محاولة أميركية لاستفراد روسيا وتطويع أوروبا ومهادنة الصين

 

ديسمبر 7, 2018

د. وفيق إبراهيم

الدولة الأميركية العميقة لا تزال تعمل بإتقان على الرغم من هلوسات الرئيس الأميركي دونالد ترامب الذي يعبّر عن حاجات بلاده بأسلوب رجال البورصة الذين لا يلمُّون بالأساليب الدبلوماسية ولا تثير اهتمامهم.

هذه الدولة تعرف من هم منافسو إمبراطوريتها وأين توجد مكامن الخلل فتعمل على معالجتها بالاساليب الترمبية.

يبدو أنها اكتشفت حاجة الامبراطورية الى آليات جديدة لمنافسة وتطويع القوى الأخرى، الامر الذي يتطلب وقتاً وهدنة مع منافسيها فقسمتهم الى ثلاث فئات:

أخطار استراتيجية عالمية تتجسّد في روسيا التي تعاود اجتياح الشرق الأوسط بالتدريج انطلاقاً من الميدان السوري وأهميتها كامنة في قوة عسكرية ضاربة لديها الأنواع التقليدية والنووية وأسلحة الفضاء بشكل يوازي معادلات القوة الأميركية ويزيدها في بعض الأحيان، ولديها أفقٌ مفتوح على أميركا الجنوبية وآسيا وبخلفية تحالف عميق مع الصين. للملاحظة فإن مساحة روسيا تزيد مرتين عن المساحة الأميركية وثلاث مرات ونصف المرة عن الصين. ويختزن باطنها اقل بقليل من نصف ثروات الأرض، لكنها لم تبدأ باستغلالها لخلل في العلاقات بين التقدم الصناعي البطيء ومخزون الثروات وذلك منذ الاتحاد السوفياتي.

لجهة أوروبا وخصوصاً ألمانيا وفرنسا فبلدانها سقطت في السلة الأميركية سياسياً واقتصادياً وعسكرياً منذ انتصار الولايات المتحدة في الحرب العالمية الثانية في 1945. هذا لا يعني أنها أصبحت كالدول العربية، فلا تزال دولاً صناعية وعلمية وقوية عسكرياً ولديها مداها العالمي خلف أميركا والصين واليابان، ألمانيا مثلاً استطاعت في العقد الأخير التسلق الى المرتبة العالمية الثالثة اقتصادياً ولولا الاتفاق العسكري الذي قبلت بموجبه أن لا تتسلح منذ خسارتها الحرب العالمية الثانية في 1945 لصنعت أسلحة قد تتفوّق بها على روسيا وأميركا معاً. تكفي الاشارة الى أن هناك قواعد عسكرية أميركية ترابط فيها منذ هزيمتها في الحرب العالمية الثانية 1945.

وبذلك تمكن الأميركيون من استتباع أوروبا لنفوذهم بشكل كامل مؤسسين معها بنى عسكرية وسياسية مشتركة الحلف الاطلسي- على قاعدة العداء للاتحاد السوفياتي ولاحقاً لوريثته أوروبا الشرقية المتاخمة لموسكو.

لكن أوروبا اليوم تصطدم بمعوقات ترامبية أميركية تمنعها من الحصول على مواقع متقدمة، لكنها تعتبر أن من حقها وراثة الفراغات الناتجة عن التراجع الأميركي. لكن الصراخ الترامبي المتقاطع مع حركات تأديب تواصل ضبط أوروبا في الأسر الأميركي ولا تمنع حصول تلاسن بين ترامب ورئيس فرنسا ومستشارة المانيا بشكل حاد.

إن ترامب يعتبر أن على أوروبا دعم بلاده في وجه روسيا والصين من دون أي تأفف او تذمر لانه يحميها حسب مزاعمه، مضخماً ظاهرة الخوف من روسيا «البلد المرعب» متماثلاً بذلك مع اسلافه الذين كانوا يثيرون خوف القارة العجوز من الاتحاد السوفياتي ذي القدرات التسليحية الضخمة والعقيدة الشيوعية المناهضة لمفهوم «العالم الحر الغربي» وكانوا يثيرون ايضاً رعب العرب في الخليج والشرق الاوسط من «الإلحاد والكفر» من الشيوعية الروسية.

هناك اذاً صراع أميركي روسي مكشوف ومتصاعد الى جانب محاولات أميركية لتطويع أوروبا.

ماذا عن الصين: تمكنت بكين من اختراق الاسواق العالمية بسلع رخيصة منافسة واستفادت من إقرار نظام العولمة لاقتحام الاسواق الأميركية بطرح سلع أقبل عليها المستهلك الأميركي الشمالي والجنوبي من أبناء الطبقتين الوسطى والفقيرة فيما عجزت السلع الأميركية من اختراق أسواق الصين بسبب عجز طبقاتها عن التماهي مع أسعارها العالية قياساً لمرتباتهم الضعيفة.

إن راتب العامل الأميركي ذي الحد الأدنى للأجور يعادل عشرة اضعاف العامل الصيني وربما أكثر.

فحدث خلل هائل في العلاقات الصينية الأميركية لمصلحة بكين وهذا ما أزعج ترامب وامبراطوريته؟

اعتبر أن روسيا قوة عسكرية وليست اقتصادية، وهذا لن يؤدي مهما ساءت العلاقات معها الى اندلاع حروب بينهما لأنها مخيفة وقد تفجر الكرة الأرضية نفسها. لذلك رأت امبراطورية ترامب ضرورة إرباك روسيا في أوروبا الشرقية وشرقي سورية وإعادتها الى «حرب تسلح جديدة» قد تؤدي الى اجهاض مشاريعها التوسعية أي تماماً كما حدث للسلف السوفياتي الذي انخرط في حرب تسلّح في مرحلة الرئيس الأميركي السابق ريغان ادت الى سقوطه اقتصادياً وبالتالي سياسياً.

للإشارة فإن الاتحاد السوفياتي كان بمفرده يجابه الأميركيين والأوروبيين وأحلافهم في اليابان والخليج وأميركا الجنوبية. هذه القوى التي نظمها الأميركيون للاستفادة منها آنذاك في حروب الفضاء والتسلح.

هذا ما دفع البيت الابيض الى اتهام روسيا بالعودة الى إنتاج صواريخ نووية متوسطة المدى وقصيرة واختراق المعاهدة الموقعة بين البلدين بهذا الصدد منذ 1987.

إن المتضرر الاكبر من تدمير هذه المعاهدة هم الأوروبيون الذين هاجموا الأميركيين المصرّين على الانسحاب من المعاهدة، لأنهم يعرفون انهم الأكثر تضرراً من إلغائها، لأنهم اقرب الى الاراضي الروسية لكن واشنطن لا تأبه لصراخهم وكانت تريد من حركتها تفجير إشكالات روسية أوروبية تعاود فرض الطاعة على أوروبا لإمبراطوريتها الاقتصادية السياسية بأسلوب التخويف من روسيا.

ضمن هذا الإطار يلجأ الأميركيون الى كل الوسائل المتاحة لهم لضبط الطموح الأوروبي فيستعملون الموالاة فيها محرّضين في الوقت نفسه المعارضات مثيرين ذعرها من روسيا حيناً والصين حيناً آخر.

والهدف واضح وهو الإبقاء عليها في الحضن الأميركي.

ماذا عن الصين؟ لا تشكل خطراً عسكرياً بالنسبة إليهم، لكنها تجسد رعباً اقتصادياً. يقول المتخصّصون ان بكين قد تتجاوز الناتج الأميركي بعد أقل من عقد فقط وأهميتها انها لا تخلط سلعها بطموحات سياسية. لذلك تبدو الصين سلعة اقتصادية يختبئ خلفها صاحبها الذي يرسم ابتسامة دائمة لا تفارق مُحياه. وهذا ما يسمح للسلعة الصينية باختراق أفريقيا وآسيا والشرق الاوسط والاسواق الأميركية والأوروبية لأنها تُدغدغ إمكانات ذوي الدخل المتوسط والمنخفض.

هذا ما دفع امبراطورية ترامب الى البحث عن طرق جديدة لمهادنة الصين فوجدها في إطلاق تهديدات وحصار وعقوبات فمفاوضات على طريقة السماسرة وطلب منها بوضوح مسألتين عاجلة وآجلة: الأولى تتعلق بخفض الضرائب على البضائع الأميركية لتصحيح الميزان التجاري بين البلدين الخاسر أميركياً فوافقت بكين، لكنها لا تزال تتردّد في تلبية الطلبات الأميركية الحقيقية وهي ضرورة بناء الصين لمعامل السلع التي تبيعها في الأسواق الأميركية داخل أراضي الولايات المتحدة وذلك لتأمين وظائف لملايين الأميركيين العاطلين عن العمل فيها.

