ASSISTING ‘INVISIBLE HAND OF MARKET’: U.S. THREATENS GERMAN COMPANIES OVER NORD STREAM 2

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Assisting 'Invisible Hand Of Market': U.S. Threatens German Companies Over Nord Stream 2

In a last-ditch attempt to impede the Nord Stream 2, the Trump administration began to threaten German (and not only) companies who are involved in it with sanctions.

According to German media, this is a showing of a new, and incredible, “low point” in Transatlantic relations.

According to a report by German outlet Die Welt, the United States is increasing pressure on German and European companies involved in the construction of the Nord Stream 2 Baltic Sea pipeline.

In the past few days, US representatives had held video conference calls with contractors of the project to “point out the far-reaching consequences of continuing to work on the project,” the outlet reported.

The company representatives sometimes faced up to twelve representatives of the US government.

They “made it very clear in a friendly tone that they want to prevent the pipeline from being completed,” the newspaper quoted an unnamed observer of the talks:

“I think the threat is very, very serious.”

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the controversial Baltic Sea pipeline to transport gas from Russia to Germany would now fall under a law that would allow punitive measures, among other things, against companies doing business with Russia or countries like Iran and North Korea.

In response, the German Federal Government declared that it rejected extraterritorial sanctions, since these were “contrary to international law”.

The German economy condemned the threats as an “incredibly low point in transatlantic relations”.

Nord Stream 2 is said to transport gas from Russia to Germany and is particularly controversial in Eastern Europe.

The main fear is a weakening of alternative pipelines and traditional transit countries, such as Ukraine. The US government argues that Europe is becoming energy-dependent on Russia.

The United States had previously tried to impose sanctions on Nord Stream 2. Sanctions put into effect by President Donald Trump at the end of 2019 are aimed at the operators of laying ships involved in the construction. The construction of the pipeline therefore had to be interrupted.

Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed optimism that the project would be completed by early 2021, with a delay of only a few months.

On July 16th, the US updated its sanctions regime against the Nord Stream 2.

Until July 15th, the scope of US sanctions legislation excluded direct investors, enhancing Russia’s ability to build export pipelines before August 2nd 2017. That cut-off date was removed, meaning contracts signed for Nord Stream 2 and the second line of TurkStream will be included.

“The US signals that sanctions could potentially be applied retroactively, including in respect of European companies that are Gazprom’s partners in Nord Stream 2. However, it is hard to see how this could be enforceable; this would be against the law and should it happen it would certainly be contested in international courts,” according to Katja Yafimava, researcher at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies.

“The question is whether the state department has the right to independently enforce the provisions of this law. The state department is formally subordinate to the president, but no separate documents have been issued stating that the president gave the state department the right to impose sanctions from the [sanctions act] package,” according to Igor Yushkov, an expert of the National Energy Security Fund and the Financial University under the Government of the Russian Federation.

The proposed additional sanctions in the draft national defence act “are unacceptable and contrary to international law, and the EU firmly opposes them,” EU high representative for foreign affairs and security policy Josep Borrell said on June 25th.

The biggest issue is that the US is concerned that there are no buyers for its liquefied natural gas (LNG) that it wants to sell to Europe at prices, higher than those Russia offers Europe.

Sometimes, the invisible hand of the market requires a tangible attempt at a push for it to properly and “independently” settle the market on a desirable scenario.

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NATO 2020: A COALITION OF THE UNWILLING

 25.07.2020 

Written and produced by SF Team: J.Hawk, Daniel Deiss, Edwin Watsont

The problem with alliances is that they ultimately either become victims of their own success, or cannot figure out what to do with themselves once the original rationale disappears. The original Cold War-era NATO was a relatively cohesive entity led by one of the two superpowers, with most of its members being the industrialized democracies of Western Europe, with West Germany being its eastern-most European member, and alliance planning revolving around USSR. But even then there were cracks in the alliance. Italy, for example, had nearly no role to play as it did not border any Warsaw Pact country and did not practice deploying its forces to West Germany to practice its defense against the anticipated Warsaw Pact invasion. And while Greece and Turkey were ostensibly part of that alliance as well, in practice they spent more time clashing with one another than planning for joint action against USSR.

The end of the Cold War made the problem of alliance cohesion far worse, for two reasons. One, it quickly added as many members as possible thus greatly expanding its geographical extent, and two, it lost that single unifying factor in the form of USSR. Today’s NATO is a patchwork of mini-alliances revolving around the United States which is determined to replace the alliance aspect of NATO which assumes that all members have interests that are to be taken into consideration, by patron-client relationships.

Not to put too fine a point on it, the goal of the United States is global domination. This goal is shared by the entire political elite and major portions of the population, though it is nearly never discussed openly or directly. Instead, it is framed in terms of “American Leadership”, “New American Century”, and of course “American Exceptionalism” which is used to justify any policy that violates international law, treaties, or agreements. Given that every country which has not recognized “American Leadership” is described as a “regime”, there is no indication the US elite is interested in anything resembling peaceful coexistence with other sovereign states.

NATO plays a double role in achieving that goal. First, it is a military alliance that projects military power against anyone refusing to accept “American Leadership”. Military contributions by European member states are certainly important, not least by giving America the veneer of international legitimacy, but the presence of US bases on the European continent is far more so. US forces stationed in or staged out of European naval, air, and land bases are indispensable to its efforts to control the MENA region and to promote the US policy of driving a wedge between Europe on the one hand and Russia and China on the other. Secondly, a European country’s membership in NATO means a sacrifice of considerable portion of its sovereignty and independence to the United States. This is a wholly asymmetrical relationship, since US bases its forces in European countries and sells its weapons to them, not the other way around. The penetration of a European country thus achieved allows US intelligence service to develop agent networks and to employ the full range of lobbying techniques which have been particularly visible in the US efforts to press F-35 aircraft into the hands of NATO member states.

America’s self-appointed task is made not easier or harder by the fact that today’s NATO is therefore fragmented along both geographic and national power lines. The geographical divide is plainly easy to see: Norway and Denmark mainly care about the Arctic, Poland and Romania obsess about Russia, Mediterranean countries freak out about what’s happening in North Africa. The wrangling over sending more troops to Mali or to Estonia is the reflection of the differing security concerns of individual members of the far-flung pact. The power divide is less easy to see but more problematic for Washington. V_3 (A2) Of the European powers, only four—Germany, France, Italy, and Great Britain—may be considered to be powerful and independent political actors with which the US has to contend on anything like an equal basis. The first three form the core of the European Union, whereas Great Britain opted for Brexit, likely in part because of the looming big power struggle between the US and the EU that has the potential of degenerating into a destructive trade war. It is doubtful that the skirmishes over Huawei and North Stream 2 are anything but the opening salvoes in the confrontation over whether the EU will emerge as a political actor independent of the US, or be reduced to a collection of client states. Unfortunately, America’s task is made easier by the fact of the intra-European divisions mentioned above.

United States is pursuing development of several hypersonic missile systems with the aim of ultimately fielding very large numbers of them in order to be able to launch disarming first strikes against Russian and Chinese nuclear arsenals. Since the weapons themselves are relatively short-ranged (though that may change once the US allows New START to lapse), they require basing close to their intended targets. That means having to find countries willing to base them in Europe, where it is liable to provoke a  political debate of the magnitude comparable to that of the original Euromissile controversy of the 1980s. Since Germany is not interested in being reduced to the status of a US client, it has resisted the US on a variety of fronts, including the North Stream 2, the refusal to buy F-35s, and now also the lack of desire to host the new US missiles. Even the German defense spending increases are intended at least as much to counter US influence in Eastern Europe as the supposed Russian threat to NATO. The United States has responded using the usual array of tools: economic sanctions on any and all European entities participating in the project and even using the gas, apparently launching a cyber-attack that US-friendly German intelligence promptly blamed on Russia, and also threatening to move US troops out of Germany and possibly to Poland. There is even discussion and rumors that US nuclear weapons stationed in Germany might be moved to Poland.

The outcome of this so far is a power struggle between two NATO allies, US and Germany, over the political alignment of a third—Poland. While Germany has the power of EU institutions on its side and massive economic gravitational pull, US has cultivated a cadre of friends, possibly intelligence assets, as a result of post-9/11 collaboration in Afghanistan, Iraq, and in the realm of intelligence-sharing. This has produced a government more than willing to deploy US troops, missiles, and even nukes on Poland’s territory. The power of US influence is visible in Poland’s weapons procurement: Patriot, Javelin, HIMARS, F-35, and not a single comparable European system in recent years. The US weakness in this confrontation consists of the unwillingness to subsidize Poland economically which, combined with the ruling party’s fiscal irresponsibility, will make it difficult for the country to maintain its anti-German course in the longer term.

