The real US agenda in Africa is hegemony

September 21, 2022

by Pepe Escobar, first published at The Cradle and posted with the author’s permission

Forget development. Washington’s primary interest in Africa today is keeping the Chinese and Russians out.

In a rational environment, the 77th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) would discuss alleviating the trials and tribulations of the Global South, especially Africa.

That won’t be the case. Like a deer caught in the geopolitical headlights, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres issued platitudes about a gloomy “winter of global discontent,” even as the proverbial imperial doomsayers criticized the UN’s “crisis of faith” and blasted the “unprovoked war” started by Russia.

Of course the slow-motion genocide of Donbass russophone residents for eight years would never be recognized as a provocation.

Guterres spoke of Afghanistan, “where the economy is in ruins and human rights are being trampled” – but he did not dare to offer context. In Libya, “divisions continue to jeopardize the country” – once again, no context. Not to mention Iraq, where “ongoing tensions threaten ongoing stability.”

Africa has 54 nations as UN members. Any truly representative UNGA meeting should place Africa’s problems at the forefront. Once again, that’s not the case. So it is left to African leaders to offer that much-needed context outside of the UN building in New York.

As the only African member of the G20, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa recently urged the US not to “punish” the whole continent by forcing nations to demonize or sanction Russia. Washington’s introduction of legislation dubbed the Countering Malign Russian Activities in Africa Act, he says, “will harm Africa and marginalize the continent.”

South Africa is a BRICS member – a concept that is anathema in the Beltway – and embraces a policy of non-alignment among world powers. An emerging 21st century version of the 1960s Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) is strengthening across the Global South – and especially Africa – much to the revulsion of the US and its minions.

Back at the UNGA, Guterres invoked the global fertilizer crisis – again, with no context. Russian diplomacy has repeatedly stressed that Moscow is ready to export 30 million tons of grain and over 20 million tons of fertilizer by the end of 2022. What is left unsaid in the west, is that only the importation of fertilizers to the EU is “allowed,” while transit to Africa is not.

Guterres said he was trying to persuade EU leaders to lift sanctions on Russian fertilizer exports, which directly affect cargo payments and shipping insurance. Russia’s Uralchem, for instance, even offered to supply fertilizers to Africa for free.

Yet from the point of view of the US and its EU vassals, the only thing that matters is to counter Russia and China in Africa. Senegal’s President Macky Sall has remarked how this policy is leaving “a bitter taste.”

‘We forbid you to build your pipeline’

It gets worse. The largely ineffectual EU Parliament now wants to stop the construction of the 1,445 km-long East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) from Uganda to Tanzania, invoking hazy human rights violations, environmental threats, and “advising” member countries to simply drop out of the project.

Uganda is counting on more than 6 billion barrels of oil to sustain an employment boom and finally move the nation to middle-income status. It was up to Ugandan Parliament Deputy Speaker Thomas Tayebwa to offer much-needed context:

“It is imprudent to say that Uganda’s oil projects will exacerbate climate change, yet it is a fact that the EU block with only 10 percent of the world’s population is responsible for 25 percent of global emissions, and Africa with 20 percent of the world’s population is responsible for 3 percent of emissions. The EU and other western countries are historically responsible for climate change. Who then should stop or slow down the development of natural resources? Certainly not Africa or Uganda.”

The EU Parliament, moreover, is a staunch puppet of the biofuel lobby. It has refused to amend a law that would have stopped the use of food crops for fuel production, actually contributing to what the UN Food Program has described as “a global emergency of unprecedented magnitude.” No less than 350 million people are on the brink of starvation across Africa.

Instead, the G7’s notion of “helping” Africa is crystallized in the US-led Build Back Better World (B3W) – Washington’s anaemic attempt to counter Beijing’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) – which focuses on “climate, health and health security, digital technology, and gender equity and equality,” according to the White House. Practical issues of infrastructure and sustainable development, which are at the heart of China’s plan, are simply ignored by the B3W.

Initially, a few “promising” projects were identified by a traveling US delegation in Senegal and Ghana. Senegalese diplomatic sources have since confirmed that these projects have nothing whatsoever to do with building infrastructure.

B3W, predictably, fizzled out. After all, the US-led project was little more than a public relations gimmick to undermine the Chinese, with negligible effect on narrowing the $40-plus trillion worth of infrastructure needed to be built across the Global South by 2035.

Have YALI, will travel

Imperial initiatives in Africa – apart from the US military’s Africa Command (AFRICOM), which amounts to raw militarization of the continent – brings us to the curious case of YALI (Young African Leaders Initiative), widely touted in the Washington-New York axis as “the most innovative” policy of the Obama years.

Launched in 2010, YALI was framed as “empowering the new generation of Africa leadership” – a euphemism for educating (or brainwashing) them the American way. The mechanism is simple: investing in and bringing hundreds of young African potential leaders to US universities for a short, six-week “training” on “business, civil leadership, entrepreneurship, and public management.” Then, four days in Washington to meet “leaders in the administration,” and a photo op with Obama.

The project was coordinated by US embassies in Africa, and targeted young men and women from sub-Saharan Africa’s 49 nations – including those under US sanctions, like Sudan, Eritrea, and Zimbabwe – proficient in English, with a “commitment” to return to Africa. Roughly 80 percent during the initial years had never been to the US, and more than 50 percent grew up outside of big cities.

Then, in a speech in 2013 in South Africa, Obama announced the establishment of the Washington Fellowship, later renamed the Mandela-Washington Fellowship (MWF).

That’s still ongoing. In 2022, MWF should be granted to 700 “outstanding young leaders from sub-Saharan Africa,” who follow “Leadership Institutes” at nearly 40 US universities, before their short stint in Washington. After which, they are ready for “long-term engagement between the United States and Africa.”

And all that for literally peanuts, as MWF was enthusiastically billed by the Democrat establishment as cost-efficient: $24,000 per fellow, paid by participant US universities as well as Coca-Cola, IBM, MasterCard Foundation, Microsoft, Intel, McKinsey, GE, and Procter & Gamble.

And that didn’t stop with MWF. USAID went a step further, and invested over $38 million – plus $10 million from the MasterCard Foundation – to set up four Regional Leadership Centers (RLCs) in South Africa, Kenya, Ghana, and Senegal. These were training, long distance and in-class, at least 3,500 ‘future leaders’ a year.

It’s no wonder the Brookings Institution was drooling over so much “cost-efficiency” when it comes to investing “in Africa’s future” and for the US to “stay competitive” in Africa. YALI certainly looks prettier than AFRICOM.

A few success stories though don’t seem to rival the steady stream of African footballers making a splash in Europe – and then reinvesting most of their profits back home. The Trump years did see a reduction of YALI’s funding – from $19 million in 2017 to roughly $5 million.

So many leaders to ‘train’

Predictably, the Joe Biden White House YALI-ed all over again with a vengeance. Take this US press attache in Nigeria neatly outlining the current emphasis on “media and information literacy,” badly needed to tackle the “spreading of disinformation” including “in the months leading up to the national presidential election.”

So the US, under YALI, “trained 1,000 young Nigerians to recognize the signs of online and media misinformation and disinformation.” And now the follow-up is “Train the Trainer” workshops, “teaching 40 journalists, content creators, and activists (half of whom will be women) from Yobe, Borno, Adamawa, Zamfara, and Katsina how to identify, investigate, and report misinformation.” Facebook, being ordered by the FBI to censor “inconvenient,” potentially election-altering facts, is not part of the curriculum.

YALI is the soft, Instagrammed face of AFRICOM. The US has participated in the overthrow of several African governments over the past two decades, with troops trained under secrecy-obsessed AFRICOM. There has been no serious Pentagon audit on the weaponizing of AFRICOM’s local “partners.” For all we know – as in Syria and Libya – the US military could be arming even more terrorists.

And predictably, it’s all bipartisan. Rabid neo-con and former Trump national security adviser John Bolton, in December 2018, at the Heritage Foundation, made it crystal clear: the US in Africa has nothing to do with supporting democracy and sustainable development. It’s all about countering Russia and China.

When it learned that Beijing was considering building a naval base in oil-rich Equatorial Guinea, the Biden White House sent power envoys to the capital Malabo to convince the government to cease and desist. To no avail.

In contrast, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was received like a superstar in his recent extensive tour of Africa, where it’s widely perceived that global food prices and the fertilizer drama are a direct consequence of western sanctions on Russia. Uganda leader Yoweri Museveni went straight to the point when he said, “How can we be against somebody who has never harmed us?”

On 13-15 December, the White House plans a major US-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington to discuss mostly food security and climate change – alongside the perennial lectures on democracy and human rights. Most leaders won’t be exactly impressed with this new showing of “the United States’ enduring commitment to Africa.” Well, there’s always YALI. So many young leaders to indoctrinate, so little time.

Maduro: Venezuela Receives Third Oil Tanker Built by Iran

September 17, 2022

By Staff, Agencies

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro says the country has received an “advanced” oil tanker from Iran as part of a bilateral contract amid increasing cooperation between Tehran and Caracas in various fields.

“We have just received a ship with the most advanced engineering and technology in the world,” Maduro said according to Venezuelan state TV. He said that the ship was manufactured by Iran upon Venezuela’s order.

The oil tanker “now comes to serve as a cargo ship for our revolutionary PDVSA,” he added.

This is the third Iran-made oil tanker delivered to Venezuela. The South American country received the second tanker on June 11, 2022.

The second tanker was of Aframax type with a deadweight between 80,000 and 120,000 metric tons [mt] which can carry 113,000 mt or 750,000 barrels of oil. The 250-meter-long vessel is equipped with a 21,000-horsepower engine and three diesel generators that are capable of producing 900 kilowatts of electricity.

Maduro said in June that the fourth tanker will also join the Venezuelan state-owned oil and natural gas company [PDVSA] in 2024, marking the conclusion of a 2006-signed contract on four oil tankers between the two states.

The tankers are produced by Iran Marine Industrial Company [Sadra] located along the Persian Gulf coast in Bushehr province.

The delivery comes as both Iran and Venezuela are under severe economic sanctions imposed by the United States. Tehran and Caracas have expanded cooperation in recent years, especially in the field of energy, to neutralize Washington’s unilateral measures.

The Venezuelan president made an official visit to Iran in June, inking a 20-year partnership agreement aimed at improving bilateral cooperation in various fields such as technology, agriculture, oil and gas, petrochemicals, tourism as well as culture.

The ceremony to deliver the second oil tanker was held during this visit with presidents of the two nations in attendance.

Addressing the event, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi hailed Venezuela as a “friendly and brotherly” country, adding, “In a situation where the enemies of Iran and Venezuela are trying to impede the progress of the free nations of Iran and Venezuela by imposing severe restrictions and sanctions, the delivery of the 113,000-ton tanker built by Iranian engineers and shipbuilding industries to Venezuela is an example of Iran’s high capacity and capability in exporting technical and engineering services to the world and proving the efficiency of the policy of the resistance economy.”

For his part, Maduro hailed the cooperation with Iran, saying, “The production of the tanker for the Venezuelan state oil company was Commander Chavez’s plan to strengthen our country’s oil industry, to make it self-sufficient in the face of all foreign aggression.”

“The construction of this modern and strong ship shows the high capability of the extraordinary and admirable industry of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” he said, adding, “Iran is one of the emerging powers of the 21st century and the construction of this ship is one of the practical and clear signs of this emerging power.”

Pyongyang passes legislation that declares the country a nuclear-weapon state, giving its leader, Kim Jong-un, sole authority over nuclear decisions.

September 9, 2022 

Source: Agencies

By Al Mayadeen English 

Flag of the DPRK (Reuters)

DPRK passed legislation that declares the country a nuclear-weapon state, giving its leader, Kim Jong-un, sole authority over nuclear decisions, according to South Korean news agency Yonhap, citing Pyongyang’s state media.

The 7th Session of the DPRK’s 14th Supreme People’s Assembly approved a decree titled Nuclear Weapons Policy on Wednesday, as per the Korean Central News Agency.

The law, which included 11 paragraphs, governs the use of nuclear weapons.

The new law stipulated that North Korea could use nuclear weapons under these conditions: the imminent threat of an attack on North Korea by an enemy country using nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction, an attack on the leadership and command of North Korea’s nuclear forces, and an attack on the country’s strategically vital facilities.

The third paragraph, titled “command and control of nuclear weapons,” states that Kim Jong-un has the sole authority to dispose of nuclear arsenals and “makes all nuclear weapons decisions.”

In the event that North Korea’s nuclear command and control system is threatened by a hostile attack, KCNA stated that a nuclear strike would be launched immediately to destroy the hostile forces and their command.

In the same context, the DPRK’s leader Kim Jong Un said Friday that his country will never abandon nuclear weapons needed to counter the United States, which he accused of trying to weaken Pyongyang’s defenses and eventually bring his government down.

“The aim of the US is not only to eliminate our nuclear weapons but to completely destroy our nuclear power to force us to give up the right of self-defense, to weaken us to overthrow our regime at any time,” Kim Jong-un told the 7th Session of the 14th Supreme People’s Assembly, as quoted by the Yonhap news agency.

During a speech at Supreme People’s Assembly, the Korean leader said that ” “the purpose of the United States is not only to remove our nuclear might itself but eventually forcing us to surrender or weaken our rights to self-defense through giving up our nukes so that they could collapse our government at any time.”

No sanctions, he added, will force Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons.

“This is the [US] misjudgment and miscalculation… You can impose sanctions for a hundred days, a thousand days, ten years, a hundred years. We are not going to give up the right to survival and the right to self-defense, on which the country’s security and its people depend. And no matter how difficult a situation we find ourselves in, we, who have to deter an even bigger nuclear power, the United States that has created this political and military situation on the Korean Peninsula, can never give up nuclear weapons.”

N Korea Passes Law Allowing It to Conduct Preventive Nuke Strikes

September 9, 2022 

By Staff, Agencies

North Korea has passed a law, declaring itself a nuclear weapons state and enshrining the right to use preemptive nuclear strikes to protect itself.

The Supreme People’s Assembly, the North’s legislature, lent its blessing to the law on Thursday, legislating the country’s status as a nuclear weapons state, the official news agency KCNA reported on Friday.

The law determines the occasions on which the country is supposed to deploy its nuclear weapons, including when attacked and also in order to protect its strategic assets.

“If the command and control system of the national nuclear force is in danger of an attack by hostile forces, a nuclear strike is automatically carried out immediately,” the law says.

Experts say the country is to resume testing nuclear weapons, noting that the legislation paves the way for the prospect.

Ruler Kim Jong-un said the legislation made the country’s status as a nuclear weapon state “irreversible.”

“The utmost significance of legislating nuclear weapons policy is to draw an irretrievable line so that there can be no bargaining over our nuclear weapons,” Kim said in a speech to the parliament.

The legislation, therefore, bars any talks on its denuclearization.

Kim said the US and its allies maintain “hostile policies” such as sanctions and military exercises that undercut their messages of peace.

“As long as nuclear weapons remain on earth and imperialism remains and maneuvers of the United States and its followers against our republic are not terminated, our work to strengthen nuclear force will not cease,” Kim said.

US President Joe Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump took unprecedented steps towards apparently fraternizing the North by initiating several rounds of dialog with it, and even walking a number of steps into the country alongside Kim.

However, Washington blew, what Pyongyang called, a “golden opportunity” at mending the situation by insisting too much on denuclearization.

Shea Lies Through Her Teeth as Lebanon’s Electricity Crisis Worsens

August 30, 2022

By Mohammad Youssef

More than a year ago, US Ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea has given a promise to help Lebanon with power supplies from Egypt and Jordan. A year later, all those promises have proven to be utter lies.

Meanwhile, the new Iranian ambassador to Lebanon, Mojtaba Amani, has repeated his predecessor’s offer to supply Lebanon with free fuel had the Lebanese government requested this officially.

This reflects clearly who are the real friends of Lebanon during its dire crisis.

The US ambassador has never been summoned by any official at the foreign ministry to ask her about her continuous lies, nor was she criticized by any Lebanese government official.

