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Saturday, April 6, 2024

A Brief History of Clown World - Vox Popoli

 An Italian economic historian appears to have inadvertently exposed the way in which Clown World migrates The Empire That Never Ended from a declining power to its successor empire:

It pays to revisit the work of the Italian political economist and historian of global capitalism Giovanni Arrighi (1937-2009). Arrighi, who is often simplistically pigeonholed as a Marxist historian, a label far too constricting given the breadth of his work, explored the origins and evolution of capitalist systems dating back to the Renaissance and showed how recurrent phases of financial expansion and collapse underpin broader geopolitical reconfigurations. Occupying a central place in his theory is the notion that the cycle of rise and fall of each successive hegemon terminates in a crisis of financialization. It is this phase of financialization that facilitates the shift to the next hegemon.

Arrighi dates the origin of this cyclical process to the Italian city-states of the 14th century, an era that he calls the birth of the modern world. From the marriage of Genoese capital and Spanish power that produced the great discoveries, he traces this path through Amsterdam, London and, finally, the United States.

In each case, the cycle is shorter and each new hegemon is larger, more complex and more powerful than the previous one. And, as we mentioned above, each terminates in a crisis of financialization that marks the final stage of hegemony. But this phase also fertilizes the soil in which the next hegemon will sprout, thus marking financialization as the harbinger of an impending hegemonic shift. Essentially, the ascending power emerges in part by availing itself of the financial resources of the financialized and declining power.

Arrighi detected a first wave of financialization starting around 1560, when the Genoese businessmen withdrew from commerce and specialized in finance, thereby establishing symbiotic relations with the Kingdom of Spain. The subsequent wave began around 1740 when the Dutch began to withdraw from commerce to become “the bankers of Europe.” The financialization in Great Britain, which we will examine below, emerged around the end of the 19th century; for the United States, it began in the 1970s.

Hegemony he defines as “the power of a state to exercise functions of leadership and governance over a system of sovereign states.” Central to this concept is the idea that historically such governance has been linked to the transformation of how the system of relations among states functions in itself and also that it consists of both what we would call geopolitical dominance but also a sort of intellectual and moral leadership. The hegemonic power not only rises to the top in the jockeying among states but actually forges the system itself in its own interest. Key to this capacity for the expansion of the hegemon’s own power is the ability to turn its national interests into international interests.

Observers of the current American hegemony will recognize the transformation of the global system to suit American interests. The maintenance of an ideologically charged ‘rules-based’ order – ostensibly for the benefit of everyone – fits neatly into the category of conflation of national and international interests. Meanwhile, the previous hegemon, the British, had their own version that incorporated both free-trade policies and a matching ideology that emphasized the wealth of nations over national sovereignty.

Returning to the question of financialization, the original insight into its epochal aspect first came from the French historian Fernand Braudel, of whom Arrighi was a disciple. Braudel observed that the rise of finance as the predominant capitalist activity of a given society was a sign of its impending decline.

Arrighi adopted this approach and, in his major work called ‘The Long Twentieth Century,’ elaborated his theory of the cyclical pattern of ascendency and collapse within the capitalist system, which he called the ‘systemic cycle of accumulation.’ According to this theory, the period of ascendency is based on an expansion of trade and production. But this phase eventually reaches maturity, at which point it becomes more difficult to profitably reinvest capital in further expansion. In other words, the economic endeavors that propelled the rising power to its perch become increasingly less profitable as competition intensifies and, in many cases, much of the real economy is lost to the periphery, where wages are lower. Rising administrative expenses and the cost of maintaining an ever-expanding military also contribute to this.

This leads to the onset of what Arrighi calls a ‘signal crisis,’ meaning an economic crisis that signals the shift from accumulation by material expansion to accumulation by financial expansion. What ensues is a phase characterized by financial intermediation and speculation. Another way to think about this is that, having lost the actual basis for its economic prosperity, a nation turns to finance as the final economic field in which hegemony can be sustained. The phase of financialization is thus characterized by an exaggerated emphasis on financial markets and the finance sector.

