Sunday 14th of July 2024

conspiracy theory ahoy: young men with thick necks....

FOR AN OLD CONSPIRACY THEORIST LIKE GUS, ONE CAN ONLY SEE THE STING.... THE CAPITALISTIC STING IS A WAY TO TAKE MONEY FROM THE PEOPLE AND GIVE IT TO THE RICH. WE ALL KNOW THIS. THIS IS NOT A CONSPIRACY THEORY, IT IS AN OBSERVABLE FACT.

THE POLITICAL CLASS HAS VARIOUS WAYS TO MAKE US SWALLOW THE IDEA THAT WE ALL CAN SHARE IN THIS PROFITABLE VENTURE... SO IT GOES THE SAME FOR "UKRAINE". ACCORDING TO THIS BOOK AS SEEN BELOW, "UKRAINE" CAME FROM BEING THE JEWEL IN THE SOVIET UNION IN 1990 TO BECOME A DUMP BY 2018.

HOW CAN THIS HAPPEN? FOR OLD CONSPIRACY THEORISTS LIKE GUS, THIS IS A CLASSIC CASE OF A WELL EXECUTED LONG-TERM (OR SHORT-TERM) PLAN BY THE DEEP STATE IN AMERICA — WHICH TO SAY THE LEAST HAS BEEN IMPLEMENTED IN MANY COUNTRIES OF THE WORLD. THE END-GAME IS THE DESTRUCTION OF RUSSIA (AND CHINA). RUSSIA IS POWERFUL, BUT WEAK IN SOME AREAS. THE MAIN WAY TO GET AT RUSSIA IS TO LIE AND REDUCE ITS FORMER INFLUENCE IN THE COUNTRIES OF THE USSR. FOR SOME COUNTRIES THIS IS EASILY DONE. POLAND AND THE BALTIC STATES ARE MADE TO JOIN NATO WHICH WAS NOT SUPPOSED TO MOVE EAST OF BERLIN. BUT THE AMERICAN EMPIRE LIED ABOUT NATO. TWO RED LINES WERE ANNOUNCED BY RUSSIA TO THE WEST: NO NATO IN UKRAINE.NO NATO IN GEORGIA. SIMPLE.

 

HERE IS THE COMPLEX SCHEME PLANNED BY THE DEEP STATE (PENTAGON) IN POINT FORMAT.

A) THE AMERICAN DEEP STATE IS HEGEMONIC AND WANTS TO CONTROL THE ENTIRE WORLD (SINCE 1917).

B) THE SOVIET UNION BITES THE DUST, 1990s, OFTEN CREDITED TO HAVING BEEN RUINED BY WAR IN AFGHANISTAN. THIS WAS SET UP BY US PRESIDENT CARTER'S MILITARY ADVISOR.

C) ONE CANNOT STEAL/ROB AN ENTIRE LARGE COUNTRY WITHOUT MASSIVE TROUBLES (WARS, REVOLUTION, ETC). EVEN SMALL COUNTRIES CAN PUT UP A FIGHT AGAINST THE "INFLUENCE" OF THE EMPIRE.

D) EASY COME EASY GO, THE NOW "FREE FROM THE USSR, UKRAINE" IS BEING CAJOLED TO EMBRACE CAPITALISM.

E) THIS IS DONE IN INCREMENTS, INCLUDING MASSIVE DISINFORMATION (SOROS) THAT ALWAYS PRESENTS THE GRASS IS GREENER ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE BORDER. THE AMERICAN DREAM DOES THE SAME AT HOME.

F) SLOWLY BUT SURELY, THE ECONOMY OF "UKRAINE" BECOMES A PLAY-GROUND FOR OLIGARCHS AND ROBBER BARONS.

G) THE POPULATION ENJOYS FREEDOM. THIS "FREEDOM" CUTS ALL SOCIAL BENEFITS AND THE SOCIAL SYSTEM BECOMES RABIDLY COMPETITIVE. SOME PEOPLE MANAGE TO SURVIVE, MOST DO NOT. IT'S A DOG EAT DOG GAME AT WHICH THE USA EXCEL.

H) PEOPLE BECOME INDEBTED AS THEY (ARE ENCOURAGED TO) BUY TOO MANY GOODS AND COMFORT ON CREDIT. PEOPLE START TO BECOME DISCONTENT BECAUSE THERE IS LESS SECURITY OF EMPLOYMENT, OF WAGES AND OF SOCIAL SUPPORT.

I) THE GOVERNMENT OSCILLATE FOR ROUGHLY 10 TO 20 YEARS BETWEEN ITS FORMER SOCIALISTIC CONTROLS AND THE NEW ILLUSORY FORMAT WHICH (IS DESIGNED TO) IMPOVERISH THE PEOPLE MORE AND MORE. SAME IN AMERICA.

J) OLIGARCHS WORK HAND IN HAND WITH THE WESTERN CAPITALISTS

K) THE UKRAINIAN GOVERNMENT STILL DEPENDS ON RUSSIA FOR TRADE AND "MORAL SUPPORT"

L) IN 2004, THERE IS A FAILED REVOLUTION WHICH IS SECRETLY FUNDED BY AMERICA. 

