Who profits from Pipeline Terror?

Secret talks between Russia and Germany to resolve their Nord Stream 1 and 2 issues had to be averted at any cost

September 29 2022

By Pepe Escobar

The War of Economic Corridors has entered incandescent, uncharted territory: Pipeline Terror.

A sophisticated military operation – that required exhaustive planning, possibly involving several actors – blew up four separate sections of the Nord Stream (NS) and Nord Stream 2 (NS2) gas pipelines this week in the shallow waters of the Danish straits, in the Baltic Sea, near the island of Bornholm.

Swedish seismologists estimated that the power of the explosions may have reached the equivalent of up to 700 kg of TNT. Both NS and NS2, near the strong currents around Borholm, are placed at the bottom of the sea at a depth of 60 meters.

The pipes are built with steel reinforced concrete, able to withstand impact from aircraft carrier anchors, and are basically indestructible without serious explosive charges. The operation – causing two leaks near Sweden and two near Denmark – would have to be carried out by modified underwater drones.

Every crime implies motive. The Russian government wanted – at least up to the sabotage – to sell oil and natural gas to the EU. The notion that Russian intel would destroy Gazprom pipelines is beyond ludicrous. All they had to do was to turn off the valves. NS2 was not even operational, based on a political decision from Berlin. The gas flow in NS was hampered by western sanctions. Moreover, such an act would imply Moscow losing key strategic leverage over the EU.

Diplomatic sources confirm that Berlin and Moscow were involved in a secret negotiation to solve both the NS and NS2 issues. So they had to be stopped – no holds barred. Geopolitically, the entity that had the motive to halt a deal holds anathema a possible alliance in the horizon between Germany, Russia, and China.

Whodunnit?

The possibility of an “impartial” investigation of such a monumental act of sabotage – coordinated by NATO, no less – is negligible. Fragments of the explosives/underwater drones used for the operation will certainly be found, but the evidence may be tampered with. Atlanticist fingers are already blaming Russia. That leaves us with plausible working hypotheses.

This hypothesis is eminently sound and looks to be based on information from Russian intelligence sources. Of course, Moscow already has a pretty good idea of what happened (satellites and electronic monitoring working 24/7), but they won’t make it public.

The hypothesis focuses on the Polish Navy and Special Forces as the physical perpetrators (quite plausible; the report offers very good internal details), American planning and technical support (extra plausible), and aid by the Danish and Swedish militaries (inevitable, considering this was very close to their territorial waters, even if it took place in international waters).

The hypothesis perfectly ties in with a conversation with a top German intelligence source, who told The Cradle that the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND or German intelligence) was “furious” because “they were not in the loop.” 

Of course not. If the hypothesis is correct, this was a glaringly anti-German operation, carrying the potential of metastasizing into an intra-NATO war.

The much-quoted NATO Article 5 – ‘an attack on one of us is an attack on all of us’ – obviously does not say anything about a NATO-on-NATO attack. After the pipeline punctures, NATO issued a meek statement “believing” what happened was sabotage and will “respond” to any deliberate attack on its critical infrastructure. NS and NS2, incidentally, are not part of NATO’s infrastructure.

The whole operation had to be approved by Americans, and deployed under their Divide and Rule trademark. “Americans” in this case means the Neo-conservatives and Neo-liberals running the government machinery in Washington, behind the senile teleprompter reader.

This is a declaration of war against Germany and against businesses and citizens of the EU – not against the Kafkaesque Eurocrat machine in Brussels. Don’t be mistaken: NATO runs Brussels, not European Commission (EC) head and rabid Russophobe Ursula von der Leyen, who’s just a lowly handmaiden for finance capitalism.

It’s no wonder the Germans are absolutely mum; no one from the German government, so far, has said anything substantial.

The Polish corridor

By now, assorted chattering classes are aware of former Polish Defense Minister and current MEP Radek Sirkorski’s tweet: “Thank you, USA.” But why would puny Poland be on the forefront? There’s atavic Russophobia, a number of very convoluted internal political reasons, but most of all, a concerted plan to attack Germany built on pent up resentment – including new demands for WWII reparations.

The Poles, moreover, are terrified that with Russia’s partial mobilization, and the new phase of the Special Military Operation (SMO) – soon to be transformed into a Counter-Terrorism Operation (CTO) – the Ukrainian battlefield will move westward. Ukrainian electric light and heating will most certainly be smashed. Millions of new refugees in western Ukraine will attempt to cross to Poland.

At the same time there’s a sense of “victory” represented by the partial opening of the Baltic Pipe in northwest Poland – almost simultaneously with the sabotage.

Talk about timing. Baltic Pipe will carry gas from Norway to Poland via Denmark. The maximum capacity is only 10 billion cubic meters, which happens to be ten times less than the volume supplied by NS and NS2. So Baltic Pipe may be enough for Poland, but carries no value for other EU customers.

Meanwhile, the fog of war gets thicker by the minute. It has already been documented that US helicopters were overflying the sabotage nodes only a few days ago; that a UK “research” vessel was loitering in Danish waters since mid-September; that NATO tweeted about the testing of “new unmanned systems at sea” on the same day of the sabotage. Not to mention that Der Spiegel published a startling report headlined “CIA warned German government against attacks on Baltic Sea pipelines,” possibly a clever play for plausible deniability.

The Russian Foreign Ministry was sharp as a razor: “The incident took place in an area controlled by American intelligence.” The White House was forced to “clarify” that President Joe Biden – in a February video that has gone viral – did not promise to destroy NS2; he promised to “not allow” it to work. The US State Department declared that the idea the US was involved is “preposterous.”

It was up to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov to offer a good dose of reality: the damage to the pipelines posed a “big problem” for Russia, essentially losing its gas supply routes to Europe. Both NS2 lines had been pumped full of gas and – crucially – were prepared to deliver it to Europe; this is Peskov cryptically admitting negotiations with Germany were ongoing.

Peskov added, “this gas is very expensive and now it is all going up in the air.” He stressed again that neither Russia nor Europe had anything to gain from the sabotage, especially Germany. This Friday, there will be a special UN Security Council session on the sabotage, called by Russia.

The attack of the Straussians

Now for the Big Picture. Pipeline Terror is part of a Straussian offensive, taking the splitting up of Russia and Germany to the ultimate level (as they see it). Leo Strauss and the Conservative Movement in America: A Critical Appraisal, by Paul E. Gottfried (Cambridge University Press, 2011) is required reading to understand this phenomenon.

Leo Strauss, the German-Jewish philosopher who taught at the University of Chicago, is at the root of what later, in a very twisted way, became the Wolfowitz Doctrine, written in 1992 as the Defense Planning Guidance, which defined “America’s mission in the post-Cold War era.”

The Wolfowitz Doctrine goes straight to the point: any potential competitor to US hegemony, especially “advanced industrial nations” such as Germany and Japan, must be smashed. Europe should never exercise sovereignty: “We must be careful to prevent the emergence of a purely European security system that would undermine NATO, and particularly its integrated military command structure.”

Fast-forward to the Ukraine Democracy Defense Lend-Lease Act, adopted only five months ago. It establishes that Kiev has a free lunch when it comes to all arms control mechanisms. All these expensive weapons are leased by the US to the EU to be sent to Ukraine. The problem is that whatever happens in the battlefield, in the end, it is the EU that will have to pay the bills.

US Secretary of State Blinken and his underling, Victoria “F**k the EU” Nuland, are Straussians, now totally unleashed, having taken advantage of the black void in the White House. As it stands, there are at least three different “silos” of power in a fractured Washington. For all Straussians, a tight bipartisan op, uniting several high-profile usual suspects, destroying Germany is paramount.

One serious working hypothesis places them behind the orders to conduct Pipeline Terror. The Pentagon forcefully denied any involvement in the sabotage. There are secret back channels between Russia’s Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev and US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan.

And dissident Beltway sources swear that the CIA is also not part of this game; Langley’s agenda would be to force the Straussians to back off on Russia reincorporating Novorossiya and allow Poland and Hungary to gobble up whatever they want in Western Ukraine before the entire US government falls into a black void.

Come see me in the Citadel

On the Grand Chessboard, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan two weeks ago dictated the framework of the multipolar world ahead. Couple it with the independence referendums in DPR, LPR, Kherson and Zaporozhye, which Russian President Vladimir Putin will formally incorporate into Russia, possibly as early as Friday.

With the window of opportunity closing fast for a Kiev breakthrough before the first stirrings of a cold winter, and Russia’s partial mobilization soon to enter the revamped SMO and add to generalized western panic, Pipeline Terror at least would carry the “merit” of solidifying a Straussian tactical victory: Germany and Russia fatally separated.

Yet blowback will be inevitable – in unexpected ways – even as Europe becomes increasingly Ukrainized and even Polandized: an intrinsically neo-fascist, unabashed puppet of the US as predator, not partner. Vey few across the EU are not brainwashed enough to understand how Europe is being set up for the ultimate fall.

The war, by those Straussians ensconced in the Deep State – neocons and neoliberals alike – won’t relent. It is a war against Russia, China, Germany and assorted Eurasian powers. Germany has just been felled. China is currently observing, carefully. And Russia – nuclear and hypersonic – won’t be bullied.

Poetry grandmaster C.P. Cavafy, in Waiting for the Barbarians, wrote “And now what will become of us, without any barbarians? Those people were some kind of a solution.” The barbarians are not at the gates, not anymore. They are inside their golden Citadel.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of The Cradle.

Keywords

A possible strategy for peace

September 28, 2022

Source

by Gav Don

We now await the results of the referenda in Donetsk, Lugansk, Zaporizhiya and Kherson to request membership of the Russian Federation. In the first three regions the result is a foregone conclusion. In Kherson the vote is also likely to be for membership, in spite of the fact that Kherson’s pre-war population was a majority ethnic Ukrainian one, but the margin may be closer. Many, indeed probably most, of Kherson’s pre-war Ukrainians have, though, left the region as refugees, and will not vote in the referendum by virtue of their absence. President Putin stated in a recent speech that Russia will immediately accept the applications for membership of the Federation that follow.

In parallel Moscow announced this week that Russia will call up army reservists for service. Russian army reserves include men in a wide range of preparedness, from people who had completed conscripted service long ago to a much smaller number of “active” reserve formations similar to western reserve formations – i.e. ones which meet regularly for paid training with regular forces. These latter are a relatively new addition to Russia’s ground forces.

RAND reported in 2019 that “active” reserves totalled only 5,000 men. In 2021 Moscow announced a plan to increase the active reserve under the headline BARS-2021 to 100,000, but no information has reached the public domain since then on how well (or not) that strategy performed. Subsequent clarification stated that reserves called up will undergo months of refresher and update training. Interpolating the limited data suggests that this reserve call-up might bring 20,000-40,000 men with material fighting power to Russia’s Orbat in the short term.

Mr Putin made no reference to the number of men (and women, presumably) to be called up, but within minutes of his speech being broadcast the number of 300,000 appeared throughout western media coverage. The most likely source for that very large number is the media briefers retained by Kyiv.

Prior to this week’s reserve call-up Moscow was already in the process of creating a new unit, the 3rd Army Corps (Luhansk and Donestk militias form the 1st and 2nd Army Corps), comprising some 40 Battalion Tactical Groups. When fully formed the 3rd Army Corps would therefore contain some 35,000 – 40,000 men, but at present is probably less than half that complement, and in an early state of formation and training which will limit its combat power to low-intensity and defensive operations only for several months to come.

Reserves are not the only news: a third insight to Moscow’s objectives has come to light, in one of Mr Putin’s replies in a Q and A at Samarkand, and again in his “reserves” speech. In both he referred for the first time to the Russia’s “main objective” in Ukraine as the full occupation of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts. This is the first time since February that Moscow has made an unequivocal statement about its objectives.

It is tempting to extrapolate that Russia’s lesser objectives must be smaller than its main objective. That extrapolation would rule out the taking of much more ground than Russia already occupies, including Odesa (or even Mikolayev), Kharkiv or the ground between the western border of Donetsk and the Dnepr River.

Building on that tentative conclusion leads to another conclusion, that Moscow’s strategic objective now is to conclude the remnants of the peace deal agreed to (and then reneged on) by President Zelensky in Istanbul in March. Much of the rest of Mr Putin’s “reserves” speech was expressing Russia’s defensive rights and plans – the protection of Russian territory and Russian people from Ukraine and the greater west. There was no talk of extending Russian occupation of Ukraine beyond Donetsk and Luhansk.

Last week, the day after the reserves announcement, President Zelensky made a recorded address to the United Nations which Moscow is likely to find discouraging for a peace deal. Mr Zelensky’s first words were a demand for “just punishment” for Russia’s aggression: “Ukraine demands punishment for trying to steal our territory”.  Mr Zelensky stated four preconditions for peace:

·         Punishment (of Russia) for the crime of aggression, to continue (a) until the borders are returned to 2013 line and (b) full financial compensation has been paid for all physical damage. The punishments, to be administered by a special tribunal, specifically include a trade embargo, suspension of Russia from the UN and of its veto, a travel ban on all Russians, and a system to obtain financial compensation from Russia.

·         “The protection of life by all available means”. It was not made clear what this term means in detail.

·         “The restoring of security and territorial integrity” – which must mean a return to 2013 borders.

·         Security guarantees for Ukraine enacted in a suite of bilateral and multilateral treaties, to supplement existing treaties (so, probably not membership of NATO per se). The new guarantees will be written to provide pre-emptive action rather than reactive action (like that in the Atlantic Charter).

To these Mr Zelensky added a fifth precondition, which had no actual provisions or form but appeared to be a call for firm adherence to the four explicit conditions to punish aggression.

Mr Zelensky finished with “I rule out the possibility a settlement can happen on a different basis than the [this] Ukrainian peace formula”.

Ukraine’s position depends entirely on continued materiel and financial support from Washington, London and Brussels. Since it will be immediately clear to even the most Russophobic members of those administrations that the only practically obtainable component of President Zelensky’s formula will be financial compensation from Russia’s frozen foreign reserves, there is probably a different peace deal, which might be imposed on Kyiv by the West. What might those preconditions be?

They would probably include:

·         A clear demonstration by the people living in the four Oblasts that they no longer wish to be part of Ukraine;

·         Clear evidence that the Kharkiv offensive is a one-off, and that it has no practical chance of being repeated elsewhere;

·         Acceptance by the voters of Europe and the United Kingdom that a bad peace is more attractive than a continued war (the voters of the United States are almost completely indifferent to the war and have already lost interest);

·         Acceptance by Prime Minister Truss and Commission President von der Leyen that the economic price of continued conflict with Russia is higher than they will, or even can, pay;

·         Acceptance by the US State Department that the EU Commission and Downing Street are no longer willing to send money and weapons to Ukraine (Mr Biden’s cognitive decline more or less rules him out of the decision process, and the Pentagon has been against the war since February);

It is possible to map last week’s Russian events and announcements against this list of preconditions.

The popular will in the occupied territories

Three of the four referenda are guaranteed to return a strong desire for a transfer from Ukraine to Russia. The fourth, Kherson, may return a less equivocal desire, though a majority for Russia is likely. Moscow may be setting up the surrender of west-bank Kherson to Ukraine as the price of peace.

The western popular consciousness (in so far as it exists as a single “thing”) readily accepts the principle of self-determination where clearly and fairly expressed. Indeed, rather more than half of the people of Europe are independent or unified by virtue of that principle (this would include all Germans, Poles, Czechs, Slovaks, Greeks, Italians, Hungarians, Bulgarians, Romanians, Slovenes, Croats, Montenegrans, Dutch, Danes, Maltese, Kosovans, Macedonians, Estonians, Latvians, Lithuanians, Finns, Irish, and, outside the EU, Norwegians, and in future perhaps Scots and Catalans, and of course Ukrainians themselves). Why, then, spend large amounts of money and incur acute economic pain to resist the clearly expressed desire for self-determination by ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine?

In the debate which might follow this line Moscow will undoubtedly call in aid the referendum in Kosovo, supported by the western alliance against Russian ally Serbia, as a precedent for the moral right to choose one’s parent state. It will find support from the 2010 Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice in the Kosovo case, that “…international law contains no ‘prohibition on declarations of independence” (the caveats and specific circumstances of the Advisory Opinion are unlikely to gain much traction with public opinion).

So, it is possible at least that bringing the referenda forward to now is a step towards undermining popular support for the war in greater Europe.

Clear evidence that the Kharkiv success is a one-off

I covered the Kharkiv offensive here, concluding that a successful attack by some 20,000 men against a space held by 4,000 low-grade troops says little about future military prospects for Ukraine. Most of the rest of the Line of Contact is held in substantially greater force by Russian and allied troops of substantially higher fighting power. Moscow’s announcement of reserves mobilisation will shortly add to that fighting power and deepen the thinly-held Contact Line that runs west from Donetsk to Zaporizhiya.

Moscow’s change of strategy by attacking Ukrainian civil power assets for the first time simultaneously restricts Kyiv’s ability to concentrate force and demonstrates Russia’s willingness to use more violence if and when required.

Kyiv is still capitalising on the glow of the Kharkiv offensive, hoping to use it to persuade an international audience that its goal of returning to its 2013 borders is a realistic one. Indeed, the Kharkiv offensive forms a key foundation stone for President Zelensky’s plan for a peace deal articulated to the United Nations last week.

If the Kharkiv offensive is indeed a one-off and not repeatable it will take time for that truth to prevail in the strategic calculus of Washington, London and Brussels.

The economic price of resistance

The European Commission’s sanctions on Russian gas supplies (shuttering Nordstream 2, forbidding EU states from paying for gas in Roubles, obstructing Nordstream 1 by sanctioning its turbines and supporting Kyiv in its shuttering of pipelines for reasons with little engineering validity) have increased gas prices in Europe and the UK by a factor of roughly ten times, and consequently increased power prices by factor of around five times.

Spiking energy prices undercut popular support for the war while at the same time threatening almost all parts of greater Europe’s industrial and commercial sector, rendering large parts of commerce and industry unprofitable overnight (and catastrophically loss-making in the case of low-margin energy intensive primary industries).

Brussels and London have been forced to respond with a combination of massive subsidies, price controls and windfall profit taxes. In the case of the UK Ms Truss’s emergency plan has an initial (6-month) budget of some £65 bn – 2.5% of GDP to be borrowed and spent in half a year alone. While the Commission’s plan for windfall taxes and targeted subsidies is considerably more sensible, both the EU and the UK are looking at sharp GDP contractions as a result of the energy price spike alongside large adverse swings in international payments balances. The value of Sterling has crashed to its lowest level against the dollar since American independence. The Euro has also dropped by some 20% against the dollar.

Europe will weather the price spike better than the UK, which is facing another economic disaster generated by the inflation-linked coupons on some £500 bn of its government debt. With inflation running at 10-12% per year (depending on which measure is chosen), UK debt interest will leap this year from approximately £48 bn in 2019 to a likely £110 bn in 2022.

UK government debt interest will be yet higher in 2023, when, if the war and EU sanctions on Russian gas continue, the United Kingdom will need to borrow a net £200 bn (plus half as much again to roll over existing maturing debts), with a weak currency, high inflation and a shrinking economy. This toxic combination will further weaken the pound, import more inflation through rising import prices, further increase the cost of index-linked government debt, and drive the government’s budget deficit to around 10% of GDP. Unable to raise taxes (because she has promised not to) and unable to cut government spending (because an election looms in 2024) Ms Truss will be at risk of sinking under a tide of debt.

The question is how long will Downing Street accept the costs of its unequivocal support for Ukraine?

The European Commission’s plans for handling the energy price spike are more sensible than London’s, and it starts from a position of having zero debt (though European members all owe large amounts). There is a possibility of a split emerging between the strategic desires of London and the Commission, with the latter welcoming acute economic pain for the UK as part of the “punishment regime” for the UK’s departure from the European Union. Moscow may try to use that divided agenda to detach the UK from Ukraine’s life support system.

Popular rejection of support for the war

Throughout the war European and UK popular support for Ukraine has been solid. Indeed it is almost impossible to find any voice in either mainstream or niche media that is anything other than entirely on the side of Kyiv (not completely impossible – a small community of dissident thinkers and analysts does exist, led by this website, but with a repeating audience that barely breaks half a million people it has little real-world impact).

Popular support has flowed in roughly equal parts from a latent fear of and dislike for Russia born of the Cold War, from a collective view that states should not invade each other, from perhaps the most successful information war ever waged (by Kyiv) and in part from the reality that so far support has cost Europeans personally nothing in either blood or treasure.

The coming price in treasure is discussed above. It is likely that Mr Putin’s remarks this week on the circumstances in which Russia would be prepared to use nuclear weapons were deliberately intended to alarm European and British citizens with the concept that the distant war might become a very non-distant reality if it is allowed to continue.

Moscow can rely on Europe’s media and politicians to misrepresent and exaggerate its statements (conflating tactical with strategic weapons, eliding the question of use against armed forces or civilians, ignoring the fact the Mr Putin’s remarks were expressly preceded by a reference to Ms Truss’s bellicose statement of her willingness to use nuclear weapons during her election campaign, and neatly ignoring the subtlety of whether Russian weapons might be used in Ukraine, Russia or Europe) to cultivate panic among peoples who had more or less forgotten that nuclear weapons still exist and have no clear idea of what they do or how they work.

If that is what Moscow’s talk of nuclear weapons was intended to spark then it has quickly succeeded – the nuclear threat is now top and centre of mass media discussion, and may be creating the space within which Brussels and London can press Kyiv to a negotiated peace, however uncomfortable.

American guns and money

The final piece of the puzzle is how to persuade the US that it should stop sending weapons and cash to Kyiv.

American support for Ukraine does not require popular consent since the price is small by comparison with total US government spending, and its budgets are readily approved by Congress.

American popular consciousness is also much less responsive to the rattling of nuclear sabres, by virtue of distance, by familiarity with life in the front-line of nuclear brinkmanship and because of innate popular confidence in the size and power of US retaliative capabilities. There is no media panic about possible use of nuclear weapons in the US.

Indeed, Ukraine barely breaks into the national mainstream media consciousness, which is preoccupied with inflation, racial tensions expressed by police killings, and the “threat” posed by to US hegemonic power by China, and specifically to Taiwan.

Meanwhile the methane price spike will generate extraordinarily high profits for US LNG producers.

That combination of US circumstances presents Moscow with a wicked problem. There may be one solution to how US opinion should be persuaded to abandon Ukraine.

US popular consciousness firmly believes that Europe (including the UK) has freeloaded on US defence spending for two generations. There are few things the average American dislikes more than a freeloader.

The charge contains an element of truth. Total defence spending by the EU plus UK and Turkey was about Euros 220 bn in 2021. Total US defence spending in the same year was approximately Euros 600 bn. Even allowing for those parts of the budget allocated to strategic nuclear weapons (about 15%), Carrier Strike Groups and amphibious warfare capabilities (10%), and US power projection in Asia and the Middle East (probably another 20%), US defence spending still exceeds Europe’s by about half.

If Moscow can manipulate either or both of the Commission and Downing Street into abandoning support for Ukraine that would leave Washington paying the bill alone. It is not the size of that bill which might undercut support for guns and money, but the fact that it has been forwarded on by decadent and cynical Europeans, which could make US support for Ukraine unacceptably unpopular.

Whatever the American voter thinks, the American neocon will not be persuaded to accept a peace deal with Russia. Indeed, the US is escalating. Last night the pressures in Nordstream 1 and Nordstream more or less simultaneously fell to 7 Atmospheres, and a large gas leak was observed off the Danish Island of Bornholm. 7 Atmospheres is the ambient pressure of the seabed off Bornholm under which both pipelines pass – at 70 metres of water depth. There is only one possible explanation for this event – an attack on both pipelines by an unidentified submarine.

The reliable rule of Cui Bono applies here. A US (or UK, on request from the US) attack on the pipelines secures the EU LNG market for US exporters against possible future competition from Russia after a peace deal, renders Europe dependent on US LNG supplies (in the short term at least), and serves to remove a major possible Russian contribution to peace in the form of cheap gas. It is staggering to see how far US policy-makers will go to promote a continued war.

A possible strategy for peace

Notwithstanding the Nordstream attacks it is possible to see, inside the announcements and moves that have emerged this week, the skeleton of a Russian strategy towards a negotiated peace with Kyiv. An uncomfortable one, to be sure, but peace nevertheless.

If a negotiated peace is not available Moscow can still opt for an imposed one, in which it would complete the occupation of Donetsk Oblast and call a unilateral halt to offensive operations.

Presented with that fait accompli Kyiv is likely to continue its present policy of shelling civilians in Russian-occupied territory wherever its guns can reach – a policy in blatant breach of the Law of Armed Conflict but one which has been consistently and thoroughly ignored by the major media channels in both Europe and the USA, and even by Turkish and Iraq media. An enforced peace would therefore require Russia to create and police an effective artillery “no fire” zone for some 20 kms west of its new imposed border with Ukraine, and a “no-rocket” zone for another 50 kms on top.

Russia’s present artillery and rocket forces cannot do that, since Ukrainian artillery can evade counterbattery fire by the tactic of “shoot and scoot”. Russian air forces are also unable to enforce a no-fire zone because at high altitude they are vulnerable to a SAM shoot-down, and at low altitude to the widespread presence of Man-portable air defence systems (MANPADS).

To create an effective no-fire zone Russia needs a force of unmanned drones capable of delivering 20-40 kgs of high explosive within 2 metres of their targets, both stationary and evading counterfire in “scoot” mode. These drones would have to be sufficiently numerous to give saturation coverage day and night, working in pairs (so that one of the pair can engage MANPADS and SAM launchers which target the other member of the pair), and cheap enough to be disposable.

At the start of the war Russia did not have a drone with those specifications, but now it does. The 1,000 or so Shahed 136 drones ordered this month are beginning to arrive (the first examples of 136 wreckage with their distinctive wingtips have now appeared in Ukraine). Russia has renamed the model the Geranium.

