Political Cynic comments.
Headline: There are no good choices for the west on Ukraine
Sub-headline: It should strengthen sanctions, though they may ruin Russia’s economy without changing its policy or regime
Note that the cartoon, that tops the essay by Wolf , is awash in the current vogue for Stan Lee’s Marvel Comic World that has infected even the staid Financial Times.
Wolf offers a Moral Melodrama in an almost Theological Frame, featuring Putin The Terrible. It could be an improbable hybrid of Jonathan Edwards and Joseph Alsop?
Evil exists. It sits in the Kremlin consumed by resentment and lust for power. It marches into a country whose crime was to dream of freedom and democracy. How is such evil to be defeated? Might economic sanctions, combined with the resistance of the Ukrainian people, force Vladimir Putin into retreat? Or might they even lead to his overthrow? Alternatively, might he risk escalation up to use of nuclear weapons?
After his obligatory theology Mr. Wolf then resorts to a kind of political realism?
Beyond doubt, the sanctions the west has used are powerful. Putin has even called them “akin to an act of war”. Russia has been largely cut out of the global financial system and more than half of its foreign reserves have been rendered useless. Western businesses are frightened of continuing to engage with Russia, for reputational and prudential reasons. Neil Shearing, chief economist of Capital Economics, forecasts a peak-to-trough fall in gross domestic product of 8 per cent, followed by a lengthy period of stagnation. The jump in the central bank’s interest rate to 20 per cent will on its own be costly. Shearing may well be too optimistic. (See charts.)
Restrictions on energy exports are an obvious next step, as the Biden administration argues, against German opposition. It is, to say the least, objectionable that the high energy prices caused by Putin’s crimes also finance them. The Ukrainian economist Oleg Ustenko has argued strongly for such a boycott. Harvard’s Ricardo Hausmann proposes a neat alternative: a tax of 90 per cent on Russia’s exports of oil and gas. Since supply elasticity is low, he argues, the costs would fall on Russian producers, not western consumers, and so scarcity rents would also be transferred to the latter.
Mr. Wolf moralizing gives way, in this portion of his essay, with Neil Shearing, Oleg Ustenko and Ricardo Hausmann, two Capitalists and a notorious Neo-Liberal. The cast of characters grows, awash in charts and graphs that Mr. Wolf and his employers find to be so evocative to their readership.
McWilliams, B., Sgaravatti, G., Tagliapietra, S. and G. Zachmann (2022) ‘Preparing for the first winter without Russian gas’, Bruegel Blog, 28 February
Inserted into this section is this section is this propaganda, the obedient apologist for the political present, and its imperatives he just mentions Putin, what to name it ‘political paranoia’?
Against this, one can point to the fact that Putin has not mobilised the Russian people for a long war against Ukraine and the west. He even euphemistically called it a “special military operation” against “neo-Nazis”.
The fact that Right Sector, Svoboda and The Azov Battalion are active political agents in Ukraine is irrelevant to Mr. Wolf. They were participants in the 2014 Coup and are still active!
Sergei Guriev and Markus Brunnermeier are next in line of his well credentialed Economic Technocrats.
This followed by this …
Broad sanctions of this kind are a double-edged weapon, since they work by imposing significant costs on ordinary people. Among the biggest losers will be the aspiring middle classes. The regime might find it easy to convince the victims that their pain merely proves western hostility. So, yes, some Russians might blame Putin. But, especially given Putin’s control over the media, a huge number might blame the west, instead.
The Russian ‘aspiring middle classes’ suffering from the effects of the sanctions betrays a creeping doubt in the Wolf encyclical?
Appearing next in Mr. Wolf’s Parade of Technos is Dursun Peksen that Wolf paraphrases:
offers these conclusions: aim for major and immediate damage to the target economy; seek international co-operation; expect autocracies to be more resistant to sanctions than democracies; expect allies to be more responsive than enemies; and, finally, expect sanctions to be less effective in achieving large objectives than modest ones.
The concluding paragraphs of Mr. Wolf’s essay are instructive as to the quandaries, of Western Meddlers on the periphery of Russia, even interference in the political life of Ukraine: Victoria Nuland and Joe Biden among the army of New Cold Warriors. Who are the vanguard that manufactured provocations, in sum their bating of Putin, that led to catastrophe for the Ukrainian People!
In retrospect, there should probably have been less ambiguity over western support for Ukrainian independence. Now, we must do everything we can to support Ukraine’s fight for survival, short of taking what seems the excessive and possibly futile risk of direct injection of Nato air forces into the war. We should strengthen sanctions, though they may ruin Russia’s economy without changing its policy or its regime. We should state that our war is not with Russian people, though they may not forgive us for the pain we are inflicting upon them. We should ask China and India to persuade Putin to end his war, though we must recognise that such an effort is highly likely to fail.
Only bad choices exist. Yet Ukraine cannot be abandoned. We must go on.
A record of my attempts to construct a reply to Mr. Wolf’s essay. And the reply I posted at The Financial Times:
Notice Wolf’s sources on the boycott : ‘Neil Shearing, chief economist of Capital Economics’:
Mr. Shearing’s very impressive resume here:
‘Ukrainian economist Oleg Ustenko:
Ricardo Hausmann’s ‘Morning After’ for Venezuela: The Neoliberal Brain Behind Juan Guaido’s Economic Agenda
ANYA PARAMPIL·MARCH 14, 2019
Following Grayzone exposé, top Venezuelan coup official Ricardo Hausmann is forced to resign
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Mr. Wolf presents two Capitalists and a Neo-Liberal/Neo-Con, Harvard’s Ricardo Hausman, as his Experts.
Post March 9, 2022 Wolf essay
With Experts like Neil Shearing, Oleg Ustenko and Ricardo Hausmann, that gives way to more Experts…
The Reader confronts the last two paragraphs, as if she hadn’t even moved from the moralizing first paragraph of Mr. Wolf utterly unenlightened essay … except that ‘we’ must remain steadfast!
‘In retrospect, there should probably have been less ambiguity over western support for Ukrainian independence. Now, we must do everything we can to support Ukraine’s fight for survival, short of taking what seems the excessive and possibly futile risk of direct injection of Nato air forces into the war. We should strengthen sanctions, though they may ruin Russia’s economy without changing its policy or its regime. We should state that our war is not with Russian people, though they may not forgive us for the pain we are inflicting upon them. We should ask China and India to persuade Putin to end his war, though we must recognise that such an effort is highly likely to fail.
Only bad choices exist. Yet Ukraine cannot be abandoned. We must go on.’
Call this essay the bludgeoning of political cliché!