganda victory was high’: ‘an estimated 5,000 to 10,000 Ukrainian troops were killed or wounded in a flat, open area that Russian artillery, rockets, and air strikes turned into a killing field.’
Ukrainian counterattacks continued in Kherson and elsewhere for many weeks, but always with the same result: thousands of Ukrainians were killed for the sake of capturing mainly empty fields and deserted villages. As Macgregor said in late October: ‘The series of Ukrainian counterattacks over the last 60 to 90 days have cost Ukraine tens of thousands of lives, human capital in uniform that Kiev cannot replace.’
The endlessly repeated claim that the Russians are on the point of running out of weapons, ammunition and missiles is just wishful thinking. Russia has been preparing for a potential conflict since at least 2014. The West should have taken note of President Putin’s words in July 2022:
Today we hear that they [the West] want to defeat us on the battlefield, well, what can I say, let them try. We have heard many times that the West wants to fight us to the last Ukrainian – this is a tragedy for the Ukrainian people. ... But everyone should know that, by and large, we haven’t really started anything yet. (kremlin.ru)
By mid-summer 2022 the Russian leadership had concluded that a negotiated settlement with the US/NATO was impossible, and that it needed to greatly increase the number of troops deployed and intensify its campaign in order to achieve its stated objectives: protecting Russian speakers, demilitarization and denazification.
In September, referendums were held in Donetsk, Lugansk, Zaporozhye (Ukr.: Zaporizhzhia) and Kherson on whether to join the Russian Federation. These regions cover an area of around 120,000 km², have a population of about 6 million people, and produce around 85% of Ukraine’s GDP. The West reacted with howls of outrage, because democratic votes are unacceptable if they go against Western interests. By contrast, when Kosovo – without even holding a referendum – declared its independence from Serbia in February 2008, it was recognized by many Western countries.
Russia’s military intervention can be seen as a violation of Ukraine’s national sovereignty – though it could be argued that Ukraine ceased to be a sovereign nation at the time of the US-backed Euromaidan coup in 2014, after which its resources increasingly fell into the hands of foreign multinationals. UN law speaks of the sanctity of territorial integrity, but it also speaks of the sanctity of the self-determination of peoples; there is a perennial tension between these two principles.
Although Russia’s initial objective was to defend the Russian-speaking people of the Donbas, it could not abandon people in other regions who chose the Russian side, as there was already abundant evidence that ultranationalists were murdering many people suspected of ‘collaborating’ with Russia – the Bucha massacre (inevitably blamed on ‘the Russians’) being just one example. The treaties on the accession of the four new territories to the Russian Federation were signed on 30 September 2022, marking the start of a new phase in Russia’s military operation. The DPR and LPR militias were placed under the unified command of the Russian General Staff, enhancing their combat effectiveness.
On 8 October 2022, Ukrainian saboteurs used a truck bomb to try and destroy the Kerch bridge connecting Crimea with the Russian mainland. This attack – which according to Russian intelligence was planned by the British – generated widespread jubilation in the West. But the West reacted hysterically when the Russian forces started carrying out regular missile and drone strikes on critical energy infrastructure that they had previously left intact (the transmission system is being targeted, not the power plants themselves). This reduced Ukraine’s ability to move troops and weapons, as well as accelerating the exodus of Ukrainian refugees. The Western narrative is that bombing dual-purpose infrastructure is a ‘war crime’ if Russia does it, but not when the US and its allies do it (e.g. in Serbia).
On 9 November 2022 Russia announced the tactical withdrawal of its forces from Kherson city, the only city it held on the west bank of the Dnieper river, after evacuating 115,000 civilians. This was partly due to the danger of the Ukrainian/NATO forces successfully destroying the Kakhovka dam and flooding the city, and partly because it was far easier to defend positions on the east bank of the Dnieper. Having given up territory to preserve its fighting capability, Russian artillery then began pounding the Ukrainian units that moved into the city.
By December, all Ukrainian counterattacks had petered out. The main battlefield was still the Donbas, where Russian forces were continuing to make incremental advances. The city of Bakhmut (known locally as Artyomovsk), a key logistics hub, turned into another deathtrap for the Ukrainian forces. Determined to hold on to it, the army kept pouring inadequately trained soldiers into the city, losing as many as 500 to 800 dead and wounded per day.
Even pro-Ukrainian sources admitted that units are routinely suffering casualties of 70% or more. The admission that the Ukrainian forces are outgunned by a factor of 9 to 1 confirms that they must be suffering far heavier casualties than the Russians. By this time, Ukrainian teenagers as young as 13 and disabled people were being rounded up and sent to the front as cannon fodder. Videos keep surfacing (and being quickly deleted) of Ukrainian soldiers threatening to kill the decision-makers in Kiev. Ukraine’s commander-in-chief felt it necessary to call for more severe punishment of Ukrainian soldiers disobeying orders or deserting.
The four Ukrainian defence lines in the Donbas. The Russians broke the first line of defence in summer 2022. In late January 2023, the frontline lay along the second and third defence lines. The capture of Soledar by Wagner forces in mid-January severed the connection between Bakhmut and Siversk. Russia is expected to clear the Bakhmut-Siversk line by late March, and then push towards the final (and weakest) defence line around Slavyansk. (bigserge)
By the end of 2022, Ukraine had less than 200,000 combat-trained troops left, and was desperate for NATO troops to intervene directly, while Russia had assembled over half a million combat forces in southern Ukraine, western Russia, and Belarus. Russia will continue its war of attrition, with the primary aim of liberating the rest of the Donbas, and now it also has the option of launching some big offensives.
The US-NATO empire has seriously miscalculated, and exposed its weakness. As Larry Johnson says, ‘the era of the United States invading other countries at will and overthrowing governments not willing to genuflect at the altar of U.S. power is over. ... Short of nuclear war, there is nothing the United States can do to stop Russia from securing its borders.’ Some neocon/neoliberal ideologues in the US State Department would like to escalate the conflict into a full-on Third World War, but so far saner voices have prevailed. Poland is one of the few NATO member states eager to fight the Russians in Ukraine, and would also like to recapture the territory it lost in 1939.
In December 2022, after spending months in Ukraine training soldiers, former Marine Colonel Andrew Milburn of the Mozart Group mercenary firm admitted on camera that Ukraine is a ‘corrupt, fucked-up society’ run by ‘fucked-up people’, and that Ukrainian soldiers ‘kill dudes who surrendered’ and commit ‘atrocities’. He then tried to justify his support for Ukraine by claiming that ‘it’s about global norms’ (full video)! In January 2023 American mercenary Ryan O’Leary, serving in the Bakhmut area, ratted out his Ukrainian commanders for their corrupt, criminal behaviour, including selling badly needed weapons on the black market and trafficking in illegal drugs. He calls his captain a ‘piece of shit’. By speaking out on Twitter, he may have signed his death warrant.
The Russia-NATO conflict in Ukraine is only one facet of a much broader geopolitical, economic, financial and military struggle that will reshape the world in the coming decades.
