Ukraine: The Tunnel at the End of the Light

The U.S. abused its providential anointment as the exceptional nation, writes Robert Freeman. That abuse has been recognized, called out and is now being acted against by most of the other nations of the world.  

Jan. 16, 2017: U.S. Vice President Joe Biden traveling to Kiev. (U.S. Embassy Kyiv, Flickr)

By Robert Freeman
Common Dreams

“Light at the end of the tunnel” was an iconic phrase used by the warmongers who kept the U.S. in Vietnam long after the War had been lost.

The implication was that insiders could see through the fog of war and know that things were getting better. It was a lie.

In January 1966, long before the military height of the war, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara told President Lyndon Johnson that the U.S. had a one-out-of-three chance of winning on the battlefield.

But Johnson, like Eisenhower and Kennedy before him, and Nixon after him, didn’t want to be the first American president to lose a war. So, he ginned up a simplistic lie and “soldiered on.” 

The lie was blown by the Tet Offensive in January 1968. More than 100 U.S. military installations were attacked in a simultaneous nationwide assault that stunned the U.S.

The broadcaster, Walter Cronkite, then “the most trusted man in America,” bellowed on national television, “I thought we were supposed to be winning this damned thing.” It was the beginning of the end of the U.S.’ murderous and failed occupation. 

We’re now facing another light-and-tunnel event, this time in Ukraine. Only now, it’s not the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s the tunnel at the end of the light. What do we mean by that? 

Map of the 1968 Tet Offensive. (West Point, Public domain, Wikimedia Commons)

Until now, it’s been all light. Remember when the scrappy Ukrainian forces were kicking the barbarian Russian hordes’ asses? When every development betrayed the Russians’ clod-footed strategy, its soldiers’ bad morale, its army’s poor provisioning and worse leadership, and the perilous political situation for Russian President Vladimir Putin back home?

The testosterone was flowing. The bravado was intoxicating. The exceptionalism was sublimely seductive. It was only a matter of time and pluck and determination before Ukraine would bloody the bully’s nose and show it what the West was made of. 


No more. 

You can prosecute a war for only so long on the strength of smoke and mirrors, delusions and illusions, lies and press releases. Eventually, however, reality catches up with you.

The thuggishly propagandized American citizenry couldn’t know it, but that catching up began in the first weeks of the war and has only accelerated since. 

Within the first week of the war, Russia had destroyed Ukraine’s air force and air defenses. By the second week, it had taken out most of Ukraine’s armories and weapons depots. Over following weeks and months, it systematically demolished artillery shipped in from former Warsaw Pact, now NATO, countries in Eastern Europe.

It dismantled the country’s transportation and fuel supply systems. It has recently taken out most of the country’s electrical infrastructure. 

Outskirts of Kiev after Russian invasion of Ukraine, April 2022. (Oleksandr Ratushniak, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons)

The Ukrainian army has lost an estimated 150,000 troops, a pace more than 140 times the rate of U.S. losses in Vietnam. This, at a time when 10 million of its formerly 36 million people have fled the country.

The military is down to dragooning 16-year-old boys and 60-year-old men to man the barricades. It cannot get replacement ammunition. Russia has knocked out some 90 percent of Ukraine’s drones, leaving it largely sightless.

Delivery times for the tanks that are the hoped-for “game changer” are running into months and years. Not that that will matter.

Remember all the other failed “game changers”? The M777 howitzers and the Stryker armored fighting vehicles? The HIMARS multiple rocket launchers and the PATRIOT air defense systems? All were going to turn the tide at one time.

All have proven impotent to stop Russia from seizing 20 percent of Ukraine’s territory and annexing it and its people to Russia. 

Losing the Economic War

China’s President Xi Jinpeng addressing 25th St Petersburg International Economic Forum on June 17, 2022. (Vladimir Smirnov,, TASS, Kremlin)

The U.S. lost the economic war, as well. Remember Joe Biden’s delusional prediction that the U.S. would see that “the ruble will be reduced to rubble?” And that “the most stringent sanctions regime in history” was going to “weaken” Russia, perhaps even leading to Putin’s overthrow?

Most of it backfired, badly. Last year, the ruble reached its highest exchange rate in history. Russia’s 2022 trade surplus of $227 billion was up 86 percent from 2021. The U.S.’ trade deficit over the same period rose 12.2 percent, and is approaching $1 trillion.

As a result of all of the above and more, the tide of insider opinion has turned against the War. Senior officials in Europe are talking openly about how the losses are unsustainable and they need to get back to security architectures that prevailed before the poisoned C.I.A.-supported coup in Maidan in 2014.

Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recently let slip that “It will be very, very difficult to eject the Russians from all of occupied Ukraine in the next year.” The Washington Post warned recently that Ukraine faced a “critical moment” in the war, belaboring the fact that U.S. support was not limitless and would soon be reached. 

The Rand Corporation, one of the U.S.’ best-connected strategic whisperers, just published a report stating that “The consequences of a long war far outweigh the benefits.” It explicitly states that the U.S. needs to husband its resources for its more important upcoming conflict with China.

Newsweek headlined that “Joe Biden Offered Vladimir Putin 20 Percent of Ukraine to End War.” It also revealed that “Nearly 90 percent of the world isn’t following us on Ukraine.” Vast swaths of Latin American, Africa and Asia refuse to support the U.S. in its demand for sanctions against Russia.

