Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
April 27, 2019

Russia Think Tank Study Shows How To Overextend And Unbalance The U.S. of A.

The Russian institute for Research and Analysis for National Defense (RAND) recently assessed how to further damage the United States:

Overextending and Unbalancing Russia - Assessing the Impact of Cost-Imposing Options

This brief summarizes a report that comprehensively examines nonviolent, cost-imposing options that the Russian Federation and its allies could pursue across economic, political, and military areas to stress —overextend and unbalance— the United States' economy and armed forces and the U.S. government's political standing at home and abroad. Some of the options examined are clearly more promising than others, but any would need to be evaluated in terms of the overall strategy for dealing with the United States, which neither the report nor this brief has attempted to do.

Today’s United States suffers from many vulnerabilities — the financial crisis has caused a drop in living standards,  regressive tax policies that have furthered that decline, a decreasing life expectancy, and increasing authoritarianism under Barack Obama's and now Donald Trump's rule. Such vulnerabilities are coupled with deep-seated (if exaggerated) anxieties about the possibility of Russia-inspired political manipulation, loss of great power status, and even military attack.

Despite these vulnerabilities and anxieties, the United States remains a powerful country that still manages to be Russia's peer competitor in a few key domains. Recognizing that some level of competition with the United States is inevitable, RAND researchers conducted a qualitative assessment of “cost-imposing options” that could unbalance and overextend the United States. Such cost-imposing options could place new burdens on the United States, ideally heavier burdens than would be imposed on the Russian Federation for pursuing those options.

A team of RAND experts developed economic, geopolitical, ideological, informational, and military options and qualitatively assessed them in terms of their likelihood of success in extending the United States, their benefits, and their risks and costs.

The study so far had little echo in U.S. media. One might have thought that such a publication would raise a ruckus over the sinister plans the Kremlin has for the United States.

It didn't cause a ruckus because the above quote is faked. The study exists. It was published by RAND Corp, a U.S. think tank financed by the Pentagon. But the quote switched the role of Russia and the United States.

The original is headlined:

    Overextending and Unbalancing Russia - Assessing the Impact of Cost-Imposing Options

The study looks at measures in a number of fields that the U.S. could take to impose costs on Russia. Each measure is evaluated by the "Likelihood of Success in Extending Russia", by its "Benefits" and by the "Costs and Risk" for the U.S. should the measure be used. The evaluated fields include economic, geopolitical, military, and ideological and informational cost-imposing measures.

One "geopolitical cost-imposing option" is, for example, to "Provide lethal aid to Ukraine." The RAND assessment is that the likelihood of success for this measure in extending Russia is "moderate". The "Benefits" are seen as high. But "Cost and Risk" for the U.S. are also high.

In total the study evaluates 47 measures or options. Most of those are in military categories. The conclusions list the most promising measures:


bigger

According to RAND the best option to overextend and unbalance is to produce more oil:

Expanding U.S. energy production would stress Russia’s economy, potentially constraining its government budget and, by extension, its defense spending. By adopting policies that expand world supply and depress global prices, the United States can limit Russian revenue. Doing so entails little cost or risk, produces second-order benefits for the U.S. economy, and does not need multilateral endorsement.

That evaluation is quite strange. The U.S. government does not produce oil. Private companies do so but only if they can make a profit. Increasing production beyond the global demand will decrease the oil price for all producers. All recent new U.S. production comes from shale oil. Optimistic estimates put the break even point for good shale oil fields at around $50 per barrel. Few fields can produce at lower costs. Most shale oil fields have a higher break even point. There is also a danger in suppressing oil prices. Many oil producing countries have U.S. friendly regimes. They need high oil prices to survive. Ruining them will not come cheap for the U.S. in geopolitical terms.

The second best option says RAND is to increase sanctions of Russia. This also doesn't make much sense. Russia can produce everything it needs and it has free access to the world's largest markets, China and India.

The best military options listed by RAND are all useless. All the new weapon systems Russia has revealed over the last two years are way more capable than anything the U.S. is able to field. If the U.S., as RAND advocates, invest more in certain fields, it will only be to catch up. That does not impose any new costs on Russia.

In all I find it a bit impertinent to publicly argue for "overextending and unbalancing Russia". Where is the need to do such?

The study demonstrates again that strategic analysis by U.S. think tanks is woefully shallow-minded. The "experts" writing these have no deep understanding of Russia, or even of the economic-political complexity of the real world.

Four of the eight best options the RAND study found start with the words "Invest more in ...". It is a sign that the foremost motive its writers had in mind is to grab more taxpayer money. Fine. Give it to them already. Overextending and unbalancing the U.S. by more abstruse expenditure for weapon systems that do not work will neither hurt me nor Russia.

Posted by b on April 27, 2019 at 02:15 PM | Permalink

Comments

Still don't believe in those new weapons systems. And historically new weapons are not magic bullets anyhow.

Posted by: steven t johnson | Apr 27, 2019 2:22:19 PM | 1

thanks b.. of the 8 most promising suggestions - 6 of them are military... it seems to me these think tanks are great pr tools for the military industrial complex... who cares if the usa continues to move into 3rd world status as a nation, so long as more money for weapons can be acquired?? that is what these think tanks - rand and etc seem to want to foist on the public... it is all so very sad..

@1 steven.. well, as i read you, you are essentially supporting a continuation of the usa pouring endless money into the military then, regardless the accuracy of the accounts on the new russian weapons.. do i have that right?

Posted by: james | Apr 27, 2019 2:34:51 PM | 2

@ b who wrote
"
In all I find it a bit impertinent to publicly argue for "overextending and unbalancing Russia". Where is the need to do such?
"
Russia is not beholden to the God of Mammon/global private finance world and the need to do such is to affect that position

The West is ruled by those that own private finance and all major conflict is predicated on the forceful, if necessary, maintenance of that control.