Financialization is the first stage of decline and fall, but because it looks like an economic boom, it confuses everyone as to the fact that the mantle of hegemonic power is already being passed on. And part of the chaos of today’s world likely stems from the apparent fact that China belatedly rejected both financialization as well as its role as the next seat of the travelling empire, while both China and Russia are systematically destroying every attempt to expand the hegemon to global proportions.

It’s a long piece, but read the whole thing. The Long Twentieth Century is definitely going on the reading list.

DISCUSS ON SG

https://voxday.net/2024/04/04/a-brief-history-of-clown-world/

Death of empires: History tells us what will follow the collapse of US hegemony — RT Business News

 The turn away from expansion, production and trade toward lending and speculation has precipitated decline for centuries

Death of empires: History tells us what will follow the collapse of US hegemony

One of the curious features of the American landscape is the fact that these days the financialization of the economy is widely condemned as unhealthy, yet little is being done to reverse it. There was a time, back in the 1980s and ‘90s, when finance-driven capitalism was supposed to usher in a time of better capital allocation and a more dynamic economy. This is not a view one hears often anymore.

So, if such a phenomenon is overwhelmingly viewed negatively but isn’t being amended, then perhaps it’s not merely a failure of policymaking but rather something deeper – something more endemic to the very fabric of the capitalist economy. It is of course possible to lay the blame for this state of affairs at the feet of the current crop of cynical and power-hungry elites and to stop one’s analysis there. But an examination of history reveals recurrent instances of financialization that bear remarkable similarities, which invites the conclusion that perhaps the predicament in the American economy in recent decades is not unique and that the ever-rising power of Wall Street was in a sense preordained.

Introducing Giovanni Arrighi: Financialization as a cyclical phenomenon

It is in this context that it pays to revisit the work of the Italian political economist and historian of global capitalism Giovanni Arrighi (1937-2009). Arrighi, who is often simplistically pigeonholed as a Marxist historian, a label far too constricting given the breadth of his work, explored the origins and evolution of capitalist systems dating back to the Renaissance and showed how recurrent phases of financial expansion and collapse underpin broader geopolitical reconfigurations. Occupying a central place in his theory is the notion that the cycle of rise and fall of each successive hegemon terminates in a crisis of financialization. It is this phase of financialization that facilitates the shift to the next hegemon.

Arrighi dates the origin of this cyclical process to the Italian city-states of the 14th century, an era that he calls the birth of the modern world. From the marriage of Genoese capital and Spanish power that produced the great discoveries, he traces this path through Amsterdam, London and, finally, the United States.

In each case, the cycle is shorter and each new hegemon is larger, more complex and more powerful than the previous one. And, as we mentioned above, each terminates in a crisis of financialization that marks the final stage of hegemony. But this phase also fertilizes the soil in which the next hegemon will sprout, thus marking financialization as the harbinger of an impending hegemonic shift. Essentially, the ascending power emerges in part by availing itself of the financial resources of the financialized and declining power.

Arrighi detected a first wave of financialization starting around 1560, when the Genoese businessmen withdrew from commerce and specialized in finance, thereby establishing symbiotic relations with the Kingdom of Spain. The subsequent wave began around 1740 when the Dutch began to withdraw from commerce to become “the bankers of Europe.” The financialization in Great Britain, which we will examine below, emerged around the end of the 19th century; for the United States, it began in the 1970s. 

Hegemony he defines as “the power of a state to exercise functions of leadership and governance over a system of sovereign states.” Central to this concept is the idea that historically such governance has been linked to the transformation of how the system of relations among states functions in itself and also that it consists of both what we would call geopolitical dominance but also a sort of intellectual and moral leadership. The hegemonic power not only rises to the top in the jockeying among states but actually forges the system itself in its own interest. Key to this capacity for the expansion of the hegemon’s own power is the ability to turn its national interests into international interests.