These are not “Light at the end of the tunnel” divinations. Quite the contrary. If there’s a common thread running through it all it is the sickening recognition that the war is lost, militarily, economically and diplomatically; that there is no plausible scenario in which those losses will be turned around by soldiering on and that what is needed now is a hide-the-loss, get-out-any-way-you-can, face-saving exit strategy. 

That will not be available, either. That’s where the tunnel at the end of the light comes into play.

Infrastructure Competition 

Even before the U.S. and its NATO puppets undertook the War, the rest of the world — and that means most of the world — was congealing itself into an anti-Western economic and security bloc.

Led by China and its strategic ally, Russia, that bloc includes more than a dozen trade and security organizations. Those include the BRICS confederation of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, working explicitly to devise multi-polar institutions to stand up to the U.S.’ unipolar hegemonic model. 

BRICS’ New Development Bank headquarters in Shanghai. (Donnie28, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons)

It includes the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a security compact made up of leading nations from east, central and south Asia, including China, Russia, India and soon, Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. It is explicitly working to devise measures to prevent the kind of predatory military assaults the U.S. carried out against Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Yemen and Afghanistan. 

The organizing economic engine behind these efforts it is China’s Belt and Road Initiative. BRI is a dizzyingly ambitious plan to connect Asia and more than 100 nations with 21st-century economic infrastructure, everything from highways and high-speed rail lines to power generation, energy pipelines, communication systems, cities, ports and more.

It is critical to understand why BRI poses such daunting challenges to U.S. supremacy in the world. 

Infrastructure is so powerful because it spins off a vast, unimaginable array of secondary and tertiary economic benefits. It was the railroads in the 19th century that bound the U.S. together as the world’s first continental-scale market.

Manufacturers could produce for a larger market, and, therefore, at larger scale, and, therefore, at lower cost, than could producers anywhere else on earth. 

The railroads made the U.S. the largest market in the world for iron, steel, machine tools, grading equipment, farm equipment and scores of other commercial and industrial products essential to a modern industrial economy.

The U.S. began the 1800s with 1.5 percent of the world’s GDP. It ended the century with 19 percent of a four-times larger number, making it the largest economy in the world.

Similarly, automobiles. People think it was Henry Ford and mass production that made the 20th century “The American Century.” In fact, it was the build-out of millions of miles of roads and, later, interstates, without which automobiles would have remained expensive playthings of the wealthy.

Those roads stitched the country together into an asphalt network that allowed individual mobility, by virtually anybody, anywhere, down to every street address in the country. The world had never seen anything like it.

Westbound I-70 on a viaduct inside Glenwood Canyon, paralleling the Colorado River and Union Pacific main line, 2008. (Patrick Pelster, CC BY-SA 3.0 de, Wikimedia Commons)

The secondary and tertiary economic effects were astounding, everything from the world’s largest markets for steel, glass, plastics and rubber, to gasoline, diesel, highway construction on a continental scale, repair shops and drive-ins, to the entire panoply of culture we know of as suburbia.

The 20th century was the Century of the Automobile. The infrastructure the U.S. built to make it possible was the major reason — at least economically — that the U.S. led the world for most of that century. 

China is now proposing to do the same for Asia in the 21st century, but on a much larger scale. It is leading an infrastructure build-out that will dwarf Eisenhower’s interstate highway system. It will serve most of the 5 billion people in Eurasia, 30 TIMES more than the 150 million people Eisenhower’s project helped. 

Wisely, China has ensured that all of the 100+ nations joining BRI are enriched by their participation, whether building themselves up domestically, or extending their reach internationally.

It is the largest, most compelling, geographically extensive, nationally inclusive, mutually enriching economic enterprise in the history of the world. The U.S. is not part of it.

Mortgaging Bretton Woods 

Mount Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, where the 1944 postwar U.N. Monetary and Financial Conference established an international commercial and financial system. (rickpilot_2000, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons)

Finally, there is the matter of the dollar. Since the Bretton Woods Agreement of 1944, the global economy has used the dollar as the primary currency of international trade.

This has given the U.S. an “exorbitant privilege” in that it can essentially write an unlimited stream of hot checks to the world, because countries need dollars to be able to conduct international commerce. The U.S. “sells” them dollars by issuing Treasury debt, which is a universally fungible international medium of exchange. 

One of the consequences of this arrangement is that it has allowed the U.S. to spend far beyond its means, running up $32 trillion of debt since 1980, when its national debt stood at a mere $1 trillion.

The U.S. uses this debt to, among other things, fund its gargantuan military with its 800 military bases around the world, which it uses to do things like destroy Serbia, Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Somalia and a host of lesser predations on other countries. All the world sees this and is repulsed by it. 

The world sees how dollar hegemony underwrites the U.S.’ ability to carry out or attempt coups in Honduras, Venezuela, Peru, Bolivia, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Myanmar, Belarus, Egypt, Syria, and, of course, Ukraine, among others. And these are just those in the past two decades. 

The same dollar hegemony underwrote U.S. predations in the latter part of the 20th century against Iran, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Vietnam, Nicaragua, Cuba, Chile, Congo, Brazil, Indonesia, and dozens of other countries.

Again, the rest of the world sees this. U.S. citizens, rapturously oblivious in their hermetically sealed media bubble, do not. 

The world saw how the U.S. stole $300 billion of Russian funds that were held in Western banks, part of its sanctions regime against Russia for its role in the Ukraine war. They’ve seen how the U.S. has carried out similar thefts against dollar-denominated funds of Venezuela, Afghanistan and Iran.

It sees how the Federal Reserve’s raising of interest rates to take care of U.S. needs makes capital flow out of other countries, and how it makes their currencies fall, forcing inflation on them. Not a single country in the world is left untouched. 