The whole issue would cost a decision by Washington to ease the sanctions against Lebanon and lift the siege that blocks the way for receiving help from Egypt and Jordan. Washington which is veteran in sieges against people and bringing them to the brink of deprivation and famine is exercising its criminal policy now against Lebanon and the Lebanese.

This kind of suffocating blockade is reminiscent of other blockades and sieges that the US imposed against free nations in different parts of the world, namely Venezuela, Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Syria, among many others.

This criminal punishment by Washington has cost dear lives, in Iraq alone half-a-million child died because of this, not to mention the great suffering of the people on many levels.

At the time, no one dared to criticize and condemn America for its crimes except for an independent initiative by former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad who set an international tribunal in the year 2005 in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur to sue the war criminals, the tribunal which was a kind of international conference for judiciary and law experts condemned war criminals namely, US President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Contrary to this, Iran has extended and continues to extend a helping hand to Lebanon on many levels.

It has expressed its willingness and readiness to help Lebanon in building two power plants for electricity supplies which will be of great benefit for our country.

Time and again, the Islamic Republic of Iran has offered help to Lebanon and never given false promises. Nowadays, Iran waits for an official Lebanese answer to the new offer to supply Lebanon with free fuel oil.

The problem has been always because of the official Lebanese stance that fears Washington and its sanctions.

The kind of official conduct by the Lebanese government is shameful and lacks respect for our country and people alike. It does not reflect at all that we are a free and sovereign country, rather a pro-western nation that is dictated by Washington.

My vision and our promise, this will not continue and the majority of the Lebanese will not accept to be subordinate to Washington or any other country.

It is time for our officials to learn how to protect our dignity and independence so they would resemble their people that sacrificed lives for the sake of the country’s independence and liberation.

Russian political thinker Alexander Dugin’s daughter assassinated

August 21, 2022

Source: Agencies

By Al Mayadeen English 

Political commentator Darya Dugin, 30, is assassinated in a massive explosion about 20 km from Moscow following her departure from her father’s lecture.

A large explosion tore into an SUV on a highway 20 km away west of Moscow, instantly killing its driver, who was identified as political commentator Darya Dugina, Russian political analyst and thinker Alexander Dugin’s daughter. Dugin the father is an influential veteran political commentator, also known as one of the Kremlin’s “ideological masterminds”, and an occasional contributor to Al Mayadeen English.

The assassination was carried out at 21:35 Moscow time. Witnesses divulged that the explosion happened in the middle of the road, where debris and metal wreckage scattered in the air right before the car crashed into a fence, according to photos and videos.

According to emergency services, there was only one person inside the car, and it was a female body burned beyond recognition. 

The identity of the victim is yet to be confirmed by authorities – however, multiple Russian media sources and Telegram channels have reported that the victim was Darya Dugina, 30. According to videos circulating social media, her father arrived at the scene just after the explosion, devastated. 

As for the cause of the explosion, preliminary reports suggest that a homemade explosive device may be involved, however, investigators have not yet confirmed it. 

On Saturday evening, Dugin was giving a lecture in Moscow on “Tradition and History” at a traditional family festival in Moscow; Dugina attended the event as a guest. Reports are claiming that Dugin planned to leave the festival with his daughter, but instead took a separate car. Darya took her father’s Toyota Land Cruiser Prado.

Darya, in July 2022, was placed on the UK sanctions list. Her father in 2014 and 2015 was sanctioned by the EU, US, and Canada. 

More details are to unfold.

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Michael Hudson: Podcast with Michael Hudson, Steve Keen, Steve Grumbine

July 17, 2022

Posted with Michael Hudson’s permission

Grambine, Macro and Cheese, July 9 2022. https://realprogressives.org/podcast_episode/episode-180-the-end-of-dollar-diplomacy-with-steve-keen-and-michael-hudson/.

https://realprogressives.org/macro-n-cheese-podcast/
For those who would like to hear the recorded conversation

Michael Hudson [intro/music]

A central tenet of the World Bank from the beginning is to convince countries not to grow their own food, but to create plantation agriculture to prevent family-owned farming of food, to grow plantation export crops and they become dependent on the United States for their grain.

[00:00:22.610] – Steve Keen [intro/music]

If you look at just the shipping involved in international trade, it’s something of the order of 20%, I think, of our carbon production comes out of the entire mechanics of shipping goods around the planet. And we realize we’ve massively overshot the capacity of the biosphere to support our industrial sedentary civilization. So, one way to reduce that is by reducing international trade.

[00:01:35.130] – Geoff Ginter [intro/music]

Now, let’s see if we can avoid the apocalypse altogether. Here’s another episode of Macro N Cheese with your host, Steve Grumbine.

[00:01:43.110] – Steve Grumbine

All right. And this is Steve with Macro N Cheese. Another great episode for everyone today. I have two guests, two very good friends, and very happy to have them join me today. Professor Steve Keen and Michael Hudson. You can’t get two better guys than this. And we’re going to have a very action packed conversation.

We’re going to be talking about central banking, the IMF, World Trade Organization, World Bank. And we’re going to be looking at how the US uses the monetary system to bring about its imperial powers that it exerts on the world. And we’re going to look at some of the things that are happening with Russia and Ukraine right now that ship the US control over the global commerce and the behaviors of non US countries.

They’re starting to think for themselves and make some decisions, and we’re watching the facade crack a little bit. Steve Keen, who is the author of the book Debunking Economics and more recently The New Economics: A Manifesto, is joining me, as well as Michael Hudson, who has just recently written the book The Destiny of Civilization: Finance Capitalism, Industrial Capitalism or Socialism. So, without further ado, Michael and Steven, welcome to the show, sirs.

[00:03:04.530] – Michael Hudson

Good to be here.

[00:03:05.800] – Steve Keen

Thank you indeed.

[00:03:06.960] – Grumbine

So the reason why I brought us together, you guys are both phenomenal on your own, but together, I think that we can maybe tackle this. As an MMT advocate, I find myself friends with an awful lot of people, and you gentlemen have been doing this for a long time, and I know that you have some pushback within the MMT community.

In particular, this concept of “imports are a benefit and exports are a cost.” This is a core MMT staple. And some of the concerns that came out as a result of the Covid crisis showed us the resource based failures of a global supply chain and how some of the aspects of our financial system and the shipping of real resources from areas that had high Covid, how it impacted our abilities to take care of life on life’s terms.

It also became quite clear that the US hegemony over the world using dollar diplomacy is starting to show cracks in the foundation as well, as we watch Russia thumb its nose at US sanctions. So, getting into this, Steve Keen, I know that you have taken some issue with Warren Mosler’s prescription that imports are a benefit and exports are a cost.

Taking Warren’s position on this, I believe Warren is saying exports are real goods and services we’re sending out, whereas imports we’re handing pieces of paper to people. And this is a win for the importing nation. And we’ve seen the power of the US dollar and the ability to basically create colonial outposts, colonized communities living and dying off of US dollars. So there’s a power dynamic as well. What is your pushback with Warren’s import/export model?

[00:05:03.270] – Keen

There are quite a few elements to it. First of all, the idea that exports are a cost and imports are a benefit. One term that I’ve seen one Modern Monetary Theory advocate used to explain is to say, the opportunity cost is all theirs. In other words, they have therefore gone by sending a good to us like an automobile to the buyer in return for currency.

They’re doing without the opportunity of the vehicle. And when you take a good look at the manufacturing side of things, the reality for most firms is they have diminishing marginal cost and excess capacity. So the standard thing when you’re competing in a domestic market is you have spare capacity you’re not using, but you can’t get enough demand domestically.

Now, I know MMT can say that should be handled by the government using additional spending power and creating the spending power to absorb the excess capacity. But they don’t at the moment. So what tends to happen instead is that countries will use export-oriented industrialization to use their additional capacity more effectively, which is what’s led to the industrialization of China and in many ways the de-industrialization of America.

Personally, I don’t think the opportunity cost is the right way to think about international trade at all. It’s a neoclassical way of thinking. It assumes neoclassical conditions about production which are empirically false. I don’t think anything in MMT should be based on bad foundations and I think that is a bad foundation.

Then when you see the discussions about monetary sovereignty and saying that countries who don’t have to issue debt in the currency which is not their own currency, they have monetary sovereignty, those who have to issue debt in a currency which is not their own don’t have monetary sovereignty. One way you end up in not having monetary sovereignty is running large balance of trade deficits and not being the reserve currency of the planet.

So I think the advice that exports are a cost and imports are a benefit doesn’t make sense for countries which have been running a trade deficit, are importing more than they’re exporting, so they’re using their own pieces of paper fundamentally, initially, but if they keep on doing it, they’ve got to start using American pieces of paper, and then they’re in deep trouble. So I just think it’s a nice slogan, but I think it’s a bad idea.

[00:07:20.250] – Grumbine

So it makes sense to me given the nature of the pandemic. You and I spoke, I guess it was almost two years ago, about supply chains and pandemics, and we talked at length about how the iPhone is made in some 37 different countries – and countries that were isolated due to the pandemic. It also impacted production in general. Right now I’m in Information Technology, and I work with Cisco, and Cisco being the backbone of the entire Internet globally.

They have lead times even today of up to a year for some of the equipment, partially because of semiconductor shortages. But this is a piggyback to that in that there is the accounting identities of trading paper for goods and services, but then there is the actual functional output of that. And for countries like the United States, we do have Most Favored Nation status in the sense that we are the primary world reserve currency.

And I think part of that has to do with the fact that the price gas and gas purchases are done through US dollars as well. But overall, I think that we have to be aware that we’re not being a very good partner on the planet in general. A lot of the power plays the United States uses to be able to get those goods and services into the US Is done through warfare and sanctions, as we’ve seen all around the world. We use them to great harm in the global South.

However, we saw Russia here recently thumb their nose at us and say, the only thing we’re really lacking is high tech products, and we got China that can hook us up with that. All you’ve done is accelerated our departure from a dollar denominated world, which I guess brings us to you, Michael. Your book talks extensively about this. Can you help piggyback off of what Steve said regarding the supply chains and the impact of that import/export dynamic with what’s going on right now with Russia, China and Ukraine?

[00:09:34.590] – Hudson

Well, MMT has not spent much time talking about the balance of payments. It’s basically a theory of the domestic economy. The problem of the whole discussion that just took place is that trade is not the most important element of the balance of payments. For the United States, the trade balance has been just about in balance for almost 50 years, 70 years, actually.

What’s in balance is America’s military spending abroad. That’s the deficit that is pumping dollars into the world economy. But now to get back to Steve’s point, realizing that we’re dealing with trade, only a small portion of the balance of payments, Steve’s point is, let’s ignore all the other elements of the balance of payments – the debt service and the capital accounts and others.

If you import more than you export, and you have to actually pay cash for the imports and get cash for the export, then you have to borrow money. And once you borrow money, because most trade is denominated in dollars, this means you have to borrow US dollars. You don’t buy imports with your own currency. Now, MMT is all about how sovereign governments can create their own money and create their own currency, but they can’t print their foreign currency.

That’s the problem with having more imports than exports. And once you begin to borrow dollars, you have to pay interest on it. And all of a sudden, they’re running a deficit, it’s going to reduce your foreign exchange rates. Well, let’s look at what’s going to happen this summer as an example. We know that energy prices, oil prices are going way up.

And President Biden just says they’re going to be with us for a very long time because his major contributors are the oil companies, and he’s promised them that he’s going to enable them to make super profits to help raise the Dow Jones average. And the other element is food. Well, America is going to make a killing on oil exports because the United States controls the world oil trade.

The United States is also a major agricultural exporter, and it’ll make a killing because NATO has imposed sanctions on Russia, preventing Russia from exporting oil and food – it’s the largest grain exporter – into the economy. So you’re going to have South America, Africa, and the global South countries all of a sudden running big deficits.

Well, at the same time, there’s an enormous deficit of debt service that they owe to finance all of the trade deficits that they’ve been running ever since they followed neoliberal ideals to open their markets to depend on foreign food and basically US manufacturers. The Federal Reserve has just begun to raise interest rates. And the result of raising interest rates has been the dollar is going way up against the Latin American currencies, the African currencies, the South African rand, the Brazilian currency.

So you’re going to have the global South being in an absolute currency squeeze this summer. What are they going to do? Well, President Putin has said, well, we’re going to offer an alternative in the form of the BRICS bank. Well, it’s true that a bank can’t create foreign currency. The BRICS bank can enable countries to run a deficit in two ways.

Number one, the bank can be fueled by each member giving, say, a trillion dollars or some kind of proportional currency to the bank. So currency swap agreements, just like the United States has been negotiating for the last 50 years. You can all have a currency swap. Also, the BRICS bank can create its version of Special Drawing Rights – IMF SDRs – or what John Maynard Keynes proposed in 1944: “bancors.”

It can create paper gold of its own and distribute to countries. Well, the problem is, Putin said, we’re willing to sell your grain and oil and to take your currency in exchange, but we don’t want to save your balance of payments simply so that now you can afford to pay the debt service that you owe to US dollar bond holders, bank holders, and the IMF and the World Bank that got you into the mess you’re in to begin with.

So the problem is the stability of insulating your trade from the foreign exchange going up and down requires a split of the world into two different economic zones: US/NATO, the white people’s economic zones, and let’s call it the nonwhite economic zones. And remember, the Ukraine say that Russians are not white and racially different. Basically, the Nazi ideology is that any country that’s not neoliberal is not white.

So you’re going to have the world splitting, and we’re really talking about how to create a monetary system for the world splitting. I want to get back to one other thing Steve said about the opportunity cost. If imports are a great advantage to the United States, is it worth having American corporations move to low wage labor abroad, shifting the production abroad so that America is deindustrialized?

Has that been an advantage? Or let’s look at it from Russia’s point of view. Until this last spring, Russia was importing food, cheese, raw materials. And because of the sanctions, Russia has had to all of a sudden develop import substitution. It’s producing its own cheese. It produced its own agriculture that’s thriving.

And President Putin has said that Russia is going to spend more and more of its oil export receipts on funding import-replacing industry. Well, that sounds like a good idea, because we’re really talking about independence. And the balance of payments ultimately determines a constraint on domestic policy. I think that’s what Steve was talking about for opportunity costs.

You can’t just look at the flows on a balance sheet: “Well, we’re getting something for nothing.” If you import more than you export, you’re running up foreign debt, and you’re becoming more and more dependent on foreign countries who are acting in their own interests, not your own interests. So you have to put this whole discussion in the political context.

[00:16:15.210] – Grumbine

So I would see this as a national security issue in that with these essentials – Fadhel Kaboub talks about the spectrum of sovereignty: energy sovereignty, food sovereignty, technological sovereignty, the ability to live without external supports. And each country has varying levels of that. And so each country would have to be looked at differently just based on what they’re even capable of producing.

I guess my question to you, as we think about countries in the global South that have had the kiss of the IMF on them and the debt peonage that they have been laboring under. In Africa, Sankara’s speech talking about “I can either pay you or I can feed my people.” You can see the role that US interests through the IMF have had to import their goods and services into our country.

They don’t have a choice. They are basically colonial states that have the US thumbprint on them. So the United States has exerted this imperial power in this geopolitical nightmare. We are watching them break away from that today.

[00:17:34.050] – Hudson

But you’re leaving one of the real villains in the piece, and that’s the World Bank.

[00:17:38.290] – Grumbine

Oh, yes.

[00:17:39.020] – Hudson

A central element of the World Bank from the beginning is to convince countries not to grow their own food, but to create plantation agriculture, to prevent family-owned farming of food, to grow plantation export crops, and to become dependent on the United States for their grain. Well, if imports are a benefit and imports mean that the United States can put a sanction on you and starve your people like the United States tried to do in China in the 1950s, do you really want to become import dependent on food?

Let’s compare the World Bank to the Chinese Belt and Road and the BRICS bank that’s proposed. The World Bank would only make foreign exchange loans. That meant it would only make loans to countries who would invest in infrastructure that would help its exports. Well, imagine how this works for agriculture.

If you were going to develop your agriculture in the global South countries, you’d do pretty much what the United States did in the 1930s that had the most rapid increase in productivity of any industry in the last few centuries. And that was because the government took the lead in agricultural extension services, seed testing, educating farmers as to seed variety, setting up local farm management organizations.

