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Why Trump rolled over on Russia

by Philip Roddis, from Steel City Scribblings

Trump’s cave in on rapprochement with Putin shows the hollowness and shallow worldview of this inept narcissist. More importantly, it shows an American ruling class committed to war, cold for now, on Russia. To see why, we must set aside what we think we know about the old one.

Suppose that cold war was not about ‘defending our freedom’. Suppose it was instead about one sixth of the world’s land mass – its vast resources and markets – being closed off to Profit. Why suppose any such thing? Because for reasons beyond my current remit, capitalism’s inner laws of motion demand ceaseless accumulation, even as they drive a tendency to falling profits. I haven’t the space here to prove these things, nor do I ask anyone to accept them on my say so. I ask only that for purposes of inquiry we suppose them true. Things that don’t otherwise make much sense suddenly snap into focus.

Like why there’s still a cold war on Russia ….

The Reagan administration won the cold war for western capitalism. It forced the USSR into ever greater arms-spend when every rouble on defence bled the Soviet economy whereas, such is the insanity of capitalism, every dollar the Pentagon spent boosted a $10trn for-profit arms sector, biggest driver of the US economy. By this and other means – sanctions, manipulating world oil prices, funding terror in Afghanistan – Washington, aided by the USSR’s ossified leadership and brittle top-down economy, prevailed. Such was Reagan’s vacuity, and such the figurehead nature of his office, he genuinely believed the cold war over.

And so for a while it seemed. As free-market capitalism sent Russia into a tailspin of chaos and gangsterism, Yeltsin did everything asked of him. He did his own rolling over on Yugoslavia, its dismemberment exposing Russia while unleashing the corrupt state of Kosovo. With touching faith he believed Clinton on NATO ‘not advancing an inch’, and opened up the economy. That’s where things went off-script for the West.

I don’t doubt that squadrons of glassy-eyed Chicago Schoolers really do buy their own voodoo economics. I’m even prepared to deem some at least of the IMF Taliban naive enough to toke the smoke on liberalisation as economic cure-all. But to believe the same of the wolves of Wall Street? Sorry, no can do. For them, liberalisation means nothing if not boosted bottom lines and eye-watering bonuses. Read Naomi Klein: a good writer who documents meticulously. In Chapters 10-11 of Shock Doctrine she charts exactly what went down in Russia. The fruits of privatisation, you see, had been stamped ‘for western hands’. Instead – this is funny if you’re in a good mood – they were trousered by ex KGB; the now semi-feudal oligarchy that blossomed and flourished under Yeltsin.

In comes strongman Putin. He cracks down on corruption (but must play a long game, so is with breathtaking chutzpah accused of deeds done by his predecessor to nods in Washington). He fixes a scorched economy, allowing him among other things to beef up defence – now why would he want to do that? With Russia once more a global player, he stands up to NATO and effects his own rapprochement, with China, in part discussed in Perilous Days. All this, mind, coinciding with the slow economic decline – making it triply dangerous – of the most powerful and reckless nation on earth.

Still wondering why there’s a cold war on Russia?


26 Comments

  1. It’s because of spectacularly good (100% truthful, insightful, and well-written) articles such as this, that off-guardian is a stand-out in the news-‘business’ — not a business at all, but a calling: for truth, small-“t”. The only thing that could have made this article even better (and should) is its including links to its sources. For each of its brilliant author’s observations, at least one sound (reliable) source exists on the Web and should have been linked to as the source. Normally, I don’t praise, nor link to (in my own articles), articles that fail to do that; but, I make an exception in this case, because, otherwise, it’s stunningly good.

    Liked by 1 person

    • writerroddis says

      Thanks, man! There are a few more links on the version on my own site, linked at the top just above the NATO map, but probably not enough so point taken.

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  2. Alan says

    I suspect the term ‘cold war’ is nothing more than a media term, useful for court historians. There are rather too many popular deceptions within the article, for example
    “…was not about ‘defending our freedom’…”
    “The Reagan administration won the cold war for western capitalism…”
    “…he believed Clinton on NATO ‘not advancing an inch’…”
    Fortunately the author asks us to support his assumptions, unfortunately I was left reading an article that could easily have been from the Daily Mail or Telegraph.

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    • ninetto says

      Indeed: the “cold” war was not very cold at all if you look at the wars – covert and overt- that the USA initiated since WWII.

