Debt Rattle Mar 4 2014: The Hubris Circus

Walker Evans for FSA Wild Circus near Lynchburg, South Carolina 1936
Source: The Automatic Earth

Arguably, the US lost its first PR war over Vietnam. When its young and hopeful started dying on live TV, it was over. Never again, swore spin doctors on all sides of Capitol Hill. Over the past 40-odd years, PR and spin techniques have been substantially refined, and the media – both written and TV -, hard as it may have seemed at the time, have moved much closer to the government’s PR interests. So much so that one can figuratively speaking expect to be burned at the stake for suggesting Edward Snowden is anything like today’s Woodward and Bernstein.

As I was watching John Kerry land in Kiev today, and walk with his insane security detail to places where protesters were shot, only very recently, the lost PR war of 4 decades ago came to mind. G-d knows they’re still trying with all their might, just watch CNN, and read the WaPo, but it looks very much like a lost cause. The WaPo runs a long piece entitled Behind the West’s Miscalculations in Ukraine; the basic tenet is that the US left it to Europe to deal with Ukraine and Yanukovych, and the EU screwed up, so now John Kerry has to step in and they will never leave this kind of important project up the Europeans again.

And granted, the EU probably didn’t do a great job either, but A) who would believe Washington would leave a project of the geopolitical magnitude of Ukraine up to others, and B) the article doesn’t name Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland even once. While it’s very clear from recordings that she was pivotal in bringing “Yats” to power – she about hand-picked him – and keeping “Klitsch” out. If you’re the WaPo, and you run a long story on the “West’s Miscalculations in Ukraine”, but you neglect to mention the number one – public – US operative, then what does that say about Woodward and Bernstein’s legacy? For Peep’s sake, Nuland is walking in Kiev with Kerry on live TV as we speak, but you just ignore her in your article?

The “Haircut In Search Of A Brain” Kerry (as Jim Kunstler adequately christened the Secretary of State) came traveling with the promise of a $1 billion loan to the self-appointed new Kiev government. He better make sure the documents are iron clad, in case “Yats” is outta there in a few weeks time and the next government refuses to pay up. That $1 billion number was what Yanukovych turned his back on in negotiations with Europe last fall, presumably when the absolutely full of themselves EU crew started attaching ever more IMF and World Bank conditions to it, and Putin had offered him $15 billion. Apparently, that took everyone by surprise, including the US as represented by Nuland and ambassador Pyatt. And now Kerry comes a-carrying the same $1 billion again, undoubtedly with more strings attached than a spinning wheel. The entire western circus is just drowning in its own hubris.

NATO holds a special meeting today. So do the EU foreign ministers. And they’re all of them on the phone with the White House all the time. They’re extremely busy looking at bans and sanctions. And what do we have so far? The US has halted military cooperation with Russia. Yeah, that’ll hurt … A secret document in Britain that the Guardian got hold of calls for any sanctions to leave rich Russians’ investments in London real estate alone. That’s got to have made Putin chuckle.

Economic sanctions? I bet you you can’t find anyone who can assure you those would hurt Russia more than it does the west. So count them out. Like what, we’re not going to buy your oil and gas anymore, Vlad? I see estimates of high (60 days) EU gas reserves after a very mild winter across the continent, but so what? Are Germany et al going to risk first banning Russian gas, and then start buying again, in the hope that Putin will have learned his lesson? For all they know, he’ll just double the price. Apart from all that, don’t forget that contracts have been signed, and you can’t just break those. Moscow sells $180 billion worth of mostly oil and gas to Europe, and Europe sells Moscow $120 billion in machines and various other items.

And whatever you may think of Putin, he’s consistent in his message: Russia reserves the right to protect the Russians and ethnic Russians who live in Ukraine. And despite all sorts of denials in western media that these people are under threat, why should they, or we for that matter, feel sure about that? We’ve seen the anti-Russian sentiments. And If you don’t know what that looks like, try 12 Videos Showing Why Ukraine Fears And Stands Up To Radical Nationalists.

Putin also said today that Yanukovych in his view has no political future, something he indicated last week when he refused to meet with the ousted president. However, Putin maintains that Yanukovych is the only legitimate president of Ukraine, even if he fled to save his life. Which was in serious danger, little reason to doubt that. Russia simply doesn’t recognize the “Yats”-led self named new government in Kiev. And that probably means “Yats” won’t be in power long. Kerry and his EU counterparts better prepare for that, and support a next PM, certainly before the May elections, if those take place.

No matter what you think, if you pay attention, it seems undeniable that Putin is winning the PR war on this one. No matter that Angela Merkel and Madeleine Munster Albright (who dug her up?) say he’s delusional and lives in another world, or Obama states he’s on the wrong side of history. Riddle me this: if you want to have a constructive discussion with someone, to what extent does it help to say such things? And what is the person you’re saying it about supposed to make of it? Anyone notice that Putin doesn’t stoop to such levels? It seems that only the losers do.

The best assessment I saw today came from Russian/American journalist Vladimir Pozner on CNN, who said that whatever Putin does, he is always demonized by western media.

Pozner also remarked that there’s no such thing as one Ukraine, there are many different peoples gathered together under one flag. They of course have the same right to self-determination that all peoples are guaranteed under UN law. And if the millions of Russians living in Ukraine feel threatened, and ask Putin for protection, should he deny that request? What would the US do if it had that kind of number of Americans under threat, and requesting aid, somewhere in the world, let alone on its own borders, like Mexico or Canada? I think we know the answer to that one.

Washington and Brussels would live to get a hold of the pipelines under Ukraine soil. And that they haven’t yet is certainly not for lack of trying. But they’re choking on their own hubris circus, and besides they should understand that Russia will never allow them control over those pipelines, because they keep the Russian economy alive.

It looks like a very real possibility that Ukraine will not survive in its present shape and form for much longer. And even though it would first of all be silly to blame that on Russia, even if Ukraine would split according to the wishes of its separate population segments, the pro west western part of the country should never get it into its head to as much as touch the pipelines. Because that would carry with it a serious risk of warfare. It’s time for the westworld to wake up from its hubris induced dreams of what once was. You don’t win a war with a Haircut In Search Of A Brain, not even a PR war. Those days are gone.

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