The 136 is an ideal candidate for enforcing a deep no-fire zone. Its 36 kg warhead can completely destroy a heavy artillery piece, a mortar or a Multiple Launch Rocket launch truck. The 136 can loiter for some 20 hours at heights well above the reach of MANPADs, before being dived onto the target by its operator. It can also carry out a chase of a moving target (it was a 136 which hit the bridge of the merchant ship Mercer Street while under way off Oman last year), and can break away and re-attack repeatedly if the target evades successfully.

One limitation is that control systems are line-of-sight, so require the drone controller to use a very high aerial to operate the drone successfully deep behind the Line of Contact, but the 136’s operating depth is likely in most circumstances to be greater than the effective range of most of its targets.

Moscow’s drone purchase also reportedly includes an estimated forty Shahed 129 drones. The 129 is a 400 kg aircraft theoretically capable of carrying guided ground attack munitions but more likely to be used for its electro-optical reconnaissance capability to identify targets for the 136s. The 129 too has a line-of-sight control link, which also limits its operational depth capability.

With sufficient numbers of these two drones, backed up by conventional artillery and MLRS systems, Russia should be able to enforce an effective artillery no-fire zone in defence of the occupied territories.

Amidst the uncertainty one thing is certain – there is a zero probability that Moscow will entertain President Zelensky’s UN peace proposals. It may not even respond to them, on the basis that they rest on a strategic fantasy. Equally likely is that President Zelensky will not respond to peace proposals which include the detachment of the four Oblasts. At least, not until pressured to do so by at least two of his three western backers.

The most likely outcome therefore looks to this author to be a frozen conflict, once the balance of Donetsk Oblast has been taken (slowly) by Russian forces. At the current rate of progress – a few hundred metres per day – that may not happen until the spring or even summer of 2023.

US military aircraft circled Nord Stream incident site in September

28 Sep 2022

Source: Agencies

By Al Mayadeen English 

The US military reportedly carried out sorties over the future site of the Nord Stream pipeline “incident” in the Baltic Sea.

The US military’s Sikorsky MH-60R Seahawk helicopter

US military helicopters habitually and on numerous occasions circled for hours over the site of the Nord Stream pipelines incident near Bornholm Island earlier in September, Flightradar24 data showed.

Denmark’s maritime traffic agency and Sweden’s Maritime Authority on Monday reported a “dangerous” gas leak in the Baltic Sea close to the route of the inactive Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which experienced an unexplained drop in pressure.

The leak, southeast of the Danish island of Bornholm, “is dangerous for maritime traffic” and “navigation is prohibited within a five nautical mile radius of the reported position,” the agency warned in a notice to ships.

Following the incident, German newspaper Tagesspiegel claimed Monday that Berlin is convinced that the loss of pressure in the three natural gas pipelines between Russia and Germany was not a coincidence and suspects a “targeted attack“.

The cause of the incidents remains unknown and an investigation is underway. Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde said on Tuesday that the disruption was caused by detonations, which indicates that it was sabotage.

The Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which runs parallel to Nord Stream 1 and was intended to double the capacity for undersea gas imports from Russia, was blocked by Berlin in the days before the start of the war in Ukraine.

Flightradar24 showed an unidentified aircraft that did not even have a helicopter icon hovering over the site. However, the aircraft’s 24-bit ICAO code included in the description makes it possible to establish the model, which is the US military’s Sikorsky MH-60R Seahawk. The code is verified through open resources that collect data on military aircraft.

The US helicopter is also shown by the aircraft tracking service to have flown into the area of loitering over the Nord Stream pipelines from Gdansk, Poland.

On the second day of the loitering, almost in parallel with their US counterpart, a Dutch navy NH9 helicopter was flying in the vicinity of Bornholm Island, and it is expected to have been observing the Americans’ activity.

US helicopters also took flights over other Nord Stream pipelines on September 10 and 19 and others stayed over the incident site for hours on the night of September 22 and September 25.

Reportedly, helicopters that made sorties on the night of September 22-23 and 25-26 have especially confusing tracks.

These revelations come after German newspaper Der Siegel reported Tuesday that the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) warned the German government there would be attacks on Nord Stream gas pipelines weeks ahead of any incident being reported around the pipelines.

An informed source told the German magazine that Berlin had been told by the CIA a few weeks ago that there would be attacks on the key pipelines supplying a huge portion of Europe’s energy from Russia.

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Underwater explosions reported prior to Nord Steam gas leaks

Sep 27 2022 17:34

Source: Agencies

By Al Mayadeen English 

The Swedish National Seismic Network (SNSN) confirms powerful underwater explosions in the area of gas leaks from the Nord Stream pipeline.

Gas leak at Nord Stream 2 as seen from the Danish F-16 interceptor on Bornholm, Denmark, Sept. 27, 2022 (Reuters)

The Swedish National Seismic Network (SNSN) reported powerful underwater explosions in the area of gas leaks from the Nord Stream pipeline on Tuesday.

SNSN Director Bjorn Lund said as quoted by SVT that “there are no doubts that these were explosions.”

“One explosion had a magnitude of 2.3 and was registered by dozens of monitoring stations in southern Sweden,” he stated.

“You can clearly see the waves bounce from the bottom to the surface,” Lund added.

On his part, Peter Schmidt, an Uppsala University seismologist, said the Swedish National Seismic Network recorded two “massive releases of energy” shortly prior to, and near the location of, the gas leaks off the coast of the Danish island of Bornholm.

“The first happened at 2:03 am (0003 GMT) just southeast of Bornholm with a magnitude of 1.9. Then we also saw one at 7:04 pm on Monday night, another event a little further north and that seems to have been a bit bigger. Our calculations show a magnitude of 2.3,” Schmidt said.

The Norwegian Seismic Array (NORSAR) also confirmed it had registered “a smaller explosion” in the early hours of Monday, “followed by a more powerful one on Monday evening.”

Photos taken by the Danish military on Tuesday showed large masses of bubbles on the surface of the water emanating from the three leaks located in Sweden’s and Denmark’s economic zones, spreading from 200 to 1,000 meters (656 feet to 0.62 miles) in diameter.

Earlier today, Denmark’s maritime traffic agency and Sweden’s Maritime Authority on Monday reported a “dangerous” gas leak in the Baltic Sea close to the route of the inactive Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which experienced an unexplained drop in pressure.

The leak, southeast of the Danish island of Bornholm, “is dangerous for maritime traffic” and “navigation is prohibited within a five nautical mile radius of the reported position,” the agency warned in a notice to ships.

Authorities in Germany, where the undersea pipeline from Russia makes land, said the energy link had experienced a drop in pressure, while its operator suggested that a leak may be the reason.

A spokeswoman for the German Ministry of Economy indicated in a statement that there was “no clarity” over the cause of the pressure change.

The pipeline operator confirmed in a statement that the drop had been registered “overnight” into Monday and reported to national marine authorities.

Nord Stream 2’s operator mentioned pressure in the pipeline dropped from 105 to seven bars overnight.

“It is relatively likely that there’s a leak” in the underwater pipeline, Nord Stream 2 spokesperson Ulrich Lissek told AFP.

He noted that “the pipeline was never in use, just prepared for technical operation, and therefore filled with gas.”

Read more: Gazprom: Launch of Nord Stream 2 could resolve EU energy crisis

Berlin suspects a “targeted attack”: German newspaper

Following the incident, German newspaper Tagesspiegel claimed Monday that Berlin is convinced that the loss of pressure in the three natural gas pipelines between Russia and Germany was not a coincidence and suspects a “targeted attack”.

The German newspaper quoted an informed source as saying that the German government and agencies investigating the incident “can’t imagine a scenario that isn’t a targeted attack.”

“Everything speaks against a coincidence,” the source said.

Tagesspiegel indicated that for a deliberate attack on the bottom of the sea to happen, it has to involve special forces, navy divers, or a submarine, adding that German authorities are reportedly examining two possible explanations for the incident. The first suggests that “Ukraine-affiliated forces” could be behind the attack, while the second suggests that Russia carried out the attack as a “false flag” to blame Ukraine.

The Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which runs parallel to Nord Stream 1 and was intended to double the capacity for undersea gas imports from Russia, was blocked by Berlin in the days before the start of the war in Ukraine.

Russian energy giant Gazprom progressively reduced the volumes of gas being delivered via the Nord Stream 1 until it shut the pipeline completely at the end of August, blaming Western sanctions for the delay of necessary repairs to the pipeline. 

Former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who signed off on the first Nord Stream pipeline in his final days in office, has called on Berlin to reconsider its position on the blocked second link.

On Monday afternoon, Nord Stream 2 was reported to have depressurized. It is worth noting that the Nord Stream 1 pipeline was depressurized in the early evening, simulatnously after the second of the two spikes.

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Germany’s energy suicide: an autopsy

September 08, 2022

by Pepe Escobar, posted with the author’s permission and widely cross-posted

When Green fanatic Robert Habeck, posing as Germany’s Economy Minister, said earlier this week “we should expect the worst” in terms of energy security, he conveniently forgot to spell out how the whole farce is a Made in Germany cum Made in Brussels crisis.

Flickers of intelligence at least still glow in rare Western latitudes, as indispensable strategic analyst William Engdahl, author of A Century of Oil, released a sharp, concise summary revealing the skeletons in the glamour closet.

Everyone with a brain following the ghastly Eurocrat machinations in Brussels was aware of the main plot – yet hardly anyone among average EU citizens. Habeck, Chancellor “Liver Sausage” Scholz, the European Commission (EC) Green Energy VP Timmermans, EC dominatrix Ursula von der Leyen, they are all involved.

In a nutshell: as Engdahl describes it, this is about “the EU plan to de-industrialize one of the most energy-efficient industrial concentrations on the planet.”

That’s a practical translation of the UN Green Agenda 2030 – which happens to be metastasized into crypto Bond villain Klaus Schwab’s Great Reset – now renamed “Great Narrative”.

The whole scam started way back in the early 2000s: I remember it vividly, as Brussels used to be my European base in the early “war on terror” years.

At the time, the talk of the town was the “European energy policy”. The dirty secret of such policy is that the EC, “ advised” by JP MorganChase as well as the usual mega speculative hedge funds, went all out into what Engdahl describes as “a complete deregulation of the European market for natural gas.”

That was sold to the Lugenpresse (“lying media”) as “liberalization”. In practice, that’s savage, unregulated casino capitalism, with the “free” market fixing prices while dumping long-term contracts – such as the ones struck with Gazprom.

How to decarbonize and destabilize

The process was turbo-charged in 2016, when the last gasp of the Obama administration encouraged massive export of LNG out of the US’s huge shale gas production.

For that one needs to build LNG terminals. Each terminal takes as much as 5 years to build. Within the EU, Poland and Holland went for it from the start.

As much as Wall Street in the past invented a “ paper oil” speculative market, this time they went for a speculative “paper gas” market.

Engdahl details how “the EU Commission and their Green Deal agenda to ‘decarbonize’ the economy by 2050, eliminating oil, gas and coal fuels, provided the ideal trap that has led to the explosive spike in EU gas prices since 2021.”

The creation of this “single” market control implied forcing illegal rule changes on Gazprom. In practice, Big Finance and Big Energy – which totally control anything that passes for “EU policy” in Brussels – invented a new pricing system parallel to the long-term, stable prices of Russian pipeline gas.

By 2019, an avalanche of Eurocrat energy “ directives” by the EC – the only thing these people do – had established a totally deregulated gas market trading, setting the prices for natural gas in the EU even as Gazprom remained the largest supplier.

As lots of virtual trading hubs in gas futures contracts started popping up across the EU, enter the Dutch TTF (Title Transfer Facility). By 2020 the TTF was established as the real EU gas benchmark.

As Engdahl points out, “TTF is a virtual platform of trades in futures gas contracts between banks and other financial investors. Outside, of course, of any regulated exchange.

So LNG prices soon started to be set by futures trades in the TTF hub, which crucially happens to be owned by the Dutch government – “the same government destroying its farms for a fraudulent nitrogen pollution claim.”

By any means necessary Big Finance had to get rid of Gazprom as a reliable source to allow powerful financial interests behind the Green Deal racket to dominate the LNG market.

Engdahl evokes a case very few know about across Europe: “On May 12, 2022 although Gazprom deliveries to the Soyuz gas pipeline through Ukraine were uninterrupted for almost three months of conflict, despite Russia’s military operations in Ukraine, the NATO-controlled Zelensky regime in Kiev closed a major Russian pipeline through Lugansk, that was bringing Russian gas both to his Ukraine as well as EU states, declaring it would remain closed until Kiev gets full control of its pipeline system that runs through the two Donbass republics. That section of the Ukraine Soyuz line cut one-third of gas via Soyuz to the EU. It certainly did not help the EU economy at a time Kiev was begging for more weapons from those same NATO countries. Soyuz opened in 1980 under the Soviet Union bringing gas from the Orenburg gas field.”

Hybrid War, the energy chapter

On the interminable soap opera involving the Nord Stream 1 turbine, the crucial fact is that Canada deliberately refused to deliver the repaired turbine to Gazprom – its owner – but instead sent it to Siemens Germany, where it is now. Siemens Germany is essentially under American control. Both the German and Canadian governments refuse to grant a legally binding sanction exemption for the transfer to Russia.

That was the straw that broke the (Gazprom) camel’s back. Gazprom and the Kremlin concluded that if sabotage was the name of the game, they couldn’t care less whether Germany received zero gas via Nord Stream 1 (with brand new Nord Stream 2, ready to go, blocked by strictly political reasons).

Kremlin spokesman Dmity Peskov took pains to stress

“problems in [gas] deliveries arose due to sanctions that have been imposed on our country and a number of companies by Western countries (…) There are no other reasons behind supply issues.”

Peskov had to remind anyone with a brain that it’s not Gazprom’s fault if “the Europeans (…) make a decision to refuse to service their equipment” which they are contractually obligated to do. The fact is the whole Nord Stream 1 operation hinges on “one piece of equipment that needs serious maintenance.”

Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak, who knows one or two things about the energy business, cleared up the technicalities:

“The entire problem lies precisely on [the EU’s] side, because all the conditions of the repair contract have been completely violated, along with the terms of shipping of the equipment.”

All that is inscribed into what Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov describes as “a total war declared against us”, which is “being waged in hybrid forms, in all areas”, with “the degree of animosity of our opponents – of our enemies” being “enormous, extraordinary.”

So none of this has anything to do with “Putin weaponizing energy”. It was Berlin and Brussels – mere messengers of Big Finance – which weaponized the supply of European energy on behalf of a financial racket, and against the interests of European industry and consumers.

Beware of the toxic trio

Engdahl has summarized how, “by systematically sanctioning or closing gas deliveries from long-term, low cost pipelines to the EU, gas speculators via the Dutch TTP have been able to use every hiccup or energy shock in the world, whether a record drought in China or the conflict in Ukraine, to export restrictions in the USA, to bid the EU wholesale gas prices through all bounds.”

Translation: casino capitalism at its finest.

And it gets worse, when it comes to electricity. There is a so-called EU Electricity Market Reform in progress. According to it, producers of electricity – from solar or wind – automatically receive “the same price for their ‘renewable’ electricity they sell to the power companies for the grid as the highest cost, i.e. natural gas.” No wonder the cost of electricity in Germany for 2022 increased by 860% – and rising.

Baerbock incessantly parrots that German energy independence cannot be secured until the country is “liberated from fossil fuels.”

According to Green fanaticism, to build the Green Agenda it’s imperative to completely eliminate gas, oil and nuclear power, which happen to be the only reliable energy sources as it stands.

And it’s here that we see the toxic trio Habeck/Baerbock/von der Leyen ready for their close up. They pose as saviors of Europe preaching that the only way out is to invest fortunes in – unreliable – wind and solar power: the “answer” from Providence to a gas price debacle manufactured by none other than Big Finance, Green fanaticism and Eurocrat “leadership”.

Now tell that to struggling pan-European households whose bills will surge to a whopping, collective $2 trillion as General Winter knocks on the door.

Nord Stream I Disruption: Europe’s Panicking After Poland Finally Got What It Wanted

Sep 3, 2022

By Andrew Korybko

Source

The absolute last thing that Poland wants right now is for everyone to remember how actively its leadership lobbied for exactly this outcome that’s since brought so much hardship to hundreds of millions of people, which is why it’s so important right now for activists to prioritize raising awareness of this “politically inconvenient” fact.

The entire US-led Western Mainstream Media (MSM) went wild on Friday after Gazprom announced the indefinite suspension of supplies through Nord Stream I due to technical malfunctions that were only just discovered. The Golden Billion’s perception managers speculated that Russia was weaponizing the export of gas to Europe as punishment for the bloc complying with the US’ counterproductive sanctions demands. The prevailing theory is that President Putin wants to exacerbate the EU’s impending energy crisis ahead of the coming winter in an attempt to pressure its leaders to coerce Kiev into concessions.

Whatever one’s views may be about that interpretation of events, there’s no denying that Europe’s in an unprecedented state of panic, especially considering the very likely possibility of large-scale socio-political unrest the longer that its systemic economic crisis lasts. To remind everyone, this crisis was brought about by the combination of complying with the US’ sanctions and Nord Stream I’s unexpected indefinite disruption. Likewise, there’s also no denying the following “politically incorrect” fact that’s being desperately suppressed by the MSM because it raises too many questions at this sensitive time.

Few folks remember it, but Polish Prime Minister Morawiecki demanded in late May ahead of the World Economic Forum in Davos that Germany unilaterally shut down Nord Stream I by the end of the year. Prior to that, he proposed including that pipeline in the Golden Billion’s sanctions package right after the latest US-provoked phase of the Ukrainian Conflict began over half a year ago. It’s now known just how disastrous the disruption of Russian exports through that route has been for European stability, which wasn’t unexpected but should make observers wonder why Poland wanted this predictable outcome.

From the get-go, this aspiring Central & Eastern European (CEE) hegemon has pushed for the most radical anti-Russian policies possible, with its leadership even going as far as boasting that they set the global standard for Russophobia. Part of the reason is due to the “negative nationalism” that’s regrettably come to influence the formation of Polish nationalism in recent years wherein Poles obsess over what supposedly differentiates themselves from Russians instead of embracing “positive nationalism” which refers to pride in what one is without comparing themselves to others.

The other reason is much more strategic and related to the desire to sabotage leading European countries’ efforts to maximize their strategic autonomy. In particular, Poland fears that a strong Germany will impose its envisioned continental hegemony onto all others, beginning with its eastern neighbor. Its leadership therefore decided to pursue a dual policy of presenting itself as the US’ leading anti-Russian force in Europe so as to become that declining unipolar hegemony’s top partner on the continent in parallel with trying to trick Germany into committing economic suicide.

The first-mentioned was achieved through its rabidly Russophobic policies while the second was advanced by consistently pushing for Berlin to unilaterally shut down Nord Stream I on the false basis of “solidarity with its fellow democracies”, the manipulative rhetoric of which the Polish Ambassador to India just referenced while trying to pressure Delhi into condemning and sanctioning Moscow. Even though shutting down that pipeline would damage Poland’s own interests, Warsaw wagered that its people won’t protest all that much since they’re so indoctrinated with “negative nationalism”.

That aspiring hegemon’s grand strategic interests with respect to undercutting Germany’s rise as a global power through the aforementioned means are regarded as much more important than its short-term ones connected with the disruption of the continent’s Russian energy supplies. What Poland has plotted all along is to mislead Germany into promulgating counterproductive policies that would irreversibly weaken its strategic autonomy vis a vis the US and thus enable Washington to restore its declining unipolar hegemony over Berlin and the bloc that it unofficially leads more broadly.

The purpose behind doing so is for the US to privilege Poland over Germany as its top European vassal as a reward for Warsaw perfectly marching in lockstep with Washington’s anti-Russian demands and tricking Berlin into irreversibly weakening its strategic autonomy to the point where America could successfully reassert its hegemonic control over the continent. The euro has dropped to its lowest rate against the dollar in two decades as a result of the joint US-Polish Hybrid War on Germany, which means that it’s unlikely that this aspiring global power can ever economically compete with the US again.

This outcome would have happened even sooner had Germany gone along with Poland’s ill-intended plan to sanction Nord Stream I half a year ago prior to announcing in late May like Morawiecki demanded at the time that it’ll unilaterally stop importing gas from this pipeline by the end of the year. The whole point behind pursuing these destabilizing objectives was for Poland to get Germany to weaken itself and the EU by none other than its own hand so as to ensure the successful reassertion of US hegemony over the continent in order to forever avert a rapprochement with Russia.

For as distant as that second scenario might have seemed up until recently, it was still possible in theory for a strategically autonomous Germany to eventually repair its relations with Russia after some time so long as the economic foundation of the bloc’s de facto leader remained comparatively stable and it was thus able to retain some degree of independence from the declining American hegemony. That’s precisely why Poland wanted Germany to get rid of Nord Stream I in order for its Hybrid War target to sabotage its own objective national interests.

Regardless of whatever one thinks about Nord Stream I’s latest disruption and whether it’s truly related to technical malfunctions or whatever else, this development dooms Germany to vassalhood status vis a vis the US in full accordance with the grand strategic outcome that Poland’s been pursuing for the past half-year already as was earlier explained. The unprecedented socio-economic hardships that the unexpectedly exacerbated energy crisis is bound to inflict on hundreds of millions of people in the EU makes this latest event extremely unpopular though, which risks making its Polish mastermind look bad.

Even though Poland ultimately wasn’t responsible for the outcome that it’s pursued for so long after it ended up officially occurring due to technical malfunctions and not Germany’s own hand, Warsaw still doesn’t want to be associated with the immense hardships that this development has inflicted on the European people. It intended for Berlin to be blamed for this, which would have destroyed its target’s soft power once and for all, but now the MSM’s perception managers can conveniently blame Moscow while simultaneously trying to make everyone forget that Warsaw’s wanted this all along.

The absolute last thing that Poland wants right now is for everyone to remember how actively its leadership lobbied for exactly this outcome that’s since brought so much hardship to hundreds of millions of people, which is why it’s so important right now for activists to prioritize raising awareness of this “politically inconvenient” fact. Europeans deserve to know that this is all part of the joint US-Polish Hybrid War on Germany for the earlier explained grand strategic aims even though the climax thus far was due to technical malfunctions and not Berlin being tricked into shutting down the pipeline.

Anatomy of the EU “gas crisis”

August 05, 2022

Source

by Jorge Vilches

Europe today does not have – or possibly never had – an effective vision of the no-nonsense existential strategy it required to subsist in peace. Furthermore, as if not aware of the coming debacle, EU leaders firmly insist on their failed policies. Now, former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder proposes to solve the EU’s self-inflicted ´gas crisis´ by launching the Nord Stream 2 (NS2) gas pipeline… although German authorities have repeatedly rejected the idea.

Today the EU is governed by childish impulses necessarily leading to confusion and self-harm. First the EU imposes highly crippling sanctions on its Russian partner and then demands from her full natural gas delivery — even under the current most special situation — while flagrantly violating well-known contract clauses. Accordingly, it is obvious that the assumed European ´energy crisis´ does not really exist as such, be it for natural gas, oil, distillates, coal, uranium rods… or whatever others for that matter. Because if a genuine “energy crisis” truly existed, Europe would not have full access to tangible energy from Russia, which is not the case. Actually, Europe has an enviable, excellent access to high quality, decades-proven, swift, trouble-free, close-by, door-to-door delivery of truly cheap energy from fully-vetted Russian vendors willing and able to reliably deliver the goods as they always have since decades yonder.

contract violations

But besides being immature, the EU can also be highly creative. For instance, by playing games with sacrosanct contractual requirements for the famous peripatetic Siemens NS1 turbine # 073… now stranded at Mülheim an der Ruhr after a yet unfinished maintenance episode at very distant Siemens Canada facilities of all places. Accordingly, Russia´s Gazprom has now officially rejected to accept delivery of turbine # 073 on the basis that

The sanctions regimes of Canada, the EU, the UK and a mismatch of the current situation with the existing contractual obligations by the Siemens side make delivery of the 073 engine to the [ Russian ] Portovaya compressor station impossible”. Gazprom claims that essential documents have not been presented stating that turbine 073 is not under sanctions. “Words are not enough”.

Ref #1 https://www.rt.com/business/560216-kremlin-responds-german-turbine-accusation/

Furthermore, the Minister of Natural Resources of Canada Jonathan Wilkinson declared that “Canada grants a time-limited and revocable permit for Siemens Canada to allow the return of repaired Nordstream 1 turbines to Germany…” So, no direct return to Russia — which is a clear breach of contract — and also under time-limited and revocable conditions which is an additional contract violation simply because turbine # 073 is still not sanctions-free and thus uninsurable. Spokesman Dmitry Peskov made clear that the turbine had been sent to Germany without Russia’s consent and that in the current situation Moscow should now have to make sure that the turbine “cannot be stopped remotely”… Sabotage cannot be excluded while Germany is actively sending weapons to Ukraine to kill Russians.

Ref #2 https://nationworldnews.com/gazprom-repeats-west-bloks-nord-stream-turbine-shipments/

Ref #3 https://www.ft.com/content/d926a768-f976-4bee-823c-0f255afb7087

Ref #8 https://tass.com/economy/1477929

Ref #4 https://www.reuters.com/article/ukraine-crisis-gas-nordstream/update-1-russias-gazprom-sanctions-make-delivery-of-nord-stream-turbine-impossible-idUKL8N2ZF6SQ

Ref #5 https://news.yahoo.com/turbine-works-germanys-scholz-points-083241601.html

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what happened ?

EU sanctions have shut down several Russian pipelines thus completely tying down Gazprom´s hands. Ukraine and Poland effectively closed off the Yamal-Europe pipeline. Ukraine did it overtly for strictly political reasons while Poland by refusing to pay under the new gas-for-Roubles scheme. Also, the NS1 pipeline is still suffering the Siemens-Canada tumultuous service problems. Besides, Gazprom is unable to fully use another pipeline route as Ukraine has been rejecting its transit applications. In sum, Europe has pro-actively shut itself off from Russian gas. Go figure…

et tu Siemens ?

