Nord Stream 2 ‘Deal’ Is Not an American Concession, It’s Admission of Defeat

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July 23, 2021

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All in all, Washington’s virtue-signaling is one helluva gas!

After much arm-twisting, bullying and foghorn diplomacy towards its European allies, the United States appears to have finally given up on trying to block the giant Nord Stream 2 project with Russia. What an epic saga it has been, revealing much about American relations with Europe and Washington’s geopolitical objectives, as well as, ultimately, the historic decline in U.S. global power.

In the end, sanity and natural justice seem to have prevailed. The Nord Stream 2 pipeline under the Baltic Sea will double the existing flow of Russia’s prodigious natural gas to Germany and the rest of Europe. The fuel is economical and environmentally clean compared with coal, oil and the shale gas that the Americans were vying with Russia to export.

Russia’s vast energy resources will ensure Europe’s economies and households are reliably and efficiently fueled for the future. Germany, the economic engine of the European Union, has a particular vital interest in securing the Nord Stream 2 project which augments an existing Nord Stream 1 pipeline. Both follow the same Baltic Sea route of approximately 1,222 kilometers – the longest pipeline in the world – taking Russian natural gas from its arctic region to the northern shores of Germany. For Germany’s export-led economy, Russian fuel is essential for future growth, and hence benefiting the rest of Europe.

It was always a natural fit between Russia and the European Union. Geographically and economically, the two parties are compatible traders and Nord Stream 2 is merely the culmination of decades of efficient energy relations.

Enter the Americans. Washington has been seething over the strategic energy trade between Russia and Europe. The opposition escalated under the Trump administration (so much for Trump being an alleged Russian stooge!) when his ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, fired off threatening letters to German and other European companies arrogantly warning that they would be hit with sanctions if they dared proceed with Nord Stream 2. Pipe-laying work was indeed interrupted last year by U.S. sanctions. (So much for European sovereignty and alleged meddling in internal affairs by Russia!)

The ostensible American rationale was always absurd. Washington claimed that Russia would exploit its strategic role as gas supplier by extracting malicious concessions from Europe. It was also claimed that Russia would “weaponize” energy trade to enable alleged aggression towards Ukraine and other Eastern European states. The rationale reflects the twisted Machiavellian mentality of the Americans and their supporters in Europe – Poland and the Baltic states, as well as the Kiev regime in Ukraine. Such mentality is shot-through with irrational Russophobia.

The ridiculous paranoid claims against Russia are of course an inversion of reality. It is the Americans and their European surrogates who are weaponizing a mundane matter of commercial trade that in reality offers a win-win relationship. Part of the real objective is to distort market economics by demonizing Russia in order for the United States to export their own vastly more expensive and environmentally dirty liquefied natural gas to Europe. (So much for American free-market capitalism!)

Another vital objective for Washington is to thwart any normal relations developing between Russia and the rest of Europe. American hegemony and its hyper-militaristic economy depend on dividing and ruling other nations as so-called “allies” and “adversaries”. This has been a long-time necessity ever since the Second World War and during the subsequent Cold War decades, the latter constantly revived by Washington against Russia. (So much for American claims that Russia is a “revisionist power”!)

However, there is a fundamental objective problem for the Americans. The empirical decline of U.S. global power means that Washington can no longer bully other nations in the way it has been accustomed to doing for decades. The old Cold War caricatures of demonizing others have lost their allure and potency because the objective world we live in today simply does not make them plausible or credible. The Russian gas trade with the European Union is a consummate case in point. In short, Germany and the EU are not going to shoot themselves in the foot, economically speaking, simply on the orders of Uncle Sam.

President Joe Biden had enough common sense – unlike the egotistical Trump – to realize that American opposition to Nord Stream 2 was futile. Biden is more in tune with the Washington establishment than his maverick predecessor. Hence Biden began waiving sanctions imposed under Trump. Finally this week, the White House announced that it had come to an agreement with Germany to permit Nord Stream 2 to go ahead. The Financial Times called it a “truce” while the Wall Street Journal referred to a “deal” between Washington and Berlin. (Ironically, American non-interference is presented as a “deal”!)

The implication is that the United States was magnanimously giving a “concession” to Europe. The reality is the Americans were tacitly admitting they can’t stop the strategic convergence between Russia and the rest of Europe on a vital matter of energy supply.

In spinning the eventuality, Washington has continued to accuse Russia of “weaponizing” trade. It warns that if Russia is perceived to be abusing relations with Ukraine and Europe then the United States will slap more sanctions on Moscow. This amounts to the defeated bully hyperventilating.

Another geopolitical factor is China. The Biden administration has prioritized confrontation with China as the main long-term concern for repairing U.S. decline. Again, Biden is more in tune with the imperial planners in Washington than Trump was. They know that in order for the United States to have a chance of undermining China as a geopolitical rival the Europeans must be aligned with U.S. policy. Trump’s boorish browbeating of Europeans and Germany in particular over NATO budgets and other petty issues resulted in an unprecedented rift in the “transatlantic alliance” – the euphemism for American dominance over Europe. By appearing to concede to Germany over Nord Stream 2, Washington is really aiming to shore up its anti-China policy. This too is an admission of defeat whereby American power is unable to confront China alone. The bully needs European lackeys to align, and so is obliged to offer a “deal” over Russia’s energy trade.

All in all, Washington’s virtue-signaling is one helluva gas!

The “Three Seas Initiative”: The West’s “Answer” to China’s Belt and Road?

By Brian Berletic

Global Research, June 09, 2021

All Global Research articles can be read in 51 languages by activating the “Translate Website” drop down menu on the top banner of our home page (Desktop version). 

Visit and follow us on Instagram at @crg_globalresearch.

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To counter not only China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) but also Russia’s growing ties with Western Europe, an “alternative” infrastructure drive is being proposed that if and when completed, Washington, London, and Brussels hopes will further contain Russia and cut China off from European markets.

Called the “Three Seas Initiative,” it is described in a Bloomberg op-ed titled, “This Is How Europe Can Push Back Against China and Russia,” as:

…a joint endeavor by 12 eastern members of the European Union to update the physical and digital links between the Baltic, Adriatic and Black Seas.

The op-ed argues that the initiative is the only way to fight off “Russian bullying and Chinese meddling.”

But upon closer scrutiny – even the selling points made by the author – Andreas Kluth – reads instead like a thinly veiled attempt to bully and meddle in Europe – and at the expense of the obvious opportunities trade and ties with Russia and China will bring.

Kluth’s argument includes blaming the Soviet Union’s neglect of Eastern European nations as the reason they lack modern infrastructure today, claiming:

Though economically vibrant, most of this region still lags the rest of the bloc in infrastructure. Travel by road and rail takes two to four times longer on average than in the rest of the EU. 

What’s missing in particular is good highways, railway tracks and gas pipes running north and south. This is a legacy of the Cold War. The Soviet hegemons made sure that Russian gas, tanks and troops could easily move east-west, but cared not a hoot about other connections among the countries they occupied.

Yet the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 – 30 years ago. If Eastern Europe currently still lacks modern infrastructure – it would be more appropriate to state that it is Brussels who “cares not” about making improvements.

The infrastructure proposed is also curious. The op-ed claims:

Projects include, for example, a port in Croatia that could welcome ships carrying liquefied natural gas — from the US, for example — and the pipelines that would bring this gas north to partner countries. Poland already has an LNG terminal.

This is not necessary infrastructure though. Europe already has access to hydrocarbons in the form of Russian energy moved into the region through existing pipelines and at costs much cheaper than LNG shipped across the Atlantic from the United States will ever be.

The inclusion of this “example” reveals Kluth’s hand and the true nature of this argument – this isn’t about stopping imagined “Russian bullying,” this is about imposing very real American bullying.

In other words, expensive infrastructure would be built specifically to put in place energy imports that would cost more and come with far more strings attached politically than Russian energy. These strings would include – and the op-ed itself mentions this specifically – cutting off relations with both Moscow and Beijing.

And regarding Beijing – Kluth accuses China of seeking political favor in return for infrastructure investments and construction projects – citing Hungary as an example of a partner nation “compromised” by its relationship with Beijing. Kluth claims that Hungary has blocked EU condemnation of alleged “human rights abuses” by China – never considering that the accusations themselves may have been politically motivated in the first place by opponents of Beijing.

Kluth – after describing the Three Seas Initiative as a means of escaping “bullying and meddling” – makes clear that US and EU investment in the projects should themselves come with political strings attached – noting:

…the EU should also be clear about its expectations. First, all involved, including Hungary, must acknowledge the geopolitical subtext and unambiguously declare their allegiance to Brussels, foregoing dalliances with Beijing. Second, the initiative mustn’t become the germ of an eastern bloc that defines itself in opposition to the rest of the EU.

While Russian “bullying” and Chinese “meddling” remain squarely in the realm of politically-motivated accusations – Kluth is openly declaring Washington’s and Brussels’ intentions to invest in a neglected Eastern Europe are predicated on acquiring unflinching obedience and the full surrender of national sovereignty – a proposition made without any hint of intentional irony.

Three Seas Initiative: About Primacy, Not Progress 

US foreign policy has been and continues to be predicated on maintaining global primacy. Any nation, anywhere on Earth that challenges Washington’s ability to act upon the global stage with absolute impunity is designated an enemy and thus targeted through a combination of political, economic, and even military coercion.

Two nations that have found themselves on this list for decades are Russia and China.

Both Russia’s re-emergence after the collapse of the Soviet Union as a major global power and China’s rise both regionally in Asia and globally – have demonstrably inhibited Washington’s worst impulses.

While Washington describes both Russia and China as threats to global peace and stability – it was Russia’s intervention in Syria that prevented the nation from suffering a similar fate as Libya or Iraq at America’s hands.

It has been China’s incremental rise that has created viable alternatives for nations across Asia just now working their way out from under the shadow of America’s Indo-Pacific “primacy” – a notion still included openly as part of US foreign policy – demonstrated in a “framework” paper published as recently as the Trump administration.

Notions of “Russian bullying” and “Chinese meddling” are geopolitical projections made by Western policymakers in a bid to justify a continued campaign of coercion – and not just against Russia, China, and nations along their peripheries – but also against allied nations like Germany who seek to diversify their ties between East and West – US sanctions targeting German companies involved in the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project with Russia being only the latest example.

Perhaps the ultimate irony of all is that as Washington and Brussels attempt to dangle the promise of modern infrastructure over the heads of Eastern Europe – Kluth of Bloomberg himself admits that China has already come through in the case of Hungary – and Russia has been reliably pumping cheap energy into Eastern and Western Europe since before the collapse of the Soviet Union – and of course – ever since.

Once again – while pointing the accusing finger elsewhere – the US and its EU partners reveal themselves as the central threat to peace and prosperity. In reality, Chinese infrastructure projects coupled with US-EU investments, and cheap energy from Russia would be most beneficial to the nations of both Eastern and Western Europe – but clearly what is in the continent’s best interests run at cross-purposes to Washington’s and thus while Russia and China have never demanded exclusive economic ties with Europe – Washington is.

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Brian Berletic is a Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook” where this article was originally published. 

Featured image is from New Eastern Outlook

North Macedonia Asked Russia to Not Retaliate Diplomatically (Ruslan Ostashko)

June 04, 2021

Translated by Sasha and subtitled by Leo.

One of the pieces of former Yugoslavia, the Republic of North Macedonia has decided to join the leap against Russia. This geopolitical misfortune expelled a Russian diplomat and, having heard from Moscow about reciprocal measures, they shrieked: “Daddy, don’t beat me!”

Do you know what the European solidarity is? It is when the spiritual midgets who owe their existence to the Western “divide and conquer” style policies are forced to service their masters by feigning a crowd scene of a russophobic heat. Just like the Czechs, for example. The Czechs at least have some production industry, albeit completely bought out by the Germans. What does the North Macedonia have, who even had to change its country name so the Greeks would allow it to join the EU and NATO? Nothing. Except, of course, the conceit and the will to serve its bright faced masters. The Macedonians did the service by expelling a Russian diplomat and now they squeal not to be retaliated against.

The Moscow Komsomolets: “The North Macedonian authorities admitted that they have only two diplomats working in Moscow. Those are the interim ambassador and one more diplomatic staff. According to the Foreign Minister of North Macedonia, Buyar Osmani, due to this circumstance Skopje hopes that Moscow will not expel one or two of the Macedonian diplomats in retaliation for the Balkan state’s move.”

Who said that weakness of the mind is courage? You damn Muscovites, don’t understand zilch in European solidarity. North Macedonia itched to get into NATO and EU precisely in order to ecstatically fulfill orders from the respectable Brussels masters.

The Moscow Komsomolets: “The union with NATO is based on an active contribution and solidarity. As Osmani stressed, ‘the expulsion process is tied directly to the violations of the rules of diplomacy.’”

What rules did the Russian diplomat violate? No information about it whatsoever was publicly voiced. They expelled, that’s it. Because the NATO master ordered so. He needs a crowd scene. And now the lackeys that satisfied the master’s need, squeal: “Daddy, don’t beat me!” Why do they, in the post-Soviet Eastern Europe, resemble each other like clones, huh? I have a version about this. During the centuries of either German or Ottoman conquest, the western and the southern Slavs learned to survive in any way. They became shifty and two-faced.

Their main principle is to keep their backside warm. In their mass they are not ready to suffer any sacrifices in a fight for freedom. To which the history of Czechia, for instance, is a testimony. Do you remember that in 1939 there was only one officer who, in defiance of the order from his cowardly politicians, ordered his unit to fight the Wehrmacht? Marina Tsvetayeva even dedicated a poem to him, whose title stresses the fact that this officer was the only one in the entire Czechia.

All in all, the North Macedonians are the typical representatives of the timeserving culture. Even the Bulgarians, who are becoming extinct as a result of the Euro integration, are trolling now.

The Moscow Komsomolets: “The readers of the Bulgarian news publication ‘Facts’ commented expressing their indignation at the news about the expulsion of a Russian diplomat by North Macedonia. They called the Macedonians ‘ungrateful’. One reader said that the Macedonians are russophobes. He pointed out that the Soviet Union gave those people a language, religion and ‘made them a nation’. Another author doubted that the Russian president would be able to find Macedonia on the map, alluding to its small size. He also expressed his hope that Putin had acquired a new map because he would not be able to find it on the old one. Some pointed out ironically that this shows that the Macedonians rather belong to the Bulgarian nation. Another reader noted that to bet on North Macedonia is the same as dealing with the Ukrainians.”

Indeed, that Euro Ukies belong to the same type. This is why when they howl that “we will never be brothers” they make a point. Lackeys of the West cannot be brothers to the Russian people. This is unequivocal. No matter how our Foreign Ministry reacts to the Macedonian escapade, the very fact that this NATO service staff whined in “we shat on your doorstep but you wouldn’t chastise us for that, right?” style has already harmed Skopje more than a reciprocal expulsion of her two diplomats. Dignity – this is what is the most important in geopolitics. You might be a small and an unimportant country, but if you keep your dignity, even the nuclear states will treat you with respect. Lackeys, however, will never understand this.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s interview with Director General of Rossiya Segodnya International Information Agency Dmitry Kiselev Moscow, April 28, 2021

April 28, 2021

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s interview with Director General of Rossiya Segodnya International Information Agency Dmitry Kiselev Moscow, April 28, 2021

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation

We have available video in Russian and transcript in English.

Transcript:

Dmitry Kiselev: Our relations with the United States are really “hell”. Personally, I don’t recall them being at such a low ebb ever before. This is even worse than the Cold War times, in my opinion. Ambassadors have returned back to their home countries. What’s going to happen next? What is the possible scenario?

Sergey Lavrov: If it depended on us alone, we would gladly resume normal relations. The first possible step towards this, which I regard as obvious, is to zero out the measures restricting the work of Russian diplomats in the United States. It was as a response measure that we restricted the operations of American diplomats in Russia.

We proposed this to the Biden administration as soon as it had taken the oath and assumed office. I have mentioned the idea to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. I did not try to press it; I just said that an obvious way to normalise our relations would be to zero out the measures initiated by Barack Obama. Several weeks before leaving office, he was so annoyed he virtually slammed the door by seizing Russian property in violation of all the Vienna conventions and throwing Russian diplomats out. This has caused a chain reaction.

We patiently sat back for a long time, until the summer of 2017, before taking any response measures. The Trump administration asked us to disregard the excessive measures taken by the outgoing Obama administration. However, Donald Trump’s team failed to normalise the situation, and so we had to take reciprocal measures. But the Americans have not stopped there.

We can see that the Biden administration continues to go downhill, although US President Biden said during his conversation with President of Russia Vladimir Putin soon after his inauguration, and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told me that they are thoroughly reviewing their relations with Russia, hoping that this would clarify many things. However, instead they adopted new sanctions, which triggered not simply a mirror response on our part. Our response was asymmetrical, just as we had warned them on numerous occasions. It has to do, in part, with a considerable disparity in the number of diplomats and other personnel of the US diplomatic missions in Russia, which is way above the number of Russian diplomats in the United States.

As for the strategic picture of our relations, I hope that Washington is aware, just as Moscow is, of our responsibility for global stability. There are not only the problems of Russia and the United States, which are complicating our citizens’ lives and their contacts, communications, businesses and humanitarian projects, but also differences that are posing a serious risk to international security in the broadest possible meaning of the word.

You remember how we responded to the outrage that took place during Joe Biden’s interview with ABC. You are also aware of how President Putin reacted to President Biden’s proposal of a meeting. We have taken a positive view of this, but we would like to understand all aspects of this initiative, which we are currently analysing.

Nothing good will come out of this, unless the United States stops acting as a sovereign, as President Putin said during his Address to the Federal Assembly, accepts the futility of any attempts to revive the unipolar world or to create an architecture where all Western countries would be subordinate to the United States and the Western camp would work together to “rally” other countries across the world against China and Russia, admits that it was for a purpose that the UN Charter sealed such principles as respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity as well as non-interference in the internal affairs of other states and sovereign equality of states, and simply honours its commitments and starts talking with us, just as with any other country, on the basis of respect for each other and for a balance of interests, which must be established. President Putin said this clearly in his Address, pointing out that Russia is always open to broad international agreements if they suit our interests. But we will harshly respond to any attempts to cross the red line, which we ourselves will determine.

Dmitry Kiselev: Would it be realistic to expect them to become aware of this and stop acting as a sovereign? Hope is fine, but the reality is completely different.

Sergey Lavrov: I have not expressed any hope. I just mentioned the conditions on the basis of which we will be ready to talk.

Dmitry Kiselev: And what if they refuse?

Sergey Lavrov: It will be their choice. This means that we will be living in conditions of a Cold War, or even worse, as you have already mentioned. In my opinion, tension did run high during the Cold War and there were numerous high-risk conflict situations, but there was also mutual respect. I believe that this is lacking now.

There have been some schizophrenic notes in the statements made by some of the Washington officials. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said just a while ago that sanctions against Russia would be continued, that they are producing, by and large, a desired effect, and that their objective is not to “escalate” with Russia. Even I am at a loss about how to comment on this. I hope anyone can see that such statements are doing no credit to those who are upholding and promoting this policy.

Dmitry Kiselev: I had a chance to hear an opinion – perhaps even a commonplace opinion, to some extent, in certain circles – to the effect that diplomats are doing a poor job, that we are constantly digging in our heels, that our position is inflexible and non-elastic, and this is the reason why our relations are poor.

Sergey Lavrov: Are you alluding to circles inside this country?

Dmitry Kiselev: Yes, inside this country.

Sergey Lavrov: Yes, I also read these things. Thankfully, this country protects freedom of speech much better than many Western countries, including the United States. I read the opposition’s online resources and newspapers, and I think that perhaps these people have a right to express their point of view that consists in the following: “If we refrained from disputing with the West, we’d have Parmesan cheese and lots more things that we are sincerely missing; but for some reason, they have cut short food purchases in the West [they do not even explain that this was done in response], they have stopped buying food and gone into import substitution, thus increasing the price of food.”

You know, this is a narrow, lopsided view taken entirely from the standpoint of creature comforts, a choice between a television set and a fridge. If they think it essential to accept US values, I would like to remind them about what US President John Kennedy, the greatest US President to my mind, once said: “Don’t think what your country can do for you. Think what you can do for your country.” This is a radical distinction from today’s liberal views, where personal wellbeing and personal feelings alone are the things that matter.

The promoters of these philosophical approaches, as I see it, are not just unaware of what our genetic code is all about, but are trying in every way to undermine it. For, apart from the desire to live well, to be well-fed, to be confident that one’s children, friends and relatives are well too, a feeling of national pride always played an equally important role in what we did throughout our one thousand years’ history. If someone thinks that these values are of no importance for him or her, as it is [politically] correct to say now, it is their choice, but I am certain that the overwhelming majority of our people have a different opinion.

Dmitry Kiselev: Are you counting on a meeting with Antony Blinken? When can this meeting be held, and will it take place at all in the foreseeable future?

Sergey Lavrov: When we were talking over the phone, I congratulated him in keeping with the diplomatic etiquette. We exchanged a few appraisals of the [current] situation. The talk was, I feel, well-meaning, calm and pragmatic. When our US colleagues have completed staffing their Department of State, we will be prepared to resume contacts – naturally, on the understanding that we will engage in a search for mutually acceptable arrangements on many problems, starting from the functioning of the diplomatic missions and ending with strategic stability and many other things. US and Russian business communities are concerned with expanding their cooperation, something that the American-Russian Chamber of Commerce has recently told us. We have concluded by stating that there will be some joint multilateral events, on whose sidelines we will be able, as chance offers, to talk. But no signals have come from the US so far. Speaking about the schedule of events, Russia will be taking over the Arctic Council chairmanship from Iceland three weeks from now. An Arctic Council ministerial meeting is scheduled to take place in Reykjavík on May 20-21. If Secretary Blinken leads the US delegation, I will, of course, be prepared to talk with him, if he is interested.  Given that we will chair the Arctic Council for the next two years, I have informed our Iceland colleagues that I will attend this ministerial meeting.

Dmitry Kiselev: Is there any certainty as to who will definitely join the list of unfriendly states?

Sergey Lavrov: The Government of Russia is attending to this on instructions from President of Russia Vladimir Putin. We are participating in this work, as are other respective agencies.  I would not like to jump the gun right now.  We are reluctant to be indiscriminate and put on that list just any country that will say somewhere “something wrong” about Russia. Our decision will be based, of course, on a deep-going analysis of the situation and on whether we see opportunities to have a dialogue with that country in a different way. If we come to the conclusion that there is no chance of this, then, I think, the list will, of course, be periodically extended. But this is not a “dead” paper. As is only natural, it will be revised in tune with how our relations develop with this or that state.

Dmitry Kiselev: When will the public be able to read this list?

Sergey Lavrov: Soon, I think. The Russian Government has concrete assignments. We understand the criteria that are guiding us in this work. So, I think, the wait will not be very long now.

Dmitry Kiselev: Will the unfriendly states be banned from hiring local workforce?

Sergey Lavrov: There will be a ban on hiring any physical persons whether Russian or foreign.

Dmitry Kiselev: Is this the only measure with regard to unfriendly states or some others are in the offing?

Sergey Lavrov: At this stage, this is the concrete aim set in the executive order signed by President of Russia Vladimir Putin.

Dmitry Kiselev: Donbass is another subject. Tensions have continued to escalate there since early 2021, and it appears that they have subsided a little since US President Joe Biden called President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin. In my show News of the Week, I noted that US military guarantees to Ukraine had turned out to be a bluff. Nevertheless, shootouts continue, and they are using banned large-calibre weapons. It seems like this peace is not very different from war, and that the balance is highly unstable. Over 500,000 Russian citizens now live in Donbass. Will there be a war?

Sergey Lavrov: War can and should be avoided, if this depends on us and on the self-defence fighters, as far as we understand their principled approaches. I cannot speak and make guesses on behalf of the Ukrainian party and President of Ukraine Vladimir Zelensky because, by all indications, his main goal is to stay in power. He is ready to pay any price, such as pandering to neo-Nazis and ultra-radicals who continue to brand the Donbass self-defence fighters as terrorists. Our Western colleagues should reassess the developments that have taken place since February 2014.  None of these districts attacked the rest of Ukraine. They were branded as terrorists, and an anti-terrorist operation was launched against them and then another operation involving “joint forces.”. But we do know for sure that they have no desire to make war on representatives of the Kiev regime.

I have repeatedly told our Western colleagues, who are totally biased in their assessment of current developments, and who unconditionally defend Kiev’s actions, that Russian journalists and war correspondents working on the other side of the demarcation line show an objective picture. They work in trenches there almost without respite, and they provide daily news reports. These reports show the feelings of the people living in these territories that are cut off from the rest of Ukraine by an economic blockade, where children and civilians are being regularly killed, and where the civilian infrastructure, schools and kindergartens are being destroyed. I asked our Western colleagues why they don’t encourage their media outlets to organise the same work on the left side of the demarcation line, so that the scale of damage there can be assessed and to see which facilities have been the hardest hit.

As for the recent developments, when we openly announced the military exercises in the Southern and Western military districts – we made no secret of that, you remember the shouts about the alleged Russian build-up on the border with Ukraine. Just take a look at the terms used: we speak about drills in the Southern and Western military districts, while they say that Russia is amassing troops on the Ukrainian border. And when the drills ended and we made the relevant announcement, the West claimed maliciously that Russia had to back off, to withdraw. This is an example of wishful thinking.

This is reminiscent of the situation with the G7: every time they meet they announce that Russia will not be invited to the group. We have stated on numerous occasions that we will never re-join it, that there will not be any G8, and that this is a thing of the past. However, continued references to this subject, as well as claims that Russia has “rolled back” and has ordered its troops to “return to their barracks” shows, of course, that in this instance the West wants above all to take advantage of this situation to prove that it has the last word and the dominant place in modern international relations. This is regrettable.

The subject of a settlement in Ukraine has been discussed by President Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The other day President Putin spoke about it with President of France Emmanuel Macron. The issue was also raised during a recent conversation with US President Joe Biden. The situation is clear, as I see it. The patrons of President of Ukraine Vladimir Zelensky and his team refuse to make him honour the Minsk Agreements, even though they are aware of the futility of trying to use military force; they have heard the signals sent from Donetsk and Lugansk about their readiness to defend their land, their homes and their people who refuse to live by the laws being enforced by neo-Nazis.

President Putin has said clearly that we will never abandon the people of Donbass, who are standing up to the openly radical neo-Nazi regime. President Zelensky keeps saying in his interviews that there are no problems with the Russian language or the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, and that he is willing to discuss all these subjects with President Putin. It is a shame perhaps that a person I have always regarded as clever says that the Russian language and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church have no problems in Ukraine. I have no doubt that he is very well aware of the situation. Maybe nothing at all is being reported to him, but in that case he is living in a dream world. But the West has definitely sent its signals to Zelensky.

As you have mentioned, it would be senseless to pin hopes on US military assistance. This has always been clear to everyone. If anyone entertained such illusions, such advisers are good for nothing in any government, including the government of Mr Zelensky. Regrettably, the West continues to try to convince us that the Minsk Agreements should be mitigated and the sequence of the actions set out in them changed. Zelensky says he likes the agreements, but only if it is all the other way round, that they first take full control of these territories, including the border with Russia, and only then deal with the elections, amnesty and a special status for these territories. It is clear that if they did this, if they were allowed to do this, there would be a massacre. The West is unable or unwilling to force Zelensky to comply with the Minsk Agreements strictly in accordance with the sequence set out in them, which does not permit any double interpretation and has been formulated unambiguously from the first to the last step. Control of the border is the very last step to be taken after these territories receive a special status, which must be sealed in the Constitution of Ukraine, after free elections are held there and their results are recognised as such by the OSCE.

Of course, there must also be total amnesty. Not in the way envisaged by the Poroshenko government or the current regime, which only want to approve an  amnesty on an individual basis for those who are proved to have committed no crime. This is yet another misinterpretation. The Minsk Agreements stipulate an amnesty for those who took part in fighting on both sides, without any transitional justice process, which our Western colleagues are now beginning to discuss.

I believe that the brunt of responsibility lies with the West, because only the West can make President Zelensky honour the commitments which his predecessor signed and he himself signed in Paris in December 2019 when he, the presidents of Russia and France and the Chancellor of Germany reaffirmed the absence of any alternative to the strict observance of the Minsk Agreements, and he pledged to amend the legislation and the Ukrainian Constitution to formalise the special status of Donbass on a permanent basis.

Dmitry Kiselev: Many people are wondering why Russia fails to recognise Donbass. It did recognise Abkhazia and South Ossetia. There is an inner “lobby” in Russia, even among my fellow journalists, who are demanding that we recognise Donbass – the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Lugansk People’s Republic. Why are we failing in this?

Sergey Lavrov: You are right that there is an analogy with Abkhazia and South Ossetia. But there is just one exception: no agreements similar to the Minsk Package of Measures were signed in those countries, when Saakashvili’s aggression against Tskhinval and the positions of peacekeepers, including Russian peacekeepers, occurred. The Medvedev-Sarkozy document was discussed there, and it implied a number of steps. But it was not signed by Georgia. President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, after reaching an agreement with us in Moscow, took a plane to Tbilisi to ensure Saakashvili’s support for the document. Saakashvili signed it, but he deleted all the key provisions.  Mr Sarkozy attempted to represent this as a compromise, but everyone understood everything. It had a preamble saying that the Russian Federation and the French Republic, desirous of normalising the situation in South Caucasus, propose to Georgia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia the following:  a ceasefire. Saakashvili crossed out the heading, leaving just the first and subsequent items. Since then, the West has been demanding that we comply with these agreements. This is just an example.

In the case of Donbass, the situation was different. The 17-hour long negotiations in Minsk involving the Normandy format leaders (President Franсois  Hollande of France, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, President Petr Poroshenko of Ukraine, and President of Russia Vladimir Putin) produced a result, which was endorsed, two days later, by the UN Security Council without any amendments or doubts that it should be implemented.

Today, the moral and international legal truth is on our side and on the side of the Donbass militias.  I think that we must not let Mr Zelensky and his entire team “off the hook,” writhing as they might. Mr Zelensky’s statement is a fine specimen (made when he had all but given up hope of turning the Minsk Agreements upside down) to the effect that they are no good, albeit necessary, because the saving of the Minsk Agreements guarantees that the sanctions against Moscow will be preserved as well. We asked the West, what they think about this. They just look aside shamefacedly and say nothing.  I think it is a shame and a disgrace, when an international legal document is held up to mockery in this manner.  The West, which has co-authored this document and supported it at the UN Security Council, is demonstrating absolute helplessness.

Dmitry Kiselev: President of Ukraine Vladimir Zelensky cannot get a call through to President of Russia Vladimir Putin, who is not picking up the receiver. Your Ukrainian counterpart, Dmitry Kuleba, cannot get a call through to you. What does this mean? Why is this?

Sergey Lavrov: This means that they are seeking to revise the Minsk Agreements and represent Russia as a party to the conflict even in this area of their activities.

Requests that came in until recently both from my counterpart Kuleba and President Zelensky dealt with the topic of settlement in Donbass. We replied that this [topic] should be discussed not with us, but with Donetsk and Lugansk, as you agreed under the Minsk Agreements.   The agreements say in black and white that the key stages of settlement should be the subject of consultations and coordination with Donetsk and Lugansk. When they say that a “nasty situation is looming large” at the line of contact and want to talk to Minister Sergey Lavrov and President Vladimir Putin, they are barking up the wrong tree. Meeting with President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko in the Kremlin the other day, President Putin made it amply clear that if they wanted to talk about this, the address should be different.  If our colleagues, including President Zelensky, want to discuss how to normalise bilateral relations, they are welcome. We are always ready to talk about this.

Dmitry Kiselev: There is no reply or acceptance so far, is there?

Sergey Lavrov: I heard that Mr Zelensky instructed the chief of his office, Andrey Yermak, to come to terms on the timeframes. The location is of no importance, because each day of delay means new deaths.