The cumulative impact of these facts is that many countries would rather not be held hostage to the implicit and explicit negative consequences of dollar hegemony. They also want to remove the “exorbitant privilege” that they believe the U.S. has abused to their individual and collective detriment. 

They have begun — again, led by Russia and China — to build an international finance and trading system that doesn’t rely on dollars, that uses countries’ local currencies, gold, oil, or other assets to trade.

This received special impetus last year when Saudi Arabia announced it would begin accepting Chinese yuan in exchange for its oil. Oil is the world’s most valued internationally-traded commodity, so the perception is that a dam is beginning to break. 

It will take years before an equally functional substitute for the dollar is devised but what began a few years ago as a trickle has gained momentum and urgency as a consequence of U.S. actions in Ukraine.

When the dollar is no longer the world’s international reserve currency and nations don’t need dollars to trade with each other, the U.S. will no longer be able to fund its massive budget and trade deficits by writing hot checks.

The withdrawal will be agonizing and will greatly circumscribe the U.S.’ role as global hegemon. 

Wall Street, Nov. 21, 2009. (Dave Center, Flickr)

U.S. actions in Ukraine have driven together its two greatest adversaries, Russia and China. They, joined by India, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iran and dozens of other countries, are carrying out a Mackinder-feared Eurasian integration that will leave the U.S. outside of the world’s largest and most dynamic trading bloc. 

The U.S.’ military failure has advertised, once again (after Iraq and Afghanistan), the relative impotence of U.S. military solutions. Yes, it can still destroy small, defenseless countries like Serbia, Libya, Afghanistan and Iraq.

But against a peer competitor that has chosen to stand up to it, the U.S. has, frankly, been handed its ass. All the world can see it.

Events have shown the hollowness of U.S.-led economic and financial systems, as well, especially compared to China. China’s economic performance has far surpassed that of the U.S. It has lifted more people out of poverty more quickly than any country in the history of the world.

Its growth has made it the largest economy in the world in purchasing power parity terms. While average inflation-adjusted incomes in the U.S. are little higher than they were 50 years ago, incomes in China are up more than 10 TIMES over the same period. And it has done this without brutalizing and pillaging other nations that refuse to bend to its hegemonic will. 

And, the war has betrayed, as nothing else possibly could, the diplomatic isolation of the U.S., with the vast majority of the world’s people refusing to implement U.S.-demanded sanctions against Russia.

Its destruction of the Nord Stream gas pipeline is recognized as the greatest act of state-sponsored terrorism in history, easily surpassing 911 in terms of the hundreds of millions of people it will hurt. And this, to one of its putative allies, Europe. Imagine what happens to its enemies. 

This is the tunnel at the end of the light, a multi-polar as opposed to a unipolar world. It means increasing isolation of the U.S. from the rest of the world, the closing in of options, the narrowing of opportunities, the loss of strategic primacy that once graced the greatest power in the history of the world.

It will mean dramatically reduced power and influence vis-à-vis the U.S.’ strategic adversaries, and markedly constrained ability to operate militarily, economically and financially in the world, what with the hot checkbook soon to be taken away. 

In 20 or 30 years, the U.S. will still be a substantial regional power, perhaps like Brazil in South America, Iran in West Asia, or Nigeria in Africa. But it will not be the global hegemon it once was, able to project and inflict power in the world as it has done for the last century.

The U.S. abused its providential anointment as the exceptional nation. That abuse has been recognized, called out, and is now being acted against by most of the other nations of the world.

The future will be very different for the U.S. than it has been for the past 80 years, since the end of World War II when it towered over the rest of the world like a giant among pygmies. Ukraine will prove to have been the turning point in this transformation, the tunnel at the end of the light.

Robert Freeman is founder and executive director of The Global Uplift Project which builds small-scale infrastructure projects in the developing world to improve humanity’s capacity for self-development. Robert taught economics and history at Los Altos High School where he also coached the Speech and Debate team, including producing a national champion in 2006. He has traveled extensively in both the developed and developing world. He is the author of The Best One Hour History series which includes World War I (2013), The InterWar Years (2014), The Vietnam War(2013), and other titles.

This article is from  Common Dreams.

The views expressed in this article and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

54 comments for “Ukraine: The Tunnel at the End of the Light

  1. John K.
    March 3, 2023 at 12:36

    Quite a choice the US will soon face: either run back home, tail between legs, and shrink into irrelevance as a world power, or push the button. I feel bad for young people today just starting lives that, like the article says, will be lived largely in a tunnel.

  2. Dr. Hujjatullah M.H.B. Sahib
    March 2, 2023 at 20:00

    If that second last paragraph couldn’d jog American society up and get them cracking right then I don’t know what will. Ukraine is a stupid war, continuing it would only prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that America is an EXCEPTIONALLY STUPID nation being led on by a no less stupid “Collective West” !

  3. Robert v scheetz
    March 1, 2023 at 15:50

    He omits to mention the domestic problem that dwarf the military and monetary, Corruption –the corruption of all the major US institutions: the Gov’t (owned by private mega corporations and Israel), the Central Bank (owned by Wall St.), the Judiciary (submissive to the National Security State and the ascendant political ideology) , the military (owned by the MIC), the Press (abjectly serviceable to the Power Elite), the Universities (owned by grants from private corporations and the gov’t), the population (rendered passive, stupid & fat by consumerism and spectacle)– the darkest tunnel ant the end of light.

