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Gazing into the Abyss--Grand Strategy for Global War 6
Attempting to grab victory from the jaws of defeat in Ukraine, the NATO alliance floats an intelligent peace plan. But Global War 6 is just starting and peace is not likely any time soon.
A war of attrition is like chopping down a colossal tree with a small dull axe. For the longest time, massive amounts of effort are invested for little to no obvious results. The tiny wedge of progress leaves a few chunks of wood chips on the ground. But step back a hundred meters, and the majestic tree is still defiantly standing, just as it always has. Over time, with enough effort, a point is reached where success is imminent. It is only after a major investment of energy does the “timber” moment finally arrive when the tree is about to come crashing down to the ground.
And so the worst thing a lumberjack can do is after 80% of the effort is expended, to make a peace deal to end his assault just as the tree is about to tumble. All the lumberjack gets is the debris on the ground while other lumberjacks can come along and with minimum effort claim the lumber the original axeman worked so hard to acquire.
NATO recently floated a land-for-peace trial balloon. Russia would keep the territories already conquered while unoccupied Ukraine would join NATO and the EU. From Verdens Gang (VG), a Norwegian online tabloid:
“I think that a solution could be for Ukraine to give up territory, and get NATO membership in return,” Jenssen said in a panel debate in Arendal on Tuesday morning.
Stian Jenssen is chief of staff for NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in Brussels. Stoltenberg himself has not been willing to discuss possible solutions for Ukraine after Russia's invasion.
When asked by VG whether it is Nato's view that Ukraine must cede land in order to achieve peace with Russia and future membership in Nato, Jenssen pointed out that the discussion about possible status after the war is already underway, and that questions about ceding territory to Russia is raised by others.
“I'm not saying it has to be like this. But that could be a possible solution,” replied Jenssen. (Translation by Google)
This tentative peace plan follows the abject failure of Ukraine to make any significant advances in its much hyped counteroffensive towards the Sea of Azov. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko gives a colorful yet succinct situation report (sitrep) on the current status of Ukrainian progress:
"You [Ukraine] have 45,000 people killed and crippled during the counteroffensive. <...> Your losses at the battle front are 1 to 8," he said in an interview with Ukrainian journalist Diana Panchenko, which she posted to her YouTube channel.
According to the Belarusian president, Russia has a corps of 250,000 people in reserve, equipped with advanced weapons.
"They will grind you down and then do what you are most afraid of: They will cut you off from Moldova, Transnistria," Lukashenko said.
According to the Belarusian president, those motivated, "ideologically-minded Nazis" no longer exist.
"They have all been killed already. Who is fighting there now? Those, whom you catch in the streets and bring there. They lack training. Well, and a little bit of the military servicemen," Lukashenko said. "They can't cope with this machine. Russia has adapted itself. Russia has the latest weapons at the battle front today. There are enough drones already. It's already a completely different army. And the most dangerous thing is that they have a 250,000 volunteer corps".
According to Lukashenko, Russian troops are "sitting in defense" not because they can't advance.
"They don't have to. You are going ahead, you know, like you are stoned and drunk. You're walking with your arms in front of you, the way they show Germans in the movies. You go to these barricades, but you don't even get to the minefields. We can see that. You are simply being destroyed by the thousands," Lukashenko said.
Lukashenko may be exaggerating the numbers but the overall gist of his comments is correct. What is undeniable is that the Russians are slowly advancing in the northern Kharkov region along with minor advances in the Bakhmut area. Ukraine has microscopic advances in the southern Zaporizhzhia theatre, but at a huge cost in Western materiel and Ukrainian men. Ukraine recently deployed their final (and best) reserve unit to little effect:
The Ukrainian air assault forces finally have deployed their most powerful unit. The 2,000-person 82nd Air Assault Brigade, which is stacked with Marder and Stryker fighting vehicles and Challenger 2 tanks, rolled into action around Robotyne, in southern Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia Oblast, apparently in the last few days.
Off the battlefield, Russia has effectively turned Ukraine into a landlocked nation by blockading and destroying her Black Sea ports. Not only is this a disaster for Ukrainian finances, Europe relies on cheap Ukrainian goods to damp down food prices. There are reports that Ukrainian farmers are refusing to plant the next crop due to their inability to reach export markets. Any land transport of Ukrainian grain is blocked by a grain embargo enforced by Poland.
Worse for the West is their inability to produce sufficient levels of ammunition. Roughly speaking Ukraine requires 8000 shells a day or 240,000 per month. At best the US produces at best 24,000 a month while the EU is able to muster up 4000. The US does have plans to increase production—in five years time:
The Army is spending $1.45 billion on capacity “to expand 155mm artillery production from 14,000 a month to over 24,000 later this year,” and 85,000 in five years, Camarillo said at the Association of the U.S. Army’s Global Force Symposium in Huntsville, Alabama.
