Talk of war is getting louder in the West. The German minister of defense proclaimed this month that Germany has to rebuild its army, as did his British colleague.
At the start of the war in Ukraine two years ago, the Western media depicted the Russian military as hopelessly ineffective, outdated, and corrupt. Yet in recent weeks, Russia has become an imminent danger that requires the rearmament of Europe.
On the other side of the world, we see a similar transformation. In 1972, the West signed up for the one-China policy. Last year, high-ranking Western government officials made widely publicized visits to Taiwan in support of “pro-democracy forces.”
Earlier, in 2020, the US Congress passed the Hong Kong Autonomy Act that imposed sanctions on officials and entities in Hong Kong and mainland China that violate “Hong Kong’s autonomy.”
The West, of course, has a 500-year history of involving itself with countries far from its borders. While it no longer has physical control over the world, it still has financial control thanks to the US dollar system and SWIFT, the global clearinghouse for international financial transactions.
The dollar is still the international lingua franca. This explains why everything from oil and gold to Bitcoin is priced in dollars.
The West now is trying to find legal means to confiscate Russia’s $300 billion that is locked up in the dollar system. Doing so will permanently damage the reputation of the West as a neutral custodian of the financial system, and could increase the speed of an already ongoing process of de-dollarization, but the Western political and financial elite has shown that it is willing to bet the farm on subduing Russia.
Turning Russia into an enemy was a remarkable case of reprogramming Western public opinion.
Starting in the 1990s, Russia and the West invested billions in Russian oil exploration and in pipelines to carry gas and oil to a dozen European countries. Low-cost Russian energy is said to have added a trillion dollars to German GDP.
The economic integration of Europe and Russia was a textbook case of a win-win situation – except for the Atlanticists and the guardians of the dollar system on Wall Street.
Hence the expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, dressed up as the spreading of freedom and democracy, is the modern version of the White Man’s Burden during colonial times.
The Russians drew a red line at Ukraine. They know their history. They lost 20 million people in World War II because Adolf Hitler needed Russian oil after England put an oil blockade on Germany. It is an old imperialistic trick: Cause a provocation and act indignantly if it causes a reaction. NATO expanded, and Russia reacted.
When Ukraine failed to contain the Russian army after its failed summer offensive of 2023, the West rebranded Russia as an aggressor that poses a danger to Europe. Russia went from a third-rate country (in the words of a late US senator “a gas station masquerading as a country”) to an existential danger.
Never mind that Russia has a population that is a quarter of Europe and a GPD the size of Spain; not to mention more Lebensraum than any other country in the world. The population density of Russia is 8.46 people per square kilometer; in Germany and much of Central Europe it is more than 230,000 people per square kilometer.
Germany has forgotten the lessons learned from the 20th century. It now plans to increase its annual military spending and allocated a special €100 billion fund to modernize the German army. Never mind that the poverty rate in Germany is approaching 20% and that nearly 10 million Germans are too poor to eat fully rounded meals even every two days.
The theater of the absurd reached a climax when the “Green” German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock proclaimed, “I give the promise to the people in Ukraine, we stand with you, as long as you need us, then I want to deliver. No matter what my German voters think, I want to deliver to the people of Ukraine.”
In lockstep with Germany, the UK also plans to rearm. Last month, British general Sir Patrick Sanders argued that the danger posed by Russia requires Europe to go on a war footing. Never mind that the UK had excess deaths of 5,000 people last winter partly due to the high cost of energy and that 4.2 million children and 2.1 pensioners are living in poverty.
When it became clear that both China and India refused to play along with the Western sanctions regime against Russia, the Global South sensed the geopolitical map had changed. Some 20 countries, most of them former European colonies, applied for BRICS membership. When the Nigerien army deposed its francophile president, protesters surrounded the Nigerien parliament and the French Embassy carrying pro-Putin banners.
France threatened to interfere but when Niger’s neighbors Burkino Faso and Mali declared that Western intervention in Niger would be seen as a declaration of war against them too, the French knew the old imperial game was over. France’s legacy of 100 years of (neo) colonial rule over Niger: 30% of French electric power is fueled by Nigerian uranium, while 85% of the people of Niger have no access to electricity.
It is tempting to blame the catastrophic policy of the West on a lack of self-awareness, or the belief that the world sees the West the way the West sees itself. A darker theory doing the rounds on social media is that the West is fomenting conflict with Russia and China to mask the fragile state of the dollar-dominated financial system.
If the dollar system were to collapse under the weight of its massive debt load ($300 trillion and counting), Russia and China would be perfect scapegoats to deflect from decades of irresponsible financial and monetary policy, which has caused wealth inequality not seen since the 19th century. American children inherit a debt of $78.000 at birth, which is their share of the massive $34 trillion US national debt.
Lacking a reverse gear, the Atlantic Alliance has no qualms about throwing millions of people into poverty, encouraging Ukrainians to fight to the last Ukrainian in a battle they can’t win, and waging economic war on China to maintain a unipolar world, even it is means fighting the global majority. The spirit of democracy stops at the water’s edge.
But there is one bright spot.
The Western political and business elite may be morally bankrupt and trying to preserve its hegemony at an enormous cost, but it is not suicidal. History shows that its NATO enforcement arm never gets into direct military confrontation with countries that can defend themselves, especially countries that have nuclear weapons.