In the summer of 1787, determined to show foreign ambassadors the might of Russian power in the newly-subjugated Ukraine and Crimea, Catherine the Great organised a boat trip down the Dnieper past modern-day Kiev.
Her trusted field marshal, and her lover at the time, Prince Gregory Potemkin, organised a series of mobile villages to appear as soon as the imperial barge, stuffed with innocent and gullible foreign dignitaries, came into view.
When the riverbank came within earshot, the villagers would break into a spontaneous, sycophantic chorus of praise for the Empress, giving the perplexed foreigners the impression that not only had Russia pacified Ukraine, it had also managed to win over the local peasantry, which was no mean feat in the 18th century.
As soon as the imperial barge turned the corner, the villagers would dismantle their villages and rebuild them overnight further downstream, with a view to performing the same malarkey the following day.
This continued each day for over two weeks. The overwhelmed foreign dignitaries then reported back to Berlin, Paris and London on the marvel of the Russian conquest and pacification of Ukraine. Thus was born the “Potemkin village” approach to economic and political progress.
This was all part of the Great Game.
Over the years, the Russians have perfected this approach of half-truths, misinformation, disingenuous analysis and obfuscation. Russian and Soviet governments perfected the art of identifying culprits on whom to pin the blame for their own failings: Jews, Poles, profiteers, priests, intellectuals, kulaks, enemies of the revolution, and so on. Typically, if there is a problem, a few culprits are rounded on and grandiose decrees are announced to fight the evil, whether it is economic, social or political.
Along with the entirely invented triumphs of the five-year plans, the Soviets deployed the Potemkin tactic to pretend that they were more powerful than they actually were.
The West believed the Potemkin villages, and maybe this is why no one foresaw the overnight implosion of the Soviet Union, despite the billions spent on so-called “intelligence”.
No one predicted Russia’s move on Crimea, nor did they see Russia’s move in the Middle East, where it is now supplying arms to Egypt despite the fact that the US is Egypt’s biggest aid donor.
The reason why no one saw this coming is because Russia has camouflaged its recent massive investment in its military complex, and the West’s intelligence didn’t seem to notice.
Then it kicked the bear with its ill-advised support of Ukraine’s nationalists, and suddenly it was dealing with a strong Russia; stronger than anyone thought.
It is clear that Europe is in a bind because counter-sanctions (the Russian reaction to Western sanctions) are giving corporate Germany the jitters. After all, there are 3,000 German companies heavily invested in Russia. They stand to be isolated if this crisis between Russia and the West continues.
We are seeing these concerns in the worrying collapse in German business confidence since the beginning of hostilities in Ukraine.
Until then, German business confidence was roaring ahead. But now it is heading downward. And when Germany wobbles, so too does the rest of Europe.
The German industrial supply chain is the European industrial machine. Nothing else matters, and now we are seeing German industry pulling in its horns, cancelling orders and holding off on plans until the dust settles. But will it settle?
There is a massive power play going on. In the next 50 years, two major factors will become even more evident than they are now, and this will drive geopolitics in Europe and the regions.
The first is that a non-nuclear Germany is a massive factory at the end of the Russian gas pipeline. If it stays non-nuclear, it is entirely dependent on Russia. To avoid this it may try to get into bed further with Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states or Iran.
But, as Iran is Russia’s mate in the Middle East, it is hardly likely that the Iranians will do deals that will adversely affect Russia. As for the other four entities, who’s to say whether they will even exist as countries in a few years? Qatar is on a collision course with Saudi Arabia over Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia itself, as the sugar daddy to both Isis and its older brother al-Qaeda, is hardly the safest regime in the world. It may still end up eaten by its own young.
So Germany has to do a deal with Russia. In fact, the most logical long-term alliance in Europe is the mutually beneficial alliance of resource-hungry Germany with resource-rich Russia.
This is terrifying to Washington, because it elbows the US out of central and eastern Europe.
Therefore, the US is trying to drive a wedge between Germany and Russia via continued hassle in eastern Ukraine, where America has no vested interest at all and can’t win.
The only country to gain out of all this is Poland. In a sense, the Polish tail is wagging the European dog. Have you noticed how many leaks concerning Ukraine seem to come from “sources” in the Polish foreign ministry?
This is all part of the Atlantic alliance – mainly the US and Britain – to thwart the emergence of a power nexus in eastern and central Europe. Henry Kissinger would be proud of these diplomatic games in Europe.
A second factor driving geopolitics now is the fact that the US will soon be self-sufficient in energy, particularly gas. The shale revolution in the US is real. The only problem is that it can’t get the gas to Europe.
As the US becomes less energy-dependent, it will become less concerned, both in Europe and in the Gulf.
The energy dynamic will drive Germany closer to Russia, as the US becomes less worried about energy and a newly-federal Britain loses its admittedly small influence on the world stage. After all, if a constituent member of your own country wants out, you can hardly lecture the rest on nation building!
The Great Game is still on.
So we’re all doomed because we’ve antagonised Russia?
Think Dave is forgetting that Russia is a basketcase economically and needs us as much as, if not more than we need them.
Wow that is the natural title for your new book, “The Great Game”
Your publisher can mail me a check or do an EFT.
