Cena nesmiselne vojne v Ukrajini: Stagflacija, evropski Afganistan in nova hladna vojna

(Opozorilo: dolgo branje)

Kot je zadnjič na posvetu DA o izzivih slovenske zunanje politike povedal nekdanji predsednik Slovenije Danilo Türk, ima vojna v Ukrajini dolgo predzgodovino, v kateri ni nedolžnih. Jasno je sicer, kdo je v tej vojni agresor in kdo napadena država, in jasno je, da bosta v tej vojni daleč največjo ceno plačali prebivalstvo Ukrajine in Rusije. Toda vse bolj jasno bi moralo biti tudi to, da bomo zaradi mnogih napačnih predpostavk, ki so vodile do te vojne in ki lahko to vojno in okupacijo Ukrajine podaljšajo v dolgo prihodnost, plačali tudi vsi ostali. Predvsem pa prebivalci in gospodarstvo evropskih držav.

Cena, ki jo bomo plačali vsi, bo zelo velika: strednjeročno stagflacija, dolgoročno pa Ukrajina kot novi Afganistan ter dolga hladna vojna s Kitajsko. Gremo po vrsti.

Stagflacija na vidiku

Današnja situacija je skoraj na las podobna tisti izpred 50 let ob prvem naftnem šoku (oktober 1973), ki je sledil naftnemu embargu arabskih izvoznic nafte kot odgovor na ameriško finančno pomoč Izraelu v Yomkipurski vojni (vir: FED):

On October 19, 1973, immediately following President Nixon’s request for Congress to make available $2.2 billion in emergency aid to Israel for the conflict known as the Yom Kippur War, the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC) instituted an oil embargo on the United States (Reich 1995). The embargo ceased U.S. oil imports from participating OAPEC nations, and began a series of production cuts that altered the world price of oil. These cuts nearly quadrupled the price of oil from $2.90 a barrel before the embargo to $11.65 a barrel in January 1974. In March 1974, amid disagreements within OAPEC on how long to continue the punishment, the embargo was officially lifted. The higher oil prices, on the other hand, remained (Merrill 2007).

Pomemben je ekonomski kontekst, v katerem je prišlo do tega dviga cen energentov. Do 4-kratnega povečanja cen nafte je prišlo v času, ko so gospodarstva razvitih držav bila že na polnih obratih, torej ob polno izkoriščenih kapacitetah in pomanjkanju ključnih inputov, kar je samo po sebi ustvarjalo inflacijske pritiske (vir: FED):

As Arthur Burns, the chairman of the Federal Reserve at the time, explained in 1974, the “manipulation of oil prices and supplies by the oil-exporting countries came at a most inopportune time for the United States. In the middle of 1973, wholesale prices of industrial commodities were already rising at an annual rate of more than 10 per cent; our industrial plant was operating at virtually full capacity; and many major industrial materials were in extremely short supply” (Burns 1974). In addition to these cost pressures, the U.S. oil industry had a lack of excess production capacity, which meant it was difficult for the industry to bring more oil to market if needed (Alhajji 2005).

Kot vidite, je zgodba na las podobna današnji, ko smo po pokovidnem odprtju imeli gospodarstva na polnih obratih, ko so bile kapacitete polno izkoriščene in ko je vladalo veliko pomanjkanje ključnih inputov, kar je privedlo do (začasnih, prehodnih) dvigov cen. Toda vojna v Ukrajini je povzročila dodatne dvige cen, povzročila bo še bolj drastično pomanjkanje ključnih inputov za industrijo (od paladija do neona). Vse skupaj tvori idealno kombinacijo za razvoj stagflacije – gospodarsko stagnacijo ob visoki inflaciji. Nekaj, za kar je lani obstajala dokaj majhna verjetnost, se je ob novem eksogenem šoku pokazalo kot zelo verjetna situacija. IGM Forum na poslovni šoli Chicago Booth, ki vključuje vodilne evropske in ameriške ekonomiste, je tako že napovedal veliko verjetnost za recesijo v Rusiji, stagnacijo v razvitih državah in visoko inflacijo – torej stagflacijo.

