Why the American Punditry Is Terrified of Russian Humanitarian Aid

Tim Kirby

April 4, 2020

It sure is a good thing that the Russians decided some ten years ago to fund a massive multi-lingual news network. It is also good that the Russian independent media pulls ten times their weight. Otherwise the fact that “poor backwards corrupt” Bearistan is now the one sending medical supplies to the U.S. would probably have been ignored.

A good example in the spin behind the story comes when we compare Fox’s and the Guardian’s take on it. They both ran very surprisingly neutral sounding headlines. “Russia sending plane filled with medical equipment to U.S. amid coronavirus pandemic“ and “Coronavirus: Russia sends plane full of medical supplies to U.S.” respectively. Although, the devil lies in the details of The Guardian’s subhead…

“Critics likely to claim Moscow will exploit goodwill gesture as public relations coup”.

This is a very odd statement to make as a news organization, for this is a vague prediction rather than news. Speculation about the future of the economy or an election cycle makes perfect sense, but trying to guess what opinions could be, makes it seem like the Guardian is trying to convince the reader of what they should be. And just who exactly are these critics and why do they matter? Movies have movie critics. Music has music critics. Does international humanitarian aid have its own form of critics? If so that would be by far the most boring content on YouTube.

The only real concrete criticism in the article came from a quoted Tweet from a member of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace…

“Hopefully someone will tell Trump that he’s playing right into a propaganda ploy”

Foreign Policy mirrored this attitude with their article…

“Beware of Bad Samaritans – China and Russia are sending medical aid to Italy and other coronavirus-stricken countries, but their motives aren’t so altruistic.”

Not surprisingly Russophobia’s shining light on a hill The Washington Post went with the headline…

“Trump called Russia’s coronavirus aid to the U.S. ‘very nice.’ Putin may use it as a propaganda coup.”

So ultimately as we sift through the Mainstream Media and their pundits’ reactions, we don’t see the old style Russia collusion narrative, but instead a new sort of warning to an ignorant orange skinned Trump about a “ploy” by Putin. After all, Russia’s willingness to help Italy deal with the Coronavirus situation in their country has allowed many impressive photos of Russian military transport and men seemingly moving about the boot-shaped peninsula freely. Other than for some sort of international military parade, it is hard to imagine Russia being able to get their “polite people” to do cooperative work deep in the historical heartland of NATO. But, the Coronavirus situation is a crisis, and any crisis can open up doors for change thought impossible just weeks before.

It must also be noted that the materials being delivered from Russia are commercial products produced within the countries that others could order/buy. The days of the Soviet Union are long gone and the supplies that Washington will receive come from Russia’s private sector but delivered on a government airplane.

Photo: This particular image of Russo-Italian cooperation quickly became iconic across the Russian internet. You can probably guess why.

Perhaps the Mainstream Media and punditry in the U.S. have become spooked by what is happening in Italy and subconsciously fear it could spread to America. This fear is probably doubled in the minds of those who are still convinced that Trump is a Manchurian candidate.

The likelihood of Russian green men being needed to “help out” on American soil is something we will probably never see in our lifetimes. And if you care about America’s national sovereignty you should hope it never happen at any point in the future. But what the punditry/geopolitics wonks really fear is that not only has Russia become an “unshuttable” countervoice in news media but Moscow is starting to take a segment of the humanitarian aid game that they will never give back.

Normally it is the exclusive unwritten right of the USA/West to be the ones to conduct Marshall Plans and send out all sorts of humanitarian aid with or without strings attached. In fact this is such a large part of U.S. foreign policy that we cannot forget that there is an entire official branch of the government that deals solely with it – USAID.

Photo: Washington decided to send humanitarian aid to Georgia right after their 2008 conflict with Russia. Is this pure philanthropy? And does Russia have the right to send aid to America’s unfavored nations?

In fact USAID is a very serious state organ and is funded to almost half of what the Russians pay for their entire military budget. The panicked punditry who are flipping out over Russian aid coming to America are probably afraid that the Russians can do more with less funding like they have done in the news media – budget-wise RT is completely outgunned and yet it is a smashing success that influences narratives even in the West.

There is one other factor that is creating a strong backlash from the mainstream punditry regarding assistance coming from Moscow – pure racism. The U.S. has used foreign aid and assistance to win favor (i.e. as propaganda “ploys”) for decades and this is perfectly reasonable. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the U.S. using its wealth to buy influence and positive views from across the world. This seems like a normal and natural thing to do that America just happens to be better at doing than pretty much anyone else. Good for America!

But, when Russians or the Chinese (or anyone Washington doesn’t like) tries to do exactly the same thing, now it is unacceptable. The logic looks something like “The Russians are sending humanitarian aid? It must be a ploy! They are inherently evil after all.” And this friends is the very definition of racism. Perhaps the geopolitics boys are just tweeting their basic primal fears that some other tribe is stomping on their territory.

What we are seeing in the Mainstream Media’s/Punditry’s reaction to Russian aid being sent to America:

They fear that Russia may shatter the virtual monopoly on foreign aid giving that the U.S./West possesses, in the same way they did in terms of news media.

The #Russiagate narrative is shifting from Trump being a Manchurian Candidate for Moscow to him being duped by Putin’s “ploys”. This leads one to believe #Russiagate may finally have died.

Automatically assuming that Russians providing foreign humanitarian aid is an evil scheme while the U.S. always does so altruistically is pure backwater hillbilly bigotry.

Fox and conservative media are less spooked and actually display tweets from the Russian side. This is another drop of evidence in the bucket, that for the near future the America Left will hate Russia and the American Right will hate China.

Russia was able to get their gesture into the public/media consciousness in the United States. Something that would have been unthinkable a decade ago.

