..Don’t it always seem to go
that you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone?
They paved paradise,
put up a parking lot…
Joni Mitchell, from ‘Big Yellow Taxi‘.
“You won’t know whether you paid too much for it until it’s too late”
Most of you North Americans who were more than 5 years old in 1970 will recognize Canadian singer/songwriter Joni Mitchell’s ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ bringing us in today. I was 14 in 1970, and I remember it well from radio airplay. It was a pretty good song, but I was never a Joni Mitchell fan – she was too folkie for me, which is probably why I waited until Nazareth covered her ‘This Flight Tonight’ in 1973 to appreciate her songwriting. In one of those funny quirks that make life the crapshoot it is, Nazareth and Mitchell happened to be in A&M studios together when the Nazareth version nudged the Top Ten in the UK – a little later, when Mitchell was playing a show in London, she said to the audience, “I’d like to open with a Nazareth song” before she played the signature lead-in to “This Flight Tonight”.
Anyway, it has been a preoccupation for some for decades to interpret songs and poetry – and the former are really just poetry set to music – to decipher what the artist was saying; sometimes the analysis is astonishing. For instance, I read just the other day in a completely unrelated story that Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” was actually ‘an indictment of the anti-intellectualism that Irving correctly assessed is central to the American character’. At first you want to say, “Wut???” But once it’s pointed out to you, it’s hard to unsee it; Brom Bones, big and strong, good-looking, slightly malicious and cunning but otherwise completely innocent of brains, triumphs over the gawky pedagogue Ichabod Crane, and wins the prettiest girl in town. Football players love it. Oh: politicians, too.
It wasn’t hard to figure out what Mitchell was saying in ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ – overdevelopment and pollution were crowding out nature, even then. But there’s always been a magic resonance to that couplet, “Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone?”
Because it’s true, isn’t it? We don’t learn to miss something, whether it be a treasured item or a sustaining relationship that underpins our life, until we lose it; and only then do we realize that we often treated it with an affectionate, casual semi-contempt while we had it, assuming that would always be the case.
Like Stunned Pricks Incorporated of Europe, an entity which includes its entire population, especially its political class but even those who had an apprehension of what going along with American sanctions against their biggest energy provider might eventually mean. The sole exceptions are those who spoke out about it, saying that it was lunacy, and that noddy-head cooperation with American foreign-policy aspirations at Europe’s own expense is the kind of behavior exhibited by people for whom the warning on lawn-mower decks which reads “BLADE TURNS WHEN ENGINE IS RUNNING” is both intended and necessary. The rest – stunned pricks.
Now, only now, Europe is worried. Fear of a natural-gas emergency stalks Europe like some great stalking thing, to use a simile from Rowan Atkinson’s ‘Blackadder’ that always made me helpless with laughter. But this is no laughing matter, you better believe. I think two things will strike you right away in that article; one, all this misery and turmoil is down to Putin, because he invaded Ukraine. Two, Europe does not deserve such treatment.
Show of hands – who thinks that is high-octane horseshit? Uh huh; that’s about what I thought. Because it is.
You don’t have to take my word for it. Look at the actual fluctuation of energy prices.
The table is from Trading Economics, you can find it here. The opening graphic is an interactive table and I had no success trying to copy it so as to feature it here; the view shown is a forecast, and if you are someone who does not like high gas prices, the future is not optimistic. But let’s dig down a little. They say you can make statistics support any tale you want to tell, but there must be an actual story or such graphics would be pointless. So let’s start with the beginning of February. Around that time the United States began announcing that not only was Russia actually going to invade Ukraine, American analysts knew the date Putin would strike. That’s probably because they knew the date Zelensky was going to issue an order to the UAF to commence an operation to return the Donbass to Ukrainian control by force, and presumed that Russia knew it, too, since it is hard to keep secrets from Russia in a country where nearly the whole population is able to speak Russian and nearly half use it as their everyday language, and which is located right next door to Russia. I’m not talking about Zelensky’s presidential decree that the Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF) recapture Crimea by whatever means required, which was issued even earlier, in March 2021. I am speaking of the executive order issued by Zelensky, effective upon receipt, the 16th of February 2022 to recapture the Donbass region and bring it under Kiev’s control by force, an operation whose initial phase had begun with accelerated artillery strikes on Donetsk and Lugansk a week before Moscow recognized the independence of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and the Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR), and announced it had been requested to assist with the defense of these territories against ongoing military aggression by the UAF.
