The Fading Phantom of Western Unity, by Dmitry Orlov

It is often possible to diagnose people’s problems by taking note of what they repeatedly, compulsively bring up in conversation. These tend to be objects of their ardent desire that happen to be woefully lacking in their lives.
For example, Americans will often talk compulsively about guns, which they tend to see as a way of providing for their personal security. This is because they are woefully lacking in personal security: at any moment some armed-to-the-teeth crazed maniac (of which there are millions circulating freely in their midst) could come at them and blast them away—while they are sleeping, or picking up their children at school, or sitting on the toilet, or bending down to pick up a penny. Thus they arm themselves to the teeth and subsist in a state of paranoid rage.
Another example: American leaders compulsively mention “freedom and democracy.” These are things that they supposedly have and must spread over the rest of the planet, whether the planet wants it or not. Specifically, the rest of the planet should not be allowed to democratically vote against this American “freedom and democracy” nonsense and remain blissfully free of it. Given that the US itself is not a democracy (as can easily be proven with numbers), what US politicians mean by “democracy” is anything but.
But by now most of the planet has figured out, all on its own, what is or isn’t “democratic” in American parlance: those who follow American dictate are democratic; those who wish to follow their own advice are undemocratic. That’s all it is: democrats are obedient while the disobedient are dictators who must be overthrown. This scheme being rather transparently self-serving and idiotic, the circle of obedience is ever shrinking and at this point encompasses just the EU and NATO countries, plus the Anglo countries and a few remaining scattered colonies and dependencies. And even this circle is now visibly fraying around the edges.
And this brings us to the next ardently desired but woefully lacking phantom entity to compulsively bring up at every international meeting where US or EU representatives are to be found: Western unity, in pursuit of which all sorts of stupid, self-defeating actions are being attempted, from throwing money and weapons at the thieving Ukrainians (with no thought given to where any of it ends up) to imposing self-defeating sanctions on Russia (with no thought given to what one’s own people will heat their houses or grow their food with). Since the substance behind such futile actions is becoming rather toxic as a topic of public discourse, discussions tend to short-circuit to public shows of unity rather than any unified actions: “Hey, look, everybody, we gave the Ukrainians a few more bullets, thus postponing their inevitable defeat by a few more seconds!”
Some shows of Western unity are so pathetically self-defeating as to require special mention. The hapless Baltic statelets are run by some people whose main ambition is to produce pathetic demonstrations of Western unity in opposition to “Russian aggression” whereas their real fear is that Russia will simply ignore them. That’s what the Americans told them to do, and that’s what they’ll do, their local populations be damned.
And so, Lithuania’s leaders, in a paroxysm of suicidal insanity, blocked Russian transit through Lithuanian territory to the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad. They said that they were only following EU sanctions against Russia; however, these sanctions say nothing about transit between Russia and Russia and apply to Russian trade with the EU. Furthermore, a standing Russia-EU agreement specifically allows such transit. In a rare show of good sense, first the EU leadership, then German, told Lithuania in no uncertain terms to cut it out. This put the Lithuanian leadership in a state of stupor in which they have persisted for close to a week now.
And then there is this juicy little fact: while Russia can shift all of its Kaliningrad traffic to ferries running between it and its recently built gigantic port at Ust’-Luga (Leningrad Region), it can also literally shut down all of Lithuania (along with the neighboring Latvia and Estonia) by stopping all train traffic between Poland and Lithuania, which has to pass through Kaliningrad. You see, rail track in the Baltics is of the wider, Russian gauge and the transfer point between cars that use the 1,435mm European rail and ones that use the 1,520mm Russian gauge used throughout the former USSR happens to be in Kaliningrad. Shutting down the transfer would shave roughly half off the already languishing Baltic economies (inflation in Lithuania is over 20%).
But Lithuania’s little freakout is just a pathetic little side-show. The main show of Western unity was supposed to be centered on the G7 meeting that took place in an isolated German castle, Schloss Elmau, away from the madding crowd of protestors. At this secluded venue, representatives from the USA, Germany, Britain, Italy, Canada, France and Japan were supposed to demonstrate their unity concerning Russian activities in the former Ukraine. Since all of their previous decisions had zero effect on Russia’s position, some people expressed high hopes that decisive action would result from this gathering. It is interesting to note that at this gathering a couple chaperones from the European Union (Ursula von der Lyin’ and Charles Michel) were also on hand; thus, not only Western unity is sorely lacking, but also Western sovereignty.
