The “Not-Ultimatum” Revisited - I
by Observer R on 17 Feb 2023 1 Comment



Slightly over a year ago, in December 2021, Russia published a proposal for setting up a new security architecture for Europe. Russia also warned of unspecified serious consequences if this proposal was not acted upon. The United States and other Western countries either ignored the Russian offer, or more or less laughed at it. Russia wanted the line of NATO forces moved back to where it was when the Warsaw Pact was dissolved. This meant getting NATO out of the former Eastern European countries, including Ukraine. The Russian proposal was widely termed the “Not-Ultimatum” for ease of discussion, since the Russians were polite about it, but at the same time threatening action. Analysts were busy trying to figure what exactly Russia might do, and offered many different scenarios.


Instead of negotiating with Russia, NATO continued moving closer to Russia and building up heavy forces in Ukraine. These forces were poised to move into the separatist areas of Eastern Ukraine and put an end to their independence effort. There were rumours or indications that Ukraine would move against the separatists at the end of January or the beginning of February 2022. In any event, Russia struck first and launched a “Special Military Operation” (SMO) against the Ukrainian forces on February 24, 2022. Thus began the “consequences” that Russia had warned about.


Very little has been done to develop a new security architecture for Europe, as the attention has been on the war in Ukraine, with conflicting claims over which side is winning and what might happen when the ground freezes enough to support heavy tanks. There is also enormous controversy over what weapons NATO should send to Ukraine. Analysts are again busy trying to figure out what Russia might do next, and again there are many different scenarios being discussed.


In the meanwhile, and mostly out of sight of the public, vast changes are taking place in international diplomatic, economic, and military affairs. In fact, analysts now commonly assert that we are already in WWIII and that the Ukraine War is only one battle out of many being carried on all over the world. Therefore, the quest for a new security architecture will not stop with Europe, but will expand to envelop the entire globe.


This struggle has allowed cracks to develop in the “International Rules-Based Order” that was developed and managed by the US since WWII. Numerous nations that felt disadvantaged by that order have begun to exercise their sovereignty and to decline to take direction from the US. Washington can sense that Western control is slipping away, but is unable to agree on a   suitable course of action to counteract the ongoing breakdown.


Part of the problem is that the mainstream media in the West has not been very forthright in explaining the situation to the public. The media has concentrated on portraying all things Russian as bad, and how the world should support the plucky little Ukraine in defending against the big bad wolf. This prevents the think tanks and foreign policy journals from properly analyzing the global situation and offering possible new courses of action. Also, the media does not properly prepare the public (and the politicians) for the momentous changes that are rising to the surface.




One of these changes concerns the US dollar and its exchange rate with foreign currencies. The US dollar had been supported by arrangements with some of the major oil-producing countries, especially Saudi Arabia. This arrangement, in effect since President Nixon, had oil sold only in US dollars, forcing oil-importing nations to acquire dollars, thus keeping the dollar very strong. This allowed for relatively cheap imports of consumer goods into the US, thus keeping up a high standard of living and low inflation. This has been one important component of the “Rules-Based Order” supporting US hegemony.


However, Saudi Arabia is now making deals to sell oil in Chinese currency, and other big producers such as Russia, Iran, and Venezuela are doing likewise. If this trend keeps up, the Petroyuan will replace the Petrodollar. One reason for the wars in the Middle East and Africa has been to force countries to stay with the Petrodollar. These Western military adventures fail to achieve that purpose, as the US military is gradually forced out of various oil-producing nations.


The consequences of having the OPEC+ nations sell oil for gold or currencies other than the US dollar is not presented to the Western public in any understandable fashion. The US uses its financial power to crash the exchange rate of other countries’ currencies when the US is promoting a regime change operation. When Russia began the SMO in Ukraine, the US sanctions on Russia collapsed the ruble in an effort to make things very difficult for Russia to continue the war. Many analysts were surprised that the tactic did not work as expected.


Instead, Russia had prepared for it and proceeded to survive without the Western imports. Suppose the end of the Petrodollar causes the US dollar to similarly collapse; would the US be able to survive as well? The US think tanks and foreign policy experts need to calculate and explain what would happen to prices and availability of goods at Walmart if the Petroyuan replaces the Petrodollar.