Observers of the current American hegemony will recognize the transformation of the global system to suit American interests. The maintenance of an ideologically charged ‘rules-based’ order – ostensibly for the benefit of everyone – fits neatly into the category of conflation of national and international interests. Meanwhile, the previous hegemon, the British, had their own version that incorporated both free-trade policies and a matching ideology that emphasized the wealth of nations over national sovereignty.

Returning to the question of financialization, the original insight into its epochal aspect first came from the French historian Fernand Braudel, of whom Arrighi was a disciple. Braudel observed that the rise of finance as the predominant capitalist activity of a given society was a sign of its impending decline.

Arrighi adopted this approach and, in his major work called ‘The Long Twentieth Century,’ elaborated his theory of the cyclical pattern of ascendency and collapse within the capitalist system, which he called the ‘systemic cycle of accumulation.’ According to this theory, the period of ascendency is based on an expansion of trade and production. But this phase eventually reaches maturity, at which point it becomes more difficult to profitably reinvest capital in further expansion. In other words, the economic endeavors that propelled the rising power to its perch become increasingly less profitable as competition intensifies and, in many cases, much of the real economy is lost to the periphery, where wages are lower. Rising administrative expenses and the cost of maintaining an ever-expanding military also contribute to this. 

This leads to the onset of what Arrighi calls a ‘signal crisis,’ meaning an economic crisis that signals the shift from accumulation by material expansion to accumulation by financial expansion. What ensues is a phase characterized by financial intermediation and speculation. Another way to think about this is that, having lost the actual basis for its economic prosperity, a nation turns to finance as the final economic field in which hegemony can be sustained. The phase of financialization is thus characterized by an exaggerated emphasis on financial markets and the finance sector.

How financialization delays the inevitable

However, the corrosive nature of financialization is not immediately evident – in fact, quite the opposite. Arrighi demonstrates how the turn to financialization, which is initially quite lucrative, can provide a temporary and illusory respite from the trajectory of decline, thus deferring the onset of the terminal crisis. For example, the incumbent hegemon at the time, Great Britain, was the country hardest hit by the so-called Long Depression of 1873-1896, a prolonged period of malaise that saw Britain’s industrial growth decelerate and its economic standing diminished. Arrighi identifies this as the ‘signal crisis’ – the point in the cycle where productive vigor is lost and financialization sets in.

And yet, as Arrighi quotes David Landes’ 1969 book ‘The Unbound Prometheus,’ “as if by magic, the wheel turned.” In the last years of the centurybusiness suddenly improved and profits rose. “Confidence returned—not the spotty, evanescent confidence of the brief booms that had punctuated the gloom of the preceding decades, but a general euphoria such as had not prevailed since…the early 1870s….In all of western Europe, these years live on in memory as the good old days—the Edwardian era, la belle époque.” Everything seemed right again.

However, there is nothing magical about the sudden restoration of profits, Arrighi explains. What happened is that “as its industrial supremacy waned, its finance triumphed and its services as shipper, trader, insurance broker and intermediary in the world’s system of payments became more indispensable than ever.”

In other words, there was a large expansion in financial speculation. Initially much of the expanding financial income derived from interest and dividends being generated by previous investments. But increasingly a significant portion was financed by what Arrighi calls the “domestic conversion of commodity capital into money capital.” Meanwhile, as surplus capital moved out of trade and production, British real wages began a decline starting after the mid-1890s – a reversal of the trend of the past five decades. An enriched financial and business elite amid an overall decline in real wages is something that should ring a bell to observers of the current American economy.

Essentially, by embracing financialization, Britain played the last card it had to stave off its imperial decline. Beyond that lay the ruin of World War I and the subsequent instability of the interwar period, a manifestation of what Arrighi calls ‘systemic chaos’ – a phenomenon that becomes particularly visible during signal crises and terminal crises.