  4. Robert v scheetz
    March 1, 2023 at 15:49

    He omits to mention the domestic problem that dwarf the military and monetary, Corruption –the corruption of all the major US institutions: the Gov’t (owned by private mega corporations and Israel), the Central Bank (owned by Wall St.), the Judiciary (submissive to the National Security State and the ascendant political ideology) , the military (owned by the MIC), the Press (abjectly serviceable to the Power Elite), the Universities (owned by grants from private corporations and the gov’t), the population (rendered passive, stupid & fat by consumerism and spectacle)– precluding any hope of salvation.

  5. Realist
    March 1, 2023 at 15:47

    Truth. And, most would say, justice. You’ve elegantly predicted the rest of the 21st century, unless a petulant US throws a hissy fit laced with nukes.

  6. John Corr
    March 1, 2023 at 13:39

    Is the official U.S. view of Ukraine a policy or a plot? As more facts float to the surface in the Ukraine fiasco, President Biden emerges as a longtime player in a personal adventure. In Kyiv, February 2014, the anti-Russia faction violently deposed a pro-Russia, democratically elected (close victory margin), President, Victor Yanukovych. As Yanukovych was feeling pressure from coup violence, “The White House said Joe Biden, the vice-president, spoke to Viktor Yanukovych on Thursday by telephone and warned him that the US was preparing to sanction officials responsible for the violence”, see hxxps://
    In coup prelude, the German and Polish (Radek Sikorski, husband of career-Russia-critic Anne Applebaum) Foreign Ministers were in Kyiv negotiating with the elected government, aiding the anti-Russia faction. The EU’s foreign policy chief, Lady Catherine Ashton, had already encouraged anti-Yanukovych demonstrators in the Maidan, as had the State Department’s Victoria Nuland (who gave them snacks). See The 2013-2014 Guardian (UK) online.
    Post coup, the anti-Russia coup repressed the pro-Russian group, see Time magazine, hxxps:// Post coup, Vice President Joe Biden, serving as President Obama’s representative for Ukraine, had tried unsuccessfully to persuade Obama into a hard line against Russia in Ukraine, see New York Times, hxxps://, which also states that Biden eventually helped sell Obama on sending about 100 American service members to train Ukraine’s security forces.
    Post coup, the CIA began a secret program training the Ukraine military, ending just before the Russian invasion,
    according to U.S. unprecedented sharing of Russian troop and aircraft movement with Kyiv was behind the Ukrainian resistance to the Russian invasion, see hxxps://

  7. shmutzoid
    March 1, 2023 at 13:22

    Great article – it’s just how I see it. ……Like others, I fear the empire won’t go down without kicking and screaming. Biden didn’t call this the “Decisive Decade” for nothing. …….. The US is in a desperate fight to regain unquestionable global dominance. What it can no longer achieve economically and diplomatically gives way to increased militarism. ……. There will be no backing down from this US/NATO war against Russia being waged via proxy Ukraine. ……The longer it drags on and with the US escalating matters, the more chance there is of the US using a nuke or two. ……. That infamous line from the Vietnam War – “We had to destroy the village in order to save the village” – writ large will mean : “We had to destroy the planet in order to save the planet” …. The psychopaths managing imperial USA just might be that myopic.

    • March 1, 2023 at 22:31

      Hey schmutzoid, good to see you here; CD having eliminated its comments (to its own detriment, I think).
      Anyway, yes, this is just how I have seen it as well. Robert Freeman has done a great job articulating it, here.

      I’m so thankful, given the obvious mass-delusion with which we are surrounded, to know that there are others who see clearly what has been going on and where it is leading. That alone gives me some hope in an otherwise bleak moment.

  8. jef Jelten
    March 1, 2023 at 12:54

    It is more than the lose of dollar supremacy, it is the loss of access and control over the planets finite natural resources that spells the collapse of the West.

    US dominance over the RoW has been much more than the author hints at. US and other Western aligned countries have aggressively oppressed the economies of over a hundred countries using the dollar true, but using a dozen other methods including “bombing back to the stone age” which seriously depresses an economy (understatement) and serves as a warning to all other nations that try and socialise, nationalise, and grow. This has been demand destruction writ large.

    All wars are resource wars. All empires end due to resource constraints both the resource itself diminishing and the limitations of the technologies needed to acquire them at the time which drives up the cost to be prohibitive.

    Does anyone seriously think that the planet can provide the resources for 10 times the population of the US to live even a low middle income life not to mention the waste stream from all that?

  9. Bruce Edgar
    March 1, 2023 at 09:32

    Superb article. The author’s contrast between the US and Chinese approaches to others is a poignant reminder.

  10. TP Graf
    March 1, 2023 at 07:10

    And while the rest of the world moves on, Congress, the Biden administration and the press double down. Already, the 2024 hopefuls run their campaigns based on standing up to China, bringing down Putin and the “by-god Iran must never get a nuclear weapon” cry. Only Trump has thundered against the ridiculous war in Ukraine, but then his war of choice has always been a Trump/Netanyahu “blow Iran back into the stone age” war. (You can almost see Bibi and the Donald drooling at the thought of dropping a nuke on Tehran.)

    The great hurdle for standing down from our stupidity and evil is the propagandized bubble that most Americans (and too many across the pond in NATO countries) live within. The author’s astute account here seems so blatantly obvious, and yet “disinformation wars” fuel war postering and military/security spending like nothing I’ve witnessed in my 65 years. We are truly oblivious to the reality of our hubris and hypocrisy.

  11. Vera Gottlieb
    March 1, 2023 at 05:59

    “Exceptional” nation??? Exceptionable is more like it.

