Donald Trump, First Lady Melania Test Positive for “ٍSino Virus”-UPDATED

Donald Trump, First Lady Melania Test Positive for Covid-19

Donald Trump, First Lady Melania Test Positive for Covid-19

By Staff, Agencies

US President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump tested positive for Coronavirus; the President announced in a tweet early Friday morning.

“Tonight, @FLOTUS and I tested positive for COVID-19. We will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately. We will get through this TOGETHER!” Trump tweeted shortly before 1 am Friday.

Trump had said earlier in the night that he planned to quarantine.

“Hope Hicks, who has been working so hard without even taking a small break, has just tested positive for Covid 19. Terrible! The First Lady and I are waiting for our test results. In the meantime, we will begin our quarantine process!” Trump tweeted Thursday night.

Hicks traveled with Trump multiple times recently, including to the debate in Cleveland on Tuesday, and was seen boarding Marine One, along with several other of Trump’s closest aides — Jared Kushner, Dan Scavino and Nicholas Luna — none of whom wore masks, on Wednesday as Trump was heading to a campaign rally in Minnesota.

“She did test positive, I just heard about this. She tested positive. She’s a hard worker. Lot of masks, she wears masks a lot but she tested positive. Then I just went out with a test. I’ll see — you know, because we spent a lot of time — and the first lady just went out with a test also. So, whether we quarantine or whether we have it, I don’t know,” Trump said during a call-in appearance on Fox News’ “Hannity.”

While it’s unclear what the President’s “quarantine process” will look like, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines state that a 14-day quarantine should take place after the last known exposure to someone who has tested positive for Covid-19. This is because the incubation period for the novel coronavirus can be up to two weeks.

News of Hicks’ positive test comes amid continued efforts by the Trump administration to blatantly disregard science and best public health practices during the pandemic, with West Wing staff actively eschewing masks and the President defying recommendations from his own coronavirus task force, proceeding with a busy schedule of packed campaign rallies. Trump and his key aides have shown little interest in changing practices of his staff to meet the needs of the moment.

Trump, in his Fox News interview, speculated that Hicks could have contracted the virus from an interaction with a supporter.

Related Video – A must see

The Twilight of Neo-liberalism?

The Twilight of Neo-liberalism?

by Francis Lee for the Saker Blog

It speaks volumes about the gravity of the current political and economic situation that the leading US investment bank Goldman-Sachs has seen fit to issue a sombre warning.

‘’Goldman Sachs Group Inc. put a spotlight on the suddenly growing concern over inflation in the U.S. by issuing a bold warning on Tuesday that the dollar is in danger of losing its status as the world’s reserve currency. With Congress closing in on another round of fiscal stimulus to shore up the pandemic-ravaged economy, and the Federal Reserve having already swelled its balance sheet by about $2.8 trillion this year, Goldman strategists cautioned that U.S. policy is triggering currency “debasement fears” that could end the dollar’s reign as the dominant force in global foreign-exchange markets …

There are many factors pushing the gold price higher, including fear of increasing political uncertainty, rising concerns involving another spike in COVID-19 infections in the country, increasing government debt, rising inflation, and concerns that the US dollar is seeing a new downtrend to the Chinese Yuan.’’ (1)

The fact that gold is being spoken about by the financial cognoscenti is in itself significant. Gold bugs (like me!) have long been regarded by orthodox academic economists and business financiers as being beyond the pale in terms of their relevance to current economic and financial issues. But, as with everything, times change, fashion changes, paradigm shifts take place – such is the way of the world.

At the time of writing gold has, after the 2012 engineered smackdown, been ascending remorselessly toward its present gold price of $1972,00.00 a whisker away from $2000.00 per oz. This latter price has an important psychological significance – a tipping point for both investors and owners of this particular asset. The new economic order established paper assets – representations of wealth, which replaced real wealth – i.e., gold. This was the beginning of the new epoch, a turbulent period now reaching what appears to be a climax. The increasing economic disorder has become chaotic since that date as fundamental and seemingly intractable problems began to manifest themselves.

The Nonage

In order to maintain a semblance of vitality, western capitalism entered into a period of steroid-enforced growth based upon increasingly unorthodox methods. This inflexion point took place in 1971 when in a televised broadcast Richard Nixon took the US off the gold standard and introduced a fiat standard based purely upon the US dollar. This was a little later supplemented by the US-Saudi agreement whereby oil would be fixed to a dollar price. At a stroke, these two events destroyed the Bretton Woods system of a dollar-gold standard with the $ convertible with gold at $35 per oz. The old order was finished; a new ideological economic regimen was rolled out. When and how long it might last is a matter of speculation.

In this Brave New World and following the lead of the US most of the rest of the world economies followed suit. This was a pivotal moment in economic history. But, whisper it softly, there were deep-going structural weaknesses initially hidden from view in the new economy which would eventually become increasingly problematic. The global economy had become increasingly dependent on expanding debt levels and on the expansion of fictitious capital. This was all part of what was to become known as neoliberalism, globalization or increasing financialization, call it what you will, it amounts to the same thing. [2]

Fictitious capital, consists of layers of financial paper assets – but it should be understood that these ‘assets’ are only symbols of value, not real values. For example, company shares which are traded like goods and services do not, in the same way, embody value. They are tokens which represent part ownership of a company and the potential distribution of future profits in the form of dividends. The paper or electronic certificate itself is not a genuine value it is only a claim on value. Real value is the production of goods and services such as cars, haircuts, IPhones, hotels and eating out, aroma therapy, shoes, books … and so forth, in a productive economy. This as opposed to rising share/stock prices which are often presented as a healthy economy, but the amount of money a share/stock changes hand for says nothing definitive about the value of a company’s assets or about its productive capacity.

John Stuart Mill once commented in this respect.

‘’The ordinary progress of a society which increases in wealth, is at all times tending to augment the incomes of landlords; to give them both a greater amount and a greater proportion of the wealth of the community, independently of any trouble or outlay incurred by themselves. They grow richer, as it were in their sleep, without working, risking, or economizing. What claim have they, on the general principle of social justice, to this accession of riches? In what would they have been wronged if society had, from the beginning, reserved the right of taxing the spontaneous increase of rent, to the highest amount required by financial exigencies’’ (3)

Capital movements into and out of existing assets was not necessarily productive investment but mainly pure speculation. And speculation itself was driven by increasing levels of cheap debt, both sovereign and private. This process may be observed in the Fed’s force-feeding new monies into the economy at which corporations use this largesse to buy-back their own stock thus enhancing their market price. Insofar as it might be produced it becomes clear that finance led growth is based upon trickle-up economics in which the gains of the wealthy come directly at the expense of ordinary people. Financialization involves the extraction of economic rent from the circulation (of capital) process, as well as patents, copyrights and land/property.

The United States demonstrates these tendencies very clearly and its interest rates remain the dominant influence across the mature economies. This is due to the dollar’s role as a reserve status, i.e., the world money. But there has been a long trajectory of decline in real commercial bank interest rates which averaged 7% during the 1980s, 5.5% during the 1990s 4% during the 2000s for the period leading up to the financial crash of 2008 and have been below 2% and even lower ever since. They are now being held down to zero or even minus interest levels and functioning as free monies for the speculating community or corporations who wish to avail themselves to this monetary largesse to increase their market capitalisation. Demonstrably the US and the rest of the mature economies have been undergoing a secular decline since the 1970s which has eventuated in what seems to be a policy of demented money printing.

Moreover, financialisation has not to any extent been adept at creating more wealth for all, but instead has channelled this wealth to particular favoured groups. This is evidenced with the GDP metric which is only measured in terms of output and not the distribution of and ownership of wealth produced. The result is, in short, that the rich have got considerably richer and the rest have either stagnated or declined. And this has not been an accident.

Maturity and Decline

The present crisis in the global economy has been brought about by the culmination of a number of variables which taken as a whole have been responsible for the present impasse. All the early promises of a new world order of stability, prosperity and peace which were touted in the 80s 90s and 00s never lived up to their billing. The then UK Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, boasted that under ‘New Labour’s’ stewardship the boom-bust cycles of both the domestic and world economies had been banished. University of Chicago’s Professor Robert Lucas claimed that macro-economics had ‘’solved for all practical purposes’’ the problem of economic depressions. In the real world, however, the entire period from 1971 and well into the 21st century was punctuated by a series of rolling bubbles and crises: the 1987 stock market crash, 1990, the collapse of the junk bond market, the 1994 great bond market massacre together with the Tequila crisis in Mexico, the 1997 Asian financial crisis, the 1998 collapse of Long Term Capital Management, the 1998 default in Russia, and the 2000-02 dot-com bubble crash and finally the 2008 blowout. These once in a lifetime events seem to occur every year or so.

But the economic/financial powers that be (PTB) ensconced in the ivory towers of University Economics departments and Editorials in the Washington Post, Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal and Economist were having none of it. As these esteemed ladies and gentlemen saw it the new paradigm was going through a ’tricky’ teething stage and all would be well in the fullness of time, or so we were persuaded. It is difficult to know whether or not these people actually believed what they were articulating or were just plain stupid. But their theories at times actually verged upon a timeless circulation of axioms which are true by definition. It has been noted that,

‘’Academic economics has become a disaster and disgrace … Not only did the academic economists fail to see the great 2008 implosion coming, they weren’t even looking in the right direction. And having been surprised by its arrival, they had little to say about its implications – the greatest event to have befallen the capitalist system since WW2 … although there are shining exceptions, most academic economists, whilst clinging to the idea that their subject is relevant and of interest to the wider world, in fact practice a modern form of medieval scholasticism – of no use to man or beast. The output of this activity consists of articles entombed in ‘scholarly’ journals usually about questions of startling irrelevance, badly thought out and appallingly badly written, littered with jargon and liberally dosed with mathematics, destined to be read by no-one outside of a narrow coterie, and increasingly, not even by them.’’ (5) Agreed!

The Interregnum 2008-2020

The Great Financial Crisis (GFC) of 2008 has shown that perpetual growth and progress is an illusion. Moreover this was the first leg of the mega-crisis of which the second leg is now looming. Recent indicators include structural unemployment which is around 15% in the US – but this figure is almost always understated: See John Williams’ excellent repudiations in Shadow Government Statistics. Additionally there has been the growth of semi-employment in the ‘gig’ economy, short-term contracts, non-unionized labour, and illegal (often foreign) presence in itinerant employment and workers from the EU’s southern and eastern peripheries who are temporarily employed on farms during the summer for lack of UK workers. Many of these workers have no insurance or medical cover and live hand-to-mouth on a daily basis.

Unprecedented debt levels, chronic levels of debt-driven consumption are now common-place and the modern workforce is increasingly stratified. There are well-paid jobs for a small portion of those with requisite skills, but the vast majority of new employment is in the low paid service sector, such as retail, leisure, hospitality, security, aged care, and health care … youth unemployment remains high, even where work can be found starting incomes are around 10 to 12 percent lower than they were in 2007.

This situation was not only present in the UK but on the European continent also.

Millions of Europeans in temporary, part-time or bogus self-employed contracts can only find insecure and badly paid jobs, despite the healthy economic climate. That is the price of deregulating labour markets, Investigate Europe reports. This precarious set of labour conditions was created intentionally.

‘’The misery of bad jobs has many faces. It can take the form of work contracts without health or social insurance; it can be part-time jobs, which don’t pay enough to live on. Or those affected are kept dangling from one temporary contract to the next, or they have to eke out a living as bogus self-employed and contract workers. The methods vary from one country’s national legislation to that of another, but the outcome is always the same: millions of EU citizens have to get by with insecure and badly paid jobs, offering them no prospects.’’ (6)

2020 – the Debacle

Thus the world enters the second decade of the 21st century totally unprepared for what’s coming and with a leadership bereft of any plans or ideas of how to handle the situation. GDP growth is in unprecedented negative territory pretty much everywhere. In the United States, the birthplace of the Washington Consensus, GDP growth rate fell by no less than -32.9% and GDP annual growth rate by -9.5%. In Germany GDP growth rate fell by -10.1% and annual GDP growth rate by -11.7%. In China GDP growth rate was positive 11.5% and annual GDP growth rate was 3.2%. In the euro area GDP growth rate was -12.1% and annual growth rate was -15%. These are quite extraordinary figures which will need to sink in before any reasoned judgements are made. One look at the US situation is hardly comforting however.

‘’On Thursday, the Labor Department reported that 1.43 million new claims for unemployment benefits were filed last week, the 19th straight week that new claims have exceeded one million. After declining for months, new claims have risen over the last two weeks.

The number of workers claiming continuing unemployment benefits also rose from 16.1 million to 17 million for the week ending July 18. In addition, 830,000 new claims were filed for federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, which covers self-employed, gig workers and others who do not qualify for traditional jobless benefits.

Under these conditions, the $600-a-week federal supplement to state unemployment benefits is running out today for an estimated 20 million workers. Overnight, millions will see their incomes cut by two-thirds, from an average of $921 a week in May to about $321 a week. In some states, the theft of this lifeline will be even worse. In Oklahoma, jobless aid will be cut by 93 percent to $44 a week.

It is a measure of the precarious situation American workers faced even before the pandemic that the weekly supplemental assistance and the paying out of a one-time $1,200-per-person “stimulus” check led to a 45 percent increase in US personal income in the second quarter. Seventy percent of those who returned to work in June suffered an income loss by doing so.

Last week, the moratorium on evictions expired for about 18 million renters—more than a third of the 44 million total US renter households—who live in buildings with mortgages backed by the federal government. With rent bills accumulated over the last four months now due, housing advocates predict a “tsunami” of evictions, with half a million households in Los Angeles alone threatened.

Millions in the US are also going hungry. According to a US Census Bureau survey, food insecurity last week reached its highest reported level since May, with almost 30 million Americans reporting they had not had enough to eat at some point in the seven days through July 21.’’ (7)

Mindful of the impact of the Corona Virus and not wishing to rush to any rash judgement, the fact still remains that the world economy was already in a parlous and brittle condition, long over-due for a big correction which was going to happen with or without the complication of the Corona Virus. All the sugar-coated promises made at the turn of the century by various politicians, journalists, and world leaders regarding the new economy, a world-wide system of prosperity peace, harmony and growth turned out to be fairy-tales best suited to infants – and infants are precisely what our leaders seem to think we are.

Speculating about future developments is difficult since we are in the early phases of the downturn. What we do know is that it is like most previous downturns but beyond bad and seemingly unprecedented. Events can only be assessed retrospectively. It is now also clear that hegemonic turbo-capitalism and its tendency toward imperialism and war is not congruent for further human development and even perhaps life on this planet. This seems patently obvious to anyone who actually thinks about these issues. We (humanity) is now at a critical juncture in history. But the world has postponed, indefinitely, dealing decisively with the challenges. Anyone who questions the present course is held up to ridicule as a professional permanent pessimist, or worse. Nothing is done, and we ignore reality. Unfortunately as the Russian/American writer Ayn Rand – who is not one of my favourite writers – declared. “We can ignore reality, but we cannot ignore the consequences of ignoring reality.”

Enough said. Francis Lee

NOTES

(1)Bloomburg – 27-July-2020

(2) Phillip Mullan – Creative Destruction – pp57/5 – ’In addition to the direct contribution of the fire sector to raising GDP artificially, the explosive growth in debt and other features of financialization a major, probably a bigger role.

(3) The notion of economic rent – made famous by David Ricardo and his theory of ground-rent – is based upon the extraction of rent from particular income streams or other assets, including land. Monopolistic rents are those which contain price levels which are over and above the costs of production.

(4) J.S.Mill – The Principles of Political Economy – 1848

(5) Roger Bootle – The Trouble with Markets – pp.232-233

(6) Tagesspiegel – Berlin – 25-10-2017

(7) World-Wide Socialist Website – 31-July-2020

The Vaccine Race Is The Next Phase Of The COVID World Order

Source

By Andrew Korybko

American political analyst

24 JULY 2020

The Vaccine Race Is The Next Phase Of The COVID World Order

The head of the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) warned last week that the world is at risk of being further divided by the forthcoming COVID-19 vaccines that leading Great Powers are expected to publicly unveil in the coming future, which would make the vaccine race the next phase of the COVID World Order that’s quickly changing life as everyone knows it, including International Relations.

Welcome To World War C

The planet is in the midst of what the author previously referred to as World War C, which is his neologism for the full-spectrum paradigm-changing processes that were catalyzed as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak and the global community’s uncoordinated efforts to contain it. This is part of what he also earlier called the COVID World Order, which specifically relates to the everyday changes brought about by this development but which are also quickly making their impact felt in the sphere of International Relations as World War C continues.

The Vaccine Race

The latest escalation in this unconventional competition between states occurred last week when Canada, the UK, and the US accused Russian hackers of trying to steal information about a British vaccine, a charge that Moscow promptly denied. The day after, the head of the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), Kirill Dmitriev, warned the Financial Times in an exclusive interview that the world is at risk of being further divided by the forthcoming COVID-19 vaccines that leading Great Powers are expected to unveil in the coming future.

This would in effect make the vaccine race the next phase of the COVID World Order as countries scramble to carve out exclusive markets for what’s being presented as their life-saving product. It’s neither here nor there how anyone personally feels about vaccines or even the reported lethality of COVID-19 since it should be objectively recognized that this epidemiological situation has already been politicized and is being resultantly instrumentalized for grand strategic purposes.

Necessary Disclaimer

To be clear, the author believes that COVID-19 is real, it’s lethal for certain at-risk members of the population, and is reportedly highly contagious. He also recommends that the reader use their personal discretion in deciding which guidelines to apply to protect themselves, their families, and everyone else in society. Still, this doesn’t mean that governments aren’t fearmongering about COVID-19 in order to expand their powers at home and abroad since that’s precisely the case when it comes to the latest accusations against Russia.

Reputational Ramifications

On the surface, the claims are predictable enough since they correspond with the Mainstream Media’s narrative about the so-called “Russian threat” that’s supposedly lurking behind every corner just waiting to undermine the West at each turn. Accusing Russia of trying to steal vaccine information makes sense from their perspective since many of their people are already scared to death of this disease and it thus serves their governments’ interests to make it seem like Russia is somehow trying to sabotage their inoculation efforts.

There might be a more nefarious motive behind all of this than just attempting to ruin Russia’s international reputation, however, since the country’s rivals are likely thinking a few steps ahead as usual. Firstly, they aim to protect their own reputations at home and abroad since they’ll understandably be embarrassed if the same country that they tried to convince everyone else was “backwards” and “isolated” ends up releasing a COVID-19 vaccine before they do. Saying that Russia stole it helps them “save face” a bit.

No Western Vaccine, No Western Travel?

Secondly, peddling this false narrative could create the basis to sanction those countries that buy Russia’s forthcoming vaccine or receive it free of charge as humanitarian aid. The US and its allies can claim that they’re receiving something that was produced with stolen trade secrets and that they should instead buy “the real thing” from them. If those states don’t comply, then their citizens might be banned from traveling to Canada, the UK, and/or the US if those governments claim that Russia’s vaccine “doesn’t work” or “isn’t reliable”.

To put it another way, the Western countries can implement blanket travel bans on the basis that they can’t be certain that foreign guests are inoculated against COVID-19 unless they receive one of their or their allies’ vaccines. Considering how much more closely connected most of the world is to the Western economies as opposed to Russia’s, this might be sufficient enough of a threat to force their governments to comply under pane of suffering unacceptable economic damage if trade is predictably affected as a result of these bans.

Challenging China

Looking ahead, this strategy might be experimented with against Russia in order to gauge its success prior to modifying it for use against China. The challenge there, however, is much more formidable since many countries nowadays are even more closely connected to China than they are to the West so such pressure tactics would amount to a de-facto ultimatum forcing their governments to take a clear side in World War C. It’s unclear how many of them will go with the West, but there’s a credible enough chance that some of them will.

Even so, the soft power victory might just be superficial since China is unlikely to make its own similar ultimatum. The People’s Republic probably won’t ban travelers who weren’t inoculated with a Chinese vaccine so the citizens of those countries that feel pressured to choose Western ones for the previously mentioned reasons can still trade with the world’s second superpower without any problems. If Western vaccines are proven to be ineffective and/or dangerous, however, then that policy might of course change.

“Global South” Guinea Pigs

Returning back to the overarching theme of this analysis, the COVID World Order’s vaccine race, it might very well be a fait accompli that people the world over will be compelled to receive some sort of vaccine in order to travel or even use basic services in their home country. This might especially be the case with the more desperate masses of the “Global South” who could be exploited as guinea pigs by some of the leading Great Powers in order to test the safety of these vaccines in exchange for humanitarian aid and preferential trade.

Concluding Thoughts

However it plays out, the global masses should expect the widespread proliferation of COVID-19 vaccines within the next year. This is no longer only an issue of public health, but is now a geopolitical instrument of power for various governments to wield against one another and their own citizens alike. The epidemic has been politicized and there’s no going back to the innocent assumption that the world might work together “for the common good” to fight this disease. That was never true to begin with, and forthcoming events will prove it.

Wrong Again! But, who? Serbs or the media?

Wrong Again!  But, who?  Serbs or the media?

July 21, 2020

by Višeslav Simić, PhD, for The Saker Blog

“Illiterate degenerates, baby killers, butchers, and rapists,” as the then US Senator, and now the US Democratic Party’s Presidential candidate, Joe Biden, described the Serbs, are again in the focus of the global “p(l)andemic” propagators because they have en masse gathered in front of the country’s Parliament to protest “the Covid 19 measures.”

Yet, as in most other cases, the Western media got only part of the story and reported only what conforms with the official and “woke” narrative.

The people have had enough not only of the conflicting, incompetent and plain diabolical “measures” imposed upon them by the “state’s crisis expert team,” which, by the way, were the strictest and longest-lasting in the world, as well as of the pathetic and embarrassing panic and despair stricken “head of state”, but, more than anything else, they spontaneously burst into protests against the decades-long accumulated local governmental abuse, humiliation and psychological torture, in addition to impoverishment, isolation and the sanctions imposed by the “international community,” which is the euphemism for the US-led NATO coalition of states.

The current President of Serbia, who, since June 3, is the only remaining quasi-legal, totally illegitimate, Serbia’s high official, has mismanaged the state into a constitutional crisis, a financial disaster, and into an age of lawlessness, in which his private army of thugs has been employed to maintain him in power. Aleksandar Vučić, who enjoys self-declaring each and every action of his to be something “never before done in Serbian history,” through his political manipulations and blatant abuse of power, forced Parliamentary elections upon the population, which was, for almost as long as NATO bombing lasted in 1999, kept under the illegally and unconstitutionally imposed state of emergency, locked in their apartments during curfews lasting up to 5 days.

While the nation was locked up, he, and his party apparatchiks and ruling coalition members, moved freely all over Serbia, using the situation for election campaigning, simultaneously blocking access to the media to all other parties, providing “care packages” to his supporters, siphoning state funds for it, and blackmailing state employees into voting for his party. While campaigning, he posed as the leader of all citizens, tirelessly laboring for their good, yet, he not only openly propagated his party but remained the party’s chief officer in spite of the Constitutional prohibition against such “double-dipping,” ensuring his loss of legitimacy in spite of his claim that he is a legal officer of the state.

Facing the constitutional and legal obligation of holding Parliamentary elections during a health crisis, he forced their postponement until a date beyond the constitutionally proscribed deadline, thus voiding the legality and legitimacy not only of the elections themselves but of all the state institutions which depended on them – the mandate of the Parliament expired, which automatically caused the Government to become null and void, leaving Serbia without the Legislative and Executive branches, while the Judicial branch had long ago self-abolished itself by total inactivity and irrelevance, since the Supreme Court had declared itself incompetent and with no jurisdiction in all the violation of the Constitution cases, including the imposition of the state of emergency. The office of the President in Serbia is strictly ceremonial and legally its holder has no powers, which are, by the Constitution, in the hands of the Prime Minister. Yet, Vučić has created the biggest and most flagrant organized crime structure in Serbia, which has hijacked the state for its own corrupt, illicit and scandalous ends, so that all Serbian institutions have long ceased to exist and serve any purpose at all. It has not happened only to government institutions but to other pillars of Serbian traditions and identity: The Orthodox Church of Serbia has been bought by large ad hoc and fiat-based “donations” and by threats of scandal exposure; The Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the “intelligentsia” in general, have also long been bought by cushy appanages and privileges, monetary and in terms of titles and honors; The Military – once the greatest pride of the nation and the only European force that successfully opposed NATO, have long been replaced by a spineless slug-like corps, completely irrelevant and thoroughly infiltrated by NATO agents; The Police, once known as People’s, have been staffed by thugs and criminal elements, just like the Military, so much so that full-time officers have operated and protected illegal drugs production and distribution, as well as the illegal arms trade, even with Islamist groups, enemies of the US.

This outright and shameless advertising of reckless power abuse had culminated in the President’s Monty-Pythonesque and irreverently mocking imposition of an incompetent and embarrassingly speech articulation challenged Croat lesbian Prime Minister, with a faux amie sounding last name of Brn-a-bich, who, officially the holder of the highest and most powerful office in the land, addressed the President as “Boss,” and continually announced to the nation that she only fulfills “the Boss’s wishes.” It must be pointed out that her being a lesbian and a Croat wasn’t a big “problem,” in spite of Serbia being known as a quite conservative, traditionalist and nationalistic land, but it was her personal arrogance, breaching of civilized norms of behavior with political opponents, and her incapability to formulate even the simplest thought or to show any genuine interest in the life of ordinary citizens of Serbia. Her cabinet was staffed with proven plagiarists and open criminals.  She is also known as a US agent, having worked for years for various Western interests in Serbia, making profitable deals that benefitted her family and friends.

