Sunday, 16 November 2014

G-20: MANAGING THE WORLD ECONOMY


On 16 November 2014, the G-20 leaders issued a final report from Brisbane Australia. After some disagreements about what topics the conference must include besides economic ones, and after bitterly criticizing Russia as one would expect from a US-EU dominated group, the G-20 reached a number of conclusions that sound well enough on paper. Turkish Prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu caused a bit of stir when he argued there was an absence of discussion on essential political matters interconnected with the world economy. He also noted that 20 nations essentially decide the fate all of the rest without consultation, implying the rich decide the fate of the poor.

The core group within G-20 is made up of the G-7 that prevails in its views and for that reason the meeting is always a success for the richest nations. Judging the G-20 conference from the broader perspective of the middle class, working class and peasant interests round the world, G-20 has very little to offer. No matter what the final wording about G-20 goals, the purpose is never to discuss horizontal economic development geared to benefit the broadest possible segments of the world’s population across the globe, but vertical economic growth intended to help keep capital concentrated in the strongest banks and corporations. Because they are “too big to fail”, the strongest banks and corporations, most of them sheltering money in various tax havens like Luxemburg, are the real winner of the meeting in Brisbane, just as they have been the winners of all meetings in the last eight years.

While everything from food security to global warming have been core issues, the G-20 want to make certain that these are addressed within the context of neoliberal policies and continued globalization. Before I analyze the goals of the G-20 it is important to have an overview of the group’s short history and its purpose for existing. Under the leadership of German finance minister Hans Eichel, in 1999 the idea was born to have consultation of the world’s 20 richest nations. The G-20 represents 87% of the world’s wealth, 78% of the world’s trade, and two-thirds of the world’s population.

The first meeting took place in 2008 amid the US-based recession where finance ministers and central bankers were as committed to neoliberalism and anti-Keynesianism as they were in Brisbane. The G-20 always focuses on global governance under a neoliberal model of economic integration that the richest nations pursue with the help of various international organizations like the IMF, OECD, etc. In so far as the impact on the banks and the corporate world which governments of the richest nations want to maintain healthy, G-20 is just another international coordination-management mechanism to reinforce the neoliberal model under globalization. 

The goal is never to address issues pertaining to human rights in all countries and not just the ones the US targets for its own political reasons. There is not much about social and economic inequality and social justice in general because these issues clash with the neoliberal model that the IMF, World Bank, OECD and other international organizations espouse. Nor is there much concern about the question of democratizing society because as long as there is a healthy banking and corporate sector. Political and social issues are only significant to the G-20 if they impact the banks and corporations and/or the political system that helps to sustain them for the duration. In other words, the G-20 representatives confer to make sure that governments continue to support the corporate welfare state.

It seems that the G-20 have swept under the carpet the underlying causes for the last recession that started toward the end of 2007 in New York (Lehman Brothers) and spread to the rest of the world. Just a few years ago, the US and EU leaders were crying out for structural reforms that would not permit a repeat of the decadent and corrupt banking-insurance-investment sector crisis that took down with it the world economy, put enormous downward pressure on middle class and working class living standards and raised unemployment to double-digit levels in much of the Western World.

It is indeed rare in 2014 to hear elected officials speak about structural reforms that would place greater state regulation and controls over a neoliberal model that the political and financial elites do not question. Brisbane did raise the issue of everyone paying taxes and trying to fight corruption, but this was necessary to be addressed so people continue having faith in the system that brought us the banking crisis. Against the background of a revived banking and corporate sector, the talk now is how to proceed with even greater vertical growth that concentrates wealth because capital concentration that Keynes once argued was the root cause of the problem the neoliberals now see as the panacea.

Even after the latest revelations involving corporations and individuals sheltering money in Luxemburg and other places with offshore accounts so they would avoid paying taxes in their own countries, the EU remains silent. This is because EU commission president Jean-Claude Juncker is also the prime minister of Luxemburg. How can the ordinary person have faith in capitalism and democracy where the inexorable link between the political class and the economic elites converge and they reinforce each other so they can maintain a system catering to the interests of the rich through legal and illegal practices? What then is the G-20 but an international system of managing wealth for the richest countries and richest people in the world?