Incidentally, let us take the fact that people are dying and what is happening at the line of contact. Over the last couple of weeks, Kiev has been insisting quite aggressively on the need to reaffirm the ceasefire. All of its Western patrons have also been urging us to influence Donbass so that the ceasefire takes hold in earnest. Speaking on the phone with President Emmanuel Macron and Chancellor Angela Merkel last week, President Putin reminded them of the facts. And the facts are as follows: In July 2020, the Contact Group reached what was perhaps the most serious and effective ceasefire agreement, because it contained a verification mechanism.  It implied a sequence of actions, primarily each side’s commitment not to return fire immediately on the spot but report the violation to the top command and wait for its order on how to act, to wit, whether to respond in kind or to negotiate an arrangement under the mechanisms created for commander-to-commander liaison on the ground.   This agreement, as it was implied, was translated into military orders issued by the DPR and the LPR. These orders were published. Kiev pledged to do the same, but did nothing. Instead it started fiddling with words again. Instead of performing the obligation to report each shelling attack to the top command and get orders from them, they began replacing this clear-cut arrangement with confused formulas, although they were blamed for this by Donetsk and Lugansk at all subsequent meetings, and Russian representatives in the Contact Group, too, repeatedly said as much. The same happened in the Normandy Format.  This is what Deputy Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive Office Dmitry Kozak has been doing all these months in contacts with his French and German colleagues. The head of President Zelensky’s Office, Andrey Yermak, was representing Ukraine. I read transcripts of their talks. It was like talking to a brick wall. They were at cross purposes: the Ukrainian leaders had obviously decided that it was necessary to revive the ceasefire story. It was shameful and unseemly.

It was a great pleasure to watch the Servant of the People series, when no one suspected that its main character would follow this path in real life. But he took the wrong path. If Mr Zelensky watched the series again today and tried to fathom the convictions of the person he had impersonated so well on screen, and later compared those convictions with what he is doing now, he would, perhaps, have achieved one of the most effective transformations.  I do not know when he was himself and when he underwent a transformation. But the contrast is striking.

Dmitry Kiselev: Another subject is the Czech Republic. What was it? How are we to understand it?

Sergey Lavrov: I cannot speculate on this because I do not understand intellectually what they wanted. One can watch it like a not too elegant television series.

This story is full of schizophrenic components. Czech president Milos Zeman says it should be sorted out, not denying the possibility of a subversive act by foreign agents, but suggesting taking into account the story told by the Czech leadership, including the incumbent Prime Minister Andrej Babis (the then Minister of Finance, in 2014), that it was the result of negligence by the depot owners. President Zeman only suggested that consideration should be given to the case that has never been disproven over the seven years. He is accused of high treason now. President of the Senate Milos Vystrcil said that by stating the need to investigate all the leads President Zeman had disclosed a state secret. Is this not schizophrenia? A pure case, I think.

There needs to be an investigation into what was stored in the depot. The German media said that they kept antipersonnel mines prohibited by the convention signed, inter alia, by the Czech Republic and Bulgaria. A lot of questions remain.

Dmitry Kiselev: Indeed, how could it happen that a certain Bulgarian citizen supplying antipersonnel mines (by all appearances they were found there), controlled a depot in the Czech Republic which was not then under the control of the government?

Sergey Lavrov: It so happens.

Dmitry Kiselev: Maybe the Czechs would be better to start with themselves?

Sergey Lavrov: Probably. Or follow the example of Ukraine where too a vast number of armed people, weapons and ammunition are controlled not by the Ukrainian armed forces, but by “volunteer battalions.” It is a trend where the state proves its inability to ensure, if you like, its monopoly over the use of force.

Dmitry Kiselev: Ukraine is one thing but the Czech Republic is a member of the EU. It is bound by other international commitments than those of Ukraine and presents itself differently.

Sergey Lavrov: Above all, in addition to the aforementioned conventions (Ottawa Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention and the so-called Arms Trade Treaty, they are all parties to it), the EU has its own quite strict rules that do not encourage but rather prohibit any actions like supplies and sending forces to regions where there are conflicts.

Dmitry Kiselev: What do you think about the so-called British files? This looks like an orchestrated information campaign against Russia.

Sergey Lavrov: As before, the British continue to play a very active, serious and subversive role in relations between Russia and Europe. Britain has withdrawn from the EU but it has not slackened its activities there. On the contrary, it has been trying to exert maximum influence on the EU countries’ positions towards Moscow. This is not surprising at all.

You don’t even need to go very far back in history. In 2006, Alexander Litvinenko was poisoned with polonium. The inquest began in one way, and then the process was classified because it was necessary to analyse the materials of intelligence services. And then they announced the verdict, but the materials involved in the case have never been made public. As Arnold Schwarzenegger used to say, “Trust me.” I would rather side with Ronald Reagan’s “trust but verify.” But they don’t allow us to verify; they only demand that we trust them.

In 2014, the Malaysian Boeing was downed. They formed a team comprising a narrow group of four countries – the Netherlands, Belgium, Australia and Ukraine. They did not even invite Malaysia, the country that lost the plane. These four countries have agreed, as it has since transpired, that any information would only be revealed on the basis of consensus. Ukraine, where the disaster took place, was given the right of veto, while Malaysia was invited to join the group only six months later. The black boxes, which the self-defence forces provided to Malaysia, were analysed in London. I don’t recall them making the information public.

In 2018, there were the Skripals and the “highly likely.” Nobody knows to this day how the Skripals survived the alleged poisoning, why the police officer who worked with them did not display any symptoms of poisoning, and why the woman involved died while her partner did not get sick. There are very many questions.

In 2020, we had the case of Alexey Navalny. He was flying from Tomsk to Moscow, but the plane landed in Omsk. Nobody on board the plane or in the Omsk hospital got sick. A bottle of water [from his hotel room] was taken by Maria Pevchikh to Germany on the plane that transported Navalny – nobody knows anything. Doctors at the Charité hospital did not find any traces of poison, but they were found at the Bundeswehr. German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer demanded transparency in connection with our recent military drills in the southern and western regions of Russia. But we announced the drills beforehand, whereas the Bundeswehr, whose experts allegedly found traces of Navalny’s poisoning, is keeping information from us. Our request for the results of tests and biomaterials has been denied.

After that there was a long story involving the OPCW. It allegedly took part in collecting samples from Navalny. According to the remarkable information from Berlin, German experts were present during the collection of the samples, but OPCW experts are not mentioned at all. We are trying to sort this information out. Nobody wants to explain anything. Germany is directing us to the OPCW, which says that the request came from Germany and so we should ask them. It is a conspiracy of silence. We have seen this happen in crime movies about bandit groups operating all over the country after the war. This is regrettable.

Getting back to Britain, we can see that London is continuing its anti-Russia policy. Chief of the UK Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) Richard Moore said a few days ago that Russia is “a declining power” whose allegedly “reckless behaviour” needs to be dealt with. This is inherent arrogance and a belief that they continue to rule the world. They are sending “signals” to us and propose establishing ties. In other words, they are not against communicating with us, but they are trying to discourage others from doing the same. This could be an aspiration for a monopoly of contacts and a desire to prove that they are superior to others.

Dmitry Kiselev: Speaking about decline, Britain is a perfect example of a declining empire “on which the sun never sets,” a small island in the North Sea with clouded prospects. To return to the Czech Republic, opinions within the country on the latest developments are totally inconsistent. There is no consensus, and nothing has yet been proven, but diplomats have been expelled. There has already been a result.

Sergey Lavrov: They claim that this is not the reason why our diplomats were expelled.  Two statements were made on the same day. They appeared to be interconnected. Prague is now trying to prove that there is no connection between them. They have announced that the explosions were organised by Petrov and Boshirov, the ubiquitous Russian suspects. It’s like blaming them for the sinking of the Titanic. The same day it was announced that 18 diplomats would have to leave the country. The majority of people accepted this as “punishment” for the 2014 explosions. After that, the Czech authorities said they would track down Petrov and Boshirov and issue an arrest warrant for them. As for the 18 diplomats, they identified them as spies. They expelled them because they turned out to be intelligence agents. No proof that any of these 18 diplomats are guilty of illegal activities has been provided. It is not surprising that former Czech President Vaclav Klaus said that the country’s authorities were like a tiny pooch barking at a huge dog, hoping that the big boys (the United States and Britain) would throw their weight behind them. Do you remember a time from your childhood when local bullies waited until dusk to demand 15 kopeks from a smaller kid, and if he refused they summoned the “big boys.” The logic is very similar. This is regrettable.

We never schemed against our Czech colleagues. Why would we need to blow up that warehouse? Some people say that the Russians were angry that the Bulgarian planned to send munitions to Ukraine. This is a completely schizophrenic view of the situation. This is impossible to imagine. But the machinery has been set in motion. I hope our Czech colleagues will come to their senses after all and will take a look at what they have done. If reason prevails, we will be ready to gradually rebuild the conditions for our diplomatic missions to function normally.  If not, we will make do. We know how we will be working. We don’t have to ingratiate ourselves with anyone.

Dmitry Kiselev: Working on what?

Sergey Lavrov: We know how we will be working in the Czech Republic and other countries. Pinpoint attacks are being made against Russia in the Baltics, Poland and, recently, Romania. Bucharest has added, though, that its decision was in no way connected to the EU’s position. This came as a surprise. They just decided to send that Russian diplomat back home. Why? They have not explained.

Dmitry Kiselev: It is notable that Germany has not supported the Czech Republic.

Sergey Lavrov: I have read the relevant statement by German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas. He spoke like a responsible politician. It is not always that the German Foreign Ministry takes such a balanced and astute position. Many of its other statements have indiscriminately supported injustice, for example when Ukraine adopted sanctions against the Opposition Platform – For Life political party, its leader Viktor Medvedchuk and several of his associates, all of them Ukrainian citizens.  The German Foreign Ministry expressed its approval, saying that this was fully in keeping with OSCE principles. This is absurd.

Therefore, what Heiko Maas said the other day is a responsible political statement. It has not smoothed over differences but pointed out the importance of maintaining dialogue and looking for agreements, since we live side by side.

Dmitry Kiselev: Recently in China, you said we needed to look for alternatives to the SWIFT international payment system, and Russia was preparing for this. Is there a specific timeframe, and what stage of the preparations are we at?

Sergey Lavrov: Many have already spoken about this. This is happening because in recent years, the West has been looking for more ways of infringing on Russia’s legitimate interests. Now they are openly mentioning the possibility of disconnecting our country from SWIFT. Responsible politicians just have to think of ways to play it safe.

In addition to these statements, the United States is increasingly abusing the role of the dollar in the international monetary system, using certain countries’ dependence on dollar settlements to limit their competitive opportunities – China and other states they dislike. China, Russia, and Turkey are now looking for opportunities to reduce their dependence on the dollar by switching to alternative currencies, or even better – by making settlements in their national currencies. The responsible agencies, including in our country, are thinking about how to prevent damage to the economy and the financial system if some hotheads actually disconnect us from SWIFT. Russia launched a national payment card system a few years ago; MIR cards have been in use in Russia since then. The system is already developing ties with its foreign counterparts, as similar cards are being issued in China and Japan. It is also building ties with the internationally accepted payment card Maestro.

As regards the SWIFT system, specifically, the Central Bank of Russia recently introduced and continued to develop a system for the transfer of financial messages. It is quite popular. I think we need to support and strengthen this in every possible way to ensure we do not depend on anyone. Let me emphasise that we are not trying to self-isolate. We want to be part of the international community. Part of a community where justice and democracy work. We have discussed the problems of democracy with the West. But once they are asked to come to an agreement, to declare that democracy should triumph in international relations, too, they lose their enthusiasm. They are full of lectures on internal democratic processes, but when it comes to the international arena, we get raised eyebrows. Here, allegedly, there are established ‘practices’ that ‘Russia and China are trying to implement’ (it’s about this). But in reality, Moscow and Beijing only want to preserve the principles of the UN Charter, according to which everyone is equal and must seek agreement.

One needs to have a safety net in terms of payment systems and transfer of financial messages. We have one. I hope it will grow stronger and be able to provide a guarantee if suddenly, contrary to our desire to cooperate with everyone, the West discriminates against Russia, abusing its current position in the international economic and monetary systems, in this situation, we really cannot afford to depend on anyone.

Dmitry Kiselev: So the Central Bank’s system for transfer of financial messages is the budding alternative to SWIFT?

Sergey Lavrov: I am not an expert. I don’t know how reliably and effectively it provides a full warranty. But the groundwork is already there. I am confident that the Government and the Central Bank must do everything to make it reliable and guarantee us complete independence and protection from more damage that might be inflicted on us.

Dmitry Kiselev: In a conversation with your Chinese counterpart Wang Yi, you proposed an initiative to create a coalition of countries affected by illegal sanctions. To what extent has this project progressed? What countries could join it?

Sergey Lavrov: I would not put it like that. We have been working at the UN for a long time to end the practice of unilateral illegitimate sanctions such as embargoes, blockades and other restrictions. We have been working for a number of decades to lift the embargo the United States declared on Cuba. The respective resolution is supported by more than 190 votes annually, with only the United States and one small island nation voting against it.

However, since this practice of unilateral restrictions began to be widely used (started by Barack Obama, expanded by Donald Trump, and applied to this day), a large group of countries voted in the UN to establish the position of Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of the unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights and their impact on the civilian population and the socioeconomic situation in a particular country. Special Rapporteur Alena Douhan is a citizen of Belarus. This institution, created by the UN General Assembly, is working and circulating reports. I think it is a very useful step.

Another specific course of action is now being developed in New York to the same end, as you mentioned, to counter illegal unilateral measures. It is a group in support of the UN Charter. Nothing revolutionary – just in response to our Western colleagues forming flagrantly non-universal groups.

US President Joe Biden has put forth the idea of ​​holding a Summit for Democracy. Naturally, the Americans will recruit the participants and will judge who is worthy to be called a democracy and who is not.

Also, in recent years, our French and German colleagues have being making calls to ensure freedom of the media through the Alliance for Multilateralism, a group they announced outside the framework of universal institutions. They rallied more than thirty states under its banners even though there is UNESCO, where the same topic is discussed by everyone.

Or, there was an appeal in support of international humanitarian law. Law is universal. It is the responsibility of the UN bodies. But again, they recruited about 50 states.

Such appeals have nothing to do with universal bodies, but they cover the agenda that is discussed at a universal level. They place that agenda into a framework where they are more comfortable negotiating with those who obey, and then they present it as the ultimate truth.

This movement against illegitimate unilateral actions is much broader than just sanctions.

Dmitry Kiselev: Can this movement be formalised by membership?

Sergey Lavrov: The membership is in the UN. This is the difference: we are not creating anything against anyone. In the Asia-Pacific region, we would like to leave everything as it is. ASEAN has its partners, while anyone else can join security discussions. The logic of the West acts against this. They are implementing the Indo-Pacific Strategy with its declared goal of containing China and isolating Russia.

The same is happening at the UN. They create various partnerships on topics that need to be discussed as part of the UN agenda. We insist that everyone must fulfil their obligations under the UN Charter, not scatter the global agenda across their compartments, only to present it later as the international community’s opinion.

Dmitry Kiselev: A recent update: the Americans confirmed they had made efforts to prevent Brazil from buying the Russian Sputnik V vaccine. Brazil indeed refused, even though the coronavirus situation in that country is simply awful. What is your assessment?

Sergey Lavrov: This does not surprise me. The Americans are not even embarrassed to do things like that; they are not hiding it.

When former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo travelled to Africa, he openly and publicly called on his colleagues at a press conference to cut off trade with Russia and China because these countries pursue selfish goals. Right, the United States trades with African states for the sole benefit of their peoples, of course.

As for the vaccine issue, a protest movement kicked off in Brazil against that decision. If the Americans have admitted they were behind it, that means they are true to their logic and believe everything is possible and permitted, and they can now openly dictate their will.

Not so long ago, French President Emmanuel Macron warned of a new type of world war, and that Russia and China were using vaccines as a weapon and means of propaganda. That rhetoric is now receding. Germany, including Chancellor Angela Merkel, is already seriously talking about the possibility of using the Russian vaccine.

We are not going to force anyone. I think life itself will set things straight. Vladimir Vysotsky said: “I always try to find the good in people. They will show the bad themselves.”

Dmitry Kiselev: A year ago, in an interview with our agency in the midst of the pandemic, you said you missed football. Are you back to sport yet?

Sergey Lavrov: In fact, I am. I did miss playing for a couple of weeks. We took a break and kept it low-key. But later, when we realised what precautions we could take, the games resumed. We play every Sunday.

Russia and the EU; The Ukraine Card

Russia and the EU; The Ukraine Card

April 08, 2021

by Ghassan and Intibah Kadi for the Saker Blog

A tug-of-war game in Europe has been a strong feature of dramatic events in the region and further afield ever since the Roman Empire plus the Church split up. Which was the cause and which was the effect is subject to debate, but the split was much deeper than one that was political; the spiritual aspect of it is not to be overlooked.

The authors are not experts on this aspect of history and will therefore not dwell too much, but it suffices to say that Catholic Easter can come before Passover, even though Jesus celebrated Passover before His Crucifixion. But this anomaly does not happen in the Julian Calendar that the Orthodox Church adheres to till today; and the Orthodox community doesn’t shy away from presenting this contradiction in the Georgian Calendar that Catholicism follows.

But this article is not about the over millennium-and-a-half-old disagreement between the Western and Eastern Churches. It is about the current rift between Russia and Western Europe.

But to what extent does much of the current rift find its roots in religion? No region in the world has in recent times experienced the repercussions of this ancient divide as much as the Balkans when the former federation of Yugoslavia split, on Catholic/Orthodox religious lines, that ironically bear a huge resemblance to the borders between those of the Roman and the Byzantine Empires. The exploitation of potential cracks in the two main spheres of Islam by the Western power-block, along with its useful non-Western allies, is not to be discounted. It is easy to apply a simplistic view of the divide of the East and West upon such criteria alone, but religious difference always plays an important role, albeit psychologically. In Europe, historical factors also include that of the influence of the Ottoman Empire, the conversion of many East Europeans to Islam, divisions within the Western Church resulting in drastic conflicts and, fast forward to the much later phenomenon of the Soviet era and the lasting implications of its legacy in neighbouring countries, then the picture becomes more complex.

No matter what is said by those countries that Russia had influence over in the post-World War II period, there is no excuse for their denial of the fact that that it was Russia, albeit under the banner of the Red Army, that liberated all of Eastern Europe, including former East Germany and all of Berlin from the Nazis. Among the allies in WWII, Russia made the biggest sacrifices, more sacrifices than all of those of the allies combined, losing tens of millions of its people, with estimates reaching up to forty million. No other nation came close to this calamitous human loss; not even Germany itself.

Yet, Russia is denied all of the accolade in winning the fight against Nazi Germany. Was it its communist USSR status that turned it into the underdog in Western written history or, was it its Orthodox heritage juxtaposed to that of a powerful-global reaching Vatican and also a ‘Christian West’, intent on subduing and dominating, all with the trappings of grabbing resources and spoils?

Clearly, Western Europe, no matter what facts on the ground exist, seems intent on expressing, in public at least, an incurable sense of apprehension, mythology and propagation of fiction when it comes to Russia. Add to this a European obedience to the dictates of America and its power-brokers in attempts to cripple Russia with sanctions, an obedience mostly gained through threats of negative consequences and blackmail if not adhered to. Not only is this broad-spectrum demonization, at least publicly, expressed by European politicians and its so-called ‘elites’, but also among most of the population of Western Europe.

One of the authors often uses popular songs of the West and their lyrics to express specific mental mindsets in certain blocks of time and space. In 1980, British musician, Sting, wrote a song titled Russians. It was meant to be a message of peace in which Sting wondered, with obvious sympathetic sarcasm, about the state of anti-Russia propaganda, and whether some people in the West regarded Russians as robotic communist mindless machines and questioned if they loved their children like all other humans. The lyrics exemplify the popular perceptions in the West of the people and nation of Russia, even to the extent that they would ask such a bizarre question about the love of children.

And, despite the changes in Russia since the dismantling of the Soviet Union which is what the West planned for, and the emergence during the Yeltsin period of ‘bandit capitalism’ – as if that doesn’t exist elsewhere- the negative perceptions persisted, and to add to that, a palpable sense of glee at the chaos and collapse occurring in Russia. Some say, Yeltsin was wracked with guilt later on and ensured a leader who could pull the country out of this disaster; Vladimir Putin, tripping up the West’s plan with many future surprises in store. To this day, the eyes of the Western public are re-directed from any ills that their own powers may be involved in and sharply turned towards this convenient ‘bogey-man’. There was no Hollywood spin to show a ‘rehabilitated’ Russia as Putin quickly turned things around after the Yeltsin period, restoring the nation and the Federation to one of healthy self-esteem, pride, strength and a resolve to regain its place in the world, gradually rendering what the West had seen as a great ‘coup’ over Russia, to a victory that backfired.

Those in the West are at a loss to accurately elaborate on the actual cause of the current escalation with Russia and, that is because the facts don’t stack up in their favour in the honesty box when it comes to manufacturing conflict. Their exploitation of any religious divide has to an extent been successful, but more so about ensuring the encircling of Russia with hostile nations or turning around some governments of traditional Orthodox allies. There is no racial based explanation to the escalation and history of it other than Russian culture being generally one of inclusiveness and diversity, something the West has failed in and in fact abused. Russia, an old culture with at least one thousand years of existence in a paradigm of interdependence with diverse cultures and ethnicities, spanning a massive section of the largest continent that reaches the Black, Caspian, Baltic, Bering Seas, those to the north and east, and all the way to the North Pacific Ocean; how can modern day Europe and the West compare to that?

For the old West, Europe, now mostly gathered into the entity known as the EU, their animosity cannot be explained by unresolved issues with the old Soviet Union. Nor can it be based on beliefs of clear and present dangers and threats posed by the existence of Russia. EU leaders are surely cognisant of the fact that it was NATO that broke the agreement between Gorbachev and the West and that NATO incrementally has been intimidating and threatening Russia’s security by positioning missiles in former Warsaw Pact nations, encircling Russia, and long before Russia made any attempts to counteract such measures. EU leaders, for various reasons, put aside reality and rationality and the known fact that peace and stability in Europe can only exist or have any potentiality if it is based on a mutual European understanding that Russia must be included. EU leaders clearly know, but never state it, that it is the USA that is coercing them to make a stand against their own regional and economic interests and to take actions against Russia; not the other way around as stipulated by their national interests as they claim.

When it comes to the crunch, it is the manipulation by America, a power that aimed and succeeded for some decades in creating itself as a unipolar, all-reaching, global power, one which called the shots on anything and everything and had under its control the vanquished nations that lost out in WWII. When Europe organized itself into a union, it became far easier for America to have almost the entire sub-continent under its boot. It could not have achieved this without the demonization of Russia and re-writing of history for the consumption of the West and all under its tutelage. Just like we have witnessed over time with the ‘Empire Wars’, the strategy of co-opting into a hybrid war format Hollywood and all media has played a crucial role in building a world-wide narrative of America as the ‘world policeman’, ‘saviour’ and ‘leader of the free-world’, when in reality it played the role of raider, pirate and predator, sharing spoils with some of its more powerful ‘allies’ who in effect were nations with little sovereignty or ability to make any crucial decisions of their own.

Last but not least, from the unpragmatic military position, EU leaders know, but under duress ignore the fact that Russia has recently developed state-of-the-art hypersonic weapons that their NATO status and alliance with the USA cannot protect them against. They know that should an escalation materialize between NATO and Russia; such weapons can be used and the outcome possibly devastating for the EU itself. EU nations and, NATO as a whole, know for a fact that a war on European soil with Russia is totally and utterly unwinnable by them. Even without deploying any of the many weapons President Putin announced to the world during his famous speech of March the 1st 2018, a conventional war between the two sides gives Russia the benefit of depth of field and number of troops. Such is the hold on these nations that they act as if in denial of the obvious. What do they stand to gain? Or, is it about harm minimization under the yoke of America? And, what does Europe in particular, expect to gain from provoking or partaking in the provoking of war over Ukraine?

Again, in the usual twisting of facts, the Western media busy themselves in the post-Trump era in portraying Russia as the culprit that is escalating the crisis in Ukraine. If Russia is left with no alternative to act, deciding it must engage militarily, it is not going to be either influenced or intimidated by Western ‘fake news’. It will act based on the facts on the ground, and whatever Russia decides to do or not do, the Western media and leading figures will portray Russia as the transgressor and aggressor, and as we have recently witnessed from Biden himself, ramp up the rhetoric such as calling the President of a world power, President Putin, ‘a killer’.

Without the benefit of a crystal ball, either the situation will escalate to a level that leaves Russia with no other alternative than taking measures similar to those it took in Chechnya and Georgia, or that Ukraine will back off. The former scenario seems more likely unless the superior style of Russian diplomacy that specializes in win-win deals can find a solution. However, the current threat regarding Ukraine surely is for Russia where the line in the sand is to be drawn. Should matters descend to the irreconcilable, even though Russia is certain to score military victory, it will most definitely be subjected to more Western sanctions than the ones it is already under. No doubt, in such an event of ever more imaginative and diabolic sanctions imposed, it will draw Russia ever closer to allies the West does not approve of and new systems which the West has monopolized, will be overridden and rendered ineffective in bringing Russia to its knees.

As for the ever creeping ‘naughty puppy’ syndrome of NATO pushing its presence in Eastern Europe one inch at a time after the breakup of the USSR, all the way from feigning reasons for missiles stationed in Eastern Europe as safeguarding the EU from Iranian missiles, to inciting and coercing former Warsaw Pact nation members to join NATO, deploying more troops in the EU, blatant support for the Ukrainian Nazis, Russia has reciprocated in measured ways. Yes, it did retake Crimea from Ukraine, but this was done within a referendum-based democratic process. Russia may have to bite the dangerous bullet and offer the persecuted regions of Ukraine the same option. Afterall, Russia’s stand in Syria in 2015 at the request of the Syrian government, has clearly signaled that the unipolar 1990’s style ‘New World Order’ is over and that there cannot be any turning back.

Russia’s patience, perseverance and confidence in superior, win-win diplomacy in time will be widely regarded with respect by the rest of the world, even quietly by the EU leaders. It is the EU leaders who will not come to the party because they are hostage to many traps and hence, it is extremely unlikely, if not impossible, given the bind they find themselves in, that they will respond to reason, diplomacy or act in their best interests. Unlike the decades America in particular has had to install or hijack institutions and conjure up scams to place ‘rules’ on the world, Russia is not yet in a strong enough financial position to implement some of its own ‘rules’ to protect her interests. No nations should be able to do this in a manner that adversely affects other nations, whether through ‘rules’, sanctions, scams or monopoly and other tools that kill without a bullet being fired or bombed dropped. These and other strategies and tactics have come predominately from a nation in a general decline; one that boasts a huge fleet of ten aircraft carriers, countless world-wide bases and almost a trillion-dollar annual war budget; the American war machine nonetheless is a technological dinosaur in comparison to the slick and advanced Russian counter-part.

On the big geo-political level; (1) what keeps America in a position of power today is its power of the petro-dollar based global economy and all that comes with it, including control of the SWIFT-based monetary international transactions without which goods cannot be bought, sold and paid for on the international market; (2) in realistic economic sense however, it is China that is approaching the global lead if it hasn’t already at least in Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) terms, and (3) in terms of military hardware superiority, it is Russia that leads the world in this.

In regards to the current ‘crisis’ and a possible showdown over Ukraine, Russia surely cannot have concerns over its military capacity to deal with any action. However, unless Russia has been able to safe-guard its economy, quarantining it as much as possible from being affected by further Western sanctions, then any escalation should not leave Russia subject to any intimidatory Western repercussions. The further the West pushes, the closer Russia will co-operate with China, whether that is driven on a voluntary basis or has arisen out of necessity, and, in such a rapidly changing global environment, that decision of Russia is understandable and pragmatic, providing China stays solidly by the side of Russia.

Washington to Organize Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova to Challenge Russia in the Black Sea

By Paul Antonopoulos

Global Research, February 15, 2021

All Global Research articles can be read in 27 languages by activating the “Translate Website” drop down menu on the top banner of our home page (Desktop version).

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One of Washington’s main strategic objectives is to consolidate and organize Eastern European states to oppose and contain Russia. Supporting Black Sea countries against Russia has become a major American priority as Turkey is now an unreliable partner, and therefore Washington is attempting to create a new alliance officially outside of the NATO structure but attached to it indirectly. The creation of a military bloc between Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova is a Washington-led initiative, but is unlikely to have any major impact in limiting Russian influence.

Last week, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba revealed details of his conversation with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Kuleba said that Kiev, with the support of Washington, will start forming a trilateral military alliance comprising of Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova. Although Moldova is not directly on the Black Sea like Ukraine and Georgia, it does have relatively easy access via the Port of Giurgiulești on the Danube River. The bold statements by Kiev’s leaders do not usually provoke significant global interest, but this is special as the order came directly from the White House. Therefore, it unsurprisingly proves a continuation of Washington’s hostile policies towards Russia under new U.S. President Joe Biden.

Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky, almost immediately after Blinken’s endorsement, began to check the combat readiness of his troops in Donbass and stopped the transmission of “pro-Russian” television stations on February 3. Then a week later on February 10, Ukraine made a provocative proposal to NATO by urging the Alliance to use the airspace in the Simferopol Flight Information Region (FIR) over Russia’s Crimean Peninsula for its operations.

The Simferopol FIR includes Ukraine’s Kherson Oblast, the Crimean Peninsula and the central part of the Black Sea. International air routes over Crimea have been banned by Eurocontrol (European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation) as the Simferopol dispatch center is Russian operated and the only flights to Crimea come from Russia. The sky above the peninsula and the adjacent waters of the Black and Azov Seas are effectively protected by the Russian Aerospace Forces and the Russian Navy. Therefore, Ukraine’s invitation for NATO to fly over Crimea with military aircraft is an insidious military ingenuity and an attempt by Zelensky to force the Alliance into a conflict with Russia.Georgia and Ukraine Joining NATO Will Likely Have the Opposite Effect Against Russia

The intensification of Ukrainian military operations in Donbass, even with the promised support of the U.S., will only lead to a new humanitarian catastrophe, but more importantly a changing of the frontlines that will not be in Kiev’s favor. We cannot overlook that the Donbass People’s Militia defeated the Ukrainian Armed Forces and their advance was only halted because of orders from Moscow. President Vladimir Putin has already announced that he will never allow the repression of Russian-speakers in eastern Ukraine to occur, but authorities in Kiev have not shown any sign in ending their hostilities.

Kiev, as well as decisionmakers in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi, dream of complete NATO support in any future war against Russia. Georgia’s invasion of South Ossetia in 2008 and Ukraine’s military actions against Donbass in 2014 should serve as stark reminders that NATO is not willing to go to war with Russia for their sake. This is even despite Washington’s encouragement for these countries to be openly hostile against Russia.

In the Global Firepower military ranking, Poland ranks 23. The Pentagon has promised to assist Warsaw within five days of any conflict breaking out. However, recent computer simulations of a possible conflict between Poland and an adversary from its east (i.e. Russia) suggest that assistance will be shortcoming. Given the logistical problems, a five-day transfer of U.S. troops to Poland is an overly optimistic forecast. Using the realistic background of Poland which directly borders several friendly states, such as Germany which has a huge contingent of American soldiers, the geographical separation between Ukraine and Georgia is discouraging if they are supposed to be in an alliance to counter and/or contain Russia.

A hypothetical military bloc between Ukraine (ranked 25 by Global Firepower), Georgia (ranked 92) and Moldova (ranked 107) seems extremely unconvincing in being able to contain Russia. Although Moldova has a “non-aligned” Constitution, new Russophobic President Maia Sandu is more than willing to carry out demands made by Washington.

The U.S. and NATO are attempting to turn the post-Soviet space into a state of permanent military hostility and conflict as they believe it is the best guarantee for Western countries to keep Russia distracted and weak. However, close coordination between Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova is unlikely to be a major concern for Russia in security terms as they don’t have navies.

As Turkey has become an unreliable NATO member, the U.S. is hedging their bets on NATO members Bulgaria and Romania, and NATO-friendly states like Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova, to serve Turkey’s role in pressuring Russia in the Black Sea. Although the U.S. and Turkey conducted military exercises in the Black Sea to the condemnation of Moscow only days ago, there is little suggestion that if a conflict broke out in the Black Sea involving NATO and Russia, Turkey will commit to its Alliance obligations. It is for this reason that Washington is pushing Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova to more closely cooperate with NATO against Russia despite not being Alliance members.

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This article was originally published on InfoBrics.

Paul Antonopoulos is an independent geopolitical analyst.

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Not a step back!

Not a step back!