4. Sanctions backfire
‘Know your enemy and know yourself, and in one-hundred battles you will never be defeated. If you are ignorant of the enemy but know yourself, the chances of winning and losing are about equal. If you are ignorant of both the enemy and yourself, there is danger in every conflict.’ (Sun Tzu)
Some Western leaders and officials have openly called for the overthrow or even assassination of Vladimir Putin, the destruction of the Russian economy, and the breakup or ‘decolonization’ of Russia. They were convinced that by arming Ukraine and triggering a war with Russia, they would be able to crush Russia militarily, and quickly ruin it economically by imposing thousands of sanctions. There were claims that Russia’s economy would contract by up to 25% in 2022, but the actual figure is likely to be around 2.5%. Instead of the ruble turning to ‘rubble’, as President Biden predicted, it has grown stronger.
Russia allowed itself to be provoked into the conflict because it believed that all other options had been exhausted, and was confident that its economy was resilient enough to survive. The sanctions imposed on it after its reunion with Crimea in 2014 compelled it to become more self-sufficient (it is now a net food exporter), and develop a new generation of weapons that give it military superiority – such as its hypersonic weapons, where the United States lags five to seven years behind.
Putin has enjoyed over 80% approval ratings in Russia since the military operation began. The Russian people have seen the footage of Ukrainian attacks on Russian-speaking civilians in the Donbas since 2014, while the West turned a blind eye and continues to do so. The West’s sanctions and hate-filled, anti-Russia rhetoric have further consolidated support for the military campaign, as have the barbaric acts of Ukrainian Nazis who have filmed themselves torturing and killing Russian POWs.
Victims of Ukrainian army shelling of Lugansk, 13 August 2014. (lafionda.com)
Strictly speaking, the sanctions are illegal, because only the UN has the right to impose them. But the West does not consider itself subject to international law; for decades it has advocated the ‘rules-based international order’. These unwritten ‘rules’ have never been voted on; the West makes them up as it goes along, and other countries are expected to do what it says – or pay the price.
The collective West – the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Japan – often refers to itself as ‘the international community’, but it represents only 14% of the global population, while Russia and China together make up about 20%, and the rest of the world 66%. The West likes to think of itself as morally superior, but many non-Western countries see it as an arrogant, hypocritical bully. Only the West is unable to recognize its own responsibility for provoking the Ukrainian conflict. By singlehandedly standing up to NATO, Russia’s prestige is on the rise in regions of the world that know from experience that Western ‘freedom and democracy’ is often a euphemism for ‘death and destruction’.
The EU’s foreign-policy chief Josep Borrell admitted in October 2022 that Europe’s prosperity was based on cheap energy from Russia (and before that, the Soviet Union) and on access to the huge Chinese market. By imposing sanctions on Russian oil, grain, fertilizer and other products, and forcing many companies to withdraw from Russia, Europe is shooting itself in the foot. Asian countries are buying increased quantities of Russian oil and gas at discount prices and selling them to the West at a nice profit, so that the West can pretend that it is freeing itself from Russian energy. Europe now pays two to four times more for its energy. The Russian trade surplus has rocketed, while the eurozone trade balance has sunk into a severe deficit.
Many Western countries face soaring inflation and the prospect of serious energy shortages and winter blackouts – partly due to their own anti-Russia sanctions and partly due to their unrealistic green policies and earlier lockdown-related supply chain disruptions. Countries are deindustrializing because many companies are being forced to close down or to relocate to countries such as the US or China where costs are lower. In 2022 Europe succeeded in lowering its energy consumption by 20% – mainly due to business closures and production cutbacks! The rising cost of living is generating political, industrial and social unrest across Europe, and the US-European alliance is beginning to crack.
Comparison of household natural gas and electricity prices (June 2022), and gasoline prices (December 2022)
Natural gas price
(US$ per kWh)
(US$ per kWh)
(US$ per litre)
According to UK data, 9.7 million adults and over 4 million children in the United Kingdom experienced food poverty in September 2022, meaning they could not afford three meals a day. This represents 18.4% of UK households, whereas the figure was 8.8% in January 2022. 6% of the UK population had days when they could not afford anything to eat at all.
United Kingdom – ruled by idiots.
That the West’s response has backfired so spectacularly is testimony to its leaders’ extraordinary arrogance, ignorance and incompetence. In September 2022, Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, claimed that ‘Russia’s economy is now on its way to oblivion’ and ‘The Russian military is taking chips from dishwashers and refrigerators to repair their military equipment because they are running out of semiconductors’. Admittedly, she was trained as a gynaecologist.
Headlines in The Economist in March 2022 (left) and October 2022 (right).
The financial sanctions are also boomeranging as they are undermining trust in the dollar and euro. Western countries have frozen about $300 billion of the Russian central bank’s foreign-exchange reserves, and $19 billion in assets owned by private individuals. The EU is now looking for ways of ‘legally’ seizing these funds. In addition, some Russian commercial banks were excluded from the SWIFT interbank messaging system. Russia is rapidly dedollarizing and switching to the Chinese yuan, and importers now have to pay for its gas and oil in rubles.
Other countries are also eager to reduce their dependence on the Western financial system in view of its history of lawlessness, including the confiscation in 2018 of $1.95 billion worth of gold held by Venezuela at the Bank of England, and the confiscation in 2021 of assets worth over $7 billion held by Afghanistan at the New York Federal Reserve. The US dollar has been the world’s primary reserve currency since the Second World War, accounting for around 60% of central bank reserves and 80% of global trade, but its dominance is eroding. A major pillar of dollar hegemony is the petrodollar system, introduced in the 1970s, under which Saudi Arabia and other OPEC members sell oil only for dollars. In January 2023 Saudi Arabia announced that it is now open to trading in other currencies, such as the yuan. Dedollarization will weaken the United States’ ability to keep running huge deficits.
The Western narrative is that Russia is economically weak. US warmonger John McCain once called Russia ‘a gas station masquerading as a country’. In terms of nominal gross domestic product (GDP), the Russian economy is about the same size as Italy’s and half the size of Germany’s. However, economists recognize that nominal GDP needs to be adjusted for purchasing power parity (PPP), which means taking account of differences in price levels between countries. In terms of nominal GDP, the United States has the largest economy in the world, China the second largest, and Russia the ninth largest. In terms of PPP-adjusted GDP, China has the largest economy in the world, the US the second largest, and Russia the sixth largest, only slightly smaller than Germany’s.
Above: Largest economies by nominal GDP. (wikipedia.org)
Below: Largest economies by PPP-adjusted GDP. (wikipedia.org)
GDP is defined as ‘the total value of goods and services produced within a country in a year’, though it also includes the profit markup on retail goods sold in that country but produced elsewhere. It is a misleading indicator as it takes no account of the size of the parasitic service sector in relation to the far more important commodities and industrial sector.
Russia is the largest country in the world, and also the richest country in terms of natural resources. It is a linchpin of the global production chain; it is the largest exporter of gas and wheat, the second-largest exporter of oil, the third-largest exporter of coal, and a major exporter of key metals (nickel, aluminium, titanium and palladium). Adjusting for the overvaluation of the service sector, the Russian economy is far larger than Germany’s and represents 5 or 6% of the global economy, while the Chinese economy represents 25-30% (Bertrand).
