Bitcoin Market Games and Putin Rational
Bitcoin once again rose to just above $39,000 prior to US markets opening slightly in red, sending it down to just under $38,000 with Nasdaq down 0.5% shortly after trading began, further falling 1.3%
European stocks however were up a bit in a suggestion that calm might return, while in Shanghai they gained 0.93%, with gas seeing a jump of close to 5% at one point.
Oil also moved up 2% following US opening, later traded down to 0.24%, as markets try to price the new economic dynamics between Russia and Europe.
Russian stocks themselves seem to be unchanged, with the situation on the ground now appearing to calm down after Russia’s president Vladimir Putin clarified he had not ordered troops to go into the Donetsk and Luhansk region.
Initial reports soon after Putin recognized those areas under the control of Russian backed forces suggested Russian troops were formally going into the area, but newer reports indicate they were without insignia.
That might suggest that the matter perhaps ends here. Putin has gone as far as he can, without firing a shot, with the matter thus still remaining as far as most are concerned at the level of high politics.
It is still a serious matter however as he attempts to unilaterally redraw borders, which of course is extremely dangerous, but does it really change anything on the ground as far as markets are concerned?
The sanctions might a bit, but they’re fairly soft sanctions so far. Russian government bonds have now been barred, as have a few banks and a few individuals. The not running Nord Stream 2 is now still not going to run. The low hanging fruits, so to speak, have been picked on both sides.
Any further step would then become a very serious matter on the ground, and thus the sanctions would get more serious too.
We rationally thus expect matters to end here because there is no further room for Russia to go without risking North Korean level sanctions whereby companies and citizens are ordered to leave, which then would only leave hard power, something that obviously we expect to be stopped by the many actors long before it gets to that point where there’s no other option but the two armies marching.
That’s not a foreseeable scenario realistically speaking because the high theatre has some logic and that logic has run its course.
From G8 to Dictator
Russia had everything just a decade ago. Once an enemy nation, it became a European growing economy that gained a seat at the table of the world’s most exclusive club, the now again G7 which a decade ago was made G8 to include Russia.
Going from that to here must be one of the most contemporary case study in international relations. How did a country, a people, that were given everything, choose to have none of it?
The story must begin in 2003 when, even a couple of years ago, one could say the greatest mistake of this century so far was made in breaching a principle of no wars of choice by the invasion of Baghdad.
Now that that war has ended, and that whole era of non-state actors waging war, one must take a more nuanced view of an entire arc.
After being attacked on its own soil, America had to do something. There were huge costs paid on both sides, but in the end Iraq is now somewhat democratic, the region is now no longer an enemy peoples, peace now largely prevails.
While the events were unfolding, this generation did all it could to end the war and has now ended it. But now that it is over, there is no A/B test to say just what was right and wrong considering the American soil had been attacked.
For Putin however, the removal of a dictator by force must have raised the question of whether the same would be done to him if he became a dictator.
That may suggest his plan all along was to become a dictator, but if we are to be further objective, he could have and may have also simply taken the approach that another nation should not by force overthrow another government outside of a UN resolution.
The problem here is that there isn’t an independent adjudication at the UN level to decide on the fact and law and action through ‘sentencing’ if you like.
Instead, the five powers of US, UK, France, China and Russia have all to unanimously agree regardless of the fact or law.
The problem here is obvious: what if one of them is the culprit. And more realistically, what if one of their allies or friendly nation is the culprit?
Putin mentioned the Yugoslavia bombing. There was a genocide, German chancellor Olaf Scholz said. As if to show how easy it is in international affairs for one to disregard facts, Putin then falsely claimed a genocide was happening in Donbas.
His point is, at one level, that anyone can say genocide and then remove a government. That there has to be agreement among the powers, but that would only happen in areas where none of the five powers have any interest, and thus the argument at its base is that if there is a genocide, we should do nothing.
That can’t be right of course. That wouldn’t be a world acceptable to any peoples, but the use of force should be limited in response to only the most heinous crimes, and the case of former Yugoslavia is a clear example of it.
We doubt Putin would really argue with that, but his argument is probably more that there have been arguments force should be used in other circumstances as well.
A people rise against a dictator, the dictator orders the army to massacre them, the army obliges, should the global community intervene?
Russia and China would give a clear no. The west dithered on the matter in Syria and ended up not properly intervening and we got a now almost exactly decade long devastating civil war that thankfully appears to largely have gone quiet.
Now on the Russian side you might say if the dictator just shot them, there wouldn’t be such civil war, unless obviously some of the army defected as it did and was willing to fight and kept on in a stalemate.