Russia, after a rather meagre period in 2022 and early 2023, has ramped up ammunition production. They do not release their numbers but there appear to be no more shortages among Russian troops and their success on the battlefield reinforces this. In addition there are reports that North Korea, China, and Iran have been increasingly supplementing Russian ammunition production.
Meanwhile the West keeps trickling “game changer” weapons systems into Ukraine, which only serves to give Russian forces essential training in countering these arms. A multitude of differing arms systems creates chaos for Ukraine as the problems of spare parts, maintenance and basic training to operate these systems is multiplied. An offensive breakthrough requires a confluence of destruction concentrated on a single point along the front line. But weapon supply-by-committee means critical systems arrive well after they are needed.
In terms of manpower, there are persistent rumours that Russia will again announce a mobilization of anywhere between 250,000 to 500,000 soldiers. But there will be a six month lead time before any of this fresh meat hits the front. Meanwhile there are reports that Russia has already recruited 230,000 soldiers already this year.
In addition, the Russian economy is flourishing outside of the neoliberal axioms of the Western economic model, while the US and Europe are suffering as a result of sanctions.
Russians got richer last year even as the war in Ukraine raged on, while the US and Europe lost trillions of dollars, UBS reported.
Russia added $600 billion of total wealth, the Swiss bank found in its annual Global Wealth Report, published Tuesday.
The number of Russian millionaires also rose by about 56,000 to 408,000 in 2022, while the number of ultra-high-net-worth individuals — people worth over $50 million — jumped by nearly 4,500.
But the US lost more wealth than any other country last year, shedding $5.9 trillion, while North America and Europe combined got $10.9 trillion poorer, UBS reported.
Presumably any peace plan would see anti-Russian sanctions dropped but who will ultimately benefit from reincorporating Russia back into the existing economic order? Not Russia. Instead Russia will prefer to continue leading the construction of an alternative global economic order revolving around the BRICS organization. Major hydrocarbon exporters such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, Nigeria and Algeria are seeking to join. Any such moves represent a grave danger to the petro dollar.
Given this situation, for Russia to agree to “freeze” the war, allow Ukraine to join NATO, all in return for meager territorial gains that result in indefensible borders is unlikely. However for NATO this deal—expanding eastward more than 1000 kilometres, ensuring Ukrainian access to the Black Sea, and engulfing Moldovia and the Russian breakaway republic of Transnistria, all in one fell swoop—would be a victory of historic magnitude.
And so this NATO peace deal will never happen. To further understand why Russia and partners will want to continue pushing the West, we must widen the scope of the discussion.
Global War 6
If historic cycles hold, today mankind finds itself in the early innings of a global conflict to decide the next hegemon and international system. Long Cycle Theory, as I explained in Declaring Global War 6, holds that:
there have been five long cycles of global leadership: Portugal (1516-1609), Dutch (1609-1714), Britain I (1714-1815), Britain II (1815-1945), and the USA (1945-current). A generation-long global war determines which nation will serve as global leader for a roughly hundred-year reign. The hegemon’s term is split into three periods: one generation of effective global leadership, a second generation of delegitimization and gently declining global leadership. Sensing an opportunity for the global crown, rival nation-states challengers rise to battle the aging hegemon. This struggle ushers in a Global War, a period of approximately 25-30 years of turmoil and strife which decides the global leader for the next roughly 100 year cycle.
History suggests the current period of global strife—Global War 6—will endure on-and-off again until around 2050. After either a US or Chinese victory, the next global order would normally endure until the middle of the 22nd century.
These global wars ignite when after a period of rule, a global leader, who creates and enforces its contemporary global order, begins an inevitable phase of decline. After its initial victory, as the hegemon creates and is then inundated by massive amounts of wealth, the resulting cancerous cultural degeneracy undermines the social cohesion of this leading society. The disorienting sloth of abundance created by wealth dampens the drive to power that the nation’s previous eras of austerity stoked. Industriousness, group cohesion and the martial spirit to protect allies and defend its system—the characteristics that led to the hegemon’s original rise—all ebb away. In its place flow tides of obesity, narcissism and atomistic despair flow inwards and soon a new challenger appears on the horizon to overthrow the bloated and corroding hegemon.
At this point of decline, leadership of the global order, and its attendant intoxicating power, is put in to play. The dominant nation naturally allies with the more docile wealthy nations, who all seek the security of the existing order. But without fresh ascendant blood, these allies simply form a coalition of decline. These effete nations must be supplemented by tough auxiliaries, poor nations willing to fight and die to join the rich man’s club. Ukraine is a classic example of this.