M) UNTIL 2014, AMERICA PUMPS MORE THAN $5 BILLION TO FOMENT UNREST AGAINST THE "PRO-RUSSIAN" GOVERNMENT, BY USING THE NAZIS (UKRAINIAN HISTORY DURING WW2) WHO, DESPITE THEIR LESSER NUMBERS, CAN BECOME FAR MORE AGGRESSIVE.

N) IN 2014, THE MAIDAN UGLY NAZI "UPRISING" HAPPENS. "UKRAINE" FALLS INTO THE CLUTCHES OF THE WEST...

THE STING IS SUCCESSFUL!!!!

 

BUT... RUSSIA KNOWS THIS IS A CROCK.

A) "UKRAINE" IS NOT A UNIFIED COUNTRY. IT IS MADE OF VARIOUS PROVINCES AND IS POPULATED BY 35 PER CENT RUSSIANS.

B) THE NEW REGIME IN KIEV IS FASCIST (NAZI).

C) RUSSIA ANNEXES CRIMEA — WHERE THE PEOPLE VOTE IN A GREAT MAJORITY TO REJOIN THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION.

D) TWO RUSSIAN PROVINCES IN UKRAINE DECLARE AUTONOMY.

E) THE UKRAINIAN ARMY TRIES TO STOP THIS.

F) THE UKRAINIAN ARMY IS DEFEATED AND ABOUT TO BE DESTROYED.

G) TO AVOID THIS, RUSSIA, FRANCE, GERMANY AND THE KIEV REGIME SIGN AN ACCORD: THE MINKS AGREEMENT ONE.

H) THE UKRAINIAN ARMY, LED BY NAZIS BREAK THE AGREEMENT

I) A NEW MINKS AGREEMENT TWO IS SIGNED: THE REGIONS CAN STAY AUTONOMOUS.

J) RUSSIA TRUSTS THE AGREEMENT. 

K) FRANCE, GERMANY AND UKRAINE ONLY SIGNED THE AGREEMENT TO GAIN TIME TO REBUILD THE UKRAINIAN ARMY

L) DESPITE THE MINKS AGREEMENTS, "UKRAINE" KILLS ABOUT 15,000 IN THE AUTONOMOUS REGIONS BY DAILY BOMBING.

M) THIS IS DONE UNDER THE AUSPICES OF THE AMERICANS AND NATO.

N) IN DECEMBER 2021, PUTIN (AKA RUSSIA) PRESENTS A DOCUMENT TO THE AMERICANS DEMANDING GUARANTEES FOR:

     1) THE AUTONOMOUS REGIONS.

     2) CRIMEA IS RUSSIAN AS PER 1954 AND PER THE VOTE IN 2014.

     3) A PACT OF NON AGGRESSION BETWEEN THE USA AND RUSSIA, GUARANTEEING THE INTEGRITY OF RUSSIA.

     4) NO NATO IN UKRAINE.

O) THIS DOCUMENT IS REJECTED BY THE USA, WITHOUT LOOKING AT IT.

P) THE NAZI REGIME IN KIEV, WITH THE HELP OF NATO, IS ABOUT TO INVADE THE AUTONOMOUS REGIONS IN EARLY MARCH 2022, WITH 60,000 TROOPS. IT'S A TRAP FOR RUSSIA TO DEFEND THIS INVASION FROM ITS OWN BORDERS.

Q) PUTIN SEES THE TRAP AND MAKE A PROMPT DECISION TO PREEMPT THE INVASION.

R) WITHIN A COUPLE DAYS:

      1) HE DECLARES THE AUTONOMOUS REGIONS AS INDEPENDENT COUNTRIES

      2) REFERS TO ARTICLE 2202 OF THE UNITED NATIONS, AUTHORISING HIM TO DEFEND THE DONBASS

              — AFTER YEARS OF THE KIEV REGIME BOMBARDMENT OF THE REGION.

S) THE UKRAINE ARMY BEING CONCENTRATED ALONG THE DONBASS REGION HAD TO BE REMOVED...

     1) RUSSIA ORGANISE A MILITARY DIVERSION TOWARDS KIEV WITH TWO GOALS.

             a) MAKE THE UKRAINIAN ARMY RETREAT TO DEFEND KIEV

             b) ENCOURAGE URGENT NEGOTIATIONS FOR PEACE AND A SETTLEMENT ABOUT THE AUTONOMY OF THE DONBASS.

             c) 90 PER CENT OF THE KIEV REGIME MILITARY EQUIPMENT IS DESTROYED

             d) THE UKRAINIAN ARMY SUFFERS MANY CASUALTIES — AROUND 75,000 DEAD FOR ABOUT 5,000 RUSSIANS.

T) NEGOTIATIONS START IN EARNEST IN TURKEY

U) BORIS JOHNSON STOPS THE NEGOTIATIONS ON BEHALF OF NATO WITH A PLEDGE OF ARMING THE KIEV REGIME

V) THE WESTERN PROPAGANDA IS VILE: PUTIN IS GOING TO ATTACK POLAND, GERMANY, ETC.