  12. Thomas Bargatzky
    March 1, 2023 at 05:46

    Thank you very much, Mr. Freeman. A very apt analysis. Yet I doubt your conclusion that ALL the world feels repulsed. This most certainly does not pertain to Germany. Here, for example, admission of the obvious responsibility of the US for the blowing up of Nordstream is not encouraged. Some people even prefer to speak of “Bündnisstreue” (being faithful to allieances) and regret not to have followed GW Bush to Iraq. In fact, Germans seem to be happy being dominated – politically and mentally. Dissenters and those who opt for peace with Russia even run the risk of being called “nazis” (!). Unbelievable, but true.

    • Paula
      March 1, 2023 at 16:24

      I fear you are wrong. There’s dissent in Germany as well. hxxps://

      • Lisa Larsen
        March 1, 2023 at 23:41

        Why would you fear that he’s wrong? If anything, I would be glad if his assessment was wrong, though unfortunately I believe it’s spot on.

      • Thomas Bargatzky
        March 2, 2023 at 05:32

        Glad to hear that. Some people dare to voice dissent, but they are beong clubbered by the MSM as “right wing”, even “nazis”. And there is, as far as I am in a position to ascertain it, an incredible amount of misinformation concerning Russia’s security interests, through all sections of the population.

  13. Katharina
    March 1, 2023 at 05:32

    My fear is that the USA will not be willing to step off their throne they seem to think God himself has given them. That they won’t admit defeat and run amok when they’re at the end of their rope. Like the spurned husband who screams ‘When I can’t have you, nobody can!’.

    They’re not a monkey with a hand grenade. They’re a monkey sitting on a pile of nuclear weapons hoping that the red button might throw out a last banana.

    • Kim Dixon
      March 1, 2023 at 12:53

      Exactly, Katharina. This is the Unspoken Truth which dwarfs all other concerns.

      Are the Neocon chckenhawks in charge of US foreign policy able to back down, ever, or are they actually willing to send in US troops on the ground in direct confrontation with Russia? Because if they are, those troops will be slaughtered in numbers not seen since WWII.

      And when that happens, will those same misleaders *then* negotiate, or more likely will they fire the first nuke in anger since Nagasaki, inevitably triggering global nuclear war, nuclear winter, and the end of civilization?

      The Neocon vermin ruining America and its victims abroad are as ignorant of nuclear weapons as they are of humanity, humility, and the value of life outside their gated communities. Our only hope lies in overthrowing these monsters, not something which can can only be accomplished via the mass protests… which are nowhere on the horizon.

  14. WillD
    March 1, 2023 at 01:42

    Exceptionally dangerous and malevolent, if you ask me. Not a good country. even towards its own people.

  15. Newton Finn
    March 1, 2023 at 00:33

    The geopolitics are on the money, but not so the macroeconomics. How about Consortium News offering a global economic analysis predicated on the self-evident principles of MMT, the science of fiat currency. So much confusion and obfuscation, about things like the so-called petro-dollar, for example, would evaporate in a lightburst of elementary logic.

  16. Rebecca
    February 28, 2023 at 23:37

    Funny how no one mentions the fact the Gulf Of Tonkin incident, the false flag event that ‘justified’ the Vietnam war.

  17. Jim Glover
    February 28, 2023 at 23:21

    Does Biden know about this?

    • Gypsy33
      March 2, 2023 at 08:50

      ByeDone doesn’t know ANYTHING, darlin’. He requires an instruction manual to blow his nose.

  18. Piotr Berman
    February 28, 2023 at 23:21

    Dollar domination in international trade is receding, but slowly. Last year, negative interest rates reduced the debt of US government in relation to GDP (not much, and calculations vary, what is GDP after all?). And that with trade and budget deficits both around trillion dollars. For USA, the costs of Ukraine war are a triffle.

    The most surprising erosion is in “soft power”, cajoling people in other country to American point of view. Within NATO+, this power seems amazingly strong. But outside — much less so. Latin American countries oscillate between USA-sceptical left and USA-friendly right, so much can be attributed to a cycle resembiling El Nino, except before Bolsonaro, then USA-friendly president of Brazil, decided against sanctions on Russia. Fertilizers, in short supply but plentiful in Russia, are essential for Brazilian agrobusiness, and there was a period of worldwide shortage. Now, with USA-sceptical government, Brazil hosted a visit by Iranian navy, quite bold step to demonstrate independence, promising easier cooperation between Iran and Venezuela that is badly needed by super-sanctioned Venezuela (because of sanctions, Venezuela has shortage of most light hydrocarbons to handle its very heavy oil, and for the same reason, Iran has a surplus, but ships on Venezuela-Iran shuttle need places to stop, and before, they got troubled in Brazil and Argentina, no doubt cajoled to do so).

    So Latin American is very much more distant from USA than, say, two years ago.

    Then Asia and a super-surprise with India. With some resistance, India did join Trumpian sanctions on Iran, but now the same government is quite vehemently anti-sanctions. It gets very good deal from Russia on fuels, fertilizers and nuclear power stations, and it is difficult to give a counter-offer. And rich Indian-Americans would lobby successfully against severe sanctions, and so would IT industry dependent on Indian programmers and so on. BTW, Indian PM is a pro-business right winger and a prickly nationalist, so he got lower inflation, better balance of payments and national pride in a nice package. This is not lost on the pro-USA government of Pakistan, and surely not on Bangladesh.