Also see: Sick West Goes Viral

نتائج حرب اسعار النفط… وأوان ثأر بوتين من ترامب وابن سلمان

حسن حردان

اعتقدت واشنطن، منذ بداية اندلاع حرب اسعار النفط الحالية، أنها سوف تحقق أهدافها، وأهداف حليفتها الرياض، على حساب مصالح الدول النفطية التي ترفض الهيمنة الاستعمارية الأميركية، وفي مقدّمها روسيا وإيران وفنزويلا، وهي من ضمن قائمة الدول التي تتعرض للحصار الاقتصادي والمالي الأميركي، والهادف إلى محاولة إخضاعها للشروط والإملاءات الأميركية…

الرئيس الأميركي دونالد ترامب أعطى ما يشبه الضوء الأخضر لولي العهد السعودي محمد بن سلمان لخوض هذه الحرب، لمجرد عدم التدخل لمنع حصول انهيار دراماتيكي في أسعار النفط، وذلك اعتقاداً انّ مثل هذا الانخفاض في الأسعار، سوف يؤدّي إلى تحقيق هدفين يصبّان في خدمة سياساته… الهدف الأول، توفير أسعار متدنية للمستهلك الأميركي في هذه المرحلة يخدم سعيه لزيادة شعبيته عشية الانتخابات الرئاسية.. والهدف الثاني، إضعاف العائدات المالية المتأتية من عمليات بيع النفط لكلّ من موسكو وطهران وكركاس، بما يقود إلى إخضاعها لمعاملة جديدة في «أوبك بلاس» تهيمن عليها واشنطن بواسطة الرياض، وتقضي بخفض حصة هذه الدول من إنتاج النفط العالمي لمصلحة الإبقاء على حصة أميركا والسعودية كما هي..

غير أنّ حساب الحقل لم يأت متطابقاً مع حساب البيدر.. ما حصل أنّ السحر انقلب على الساحر، فحرب الأسعار وانخفاض سعر برميل النفط إلى نحو عشرين دولار أدّى إلى انعكاسات سلبية على كلّ من الرياض وواشنطن، وذلك للأسباب التالية..

السبب الأول، رفض روسيا الخضوع للابتزاز والضغط الأميركي السعودي، وقبولها خوض حرب خفض الأسعار، وبالتالي عدم السماح للولايات المتحدة والسعودية بالهيمنة على أوبك بلاس، وبالتالي التحكم بتحديد كميات الإنتاج صعوداً وهبوط لكلّ دولة من الدول المنتجة للنفط..

السبب الثاني، أنّ التراجع الكبير في أسعار النفط أدّى إلى إلحاق خسائر جسيمة بشركات النفط الأميركية المنتجة للنفط الصخري، وهو ما تمثل في بدء الإعلان عن إفلاس بعضها.. فيما السعودية بدأت تئنّ من التراجع الكبير في عائداتها وتفاقم العجز في موازنتها، في وقت تعاني فيه من ارتفاع كبير في كلفة حربها التدميرية ضدّ اليمن..

هذه النتائج مرشحة لأن تستمرّ وتتفاقم نتيجة استعداد روسيا لتحمل انخفاض الأسعار لوقت طويل كونها لا تعتمد في مدخولها سوى على 37 بالمئة من عائدات بيع النفط، على عكس واشنطن والرياض اللتين لا يمكنهما تحمّل ذلك.. ولهذا فإنّ إدارة ترامب التي كانت تتفرّج ولا تحرك ساكناً في البداية، سارعت إلى التدخل للحدّ من حصول المزيد من النتائج والتداعيات السلبية على قطاع النفط الأميركي، ومن أجل إنقاذ الرياض من مأزقها وورطتها.. بناء على ذلك عمد ترامب إلى الاتصال بنظيره الروسي الرئيس فلاديمير بوتين لمحاولة وقف التدهور في أسعار النفط عبر إيجاد حلّ وسط بشأن خفض كميات الإنتاج وكيفية تحديد نسبة كلّ دولة من هذا الخفض.. لكن بوتين، الذي كان ينتظر هذا الاتصال، وجد الفرصة المواتية لإعادة التوازن في سوق توزيع الحصص على نحو يضع حداً لتحكم واشنطن والرياض، فطالب بإعادة توزيع عادل لحصص الإنتاج بحيث يكون تخفيض الكميات متوازناً بشكل عادل بين الدول المنتجة، وهذا بالطبع يشمل ايضاً الولايات المتحدة.. ويدرك ترامب جيداً أنّ عدم الاستجابة لمطلب بوتين العادل سوف يؤدّي إلى تفاقم أزمة الشركات النفطية الأميركية وانهيار قطاع النفط الصخري خصوصاً أن أسعار برميل النفط في ظلّ استمرار حرب الأسعار مرشح أن يصل سعره إلى نحو خمس دولارات، مما يشكل كارثة على السعودية أيضاً التي تعتمد في مدخولها بنسبة تتجاوز الـ 80 بالمئة على عائدات النفط.. ولهذا فإنّ ترامب مضطر إلى ممارسة الضغط على الرياض لقبول تقديم التنازلات لموسكو.. واستطراداً قبول خفض إنتاجها من النفط.. من الواضح أنّ بوتين، الذي يدير المعركة نيابة عن جميع الدول النفطية المتضررة من هيمنة وتحكم واشنطن والرياض، يدرك جيداً أنّ هذا هو أوان تصحيح المعادلة، ولهذا فقد سارع الكرملين إلى نفي تأكيد ترامب عن وجود محادثات روسية سعودية لإيجاد حلّ للأزمة القائمة، وقال، لا توجد خطط للرئيس بوتين للاتصال بالقيادة السعودية، ما يؤشر إلى أنّ موسكو غير مستعجلة، وهي مرتاحة لوضعها، وهي لذلك بانتظار تراجع الرياض وواشنطن والقبول بالمعادلة القائمة على التوازن في توزيع خفض حصص الإنتاج العالمي من النفط على نحو عادل، والتي تقدّر بنحو عشرة مليون برميل في اليوم، الأمر الذي يسقط خطط التحالف الأميركي السعودي… ويبدو أنّ الحديث عن انّ واشنطن تميل الى توجيه اللوم إلى الرياض، يصبّ في هذا المنحى.. وفي هذا السياق يمكن إدراج تشديد وزير الخارجية الأميركي مايك بومبيو، بعد اتصاله مع ولي العهد السعودي محمد بن سلمان، «أنّ السعودية لديها فرصة حقيقية لبذل الجهود اللازمة للتعامل مع الوضع الصعب وإعادة طمأنة قطاع الطاقة والأسواق المالية على الصعيد العالمي عندما يواجه العالم حالة من عدم اليقين الاقتصادي».