Historically, Arrighi observes, these breakdowns have been associated with escalation into outright warfare – specifically, the Thirty Years’ War (1618-48), the Napoleonic wars (1803-15) and the two World Wars. Interestingly and somewhat counterintuitively, these wars have typically not seen the incumbent hegemon and the challenger on opposing sides (with the Anglo-Dutch naval wars a notable exception). Rather, it has typically been the actions of other rivals that have hastened the arrival of the terminal crisis. But even in the case of the Dutch and British, conflict co-existed with cooperation as Dutch merchants increasingly directed their capital to London, where it generated better returns.

Wall Street and the crisis of the last hegemon 

The process of financialization emerging from a signal crisis was repeated with startling similarities in the case of Britain’s successor, the US. The 1970s was a decade of deep crisis for the US, with high levels of inflation, a weakening dollar after the 1971 abandonment of gold convertibility and, perhaps most importantly, a loss of competitiveness of US manufacturing. With rising powers such as Germany, Japan, and, later, China, able to outcompete it in terms of production, the US reached the same tipping point and, like its predecessors, it turned to financialization. The 1970s was, in the words of historian Judith Stein, the “pivotal decade” that “sealed a society-wide transition from industry to finance, factory floor to trading floor.”

This, Arrighi explains, allowed the US to attract massive amounts of capital and move toward a model of deficit financing – an increasing indebtedness of the US economy and state to the rest of the world. But financialization also allowed the US to reflate its economic and political power in the world, particularly as the dollar was ensconced as the global reserve currency. This reprieve gave the US the illusion of prosperity of the late 1980s and ‘90s, when, as Arrighi says “there was this idea that the United States had ‘come back’.” No doubt the demise of its main geopolitical rival, the Soviet Union, contributed to this buoyant optimism and sense that Western neoliberalism had been vindicated.

However, beneath the surface, the tectonic plates of decline were still grinding away as the US became ever more dependent on external funding and increasingly ramped-up leverage on a diminishing sliver of real economic activity that was rapidly being offshored and hollowed out. As Wall Street rose in prominence, many quintessential American economies were essentially asset-stripped for the sake of financial profit.

But, as Arrighi points out, financialization merely stalls the inevitable and this has only been laid bare by subsequent events in the US. By the late 1990s, the financialization itself was beginning to malfunction, starting with the Asia crisis of 1997 and subsequent popping of the dotcom bubble, and continuing with a reduction in interest rates that would inflate the housing bubble that detonated so spectacularly in 2008. Since then, the cascade of imbalances in the financial system has only accelerated and it has only been through a combination of increasingly desperate financial legerdemain – inflating one bubble after another – and outright coercion that has allowed the US to extend its hegemony even a bit longer beyond its time.

In 1999, Arrighi, in a piece co-authored with American scholar Beverly Silver, summarized the predicament of the time. It has been a quarter century since these words were penned, but they might as well have been written last week:

“The global financial expansion of the last twenty years or so is neither a new stage of world capitalism nor the harbinger of a ‘coming hegemony of global markets’. Rather, it is the clearest sign that we are in the midst of a hegemonic crisis. As such, the expansion can be expected to be a temporary phenomenon that will end more or less catastrophically… But the blindness that led the ruling groups of [hegemonic states of the past] to mistake the ‘autumn’ for a new ‘spring’ of their…power meant that the end came sooner and more catastrophically than it might otherwise have…A similar blindness is evident today.”

An early prophet of a multipolar world

In his late work, Arrighi turned his attention to East Asia and surveyed the prospects for a transition to the next hegemony. On the one hand, he identified China as the logical successor to American hegemony. However, as a counterweight to that, he did not see the cycle he outlined as continuing in perpetuity and believed there would come a point where it is no longer possible to bring into existence a state with larger and more comprehensive organizational structures. Perhaps, he speculated, the US represents just that expansive capitalist power that has taken the capitalist logic to its earthly limits.

Arrighi also considered the systemic cycle of accumulation to be a phenomenon inherent to capitalism and not applicable to pre-capitalist times or non-capitalist formations. As of 2009, when he died, Arrighi’s view was that China remained a decisively non-capitalist market society. How it would evolve remained an open question.

