There’s a long time saying in foreign relations – never poke the Russian bear. Putin is a bully, but he’s not crazy. And his memory runs deeper than the consumer based societies in the West.
Once upon a time, nationhood had meaning. To belong to a country or a state. Globalisation helped change that, and the 747 allowed us to become citizens of the world.
And then there’s Russia. A country still obsessed with its past, and a nation which never fully adapted to the fundamental foundations of democracy – freedom.
But we in the liberal democracies and allies of the United States work to a different drum to the Russians. Our politics is fast, our leaders can live or die in an instant
The trouble with the West
Our political terms are short, and our memories are even shorter. You have to dig deep to remember that controversy involving Donald Trump and Ukraine’s President Zelensky didn’t you?
Consumerism was invented to keep people going to work. Work helped to give people something to do, in the belief we can own things and create better lives. That system plays to our deepest needs as humans.
The differences between the societies in the UK, Canada, NZ, Australia and the US shrink year on year. Local media struggles against global tech companies. Everything is imported, because it’s cheaper and better designed.
When did you last seek out a locally built car?
We have a relationship with our governments: keep our house prices climbing, our kids in school, our roads free and enough money to go to the pub, and we’ll let you keep your job.
But in Russia, their society has gone the opposite direction. Russia has renewed its aviation aircraft manufacturing sector. It’s space capabilities are state-of-the-art. It has one of the largest militaries in the world.
In Russia, to be, is to be Russian.
The heart of the problem in the Ukrainian crisis is the strength of the interstate system.
America has a habit of finishing a game of chess as the victor and walking away to start a new game. Never looking back to check what happened to its former opponent.
Once the Cold War was over, America moved on to other projects.
But Russian’s never forget.
Putin and the rat
Vladimir Putin used to catch mice as a child in his home. One day he cornered a mouse. It’s a sinister story often called Putin and the Rat.
His mother, who had lost a child to diphtheria and nearly starved to death during World War 2, swept streets, cleaned lab equipment, and did other odd jobs for low pay.
Putin and his parents had no hot water, and their toilet sat next to a dilapidated stairwell. It’s here where Putin learned perhaps his most important life lesson.
He said: “There were hordes of rats in the front entryway. My friends and I used to chase them around with sticks.”
“It had nowhere to run. Suddenly it lashed around and threw itself at me. I was surprised and frightened. Now the rat was chasing me.”
Putin escaped, but the memory sits there with him. It not doubt helped him to climb the ranks to become Russia’s leader.
Russia has been cancelled
Now, the world has cancelled Russia. Every day more sanctions, flight bans and financial decisions are being made. Even Switzerland is considering sanctions. Even Germany has increased its military spending in response. Even sporting codes, usually reluctant to get involved in politics, are picking sides.
Right now, Putin’s Russia is backed into a corner like never before. Sure, it’s a corner of his own making, but a rat doesn’t know that. Nor does it care. A corner is a corner. And when you’re cornered you’re prepared to do whatever it takes to get out.
Putin is said to be held up in a secret location in the Ural Mountains, a handy place to be when you’re using the “N” word around your military commanders.
Alone and cut off from the real world, after spending much of the pandemic isolated from human beings, Putin is now that rat he once cornered.
The world should be prepared.
Who would win a war between the U.S. and China?
The U.S and China are in the grips of an arms race, which has not been seen since the depths of the Cold War era
Chinese President Xi Jinping wants his armed forces to become a modern powerhouse by 2035.
In his eyes, they should be “fighting and winning wars” by 2050.
It’s an overt and confronting military strategy, at least that’s how the West perceives it.
In May, a reporter asked U.S. President Joe Biden if he would come to Taiwan’s aid militarily if a conflict ever arises. He answered “yes” at the time because “that’s the commitment we made”.
The answer was a change in the U.S.’ history of strategic ambiguity, and likely caused a stir among Chinese officials.
So, when U.S. House Speaker visited the democratically-ruled island last week, China was hardly going to stay silent.
Pelosi is the most senior U.S. official to visit Taiwan in 25 years. This is an issue for Chinese officials who are committed to the ‘One China’ principle.
As China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Hua Chunying said “there is only one China in the world and Taiwan is part of China.”
China has responded to Pelosi’s visit by test firing ballistic missiles near the island, which is home to over 23 million people. Taiwan has also simulated its defence capabilities, as Chinese Navy vessels remain in the Taiwan Straits.
China’s live fire drills sent ballistic missiles into Japan’s exclusive economic zone for the first time.
Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-Wen said the military exercises were “unnecessary responses”.
How does China’s military stack up?
While we don’t know much about China’s military, we do know it is growing at a rapid rate.
In 2014, China overtook the U.S. with the world’s largest navy.
“The crisis will end at a time and in a manner of China’s choosing,” said Dr Michael Sullivan, who is an international relations practitioner at Flinders University.
The U.S. Congressional Research Service, which advises lawmakers and strategy, predicts Chinese navy ships will increase by nearly 40 per cent between 2020 and 2040.
Of course, the sheer size of a military does not necessarily correlate to its strength. For example, the U.S. has 11 aircraft carriers while China has three.
The U.S. also has more nuclear-powered submarines and larger warships.
As such, it’s hard to imagine President Biden risking a rather expensive aircraft carrier to end the current situation in the Taiwan Straits.
Beijing does not publish its military spending data but analysts believe the nation is seeking to fast-track its military capabilities through hypersonic missiles.