Posted by: psychohistorian | Apr 27, 2019 2:42:19 PM | 3

james@2 No, I think most US weapons procurement gives weapons that don't work as advertised, and wouldn't win wars anyway. I think it's one reason why the US military is largely only capable of spoiler wars, not actually conquering any place. (The other is the general unreliability of mercenary forces, which the US army basically is, however much they try to cultivate a militant Christian ethos.) However, since I also do not believe spoiler wars help the country as a whole (as opposed to some of the owners) I think pretty much all a burden, immoral to boot and should be massively reduced.

If certain parties did get a multipolar world, the result would be a return to major wars between direct competitors, rather than the US trashing one small country after another as an example to keep the rest in line. India versus Pakistan, China versus North Korea, Nigeria versus the rest of West Africa, so on and so on, will be the bliss the proponents think.

Posted by: steven t johnson | Apr 27, 2019 2:47:15 PM | 4

@4 steven.. thanks.. so, in essence all the think tank advocating for more military spending is a waste? or, it has to happen anyway??

i like the idea of a multi polar world, but it sounds like you don't think that is a good idea.. i am curious about how you see the way forward here.. cheers james

Posted by: james | Apr 27, 2019 2:51:17 PM | 5

That evaluation is quite strange. The U.S. government does not produce oil. Private companies do so but only if they can make a profit. Increasing production beyond the global demand will decrease the oil price for all producers. All recent new U.S. production comes from shale oil. Optimistic estimates put the break even point for good shale oil fields at around $50 per barrel. Few fields can produce at lower costs. Most shale oil fields have a higher break even point. There is also a danger in suppressing oil prices. Many oil producing countries have U.S. friendly regimes. They need high oil prices to survive. Ruining them will not come cheap for the U.S. in geopolitical terms.

This is a correct assessment and not strange at all. Most oil producing countries, including Russia, are US-friendly regimes. Iran would also be a US-friendly regime if only Trump hadn't pulled the plug on JCPOA and re-installed sanctions.

Why this friendliness exists is obvious: US consumption of oil greatly expands the economies of the oil producing countries (by propping up oil prices through huge demand).

Further, this is similar to the reason why all the scare talk about "China and the US as adversaries" is undermined by the economic reality: China sells 20% of its exports to the US. This % grows to almost 30% when you add in US protectorates such as Canada, Japan and S. Korea.

At the same time, what you see as a contradiction, or "strange" actually makes sense in the US: falling oil prices benefit US consumers more than consumers anywher else. In fact, one of Trump's biggest domestic political vulnerabilities going into 2020 is rising retail gasoline prices.

The other oil producing countries are more dependent on petroleum exports than the US where the energy sector, while huge, has a smaller impact on the health of the overall economy.

So while Trump cheerleads more oil production through fracking and deregulation, he also implores Saudi to keep production up for the same reason. He's more concerned with lowering oil prices than he is with supporting the profits of US petroleum companies.

No one, including Trump, is very worried about the financial health of the US oil oligarchy.

Posted by: donkeytale | Apr 27, 2019 2:55:16 PM | 6

The US has been there already just recently. The US ambassador to Moscow (Jon Huntsman) was prattling on about 200,000 tonnes of carrier battle groups and the 9,000 people that crew them as representing America's "forward operating diplomacy". It's more likely that they'll end as 200,000 tons of scrap metal and 720 tons of fish food within 15 minutes of any conflict starting.

Posted by: Ghost Ship | Apr 27, 2019 3:17:28 PM | 7

Naturally, they kept the best options secret:

> Engage the Russians in endless discussions about building a Trump hotel;

> Blame the Russians after disappearing their citizens;

> Disparage their cartoons;

> "invest more in" bogus investigations into collusion and meddling;

> pretend to want peace as you insult them and test their resolve.


That'll tie them up in knots!

Posted by: Jackrabbit | Apr 27, 2019 3:17:51 PM | 8

I think that at least some weapon systems that USA makes or develops can be indeed superior. The most acute loss from the approach of "invest in over-extending and un-balancing the opponent" is that USA, while powerful, cannot do everything in the same time.

My favorite comparison chart is timeliness of subway systems in major metropolitan areas. Honestly, I cannot find it, because the search is swamped with the tales of woe of subway commuters in NYC. As befits the greatest financial center, cultural metropolis etc. etc., NYC has a transportation system that is comparable in its extend to other metropolitan areas like Tokyo, Paris or London. However, the performance is uninspiring. On the chart in NYT that I can't find out at the moment, only Mexico City had a lower percentage of train rides delayed by less than 10 minutes. I checked Moscow that has a larger subway system (compared to NY) and which was not on the chart. They pride themselves with frequency of delays that is 5 times smaller than in Paris (50 times smaller than in NYC?). Moscovites can actually plan their daily lives assuming that their commutes will arrive on time.

This is the most glaring example of a lost opportunity to take care of domestic needs, but the quality of education, healthcare etc. is mediocre compared with the rest of OECD, although there is always the southern neighbor that saves USA from being dead last.

Incidentally, NYC subway is not exactly underfunded, instead, it may have the most irrational management among major metropolitan areas which accurately reflects deficiencies of American political system. Bloated costs are pervasive across many areas, surely in military, healthcare and broadly meant policing, and their originate in lobbo-cracy, a plethora of lobbies grabbing chunks of monies either directly spent or (mis)regulated by the government. The activity of these lobbies is tightly regulated by elaborate rules, but the end effect is as if USA were pathetically corrupted (say, half as corrupted as Nigeria).

Posted by: Piotr Berman | Apr 27, 2019 3:26:43 PM | 9

Concerning the capability of wrecking finances of other states, USA is not a slouch, the most powerful weapon is economic advise. If I interpret news correctly, it were experts of Goldman Sachs that help Greek government to borrow about twice as much as they could handle in the long run. The wreckage in Russia was as impressive, but, alas, hard to repeat, so now it remains to carp about their "bad behavior".