Siemens Energy is the NS1 turbine manufacturer squarely and contractually responsible for the regular maintenance and proper functioning of all NS1 turbines, property of Russia. Siemens has now officially declared what Gazprom has been saying all along, namely that only one of five NS1 turbines is truly operational and able to deliver gas. Of course, this means that Europe is able to receive only 20% of Russia´s badly-needed natural gas as the condition of the four other remaining NS1 turbines is still undefined. According to former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, the reduction in the NS1 flow rate capacity is entirely Siemens’ fault, not Gazprom´s. Sanctions obviously still apply to turbine # 073 and surely to any other Russian-related piece of equipment or produce or program or whatever Russian.

et tu Gazprom ?

Vitaly Markelov, deputy head of Gazprom, said that Siemens has not fulfilled its obligations to adequately maintain NS1 engine and thusly several pieces of equipment are currently idle. Besides, Gazprom claims it has not received from Siemens the required, well-known, complete package of documents allowing transportation, maintenance service and repairs of Russian-owned equipment. The EU keeps playing lots of childish games while winter gets ever closer. If Gazprom were to accept the turbine it would be liable for illegally breaking the EU sanctions regime plus other unfavorable complications. Lots of tricky lawfare involved while the EU can’t stop digging an ever deeper hole for itself. What´s bloody wrong with Europeans ? Why do they insist in choking down on their own vomit ? EU sanctions were rolled back regarding insurance on freight vessels with Russian oil, right ? So go for it you ignorant fools, now.

Gazprom says: “The current anti-Russian sanctions are hindering the successful resolution of the issue of the transportation and repair of Siemens gas turbine engines for the Portovaya compressor station, which supplies gas to European consumers through the Nord Stream pipeline.”

Ref #6 https://www.rt.com/business/560144-turbine-manufacturer-explains-gas-shortfall/

Ref #7 https://www.rfi.fr/en/business-and-tech/20220803-gazprom-says-gas-turbine-delivery-to-russia-impossible-due-to-sanctions

Ref #8 https://www.rt.com/business/560232-gazprom-explains-turbine-complications/

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the NS2 “solution”

In the whole history of worldwide warfare, no help was ever made readily available by any enemy. Let alone would such help ever include the life-blood of Europe´s economy, including vital products and energy. So Russia right now is not Europe´s “enemy”. Today European industry and households are simply undergoing a fake ´energy crisis´ (not) of their own making by decisions made by un-elected EU politicians who do not represent Europe´s best interests. Now, former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder insists in a Stern Magazine interview the NS2 pipeline with Russian-made turbines would immediately solve Europe´s — possibly terminal — ´energy crisis´ come winter 2022 – 2023.

Ref #9 https://www.rt.com/business/560125-gerhard-schroeder-nord-stream-gas/

three NS2 problems

But there are three major “problems” to be solved. Number one problem is the absurdly required US political approval of the idea as broadly explained below. Problem number two is time is up as the NS2 certification and commissioning process would have to start right now — meaning yesterday – in order to possibly make it soon enough as neither problem #1 or #2 are simple nor quick to solve. Why so ? Well, one reason the dependency on US authorization of anything meaningful for Europe which is now clearly exposed for all to see. This also includes among other things any European trade and investment decisions with Russia. Furthermore, due to serious and most valid technical reasons, several weeks are required before any natural gas can flow from Russia to Germany through the NS2. Otherwise, the risks of serious accidents and/or malfunctioning could mean the sudden end to any possible successful solution of the problem at hand. People at large – and even top ranking specialized politicians – many times think that oil & gas feedstock flows can be turned on and off with the flip of a switch (not). Of course, all of the above furthermore requires German cooperation and correct decisions such as not using NS2 terminal facilities for any other purposes than those originally intended with specific design criteria and construction technology in mind. This is of utmost importance because German officials have already announced their idea of ´speeding up´ and supplementing the installation of LNG terminals with available NS2 hub-heads to support non-Russian LNG gas imports.

And problem number three is that at this very late stage of the game Gazprom could only deliver 25% of its nominal design capacity. In May, Russia´s President Putin specifically advised German Chancellor Scholz that Gazprom had contractually reserved the NS2 delivery capacity which needed to be effectively purchased as it could not remain suspended in mid-air indefinitely. Thus, President Putin then also warned Chancellor Scholz that Russia was forced to soon redirect half of the NS2 volume for domestic consumption and processing. Therefore, even if Gazprom were to be duly authorized to launch NS2 tomorrow morning, it would pump only 50% of its original nominal design capacity. And given that we are already more than halfway through 2022, that would be just be 20-25%…or less.

Ref # 10 https://www.aa.com.tr/en/energy/general/germany-unable-to-use-second-nord-stream-2-line-before-2028-gazprom/35291

US interference

The US does not leave Europe free to make rational decisions, simply because Europe constitutes a heterogeneous group of vassal states still under US military occupation. The NS2 natural gas pipeline runs under the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany right besides the currently problematic NS1. Its construction was recently completed but the pipeline was denied certification and commissioning by German authorities prior to the crisis in Ukraine. Despite former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder´s insistence, the German government has repeatedly said that launching NS2 now is absolutely out of the question. It is impossible to make this stuff up…

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the EU perfect storm

Europe is facing a perfect storm: energy prices are up, economic growth is down and winter is coming ” officially stated by Mr. Josep Borrell, the EU’s top diplomat and High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.

Add to that the ever-lower Rhine River water levels – almost impassable by barges of any draft — and you get the idea. This ultra-low Rhine level tremendously restricts – and may possibly cut-off altogether – the very badly-needed coal shipments to the now absurdly RE-commissioned coal-fueled power stations. Of course, also this impacts the physical delivery of everything – not just fuels and inputs thereof — with necessarily much higher costs requiring non-available trucking freight. “The risk here is the trade of huge quantities of commodities that would otherwise be used to stave off an economic crisis become logjammed on the Rhine as low water levels make certain parts impassible. Shipment costs for coal are therefore increasing, which in turn inflates the costs of operating coal plants.”

The low water levels are already forcing “irregular operation” at a Uniper 510-megawatt Staudinger-5 coal-fired power plant through the first half of September because fewer and fewer barges have been able to deliver coal as stockpiles dwindle. Rhine water levels below 40 centimeters at Kaub would halt shipments via inland waterways to the power plant, forcing highly expensive and inefficient shipments by land. Many other key industries are seriously affected.

Gazprom explains complications in turbine row

The Rhine River directly affects trade and industrial logistics of several key European countries namely, Austria, Switzerland, Germany, France, and the Netherlands while indirectly affecting many others or, in some cases, all the others. In particular, the über-important German inland transportation system – and therefore its entire supply chains network – depends upon normal levels of Rhine River waters. Because it´s not only a matter of sourcing the right quality, quantity and price of any produce. It is just as important to receive it Just-In-Time at process destinations such as refineries or power plants as explained later. Simultaneously, all European stakeholders are competing with each other tooth and nail struggling to find, contract and retain exactly the same resources in order to solve the same unexpected problems all at once and by the same date.

Ref #11 https://www.eeas.europa.eu/eeas/europe%E2%80%99s-energy-balancing-act_en

Ref #12 https://www.zerohedge.com/commodities/german-barge-traffic-shrinks-rhine-water-levels-fall

Ref #13 https://thesaker.is/europe-hypnotized-into-war-economy/

Ref #14 https://www.zerohedge.com/commodities/germanys-uniper-warns-irregular-operation-power-plant-rhine-river-dries

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov : Member countries of the African Union

July 29, 2022

Editorial Comment: Mr Lavrov’s visits to Arab states, the Arab League, and African states can only be described as a stunning victory and a complete triumph for diplomacy. A short overview is included in the second part of this Operation Z situation report: http://thesaker.is/sitrep-operation-z-collapses-and-progress/
All of the various transcripts can be read at the MFA site: https://www.mid.ru/en/
Short comments and summaries can be found on the MFA Telegram Channel: https://t.me/MFARussia



Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s statement and answers to the questions during a meeting with permanent representatives of the member countries of the African Union and the diplomatic corps, Addis Ababa, July 27, 2022

Your Excellencies,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Representatives of the media,

Thank you very much for coming here at our invitation. I believed that being in Addis Ababa, it is absolutely important to meet with the African Union members, like I did during all my previous visits. We could not do this at the headquarters for, as far as I understand, scheduling reasons. And I’m glad that you’ve accepted our invitation to come here to the Russian Embassy to discuss issues which are on the top of international agenda.

Many of our Western colleagues try to send the message that the key, if not the only, problem in international relations is the situation around Ukraine. I tend to disagree with such an assertion and during my visit here and  in my previous encounters with my foreign colleagues, I sense a broad understanding that the issue is much more complex and complicated.

What we witness now, especially as the West launches an unprecedented campaign of sanctions, accusations, threats, vis-à-vis Russia and anybody who dares to support Russia or even not to condemn Russia. This campaign indicates that we are living through a very important historical period, a period where we will all be deciding what kind of universe we are going to have and to leave for our children and grandchildren. The universe which is based on the United Nations Charter, which says that the United Nations is founded on the principle of sovereign equality of states, or we will have the world where the right of force, the right of the strongest dominates.

Actually, what it is all about can be described on the following example. Is it our choice to have the world where we have the so-called collective West, totally subordinated to the United States and feeling free, feeling that it has the right to decide when and how to promote its own interests without following the international law, without any respect to the sovereign equality of states?

When our American colleagues felt in the past that there was a threat to their interests, tens of thousands kilometers from the American coast, be it Yugoslavia in 1999, be it Iraq in 2003, be it Libya in 2011, and many other occasions, without any hesitation, without explaining anything to anybody, very often on false pretexts, they just started military operations levelling cities, killing hundreds of thousands of civilians, like it happened in Iraq in the city of Mosul which was literally levelled. The same happened to Raqqa in Syria, where dozens and hundreds of corpses have been lying for weeks unattended and I don’t recall the progressive civilized community raising any big noise about that situation.

When the Russian Federation, not just overnight, but for the last ten long years has been drawing the attention of the United States and its allies to the unacceptable policy which they have been promoting on Ukraine, building Ukraine as a stronghold to contain Russia, pumping more and more modern arms in Ukraine, planning to build naval and military bases in that country and encouraging in all possible ways Russophobic policies of its leaders; when in 2014 we categorically protested to the West that in spite of its guarantees, the opposition in Ukraine staged a bloody coup and when they came to power, the first thing they did was to demand to cancel the status of the Russian language which has been the historical language of Ukraine from the very beginning. They also demanded the Russians to get out of Crimea. They sent armed groups to storm the Parliament of Crimea and then the eastern part of Ukraine protested against the coup.

The putchists called them separatists, terrorists and started a full-fledged military operation against them. And the West as I’ve said, which had guaranteed only a few days before that – guaranteed a peace deal between the former president and the opposition, the deal which provided for creation of a government of national unity and early elections, – this deal was disrupted overnight and the opposition bragged that they created the government of the winners.

See the difference: the government of national unity and the government of the winners. This was an invitation for the civil war because the opposition called part of its own citizens “losers” while the opposition became “winners”.

So when this all started we managed, together with some other countries, to stop it in February 2015 – Minsk Agreements were signed – keeping Ukraine one-piece.

The eastern territories of Ukraine that originally after the coup declared independence were persuaded not to insist on independence and to agree to stay inside Ukraine by these Minsk Agreements, provided they are given a special status. First of all, the right to use the Russian language.

This was endorsed by the Security Council and this was systemically and totally ignored and sabotaged by the Kiev regime with the encouragement of the West.

There was no direct dialogue between Kiev and those territories in spite of the fact that this was directly demanded from the Ukrainian regime by the Security Council.

And few weeks ago the former President of Ukraine P.Poroshenko who signed the Minsk Agreements, proudly stated to the media that “When I was signing it, I never intended to implement it. We just needed more time to get more weapons from the West in order to enable us to resolve the problem of Ukrainian East by the use of force.” Very honestly.

But this is totally neglected by the West. So we have been knocking on the door of our Western colleagues at least since 2013, telling them that this is absolutely a red line when you create a direct threat to the Russian Federation just on our borders. When you create a Russophobic state, which during all these years, managed to pass series of laws, prohibiting – physically, literally, – the use of Russian language in education, in culture, in media, and even in day-to-day life.

And at the same time, legislation was passed to legalize neo-Nazi theories and practices. Neo-Nazi battalions with swastikas and insignias of Waffen-SS, have been mushrooming in Ukraine and becoming the cornerstone of the Ukrainian Army.

It’s a very radicalized country. They glorify the collaborators of Hitler condemned by the Nuremberg Tribunal and all this is being done with silent encouragement by the United States and the European Union. And the process which I’ve described was accompanied by the Western attempts, not attempts – policy – to pull Ukraine into NATO.

Dozens of military exercises of NATO with Ukraine were held on Ukrainian territory with an obvious anti-Russian dimension. The efforts of Russia during all these years – it was not just, you know, we say today that this is a threat and excuse us, but we need to remove this threat. It has been happening for at least ten years.

When we’ve told our Western colleagues, “Guys, why are you pulling Ukraine to NATO? You know that this is a hostile organization vis-a-vis Russia, they were telling us, ‘Don’t worry, it will not be detrimental to your security.’”

Russia, as any other self-respectful country has the right to determine itself what is good for its security and what is not. In that case, NATO members led by the United States, opted to decide for us what is good for the Russian Federation.

We reminded them that many years ago in 2010, they all signed up a declaration saying that the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe will be based on the principle of equal and indivisible security, which means that any country can choose alliances, but no country has the right in choosing alliances to increase its security at the expense of the security of other countries. And that no single organization in Europe can pretend to dominate the security space.

NATO is doing exactly this. And NATO, of course, is strengthening the security of its own at the expense of the security of the Russian Federation, because the borders of NATO have been moved just to the borders of Russia.

So we told them, “Guys, political commitments to which your presidents and prime ministers put the signatures don’t work. Let’s make this principle that the security is indivisible and must be equal for all, let’s make it legally binding.”

And we suggested to them respective treaties several times. First, back in 2009 and the last attempt was in December of 2021. And they told us, “Look gentlemen, first there would be no legally binding security guarantees except for NATO members. And second, as regards Ukraine, the relations between NATO and Ukraine are none of your business.” And that was the end of it.

And parallel with this absolute rejection of constructive efforts we have been undertaking for many, many years, parallel to this the Ukrainians, in violation of the Minsk Agreements, started to accumulate huge military force on the line of contact with the eastern part of the country where the two republics have been under siege, basically. They intensified radically the shelling and bombing of those territories.

When we understood that there would be no agreement on security guarantees in Europe which would be equal, when we understood that there would be no implementation of the Minsk Agreements because the Ukrainian leadership publicly renounced this, and when we understood that the only way to save the people in the east of Ukraine was to recognize these two republics, we did so.

We signed the Treaty on Mutual Assistance with them and at their request, we are now exercising a special military operation aimed at saving lives of the citizens of the Donbass and removing any possibility for Ukrainian territory to be used to threaten the security of the Russian Federation.

I am sure that you have been following the events. I know that the Western media presents the situation in a totally distorted manner. If only to mention the so-called food crisis, as if nothing was of concern before February this year.

If you read the reports of the World Food Programme and the Food and Agriculture Organization, you will refresh your memory and establish the fact that the problems in the world food market started at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, when in an attempt to fight this virus and the pandemic consequences the US, the EU and Japan have made an emission for eight trillion dollars’ worth without any economic substantiation, and they use this empty money to buy food and all other goods which they believe would be necessary in case pandemic takes long and there will be closure of countries.

Then there were, of course, increases, long ago, of the price of fertilizers because of the reckless policy of the Western countries on the so-called Green Transition, because the energy supplies, the classical energy resources were more or less discriminated and all this has brought the price of fertilizers high, which of course affected the price of food, and so on and so forth. And then there were not very conducive climate conditions for a couple of years.

And yes, the situation in Ukraine did affect, additionally, negatively affected food markets. But not because of the Russian special operation, rather due to the absolutely inadequate reaction of the West, which announced sanctions, undermining the availability of the food on the markets.

When we explain this to them, they say, “Food and fertilizers are not covered by sanctions”. Yes, but you know, half-truth is worse than a lie. And the truth is that the list of sanctions does not contain an item saying “food”, but what it does contain is prohibition for the Russian ships to call to the ports in the Mediterranean, prohibition for the foreign ships to call on the Russian ports, to pick up food and other cargo, prohibition to insure the Russian ships, because of which insurance prices quadrupled overnight. And of course, prohibition for the main Russian bank, Russian Agricultural Bank, which has always served the payments for Russian food exports – it was listed in the European Union sanctions.

So the latest attempt by our Turkish friends and the Secretary General of the United Nations resulted in a deal between Russia and the United Nations, whereby Secretary General Guterres committed himself to press the Western countries to lift those restrictions, which I just quoted. We’ll see whether he can succeed.

And the same deal as you know, provided for Ukraine an obligation to demine its coastal line for the ships which have been locked there, I think 70 ships from 16 countries since February, to allow them out of the Ukrainian territorial waters, after which Turkish and Russian fleet will ensure their safe travel to the straits and then to the Mediterranean.

So those were the agreements, which could have been announced long, long ago, if not for the Western stubbornness in insisting that they are always right, and all those who don’t agree with them, of course, are always wrong.

A similar situation is taking place with the energy markets. Many years ago, before February this year, the West started discriminating Russian energy projects. First, the project called Nord Stream 1 was limited by 50% of its capacity for no good reason at all. Europe deprived itself of 50% of Russian cheap, accessible gas.

Then Nord Stream 2 was blocked by absolutely illegal action when the legal committee of the European Union ruled that the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline was built and financed and invested, fully aligned with the existing European norms.

But after that, the European Commission changed the rules retrospectively and applied the new rules to the investment which took place legally several years ago.

So Nord Stream 2 is also not available. Poland, several months ago, stopped taking gas from a direct pipeline from Russia. Ukraine stopped one of the two transit lines through its territory from Russia. And there was some hassle with that turbine which went for maintenance to Canada, then Canada didn’t want to bring it back.

I listed five or six factors which immediately negatively affected gas supplies to Europe volume-wise. And, of course, the less you buy from Russia through a pipeline, which is a price established for long-term, the more expensive prices on the spot.

It reached yesterday, I think, $2,200 for a thousand cubic meters. So the attempts to blame us for everything which goes wrong is an attempt with not very clean purposes and intentions.

What is my point? My point is that it’s a period of history where we will have to choose either to go down the current, which the West tries to move, saying that the world must be run not by international law, but by the rules.

They coined an expression “rules-based world order”. And if you analyze the behavior of our Western colleagues in the international arena, you will understand that these rules differ from case to case. There is no single criteria. There is no single principle, except one. If I want something, you have to obey. If you don’t obey, you would be punished.

This is the picture for the future offered to us by the rules-based world order promoted by the West. Basically, this is the unipolar world where the United States, which subordinated to its own will everybody else in the European Union and allies in Asia… This is the offer. Not even an offer, it is an ultimatum actually.

The alternative to this, and I’m sure that the overwhelming majority of the world countries do not want to live as if the colonial times came back, that the vast majority of the states want to be independent, want to rely on their own tradition, to rely on their own history, to rely on their old friends, don’t want to betray their old friends.

And this is basically evident from the fact that except two or three developing countries, no one else in Africa, Asia or Latin America joined the illegal American and European sanctions.

And back to the United Nations Charter. I believe, when we speak about more just, more democratic world order, we don’t need to invent anything. Once again, I quote the Charter which says that the United Nations is based on the principle of sovereign equality of states.

And to recognize that each state is independent, each state has the right to determine how it wants to live, what kind of economic, social, political system it wants to choose on the basis of the will of its people. And I have no slightest doubt that any normal state wants to be like this. Nobody wants to have enemies. This is also an absolute truth. Neither Russia nor any other country present in this hall – I have no doubt.

But if countries, like we witness now the behavior of the West, if they do want to have enemies, as they publicly declared in their doctrines, in the decisions of the latest NATO summit in Madrid – they do want enemies, they appoint enemies, they appoint the order in which they handle these enemies. Now Russia is the first, China is earmarked as the existential challenge for the long term. And all this manifests in renewed thinking about how the world economy and the world system operates.

If the US and the European Union – under the demand of the US – decided to freeze the Russian reserves – and now they seriously start a legal process to prepare the basis to confiscate the Russian money – who knows… If they become irritated by somebody else tomorrow or the day after, they might do the same.

In other words, the reliance on dollar as the instrument supporting the world economy is not very promising, frankly speaking. And it is not by incident that more and more countries are shifting to using alternative currencies, shifting to use national currencies more and more, and this process will be gaining momentum.

This is not to say that we are suggesting some kind of revolution against the dollar, against the United States – this is to state the obvious: the West created a system which was based on certain principles – free market, fair competition, sanctity of private property, presumption of innocence, and something else. All these principles have been thrown down the drain when they needed to do what they believe is to punish Russia.

And I don’t have the slightest doubt that, if need be, they will not hesitate to do the same in relation to any other country which would irritate them one way or another.

I mentioned China as the next target. It’s a very interesting example of how the Americans consider fair competition in practice. Actually, China developed into the number one world economy – everybody recognizes this – and China did so, China achieved those results, working and acting on the basis of the rules established by the West. The IMF, the World Bank, the World Trade Organization, the rules to settle disputes, competition and the stuff. China accepted those rules in developing its own economy and China defeated the West, economically and trade-wise, investment-wise, on its own turf, on the basis of the rules invented by the West.

And what happened next? Already a couple of years ago, the Secretary of Treasury of the United States and some other officials started saying, “We need to reform the Bretton Woods Institutions, we need to reform the WTO and we need to organize this reform between the US and Europe not to allow anybody else to participate in developing new rules.”

Guys, it is absolutely obvious, how they want this world to be operated. And I believe, as long as it is not too late, we would be ready to talk to our Western friends when they come back to their senses about how they think they should live together with all of us in the future. But this conversation can only be made on full equality, with full respect to the legitimate interests of all of us.

If I took too long of your time, I apologize. And I understand there might be a couple of questions, right?

Question: Your Excellency, Sergey Lavrov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation,

On behalf of the people of South Sudan, the Government and on my own behalf, I wish to take this opportunity to express my personal gratitude to the Embassy of the Russian Federation in Ethiopia for inviting me and my delegation here.

We are grateful that our two countries, the Russian Federation and the Republic of South Sudan enjoy cordial bilateral relations, dating back to the day of our declaration of independence, where the Russian people and their Government were among those who recognized our statehood on July 9, 2011. Since then Your Excellency, the people and the governments of two countries have stood with the people and the Government of South Sudan in many ways.

The people of South Sudan wish to express their gratitude for your immense support in the UNSC, the Human Rights Council in Geneva and other activities where you supported us. First of all, as you explained, Your Excellency, you outlined your view on sanctions. Now we know what’s really going on.

On the current political situation in my country I would like to inform Your Excellency the Minister that the signed revitalized peace agreement of 2018 is holding despite the challenges that you have mentioned. These include numerous sanctions by Western countries and their allies, and an arms embargo. Other factors of concern are natural disasters, such as heavy rains…

Sergey Lavrov: I apologize, can you pass on this text? Because it would be useful and more polite to the others. Ok? Please, pass it. Thank you!

Just one remark. We are against those sanctions which are intended to punish people. And don’t forget that the initiators of these sanctions against you are exactly the same countries who wanted to create South Sudan out of Sudan.

Question: Thank you very much for giving a very detailed and covering all important aspects in your briefing. A short question: How the hegemony of dollar can be controlled by international community because right now the countries like Pakistan and many developing countries are suffering from huge debt that continues to grow. The problem is getting worse. I would like you to clarify the situation.

Sergey Lavrov: I am not an expert in monetary affairs. What I said was it’s an obvious feeling by many countries that the dollar is not reliable, because the capricious behavior could be aimed at anyone in the future.

I know that you can feel this on yourself, if you compare the situation of 20-30 years ago and now. So, it’s life. It’s life. And nobody wants to go to war because of the dollar and I believe this is crazy.  But people want to have some insurance as regards the reliability of their economic and trade relations with their partners. And there are examples, including the use of national currencies, including barter, including clearing mechanisms. Some might say this is going back to the past instruments of conducting trade. But there would be digital currencies, I don’t have the slightest doubt, which are already being developed in China, for example, in Venezuela, in Iran.

We are thinking about this as well. It’s the beginning of a process. Now we have accumulated the elements of the problem and we know that it must be addressed.

Question: With an approach of winter during which gas importations increase. How does Russia going to export its gas and circumvent the sanctions imposed? 15 African countries import more than 50% of their grain from Russia. The situation also affected the exports from African countries to Russia. How does Russia intend to manage trade relations with Africa?

Sergey Lavrov: I think I addressed both issues in my remarks. I hope you listened to me. Antonio Guterres personally promised to make sure that the US and EU remove any obstacles to the export of Russian grain. If you add your noble voice to his efforts, I think it would be useful.

And on gas prices – I also explained how Europe systemically, during the last almost ten years, was creating barriers on the way of bringing to European countries cheap and accessible Russian gas.

I listed five or six specific decisions which were cutting more and more of Russian exports, vacating the room in Europe for much more expensive LNG from the United States, just like, you know, the US insists that Europe sends all its weapons to Ukraine, vacating the arms market in Europe for the import of American weapons. It’s “nothing personal, it’s business.”

As regards your country (Algeria), the Europeans are now thinking of alternative sources of supply. They have suffocated themselves with their own hands the pipeline routes from Russia. Now they are  looking for alternatives. And I know that the Mediterranean, including Algeria, is one of those sources.

They would be asking you to help, and it’s up to your companies to decide, it’s up to your government to decide.

In our case, according to our experiences that when we had long-term contracts with Europe, these long-term contracts protected our interests. But, a few years ago, Europe started cutting long-term contracts saying, “Let’s shift to the spot market”. And the spot market does not guarantee that you will have a long-term investment justified.

So, what we see now is not a scientific, not a responsible approach to the energy markets – it’s a hectic search for something which can save you this winter, with the green agenda shelved for the time being.

The coal is coming back, polluting the atmosphere – it’s a mess, if you take a look at the energy and environment policy that Europe is promoting. I am sorry to say this. We are not getting any happiness or joy from what Europe is experiencing, but they have been doing this to themselves for quite some time already.

