The Pirenne’s predicament

| March 13th, 2022

  • The invasion of Ukraine has been a one way trap: a “new” reality will replace the old and many changes will occur , near and far;
  • a good sign of our problem is that our elites are still clinging to their Leo Bloom blue blanket of Renewables;
  • Europe, though various leaders, looks to have changed tack on many things, yet it didn’t: the ruling classes are still preaching conformity;
  • On that, there is an inherent irony in that the continent which made a point of subjecting maverick political figures to endless flak bordering on harassment is pushed into change by one such figure outside it: Zelenski, a former comic who is showing a great personal, INDIVIDUAL courage, leadership qualities and a kind of stubborn determination, would have been harassed to no end had he been Premier in Luxembourg. The UK has been practically kicked out for much less, and remember Berlusconi, Poland etc. The “order from above “ approach makes it very difficult to allow stressors to reward the smart (or lucky) and punish the undeserving. “close ranks” doesn’t work, according to Bosquet.
  • We are still waiting to hear any of the leaders actually announce any review of the general dirigiste stance by the EU, and that will bring all sort of credibility problems in terms of engaging private WILLING money in long term projects where those putting in the money would be well aware that the same people smiling now wanted to have them fail yesterday;

I was wrong.

My rather strongly held opinion was that the events in Ukraine wouldn’t get out of hand because Putin was a rational operator: ruthless, expert, with the smooth hand of a man who had more or less shaped the opponents he was facing, and with an immense two way sword on the frail jugular of Europe via the energy link: my country, Italy, is so dependent on Russian gas that any plan to retrieve some sort of energy source control will take decades, and that on the condition that the political class changes tack completely and makes this a strategic priority overriding anything else.

Yet, instead of doing a limited objective campaign, in order to gain a positional advantage and sow the seeds of future advances, He’s engaged in a true attempt at “retaking” the whole of Ukraine, unleashing something that in my opinion will be remembered as a turning point. As in all big system, the inertia and Chaos will cause tears, both under the aspect of crying but also in terms of rifts and changes that will not be patched.

Hence, all the leaderships the world over are facing an existential threat, not just brave President Zelenski, who is trying to shepherd Ukraine through its worst period of the past seventy years.

But even if a last minute round of negotiation found an uneasy balance between the conflicting objectives, and forces DID stand down all around, to me this was a turning point. My generation, who was born in the (un)easy years of the Nuclear Arms race, experienced the confrontation between the two blocks, saw the Berlin Wall go down, feels now back to square one, in a kind of much darker version of “Groundhog day” where you just thought you’d made it, yet didn’t. Also, we’re facing in reverse the same sensation that drove so many players to such adventurism all around, the perception or “feel” that never, for a generation, the “First World” western elites were so inadequate to the various tasks at hand, in a consistent way all across.

The way #Covid was faced was only a starting point, with a congenial mix of unpreparedness, irresponsibility for past mistakes even when blatant, and loathing of differing opinions, all thrown in the pot of endless and ever larger political venues which dispersed the lingering traces of sense of duty even wider, be they the WHO, European Commission or Parliament, NATO and the like.

Meanwhile the rogue forces in the world always have been acutely aware of the price they paid for the thirst for absolute power, and also how that made them vulnerable to a open and prolonged confrontation; for them it has all been always a quest for recognition and breadcrumbs. Yes, they were feared, yet they knew to a T how much weaker the homogeneous thought control and the overbearing authority wrought.

That is, until even the “free world” started to subtly practice the same modus operandi toward their citizens, see Premier Trudeau and his Emergencies Act. But now, the Davos crowd and the political elites in European capitals and in Washington are feeling the heat.

Like Lewis Pirenne, a character in “Foundation” of famed author Isaac Asimov, incidentally descendant of Russian Jews who fled, they have built a fictional world in which they could dedicate themselves to what they found congenial: In Asimov, writing the famed Encyclopaedia, in today’s world, sacrificing any sensible economic/geopolitical threat analysis to their quest towards intermittent renewables and electric vehicles / communal transport modes.

But since renewables are intermittent and/or unreliable, this meant not only building backup quick reaction generation capacity (i.e., gas turbines) in order to maintain the electrical grid stable and relatively affordable, but also accepting whatever deal was possible in order to sate the ever increasing thirst for natural gas… a thing that Putin and his clique understood very well, as did China, and was the topic of a series of articles I wrote.

So, in my opinion, it was NOT their Kumbaya foreign policy stance that brought us here, nor was the chronic, decade old underinvestment in building a credible military arm, but the DOMESTIC policy, namely on Energy and resources. Maybe, just maybe, a more forceful response during the fleeting calm before the storm by being united in resupplying very quickly Ukrainian forces with defensive weapons instead of having a NATO country obstructing another to do so would have helped, a fact both deny but that will make all airmen in the UK and Germany hope that whatever religion they practice, when they face their Maker both Sir Douglas Baader and Adolf Galland will be otherwise engaged and unable to attend their judgement. In this late winter season vehicles are roadbound, imagine Russians having to face a mix of Javelin and Spike Anti Tank missiles right inside the border.

Yet, from what I heard from figures like Chancellor Scholz and Prime Minister Draghi, the realization that some hard nosed look at what options are available is not on the table. To his credit, Scholz presented what amounts to a kind of L turn on foreign policy, with increased military spending going forward and an increased focus on diversity of supply of energy.

The big risk now is that having proven that this generation of politicians, having put their particular brand of “common good” (climate change measures coupled with hatred of nuclear power and fossil fuels, forced compression of minority opinions, mandates obtained through “emergency” legislation) ahead of more basic things like energy safety, economic growth and above all individual and economic freedom, it would prepared to trade them away since they see those as a nuisance. Confronting Russia means confronting what while a threat to citizens has been their best and more faithful ally in pushing their particular agenda on those same citizens.

Yes, for those who know who Lewis Pirenne is, no European politician in power now is a Salvor Harding, and it shows in the planned stop to Nordstream2, which is eerily similar to what happens in Asimov’s book where Hardin, having obtained political power, does NOT stop the threat from developing (similar to a Margaret Thatcher appearing from the ground like Athena from the split head of Zeus and telling she will NOT stop the pipeline completion): instead, he finds a suitable counter and applies it later, making sure that his planet is again on a safe path.

Asimov, who was a great writer, has Salvor Harding say a number of memorable phrases. One, “To succeed, planning alone is insufficient. One must improvise as well.” , would be a good advice to the present crop of leaders, but it’s his most famous that is more linked to this very moment:

“Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.”