Editor’s Note: Sometimes the expression, “the view from 30,000 feet” indicates the largest possible frame of reference we can use to understand the underlying dynamics of a historical event. I thought of this today while listening to the following discussion between the economists Michael Hudson and Richard Wolff. They agree that the Ukraine War is one instance of the larger struggle (a “tectonic shift,” they call it) between the declining unipolar US economic/imperial system and the multipolar Eurasian (European Asian) economic system. In their view, by the imposition of sanctions the US has accelerated its own decline (the decline of the “dollar system”). Absolutely fascinating. Here’s a quote from Michael Hudson, from the larger discussion below (see the video, followed by a link to the transcript):
“Let’s look at this from Russia’s point of view. This is everything that Russia has been aiming at and insisting upon for the last five years. President Putin and Foreign Minister Lavrov have been leading the understanding that the world needs to be de-dollarized, that the United States has declared an economic war against Russia, China and their allies, really against Eurasia.
“So, in effect, by drawing the sanctions — not only the sanctions — but the most important thing is by seizing Russia’s foreign holdings in the United States, its treasury bond holdings and the bank deposits. What the United States has done itself is exactly what both Lavrov and President Xi of China have been saying the world must move towards.
“They’ve been saying we must have a multinational world, multipolar world. We must be de-dollarized. We must cut free of the dollar and isolate, protect ourselves from the United States’ ability to use sanctions, to interrupt our economic activity, to use oil to threaten any country that doesn’t follow U.S. policy from having their energy reserves cut off, to protect countries that don’t produce their own food from being able to buy food and feed themselves.
“If they do something the United States doesn’t like, if they do not open their markets to the United States, if they do not privatize their infrastructure. So everybody thought for the last five years: How will Russia and China and their allies, India, Iran, create this new world order? Well, the United States has accelerated this process.
“It has destroyed itself. The dollar as the standard. It is said whether you’re Afghanistan and we grab all of your foreign exchange reserves, whether you’re Iran, and we grab your reserves, if you’re Venezuela, and we tell the Bank of England simply take all of your gold and confiscate it.
“No bank accounts in the United States are safe. You must withdraw from the dollar in order to avoid the United States doing this to you. What we’ve just done to Russia and what we would like to do to China, is grab all of their wealth and hope that this is somehow going to make them unhappy enough to say, oh, please don’t hurt us anymore. We’ll do whatever you want.
“It’s about neoliberalism. So when Richard talks about the tectonic shift? It’s really a shift between two systems. It’s between the United States pushing neoliberalism on the one hand, and countries following, let’s say, an industrial capitalism evolving into socialism, on the other hand. And all of this has already begun, just as President Putin has said, this war is not about the Ukraine.
“It began a year ago when the United States started the war against Germany and Europe to haul it in. When President Biden insisted that Europe and especially Germany, has to block Nord Stream 2, what he said he has been saying for over a year now: that we want Europe to become dependent on American gas and oil and not on Russian oil, not only because we want the business of the exporting, but we want the ability to control the world oil trade.
“So that if countries do resist neoliberalism, we can cut off their energy supply and we can use Russia as an example of what we can do to Argentina or Latin America or Africa. And I think the Chinese phrase is killing the monkey, killing the chicken to frighten the monkeys. So that’s it.
“You are seeing a fundamental shift, and it’s a shift of economic systems. And the United States has accelerated it. Of course, there’s a transition period with interrupted supply chains. But from Russia’s point of view it just accelerated the Eurasian victory by years.”
The full transcript can be found here:
“Grab Bag Imperialism“