Before the time that Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland became the great intermediaries in promotion of domestic self-sufficiency for farms, the World Bank wouldn’t make any loans at all for this, even though the World Bank local commissions and reports all said that this is what they need. The World Bank was almost always headed by someone very close to the US Military, starting with John J. McCloy at the beginning and going through McNamara and all of the subsequent Pentagon people who were put in charge of the World Bank.

And above all, they wanted to continue to base America’s export boom in agriculture and to make other countries food dependent. And that is one of the things that has led them into debt. So if you have a country like Chile that has the richest land in the world because it has the richest supply of guano deposits in the world. It also has the most unequal land distribution in Latin America – latifundia and microfundia – not any kind of balanced food production.

So that all of Chile’s exports and copper, by specializing, have been overwhelmed by the costs of importing food that it could have grown all by itself. So the idea of free trade is shaped by what will the international organizations controlled by the US give credit for, ends up to create underdevelopment and dependency instead of development. And that developmental aspect is a different story from MMT money creation. And we’re talking about something else that is part of a much bigger system.

[00:20:43.410] – Grumbine

Steve, based on what Michael just said, I know that you are concerned with the environment and bringing production back home. And around the world, people that are not hip to the US empire are trying to convince countries to look at building bonds between each other to create trade zones that mitigate some of the US power over dominating their countries.

We’ve got a very tiny window to solve climate crisis as well. So all these things are converging at one time trying to deleverage US interests from the world interests and watching as the nonwhite countries are banding together and the white countries are banding together. And it seems like the opportunity to save ourselves from extinction is passing before our very eyes.

In the vein of what he just said, how do we marry some of the ideas that we have, the climate crisis with the geopolitical crisis that we’re battling here?

[00:21:49.110] – Keen

Well, the large part of it is that the focus of neoclassical economics has always been on specialization and doing it with so-called comparative advantage. And what that gives you is an incredibly fragile system, as we’ve seen with Covid, because if you actually distribute production across the planet and you have a long supply chain, then of course that can collapse in an instant with something like Covid coming along.

And equally, if you have a famine, if the major food baskets get wiped out by a famine or a war. We’ve got the war already. The famine may well come by a drought and a crop failure as well. Then suddenly you can’t feed your people and you have no domestic alternative. So I think we have to get away from the focus on efficiency and even in that sense, the gain of swapping paper for goods, which is part of the MMT slogan.

Start thinking: no, we need to be resilient and capable of handling a range of different disturbances which could come our way. And on that basis you need to have your production local.

[00:22:47.310] – Grumbine

So within that space mitigating some of the travel carbon footprint expenses that clearly solves one problem. But where you had smokestacks to create basic amounts of goods and services in one country, now you’re building smokestacks across the globe and I don’t see any meaningful effort to green technology to make those things happen.

I am curious what decentralizing production does in terms of the carbon footprint and how developing local supply chains will in turn impact our ability to stave off climate crisis.

[00:23:30.090] – Keen

Yeah, if you look at just the shipping involved in international trade. It’s something at the order of 20%, I think, of our carbon production comes out of the entire mechanics of shipping goods around the planet, and we realize we’ve massively overshot the capacity to support our industrial sedentary civilization. So one way you can reduce that is by reducing international trade.

I think that’s what’s going to start happening, partly because you have the example of Cisco. You suddenly wait a year to get a piece you used to wait two weeks for because of the breakdown of the supply chain. The same thing will become even, I think, even more extreme when climate change forces us to drastically reduce our production levels.

If you don’t have the domestic production capability, you’re going to lose the possibility of those goods. And in some cases, we have to drastically reduce our consumption of a range of goods. Automobiles is an obvious instance of that. But in others, we want to continue – and food production is one of those. Clearly, you want to produce your food locally.

So, again, I think we’ve been very blase about the physical side of production, and that’s what I would like MMT to start looking at. And in that context, I think it might change the attitude about imports and exports.

[00:24:57.730] – Intermission

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[00:25:49.010] – Grumbine

Michael, in the Russia example, where in one fell swoop they get cut off from the SWIFT system and the US is beating their chest, “We’ve got Putin on the run.” It doesn’t look like Putin is on the run at all right now.

[00:26:02.900] – Hudson

I’m glad you’re bringing up the NATO war against countries resisting neoliberalism, because you use the word “green.” And the European Greens basically are advocating two fuels of the future: coal and cutting down the forests. Germany, by blocking Russia’s gas, they are essentially replacing Russian gas and oil with Polish and Ukrainian coal – and digging down the forest.

I’ve walked very often through German villages, and most houses have whole stacks of cut-down lumber that they essentially burn in their fireplaces for heat. You’re having an enormous deforestation and replacement of gas with coal. And the Green Parties are the advocates for the major polluters in the world, and they’re the advocates for global warming.

And that’s because they’re part of the Cold War attack on Russia. And they say it’s worth having global warming as long as we can fight against countries that resist neoliberalism and resist the American European takeover. So you want to realize the politics – that the Greens of Europe are not friends of the environment.

Now, to get back to your question about the isolating of Russia. Isolating Russia hasn’t isolated it at all. It’s driven Russia together with China, in the first instance, and then China and Russia together have joined with India, Iran, Syria, they’re now joining with Brazil and Argentina all to create an alternative economic order and social order and political order.

And the political order is basically based on the main distinction between the non-neoliberals and the neoliberals, and that is: who will control the money supply. And China is the prime example. Instead of private banking creating the credit to create loans basically for financial reasons, China will create credit to spend into the economy the way that MMTers hope to see credit created.

Namely, spend to hire labor, to make new means of production, hopefully in an environmental way, as opposed to the commercial banks that look at “how do we make money in the short term?” Well, you make money in the short term by cutting down the forest of the Amazon. You don’t look at global warming.

And already you’ve had the heads of American oil companies and investment firms say “what do we care about global warming ten years in the future? We care about the next three months’ earning statement, and the next year. Ten years from now, the sea levels go up. We can deal with it then.” So you’re dealing with two different economic philosophies and as the world divides into these two different economies, this is an important element.

And as Steve just pointed out, neoliberal economics doesn’t take into account the environment because that’s long term. Economists call that exogenous, meaning it’s outside our tunnel vision. And the question is whether you’re going to look at the world economy as the overall system interconnected, which is what Steve and I do, or whether you’re going to say we’re going to just cut the financial sector apart and only look at the corporate and financial sector of how to make money quickly.

That’s really the difference. So obviously Russia was not really troubled very much by being cut off – or even by being isolated. What America is doing is driving Russia together with all of the countries that have refused to condemn it. And America basically is creating an iron curtain, locking these countries – isolating them from Europe and the United States – going their own way, which I don’t think Russia and China are unhappy to see occurring.

[00:29:54.480] – Grumbine

I completely agree with that. The idea that the US thinks they are going to knock these giants down and they’ve just said we’re going to invest in our own country. Instead of being a cooperative society, we see this as a combative society. We decided we have to fight them and create cold wars to isolate them so we can catch up.

But you nailed it with the concept of the private short-term thinking that private collateral, banking, loans, filling short-term needs because we can’t see out as far as those folks because they aren’t living and dying the same capitalist way that we do things here in the United States. They have invested in the public purpose.

China has got the ability to do just about everything. Do you think it’s going to take us getting our proverbial asses handed to us by the rest of the world to wake up? Do you think we’ll ever wake up? Or this is just the way it will always be, at least until tsunamis take us out?

[00:30:56.870] – Hudson

Who is the we? Who’s going to wake up? When you say we, it’s as if you mean American citizens in the population. But we are not the government who makes the policy. We are not the Davos Group and the campaign contributors. Their “we” are the oil industry, the big agricultural monopolies, the other monopolies, and Wall Street. That’s the finance, insurance and real estate sector [FIRE].

And they are going to just continue doing what they want. And you’ve seen from the recent Supreme Court rulings in the United States that the government is not permitted to enforce any climate preservation rules. That has been ruled unconstitutional unless Congress can pass environmental law. And in order for Congress to pass a law, as opposed to just an executive branch joining the environment, you have to have 60 out of 100 votes.

American dual politics doesn’t permit either party to get 60 votes unless there’s a landslide. And the only party that has a prospect of getting 60% would be the Republicans. So basically, even if the people wake up, the government people and their campaign contributors are just going to continue to make money to live in the short term. That’s what differentiates neoliberalism and socialism.

[00:32:17.630] – Grumbine

Very well stated. To me, I think of this as war. Murder. I don’t think of this as some polite gentleman’s disagreement. I see this as wanton death and destruction, all in the name of profit. How do we stop this? Can we stop this? Congress is bought and paid for. Our government, our Supreme Court doesn’t represent the people, and the President has proven to be a feckless neoliberal as well.

I see nothing to feel any sense of hope, and I’m not sure that hope is a requirement. It seems like the only alternative we have is in the street, is to become ungovernable, is to get rid of a government that is no longer representative of the people.

[00:33:04.010] – Hudson

[laughs]  Well, Steve’s gone to Thailand and I’m dealing mainly with China. That’s how we’ve coped. [laughter] Neither of us are going to be President of America.

[00:33:15.690] – Keen

No. The American political system is almost designed to stop anything being done. I was involved in the Australian election recently, as you probably remember. And though my party did extremely badly and money still was obviously vitally necessary to get a political profile, even in countries with good electoral systems, Australia does have a good electoral system, and America has got the best electoral system money can buy, and that’s a disaster.

It’s hard to get away from money enabling parties to have political position to be seen in the media. And that’s actually a great reason for MMT: create money for publicly financed election campaigns rather than having it out of private pockets. But given that, you have an electoral system where you don’t actually vote for anybody, the electoral college piece of nonsense, which itself is crazy.

Every state has got a different system, which is crazy. You don’t have the central bureaucracy handling the voting system, which is crazy. And you have gerrymandering because the boundaries are decided by local political groups, which is crazy. So the extent to which America needs to reform its political structure to approximate a democracy is ridiculous. And that’s partly why money interests can so easily dominate what happens in the American political sphere. And right-wing religious ideology as well.

[00:34:43.950] – Grumbine

Absolutely. The Calvinistic bullshit in this country is over the top. But there’s a tone policing aspect to this. I think there are people out there who don’t understand that this election system that we have in the United States isn’t getting us what we want or need. They think they just need to phone bank harder, vote harder.

Fact is, in my 53 years, I have not seen any meaningful legislation passed. I do not consider the ACA meaningful legislation. I’ve seen a lot of bad legislation pass that hurts us. And this is not really intended to be an America-centric show, except that America seems to be the big bully. It’s creating a lot of the problems. It’s got its own citizens in hell and it’s trying to create hell on earth for the rest of the world.

I spend a lot of time trying to get this information out the door. It’s very important information, but it’s only important in the sense that it’s good to know. I don’t see any of it amounting to a movement, a passing of legislation. We can tell people that if we don’t consider the economy in the world as a superorganism and degrowth, we don’t have anybody thinking this way.

[00:36:00.090] – Keen

There is actually – I don’t know the name of it, but I do know that there’s a political group in America which is campaigning to have Australia’s electoral system adopted by America. Have it include an electoral commission that determines borders between one electorate and another, a single centralized system that counts the votes rather than the crazy range of stuff you have at the state level.

And controls on the size of electorates so they can be no more than 20% larger or smaller than a target – and they should be 10%. And then preferential voting so you don’t just vote for one candidate, like if you vote for the Greens in America, you guarantee the Republicans win the election because the Green votes are taken away from the Democrat.

So have preferential voting, which means you can actually put the party you prefer first and know that the party that’s your fallback will actually get the vote if your first party doesn’t get up. So all these sorts of reforms. I know that there are people who are campaigning about it because the frustration that you’re expressing is very widely felt in America. But of course, try getting that through a Republican-dominated Congress. It ain’t going to be easy.

[00:37:01.170] – Grumbine

No. It does leave you wondering if this is not just political theater. I talked to Warren the other day and Warren asked the question to me. He said, “you ask, are they doing a good job? And I answer back, well, for whom?” Somebody’s doing okay right now. It just isn’t the regular people in society. Somebody’s doing great, though. And I don’t see a path. As much as I want to, I see no path forward.

I don’t want to feel this way, but I don’t see a path forward. Michael, with your international perspective, I guess my question to you, given the fact that you’re focusing on China and you see the US through the lens that we’ve just discussed, do you see an ending to this that is positive for the world, that gets us to a successful conclusion, meaning we survive? Do you see any hope whatsoever in changing that narrative? And if not, what’s next?

[00:38:01.530] – Hudson

There’s no path forward in the way that we’ve been talking about because the suggestions that Steve makes cannot be legislated by Congress. They are limited by the Constitution. And in order to do what Steve recommends – very good ideas – you would need a new Constitutional Convention. The right-wing, the polluters, the monopolists, the bankers, have been preparing for a Constitutional Convention for about 30 years, and it wouldn’t be very nice.

[00:38:32.370] – Grumbine

Yep.

[00:38:32.370] – Hudson

Our Constitution in America was written for the slave owners to permit any states to block any federal power because they worried that the federal power might try to free the slaves. Well, now that element of the Constitution, of state’s rights, is enabling the oil industry, the polluting industry, the banks, the credit card companies to essentially prevent any solution along any lines except those of the ultra right-wing.

But the problem goes beyond America and beyond Europe. Western civilization took a wrong track about 3000 years ago. The Near East and almost all of Asia had a tradition of canceling the debts when they threatened the economy. In Japan, you had revolutions, you had the Near East rulers canceling the debts. That’s what my books are about.

And you had essentially the jubilee years throughout the Near East. And this promotion of economic growth and in effect, prosperity, was always run by a central ruler. There had to be a ruler, the job of divine kingship or undivine kingship, throughout the Near East, Asia, all the way to China. And India. All of these cultures sought to prevent a commercial class and a financial class from emerging and taking over.

And the merchant class was realized as playing an important role, but it was not allowed to dominate society. But around the 8th century BC, when Syrian traders began to move into the Aegean and Mediterranean to Greece and Italy. There weren’t any kings. The west didn’t have kings. They had local chieftains who were a Mafia-type society.

And the result is that ever since Greece and Rome, you had a completely different set of laws and legal philosophy than what you had in the Near East and Asia. You had pro-creditor laws making what is called the security of contracts and the irreversibility of land being forfeited to creditors. And the result is you had creditors oligarchy evolving.

So when President Biden said the current war of NATO against Russia and China is a war of democracy against autocracy, what it means by democracy are Western civilization’s oligarchies. There haven’t been any democracies, really – maybe very briefly in Athens – but the Western cultures are all oligarchies. What he calls an autocracy is a government strong enough to prevent a financial oligarchy from developing and taking over the land and taking over politics and making its own laws for itself.

And it’s a civilizational difference. And both Steve and I have spent a lot of our time talking about how the Western economies cannot evolve further without a debt write-down, without writing down the debts that are of the 99%, they’re owed to the 1%, the oligarchy that’s controlling all of Western politics. Asia has a way to go a different way.

China doesn’t have a financial oligarchy because it treats money and credit as a public utility through the Bank of China. And so the Bank of China, as we said, makes loans to actually develop the economy. And that’s what Russia says it’s going to begin doing, not to create a financial class to make money at the expense of the 99%. So we’re dealing with a civilizational problem.

And the question is, which form of civilization? Can you rescue Western civilization from the wrong track? Well, only by creating an alternative on the right track and leaving Western civilization and say, well, you’re missing out on the development. Do you want to continue in poverty or are you going to have a revolution?

[00:42:31.650] – Grumbine

You’ve seen yellow and blue profile pictures for everybody totally sympathetic to Ukraine. And our government saying “we are not going to abandon them no matter what.” Biden has signaled that we have unlimited money to give to Ukraine, and he can’t possibly write down $2 trillion in student debt. This weird split dichotomy of truth and lies passes right by the average person.

With what you just stated, which side is going to win? Sadly, the bad guys seem to always win. I rarely see the good guys win. Who is “the good guys”? In full disclosure, I’m a socialist. We don’t even have a left party in the United States. There’s no appetite for that kind of thing in the United States. And those of us that want it are the minority. How do you envision this playing out?

[00:43:26.670] – Hudson

I thought I just said it: a different civilization going its own way.