    And almost as big surprise on the southern shores of Persian Gulf. So recently they ingratiated themselves by warming the relations with Israel! But the piracy of freezing Russian assets had to be a cold-shower. After all, periodically they are bad-mouth in USA, Congress even consider criminalization of OPEC — their assets could be stolen too. So their very selfish interests is that USA does not get bolder and more piratical than it is already. So they import Russian fuel oil that before went to Europe, and allow Russian to buy all goods that float around southern shores of Asia, be them little commercial drones with “dual use”, and whatever else. Dubai has a rich tradition as a den of smugglers and money laundering, but local competitors may be keen to substitute them. BTW, the top buyer of Russian fuel oil in the region is KSA.

    European diplomats report that they failed in their attempts to explain to the heads of African governments that “unprovoked invasion of Ukraine is a danger to us all”. No surprise there, while the arguments about democracy vs autocracy, defending values, territorial integrity etc. may be accepted in Europe, in Africa they sound even more bizarre than in Latin America. And with the big countries like South Africa, Brazil and India showing that you can ignore that droning, small countries do likewise, some outright opting for military cooperation with Russia.

    Of course, I skip about trade and other dealing with China that USA would be inclined to discourage. It is important to note that none of the state heads I was discussing goes against local public opinion. Be them poor or rich, people of the Global South are tired of American impositions (a.k.a. rule based world order), and more bold about it than before.

  19. Bob Martin
    February 28, 2023 at 22:30

    Brilliant, incisive article. Thank you.

  20. Roger Milbrandt
    February 28, 2023 at 20:58

    I am as impressed as other observers with the quality of this article – its comprehensiveness, its clarity, its judiciousness.
    But I have a concern. Will the USA – regarded by some as the monkey with the hand grenade – decline to the status of a regional power like Brazil without doing terrible damage to its neighbours or to its rivals?

    • Manifold Destiny
      March 1, 2023 at 03:43

      Or to the planet?

      (I share the same concerns…)

    • Paula
      March 1, 2023 at 16:34

      The damage will most likely be to the US population. They have been chipping away at SS and Medicare for years and will do so to other benefits people paid into their working lives. And just look at the Palestine, Ohio fiasco: 3 weeks for Sec. of Transportation to visit; prior to saying he had no control, while Pres. Biden runs off to Kiev. Railroad workers’ warnings ignored. They don’t care about us and we will be first, along with the environment (Nordstream, tar sands pipelines) that is put on the chopping block unless we can effect a regime change for OUR country rather than someone else’s.

  21. UncleDoug
    February 28, 2023 at 20:56

    Exceptionally summarized and analyzed. Elegantly written.

    Thank you, Mr. Freeman.

    • Geoff Burns
      March 1, 2023 at 09:25

      Yes, a wonderful article. Thank you.

  22. Korey Dykstra
    February 28, 2023 at 20:07

    What a heartening Article. It strikes at the heart of the many problems created by America and the solutions available by the rest of the countries of the world. The sanctions, invasions, and destruction of these countries will at some point in time stop and the rest of the world will start to recover . I will sleep better tonight.

  23. Bob McDonald
    February 28, 2023 at 19:58

    The US will have a hard enough time accepting life as a regional power but will it ever learn to play by someone else’s rules? I guess we’re going to find out. And what fate awaits the big US multinationals as big fish in a much smaller sea?

    • Paula
      March 1, 2023 at 16:36

      You may be right. hxxps://

  24. February 28, 2023 at 19:21

    I would guess it is based on about 10 to 15 percant factual information and about 85 to 90 percent wishful thinking.

  25. CaseyG
    February 28, 2023 at 19:18

    Always ready to make war—-but sadly very lacking in the study of history. An important skill,
    as every nation , no matter how high it rises–will sadly eventually return to Earth with a thud. : (

  26. George Oh
    February 28, 2023 at 19:15

    Expert at snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. We have met the enemy and the enemy is us!

  27. Jeff Harrison
    February 28, 2023 at 18:50

    Excellante! A fine peroration. A few points.
    1. Tet was ultimately a military defeat for N. Vietnam/Viet Cong. The important word is ultimately. The NVA and the VC were eventually thrown back with striking losses but it took a few months to do that and by then the damage was done. North Vietnam had won the propaganda war. I watched Walter Krinkle on CBS that night when he broadcast the news about Tet. He was clearly shocked but I wouldn’t describe him as bellowing. I understand that Nixon saw it too and said, we’ve lost Cronkite, we’ve lost the war. He was right. I also think that it was Tet that gave the US military the idea that if they won the propaganda war, they would win the real war. The dynamic is much more complex than they imagined.
    2. I agree with you on the BRI which the US would never be a part of because China would never allow it to dominate the BRI. I think part of the deal here is that the US doesn’t understand the dynamics of a non-zero sum game. (or, as China would have it win-win)
    3. You have some opportunities for improvement with your understanding of international finance. Bretton Woods did not enshrine the US$ as the world reserve currency. The British pound had that honor until the British empire started to collapse in the 50’s and 60’s and 70s. Bretton Woods did enshrine the idea of having currency reserves (not your currency) in much the same way that banks are obligated to have reserves set against their lending. What you’re talking about didn’t come along until the mid 70s and the oil shocks. The US simply didn’t have enough money to pay for the oil we were buying. Not to be deterred, we got everybody to agree to pay for oil in US$. This morphed into the arrangement we have today where the US$ is the lingua franca of the world and ALL transactions are closed with US$. Back in the early 80s when I was getting my MBA, the way international finance worked was as follows. If I wanted to buy a bunch of German machine tools, I would settle on a price in Deutsche Marks with the supplier. I would then go buy a futures contract for that many Marks for delivery on umptyfraz date. Thus, I had locked in my cost because I paid for the futures contract in my money (dollars, pounds, yen, rial, whatever). So when it came time to close the transaction, you paid for the futures contract, and your counterparty showed up with the deutsche marks. You closed the deal. This is a simplified description that leaves out a lot of the detail but that’s the way it worked and, I’m sure that’s the way it’s working today for those countries settling their debt in national currencies.
    4. You called Russia and China our adversaries. I agree that’s what the idiots in Washington call them but I don’t think that THEY actually want to be our adversaries but they’re going to remain adversarial as long as we keep jacking them up.

