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Tag: geopolitics

Cuff Notes: Year of the Rabbit Edition

A rabbit I generated with OpenAI.

In my previous Cuff Notes post I wrote that we are only in the first act of the war. That is, the great economic, political, kinetic, and bio/socio/techno war to define the 21st century that is happening all around us. 

I think the second act of the kinetic war is about to start very soon. A proper Year of the Rabbit Surprise. I expect a big Russian offensive by the end of February, this time aimed at destroying organized Ukrainian forces and disrupting the large Ukrainian offensive NATO is preparing for this spring (more on it below), rather than capturing territory. In preparation for this, Russia organized its first mobilization wave in September, giving the 300,000+ recruits around 4 months to train and acclimatize. Russia also created a rather extensive meat grinder along the front in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, sucking in and grinding up ever larger Ukrainian numbers and equipment. 

If you’ve been paying attention, this is what the Bakhmut battle is all about. It is a relatively narrow front allowing Russia to concentrate artillery and manpower into a slow advance pinning down superior Ukrainian numbers. Ukraine cannot withdraw from there because it would risk the collapse of the entire Donetsk-Luhansk front. So, they must keep throwing reserves into the grinder. There is also the Russian force being assembled in Belarus, on the Ukrainian north flank, intended to either cut off supply lines from the west or pin down a large Ukrainian force away from the main front. 

I have no idea where Russia’s main offensive vector will be, but if I had to guess it will be probing hits across the three main fronts with the main objective being Kharkov. If Russia’s forces can encircle Kharkov, then Ukraine’s entire eastern front will collapse, prompting NATO escalation. I don’t believe for a second Ukraine has any autonomy in suing for peace. The only question is how far US planners are willing to go in the escalation game before hitting the pause button. Have no illusions, if the US hits the pause button on the arms shipments flowing from the combined west, Ukraine’s fate is sealed within a month, at most. 

I think the fate of the pause button will be determined by the success of the planned large Ukrainian spring offensive. Judging from the information allowed to appear in western media, by late April Ukraine will be supplied with enough heavy armor – tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, heavy mobile artillery – to form 2-3 armored brigades. I think the plan is to attempt a deep offensive and cause an embarrassing Russian defeat, followed by a ceasefire and an internal shakeup/split in the Russian state. 

Common sense dictates Ukraine will likely concentrate this armor in the southeast, where it can threaten a full-scale breakout towards Mariupol, cutting the Russian southern front in two. The terrain there is flat and sparsely urbanized, making it good for armored assault. That being said, I think the main Ukrainian assault will be toward Crimea. Such an assault has a much higher potential payout, shorter supply lines from Kherson, and can be supported by NATO aviation from Romania over the Black Sea. 

Why is this war so important? Because it is a direct challenge of the global hegemon by a peer-level nuclear power. The logic of nuclear deterrence dictates the hegemon cannot escalate all the way, as it will be destroyed in the process. In other words, eventually, after a serious escalation in the second act, the hegemon must negotiate and meet at least some of Russia’s terms in the third act. We are about to enter the second act, and both parties are putting the finishing touches on their escalation moves. The only question is how these escalation dynamics play out within the larger context.

As I wrote back in July, this war was set up by US/UK planners as an entropy trap for Russia and the EU. Both actors are now sucked deeper into the trap and face rising energy costs to their internal systems. Russia views this as an existential danger and has to mobilize and restructure internally to survive, while the EU, having no true sovereignty of its own, is doomed to experience the trap as an economic and industrial collapse. 

The EU is sinking deeper and deeper into the quagmire. The US is simultaneously pushing Germany into a bigger confrontation with Russia and squeezing German industry out of global markets by cutting it from cheap Russian energy. With Nord Stream conveniently blown up (what a splendid coincidence), the EU is forced to buy its gas from the US at much higher prices, undercutting its industry even further. This year EU industry will be facing a choice fork – either relocate to the US or keep limiting production and firing staff until production becomes unfeasible. 

What is most interesting to me is whether Asia joins the PvP server this year. The best and obvious candidate for another entropy trap is Taiwan, and the US has been carefully constructing another Ukrainian scenario around it, with Japan most likely assigned to play the role of Poland. The US and its client states are trying to bait China into a similar trap they succeeded in baiting Russia into. 

There is a very big difference between Ukraine and Taiwan though. 

Roughly 50% of global container traffic passes through the Taiwan Strait, and roughly 70% of global computer chip production comes from Taiwan. Simply put, the epicenter and beating heart of global trade and technology development is in the area bounding the South China sea. China controls that area, and its unprecedented build-up of naval power (China is responsible for roughly 60% of global shipbuilding) is a sure sign that it has no intention of relinquishing that control. 

Will the year of the rabbit lead to a war in the South China Sea? I don’t think so, not yet. An escalation here, happening now, will have completely unpredictable ripple effects globally. I think a war in this area becomes highly likely next year if the Ukrainian spring offensive is successful and Russia is forced to sue for peace before facing internal strife and possibly collapse/partition. If that happens, Russia is out of the picture and the hegemon can focus all its attention on China. If Russia’s upcoming offensive is successful and manages to disrupt US plans on that front, we are in for some interesting Plan B options. 