Sanctions are also powerful when directed at small/medium size economies. Russia, although disparaged as "a smaller economy than Italy", but in actuality, Italy has "GDP per capity PPP" that is 40% larger than Russia, and Russia has 2.4 times larger population, so quite a bit larger economy in terms of "purchasing parity", and the most glaring domestic production deficiency are fruit and vegetables that, according to latest news, have a number of potential suppliers that are most glad when they can sell their produce.

Posted by: Piotr Berman | Apr 27, 2019 3:46:11 PM | 10

b said; "The Russian institute for Research and Analysis for National Defense (RAND) recently assessed how to further damage the United States:"

Absolute overkill, the $ party will do the job quite nicely. There's a reason there are so many Dem candidates. Diversion works.

Check each candidate's donor base, it will tell all you need to know.

Posted by: ben | Apr 27, 2019 3:46:51 PM | 11

I don't understand the argument that it is not possible to force Russia to invest more in the military. Well, it feels overstated.
It's not because Russia has a few advanced systems ready for production that they can't be pressured into investing more. How much does it cost them to actually produce them on a large scale? What is the margin on their budget?
Maybe a weaker version is reasonable but I'm not a good judge on that.
I can see though that there are those who see the US overextending themselves as just good business.

Posted by: Tuyzentfloot | Apr 27, 2019 4:04:26 PM | 13

donkey@6 IMO The Samson option explains most of the questions raised when recognizing the disconnect between 'enemy' and 'partner' existing in seemingly the same space.

Posted by: Tannenhouser | Apr 27, 2019 4:33:21 PM | 14

Yes I agree, ...""Invest more in ...", fine wine, craft beer, smooth whisky, rich liquors. It is the weekend after all, no? Got to go, Gramma says the prime rib is ready to carve.

Who cares about these Rand losers anyway!

Have a pleasant evening.

Posted by: Taffyboy | Apr 27, 2019 4:46:27 PM | 15

The Russians, having had the experience of Soviet overreach know the territory well. A strategy that worked against Napoleon and Adolph. overreach. Not a few Americans agree the US empire needs to collapse as have all the prior ones.

Posted by: stevelaudig | Apr 27, 2019 5:00:29 PM | 16

Since this was the strategy of the 70s and 80s against USSR, it's quite clear that Russian leaders are well aware of them and know the risk. It's obvious in the restrained manner in which Putin acts in foreign affairs, specially in foreign conflicts - many here have lamented Putin's "lack of backbone" in confronting US aggressions, after all.

Like you said, B, most of the military options won't overextend Russia. It's just the US catching up with Russia's higher level technology in these fields.
And since you pointed it out yourself, "investing more" in these R/D fields, and in military build-up, will cost a lot. At a time when the US is already spending like there's no tomorrow and is edging closer to financial abyss. Pushing your enemy to spend more money and resources is exactly what you do if you want it to overextend and collapse; to an extent, it happened to USSR. To an extent, this very paper from Rand is tacit acknowledgement that the USA face such a threat. Makes one wonder if Putin's announcement of new weapons and technologies in many areas wasn't a deliberate way of challenging the US to waste more money and to push them closer to overextension and bankruptcy.

Posted by: Clueless Joe | Apr 27, 2019 5:05:42 PM | 17

>> The U.S. government does not produce oil. Private companies do so but only if they can make a profit. Increasing production beyond the global demand will decrease the oil price for all producers.

Even if you’re sure those companies are entirely private, if you print the current global reserve currency, can you not give “free” money to frackers and thereby make them more competitive than global peers? Sure, that’s flooding the market with an illegal subsidy. But, who can conduct proper accounting in opaque markets?

Of course, the money is not “free”. Depreciating the currency, an inflation tax, shows up in lower-quality goods (like frankenfood— we cannot afford healthy food any more) and higher prices in everything. But, again, who’s counting? The BLS and the media? Yep.

Posted by: oglalla | Apr 27, 2019 5:34:07 PM | 18

The RAND Corporation think-tank report is of a piece with Janusz Bugajski's flight into fancy with his January 2019 article for The Hill, "Managing Russia's Dissolution", which portrays Russia as a failing nation with a repressive authoritarian government, a predatory political elite that steals energy and mineral resources from colonial territories in Siberia and the Far East regions, decaying infrastructure and falling standards of living. At least Bugajski's article lays out a strategy for the US to infiltrate Russia and hasten its break-up which, surprise of all surprises, turns out to be a regime-change strategy it has pursued in Syria and other parts of the world, past and present. It is the same kind of regime-change strategy the US chased in Russia when Boris Yeltsin first became Russian President in the early 1990s, and all of a sudden conflicts around the country's border regions (especially in Chechnya and Dagestan) began to spring up.

That such pieces as Bugajski's article and the RAND Corporation report have appeared about the same time is in itself a suggestion that the US Deep State truly exists on another plane of unreality. I wouldn't be surprised if a third hit-piece advocating regime change in Russia were to come out soon, either in the US or in the UK, but if that happens then we'll know we're really on a path to self-destruction.

Posted by: Jen | Apr 27, 2019 5:38:18 PM | 19

@oglalla. The money doesn't have to be printed for this subsidy to happen. It could be illicit funds injected as investment in fracking. Don't forget the Pentagon is 'missing' like 2 trillion eh.

Posted by: tannenhouser | Apr 27, 2019 6:22:16 PM | 20

Not one comment about the opinion or the condition of the masses that are governed by those that govern..

The masses represent cannon fodder inventories.. a view from the top down..

The top is nothing but stacked sets of organized crime... a view from the bottom up..

Something is going to give..