In military-PPP terms, US military spending in 2019 was $734.3 billion, and the next three countries were: China ($390.0 billion), India ($243.3 billion) and Russia ($207.2 billion). However, spending does not correlate directly with military power and effectiveness. The US military-industrial complex (MIC) is geared to maximizing profits, not to producing the most effective and reliable equipment at the lowest possible cost. As other commentators have noted, the Russian (state-owned) MIC exists to serve the Russian government, while the US government exists to serve the American MIC.
The United States, United Kingdom and EU do not always share the same interests. For example, the US has opposed the Nord Stream gas pipelines linking Russia and Germany since the project began in 2005. It wants Europe to stop buying low-priced Russian pipeline gas and to buy its own high-priced liquified natural gas (LNG) instead. Under US pressure, Germany never turned on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which was completed in 2021. Despite the sanctions, Russia continued to fulfil its contractual obligations to deliver gas via Nord Stream 1 in 2022, but supplies declined sharply after sanctions interfered with turbine repairs.
On 26 September 2022 both the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines were sabotaged by underwater explosions in the Baltic Sea. As the Russian foreign ministry said, ‘The incident took place in an area controlled by American intelligence.’ In February 2022, Biden promised that if Russia invaded Ukraine, the US would ‘bring an end’ to Nord Stream 2. US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken described the attacks on the pipelines as ‘a tremendous opportunity to once and for all remove the dependence on Russian energy’. In response to popular pressure, Berlin had been holding secret talks with Moscow to solve the problems with both the Nord Stream pipelines, and the sabotage was clearly designed to prevent the German government from doing a deal with Russia.
The lack of outrage from any of Europe’s leaders at this state terrorist attack on its energy infrastructure shows how cowardly and servile they are. Germany and Sweden investigated the sabotage but refused to disclose their findings, for reasons of ‘national security’. According to the Russian foreign ministry, the British played an active role. One minute after the explosions, UK prime minister Liz Truss reportedly used her iPhone to send the following text message to Blinken: ‘It’s done.’
Poland, too, is strongly opposed to Nord Stream 2, as it would provide an alternative to supplying gas through overland pipeline networks in Poland and Ukraine, which bring in valuable transit fees. The day after the attack on the pipelines, Poland inaugurated a new pipeline for transporting gas from Norway through Denmark and the Baltic Sea.
The damage to Nord Stream could be repaired. One of the Nord Stream 2 lines was apparently undamaged, but Germany has not turned on the tap. To completely replace Russian pipeline gas, Germany would need to spend over $5 billion to build at least 11 LNG terminals – which would take five to 10 years, as well as making German industry less competitive.
In October 2022 several people were arrested after a foiled attack on the TurkStream pipeline on Russian territory. Europe is still receiving natural gas from Russia via TurkStream, the Ukrainian pipeline and the Belarussian-Polish pipeline, even though Poland nationalized the local Russian gas operator without compensating Gazprom, the Russian state-owned gas company. While European imports of Russian pipeline gas declined by more than 80% during the first nine months of 2022, European imports of Russian LNG increased by 50%, even though it costs three or four times more than pipeline gas. Russian gas now makes up less than 10% of Europe’s gas supply, compared with over a third in 2021, with about half the supply being LNG.
Another crazy scheme dreamed up by EU leaders is to cap the price of Russian oil and oil products. A cap of $60 per barrel of crude oil was imposed in December 2022. This is likely to lead to another spike in oil prices and possible shortages, and Russia has said that it will not do business with countries that introduce price caps. It is still awash with cash following the earlier sanction-related rise in oil prices. Most countries have no intention of joining the sanctions regime against Russian oil, and Russia’s Asian partners are creating alternative shipping and insurance schemes.
The sanctions imposed by Europe are far stricter than those imposed by the United States. By November 2022 European leaders were beginning to realize what should have been obvious from the start: that the US was shafting Europe. Or as Vladimir Putin put it, the EU is allowing its American ‘overlord’ to treat it like a doormat. One senior EU official stated that ‘the country that is most profiting from this war is the U.S. because they are selling more gas and at higher prices, and because they are selling more weapons’. He warned that the price being charged for American LNG, which is nearly four times higher than in the US, together with the green subsidies and taxes announced under Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, which threaten to destroy European industries, risk turning public opinion against both the war effort and the transatlantic alliance. Brussels may introduce subsidies to save European industries – resulting in a transatlantic trade war.
The West’s pecking order.
In October 2022 the EU’s chief ‘diplomat’ Borrell exposed his neocolonial mentality when he declared that Europe had built a beautiful ‘garden’ of freedom and prosperity, while ‘[m]ost of the rest of the world is a jungle’. Europe, he said, must become ‘much more engaged’, otherwise ‘the rest of the world will invade us, by different ways and means’. As the Russian foreign ministry pointed out: ‘Europe built that “garden” through the barbaric plundering of the “jungle”.’ It will be interesting to see what remains of the European ‘garden’ once the EU’s disastrous policies have taken their toll.
5. US hegemony versus multipolarity
The United States is the world’s leading violator of international law. Since the end of the Second World War, US-led wars, military coups and intelligence operations have led to the deaths of over 20 million people in some 40 countries across the globe (globalresearch.ca). Many surveys have found that, worldwide, the United States is viewed as the biggest threat to world peace.
Countries bombed and/or invaded by the United States and its allies from the end of the Second
World War to 2020. None of these countries has ever attacked, invaded or occupied the US. (me.me)
In the Korean War (1950-53) the US dropped 635,000 tons of bombs and 32,000 tons of napalm, and at least 2.5 million people lost their lives. The war ended with an armistice between North Korea, backed by the USSR and China, and South Korea, backed by the US.
In the Vietnam War (1955-75), around 2 million Vietnamese soldiers and civilians were killed, along with up to 310,000 Cambodians, 62,000 Laotians, and over 58,000 US service members. The US dropped over 7 million tons of bombs on Indochina during the war, compared with the 2.1 million tons of bombs it dropped on Europe and Asia during the Second World War. The US also dropped 400,000 tons of napalm and 19 million gallons of herbicides (e.g. Agent Orange) on Vietnam.
Napalm victim. (ratical.org)
Birth defects caused by Agent Orange. (vietnamnet.vn)
According to the United States’ Wolfowitz Doctrine, which was leaked in 1992, the US mission in the post-Cold War era is to destroy any potential competitor to US hegemony, especially advanced industrial nations like Germany and Japan, and to prevent ‘the emergence of a purely European security system that would undermine NATO’. Michael Ledeen, a neoconservative at the American Enterprise Institute, also made a blunt admission: ‘Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business.’ US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld once asked: ‘Are we creating more terrorists than we’re killing?’
As military analyst Andrei Martyanov states, ‘the US has been at war non-stop since 1990, leading to the obliteration of seven Muslim countries, and causing widespread suffering, death, destruction, and acute refugee crises – all of it on false grounds’.
From the debacle in Iraq, to the lost war in Afghanistan, to inspiring a slaughterhouse in Syria, to unleashing, with the help of its NATO Allies, a conflict in Libya, to finally fomenting a coup and a war in Ukraine – all of that is a disastrous record of geopolitical, diplomatic, military and intelligence incompetence and speaks to the failure of American political, military, intelligence and academic institutions.