          — HE CANNOT (NOR DEOS HE WANTS TO) DO THIS AS THESE ARE NATO COUNTRIES.

          — PUTIN DOES NOT WANT TO DESTROY UKRAINE AND ITS PEOPLE.

          — THE GOAL IS DEMILITARISATION, DENAZIFICATION AND NO NATO IN UKRAINE

W) THE WEST AND ITS MEDIA DELETE REFERENCES TO THE NAZIS IN UKRAINE, KEEP PUMPING MORE AND MORE LETHAL WEAPONS IN UKRAINE AND CLAIM THAT UKRAINE HAS THE FREEDOM TO CHOOSE WHETHER OR NOT TO BE A NATO MEMBER, WHICH IS A NO-NO TO RUSSIA. (SAY MEXICO BECOMES A HOSTILE NATION TOWARDS AMERICA WITH NUCLEAR WEAPONS).

X) THE RUSSIAN MILITARY HITS MILITARY TARGETS, INCLUDING THE FLOOD OF NEW WEAPONS INTO "UKRAINE"

Y) UKRAINE HAS LOST ABOUT 350,000 DEAD SOLDIERS PLUS MANY INJURED.

Z) RUSSIA WILL WIN THE MILITARY INTERVENTION TO PROTECT ITS BORDERS, EVEN IF THE AMERICAN EMPIRE DOES SOMETHING SILLY.

 

----------------------------

 

 

FROM Natylie Baldwin

In April, I had an email exchange with Clarke. Below is the transcript.

Natylie Baldwin: You point out in the beginning of your book that Ukraine’s economy had significantly declined by 2018 from its position at the end of the Soviet era in 1990. Can you explain what Ukraine’s prospects looked like in 1990? And what did they look like just prior to Russia’s invasion?

Renfrey Clarke: In researching this book I found a 1992 Deutsche Bank study arguing that, of all the countries into which the USSR had just been divided, it was Ukraine that had the best prospects for success. To most Western observers at the time, that would have seemed indisputable.

Ukraine had been one of the most industrially developed parts of the Soviet Union. It was among the key centres of Soviet metallurgy, of the space industry and of aircraft production. It had some of the world’s richest farmland, and its population was well-educated even by Western European standards.

Add in privatisation and the free market, the assumption went, and within a few years Ukraine would be an economic powerhouse, its population enjoying first-world levels of prosperity.

Fast-forward to 2021, the last year before Russia’s “Special Military Operation,” and the picture in Ukraine was fundamentally different. The country had been drastically de-developed, with large, advanced industries (aerospace, car manufacturing, shipbuilding) essentially shut down.

World Bank figures show that in constant dollars, Ukraine’s 2021 Gross Domestic Product was down from the 1990 level by 38 per cent. If we use the most charitable measure, per capita GDP at Purchasing Price Parity, the decline was still 21 per cent. That last figure compares with a corresponding increase for the world as a whole of 75 per cent.

To make some specific international comparisons, in 2021 the per capita GDP of Ukraine was roughly equal to the figures for Paraguay, Guatemala and Indonesia.

 

What went wrong? Western analysts have tended to focus on the effects of holdovers from the Soviet era, and in more recent times, on the impacts of Russian policies and actions. My book takes these factors up, but it’s obvious to me that much deeper issues are involved.

In my view, the ultimate reasons for Ukraine’s catastrophe lie in the capitalist system itself, and especially, in the economic roles and functions that the “centre” of the developed capitalist world imposes on the system’s less-developed periphery.

Quite simply, for Ukraine to take the “capitalist road” was the wrong choice.

NB: It seems as though Ukraine went through a process similar to that in Russia in the 1990s, when a group of oligarchs emerged to control much of the country’s wealth and assets. Can you describe how that process occurred?

RC: As a social layer, the oligarchy in both Ukraine and Russia has its origins in the Soviet society of the later perestroika period, from about 1988. In my view, the oligarchy arose from the fusion of three more or less distinct currents that by the final perestroika years had all managed to accumulate significant private capital hoards. These currents were senior executives of large state firms; well-placed state figures, including politicians, bureaucrats, judges, and prosecutors; and lastly, the criminal underworld, the mafia.

A 1988 Law on Cooperatives allowed individuals to form and run small private firms. Many structures of this kind, only nominally cooperatives, were promptly set up by top executives of large state enterprises, who used them to stow funds that had been bled off illicitly from enterprise finances. By the time Ukraine became independent in 1991, many senior figures in state firms were substantial private capitalists as well.

The new owners of capital needed politicians to make laws in their favour, and bureaucrats to make administrative decisions that were to their advantage. The capitalists also needed judges to rule in their favour when there were disputes, and prosecutors to turn a blind eye when, as happened routinely, the entrepreneurs functioned outside the law. To perform all these services, the politicians and officials charged bribes, which allowed them to amass their own capital and, in many cases, to found their own businesses.

Finally, there were the criminal networks that had always operated within Soviet society, but that now found their prospects multiplied. In the last years of the USSR, the rule of law became weak or non-existent. This created huge opportunities not just for theft and fraud, but also for criminal stand-over men. If you were a business operator and needed a contract enforced, the way you did it was by hiring a group of “young men with thick necks.”