Ladies and gentlemen, I have to apologize because the minister – my colleague from Ethiopia – is   waiting for me for the next event. Once again I want to thank you whole-heartedly for accepting our invitation. I hope it was not a waste of time. I tried to be as frank as I can, and we would be ready to promote dialogue with the African Union.

Unfortunately, we could not meet at the headquarters. And we would be ready for a dialogue on all these and any other issues of interest and of importance with you bilaterally. With all of you we have good relations and channels of communication.

I wish you all the best and keep healthy. Thank you very much.

Major news day for Russia: In conclusion of his working visit to Iran, Vladimir Putin answered questions from the media.

July 20, 2022

In conclusion of his working visit to Iran, Vladimir Putin answered questions from the media.

Question: Mr President, some would think the world has forgotten about Syria amid the numerous issues on the international agenda. But we have seen today that this is not so.

We would like to hear your views on the situation on the ground in Syria. A great deal has been said today about points of contact, but there are many differences as well. Have you discussed or coordinated any fundamentally new solutions today? I am referring primarily to these differences.

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: What I would like to begin with is not the differences but the fundamental issues that allow us to work and continue our efforts in the trilateral format. All of us believe that it I necessary to guarantee the territorial integrity of the Syrian Arab Republic and to eliminate all sorts of terrorists, which I will not enumerate here. This is the fundamental and the most important thing, as we have pointed out again in our joint statement. I believe that this is very important.

Yes, there are certain differences, which is obvious, but all of us support the constitutional process. Thanks to our efforts, we have brought together various conflicting parties at one negotiating platform, including the opposition and the official authorities of the Syrian Arab Republic, experts and representatives of public organisations, as well as the UN. I believe this is extremely important. This is the first point.

The second. Humanitarian aid is being provided to Syria, for which there is particularly great demand today, because the sanctions imposed on Syria and the Syrian people have produced a deplorable result: nearly 90 percent of people in Syria are living below the poverty line. The situation in Syria is extremely serious.

Of course, it would be unfair to give priority attention to certain groups, to politicise humanitarian aid.

Third. There are different approaches to organising humanitarian aid. We have always believed that it should be organised in full compliance with international humanitarian law. This means that all humanitarian aid must be provided through the official Syrian authorities, through Damascus. However, we have agreed to extend the existing procedure for six months, including for deliveries to the Idlib zone, so as to have more time for coordinating our positions.

There is some disagreement about what is happening in Northern Syria. Incidentally, we also have some common ground here: all of us believe that US troops should leave this area. This is the first point. And they should stop looting the Syrian state, the Syrian people, taking their oil illegally. But there is disagreement about how to organise and stabilise the situation in that region. As you know, Russian-Turkish observation convoys are working there together.

However, in our view, in order to ensure a long-term, stable situation there it is necessary to transfer the entire territory under the control of the official authorities in Damascus, under the control of the Armed Forces of the Syrian Arab Republic, and then it will be possible to hold a dialogue with those who are responsible – in this case the official Syrian authorities. I believe it would greatly stabilise the situation there.

But in general, it is work in progress. As I have said many times and would like to stress once again, the work of this tripartite group – Russia, Turkiye and Iran – this joint effort to search for compromises and find these compromises has led to the fact that over 90% of Syria is now under official government control and, as we say in such cases, we have broken the back of international terrorism there. This is a great result of this joint work.

Question: Mr President, you had three one-on-one meetings today, first with Mr Raisi, then with Mr Khamenei, and then with Mr Erdogan, and there were no news conferences after these meetings. All we know is the topic you were discussing, the official part.

In particular, you said that you discussed the grain issue with your Turkish counterpart, the issue of supplying Russian and Ukrainian grain to international markets. Could you tell us some more about that, please?

Vladimir Putin: There are no secrets here; in fact, almost everything is known. There are some subtleties; maybe I do not always have time to follow what is happening in the information field. I will tell you how I see it.

First, what was the highlight of the three meetings? At each meeting, there were issues that could be considered central to a particular bilateral meeting.

For example, as I said at the news conference, in my press statement, the main theme at the meeting with the Spiritual Leader of Iran was strategic issues, including developments in the region. This is natural, as it is the sphere of his activity. It was very important for me to hear his opinion, his assessment. I have to say that we have very similar views with Iran on many aspects. So, it was very important and very useful.

As for my meeting with President Raisi, we discussed primarily economic matters. I would like to note that Russian-Iranian trade has grown by 40 percent over the past six months. This is a very good indicator.

There are promising spheres for our cooperation, and there is a great variety of them, like infrastructure development. You may know that a deputy prime minister of the Russian Government chairs a group that is responsible for developing relations in the South Caucasus, including infrastructure projects in the South Caucasus, that is, in Azerbaijan, Armenia and Russia. A great deal can be achieved in this sphere in cooperation with Iran.

As you know, the first pilot train is travelling along the North-South Railway line. It is a short route to ports in the south of Iran, which further leads to the Persian Gulf and India.

There is a practical project: the Rasht-Astara railway is a short 146-kilometre line across Iran. Azerbaijan is interested in its construction. I recently met with President Aliyev during the Caspian Summit, and we discussed this matter. Iran is interested in this as well, as our Iranian partners have told us just now. Russia is interested in this, because it will connect Russia’s northern region, St Petersburg, directly to the Persian Gulf. It is a very interesting and promising project. The task now is to build this line, which is only 146 kilometres. Russia is ready to do this.

We need to coordinate the conditions of this construction project. We have discussed its general outlines with our Iranian partners and friends, and we have coordinated it with Azerbaijan. I hope we will get down to business now. And then, it will be an interesting job for us. It actually amounts to exporting the services of Russian Railways (RZD). This is one of the relevant examples.

There are other spheres. There are security issues relevant to Iran’s nuclear programme. It was very important for us to understand the sentiments of the Iranian party regarding this work. It also involves Russia, which is contributing to the joint efforts aimed at relaunching interaction between Iran and the IAEA. I will not speak about this now, but Russia is playing a considerable role in this.

The grain issue. It is what we discussed with the President of Turkiye. I have already said that the Republic of Turkiye and personally President Erdogan have done a great deal to facilitate the agreement on Ukrainian grain exports. But initially we suggested that it should be adopted as a package, that is, we would facilitate the Ukrainian grain exports provided all the restrictions on the potential exports of Russian grain are lifted. This is what we initially agreed upon with international organisations. They pledged to formulate this as a package solution. Nobody has so far raised any objections, including our American partners. We will see what comes of it in the near future.

As you know, the Americans have actually lifted restrictions, for example, on the delivery of Russian fertilisers to the global market. I hope this will also happen with regard to the export of Russian grain if they really want to improve the situation on the global food markets. As I have said, we are ready to do this right now. We can export 30 million tonnes of grain, and our export potential based on this year’s harvest will be 50 million tonnes.

Question: Mr President, a serious energy crisis is developing in Europe, which is discussing the possibility of Gazprom cutting off gas deliveries. The company has allegedly issued an official notification to one of its German clients, citing force majeure circumstances.

Are there grounds for accusing Russia of causing this energy crisis? Will Gazprom continue to honour its obligations

Vladimir Putin: First of all, Gazprom has always honoured, and will continue to honour its commitments.

There are no grounds at all for the attempts by our partners to shift or try to shift the blame for their own mistakes on Russia and Gazprom.

What is the situation with energy deliveries? In 2020, in the first half of 2020, gas cost 100 euros per 1,000 cubic metres in Europe. The price rose to 250 euros in the first half of 2021. Today it is 1,700 euros per 1,000 cubic metres of gas.

What is happening? I have spoken about this on numerous occasions, and I do not know if we should go into detail regarding the energy policies of European countries, which underrate the importance of traditional sources of energy and have put money on non-traditional energy sources. They are big experts on non-traditional relations, and they have also decided to make a bid for non-traditional energy sources like the sun and wind.

Last winter was long, there wasno wind, and that did it. Investment in the fixed assets of traditional energy producers has decreased because of previous political decisions: banks do not finance them, insurance companies do not insure them, local governments do not allocate land plots for new projects, and pipeline and other forms of transportation are not developing. This is a result of many years, probably a decade of this policy. This is the root cause of price hikes rather than any actions by Russia or Gazprom.

What is going on today? Until recently, we supplied gas to Europe without Turkiye: we supplied around 30 billion cubic metres a year to Turkiye, and 170 billion to Europe, 55 billion via Nord Stream 1, and, if memory serves me, 33 billion were supplied via Yamal-Europe, via the two strings that run through Ukraine. About 12 billion were delivered to Europe through Turkiye via TurkStream.

Ukraine suddenly announced that it was going to close one of the two routes on its territory. Allegedly because the gas pumping station is not under its control but on the territory of the Lugansk People’s Republic. But it found itself under the control of the Lugansk People’s Republic several months before, and they closed it just recently without any grounds. Everything was functioning normally there, no one interfered. In my opinion, they closed it simply for political reasons.

What happened next? Poland imposed sanctions on Yamal-Europe, which supplied 33 billion cubic metres of gas. They used to take 34, I think, 33–34 million cubic metres a day from us. They shut it down completely. But then we saw that they turned on the Yamal-Europe pipeline in reverse mode, and they started taking about 32 million a day from Germany. Where is the gas from Germany coming from? It is our Russian gas. Why from Germany? Because it turned out to be cheaper for the Poles. They used to get it from us at a very high price, closer to the market price, whereas Germany gets it from us 3–4 times cheaper than the market price under long-term contracts.

It is profitable for German companies to sell it to the Poles at a small premium. It is profitable for the Poles to buy it because it is cheaper than to buy it directly from us. But the volume of gas in the European market has decreased, and the total market price has gone up. Who has won? All Europeans only lost. This is the second point: Yamal-Europe.

So, first one of the routes in Ukraine was shut down, then Yamal-Europe was shut down, now Nord Stream 1, which is one of the main routes – we pump 55 billion cubic metres a year through it. There are five Siemens gas compressor stations working there, and one is on standby. One compressor had to be sent out for repairs. A repaired compressor was supposed to come from Canada, from the Siemens plant in Canada, to replace it. But it ended up under sanctions in Canada. So, one pumping station, just one piece of equipment was out of order because of scheduled maintenance work and it has not been returned from Canada.

Now we are being told that the unit will be delivered from Canada soon, but Gazprom does not have any official documents yet. We must certainly obtain them, because this is our property, it is the property of Gazprom. Gazprom should receive not only the hardware, not only the gas pumping unit, but also the accompanying documents, both legal and technical documentation. We must be able to see what Gazprom is taking – the turbine’s current condition as well as its legal status, whether it is under sanctions or not, what we can do with it, or maybe they are taking it back tomorrow. But that is not all.

The problem is that at the end of July, on July 26, I think – we can ask Gazprom – another turbine should be sent for routine maintenance, for repairs. And where will we get a replacement from? We do not know.

One more turbine is actually out of order because of some crumbling of its internal liner. Siemens has confirmed this. That leaves two operational units, which are pumping 60 million per day. So, if one more is delivered, fine, we will have two in operation. But if it is not, only one will be left, and it will pump only 30 million cubic meters per day. You can count how much time it will take to pump the rest. How is this Gazprom’s responsibility? What does Gazprom even have to do with this? They have cut off one route, then another, and sanctioned this gas pumping equipment. Gazprom is ready to pump as much gas as necessary. But they have shut everything down.

And they have fallen into the same trap with the import of oil and petroleum products. We hear all sorts of crazy ideas about capping the volume of Russian oil imports or the price of Russian oil. This is going to lead to the same situation as with gas. The result (I am surprised to hear people with university degrees saying this) will be the same – rising prices. Oil prices will spiral.

As for gas, there is another route we are ready to open, which is Nord Stream 2. It is ready to be launched, but they are not launching it. There are problems here as well, I discussed them with the Chancellor about six or maybe eight weeks ago. I raised this issue; I said that Gazprom had reserved the capacity, and that this capacity needed to be used, and it cannot be suspended in mid-air indefinitely.

The answer was that there were other issues on the agenda, more important things, so it is difficult for them to deal with this right now. But I had to warn them that then we would have to redirect half of the volume intended for Nord Stream for domestic consumption and processing. I raised this issue at the request of Gazprom, and Gazprom has actually already done it. Therefore, even if we launch Nord Stream 2 tomorrow, it will not pump 55 billion cubic meters, but exactly half that amount. And given that we are already halfway through this year, it would be just a quarter. Such is the supply situation.

But – I said this at the beginning of my answer to your question and I want to end with this – Gazprom has always fulfilled and will always fulfil all of its obligations, as long as, of course, anyone needs it. First, they themselves close everything, and then they look for someone to blame – it would be comical if it were not so sad.

Question: You spoke with Mr Erdogan today. He has repeatedly stated his readiness to arrange talks between you and Vladimir Zelensky. Has this issue surfaced today? Are you ready to meet with the President of Ukraine?

Vladimir Putin: President Erdogan is making a lot of efforts to create the necessary conditions for normalising the situation. It was during our talks in Istanbul that we actually reached an agreement, and it only remained to initial it. But, as you know, after that, when our troops, in order to create the right conditions, withdrew from central Ukraine, from Kiev, the Kiev authorities backed off on those agreements. These were agreements that had actually been achieved. So, you see that the final result depends, of course, not on intermediaries, but on the parties’ commitment to fulfil the agreements reached. And we can see today that the Kiev authorities have no interest in that.

As for Turkiye’s efforts, as well as other countries’ proposals – Saudi Arabia has offered its mediation services, and the United Arab Emirates, and they do have such capabilities – we are grateful to all our friends who are interested in resolving this crisis for providing their opportunities. Even their willingness to make some contribution to this noble cause is worth a lot. We are deeply grateful for that.

Russia and China haven’t even started to ratchet up the pain dial

July 13, 2022

by Pepe Escobar and posted with the author’s permission

The Suicide Spectacular Summer Show, currently on screen across Europe, proceeds in full regalia, much to the astonishment of virtually the whole Global South: a trashy, woke Gotterdammerung remake, with Wagnerian grandeur replaced by twerking.

Decadent Roman Emperors at least exhibited some degree of pathos. Here we’re just faced by a toxic mix of hubris, abhorrent mediocrity, delusion, crude ideological sheep-think and outright irrationality wallowing in white man’s burden racist/supremacist slush – all symptoms of a profound sickness of the soul.

To call it the Biden-Leyen-Blinken West or so would be too reductionist: after all these are puny politico/functionaries merely parroting orders. This is a historical process: physical, psychic and moral cognitive degeneration embedded in NATOstan’s manifest desperation in trying to contain Eurasia, allowing occasional tragicomic sketches such as a NATO summit proclaiming Woke War against virtually the whole non-West.

So when President Putin addresses the collective West in front of Duma leaders and heads of political parties, it does feel like a comet striking an inert planet. It’s not even a case of “lost in translation”. “They” simply aren’t equipped to get it.

The “You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet” part was at least formulated to be understood even by simpletons:

“Today we hear that they want to defeat us on the battlefield, well, what can I say, let them try. We have heard many times that the West wants to fight us to the last Ukrainian – this is a tragedy for the Ukrainian people. But it looks like it’s all coming to this. But everyone should know that, by and large, we haven’t really started anything yet.”

Fact. On Operation Z, Russia is using a fraction of its military potential, resources and state of the art weapons.

Then we come to the most probable path ahead in the war theater:

“We do not refuse peace negotiations, but those who refuse should know that the longer it drags, the more difficult it will be for them to negotiate with us.”

As in the pain dial will be ratcheted up, slowly but surely, on all fronts.

Yet the meat of the matter had been delivered earlier in the speech: “ratcheting up the pain dial” applies in fact to dismantling the whole “rules-based international order” edifice. The geopolitical world has changed. Forever.

Here’s the arguably key passage:

“They should have understood that they have already lost from the very beginning of our special military operation, because its beginning means the beginning of a radical breakdown of the World Order in the American way. This is the beginning of the transition from liberal-globalist American egocentrism to a truly multipolar world – a world based not on selfish rules invented by someone for themselves, behind which there is nothing but the desire for hegemony, not on hypocritical double-standards, but on international law, on the true sovereignty of peoples and civilizations, on their will to live their historical destiny, their values and traditions and build cooperation on the basis of democracy, justice and equality. And we must understand that this process can no longer be stopped.”

Meet the trifecta

A case can be made that Putin and Russia’s Security Council are implementing a tactical trifecta that has reduced the collective West to an amorphous bunch of bio headless chickens.

The trifecta mixes the promise of negotiations – but only when considering Russia’s steady advances on the ground in Novorossiya; the fact that Russia’s global “isolation” has been proved in practice to be nonsense; and tweaking the most visible pain dial of them all: Europe’s dependence on Russian energy.

The main reason for the graphic, thundering failure of the G20 Foreign Ministers summit in Bali is that the G7 – or NATOstan plus American colony Japan – could not force the BRICS plus major Global South players to isolate, sanction and/or demonize Russia.

On the contrary: multiple interpolations outside of the G20 spell out even more Eurasia-wide integration. Here are a few examples.

The first transit of Russian products to India via the International North-South Transportation Corridor (INSTC) is now in effect, crisscrossing Eurasia from Mumbai to the Baltic via Iranian ports (Chabahar or Bandar Abbas), the Caspian Sea, and Southern and Central Russia. Crucially, the route is shorter and cheaper than going through the Suez Canal.

In parallel, the head of the Iranian Central Bank, Ali Salehabadi, confirmed that a memorandum of interbank cooperation was signed between Tehran and Moscow.

That means a viable alternative to SWIFT, and a direct consequence of Iran’s application to become a full BRICS member, announced at the recent summit in Beijing. The BRICS, since 2014, when the New Development Bank (NDB) was founded, have been busy building their own financial infrastructure, including the near future creation of a single reserve currency. As part of the process, the harmonization of Russian and Iranian banking systems is inevitable.

Iran is also about to become a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) at the upcoming summit in Samarkand in September.

In parallel, Russia and Kazakhstan are solidifying their strategic partnership: Kazakhstan is a key member of BRI, EAEU and SCO.

India gets even closer to Russia across the whole spectrum of trade – including energy.

And next Tuesday, Tehran will be the stage for a crucial face-to-face meeting between Putin and Erdogan.

Isolation? Really?

On the energy front, it’s only summer, but demented paranoia is already raging across multiple EU latitudes, especially Germany. Comic relief is provided by the fact that Gazprom can always point out to Berlin that eventual supplying problems on Nord Stream 1 – after the cliffhanger return of that notorious repaired turbine from Canada – can always be solved by implementing Nord Stream 2.

As the whole European Suicide Spectacular Summer Show is nothing but a tawdry self-inflicted torture ordered by His Master’s Voice, the only serious question is which pain dial level will force Berlin to actually sit down and negotiate on behalf of legitimate German industrial and social interests.

Rough and tumble will be the norm. Foreign Minister Lavrov summed it all up when commenting on the Declining Collective West Ministers striking poses like infantile brats in Bali to avoid being seen with him: that was up to “their understanding of the protocols and politeness.”

That’s diplo-talk for “bunch of jerks”. Or worse: cultural barbarians, as they were even unable to respect the hyper-polite Indonesian hosts, who abhor confrontation.

Lavrov preferred to extol the “joint strategic and constructive” Russian-Chinese work when faced with a very aggressive West. And that brings us to the prime masterpiece of shadowplay in Bali – complete with several layers of geopolitical fog.

Chinese media, always flirting with the opaque, tried to put its bravest face ever depicting the over 5-hour meeting between Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Secretary Blinken as “constructive”.

What’s fascinating here is that the Chinese ended up letting something crucial out of the bag to slip into the final draft of their report – obviously approved by the powers that be.

Lu Xiang of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences went through previous readouts – especially of “Yoda” Yang Jiechi routinely turning Jake Sullivan into roasted duck – and stressed that this time Wang’s “warnings” to the Americans were “the sternest one in wording”.

That’s diplo-code for “You Better Watch Out”: Wang telling Little Blinkie, “just look at what the Russians did when they lost their patience with your antics.”

The expression ”dead end” was recurrent during the Wang-Blinken meeting. So in the end the Global Times had to tell it like it really is:  “The two sides are close to a showdown.”

“Showdown” is what End of Days fanatic and Tony Soprano wannabe Mike Pompeo is fervently preaching from his hate pulpit, while the combo behind the senile “leader of the free world” who literally reads teleprompters actively work for the crashing of the EU – in more ways than one.

The combo in power in Washington actually “supports” the unification of Britain, Poland, Ukraine and The Three Baltic Midgets as a separate alliance from NATO/EU – aiming at “strengthening the defense potential.” That’s the official position of US Ambassador to NATO Julian Smith.

So the real imperial aim is to split the already shattering EU into mini-union pieces, all of them quite fragile and evidently more “manageable”, as Brussels Eurocrats, blinded by boundless mediocrity, obviously can’t see it coming.

What the Global South is buying

Putin always makes it very clear that the decision to launch Operation Z – as a sort of pre-emptive “combined arms and police operation”, as defined by Andrei Martyanov – was carefully calculated, considering an array of material and socio-psychological vectors.

Anglo-American strategy, for its part, lasers on a single obsession: damn any possible reframing of the current “rules-based international order”. No holds are barred to ensure the perpetuity of this order. This is in fact Totalen Krieg – featuring several hybrid layers, and quite worrying, with only a few seconds to midnight.

And there’s the rub. Desolation Row is fast becoming Desperation Row, as the whole Russophobic matrix is shown to be naked, devoid of any extra ideological – and even financial – firepower to “win”, apart from shipping a collection of HIMARS to a black hole.

Geopolitically and geoeconomically, Russia and China are in the process of eating NATOstan alive – in more ways than one. Here, for instance, is a synthetic road map of how Beijing will address the next stage of high-quality development via capital-driven industrial upgrading, focused on optimization of supply chains, import substitution of hard technologies, and “invisible champions” of industry.

If the collective West is blinded by Russophobia, the governing success of the Chinese Communist Party – which in a matter of a few decades improved the lives of more people than anyone, anytime in History – drives it completely nuts.

All along the Russia-China watchtower, it’s been not such a long time coming. BRI was launched by Xi Jinping in 2013. After Maidan in 2014, Putin launched the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU) in 2015. Crucially, in May 2015, a Russia-China joint statement sealed the cooperation between BRI and EAEU, with a significant role assigned to the SCO.

Closer integration advanced via the St. Petersburg forum in 2016 and the BRI forum in 2017. The overall target: to create a new order in Asia, and across Eurasia, according to international law while maintaining the individual development strategies of each concerned country and respecting their national sovereignty.

That, in essence, is what most of the Global South is buying. It’s as if there’s a cross-border instinctual understanding that Russia-China, against serious odds and facing serious challenges, proceeding by trial and error, are at the vanguard of the Shock of the New, while the collective West, naked, dazed and confused, their masses completely zombified, is sucked into the maelstrom of psychological, moral and material disintegration.

No question the pain dial will be ratcheted up, in more ways than one.

Russia Suspends Op. of Major Gas Pipeline to Germany

12 July 2022

By Staff, Agencies

The flow of Russian gas to Germany through the Nord Stream Baltic Sea pipeline has been suspended.

Operator Nord Stream AG said that it would be shut down for 10 days starting Monday for routine maintenance work. During that time, all gas flows via the pipeline will stop.

The operator highlighted that the stoppage had previously been agreed with all partners.

Last month, the Russian energy giant slashed the volumes of gas delivered to Germany via the pipe by 60% due to operational challenges, caused by the failure to return a serviced turbine on time from Canada. However, German Economy Minister Robert Habeck argued that it was “a political decision.”

In recent years, the maintenance-related shortfall in supplies via Nord Stream was compensated by increased flows through Ukraine or Poland. However, various officials and industry representatives told the FT they feared that Russia may not do that this time, leaving the continent to face gas shortages.

Nord Stream AG, which is majority-owned by Gazprom, insists that maintenance information was appropriately disclosed in compliance with the EU Regulation on Wholesale Energy Market Integrity and Transparency.

“The schedule for the maintenance activities has been closely coordinated with Nord Stream’s upstream and downstream partners,” it added.

Related

Europe fails with German help

July 01, 2022

Source

by Jorge Vilches

Robert Habeck, Vice-Chancellor of Germany and Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Climate Action, jointly with Annalena Baerbock — Germany´s Anglophile Minister of Foreign Affairs — have patronized the world from the German Green Party´s self-proclaimed moral high ground thru their ´we truly care´ and ´superior knowledge´ mantras.