December 29, 2020

Not a step back![1]

By Ken Leslie for the Saker Blog

1. A tale of two kingdoms

Given the precarious geopolitical situation, some Russia supporters might feel that the worst thing now for Russia would be to rock the boat and enrage the West by retaliating against the hybrid war waged against it. In my view, the worst is the Baghdad Bob-like complacency and refusal to understand how serious the things are. For make no mistake, no anxious giggling or bravado (or Russian love of affectionate nicknames) can hide the severity of the current situation. If you are of a weaker disposition, skip the next several paragraphs and land on the juicy, positive bits.

I cannot (and am not trying to) offer an in-depth geopolitical analysis of the current situation in the manner of the Saker. What I can do is produce a parable (or is it allegory?) on how a determined and resourceful victim of constant and total attack must respond in order to save itself and make its enemies pay for all the inflicted pain and suffering—with interest (for after all that is what the bully likes more than anything else). What follows is a completely fictional account of a life-and-death conflict between cultures and religions and any similarities with real countries and characters are purely incidental.

Some 30 years ago, a new era in world history was loudly announced by the supposed victors of a protracted war against a large, semi-pagan people that inhabited large swaths of the continent of Sunlandia. Their vast land was called Dayland. Once they had had a large land empire which crashed and burned in the fires of a revolution fomented by its mortal enemies after having survived countless invasions by sundry power-crazed maniacs and constant enmity by the inhabitants of the lands in which the sun sets (to be called Nightland). But, no, not even the destruction of the empire and its religious importance was not enough to satisfy the haters. The new communist state was immediately shunned by the Nightlanders and retained its pariah status for all its 73 years of existence. Not only that, during its incarnation as a land of workers and peasants (nothing wrong with that), it experienced the most horrible holocaust in modern history (another great country assailed from the East, let’s call it “Mornland” suffered at least to the same extent from a different fascist tyrant). An all too brief interlude of hope and glory (apologies to John Boorman) was immediately replaced by the next phase of the never-ending conflict—isolation and attrition, nuclear threats, sanctions and sabotage, proxy wars, intelligence, economic and cultural battles, the list goes on.

Although exsanguinated by the horrors of the holocide by a semi-formal union of the countries to the West of it and exhausted by external pressures, the great county went on to achieve miracles in improving the living standards and literacy rates of its population to the extent unheard of until then. Other miracles were performed by the country in various fields of science and technology and the example set by its heroic struggle inspired countless anti-colonial and anti-imperialist movements which resulted in a fundamental reshaping of the World’s political map. Alas, it was not to last. In spite of great achievements and its crucial role as the bringer of balance to the world affairs, the great (in all senses) country broke up tragically if relatively peacefully. With its demise, the darkening cumulus cloud that had hovered over my head for at least a decade, turned into a giant fat cumulonimbus ready to explode with thunder and lightning.

Although for many people those early years of the new order were the years of hope, soon, the hope was cruelly quashed. Instead of learning the lessons of the “war in all-but-name”, the victors were blinded by their greed and unearned sense of superiority. Instead of healing the wounds of the past, they set out to deepen them by restoring the platform from which most wars of destruction had come. By breaking up federations of the heathen sub-humans, co-opting them into a new feudal system, building a power block around the genocidal transgressor and bleeding the defeated country dry, the Nightland was demonstrating for all to see that its intent was never peaceful.

The first clear inkling of things to come was a beastly aggression committed on a brave and innocent people whose only crime was to have resisted the renewed push towards the East. Conveniently forgotten and explained away by the evil masterminds as a charitable intervention, the war signalled the new phase in the war against Dayland. The border between Nightland and Dayland was pushed about 1500 km eastward. Dayland’s former allies were turned into its worst and most belligerent enemies. With every step to the right, Nightland was gaining and Dayland was losing—friends, trade and influence. Like many times before in its extraordinary history, the country was fortunate in one respect. An exceptional man appeared from nowhere to pull Dayland out of the quagmire and set it on the path of resurgence and renewed greatness. Well, this was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

We, who care about Dayland are cursing the sheer gall and bloodthirst of the criminal aggressors. Some of us are asking—is this offensive ever going to stop? Most of us know the answer—never! As long as Dayland exists with its strange mix of peoples, faiths and worldviews, it must not live. All we have left is the hope that the leadership of Dayland will be able to deal with the oncoming peril. There is a creeping worry that without a more muscular response, the country will eventually succumb to a death by a thousand cuts. So, here is an overview of the principles that should guide Dayland’s fightback—before it becomes too late.

2. The problem

Before I can talk about means, I must address the causes. Despite its size and advanced society, Dayland has no overt allies and the slightly tepid embrace of Mornland is not sufficient to compensate for this. Note, I am saying overt—that means no partners who are committed to the joint defence and who would mobilise their forces if Dayland were to be attacked. It doesn’t even have potential allies as in countries that would eventually fight on Dayland’s side. Admittedly, some of this information is very secret and there might be exceptions. The one worrying aspect is that this has never been the case before. One does not need to be a historian to realise that whenever an attack came from the dark side, at least half of Nightland was either neutral or on Dayland’s side. Some people will interject: “Oh, they are divided, at odds, it’s an illusion maintained by the printing presses, they would get a bloody nose” etc.

All of these statements are questionable.[2] The currently dominant empire of the Nightland has pretty much absolute control over its minions. Minor disputes are normal within any military, political and economic union. Note that none of the predicted cataclysmic ruptures between the partners in crime ever happened. No great economic crisis that has been predicted since before the occupation of the Borderlands has taken place. If anything, the push towards the lands of the light has intensified—the two are not mutually exclusive. Briefly, things are not looking good for Dayland, not because it is not doing well, but because a large portion of the “developed” world is still allied against it and this in itself is unprecedented and must be dealt with pronto.

The “problem” of the title is that such a situation always calls for active steps and measures aimed at weakening, confusing and discouraging the attacking opponent. Of course, such steps should always be combined with defensive and diplomatic moves but to remove the threat, a serious aggressive pushback on the part of Dayland is needed as soon as possible. When I say “aggressive”, I don’t mean crudely so. What I mean is that a fundamental change of heart is necessary. Over a thousand years of defensive wars have conditioned Dayland’s soldiers and politicians to avoid conflict as long as possible. Whether this is because of deficiencies in forward planning or deep morality is moot—the pattern of procrastination and delaying the inevitable has characterised Dayland’s military, diplomatic and political strategies for a very long time. This would not be much of a problem if it didn’t result in significant (and avoidable) losses and casualties.

Actually, it has become something of a cliché, general Winter and all. Daylanders are supposed to suffer horribly and even if they wake up in the end and prevail, the destruction wrought on them will set them back several decades—enough to strengthen Nightland and ensure its supremacy for the foreseeable future. It is this point that was countered by the great statesman who is currently at the helm of Dayland. He’d promised his opponents that Dayland would never again fight a war on its territory. Recently he had announced a substantial change to the country’s nuclear doctrine which from now on will treat any incoming missiles as nuclear—no petty stuff. And yet, this is far from enough. How come, you’ll ask? Well, if the president’s warnings and veiled threats had been sufficient, the Big Bad Wolf would not be knocking on the last piggy’s door. Admittedly, this door is made of a sturdier stuff than the previous ones but nevertheless—the fact that he has come so far should alert everybody at how precarious the situation is. We are one semi-successful colour revolution away from the ultimate victory of Nightland.

No human kindness will dissuade the scum of the earth to desist and embrace the path of peace and co-operation. The Mephistophelian financiers, venal leeches in the media, talentless parasites infesting countless NGOs and “institutes”, petty bureaucrats tasked with pulling down monuments and places of worship, businessmen sabotaging their own companies for the sake of a hidden hand and moronic generals issuing bloodcurdling threats while installing their missiles ever closer to Dayland’s borders—all of these despicable people must be given a message that they will understand and hopefully rethink their course.

3. The solution

Clearly, this is a vast topic and I have only a couple of thousand words (which I’m wasting) to outline a strategy that might or might not be successful but certainly represents a viable departure from the current dilatory posture by Dayland’s government. I shall deliberately ignore some recent attempts at countering the offensive and focus on what’s possible. One of the common quandaries in situations of this kind is that 95% of modern warfare is conducted secretly, in ways that are not only unknown but unknowable by us mere mortals. This is a world of secret institutions with large budgets and no democratic oversight, sophisticated intelligence capabilities and covert action. Although this is probably true to some extent, it makes one susceptible to a fallacy that human agency has no place in a modern war. This is analogous to what I call “cryptographer’s fallacy” which states that a brute force increase in the complexity of a cypher renders it unbreakable. As long as there is a faintest trace of human activity buried under the layers of technological obfuscation, human origins of the cypher remain discernible and actionable. This is my reasoning behind writing this. However sophisticated the enemy might appear, they cannot completely camouflage their weak spots. Even if they don’t possess any, intelligent and creative approach to counter-terror must bear fruit. The key here is unpredictability—not of the kind espoused by Donald Trump but something much more elaborate and advanced—something worthy of Russia’s genius.

Here, let me list a few principles that Dayland should embrace in order to produce a combination of a pushback and payback that is so badly needed at this moment.

3.1. By delaying the pushback, you are only making things worse for yourself. The damage/time function is passed its crossing point. The time to act is now.

3.2. There is no need to be mindlessly aggressive in the manner of the USA. The knowledge that such offensive weapons are available and can be used is often enough to dissuade the opponent. But remember, they have to be able to cause real pain.

3.3. This proposal runs against everything you have been taught and made to believe is right. Targeting “non-military” assets is an important part of this. You will have to stoop to your enemy’s level in order to rise again free from existential threat. And this time you must be ruthless—as ruthless as they are. Those sweet voices telling you to be “better” than your enemy do not necessarily wish you well.

3.4. Aggression is necessary and important in all aspects of statecraft. This does not mean a crude unyielding attack against all and sundry (this is not possible at the moment anyway) but a targeted, co-ordinated yet sub-threshold campaign of: sabotage, political warfare, targeted elimination of external and internal threats, painful reciprocal punishments for every inimical gesture and a ramping up of the threat of armed retaliation.

3.5. For this to work, you must dispense with any hopes that you will ever be accepted as equals by the West. The destruction of two of your previous incarnations in a span of about 60 years and the total war against the current one should be sobering enough. You must work for a new world in which your and other peoples will exist free from the existential threat posed by the eternal vulture.

3.6. Your adversary is neither superior nor supreme. His power rests on the pillage of ancient cultures and peoples and his time as the ruler of the world is coming to an end. That makes him dangerous but also prone to errors. Act like the brave guerrillas of old. Avoid direct punches (set battles) but fight back as fiercely as you can. It is not so much about results but attitude. He must know that any inimical moves will be costly and painful for him and his lackeys.

3.7. Once you accept the above, a whole new arsenal of subtle weapons will become accessible. This includes a myriad of fine-grain activities and micro-scale operations which can achieve remarkable results if capably co-ordinated and efficiently carried out. If you succeed in putting these in motion, you will not need hypersonic weapons (although they do help).

4. The strategy

It is here that things become interesting and difficult. How can a strategy be designed that is so sophisticated that the enemy cannot parry it (while its implementation does not involve undue effort)? First, one has to recognise that the power differential means that there is little room for error. Even more important than this is a lack of predictability which confounds the adversary and transfers initiative to the defending camp. And although the defender has fewer means to retaliate, he can make up for it by leveraging his assets and using them to his maximum advantage. These are not always visible. For example, … oh hell, enough of this silly charade! The ongoing stereotype about Russia is “gas and hackers”.

Although corny and offensive, the stereotype holds a grain of truth. For years, analysts have been speculating on the importance of gas pipelines as an appropriate deterrent. However, after five years of toing and froing on the gas front, it is becoming clear that this kind of weapon is very ineffective. The reasons are: a) it can be easily neutralised or bypassed and b) even if it’s not, it always leads to an eventual loss of influence (workings of the market, anti-Russian Western courts etc.). While it may be useful to have somewhere in the arsenal, history tells us that Russia would never use petrochemicals as a weapon even against its worst enemies. By contrast, the relentless “meddling” campaign in the West reminds us that Russia’s programmers and computer scientists are its top asset and I hope they are sufficiently incentivised to stay in Russia and protect her from the perennial aggressor. The future wars will be largely electronic.

In order to deprive Russia of freedom of action and oxygen of public sympathy, the West has embarked on an unprecedented coordinated campaign of demonisation of Russia as well as persecution, expulsion, arrest and assassination of its citizens. The degree of agreement in public opinion achieved by the new Nazis is mindboggling and I am not using this word lightly. All across the Western world Russian diplomatic property is being confiscated, ambassadors are being killed and diplomats expelled in their hundreds. The very mention of “Russia” is sufficient to trigger adverse associations in the majority of Westerners. Sanction after sanction is fired at the Russian state and its functionaries and capital projects are sabotaged without impunity.

What has been very surprising all the way through this escalating crisis is the apparent meekness of the Russian response to the enemy’s blows. By this I don’t mean complete inaction, but the belief that things are not irretrievably bad, that one event or another (e.g. election) could turn this crusade around and allow the Russians to breathe freely. Unfortunately, highly nuanced diplomatic warnings, allusions to possible outcomes, the tactic of always leaving an escape hatch ajar so that the partnyor doesn’t for one moment have to consider the consequences of his transgressions—are less than ineffective. For the adversary assumes that Russia is more afraid of an escalation (which is happening anyway) than offending or angering the evil behemoth (which is happening anyway).[3]

While going through the motions, the Americans are tightening the screws as we speak. Even the criminal geopolitical reprobate—Germany—dares threaten Russia openly without any meaningful response (Navalny, Byelorussia, Moldova, Ukraine etc.). In a word, Russia’s posture is dangerously passive. Although useful once, when a parity existed in the deadly power between the West and the East, this posture has long outlived its usefulness. It appears as a timorous, peace-at-all costs-seeking response to serious aggressive moves. The aggressor knows that Russian benevolence is not a consequence of power because this is only shown rarely and in exceptional circumstances (like the Americans who occasionally but very rarely give Russia a pat on the back). Rather, in Russia’s case it’s becoming a trope, a cliched modus operandi which hopes to appease the enemy and stay his merciless hand. But his hand won’t be stayed. He has ignored Russia’s pleading and president Putin’s warnings and is marching on. I am convinced that a change of tack is sorely needed. Judo might appear defensive but its ultimate aim is slamming an opponent against the tatami—and worse.

The three requirements that should guide a successful response strategy by Russia are:

4a. A deep change of heart

This point is perhaps the most important because it requires the most extensive social and psychological intervention. What do I mean by a “DCH”? In order to remove the curse of the West from its borders, first Russia needs to remove the West from its hearts. None of the super advanced hypersonic weapons will be worth a dime if those who are supposed to fire them idolise Hollywood and rap and fantasise about living in California or Bavaria (e. g. Gorbachev). I know that this sounds over the top but we are in an over-the-top situation where no rational dialogue is possible. We are dealing with an opponent who understands only brute force and considers Russians nothing more than dangerous semi-humans. I know, you’ll hear Americans say—oh, I’ve had Russian neighbours and they are lovely people, hard-working, keeping themselves to themselves blah blah. Aren’t you tired of that ….? The future for Russia will be very grim unless it breaks off its dependence on the West as an eternal magnetic pole of virtue and civilisation. Shakespeare, Dante, Goethe and Molière are dead and nothing will bring them back. Moreover, they have nothing to do with the unthinking racist, fascist, imperialist and chauvinist West as it is now.

The West is not a Nirvana of tolerance, gentility and democracy. It’s an artificial predatory organism whose genocidal hunger grows in proportion to the number of innocent lives it has snuffed out. It can sustain social peace at home as long as it is allowed to rob, steal and traduce abroad. Its long-term prospects being bleak, it is intent on dragging the world into the abyss not unlike what a dying Balrog did to Gandalf the Grey (damn that British propaganda). I am not advocating a total break with the West but a watchful, vary mistrust inspired by the awareness of West’s true intentions towards Russia. While it is difficult if not impossible to control the feelings of the millions of ordinary Russians, the example must come from the top. Credit where credit’s due—I am seeing a belated attempt to disrupt the activity of enemy agents inside Russia. I’ll quote Colonel Cassad: “Better late than never”.

4b. Aggressive forward posture

Emotionally, the hardest part for anybody who understands the underlying dynamics of the “European” imperialism and cares about Russia is the reactive posture of the Russian governing structures in the face of dehumanising treatment by the West. The cliches such as “open doors”, “international law”, “peaceful coexistence” and “always ready” etc. only embolden the enemy and show up Russian policy as weak, dilatory and unprepared to respond in kind (even if it Russia’s true strength is much greater).[4] This needs to change very soon if Russia is to stand any chance of regaining initiative in international relations. At the same time, the avalanche of slander and sabotage was so vast that waiting for it to rumble its way down the mountainside might have seemed like a good strategy.

Examples abound, for instance the humiliating treatment of Russia by the Bulgarians (South Stream, diplomat expulsions etc.). What should have been done was to expose Bulgaria to the maximum pressure especially economic and diplomatic. Subtle co-ordinated campaign of harassment of Bulgarian diplomats, businessmen and spies should have been par for the course. A concerted effort to harm Bulgaria might not have destroyed the country but could have contributed to a change in policy. If large gestures were out of question, an accumulation of small steps would have more than sufficed. But nothing ever came of it. The Bulgarians harassed Russian diplomats instead and the whole messy saga was forgotten. What hasn’t changed is the inimical posture by the country which owes its birth and survival to Russia. A more recent insulting treatment of Sergei Lavrov by the Croatian and “Bosnian” apparatchiks stick in one’s craw and reinforce the impression of severe weakness of the Russian foreign policy.

The recent shameful pronouncements by a Jewish president of the Ukraine whose grandfather had fought in the Red Army to the effect that Russia was guilty of starting WWII has been met by a mild rebuke from the Russian foreign ministry. A similar non-response was given following the threat by a Vukro-Nazi to deprive the population of Crimea of running water. Where are all the GRU illegals, Spetznaz snipers and sappers? What about the monuments to the heroes of the Great Patriotic War?

Every insult or threat directed at a Russian citizen (or symbol) irrespective of their status needs to be answered in kind. Let me give you a broad-brush example. For every Russian arrested abroad without a clear criminal case, a national of the offending country should be held in custody until the Russian has been released. If this is not possible, a company belonging to the offending country should be closed down and its property nationalised. For every Russian diplomat dying under less than completely innocent circumstances or being expelled, a foreign diplomat should be expelled in turn or a consulate closed down. This might be costly in the short term but would soon disabuse the barbarians of the notion that Russians are a meek and forgiving sort. Of course, these crude examples should be elaborated in order to confuse the enemy.

Sanctions are a matter of state policy but under no circumstances should they (or counter-sanctions) be applied half-heartedly. All sanctions must be treated as weapons of war. Consequently, they must never be used as a “warning” or a “slap”. Why? Because this kind of response must have been factored in by the enemy at the planning stage. Either they should be aimed at seriously harming the opponent or should be left in the rifle locker. I have the impression that Russia has been applying all of its economic weapons half-heartedly and very reluctantly.

Immediate and painful retaliation must follow any attack on Russia’s interests. Why? Because the cliché about “best served cold” is often just an excuse of the powerless. If the retaliation is not contingent on and contiguous with the original crime, it loses its meaning and its potency. Let me return to the South Stream—Russian pipeline that should have solved the problems of gas supply for the whole of Southern and Central Europe—was cancelled after a single visit to the quisling Bulgarian regime by a rabidly Russophobe US senator. After all the billions of roubles spent and thousands of hours of political, diplomatic and engineering work invested in the project, Russia’s only link with the Balkans was closed down irreversibly in a day. Russia’s response? Zilch, nada. Can this go on?

4c. Unpredictability/flexibility

If response in kind is not possible (I refuse to believe this), then small-scale but unpredictable retaliatory steps are the order of the day. One could argue that Russia’s responses are highly predictable. To illustrate—ever since say 2007, has Russia ONCE made a pro-active move that would inflict pain on its adversaries BEFORE they’d struck Russia? One can drown in excuses—Russians are trying to prevent a war (why is it their duty to do so?), they are polite (typical patronising Western head-patting) and a million others. A great deal has been made of President Putin’s stealthy moves in the Crimea and Syria. YES, that is the right way to go about things in foreign policy but at ALL LEVELS and most of the time (and often in advance of the enemy’s move). Instead of the Duma deliberating at how and when to respond (which leaves Russia an open book to its adversaries), a semi-clandestine organisation within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs needs to be formed which would work out strategies and scheduling of retaliatory responses in advance. This should be based on pseudo-random schedules where the timing and content of individual steps are not easily predicted. Furthermore, such steps should be individually intractable and only understandable when viewed as parts of a higher-level whole.

There is no reason why such strategies cannot be tweaked and adapted to real-life scenarios very quickly. The point is that the enemy reads Russia’s responses as a kind of simple code that is easy to break. “We shall respond symmetrically!” Who cares—the enemy knows this already. You should confound them by responding in a manner that gives your response maximum power. This is particularly important for a country that can compete with the West in terms of intellect but not money. In other words, I am asking for a wholesale change in strategy—from nuclear bombers to mini drone swarms (each element is insignificant but coordinated, large numbers of weak elements are capable of causing substantial damage).

I need to reiterate in conclusion that some of what I described above is starting to percolate into the official pronouncements and actions of the Russian government. They have changed Russia’s nuclear posture, restricted the space for activities of various foreign organisations and possibly social media. Further, the tone of Russian diplomacy has changed considerably in the last six to 12 months (although not perhaps as much as I would wish). This of course is very welcome but again predictable and easily ignored.[5] So in the spirit of the great victory of the Soviet people, I humbly propose: Not a step back!


  1. This is an informal title of the Order 227 issued on 28th July 1942 by Joseph Stalin with the aim of stopping the seemingly unceasing advance by the Germans and their allies. This essay is a polemic and not an attempt at objective analysis. 
  2. As I am finishing this piece, I read that Britain has exited the EU. I consider this a positive sign—the idea of a “united West” (a complete abomination and a death sentence for Russia) has gone for good. Furthermore, the Russian government has undertaken a number of positive and necessary steps aimed at reversing the enemy’s advance. 
  3. I have studied this weakness of Russian statecraft in some depth. A very similar thing occurred in the years preceding WWI when Germany decided to assert its dominance in the Balkans. Russians tried to accommodate the brazen and insulting German demands until the very last moment. To those who disagree—if I am wrong, why is the West continuing with its aggressive plans despite all the warnings by Russia? 
  4. Here we encounter an interesting problem. Constantly underplaying one’s strength is as dangerous as the opposite. For this reason alone, a more aggressive posture by Russia is called for. 
  5. This is another danger of predictable behaviour. The enemy is incentivised to ignore it until it’s too late. By the way, public deliberation is fine as long as it has the potential of producing unexpected outcomes. 

Poles Decided to Spit on Trump and Please Biden (Ruslan Ostashko)

Translated by Sasha and subtitled by Leo.

The authorities of the Russophobic Poland have yet again demonstrated the full value of the Eastern European lackey behaviour before the USA. Andrzej Duda who just recently spoke about the joint military program ‘Fort Trump’ has now demonstratively abandoned this name and rushed to play up to Joe Biden.

The newest history of relations between Washington and Warsaw consists of train of acts of abasement of the latter before the former. I’ll remind that in 2018 the Polish president showed up in US but wasn’t even received in the White House, which put him in an unpleasant light before the Poles themselves. Soon however Donald Trump swapped wrath for grace when he saw a chance to shake a lot of money out of the Polish lackeys (Title: “USA Conned Polish Lackeys for $40 bln?”) It was exactly what the American president was preoccupied with for a few years running until very recently. In response, Duda kept polishing the Washington lord’s boots with his tongue. This is what it looked like in case of widening of the American occupation of the independent Poland on 19 September 2018.

(Title: ‘Fort Trump’: what will American base in Poland change? – Pavel Aksyonov. Russian service of BBC): “The presence of American troops in the Eastern Europe may be expanded – the Polish President Andrzej Duda offered Donald Trump to place an American military base on Polish territory. And Poland is ready to assign nearly 2 billion dollars into this project. Duda told about the proposition to build an American base in Poland at the press conference in Washington after a meeting with the American president, having noted that in Warsaw they already came up with the name for the base – ‘Fort Trump.’”

You don’t need to be Solomon to realize that the name choice for the new American base is pure groveling. All of it was done in order to please Donald Trump personally. However already during last summer, when the leader of the USA was under attack on all fronts from his political opponents, Warsaw’s rhetoric began to change.

“The Polish President Duda clarified that ‘Fort Trump’ is not a military base but a complex of steps undertaken for expanding the American military presence in the republic. He told about it at the press conference before his meeting the American leader in Washington which was aired by Polish television. ‘From the very beginning, when I presented this idea to President Trump, he just laughed. Between us it is a name for a certain military-political action that I wanted to carry out,’ Duda said.”

Swoosh! And ‘Fort Trump’ is no military base anymore, but a joke of sorts, just in order to amuse the big white lord.

Andrzej Duda: “Please note that there many places in Poland where there are American soldiers, where there is infrastructure, where American soldiers carry their duty. So ‘Fort Trump’ – and I can say this safely – is not a name for a military base in a physical sense. It is just a general name for actions which increase the American military presence in Poland and which are being conducted during the tenure of President Donald Trump,’ Duda explained.”

Now, when Trump’s presidency is hanging by a thread, the Polish lackeys have changed the music completely. “The name ‘Fort Trump’ proposed by the Polish President Andrzej Duda for an American military base in his country was a generalizing remark, intended to depict the cooperation of Washington and Warsaw in the defense field. This is reported by Washington Post citing the Polish embassy in USA.”

Polish Embassy in the USA: “This name did not feature in any official documents signed by Poland and USA. The treaties and declarations signed by our countries did not specify a particular place where the American troops will be stationed, but rather assumed placement of different military units in a few areas of Poland,’ the embassy stated.”

A new master might appear in the White House very soon and Warsaw, judging by her behaviour, sees this appearance as certain. This means now lackeys can spit in the back of the former master while slyly winking to each other. The lackeys forgot however that in the modern world all the moves are recorded and that the spitters do not look very nice now.

“As Washington Times reminds, the leaders of the two countries spoke openly about a very real ‘Fort Trump’. According to some former Pentagon officials, Poland jumped at this term, having seen an opportunity to toady to the brand sensitive US president, whose name is attached to many buildings around the world. ‘I smiled when I spoke with Mr. President,’ said the Polish President Duda commenting on one of his meetings with Trump. I said that we would like to create a permanent American military base in Poland which we will name ‘Fort Trump’. And I am sure it is possible.’ Various defense officials also mentioned this idea implying that the American troops would be stationed in one place on a permanent basis, which has been Warsaw’s long time dream, and which Kremlin would not like very much.”

Is this not a disgrace? Well, naturally they know in Washington what the Eastern European lackeys of the USA are like. But the lackeys themselves like to pompously accentuate their geopolitical dignity, while hushing up the fact that they are ready to instantaneously betray the one whose boots they licked only yesterday. Russia is also informed about the peculiarities of the post-Soviet independents’ way of thinking and life. Strange is only the fact that our Foreign Ministry rarely reminds them of these peculiarities. In the meantime every address to Poland, disregarding its cause, should begin with these words: “Russia is informed about Warsaw’s wish to bow to Washington and, having this in mind, states…” Would you approve such innovation, dear subscribers?

Why Is Europe Courting Revolution?

Source

Why Is Europe Courting Revolution? - CORONA stocks

Alastair Crooke

November 2, 2020

All eyes remain on the U.S. election, and on fathoming its consequences. But in the shadow of ‘The Election’, there are other ‘moving parts’: Germany just offered Washington ‘a sweetheart deal’ in which, Europe – with Germany leading – accepts to leverage America’s full-spectrum strategy of isolating and weakening Russia and China. And in return it is asking the U.S. to acquiesce to German leadership of a ‘power-political’, European entity that is raised to parity with the U.S. That, bluntly, is to say, Germany is angling for ‘superpower’ status, atop an EU ‘empire’ for the new era. Putin recognised such a possibility (Germany aspiring to be a superpower) during his recent speech to Valdai.

But the other ‘moving parts’ to this bid are very much in motion, too: Firstly, Germany’s ploy is contingent on their hopes for a Biden win, which may, or may not, occur. And then, too, President Macron seeks for himself, and for France, the leadership of Europe – with this latter – to an extent – being contingent on a ‘no deal’ Brexit taking place at the end of the year, that would further weaken a dis-animated and fading Merkel. France rather, plots the ‘Great Reset’ of Europe: A regulatory and values enforced ‘space’, underpinned by a common fiscal and debt regime that would rebuild France’s economic infrastructure.

All this raises many questions: Should Trump win, he can be expected to puncture any German (or French) aspiration to drain away some of America’s power, however nicely the German FM wraps it, as the U.S. not so much losing power, but as gaining “a strong partner on equal terms”. Huh!

The idea that Europe can leverage this partnership through sweet-talking Germany’s commitment “to the West as a system of values”, which is “at risk in its entirety”, and which, only Germany and the U.S. together can keep strong – does seem a bit of a daydream. Even when sugar-wrapped with “defending against the unmistakable Russian thirst for power, and Chinese ambitions for global supremacy”. Firstly, there is still Trump, and secondly —

China and Russia clearly see the game. Yet European leaders seem to expect that the former will continue as if nothing is awry. Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer seems to think so (she is both Defence Minister, and Chair of the CDU, Merkel’s own party). In terms of containing “China’s aggressively controlled state capitalism”, she suggests creating a European trade sphere that is open only to those who want to strengthen and support the liberal, rules-based order – and to which other states must ‘submit’ (Macron’s words). These are the bones to how Brussels proposes to achieve ‘strategic autonomy’ (Charles Michel’s term).

Here are some extracts of Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer’s ‘deal’ given in a 23 October speech:

“… Most of all, America has given us what we call ‘Westbindung’ … Westbindung, to me, is and remains, a clear rejection of the historic temptation of equidistance. Westbindung anchors us firmly in NATO and the EU and ties us closely to Washington, Brussels, Paris and London. It clearly and rightly positions us against a romantic fixation on Russia – and also against an illiberal corporative state that rejects parties and parliaments [i.e. China] … Westbindung is the answer to the famous “German question”, the question of what Germany stands for … Only America and Europe together can keep the West strong, defending it against the unmistakable Russian thirst for power and Chinese ambitions for global supremacy … To be the giver [in a process of ‘give and take with the U.S.] would require us to take a firm power-political stance. To ambitiously play the geopolitical game. But even looking at all this, there are still some Americans who are not convinced that they need NATO. I understand that. Because there is one thing still missing: That is for the Europeans to take powerful action themselves, when push comes to shove. So that the United States can see Europe as a strong partner on equal terms, not as a damsel in distress. As you can see: the German dilemma is a European dilemma as well. We stay dependent [on the U.S.], but at the same time, we must come into our own. In strengthening Europe like this, Germany must play a key role … enabling it to operate more independently of, and more closely with, the United States at the same time …”.

Three major geo-political issues here are intersecting: Firstly, Germany is metamorphosing politically, in a way that holds disturbing parallels with its transition in the pre-WW1, European setting. In short, the ‘German Question’ is surfacing again (but not in AKK’s way): When the Berlin Wall fell, Russia supported the reunification of Germany and pinned hopes on Germany being a partner for the wider unification project: the construction of a ‘Greater Europe’.

It proved to be a chimaera: Germany, far from supporting Russia’s inclusion, instead, favoured the expansion of Europe and NATO to Russia’s borders. The EU – under U.S. pressure – was forming a Greater Europe that would eventually include all the states of Europe, except Russia.

But in so doing, West Europe absorbed into the EU the tumour of East European neuralgia on Russia. Berlin, all the while, has played on America’s visceral hostility towards Russia – more as a tool to build out its European space up to the Russian border. Germany thus has prioritised assuaging Eastern European ancient antipathies, above any real attempt at a relationship with Russia. Now Germany wants to ‘play it again’: In a July interview, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said that the Russian leadership must be “confronted with a clear position: We are well-fortified, and in case of doubt, ready to defend ourselves. We see what Russia is doing, and we will not let the Russian leadership get away with it”.

Well: Fool me once … but fool me twice …? The Navalny episode was the last straw. It was a blatant lie. Merkel and Macron knew it to be a lie. And they knew that Moscow knew it, too. Yet they both preferred to toss the Russophobes another ‘bone’. Moscow gave up with them.