This gross and exhaustive sham of all universal values and norms, violation of European and Western coda of behavior, rupture of social and political ideals, and renting of standards of good governance and public policy mores has been approved, supported, applauded, glorified, praised and rewarded by all Western governments and international bodies, public and private institutions and organizations, businesses and financial corporations, not only because Vučić has allowed a violent and unscrupulous takeover of Serbia’s businesses, a ruthless exploitation and ruinous pillage of natural and human resources, and a scheming and mercenary usage of Serbia’s geopolitical strategic location and influence with Russia, but, more than anything else, he has been most cooperative and instrumental in the grand treason of Kosovo and Metohija, and the final fulfilment of the West’s decades-long sweetest dream of gaining Serbia’s recognition of the NATO-controlled narco/sex slave/organ trafficking “state” locally operated by Islamist terrorist gang of brutal and barbarous West’s hirelings.

Eight long years have passed, filled with Vučić’s daily – actually, hourly! – pitiful provincial-actor-level drama queen performances of hurt feelings, broken heart wailing and weeping, gnashing of teeth in an agony of a misunderstood Messiah, fish-market-wife-like accusations and curses of unfaithful suitors, petty caprices of a high school pageant queen and vicious and vengeful worn out diva… Enough public pathology for generations of political and personal psychopathy doctoral theses!

Thus, the final straw on the back of the long-suffering nation, and the final drop of bile in the bitter cup served the people of Serbia was the re-imposition of the curfew and the state of emergency upon the population of Belgrade (with a possibility of doing it all over Serbia), right after the President’s arrogant and pompous declaration of victory, with over 60% of the votes won by his party, although there were blatant and degrading irregularities at over one-third of polling places, with most political opponents having boycotted the elections, and a vast majority of the people not even bothering to go out to vote, being aware that the whole process was illegal, irregular, and insulting to the intelligence and the honor of the nation.

Before the virus arrived in Serbia, the President and his “public health expert crisis team” declared it, in a live, clown-like TV appearance, “the funniest virus in world history,” announcing to the world that Serbs are genetically stronger than all other peoples of the globe so that the virus was not going to harm them, and that “husbands should send their wives to Milan on a shopping spree” not only because the prices would be low due to the tragedy there but because the estrogens in women render them resistant to it. The President, in a “funny guy” routine, shared his very “secret” method of fighting the virus by consuming a few shots of the strong Serbian plum brandy every morning! The Prime Minister reassured the population that “[they] have the virus under total control.”

Yet, just a few days later the whole criminal clan running the country of Serbia panicked and turned into a freak show. They imposed the strictest and the longest-lasting “public health measures” in Europe, and thousands of people were fined heavily for just going shopping for food at the wrong hour of the day. The population over 65 years of age was imprisoned for months in their homes and left with no organized aid, allowed to go shopping for food only from 4-7 AM – all of this because the President raised the level of panic and hysteria to unbearable levels by constant announcements that Serbia doesn’t have enough cemeteries to bury all the dead if the people disobey his orders. The situation was “so serious” that Easter was canceled, with the Patriarch of Serbia, ever an obedient servant of the President, declaring all churches closed and unnecessary for the religious life of the nation. Yet, the people remembered that even under Nazi and NATO bombs the Orthodox Easter was celebrated as the most important and hope-giving holiday of Resurrection and Life.

Yet, just before the election day, the infections all but disappeared, there were no more deaths, and the virus was declared, yet again, harmless and weak! The people were free and safe to go “vote” for the President!

When the ruling party’s victory was declared, leaving the future (illegal and illegitimate, we must insist on it) Parliament with no opposition at all, the President and his party celebrated all night, crowded all together, kissing and hugging each other in a live broadcast of the debauch orgy of naked arrogance and non-repentant narcissism and idolatry, with many election losers coming to perform obeisance to the “Savior,” hoping for a position in the future government. In the meantime, the nation set in their homes, speechless and horrified by the recklessness and ostentation by those who are supposed to protect and serve them.

Of course, the wages of sin were almost death – many of the celebrants ended up in the hospital, including the former Speaker of the Parliament, the former Chief Negotiator for Kosovo and Metohija, and one of the main election losers, an old-time turncoat, who got fewer votes than there are members of his own family.

The President immediately declared that it was the people’s fault, that the population was unruly and irresponsible, and that the rush to churches and sporting events caused the increase in the number of the sick. As expected, he pronounced, with the whole “expert team” nodding their heads with appropriate seriousness, that “no one got infected while voting!”

So – the people had to be locked up again and the appropriate decision was made by the now non-existent, illegal, and illegitimate government!

That was the trigger for the protests, not their cause!

We all saw the brutality by which the youth of Serbia were dispersed, using tear gas, batons, rubber bullets, police dogs, police Hummers parallel riding the streets in order to run over the protesters, and even the cavalry was called in, galloping at unarmed students and old people who couldn’t even run away from under the hoofs of the horses. Hundreds or even thousands of peaceful protesters were arrested. The number is uncertain since no information has been given to the families who were searching for their missing sons and daughters.

While this was happening, the media, totally controlled either by the President or by NATO countries’ corporations, showed entertaining programs and, if at all, informed the citizenry that “outlaws and hooligans” have attacked “the Home of the People” (the Parliament), which was defended by the “servants of the people” (the police). The Prime Minister declared, in a live TV appearance, that it was the students who threw tear gas at the police and not the other way around, and that the police suffered violence by the hooligan youth of Serbia.

The now open tyrant and dictator Vučić has accused his own people of being outlaws for challenging his rules, very plausibly influenced by his adviser, Tony Blair, who in 1999 bombed Serbia and occupied almost 20% of its territory, together with Bill Clinton, and who declared, in London’s Independent (March 27, 1999) that Serbs are “the outlaw nation stubbornly challenging the rules of the international community.” (meaning, his and Bill’s) This Presidential advisor is the same person who was discussed and analyzed at length in Dr. Vojislav Šešelj’s 2005 book titled “The English Fag Fart, Tony Blair,” for which Vucic wrote a laudatory introduction, and from whom he must have received the wisdom of calling his own people “outlaws” for “stubbornly challenging the rules” of Serbia’s Lord and Master.

But, just as Black Lives Matter in the US and all over the “woke” West, so do Serb Lives Matter, and we will defend them, liberate them from abuse and humiliation, and cherish them back to health and growth until Serbia is bursting with life, love and happiness, with this Psychopath safely locked away, and his Criminal Age only a reminder of the value of freedom and strong and healthy democratic institutions.

Višeslav Simić is a multilingual international business and international relations negotiator and marketing contractor; director, manager and supervisor of international development and aid organizations contracts and projects; university level educator in the fields of business and international diplomacy, strategy, negotiations and administration; academic and professional researcher and analyst of international business, diplomacy and public policy with published works; debating and public speaking coach; award-winning fiction writer.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to questions during the online session “Russia and the post-COVID World”

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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to questions during the online session “Russia and the post-COVID World”

10 July 2020 15:55

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to questions during the online session “Russia and the post-COVID World,” held as part of the Primakov Readings international forum, Moscow, July 10, 2020

First of all, I would like to express my gratitude for inviting me to once again speak at the Primakov Readings. This is a young, but also one of the most respected platforms for discussing international matters. Unfortunately, we cannot meet in person due to the coronavirus pandemic. Nevertheless, thanks to modern technology we could keep it on schedule. I am glad that my colleagues were able to take part in the preceding sessions of these readings. Judging by their feedback, this was a useful experience.

I will not delve into the question of how the coronavirus has affected every aspect of our lives, and what it will bring in the future. We already feel its effect on the economy and in personal contacts, from official visits and talks, to humanitarian, cultural and education exchanges. There seems to be a consensus that it will take quite some time for things to get back to normal. How long it will take and what the new norm will be is anybody’s guess. That said, all tend to agree that things will change.

By the way, I cannot fail to mention that our foreign service has had to face serious challenges. There were confirmed cases both at the Foreign Ministry head offices and our representative offices in the regions, as well as in our affiliated institutions. Thank goodness, we did not face a massive outbreak or severe cases. There were also people in our missions abroad affected by the pandemic. When borders closed, all our foreign missions without exception were mobilised to assist Russian nationals stranded abroad. Along with other agencies represented in the Emergency Response Centre, primarily the Transport Ministry, the Federal Air Agency, the Federal Service for Supervision of Consumer Protection and Welfare and the Communications Ministry, we complied repatriation lists. This was a lot of work, fraught with many mistakes, mostly unintentional rather than deliberate, that had to be rectified. At the same time we had to make arrangements to pay support allowances to those stranded abroad without funds. We have already done a great deal on this front, although there are still people asking to be repatriated, and some have come forward only recently. It seems that looking at the developments in the countries where they are staying and considering the uncertainty as to when all this will come to an end, they finally opted to return home.

Speaking of other ways in which the pandemic influenced our work and the way we perform our professional duties, the virus has aggravated other pre-existing challenges and threats. They have not gone away, including international terrorism. As you know, some speculate that terrorists are thinking about somehow using the strain of this virus, or maybe even creating new strains to achieve their malicious ends. Drug trafficking, cybercrime, environmental issues, climate and, of course, the many conflicts around the world – all these problems are still with us. And all this overlaps with the specific nature of the Trump administration and its deliberate policy of undermining all legal and contractual frameworks without exception on arms control and international cooperation, for example, regarding UNESCO, the WHO, the UN Human Rights Council, etc.

Of course, we keep a close eye on all these developments and analyse them. We still believe that sustainable solutions to various crises, conflicts and problems in the interests of all countries, and taking into consideration each and everyone’s concerns can only result from collective efforts based on the principles enshrined in the UN Charter, by respecting UN Security Council prerogatives, mobilising consensus-based associations, including the G20, as well as BRICS, the SCO and associations on the post-Soviet space. Unfortunately, not everyone has been ready to work together during the pandemic, to engage in collective efforts and approaches. We are witnessing attempts to push through narrow-minded agendas, and use this crisis to continue strangling unwanted regimes. The call from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet to suspend unilateral sanctions, at least during the pandemic, that impede the distribution of medial and other humanitarian goods, and other essential items to the corresponding countries, was completely ignored. The same goes for attempts to assign blame for the infection in the midst of the pandemic, when what we need is to think about how we can help medical workers, doctors and virologists. You know very well what I am referring to.

Like 75 years ago, when Victory over a common enemy was won only by working together and rising above the ideological differences of the time, we now also need to realise that we will resolve these issues only if we cooperate. I’m sure we’ll talk about the future of the WHO later. We are in favour of resolving any issues based on the UN Charter, which is a collective security platform.

Our Western colleagues – I’ve already mentioned this many times – are trying to actively introduce the concept of a “rules-based order” into diplomatic, political and practical usage. This is not international law. This is something else (we can also talk about this in more detail during the discussion). Clearly, this is an attempt to regain the dominance that the historical West has enjoyed for almost 500 years now. This attempt takes the form of convening a “group of interests” and various partnerships, where convenient countries are invited that either share the attempts to adopt unilateral approaches to international affairs, or will yield to pressure and join these initiatives. Not everyone is invited. Those who have their own outlook on things and are ready to defend it are left out. Later, when a concept, say, on chemical weapons, is fabricated, or an attempt is made to create a club of the select few who will decide on who is to blame for violating cybersecurity, they will start selling it as universally applicable norms. We are witnessing this now as it’s happening. These are very serious problems.

I would like to conclude my opening remarks. Our main goal, as before, is to protect our national interests and create the most favourable external conditions for the country’s development. You may have noticed that we come up with ideas that unite. Convening a summit of the UN Security Council permanent members is our top priority. This effort is ongoing. We are now focusing on the substantive part of the event, because, of course, it will play the decisive part.

The current hardships in international relations increase the importance of these discussions and, in general, the contribution of the expert community, and academic and political circles, into the efforts to analyse the situation and make reasonable realistic forecasts. I’d be remiss not to mention the case study concept that Yevgeny Primakov introduced into our foreign policy and political science. We appreciate the fact that the participants and organisers of the Primakov Readings always help us draw from a rich well of ideas, from which we then pick the ones that we submit to the President to determine our policies in specific circumstances.

Question: Five years ago, an IMEMO strategic forecast assumed that a new bipolarity might emerge as one of the four scenarios for the future world order.   At that time, this hypothesis was based on the relative dynamics of the synergetic power of China and the United States.  The COVID-19 pandemic has provided plenty of evidence of this theory. Of course, a different – asymmetrical – bipolarity is emerging, where the strategic parity is between Russia and the US, and the economic parity is between China and the United States, which is distinct from what was the case in the 20th century.

Do you think that the US-PRC conflict has passed the point of no return? It is obvious that any exacerbation of this confrontation is not in Russia’s interests. Will Russia be able to act as a swing power in order to maintain stability of the world system, including based on your unique experience of multilateral diplomacy?

Sergey Lavrov: I remember the forecast you have mentioned. I would like to say that, certainly, a lot has changed over these past five years, primarily in terms of confirming that the confrontation, rivalry, antagonism, and the struggle for leadership between the United States and China have, of course, been mounting. Before I pass directly to an analysis of this bipolar process, I would like to note that the real situation in the world as a whole is much more complicated. After all, the world is growing more polycentric than it was previously. There are numerous players apart from the US and China, without whom it is very difficult to promote one’s interests, if some or other capital suddenly decides to do this single-handedly.  I think we will yet discuss some other possible options in this sense. Let me mention the fact that Dean of the Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs at the National Research University – Higher School of Economics   Sergey Karaganov has commented on this subject in an article for Russia in Global Affairs, a journal published by Fyodor Lukyanov.

It is quite clear that we should take into consideration, in our practical work, the entire diversity and totality of political, economic, military, historical, and ideological factors that are manifesting themselves in the multipolar world, a world that Yevgeny Primakov predicted. We are assessing the US-Chinese controversy against this backdrop and through this prism.  That it is not existing in a vacuum is, as a minimum, confirmed by the fact that each of the sides is seeking to recruit as many supporters of their approaches as possible to the WHO or any other subject that in some way or other is associated with Washington and Beijing as defining contradictions in their approaches.

The Americans are certainly perceiving the growth of the PRC’s total state power as a threat to their claims to retaining the world leadership against all odds. Back in 2017, the US National Security Strategy listed China, along with Russia, among the main threats. It was for the first time that China was put before Russia as a threat to the United States.

Russia and China were directly accused of seeking to challenge the American influence, values and prosperity.  It is quite clear that the US is waging a struggle by absolutely unsavoury methods, as is obvious and clear to everyone. They are putting forward unilateral demands that take into account solely the US interests. If demands are turned down, they say the refusal is unacceptable and introduce sanctions.

If a discussion is suggested, the discussion rapidly degenerates into delivering an ultimatum and ends up in selfsame sanctions – trade wars, tariffs, and lots more.

A highly indicative fact is how the Americans and the Chinese managed to come to terms on phase one of the trade talks in January and what the fate of this agreement is now. The US authorities are accusing Beijing of drawing off jobs and glutting the market, while showing reluctance to buy US products. According to the Americans, China is implementing the Belt and Road project intended to steamroll all world economy mechanisms, production chains, and so on.  China allegedly was concealing information on COVID-19 and is engaging in cyber espionage. Notice how zealously the Americans are forcing their allies and others to give up any collaboration with Huawei and other Chinese digital giants and companies. China’s hi-tech companies are being squeezed out of the world markets.  China is being charged with expansionism in the South China Sea, problems on the actual control line with India, human rights violations, and [misbehaviour with regard to] Tibet, the Xinjiang-Uyghur Autonomous Region, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. All of this is taking place simultaneously. A powerful wave of fault-finding, a perfect storm is being raised. I hope, of course, that common sense will prevail and the situation will not pass the point of no return mentioned by Mr Dynkin.

We hope that there are people in the United States, who are figuring out how to reassure the world of the dollar system’s reliability in the post-election period. The US Secretary of the Treasury is speaking about this all but openly. He is warning that they should be wary of overstepping the red line, after which people will just start fleeing from America, saying that the dollar is no good anymore because it is being brazenly abused.

There is, of course, hope that the Chinese possess a political, diplomatic and foreign policy culture that always seeks to avoid various imbroglios.  But there are also some very alarming signs that, despite these rays of hope, which must be nurtured and cherished, US and Chinese officials start getting personal, occasionally in a very harsh form. This bespeaks a high degree of tension on both sides. And, of course, this is really alarming.

I do hope that our Chinese and US partners have some diplomatic methods, ways of classical diplomacy tucked up their sleeve. People should not insult each other in public or accuse each other of all sins, as the Americans are doing on every street corner. A better option is to sit down [to the negotiating table] and recognise that your opposite number is a great power and that every state, be it a great power or otherwise, has interests that must be respected.  The world certainly should seek to function based on a search for a balance of these interests.

Now let me pass to the second question – that this aggravation is not in Russia’s interests. I think that it is totally at variance with our interests, the interests of the European Union, and those of other countries as well. If you take the EU, China-EU trade is absolutely comparable with trade between China and the US. I think it is also necessary to pay attention to the EU’s increasingly publicised aspirations as regards a strategic autonomy not only in the military-political and security sphere but also in trade and the economy. Incidentally, the EU also wants to start repatriating its industries and localise as many trade and distributive chains as possible on its territory. In this regard, it is entering direct competition with the Americans.

The EU is unlikely to support the United States on every count in its desire to bleed the Chinese economy white by “pumping over” all development-friendly processes to its territory. There will be a lot of wrinkles, tension and clashes of interests.

Today, unlike in 2014, when the EU, under atrocious US pressure, introduced sanctions against Russia, it is showing signs of sound pragmatism towards our country. Specifically, they have publicly announced that they will revise the notorious “five principles” that Federica Mogherini formulated several years ago to guide relations with Russia.  They also say that it is necessary to overhaul their entire approach so that it should be more consistent with EU interests.

Incidentally, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell gave a talk recently on EU and China and on EU and Russia. Asked, why not impose sanctions on China for Hong Kong and human rights, he said that sanctions were not a method to be used in relations with China. We inquired whether sanctions were, in his opinion, a method that could be used in relations with Russia?  Our European friends will be thinking about this. It is a tough question.

I think that the European Union and Russia have a stake in cooperating, but not to the detriment of anyone else.  Basically, we do not ally with others to organise some actions against a third party.  We prefer pragmatism and shared benefit. I think Brussels will be doing something to overcome the myopia of the recent period.  The survey of EU policy vis-à-vis Russia will give more heed to an analysis of the real benefits inherent in promoting relations with Russia and the EAEU.

I do not see any benefits that Russia could derive from a trade war between Washington and Beijing. We will not benefit from relations with the EU and India either. Relations with India are traditionally friendly and other than time-serving. I do not envisage any changes in this area. We have proclaimed a “specially privileged strategic partnership” with India. I do not see any reasons why our Indian friends should sacrifice the gains that exist in the context of our partnership and prospects that it opens.

Question: You have mentioned Russian-US relations. Of course, international security and strategic stability depend on them. The situation is rather alarming now because of a deep crisis in the arms control regime. It is possible that the last key treaty in this sphere will expire in six months. There are many reasons for this, both geopolitical and technological. I believe we have to admit that public opinion is not pressuring the political elites to maintain arms control as much as during the Cold War, when large-scale demonstrations were held, as we well remember. The highest priority threats for the public now are the pandemic, climate change and terrorism. The fear of a nuclear war has receded into the background. What can be done to change this, or will it take a new Cuban crisis for the public to become aware of the nuclear conflict threat and to start expressing its opinion?

Jointly with our academic community we are now holding many videoconferences with American experts. You have said that there are rational people in the United States. It can be said that these conferences offer an opportunity to coordinate a number of new proposals, which could be used to formulate our initiatives. Of course, we update the Foreign Ministry and Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov about our activities. But it seems that today we need to think about some radical action, possibly in connection with the proposed summit of the five nuclear states, in order to create conditions that will help prevent the dismantling of the arms control regime and launch the creation of a new system of international security and strategic stability suited to the conditions of the 21st century.

Sergey Lavrov: I fully agree with you. Nuclear risks have increased dramatically, and the situation in the sphere of international security and strategic stability is visibly deteriorating. The reasons for this are obvious to everyone.  The United States wants to regain global domination and attain victory in what it describes as great-power rivalry. It has replaced the term “strategic stability” with “strategic rivalry.” It wants to win, whatever the price, as the saying goes. It is dismantling the arms control architecture so as to have the freedom to choose any instrument, including military force, to put pressure on its geopolitical opponents, and it wants to be able to use these instruments anywhere around the world. This is especially alarming in light of the changes in the doctrines of the US military-political authorities. These changes have allowed the limited use of nuclear weapons. It is notable that, like in the case of other strategic stability topics, the Americans have once again alleged that it is the Russian doctrine that permits the limited use of nuclear weapons and escalation for the sake of de-escalation and victory. They have recently issued comments on our doctrines, claiming that there are some secret parts where all of this is stipulated. This is not true. Meanwhile, we can see that the United States has adopted a number of practical programmes to support their doctrines with military and technical capabilities. This concerns the creation of low-yield nuclear warheads. American experts and officials are openly discussing this.

In this context, we are especially alarmed by the Americans’ failure to reaffirm – for two years now – the fundamental principle that there can be no winners in a nuclear war and that therefore it must never be unleashed. Early in the autumn of 2018, we submitted to the American side our written proposal that has been formulated as the confirmation of what People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs Maxim Litvinov and US President Franklin Roosevelt had coordinated and the notes they exchanged. We have reminded them about this proposal several times. They have replied that they are analysing it. Of course, we will raise the issue of the inadmissibility of fighting a nuclear war and winning it at the upcoming summit meeting of the five nuclear powers. It is important for our arguments to be no weaker than the arguments in the relevant Soviet-US documents. The slackening of these formulations has shown that the Americans would like to dilute the fact that there is no alternative to this principle and it cannot be repealed.

You have said that civil society is not paying sufficient attention to these threats, and I fully agree with you on this count. It is vital to attract public attention to this problem, to tell the people about the risks in understandable terms, because technicalities are often difficult to understand, and the form in which the analysis of this situation is presented to people is very important. Of course, we should count not only on official establishments but also on civil society and its politically active part – the NGOs and the academic and expert community.

I have said that I agree with you on this count, but I would also like to caution against going too far with raising public awareness of nuclear risks, so as not to play into the hands of those who want to prohibit all nuclear weapons and not to raise other concerns. The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons openly contradicts the Non-Proliferation Treaty, creating confusion and problems. The necessary balance can be found with the help of top quality professionals, and I believe that we have more of them than any other country.

As for public sentiments, they do not always determine the reality. During the election campaign of US President Donald Trump, public sentiments were largely in tune with his declared plans and his calls for normalising Russian-US relations. Since then, the public has calmed down, and nobody is staging any riots over this matter.

Of course, it is vital to continue to interact directly with the nuclear powers and their authorities. We would like reasonable approaches to take priority.

You have mentioned that political consultations are underway between you, your colleagues and American experts. We appreciate this. Your contribution and assessments, as well as the information we receive following such consultations are taken into account and have a significant influence on the essence of our approaches, including in situations when we submit several alternatives to the leadership; this helps us analyse the possible scenarios and all their pros and cons.

The United States, as well as Britain and France, which are playing along with it, would like to limit the summit’s agenda to arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation. China sees this as an attempt to press through the idea of expanding the number of negotiating parties at the talks on nuclear weapons by one means or another. China has put forth its position on the idea of multilateral talks clearly and more than once. We respect this position. By the way, the Americans are clever at twisting things. They use only the parts of our statements and those of the Chinese that suit their position. The Chinese have said recently that they will join the arms control talks as soon as the Americans reduce their capability to the level of China’s arsenal. A day later, Special Presidential Envoy for Arms Control Marshall Billingslea announced that the United States welcomed China’s readiness to join the multilateral talks and invited Beijing to Vienna. The next round of Russian-US consultations at the level of experts will be held in late July, following on from the late June meeting between Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov and US Special Presidential Envoy for Arms Control Marshall Billingslea, when the Americans made a show with Chinese flags. The Americans have once again stated publicly that they would like to invite the Chinese to Vienna but it would be better if Russia met with China before that so as to tell Beijing what Washington expects from it. I think everyone can see that this is impolite and undiplomatic. When we say that we proceed from the assumption that China is free to take whatever stand it deems necessary, it shows our respect for China’s position. I would like to add that the Americans have not put on paper anything of what they said about the need for transitioning to a multilateral format. Let them at least document what they have in mind. But they seem to be categorically averse to this.

We are ready to take part in multilateral talks, but it should be a voluntary and independent decision of everyone. Only voluntary participation can be effective.

None of the reservations are being taken into account. They say that Russia supports their call for multilateral talks. What do we hear when we add that multilateral talks must also include Britain and France? Special Envoy Billingslea didn’t blink when he said the other day in reply to a question about the possible involvement of Britain and France that they are sovereign states who are free to decide whether to join the talks or not, and that the United States will not make the decision for them. Why has it actually made the decision for China then?

Knowing the US negotiating party, I am not optimistic about the New START, for example, but it’s good that we have started talking. Sergey Ryabkov and Marshall Billingslea have agreed to set up three working groups within the framework of the process they are supervising. They will hold a meeting of the working group on space, nuclear and weapons transparency plus nuclear doctrines in Vienna between July 27 and 30. We’ll see what comes of it. We never refuse to talk, and we will try to make negotiations result-oriented.

Question: Extending the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty is one of the critical items on the agenda of Russia-US relations, primarily in the sphere of arms control. If Russia fails to reach an agreement with Washington to renew this treaty before February 2021, what will it do next? If there’s a pause in the dialogue with Washington in the sphere of arms control, and if the treaty is not renewed, what will the arms control system become and will the multilateral formats that we are talking about now be possible in the future?