As the wealthy nations decline, one or more from among the poorer nations begins to rise—fuelled by a strong work ethic and high social cohesion—and start to accumulate wealth and power. Once these upstart powers display decades of progress, the declining hegemon and allies awaken to the challenge and move to defend the existing order. These declining nations begin to act as a counterweight, or fetter, restricting the growth of these budding powers. As the power potential of the upstart rising power starts to approach that of the declining hegemon, global war is the likely outcome.
The reigning hegemonic constellation is known as the status-quo power since they rely on and defend the existing order. Revisionist powers are those nations who seek to demolish the reigning system and to build a new structure. These positions are not pure. There are shades of grey where early in their development, a revisionist power may exploit and eventually master aspects of the existing order. Only later will a revisionist power show their true colors and openly rebel. In a parallel movement, the status-quo powers, feeling threatened by the rising upstarts, may start breaking the rules of the existing order with the intention of checking the aspirant nations’ rise.
Global War 5 Alliances
Britain is the only great power to ever repeat as global hegemon. After riding mercantilism to victory in Global War 3 (wars of Louis XIV), Britain went through a radical transformation and rode the industrial revolution to victory in Global War 4 (Napoleonic Wars.)
But by the time Global War 5 was brewing, in the opening years of the 20th century, Britain was a weak hegemon and many potentially revisionist powers were rising. The United States, Germany, Russia, Japan, and to a lesser extent Italy were ascendant. Due to British weakness, it made sense for a youthful and energetic revisionist power like the US to join the status-quo camp, but with an eye towards inheriting the realm from an aging British father-figure.
The building and evolution of coalitions is crucial to determining the winner of these hegemonic contest. During WW2, the energies of the two most powerful revisionist powers, the Soviet Union and Germany, were wasted through fighting each other and so the status-quo powers led by the US were able to achieve victory.
For Global War 6, currently the US serves as a powerful hegemon and so there is not much incentive for any young aspiring revisionist state to join the existing order with an eye towards gently displacing Uncle Sam. The two current revisionist super powers, China and Russia, learning the lessons of WW2, are strongly binding together. They are being joined by regional powers Iran and North Korea in a tight military alliance. Further down in commitment, the BRICS+ order serves as a revisionist economic cartel. The addition of Iran, Saudi Arabia, Algeria and a host of other nations would make the revisionist BRICS+ more powerful that the status quo G7. And yet not all BRICS members are fully committed to revisionism. India is the one key great power nation that seems to have a foot in each camp. Could one day India be convinced to join the status quo nations?
Geopolitical Bank Run: Four Front War
All hegemons overcommit. Similar to how a bank only holds a small percentage of its deposits on hand, never expecting to be called upon all at once to pay out, a global hegemon only holds a small percentage of the military force required to back up all of its security commitments. The US is currently obligated to protect much of Central and South America, the NATO countries, South Korea, Israel, Japan, the Philippines, Australia, and New Zealand. Taiwan is not even an explicit security commitment but is currently the topic of much debate. Ukraine is not at all a commitment but the US and allies are expending huge amounts of effort there.
So instead of the bank repaying depositors, it’s as if the US and NATO were giving their limited resources to random Ukrainian passerbys. Not to mention the more modest US efforts in Syria and Africa.
In the meantime, in at least four theatres, the revisionist powers, or if you will the Primal Horde, have the ability to attack. Once Ukraine falls, Russia / Belarus / Wagner Group could invade the Suwalki Gap. Unlike attacks in Ukraine, this would be an incursion into NATO territory that would threaten the independence of the Baltic nations. NATO, which means the US since Europe holds little to know military potential, would be forced to mobilize or face a humiliating defeat.
Currently, the US maintains around 30,000 troops in South Korea which act as human tripwires. North Korea has recently turned up its level of bellicosity and any surprise attack towards the south would massacre many of these troops. The US earmarks several divisions of troops back home for a war in Korea. It takes roughly ninety days to ship them into the theatre, assuming these transport ships are able to avoid hypersonic missile attacks. Once these troops are committed to the defense of South Korea, there is nothing in reserve for Taiwan.
There may not be a formal defense treaty with Israel but through massive campaign contributions, Israel is priority number one for America’s ruling elite. Iran has emerged recently as a major arms producer, especially ballistic missiles and drones. Iran has a large population which strongly maintains warrior values. Iran’s ally Hezbollah in Lebanon itself has more than enough firepower to seriously damage Israel, if combined with an Iranian attack, it could get existential. Even Iran testing a nuclear weapon would create a crisis and stoke demands among America’s ruling class for an invasion of Iran. The most likely Iranian escalation may occur in Syria, where US occupation troops currently control Syria’s oil producing area. In any case, an eruption of Iranian hostility in the Middle East would force the US to respond.
The US may be hoping the revisionist powers make the cliche mistake from martial arts films of dumb bad guys attacking the hero one-by-one. But a roughly simultaneous attack on the Suwalki Gap, South Korea and Syria will give China the freedom to make its move on Taiwan. In the wake of three simultaneous crises elsewhere, an invasion may not be require. The collapse of US security capabilities in the other theatres may lead pragmatists in Taiwan to swallow their pride and grab the mainland Chinese belt loop.