With that in mind, let’s look at some critical dates. On February 16th, when Zelensky ordered the UAF to begin a military operation to retake the Donbass, European natural-gas price stood at €69/MWh, 69 Euros per Megawatt Hour.
On March 1st, when Shell, BP and other western oil giants began to announce their abandonment of joint-venture projects with Gazprom and Rosneft, supply fears flared and the price spiked to €227.63/MWh. The Russian Special Military Operation (SMO) had already been running for a week, but that dizzying leap took place between February 28th and March 1st.
After that, prices dropped precipitously and then trended erratically lower, getting down to €79.605/MWh on June 8th. June 15th, prices started another abrupt climb, back up to €123.68/MWh. But it had nothing to do with the war in Ukraine, which the United States and the UK were still telling everyone Russia was losing, and that the stovepiping of western weapons into Ukraine was keeping Ukrainian morale high while they were kicking Russian ass. Nope; that climb starting June 15th marked the day Gazprom cut flows of natural gas to Europe by about 40% on average, because Canada had refused to return a critical pump from the Nord Stream line which had been sent there for routine maintenance as required by its builder, Siemens, although the pump was actually built by Rolls-Royce industrial division, which was acquired by Siemens. Canada was okay to accept the pump for contracted maintenance, without which the warranty is void if something goes wrong after a missed maintenance checkup. It just got snotty about returning it, which it claimed – likely after American prompting, because Canada does love it some American pats on the head – would violate sanctions against Russia.
And now EU gas prices are at €176.32/MWh, and as I mentioned earlier, forecast to continue climbing. And in 2 days, the Nord Stream pipeline will shut down for annual maintenance. Some Europeans fear that it will remain shut down, and just not come back online, although Germany totally burst into hysterical tears and former hard-ass Green minister Robert Habeck begged Canada to return the pump, after a couple of weeks of prancing and jabbering about dear little windmills and mysterious green-energy magic that was going to tough-love Germans right into toasty warmness this winter. But he would not be a real politician if he could not put a spin on it so that doing as Putin demanded is actually thwarting Putin. No, I’m not kidding.
“Economy Minister Robert Habeck told Bloomberg that the turbine for the Nord Stream 1 pipeline needs to be returned before maintenance work begins on Monday. Releasing the component would remove an excuse for Russian President Vladimir Putin to keep the conduit closed.
“I’ll be the first one who will fight for a further strong EU sanction package, but strong sanctions means it must hurt and harm Russia and Putin more than it does our economy,” Habeck said in a phone interview late Wednesday. “Therefore, I ask for understanding that we have to take this turbine excuse away from Putin.”
Perhaps the most effective metric of how far Germany’s fortunes have swung under the stark idiocy of the Scholz administration and the emergence of mouthy Green activists Habeck and Baerbock is this one – Uniper, once a partner in Nord Stream II which promised to make Germany the gas hub of Europe, has just approached the German cuckoo’s nest that calls itself the government, looking for a bailout.
“Utility group Uniper asked the German government for a bailout on Friday and warned losses could reach 10 billion euros ($10.15 billion) this year, as Moscow’s economic war with Europe claims its biggest corporate casualty yet.”