The Bretton Woods system that the US-led coalition established in 1944 with the creation of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank was to help manage the world economy to the extent possible through fiscal, monetary, trade and investment policies. Although the capitalist system has built-in cycles of expansion and contraction owing to market saturation and concentration of capital, the state is able to do some things to help manage the “free enterprise” system by injecting more liquidity, easing on taxes of the mass consumers and collecting higher taxes from the wealthy, providing public spending as a stimulus to growth to fill the gap in private investment.

Besides the issues mentioned above, there are even larger ones that include international coordination on energy and environmental policy, creditor countries providing funds to debtor nations to stimulate growth, and limiting public and private debt in the international economy when inflation goes out of control while pouring more credit when there is contraction leading to deflationary conditions and high unemployment. In all cases the ultimate goal is not just saving the capitalist system under corporate welfare, but also saving it while maintaining an elected political regime in which the masses have confidence and do not question to the degree of demanding the end of capitalism as a socially unjust system.

The Keynesian model of the New Deal in the 1930s and other models of quasi-statism since then managed to accomplish the goal with some degree of success. However, all of this came to an end when the UK and US in the 1980s decided to abandon the Keynesian model and embrace the neoliberal model that would essentially begin to chip away at the social safety net different governments had built up for decades. It is not that world political leaders, central bankers and analysts who take the time to study the issues do not know about the shrinking middle class in the West, about high unemployment and high structural underemployment especially in the EU. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has spoken of an EU lost decade, as have the International Labor Organization, the OECD, and even the IMF. Although they agree about the “lost decade” and high youth unemployment, they have not and will not deviate from neoliberal orthodoxy and corporate welfare capitalism that creates and perpetuates these conditions.

The G-20 in Australia announced that the first conclusion they reached was to work toward higher living standards and lower unemployment. Clearly, this is a lofty goal with which no one would argue against, but how to reach the goal is the essential question. Recognizing that the global recovery is very slow, the G-20 concluded that consumer demand is part of the problem. But it is austerity policies that the IMF and the G-20 governments support which led to the slashing of consumer demand because the goal was to strengthen currencies and bring inflation under control. So what does the G-20 propose? Strengthening international organizations that are fully committed to neoliberalism and austerity; a solution that has proved it concentrates capital, raises unemployment, and creates socioeconomic and political polarization.

Stressing that debt-to-GDP ratio must be sustainable the G-20 agreed that a more flexible fiscal policy is in order to address deflationary pressures. However, this means something different for every country - Japan is at 200% debt-to-GDP ratio and Portugal at 80%, but it is Portugal that must suffer fiscal restraints and be placed under IMF austerity, not Japan that has a reserve currency and enjoys monetary and fiscal sovereignty. Portugal along with the rest of the Southern European countries are in essence monetary and fiscal colonies of Germany determining policy across the board for them. When the G-20 comes along and proposes a cookie-cutter solution that pertains to all countries from the richest to the poorest, the conclusion is that such a solution could not possibly best serve both with different abilities and needs.  

Another goal of the G-20 is to raise the GDP of its member nations collectively by 2% in the next four years. A 2% growth rate may be just great for North America, Australia, Japan and northwest Europe. However, 2% hardly addresses problems for the rest of the world coming out of a deep recession and need growth rates above 5% to reduce unemployment and raise living standards that have been dropping in the last six years. One could argue that $2 trillion is a huge figure in GDP growth by 2018, until we realize the world GDP is about $73 trillion. The 2% solution was deliberately modest because the neoliberals want to maintain a regime of monetarism that keeps inflation low, unemployment high and wages low.

A commitment to infrastructural development is another goal of the G-20. This is indeed a positive step toward stimulating jobs growth. However, handing out out contracts in many G-20 countries simply link corrupt politicians to corrupt contractors that accounts for a clientist system. Advocating privatization, neoliberals overlook the reality of how the economic theory actually works in practice and what narrow interests it serves, arguing that it is best for all of society. As a political phenomenon, clientism in G-20 and other countries tends to retard economic growth and development because funds do not go for their intended purpose, thus we have the phenomenon of parasitic capitalism.