Ta stagflacija pomeni postopno vgrajevanje višjih cen inputov v cene končnih izdelkov, zaradi česar bodo zaposleni zahtevali višje plače, ki se bodo spet vgrajevale v cene končnih izdelkov. Po vsej verjetnosti prinaša novo inflacijsko spiralo. Naj še dodam, da takšni stagflaciji ultimativno sledi ostra deflacijska politika Volckerjevega tipa (takrat je šlo za dvig obrestne mere na 15% in drastično zmanjšanje ponudbe denarja), tej pa seveda recesija, povečana brezposelnost ob hkratnem pomanjkanju nekaterih ključnih dobrin. V našem primeru bo najbrž šlo za pomanjkanje energentov in hrane.

Toda stagflaciji bi se še vedno bilo mogoče izogniti. Če bi bili svetovni voditelji modri. Pa niso. Če bi bili, Ukrajine ne bi spodbujali z nekredibilnimi pričakovanji in tudi s tem sprovocirali ruske agresije ter je nato pustili na cedilu. S spodbujanjem “nekredibilnih pričakovanj” imam v mislih spodbujanje aspiracij Ukrajine o članstvu v NATO (deklaracija NATO v Bukarešti, 2008) in EU (evropska perspektiva Ukrajine, sprožena s podpisom Sporazuma o pridružitvi, 2014), nakar se ji po agresiji odtegne tako resne vojaška pomoč kot obljuba o članstvu v EU. NATO in EU sta Ukrajini implicitno ali eksplicitno vzbujala lažna upanja, ki jih ne moreta uresničiti. Ukrajino sta de facto pustili samo na milost in nemilost agresorju, pri čemer pa ji ponujata drobtinice pomoči (protitankovske rakete), s katerimi se Ukrajina ne more ubraniti. Prav tako pa se ukrajinskemu vodstvu postavlja ključno vprašanje, ki sem ga izpostavil že ob začetku te nesmiselne vojne: zakaj sploh nadaljevati upor proti ruskemu agresorju in s tem utrpeti ogromne materialne in človeške žrtve, če pa bo na koncu politični izid enak?

In s tem pridemo do ključnega dela, ki nakazuje dolgoročne posledice te nesmiselne vojne.

Ukrajina kot evropski Afganistan

S kontroverznim konzervativnim zgodovinarjem Niallom Fergusonom se sicer redko strinjam, toda njegova tokratna analiza v Bloombergu glede ukrajinske vojne je zelo dobra. Ali pa recimo, blizu mojemu razmišljanju. Ferguson pravi, da so predpostavke ameriške administracije (ki, pošteno povedano, de facto vodi tudi evropsko zunanjo politiko in njen odziv na vojno v Ukrajini) glede vojne v Ukrajini napačne. Ameriška administracija pomotoma (ali namenoma) spodbuja lažno iluzijo, da je ruska agresija v Ukrajini neuspešna, da se bodo Ukrajinci uspešno ubranili pred rusko agresijo in da bodo sankcije privedle do padca Putinovega režima.

Prvič, Ukrajina se samo z lastnimi silami in dobavljenimi protitankovskimi raketami ne more ubraniti pred rusko agresijo. Rusija sploh še ni uporabila svojih najmočnejših orožij oziroma je zgolj nakazala, da bi jih lahko (prvi dan z letalskimi napadi na ključne cilje in prejšnji petek z napadi supersoničnih raket na skladišče orožja). Rusija počasi zavzema ključne točke ukrajinskega ozemlja in na koncu bo osvojila še Kijev. In drugič, gospodarske sankcije, pa naj bodo še tako ostre, kot so bile sankcije proti Kubi, Severni Koreji ali Iranu, še nikoli niso uspele vreči režima, proti kateremu so bile namenjene. In Rusija ima dovolj denarja, da lahko financira to vojno še nekaj mesecev, saj vsak dan dobi za eno milijardo evrov prihodkov od izvoza plina in nafte, ki se jima zahodna Evropa srednjeročno fizično ne more odreči.

