A lot of people on both sides of the debate say that anti-Americanism is on the rise in Russia. Although the cause of international harmony is by no means lost yet, I’d have to agree that sentiment has some merit. And there are few such sea-changes which take place over a short time, geopolitically speaking, for no reason. So there is likely to be a reason. Who’s to blame? Is it Russia, and Putin’s supposed crackdown on civil society? If so, I’m bound to inquire why only a handful of civil-society organizations – chiefly those in the pay of foreign democracy-activist agencies – and the usual liberal bobbleheads are complaining, while the new laws generally draw support from those Russians who are politically engaged. Of course the new laws draw zero support in the west, but until the west participates in Russian elections – openly – it has zero to say about how the country is run. Is the west being particularly accommodating and trying to understand Russia’s position? Well, you tell me.
Here’s an excellent example of Anglospheric detente, drawn to my attention by Mike Averko a couple of days ago. The Voice of Smug.
All right, let’s go through Mr. Brooke’s Reality Check item by item, what say? I should mention before starting that I received a nice email from Mr. Brooke, informing me that he had posted my comment – which, at time of writing, is still not posted at the relevant article – and that it was good to know the anti-American fringe was still active. Since I have no way of showing you what that comment was, I decided to move the discussion over here.
So, let’s get started. This series of chest pokes is supposed to answer the question, who needs the other more – the United States of America, or Russia? Mr. Brooke opens with population, for some reason I’m damned if I can fathom. He says by 2038, Americans will outnumber Russians three-to-one. That would be nice if every Russian wanted his own American; there would certainly be no quarreling then, would there? A virtual embarrassment of choice. Otherwise, how does that illustrate that Russia needs the USA more than vice-versa?
Well, perhaps a sensible answer will reveal itself. Meanwhile, Mr. Brooke knows as much about turning pig iron into steel as he does about what the world’s population will look like in 2038. And that goes for everybody else as well (except maybe for steelworkers), so he needn’t feel embarrassed by his ignorance, although he might have given us an inkling of how he arrived at that conclusion; all his facts are unsupported by references. Nobody really knows, as world population could be affected in the future by a large number of factors. But let’s take a look at where the trends are heading. My, yes; U.S. population growth is robust, and stood at 311.59 million in January 2012, according to the World Bank. Russia’s population growth, by contrast, appears to have just pulled out of a power dive, and stood at 141.93 million as of January 2012. Still not seeing why that means Russia needs America.
Is it because America is the world’s biggest economy, and market? If so, the U.S. Intelligence Council’s Global Trends Report is likely to be an eye-opener. Before that keenly-anticipated day when America can say, “We outnumber you three-to-one!! In your face, borscht-eaters!!!”, China’s economy will have left the USA’s gasping for breath by the side of the road. There will be food and water shortages, and a tectonic shift with the rise of a global middle class.
The report has a lot more revelations, but we have limited space, so let’s just look at those factors for the moment – bearing in mind that something entirely different from that picture might be what actually happens. But assuming those influences come to pass – which country would it be better to be in, if there were food and water shortages? A small country with a huge population, or a large country with a smaller population? If there really is a rise of a global middle class, would it be better to live in a country that has distributed its income mostly among the middle class in the form of incremental gains in the living standard and regular pension raises, or one in which the country’s wealth has been overwhelmingly skewed to the top 1%? I still see nothing in these projections which would suggest Russia better start kissing up to the USA in order to stave off ruin – is it likely that food shortages are going to force Russia to beg for potatoes from the USA, or the other way around? Do you know how much land it takes to run beef cattle, and feed them? Would that work better, do you think, in a country with a population density of 84 people per square mile, or one with 22? Just sayin’.
Did you know the U.S. natural birth rate has been running below replacement rate since the 1970’s? If the children of immigrants are included, two-thirds of the approximately 3 million new Americans added every year are immigrants. Although it is sensible to point out that nobody can really see the future, it is also sensible to take note of fact-based studies which suggest overpopulation in the USA is headed toward being more of a problem than an asset.
All right; I think we’ve beaten population to death as an issue, and while it sure was fun, I still don’t get how having lots more people is a compelling invitation to international sycophancy. Especially when the more populous country has an unemployment rate nearly a full 2% higher than that of the less-populous country, and trending upward.
Let’s move on. Next up on the you-better-be-nice-to-me index: the USA’s economy is 8 times bigger than Russia’s. Quite right; it is the world’s largest economy, for a little while longer. But Russia sits right next to what will be the world’s largest economy in the next few years, and is its biggest energy supplier. A country where the people already outnumber Americans four to one , not to put too fine a point on that population thing.
What else you got, Mr. Brooke? Oh, right; The U.S. outspends Russia ten to one on defense. So? How is that an advantage which compels Russia to kneel at your feet when you are part of international organizations which regulate how you will use that massive military machine? Were you thinking of a unilateral attack? Russia bitch-slapped Napoleon into next week when he was head of the world’s preeminent military power, and Paris is only a little more than 1,500 miles from Moscow. Washington is almost 5 times that. I realize warfare has moved beyond horses and muskets and towed field guns, but that’s still one hell of a long logistics chain. Unless you were thinking of a preemptive nuclear strike, in which case you are a nut, because Russia is a nuclear power as well, and if you are just talking an exchange of nukes, spending ten times as much on defense means diddly. Although actual numbers are a closely-guarded secret, I’d look at all available sources before making such a decision, if I were you. While you’re at it, you might want to look at the Cato Institute’s analysis of the U.S. defense budget; they argue not that the current $531 Billion annually the USA spends on defense is unsustainable, but that it will likely continue simply because it is sustainable; the USA shops for military hardware like rich folk shop for handbags, because it can. Yet is still runs all its major military operations as coalition efforts. And although it might be affordable today, while the USA is the world’s largest economy, just keep in the back of your mind that that state of affairs is likely not going to continue for much longer.