Posted by: snake | Apr 27, 2019 6:50:26 PM | 21

RAND produced a paper because it was contracted to produce a paper. There wasn't any demand that the paper be useful; rather, all that was wanted was the product--then paper. Now RAND can work on the next paper it's contracted to produce. I heard this next one does come with a requirement that its pages have perforations for easy tearing, absorbency, and be biodegradable.

Posted by: karlof1 | Apr 27, 2019 7:18:00 PM | 22

to jackrabbit #8 and taffyboy #15. cheers! to tannenhouser #23. It's 22 trillion. Yes. 22 trillion which by amazing coincidence is the exact amount (well give or take a few billion) of the national debt. to karlofi yes the RAND boondoggle is the slush fund for under employed academics. Let's hope it is biodegradable.

Posted by: Miss Lacy | Apr 27, 2019 7:54:36 PM | 23

Jen #22
Wait, this idiot isn't considering Siberia seceding from Russia? If that's the case, it's not just they live in their own reality, it's also that they're terminally stupid and completely ignorant of basic facts. From the Urals to Bering Straits, the bulk of the population is Russian, there's just no local ethnicity that can hope to go into guerrilla mode and secede. And since there's actually a continuum of Russian population going from Vladivostok to St. Petersburg, there's no sense of being a far away colony, like the US could have in 1770; it would be as if Florida felt to be a colony from Washington DC. And the Russians I've met who came from Siberia felt very much Russian, belonging to Mother Russia, and didn't feel Moscow or Peter were a world of alien oppressive occupiers, they knew it was their country and their culture - with the classical shift between those who prefer and feel more alike to Moscow or to St. Petersburg (as most Russians, most Siberians I met feel akin to Moscow).
They should stick with the old plan of carving up the Caucasus, it's pretty much the only place where that can work and where secession can gain traction. It's a border region after all. The other major ethnies, Mordvins, Tatars, Bashkirs, Chuvash would all be enclaves inside Russia. Well, there's always Tuva, but that wouldn't mean much as long as Russia has good relations with Mongolia, that's a small quite irrelevant area, and Defense Minister Shoygu is half-Tuvan so there's barely any way for a significant independance movement there for probably decades.

Posted by: Clueless Joe | Apr 27, 2019 8:29:05 PM | 24

People here are missing the point: the study isn't absurd because of its contents per se, but because its contents are either obvious or dellirious.

Of course the USA wants to produce more oil. It doesn't need RAND to tell it that. It doesn't produce more oil for the simple fact they can't. That's why it is in the Middle East swamp in the first place. That's why it will need to invade Venezuela in the first place. If we lived in a world with infinite resources, there wouldn't be the need for geopolitics.

The same is true for those military suggestions: don't you think that, if this magic technology that gave you automatic military victory against any enemy, the USA wouldn't already be investing to invent it? You don't need to be a military genius to know that overwhelming technological advantage will give you victory 99% of the time. Again, RAND telling the obvious, and the very fact that it is telling the obvious is evidence the USA can't do it the objective geopolitical configuration.

Posted by: vk | Apr 27, 2019 11:57:12 PM | 25

lol, judging by their "successful" projections, they should be called 'stink tank' ;)

Posted by: karlitozulu | Apr 28, 2019 1:38:11 AM | 26

Trump will be fuming when he hears what the Big Girls and the Naughty Little Girls at RAND are day-dreaming about now. Like any sane observer of the effects AmeriKKKan Foreign Policy, he knows Russia is just one of The Swamp's many imaginary "enemies of convenience." He also knows that The Swamp, and its Global Judeo-Christian partners in crime and corruption, are the root cause of most of the military strife AND ter'rist insanity in the world.

In some ways this tosh can be seen as an extension of Richard Perle's Oafus Mawkish - A Clean Break - A Strategy For Securing The Realm.

Idle minds?

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Apr 28, 2019 1:40:19 AM | 27

This 'study' is what Penis Envy looks like when it's put in writing...

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Apr 28, 2019 1:54:33 AM | 28

The fish rots from the head; or so it's said.
That does however, exactly describe the rolling disaster, earstwhile known as U.S. foreign policy; there isn't any!
Just guns, more guns, bigger guns; but it's not working...
Bolten, Pompeo, and Pense are in panic mode. Generally not known to produce clear, logical thinking.
But their ideaological positions also corrupt their cognitive skills(?)/conclusions.
Buckle up; its going to be one hell of a ride...

Posted by: V | Apr 28, 2019 1:55:54 AM | 29

Steven T Johnson: Do you not 'believe' in death and taxes either? Doesn't really matter whether you 'believe' in them or not. They're coming to get you, regardless of your 'beliefs'; as would the new Russian weapons. Belief doesn't come into it. Reality has a habit of steam-rollering over our beliefs, regardless.

Also, more generally: how about 'fink tank' as a more realistic label for these make-work centres for fundamentally unemployable, overpaid layabout drones, most of whom seem never have had any experience of actually-useful work?

'Fink: An unpleasant or contemptible person.' - Oxford dictionary. Yep, that sounds about right.

Posted by: Rhisiart Gwilym | Apr 28, 2019 2:40:21 AM | 30

Great post Bernhard. Of course Rand was instrumental in developing arpanet, which became the Internet. So this government funded group has been pretty good at promoting technology for ostensibly US purposes that has become ubiquitous and useful.

Not a bad use of tax money.

I'm not certain that the report you cite is of the same import. 'nuff said, the grid of costs/risk/benefits is all the rage these days, at least I've seen it in recent proposals.

And for you, Piotr Berman | Apr 27, 2019 3:26:43 PM, I always enjoy your posts. But I would mention that although the New York subway trains do not always run on time, much to Sr. M's chagrin, they do run and I can attest to that fact. NYC and it's vast suburbs get to work and home quite adequately on what I believe is the largest subway system in the world.

