vince Dhimos answered a question at Quora.
QUESTION: WILL RUSSIA SURVIVE AS A GREAT POWER AGAINST THE USA?
VINCE’S RESPONSE [modified for NSS]:
This is a Western-style question reflecting the biased view that the more viable of the two countries is the US and not Russia. The overwhelming evidence given in the following indicates that the questioner has it precisely backwards. Which is perfectly understandable given the news filter omnipresent in the West.
We need to understand that military power and economic power are very intimately linked together and that the economic power of the US rests upon the printing press and a flawed economic system while Russian economic power rests upon a real producing economy and hydrocarbon deposits that will last for decades. Thus, on the Russian side, the economy is the most stable and healthy among all industrial countries, as I also explained at Quora:
According to the Energy Information Administration, Energy Information Administration, a US-based agency, Russia has largest gas reserves in the world.
While the EIA reports that the US had the largest petroleum and “other liquids” production in 2018, and Russia ranked third in this metric, the little discussed problem in the West is that US hydrocarbon production – which the current administration is banking on as the primary pillar in its economic policy and the source of those “new jobs” that it touts – is predominantly from shale, meaning that extraction requires fracking (hydraulic fracturing) and hence constant exploration and drilling of new wells, which systemically have very short useful lives. There’s no way around this. This makes extraction of hydrocarbons from shale virtually prohibitively expensive and unprofitable, despite generous tax breaks (paid for by the generous US tax payer, who feels warmly for the rich), including actual tax credits for shale investors.
Therefore, an alarming number of US shale oil companies are going bankrupt and, according to Bloomberg, the balance sheets of US domestic oil extraction have thus far stayed consistently in the red. To put it plainly, the future of US shale energy looks bleak to say the least as fewer and fewer investors are willing to sink their fortunes into deep empty wells. Sadly, experts warn that the boom time in shale will end in about a decade, suspending disbelief and assuming investors do not throw in the towel by then. By contrast, Russia’s oil and gas are not extracted from shale and do not suffer from this malaise. Russia therefore does not need very high per barrel prices to sustain its profitability from hydrocarbons.
I explained in detail at Quora why US shale oil is doomed: https://www.quora.com/How-badly-is-China-really-doing-as-a-result-of-Trump-s-trade-war/answer/Vince-Dhimos
Another important reason why Russia is winning the race is on the US side, ie, the disastrous trade wars, as I also explained at Quora:
Further, Russia is way ahead diplomatically because unlike the US, it provides loans and trade deals free of the encumbering strings attached to US agreements, such as demands on internal issues like protection of certain minorities. This is why Russia is landing contracts for arms, nuclear power plants and energy all over the world.
In the military field, it was Russia that intervened in Syria in both the Obama and Trump administrations to settle rifts that would have cost Syrian people destructive and lethal Tomahawk attacks by the US. It was Russia that made it impossible to invade Venezuela and Iran, saving countless human lives, and it is Russia that is finding diplomatic, economic and military inroads throughout the Middle East and Africa, for example, even as the US exits these regions.
So what about those military options we keep hearing about? While there is a popular theory that Trump is consulting with Putin, who is telling him hands off Iran, it is now reported –though sparsely – that China and Russia are very much involved militarily in Iran.
Israeli news site news1 reports that China is set to send 5,000 troops to Iran to defend its economically important sites. Even if the US felt powerful enough to invade Iran, the spectre of US missiles or planes harming Chinese troops is almost certainly a sure-fire deterrent to the US mischief makers. As if that weren’t enough, a few sites like South China Morning Post and National Interest, for example, tell us that China, Russia and Iran are planning joint naval drills in the Strait of Hormuz. It seems reasonable to assume that this news is precisely why the US and allies have not been warning about their upcoming power play in that region.
Diplomatically, the US has managed to keep wielding the whip of sanctions. But even in this area, major changes are quietly being made. China has shielded itself with massive pioneering projects like the Belt and Road Initiative, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the Shanghai oil futures market and the Shanghai gold exchange, the latter 2 of which allow commodities to be exchanged for actual gold or for yuan, making the yuan stronger and more international – helping to inch out the dollar and thereby weaken it. China has also launched trade exchanges with pariah countries like Iran and Venezuela that provide it with discounted prices on oil that the US has tried to ban. It is successfully using local currencies, including the yuan, to avoid the pitfalls of dollar settlements.
Meanwhile, Europe has developed Instex, a special purpose vehicle (SPV) that enables it to by-pass SWIFT, formerly the only messaging system available anywhere for international payment transfer. Instex was a logical solution to Washington’s use of SWIFT as a weapon to enforce sanctions. Though SWIFT is located in Belgium, it has been controlled by the US, which forbade it to allow money transfers to pariah countries. This had been accomplished at the Treasury Department by reading the records of foreign SWIFT transactions and threatening sanctions on countries allowing US-banned transactions.
Finally, the US has done itself untold harm by bullying its partners and also by backing out of agreements and partnerships, as it has done by abandoning the Kurds in Syria, by unilaterally pulling out of the ABM treaty (under GW Bush) and then the INF treaty, both designed to keep the world safe from dangerous arms, and also from the Iran Deal (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) in a bid to destroy Iran to please Israel. It is becoming crystal clear to America’s partners that the US cannot be trusted to keep its word. Thanks to this “trust deficit,” Russia, which takes its agreements seriously, is becoming the default partner and power broker among disgruntled (ex) US partners. The Burston-Marsteller Arab Youth Survey shows that the US and Russia have completely switched roles in the minds of Arabs, with Russia now taking the place of the US as the most trusted non-Arab partner. The US is now increasingly thought of as an enemy to the Arabs. This is not likely to change, regardless of who wins the White House in 2020. Most striking of all is the position of Iraqi youth, more than 90% of which, according to the Washington Post, think of the US as an enemy. Now keep in mind that Syria was not included in this study and Iran and Turkey are non-Arab countries. All three of these have sizable populations, and if they had been included in the study, it is certain that the results would have shown the Middle East as a whole to be significantly more anti-American and pro-Russian. Certainly Iraqis distrust the US and consider it an enemy because 1) Iraq is Shiite-majority and 2) the Iraqis have been brutalized by the Iraq war and killer sanctions that remained in place nearly 10 years after the war was over – for no rational reason at all except arbitrary resentment of a country that refuses to bow to the tyrant, and on top of that, the fact that it is Shiite sullies Saudi sensibilities, and it is, of course, the Saudis who, in tandem with Israel, shape US foreign policy (for the reasons outlined here for Saudi and here for Israel [these links did not appear in my Quora version]). Therefore, the US felt obliged to properly punish the Iraqis, with no regard for the Iraqi people’s feelings, though this brutal treatment would leave an indelible boot print on the Iraqi mind and heart. The results of the above-described Burston-Marsteller Arab Youth Survey show that this cavalier disregard for the hearts and minds in the Middle East was a fatal flaw in US foreign policy that is making it impossible for the US to continue doing its dirty business in the region and will continue to take its toll for decades to come. The US Establishment’s recent unprecedented open confession that it intends to steal Syrian oil may be the final nail in Washington’s foreign policy coffin.
As for the differences between US administrations, while Trump drove the stake through the heart of American prestige in the region, this same youth survey showed that in 2016, near the end of the Obama administration, about a third of Arabs already thought that America was the enemy. Thus Trump’s predecessor had successfully laid the groundwork for the Arabs to turn against the US. Trump just administered the coup de grace.
Thus the only question we need to be asking ourselves at this point is: can the US – not Russia – survive this dramatic power shift from West to East? And does it even care enough to make the effort?