Joseph Alexandre Altahyde Hage
We use the title of this text as a secondary or metaphorical source to address an aspect that has played out in the war between Russia and Ukraine since February 24 of this year: the effort of the West, primarily the United States, to economically erode the Russian government and, as a result, sink Vladimir Putin’s government. The Western ruse in itself is not new, since in war the confrontation between troops is only one of the phases of the conflict, the most obvious. But in addition to the armies, there are propaganda weapons, psychology and, of course, economics.
The term Star Wars is used to understand the confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union in the 1980s, in the so-called Second Cold War, in which the US administration of Ronald Reagan played a definitive card to bend the will of Moscow to continue the dispute for world hegemony: the excessive spending on high-end military technology.
While the Soviet effort in military technology was relevant, their budget was not in line with what the White House was aiming for on the same subject. In order not to lag behind in war expenditure, the Soviet power allocated financial resources comparable to those of the great adversary, even with a much lower gross domestic product. Within a given analysis, it was precisely the strong Soviet commitment to wanting to counterattack with its own project, the Star Wars, that helped end the Cold War and, en route, the Soviet Union, under the government by Mikhail Gorbachev, who ended much of public opinion discredited in a Russia that tried to get out of the rubble in 1991.
In fact, Reagan’s argument that the US state was inventing a new power project, with highly sophisticated weapons, was nothing more than a lure to attract the Soviet Union, since there was no intention or preconditions to use that shield. have to protect the United States. States in the event of a military attack by the Soviet Union. Moscow has massively ramped up its spending so as not to be left behind, and so it has lost its way.
Well, in this month of May 2022, in the war between Russia and Ukraine, there is the impression that the United States and Western Europe, under the umbrella of NATO, are trying to reproduce the instrument of attrition of the 1980s to allow Putin’s government to economically to erode in a slow and protracted war. In this way, Russia would have to incur huge economic expenditures to continue in the armed conflict, which is already quite expensive and expensive.
It is worth remembering that Russia’s gross domestic product is comparable to Brazil’s, therefore of medium power and far from on par with the economic resources of the United States or the European Union. So even if Russia is considered the second largest military power in the world, what it manages to spend in the military budget would not be enough to maintain its strength in Ukraine.
On the other hand, what helped Moscow to continue the war, in a paradoxical way, was precisely the sale of Russian natural gas to a large part of the members of the European Union, mainly Germany and Austria, who were very dependent of that input. The fact that the Old Continent continued to trade gas with Russia drew criticism from some allies and from the United States, a country with a surplus of both oil and natural gas.
For example, the war in Ukraine, albeit unintentionally, shows a political-economic deadlock. The region is largely dependent on natural gas to survive reasonably well in the economy, but also has to show loyalty to the big partner on the other side of the Atlantic, which requires more commitment from Western allies. †
Because of this, the political-economic results can be uneven and confusing for those who fought with their souls against Russia. It is clear that Moscow is experiencing incredible economic pressures, including from its withdrawal from the international financial system. There are calculations that estimate the Russian daily expenditure on war at about 500 million dollars. This is the western perspective of expecting Putin to give up the war and fall out of favor with his country’s political elite. This is westerners’ big bet.
Uneven and confusing results due to the fact that the loss already has a certain address. Economically speaking, not only Russia is losing. The European Union itself must lose much more. The region’s loss will not be just economic because it boycotted the Russian hydrocarbons it so desperately needs; the wear and tear must also exist in the political field, as it can reveal the European Union’s apathy and inability to decouple its own strategic project from Washington. In fact, few analysts believe that the European Union can show power in the face of the war in Ukraine, China and the United States. For example, the fact that Germany voluntarily gave up national energy production (such as nuclear power) in order to favor the alliance with the Green Party and thus use natural gas as a transition element to something hypothetical and dangerous for a large European country called vegetableflow
is already symptomatic to see the European stalemate, as an area famous in the projection of power and influence.
Indeed, who can benefit from all this, even if they are relative advantages? The United States can profit from the war to the extent that its economy heats up in two parts: the industrial-military sector, since its production is practically guaranteed for the war in Eastern Europe; and hydrocarbons, which are exported to the European Union, as there will be no Russian energy. The winner will also be China, because it has become the “workshop of the world” and has practically influenced the world production chain and can hold goods to achieve high prices in the international market.
Of course, all of this undoubtedly has a side effect and greatly upsets those who don’t have much to do with it. Much of what used to be called the Third World suffers from high inflation without any compensation instruments. Such countries will have to pay more for imported food, for agricultural inputs they do not produce, as well as for manufactured products insured by Chinese port services, as we mentioned above.
Finally, here’s what could happen to give rise to a “law” of geopolitics in which the great power of the seas, the North American whale, plus a few dolphins, tries to defy the strong bear of the Eurasian territorial domains . On the hunt, someone has to take advantage of the wreckage, perhaps the Asian dragon who can offer his services to the winner of the big game.
Joseph Alexandre Altahyde Hage
is a professor at the Department of International Relations of the Paulista School of Politics, Economics and Business (EPPEN) of the Federal University of São Paulo (Unifesp) — Campus Osasco/SP.