من هنا من الواضح أنّ سيد الكرملين يرى أنه جاء الوقت الذي يثأر فيه من ترامب وابن سلمان وتدفيعهما ثمن الحصار والضغوط التي مورست وتمارس، على روسيا وإيران وفنزويلا، بما يضع حداً للتلاعب الأميركي السعودي بسوق النفط العالمي، في كلّ مرة تقتضي مصلحة واشنطن والرياض، على حساب مصالح بقية الدول المصدّرة.. ولهذا كان لافتاً ما قاله الرئيس بوتين في اجتماع حول وضع الطاقة بالأسواق العالمية، «لم نبدأ بتفكيك صفقة أوبك بلاس.. نحن مستعدون دائما للتوصل الى اتفاق مع شركائنا بتنسيق أوبك بلاس لتحقيق التوازن في السوق وخفض الإنتاج كنتيجة لهذه الجهود»، مؤكداً أنّ تجنب الاسعار المنخفضة جداً يتطلب وجود توازن فعّال بين العرض والطلب، وانّ «سعر 42 دولاراً للبرميل مريح لنا وللمستهلكين»…

Sick West Goes Viral

FINIAN CUNNINGHAM SATURDAY 4 APR 20

The world is in a sick place. We’re not just talking about the escalating coronavirus pandemic, serious though that is with global deaths doubling over the past week. What is also sick is the way gestures of solidarity are being cynically twisted.

Take the arrival of Russian medical aid to the US this week. That was promptly arranged after US President Donald Trump asked his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in a phone call for help in coping with the coronavirus crisis. Even before the Antonov-124 cargo plane touched down at JFK airport certain US media outlets were labelling the gesture of solidarity as a “propaganda gimmick” by the Kremlin.

It was surmised that the Russian response to the US request for aid was “to push efforts for relief from sanctions” imposed by Washington. The cynical inference is that supposed Russian conniving and deceit knows no bounds in the black art of manipulation.

A Russian made Antonov An-124, one of the biggest cargo planes in the world, is pictured on May 29, 2019, on the tarmac of the airport in Brest, Western France.

© AFP 2020 / FRED TANNEAU

How about just simply acknowledging the evident fact that Russia is sending vital medical help to the US at a time of need motivating by no other sentiment than basic humanitarian compassion? The fact that Russia has been slapped with numerous US sanctions over recent years since the Ukraine crisis as well as stemming from bizarre claims of Moscow meddling in the 2016 US presidential election – only goes to show Russia’s capacity for magnanimity. Simple as that folks.

The same pathetic distortion was earlier voiced regarding Russian and Chinese aid to Italy and other European countries stricken with the deadly virus.

This week a European Union so-called media watchdog warned that Russia and China were engaged in a disinformation campaign to “undermine public trust in national health-care systems”.

There are also reports of claims by US intelligence and other officials that China is to blame for spreading the disease because it deliberately under-reported the outbreak that initially occurred in December, thereby allegedly leaving Western nations ill-prepared to withstand the pandemic.

Those claims are patently false. China had alerted the world to the seriousness of the disease as early as January when it was itself getting to grips with the uncertain public health crisis. Western nations had three months to learn from China’s experience, as well as from neighboring South Korea, where authorities clamped down on the epidemic. But Western governments for various reasons, no doubt primarily due to budgetary costs, chose instead to ignore the threat.

Trump and Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson in particular showed stupendous nonchalance bordering on callous indifference. Both of them dismissed the looming Covid-19 crisis as a “passing flu”. Only last week Trump was touting the US “getting back to business by Easter”.

What is abundantly evident is that the US, Britain and other Western states are not prepared to deal with the present crisis because of their rundown public health services. That structural problem is a matter of government neglect over many years to ensure that their citizens are adequately protected in a time of crisis. And that neglect stems from deliberate policy choices, such as showering the rich with tax breaks and squandering trillions on militarism, while relentlessly cutting funds for public services.

In short, the coronavirus crisis is a reflection of a deeper crisis in the capitalist system that prevails among Western states, as American professor Richard Wolff explains. Societal human needs are always sacrificed on the altar of elite private profit.

Men wearing protective masks stand as people hike along a section of the Great Wall in Badaling in Beijing, on its first day of re-opening after the scenic site's coronavirus related closure, China, 24 March 2020.

© REUTERS / THOMAS PETER

The fact that in the US and Britain there is a paltry number of test kits for checking the disease and a dearth of vital protective equipment for medical staff is a national disgrace due to inherent political and economic reasons. That is what needs to be focused on. That is where the public anger should be directed. Why have citizens been so abjectly betrayed by their governments whose first duty of care should be to protect them?