يبدو هذا العرض مغرياً لكن التدقيق فيه يكشف انه مجرد فخ… فبناء معامل صينية في أميركا يعني استعمال أدوات وعمال أميركيين تزيد من اسعارهم عن الأسعار الصينية الرخيصة بعشرات المرات، كما ان توظيف عمالة أميركية فيها يعني التسبب برفع اسعار السلع الصينية حتى توازي اسعار السلع الأميركية وربما أكثر فتسقط قيمتها التنافسية.

وهذا يعني أن الهدنة الصينية الأميركية هي خداع متبادل بين طرفين يعتمدان على شراء الوقت لاستيلاد ظروف أفضل لبناء علاقات متوازنة.

فهل تنجح سياسات إنقاذ الامبراطورية الأميركية؟

يبدو أن العالم يتجه بسرعة نحو عالم متعدد الاقطاب لن تتمكن «هلوسات» ترامب من إجهاضه لان الصين مستمرة في الهيمنة الاقتصادية على العالم، وروسيا تواصل توسيع دورها العالمي، أما أوروبا فإن عصر تحررها من الكابوس الأميركي لم يعد بعيداً فهل رأى أحدكم عربياً في هذه المعادلات؟

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Russian Economic Resilience

November 24, 2018

by Gary Littlejohn for The Saker Blog

Introduction

Western political commentaries about the condition of the Russian economy are becoming increasingly illusory, as additional economic sanctions are imposed for a series of increasingly implausible reasons, the most recent ones including those being for alleged Russian complicity in chemical weapons attacks in Syria, those supposedly for the alleged attack on Sergei and Yulia Skripal, and some more regarding Crimea. It might seem self-evident that such measures are pretty futile, given the obvious effect that earlier sanctions have had in galvanising the Russian government into action to mitigate the effects of almost any conceivable future sanctions, but that very failure might be precisely the motive for the West’s renewed sanctions. Existing sanctions have been of limited effectiveness, and Russia is now self-evidently capable of defending itself against virtually any conventional military attack. Even the US recognizes that it would face considerable difficulty in a war against Russia.

For that reason, other sanctions apparently need to be employed to probe the economy for possible other weaknesses, or at least to slow down the development of serious Russian competition in new sectors, such as civil aviation. An additional motive is probably to weaken Russia militarily prior to starting a conflict, despite the assessments above. What Professor Stephen Cohen describes as the ‘war party’ seems to harbour an insatiable hatred for Russia, and despite the problems encountered in the recent exercises such as Trident Juncture 2018, preparations seem to be taking place for a conventional conflict with Russia.

The sanctions currently in place are summarised here:

In any case, despite the evidence coming from international financial institutions and credit rating agencies that the Russian economy is growing in 2018, there are still claims from inside and outside Russia that this will not last and that Russia should somehow change course to avoid future or incipient difficulties. The most notable recent internal claim that Russia must concede defeat from Western sanctions comes from the economist Kudrin, while a well-known French economist Picketty has published a report misleadingly indicating that Russia continues to suffer from much greater wealth inequality than other industrial countries.

I remain of the view that Russia will remain resilient in the face of sanctions, but that it may well have difficulty in reaching its goal of 5 per cent growth per annum by 2024, partly for internal reasons, and partly because the world economy is facing a major near-term crisis that would have a serious impact on Russia, through no fault of its own. As an indication of the causes of what I believe is the coming global financial crisis, it is worth recalling that global debt is now 60 per cent higher than it was at the time of the last financial crisis of 2008, and that no major reforms of the Western-dominated global financial institutional structure have taken place. Moreover, the same kind of banking behaviour is becoming increasingly evident, with complex financial packages known as derivatives being based once again on dubious loans that are likely to be unpaid, or at least not repaid in full. These are so-called ‘non-performing’ loans. These clouds on the economic horizon have become darker owing to President Trump’s policy of trade wars with countries that he considers to be engaging in unfair competition with the USA. In addition, while Western economists have for some years predicted the slowing down of Chinese economic growth, and have been wrong, there is now reason to believe that the Chinese economy really is slowing down, while still growing.

If this apparent slow-down continues, it will have a negative effect on the rest of the world economy, as the second link above shows already. In addition, there is increasing evidence of poor economic performance in the EU:

Since a great deal of Russian trade is with China and the Eurozone currency area, such developments beyond Russian control could have a greater impact on Russian economic performance than sanctions. In addition, the boost to the Russian economy in 2018 from high oil prices looks vulnerable or at least unlikely to continue at the present level:

It is true that the oil price has recovered a little in the hours following the above report, but the need to cut production shows that continuing high oil prices cannot be taken for granted, and Russia has not yet decided to cut its own oil production. This has resulted in a further decline in the oil price.

Yet there is no denying that in 2018 the Russian economy has continued to grow, and this is now widely recognised by various Western credit rating agencies and international financial institutions.

The Emerging Consensus on Russian Economic Performance

The IMF has unequivocally reported that the Russian economy has grown in 2018, although it claims that some institutional factors will impede future growth. Its growth estimate for 2018 is 1.7 per cent and for 2019 it is 1.8 per cent. This implies that Russia will have difficulty in reaching its aim of 5 per cent growth per annum by 2024, as laid down in President Putin’s Address to the Nation on March 1st 2018. Nevertheless, the idea that Western sanctions are crushing the Russian economy, as some US Senators have implied, seems fanciful. This is the case even if one does not criticise the IMF for ignoring the possible changes that have already taken place in various sectors, such as agriculture, finance, civil aviation, car manufacture and big data. And indeed the official Russian figure on growth for the second quarter [Q2] of 2018 indicates that the economy is 1.8 per cent larger than it was in Q2 for 2017, so we may end up with an overall growth figure for 2018 that is slightly higher than the IMF estimate.

The main credit agencies have also publicly signed up to the narrative of continuing growth. For example, Moodys has also forecast growth along lines similar to those of the IMF. My own view is that such forecasts are unduly pessimistic, but only if one assumes that the world economy remains stable over the next few years. Thus it has been argued that the Russian financial sector has been somewhat underdeveloped, and yet the official figures from the Russian government statistical agency Rosstat show that in 2018 finance has been the fastest growing sector. In sharp contrast to the UK, where the financialisation of the economy has grown like a monster and now greatly influences economic priorities at the expense of productive investment and sound long-term growth, in Russia the finance sector until recently has been lacking in capacity to cope properly with the needs of the economic restructuring that has been taking place. One of the main reasons for this recent positive change has been the closure of around 100 banks with too high a proportion of non-performing loans, which has probably reduced the room for corruption and for capital flight, instead facilitating the focus of capital on the more productive sectors of the economy.

Nevertheless, sanctions did initially produce a recession in 2014, and it took two years to recover from that and restart growth. The loss of income over those two years has been estimated at about 6 per cent of GDP compared to the result of a steady growth rate during those two years.

It seems pretty clear that the outflow of capital from Russia which has been going on for over 25 years has been facilitated by the City of London, which has enabled the creation of anonymous companies (the names of whose directors are not publicly disclosed) that can readily be used to move funds to offshore tax havens. For example the recently discovered scandal whereby a branch of Danske Bank located in Estonia evaded oversight and acted as a conduit for the outflow of about $180 billion from CIS countries over a ten-year period has brought to light the fact that London-based anonymous companies were the main vehicle for hiding this outflow of funds. Closing such gaps by greater supervision of the activities of Russian banks should help stop this drain on the Russian economy. Yet there is still ongoing outflow of capital from Russia, which remains a potential cause for concern, and the Russian Central Bank expects sanctions to continue until at least 2021.

Unfortunately, the reduction in the outflow of funds from 2014 to 2017 has not yet led to a reverse flow of funds back into Russia to any great extent, because the Russian policy of “de-offshoreization” has had a limited impact so far, according to a recent report by Bloomberg. In addition, Russian millionaires continue to keep about 70 per cent of their assets abroad.

The ongoing (if now more limited) damage from sanctions would be more readily recuperated if so much capital was not still leaving Russia.

Yet it is important to stress that not all capital leaving Russia constitutes capital flight. As the link above says:

“According to the Central Bank, there are two main factors that make the outflow of capital grow. First off, Russian banks pay their foreign debts. Secondly, other sectors of economy invest in foreign assets. Earlier, the Central Bank reported the net outflow of $31.9 billion in January-September of 2018. Thus, as much as $10.3 billion were withdrawn from Russia in October.

It is worthy of note that Russia managed to improve its trade balance: its surplus amounted to $154.6 billion vs. $90.5 billion a year earlier. In addition, foreign exchange reserves (gold reserves) of the Central Bank of the Russian Federation have grown by $35.7 billion. The National Welfare Fund played a significant role in the trend: the reserves of the fund were growing owing to oil and gas super-profits (with the price of oil over $40 per barrel). According to the Central Bank, the outflow of capital from Russia for 2018 may reach $66 billion. This will be the largest indicator since 2014 ($152 billion), when the West imposed its first sanctions on Russia.”