While Arrighi was not dogmatic on how the future would shape up and did not apply his theories deterministically, especially with regard to the developments of recent decades, he did speak forcefully about what in today’s language could be called the necessity of accommodating a multipolar world. In their 1999 article, he and Silver predicted “a more or less imminent fall of the West from the commanding heights of the world capitalist system is possible, even likely.”

The US, they believe, “has even greater capabilities than Britain did a century ago to convert its declining hegemony into an exploitative dominion.” If the system does eventually break down, “it will be primarily because of US resistance to adjustment and accommodation. And conversely, US adjustment and accommodation to the rising economic power of the East Asian region is an essential condition for a non-catastrophic transition to a new world order.”

Whether such accommodation is forthcoming remains to be seen, but Arrighi strikes a pessimistic tone, noting that each hegemon, at the end of its cycle of dominance, experiences a “final boom” during which it pursues its “national interest without regard for system-level problems that require system-level solutions.” A more apt description of the current state of affairs cannot be formulated.

The system-level problems are multiplying, but the sclerotic ancien régime in Washington is not addressing them. By mistaking its financialized economy for a vigorous one, it overestimated the potency of weaponizing the financial system it controls, thus again seeing ‘spring’ where there is only ‘autumn.’ This, as Arrighi, predicts, will only hasten the end. 

 

 

The Inevitability of Catastrophic Defeat - Vox Popoli

 Edward Luttwalk doesn’t seem to grasp that NATO will be defeated even faster, and more catastrophically, than its Ukrainian proxies were. Because it won’t be a restrained special military operation limited to the front, but rather full-blown war.

NATO nations can only forestall an inevitable loss to Russian forces in Ukraine by deploying their troops to the former Soviet republic, a former adviser to the US military has claimed.

“The arithmetic of this is inescapable: NATO countries will soon have to send soldiers to Ukraine, or else accept catastrophic defeat,” military strategist Edward Luttwak wrote in an oped published on Thursday by the British online media outlet UnHerd. “The British and French, along with the Nordic countries, are already quietly preparing to send troops – both small elite units and logistics and support personnel – who can remain far from the front.”

The conflict can’t be won without direct troop deployments because regardless of the quantity and quality of weapons sent to Kiev, Ukrainian forces are too outnumbered by the Russians, Luttwak argued.

These older military strategists simply don’t understand the ways in which technology has changed the operational and logistical elements. Any NATO troops entering Ukraine will be very nearly as vulnerable “far from the front” as they are on the front itself, especially since Russia will be free to fully utilize its air superiority, the first consequences of which have only recently begun to make themselves felt.

DISCUSS ON SG

https://voxday.net/2024/04/06/the-inevitability-of-catastrophic-defeat/

The Death of Amr, by Chris Hedges - The Unz Review

 Over 13,000 children have been killed in Gaza. Amr Abdallah was one of them.


Amr Abdallah

On the morning Amr Abdallah was killed, he woke before dawn to say his Ramadan prayers with his father, mother, two younger brothers and aunt, in an open field in southern Gaza.

“It is You we worship and You we ask for help,” they prayed. “Guide us to the straight path — the path of those upon whom You have bestowed favor, not of those who have evoked Your anger or of those who are astray.”

It was dark. They made their way back to their tents. Their old life was gone — their village, Al-Qarara, their house — built with the money Amr’s father saved during the 30 years he worked in the Persian Gulf — their orchards, their school, the local mosque and the town’s cultural museum with artifacts dating from 4,000 B.C.

Blasted into rubble...................

........They went back to their tents after prayers. Amr was in the tent with his aunt and three cousins. A shell exploded near the tent. Shrapnel tore apart his aunt’s leg and critically injured his cousins. Amr frantically tried to help them. A second shell exploded. Shrapnel ripped through Amr’s stomach and exited from his back.