It is absurd and contemptible for certain media and pundits to try to distract from the central issue of bankrupt democracy by seeking to disparage Russia over humanitarian aid or scapegoat China for the systemic failures of Western governments.

One senses, however, that the ploys of Russophobia and Chinaphobia have become hopelessly threadbare in credibility. In Britain, for example, normally Conservative-supporting media are asking angry questions on their front pages about government dereliction. Are we to believe that such anger is the result of Russia and China “sowing disinformation to undermine public trust”?

No, it is simply a case of citizens realizing – slowly and painfully – that their governments and society organized on capitalist priorities is a shambles unworthy of the name “democracy”.

The sickness of smearing and blaming others instead of dealing honestly with inherent problems will only embolden the public even more to exact retribution from their culpable authorities. As millions of workers and their families reap poverty and illness, one senses too that the pitchforks are being taken down from the barn roofs.

Sickness in the West is going viral, but maybe some lasting benefit may come from this crisis in the end, if societies are overhauled for the greater good of citizens.

Finian Cunningham

Finian Cunningham has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages. He is a Master’s graduate in Agricultural Chemistry and worked as a scientific editor for the Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, England, before pursuing a career in newspaper journalism. He is also a musician and songwriter. For nearly 20 years, he worked as an editor and writer in major news media organisations, including The Mirror, Irish Times and Independent. Winner of the Serena Shim Award for Uncompromising Integrity in Journalism (2019).

The Bigger Picture Is Hiding Behind a Virus

By Jonathan Cook

Source

Things often look the way they do because someone claiming authority tells us they look that way. If that sounds too cynical, pause for a moment and reflect on what seemed most important to you just a year ago, or even a few weeks ago. 

Then, you may have been thinking that Russian interference in western politics was a vitally important issue, and something that we needed to invest much of our emotional and political energy in countering. Or maybe a few weeks ago you felt that everything would be fine if we could just get Donald Trump out of the White House. Or maybe you imagined that Brexit was the panacea to Britain’s problems – or, conversely, that it would bring about the UK’s downfall.

Still feel that way?

After all, much as we might want to (and doubtless some will try), we can’t really blame Vladimir Putin, or Russian troll farms spending a few thousand dollars on Facebook advertising, for the coronavirus pandemic. Much as we might want to, we can’t really blame Trump for the catastrophic condition of the privatised American health care system, totally ill-equipped and unprepared for a nationwide health emergency. And as tempting as it is for some of us, we can’t really blame Europe’s soft borders and immigrants for the rising death toll in the UK. It was the global economy and cheap travel that brought the virus into Britain, and it was the Brexit-loving prime minister Boris Johnson who dithered as the epidemic took hold.

The bigger picture

Is it possible that only a few weeks ago our priorities were just a little divorced from a bigger reality? That what appeared to be the big picture was not actually big enough? That maybe we should have been thinking about even more important, pressing matters – systemic ones like the threat of a pandemic of the very kind we are currently enduring.

Because while we were all thinking about Russiagate or Trump or Brexit, there were lots of experts – even the Pentagon, it seems – warning of just such a terrible calamity and urging that preparations be made to avoid it. We are in the current mess precisely because those warnings were ignored or given no attention – not because the science was doubted, but because there was no will to do something to avert the threat.

If we reflect, it is possible to get a sense of two things. First, that our attention rarely belongs to us; it is the plaything of others. And second, that the “real world”, as it is presented to us, rarely reflects anything we might usefully be able to label as objective reality. It is a set of political, economic and social priorities that have been manufactured for us.

Agents outside our control with their own vested interests – politicians, the media, business – construct reality, much as a film-maker designs a movie. They guide our gaze in certain directions and not others.

A critical perspective 

At a moment like this of real crisis, one that overshadows all else, we have a chance – though only a chance – to recognise this truth and develop our own critical perspective. A perspective that truly belongs to us, and not to others.

Think back to the old you, the pre-coronavirus you. Were your priorities the same as your current ones?

This is not to say that the things you prioritise now – in this crisis – are necessarily any more “yours” than the old set of priorities.

If you’re watching the TV or reading newspapers – and who isn’t – you’re probably feeling scared, either for yourself or for your loved ones. All you can think about is the coronavirus. Nothing else really seems that important by comparison. And all you can hope for is the moment when the lockdowns are over and life returns to normal.

But that’s not objectively the “real world” either. Terrible as the coronavirus is, and as right as anyone is to be afraid of the threat it poses, those “agents of authority” are again directing and controlling our gaze, though at least this time those in authority include doctors and scientists. And they are guiding our attention in ways that serve their interests – for good or bad.

Endless tallies of infections and deaths, rocketing graphs, stories of young people, along with the elderly, battling for survival serve a purpose: to make sure we stick to the lockdown, that we maintain social distancing, that we don’t get complacent and spread the disease.

Here our interests – survival, preventing hospitals from being overwhelmed – coincide with those of the establishment, the “agents of authority”. We want to live and prosper, and they need to maintain order, to demonstrate their competence, to prevent dissatisfaction bubbling up into anger or open revolt.

Crowded out by detail 

But again the object of our attention is not as much ours as we may believe. While we focus on graphs, while we twitch the curtains to see if neighbours are going for a second run or whether families are out in the garden celebrating a birthday distant from an elderly parent, we are much less likely to be thinking about how well the crisis is being handled. The detail, the mundane is again crowding out the important, the big picture.

Our current fear is an enemy to our developing and maintaining a critical perspective. The more we are frightened by graphs, by deaths, the more we are likely to submit to whatever we are told will keep us safe.

