What follows is a simplification; after all, the future has yet to occur. It is, however, no fairy tale.
Enraged that Moscow would be so presumptive as to challenge Washington by encouraging ethnic Russian yearnings in Ukraine for the motherland, Washington talked its Euro buddies into embargoing the Russian natural gas that warms homes all over Western Europe. With tears of sorrow in his deep eyes, Putin announced he could not but respond by…turning off the faucets on his gas pipelines to the West. He then toured Mother Russia, rode several horses bareback (the horse) and bare-chested (the leader), and made private comments to a few thousand Russians (without the presence of foreign correspondents) promising to “keep Russians warm all winter.” He then announced for all the world to hear a new subsidy raising the wages of coal miners “including any in regions that may choose via democratic election to join Mother Russia,” thus earning the undying love and support of every man, woman, and child in the poor coal-mining region of the Donbass, known in the West as “eastern Ukraine.”
Thus fortified, en route through Siberia to speak further with Russian citizens, Putin slipped off to a local Chinese restaurant for a nice ethnic lunch in a smoke-filled back room, where he had a quiet chat with some other gentlemen, aficionados all of good Chinese cuisine, who had traveled up from a country to the south. Over a combination of vodka and plum wine, which loosened Putin’s tongue to the point of murmuring, apropos of nothing, that Russia had a cool half trillion or so of reserves just sitting around, they reached a common perspective. Lunch ended, and various Mercedes with dark windows went their respective ways.
The next day, Beijing sold one trillion dollars worth of U.S. treasuries.
Stunned by the rage of West Europeans terrified of freezing to death as winter approached and total chaos on Wall St. (which really cools the blood of the boys on the Potomac), Washington politicians started screaming at each other. This uproar so upset the mild-manner patriarch of world Shi’a, who was old enough so aspire to a quiet retirement, that he reluctantly intervened in the normal policy-making processes of government in Tehran and ordered that a “Nixon to China” breakthrough offer be made to Washington: Iran would provide the natural gas to save Europe. Choking but in a firm voice, the President of the United States personally made a few calls to key oil corporation friends, and the deal was done.
No one spoke about any Iranian quid pro quos. No one calculated the impact on global power relationships or any country’s future financial health.
Now, does this sound like a future that you would like to experience?
Readers interested in next steps may wish to look into the art of scenario analysis and other techniques for thinking about the future.
- Russia has, by comparison with the world average, massive international currency reserves, on the order of enough to fund imports for a couple consecutive long, cold winters.
- Iran has the world’s second largest natural gas reserves.
- Russia provides 29% of European Union natural gas imports.
- China holds about 1.3 trillion dollars’ worth of U.S. Treasury securities, 8% of U.S. publicly held debt, more than held by all Americans put together.