Amr stood up. He walked out of the tent. He collapsed. Older cousins ran towards him. They had enough gas in their car — fuel is in very short supply — to drive Amr to Nasser Hospital, three miles away.

“Amr, are you okay?” his cousins asked.

“Yes,” he moaned.

“Amr, are you awake?” they asked after a few minutes

“Yes,” he whispered.

They lifted him from the car. They carried him into the overcrowded corridors of the hospital. They set him down.

He was dead.

Amr in death
Amr in death

They carried Amr’s body back to the car. They drove to the family’s encampment.

Amr’s uncle shows me a video of Amr’s mother keening over his corpse.

“My son, my son, my beloved son,” she laments in the video, her left hand tenderly stroking his face. “I don’t know what I will do without you.”

They buried Amr in a makeshift grave.

Read full text: https://www.unz.com/article/the-death-of-amr/ 

Massive US biowar funding created ‘biowar / vax industrial complex’ - threatens to swallow the West, by Charles Bausman - The Unz Review

 Here’s the article I originally wrote. The most important insight is the parallel with Benz’s ideas.


(Moscow, Russia.) Most would likely agree that we are witnessing a grand struggle between good and evil. The list of revealed horrors is long, some more terrifying than others. My list of some of the worst: the poisoning of our food, water, and air; wholesale election fraud, massive government programs to eliminate free speech, mass surveillance, the genocide of the Palestinians, and a very real possibility of WW3 breaking out.

It’s a pitched battle, with both sides scoring wins and losses across a wide front. When I ask, where might the good guys be vulnerable?, where might the bad guys deal a devastating blow?, one of the scariest, and sadly, entirely plausible options would be to unleash a devastating bioweapon on the world. I’ve thought that ever since Covid hit us, and before that even.

More and more indisputable evidence is coming out that, unfortunately, this is a very real possibility: it turns out that the US has an enormous, secretive, bioweapons program going back to 1947, and that over the last two decades it has exploded in size and funding. Its scale has ballooned so large and is so complex that it defies simple description, but researchers, politicians, whistleblowers, journalists, and bureaucrats around the world are slowly piecing things together – and Russia has much to add in connecting the dots.

Read full text: https://www.unz.com/article/massive-us-biowar-funding-created-biowar-vax-industrial-complex-threatens-to-swallow-the-west/

Thursday, April 4, 2024

Does the Israeli Tail Wag the American Dog? Judge for yourself!

‘The Nasty Little Sparta’ By Eric S. Margolis

Christian Easter: The Resurrection A Holy Day To Be Revered

The Science of Oil, Water, Climate, and Guessing - Helena

America’s Foreign Aid Ponzi Scheme - Helena

Looking for a Way Out - Vox Popoli

Flashback: Britain's 1947 'Kristalnacht' Was Retaliation For Jewish Terrorism In Palestine - Christians for Truth

China in the Year of the Dragon and Beyond, by Richard Solomon - The Unz Review

This is not Self-Defense - Vox Popoli

Why the Empire Always Falls - Vox Popoli

WWIII; Another Leap Forward For Globalism’s Death Posted on April 1, 2024 by Helena

Hellfire - by Scipio Eruditus - Dispatches from Reality

Spengler and the Clowns in the Bunker - Vox Popoli

They Know They Will Lose - Vox Popoli

A New Russia Has Emerged - Paul Craig Roberts

 Dmitry Trenin reports that Russia has come to its senses and, as I have long recommended, turned her back on the West, a morally debauched, socially dysfunctional, and politically disunited and disintegrating polity.

For years Russia was handicapped by its pro-Western intellectuals, but the West’s demonization of Russia has forced them to change their spots or to leave. Free of the former influence of these Russian traitors, everyone of whom Stalin or Lenin would have shot, Russia has emerged as the leader of the world majority that is tired of Western bullying.

The fools in Washington, instead of undermining Russia in the interest of US hegemony, have created their replacement by Russia as world leader.