What might they look like? Most likely a financial collapse of some sort and large-scale economic disruptions.

It will be a very happening year. May it be safe and prosperous for you all. 

Cuff Notes: TV vs Fridge Edition

Jan Davidsz de Heem, A Table of Desserts, 1640 [fragment]

The tragedy of the war in Ukraine is that it is not about Ukraine. This is a big-stage global drama with a small number of A-list actors and lots of unsuspecting and unwilling extras.

Ever since the 2014 coup d’état, Ukraine’s role was to be the casus belli between the West and Russia, and it played it perfectly in the opening act.

The second act hasn’t even begun yet. We are in the intermission. The Sultry Summer Special. It’s shaping up to be a long play, with big strategic and operational implications.

Strategic: Who Will Build Back Better?

The UK/US block has dominated the geostrategic chessboard partially since 1918, and completely for the last 33 years, since its comprehensive defeat of the Communist block.

Francis Fukuyama declared The End of History and the arrival of The Last Man in 1992, openly announcing the victory of the new and improved 1000-year Reich liberal democratic order. A new and final paradigm for the globe.

For various reasons, this paradigm proved untenable, and its builders knew it. What would you do if the system you’ve set up and controlled for a century is falling apart and cannot be salvaged? You lead the demolition of the old and the transition to a new system. Build Back Better as it were.

A global system has a vast number of moving parts, most of which are invisible to the masses. The masses usually see only the TV and the Fridge, or the other way around if the situation is desperate.

Panem et circenses. This is the dialectic under which the systemic transition dramas usually play out for the masses. If the TV is on top, everything is fine and the system is stable. When the Fridge prevails, as it invariably does, things are going badly and the system needs a realignment.

How amusing that the empire in the Hunger Games was called Panem. Get it?

With the war in Ukraine, the TV/Fridge dialectic is again in play. The visible moves in the global systemic realignment have finally started in earnest. The only question is who will be the last player standing, the one to Build Back Better.

By invading Ukraine, Russia triggered the strategic trap set for it by UK/US planners. Its prescribed role was to commit fully, place the Fridge on everyone’s mind, escalate until all of Europe is involved as well, and close the second act by leading the disintegration of the entire Eurasian political structure.

Interestingly, so far Russia has not mobilized and committed fully to the war, leaving the majority of its regular forces in reserve. Nevertheless, food and energy prices are going through the roof across the West, and shortages are very much on the agenda. Soon, the Fridge will be on everyone’s mind.

Europe is already involved way deeper than it would have seemed possible even a year ago. The energy and food sanctions the EU imposed on Russia are a fast-track systemic suicide for the union. So far, apart from Ukraine, the EU has been the biggest loser of this war. Also, winter is coming.

China has taken Russia’s side, which was to be expected, given it is one of the main contenders for Building Back Better after the play is wrapped up. The fact that Brazil, India, and the Greater Middle East, from Egypt to the Gulf States, Iran, and Turkey, refused to take part in any sanctions on Russia is far more telling. They are hedging their bets.

Not strong enough to win this round of the great game, Brazil, India, and the Greater Middle East will try to be on the winner’s side. The fact all of them are still hedging their bets this late into the first act demonstrates how uncertain the outcome is.

I think the UK/US dramatic sanction gambit early on was a strategic mistake. They played all cards of the sanction game in one go, denying themselves the ability to control the escalation pace through economic means. For comparison, notice how slowly the Russian counter-sanctions are unfolding. They control the pace for maximum effect.

Cutting Russia from the legacy Western financial network was part of this strategic gambit. All it achieved was to smooth Russia’s transition into China’s financial system. China’s alternative to SWIFT is called CIPS. Cross-border Inter-bank Payments System. China’s alternative to Visa and MasterCard is called UnionPay. We will be hearing a lot more about CIPS and UnionPay in the coming years, as more and more countries switch to the Chinese financial system.

Operational: Europe Goes For The Trifecta

On an operational level, this war is about Europe, or, more specifically, the systemic deconstruction of the European landmass from Lisbon to the Urals. The best illustration of how far this deconstruction will go is the interesting case of Switzerland.

Switzerland banned Russians from accessing its territory and/or using its banks. For reference, Switzerland has been neutral for centuries, neutrality was its main brand. The Swiss were the mountain goblins with whom everyone kept their gold. Even Harry Potter’s parents kept theirs with the Swiss!

Switzerland remained neutral even during WW1 and WW2. Not anymore. The mountain goblins will now take your gold if they feel like it. Not a winning long-term banking strategy.

While Switzerland suicided only its banking industry, the EU block, led by Germany, suicided all of its industry by sanctioning Russian funds and energy. Without Russian gas German industry faces catastrophic collapse.

Germany’s trade balance is already in catastrophic collapse mode, as is the Euro. The former has gone negative for the first time since modern unified Germany exists, and the latter has gone below the USD for the first time since its creation. Also, winter is coming.

Then, there are the future food shortages everyone is already talking about. Official food inflation is around 10%, unofficial at least double that. Yes, the Fridge is here.

Europe has the unique honor of being the only continent to achieve three (3) collective suicides in a row within 100 years. World War I, World War II, and the current play. The trifecta.

Interesting times ahead.