[00:43:31.740] – Grumbine

Well, what you said was the question of good and evil, basically, which one is going to win? I’m asking you, how do you see it playing out? Because the US can’t continue doing what it’s doing and grow. You need the debt jubilee. We’ve chosen not to. Asia has those systems built and they have choices. So the question I’m proposing, given that, do you see any chance of the US coming to grips with itself? Or do you see this being a one-way trip to destitution?

[00:44:03.570] – Hudson

The latter.

[00:44:05.010] – Grumbine

Fair enough.

[00:44:05.830] – Hudson

That’s all I can say. There is no sign at all of a change. The fact that Steve and I can be on your show – we are not published in the major magazines anymore. We’re not on the major network shows. What you call the bad guys always call themselves the good guys. What you call evil calls itself good. So the question is, what kind of good guys you’re going to have?

The good guys that want to blow up the world and impoverish society, which is what neoliberalism says are the good guys or the good guys for the 99%, which America says are autocracies that we have to fight?

[00:44:41.830] – Grumbine

Yeah.

[00:44:42.670] – Keen

I think I might put a bit of a perspective. People often say, “what’s your alternative?” And what they really mean is “what’s your alternative that I’m going to like?” And I think there is an alternative, but as people feel, “I don’t like it” then other people won’t like it as well. And that is that given the scale of the environmental crisis we’re facing and the fact that it’s coming far sooner than we’re being led to believe, because courtesy of believing their classical economists on it.

When it hits, the countries that are most likely to survive will hold together are those that the West calls authoritarian. And the defining feature of those cultures when you’ve actually been inside them, is that, yes, there is a very strong state and yes, it tends to get its own way and people do what they’re told to some extent, but it’s because at the same time they know they’ve benefited from that state.

So back in China, when you talk to people in China, they will be critical of the Communist Party and say at the same time, the industrialization since then has been incredible and their lives have improved radically over that period of time. I know people who were literally in Mao suits in 1969 who are having a very comfortable retirement when they faced far worst terms back under the old strictly communist regime.

But what you have with a country like that is if China decides it has to radically ramp up renewable energy resources, also install nuclear if necessary, it’s going to do it and not face the opposition the German Greens give to new nuclear power stations, for example. So the capacity to have a top down society is more likely to be then you’re going to survive the crisis that comes forward from climate change.

I can’t see countries that call themselves democracies succeeding in that situation because they will not be able to agree on the level of cutback that’s necessary and who it gets imposed upon. We’re a more centralized society. We’re more successful at doing that and more likely to hold together during the downturn the climate will cause.

[00:46:40.110] – Hudson

You need a strong enough government to check the power of an oligarchy and to prevent a creditor landowner oligarchy from developing. And libertarians, while pretending to be for liberty, they’re for a centrally planned economy, but a centrally planned economy by the oligarchy, by the financial sector, and by the real estate owners. So every economy is planned. And the question is, who’s going to do the planning?

[00:47:05.190] – Grumbine

Yes. And with that in mind, I want to read to you some stuff that came out of this NATO 2022 Strategic Concept – just so that people understand exactly how bad it is. Document defines Russia as the most significant and direct threat to the allies’ security while addressing China for the first time and the challenges that Beijing poses towards allies’ security interests and values.

Documents also state that climate change is a defining challenge of our time. Strategic Concept is updated roughly every decade as NATO’s second most important document. It reaffirms the values of the alliance, provides a collective assessment of security challenges, and guides the alliance’s political and military activities. Previous version was adopted at the NATO Lisbon Summit in 2010.

Point I’m making is they’re bringing more countries in and now setting up China and Russia as the bad guys. This has been going on for a long time, I guess Reaganism with the Cold War. And you brought it up, I think it’s worth mentioning, towards the end of the Chinese Revolution and the US efforts back then to do these same things to China then.

All these institutions, World Bank, IMF, the Peace Corps, all these different NGOs, these were brought out as a direct counter to Russia’s communism and a fear that communism would spread to the global South to prevent them from getting in bed with the Russians. But our country, the United States in this case, has been instrumental in setting up these shadow organizations to prevent any kind of socialism or people-led initiatives around the world.

And it seems like this is going to become the next war. If it’s not going to be just another Cold War, it’s definitely going to be some war because they are lining up the Axis and allies already. I guess. Take us out on this note.

[00:49:13.290] – Keen

I think I take it over a different angle and say that the global politics we’ve had over the last 80-100 years, actually, since the dominance of America, which we pretty much say from the end of the Second World War, has been completely oblivious to the impact we’re having on the planet. The biosphere itself. And the biggest political player on the planet is the biosphere.

And that’s going to start determining what the wars are in future. And I don’t think any country in the world is prepared for that battle. China has maybe probably the most effective capacity to respond to the challenges that are coming this way, but there’s no way America or Russia or anywhere in Europe are aware of the threats they face.

This is a warfare against an implacable foe which we’ve created by destroying the sustainability of the biosphere, by expanding human industry to three to four times the scale that the planet could actually support. That’s the real war that is coming our way.

[00:50:08.600] – Hudson

And Steve, you mentioned how global shipping and trade adds to the global warming. Obviously, the military spending is a huge, huge factor. So the Americans and the Green Parties of Europe are on the wrong side of history. They are doing just the opposite of preserving de-development. They are the advocates of more and more global warming. So literally, you have a group, a bloc, wanting to destroy the environment and a bloc trying to protect itself from the Western destruction.

[00:50:40.830] – Grumbine

Yeah, very scary. And then we’ve got a lot of folks that think that they’re going to appeal to their greater sense of reason to get them to suddenly stop all this, vote their way to a Green New Deal, and it’s all just going to go away. Gentlemen, thank you so much for this time. I really appreciate it. It’s rare to have two such phenomenal guests at once, so I really do appreciate this immensely. Michael, tell us where we can find more about your work.

[00:51:07.230] – Hudson

Well, on my website, michael-hudson.com, and on my Patreon account. Steve also has a Patreon account. He got me onto Patreon. And the books that I describe what we’re talking about are available on Amazon. The Destiny of Civilization and Super Imperialism.

[00:51:27.450] – Grumbine

Very good. Steve, I know we got you on Patreon, but tell us a little bit about your books and where we can find more of your work.

[00:51:33.710] – Keen

Okay, well, again, my main recent book is The New Economics: A Manifesto, and that’s published by Polity press. So you can get it through Polity or you can get it through Amazon. There’s more than one way to get a hold of it. And the main thing I’m doing is developing the software package to enable us to think about the economy the way we should think about it, which is dynamically, non equilibrium, monetary and so on.

And that’s Minsky, which people can find at SourceForge, the open source software package site, SourceForge. Search for SourceForge and Minsky together and you’ll find it. But those are my main two things. I’ve also opened up a substack account recently – profstevekeen.substack.com – mainly because Patreon loses a lot of customers by stuffing up their credit cards. So Patreon, Substack and Minsky.

[00:52:18.030] – Grumbine

Very good. All right. And with that, my name is Steve Grumbine. My special guests, Steve Keen and Michael Hudson. This is the podcast Macro N Cheese. We’re out of here.

Western Foreign Policy Created Ukraine Crisis, is Creating Crisis with China

June 09, 2022

From Brian Berletic on New Eastern Outlook

https://journal-neo.org/2022/06/08/western-foreign-policy-created-ukraine-crisis-is-creating-crisis-with-china/

Two recent events, both overshadowed by the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, help illustrate how the same problematic aspects of Western foreign policy driving the Ukrainian conflict are hard at work in provoking conflict with yet another global power, China.

Western complaints about an alleged naval base China is accused of building in Cambodia and an altercation between Chinese and Canadian patrol aircraft in the North Pacific reflect growing tensions between an inflexible and declining Western unipolar order and a rising China that increasingly refuses to subordinate or explain itself to the West upon the global stage.

While peaceful coexistence would not only be possible but preferable in regards to global peace, stability, and prosperity, the US-led “rules-based international order” has openly declared its intentions of inhibiting China’s rise and has demonstrated just how far in terms of disrupting global peace, stability, and prosperity the US and its allies are willing to go to achieve this.

China’s “Secret Navy Base” 

The Washington Post in an article titled, “China secretly building PLA naval facility in Cambodia, Western officials say,” would claim:

China is secretly building a naval facility in Cambodia for the exclusive use of its military, with both countries denying that is the case and taking extraordinary measures to conceal the operation, Western officials said. 

The Washington Post already reported that:

The establishment of a Chinese naval base in Cambodia — only its second such overseas outpost and its first in the strategically significant Indo-Pacific region — is part of Beijing’s strategy to build a network of military facilities around the world in support of its aspirations to become a true global power, the officials said.

The unnamed Western officials failed to point out just how far China actually has to go to become a “true global power” in terms of building military installations abroad. A 2021 Al Jazeera article titled, “Infographic: US military presence around the world,” noted that, “The US controls about 750 bases in at least 80 countries worldwide and spends more on its military than the next 10 countries combined.”

The notion that China’s activities in Cambodia are “secret” is also questionable. Both China and Cambodia are surely aware of the full extent to which China is or isn’t involved at Cambodia’s Ream Naval Base. Neither nation is required to provide an explanation to the United States whose own shores are located thousands of miles away.

While the Washington Post accuses China of using  “a combination of coercion, punishment and inducements in the diplomatic, economic and military realms,” to “bend” nations to Beijing’s interests, it is actually the United States who threatens not only Cambodia, but nations throughout Southeast Asia, all of whom seek to cultivate constructive ties with China.

Late last year, according to AP in their article, “US orders arms embargo on Cambodia, cites Chinese influence,” Cambodia was openly penalized simply for its growing ties with China. The article would claim:

Beijing’s support allows Cambodia to disregard Western concerns about its poor record in human and political rights, and in turn Cambodia generally supports Beijing’s geopolitical positions on issues such as its territorial claims in the South China Sea.

The construction of new Chinese military facilities at Cambodia’s Ream Naval Base is a point of strong contention with Washington.

Clearly, US claims about Chinese foreign policy is pure projection. The US would be pressed to cite specific “punishments” China has dispensed to nations simply for cultivating ties with the US. The US, on the other hand, not only imposed various economic penalties on Cambodia’s government, Washington has also sponsored opposition forces who openly aim to overthrow the current Cambodian government.

In a 2017 Phnom Penh Post article titled, “Sokha video producer closes Phnom Penh office in fear,” a senior Cambodian opposition leader – Kem Sokha – would be quoted as saying:

“…the USA that has assisted me, they asked me to take the model from Yugoslavia, Serbia, where they can change the dictator [Slobodan] Milosevic,” he continues, referring to the former Serbian and Yugoslavian leader who resigned amid popular protests following disputed elections, and died while on trial for war crimes. 

He would also claim:

“I do not do anything at my own will. There experts, professors at universities in Washington, DC, Montreal, Canada, hired by the Americans in order to advise me on the strategy to change the dictator leader in Cambodia.” 

If Cambodia, whose constitution prohibits the presence of foreign military facilities on its territory, is willing to risk public backlash for allowing China to construct a “secret base” there, it might be as a means of preventing the country from becoming the next Ukraine.

Canada’s “Global Jurisdiction” vs Chinese Sovereignty 

Also in the headlines recently is a row growing between China and Canada over the latter’s air patrols “monitoring” North Korea.

A Reuters article, “China warns Canada over air patrols monitoring North Korea sanctions busting,” would claim:

China’s foreign ministry warned Canada on Monday of potential “severe consequences” of any “risky provocation,” after Canada’s military last week accused Chinese warplanes of harassing its patrol aircraft monitoring North Korea sanctions busting.

“The UN Security Council has never authorized any country to carry out military surveillance in the seas and airspace of other countries in the name of enforcing sanctions,” foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said at a media briefing. 

And indeed, the UN has not authorized Canada or any other nation to fly air patrols to enforce sanctions on North Korea. The Canadian patrol aircraft are so far from Canada’s own territory, they are actually based in Japan throughout the duration of these “monitoring” missions.

The United States’ self-appointed role as arbiter of who can and cannot construct military bases around the globe and Canadian patrol aircraft assuming global jurisdiction including off China’s own shores and around its neighbor’s shores, are illustrations of American exceptionalism (and by extension, the exceptionalism of their closest allies).

This exceptionalism led to the crisis in Ukraine which followed the US overthrow of the elected Ukrainian government in 2014.  The US began a process of militarizing the nation which shares a substantial border with the Russian Federation. Whereas the US was allowed to send its military to Ukraine to train forces for an eventual war with Russia, the US and its allies decried Russian military deployments within Russia’s own territory to put in check the growing threat Ukraine was being transformed into.

Whereas the US was able to interfere deeply in Ukraine’s internal political affairs, Russia was accused of backing separatists in the Donbas region and thus of fuelling the 8 year war that precipitated ongoing military operations in Ukraine today.

Likewise, the US is able to maintain hundreds of military bases around the globe, including those constructed as part of illegal wars of aggression and subsequent occupations. China, however, is apparently “wrong” for the potential use of part of an existing Cambodian naval facility, with Cambodia’s consent.

US allies like Canada are able to fly “patrol aircraft” thousands of miles from their own shores to “monitor” territory near Chinese shores and those of their neighbors, but China is unable to scramble its own aircraft to intercept and monitor these “patrols.”

In the past, this exceptionalism went unchecked. Because of China’s rise, there is a growing sense of balance being reintroduced into what has been until now a unipolar world order. While the US government and the Western media will complain about China’s growing ties both economically and militarily throughout the Indo-Pacific region, there is little the US can do to stop it. Its increasingly coercive and aggressive policies to punish nations seeking to do business with China may disrupt whatever balancing act many nations have been performing between East and West, driving them deeper into partnership with China and thus only succeed in isolating the US itself.

Only time will tell if the US continues down this increasingly destructive path, Ukraine being only the most recent victim of American exceptionalism, or if the US begins finding a constructive role within the emerging multipolar world.

Brian Berletic is a Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

China to receive two million barrels of Iranian oil, despite US sanctions

Iran has been cooperating with China, Russia, Venezuela, and Cuba in order to bypass the effects of US economic sanctions

May 19 2022

(Photo credit: Press TV)

ByNews Desk

China is scheduled to receive around two million barrels of Iranian crude oil this week that it will pump into an oil terminal in the Zhanjiang city of Guangdong province, southwest of the country.

The oil will be discharged by the Diona crude oil carrier owned by the National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC), according to Vortexa Analytics, an agency that specializes in tanker tracking.

“This would be the third Iranian oil cargo destined for government stockpile following two similar-sized shipments in December and January,” the agency reported.

Despite ongoing economic sanctions imposed on Iran by the US, China has been purchasing large amounts of Iranian oil over the past two years.

Iran plays a crucial role in the Belt and Road Initiative, a mega-infrastructure and economic initiative launched by Beijing to link the economies of Europe, Asia, and Africa, with an eye on expanding to Latin America.

Over recent years, Iran has played an instrumental role in cooperating with other countries to overcome the effects of punitive US sanctions.

On 3 May, Iranian Oil Minister Javad Owji met with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas to discuss energy relations and ways to overcome the repercussions of US sanctions unilaterally imposed on the two countries.

Venezuela and Iran have recently stepped up energy cooperation to overcome sanctions, with Venezuela importing condensate and thinners from Iran.

Back in January, an Iranian supertanker started discharging about two million barrels of Iranian condensate at the main port of Venezuela’s state-run oil company, as part of a bilateral deal that defies the US sanctions imposed on both nations.

On 17 May, UN Special Rapporteur Alena Douhan said the US must lift economic sanctions on Iran due to the harmful impact they have on the Iranian people.

“I call on the United States to abandon unilateral sanctions,” the UN special rapporteur told a press conference in Tehran.

Douhan went further, saying that the application of “extra-territorial sanctions on Iranian companies or companies working with Iran or paying Iran in dollars is illegal under international law.”

The UN official said she would address her concerns over the legality of US sanctions in her final report, to be published at a later date.

