Unlike any other war the United States ever took part in, the Vietnam War was a major turning point. It was pivotal in many political, economic, social, and ideological ways that would play out for more than half a century. Even today, some of the effects are still rippling throughout the world. It was pivoting in the sense that the U.S. lost some of its unquestionable power and the belief that U.S. money and its military would always prevail was weakened. More important, the Vietnam War damaged the U.S. economy. This war unleashed a cycle of inflation, it weakened U.S. military morale, and it led to riots across the country. Also, the damaging effects and the upheaval it caused had a significant impact on the beliefs of many Americans. Now, this is very significant because it gave people the courage to stand up and challenge the government while at the same time it gave other countries such as South Korea, Japan, and Canada an opportunity to advance their economics and compete with the U.S. In short, the Vietnam War proved to be too costly. Also, it is worth stressing that the effects of the war were responsible for the decoupling of the U.S. dollar from the gold standard. In terms of foreign affairs, it helped to embolden adversaries of the U.S and inspired the development of terroristic factions, the growth and persistence of drug cartels, and even more striking, the 911 attack on America.
With this in mind, it is not hard to envision forthcoming challenges from enemies of America and Western capitalist societies. It is well known that the U.S. has conducted many political maneuvers to control the economies of other countries and extend its own political and economic hegemony in the world. Also, the military industrial complex and corporate America have always been the invisible hand behind U.S. foreign relations. The point here is that in an effort to protect its interests in Europe, the U.S. formed a strategic alliance to create a buffer zone to prevent Russia from having unchecked geographical access to Western Europe. The countries of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, and other smaller countries were deliberately set up as a geographic barrier between Russia and Western Europe. Interestingly, the unprovoked attack by Russia against the sovereign country of Ukraine has only validated the West’s strategy to form such an alliance. When these countries became members of the NATO alliance, this strategy became solidified.
We might note that this is humiliating to the leader of Russia – Vladimir Putin. As a former KGB agent and hardliner, to witness the fall of the U.S.S.R was difficult. No doubt, his idea of waging war to restore the failed Russian union is something he has been planning for some time; patiently building his military forces and finances. But are we to believe that his military expansionist plans will stop with Ukraine? At this point, we also see that Russia has military forces in the nearby country of Kazakhstan which is the largest country to the south between Russia, China, and Middle Eastern countries. Ukraine happens to be the largest country between Russia and Western Europe. What is crucial to understand is that the horrible experiences of WWII have been the underlying motivation for many international measures designed to prevent such destruction from ever happening in Europe again. Putin’s failure to realize the futility of attempting an unprovoked invasion of a free sovereign country in a globalized 21st-century world is utter stupidity. After WWII, countries around the globe created all types of fail safes so that Third Reich type geopolitical aggression would never happen again, especially in Europe. Globalization has connected countries throughout the world in unprecedented ways. Not only are the financial, trade, commerce, and service sectors between countries integrated but also dependent upon each other in a myriad of ways. But some might argue what about Crimea? Crimea is strategic to controlling the Black Sea and accessing the Mediterranean for trade and commerce. It had nothing to do with Western Europe. The point here is that the scale and scope of economic costs to Russia for this invasion can be so devastating that it may topple the country or at least take decades for it to recover. To be sure, the effects of this war will severely damage the Russian economy.
Some argue that it is Russia that wants to create a buffer zone north of Belarus because the geography is flat land where the Carpathian mountains end and has been the route that invaders took to enter Russia such as the French (Napoleon) and Germans (Hitler). But the problem with that theory is it operates on the same level of thinking – that is – geopolitical aggression is better than mutual negotiation, trade and commerce. Besides, what does Russia have other than oil and gas? Would it not be easier and less costly to negotiate for these resources rather than wage war? What would be the sense in starting a war for resources that are already traded on international markets?
With respect to financing a war, Russia is not a rich country. More important, Russia’s GDP is only 1.6TN in income (the exact same annual income as Brazil). In comparison, Japan generates more money than Russia with 5TN GDP in income. In the first week of fighting alone, Russia lost about 700BN dollars. Financial institutions, stocks, bonds, commodities, currency, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), corporations, energy, food, transportation are all frozen (which is a polite way of saying confiscated – who knows if those funds will ever be “unfrozen”). At this point, we also see moves by Western countries to seek out and seize the wealth of Russian oligarchs in countries outside of Russia. This is causing the Russian oligarchy class to feel the pain of Putin’s actions. No doubt, at this very moment, there are some members of his cabinet beginning to question the sanity of his invasion of Ukraine.
From a traditional perspective, during the period of the Old Regimes (European Empires), royal families taxed the people to raise money to fight wars. Often, those taxes were so extreme and cruel that people rebelled and overthrew those royal houses and toppled their empires. In the early part of the 20th-century, we saw countries waging wars for objectives of land, the seizure of wealth, the control of labor, and other “spoils of war.” But it is important to understand that the 21st-century is a new world order dictated by financial conglomerates and multi-national corporations all interconnected. And the United States (22TN GDP) and China (16TN GDP) have enough resources to wage a prolonged war with anyone – case in point Afghanistan. However, Russia does not have the financial stability to wage a persistent war. The longer this war contines along with the severity of financial sanctions, and the possibility of upscaling those sanctions to impact nearly all Russian holdings, the more likely the Russian republic will deteriorate.
We can now say something about the courage of the Ukrainian people. History has taught us that for the most part those armies that had the preponderance of military strength usually were victorious in battle. However, there are also many instances when a smaller, less equipped yet determined cadre of fighters have overwhelmed insurmountable odds. The battles of Longewala, Gravia Inn, Lacolle Mills, Okehazama, Brownstown, Rorke’s Drift, Agincourth and others have shown us that the preponderance of strength does not guarantee a victory, especially when faced with dedicated, unyielding, determined fighters who refuse defeat. It should not be thought that the indestructibility of the human spirit is subject to military strength.
For the most part, then, the costs of waging any war are terrible in terms of material destruction, the loss of life, and financial ruin. But not always does the military force with the most power overcome a people dedicated to fighting for their liberty, their pursuit of happiness, and the right to their culture and way of life.
Interview by Jeremy Scahill of the Intercept with Noam Chomsky on the war in Ukraine – published on YouTube, April 14, 2022. Chomsky stated: “Putin gave the United States a tremendous gift. The war in Ukraine is criminal, but also from his point, utterly stupid. He gave the United States the fondest wish; he handed Europe to the United States on a golden platter.”
This means that the NATO Alliance will not only become stronger which is the opposite of Putin’s objective to weaken it, but now there are discussions of more countries wanting to join NATO and have permanent NATO military bases in their countries.