The US and its NATO allies invaded Afghanistan in 2001, claiming that its Taliban government was giving refuge to Osama bin Laden, a former ally whom the US held responsible for the terror attacks in New York on 11 September 2001. In August 2021, after 20 years of fighting, US-NATO troops were forced to flee in utter humiliation, leaving behind billions of dollars’ worth of military hardware. The Western-equipped Afghan army of 300,000 soldiers and the massive police force simply melted into thin air, lacking any real base in Afghan society. The 75,000 Taliban fighters, on the other hand, had been defending their villages, clans, society and country. The Biden administration then froze the Bank of Afghanistan’s dollar reserves, throwing the Afghan economy into crisis. The total death toll in the Afghanistan/Pakistan warzone was about 243,000 people, including over 70,000 civilians.
On 20 March 2003, 248,000 US troops, 45,000 British troops, and soldiers from around 40 other countries launched an invasion of Iraq, which led to the death of up to 1 million Iraqis. At least 4 million Iraqis were made refugees, and 5 million children were left orphaned. Saddam Hussein was at one time a US ally, but upset the Americans by seeking to sell Iraqi oil with euro-denominated contracts, thereby threating US dollar primacy. To justify the invasion, his regime was falsely accused of having weapons of mass destruction and supporting al-Qaeda. The collapse of his secular regime led to civil war between Shias and Sunnis and to a lengthy insurgency against the invading forces, most of which pulled out in 2011. The US-led massacre in the city of Fallujah in 2004 used white phosphorous and depleted uranium weaponry, leading to elevated rates of genetic mutation and cancer. The cost of the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is put at $4.4 trillion.
Beginning in March 2011, the US, Britain and France spearheaded a NATO bombing campaign against Libya. The aim was to overthrow its leader, Muammar Gaddafi, who had ejected foreign military bases and was planning to create a gold-based African currency area. At least 50,000 Libyans were killed, 55% of the population fled the country, and the attack reduced what had been one of the most prosperous countries in Africa, with a developed welfare state, to a society torn by tribal conflicts in which slaves are sold at auctions.
The United States currently has over 200,000 troops stationed abroad, 750 military bases in 80 countries and territories across the world, and ongoing ‘counterterrorism’ operations in 85 countries. Its Guantanamo naval base in Cuba is used as a prison camp for people from predominately Muslim countries and is maintained against the will of the Cuban government. Russia has military bases in Syria and seven former Soviet republics. China has military bases in four countries.
Any country that opposes Western diktats or adopts policies disapproved of by the West risks being labelled ‘authoritarian’, an ‘autocracy’, or a ‘rogue state’. This is rather ironic given the West’s rapid descent into authoritarianism. We see an ever-expanding national security state and mass surveillance, and ongoing erosion of freedom of the press and freedom of speech. Unwelcome information is labelled ‘disinformation’ and censored where possible, especially on social media. The persecution and incarceration of Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, is designed to deter people from exposing the West’s crimes. British journalist Graham Philips has had all his assets seized because the UK government disapproves of his honest reporting from the Donbas.
Anyone who challenges the woke agenda and denies that men can become pregnant or that, in addition to males and females, there are at least 72 other genders (e.g. ‘axigender’, ‘burstgender’ and ‘fluidflux’), risks being cancelled for ‘hate speech’. American parents who express outrage at their daughters being asked to shower with males claiming to be females have been labelled ‘terrorists’. Many people have the impression that the West is in the grip of mass psychosis.
The concept of the ‘right to protect’ (R2P) is sometimes invoked to justify ‘humanitarian intervention’ in foreign countries. But while concern about human rights abuses is often cited as an excuse, the real motive tends to be economic and geopolitical interests, especially the desire to gain access to a country’s raw materials and markets. Moreover, human rights abuses are tolerated if the country concerned is an ally. As Chris Hedges points out:
There is not a single case since 1941 when the coups, political assassinations, election fraud, black propaganda, blackmail, kidnapping, brutal counter-insurgency campaigns, US sanctioned massacres, torture in global black sites, proxy wars, or military interventions carried out by the United States resulted in the establishment of a democratic government.
In the 1990s the United States sought to engage with Russia and China through trade; this brought in extra profits but also contributed to these two countries’ economic expansion. As soon as they started to emerge as rival world powers, the US switched to a policy of containment. In March 2021, shortly after taking office, President Biden said: ‘The rest of the world is closing in and closing in fast. We can’t allow this to continue.’ This is the warped mentality of American exceptionalism. The US does everything in its power to destabilize, weaken or destroy governments it dislikes, including funding opposition groups and ‘non-governmental’ organizations, imposing financial and economic sanctions, sponsoring armed resistance groups, and outright invasion.
The United States’ arrogant, imperial mentality is illustrated by a study published by the RAND Corporation think tank in 2019, entitled Overextending and Unbalancing Russia (full report), setting out ways in which the US could weaken Russia’s economy, armed forces and political standing at home and abroad, with a view to maintaining its own global supremacy. Measures include: destabilizing Russia by encouraging domestic protests (i.e. meddling in its internal affairs), imposing deeper trade and financial sanctions, providing lethal aid to Ukraine (which would ‘exploit Russia’s greatest point of external vulnerability’), reducing Europe’s gas imports from Russia, promoting regime change in Belarus (there was a failed attempt in 2021), flipping Transnistria (a Russian-speaking enclave in Moldova, bordering Ukraine) and expelling the Russian troops there, reducing Russian influence in Central Asia, increasing support to the Syrian rebels (including Islamic jihadists), and intensifying NATO’s relationship with Sweden and Finland.
China has 4.3 times more inhabitants than the United States and, in PPP terms, its economy is already 20% larger than the US economy. The trade war launched against China by the Trump and Biden administrations has failed. China’s goods trade was 11% larger than that of the US in 2018, but 35% larger in 2021. China’s exports were 53% larger than those of the US in 2018, but 92% larger in 2021. In 2019 China accounted for 28.7% of world manufacturing production compared with 16.8% for the US.
The West has used Ukraine as a battering ram against Russia, and the United States in particular is using Taiwan as a battering ram against China. No country in the world, including the US, recognizes Taiwan as an independent nation. Taiwan and the Chinese mainland are one country. The government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in Beijing sees itself as the ruler of the whole of China. The government of the ‘Republic of China’ (ROC), as Taiwan calls itself, in Taipei also sees itself as the ruler of the whole of China. This situation arose in 1949, at the end of the Chinese civil war, when the PRC was established and the ROC government was forced to retreat to Taiwan. The ROC’s UN seat was replaced with a seat for the PRC in 1971.
The PRC’s long-term goal is to unify Taiwan with the mainland, peacefully if possible, while allowing it to retain its own economic system – as it did with Hong Kong. This would make economic sense, given that China is Taiwan’s main trade partner. The United States, however, has different plans. Its aim, as always, is to stoke tensions and conflict in the hope of weakening China. The US maintains a military presence on Taiwan, supplies weapons, and trains Taiwanese ground troops and navy personnel. We can imagine what would happen if China were to supply weapons to Hawaii, which the US illegally annexed in the 19th century. The US is also intensifying its military activity in the South China Sea, and regularly sends US warships through the Taiwan Strait.