Foreign investment is another G-20 goal that does not really work in practice as it does in theory. For example, investing in Turkey is hardly the same as investing in Australia where everything from the bureaucracy to labor and environmental laws are very different. It is one thing to state that trade and investment will deliver quality jobs, and another to realize that such jobs differ substantially from one G20 country to the other, and especially in developing nations. Along the same lines of a gap between rhetoric and reality, G-20 stated that they wish to reduce “the gap in participation rates between men and women in our countries by 25 per cent by 2025, taking into account national circumstances, to bring more than 100 million women into the labour force, significantly increase global growth and reduce poverty and inequality.”

Who in the world would be against such a goal? However, this is not very different from the UN goal to reduce world poverty in a set timeframe. This is just more lofty rhetoric that actual policies the G-20 advocate cannot possibly realize. In short, the contradiction of corporations chasing cheap labor invariably found in women in many countries is a reality of the capitalist economy and unlikely to change very much at all with rhetoric. That the G20 mention it as a problem simply confirms the reality of inequality the marketplace creates. The same holds true for youth unemployment that G-20 agreed to reduce. If neoliberal policies are the ones creating youth unemployment in the first place, how can the root cause to the problem be the solution? Considering the G-20 refuse to change these policies, I fail to see how there can be a radical reduction of youth unemployment no matter how much progress there is in science and technology.

With all of the emphasis on creating jobs and higher living standards one would think the G-20 conference was convened by governments interested in social justice. It is well known to all of these governments that small and mid-sized businesses create most jobs in an economy. It is true that the definition of small and mid-sized business is very different in the US than it is in South Africa, but the model is the same.

Under globalization, the policies of neoliberalism and capital concentration destroy small and mid-sized businesses. Therefore, we are left with higher unemployment and structural underemployment, wider rich-poor gap because of the shrinking middle class and people becoming apathetic about their institutions because they represent the rich. The G-20 conferences are intended to strengthen a system of geographic and social inequality on a world scale. Toward this goal they are a success. However, leaving behind a society where more and more people feel that the state is violating the social contract intended for the welfare of all will entail social unrest and this would mean that elected governments will be using more coercive measures not very different from those of authoritarian regimes.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

IS RUSSIA A GLOBAL SECURITY THREAT?



If one reads, watches on TV, or listens on radio what the Western media produces the impression is that Russia poses a threat to regional security owing to the Ukraine crisis, but to the security of the entire world because it is a nuclear power. Many analysts in the West and its allies from Australia to Saudi Arabia and Israel argue that Russia poses a threat because it possesses nuclear weapons and it has a large conventional force, although it is but a tiny fraction of what the US and NATO possess.

Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko has gone so far as to argue that Russia is not just a threat to global security but a terrorist state. After all, Russia annexed the Crimea, continues to support the separatist rebels inside the eastern provinces of Ukraine, and refuses to accept Ukraine’s economic, political, and military integration into the Western zone of influence. 

According to Russians living in London, there has been a cultural backlash because the majority population has reverted to Cold War days when Westerners loved to hate Russians. In other words, it is not merely the government of President Putin on target for Western hatred but the entire nation. If one observes what comes out of right wing media in English-speaking countries, things are not very different than in London. Russia is the nation to hate because it poses a global security threat, no questions asked.

Needless to point out, Russia sees the US and NATO as global security threats, that the only nation on earth ever to use nuclear weapons is the US, and the only nations on earth perpetually involved in militaristic interventions around the world is the US, with NATO following its lead. Russia further sees a concerted US-led effort to weaken Russia which uses energy as a political leverage on which its economy rests. Furthermore, the close relationship Moscow has had with Iran, Syria and China is something that bothers the US and many of its allies because it means that the effort to weaken it and reduce to a regional power without much influence has not worked.

It certainly does appear that Vladimir Putin may be much stronger than the capabilities of Russia could possibly carry him. This is an impression that the US and EU governments and Western media have created in order to build up the “monstrous threat” that the Russian bear represents once again after a period of hibernation during the 1990s and early 2000s.

