The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Why America Will Probably Lose The New Cold War

China’s support (along with India and various other nations) makes it impossible to take out Russia with sanctions, just as Russia’s support makes it impossible to take out China with sanctions or blockade.

The fundamental issue here is the West still thinks it’s 2000 — that China isn’t the major industrial power & that Russia isn’t a fuel, mineral and food exporter. The West isn’t /needed/. For a long time you could only get things you had to have from the West.

The West is trying to use sanctions against both China and Russia, and they aren’t working. What they are doing is speeding up the end of the Western world order by forcing faster independence and bloc formation. The quick Chinese progress on semiconductors and airplanes show this backfiring.

So what’s the endgame? A new cold war in which most of Africa the middle east and S.America are aligned with China/Russia and thus a bloc which has more manufacturing AND more resources. Pure insanity. China just gives southern nations not close to it a better deal than the West does and is their major trade partner, and they will align with it.

This isn’t a moral argument, this is purely about capability and resources. In the Cold War the West always had more. In Cold War 2.0 the West will have less. (This is also why the EU has chosen the wrong side. They should have tried for independence and third pole status. Still should.)

Part of this is because of essentialist cultural bullshit. We think our culture is superior to Russia’s and China’s and that’s why we won. But standard great power analysis is that the USSR had the inferior position and was bound to lose.

Our “system” is a subset of our culture, not the other way around but what made the West dominant was not “capitalism” it was being first to scale with industrial technology and keeping that advantage for a long time. Even if it was capitalism, well everybody is capitalist now, though the culture which comes dominant out of the oncoming dark age will be the one which finds the best alternative to capitalism or which finds the next production revolution which doesn’t destroy world carrying capacity.

The West, which included the USSR, was dominant for about two centuries because of an absolute advantage in production: the industrial revolution, combined with superior tech made possible by the industrial revolution. An absolute advantage is something you can do, that your enemy can’t, that makes you absolutely superior to them. (Nukes against a non-nuke nation are another example.)

The Mongols had an absolute advantage militarily for a long time and were only really defeated when other nations figured out how to use their methods against them: the first to do so were the Egyptian Mamalukes.

Every absolute advantage system ends. Either someone else learns how to do it too, or they find a counter.

Some absolute advantage systems are geographically bounded. Roman legions fail in steppes even against horse archers without stirrups. (Crassus says “oh no!”)

Steam/petrochemical/industrial was a time bounded advantage. Someone outside the club was bound to manage it eventually. China did because we deliberately helped them out of short-sighted greed.

Now outside the club should be unpacked. Britain helped both the US and Japan industrialize. The US helped Japan and S. Korea and Taiwan. But all of those nations were brought into the club, in Japan’s case thru force.

Japan got uppity, the US crushed it and it’s now a loyal member of the club, currently doubling defense spending to get ready to fight China. The US could crush it because they were about technologically equal, but the US had more people and resources.

Britain helping the US industrialize lead to Britain losing its world-leading position because the US was a larger nation. The US then thanked them by subjugating them and most of the rest of Western Europe after World War II, adding Eastern Europe after the USSR collapsed.

America helping China industrialize is leading to the US losing its position because China (or more accurately China’s coalition) is larger in the ways that matter.

China might have been made a member of the club IF Russia and most of the non-Western world had been kept on the side of the West/US because US/EU is big. But the rest of the world/Russia was not kept in the US/EU camp.

All of this follows fairly simply from “they have more resources and about equivalent tech” and that’s what matters. Culture and system are important as determinants of ability to tech and mobilize resources. China’s culture and system are very good at that.

One corollary of this is that the “Rest of the World” (aka. non US/EU/Japan/S.Korea or China/Russia) matter. They tilt the playing field. But China gives them a better deal than the West has for a long time, if ever, including more political independence unless nearby.

When historians look back they will see the final decision point for the end of Western hegemony as the Ukraine war. Without Russia, China could be choked out by US naval power. Without China Western sanctions would have crushed Russia. This is the primary axis. But that Africa and South America are mostly going to go with them, and that the Middle Eastern powers will wind up either neutral or in the Chinese/Russia camp also matters: a lot. It gives China the decided resource advantage.

Of course, there were earlier inflection points, but from a pure geopolitical point-of-view the West needed Russia in the club far more than it did Eastern European countries. It got Europe, but Europe won’t outweigh Russia, Africa and South America.

None of this it deny that everyone has problems. For Russia and China it’s a demographic time bomb (though I’m not sure that lower population is entirely a negative, even with an older population). For everyone the joker is climate change and ecological collapse. I wouldn’t be surprised in 50 years if both China and the US have broken up.