Not nitpicking but just on my experience and limited knowledge.

And by the way it's a long wait when you get behind the money train, or more likely the trash pickup train. But mostly I got home, only once did I get off and walk.

They run 24 hours, with the administrative work done in the late hours, after 2 am or so. Just bring a book and try not to sleep past your stop, otherwise you end up in Coney Island.

Posted by: jonku | Apr 28, 2019 3:12:30 AM | 31

possessive its has no apostrophe

Posted by: jonku | Apr 28, 2019 3:13:53 AM | 32

Considering that this 'study' is an overblown version of the Real Men Go to Tehran delusion (which is STILL in the pondering phase) it's hard to ignore the trepidation revealed in an assessment divided into pseudo business-like categories of...

1. Likelihood of Success
2. Benefits
3. Costs & Risks

...when there are sufficient unresolved uncertainties to be fine-tuned to keep this plan bogged down in the pondering phase for even longer than the unconsummated Real Men Go To Iran nothing-burger.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Apr 28, 2019 3:54:57 AM | 33

Posted by: Rhisiart Gwilym | Apr 28, 2019 2:40:21 AM | 30
(Think Tank = Fink Tank)

Bullseye!

Fink: A person who gives information to the police or to some other authority about the bad behavior or criminal activity of someone else.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Apr 28, 2019 4:09:36 AM | 34

Doug Bandow, former Special Advisor to President Reagan and now a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute, lays out a different strategy in his article for The National Interest: Should Trump Worry About the Putin-Xi Meeting? Still rife with all kinds of prejudices and outright xenophobia towards Russia and China, and still wrong (Russia will not unite with the West against China, that boat has sailed in 2004 or, perhaps, in 1999), but not as crazy as “unbalance Russia” strategy presented by RAND.

Posted by: S | Apr 28, 2019 8:05:06 AM | 35

It is a sign that the foremost motive its writers had in mind is to grab more taxpayer money

yeah, Rand writers and the rest of them. it's a post-ideological era of avaricious goobers run amuck.

see the extent of their imagination.

Posted by: john | Apr 28, 2019 8:39:07 AM | 36

All recent new U.S. production comes from shale oil. Optimistic estimates put the break even point for good shale oil fields at around $50 per barrel. Few fields can produce at lower costs. Most shale oil fields have a higher break even point. There is also a danger in suppressing oil prices.

Adding to this, here are some links from an energy realist perspective:

David Hughes, Shale Reality Check, February 4, 2018
Gail Tverberg, "How the Peak Oil story could be 'close', but not quite right", January 30, 2019
Gail Tvergerg, "The true feasibility of moving away from fossil fuels", April 9, 2019

Say it ain't so.

Posted by: Norumbega | Apr 28, 2019 9:14:12 AM | 37

tannenhauser @ 14

Yes, good point. There are domestic political considerations as well as economic considerations and neither are mutually exclusive.

There "partners" and enemies" and there are also "sellers" and "buyers."

Nukular deterrence shadows all of the above.

It isn't generally considered a good business model for sellers of goods to destroy their customer base.

Posted by: donkeytale | Apr 28, 2019 10:26:58 AM | 38

Rhisiart Gwilym@30 seems to think that Putin boasting means it's real. This is incorrect. There is a great deal of historical experience with new weapons. About the only one that was unanswerable was the chariot and heavy cavalry (with armored rider.) But that was because of the difficulty in finding large enough horses. The bow spread rapidly. Iron weapons spread more slowly, although it is easier to transport iron ore than to raise cavalry horses. But not even iron weapons made the Hittites invincible. They beat the Egyptians, but their empire still fell, and Egypt's didn't.

In more recent times, again, the usual experience of new weapons is that they always take much time to incorporate successfully. And they never make the old armies obsolete. The modern weapon that came closest to actually winning the war was, as near as I can tell, the submarine, at least against island nations needing large imports. (Submarine warfare against Japanese shipping is unsung, but was quite important as I understand it.) The machine gun, the hydraulic recoil artillery, the flamethrower, the grenade, the barbed wire, the tank, the plan...none of them compensated for weakness. In the end, however much the new weapons changed, skilled leadership and determined soldiers who kept their morale could compensate. And none of these weapons ever compensated for the caste arrogance of incompetent officers or the demoralization of conscripts used as cannon fodder.

Now that is reality. This reality will crush a Putin press conference.

Posted by: steven t johnson | Apr 28, 2019 11:37:43 AM | 39

Mina @12

Barret Brown I believe was the person instrumental in shining a light on Palantir and Cambridge. Spent time behind bars.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/jun/24/surveillance-us-national-security

https://twitter.com/BarrettBrown_

Quite the character IMO.

Posted by: arby | Apr 28, 2019 11:52:14 AM | 40

Oil price stands at $63 per barrel this morning...this is well within in the profitable range and still not high enough to cause Trump re-election concerns...$75 and above...most definitely...I see Putin and the Saudis exerting whatever pressure they can to help keep supplies above demand and cause Trump's re-election since they are all good buddies in service to global capitalist imperialism...oil at $100+ per barrel and Trump is history...

Also, fracking is not the most expensive form of extraction on a per barrel basis. That would be high seas drilling operations (such as North Sea oil) and older wells which produce relatively smaller amounts of crude, thus the maintenance costs per barrel are much higher relative to the production.

Posted by: donkeytale | Apr 28, 2019 11:53:36 AM | 41

...
That such pieces as Bugajski's article and the RAND Corporation report have appeared about the same time is in itself a suggestion that the US Deep State truly exists on another plane of unreality. I wouldn't be surprised if a third hit-piece advocating regime change in Russia were to come out soon, either in the US or in the UK, but if that happens then we'll know we're really on a path to self-destruction.
Posted by: Jen | Apr 27, 2019 5:38:18 PM | 19

It's easy to be mesmerised into focusing on Fink Tank drivel instead of the stuff happening outside the stale atmosphere of their unventilated tanks. The French peasants seem to have woken up to the fact that the Macron NeoLib govt has betrayed them and is only pretending to listen. It's only a matter of time until the Gillet Jaunes remember the words of jocular Neoliberal poster-boy Grover Norquist about "government small enough to drown in the bathtub."