Sergey Lavrov: It appears that the United States has already decided not to renew this treaty. The fact that it insists that there’s no alternative to taking the deal to the trilateral format suggests that everything has been already decided. In addition to this, they want the latest Russian weapons to be part of the deal which, by and large, is nothing short of trying to force an open door. We told the Americans earlier on that when Avangard and Sarmat become fully deployed, they will be subject to the restrictions established by the treaty for as long as it remains valid. The other systems are new. They do not fit into the three categories covered by START-3, but we are ready to start talking about including the weapons that are not classical from the START-3 perspective in the discussion, of course, within the context of a principled discussion of all, without exceptions, variables that affect strategic stability that way or another. This includes missile defence, where we are now able to see that the once existing allegations that it was designed solely to stop the missile threat coming from Iran and North Korea, were lies. No one is even trying to bring this up anymore. Everything is being done solely in terms of containing Russia and China. Other factors include high-precision non-nuclear weapons known as a programme of instant global strike, openly promoted plans by the Americans and the French to launch weapons into space, the developments related to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and a number of other factors too. We are ready to discuss new weapons, but to do so not in order to humour someone or to respond to someone’s initiatives, but to really reduce the threat to global stability and security.

To this end, we need to look at all the things that create these threats, pushing us to create antidotes, as was the case with our hypersonic weapons, which were developed in response to the global deployment of the US missile defence system.

Speaking specifically about the START-3 Treaty, we need an extension as much as the Americans do. They see some kind of a game in our calls to extend it for five more years without any preconditions. Russia, they say, has modernised its entire nuclear arsenal, but we are just beginning the modernisation, so they want to “tie our hands.” This is absolutely not so. We need to extend the START-3 Treaty as much as the Americans. If they refuse to do so, we will not insist. We know and we firmly believe that we will be able to ensure our security in the long run, even in the absence of this treaty. I think it is premature to discuss our actions if this treaty expires without any further action, but we are indeed ready for any turn of events. If the renewal is turned down, our options may be different, but I can assure you that overall we will continue the dialogue with the United States on strategic issues and new weapons control tools based on the facts that underlie strategic stability, as I just mentioned.

With regard to the multilateral talks, we already said back in 2010, when we were signing START-3, that the signing of this treaty puts an end to the possibility for further bilateral reductions and that, talking about future reductions, I emphasise this term, we will need to take into account the arsenals of other nuclear powers and start looking for other forms of discussions, if we’re talking about reductions. If we are talking about control, I think the bilateral Russian-American track has far more to offer. Losing all forms of control and transparency would probably be an unreasonable and irresponsible thing to do in the face of our nations and other nations as well. I believe the fact that there’s a transparency group (this is a broad term that includes measures of trust and verification) among the Russian-American working groups which will be meeting in Vienna soon, is a good sign.

Question: The Eurasian countries regard Russia as a mainstay that can connect the EU and Asian countries. How do you see Russia’s role in this space?

Sergey Lavrov: The situation on the Eurasian continent is fully affected by almost all global factors. This is where a number of the most important world centres are located, including China, Russia, India and the European Union if we are talking about the continent as a whole. For various reasons, each of these actors is motivated to pursue a foreign policy independent from the United States. This includes the EU.

Calls for strategic autonomy extend to the development area as such. We in Eurasia feel the influence of forces that would like to put together interest-based blocs and try to introduce elements of confrontation into various processes. We increasingly see centripetal tendencies. I am referring to ASEAN in the east and the EU in the west of our continent.

Located in the centre is the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and the Eurasian Economic Union. We would like to promote unifying, not divisive approaches in this space  and intensify trans-regional collaboration based on equality, mutual benefit, and most importantly, we would like to realise the obvious comparative advantages of cooperation on the continent via integration entities created in the West, East, and Centre, with respect for each of these unions and the search for natural forms of collaboration. This is the goal of what we call the Greater Eurasian Partnership that President Vladimir Putin suggested establishing at the Russia-ASEAN summit in Sochi a few years ago. We think this is an absolutely realistic action plan.

Let me note parenthetically that there are opposing approaches. They are mostly promoted by the United States through so-called Indo-Pacific concepts aimed at undermining the central systematic role of ASEAN in the Asia-Pacific region. I am referring to an attempt to put together a group of countries that would openly – this is not even hidden – contain China’s development.

I would favour identifying points of contact among all integration processes. Of course, there is China’s Belt and Road concept. The EAEU has an agreement with China that includes identifying points of contact and the harmonisation of any project that will be implemented as part of Eurasian integration and China’s project. Of course, there is a clash of economic interests in a number of cases, but the sides’ willingness to be guided by international legal principles, respect for each other, and mutual benefit makes it possible to agree on these economic interests based on the search for balance. It is in this way that our relations with our EAEU partners, China within the SCO, and ASEAN, are built. We invite the European Union, as has been repeatedly stated, to consider how it can become part of the development of our common geopolitical and primarily geo-economic space with benefits for itself and for others.

Question: The Middle East and North Africa remain a troubled region. New divides continue to crop up there; the potential for conflict remains and the old conflicts that everyone knows about persist. The humanitarian situation is aggravated due to the West’s unfair sanctions against a certain part of the region. Various asymmetries are growing deeper. What are Russia’s strategic interests in the region today? What do we want to achieve there, given the post-COVID nature of the era we are now entering?

Sergey Lavrov: We have very good relations in this region, possibly the best in the history of relations between this country, in its various capacities, and the region. I mean relations with all sides: the Arab countries, regardless of the conflict potential within the Arab world, and Israel. We will proceed from the need to promote positive contact with all these countries and seek to understand their problems and needs, and take this into account in our relations not only with a specific country but also with the countries that this particular partner has problems with.

In the beginning, I was asked whether Russia was ready to perform as a balancing influence in relations between the United States and China. If they ask us to, if they are interested, we would not decline this. We have established contacts with both sides and our historical development record enables us to see that we have potential.

If there is interest in mediation services that we can offer in this region or elsewhere, we are always ready to try to help, but of course, we will not push ourselves on anyone. Our own interest is primarily in precluding new military crises and in settling old crises so that the Middle East and North Africa become a zone of peace and stability. Unlike certain major countries outside the region, we have no strategic interest in maintaining controlled chaos. We have no such interest whatsoever.

We are not interested in engineering head-on clashes between countries in the region so as to create a pretext and a motive for continuing, and sometimes expanding, our military presence there. We are interested in promoting mutually beneficial trade, economic, investment and other ties with these states. In this respect, we would not like any other country in the region to have the same fate as Libya, which was robbed of its statehood and now no one knows how to “sew it together.” This is why we will be actively involved in efforts to reestablish an international legal approach to avoid any further toothpowder-filled test tubes passed off as VX and lies about weapons of mass destruction in other countries in the region as is now happening in Syria. Some have already started talking about “undiscovered” chemical weapons in Libya. All of these are inventions. How they are concocted is no secret.

We would like to derive economic benefits from our relations with the countries in the region. For this, we primarily have much in common in our approaches to problems in the contemporary world: international law, the UN Charter, and inter-civilisational dialogue, something that is also important, considering the Muslim population in the Russian Federation. Russia’s Muslim republics maintain good ties with the Gulf countries and other countries in the Arab world. We would like to support and develop all this. We will not gain anything from the chaos that continues in the region. As soon as the situation stabilises, the Russian Federation’s reliability as a partner in economic cooperation, military-technical cooperation, and the political area will always ensure us important advantages.

Question: My question is related to the recent changes in Russia. The new wording of the Constitution, which has come into effect, includes a provision according to which any actions (with the exception of delimitation, demarcation and re-demarcation of the state border of the Russian Federation with adjacent states) aimed at alienating part of the Russian territory, as well as calls for such actions, shall be prohibited. This provision is understandable. This brings me to my question: Does this mean that our years-long talks with Japan on the so-called territorial dispute have become anti-constitutional because they contradict our Fundamental Law? As far as I recall, the terms “delimitation” and “demarcation” have never been applied to the Kuril Islands, or have they?

Sergey Lavrov: Yes, you are spot on. Our relations with Japan are based on a number of agreements. The Russian Federation as the successor state of the Soviet Union has reaffirmed its commitment to all of the agreements signed by the Soviet Union. President Vladimir Putin has confirmed this more than once. This includes the 1956 Declaration under which we are ready to discuss and are discussing with our Japanese colleagues the necessity of signing a peace treaty, but not a treaty that would have been signed the next day after the last shot, that is, immediately after the termination of the war, as some of our Japanese colleagues would like. The state of war between the Soviet Union and Japan was terminated by the 1956 Declaration, which provides for the end of the state of war and for the restoration of diplomatic relations. What else do we need? In other words, a peace treaty we are negotiating should be modern and comprehensive, and it should not reflect the situation of 60-70 years ago but the current state of affairs, when we believe that we should develop full-scale ties with Japan. This document must be essential and inclusive, that is, it should include issues of peace, friendship, neighbourliness, partnership and cooperation, and it should cover all spheres of our relations, including economic ties, which are improving but not in all economic sectors. It should be remembered that our Japanese neighbours have imposed sanctions on Russia, although they are not as all-embracing as the US restrictions, but anyway.

A peace treaty should also cover security topics, because Japan has a close military alliance with the United States, which has essentially declared Russia to be an enemy. Of course, a comprehensive peace treaty should also include our views on foreign policy interaction, where, to put it simply, we disagree on all disputable matters, as well as humanitarian and cultural ties and many other factors. We have offered a concept of such a treaty. Our Japanese colleagues have not responded to this concept so far.

It is clear that the outcome of WWII is the fundamental issue that should determine our relations. Japanese officials have stated more than once that they recognise the results of WWII excluding the decision concerning the South Kuril Islands, or the “Northern Territories,” as they say. This position contradicts the law. Japan’s position must be based on the fact that the country ratified the UN Charter, which essentially means that the actions taken by the winner countries with regard to the enemy countries are beyond discussion.

Of course, our Japanese neighbours keep saying that they would sign a peace treaty as soon as the territorial dispute is settled. This is not what we have agreed to do. We have agreed to focus on signing a peace treaty as stipulated in the 1956 Declaration.

Question: Russia often criticises the US for promoting non-inclusive associations in the Pacific and Indian Oceans to isolate “uncomfortable” states. I am primarily referring to the so-called Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or Quad. Obviously, the very existence of such formats turns the region from a zone of cooperation into a zone of confrontation. We are certainly not interested in that. However, for all its minuses, the Quad concept is obviously finding understanding from Russia’s strategic partners, for instance, India. The Quad Plus project, where the US plans to invite Vietnam, our strategic partner as well, is also under discussion. Apparently, there is a need to enhance security in the region. Can Russia offer an alternative to such formats to prevent our two strategic partners from being in a position where they have to deter a third one?

Sergey Lavrov: I talked about the appearance of concepts and strategies on forming what US diplomats call “a free and open Indo-Pacific” several years ago. When some initiative calls itself free and open, I always have the impression that this includes a tinge of PR because how can it be called open if every state the region without exception is not invited to join?

When the term “Indo-Pacific strategies” appeared we inquired if they did not deal with the Asia-Pacific Region the contours of which are clear: the APEC, and the mechanisms that were established around ASEAN (the ASEAN regional security forum, the meeting of the ASEAN defence ministers and the partner countries, which is very important and, of course, the East Asia Summit (EAS), a forum that will be a decade old this year). We asked why the established term, Asia-Pacific Region, was replaced with this “Indo-Pacific strategies.” Does this mean that these strategies will embrace more countries, including all Indian Ocean coastal states? We received a negative answer. But what does “Indo” mean then? Will the Persian Gulf, which is part of the Indian Ocean, take part in the new format? We got a negative answer again. The Gulf has too many problems to be involved in these initiatives.

As for the ideas pursued by this Quad, as I have said, they are not really hiding them. These ideas come down to attempts to deter China. Our specially privileged partner India is fully aware of this. Pursuing its multi-vector policy, India is certainly interested in developing relations with the US (and who isn’t?), Japan and Australia. We are also interested in this. But India does not want to benefit from this cooperation at the price of further aggravating its relations with China. They had sad incidents on the Line of Actual Control but we welcome their immediate contacts between militaries, which are ongoing. They reached agreements on de-escalating tensions. Their politicians and diplomats also met. We can see that neither India nor China want their relations to get worse. Therefore, before talking seriously about Indo-Pacific strategies as a future for our large region, it is necessary to explain the choice of wording. If this was done to please India because of the Indian Ocean, just say so.

There are things that have already been established. I mentioned a diverse network of institutions and mechanisms around ASEAN. ASEAN brings together a group of countries that promote unifying approaches in the context of their civilisations and cultures. Everything is aimed at searching for consensus based on a balance of interests. For decades, the members have been absolutely content with developing relations in this venue with its regional security forum, defence minister meetings and East Asia Summits. There is even an expression: “ASEAN-way.” They always emphasise that they want to handle matters in “the ASEAN-way.” This means never to seek confrontation or launch projects that will create problems for other members. Regrettably, Indo-Pacific strategies may pursue different goals, at least under their initial concept.

In the beginning of our conversation, I mentioned the tough claims made by the US against China. They sound like an ultimatum. This is a mechanism for exerting and intensifying pressure. We do not see anything positive in this. Any problems must be resolved peacefully, through talks. Let me repeat that ASEAN is an ideal venue where every participant can discuss its problems with another member without polemics or tension. We are actively forming bridges with ASEAN (I mentioned the EAEU and the SCO). Their secretariats have already signed related memorandums. We will continue promoting ASEAN’s core role in the South Pacific Region.

We will only welcome Indo-Pacific strategies if they become more understandable, if we are convinced that they lean towards joining the ASEAN-led processes rather than try to undermine its role and redirect the dialogue against China or someone else. However, we are not seeing this so far.

Question: A week ago, experts were polled on US allegations that Russian military intelligence, the GRU, had offered rewards to the Taliban for killing US troops in Afghanistan. All of the analysts agree that the allegation could be rooted in domestic, primarily political reasons. Your subordinate, Special Presidential Representative for Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov, has pointed out that one of the factions in the United States is against the planned troop withdrawal from Afghanistan because US security services have become deeply involved in the drug trade over the past few years. We have not asked you about this situation yet. What do you think about this uproar?

Sergey Lavrov: We have already responded to the hype in the United States over Russia’s alleged connection with the Taliban, who were allegedly financed to fight US troops and even offer bounties for the murder of American military personnel. I can only tell you once again that all this is a dirty speculation. No facts have been provided to prove anything. Moreover, responsible officials in the US administration, including the Secretary of Defence, have said that they know nothing about this.

These allegations fit in very well with the political fighting during an election year in the United States, as if they were invented – and it appears that this is so – for this purpose. The objective is to disgrace the US administration and to discredit everything it has been doing, especially with regard to Russia. I would like to repeat that there are no facts to prove these allegations. But there were facts in the late 1970s and 80s, when the US administration did not make a secret of helping the Mujahedeen, of supplying them with Stingers and other weapons, which they used against Soviet soldiers.

As I have said, we would like both Russia and the United States to draw lessons from the experience they have accumulated in that long-suffering country and to help launch an intra-Afghan dialogue together with the other countries that could help allay tensions there, primarily China, Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan’s other neighbours. We have been working actively towards this end.

As for the United States, we have been acting within the framework of this political process under the agreements being advocated by the United States in its dialogue with the Taliban and the Afghan Government. We are using our channels to make these agreements possible. There is a mechanism for consultations between Russia, the United States and China, which Pakistan sometimes joins and to which Iran has been invited. However, Iran has not acted on the invitation because of its problems with the United States and the actions Washington has been taking against Iran around the world. These consultations are a mechanism for cooperation that is being used to define the spheres where signals could be sent to the sides. This is being done within the framework of the logic of the so-called Moscow format, which brings together all of Afghanistan’s neighbours without exception, as well as the United States, Russia and China. This is more than adequate.

Now, regarding Afghanistan’s drugs and the possible involvement of the US military in the drug business. We have received numerous reports, including through the media, according to which NATO aircraft are being used to smuggle Afghan opiates to other countries, including to Europe. The governors of the concerned Afghan provinces have stated more than once that unmarked helicopters are flying in the area. It should be noted that the sky over Afghanistan is controlled by the NATO coalition. Other reports have mentioned other forms of smuggling opiates.

Of course, we cannot verify such information to the dot, but it has been reported so regularly that we cannot ignore it. If combat aircraft were used in Afghanistan (as I mentioned, it could only be NATO aircraft), the flights could only be made by military or intelligence personnel. These circumstances should be investigated, first of all in the United States. The Americans have agencies that are in charge of monitoring compliance with American laws. Second, investigations should also be held in the country where military personnel are deployed, that is, Afghanistan. This is exactly what Zamir Kabulov said. By the way, established facts show that over the 20 years of the deployment of the US and other coalition members in Afghanistan the volume of drugs smuggled into other countries, including in Europe and our neighbours, as well as into Russia, has increased several times over. Neither the United States nor the other members of the NATO coalition are seriously fighting this drug business. By the way, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction John Sopko noted in a recent report that there are opium poppy plantations right next to NATO bases. This is an established fact. And this is possibly not right from the viewpoint of the US stand on the drug business.

We have regularly tried to attract the UN Security Council’s attention to this issue when we listened to reports on NATO coalition operations in Afghanistan, and we also did this via bilateral channels when we urged our partners to combat the drug industry. They replied that the mandate of the NATO mission in Afghanistan did not include drugs, that it only stipulated counterterrorist activities. But it is a well-known fact that the drug business is used to finance terrorism and is the largest source of funds for terrorist organisations. You can reach your own conclusions. As I have pointed out, we take this problem very seriously.

QuestionA few hours after this meeting of the Primakov Readings is over, an extraordinary UN General Assembly session on combating the pandemic will begin at 10 am New York time. This session was convened by the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). How important is this session? Who will represent Russia? Do you think the UN is late in responding to the pandemic? What do you think about the Non-Aligned Movement’s principles in these conditions?

Sergey Lavrov: Of course, we are aware that a special session of the UN General Assembly on the subject of COVID-19 will be convened upon the initiative of the Non-Aligned Movement chaired by Azerbaijan this year. It will take place a little later. Today, on July 10, the procedural registration of the rules to be used for convening the session begins, since amid the coronavirus infection, all remotely held events are subject to coordination in terms of their organisational and procedural aspects. Only this matter will be discussed today. The date for convening the special session itself has not yet been determined.

I don’t think we have any reason to believe that the UN is slow or late in responding to the coronavirus infection challenges. The UN General Assembly met twice some time ago at an early stage of this situation. Two resolutions were adopted which were dedicated to the international community’s goals in fighting the coronavirus infection. Most recently, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution on COVID-19. We were unable to do this for a long time because the Americans strongly opposed mentioning the role of the World Health Organisation in the document. Eventually, we found words that allowed us to mention this role and to ensure consensus approval.

Let us remember that the World Health Assembly, by the way, with the participation of the Americans, held a special session in May. The WHA adopted a resolution supported by the US in which the WHO’s role was objectively reflected. It was agreed at that session that as soon as the pandemic and all major programmes are completed, an international assessment of the lessons we learned from the WHO’s work in this area would be made, but without pointing a finger at anyone. It is an objective scientific evaluation of independent professionals.

Of course, the Non-Aligned Movement is our close partner. We are a guest country that is regularly invited to NAM summits and ministerial meetings in this capacity. This body was created in a wholly different historical context at the height of the Cold War, when the developing countries that formed this movement wanted to emphasise the principle of neutrality with respect for the two military blocs. Nevertheless, the Non-Aligned Movement remains a significant factor in international politics even after the Cold War. I think this is good, since the attempts to cobble up certain blocks again (we have already discussed this today) continue. It is important that this neutrality, non-commitment and focus on advancing the principles of international law be preserved at the core of NAM activities.

By the way, another NAM summit was held in Baku in October 2019. We attended it as a guest. Important joint statements were agreed upon. We confirmed our support for strengthening multipolarity in the international arena and respect for the UN Charter principles. NAM statements in support of Palestine and Bolivia were adopted as well. Back then, these were important topics. We are interested in seeing our status in NAM help us actively work on issues of common interest.

Question: Did Dmitry Kozak give an ultimatum at the talks on the Minsk agreements, telling Kiev to draft amendments to the Constitution of Ukraine on the special status of Donbass as soon as possible? If so, why has this demand become so tough only now that these agreements are already five years old?

Sergey Lavrov: There were no demands or ultimatums. Working as Normandy format advisors, the assistants of the four leaders that are part of our Contact Group, we are trying to ensure, in cooperation with the OSCE, the direct dialogue that Kiev is required to conduct with Donetsk and Lugansk. Conceptually, we are striving for only one goal – we are asking our Ukrainian partners to reaffirm their full commitment to the Minsk agreements as they were drafted, signed and approved by the UN Security Council. When we are told that Kiev is committed to the Minsk agreements but that it is necessary to first establish control of the Ukrainian Army and border guards over the entire border, this has nothing to do with the Minsk agreements. This is a deliberate attempt to mislead the public. When we are told, at the top level, that the Minsk agreements must be preserved to continue the sanctions against Russia, we would like to know if Ukraine is primarily interested in these agreements because of the sanctions, why it signed them and whether it is still committed to what is written in them rather than this absolutely artificial and inadequate link with sanctions. The majority of EU members consider this link incoherent. This is an approach of principle. I talked with the foreign ministers of France and Germany. Mr Kozak spoke with his counterparts as well. We would like our French and German partners to continue to express their views about this as participants in the Normandy format. Every day, we hear Kiev’s official statements that simply discard the agreements that were reaffirmed by the UN Security Council after the talks in Minsk.

For all this, we continue to hold pragmatic conversation with a view to coordinating specific steps on promoting all aspects of the Minsk agreements: security, socio-economic, humanitarian and political issues. At the recent, fairly productive meeting of the leaders’ assistants of the Normandy format states, the participants reached a number of agreements on yet another detainee exchange, and the Contact Group’s security arrangements, including reconciliation of the texts of the orders that must be adopted by the parties to the conflict (Kiev, Donetsk and Lugansk) and describe in detail the actions to be banned by these orders. These issues were agreed upon. The third negotiated item on the political agenda is the presentation by Ukraine of its vision of the document that will contain amendments to the Constitution to reflect the special status of Donbass fully in line with the Minsk agreements.

Understandings were reached in these three areas and were supposed to be formalised in the decisions of the Contact Group that ended its session the other day. In Minsk, the Ukrainian delegation disavowed everything that was agreed upon in Berlin. We noted this, and Deputy Chief of the Presidential Executive Office Dmitry Kozak sent a related message to his colleagues. So, this is no surprise at all. We have always insisted that the Minsk agreements must be carried out in full and with the due succession of actions. It’s not that we are losing patience, but patience helps when there is a clear understanding of what comes next. President Vladimir Zelensky came to power under a slogan of quick peace in Donbass. However, at this point, we have no idea what the attitude of his administration is to the actions that must be taken under the Minsk agreements.

Question: Former US National Security Advisor John Bolton writes in his memoirs that US President Donald Trump was unhappy about the sanctions over Salisbury and Syria. Did you hear about this? Is the agreement with the US on the exchange of top level visits still valid? Is Russia’s participation in the extended G7 format being considered?

Sergey Lavrov: I haven’t read John Bolton’s memoirs but I’m familiar with some parts of his book. Clearly, Mr Bolton has his own view of Russia-US relations, the US mission in the world, and America’s vision of the world order and what it should be. Apparently, every author wants his or her book to sell well (and in America practically every person writes a book after serving in the government for one or two years). To achieve this, it is necessary to make it interesting, and “hot issues” are helpful in this respect. I’ll leave all this on the conscience of Mr Bolton: both his presentation of this material and the spicy and sensitive details. I’ll also leave on his conscience his obvious embellishment of US actions in different situations.

Nobody has signed any agreements on exchanging top level visits because such an agreement implies a certain date for a visit, and the name of the city and geographical location. But nobody is discounting the possibility of such meetings, either. We are willing to work with the Americans at all levels and President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin has good relations with US President Donald Trump. From time to time, I talk with US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo. Our deputies also maintain a dialogue. So, if the Americans are interested, we do not see any obstacles. We don’t want our relations to be seen as some appendage to the election campaign and the tough actions taken by the sides as regards each other on the eve of the US election.

As for the G7, I think we have already said everything we wanted to say on this issue. Russia was a full member of the G8. The G8 did not meet in 2014 and not due to any action on our part. Our partners — Europe, North America and Japan — decided not to hold this event in full. This is their choice. President Vladimir Putin said in one of his comments that as before we will be happy to host the entire G8 in the Russian Federation. If our colleagues do not want this, love cannot be forced.

As for the G7, the list of countries invited to attend, as mentioned by US President Donald Trump, shows that the G7 can no longer accomplish much on its own. But even the countries that were mentioned will not make any radical change because the list is incomplete. We are convinced that the serious issues of the world and global finances can hardly be resolved effectively. Apparently, these reasons — the need to involve the main players in world financial, economic and commodity markets — have prompted the resumption and upgrade of activities in the G20. This is an inclusive mechanism that relies on consensus and the principles of equality. We believe the G20 format must obviously be preserved, encouraged and actively used if we want to talk about the underlying causes of current economic problems rather than their use in foreign policy disputes or any other sort of rhetoric.

Question: In Russia, they always say that they are ready to work with any president that is elected by the American people. Can you predict potential development of bilateral relations if former US Vice President Joe Biden wins? Do you think some analysts are correct in believing that he could revise some of President Donald Trump’s decisions, which do not benefit Russia, such as withdrawal from the INF Treaty and the Open Skies Treaty?

Sergey Lavrov: We do not comment on election campaigns. This is done by the media in all countries. The election campaign in the US is creating much interest in the entire world. This is understandable, but officially we proceed from the correct assumption that the choice of the head of state is up to the American people. This is a domestic US affair.

