"Ukraine's Destiny Is To Go Medieval"

Tyler Durden's picture

Authored by James H. Kunstler,

My country can cry all it likes about yesterday’s referendum vote in eastern Ukraine, but we set the process in motion by sponsoring the overthrow of an elected Kiev government that was tilting toward Russia and away from NATO overtures. The president elected in 2010, Viktor Yanukovych, might have been a grifter and a scoundrel, but so was his opponent, the billionaire gas oligarch Yulia Tymoshenko. The main lesson that US authorities have consistently failed to learn in more than a decade of central Asian misadventures: when you set events in motion in distant lands, events, not policy planners at the State Department, end up in the driver’s seat.

And so now they’ve had the referendum vote and the result is about 87 percent of the voters in eastern Ukraine would prefer to align politically with Russia rather than the failing Ukraine state governed out of Kiev. It’s easy to understand why. First, there’s the ethnic divide at the Dnieper River: majority Russian-speakers to the east. Second, the Kiev government, as per above, shows all the signs of a failing state — that is, a state that can’t manage any basic responsibilities starting with covering the costs of maintaining infrastructure and institutions. The Kiev government is broke. Of course, so are most other nations these days, but unlike, say, the USA or France, Ukraine doesn’t have an important enough currency or powerful enough central bank to play the kind of accounting games that allow bigger nations to pretend they’re solvent.

Kiev owes $3.5 billion to Russia for past-due gas bills and Moscow has asked Kiev to pre-pay for June deliveries. This is about the same thing that any local gas company in the USA would demand from a deadbeat customer. The International Monetary Fund has offered to advance a loan of $3 billion, of which Kiev claims it could afford to fork over $2.6 billion to Russia (presumably needing the rest to run the country, pay police salaries, et cetera). Ukraine is in a sad and desperate situation for sure, but is Russia just supposed to supply it with free gas indefinitely? As wonderful as life is in the USA, the last time I checked most of us are expected to pay our heating bills. How long, exactly, does the IMF propose to pay Ukraine’s monthly gas bill? In September, the question is liable to get more urgent — but by then the current situation could degenerate into civil war.

The USA and its NATO allies would apparently like to have Ukraine become a client state, but they’re not altogether willing to pay for it. This kind of raises the basic question: if Russia ultimately has to foot the bill for Ukraine, whose client state is it? And who is geographically next door to Ukraine? And whose national histories are intimately mingled?

I’m not persuaded that Russia and its president, Mr. Putin, are thrilled about the dissolution of Ukraine. Conceivably, they would have been satisfied with a politically stable, independent Ukraine and reliable long-term leases on the Black Sea ports. Russia is barely scraping by financially on an oil, gas, and mineral based economy that allows them to import the bulk of their manufactured goods. They don’t need the aggravation of a basket-case neighbor to support, but it has pretty much come to that. At least, it appears that Russia will support the Russian-speaking region east of the Dnieper.

My guess is that the Kiev-centered western Ukraine can’t support itself as a modern state, that is, with the high living standards of a techno-industrial culture. It just doesn’t have the fossil fuel juice. It’s at the mercies of others for that. In recent years, Ukraine has even maintained an independent space program (which is more than one can say of the USA). It will be looked back on with nostalgic amazement. Like other regions of the world, Ukraine’s destiny is to go medieval, to become a truly post-industrial agriculture-based society with a lower population and lower living standards. It is one the world’s leading grain-growing regions, a huge advantage for the kind of future the whole world faces — if it can avoid becoming a stomping ground in the elephant’s graveyard of collapsing industrial anachronisms.

Ukraine can pretend to be a ward of the West for only a little while longer. The juice and the money just isn’t there, though. Probably sooner than later, the IMF will stop paying its gas bills. Within the same time-frame, the IMF may have to turn its attention to the floundering states of western Europe. That floundering will worsen rapidly if those nations can’t get gas from Russia. You can bet that Europe will think twice before tagging along with America on anymore cockamamie sanctions. Meanwhile, the USA is passing up the chance to care for a more appropriate client state: itself. Why on earth should the USA be lending billions of dollars to Ukraine when we don’t have decent train service between New York City and Chicago?

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
A Nanny Moose's picture

With a pair of pliers, and a blowtorch...

FilthyHabits's picture

As it comes down to being human, we will all be left to who we are and what we can do.

Having a pair of pliers and a blowtorch, among other implements of self defense, will become the only methods to defend oneself against these psychopathic, controlling, money hungry, power rich, immoral fucktards.

Humans once again we will learn to be, only to soon I hope.


Arm Yourselves.


The Phu's picture

"Meanwhile, the USA is passing up the chance to care for a more appropriate client state: itself. Why on earth should the USA be lending billions of dollars to Ukraine when we don’t have decent train service between New York City and Chicago?"