As the name suggests, these weapons are known for their speed. In fact, they can travel at more than five times the speed of sound.
China denies using these weapons but the West remains concerned because of their speed, and limited detection on radar systems.
The U.S. Pentagon increased its budget requests to $3.8 billion to develop hypersonic weapons for this fiscal year.
The nation currently uses cruise missiles but these are inferior to hypersonic weaponry because of their slower speed, shorter range and tracking capabilities.
How will this end?
China has not fought in a war since 1979 after a tense battle with Vietnamese forces.
This means Beijing’s forces have not been on show in the modern era, and it seems the West would very much like it to keep it that way.
“We await further political fallout between Beijing and Washington. Though there is no direct indication of what form that may take, diplomatic retaliation is one possibility, ranging from recalling the Chinese Ambassador in Washington to expelling US Embassy staff from Beijing,” Dr Sullivan said.
Why airline executives are being forced to face customers
As frustrated customers take their anger out on the remaining airport checkin staff, airline executives are being forced onto the front line to face customers.
The return of summer in Europe has been overshadowed by travel chaos, leaving passengers frustrated and often out of pocket.
Thousands of people have been left to battle airport queues that last hours, long delays and thousands of cancellations.
Airports and airlines face staff shortages forcing them to reduce the number of scheduled flights – often at short notice.
It’s a global problem, with airports and airlines rushing to hire back the thousands of positions they axed at the start of covid.
But how do you do it, and how long until things return to normal?
Sinema Paradiso – Biden loves this movie
It was a shocker out of nowhere when Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced a week ago that he had reached a deal with Senator Joe Manchin on a revival of significant pieces of President Joe Biden’s domestic agenda for the American people:
- The largest investment in clean energy and renewables ever undertaken by the United States, putting the US more firmly on track to meeting most of its 2030 carbon reduction targets
- Reduced prescription drug prices for consumers and cuts in health insurance premiums – saving millions of households billions of dollars in the cost of medicines and health care
- A national minimum corporate tax – with no tax increases for Americans earning less than $400,000
BEVERLY HILLS CALIFORNIA – It was less than a month ago that Manchin shredded Biden’s agenda, leaving the president’s party with very little to show voters this November that they can govern.
Disunity among Democrats means political death, because if the party that controls the House, the Senate and the White House cannot produce the legislative goods for the American people, the Democrats’ half life going into the November midterms will be halved again.
Finally, the Democrats in the Senate fully understood this, from the socialist warrior Bernie Sanders, who decried what was left of the ambitious Biden agenda (this bill “does not address the major crises facing working families,” he said) to Ed Markey, the leader for decades on climate change. Markey said he would vote “to protect” the Schumer-Manchin-Sinema compromise — “which means voting no on amendments, even ones I support” on climate. Both Senators understood it was better to get something real done than to be left with nothing for voters – that no Democratic Senator could let the best be the enemy of the good, as much as they hated settling for far less than they wanted.
Even Kirsten Sinema of Arizona finally came to the party she had helped wreck last December, when her vote for the Biden agenda was not certain. She stood firm on nixing one funding mechanism – taxing wealth industry managers on their capital gains – by accepting other taxes that would more than foot the bill.
As they say here in Hollywood, Sinema Paradiso was a boffo performance. And the president loved it:
“Today, Senate Democrats sided with American families over special interests, voting to lower the cost of prescription drugs, health insurance, and everyday energy costs and reduce the deficit, while making the wealthiest corporations finally pay their fair share. I ran for President promising to make government work for working families again, and that is what this bill does — period.”
Behind the scenes, former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, who last year when everything was booming blew the whistle on the inflation that has been roaring across America for months, concluded that these social items, paid for in this way, would help curb inflation. Other eminent economists concurred.
And to nail that point, this bill is called the “Inflation Reduction Act.”
The Senate vote on Sunday, with the 50-50 tie between Democrats and Republicans broken by Vice President Kamala Harris, capped one of Biden’s best months in office: The killing in Kabul of the head of Al Qaida, the passage of the most significant industrial policy legislation in years to spur the strength and competitive edge of the US semiconductor industry, overdue legislation to care for veterans exposed to burn pits in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the new gun safety legislation. And this new legislation will build on the trillion-dollar infrastructure rebuilding program enacted into law last year. And Biden had Covid.
Suddenly, Joe Biden looks good in the Director’s chair.
One more vote later this week in the House of Representatives will crystallize all this. The same political lesson re-learned by Senate Democrats now is staring House Democrats in the face. They have a margin of four votes. Unity will ensure victory; defections will bring down the curtain on dozens of their House colleagues – and themselves.
All this sudden legislative momentum, after months of paralysis, is occurring when the extremism of the Trump Supreme Court is causing a shift in the political tectonic plates. Last week, in one of the most Republican states in the country, Kansas, voters decisively rejected a state constitutional amendment to prohibit abortion. That meant that a lot of Republicans in Kansas (!) thought the Supreme Court had gone too far. In Indiana late last week, the Republican legislature passed one of the strictest anti-abortion laws anywhere -and it was immediately signed by the governor. This will happen in other states.
Millions of women, and those who care about them, are angry that their constitutional right to reproductive health care has been taken away. And they are mobilizing to vote in November.
Republican political hardheads are worried the anti-abortion zealots have gone too far.
For all these reasons, this is a moment for Democrats to show they can deliver on significant promises they made to the American people in 2020 and shift the polarity of these extraordinarily polarizing times.
If they fail in the House, this movie is over.
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