I’d like to ask here for a moment of silence, to mourn the death of James Brooke’s credibility. Probably it was the sudden transition from arrogant blowhard to lunatic that did it. The “big game-changer” that will keep the USA kicking ass and taking names from now until the Judgment Trump, we are told, is….shale gas.
Lord have mercy. Just like you see, every once in awhile, headlines in those tabloid newspapers next to the supermarket checkout; “Japanese Submarine Surfaces After 68 Years; Did Not Know War Was Over”. Never mind that that just couldn’t happen, because they were all diesel submarines then and not even a nuke could go 68 years without refueling; the implication is that there are still people who are completely unaware of current events. Remember, just a few years ago, when the Anglospheric press was trumpeting the joyful news that huge deposits of oil-bearing shale in Poland meant it (and its bestest pal, Europe) could finally shrug off the sweaty paw of the hated Russian bear? Well, it depends on who you ask. If you ask Radek Sikorski or anyone involved in the marketing of shale gas, the dream persists. If you ask other sources – not so much. Exxon-Mobil pulled out of Poland last summer, owing to the failure to develop gas flows on a commercial scale. Conoco-Philips declined to exercise its 70% option in northern Poland. Costs per well were running at three times the cost in the USA. According to Cezary Filipowicz, business-development manager for United Oilfield Services, “Whoever expects that we will be an exporter of gas for the European market is dreaming”.
Things are much more promising in America, though, with the gigantic God-gifted Bakken formation, and shale plays from here to the far horizon, right? Actually, no. The Bakken is an anomaly, not exactly a conventional shale play at all, but even so its yields are not going to be the game-changer Brooke and others are doing the happy dance over. In fact, the situation is rich with irony: western Russia analysts and experts (and the only qualification seems to be that you have a pathological loathing for the country, because there is apparently no downgrading of one’s expert status as a consequence of being wrong over and over) regularly croak dolefully that oil will have to stay above $90.00 per barrel in order for Putin The Cloaked Malevolence Of The Kremlin to realize his crazy dreams for Russia. It seems to escape their notice that every time the price of oil starts to drift downwards, NATO picks a fight with some other oil-producer, and up it goes again, but never mind that. The ironic part is that that’s just about exactly the break-even price of oil from the Bakken as well. If oil prices fall below that, it’s no longer profitable, and funny things happen to people in the oil industry when they see “oil” and “not profitable” in the same sentence. Although the Bakken puts out about .6 – .7 million barrels per day, according to people whose business is oil and oil futures, “…it is challenging to find support for the idea that total production of shale oil from the Bakken formation will move much above present levels”. As for other conventional shale plays, “The average well now yields around 85 000 Bbls during the first 12 months of production and then experiences a year over year decline of 40% (+/-) 2%”. That’s the thing about shale oil; early yields are good, good enough that the producers start to swagger and say, “Oh, yeah!! How do you like me now???” But it almost always turns out like getting drunk and telling your boss what you really think of him, based on an offer to get taken on at twice the salary by another company, which then falls through. You’re left looking like a jackass, and also looking for a job.
Say…that wound looks like it could use a little salt. Okay, here it is; according to whistleblowers inside the International Energy Agency (IEA) – and the Anglosphere loves a whistleblower, just look at how it has canonized Magnitsky – the annual report upon which the western powers base their energy predictions is subjected to American pressure to fudge the figures, so that they are largely meaningless. This would be the report that forecast what a game-changer shale oil was going to be.
I’m not even going to get into the remaining twaddle about world affairs which the USA can manage nicely on its own without any help from Russia, owing to the sentence “That said, Russia’s cancellation of the sale of its S-300 air defense system to Iran put pressure on Tehran to negotiate its nuclear weapons program.” Tehran does not have a nuclear weapons program, and the continued attempt to make it grow into truth by simply repeating it over and over is entirely handcrafted from something warm and brown which bulls leave behind them, but which my personal refinement and delicacy prohibit me from naming. The IAEA is responsible for monitoring Iran’s nuclear program to ensure it is used only for power generation purposes, and that agency has never, repeat never, found any weaponized uranium in Iran. The west is not truly concerned about Iran’s Low Enriched Uranium (LEU); if it were, it would never have allowed the UN to broker a deal whereby the IAEA would supply Iran with uranium enriched to an even higher degree, in exchange for Iran’s LEU. Uranium enriched to around 20% is the standard for reactor fuel, and you cannot make a weapon with it. Weapons-grade uranium is enriched to higher than 80%.
But if the USA is prepared to solve all those problems without Russia’s help and does not need or want it, by all means get on with it. You did such an awesome job in Libya, al Qaeda is still talking about it. Approvingly, for the most part.
You want to know what is responsible for the crumbling of USA-Russia relations? Strutting, ignorant braggadocio like this. I’m accused of being anti-American, but the truth is I am strongly pro an America that has been gone for a long time, now scarcely within living memory – whereas the only thing acceptable as pro-American these days is unquestioning acquiescence to American foreign-policy goals, continuous meddling in the sovereign affairs of other nations in attempts to overthrow governments of which the American political elite disapprove, and remaining politely attentive during To Know Me Is To Love Me sessions like this. If James Brooke truly is the Voice of America, look for the situation between Russia and the west to get much, much worse.