At a meeting with Russian parliament leaders in July 2022, President Putin stated:
They [the collective West] should have realised that they would lose from the very beginning of our special military operation, because this operation also means the beginning of a radical breakdown of the US-style world order. This is the beginning of the transition from liberal-globalist American egocentrism to a truly multipolar world based not on self-serving rules made up by someone for their own needs, behind which there is nothing but striving for hegemony, not on hypocritical double standards, but on international law and the genuine sovereignty of nations and civilisations, on their will to live their historical destiny, with their own values and traditions, and to align cooperation on the basis of democracy, justice and equality.
He added that non-Western countries ‘want substantive, real sovereignty and are simply tired of kneeling, of humiliating themselves before those who consider themselves exceptional, and of serving their interests even to their own detriment’.
New cooperation structures are taking shape that are not dominated by Western nations. For example, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) – a global infrastructure project – was launched in 2013 as the centrepiece of China’s foreign policy. Around 150 countries have so far signed up, and China is now the main provider of infrastructure in the global South.
Western officials often accuse China of ‘debt-trap diplomacy’. But Western governments and financial institutions are responsible for the vast majority of debt that developing countries are saddled with, and the terms of China’s trade and investment deals are much more favourable than those of the West. Sri Lanka, for example, owes 81% of its external debt to US and European financial institutions and to Japan and India, while China owns just 10% of it. But the West blamed China for the economic crisis and recent social unrest in Sri Lanka.
In August 2022 China announced that it was forgiving 23 interest-free loans for 17 African countries, after cancelling $3.4 billion of debt and restructuring $15 billion from 2000 to 2019. Chinese banks have never actually seized an asset from any country. African countries are showing less interest in collaborating with former colonial powers. For example, the Central African Republic and Mali have asked France to leave their countries and turned to Russia. As Jacques Baud says: ‘The West’s loss of influence stems from the fact that it continues to treat the “rest of the world” like “little children” and neglects the usefulness of good diplomacy.’
BRICS, founded in 2009, is developing into a serious rival of the G7. The G7 comprises the United States, Canada, the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Japan, and represents about 10% of the world’s population and 27% of global GDP (PPP). BRICS comprises Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, and accounts for nearly 42% of the world’s population and 32% of global GDP (PPP). BRICS members conduct their bilateral trade in local currencies, bypassing the US dollar. BRICS is expanding into BRICS+, as Iran, Argentina, Algeria and Indonesia have applied for membership, and many other countries have expressed interest, including Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan. BRICS operates the New Development Bank, which provides loans mainly for infrastructure projects. It also plans to create a single reserve currency.
The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) is a Eurasian political, economic and security organization founded in 2001. It now has 10 member countries (including China, India and Russia), two observer states and 14 dialogue partners. It is the world’s largest regional organization, covering approximately 60% of the area of Eurasia, comprising 40% of the world population, and accounting for over 30% of global GDP. Various infrastructure projects are being developed.
After the Maidan coup in Ukraine, President Putin launched the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) in 2015. Its members are former Soviet states. It has proposed a common payment system to BRICS, including a single payment card, which will compete with Visa and Mastercard. The EAEU-BRICS union will then move towards a further geoeconomic merger with the SCO. The alliance between Russia and China is central to these efforts.
Economist Michael Hudson writes:
U.S. President Biden and his State Department spokesmen have explained that Ukraine is just the opening arena in a much broader dynamic that is splitting the world into two opposing sets of economic alliances. This global fracture promises to be a ten- or twenty-year struggle to determine whether the world economy will be a unipolar U.S.-centered dollarized economy, or a multipolar, multi-currency world centered on the Eurasian heartland with mixed public/private economies.
Hudson draws parallels between the United States’ New Cold War against Russia and China and the Great Schism of 1054, which ‘created the fateful religious dividing line that has split “the West” from the East for the past millennium’. In that year, Pope Leo IX, seated in Rome, excommunicated the Eastern Orthodox Church centred in Constantinople and its entire Christian population, because he wanted to exercise unipolar control over Christendom.
Various papal dictates were announced, aimed at cementing Rome’s power. For instance, all princes were required to ‘kiss the feet of the Pope alone’ in order to be deemed legitimate rulers, just as modern US ‘diplomacy’ sponsors ‘colour revolutions’ aimed at putting US-approved leaders in power. Regions strong enough to resist papal demands for financial tribute faced intense hostility, just like countries that resist neoliberal ideology or IMF austerity programmes today. The Crusades (1095-1291) were intended to incite Western antagonism against the Muslim East, along with Jews and European Christians who opposed Rome’s control. Similarly, today’s New Cold War crusade seeks to arouse fear and hatred of countries resisting or threatening Western dominance.
6. Rise and fall of civilizations
Based on a study of 11 nations/empires spanning 3000 years of recorded history, from Assyria and Persia to the British empire, John Glubb (1976) observed that these empires tended to last for around 250 years, or 10 generations, and passed through the same six (partially overlapping) stages of evolution, despite the diversity of their political systems.
- The age of pioneers: An often insignificant nation suddenly bursts onto the world stage.
- The age of conquests: It undergoes rapid military expansion.
- The age of commerce: The acquisition of vast territories gives rise to commercial prosperity.
- The age of affluence: This period marks a nation’s high noon. Art, music, literature and architecture flourish. Glubb: ‘Enough of the ancient virtues of courage, energy and patriotism survive to enable the state successfully to defend its frontiers. But, beneath the surface, greed for money is gradually replacing duty and public service.’
- The age of intellect: As decline sets in, political rivalries intensify, but there is also an expansion of intellectual activity and the pursuit of scientific knowledge, accompanied by a proliferation of colleges and universities.
- The age of decadence: Decadence is the result of too long a period of wealth and power, selfishness, love of money, and the loss of a sense of duty. This period is characterized by defensiveness, pessimism, cynicism and materialism, together with an increase in frivolous and sensual pleasures. There is often a significant influx of immigrants (especially for menial or military tasks), women acquire more influence in public life, a welfare state develops, and religion weakens. Empires eventually collapse due to a variety of external causes combined with internal decay.
Glubb describes how Baghdad historians in the early 10th century viewed the decline of the Arab empire:
They deeply deplored the degeneracy of the times in which they lived, emphasising particularly the indifference to religion, the increasing materialism and the laxity of sexual morals. They lamented also the corruption of the officials of the government and the fact that politicians always seemed to amass large fortunes while they were in office. The historians commented bitterly on the extraordinary influence acquired by popular singers over young people, resulting in a decline in sexual morality.
Religion alone can persuade men to abandon their immediate, short-term selfishness and to dedicate themselves to the common good in complete self-oblivion. By religion, I mean the conviction that this life is not the end; that there is a spiritual world which, though invisible, penetrates all creation, and which can strike a sympathetic note in every human heart.
