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Perhaps Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin are not exactly friends in the normal sense of the word – which in any case is not something either man would understand less still seek – but let us theorise that they’re comrades-in-arms, at least inasmuch as they both represent an autocratic oligarchy which sees itself, and always has seen itself as rightful rulers of the earth. Accepting for the sake of hypothesis that this is so, what, you rightly ask, does either of them stand to gain from threatening a nuclear holocaust that would effectively render this planet uninhabitable for millions of years — unless of course you’re a hardy, adaptable and fairly basic organism? What indeed? As we stand at the threshold of what could well be the most serious east-west debacle since the Cuban Missile Crisis of the early sixties, it is worth looking at the benefits to both sides of, not actually going to war but of appearing to be contemplating it. I doubt if any government on the planet believes a nuclear war is winnable or even feasible – and this would probably be because it isn’t. Why then hold the constant threat of one over our heads, and spend trillions of dollars annually on preparing for one? What possible reason could there be for such insanity?

 

Here’s what. Firstly, it is a universally agreed truism that the most frightened populations always elect the strongest, most militaristic governments to protect them from usually unwarrantable fears. While this won’t affect Putin’s transparently phony democracy, the success or failure of Trump’s considerably less malleable but still far from truly democratic one will affect them both, for good or for ill. Secondly, the most profitable businesses in both Russia and America are involved in what we can loosely term the Military-Industrial-Complex (MIC), or in other words the privatized military-supply game, whose products now range from meals-ready-to-eat to missiles ready to fire (at $150,000 a pop). No product is so good a money-earner than a bullet or a missile, and everything in between that can only be used once before you need to order more. Now, both Trump and Putin are heavily invested in MIC companies, from, in America, Halliburton – once run by George Bush Junior’s VP Dick Cheney – to major hardware-builders like Lockheed-Martin and General Electric, for which Bush Junior’s Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld once worked in a senior capacity. In Russia the names are less familiar to us, but their owners or majority-shareholders are the same crew of oligarchs – some in Putin’s case operating partly as frontmen for him. Knowing this perhaps helps us to understand the continued and ubiquitous prevalence over the past seventy-odd years of wars around the globe, as well as the ceaseless threat of a superpower conflagration. That dwindled almost to nothing over the last twenty years, after the Soviet Union collapsed into bankruptcy, and the lull in business was clearly so disastrous that George Bush Senior even had to privatize the more mundane and utilitarian aspects of the lucrative army-supply business just to keep the dollars flowing into the hands of his friends and cronies. Even food was handed over to corporations like Halliburton, whereas things like peeling spuds were once an internal affair, and a useful punishment too. You’d think that security was one matter the army could definitely take care of itself; but no, now it is in the hands of private companies, whose operatives are paid ten times what the grunts get, and are also answerable to no government office at home. In Iraq, for example, these operatives robbed, raped and murdered with apparent impunity (at least none of them has yet be tried in a court of law). Putin et al were similarly busy in the resurrected and profligately capitalist Russia. One great advantage in this kind of business transaction is that the buyer never questions a seller’s price. It’s just taxpayers’ money so who cares?

 

It thus seems to me obvious that the astronomical profits to be made from war and, better still, the threat of war will be irresistibly attractive to those with the contacts and the funds to get involved in such enterprises – and usually to get involved fairly surreptitiously, so conflicts of interest and galloping corruption can be easily and vituperatively denied. Under Putin’s cunning aegis, the Russians got deep into cyberwarfare long before anyone else saw the virtues in it – and the results of this can now be seen almost daily in the west.

 

Those who imagine things are so much better in Canada ought to think again. Compared with the hundreds of millions spent on worthy projects, the hundreds of billions, or even the trillions spent on machines or weapons of death take up a goodly portion of the GDP – or to put it more bluntly our tax dollars. Do we really know who the actual recipients of this largesse are? In some cases we do a little. But mostly we don’t. I have always thought that a useful thesis topic would be the study of and interrelationships found in the boards of certain mega-corporations. When I briefly and cursorily looked into it back in the nineties I was struck by the multiple presence of the same names on different but equally significant boards. Then there were the monikers of certain individuals with profound contacts in the Canadian government registered on the boards of US companies with who Canada was doing very big business. I imagine that the same thing would be true today. Although now more than then it must be remembered that corporate loyalties are not national but transnational. They go wherever the money goes; yet that still does not mean a board member cannot make a vast profit by urging a deal between his or her native Canada and another entity based elsewhere. In fact the rise and rise of interglobal finance makes all kinds of skullduggery and fiscal flimflam easier rather than more difficult to enact. I wish some enterprising post-grad student would pick up this study of what is essentially who runs what and run with it themselves.

 

To conclude the hypothesis: Over the past few years we’ve seen Putin’s Russia almost gleefully willing to play the bad guy, the provocateur and belligerent, whether in Crimea, the Ukraine, England, Syria or in America herself. Why such shamelessly provocative and hostile acts? Well, it could be in wise recognition of the fact that America is far better at playing the alleged good guy in international squabbles and conflicts, since this is what plays well with the notoriously fickle US public. And it certainly adds to Putin’s domestic prestige as tough guy, standing up to the motherland’s incessant bullying by western powers. A friend of mine in Moscow tells me that Putin now genuinely believes his new and improved nukes can slide in the US undetected and impossible to intercept. I doubt it, but much of chess is bluff – and Russia always turns out grand master after grand master. All we can be sure of is that the endless threats, provocations and proxy wars will continue, and continue to make trillions for those in the war-facilitation business. The pity is that we, the people seem incapable of putting a stop to our end of this despicable trade and those involved in it.

 

robertspaulwilliam@gmail.com

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