To stay in business, private firms needed their “roof,” the protection racketeers who would defend them against rival shake-down artists—for an outsized share of the enterprise profits. At times the “roof” would be provided by the police themselves, for an appropriate payment.

This criminal activity produced nothing, and stifled productive investment. But it was enormously lucrative, and gave a start to more than a few post-Soviet business empires. The steel magnate Rinat Akhmetov, for many years Ukraine’s richest oligarch, was a miner’s son who began his career as a lieutenant to a Donetsk crime boss.

Within a few years from the late 1980s, the various streams of corrupt and criminal activity began merging into oligarchic clans centred on particular cities and economic sectors. When state enterprises began to be privatised in the 1990s, it was these clans that generally wound up with the assets.

I should say something about the business culture that arose from the last Soviet years, and that in Ukraine today remains sharply different from anything in the West. Few of the new business chiefs knew much about how capitalism was supposed to work, and the lessons in the business-school texts were mostly useless in any case.

The way you got rich was by paying bribes to tap into state revenues, or by cornering and liquidating value that had been created in the Soviet past. Asset ownership was exceedingly insecure—you never knew when you’d turn up at your office to find it full of the armed security guards of a business rival, who’d bribed a judge to permit a takeover. In these circumstances, productive investment was irrational behaviour.

NB: I’ve heard that one source of opposition to political decentralisation—which would appear to have been a possible solution to Ukraine’s divisions before the war—is that centralisation benefits the oligarchs. Do you think that’s true?

RC: There’s no simple answer here. Politically and administratively, Ukraine since independence has been a relatively centralised state. Provincial governors aren’t elected but are appointed from Kyiv. This has reflected fears in Kyiv of separatist trends arising in the regions. Here, obviously, we should have in mind the Donbas.

Despite being centralised, the Ukrainian state machine is quite weak. A great deal of real power lies with the regionally based oligarchic clans. Unlike the situation in Russia and Belarus, no single individual or oligarchic grouping has been able to achieve unrivalled dominance and curtail the power of the chronically warring business magnates. Ukraine has never had its Putin or Lukashenko.

The system in Ukraine can thus be described as a highly fluid oligarchic pluralism, with control over the government in Kyiv shifting periodically between unstable groupings of individuals and clans. On the whole, the oligarchs over the decades seem to have been content with this, since it has prevented the rise of a central authority able to discipline them and cut into their prerogatives.

NB: You discuss how the enforced economic separation between Ukraine and Russia has been detrimental to the Ukrainian economy. Can you explain why?

RC: Under Soviet central planning Russia and Ukraine formed a single economic expanse, and enterprises were often tightly integrated with customers and suppliers in the other republic. Indeed, Soviet planning had often provided for only one supplier of a particular good in a whole swathe of the USSR, meaning that cross-border trade was essential if whole chains of production were not to break down.

Understandably, Russia remained by far Ukraine’s largest trading partner throughout the first decades of Ukrainian independence. Despite problems such as erratic currency exchange rates, this trade had compelling advantages. Customs barriers were absent, and technical standards, inherited from the USSR, were mostly identical. Ways of doing business were familiar, and negotiations could be conducted conveniently in Russian.

Perhaps most critically important was another factor: The two countries were on broadly similar levels of technological development. Their labour productivity did not differ by much. Neither side was in danger of seeing whole industrial sectors wiped out by more sophisticated competitors based in the other country.

Nevertheless, one of the truisms of liberal discourse, both in Ukraine and in Western commentaries, was that the close economic ties with Russia were holding Ukraine back. There was said to be an urgent need for Ukraine to turn its back on Russia, identified with the Soviet past, and to open itself up to the West. Ukraine’s commerce with Russia, in this scenario, needed to be replaced by “deep and comprehensive free trade” with the European Union.

This controversy had wide-ranging ideological, political and even military ramifications. But to be brief, by 2014, opposition within Ukraine had been overcome and an Association Agreement with the EU had been signed. By 2016 trade between Ukraine and Russia had shrunk dramatically, to the point where it was much less than commerce with the EU.

The shift to integration with the West, however, did not bring Ukraine the promised surge of economic growth. After a severe slump in the aftermath of the Maidan events of 2014, Ukrainian GDP saw only a weak recovery between 2016 and 2021. Meanwhile, the country’s trade balance with the EU remained strongly negative. Integration with the West was doing far more for the West than for Ukraine.

NB: You made an interesting comment about pro-Western liberals in both Russia and Ukraine (including Maidan protesters/supporters): “Like their counterparts in Russia, the members of these ‘Westernising’ middle layers tend to be naïve about the realities of Western society, and about what incorporation into developed-world economic structures means in practice for countries whose economies are far poorer and more primitive.” (p. 9) Can you describe the actual effect of the policies that resulted from Maidan and the signing of the EU Association Agreement? It sounds like a case of “be careful what you wish for.”

RC: If you want to break the hearts of Ukraine’s liberal intelligentsia, just remind them that economic growth in the European Union is stagnant, and European societies crisis-ridden.