The real puzzle is why Moscow put up with this play for so long. The answer perhaps, lies with the Russian two-headed eagle, whose heads face in opposite directions: one toward Europe, and the other toward Asia. Merkel’s obvious deceit is stretching and testing social trust in Russia, just too far. The Russian élites may lean towards Europe, but their base looks East. Navalny was the humiliating straw that broke the camel’s back

Now Macron – still energised, but himself politically weakened – hopes to drain further Merkel’s strength (in mercantilist terms), through engineering a UK no-deal Brexit that would damage Germany’s huge trade surplus with Britain, at the very moment that Germany is losing markets in Russia (and now possibly in China); and when America, if Trump is re-elected, would likely embark on a trade war with Europe.

Weakening Merkel’s hand – that is – in opposing an European joint debt instrument, together with a common fiscal policies, is the aim, so that France might draw down on German fiscal resources placed within a ‘common pot’, and then deployed to revamp the French economy.

The Brussels plan for a ‘Great Reset’ – transforming the European economy, and the social sphere – through automation and technology is, as Tom Luongo has noted delusional: “[W]hat’s been pretty clear to me is Europe’s delusions that it can subjugate the world under its rubric, forcing its rules and standards on the rest of us, including China, [whilst] again allowing the U.S. to act as its proxy – [as Europe] tries to maintain its [‘power-political’] standing is delusional”.

Why?

‘Delusional’, as although China may be an “aggressively controlled state capitalism” in Euro-speak, it is also a major ‘civilisational state’, with its own distinct values. Brussels may call their regulatory space ‘open’, but it is clearly exclusionary, and not multilateral. The action of this politics is only pushing the world towards a separation of distinct regulatory spheres – and toward deeper recession.

On the practical plane, whereas first phase Covid tended to provide support to Europe’s incumbent governments, this present infection spike is shredding support for incumbents. Protests and riots are increasingly taking place across Europe. Episodes of violence have been met with horror by the authorities, which suspect that organized crime and radical groups are at work to spark a political wildfire. And that potential is very much there.

To the structural unemployment already incurred in phase one, now must be added another wave of possibly irreversible unemployment, (again) in the services sector. For small businesses and the self-employed, it is a nightmare. Not surprisingly, the anger grows as those losing their means of living observe that civil servants and the middle classes more generally, are passing through this episode, virtually unscathed.

European governments have been caught off-guard. There is absolute confusion as governments try to square keeping the economy alive, with containing the infected from overwhelming hospitals – achieving neither. This represents the cost of the ‘summer opening’ to save the tourist season. No one is on their balcony these evenings banging cooking pots in communal solidarity. Today, protests and riots have taken their place.

Into this mounting anger is inserted dark suspicion. Some may view Covid as pure conspiracy; others will not. Yet it is not ‘conspiracy’ to believe that European governments may knowingly have used the pandemic to increase their tools of social control, (despite ‘distancing’ being a genuine medical containment strategy). Was this concerted in anticipation of the changes implicit to the ‘Great Reset’? We do not know. Yet, from the outset, western governments couched their measures as ‘war’ – and as war that required war-time state-directed economics, and war-time public compliance.

Rightly or wrongly, it is becoming a culture war. Overtones of the anger on U.S. streets. Again, dark suspicions that cultural life is being closed down in order to prepare Europeans for the drowning of their cultural identities into a big Brussels-made, melting-pot. These fears may be misplaced, but they are ‘out there’, and viral.

It is Europe’s political fabric and societal cohesion that is in play – and its leaders are not just confused: They fear.

It would indeed be hubristic delusion then, were European leaders to proceed with the automation ‘Great Reset’, and add yet more structural unemployment to a pile, already threatening to topple, under its growing weight (into mass protest). Do they want revolution?

Reforming the EU – Like waiting for Godot!

Reforming the EU – Like waiting for Godot!

October 22, 2020

By Francis Lee for the Saker Blog

There is a human tendency to cling on to cherished beliefs even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. There was a time, during the heady days of Jacques Delors and the Social Chapter, when the EU appeared to represent a social-democratic and neutral geopolitical bloc; a third force between the USSR as it then was and the US/NATO – this, however, is no longer the case. The EU has long since transmuted into part of an aggressive neo-liberal and neo-conservative imperial alliance under US command. The liberal, centre-left Remainers such as Yanis Varoufakis seem to think that it is possible to reverse this development and get the EU back to its original prototype, presumably by dint of political will. In view of historical developments this view seems increasingly difficult to sustain.

EU/NATO PUSHES EAST.

In particular since the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty of 2005 the EU Defence and Security Policy has been aligned with NATO. Indeed, EU membership has become a stalking horse for NATO membership and vice versa. NATO’s geopolitical drive to Russia’s western borders has been concurrent with the EU’s economic expansion – a strategic partnership between a military push and an economic push.

Not surprisingly perhaps the Russians see the siting of US anti-ballistic missile systems on their western borders in Romania and Poland, together with ongoing NATO military exercises involving tens of thousands of alliance troops as something of a provocation. Little wonder we now have a second cold war.

The position of the EU is, in geopolitical terms, completely subordinated to US interests. If there is a Russian-NATO conflict it will be fought on Europe’s turf not on America’s; Europe is ultimately expendable. This much can be inferred from facts on the ground, though this must be kept assiduously secret from the electorates of western Europe. Eastern Europe, however, seems only too willing to serve as the cannon-fodder for the US imperial designs; witness the incessant baying for war on the part of Russophobic states such as Poland and the Baltics, as well as NATO-EU wannabees like Ukraine and Georgia. It was precisely this expansion to the East (or new Europe as it was called by Donald Rumsfeld) which served as the essential prerequisite for the NATO takeover of the whole of Europe. The change has been noted:

EUROPE FROM LISBON TO VLADIVOSTOCK – AN IMPOSSIBLE DREAM.

‘’The destructive Russophobia of the new Europe undermined the credibility and cohesion of Europe as a whole. It had been anticipated that the new members’’ – Poland, the Baltics. etc. – would be ‘socialised’ into the ways of the EU, but, instead, the EU was in danger of reverse socialization incorporating the axiological (ethical – FL) dynamics and virulent neo-liberalism of some of the newer members, accompanied by their prioritisation of Atlantic Security over EU social solidarity.’’ (1)

In its original quasi-Gaullist form the EU might have played a constructive part in the Ukrainian crisis as a third party and disinterested broker between Russian and American interests, but by 2014 the EU had been transformed into something very different from its original configuration: it had become joined at the hip to the US imperial juggernaut. Moreover, the EU’s status in this relationship was subaltern rather than equal. It should be understood that the United States does not do ‘partnerships’ only master and flunkey slave relationships. It is further commented that:

‘’Instead of a vision embracing the whole continent it (the EU) it has become little more than the civilian wing of the Atlantic security alliance … The drift toward a merger with the Atlantic Security system left it bereft of autonomy and policy instruments when it really mattered – maintaining peace on the European continent.’’ (2)

COSTS IN EUROPE OF US FOREIGN POLICY

The terrorism and refugee crisis in Europe – the blowback – was unquestionably traceable to the US bull-in-a-china-shop foreign policy in the middle east, this much is obvious to even an impartial observer; but answering the call of duty the western media has strained every nerve and muscle in an attempt to deny what was a blatant fact. Terrorism and refugee flows were ripped out of the wider context in an attempt to obfuscate any causal connexions with these phenomena and US/EU/NATO foreign policy. The media propaganda tsunami notwithstanding the electorates of Europe were able to put 2 and 2 together, and this resulting in an ongoing political crisis in Europe which shows no signs of stabilization and, if anything, seems to be intensifying including the Brexit vote which committed the UK to leaving the EU, and, the electoral advances for the AfD in Germany as well as anti-EU sentiments which in Hungary and Poland has gained significant support from the population of those states. Propaganda and economic stagnation seems to have its limits; like Abe Lincoln said: ‘You can’t fool all of the people all of the time.’

So much for the geopolitics.

WASHINGTON CONSENSUS CROSSES THE POND

Perhaps as significant is the shift in economic policies and development which has taken place within the EU. Without doubt there has taken a sharp right turn since the 1980s.This policy consists of full-on neo-liberal economic and social imperatives involving the imbibing of a ruthless, winner-takes-all orthodoxy and its equally brutal imposition; Greece is perhaps the most egregious victim of this frugal economic diet, followed by Latvia, Estonia, Ireland, Portugal, Greece and even Italy, all of which are being forced into penury and debt-peonage courtesy of the Troika’s relentless austerity programme.

THE EURO – A NON-OPTIMAL CURRENCY WITHOUT A STATE.

Piling on the agony the creation of the Euro single currency (the key problem) since 1992 has put the Euro member states into an economic strait-jacket. The currency value cannot be changed or devalued to boost national exports during economic downturns such as that experienced since 2008. The result has been that the largest industrial power in the Eurozone, Germany, has benefited from the stable euro while weaker economies on the periphery of the EU, including most notably, France, have endured catastrophic consequences to the rigid Euro rate. The cost and productivity structures of Germany and the northern bloc in the EU, means that its goods will be cheaper than the higher costs and lower productivity levels in the southern belt. It follows therefore that the northern bloc runs permanent trade surpluses whilst the south has permanent trade deficits.

In a new report, the Dutch think-tank, Gefira Foundation, notes that French industry has been contracting since the adoption of the euro. “It was not able to recover after either of the 2001 or 2008 and present crisis because the euro, a currency stronger than the French franc would be, has become a burden to France’s economy. The floating exchange rate works like an indicator of the strength of the economy and like an automatic stabilizer. A weaker currency helps to regain competitiveness during a crisis, while a stronger currency supports consumption of foreign goods.

The only reason that the Germans were prepared to abandon their beloved deutschmark was that it would be replaced by a hard euro whose exchange rate was fixed and overvalued. The euro is an orphan, a currency without a state, and thus a foreign currency to all the European states in Europe.

EASTERN EUROPE:

TWO COLLAPSES. 1. COMMUNISM, 2. NEOLIBERAL CAPITALISM

The EU’s eastern periphery also has problems, but of a different kind. However only the Baltics, Slovenia and Slovakia actually use the euro. It is planned to include them into the euro in the fullness of time. Apart, that is, from basket cases like the Baltics whose government, unlike the people, went where angels feared to tread – into the Eurozone and the euro.

Excluding Russia, of course, these Eastern European states – termed ‘transitional economies’ – have become stalled in economic stagnation which so far has been difficult if not impossible to overcome. These obstacles have been specific to the Eastern periphery. The European Union now consists of 28 states. No fewer than 10 of these are former states of the Eastern Bloc, and this proportion is set to grow with the impending accession with some minor Balkan nations. Although Georgia and Ukraine are in line for membership of the EU, they are also expected to join NATO as has become customary for aspirant EU states.

Whether they obtain either is a matter of conjecture, however, as this would be almost certain to cross Russia’s red lines and result in a major geopolitical flareup. Europe’s centre of gravity is shifting. And while the process of joining the European Union is driving change within these countries, it is also changing the nature of Europe itself. Those Eastern European states which emerged from the break-up of the Soviet Union had been led to believe that a bright new world of West European living standards, enhanced pay levels, high rates of social mobility and consumption were on offer.

Unfortunately, they were sold an illusion: the result of the transition so far seems to have been the creation of a low-wage hinterland, a border economy on the fringes of the highly developed European core; a Euro version of NAFTA and the maquiladora, i.e., low tech, low wage, low skills production units on the Mexican side of the US’s southern borders. Moreover there are acute demographic problems confronting the ‘new Europe’.

Eastern Europe is bleeding people. With low fertility rates, higher death rates, and emigration. Case study:

‘’IN THE Lithuanian town of Panevezys, a shiny new factory built by Devold, a Norwegian clothing manufacturer, sits alone in the local free economic zone. The factory is unable to fill 40 of its jobs, an eighth of the total. That is not because workers in Panevezys are too picky, but because there are fewer and fewer of them. There are about half as many students in the municipality’s schools as there were a decade ago, says the mayor.

Such worries are increasingly common across central and eastern Europe, where birth rates are low and emigration rates high. The ex-communist countries that joined the European Union from 2004 dreamed of quickly transforming themselves into Germany or Britain. Instead, many of their workers transported themselves to Germany or Britain. Latvia’s working-age population has fallen by a quarter since 2000; a third of those who graduated from university between 2002 and 2009 had emigrated by 2014. Polls of Bulgarian medical students show that 80-90% plan to emigrate after graduating.

Lithuania’s loss of workers is costly, says Stasys Jakeliunas, an economist. Remittances and EU money for infrastructure upgrades have helped, but labour shortages discourage foreign investment and hurt economic growth. According to the IMF, in some countries in eastern Europe emigration shaved 0.6-0.9 percentage points from annual GDP growth in 1999-2014. By 2030 GDP per person in Bulgaria, Romania and some of the Baltic countries may be 3-4% lower than it would have been without emigration.

All of this imperils public finances. Pensions, which take up about half of social spending in eastern Europe, are the biggest worry. In 2013 Latvia had 3.3 working-age adults for each person older than 65, about the same as Britain and France; by 2030 that is projected to fall to just over two, a level Britain and France will not reach until 2060. Countries are raising the retirement age (apart from Poland, which is recklessly lowering it). Benefits are already meagre, leaving little room for cuts. As a share of GDP, social spending in Bulgaria, Romania and the Baltic states is roughly half of that in many richer European countries.

Unable to dissuade people from leaving, governments are trying instead to lure them back, inspired by successful efforts in Ireland and South Korea. Daumantas Simenas, project manager of the Panevezys free economic zone, credits his return from Britain to the country’s “Create for Lithuania” programme, which matches educated professionals from the diaspora with government jobs. Having a job already lined up made the decision to return easier, he says. Plus, he adds, “home is home.”

Whether such efforts can turn the tide seems doubtful. “Create for Lithuania” has brought back more than 100 people since its launch five years ago, says Milda Darguzaite, who started the programme after leaving an investment-banking career in America for a government post in Vilnius. Returnees include an MP, a deputy mayor and several advisers to the prime minister. Bringing back doctors and engineers, however, is trickier. Studies show that skilled workers from eastern Europe are attracted abroad primarily by the quality of institutions such as good schools; better social benefits matter more for unskilled migrants. Data on return migration are scanty, but a recent report by the IMF suggests it has been “modest”, in some countries as low as 5% of those who left.’’ (3)

In more general terms figures for Eastern and central Europe as a whole are as follows. With the exception of the Czech Republic and Slovakia and Russia, every eastern European country has a declining population. Population declines as follows from 2006 to 2018:

Latvia and Lithuania = 12%

Ukraine = 9%

Hungary = 8.5%

Romania = 7%

Bulgaria = 6%

Estonia = 1.5%

Poland = 0.3%

The comprador vassal elites on the wrong side of the Oder-Neisse Line have been caught in the trap of dependency and semi-development, and in some cases under-development, and this was partly of their own making due to their rush to throw themselves into the arms of the US-NATO-EU alliance and an expected pay-off/bribe. The only states to avoid this have been Czechia, Slovakia and Russia. In the Balkans the same devastating NATO coalition engineered the destruction and break-up of what was once the sovereign state of Yugoslavia.

Thus In both economic and foreign policy the European political and financial elites have acted as overseas branch managers of a multinational enterprise whose HQ is on the other side of the pond (the US) where policy is determined and exported. Quislingism might be an appropriate word in this context.

DEMOCRATIC DEFICIT – THE FINAL ACT.

Finally, we come to the democratic deficit. This is important since the only way that change is possible is through the EU institutions. In order of importance these institutions comprise 1. The Council of Ministers, 2. The European Central Bank, 3. The European Commission. The last of these institutions consists of a President, at present, Ursula Von der Leyen, and formerly, Jean-Claude Juncker, seven, Vice-Presidents, whose identities are not known to me, and twenty Commissioners, equally obscure. Juncker succinctly enunciated the process of EU’s decision making as follows: ‘’If it’s Yes, we will say on we go, and if it is a No, we will say we will continue.’’ So much for open and flexible debate on policy.

The Council of Ministers and the ECB also pull various levers, often in tandem with extra-European global institutions such as NATO, WTO and IMF. Of course there is absolutely no sign that the current policies of the EU are not continuing along their present reactionary trajectory; and since the electorates of the EU have no control of the Council of Ministers and ECB there seems no way to break into this closed system of rule by a technocratic oligarchy. Once again political unrest in Europe suggests a causal connexion between the nature of the EU’s political and economic structures and the policies and outcomes emanating thereof.

This is not the EU we (the UK) signed up to in 1976, and there comes a time in politics where it is judicious to give up flogging a dead horse. A ‘progressive’ Labour government – if such a political animal is possible – would not be allowed by EU law to implement its economic reforms, cancel Trident, leave or even modify its NATO membership. Democracy is impossible without some measure of sovereignty, and nations must get control of their own foreign and economic policies since if they don’t the globalisers and Bilderbergers will and have done. There is nothing wrong with a volte face in politics.

It was J.M. Keynes who once said: ‘’When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do sir?’

NOTES

(1) Richard Sakwa – Frontline Ukraine.

(2) Sakwa, Ibid. pp.227/228)

(3) The Economist – 19/01/2017. It should be added that the Economist is very much the house journal of the British elite. Yet even they have their doubts about the Euro project.

Presidents that play chess

Presidents that play chess

September 15, 2020

by Katerina for the Saker Blog

This is a follow-up to my previous contribution, the “Relentless March” and I have to warn you, this one will be much harsher as it will be highlighting some home truths for east Europeans. If you are not ready or simply do not want to face those, I suggest you stop reading now.

In this essay, among other things, I will also try to provide some explanations as to why Russian President (VVP as he is widely known) does not respond to western provocations the way some people would like him to and it seems to bother them, especially those who see the perceived lack of response on his part as an indication of some weakness and indecisiveness..

He is none of that.

Although I have to admit that once I was one of these people. When ukro-nazis embarked on their killing spree in Donbass (historically part of Russia) and started killing Russian population there, I was absolutely enraged that the Russian Government has allowed for this horror to take place.

Looking back at it in a much calmer light I eventually realised that THAT was, without doubt, the right response on the part of Russia. If it got itself involved in that provocation, the body count would have been much, much higher.. besides, Donbass was helped in other ways.

What is a provocation? It is something that your enemy sets up, expecting you to react to it the way they were hoping you would react. So, what you do not do is GIVE them what they expected.

I will also admit that my understanding of this and other things to do with the actions of the Russian President are entirely due to my very calm, collected and analytical husband of Scottish ancestry, who would very patiently explain to me as to why VVP is doing what he does. Although, he had to calm me down first! He understood much better the Russian President’s thinking and actions, better than his Russian born wife! Must be the man thing. : )

I will also touch upon the attitudes towards Russia by former Eastern Bloc allies – former Warsaw Pact members and the reasons for their disturbing Russophobia that is being displayed towards Russia in the last couple of decades.

First on VVP.

President Putin is an exceptional strategist, not to mention, analyst and he sees all of this as a long engagement, very much the same as Chinese in that respect. The short- lived satisfaction of hitting back at every provocation thrown at him is definitely not the way he operates. He will respond only when that response is absolutely required, as in retaliatory sanctions on EU, which apparently now costing them BILLIONS, and his response will be selective and painful. He has also very adequately retaliated for the expulsion of Russian Diplomats after the made-up by UK Skripal nonsense.

He looks far ahead and plans accordingly. Crimea is a very good example of that. He knew what was brewing up in Ukraine for much longer than anyone of us, the Russian intelligence service is second to none, and he was absolutely prepared for that. The speed of his counter-actions there was breath-taking.

And here I will describe the sheer imbecility and stunning ignorance of some morons (no other way to describe them) in the USA administration. Did you know that one of their main objectives in meddling in Ukraine was to remove the Russian Naval Base from Crimea and replace it with their own? They even made plans for the adaptation of the barracks there! Talk about absolute insanity and DELUSION. They actually thought that they could pull that off!! Beyond belief.. But that’s the mentality of the people Russians are dealing with here. The sheer ignorance of not only a country’s history but also it’s sacrifices is incredible! Russian Crimea has always been an extremely important asset to Russia, hence the several and very bloody wars it had to fight with the Ottoman Empire to wrench it back from them. Since then it has always been the home of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet- it is a highly strategic naval base, which also of course, gives Russia an access to the Mediterranean and beyond.

Those imbecilic morons, who planned such idiocy actually thought that they could just cruise in there!! Oh my God… what passes for brains among that lot?!

Their sanctions, which were wheeled out almost immediately when their plan did not succeed, was the result of what can only be described as “sour grapes”. Their Euro “allies” were rather reluctant to join them in those sanctions as most Europeans know very well that Crimea has always been Russian, for more than two centuries, and were fearing the reciprocal sanctions from Russia.

To force their Euro vassals to join them in imposing the sanctions, the imbeciles decided that something needed to be done to make that happen. And so, together with their ukie flunkies that is exactly what they have carried out – an unbelievably evil and shocking crime of shooting down a passenger airliner. The screaming headlines that Russia did it and not only that, Putin himself was responsible, were all over their Western media even before “the wreckage hit the ground”. Their Euro “allies’ had no choice now but to go along with the sanctions. Cui bono? I will repeat again – this is the psychopathic mentality Russia and her President are dealing with.

As for those sanctions – here is a good example of when you “get lemons you turn them into lemonade”. Again, things were anticipated and everything was in place. Since Russian retaliatory sanctions, which were imposed on EU immediately, were to do with banning food imports from Europe, Russia had to become much more self-sufficient in providing for itself what was needed, also including substitutions. In fact, having more adequate self-sufficiency was something that the Russian President had been advocating for years prior – all of this totally played into his hands.

Donbass also wanted to re-join Mother Russia, same as Crimea, but VVP sees it as a very useful buffer and wants to keep it that way. Donbass is protected and now it is de-facto Russian, with same currency, pensions (Kiev “government” stopped paying those when the conflict started), same education programmes as in Russia and of course Russian passports. Russia has got back most of what for centuries belonged to it. Two more regions of what used to be called Ukraine – the south east of it, Mariupol and Odessa in the south (as Russian as it gets!) will eventually follow Donbass, and the rest, as far as Russia is concerned, can go to hell. The western part of so-called Ukraine is former Galicia, the ukro-nazis breeding ground that Russia wouldn’t want to touch with a barge pole, Poland can have it back. In fact, welcome to it!

“Ukraine” as most people know by now, is an artificial construct, (same as EU by the way and as such, will also have no longevity), was created by the Bolsheviks – some territory was added by Lenin (Novorussia), later, the Western parts, by Stalin after WWII and in 1954 Khruschev has “gifted” them Crimea, probably after having one too many one evening. Even under the Soviet Constitution at the time, that was ILLEGAL, as such a move required a Referendum, but being one big USSR with no borders between Republics it did not matter that much at the time. After the break-up of the Soviet Union all historically Russian parts of it should have been returned back to Russia. Ukraine hung on to these for one simple reason – money. Novorussia, which includes Donbass, was the most industrialised part of that country, as for Crimea, well, they were getting paid by Russia for the base.

As for the rest of the former USSR – the cheap little Baltic prostitutes – well, those three have already paid a very heavy price for prostituting themselves to the West. Their economies are routed, population drastically shrunk. Once the supply of money from EU dries out, they will be thrown to the kerb. What’s called “used and abused” and it will be richly deserved. Under no circumstances Russia would want those back.

Georgia is facing a similar fate – the country which owes its very existence to the protection by Imperial Russia at the time, from the total annihilation by Ottomans, and of course with loss of Russian lives.. Rings the bell, doesn’t it? What some of these former Soviet republics have discovered, is that without Russia they are rather nothing, non-entities. The West is simply using them and the very thing that they all had eagerly engaged in, meaning Russophobia – as was demanded and expected by their new, western Master, is now coming back at them with a vengeance. Most of them are broke, depopulated, despised, with no future prospects. That is the price you pay for Russophobia. I believe other countries in Eastern Europe should take some serious notice here as they are pretty much in the same boat, whether they would want to admit that to themselves or not.

After the collapse of the USSR the former Warsaw Pact members, comprising of Eastern Europe states became immediately “invaded” – by various western NGOs, “experts”, “advisors” and what not. Same was happening in Russia – the goal there of course, was looting and pillage, in Eastern block the goal was also plain and simple – to convert them all into one Russophobic entity. And once these countries became members of EU and NATO, well.. what can one say.

It usually starts with the re-writing of one’s history and inventing lies to fit that, and then the insidious, constant and pervasive brainwashing that the Soviet Union (and by extension, Russia) was bad, was an invader and aggressor, no better than the Nazis and Stalin was just as bad as Hitler, etc and so on, was unleashed and has never stopped..

Ironically, these East European nations that have suddenly achieved their long-cherished dream of becoming a part of this “EUROPE”, did not realise at the time that to this “EUROPE” they were nothing more than holops, good old-fashioned Russian word for lowly servant. As they were gleefully giving a middle finger to their Slavic brothers in the East, their new Western Master fully expected them to polish his boots, muck out the stables and fetch and carry. Pathetic is not even a good enough word to describe it. The day might come when you would NEED that Russia, but by then you would have burned all your bridges..

Now, what we have there is at least two generations of these east Europeans that are totally brainwashed, indoctrinated and absolutely ignorant of their ACTUAL history.

Their grandparents and even parents perhaps could tell them that life as they knew it, wasn’t that bad being part of the Eastern Block alliance with the Soviet Union. There was no “ghastly tyranny”, “oppressions” or “massacres” – it was in fact a peaceful and friendly cooperation. In case of the “INVASIONS” of Hungary and Czechoslovakia, well, at the time, the usual EXTERNAL players were trying to foment there the early versions of what is now called “colour revolutions” – obviously those two had to be brought back in line. It was an alliance after all.

One would think that in today’s world where you can get any information you need, there would be at least some attempt to get a true picture of your own history and not become victims of this despicable indoctrination and the vile, “in your face” propaganda. Critical thinking is obviously no longer taught in the class, let alone the ability to have an INFORMED opinion as compared to an acquired attitude. As a result, most of them now have a firm belief that Russia was and is some “enemy” – EXACTLY what your NATO masters want you to believe. The “West” has done it’s job rather well with you – producing generations of dumb-downed, ignorant and brainwashed, and to that lot we can add the sold-out, totally self-serving and west-worshipping “elites” and the rest is just a silent mass.

This is what most East European countries have become. Only Serbia so far has not sold itself out, but her government, unfortunately has, as was amply demonstrated by the latest developments, which I am sure made most Serbs cringe. This, your sad quisling “government” needs to be replaced, and fast. There are, no doubt, lots of great people in Serbia who love their country. Vote for these.

As for the rest of Eastern Europe, I will say this – re-writing your history is never a good move and neither is inventing lies to suit. Pulling down statues of Soviet heroes that liberated your countries from the Nazi scourge is just as bad. And shameful.

I will repeat – the EU is an artificial construct and as such will have no longevity and THEN where would you be?

Unfortunately, Russia also has few of those brainwashed morons as well. This rather useless idiot, Navalny, whom the West has been lovingly grooming to be a “face of Russian opposition” and who is a long-time recipient of Soros’s grants, even he has some following. Not large but none the less showing the exact same mentality shaped by some delusional beliefs picked up from so-called “social media” and in a very much the same age group. They don’t even realise that what they are displaying is a dumb, sheeple mentality and of course, ignorance. It is truly sad to see. I wonder how many of them will believe another made up garbage with another alleged “Novichok poisoning”, now of this twat. By the way, these politicians in Germany that are actually promoting this, do they comprehend as to how utterly stupid they come across with this idiotic accusation? Feel like saying to them – for crying out loud, give it a rest!

Just to note, according to Lavrov, UK still has not produced ANY evidence to support THEIR accusations of the totally made-up and “highly likely” Scripal “poisoning” tale. Well, how can one? But never mind, meanwhile the Russian Diplomats were expelled, en-masse, and some diplomatic properties illegally seized. Mission accomplished.

Sometimes I feel really sorry for both Putin and Lavrov as to what kind of people they have to deal with..

As for the Russian President, it has been often said that he is a very good chess player, and for a chess player to be that good he needs to anticipate his opponent’s every move, well in advance. Besides, he is playing that chess not on just one chessboard, but several at once and dealing with SUCH people it becomes quite a challenge to anticipate every deranged MENDACITY as being displayed by them.

What makes the Russian President stand head and shoulders above those Western politicians is not only his strategic thinking, but his morals and also his unshakable belief in a lawful approach in everything that matters. If you have signed some agreement you absolutely keep to it, if you have given your word you honour it.

In addition, he is also of course a judo master and for these who are not familiar with this particular form of martial art, the objective is to defeat your opponent by using THEIR OWN bulk and strength against them to get them off balance and then throw them on the floor. Hmm..

This is what THE WEST is dealing with when it comes to the President of Russia. There will be some detractors here, sadly without much ability for an astute analysis, who would immediately label me as being Putin’s fan, but we will ignore them. The man is formidable, in every respect.

What most Russians want from their President now is to show a much harder edge, and THAT is actually happening. Lavrov, being a Diplomat Supreme, has been showing this lately, quite noticeably, in his responses, which are now much more pointed, direct and blunt. Still, caution is required.

The hegemon is collapsing in front of our eyes and this is one of the most dangerous moments, but as I have pointed out in one of my previous comments, there is a very wise saying, I believe by SUN TZU – why disturb your enemy when it’s self- destructing. The only question is how much destruction can it wreak on the rest of us in its death throes. A very careful approach is absolutely essential now – the aim is to make this collapse more of a “controlled demolition” than to have it as a very destructive explosion in which many could be very badly hurt as a result, especially with regard to their economies, already rather shaky amid this “scamdemic”.

That is what, I believe, VVP and Xi are now working on, very carefully. Hence the very calculated responses to numerous stupid and nasty provocations. And lots of patience.

We are indeed living in very interesting times.

Two clicks to midnight

Two clicks to midnight

Two clicks to midnight[1]

by Ken Leslie for The Saker Blog

While I was absent from this esteemed blog focusing on other things, an extremely dangerous situation started to develop and I found myself reaching for the keyboard again. If some of my previous writings were a bit alarmist, the tone was motivated by a genuine angst before an unfeeling and unstoppable machine of conquest and destruction the likes of which the world had never seen. And angst it is—anybody with an ounce of common sense can see that the World is hurtling towards some kind of catastrophe. Whether this occurs in a year or five is less relevant. The point is that we are witnessing a process of rapid implosion of the current global system and are not able to see what will replace it. There is no compelling vision of the future—a universal vessel of hope that would transport us across the turbulent waters of fundamental change. This time I am not anxious but resigned. Resignation does not imply learned helplessness—unlike most people around me I am grateful for the ability to be aware of the danger and to articulate what I see as the truth without fear or self-censorship.

Oh, and if the post sounds like a rant, that’s because it is one.

Some academics (ideologues?) such as Steven Pinker have argued that things are much better than they were a 100 years ago—at least in terms of deaths caused by wars and other hard indicators of well-being. Although it pains me to say that Pinker could be correct, this essay is not about “progress” but about the approach of the ultimate regress—the unavoidable and ultimately catastrophic clash between the “West” and the “East”. A couple of months ago I was writing about the danger of NATO hordes closing in on Moscow from the Ukraine, Poland and the Baltics only to realize that unless a miracle happens, in a few months, Russia will be completely surrounded by enemies. The only exceptions—Norway at the extreme North and Azerbaijan at the extreme South are less relevant at the moment but as we have seen recently, these countries too are being subjected to accelerated weaponization—just yesterday, a Russian diplomat was detained in Norway and Azerbaijan is involved in a tense standoff with a (supposed) ally of Russia.

The fracturing and occupation of the post-Soviet space that began in 1991 is almost complete. More or less willingly, the former Warsaw pact and buffer states of Eastern Europe joined the criminal alliance that is NATO and over the last 30 years gradually prepared for the coming war against Russia. When did it all begin? The blueprint for the current mechanism was established by the Nazi Germany which narrowed the distance between itself and the Soviet Union over a few years. Moreover, the political mechanism behind the new Drang (the European Union) was designed in 1944 by Hitler’s economic experts (and put into practice by the founder of the CIA, William Donovan). It should be noted that on his way to the USSR, Hitler had to “pacify” a few countries including Poland, France, Yugoslavia and Greece. This time around, the whole West is united in its enmity towards Russia (economic links notwithstanding) and ALL European countries with the exception of Serbia and Byelorussia have placed themselves willingly in the anti-Russian camp. This is not to say that the majority of people in those countries hate Russia (in many they do) but that the governing cliques and military juntas inside various NATO satrapies are ready to contribute to the “joint effort to bring freedom and democracy” to the “benighted Rus”.