With the total mess in the Middle East where the US became involved militarily and indirectly only to create much bigger problems than it proclaimed it wished to solve, the Ukrainian crisis looks even worse than it really is for the US and EU. After all, Obama had no choice but to work with Iran at some level, and to water down his commitment to remove Assad from power, considering that Turkey has been playing all sides, including the US and Saudi Arabia that had been providing financing for the rebels in Syria.

Upon closer examination, the US and NATO are the most potent military force in the world. However, the question is whether military force can be used as a deterrent instead of diplomacy to solve what are in essence political issues. Have military solutions really worked so well in Iraq and Afghanistan that it is time for yet another one in Ukraine? Is Russia so adamantly opposed to a political solution that it will not sit at the negotiating table?  Is the US really interested in testing the limits of Russia’s military power and China’s diplomatic resolve in backing Moscow over Ukraine?   

Russia has indeed displayed its predisposition toward military resolution to the current crisis over Ukraine, which in the view of Moscow is a crisis between Russia and the West that wishes to impose a strict containment policy on Russia. However, this is because Moscow feels that the West refuses to permit Russia a sphere of influence that Russians regard historically theirs. Besides, if Moscow agreed to everything Washington demands over Ukraine, which former Soviet republic is next in line for integration with the West?

While there are constant reports of Russian military exercises everywhere from the Mediterranean and Baltic to the border of the Ukraine and Australia, exactly what do these military exercises mean, other than to send a symbolic message? I would like to emphasize that Russia under Soviet rule was always more about displaying its military power and about making noise than actually carrying out military campaigns. The history of Soviet intervention was always limited to Communist regimes.

It is true that Russia has no qualms moving militarily when it comes to its own borders, but only if it faces a threat to what it defines as “national security” zone. Let us keep in mind that Russia from Czar Peter the Great until the present has always had a policy of “continental imperialism” (expansion within Eurasia) in comparison with European imperialism that was always “extra-continental” involving territories in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Having said this, Moscow is acting largely out of a defensive posture because Putin feels the US and EU have been ganging up on Russia, encircling it to contain it and not permitting a zone of influence Moscow regards as its historical right. Attempting to integrate Ukraine in the Western zone of influence would be comparable to Russia trying to integrate Mexico into its zone of influence. After all, there is the Cuban example.    

I seriously doubt that Germany and France are interested in a conflict with Russia, especially now that they realize sanctions have backfired and Russia’s decision to float its currency has come back to haunt EU. Having spent billions defending the rubble, Russia opted for a floating currency, thus ending the euro-dollar pegged currency. This move forces all currencies on a downward path, but places special burdens on Europe and especially on Germany that relies heavily on Russia for energy and as an export-import market.  Considering that EU is faced with a contracting economy at this juncture, and considering that major businesses including European defense industry, refuse the take the fall because the US wants sanctions on Russia, EU governments feel the squeeze from their own business community.

Russia will have a competitive advantage because of the floating decision which comes at a time that EU economy is stagnant and undergoing enormous global competition. Putin has in effect neutralized Germany and France forcing them to distant their policies from the US aggressive diplomacy/military-solution option. The risk/benefit ratio for France and Germany is to determine how far it can go along with US policy before striking out on their own and proposing some kind of solution over Ukraine that both Moscow and Kiev can live with. 

The simple answer to this scenario is absolutely no chance. It is true that there are Russian nationalists with dreams of a large Russian empire, but even the most delusional nationalists have the sense to realize EU means NATO and nuclear weapons.  Russia is only interested in recovering a part of its lost glory from the past, but within reason and that means within Eurasia, and not beyond it.  It is interesting that Western politicians and analysts in the media play up this card of making Russia a much more aggressive power than it really is simply because they are interested in strengthening their own defense budgets. 

What a better way to convince public opinion to accept more military spending, as the US insists must take place, than to present Russia as an aggressor whose long term goals are to take Paris and Berlin. The scenarios are simply absurd and serve only the defense industry, as well as governments shifting the public’s attention away from domestic issues like unemployment and low living standards for workers and the middle class. 