Ukraine now has an economic integration agreement with the EU, allowing for extensive areas of free trade. But Ukraine isn’t being integrated into European capitalism as part of the high-productivity, high-wage “core” of the system. After all, why would EU countries want to give themselves an extra competitor?

Instead, the role Ukraine has been assigned is that of a market for advanced Western manufactures, and of a supplier to the EU of relatively low-tech generic goods such as steel billets and basic chemicals. These are low-profit commodities that Western producers are tending to move out of in any case, especially since the industries concerned can be highly polluting.

In Soviet times, as I’ve explained, Ukraine was a centre of sophisticated, at times world-class, manufacturing. But in the mayhem surrounding privatisation, investment levels collapsed, innovation virtually ceased, and products became uncompetitive in developed-world markets. In the dreams of liberal theorists, foreign capitalists had been going to troop over the border, buy up ruined industrial enterprises, re-equip them and on the basis of low wages, make attractive profits from exports to the West. But Ukraine had a criminalised economy run by oligarchs. Rather than swim with sharks, potential foreign investors opted overwhelmingly to stay away.

The dropping of EU import tariffs was predicted to turn this situation around, by making the attractions of investment in Ukraine irresistible for Western capital. Meanwhile, the foreign investors were supposed to out-compete the oligarchs, and force reforms on the corrupt, business-unfriendly state machine.

But none of this has really happened. Foreign investment has remained tiny. At the same time, free trade with the EU has meant that Western manufacturers, with higher productivity and a more attractive range of offerings, have been able to take over large parts of the Ukrainian domestic market and drive local producers out of business.

As an example, I could cite the Ukrainian car industry. In 2008 the country produced more than 400,000 motor vehicles. The last important year of production was 2014. Then in 2018 a reduction of tariffs brought a huge increase in imports of used cars from the EU, and output of passenger cars in Ukraine effectively ceased.

NB: On a related note, I can’t help but observe that Ukraine seems to have fallen victim to neoliberal corporatist policies that benefit more powerful outside powers—the kind of policies that used to be criticised and opposed by the anti-globalisation movement of the 1990s. The left used to recognise these economic policies, when they were imposed on weaker countries, as a form of neocolonialism. Now it seems like the left—at least in the U.S.—has been reduced to a frightened waif obsessing over a caricaturised form of identity politics and regurgitating the latest war propaganda. What, in your opinion, has happened to the left?

RC: In my view, most sections of the Western left have failed to come up with an adequate response to the war in Ukraine. Fundamentally, I see the problem as rooted in an adaptation to liberal attitudes and habits of thought, and in a failure to educate a whole generation of activists in the distinctive traditions, including the intellectual traditions, of the class struggle movement.

Today, numerous members of the left simply lack the methodological equipment to understand the Ukraine issue—which is, to be fair, fiendishly complex. Here I’d make two points. First, it’s critically important for the left to reach a clear understanding of whether present-day Russia is, or is not, an imperialist power. Second, in addressing this question, there’s no way the left should allow itself to rest on the thinking of The Guardian and The Washington Post. Our methodology has to come from the tradition of left thinkers such as Luxemburg, Lenin, Bukharin and Lukács.

The liberal empiricism of The Guardian will tell you that Russia is an imperialist power, as “proved” by the fact that Russia has invaded and occupied the territory of another country. But even in recent decades, various countries that are manifestly poor and backward have done precisely this. Does this mean we should be talking about “Moroccan imperialism” or “Iraqi imperialism”? That’s absurd.

In the classic left analysis, modern imperialism is a quality of the most advanced and wealthy capitalism. Imperialist countries export capital on a massive scale, and drain the developing world of value through the mechanism of unequal exchange. Here Russia simply doesn’t fit the bill. With its relatively backward economy based on the export of raw commodities, Russia is a large-scale victim of unequal exchange.

For the left, joining with imperialism in attacking one of imperialism’s victims should be unthinkable. But that’s what many leftists are now doing.

Since the early 1990s, NATO has expanded from central Germany right to Russia’s borders. Ukraine has been recruited as a de facto member of the Western camp, and has been equipped with a large, well-armed, NATO-trained army. Imperialist threats and pressures against Russia have multiplied.

Imperialism has to be resisted. But does this mean that the left should support Putin’s actions in Ukraine? Here we should reflect that a workers’ government in Russia would have countered imperialism in the first instance through a quite different strategy, centred on international working-class solidarity and revolutionary anti-war agitation.

Obviously, that’s a course Putin will never follow. But does Russia’s decision to resist imperialism through methods that aren’t ours mean we should denounce the very fact of Russian resistance?

Again, that’s unthinkable. We have to stand with Russia against the attacks on it by imperialism and by the Ukrainian ruling class. Of course, Putin’s politics aren’t ours, so our support for the Russian cause must be critical and nuanced. We’re under no obligation to support specific policies and actions of Russia’s capitalist elite.

That said, the left-liberal position, of seeking victory for imperialism and its allies in Ukraine, is deeply reactionary. Ultimately, it can only multiply suffering through emboldening the U.S. and NATO to launch assaults in other parts of the world.