Now, both German officials — quite active in the European War Party led by also German Ursula von der Leyen – are behind NATO´s announced increase of military presence in Europe with US headquarters and troops in Poland… plus a 10-fold enlarged rapid-response force up to 300,000 with yet additional troops in Romania and the Baltic states… plus yet more destroyers and F-35s in Europe´s waters and skies… and now considering itself the “unique, essential and indispensable”(sic) bloc while sweeping under the rug the deep existential crisis it has dug Europeans into with no way out for energy and commodities sourcing security. Ref #1 https://www.rt.com/news/558088-biden-troop-deployments-nato-europe/

C:\Users\Jorge Vilches\Desktop\777.jpgPower Outage. Electricity Symbol in Red Ban Circle with Text Below Stock Vector – Illustration of concept, cable: 151740792

And precisely to address the current self-inflicted energy debacle, German Minister Habeck is compounding this ugly all-inclusive European conundrum in at least 14 different ways and has (1) shut down Germany´s nuclear power plants including the domino impact upon the inter-connected European electrical grid without any foresight or consideration whatsoever (2) banned excellent, cheap Russian hydrocarbons and distilled petroleum products thereof to which Europe´s entire economy and energy infrastructure is uniquely matched and tuned for, including the superb, proven, mostly un-replaceable Russian Urals crude oil blend and the most convenient Russian Druzbha door-to-door pipeline rendering 24x7x365 already vetted exceptional performance (3) shut down and indefinetly cancelled the most-needed NS2 pipeline for delivery of Russian hydrocarbons, with possible partial expropiatory theft yet again beyond bank deposits and other assets (4) fully ignored the very loud Siemens compliance warning regarding the EU ban on return-delivery of NS1 equipment back to Russia under well-known, scheduled and mandatory Canadian maintenance requirements (5) re-introduced the dirtiest of coals, namely brown coal, as feedstock for German and EU coal-fired power plants (6) rationed hot water and fuel consumption including the amount of time that Herr Habeck himself spends in the shower (7) shamefully placed Russia´s Gazprom Germania in a ´trusteeship´ of sorts which will also prove to be a very expensive mistake (8) promoted a fully counter-productive wind-mill expansion program requiring fossil-fueled equipment for the extraction and transportation of thousands of tons of nickel and rare earths that Europe does not have, plus subsequent movement, erection and maintenance of such wind mills with other fossil fueled equipment that Europe has to import, plus additional fossil fuel power-generating equipment always needed as backstop during low wind seasons such as the last several months, plus tons of fossil-fuel powered equipment to eventually de-commission such wind-mills (9) fast-tracked the LNG Acceleration Act to favor in every possible way the construction of fully unnecessary and super-costly Liquefied Natural Gas terminals in detriment of many other much needed infrastructures so as to many months from now eventually buy über-expensive LNG from the USA which is really the Master Pupeteer behind this anti-Europe Master Plan (10) with direct benefit to Russia, the current lower volume of its oil exports at much higher prices thanks to EU sanctions allows the Ruble to become ever stronger while saving Russian oil for sale to others (11) pushed for a naïve buyer´s oil price cap cartel in a seller’s market (!!!) (12) seized Russian LNG tankers (13) crashed German nat-gas giant Uniper now ready for bail-out and Lehman moment (14) launched Germany and the EU in the most nonsensical “firehose” oil & gas policies already explained to death and with excruciating details Ref # 2 https://thesaker.is/herr-habeck-firehoses-oil-gas/ Ref #3 https://www.rt.com/business/558116-germany-seizes-russian-lng-tankers/ Ref # 4 https://www.rt.com/news/558073-nato-adopts-new-strategic-concept-russia/ Ref #5 https://www.rt.com/business/558126-skepticism-russian-oil-price-cap/ Ref #6 https://www.zerohedge.com/commodities/uniper-crashes-russian-natgas-supply-crunch-bailout-talks-germany

So, Herr Habeck and Fräulein Baerbock, on behalf of the few future European survivors, please enjoy a loud and clear “bravo, bravissimo, bravo” from your colleague Mario Draghi – Italy´s NATO Prime Minister courtesy of Goldman Sachs – for such creative and successful ´green solutions´ that will have both of you go down in history forever.

Die Grünen: “Regieren ist radikal” | ZEIT ONLINE

Unbeknownst to EU politicians and to these two ignorant dilettantes, Europe´s diesel is now strictly in Russian hands.

I have said it before and I´ll say it yet again: no imagination can ever be creative enough to make this stuff up. No way.

Could it be a deliberate insider attack of the West on the West? Will Joe Six-Pack figure all this out soon enough?

Ref #7 https://www.mondaq.com/germany/oil-gas-electricity/1204198/liquefied-natural-gas-projects-in-germany-the-lng-acceleration-act

Ref #8 https://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/german-economy-minister-on-the-gas-shortage-there-is-a-black-hat-and-putin-is-wearing-it-a-e387bacf-70ce-447f-b7dc-3b48d0ac4178 Ref #9 https://www.rt.com/business/557554-europe-coal-energy-crisis/

Russia rules diesel

European transportation of anything and everything — from people to peanuts to 500,000 metric tons ULCC oil tankers — is 99% diesel-powered. Whomever in Europe wishes or needs to move whatever with whichever vehicle or craft from point A to point B anywhere — either very close or very far away — will need diesel-powered engines somewhere along the line, and sometimes all along the long line. This is a fact, not an opinion. No diesel, no Europe. By the same token – and if so far you´ve only been browsing from now on please focus sharply on every word — less diesel, less Europe… and not enough diesel, no longer Europe as we know it. Furthermore, less diesel necessarily means even far less diesel yet as explained below. But first, let´s recall where diesel comes from.

Diesel comes from distilled crude oil which, as of December 2022 will no longer be from Russia but per the EU sanctions package No.6 from somewhere else yet an unfathomable mystery. Now then, so far nothing to write home about as we all know such circumstances very well and mostly pray and hope for the best right?. Unfortunately, it´s much much worse than that. Why so? Please keep reading, we´ll get there soon enough, in the next couple of paragraphs at the most. Because when we all generically talk about “diesel”, we automatically and exclusively think

of diesel fuel, the beautifully colored liquid we fill up our fuel tanks with. But actually, the problem is three-fold as we have, yes indeed, (1) diesel fuel of course… but also (2) diesel exhaust fluid or DEF + (3) diesel engine lube oil…

and all three are required by diesel engines. And to compound the problem further, the vessels absolutely required for seaborne delivery of non-Russian diesel-refinable crude oil from December 2022 also run on diesel-powered engines. So that´s why above you read “less diesel necessarily means even far less diesel yet ” clear enough?

By the way, other Russian commodities besides their superb Urals blend for diesel distillation are also involved.

(1) diesel fuel

Diesel fuel is required and consumed all along the transportation vectors, from container ships with goods from wherever and the trucks that pick up such goods from European ports and bring them to warehouses and then to homes etc., etc., etc. Same thing for farms that grow food produce and have tractors and vehicles to move stuff around. Trucks, cars, ships, industrial machinery, buses, factories, homes, etc., etc., etc., all require diesel fuel.

(2) diesel exhaust fluid (DEF)

DEF is a solution of urea + de-ionized water required by diesel engines in order to reduce harmful gases released during combustion by catalytic conversion of the nitrogen oxide into nitrogen and steam. In most cases diesel engines will not even start without urea-derived DEF — manufactured as a derivative of natural gas – and normally produced partly in Europe but mostly in Russia and China, the world´s two largest exporters. Europe is now having very serious natural gas supply problems, so no urea — and thus no DEF — will come from Europe. And both China and Russia have stopped exporting urea in order to produce fertilizers for themselves. So without urea anywhere around either of European origin or imported from wherever then no DEF for Europe which means no diesel engines for Europe okay?

(3) diesel engine lube oil

Because of the Ukraine war and previous Covid supply chain problems, key manufacturers of certain additives have curtailed operations, and thus diesel engine lube oil has suffered serious shortage problems worldwide. With foresight, some countries have stockpiled such raw materials for additive manufacturing or improvised new ones. This includes Russia, India, China, and others in Southeast Asia. The additives involved are antioxidants, anti-corrosion agents, dispersing additives, antirust mechanisms, friction modifiers, EP additives, antifoaming agents, antioxidants, and others. Without these additives, traditional manufacturers cannot produce the final oil products for the internal lubrication of diesel engines. Please do remember that all three “diesels” explained above are required by any diesel engine.

Ref #10 http://theeconomiccollapseblog.com/a-warning-about-the-coming-shortages-of-diesel-fuel-diesel-exhaust-fluid-and-diesel-engine-oil/

Ref #11 https://www.newsweek.com/diesel-exhaust-fuel-shortage-us-drivers-fuel-prices-russia-ukraine-war-1716503

Ref #12 https://www.motorbiscuit.com/what-could-a-def-shortage-mean-for-diesel/

Ref #13 https://www.naturalnews.com/2022-06-22-red-alert-entire-us-supply-of-diesel-engine-oil-wiped-out.html

Ref #14 https://www.zerohedge.com/personal-finance/summer-preview-rolling-blackouts-higher-gas-prices-natural-gas-rationing-europe

So then, let´s summarize the European crude oil-dependency factors that impact availability of diesel products

(A) Crude oil shortage

Source yet unknown, below please see “what NOT to do” as non-sensical and foolish as it might sound.
Also please see Ref #15 https://thesaker.is/no-fuels-for-europe/

(B) Crude oil seaborne delivery is either poor or has failed

Diesel fueling problems for tankers, so less crude oil delivery means less diesel refined (vicious circle)
Suez limitations + Cape Horn problems + piracy + very long trips from far away with serious issues
Much higher freight costs + much longer distances complicate logistics compliance of batch deliveries.
Tanker problems & port labor union issues re schedule non-compliance both out-bound and in-bound
Tanker size limitations in a very tight batch-delivery quantum-discontinuous system
Tanker availability as 50% of the existing fleet is still fully dedicated to the delivery of Russian oil exports
Please see Ref #16 https://www.maritime-executive.com/article/sovcomflot-has-worked-around-sanctions-to-keep-sailing

(C) Crude oil serious port limitations & compromised loading & unloading capabilities

Port limitations + reforms per the Rostock example at Ref # 17 https://thesaker.is/dear-ursula-you-are-dead-wrong/
(D) Crude oil serious land logistics very limited capabilities

• The Schwedt pipeline example per Ref # 18 https://thesaker.is/germans-schwedt-hard-for-russian-oil/

(E) None (zero) refinery modifications planned for, coordinated, or made for new crude oil- refinement capabilities

European DEF shortage per the description above
European diesel engine lube oil shortage per the description above
European diesel fuel shortage affecting the distribution of diesel fuel per the description above
the sequence

The process starts by defining the desired output, in this case with the focus on much-needed diesel fuel for all-around transportation and industrial machinery up and downstream of every sort which ends up governing everything else.

The process does NOT start by deciding to buy some whatever good or bad or intermediate quality oil at a “fair” price somewhere else wherever with whatever freight & delivery terms from whichever somebody you don´t even know yet. No, it doesn´t work that way. If skeptical, please ask other sources, and then understand, accept, and act accordingly.

Benjamin Franklin once said: “ Experience is an expensive school but fools will learn in no other”. That is humbly true.

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what NOT to do

Reuters – “ France wants to replace Russian oil with oil from Venezuela and Iran ”. Really, do they? First of all, there is the very live and sensitive political memory both in Iran and Venezuela of years-long damaging sanctions and always constant Western aggressions, be it with Soleimani´s brutal in-your-face acknowledged assassination or Guaydo´s now supposed ownership of the Venezuelan gold vaulted in the Bank of England. But beyond the enormous geopolitical obstacles involved now even with Iran officially requesting admission into BRICS, the ignorant fools in charge should be whispered to in their ears that they will NEVER EVER distill the quality and amount of diesel that Europe requires from readily available either Venezuelan or Iranian oils. The reason is that both are heavy (or very heavy) and also ´sour´ meaning with relatively high sulfur content and are thusly very complicated to process into diesel, let alone by European refineries which simply can´t do it no matter what or how hard they try. Very exceptionally some very rare Iranian and Venezuelan blends could possibly be found to be somewhat better adapted to European needs. But the price of such would be ultra-high while constantly available volumes are ultra-low for European requirements or simply non-existent. In sum, not good, forget about those, please do not blow up the refineries (I kid you not) just stick to “the science” as Herr Habeck would have it, and for Heaven´s sake please do hurry up and stop proposing foolish ideas which you should know much better about.

Ref # 20 https://www.rt.com/business/557918-france-replacement-russian-oil/

Ref # 21 https://thesaker.is/europes-mad-ban-on-russian-oil/

Ref # 22 https://thesaker.is/why-russias-oil-ban-is-impossible/

Ref # 23 https://thesaker.is/europe-now-cheats-or-suffers/

Ref # 24 https://thesaker.is/pitchforks-soon-in-europe/

Now please repeat out loud after me, word by word… refineries-are-pretty-much-built-and-later-matched-and-finely-tuned-for-the-feedstock-they-will-use-for-the-rest-of-their-useful-service-lives… and can only be tweaked so far to be able to use even a slightly different feedstock, let alone completely different crudes such as traditional Venezuelan or Iranian oils. That is the reason why crude oil procurement contracts are so difficult to agree upon with a humongous amount of lab data, tests all-around, back & forth, and highly intense negotiations (meaning lots of TIME) which also necessarily require the guarantee of decades-long constant-quality supply. Crude oil blends are always at least slightly different (possibly a lot) but are definitely never fungible, not interchangeable in any way, shape or form. European refineries were built, matched, and mated to the Russian Urals blend to which everybody has become used to in more than one way. Iranian and Venezuelan oils are perfectly good for refining very important petrochemical distillates but are mostly very different from those which Europe now needs. Instead, Europe needs massive amounts of high-quality diesel and they better have lots of it soon enough, or else… What part of this is so hard to understand?

So please stop the wishful-thinking dead in its tracks, right now. Please. Many hundreds of millions of people depend upon a correct judgment nowhere to be seen today. Time is of the essence and in more than one-way time is already up. Once that diesel is defined as the preferential output, then – and only then – you look for the right type of crude oil to be refined ( … not from Iran or Venezuela…) but always delivered in the agreed quality and quantities, means, and terms, including guarantees provided by the right type of reliable vendor. There is a whole LOT to unpack in that last sentence so do not breeze by it lightly. Rather stop and focus on the many key difficult features yet to be found for the Urals substitute which will not happen. It may though possibly be that several different blends are found from different vendors, not a single well-known reliable supplier as Russia, which would complicate the matter tremendously as it would not be a “universal” substitute, but rather many. And finally – and never ever before – all the European refineries would be modified according to a (1) “coordinated plan” which now does not exist and (2) per the specific crude oil to be refined which now does not exist and (3) with the due process for each and only one by one (which does not exist) one at a time, not all simultaneously throughout Europe as these fools have decided without even knowing yet the source crude oil(s) to be refined (!!!!). Do you now understand why I say that it´s impossible to make this stuff up?

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the chicken and the egg

Despite being a clear priority, so far Europeans are acting as if they did not need diesel production as the main desired output of their refineries. Furthermore, the diesel portion extracted from any new non-Russian crude oil – if ever found in the right terms with the delivery of large and continuous quantities and quality – would never be identical to what the Urals blend renders today, no way. At any rate, if the already approved game plan is to change such Russian Urals blend, the modifications to all European refineries would have to be made necessarily after the new crude oil feedstock is precisely known and made available, not a second before. And after decades of constant only-Urals processing, the switchover to whatever is finally found – yet unknown, if ever – is unfathomable. The only way to do it is to close down the distillation process throughout Europe for months. And precisely who, how, and by when will keep on supplying the European market with the quantity and quality required by the all-important diesel and other distillate fuels and petrochemicals, huh? We need an answer for that right now, before messing things up forever, okay?

not a drill

I am listening but can´t hear a single sound, anyone and all please do respond. This is for real, not a drill. If you don´t have the answer to the above question, come December 2022 — unless EU politicians backtrack with a humiliating 180 rewind, something which is definitely in the cards — supposedly the seaborne Russian Urals blend will be fully banned from Europe, meaning that a different non-Russian blend would be its substitute. But until a definition of such is made, nothing can be done, no plans, no bids, no contracts, no modifications, no calibration, no fine-tuning, no certification, no permitting, no commissioning, nothing. And whenever it is finally known, the switch-over sequence will be the hardest trick on planet Earth. The only known procedure is to very gradually stop the inflow of Urals (which takes time) and slowly “purge” the system, then shut down the refineries (not easy to do and yet more time) but always having ready at hand the continuous feed of the new (but yet-unknown) batch-delivered crude oil substitute right there and then – and only then — start with operational trials after lots of lab tests and back & forth until finally the bosses – not technical folks, but the political bosses — feel ´comfortable´ ( I did not say ´sure´) to re-start operations with the traditional comings and goings and – quite frankly – just see what the hell happens until the refinery achieves cruising speed, if ever, and then lock on the operating parameters. A very messy and risky experiment done simultaneously throughout all of Europe´s refineries … and winter is coming… And please do not blow up several European refineries in the process, I beg you because that would perpetuate the problem pretty much forever. Only harebrained fools can plan for this, but the price will still be paid by all Europeans, not only by two German Greens.

Slightly off-topic ( still very much EU energy-related ) per the Financial Times the UK has warned that, if push ever got to shove, it would shut down its nat-gas supply pipeline to Europe. Yes, it will. Meanwhile, a fully unsubstantiated report from Fitch without any details whatsoever, concludes that “it could take the EU more than three years to offset a full loss of Russian gas supply”. No kidding Fitch. How about never ever as it´d had to be mainly through non-existent LNG terminals and non-existent supplies plus hundreds of un-existent pipelines and lots of additional land-logistical infrastructure. And just from where exactly would Europe find the nat-gas required to survive during such “three years or more“? Are only harebrained ´experts´ available or shall we ever get any no-nonsense reporting from the West?

Ref # 25 https://www.rt.com/business/558053-europe-gas-threat-uk/

Ref # 26 https://www.rt.com/business/558048-eu-russia-gas-replacement/

Ref # 27 https://www.rt.com/business/557967-eu-gas-crisis-domino-effect/

Exile on Main Street: The Sound of the Unipolar World Fading Away

June 22, 2022

The future world order, already in progress, will be formed by strong sovereign states. The ship has sailed. There’s no turning back.

By Pepe Escobar, posted with the author’s permission and widely cross-posted

Let’s cut to the chase and roll in the Putin Top Ten of the New Era, announced by the Russian President live at the St. Petersburg forum  for both the Global North and South.

The era of the unipolar world is over.

The rupture with the West is irreversible and definitive. No pressure from the West will change it.

Russia has renewed with its sovereignty. Reinforcement of political and economic sovereignty is an absolute priority.

The EU has completely lost its political sovereignty. The current crisis shows the EU is not ready to play the role of an independent, sovereign actor. It’s just en ensemble of American vassals deprived of any politico-military sovereignty.

Sovereignty cannot be partial. Either you’re a sovereign or a colony.

Hunger in the poorest nations will be on the conscience of the West and euro-democracy.

Russia will supply grains to the poorer nations in Africa and the Middle East.

Russia will invest in internal economic development and reorientation of trade towards nations independent of the U.S.

The future world order, already in progress, will be formed by strong sovereign states.

The ship has sailed. There’s no turning back.

How does it feel, for the collective West, to be caught in such a crossfire hurricane? Well, it gets more devastating when we add to the new roadmap the latest on the energy front.

Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin, in St. Petersburg, stressed that the global economic crisis is gaining momentum not because of sanctions, but exacerbated by them; Europe “commits energy suicide” by sanctioning Russia; sanctions against Russia have done away with the much lauded “green transition”, as that is no longer needed to manipulate markets; and Russia, with its vast energy potential, “is the Noah’s Ark of the world economy.”

For his part Gazprom CEO Alexey Miller could not be more scathing on the sharp decline in the gas flow to the EU due to Siemens’ refusal and/or incapacity to repair the Nord Stream 1 pumping engine: “Well, of course, Gazprom was forced to reduce the volume of gas supplies to Europe by 20%+. But you know, prices have increased not by 20%+, but by several times! Therefore, I’m sorry if I say that we don’t feel offended by anyone, we are not particularly concerned by this situation.”

If this pain dial overdrive was not enough to hurl the collective West – or NATOstan – into Terminal Hysteria, then Putin’s sharp comment on possibly allowing Mr. Sarmat to present his business card to “decision-making centers in Kiev”, those that are ordering the current shelling and killing of civilians in Donetsk, definitely did the trick:

“As for the red lines, let me keep them to myself, because this will mean quite tough actions on the decision-making centers. But this is an area that shouldn’t be disclosed to people outside the military-political leadership of the country. Those who deserve appropriate actions on our part should draw a conclusion for themselves – what they may face if they cross the line.”

Baby please, stop breaking down

Alastair Crooke has masterfully outlined  how the collective West’s zugzwang leaves it lumbering around, dazed and confused. Now let’s examine the state of play on the opposite side of the chessboard, focusing on the BRICS summit this Thursday in Beijing.

As much as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU) and ASEAN, now it’s time for a reinvigorated BRICS to step up its game. In conjunction, these are the key organizations/instruments that will be carving the pathways towards the post-unipolar era.

Both China and India (which between them were the largest economies in the world for centuries before the brief Western colonial interregnum) are already close and getting closer to “the Noah’s Ark of the world economy”.

The G20 – hostages of the Michael Hudson-defined FIRE scam that is the core of the financialized neoliberal casino – is slowly fading away, while a potential new G8 ramps up: and that is directly connected to BRICS expansion, one of the key themes of this week’s summit. An expanded BRICS with a parallel G8 configuration is bound to easily overtake the Western-centric one in importance as well as GDP by purchasing power parity (PPP).

BRICS in 2021 already added Bangladesh, Egypt, the UAE and Uruguay to its New Development Bank (NDB). In May, at Foreign Ministry-level debates, Argentina, Egypt, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Nigeria, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Senegal and Thailand were added to the 5 BRICS members. Leaders of some of these nations will be connected to the Beijing summit.

BRICS plays a completely different game from the G20. They aim for the grassroots, and it’s all about slowly “building trust” – a very Chinese concept. They are creating an independent Credit Rating Agency – away from the Anglo-American racket – and deepening a Currency Reserves Arrangement. The NDB – including its regional offices in India and South Africa – has been involved in hundreds of projects. Time will tell: one day the NDB will make the World Bank superfluous.

Comparisons between BRICS and the Quad, a U.S. concoction, are silly. Quad is just another crude mechanism to contain China. Yet there’s no question India treads on tightrope walker territory, as it’s a member of both BRICS and Quad, and made a vastly misguided decision to walk out of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) – the largest free trade deal on the planet – opting instead to adhere to the American pie-in-the-sky Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF).

Yet India, long term, skillfully guided by Russia, is being steered to find essential common ground with China in several key issues.

BRICS, especially in its expanded BRICS+ version, is bound to increase cooperation on building truly stable supply chains, and a settlement mechanism for resources and raw material trade, which inevitably has to be based in local currencies. Then the path will be open for the Holy Grail: a BRICS payment system as a credible alternative to the weaponized U.S. dollar and SWIFT.

Meanwhile, a torrent of bilateral investments from both China and India in the manufacturing and services sector around their neighbors is bound to lift up smaller players in both Southeast Asia and South Asia: think Cambodia and Bangladesh as important cogs in a vast supply wheel.

Yaroslav Lissovolik had already proposed a BEAMS concept as the core of this BRICS integration drive, uniting “the key regional integration initiatives of BRICS economies such as BIMSTEC, EAEU, the ASEAN-China free trade agreement, Mercosur and SADC/SACU.”

It’s only (BRICS) rock’n roll

Now Beijing seems eager to promote “an inclusive format for dialogue spanning all the main regions of the Global South via aggregating the regional integration platforms in Eurasia, Africa and Latin America. Going forward this format may be further expanded to include other regional integration blocks from Eurasia, such as the GCC, EAEU and others.”

Lissovolik notes how the ideal path from now on should be “the greater inclusivity of BRICS via the BRICS+ framework that allows smaller economies that are the regional partners of BRICS to have a say in the new global governance framework.”

Before he addressed the St. Petersburg forum on video, President Xi called Putin personally to say, among other things, that he’s got China’s back on all “sovereignty and security” themes. They also, inevitably, discussed the relevance of BRICS as a key platform towards the multipolar world.

Meanwhile, the collective West plunges deeper into the maelstrom. A massive national demonstration of trade unions this past Monday paralyzed Brussels – the capital of the EU and NATO – as 80,000 people expressed their anger at the rising and rising cost of living; called for elites to “spend money on salaries, not on weapons”; and yelled in unison “Stop NATO.”

It’s zugzwang all over again. The EU’s “direct losses”, as Putin stressed, provoked by the sanctions hysteria, “could exceed $400 billion a year”. Russia’s energy earnings have hit record levels. The ruble is at a 7-year high against the euro.

It’s a blast that arguably the most powerful cultural artifact of the entire Cold War – and Western supremacy – era, the perennial Rolling Stones, is currently on tour across a “caught in a crossfire hurricane” EU. On every show they play, for the first time live, one of their early classics: ‘Out of Time’.

Sounds much like a requiem. So let’s all sing, “Baby baby baby / you’re out of time”, as one Vladimir “it’s a gas, gas, gas” Putin and his sidekick Dmitry “Under My Thumb” Medvedev seem to be the guys really getting their rocks off. It’s only (BRICS) rock’n roll, but we like it.

St. Petersburg sets the stage for the War of Economic Corridors

In St. Petersburg, the world’s new powers gather to upend the US-concocted “rules-based order” and reconnect the globe their way

June 18 2022

The Cradle

By Pepe Escobar

At St. Petersburg on Friday, backers of multipolarity pushed forward integration of their networksPhoto Credit: The Cradle

The St. Petersburg International Economic Forum  has been configured for years now as absolutely essential to understand the evolving dynamics and the trials and tribulations of Eurasia integration.

St. Petersburg in 2022 is even more crucial as it directly connects to three simultaneous developments I had previously outlined, in no particular order:

First, the coming of the “new G8” – four BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China), plus Iran, Indonesia, Turkey and Mexico, whose GDP per purchasing parity power (PPP) already dwarfs the old, western-dominated G8.

Second, the Chinese “Three Rings” strategy of developing geoeconomic relations with its neighbors and partners.

Third, the development of BRICS+, or extended BRICS, including some members of the “new G8,” to be discussed at the upcoming summit in China.

There was hardly any doubt President Putin would be the star of St. Petersburg 2022, delivering a sharp, detailed speech to the plenary session.

Among the highlights, Putin smashed the illusions of the so-called ‘golden billion’ who live in the industrialized west (only 12 percent of the global population) and the “irresponsible macroeconomic policies of the G7 countries.”

The Russian president noted how “EU losses due to sanctions against Russia” could exceed $400 billion per year, and that Europe’s high energy prices – something that actually started “in the third quarter of last year” – are due to “blindly believing in renewable sources.”

He also duly dismissed the west’s ‘Putin price hike’ propaganda, saying the food and energy crisis is linked to misguided western economic policies, i.e., “Russian grain and fertilizers are being sanctioned” to the detriment of the west.

In a nutshell: the west misjudged Russia’s sovereignty when sanctioning it, and now is paying a very heavy price.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, addressing the forum by video, sent a message to the whole Global South. He evoked “true multilateralism,” insisting that emerging markets must have “a say in global economic management,” and called for “improved North-South and South-South dialogue.”

It was up to Kazakh President Tokayev, the ruler of a deeply strategic partner of both Russia and China, to deliver the punch line in person: Eurasia integration should progress hand in hand with China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Here it is, full circle.

Building a long-term strategy “in weeks”

St. Petersburg offered several engrossing discussions on key themes and sub-themes of Eurasia integration, such as business within the scope of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO); aspects of the Russia-China strategic partnership; what’s ahead for the BRICS; and prospects for the Russian financial sector.

