One of Napoleon’s observations is that you should never interrupt your enemies when they are making a mistake. Russians know this, not least because they were careful not to interrupt Napoleon himself in 1812. Putin and his team have had plenty of opportunities to meet NATO’s leaders, observe them, negotiate with them and assess them. It’s unlikely they’re very impressed. But when they started their “special military operation” in Ukraine they could never have dreamed how self-destructive NATO would be.
What mistakes? First, the West has not shot itself in the foot with its economic sanctions – Hungary’s Viktor Orban is right when he observes that it has put a slug into its lungs. One can still limp along with a broken foot, but a shot to the lungs is pretty serious. Second, who in Moscow could have imagined that NATO would shovel its ammunition and weapons stockpiles into the Ukrainian black hole in the expectation that if they can get the latest wonderwaffe to General Steiner they’ll be in Moscow by Christmas.
A good reason for Moscow to take it slowly – let the mistakes develop, compound and metastasize. It’s happening by itself. Naturally, inevitably, logically. No outside effort required. An unexpected bonus.
Consider Germany, “the engine of Europe“. It stands on one thing – the reputation of German engineering and quality – Mercedes/Miele/Bosch, they may cost more but they’re cheaper in the long run because they’re so well made. No Western country manufactures much these days but Germany still does. In fact, only South Korea and China have a bigger share of their economies in manufacturing. (America, the colossus of former times, is half Germany!) But manufacturing needs energy. German energy comes from Russia – not all of it – about 20%. But coal is 40% and nuclear 10% and they have to reduce these because Greta wants them to which means they need more gas which is cheaper and “cleaner” and which mostly comes from Russia which requires another pipeline to be built. But then they decide that Ukraine is The Big Moral Issue and close the pipeline and step up coal which they’re going to get rid of altogether in 2030 thanks to more wind energy. And what about the nukes? Unicorn wings flapping. Hard to be green and hate Russia too.
Oh, and by confiscating Russian assets they’ve shown the whole world that only an idiot would keep his wealth in NATO currency in a NATO bank.
And all this for a country they lied to about NATO membership.
Scene – Napoleon’s study – flunky enters “Mon Empereur, your enemies have banned a big energy exporter, a big food exporter and a big fertilizer exporter.” Will Napoleon shout “Stop it, mes chers ennemis, you’re going to destroy yourselves with inflation!” Probably not.
Everybody eats food and everything needs energy, their prices will rise and pull every other price up with them. EU inflation in May was 8.8%. But it hasn’t got liftoff yet – UK energy prices are set to rise 65% in October with another hike in January. It’s just begun.
Trouble in the streets all over Europe and two of the smug seven gone a month later.
Javelin anti-tank missiles were the wonderwaffe a few months ago – in mid April America had sent a third of its stockpile. That’s three or four years to replace. A quarter of its Stinger stocks. Vovan and Lexus got the UK Defense Minister to admit the UK had sent so many anti-tank missiles that it was running out. The Czech Republic is just about out of stuff to send. France has given up 18 months’ production of its Caesar guns.
And Kiev wants still more. Now that Kiev’s NATO backers have come up with the crazy idea of giving guns that need NATO ammunition, 155mm ammunition stocks are running down fast. If Ukraine is really firing 3000 155mm shells a day, that will burn the entire US annual production in a few weeks. And so on. War consumes astounding levels of ammunition – the Russians know this because they remember – they’re never allowed to forget – 1941-1945. NATO thinks blowing up, in wars of choice, at its leisure, people in sandals is the gold standard of military achievement. I again recommend reading The Return of Industrial Warfare. Russia is keeping up production but NATO isn’t and, absent a very long lead time (and a lot of other changes that you know perfectly well will never happen in FIRE-centered economies) can’t.
Even The Economist has noticed – Europe’s winter of discontent. (Still thinks that it’s Putin that put the double-tap into the lung though. But it is The Economist which has done its bit to bring us to this point.)
Why would Moscow want this to end any time soon? Time is working and the enemy is making lots of mistakes.