Ferguson pravi, da ZDA s to odtegnitvijo prave pomoči Ukrajini iz nje dejansko delajo evropski Afganistan. Amrričani relaksirano gledajo vojno v Ukrajini, pustili bodo, da Ukrajinci v obrambi države izkrvavijo, nakar se bodo vključili na podoben način kot v času ruske invazije na Afganistan. Rusi lahko okupirajo Ukrajino, nakar bodo zahodne države pod ameriškim vodstvom dobavljale orožje za gverilski boj Ukrajincev proti okupatorju. Kar lahko traja tudi leta ali desetletje. V tej zgodbi bo Ukrajina dolgoročno povsem porušena in uničena država, nesposobna kasnejšega institucionalnega in gospodarskega okrevanja. Svet pa bo ob pomanjkanju in visokih cenah energentov ter ključnih inputov srednje- in dolgoročno prikrajšan tudi za hrano (koruzo in pšenico), katerih ključna svetovna izvoznika sta Ukrajina in Rusija. Ferguson:

I would very much like to share Francis Fukuyama’s optimism that “Russia is heading for an outright defeat in Ukraine.” Here is his bold prediction from March 10 (also here):

The collapse of their position could be sudden and catastrophic, rather than happening slowly through a war of attrition. The army in the field will reach a point where it can neither be supplied nor withdrawn, and morale will vaporize. … Putin will not survive the defeat of his army … A Russian defeat will make possible a “new birth of freedom,” and get us out of our funk about the declining state of global democracy. The spirit of 1989 will live on, thanks to a bunch of brave Ukrainians.

From his laptop to God’s ears.

I can see why so many Western observers attach a high probability to this scenario.

It would indeed be wonderful if the combination of attrition in Ukraine and a sanctions-induced financial crisis at home led to Putin’s downfall. Take that, China! Just you try the same trick with Taiwan — which, by the way, we care about a lot more than Ukraine because of all those amazing semiconductors they make at Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co.

The fascinating thing about this strategy is the way it combines cynicism and optimism. It is, when you come to think of it, archetypal Realpolitik to allow the carnage in Ukraine to continue; to sit back and watch the heroic Ukrainians “bleed Russia dry”; to think of the conflict as a mere sub-plot in Cold War II, a struggle in which China is our real opponent.

The Biden administration not only thinks it’s doing enough to sustain the Ukrainian war effort, but not so much as to provoke Putin to escalation. It also thinks it’s doing enough to satisfy public opinion, which has rallied strongly behind Ukraine, but not so much as to cost American lives, aside from a few unlucky volunteers and journalists.

The optimism, however, is the assumption that allowing the war to keep going will necessarily undermine Putin’s position; and that his humiliation in turn will serve as a deterrent to China. I fear these assumptions may be badly wrong and reflect a misunderstanding of the relevant history.

Prolonging the war runs the risk not just of leaving tens of thousands of Ukrainians dead and millions homeless, but also of handing Putin something that he can plausibly present at home as victory. Betting on a Russian revolution is betting on an exceedingly rare event, even if the war continues to go badly for Putin; if the war turns in his favor, there will be no palace coup.

Begin with the military situation, which Western analysts consistently present in too favorable a light for the Ukrainians. As I write, it is true that the Russians seem to have put on hold their planned encirclement of Kyiv, though fighting continues on the outskirts of the city. But the theaters of war to watch are in the east and the south.

In the east, according to military experts whom I trust, there is a significant risk that the Ukrainian positions near the Donbas will come under serious threat in the coming weeks. In the south, a battalion-sized Chechen force is closing in on the besieged and 80%-destroyed city of Mariupol. The Ukrainian defenders lack resupply outlets and room for tactical breakout. In short, the fall of Mariupol may be just days away. That in turn will free up Russian forces to complete the envelopment of the Donbas front.

The next major targets in the south lie further west: Mykolayiv, which is inland, northwest of Kherson, and then the real prize, the historic port city of Odesa. It doesn’t help the defenders that a large storm in the northern Black Sea on Friday did considerable damage to Ukrainian sea defenses by dislodging mines.

Also on Friday, the Russians claim, they used a hypersonic weapon in combat for the first time: a Kinzhal air-launched missile which was used to take out an underground munitions depot at Deliatyn in western Ukraine. They could have achieved the same result with a conventional cruise missile. The point was presumably to remind Ukraine’s backers of the vastly superior firepower Russia has at its disposal. Thus far, around 1,100 missiles have struck Ukraine. There are plenty more where they came from.