Of these two pariahs, the Serbs, despite their love of Russia are doomed by geography and by the privilege of being the only nation to have a piece of their country (Kosovo and Metohija) taken away, of being bombed by the combined forces of the West for 78 days and having a quarter of a million of their number cruelly expelled from their homeland in Srpska Krajina (currently occupied by Croatia). Exhausted and surrounded by enemies, the Serbs can do little to stop the clock ticking towards the Armageddon. This leaves Byelorussia, the only post-Soviet country that has not flirted with overt Russophobia and whose president showed many signs of real independence of mind vis-à-vis the West. Alexander Lukashenko’s personal bravery is not in question. In the midst of the NATO bombing in 1999, he visited Belgrade and declared himself openly pro-Serb. He signed the accession to the Union State between his country and Russia that same year.[2] He was somebody who wanted to preserve the positive legacy of the Soviet Union and his unwillingness to toe the EU line (pro-German “democracy” at home and anti-Russian posture abroad) earned him the sobriquet of the “last European dictator”.

But then, things started to go wrong, especially after the Nazi takeover of the Ukraine in 2014. Lukashenko might have started to feel isolated and between Western pressure and ossification of his quasi-socialist system (nothing wrong with it in principle), he began to turn against his only genuine ally—Russia. The reasons for this U turn are complex but at this moment also irrelevant. Whatever the cause of the cooling of the relations between Russia and Byelorussia, the consequences are dire and are fast becoming catastrophic. To understand the gravity of the situation, we should be able to see the “Gestalt”—the whole of the current geopolitical situation and its trends. That a global conflict between the West and the East is in the offing there is no doubt. Not only has Russia been targeted since the mid-1990s, but the total war on China and Iran declared by Trump and his Jesuitical agents provocateurs confirms absolutely that we are facing something unprecedented. I need to remind the reader that nothing like this was even remotely possible only 30 years ago. The brazenness and sheer bloodthirst of the new Operation Barbarossa with its global ambitions dwarfs any conquests known to history. What boggles the mind is how successful it has been.

No bromides about how strong Russia is, how well it’s coping (I repeat—coping) with the cruel sanctions by the West will suffice this time. No empty hope that somehow the miserable quisling statelets from the Balkans to the Baltics will experience a Zen-like enlightenment and disobey their Western masters. No false hope that the push towards Russia’s borders can somehow be reversed and no end in sight to the total war waged by the combined “West” (a dire temporary reconciliation of a resurgent Roman Catholicism, neutered Protestantism and newly respectable Zionism). From this point on, there is no going back. The distance between Moscow and the closest point in the Ukraine is 440 km (as crow flies). In the case of Byelorussia, it is 410 km. Although symbolic, this advance would be hugely important for the would-be conquerors as it is for Russia. Starting with Orsha in Byelorussia, the path to Moscow leads through Smolensk, Vyazma and Mozhaysk—towns that experienced so much suffering in WWII because they were on the road to Moscow. But what about the suffering of Byelorussia? It was probably the worst-suffering Soviet republic with an unknown number of people killed or sent of to Germany as slave labour and uncountable number of villages and towns destroyed.

None of this matters in the upside-down Western world view in which black is white and white is black. It is a world in which the close descendants of the worst war criminals in history are now the unofficial rulers of Europe together with their Gallic poodles and Anglo-Saxon frenemies, while the nation which bore the brunt of the cruellest genocide ever is being attacked by those same criminals again—as if two Vernichtungskriege in 30 years weren’t enough.

Many will point out that we are already at war and this would be true. The threat of a nuclear conflict has prompted Western strategists to think of alternative ways of destroying their opponents. We are talking about a broad-spectrum effort which includes political, economic, intelligence, cultural, psychological, religious and military components. By weaving these different strands into a single coordinated strategy, the West is hoping (and succeeding) in getting closer to Moscow every day without igniting a global nuclear war. This time however, it is different. Not only has the West crossed Russia’s geopolitical red lines, it has given notice that it will stop at nothing until Russia is defeated and destroyed. They are skilfully neutralising Russia’s nuclear deterrent by inflicting a thousand cuts from all sides without suffering any harm themselves. Two days ago, a Russian major general was killed by America’s proxies in Syria while delivering food to the people of Idlib. Today, Alexey Navalny is in a coma after an alleged poisoning attempt. The quickening is palpable but no event demonstrates the current danger better than the attempted colour revolution in Byelorussia which is unfolding as we speak.

The genius of the Western destruction-mongers lies not in their ingenuity and creativity but in their understanding of the lower reaches of human nature (in this respect they have no peer). They know how to exploit weaknesses such as greed, envy and ego and especially people’s susceptibility to vices. Moreover, these agents of darkness know that most people are frightened, helpless, largely ignorant and easily swayed and distracted. With this knowledge and an inexhaustible source of money, the West has settled on a winning scheme of “peaceful” conquest which has brought it all the way from the Atlantic coast to the gates of Moscow after 30 years of colour revolutions, coups and open war. I need to stress the importance and success of this “boiling frog” strategy.[3] There is nothing new or surprising in their latest move on Lukashenko—the same combination of underground CIA-funded networks from Poland, Ukraine and the Baltics and incompetent opposition which is transformed into a “plausible democratic alternative” overnight. Nazi-linked symbols, Russophobic vultures such as the buzzard-faced Bernard Henri-Levi circling above the scene, invented ancient roots… It’s all there.

But that is not why I’m writing. Throughout my years as a keen observer of the latest (and last) Drang, I have been fascinated by the patterns of behaviour (on a geopolitical level) which seem to come straight out of a history book to describe the period circa 1940. While the Western juggernaut hurtles through space, the decorum of “partnership” is maintained to the very last moment. Even though a few lonely voices are screaming that the war is inevitable and that Russia must neutralise any further advances by the new Nazis, most people are distracted by COVID, Joe Biden’s dementia and other nonsense. This could be cowardice but could also be wisdom in the face of an inevitable tragedy.

Even the tone of the Russian diplomacy is slowly changing—as it did in the autumn of 1940 following the cooling of German-Soviet relations. The ever measured and moderate Sergei Lavrov (like Vyacheslav Molotov before him) has started describing the international situation in more realistic terms using noticeably harsher language. Nevertheless, unless Russia does something very quickly, it will find itself completely surrounded and unable to defend itself as it did in 1941—hypersonic weapons notwithstanding.

However, the most fascinating aspect of this latest escalation is the fact that another colour revolution could be attempted at all and that Russia is still unable to assert itself in its neighbourhood, if only in order to save itself. “Unable” is perhaps too strong a word. What I mean is that unlike the West which is achieving its geopolitical goals without shedding blood and even without suffering any significant economic damage (no, Russian countersanctions have not crippled Germany or France), the Russians know that any attempts to stop and reverse the Western push will cost them dearly—primarily in terms of further isolation from all Western countries (already, Russian diplomats are being detained and expelled throughout the EU, as if in anticipation of the Byelorussian endgame). [4]The Western planners know that Russia can survive on its own but they also know that it can’t survive for long if deprived of the oxygen of international exchange—the feeling that it belongs to the family of European nations. No Eurasian ideology can ever replace the esteem in which Europe has been held by Russian intellectuals. While I see this pronounced inferiority complex as Russia’s curse, I have to acknowledge it in order to explain president Putin’s attempts to get various EU countries on his side.

It is not so much about economy but about Russia’s eternal yearning to prove itself worthy of “European standards” despite the fact that it was Europe that has been attacking Russia relentlessly and is guilty of crippling it possibly beyond healing. Hope springs eternal. And yet, president Putin must be aware of the dirty double-dealing game the EU is playing (I am giving the villain du jour a miss this time) by leaning on the United States to re-establish its hegemony over the Eurasian, African and Middle-Eastern space while lecturing Putin and Lukashenko on the merits of democracy. There is something deeply hypocritical—not to say Jesuitical—about EUs posture. It is doing everything in its power to isolate and weaken Russia while offering carrots such as Nord stream 2. This is much more pernicious than the open enmity of Trump and his crude supremacism because it offers the deeply unpleasant EU block an opportunity to play a good cop towards Russia at no cost to itself. Compared with the US’s Berserker-like attack on anything and everything, the EU appears “reasonable” and ready for a compromise by comparison—but this is only a dangerous illusion.

While the EU is wholeheartedly supporting the new Maidan (relying on the nazified pockets in the West of Byelorussia and the usual pro-Western suspects), it has the temerity to issue warnings to Putin not to “meddle” and to Lukashenko not to “oppress”. This coming from a president who has been perpetrating mass violence on the peaceful demonstrators in the centre of Paris for over a year. Even worse, Angela Merkel who is initiating a more muscular foreign policy under the guidance of expansionist hawks who are champing at the bit to replace her (Annegret whatever and Ursula I don’t care) dares lecture Russia on interfering in other countries’ affairs—after her illustrious predecessors. the CDU crypto-Nazis Kohl, Kinkel and Genscher destroyed Yugoslavia (only for Russian top partnyor Gerhardt Schröder to finish the job by sending German bombers, spies and military trainers to Serbia in 1999). And yet, all Russia can do is appeal meekly to the EU in the hope that the Ukrainian scenario will not recur. Promises of military help given to Lukashenko are almost worthless in the light of the cumulative EUs response—which would be nothing short of traumatic. The proof of this is the complete support by Germany for the Ukrainian regime notwithstanding its dirty role in overthrowing Yanukovich and undermining the Minsk accords.

So, what am I trying to say? The moment of reckoning has arrived. Despite the heroic battle by President Putin and his comrades to buy time and delay the inevitable, the time for procrastination and appeasement has passed. Russia must choose between a difficult but sustainable future and no future at all. The Western offensive has destroyed all buffers between Russia and its enemies and although this might not mean much militarily, it has a vast symbolic value.[5] If Byelorussia goes, Russia remains geopolitically isolated like never before. Furthermore, its enemies, far from collapsing as many have been predicting, are strong and more united than ever despite various internecine squabbles.[6] This is not to say that Russia is at the death’s door. On the contrary, it is precisely because it is so resilient and forward-looking that its enemies are compelled to ramp up the pressure.

Even if Lukashenko survives the current jeopardy, he will cease to be a relevant political factor in years to come. The weakening of his rule (however clumsy and obsolescent) can mean only one thing—the infiltration of the Byelorussian political life by various pro-Western agents of influence who will find it easy to corrupt and disrupt by dipping into NED’s and USAID’s seemingly inexhaustible coffers. The moment Russia intervenes in the affairs of Minsk in any detectable way, it will be subjected to a barrage of hatred, military threats and punitive measures that have not been seen before. President Putin has an unenviable choice—act sub rosa (like he has been doing in the Donbass) and watch Byelorussia slowly descend into an orgy of anti-Russian madness or intervene openly and risk alienating the EU further, at a time when the fate of the lifeline pipeline crucially depends on EUs goodwill and willingness to antagonise Trump (a perfect good cop, bad cop scenario played by the USA and EU).

All of this is clear to president Putin and his cabinet and I have no doubt that they are burning midnight oil trying to think of the best ways to counter the Western aggression. Yet, history still holds valuable lessons. Stung by what he saw as the betrayal by the British and the French, Joseph Stalin signed a non-aggression treaty with Hitler in order to delay the inevitable. The period of collaboration involved the USSR shipping oil to Germany, oil which would later power German tanks on the road to Stalingrad. Although he did buy enough time to execute some important war preparations, Stalin waited far too long. Months after having received reports of German reconnaissance planes overflying Byelorussia and Ukraine, Stalin refused to believe that Hitler would betray him and ascribed the “anti-German” panic to the agents of Winston Churchill. Yet, this time he was horribly wrong and his error cost the USSR millions of lives and billions in damage. None of the subsequent amazing victories of the Soviet arms would quite wash away the bitter taste of Stalin’s epic blunder of 1941.

The historical lesson I was alluding to is simple yet devilishly hard to implement because it is “two-tailed”. In other words, the possibility of a deadly miscalculation stretches equally in both temporal directions away from the point that represents a timely decision. In other words, given the huge stakes that are involved, making a correct decision is well-nigh impossible. And although the choice can be defended post-hoc, especially if it results in a victory, we can never know if a better decision could not have been made. Like Stalin, Putin is facing the Scylla and Charybdis of time, only I would argue that he is facing an even more difficult decision. For all its weaknesses, the Soviet Union was much larger than its successor state and possessed by far the largest armed forces in the world (to say nothing about the reserves of raw materials and workforce). The factor that probably decided its fate was a relative weakness of the fifth column inside the country and the ability of the security services to neutralise pro-German networks operating inside the country. President Putin has entered the twilight zone in which the smallest mistake can cost him everything. I don’t envy him but pray for his wisdom and Russia’s preparedness.

Of course, circumstances have changed dramatically and today’s warfare bears scant resemblance to the mass movement of army fronts across thousands of kilometres of chernozem and steppe. These days, the crude manoeuvring of armoured columns has been replaced by silent software attacks on a state’s currency system and infrastructure, covert takeovers and sabotage of its assets, denial of open and free intercourse with other countries, replacement of the indigenous values and goals by the foreign dogma and suborning of its institutions to will of the Empire. This new form of warfare requires sophistication and intercontinental co-ordination. Occasionally, we are made aware of the bloopers of the Western intelligence services and their silly attempts to blame Russia for all their ills, but make no mistake! The cumulative effect of their misdeeds has been a complete homogenisation of the European space along the Russophobic lines prescribed by the behind-the-scene bosses. Let me put it this way: If tomorrow the USA and the EU were to declare a war on Russia, do you believe that any of the Slav vassals would openly defy the clarion call? Again, let me give you a couple of examples from history.

When NATO bombed Serbia, not a single country refused to participate in this egregious war crime and the honour of defying the black criminal cabal of Brussels belongs to a few heroic soldiers from Greece, Spain and France. With Iraq it was different in that Germany and France did not feel sufficiently incentivised to participate in what they saw as a neocon-inspired Anglo-Saxon adventure (for which they have been lauded no end). To pre-empt the possibility of future betrayal by its vassals, the US has shifted to a new strategy which seeks to weaken Russia (or China) without having to mobilise military “coalitions of the willing”. The war is being fought in small, almost invisible increments which do not require absolute allegiance to the cause and payment in blood.

The new army consists of spies, computer and finance specialists, thinktank ideologues, NGO “activists”, “security experts” and other assorted ghouls whose victories are not measured in square kilometres of conquered territory or body counts but in fractions of a percent of damage caused to the currency, prestige or freedom of action of the enemy. This leaves a lot of space for “plausible deniability” and the maintenance of the “business as usual” posture while the deadly blows are administered below the waterline. It also bamboozles the ordinary people into thinking that the war could never happen. It can and it will.

Another consequence will be accelerated squeezing and neutralisation of the semi-impotent Serbia and the final Gleichschaltung of the Eastern wing of NATO in preparation for a more muscular phase of the war. This will involve transferring more troops and missiles to the East (but always under the retaliation threshold), closing down of Russia’s embassies and consulates in Europe while pretending to oppose the United States, closing down financing channels and media outlets, making life miserable for Russian citizens and businessmen abroad plus hundreds more nasty tricks. In many ways, the strategy of sustained pressure is more dangerous than open conflict because it sucks out hope from the people of the affected country—the hope that they will be treated as equals by the “cultured” West. A similar tactic has been used against China but China is in a much better economic position to withstand such pressures.

The fall of Lukashenko and “old Byelorussia” can mean only one thing—an intensified total war which Russia will have to face totally isolated. If Russia’s last real ally (yes, that’s what he is) can be removed with such ease, Russia cannot hope to attract and keep long-term allies and neutral partners. This is only partly Russia’s fault. The power aligned against it is unprecedented in history and I am praying that Russia will be able to overcome the forces of evil again.

One piece of good news though—the dissolute Jesuitical warmonger Bannon has been arrested for fraud—finally showing the Chinese the fruits of a “Christian” education.

Notes:

  1. The illustration has been borrowed from the irreplaceable Colonel Cassad (Boris Rozhin) whose blog most of us visit regularly. The link is: https://colonelcassad.livejournal.com/6110832.html 
  2. Generally, I agree with the Saker that Byelorussia should not exist as an independent state. Nor should the Ukraine for that matter, apart from the Uniate appendage of Galicia. 
  3. From Wikipedia: “The boiling frog is a fable describing a frog being slowly boiled alive. The premise is that if a frog is put suddenly into boiling water, it will jump out, but if the frog is put in tepid water which is then brought to a boil slowly, it will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death. The story is often used as a metaphor for the inability or unwillingness of people to react to or be aware of sinister threats that arise gradually rather than suddenly.” 
  4. A recent episode has infuriated me no end. After helping Italy to stem the spread of COVID in a gesture of friendship and good will, the Russian air force has had to chase an Italian military aeroplane that was approaching the Russian Black Sea coast. Even if this was an attempt by the Americans to poison the relations between the two nations, it is inexcusable and leaves another stain of dishonour on the standard of the much abused battle standard of Italy. 
  5. Actually, it does mean a lot militarily because it allows for all kinds of fast aggressive moves for which Russia cannot find timely countermeasures. In today’s world of nanosecond processing, 10 km is a huge distance. 
  6. If you think that Brexit and Greek-Turkish tensions prove me wrong, remember that modern European history was a never-ending saga of bloody and destructive wars. 

ASSISTING ‘INVISIBLE HAND OF MARKET’: U.S. THREATENS GERMAN COMPANIES OVER NORD STREAM 2

Source

Assisting 'Invisible Hand Of Market': U.S. Threatens German Companies Over Nord Stream 2

In a last-ditch attempt to impede the Nord Stream 2, the Trump administration began to threaten German (and not only) companies who are involved in it with sanctions.

According to German media, this is a showing of a new, and incredible, “low point” in Transatlantic relations.

According to a report by German outlet Die Welt, the United States is increasing pressure on German and European companies involved in the construction of the Nord Stream 2 Baltic Sea pipeline.

In the past few days, US representatives had held video conference calls with contractors of the project to “point out the far-reaching consequences of continuing to work on the project,” the outlet reported.

The company representatives sometimes faced up to twelve representatives of the US government.

They “made it very clear in a friendly tone that they want to prevent the pipeline from being completed,” the newspaper quoted an unnamed observer of the talks:

“I think the threat is very, very serious.”

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the controversial Baltic Sea pipeline to transport gas from Russia to Germany would now fall under a law that would allow punitive measures, among other things, against companies doing business with Russia or countries like Iran and North Korea.

In response, the German Federal Government declared that it rejected extraterritorial sanctions, since these were “contrary to international law”.

The German economy condemned the threats as an “incredibly low point in transatlantic relations”.

Nord Stream 2 is said to transport gas from Russia to Germany and is particularly controversial in Eastern Europe.

The main fear is a weakening of alternative pipelines and traditional transit countries, such as Ukraine. The US government argues that Europe is becoming energy-dependent on Russia.

The United States had previously tried to impose sanctions on Nord Stream 2. Sanctions put into effect by President Donald Trump at the end of 2019 are aimed at the operators of laying ships involved in the construction. The construction of the pipeline therefore had to be interrupted.

Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed optimism that the project would be completed by early 2021, with a delay of only a few months.

On July 16th, the US updated its sanctions regime against the Nord Stream 2.

Until July 15th, the scope of US sanctions legislation excluded direct investors, enhancing Russia’s ability to build export pipelines before August 2nd 2017. That cut-off date was removed, meaning contracts signed for Nord Stream 2 and the second line of TurkStream will be included.

“The US signals that sanctions could potentially be applied retroactively, including in respect of European companies that are Gazprom’s partners in Nord Stream 2. However, it is hard to see how this could be enforceable; this would be against the law and should it happen it would certainly be contested in international courts,” according to Katja Yafimava, researcher at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies.

“The question is whether the state department has the right to independently enforce the provisions of this law. The state department is formally subordinate to the president, but no separate documents have been issued stating that the president gave the state department the right to impose sanctions from the [sanctions act] package,” according to Igor Yushkov, an expert of the National Energy Security Fund and the Financial University under the Government of the Russian Federation.

The proposed additional sanctions in the draft national defence act “are unacceptable and contrary to international law, and the EU firmly opposes them,” EU high representative for foreign affairs and security policy Josep Borrell said on June 25th.

The biggest issue is that the US is concerned that there are no buyers for its liquefied natural gas (LNG) that it wants to sell to Europe at prices, higher than those Russia offers Europe.

Sometimes, the invisible hand of the market requires a tangible attempt at a push for it to properly and “independently” settle the market on a desirable scenario.

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NATO 2020: A COALITION OF THE UNWILLING

 25.07.2020 

Written and produced by SF Team: J.Hawk, Daniel Deiss, Edwin Watsont

The problem with alliances is that they ultimately either become victims of their own success, or cannot figure out what to do with themselves once the original rationale disappears. The original Cold War-era NATO was a relatively cohesive entity led by one of the two superpowers, with most of its members being the industrialized democracies of Western Europe, with West Germany being its eastern-most European member, and alliance planning revolving around USSR. But even then there were cracks in the alliance. Italy, for example, had nearly no role to play as it did not border any Warsaw Pact country and did not practice deploying its forces to West Germany to practice its defense against the anticipated Warsaw Pact invasion. And while Greece and Turkey were ostensibly part of that alliance as well, in practice they spent more time clashing with one another than planning for joint action against USSR.

The end of the Cold War made the problem of alliance cohesion far worse, for two reasons. One, it quickly added as many members as possible thus greatly expanding its geographical extent, and two, it lost that single unifying factor in the form of USSR. Today’s NATO is a patchwork of mini-alliances revolving around the United States which is determined to replace the alliance aspect of NATO which assumes that all members have interests that are to be taken into consideration, by patron-client relationships.

Not to put too fine a point on it, the goal of the United States is global domination. This goal is shared by the entire political elite and major portions of the population, though it is nearly never discussed openly or directly. Instead, it is framed in terms of “American Leadership”, “New American Century”, and of course “American Exceptionalism” which is used to justify any policy that violates international law, treaties, or agreements. Given that every country which has not recognized “American Leadership” is described as a “regime”, there is no indication the US elite is interested in anything resembling peaceful coexistence with other sovereign states.

NATO plays a double role in achieving that goal. First, it is a military alliance that projects military power against anyone refusing to accept “American Leadership”. Military contributions by European member states are certainly important, not least by giving America the veneer of international legitimacy, but the presence of US bases on the European continent is far more so. US forces stationed in or staged out of European naval, air, and land bases are indispensable to its efforts to control the MENA region and to promote the US policy of driving a wedge between Europe on the one hand and Russia and China on the other. Secondly, a European country’s membership in NATO means a sacrifice of considerable portion of its sovereignty and independence to the United States. This is a wholly asymmetrical relationship, since US bases its forces in European countries and sells its weapons to them, not the other way around. The penetration of a European country thus achieved allows US intelligence service to develop agent networks and to employ the full range of lobbying techniques which have been particularly visible in the US efforts to press F-35 aircraft into the hands of NATO member states.

America’s self-appointed task is made not easier or harder by the fact that today’s NATO is therefore fragmented along both geographic and national power lines. The geographical divide is plainly easy to see: Norway and Denmark mainly care about the Arctic, Poland and Romania obsess about Russia, Mediterranean countries freak out about what’s happening in North Africa. The wrangling over sending more troops to Mali or to Estonia is the reflection of the differing security concerns of individual members of the far-flung pact. The power divide is less easy to see but more problematic for Washington. V_3 (A2) Of the European powers, only four—Germany, France, Italy, and Great Britain—may be considered to be powerful and independent political actors with which the US has to contend on anything like an equal basis. The first three form the core of the European Union, whereas Great Britain opted for Brexit, likely in part because of the looming big power struggle between the US and the EU that has the potential of degenerating into a destructive trade war. It is doubtful that the skirmishes over Huawei and North Stream 2 are anything but the opening salvoes in the confrontation over whether the EU will emerge as a political actor independent of the US, or be reduced to a collection of client states. Unfortunately, America’s task is made easier by the fact of the intra-European divisions mentioned above.

United States is pursuing development of several hypersonic missile systems with the aim of ultimately fielding very large numbers of them in order to be able to launch disarming first strikes against Russian and Chinese nuclear arsenals. Since the weapons themselves are relatively short-ranged (though that may change once the US allows New START to lapse), they require basing close to their intended targets. That means having to find countries willing to base them in Europe, where it is liable to provoke a  political debate of the magnitude comparable to that of the original Euromissile controversy of the 1980s. Since Germany is not interested in being reduced to the status of a US client, it has resisted the US on a variety of fronts, including the North Stream 2, the refusal to buy F-35s, and now also the lack of desire to host the new US missiles. Even the German defense spending increases are intended at least as much to counter US influence in Eastern Europe as the supposed Russian threat to NATO. The United States has responded using the usual array of tools: economic sanctions on any and all European entities participating in the project and even using the gas, apparently launching a cyber-attack that US-friendly German intelligence promptly blamed on Russia, and also threatening to move US troops out of Germany and possibly to Poland. There is even discussion and rumors that US nuclear weapons stationed in Germany might be moved to Poland.

The outcome of this so far is a power struggle between two NATO allies, US and Germany, over the political alignment of a third—Poland. While Germany has the power of EU institutions on its side and massive economic gravitational pull, US has cultivated a cadre of friends, possibly intelligence assets, as a result of post-9/11 collaboration in Afghanistan, Iraq, and in the realm of intelligence-sharing. This has produced a government more than willing to deploy US troops, missiles, and even nukes on Poland’s territory. The power of US influence is visible in Poland’s weapons procurement: Patriot, Javelin, HIMARS, F-35, and not a single comparable European system in recent years. The US weakness in this confrontation consists of the unwillingness to subsidize Poland economically which, combined with the ruling party’s fiscal irresponsibility, will make it difficult for the country to maintain its anti-German course in the longer term.

While in Eastern Europe US national security state is using Poland as a proxy against Germany, in the Mediterranean it has adopted Turkey as a proxy against France and Italy. After some hemming and hawing, the US hawks dropped the Kurds yet again, with Trump happily taking the blame, in order to piggy-back on Erdogan’s Libya ambitions to curtail French and Italian interests there. To be sure, Turkey retains far more autonomy in the relationship than Poland, which was unable or unwilling to play US and Russia and EU against one another in order to secure a measure of freedom of action. But the US Congress measures to allow the purchase of S-400 weapons from Turkey is an indicator that Turkey’s behavior is once again useful to the US. And even though Turkey was excluded from the F-35 program, its firms continue to make components for various assembly plants. The result has been a number of stand-offs between Turkish warships on one hand and French and Italian on the other off the coasts of Libya. And whereas France and Italy are backing the Marshal Haftar’s LNA, Turkey’s preferred proxy is the GNA, leading to a veritable “anti-Turkey” alliance being formed that includes Turkey’s old time NATO adversary Greece. While the US is officially aloof of the entire situation, in practice controlling Libya’s oil is part of the Washington strategy of “energy dominance” every bit as the North Stream 2 sanctions are.

The remarkable part of these two sets of conflicts among NATO powers is that in both cases Russia has sided with Germany and France against the US in both cases. It is Russia’s policies that are more beneficial to French and German interests than America’s, since Russia is not actually seeking to monopolize energy supplies to Europe in the way that the US clearly and openly is.

So far the US strategy consisted of steadily ratcheting up pressure through sanctions and proxies and occasional intelligence-generated anti-Russia provocations (sometimes helpfully delivered by British agencies), trying to find that happy middle of policies that actually force Germany, France, and Italy to change their policies and which do not force a permanent breach in the trans-Atlantic relationship. But the cracks in the relationship are clearly visible and they are not attributable to Trump’s erratic and brusque manner. It is the US Congress which passed the successive rounds of anti-North Stream 2 sanctions, with strong partisan majorities. It means the assertion of US control over European major powers is part of the US agenda. Since that agenda is motivated by a US political and economic crisis of a magnitude not seen since the 1930s, there is little likelihood Biden’s presidency would represent a radical departure from the current trend.

Of course, for Germany, France, and Italy to successfully resist US encroachment they would first need to transform the EU into something closer than a federation. The COVID-19 pandemic and the associated economic crisis already providing considerable impetus for such a transformation, America’s insatiable appetites might provide the rest.

Is Trump Using Nordstream 2 to Exit NATO?

By Tom Luongo
Source: Gold Goats n Guns

July 21, 2020

The one thing I never thought I’d say is that Donald Trump is consistent, and yet on the subject of the Nordstream 2 pipeline he has been.

No single project has caused more wailing and gnashing of teeth than Nordstream 2. And since Nordstream 2 is simply the substitute for South Stream, which was supposed to come across the Black Sea into Bulgaria and then feed eastern Europe, this U.S. opposition to another Russian pipeline spans multiple administrations.

So, this is policy that goes far beyond simple 2020 electoral politics, Trump trying to look tough on the Russians, or his misguided Energy Dominance policy.

With Trump rescinding the sanctions exemption for Nordstream 2 he now has declared open war against Europe, specifically Germany over this project.

But here’s the thing, I think Trump is doing this for updated reasons that fit a different agenda than why the U.S. opposed Nordstream 2 previously, because he knows he can’t stop the pipeline now. All he can do is further alienate Germany, who he has targeted as the main problem in Europe.

Before I go any further, though, I think a little history lesson is in order.

U.S. opposition to Nordstream 2 is deeply ingrained on all sides of the political aisle in D.C. From Republicans still fighting the cold war to Democrats having deep ties to Ukrainian gas transit there are a multitude of reasons why Nordstream 2 is verboten in D.C.

On the other hand, Europe’s relationship with Nordstream 2 is, in a word, complicated.

Russian President Vladimir Putin scuttled South Stream back in late 2014 because the EU changed its pipeline rules during its development after the contracts were in place.

Most of that was U.S. pressure, but some of that was Germany’s Angela Merkel working with then-President Barack Obama to create the worst possible scenario for Gazprom – a pipeline that wasn’t profitable.

Merkel backed Obama’s play in Ukraine in 2014 as a power move to control prices for Russian gas into Europe, putting Soviet-era pipelines under EU gas directive jurisdiction.

The EU was always going to use Ukrainian gas transit as leverage over Putin to drive gas prices below Gazprom’s cost thinking they had no other options.

Putin famously pivoted to China, singing the mega-deal for Power of Siberia in retaliation to that. Since Putin had already brought Crimea in from the cold war and tacitly backed the breakaway of the Donbass Merkel was now the one on her back foot.

At the same time, to salvage the work done on South Stream to that point, Putin cut a deal with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to replace South Stream’s volumes to eastern Europe with Turkstream’s to Turkey.

The plans for Turkstream include multiple trains into eastern Europe with countries like Serbia, Hungary and the Czech Republic itching for that gas.

Russia’s options were manifest and Putin deftly outmaneuvered Merkel and Obama. These events forced Merkel’s hand after she stupidly caved to the Greens over ending Germany’s use of nuclear power and now she needed Nordstream 2.

And so Nordstream 2 became a big geopolitical football because Merkel saw, as well, the opportunity to bring the recalcitrant Poles and Baltics under her control as well, solidifying long-term EU plans to engulf all of Euope to Russia’s borders.

Nordstream 2 would nominally replace Ukrainian gas supplies and she could set Germany up to be the gas transit hub, supporting political power emanating from Brussels.

This would give her leverage over Poland, who are trapped between their hatred of the Russians and their unwillingness, rightfully, to submit to Germany.

But Merkel, ever the deft three-faced keeper of the status quo, worked with Putin to secure gas flows through Ukraine for another five years, allaying the worst of Poland’s fears while they have courted Trump to bring in over-priced U.S. LNG.

But from the beginning, Nordstream 2 becomes a different animal geopolitically the moment Trump comes to power. Because Trump is opposed to the EU’s consolidating power over Europe while also sucking the U.S. dry on trade and defense.

He’s made this abundantly clear.

Since the beginning of the year Trump has ratcheted up the pressure on both China and the EU. And the only way that makes any sense is if you are willing to see them as allies in undermining the U.S.’s global position.

This isn’t to say that the U.S.’s global position should remain as it is. Far be it for me, of all people, to argue that. But with the insanity of the COVID-19 fake pandemic, the World Economic Forum’s plans for The Great Reset, and the fomenting a cultural revolution in the U.S. the stakes are now as high as they’ve ever been.

The Davos Crowd is making their big move to consolidate power in Europe. Trump is working with Boris Johnson in the U.K. to oppose that. That’s the simplified version of the chess board.

And this is why I think Trump refuses to give up on stopping Nordstream 2. He’s seen the depths to which The Davos Crowd will go to implement this radical change and he’s forcing the moment to its crisis, as T.S. Eliot put it.

