A New New World Order?

"Balance of Power" by Nancy Ohanian

As much as the general public knows anything at all about Francis Fukuyama, it's probably for his role (now firmly repudiated) in the neoconservative movement and his part in stirring up war hysteria against Iraq. For the last two years he's been chairman of the editorial board of American Purpose, which promotes liberal democracy at home and abroad. On Thursday the magazine published a very speculative piece he wrote about Russia and Putin, Preparing for Defeat. Fukuyama made a dozen prognostications."

  1. Russia is heading for an outright defeat in Ukraine. Russian planning was incompetent, based on a flawed assumption that Ukrainians were favorable to Russia and that their military would collapse immediately following an invasion. Russian soldiers were evidently carrying dress uniforms for their victory parade in Kyiv rather than extra ammo and rations. Putin at this point has committed the bulk of his entire military to this operation-- there are no vast reserves of forces he can call up to add to the battle. Russian troops are stuck outside various Ukrainian cities where they face huge supply problems and constant Ukrainian attacks.

  2. The collapse of their position could be sudden and catastrophic, rather than happening slowly through a war of attrition. The army in the field will reach a point where it can neither be supplied nor withdrawn, and morale will vaporize. This is at least true in the north; the Russians are doing better in the south, but those positions would be hard to maintain if the north collapses.

  3. There is no diplomatic solution to the war possible prior to this happening. There is no conceivable compromise that would be acceptable to both Russia and Ukraine given the losses they have taken at this point.

  4. The United Nations Security Council has proven once again to be useless. The only helpful thing was the General Assembly vote, which helps to identify the world’s bad or prevaricating actors.

  5. The Biden administration’s decisions not to declare a no-fly zone or help transfer Polish MiGs were both good ones; they've kept their heads during a very emotional time. It is much better to have the Ukrainians defeat the Russians on their own, depriving Moscow of the excuse that NATO attacked them, as well as avoiding all the obvious escalatory possibilities. The Polish MiGs in particular would not add much to Ukrainian capabilities. Much more important is a continuing supply of Javelins, Stingers, TB2s, medical supplies, comms equipment, and intel sharing. I assume that Ukrainian forces are already being vectored by NATO intelligence operating from outside Ukraine.

  6. The cost that Ukraine is paying is enormous, of course. But the greatest damage is being done by rockets and artillery, which neither MiGs nor a no-fly zone can do much about. The only thing that will stop the slaughter is defeat of the Russian army on the ground.

  7. Putin will not survive the defeat of his army. He gets support because he is perceived to be a strongman; what does he have to offer once he demonstrates incompetence and is stripped of his coercive power?

  8. The invasion has already done huge damage to populists all over the world, who prior to the attack uniformly expressed sympathy for Putin. That includes Matteo Salvini, Jair Bolsonaro, Éric Zemmour, Marine Le Pen, Viktor Orbán, and of course Donald Trump. The politics of the war has exposed their openly authoritarian leanings.

  9. The war to this point has been a good lesson for China. Like Russia, China has built up seemingly high-tech military forces in the past decade, but they have no combat experience. The miserable performance of the Russian air force would likely be replicated by the People’s Liberation Army Air Force, which similarly has no experience managing complex air operations. We may hope that the Chinese leadership will not delude itself as to its own capabilities the way the Russians did when contemplating a future move against Taiwan.

  10. Hopefully Taiwan itself will wake up as to the need to prepare to fight as the Ukrainians have done, and restore conscription. Let’s not be prematurely defeatist.

  11. Turkish drones will become bestsellers.

  12. A Russian defeat will make possible a “new birth of freedom,” and get us out of our funk about the declining state of global democracy. The spirit of 1989 will live on, thanks to a bunch of brave Ukrainians.

This afternoon, writing for The Hill, Sylvan Lane and Karl Evers-Hillstrom looked at the long-term economic and geopolitical consequences of the western sanctions against Russia. Basically, Russia's part in the western economic system is breaking and unwinding in a way that is not going to be repaired after the war and that, according to Edward Alden, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, "cut Russia off from access to western finance, trade and investment for years, if not decades to come... The conclusion will be now that Russia is both an immediate and long-term threat to European and American security, and economic ties with Russia are going to strengthen Russia, and anything that strengthens Russia, is dangerous for the West... It's pretty clear that Russia will become poorer and more technologically backward, the choices for its citizens will be radically diminished, and for many, many years to come."

He's talking about the Kremlin threatening "to seize the assets of any business leaving Russia and allow its companies to steal Western patents." That's a big deal. But so is kicking Russia out of the World Trade Organization (WTO), which is the latest part of the western sanctions regime being implemented now.

Lane and Evers-Hillstrom wrote that "The move to end normal trade relations follows weeks of deepening economic pain in Russia. The Kremlin and Russian Central Bank have taken extreme steps to prevent the ruble from further devaluation and retaliate against crushing western sanctions. Russia announced it will halt its foreign exports of grain, ban the purchase of dollars and other foreign currencies and limit the amount of foreign currency Russians can withdraw from their bank accounts. Russia has frozen its battered stock market since the start of the invasion to prevent investors from pulling their funds. Russia has also begun to default on its bond payments, causing its credit rating to plunge amid a mass exodus of foreign businesses."

Moscow is already refusing to return hundreds of airplanes it leased from Western companies, which have a combined value of $10 billion. Russian lawmakers are also weighing taking over auto plants owned by Ford, Stellantis, General Motors, Volkswagen and Toyota, among others, and multi-billion dollar energy projects partially owned by ExxonMobil and BP.
U.S. business leaders and even one of Russia’s wealthiest oligarchs say that the move will effectively bring an end to international investment in Russia, potentially causing permanent damage to the country that would linger even if sanctions were eventually lifted.
"This would take us a hundred years back, to the year 1917, and the consequences of such a step would be the global distrust of Russia from investors, it would be felt for many decades," Russian billionaire Vladimir Potanin said in a statement Friday on the Telegram messaging app.
Neil Bradley, chief policy officer at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the nation’s top corporate lobbying group, said in a statement that such a step “would only add to Russia’s increasing isolation, show its disregard for the rule of law, and ultimately inflict more pain on the Russian people.”
The Kremlin has only worsened investor fears by greenlighting a rule that allows Russian firms to steal intellectual property from companies that are home to “unfriendly” nations such as the U.S. and its allies. Under the Kremlin’s plans, Russian oligarchs could take over assets like Coca-Cola’s bottling factories or Ford’s commercial van manufacturing plant and attempt to continue to manufacture and sell those products under the existing brand.
Steven Fox, founder and CEO of Veracity Worldwide, a consulting firm that advises businesses on geopolitical and regulatory risks, said the controversial moves amount to a “nail in the coffin” for foreign investor appetite in Russia.
“There were always questions with regard to the rule of law in Russia from an investment perspective, and intellectual property theft has long been a concern,” Fox said. “Now, that’s all out in the open, there’s not even a semblance of law.”

Remember back in the Cold War days, the idea was to encourage peace by offering prosperity through economic development for Russia and China. And it worked... until it didn't. I wonder how Russians are going to feel about becoming a satellite of China.