While in Eastern Europe US national security state is using Poland as a proxy against Germany, in the Mediterranean it has adopted Turkey as a proxy against France and Italy. After some hemming and hawing, the US hawks dropped the Kurds yet again, with Trump happily taking the blame, in order to piggy-back on Erdogan’s Libya ambitions to curtail French and Italian interests there. To be sure, Turkey retains far more autonomy in the relationship than Poland, which was unable or unwilling to play US and Russia and EU against one another in order to secure a measure of freedom of action. But the US Congress measures to allow the purchase of S-400 weapons from Turkey is an indicator that Turkey’s behavior is once again useful to the US. And even though Turkey was excluded from the F-35 program, its firms continue to make components for various assembly plants. The result has been a number of stand-offs between Turkish warships on one hand and French and Italian on the other off the coasts of Libya. And whereas France and Italy are backing the Marshal Haftar’s LNA, Turkey’s preferred proxy is the GNA, leading to a veritable “anti-Turkey” alliance being formed that includes Turkey’s old time NATO adversary Greece. While the US is officially aloof of the entire situation, in practice controlling Libya’s oil is part of the Washington strategy of “energy dominance” every bit as the North Stream 2 sanctions are.

The remarkable part of these two sets of conflicts among NATO powers is that in both cases Russia has sided with Germany and France against the US in both cases. It is Russia’s policies that are more beneficial to French and German interests than America’s, since Russia is not actually seeking to monopolize energy supplies to Europe in the way that the US clearly and openly is.

So far the US strategy consisted of steadily ratcheting up pressure through sanctions and proxies and occasional intelligence-generated anti-Russia provocations (sometimes helpfully delivered by British agencies), trying to find that happy middle of policies that actually force Germany, France, and Italy to change their policies and which do not force a permanent breach in the trans-Atlantic relationship. But the cracks in the relationship are clearly visible and they are not attributable to Trump’s erratic and brusque manner. It is the US Congress which passed the successive rounds of anti-North Stream 2 sanctions, with strong partisan majorities. It means the assertion of US control over European major powers is part of the US agenda. Since that agenda is motivated by a US political and economic crisis of a magnitude not seen since the 1930s, there is little likelihood Biden’s presidency would represent a radical departure from the current trend.

Of course, for Germany, France, and Italy to successfully resist US encroachment they would first need to transform the EU into something closer than a federation. The COVID-19 pandemic and the associated economic crisis already providing considerable impetus for such a transformation, America’s insatiable appetites might provide the rest.

Is Trump Using Nordstream 2 to Exit NATO?

By Tom Luongo
Source: Gold Goats n Guns

July 21, 2020

The one thing I never thought I’d say is that Donald Trump is consistent, and yet on the subject of the Nordstream 2 pipeline he has been.

No single project has caused more wailing and gnashing of teeth than Nordstream 2. And since Nordstream 2 is simply the substitute for South Stream, which was supposed to come across the Black Sea into Bulgaria and then feed eastern Europe, this U.S. opposition to another Russian pipeline spans multiple administrations.

So, this is policy that goes far beyond simple 2020 electoral politics, Trump trying to look tough on the Russians, or his misguided Energy Dominance policy.

With Trump rescinding the sanctions exemption for Nordstream 2 he now has declared open war against Europe, specifically Germany over this project.

But here’s the thing, I think Trump is doing this for updated reasons that fit a different agenda than why the U.S. opposed Nordstream 2 previously, because he knows he can’t stop the pipeline now. All he can do is further alienate Germany, who he has targeted as the main problem in Europe.

Before I go any further, though, I think a little history lesson is in order.

U.S. opposition to Nordstream 2 is deeply ingrained on all sides of the political aisle in D.C. From Republicans still fighting the cold war to Democrats having deep ties to Ukrainian gas transit there are a multitude of reasons why Nordstream 2 is verboten in D.C.

On the other hand, Europe’s relationship with Nordstream 2 is, in a word, complicated.

Russian President Vladimir Putin scuttled South Stream back in late 2014 because the EU changed its pipeline rules during its development after the contracts were in place.

Most of that was U.S. pressure, but some of that was Germany’s Angela Merkel working with then-President Barack Obama to create the worst possible scenario for Gazprom – a pipeline that wasn’t profitable.

Merkel backed Obama’s play in Ukraine in 2014 as a power move to control prices for Russian gas into Europe, putting Soviet-era pipelines under EU gas directive jurisdiction.

The EU was always going to use Ukrainian gas transit as leverage over Putin to drive gas prices below Gazprom’s cost thinking they had no other options.

Putin famously pivoted to China, singing the mega-deal for Power of Siberia in retaliation to that. Since Putin had already brought Crimea in from the cold war and tacitly backed the breakaway of the Donbass Merkel was now the one on her back foot.

At the same time, to salvage the work done on South Stream to that point, Putin cut a deal with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to replace South Stream’s volumes to eastern Europe with Turkstream’s to Turkey.

The plans for Turkstream include multiple trains into eastern Europe with countries like Serbia, Hungary and the Czech Republic itching for that gas.

Russia’s options were manifest and Putin deftly outmaneuvered Merkel and Obama. These events forced Merkel’s hand after she stupidly caved to the Greens over ending Germany’s use of nuclear power and now she needed Nordstream 2.

And so Nordstream 2 became a big geopolitical football because Merkel saw, as well, the opportunity to bring the recalcitrant Poles and Baltics under her control as well, solidifying long-term EU plans to engulf all of Euope to Russia’s borders.

Nordstream 2 would nominally replace Ukrainian gas supplies and she could set Germany up to be the gas transit hub, supporting political power emanating from Brussels.

This would give her leverage over Poland, who are trapped between their hatred of the Russians and their unwillingness, rightfully, to submit to Germany.

But Merkel, ever the deft three-faced keeper of the status quo, worked with Putin to secure gas flows through Ukraine for another five years, allaying the worst of Poland’s fears while they have courted Trump to bring in over-priced U.S. LNG.

But from the beginning, Nordstream 2 becomes a different animal geopolitically the moment Trump comes to power. Because Trump is opposed to the EU’s consolidating power over Europe while also sucking the U.S. dry on trade and defense.

He’s made this abundantly clear.

Since the beginning of the year Trump has ratcheted up the pressure on both China and the EU. And the only way that makes any sense is if you are willing to see them as allies in undermining the U.S.’s global position.

This isn’t to say that the U.S.’s global position should remain as it is. Far be it for me, of all people, to argue that. But with the insanity of the COVID-19 fake pandemic, the World Economic Forum’s plans for The Great Reset, and the fomenting a cultural revolution in the U.S. the stakes are now as high as they’ve ever been.

The Davos Crowd is making their big move to consolidate power in Europe. Trump is working with Boris Johnson in the U.K. to oppose that. That’s the simplified version of the chess board.

And this is why I think Trump refuses to give up on stopping Nordstream 2. He’s seen the depths to which The Davos Crowd will go to implement this radical change and he’s forcing the moment to its crisis, as T.S. Eliot put it.

He’s making the choice very clear for Merkel and company. If you want Nordstream 2, suffer the consequences of having to do business without the U.S.

This isn’t about Russia anymore, at all. It’s about Germany and the future of the U.S. If Trump loses in November all of the work done to slow down this push for transnational technocratic oligarchy will end.

If he wins then the current policy sticks, the EU is forced to deal with the U.S. retrenching completely, pulling back on commitments to Europe while divorcing U.S. trade from China.

He may actually be courting lower U.S. dollar flow the world over and forcing Europe into real economic crisis by early next year.

This sanctions policy against Nordstream 2 is consistent with his ‘snap’ decision to pull troops out of Germany, his unilateral abrogation of both the INF treaty and the JCPOA while pressuring NATO to do more.

Merkel, meanwhile, is trying to run out the clock on both Trump and Brexit, as I talked about in my podcast from last week. She’s hoping that Trump will be defeated which will set things back to the way they were before him, force U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson to knuckle under in trade deal talks and establish the primacy of the EU as the center of Western power.

Putin, for his part, doesn’t care who he deals with in the long run. He can’t afford to. He has to play the cards on the table in front of him with the people in power, since Russia is still a minor player but with big potential.

For Trump, I believe he sees Nordstream 2 as the perfect wedge issue to break open the stalemate over NATO and cut Germany loose or bring Merkel to heel.

This next round of sanctions will target the companies involved directly in the pipeline. Germany can’t afford not to finish Nordstream 2. So, we are headed for an epic clash here.

Trump and Merkel hate each other, with good reason. And while I have mixed feelings about the way Trump does business, I know Angela Merkel is the key to the EU’s future.

I mentioned in a recent article that I feel Trump is a guy with almost nothing left to lose. If he’s going out he’s going out with a bang. Arrest Ghislaine Maxwell, sanction China and threaten war over Hong Kong, ramp up dollar diplomacy on Europe.

He knows that hybrid war is the only war the U.S. can ‘win’ decisively given the relative dominance of the U.S. dollar today.

While the end of dollar hegemony is in sight, do not underestimate how much damage can be done to the status quo while Trump is in power. That status quo isn’t good for anyone except those who currently want that power back.