BIDEN’S BOYCOTT OF CUBA IS “A FAILURE AT REGIONAL DIPLOMACY”

MAY 17TH, 2022

MEDEA BENJAMIN

On May 16, the Biden administration announced new measures to “increase support for the Cuban people.” They included easing travel restrictions and helping Cuban-Americans support and connect with their families. They mark a step forward but a baby step, given that most U.S. sanctions on Cuba remain in place. Also in place is a ridiculous Biden administration policy of trying to isolate Cuba, as well as Nicaragua and Venezuela, from the rest of the hemisphere by excluding them from the upcoming Summit of the Americas that will take place in June in Los Angeles.

This is the first time since its inaugural gathering in 1994 that the event, which is held every three years, will take place on U.S. soil. But rather than bringing the Western Hemisphere together, the Biden administration seems intent on pulling it apart by threatening to exclude three nations that are certainly part of the Americas.

For months, the Biden administration has been hinting that these governments would be excluded. So far, they have not been invited to any of the preparatory meetings and the Summit itself is now less than a month away. While former White House press secretary Jen Psaki and State Department spokesman Ned Price have repeated that “no decisions” have been made, Assistant Secretary of State Brian Nichols said in an interview on Colombian TV that countries that “do not respect democracy are not going to receive invitations.”

Biden’s plan to pick and choose which countries can attend the Summit has set off regional fireworks. Unlike in the past, when the U.S. had an easier time imposing its will on Latin America, nowadays there is a fierce sense of independence, especially with a resurgence of progressive governments. Another factor is China. While the U.S. still has a major economic presence, China has surpassed the U.S. as the number one trading partner, giving Latin American countries more freedom to defy the United States or at least stake out a middle ground between the two superpowers.

The hemispheric reaction to the exclusion of three regional states is a reflection of that independence, even among small Caribbean nations. In fact, the first words of defiance came from members of the 15-nation Caribbean Community, or Caricom, which threatened to boycott the Summit. Then came regional heavyweight, Mexican President Manuel López Obrador, who stunned and delighted people around the continent when he announced that, if all countries were not invited, he would not attend. The presidents of Bolivia and Honduras soon followed with similar statements.

The Biden administration has put itself in a bind. Either it backs down and issues the invitations, tossing red meat to right-wing U.S. politicians like Senator Marco Rubio for being “soft on communism,” or it stands firm and risks sinking the Summit and U.S. influence in the region.

Biden’s failure at regional diplomacy is all the more inexplicable given the lesson he should have learned as vice president when Barack Obama faced a similar dilemma.

That was 2015, when, after two decades of excluding Cuba from these Summits, the countries of the region put down their collective feet and demanded that Cuba be invited. Obama had to decide whether to skip the meeting and lose influence in Latin America, or go and contend with the domestic fallout. He decided to go.

Oabam a visit to CUba

Cristobal Marquez, owner of “Cristobal’s,” the restaurant where Michelle and Barak Obama had lunch during their visit to Cuba in 2016, shows the book made by White House photographer Pete Souza, in Havana, Cuba. Ramon Espinosa | AP

I remember that Summit vividly because I was among the bevy of journalists jostling to get a front seat when President Barack Obama would be forced to greet Cuba’s President Raúl Castro, who came into power after his brother Fidel Castro stepped down. The momentous handshake, the first contact between leaders of the two countries in decades, was the high point of the summit.

Obama was not only obligated to shake Castro’s hand, he also had to listen to a long history lesson. Raúl Castro’s speech was a no-holds-barred recounting of past U.S. attacks on Cuba—including the 1901 Platt Amendment that made Cuba a virtual U.S. protectorate, U.S. support for Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista in the 1950s, the disastrous 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion and the scandalous U.S. prison in Guantanamo. But Castro was also gracious to President Obama, saying he was not to blame for this legacy and calling him an “honest man” of humble origins.

The meeting marked a new era between the U.S. and Cuba, as the two nations began to normalize relations. It was a win-win, with more trade, more cultural exchanges, more resources for the Cuban people, and fewer Cubans migrating to the United States. The handshake led to an actual visit by Obama to Havana, a trip so memorable that it still brings big smiles to the faces of Cubans on the island.

Then came Donald Trump, who skipped the next Summit of the Americas and imposed draconian new sanctions that left the Cuban economy in tatters, especially once COVID hit and dried up the tourist industry.

Until recently, Biden has been following Trump’s slash-and-burn policies that have led to tremendous shortages and a new migration crisis, instead of reverting to Obama’s win-win policy of engagement. The May 16 measures to expand flights to Cuba and resume family reunifications are helpful, but not enough to mark a real change in policy—especially if Biden insists on making the Summit a “limited-invite only.”

Biden needs to move quickly. He should invite all the nations of the Americas to the Summit. He should shake the hands of every head of state and, more importantly, engage in serious discussions on burning hemispheric issues such as the brutal economic recession caused by the pandemic, climate change that is affecting food supplies, and the terrifying gun violence–all of which are fueling the migration crisis. Otherwise, Biden’s #RoadtotheSummit, which is the Summit’s Twitter handle, will only lead to a dead end.

Feature photo | President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden wave to reporters before boarding Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., May 17, 2022. Gemunu Amarasinghe | AP

Medea Benjamin is the co-founder of the peace group CODEPINK. She is the author of ten books, including three books on Cuba—No Free Lunch: Food and Revolution in Cuba, The Greening of the Revolution, and Talking About Revolution. She is a member of the Steering Committee of ACERE (Alliance for Cuba Engagement and Respect).

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect MintPress News editorial policy.

Gonzalo Lira: The Pentagon Says: Russia No—But China Yes

May 17, 2022

Renegade interviews Michael Hudson: Sanctions, the blowback

March 23, 2022

Posted with Michael Hudson’s permission

https://www.rt.com/shows/renegade-inc/552236-michael-hudson-sanctions-ukraine/

Ross [00:00:29] Welcome to Renegade Inc. Whatever the outcome in Ukraine, one thing is for sure the economic reverberations will be felt by everyone for years to come as the world divides between the West and a rapidly reshaping Eurasia.

Ross [00:00:49] Michael Hudson, always a pleasure to have you on the programme, welcome to Renegade Inc.

Michael Hudson [00:00:53] Thank you for inviting me.

Ross [00:00:55] Michael, sanctions, sanctions, sanctions is all we hear now. We’re sanctioning people. The West sanction people back to the Stone Age. What are the unintended consequences of sanctions?

Michael Hudson [00:01:05] Well, one is to serve very much like a protective tariff on the sanctioned country. For instance, when America made sanctions on European trade with Russia, Lithuania dutifully stopped exporting cheese to Russia. Well, the result is that Russia set up its own cheese’s sector, and now it’s self-sufficient in cheese. If you sanction a country, you force it to become more self-reliant and across the board, from agriculture to dairy products to technology, Russia is forced to become more self-reliant and at the same time to depend much more on trade with China for the things that it is still not self-reliant in. So America is bringing about exactly the opposite of what it intended. It’s hopeless to somehow isolate Russia and then be able to go after China without Russia. And instead, what it’s doing is integrating the Eurasian core, Russia and China, exactly the policy that Henry Kissinger warned against going all the way back to Mackinder a century ago that said, Eurasia is the world island, Russia and China could be the whole world centre. That’s what the fight is all about. Well, American sanctions are driving Russia and China together, and America has gone to China and said, Please don’t support Russia. It most recently, on Monday, March 14, Jake Sullivan came out and told China, we will sanction countries that break our sanctions against Russia. And basically, China said, fine. You know, we’ll just break off all the trade between East and West now and the East, Eurasia is pretty much self-sufficient. The West is not self-sufficient since it began to industrialise, and it’s heavily dependent on Russia for not only oil and gas, but palladium and many raw materials. So the sanctions are ending up driving a wedge between the European countries.

Ross [00:03:31] Don’t people who apply these sanctions think this through? Are they so short-sighted they don’t understand that these sanctions are going to build further capacity within Russia, push Russia further towards China, make that economic alliance concrete and, ultimately, you’re not going to be able to keep the lights on in in Europe? All the while underestimating the fact that from a food security point of view – take the U.K., for instance, a net importer of food – not appreciating the fact that, for instance, Russia/Ukraine, they create twenty five percent, a quarter, of all wheat annually. The estimation this year is one hundred and two million tonnes Russia and Ukraine, wheat. Don’t people realise that there’s going to be a massive knock on effect?

Michael Hudson [00:04:23] Yes, they do realise it. Yes, they’ve thought it all through. I worked with these people for more than 50 years.

Ross [00:04:31] Who are these people?

Michael Hudson [00:04:32] The neocons, basically, the people who are in charge of U.S. foreign policy? Victoria Nuland and her husband, Robert Kagan, the people that President Biden has appointed all around him, from Blinken to Sullivan and right down the line. They are basically urging people around the New American Century. They’re the people who said America can run the whole world and create its own reality. And yes, they know that this is going to cause enormous problems for Germany. They know that not only will it block the energy that Germany and Italy and other countries in Europe need through their oil and gas, but also it’ll block the use of gas for fertiliser, upping their fertiliser production and decreasing their food production. They look at this and they say, How can America gain from all of this? There’s always a way of gaining what something looks to be bad. Well, one way they’ll gain is oil prices are going way up. And that benefits the United States whose foreign policy is based very largely on oil and gas. The oil industry controls most of the world’s oil trade, and that explains a lot of the US diplomacy. This is a fight to lock the world energy trade into control by U.S. companies, excluding not only Iran and Venezuela, but also excluding Russia.

Ross [00:06:16] So as Europe pushes towards more and more green and renewable energy and this for the Americans they must think it’s a dreadful scenario insofar as they can’t sell the oil as Europe becomes or wants to become more self-sufficient. So ultimately, and Britain net zero, whatever that means. But but going down the renewables path, going down the solar path takes America’s dependency or dependency on America out the game, doesn’t it?

Michael Hudson [00:06:49] This is exactly the point that the European public has not realised. While most of the European public wants to prevent global warming and prevent carbon into the atmosphere, U.S. foreign policy is based on increasing, and even accelerating, global warming, accelerating carbon emissions because that’s the oil trade. Suppose that Europe got its way. Suppose if the Greens got what they wanted and Germany and Europe were completely dependent on solar energy panels, on wind energy and to some extent, on nuclear power, perhaps? Well, if they were completely self-sufficient in energy without oil or gas or coal, America would lose the primary lever. It has over the ability to turn off the power and electricity and oil of any country that didn’t follow U.S. diplomatic direction.

Ross [00:07:48] So when we take your analysis here and we think about how the sanctions are going to build capacity, push Russia and China together, when we start to look at sort of piggy in the middle, if you like the EU, when we’re thinking about America, the EU has had a sort of abusive relationship with the Americans for quite some time now, hasn’t it?

Michael Hudson [00:08:06] Well, that’s that’s true in the sense that EU foreign policy has basically been turned over to NATO. So instead of European voters and politicians making their policy, they’ve relinquished European foreign policy to NATO, which is really an arm of the US military. So yes, Europe has had a decent relationship with the United States diplomatically by saying yes, yes, please or yes, thank you by not being independent. Of course, if it were independent, the relationship would not be so friendly and decent.

Ross [00:08:46] So for countries that are net importers of food, need to keep the lights on, need heating and need cheap oil. How does this pan out? What does it look like for the UK? What does it look like for the EU?

Michael Hudson [00:08:59] Well, Vice President, Kamala Harris the other day said to Americans, Yes, life is going to be much more expensive. Our oil prices are going up and squeezing families. But think of the poor Ukrainian babies that we’re saving. So take it on the chin for the Ukrainian babies. So basically the United States is presenting horror stories of the Ukraine and saying, if you don’t willingly suffer now by isolating Russia, then Russia is going to roll over you with tanks just like it rolled over Central Europe after World War Two. I mean, it’s waving the flag of Russian aggression, as if Russia or any country in today’s world has an army that’s able to invade any other industrial nation. All military can do today of any country is bomb and kill other populations and industrial centres. No nation is able to occupy or rollover any industrial country. And the United States keeps trying to promote this mythology that we’re still in the world of 1945. And that world ended really with the Vietnam War when the military draft ended. And no country is able to have a military draft to raise the army with necessary to fight to invade. Russia can’t do it any more than Europe or the United States could do it. So all the United States can do is wave warnings about how awful Russia is and somehow convince Europe to follow the US position. But most of all, it doesn’t really have to. Europe doesn’t really have a voice, and this is what the complaint by Putin and Foreign Secretary Lavrov have been saying. They say that Europe is just following the United States and it doesn’t matter what the European people want or what European politicians want. The United States is so deeply in control that they really don’t have much of a choice.

Ross [00:11:15] When does the consumer start to feel this? When does the European or British consumer start to feel the pinch when these sanctions are enacted? And what does that look like?

Michael Hudson [00:11:25] Well, it depends on how fast the sanctions work. The United States said Well, in another year and a half, we’ll be able to provide Europe with liquefied natural gas. Well, the problem is, first of all, they’re not the ports to handle the liquefied natural gas to go into Europe. Secondly, there are not enough ships and tankers to carry all of this gas to Europe. So unless there are very warm winters, Europe is not going to have a very easy time for the next few years. And that’s only for oil and gas. It’s dependent on raw materials that Russia produces. For instance, palladium is necessary for catalytic converters. Titanium is necessary to make the screws that are especially used on aeroplanes that are strong enough not to buckle and break when winds go up and down and when they’re full. Russia even produces the neon and the crypton that are necessary for making some kind of electronic uses and also for many components that go into computers and information technology. There’s a whole range of exports that Europe is highly dependent on, and the United States has provided Putin with a whole list of these exports, saying, Well, OK, we’re going to fight against Europe buying your oil and gas but you can certainly sell us your heavy oil that we need since we’re not buying it from Venezuela. We certainly need the following list of critical materials that we need, like helium and crypton. These are our pressure points. Please don’t press on them. Well, you can imagine what Putin and his advisers are saying. Thank you for giving us this list of the pressure points that you’re exempting from the trade sanctions. I think if you really want a break in the unilateral, unipolar world, I think we should break now and see whether you really want to get along without trading.

Ross [00:13:51] Michael Hudson, welcome back, second half, Renegade Inc. Wonderful to have you. In that first half we followed the money, if you like. We talked about sanctions and the unintended consequences. I just want to pull back a little further if we can and just talk about the sort of tectonic shifts that are going on in the world. I spoke to somebody from Russia recently and what he said was very straightforward. He said, now what we have to do is begin to learn to live without the West. Do you think that that sentiment is proliferating across Russia now? Is that the mindset?

Michael Hudson [00:14:22] Well, if you read President Putin’s speeches, that’s exactly what’s happening. And Secretary Lavrov has voiced exactly the same feeling. There’s almost a disgust with the West and a feeling from Putin, Lavrov and the other Russian spokesmen, how could we everhave hoped to have an integration with Europe after 1991? Europe really was not on our side at all, and we didn’t realise that Europe is really part of the U.S. diplomatic sphere. It’s like all of Europe is now backing the attack on Russia. The best to do is reorient our economy towards China, Asia and Eurasia and become our own self-sufficient, independent centre

Ross [00:15:15] De-dollarisation and the amassing of plenty of gold by both the Russians and the Chinese. Just talk us through that.

Michael Hudson [00:15:21] Well, Ross, you asked in the first half of this interview how has American sanctions worked against it? I should have mentioned what you just mentioned, the dollar. The United States just grabbed all of Russia’s foreign exchange reserves, just as England a few months ago grabbed all of Venezuela’s gold that was held in the Bank of England when Venezuela tried to spend this gold on buying medical supplies to cope with the COVID virus. So basically, the United States have said, if any foreign country holds its reserves in the United States or accounts in U.S. banks. If a country in the global south tries to pay its foreign debt by holding its reserves in US banks in order to be the paying agent on the interest on its foreign debt. And if that foreign country does something we don’t like, like trade with Russia or permit more labour unionisation or try to become independent in food, we’re just going to do what we did to Venezuela, what we did to Iran when we grabbed its foreign exchange reserves or what we did to Russia. And that means that other countries all of a sudden see what they thought was their flight to security, what they thought was their most secure savings, their holdings in U.S. banks, US treasury bill, all of a sudden, is holding them hostage and is a high risk. Even the Financial Times of London has been writing about this, saying, how can the United States that was getting a free ride off the dollar standard for the last 50 years, ever since 1971, when foreign countries held dollars instead of gold and basically holding dollars means you buy U.S. Treasury bonds to finance the US budget deficit and the balance of payments deficit. How can the United States kill the goose that’s giving it the free ride? Well, the answer is that other countries can only move into gold and there’s an alternative to the dollar because that’s something that all the countries of the world have agreed upon is an asset, not a liability. If you hold any foreign currency, that currency is a liability of a foreign country, and if you hold gold, it’s a pure asset. There’s no country that can cancel it, the Americans can’t cancel Russia’s gold supply that’s held in Russia, although it can grab Russian gold supply if it were to hold it in the New York Federal Reserve Bank or the Bank of England. So other countries are not only moving to gold, Germany is bringing its gold back from New York, the Federal Reserve, in aeroplanes back to Germany, so it’ll have its own gold just in case German politicians would do something the United States didn’t like and the United States would simply grab Germany’s gold. The United States sanctions, and it’s especially it’s grabbing on foreign reserve, has started a war that is dividing the world between the West and Eurasia.

