One of the longer running themes I have written about at this blog is the slow shrinking of the US orbit as empire, and the slow increase in orbit of an alliance including Germany, Russia, China, and ultimately perhaps including Japan (and…Australia).
For those not so familiar with my thoughts on this topic, perhaps my most thorough post on this topic is here. This post was written shortly after events in Syria last summer – events that moved Russia forward and the United States backward in terms of importance of orbit. One of the more significant events during that time was the British Parliament vote against military action in Syria.
Fast forward a few short months to Ukraine. In November, Ukraine backed away from a closer relationship with Europe in favor of maintaining ties to Russia. This set off apoplectic seizures in parts of the West – certainly Europe, but especially in the United States.
And of course, a recent chain of events brought us to the military posturing and belligerence of today. No need to go through the details, I believe.
But what does this say of the evolving era, the shifting of orbits? A couple of data points:
From EPJ, and as reported in the Telegraph:
A secret briefing document held by an individual walking into Downing Street has been photographed. It suggests the UK will oppose trade sanctions against Russia following the country’s invasion of Ukraine.
Is the photo authentic? Is the policy position definitive? I guess we will have to see how the British Parliament reacts in the coming days.
The document also suggests that the UK will not try and restrict Russian trade through the City of London.
The City of London isn’t London, but one square mile in the center of the larger city. It is a distinct governmental entity. For an enlightening, yet sanitary backstory of the City:
The City of London has been granted various special privileges since the Norman Conquest, partly due to its power as Britain's financial capital. These are also mentioned by the Statute of William and Mary in 1690.
The Norman Conquest marked the end of medieval decentralization on the island, and the beginning of centralization, including the insidious idea that all land belonged to the king).
Author and journalist Nicholas Shaxson argues that, in return for raising loans and finance for the British government, the City "has extracted privileges and freedoms from rules and laws to which the rest of Britain must submit" that have left the corporation "different from any other local authority". He argues that the assistance provided to the institutions based in its jurisdiction, many of which help their rich clients with offshore tax arrangements, mean that the corporation is "a tax haven in its own right". Writing in The Guardian, George Monbiot argued that the corporation's power "helps to explain why regulation of the banks is scarcely better than it was before the crash, why there are no effective curbs on executive pay and bonuses and why successive governments fail to act against the UK's dependent tax havens" and suggested that its privileges could not withstand proper "public scrutiny".
Money that doesn’t want to be found or known finds a home in this tiny enclave:
Although there is no agreed definition of a tax haven, many authors have accused the City of London of being one. The Tax Justice Network, goes further and accuses the City of London as being “the biggest tax haven in the world” as well as ‘a state within a state’.
Ian Doyle and Jem Bendell, summarise these claims with the following statement:
…the City “is the most powerful lobby in Britain and possibly the world, and as a result . . . exerts enormous political influence to resist regulation and extract tax exemption. It has fostered criminality by ensuring that the City ranks amongst the least accountable of financial centres on the face of the Earth”.
In other words, when one thinks of global-elite money-power, operating independent of and above government, this is a pretty good description.
So back to the EPJ post; I commented at the site:
If one accepts that the same elite that controls Washington also controls London, this is the second of at least two interesting events in the recent past, the first being the British parliament vote against military action in Syria.
Is it decided that the US state is pushing it too far?
The political actors we see every day are puppets, but not in the traditional sense. The puppet master does not have a physical string to these puppets – in other words, no direct red-phone.
Instead, most of the key political actors are chosen due to their demonstrated propensity to act in a desired manner. Did Bernanke need a daily call in order to decide to inflate? Of course not; his entire academic career demonstrated how he would behave when the time came.
And why did Obama come out of nowhere six years ago when Hillary (or even McCain) would have been victorious (and seemingly perfectly acceptable)? Perhaps because he was seen as the least belligerent of the (acceptable) bunch – while still keeping up the façade of the necessity of government as currently practiced (a trait which the non-belligerent Ron Paul lacked, and therefore made him unacceptable). If a less belligerent America was desired, Obama has performed fairly well.
What of Germany and Russia in all this? Pepe Escobar notes, in his article “Carnival in Crimea”:
As Immanuel Wallerstein has already observed, Nuland, Kagan and the neo-con gang are as much terrified of Russia "dominating" Ukraine as of a slowly emerging, and eventually quite possible, geopolitical alliance between Germany (with France as a junior partner) and Russia. That would mean the heart of the European Union forging a counter-power to the dwindling, increasingly wobbly American power.
Nuland and Kagan might be terrified of a lesser US orbit, because they have been trained to work for a greater US orbit. But it doesn’t mean they are on the right train. Events seem to indicate a different path.
Given the proximity to Europe, it is no surprise that many eyes look to Merkel as playing a leading role:
If there is a solution to the crisis, it may lay in Berlin, in the personage of Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor and the de facto leader of the European Union.
Russia is Germany’s biggest supplier of energy, and it still regards Germany as an ally rather than a potential enemy.
Merkel, despite having criticized Russia for its human-rights violations on several occasions over the years, has maintained a businesslike relationship with Putin, who speaks excellent German.
Germany has not gone as far as others in the west regarding Russia; while signing a G-7 communiqué condemning Russia’s incursions:
…they oppose the idea of ejecting Russia from the G8 completely, which is something that Kerry and others have mooted. It isn’t even clear whether Germany would support economic sanctions against Russia, another possibility that the Obama Administration has raised. European Union rules require unanimity for the imposition of sanctions, and without Germany’s support the idea would go nowhere.
A peaceful solution to this western rift with Russia is in Germany’s interest:
That’s not just because Germany gets about a third of its energy from Russia, mostly in the form of natural gas; it also reflects Germany’s broader interests. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, no country has benefitted more from expanded ties to Eastern Europe and friendly relations with Russia. As members of the E.U., many former Communist countries, such as Poland, Slovakia, and Romania, now serve as production centers and consumer markets for German manufacturers.
Germany sees Ukraine as another possible market; Germany also sees danger in treating Russia as a pariah:
Over the past few years, Merkel has made clear she would like for Ukraine to eventually join the club of Germany’s democratic trading partners. But, like all Germans, she also knows the dangers of lasting enmity with Russia.
There is no “but.” It seems clear that if Germany sees opportunity in Ukraine, Merkel must find friendship with Russia.
Thereby increasing the orbit centering on Germany, Russia, China, and perhaps a few others.
And shrinking the US orbit.