I tend to be somewhat bullish on the more optimistic assessments of the current Kremlin strategy, for example the comparison to the Punic Wars and the delaying tactics of Fabius Maximus Cunctator, because it is a strategy that takes into account the weaknesses of the US-centric world order.
I frequently see comments under my posts arguing that the EU is basically a feudal fiefdom of the United States. That’s fine as far as it goes, however, once you introduce that idea, you should also examine its implications. Because the lord-vassal relationship is not and has never been one of unconditional obedience. It is rather a social contract with mutual duties and responsibilities. The vassal’s loyalty is conditional on a variety of services, starting with protection and ending with opportunities for enrichment. If you, as the lord, fail to organize one or both, your vassals will leave you. Therefore a strategy that targets the lord’s capacity for delivering rewards to the vassals happens to strike at that realm’s Achilles heel.
America’s relationship with its “allies” can in fact be characterized as a collection of feudal relationships, with the nature of the relationship being very much dependent on the power of the vassals. There are in fact several categories of vassals. Category I includes countries like UK and Israel which actually enjoy a pretty privileged relationship. Thus, for example, UK intel services are practically an extension of the NSA (on equal rights), the US doesn’t read the British PM’s emails, and it does not set up CIA “black sites” on its soil. Category II: Germany, France, Italy, etc. Hold intel services at arms length, read leaders’ email, but no black sites. Category III: Poland, Ukraine, lots and lots of others. Treat like dirt, spy on leaders, set up black sites. There’s also a Category IV (which, frankly, Ukraine is on the brink of joining), where the US basically takes sides in a civil war raging on that country’s territory. But in any event, it’s clear that the more powerful vassals can establish lines that the lord can’t cross.
Furthermore, the more important the vassal, the greater the amount of spoils the lord has to have fall off his table. So UK gets the F-35 source codes, Israel gets billions of dollars of US weapons, Germany gets to cooperate with the US in advanced weapon development, Poland gets some used F-16s. This inequality of treatment is, incidentally, a source of considerable chagrin among Poland’s elites who aspire to Category I treatment, but don’t know how to make that “civilizational jump.”
And this is where Ukraine comes in. Whether it likes it or not. Ukraine was supposed to be part of the feudal reward scheme. It was supposed to be the Ukrainian railroads, Ukrainian coalmines that were supposed to be taken over by German (and, to a lesser extent, Polish) interests. Well, that ship not only has sailed, it was blown up by a Russian torpedo and is now resting in a very deep part of the ocean. So what is Germany to do? One thing it can do is cannibalize a lower category vassal which is not as important to the US as Germany itself is. So now it’s Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal and, yes, Poland on the chopping block. Hannibal’s armies, unable to despoil Roman provinces, are reduced to despoiling the provinces of its allies who were attracted by the prospect of a victorious march on Rome. What’s worse, Hannibal’s allies are actually starting with one another, so that he now has his hands full trying to keep various components of his vast army from killing one another. In the final account, what happened to Hannibal’s diverse and ally-heavy army as a result of this turn of events is a lot like what is happening in the relationship that America has with its lesser and greater vassals (though note that in most Polish articles Germany’s power magnified by its proximity is such that it eclipses America’s superior but more distant power) as well as in the relationship among the vassals. Notice the rather futile US effort to get Germany to go easy on Greece.
How does the feudal lord and/or the more powerful of its vassals respond? There are many options. You can always do something desperate (and lose, because “something desperate” usually means fighting under unfavorable conditions). You can seek accommodation with your adversary. You can look for an easier source of spoils. Or you can simply abdicate your feudal lord’s obligations since you can no longer meet them. US foreign policy is right now at a crossroads. Looking at the various US political candidates, it’s clear they are exploring various combinations of the above options. We are also seeing greater and lesser vassals exploring various ways of returning to Russia’s good graces. But that’s a topic for a separate article.
Source: Fort Russ