Under cover of the public’s fear, and of justified concerns about the state of the economy and future employment, countries like the US are transferring huge sums of public money to the biggest corporations. Politicians controlled by big business and media owned by big business are pushing through this corporate robbery without scrutiny – and for reasons that should be self-explanatory. They know our attention is too overwhelmed by the virus for us to assess intentionally mystifying arguments about the supposed economic benefits, about yet more illusory trickle-down.

There are many other dramatic changes being introduced, almost too many and too rapidly for us to follow them properly. Bans on movementIntensified surveillanceCensorship. The transfer of draconian powers to the police, and preparations for the deployment of soldiers on streets. Detention without trialMartial law. Measures that might have terrified us when Trump was our main worry, or Brexit, or Russia, may now seem a price worth paying for a “return to normality”.

Paradoxically, a craving for the old-normal may mean we are prepared to submit to a new-normal that could permanently deny us any chance of returning to the old-normal.

The point is not just that things are far more provisional than most of us are ready to contemplate; it’s that our window on what we think of as “the real world”, as “normal”, is almost entirely manufactured for us.

Distracted by the virus 

Strange as this may sound right now, in the midst of our fear and suffering, the pandemic is not really the big picture either. Our attention is consumed by the virus, but it is, in a truly awful sense, a distraction too.

In a few more years, maybe sooner than we imagine, we will look back on the virus – with the benefit of distance and hindsight – and feel the same way about it we do now about Putin, or Trump, or Brexit.

It will feel part of our old selves, our old priorities, a small part of a much bigger picture, a clue to where we were heading, a portent we did not pay attention to when it mattered most.

The virus is one small warning – one among many – that we have been living out of sync with the natural world we share with other life. Our need to control and dominate, our need to acquire, our need for security, our need to conquer death – they have crowded out all else. We have followed those who promised quick, easy solutions, those who refused to compromise, those who conveyed authority, those who spread fear, those who hated.

If only we could redirect our gaze, if we could seize back control of our attention for a moment, we might understand that we are being plagued not just by a virus but by our fear, our hate, our hunger, our selfishness. The evidence is there in the fires, the floods and the disease, in the insects that have disappeared, in the polluted seas, in the stripping of the planet’s ancient lungs, its forests, in the melting ice-caps.

The big picture is hiding in plain sight, no longer obscured by issues like Russia and Brexit but now only by the most microscopic germ, marking the thin boundary between life and death.

Oil Price Rises After Trump Phones Putin

Oil Price Rises After Trump Phones Putin

March 31, 2020

Oil Price Rises After Trump Phones Putin

by Gary Littlejohn

The Saker Blog

The recent rapid decline in oil prices may now be coming to a halt as Trump and Putin agreed in a recent phone call that their oil industry ministers should talk to each other about the oil standoff that began when Russia refused to agree to participate in a cut in oil output proposed by OPEC. This proposed cut was then effectively reversed by Saudi Arabia ‘opening the taps’ to increase its oil output. Russia continued to refuse to cut back, even though the COVID-19 pandemic drastically reduced global demand for hydrocarbon products.

https://oilprice.com/Latest-Energy-News/World-News/Relief-On-The-Horizon-Trump-And-Putin-Discuss-Oil-Markets.htm

Various oil-producing countries have suffered from this as global storage capacity for oil has rapidly been filled up. For example, Oman may be compelled to sell off its energy companies because it cannot afford to run them at a loss, and Nigeria may have to cease production as it is one of the countries with a very low storage capacity. Yet contrary to long-running media coverage (recently reversed as the present oil price standoff developed) the US shale oil industry is very vulnerable to the refusal of both Russia and Saudi Arabia to cut production in the face of collapsing demand.

There has for about the last three years been a minority voice among US analysts of shale oil production claiming that the ‘sweet spots’(most readily accessible and high production oil fields) in the US Permian Basin had all been played out, such that the debts incurred by the extracting companies were becoming unsustainable. This view was increasingly recognised as being supported by the reluctance of lenders to continue financing such shale oil production on the grounds that the underlying geology indicated that the remaining oil (in proposed new fields) could not be recovered profitably.

https://oilprice.com/Energy/Energy-General/Relentless-Oil-Price-War-To-Cause-Huge-Number-Of-Well-Shut-Ins.html

https://www.zerohedge.com/economics/first-time-1970s-texas-considering-curtailing-oil-production

In this context many commentators have seen the oil price standoff between Russia and Saudi Arabia as an attempt by one or both to eliminate a vulnerable competitor (shale oil) from the market.

https://russia-insider.com/en/russia-defeating-us-middle-east-oil-game/ri28318

https://oilprice.com/Energy/Energy-General/Oil-Prices-Collapse-8-As-Novak-Tells-OPEC-To-Pump-At-Will.html

Recent doubling down by Saudi Arabia after Russia claimed that it could withstand a long price-reducing output competition seemed to confirm this:

https://oilprice.com/Energy/Crude-Oil/Oil-Prices-Slide-As-Saudi-Arabia-Confirms-Another-Export-Boost.html

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2020/mar/30/riyadh-gambling-on-game-of-coronavirus-oil-price-chicken

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2020/mar/30/oil-rig-closures-rising-as-prices-hit-18-year-lows-due-to-coronavirus

This seems to be the reason for the phone call from Trump to Putin:

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2020/mar/31/oil-prices-trump-putin-saudi-arabia-saudi-arabia-shell

Certainly some analysts have argued that the price competition could lead to a rebound to as much as $60 per barrel if the US shale oil sector were eliminated from the market. This growing chorus included a recent very direct claim from Igor Sechin, the head of oil major Rosneft:

https://oilprice.com/Energy/Energy-General/Russias-Plan-To-Bankrupt-US-Shale-Could-Send-Oil-To-60.html

It certainly looks as if there is very little room left for US shale oil to reduce its production costs further, especially when lenders have been increasingly shunning the industry for about the last three years. This has considerable implications for the USA in sustaining its dominant position in the global economy.