But on ordinary dynamics, my judgment is that the West has already lost: the coalition which is forming against them will have more industrial capacity and resources and equivalent tech.

You don’t win that competition.

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  1. Eric Anderson

    I’m pretty sure the west isn’t interested in a Cold War anymore. The spooks realized a while ago our only comparative advantage is brute force. And there is no doubt the west owns the skies. The only question is will the nukes fly. The USA is so convinced of its superiority it won’t ride quietly into the night I’m afraid. We’re down to a zero sum game.

  2. NR

    Unfortunately, with each passing day, it looks more and more likely to me that catastrophic climate change will ensure that there are no winners in the decades ahead. We are simply not willing to change our behavior enough in ways that matter to prevent that from happening.

    I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t think I am.

  3. Curt Kastens

    One thing that I have to add to that long diatribe that I just sent, which I realize will probably not pass moderation, is that I have been completely shocked by the gutless behavior of the German civil service since September of 2022, just as I was shocked by the completely gutless behavior of the US military in March of 2003. Back then I did not yet realize that the US military had been transformed in to the Confederate military.
    But the saying is, fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me. These lessons have taught me that the west is irredemibly corrupt, meaning that it is incapable of reforming itself. That is why the Russians and Chinese have to bring an end to it at any cost.
    By the way, the turning tide does not mean that my assertion that the US developed a technology to prevent a Russian and Chinese strategic nuclear response is wrong. The western leaders were sure that they were going to be successful. The technology to prevent the Russians from ruining their success by bringing the world to and end had to be in place before they made their move.
    It seems that such a technological developement was not really relevent. Not relevent at least at this point. It may be relevent once the US (and NATO) leaders realize that they are about to be burned alive. They may want to make the rest of us burn alive with them. Hopefully by then the Chinese and or Russians will have been able to have made the same breakthrough. We should not count out the Russian Intellegence agencies. Perhaps they can recruit an important source that will help them with the problem.
    Wow, even that was kind of long. And I am not sure if this will pass moderation either.

  4. Astrid

    I won’t argue climate change but are China’s closer neighbors having that hard of a time of it? Even with very visible US and Japanese meddling in the area, China is the biggest trade partner for all of them, by s substantial margin. China is bringing advanced and much needed infrastructure to the region on very favorable terms.

    Yes, of course there will be disputes about fresh water, shorelines, and resources. And of course every same country will want to retain it’s own identity rather than have that subsumed by a hegemonic culture produced abroad. But that’s very far from saying that China is a particularly bad neighbor the way that the US today or Rome 200 BC are.

    Do you have credible sourcing and knowledge on how China is a poor neighbor or is this simply formed by reading MSM and doing a “progressive” adjustment? Because for me the last 3 years have shown that MSM isn’t simply bad but it’s actively lying on behalf of the US tripartite state on most topics. The facts are bad, the unquestioned assumptions are bad, the foundation is bad and it’s all crumbling, hopefully quickly and not too explosively.

  5. Curt Kastens

    Conclusion: This can not be allowed to become a cold war. This has to remain a hot war until one side or the other or both are destroyed.

  6. e.a.f.

    Good question, would the U.S.A. could lose a new cold war. Don”t think so. China and Russia may be trying to make inroads into Africa, but good luck with that. If there is to be a new order as the countries realign those who allign with Russia or China maybe in for a shock. By that time, if it were to occur, I’d expect the U.N. would also be a thing of the past. It should be gone anyhow, given it doesn’t do much and costs a bomb.
    There is also the not so small matter of Putin and Xi’s egos. Both will want to be “boss”. They may spend more time trying to cut each others throats. now if both countries had new leaders it might be different.

    If some of the countries align with Russia and/or China they ought not to expect any foreign aid from countries they may now be receiving it from. That could cause other problems in those countries. All though the political leaders of some countries may want to align with russia/and or China, their citizens may not and that will not end well. By the time the war against Ukraine is over, russia maybe on its economic ass and not much help. They aren;t even that good at running their own country. China will fare better because they seem to be able to plan, organize, etc.

  7. Ché Pasa

    The ruling clique in the West, I think, understands most of Ian’s analysis and is trying to the extent it can to avoid the Fate of Empires that this analysis leads to.

    There is another power faction in the West, however, the Tech Bros and other super-wealthy Libertarians, who don’t believe the West as a whole is Doomed, and for those parts that might be, they don’t care. They believe their technological power can and will solve any and all issues and problems, including climate change, that might arise, and, if worst comes to worst, they’ll just be off to Mars to start over.