There is a widespread perception that the United States is diminishing in power economically, financially, militarily, geopolitically, culturally, morally and spiritually. Incomes, wealth and life expectancy have stagnated for much of the population, contributing to an angry national mood and exacerbating political divisions and ethnic/racial tensions. The country is plagued by poverty, homelessness, depression, morbid obesity, gambling, alcoholism, opioid addictions, suicides, and mass shootings. A poll in 2021 found that 79% of respondents believe the US is ‘falling apart’.
Michael Anton remarks that the United States ‘is no longer a republic, much less a democracy, but rather a kind of hybrid corporate-administrative oligarchy’.
Cycle theory predicts that every more or less good regime – whether monarchy, aristocracy, or democracy – falls when it inevitably becomes overbearing and odious. Thus do monarchies degenerate into tyrannies, which are replaced by aristocracies that decay into oligarchies, which are overthrown by democracies that descend into mob-rule or even anarchy.
He also notes that around a hundred million immigrants, from many different countries, have arrived in the United States since 1965, accounting for at least two-thirds of its population growth. This is unprecedented in human history, as is the fact that these migrants ‘are exhorted to embrace their native cultures and taught that the country to which they’ve chosen to immigrate is the worst in world history’.
The most common (one may say only) way that multi-ethnic societies have been successfully governed is centrally, from the top, by some form of one-man rule, whether monarchical, Caesarist, or tyrannical. This, ultimately, is how Rome ‘solved’ the problem of admitting so many foreigners to citizenship, to say nothing of its far-flung conquest of peoples whom it never made citizens. In more recent times, one may think of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Tito’s Yugoslavia.
He also observes that the ruling elites ‘seem determined to make the American population fat, weak, ugly, lethargic, drug-addled, screen-addicted, and hyper-sexualized, the men effeminate and the women masculine’. He expects the US to undergo either imminent collapse or drawn-out decline.
Chris Hedges points out that fading empires often indulge in ill-considered military adventures in a desperate attempt to recover lost power and prestige. He sees this as the reason for the United States’ decades-long military fiascos and the increase in tensions with Russia and China – and it makes little difference whether Republican imperialists or Democrat ‘liberal interventionists’ are in power. He draws parallels with the Roman empire, which created a military machine that – like the Pentagon – was a state within a state: ‘Rome’s military rulers, led by Augustus, snuffed out the remnants of Rome’s anemic democracy and ushered in a period of despotism that saw the empire disintegrate under the weight of extravagant military expenditures and corruption.’
He believes that the loss of the dollar as the global reserve currency will usher in a severe economic depression and will ‘probably mark the final chapter of the American empire’. He foresees a bleak future:
The mechanisms, already in place, for total social control, militarized police, a suspension of civil liberties, wholesale government surveillance, enhanced ‘terrorism’ laws that railroad people into the world’s largest prison system and censorship overseen by the digital media monopolies will seamlessly cement into place a police state.
In a speech in October 2022, Vladimir Putin presented his view that there are at least two different Wests. One of them is ‘the West of traditional, primarily Christian values, freedom, patriotism, great culture and now Islamic values as well’ – with which Russia shares ‘common, even ancient roots’. The other West is ‘aggressive, cosmopolitan, and neocolonial’ and acts as a ‘tool of neoliberal elites’. He calls it the ‘empire of lies’. He adds that Russia will never submit to the dictates of the neocolonial West, whose period of domination in world affairs is now coming to an end, as Asia, Africa and Latin America pursue their own development.
The change of eras is a painful albeit natural and inevitable process. A future world arrangement is taking shape before our eyes. In this world arrangement, we must listen to everyone, consider every opinion, every nation, society, culture and every system of world outlooks, ideas and religious concepts, without imposing a single truth on anyone. Only on this foundation, understanding our responsibility for the destinies of nations and our planet, shall we create a symphony of human civilisation. (kremlin.ru)
7. Finance capitalism in crisis
Since the Second World War, and particularly since the late 1970s, the economic system of the Western industrialized nations has evolved into what has been called ‘finance capitalism’ – a form of capitalism in which the Finance, Insurance and Real Estate (FIRE) sector plays a dominant role. Unlike the manufacturing sector (the ‘real’ economy), the FIRE sector does not create new value, but vampirizes and redistributes the wealth created by the productive sector.
The rise of ‘financialization’ in the major capitalist economies has been accompanied by varying degrees of deindustrialization, as much of their manufacturing industry has moved to countries with cheaper labour where higher profits can be made. In the United States, manufacturing shrank from 40% of GDP in 1960s to under 12% in 2020. Western economies are also characterized by huge levels of debt, growing economic inequality, stagnating living standards, and rising costs of utilities, housing, education and healthcare. In the US, the national debt has soared to over $31.5 trillion, while total personal debt is over $24.3 trillion. Debt servicing therefore absorbs a massive share of personal income, corporate income and public revenue.
Michael Hudson stresses the historical importance of debt forgiveness in preventing wealthy families from becoming an independent financial oligarchy:
From Sumer in the 3rd millennium BC and Hammurabi’s Babylonia in the 2nd millennium BC down to the Neo-Assyrian, Neo-Babylonian and Persian Empires in the 1st millennium BC, rulers held the support of their local populations by proclaiming Clean Slates that annulled debts, liberated bondservants and restored self-support lands to debtors who had lost them to creditors.
This policy was also adopted by Byzantine rulers of the 9th and 10th centuries. It was not however widely followed in ancient Greece and Rome, despite many popular demands for debt cancellation. Greek oligarchs denounced as ‘tyrants’ any city-state leaders who advocated cancelling debts and redistributing land. Roman creditors expropriated smallholders and created the latifundia (agricultural estates worked by slaves), which evolved into the feudal system of aristocrats and serfs in the Middle Ages.
After the junk-mortgage crash in 2008, the US Federal Reserve spent trillions of dollars bailing out the banks that had made bad loans, while millions of indebted US families were left to lose their homes. Hudson writes:
American homeowners were not permitted to have their mortgages written down to the low distress prices that banks received in foreclosure sales. This pro-bank move by the Obama Administration was highly rewarding to Obama’s Wall Street campaign contributors. Demonstrating the hypocrisy of American identity politics, it was a class war with a strong racial and ethnic bias against the black and Hispanic mortgage debtors who had been major supporters of Obama’s electoral victory.
Following the financial crash in 2008 and the Covid lockdowns in 2020, the US Federal Reserve Bank and the European Central Bank indulged in large-scale money printing – euphemistically called ‘quantitative easing’ – while lowering interest rates to near zero. This created debt-fuelled stock-market and real-estate bubbles that benefited a tiny segment of the population, while the real economy shrank. In recent years over 90% of US corporate revenue has been paid out as dividends or used for stock buybacks (i.e. to inflate share prices), rather than being reinvested in the productive economy.
Mainstream parties on both the left and right of the political spectrum have pursued neoliberal policies that have further concentrated wealth and power in the hands of the corporate, financial and security elites. Despite sharply rising productivity since 1980, US wages have flatlined and working conditions have become more severe. Hudson comments: ‘To distract attention from this deterioration in U.S. wage and workplace conditions in the face of rising FIRE-sector expenses, identity politics based on racial, ethnic, gender and religious categories has replaced the common identity of being wage earners.’