Of course, when funny-man Grover said that he meant govt too small to responsibly oversee and administer all of its obligations to The People, thereby necessitating the 'outsourcing' of the juiciest govt obligations to Private Profiteers. Unfortunately, when a govt becomes too small and pompous to listen and respond to the legitimate concerns of The People, it runs the risk of having its size compared with the size of the Disenchanted demographic and, eventually, drowned. Hopefully metaphorically, although History says that when the French neglect reform for too long, metaphorical solutions tend to be neglected too.
And France is just the tip of the iceberg. Again.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Apr 28, 2019 11:56:12 AM | 42

S.T. Johnson @ 39

Now that is reality. This reality will crush a Putin press conference.

Well said. Unfortuntely too many people are unable to grok Putin as the conservative, globalist oriented politician that he is in reality fronting a corporate-ruled nation with high levels of income inequality (like the rest of the 1st world) instead of their wishful thinking him as an all-knowing zen master who only speaks brilliant truth to corrupt western power and serves the interests of all anti-imperialists worldwide...that is until he starts acting in a way that counters these pre-conditioned by state media belief systems...and then he is of course merely playing 5th dimensional chess...Lol

Posted by: donkeytale | Apr 28, 2019 12:04:41 PM | 43

@steven t johnson #1
I don't know for a fact that the new Russian weapon systems are real, but the technological breakthroughs behind them are very believable.
Instead of a "magic" stealth capability via ginormous spending as the F-35 is supposed to be able to do - on top of which it can do via jump jet, carrier based, air superiority, ground attack, etc etc all at once, the Russian systems are based on a single nuclear engine plus some civilian grade autonomous guidance capability.

The tidal torpedo is this engine, running underwater, and autonomously guided. The Russian military has always had very interesting underwater tech including the fastest sub ever actually built plus the hyperspeed underwater missile/torpedo - which actually creates an underwater air bubble and travels in it, a tech which the US, I believe, has no idea how to replicate.

The hyperspeed missile, the same nuclear engine at max power.

The world-spanning cruise missile, the same nuclear engine at long duration plus autonomous vehicle tech including GLONASS and terrain following - which existing Russian anti-ship and cruise missile systems must already have.

We do know that Russian tech is very advanced in terms of rocketry; Russian nuclear systems have also been progressing for decades - unlike in the US where 3 Mile Island stopped pretty much all nuclear tech development, outside of bombs, for 4 decades.

From my view, it is very possible that this engine exists.

I'd also note that the new systems are primarily deterrence. Yes, a hyperspeed nuclear missile could be used for first strike, but none of these systems are really useful for colonialist domination or beating down of "terrorists" with AK47s and sandals.

Posted by: c1ue | Apr 28, 2019 12:14:26 PM | 44

And for you, Piotr Berman | Apr 27, 2019 3:26:43 PM, I always enjoy your posts. But I would mention that although the New York subway trains do not always run on time, much to Sr. M's chagrin, they do run ...

Posted by: jonku | Apr 28, 2019 3:12:30 AM | 31

Yea, NY subways runs, but is beset with many woes, worst timeliness among major systems except Ciudad de Mexico, scant growth etc. By ridership, imperial capitals Tokyo and Beijing
have top spots, Moscow has 6th, then Guangzhou (Canton for old timers), NYC, CdeM and Paris.

Moscow subway adds 30-50 km (20-30 miles) to the system every year.

Within USA, NYC subway can shine as a big fish in a small pond.

Posted by: Piotr Berman | Apr 28, 2019 12:16:49 PM | 45

rand corp.think tank;Is not the ayn rand connection?

Posted by: dahoit | Apr 28, 2019 12:31:10 PM | 46

@steven t johnson #39
The new systems aren't for land control - which all of your examples are used for.
They're intended for deterrence/defense.
Land control weapons are different because they require enormous scale.
The theory of air superiority as demonstrated by WW2, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq1, Iraq2, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya etc is a good example where the theory is that the ability to destroy the enemy's industry and "will to fight" would be able to replace the need to actually field soldiers and armies.
American hagiography falsely believes it is the strategic bombing in WW2 that defeated the Germans; the reality was clearly 20 million dead Russians, millions of live ones in tanks which eventually took down the Wehrmacht at its peak.
Vietnam was an outright failure - ginormous amounts of bombs, napalm and Agent Orange failed to break the Vietnamese people's will to fight.
Korea - it worked until it didn't. The US bombed the crap out of the entire country but ultimately the Chinese manpower turned the tide (note many of these Chinese "volunteers" were ex-Nationalists sent out to die).
Iraq1 worked - a quick demonstration strike against a 3rd rate military that thought it was 2nd rate, but Iraq2 showed that just taking down the official military isn't enough to actually win on the ground.
Afghanistan - ditto. Bombs everywhere for 17+ years, and the Taliban is stronger than ever before.
Libya - I suspect Gaddafi never thought he'd get stabbed in the back like he did, and was woefully unprepared, but again US and French/British bombers were used to take down strongpoints so that the various tribes could roll into town.
Lastly Syria: the presence of Russian military tech stopped the one-sided use of airpower, and a literal handful of Russian attack jets turned the tide for the entire conflict despite hundreds of millions of dollars in weaponry poured into Syria by the UAE, Qatar, Turkey and Saudi Arabia.
It seems the lessons you are trying to teach are simply the wrong ones: Japanese shipping/American submarines - the reality was that Japan didn't have the manpower or the oil. Japan had 73 million people in 1940 vs. the US @132M (Germany had 90M). Japan was significantly behind industrially, economically and technologically. Yes, the US was participating in Europe - but Japan was also attacking China (population 825M). For that matter, it is very clear that Japan had significant provocation prior to Pearl Harbor in the form of an oil embargo imposed by the US US State Dept web site documenting embargo on Japan (sound familiar? US sanctions aren't anything new)

Posted by: c1ue | Apr 28, 2019 12:34:04 PM | 47

Rhisiart Gwilym@30 seems to think that Putin boasting means it's real. This is incorrect. There is a great deal of historical experience with new weapons. About the only one that was unanswerable was the chariot and heavy cavalry (with armored rider.) But that was because of the difficulty in finding large enough horses. ...