US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION AND PROSPECTS OF KIEV ADVANCE IN EASTERN UKRAINE

South Front

Written and produced by SF Team: J.Hawk, Daniel Deiss, Edwin Watson

For the past several years, the war between Ukraine and the breakaway and still-unrecognized Donetsk People’s Republic and Lugansk People’s Republic has settled into a tense routine of attritional trench warfare, punctuated by sniping, clashes between patrols, small-scale raids, offensive minelaying, and ambushes using anti-tank guided missiles. There have been few operations by units larger than company. The front line has remained almost entirely unchanged. At the same time, both sides have been preparing for the possible next round of high-intensity warfare. What would happen if the fighting were to break out again?

That particular prediction is made more difficult by the very fact of the long lull in high-intensity fighting during which both sides have undergone a certain degree of transformation which remains relatively unknown to the other party. Both sides have seen certain material improvements, though apparently nothing dramatic. Ukraine’s armored vehicle fleet still relies on the same, but now even more worn out vehicles it went to war with in 2014. The planned re-equipment with the Oplot MBT never took place, and even the upgraded T-64BU Bulat was found to be flawed. Therefore the elderly T-64BV remains the main tank of Ukraine’s forces. Light armored vehicle fleet has seen some improvement thanks to domestic production and deliveries from former Warsaw Pact member states. If there is one area where Ukraine’s military may have made a major step forward, it is the artillery, using the large store of inactive weapons for Soviet-era reserve forces. However, artillery munition production continues to be a problem. While the number of Ukraine’s brigades has grown, the military experiences major problems with recruitment and retention, meaning that many of these brigades have the strength of a reinforced combined arms battalion.

On Novorossia’s side the situation is hardly different. DPR and LPR units continue to use the same types of equipment they used during the campaigns of five years ago. The numeric strength does not appear to have changed much, either, and here too recruitment and retention remains a problem.

The other factor making predictions difficult is the level of morale of these two forces that have been bogged down in an apparently endless war that is beyond their power to finish. The combination of trench warfare boredom and terror means it is debilitating to the units’ morale and proficiency if they are forced to remain in the trenches for too long. While the most offensive-capable forces are kept out of the trenches as mobile reserves, they too can only maintain their state of alert for so long before losing their edge.

Paradoxically, this state of affairs give an advantage to the side that intends to go on the offensive, because the preparations for the attack and associated training would imbue the troops with the hope that, after the next big push, the war will finally be over. At the same time, both sides know such an offensive would be an exceedingly risky proposition, because if it fails, it will grind down the attacking side’s most effective units and render the army vulnerable to a counteroffensive to which it would not be able to respond.

Therefore the likelihood of renewed fighting also heavily depends on who actually makes the decision. While local leaders may be cautious enough, foreign ones in distant capitals may have different considerations in mind.

A big unknown hanging over the future of the Donbass is the position of Joe Biden, the Democratic Party nominee and the potential winner of the November elections. Biden has already played a highly destructive role in the politics of Ukraine and the US-Russia relations. It is Biden that blackmailed Poroshenko into firing the Chief Prosecutor Shokin due to his interest in the corrupt dealings of the Burisma energy company which infamously had Joe’s son Hunter on its board of directors. It is also Biden who held a lengthy, 30-45 minute telephone conversation with Poroshenko on the day MH17 was shot down and promptly came out blaming Russia for it, even as the wreckage was still smoking where it fell. Biden identified himself as a Russia foe much earlier, during the 2012 vice-presidential debates where he positioned himself as being “hard on Putin”, which in retrospect proved to be an early indicator of where the second-term Obama administration foreign policy would go. It also goes without saying Biden is an ardent promoter of the “RussiaGate” effort to paint Donald Trump as a Russian agent/stooge/fellow traveler/useful idiot.

At the same time, Biden’s line against China has hardened as well, which may have implications for US-Russia relations during the probable Biden presidency. As late as May 2019, Biden would describe People’s Republic of China as “they are not bad folks”, adding that “they are not competition to us”, comments that may yet come to haunt him on the campaign trail. However, once the COVID-19 broke out of control in the United States, Biden sought to out-do Trump in his accusations the high US death toll was due to China misleading the United States on the nature of the virus and not allowing US public health officials access to Wuhan and China’s epidemiology labs. Even before that, Hunter Biden resigned from boards of directors of China-based firms. While that might have been motivated by his, and his dad’s, desire to keep a low profile due to the scrutiny Hunter’s business dealings have attracted during Donald Trump’s impeachment proceedings, it may also have been preparation for Joe Biden’s anti-China pivot.

The emergence of PRC as Biden’s perceived number one international adversary may mean a desire to improve relations with Russia in the way that Trump, compromised from the start by RussiaGate and without a history of own anti-Russia rhetoric to fall back on, could never deliver. Biden, however, is in the same position as Nixon was in the late 1960s. His earlier anti-Russian rhetoric and actions now make him nearly immune from the same sort of accusations which, even though false, nevertheless effectively stuck to Trump. Nixon’s own enthusiastic participation in McCarthyite witch hunts made it possible for him to do what his Democratic Party predecessor Lyndon Johnson could not: end Vietnam War, engage in arms control treaties with USSR and “go to China” in order to exploit the growing divide between the two main Communist powers. Biden has the political capital necessary to repeat the process: end the war in Afghanistan (something he had proposed already as vice president), enter into arms control treaties with China and…go to Moscow, which is currently seen in Washington in the same way that Beijing was in the 1970s, namely the secondary challenger which needs to be peeled away from the primary one. Moreover, just as in the early 1970s, United States of the 2020s is wracked by a massive internal crisis requiring international retrenchment in order to focus on internal reforms.

But that optimistic scenario remains less likely than the prospect of renewed escalation. Nixon-era United States was not suffering from the hubris of American Exceptionalism. On the contrary, it was a country full of self-doubt and under no illusion concerning the limits of its power. It entered into arms control treaties because it did not feel it could win them. Disasters abroad and at home notwithstanding, the US elite still has not been shaken out of its complacency, and it does appear to sincerely believe it can win a strategic and conventional arms race against both China and Russia. We have not seen any indications so far that Biden intends any moderation in the area of foreign policy or returning to a policy of cooperation with Russia. One should expect that, in the event of Biden victory, Ukraine will launch an offensive against the Donbass shortly after the inauguration, in other words, in February or March of 2020. This offensive would accomplish two objectives for Biden. One, it would establish his hawkish, “patriotic” bona fides, make him look “presidential” in the eyes of the mainstream media and the national security establishment. Secondly, it would allow the US to exert even more pressure on Germany and other EU member states concerning North Stream and other areas of cooperation with Russia.

In order to achieve these goals, particularly the second one, the offensive would not need to overrun the Donbass, in fact, that would not be the aim at all. Rather, the goal would be to force Russian forces to intervene directly in support of the Lugansk and Donetsk republics to justify depicting Russia as the aggressor in the matter. And even if the republics’ militaries can cope with the UAF assault on their own, the sheer level of violence will still make enough headlines to satisfy Biden’s requirements. Whether Zelensky wants that kind of escalation for his country is almost irrelevant. Both he and Biden know very well what the balance of power in that relationship is. Ukraine is a failing state seriously dependent on foreign financial assistance in the form of continual IMF loans, debt rescheduling, favorable trade deals, etc. Biden knew how to use these levers to achieve an important change in Ukraine’s politics that benefited him personally, he will not hesitate to use them again.

Moreover, even if Biden were driven by the Nixonian motives described above, it’s doubtful the foreign policy Deep State would allow him to do that. Biden’s own conversations with Poroshenko no doubt contain great many embarrassing moments whose release would instantly embroil him in a massive scandal. The fact that Donald Trump was impeached solely due to the desire of national security apparatchiks to continue their pet war in Ukraine is indicative of their power to make foreign policy quite independently of their supposed civilian bosses.

The situation is further complicated by the widening rift between the Western neo-liberal world and conservative societies of eastern European countries. This includes a large part of the Ukrainian population which is committed to traditional values. The rapidly deteriorating social and economic situation in Ukraine contributes to a further antagonism of this part of the society towards the forcefully imposed Western ideology and its local agents. Another point of tensions is the existing contradictions between the Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchy) and the artificially assembled pseudo-church organizations in Ukraine. The Moscow Patriarchy is returning to its former position among the Ukrainian faithful. In the event of a further dissatisfaction of the society by the declared pseudo-Western way of development, positions of Russia and the Moscow Patriarchy will strengthen even more.

While a Ukrainian offensive is relatively unlikely in 2020, its probability increases considerably in 2021, particularly in the event of a Biden victory. The conflict in Ukraine has lasted this long mainly because Ukraine’s current sponsors in the West are not interested in ending it, irrespective of what the will of the Ukrainian people might be. The situation will get even worse should the US presidency be taken over by someone with a well-established hostility toward Russia who believes his aims would be better served by another bloody campaign on the Donbass.

