…Speeding down the fast lane, honey
Playin’ from town to town;
The boys and I have been burnin’ it up, can’t seem to slow it down.
I’ve got the pedal to the floor, our lives are runnin’ faster,
Got our sights set straight ahead,
But ain’t sure what we’re after…
Molly Hatchet, from Flirting With Disaster
Any Darwin Awards fans out there? For those few who have never heard of them, the Darwin Awards celebrate those individuals who have rendered a significant service to mankind by taking themselves out of the global gene pool. In preparing to discuss today’s subject, I am reminded of unfortunate 1999 award-winner ‘James’ from Missouri, who became so fixated upon his love interest that he tried to lop off his own head with a chainsaw to demonstrate his commitment to an outcome on his terms. Although he was ultimately unsuccessful on both counts, he did fatally injure himself, and died in hospital. Ashes to ashes; dust to dust.
My intent today is to demonstrate clear destructive similarities between the above emotional decision and the equally simpleminded decision of the US Senate to impose further economic sanctions on Russia, this time explicitly tying them to penalizing of European companies which do business with Russia – moreover, in a clear attempt to stop the latter from proceeding with the Nord Stream II gas pipeline project. This, in turn, is clearly an attempt by the USA to make Europe a captive market for its own energy products, in the form of shipborne LNG. Significantly, that goal is also finally becoming clear to Europe; or at least to the parts of it that matter, such as Germany (thanks for the tip, James!)
Try to put aside, for the moment, the insufferable arrogance of American meddling in Europe’s energy market, with a view to restricting its choice while – laughably – pretending it is broadening European energy options.
The readers and commenters of this blog will be well aware, since it has been a topic of discussion for years here, that a critical underpinning of the western plan to seize Ukraine and wrest it into the western orbit was the premise that Russia would be forced by simple momentum to go along with it. As long as events continued to unfold too quickly to get ahead of, Russia would have to help supply the sinews of its own destruction. And a big part of that was the assumption that Russia would help to finance Ukraine’s transition to a powerful western fulcrum upon which to apply leverage against it, through continued trade with Ukraine and continued transit of Europe’s energy supply through Ukraine’s pipeline system.
But Russia slapped a trade embargo on most Ukrainian goods, and rescinded its tariff-free status as it became clear Brussels planned to use it to stovepipe European trade goods into the Russian market, through Ukraine – thus crushing domestic industries which would not be able to compete on economically-favourable terms. The armchair strategists nearly shit a brick when construction of the South Stream pipeline commenced, bypassing Ukraine and depriving it of about $2 billion annually in transit fees. But pressure ultimately forced Bulgaria to throw a wrench into the works, and the pipeline plans were shelved, to much victory dancing in the west. There was not quite as much happy-dancing in Bulgaria, but they were only ever a pawn anyway.
Sidebar for a moment, here; while the $2 Billion annually in transit fees is extremely important, Ukraine’s pre-crisis GDP was $163 Billion. The funds realized for transit fees are important because (a) Russia has to pay them and (b) the west will have to come up with the equivalent in aid if Ukraine loses out on them. But the real value intrinsic to Ukraine as a transit country is its physical reality as an interface for Russian gas transit to Europe – what is a bridge can be easily turned into a wall. Any time Washington thinks Russia needs some more shit on its face, Ukraine can be prodded to announce a doubling of its transit fees, or to kick off some other dispute which the popular press will adroitly spin to make Russia appear to be an unreliable supplier. Therefore, it is essential to western strategy that significant amounts of Russian gas continue to transit Ukraine. Sufficiently so that Europe continues to evolve ever-more-desperate contingency plans in order to keep receiving gas through the country which was known to have provoked the previous shutoff of European supplies by siphoning Europe-bound gas for its own use. That’s despite the assurances of Germany and western partners of Gazprom in the Nord Stream line that it will mean cheaper gas prices for Europe. Continue reading