Whereas in the past the US had been self-sufficient in oil, by 2005 it was looking to rely more on oil and gas from the Gulf of Guinea in Africa, a policy that led to the US Department of Defense engaging in a diplomatic initiative to reduce maritime insecurity in that region, thereby minimising the risk of disruption to the envisaged new oil supply routes. This initiative resulted in the establishment of the Gulf of Guinea Commission in November 2006, but then the sudden technical and financial changes that led to the surge in US shale oil production meant that this reliance on West African oil was no longer necessary. Regrettably, since then maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea has become a great deal worse.

The fact that the US had become less reliant on oil imports was very important for sustaining the position of the US dollar as the global reserve currency, because it is the fact of the global trade in oil being priced in dollars that is the main foundation for that reserve currency position, thereby enabling the US economy to keep growing in a way that is fuelled by debt. That growth strategy is now under serious threat unless the USA can control oil supply and prices in other parts of the world. This ‘necessity’ places the current US refusal to leave Iraq and its theft of oil from Syrian oil wells in context, and makes it easier to understand the intense pressure being placed on Iran and Venezuela in particular. The aggression is actually sign of strategic weakness, verging on desperation. In other words, this is a major geopolitical turning point. It is for this reason that the US is pushing for an end to the oil price war:

https://oilprice.com/Energy/Energy-General/Oil-Climbs-As-US-Pushes-For-An-End-To-The-Price-War.html

From the viewpoint of Russia, this is certainly a good time to eliminate US shale oil competition, because Russia has recently grown into a much stronger position in the global energy market, after being underestimated until about 2015. In 2014, at about the time of the Maidan square coup in Ukraine, Saudi Arabia and the US increased oil production in an apparent attempt to bankrupt Russia by pushing down the global oil price. At that time, Western commentators assumed that Russian oil fields were old, with future production likely to be flat, and that Russia would not be able to innovate to increase production on existing fields. It was also felt that there would be few new oil or gas fields that would enable Russia to increase its production substantially. Finally it was generally assumed that the devaluation of the Ruble would cripple the Russian economy, leading possibly to social unrest and an over throw of the Russian government. All of these assumptions proved to be false, and were seen to be false at the time by a small minority of well-informed Western commentators.

In fact the devaluation of the Ruble was far less damaging than most had assumed, partly because economic sanctions meant that Russia became even less reliant on imports, including of food, while pushing on with a revolution in Russian wheat production that led to a rapid growth in exports and lowered domestic food prices. In addition, ongoing oil and gas export revenues continued to be in foreign exchange, while the devalued Ruble meant the Russian oil became cheaper internationally.

In 2014/5 Russia immediately began to turn its oil production around with four innovations, one of which greatly extended the productive life of its older oilfields. Then it opened a major new natural gas field in the Arctic (Yamal, soon to be followed by Arctic 2) and continued with the construction of various pipelines that meant it could supply the EU, China and Turkey with gas more cheaply than would have been possible by ocean shipping or rail. Furthermore, the implications of the fact that the Power of Siberia pipeline to China, which started on 2nd December 2019, is a fixed price contract seem to have been missed by many commentators: at a time of steep oil price decline, there is no reason to believe that the price of Russian oil exports to China has declined at all, let alone by the same amount as the global market price. At a time when China is now gearing up to restart its economy following the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic there, it will presumably soon start to consume oil and (via LNG tanker shipping) natural gas at almost the same level as before.

This level of resilience is further boosted by the Turkstream and Nordstream pipelines, and the Nordstream 2 pipeline is due to start up later this year in spite of all the obstacles placed in its way:



Russia also seems to be moving into energy markets in Africa, with one company now having a stake in the Algerian gas pipeline that crosses the Mediterranean to feed into the EU gas market and with an apparent attempt to recover ownership of oil fields that it lost when Gadaffi was ousted in Libya:

https://www.zerohedge.com/energy/putin-makes-move-libyas-oil-crescent

Yet what is most important in the longer term is that the earlier assumption that there were no new oilfields to be developed in Russia has also proved to be mistaken:

https://oilprice.com/Geopolitics/International/Why-OPEC-Should-Worry-About-Russias-Latest-Oilfield.html

https://russia-insider.com/en/russia-planning-biggest-oil-project-history-world-155-billion-investment-15-new-towns-airports-ports

No wonder Russia has claimed that it could withstand a low oil price for a decade:

https://www.zerohedge.com/energy/russia-says-it-can-weather-25-oil-10-years

Nor should Russia’s position be considered in isolation from developments elsewhere. For example, Iran has discovered a large oil field next to one of its gas fields, but has little chance of developing it in the present circumstances. The long-term implication in terms of shifting global energy sources is evident, however. More important in the shorter run are the vast oil resources in Venezuela, one of whose fields borders neighbouring Guyana. US oil companies are already eyeing up these enormous opportunities. The sudden re-emergence of overt political pressure by the US on Venezuela is an indication that there are strong reasons for the US not to give up on ‘regime change’ in Venezuela:



https://www.zerohedge.com/energy/oil-only-way-back-venezuela

https://www.zerohedge.com/geopolitical/venezuela-stages-massive-live-fire-war-drill-amid-invasion-threats



The last link above provides important detailed information as to why the charges of Venezuelan government involvement in the Columbian narcotic trade are untrue. Part of Russia’s response to this US campaign has been for Rosneft to sell its Venezuelan subsidiaries to a company wholly owned by the Russian government, in order to avoid US sanctions:

https://oilprice.com/Latest-Energy-News/World-News/Russias-Largest-Oil-Producer-Halts-Operations-In-Venezuela.html

In general Russia has undertaken a whole suit of measures to insulate its economy against the sanctions imposed since 2014, with the result that it now has a highly resilient, diversified and increasingly innovative economy with two sovereign wealth funds, with gold and foreign exchange funds sufficient to pay off all government and corporate debt, and with a highly trained and well-equipped military that implies that some forms of intervention and destabilisation are much less likely to succeed. In the global energy power game, the fact that US President Trump phoned Putin amid speculation of offers to ease various kinds of sanctions in return for a renewed agreement on oil output with OPEC is certainly a very important development. For an economy not much larger than that of Germany on the Purchasing Power Parity measure, an economy that defaulted on its debts in 1998, this is quite a turnaround.