The first bit of such decisive action was the American proposal to sanction the sales of Russian gold, which amounts to 10% of total world production. Germany, France and Italy did not support this brave initiative, deferring to other EU members, who were not present, and the proposal wend down like a lead balloon.
Second piece of new business was the proposal to place a ceiling on the price of Russian oil. The mechanics of the G7 placing a ceiling on something that is controlled by Russia were left up to subsequent discussion, of which nothing more has been heard, so let’s briefly discuss it.
If the ceiling were higher than market price for Russian crude, then the ceiling would operate vacuously; if lower, then Russia would simply refuse to sell at that price. In response, the world price for oil would immediately surge upward. Russia would then be in a position to offer preferred-customer discounts to its non-G7 buyers, pocket the windfall and perhaps use it to buy some more missiles with which to blast away at the remaining Ukrainian Nazis. Take that, Putin!
The topic of the Ukraine was an incidental, albeit very necessary, diversion from the initially planned main topic of the G7 meeting: combating climate change. Here, most of the discussion was centered on the return to the use of fossil fuels. In this sense, unity prevailed, but at the cost of throwing overboard any dreams of climate change mitigation.
The initial impetus behind the climate change juggernaut was to virtue-signal by putting up lots of expensive wind and solar farms in the rich West while threatening to impose all sorts of fines and fees on less wealthy nations that are forced to burn dirty, climate-warming coal in order to make products for the West to buy with printed money. But now this scheme has failed, the West is no longer rich and, having refused to avail itself of clean and plentiful Russian natural gas, it is busy opening up its mothballed coal-fired power plants and finding enough coal for them. Meanwhile, the green agenda is out the window. The all-but-forgotten Greta Tunberg was briefly in the news; poor Greta is now being suspected of being a Russian agent!
Interestingly, coal is good for providing base load but useless for rapid maneuvering, making it incompatible with the variable and intermittent energy output from wind and solar farms; therefore, these expensive toys will have to remain disconnected from the grid much of the time. Also interestingly, Russia provides roughly a fifth of world’s coal exports and will not be exactly hurt as the EU switches from Russian natural gas (which a relatively clean fuel that can be used directly for transportation and is very useful as a feedstock for making lots of products, from plastics to fertilizers) to Russian coal (which isn’t nearly as versatile). Again, take that, Putin!
The Ukraine was next on the agenda. It was swiftly conceded that the G7 can do nothing to stop Russia’s Special Military Operation in the former Ukraine. Beyond that, Western unity proved elusive as Britain’s Boris Johnson pointedly warned the French president Emmanuel Macron that now is not the time to speak of a diplomatic solution. Considering that the day before the start of the summit both USA and Germany called for a diplomatic way out of the Ukrainian conflict, this wasn’t Johnson’s most unifying move ever; but then Johnson really needs the Ukraine to remain ablaze for as long as possible in order to distract his constituents from the dire economic situation back home and nonstop scandals within Johnson’s own cabinet. Unlike Germany, Britain isn’t (yet) inundated with disagreeable Ukrainian migrants, many of whom are allergic to work and feel entitled to a government handout.
As is now traditional at Western gatherings, the assembled worthies whipped out the Ouija board and summoned the spirit of the recently deceased Ukrainian president Zelensky. As usual, Zelensky begged for more weapons (for him to sell to terrorists or for the Russians to destroy mostly before they reach the frontlines). When later Bundeskanzler Scholz was asked if he could offer any specific guarantees with regard to the Ukraine, he demonstrated his usual weird sense of humor by saying: “Yes, I could” immediately followed by “that is all.”
The only actual step taken was the acceptance of a $600 billion dollar infrastructure plan to further green energy in Africa, Latin America and Asia. This is a symbolic gesture designed to counter the Chinese Road and Belt initiative. To this end, representatives of South Africa, India, Indonesia, Argentina and Senegal were invited to the G7. It was rather transparently wished for these countries to join the good fight against Russia in the former Ukraine. How did that go?
