Friday, March 14, 2014

In Debt to the World

Going in debt to the world has consequences. While the US meddling in the Ukraine is silly, it is revealing a problem the USG faces now due to its policies. We owe too much money to our global competitors. The USG threatened economic sanctions at Russia for its moves in the Ukraine. Russia laughed it off with talks of counterpunches that would hurt. Sell off the $131 billion in Treasuries it holds. Remove all Western business contacts. Cut off the US banks from their money laundering for those Russian billionaires. Our corrupt system needs that juice. Now the USG is all bluster. Debt has become a weapon against the US not just for the US, and the world has noticed.

Who is cuddling up to Russia in this brouhaha? China. China does own a chunk of land the size of Massachusetts in the Ukraine for agricultural production. China does not even have to side with Russia only hint at it because then they get the US worried and suddenly sending out feelers to coax them to the "right side of history". China and Russia both were angry about the Libyan debacle. They learned a lesson in allowing UN debates and slow responses. The Syrian near war of summer 2013 did not come to pass due to Russia offering a phony solution that protected their client, which had the backing of China. Iran has a sweet deal with the USG with a six month window they are working in feverishly to secure deals and food. Good to be a supplier of oil to China. It is ironic that the Chinese, who Nixon and Kissinger developed to use against the Russians is now muscle behind the weaker Russians taking on the USG leviathan. China does it all with the dollar hoard they hold and convert into tangible materials. Right behind China is India supporting the Russians. Considering the US dominance of supranational institutions, the BRICs could align as a counterweight in minor scraps just for greater say and control of the big institutions. They do not have to be allies, just nations with a shared interest.

On the flip side of this, I have written before on the USG puffing its chest about Syria due to Qatari and Saudi interests. The Qataris and Saudis own significant chunks of our debt, and we become obligated to satisfy their demands or else they will reduce their petrodollar recycling. The US has no real interest in Syria, but as global empire manager with clients that hold billions in Treasuries and other debt instruments, we have to align with others or else. There was no American interest in toppling Assad, aiding rebels or using air strikes. Even worse, America has begun to take in refugees. Enemies, competitors or allies, it does not matter. The USG ends up acting because of its debt or is defied because of its debt. The system still cannot be honest about why that debt and those low interest rates are so important. Forget the crumbling infrastructure and shrinking safe spaces around you; didn't you just buy a 60 inch HD TV at 0% for a year?

In the great game of geopolitics, going into debt at the massive levels that the US is in creates new problems for the USG and new weapons for opponents. The US and Germany have recently had public disagreements and spats about spying and bailouts. In an interview, George Soros stated that Germany has been imposing (his word) policies that are counterproductive to solving Europe's crisis, and he made honest assessments of Putin's view of Soros and the West but framed it as paranoia. This is a get in line warning from Soros, and it will probably work to get Germany behind US actions. It also reveals a new opening for Russia. In the last several years, there has been the threat that Russia can just turn the gas off and Europe will be screwed. Seeing the tension between Germany and America, Russia has multiple options here that would not target Europe but hurt America (the true foe). In one movement, Russia could hurt the US while showing Europe that Russia has no problem with them. If the USG moves on Russia, they do not have to touch gas exports. They can sell some of the $131 billion in US Treasuries they hold, stop using the US $ in trade (already been happening in bilateral agreements), or default on debt to the US banking system. I'd start with the third option as it is the most precise and could force the FED and USG to make an unpopular bailout decision for secondary effects. Russia did default in the '90s when they did not have to looking at the debt load they had, so this type of odd financial move has been done by them in recent hisory and with no geopolitical tension in play. How fragile is the US banking system? Russia might be willing to test it.

I'm not writing that the US should be sticking its nose in the Ukraine but just that the USG wants to do so, but is hamstrung in freedom now because of debt. This is another beautiful gift of globalization. Interconnectedness means we have interests everywhere at all times. What is the point of USG? They needed to print money to avoid facing social dysfunction, but they are now in hock to competition around the world for resource extraction and empire. What happens even if they "win" in the Ukraine? They have to loan out billions to a poor nation on the Black Sea where some of those billions end up in Gazprom's pockets. To install puppets and get the rush of that mastery of the globe? To push gay rights and the progressive buffet in nations with a per capita GDP of $3500? No one ever asks the question publicly of what is the point of USG because the answer would reveal the farce. The American financial crisis of 2008 and America's response changed the game. The USG's competitors have noticed and are acting accordingly.

1 comment:

sykes.1 said...

The US/EU cannot possibly win in the Ukraine. The stakes for Russia are too high, and it will meet any US/EU move with a counter move. The US/EU is starting up an escalation ladder that ends in nuclear war. They had better find a graceful off-ramp soon.