The next US administration will employ every option that it has in order to prevent the return of Russian influence in the country. Besides furthering the conflict in eastern Ukraine, it will expand efforts against it in the ideological sphere as well, likely including direct provocations.

America’s Sicilian Expedition

Source

July 10, 2020

America’s Sicilian Expedition

by Francis Lee for the Saker Blog

Of all the enemies to public liberty, war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; and from these proceed debt and taxes; and armies, and debts, are taxes of the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few … no nation could reserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.’’ (My emphasis – FL) (1)

Thus was the initial warning by James Madison to the possible development (and dangers) which lie ahead of the great social and political experiment in what was to become the American Republic. In fact these militaristic/ imperial proclivities were also noted by the more astute members and chroniclers of American history and repeated by Alexis De Tocqueville in 1835. He wrote that:

Among democratic nations the wealthiest, best educated, and ablest men seldom adopt a military profession, the army taken collectively, eventually forms a new nation by itself where the mind is less enlarged, and habits are made rude than in the nation at large. Now this small and uncivilized nation has arms in its possession and also knows how to use them; (My emphasis – FL) for indeed the pacific temper of the community increases the danger to which a democratic people is exposed from the military and the turbulent spirit of the Army. Nothing is so dangerous as an army in the midst of an unwarlike nation; the excessive love of the whole community for quiet puts the Constitution at the mercy of the soldiery. (2)

‘Unwarlike’? Well the Republic was to become very warlike for most of its history. Things got started in earnest in 1846-48 with the US/Mexican conflict. This marked the first U.S. armed conflict chiefly fought on foreign soil. It pitted a politically divided and militarily unprepared Mexico against the expansionist-minded administration of U.S. President James K. Polk, who believed the United States had a “manifest destiny” to spread across the continent to the Pacific Ocean. A border skirmish along the Rio Grande started off the fighting and was followed by a series of U.S. victories. When the dust cleared, Mexico had lost about one-third of its territory, including nearly all of present-day California, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico. So the US got the taste of imperial hubris and easy victories early on. This was the beginning of a will to global expansion which has seen the US develop a penchant for global hegemony.

What could be more apposite and sombre of these measured warnings to the present time and the leadership thereof. The United States has transmuted from being an experimental national democracy into a rampaging imperial juggernaut with all the attendant features of empire. In general and in more recent times these imperial conflicts have been wars of choice. No-body had attacked the US since the half-hearted British attempt in 1812 and the Japanese in 1941. The only war of any significance since independence was the internal conflict between the industrial north and the agrarian south.

The Rise of Empire

This awakening of US imperialism was later extended to the Spanish/American war of the late 19th century. New territories in Latin America and East Asia were added through their annexation. The US had thus become the latest newcomer to the imperialist club although it always insisted (rather unconvincingly) that it was different to the more established British, French, Spanish and Portuguese exploitative models. There was a belief, presumably mandated by the deity, in America’s manifest destiny to rule the world. This is the same patter, which is now trotted out by the neo-cons, the Deep State, NSA, MIC, MSM, and political parties. Whether they actually believe in this is something of a moot point.

Yet now the United States finds itself everywhere in a situation of endless simultaneous wars, occupations, blockades (whoops, I mean sanctions), economic warfare, surveillance warfare and one-sided alliances whereby its ‘allies’ are in many ways worse treated than its chosen enemies and are becoming increasingly disenchanted with their subaltern role. This is particularly instanced in the American German falling out over the question of Russian Gas and Nordstream2. Germany has its own national interests which conflict with those of the US. How exactly is this going to play out? It should be understood in this respect that the US does not have ‘allies’ in the generally accepted understanding of the term, but subaltern hierarchies of the ‘Me Tarzan – You Jane’ variety. The ‘Jane’ in the situation are the assembled and invertebrate species of EU vassal regimes who up to this point in their history have always been willing to prostrate themselves at the command of their transatlantic masters.

One of the stranger anomalies of this US global military-economic posture is the influence of Israel – Israel this tiny country, with its tiny population, in the middle east must be obeyed at all costs. And making sure that it is obeyed are the various interest groups in the US which inter alia includes the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) the Anti-Deformation League (ADL) the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA). Most, if not all, of the senior members of these organizations are Jewish, Zionists and/or neo-conservatives. To give an example of their influence and reach take the case of uber-hawk and Zionist lackey Lindsey Graham of South Carolina

Amidst the general routine and prevalent corruption in American political and corporate life the Las Vegas gambling magnate Sheldon Adelson – staunch supporter of his particular interests and the Israeli cause – began throwing around tens of millions of dollars to push legislation to ban internet gambling in order to protect his billion dollar oligopoly casino interests against competition. It wasn’t long before Graham introduced a bill to ban internet gambling. When asked about the curious coincidence of timing Graham said that his Southern Baptist constituents in South Carolina (SC) shared Adelson’s aversion to internet gambling so there was no quid pro quo involved.

It should be borne in mind, however, that Graham had held Federal Office in SC since 1995, and yet he had felt no driving urge to introduce such legislation until 2014. This took place when Graham had apparently undergone a Damascene Conversion precisely at the time that Mr Adelson began to shower him with monies. Graham’s transaction with his benefactor apparently did not meet the Supreme Court’s chief Justice, John Roberts’s, narrow definition of an illegal quid pro quo as expressed in the Court’s 2010 Citizens United Decision.

In another unrelated instance involving Graham, which might be considered as being questionable, there were his political liaisons with a foreign state and its leader – Benjamin Netanyahu – whose policies Graham would be disposed to imbibe and support whatever the policies the Israeli Prime Minster might propose, an arresting statement in light of the Senator’s oath to the American Constitution and the voters he represents. (3)

Yet another instance of a corrupt American official in the pocket of Israeli interests. Moreover, it is not merely lower rank officials who willingly take the knee to Israel, the process reaches up to the highest levels of the US political establishment; so much so that It seems difficult to exactly work out who is whose client state in the US/Israel relationship.

Various right-wing think-tanks (see above) most importantly the American Enterprise Institution, or to give it its full name, The American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research is a Washington, D.C. based think-tank which researches government, politics, economics, and social welfare. AEI is an independent non-profit organization supported primarily by grants and contributions from foundationscorporations, and individuals. This of course is a rather misleading description of what it actually does, and what its alleged goals are, in what is a vehemently pro-Zionist neo-con outfit. Leading figures include Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, Mr and Mrs Wurmser as well as the rest of the Zionist neo-con gang whose entire raison d’etre seems to be unconditional support for Israel. This was instanced in the policy statement, A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm (commonly known as the “Clean Break” report) was a policy document that was prepared in 1996 by a study group led by Richard Perle and Douglas Feith  for Benjamin Netanyahu, the then Prime Minister of Israel. The report explained a new approach to solving Israel‘s security problems in the Middle East with an emphasis on “Western values” (i.e., naked imperialism). It has widely been criticized for advocating an aggressive new policy including the removal and murder of Saddam Hussein in Iraq and the ongoing war and annexation of parts of Syria by engaging in proxy and actual warfare and highlighting Iraq’s alleged possession of mythical “weapons of mass destruction”.

It would not be an exaggeration to surmise that US foreign policy is now, and has been for some time, subsumed under Israel’s strategic interests and policies in the middle-east. Exactly what the United States gets out of this relationship is not clear other than the mollycoddling and financing of the Zionist apartheid state for no apparent returns.

The US foreign policy enigma:

I think it was Winston Churchill who once described the foreign policy of the Soviet Union as being ‘’ … a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest.’’ It seems that much the same is true of the United States and its foreign policy. The cornerstone of the policy was put in place in the 1990s with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the dismemberment of Yugoslavia and the expansion of NATO up to Russia’s western frontier and the first and second Iraq wars, as well as the destruction of Libya, ably assisted by the British and French. This period of triumphalism for the Anglo-Zionist empire is ending with the imperial overstretch eventuating from 9/11. This episode has been subject to a myriad of various theories and has never been definitively demonstrated as to who were the brains behind this event. That being said the consequences of the event had deep-going ramifications. As one commentator has noted.

‘’The September 11, 2001, terrorist attack and the botched response to it delivered a twofold lesson: first, perpetual intervention in conflicts abroad is likely to spawn what the CIA calls ’’blowback’’ an unintended negative consequences of an intervention suffered by the party that intervenes. It is irrefutable that America’s funding and arming of religious based (i.e., Jihadis- FL) resistance to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan created a Frankenstein’s monster that little more than a decade later brought the war back to the United States. But we have been largely unwilling to join the dots beyond that. Invading Iraq in 2003 spawned further instability in the middle-east and the emergence of more terrorist groups. Why is it that so few of our pundits have noticed the obvious fact that the civil war in Syria and the rise of ISIS are the direct results of our actions in Iraq? Beyond that the United State’s government’s ham-fisted meddling in internal Ukrainian politics helped to set in motion a predictable chain of events that has sparked a new cold war. Actions such as this have drained our Treasury and destabilized large areas of the World. (4)

It also seems pertinent to enquire as to what extent is the United States carrying out policies which could be defined as being the pursuit of its national interests; this as opposed to the interests of internal and itinerant cosmopolitan groups in the US whose sympathies and interests lie elsewhere in overseas climes and not in the US heartlands. But this should be expected from the aims and objectives of these footloose globalist oligarchies in the key positions at the apex of American institutions and exerting what amounts to a stranglehold on policy-making.