Germany is looking down the barrel of economic catastrophe, and the important thing for Europe to realize is this – the situation is never going back to the way it was. Know why not? You don’t have to look any further than the paragraph above. That’s right: “Moscow’s economic war with Europe”. After Moscow did everything it could except roll over and play dead to get the west to take it seriously; after proposing conditions for security guarantees which would have cost the west nothing – Ukraine is as corrupt as Enron and as poor as a churchmouse, to say nothing of battle damage still outstanding since 2015, now with more rubble piled on top of rubble, and it was never going to be invited to join NATO while it boasted a couple of brigades of real Nazis in its national armed forces. After all that…it’s still somehow Russia’s fault. After being warned and warned and warned again that it was about to step on its own dick and fall on its face, Europe plowed ahead. Let he who pities the fool who comes to grief because he was deaf to warnings take one pace forward. Yes, that’s what I thought. Nobody is sorry for you if you managed to attain the age of majority without accepting that the stovetop is hot and may burn you if you are careless.
Which brings us to whether Europe deserves the economic Armageddon it is sleepwalking into. I am of the opinion it does. How else will congenital idiots like Josep Borrell be punished for their idiocy – have you seen Josep Borrell? He has probably never fired a real gun in his lifetime, probably doesn’t know which end the bullet comes out; they didn’t have video games during his Flintstones-era youth, so he has no experience of war. Yet here he is, blabbering that others must be thrust into the meatgrinder so his aims can be realized.
“EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell, during a visit to Kyiv, for the first time in the history of the European Union, wished that the conflict be resolved militarily, not diplomatically. Borrell wrote about this in a series of messages on Twitter, with which he ended his visit to Ukraine, where he accompanied his direct boss, the head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen. “This war must be won on the battlefield,” he wrote. Borrell once again mentioned an additional €500 million allocated last month for the purchase of weapons to Ukraine, which “will be matched to Ukrainian needs.” Borrell also promised new sanctions against Russia and announced a discussion of this topic at a scheduled meeting of EU foreign ministers on April 11 in Brussels.”
As the article correctly points out, no European leaders insisted on the priority of a military victory over a negotiated solution in past conflicts, and it speaks volumes of the significance in Europe of Ukrainian lives, which clearly mean nothing; Russia vastly outnumbered Ukraine in military capability at the beginning of the war and has no appreciable logistics problems with resupply of soldiers, combat vehicles or ammunition – in fact, it is NATO which has stripped eastern Europe bare of military equipment the Ukrainians already know how to use, and is beginning to draw down its own supplies of simple equipment which would not require months of training to learn to operate.
“It’s not just the effect of the artillery on the battlefield that has the west in a panic. It’s sheer volume of munitions being expended. The Americans have scoured Europe for all the stockpiles of Soviet era weapons they can find and the cupboard is now bare. They’ve extended their search to Africa and the Middle East in a desperate effort to supply the Ukrainians. Whatever meager quantities are shipped in – Soviet era or modern – are destroyed as soon as it gets there.”
Chancellor Scholz, taking a brief break from fighting fiercely on the front lines himself – yes, of course I was being sarcastic – said “We cannot allow Putin to win this war”, as if it were the kind of conflict where the victor must seek permission to win. Ursula Von der Leyen, embodying the absurd conventional wisdom that a woman must talk ten times tougher than a man in order to be taken seriously, said at the recent G7 summit that Russia ‘must suffer a strategic defeat’ in Ukraine, and went on to postulate the simpleminded premise that because ‘the world’ is united in wanting Ukraine to win and holding its hand, that necessarily means already that Putin cannot win even if he…well…wins. Along with being appointed to her present position rather than elected, just as when she was the most incompetent Defense Minister in German history, Von der Leyen is so clueless on strategy that she wouldn’t even know what would constitute a strategic defeat unless Putin sent her a note on Kremlin stationery, in German, which read “I have suffered a strategic defeat in Ukraine”. What is the matter with Germany’s politicians? At least when the nations of the world were led by tribal chieftains, they knew something about war; Ursula Von der Leyen would not recognize an artillery piece if it was in her parking space when she arrived at work, and her abstract flailing about who must win this or that conflict – predicated solely on which side would be the most amenable to NATO tinkering and assist its foreign-policy aspirations – should embarrass all Germans who know better.
