“We’re the Sucker”

I’ve written at length about how Ukraine is badly losing its war with Russia.

The U.S. and U.K. media have been a continuous source of misinformation and lies on this topic, so it’s not surprising that most Americans believe that Russia is losing badly.

But it simply isn’t true.

Over 200,000 dead Ukrainian soldiers speak as if from the grave about how badly Ukraine is losing. They’ve lost much of their best personnel and are sending fresh troops to the front lines with only rudimentary training. Many of them don’t last more than a couple of days.

On the other hand, Russia is in the process of mobilizing 400,000 new troops. That’s in addition to perhaps 400,000 now in Ukraine, and 300,000 or more in reserve.

Ukraine is also low on ammunition, while Russia has dramatically been increasing ammo production. Russia also maintains sizable leads in every major category of equipment from aircraft, to tanks, to artillery.

A Last Hurrah?

It appears that Ukraine is preparing for a significant spring offensive, supported by new equipment from NATO and fresh troops trained in NATO countries, but Russia is also preparing for it.

It seems like a last-ditch effort to push Russia back on the battlefield, but its success, if it happens, is far from certain.

What if it does fail? Then what?

Meanwhile, U.S. financial sanctions are not only failing badly (the ruble is stronger than before the war and Russian growth is projected to exceed U.S. growth on a percentage basis in 2023), but they have boomeranged to hurt the U.S. more than Russia.

The Central Bank of Russia recently reported a gain of 30 metric tonnes in its gold reserves. That’s after a year of flatlining, more likely due to non-reporting than non-acquisition. That’s just another sanctions failure for the Biden administration.

Can the Biden administration’s policies on Ukraine get any worse? Well, the answer is yes.

We’re Running out of Weapons

As the U.S. is supplying advanced weaponry to Ukraine, we’re badly depleting our own arsenals in ways that leave the U.S. entirely unprepared to fight wars in other hot spots, including Taiwan and the Middle East.

Worse yet, the U.S. has allowed its industrial capacity to decline so badly that we can’t quickly produce weapons to replace the ones being sent to Ukraine. We just can’t start cranking out all these weapons and ammunition overnight. It’s not like World War II. We don’t have that type of industrial economy anymore.

It would take years to build up to the levels of weapons and ammunition many are now talking about.

Europe is no help, either. Its armed forces are a shell and their capacity to produce weapons is even weaker than ours.

This geopolitical fiasco comes at a time when the U.S. is most likely entering a severe recession, when there’s an emerging global financial crisis, when the dollar is quickly losing ground as a global payment currency, when military recruitment is in crisis because the military emphasizes woke ideology over fighting skills and when adversaries from China to Iran are preparing to exploit U.S. weakness in their own regions.

The U.S. Is Odd Man Out

Amidst all this, there are important stories emerging elsewhere that are just as threatening to U.S. interests and U.S. power. The most important story is the recent meeting between Comrade Xi Jinping of China and President Vladimir Putin of Russia inside the walls of the Kremlin in Moscow.

Summit meetings among heads of state are not unusual. But this was more than just another summit meeting. It was a kind of coming-out party for a new world order that pushes the U.S. to the sidelines.

Here’s the easiest way to understand what’s happening using a poker game as a metaphor: The U.S., China and Russia are the only superpowers in the world. There are many other important powers, and I’m not suggesting that they don’t count, but only the U.S., China and Russia qualify as superpowers.

Now imagine a three-handed poker game that involves those three. There’s an old saying in poker: If you’re at the table and you don’t know who the sucker is… you’re the sucker.

In any three-sided contest, it makes sense for two of the parties to work together to crush the third. Once the third player is wiped out (loses all his chips), the two survivors can turn on each other. That’s just power dynamics. The U.S. understood this dynamic implicitly since the end of World War II.

When the U.S. Understood Poker

The U.S. and Russia (then the Soviet Union) were in an existential struggle during the Cold War. China was not a great power in the 1950s and 1960s, but it was effectively isolated and not a strong ally of Russia.

In the 1970s, Richard Nixon saw the rise of China and moved quickly to end China’s isolation and make it an ally of the U.S. This worked brilliantly. The Soviet Union went into economic decline in the 1970s and suffered political decline in the 1980s. Then came the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. By 1991, the Soviet Union was officially dissolved and the Russian Federation emerged.

The U.S. pivoted again under George H.W. Bush and made an ally of Russia in order to check the power of China. This worked well during the 1990s as Russia privatized and moved toward democracy while China was under a cloud because of the Tiananmen massacre (1989) and the Chinese downing of a U.S. reconnaissance aircraft (2001).

Then the poker game started to go badly wrong.

“We’re the Sucker”

The rise of Putin after 1999 enraged both neoconservatives and progressives in the U.S. who wanted Russia to be a Western puppet. Putin was a nationalist and pro-religious figure who returned Russia to a more traditional conservative state.

Then Russia became a left-wing punching bag because it was a convenient way to rationalize Hillary Clinton’s dismal campaign (2016) and to tar Donald Trump. Finally, the Russo-Ukraine War, provoked by the U.S. after 2014, became an excuse to exclude Russia from the international system entirely.

At the same time, the potential for huge profits in China was irresistible for U.S. businesses despite China’s atrocious record on human rights. In time, the U.S. was disabused of the notion that China would be “just like us” given enough time. China turned out to be a vicious Communist dictatorship and an even worse enemy than the former Soviet Union.

Where are we now? China and Russia are close allies, and the U.S. is the odd man out.

We’re the sucker.

The Daily Reckoning