    To an extent, this faction is actually aligned with Russia/Asia/Africa/South America, because that’s where future markets are. That’s where their wealth and power can still grow exponentially. The West is at nearly Peak Technology, and apart from the payments of vig to the Bros, there’s not a whole lot more they can extract from the collective West. There’s much more potential in the East and South.

    So we’ll see. Personally, I don’t see the End of the West in the looming Cold War. I see a decline over many, many years, perhaps hundreds, as the globe adjusts to a new climate regime. That in itself will take hundreds of years. But none of our rulers are particularly concerned about it, are they? The Cold War will have many hot wars and proxy wars like Ukraine. This whole period began with the attacks against the US on 9/11, and it shows no sign of ever stopping. Yet despite all the death and destruction, there’s a kind of joy about it in the West. “War is the health of the State,” right?

    The opposing alliance does not seem to believe in the benefits of Forever War, but that may change. The underlying idea is to get global population down to manageable numbers, and it’s interesting that a good start has been made in China and to an extent in Russia — and, of course, the collective West. A start has not yet been made in South Asia, South America, or Africa, but it will.

  8. Astrid

    PS – Aurelian aka “David” on Naked Capitalism has a good piece discussing the dynamics of US “realist” unipolar approach. The question is not whether the US can win (it cannot) but whether it’s elite has such a strong and implicit belief in its entitlement to unipolarity that it’s willing to take everyone else down with it if it doesn’t get what it wants.

  9. Curt Kastens

    I had mentioned that we can hope that the Russian FIB can score a some kind of victory to counter the American technological advantage in suppressing their strategic nuclear forces.
    But unfortunately until the American Confederate MIC is CRUSHED the secret services of the American Confederate MIC can not be counted out. They may be able to reverse the apparent changes that the Saudis, Brazilians, and others are making and quickly wipe out any progress that Russia and China were able to make.

  10. Feral Finster

    “One thing that I have to add to that long diatribe that I just sent, which I realize will probably not pass moderation, is that I have been completely shocked by the gutless behavior of the German civil service since September of 2022….”

    I’m not. Among People of Influence And Authority in Germany, questioning American hegemony is a faux pas on the level of interrupting a High Papal Mass to demand that the person who just farted please identify him or herself.

    You Just Don’t Do That.

    This is because Europeans in general and Germans in particular want to be slaves. A slave doesn’t have to make any decisions or take responsibility for a anything. And besides, the life of a house slave (as opposed to a field) slave is pretty good. Was it Borrell that talked about Europe as a garden and the rest of the world as a jungle?

  11. StewartM

    Our “system” is a subset of our culture, not the other way around but what made the West dominant was not “capitalism” it was being first to scale with industrial technology and keeping that advantage for a long time. Even if it was capitalism, well everybody is capitalist now, though the culture which comes dominant out of the oncoming dark age will be the one which finds the best alternative to capitalism or which finds the next production revolution which doesn’t destroy world carrying capacity.

    I would argue that the Soviet system allowed the Soviet Union to survive as long as it did, even from its inferior position, and many of Russia’s problems today on the battlefield are precisely because they copied the US in war-fighting. The USSR’s winning of WWII by contrast was an outstanding achievement, especially in the efficiency by which they allocated resources (the USSR wins first prize in the ‘who was the most efficient’? during WWII, followed by the UK; while the US could tolerate its inefficiencies. The Nazis came in dead last, in part because (despite the Youtube historian “Tik”‘s misinformation) they exercised the least control over private industry over all the combatants and were thus the most pro-capitalist.