From a human rights perspective, if they were properly helped with some short quick bombing, there would have not been a civil war as the dictator would have been removed.
We have that in Libya. Compare and contrast Libya with Syria. Now Libya isn’t doing great, but it is somewhat stable and their cities have not been razed. It is doing 1000 times better than Syria or even more as the country has not seen proper war, just scuffles in great part thanks to Russia fermenting to their defeat.
Is this a good enough A/B test? Even if it is however, the answer to this question has to be that compared to a situation where one nation is forcefully massacring another people, a nation massacring its own has a less clear cut outcome from intervention.
The Law and the Law
These are very new developments in global understanding of a framework for international governance and law to ensure the most primary of all needs, safety and security.
It came about after the genocide in Rwanda which appalled the people of the world and led to the consideration that force should be used to stop these sort of state crimes.
The genocide in Bosnia further led to criticism that the UN peacekeeping force had done nothing. Thus action was finally taken against Yugoslavia in regards to Kosovo as the world had reached a new understanding.
The successful conclusion of that matter in Kosovo where no further violence followed and what violence there was, was ended fairly quickly and with the minimum of casualties, cements that understanding that where a nation or peoples engage in the most heinous crimes against another nation or peoples, there are clear benefits to the use of force to stop it.
There was however no genocide as such in Iraq, but that shouldn’t really be seen within the framework of human rights or international law, although those arguments were used, but within the framework of retribution for America being attacked on its own soil.
Whether right or wrong is for history to judge, but the case of Iraq was clearly not some uninterested third parties setting base standards of behavior between nations, more than: people from this region attacked, and so we’ll fight them in that region.
In other words, this was a more base reaction rather than a principled enforcement of a global architecture for security.
Syria arguably was the latter and Libya, and the outcome in both suggest that an intervention can be successful provided of course it is fully executed.
We would give Yemen in further support of that argument. There was no intervention here by the great powers, but it still descended into a civil war between those that wanted democracy and the ruler, and as that dragged on regional powers got involved with the conflict still continuing now for also almost a decade.
That of course, the potential that matters might devolve into a civil war should be the consideration of the dictator and the army when they shoot at their own people. If they still go ahead with it and a civil war seems likely, why shouldn’t we end it?
Taking this security first approach and how we can ensure a base level of global security, Putin turns it into I am the law and worse, that force can be used against the people to protect a dictator.
Thus instead of bombing the dictator to protect the people, Putin inverses the principle to send his army to massacre the people to protect the dictator.
He goes further: that force can be used to overthrow a democracy and instal a dictator just because they’re a democracy and not a dictatorship, as he arguably orchestrated in Myanmar and in a failed attempt tried to do in Libya too.
Turning everything on its head, he uses the same argument but for the opposing party. That has a limit of course: does he justify genocide?
With words he can say whatever, but objectively there is a base upon which all humanity, regardless of system, culture, creed, or religion, agrees. That is, a genocide by one nation upon another or a peoples can and must be stopped. There is thus a legitimate use of force on another nation when there is clearly an ongoing genocide by the true meaning of the word.
Where it then concerns the dictator and his people, there isn’t a universal agreement to the same base level mentioned above.
As such, one can distinguish between two international laws. It’s more a hierarchy maybe but, one of base rights where objectively there is universal agreement at least to the rational mind, the stopping of a genocide or at the other end the stopping of the invasion of a peaceful people without a true cause, the stopping of a war of choice so to speak especially if the own soil of the perpetrator has not been attacked.
And then there’s the other level where civil war situations are envisionable which may still make sense to stop in clear circumstances, but it is picking sides between democracy and dictatorship and have now more transmuted, at least as far as Russia’s actions can tell, into a play for influence.
So do you give that up, do you say no intervention if a dictator is gunning down his own people? Well, no one intervened in Belarus, or Myanmar where a democracy was couped, or in Kazakhstan except in an inversion of the principle where Russia sent troops to support a light dictator of sorts, so the answer factually is currently yes.
Why does Putin keep going then? Is he today’s George Bush, going around overthrowing democracies, bombing places, with complete disregard of basic principles to the greater and greater anger of other powers and peoples?
The Game of Games
It would be too easy to say we have a new cold war or a new clash of ideologies. Indeed chatter has been something like: urgh these terrists that just go around doing a mess, the cold war was so nice in that it was scary, yes, but there were rules, you had a rational opponent.
What they didn’t say is that you had a framework where you can terrorize your own people so that you can keep control and do what you want, while knowing of course it’s all theatricals and just a tool to have this unchallenged ruling class ordering the people, whether in a democracy or otherwise.
