Saturday, March 12, 2022

In the Marketplace for Sovereignty, it is Important to Price Well: Tracking Sanctions Against Russia


Pix Credit here


For those who desire to keep track of such things, at least at some level of generality,  Reuters is tracking government sanctions and actions against Russia taken by large companies and organisations around the world in the lead up to and following its invasion of Ukraine. 

Reuters has divided their sanctions tracking into two categories: (1) Sanctions by Country; and (2) Actions by Companies and Organizations. These are arranged in chronological order. Each of the categories are also divided by sanctions type. For state sanctions these include economy, finance energy, private wealth, technology, media, and airlines for state sanctions. For private (entity) sanctions they  included economy, consumer. energy, sport, manufacturing, finance, technology, automotive, airline, energy, and logistics.

Each of these are then linked to Reuters reporting on the sanctions.  That focuses on those areas where Reuters coverage is strongest. The information is quite useful and usefully organized.

The tracker is useful, especially as a chronology of the slow motion decoupling of the Russian economy from the old global order. In a sense, it adds weight to the insight that what started as the decomposition of the old convergence based framework of post 1945 globalization into two large post-global empires (American vanguard liberal democratic and Chinese vanguard Marxist Leninist post-global empires) is now fracturing as well within the first order sub-imperial dependencies--Russia, India, South Africa and Nigeria, Brazil and likely others.  Each of these can decouple only by re-attaching in a subordinate way to the hub of the post-global apex states.  For Russia that will be China (whose access to Siberian resources will now be more open). India faces a more difficult choice--it is clear where that choice leads but the leadership is reluctant (understandably given history and interests) to make it public. Nigeria and South Africa will likely go in different directions--Nigeria looking West and South Africa  to China-Russia. It is also useful for noting holes--holes everywhere--in the detachment that is the price of sanctions. Detachment does notwork the way in which two lovers  end an affair. . . badly.  Instead it recreates border, borderlands, and gateways.  It brings barriers and with it a taste for directed managerialism, to the interaction between 'two' that had for a moment been closer to 'one'. (My earlier prognosis HERE).

Pix Credit here
But more importantly the tracker is useful for helping determine the full price of civil fines levied against Russia for its  (so far attempted) conquest of (and subordination in some way or other within its heartland) Ukraine.  And that is all there is--the exaction of a price for conquest. That is what Mr. Biden's now somewhat automated reference to the payment of a 'severe price' is ultimately reduced to.  In the marketplace for sovereignty, Mr. Biden and his advisors, like a family of turnip vendors in a 19th century rural market, have been haggling the price for sovereignty of the European periphery to Russia as a first order imperial dependency of China, though one with its own imperial aspirations and its own first order terrain of sub-dependencies (in Central Asia and the Shi'a Middle east).  There will surely be additional 'taxes' on the sale--within the UN system and multilateral organizations, and within the terrains of international criminal law.  But for a first order dependency protected by the throne of heaven in Asia, the deal that Mr. Biden and his first order dependencies in Europe have haggled, appears to be satisfactory. This is not to imply either criticism or the advocacy of an alternative.  But it is to suggest the power--discursive and action-reaction constraining--of the market and marketplace as the defining trope within which even exceptional events can be rationalized. One can like it or not;one can seek to change it or enhance it; nonetheless and in any case one must recognize both its power and ubiquity.

Pic Credit here
It follows that what has emerged as one of the most striking elements of this transaction beyond the willingness of the West to exact a cost in blood, is the way in which discursively, the same phrase--"Russia will pay a severe price"-- has become  just an automated  invocation, one that a 'Bidenbot' might be more effectively programmed to deliver at precise intervals.  And, indeed, an AI program might well be fashioned for transactions of this type if enough relevant data can be gathered and applied to analytics based on and arranging the interactions that have led the world to this point. As such the automated invocation serves as more than a mere fetish. It has now morphed into a quite important signalling trope the purpose of which is to announce not just the price but also the extent to which one side is willing to continue to engage in transactions for sovereignty (Ukraine yes but more costly as more sovereignty is absorbed by Russia but no for the moment within the territories of the EU).  It has become, then, the signalling device for the bargaining of sovereignty as Russia buys more and more of its with its own blood, resources--and its own independence.  Of course, these are more complex and multi actor transactions. And of course, agendas and consequences are stacked vertically, horizontally and longitudinally. And of course, there are all sorts of bargaining going on among parties that are a function of the principal transaction (NATO viability, the character of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, trade blocks, the complicity and compliance of private or market entities, and the like) with coverage (though that too is a marker both of the character of the transaction (multi-generational warfare) and its value in the internal transactions within camps). . But that is the point--the transactional quality of the events.

As the object being negotiated, the Ukrainians have little to say in the matter. Clearly that has not required passivity (although it could have); there is some space within which even dependencies of Empire can wiggle around the deal). But it does require sacrifice. Even so, the Ukrainians, are exacting their own price (in their own way against all at the bargaining tables) and making what bargains they can, the consequences of which remain unknowable in the short term.  For everyone else, a period of adjustment as the post-global more clearly emerges. The tracker provides an important chronicle of the haggling and of the process and consequence of the detachments and re-attachments that more clearly defines the futures our collectives have embraced.

Ave Imperator, morituri te salutant

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