Overstretch, Hubris and Messianism

Generally speaking all empires have recognisable contours of development, maturity, and decline; and there is no reason to suppose that America and its empire will be an exception to this general rule. For all that the American ruling class has taken it upon itself to deny these fundamental conditions and processes of empire. A case study was the fate of the British Empire. At the end of WW2 Britain could no longer bear the costs of holding down 25% of the worlds surface. Moreover the populations of empire – particularly in India – did not wish to be held down. Post 1945 the jig was up: the UK was effectively bankrupt, and the US took full advantage of this.

‘’The US concept of multilateralism was expressed in the Lend-Lease programme in its dealings with the UK. The British loan of 1946 and the Bretton Woods Agreements called for the dollar to supplant sterling as the world’s reserve currency. In effect the Sterling Area was to be absorbed into what would be the dollar area which would be extended throughout the world. Britain was to remain in a weakened position in which it found itself at the end of the war … with barely any free monetary reserves and dependent on dollar borrowings to meet its current obligations. The United States would gain access to Britain’s pre-war markets in Latin America, Africa, the middle-east and the far east … the Anglo-American Loan Agreement spelt the end of Britain as a Great Power.’’ (5)

This is the way empires die, new empires arise, decline, and they in their turn also die, and this process admits of no exceptions.

The Big Push

From a geopolitical viewpoint the most important developments in recent years have been the relative decline of America in economic, political, and cultural terms, the rise of China, and the recovery of Russia from the disastrous years of the Yeltsin ascendancy. That being said it should be acknowledged that America is the most powerful global economic and military alliance – but there has been the undermining of this pre-eminence which is symptomatic of its present state. I remember the scene in the film Apocalypse Now with Martin Sheen playing Captain Willard who sums up his (and America’s) dilemma: ‘’Every minute I stay in this room, I get weaker, and every minute Charlie squats in the bush, he gets stronger.’’ That pretty much sums up the situation facing America then and now. As for the $ dominance well that worked provided advantage was not taken of its privileged position, but of course, human nature being what it is, advantage was taken. Moreover, the reserve status of the dollar isn’t, as many suppose, a one-way gravy train. Given that the dollar is the world’s global currency demand will fluctuate. Increased demand will push up the value of the greenback meaning that goods and services exported to the US will become cheaper. However a strong dollar will push up the costs of America’s export producers and lead to a hollowing out of US industry. Hence the Rust Belt. The absurdity of having a domestic currency serve as the global reserve currency means that the US monetary authorities need to engineer a situation whereby an equilibrium match of dollar inflows to dollar outflows is attained. A difficult if not impossible trick to perform. Please see the Triffin Paradox.

This is a situation which the US cannot endure. It must act now to reverse its own decline and prevent the rise of other great powers. The ‘Big Push’ mentality whereby the final victorious outcome against an entrenched enemy became a feature of military ‘thinking’ (sic) during WW1. The British and French offensives on the western front, the battles of the Somme 1916, Ypres III 1917 (Wipers 3 as the British soldiers’ called it) and the Nivelle offensives 1917, did not succeed in bringing about a victory over embedded German opposition and cost hundreds of thousands of casualties for a few blood-soaked hundred meters of gain. The situation was reversed in 1918 when the Germans went on the offensive, but the result was a successful counter-offensive by the British, French, and newly arrived American divisions and finally the Armistice of 1918.

Be that as it may this ‘Big Push’ mentality has seemingly insinuated itself into current US’s strategic thinking. This in spite of the fact that the rather inconsistent results of such past policies does not offer a particularly feasible option – but they may just do it anyway. Who knows?

Thumbing through the history books is always a good guide to how the decision makers behave at the inflexion points of history.

The Sicilian Expedition

In the History of the Peloponnesian War the Greek Historian, Thucydides, gives an account of the key moment in the ongoing wars between Sparta and Athens. This was the invasion of Sicily by Athens or more commonly known as the Sicilian Expedition. The view of Pericles in 430 BC was the status quo option: neither expand the Athenian empire nor diminish it. No withdrawal from Afghanistan.

… do not imagine that what we are fighting for is simply the question of freedom or slavery; there is also involved the loss of empire and dangers arising from the hatred we have incurred in the administration of it. Nor is it any longer possible to give up this empire – though there maybe some people in a mood of panic and in the spirit of political apathy actually think that this would be a fine and noble thing to do. Your empire is now like a tyranny; it may have been wrong to take it; it is certainly dangerous to let it go. (6)

Sound familiar? After the acquisition of empire, the costs of this enterprise start to roll in; the process then begins to move and then stagnate under the weight of its own slowing momentum and popular resistance. But like today’s neo-cons the Athenian war party nonetheless prevailed: the empire must at all costs be preserved. In terms of a modern cost-benefit analysis this would in purely rational business terms conclude that the maintenance of empire was not sustainable; it was a loss-making operation.

Sceptics about the wisdom of the Sicilian adventure including Nicias warned about the irrational exuberance of the war party as follows:

It is true that this assembly was called to deal with the preparations to be made for sailing to Sicily. Yet I still think that this is a question that requires further thought … is it really a good thing to send the ships at all? I think that we ought not to give just hasty consideration to so important a matter which does not concern us … I shall therefore confine myself to showing you that this is the wrong time for such adventures and that the objects of your ambitions are not to be gained easily. What I say is this: In going to Sicily you are leaving many enemies behind you, and you apparently want to make new ones there and have them also on your hands. It is with real alarm that I see this young man’s party (i.e., the war party FL) sitting at his (Alcibiades) side in this assembly all called in to support him and I and my side call for the support of the older men among you. If any one of you sits next to one of his supporters do not allow yourself to be browbeaten or frightened of being called a coward if you do not vote for war. (7)

But such reasoned arguments did not move the war party who gave Nicias’ arguments noticeably short shrift. The war party was on heat and there was no stopping the momentum of war pumped up by an adrenalin of mass psychosis. But this was not the end of the matter.

The war 415-413 BC itself turned out to be an absolute disaster for Athens. After achieving early successes the Athenians were checked by the arrival Spartan general, Gylippus, who galvanized the local inhabitants into action. From that point forward, however, as the Athenians ceded the initiative to their newly energized opponents, the tide of the conflict shifted. A massive reinforcing armada from Athens briefly gave the Athenians the upper hand once more, but a disastrous failed assault on a strategic high point and several crippling naval defeats damaged the Athenian soldiers’ ability to continue fighting and also their morale. The Athenians attempted a last-ditch evacuation from Syracuse. The evacuation failed, and nearly the entire expedition were captured or were destroyed in Sicily. Athens never really recovered after this strategic rout.

The whole sorry episode seems remarkably familiar: deadly examples of overestimating your own strength and underestimating the strength of the opposition. This policy (or lack of) has turned out to be a leitmotif in the US wars of choice against small but determined adversaries. The results of deploying the same playbook operationalised by the same incorrigible Neanderthals in the deep state with the same utterly predictable results. This present ongoing American attempt to construct a world empire through political, economic, and military means seems to be gearing up and preparing to launch its own Sicilian Expedition and this process has already been started. A classic example of imperial overreach. Nevertheless, the policy must go on; and it must be soon or never. One is reminded of Einstein’s famous dictum applicable to the PTB who are in charge of US policy. (8) But do the Americans really believe that they can carry this off? Are they actually crazy? Or is the whole thing nothing more than a brilliant bluff. Time will tell.

NOTES

(1) James Madison – ‘Political Observations’ – 1795. Letters and Writings of James Madison – 1865 – Volume IV

(2) Alexis de Tocqueville – Democracy in America – Volume 2 – pp.282/283

(3) ‘Senator Lindsey Graham – Meeting in Israel with PM Netanyahu – Fox News – 27 December 2014.

(4) Mike Lofgren – The Deep State – p.43

(5) Michael Hudson – Super Imperialism – pp.268/269

(6)Thucydides – History of the Peloponnesian War – The Policy of Pericles – Book 2 – 63

(7) Thucydides – Ibid – Launching of the Sicilian Expedition Book 6 – 8, 9, 10

(8)  “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.”

روسيا بين القيصريّة والسوفياتيّة على متن قطار الشرق الأوسط!‏

 د. وفيق إبراهيم

الاقتراع الروسي لصالح التعديلات الدستورية الأخيرة في دولتهم تختزن إصراراً شعبياً كبيراً على عودة بلادهم إلى التعددية القطبية!