One of the most important discussions was focused on the increasing interaction between the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU) and ASEAN, a key example of what the Chinese would define as ‘South-South cooperation.’

And that connected to the still long and winding road leading to deeper integration of the EAEU itself.

This implies steps towards more self-sufficient economic development for members; establishing the priorities for import substitution; harnessing all the transport and logistical potential; developing trans-Eurasian corporations; and imprinting the EAEU ‘brand’ in a new system of global economic relations.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexey Overchuk was particularly sharp on the pressing matters at hand: implementing a full free trade customs and economic union – plus a unified payment system – with simplified direct settlements using the Mir payment card to reach new markets in Southeast Asia, Africa and the Persian Gulf.

In a new era defined by Russian business circles as “the game with no rules” – debunking the US-coined “rules-based international order” – another relevant discussion, featuring key Putin adviser Maxim Oreshkin, focused on what should be the priorities for big business and the financial sector in connection to the state’s economic and foreign policy.

The consensus is that the current ‘rules’ have been written by the west. Russia could only connect to existing mechanisms, underpinned by international law and institutions. But then the west tried to  “squeeze us out” and even “to cancel Russia.” So it’s time to “replace the no-rules rules.” That’s a key theme underlying the concept of ‘sovereignty’ developed by Putin in his plenary address.

In another important discussion chaired by the CEO of western-sanctioned Sberbank Herman Gref, there was much hand-wringing about the fact that the Russian “evolutionary leap forward towards 2030” should have happened sooner. Now a “long-term strategy has to be built in weeks,” with supply chains breaking down all across the spectrum.

A question was posed to the audience – the crème de la crème of Russia’s business community: what would you recommend, increased trade with the east, or redirecting the structure of the Russian economy? A whopping 72 percent voted for the latter.

So now we come to the crunch, as all these themes interact when we look at what happened only a few days before St. Petersburg.

The Russia-Iran-India corridor

A key node of the International North South Transportation Corridor (INTSC) is now in play, linking northwest Russia to the Persian Gulf via the Caspian Sea and Iran. The transportation time between St. Petersburg and Indian ports is 25 days.

This logistical corridor with multimodal transportation carries an enormous geopolitical significance for two BRICs members and a prospective member of the “new G8” because it opens a key alternative route to the usual cargo trail from Asia to Europe via the Suez canal.

The International North South Transportation Corridor (INSTC)

The INSTC corridor is a classic South-South integration project: a 7,200-km-long multimodal network of ship, rail, and road routes interlinking India, Afghanistan, Central Asia, Iran, Azerbaijan and Russia all the way to Finland in the Baltic Sea.

Technically, picture a set of containers going overland from St. Petersburg to Astrakhan. Then the cargo sails via the Caspian to the Iranian port of Bandar Anzeli. Then it’s transported overland to the port of Bandar Abbas. And then overseas to Nava Sheva, the largest seaport in India. The key operator is Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (the IRISL group), which has branches in both Russia and India.

And that brings us to what wars from now will be fought about: transportation corridors – and not territorial conquest.

Beijing’s fast-paced BRI is seen as an existential threat to the ‘rules-based international order.’ It develops along six overland corridors across Eurasia, plus the Maritime Silk Road from the South China Sea, and the Indian Ocean, all the way to Europe.

One of the key targets of NATO’s proxy war in Ukraine is to interrupt BRI corridors across Russia. The Empire will go all out to interrupt not only BRI but also INSTC nodes. Afghanistan under US occupation was prevented from become a node for either BRI or INSTC.

With full access to the Sea of Azov – now a “Russian lake” – and arguably the whole Black Sea coastline further on down the road, Moscow will hugely increase its sea trading prospects (Putin: “The Black Sea was historically Russian territory”).

For the past two decades, energy corridors have been heavily politicized and are at the center of unforgiving global pipeline competitions – from BTC and South Stream to Nord Stream 1 and 2, and the never-ending soap operas, the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) and Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) gas pipelines.

Then there’s the Northern Sea Route alongside the Russian coastline all the way to the Barents Sea. China and India are very much focused on the Northern Sea Route, not by accident also  discussed in detail in St. Petersburg.

The contrast between the St. Petersburg debates on a possible re-wiring of our world – and the Three Stooges Taking a Train to Nowhere to tell a mediocre Ukrainian comedian to calm down and negotiate his surrender (as confirmed by German intelligence) – could not be starker.

Almost imperceptibly – just as it re-incorporated Crimea and entered the Syrian theater – Russia as a military-energy superpower now shows it is potentially capable of driving a great deal of the industrialized west back into the Stone Age. The western elites are just helpless. If only they could ride a corridor on the Eurasian high-speed train, they might learn something.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of The Cradle.

Europe´s mad ban on Russian oil

May 08, 2022

Source

By Jorge Vilches

Ursula von der Leyen

Cognitive scientists would concur in that the current performance of European leadership could be diagnosed as either myopic ignorance or — most probably — full intellectual blindness. In the case of so far happy-go-lucky Ursula von der Leyen there is no doubt it´d be the latter… but only if we first dismiss her warm on-the-record support for Bundeswehr colonial policies and military involvement… plus her praise of Third Reich famous general Field Marshall Erwin Rommel, Commander of the Führer Headquarters. But leaving that possible Nazi whiff aside, full ´intellectual blockage´ is the only kind way to dare explain a most strategic project as foolish and doomed to fail as banning Russian oil sales worldwide. Why so you may ask ? Ref #1 https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2017/06/20/vond-j20.html

asymmetrical retaliation

The short answer is massive — ´Russian´ massive – unmitigated “asymmetrical non-military retaliation” through surgical and divisive optional sales of natural gas – and other key commodities – just leaving EU sanctioned Russian oil for sale to and re-sale by third parties. And, oh yes, weaponization is not limited to any particular means as various European war schools should have internalized already. War means war and pretty much anything is fair game. But apparently, it´d be as if through the centuries, uppity European leaders – most especially German, French, Swedish, British and Poles — have not learned a single thing despite the über-high costs already paid for by their nations large-caliber warfare experiences most especially with Russia. By the way, the UK also has the additional ( unsolvable? ) burden of its current Brexit ballast… Ref # 2 https://www.zerohedge.com/energy/eu-proposes-ban-russian-oil-imports

La candidata a presidir la Comisión Europea dijo estar dispuesta a un nuevo aplazamiento del Brexit si hay "una buena razón" - Infobae

Ursula´s softball

May I call you Ursula ? Thank you. “We will make sure that we phase out Russian oil in an orderly fashion [… a phenomenal bad joke of sorts… ] in a way that allows us and our partners to secure alternative supply routes and minimises the impact on global markets” you said. Question: will the Russians just idly watch you trying to execute such enormity at the EU´s preferred speed and political and geopolitical sequencing? And the Russians would never dare to strike back with natural gas or other restrictions no? For starters, what about nickel, uranium, and lithium? Not having them would be like trying to prepare tasty food without salt, pepper or mustard. Without uranium no nuclear power is possible, did you know? [ more on that later ]. Ursula, your pink unicorn wishful thinking is unfathomable gal.

EU kelpers

This mad-ban requires EU approval with conditional support from Hungary, Greece, and others. So some special EU members will be exempted while regular EU ´kelpers´ will not. Now could that lead to serious friction ? How many years will it take all of Europe to reconvert its industry and supply chains? “This is why we will phase out Russian supply of crude oil within 6 months and refined products by the end of the year.” Okay, so Aunty Ursie you believe the Russians are dumb enough to let you phase this idea out nice and easy at your own pace and whenever you decide to act per your own special EU schedule. No market dynamics involved as Europe plays everybody else´s pieces too as grandpas would do with 3-year-old grandkids. Ref # 3 https://www.rt.com/business/555065-russia-oil-ban-exemption-eu/

Russian DNA

No way Ursula, the Russians play world-class professional chess while you play elementary school checkers, not even being good at that either. The instant Russia perceives the initial execution of your game plan regarding banning of Russian oil, they´ll make their moves, not yours. And those Russian moves will not be nice and pretty. For one, Europe will not have anywhere nearly ready its own diesel refining capacity by the end of 2022 while the middle distillate market is ever much tighter everywhere as demand recovers from the Covid pandemic. So the EU “plan” is to frantically search for hard-to-find or simply non-existent substitutes while investing tons of time, money, effort and risk. Well, the Russians know that already even before you start. Diesel is already in critically short supply in the EU.

Furthermore, Europe will continue buying Russian oil and distillates via third countries once it introduces any embargo only that at much higher prices than today. Such old, quick and dirty business is known as “triangulation” Ursula.

Russian hardball

The existential threat imposed on Russia by the EU with its macabre “Ukraine Plan” and sanctions has not left Russia any way out other than playing hardball for keeps. Furthermore, the Russian non-military retaliation domain is actually unlimited due to the full-scale and open-ended addiction that Europe has developed for Russian imports of different sorts including commodities of any and every imaginable type. Without such, Europe will cease to exist as we know it in a matter of a very few months, if not weeks. As Francis Fukuyama should posit, Europe´s dependency on Russian commodities is the end of its own history. The unipolar world is dying, admit it Frank. Hint: write a new book guy.

Ref # 4 https://www.zerohedge.com/energy/trump-was-right-putins-gas-strategy-gives-germany-only-bad-worse-choices

Ref # 5 https://www.rt.com/business/554968-moscow-toughens-response-western-sanction

not your dog

It seems that Ursula von der Leyden has convinced the EU that feeding a refinery or a chemical plant is pretty much like feeding your dog. But nothing can be further from the truth. Chemical plants and refineries are very closely matched and subtly calibrated to very specific supply feeds very difficult to substitute. Changes can and have been made, but it requires lots of time, effort, money, dedicated facilities, experimentation, specific expertise, risk, and most important fixed, unchanging feeds always complying with specs. This means that Russia today supplies Europe with exclusive unreplaceable oil & gas grades of very specific chemical content (even coal grades) that would be impossible to get from third parties fast enough and cheap enough. So it´s a very delicate and tight matching already achieved between European facilities and Russian fuels and other inputs that cannot be altered or replaced that easily, let alone all at the same time !! Are EU countries aware of all this ? Ref #6 https://www.ifo.de/en/node/69417

expensive divorce

So maybe after investing years, money, expertise, trials & errors, risk and lots of hard work Europe may possibly and eventually be able to partially switch from current to dirtier or far more inefficient options. But that would be (a) against the EU´s Green Deal compliance and (b) a very short-term non-sustainable “solution” (c) against the whole world.

So how can Europe transition to a 0% Russian supplies end-point as swiftly and safely as Chinese plate spinners?  Ref # 7 https://www.rt.com/business/555087-energy-warning-russia-sanctions/

No minimally informed no-nonsense mindset has thought out the foolish idea of coordinating the whole European continent in this self-destructive mission. Taking matters to an extreme, let´s assume that Europe completely weans itself – or is cut off — from Russian oil & gas imports tomorrow morning and everything else sourced in Russia. In that hypothetical case, Moscow may feel the financial problem possibly within 6 months… or maybe never. But if such event were to happen, the timing would be quite different as the EU would necessarily start imploding in 6 days and would achieve full implosion in 6 weeks. With the oil mad-ban Europe would badly need to find substitutes for Russian imports. The problem is such need cannot ever be satisfied fast enough and right enough no matter how it is diced or sliced. Triangulation means Europe will buy quality Russian imports via third countries only that at much higher prices

plug & play (not)

No, it is not anywhere near “plug & play” either. No. Several EU landlocked countries can only import nat-gas thru existing Russian pipeline unless a nightmarish and highly risky sea-land supply lines are established by different means going across complicated mountain ranges sometimes, a project which no one wants to entertain. Replacing Russian feeds & supply lines is an incommensurable task that Russia will not help out with either. Once Russia withstands the “ban Russian oil” idea, Europe will find itself in the worse of both worlds not being able to rewind back.

tit-for-tat ?

Also, the impact of the Russian reaction may most probably result to be disproportionate to the damage inflicted by an EU worldwide ban on Russian oil. Hence, ´asymmetrical´, simply because an exact ´tit-for-tat´ result is impossible to calculate for and let alone effectively achieve. If ever implemented, the unintended consequences of a haphazard decision such as proposed will necessarily mean for the EU either to (1) instantly back-pedal to square one or (2) finally suicidal Europe would follow through and achieve its goal. I kid you not. Other commodities could be included.

human food

And food for thought, as Europe would face famine in-its-face if grains from Ukraine, Belarus, Russia and elsewhere are tied up or absent by Russian retaliation or impossibility to deliver. And the lack of cheap diesel and natural gas from Russia means that farmers everywhere face sharply increased costs, whereby fertilizer is either not available at all, or too expensive to use, and thus crop yields will fall worldwide increasing the price of food products. Greenhouse producers in many parts of Europe have already shut down over high energy costs as prices stand today, not even thinking of the possibility of having Russian oil banned worldwide. Banning Russian oil from Europe can only back-fire.

Ref # 8 https://www.zerohedge.com/commodities/worlds-largest-fertilizer-company-warns-crop-nutrient-disruptions-through-2023

Russian leverage

It´s impossible to approach all aspects involved at once, so let´s briefly touch upon part of Russia´s bargaining power.

  1. Russia does not want, let alone need, to defeat all of Europe. Just turning Germany — or Poland for that matter — into a messy mess would be more than enough for the whole EU to focus and reason out basic stuff.
  2. No uranium from Russia means the 3 remaining German nuclear power stations cannot be re-commissioned. Not having already scheduled substitute delivery of finely-tuned Russian uranium means an adaptive retro-fit with newly-sourced feed, which technically is risky and mission almost impossible which would take years.
  3. China + India + Brazil have ´free-patent-IP´ investments plans in Russia kicking off an entirely new ball game
  4. 60% of German gas consumption is Russian. Today German industry would not survive without Russian gas.
  5. A partial or total reduction of Russian nat-gas and coal supply in retaliation for banning Russian oil would negatively and instantly impact Europe in many ways and the rest of the world with irregular market dynamics.
  6. If not delivered to the EU, the Russian nat-gas can be vented or flared at well-heads as there is plenty more.
  7. Russian oil can be sold elsewhere and/or stockpiled relatively rapidly and easily, or production can be slowed down without damaging reservoirs or wells. Russia will actually increase its “drill baby drill” policy.
  8. Paraphrasing former US Secretary of Treasury John Connally “Sorry, Russian commodities, your problem
  9. Russia´s market is 85% of the world population largely under growth and just as fed up with the US-dollar reserve currency system. The EU trade embargo on Russia does not work per parallel imports from 3rd parties
  10. The defiant Russian economy is doing just fine, the Ruble is as strong as ever. US President Biden vowed “to make sure the pain of our sanctions hits the Russian economy, not ours” as if he were getting the picture…
  11. China and others definitely back Russia while the rest of the world de-dollarizes and does not sanction Russia
  12. There are $ 500 billion worth of physical Western assets in Russia that can be confiscated at any time.

Ref # 9 https://www.rt.com/business/555076-moscow-allows-foreign-goods/

Ref # 10 https://www.rt.com/business/553038-russia-lifts-ban-parallel-imports/

Ref # 11 https://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/russia-and-china-unveil-a-pact-against-america-and-the-west

Ref # 12 https://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=39ef25c3-1bf0-4029-bac2-de0ac11965da

Ref # 13 https://www.rt.com/business/555097-russia-sanctions-recession-economist/

Ref # 14 https://www.rt.com/business/555119-russia-india-oil-sales-increase/

eyes wide shut

Agreed, it´s a multi-variable environment in a context of constant change with plenty of moving parts interacting on each other. But, for starters, no ( or less) Russian nat-gas and no Russian oil means many unsolvable things for the EU today. We´d also need to add the impact of having no oil, coal, or gas substitutes fast enough in large enough quantities. All of that put together means no (or less) refined products, no intermediate distillates, no heavy-duty machinery (think mining) no nickel nor aluminum, cobalt or lead or magnesium, no neon, no grains or edibles at large, wheat, corn, barley, rye, soybeans, timber, paper, titanium, rocket engines, nitrogen fertilizer, crop nutrients, potash, less petrochemicals, iron ore, minerals and rare-earths, uranium for nuclear power plants, lithium for batteries, no inputs for production of metals, plastics, fabrics, pharmaceuticals, fertilizer, chemicals, etc., no manganese, chromium, platinum, essential palladium for catalytic converters, copper, tin, mica, wolfram, bismuth, kaolin, talcum, tungsten, diamonds, phosphates, sulphur… and even no gold. By the way, as we should all know, none of these can be printed.

Russian vacations

By the way, fewer distillates such as diesel and fuel oil means that private and public transportation and freight would slow down lots, also affecting heavy-duty vehicles, industrial machinery, and airplane travel. Also far lower tourism. So might as well shut down the EU and go away on vacation to beautiful Russia right? You won´t find that much food or heating or A/C either, just new massive unheard of migrations all around you. With less Russian imports, very huge German industrial giants run the certainly serious risk of shutting down otherwise continuous year-round processes which cannot be re-started and would mean irreparable harm & negative impact on the German economy and the rest of the world. And it’s not only Russian produce that would be missing. Also from Belarus and Ukraine itself + the Stans

mission impossible

Only mediocre light-brained European leadership can propose such suicidal move 100% guaranteed to blowback in-their-face much harder and faster than their original strike. It´d be like poking a bear ( sound familiar ? ) with a sharply pointed pole and pretending the beast to continue munching fish unbothered by the aggression itself and the presence of the aggressor, both. Not even young unexperienced teen-aged urban Canadians would think of doing such a thing. Of course, they would know that the bear will necessarily focus attention first ( already done that… ) then would rise on his hind legs and swing his sharp deadly paw wide and fast sooner than the EU can react to what just happened.

It isn´t European David vs. Russian Goliath either. It´s a well-fed and rested Russian Goliath with hypersonic weapons under his arm vs. a worn-out underweight European David with a worn-down sling and lots of very small stones…

to “Schwedt” or not to “Schwedt

Schwedt is a key refinery for which the German government better find fast good & reliable sources of substitute Russian oil. If Schwedt does not deliver as usual, problems will be felt throughout Germany, Poland, and elsewhere.

But one problem is that Schwedt is majority-owned by Rosneft, the Russian state oil company which has control.

Now supposedly Schwedt has already dramatically reduced its dependence on Russian oil. But there´s a rub.

data laundromat

The rub is that EU member countries are very good at data laundering practices since inception of EU membership acceptance proceedings. Don´t trust me, ask Goldman Sachs they should know. So, for example, if imported Russian oil stays stationary in an EU depot for a couple of months it is “nationalized” and it is no longer considered to be ´Russian´.  Also, the official oil inflow figures cheat, as for partial mixtures of Russian oil 45%+ 55% ´oil from somewhere else´ it is considered to be non-Russian, see? So Russian oil import substitution is a topic not yet anywhere close to being solved. And if Russian oil is banned right here, well Russians might deny delivery of either Russian oil or Russian gas – or whatever — over there. They defend their interests, not the EU´s. Ref # 15 https://www.rt.com/business/555059-europe-needs-russian-gas/ Ref # 16 https://www.rt.com/business/555022-germany-petrol-shortages-russia-oil/

two to tango

Which brings us to the fact that the EU cannot dream of moving its pieces in a vacuum as if the Russian enemy were not there also playing in the same theater scenarios and moving its pieces alternatively. The instant the EU makes any headway whatsoever regarding the possible banning of Russian oil, then Russia will respond in kind or possibly before so as to carry out a pre-emptive deterrence sort of like a taste of things to come such as in Poland and Bulgaria

We have every right to take a matching decision and impose an embargo on gas pumping through the [existing] Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline. So firstly, Russia may reduce or cut off its gas exports if the West goes ahead with a ban on Russian oil”. Understand? The EU attacks Russian oil and Russia counter-attacks reducing or cutting off Russian natural gas, etc. In other words, asymmetric non-military retaliation. Ref # 17 https://www.bbc.com/news/58888451

Prices

If the Russian oil ban attempt goes ahead, agreed that the first thing that Russia may do is reduce or cut off nat-gas supplies – or other key commodities — with the stroke of a keyboard.. And it would be impossible to find replacements for Russian oils fast enough also. It would take years of adaptation and readjustments and it will still be much more expensive for European consumers. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak left on record that a “rejection of Russian oil would lead to catastrophic consequences for the global market causing oil prices to more than double to $300 a barrel”…possibly up to $ 500 pundits say assertively in specialized blogs. Be it $300 or $500 does the EU actually want that ? And Russia would end up earning much more by exporting far less. Trust US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, she said it, not me. And the higher the price, the higher the inflationary pressure and the higher the prices at the supermarkets already at approx. 35% p.a.. I can´t believe having to explain all this, really…

Ref # 18 https://www.bbc.com/news/business-60656673

Despite sanctions, Russia has almost doubled its monthly earnings from selling fossil fuels to the EU, according to the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air. The EU has imported about $23 billion dollars of fossil fuels per month from Russia since March 2022 as oil and gas prices have soared, compared with an average of about $ 12 billion in 2021. Meanwhile, transfers of oil between tankers have surged as buyers take advantage of discounted Russian crude. Different crude blends shipped from Russia may also contain oil from elsewhere which would also be affected.

logistics & freight

Banning Russian oil also means a logistics major reversal from-East-to-West to from-South-to-North. Such cardinal change is costly and risky. New shipping freighters are unprepared for unknown delivery schedules and product specs. Ports and oceans are different, shipping lanes are different, climate is different, seasonal availability of product and ship size and type are also different. That also involves lots of negotiating time, coordination, money, expertise, risk, permanent costs, and new dependencies with yet unknown trade and business partners, new modus operandi, brokers, insurance companies, etc. That is why every EU government has failed to build a realistic energy strategy that does not depend on Russia. Continuity, LNG & LPG terminal bottlenecks, and processing, availability, cost, no weather restrictions when needed. Pipe delivery is safe, dependable, and cheap, sea freight is risky and cost-prohibitive

nuclear blues

Germany had 15 nuclear plants in operation. The last 3 operating nuclear plants in Germany were scheduled to be decommissioned permanently in 2022. Part of the “Green Agenda” in the EU is to eliminate nuclear plants. France does not approve this, but is having technical trouble with its nuclear plants. France has said it will shut down 50% of its nuclear plants for critical maintenance this year at the worst possible timing imaginable.

Ref # 19 https://www.bbc.com/news/business-61298791

military impact

No readily available fuels of the right type (careful) mean no deployment no planes or other aircraft which means pretty much being stuck. Bad logistics, less food, no (or less) supplies, no heating to speak of. The European conventional military dependence on Russian fuels is beyond overwhelming, close to checkmate. Fuel imports are not anywhere near a military solution, just a way for civilians to survive if and when available and at a terribly high price.

“So the EU better be prepared to continue paying (many) billions of euros each week to Russia, supporting the Ruble and subsidizing its military in the process. It’s not just a short-term problem, either. If Germany manages over time (many years ?) to find adequate replacements for Russian natural gas, oil and coal, it will be at (tremendously) much higher prices. The era of cheap-Russian natural gas fueling the German economy is over. German energy-intensive companies, like its chemical giants, could not compete in the global market. Germany will face painful choices about the future of its industrial economy”. So without very specific and unreplaceable exclusive Russian grades of natural gas and oil and coal the European military are pretty much game-over.

Ref # 20 https://www.zerohedge.com/energy/trump-was-right-putins-gas-strategy-gives-germany-only-bad-worse-choices

unmanageable world finances

The camel is 990% overloaded and this one foolish decision may break its back. The world already rides on a wild $ 600+ trillion of a derivatives tiger that can only survive provided the corresponding counterparties do not fail.

“ Clearly, central banks in conjunction with their governments will have no option but to rescue their entire financial systems, which involves yet more central bank credit being provided on even greater scales than seen over Covid, supply chain chaos, and the provision of credit to pay for higher food and energy prices. It must be unlimited.”

Ref # 21 https://www.goldmoney.com/research/goldmoney-insights/financial-war-takes-a-nasty-turn?gmrefcode=gata

So unless something dramatically favorable happens very soon, economic-financial considerations will have highly negative socio-political impact driving the crisis to a high-pitch climax with the pitchforks roaming about European streets. Per Rabobank: “ When the ´food system´ breaks down, everything will break down with it”.

Per The Guardian, “…Come October, it’s going to get horrific, truly horrific … a scale beyond what we can deal with”.

Europe´s mad ban on Russian oil is just another perfect example of sheer Anglo-Saxon European puppeteering.

Ref # 22 https://www.theguardian.com/business/2022/apr/19/energy-chiefs-fear-40-of-britons-could-fall-into-fuel-poverty-in-truly-horrific-winter

Ref # 23 https://www.zerohedge.com/markets/rabobank-when-food-system-breaks-down-everything-will-break-down-it

 ما هي رسالة بوتين لأوروبا؟

ناصر قنديل

خارج إطار النقاش السجاليّ حول شرعية ومشروعية العملية العسكرية الروسية في أوكرانيا، وتبرير العقوبات على روسيا او إدانتها، لا يستطيع الأوروبيون إنكار حقيقتين كبيرتين حملتهما حرب أوكرانيا؛ الأولى هي فشل أوروبا في محاولة صناعة مساحة وسطية قابلة للحياة وسط التجاذب الحاد بين واشنطن وموسكو، بعد محاولات بدأتها ألمانيا وفرنسا في سياق تداعيات الأزمة الأوكرانية منذ العام 2014، وترجمتها اتفاقات مينسك صيغة النورماندي، والثانية هي أن المواجهة الدائرة ليست مجرد أزمة روسية أوكرانية سقطت معها الحلول السياسية وتحولت حرباً، تستقطب دول العالم على ضفاف الصراع. فهي حرب عالمية كبرى تتوج سنوات من التراجع الأميركي والسعي الروسي لملء الفراغ أملاً باستعادة بعض المواقع التي خسرتها أمام عدائية أميركية متوحشة بعد انهيار جدار برلين واستضعاف روسيا بمعونة أوروبية. وفي هذه الحرب التي يكون ميدانها أوروبا للمرة الأولى منذ الحرب العالمية الثانية، سترسم خرائط العالم الجديد، ومنها خريطة أوروبا، وانطلاقاً من أوروبا.

