The Hunt for Casus Belli
This week Russia and NATO held talks ostensibly aimed at finding compromises that might avert an invasion of Ukraine. Unsurprisingly, these talks failed to produce any real outcome, as Russia’s demands are unreasonable and revanchist. Ukraine experienced a major cyberattack which some analysts believe would be an indicator of an impending invasion. And here we sit: waiting for something to happen.
What’s Happening Now
Increasingly the rhetoric coming out of the Kremlin and foreign minister Sergey Lavrov sounds like that of Aleksandr Dugin, long considered to be a prominent if nutty “mystic philosopher” whose book “The Foundations of Geopolitics” has been broadly influential in the geopolitical and military classes. I first wrote about Dugin back in 2017 (The People Behind Russia’s Dangerous Intentions for the US and Europe; The Swamp and The Fire: An Urgent Warning to the West).
Some academic Kremlinologists tend to dismiss Dugin’s influence in the Kremlin, a message that also seems to be echoed in some Kremlin propaganda. However, as Putin’s domestic fortunes become increasingly precarious, Kremlin actions and messaging seem to be converging with Duginist themes — namely the “mystic destiny” of the Rus people represented in the reunification of Russia and Ukraine.
Russia Cranks Up the Propaganda Volume
Russian state representatives, the Kremlin's foreign policy ideologist, and media loyalists are becoming increasingly…
This piece from the Center for European Policy Analysis also cites Dugin’s recent rhetoric:
According to Dugin: “The moment has come for Moscow to announce the renaming of the CIS into the Eurasian Union, including all the political units of the post-Soviet space.”
Dugin advocates a Russian land grab in Ukraine. This would involve the occupation of so-called Left-Bank Ukraine — that is, the land between the current international border and the River Dniepr — presumably including eastern Kyiv, making the Ukrainian capital a divided city and placing much of its hinterland under Russian rule. He also argued that Russia should push right up to the borders of the Baltic states, which would likely mean sending troops through Belarus, and issue an ultimatum to the thee NATO members: neutrality or war. He was echoed by the head of the RT TV channel Margarita Simonyan, who wrote on Twitter that if Russia itself could produce the goods that it buys in the United States, it could “liberate Donbas right now, and not leave out Odesa either.”
The convergence of that rhetoric with that of Margarita Simonyan, who is very close to Putin and the Kremlin, represents a new high water mark for Dugin’s apparent grip on Putin’s imagination. Russia also has been contemplating false-flag attacks that would provide a casus belli to justify an invasion.
First on CNN: US intelligence indicates Russia preparing operation to justify invasion of Ukraine
The US has information that indicates Russia has prepositioned a group of operatives to conduct a false-flag operation…
The next few weeks will be critical. It seems likely that if there is an invasion it will be in the next couple of weeks. If for some reason Russia loses its nerve, possibly this episode will pass, but that seems increasingly less likely.
It was a busy week in imaginary money land. One of the more insane projects to surface this week is a project called “Cryptoland,” a Disneyland-style crypto theme park island fully divorced from reality. It was unveiled in a 20 minute infomercial video that features Pixar-style animation, and an apparently pirated John Williams soundtrack. It truly must be seen to be believed.
It’s so insanely ludicrous as to stretch the imagination, and raise questions whether it might in fact be some sort of intelligence operation. But the evidence so far just points to sheer lunacy. The Financial Times has more:
Meanwhile, Paul Krugman has started to see the substantial ties between the MAGA and crypto worlds. Krugman says:
But let’s leave market predictions aside and ask what’s with the deepening alliance between Bitcoin and MAGA?
The answer, I’d argue, is that Bitcoin was supposed to create a monetary system that functions without trust — and the modern right is all about fostering distrust. Covid is a hoax; the election was stolen; California’s forest fires had nothing to do with climate change, and they were started by Rothschild-controlled space lasers.
In this context it’s perfectly natural for MAGAesque politicians to demand an end to a monetary system that runs through banks — we know who controls them, right? — and rests on a currency that’s managed by government-appointed officials. There’s no evidence of widespread monetary abuse, but that doesn’t matter on the extreme right.
Opinion | The Strange Alliance of Crypto and MAGA Believers
Josh Mandel, a Trump disciple seeking the Republican Senate nomination in Ohio, recently tweeted out what he stands…
A couple of weeks ago I wrote a thread on this topic that went viral, documenting the history of the “sound money” obsession and why it’s vital to understanding cryptocurrencies. It’s relevant to Krugman’s observations.
Meanwhile, the parade of crypto shills marches on… adding Matt Damon, Reese Witherspoon, and Ben Affleck. The Guardian observes that cryptocurrency advertising in the London Underground has reached an all time peak, which logically tends to be an indicator of a Ponzi scheme running out of new marks to sustain it.
Cryptocurrency ads reach record levels on London transport
Cryptocurrency firms bombarded Londoners with a record number of adverts on public transport during 2021, fuelling…
Kim Kardashian and Floyd Mayweather are being sued for fraudulent shilling of Ethereum Max.
And Kanye West has been making noises about “building his business” in Russia and working with Putin-ally Aras Agalarov and his execrable pseudo pop-star son, Emin Agalarov.
Ye Planning Russia Trip to Meet Putin and Perform Sunday Service, Says Advisor
Kanye West is looking east - to Russia. The artist and entrepreneur, now known as Ye, is planning a trip to Moscow…
What May Happen Next
Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said “Russians take a long time to harness their horses, but they ride fast.” Okay, cowboy. We get it. You’re out of options and are ready to roll the dice not only on your own country’s future but everyone else’s as well. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said this week that the decision at this point was in the hands of the Russian leaders, signaling that the US and NATO would not be offering any additional concessions. In a last ditch effort to appear to look reasonable, Russia yesterday claimed to have “taken down” the REvil ransomware group at the request of the US government, a gesture that would appear to be both cynical and late.
If things pop off in the next few days we’ll be back with an update to track the most important developments. The COVID surge is ongoing, even as New York City appears to have peaked. Stay safe, and we’ll see you next week!
We’re interested in the major historical trends that shape current events. Tips? Ideas? Drop us a line via email or Twitter DM. Please note: this analysis is historical and political in nature; it is not intended as financial advice and should not be taken as such. If you enjoy my work, please consider making a donation to World Central Kitchen, to support their work feeding people in times of need.
For an even deeper dive, check out my series, The Big History Behind January 6th and my audio series Oil, Gold, Crypto, and Fascism: How We Got Here and How to Fix It.