Share of national income earned by the top 10% of earners, 1980-2016. (equitablegrowth.org)
In past centuries the European colonial powers used a combination of brute force and divide-and-rule to subjugate poorer nations, plunder their resources, and enslave their populations. When, in the postwar years, colonies gained independence, often after a long and bloody struggle, less coercive, neocolonial measures were adopted to continue their exploitation, and perpetuate their underdevelopment and dependency. Through trade and investment, high-technology countries are able to capture a portion of the value produced in lower-technology countries, where productivity, wages and prices are lower.
Hickel et al. (2022) estimate that, since 1960, the ‘advanced’ (imperialist) economies have drained $152 trillion from the global South – 30 times more than the total aid it received during this period. The drain increased dramatically during the 1980s and 1990s, when neoliberal ‘structural adjustment programmes’ were imposed across the global South. Today, the global North drains from the South commodities worth $2.2 trillion per year (in Northern prices) – 15 times more money that would be required to end extreme poverty worldwide. The high levels of material consumption in the richest countries are therefore still fuelled by imperialist profiteering.
Leading industrial nations like Britain and the United States achieved dominance by adopting protectionist measures to build their economies. Western proponents of globalization, however, now say that developing countries should refrain from introducing tariffs and subsidies as this would ‘distort markets’. Instead of striving for greater self-reliance and self-sufficiency, poorer nations are advised to specialize in plantation crops, raw-materials exports and low-wage handicrafts, and to refrain from increasing productivity and living standards by subsidizing public investment and services. As Hudson says: ‘The implication is that countries can succeed in exporting more “labor-intensive” products by lowering the price of their industrial labor, winning the race to the bottom by imposing austerity – as if poverty will make them rich.’
Loans provided to developing countries by the World Bank are mainly geared to creating infrastructure linked to exports, not to promoting domestic self-sufficiency. When loans can’t be repaid, the IMF steps in and provides further loans subject to notorious ‘conditionalities’: debtor nations are required to adopt ‘free market’ deregulation, roll back labour rights, and pursue tax policies that serve the interests of foreign investors. They are also encouraged to raise money by selling off land, natural resources and public enterprises to private corporations. The cancellation of unpayable debts is essential if financial and trade dependency are to be avoided.
Since 1981, the Chinese government has lifted 853 million people out of poverty thanks to the policies adopted by the Communist Party of China. This achievement was made possible by the fact that the state controls key sectors of the economy, including the banks, and accounts for around 40% of investment. That is also why China was able to largely escape the 2008-09 recession. Instead of the state building houses for rent, however, the Chinese government opted for the ‘free market’ solution of private developers building for sale. This resulted in a huge rise in house prices in the major cities and a massive expansion of debt. The debt-fuelled property bubble has also sharply increased inequalities of income and wealth. The Chinese leadership has recently taken steps to raise living standards by cracking down on profiteering in the housing, education and healthcare sectors.
All economies are planned to some extent. ‘The key to understanding their dynamics is to ask who is doing the planning, and in whose interest,’ says Hudson. Private financial institutions in the West have no objection to being bailed out by the state. What Western rulers do not want is for other countries to socialize their financial systems, land and natural resources, and prevent public infrastructure utilities from being turned into privately-owned monopolies that siphon off economic rents. Hudson writes:
To neoliberals a ‘free market’ means letting the rentier class become the economy’s planning agency. Governments are accused of being ‘autocracies’ if they resist this takeover. ...
There are essentially two types of society: mixed economies with public checks and balances, and oligarchies that dismantle and privatize the state, taking over its monetary and credit system, the land and basic infrastructure to enrich themselves but choking the economy, not helping it grow. The lesson of history is that privatized oligarchies polarize and become failed states. Mixed economies with governments strong enough to protect their society and people from predatory rentier exploitation are successful and resilient.
Global recessions since 1870. (worldbank.org)
Hudson is right to highlight the issues of debt bondage and rent extraction, but economic injustices and periodic crises were as much a feature of industrial capitalism as they are of financial capitalism. Mainstream economists assume that a capitalist economy tends towards equilibrium, and they attribute crises to chance, bad policy, external shocks, or technical malfunctions. By contrast, while recognizing that any particular crisis can be triggered by a variety of factors, Karl Marx located the root cause in the contradictions inherent in the capitalist mode of production.
According to his labour theory of value, for part of the working day productive workers produce goods with a value equal to their wages, and for the rest of the day they produce surplus value, which is realized as profit once the goods are sold. Private companies are compelled to invest in labour-saving machinery in order to undercut their competitors. Rising productivity means that each worker generates more profit, but also that the value of plant and machinery relative to workers’ wages tends to rise, and since only human labour creates new value, this results in a long-term tendency for the rate of profit to fall (see Human society and economic development, section 7).
Empirical data shows that over the past 150 years there has been a secular rise in the volume of capital per person employed and an overall fall in the rate of profit, and that all major capitalist crises occurred after a fall in profitability, and eventually in the mass of profits, in the productive sectors. The tendency for profitability to decline can be counteracted through a reduction in living standards and government spending, laying off workers, imposing harsher working conditions, lowering corporate taxes, the deflation or destruction of capital (due to bankruptcies or wars), an increase in financial speculation, and trade with and investment in poorer nations (‘globalization’).
Rate of profit (%) in the G20 (= G7, Australia, EU, BRICS, Argentina, Mexico,
Republic of Korea, Indonesia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia). (Michael Roberts)
Rate of profit in the imperialist countries (G7 + Australia) and in the dominated countries (the rest of the G20). Since 1974 the rate of profit in the imperialist bloc has fallen by 20%, while the higher rate of profit in the dominated bloc has fallen by 32%. (Carchedi & Roberts, 2022, ch. 4)
The development of a welfare state in the major capitalist nations in the postwar period was made possible by the relatively high rate of profit. In the late 1960s, profitability began to fall, ushering in the era of ‘neoliberalism’. Gains made by workers through trade union struggles began to be reversed. At the same time, the role of financial capital massively increased, with an ever-expanding credit bubble and increased speculation in financial assets (‘fictitious capital’). But the 2008-09 recession cannot simply be blamed on reckless financiers and speculators; it was symptomatic of the shrinking industrial base resulting from the underlying decline in profitability in the richest nations (Roberts).
The 2008 crash was followed by a weak recovery in what has been called the Long Depression, characterized by deglobalization (i.e. a reduction in world trade and capital flows) and intensified economic and geopolitical rivalries and conflicts. The Covid lockdowns and now the sanctions imposed due to the Russia-Ukraine conflict have further disrupted global supply chains and strengthened the deglobalization trend, at least for the present.
8. Humans and spiritual progress
According to German philosopher Georg W.F. Hegel (1770-1831), the ‘Absolute’ or ‘World Spirit’ evolved the universe with the instinctive aim or hope of attaining self-consciousness and self-understanding. H.P. Blavatsky points out that the ‘changeless absolute’, in the sense of infinite consciousness-substance, is not a being and can have no instincts or hopes – in contrast to the spiritual intelligences (dhyani-chohans) that constitute the universal mind in the phenomenal world (The Secret Doctrine, 1:51, 106-7, 640-1).