هذا هو المضمون الفعلي لتأييدها من 78% من المواطنين الروس مقابل اعتراض 21% على تعديلات دستورية تُحدث تطويراً في القيم والمؤسسات، وشارك فيها 65% من مجمل شعوب روسيا، هذا رقم كبير في عالم الديمقراطيات الغربية لا تجب مقارنته أبداً بالاستفتاءات العربية التي تعطي رئيس البلاد 99% فقط! وتصل المخابرات ليلها بالنهار بحثاً عن 0.1% تغيّب عن الانتخابات شديدة الشكلية.أما السؤال القابل للمعالجة، فيتعلق بكيفية الربط بين هذه التعديلات ومكانة روسيا العالمية، علماً أنها لا تتطرق إلى هذا الأمر بشكل علني.أولاً تجب الإشارة إلى أن هذه التعديلات لها جانب كبير يتعلق بتعميم القيم الوطنية والولاء للمؤسسات وحقوق المواطن وأدواره في الدفاع عن بلاده سياسياً واجتماعياً واقتصادياً وصولاً إلى الدفاع الوطني.لكن جانبها «الكوني» يرتدي لبوس تعديلات دستورية تسمح للرئيس الروسي البقاء في ولايتين رئاسيتين متتاليتين ابتداء من تاريخ إقرار هذه التعديلات.وهذا يؤدي إلى «تصفير» العداد الرئاسي السابق وإعادة فتحه بموجب هذه التعديلات الجديدة على ولايتين رئاسيتين مدتهما اثنتي عشرة سنة.

وبما أن ولاية الرئيس الروسي الحالي فلاديمير بوتين تنتهي في 2024 أي بعد عشرين سنة من تنقله بين مجلس رئاسة الوزراء في بلاده، ورئاسة الجمهورية، فيكون بوتين مرشحاً لحكم روسيا 32 سنة متواصلة تشبه حكم القياصرة شكلاً والسوفياتية لناحية المضمون الاستراتيجي الذي يريد انتزاع دور عالمي يماثل الشكل السوفياتي إنما بمضمون معاصر يقترب من العالم الغربي.

من الواضح إذاً أن هذه التعديلات تخدم مباشرة التمديد لبوتين بآليات انتخابيّة ميزتها أنها قابلة للتجديد والتمديد.

فلماذا يريد الشعب الروسي بتنوعاته القومية والعرقية فتح الطريق أمام مَن يعتقدون أنه «بطل روسيا»؟

يقول التحليل التاريخي إن انهيار الاتحاد السوفياتي في 1989 عكس التراجع الروسي المخيف بدءاً من الثمانينيات لانخراط الاتحاد السوفياتي في حروب تسلح وفضاء ودعم لمدى جيوبوليتيكي واسع.. منفرداً.. مما أدى إلى سقوط هذه الظاهرة الجيوبولتيكية الهامة التي أدت دوراً محترماً في عرقلة الهيمنة الأميركية على العالم منذ الخمسينيات وحتى أواخر الثمانينيات من القرن العشرين إنما بشكل نسبيّ طبعاً.

لكن روسيا وريثة السوفيات، استسلمت بين 1990 تاريخ إعادة تأسيسها وحتى مطلع القرن العشرين للهيمنة الأميركية وصولاً إلى حدود التبعية الكاملة لها، وهي المرحلة التي تسلم الرئاسة فيها بوريس يلتسن الذي قضى عهوده الرئاسية معاقراً للفودكا إلى حدود السكر والاغتراب عن هموم بلاده، حتى أصبحت روسيا في عداد الدولة المعدومة التأثير ومتراجعة اقتصادياً على مستوى الداخل ولا يهمها تلك التغيرات الجيوسياسية التي اتخذها الأميركيون لتطويقها في أوروبا شرقية كانت متحالفة معها، وإبعادها نهائياً عن الشرق الأوسط وجنوب شرق آسيا ورفع مستوى تناقضاتها مع أوروبا.

هذا ما تسلّمه بوتين في 2004 في رئاسة الوزراء ورئاسة البلاد، إلا أنه لم يقبل بهذه الوضعية الروسية المتقهقرة، فبنى خطة بدأت بتمهيد وضعية سياسية موالية لفكرة استنهاض روسي بمدى جيوبولتيكي، وهذا دعاه للتوطيد السياسي وإعادة دعم الممكن من الاقتصاد المنهار خارجياً. اعتبر يلتسن أن تحصين الحدود الروسية مع أوكرانيا «المتأمركة» وأوسينيا وبعض المناطق الأخرى بانياً شبكة أمان في جواره الإقليمي، لكنه سرعان ما أعاد الحيوية إلى علاقات بلاده بالصين على أساس اقتصادي بين البلدين وجيوبولتيكي خارجي للتعامل مع الحذر مع الهيمنة الأميركية.

للمزيد من التأمين الاقتصادي اخترق بوتين الحظر الأميركي على دور روسي في أوروبا، فأسس لمرور أكبر ثلاثة خطوط لأنابيب الغاز الروسي: واحد إلى ألمانيا مباشرةً عبر بحر البلطيق وآخر إلى أوكرانيا فأوروبا وثالث عبر البحر الأسود إلى تركيا فأوروبا أيضاً، مؤكداً بذلك على الدور المركزي الجيوسياسي للغاز الروسي في العالم، وهذا اختراق كبير للجيوبولتيك الأميركي الذي كان يعمل على تطويق روسيا اقتصادياً واستراتيجياً لمنعها حتى من مجرد التفكير والحلم بالقطبية العالمية.

لم يكتف بوتين بهذه الإنجازات بعد تأكده من عجزها عن استرداد الدور العالمي لبلاده.

هنا نراه أعاد تجديد دور قاعدة حميميم الروسية المنصوبة على الساحل السوري منذ زمن السوفيات.

لذلك كان الغبار يعتريها وتكاد تجسد ذكريات سابقة عن جيوبولتيك سوفياتي منهار.هنا نجح بوتين باتفاقات تمهيديّة مع إيران وحزب الله من تحويل حميميم إلى دور روسي عسكري وسياسي كبير بالتعاون العميق مع الدولة السورية.لقد بدت الحركة العسكرية الروسية في سورية واسعة النطاق وحاربت إلى جانب الجيش السوري وحلفائه على كامل الأرض السورية حتى أنّها نفذت مئة وعشرين ألف غارة جوية في مختلف المناطق من دون احتساب القصف المدفعي والصاروخي والعمليات البرية.لقد ظهرت مرامي بوتين من خلال إمساكه بآليّة أستانة وسوتشي مع الأتراك والإيرانيين وبمهادنته السعودية لأسباب تتعلق بضرورات التنسيق في أسواق النفط. فاتحاً علاقات مع العراق والجزائر ومصر محاولاً البحث عن عناصر للعودة إلى اليمن من بوابة العثور على اتفاق بين أجنحته المتقاتلة، مقدماً للبنان عروضاً في الاقتصاد والتسلّح وحاملاً معه إلى ليبيا ذكريات سوفياتية كانت على علاقات جيدة مع القذافي.

يتضح بذلك أن بوتين الممهّد لأدواره المتواصلة في رئاسة روسيا حتى العالم 2036 يتمتع بتأييد شعبي قوي، يؤهله لأداء دور قيصر أو حاكم سوفياتي بصلاحيات إمبراطورية، يريد العودة إلى الشرق الأوسط لأهداف تتعلق بحرصه على العودة إلى النظام القطبي المتعدد، بما يؤهله لتنظيم علاقات اقتصادية مع العرب والمسلمين وتوريد أسلحة لبلدان الشرق الأوسط والمساهمة في التنافس على الغاز في البحر الأبيض المتوسط، بذلك يجد الأميركيون أنفسهم مضطرين لتسهيل ولادة نظام قطبي جديد، يجسد فيه بوتين الروسي دور النجومية لأهمية بلاده من جهة وإمكاناته الشخصية المنسقة مع أدائه في المرحلة السوفياتية دور ضابط مخابرات ناجح.

Germany SITREP: Former German Chancellor Says U.S.-EU Alliance Could Now End

Source

Germany SITREP: Former German Chancellor Says U.S.-EU Alliance Could Now End

by Eric Zuesse for The Saker Blog

A German equivalent to UK’s Financial Times and America’s Wall Street Journal is the Dusseldorf Handelsblatt or “Commerce Sheet,” which headlined on June 30th, “Former Chancellor Schröder: USA Ending Transatlantic Partnership”.

They reported:

Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder has condemned possible new US sanctions against the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline as “deliberate termination of the transatlantic partnership.” A draft law currently under discussion in the US Congress is “a widespread, unjustified attack on the European economy and an unacceptable interference with EU sovereignty and the energy security of Western Europe,” Schröder writes in his statement for a public hearing of the Economic Committee scheduled for Wednesday in the Bundestag.