Ross [00:18:40] A technical part to all of this because let’s face it, it is an information war and it’s also an economic war. Is it the FIRE sector that you point out – the financial, insurance and real estate sector. Is it that they want to continue the exorbitant privilege of credit creation, because ultimately, if you think about gold, there’s no counterparty risk. Gold is gold and it has been for millennia. Far from being a barbarous relic, by the way now, people are starting to realise the intrinsic value, especially as crypto falls apart. Can you just talk a little bit about this, the FIRE sector wanting the exorbitant privilege of creating credit?

Michael Hudson [00:19:19] This is really what the new world division and global fracture is all about. You’re right, Ross. If you look at after World War One, the American fight against Soviet communism, was basically a fight of industrial capitalism against the threat of socialism. But after 1991, and especially in the last two decades, America deindustrialised. So the fight is not by industrial capitalism against countries pushing their labour up. It’s a fight of neoliberalism against industrial capitalism or socialism abroad. It’s against industrial capitalism evolving into socialism. It’s a belief that, well, now that America’s be industrialised, how is it going to control the world economy? Well, it’ll control it through a financial means by being the creditor and foreign countries debt payments to America will enable it to make its military payments abroad and finance its trade deficit. But also, America’s purchase of key natural resources will give it natural resources when its purchase of takeover of real estate is going to essentially make the United States the landlord class and monopoly class, that mediaeval Europe had to hold the rest of the population in serfdom. That basically is the American strategy of neoliberalism fighting against countries that reject privatisation and financialization of their economy, and specifically financialization under the control of U.S. banks, U.S. private capital and allied satellite banks and capital from England or France or Germany. This is exactly the fight. Will banking and finance control the world economy or will other countries try to build up their own economies through labour and tangible capital formation?

Ross [00:21:27] Where do you stand on that? And I’m only asking you to predict the future, Michael. How do you think this plays out? Because the way you’ve depicted it is the rent seekers, the neoliberal rent seekers on one hand, and there are value creators on the other. And by the way, those two things don’t sit very well together, as we know. How does that play out?

Michael Hudson [00:21:51] Even though the United States is the largest debtor economy in the world, it’s a creditor vis-a-vis the global south and other countries and it uses its creditor position to take over their natural resources, real estate, oil and gas, mineral rights and public utilities and natural monopolies and that are being privatised in government infrastructure. It’s becoming basically the landlord monopoly class of the entire world. That’s the U.S. strategy, and that’s the key to why the world is fracturing globally. And in the past, the global south countries were unable to fight against this tendency in the 70s and 80s with the Vendome conference on. But now that China and Russia threatened to be a self-sufficient core in Eurasia, this is the great threat to the American dream of becoming a landlord and financier of the world.

Ross [00:22:50] How do you think this pans out?

Michael Hudson [00:22:52] Well, the question is whether the United States is if we can control the world, who wants to live in a world like that, let’s blow it up. The question is whether the United States will actually go to war. The only lever that it has left is to drop bombs and to destroy and make the world look like Ukraine. So from the U.S. point of view, Europe’s future and Eurasia’s future is the Ukraine. Look at what we will do to you if you don’t follow our policy. America has just moved al Qaeda very heavily in the Ukraine to sort of repeat in Ukraine and Europe what it was doing in Syria and Libya. And the United States says this is what we can do. What are you going to do about it? Do you really want to fight. But the rest of the world, certainly China and Russia says, Well, we’re ready to fight. So there is no telling what you. And it comes down to personalities. Putin has said, well, do we really want to live in a world without Russia? If the United States is to attack us, we might as well end the world. The United States says, Do we really want to live in a world that we can’t control? If we’re not completely in control, we feel very insecure and we’re going to blow up the world. So you have this countervailing position in a world where all the arms control has been dismantled by the United States in the last few years. The United States has withdrawn from all of the agreements that Russia and China have tried to promote. And Europe is standing by and apparently is willing to be the sacrificial lamb in all of this as Ukraine is being the sacrificial lamb. So the United States and Russia say, let’s fight to the last European. And Russia initially didn’t want that because it was hoping that Europe and Russia would have a mutual gain in trade and investment relationships. But now it doesn’t feel that way. And there may be a proxy war between the United States over the European economy, not necessarily bombing Europe, but trade sanctions, energy sanctions, the kind of disruption that Europe is going to be seeing in the next year is if it loses Russian oil and gas and minerals and also, I think Chinese exports.

Ross [00:25:25] Is there a moment where cooler heads prevail and suddenly the West and other places realise that they’re dependent from a food security point of view, from an energy security point of view that we are dependent? And is there a moment at that point that you can thaw a frozen conflict by saying, actually, if we both meet, we just take a step toward each other, actually, we can do something in a collaborative way? Now I get what you’ve said throughout the rest of the programme, and I give this a percentage possibility of about three percent, but isn’t there a strategy to say, actually, we’ve had all the grandstanding, we’ve had all the brinksmanship, we should now sit around the table and try and work something out?

Michael Hudson [00:26:03] I don’t see any cooler heads in the United States. The surprising thing is that here it’s the right wing channel, the Republican Fox Channel, is the only channel that’s taking the anti-war stand and is saying we shouldn’t be at war in Ukraine. It’s the only channel that’s talking about here is how Russia sees the world. Do we really want to take a one sided perspective or do we want to see the actual dynamics at work? So it was the Republicans and the right wing that is now primarily against the NATO war in the Ukraine. The left wing seems to be all for it, but the left wing of the Democratic Party is in office and I don’t see any cooler heads in the Democratic Party at all. And I’ve known many of these people for many decades, and they are willing to go to war for a death. There are still back in the world of World War Two when the fight was against the Nazis and anti-Semitism. They’re still living in a kind of mythology world, not in the real world. And the thought that the world can come to an end either doesn’t have a reality to them or as Herman Cain said, Well, somebody is going to survive.

Ross [00:27:29] Michael Hudson always a pleasure, a great insight. And, you know, it’s just refreshing to hear. Thank you very much for your time.

Michael Hudson [00:27:38] Well, thank you very much for having me, Ross.

Here comes China (and they don’t stop!)

March 19, 2022

Source

By Amarynth collaborating with Godfree Roberts’ Newsletter, Here Comes China

Biden / Xi Summit.

In perfect Chinese diplomatic terms, it looks like business as usual. Taken outside of the perfect diplomatic terms, it is a true spanking.

Let’s take one paragraph only and remember a few things first:

Washington, as usual, threatened and danced something like the haka and warned Xi not to support Russia in any way or the consequences would be dire for China. Washington threatened with equally applied sanctions and other dire unmentionables.  Apparently, Washington can support who it wants, but China is in some form prohibited from exactly that.  Hypocritically they want it both ways.  That era is over.

A few hours before the ‘summit’, China had a perfectly normal sail-by through the Taiwan Straits of their aircraft carrier Shandong.  Yes, this is ‘likely routine’ says their spox.  Sure, it was highly likely just routine.  It must have been a wonderful day for the Shandong to take a little sail through the Taiwan Straits.

A few hours before the ‘summit’ Global times had an interview with an unnamed official.  (Is China playing the US game here by not naming the official?).  This is the take-away:  “The international community can fairly judge who is frank and open and who is up to something, who is easing the situation and who is aggravating tension, who is promoting peace talks and who is pouring fuel on the fire, and who is maintaining peace and stability and who is provoking confrontations between blocs.”

Xi Jinping made a pre-summit statement: Countries should not come to the point of meeting on the battlefield. Conflict and confrontation are not in anyone’s interest. Peace and security are what the international community should treasure the most.

So, this is the milieu that Biden walked into at the online summit.  We must know by now what this is all about.  None of the boring line-up of US representatives could bend China to their will to support sanctions against Russia, so, time for a Presidential Summit to yet again attempt to split China and Russia.  This is how perfectly ridiculous this attempt is:  Can you help me fight your friend so that I can concentrate on fighting you later?

Here is how it went:

President Biden expounded on the US position and expressed readiness for communication with China to prevent the situation from exacerbating.

Simply said:  How can we make a deal so that the US/Nato alliance remains a unipolar world and all others must be subservient.

President Xi pointed out that China does not want to see the situation in Ukraine to come to this. China stands for peace and opposes war. This is embedded in China’s history and culture.

Simply said:  Hey Biden, mistake number one!  You do not know who you are talking to, but now I’m going to tell you

  • China makes a conclusion independently based on the merits of each matter.
  • China advocates upholding international law and universally recognized norms governing international relations.
  • China adheres to the UN Charter and promotes the vision of common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security. These are the major principles that underpin China’s approach to the Ukraine crisis.
  • China has put forward a six-point initiative on the humanitarian situation in Ukraine, and is ready to provide further humanitarian assistance to Ukraine and other affected countries.
  • All sides need to jointly support Russia and Ukraine in having dialogue and negotiation that will produce results and lead to peace.

Simply stated:  This is the crux of the matter and seemingly you are unable to grasp it!

  • The US and NATO should also have dialogue with Russia to address the crux of the Ukraine crisis and ease the security concerns of both Russia and Ukraine.

Message:  Go away and take your position and money with you!  You had your opportunity and you became a warmaker, coercing others to your will.  Enough is enough!  We have principles, law and morals and ethical standards.  You hold on to ‘positions’ favorable to you only.

China is active in the EU as well and the discussion does not remain dry and diplomatically correct. 

China is playing into its strengths, saying what is correct in terms of its own national interest and it happens to co-incide with that of the non-insane world.   The spokespeople are highly educated, clear, exceptionally well-spoken, and smart.   They also mercilessly dig in the knife when opportunity shows.  In a recent press conference:

CCTV: US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said that the US is concerned about Russian attacks on Ukrainian infrastructure which caused civilian casualties. However, China has yet to state its position explicitly. How does the foreign ministry view such criticism from other countries on China?

Zhao Lijian: Human lives are precious. Civilian casualties under all circumstances are heart-rending and lamentable. China has all along called for every effort to avoid civilian casualties. We still remember that in March 1999, the US-led NATO, without the Security Council’s mandate, flagrantly unleashed a ruthless bombing campaign against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia for 78 days, killing at least 2,500 innocent civilians and injuring around 10,000 people, most of them civilians. Over the past two decades or so, the US conducted tens of thousands of air strikes in places like Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia. The number of innocent civilians killed can be anywhere between 22,000 and 48,000. When professing its concern for the welfare of the Ukrainian people, shouldn’t the US first express concern over the civilian casualties caused by all these military operations?

I particularly enjoyed this vignette:

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that any support to Russia, military or any other type of support, would actually help Russia conduct a brutal war against an independent sovereign nation, Ukraine, and help them to continue to wage war which is causing death, suffering and an enormous amount of destruction.

This was the comment of the Chinese spokesperson:

Chinese people can fully relate to the pains and sufferings of other countries because we will never forget who bombed our embassy in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.  China does not need a lecture on justice from the abuser of international law. As a Cold War remnant and the world’s largest military alliance, NATO continues to expand its geographical scope and range of operations. What kind of role has it played in world peace and stability? NATO needs to have a good reflection.

Currency

Against this backdrop, the news filtered out about The Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU) and China designing a new monetary and financial system bypassing the U.S. dollar, supervised by Sergei Glazyev and intended to compete with the Bretton Woods system which is now less than 50% of the currency flow in the world.  While news is still very scarce on this front, it fulfilled the purpose of telling Biden once again to go away if US/NATO cannot be a serious contender to building a peaceful and prosperous world.

Godfree Roberts, in his last newsletter, did an overview of the major historical milestones.  I am not sure if the concept of a special drawing rights fiat currency revaluated regularly against a basket of currencies will be the way this rolls out.  Stand by!  Much more incoming!  We will see.

DOLLAR’S END – Farewell, Inordinate Privilege

  • Credit Suisse analyst Zoltan Pozsar says Ukraine triggered a perfect storm in commodities that could weaken the Eurodollar system, contribute to inflation in Western economies, and threaten their financial stability. Pozsar said China’s central bank is uniquely placed to backstop such crisis, paving the way for a much stronger yuan. Reuters, Mar. 13, 2022.
  • Saudi Arabia Considers Accepting Yuan Instead of Dollars for Chinese Oil Sales: Talks between Riyadh and Beijing have accelerated as the Saudi unhappiness grows with Washington. WSJ, Mar. 14, 2022

–o0o–

In 2009, after helping to rescue the US from the GFC, Zhou Xiaochuan, Governor of the Peoples Bank of China, said, “The world needs an international reserve currency that is disconnected from individual nations and able to remain stable in the long run, removing the inherent deficiencies caused by using credit-based national currencies.”

After helping rescue America from the GFC, PBOC Governor Zhou Xiaochuan observed, “The world needs an international reserve currency that is disconnected from individual nations and able to remain stable in the long run, removing the inherent deficiencies caused by using credit-based national currencies.”

Zhou proposed SDRs, Special Drawing Rights, a synthetic reserve currency dynamically revalued against a basket of trading currencies and commodities. Broad, deep, stable, and impossible to manipulate. Nobelists Fred Bergsten, Robert Mundell, and Joseph Stieglitz approved: “The creation of a global currency would restore a needed coherence to the international monetary system, give the IMF a function that would help it to promote stability and be a catalyst for international harmony”.  Here’s what’s happened since:

2012: Beijing began valuing the yuan against a currency/commodity basket

2014: The IMF issued the first SDR loan

2016: The World Bank issued the first SDR bond

2017: Standard Chartered Bank issued the first commercial SDR notes.

2019: All central banks began stating currency reserves in SDRs

Mar. 14, 2022: “In two weeks, China and the Eurasian Economic Union – Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan – will reveal an independent international monetary and financial system. It will be based on a new international currency, calculated from an index of national currencies of the participating countries and international commodity prices”.

The currency resembles Keynes’ invention Special Drawing Rights.SDRs are a  synthetic currency which derives its value from a global, publicly traded basket of currencies and commodities. Immense beyond imaging, and stable as the Pyramids. Everyone gets a seat at the table and a vote. It may eventually be administered by an arm of the UN.

SDRs pose a serious alternative to the US dollar, both for the EAEU, the BRI’s 145 member states, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), ASEAN, and the RCEP. Middle East countries, including Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, are keenly interested.

Less well known is that the EAEU, the BRI, the SCO, ASEAN, and the RCEP were discussing a merger before the currency news hit.

It is reasonable to expect them to join this new, cooperatively managed, stable reserve currency regime in which they can settle their trades in stable, neutral, predictable SDRs.