South Africa is a BRICS member whose senior members are Russia and China. BRICS has emerged as a major non-Western counterweight to the G7. So is India, which is now a major buyer of Russian crude oil, exporting refined petroleum products to the US and elsewhere. Argentina has declared its intention to join BRICS, along with Iran. Senegal, which currently chairs the African Union, was one of the first countries to send its leader to Moscow after the start of the Special Military Operation in the former Ukraine this February. None of these countries’ representatives said an accusatory word about it at the G7 gathering, before or after.
Thus, aside from the phantom $600 billion deal to perhaps build some wind and solar farms in various far-flung parts of the world, nothing at all was achieved at the G7, pointing out the futility of this organization’s further existence.
Shifting attention now to the NATO summit, which took place on June 29 and 30 in Madrid, and which was also intended to demonstrate Western unity against Russia, it didn’t. Germany and France insisted on preserving the Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security between NATO and the Russian Federation signed in 1997. However, while that document calls Russia a partner, NATO’s current doctrinal documents refer to Russia as the alliance’s main threat. To this end, NATO plans to increase the size of its “high readiness” contingent in Eastern Europe to 300.000, bringing it up to somewhere near the size of the Ukrainian military this February, which the Russians drove back and all but destroyed in three months using a small fraction of their army.
In a show of unity with France and Germany, Poland’s representative Zbigniew Rau declared that Poland considers the Founding Act defunct, as evidenced by NATO’s expansion on the eastern front, just as Scholz declared it to be still in effect. Poland appears to be increasingly under British tutelage,. The Brits are concerned about securing a fresh supply of cannon fodder after they are done battling Russia down to the last Ukrainian, and the Poles, by a quirk of their national character, are always ready and willing to do the exact wrong thing.
The main intrigue at the NATO summit was the acceptance/nonacceptance into NATO of Sweden and Finland. Sweden has been neutral since the Treaty of Nystad of 1721; Finland, after being liberated from Sweden and later being granted independence by Russia, then fighting against Russia alongside Hitler’s troops, swore itself to neutrality at the Treaty of Paris in 1947. The act of these two countries joining NATO directly violates the terms of these treaties and constitutes a breach of these countries’ sovereignty; that is, Russia would no longer be legally bound to respect these countries’ borders or to maintain state-legal relations with their governments.
Such niceties of international law may not make any difference to the collective, highly unified West which chooses to inhabit its own solipsistic “rules-based international order” (the rules being somewhat ad hoc, made up as they go along, in Washington), but for the rest of the world the primacy of treaties over domestic law is foundational and lawful state-legal relations with Russia are essential.
As for Russia, Putin said that he is not opposed to Sweden and Finland joining NATO. Indeed, why would he be opposed? What’s wrong with these two helpless little countries, symbolically backed by a fractious and floundering behemoth that is NATO, choosing to jump into the bear’s gaping maw by flouting their treaty obligations. (Specifically, according to the Treaty of Paris, Finland’s decision to join any military alliance has to be approved by the UN Security Council, and that approval wasn’t even applied for.)
But it may not even get that far. As a condition of letting Sweden and Finland join NATO, Turkey’s president Erdoğan demanded that they stop supporting Kurdish terrorists and deport to Turkey the ones it wants to put on trial. The Kurdish faction is politically rather powerful in Sweden and it may yet topple the Swedish government in response to such attempts to destroy it. And Finland declared that it won’t join NATO unless Sweden does. At the NATO summit Erdoğan gave his grudging approval, but with lots of conditions, and the final decision now goes to the Turkish parliament. So much for NATO unity.
On the all-important subject of the former Ukraine, NATO general secretary Jens Stoltenberg made the usual mouth music about endless support for it, but nobody present mouthed a single word in favor of offering it any actual security guarantees. NATO offers nonlethal support to it, but lethal weapons can only come from individual NATO members, Stoltenberg clarified.