If I remember my 9th grade US History lessons on the Civil War correctly, the North/Union targeted the Confederate's rail system.  Simply, War Zones and rail don't mix.  The south side of Chicago sounds like a war zone.  Deductive reasoning and a snarky outlook might explain why Chicago won't be building any rail lines to NYC anytime soon.  /sarc


strannick's picture

Learn? This is what they do.

Manthong's picture

Although a lot of battles have been fought there, Kiev hasn’t had a really good siege for about 800 years.. maybe it's about time again.

TheReplacement's picture

The age of sieges is long past with modern mechanized armies.  Enough conventional firepower can be brought to bear to simply level the city fairly quickly.  Look to Grozny.

Andre's picture


  • Stalingrad
  • Leningrad
  • Khe Sanh
  • An Loc

Terrain and logistics are the determinants, unless you go Strangelove.

mc225's picture

kiev had a bit of a 'siege' in 1941; the kiev pocket; 665,000 prisoners of war.

Ropingdown's picture

Your ninth grade history was apparently very incomplete.  Railroads were absolutely vital to Union logistics.  The greatest practical hero of the civil war was Tom Scott, president of the Pennsylvania Railroad.  He took over management of the railroads and freight logistics and essentially provided the maneuverability of troops, ammunition and food.  It was in gratitude for that reality that the Pennsylvania Railroad was granted the first "general purpose" corporate charter in the world, so that it could conduct whatever business it wished.  (Previously a 'corporation' had a single purpose charter, to build a dam, operate department stores, or such.)(There had been one other for a very small Rhode Island company, but it led to nothing.)  Of course both sides wanted to blow up each other's railroads...and food, houses, soldiers, dams, etc.

Standard railroads are incredibly efficient, even if you're towing people around in sleeping cars.  The problem, of course, is that you have to spend many hours on the train.  They sell tickets to some fairly crufty people, and in the U.S. today you can't easily cordon off the poorly behaved.  Airline flights from NYC to Chicago are quick, and you can buy a ticket to sit in an economically segregated section of the rich, the corporate, and those who have to fly every week for work, thus having FF miles with which to by upgrades.

High speed trains? To get that last forty or fifty MPH you double the electricity requirement.  The maintenance is horrendously expensive. I've used them many times in Spain, a few times in France. They're nice just up until you have to pay the true cost per passenger mile, which of course I never have.

NotApplicable's picture

"My country"

What a fucking tool. That he writes about this shit for a living is a sad reflection of reality.

And as I always like to point out (since he admitted it), he's a two-time Obummer voter.

Coherency obviously isn't his strong suit.

NotApplicable's picture

You can go back to sucking his dick now, okay?

ebworthen's picture

On the bright side he's bashing the State Department.

However, Kunstler doesn't seem to understand that the U.S. leadership is intentionally not caring for the homeland.

NotApplicable's picture

His writing is every bit as relevant as jawboning about who will win a professional wrestling match.

Recognizing the world is a cluster-fuck is one thing. Writing about it will affect our future while failing to connect any dots is another.

bonin006's picture

Moose - is that a reference to Charley Varrick?

Winston Churchill's picture

The light at the end of the tunnel.

NoDebt's picture

Yeah, how the hell did he end up talking about train service?

Another guy spending too much time in his own head.  Must be the same disease that's slowly taking over Bill Gross' mind.

If I find out this guy's some shill for "high speed rail" he can go fuck himself.

TheFourthStooge-ing's picture


If I find out this guy's some shill for "high speed rail" he can go fuck himself.

No, he knows high speed rail is a scam and has called it as much. He laments that passenger train service (a very fuel efficient mode of transportation) in this country has atrophied to sub-Third World status. It's a valid point which most won't realize until it's too late to fix.

BTW, none of the down arrows are from me.

ZerOhead's picture

They will realize it when there are more free-ride passengers sitting outside on top of the train than there are paying passengers seated inside.


P.S. High speed rail just makes the bugs hurt more when they hit you.

shovelhead's picture

Welcome to the Mumbai Express...

Servicing South Bakersfield to...

North Bakersfield.

Enjoy the ride.

Rootin' for Putin's picture

Now the Chinese are buying up all of Detroit maybe theres a monorail link in its future.

eurobug's picture

Tell that to Europe that high speed rail is a scam... Brussels-Paris in one hour, to the skiing areas in the Alps in 3 hours, trains almost always fully booked, cheaper and faster than flight, etc...

StacksOnStacks's picture

Well, it's done with a female and two men who are...

ILLILLILLI's picture

I thought that you had to have more cars before you came to the caboose...