In contrast to the outflow of capital, which as the Central Bank indicates can be beneficial, Russia has become more successful at attracting foreign direct investment [FDI] especially in the energy sector, despite sanctions. The most notable example of this is the flagship Yamal Liquefied Natural Gas [LNG] project in the Arctic. This was built with Russian, Chinese and French funding. In recent days, Saudi Arabia has expressed an interest in the follow-up project at Yamal, known as Arctic 2, as it tries to diversify its economy ahead of the decline in its own oil resources.

Arctic 2 will be even larger than the original project. One unexpected result of Yamal has been that Russian LNG has even occasionally found American customers.

In addition, Russia is using the present demand for oil to try to pressure some customers to use Euros rather than US dollars to buy their oil.

And whatever the fluctuations in the price of oil and gas, Russia is still using pipelines to secure greater stability in energy sales. The Nord Stream 2 pipeline has now reached the German shore and the Pride of Siberia pipeline in the Far East is also close to completion, but less publicity has been given to the fact that the Turk Stream pipeline has also now reached Turkish landfall.

Overall, the strong performance in the energy sector in generating available investment funds for other sectors, and the strengthening of the financial sector coupled with a growth of FDI should enable Russia to invest more effectively in future.

Other indicators of Russian economic performance

One Western economic appraisal recording some aspects of Russian economic performance is that of the World Economic Forum [WEF]. This indicates that Russia has improved on its competiveness index ranking, going up two places to 43rd out of 140 countries that are listed.

“…Russia’s standing was buoyed in the WEF rating this year by stable macroeconomics, a large market size, information and communications technology adoption and human capital…”

The factors that were thought to count against it were:

“Meanwhile, low transparency, innovation, limited interaction and diversity were listed as factors that hurt the Russian economy, along with weak institutions, workforce skills, lower social capital and a vulnerable financial system.”

These latter claims suggest that, to some extent at least, old prejudices are still in play. Contrary to these claims, Russia has a very low debt-to-GDP ratio, two sovereign wealth funds that have benefitted this year from the high price of oil, and a restructured and growing financial sector. Workforce skills are probably increasing with the inward migration of ethnic Russians from Ukraine, and it is clear that the reform of local government is ongoing. The IMF ‘ease of doing business’ index shows that transparency is increasing, contrary to the impression given by the WEF. Furthermore, both innovation and the diversification of the economy are clearly growing in agriculture, civil aviation, civilian space activity, car manufacture, and possibly in the future in the use of big data, as indicated in Putin’s speech of 1st March. The effects of measures to deal with many of these issues can be found on the Rosstat website:

Concentrating on innovation, and taking agriculture first, the Q2 figures self-evidently do not include the very recent results of the Russian harvest this year. This has once again (for the third year) exceeded earlier estimates, and the diversification within agriculture is clear, as well as the adoption of modern machinery where possible.

This video is less than 5 minutes long. The figures shown from 1 minute to 1 minute 30 seconds are worth noting. They show how much four agricultural sectors produced in relation to total Russian demand for these products. Even in meat production, Russia has produced 93 per cent of its own needs. For grain, it produced 170 per cent of its own needs. In sugar, the estimate was that 80 per cent of needs would be produced within Russia, whereas the actual output was 105 per cent, and in vegetable oil, the expected 80 per cent of demand being met internally turned out to be 153 per cent. The result is that Russia supplied more than half of the world’s wheat exports this year.

Russia is rapidly turning into an exporter in areas other than grain, and this growing export potential (with its geopolitical implications) has meant that a series of foreign ministers, as well as the World Health Organization, attended this exhibition. This rapidly changing agricultural performance is bound to increase overall economic growth in the coming years. One surprising new export crop is soya:

This might only be 3.9 million tonnes in a Chinese soya market of 95 million tonnes, but it will doubtless grow in future.

Note that the YouTube video above includes a statement that a possible reduction in VAT from 20 per cent to 10 per cent is envisaged for next year, which would reduce any upward pressure on prices, and there may be more funding for the existing policy of promoting certain agricultural regions. This raises the issue of how the performance of such special regions will be evaluated. For example, will the Ministry of Economic Development be involved and will there be specific measures such as the use of social accounting matrices to ‘capture’ the specific economic development in such regions? The ongoing growth in food production not only tends to reduce inflation and help the balance of payments, but also stimulates demand for agricultural machinery and relevant services. The planned increase in rural road construction should also foster growth in this sector.

Turning to another sector, the new American sanctions being imposed on Russian civil aviation are rightly seen as simply an attempt to contain Russian competition in this area, but as Ruslan Ostashko has argued, it will be technically easy to develop Russian alternatives to U.S. civil aviation electronics, given the capabilities shown in military avionics. Although the performance in flight tests of the MC-21 (a future competitor to the Boeing 737Max) is probably the precipitating cause of such sanctions, these sanctions cannot affect the use of composite materials in this civil aircraft, because no other plane has such technology and the components and materials were developed exclusively in Russia. So there is no way to prevent such a development programme by using sanctions. Similarly, on the wide body passenger jet being developed the new engines can readily be developed in Russia without relying on foreign expertise.

In car and bus production, the new Kamaz autonomous [driverless] bus was on display at the recent motor show in Moscow. No Western manufacturer has yet brought a similar vehicle to market. Doubtless the lessons learned in developing the Aurum luxury range of automobiles will soon cascade on to other car production.

With regard to big data, the use of distributed ledger recording of transactions is already well advanced in Russia, and not only in the area of cryptocurrencies. Apart from the fact that three of the largest five such companies are located in Russia, Russia has other potentially helpful ‘factor endowments’ in the area of big data. Firstly, there is the expertise in electronics that permitted Russia to develop its own microchip extremely rapidly. Doubtless the performance in this area will continue to improve. Secondly, there is the expertise in all aspects of computing which was evident to me 25 years ago when I visited the Computer Centre of the Russian Academy of Sciences [RAS], and the formerly secret nuclear city of Obninsk. For example, at the RAS I was shown a fully functional graphical user interface as good as MS Windows, but capable of running on an Intel 286 chip, whereas MS Windows (which had only just appeared in the West) required a 386 chip as a minimum. At the time, Russia lacked the financial capacity to market such a graphical user interface. In addition, a private company engaged in trade with China was using the programming language APL to construct its own database, without needing a proprietary commercial package. This would have enabled it to exceed the capacity limits of Western commercial database programmes available in those days, and the same would have been true of spreadsheets. In Obninsk, APL was also being used in nuclear safety, neural networking and statistical analysis quite separately from the macroeconomic modelling that was being done at the RAS. Thirdly, Russia could easily locate data warehouses near natural gas sources, thereby avoiding the transmission costs of the energy to run them, and (given the average cold temperatures in Russia) would incur lower costs in cooling such buildings. Electrical resistance of semiconductors generates heat, and this makes cooling of server buildings an issue for big data in some countries. Cryptocurrencies and other distributed ledger applications are pretty energy-intensive.

No need to surrender

In the light of such economic potential, it should be surprising that the well-known economist Kudrin is suggesting that Russia needs to make concessions to the West to ease the impact of sanctions.

Alexei Kudrin is Head of the Accounts Chamber and a former finance minister, so prima facie one would expect him to talk sense. Yet he considers that sanctions are the main threat to the President’s goals, as expressed in the Address to the Nation of 1st March. It should by now be clear that it would take far greater changes in the world economy, such as another financial crash, to throw the objectives for 2024 into serious jeopardy. There are positive elements in the balance of payments (oil, agriculture and arms, with civil aviation likely to be a growing sector) that will enable the Russian government to fund most of the objectives now set for 2014, in my view. The sovereign funds are increasing at the moment, and while this form of saving is a precautionary counter-measure to probable further sanctions, the fact that Russia is pretty much self-sufficient in raw materials, and has a growing skills base (with ethnic Russians coming from both Ukraine and Kazakhstan) should mean that additional sanctions will have a limited effect. There is also the likely prospect of military innovations cascading into the civilian economy, as used to happen in the USA, and this is particularly relevant for civil aviation and big data.

There is the additional problem that the West is stagnating economically and technologically, and has evident difficulty in developing new technologies, including in space. Where the West (and Far East) has had a technological lead with smart phones, the global market is showing clear signs of saturation. The same is true of social media, where stocks are declining quite steeply at the moment, and where Russia or China have rival products already in place. It is likely that the West has little to offer Russia if sanctions are lifted, given the changes that have already taken place in Russia. Sanctions are mainly about financial power and that is already ebbing away in the West. Russia on the other hand will continue to strengthen gradually owing to the growing strength and sophistication of Russian financial institutions, the policies of currency swaps to facilitate non-dollar trade, alternatives to SWIFT developed in both Russia and China, and perhaps in future more “de-offshoreization”.

