The Ukraine crisis is a wake-up call to the US to adopt a more realistic approach to foreign policy—and shift from the Death Economy to the Life Economy.
By John Perkins
The Ukraine-Crimea crisis marks the official beginning of a new period in geopolitics. The reign of one solitary superpower is over. The era we are entering is closer to the old Cold War than that of US hegemony that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union.
After Détente, Corporatocracy?
People in the US and most of Western Europe welcomed détente as a time of tranquility, but the corporatocracy saw it as an opportunity to expand its empire. Much of the world—especially countries often referred to as the Third World—soon came to understand the end of the Cold War marked the beginning of bullying by the United States as, in collaboration with Big Business and the EU, it sought to spread predatory capitalism.
The Cold War ended in the early 1990s. At that time, the US had two choices: step up as a leader and inspire generosity, compassion and democracy throughout the world; or continue growing as a superpower and focus on expanding the corporatocracy.
Unfortunately, it chose the latter; exploiting other countries even when doing so violated their sovereignty. It partnered with governments that were willing to sell resources cheaply regardless of the ideologies of those governments, and overthrew leaders who refused to play its game.
A Missed Opportunity
The fact is the US was handed an opportunity no other country has ever before enjoyed – and blew it. The only sole global superpower in history, it behaved in ways that were contrary to its ideals, its self-interests and world peace; yet it was able to fool its own people into believing the rest of the world looked at it with gratitude and as a protective, pro-democracy force.
The majority of Americans did not understand the Cold War had brought a sense of balance to much of the world. Countries that felt intimidated by the US looked to the Soviet Union to offer an alternative. And visa versa.
Détente destroyed that balance. It left smaller countries feeling vulnerable. When their leaders attempted to introduce policies that seemed to conflict with corporatocracy interests, such as higher wages and land reform, Washington launched coups against them (e.g., Aristide in Haiti, Chavez in Venezuela, and Zelaya in Honduras). In more extreme cases, unfettered by the fear that another superpower would step in, the US deployed troops (e.g., Panama, Iraq and Afghanistan).
The emergence of the European Union supported corporatocracy expansionism. Together with its EU allies, Washington set out to envelop former Soviet states into its sphere of influence. Russia – under the aggressive leadership of President Putin – plotted to reestablish its power base.
The Challenge of China
The rising influence of China offered another challenge to the US. Beijing sent its versions of economic hit men into countries with resources it coveted. Many leaders viewed this as an opportunity to reestablish that sense of balance that had existed prior to détente. As an Ecuadorian cabinet minister recently told me, “We would rather accept financial aid from China than from the States. After all, China has never invaded a Latin country or backed coups against our elected officials; the US has a history of doing both.”
That minister’s complaint is echoed by people in many countries.
The sad truth is the US used its sole superpower status to establish military bases across the globe. The exact number is elusive due to government secrecy; but by conservative estimates, the US has a military presence in about 130 countries. US citizens may like to imagine those countries welcome that presence, but in reality most resent it.
Ukraine and NATO: Time for a Reality Check
The Ukraine-Crimea situation should spur the US to take a deeply introspective look. It is likely just the first battle in a sort of Neo Cold War. There is every reason to believe this clash between Russia and the US/EU will escalate.
For decades, an alliance has been maintained between the US and Europe through NATO. This organization obliges members to support one another against external attacks, and as a large majority of the EU countries are also members of NATO, this means the U.S. must pay close attention to relations between Russia and her neighbors.
The three Baltic nations, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, are members of both NATO and the EU and therefore US allies. It is likely that Russia will attempt to lure or coerce one or more of these into its sphere.
How should Washington react to this threat? The NATO alliance is not just a political one; it is also a military one, and so chances are if Putin continues his push west, the consequences will be violent.
NATO war games are going on right now in Europe to reassure allies and discourage Russian action, and the US is playing a significant role in the display of might. If NATO defends member countries against Russian aggression with military action, the US would very likely be actively involved. Is this how the US plans to lead the world toward peace?
Shifting from the Death Economy to the Life Economy
I have written in previous posts about the need to convert the Death Economy – one based on militarization and ravaging the earth – into a Life Economy – one based on cleaning up pollution, helping hungry people feed themselves and inventing more sustainable technologies.
The Death Economy is a failure. One of many statistics that illustrate the magnitude of this failure: people living in the US represent less than five percent of the global population, yet we consume nearly 30 percent of the world’s resources. That is not a model; it can’t be replicated by China, Russia, or anyone else, no matter how hard they try.
Although the US took the wrong path after détente, we now have the opportunity to set a different example and become a true leader. The world still looks to us for leadership. Let’s not blow it this time around. Let us instead be inspired by the tragic events in Ukraine-Crimea to blaze a new trail.
For me, the answer to that question – how should Washington react to the threat of Russian expansionism – is that we can seize this as an opportunity to demonstrate to the world our commitment to developing a true geo-economic model: a Life Economy, one founded on cooperation, not conflict.
We can be the leaders in guiding the world, even countries like Russia, toward a common future. Let us admit that the Death Economy is a failure and dedicate ourselves to quickly building a new globally unifying model.