The article closes:

Schröder sees the relations with the USA as “heavily burdened” by “escalating tariffs and going it alone” policy by the Americans. Schröder writes: “Economic fines against a NATO ally during the current economic recession are nothing other than a deliberate termination of the transatlantic partnership.”

This is as if Jimmy Carter or Barack Obama were to say that EU policymakers had a trade policy toward the U.S. that is so hostile and uncooperative that in order to comply with it, the U.S. would have to subordinate itself to the EU and lose some of its own sovereignty, and as if he were to tell the U.S. Congress that for them to okay the EU’s demands in this matter would be “nothing other than a termination of the transatlantic partnership.”

Congress has not yet passed this legislation (new economic sanctions legislation that is co-sponsored in the U.S. Senate by Republican Ted Cruz and Democrat Jeanne Shaheen) but it (“S.1441 – Protecting Europe’s Energy Security Act of 2019”) enjoys strong bipartisan support and has been considered almost certain to be passed in both houses of the U.S. Congress and signed into law by President Donald Trump. It is not a partisan issue in the United States.

Neither is it partisan in Germany. Both of Germany’s main political Parties (Schröder being SPD) support strongly the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline, which will be considerably more economical for supplying natural gas to the EU than would be the U.S. Government’s demand that American shipped fracked liquified natural gas be used, instead of Russian pipelined natural gas, in Europe. Though this U.S. legislative initiative is called “Protecting Europe’s Energy Security,” its overwhelming support in the U.S. Congress is instead actually for protecting U.S. fracking corporations. The bill’s title is only for ‘patriotic’ propaganda purposes (which is the typical way that legislation is named in the United States — as a sales-device, so as to sound acceptable not only to the billionaires who fund the Parties but also to the voters on election day).

Both of America’s political Parties are significantly funded by America’s domestic producers of fracked gas. One of the few proud achievements of U.S. President Obama that has been proudly continued by President Trump has been their boosting U.S. energy production, largely fracked gas, so as to reduce America’s foreign-trade deficit. However, if this control over the U.S. Government by frackers continues, then there now exists a strong possibility, or even a likelihood, that the transatlantic alliance will end, as a result.

—————

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.

ترامب يخوض حرب شوارع في أوروبا والهدف ميركل وبوتين…!‏

محمد صادق الحسيني

منذ أن اتخذ بروكسيل مقراً له وهو يغامر بشنّ حروب خفيّة لا يمكن الإمساك بكافة خيوطها بسهولة، فمَن هو هذا الرجل وماذا يمثّل..!؟

من جهة أخرى فقد شهدت مدينة شتوتغارت الألمانية الجنوبية ليلة أمس الاول حرب شوارع عنيفة حتى الصباح، فيما يشبه الحروب الأهلية في بلاد العرب والمسلمين، فمن يقف وراء هذه الاحداث حقاً..!؟

على الرغم من أن المستشارة الألمانية، انجيلا ميركل، ليست القائدة الشيوعية روزا لوكسمبورغ، التي اغتالها النازيون سنة 1919 من القرن الماضي، ولا هي حتى اشتراكية ديموقراطية، كي نقول إن ترامب يتهمها بأنها يسارية، الا انه يواصل شن حربه عليها وعلى بلادها، منذ أن تسلم الحكم في واشنطن. حيث عاملها بفظاظة وقلة احترام، في كل اللقاءات التي أجراها، او اضطر لإجرائها معها.

فلماذا يا ترى؟ وما هي الأسباب الحقيقية وراء هذا الموقف؟ وما هي الأدوات التي يستخدمها ترامب في حربه هذه؟ وهل تمكن من لَيِ ذراع المستشارة ميركل وذراع بلادها، العملاق الاقتصادي الأوروبي، الذي يطمع ويطمح الرئيس الأميركي في إخضاعه بشكل شامل وكامل لمتطلبات واحتياجات السوق الأميركية، وبالتالي إخضاعه (العملاق الاقتصادي) لمصالح رؤوس الأموال التي تحكم الولايات المتحدة، من خلال القوى العميقة والخفية، التي ترسم سياسة ترامب.

إذن، فالقضية ليست عدم وفاء ألمانيا بالتزاماتها تجاه حلف شمال الاطلسي، وهي بالطبع تهمة غير صحيحة، وإنما هناك قطبة مخفيةً في هذه القضية.

فما هي هذه القطبة يا ترى؟

إنها قطبةٌ مزدوجة تتكوّن من شقين:

الأول: اقتصادي محض، سببه إصرار المستشارة الالمانية وحكومتها على تنفيذ مشروع خط أنابيب الغاز الروسي، المسمّى: السيل الشمالي / رقم 2 / وهو قيد الإنشاء وينطلق من الأراضي الروسية الشمالية الغربية، بالقرب من لينينغراد، ويسير تحت بحر البلطيق، بطول 1222 كم مباشرةً الى الأراضي الالمانية، ومن هناك الى فرنسا وغيرها من الدول الأوروبية الغربية.

وهو المشروع الذي يعارضه ترامب والقوى العميقة، التي تقف وراءه ويمثل مصالحها، بشدة وذلك لأنهم يريدون او يخططون لما يلي:

أ) لإرغام الدول الاوروبية على شراء الغاز الأميركي المسال، والذي قام محمد بن سلمان بتمويل إنشاء إحدى عشرة محطة شحن له، في الولايات المتحدة قبل سنتين. ولكن هذه الدول لا ترغب في ذلك لأسباب عديدة منها المالي ومنها البيئي ومنها السياسي ايضاً.

ب) لإلحاق الضرر بالاقتصاد الروسي بدايةً، عبر تقليص واردات الدول الاوروبية من واردات الغاز الطبيعي الروسي، غير المسال ، وذلك تمهيداً لإخراج روسيا من سوق الطاقة الاوروبي وما يعنيه ذلك من ضربة للصادرات الروسية من ناحية وإحكام السيطرة والهيمنة الأميركية على الاقتصادات الأوروبية، من خلال سيطرتها على قطاع الطاقة والتحكم بالتالي بمستويات النمو والتطور في اقتصادات جميع الدول الأوروبية.

الثاني: هو سبب سياسي محض، يتعلق بموقف ألمانيا من الاتفاق النووي الإيراني، حيث ترفض ألمانيا سياسات ترامب المتعلقة بالموضوع، وهي بذلك تشكل رافعة لبقية الدول الأوروبية، التي وقعت الاتفاق، أن تبقى على موقفها الهادف الى منع انهيار هذا الاتفاق (وان كانت تصب في النهاية لجانب الموقف الأميركي بسبب كونها دولة محتلة من أميركا لم تستطع ومعها الدول الأوروبية الأخرى من الخروج على القرار الأميركي).

كما أن الموقف الفعلي، الذي اتخذته المانيا، تجاه موضوع العقوبات الدولية، المفروضة على بيع السلاح لإيران، والتي سينتهي العمل بها في بداية شهر 10/2020، يثير غضب القوى العميقة (الدوائر الإنجيلية المتطرفة في الولايات المتحدة) التي تدعم ترامب وتستخدمه رأس حربة لها، في مواجهة الجمهورية الاسلامية الايرانية. اذ ان هذا الموقف بالذات هو الذي جعل الرئيس الأميركي يتخذ قراره بتخفيض عديد الجنود الأميركيين الموجودين في القواعد العسكرية الأميركية في المانيا.

ولكن حسابات ترامب وداعميه كانت خاطئةً كالعادة، حيث أفاد مصدر دبلوماسي أوروبي، انه وعلى العكس من كل ما يتردد في الإعلام، حول تداعيات هذه الخطوة الترامبية على أمن المانيا، فإن الحكومة الألمانية والمستشارة انجيلا ميركل لا تكترثان لهذا التخفيض، خاصة أن المانيا لا تتعرّض لأي تهديد، أمني او عسكري، من اي جهةٍ كانت، سوى التهديدات المستمرة، التي تشكلها محاولات زيادة السيطرة الأميركية على كل شيء في أوروبا، وتلك النشاطات التي تنفذها ادوات اليمين الأميركي الإنجيلي المتطرف في اوروبا.

فإلى جانب الضغوط المباشرة، التي يمارسها الرئيس الأميركي وإدارته، على العديد من الدول الأوروبية وفي مقدمتها المانيا، هناك ضغوط هائلة غير مباشرةٍ، لكنها مرئيةً وملموسةً، تمارس على المستشارة الالمانية وحزبها، الحزب الديموقراطي المسيحي الالماني، والذي يمثل رأس الحربة فيها كبير مستشاري ترامب الاستراتيجيين في البيت الابيض سنة 2017، ستيف بانون ، الذي يدير مدرسة تدريب القيادات اليمينية في أوروبا (من مقرّه في بروكسل) وحقنها بما يطلق عليه تسمية القيم اليهودية المسيحية الغربية. هذه المدرسة التي يدير نشاطاتها اليومية ويقرّر توجّهاتها الفكرية، النائب البريطاني الجنسية والسيرلانكي الأصل، نيرج ديڤا، بالاعتماد على معهد أبحاث متطرف ومرتبط بحزب المحافظين البريطاني، اسمه:

اذ كان للنشاط، المتعدد الأشكال والأنواع، الذي قام به ستيف بانون قبيل الانتخابات التشريعية الالمانية، في ايلول 2017، الأثر البالغ في حصول الحزب الألماني النازي الجديد، حزب البديل لألمانيا على 94 مقعداً في البرلمان الألماني، من اصل 709، حيث احتل المرتبة الثالثة بين الأحزاب، بعد حزب المستشارة الديموقراطي المسيحي والحزب الاشتراكي الديموقراطي، الأمر الذي يشكل خطراً على النظام السياسي ليس فقط في ألمانيا، كما يعلمنا التاريخ.