    • ScottK
      March 1, 2023 at 19:44

      I don’t think Cronkite bellowed either, or ever, on news. hxxps://

      It was LBJ who said that if he lost Cronkite, then the nation. Nixon had to prove it all over for himself for another four years of war.

      And yes, the VC and NVN forces lost every battle as well as Tet, but their willingness to keep fighting won them the war.

      I can’t match your understanding of Bretton Woods or international financial exchange, which has always baffled me, but wasn’t England on the ropes long before, so that the British pound was a goner by the time of Bretton Woods? I’ve heard that WWI dealt a body blow to their economy but inversely vast gains to ours. (And after WWI the big British estates were taxed almost to death.) Wouldn’t have WWII then been the death blow to the pound, perhaps administered by demands the US made at the conference?

    February 28, 2023 at 18:30


  29. RichM
    February 28, 2023 at 18:03

    This is a breathtakingly great article, IMHO. Kudos to Mr Freeman (& thanks to CN) for a masterful presentation that unflinchingly illuminates the sorry path we’ve trod, from Vietnam to Ukraine.

  30. Valerie
    February 28, 2023 at 17:24

    Co-incidentally, today I watched the film “the post”. Nothing has changed since the Vietnam war till today, and that story of the Pentagon papers is still very relevant now.

  31. Anon
    February 28, 2023 at 17:19

    Wonder if any others speculated, on viewing BRICS Bank photo above: “For sake of World peace and survival, here’s hoping Chinese selective as to which politically connected family receives it’s security contract.”

  32. Humwawa
    February 28, 2023 at 17:14

    Excellent summary. The real war is economic. The war in Ukraine is just a side-show. Nobody ever believed that Ukraine could defeat Russia, not even with Nato’s assistance. The reason why Obama and Merkel didn’t want to provide lethal weapons was that Russia has escalatory dominance in Ukraine. That is, no matter how many weapons the West provides, Russia can provide more. That is as true today as it was 9 years ago. To the Russians, Nato expansion into Ukraine is an existential threat. That’s why they will defend their positions there as if they were defending the homeland. They cannot retreat.

    To the US national security, Ukraine is of no importance whatsoever. The US could just walk away. However, a defeat on the military and economic front becomes an existential threat to US hegemony. Thus, neither side can withdraw and we are on autopilot for WW3. The only thing that can avert the catastrophe is a U-turn in Washington. I fear that Biden might lack the mental agility to perform such a feat. The Ukraine war is Biden’s baby. According to Nuland it was Biden who was to “midwife” the Maidan coup. The Neocon gang of 4 (Biden, Nuland, Blinken, Sullivan) owns this war. They cannot U-turn. What are the chances for regime change in Washington? Or can the Europeans (the “old Europe”) muster the guts to revolt against Washington? That may be difficult with the Russian-hating warmongers in the “new Europe” in their back.

    It’s still a mystery why Western leaders believed they could cripple the Russian economy. When the dust of war settles in Ukraine, they will have to explain why they led hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians to their death while letting Ukraine be carved up without any chance of success. All of this could have been avoided if Minsk II had been implemented and if the West had made it clear to Kyiv that they wouldn’t get a cent without implementing Minsk II.

    The West is going to face a triple crisis: military, economic and moral. Whatever PsyOps and false flags the US used for previous wars is insignificant compared to the deluge of lies and deception used for the Ukraine war. When all the lies are exposed and it becomes clear that our leaders subverted democracy and the freedom of expression in order to fight foreign wars in the name of values they themselves have subverted, the nihilistic and woke West will plunge into a deep moral crisis. When the values of the old regime turn into ashes and the people are impoverished by an economic crisis, what new regime will emerge?

    Are we once again heading for fascism or some sort of authoritarian regime? Did Francis Fukuyama, the prophet of liberal democracy, have a sense of things to come when he sung in the praise of the Deep State?

  33. mgr
    February 28, 2023 at 17:13

    Thank you. From everything I have read and seen, a wonderful and accurate piece.

    And then, on the other hand, we have our neocons who claim to have the supernatural ability to conjure up any reality that they wish… in their own minds, which puts them pretty much in the same category as crack-heads.

  34. RomfordRob Rob
    February 28, 2023 at 16:52

    If I am not mistaken, other commentators are drawing similar conclusions. If the world can avoid nuclear extinction, as far as most of the world is concerned, I detect a ray of optimism. Though perhaps not so much for the West. Whatever the Chinese and Russians cook up, it surely can’t be that much worse than the current Western ‘leadership’. Maybe humans are making progress, after all, we’ll see. Or, hopefully our children will see.

  35. vinnieoh
    February 28, 2023 at 16:32

    “Again, the rest of the world sees this. U.S. citizens, rapturously oblivious in their hermetically sealed media bubble, do not.”