  12. Curt Kastens

    I was thinking more about how this situation is developing. Not only was US faith that it would win because it had what it thought was a decisive technology wrong. It was also wrong in assuming that the Ukraine would be the decisive battle ground. China is at the moment politically outflanking the US through entire continents.
    But the US can still salvage its plan. In fact I am sure that the leaders of the US know this perfectly well. They are probably just bidding their time. They are waiting for the Ukrainian forces to weaken, the Soviets, oops I mean Russians as much as they can.
    Then NATO forces will enter the war directly on the excuse that a Putin victory is an existential threat to world peace and freedom. Because NATO and Russian Forces will be going toe to toe there will be no need to limit operations to the Ukraine. NATO forces will be free to attack Kaliningrad, towards St. Petersburg, and all along the Borders of Russia and Belarus. Up to this point not even 500,000 additional Russian Forces have been mobilized, according to what has been said publicly. I do not see how Russian Forces could hold off such an assault.
    The success of the Chinese charm offensive seems to me to force the issue. If NATO attacks it still has the support of the large majority of the NATO populations behind it.
    If NATO does not attack Russia directly the European societies are at risk at being cannibalized by their American over lords because this political bloc will not have enough resources or markets to maintain acceptable standards of living. Eventually the Europeans will rebel.
    Would a large Chinese Army be able to rescue that Russians? No the logistical supply lines are much to unfavorable.
    What can Russia do? Well it can launch tactical nuclear weapons against Europe. But I do not know if that will help prevent their defeat. The European leadership does not have the moral courage to stand up to the US. Therefore it will go along with the US plans to get involved directly with the fighting.
    Once Russia is defeated the Chinese are doomed. Their diplomatic success will all go down the toilet. Unless together they can regain the potential and the will to destroy the world. Then they can prevent a Russian defeat. Then the Europeans and the Americans are doomed.

  13. Curt Kastens

    Oh yes, there is some thing that needs to be clarified here. I did not think this fully through before I wrote. At the moment the US technology to prevent a Russian strategic nuclear attack is not crucial because Russia is not losing. But once NATO enters the conflict directly which I think it now has to do as a result of Chinese diplomatic successes, such a technology will be crucial to make the victory over Russia cost effective from a US point of view, if not a NATO point of view.
    I was almost tempted to erase this. Because these comments will be demoralizing to any Russians that might read this. But these comments will also be demoralizing to Western Europeans that might read them. The comments are a double edged sword.

  14. Curt Kastens

    Everything is falling in to place now. I have been having a hard time understanding why the Russians have been making such a big deal about capturing one or two streets in Bachmut. (Which ironically in German Bach means stream and mut mean courage) I asked my self why aren’t the Russians simply making larger encircling attacks and surrounding not only Bachmut but the entire county that the city is in.
    Because the Russians KNOW that NATO is going to enter the war. The Russians do not want to engage NATO forces on the borders with Poland and Romania. Then they would have long exposed supply lines. The Russians want the NATO forces to come to them. Then the Russians will have short supply lines and well prepared defensive positions.
    NATO forces on the other hand, at least those fighting in the Ukraine, will have to cross numerous rivers. The Russians will try to destroy the bridges over the rivers faster than they can be repaired or new pontoon bridges built.
    But what is troubling from my perspective and the Russian perspective is that NATO attacks north of Belarus get right in to the Russian heartland. What tricks short of nuclear warfare do the Russians have to make NATO pay dearly for every centimeter of territory gained? And I have to ask why should Russians bear the brunt of the fighting. They did not chose this war. The US MIC did.

  15. Trinity

    A typo?

    “Without China Western sanctions would have crushed China. ”

    The final China should be Russia?

  16. StewartM

    But on ordinary dynamics, my judgment is that the West has already lost: the coalition which is forming against them will have more industrial capacity and resources and equivalent tech.

    Yeah, but will it have the ability to create dazzling new ‘financial instruments’ like we do? Isn’t the elites finding ever-new ways to separate the peons from their money the sign of true genius of a civilization? /snark

  17. mago

    The ruling class is clueless outside their stimulant serotonin enhanced wealth bubble. Talking about the West here. The van der Leydens and Baebcocks and whomever else there may be and however their names may be spelled.
    Rape and murder, it’s just a shot away. (Apologies to the Stones.)
    Macron and all the rest are bubble people. They couldn’t buy food or cook a simple meal, although they shit and piss like all embodied beings do.
    Yet they’re sitting on top of the world with their toxic pedigrees and ideologies. Looking like Downs Syndrome people.
    There’s something inverted and perverted here.
    Blinken Winken and Nod, not to mention Nuland and Kagan.
    A perfect storm of destruction.
    Foreign policy in the West is foreign to any facsimile of natural order.
    Maybe we’re doomed and maybe we’re not, but we’re all on the death express. That ticket’s been punched.
    Eat a simple meal and enjoy what you’ve got it while you’ve got it.

