So many of you sent me various versions of this story that it would be impossible for me to thank you all individually. But the reasons for this story will become immediately clear once you read it:
As I write this, the story is only a day old, but it will appear as a scheduled blog only on Monday. Nevertheless, the story was to be expected, as will be the inevitable Western lamestream media spin. The latter is entirely predictable, of course: Russia's action will be spun as yet another example of the out-of-control and aggressive nature of Mr. Putin's government, and yet another example of Russia's aggression toward the Ukraine, etc etc. And there will be the usual attempt to spin it as an act of sheer desperation on Russia's part
But what really intrigues here is the wider context in which this action occurs, and what action it will possibly call forth in response from the USA. That wider context was Mr. Putin's recent overture to the European Union member states to join the central Asian customs union. This, if Europe chose to do so, would create a kind of "Eurasian Union" from Vladivostok to Lisbon and Dublin. Now, it should be fairly obvious that Mr. Putin knew when he made this offer that he would be ignored, for such a dramatic geopolitical and economic shift would simply be unacceptable to the Anglo-American elites in London and Washington, nor would such a dramatic shift - rather like trying to turn an ocean liner under full speed on a dime - even be feasible for Europe's capitals, despite the growing unease over the Russian sanctions, expressed most recently by M. Hollande.
So what was Mr. Putin really doing? Well, here comes the high octane speculation of the day: Mr. Putin was articulating the first plank of a long term foreign policy goal, namely, to pry Europe away from its vassalage status to the USA, and align it more to Asia. It was the first message, in a string of messages that will doubtless be emerging over this new year.
The second part of that message was just delivered, with the shut-down of energy shipments through the Ukraine. Part of the reason given for this action is that Russia is accusing the Ukraine of simply siphoning off parts of their shipments through that country:
However, the real long term message here is to Europe as a whole by way of a reminder that sanctions are a two way street, and that the West, and not Russia, was the initiator of the disastrous regime change in Kiev. It's a none-too-subtle reminder that Europe's economic future lies as much with Asia, as with the United States.
So what might be the response? Look for Europe to press a hard bargain at the upcoming trade talks with the USA, and for the USA essentially to grant such wishes. And this is the problem with vassal states: the more you need them, the more expensive paying for that vassal status becomes, and in the long run, they break away anyway. Mr. Putin knows this, and has relayed the second component of what is likely to be a year full of such messages, and significantly, he delivered it prior to upcoming talks on the Ukrainian situation.
There's another question lurking in the background here: Mr. Putin's action was bold, and obviously calculated. The real question is, where is his support ultimately coming from? Domestically he is, of course, popular within the Russian federation. China in the main has been a quiet supporter. But such a bold action also implies he has some hidden support within the West. The real question is, where might it be coming from? The question is made even more interesting given this bit of news that accompanied the shutoff of energy shipments:
So where might that hidden support be coming from? That is anyone's guess.
But my guess is, look in Europe...
See you on the flip side...