And, of course, Putin has the power — unlike Saddam or Qaddafi — to threaten to use nuclear weapons, though I don’t believe he needs to do more than make threats, given that the conventional war is likely to turn in his favor. The next blow will be when Belarusian forces invade western Ukraine from the north, which the Ukrainian general staff expects to happen in the coming days, and which could pose a threat to the supply of arms from Poland.

In any case, Putin has other less inflammatory options if he chooses to escalate. Cyberwarfare thus far has been Sherlock Holmes’s dog that didn’t bark. On Monday the Biden administration officially warned the private sector: “Beware of the dog.” Direct physical attacks on infrastructure (e.g., the undersea cables that carry the bulk of global digital traffic) are also conceivable.

I fail to see in current Western strategizing any real recognition of how badly this war could go for Ukraine in the coming weeks. The incentive for Putin is obviously to create for himself a stronger bargaining position than he currently has before entering into serious negotiations. The Ukrainians have shown their cards. They are ready to drop the idea of NATO membership; to accept neutrality; to seek security guarantees from third parties; to accept limits on their own military capability.

Pravi cilj: hladna vojna s Kitajsko

Toda Rusija je relativno nepomembna za ZDA (razen njenega jedrskega arzenala), glavni nasprotnik in glavni cilj ZDA je dejansko Kitajska, ki je tehnološko in gospodarsko prehitela ZDA, s tem pa postopoma tudi njen politični primat po koncu komunizma (in Fukuyaminem “koncu zgodovine“). V tej vojni in z grožnjami s sankcijami naj bi ameriška administracija, ki je že pod Trumpom proti Kitajski sprožila trgovinske vojne, pod Bidenom pa tudi tehnološko vojno, dejansko želela omejiti moč Kitajske ter najbrž tudi aspiracije glede Tajvana. Toda, kot je pokazal dveurni “pogovor gluhih” prešnji petek med Bidenom in Xijem, Kitajska ni dovzetna za ameriške implicitne in explicitne grožnje s sankcijami. Ferguson:

As for China, I believe the Biden administration is deeply misguided in thinking that its threats of secondary sanctions against Chinese companies will deter President Xi Jinping from providing economic assistance to Russia.

The Chinese also know how to apply history to contemporary problems, but they do it in a different way again. While Putin wants to transport post-Soviet Russia back into a mythologized tsarist past, Xi remains the heir to Mao Zedong, and one who aspires to a place alongside him in the Chinese Communist Party’s pantheon. In their two-hour call on Friday, according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry read-out, Biden told Xi:

50 years ago, the US and China made the important choice of issuing the Shanghai Communique. Fifty years on, the US-China relationship has once again come to a critical time. How this relationship develops will shape the world in the 21st century. Biden reiterated that the US does not seek a new Cold War with China; it does not aim to change China’s system; the revitalization of its alliances is not targeted at China; the US does not support “Taiwan independence”; and it has no intention to seek a conflict with China. 

To judge by Xi’s response, he believes not one word of Biden’s assurances. As he replied:

The China-US relationship, instead of getting out of the predicament created by the previous US administration, has encountered a growing number of challenges. …

In particular … some people in the US have sent a wrong signal to “Taiwan independence” forces. This is very dangerous. Mishandling of the Taiwan question will have a disruptive impact on the bilateral ties … The direct cause for the current situation in the China-US relationship is that some people on the US side have not followed through on the important common understanding reached by the two Presidents … 

Xi concluded with a Chinese saying: “He who tied the bell to the tiger must take it off.” Make of that what you will, but it didn’t strike me as very encouraging to those in Team Biden who have been pushing a hawkish line toward China.

The China hawks in the administration — notably Kurt Campbell and Rush Doshi at the National Security Council — do not like the term “Cold War II.” But Doshi’s recent book “The Long Game” (which I reviewed here) is essentially a manual for the containment of China — the nearest thing we are likely to get to George Kennan’s foundational Long Telegram and “X” article in Foreign Affairs.

And National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan did not make himself popular at last Monday’s marathon meeting with his Chinese counterpart, Yang Jiechi, by threatening secondary sanctions against a list of Chinese companies the U.S. will be watching for signs that they are trading with Russia. If Benn Steill and Benjamin Della Rocca of the Council on Foreign Relations are right, the Chinese have already helped Russia hide some of its foreign exchange reserves from financial sanctions.