‘STRANGE TIMES’: RUSSIA IS SENDING MEDICAL AID TO U.S. TO HELP IT WITH COVID-19 CRSISIS

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'Strange Times': Russia Is Sending Medical Aid To U.S. To Help It With COVID-19 Crsisis
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The COVID-19 outbreak has led to some curious changes in relations between the countries. For example, Russia is now sending medical aid to the United States.
Russia sent a plane with medical equipment to the United States amid the pandemic of COVID-19, US President Donald Trump told reporters on March 30th.
“I have to say, we’ve had great relationships with a lot of countries. China sent us some stuff,” he told reporters during a briefing at the White House. “Russia sent us a very, very large plane load of things. Medical equipment. Very nice.”
He did not go into further details about Russia’s aid.
“Other countries sent us things that I was very surprised at, very happy surprised,” the US leader continued.
🇷🇺🇺🇸 Following phone talk between Presidents & @realDonaldTrump sends largest cargo aircraft An-124 Ruslan ✈️ with 😷 medical supplies (masks + equipment) to to help fight pandemic, save lives of American citizens. 🤝 The plane is en route

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The fact that Moscow helps Washington in the situation with the coronavirus became known the day before.
The leaders of the two countries talked on the phone and noted the importance of international cooperation in a pandemic.
“The two presidents expressed serious concern over the scale of the spread of the coronavirus in the world and informed each other about measures taken in Russia and the United States to counter this threat. Opportunities for closer cooperation between the two countries on this problem were discussed.
They also exchanged views on the current state of the global oil market and agreed that Russian and American energy ministers should hold consultations on this topic.
Certain bilateral issues were also addressed.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Trump agreed to keep in contact.
On March 31, the Kremlin’s spokesperson Dmitry Peskov, announced that a Russian plane with medical aid will soon depart to the United States (indicating that there could be 2 planes: 1st – delivered before March 30, 2nd – delivered after March 31). He hoped the United States might also be able to provide medical help to Russia if necessary when the time came.
“It is important to note that when offering assistance to US colleagues, the president (Putin) assumes that when US manufacturers of medical equipment and materials gain momentum, they will also be able to reciprocate if necessary,” Peskov was cited as saying.
Peskov, who noted difficulties expediting the aid to the United States thrown up by some US officials, was quoted as saying that Russia and China cooperated in a similar way because “at a time when the current situation affects everyone without exception … there is no alternative to working together in a spirit of partnership and mutual assistance”.
The Russian Aerospace Forces’ An-124-100 Ruslan set off for the United States included medical masks and medical equipment.
To add to the global anxiety regarding COVID-19, the World Health Organization has ceased to publish information on the number of people who have recovered from the infection around the world, because not all countries provide it, WHO official spokesman Tarik Yazarevich explained.
“With regard to cases of recovery outside of China, we do not have single data from various sources about how many officially confirmed cases of recovery from COVID-19, because not all countries systematically report these data to us. In many countries, people have not yet a chance to get better, so as the situation develops, we may have new data,” he said.
Yazarevich reminded that COVID-19 is a new disease, therefore it is necessary to obtain more epidemiological information on how the immunity to the virus is generated and how it can be determined that the patient has fully recovered.
According to WHO recommendations, a patient can be discharged from the hospital after conducting two negative tests at least 24 hours apart.
'Strange Times': Russia Is Sending Medical Aid To U.S. To Help It With COVID-19 Crsisis
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The current situation, as of April 1st is this: currently, the US has the most cases worldwide, sitting at 188,530, after recording 24,742 on March 31st.
Italy is 2nd, and the numbers of recorded cases appear to be gradually going down, with fatalities remaining relatively high, meaning that the peak might be drawing much closer, as initially expected.
Spain is likely to overtake Italy in the total number of cases in just a matter of days, while also recording high numbers of fatalities, but also high numbers of recoveries.
Notably, the US currently has more total cases than Italy and China combined, which until several days ago had more total cases separately.
Russia sits at 2,337 cases, and 17 fatalities, having recorded 501 new cases on March 31st, and it might appear that the measures undertaken may be justified, but time will tell.
Regardless, Moscow is providing assistance to Italy, the US, and Serbia asked for help, as well. Potentially after the COVID-19 hysteria passes, a large-scale media campaign will be required to switch the narrative to the US, or the collective “West” having dealt with the pandemic, and find out ways to accuse Russia and China of stoking it further.
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The Coronavirus Pandemic Is Another Reminder of Western Barbarianism

The Coronavirus Pandemic Is Another Reminder of Western Barbarianism 

By Darko Lazar

During the NATO bombing of Serbia in 1999, the Western military alliance devastated the country’s civilian infrastructure. The long list of targets included 19 hospitals, 18 kindergartens, 176 cultural monuments and 44 bridges. 