NB: The war has also been a disaster for Ukraine economically. In October last year Andrea Peters wrote an in-depth article on how poverty had sky-rocketed in the country since the invasion. Some figures she cited included:

*10-fold increase in poverty

*35% unemployment rate

*50% reduction in salaries

*public debt of 85% of GDP

I’m sure it’s even worse now. It appears that the U.S./Europe are almost completely subsidising the Ukrainian government at this point. Can you talk about what you know of Ukraine’s current economic conditions?

RC: Ukraine’s economy has been shattered by the war. Government figures show GDP in the last quarter of 2022 down by 34% on the level a year earlier, and industrial production in September down by a similar amount. In March this year the cost of direct damage to buildings and infrastructure was put at $135 billion, and more than 7 per cent of housing has reportedly been damaged or destroyed. Huge areas of cropland have not been sown, often because fields have been mined.  

The military draft has taken large numbers of skilled workers from their jobs. Other highly qualified people are among the Ukrainians, reportedly at least 5.5 million, who have left the country. An estimated 6.9 million people have been displaced within Ukraine, and this has also affected production.

According to Finance Minister Serhii Marchenko, just one-third of Ukraine’s budget revenue now comes from domestic sources. The difference is having to be made up by foreign loans and grants. This aid has been enough to keep annual inflation at a relatively manageable level of about 25 per cent, but workers are rarely being compensated for price rises, and their living standards have collapsed.

In many cases, the Western aid is not in the form of grants but of loans. By my calculation, Ukraine’s external debt in January was about 95 percent of annual GDP. When and if peace returns, Ukraine will have to sacrifice its foreign exchange earnings over decades to pay back these borrowings.

NB: Ukraine’s PM Denys Shmyhal has stated that for 2023 alone Ukraine will need $38 billion to cover the budget deficit and another $17 billion for “rapid reconstruction projects.” It would seem that it’s not sustainable (politically or economically) for the West to provide this kind of money for any length of time. What do you think?

RC: The figure I have for total planned U.S. military spending in 2023 is $886 billion, so the NATO countries can afford to maintain and rebuild Ukraine if they want to. The fact that they’re keeping the Ukrainian economy on a relative drip-feed—and worse, demanding that many of the outlays be paid back—is a conscious choice they’ve made.

There’s a lesson in this for developing-world elites that are tempted to act as proxies for imperialism, in the way that Ukraine’s post-2014 leaders have deliberately done. When the consequences get you in deep, don’t expect the imperialists to pick up the tab. Ultimately, they’re not on your side.

NB: The Oakland Institute published a report in February of this year about a specific aspect of the Western-influenced neoliberal policies on Ukraine—agricultural land. One of the first things Zelensky did after he took office in 2019 was to force through an unpopular land reform bill. Can you explain what this law was about and why it was so unpopular?

RC: By 2014 Ukraine’s farmland had almost all been privatised and distributed among millions of former collective farm workers. Until 2021 a moratorium remained on sales of agricultural land. This moratorium was overwhelmingly popular among the rural population, who distrusted the land-office bureaucracy and feared being swindled of their holdings. With only small acreages, and lacking capital to develop their operations, most landowners opted to lease their holdings and to work as employees of commercial farming enterprises.

The result has been described as a “re-feudalisation of Ukrainian agriculture.” Entrepreneurs with access to capital, often established oligarchs but including U.S. and Saudi corporate interests, amassed control of vast lease holdings. With land rents cheap, and wages minimal, the new land barons had little reason to invest in raising productivity, which remained low despite the rich soil.

To this situation, already deeply retrograde, the International Monetary Fund and other institutional lenders brought the wisdom of neoliberal dogma. For many years, structural adjustment programs attached to IMF loans had insisted on the creation of a free market in agricultural land. Ukrainian governments, aware of the massive hostility to the move, had dragged their feet. It was Zelensky whose resistance finally broke. Since mid-2021 Ukrainian citizens have been able to purchase up to 100 hectares of agricultural land, with the figure to rise to 10,000 hectares from January 2024.

In theory, large numbers of small landowners will now sell their land, move to the cities, and take up life as urban workers, while rising land values will force commercial farmers to invest in raising their productivity. But these calculations are almost certainly utopian. Unemployment in the cities is already high, and housing tight. Small farmers are unlikely to risk mortgaging their land to improve their operations while profits remain slender, interest rates high, the banks predatory, and officials corrupt at every level.

The real logic of this “reform” is to strengthen the hold on agriculture of the oligarchs and international agribusiness.

NB: The World Bank recently came out with a report stating that reconstruction after the war ends will cost at least $411 billion. When the fighting ends, what kind of policies do you think would give Ukraine the best chance at building a more stable and equitable economy in the long term?

RC: How is the fighting to end? At present, the Russian forces seem unlikely to be defeated, at least by the Ukrainians. Meanwhile, the closer a Russian victory, the greater the prospect of full-scale imperialist military intervention.

Suppose, though, that Zelensky were to sit down with Russian negotiators and hammer out a peace deal. Realistically, this would require a recognition by Ukraine that the Donbas and Crimea had been lost, along with Zaporizhzhia and Kherson provinces. Neofascists would have to be purged from the state apparatus, and their organisations outlawed. Ukraine would need to break its ties with NATO, and its armed forces would have to be cut to a level the country could afford.