    I’m a US citizen and I, as well as many that I know personally, do in fact see this. I believe there are millions more who, though they may not yet be fully aware of the probable collapse approaching, sense that they have in fact been nurtured on bullshit, not just recently and by their own partisan object of contempt, but systematically and for decades by the, well, the whole system.

    It never had to be this way of course. I agree with Aristotle at least in his admonishment – “All things in moderation.” (Even at times, moderation.) But for some folk, too much is never enough, and they had to corrupt the whole system to satisfy their own greed.

    Thank you, Mr. Freeman, for this summation. I know I have read you before, but I lose track (and become old and forgetful.) I see from the short bio supplied above that you are actively working to make the world a better pace for you having been in it. Would it be possible to pen a piece for those of us that have not yet succumbed to the final ravages of cynicism, how the US could – should “it” so choose – pull its collective head out of its ass and join the rest of humanity in creating a sustainable world of mutual benefit to all?


  36. HelenB
    February 28, 2023 at 16:23

    My father, born 1918, taught me that all wars are unnecessary. All. For WWII he could not serve. High arches. Got doctors excuse three times.

    • Carolyn Zaremba
      February 28, 2023 at 20:57

      The U.S. cannot even keep low-speed trains on their tracks.

  37. mary-lou
    February 28, 2023 at 16:04

    excellent overview, TQ. it will take another while to get Empire (aka [neo]colonialism) out from between the ears.

  38. medo
    February 28, 2023 at 15:56

    Very good description of the situation, with simple clear reference to our foolish destructive wars carried out during my lifetime
    (I am too old now to go to demonstrations, or I would) when there was at least some discussion in the media.

    Now the national power base controls information (if you can call TV news and newspaper reporting “information”) all around the country. I fear if serious antiwar demonstrations should breakout, there will be violent disturbances and “false flag” events to discredit any real opposition to this dirty dangerous war. Antiwar efforts will be attacked, demonstrators will go to prison, I am afraid.

    But, if we continue down this same road, we surely face disaster.

    I do not see an exit. I am afraid .. if I forward this reasonable and clear article to some of my brainwashed, very good natured friends who are informed by national media — they will tell me it is a “conspiracy theory” — Putin is very evil and wants to conquer all Russia’s neighbors.

    Meanwhile Ukraine is destroyed and our arms makers are richer. US economy will fail, and our divided country can fail.

  39. February 28, 2023 at 15:43

    Excellent article. Your insight on the brilliant Chinese understanding of the unique role of big Infrastructure is crucial. Ask the top Chinese economists of today, such as Justin Yifu Lin, and they will tell you that China is following the concepts of American-German economist Friedrich List — the key mind behind the miracle of the building of the US trans-continental railroad, which you cite!

  40. James White
    February 28, 2023 at 15:38

    Outstanding comprehensive analysis of the geopolitical blunders of the U.S. since WW2. All of which are peaking under the inept Biden Regime. One small point of contention is this: ‘Remember when the scrappy Ukrainian forces were kicking the barbarian Russian hordes’ asses? When every development betrayed the Russians’ clod-footed strategy, its soldiers’ bad morale, its army’s poor provisioning and worse leadership, and the perilous political situation for Russian President Vladimir Putin back home?’ Actually no, because none of that ever happened. Russia directly threatened Kiev with force at the outset, in hopes that Zelensky would make the rational choice to stand down and negotiate solutions to Russia’s long held grievances. Those being NATO expansion into Ukraine as well as the abuse of the ethnic Russians in the Donbass that had killed over 14,000 of Zelensky’s own ethnic Russian, Ukrainian citizens. Zelensky chose the suicidal military option. He was certainly led to believe that the U.S. and NATO had his back. Boris Johnson traveled to Ukraine and told Zelensky not to settle with Russia. Whether that was Zelensky’s decision or an order from his masters is now moot. Once Putin got his answer that Ukraine would fight rather than settle, he pulled his troops back to regroup for a much longer war of attrition. It was done to save the lives of Russian troops. This was spun by the Western press as ‘the great Ukrainian Counter-offensive.’ Zelensky gambled that he could drag either the U.S. or some NATO country such as Poland into the conflict. But he lost that bet and half of the army he started with after one year of war. It will probably take less than another year for Zelensky to squander his remaining forces. Assuming that he won’t now quit a war that he lost, long before a single shot was fired. Once the Ukrainian army is finished, Putin, not NATO or the U.S. will decide what is next for Ukraine as a nation, or territory. Ukrainian losses at that point will total something like 1 million dead. They will have sacrificed their lives for nothing more than the outsized ego of Zelensky and the greed of U.S. hegemons and their oligarch masters. Not to be forgotten will be the cowardice of the various NATO heads of state. Cloaked in sanctimony about ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’ that their own countries lost long ago. Johnson, Sunak, Scholz, Macron, Von der Leyen and the rest.

    • Xpat Paula
      March 3, 2023 at 02:48

      Freeman cited the lying media that went on about “scrappy Ukrainian forces” kicking Russian ass. Of course it never happened.

  41. Hank
    February 28, 2023 at 14:01

    Unbelievable article. Does anyone remember when Putin recommended Boris Johnson watch his diet, alcohol intake and take up exercise in response to Bojo and Trudeau’s joke about going shirtless? Back then I already recognized that Russia was winning not just militarily, but also the financial war and I joked with a friend that Putin even has the west beat in terms of physical fitness. Thanks to sites like this and journalists like Mr Lauria and others, as well as the fact that my people owe a debt of gratitude to Russia, I was inoculated from the deluge of propaganda against Russia. I am hoping the discredited neocons fail to do the same to China, but I am not hopeful.

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