Several weeks into the military campaign, which was fiercely opposed by Russia and China, a total of five satellite-guided bombs, delivered by American B-2 bombers, slammed into the Chinese embassy in Belgrade. 

The attack on the symbol of Chinese sovereignty in the heart of the Balkans killed three Chinese nationals and wounded twenty others. 

Washington and Brussels claimed the attack was a mistake. But NATO’s increasingly bloody push eastwards would have unintended consequences. 

The Belt and Road Initiative vs. Western dictates 

Just a few months after the bombing of Serbia, Russia’s President Boris Yeltsin was quietly pushed out of office and replaced by the relatively unknown Vladimir Putin.

When Putin won his first election in 2000, he is rumored to have had two inauguration ceremonies. One was held in full view of the global media and another unfolded in the Kremlin’s underground chambers. 

There he was joined by a small group of Russian military officers and operatives from the country’s security apparatus. These men understood that it was only a matter of time before NATO bombs started falling on downtown Moscow, and the decision had been made to confront Western expansionism. 

In the years that followed, China and Russia would join hands with Iran to suppress American influence though the creation of a Eurasian union made up of sovereign and independent nations. 

This ambitious scheme reached Serbia in the form of Russian military hardware and China’s Belt and Road Initiative. 

Beijing found a reliable partner in the government of Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, and in less than a decade, the Chinese poured billions of dollars in investments into the Balkan state. 

The investments propped up critical industries in Serbia, including a copper mine, a steelmaker, and a thermal power plant. While safeguarding tens of thousands of jobs and driving much-needed growth, the Chinese were also building new bridges, roads, and ports. 

Meanwhile, Vucic adopted an intelligent foreign policy – one made possible by the reemergence of a multipolar world. He reached out to both east and west and then took the best deal on the table. But the West had little to offer. 

Most of the exchanges with Brussels consisted of dictates. No longer able to bomb embassies, the West demanded Belgrade introduce ‘political reforms’ and restrict Chinese investments. 

Western political elites remained convinced that China and Russia have nothing to offer countries like Serbia that could rival joining ‘democratic’ Western alliances. 

The coronavirus pandemic delivered yet another serious blow to this arrogant and abominable point of view.     

Solidarity and fairytales

As coronavirus infections spiked dramatically across Europe earlier this month, Vucic declared that “European solidarity does not exist.” 

“This was a fairytale on paper,” Vucic said as he announced a state of emergency in his country. “Today I sent a special letter to the only ones who can help, and that is China.” 

He explained that he asked Chinese President Xi Jinping “not only as a dear friend, but as a brother” to provide Serbia desperately needed assistance after the EU imposed a ban on exports of medical equipment.  

Once again, when time came for building bridges instead of destroying them, the great humanitarians of the West had nothing to offer. Meanwhile, Chinese gear and experts flooded Serbia virtually overnight.

Beijing’s assistance and strict measures imposed by the government early on helped Serbia stave off disaster.   

But Serbia isn’t the only country receiving planeloads of supplies from the east. Chinese medical equipment is being sent to Iran, Iraq, and a number of European states including Italy where over 10,000 people have thus far perished due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Italy – the first EU state to embrace the Belt and Road Initiative in 2019 – turned to China after its plea for help from its European neighbors was refused. 

Similar acts of solidarity came from the Russians and some Latin American states. The Cubans flew their doctors to Italy and were asked to return to Brazil where they were expelled in 2018 and labeled “Communist spies” by the right-wing government of Jair Bolsonaro. 

Meanwhile, Western powerhouses are looking inwards. As they cling onto stocks depleted by years of healthcare cuts, the Trump administration was reportedly caught offering piles of money for ‘exclusive rights’ to a Covid-19 vaccine.

Imprisoned by their own twisted interpretations of human rights, many of these governments were slow to react. They hesitated in following the Chinese model and imposing drastic restrictions on freedom of movement. Instead they were worried about profits and how the stock markets would react. 

And even as the U.S. becomes the new epicenter of this pandemic, President Donald Trump expressed his readiness to potentially risk millions of American lives by reopening the country in just a few weeks.

This brutal face of capitalism is also on full display for Washington’s adversaries, namely Iran and Venezuela, where unilateral sanctions are preventing the delivery of desperately needed medical supplies.  

As such, Western governments and their policies are not only endangering individual nation states. At a time when a highly infectious disease is spreading at an unprecedented speed, these policies are threatening the entire global population. 

De omnibus dubitandum est

Despite extensive global coverage of this pandemic, very little is actually known about Covid-19. We don’t know how dangerous the virus is or its concrete consequences. And we certainly don’t have tangible details about what caused the outbreak. 

This leaves plenty of room for speculation, conspiracy theories, and even talk about aliens. Whatever the truth, biological warfare involving powerful political currents can never be ruled out. 

In an op-ed published more than two years ago, Al-Ahed pointed to the existence of hundreds of American military biological laboratories across the Eurasian continent. The labs were being used by the Pentagon to gather intelligence on microorganisms – vital for the creation of highly effective biological weapons. 

There is no doubt that the coronavirus transcends borders and religions and doesn’t discriminate between rich and poor. But that doesn’t mean that the virus isn’t helping further certain political agendas. 

The coronavirus has done what “Israel’s” politicians have failed to do for over a year. It’s brought an end to the political deadlock with indicted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu set to form the next government. 

By bringing the global economy to a screeching halt, Covid-19 has given birth to another Great Depression and paved the way for the collapse of certain governments. 

Equally important is the fact that the virus has the potential to determine the outcome of every single election process in the Western world for some time to come, including the U.S. presidential race. 

At times like these, it would be wise to remember the words of the late Danish philosopher Soren Aabye Kierkegaard who titled one of his books, De omnibus dubitandum est or “everything must be doubted”. 

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