The breakdown in the global order also affects the US-China relationship. The US has declared China to be the number one enemy for the future and is heating up the controversy over Taiwan. The US is already putting some sanctions on China, but the question is whether they will have the desired effect—or will they backfire as is the case with Russia?


A shooting war around Taiwan would interrupt commercial shipping between the US and China, thus causing many shelves in big box stores to go empty. Analysts disagree on which country would be worse off: China for lack of exports to the US, or the US for lack of imports from China. This is a very serious question since the answer is the basis for the strategy of both countries. Foreign policy journals might well devote themselves to answering this question instead of demonizing the leader of China.




Other aspects of the WWIII scenario involve nuclear weapons issues. When it seemed that Russia was gaining ground in Ukraine, there was talk of the losing side (Ukraine) possibly using a “dirty” nuclear bomb. When the tide changed and Ukraine was reported to be gaining ground, there was talk of the losing side (Russia) using tactical nuclear weapons. This is not very helpful for letting the pubic or the politicians understand the issues involved.


For example, just how small can a nuclear weapon be made? When and how have nuclear explosions been used? There seems to be quite a lot of discussion on this issue in the “alternative” media. What about the “neutron” bomb possibility that was in the news a while back? How powerful can nuclear weapons be made and still be put on the tip of the missiles used by US and Russia? Under what conditions is it possible to survive a nuclear war?


Where is the concept of mutually assured destruction (MAD) these days? How about the spread of nuclear weapons? There has been endless discussion about Iran, but now Japan, South Korea, and Saudi Arabia are in the news concerning acquiring such weapons. Do some countries have a “God-given right” to have nuclear weapons, while others are denied? As the International Rules-Based Order breaks down, who is going to decide the nuclear proliferation question?


As for the delivery of nuclear weapons, Russia is just putting in service the first nuclear powered torpedo, attached to a new, extra large, nuclear powered submarine. The nuclear warhead on the torpedo would be used to create tsunami conditions in coastal areas. Other Russian missiles have such a long range that they can fly over the South Pole to attack the US from a relatively undefended direction. Obviously, a new security architecture needs to have a global reach and much more creative thinking.




It has recently dawned on the West that it takes lots of factories to produce weapons and ammunition for a long war. The war in Ukraine has vividly illustrated this point, with NATO scrounging the world trying to find more military hardware and ammunition to send to Ukraine. It would also be preferable to have said factories nearby and under one’s own control.


The US has declared China to be Enemy Number One, while at the same time most goods sold in the US come from factories in China. This has prompted a belated change whereby the US subsidizes the building of factories in the US, with a prominent example being those for making computer chips in Arizona.


However, the US attempts to fix the factory problem have led to disagreements with Europe over protectionism. The US actions harm the manufacturers in Europe, adding to their other difficulties in obtaining cheaper gas, oil, and other natural resources from Russia.


Other storm signals are on the horizon, with China and Russia both seeking to increase their exports of motor vehicles. Russia appears to be very slow, however, in ramping up production, considering that Russia has so many of the needed raw materials and does not need to import them or energy from abroad.


Currently, the US and Europe are the only major producers of commercial airplanes, with Canada and Brazil minor producers of regional jets. This may change in the future, as China is building the C919 and Russia the MC-21 to compete with the US 737 and the European A320. Both the Chinese and Russian planes were originally to have engines, electronics, and many subsystems produced in the West by the same companies that supply the Western plane makers. However, while the C919 has gone ahead with Western components and is nearly ready for commercial service, the MC-21 had to abandon the Western parts due to sanctions on Russia.


Consequently, Russia has had to design and build indigenous parts to substitute for the Western versions. This has delayed the MC-21, but will give Russia full control over the design and production as well as increase the need for more factories in Russia to produce the parts. On paper, the MC-21 looks superior to the other three planes—but it remains to be seen if the Russian prowess in building military jets will transfer to building commercial jets. If Russia is successful, it will be another case of the counter-productive nature of sanctions.


(To be concluded …)

Courtesy The Saker 

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