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The Russian Long Game

If you only read one crazy Trump-Russia conspiracy theory, read mine 🙂

Politicians and military leaders sound increasingly belligerent and defense doctrines more dangerous. Commentators and TV personalities are joining the bellicose chorus. It all looks as if the world is preparing for war.

Mikhail Gorbachev - Time Magazine, January 16, 2017

Right at this moment, the government of the United States is plotting how to start at least one war, but probably two.  The reason?  Oil.  Specifically, the value of oil and its importance to the Russian financial situation and geo-political power.

Global Oil Chokepoints - I've highlighted some key regions; keep in mind as you read on.

EU sources of energy imports.

All the pieces seem to align.

It seems like a priming of the conditions for oil assets to skyrocket. The problem is that there's more supply than there is demand right now so even if Russian sanctions are lifted, it does little to help the situation in Russia...unless the price of oil can be inflated somehow by disrupting supply or increasing demand. Increasing demand is hard; economies have to grow, the middle class has to be enriched, people have to buy things -- super complicated economics that will require the world's wealthy to give up some of that wealth. But disrupting supply.....

In contrast, the Obama administration strategically crushed the price of oil:

Obama viewed the price of oil as a strategic tool to weaken our enemies. Lower the price of oil and lower the influence of countries like Venezuela, Russia, and oil producing countries in the Middle East. When he took office, the price of oil was $102/barrel. When he left, it was in the mid-thirties. Those last four actions if evaluated by themselves, would seem to be typical liberal causes; but in the context of his administration's actions (or non-actions) on oil drilling, they were part of a coordinated effort to weaken the influence of oil prices on geo-politics. By crushing the price of oil, it would naturally slow down demand for "Drill baby, drill". What happened to ANWR, the topic du jour of 2008? Nothing because the glut of oil in the world destroyed the need for ANWR drilling; why drill in Alaska when you can drill in Oklahoma and the Dakotas at a cheaper price? Crushing the price of oil and adding sanctions to Russia weakened Russia tremendously from a geopolitical and financial standpoint.

Once this framework is established, a lot of odd actions by Trump start to make sense.  Consider the case of Ford, who manufactures their best selling vehicle -- not just their best selling vehicle, but the best selling vehicle in the US -- in the USA.  Why would Trump give them heat for moving production to Mexico?  Well, the production they were planning to move to Mexico was for their compact cars which have lower prices and lower margins than their pickups and SUVs.  What happens if you force that manufacturing back to the US?  Suddenly, the price of compact and midsize cars go up and the price of an SUV or a pickup becomes more attractive.  And guess what?  You'll consume more oil.

Putin is playing a brilliant long game. Weakening the EU, weakening the US, weakening institutions that the West has relied on like the UN and NATO. Destabilizing Syria. I think Ukraine was the moment that he knew he was going to win (they shot down a commercial jet liner for crying out loud!).  Ukraine was their test bed, their pilot for how to execute a mis-information and propaganda campaign both in Western media and on the ground with those supposed separatists.  Brexit followed and then the US. Hillary Clinton totally discredited...on what basis (hey Mr. Chaffetz, how about we restart those Bengahzi hearings until Hillary's in jail -- she's a criminal, right?!  Her crimes are surely not absolved because shes lost the election and I'd be quite upset if Trump pre-emptively pardoned her after all those hearings and no conviction)? EU is becoming more and more nationalistic and fracturing. Russian geo-political victory is now in full swing. Price of oil is up to $50/barrel today. A "terrorist attack" from "Iranian nationals" or "an Iranian supported cell"? $100/barrel crude. Boom.

With that context, this visa ban is a sleight of hand that the media has fallen for; it's a set up to topple the judiciary, the media, and the moderates - Democrats and Republicans alike.  We all know that it's not constitutional.  We all know that it will fail at the SCOTUS; no one in the Bannon cabinet believes that it will pass the test.  But that's not the point; the point is to use this to discredit the judiciary and the "liberals" who are right now protesting against this by letting an attack happen (again, why else do you need Bannon to control the flow of intelligence?) and then using that as pretext to start a war.  Remember the last time this happened?

Obama played the long game and played it well. The difference is that he played it at a policy level. The brilliance of Putin's Russia is that they know they cannot win at this level -- they don't have the allies to do so -- so they have chosen instead to turn the power (or should I say weakness) of Democracy on itself and use nationalism, racism, and ignorance to power their agenda. Had Brexit lost, had Hillary won -- world looks very different for the next 10, 20 years.  We're talking about coal and oil again when we should be talking about solar and wind.  We're talking about a $20+bn wall instead of an $20+bn invested in an upgraded electrical grid.

While Americans were arguing about abortions and guns and fake promises of American manufacturing jobs and calling a 30 year public servant a Wall Street profiteer and criminal....and then actually voting for a Wall Street profiteer and super corrupt candidate, Russia pulled off a brilliant coup to leverage the most powerful country on the face of the planet to ply their agenda.

It is likely that Bannon will have a key role in instigating or facilitating the events that will unfold; why else would one place an unqualified individual to lead a national security council but to allow manipulation of intelligence and keeping professionals and adults out of the fold.  He will have more power and leeway to control the narrative and shape the story; after all, he is a master story teller -- a craftsman of alternative facts -- not a foreign policy or intelligence wonk.  Not by a cosmic light year.

Chumps like Jason Chaffetz are so blinded by the short game -- small ball -- that they don't see their critical part in the bigger picture of global politics.  They are tools, pawns to be used and discarded in this game.  He won't survive the next election, but he's already served his agenda anyways and can otherwise be sacrificed.  He wasn't in on the game anyways, he was playing Chutes and Ladders while Putin was playing Chess.

So what can be done at this moment in time?  The only hope is that Congressional Republicans pursue the Russian connections with as much fervor as they did Hillary's supposed criminal acts in the attacks on the consulate in Benghazi.  Get Steve Bannon as far away from controlling the flow of intelligence as possible; he has no business in intel.  2018 is too late to wait for an opportunity to flip the House or the Senate; the administration and the Russians will be opportunists, using any incident to drum up the machinery of war.

Posted by Charles Chen

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