      In fact, as Heiner Müller, the East German playright once commented: you cannot talk about the fall of the Berlin Wall and collapse of the East Block within talking about the 80-year war against the Soviet Union. How long did it take for the West to attack the CCCP after the Russian Revolution, and who was the real addresse of the atomic bomings of Hiroshima/Nagasaki? Yup.

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    • I was left reading an article that could easily have been from the Daily Mail or Telegraph.

      Yes, the Mail and the Torygraph…those staunch critics of Chicago School capitalism, NATO and Western empire.

      It is trollish nonsense like this that makes taking Alan seriously a non-starter. Unfortunately he’s not very funny either so…

      Liked by 1 person

    • Noam Chomsky long ago gave what is the best, most succinct, explanation for the Cold War. Noam’s explanation is unmatched. (I recently laid it out (shamelessly quoting him at length) in my blog post titled “The Nazis Are Dead And Dying! Long Live The Nazis!”) See the section titled “The Cold War as Historical Process” in chapter One. It’s all online right here: https://zcomm.org/deterring-democracy/

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  3. BigB says

    “…capitalism’s inner laws of motion demand ceaseless accumulation, even as they drive a tendency to falling profits.”

    Surely this is axiomatic now? The empiricism of this statement is quantifiable, and, by now, so well assessed as to be beyond doubt. The only people stupid and stubborn enough to continue to believe the opposite are neo-classical economists; policy makers; politicians; bankers; CEOs; the media; the consumer addicted populace; and everyone else with a vested interest in the neoliberal status quo. Being addicted to, unwilling, or unable to evolve beyond a provable logical fallacy – just about sums humanity up?

    Ceaseless accumulation… Growth is the byword for progression and development: but also catastrophic environmental degradation, global dehumanization, and war? That, for me, is the inherent dialectical tension of Capitalism laid bare. Capitalism evolves exponentially toward its own destruction (when practiced within a fixed boundary finite system). Do we need any more proof than to project the current earthstate toward its near-term logical conclusion???

    Unlike the original Cold War, which could be framed in terms of competing ideologies – capitalist v anti-capitalist; ‘free’ market economy v centralized command economy [… other than in name, did the Soviets ever practice Communism?… my short answer would be no]; the individualist American Dream v the collectivized Soviet ‘nightmare’ – the current iteration of Cold War 2.0 is no longer ideological. Rather, it is about competition within a closed networked hyper-global Capitalist system. Albeit, one in which the Russian Federation is marginalized (by sanction) within the system: but they have not yet created a viable anti-system.

    The sensible strategy would be a cooperative alliance: to which the Russians remain open. The figurehead Trump, however briefly, seemed amenable. The reset is biased (by the neocons) toward the resumption of a non-cooperative Game Theory scenario: shared mutual mistrust; irrational self-interest; a (nuclear) war of attrition; an arms race to the bottom; and an equilibrium strategy of Mutually Assured Destruction. In short, MAD. All because it worked in the ’80s. Well things have moved on since the ’80s: in terms of systemic planetary fragility and risk – not generally for the better.

    A third possibility arises from a competitive multi-polar non-cooperative ceaselessly accumulative Capitalist system: arising from the “tendency toward falling profits” part of the axiom – economic overshoot and fatal ‘market failure’. Whilst this might head-off Armageddon and mitigate environmental disaster – in itself, it would cause almost total global human immiseration and incalculable death and suffering. Gee, which choice do you prefer???

    I realize that I am breaking a taboo in presenting what appears to me to be the logical progression and conclusion of the Capitalist system: its inherent contradictions will cause it to fail. And with it (so long as it remains the dominant system); everything else fails. I’m pretty sure that someone has already written about it! Where is the hope? All around: systemic change can arise from multiple unforeseen pathways. Awareness of the current state of the market economy projected toward its logical conclusion is a means: not a depressive end. It could be the 21st century (green) ‘Invisible Hand’ – guiding us away from the excesses of the past; toward a steady-state equilibrium cooperative future???

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  4. Remember “Hope and Change” from Mr. Peace Prize? What we got was more of the same Bush doctrine in overdrive.

    Trump’s a con artist, always has been, that’s how he’s made his billions, by conning the gullible into his projects that make him wealthy and the others, holding the bag.

    Now that the ‘marks’ are finding out the real Trump, they’re shocked and horrified that he isn’t one of them.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Perhaps there’s a support group, out there, somewhere, where people who thought Trump would be a savior can gather together with people who thought Obama and Clinton and Varoufakis would be saviors…?