The fools in Washington fail to comprehend that a country blinds itself when it curtails freedom of speech, discredits truth in the interest of self-serving agendas, and destroys the patriotism and security of its ethnic base.

All across America and its empire everything is failing. Schools and universities are propaganda centers against white Americans, the military is a disunited tower of babel, massively expensive weapons systems are problem-plagued, the social and economic infrastructure is disintegrating, health care has been turned into a profit machine–at the public’s expense–for Big Pharma. Both water and food are polluted. Government bureaucracies have taken control over children away from parents. Economic opportunity is shrinking. Integrity cannot be found. People who insist on truth in place of propaganda are persecuted.

It is difficult to believe that 20 years ago Russia looked to the West with hope.

https://www.rt.com/russia/595266-ukraine-west-pushed-russia/

Dmitry Trenin: Russia is undergoing a new, invisible revolution — RT Russia & Former Soviet Union

 The US-led bloc has pushed the country to develop a new awareness of itself and its place in the world

Dmitry Trenin: Russia is undergoing a new, invisible revolution

When President Vladimir Putin, back in February 2022, launched Russia’s military operation in Ukraine, he had specific, but limited objectives in mind. It was essentially about assuring Russia’s security vis-à-vis NATO.

However, the drastic, expansive and well-coordinated Western reaction to Moscow’s moves – the torpedoing of the Russo-Ukrainian peace deal and the mounting escalation of the US-led bloc's involvement in the conflict, including its role in deadly attacks inside Russia – have fundamentally changed our country's attitude towards our former partners.

We no longer hear talk about “grievances” and complaints about “failures in understanding.” The last two years have produced nothing less than a revolution in Moscow’s foreign policy, more radical and far-reaching than anything anticipated on the eve of the Ukraine intervention. Over the past 25 months, it has been quickly gaining in strength and profundity. Russia's international role, its position in the world, its goals and methods of reaching them, its basic worldview – all are changing.  

The national foreign policy concept, signed by Putin just a year ago, represents a major departure from its predecessors. It establishes the country’s identity in terms of it being a distinct civilization. In fact, it is the first official Russian document to do so. It also radically transforms the priorities of Moscow's diplomacy, with the countries of the post-Soviet ‘near abroad’ on top, followed by China and India, Asia and the Middle East, and Africa and Latin America.

Western Europe and the United States rank next to last, just above the Antarctic. 

Unlike in the previous decade, when Russia’s “turn to the east” was first announced, these are not just words. Our trade partners, not just political interlocutors, have also switched places. In just two years, the European Union, which only recently accounted for 48% of foreign trade, is down to 20%, whereas Asia's share has soared from 26% to 71%. Russia's use of the US dollar has also plummeted, with increasingly more transactions being conducted in Chinese yuan and other non-Western currencies such as the Indian rupee, the UAE dirham, as well as the instruments of our partners in the Eurasian Economic Union, and the ruble itself.

Russia has also ended its long and tiresome efforts to adapt to the US-led world order – something which it enthusiastically embraced in the early 1990s, grew disillusioned about in the following decade, and unsuccessfully tried to establish a modus vivendi with in the 2010s. Instead of surrendering to a post-Cold War set-up, in which it was left with no say, Russia has begun pushing back more and more against the hegemonic US-centered system. For the first time since the Bolshevik Revolution, albeit in a very different way from then, the country has de facto become a revolutionary power. While China still seeks to improve its position in the existing world order, Russia sees that state-of-affairs as being beyond repair, and is instead seeking to prepare for a new alternative arrangement.

For the time being, instead of the “one world” concept, which the Soviet Union even accepted in 1986, under Gorbachev, Moscow's contemporary foreign policy has now split into two. For Russian policymakers, the post-2022 West has turned into a “house of adversaries,” while partners for Russia can only be found in the countries of the non-West, for whom we have coined a new description, “the World Majority.” The criterion for being included the group is simple: non-participation in the anti-Russia sanctions regime imposed by Washington and Brussels. This majority of over 100 nations is not considered a pool of allies: the depth and warmth of their relations with the Russia vary greatly, but these are the countries that Moscow can do business with.