  18. Curt Kastens

    Ok I heard 2 things of interest to me from the youtube site military summary. One is that the Russians have launched a military satellite (s?) that now give them a more detailed view of the battlefield. This is an indication, but not proof, that my source, for the story that the US has developed a technology to prevent a Russian strategic nuclear attack, is false. It could also be an indication that the Russians are learning to defeat this technology. Or, it could be an indication of nothing at all, because a satellite is somewhat different than an ICBM because it does not have a target.
    Also normally launching satellites is a routine operation. Why was it important to point out that a routine operation was carried out?
    The other thing is that the Russian Government has declared that it is dedicated to fighting the United States to the last Russian. Is that a decleration of war? Is it an attempt to reach out to someone in Europe? If so, who? People like me? Well I have no command authority. People like me, as far as I know have no command authority.
    Is with command authority in Europe listening? Is anyone in Europe with command authority sane?

  19. Curt Kastens

    Ok today I heard that the German government is not going to send anything more to the Ukrianians after they have fullgilled the obligations that they have already made. That would seem, seem but not prove, that the Germans certianly are not going to be sending any military forces in to the Ukraine under an EU banner let alone a NATO Banner. Sending EU “Peacekeeping” forces has been proposed, just in case readers have not heard about that. Since France is in turmoil I doubt that France will take part either.
    That would mean the potential possible NATO forces would have to come from the U.S., the U.K., Poland, Czechia, Italy, Spain, Lithiuania, Latvia, Estonia, Finland, Sweden, and Romania. I can really only see this taking place if it is used as a nuclear warning line. It could not be large enough to occupy enough territory to drive Russia out of the convential war.
    Had there been a different Plan B which would have included Germany? Or will the Germans still join in? If NATO does not enter the war, at least under the EU banner this will be not only another big black eye for them. Because many nations in the global south will start realigning their economies towards China now if the Russians are not defeated. Unless the US can prevent the Saudis from taking payments in currencies other than the dollar.
    The position of the US, with its European mock sucres will be clearly weakened if Russia is not defeated or Saudia Arabia is not reeled back in.
    I pray to God that war continues. No cease fire or peace deal for me. I am enraged at how the European Governments unleashed their propoganda machines against the Russians, and Putin. The Russians may be satisfied that the Germans give no further aid to the Ukrainians and do not join with NATO or the EU in directly attacking Russian forces. But I will not be satisfied with that. People have to die for the treachory that was carried out. There were crimes committed by the west in the past 20 years that certainly rise to the level of crimes for which Nazi defendents were executed in the past. This behavior can not go unpunished in the EU, or the US for that matter. Though being able to actually enforce the punishment on criminals in the United States would be much more difficult.

  20. The United States fought two world wars in the 20th century (and prosecuted a cold war) to prevent a single great power from unifying the resources of Eurasia.

    Through indirection and hijacking language similar to the Marshall Plan China’s One Belt, One Road Initiative has achieved what the Kaiser, Hitler, Stalin, the Soviet Politburo, Mao, to a lesser degree could not: the US if not already, will soon, face a monolith of forces arrayed against it.

    This could have been avoided, prevented.

    The 9/11 Bombings were one of those lost moment when the United States could have transcended the mistakes it had made in the Middle East and, done right, remade itself and the region at large in the midst of the Unipolar Moment .

    Instead we snatched defeat from the jaws of victory and spent the last twenty years of real decline from our couches getting fatter.

  21. Curt Kastens

    Sean Paul Kelly,
    That the US leadership even ever gave a damn to prevent any single nation from unifying the resources of Eurasia was assinine,……..assinine from the perspective of the average American. The US being in ö completely different hemisphere and having vast resources itself would never be seriously threatened by an alliance of Eurasia and AFRICA.
    But hey wait a second, what about the perspective of a really wealthy person? Is that a different matter? If Eurasia were united would that make it possible to build a socialist system, what ever a socialist system happens to be, that could serve as an inspiring example that the workers of America would actually aspire to because all of the anti socialist propoganda would not be able to tarnish the imagine of the alternative system that had been created?

  22. Clonal Antibody

    Robert F. Kennedy Jr just tweeted this

    The collapse of U.S. influence over Saudi Arabia and the Kingdom’s new alliances with China and Iran are painful emblems of the abject failure of the Neocon strategy of maintaining U.S. global hegemony with aggressive projections of military power. China has displaced the American Empire by deftly projecting, instead, economic power. Over the past decade, our country has spent trillions bombing roads, ports, bridges, and airports. China spent the equivalent building the same across the developing world. The Ukraine war is the final collapse of the Neocon’s short-lived “American Century.” The Neocon projects in Iraq and Ukraine have cost $8.1 trillion, hollowed out our middle class, made a laughingstock of U.S. military power and moral authority, pushed China and Russia into an invincible alliance, destroyed the dollar as the global currency, cost millions of lives and done nothing to advance democracy or win friendships or influence.

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