If such a deal were reached, of course, Ukrainian ultra-nationalists would line up to assassinate Zelensky. If, that is, the CIA didn’t get him first.

Presuming there can be an “after the war,” what might it look like? We must remember that Ukraine is now one of the poorer parts of the capitalist developing world. For countries in this general situation, there can be no genuinely “stable and equitable” economic future. Such a future is conceivable only outside capitalism, its crises, and its international system of plunder.

But let’s suppose that an independent Ukraine were somehow to emerge, that it was at peace, and that it was able to pursue some kind of rational economic course. In the first place, this course would involve a careful demarcation of the economy from the advanced West. Ideally, Ukraine would still have extensive trade with the EU. But this could not be at the cost of allowing unrestricted imports to stifle industries and sectors that had the potential to reach modern levels of sophistication and productivity.

Ukraine’s trading relations need to be based primarily on exchanges with states that share the country’s general level of technological development, so that commercial competition promises stimulus and not annihilation. This shift would involve the re-establishing of a dense network of economic relations with Russia. It would also feature an expansion of already extensive (in 2021) trade with states such as Turkey, Egypt, India and China.

In politico-economic terms, Ukraine’s future doesn’t lie in “integration with the West”—a destructive fantasy—but in the country taking its place among the member states of organisations such as BRICS, the Belt and Road initiative, and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. For its financing needs, Ukraine needs to repudiate the IMF and look to bodies such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

Those are necessary changes, and would greatly improve Ukraine’s prospects. But ultimately, a “stable and equitable” future needs much deeper transformations. It will require ousting the country’s crime lord oligarchs from control over the economy.

In some thirty years, and despite Western aid, Ukraine’s liberal reformers have made little progress on this front. The “middle layers” of the country’s society are simply not able or inclined to carry out such an overthrow. They have little social weight, and are not an independent force. Those of them who don’t work directly for the oligarchs are enmeshed, in many cases, in the corrupt state machine that the oligarchs control.

The only social force in Ukraine that has the massive numbers to end oligarchic power is the organised proletariat. Unlike the “middle layers,” the country’s workers have no stake in preserving oligarchism, and have the potential to act independently of it.

NB: You reported from Moscow in the 1990s for the newspaper Green Left. How did that come about, and what stands out to you most about your time in Russia?

RC: As a Russian speaker, I was sent by the paper in 1990 to Moscow—then the capital of the USSR—to report on the progress of perestroika. I was expecting to be there for about two years, but acquired a Russian family and stayed for nine.

I had only a small income from the paper. My wife and I lived better than the neighbors, but not by much. I watched and reported as highly qualified workers were plunged into destitution. Their wages unpaid, their savings of decades erased by inflation, they sold household belongings outside metro stations, and lived on potatoes dug from their garden plots.

 

The eeriest experience was watching people try to cope with a drastic inversion of beliefs and values. Wherever Soviet society had put a minus, Russians were abruptly commanded to put a plus. Behaviour that had earlier been regarded as contemptible—hustling, speculating—now won praise in the media.

Among the people I knew, I suspect the most traumatised were Western-oriented intellectuals who for years had longed for the Soviet Union to perish, and for capitalism to replace it. Now capitalism had come—and it was a nightmare.

In these circumstances more than a few Russians lost their moral bearings completely. Anything seemed permitted. I remember setting out one morning to take my little boy to his day care. On the pavement not far from our building, we encountered a freshly murdered corpse.

Meanwhile, a tornado of history swirled round about. As a journalist I was in the “Russian White House,” the parliament building up the Moscow River from the Kremlin, during the coups of 1991 and 1993. In 1998 I reported as the government effectively declared itself bankrupt, defaulting on its debt obligations. By that time, 40 per cent of the economy had evaporated.

I remember those years, though, as in some ways the richest and most rewarding of my life.

 

READ MORE:

https://covertactionmagazine.com/2023/05/05/taking-the-capitalist-road-was-the-wrong-choice-for-ukraine-says-ukraine-expert/

 

LET'S HOPE THAT THE AMERICAN EMPIRE COMES TO ITS SENSES....

 

 

MAKE A DEAL PRONTO BEFORE THE SHIT HITS THE FAN:

 

 

NO NATO IN "UKRAINE" (WHAT'S LEFT OF IT)

THE DONBASS REPUBLICS ARE NOW BACK IN THE RUSSIAN FOLD — AS THEY USED TO BE PRIOR 1922. THE RUSSIANS WON'T ABANDON THESE AGAIN.

CRIMEA IS RUSSIAN — AS IT USED TO BE PRIOR 1954

A MEMORANDUM OF NON-AGGRESSION BETWEEN RUSSIA AND THE USA.

 

EASY.

 

THE WEST KNOWS IT.

 

AND FREE JULIAN ASSANGE FOR HISSSAKE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

 

Beijing's view.....

 

BY PEPE ESCOBAR

 

Beijing is fully aware the NATO proxy war against Russia in Ukraine is the un-dissociable double of the U.S. war against its Belt and Road Initiative.

