Sometimes you wish you were wrong. In an article on this website around two months before Russia invaded Ukraine, I predicted that war was the most likely outcome, as US and NATO had clearly stated they didn’t accept Russia’s “red line”: the demand that NATO stop its eastward expansion. I asked whether NATO believed the Russians were bluffing, or whether they had decided to throw Ukraine under the bus. Unfortunately, it seems the decision was to sacrifice Ukraine.
Thorbjørn Waagstein, Economist, PhD, since 1999 working as international Development Consultant in Latin America, Africa and Asia.
Sanctions are increasingly being used by Western countries. This is so despite that most studies show that they fail to achieve their stated goals, cause enormous human suffering in the targeted countries and create problems for the Western Countries themselves. The wave of refugees from Syria is an example. The sanctions against Afghanistan will no doubt create a new wave. Welcome to Foreign Policy 2.0.
Crisis in a capitalist economy is often the result of a bubble bursting. The last time a bubble burst was in 2008, in what was called the Global Financial Crisis, when the whole financial system was on the brink of implosion. Despite slow economic growth since, new bubbles have been building up, particularly in the housing and stock markets. When will they burst?
Inflation is suddenly back in the developed countries, a phenomenon many thought was something that belonged to the past. A year ago, most central bank governors assured that this was an expected and transitory phenomenon as the developed economies returned to growth after the Covid induced depression in 2020. Now it looks not to be that transitory. So has inflation come to stay?
To Russia’s demand for a stop for NATO’s eastward expansion, NATO General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg has answered that Russia has no say in which countries are becoming members of NATO, a viewpoint that has been repeated by the G7 countries, warning that there will be “massive consequences” for Russia if it intervenes in Ukraine. So Russia’s “red lines” have been rejected, well knowing that this may mean military conflict. What is contradictory is that by defending Ukraine’s right to NATO membership, NATO actually risks throwing Ukraine under the bus. So has NATO decided to sacrifice Ukraine? Or are the Russians bluffing and NATO calling the bluff?
An American researcher made headlines a couple of years ago as she claimed that a study of past experiences showed that non-violent regime-change movements only need to mobilise 3.5% of the population to be successful. That was taken as good news as regime-change can be achieved without need to resort to military force. But what if the majority of the population does not agree with the 3.5%? Is the outcome still democratic? The most recent case is Bolivia.
The economic crisis caused by the new corona virus has in the advanced economies been paid for in the same way as the 2007-2009 Great Financial Crisis: pumping money into the financial sector and increasing public expenditure. Result: more public debt to be paid back in the future, basically by common people. This cannot continue eternally. The next crisis has to be financed otherwise, shifting the burden to those who sit on the cash.
The recent drop in oil prices is generally referred to as a ‘Saudi-Russian price war’. This is a wrong description. Two things are happening. Firstly, as renewables are becoming cheaper and cheaper, oil is becoming increasingly irrelevant, and all countries with large oil deposits are scrambling to get as much as possible out of the ground before it is too late. Secondly, the OPEC+ oil cartel has failed, as outsiders – often called ‘free riders’ – have increased production so much that the cartel is no longer worth while. These two factors are the death knell for OPEC+ and high price oil – the good times for the oil industry will never come back. The fall in demand because of COVID-19 is not the cause, it is only the trigger.
The European and US handling of the new corona virus (COVID-19) epidemic has been dominated by the story that this epidemic is unstoppable. We can perhaps slow the course, but finally the same amount of people will be infected, it was said. This might also be the best, as then an important part of the population would then be immunised and we would thus avoid a later flaring up of the epidemic. It was even said that efforts to stop the epidemic would be unscientific, a result of politicians eager to be seen ‘doing something’. That would be the turf of the populists. This is absolute and complete nonsense.