As for how this or that outcome might affect Russia-US relations, if we reason in a perfectly abstract way, we can quote some analysts that have commented on how this will influence disarmament talks. There is an opinion that is probably buttressed by some facts, that the Democrats are less prone than the Republicans to destroy the agreements on strategic stability and disarmament that had been reached over the past few decades. But we have not forgotten that a major anti-Russia campaign was launched during the Democratic administration of Barrack Obama. Many elements of this campaign, including sanctions, are now an element of bipartisan consensus. I don’t want to guess. This situation is unpredictable. Let me repeat, let the American people make their decision.

The OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights that is in charge, among other things, of monitoring elections, has conducted such monitoring remotely and distributed a report that was recently presented at the OSCE Permanent Council. The report contains many critical remarks about the correlation of election processes to American laws. I will not go into details. You can read this report yourself. But the report mentions, in particular, that for a variety of reasons at least 2 million US citizens are deprived of the right of the vote to which they are entitled by law. Interestingly, the report notes such a congenital defect in US election legislation, notably, a two-stage election process.

At first, people elect the Electoral College that later on chooses the president. The report also noted that the creation of the electoral districts is unfair to different ethnic groups. This is an indicative observation on behalf of the OSCE. We have spoken about this for a long time. I also recall that when Condoleezza Rice was US Secretary of State, she complained about our elections. I replied that if she had specific grievances, we had international and domestic observers and many other mechanisms and the entire process would be analysed. I reminded her that in the US a nominee can win a popular vote but a different candidate can be elected president because of different shares of votes in the electoral districts and the Electoral College. This is what happened in 2000 when the Florida votes were recounted for such a long time. Eventually, this process was stopped by the Supreme Court. George Bush Jr became US President and Alexander Gore accepted his defeat. Ms Rice told me then that they know this is a problem but this is their problem and they will settle it themselves. They probably will respond to the OSCE report in the same way.

As for the prospects and the projection of this or other decision on treaties, including the Open Skies Treaty, in line with the current schedule and its own announced decision on withdrawal, the US is supposed to end its participation in the treaty on November 22 or two and a half weeks after the election. No matter who becomes president, the new administration will assume its duties on January 20. Therefore, this decision will not likely be revised if the treaty expires. If the new administration, Democratic or Republican, decides to return to the treaty, the talks will have to be started from scratch. Therefore, at the extraordinary conference of the signatories of the Open Skies Treaty that was held online on July 6 of this year, we urged all remaining parties to the treaty to try and preserve it. We are prepared to continue with it but will take our final decision on whether we should remain part of it after analysing all consequences of the US decision on withdrawing from it, that is unlikely to be revised. It is final and irreversible as we are seeing, in my opinion. This is also confirmed by what happened with the INF Treaty. The decision was announced. This was followed by attempts at persuading them to keep it but to no avail.

But let me return to what I said in replying to one of the questions. We are ready for a situation where nothing will be left of arms control due to the US’s persistent line to throw all of these agreements out. But we are also prepared not to start from scratch but continue our contacts with the Americans on all strategic stability issues. I am confident that all members of the international community will support this approach. That said, we will keep the door open for multilateral talks as well. Let me repeat that these talks must rely on common understanding, voluntary participation and a balanced lineup of participants.

Serbia Protest Explosion – Vučić Caught Between Coronavirus and Color Revolution

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Serbia Protest Explosion – President Vučić Caught Between ...

Joaquin Flores July 10, 2020

On the evenings of July 7th and 9th, a wave of unrest swept through several Serbian cities – chiefly Belgrade – in opposition to an announcement from Vučić that Belgrade would return to the government mandated coronavirus quarantine lockdowns.

Largely the protests were peaceful if energetic, with the vast majority of protesters of all ages and walks of life observing norms and voicing their opposition to the announcement that quarantine would return. Many of those protesting were not anti-Vučić per se, and their issues were not political in the electoral sense, but opposed the return to lockdowns which seem arbitrary and capricious at this point.

Vučić Responds Reasonably to Peaceful Protesters

In response to the protests, the Serbian government heard and understood the nature of the grievances, and did something quite rational – in a statement aired on live television, Vučić rescinded the return to quarantine order, which was otherwise to go into effect on the weekend of July 10th.

Because the government could not be seen as bending to opposition politics, and in part because it is also true, government talking points have stressed a difference between the peaceful protesters and the breakaway group of violent and radical opposition.

Additionally fueling the Belgrade and Novi Sad protests in Serbia were mixed grievances, which when unraveled are actually distinctly at odds with each other.

On the one hand is the criticism from the ultra nationalist right that the government used a more or less fake coronavirus as a pretext to move back the election date from April 26th to June 21st, and the social distancing provisions in place which precluded large rallies and gatherings as part of the campaigns.

Meanwhile, other grievances mostly from the Europhile liberal left criticized government for precisely the opposite – lifting quarantine lockdowns prematurely just in order to have an election – despite that elections were delayed already once until the coronavirus curve was ‘flattened’.

The opposition, whether liberal or nationalist, relies on such campaign rallies as well as U.S. deep-state controlled social media to promote their ideas and work. This is because local media – they claim with some justification – is overly sympathetic to the ruling party and Vučić.

Violence Erupts in Belgrade and Novi Sad

A more radicalized and younger break-away group of protesters took their grievances to the parliament building in Belgrade itself. This group was more ideological, composed of opposition parties, and always engage in protests against the government regardless of the cause. By the numbers, the most serious incidents occurred in Belgrade, about 20 police officers and 17 radical demonstrators had injuries, according Politika. Giving context, Serbia has an extraordinarily high youth unemployment rate, and many look for opportunities in other countries in order to realize their aims in life.

Clashes between the break-away protest led by the U.S. deep state-backed opposition and police began after 8pm in the capital, when this part of the demonstration broke through the fence in front of parliament. The more radical group there threw stones, bottles, bricks and firecrackers into the police line, to which law enforcement officers responded with at least 20 canisters of tear gas, according to opposition press releases. The cavalry and special force of the gendarmerie in full riot gear were called in to defend the parliament from further vandalism and fire.

The radical contingent continued stoning police in the central streets, where they were pushed away from the rest of the peaceful assembly. By 11:30 p.m., the main bulk of the peaceful protest eventually petered out and street cleaners began their work.

The Serbia case of the coronavirus response and the new Covid political reality is so revealing of the entire global situation, because all of the factors and international players involved in this bizarre new reality, are all present in Serbia.

Therefore to understand the Serbian situation is not only to understand the plandemic at hand, but is also to understand the balance of geopolitical forces in the Balkans and indeed the world, and to understand the theory and practice of the Color Revolution and how it combines with the newly implemented social control mechanism of the ‘plandemic’.

If at face value we accept the uncritical narrative on coronavirus, and do not know about Color Revolutions or the ‘plandemic’, then we arrive at the view that the protesters are out of their minds and have fallen victim to right-wing ‘fake news’, are ‘Covid deniers’, and that the government has handled this following long-established procedures and relatively sound recommendations.

But once we peel back a layer – the plandemic/scamdemic layer – we reveal that the government may indeed be manipulating the data towards political ends, because this is what we’ve already seen in nearly every country to-date. Now the position of the protesters makes sense, and these mirror the anti-lockdown protests that we’ve seen in the U.S. From this, we would arrive at the view that the Serbian government is ‘on-board’ with the so-called ‘scamdemic’, and naturally there would be well founded sympathies with the protests and even with the joint opposition.

The problem is that there is still yet another layer to peel back – the Color Revolution. The ugly truth is that the same globalist forces that have manufactured this plandemic are those who are also trying to mobilize a Color Revolution against Vučić’s Serbian government.

And now we can see Vučić sandwiched between Color Revolution and the Covid-19 plandemic.

For Vučić to deny the plandemic only further enforces a western trope that Serbia is some pariah state, and opens him up to the same universe of conspiracy and intrigue that hit Trump last Winter when he said that aspects of coronavirus was a ‘hoax’.

Because Serbia is a small country with perhaps a third-tier level of sovereignty, condemnation from the WHO would open it up to all kinds of economic attacks from the western international community. The simulacrum of the virus and the possibility of Vučić not responding, could create the possibility for a U.S. backed military coup combined with color revolution, with leading generals asserting that Vučić has disregarded the public health.

To go full bore on never-ending quarantine and social distancing on the other hand, as seen in places like Los Angeles, would open him up to criticism that he’s using the quarantine as a mechanism to suppress dissent, and would result in color revolutionary protests without end, against the lockdown – like what we saw in early-mid July in Belgrade, but on steroids.

What makes the Serbian government of Vučić credible is that it represents an amalgam of the median and average political views of the people, and whatever people believe about various anti-Vučić conspiracies (freemasonry, globalism, Russian agent, German agent, etc.), efforts to overthrow Vučić cannot have the veneer of public support without uniting the two extreme and incompatible ends of the very same political spectrum that situates Vučić as representing those median and average views. Again, that is the primary contradiction of the Color Revolution against Vučić and part of why, so far, it has entirely failed.

Indeed, Vučić rescinding the proposed quarantine for the weekend of July 10th is an example of Vučić’s basic policy of placing himself in line somewhere between the median view and the average view of Serbians. In so doing, he has taken the wind out of any hope for a coherent opposition talking point.

This dynamic of the opposition’s composition is distinct from Ukraine, for example, because both nationalism and liberalism in Ukraine was anti-Russian, but nationalism in Serbia is pro-Russian. This made the Maidan in Kiev, a Color Revolution, possible to pull-off.

This looks like a mess, doesn’t it? And subsequently, opposition talking points have equally been a mess, to the point of blatant contradictions and an insistence on incoherence.

The Incoherence of the Serbian Opposition

In general this incoherence is because the opposition itself is composed of two contradictory forces – the ultra nationalist right and the Europhile liberal left – which have merely been artificially cobbled together by the U.S. deep state, and its agents like Srdja Popovic and promoted by self-confessed CIA asset and publicist, Djordje Vukadinovic.

That same liberal+nationalist joint opposition tactic for the Color Revolution is exactly what was seen in the Maidan in Kiev. This is the playbook for Gladio B operations in former socialist states of Eastern Europe and the Balkans to make a Color Revolution. A Color Revolution is not possible without uniting these contradictory forces behind a counter-rational narrative which by default must be steeped in emotion-driven beliefs and decision making. Because an analytic or coherent view would see that in terms of policy and worldview, Vučić is ‘the middle-position’ compromise candidate between nationalist and liberal forces.

In other words, the liberal opposition and the nationalist opposition share more with the very same Vučić whom they oppose than they do with each other. That is why fomenting the irrational cult of Vučić hate is the primary ‘solution’ out of this logical quagmire.

By making elections a ‘referendum on Vučić’, then Vučić loses. But elections are not referendums, they are choices – and in elections it is a choice between Vučić and someone else. In the 2017 election, that someone else was Vuk Jeremic, a long-time U.S. asset and agent in the Balkans, whose campaign was publicly endorsed by the U.S. State Department, with components of it run out of the U.S. embassy in Belgrade itself.

This is also why opposition driven anti-Vučić criticisms on coronavirus handling are equally irrational and incoherent. The Europhile liberal left accuses Vučić of not doing enough, of lying about the health system’s equipment and preparedness, and for – yes wait for it – holding elections when it was unsafe to do so (!).

They cannot, however draw the natural conclusion from that line of thinking, that elections therefore should have been delayed further or even cancelled. Vučić is required by the constitution to carry out the election, and he had to fulfill that requirement. Following the coronavirus logic, the end of June with its bright sunlight and a flattened curve, was much more prudent than April.

So here the liberal left attacks Vučić for not doing enough and lying about coronavirus fatalities in terms of under-representing deathsto stage an election at the expense of public health. And yet they cannot take that line of attack to its logical conclusion, because it stands at odds with the view of the ultra-nationalist right, that the coronavirus is a fake virus, and so they must fall back on the cult of Vučić hate which has always been about Vučić as some totalitarian dictator. In the totalitarian dictatorship of Vučić, opposition parties are fully represented in parliament by proportional representation, the country functions as a social democracy, and people are free to criticize Vučić and call him a dictator – all proofs that it is not the case.

Indeed, the nationalist right accuses Vučić of precisely the opposite – that he is part of this globalist scamdemic, and is over-representing coronavirus fatalities and that there should have been no quarantine, no lockdown, no social distancing, and that implementing all of these was done because he’s part of the globalist cabal, and in order to make it nearly impossible to organize a strong opposition influence in the elections against him.

The view of the nationalist right, in the case of the charge of over-representing fatalities, is probably much closer to the truth – and if the whole story were confined to the above, it would be true. And yet Serbia’s overall fatality rate has been significantly lower than in places like Italy, lending superficial credence to liberal accusations that fatalities have been under-represented in national statistics at Vučić’s behest.

That is why the final layer we peel back, the Color Revolution, puts all pieces together and makes sense out of what is otherwise senseless

The Color Revolution was first successfully pulled off precisely in Serbia, when it was still the central state of Yugoslavia. It was connected to a whole NATO war of aggression on Yugoslavia and Serbia. Among their chief in-country stooges at the time, was Popovic, who for his part is a student of Gene Sharp and an employee of George Soros and has organized and advised the CANVAS/OTPOR type operations which led the Color Revolutions in Yugoslavia, Egypt, etc., and recently the BLM protests in the U.S..

President Vučić’s decrees on coronavirus quarantine and distancing, including lockdown – following the advice of Chinese and Russian advisors who were in-country through the Spring – were used to make the election campaign window even smaller, to the detriment of opposition parties.

Rightfully so, the opposition parties had seized upon that development to accuse the president of manipulating data, media, and policy surrounding the novel coronavirus. There is strong evidence to suggest this is the case, which in the bubble of opposition talking points naturally includes leaked memos and emails, and off-the-record statements from insiders. But outside of the standard talking points from the opposition, there is something qualitative to consider.

Once the initial springtime quarantine/lockdown was lifted and campaigning for the new election date began towards the pushed-back election, the number of supposed coronavirus deaths averaged less than one a day, according to published government health sector statistics.

After the elections, this number jumped to nearly a dozen a day for no apparent reason. And so when the government had announced a return to the quarantine regimen based on these admittedly suspicious numbers.

But after the elections is normally a time when opposition groups might stage the standard protests to mobilize their base and create some public pressure on appointments and policies as the new post-election government is to be formed. So the announcement from Vučić that numbers had suddenly spiked and now large gatherings would be illegal, was treated with due contempt.

However, Vučić was able to maneuver this, by separating the real demands of the protesters which are against Covid-19 lockdown, from the opposition which has no real clear unifying line on this.

Vučić rescinded the quarantine order and in so doing, agreed with the protesters. The radical opposition, however, which always attempts to create mayhem and hyperventilates every situation, has been once again out-flanked and marginalized. They are associated with the violence and with an irrational perspective.

Exposing the joint opposition incoherence is relatively simple. They are overtly lying to the world and to themselves, and in standard form of the Color Revolution, are misrepresenting the actual views of protesters which are almost always nuanced, and more rational when compared to the U.S. backed joint opposition which has only one goal – an overthrow of the government.

And so confronted once again with a messaging crisis, the opposition has resorted to the same old inane mantras suited for the outside world (in the English language), which do not resonate with the world the way they hope they will. The gem they have landed on, in the face of all evidence to the contrary is their standard trope, incessant as it is annoying, but moreover ‘not believable’ and so to that extent also useless:

And that final point is the evidence that Vučić maneuvered this successfully. The opposition returns to its mantra with no new ground made, with no growth, and no new-found credibility.

What most voters will remember is the violent aspects of the break-away protests as negative, and Vučić hearing the peaceful protestors and rescinding the quarantine order as positive.

VIDEO: The 2020 Economic Crisis. Global Poverty, Unemployment and Despair

Source

By Prof Michel Chossudovsky

Global Research, June 30, 2020

We are living one of the most serious crises in modern history. 

According to Michel Chossudovsky, the coronavirus pandemic is used as a pretext and a justification to close down the global economy, as a means to resolving a public health concern.  

A complex decision-making process is instrumental in the closing down of national economies Worldwide. We are led to believe that the lockdown is the solution.

Politicians and health officials in more than 150 countries obey orders emanating from higher authority.

In turn millions of people obey the orders of their governments without questioning the fact that closing down an economy is not the solution but in fact the cause of  global poverty and unemployment. 

What we are dealing with is a crime against humanity.

Fear, intimidation, media disinformation prevail. The Lie has become the Truth

This is an imperial project emanating from powerful economic interests.

A global fear campaign is sustained by the media. And now a so-called second wave is envisaged.

The social and economic impacts are beyond description.


FULL TRANSCRIPT

The 2020 Economic Crisis. Global Poverty, Unemployment and Despair
By Prof. Michel Chossudovsky

June 30, 2020

We are undoubtedly living (in) one of the most serious economic and social and crises in modern history. In some regards, we are living history and we are unable to comprehend the logic of the corona virus pandemic.

What is at stake is the pretext and the justification for closing down national economies worldwide based on a public health concern.

We have to understand the causalities. Closing down an economy, nationally and globally does NOT resolve the pandemic. In fact, it creates a situation of INSTITUTIONAL INSTABILITY.

It also results in massive unemployment, confinement of people in their homes, without employment, without food . . . That is what we’re living.

There is NO justification for closing down national economies based on a public health concern, which can be resolved, and SHOULD be resolved!

There is a very complex decision-making process, which has been PLANNED WELL IN ADVANCE. From ‘central authority’, governments are instructed to close down their economies and then, in turn, the governments instruct people to implement social engineering, not to meet, not to have family reunions . . .

And, essentially, what we do not understand, and which is fundamental, is that economic activity is the basis for the reproduction of real life. By that I mean, institutions, purchasing power of families, a whole series of activities, which have developed in the course of history – economic activity constitutes the foundation of all societies.

And what these measures have resulted in is a massive crisis, in which particularly small and medium sized enterprises are being precipitated into bankruptcy, millions of people have become unemployed, and in many countries this has resulted in mass poverty, famine, among certain groups of the population.

We have ample evidence to this effect and we have to understand that this process of closing down national economies is deliberate. IT’S A PLAN.

And, it’s co-ordinated with the financial crisis which took place in the month of February (2020), which led to massive collapse in banking institutions, stock markets and so on. Economists, conventional economists, have a tendency to say that there’s no relationship between the corona pandemic crisis and the financial crash in February. That is utterly mistaken. The fear campaign, the disinformation campaign, have facilitated the MANIPULATION OF STOCK MARKETS. And we’re (I’m) talking about the use of very sophisticated derivatives, speculative instruments and so on.

What is now happening is that governments have been indebted up to their ears. They’re paying out compensation to companies which have been affected; in some cases it’s generous bailouts, in other cases it’s part of a social safety net coming to the rescue of workers and small-scale enterprises.

And the next stage is the MOST SERIOUS DEBT CRISIS IN WORLD HISTORY. In other words, the levels of employment have crashed and companies are bankrupt. We will have a fiscal crisis of the state. In other words, a dramatic decline in (income) tax revenues due to the collapse in employment, and the  companies (which have not gone bankrupt) are going to deduct corporate losses, of course (on their tax statements). How will the governments around the world continue to govern, finance social programs and so on?

It will ultimately be through a gigantic global debt operation implemented both in the so-called ‘developed’ countries – e.g. Italy, France, United States, Canada – and in the developing countries where it will be more the international financial institutions, the World Bank, the IMF, the regional development banks.

Now, the problem of Western governments is that that debt is NOT REPAYABLE. The Italian government has issued bonds with the support of Goldman Sachs and so on; that was done a couple of months back. And what has happened? Italy’s debt is categorized (by Standard and Poor). . . these Italian bonds, are classified ‘BB’, which essentially means junk bond status. In other words, that means that an entire state apparatus is now in the hands of the creditors. And these creditors are the financial institutions, the banks and so on.

And the next stage is ultimately the confiscation of the State! THE STATE WILL BE PRIVATIZED. All the programs will be under the helm of the creditors. We can say, “Goodbye” to the welfare state in Western Europe. Why? Because the creditors will immediately, following what they did in Greece a few years back . . . they will immediately impose austerity measures, and the privatization of social programs, the privatization of anything that can be privatized – cities, land, public buildings.

And, in other words, we are living a very important evolution because the State, as we know it, will no longer exist. It will be run by private banking interests, who will . . . and they’re already doing that . . . APPOINT their governments, or their politicians, their corrupt politicians, and essentially they will take over the whole political landscape.

That is happening in a number of countries. And in some countries they have even instructed the governments NOT to debate (in parliament) the enormous debts which have been accumulated in the last few months as a result of the pandemic, which now are the object of financing by these powerful financial institutions. In Canada there was an agreement between Prime Minister Trudeau on the one hand and the leader of the opposition – NO DEBATE in parliament on $150 billion of debt, which then has to be covered through public debt operations and loans from financial institutions.

And essentially the scenario that we are living. . . which is unfolding is that, on the one hand, the real economy in the course of the last few months starting in March, well, in fact, starting in February with the stock market crash is in a state of crisis, production activity has been affected, trade has been affected. Millions and millions of people are going to be unemployed, without earnings, and it’s not only poverty – it’s poverty and despair. It’s the marginalization of large sectors of the world population from the labour market. There are figures on that, published by the ILO (International Labour Organization) that in fact, at this stage, it is premature to even start estimating these impacts.

We can look at it country by country. We can see, for instance, that in developing countries the informal sector, let’s say in India or in certain countries in Latin America, (such as) Peru, a large sector of the labour force is involved in what is called the ‘informal sector’; self-employed, small-scale industries and so on. Well, this has been COMPLETELY WIPED OUT and the people affected are left very often, homeless. The only choice they have is to do it to go back to their home villages and in the process they are the victims of famine and a situation of TOTAL MARGINALIZATION.

That is the scenario. It’s beyond global poverty. It’s mass unemployment. It is something which has been ENGINEERED, it’s not something which is accidental. And it’s certainly not something which has been used to resolve a global health crisis.

The global health crisis pertaining to covid has been MULTIPLIED. People have been confined, they have fallen sick, they have lost their jobs, and at the same time the whole health apparatus has been in crisis, unable to function.

What we have to understand is that this process HAS TO BE CONFRONTED! There has to be an organized opposition. This is a neo-liberal project! It’s neo-liberalism to the extreme.

Now, bear in mind that today, what we have, (is that) in some regards, the stock market crash used speculative instruments, insider trading, but also the fear campaign to implement what is THE MOST SIGNIFICANT TRANSFER OF WEALTH IN WORLD HISTORY! In other words, everybody loses money in the stock market crash and the money goes into the hands of, you know, a limited number of billionaires. And there have been estimates as to the enrichment of this class in the course of the last three months. I won’t get into details. So that, this, in a sense, this crisis of February, the stock market crisis, sets the stage for the lockdown.

And on (the topic of) the lockdown, we can call it by another name. The lockdown is the CLOSURE OF THE GLOBAL ECONOMY! It is an act which instructs national governments to close down their economy, and they obey! That’s what we call, ‘global governance’. But it’s an imperial project. They obey and they close down everything.

And then they they try to convince their citizens that this is all for a good cause, we are closing down the economy so that we can save lives due to covid-19. That is a very strong statement and at the same time the statistics on covid-19 are the source of manipulation.

I won’t get into that particular dimension but I can say in all certitude that the impact of this crisis is so dramatic, the economic crisis, that it DOESN’T COMPARE to the impact of covid-19, which, according even to people like Anthony Fauci, is comparable to the seasonal influenza. They’ve written that in their peer-reviewed articles.

What they say online, on CNN is a different matter. But they do not consider covid-19 as an ultimate danger of all dangers. It’s not. There are many other health pandemics affecting the world. That does not mean that we shouldn’t take it seriously but we should understand, it’s common sense, it’s not by closing down the global economy that you’re going to resolve this pandemic.

So somebody’s lying, somewhere. And in fact, the lies are ‘becoming the truth’, they’re becoming part of the ‘consensus’ and THAT IS EXTREMELY DANGEROUS.

Because when the lie becomes ‘the truth’, there’s no turning backwards.

And we notice how independent scientists, independent analysts, are being CENSORED,  that we have many doctors and nurses and scientists, virologists as well as economists who are speaking out. And you just have to look at the figures, the millions and millions of people who are unemployed as a result of this.

So, what we really need is a historical understanding of what’s going on, because closing down the economy through orders from ‘somewhere up there’ . . .

First of all, it’s DISTINCT FROM ANY PREVIOUS CRISIS. But secondly, we have to RESIST THAT MODEL. And it’s not by changing the paradigm, no. It’s a mass movement; it’s a mass movement against our governments, it’s a mass movement against the architects of this diabolical project . . .

And we can’t ask the Rockefellers, “Please lend us the money” to pay for our expenses, we have to do that on our own.

And that’s why all these NGOs, which are funded by corporate foundations Cannot  . . . I’m not saying . . . some of the things they do are fine but they cannot wage a campaign against those who are sponsoring them, that’s an impossibility.

So we have to implement a grassroots movement, nationally and internationally, to CONFRONT THIS DIABOLICAL PROJECT and to restore our national economies, our national institutions. And, to DENY THE LEGITIMACY OF THE DEBT PROJECT. And to investigate the elements of corruption which have led to this diabolical adventure, which is affecting humanity in its entirety.

This is a war against humanity, implemented through complex economic instruments.

Goodbye and we will continue our battle and our analysis to the best of our abilities at Global Research.

***

Our thanks to Chris Green for the Transcript of the above video.