She quotes the following passage by Hegel:
the essence of man [is] acknowledged to be Spirit ... only by stripping himself of his finiteness and surrendering himself to pure selfconsciousness, does he attain the truth. Christ – man as man – in whom the unity of God and man has appeared, has in his death, and his history generally, himself presented the eternal history of Spirit – a history which every man has to accomplish in himself, in order to exist as Spirit ... (The Secret Doctrine, 1:52fn; Secret Doctrine References; Hegel, Lectures on the Philosophy of History, 1857, p. 340)
Blavatsky interprets ‘the unity of God and man’ to mean the ‘identity of the individual with the Universal consciousness as taught by the Vedantins and some Adwaitees’. To put it another way, our evolutionary purpose is to bring to expression our higher spiritual nature – our inner Christ, Krishna or Buddha. Blavatsky expands on this idea in setting out the following theosophical teaching:
The fundamental identity of all Souls with the Universal Over-Soul, the latter being itself an aspect of the Unknown Root; and the obligatory pilgrimage for every Soul – a spark of the former – through the Cycle of Incarnation (or ‘Necessity’) in accordance with Cyclic and Karmic law, during the whole term. In other words, no purely spiritual Buddhi (divine Soul) can have an independent (conscious) existence before the spark which issued from the pure Essence of the Universal Sixth principle, – or the over-soul, – has (a) passed through every elemental form of the phenomenal world of that Manvantara [evolutionary cycle], and (b) acquired individuality, first by natural impulse, and then by self-induced and self-devised efforts (checked by its Karma), thus ascending through all the degrees of intelligence, from the lowest to the highest Manas [mind], from mineral and plant, up to the holiest archangel (Dhyani-Buddha). The pivotal doctrine of the Esoteric philosophy admits no privileges or special gifts in man, save those won by his own Ego through personal effort and merit throughout a long series of metempsychoses and reincarnations. (The Secret Doctrine, 1:17)
The panorama of evolution that Blavatsky is depicting here spans tens of billions of years. Hegel, however, also applied his ideas on a much narrower and more mundane scale, as Russian philosopher Alexander Dugin explains:
According to Hegel, history is the process of the unfolding of the Spirit, which passes through nature, the change of religions and civilizations, until it reaches its climax – the end meets the beginning, the alpha with the omega. Through many trials and dialectical twists and turns, the Spirit that drives humanity will finally incarnate in an Absolute Monarchy, in a world empire that will become the Empire of the Spirit. Its power will be given to a supreme autocrat, an enlightened monarch-philosopher. Capitalism and civil society are only a stage in the unfolding of this process, and scientific materialism will move to an angelic, purely spiritual, science. Hegel believed that this would happen in Germany. (thepostil.com)
According to philosopher Karl Popper, Hegel’s system was a thinly veiled justification for the absolute rule of Frederick William III, the King of Prussia from 1797 to 1840, and Hegel saw the ultimate goal of history as being to attain a system of governance similar to that of Prussia in the 1830s (The Open Society and its Enemies, v. 2, ch. 12). However, Hegel also called America ‘the country of the future’.
Marx, who turned Hegel’s spiritual dialectic into his historical materialism (significantly perverting the original), agreed that liberal capitalism was only an intermediate stage, but put communism and a materialist worldview in place of the Empire of the Spirit. ...
In the Cold War, the dispute over the interpretation of the end of history – whether it would be communist or capitalist – unfolded.
According to the theory of historical materialism put forward by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, the development of human society is driven mainly by the development of technology and the means of production, and – after the emergence of private property, a ruling class and its state apparatus – by the struggle between those who own the means of production (slave-owners, feudal lords, capitalists) and those who work for them (slaves, serfs, wage-earners).
Marx and Engels argued that although the profit-driven capitalist system had revolutionized the productive forces, the only way to escape repeated economic crises is to replace it with a planned, collectively-owned system of production, so that competitive, greed-fuelled societies would eventually be transformed into cooperative, classless societies in which ‘the free development of each is a condition for the free development of all’. They believed the members of the future utopian society would not worship supernatural ‘gods’, but scientific materialism – which reduces consciousness to a byproduct of physical matter in motion.
Following the collapse of the Soviet bloc in the early 1990s, Francis Fukuyama was the next philosopher to prematurely declare ‘the end of history’ – which he interpreted to mean the victory of Western-style liberal democracy on a global scale, and the abolition of any ideological, geopolitical, economic and sociocultural alternatives. Dugin says that ‘The unipolar world order was based on a liberal version of Hegelian eschatology.’
Russia’s intervention in Ukraine signals the end of its efforts to integrate into the Western world system, and Dugin believes that this marks a new phase of world history, in which Russia will fulfil its ‘messianic destiny’. He even declares: ‘We are the Orthodox bearers of the Eurasian Empire of the End’, which he seems to think might last until the ‘Second Coming of Christ’. He sees things in very black-and-white terms: ‘Truth and God are on our side’ – i.e. on the side of Russian civilization and its traditional Orthodox Christian values. ‘We are fighting the absolute Evil embodied in Western civilization, its liberal-totalitarian hegemony, in Ukrainian Nazism.’
Russia may well be destined to play a pivotal role in the West’s decline (and possible future renewal) and in the emergence of a multipolar world based on cooperation and peaceful coexistence, but every nation and people needs to guard against delusions of superiority and grandeur. Nations are just as complex, contradictory, flawed and wayward as the individuals that form them. And patriotism is a multifaceted emotion that can easily be manipulated for nefarious ends.
All civilizations rise and fall; none will last forever. The souls in incarnation at any given moment of history determine the nature of individual countries and the relations between them, including all their problems, conflicts, antagonisms, failures, successes and achievements. The roles that we assume in our lives provide an opportunity for us to learn and develop, by facing the consequences of our own thoughts and deeds in our present and past lives, and by acting as the agents of karma for our fellow humans. We all make and work out our karma together, as part of families, communities, nations, races and civilizations. And we are born at different stages in the life cycle of civilizations, in cultural, socioeconomic and political conditions that provide the experiences and challenges we require.
Wars between population groups and countries are an extension of the conflicts between individuals, which in turn reflect the struggles within each one of us, between our solar and lunar natures. The history of humanity is partly written with love, and partly written in blood.
War is brutal and barbaric; it involves inflicting maximum death, destruction and suffering on ‘the enemy’. War is a time of intensified tests and trials, an acceleration of our collective national and international karma, a large-scale karmic culling. It draws out many different emotions and qualities: hatred, compassion, cowardice, bravery, cruelty, self-sacrifice, honour. But as Ernest Hemingway once said: ‘Never think that war, no matter how necessary, nor how justified, is not a crime.’ War may temporarily change things for the better, at least for the victors, but hatred and resentment can smoulder on and flare up again later, including in future lives.
Ultimately, only compassion, forgiveness, brotherhood and wisdom can dissolve tensions and divisions, bring peace and harmony, and create a true community of the spirit.
Human society and economic development
Where reincarnation and biology intersect
Life beyond death: evidence for survival
Evolution in the fourth round