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Well is it the New Cold War, the Cold War 2.0 or the Great Game 3.0? Ideology aside its about geopolitics and the geopolitics of war and oil.

    However one thing is clear that Trump, vulgar populist as he is, has not so much rolled over as there has been a soft military coup. Trump is the figure head and Gen. Mattis now the leader of the Military Junta where generals hold all the key posts.

    One of Mattis’s first policy decisions, or reversals has been on a visit to Ukraine where he has promised to supply lethal weapons to help prop-up the illegitimate government there, on Russia’s border. Irrespective of his condemnation of Nazis protesting in the US, he is quite happy to do deals with them in Europe.

    Make of that what you will will, but it looks to me another full blown US backed proxy war in the making.

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    • OOps,
      Make of that what you will, but it looks to me like another full blown US backed proxy war in the making.

      Couple that to the announced never ending war in Afghanistan by the Puppet President. Which is clearly aimed at disrupting the Chinese BRI.

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      • BigB says

        @TTIC: talking of disrupting the Chinese BRI – the B was stripped away by coup and the I… well China and India are having their own stone throwing proxy border war going by the catchy title of the Doklam standoff. So it would seem it’s just the R then???

        Liked by 1 person

        • writerroddis says

          Well there was never much doubt that, militarily at least, it was always the second and fourth letters in BRIC that mattered.

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          • Seamus Padraig says

            True enough. And a Sino-Russian alliance can probably survive the fall (or, in the case of Modi, betrayal) of the other BRICS members. And then there’s the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, and the SCO … so there’s still plenty of room for cautious optimism on the subject of Eurasia.

            Liked by 1 person

        • The BRI referred to is the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative, not BRIC’s which I am sure the US is doing all it can to disrupt as well.

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    • BigB says

      @TTIC: surely this time we have a potential conflict stemming from the geopolitics of war and GAS? A looming conflict for the right to supply natgas to Europe; or to impose the import of fracked unconventional shale (in the form of LNG)??? The abhorrent notion to US strategic planners is the formation of an uneasy “Haus Europa” alliance of German industrial might and plentiful local supplies of Russian gas? Which, arguably, sanctions have made MORE likely? An apposite and timely update of Kissinger’s maxim would be – “if you control the GAS, you control the nation(s)”???

      Liked by 1 person

    • bevin says

      One of the aspects of the current situation in the White House which calls for examination is the nature of the ‘military junta’ there.
      There is no evidence that the Generals concerned differ much from the run of US general officers. Or indeed from the mentality of that class as a whole, being not very bright, extremely conservative, allergic to imagination and conformists of the most extreme kind- ‘ass kissing chickenshits’ I believe one of the exceptions to these rules dubbed the celebrated Petraeus.
      There is a sense in which such people must be viewed as dangerous but the danger they represent is more to their subordinates than their enemies. What Trump is not is a Lloyd George, capable of out manouevring and understanding the fools who had risen to the top of the military hierarchy of an empire in rapid decline. He ought to be able to see right through these conceited, over decorated mediocrities who have scraped and bowed their way to the top of their caste. But instead he appears to be star struck, much as Obama was, by them, their uniforms and the appalling (see Fallujah) records that they have accumulated. These are soldiers whose long term ambition is was (and probably still is) to secure sinecures in the arms industry.

      Liked by 2 people

      • writerroddis says

        We can add the fact of a significant voice, within this crowd, saying a ‘limited nuclear war’ can be won by Washington.

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  7. Well to be fair, the last president to stand up to the CIA ended up dead and certain commentators see Watergate as a successful CIA operation with the aim of destroying another president, I’m not entirely certain that Trump’s volte face regarding Russia is an example of narcissism- unless of course the wish to remain alive is now seen as a form of narcissism.

    Liked by 1 person

    • writerroddis says

      Twas meant as a short and punchy piece, Kevin, so of necessity short on nuance. If you read that opening sentence again you’ll see I make no causal link between narcissism and cave-in. More importantly, insofar as narcissism comes into this, it is that of the vulgar populist who, as populists will, underestimated the force of currents he barely comprehended.

      Liked by 1 person

    • bevin says

      “…unless of course the wish to remain alive is now seen as a form of narcissism.”
      In the circumstances, which include the Oath of Office and countless protestations regarding ‘duty’ it ought to be. To put one’s life before those of millions of others and the interests of the entire planet is narcissism, of an extreme variety.

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