War threat’s purpose is to keep U.S. allies in line

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U.S. policy for the past 10 or so years has been hard for me to understand. Our government has driven Russia, the world’s largest nuclear weapons power, into the arms of China, the world’s largest or second largest industrial power.

Since 2014, our leaders have talked about the threat of a Russian invasion of Ukraine, but, as Scott Ritter has pointed out, they never tried to create a military force in or near Ukraine capable of resisting a Russian invasion.

The economist Michael Hudson has an answer.  U.S. war policy is not primarily about Ukraine or Russia.  Rather it is about the need for a war threat to keep U.S. allies in line.

Economic sanctions are not being imposed for strategic reasons, Hudson wrote recently. Rather the geopolitical struggle is an excuse for cutting off U.S. allies from trade with Russia, China and other designated U.S. enemies.

The U.S. is not pressuring Germany to stop Nord Stream 2 in order to block Russia in Ukraine.  It is whipping up war fever over Ukraine in order to block Nord Stream 2.

Here’s how he put it:

What worries American diplomats is that Germany, other NATO nations and countries along the Belt and Road route understand the gains that can be made by opening up peaceful trade and investment.

If there is no Russian or Chinese plan to invade or bomb them, what is the need for NATO?  And if there is no inherently adversarial relationship, why do foreign countries need to sacrifice their own trade and financial interests by relying exclusively on U.S. exporters and investors?

These are the concerns that have prompted French Prime Minister Macron to call forth the ghost of Charles de Gaulle and urge Europe to turn away from what he calls NATO’s “brain-dead” Cold War and beak with the pro-U.S. trade arrangements that are imposing rising costs on Europe while denying it potential gains from trade with Eurasia.

Even Germany is balking at demands that it freeze by this coming March by going without Russian gas.

Instead of a real military threat from Russia and China, the problem for American strategists is the absence of such a threat.

All countries have come to realize that the world has reached a point at which no industrial economy has the manpower and political ability to mobilize a standing army of the size that would be needed to invade or even wage a major battle with a significant adversary.

That political cost makes it uneconomic for Russia to retaliate against NATO adventurism prodding at its western border trying to incite a military response. It’s just not worth taking over Ukraine.


The most glaring example is the U.S. drive to block Germany from authorizing the Nord Stream 2 pipeline to obtain Russian gas for the coming cold weather.

Angela Merkel agreed with Donald Trump to spend $1 billion building a new LNG port to become more dependent on highly priced U.S. LNG. (The plan was cancelled after the U.S. and German elections changed both leaders.)

But Germany has no other way of heating many of its houses and office buildings (or supplying its fertilizer companies) than with Russian gas.

The only way left for U.S. diplomats to block European purchases is to goad Russia into a military response and then claim that avenging this response outweighs any purely national economic interest.

As hawkish Under-Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Victoria Nuland, explained in a State Department press briefing on January 27: “If Russia invades Ukraine one way or another Nord Stream 2 will not move forward.”


U.S. trade sanctions imposed on its NATO allies extend across the trade spectrum.  

Austerity-ridden Lithuania gave up its cheese and agricultural market in Russia, and is blocking its state-owned railroad from carrying Belarus potash to the Baltic port of Klaipeda.

The port’s majority owner complained that “Lithuania will lose hundreds of millions of dollars from halting Belarus exports through Klaipeda,” and “could face legal claims of $15 billion over broken contracts.”

Lithuania has even agreed to U.S. prompting to recognize Taiwan, resulting in China refusing to import German or other products that include Lithuanian-made components.


What seems ironic is that sanctions against Russia and China have ended up helping rather than hurting them. …… After all, it is axiomatic that sanctions force the targeted countries to become more self-reliant.

Deprived of Lithuanian cheese, Russian producers have produced their own, and no longer need to import it from the Baltic states.

America’s underlying economic rivalry is aimed at keeping European and its allied Asian countries in its own increasingly protected economic orbit.  

Germany, Lithuania and other allies are told to impose sanctions directed against their own economic welfare by not trading with countries outside the U.S. dollar-area orbit.