So much easy to govern for both sides, to have all the power unquestioned because well terrists or covid or dictators, or for Russia: terrists, covid, Nato, US.
The problem is that doesn’t work. It works of course when people don’t realize you’re just playing Machiavelli, but fear works only if you’re actually feared, not if it is so blatantly obvious that there is actually nothing to fear.
Once you taste the fruit of enlightenment as they say, there is no going back, and this generation has had the privilege of living at a time in the 90s when the government was not through propaganda terrorizing us daily about some state enemies.
There is thus no going back, nor a re-creation of the pre-90s era. Not with terrists, not with pandemics, not with scary Russia, or Nato, and with nothing at all under this sun because the cat is out of the bag that this is just rulers playing Machiavelli.
And that is fundamentally what is happening. Putin is not engaging in geopolitics, Putin is engaging in keeping power politics.
He couldn’t care less about Ukraine, or about Nato, or about EU, or about democracy. He doesn’t even care about the wealth peace and prosperity of his own people that see poverty.
He cares only about power politics and specifically about how to keep and yield this power unchallenged.
The problem for him is that a new class which actually rules now rises, and they’re nearly of the same age he was when he took power.
And they can hear his story and their stories, but they have their own story.
This isn’t about democracy v dictatorship, though that’s how he’s trying to play it without making it obvious to the masses, and that’s how Biden is trying to play it. This isn’t about Ukraine being some fatherland of Russia, a statement he believes as much as Bin Laden saying he did it because Allah. This isn’t about geopolitics either, Russia had a seat at the table. It’s certainly not about Nato being a threat unless he wants to confront and invade. It’s all about the Russian people keeping their mouth shut because the big bad foreign enemy while Putin piles on castles.
It’s a game as old as Machiavelli, and in this time, a game that has run its course because Machiavelli was evil we should not forget, and because fear leads to hate with Machiavelli saying don’t be hated.
Can anyone doubt Putin is currently the most hated man in the world? That’s a fine title, although there isn’t too much competition.
It’s an earned title, just as Bush earned it and Tony Blair. His book he is following, that basic breach of universal understanding, that so out of touchness for war of choice, that chaos everywhere, and above all, that choice of fear in order to rule.
They’re both out. Putin still isn’t and so he gets the title. Not least because he is trying to continue a wrong course that we have ended, a direction that only leads to war and destruction, an approach that folklore would call the worshiping of Moloch by the devil’s children.
That’s a gone chapter however, with the last ghost somehow still standing to reveal himself as an agent against liberty and against freedom and against the people, his primarily but all peoples, as a willing mass murderer and precipitator of wars in Georgia, Moldova, Libya, Syria, Ukraine, Chechnya, and if he had his way the balkans too as well as South America and half of Germany.
All while he builds his castles and enjoys his yachts during the short time he still has on this earth, to repay it all presumably in the fire of hell.
For such a fundamental attempted challenge to the intellectual foundations that have been built over 2000 years where force can be used against democracy like Sparta tried against Athens speaks to the last grasps on power of the irrational, superstitious, mystic, and devil thinking that we’re sure he’s utilizing only the same way Bin Laden utilized religion.
For he probably believes none of it, and spoke it only after he breached the rule of law in his own country to maintain power for another decade in contravention of their own constitution for his own vain gains that are but dust in the grand scheme of things.
He won’t go further therefore because he can’t. There’s only so much you can disregard base universal principles before having all turn on you.
And the US constant warnings of an invasion does raise the question about what they really aim to achieve? Fleeing their embassy, actual US territory, like cowards while shouting they’re coming does come across as a curious tactic because we’ve heard them already aplenty.
If Putin wants to go in then he’ll be met with the 1.5 million Ukrainian soldiers. Let him dare, we need no further scaremongering which risks coming across as USA doing Putin’s job for now months while clearly offering that same Putin no deterrence in a complete failure of a superpower if he does go in as they say he would.
Fine, you say like a broken tape he will go in and we hear you. What you doing about it but relinquishing your title of a superpower by running away like cowards while shouting as if a helpless minor power.
So much for that summit of democracy. Here is that democracy and Biden gets to be first to flee in a fundamental change of 70 years in policy.
We’ve heard it you think they’re going in. We also see you fleeing. Let the rest then to actual men of which Europe has many. More than a million of them protecting their own nation against a vain dictator.
Because people of the world, in the high games of politics it is rulers versus people. There is no our side, there is only the right side.
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