Posted by: steven t johnson | Apr 28, 2019 11:37:43 AM | 39

Pre-Cro-Magnon record of weapon innovation is sketchy, but later, indeed, there was plenty of both progress and regressions. The very concept of an "unanswerable weapon" is flawed. War is an extension of politics and an army is an extension of the political system. Consider a certain clash of empires:

A Roman aristocrat at the top of de-facto republican government, astute in business and with passable military experience gets a mandate to wage war on Pathians.

Legions with top quality weapons and infantry tactics converge in Syria, and march onto Mesopotamia. Point to Rome.
Aid of the Kingdom of Armenia rejected, perhaps with a justified fear of backstabbing. Point to Parthian diplomacy.
Top Parthian general gathers a force ca. 1/3 to 1/2 of the Roman one and briskly advances toward the Roman route -- they have quite a distance to cover, but they do not walk but ride horses and camels. Roman expedition may hope for a victory,
Romans face a combination of forces for the first time: 10,000 mounted archers, 2,000 armored cavalry and a supply train of few thousands camels. A veritable hail of arrows falls on Romans.
Romans expertly raise a shield wall deflecting all arrows! Point for Rome.
Romans cannot move and see, heavy cavalry hammers them. Point for Parthia.
Romans close the formation again after a small loss.
Repeat. Hope that Partians will run out of arrows. Point for Rome.
What do you think those thousands of camels carry? Arrows. No hope for the Romans.
Roman army anihilated. Lots of points for Parthia.
Shah of Parthia executes the brilliant general that won the battle: being popular, good looking AND from a top aristocratic family, he could have a good shot for replacing the ruler. War continues, lots of points for Romans.
..... ....
Romans win, but not all that much. Note the clash of top-of-the-line weapon and the capacity of political systems to eliminate the competent leaders.

Posted by: Piotr Berman | Apr 28, 2019 12:54:55 PM | 48

c1ue

couple minor points of quibble....the "one-sided use of air power" before Russia intervened in Syria was...Syrian air power. The threat to Syria was on the ground not through the air. The Syrian army relinquished vast amounts of territory in battle before first Hezbollah than Russia rode to the rescue. Not too mention the US-backed Kurds in the battle to beat back ISIS.

Japan occupied eastern Manchuria and the Korean Peninsula since the 19th century. They were fending off internal Chinese resistance by 1945 as an occupying force not "attacking" China.

Your points are well taken and mostly correct, although I might argue sanctions against Japan were warranted, much moreso than latter day US sanctions against Russia and Iran.

Posted by: donkeytale | Apr 28, 2019 12:55:03 PM | 49

correction: They were fending off internal Chinese resistance by 1941 as an occupying force not "attacking" China.

Posted by: donkeytale | Apr 28, 2019 1:02:42 PM | 50

@donkeytale #49
Regarding Syrian air power: agreed, although I would posit there is an enormous difference between Syria's air force vs. what the Russians deployed.
Certainly the Syrians didn't have the capability to locate and target high value objectives; I also am very unclear on just how well they could field and support heavy aerial operations (maintenance, supply, manpower, expertise). I am furthermore not very clear just how effective ISIS anti-air capabilities are.

Regarding Japan and China: Manchuria, Korea and Taiwan are not China. Japan was conducting active operations in mainland China since 1937 - the Nanking massacre, the battle of Shanghai etc are just a few examples of active Japanese warfare in the heart of China. In the face of this, the Communists even declared a temporary truce until the Japanese were kicked out - very much a clear indicator that the Japanese were facing the full focus on China (such as it was).

As for the "worthiness" of the embargo - my statements were, in no way, any form of endorsement of worth, but rather of fact. Worthiness is a value judgment heavily influenced by self-interest; an American would see the embargo as justified under any number of criteria ranging from FDR's hatred of Japanese/Asians to R2P-like atrocities in China to a military personnel view of Japan as a risk to US superiority in the Pacific.

A Japanese person would view the literal economic starvation of a growing Japanese economy as a declaration of war; oil was far more important back then, to Japan, than it is today due to a complete lack of alternate portable energy sources. Japan doesn't have any fossil fuels to speak of, nor were Chinese/Australian coal available then in great quantities. The US embargo was not a case of competing economic interests - which is more understandable - but a pure stab at Japan's economic heart.

Posted by: c1ue | Apr 28, 2019 1:38:58 PM | 51

rand corp.think tank;Is not the ayn rand connection?
Posted by: dahoit | Apr 28, 2019 12:31:10 PM | 46

Yep. Author of The Fountainhead (which was made into a movie), and Atlas Shrugged and several others. If you want an insight into her thinking processes, and like feeling your hair stand on end, start with The Virtues Of Selfishness.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Apr 28, 2019 2:10:14 PM | 52

C1ue again no disagreement with anything you state here.

Manchuria historically is part of China and maybe parts controlled by Russia too.