For now, there seems to be no easy answer and the stalemate will continue. Nothing so far seems to satisfy Moscow, Kiev and Washington as far as a diplomatic solution to the Ukraine crisis, but things can change in a few weeks or a few months. The pessimists fear that as a result of the lingering cat-and-mouse games between Moscow and Kiev the result may be escalation toward conventional war that would then invite NATO intervention on a limited basis, that would then invite China to side with Russia and then we are faced with a very serious scenario for WWIII. I do not want to dismiss this as absurd because anything is possible when no government is willing to make concessions at the negotiating table.

However, with all due respect to Ukraine, is this country worth going to war as far as Russia, the US, and especially the EU are concerned? How many French and German politicians and military officers would answer yes to this question?  True, the British will always side with the US as they have historically, but even they have to think of the dire consequences confronting Russia. And for all this for Ukraine and for what it may mean if Russia scores a few more points toward the realization of its dream in restoring the former glory of the USSR? 

I like believe that even the most hard-headed ideologues in Moscow, Washington, Kiev, and London are driven by a greater sense of national responsibility and continue to retain some modicum of their rational faculties so they would never go to the brink.  My prediction is a resolution that will probably come after Franco-German pressure on Washington and Moscow. China may play a role here because it wants a more tamed Russia, and certainly a less adventurist US trying to destabilize various regions around the world where China needs to expand its business. Improvement between Russia and EU are inevitable because of geography and common economic interests. As Erick Fromm noted in his famous book about the madness of the Cold War, May Man Prevail, we still have political solutions to pursue through negotiations, because in the last analysis the alternative is madness.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

CHINA AS BROKER OF WORLD STABILITY



In the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (Apec) summit in Beijing in November 2014 has proved that China is evolving into a power broker between US and Russia. Focusing primarily on trade, monetary, and other macroeconomic issues, the Chinese government has been trying to ameliorate relations with the US by striking a deal on tariffs in technology as well as other trade issues, including the larger one of forging greater free trade by supporting the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP). China has even gone the extra mile to ameliorate relations with its rival Japan, realizing that it has no choice but to cooperate otherwise there is a net loss in terms of both economic and geopolitical influence in Asia with the US benefiting from the weakening of these two neighbors.

 China’s efforts to forge greater global stability using economic issues as catalyst are taking place against the military-solutions oriented policy that the US has been pursuing toward Russia over the Ukraine crisis. Oddly enough, China is using the APEC summit to deflect attention away from that crisis and its modalities and toward a diplomacy based on macroeconomic issues. Clearly, the rate of Chinese growth has slowed, its “shadow banking” may be creating greater uncertainty than officials wish to admit, its currency may not be as solid as the regime wishes, and its efforts to help stabilize Russia against US-EU sanctions have been costly for now, though with longer term benefits.

For its part, China wants regional and international economic integration because it is now confident of its global economic position emerging as the most promising for the 21st century. In an interview with a Chinese news service, Obama had to deny that US policy toward China is based on containment at all levels from economic to political and military. Without commenting on the US containment policy, Beijing has stressed that the world economy is not stable and it needs further efforts through greater regional and global integration. 

It is incredibly odd that the US started as the cheerleader of globalization under the guise of the New World Order a generation ago, but it is now China taking that position and the US much more guarded.
Realizing that smaller nations are cautious when larger ones propose models of economic integration, China has tried to reassure the world that it is not after creating a “patron-client” integration model, that is one based on NAFTA where Mexico is the client state and US the patron deriving most of the benefits; or Germany using its creditor status to dominate the debtor nations in the Southern and Eastern periphery of Europe.  "China does not want to control or steal from anyone, nor does it want to marginalize any country… It wants to totally change the old way of winner-takes-all mentality."

The reassuring rhetoric aside, China is aiming to become the world’s number one economic power, at least for now. After signing free trade agreements with South Korea and Japan, it is now scheduled to do the same with Australia. However, the monetary policy of China is more tightly controlled by the quasi-statist regime than the market-pegged currencies of its trading partners, thus giving China a distinct competitive advantage. However, because so many multinational corporations are now operating out of China, the benefits are as much for them making greater profits owing to low production costs as they are for the Chinese economy and government. .