CAPS indicate emphasis


The Globalization of Poverty and the New World OrderThe Globalization of Poverty: Deconstructing the New World Order

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Reviews:

“This concise, provocative book reveals the negative effects of imposed economic structural reform, privatization, deregulation and competition. It deserves to be read carefully and widely.”
– Choice, American Library Association (ALA)

“The current system, Chossudovsky argues, is one of capital creation through destruction. The author confronts head on the links between civil violence, social and environmental stress, with the modalities of market expansion.”
– Michele Stoddard, Covert Action Quarterly

CLICK HERE FOR A SPECIAL INSIDE LOOK AT THE PREFACE

Michel Chossudovsky is Professor of Economics at the University of Ottawa and Director of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG), which hosts the critically acclaimed website www.globalresearch.ca. He is a contributor to the Encyclopedia Britannica. His writings have been translated into more than 20 languages.

The original source of this article is Global

ResearchCopyright © Prof Michel Chossudovsky, Global Research, 2020

A View From Afar

June 15, 2020

by Auslander for The Saker Blog

It is interesting to watch a full blown coup come to life. The responsibility for this coup can be laid directly at the feet of President Donald John Trump for having the absolute gall to defeat Hillary Diane Rodham in an open and free election in 2016. Of course the falsely defeated Rodham, ringed by her ever more strident and blindly faithful minions including the world wide media, immediately began to strike back even as the final vote counting was at hand. The rallying cry? “Impeach Trump!!!” This ‘impeach’ movement was ongoing for months before Donald Trump took the oath of office in 2017, but for me it was a head scratcher, how could he have done anything to warrant impeachment before he was even sworn in as President? Somehow no one in the feckless media had the brains to ask that question, ergo they have all been bought and paid for.

But scream they did, every day and all day, but behind the scenes they were planning and planning well. When they finally did manage to get an impeachment article against the president through Congress it didn’t fly, but that didn’t matter, the plans were well afoot and ready for one spark to go national and global. That ‘spark’ was the death of one man in police custody, actually in the process of being put in police custody, and his death became the cause for the coup to spring to life. As planned. It matters not what the spark was or who, if anyone, died, the fact is the well planned and financed coup grew exponentially in hours.

So, just as US was coming off the ‘Chinese pandemic’ and the country was in shut down with severe financial and cultural repercussions,  the country exploded. As was planned. Having watched months of the debacle in Kiev in late ’13 through early ’14, I instantly recognized the tactics and organizations, just as I recognized them at the Krim Rada Riot on, if memory serves, 24 February ’14 when the orcs tried to take Rada. The same well organized units, readily identifiable ranks and easily identifiable units with various tasks. While the actors have morphed from ‘banderites’ to ‘antifa’, it’s the same tactics now well honed after the trial runs on the left coast two years ago. The media is in lock step with the coup participants and screaming bloody murder all day every day and now, as planned, the chaos has expanded to west Europe, albeit nothing like what is happening in US.

Make no mistake, this is an organized, violent and bloody coup d’etat against the sitting President of the United States of America. President Trump is being artfully hemmed in by ever increasing and ever more violent events and is to the point, if one listens to the ever patriotic media, damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t. Case in point, the little area in Seattle which is now ‘liberated territory’. Liberated from what no one knows, but the mayor of Seattle and the governor of Washington State both seem to be in favor of this little dab of US territory owned by openly self identified fascists and devolving by the minute in to ever deeper chaos and anarchy. No President can allow or condone these actions by armed insurgents, so President Trump will have to act. The problem is there is some problems in the upper echelon ranks of the US Armed Forces, a couple of whom don’t seem to remember who is the CiC of the Armed Forces of the United States of America and also seem to have forgotten their oath to defend USA from all attacks both foreign and domestic. So be it. A very few, read one or two, senior officers have openly disavowed their oaths and have turned against the President. This is not good, it will bring confusion and hesitation in the Field Grade and Company Grade officers if and when they are issued orders to quash this open and blatant attack in the Sovereign States of the United States of America. As planned. Any coup will find spineless upper echelon officers who can be bought or blackmailed, comes with the events.

As such, again make no mistake, the rank and file and company grade officers and NCO’s, the actual fighters, will stand with the President. The take down of that little spit of land in Seattle, and the other quasi ‘liberated’ areas in other states, will be violent and bloody. As planned. The political party in opposition to President Trump would rather bring civil war, real civil war with all it’s resultant death and destruction, to the United States of America rather than see President Trump win another election. This is typical of the ‘liberal’ and ‘woke’ echelons who consider themselves the elite and proper guiders of our country rather than what the voters will decide. It will not work and when the dust settles and the blood in the streets is washed down the gutters, the country we knew will be changed forever. I do not know that the ‘new’ United States of America will be, but I can assure I’m standing here in a peaceful and quiet community watching this organized and chaotic coup run it’s course with mouth agape. One can only hope the bloodshed will not be ‘too’ serious, but every life is precious and many more innocents, either misguided fools or true innocents, will die. As someone once said, damn their eyes, damn their souls, back to their lord Satan where they belong.


Auslander – http://rhauslander.com/

Update:  The image of the Collies had to be made smaller to fit in the space, but they are so lovely that I thought to put the big image here.

من المحيط الهادئ حتى جبل طارق الصين وحلفاؤها يعتلون عرش العالم

محمد صادق الحسيني

كلّ ما يدور من حولنا يؤكد بما لم يعد قابلاً للشك او التردّد بأنّ مركز ثقل العالم ينتقل من الغرب الى الشرق..! وانّ محور هذا الانتقال هو العلوم التي بدأت تهيمن عليها وتتقنها كلّ من الصين وروسيا وإيران، فيما لا تزال أميركا هيكلاً ضخماً، لكنها لا تكاد تملأ جوفها إلا أوهام القوة ومحدوديتها…!

وهاجس الصين هو الشبح الذي يطارد في ما كان يسمّى يوماً الدولة الأعظم في العالم…!

وإليكم مسار هذا التحوّل التاريخي بالوقائع:

لا بدّ لأيّ محلل موضوعي ان يعود الى الجذور البعيدة، لأيّ أزمة تظهر في العلاقات الدولية في وقتنا الحاضر، وذلك من أجل سبر أغوارها، والوقوف على مدى عمق هذه الأزمة، واستشراف احتمالات تطورها، والاستعداد للتعامل مع هذه التطورات والتداعيات، بشكل يخدم المصلحة العربية العليا، وفي مقدّمتها القضية العربية المركزية، التي هي قضية فلسطين.

انّ الأزمة التي نعيش فصولها منذ أشهر، بين الولايات المتحدة والصين الشعبية، وما تخللها من حرب تجارية واقتصادية وتكنولوجية وعلمية وسياسية وغير ذلك ضدّ الصين الشعبية، لم تظهر الى العلن منذ انتشار فيروس كورونا في مدينة ووهان الصينية، بداية هذا العام، وإنما يعود تاريخ انطلاقها الى زمن أبعد بكثير.

فمنذ إعلان ضابط البحرية والخبير الاستراتيجي البحري الأميركي، ألفرِدْ ثايَر ماهان عن استراتيجيته لفرض الهيمنة الأميركية على العالم، في أواخر القرن التاسع عشر (توفي سنة 1914)، والتي استند فيها الى انّ الوسيلة الأفضل، لفرض هذه الهيمنة، هي نشر الأساطيل الأميركية في بحار ومحيطات العالم والسيطرة عليها، مبتعداً بذلك عن استراتيجية مونرو، التي كانت تركز على/ أو تدعو إلى/ بسط السيطرة على الأميركيتين فقط.

وقد نفذت الولايات المتحدة هذه الاستراتيجية، منذ سنة 1907، عندما قرّر الرئيس الأميركي الجمهوري، ذو الأصول الهولندية، ثيودور روزفلت الذي انتخب رئيساً سنة 1904، إرسال حملة بحرية عسكرية أميركية، تضمّ العديد من البوارج الحربية، في جولة حول العالم. هذه الجولة التي شكلت تدريباً عسكرياً حياً لمشاركة الولايات المتحدة، بجيوشها البحرية والبرية، في الحرب العالمية الأولى ومن ثم في الحرب العالمية الثانية، التي أدّت بنتائجها الى فرض الهيمنة على كامل بحار أوروبا و«الشرق الأوسط» وجنوب شرق آسيا، ايّ بحار اليابان والبحر الأصفر وأجزاء من بحار الصين وغرب المحيط الهادئ. إلى جانب إقامتها عشرات القواعد العسكرية، البحرية والجوية والبرية في كلّ البلدان، التي «حرّرتها» أي احتلتها خلال تلك الحرب، سواءً في غرب أوروبا او في جنوب شرق آسيا.

وبقيت الولايات المتحدة، ورغم تطور الاتحاد السوفياتي وقواته البحرية وتصدّيها للبلطجة البحرية الأميركية، في كثير من بحار العالم، خاصة في البحر المتوسط، في مواجهة الأسطول السادس الأميركي، منذ أواسط خمسينيات القرن الماضي، أو في غرب المحيط الهادئ في منطقة جزيرة غوام، القريبة نسبياً من الساحل الجنوبي الشرقي لروسيا، حيث ميناء ڤلاديڤستوك المطلّ على بحر اليابان، أو في منطقة بحر الفلبين، إلى الجنوب من بحر اليابان، علاوة طبعاً على وقوف الأساطيل السوفياتية بالمرصاد، لأساطيل الولايات المتحدة في بحار أوروبا والمحيطات الواقعة في غرب وشرق الكرة الأرضية، نقول رغم ذلك فإنّ الولايات المتحدة بقيت، تُمارس سياسات الهيمنة نفسها، بواسطة القوة العسكرية، حتى بعد هزيمتها المنكرة في حرب فيتنام، سنة 1975، وفشلها في احتلال كامل شبه الجزيرة الكورية، إبان الحرب الكورية ‪1950 – 1953، ونجاح الاتحاد السوفياتي والصين الشعبية في حماية جمهورية كوريا الديموقراطية (الشمالية) من الاحتلال الأميركي، وبقائها شامخة في وجه هذا الاحتلال حتى يومنا هذا.

وهذا يعني أنّ العقيدة العسكرية الأميركية العدوانية لم تشهد ايّ تغيّر على جوهرها، بل انها شهدت بعض التغييرات على تكتيكات وأدوات تنفيذها، على الصعد الإقليمية والدولية. وفي هذا الإطار قامت الولايات المتحدة، باختراع حجة الإرهاب، بعد تفجيرات نيويورك سنة 2001 وشنها حرباً على أفغانستان، لا زالت دائرة حتى اليوم، ثم حربها الأولى والثانية على العراق واحتلاله وتدمير الدولة العراقية، وبعد محاولتها، عبر قاعدتها العسكرية المسماة «إسرائيل»، تدمير المقاومة في لبنان (حزب الله) سنة 2006 وفشلها في ذلك، ومن ثم اختراع ادوات جديدة، خدمة لاستراتيجية الهيمنة الأميركية واقامة حائط صدّ امام جمهورية الصين الشعبية، يمتد من جزيرة غوام شرقاً وحتى جبل طارق غرباً، منعاً لاستمرار تطور الصين الاقتصادي وتوسيع تعاونها مع هذا الفضاء الجغرافي والديموغرافي الواسع.

ولكن الصين الشعبية وروسيا الاتحادية لم تكونا غافلتين عن هذه المخططات الأميركية واهدافها وعواقبها التدميرية على العالم، الأمر الذي دفعهما، منذ حوالي عقدين من الزمن الى إطلاق مشاريع استثمار عملاقة، في العلوم والمعرفة والتكنولوجيا، وهي المشاريع التي أوصلت الدولتين الى مستوىً متقدم جداً، سواءً في الصناعات العسكرية أو في الصناعات الالكترونية الدقيقة المتعلقة بقطاع الاتصالات بشكل خاص. وهو القطاع الذي يتيح المجال لمن يملك التفوّق في صناعاته المختلفة، وهي الصين وروسيا وإيران حالياً، أن يكون له الدور الطليعي في التطور الاقتصادي والتحول الى القوة الاقتصادية الأولى في العالم.

ومن الجدير بالذكر أنّ ما نقوله ليس دعاية مؤيدة للدول المذكور أعلاه او انحيازاً سياسياً. لها وإنما هو تحليل للواقع الذي نعيشه والأسباب التي أسست لتطوره. فالولايات المتحدة قامت، خلال العقود الثلاثة الماضية، بإنفاق ما يزيد على ثلاثة تريليونات دولار على الحروب وشراء السلاح (البنتاغون تشتري)، بينما لم تنفق الدول الثلاث، المذكورة أعلاه، اكثر من تريليون دولار واحد على التسلح واستثمرت بقية مواردها في التطوير العلمي والتكنولوجي، والاقتصادي بالنتيجة.

وعوضاً عن ان تتعظ واشنطن من هزائم مشاريعها وسياسات الهيمنة التي اتبعتها، عبر العقود الثلاثة الماضية بشكل خاص، عمدت، وبعد تولي ترامب رئاسة الولايات المتحدة، الى الإعلان عن استراتيجية أمنية أميركية جديدة، سنة 2018، مكونة من 14 صفحة وصادرة عن البنتاغون، أسمتها: استراتيجية الولايات المتحدة الأميركية للدفاع الوطني.

وقد حدّدت فيها نصاً أنّ الاولوية، في هذه الاستراتيجية، تتمثل في مواجهة الخطر الداهم، على الولايات المتحدة، ومصدره الصين وروسيا وكذلك التصدّي للخطر المحتمل، من قبل الدول «المارقة» مثل كوريا الشمالية وإيران، وهو الأمر الذي يجعل من الضروري الاستثمار (زيادة الاتفاق العسكري) في تطوير القدرات العسكرية الأميركية اللازمة لبلوغ تلك الأهداف (التصدي للخطر الروسي الصيني الداهم والخطر الكوري الإيراني المحتمل).

وهذا يعني، في تقديرنا، أنّ جوهر هذه الاستراتيجية الجديدة يتلخص في ما يلي:

1

ـ تخلّي الولايات المتحدة عن استخدام أكذوبة الإرهاب، داعش وغيرها، التي اخترعتها وأدارتها واشنطن طوال العقد الماضي، والتركيز او اختراع خطر جديد تسميه هذه الاستراتيجية بالخطر الصيني الروسي الداهم وذلك الكوري الإيراني المحتمل.

2

ـ إن هذه الاستراتيجية ستقود، وبشكل منطقي وموضوعي، إلى تخلي الولايات المتحدة عن دول النفط العربية، خاصة في ظل انعدام قيمة هذه المادة حالياً وانتهاء دورها الاستراتيجي (الوظيفي) في السياسة الأميركي، الذي استمر قرابة قرن من الزمن.

3

ـ وغنيّ عن القول طبعاً إن هذا يعني، وفي ظل الأزمات والمآزق الأميركية الناجمة عن انتشار فيروس كورونا، ان سحب القوات الأميركية، من المنطقة العربية وافغانستان، وكذلك تخفيف الانتشار العسكري الأميركي في مناطق اخرى من العالم، قد أصبح حقيقة واقعة برسم التنفيذ، حتى لو تأخر ذلك بعض الشيء.

4

ـ ان قيام الولايات المتحدة بنشر ثلاث حاملات طائرات، هي رونالد ريغان وثيودور روزفلت ويو إس إس نيميتس، تحمل كل منها 60 طائرة حربية، حسب تصريح قائد قيادة المحيط الهندي والهادئ، الجنرال ستيفين كولَر ، لا يتعدّى كونه استعراض عضلات لن يؤدي حتى الى استفزاز الصين، التي تعلم تمام العلم أن هذه التحركات تهدف الى تعويض العجز والتراجع الاستراتيجي، الذي تعاني منه الولايات المتحدة، سواء. على الصعيد الاقتصادي او الصعيد العسكري.

5

ـ انه، وكما يقول الكاتب، الأميركي الاسرائيلي سيث فرانتس مان ، في موضوع نشره على موقع الجروزاليم بوست الإسرائيلية وكذلك على موقع ناشيونال ريڤيو بتاريخ 25/5/202، أننا وعلى عكس ظهور الولايات المتحدة الأميركية كقوة عظمى، قبل مئة عام، فإن جائحة كورونا وما سينتج عنها من كوارث دولية، ربما ستضع الاستراتيجيين الأميركيين في مواجهة احداث، هم غير مهيأين لمواجهتها، ستفضي الى جلوس الصين على عرش قيادة النظام العالمي.

ويتابع الكاتب قائلاً: إذا ما كانت الولايات المتحدة وحلفاؤها جديون، في حماية النظام الليبرالي، فإنّ عليهم التحرك بسرعة، وإلا فإننا سنرى، خلال 25 سنة، متغيّرات سريعة شبيهة بتلك التي حصلت قبل مئة عام. ولكنها هذه المرة لن تنتهي بسيطرة الولايات المتحدة، وإنما ستنتهي بجلوس الصين الشعبية وروسيا وإيران في مقعد القيادة.

يهلك ملوكاً ويستخلف آخرين.

بعدنا طيّبين قولوا الله…

Our Grim Future: Restored Neoliberalism or Hybrid Neofascism?

June 01, 2020

Our Grim Future: Restored Neoliberalism or Hybrid Neofascism?

by Pepe Escobar – crossposted with Strategic Culture Foundation

With the specter of a New Great Depression hovering over most of the planet, realpolitik perspectives for a radical change of the political economy framework we live in are not exactly encouraging.

Western ruling elites will be deploying myriad tactics to perpetuate the passivity of populations barely emerging from de facto house arrest, including a massive disciplinary – in a Foucault sense – drive by states and business/finance circles.

In his latest book, La Desaparicion de los Rituales, Byung-Chul Han shows how total communication, especially in a time of pandemic, now coincides with total vigilance: “Domination impersonates freedom. Big Data generates a domineering knowledge that allows the possibility of intervening in the human psyche, and manipulating it. Considering it this way, the data-ist imperative of transparency is not a continuation of the Enlightenment, but its ending.”

This revamping of Foucault’s Discipline and Punish coincides with reports about the demise of the neoliberal era being vastly overstated. Instead of a simplistic plunge into populist nationalism, what is on the horizon points mostly to a Neoliberalism Restoration – massively spun as a novelty, and incorporating some Keynesian elements: after all, in the post-Lockdown era, to “save” the markets and private initiative the state must not only intervene but also facilitate a possible ecological transition.

The bottom line: we may be facing a mere cosmetic approach, in which the deep structural crisis of zombie capitalism – barely moving under unpopular “reforms” and infinite debt – still is not addressed.

Meanwhile, what is going to happen to assorted fascisms? Eric Hobsbawm showed us in Age of Extremes how the key to the fascist right was always mass mobilization: “Fascists were the revolutionaries of the counter-revolution”.

We may be heading further than mere, crude neofascism. Call it Hybrid Neofascism. Their political stars bow to global market imperatives while switching political competition to the cultural arena.

That’s what true “illiberalism” is all about: the mix between neoliberalism – unrestricted capital mobility, Central Bank diktats – and political authoritarianism. Here’s where we find Trump, Modi and Bolsonaro.

From Anthropocene to Capitalocene

To counterpunch zombie neoliberalism, those believing another world is possible dream of a social-democratic revival; wealth redistribution; or at least neoliberalism with a human face.

That’s where eco-socialism jumps in: a radical rupture with the diktats of the Goddess of the Market, the product of a healthy rebellion against ultra-authoritarian neoliberalism and illiberalism.

In sum, that could be seen as a soft adaptation of Thomas Piketty’s analyses: to break the domination of capital by economic democracy, in the spirit of mid-19th century social democracy.

It’s quite interesting, in this aspect, to consider Fully Automated Luxury Communism, by Aaron Bastani, a refreshing utopian manifesto where we see that once society is stripped off everything superfluous linked to alienation, it’s still possible for everyone to find all the necessary technical means to live “in luxury” without recourse to infinity growth imposed by Capital.

And that brings us to the direct link between the Anthropocene and what has been conceptualized by French economist Benjamin Coriat as the Capitalocene.

Capitalocene means that our current state of appalling planetary degradation should not be linked to an undefined “humanity” but “to a very defined humanity organized by a predatory economic system.”

The state of the planet under the Anthropocene must be imperatively linked to the hegemonic economic system of the past two centuries: the way we developed our system of production and legitimized indiscriminate predatory practices.

The bottom line: to go beyond it, the economy must be reoriented and rebuilt, part of a “big bang in public and economic policies.”

In the Anthropocene, Promethean humanity must be contained so the rape of Mother Earth can be properly tackled.

Capitalocene for its part describes Capital as the crucial root and conditioner of the current world-system. The result of the struggle against the ravaging effects of Capital will determine the possible future of eco-socialism.

And that refocuses the importance of the commons – way beyond the opposition between private property and public property.

Coriat has shown how Covid-19 laid bare the necessity of the commons and the incapacity of neoliberalism to address it.

But how to build eco-socialism? Should it start as eco-socialism in one country (somewhere in Scandinavia)? How to coordinate it across Europe? How to fight ossified EU structures from the inside?

After all both Restored Neoliberalism and illiberalism already count on powerful states and networks. A good example is Hungary and Poland continuing to function as cogs of the German industrial supply chain.

How to prevent someone like Bill Gates to take control of a UN organization, the WHO, thus forcing it to invest in programs that fit his own personal agenda?

How to change the WTO’s free market rules, according to which buying palm oil and transgenic soya contributes to the de facto deforestation of large tracts of Africa, Asia and South America? This is a state of affairs that allows wealthy nations to actually buy the destruction of ecosystems.

Revolution, not reform

Even if neoliberalism was dead, and it’s not, the world is still encumbered with its corpse – to paraphrase Nietzsche a propos of God.

And even as a triple catastrophe – sanitary, social and climatic – is now unequivocal, the ruling matrix – starring the Masters of the Universe managing the financial casino – won’t stop resisting any drive towards change.

Diversionist tactics supporting an “ecological transition” fool no one.

Financial capitalism is an expert in adapting to – and profiting from – the serial crises it provokes or unleashes.

To update May 1968, what’s needed is L’Imagination au Pouvoir. Yet it’s idle to expect imagination from mere puppets such as Trump, Merkel, Macron or BoJo.

Realpolitik once again points to a post-Lockdown turbo-capitalist framework, where the illiberalism of the 1% – with fascistic elements – and naked turbo-financialization are boosted by reinforced exploitation of an exhausted and now largely unemployed workforce.

Post-Lockdown turbo-capitalism is once again reasserting itself after four decades of Thatcherization, or – to be polite – hardcore neoliberalism. Progressive forces still don’t have the ammunition to revert the logic of extremely high profits for the ruling classes – EU governance included – and for large global corporations as well.

Economist and philosopher Frederic Lordon, a researcher at the French CNRS, cuts to the inevitable chase: the only solution would be a revolutionary insurrection. And he knows exactly how the financial markets-corporate media combo would never allow it. Big Capital is capable of co-opting and sabotaging anything.

So this is our choice: it’s either Neoliberal Restoration or a revolutionary rupture. And nothing in between. It takes someone of Marx’s caliber to build a full-fledged, 21st century eco-socialist ideology, and capable of long-term, sustained mobilization. Aux armes, citoyens.

The new cold war; The Industrial Dependence War:

May 25, 2020

By Ghassan Kadi for the Saker Blog

The world does not need a new cold war, or does it?

The Cold War started before the hot war was over. It was put into motion when America dropped the ‘bomb’ and Stalin declared that the USSR should ramp up its efforts to have this technology as soon as possible. And even though the Soviet Atomic Bomb Project was initiated in 1942, the first Soviet test was conducted in 1949, four years after Hiroshima.

The blame here is not on Stalin. After all, if Stalin did not take this ‘pre-emptive’ move, the West was planning to take him down next. It’s quite likely that Stalin and the USSR were saved from a Western invasion by the nukes they developed.

If the USA had the wisdom to learn from history, it should have realized that the moment it revealed to the rest of the world that it has a new cutting-edge super weapon, a rival will come and demand to have the same. In retrospect therefore, the ‘Manhattan Project’ was the real underlying trigger point for initiating the Cold War.

With both the US and the USSR, and later on Britain and France and other nations becoming nuclear powers, overtly or secretively, the deterring effect of a major direct confrontation between superpowers became obvious, though not strong enough to prevent major regional conventional proxy and hybrid wars all over the globe.

Nations of the Middle East together with Korea, Vietnam and many others, cannot claim any benefit from the deterring effect of the Cold War, but perhaps the USA, Europe (including Russia) and even Cuba can.

Unlike the story that the West wishes to peddle to the rest of the world, America did not win the Cold War neither did the USSR lose it. In reality, this was a negotiated agreement that happened prior to the breakup of the USSR; not afterwards.

With all the fear, tension, nuclear pollution, waste and plundering of resources that the Cold War generated, the world community has by-and-large won it with flying colours. It did stop WWIII from eventuating and definitely did not allow for more A-Bombs to be dropped on more cities after Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Upon the breakup of the USSR, the United States had an opportunity to change direction and embark on a trajectory of demonstrating good leadership and innovation in the international community. Instead it set about promoting and installing a self-declared New-World Order that rendered the USA the sole superpower, and at all costs, ensured it stayed that way by whatever means necessary.

Nearly thirty years on, there is definitely a new cold war underway even though no one wants to give it this name. The encroachment of NATO into Eastern Europe and stationing missiles in former Warsaw Pact countries, which resulted in the development of hypersonic Russian weapons, followed by America’s unilateral cancelation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia, China’s home-built aircraft carriers, not to mention fighter jets, state-of-the art weaponry and rising tension in the South China Sea are all indicative of a new cold war irrespective what name the media and politicians want to give it.

Enter COVID-19.

I will not argue for or against the numerous theories that make different readings about its nature, scope, extent of danger and what mileage some parties are allegedly trying to achieve from it. COVID-19 however did expose a previously unseen and unspoken-about form of cold wars; the industrial dependence war.