For many decades, our country has been exceedingly supportive of various international organizations; it sought to join as many clubs as possible. Now Moscow has to admit that even the United Nations, including its Security Council (which Russia, a veto-wielding permanent member, has traditionally hailed as the centerpiece of the world system), has turned into a dysfunctional theater of polemics. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which Moscow long wanted to see as the premier security instrument in Europe, is now nearly totally dismissed due to the anti-Russian stance of its NATO/EU majority membership. Moscow has quit the Council of Europe, and its participation in a number of regional groupings for the Arctic, the Baltic, the Barents and the Black Seas has been put on hold.

True, much of this has been the result of the West’s policy of trying to isolate our country, but rather than feeling deprived of something valuable, Russians have few regrets over having had to leave or to suspend membership. Very tellingly, having re-established the supremacy of national legislation over international treaties, Moscow now cares little about what its adversaries can say or do about its policies or actions. From Russia's standpoint, not only can't the West be trusted any longer; the international bodies that it controls have lost all legitimacy.   

This attitude toward Western-dominated international institutions contrasts with the view of non-Western ones. This year, Russia’s presidency of the recently enlarged BRICS group is being marked by hyperactivity in preparations for hosting. Russia is also most supportive of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which its close ally Belarus is about to join. Together with countries in Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America, it's working closely to build new international regimes in a number of areas: finance and trade, standards and technology, information and health care. These are expressly being designed to be free from Western domination and interference. If successful, they can serve as elements of the future inclusive world order which Moscow promotes.

So, the changes in Russia’s foreign policy run very deep indeed. There is a question, however: how sustainable are they?

Above all, it should be noted that changes in foreign policy are an important, but also a relatively minor element of the wider transformation which is going on in Russia’s economy, polity, society, culture, values, and spiritual and intellectual life. The general direction and importance of those changes is clear. They are transforming the country from being a distant outlier on the fringes of the Western world into something which is self-sufficient and pioneering. These tectonic shifts would not have been possible without the Ukraine crisis. Having been given a powerful and painful push, now they have acquired a dynamic of their own. 

It's true that February 2022 itself was the end result of several trends that had been gathering momentum for about a decade. Feelings that fuller sovereignty was desired finally became dominant after Putin’s return to the Kremlin in 2012 and the re-unification with Crimea in 2014. Some truly fundamental changes with regard to national values and ideology were made in the form of amendments to the Russian Constitution, approved in 2020. 

In March 2024 Putin won a resounding victory in the presidential elections and secured a fresh six-year mandate. This should be seen as a vote of confidence in him as the supreme commander-in-chief in the existential struggle (as Putin himself describes it) against the West. With that backing, the president can proceed with even deeper changes – and must make sure that those he has already wrought are preserved and built upon by those who succeed him in the Kremlin.

It is important to note that the Russian elites, which since the 1990s have been closely tied to the West, have had to make a hard choice recently between their country and their assets. Those who decided to stay have had to become more “national” in their outlook and action. Meanwhile, Putin has launched a campaign to form a new elite around the Ukraine war veterans. The expected turnover of Russian elites, and the transformation from a cosmopolitan group of self-serving individuals into a more traditional coterie of privileged servants of the state and its leader would make sure that the foreign policy revolution is complete.

Finally, Russia may not have been able to start moving so quickly in the direction of sovereignty had it not been for the Western policies of the past two decades: the increasing demonization of the country and its leadership. These choices have succeeded in making perhaps the initially most Westernizing, pro-European leadership that modern Russia has seen – including notably Putin himself and Dmitry Medvedev – into self-avowed anti-Westerners and determined opponents of US/EU policies.

Thus, rather than forcing Russia change to fit a Western pattern, all that pressure has instead helped the country find itself again. 

https://www.rt.com/russia/595266-ukraine-west-pushed-russia/