Thursday 23 February
The Old Eastern World & New Western World hemispheres. Credit: Google earth
It is 23-02-2023 almost a palindrome but a timely reminder of the 22-02-2022 genuine palindrome one year ago which was when Putin announced the declaration of war between Russia and NATO, which really is just the European cover name for the military forces of the USA and its allies against Russia.
On 22 February 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine in response to the encroaching threat from the armies of the west under the Nato alliance established after World War Two. Having progressively moved their armies eastwards ever closer to Russia , particularly since 1997, Russia decided to make a pre emptive attack against Ukraine’s intention to join the Nato alliance. The Russian response began seven years ago, 20-02-2014 with the sudden annexation of Crimea from Ukraine at a time when the Ukrainian government was Russia-friendly and did not respond. Then in 2019, a comedy actor named Zelensky, a political novice, entered the presidential election. Oddly more than 30 candidates entered which significantly diluted the votes and resulted in Zelensky, from his acting profile, to win. Talk of Ukraine joining NATO began immediately, Putin was not going to sit quietly and watch that happen. He may have wished to celebrate the anniversary date of the annexation of Crimea with an invasion of the rest of Ukraine, but Xi Jinping already had his dance card full for the 20th of February as host of the closing celebrations of the Winter Olympics in Beijing. But the fireworks were barely extinguished from Beijing before they started in Russia. On Monday the 21st of February Putin declared Russian recognition of two independent states that were part of Eastern Ukraine on Russia’s border. These regions had been in a state of civil war for several years between the army of Ukraine and the Russian separatists living there. On Tuesday 22nd of February 2022 the Russian Parliament authorised Putin to send the army into those regions on a ‘peacekeeping mission.’
The great civilisations, within our knowledge going back 5000 years, emerged out of Africa, migrating North to the increasingly temperate zones of Central Europe then orbited east-south to encompass Asia, India and Arabia. In the millennia before this common era, this was the known world, the civilised world, and the the birthplace of all the major religions. It was only during the common era of the last 2,000+ years that the standards of civilisations of the East come to the West. This began with Julius Caesar conquering westwards towards Gaul and Britannia and bringing advances in science and technology to the West. The Romans were accomplished architects and engineers, building roads, aqueducts and grand civic public buildings and amenities. In later centuries the Christian religion followed this trail west from Rome becoming the dominant religion of Western Europe. Around 1500ce an adventurer, Columbus, sailed into the unknown western ocean on behalf of the Spanish Queen and so began the transfer of this Western European civilisation into what became known as the New World; the world of the Americas. Within a relatively short time the native populations of the Americas were overrun and overwhelmed by the disease and the violence of the expats from Western Europe. The countries of origin of these expats is identified by the languages now spoken in the New World; Portuguese in Brazil, French in Canada and Guiana, Spanish in the rest of South America, and English in the USA and Canada.
This is, in a sense, a remake of the ancient Greek myth of the wars between the Titans and the Olympians, the old rulers and the new rulers and in 1776 the USA became the new world Olympus, the land of liberty, free from the shackles of the old world. The second world war resulted in the New World emperors, Franklin D Roosevelt and his post-war successors Harry S Truman, Dwight D Eisenhower and John F Kennedy, dominating the politics of Western Europe, Japan and South Korea.
The Nato allies responded to the Ukrainian invasion with economic sanctions including the denial of Russian access to western banking systems. Putin has, at time of writing, held back from launching his full nuclear military might onto Ukraine. From this restraint, western media have proclaimed the invasion has stalled and Putin has miscalculated. But Russians, from all walks of life, are experts in chess. Russians embrace chess as Europeans embrace football; as though it is in their DNA. The soldiers are Putin’s pawns, he opened with a Queen’s gambit and the Queen is the currency. Biden brought his black queen, the US Dollar, into play. US banks denied Russian access, Visa and Mastercard closed down operations in Russia. The Russian white queen immediately accessed the E-Yuan, the Chinese crypto currency that had been made globally available during the Olympics only days before; the Chinese Credit Card UnionPay also seamlessly picked up the Visa and Mastercard business. Putin has used his bishop, Kirill the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, to persuade the Russian flock that this is a holy war, the West’s bishop, Pope Francis, has countered on behalf of the western faithful; the Rooks, carefully protected, house the two essential components in a war, grain and fuel. Between them, Russia and Ukraine produce 30% of the world’s wheat supply and 50% of its sunflower oil. Much of their exports are to the desert lands on the Arabian peninsula and to the impoverished, but well resourced, countries of Africa. Flour and cooking oil are essential to the daily survival of people in these countries. And according to Eurostat figures of 2017, 30% of the EU’s petroleum oil imports and 39% of total gas imports came from Russia. In some eastern European countries between 75% and 100% of gas supplies come from Russia. Prior to the invasion by Russia, in a televised interview Joe Biden stated that the USA would shutdown Russia’s Nordstrom gas pipeline if Putin invaded Ukraine. When questioned how that could happen with the pipeline under Germany’s jurisdiction Biden assured us the Americans could do it. On 26 September 2022 a clandestine underwater bombing blew away 50 metres of the Nord Stream Pipeline.
The Russian nuclear knights remain, as I write, safely positioned guarding the Rooks and the King. The NATO allies have rallied with massive financial and military aid for Ukraine and, twelve months after the invasion, Russia appears no closer to achieving its goal of controlling Ukraine. But still the war grinds on at massive cost although the oil companies of the US are not complaining about the massive increase in price of oil they are now receiving, and in the end, one way or another, Ukraine will pay dearly for all the support they are receiving. But while the West counters all the moves on Putin’s chessboard, the thought in everyone’s mind is whether Ukraine is simply a dress rehearsal for Taiwan and a new world order under the control of Xi Jinping. The West may think they are playing chess against Putin, but perhaps it is a whole different game of Weiqi against Xi Jinping with Taiwan being the next battlefield. It was a long time ago that Chinese General Sun Tsu wrote the most famous book on military strategy, The Art of War, still in print today and very probably in Xi Jinping’s library. Russia may simply be exhausting the appetite for war from the man on the street in the US and Western Europe as the costs of supporting the Ukranians balloon, as inflation in the West spirals out of control, as the social media generated psychological warfare over climate threats, racial differences and gender confusion all contribute to creating unprecedented civil unrest throughout the West.
Ukraine is officially neutral ground. In Taiwan the US does have a military presence, albeit an unofficial one, but like Ukraine, no formal mutual defence alliance. Apart from China’s historic nationalist claims, from a strategic viewpoint Taiwan manufactures 92% of the world’s semi-conductors, with South Korea the other 8%. Any Chinese military blockade disrupting the supply chain of semi-conductors would wreak havoc on western countries as well as Taiwan’s economy. Even if the West can win against Putin in chess, it is a whole different game to beat Xi Jinping at Weiqi. Whether by fate or by manipulation, this was no time to have a man suffering from cognitive failure sitting on the Western side of the table.
It’s your move, Joe.
You must be logged in to post a comment.