The ‘failure of nerve’ shown by Kudrin indicates the pernicious effect of Western neoliberal ideology, and raises once again the issue of its influence on aspects of Russian economic policy-making. This can be seen in the case of the pension reform earlier this year, for which Kudrin had lobbied over a period of some years. Having looked again at the research report that was published in Russia just before the law was changed on the age at which people become eligible for a state pension, I am even more convinced that it was premature to introduce this legislation. The report looked at the interaction between demographic and economic changes in present-day Russia covering five aspects, and argued that to raise the age of pension eligibility would adversely affect the economy, and slow down economic growth. While this would not be the case in many industrial societies most of which have a very different demographic profile, Russia is unusual and it would have been preferable to delay the introduction of such a measure, in order to avoid the negative impact just at a time when economic growth was picking up.

There was an analogous case with South Africa at the end of Apartheid in 1994, where the political settlement that was reached included enormous pension payments to South African civil servants. An econometric and demographic analysis there showed that it would have been possible to have a ‘pension holiday’ for a few years in order to devote those funds to kick-starting the economy – a high priority at the time. It was shown that this would not really have adversely affected those pension payments, but strong vested interests prevented this temporary diversion of pension payments from taking place.

The Saker has commented on Putin’s adroit response to the political backlash that took place in mid-2018 when the new pension law was introduced during the football World Cup. The subsequent changes to the legislation may have mitigated some of the adverse effects, but the outcome will not be as good as if the legislation had been postponed for a few years to facilitate the desired acceleration of the economic growth rate.

Why Russian growth may not be constrained by the factors highlighted by the Washington Consensus.

Russia is simply running a mixed economy, with most of it privately owned and parts of it in public ownership. This was considered perfectly normal in Western Europe from 1945 until the late 1970s, and even now forms quite a large segment of economic activity in countries such as France. The advantages of such public sector activity include reaping the benefits of ‘natural monopolies’ such as railways or utilities where competition is likely to be restricted under normal market conditions. These benefits then potentially include additional state revenues, long-term time horizons for investment planning and at times greater democratic control. In the UK the fact that foreign state-owned companies now own companies that were originally privatised is an indicator of how the ‘logic’ of natural monopolies can sometimes prevail even in competitive market conditions. It is much easier to develop a realistic long-term national economic strategy if those natural monopolies are under government control.

In general, more equal societies grow more quickly, contrary to the mythology of the neoliberal Washington Consensus. It is increasingly clear that the increased inequality of income and wealth generated by the neoliberal policies of that last 38 years has acted as a drag on growth and has contributed to the economic instability that resulted in the financial crash of 2008. Russia is widely considered to be a very unequal society, but this view ignores the impact of measures to reduce such inequalities of income and wealth, especially poverty reduction measures that have had a significant impact. This now includes minimum wage legislation that appears to have been influenced by the research of Professor James K. Galbraith at the University of Austin, Texas.

The view that wealth inequality in Russia is huge has recently been given a boost from a book by the well-known French economist Thomas Piketty. However, that book has been subject to very serious critique by the Swedish economist Jon Hellevig:

Hellevig argues that under its present leadership, Russia has been moving towards a more equal society, a trend that seems to be continuing despite the glaring inequality of income and wealth. Hellevig’s point is that these glaring inequalities are not dire in terms of international comparisons.

“After identifying the deficiencies, we have adjusted the main findings announced by the Piketty scholars to reflect the actual data. Corrected data shows that instead of earning 45-50% of national income as claimed by the our Piketty scholars, the top 10% of Russians earned less than 30% of the income. Correspondingly, our corrected data shows that instead of owning more than 70% of the national wealth, the wealth of the top 10 percent of the population was 39% of private wealth and 32% of total national wealth.”

This refutation by Hellevig, which shows that the glaring inequalities are not dire in terms of international comparisons, indicates how Russian society has changed since the 1990s. The so-called ‘oligarchs’ have less weight in the economy and almost certainly less political power. It seems that the member of the Duma who stated that there are no oligarchs any more may well have been correctly pointing to the changed political landscape, even if that was probably an overstatement. The wealthy no longer seem to dominate the political agenda completely, in contrast to the 1990s. Insofar as they do have an impact on policy, it seems to be through the ongoing influence of neoliberal ideologists such as Kudrin and others in certain parts of the government.

Returning to the potentially strategic importance of the state in economic performance, the historical evidence indicates that since the 18th century state-sponsored growth has been vital for stimulating economic growth, especially for industrialisation. The famous five Asian tigers are clear examples of this during the last 40 years or so, but in fact all economies have relied initially on state-sponsored growth in the early phases of industrialisation. Even the UK relied on the dominance of the Royal Navy to support its dominant trade position and ensure that the colonies, especially India, supplied the economic surplus necessary to finance the industrial revolution. Historically, it is only the leading global economy (the UK, then the USA, then China) that advocates free trade, after it has achieved its dominance.

Russia fulfils both criteria for long-term growth, namely, it is not too unequal and has a state-sponsored growth strategy. It also has the most fundamental feature for long-term growth, namely population growth, and is now the only technologically advanced society to have this positive demographic profile. That is a result both of growing optimism about the future and of more stable families. Among ethnic Russians and some minorities this is almost certainly a result of the restored influence of Christianity.

Conclusion

While Russia may well struggle against growing global economic ‘headwinds’ to achieve its aim of 5 per cent growth per annum by 2024, it quite clearly has the resilience to cope with the current sanctions in place and to help shield other economies from sanctions by using currency swaps, occasional barter agreements, the use of an alternative international payments system to SWIFT and other measures. By contrast, the EU seems unable to help shield Iran against US sanctions because it does not possess an alternative to SWIFT and SWIFT itself has already caved in to US financial threats and refused to process payments going to Iran. In addition, the EU can find no member state willing to host any financial institution designed to facilitate trade between the EU and Iran in fulfilment of the nuclear deal that the US has recently withdrawn from. Apart from Russia, only China has the financial muscle and its own alternative to SWIFT to help Iran to withstand the US sanctions.

The fact that Russia is innovating in agriculture, energy production, civilian space activity, civil aviation, automobiles and intends to do so in big data (partly for greater transparency and responsiveness in government administration) shows that its prospects for economic growth remain good.

http://thesaker.is/russian-economic-resilience/

 

Venezuela wants to repatriate its gold from Britain, reduce reliance on the dollar, @bankofengland REFUSES request

Venezuela wants to repatriate its gold from Britain, reduce reliance on the dollar

Venezuela wants to repatriate its gold from Britain, reduce reliance on the dollar – UPDATE: Bank of England REFUSES request

gold bars

© Jochen Tack/Global Look Press
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The Venezuelan government is looking to repatriate around $550 million in gold bars from the Bank of England due to increasing concerns about looming US sanctions.

Caracas is planning to bring 14 tons of gold, held in Britain, back to Venezuela, according to unnamed public officials, as quoted by Reuters. The UK regulator has reportedly sought to clarify what Venezuela plans to do with the gold.

The plan on repatriating the gold bars, kept in London, has been reportedly discussed for nearly two months amid increased difficulties in getting insurance for the shipment needed to move a large gold cargo.

“They are still trying to find insurance coverage, because the costs are high,” the source told the agency.

Venezuela’s foreign exchange holdings have significantly declined since the already-imposed US penalties banned the country’s government from borrowing cash on international markets.

A new round of anti-Venezuelan sanctions was introduced by the White House last week. They ban US citizens from dealing with entities and people involved with gold sales in Venezuela, which the US calls “corrupt and deceptive.”

The South American country is currently dealing with one of the worst economic crises in history, going through a fifth year of recession and an annual inflation of more than 400,000 percent. The crisis has reportedly forced nearly a million citizens to flee to neighboring countries.

Caracas has been holding its gold reserves in foreign bank vaults, which is a common practice for developing countries. In 2011, Venezuelan socialist leader Hugo Chavez repatriated nearly 160 tons of gold from the US and some European countries.

Since 2014, Venezuela has been using its gold as collateral to get billions in loans from international lenders. As a result, the country’s gold reserves have been significantly depleted. According to the latest data from the country’s central bank, gold holdings have dropped to 160 tons in June from 364 tons in 2014.

Swap agreements became difficult for Venezuela in 2017 after Washington banned US financial institutions from financing operations there.

إيران في مواجهة الحرب الاقتصادية الأميركية

نوفمبر 6, 2018

العميد د. أمين محمد حطيط

منذ نجاح ثورتها الإسلامية في العام 1979، وإيران عرضة لعدوان أميركي متواصل تتغيّر أشكاله ويستمرّ في جوهره وطبيعته مركزاً على هدف واحد هو إسقاط نظام سياسي تحرّري استقلالي قام على فكرة كسر التبعية والوصاية التي تمارسها القوى الاستعمارية بقيادة وتخطيط أميركي.