Growing up in the Middle East in the 1960’s, I clearly remember how the then Egyptian President Nasser took great pride in industrializing Egypt. As a matter of fact, when Egypt built its car-assembly plant under license from Italian manufacturer Fiat, the brand name given to Egyptian product was Nasr; meaning victory.

On a much larger scale of course, who could forget the insatiable desire for Chairman Mao to industrialize China? I remember going to a Chinese industrial expo in Beirut in 1973. The manufacturing of heavy machinery in China was still in its infancy, but the Chinese officials manning the expo, as well as local supporters of Communist China, could not hide their broad smiles and feelings of pride and rejoice seeing the Chinese achievements.

And long before any of this, the manner in which European nations were able to conquer the rest of the world and turn it into colonies was because Europe was technologically advanced and industrialized; otherwise nations like Britain and the Netherlands would have never been able to conquer and rule much larger nations like India and Indonesia.

Presently whilst it is still a guarantee of quality to see the words ‘Made in Germany’ on a manufactured product, there was a time not long ago when similar assurance came from labels such as ‘Made in England’, or ‘Made in Great Britain’.

Isn’t this what the industrial revolution was all about, or has the world forgotten?

When Asian products began to appear in the Western markets, their quality was shockingly inferior. They were competing on price and price only. Japan took the lead, and in a short time produced high quality goods, especially in the areas of photography, sound equipment and motor vehicles; and the rest is history.

The West often ridicules ‘totalitarian regimes’ and advocates the principles of capitalism, private enterprise, and recently globalism. These principles, alongside democracy, are considered sacrosanct. Criticizing them is tantamount to blasphemy and reflects tendencies of Communism and even Fascism.

For fairness, for as long as the Western nations had viable economies that were underpinned by highly developed industrial prowess, the above doctrines proved to be successful. However, it seems that the initial efforts behind the Western rise were forgotten and that Westerners in general expect on-going success to come effortlessly.

Western manufacturers were eventually unable to compete, and many of them either closed down or moved their manufacturing base to Asia.

The model that the West developed over the last three decades or so was structured on turning its economy into one that is based on finance and service. In almost no time at all, the concept of manufacturing took a backstep and was regarded as something that only developing nations need to do in order to develop their own economies. This in fact reflects a Western covert arrogant elitist supremist vision of manufacturing as being tantamount to slavery; something that should only be done in foreign cheap labour camps. And a new type of slavery did develop indeed. Sports shoes sold in the West for $200 a pair were manufactured in sweat shops in Asia by workers paid around $2 a day.

Western industrialists were drawn to the benefits of paying for manufacturing in Yuans and Rupees and selling the goods in Green Backs. And when an imported T-shirt bought from Asia for $1 gets sold in the West for $20, it makes its own humble contribution to the national economy, and it is little wonder therefore as to why Western governments were joyful to partake in the spoils, after all, such arrangements produced high GDP’s, albeit that they were not based on actual domestic productivity.

Once again, enter COVID-19.

All of a sudden, the West found that it was crippled and unable to provide its citizens with basic hygiene necessities any faster that it could import them from China. But importation meant having to compete with other importers, and ‘begging’ suppliers for priority status, and when all failed, shipments going to other clients were confiscated and hijacked.

In an instant, the Western economic giant found itself in dire need of the manufactured goods it had considered itself too superior to produce.

Unable to produce ventilators, unable to provide facial masks for its citizens; the repercussions of the downfall of Western de-industrialization have never before been made so obvious for all to see.

And when President Trump enacted the Defense Production Act to demand that 3M should produce more masks, the production had to be done in 3M’s factories in China. How ridiculous is this!

These revelations certainly indicate that the West may not only be dependent on China for imports of the above. Certainly, this should shock the West into urgently examining the multi-faceted vulnerable position it has put itself in.

COVID-19 has exposed the West as a paper tiger with dependence on China on multiple levels. But the real questions to ask are the ones that haven’t yet surfaced.

What other vital supplies does the West depend on China for? And if the West was unable to deal with COVID-19 -related supplies in peacetime, how will it be able to deal with supplying its citizens with basic needs in wartime?

What about food security? What about pharmaceutical security?

Fleets, aircraft carriers, air-forces and off-shore military bases do not put food on the tables of citizens in wartime.

And speaking of military hardware, how do we know for certain whether or not Western military hardware does not use imported components? After all, even in peacetime, the USA buys Russian-made rockets to put satellites into orbit because it is unable to manufacture its own. But what other simple commodities is America no longer able to produce? This begs the question of what would America have to rely on for China in wartime? Socks? Blankets?

What is interesting to note here is that whilst the West was scrambling to import its needed supplies from China, almost overnight Russia was able to reach self-sufficiency and even be able to extend aid to other nations. And when Italy was expecting to receive such aid from its EU and NATO allies, those allies were too inept to even be able to look after themselves, and the aid ended up coming from Russia. Russian aid included the USA, with little appreciation from the receiver.

With free economy and free enterprise considered sacred in the dictionary of Western modus operandi, Western governments can neither fill in the missing industrial gap nor coerce private companies to do so. Will the West reflect on where they went wrong with their once successful model? Such self-examination is unlikely to happen because any Western political party that evaluates and proposes solutions to this failure will be accused of Socialism and even Fascism. One of the biggest ironies here is that Western political rivals are only interested in making political scores against each other; scores that can get them elected. They are not at all necessarily interested in what is good for their nations.

The world certainly does not need a new cold war, but the West is unknowingly deeply engaged in one already. If lessons are to be learnt is for the future to reveal. COVID-19 did not trigger a war. It did however expose the reality of an existing and on-going war, a cold war, a war no one paid much attention to before, one not based on buildup of military arsenals, but rather one of industrial dependence; a war the West has already lost to China.

China, the World System and Brazilian dystopia

May 22, 2020

China, the World System and Brazilian dystopia

By Fábio Reis Vianna for the Saker Blog

When Admiral Cheng Ho ordered the retreat of his naval fleet around the year 1424, he left, in the words of the anthropologist Abu-Lughod, “a huge power vacuum”. The first great Chinese expansionist project, started during the Ming Dynasty, was prematurely interrupted there.

After impressive naval expeditions that reached territories as far away as the Indian Ocean and the coast of Africa, and in a decision not yet fully clarified by scholars of the subject, China would abruptly give up the first great expansionist project on a global scale.

It would take no more than 70 years for the Europeans to occupy the great void left by the Chinese and actually begin the adventure that gave rise to what we today call world system.

Six centuries later, China led by Xi Jinping finds itself in an unprecedented crisis in its recent successful history as the undisputed leader of the globalization process. The Covid-19 pandemic that abruptly hits the entire planet, for China in particular, was a hard blow that created an imbalance in its model of political and economic stability.

In the first three months of 2020, trade between China and the rest of the world fell by 6.4%, a figure unthinkable by Chinese standards. In particular, trade with the United States, the European Union and Japan declined 18.3%, 10.4% and 8.1% respectively.

Even with the strong decrease of contagion within Chinese territory, there is a great concern to accelerate the reopening of productive activities. The concern with increasing poverty and political destabilization are evident. In his recent visit to Shaanxi province, Xi Jinping made a point of underlining in his speech the importance of the fight against poverty.

In addition to incentives to businesses, investments in infrastructure and financial aid to the population, a series of structural reforms are planned to enable the country to overcome the terrible crisis triggered by Covid-19. An important annual session of the National People’s Congress is scheduled for May 22nd, and more details can be examined there.

Meanwhile, Brazil, one of the countries that in the recent past could be considered one of the most important allies of the Eurasian integration project outside Eurasia, is experiencing the greatest political-economic crisis in its entire history and is sinking deeper and deeper into an unprecedented internal war.

Something that is being discussed internally among the Chinese establishment is precisely the creation of mechanisms to contain the risk of instability that the social tensions arising from economic difficulties could trigger.

Brazil had already been experiencing cascading crises that had accumulated year after year since June 2013, when the country was the target of a destabilization process – or hybrid war – that triggered a series of other more or less orchestrated events (such as the lawfare against specific targets) that culminated in the weakening of institutions that had been strengthened since the enactment of the 1988 Constitution.

To make matters worse, and in contrast to the Chinese stance in seeking to contain internal instability, the country is astonished at the erratic attitudes of President Bolsonaro, under the consenting silence of his military orbits.

Having been chosen to occupy the highest position in the Republic, in all probability during the fateful visit of the then American secretary of defense, James Mattis “Mad Dog”, in August 2018 (two months before the presidential elections), when in a peculiar and closed meeting between the American and the High Command of the Armed Forces the password was given, and Bolsonaro was anointed to the mission to prevent the return of the left and realign Brazil to the satellite condition of the United States.

Everything leads us to believe that the crumbling of the Brazilian institutions has lit a warning signal within the Brazilian Armed Forces, which, in a mixture of sincere concern and sense of opportunity, took advantage of the power vacuum to move forward in the resumption of a protagonism that has been dormant for over 30 years.

Many forget, but the presence of the military – and especially the army – in the Brazilian political tradition dates back to the proclamation of the Republic in 1889, which opened the series of military coups that guided the entire Republican period to this day.

It is worth remembering that the occupation of strategic positions by the military became more visible when the current Minister of Defense, Fernando Azevedo e Silva, strangely, was appointed by the president of the Supreme Court, Dias Toffoli, to the position of special advisor.

Curiously, this has been happening in the month of September 2018 (between the visit of Secretary James Mattis and the election of Bolsonaro), where Dias Toffoli said he would have invited General Azevedo e Silva after requesting a nomination to the then commander of the army, General Eduardo Villas Bôas.

General Villas Bôas is the same man who, in April 2018, wrote on Twitter a veiled threat to the ministers of the Supreme Court if they found the habeas corpus request of former President Lula to be justified. The day after the constitutional remedy was judged, former President Lula would have his arrest ordered by then-judge Sergio Moro.

As a kind of Ayatollah, General Villas Bôas reproduces a classic character of Brazilian politics until the 1950s: the military chief.

At that time, personified by the figure of Brigadier Eduardo Gomes, the military chief was a kind of “guardian of morals and good customs” of the nation and justified the political action of the military as holders of an unwritten “moderating power”. In this way, the military attributed themselves to the exercise of the “veto power” of the Republic. In the context of the Cold War, the power of veto was invoked to curb the communist threat.

After more than 60 years, and when many thought that the Brazilian Armed Forces would be totally professionalized and away from politics, we find ourselves led by an Executive Power integrated by no less than 3 thousand military personnel; not to mention the eight ministries occupied by men in uniform.

As in a trench battle, the military had been advancing day after day in the control and tutelage of state organs and institutions of the Republic, but if there was a well articulated strategy of occupation of power, with the arrival of Covid-19 the pieces definitely shuffled.

Today Brazil is moving forward to become the world epicenter of Covid-19, and as the pandemic seems to get out of control, the more the military tries to control the internal systemic chaos.

Moreover, if before Covid-19 there was some cohesion in the Brazilian establishment around the neoliberal reforms carried out by the Ministry of Economy, with the bursting of the health crisis, it is every day more evident the split between business sectors, the big media, the National Congress and the Judiciary, which are now frontally positioned in opposition to the government.

The recent meetings between the President of the Chamber of Deputies, Rodrigo Maia, and the President of the Supreme Court, Dias Toffoli, with the Minister “eminence parda” of the Palácio do Planalto, General Braga Netto, were a subtle attempt at intimidation and framing of two of the most important civil authorities of the Republic by the Bolsonaro government.

At the same time that the basements of the government’s disinformation machine slanders adversaries and agitates the low ranks of the Armed Forces and the military police of the states (its faithful allies), the country sinks in what is certainly the greatest existential crisis in its history.

As if all this were not enough, the rest of the world coexists with the prospect of incurring a public debt only seen, according to the British magazine The Economist, “amid the rubble of 1945”.

Beyond the health crisis itself, the economic consequences of the post-Pandemic will be devastating from the fiscal point of view, because the compulsory closure of industry, offices and various segments of the service sector will certainly bring about a fall in government revenues.

As many analysts have already noted, the world is experiencing the exact moment of transition between what no longer exists and what is yet to be born.

Even before the pandemic, the acceleration of interstate competition is noticeable, which denotes the phenomenon of deconcentration of power that throughout the history of the world system always occurs in periods of decline in the long cycles of international politics.

Something that the Brazilian elites, especially the military elites – psychologically trapped in imaginary enemies such as Chinese communists and “cultural Marxists” – have not yet realized, is the dimension of Brazil’s importance in the geopolitical context of this new century that is beginning.

With the shattering of Bretton Woods institutions and the liberal order hegemonized by the United States, the world draws – and we are all characters – a systemic configuration that has not yet been defined. In process.

As it had happened between about 1550 and 1640, when the world, still dominated by the powerful Spain, saw the movements of contestation to the empire that had built its power in the newly discovered America flourish.

Trapped by the wealth of gold and the medieval system of government that no longer corresponded to reality, the Habsburgs – in their alliance with the papacy – fought so that their hegemony would not disintegrate amid the rise of the newest actors in the system, namely, France, Holland, Sweden and England.

At that time, Europe was swallowed up by an unprecedented escalation of wars stemming from those new realities of power whose new actors, emerging in the northwest of the old continent, were unwilling to submit to Spanish power.

The translation of that scenario was the deepening of the systemic chaos that would be pacified only with the advent of the Treaty of Westphalia. Any resemblance to the present world moment is no mere coincidence, at least for geopolitical scholars.

Going back to the year 2020, it is very likely that some aspects will prove to be clearer and bolder in the post-Pandemic. Technological competition, more visible around 5G, tends to radicalize in many other areas. And the search for natural/energy resources is already a reality and places not only Africa, but South America itself as the target of the new imperialist race that should also deepen.

For now, the Brazilian establishment is a mere spectator of the rapid changes that the world system will see in the coming years.

China, even though it has been severely hit by the Covid-19 meteor, is reinventing itself in its policy of global humanitarian aid to effectively combat the virus and is focusing its action on strengthening the Eurasian integration project; in particular the Belt and Road Initiative – BRI.

Demonstrating impressive resilience, despite the strong retraction in exports to central countries, the Chinese saw an increase of 3.2% with the New Silk Road countries. Although not comparable to previous years, it shows that BRI’s infrastructure projects have not been so strongly affected by the adverse effects of the health crisis.

Nothing more appropriate to the thought and conduct of Confucian cosmology, based beyond mere rambling, in a concrete act, an action.

Thus, the Chinese follow their journey towards the central helm of the world system, consciously absorbing the pillars of Western modernity, but without ever losing the essence of Confucian thought, the Tao-to that always seeks effectiveness beyond mere thought.

Next June marks seven years of uninterrupted political-institutional instability in Latin America’s largest country. May the history of the oldest peoples and the winds of change teach us to guide the helm of our own destiny.


Fabio Reis Vianna, lives in Rio de Janeiro, is a bachelor of laws ( LL.B), writer and geopolitical analyst. He is currently a columnist in international politics for the printed version of the centennial Brazilian newspaper Monitor Mercantil.

Scarce jobs + revenue desperation = sure Western stagflation post-corona

Scarce jobs + revenue desperation = sure Western stagflation post-corona

May 13, 2020

Ramin Mazaheri for the Saker Blog

Among capitalist economists stagflation is the worst possible outcome, excepting a Great Depression.

They even admit they cannot explain it (especially Keynesians), or rather they choose not to – this is why the word has barely been broached during this very depressing coronavirus era. In exactly the same vein, the West’s intellectuals claim they cannot explain the causes of World War I (as I discussed last week here).

There is clearly something in stagflation which, like the banker collusion which orchestrated World War I, strikes at the moral heart of the Western liberal project.

They don’t know what caused the 1970s stagflation, but what’s certain is that the solution – the highest prime interest rates (20% in 1981) in US history, which provoked two recessions and a disaster for the housing market – is not available today in this age of Western ZIRP (Zero Interest Rate Policies) and Quantitative Easing. A total reversal to that type of a contractionary monetary policy would lead to bankers starting World War III; negative interest rates could reach the US as soon as this winter.

The West wants to ignore stagflation because fixing it is so very, very hard. If Weimar Germany represents the most dynamic pole of Western capitalist-imperialist socio-economic breakdown, then stagflation is its equally destructive passive pole. Stagflation was indeed put to music via the punk movement, with its trumpeting of what everyone knows: the Western capitalist dream does not work without imperialist wars, the liberal democratic neo-aristocrats are phony hypocrites, and anarchy in the UK (and the rest of the West) is needed in order to overthrow the status-quo loving “keep calm and carry on-ers”.

Cover your ears – the West is about to get punk again.

“Stagflation” is a portmanteau of “stagnation” and “inflation”: it is the combination of slow economic growth, high unemployment and price inflation. Stagnant wages is a fourth component but it is often left out because the capitalist West doesn’t want to talk about lifting wages at home, in their factories in Haiti, or even on Mars.

Astute readers should be re-reading that sentence and thinking: “Well, since the Great Lockdown started the West certainly now has all four.”

Indeed, but let’s quickly recap:

Slow economic growth – YES: This existed pre-corona in the West’s “Great Recession”: a Lost Decade for the Eurozone, while US economic growth was only in the asset classes of the 1%. As a result of their hysterical overreaction to corona Western GDP growth is going to drop probably around 5%, which is a total catastrophe for a Western system that relies on constant growth and wage-earning instead of central planning and government intervention to prevent economic catastrophe for their lower classes.

We know there will be a corona-related demand shock: the expectation of continued economic chaos will increase the desire to save and not spend. There is also the demand shock caused by their generalised consumer terror – i.e., people who remain too scared of corona to even shop or travel, which will affect businesses from luxury goods to tourism to restaurants to the mall.

High unemployment – YESThis is just as obviously another catastrophic but entirely foreseeable consequence of the Great Lockdown. Estimates range from 25-42% of all lost jobs in the US are never, ever coming back. The Eurozone already had persistently high unemployment since 2008, whereas Germany and the US falsified/degraded their unemployment rate with part-time work/minijobs/gig economy jobs.

Price inflation: YES – Just talk to any small businessman: their first goal upon reopening will be to recoup months of zero revenue – they are desperate to do so because they still had to pay costs like rent, debt servicing, utilities, wages and more during the Great Lockdown. Thus, they will raise prices and cut costs (i.e. fire workers) to not be a part of the mass bankruptcies which will arrive once the West actually gets back to work and sees how bad things are now.

Consider the effects on prices of these new Great Lockdown-inspired obstacles for business such as social distancing: If restaurants, for example, are only allowed to run at half-capacity, they have to either sell twice as much food or raise prices. Talk of supply chains moving back to the US are far-fetched, given that US corporate law requires that stockholders not lose a penny just to aid the nation, but supply chain disruptions will raise prices.

How can the price of the few remaining Western government social services go down when government tax revenue has plummeted?

This is all why nobody is expecting prices to go down in 2020, but many are predicting crashes in asset classes like homes, stocks, bonds, luxury goods, etc.

Low wages: YES – This is never discussed in the West because the outlook is so perpetually depressing in a neoliberal-capitalist system which both refuses wage controls and guts stable civil service jobs in order to hand them to the unstable, profit-oriented private sector in the name of so-called “efficiency”: When the Great Lockdown ends there will be an enormous oversupply in the labor market, thus driving down wages – the Western MSM dares not discuss this inevitability. For those who kept their job: if you thought you didn’t ask for a raise from 2008-2020 because you were too shy, fear of joining the jobless ranks will keep you even quieter in 2020.

So we see that all the components are there – were already there – for Western stagflation.

A solution to stagflation would be either increased wages or increased “People’s QE”. Given that wages represent a long-term drain on the bosses’ profits, we should thus expect the Western 1% to prefer another round of direct, but one-time, government payments to individuals and households – but this would be only a temporary staving off of stagflation. However, the preference of this band-aid solution will be resolutely opposed by anti-socialist neoliberals who view government intervention as the work of Satan, as well as the existence of Austrian/Chicago/“immoral competition is normal”-capitalists who are licking their chops at the prospect of buying up the bankrupted at low prices.

From the outset I warned that the West was fooling themselves into thinking they had the same strengths and capabilities as socialist-inspired nations like China, Iran, Vietnam and others – they employed quarantining, control methods and collective-over-individualist concepts used by Asian nations, but without having similar cultures of government economic intervention nor widespread trust in their governments, and amid their economic Great Recession on top of it all.

But you hear that analysis about as often as you have heard about stagflation.

The West will continue to avoid stagflation discussions by continuing to distort the data

The West won’t discuss what it can’t explain or what threatens their cultural chauvinism, whether that is World War I, or stagflation, or how Trump doing the exact same thing Obama did is somehow only evil when Trump does it.

Slow economic growth – the excuse of Western liberal exceptionalism: “2021 economic growth rates can only go up from 2020, thus the definition of stagflation is not met.” This is a purely technical and pedantic reply – there will be both stagnation and inflation, but by taking as narrow and as uncritical a view as possible of what stagflation truly is, then Western journalists can say “claiming stagflation is wrong”. But this response can’t endlessly hold up any more than the “confidence fairy” justification for Eurozone austerity did.

High unemployment – the excuse of Western liberal exceptionalism: This will be the toughest to hide, so they will likely do something similar to what Emmanuel Macron did: stop reporting the embarrassing unemployment data every month and only give it quarterly. Perhaps they will do what the US and Germany do – pretend as if “underemployment” does not exist (even though it is the defining feature of their young adult class for over a decade) and act as if working one hour per week makes one “employed”.

Price inflation – the excuse of Western liberal exceptionalismTheir inflation gauges already exclude the biggest expenses for the average person: food & energy (too volatile to include, they say), housing, health care and education costs. Ask a German politician and they will tell you that they are watching inflation like a hawk and that it is certainly staying in their “acceptable 2% range”. But ask a normal worker – who keeps paying more for the metro, beef, fruit, housing and all those other crucial things which inflation gauges exclude – and you’ll understand why “decreased purchasing power” has been the number one French voter concern for the 11 years I’ve lived here.

Low wages – the excuse of Western liberal exceptionalismHistory is clear: It took a pandemic for Americans to finally get a barely liveable wage of $15/hour… but only via government welfare and only until July 31. What many Republicans have already ruled out is extending these benefits – which are better than the low wages their lower classes get – because that would increase unemployment and thus only worsen stagflation. Permanently increasing wages should not be expected, as that would represent a sea-change in Western economics in favor of the bottom 90%, and that hasn’t been seen in 40 years.

Increased wages would, however, increase demand for goods and thus raise revenue and demand, and thus increase employment. It would also theoretically causes prices to rise, but the more worrying near-term reason for the price rises are the hysterical restrictions imposed by new social distancing rules and corona fears which have been overblown to bits across the West.

The West can write off 2020 as a recession or a depression, but stagflation will occur after that

Among the West’s Mainstream Media the general editorial line is denialism: “How can there ever be a catastrophe in the West when There Is No Alternative?” Among the West’s fringe/alternative websites the general editorial line is, “Armageddon/a Brave New World starts tomorrow due to the Mainstream Media’s cover-ups of catastrophe!”

However, the post-Great Lockdown truth is likely a very un-Confucian middle path: 1970s-style stagnation, which is Chinese water torture for the bottom 90%, certainly, but not revolution. They say that revolutions can never be predicted and certainly nothing at all can truly be predicted until their Great Lockdown ends – but if the West’s 1% and their toadies successfully resist the call for change from capitalism-imperialism, then stagflation is the West’s future.

The Western 1% profited from the stagflation era, of course: it proved to be a perfect antidote to their political involvement of the 1960s – creating mass precariousness is a very easy way to shut workers and citizens up. The 1970s were a “long national nightmare” for the US and their Western allies – how could their 1%-controlled Mainstream Media demand a Great Lockdown so very strenuously if they honestly warned that a return of that degraded era would be the result?

The causes of the West’s stagflation era (the “Nixon shock”, going off the gold standard, colluding with the House of Saud to create the Petrodollar system, the lack of imperialist war to keep factories from Detroit to Gary, Indiana, humming, the desire to break the record-level power of organised labor, the increased capitalist fanaticism resulting from the continued refusal of peaceful coexistence with socialist-inspired nations which oppose capitalism-imperialism) and its solutions (the breaking of the housing market in order to gut the primary asset of the bottom 90%, a vast anti-union campaign, purposeful governmental ineptitude in order to provoke the rabid anti-government component of neoliberalism, the hyper-financialisation of the economy, the demand for neoliberal “free markets” in order to send good manufacturing jobs out and weaken labor further, the promotion in the US of Reaganesque jingoism in order to give lower class Whites a feeling of pride to replace their socioeconomic degradation) will require much more analysis in the coming months and years because that lousy past is the capitalist-imperialist West’s post-corona future.

See why they don’t want to talk about stagflation?

**********************************

Corona contrarianism? How about some corona common sense? Here is my list of articles published regarding the corona crisis.