Judging by his weekend interview in the Wall Street Journal, a member of President Donald Trump’s NSC, Matthew Pottinger, is now more than content to call a cold war by its real name. I agree: The invasion of Ukraine in many ways resembles the invasion of South Korea by North Korea in 1950.

I would put it like this: Cold War II is like a strange mirror-image of Cold War I. In the First Cold War, the senior partner was Russia, the junior partner was China — now the roles are reversed. In Cold War I, the first hot war was in Asia (Korea) — now it’s in Europe (Ukraine). In Cold War I, Korea was just the first of many confrontations with aggressive Soviet-backed proxies — today the crisis in Ukraine will likely be followed by crises in the Middle East (Iran) and Far East (Taiwan).

But there’s one very striking contrast. In Cold War I, President Harry Truman’s administration was able to lead an international coalition with a United Nations mandate to defend South Korea; now Ukraine has to make do with just arms supplies. And the reason for that, as we have seen, is the Biden administration’s intense fear that Putin may escalate to nuclear war if U.S. support for Ukraine goes too far.

That wasn’t a concern in 1950. Although the Soviets conducted their first atomic test on August 29, 1949, less than a year before the outbreak of the Korean War, they were in no way ready to retaliate if (as General Douglas MacArthur recommended) the U.S. had used atomic bombs to win the Korean War.

History talks in the corridors of power. But it speaks in different voices, according to where the corridors are located. In my view — and I really would love to be wrong about this — the Biden administration is making a colossal mistake in thinking that it can protract the war in Ukraine, bleed Russia dry, topple Putin and signal to China to keep its hands off Taiwan.

Every step of this strategy is based on dubious history. Ukraine is not Afghanistan in the 1980s, and even if it were, this war isn’t going to last 10 years — more like 10 weeks. Allowing Ukraine to be bombed to rubble by Putin is not smart; it creates the chance for him to achieve his goal of rendering Ukrainian independence unviable. Putin, like most Russian leaders in history, will most likely die of natural causes.

Geopolitično je situacija v precejšnji meri podobna začetku 1960-ih in Kennedyjevem merjenju moči z ruskim vodstvom (prek trgovinske in tehnološke vojne), ki je vodila v dolgo hladno vojno. Vprašanje je le, ali bo to hladno vojno čez tri desetletja izgubila zgolj Kitajska ali ves razviti svet. Dejstvo je, da bomo vsi v Evropi in Aziji na slabšem, le Američani morda ne.

Zato je to nesmiselno vojno treba končati takoj, čeprav to ni v ameriškem intresu. Vojna se lahko konča le s premirjem in mirovnim sporazumom med vodstvom Ukrajine in Rusije. Končata jo lahko le legitimni vodstvi obeh držav. In le ukrajinska oblast (brez hujskačev iz Zahoda) je tista, ki mora v dani situaciji, ko ne more računati na resnejšo zahodno vojaško posredovanje, pretehtati, katere koncesije je pripravljena dati za izognitev popolnemu uničenju prihodnosti države, dosego trajnega miru in za uresničitev ključnih dolgoročnih ciljev Ukrajine. Morda ZDA in nekaterim evropskim državam ustreza dolga eskalacija z Rusijo in uničenje slednje ter enako glede Kitajske, toda ukrajinskemu prebivalstvu prav gotovo ni v interesu, da v tej igri zahodnih interesov plača ceno, da postane in za desetletja ostane evropski Afganistan.

Zato še enkrat poudarjam opcije za Ukrajino in EU, ki so najbolj realistične in s tem optimalne, kot sem jih zapisal že 6. marca letos:

Opcije za Ukrajino

Če Ukrajina v tej ruski agresiji ne more računati na vojaško pomoč zaveznic NATO in če se sama ne more uspešno ubraniti pred rusko agresijo, je zanjo aktualno vprašanje, ali morajo Ukrajinci še naprej krvaveti in trpeti opustošenje za ameriške interese (ki si želi članstva Ukrajine v NATO). Efektivno ima ukrajinsko vodstvo, ki ne more računati na tujo vojaško pomoč, na voljo le dve kratkoročni opciji:

(A) da se takoj preda, pristane na Putinove zahteve in tako reši nekaj tisoč nedolžnih življenj ter infrastrukturo?, ali

(B) da se golih rok brani pred tanki in raketami, žrtvuje nekaj tisoč nedolžnih življenj in porušeno infrastrukturo ter nato pristane na Putinove zahteve?