بيد أنّ إيران رغم تلك السلسلة من المواقف والاستهدافات العدوانية ضدّها، ورغم ما حشدته أميركا من قوى إقليمية ودولية في مواجهتها تمكّنت في العقود الأربعة الماضية من النجاح في بلوغ أربعة أهداف استراتيجية كبرى لم يكن المعتدي يتصوّر إمكانية تحقيق أيّ منها، فقد تمكّنت إيران من تثبيت ثورتها وحماية النظام الإسلامي الذي جاءت به هذه الثورة، كما تمكّنت من حماية الوحدة الوطنية والأمن الداخلي والسلام العام، كما حققت درجة متقدّمة من الاكتفاء الذاتي في المجالين العسكري والاقتصادي، ولكن الأهمّ والأخطر على سياسة الهيمنة الأميركية هوالنجاح الإيراني في إقامة الفضاء الحيوي الاستراتيجي الإقليمي ذي البعد الدولي العام والمصان بمنظومة مركبة معقدة من عناصر سياسية وعسكرية وتحالفات استراتيجية، ما يعني انّ العدوان الأميركي المتمادي فشل في ليّ ذراع إيران وعجز عن تحقيق أهدافه الاستراتيجية خلال 40 عاماً.

اليوم وفي الذكرى 39 لقيام الطلاب الإيرانيين باحتلال السفارة الأميركية في طهران باعتبارها وكر تجسّس على الثورة تعمل على إسقاطها، في هذه الذكرى يعلن الرئيس الأميركي ترامب، وبعد طول تهديد وتوعّد، يعلن عن حزمة من التدابير الكيدية العدوانية ضدّ إيران، تدابير يهدف منها «خنق إيران» اقتصادياً الى درجة تؤدّي الى عزلها دولياً وقطع ايّ تعامل مالي او تجاري او اقتصادي معها خاصة في مجال النفط والتحويلات المالية، تدابير يقصد منها الأميركي دفع الشعب الإيراني للخروج إلى «الثورة» ضدّ النظام الإسلامي وتحقيق الهدف الاستراتيجي الأكبر لكلّ من أميركا و»إسرائيل» التي لا تجد لها عدواً يتقدّم على عدائها لإيران وحزب الله الذي تعتبره هي وأميركا ذراع إيران في كامل الإقليم.

ومع هذه التدابير الكيدية التي تسمّيها أميركا «عقوبات»، في حين انّ التسمية الموضوعية لها هي حرب اقتصادية عدوانية تشنّ على دولة مستقلة ذات سيادة، حرب تشنّ على أساس ذرائع واهية كاذبة لا تمتّ للحقيقة بصلة، حرب ترافقت انطلاقتها المشدّدة اليوم مع لائحة من الشروط تطلب أميركا من إيران تلبيتها إذا ارادت إعادة البحث والمراجعة لتلك المسماة «عقوبات»، شروط إذا تمّ تحليلها وتصنيفها والوقوف على القصد منها لأمكن القول بانّ أميركا تريد وبكلّ بساطة ان تقدم إيران على الانتحار وشطب نفسها عن الخريطة الاستراتيجية الإقليمية والدولية وتسليم قيادها الى أميركا، شروط تعدّد حتى بلغت الاثني عشر شرطاً يمكن ان تختصر بعناوين أربعة هي:

1 ـ تخلي إيران عن أيّ حق في المجال النووي مهما كانت طبيعته مدنية او عسكرية، بحثية او استثمارية.

2 ـ تخلي إيران عن أيّ حق بامتلاك القوة المناسبة للدفاع عن النفس وفقاً للأخطار القائمة وإسقاط معادلة الردع الاستراتيجي التي حمت إيران ومصالحها خلال السنوات الماضية وفتح الباب للوصاية الدولية الدائمة عليها.

3 ـ التخلي عن الثورة الإسلامية والتنكّر لمبادئها والتخلي عن قضية فلسطين وعن هدفها الاستدراجي بإقامة شرق أوسط لأهله.

4 ـ تخلي إيران عن فضائها الاستراتيجي الحيوي وشطب نفسها عن الخريطة الاستراتيجية الإقليمية، لتتمكّن أميركا من استباحة المنطقة دون أيّ تهديد او خطر يمنعها من السير قدُماً في «صفقة القرن».

ونظراً لخطورة الشروط الأميركية تلك على واقع إيران ومستقبلها وحق شعبها في السيادة والاستقلال، فإننا لا نرى مطلقاً أيّ فرصة للقبول بهذه الشروط او حتى مجرد مناقشتها، وأعتقد انّ من وضعها يعرف ذلك ويدرك بأنها مستحيلة التطبيق لأنه يعرف الطبيعة الإيرانية التي ترفض الذلّ والاستسلام وانْ كان يجهل او يتجاهل ذلك فعليه ان يتذكّر الأداء الإيراني خلال العقود الأربعة الماضية وكيف انّ إيران خرجت منتصرة من حروب بالحديد والنار او حروب اقتصادية بالتضييق والعزل والحصار.

ويبدو جلياً انّ إيران التي لا تسعى لعداء او مواجهة مع أحد لم يعتد عليها وتتمنّى أطيب العلاقات مع دول العالم باستثناء من يغتصب الحقوق ويعتدي على الآخرين كما هي حالها مع «إسرائيل». انّ إيران هذه لا تتهرّب من المواجهة إذا فرضت عليها كما هي الحال الآن مع أميركا التي تشنّ الحرب الاقتصادية القاسية واللئيمة عليها. ما يعني انّ إيران على عتبة مواجهة جديدة قد لا تكون سهلة، ولكن انطلاقاً من الأوراق التي قد تلعبها إيران في ميدان المواجهة الاقتصادية يطرح السؤال عن مصير المواجهة؟

وللإضاءة على ما يتوقع من نتائج المواجهة تلك يكون مفيداً ان نتوقف عند ما لدى إيران من مصادر القوة المؤثرة في المواجهة وهنا يمكن التوقف عند ما يلي:

أ ـ قوة النظام الإسلامي في إيران وشجاعة المسؤولين فيه، وقد كان مؤثراً جداً ان يتصدّى مرشد الثورة الإسلامية السيد علي خامنئي بنفسه معلناً انّ إيران ستنتصر اليوم في الموقعة الجديدة كما انتصرت في المواقع السابقة خلال الأعوام الأربعين الماضية، وعد يسنده على طاقات تملكها إيران في الداخل وعلاقات دولية متينة مع الخارج، ثم تأتي رسالة التحدي الأخرى من رئيس الجمهورية حسن روحاني بقوله: «سنبيع النفط ونخرق العقوبات».

ب ـ الإرادة والقوة التي يبديها الشعب الإيراني المتماسك خلف قيادته حيث أثبت هذا الشعب قدرة فائقة على التحمّل والمواجهة والتمسك بنظامه الإسلامي وهو يعرف انّ الثبات هنا يشكل وجهاً من وجوه الدفاع عن الثورة والاستقلال والسيادة، وطبعاً يريد الشعب ان يحفظ النعمة التي يعيشها في الأمن والسيادة والاستقلال، ولهذا جاءت التظاهرات العارمة التي عمّت المدن الإيرانية يوم بدء العقوبات الأميركية لتؤكد على هذه القوة الشعبية في المواجهة.

ج ـ قوة الاقتصاد الإيراني المبني على فلسفة «الاقتصاد المقاوم» وهو الذي تمكّن من رفع درجة الكفاية الذاتية الى مستويات عليا، وقد ساعدت سنوات الحصار والتضييق السابقة على رفع مستوى القوة والصلابة في هذا الاقتصاد الى حدّ جعله يلامس الاكتفاء الذاتي بنسبة تصل الى 85 .

د ـ العلاقات الإيرانية مع الخارج وهي علاقات تبادلية متوازنة في كتير من الوجوه، وبالتالي انّ المحافظة على هذه العلاقات لن يكون في مصلحة إيران فقط بل هي مصلحة لكلّ أطرافها، ولهذا شاهدنا كيف انّ كثيراً من الدول أعلنت مسبقاً رفضها للانصياع لـ «الأوامر» الأميركية بمقاطعة إيران، ما اجبر أميركا على إعفاء 8 دول من تدابيرها، الأمر الذي أدّى الى فشل أميركا في تنفيذ مقولة «صفر صادرات نفطية إيرانية».

ه ـ اجتراح البدائل المالية والاقتصادية وفتح الأبواب أمام العملات الأجنبية لتكون النقد البديل المعتمد. وهنا نشهد توسع التجارة الدولية بالمقايضة او بالعملة الوطنية للدول، وفي هذا إلحاق الضرر بالدولار وبأميركا وفتح الطريق أمام نظام مالي عالمي جديد لا يعتمد الدولار عموداً فقرياً فيه.