Although my understanding may stem from a hazy recollection of the Bertolucci flick Last Emporer. Lol

Posted by: donkeytale | Apr 28, 2019 2:55:12 PM | 53

" If I interpret news correctly, it were experts of Goldman Sachs that help Greek government to borrow about twice as much as they could handle in the long run."@10
You are I suspect, wrong: Goldman fiddled the books so that Greece could qualify for membership of the Eurobloc. It was not the debt that was unmanageable-much of it was 'odious'- but the Eusurers with their deflationary policies.

So far as Russian weapons are concerned-they would not need to be very advanced to make the US Navy obsolete; carrier groups are exceedingly vulnerable. In fact Putin is simply reminding the US government of what has been known since the USSR produced nuclear weapons and put Sputnik into orbit- any attack on Russia will lead to the destruction of the United States. The weird thing is that many neo-cons seem to have forgotten what everybody knows. The American search for the Holy Grail, the sovereign remedy that gives aggressors total impunity, continues. It serves only the purpose of concentrating the country's wealth in fewer and fewer hands.

Regarding Syrian air power, the real effect of Russia's intervention in 2015 was to put an end to US dreams of imposing a "No Fly" zone, after the Libyan and Iraqi model, over Syria, thus preventing the government from using the most important part of its arsenal. In fact what Russia did was to say "If you want to shoot down aircraft start with ours." Turkey, of course, took him up on the offer and has been eating out of his hand ever since.

"The US bombed the crap out of the entire country but ultimately the Chinese manpower turned the tide (note many of these Chinese "volunteers" were ex-Nationalists sent out to die)."@47
I don't know where this sort of stuff comes from but it smells of standard issue anti-communist propaganda. It either means nothing-large numbers of Chinese had lived under KMT rule- or it is very unlikely-the PLA prided itself on its high morale. In the Korean War this was evident from the moment that it took the field. Your canard does not fit.

Posted by: bevin | Apr 28, 2019 9:11:35 PM | 54

@53 Check out the Ching, often called the Manchu, dynasty.

Posted by: bevin | Apr 28, 2019 9:13:27 PM | 55

How about this study, How to lessen military expenditures by ending cold war II with Russia and respecting each others spheres of influence?

The only thing unbalanced is the minds of the US foreign policy planners. The US is upset because Russia is cutting into their arms and energy sales and not folding into their NY banking system.

The Macedonian phalanx conquered the "known" world. That was innovation. Our next great innovations in the battle space will be in drones, robotic weapons, genetically engineered soldiers, engineered biological weapons, and space weapons. We have come a long way from the Phalanx.

It makes me wonder about the passage in the Bible Matthew 24 where Jesus talks about the end of the last great world age...

Mat 24:21 For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.
Mat 24:22 And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened.

We are entering the space where weapons can end all life on earth slowly or quickly depending on which technology the winning set of planners intend to use to establish themselves. If those weapons were AI enabled then they might recognize the planners are the problem and eliminate them as well.

Posted by: dltravers | Apr 28, 2019 9:17:45 PM | 56

@bevin #54
The Communists won in 1949. The majority of Nationalist troops were not able to escape to Taiwan. What do you think happened to them?
The "canard" you refer to is based on firsthand accounts.
We're all the Chinese troops fighting in Korea, ex-Nationalist? No.
But many were.

Posted by: C1ue | Apr 28, 2019 11:56:12 PM | 57

Bevin @ 55, C1ue @ 57

I did check it out and stand corrected wrt Japan and China from 1931-1945. C1ue had it exactly right.

Thanks also for the history lesson on the Qing period. I had an inking (from my wife's fascination with Korean historical dramas) of the political treachery, instability and warfare among the various kingdoms of Korea, Manchuria and China.

.

Posted by: donkeytale | Apr 29, 2019 6:06:48 AM | 58

The "new cold war" appears mostly to be a heavily politicised competition for the sale of military equipment in the world's hotspots, with Trump and Putin acting as the salesmen-in-chief for their respective MICs.

Latest example Turkey, where the Trump admin is attempting to cock block Russia from selling the S-400 system by threatening to withhold F-35 sales.

It never ends.

Posted by: donkeytale | Apr 29, 2019 6:21:29 AM | 59

@ Rhisiart Gwilym | Apr 28, 2019 2:40:21 AM | 30

Also, more generally: how about 'fink tank' as a more realistic label for these make-work centres for fundamentally unemployable, overpaid layabout drones, most of whom seem never have had any experience of actually-useful work?

'Fink: An unpleasant or contemptible person.' - Oxford dictionary. Yep, that sounds about right.


Or how about a dip into the rich vernacular English lexicon of profanity and call it a 'wank-tank', as they drift off into a bizarre masturbatory fantasy that also happens to be a load of old bollocks.

Posted by: Ross | Apr 29, 2019 7:00:41 AM | 60

Congratulations Russia for winning Cold War 2

Every single military [spending] option ...
1. Likelihood of Success - moderate / high
2. Benefits - moderate / high (how is this different from 1?)
3. Costs & Risks - low

Really? We can just throw our money away on building a navy to harass Russia on their arctic coastline and there is NO risk that this and the other items will drive US into the poor house this time. Sure, we have money to burn and burn it we will.

Posted by: Christian J Chuba | Apr 29, 2019 9:16:07 AM | 61

Currently, US strategy is the precise opposite of that advocated in this article. By reducing the oil production of Libya, Iran, Syria, Iraq, Venezuela etc., the USA has raised the price of oil. This is not unintentional. When shale production collapses, which it will as soon as they run out of free money, the USA wishes to take over oil production in the countries mentioned above. That way, they would be able to control China and India.

Obviously, China and Russia are fully aware of this. India is a cesspit and will become and even bigger cesspit in due course. All articles about Indian progress are essentially rubbish.

The Return of Malthusian Equilibrium

http://www.libertyunbound.com/node/1884

Posted by: Alfred (Cairns) | Apr 30, 2019 8:30:18 PM | 62

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