Emphasizing that Beijing wants both economic and political harmony between nations, without using uneven terms of trade to take advantage of the weaker ones, China has been presenting itself as a broker of stability and harmony rather than a power hungry nation trying to impose its hegemony. The government in Beijing even goes as far as assuring people around the world that it wants social harmony and social justice, not exploitation that many smaller nations fear from the stronger ones. This is an obvious reference to the US and northwest European countries that have been pursuing models of integration aimed at hegemony.
These days when all the focus of the US is on reviving the old Cold War, resorting to unilateral military solutions and covert operations to destabilize as many of its foes around the world as possible, China comes along trying to make its mark on the world scene through global economic integration that Beijing deems catalytic to eventually becoming the world’s dominant power.

While US Republican congressmen and advocates of militarism are arguing over the types of military solutions for various regional crises around the world, the Chinese are working hard to present themselves as the catalysts to global stability and harmony. Clearly, their actions are hardly reveals anything approximating altruism as they wish to imply. However, the issue here is what model of world development and stability best serves the interest of nations, the one that the US has been projecting or the one that China is presenting?  

Sunday, 9 November 2014

WORLD WAR III PEDDLERS



The crisis over Ukraine that stated in autumn 2013 and continued throughout 2014 with Russia depriving Ukraine of the Crimea – annexation, public referendum the result is the same – has caused many war mongers, nationalist and leftist critics of US-NATO policy, and other peddlers of crisis to warn of an impending WWIII. Nothing is impossible, but the idea that the US-NATO forces would intervene directly with boots on the ground to fight Russia and that would in turn unleash a global war with the possibility of nuclear weapons used sounds to me like science fiction. This does not mean that a conventional war confined to certain areas within Ukraine is out of the question, but to go from this to a global war scenario is to test the imagination of all except warmongers and peddlers of crisis.

I understand why a number of interest groups would welcome a conflict over Ukraine that would result in WWIII. It is indeed possible a combination of regional conflicts converges and blows up into a larger war that is difficult to contain despite rules of engagement on all sides. It is also possible that out of a mistake by someone in the military chain of command goes out of control and we have a chain reaction that follows. Here are some scenarios.

First, there are those in the defense industry in the US, Europe and Israel that stand to make money just by the talk of a war, let alone an actual conflict. The more peddlers of WWIII talk about this, the more cautious governments would become and purchase more arms. After all, the theory is that wars help to stimulate the economy and many actually believe this is the case as though the bills for the war never come due for the taxpayers.

Second, there are the ideologues in political circles and private sector that want a conflict between East and West because “hot war” never took place during the Cold War. Now that the Cold War is over and the US prevailed over its rival and remains the world’ sole superpower, why not teach Russia a lesson and put it in its place, while also sending a strong message to China and all other potential rivals great and small?

Third, there are the nationalists in Ukraine and Russia that want to see this through to the end not through a political solution but a military conflict because that is how things are settled in absolute terms instead of relative terms through diplomacy. Ukraine itself could push matters to the point of no return.

Fourth, there are Europeans who detest Russia for having so much leverage over them because it supplies energy to Europe. This energy dependence relationship can be settled once and for all through a conflict with Russia using Ukraine as the pretext. Dealing a definite blow to Russia would humble it into submission at least; many hope so.

Fifth, there are Russians who resent the West for imposing very painful sanctions at a time of economic and financial problems, partly because of low energy prices. The sanctions are by themselves a form of war, so why not have it out with the US-NATO forces, threatening Europe with smaller tactical nuclear weapons that would cause enormous damage for decades.  Russian nationalists and militarists already feel humiliated by the West, so what does it matter that they go the next step toward a military confrontation.

Sixth, the media in the West has been obsessed with the prospect of a global war with Russia, peddling it almost on a daily basis. Arguing that Russia wants a war, the Western media rarely focuses on exactly what is the national interest of the US in the Ukraine and why can the crisis not be resolved through diplomacy? The media obsession is that Russia is on the offensive, when all statements from Moscow, as well as its actions indicate Moscow is on the defensive and acting out of fear from a position of weakness. Nevertheless, US magazines portray Putin as the world’s most powerful leader, thus projecting an image of a Russian aggressor. In fact, Russia is running scared to China, India, Iran, the former Soviet republics and just about anyone that would forge ties with it to deter what it sees as the US-NATO aggression over Ukraine.