I have news for you; Russia, and Putin, are going to win. It is slowly – slowly, because NATO leaders apparently all went to the same Peter Pan College, where if you only believe, your wish will come true – dawning on the Leaders Of The Free World that lofty statements and frosty denunciations cannot trump force of arms once a major military power has been pushed into a corner. And when it does win, victors have long memories, and they remember who opposed them with every dirty trick they could pull out of the Tickle Trunk. The day will come ’round when Moscow will be able to review its alliances in detail, and recall who was most vociferous in their opposition while trying to load the dice in favour of its enemy, thereby causing more Russian deaths and life-changing injuries. In this it will likely be aided by the boastful statements made about the war ‘bleeding Russia’.
“Now, instead of simply helping Ukraine stave off invasion and conquest, U.S. policy seems to have shifted into something else entirely: the permanent weakening of Russia at any cost. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said so explicitly after a clandestine visit to Ukraine with Secretary of State Anthony Blinken last month. After her own recent visit to Kyiv, Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi characterized the war as a global struggle for democracy.”
Did you cock your head, Europe? Because that was your master speaking.
Also, when the day comes for Ukraine to negotiate peace terms, it is not going to be able to start with anything substantial for a negotiating position – the western military masterminds who kept throwing Ukraine back into the fray claimed that Ukraine pushing back the Russians meant they could negotiate from a position of strength. What’s their opening offer going to be when they’ve lost it all, and were forced to surrender by throwing themselves on the enemy’s mercy, because it was impossible to fight on?
It is, admittedly, hard to feel sorry for Ukraine; most people just want a quiet and predictable life with enough opportunity so that they can leave this world a little better off than when they came into it, and Zelensky was elected on a promise to make peace with Russia. It would be hard to more profoundly fail to deliver on a promise of peace than to embroil the country in a shooting war, so Zelensky is due some kudos for having breached the bounds of ordinary failure. But herein lies the sin of NATO – it convinced Zelensky it would have his back if he made the first move, just as it has done so many times to so many others, and then limited its support to inflammatory political rhetoric, economic sanctions and shoving more weapons into Ukraine’s bloody hands. Once battle was joined, NATO encouraged Zelensky by promising that he was winning and that Ukraine actually was defeating a much bigger and more powerful enemy with second-rate technology and a few ideological hard-right battalions, even going so far as to create the ‘Battle of Kyiv’ out of what was decidedly a non-battle, and continuously holding it up as an inspirational Ukrainian victory. Then, when the chance to negotiate a reasonable deal was gone – because NATO persuaded Zelensky to not consider it – NATO began to mutter that maybe Zelensky would have to yield some territory in exchange for peace, when a great deal more territory had already been taken and the chance to negotiate for it had evaporated. Russia is certainly not going to give back territory it has already conquered at the price of its soldiers’ lives, but it might have been persuaded not to take it. It’s hard to say now, because most of it belongs to the DPR and LPR republics, which invited Russia to help them throw the invading army out of their claimed territory, and Ukraine refuses to even recognize the DPR/LPR, let alone negotiate with them. Que sera, sera.
However, and I cannot stress this enough, so much so that I will mention it a second time in the same post, nobody needed to die. Thousands dead on both sides, and all because NATO could not accept Russian demands to not cultivate an ideological armed enemy right on its own border. Once upon a time, when there was still a shred of integrity in the German leadership, the Senior Officer of the German Navy suggested that all Vladimir Putin wanted was respect, and that it cost the west nothing to render it to him; that he probably deserved it.
“What Putin really wanted, Schönbach argued, was respect. “On eye level, he wants respect. And my God, giving him respect is low cost, even no cost. It is easy to give him the respect he demands, and probably deserves.”
Within days, this professional officer and diplomat had ‘resigned’, after vociferous pressure from the Ukrainian Ambassador to Germany, who has since himself been fired by Zelensky.
You don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone, but gone it certainly is, and the wages of stupidity will be costly indeed.
“There once was a mouse who lived in a tavern. One night the mouse found a leaky barrel of beer, and he drank all he could hold. When the mouse had finished, he sat up, twirled his whiskers, and looked around arrogantly. “Now then,” he said, “where’s that damned cat?”