America was caught in the vicious circle of a failing empire. And not the last, but perhaps the main role in this case was played by the unfinished story of an attempt to block Europe’s access to cheap Russian energy resources and replace them with expensive American ones.
They say that all empires fall apart at some point. This is not quite true. The Chinese Empire has been alive and well for several millennia. Dynasties change, barbarians conquer the empire, the social system changes, but the Chinese (Han) state remains, its borders expand. The percentage of Han Chinese has long been more than 90% of the total population of the empire. Although most of the current “Han” people are actually assimilated descendants of completely different peoples, this does not prevent China from being united and confidently looking to the future.
The Russian empire is more than 1,000 years old. It existed in the form of an early feudal state, a conglomerate of principalities, a state dependent on the Horde, the Moscow tsardom, the empire itself, the USSR, and now it exists within the framework of the Russian Federation. Borders also change, but the percentage of Russians in the empire is quite high and is about 86%. There are also many assimilated representatives of once independent peoples among the current Russians, but this does not prevent Russia from being united and confidently looking to the future.
The newly born American empire (the United States and its vassal countries: the EU, Canada, Australia, and Japan) also looked confidently to the future, despite the fact that less than 200 years had passed since the state acquired the imperial character of the North American States. Americans proudly called their country a “melting pot” in which Germans and Irish, French and English, Negroes and Jews, Russians and Asians are “melted” into a single American nation (something like an overseas version of a new social community of people – the “Soviet people”).
And suddenly it all collapsed. Blacks became “African Americans” (even though the current generation has much less relation to Africa than half the white population of the US to Europe, and Hispanics to Mexico, Cuba, the Caribbean, and Central America), suddenly decided that they are underpaid for the slavery their ancestors, and started to smash the US to smithereens.
This is like Europeans, Iranians, and Africans putting forward claims to Saudi Arabia for the military campaigns of the first caliphs, who brought death, destruction, enslavement, destruction of flourishing states and original cultures, and the universal imposition of Islam. Or if Russia demanded compensation from Mongolia for the campaigns of Batu and his successors. In Germany, by the way, there are still small groups of Polabian Slavs who, according to the same logic, should demand that the Germans leave from the Elbe and pay compensation for 1,000 years of oppression and genocide. The remnants of the Celts and the same Germans should demand similar compensation from the modern Italians, for the cruelties of the Roman Empire. And so on. In this chaos, it will be impossible to determine who, to whom, and for what, because all sorts of things have happened in human history.
But why on earth did the American empire, which just yesterday claimed to be a planetary hegemon, come to a state of chaos?
As a rule, there are many reasons for the rise and collapse of states. But one is always the main one. For empires, the main cause of failure has always been imperial breakdown. This is a situation where maintaining imperial greatness for some reason becomes unaffordable for the imperial economy. I.e., the expenditure of resources to maintain the empire becomes steadily greater than the inflow of resources due to the imperial status. No system can exist if it consistently spends more than it receives.
The paper dollar will not cover all expenses
The American problem is most easily illustrated by the situation developing around Nord Stream 2.
When the Americans finally established their empire after World War II, they provided their allies with military protection and rapid economic development. Integration into the American imperial project was quite profitable, and the allies supported all of Washington’s initiatives not out of fear, but out of conscience. However, for a number of reasons, by the early 1980s, the United States, as the centre of the empire, started to experience resource insufficiency – there was not enough available resources for the maintenance of the empire and the global fight against the USSR. Back then there was the phenomenon of “Reaganomics” – financing current needs by borrowing from future generations – something that many compatriots still enthusiastically talk about as the Fed’s ability to “print as many dollars as the US needs”.
In fact, dollars could not be printed for more than the cost of global GDP and the global trade turnover that these dollars served. Moreover, a part (every day more and more significant) of what was “printed” had to go to maintain the US military presence around the world, without which it was impossible to redistribute global resources in favour of the US and control global trade.
Finally, the US has never 100% controlled either global GDP or global trade. Thus, the “printing” of dollars quickly started to exceed the cash resource they paid for. In order to avoid plunging into a financial crisis, America needed to dramatically increase the number of resources under its control.
The attack on Russia and China was a failure and has brought nothing but additional costs. Then the US decided to dispossess its European vassals somewhat. When the imperial centre starts to lack resources and cannot get them through external aggression, it always tries to make the imperial periphery pay. And this always leads to disastrous results, because the loyalty of the periphery to the centre is explained by mutually beneficial cooperation. As soon as mutual benefits are replaced by unilateral benefits for the centre, separatism starts to increase on the periphery, and the imperial vassals start to look for a new patron.
Sanitary cordon-2: American “battle of Moscow”
Europe would not be able to oppose the financial, economic, and military-political power of the United States if it were not for access to cheap Russian energy resources. They provided European industry with independence from the United States and competitiveness. Banal logic suggested to Washington that the flow of cheap energy resources to Europe should be at least blocked, and, at most, replaced with expensive American ones. Only in this way could the EU be deprived of any possibility of resisting the American dictate (direct military aggression did not take place – this is not Iraq).