He’s making the choice very clear for Merkel and company. If you want Nordstream 2, suffer the consequences of having to do business without the U.S.

This isn’t about Russia anymore, at all. It’s about Germany and the future of the U.S. If Trump loses in November all of the work done to slow down this push for transnational technocratic oligarchy will end.

If he wins then the current policy sticks, the EU is forced to deal with the U.S. retrenching completely, pulling back on commitments to Europe while divorcing U.S. trade from China.

He may actually be courting lower U.S. dollar flow the world over and forcing Europe into real economic crisis by early next year.

This sanctions policy against Nordstream 2 is consistent with his ‘snap’ decision to pull troops out of Germany, his unilateral abrogation of both the INF treaty and the JCPOA while pressuring NATO to do more.

Merkel, meanwhile, is trying to run out the clock on both Trump and Brexit, as I talked about in my podcast from last week. She’s hoping that Trump will be defeated which will set things back to the way they were before him, force U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson to knuckle under in trade deal talks and establish the primacy of the EU as the center of Western power.

Putin, for his part, doesn’t care who he deals with in the long run. He can’t afford to. He has to play the cards on the table in front of him with the people in power, since Russia is still a minor player but with big potential.

For Trump, I believe he sees Nordstream 2 as the perfect wedge issue to break open the stalemate over NATO and cut Germany loose or bring Merkel to heel.

This next round of sanctions will target the companies involved directly in the pipeline. Germany can’t afford not to finish Nordstream 2. So, we are headed for an epic clash here.

Trump and Merkel hate each other, with good reason. And while I have mixed feelings about the way Trump does business, I know Angela Merkel is the key to the EU’s future.

I mentioned in a recent article that I feel Trump is a guy with almost nothing left to lose. If he’s going out he’s going out with a bang. Arrest Ghislaine Maxwell, sanction China and threaten war over Hong Kong, ramp up dollar diplomacy on Europe.

He knows that hybrid war is the only war the U.S. can ‘win’ decisively given the relative dominance of the U.S. dollar today.

While the end of dollar hegemony is in sight, do not underestimate how much damage can be done to the status quo while Trump is in power. That status quo isn’t good for anyone except those who currently want that power back.


How Geopolitical Economy Crossed the Atlantic – West to East

How Geopolitical Economy Crossed the Atlantic – West to East

by Francis Lee for the Saker Blog

Europe is tending to bring the society and culture of the continent into harmony with those of the United States, exulting the characteristics of the latter into models and objects of an uncritical and overwhelming admiration … There is no longer at present a European project. A North American project … under American command has replaced it … The hegemonism of the United States is clearly visible behind the disappearance of the European project in favour of a return to Atlanticism – political, economic, cultural, and militaristic.

Samir Amin (The Liberal Virus 2004)

According to current orthodox economic trade theory – see the works of David Ricardo (1772-1823) and his theory of comparative advantage – this is a hypothesis which in policy terms is predicated upon the free movement of labour, capital and commodities, which it is argued will result in flows into the most optimal investment and growth areas. This process will be seen to maximise social welfare in terms of income and output. Like many economic theories which have come and gone this particular addition to the collection may seem disarmingly plausible; in practise, however, the theory begs a number of key questions.

The current conventional wisdom as applicable to the free-trade paradigm rests on a one-size fits all prescriptive model; that is to say that always and everywhere it is regarded as the policy of choice. Free-up the dead hand of state controlled, interventionist policies, and the markets will deliver the goods, so it is argued. This is, it should be understood, not an empirical assessment but a purely theoretical paradigm, which is to say the least, questionable. The quasi-religious belief in the efficacy of free trade/markets and factor input movement is the cornerstone of trade agreements such as free-trade areas like NAFTA, on the Mexican/American border and trading blocs like the EU in Europe and MERCOSUR in Latin America.

This theory, which was effectively mobilized and globalized by the Anglo-American economic establishment (the Reagan-Thatcher axis) continues to be taught in schools and university courses so that generation after generation of students are infected by what has become known as the Washington Consensus, Neo-liberalism, Globalization call it what you will. However, in the cold and unforgiving world of actually-existing capitalism free-trade and free-markets have never to any great extent really existed. It cannot be emphasised enough that orthodox economic theory is, as Amin states elsewhere, a purely ideological construct bearing only a tenuous connection with the real world.

At the outset it should be made clear that capitalist development was and is a function of the market and state relationship. Public authority has always actively intervened in shaping and promoting the economic policies of the domestic and international economy contrary to hyper-globalist assertions which we might call ‘state-denial’. It should be stated unequivocally that the state and its role is and remains the most significant force in shaping both the national and world economy. This was evident as far back as Tudor England and beyond when the English monarchs banned the importation of woollen cloth in an early version of infant industry protection transforming England from an importing wool country into the most formidable wool and later manufacturing country in the world.

Mercantilism and its influence*

The same mercantilist policies initially carried out in England (as it then was) were then also in time operationalised in both the United States and Germany who played catch-up with the UK in the late 19th century. The architect of US mercantilism was Alexander Hamilton (born 1755 or thereabouts – died 1804) who overcame the free-trade preferences of Thomas Jefferson in the early stages of US economic development; but it was the civil war – 1861-65 – essentially a conflict between the protectionist north and the free-trading south, which settled the issue. Ex Commander-in-Chief of the Union Army of the Potomac, Ulysses Simpson Grant, later to become US President argued that:

“For centuries England has relied on protection, has carried it to extremes and has obtained satisfactory results from it. There is no doubt that it is to this system that it owes its present strength. After two centuries, England has found it convenient to adopt free trade because it thinks that protection can no longer offer it anything. Very well then, gentlemen, my knowledge of our country leads me to believe that within 200 years, when America has gotten out of protection all that it can offer, it too will adopt free trade.”(1)

In Germany, Friedrich List (1789-1846) who also had scant regard for any ‘free-market’ nonsense and the Ricardian corollary of comparative advantage was instrumental in promoting a system of political guidance from above as a policy for economic development.

‘’ … the first stage (of such a long-term policy) is one of adopting free-trade with more advanced nations as a means of raising themselves from a state of barbarism, and of making advances in agriculture; in the second stage, promoting the growth of manufactures, fisheries, navigation and foreign trade by means of commercial restrictions; and in the last stage, on after reaching the highest degree of wealth and power by gradually reverting to the principle of free-trade and of unrestricted competition in the home and in foreign markets’’. (2)

This was the policy instrumentalised by Bismarck during the middle and late 19th century which enabled Germany to outperform its European rivals, principally the UK. And still today in many ways German nationalist mercantilism which it rests upon has dominated the EU and is even now still much in evidence.

The peculiarities of financialised capitalism in Germany stands in marked contrast to that of the Anglo-American world. During the last 4 decades the German service sector has become proportionately larger, as should be expected from a financialised economy, but Germany has also systematically defended its industrial sector, not least by manipulating the exchange rate to protect its export industries. The distinctive feature of German financialization is a maintenance of a strong industrial base, in spite of weak aggregate investment. Additionally, the German financial system has retained much of its historic character as ‘bank-based’ in contrast to the ‘market-based’ system of the US/UK. Germany has a small stock-market in comparison to the Anglo-American model and a larger more diffused and competitive banking model – the Sparkassen which stands in sharp contrast to the liberalised and oligopolistic banking systems in the US/UK.

Generally speaking the reversion to free-trade from protectionism has been fraught with difficulties. The mutual benefits of free-trade only exists between highly developed nations, or between nations of roughly equal levels of development. There is no question that free trade can ever become a source of growth and development between nations of unequal economic status; such development has never worked for the less developed party in the trade relationship and in all probability never will. (See the Prebisch-Singer hypothesis.) The advantages will accrue to the more productive economy.

It is easy enough to cite examples of this phenomenon: Why for example do Portugal, Spain, Ireland, Latvia, Italy, run chronic negative trade figures on their respective current accounts? The answer is that their productivity levels are lower and therefore their costs are higher than Germany’s. This means that there is a structural problem of trade relations between Germany together with the core states (Holland, Scandinavia, Austria, and so forth) and the EU’s less developed peripheral states (See above). Moreover, given that they use the same currency free markets only work for the core of the EU. Germany and the core states run surpluses on their current account whilst the periphery runs chronic trade deficits. One nation’s surplus is another’s deficit. Hence given the policy prescriptions stipulated by the ruling institutions of global capitalism, and their applications, the increasing divergence between developed, semi-developed and under-developed states becomes apparent and understandable.

Furthermore, simply opening up a developing economy to global market forces will almost certainly lead to further disaster. There is always the danger of local businesses being wiped out by more efficient foreign competition before they can get a toehold into the wider world. This was certainly the case in Russia during the Yeltsin years. The imposition of the economic ‘shock therapy’, turned out to be all shock and no therapy. ‘Experts’ from the west in the shape of neo-liberal economists such as Jeffrey Sachs and Andrei Shleifer, and the lawyer Jonathan Hay, had a degree of influence over Russia’s economic policy that was unprecedented for a sovereign independent state. Together with Yagor Gaidar and Anatoli Chubais they formulated decisions that were inserted directly into Presidential decrees. The lesson learnt was that a prerequisite for positive and beneficial engagement with the global economy is the development of robust internal structures; the development of a national economy starts with internal integration and then moves on to external integration.

Strange as it may seem the development strategies employed in the East Asian states and economies were in flat contradiction to the IMF/World Bank prescriptions and met – mirabile dictu – with considerable success. These policies carried out by South Korea and Japan were in fact based on the exclusion of inward investment of western capital inflows particularly those of a short-term speculative nature (i.e. ’’Hot Money’’). The strategy was supplemented by an extensive programme of export driven development and gradually opening up the domestic economy for trade. A policy which is still extant with China now included.

What Price Comparative Advantage?

Yet the Ricardian ideology still holds sway in the textbooks and institutions seemingly unaware of the negative outcome of such policies. This is perhaps a classical example of the dissociation of theory from empirical reality; a hidebound and utterly incapable of reform of the institutions of global capitalism and their spokespersons are aptly personified in the words of one of Samuel Becket’s characters in one of his plays ‘’I must go on, I can’t go on, I’ll go on.’’ Neo-liberalism, in fact, proved extremely difficult to implement technically but then practical results have little to do with the persuasiveness of ideologies.

Suffice it to say that this ideological paradigm both permeates and is pretty much obligatory in the ruling institutions of global capitalism – the IMF, World Bank and WTO and in addition to other auguste bodies such as the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) the OECD and G7. Any questioning of the holy script is treated as blasphemy and relegated to mocking footnotes or treated as being non-existent.

With an unchanging policy consensus the EU defenders of the faith are completely sold on the putative beneficial outcomes to be derived from the holy trinity of free-movement of labour, capital, and commodities. And of course, this sacred trinity is crucial to an understanding of the results of these policies which have had extremely deleterious effects in practice, both in the developing world but more recently particularly in Europe. This meant that in Euroland the deficit countries could not devalue their currencies in order to rectify their trade deficits and would be forced into what became known as ‘internal devaluation’, more commonly understood as austerity.

In addition to this has been the lack of fiscal transfers from the more developed to the less developed or one state to another. Fiscal transfers within sovereign states, from Vermont to Louisiana or Surrey to Merseyside, or the North to the South of Italy, is quite normal, but fiscal transfers between sovereign states, for example, Finland and Greece, is more problematic. In the same spirit this lack of mutualization of public debt, i.e., allowing the debt of one-member state to be considered as an obligation of another and proposed to correct it through the issue of Eurobonds. However the members of the EU have neither the legitimacy nor the desire to carry the costs and burdens of each other’s actions. Nation states are not, after all, registered charities and charity stops at their borders.

‘’So long as a country is a member of the EU – even if it is not bound by a specific programme imposing austerity measures because of its huge debt, and so forth – it will still be bound by the catastrophic neoliberal rules imposed by the various EU treaties. That is to say the EU treaties that followed the Treaty of Maastricht, which institutionalised the opening and liberalisation of the markets for commodities, capital, and labour, and which, indirectly, also imply privatisations and the phasing out of the welfare state. (my emphasis – FL). This on top of the severe restrictions imposed on fiscal policy through the stringent rules and upon budget deficits and debt-to-GDP ratios (through the Stability and Growth Pact) which indirectly impose austerity.’’(3)

We should be by now also familiar with the imposition of the holy trinity of privatisation-liberalisation-deregulation policies and the effects which these policies have visited upon the world courtesy of the so-called ‘Washington Consensus’.

The problem is that there seems to be an invincible barrier of learnt ignorance nurtured within the governing institutions which direct and administer the global economy and its policies, and the shutting down or even the possibility of transcending what amounts to a religious dogma the consequences of which are manifest.

‘’We are now being asked to believe that these policies which have further impoverished people and are devastating the planet will in fact lead to diametrically different and highly beneficial outcomes, if only they can be accelerated and applied everywhere, freely and without restrictions; that is when they are globalized.’’ (4)

You see, the problem is easily solved by a more radical implementation of the existing – failed!- policies. Words fail one!

Predictably the result of the above guiding principles have reduced annual GDP growth figures for the Euro area which have been uniformly poor. These indicators were already baked in the cake and there were serious reservations regarding the sustainability of the global system as far back as 2019 which were bound to give rise to weak levels of investment and growth with the corollary of increasing unemployment – and so it turned out. From January 2018 Euro growth had slowed down to an average of 0.3% and then with the onset of the pandemic collapsed to a negative -3.6. As follows all are the latest figures for the 4 major EU countries: the UK -1.7%, France -5.0% Germany -2.2% and Italy -5.4% as of March 2020. GDP growth in the EU had been on a downward trajectory from 2.7% in 2017 to 1.3% in early 2020 and since the Covid-19 has plummeted to minus -3.6% (5)

IMF/WB Shock Therapy – Eastern Europe

A person sitting at a table Description automatically generated

Latvia. Soup de Jour: Russophobia. Enjoy.

Looking back and having witnessed the great Soviet meltdown with its attendant economic cataclysm the ex-Soviet satellites and republics have more recently received less attention in the business and financial media. What attention they have received paints a rosy picture of full-employment and runaway growth which have been a function of the rapid shock therapy which caused such mayhem in Russia in the 1990s. So much for the hype. What did in fact happen was rather different.

If anything the implantation of the neo-liberal virus and shock-therapy in the newly emerged post-communist states of Eastern Europe, together with an additional virulent and counter-productive Russophobic hostility should stand as a model for a botched and bungled attempt at social and economic development. The subsequent economic and social ravages has reduced these states to an almost Latin-American relationship with Western Europe.

The bald fact is that in economic terms there is little comparison to be made between Eastern and even Central Europe to Western Europe. This gap has not significantly changed and the only ex-soviet satellite comparable is Czechia reputed to be the success story. Czechia just squeezes into the bottom of the income hierarchy of the west as measured in GDP per capita of Purchasing Power Parity (PPP). The only western states which fall below the Czechia are Portugal $30,622.00 and Greece $27,812.00. (6)

These states, the ex-soviet Republics and satellites, having thrown off the yoke of communism wanted to taste the joys of western consumerism and national self-determination, apparently, and as subsequent events turned out, also for the imposition of the yoke of US imperialism, which for bizarre reasons they found liberating. Suffice it to say that their geopolitical outlook was unashamedly Atlanticist, and their economics were neo-liberal; this much to the dismay of the European Gaullists and socialists.

But this really was manna from heaven for the British and German Atlanticists. Their object all along had been to smash the Delors’ vision of Euro-deepening with the policy tool of Euro-widening. German big business in particular saw juicy opportunities to outsource its operations to a new low-wage, East European hinterland thereby lowering its costs, as well as opening up new markets in which to sell their products. European banks also saw opportunities to extend credit – a move that they would later regret bitterly – to these newly emerging states. From the British viewpoint Euro-widening effectively meant political and institutional dilution as well as economic and financial deregulation. The cheap armies of labour in the East would provide the perfect instrument for downward harmonisation of wage levels and workers’ rights and benefits in the West.

This was indeed a deep-going change in both the economic configuration and geopolitics of the EU. But I cannot recall any discussion prior to the event. Such big policy decisions, taken behind closed doors with minimal consultation (if any) to all those who would be affected only served to distance the electorates of the west further from the EU political and bureaucratic elites. Pretty much par for the EU.

A case study by Michael Hudson (7) is illustrative of the whole process which happened, and is still happening in Eastern Europe, he writes with reference to Latvia:

‘’Post-soviet economies were free of public debt, real estate and personal debt or other bank loans obtained with their political independence in 1991 … like other post-soviet economies Latvians wanted to achieve the type of prosperity they saw in Western Europe. If Latvia had actually followed the policies that had built up the western industrial nations, the state would have taxed wealth and income progressively to invest in public infrastructure. Instead Latvia’s ‘miracle’ assumed largely predatory forms of rent-seeking and insider privatisations. (My emphasis – FL).

Accepting US and Swedish advice to impose the world’s lopsided and set of neoliberal tax and financial policies, Latvia imposed the heaviest taxes on labour. Employers must pay a flat 25% tax on wages plus a 25% social service tax, whilst wage earners pay another 11% service tax … Persons who advocated taxing real estate and financial wealth, or even supported public spending, protecting consumers and other regulation were accused of threatening a return to communism. A black and white contrast is drawn either soviet style socialism, or neoliberal ideology denying that there is any such thing as a viable mixed economy (Op.cit. pp.286/287)

There followed a period of phony, debt-fuelled growth which inevitably popped in 2008 when in Warren Buffet’s amusing little quip ‘’You only see who’s been swimming naked when the tide’s gone out.’’ And in the fullness of time the tide went out for Latvia. By 2008 it had become common knowledge that the post-soviet economies had not really grown at all but had simply been financialised and indebted.

Eastern Europe – A Demographic Disaster Zone

If the economic problems of Eastern Europe were not bad enough there was the second wave of bad news. To wit, an unmitigated fall in population levels which have already have now resulted from a massive exodus of young and talented migrants from the Baltics and others to the more salubrious climes of Western Europe, mainly Germany and the Scandinavian states. The depopulation phenomenon was not a policy as such, but it emerged as the unanticipated corollary to other parts of the neoliberal policy baggage.

In addition to mass migration there has been a fall in the fertility rate (8) and a rise in the death rate as well as the exodus of skilled and ambitious young workers looking for a better life in Western Europe. For population growth to stabilise a fertility rate minimum of 2.1 babies for every one child-bearing woman per annum is needed. Suffice it to say that even Western Europe has not managed to hit this target let alone the Eastern periphery.

Post-independence from the Soviet bloc in 1991, the population of Latvia has been diminishing annually at the rate of 23,000 people a year. These frightening figures were unveiled last March by a professor at the University of Latvia, demographer Peteris Zvidriņš who would note that the sad reality is that Latvia loses a small town every two weeks. In raw figures, that is 55 people a day, or 1,650 people a month. Another Latvian demographer, who heads a local office of the International Organization for Migration of the United Nations, Ilmar Mezhs, has recently told Skaties.lv that most of those who are leaving Latvia are not planning to go back. Referring to the forecasts of Eurostat, Mezhs suggested that in sixty years in the place of 2.7 million people who had previously resided in Latvia, one would find less than a million people still dwelling in this country. According to preliminary reports, the country’s population has already been reduced to 1.946 million people. Latvia has been plagued by high mortality rates along with the massive exodus of its people since 1991. According to LTV7, a local media station, the situation in maternity wards across Latvia is critical: low salaries often go hand-in-hand with a shortage of medical personnel, especially young professionals. If the situation is not addressed urgently, as various Latvian media sources report, there will be no qualified doctors left in hospitals.

The latest Eurostat report on the situation in Lithuania shows that up to 29% of the inhabitants are living on the verge of poverty, with the situation remaining unchanged for eight consecutive years. At the same time, Lithuania is among the top five states of the EU where people are being employed for meagre salaries. The sad reality of this trend is evident in historical records showing an unprecedented drop in the population of this Baltic country, falling from 3.7 million back in 1990 to 2.8 million in 2016 – a 25% decline. Income inequality and the striking poverty of some Lithuanian residents is only getting worse over time, putting Lithuania on the list of the poorest EU states. A typical resident would pay a third of his monthly salary in a bid to get access to healthcare services.

It’s not surprising that for many years Lithuania has had the largest number of suicide cases in the EU. Therefore, it is quite understandable why Lithuania remains a country that consumes more alcohol than any other, as it’s been stated by the World Health Organization (WHO). A similar situation can be seen in other Eastern European countries, that are being described, according to Der Spiegel, as so-called “second speed EU states … Apart from migration additional factors exacerbate the problem namely: low birth and increasing death rates.

The long list of domestic social problems in the Baltic states has been largely ignored by media engaged in a massive Russophobia campaign promoted by Washington. Rolandas Paksas, the former president of Lithuania summed up the results of the post-Soviet period in the history of the republic in March. In his opinion, nothing has been done in the past twenty-seven years of independence nor has anything been built. Therefore, as Paksas points out, every year there are fewer and fewer people in Lithuania, and the life of those who remain is only becoming more difficult.

In general terms Eastern Europe’s population is shrinking like no other regional population in modern history. The population has declined dramatically in war ridden countries like Syria as well as in some advanced economies in peacetime, like Japan. But a population drop throughout a whole region and over decades has never been observed in the world since the 1950s with the exception of Southern Europe in the last five years and Eastern Europe over the last 25 consecutive years. The UN estimated that there were about 292 million people in Eastern Europe last year, 18 million less than in the early 1990s, that’s more than the population of the Netherlands disappearing from the region. The fall corresponds to a drop of six per cent – moreover, the trend continues

  • Lithuania 12%
  • Latvia 12%
  • Ukraine 9%
  • Hungary 8.5%
  • Romania 7%
  • Bulgaria 6%
  • Estonia 1.5%
  • Poland 0.5%
  • Russia, slight increase
  • Slovakia, slight increase
  • Czech Republic, slight increase.

But the most drastic consequences of the “post-communist breakdown” have been experienced by Ukraine – once one of the most developed republics of the USSR. If in the early 1990s there were 52 million people in the republic, now the population does not exceed 42 million. So much for the revolution of dignity and prospect of freedom democracy and abundance promised by the EU. The Kiev Institute of Demography estimates a population of 32 million by 2050 or perhaps sooner. According to recent polls, 35% of Ukrainians declared their readiness to emigrate usually to other Eastern European states; particularly Russia and Poland. The process accelerated after Ukraine received a visa-free regime with the EU: about 100,000 people leave the country every month. Ukraine is not so much a failing state, it is more a dying state.

In geopolitical terms a recognisable global configuration has since the 1990s come into being. This consists of a top down US-Zionist structure resting upon a West European layer of semi-comprador states, which in turns rests upon completely comprador regimes in Eastern Europe as was the case during their years of Soviet domination.

Unfortunately for them neo-liberalism and Russophobia didn’t put food on the table. The peoples of Eastern Europe have been subjected to a three-card confidence trick of ‘find the lady’ a card game practised by petty thieves on dumb overseas tourists in the streets of central London during the tourist season. It may work for a time, but ultimately the deteriorating conditions of life are and will be such that there will be a search for alternatives. But given their abject servility ‘will be’ should be perhaps be less likely than ‘may be’.

NOTES

*Mercantilism: economic theory and practice common in Europe from the 16th to the 18th century that promoted governmental regulation of a nation’s economy for the purpose of augmenting state power at the expense of rival national powers. It was the economic counterpart of political absolutism. Its 17th-century publicists—most notably Thomas Mun in England, Jean-Baptiste Colbert in France, and Antonio Serra in Italy.

  1. Monthly Review Press – 1967
  2. National System of Political Economy – Friedrich List – p.141 – 1841
  3. The New World Order in Action – Takis Fotopolous – pp.156/157
  4. The Case Against the Global Economy – Jerry Mander, et al.
  5. Source: – Trading Economics.
  6. Source: – Pocket World in Figures – The Economist 2020 edition.
  7. Killing the Host – Michael Hudson -2015
  8. The total fertility rate in a specific year is defined as the total number of children that would be born to each woman if she were to live to the end of her child-bearing years and give birth to children in alignment with the prevailing age-specific fertility rates. It is calculated by totalling the age-specific fertility rates as defined over five-year intervals. Assuming no net migration and unchanged mortality, a total fertility rate of 2.1 children per woman ensures a broadly stable population.

70 Years Of NATO: Is It A High Time To Retire?

Source

70 Years Of NATO: Is It A High Time To Retire?

NATO is a military and political alliance, a security community that unites the largest number of States on both sides of the North Atlantic. During its existence, NATO has expanded 2.5 times. It accounts for 70% of global military spending. It is rightfully considered the most powerful military association of States in the entire history of mankind in terms of combined armed power and political influence. The fact that this year NATO turned 70 years old, which is more than the independent existence of some of its member States, proves an incredible success of this project. However, while the Alliance has successfully resisted external enemies in its history, today it is experiencing significant internal divisions that threaten its existence more than ever.

The founding date of NATO is April 4, 1949, the day 12 countries signed the Washington Treaty. NATO became a “transatlantic forum” for allied countries to consult on issues that affect the vital interests of participating countries. The organization’s primary goal was to deter any form of aggression against the territory of any member state, as well as to protect against these threats. The principle of collective defense, enshrined in article 5 of the Washington Treaty, implies that if one NATO member state is the victim of an armed attack, all other member States of the Alliance will consider this act of violence an armed attack on all NATO countries and will take actions that the organization deems necessary. At the end of the 20th century, the real threat to the West was the Soviet Union.

70 Years Of NATO: Is It A High Time To Retire?

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the question arose about the existence of NATO, as an Alliance created to protect against the Soviet threat. The disappearance of the external threat has led to a process of transformation that has been going on for 30 years. Each stage of transformation is directly related to the adaptation of the Alliance to certain changes taking place in the international arena and affecting the stability of the security system in the Euro-Atlantic and the world as a whole. In addition to the collapse of the Soviet Union, one of the key events that affected the development of the Alliance was the terrorist attack of 11.09.2001, which actually allowed the Alliance to be preserved, since then there was a common external threat to the member countries.

Traditionally, NATO’s transformations are considered in the following three areas: geographical changes, political transformations, and processes in the military-technical sphere.

Important political transformations are manifested in adapting to changes in the international arena, which are represented primarily by the disappearance of block opposition. The Alliance remains committed to the principle of collective defense, as set out in article 5 of the Washington Treaty. The main command structures also remain the same. The main transformations are expressed in the form of declarations of new NATO functions: maintaining peace and stability not only on the territory of the member States, but also outside the area of responsibility of the Alliance. The operations carried out in these territories are aimed at maintaining local and regional stability, eliminating ethnic and religious conflicts, maintaining respect for human rights and various national minorities, and, most importantly, fighting international terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

The “new NATO” is being transformed from a regional organization into a guarantor of global stability, taking responsibility for stability in regions outside its own territories and in situations not covered by article 5 of the Washington Treaty. Assuming global responsibility, NATO is forced to maintain the necessary level of military power, participate in collective planning for the organization of nuclear forces and their deployment on its own territories. New threats encourage NATO to expand geographically.

The expansion of NATO, which implies the inclusion of former members of the Warsaw Pact And the full-scale advance of military infrastructure to the East, represents a change in geography.

Changes in the military-technical sphere imply a General reduction of the Alliance’s collective military forces, their relocation, etc. The main form of transformation of the armed forces was the transition from ” heavy ” military associations to more flexible and maneuverable groups in order to increase their effectiveness in the fight against new threats. The beginning of the economic crisis in autumn 2008 revealed the urgent need for reforms. Member States were forced to reduce their military budgets, which meant abandoning programs involving the development and purchase of precision weapons. In 2010 the plan of the NATO Secretary-General A. Rasmussen’s plan to optimize the budget, and in 2012, the Chicago summit adopted the “smart defense package”, which implies a parallel reduction of funds and increased efficiency.

However, despite all the reforms carried out within the Alliance, today the new missions do not have the same clarity as during the cold war. Options for the purpose of NATO’s existence after the collapse of the USSR vary: the fight against terrorism, assistance in the spread of democracy, nation-building, “world police”, the fight against “soft threats”, the fight against a resurgent Russia. But the main problem of the Organization is that none of the options is universal for all member countries. None of the considered “enemies” unites NATO.

After various stages of transformation, NATO turned out that the condition for its perfect functioning was precisely the situation of structured confrontation. The current unstructured confrontation, which implies that all member countries have different primary threats, makes it meaningless to have a cumbersome and generally rather inert organization.

70 Years Of NATO: Is It A High Time To Retire?
Illustrative Image

In 2014, NATO had another opportunity to create a common external enemy, the role of which was approached by Russia. The summit held in Wales in 2014 radically changed the agenda of the entire Alliance. The main topic of discussion was the Ukrainian crisis, which led to the conclusion about the need to contain Russia. The final Declaration of the summit notes that ” Russia’s aggressive actions against Ukraine have fundamentally called into question the vision of a whole, free and peaceful Europe”. “The illegal self-proclaimed annexation of Crimea and Russia’s aggressive actions in other regions of Ukraine” were highlighted as special threats among the spread of violence and extremist groups in North Africa and the Middle East.

The appearance of a ” dangerous external enemy ” entailed not only political transformations. There have also been reforms in the military sphere of NATO. Among the new security challenges were “hybrid wars”, that is, military actions involving an expanded range of military and civilian measures of an open or hidden nature. The adopted Action Plan, which includes the concept of “hybrid war”, was primarily aimed at countering the tactics of warfare used by Russia. Thus, a number of measures included in the Declaration were directed against Russia.

NATO was forced to return to the role of a guarantor against severe security threats, which significantly increased costs for the organization. At the 2016 NATO Warsaw summit, it was decided to further deploy 4 battalion tactical groups to existing military bases in Poland and the Baltic States. In addition, more than 550 tanks and an armored unit of the United States have been transferred to the region. These units are deployed on a rotational basis, which does not contradict the NATO-Russia Founding act of 1997. In the Declaration of the 2018 Brussels NATO summit it is recorded that the “enhanced presence in the forward area” of tactical groups includes a total of 4,500 military personnel, which is approximately equal to one brigade.

70 Years Of NATO: Is It A High Time To Retire?
Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP

At the same time, it is clear that Russia does not pose a real threat to NATO. Real foreign policy practice proves that Russia will not threaten Western countries in the next 50 years. The only point of instability today is the Ukrainian conflict, which had no preconditions until 2014, and was in turn artificially created by the American establishment in partnership with Brussels. Russia, for its part, even in this conflict does not seek to expand its influence, and also observes the Minsk agreements that are unfavorable to It.

“The main reason why the United States has assumed the role of arbiter of the fate of Ukraine and its citizens is the allegedly increasing threat from Russia not only to Kiev, but also to Europe and the rest of the world. And this is despite the fact that it was with the help of the United States that mass protests were organized and the elected government of Ukraine was overthrown in 2013-2014, which led to the war that has now unfolded in the heart of Eastern Europe,” writes geopolitical columnist Tony Kartaluchi in the new Eastern Outlook.

In 2016, the RAND organization conducted a study that showed that in the event of a Russian invasion of the Baltic States, Russian troops can be on the approaches to the capitals of Estonia and Latvia within sixty hours. The study showed that NATO forces are not sufficient to repel the Russian attack. In an interview, NATO Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller said that the main goal of deploying additional forces in Eastern Europe and Poland is to demonstrate the unity of the Alliance, and to maintain its members ‘ commitment to article 5 of the Washington Treaty. Thus, NATO adheres to the policy of declarative deterrence of Russia, in fact, its forces are not enough to respond to a potential attack from Russia. The NATO administration is well aware that the likelihood of a military conflict with Russia is minimal, but it continues to maintain the image of Russia as an aggressor in order to unite the member countries.

70 Years Of NATO: Is It A High Time To Retire?
U.S. President Donald Trump, left, and Poland’s President Andrzej Duda, leave at the end of a joint press conference in Warsaw, Poland, in June 2017. (Czarek Sokolowski/AP)

Moreover, maintaining the image of a dangerous enemy gives the United States the opportunity to promote its own interests in Europe and manipulate its “partners”.

On June 25, Donald Trump finally confirmed that part of the American military contingent in Germany would be transferred to Poland. In the end, the American contingent in Germany will be reduced from 52 thousand people to 25 thousand. According to official data, in Germany there are about 35 thousand US military personnel, 10 thousand civil servants of the Pentagon and about 2 thousand contract workers. Some of the US military will return to America, some will go to Poland to strengthen the deterrence of the “Russian threat”. In addition, according to media reports, Polish President Andrzej Duda and Donald Trump discussed the possibility of transferring 30 f-16 fighters.