و ـ التدابير الاحتياطية الاستباقية المعلنة او المستترة التي اتخذتها إيران وحلفاؤها للالتفاف على العقوبات الأميركية وللخروج من النظام المالي والاقتصادي الأميركي والتي ستشكل صدمة لأميركا عندما تشهر او يكشف عنها.

ز ـ موقف الدول ذات المصلحة بعدم نجاح أميركا في حربها الاقتصادية ضدّ إيران مثل روسيا والهند والصين والاتحاد الأوروبي، لانّ هذه الدول والكيانات السياسية تعلم جيداً انّ نجاح أميركا في قراراتها الكيدية القسرية الأحادية سيشكل لها حافزاً لتطبيق هذه التدابير على أيّ كان في العالم وتعيد الى الأذهان مفهوم النظام العالمي الأحادي القطبية الذي تتربّع فيه أميركا على عرش العالم وحيدة دون منازع. وبالتالي يجد العقلاء انّ فشل الحرب الاقتصادية الأميركية على إيران اليوم يشكل مصلحة دولية وخدمة للقانون الدولي العالم.

وعلى هذا الأساس، ورغم كلّ التهويل الأميركي فإننا نرى انّ حظوظ نجاح أميركا في تدابيرها الاجرامية القسرية الكيدية ضدّ إيران، انّ حظوظ نجاحها منخفضة جداً في ظلّ شبه استعداد دولي تبديه إيران ودول قوية أخرى للمواجهة وكسر القرار الأميركي، وإذا كانت أميركا العاجزة عن تكرار التجربة العسكرية في أفغانستان او العراق او ليبيا في إيران، اذا كانت تظنّ انّ حربها الاقتصادية هذه ستعوّض لها خسارتها الاستراتيجية في سورية والمنطقة، فانّ ظنها في غير محله في مواجهة قوى صاعدة ومتغيّرات دولية لن تستطيع أميركا وقفها او احتواءها او حجب مفاعيلها والتصدّي لها، وسيكون فشل أميركا في الحرب الاقتصادية ضدّ إيران مدوياً وسالباً منها ورقة طالما هدّدت بها فرجف من تهدّده وأذعن لها. ولهذا نرى انّ العالم كله سيكون مشدود الأنظار الى ميدان هذه الحرب ينتظر نتائجها التي لن تتأخر أكثر من ثلاثة أشهر على ما نعتقد، فتجاح إيران في هذه المواجهة هو نجاح للعالم في وجهة الغطرسة الاستعمارية الأميركية.

أستاذ جامعي ـ باحث استراتيجي

Iran will break US sanctions: President Rouhani

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani gestures during a meeting with the directors and deputies of Iran's Ministry of Economic Affairs and Finance, in Tehran, the Iranian capital, on November 5, 2018. (Photo by IRNA)

Iran will break US sanctions: President Rouhani

Mon Nov 5, 2018 08:19AM

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani says Iran will break the sanctions imposed by the United States on Tehran as well as on countries that do business with it, shortly after a round of anti-Iran sanctions by America took effect.

Speaking at a meeting with the directors and deputies of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Finance on Monday, President Rouhani said, “We should break the sanctions very well, and we will do that.”

“With the help of the people, and the unity that exists in our society, we have to make the Americans understand that they must not use the language of force, pressure, and threats to speak to the great Iranian nation. They must be punished once and for all,” the Iranian president said.

The meeting and remarks came shortly after a new round of US sanctions took effect. The new bans target, among other things, Iran’s oil sales and Central Bank. More Iranian individuals have also been targeted by the US Department of the Treasury.

The US measures also include so-called secondary sanctions — punitive measures against third countries doing business with Iran.

Iranians trample on huge prints of US 100-dollar banknote images during a demonstration outside the former US embassy in the capital, Tehran, on November 4, 2018, to mark the anniversary of its takeover in 1979. (Photo by AFP)

US President Donald Trump introduced a first round of “primary” and “secondary” sanctions against Iran and its trade partners in August.

In May, he unilaterally pulled the US out of a multilateral deal with Iran. Two months later, footage reportedly came out in which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed he had personally convinced Trump to withdraw from the Iran deal.

Iran struck the deal with originally six world powers and the European Union (EU) back in 2015, agreeing to curb its nuclear program in return for the lifting of restrictions mainly on its oil sales.

Despite the US withdrawal, Iran has stayed in the deal but has stressed that the other parties to the agreement have to work to offset the negative impacts of the US pullout. Europe has been taking a range of measures to meet the Iranian demand for practical guarantees.

President Rouhani said Europe, too, was angry at US policies.

“Today, what the Americans are doing is merely pressure [ordinary] people, and no one else. It’s pressure [that is being put] on [the Iranian] people, other nations, other [foreign] businesses, and other governments,” he said. “Today, we are not the only ones who are angry at US policies; even European businesses and governments are angered by US policies, too.”

The US had since the May 8 withdrawal designated November 4 as the date when it aimed to bring Iran’s oil sales down to “zero.” However, three days ahead of that much-advertised deadline, the US granted waivers to eight major state buyers of Iranian crude.

President Rouhani said US officials had in fact conceded defeat.

“They (the Americans) saw that they couldn’t replace [Iranian oil on the market]; and even assuming they did not concede defeat and did not grant waivers to countries, we would still be able to sell our oil [because] we have adequate capabilities to do that,” the Iranian president said.

‘Europeans want Trump gone’

In his Monday remarks, President Rouhani also said he believed that America had never before seen as lawless an administration as that of Trump’s.

He said all US administrations had violated international law, but “these (current officials) score on top on the lawlessness rankings.”

“I don’t recall a group assuming power at the White House that was racist as these,” the Iranian president said.

“This is not [just] us who wish for the life of this incumbent administration in the US to become shorter and shorter; their (the Americans’) own European allies have told me in [private] meetings that that is one of their wishes,” President Rouhani said.

‘Dialog needs no intermediary, but US must honor promises’

President Rouhani said that when he was in New York for the annual meeting of the United Nations General Assembly in September, “the leaders of four major countries” sought to broker a meeting between him and the US president. He did not name those leaders.

The Iranian chief executive said, however, that there was no need for mediation.

“Honor your obligations first! We will speak then,” Rouhani said, addressing American officials. “We have no problem with talking. If our interlocutor honors its word and promises, what will be wrong with talking?”

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani meets with United Nations (UN) Secretary General Antonio Guterres in New York, the US, on September 26, 2018, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. (Photo by AFP)

He noted that the unilateral withdrawal from the Iran deal has isolated the US.

“Just look at how many countries support the US move and how many don’t,” he said. “The fact America insists on something and the entire European Union resists that same thing is nothing simple. That means victory for [our] diplomacy and foreign policy.”

Earlier, President Rouhani’s chief of staff announced that Trump had eight times requested a meeting with the Iranian president while he was in New York but had been rejected all eight times.

‘Iran in economic war with US’ & ‘Iran’s economic problems will end’

President Rouhani also said that the Islamic Republic was engaged in “an economic war” with the US.

“We have to stand and fight, and win,” he said. “God will make us win.”

The Iranian president also said the current economic problems faced by Iran will not continue.

“We will re-launch economic growth. No one should think the trend we have been seeing in the past several months will continue like that. This trend will be stopped.”

Iran’s national currency has lost some of its value against the US dollar over the past months. While the Iranian rial has partially rebounded, it continues to be at a low exchange rate against the US dollar.

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Trump’s Trade War And Escalation Of US-China Standoff

South Front

Tensions between the US and China are rising in the economic, diplomatic and military spheres. The economic policy of the administration of US President Donald Trump as well as the US strategy aimed at deterring growing Chinese military capabilities in the Asia-Pacific region and Chinese influence around the world in general have led to an open economic and diplomatic conflict between the two states.

Since the start of 2018, the US has imposed a series of tariffs on a wide range of Chinese goods and, according to President Trump, is ready to make further steps in order to defend US national interests.

On January 22, 2018, the US officially announced their decision to impose duties of as much as 30% on solar equipment made abroad, mostly in China. On July 6, the Trump administration kicked off 25% tariffs targeting $34 billion worth of Chinese goods. These tariffs affected water boilers, X-ray machine components, airplane tires and various other industrial parts. China immediately implemented retaliatory tariffs on its $34 billion list of US goods including soybeans, pork and electric vehicles. At that time, Beijing called the situation the “biggest trade war in economic history.” However, the situation continued to develop.

On August 23, the US imposed additional 25% tariffs on $16 billion worth of Chinese imports targeting such goods as electronic parts, plastics, chemicals, batteries, and railway cars. Beijing retaliated with its own fresh tariffs on $16 billion worth of additional imports from the US including fuel, steel products, cars and medical equipment.