Its the Hucklebuck Merkel is just buying TIME
Nothing is Changing it only seems to be
On a pedantic point, ‘The Great Game’ is widely considered to have commenced in the first part of the 19th century. Some sources refer to the Russian-Persian Treaty of 1813. So interesting as it is to be reminded about Potemkin villages, that story from 1787 predates ‘The Great Game’. Besides, the best modern biographer of Potemkin, Simon Sebag-Montefiore, has joined other historians in casting doubt on whether the story matches the reality. It is a great story though and a useful metaphor. Onto the thrust of the article. I’m not sure how the observation that Russia is unpredictable and devious… Read more »
This is all good news for tracker mortgage holders they should thank Putin and draghi and make them honoury citizens of Ireland.have we seen all the new German made cars on our roads recently crazy remember a weak Germany is good for us. lower ECB rates keep up the good work lads
The Dublin housing market is a Potemkim Village. Centralize the state as much as possible, over-regulate everything (but still enable politicians to circumvent it all – as exhibited in various deals), and then produce glorious PR stunts. [ like people waiting 5 days for a house, from an estate where 20% of the houses remain unsold). Two more Potemkim Villages – those Pillar banks that have received enormous quantities of love at the people’s expense. With regard to Russia – an EU that is dependent on a gradually modernizing Russia is acceptable. Apart from anything else helps the EU improve… Read more »
Saudi Arabia is an epic powder keg. David is right. Ultimately, it will blow up. After 9/11 Saudis were texting each other in delight over what happened. Michael Moore’s film “Fahrenheit 9/11” is an excellent primer in how the Bush Administration was accommodative of Saudi interests, in the aftermath of an attack where 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi nationals, to a baffling degree. In fact, Moore’s expose of Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar (“Bush Bandar”) was public service. The monarchy in Saudi Arabia has instilled a religious doctrine into the populace that will cause serious problems within a decade.… Read more »
“Over the years, the Russians have perfected this approach of half-truths, misinformation, disingenuous analysis and obfuscation. Russian and Soviet governments perfected the art of identifying culprits on whom to pin the blame for their own failings: Jews, Poles, profiteers, priests, intellectuals, kulaks, enemies of the revolution, and so on. Typically, if there is a problem, a few culprits are rounded on and grandiose decrees are announced to fight the evil, whether it is economic, social or political.” Funny, as when I read this I thought you must be talking about the USA and NATO as one country after another has… Read more »
Fraud and deception is endemic, world wide. Central bankers boost stock markets to give the illusion of economic recovery
At the end of the day the same billionaire evil scum stay in control and remain as billionaires. The wars are a way to keep nation states divided and keep workers divided and week also. It doesn’t really matter much to the evil at the top who is fighting who so long as their are enough wars going on and the nation states are mistrustful of each other. Its like competition in a workplace taken to a level of war among populations over resources. If the evil scum could not keep these wars erupting and going then they would quickly… Read more »
What’s fascinating about the US intervention in the Ukraine is how similar it is to recent interventions elsewhere, be it Iraq, Syria, Libya, the various operations in Iran, Pakistan, the various ‘stans, and the rest. These in turn bear almost surprising similarities to the interventions in central and south America, in Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and so on. These are all very well documented in the CIAs own histories of the period. The successes, and the failures. We’ve had the string of, as it turns out, completely fabricated warnings of imminent attacks. In the Ukraine, it’s gone even further, and… Read more »
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China will open the Shanghai “physical” gold exchange this Thursday. To trade one must be prepared to deliver the gold and or pay for it on the spot.
Unlike the London or Chicago exchanges where there is only one ounce of metal available for every 100 traded and the traders are not interested in taking delivery anyway but are just gamblers on the price.
The western exchanges are a front for manipulation.
Soon to be exposed by real physical pricing on the Shanghai market.
Here is one for you Adam. Best regards.
Society Without a State:
Law and Order in a
Or is this just an illusion too?
On slight tangent, just glancing through the UK media’s unbiased reporting of the Scottish Independence vote, I started wondering whether I was going to start seeing claims of credible evidence that Putin is Scottish.
The West was just minding its own business, avoiding interfering in other countries and innocently trusting those devious Russians. Then the Russians were able to start interfering for no apparent reason by using their age-old “half-truths, misinformation, disingenuous analysis and obfuscation”.
Keep up up the anti-Russian hysteria and try to avoid any hard facts, and your media career is secure.
Sanctions on Russia are backfiring as the russian reaction could be to have a large section of Europe freezing in the dark. Sanctions will accelerate the Economic separation of Russia from the petro dollar into the BRICS alternate currency basket for trade. Also it Accelerates the rise of China as the holder of the de facto world reserve currency, the Renminbi. Subterfuge and insider trading is rampant in all financial markets. This corruption will end in disaster for the world economies or in particular the western economies. The whole reporting system is one huge “Potemkin” illusion presented to the world… Read more »
A description of the Potemkin economy
More on the Potemkin economic recovery.
The video will not play in Canada. Perhaps its boundaries are not recognised!!
David writes that the US is trying to drive a wedge between Germany and Russia via continued hassle in eastern Ukraine, where America has no vested interest at all and can’t win and that “the only country to gain out of all this is Poland. In a sense, the Polish tail is wagging the European dog. Have you noticed how many leaks concerning Ukraine seem to come from “sources” in the Polish foreign ministry?” This chimes with his previous statement from his article “Deadly game of human chess” that Poland gets all the best American military equipment, gets the US… Read more »
Grzegorz Kolodziej: great post! You obviously are well informed. Thank you for all that valuable information. I hope David reads it and takes it on board for the next time he comments on your country, Poland.