Biden clarified the situation further by declaring that the US will stand with the Ukraine to make sure that it… doesn’t win. (That is, that the Russians don’t win, he later changed his story.) This level of honesty, when the task is to lie-lie-lie, can only come from a demented mind. According to the CNN, a debate is raging inside the White House as to what could possibly be considered a Ukrainian victory, since declaring victory and going home, regardless of outcome, is what Americans generally try to do. Perhaps just the fact that Kiev wasn’t occupied by Russian forces yes is enough to claim it as an overall win?
A discussion over placing small NATO contingents within former Ukrainian territory well away from the frontline came to nought, for fears of escalating the situation with Russia. Consensus on this initiative proved elusive. In all, NATO appeared to take a perfectly passive stance toward Russia with regard to the former Ukraine. In response, Western media outlets have been prepping the public for accepting the idea of a negotiated peace settlement in the former Ukraine.
But is that even possible? Russia is following an easy and flawless logic. If a formerly Ukrainian territory is peopled by Russians who want to be with Russia, then it must be liberated. Lugansk region is free as of yesterday, Donetsk region is next. Kherson is pretty much free, but Kharkov, Zaporozhye and Nikolaev are unfinished business. And there has never been any doubt in anyone’s mind that Odessa is also Russian. Oh, and let’s not forget Dnepropetrovsk and Sumy. Is Kiev Russian? Well, it has been for most of the past thousand years, give or take a decade here and there!
But liberating just that territory would still subjects it to bombardment using Ukrainian long-range weapons, many of them supplied by the West. Therefore, the Russians cannot stop and must liberate even more territory—which also becomes subject to attack. Given that the line between Ukrainians and Russians is notoriously fuzzy, there is no obvious stopping place to this process until Russian territory directly NATO territory. At that point the Russians will become likely to say, “Sure, let’s make a deal.”
Nor is there is a domestic political reason to stop: public approval for the Special Military Operation in the former Ukraine hovers around 72%, Putin’s personal approval rating is at historical highs, the nightly news are full of courageous liberators greeted with open arms by newly liberated residents, who are lining up in droves to receive their Russian passports intermixed with shots of schools, kindergartens and apartment blocks blown up by retreating Ukrainian artillery. The message from back home to the Russian troops is: “Keep going!”
On the other hand, there are perfectly good reasons not to negotiate with the Ukrainian regime. First, it is not in any sense sovereign or autonomous. Zelensky’s mainly British security detail keeps him safe from his own Nazi zealots; meanwhile, his orders come directly from Washington. Negotiating with the EU over the former Ukraine has been tried before and at this point there is no reason for Russia to trust the EU. And there is no point in negotiating with the US over the former Ukraine either because what business does the US have to even be there?
Really, the US should probably just retreat to within its own borders and think hard about weighty issues such as abortion, gun control and national bankruptcy. While the G7 and NATO still make a show of listening to it, the rest of the world is no longer so attentive.
Take, for instance, president Joko Widodo of Indonesia, which is the next host of the G20 gathering. Biden asked him to expel Russia from the G20 in response to the Special Military Operation. Instead, Widodo flew to Moscow and signed two major deals: one is a $13 billion deal to buildi an oil refinery with the help of Russia’s Rosneft and another is with RZhD, Russia’s national rail company, to build 190km of track.
The ability of the US to order the whole world around is over. The unipolar world is dead; the world is now not multipolar; it is non-polar. Nobody particularly cares to crisply define any of the new poles. Countries are no longer along a spectrum or even on a map: they are in a multidimensional mesh.
Look at the state of all the great Western projects. The idea of a transition to green energy to fight global warming is dead; apparently, coal is the new hydrogen. (Maybe it’s Obama’s “clean coal.”) The Great Reset went the way of the coronavirus. Build Back Better has turned into Break Back Faster. All of that nonsense is dying a long and painful death on the ashes of the former Ukraine. A big chunk of the old world order fell off the landing gears of a jet taking off from Kabul, Afghanistan. The rest will be swept away when the Kiev regime finally keels over and dies.
Even thoroughly Westernized countries are discovering, one by one, that the American way is a road to nowhere. By now, the question of maintaining Western unity amounts to an age-old question: “If all your friends jump off a cliff, would you jump too?”
By now the proper background music to any talk of “Western unity” is a funeral dirge.
Source: Club Orlov
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