Lore's picture

Ask the Chinese.  They have lots of trains between all their major cities, 200-400+ km/h, with thousands of miles of new track being laid: one of the perks of being solvent.


Jumbotron's picture

"What's a train?"

That's what 2 dozen guys do to a girl too drunk to know she's being raped.

Kinda like America.

DOGGONE's picture

Here is an ongoing, huge backstabbing that the USA is doing to its citizens.
"The Public Be Suckered"

... great ... except when it comes to money!

Jack Sheet's picture

"The International Monetary Fund has offered to advance a loan of $3 billion"
The assumption being that the IMF has those funds in the first place, which is doubtful. And if they are printed up in SDRs, how are the vig and the collateral to be apportioned among the countries supplying the constituents of the SDR?

Lore's picture

Don't ask impertinent questions.  Just take heart that new debt is available to cover old debt, 'Til Debt Do Us Part.

NickVegas's picture

Debt and death, slave planet baby.

GooseShtepping Moron's picture

While his writing occasionally tends towards excessive adverbial clauses and his understanding of religion is regrettably shallow, Kunstler is still one of the most clear-headed writers of our time. This offering is particularly lucid.

Salah's picture

I agree; Kunstler used to be quite messanic in his diatribes.  But since he got all bunkered down in upstate NY, he seems to be on better meds, and his writing has become much more lucid.

Greenskeeper_Carl's picture

i really like his writing style too. I just have a hard time taking anyone seriously who, in the 2012 elections, after 4 years of this shit, still voted for obama a second time. I feel like im being petty, but its in my head every time i read something he rights. There were plenty of other options, even the green party if he is a dedicated lefty, or just not voting, but nope, voted for obama again.

GooseShtepping Moron's picture

That bothers me too, as does (as I mentioned earlier) his demonstrated willingness to put all religion in the same camp with evangelical Christian nonsense. It appears to be the result of his upbringing. He was once upon a time a true believing Democrat, and was raised and educated in a milieu surrounded by other true believing Democrats.

Over the course of time he has become one of the rarest of human creatures: one who has managed to shed many of his inborn beliefs and prejudices, even the most comfortable of them, when confronted by a greater truth. I'm willing to cut him some slack under the circumstances. I, too, wish he would come along further, but we all only have one life to make our journey, and old Jimbo's already come a long way.

I think I'll say some prayers on his behalf, as one ought to do for a benefactor.

Advoc8tr's picture

He has come along further ? because he has "managed to shed many of his inborn beliefs and prejudices"  seems to me it is you that has faultered along the way and fallen short of the mark.

Religion is religion is religion .... they are all thought and behaviour control systems devised by men and based on faith not fact - no exceptions. They are either all false or either has equal claim as the others.  The only way one has ever gained dominance over the others is by violence and force because there is no self evident proof of any of them.

I'm sure he'll cut you some slack for almost reaching the greater truth and is hoping (you say praying) that you'll come along further eventually.

I'll give it (religion) this ... it sticks like shit to a blanket.




Lore's picture

I'm inclined to agree. By circumstance or design, organized religions are ongoing experiments in social control. Different flavours work better in different cultures, under different conditions and with different castes and personality types. The one I fear most is the new secular one: Agenda 21.

Stupid Donkey's picture

He's just another fool pontificating on the propaganda about a country he has never been to.

Chief Wonder Bread's picture

All the big historical ideas and movements have died. The world is beginning to look more and more medieval with each passing year.

Gunter's picture

James, seeing things here from Germany .. agree .. nothing more to add. I will translate your posting, if you don't mind.

Jack Sheet's picture

Are you going to offer it to the FAZ ? lulz

ThisIsBob's picture

2nd Amendment, bitchez.

Ignatius's picture

Stuck between two rival power centers and sitting on rich soil, disarming (exception: each man a good rifle, like the Swiss) and going modified Amish would be my recommendation.  First they need to really think about their cultural identity and root out the corruption and excessive bureaucracy which plaques most lands.  They could profit mightily from their circumstance (fair maiden with two suitors) if they understood and played it properly.

jaxville's picture

In other words...They need to become universally anti Semitic.


After all... what decent person isn't anti semitic all ready?

Ignatius's picture

Your conclusion is all your own.

Al Huxley's picture

Wait, no digs about box stores and tattoos?  Are you sure this is REALLY from Kunstler?

Ignatius's picture

I share Kunstler's concern about box stores and tatoos.

Al Huxley's picture

I always get the sense that, intellectually he finds them to be an indicator of America's naive belief in the sustainability of the cheap energy culture, and the return to uneducated tribalism, but really, at an emotional level, he just thinks they're ugly.  I get the feeling that he's pining for the return to a mythical Rockwellian America that never really existed.