The Axis of Revision currently holds an advantage in hypersonic missile technology; in basic ammunition manufacturing capabilities, and in asabiyyah, the crucial characteristic of social cohesion and group spirit. Russia, North Korea and Iran have cultures which promote a exuberant martial spirit and none their Spartan economies have shielded them from the culturally degenerating impacts of wealth accumulation.
China, with its powerful, wealth creating economy is at a threshold. Obesity is on the rise. China’s increasing prosperity will soon lead to cultural degeneracy, which is the natural course of human societies. To counter this President Xi often calls for a rejuvenation of the Chinese spirit and promotes the “Chinese Dream” of recapturing traditional Chinese global status and power
Fortress North America and Caribbean
If the revisionist powers unite, attack, and stretch the US to the breaking point, by 2030 we could see the US sphere of influence fall back to the fortress of the Western Hemisphere, but more likely just North America and the Caribbean area. Such a retreat would be highly destabilizing to the rest of the world, primarily the revisionist powers, as suddenly the old order would vanish in Eurasia and Africa and China-Russia would be under much pressure to create a new system.
As popular geopolitical commentator Peter Zeihan points out in his book The End of the World is Just the Beginning, the US would do just fine after retiring from ruling the world and retreating back to the Western Hemisphere:
The Americas are broadly okay. In part it is geographic. The two American continents have more food and energy than they have people to consume them. So, you know, solid start.
It is also economic. The Western Hemisphere’s (the world’s) most demographically stable developing country—Mexico—is already heavily integrated with the hemisphere’s (the world’s) largest economy and most demographically stable developed power—the United States. The two buttress one another in ways unparalleled in the modern world.
It is also geopolitical. The Americans have the interest and the ability to prevent Eastern Hemispheric chicanery from bleeding into the Western Hemisphere. For all intents and purposes, the Americans may be abandoning the global Order (big O), but they will still uphold a Western Hemispheric order (little o).
Honestly, that’s probably more than what the Americans actually need to do. The United States is a continental economy with robust internal commercial activity, as opposed to a global economy with robust external trade. Only half of America’s international trade and less than 3 percent of its domestic trade—which collectively accounts for just 10 percent of GDP—floats at all. Most trade with Mexico and Canada is carried out via rail, truck, or pipeline. The Americans are not dependent upon international maritime trade for their food supply, their energy supply, or their internal or even the bulk of their internationally dependent supply chains.
South America would become an active front line. This US fortress pullback would necessitate an invasion of Venezuela in order to secure her massive oil reserves. Nicaragua and Cuba would be regime changed. In response the revisionist powers would infiltrate the region and arm the drug cartels and rebel groups and promote insurgency campaigns.
Brazil would tend to fall into the revisionist camp. Resource rich Chile and Argentina would also be valuable additions to the revisionist camp but both have an anti-communist tradition, which would be used by pro-American forces to resist Chinese influence. Somewhere in South America a line will form that separates the US fortress from the revisionist rest of the world.
Pulling back to North America will force the US to reindustrialize to some extent. There will still be pressure to push industrialization into low-cost Mexico and Central America but it will inevitable that the current American paradigm of financialization and service economy will be overturned by a renaissance of manufacturing. In turn, this economic model will improve US social cohesion as will suddenly being surrounded by potential enemy nations. This transition period would be complete by 2045.
After pulling back, the US would hope for chaos in the rest of the world as suddenly China-Russia are the new bosses. The unity the revisionist powers felt in fighting the US may ebb away and be replaced by internal bickering and competition.
A key piece will be India. Today, the US is so powerful that no great power challengers would think of joining them since they would only play second fiddle in a status quo system. But after a US fall back, a possible exception would be India, which could vault up the global power rankings by grabbing the proverbial US belt loop. There are incestuous connections with the US and UK. The US ruling class is heavily infiltrated by people of India descent, albeit mostly from the elite Brahmin caste. The 2024 Presidential election in the US will likely feature four candidates of Indian descent, Vivek Ramaswamy, Nikki Haley and Hirsh Vardhan Singh for the Republicans and Kamala Harris for the Democrats. A fifth, Tulsi Gabbard, may appear as a third party challenger.
And so the second round of Global War 6 could kick off around 2045, with the US, India and in the very best case Russia challenging China. This is so far out in the future that any predictions are impossible. But as a general trajectory — defeat in round one of Global War 6 — retrenchment back to North America — fighting round two with India as the main ally — does seem possible. Of course another alternative is that the revisionist powers will stay united and strong, while the US continues its decline and Balkanizes. By 2045, the revisionist powers may have the wherewithal to undertake an invasion of North America. Only time will tell.