Capitalist-imperialist West stays home over corona – they grew a conscience? – March 22, 2020

Corona meds in every pot & a People’s QE: the Trumpian populism they hoped for? – March 23, 2020

A day’s diary from a US CEO during the Corona crisis (satire) March 23, 2020

MSNBC: Chicago price gouging up 9,000% & the sports-journalization of US media – March 25, 2020

Tough times need vanguard parties – are ‘social media users’ the West’s? – March 26, 2020

If Germany rejects Corona bonds they must quit the Eurozone – March 30, 2020

Landlord class: Waive or donate rent-profits now or fear the Cultural Revolution – March 31, 2020

Corona repeating 9/11 & Y2K hysterias? Both saw huge economic overreactions – April 1, 2020

(A Soviet?) Superman: Red Son – the new socialist film to watch on lockdown – April 2, 2020

Corona rewrites capitalist bust-chronology & proves: It’s the nation-state, stupid – April 3, 2020

Condensing the data leaves no doubt: Fear corona-economy more than the virus – April 5, 2020

‘We’re Going Wrong’: The West’s middling, middle-class corona response – April 10, 2020

Why does the UK have an ‘army’ of volunteers but the US has a shortage? – April 12, 2020

No buybacks allowed or dared? Then wave goodbye to Western stock market gains – April 13, 2020

Pity post-corona Millennials… if they don’t openly push socialism – April 14, 2020

No, the dollar will only strengthen post-corona, as usual: it’s a crisis, after all – April 16, 2020

Same 2008 QE playbook, but the Eurozone will kick off Western chaos not the US – April 18, 2020

We’re giving up our civil liberties. Fine, but to which type of state? – April 20, 2020

Coronavirus – Macron’s savior. A ‘united Europe’ – France’s murderer – April 22, 2020

Iran’s ‘resistance economy’: the post-corona wish of the West’s silent majority (1/2) – April 23, 2020

The same 12-year itch: Will banks loan down QE money this time? – April 26,

2020

The end of globalisation won’t be televised, despite the hopes of the Western 99% (2/2) – April 27, 2020

What would it take for proponents to say: ‘The Great Lockdown was wrong’? – April 28, 2020

ZeroHedge, a response to Mr. Littlejohn & the future of dollar dominance – April 30, 2020

Given Western history, is it the ‘Great Segregation’ and not the ‘Great Lockdown’? – May 2, 2020

The Western 1% colluded to start WWI – is the Great Lockdown also a conspiracy? – May 4, 2020

May 17: The date the Great Lockdown must end or Everything Bubble 2 pops – May 6, 2020

Reading Piketty: Does corona delay the Greens’ fake-leftist, sure-to-fail victory? – May 8, 2020

Picturing the media campaign needed to get the US back to work – May 11, 2020


Ramin Mazaheri is the chief correspondent in Paris for Press TV and has lived in France since 2009. He has been a daily newspaper reporter in the US, and has reported from Iran, Cuba, Egypt, Tunisia, South Korea and elsewhere. He is the author of the books Ill Ruin Everything You Are: Ending Western Propaganda on Red China’ and the upcoming Socialisms Ignored Success: Iranian Islamic Socialism.

نتائج حرب كورونا… هل تسرع أفول عصر الإمبراطورية الأميركية

حسن حردان

تزداد المؤشرات التي تؤكد أن نتائج حرب كورونا العالمية سوف تسرع من التحولات في العالم التي بدأت قبل ظهور جائحة كورونا، وتجلت في التغيّر الحاصل في موازين القوى العالمية، وتراجع وانحسار نظام الهيمنة الأميركي الأحادي القطب. ما هي المعطيات والوقائع التي تدلل على ذلك؟

أولاً، من المعروف أن نتائج الحرب العالمية الثانية أسفرت عن أفول الإمبراطورية البريطانية التي كانت الشمس لا تغيب عن مستعمراتها، وإسدال الستار على نظام دولي قديم، لمصلحة ولادة نظام عالمي جديد ثنائي القطب.. كتلة شرقية بقيادة الاتحاد السوفياتي، وكتلة غربية بقيادة الولايات المتحدة الأميركية، استمر هذا النظام العالمي حتى انتهاء الحرب الباردة وتفكك الاتحاد السوفياتي لمصلحة هيمنة الولايات المتحدة على النظام الدولي وولادة نظام القطب الأوحد.

ثانياً، كان لدى كبار الخبراء الاستراتيجيين قناعة بأن نظام القطب الأوحد لا يمكن أن يستمر على قاعدة الهيمنة الأميركية، لأن مثل هذا النظام يؤدي إلى استفزاز الدول الكبرى والإقليمية التي ستعمد إلى التكتل للدفاع عن مصالحها التي تتجاهلها الولايات المتحدة.. وهو ما حصل فعلا.. فبعد أن استعادت توازنها، سارعت روسيا بالتعاون مع الصين إلى تشكيل منظمة شنغهاي التي تضم إليهما، الهند، طاجيكستان، قيرغيزستان، كازاخستان وأوزبكستان، باكستان، فيما حصلت أربع دول اخرى على صفة مراقب فيها، وهي.. إيران، منغوليا، أفغانستان وبيلاروسيا.. وقد نجحت هذه المنظمة في تطوير العلاقات الاقتصادية فيما بين أعضائها وتشكيل قوة اقتصادية عالمية في مواجهة القوة الأميركية الغربية، وكان من أبرز ما سعت إليه المنظمة العمل على وضع حد لنظام الهيمنة الأحادي القطب، والدفع لإنشاء نظام دولي متعدد الأقطاب.. وكان من أهم القرارات التي اتخذتها المنظمة مؤخراً في هذا السياق، قرار اعتماد العملات المحلية الوطنية في التبادل التجاري والاستثمار الثنائي وإصدار سندات، بدلاً من الدولار الأميركي الأمر الذي اعتبر نهاية لعقود طويلة من الهيمنة الأميركية على العالم في التجارة والذهب والتعاملات النفطية.

ثالثاً، منذ عام 2001 وعلى إثر هجمات 11 أيلول التي استهدفت برجي التجارة العالمية في نيويورك، أقدمت واشنطن، وتحت عنوان محاربة الإرهاب، على شن الحرب على أفغانستان واحتلالها، ثم شنت الحرب على العراق واحتلته، لكن الهدف الحقيقي من وراء هذه الحرب السيطرة على أهم احتياطات النفط والغاز في العراق وآسيا الوسطى وطرق إمداد الطاقة من أجل التحكم بالقرار الاقتصادي العالمي ومحاصرة روسيا والصين وتقويض جهودهما لإقامة نظام دولي متعدد الأقطاب بديلاً عن نظام الهيمنة الأمريكي الاحادي.. غير أن الولايات المتحدة فشلت في تحقيق أهدافها المذكورة، نتيجة المقاومة الشعبية والمسلحة التي استنزفت قواتها المحتلة في العراق وافغانستان..وجعلت احتلالها مكلفاً مادياً وبشرياً، فاضطرت واشنطن إلى الانسحاب من العراق عام 2011، وتقليص عديد قواتها في أفغانستان إلى أن عقدت مؤخراً اتفاقاً مع حركة طالبان يقضي بسحب قواتها المتبقية من افغانستان.. في حين أن العدوان الصهيوني على لبنان عان 2006 للقضاء على المقاومة، وحروبها الإرهابية غير المباشرة التي شنتها ضد سورية والعراق فشلت هي الأخرى في محاولة التعويض عن الهزائم الأمريكية العسكرية، وإعادة تعويم مشروع الهيمنة الأميركي الاحادي في المنطقة والعالم.. وكانت النتيجة أن بدأت تولد من انتصارات سورية، وبدعم من حلفائها في محور المقاومة وروسيا، معادلات وموازين قوى جديدة، دولية واقليمية، في مواجهة القوة الأميركية..

رابعاً، في وقت كان العالم ينتظر أن تترجم معادلات وموازين القوى الدولية والإقليمية سياسياً، وأن تسلم الإدارة الأميركية الجديدة بهذه المعادلات، بعد وصول دونالد ترامب إلى البيت الأبيض، عادت واشنطن من جديد إلى مواصلة سياسة الهيمنة، بضغط من المحافظين الجدد واللوبي الصهيوني الأميركي في الولايات المتحدة، وذلك عبر استخدام اخر سلاح متبقي بجعبتها وهو سلاح الهيمنة على القرار المالي الدولي بوساطة الدولار، فلجأت إلى رفد الحصار الاقتصادي الذي تنفذه واشنطن ضد الدول التي ترفض هيمنتها، وضد حركات المقاومة، بحصار مالي يمنع اي تحويلات او تعاملات بالدولار مع إيران وسورية، وعن كل مؤسسة أو شخصية تتعامل او لها صلة بحركات المقاومة في فلسطين المحتلة ولبنان واليمن.. إلخ..

خامساً، راهنت إدارة العدوان في واشنطن على سلاح الحصار الاقتصادي والمالي لتحقيق ما عجزت فيه حروبها العسكرية المباشرة وحروبها الإرهابية بالوكالة، وعمدت إلى تغذية تحركات اجتماعية ومطلبية في لبنان والعراق في محاولة لتغيير المعادلات السياسية في البلدين بإقصاء قوى المقاومة وحلفائهم عن السلطة.. لكنها اصطدمت بموازين قوى وصمود قوى المقاومة، وترافق ذلك مع ظهور فايروس كورونا الذي اجتاح دول العالم دون استثناء، ما أدى إلى شلّ الاقتصاد العالمي وحركة المواصلات وبالتالي احداث ركود اقتصادي عالمي يذكر بأزمة 1929.. وقد أسفر ذلك عن خسائر اقتصادية بمئات المليارات من الدولارات وإفلاس الشركات، وعشرات ملايين العاطلين عن العمل، وزاد الطين بلة، انهيار اسعار النفط إلى نحو 20 دولار للبرميل، ما تسبب بتفاقم أزمات الدول التي تعتمد في مداخيلها بشكل أساسي على عائدات النفط مثل السعودية. وكان واضحاً أن الولايات المتحدة كانت الأكثر تضرراً اقتصادياً ومالياً واجتماعياً بسبب انتشار الفايروس فيها على نطاق واسع بسبب استهتار واستخفاف ترامب منذ البداية بخطر فايروس كورونا..

لقد فاقمت هذه الأزمات الناتجة عن جائحة كورونا، الأزمات التي تعاني منها أميركا أصلاً بفعل تكاليف حروبها الفاشلة في العراق وافغانستان، وأدت إلى تلاشي كل المكتسبات الاقتصادية التي حققها ترامب باعتماد سياسة تدعم الاقتصاد الأميركي في الداخل وابتزاز دول العالم، لا سيما السعودية بالحصول منها على مئات مليارات الدولارات التي اسهمت في إنعاش الاقتصاد الأميركي وتوفير فرص العمل للعاطلين.. وبات ترامب اليوم في وضع صعب عشية الانتخابات الرئاسية يعاني تراجع شعبيته، ويزيد من أزمته فقدانه إمكانية الحصول على المال من السعودية لأن الأخيرة باتت تعاني من عجز كبير في موازنتها، بعد انهيار أسعار النفط وتوقف مواسم الحج والعمرة بسبب كورونا، والتكاليف الباهظة لحرب اليمن.. وهو ما دفع الحكومة السعودية إلى البحث عن الاستدانة لمعالجة العجز في موازنتها والمبالغ نحو 50 بالمئة .. أمام هذا الواقع اضطر ترامب إلى العودة لإحياء شعاره الانتخابي أميركا أولاً، والعمل على تقليص نفقات بلاده في الخارج إن كان لدول أو منظمات دولية، ولأن ذلك لا يكفي لمواجهة الأزمة الناشئة عن حرب كورونا، قرر القيام بتقليص وجود القوات الأميركية في الخارج لخفض النفقات، وفي السياق سحب ترامب بطاريات باتريوت من السعودية، وقرر خفض مستوى التوتر مع إيران، والقول إن وجود قواته في سورية يقترب من الصفر، في وقت كشف النقاب عن اتصالات أميريكية مع روسيا بشأن الحل السياسي للأزمة..

انطلاقاً مما تقدم يمكن القول إن نتائج حرب كورونا سوف تؤدي إلى تسريع أفول عصر الإمبراطورية الأميركية، وإسدال الستار على نظام القطب الأوحد، لمصلحة التعجيل بولادة نظام عالمي متعدّد الأقطاب، لا سيما أن أميركا ظهرت في ظل مواجهة كورونا، دولة عاجزة عن التصدي للأزمة، وغير قادرة على لعب دور عالمي، فيما الصين تقدمت بدلاً منها ولعبت هذا الدور، وهي مرشحة لأن تخرج من هذه الحرب العالمية، الدولة الأقوى اقتصاديا والتي تملك القدرات على النهوض بالاقتصاد العالمي، في وقت تحتاج فيه أميركا للمساعدة، وهو الأمر الذي يذكر بما حصل بعد الحرب العالمية الثانية عندما خرجت أميركا من الحرب أقوى دولة على المستوى الاقتصادي وقامت بمساعدة أوروبا في إعادة إعمارها في إطار مشروع مارشال.. فالصين اليوم تحلّ مكان أميركا، وما يؤكد ذلك سرعة سيطرتها على فايروس كورونا، وعودة آلتها الإنتاجية للعمل وتسجيلها معدلات نمو 3.5 بالمئة في الشهرين الأخيرين، فيما اقتصاديات أميركا والغرب وغيرها من الدول تعاني من الركود والنمو السلبي بين 7 و9 في المئة تحت الصفر..

Visions of a Post-Covid-19 World

Source

by JOHN DAVIS

Photograph Source: Isengardt – CC BY 2.0

While most of us sit at home, the planet continues to warm – polar ice melts, oceans acidify, glaciers disappear, and seas rise. Plants, animals, and humans continue to be displaced from their accustomed habitats. Life in our climatological greenhouse goes on, but now, one of a trillion microbial species has our attention.

Zoonotic infections, exacerbated by urban development pushing ever further into the remaining wildlands of the world, where fauna and humanity newly comingle, are symptomatically allied to global warming. The Covid-19 pandemic is a late manifestation of ‘The Great Acceleration’, the era of unprecedented human expansion that was initiated post-WWII and has continued into this century – fueled by new technologies and a vastly expanded utilization of fossil energy. Infections are now rapidly disseminated – as the spawn of globalization – on airliners burning kerosene, and cruise ships and freighters burning diesel fuel, across global trade and tourism routes.

Accustomed to fire, flood, drought, extreme temperatures, crop failures, desertification, and the increased incidence of hurricanes and storm surges, either through direct experience or, more often, through the media, the link between the burning of fossil fuels and global warming has effectively infiltrated human consciousness – even as it continues to be fiercely denied by some. This consciousness must now expand to include these connections between fossil fuels and viral pandemics.

Since the mid-1970s, with the advent of computerized climate models, it has been scientifically irrefutable that increased CO2 levels are warming the world in life-threatening ways.  For that almost fifty-year span, we, as individuals, communities, nations and international organizations have sat on our collective hands. Action, in the form of remediation, has been characterized by its absence – the void only breached by broken promises, betrayals, futile bureaucratic machinations, and outright denials of the foundational premise for its necessity.

This spring, a plot twist unfolded in this dispiriting and stultifying saga. While we, perforce, sit at home, inured to many decades of sleep-walking towards the climate apocalypse, the skies cleared, the price of oil dropped to negative $40 a barrel (rebounding to just short of positive $20 at the time of writing) and a global reduction in carbon emissions of nearly 8% is forecast for the year. We are living the dream of effectively confronting our egregious consumption of fossil fuels. From a global warming perspective, our social isolation has been highly efficacious – the pernicious, growth-driven habits of exploitation, extraction and habitat destruction have been put on hold. A window has opened to a less polluted, less traveled, less rapidly warming, and healthier world, albeit one in which the enduring human susceptibility to viral disease has again been exposed.

While the global pandemic has put everyone at risk, the most vulnerable are the elderly, the ill, the obese, the economically distressed, the inadequately housed and the homeless, minorities, the institutionalized and all those who occupy lands governed by the inept and the venal. Across the globe, the frontline communities which suffer the ‘first and worst’ impacts of global warming are similarly devastated by Covid-19.  Yet, at a biological level, the SARS-CoV-2 virus practices rigorous non-discriminatory levels of infection.  Wealth and circumstance can only confer certain levels of protection, to which the daily obituaries attest – none of us is safe. Despite those many exposed to extreme levels of risk by the inequities of their lives, our common humanity is emphasized by our shared vulnerability to this mutated bat virus.

To recapitulate: societal response to the pandemic has slowed the frantic pace of economic activity, largely driven by the one-time energy bonus of unearthed fossil biomass, first realized in the mid nineteenth century but risen to an unprecedented frenzy since the 1950’s. This respite has moderated the climatological blow-back of a carbon-laden atmosphere. The wealth generated by fossil capital has been distributed with extreme prejudice. It has accrued to the rich (made wealthy in former times by land, inheritance, and, in the U.S. and its trading partners, by slavery) and has exacerbated those gross inequalities of power, resources and well-being originally institutionalized in feudal societies and then spread around the world through the process of colonization and conquest.

The subtext of global warming is thus exposed as the ever-widening gulf between the world’s obscenely rich and its metastasizing poor. The recent microbial intervention is revealed as a potential inflexion point in both global warming and wealth disparity.  Still wrapped in the cocoon of social isolation and stunned by the sudden freeze of economic activity, we can now ponder the form society will assume upon its emergence from these unprecedented changes of state. Jason Moore in, Capitalism in the Web of Life, 2015, writes, “Civilizations do not form through Big Bang events. They emerge from cascading transformations and bifurcation of human activity…” He suggests that capitalism “…emerged from the chaos that followed the epochal crisis of feudal civilization after the Black Death, (1347-1353).” What will emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic?

Broadly, there appear to be two competing visions. One favors a return to the status quo ante, a restoration of the old evils for the continued benefit of a tiny minority confident in their ability to ride out the coming climate cataclysm and escape the coming plagues. The other sees the potential for ‘cascading transformations’ that might lead to greater equality, opportunity and increased well-being for the majority in a world that eschews fossil fuels, moderates the escalating impacts of global warming and pulls back from rapacious habitat destruction and its concomitant exposure to novel zoonotic diseases. Recent history suggests the former vision, with little or no consideration of the latter, will prevail. The moment of clarity, expressed in climate and consciousness, will pass and progressives will resume their regular, but now carefully washed, handwringing.

The bank bailouts of 2008, after the financial crash initiated by the mortgage derivatives melt-down, will likely provide the template for the U.S. and other first-world countries re-starting their economies. Old fossil-fuel dependent heavy industries will be revived, airlines resurrected, factory-farming jump-started, the auto industry saved from bankruptcy, the oil industry revivified, and a new era of deregulation birthed – all justified by the economic crisis.

George Monbiot in his weekly Environment column for the U.K. Guardian suggests,

“This is our second chance to do things differently. It could be our last. The first in 2008, was spectacularly squandered. Vast amounts of public money were spent reassembling the filthy old economy, while ensuring that wealth remained in the hands of the rich. Today, many governments seem determined to repeat the catastrophic mistake.”

In the U.S. we can be sure that Trump will promote the feeding of the zombie economy with massive quantities of public monies and celebrate its every flicker of life as it slowly lumbers back to its accustomed habits of growth, pollution and the advertising propaganda that fuels our  search for identity and social meaning through consumption. The Club of Rome, the distinguished international think-tank that published its seminal report, The Limits to Growth, in 1972, suggests an alternative,

“Covid-19 has shown us that overnight transformational change is possible. A different world, a different economy is suddenly dawning. This is an unprecedented opportunity to move away from unmitigated growth at all costs and the old fossil fuel economy, and deliver a lasting balance between people, prosperity and our planetary boundaries.”

In the Netherlands, more than seventy academics have co-signed, Five Proposals for a Post-Covid-19 Development Model.  Leiden University’s web site, where this document originated, has, for the moment gone off-line, perhaps hacked or over-loaded. Its first proposal call for a move away from development focused on aggregate GDP, suggesting that degrowth should be applied to extractive industries and advertising, while growth is encouraged in the health, education and clean energy sectors. Its second recommends a universal basic income funded from progressive taxation, along with job-sharing and a reduced work week. Its third proposes a regenerative transformation of agriculture, local food production and fair wages for farm workers. Its fourth focuses on the need to reduce travel and heedless consumption, and its fifth suggests debt forgiveness for students, workers, small business owners and impoverished nations in the Global South.

This standard wish-list of a progressive agenda would indeed fulfill the Club of Rome’s call for ‘a lasting balance between people, prosperity and our planetary boundaries.’ Endless growth can only end in tears, yet our leaders are addicted to an expansionary economic model that continues to be fossil-fuel dependent. The extraordinary circumstances of a global stand-down as SARS-CoV-2 careens across the planet, has given us, amidst the appalling realities of viral sickness and death, a momentary vision of a saner, healthier, and a cooler world.

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John Davis is an architect living in southern California. Read more of his writing at urbanwildland.org  

Economic Paralysis, Major Recession: Canada Headed for a Stall in Business Startups

Survey Uncovers Alarming Aversion to Starting Businesses and Commercial Rent Relief

By Entrepreneurs’ Organization

Global Research, May 06, 2020

Entrepreneurs’ Organization

The Entrepreneur’s Organization (EO) Toronto, a group of 111 business leaders, who are owner, founder or controlling shareholder of companies with revenues of at least $1 million + a year, recently commissioned a survey to take a pulse check of Canadians and their attitudes on starting up businesses. Concerned with how businesses will bloom post-COVID-19, they found many Canadians hesitant to become entrepreneurs.

Key findings of the survey

1) Canadians in many major markets aren’t planning to start businesses post COVID

Asked if they be more or less likely to start a business after COVID-19, nationally – a combined 57.9% of Canadians said ‘no/less likely’ (39.9%) and ‘no way it’s too risky’ (18.0%)20.8% said ‘maybe under the right conditions.’ Only 14.3% said ‘yes’ and 7.1% said ‘yes they are planning to.’

a) Atlantic Canada

At a combined 72.7%, Atlantic Canada had the highest number of respondents say that they would not consider starting a business (49.8%) or ‘no way it’s too risky’ (22.9%)

b) Ontario

At a combined 60.7%, Ontario had the second-highest number of respondents say that they would not consider starting a business (42.4%) or ‘no way it’s too risky’ (18.3%)

“As Ontario businesses, our membership finds this particularly concerning,” said Peter Demangos, EO President (Toronto Chapter) and President at PDF Financial Group. “We know that Ontario is an economic engine for the entire country, and we need to maintain the innovations that entrepreneurs and new business startups bring to the Province. While we are dealing with the current small business and Global pandemic crisis, we need also need to be ensuring the future of small business in this country.”

c) The Prairies

At 57.5%, the Prairies had a significant number of respondents who said they would not consider starting a new business.

d) British Columbia

At 56.8%, BC respondents were not far behind in saying they would not start up a new business post COVID.

2) Canadians are surprisingly NOT on board with the Canada Emergency Rent Assistance plan

Asked if the government should give commercial rent subsidies to business owners or landlords, Canadians responded surprisingly, by adding ‘neither’ as an option and seemingly not supporting the Canada Emergency Rent Assistance program.

Nationally, 47.4% of respondents said ‘neither,’ 41.0% said the relief should go directly to business owners, and only 18.9%  said that the money should go to landlords. Ontario had the highest number of respondents answering ‘neither’ at 48.3%.

“This is surprising to us as many Canadian small businesses may have to close their doors permanently without rent relief,” added Demangos. “We would have expected more support from Canadians for small business during the pandemic.”

Interestingly, 34.2% of Canadians were in favour of the government ordering commercial landlords to pause rent (without a subsidy.)

3) Canadians are okay with more loans and tax credits for small businesses

Asked what more the government could do to help small business during COVID-19, Canadians appear to be in favour of loans and tax deferments. 33.6% of respondents were in favour of ‘more low-interest loans to keep them afloat,’ 32.6% said ‘ongoing tax deferments,’ and 25.2% supported ‘more tax credits to companies who keep their doors open during the pandemic.’

4) The majority of Canadians think Trudeau is doing enough to help Canadian small business

Asked if they think Trudeau is doing enough to help small business, a combined 75.3% of Canadians said ‘yes’ (38.3%) or ‘sort of’ (37.0%.) Only 24.7% said ‘no.’

5) Canadians think that business owners are slightly better off than employees during COVID-19.

Asked who they think is better off, Canadians said employees are worse off (57.2%) vs 42.8% who said that employees are better off.

“As we slowly re-open Canada’s businesses and economy, there’s never been a more important time to support small business from the federal, provincial, municipal and customer level,” added Demangos. “We need to show existing small businesses that they can re-open with major support from all levels and signal to the next generation of entrepreneurs that they will be similarly supported if they open new businesses.”

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Note to readers: please click the share buttons above or below. Forward this article to your email lists. Crosspost on your blog site, internet forums. etc.“Something Has Gone Wrong”: UK Government, Banks Screw Up Coronavirus Loans, Small Firms Near Collapse. Better Results in Other CountriesThe original source of this article is Entrepreneurs’ OrganizationCopyright © Entrepreneurs’ Organization, Entrepreneurs’ Organization, 2020

Corona at a Time of War

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Wednesday, 22 April 2020 

In late January China sealed off Wuhan an industrial centre of about 11 million people . Though the Chinese government’s actions have been described as “Draconian” by some, with the passage of time they have also proven to be right.

As corona virus spread many countries tried to follow in China’s footsteps but were unable to and so the virus raged that the world might witness an immense corona virus explosion as reports indicate that in some poorer countries corona virus remains undetected or if detected has not been treated with the seriousness that it deserves.

The effects of the pandemic have not been limited to the health sector only but have had a volcanic effect on the world as we know it.

It revealed weaknesses in both countries and individuals  where so many countries hid behind the glamour of their state of the art technologies and their capitalist systems, corona came forcing them into the nude and depriving them of what they had thought of as “inalienable rights”. Maybe corona will change world order and countries that consider themselves in the lead will reconsider that claim. For to be in the lead is not only to have an abundance of guns and bombs, neither is it the ability to bully other countries into submissiveness but it is to have the backbone to stand straight in times of duress. It is never to forget our human compass, but foremost it is the ability to hold on to our principles, our ethics and our morals.

 With the rise of corona crime has in general plummeted. However, insecure and afraid people  have resorted to theft to secure their needs. Malls have been broken into and their goods stolen (Providence Mall, U.S.A. March23). Panic buying has led to many buying far more then their needs require, thus depriving others. But it is a more serious crime that should be looked into, for it seems that piracy has retuned to the forefront of the crime list. Countries have resorted to committing acts of piracy, stopping ships loaded with medical equipment and stealing what is on board. The U.S. was accused of diverting a shipment of masks intended for the German police. Others ships destined for particular countries never docked in the ports of these countries and their cargo was stolen.