Via Naked Capitalism.

I think Hudson is right about U.S. sanctions, but I don’t think his analysis is the whole story.

Based on leaders’ statements, Russia genuinely fears the possibility of U.S. nuclear missiles in neighboring countries as a threat to Russia’s existence, as just as the USA feared Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba in 1962

The U.S. and its NATO allies do not have sufficient troops under arms to win a war with Russia in Eastern Europe.  They can give Ukraine enough arms to make trouble for Russia, but they couldn’t win a straight-out war.

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The only way the United States could achieve military dominance over Russia is through a credible threat of a first strike with nuclear weapons.  

The quest for nuclear dominance was the logic behind cancelling the Intermediate Arms Nuclear Forces Treaty and the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and the placement of missiles in Poland and Rumania, which someday could be used to launch nuclear warheads.  That’s why President Putin is demanding a rollback of NATO.

So, yes, the geopolitical conflict has a reality independent of economics.  Even the U.S.-Russia culture clash is a factor in the conflict.

But, that said, I don’t think you can understand the new cold war without understanding the economic interests underpinning it.

We hear a lot of talk about the need to fight to maintain the “rules-based economic order.”  Hudson explains what the rules-based economic order consists of.


America’s Real Adversaries Are Its European and Other Allies by Michael Hudson via Naked Capitalism.

10 Reasons Why the U.S. May Want Russia to Invade Ukraine by Jack Rasmus.

America couldn’t defend Ukraine even if it wanted to by Scott Ritter for RT News.

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5 Responses to “War threat’s purpose is to keep U.S. allies in line”

  1. A. L. Luttrell Says:

    Reblogged this on ARLIN REPORT……………….walking this path together.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. kommonsentsjane Says:

    Reblogged this on kommonsentsjane and commented:
    Reblogged on kommonsentsjane/blogkommonsents.

    For your information.


    Liked by 1 person

  3. War threat’s purpose is to keep U.S. allies in line | kommonsentsjane Says:

    […] Reblogged on kommonsentsjane/blogkommonsents. https://philebersole.wordpress.com/2022/02/07/the-economic-roots-of-the-ukraine-conflict/ […]


  4. Fred (Au Natural) Says:

    We didn’t create a force in the Ukraine to stop a Russian invasion because we *expected* the Russians would eventually attack. Russian and Americans trading bullets directly would be a very bad thing. The risk of a nuclear war is more than we are willing to accept. Ukraine would have to take care of itself.

    At least as far as offensive actions, Ukraine was “demilitarized.” What Putin wanted was a Ukraine that was under his absolute control. Like in Belarus and Kazakhstan. Not one interested in improving its quality of life by looking west.

    A lot of people think that even just admitting the Baltics was going too far. You’ll notice there were almost no NATO troops in the Baltic states until the Ukrainian invasion and the numbers that were eventually sent were symbolic. The Baltic states are practically indefensible should Russia move to cut them off. Belarus to Kaliningrad is a very short hop.

    Nuclear dominance is a red herring. Once you reach a certain level, more warheads only make the rubble bounce. Biden understands this. Maybe Putin does not?

    At any rate, Russia’s SSC-8 – and China’s militarization – made the INF treaty moot. Likewise our ABMs might reduce the carnage of a North Korean attack but nobody imagines they could do anything more. The US doesn’t have nuclear missiles in Europe and doesn’t want to deploy them. The 100 or so nuclear gravity bombs we do have are not stored in the post-1997 NATO member states.


    Anyone who thinks this war is somehow “good” for Russia must be smoking some good stuff. It revitalized NATO, which had sunk into a comfortable lethargy. China is not a substitute for Europe as a market and geographically is far inferior as a trading partner. Any such pivot would take decades to complete. China is also not exactly an altruistic regime. Being dependent on them is no better than being dependent on trade with Europe and probably worse.

    Putin may not be insane in medical terms but he is definitely paranoid and with possibly psychopathic tendencies. It is no wonder he got along so well with Trump.


  5. a second reason for Joe + NATO’s war | Waikanae Watch Says:

    […] Read the rest […]


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