Imagine President Xi Jinping mustering undiluted Taoist patience to suffer through a phone call with that warmongering actor in a sweaty T-shirt in Kiev while attempting to teach him a few facts of life – complete with the promise of sending a high-level Chinese delegation to Ukraine to discuss “peace”.

There’s way more than meets the discerning eye obscured by this spun-to-death diplomatic “victory” – at least from the point of view of NATOstan.

The question is inevitable: what’s the point of this phone call? Very simple: just business.

The Beijing leadership is fully aware the NATO proxy war against Russia in Ukraine is the un-dissociable double of an American direct war against the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Until recently, and since 2019, Beijing was the top trade partner for Kiev (14.4% of imports, 15.3% of exports). China essentially exported machinery, equipment, cars and chemical products, importing food products, metals and also some machinery.

Very few in the West know that Ukraine joined BRI way back in 2014, and a BRI trade and investment center was operating in Kiev since 2018. BRI projects include a 2017 drive to build the fourth line of the Kiev metro system as well as 4G installed by Huawei. Everything is stalled since 2022.

Noble Agri, a subsidiary of COFCO (China National Cereals, Oils and Foodstuffs Corporation), invested in a sunflower seed processing complex in Mariupol and the recently built Mykolaiv grain port terminal. The next step will necessarily feature cooperation between Donbass authorities and the Chinese when it comes to rebuilding their assets that may have been damaged during the war.

Beijing also tried to become heavily involved in the Ukraine defense sector and even buy Motor Sich; that was blocked by Kiev.

Watch that neon

So what we have in Ukraine, from the Chinese point of view, is a trade/investment cocktail of BRI, railways, military supplies, 4G and construction jobs. And then, the key vector: neon.

Roughly half of neon used in the production of semiconductors was supplied, until recently, by two Ukrainian companies; Ingas in Mariupol, and Cryoin, in Odessa. There’s no business going on since the start of the Special Military Operation (SMO). That directly affects the Chinese production of semiconductors. Bets can be made that the Hegemon is not exactly losing sleep over this predicament.

Ukraine does represent value for China as a BRI crossroads. The war is interrupting not only business but, in the bigger picture, one of the trade and connectivity corridors linking Western China to Eastern Europe. BRI conditions all key decisions in Beijing – as it is the overarching concept of Chinese foreign policy way into mid-century.

And that explains Xi’s phone call, debunking any NATOstan nonsense on China finally paying attention to the warmongering actor.

As relevant as BRI is the overarching bilateral relationship dictating Beijing’s geopolitics: the Russia-China comprehensive strategic partnership.

So let’s transition to the meeting of Defense Ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) earlier this week in Delhi.

The key meeting in India was between Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and his Chinese colleague Li Shangfu. Li was recently in Moscow, and was received by Putin in person for a special conversation. This time he invited Shoigu to visit Beijing, and that was promptly accepted.

Needless to add that every single player in the SCO and beyond, including nations that are for the moment just observers or dialogue partners as well as others itching to become full members, such as Saudi Arabia, paid very close attention to the Shoigu-Shangfu camaraderie.

When it comes to the profoundly strategic Central Asian “stans”, that represents the six feet under treatment for the Hegemon wishful thinking of using them in a Divide and Rule scheme pitting Russia against China.

Shoigu-Shangfu also sent a subtle message to SCO members India and Pakistan – stop bickering and in the case of Delhi, hedging your bets – and to full member (in 2023) Iran and near future member Saudi Arabia: here’s where’s it at, this the table that matters.

All of the above also points to the increasing interconnection between BRI and SCO, both under Russia-China leadership.

BRICS is essentially an economic club – complete with its own bank, the NDB – and focused on trade. It’s mostly about soft power. The SCO is focused on security. It’s about hard power. Together, these are the two key organizations that will be paving the multilateral way.

As for what will be left of Ukraine, it is already being bought by Western mega-players such as BlackRock, Cargill and Monsanto. Yet Beijing certainly does not count on being left high and dry. Stranger things have happened than a future rump Ukraine positioned as a functioning trade and connectivity BRI partner.

 

READ MORE:

https://strategic-culture.org/news/2023/04/30/what-china-really-playing-in-ukraine/

 

 

READ FROM TOP

 

LET'S HOPE THAT THE AMERICAN EMPIRE COMES TO ITS SENSES....

 

 

MAKE A DEAL PRONTO BEFORE THE SHIT HITS THE FAN:

 

 

NO NATO IN "UKRAINE" (WHAT'S LEFT OF IT)

THE DONBASS REPUBLICS ARE NOW BACK IN THE RUSSIAN FOLD — AS THEY USED TO BE PRIOR 1922. THE RUSSIANS WON'T ABANDON THESE AGAIN.

CRIMEA IS RUSSIAN — AS IT USED TO BE PRIOR 1954

A MEMORANDUM OF NON-AGGRESSION BETWEEN RUSSIA AND THE USA.

 

EASY.

 

THE WEST KNOWS IT.

 

AND FREE JULIAN ASSANGE FOR HISSSAKE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!