Seventh, the Republican victory in the November election of 2014 paves the way for more defense spending and the desire of the militarists who have been crying out for massive re-militarization and greater reliance on unilateral solutions with reliance on the military. In short, the threat of a conflict with Russia over Ukraine provides the excuse militarists need to justify pouring more money to DoD. Even if nothing happens over Ukraine, the goal is accomplished.

Eighth, there are regional powers that want a conflict between Russia and the West because they see that in such a conflict they would benefit. Turkey is one such power, but so are the Baltic states as well as some among the former Soviet republics, that may include Kazakhstan. Smaller powers lining up behind larger powers to divide the spoils of war the day after is nothing new when there is a prospect for a wider conflict.

Ninth, a war between Russia and the West, which would in reality mean Russia and whatever allies it can line up – with China as the wild card - against NATO, would actually revitalize NATO and propel the US into the undisputed number one global status that would send a strong message to Beijing and US allies as well. NATO revitalization is the way to secure greater US influence because in the absence of an enemy in Moscow, why is NATO really needed?

Tenth, there are those who really do not want WWII, but fear it would take place if the deadlock between Russia and the US continues. This group of people, mostly intellectuals and some politicians, is simply trying to alert the public that no one should be surprised if things get out of hand and we go from small confrontations into a full blown global war.

The above are the reasons that many are peddling war or at least warning about war between Russia and the West. What are the reasons of the very low prospect of WWIII?

First, Russia has nuclear weapons and those are made to be used one as a deterrent, not for combat. During the 1980s, the Reagan administration taught us that it is possible to have nuclear war on a limited basis as though it is no different than conventional war, as long as it does not take place on US soil. If even a single nuclear weapons is used no matter how limited its impact, the genie is out of the bottle and mass destruction awaits the planet. This is something that Washington and Moscow know, but more importantly, the European would never permit the US to go this far because they know Europe will be the victim.

Second, exactly what is Ukraine worth geopolitically and economically that the US would risk war with Europe as the ultimate victim to pay the price? Even if the war last a few days, it would cause such grave economic and political instability that regimes may collapse and social uprisings would ensue in a number of EU countries.

Third, China is the wild card that has really no choice but to support Russia because of US refusal to negotiate a solution on the Ukraine issue, at least as far as Beijing is concerned. Not that China is blind to Putin’s megalomania, and of Russia’s possible designs to expand their sphere of influence in all of the former Soviet republics. But what does China gain by having the US-NATO alliance strengthened through a war with Russia?

Fourth, does American and EU public opinion really favor WWIII over the Ukraine? According to US poll only 50% of Americans believe the US is headed back toward another Cold War, and most of those still see Russia from the prism of the old Cold War. If the majority did not have the stomach for Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts that ended in disaster for the countries invaded and the US, why would they back WWIII over Ukraine that they see as a European affair? 

Fifth, despite all the defensive noise Putin has made about war, would Russia risk everything for Ukraine, considering it already has the Crimea? What exactly would it gain vs. lose?

Sixth, would not a Russia-West war mean instability in other parts of the world where the US and its allies have vital interests? For example, how would Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela, Cuba, and other Latin American republics react to American militarism, as they see it? I doubt the US would secure their support as it did in WWII. How would African countries and a number of Muslim countries react? Is this worth the risk?

I believe that policymakers in Washington, assisted by very able analysts, know everything I have outlined above and would think twice before taking the ultimate act of recklessness. One could argue that Truman dropped the bomb when Oppenheimer had doubts about its use; that Johnson escalated the Vietnam War when his own advisors explained it was really over; that Bush went to Iraq even after Powell explained it would be very difficult to achieve publicly stated goals. In other words, decisions are not always made rationally, and there is nothing to suggest Russia may not make a unilateral move that so outrages Washington that it decides to risk the world, not just US interests. All of these are possible, but very highly unlikely as the peddlers of crisis and leftist critics are warning.