On September 24, Washington imposed 10% tariffs on about $200 billion worth of imports from China, and threatened duties on about $257 billion more if China retaliated against the action. The Chinese Commerce Ministry answered that it had no choice but to retaliate against new US trade tariffs. Beijing hit back announcing 10% tariffs on $60 billion of US imports.

According to the Trump administration the tariffs are needed to protect US businesses, especially industry and intellectual property, and to reduce the trade deficit with China. Since the start of the “trade war”, US and Chinese top officials have held a series of meetings but have found no options to resolve the existing differences.

Furthermore, on September 20, the US sanctioned a Chinese defence agency and its director for purchasing Russian combat aircraft and S-400 surface-to-air missiles. On the same day, sanctions were imposed on 33 Russian individuals and entities. The State Department claimed that its actions weren’t intended to undermine the military capabilities or combat readiness of any country, but rather to punish Russia in response to its alleged interference in the US election process. In response, China’s Foreign Ministry said the action was unjustifiable and demanded the US withdraw the penalties or “bear the consequences.”

Thus, the conflict expanded into the military and political field. Speaking at a UN Security Council meeting on September 26, President Trump accused China of “attempting to interfere” in the upcoming 2018 election in the US against his administration. Nonetheless, the US president provided no evidence for his claims. Additionally, the Trump administration approved the sale of $330 million of military equipment to Taiwan. This move caused another round of tensions with China.

“We urge the US side … to immediately cancel this deal and cut off military ties with Taiwan to avoid doing serious damage to China-US relations, peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait and cooperation between the US and China in important areas,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang stated, commenting on the issue.

The Taiwan issue has been a focal point of US-Chinese tensions since the very start of the Trump presidency. For example, on December 2, 2016, shortly after his election win, Trump spoke with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen by phone discussing politics, economy, and security in the Asia-Pacific region. This was the first time since 1979 that a US President or President-elect had directly spoken to his Taiwanese counterpart. Trump openly declared that his administration would use the Taiwan issue as a bargaining chip to get a better trade deal with Beijing. The idea that China and Taiwan are part of the same country also known as The One-China policy has been the basis of US-China dialogue concerning the island since the 1970s.

The balance of power in Asia Pacific in general and particularly in the South China Sea and East China Sea are also a hot point in US-China relations. The US is actively working to deter the growing Chinese influence on military and diplomatic levels. The US Armed Forces send warships and jets close to Chinese military facilities built on artificial islands, and hold drills near the contested area. The Chinese side is not going to abandon its South China Strategy and responds in a similar manner.

In late September the US sent its nuclear capable B-52 bombers to the South China Sea as well as to the East China Sea.

On September 26, the US consulate in Hong Kong stated that China had denied a request for a port call from the U.S. Navy’s amphibious assault ship the USS Wasp.

On September 30, the Arleigh Burke guided-missile destroyer USS Decatur had an encounter with a Chinese warship, with the two vessels being as close as 45 yards to each other, according to US Navy officials. The US warship was conducting freedom of navigation operations in the vicinity of Gaven Reef in the South China Sea when the incident occurred.

In early October, the New York Times reported, citing a US official that China had canceled an annual meeting with US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis planned for mid-October in Beijing.

The relations between the US and China appear to be tense and preconditions exist which may cause them to worsen in the near future. Currently, there are two main directions in which the current situation might develop: an escalation scenario and a deconfliction scenario.

In case of the escalation scenario, US-Chinese relations would deteriorate rapidly with the Trump administration taking further steps in the framework of its “trade war” against Beijing. If China were able to resist this pressure more or less successfully, the diplomatic and economic pressure imposed would give a boost to the further regionalization of the world. China, Russia and other powers affected would have to contribute additional effort to develop an economic model, which would allow them to counter pressure from the US. This system would actively rely on regional economic ties and trade in national currencies. China, Russia, the EU, Iran, Turkey are already actively working to develop such mechanisms. On September 24, the EU, Russia and China agreed with Iran on a new payment system to trade despite the US sanctions. The joint statement said that they were determined “to protect the freedom of their economic operators to pursue legitimate business with Iran.”

At the same time, Turkey, China, Russia and India have openly moved to make payments on key contracts, especially in the military industrial cooperation field, in their national currencies as well as boosting their regional cooperation. Thus, the US sanctions policy became a factor undermining the current global economic model guaranteeing its dominance.

If the increase of the US pressure on China were to succeed and Beijing and its key partner Moscow were isolated, this would deepen significantly the economic crisis in China, which is expected by some analysts in the upcoming years. Chinese economic development would be stopped or even thrown back. In turn, the US thanks to its industry and postindustrial sector of the economy would make a leap forward maintaining its economic hegemony.

Nevertheless, this scenario would be possible only if the Chinese-Russian economic, military and diplomatic cooperation were to be undermined as a result of the smart policy pursued by Washington or for some other reason. Symptoms of this US soft power policy designed to undermine Russia-China cooperation can be observed in the Russian and Chinese media sphere. Multiple Russian experts more or less affiliated with the US ideologically or economically, through grants and funding, promote the idea that Russia should limit its allegedly “unprofitable” cooperation with China and even put effort into deterring Chinese economic and diplomatic policy in the region. On the other hand, some Chinese experts promote an idea that Russia is a weak state and should not be seen as an equal partner.

It should be noted that China employing its foreign diplomatic and economic policies does not show any kind of altruism. In fact, it pursues its economic and political goals in the most profitable way. However, this approach is common for any world power defending its national interests. And currently, it’s in Chinese national interests to maintain a mutually beneficial co-operation with Russia and other independent powers.

The de-escalation scenario in US-Chinese relations is possible if the Trump administration were to reshape its policy towards Beijing and strike a new political economic deal with the Chinese leadership. So, Washington would have to lift a part, if not all, of the imposed restrictions and maybe soften its policy on China in some points. China would accept such a deal, but would not abandon its goal to dominate in the Asia-Pacific region and then become a superpower. Thus, Beijing would be using this deal to strengthen its economic and political positions in Eurasia and around the world.

In turn, the Washington establishment would seek to employ a divide and rule approach to undermine ties between Moscow and Beijing. If this approach were to succeed, the US would be able to deal with its key competitors one at a time.

In any of these scenarios, military, diplomatic and economic tensions would grow around the world. The main reason for this is the approach of the Washington establishment, which is steadily undermining the global order established after World War 2. On the other hand, the actions of the Trump administration have their own logic. It seeks to stop the economic development and to limit the influence of their key global and regional competitors, like China, Russia and Iran. In light of the existing mid and long term threats to US dominance, Washington seems to be determined to use the current complicated situation around the world to strengthen the US national economy, in particular its industry, to solve the social and economic problems caused by previous US administrations and to deal with its geopolitical opponents using all existing means and measures.

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UNO : birth of the post-Western world

Thierry Meyssan

Thierry MeyssanPolitical consultant, President-founder of the Réseau Voltaire (Voltaire Network). Latest work in French – Sous nos Yeux. Du 11-Septembre à Donald Trump (Right Before our Eyes. From 9/11 to Donald Trump).

DAMASCUS (SYRIA)
The administration of the UNO had been hoping for a clash between the pro- and anti-Trump factions during the General Assembly. What actually happened was very different. While several States, including France, denounced the methods of the resident of the White House, Russia undertook an analysis of the Western alliance. According to Moscow, most of our current problems are due to the desire of the old colonial powers to conserve their domination of the rest of the world – at whatever the cost. In order to overtake them, a formidable coalition has been born.
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The hearing of the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly.

Despite appearances, the procession of the heads of State and government, or Ministers for Foreign Affairs, at the General Assembly of the United Nation was not without purpose. It’s true that most of them, having little to say, addressed their interior public opinions by blaming UNO incompetence and calling for a respect for the law. But many of their interventions went straight to the heart of the matter – how to resolve the disputes between States and guarantee peace?

The first three days were marked by the speech by Donald Trump (United States) and the responses by Emmanuel Macron (France) and Hassan Rohani (Iran). But all these complications were shattered on the fourth day with the intervention by Sergueï Lavrov (Russia), when he presented the map of the post-Western world.

World collapse according to Donald Trump

President Trump, whose speeches are usually extremely disorganised, had on this occasion prepared a finely structured text [1]. Distinguishing himself from his predecessors, he affirmed that he gave privilege to « independence and cooperation », rather than « governance, control and international domination » (in other words, his national interests rather than those of the « American Empire »). He followed by enumerating the readjustments of the system he had set in motion.