سعت أوروبا على ضفاف الأزمة الأوكرانية خلال سنوات لبناء المنطقة الوسطى تحت شعار ينطلق من تشخيص تحفل به الوثائق الأوروبية للأمن الاستراتيجي، ويضعها بين معادلتي صناعة موازين القوى العسكرية، وضمان التدفق السلس للطاقة، وانطلقت النظرية الأوروبية من فرضية الجمع الممكن بين علاقة حوار وتفهم وطمأنة مع روسيا مقابل انضواء نظري في الحلف الأطلسي الذي تقوده واشنطن، على أن يترجم بحدود ضيقة عملياً، صار الميل لجعلها أضيق بعد الانسحاب الأميركي من أفغانستان بصورة مهينة للأوروبيين، أثارت شكوكهم علناً حول قدرة واشنطن على تمثيل الحليف الموثوق والجهة التي يمكن الاعتماد عليها، وخرجت في سياقها أصوات تطالب ببناء قوة اوروبية مستقلة عن التبعية لمعادلة الحماية الأميركية المفترضة.

أجاب الأوروبيون، وفي طليعتهم الألمان، على سؤال التدفق السلس لموارد الطاقة بالصيغة المتممة لمعادلة منتصف الطريق بين واشنطن وموسكو، وجاء انبوب الغاز الجديد الذي انشئ بشراكة ألمانية روسية باسم ستريم الثاني أو السيل الشمالي، الذي عارضته واشنطن منذ البدء بتأسيسه والسير بتنفيذه وصولا للحظة التمهيد لوضعه قيد الخدمة. وأوروبا التي ستستفيد من هذا الأنبوب بضمان تدفق موارد الطاقة، وليست ألمانيا وحدها. وقد وضعت ألمانيا شرطاً على روسيا بمواصلة العمل بالسيل الجنوبي الآتي عبر تركيا وستريم الأول الآتي عبر روسيا البيضاء فبولندا، وخصوصاً الأنبوب الثالث الآتي عبر أوكرانيا والذي يرتب أكلافاً عالية على روسيا كعائدات مقطوعة لأوكرانيا، وقبلت روسيا سعياً منها للتسهيل في بناء هذه المساحة الوسطية الأوروبية.

جاءت الحرب وأطاحت كل ذلك دفعة واحدة، ووجدت أوروبا نفسها تنساق في حملة هيستيرية شعواء ضد روسيا، وصولاً لحد التعبئة العنصرية ضد كل ما هو روسي، طلاباً وفناً وأدباً، وطالت العقوبات إقفال الأجواء الأوروبية أمام الطيران الروسي وإلغاء عقود تأجير أكثر من خمسمئة طائرة ايرباص، بالتوازي مع أكثر من مئتي طائرة بوينغ ألغى الأميركيون تأجيرها. وبدون حساب نسبة حجم الخسارة على من يصدر العقوبات ومن يتلقاها، لا تزال أوروبا في لحظة السكرة، فماذا عندما تأتي الفكرة؟

لا يبدو الرئيس الروسي فلاديمير بوتين راغباً بالدخول في سجال مع الأوروبيين، تاركاً للأيام أن تصب مزيداً من الماء البارد على الرؤوس الحامية، وتبدو القيادة الروسية صفاً واحداً بتركيز المواجهة مع الأميركيين، واعتبار الحرب حرباً أميركية روسية على أرض أوكرانيا، التي خذلت حكومتها الأوروبيين كما ضحت ببلدها لتقدم لواشنطن ساحة الاشتباك، وتبدو الرسالة التي يثق الرئيس بوتين بأن الأوروبيين سيقرأونها ويفهمونها جيداً، ولو بعد حين، هي أن واشنطن التي هربت من ساحة الحرب، وقرّرت أن تقاتل حتى آخر أوكراني، واذا اقتضى الأمر حتى آخر أوروبي، هي ليست واشنطن التي يتوهم الأوروبيون أنها تحميهم، وهم ان كانوا يتحدثون عن الحماية الأطلسية فيقصدون الحماية من روسيا، مهما ناوروا وداوروا، وان لم تكن تحمي في مثل هذه الحالة التي تدور الحرب فيها على الأرض الأوروبية مع روسيا، فمتى ستحمي وما جدوى الرهان على هذه الحماية؟ والشق الثاني من الرسالة هو ان واشنطن القوية والغنية والتي توهمهم بأنها الممسكة بالاقتصاد العالمي، قد تمسك بلعبته المصرفية التي لا يحتاجها الأوروبيون، رغم أنها تلزمهم بالعقوبات التي تفرضها حتى على الشركات الأوروبية، لكنها لا تمسك بقطاع الطاقة، ولا بموارده، ولا هي قادرة على ضمان استقرار أسواقه، ولا ضمان تدفق سلس لموارده الى أوروبا، وموارد الطاقة عصب الاقتصاد والنمو والاستقرار الاجتماعي في أوروبا، وها هي حرب الأسعار تشتعل فماذا عسى الأوروبيين يفعلون، وتجيب موسكو على السؤالين بالقول، إن قدر أوروبا بقوة الجغرافيا ان تضمن أمنها والتدفق السلس لموارد الطاقة الى أسواقها، من بوابة حتمية وحيدة هي البوابة الروسية، وفقاً لمعادلة “جارك القريب ولا أخوك الأخ البعيد”.

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الغرب بين الربح التكتيكي والخسارة الاستراتيجية

الإثنين 7 آذار 2022

 زياد حافظ

لا يمكننا فهم الأحداث الدموية في أوكرانيا إنْ لم نتوقف عند أسبابها وبطبيعة الحال عند تداعياتها. وهذا هو ما سنحاول مقاربته في عرضنا لأنّ نتائج ما حصل لن يكون منحصراً بالأطراف المتصارعة ولكن سيؤثّر بشكل واضح على موازين القوّة في العالم، وعلى ملامح النظام العالمي الجديد الذي سيلد من رحم المعارك القائمة على أرض أوكرانيا (وهي بالمناسبة استكمال للمعارك التي بدأت في المشرق العربي وشمال أفريقيا والجزيرة العربية). كما أنها ستؤثّر على مسار الحرب الكونية على سورية والصراع مع الكيان الصهيوني وبطبيعة الحال على الأوضاع في لبنان ومستقبله.

إنّ ما يجري في أوكرانيا ليست حرباً بالمعنى المألوف وإن كان طابعها عسكري. فهي أقرب لعملية عسكرية واسعة لتحقيق أهداف محدّدة وليس لتغيير معالم جغرافية ولا لتغيير نظام حكم، وإنْ كانت نتيجتها ستؤدّي إلى ذلك، ولا لسحق أو تدمير بنى تحتية وجيوش ومجتمع كما يفعل الكيان الصهيوني مع فلسطين وسورية ولبنان. ولفهم ما يجري يجب أن نقارب ولو بشكل سريع أسباب العملية العسكرية الواسعة.

منطلق المقاربة هو أن العملية العسكرية التي تقوم بها روسيا هي خطوة دفاعية وليست هجومية رغم الظاهرة لاحتلال بلد مجاور. والخطوة العسكرية أتت في سياق طويل بدأ بعد انهيار الاتحاد السوفياتي وتولي الحلف الأطلسي خلال التسعينات من القرن الماضي التوسّع شرقاً رغم الوعود «الشفهية» ولكن الموثّقة وفقاً لشهود أعيان من ان الأطلسي لن يتقدّم «اينشا» أي 2،54 سنتيمتر تجاه الشرق. فوجود قواعد عسكرية ومنصّات صاروخية في دول كانت ضمن حلف وارسو أصبح أمراً يهدّد مباشرة الأمن القومي الروسي. حذّر الرئيس الروسي تكراراً ومراراً منذ 2007 في خطاب شهير له في مؤتمر الأمن الذي عُقد في مدينة ميونيخ بأنّ القطبية الواحدة ليست مقبولة وأن الأمن في أوروبا أمن مشترك لا يمكن تجزئته. تجاهل الأطلسي، أيّ الولايات المتحدة، ذلك التحذير فقام بالثورات الملوّنة التي أطاحت بحكومات قريبة من موسكو. وفي مؤتمر بوخارست في 2008 كان القرار لدول الأطلسي بفتح باب انتساب جورجيا وأوكرانيا للحلف. ففي ذلك القرار تمّ زرع جذور الأزمة الحالية. كما حاولت جورجيا في نفس السنة والتي حصلت فيها «ثورة» ملوّنة اجتياح إقليم اوسييتيا فكان الردّ الروسي صاعقاً ومفاجئاً علماً أنه قبل ذلك كان قد قضى على تمرّد الشيشان.

ردّ روسي غير متوقّع

لم يتوقع الأطلسي قوّة الرد الروسي وفعّاليته ولم يكترث لذلك واعتبره انتكاسة يمكن التعويض عنها عبر الانقلاب الذي دفعت به في أوكرانيا 2014 والاتيان بحكومة شديدة العداء لروسيا تسيطر عليها اقلّية نيو نازية. ثم حاول الأطلسي في أواخر 2021 تغيير النظام في بلاروسيا وفي 2022 تكرار السيناريو في كازاخستان لاستكمال محاصرة روسيا فنجحت الأخيرة بوأد التمرّد والقضاء عليه في البلدين بسرعة فائقة أذهلت العالم. لكن الردّ الأميركي/ الأطلسي على مطلب روسيا بتحييد أوكرانيا وعدم ضمّها للحلف الأطلسي كان التجاهل المطلق وعدم الاكتراث. ثم جاء تصريح الرئيس الأوكراني بضرورة تزويد أوكرانيا بسلاح نووي. فكانت بمثابة الشعرة التي كسرت ظهر البعير. لذلك كان الهجوم «الدفاعي» الذي بدأ في 25 شباط/ فبراير 2022 وما زال قائماً عند إعداد هذه المقاربة.

لم تضع العملية العسكرية الروسية الواسعة في أوكرانيا أوزارها لكن يمكننا أن نستخلص بعض العبر التي ستكون أساسية لفهم المستقبل العالمي. فأولى هذه العبر هي أنّ الولايات المتحدة والحلف الأطلسي والاتحاد الأوروبي نجحا في جرّ روسيا إلى مواجهة عسكرية في أوكرانيا مع القوّات المسلّحة الأوكرانية والكتائب النيونازية التي تسيطر على مقدّرات البلاد. وهذا النجاح التكتيكي الطابع سيكون له تداعيات استراتيجية سلبية كما سنشرحها لاحقاً.

ثاني النجاحات هي ضرب التقارب الأوروبي الروسي بشكل عام ومنع التقارب الروسي الألماني عبر تجميد تشغيل خط سيل الغاز الشمالي الثاني (نورستريم 2). والمعلوم أنّ روسيا تزوّد ألمانيا وأوروبا بحوالي من 40 بالمائة من احتياجاتها في الغاز لكن مع تعثّر خط الغاز الذي يمرّ بأوكرانيا أصبحت ألمانيا وأوروبا مكشوفة بشكل كبير تجاه الغاز. ونذكّر هنا أن خطا نورستريم 2 تمّ بناؤه بناء على طلب ألمانيا بعد الانقلاب الذي حصل في أوكرانيا سنة 2014. لذلك يصبح إقفال ذلك الخط نجاحاً تكتيكياً آخر لكن مردوده الاستراتيجي سيكون كارثياً على المانيا وأوروبا التابعة للولايات المتحدة.

ثالث النجاحات هو فرض إجراءات تحاصر روسيا مالياً واقتصادياً لعزلها عن العالم ولإخضاعها بغية قلب النظام القائم واستيلاد حكومة تابعة للغرب تمهيداً لاستيلاب الثروات الاقتصادية الضخمة الموجودة في روسيا. لكن هذا النجاح التكتيكي في الحصار سيكون كارثياً على الولايات المتحدة حيث ينذر بتسريع نهاية هيمنة الدولار في التداول العالمي.

رابع النجاحات هو السيطرة على السردية الإعلامية بشكل مطلق في الدول الغربية. لكن بالمقابل كرّس سقوط الاعلام المهيمن الذي لم ينقل وقائع العملية العسكرية بشكل صحيح بل اكتفى بسرد الأكاذيب والتضليل والتلفيق ما أنهى مصداقيته في الولايات المتحدة حيث الاعلام الموازي اكتسب شرعية متنامية في معركة «المصداقية».

نكتفي بهذه «النجاحات» التي تستدعي تدقيقاً لمعرفة يقينها واستخلاص العبر.

هذه المقاربة السريعة لخلفية وسياق العملية العسكرية في أوكرانيا كانت ضرورية لفهم الموقف الروسي الدفاعي. فتجاهل المطلب الروسي من قبل الأطلسي وخاصة من الولايات المتحدة سواء كان متعمّداً لأسباب عقائدية أو نتيجة عنجهية وغرور هو سبب العملية. هناك من يعتبر أنّ التجاهل كان متعمّداً لجرّ روسيا إلى «المستنقع» الأوكراني واستنزافها عسكرياً وفرض إجراءات اقتصادية قاسية هدفها عزل روسيا وإحداث اضطرابات في روسيا تتوّج بانقلاب على الرئيس بوتين والإطاحة به وتغيير النظام والإتيان بنظام شبيه بالنظام الذي كان قائماً في ولاية بوريس يلتسين الذي سيسهّل الاستيلاء على الثروات الروسية وتفكيك روسيا. ففي عقيدة المحافظين الجدد والمتدخلين الليبراليين المهيمنين على القرار السياسي الخارجي الأميركي الهدف هو إنهاء روسيا كمنافس محتمل للهيمنة الأميركية في العالم.

أهداف غربية عديدة لكن بلا نتيجة!

لكن ما هي النتيجة حالياً ومستقبلياً للموقف الغربي (الأطلسي والأميركي) من جرّاء الإجراءات التي اتخذها تجاه روسيا؟

من الواضح انّ الولايات المتحدة وسائر دول الحلف الأطلسي لن يتدخلوا عسكرياً بشكل مباشر بل سيكتفون بالحصار الإعلامي أولاً والدبلوماسي ثانياً، والاقتصادي والمالي ثالثاً، إضافة إلى تمويل عمليات التخريب في أوكرانيا وربما في روسيا عبر شبكات من العملاء. وهذا دليل على الضعف العسكري وفقدان القدرة على تحمّل ضريبة الدم فلذلك يلجأ الغرب إلى هدر دم الآخر بما فيه الدم الأوكراني كما فعل في سورية.

فعلى الصعيد الإعلامي استطاعت الولايات المتحدة وحلفاؤها السيطرة الكاملة على السردية التي يفرضونها على الجمهور الغربي عبر منع المنصات والمنابر لمن يخالف السردية. كما انّ السردية مبنية على الأكاذيب التي يُمنع تفنيدها تساهم في تعميق سوء التفاهم بين الشعوب بل في تعميق الكراهية بين الشرق والغرب. ونعتقد انّ الرقابة المفروضة من قبل المراجع الغربية ومنع المنصات الناقدة هي ظاهرة ضعف وليست ظاهرة قوة كما أنها ظاهرة تؤكّد فقدان الحجة والبرهان. فمن تابع روايات المراسلين الأجانب في أوكرانيا لصالح وسائل الإعلام الغربية يجد أنّ مضمون الرواية مخالف للحقيقة. فسردية «النجاحات» العسكرية الأوكرانية ضدّ الجيش الروسي لا تترجم بدلائل مادية. كما أنّ تلك الوسائل وبشكل جماعي لم تبرز أيّ خارطة للواقع الميداني. فأين توجد القوّات المتصارعة غير معروف في وسائل الإعلام الغربية بينما في وسائل الإعلام الموازي وغير المهيمن نرى خرائط عن التحرّك والتقدّم.

لكن في آخر المطاف الجمهور العام الذي لا يستثمر وقته في البحث عن الحقيقة لا يعرف فعلياً أين أصبحت الأمور. والفطرة الموجودة عند الجمهور الغربي وخاصة في الولايات المتحدة جعلته يشكّك في ما يبثّه الاعلام المهيمن. لذلك لا نجد حتى الساعة موجات من الاحتجاجات ضدّ «الاحتلال» الروسي لأوكرانيا دون أن يعني ذلك التأييد لروسيا وعمليتها العسكرية. وهذه نقطة مهمة يجب التوقف عندها لأنّ في المستقبل القريب ستجد الحكومات الغربية صعوبة كبيرة في تسويق سياسات غير مقبولة لدى الجمهور العام سواء على صعيد الصراع في أوكرانيا وغير أوكرانيا وعلى صعيد مختلف السياسات الداخلية عندما تنكشف حقيقة الوقائع الميدانية والسياسية. فذاكرة الكذب حول سلاح الدمار الشامل في العراق واحتلال العراق وما نتج من مآسٍ ما زال في ذاكرة الجمهور العام.

هذه السيطرة على السردية الإعلامية لم تستطع أن تخفي العنصرية الغربية تجاه الشعوب السمراء والصفراء والسوداء. فـ «زلّات اللسان» للمراسلين الأجانب حول «بيضوية البشرة وزرقاوية العيون» للاجئين الأوكرانيين الفارين من ساحات الاشتباكات والتركيز على «مسيحيّتهم» و»تمدّنهم النسبي» كشف العنصرية الغربية تجاه الشرق. هذا في وسائل الإعلام المهيمن فما بالك في ما ينشر على وسائل التواصل الاجتماعي؟! لم يكن ذلك في الحسبان ومن الصعب تصوّر ما يمكن أن يفعله ذلك الإعلام لتصحيح الصورة عنه. المشكلة أو حتى المصيبة التي تعصف بالنخب الحاكمة في الغرب وخاصة في الولايات المتحدة والمملكة المتحدة أنها أصبحت منقطعة عن الواقع. فهي أصبحت تصدّق الأكاذيب التي أطلقتها وتبني سياساتها ومواقفها من منطلقات عقائدية ورغبوية منقطعة عن التطوّرات الميدانية.

الخطورة في الموقف الغربي هو التحوّل السريع من مواجهة سياسية مع خصم أيّ روسيا إلى محاولة ألغاء مجتمع وثقافة برمّتها. فطبيعة الإجراءات التي اتخذها الغرب ليست لمواجهة الرئيس الروسي وسياساته بل لإلغاء روسيا. فهذا هو الدافع العقائدي الذي يحكم النخب الحاكمة في الغرب وبالتالي تحويل الصراع السياسي على النفوذ إلى صراع وجودي يحمل في طيّاته كافة الاحتمالات النافية للوجود كالحرب النووية. فعندما سئل وزير الخارجية لافروف عن احتمال قيام حرب عالمية ثالثة نووية أجاب «اسألوا بايدن»! لكن موازين القوّة الفعلية على الأرض مختلفة كلّياً عن التقديرات الرغبوية في المحافل الدولية وبالتالي سنشهد في الأسابيع المقبلة وقائع على الأرض لم تكن في الحسبان الغربي.

المناعة الاقتصادية الروسية كبيرة جداً

أما الإجراءات الاقتصادية والمالية فهي سلاح ذو حدّين. الرهان الغربي هو تردّي الأوضاع الاقتصادية في روسيا لخلق بيئة مضطربة تزيد من النقمة على الحكم وتؤدّي إلى ثورات للإطاحة بالنظام والرئيس. ما يغيب عن بال المخطّطين أن القيادة الروسية كانت منذ 2008 تخطّط للحظة المواجهة. لسنا هنا في إطار سرد الخطوات التي أقدمت عليها طيلة السنوات الماضية بل نكتفي بالقول إنّ المناعة الروسية في القطاعات الاقتصادية والمالية الاستراتيجية كبيرة جداً بسبب البدائل التي أقامتها لمواجهة الحصار الاقتصادي والمالي. بل كلاعب الجودو استطاعت القيادة الروسية استعمال قوة الخصم ضده. فالإجراءات المالية والاقتصادية التي اتخذها الغرب تجاه روسيا تظهر مدى انكشاف تلك الاقتصادات تجاه روسيا بما فيها الولايات المتحدة وإنْ كانت بدرجات متفاوتة من الانكشاف.

قراءتنا للعقوبات المفروضة من قبل الولايات المتحدة وحلفائها هي أنها موجّهة فعلياً ضدّ أوروبا الغربية التي كانت تظهر ملامح التململ من الإملاءات الأميركية. فهذه العقوبات فرضت وحدة موقف أوروبية قصرية قد تطيح بأيّ تطلّع استقلالي على المدى القصير. لكن معظم الحكومات الأوروبية التي رضخت للولايات المتحدة تواجه استحقاقات انتخابية في وضع اقتصادي متردّ أصلاً ويزداد تردّياً بسبب العقوبات. فعلى سبيل المثال، العقوبات على روسيا كتوقيف العمل بالسيل الغاز الشمالي الثاني (نور ستريم 2) سيؤدّي إلى أزمة طاقة تضرب البنية الاقتصادية الصناعية الألمانية وتزيد من كلفة التدفئة أضعافاً مما كانت عليها. وهذه قضايا تشكل محور الصراع السياسي الداخلي. فأزمة الطاقة التي بدأت تجتاح أوروبا وارتفاع كلفتها ترافقها أزمة ارتفاع المواد الغذائية. والانكماش الاقتصادي الذي دخلت فيه قد يتحوّل إلى كساد كبير. فالكساد في اقتصاد منتج هو انخفاض مستوى الإنفاق الاستهلاكي الذي يخفّض الطلب الفعلي ويؤدّي إلى تفاقم البطالة فإلى تراجع في الدخل فإلى المزيد من تراجع في الإنفاق الاستهلاكي ليصل بفعل المكرّر الاقتصادي (economic multiplier) إلى حالة جمود فركود لها ارتدادات سياسية واجتماعية قد تقلب الطاولة على رؤوس النخب الحاكمة.

أما في الدول الريعية التي تستورد معظم حاجياتها فارتفاع الأسعار يؤدّي إلى نقمة اجتماعية. وما يزيد الطين بلّة بالنسبة لدول مثل المانيا وفرنسا وإيطاليا التي ما زالت تحافظ على قاعدة إنتاجية صناعية هو فقدان قدراتها التنافسية بسبب ارتفاع كلفة الإنتاج ما سيجعّلها تتخلّى عن القاعدة الصناعية لتدخل في مرحلة ما بعد الصناعة فإلى المزيد من الانكشاف تجاه الدول المصنّعة الصاعدة كالصين والهند ودول أميركا اللاتينية. فإذا كان هدف الغرب بقيادة الولايات المتحدة محاصرة الصين فإنّ الإجراءات التي اعتمدها تجاه روسيا وبشكل غير مباشر تجاه أوروبا ستكون لمصلحة الصين! هذا ما نقصده بالربح التكتيكي القصير المدى الذي يصبح خسارة استراتيجية طويلة المدى!

ضرب ديمومة النظام المالي

من جهة أخرى، فإنّ قرار إخراج روسيا من منظومة «سويفت» ومعاقبة عدد من المصارف الروسية وأهم من كل ذلك تجميد أصول وأموال المصرف المركزي الروسي فإنّ ذلك يضرب في الصميم ديمومة النظام المالي الذي بحاجة إلى استقلال واستقرار بعيداً عن التقلّبات السياسية. كما أنّ مصداقية التعامل مع المراكز المالية الغربية وخاصة الأميركية انتهت إلى غير رجعة. فمن هي الدولة التي ستبقى مطمئنة على أصولها وموجوداتها المالية تحت السيطرة الأميركية والغربية؟ هذا سيؤدّي حتماً إلى التسريع في نظام مدفوعات مالي دولي بديل وخارج عن سيطرة الولايات المتحدة ومنظومتها المالية. توجد الان منظومات موازية ل «سويفت» تعود للصين كنظام «سي أي بي أس (CIPS)، ولروسيا في نظام اس أف بي أس (SFPS)، وللهند في نظام أس أف أم أس (SFMS). الخطر المباشر هو تنامي المنظومة الصينية كما أشار عدد من الخبراء كدافيد برانكاسيو وجنيفر باك وهما خبراء ماليين دوليين. ونضيف ماذا إذا أقدمت كل من الصين والهند وروسيا على تشبيك أنظمتها؟ فلا يجب أن ننسى أن الكتلة البشرية والجغرافية التي تمثّلها هذه الدول الثلاث لها وزنها الاقتصادي في العالم يصعب تجاهله في الحد الأدنى بل هو مؤثر بشكل كبير على مصالح اقتصادات العالم الغربي. ما لفت نظرنا أن قرار إخراج روسيا من منظومة «سويفت» حذّرت منه المؤسسات المالية الأميركية كالاحتياط الاتحادي والمؤسسات الكبرى كغولدمان ساكس وبلومبرغ لأنّ ذلك سيسرّع في تنامي الأنظمة المنافسة بما فيه الشبكات العنكبوتية المالي. والمعلومات الأولية تفيد أنها بدأت فعليا. لكن السياسة أقوى من الاعتبارات الاقتصادية والمالية ما يؤكّد مقولتنا أن السياسة هي المحرّك الأساسي وأنّ الاقتصاد ليس إلاّ وجها للسياسة ولكن بلغة الأرقام.

من تداعيات الإجراءات العقابية على روسيا هو تسريع التخلّي عن الدولار في الدول المنافسة الرئيسية كالصين وروسيا وستلحقها الهند. كما سيتنامى تخفيض الاحتياطات النقدية بالدولار بعدما أقدمت الولايات المتحدة على تجميد أو السطو على الأصول المالية للمصارف المركزية. لا ننسى كيف تمّ الاستيلاء على أموال إيران بعد الثورة الإسلامية ولا على أموال ليبيا ومؤخرا على أموال أفغانستان. فانخفاض الطلب على الدولار عالمياً سيفقد الولايات المتحدة سلاحاً أساسياً استخدمته في تمويل حروبها على شعوب ودول العالم.

في الخلاصة، نستطيع أن نقول إنّ النجاحات التي حققتها الولايات المتحدة على صعيد مواجهة روسيا سترتدّ على حلفائها في الدرجة الأولى كما سيصيبها ارتدادات ذلك. لكن سنفصّل كلّ ذلك في مقاربة منفصلة لاحقة لضيق المساحة المتاحة الآن.