Biological labs

China is not losing any opportunity to bring this front and center.  This is their last list of questions:

  • If the concerns are “disinformation”, why doesn’t the U.S. release detailed materials to prove its innocence? – Question by Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian on U.S.-funded biolabs in Ukraine.
  • What did the U.S. spend the $200 million on? – Question by Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian on U.S.-funded biolabs in Ukraine.
  • What kind of research has the U.S. conducted on which pathogens? – Question by Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian on U.S.-funded biolabs in Ukraine.
  • What is it trying to hide when the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine deleted all relevant documents on its website? – Question by Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian on U.S.-funded biolabs in Ukraine.
  • Why does the U.S. insist on being the only country in the world to oppose the establishment of a multilateral verification mechanism though it claims to abide by the Biological Weapons Convention? – Question by Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian on U.S.-funded biolabs in Ukraine.
  • This is quite an amazing poster detailing the biolab web, which is too large to load here.  But take a look at the depiction of these US biolabs.  https://www.globaltimes.cn/page/202203/1255055.shtml

Economic goals in a nutshell

What is happening with Belt and Road?  About the data: On January 21, 2022, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) released its data for “China’s investments and cooperation in countries along the Belt and Road” covering the period of January to December 2021. According to these data, Chinese enterprises invested about US$20.3 billion in non-financial direct investments in countries “along the Belt and Road”. Furthermore, there were 560 newly signed projects with a contract value of over US$100 million. The MOFCOM data focus on 55 countries that are “along the Belt and Road” – meaning on a corridor from China to Europe including South Asia. For this report, the definition of BRI countries includes 142 countries that had signed a cooperation agreement with China to work under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative by the end of 2021. To analyze investments in these countries, we base our data on the China Global Investment Tracker and our own data research at the Green Finance & Development Center affiliated with Fudan University, Shanghai. As with most data, they tend to be imperfect.

Chinese joke

On a somewhat of a lighter note:  The Chinese Netizens are in the majority siding with Russia so completely and so enthusiastically, that China’s WeChat and Douyin had to crack down on vulgar jokes and netizens were told in no uncertain terms that they cannot make fun of international news events.  The very high support for Russia is becoming a clear talking point despite the somewhat muted and correct Chinese diplomatic statements.

So, here is a joke for you.

Bear and Dragon take a walk in the gardens.  Bear is a little overcome with his serious responsibilities in the world and presents emotionally somewhat tired and despondent.  As the walk proceeds, Dragon says to Bear .. Out with it!  What has you so despondent?  Bear thinks a moment and says:  We’ve been friends for a long time.  So, if I need a very large amount of money very quickly, will you give it to me?

Dragon, known for taking time to ponder the imponderables, walks on for a while and then comes to a firm stop.  NO, says Dragon, I will not give it to you!

Bear’s shoulders fall .. but Dragon continues:  I will lend it to you.  1.5 trillion the moment you ask for it, no interest, no repayment terms, pay me back when you can.

A world at war

13 Mar 2021

Source: Al Mayadeen Net

Alastair Crooke 

External actors removed from the frenzy that is largely focused in Europe must be shaking their heads in disbelief at Europe’s zeal to join in this ‘war’. Was it deliberately provoked? Is there an escalation ‘in the works’ somewhere? 

A World at War

What constitutes the most important geostrategic event of the week? Well, it was India insisting to remove the US dollar in trade with Russia and replacing it with the local currency (whilst the US reacts by threatening India with separate sanctions). The list of ‘recalcitrants’ is lengthening: China too has been threatened by US sanctions for not joining in sanctioning Russia. Other states, including Turkey, Brazil (a skeptical Bolsonaro) and Gulf States are boycotting the ‘war on Russia’. In effect, it is mostly Europe who has gone the ‘whole hog’ on the lines of French Finance minister Le Maire’s comments in “waging an all-out economic and financial war on Russia. We will cause the collapse of the Russian economy”. The rest of the world remains notably ‘cool’ and aloof.

I recall being told by a senior British panjandrum in 2006 — well before its actual outset — that war with Iraq had already been decided, and it would transform the Middle East (to the US advantage). When I demurred, I was told either ‘get with it’, or be removed (in the event I was exiled).  

I recall this incident because it seems to me that something rather similar must have been said to Olaf Scholz in Washington in the run-up to his February meeting with Putin in Moscow: Something like, we’re going to cause the collapse of the Russian economy, which will likely see President Putin evicted from office in the turmoil that would ensue. ‘Get with it’. 

Scholz did just that — and more — ultimately sacrificing Nord Stream 2, promising a big spike in Germany’s military size, and even endorsing sending weapons to conflict zones (such as Ukraine).

Boris Johnson already was using the Ukraine conflict to try to reclaim a ‘world role’ for a post-Brexit Britain; and possibly Scholz decided to make a ‘virtue of necessity’ — similarly to fulfill a wish to see Germany again becoming a “forceful” participant in global politics by jettisoning the German guilt-complex from WWII and becoming “combat ready” — all of which Scholz’ party aspires to – predating Ukraine.

In any event, Europe has embraced an all-out economic war on Russia with un-customary zeal. The West has taken its economic war on Russia to new heights, never before experienced: Russian Central Bank foreign reserves were seized; its financial institutions frozen out of external capital markets, certain Russian banks expelled from SWIFT, and the Rouble suffered a concerted ‘sell’ operation mounted out of New York (as in 2014).

However, it is not the detail that matters. Not even the means by which Russia avoided its preordained economic demise (early wargaming war prospects). No, its salience lies with a state’s foreign reserves being expropriated; its institutions paralyzed; and its currency assaulted — at ‘the flick of a switch’.

Then, just as suddenly, Europe re-erected an Iron Curtain (but this time against Russia) via a PSYOPS media narrative, which when superimposed upon emotion-jerking imagery, has evoked a moral outrage which insists on certain retaliation.  

President Putin becomes the cold, inhuman irrational antithesis to the rational liberal order, necessitating a moral crusade – perhaps even a military one – to confront such inhumanity. All this sprung into a Europe-wide frenzy, at the ‘flick of a switch’.

And – at the ‘flick of a switch’ – Russian discourse and perspectives are canceled across the western information space: Singularity and unity of messaging is Brussels’ goal.

Again, it is the context that matters. In one sense, the tragedy in Ukraine is a distraction: The point – not lost on the rest of the world – is how this all ‘was switched on’ against a major power in a day. It could just as easily happen to them, they realize.

That’s why India’s decision to trade in Rupees and Roubles is a harbinger of things to come. In throwing the ‘kitchen sink’ at Russia, the West has starkly highlighted the risks to the rest of the world that are inherent through participation in this Western-led ‘rules-based global order’.

And in triggering through media management the outrage which demands certain punitive retaliation, and outlawing alternative views, they send a shiver through many non-western leaderships — whose civilizational and value distinctions clearly mean nothing to the West. We will see many of these countries increasingly ‘abandon ship’.

Finally, external actors removed from the frenzy that is largely focused in Europe must be shaking their heads in disbelief at Europe’s zeal to join in this ‘war’. Was it deliberately provoked? Is there an escalation ‘in the works’ somewhere? 

A ‘world at war’ – whether kinetic or the full-monty financial – will be a disaster for Europe. War is inflationary. War is contractionary (and inflationary too).  It acts as a tax on any big importer such as Europe. Energy and commodities prices are currently higher – relatively – than any year since 1915. Wheat prices (25% of global supplies are sourced from Ukraine and Russia) are at their highest since 2008. Everything is going up vertically. The whole production chain for food is under pressure from every side. 

Why did Europe say ‘yes’?

The opinions mentioned in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Al mayadeen, but rather express the opinion of its writer exclusively.

The American Empire self-destructs. But nobody thought that it would happen this fast

MARCH 08, 2022

Source

by Michael Hudson

Empires often follow the course of a Greek tragedy, bringing about precisely the fate that they sought to avoid. That certainly is the case with the American Empire as it dismantles itself in not-so-slow motion.

The basic assumption of economic and diplomatic forecasting is that every country will act in its own self-interest. Such reasoning is of no help in today’s world. Observers across the political spectrum are using phrases like “shooting themselves in their own foot” to describe U.S. diplomatic confrontation with Russia and allies alike. But nobody thought that The American Empire would self-destruct this fast.

For more than a generation the most prominent U.S. diplomats have warned about what they thought would represent the ultimate external threat: an alliance of Russia and China dominating Eurasia. America’s economic sanctions and military confrontation have driven these two countries together, and are driving other countries into their emerging Eurasian orbit.

American economic and financial power was expected to avert this fate. During the half-century since the United States went off gold in 1971, the world’s central banks have operated on the Dollar Standard, holding their international monetary reserves in the form of U.S. Treasury securities, U.S. bank deposits and U.S. stocks and bonds. The resulting Treasury-bill Standard has enabled America to finance its foreign military spending and investment takeover of other countries simply by creating dollar IOUs. U.S. balance-of-payments deficits end up in the central banks of payments-surplus countries as their reserves, while Global South debtors need dollars to pay their bondholders and conduct their foreign trade.

This monetary privilege – dollar seignorage – has enabled U.S. diplomacy to impose neoliberal policies on the rest of the world, without having to use much military force of its own except to grab Near Eastern oil.

The recent escalation of U.S. sanctions blocking Europe, Asia and other countries from trade and investment with Russia, Iran and China has imposed enormous opportunity costs – the cost of lost opportunities – on U.S. allies. And the recent confiscation of the gold and foreign reserves of Venezuela, Afghanistan and now Russia,[1] along with the targeted grabbing of bank accounts of wealthy foreigners (hoping to win their hearts and minds, enticed by the hope for the return of their sequestered accounts), has ended the idea that dollar holdings – or now also assets in sterling and euro NATO satellites of the dollar – are a safe investment haven when world economic conditions become shaky.

So I am somewhat chagrined as I watch the speed at which this U.S.-centered financialized system has de-dollarized over the span of just a year or two. The basic theme of my Super Imperialism has been how, for the past fifty years, the U.S. Treasury-bill standard has channeled foreign savings to U.S. financial markets and banks, giving Dollar Diplomacy a free ride. I thought that de-dollarization would be led by China and Russia moving to take control of their economies to avoid the kind of financial polarization that is imposing austerity on the United States.[2] But U.S. officials are forcing Russia, China and other nations not locked into the U.S. orbit to see the writing on the wall and overcome whatever hesitancy they had to de-dollarize.

I had expected that the end of the dollarized imperial economy would come about by other countries breaking away. But that is not what has happened. U.S. diplomats themselves have chosen to end international dollarization, while helping Russia build up its own means of self-reliant agricultural and industrial production. This global fracture process actually has been going on for some years, starting with the sanctions blocking America’s NATO allies and other economic satellites from trading with Russia. For Russia, these sanctions had the same effect that protective tariffs would have had.

Russia had remained too enthralled by free-market neoliberal ideology to take steps to protect its own agriculture and industry. The United States provided the help that was needed by imposing domestic self-reliance on Russia. When the Baltic states obeyed American sanctions and lost the Russian market for their cheese and other farm products, Russia quickly created its own cheese and dairy sector – while becoming the world’s leading grain exporter.

Russia is discovering (or is on the verge of discovering) that it does not need U.S. dollars as backing for the ruble’s exchange rate. Its central bank can create the rubles needed to pay domestic wages and finance capital formation. The U.S. confiscations of its dollar and euro reserves may finally lead Russia to end its adherence to neoliberal monetary philosophy, as Sergei Glaziev has long been advocating, in favor of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT).

The same dynamic of undercutting ostensible U.S aims has occurred with U.S. sanctions against the leading Russian billionaires. The neoliberal shock therapy and privatizations of the 1990s left Russian kleptocrats with only one way to cash out on the assets they had grabbed from the public domain. That was to incorporate their takings and sell their shares in London and New York. Domestic savings had been wiped out, and U.S. advisors persuaded Russia’s central bank not to create its own ruble money.

The result was that Russia’s national oil, gas and mineral patrimony was not used to finance a rationalization of Russian industry and housing. Instead of the revenue from privatization being invested to create new Russian means of protection, it was burned up on nouveau-riche acquisitions of luxury British real estate, yachts and other global flight-capital assets. But the effect of sanctions making the dollar, sterling and euro holdings of Russian billionaires hostage has been to make the City of London too risky a venue in which to hold their assets – and for the wealthy of any other nation potentially subject to U.S. sanctions. By imposing sanctions on the richest Russians closest to Putin, U.S. officials hoped to induce them to oppose his breakaway from the West, and thus to serve effectively as NATO agents-of-influence. But for Russian billionaires, their own country is starting to look safest.

For many decades now, the U.S. Federal Reserve and Treasury have fought against gold recovering its role in international reserves. But how will India and Saudi Arabia view their dollar holdings as Biden and Blinken try to strong-arm them into following the U.S. “rules-based order” instead of their own national self-interest? The recent U.S. dictates have left little alternative but to start protecting their own political autonomy by converting dollar and euro holdings into gold as an asset free from political liability of being held hostage to the increasingly costly and disruptive U.S. demands.

U.S. diplomacy has rubbed Europe’s nose in its abject subservience by telling its governments to have their companies dump their Russian assets for pennies on the dollar after Russia’s foreign reserves were blocked and the ruble’s exchange rate plunged. Blackstone, Goldman Sachs and other U.S. investors moved quickly to buy up what Shell Oil and other foreign companies were unloading.

Nobody thought that the postwar 1945-2020 world order would give way this fast. A truly new international economic order is emerging, although it is not yet clear just what form it will take. But the confrontations resulting from “prodding the Bear” with the U.S./NATO aggression against Russia has passed critical-mass level. It no longer is just about Ukraine. That is merely the trigger, a catalyst for driving much of the world away from the US/NATO orbit.

The next showdown may come within Europe itself as nationalist politicians seek to lead a break-away from the over-reaching U.S. power-grab over its European and other allies to keep them dependent on U.S.-based trade and investment. The price of their continuing obedience is to impose cost-inflation on their industry while subordinating their democratic electoral politics to America’s NATO proconsuls.

These consequences cannot really be deemed “unintended.” Too many observers have pointed out exactly what would happen – headed by President Putin and Foreign Minister Lavrov explaining just what their response would be if NATO insisted on backing them into a corner while attacking Eastern Ukrainian Russian-speakers and moving heavy weaponry to Russia’s Western border. The consequences were anticipated. The neocons in control of U.S. foreign policy simply didn’t care. Recognizing Russian concerns was deemed to make one a Putinversteher.

European officials did not feel uncomfortable in telling the world about their worries that Donald Trump was crazy and upsetting the apple cart of international diplomacy. But they seem to have been blindsided by the Biden Administration’s resurgence of visceral Russia-hatred via Secretary of State Blinken and Victoria Nuland-Kagan. Trump’s mode of expression and mannerisms may have been uncouth, but America’s neocon gang have much more globally threatening confrontation obsessions. For them, it was a question of whose reality would emerge victorious: the “reality” that they believed they could make, or economic reality outside of U.S. control.

What foreign countries have not done for themselves to replace the IMF, World Bank and other strongarms of U.S. diplomacy, American politicians are forcing them to do. Instead of European, Near Eastern and Global South countries breaking away as they calculate their own long-term economic interests, America is driving them away, as it has done with Russia and China. More politicians are seeking voter support by asking whether their countries would be better served by new monetary arrangements to replace dollarized trade, investment and even foreign debt service.

The energy and food price squeeze is hitting Global South countries especially hard, coinciding with their own Covid-19 problems and the looming dollarized debt service coming due. Something must give. How long will these countries impose austerity to pay foreign bondholders?

How will the U.S. and European economies cope in the face of their sanctions against imports of Russian gas and oil, cobalt, aluminum, palladium and other basic materials. American diplomats have made a list of raw materials that their economy desperately needs and which therefore are exempt from the trade sanctions being imposed. This provides Mr. Putin a handy list of U.S. pressure points to use in reshaping world diplomacy and helping European and other countries break away from the Iron Curtain that America has imposed to lock its satellites into dependence on high-priced U.S. supplies?

The Biden Inflation

But the final breakaway from NATO’s adventurism must come from within the United States itself. As this year’s midterm elections approach, politicians will find a fertile ground in showing U.S. voters that the price inflation led by gasoline and energy is a policy byproduct of the Biden Administration’s blocking of Russian oil and gas exports. (Bad news for owners of big SUV gas guzzlers!) Gas is needed not only for heating and energy production, but to make fertilizer, of which there already is a world shortage. This situation is exacerbated by blocking Russian and Ukrainian grain exports to the United States and Europe, causing food prices already to soar.