The US tried to create a “sanitary cordon” between Russia and Western Europe from Russophobic regimes, which was supposed to block the pipelines that supplied Russian oil and gas to the EU. However, these regimes for a long time, while they completely destroyed their own economy and eliminated de facto internal political democracy, were themselves unable to exist without Russian energy carriers. The pipe cut-off started a countdown during which the regime would collapse within a matter of months.
Russia used the time available to build bypass (offshore) gas pipelines and provide other means of delivering energy to European consumers (liquefied gas, a fleet of oil supertankers under construction). At some point it became clear that the last battle had begun. The fight against “Nord Stream 2” was for the United States what the battle of Moscow was for the Red Army – a moment of truth. Whoever wins this battle should win the war.
The Americans have mobilised all their capabilities. Despite the most severe internal political contradictions, Republicans and Democrats reached a touching bipartisan consensus on the issue of sanctions against Nord Stream 2. Eastern European limitrophes, from the Baltics to Bulgaria and from Poland to Ukraine, were forcibly mobilised and sent to the front of the gas war. Construction was slowed down, but not stopped, despite it being completely necessary for it to be stopped. You can win all the battles, but lose the war, and you need to win the war, not individual battles.
And here the worst thing awaited the American empire – it started to have irreconcilable contradictions with the allies. At first, Germany – the financial and economic engine of the EU and the main beneficiary within the European economic system, and then France and Italy started to sharply oppose the US. Moreover, if Germany focused on the “Nord Stream 2”, then Paris and Rome started to move the discussion into the sphere of the expediency of maintaining a military-political alliance with the US. An empire that allies and vassals are fleeing from in search of new patrons is clearly ill and on the verge of collapse. After the US was going to introduce a second set of sanctions against the “Nord Stream 2”, even Germany threatened a political response. And for the first time in the entire post-war history of Germany, there was an all-party consensus in the Bundestag on the need to complete the “Nord Stream 2”.
Germany is united as never since the First World War. Berlin is ready to openly oppose Washington. Meanwhile, it is Germany that controls Europe in financial and economic terms. The United States cannot manage the EU without Berlin, because in order to do this, it is necessary to accept all opponents of the German course in the EU for maintenance, and Washington does not just do not want this – it cannot afford it.
Nothing geo-economic – everyone is fighting for their personal happiness
In fact, Russia has won the gas war, regardless of how the battle for “Nord Stream 2” ends. The US has lost its allies, who have moved into the category of opponents and are already looking for options for rapprochement with Russia as an alternative to American military and political dominance. A perfect example is a small, weak, impoverished, dependent Bulgaria, which, under pressure from the United States and the pro-American European bureaucracy, blocked the construction of South Stream. Less than two years later, the Bulgarians were just begging on their knees for the opportunity to extend a branch of the “Turkish Stream” (replacing the “Southern” one) through their territory. And once they were granted this right, they built it somehow sluggishly, which made it possible for the Russian side to publicly suspect them of sabotage and being duped, referred to objective circumstances and, in the end, vowed to hand over their section of the pipeline a couple of weeks ago ahead of schedule.
If Bulgaria is skimping on Washington’s interests and direct instructions, then God himself ordered the giants of the European Union to stop reckoning with American wishes. Especially since the “hot summer of 2020” has arrived here, the US doesn’t have the time for Europe – Republicans and Democrats, gradually crossing the border of civil war, came together in a deadly battle for power.
Everything in the world is interconnected. The failure of an empire on the foreign policy front leads to a weakening of its internal political stability. Each failure is a loss of a resource that was already missing. It is no longer possible to provide the population of the empire with “bread and circuses” (without requiring them to work productively), so long as they do not rebel. When there are 40 million unemployed people in the country, it becomes banal to feed marginal idlers, but they take offence and take to the streets. If a situation like the one in the United States is complicated by a split of the elites, then the revolt easily turns into a mutiny, and the mutiny into a civil war.
Now “Nord Stream 2” is needed more by Germany than by Russia. Moscow has alternative (and growing) opportunities to supply energy (primarily gas) to the European market. Germany, due to the two “Nord” streams, planned and plans to become a gas hub of Central, Eastern and, in part, Northern Europe, thereby strengthening its position in the EU against the backdrop of growing French ambitions. Therefore, American opposition to the project causes undisguised irritation in Berlin, which has already turned into open resistance to US policy in Europe. Nothing personal -Germany is fighting for its bright future. If the US could not provide it, then the Germans will be friends with Russia.
The one after another loss of allies (who strengthen Russia, even if they do not go over to its side, but only declare neutrality, because their resources stop playing in favour of Washington) leads to an additional reduction in the US’ capabilities for global imperial control.
This, in turn, causes additional tension within the US. The internal destabilisation of America diverts forces from the external front, which further weakens global imperial control and again negatively affects the domestic political situation in the US. America was caught in the vicious circle of a failing empire. And not the last, and perhaps the main role in this case was played by the unfinished story with “Nord Stream 2”.
Neither the defeats in Syria, nor the failure of colour scenarios in Russia and China, nor even the internal American troubles can and will have such a devastating impact on the position of the allies as the story of “Nord Stream 2”. In the latter case, it was about the self not only in Germany, but also the largest gas companies in five European countries. And as is known, self comes first.
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