*باحث وكاتب اقتصادي سياسي والأمين العام السابق للمؤتمر القومي العربي وعضو الهيئة التأسيسية للمنتدى الاقتصادي والاجتماعي

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A COLD, COLD WINTER IS COMING TO EUROPE (AND THE WORLD)

 06.10.2021

South Front

A Cold, Cold Winter Is Coming To Europe (And The World)

The current situation in the energy market is quite worrisome. Europe is taking the brunt of it, and is concerned that a long and cold winter could send it off the edge into an economic crisis, as natural gas prices are soaring to never-before-seen heights.

The Asian market, which is the largest in the world is also in a tattered state, with China already feeling the consequences of reducing dependency on coal and lack of energy resources.

This all is a result of several factors that have led to the present reality of events and the exacerbating situation.

The spot price for natural gas continues breaking records, by reaching $1,600 per 1,000 cubic meters before dropping back to $1,400 on October 6th.

Spot is initially a high-risk market; it is based on the sellers of the product that create an artificial surplus or lack of said product. If the product was deficient by definition, for example there’s not enough of it to begin with, then buyers could potentially control the market, but this is a different story.

Furthermore, gas prices are much less controlled compared to oil prices, which fluctuated rapidly in 2020. Various energy resources’ prices depend on their own specifics, but it is an obvious fact that these prices connected.

The market is concerned about energy supply this winter and shrugged off October 4th’s news from Nord Stream 2 AG, the operator of the controversial Russia-led gas pipeline, which started filling the first string of the pipeline with gas to get ready for the moment that German authorities grant it an operational license.

While gas prices are soaring, US oil prices rose for the fifth day in a row to levels not seen since 2014, amid global concerns about energy supply due to signs of tension in the oil, natural gas and coal markets.

Brent prices also rose due to concerns about supplies, especially after OPEC+ decided to stick to the planned increase in production. To put it simply, there might be an artificial deficiency which causes an increase in price.

Following a short meeting on October 4th, the OPEC+ ministers approved an increase in production by 400 thousand barrels per day in November, after which the price of oil on the New York Stock Exchange reached its highest in almost seven years. On the eve of the talks, speculation spread that the cartel and its allies could increase production by 800 thousand barrels per day in November, but, according to delegates, such a proposal was not announced.

According to Amrita Sen, a leading oil analyst and co-founder of Energy Aspects, Saudi Arabia seeks to make as few changes as possible to the current OPEC+ agreement on monthly production increases.

Instead of pushing for increased production and lowered prices, the United States appeared satisfied with Riyadh’s plan and hasn’t exerted any political pressure to change the situation.

The American Petroleum Institute reported that oil reserves in the United States increased by 951 thousand barrels in the week of October 1st.

Despite increasing prices, the United States is increasing its reserves in the face of the potential increase in prices even further.

The biggest “victim” is the European consumer.

Europe is already feeling the pressure, as natural gas is incredibly important to industry, increasing oil prices complicate the situation even further.

Not only does industry need to use a lot of natural gas, but some part of it also needs to be distributed to households, and the colder the weather gets, the more gas is required. Civilian infrastructure, as well as households needing increasing amounts of natural gas led to a higher deficiency in industry, which could itself lead to an increase in the price of various products, as well as many businesses straight up closing.

Northern Europe is already feeling the strain, as the depletion of reservoirs hinders the production of hydroelectric power.

The water level in Norwegian hydroelectric power plants for this time of year is at a minimum level. This is a concern just a few weeks before the reduction of reservoirs in late autumn. There is not enough water for export to the continent and to the UK.

Ireland and the UK are the hardest hit by the global gas shortage and are experiencing a shortage of electricity.

In Asia, which is the trade center of LNG, the situation is also quite difficult.

LNG-AS spot prices reached a record high, approximately 100% higher than one month ago, and 500% higher year over year.

A standard LNG cargo of 3.4 trillion BTU (British Thermal Units) now costs $100-120 million, while at the end of February its cost was less than $20 million.

It is not clear if any buyer is capable of actually paying for the LNG they’ve bought, as such sellers are requesting letters of credit, guaranteeing that there will be solvency when the time to pay comes.

India following China is on the verge of an energy crisis as coal reserves have reached a critical level.

According to the Ministry of Energy of India, 135 thermal power plants in the country on average had coal reserves for only four days. The shortage of electricity has already begun to affect the economy of neighboring China, where last month the manufacturing sector experienced the first decline in indicators since the beginning of the pandemic.

What could be the reason for all of this?

Notably, the renewable energy agenda, launched in the early 2000s in conjunction with the shale production program in the United States.

Both of these were ways in which the West reduced its energy dependence on exports.

It was necessary to minimize the impact of the inevitable price spike by the time the global gas market was created.

Each acceleration of new mining projects was accompanied by an increase in prices, which provided an investment flow into more expensive production.

However, the renewable energy program structurally failed. To put it simply: the United States’ ambition fell apart, as the largest gas resources are located in Russia and Iran, and both are countries that Washington has little, if any, influence over. Qatar and Australia are not enough to turn the tide.

In this strategy of reducing energy dependence at the time of the formation of the global gas market, Europe relied on renewable energy, and the United States – on shale.

The share of renewable energy in the total energy balance of the USA does not exceed 8%, in Europe it is approximately 20%, and globally it sits around 5%, in the area of statistical mistake.

In accordance with the shares of renewable energy, we are seeing a gas price boom today. The United States, with the help of shale, forced not only OPEC and Russia, but also Europe and Japan to pay for the new market structure. It’s just like in 1973, when the spot-exchange oil market was created.

The current natural gas market is in shambles, as it suffered a terrible combination of circumstances.

Fuel reserves in Europe were reduced in the face of the very real possibility of a prolonged winter, a decrease in supplies from Russia and an increase in demand for LNG in Asia, which prevented the restoration of reserves in the summer.

This was joined by a decline in production in the North Sea, due to a maintenance that was delayed because of the pandemic.

This is all exacerbated by the hasty transition towards renewable energy sources without the necessary technology to adequately do so.

A surprising factor is also the fact that prices were also affected by a decrease in the average wind speed to the lowest since the 1960s, interruptions in the operation of nuclear power plants and a fire on an underwater power cable connecting the UK and France.

To put it in simple terms, the “Green Deal” is motivated not by a scientific or economic approach, but by populism aimed at voters: pseudo-leftists and neo-liberals.

This is in addition to the hesitancy of multi-national corporations to invest in infrastructure, fixed assets and production. It is much more preferable to fix the profit margin and distribute funds among shareholders and management.

Finally, Hurricane Ida was a sort of jump-start of the energy crisis, as it led to the shutdown of production of massive amounts of energy in the Gulf of Mexico.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Protection, as of September 12th, 48.6% of oil production and 54.4% of gas production in the Gulf of Mexico were still stopped.

Due to the hurricane, more than 40 million barrels of refined fuel were lost and slightly fewer were lost in blocked production.

Exporters were forced to redistribute trade flows around the Atlantic and America to ensure supplies.

All of these factors combined are promising a very cold winter, and a very bleak, and extremely expensive future, compared to which the 2008 financial crisis may seem like a minor inconvenience.

As a consequence, industry will suffer, but the final consumer will suffer the most.

The rise in gas and electricity prices in Europe sends a powerful signal to manufacturers to consider temporarily closing factories, and to owners of homes and offices to turn off thermostats to prevent stocks from falling to a critical minimum and depletion of fuel reserves this winter.

For manufacturers, a short-term closure has a double benefit: a reduction in electricity costs, as well as an increase in prices for their products, which helps protect profits from rising electricity and gas prices. Still, a balance needs to be found as a business cannot remain closed indefinitely.

After a sufficient number of reliable plant closures and other energy-saving measures are announced, futures prices are likely to decline, as there will not be enough buyers, regardless of the price.

The supply chain will be disrupted if factories close, and this brings along its own set of problems.

If the upcoming winter does not turn out to be mild, rising prices and physical shortages of gas, coal and electricity are unlikely to remain limited to energy markets, and this will affect the rest of the economy, as is already happening in China.

Separately, this is a wake-up call that climate change is rapidly turning into a direct factor influencing asset allocation decisions for investors. It used to be a fringe possibility, somewhere in the background.

Investors can no longer afford to ignore the disasters befalling the world, because all of these result in rising prices for natural gas and other commodities.

The centralized EU policy to achieve zero emissions by 2050, significantly aggravated and accelerated the development of the crisis. It promises to become even worse as Germany promises to close down nuclear power plants by the end of 2021. Berling stop supplying electricity to the very European networks that have taken the brunt of the crisis. The resulting gap will be felt by the whole of Europe.

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GERMANY’S POLITICAL CRISIS AND THE FUTURE OF NORD STREAM 2

South Front

April 03, 2021

Germany’s Political Crisis and the Future of Nord Stream 2

To make matters worse, at the EU summit Blinken pointed out that his threats aimed at Nord Stream 2 are a reflection of US Congress laws demanding any and all firms participating in its construction to be sanctioned, though omitting that the Executive Branch has considerable freedom of action in implementing legislation impinging on the presidential foreign policy prerogatives.

It does not appear as if Blinken’s “shock and awe” show on three continents has had the desired results. Germany’s Foreign Ministry pointedly refused to endorse Biden’s characterization of Vladimir Putin as a “killer”, in contrast to several other European countries traditionally adhering to an anti-Russia stance. Moreover, there is no evidence that German companies are about to drop their work on Nord Stream 2. Doing so would be a fatal blow to Germany’s position as the leading EU member state and would introduce a greater degree of chaos into EU power struggles. Factors putting a certain degree of steel into Germany’s spine is the apparent realization that, emboldened by the effectiveness of a mere threat of sanctions against Germany, the US State Department will grow accustomed to using that instrument on a routine basis with Germany and other members of the EU. United States’ apparent desire to denigrate Germany’s international status seems to have led to a few other snubs, such as the failure to invite it to a high-level meeting on Afghanistan that Russia, China, and even Turkey will attend.

Germany’s Green Hell

If the United States has an ace in a hole that might yet reverse the decline of its fortunes, it is the gradual ascendancy of Germany’s Green Party. German and indeed international public opinion have come a long way from the heady days of Spring 2020, when Angela Merkel was roundly hailed as the “scientist” whose combination of empirical astuteness and political savvy would bring COVID-19 to heel, in stark contrast to the ignorant fools that Boris Johnson and Donald Trump were supposed to be. Back in May or June 2020, it certainly did not appear as if anything could threaten Merkel’s political fortunes. Yet it is Merkel who is now facing calls for a Bundestag vote of confidence. The botched pandemic response, the puzzling back-and-forth of lockdowns, relaxations, then new lockdowns, and a number of corruption scandals associated with pandemic response contracts that implicated a number of CDU/CSU deputies, have undermined the public’s confidence in the ruling party and its leadership. It certainly did not help matters that the EU official most closely associated with the botched vaccine procurement at the Union level is the President of the European Commission Ursula van der Leyen who previously occupied several ministerial posts, including that of Defense, in the various Merkel governments.

It is therefore unsurprising that Germany is potentially facing a major electoral upheaval that threatens to significantly rearrange the country’s political landscape. As of March 27, 2021, a Kantar opinion poll attempting to ascertain the level of support each of Germany’s parties might enjoy during this year’s Bundestag elections showed CDU/CSU still in the lead with potentially 25% of the vote, with the Greens in close second at 23%. The other political parties posted notably weaker figures. The once-dominant SPD scored only 17%, Alternative for Germany (AfD) and FDP 10% apiece, Die Linke 9%, with 6% distributed among the remaining parties. Other German opinion polls delivered roughly similar results, varying only by a couple percentage points.

Its rise is driven by several factors, including the exhaustion with the ruling CDU/CSU coalition, the SPD suffering from the abandonment of its leftist principles in favor of Blair/Clinton-like “third way” neoliberal policies, Die Linke still lingering under a cloud of suspicion due to its German Democratic Republic ancestry, and of course the Alternative for Germany attracting unwanted attention from Germany’s own “Deep State” which, like its US and British counterparts, is playing an increasingly active role in the country’s politics.

Gruen Nach Osten

That the Greens’ coming to power is bound to result in Germany becoming more militaristic and interventionist on the world stage is also suggested by the curious case of Tareq Alaows, a Syrian man born in Damascus who came to Germany in 2015 and, only six years later, was declared a Bundestag candidate from the Green Party already as a German citizen. Given that the rest of the 1.5 million refugees who arrived in Germany at roughly the same time are still not German citizens and are likely never to become them, Alaows’ rapid elevation suggest that the Greens have friends within Germany’s “deep state”, and are interested in following US and British lead in “weaponizing” social issues such as gender rights, environmentalism, and other issues in order to justify aggression against countries deemed insufficiently dedicated to what the West claims to be “universal values”. They would not be Europe’s first “Green” party to go neo-conservative. Sweden’s Greens have likewise inducted many Islamists into their ranks in order to press for greater foreign interventionism. Moreover, since Germany’s Green Party is a relatively recent invention and is therefore not associated with Germany’s earlier military aggressions (and here one should note that even the SPD was staunchly supportive of Germany’s aggression in World War I, and likely would have been in World War II had it not been banned by the Nazis),  they are the most logical front for Germany’s neo-cons. One can readily imagine empowered Greens declaring Germany has a sacred mission to rid the world of coal, oil, and natural gas as sources of energy which naturally means a confrontation with China and Russia in order to install governments in those countries that naturally share the Greens’ priorities and incidentally also enact policies highly favorable to German business interests. While the Green Party began its existence as a radical party of the Left, by the end of the Cold War it began to reinvent itself along neo-conservative lines. Its support for NATO’s wars against Yugoslavia and other military adventures, its peculiar interest in Aleksey Navalny who is not exactly known as an environmentalist, combined with strident opposition to Nord Stream 2, collectively make it very attractive to the Bidens and Blinkens of the world interested in making Germany a US client state. What remains to be seen is whether German and US “deep states” are capable of smoothing the Greens’ path into power, and whether the German people will accept the Green regime that is being prepared for them.

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They say that great myths die hard

They say that great myths die hard …

February 28, 2021

By The Ister for the Saker Blog

They say that great myths die hard, but as it fades into obscurity will anyone really miss the Saudi state?

Because the Kingdom’s cosmopolitan elite longed to be like the West, they imported European sports cars and erected enormous skyrises using slave labor. Riyadh and Jeddah transformed into shopping centers and hubs of oligarchic largesse while the oil-rich sheiks appeased the conservative populace by sanctioning Wahhabist doctrine, public beatings and beheadings, and other backwards symbolic gestures.

Saudi Arabia is essentially based on this great contradiction: posturing itself as the hardline leader of the Islamic world while aligning with America and carrying out a foreign policy that has killed countless Muslims, a contradiction that exists because it is an artificial construct of imperialism.

In the early 1900s, British spies in the Middle East sought to partition off Ottoman claims in the Arab Peninsula with the help of Arab rebels such as Emir Faisal. These spies who included Edmund Allenby and the famous T E Lawrence led the Arab Revolt of 1916 and successfully revoked Ottoman control of the region.

A little-known fact is that Israel and Saudi Arabia share this same point of origin. In December of 1918 after the success of the Arab Revolt, Lord Walter Rothschild held a banquet for Emir Faisal culminating in the signing of the Faisal-Weizmann agreement, used to demonstrate Arab support for the Balfour Declaration: the document that laid the foundation for the state of Israel. The rebels who had been promised a unified Arab state stretching from Aden to Aleppo had been lied to however, as the leaked Sykes Picot agreement revealed a plot by imperial powers to divide and conquer the Middle East along sectarian lines.

Today the pan-Arab doctrine of the government of Bashar al-Assad is the ideological progenitor of those early rebels who fought to unite the Arab world against the wishes of imperialists. The stoking of the Syrian Civil War was just an extension of century-old divide and conquer tactics, as the West sought to enrage Sunnis against the secular Syrian Arab government for the betterment of Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, and Israel. Recall too that neo-Ottoman Turkey is aware of the imperial history and sees Syria as Ottoman territory lost to the West.

If the Syrian revolution ever had a grassroots base it was in the impoverished Sunni Idlib governorate, where Turkey and Saudi Arabia had for decades financed Salafist mosques and imams with the intention of eventually breaking this region off from Syria. Although the remaining terrorists in Idlib have yet to be defeated, Saudi Arabia’s failure to achieve full regime change in the Syrian Civil War marks its waning power: previously both Muammar Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein spoke out in favor of pan-Arabism and denounced the Saudis at the cost of their lives. Unlike the ideological and religious bonds that tie America and Israel, America’s commitment to Saudi Arabia was always strategically contingent and several developments suggest that it is declining.

America has abandoned support for the war in Yemen

The war against the Houthi movement in Yemen has been fought with a threefold strategy: sanctions to starve the Yemeni population, targeted assassinations to kill Shia imams and others tied to the Houthis, and traditional military force by Saudi conscripts. The Kingdom’s force has performed poorly and relied heavily on support from America. In one case in 2019, the Saudis were planning an attack in the disputed town of Najran in retaliation for missile strikes on Riyadh oil facilities. They were baited into a trap and over 2,500 were captured by Houthi forces. In blind retaliation, they struck a Houthi prison in Yemen and killed over 290 of their own prisoners.

It is no surprise in such conditions that morale is low among the Kingdom’s soldiers and that Iran has supported the Houthi side with weapons and intelligence.

Why has America abandoned its ally in the conflict? Simply, we don’t need Saudi oil as much anymore. Shale gas technology completely changed the nature of the global oil and gas industry and broke the Saudi monopoly. Recall my article The Empire is Losing the Energy War. Since then, more confirmation of this thesis has come around as prices have risen – beneficial to Russia, and oil experts have broadly agreed that Russia has won the most recent price war with the Saudis. America’s withdrawal in Yemen is an acknowledgement of their diminishing role and a reason which under Trump’s “Middle East Peace Plan” Saudi Arabia panickedly sought to tie its future not to oil production but to the creation of a joint security bloc against Iran.

Pipeline developments: NordStream 2 and Goreh Jask

By mid-2020, two major new pipelines are expected to be built. The first is the NordStream 2, which will cement Russia’s control of European energy markets. Washington is moving in slow motion to try and stop this pipeline but it is basically already done. Only 100 miles of pipe remain and the Biden admin’s early smackdown of the American energy industry with the Keystone XL cancellation means that there will not be enough American gas to provide an alternative to Russia. The German public retains a dislike for Russia but the industrialists have pushed ahead regardless.

NordStream 2 serves two other geopolitical purposes. First, Ukraine will be deprived of $1-2 billion of energy transit revenue, a big deal for a country with a $150 billion GDP. This also lowers NATO’s interest in Ukraine, which will suddenly have less of an ability to bottleneck Russian energy shipments to Europe. Second, the pipeline also reduces Russia’s exposure to Turkey as an energy transit and will allow Russia to be more “gloves off” in northern Syria without risking economic retaliation.

Iran’s Goreh Jask pipeline is expected to be completed by June 2021, and the development will improve the country’s energy situation by limiting its reliance on the Strait of Hormuz and opening up Southeast Asian markets to Iranian oil. In addition to promoting economic ties with the rest of Asia the move also allows Iran to potentially shut off the Strait of Hormuz in a crisis situation, a hypothetical move which never made sense in the past given that it would kill its own energy exports. Naturally, sanctions have been applied to the project but this has simply been used as an opportunity to develop domestic industrial capacity: over 95% of the parts for the Goreh Jask pipeline have been sourced domestically.

Iran is increasing its influence in Iraq and Syria

The increased Iranian influence on Iraq suggests that supporting the overthrow of Saddam Hussein may have been a miscalculation by the Western bloc. The government of Hussein was aggressive on Iran-Iraq border issues and had a large and powerful military. With Iraq’s expensive military infrastructure largely destroyed and a diminished American presence, Iran has grown its soft power both through religious and economic outreach.

In southeastern Iraq, Iran is massively expanding and developing Shia shrines at sites like Kerbala as a method of promoting its influence. Some of these developments are enormous, for example the $600 million expansion of the Imam Hussein shrine, which was mostly constructed with Iranian funds and parts. These developments also give economic opportunity to both Shia and Sunni Iraqis who are paid to work in construction and benefit from increased tourism. Conducting business in eastern Iraq also gives Iran an opportunity to transact in a region unaffected by sanctions.

Political power is another way that Iran has expanded its reach. The prime minister of Iraq is aligned with the Saudis and Americans but outnumbered in parliament by pro-Iranian MPs, and has been able to do little to diminish the Iranian presence.

As far as Syria, the Iranian angle must be considered. In July of 2015, Quds force General Qasem Soleimani visited Moscow to work out the details of the Russian intervention with Vladimir Putin. Although Moscow denies this likely to maintain good relations with Israel, Hassan Nasrallah of Hezbollah recently stated that it was Soleimani that convinced Putin to enter the conflict. What was exchanged during that conversation in July of 2015? It is impossible to know but it can be reasonably assumed based on how things unfolded that the Russian intervention was largely a cover for Iranian movement into Syria.

The majority of the leg work performed in the Syrian Civil War was done by Syrians and Iranians. While Russia provided crucial air support and logistics, the on-the-ground troop counts have remained small. What Russian intervention did however was to provide the stamp of legitimacy of a powerful, nuclear armed nation to the Syrian/Iranian side, to prevent any major invasion, and to quickly soften the tones on the Assad government. By clearing ISIS out of central Syria, Iran has now created a contiguous path through Syria and Lebanon and upheld its Syrian ally at the expense of the Saudis.

Pakistan is drifting to Iran

In recent history Pakistan has been heavily dependent on Saudi Arabia, in part due to a Sunni majority and a large amount of outstanding loans financed by the Kingdom. As Sheikh Imran Hosein put it unflatteringly, Pakistan has served as “a shoeshine boy for the Saudis.” Several wedges are growing between this strong historical relationship.

First, Pakistan is warming to its neighbor Iran and the new prime minister of Pakistan has accelerated ties with its western neighbor in many areas. One is the accelerated development of a massive Istanbul-Tehran-Islamabad railway which highlights an emerging challenge to Saudi supremacy: the nascent Turkey/Iran/Malaysia/Qatar bloc in the Muslim world could potentially expand to include Pakistan. Keeping Pakistan away from Iran has long been an intention of the Saudis, who sought to fuel tensions with their neighbor by financing anti-Shia terrorism in Pakistan in the 80s and 90s. Nevertheless, the two countries seem to be getting over it and the populations of both nations rate each other positively in opinion polling.

Another sign of nervousness in the West about Pakistan-Iranian integration is the failed attempt to stop the construction of the new Iran-Pakistan oil pipeline with threats of sanctions. This will further pull Pakistan into the Iranian orbit.

A new major straining factor on the relationship with Saudi Arabia is Riyadh’s unwillingness to defend Pakistan’s claims to the disputed Kashmir border region. Pakistan has hoped that the Kingdom would defend its claim, but Saudi Arabia has been unwilling to do so.

Finally, there is the issue of Israel. Saudi Arabia would like to recognize Israel as soon as possible but doing so would cause massive protests in Pakistan and ruin the Saudi reputation there. Therefore it is trying to pressure Pakistan to first recognize Israel, something which would be unpopular and put the Pakistani government in a precarious situation domestically.

The Saudis are losing their status as the head of the Muslim world

Consider the Iranian ambassador to Pakistan’s recent comments while promoting the D-8 organization of Islamic nations:

“Countries like Iran, Pakistan, Turkey, Russia and China have the potential to form a new alliance for better future of the region”

None of this economic integration would be occurring if not for the US sanctions policy. The impact of sanctions has been to lay the groundwork for creation of a “Zone B” which circumvents the Empire entirely. A model that replaces proxy wars, regime change, and terrorist funding with peaceful economic integration and diplomacy. If Iran had full access to international markets it would have been content to sell its exports to the highest bidder and would not be forced to expand its influence regionally as it is currently doing.

What does this emerging “Zone B” look like? Well, let’s start with the Muslim countries labeled an “Axis of Evil” by George Bush and John Bolton:

Syria, Iraq, Iran. And of course we can add in Lebanon, Yemen, and Palestine right off the bat to this anti-imperial bloc. The growing ties between Sunni Pakistan, heterogeneous Syria, and Shia Iran foreshadow a geographically contiguous model of peaceful relations between Islamic nations untainted by the Takifirism of Saudi Arabia, with Syria and Lebanon serving as a tolerant bridge between the Sunni and Shia regions of the Arab world.

This bloc could then be combined with the D-8 Muslim countries: Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan and Turkey. D-8 alone represents one billion people and over 60% of the Islamic world. Iran, as a major advocate of inter-Islamic integration through organizations such as D-8 would be the lynchpin connecting the resistance nations of the Arab world with the larger emerging Islamic economies in a new trade network to bypass sanctions. (It is worth adding that all D-8 nations other than Turkey supported Syria’s side against Saudi in the civil war, so such an alliance is not much of a stretch by any means.)

Add in China, Russia, Mongolia, Myanmar, and the ‘stans and this new Asian empire would come to span a lion’s share of the planet’s population, GDP, energy resources, and habitable surface area. Moscow and Berlin would emerge as gates between East and West while the sprawling trading network of China would provide an alternative to the overregulated and strings-attached commerce and financing available in the West. China has already replaced America as the major trading partner for most nations.

Though there are other concurrent factors at play, the state of Saudi Arabia which once served as the lynchpin for dividing the Islamic world is diminishing, as Eurasian integration progresses naturally. No color revolutions or regime change are required for this process to continue because:

Zone A’s claims to upholding human rights and other civil liberties increasingly appear like a bad joke: undermined by lockdowns, tech censorship, and politically correct speech codes

Zone B is working past historic rivalries in the pursuit of development while Zone A embraces legally enshrined racism and creates complex taxonomies of privilege to delineate tiers of citizenship

Zone B’s population is growing while Zone A’s is declining

Zone B’s share of global wealth is growing while Zone A’s is declining

Zone B has a burgeoning middle class while Zone A’s middle class is disappearing

Zone B is doing away with extreme politics while Zone A is swept by cultural revolution


The Ister is a researcher of financial markets and geopolitics. Author of The Ister: Escape America

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