Blame was distributed and distributed unjustly – China was blamed for the spread of corona when in reality the response of  European countries and the U.S.A was sluggish almost slow motion. Panic spread like wildfire and attacked health systems that were unprepared for the onslaught. The U.S. and the E.U. blamed each other and Trump’s decision to ban travel to the European Union (except for the UK, which has a rising number of infections) created an antagonistic atmosphere.

Bitterness spread amongst the countries of the E.U. Spain and Italy felt that they had been betrayed by the rest of the E.U. Italy witnessed the burning of EU flags on its streets, as well as Spain.

Russia and China however have rushed into help with China sending shipments of necessary medical supplies to European countries and even to the United States (though Trump has unceasingly referred to corona virus as the “Chinese Virus”).

The actions of both Russia and China have clearly portrayed to western countries that stereotyping is downright wrong and that they should, post corona, re think major aspects of intra European countries and should also specifically re think their strained relations with Russia and China. In this particular aspect capitalism has lost the war.

In the Middle East dealing with corona was never prioritized until late March. With so much fighting and confrontations going on, corona was dealt with as if it were a hazy danger one that couldn’t possibly be more threatening than all the shooting, killing and explosions that were already happening.  As a young reporter from Aleppo (Lama Al Khaly) put it “we have witnessed so much horror, seen so much bloodshed, prayed so much for our kidnapped ones and wept endlessly over our martyred loved ones that it has become so difficult to grapple with the idea of fighting an invisible enemy like the corona virus”. The idea of self isolation for Syrians who have lost their homes due to terrorism is sadly almost laughable. Many large families are cramped into one room with almost no help from UN humanitarian organizations and so the idea is simply not workable.

However the Syrian government took the necessary precautionary methods thus  reducing the risk of corona virus infections. It imposed a curfew, reduced the work load, banned all kinds of gatherings whether for joy or sorrow and suspended prayers. It will be a shy Ramadan this year for the Syrian lacking in its usual celebratory style. Even the ritual of Haj has been suspended this year (Haj is approximately two months and ten days after the end of Ramadan). Though banning Friday communal prayer and Sunday mass are thorny issues for most Syrians, they were accepted as they came within the package of precautionary measures in the fight against corona.

However for Syria the problem of fighting corona is for more complex and requires much more than imposing a curfew or a ban. Heavy sanctions imposed on Syria including ones in the pharmaceutical- field have led to shortages in many medicines (not forgetting that many factories that were specialized in the manufacture of medicines, mainly located in Aleppo were either dismantled and transported to Turkey or simply destroyed by the war. Syria prior to the war covered 97% of its own medical needs, even exporting to Arab and foreign countries). The U.S. and western medical sanctions on Syria have resulted in Syria having fewer ventilators then the bare minimum required- fewer raw medical supplies from which to produce effective medicine and fewer medical instrument. These sanctions are pointless as they have in no way affected the flow of the war but they have hit civilians hard-which makes them coercive and downright cruel. This collective punishment of a whole population during a pandemic is simply barbaric. Even the passage of aid ships to Syria has been forbidden.

There have been many calls made by Syria’s representative to the U.N to lift off international sanctions against Syria as they obstruct the country’s efforts to fight the corona virus.

Others joined in call for lifting the sanctions against Syria. Like Chine, Russia, the EU parliament and many other countries. The World Health Organization has also asked that sanctions be lifted off Syria. Up till now all these calls have fallen on deaf ears, as corona continues to spread worldwide.

Like all counties in the world the economy of Syria has been adversely affected. Many Syrians are day laborers and that pay has stopped with the current Corona. Businesses have shrunk and restaurateurs are out of work as all restaurants, coffee shops and eateries have been closed more than a month. Gingerly, Syria is reopening again, but the situation on the ground remains tense and Syrians are in need of a solution that is hard coming- a solution not only related to the corona virus but one that will ease their lives and allow them the medicaments they deserve to lighten the suffering of the ill.    

Editor in Chief

Reem Haddad                                   

What Did U.S. Intel Really Know About the ‘Chinese’ Virus?

What Did U.S. Intel Really Know About the 'Chinese' Virus? - The ...

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Pepe Escobar April 21, 2020

Hybrid War 2.0 on China, a bipartisan U.S. operation, is already reaching fever pitch. Its 24/7 full spectrum infowar arm blames China for everything coronavirus-related – doubling as a diversionist tactic against any informed criticism of woeful American unpreparedness.

Hysteria predictably reigns. And this is just the beginning.

A deluge of lawsuits is imminent – such as the one in the Southern District of Florida entered by Berman Law Group (linked to the Democrats) and Lucas-Compton (linked to the Republicans). In a nutshell: China has to shell out tons of cash. To the tune of at least $1.2 trillion, which happens to be – by surrealist irony – the amount of U.S. Treasury bills held by Beijing, all the way to $20 trillion, claimed by a lawsuit in Texas.

The prosecution’s case, as Scott Ritter memorably reminded us, is straight out of Monty Python. It works exactly like this:

“If she weighs the same as a duck…

…she’s made of wood!”

“And therefore…”

“A witch!!!!!”

In Hybrid War 2.0 terms, the current CIA-style narrative translates as evil China never telling us, the civilized West, there was a terrible new virus around. If they did, we would have had time to prepare.

And yet they lied and cheated – by the way, trademark CIA traits, according to Mike “We Lie, We Cheat, We Steal” Pompeo himself. And they hid everything. And they censored the truth. So they wanted to infect us all. Now they have to pay for all the economic and financial damage we are suffering, and for all our dead people. It’s China’s fault.

All this sound and fury forces us to refocus back to late 2019 to check out what U.S. intel really knew then about what would later be identified as Sars-Cov-2.

“No such product exists”

The gold standard remains the ABC News report according to which intel collected in November 2019 by the National Center for Medical Intelligence (NCMI), a subsidiary of the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), was already warning about a new virulent contagion getting out of hand in Wuhan, based on “detailed analysis of intercepted communications and satellite imagery”.

An unnamed source told ABC, “analysts concluded it could be a cataclysmic event”, adding the intel was “briefed multiple times” to the DIA, the Pentagon’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, and even the White House.

No wonder the Pentagon was forced to issue the proverbial denial – in Pentagonese, via one Col. R. Shane Day, the director of the DIA’s NCMI: “In the interest of transparency during this current public health crisis, we can confirm that media reporting about the existence/release of a National Center for Medical Intelligence Coronavirus-related product/assessment in November of 2019 is not correct. No such NCMI product exists.”

Well, if such “product” existed, Pentagon head and former Raytheon lobbyist Mark Esper would be very much in the loop. He was duly questioned about it by ABC’s George Stephanopoulos.

Question: “Did the Pentagon receive an intelligence assessment on COVID in China last November from the National Center for Medical Intelligence of DIA?”

Esper: “Oh, I can’t recall, George,” (…) “But, we have many people who watch this closely.”

Question: “This assessment was done in November, and it was briefed to the NSC in early December to assess the impact on military readiness, which, of course, would make it important to you, and the possible spread in the United States. So, you would have known if there was a brief to the National Security Council in December, wouldn’t you?”

Esper: “Yes (…) “I’m not aware of that.”

So “no such product exists” then? Is it a fake? Is it a Deep State/CIA concoction to trap Trump? Or are the usual suspects lying, trademark CIA style?

Let’s review some essential background. On November 12, a married couple from Inner Mongolia was admitted to a Beijing hospital, seeking treatment for pneumonic plague.

The Chinese CDC, on Weibo – the Chinese Twitter – told public opinion that the chances of this being a new plague were “extremely low.” The couple was quarantined.

Four days later, a third case of pneumonic plague was identified: a man also from Inner Mongolia, not related to the couple. Twenty-eight people who were in close contact with the man were quarantined. None had plague symptoms. Pneumonic plague has symptoms of respiratory failure similar to pneumonia.

Even though the CDC repeated, “there is no need to worry about the risk of infection”, of course there was plenty of skepticism. The CDC may have publicly confirmed on November 12 these cases of pneumonic plague. But then Li Jifeng, a doctor at Chaoyang Hospital where the trio from Inner Mongolia was receiving treatment, published, privately, on WeChat, that they were first transported to Beijing actually on November 3.

The key point of Li Jinfeng’s post – later removed by censors – was when she wrote, “I am very familiar with diagnosing and treating the majority of respiratory diseases (…) But this time, I kept on looking but could not figure out what pathogen caused the pneumonia. I only thought it was a rare condition and did not get much information other than the patients’ history.”

Even if that was the case, the key point is that the three Inner Mongolian cases seem to have been caused by a detectable bacteria. Covid-19 is caused by the Sars-Cov-2 virus, not a bacteria. The first Sars-Covid-2 case was only detected in Wuhan in mid to late December. And it was only last month that Chinese scientists were able to positively trace back the first real case of Sars-Cov-2 to November 17 – a few days after the Inner Mongolian trio.

Knowing exactly where to look

It’s out of the question that U.S. intel, in this case the NCMI, was unaware of these developments in China, considering CIA spying and the fact these discussions were in the open on Weibo and WeChat. So if the NCMI “product” is not a fake and really exists, it only found evidence, still in November, of some vague instances of pneumonic plague.

Thus the warning – to the DIA, the Pentagon, the National Security Council, and even the White House – was about that. It could not possibly have been about coronavirus.

The burning question is inevitable: how could the NCMI possibly know all about a viral pandemic, still in November, when Chinese doctors positively identified the first cases of a new type of pneumonia only on December 26?

Add to it the intriguing question of why the NCMI was so interested in this particular flu season in China in the first place – from plague cases treated in Beijing to the first signs of a “mysterious pneumonia outbreak” in Wuhan.

There may have been subtle hints of slightly increased activity at clinics in Wuhan in late November and early December. But at the time nobody – Chinese doctors, the government, not to mention U.S. intel – could have possibly known what was really happening.

China could not be “covering up” what was only identified as a new disease on December 30, duly communicated to the WHO. Then, on January 3, the head of the American CDC, Robert Redfield, called the top Chinese CDC official. Chinese doctors sequenced the virus. And only on January 8 it was determined this was Sars-Cov-2 – which provokes Covid-19.

This chain of events reopens, once again, a mighty Pandora’s box. We have the quite timely Event 201; the cozy relationship between the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the WHO, as well as the Word Economic Forum and the Johns Hopkins galaxy in Baltimore, including the Bloomberg School of Public Health; the ID2020 digital ID/vaccine combo; Dark Winter – which simulated a smallpox bio-attack on the U.S., before the 2001 anthrax attack being blamed on Iraq; U.S. Senators dumping stocks after a CDC briefing; more than 1,300 CEOs abandoning their cushy perches in 2019, “forecasting” total market collapse; the Fed pouring helicopter money already in September 2019 – as part of QE4.

And then, validating the ABC News report, Israel steps in. Israeli intel confirms U.S. intel did in fact warn them in November about a potentially catastrophic pandemic in Wuhan (once again: how could they possibly know that on the second week of November, so early in the game?) And NATO allies were warned – in November – as well.

The bottom line is explosive: the Trump administration as well as the CDC had an advance warning of no less than four months – from November to March – to be properly prepared for Covid-19 hitting the U.S. And they did nothing. The whole “China is a witch!” case is debunked.

Moreover, the Israeli disclosure supports what’s nothing less than extraordinary: U.S. intel already knew about Sars-Cov-2 roughly one month before the first confirmed cases detected by doctors in a Wuhan hospital. Talk about divine intervention.

That could only have happened if U.S. intel knew, for sure, about a previous chain of events that would necessarily lead to the “mysterious outbreak” in Wuhan. And not only that: they knew exactly where to look. Not in Inner Mongolia, not in Beijing, not in Guangdong province.

It’s never enough to repeat the question in full: how could U.S. intel have known about a contagion one month before Chinese doctors detected an unknown virus?

Mike “We Lie, We Cheat, We Steal” Pompeo may have given away the game when he said, on the record, that Covid-19 was a “live exercise”. Adding to the ABC News and Israeli reports, the only possible, logical conclusion is that the Pentagon – and the CIA – knew ahead of time a pandemic would be inevitable.

That’s the smokin’ gun. And now the full weight of the United States government is covering all bases by proactively, and retroactively, blaming China.

Earth Day 2020: nature is a beneficiary of coronavirus

By Faranak Bakhtiari

April 21, 2020 – 16:58

TEHRAN – Human beings have put too much pressure on the Earth causing irreparable damage, however, with the onset of coronavirus outbreak, the planet seemed to prosper and relive the burden which was unprecedented over the past 50 years when the first Earth Day celebrated.

The planet is looking uninhabited these days as people across the world are sheltering in place and avoiding social gatherings to contain the spread of the virus.

The first cases of COVID-19 were identified in the Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019, which has now spread to more than 210 countries, infecting nearly 2,495,296 people and killing more than 171,064. With large gatherings prohibited, businesses shut down and governments around the world ordering citizens to “stay at home,” the Earth has become so quiet and isolated but feeling much better.

This year, as the world celebrates the 50th anniversary of World Earth Day, the entire Earth is at its best condition in half a century, Mohammad Darvish, a member of the National Security Council for the environment, said.

Referring to the outbreak’s effect on the spread of the pollutants throughout the world, he noted that over the past two months, most people around the world have experienced unprecedented shocks, and for the first time in a row, greenhouse gas emissions, fossil fuel consumption, air, land and water traffic have dropped dramatically.

All of this has led to greenhouse gas emissions in March 2020 being the same as in the 1990s, 30 years ago, and this shows how much people’s lifestyles are at odds with what they call “global resilience,” he highlighted.

The declining human traffic in nature and the outdoor environment has significantly reduced the amount of noise pollution and earthquakes produced on Earth, making it easier for geologists to study the Earth’s outer crusts, he also noted.

He went on to say that about 3.5 billion people on the planet travel by train, car, plane, ship and other means of transportation every day. These movements and construction activities, mines and others are putting pressure on the Earth’s outer crust, but now, following the outbreak of the coronavirus, almost all of these operations and activities in the world have stopped. 

As a result, there is no human-caused quake, and geologists can more easily engage in geological activities and studies, he added.

Effect of coronavirus on ozone layer 

The most important component that caused the ozone layer to perforate was the use of chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) gases, which were used in refrigerators and sprays. Fortunately, these gases have not been used for many years, which is why the ozone layer has been repairing for more than a decade, Darvish stated.

The Montreal Protocol to the Vienna Convention, which recognizes the responsibility of countries to repair the ozone layer and has been one of the most successful environmental conventions, has saved the ozone layer, he also highlighted.

There are reports that the movement of satellites, aircraft, missiles and such activities could also affect the ozone layer, some of which have naturally declined sharply over the past two months, he said, adding, If the ozone layer did not get better over this period, it would continue with the same positive routine.

Biodiversity improves 

Pointing to the pandemic impact on wildlife, he stated that due to declining human presence in natural areas and habitats, living conditions of wildlife have improved dramatically.

He noted that the wildlife population of many countries has declined by 29 to 40 percent over the past decade; but in the wake of the epidemic, improvement and a consequent increase in wildlife populations indicates, which are considered positive.

One of the reasons for wildfires in rangeland and forests was camping and the presence of tourists in natural habitats, but now with the cessation of the tourism industry in most parts of the world, has sharply decreased, he also said.

‘On the other hand, we are facing an increase in the smuggling of wood by local communities, as earning income is much more difficult these days, due to the halt of the tourism industry and local businesses,” he lamented, adding, coal mining and illegal poaching is rising these days, which are extremely worrying.

Why human absence prospers nature?

Pointing out that protecting the planet is important to humans, and we need to maintain the best conditions on Earth after Coronavirus, he said that the pandemic has caused the earth to breathe deeply, and now the wise man is faced with the question that “why, when human activity as a member of the ecosystem decreases, not only does nothing happen, but the condition of nature improves.”

Think of bees being removed from nature. In this case, the integrity of the Earth’s environmental property, the reproduction of many species and humans themselves will be damaged, or if brown bears are removed, soil fertility will decrease, or if wild boars are removed, water permeability will decrease and floods will increase., he explained.

Therefore, there have been wise in the creation of all plant and animal species or even insects, and have contributed to the earth’s resilience, he emphasized.

Why has it now happened that man, who considers himself the best of creatures, that must be more responsible, has behaved in such a way that his absence is in favor of nature and the earth? 

I hope that such happening gives up a lesson to change our development programs in favor of nature and try to understand the laws of nature, instead of spending budgets on warfare, larger and more horrific weapons, he noted, implying that environmental research and health is now more essential as well as improvement of the education system so that in the post-corona crisis world we can appear wiser, more knowledgeable, and more responsible.

World Earth Day 2020

The first Earth Day took place in 1970. Outraged by oil spills, smog, and polluted rivers, 20 million people took to the streets, protesting what they recognized as an environmental crisis. It was the planet’s largest civic event at the time and compelled governments to take concrete actions, including passing environmental laws and establishing environmental agencies. In addition to these practical outcomes, the event demonstrated just how much can be achieved when people come together and demand action.

Selecting climate action as its theme, Earth Day 2020 was already poised to be a historic event. An occasion planned to bring people physically together across a series of events, COVID-19 has now prompted a dramatic shift to completely digital and virtual platforms.

Earth Day 2020 calls for 24 hours of actions, big and small, for people and the planet. On this 50th anniversary, civil society organizers hope to fill the world’s digital landscape with global conversations, positive acts, performances, webinars and events supporting urgent action on climate change.

As the world rushes to plan for a post-pandemic recovery, UNEP and other parts of the United Nations system see this as an opportunity to call attention to the need to “build back better.” The risks faced by ignoring the threats of environmental destruction must be understood and addressed with protections and policies. April 22 is a timely reminder to embrace the opportunities of the natural world for green jobs, sustainable economic stimulus, for urgently taking action to protect ourselves against unsurvivable global heating and for securing healthy, dignified futures.

FB/MG

The city in a time of plague

April 22, 2020

The city in a time of plague

by Pepe Escobar for The Saker Blog (cross posted with the Asia Times)

History teaches us that epidemics are more like revelatory moments than social transformers

The plague-stricken town, traversed throughout with hierarchy, surveillance, observation, writing; the town immobilized by the functioning of an extensive power that bears in a distinct way over all individual bodies – this is the utopia of the perfectly governed city.

– Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish

Predictably eyeing the Decline and Fall of the American Empire, a serious academic debate is raging around the working hypothesis of historian Kyle Harper, according to whom viruses and pandemics – especially the Justinian plague in the 6th century – led to the end of the Roman Empire.

Well, history actually teaches us that epidemics are more like revelatory moments than social transformers.

Patrick Boucheron, a crack historian and a professor at the esteemed College de France, offers a very interesting perspective. Incidentally, before the onset of Covid-19, he was about to start a seminar on the Black Death medieval plague.

Boucheron’s view of Boccaccio’s Decameron, written in 1350 and about young Florentine aristocrats who fled to the Tuscan countryside to tell stories, focuses on the plague’s character as a “horrible beginning” that tears apart social liaisons, provokes a funerary panic and has everyone wallowing in anomie.

Then he draws a historical parallel with Thucydides writing about the Athens plague in the summer of 430 BC. Pushing it to the limit, we may venture that Western literature actually starts with a plague – described in Book 1 of the Iliad by Homer.

Thucydides’ description of the Great Plague – actually typhoid fever – is a literary tour de force as well. In our current setting, that’s more relevant than the “Thucydides trap” controversy – as it’s idle to compare the context in ancient Athens with the current US-China hybrid war.

Both Socrates and Thucydides, incidentally, survived the plague. They were tough, and acquired immunity from their earlier exposure to typhoid. Pericles, the leading citizen of Athens, was not so lucky: he died at 66, a victim of the plague.

The city in fear

Boucheron wrote an immensely interesting book, Conjurer la Peur (To Conjure Fear) telling the story of Siena a few years before the Black Death, in 1338. This is the Siena pictured by Ambrogio Lorenzetti in the walls of the Palazzo Pubblico – one of most spectacular allegorical frescoes in history.

In his book, Boucheron writes about political fear before it is engulfed by biological fear. Nothing could be more contemporary.

In Lorenzetti’s Allegory of Bad Government, the court of bad justice is governed by a devil holding a poisoned chalice (today that would be the “crowned poison” – or coronavirus). The devil’s eyes are crossed and one of his feet is over a goat’s horns. Floating above his head we find Avarice, Pride and Vainglory (match them with contemporary political “leaders”). War, Treason, and Fury sit to his left (the US Deep State?) and Discord, Fraud and Cruelty on his right (casino capitalist financialization?). Justice is bound, and her scales have fallen. Talk about an allegory of the “international community.”

Boucheron pays special attention to the city as depicted by Lorenzetti. That’s the city at war – as opposed to the harmonious city in the Allegory of Good Government. The crucial point is that this is a depopulated city – much like our cities in quarantine now. Only men at arms are circulating and, as Boucheron tells it: “We guess that behind the walls, people are dying.” So this image has not changed today – deserted streets; quite a few elderly people dying in silence in their homes.

Boucheron then makes a startling connection with the frontispiece of Hobbes’s Leviathan, published in 1651: “Here again there is a city depopulated by an epidemic. We know because at the borders of the image we identify two silhouettes with birds’ beaks, which represent the doctors of the plague,” while the people in the city have been sucked upward, ballooning the figure of the Leviathan state monster who is very confident of the fear he inspires.

Boucheron’s conclusion is that the state is always capable of obtaining an absolutely unprecedented resignation and obedience from the population. “What’s complicated is that even if what everything we say about the society of surveillance is scary and true, the state obtains this obedience in the name of its most undisputed function, which is to protect the population from creeping death. That’s what plenty of serious studies define as ‘biolegitimacy’.”

And I would add, today, a biolegitimacy boosted by widespread voluntary servitude.

The Age of Haphophobia

Michel Foucault was arguably the premier modern cartographer of the Panopticon-derived surveillance society.

Then there’s Gilles Deleuze. In 1978, Foucault famously declared that, “perhaps, one day, this century will be called the Deleuzian century.”

Well, Deleuze is actually more 21st century than 20th. He went farther than anyone else studying societies of control – where control does not come from the center or from the top but flows through micro-vigilance, even activating the desire on everyone to be disciplined and monitored: once again, voluntary servitude.

Judith Butler, talking about South Africa-based critical theorist Achille Mbembe’s extraordinary Necropolitics, noted how he “continues where Foucault left off, tracking the lethal afterlife of sovereign power as it subjects whole populations to what Fanon called ‘the zone of non-being’.”

So a great deal of the intellectual debate ahead of us, borrowing from Fanon, Foucault, Deleuze, Mbembe and others, will necessarily have to focus on biopolitics and the widespread state of exception – which, as Giorgio Agamben has demonstrated, referring to Planet Lockdown, is now completely normalized.

We cannot even begin to imagine the consequences of the anthropological rupture caused by Covid-19. Sociologists for their part are already discussing how “social distancing” is an abstraction, defined and lived in quite unequal terms. They are discussing the reasons why the powers that be chose a martial vocabulary (“lockdown”) instead of forms of mobilization guided by a collective project.

And that will lead us to deeper studies of the Age of Haphophobia: our current condition of widespread fear of physical contact. Historians will be trying to analyze it in conjunction with how social phobias have evolved across centuries.

There’s no question that Foucault’s exhaustive mapping should be understood as a historical analysis of different techniques used by the powers that be to manage the life and death of populations. Between the crucial years 1975 and 1976, when he published Discipline and Punish (featured in this essay’s epigraph) and the first volume of History of Sexuality, Foucault, based on the notion of “biopolitics,” described the transition from a “sovereign society” to a “disciplinary society.”

His main conclusion is that techniques of biopolitical government spread out way beyond the legal and punitive spheres, and now are all over the spectrum, even lodged inside our individual bodies.

Covid-19 is presenting us with a huge biopolitical paradox. When the powers that be act like they are protecting us from a dangerous disease, they are imprinting their own immunity-based definition of the community. At the same time they have the power to decide to sacrifice part of the community (elderly people left to die; victims of the economic crisis) to the benefit of their own idea of sovereignty.

The state of exception to which many parts of the world are subjected now represents the normalization of this unbearable paradox.

House arrest

So how would Foucault see Covid-19? He would say that this epidemic radicalizes biopolitical techniques applied to a national territory, and inscribes them in a political anatomy applied to each individual body. That’s how an epidemic extends to the whole population political measures of “immunization” that previously only applied – violently – to those that were considered “aliens,” inside and outside the national, sovereign territory.

It’s irrelevant whether Sars-Covid-2 is organic; a bioweapon; or, CIA conspiracy theory-style, part of a world domination plan. What’s happening in real life is that the virus reproduces, materializes, extends and intensifies – for hundreds of millions of people – dominant forms of biopolitical and necropolitical management that were already in place. The virus is our mirror. We are what the epidemic says we are, and how we decide to face it.

And under such extreme turbulence, as noted by philosopher Paul Preciado, we end up reaching a new necropolitical frontier – especially in the West.

The new territory of the border politics the West has been testing for years over “The Other” – blacks, Muslims, the poor – now starts at home. It’s as if Lesbos, the key entrance island for refugees in the Eastern Mediterranean coming from Turkey, now started at the entrance of each Western apartment.

With pervasive social distancing in place, the new border is each and everyone’s skin. Migrants and refugees were previously considered viruses, and only merited confinement and immobilization. But now these policies apply to whole populations. Detention centers – perpetual waiting rooms that abolish human rights and citizenship – are now detention centers inside one’s own home.

No wonder the liberal West has been plunged into a state of shock and awe.

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