V luči nove situacije bo ukrajinsko vodstvo moralo sprejeti odločitev, ki bo v danih okoliščinah optimalna za njeno državo. To pa pomeni:

  1. najprej mirovni sporazum Ukrajina – Rusija,
  2. Ukrajina obdrži suverenost, obe regiji (Lugansk in Donetsk) dobita avtonomijo, Krim pa neodvisnost,
  3. Ukrajina postane članica EU,
  4. Ukrajina ostane nevtralna država.

Ukrajina s tem zmanjša žrtve in materialno uničenje, pridobi mir ter pridobi članstvo v EU, za kar si je tako prizadevala in kar je zanjo efektivno veliko bolj pomembno kot članstvo v NATO.

Opcije za EU

Celotne stroške sedanje agresije na Ukrajino in povračilnih sankcij nosijo prebivalci Ukrajine ter prebivalci evropskih držav in evropsko gospodarstvo. Zaradi ruskega posredovanja bodo Evropejci deležni višjih cen energentov in hrane, prišlo bo do povečanja inflacije in zaradi sankcij ter nestabilnosti lahko evropsko gospodarstvo zapade v stagnacijo (stagflacija na vidiku). Stroške sankcij bodo nosila predvsem evropska podjetja, ki ne bodo smela poslovati z Rusijo. Če sankcije ostanejo v veljavi na dolgi rok (kot pri Iranu), bodo stroški za Evropo enormni. K temu pa prištejmo še povečane izdatke za oboroževanje, ki bi jih zahtevala vojna ali politična nestabilnost na zunanjih evropskih mejah.

Rusijo je seveda treba kaznovati za njeno agresijo na Ukrajino. Vendar pa, če se države EU ne želijo vojaško vplesti ukrajinski spor, preostane le to, da Rusija trajneje ostane prisotna v Ukrajini, s tem pa tudi veljavnost sankcij in navedeni ogromni stroški povezani s tem. Slednje ni v interesu EU, v njenem interesu je:

  1. da se vojaško posredovanje Rusije v Ukrajini čimprej konča,
  2. da se čimprej sklene mirovni sporazum med Ukrajino in Rusijo,
  3. da Ukrajina postane članica EU,
  4. da EU sklene prostotrgovinski sporazum z Rusijo, in
  5. da EU ustanovi in okrepi lastno vojaško zavezništvo, pri čemer pa Ukrajina ostane nevtralna.

Države EU s tem pridobijo dolgoročnejšo stabilnost v regiji, znižanje cen energentov in hrane ter lažji dostop na ukrajinski in ruski trg.

Če do takšne hitre mirne rešitve ne pride in če bo Rusija trajno zavzela Ukrajino, zaradi česar bodo tudi gospodarske sankcije proti Rusiji ostale dolgoročno v veljavi, bodo države EU ob povečani politični nestabilnosti v regiji utrpele dolgoročno veliko škodo.

Mir je edina dobra rešitev. In “make trade, not war” edina trajna win – win situacija.

3 responses

  1. “5. da EU ustanovi in okrepi lastno vojaško zavezništvo, pri čemer pa Ukrajina ostane nevtralna.”

    Torej Ukrajina ne bi bila enakopravna članica? Problematičen mi je tudi izraz “nevtralna”, ko pa si dejansko Rusija ne želi “nevtralne” Ukrajine, temveč “nevtralizirano” Ukrajino. Prej ko bodo tako Rusi kot Američani in Kitajci dobili po nosu ob misli, da lahko nekatere države tretiraš kot podrejence, nekakšne tampon cone polne malih satelitov in “bojnih polj”, prej bo bolje za demokracijo tega sveta. Aspiracije po vstopu v EU in NATO s strani post-sovjetskih državic so bile naraven proti-učinek desetletij podrejenosti Moskve, in to bi morali na obeh straneh spoštovati, ne pa da se pojavljajo argumenti kdo je obljubil Kremlju kaj ob koncu hladne vojne.

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