There already is a striking disconnect between the financial sector’s view of reality and that promoted in the mainstream NATO media. Europe’s stock markets plunged at their opening on Monday, March 7, while Brent oil soared to $130 a barrel. The BBC’s morning “Today” news broadcast featured Conservative MP Alan Duncan, an oil trader, warning that the near doubling of prices in natural gas futures threatened to bankrupt companies committed to supplying gas to Europe at the old rates. But returning to the military “Two Minutes of Hate” news, the BBC kept applauding the brave Ukrainian fighters and NATO politicians urging more military support. In New York, the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged 650 points, and gold soared to over $2,000 an ounce – reflecting the financial sector’s view of how the U.S. game is likely to play out. Nickel prices rose by even more – 40 percent.

Trying to force Russia to respond militarily and thereby look bad to the rest of the world is turning out to be a stunt aimed simply at ensuring Europe contribute more to NATO, buy more U.S. military hardware and lock itself deeper into trade and monetary dependence on the United States. The instability that this has caused is turning out to have the effect of making the United States look as threatening as Russia is claimed to be by the NATO West.

  1. Libya’s gold also disappeared after NATO’s overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. 
  2. See most recently Radhika Desai and Michael Hudson (2021), “Beyond Dollar Creditocracy: A Geopolitical Economy,” Valdai Club Paper No. 116. Moscow: Valdai Club, 7 July, repr. in Real World Economic Review (97), https://rwer.wordpress.com/2021/09/23. 

Russia is immune to sanctions – Putin

20 Feb, 2022

Western sanctions are inevitable and useless, according to the Russian president

By Alexey Viryasov

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks a joint news conference in Moscow, Russia on February 18, 2022. © AP / Kremlin Pool / Sergei Guneyev

No new sanctions can possibly deter Russia from doing what it wants, because Moscow has experience dealing with them for many years already, Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned.

Speaking at a joint press conference with his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko, on Friday, the Russian leader claimed Moscow cannot possibly avoid Western sanctions, because they are not aimed at altering the Kremlin’s behavior. In his view, they are actually a plan to hinder the economic development of Russia.

“Sanctions will be imposed in any case. Whether they have a reason today, for example, in connection with the events in Ukraine, or there is no reason, it will be found,” Putin said. “The goal is different. In this case, the goal is to slow down the development of Russia and Belarus.”

The Russian president also stated that Moscow believes these sanctions to be illegitimate, calling them an unfair competition tool of the US and its allies.

“This is a gross violation of international law,” he said, also accusing the US of a selective approach to international norms.

“They care about it only when it is advantageous to them. They always interpret everything only in their own favor and neglect the interests of other [countries],” he claimed, stating that the only way for Moscow and Minsk to mitigate the effect of sanctions is to develop economic cooperation and import substitution.

The US and its European allies imposed sanctions on Russia in 2014 following the events in Ukraine, when violent street protests toppled the democratically elected government in Kiev. In particular, economic measures were slapped on Moscow after Crimea was reabsorbed into Russia following a referendum. The vote took place a month after the events of the Maidan. Ukraine, as well as most of the world, considers the referendum illegitimate and views the peninsula as illegally occupied.

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Russian options in the LDNR – my personal take

February 18, 2022

Okay, this will be a short bulletpoint reminder of how I see the Russian position and options in response to the Ukronazis attack.

First, a few key assumptions:

  • Russia does not want to invade/liberate the Ukraine
  • Russia would prefer not to get openly involved in the LDNR
  • The best outcome for Russia would be for the LDNR to be able to hold without overt Russian support
  • Throughout this entire battle, Russia will always prefer to do less than to do more.

Next, here is a summary of how I expect Russia to act in the next couple of days:

EventConsequenceRussian option
Ukronazi shelling but not ground attackCivilian casualties and infrastructure destructionLet the LDNR handle it while reporting about this at home
Ukronazis attempt to move ground forces across the LOCRisk to the LDNR defensesIdeally, Russia would only use “indirect” means such as counter-battery fire, strikes on advancing Ukronazi forces, EW.
Ukronazis forces break through the LDNR defensesPotential existential risk to the LDNRImposition of a no-fly zone, sustained artillery/rocket attacks on Ukie forces
Full scale Ukronazi attackExistential threat to the LDNRRussia moves her forces into the LDNR and stops it all.

Notice that in all the scenarios above, Russia does not initiate a fullscale attack on the Ukraine.

Why?

Because the decision to launch a fullscale attack on the Ukronazi state would be based not on events along the LOC (line of contact) but upon a much “bigger picture” of what the West might, or might not do, in the Ukraine and the rest of Europe.

In other words, the problem of the LDNR is separate from the much greater problem of the future security arrangement of Europe.

Also, another much needed reminder: when does it makes sense to negotiate with your enemies?

  • Not when you “trust” them.
  • Not when you hope to “convince” them.
  • Not when you hope to “show a peaceful face” to the general public.

No, it makes sense to negotiate with your enemy when:

  • You hope to achieve more by negotiations then by using military force.
  • Time is on your side.
  • When you need to buy more time (for whatever reasons).

The US and its EU colonies have been predicting a Russian intervention for months now.  That intervention has not happened (yet) and this is driving the leaders of the West into total despair.  This is good for Russia and that is how she wants to keep the situation for as long as possible.

I am personally convinced that the only way to solve both the specific LDNR option and to create a new security architecture in Europe will have to be achieved by Russian unilateral military operation: the folks in the West need yet another military defeat to come back to their senses (they need one about every century or so).  If the Russians also see that as inevitable, they still have two things they need to do first:

  • To delay an open intervention as much as possible in order to subvert the western narrative
  • To engage in what could be called the “psychological preparation of the theater of operations” which, in plain English, to create such a level of anger in the LDNR and also inside Russia that the public opinion will DEMAND an intervention.

There WILL be real negative economic and political repercussions for Russia when she intervenes.  Thus it is vital for Putin and the government to create such a political dynamic inside Russia that the Russian people will not only support an intervention, but DEMAND one.  Then, when the western “sanctions from hell” are imposed, the people will not blame Putin for the very real price Russia will have to pay to prevail.

Right now, you could say that the Russian bear has been awoken by all the noise, it has come out of its lair and is just looking.  Just that has the entire West in a state of total panic.

Good.

But when that bear will actually attack will not be decided by anyone but that bear.

The Ukies have declared on numerous occasions that they will not implement the Minsk Agreements.  That is very good.

Now their attack on the LDNR seems to show that the Ukies now want to provoke a Russian response.  This is also very good, as the level of public outrage on the RuNet and even on Russian TV has gone through the roof.  The Russian PSYOP preparation of the battlefield is progressing in the right direction.

As for the LDNR defenses, they seem to be holding, but the real, major, Ukie ground offensive has not begun yet!

That is the next thing we need to look for: a Ukie ground attack.  Specifically, we don’t need to worry primarily about the initiation of that coming Ukie attack, but what it yields in the first 4-6 hours or so.  Once the Ukies are fully committed, then they become a legitimate target for counter-strikes.

So this is The Big Question now: will the LDNR defenses hold?

==>>So this is the key thing to observe is this: is the LOC moving and, if yes, how far and how fast?<<==

My personal guess is that yes, they will, which will leave only two options to the Ukronazis:

  • Give up
  • Launch a massive, full-scale attack

The latter is much more likely than the former.

And, in the meantime, the pain dial for the West is slowly turning up pretty much on all fronts.

So for Russia it makes sense to let that process take as long as possible before deciding to interrupt it and overtly intervene.

I hear one argument: what about the innocent civilians murdered in the LDNR?

What about them?

Does anybody seriously think that a Russian intervention will result in less casualties than what is currently taking place?

The horrible truth is that loss of life will happen no matter how the situation evolves.  So the only real choice is not “save civilians or let them die” the choice is “make sure that every civilian death counts”.  Sound cynical?  It is, but that is the reality of real warfare (as opposed to the Hollywood & Tom Clancy nonsense folks in the West are brainwashed with since birth).

So, to all those who are constantly demanding that Russia intervene *now* and who don’t understand why Lavrov agreed to meet with Blinken, I will say this: do not project your own emotions and reactions unto Putin or, if you prefer, the “Russian bear”.  The Russians did not create the biggest country on earth and defeated all their enemies by being naive or by being unable to calculate when/how to react against a foreign aggression.

If you think that you know better, good for you, just don’t expect Putin to act the way you would in the same situation.

Lastly, there is something morally repugnant in the attitude of those who see warfare as anything but the weapon of last resort.  Christ said “blessed are the peacemakers” not “blessed are the warmakers”.  Yes, as I said, I believe that Russia will have to intervene, openly and directly.  But I also believe that Putin will wait as much as possible.  That is not only operationally wise, it is morally correct.

Andrei

ADDENDUM: I remember how the western media said that the city of Sarajevo was “intensively shelled” by the Serbs.  Utter nonsense!  These folks simply don’t understand modern warfare.  When a shell lands every few minutes or so this is NOT any “intense artillery fire”.  Now, when an area the size of one, or even several, football field instantly goes up in flames, that is a serious artillery strike.  What we see as of right now in the LDNR is what could be called “disturbing fire”.  When the Ukies used de-mining vehicles yesterday that could be part of a preparation for a ground assault.  This has NOT happened YET.  As for a ground assault, so far the Ukies have only sent in special forces and, apparently, they got detected, took casualties, and had to retreat.

All this is way below the threshold at which Russia will have to intervene.

US Sanctions Are Crime against Humanity, Affect Most Vulnerable People – Iran Envoy

February 15, 2022

By Staff, Agencies

Iran’s envoy to the United Nations Zahra Ershadi denounced as “crime against humanity” the imposition of sanctions against the nation, saying such unilateral restrictive measures have put the lives of vulnerable people at risk by hampering their access to medicine.

Ershadi, deputy permanent representative of Iran to the world body, made the remarks at the UN Commission for Social Development.

She complained that illegal sanctions have made it very difficult for vulnerable groups in countries such as Iran to access basic medical items and thus put their lives at stake.

The Iranian envoy further noted that the import of medicines as well as medical equipment and hygiene products have been severely hindered by restrictions on foreign exchange resources.

The illegal measures have a direct negative impact on the lives of the most vulnerable Iranian citizens, including women, children, and patients, she said, adding that many children have died as a result of such inhumane bans.

“As our president stated in his address to the UNGA session, unilateral sanctions against the Iranian people, particularly sanctions on medicine and humanitarian items, are criminal acts on par with crimes committed against humanity. Those who sanction countries should not go unpunished for such heinous crimes,” Ershadi asserted.

“As the representative of a country whose people are subjected to the most brutal form of economic terrorism and illegitimate unilateral coercive measures by the United States, I call for the complete and immediate lifting of all unilateral coercive measures including sanctions in order to ensure the full achievement of economic and social development and enable the targeted countries to repair their economies while guaranteeing the well-being of their people in the aftermath of the pandemic.”

She further noted that despite the sanctions, the Iranian government has managed to provide poor and vulnerable people with special financial packages and social and economic rehabilitation programs, in addition to devising economic support measures, especially for small businesses.

The government, she said, has also prepared medical treatment programs for about 4 million legal and illegal Afghan refugees.

Back in May 2018, the US began to unilaterally impose sanctions against Iran after the former left the Iran agreement, officially called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action [JCPOA].

The US, under former president Donald Trump, launched what it called a maximum pressure campaign against Iran at the time, targeting the Iranian nation with the “toughest ever” sanctions.

Although Trump failed to reach its professed goals with his maximum pressure campaign, the bans have badly hurt the Iranian population.

The sanctions, preserved under the Joe Biden administration, have restricted the financial channels necessary to pay for basic goods and medicine, undermining supply chains by limiting the number of suppliers willing to facilitate sales of humanitarian goods to the country.

Iran has repeatedly denounced the sanctions as an act of “economic war”, “economic terrorism”, and “medical terrorism.”

Andrei Martyanov on Liz Truss’ visit to Moscow

February 10, 2022

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Security Council: Russia, China Lash out at Unilateral Sanctions by US, Allies

February 8, 2022

Russia and China lashed out in the UN Security Council at unilateral sanctions imposed by the United States, European Union and other countries and groups.

The United States and its allies clashed with Russia and China in the UN Security Council on Monday over the usefulness and impact of UN sanctions.

Russia, which holds the council presidency, chose the topic of the meeting: “preventing humanitarian and unintended consequences of sanctions.”

Russia’s deputy UN ambassador Dmitry Polyansky, who chaired the meeting, said many sanctions regimes interfere with plans for state-building and economic development, pointing to Central African Republic and Sudan and calling the measures on Guinea Bissau “anachronistic.”

The Security Council needs “to take greater heed of what the authorities of states under sanctions think” and be more realistic in setting benchmarks to lift them to make sure they don’t turn into “a mission impossible,” he said.

For her part, US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield claimed that sanctions are “a potent tool” that “make it harder for terrorists to raise funds via international financial systems,” and have slowed development of “certain capabilities” in North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

Britain’s deputy ambassador James Kariyuki said the value of UN sanctions was “proven” in Angola, Ivory Coast, Liberia and Sierra Leone where “they helped end conflict and support the transition to peace and democracy and were then lifted.”

Russia’s Polyansky took special aim at sanctions imposed outside the UN by countries or groups, which “remain a serious impediment for full-fledged functioning of humanitarian exemptions,” citing problems with contractors, carriers, cargo insurance and bank transactions.

He also said Russia proceeds from the understanding that only UN sanctions “are legitimate,” and that broader use of unilateral sanctions “undermines the norms and institutes of the international law.”

Polyansky said “secondary sanctions of major Western powers create a `toxic vibe’ around Pyongyang” that discourages cooperation even in areas not touched by international restrictions. He also cited what he called the “war of sanctions” against Russia’s ally Syria, which has very negatively affected its economy, as well as US sanctions against Cuba and Venezuela.

China’s UN Ambassador Zhang Jun called unilateral sanctions “extremely harmful” and expressed concern that a few countries “have been flinging them about left, right and center, in a frenzy so much so that they seem to be addicted to them.” He said these measures “have thrown a spanner in the works of economic and social development and scientific and technological progress of the targeted countries.”

Source: Agencies

What, if anything, happened in Geneva?

January 12, 2022

There are no official results from the meeting in Geneva yet.  The US has promised to give the Russians an official answer in writing within a week.  The Russians have declared that they have explained the Russian position to their US counterparts in minute details leaving no ambiguity.  According to Russian sources, the US position was a “diehard/stubborn” one.

Clearly, the War Party in the USA is, at least so far, prevailing.  When I listen to the delusional statements of the likes of Blinken, Psaki, Kirby & Co I get the strong feeling that for these people everything is a zero-sum game and that to them an agreement with Russia, any agreement, is simply unthinkable.

If so, then this is all good news.  Frankly, it is pretty clear that the War Party has won the day, at least so far, which leaves Russia no other option that to take further unilateral actions which is, I believe, the only way left for Russia to bring the leaders of the West back into the real world.

There are still further talks planned, with the Russia-NATO council and the OSCE.  Never say never and maybe a last minute breakthrough is possible, but I personally don’t see how that could happen, not when one of the two parties is absolutely, maniacally, determined to treat the other as some kind of semi-savage inferior race with whom no civilized western leaders will ever negotiate.  The western diplomatic toolkit is has shrunk to basically the following:

  • Exceptionalism, messianism, racism and self-worship.
  • Threats and imposition of sanctions for “bad behavior” like a teacher would punish a grade-school kid for being rowdy and not listening to the teacher.
  • A total belief in both the West invincibility and invulnerability no matter what the “real reality” actually is.
  • A total categorical refusal to admit, even by implication, that the world has profoundly changed and that the Anglosphere does not “rule the waves” anymore.

There is only one thing Russia can do to bring the leaders of the West back to reality: to turn up what I call the “pain dial”.

Russian peacekeeper in Kazakhstan

In the meantime, the Russian military has declared that it hopes to leave Kazakhstan within a week, but only if/when the situation in this country is fully stabilized.

President Tokaev has said that the CSTO forces withdrawal will being in 48 hours and will last no more than 10 days.  I hope that he is right.

However, it will take months for Kazakhstan and Russia to deal with the insurgents, especially in the West and South of Kazakhstan.  But that would already be a mopping-up operation which Russia and Kazakhstan can coordinate on a bilateral basis without any need to involve the CSTO.

For the time, we have to wait and see what actually happens in the next few days, things should become much clearer.

Andrei

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