“They [Germany] spend billions of dollars to buy Russian energy resources, and then we are supposed to protect them from Russia. It doesn’t work that way. I think this is very bad, ” said Donald trump, accusing Berlin of supporting the Nord Stream 2 project.

When asked whether the US administration is trying to send a signal to Russia, Donald Trump stressed that Moscow was receiving a “very clear signal”, but Washington still expected to normalize their relations. This only underscores the fact that the US is taking advantage of the perceived Russian threat to NATO.

The American leader, by undermining cooperation between Moscow and Berlin in the energy sphere, not only prevents Russia, as one of their enemies in the international arena, from developing a profitable project. The US is also interested in weakening the leading European industries, primarily Germany. The United States does not tolerate strong enemies, but it also does not accept strong allies. It is in the interests of the Americans to prevent the redevelopment of Europe as a self-sufficient and independent center of power in the international arena.

70 Years Of NATO: Is It A High Time To Retire?
Defense spendings in relation to GDP of NATO member countries

Therefore, Donald Trump is strongly calling on Germany to reimburse the billions of dollars it owes the White House. Trump is dissatisfied with the fact that Berlin does not comply with the promise made by all NATO members to increase defense spending to 2% of GDP. At the same time, Germany has already followed this path, increasing funding to 1.38%. In its turn, the US spends 3.4% of the state budget on the needs of the Alliance.

The problem of NATO funding is very often the main criticism of Berlin. However, in addition to this issue, new problems are emerging in US-German relations.

Washington is very dissatisfied with Berlin’s interaction with Beijing. The White House, which has strengthened the anti-Chinese vector of its policy, blaming the PRC for the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic and accusing the Chinese side of “controlling” the World Health Organization (WHO), did not receive sufficient support in Europe, and Germany criticized.

Moreover, Berlin does not support Washington’s sanctions policy on Chinese Hong Kong, which Beijing allegedly takes away its independence from.

The US is particularly dissatisfied with the EU’s desire for a major investment agreement with China. Germany is the main ideologue of this process and seeks to close the deal during its six-month presidency of the EU Council.

70 Years Of NATO: Is It A High Time To Retire?
“One Belt, One Road” Initiative

China today, of course, is the main competitor of the United States in the struggle for world hegemony. China also raises considerable concerns among European countries, which is primarily due to economic expansion and the successful development of the large-scale Chinese initiative “One belt, one road”. European leaders are also competing with China for resources in third world countries in Africa and Southeast Asia. In addition, there are ideological differences between the two world regions. However, China does not currently pose a military threat to Europe, which does not allow the use of NATO forces against it.

While Western countries see Russia and China as the main threats, strategically they are primarily concerned about Iran and North Korea. These countries are also a threat primarily to the United States, but their European partners are not ready to conduct active military actions against them at the moment.

The only real dangerous factor that unites almost all NATO member countries remains international terrorism, in the fight against which Western countries act as a united front.70 Years Of NATO: Is It A High Time To Retire?

The current military and political course of the European Union is determined by the clear desire of its leadership to transform the military and political organization into one of the world’s leading centers of power. The aggravation of political and economic differences with the United States is the main incentive for the implementation of this goal. Thus, the EU’s focus on increasing independence in crisis management in the area of common European interests has had a decisive influence on the development of the common security and defense policy. In order to reduce dependence on the United States and NATO for conducting operations and missions within the framework of “force projection”, the leadership of the Association has stepped up activities to develop its own military component.

France and Germany are the main engines of this process, and are promoting the initiative to create the so-called European Defense Union. However, despite active efforts to expand military and military-technical cooperation within the EU, the declared goals of creating a “European army” with collective defense functions that duplicate the status and activities of NATO seem difficult to achieve in the foreseeable future. This situation is due to the reluctance of the majority of EU member States to transfer control over their armed forces to the supranational level. Moreover, the US opposition to the process of forming the European Defense Union and the limited resources available due to the absorption by NATO structures of the major part of the defense potential of European countries, most of which are simultaneously involved in two organizations, do not allow the full implementation of EU political decisions on military construction. In this regard, it is only possible to talk about giving a new impetus to military cooperation in order to increase the collective capacity to protect the territory and citizens of the States of the region.

Given the lack of forces and resources for conducting operations and missions, Brussels is interested in the practice of involving military formations of third countries in its anti-crisis actions on the basis of bilateral framework agreements. Currently, such agreements have been reached with Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine and a number of other States.

Currently, the European Union conducts 16 military and mixed operations and missions in various regions of the world, involving about 4,500 people. The greatest attention is paid to the “zones of instability” in North and Central Africa, the Middle East, the Balkans and the post-Soviet space.

70 Years Of NATO: Is It A High Time To Retire?
NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg

Thus, NATO today has to do everything possible to support the unity and coherence of actions of all its member countries, which are more than ever under threat. The main European leaders are no longer ready to support US policy and continue to sacrifice their own national interests. If in the case of Germany, this is manifested primarily in support of the Nord stream 2 project, despite the threats of the United States. France today supports its own interests in Libya, which contradict the interests of other countries-members of the Alliance: Turkey and Italy. Certainly, Turkey and Italy have different positions and aspirations in Libya. Italy was previously a traditional ally of France and does not actively intervene in the military conflict. However, now, given the current predominance of Turkey in Libya, Italy is trying to sit on two chairs. On the one hand, Italy, while supporting Tripoli, does not actively help them. On the other hand, in political terms, it clearly stands on the side of Tripoli and Turkey, thereby trying to ensure its share of participation in the next division of Libyan natural resources after the supposed victory of the Turkish-Tripolitan Alliance.

Summing up, today the imaginary Russian threat no longer allows US to unite the Alliance members, but only serves as a method of implementing US interests. The White House, which has always played a leading role in NATO and retains it thanks to the largest percentage of investment in the Alliance, allows itself to more openly abuse its leading position and promote its own national interests and the interests of its elites through the North Atlantic Alliance to the detriment of the interests of partner countries. Thus, article 4 of the Washington Treaty, which implies decision-making by consensus and is the basis of NATO itself, is of less and less importance in practice. The United States cannot renounce its membership in NATO and is interested in preserving it, because it is the Western Alliance that allows the US to give at least a small share of legitimacy to its military actions. A kind of neo-colonial policy, that the United States is used to employ in relation to European countries, and the current significant shift in the political paradigm within the US itself do not allow us to hope that the American leadership will be able to strengthen its position in Europe in the coming years.

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RUSSIA’S NEW DEAL AND WESTERN REACTION

Russia's New Deal And Western Reaction

Russia is holding a national voting on amendments to its Constitution. Last Thursday kicked off one week in which Russians are asked to cast their votes on changes to the document. The formal date is July 1, but the polling stations were opened as early as June 25 in order to avoid too high turnout due to the so-called pandemic.

Vladimir Putin announced a set of amendments to the Constitution in his annual address to the Federal Assembly on January 15. The same day he ordered to form a working group to draft these amendments. The group was composed of 75 politicians, legislators, scholars and public figures and it submitted the proposals that formed the basis of the new Constitution. On March 11, the State Duma adopted the draft amendments to the Constitution in the third reading. On the same day, they were approved by the Federation Council.

The referendum was originally scheduled for April 22. The date coincided with Vladimir Lenin’s 150th birthday. It was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The draft amendments to the Constitution were submitted to a referendum in accordance with article 2 of the Law on Amendments to the Constitution adopted on March 16, 2020. Voters are given a yes-or-no vote on the full text of the new Constitution.

After Putin proposed constitutional changes, the amendments sparked significant debate both inside the country and beyond its borders. The proposed amendments to the Constitution affect various spheres.

The amendments, which can be described as ideological, received the great public response. According to a sociological study, the most important among them for Russians was the amendment to “on the protection of historical truth”:

“The Russian Federation honors the memory of the Fatherland defenders and protects the historical truth. Belittling the significance of the feat of the people in the defense of the Fatherland is not allowed.”

This amendment is extremely relevant in Russian society. This is due to various external factors. First of all, Russia’s neighboring states such as Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and Poland issue resolutions condemning Russia’s position in the Second World War. This is accompanied by the demolition of the monuments to Soviet heroes in large cities, what causes great indignation among Russians and arouses great controversy at the international level.

Moreover, this amendment is gaining popularity due to the ongoing unrest in the West. In the USA protesters demolish monuments to prominent historical figures who formed the American identity – Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Jefferson, and so on. The Russian government tries to prevent this in its own country, believing that the Empire collapses when it loses its ideology. Today, the strengthening of Russia as independent conservative ideological center may contribute to the further strengthening of the Russian position on the international arena.

Russian servicewomen march during the Victory Day parade. They were among 14,000 troops from 13 countries who took part in the event. Soldiers taking part had been tested and placed in quarantine ahead of the parade.

If this amendment is primarily of concern to the countries of Eastern Europe and has received little coverage in the Western media, the following amendment to the Russian Constitution has aroused great interest in Western Europe and the United States.

The proposals to amend the Article 72 of the Constitution gained wide resonance in the West.  The article says (the changes are in bold):

“In the joint jurisdiction of the Russian Federation and subjects of the Russian Federation are:

… the protection of family, motherhood, fatherhood and childhood; the protection of the institution of marriage as the union of a man and a woman; the creation of conditions for worthy education of children in the family, as well as for adult children responsibilities to care for their parents…”

Despite the fact that today same-sex marriages are not recognized in Russia, if the amendment is approved by a vote, the marriage between members of the LGBT community will be excluded at the level of the Constitution. Currently, there are no special laws prohibiting same-sex relationships or gender reassignment surgeries in Russia. At the same time, since 2013, there is a Federal law prohibiting the promotion of homosexuality among minors, which criminalizes public manifestations of non-traditional sexual orientations.

Conservative views on homosexuality are widespread in Russia, and recent polls show that most Russians are opposed to accepting homosexuality in their society. In particular, intolerance of homosexuality is present in regions with persisting traditional way of life, such as Chechnya or Dagestan.

Covering the proposal to introduce this amendment to the Constitution of the Russian Federation, The New York Times wrote in March:

“President Vladimir V. Putin has proposed a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage in what political analysts suggest is an effort to raise turnout for a constitutional referendum that could keep him in power but has so far stirred little enthusiasm among Russians.”

The Guardian in the article «Putin submits plans for constitutional ban on same-sex marriage» claimed that “[t]he move, announced by Putin in January, was initially seen as a way for him to hold on to power after 2024, when as things stand he will no longer be able to serve as president because of term limits.

Moreover, a flag of the LGBT community was displayed on the buildings of the US Embassy in Moscow to protest the proposed amendments on the first day of the national voting. The US move was followed by embassies of Canada and the UK. This is a concerted political action in direct contravention of Russian law on responsibility for propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations among minors.

US Embassy Helps Russians To Vote YES On Constitutional Amendments

The amendment to the Constitution excluding the possibility of same-sex marriage does not correspond to the newly imposed neo-liberal values labeled as the Wester-rooted. At the same time, believing its own values to be the only correct and universal, the collective West imposes them in various regions of the world, including in Russia. The promotion of liberal values is certainly necessary for the West to strengthen its world domination, but this often leads to negative consequences.

The reaction of the West to the amendment to article 72 primarily emphasizes that the introduction of changes to the legislation regarding LGBT communities serves as a distraction for the population, which will allow Vladimir Putin to remain in power after the end of his presidential mandate in 2024. Also, the Western community itself is much more concerned about the amendments to reset Putin’s terms than about the well-being of homosexuals in Russia.

By its ideological changes, Russia confirms the unacceptability of Western ideology for its society, while also making important changes to the country’s administrative apparatus itself, which will allow it to be strengthened.

Given that the West in general has a negative attitude to the figure of Vladimir Putin, primarily because of his success in governing the country and in strengthening Russia, the amendment to reset the terms of his rule is particularly frowned upon. Paragraph 3 of Article 82 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation states:

“The same person may not hold the office of President of the Russian Federation for more than two consecutive terms.”

In this wording, it is proposed to remove the word “consecutive”, and to extend the effect of this amendment only to the current President of Russia, Vladimir Putin. This allows resetting the terms of Vladimir Putin’s presidency, and gives him the opportunity to run for the presidency in 2024.

Political analyst Nathaniel Reynolds wrote in a paper for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace:

“Putin’s use of more than 200 amendments was a “stunning trick” to mask the real purpose of the constitutional vote — allowing him to remain in office. It was a shocking exercise in political deception, even to the many regime insiders left in the dark.” Reynolds also noted: “A younger Putin recognized the dangers of such a precedent. He told a journalist in 2005 that if leaders change the constitution for their own purposes, there will be nothing left of the state.”

Moreover, Western media reproach that the attention of the population is not particularly focused on this key amendment. The Russian authorities are conducting a large advertising campaign of other amendments, primarily socially conservative ones such as protection of historical truth or a ban on dual citizenship for government employees. These principles, designed to unite Russians, are at the heart of the system of conservative Patriotic values of the head of the Russian state.

During his presidency, Vladimir Putin brought Russia to the international arena and significantly strengthened its position as a regional power center. Further strengthening of the country is unacceptable for the West that provokes strong criticism of this amendment. However, the abolition of the presidential term limit only increases the level of democracy in the country because people have a chance to vote for an actual president as many times as they want. The President can only be chosen through democratic elections, and allowing Putin to run in 2024 does not guarantee his victory. Moreover, most likely, the amendment to reset the time frame allows to stabilize the situation in the country for the next few years. If it is not accepted now, then a tough power struggle in Russia will begin today which will significantly destabilize the country.

On June 18, the Venice Commission criticized some amendments to the Russian Constitution initiated by Vladimir Putin.

The European Commission for Democracy through Law – better known as the Venice Commission as it meets in Venice – is the Council of Europe’s advisory body on constitutional matters. It involves all countries that are members of the Council of Europe, including Russia, and some countries outside this organization. Its role is to analyze the laws and draft legal advices to its member states.

Russia's New Deal And Western Reaction

European experts expressed concern that the new Constitution proposes to include the possibility of dismissal by the Federation Council of judges of the constitutional court on the proposal of the President.

‘’The proposed innovations make the constitutional court more vulnerable to political pressure, since the powers of judges can be terminated on the proposal of the President,’’ experts say.

European experts also recommended the proposed amendment to Article 79 to be changed or completely deleted. It proposes to affirm the right not to execute “decisions of interstate bodies adopted on the basis of provisions of international treaties of the Russian Federation in their interpretation contradicting the Constitution of the Russian Federation”.

This amendment provides for the possibility of not complying with the decisions of international courts, including the European court of human rights. Experts of the Venice Commission in their conclusion point out that by joining the Council of Europe and ratifying the Convention on human rights, Russia is obliged to comply with the decisions of the European court of human rights, and with article 46 of the Convention, which indicates that the execution of court decisions is mandatory.

On June 25, the representative of the European Commission Peter Stano made a statement that the amendment on the priority of the Russian Constitution over international law violated the international obligations of the Russian Federation.

In response to criticism from Europe, the Chairman of the Committee on International Affairs of Russian State Duma, Leonid Slutskiy, emphasized that this practice is widely used by countries, including members of Europe, and the amendment does not cancel Russia’s international obligations.

We have consistently explained and continue to explain to our European partners: the amendments to Article 79 do not nullify the international obligations of the Russian Federation, Russia has fulfilled them and will continue to do so. It is an issue of establishing the primacy of the Constitution, which fully complies with foreign experience. For example, there is much stricter primacy of national legislation over international legislation in European states like the UK and Germany, not speaking about the United States,”

Russia in its foreign policy has always defended the rule of international law in the world system. This international law should be based on consensus, and first of all should be represented by international institutions such as the UN. Today, Russia recognizes that international law is not more presented by an international agreement but by American legislation that applies anywhere in the world. The adoption of the amendment on the supremacy of the Russian Constitution over international law strengthens the country’s position and underlines its frustration with the current destruction of the entire world system.

According to social research, the most important for Russians is the amendment on the protection of the country’s sovereignty at the constitutional level. This amendment suggested to Article 67 is one of the most criticized abroad:

 “The Russian Federation ensures the protection of its sovereignty and territorial integrity. Actions (with the exception of delimitation, demarcation, redemarkation of the state border of the Russian Federation with neighboring States) aimed at alienating part of the territory of the Russian Federation, as well as calls for such actions, are not allowed.”

This amendment to the Constitution regarding the territorial integrity of the country caused a large condemnation by the United States.

Krista Wiegand, American expert on territorial disputes of the Center for Global Security Studies in Tennessee, claimed that “Russia does not want to play by international rules” and this is dangerous for Japan and Ukraine.

This statement is completely unjustified.

According to the Soviet-Japanese Declaration of 1956, ending the state of war between the countries, the USSR agreed to transfer the Habomai and Shikotan Islands to Japan on the condition that the actual transfer would be made after the conclusion of a Peace Treaty. Moscow’s position is that the southern Kuril Islands became part of the USSR, which Russia became the legal successor to, are an integral part of the territory of the Russian Federation legally based on the results of World War II and enshrined in the UN Charter, and Russian sovereignty over them, which has the appropriate international legal confirmation, is not subject to doubt. Today, it is not Russia that threatens Japan, but the opposite, as Japan claims “its northern territories” to be under Russian occupation.

A similar situation has developed on the Eastern borders of Russia. Since the accession of the Crimea to Russia is a fait accompli, Ukraine has no choice but to declare annexation and try to claim de facto Russian territories.

The amendment suggested to article 67 does not threaten any other state. First of all this amendment prevents separatism inside Russia.

The Guard of Honor of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army take part in the military parade marking the 75th anniversary of the victory in the Great Patriotic War on Red Square in Moscow, Russia, June 24, 2020.

The creation of the threatening image of Russia is beneficial for the Democratic American establishment. At the same time, countries with territorial disputes with the Russian Federation reacted with more restraint.

Japanese government Secretary General Yoshihide Suga noted that changes to the Constitution are an internal matter for Russia. Political expert Ikuro Nakamura noted that the Japanese government believes that the changes to the Constitution are aimed at increasing Patriotic consciousness in Russian society.

Former advisor to the Greek prime minister for co-operation with the Russian Federation and Eastern Europe, Dimitrios Velanis, said:

“Russia has many times throughout its history experienced an attack or an attempt by other powers to occupy its territory. It was in almost all wars. From all these wars Russia emerged victorious and lost none of its territories. This year marks the 75th anniversary of the Great Victory.”

Furthermore, the French Foreign Ministry proclaimed through its representative that “the constitutional change is a sovereign decision of the Russian Federation, which must fully comply with international obligations”.

It would be difficult to imagine the opposite reaction of the West to the proposed amendments to the Russian Constitution. They strengthen the country both insight and in the international arena, which causes fear in Western countries.

In response to criticism of the package of amendments to the Constitution, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee at the Federation Council Konstantin Kosachev said:

“The West’s reaction to public discussions of amendments to the Russian Constitution is taking the form of an aggressive campaign bordering on interference in the country’s domestic affairs. The reaction of what can be described as ‘Collective West’ is taking the form of a hostile and aggressive campaign against Russia, which is bordering on interference in our domestic affairs.”

At the same time, Russian experts say that they expected a larger company from the West, and today’s criticism was much weaker than it could have been. Indeed, the US has demonstrated that it could lead strong anti-Russian companies, for example, by accusing it of interfering in the election of President Trump. The UK also conducted a strong informational campaign, which was called the “Skripal Case”. Today, Russia is faced with a choice, and its society is really experiencing great differences regarding the future development of the country. This moment is most favorable for external intervention and, if the West had the opportunity, it would be able to significantly influence the development of Russia in a way that would be beneficial to it. However, today the influence from outside is insignificant, which is primarily due to the weakness in the Western countries themselves. The crisis after the coronavirus epidemic, followed by large-scale protests in all countries do not leave the power for weakened world leaders. In addition, on a more global scale, while still maintaining the role of world hegemon, the US has never been so weak in relation to developing new centers, and it seems that it can no longer control the situation in various world regions, including Russia.

Collective West hostile campaign against Russia

The amendments to the Russian Constitution demonstrate that the current Russian leadership has tried to pass the period of reconstruction after the crisis of the 1990s and the period of the rise of the 2000s. The Constitution adopted in Russia in 1993 was essentially an ideal document that would allow Russia to reconcile with the market system world. It was mostly designed to satisfy interests of Western puppeteers of the new post-Soviet Russian ‘democratic’ elites. Russia was as an independent state and an international actor was weak in 1991. 30 years later, a stronger Russia is embarking on its own path of development, different from the Western one. And the gap between the Western way and the Russian one seems to be widening. Therefore, a chance exists that in the bright multicolored future there will be place not only for the neo-liberal minorities-ruled West and the radically-conservative Islamic East, but also for a balanced center in Eurasia.

Russia constitution amendment and West’s reaction

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Paradigm Shifts

source

by Francis Lee for The Saker Blog

Paradigm Shifts

INTRODUCTION:

I first wrote this article in 2012 and have had to make a number of minor alterations. Of course a great deal has happened since that time, most of it bad. We now seem to stand on the threshold of an even bigger and deeper crisis than in 2008, plus additional worrying features, viz. the pandemic and possible future pandemics as well as increasing and widespread economic and geopolitical instability. The crisis portents were always there but both the PTB and the populations at large did not seem unduly concerned about these developments which were taking place and maturing through the post-2008 period.

Paradigm Shifts

Some years ago I reviewed a book – State Building – by one Francis Fukuyama. This was one of Mr Fukuyama’s lesser known works, he is more famous for being the theorist of the ‘end of history’ – a view promulgated during the halcyon days of the neo-liberal counter-revolution circa the 1980s. After the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe, and with social-democracy effectively throwing in the towel in Western Europe, Mr F postulated that liberal, deregulated, market capitalism was now the historical norm, and if countries had not arrived at this terminal point in their history, then in the fullness of time they surely would. In short this is when one paradigm or epoch ends and another one begins. Certainly, the world underwent a both quantitative and qualitative paradigm shift in 1980s an historical shift which has lasted for at least 4 decades.

This current view was to become the received wisdom in official circles, and I would argue that in a contingent sense still is, at least among the political, financial and media elites. But it could be plausibly argued that this current paradigm is in secular decline and a new paradigm seems to be emerging. That is why we study history. Epochs come and go. Whether this will be for good or ill is an open question. Paradoxically, the established paradigm – let’s call it the Thatcher/Reagan settlement – represented almost a theoretical mirror image of the cruder types of Marxist historical materialism. Of course, both were extremely contestable since the human agency was excised from the historical process; a process apparently beyond human volition and control; almost a force of nature. It followed from this, therefore, that politics was no longer about choice, according to the post-modernist fraternity, the grand political narratives were at an end; henceforth politics was to be simply about administration: the relevant question being who could run the system more efficiently. How simplistic and facile these notions now seem.

To be fair Fukuyama has now admitted that he was wrong, and the more humanistic interpretation of Marxism – as espoused by inter alia Georgy Lukacs and Antonio Gramsci – does allow for human intervention in the historical process, in fact it insists upon this. Marx also, at least in his early years, put forward the famous dialectic. ‘Men make history, but they do not do it as they please.’ This is to say that they were creatures of their time and made political choices, but these choices were historically conditioned and constrained.

However, it seems commonplace among the journalistic types and other jobbing mediocrities to think that history is something in the past and that the present is the point of arrival; a tendency to take the empirically given as somehow natural and inevitable; its permanence taken for granted. And of course those who have most to gain from the present dispensation will fight tooth and nail against any attempt to change this state of affairs. Reforms are possible – even though these will be generally opposed by these same entrenched interests – but the fundamental structures and institutions of the system will be left broadly unchanged. This is true at all times and in all places, including our own.

We can say, therefore, that the world crisis of 2008 and its various explanations were thus all based upon the notion that the neo-liberal capitalist order is inevitable and permanent. Even erstwhile radicals like Will Hutton of the Guardian and Paul Krugman of the New York Times believed this to be the case. These are essentially mainstream Keynesians, who argue for a more regulated capitalism which they regard as viable, whilst their opponents the free-market Hayekians – Peter Schiff and US libertarian Ron Paul – believe in less or even no regulation. But of course both schools are committed to the capitalist system so the argument has been something of an in-house debate between the two establishment viewpoints.

That the system is in a protracted and long-term crisis is self-evident. But the contending viewpoints above are posited in a rather narrow and orthodox spectrum of economic theories which I think fail to address the depth of the predicament.

The Hayekian/Von Mises Austrian school

For a long time after the Second World War these particular theorists were exiled to a virtual leper colony of macro-economic theory. This was a period of the Roosevelt/Attlee settlement, the spread of communism over Eastern Europe, China and Indo-China. The catastrophe of depression/fascism/war, all emanating from uncontrolled markets and market crashes, followed by trade wars of the 1930s and then the shooting wars, was rejected absolutely by the electorates of the western world as well as by their leaders. But Von Mises, Hayek, et al. bided their time until their moment came. This moment came in the 1970s when the post-war boom petered out. They found a populariser of their beliefs – albeit in crude form – in Milton Friedman of the Chicago School and what was called monetarism. These ideas then migrated from academe via the broadsheet press and finally to the right-wing political parties at the time headed by Thatcher and Reagan.

The Austrian school believe that attempts to control capitalism through state intervention will fail and will in fact be positively counter-productive. This is because such interventions distort the price mechanism leading to misallocation of resources, inflation, and asset price bubbles. A good example of this would be the credit/property boom (2008) which was enabled by the accommodative actions of the Central Banks and Treasuries around the world, but particularly by the Bank of England and the US Federal Reserve Board. Interest rates were kept low and both heads of the two respective central banks as well as Treasury officials, in the UK’s Labour government, Gordon Brown and Edward ‘light touch regulation’ Balls in the UK, and the Fed boss Alan Greenspan in the US. Thus the natural cyclical tendencies immanent in the capitalist system were given an additional push by government monetary policy. Why? The answer is disarmingly simple: booms and bubbles (at least during the up-phase) are popular with the masses and are therefore good politics. Who can ever forget ‘the-end-of-boom-and-bust’ triumphalism of the period? However, the Austrians continued to argue that booms and busts are intrinsic to the system. One cannot exist without the other. During the boom phase of the cycle investors and consumers tend to become overconfident and make foolish investment and purchasing decisions. Prices start to rise due to the continual demand for factor inputs, growth becomes more and more febrile, banks make foolish loans and acquisitions (Northern Rock and the Royal Bank of Scotland come to mind), and then, when rises in income can no longer support rises in asset prices, the whole thing collapses. This is what happened in 2008; the bust part of the cycle then begins. All the bad investments and overspending now come to light. Companies go bust, unemployment mounts, debts are written down simply because debtors cannot pay, and all the misallocations of resources can clearly be seen with half-finished empty houses standing as the self-evident physical symbols of the manic bubble period which preceded them. Here Andrew Gamble explains:

‘’For the Austrians, the business cycle had a necessary and important function within capitalism. The crisis phase of the cycle was crucial if capitalism were to renew itself and purge itself of the false values and the misallocation of productive resources which had grown up during the boom phase. The crisis was a moment of truth, when suddenly the plans, the claims and the expectations which had been formed during the upswing were put to the test. Many of them would be found wanting, and those responsible for them would have to face the consequences. The process was not just to keep capitalism efficient; it was also necessary to keep capitalism moral. Only if agents bore full responsibility for their actions would the values of prudence, reliability and sound judgement and trust, on which capitalism relied, be upheld. The crisis purged capitalism in a double sense: both practically and morally. To many of its defenders the two were equally important. It was what gave capitalism its moral legitimacy and its practical dynamism.’’ (1)

It was argued that full recovery would not be achieved by bail-outs, Keynesian deficit spending, or by rescuing companies which were simply inefficient or did not supply consumers or investors with their preferences as demonstrated by the market price mechanism. Such policies would simply create ‘moral hazard’ a tendency for investors and consumers to carry on as usual with their losses being underwritten by the state; in this situation there was no intention or incentive for improving their business efficiency. These bailed-out entities were the economy’s living dead, kept alive on state support – zombie banks as in Europe and Japan and zombie auto companies like Fiat, Kia, and GM, or insurance companies like AIG, all of which should have been allowed to fail. With their failure more competitive efficient companies would arise in their place.

Recovery could only get underway when, as during classical depressions, prices fell, which meant that if wages and interest rates fell more slowly – if at all – then disposable income would start to increase. This being the case consumers would start to spend again and businesses start to invest. Similarly bankrupted and distressed firms would be bought out at fire–damage prices by the more efficient and larger firms with more up to date equipment. Growth now resumes given the destruction of existing capital values. The process of accumulation can restart.

What is striking about this (Austrian) theory is its similarity to Marx’s view of trade cycles, and also to those views espoused by Schumpeter. But much of both theories were formulated in an earlier phase of capitalism. But for all that the Austrian theory’s analysis of the bust is quite plausible and sophisticated.

‘’The anti-deflation policies which have been adopted (i.e., Keynesian demand management) is largely a policy of price-fixing, a policy of preventing the market from exposing capital misallocations and then liquidating them. The root causes of the crisis remain in place and the underlying problems unaddressed … The economy cannot realistically be expected to rectify itself if the market is not allowed to liquidate capital misallocations. The state has erected a protective fence around the most dislocated sectors of the economy (house prices for example) trying to keep market forces outside. As long as it lasts no true recovery is possible.’’ (2)

Summing up the Austrian view, capitalism is intrinsically cyclical. The Growth periods tend to run out of control resulting in bad investments and resource misallocation. This process is fed by easy credit and excess liquidity. Asset price inflation rises to a level which can no longer be sustained by rises in income or further borrowing. The boom turns into a bubble and the bubble bursts. Then the whole process swings into reverse – the bust has arrived. However, the bust rectifies the situation by liquidating all the mal-investments and making way for a reconfiguration of the system on a more sustainable and efficient basis. Capitalism restructures itself through these types of crises.

Prescriptions

Although the Austrian (and indeed Marxist) analysis of the bust is, I would argue broadly speaking correct, but the future policy prescriptions of the Hayekians seem frankly alarming. The scope and interdependence of the system is such that the notion of simply letting the bust take its course would lead to quite massive economic, political, and social dislocations on a global scale – as would have been the case had world governments simply let the coronavirus pandemic rampage through societies and run its course in 2020 – such a policy would dwarf the depression of the 1930s and 2008. In a strictly logical sense the reasonings of the Austrian school are correct, but their policy prescriptions are simply too terrible to contemplate.

‘’The Libertarians are actively promoting policies sure to bring about immediate economic hell, in the faith that punishment and suffering are the prerequisites to an economic afterlife in a better world. While in the end their philosophy of economic karma may ultimately prove correct, before accepting the remedy through collapse, other approaches should be put to the test. Economic reincarnation could take a lot longer than the Libertarians anticipate. The Renaissance did follow the fall of Rome – but only after 10 centuries.’’ (3)

So what about the alternatives?

John Maynard Keynes and his followers

Well I think we need to clear up one or two things about Lord Keynes before we start. Keynes was emphatically not a socialist, if anything he was actively hostile to socialism. He opined that: ‘’The class struggle will find me on the side of the educated bourgeoisie.’’ (4) We might legitimately enquire who, apart from Keynes himself, might be the ‘educated bourgeoisie’ exactly! Further, The Labour party is a class party, and that class is not my class. Again, How can I adopt a creed – Socialism – which, preferring the mud to the fish, exalts the boorish proletariat above the bourgeois and intelligentsia who, with whatever faults, are the quality in life and surely carry the seeds of all human advancement. It seems necessary to state this because of the widespread belief on the left that Lord Keynes was indeed some sort of (closet)-socialist. This could not be further from the truth: Keynes main aim in life was to save capitalism from itself.

His magnum opus, ‘’The General Theory of Employment Interest and Money’’ first published in 1936, represented the culmination of his earlier writings in which he elaborated what he believed to be the problem situation which had arisen in the world economy during the 1930s, and what he believed to be the solutions. But Keynesianism is not really a theory of the trade cycle, nor is it a general theory (more of which later) it is more a theory of boom/bust and possible ways out of economic depressions. The bust period in a capitalist economy generally follows a period of excess credit and hence debt-fuelled growth. This was the case during the roaring 20s with runaway credit (debt) fuelling growth until – pop went the weasel! Credit duly contracted as the defaults multiplied, and so the Roaring 20s transmuted into the depressed 30s.

