Remember the plan? Wreck the Russian economy, force regime change and bring ‘victory to Ukraine!’. So far, this is not working out very well.
By Robert Harneis
The European proxy war in Ukraine, against Russia, is looking more and more like a black TV comedy series every day.
First we had the French Caesar Howitzers, sent by President Macron to arm Kiev. Two have been purchased by Russian intelligence agents from Ukrainian soldiers, on the black market. The Russian arms manufacturer Uralvagonzavod, which produces, among other things, Armata tanks and Msta-S self-propelled artillery mounts, thanked President Macron warmly for the self-propelled guns (€5 million each), which they are now studying.
For a handful of bitcoins
Next, reasonably reliable media report that the ever resourceful Ukrainians have sold at least one and possibly two of the eighteen very special HIMAR rocket launchers sent at enormous expense by the United States to stop the Russians and their autonomist Donbass allies and even cause them to retreat. The sale price was allegedly $880,0000, cash of course. According to Russian sources news of this type of transaction is delayed to enable the Ukrainians concerned to get some bitcoins to their families and get them out of the country before the news is released. The ‘high’ price Is connected with the accompanying software and ammunition for a further $330,000. The guns and accessories, it seems, are left discretely in disputed territory for collection. Considering that each launcher costs around $5.5 million and the rockets are between $3-5 million each the Russians did not over pay.
NATO has meanwhile enthusiastically given away all its spare weapons to Ukraine and then some. Quite how they are going to equip their new (imaginary?) 300,000 man rapid reaction force in the event of war with Russia is unclear.
Ruffle in Europe
On the political front there is no shortage of problems… in the West. The coalition governing Italy is crumbling with the desertion of the 5 Star party and the EU appointed Prime Minister Mario Draghi has presented his resignation to President Sergio Mattarella, who is even older than President Biden. Draghi won his vote of no confidence but resigned anyway because the conditions to govern “no longer exist”. Imagine the frustration of this much tried 74 year old, when he was sent back to his office and his resignation was refused. All that money from Goldman Sachs plus huge pensions and he can’t retire and spend it. At all costs an election must be avoided and the Euro protected.
Germany is reeling from the alleged presence of Chancellor Scholtz at a rape party. Yes, you read that right, not a rave party. The energy saga there is a comedy all on its own. Don’t want Russian gas; must have Russian gas; can’t get Russian gas. On top of that the ungrateful Ukrainian ambassador called Scholz a “sulky German sausage”. Worst of all you now have to pay $18 a month to switch on the seat heater in your new BMW, or so we are told – we can’t afford one.
The russophobic United Kingdom
Needless to say France now flourishes under a minority government. Estonia has lost its very belligerent Prime Minister. No need to mention, the terminal problems faced by the United Kingdom’s would be Churchillian war leader, Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Even the attempt to ban Russians from Wimbledon failed with a Russian woman winning the Ladies singles under the Kazakhstan flag. Sadly for the Russo phobic UK, the Moscow born and bred tennis player, Elena Rybakina, didn’t take on foreign citizenship in 2019 because she hates Putin but because the neighboring Kazakhs pay better and are very keen on tennis. It was also the first final in which neither player was from the West. Is this an omen?
The euro at parity with the dollar
In Russia, despite the best efforts of the Russian Central Bank, the Ruble has surged again to below 60 to the dollar, stronger than before the war started. As the Germans found with the Deutsche Mark, having a very highly valued currency can be inconvenient. Meanwhile the Euro has fallen to parity with the dollar for the first time since 2002. Nobody in France seems to remember that in 2017 presidential candidate Marine Le Pen was ridiculed for saying that a 15% devaluation was acceptable if you wanted to leave the Euro.
On the sanctions front, NATO allies Germany and Canada have been fighting over the blocking of vital equipment for gas pipeline Nord Stream 1, sent by Siemens to their Canadian division for repairs (why?). The Canadians would not give it back and the Germans had to insist quite firmly to change their minds. Or perhaps to change Washington’s mind. For the moment there is no gas at all coming through either Nord Stream 1 or 2. The EU is now for the first time using more expensive US gas than cheap reliable Russian gas.
The Russian enclave of Kaliningrad
Lithuania has been bullied by Brussels to stop blockading goods travelling between mainland Russia and the Baltic Russian enclave of Kaliningrad and has now agreed to allow most goods through. It seems the idea that the Russians might blockade all the Baltic States was a bit of a worry, but not nearly as much a worry as the threat to withdraw recognition of Lithuania’s frontiers. This would have meant that Russia no longer recognized the external borders of the European Union.
Bloomberg tells us that the EU is now planning gas rationing for the winter. Meanwhile food and fuel prices rise alarmingly.
Ursula von der Leyen, a Russian agent?
In Russia, on the other hand, the estimated fall in Russian Gross Domestic Product (PIB in French), as a result of sanctions, has come down from minus 15% to 20% to around minus 3.5%. Manufacturing output is picking up and prices are beginning to fall, with record oil and gas revenues for lower sales volumes. No rationing envisaged there.
One might reasonably ask if Commission President Ursula Van der Leyen is a Russian agent, given the economic damage to the EU she has presided over since she took office less than three years ago?
It would, however, be foolish to suggest that sanctions are not disturbing the Russian economy and employment in some areas.
It seems that the Mozart of Finance, and France’s financial Napoleon, Bruno Le Maire may have been right after all, that the Russian economy is about to collapse. As he told us when the war began, “The balance of economic and financial strength is totally in favor of the European Union, which is in the process of discovering its economic power”. Especially In some import sectors, there is real distress in Russia. Media outlet MK reports a serious incident in Moscow – ‘criminal on pink scooter, and armed with shotgun, robbed Muscovite of his dildo.’ Desperate men desperate measures.
Meanwhile in Ukraine thousands are dying.