- The USA has not declared commercial war on China, but is in the process of re-establishing its balance of payments. Simultaneously, the US is trying to restore an international market founded on free market competition, as demonstrated by their position in the energy sector. The US has become a major exporters of hydrocarbons, and would therefore benefit from high prices, but it opposes the existence of an intergovernmental cartel, the OPEC, and is calling for lower prices.
- It is opposed to the structures and treaties of globalisation (that is to say, from the point of view of the White House, transnational financial imperialism), notably the UN Human Rights Council, the International Criminal Court, and UNRWA. Of course, this is not a claim for torture (which was legitimised by George Bush Jr. in his day) nor crime, nor starving the Palestinians, but the destruction of the organisations which instrumentalise their object in order to achieve other goals.
- Concerning the migrations from Latin America to the United States, and also within the interior of the South American continent itself, the US intends to end them by treating the problem at its roots. For the White House, the problem results from the rules imposed by globalist Treaties, notably NAFTA. President Trump has therefore negotiated a new agreement with Mexico which links exports to respect for the social rights of Mexican workers. He intends to return to the original Monroe doctrine – meaning that the multinationals will no longer be able to interfere in the governing of the continent.

The reference to the Monroe doctrine merits an explanation, since the expression suggests US colonialism at the beginning of the 20th century. Donald Trump is an admirer of the foreign policies of two very controversial personalities, Presidents Andew Jackson (1829-1837) and Richard Nixon (1969-74). The Monroe doctrine (1823) was elaborated during the intervention of a man who at that time was no more than General Jackson in the Spanish colony of Florida. At that time, James Monroe wanted to protect the American continent from European imperialism. It was the « era of good feelings ». He therefore pledged that the United States would not intervene in Europe if Europe stopped intervening in the Americas. It was only three quarters of a century later, notably with Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909), that the Monroe doctrine would be used as a screen to hide US imperialism in Latin America.

The defence of the old world by Emmanuel Macron and Hassan Rohani

In a strange inversion of roles, French President Emmanuel Macron presented himself as the European Barack Obama facing up to the US Charles De Gaulle, as played by Donald Trump. Macron symbolically declared war, stating: « Let us sign no more commercial agreements with powers which do not respect the Paris Agreement » (which means no more agreements with the United States) – an odd way to defend multilateralism!

The French President began with Donald Trump’s implicit assessment – the crisis of the current « liberal Westphalian order » [2]. This means the crisis of nation-States who are badly shaken by economic globalisation. But this strategy was only intended to more efficiently oppose the solution proposed by the White House, which he qualified as the « law of the strongest ». He therefore described the French solution, « based around three principles – the first is the respect for sovereignty, the very foundation of our charter; the second is the reinforcement of our regional cooperation; and the third is the implementation of more robust international guarantees ».

But then his speech zoomed off into the stratosphere to end in a lyrical exaltation, during which Emmanuel Macron allowed himself a moment of juvenile hypocrisy reaching to the limits of schizophrenia.

- As an example of « the respect for sovereignty », he called for a refusal to « substitute oneself for the Syrian people » when we decide who will become their leader… while at the same time forbidding President el-Assad to present himself for election by his compatriots.

- Concerning the « reinforcement of regional cooperation », he mentioned the support offered by the African Union to the French anti-terrorist operation in the Sahel. But this operation was in reality only the land-based wing of a larger plan directed by AfriCom, for which the US army supplied the airborne wing. The African Union itself has no real army as such, and acts only to legalise a colonial operation. Similarly, the sums invested for the development of the Sahel – which the French President quoted not in Euros, but in dollars – mixes true African projects with foreign aid for development. The impotence of this endeavour has long been clear to all.

- Concerning « the implementation of more robust international guarantees », he announced the struggle against inequalities which should be addressed by the G7 summit in Biarritz. This was simply a way of affirming, once again, Western leadership over the rest of the world, Russia and China included. He claimed that « the time when a club of rich countries could alone define the balance of the world is long over », and promised to … present a report of the decisions taken by the major Western powers before the next General Assembly. Again, he proclaimed that the « G7 should be the motor » of the struggle against inequality undertaken by the UNO.

Speaking in his turn, Iranian President Cheikh Hassan Rohani described in detail the way in which the White House is destroying, one by one, the principles of international Law [3].

He reminded us that the 5+1 agreement (JCPoA) had been validated by the Security Council, which had called upon numerous institutions for their support (resolution 2231), and that Donald Trump’s USA had withdrawn from the agreement, negating the signature of his predecessor and the principle of the continuity of state. He emphasised that, as attested by twelve consecutive AIEA reports, Iran has conformed and is still conforming to its obligations. He expressed his indignation at President Trump’s call to disobey the UNO resolution and the threat he has addressed against those who respect it.

He finished by recalling a few facts – Iran fought Saddam Hussein, the Taliban and Daesh before the United States (which was at that time supporting them) – one way of emphasising the fact that for a long time, the about-faces by the USA do not correspond to the logic of Law, but to the logic of its own hidden interests.

Sergueï Lavrov presents the post-Western world

This debate, not for or against the United States, but for or against Donald Trump, was organised around two main arguments:
- The White House is destroying the system which has so well benefited the international financial elites (Macron).
- The White House is no longer even pretending to respect international Law (Rohani).

For the Russian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Sergueï Lavrov, this debate hides a problem which goes even deeper. « On one hand, we see the reinforcement of the polycentric principles of the world order , (…) the aspiration of the people to preserve their sovereignty and work with models of development which are compatible with their national, cultural and religious identities. On the other, we see the desire of several Western states to preserve their self-proclaimed status as “world leaders” and to hinder the objective and irreversible process of the establishment of multipolarity », he stated [4].

From that point, it is no longer pertinent for Moscow to argue with President Trump, nor even the United States, but with the Westerners in general. Sergueï Lavrov went as far as drawing a parallel with the Munich Agreements of 1938. At that time, France and the United Kingdom signed an alliance with Germany and Italy. It’s true that this event is remembered today in Western Europe as an act of cowardice on the part of France and Britain faced with the demands of the Nazis, but it remains engraved in Russian memory as the decisive step which triggered the Second World War. While Western historians seek to decide who took this decision and who followed the movement, Russian historians note only one thing – that none of the Western Europeans assumed their responsibilities.

Extending his study, Sergueï Lavrov no longer denounced the infringements to the Law, but to international structures. He observed that the Westerners attempt to force the people to enter into military alliances against their will, and threaten certain States who wish to chose their partners themselves. Alluding to the Jeffrey Feltman affair [5], he denounced the attempts to control the administration of the UNO, and force it to assume the role which should be played by the member-States, and finally, to use the General Secretariat to manipulate them.

He noted the desperate nature of these attempts, observing, for example, the inefficiency of fifty years of the US blockade of Cuba. He stigmatised the British desire to judge and condemn without trial by using their rhetoric of « highly probable ».

Sergueï Lavrov concluded by emphasising that all this Western disorder did not prevent the rest of the world from cooperating and developing. He recalled the « Greater Eurasian Partnership », mentioned at the Valdaï Forum in 2016 by President Putin to complete President Xi’s « Belt and Road Initiative ». This vast initiative, which was at first given a chilly reception by China, is now supported by the Collective Security Treaty, the Eurasian Economic Union, the Commonwealth of Independent States, BRICS, and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. Counter-propositions by Australia, Japan and the European Union were still-born.

While Western representatives have the habit of announcing their projects in advance, and discussing them, Russian diplomats only speak of them when they are already under way and are sure to succeed.

To sum up, the strategy of the containment of Russia and China, dreamed up by British deputy Halford J. Mackinder [6] and clarified by US National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzeziński [7], has failed. The world’s centre of gravity is being displaced to the East, not against the Westerners, but by their fault [8].

Drawing the first practical conclusions from these analyses, Syrian Vice-Prime Minister, Walid al-Moallem, demanded on the following day at the tribune of the General Assembly the immediate withdrawal of the occupying troops of the United States, France and Turkey [9].

Translation
Pete Kimberley

[1] “Remarks by Donald Trump to the 73rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly”, by Donald Trump, Voltaire Network, 25 September 2018.

[2] « Discours d’Emmanuel Macron devant la 73e séance de l’Assemblée générale des Nations unies », par Emmanuel Macron, Réseau Voltaire, 25 septembre 2018.

[3] “Remarks by Hassan Rohani to the 73rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly”, by Hassan Rohani, Voltaire Network, 25 September 2018.

[4] “Remarks by Sergey Lavrov to the 73rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly”, by Sergey Lavrov, Voltaire Network, 28 September 2018.

[5] “Germany and the UNO against Syria”, “How the administration of the UNO is organising the war”, by Thierry Meyssan, Translation Pete Kimberley, Voltaire Network, 28 January 2016 and 5 September 2018.

[6] “The geographical pivot of history”, Halford J. Mackinder, The Geographical Journal, 1904, 23, pp. 421–37.

[7The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives, Zbigniew Brzeziński, Basic Books. 1997.

[8] “The Geopolitics of American Global Decline”, by Alfred McCoy, Tom Dispatch (USA) , Voltaire Network, 22 June 2015.

[9] “Remarks by Walid Al-Moualem to the 73rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly”, by Walid Al-Moualem, Voltaire Network, 29 September 2018.

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