‘’In 1930 the US money supply comprised currency held by the public (9%) and deposits held at commercial banks (91%). Banks used these deposits to fund their loans. When the credit that fuelled the Roaring 20s could not be repaid, the banks began to fail. When a borrower defaults it not only destroys credit, it also destroys the deposits which funded the credit. Between 1930 and 1933, 9,000 US banks failed. The corresponding destruction of deposits caused the country’s money supply to contract by a third from $46 billion in 1928 to $31 billion in 1933. As the money supply shrank the happy economic dynamic that expanding credit had made possible, went into reverse, and the global economy spiralled into catastrophe.’’ (5)

Post-crash, the problem was not excess demand but insufficient demand. This became known as debt-deflation. This is where Keynes and his co-thinkers entered the scene. With consumers and investors not spending, aggregate demand in deflationary conditions is flat, or even falling. Therefore the solution could only be increased spending by the government. This to be carried out by a mixture of monetary policy (lowering interest rates and Open Market Operations, and now Quantitative Easing – QE) and/or fiscal policy (taxation and public spending). This is of course something of an oversimplification of Keynes’ theories which were somewhat more radical than most of his enthusiasts found to their taste, but it broadly captures the gist of what he said. The increase in aggregate demand would feed through to the rest of the economy and so induce an increase in output which would be eventually self-sustaining. Governments would find it necessary therefore to run budget deficits during this period. Q.E.D.

This approach was taken up by the Roosevelt administration when it came to office in 1933. At that time unemployment in the US stood at the alarming figure of 25%. A raft of policy measures including the Works Programme Administration (WPA), National Recovery Act (NRA), Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) Civilian Conservation Corps, were implemented. Unemployment fell to 14% by 1936, but then rose again during a new recession in 1937/38 to 20%. So the track record of Keynes policies seems patchy to say the least.

The Long Boom and its collapse 1980-2008

In our own time we have seen almost a repeat of the 1930s debacle. The long boom of 1980-2007 was floated on a sea of debt. But even this period was punctuated by blow-outs, first in the Savings and Loans episode of the 80s and 90s, then the Long-Term Capital Management collapse in the 90s, and finally the dot.com bubble in 2001. The 2008 crisis was, however, seemingly worse than these events and more global than that of the 1930s. In 2008 the whole credit/property induced boom came to a shuddering halt when the sub-prime borrowers in the US defaulted. House prices, which, had been rising by double digit percentages since the early 90s collapsed in 2006 and have been falling, apart from one or two transient minor upturns, ever since.

The same was to also happen in Iceland, Ireland the UK and Spain who had also built their policies around house-price inflation. Mortgage backed derivatives – i.e., those financial products which were based upon these repackaged dubious mortgages were parcelled up and sold as new financial products to brain-dead investors around the world after being given the triple AAA seal of approval by the ratings agencies. These derivatives were only producing a stream of income so long has the mortgagees continued to pay their instalments – when they defaulted the derivatives became worthless, the banks, who among others such as pension funds who had been purchasing these debt instruments, then found that their newly acquired ‘assets’ had turned into liabilities overnight. Many banks were effectively insolvent, and the great bank panic of 2008 spread around the world.

Governments found it necessary to bail-out these institutions in order to avoid a global meltdown. So the banks happily transferred their junk ‘assets’ onto the sovereign nations’ balance sheets courtesy of the Central Banks. Needless to say this was only the opening of the great recession of 2008/09 which in spite of its putative ‘recovery’ still drags on. The crisis was to cross the pond from the US – whose fundamental problems still seem unresolved – to Europe where the problem became more acute.

Stabilisation and low growth 2009-onwards

Since the nadir of 2008/09 there has been a stabilisation rather than what we might meaningfully call a recovery in the global economy. Growth is flat or falling in Europe, although there are very marked regional disparities, and very weak (and as I write, beginning to actually stall) in the USA, again with regional disparities. Interestingly, perhaps with all the clamour regarding austerity in the eurozone, no mention was made in the 40 or so US states – some effectively insolvent – which oversaw swingeing austerity programmes, California and Wisconsin come to mind, as does Detroit, famous for Tamla Motown and auto-vehicle production. A one time industrial city of 2 million people became a ghost town of 700,000.

Concomitant with this there were high levels of unemployment on both sides of the pond. Official figures for US unemployment, as found in the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) are completely fraudulent and always have been since whole swathes of de facto unemployed have been disappeared off the register simply by definition. (The same disappearing trick was used with the core inflation figures.) The BLS gives three levels of unemployment according to how the word is defined. In fact there are six definitions ranging from U1-U6. The BLS uses U3 but the figure for U6 is double. And if the same definition were applied as used to be the case then unemployment would be almost 4 times the official account. The same jiggery-pokery is used when defining inflation. Each redefinition gives a lower figure.

Regarding this universal practise, it was the late Conservative Member of Parliament and at one time member of Mrs. Thatcher’s Cabinet, Lord Gilmour, who once said of his government’s unemployment reduction programme: ‘’Now we have reduced the unemployment figures, perhaps we can make a start on reducing unemployment.’’ I am afraid the pollution of statistics is the same for inflation, GDP growth and various other economic statistics. These statistics are not some measurements of objective facts, but simply political constructions. (6)

In passing we should become aware of a new economic development which came into being after 2008 and persists to this day. This was the genesis of the so-called ‘gig’ sometimes called ‘sharing’ economy. It should be made clear that this sector of the economy is generally very much ’off the books.’ The modern workforce has become increasingly stratified. There are well-paid jobs for a small portion with the requisite skills, but the vast majority of new employment is in the low-paid service sector, such as retail, leisure, hospitality, age-care and health-care. The sharing-economy is generally part of the informal sector but requires abundant cheap contract labourers to be available at the touch of a smartphone screen. Fulltime employees with normal benefits would make the model unworkable. This ‘gig’ or sharing economy exploits low-wage workers in a weak economic environment. This new ‘eke-onomy’ consists of individuals renting out their houses, cars, or labour make only a fraction of what they would receive in traditional full-time jobs, without any employment benefits. This is what Marx/Engels termed the industrial reserve army consisting of the unemployed and under-employed. Moreover, in the UK at least most of the workforce engaged in this low-paid, insecure drudgery are for the most part, immigrant labour, often illegal, from Romania, Spain, Portugal, Poland, the English-speaking part of Africa and even as far as China. Welcome to the ‘smart’ economy.

Keynesian policies … and debt levels

The general Keynesian response to the downturn has been a hue and cry for stimulus at all costs. Keynesian counter-cyclical policies traditionally consisted of 1. Monetary policy. This comes under the remit of the Central Bank and consists of control of interest rates and money supply. 2. Fiscal policy, which is the remit of the Treasury consisting of taxation and public expenditure. Sotto Voce It should be noted at this point that the Central Banks became the source of economic policy. This was a new departure since it meant that fiscal policy was relegated to a secondary role in economic planning. Monetary – i.e., central bank – policy now ruled the roost. The rigidly orthodox European Central Bank (ECB) – more catholic than the Pope – adopted hard-nosed monetary policies in the eurozone with alacrity, whilst the Anglo-American approach involving monetary and second-tier fiscal policies were partially adopted in the UK and more rigorously in the US.* The ECB put the weaker economies in the eurozone – Greece, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Latvia – through the wringer of a grinding depression. No stimulus policies were undertaken, since it is argued this would pile more debt onto unprecedented levels already extant. Results have to say the least, not been exactly encouraging, particularly in the southern European periphery. This situation has received press coverage ad infinitum much of it justified, but much incredibly biased and ignorant, but hey, this is the white noise of democracy in action.

Given that the eurozone crisis has received saturation coverage we will move on to the UK. Here we have a bizarre mismatch of policies: a loose monetary policy with the Bank of England lowering the base rate to 0.5% and engaging in money printing – otherwise known as Quantitative Easing – and a tight fiscal policy with the Treasury cutting back on public spending. The result? The worst of both worlds, inflation, and – good old 1970s stagflation.

The poster child for the Keynesians was the United States which threw everything but the kitchen sink at the problem in both fiscal and monetary terms. This produced some low growth and a slight fall in unemployment, albeit from an extremely high level, and recently reversed, but each additional stimulus has had less of an impact than the one preceding it. A sort of diminishing returns was to set in, whereby more and more of the ‘fix’ is needed to get any sort of result.

‘’ … in the 1970s the increase in GDP was about 60 cents for every dollar of increased debt. By the early 2000s this had decreased to close to 20% of GDP growth for every new dollar of debt.’’ (7)

The Federal Reserve had already initiated 2 rounds of QE injecting literally trillions of $s into the economy. In addition it lowered interest rates to 0.25% – zero to all intents and purposes. The Fed’s purchase of paper assets was facilitated with the printing of paper monies. These paper assets consisted of US Treasury bonds and junk securities from government sponsored enterprises such as Freddie Mac and Fanny Mae, the two government agencies whose remit was to issue mortgages to prospective US homebuyers. This meant that the assets purchased by the Fed were nothing more than debt, unredeemable debt at that. This is a weird situation where the Fed was buying US bonds issued by the Treasury department so that the US Federal government could pay its current bills. And where did the Fed get its money from? Out of thin air apparently, it simply printed the stuff! When the stage is reached where governments have to pay their current expenditures by printing money then the alarm bells should start ringing. An idea of the monies involved was described as follows:

‘’Before the first round of QE began, the Fed held roughly $900 billion of assets. When it ended on March 31, 2010 the Fed’s balance sheet had more than doubled to $2.3 trillion. There is no precedent for fiat money creation on this scale in the US during peacetime.’’(8)

Suffice it to say that money printing has continued and massively expanded to the present day 2020. Increasing the supply of paper money in the economy in the absence of demand for it can only produce one result – inflation, albeit after a time lag. (But this works on the assumption that the velocity of circulation of such monies remains constant. If the circulation falls to zero, then there will be no inflation. Deflation is more likely if the money supply does not reach the real economy. If the rate of money circulation does not alter, we can expect inflation to appear.) It will be objected, however, that the US rate of inflation was at the time of the 2008 episode only 2.3%. True. But bear in mind that both food and fuel price increases are left out of the calculation in what is termed US ‘core inflation’; another egregious example of officialdom’s statistical sleight of hand. Were those price rises added in then at the very least the US inflation figures would almost certainly double. Moreover, the global effects of the Fed’s policies has been to export this inflation around the world as a mass of greenbacks flew out of the US looking for more favourable investment outlets. The global supply of these Eurodollars (i.e., US$s circulating outside of the US) had ballooned, and this led to an inflationary impact globally as food and commodity prices (notably oil) had spiked. This in turn led to food riots and political disturbances throughout the world, particularly in the Middle East. A sort of unforeseen justice was done, however, when higher oil prices hit the price of gasoline in the US – a boomerang effect. The inflationary effect of the Fed’s money printing also meant that local currencies were put under pressure. When the $ tsunami entered a country their own currency was subject to an upward revaluation, which meant a higher exchange rate. They were therefore faced with two choices: one, do nothing and let their export markets contract since their currency was now more expensive, or two, maintain the value of their currency against the US$ by purchases of more of these dollars with their own currency. This would mean that their own money supply would expand and become inflated. Thus US inflation had become global inflation. Yes, devaluation is a great way to start a currency war.

As far as fiscal policy goes the US has consistently run budget deficits since the 1990s when it actually recorded a small surplus. The cost of the government takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the cost of ongoing wars in the middle east, the cost of bailouts to various financial institutions, the cost of fiscal transfers to cash-strapped states and various stimulus programmes has raised the US budget deficit (2008 figures) to $15.5 trillion, which given that the Gross Domestic Product of the US as of May 2012 was $15.6 trillion, makes the ratio close to 100%. Even before the economic crisis, the U.S. debt grew 50% between 2000-2007, ballooning from $6-$9 trillion. Now the implications of this are indeed sobering.

According to the authors Reinhart and Rogoff when debt to GDP ratio reaches 90% this will constitute a drag on future growth. And bear in mind that this figure of debt-to-GDP has risen to 107% in 2020. Longer term implications of America’s chronic debt problem are manifest. Sure the Fed can print unlimited monies, but it can’t guarantee that these greenbacks will have any value.

Over the next 20 years, the Social Security Trust Fund won’t have enough funds to cover the retirement benefits promised to Baby Boomers. That means higher taxes since the high U.S. debt rules out further loans from other countries. Unfortunately, it’s most likely that these benefits will be curtailed, either to retirees younger than 70, or to those who are high income and therefore aren’t as dependent on Social Security payments to fund their retirement.

Second, many of the foreign holders of U.S. debt are investing more in their own economies. Over time, diminished demand for U.S. Treasuries could increase interest rates, thus slowing the economy. Furthermore, anticipation of this lower demand puts downward pressure on the dollar. That’s because dollars, and dollar-denominated Treasury Securities, may become less desirable, so their value declines. As the dollar declines, foreign holders get paid back in currency that is worth less, which further decreases demand.

The bottom line is that the large Federal debt is like driving with the emergency brake on, further slowing the U.S. economy.

Now if we add in private debt to the equation – i.e., the debts of household sector corporate sector, business sector, non-corporate businesses, State, and local government – then the debt soars to something like $50 trillion, or 363% of GDP. Then of course there is the chronic deficit on current account which adds a further dimension to the problem, and all of these seemingly intractable processes are still ongoing but hey, let’s not labour the point.

The seriousness of the situation is only matched by the complacency of the US authorities who seem to think they can go on raising the budget borrowing ceiling and that overseas investors will simply keep on buying their Treasury bonds forever. If ever there was a definition of unsustainable this is it.

In fact the structural problems in the US economy could well be fatal if these colossal debt levels are not reined in or simply stabilised. The US is being kept afloat by their ownership of the global reserve currency and the willingness (for now) of investors, mainly China, Japan and the oil-rich states in the middle-east to keep purchasing US Treasury paper – paper assets of dubious value and paltry yields. Overseas investors are aware of this situation and have begun to lower their exposure to the US$s and dollar denominated assets by diversifying into other assets and have also started to trade in their own currencies rather than the dollar. Straws in the wind perhaps, but indicative of future trends.

Taken by themselves Keynesian demand-side policies of stimulating the economy hardly begin to grapple with the problem. This is because deeper problems are on the supply-side not the demand-side of the economy. They can be classified as follows. Deindustrialisation as the manufacturing base is hollowed out or emigrates to cheaper venues; ageing populations; rising energy costs and scarcity; saturation of markets; lack of leadership at the political level; finance running amok; the ability to create paper money and assets without limit; an inadequately trained workforce; skills and investment deficit; and structural unemployment brought about by new technologies. And to crown it all there is the dreaded ‘Triffin Paradox’ to be factored into the equation, but this would take another article. Moreover, I could also have added in the issue of climate change but didn’t want to depress my readers unduly.

Keynesianism is fixated on the demand-side. But in a world beset by the sort of supply-side problems listed above traditional demand-management policies used since the war will not be effective. It is also worth adding that both Germany and Japan, where the wartime devastation was manifest both recovered strongly without Keynesian demand management. This actually serves to validate the Austrian and Marxist theory that upturns and booms in a capitalist economy are the result of the destruction of existing capital values. Japan and Germany roared ahead because their own industries and infrastructure was decimated, and they had to install the most modern up to date capital equipment and technologies and again start from scratch. Economies which start from a low base tend to have extremely high rates of growth.

I did mention earlier that Keynes’ General Theory is in fact not a general theory at all but a special theory. Such policies may have been appropriate for the post-war period with the usual cyclical movements of the trade cycle, but dare I say, this time it’s different. What we are now confronted with is a systemic global crisis of capitalism. In the present situation Keynesian policies – which are commonly understood and promulgated by his epigones – are unlikely to have the desired effect for the following reasons.

‘’Keynes’ theory that government spending could stimulate aggregate demand turns out to be one that works in limited conditions only, making it more of a special theory than a general theory which he had claimed. Stimulus programmes work better in the short run than in the long run. Stimulus works better in a liquidity crisis than in an insolvency crisis, and better in a mild recession than a severe oneStimulus also works better for economies that have entered recessions with relatively low levels of debt at the outset … None of these favourable conditions for Keynesian stimulus was present in the United States in 2009.’’ (9)

It has been calculated that growth would have to be at the rate of 6% per annum which when inflation is factored in reduces to actual growth of 2% to make any inroads into the huge debts. This seems very, very unlikely, although this is what the US authorities will attempt to do.

One final point with regard to Keynesian policies: They are often thought of as an alternative to austerity, when in fact they are simply austerity by other means. It is an open secret, though never admitted, that both the Fed and the Bank of England are attempting to monetize the debt levels in both countries. This entails keeping inflation one or more jumps ahead of wages, pensions, benefits, and interest rates. This inflation is engineered by the Central Bank which devalues the currency – supposedly to make exports more ‘competitive’ and printing money through QE. Devaluation leads to an increase in import prices which will tend to feed through the rest of the economy causing domestic inflation. The time-honoured claim made by the then British Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, in 1967 that the proposed 17% devaluation of the £ ‘would not affect the pound in your pocket’ was simply a barefaced lie. When a country devalues its currency it makes itself poorer (‘competitive’ is of course the preferred description). That is its whole raison d’être, and in this respect, it is no different from a policy of deflation.

Thus the disposable income of the mass of the population is effectively pushed down as prices rise, and the most acutely affected will be the poorer sections of the community or anyone who keeps their assets in cash. The more opulent, however, will be able to switch into stronger currencies, and physical assets such as precious metals, property, L’Objets d’Art which will appreciate in price. Inflation will help debtors since their debts will be effectively amortized, i.e. grow less as inflation lowers the magnitude of the debt. Of course the principal debtor is the government.

Forcing down interest rates to near zero in an inflationary environment gives savers two options. Do nothing and watch their savings melt away, or just go out and blow the lot. Similarly investors will be forced into more risky investments as they see the paltry return to safer bolt holes such as gilts being eaten away by inflation. It all rather sounds like a re-run of 2002-2007 credit-fuelled growth madness. And paradoxically, because disposable income is crimped by such a policy, aggregate demand falls, and this gives another push to deflation – the law of unintended consequences.

Keynesians see the problems of past and present capitalism as purely technical. They apparently believe that capitalism can be ‘fixed’ using appropriate tools and that it would therefore be possible to have permanent semi-boom conditions. This is clearly expounded by economists such as the American Keynesian, Paul Krugman in his book Peddling Prosperity, first published in 1994. Having spent most of his life during the post-war boom, he is apparently dumbfounded that it suddenly ended in the early 1970s. He intoned that … In 1973 the magic went away. Well ‘magic’ had nothing to do with it. Capitalism was beginning to enter into a periodic systemic convulsion which is now reaching its climax.

After Keynes – What to Do?

‘’Can Capitalism survive? No I do not think it can … Can Socialism work? Of course it can.’’ (10)

On the first point Schumpeter was at that time wrong, but it is now a question which needs to be raised again. On the second point, he has to be right. But this is a political rather than a purely technical question. The present crisis will be solved sooner or later (preferably sooner) but the question is how, by whom, and for whom?

The question for socialists, or for that matter any oppositionists to the present regime, is what should the strategy be for the coming struggles with this system – a system which cannot go on in its present form for the simple reason that it needs to grow at a compound rate of 3% forever – this is not possible for both political, economic and environmental reasons. (My emphasis) Socialism or a collapse into semi-barbarism seems to be on the agenda once again. But we shouldn’t be surprised by this; it is surely what we have been expecting since the trouble started brewing in the late 60s. After all capitalism moves in huge cyclical convulsions, and this is one of them.

This is a colossal question and I can only allude to possible areas of political action. The first thing to realise is that the historical window for a social-democratic Keynesian solution to the crisis is now closed. It was only made possible by a specific conjuncture of political and economic circumstances. The Thatcher-Reagan settlement and globalization marked the death-knell of the Keynes/Beveridge consensus. (11) Does this mean that socialists should not support a policy of reform within the system? Not at all. But this support must perforce have in view the objective of forcing a paradigm shift away from what has been a trade unionist approach of simply gaining and defending reforms – to a struggle for real political and economic power. (My emphasis).

The programme of the liberal-left – the type of journalism which we see in the Guardian and Independent and Labour party publications – actually advocates reform of a system which is beyond reformIt should also be clearly understood that such reforms as advocated by most of the liberal-left such as public spending on work creation programmes, investment in green technology, a national investment bank will only provide a temporary fix, and may well have negative downsides, such as inflation.

‘’A short-run revival of growth, as opposed to proliferating distress, can … buy time for longer term solutions to the transition to be worked out. But bought time is only useful if it is put to good use.’’ (My Emphasis – FL)(12)

Keynesian reform will not be a long-term solution, but it can alter the political balance of power and shift the argument in favour of the 99%. The politicisation of the mass of ordinary folk can begin with such an approach. Socialists, however, need to go much further than the type of Keynesian stimulus programme as advocated by Hutton, Krugman, Elliott, et al. Such a programme might consist of the following set of workable policies.

  1. Public works programmes to reduce unemployment. Or full maintenance for the unemployed.
  2. Nationalization of all deposit taking institutions and the setting up of a national bank.
  3. Strict rules on credit creation and the Shadow banking system.
  4. More transparency and an end to over-the-counter (OTC) trading.
  5. Closure of tax havens. Stop tax avoidance scams such as Transfer Pricing.
  6. Withdrawal from overseas conflicts and NATO.
  7. Harmonisation of corporate tax rates within the EU.
  8. End of the global reserve status of the US dollar.
  9. Indexation of wages, pensions, benefits, interest rates to inflation
  10. A move away from indirect to direct taxation, and higher tax rates for the upper quintile of the population.
  11. Tax harmonisation in Europe to prevent tax competition and the race to the bottom.

These represent the economic demands. But capitalism also works at a political micro-level. The power relations in the work-place are such that employees and consumers have no say in how the business is run, by whom and for whom. Shareholder value is all that matters. This should be replaced by a stakeholder approach were all the interest groups have a say in the running of the organization.

Of course there is no possibility that such demands as these will be met, there is a war going on after all, and at the moment the class enemy have the power and the veto, notwithstanding the democratic will of the people. Moreover, some of these questions can only be raised at regional and/or global levels. This opens up several additional cans of worms. There is the seemingly intractable issue of Europe and the euro? Reversion to national currencies (as advocated by the Guardian’s economics team) may only lead to devaluation and trade and currency wars. Then there are global currency and trade issues: What replaces the dollar as the basis for a global currency? The IMFs Special Drawing Rights? A new gold standard? Or Keynes’ idea of a global currency – Bancor – to replace national currencies, in international trade. Then there is the massive question of climate change and the massive ecological damage and negative externalities which is the corollary of consumer capitalism. The problem we face is that politics are national, but capitalism and economics are global. But reforms of this type can obviously only be carried out at international level (13) but the starting place must be national. Co-ordinated global action is not going to happen any time soon, but regional action, whether in Europe, North and Latin America as well as the ASEAN bloc is a possibility – in fact it is the only option for supra-national policy making at the present time.

The task seems truly Herculean, the point is, however, that these issues must sooner or later (preferably sooner) be raised. They cannot be evaded. We do not choose history, history chooses us. And this is the labour of Hercules which history has bequeathed.

‘’An alternative (to capitalism – FL) will have to be found. And it is here that the emergence of a global co-revolutionary movement becomes critical not only to stemming the tide of self-destructive capitalistic behaviour … but also to our re-organizing ourselves and beginning to build new collective organizational forms, knowledge banks and mental conceptions, new technologies and systems of production and consumption, all the while experimenting with new institutional arrangements, new forms of social and natural relations, and with the redesign of an increasingly urbanized daily life …

While capital has provided us with an abundant means with which to approach the task of anti-capitalist transition, the capitalists, and their hangers on will do all in their power to prevent such a transition no matter how imperative the circumstances may be. But the task of transition lies with us not the plutocrats. As Shakespeare once advised: ‘’The fault … is not in our stars, that in ourselves that we are underlings.’ Right now, as Warren Buffet (the famous American investor – FL) asserts his class is winning (the class war) our immediate task is to prove him wrong.’’ (14).

NOTES

(1) Andrew Gamble – The Spectre at the Feast.

(2) Detlev Schlichter – Paper Money Collapse.

(3) Richard Duncan – The New Depression p.105

( 4) JMK – Essays in Persuasion – 1925 – Am I a Liberal, A short view of Russia. Ibid

(5) Richard Duncan -The New Depression – p.121

(6) In this connection see ChrisMartenson.com Crash Course, Fuzzy Numbers and John Williams Shadow Government Statistics – passim.

(7) Foster and Magdoff – The Great Financial Crisis – p.49

(8) Richard Duncan Ibid.

(9) James Rickards – Currency Wars –pp.186/187 – My emphasis FL

(10) Joseph Alois Schumpeter – Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy – 1943

(11) William Henry Beveridge, 1st Baron Beveridge, KCB was a British economist and Liberal politician who was a progressive and social reformer. His 1942 report Social Insurance and Allied Services served as the basis for the

post-World War II welfare state put in place by the Labour government elected in 1945

(12) David Harvey -The Enigma of Capital– p.278

(13) I have since revised this view and would argue that that starting place for the sweeping reforms which are necessary at the global world system must include and start at the national level. This is not the EU we signed up to in 1976, and there comes a time in politics where it is judicious to give up flogging a dead horse. A progressive Labour government under Corbyn would not have been allowed by EU law to implement its economic reforms, cancel Trident, leave, or even modify its NATO membership. Democracy is impossible without some measure of sovereignty, and nations must get control of their own foreign and economic policies since if they don’t the globalisers and Bilderbergers will and have done

(14) David Harvey, op.cit

*The Federal Reserve Act of 1977 modified the original act establishing the Federal Reserve in 1913 and clarified the roles of the Board of Governors. The Federal Reserve has two mandates: maintaining maximum employment and maintaining stable prices and moderate long-term interest rates. Congress explicitly stated the Fed’s goals should be “maximum employment, stable prices, and moderate long-term interest rates. It is these goals that have come to be known as the Fed’s “dual mandate’’. All of which was enabled to act in both monetary and stimulus capacities.

Francis Lee

Updated from 2012 to 2020

روسيا ترفض قانون قيصر … فما هي مفاعيله

ناصر قنديل

بالتأكيد يضيف قانون قيصر للعقوبات المفروضة منذ سنوات على سورية أميركياً وأوروبياً المزيد، لكن هذا المزيد المتصل بالاستهداف المباشر لسورية كدولة واقتصاد يكاد يكون مجرد غبار إعلامي، لأن المصرف المركزي السوري والمصارف التجارية تحت عقوبات سابقة تمنع فتح الاعتمادات لزوم الاستيراد، والدولة السورية ممنوع عليها بيع وشراء النفط منذ زمن، والاستهداف الجديد المباشر كناية عن دفعات من الأسماء التي تطالها العقوبات، أغلبهم ليست لديه حسابات مصرفية قابلة للعقاب، ومَن لديه سبق ونال نصيبه من العقوبات، كما يقول مجرد الاطلاع على اللائحة الأولى التي سوق لها الأميركيون وجماعاتهم الكثير، بصفتها، الإشارة لحجم العقوبات التي يمثلها القانون.

قيمة القانون بالتأكيد لم تكن بتهديده للمتاجرين مع سورية، لأن الأوروبيين ممتنعون أصلاً، ومثلهم كثير من الدول والشركات العالمية، وبالتوازي ليست قيمة القانون بتهديد إيران وهي المعاقبة بما هو أشدّ من قانون قيصر. والقيمة الفعلية للقانون كانت يوم بدأت مناقشته قبل ثلاث سنوات، وهي اليوم كذلك، بكونه يستهدف الضغط على روسيا عبر التلويح بمعاقبة شركاتها التي تتعامل مع سورية، ومن ضمنها شركات تمثل عصب الاقتصاد الروسي سواء في مجال صناعات الأسلحة أو في قطاع النفط والغاز. ومثلما كان الأمر منذ ثلاث سنوات ويتجدد اليوم، ثمة ما تريده واشنطن من موسكو عبر التلويح بالعقوبات، كان في الماضي يوم صدر القانون الامتناع عن المشاركة في معركة حلب، وحسمت روسيا المشاركة وحسم النصر معها قبل أن يبصر القانون النور فتم صرف النظر عنه.

العودة للعقوبات في مخاطبة روسيا هذه المرّة لها عنوان موجود في نص القانون، وفي فقراته الأخيرة، وهي متصلة بمسار الحل السياسي، رغم أن موضوع القانون لا يتصل بالحل السياسي، والواضح لمن يقرأ القانون أن ما يريده الأميركي إشارات على حل سياسي تراعي طلبات محددة، تتوزع بين محورين: الأول هو وضع خاص يقارب الفدرالية لمنطقة سيطرة الميليشيات الكردية في شمال شرق سورية، والثاني ترتيبات أمنية جنوب سورية توفر أعلى الممكن من ضمانات لأمن كيان الاحتلال المكشوف أمام قوى محور المقاومة، ولذلك كان المحللون الأميركيون منذ الإعلان عن قرب وضع القانون قيد التنفيذ يراقبون يوماً بيوم ردود الأفعال الروسية، ولذلك حتى أول أمس كانوا يعتبرون القانون فعالاً بداعي أن موقفاً روسياً لم يصدر أسوة بما صدر عن إيران، لكن الموقف الروسي صدر أمس، وكان متعمداً تأجيله ليوم دخول القانون حيز التنفيذ علامة استخفاف روسي، ظهر بالقول إن موسكو ستزيد دعمها للدولة السورية، وإنها لن تخضع للتهديد بالعقوبات التي يتضمنها قانون قيصر.

على هامش تفاهة المحتفلين بالقانون من بعض اللبنانيين، وما يتحدثون عنه من انهيار سوري ينتظر بعض المدد من لبنان، تروى روايتان تطغيان على الإعلام، واحدة تقول إن حزب الله يشتري الدولارات من لبنان ويهربها إلى سورية، والثانية تقول إن تهريب المازوت والطحين من لبنان إلى سورية على قدم وساق، وإن هذين العاملين، شراء حزب الله للدولار وتهريبه ومثله تهريب الطحين والمازوت إلى سورية، سببا انهيار لبنان وصمود سورية، ورغم أن العاقل يعلم أن وراء هذا الكلام مجموعة مغفلين، لكن لا بدّ من كشف الخداع والغباء في الكلام. وهنا نسأل هل يشتري حزب الله الدولار من بيروت ويهربه إلى سورية بلا مقابل مالي أو تجاري؟ وهذا يعني كي يكون الرقم مؤثراً بالنسبة لسورية أن يكون حزب الله قادراً على بيع ليرات لبنانية وشراء دولارات مقابلها بمئات ملايين الدولارات، والأمران يجعلانه أهم من المصرف المركزي بمخزون لا ينضب من الليرات وقدرة لا تضاهى بالتخلي عن الدولار، بينما يفترض أن نصدّق أنه في أزمة أشدّ من سورية، أما إن كان حزب الله يحصل على المقابل للدولارات، فهل يُعقل أن يكون بالليرة السورية وماذا سيفعل بها؟ فإن كان يشتري بضائع لتباع في لبنان فهذا صار تجارة لاستيراد سلع يحتاجها السوق اللبناني بسعر أرخص حكماً من مصادر استيراد أخرى، يحتاج تمويلها لدولارات أكثر، وهذا يجعل العملية توفيراً للدولار لا استنزافاً له، بالنسبة للسوق اللبنانية، أما حكاية تهريب المازوت والطحين، فأولها الاقتناع أنها إن أخذت بالحساب فيجب التسليم بأنها لا تمثل إلا الجزء البسيط من حاجات سورية التي تعادل عشرة أضعاف استهلاك لبنان من المادتين، والحديث عن تهريب سقفه الأعلى 10% من استيراد لبنان، يعني 1% من استهلاك سورية، ورغم الحجم الهزيل نبدأ بالأسئلة، هل المقابل للطحين والمازوت هو ليرات سورية يتقاضاها المهربون، وماذا يفعلون بالليرات السورية، وإذا باعوها ليشتروا بها دولاراً، فيجب أن يكون المشتري بالنهاية في السوق السورية ليستعملها، ويصير الدولار المقابل دولاراً يخرج من سورية ليدخل إلى لبنان لا العكس، ويجب أن يكون سعر البيع للمواد المهربة أعلى من مبيعها في لبنان كي تكون العملية مجدية، أي أن دولارات أقل دفعت لشراء المواد ودولارات أكثر جاءت ببيعها، فكيف يكون لبنان مستنزفاً بالدولار. هذا رغم صحة أن التهريب يكلف الدولة فارق الدعم، ويجب وقفه، لكن المبالغات والأكاذيب آن لها أن تتوقف، لأنها لا تنشئ قضية ممكن الدفاع عنها أمام أي منطق.

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