اما آخر المحاولات، التي قام بها «تلامذة» ستيف بانون لمعاقبة المستشارة الالمانية وهز الاستقرار في بلادها فكانت أحداث الشغب الواسعة النطاق، التي قامت بها أعداد كبيرة من المشاغبين، مقسمة على مجموعات صغيرة، في مدينة شتوتغارت الصناعية الهامة (مركز شركة مرسيدس) ليلة السبت الأحد 20/21-6-2020 والتي استمرت من منتصف ليلة الاحد حتى الصباح، وفشلت خلالها قوات الشرطة في السيطرة على الوضع، رغم استدعاء تعزيزات شرطية من كل أنحاء المقاطعة. وهو ما خلف دماراً وتخريباً كبيراً في الأملاك الخاصة والعامة، تخللتها عمليات نهب واسعة النطاق، في المدينة.

ومن أهم القضايا اللافتة للنظر في أحداث الليلة الماضية، في مدينة شتوتغارت الألمانية، ما يلي:

*التنظيم العالي المستوى، الذي تمتعت به هذه المجموعات المشاغبة، خلال الاشتباكات مع الشرطة.

*مرونة وسرعة حركة هذه المجموعات والتنسيق العالي بينها، ما يدل على وجود مركز قيادة وسيطرة موحّد، يدير هذا التحرك.

*العنف الشديد الذي مارسته هذه المجموعات، سواءً في تخريب الأملاك العامة والخاصة ونهبها، او تجاه وحدات وآليات الشرطة، حتى تلك الآليات المتوقفة في أنحاء المدينة ولا تشارك في المواجهات. وذلك على الرغم من ان الشرطة لم تطلق اي غازات مسيلة للدموع او القنابل الدخانية او غير ذلك من وسائل مكافحة الشغب طوال فترة المواجهات والتزمت بضبط نفس شديد.

اذن، كان هذا النشاط عنفياً بامتياز قامت به مجموعات ذات ارتباطات سياسة واضحة، مع جهات تريد إرسال رسالة جليةً للمستشارة الالمانية، مؤداها أننا قادرون على ضرب الاقتصاد الالماني، بوسائل أخرى / القوة الناعمة / اذا ما واصلت المانيا عنادها في موضوع السيل الشمالي وموضوع الاتفاق النووي الإيراني ورفع حظر بيع الأسلحة لإيران. وهذا بالطبع نوع من انواع الحرب الاقتصادية، ولو أنها لا تتخذ شكل العقوبات المباشرة، تماماً كالحرب الاقتصادية التي يمارسها ترامب ضد 39 دولة في العالم، على رأسها إيران وروسيا وسورية والصين وكوريا الشمالية، اضافة الى حزب الله اللبناني.

عبثاً يحاول ترامب أن يخرج سالماً من هذه الحروب العبثية..!

لأن سهامه كلها سترتدّ الى نحره إن عاجلاً او آجلاً.

هكذا هي السنن الكونية.

بعدنا طيبين، قولوا الله.

A Pipelineistan fable for our times

June 08, 2020

A Pipelineistan fable for our times

By Pepe Escobar – posted with permission

Ukraine was supposed to prevent Russia from deepening energy ties with Germany; it didn’t work out that way

Once upon a time in Pipelineistan, tales of woe were the norm. Shattered dreams littered the chessboard – from IPI vs. TAPI in the AfPak realm to the neck-twisting Nabucco opera in Europe.

In sharp contrast, whenever China entered the picture, successful completion prevailed. Beijing financed a gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to Xinjiang, finished in 2009, and will profit from two spectacular Power of Siberia deals with Russia.

And then there’s Ukraine. Maidan was a project of the Barack Obama administration, featuring a sterling cast led by POTUS, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, John McCain and last but not least, prime Kiev cookie distributor Victoria “F**k the EU” Nuland.

Ukraine was also supposed to prevent Russia from deepening energy ties with Germany, as well as other European destinations.

Well, it did not exactly play like that. Nord Stream was already operational. South Stream was Gazprom’s project to southeast Europe. Relentless pressure by the Obama administration derailed it. Yet that only worked to enable a resurrection: the already completed TurkStream, with gas starting to flow in January 2020.

The battlefield then changed to Nord Stream 2. This time relentless Donald Trump administration pressure did not derail it. On the contrary: it will be completed by the end of 2020.

Richard Grennel, the US ambassador to Germany, branded a “superstar” by President Trump, was furious. True to script, he threatened Nordstream 2 partners – ENGIE, OMV, Royal Dutch Shell, Uniper, and Wintershall – with “new sanctions.”

Worse: he stressed that Germany “must stop feeding the beast at a time when it does not pay enough to NATO.”

“Feeding the beast” is not exactly subtle code for energy trade with Russia.

Peter Altmaier, German minister of economic affairs and energy, was not impressed. Berlin does not recognize any legality in extra-territorial sanctions

Grennel, on top of it, is not exactly popular in Berlin. Diplomats popped the champagne when they knew he was going back home to become the head of US national intelligence.

Trump administration sanctions delayed Nordstream 2 for around one year, at best. What really matters is that in this interval Kiev had to sign a gas transit deal with Gazprom. What no one is talking about is that by 2025 no Russian gas will be transiting across Ukraine towards Europe.

So the whole Maidan project was in fact useless.

It’s a running joke in Brussels that the EU never had and will never have a unified energy policy towards Russia. The EU came up with a gas directive to force the ownership of Nord Stream 2 to be separated from the gas flowing through the pipeline. German courts applied their own “nein.”

Nord Stream 2 is a serious matter of national energy security for Germany. And that is enough to trump whatever Brussels may concoct.

And don’t forget Siberia 

The moral of this fable is that now two key Pipelineistan nodes – Turk Stream and Nord Stream 2 – are established as umbilical steel cords linking Russia with two NATO allies.

And true to proverbial win-win scripts, now it’s also time for China to look into solidifying its European relations.

Last week, German chancellor Angela Merkel and Chinese premier Li Keqiang had a video conference to discuss Covid-19 and China-EU economic policy.

That was a day after Merkel and President Xi had spoken, when they agreed that the China-EU summit in Leipzig on September 14 would have to be postponed.

This summit should be the climax of the German presidency of the EU, which starts on July 1. That’s when Germany would be able to present a unified policy towards China, uniting in theory the 27 EU members and not only the 17+1 from Central Europe and the Balkans – including 11 EU members – that already have a privileged relationship with Beijing and are on board for the Belt and Road Initiative.

In contrast with the Trump administration, Merkel does privilege a clear, comprehensive trade partnership with China – way beyond a mere photo op summit. Berlin is way more geoeconomically sophisticated than the vague “engagement and exigence” Paris  approach.

Merkel as well as Xi are fully aware of the imminent fragmentation of the world economy post-Lockdown. Yet as much as Beijing is ready to abandon the global circulation strategy from which it has handsomely profited for the past two decades, the emphasis is also on refining very close trade relations with Europe.

Ray McGovern has concisely detailed the current state of US-Russia relations. The heart of the whole matter, from Moscow’s point of view, was summarized by Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, an extremely able diplomat:

“We don’t believe the US in its current shape is a counterpart that is reliable, so we have no confidence, no trust whatsoever. So our own calculations and conclusions are less related to what America is doing …. We cherish our close and friendly relations with China. We do regard this as a comprehensive strategic partnership in different areas, and we intend to develop it further.”

It’s all here. Russia-China “comprehensive strategic partnership” steadily advancing. Including “Power of Siberia” Pipelineistan. Plus Pipelineistan linking two key NATO allies. Sanctions? What sanctions?

The US has declared a new energy war against Russia.

The US has declared a new energy war against Russia.

April 27, 2020

Translated by Eugenia for The Saker Blog

The US acknowledged that it is far behind Russia, and even China, in nuclear energy. But America wishes to restore its leadership in this area. This means that the fight between Russia and the US in energy won’t be limited to North Stream. Where is Russia ahead of the US and why the Americans are so scared of the Chinese nuclear industry?

“The US has lost its competitive advantage as the global leader in nuclear energy among the world state companies. Russia and China, as well as other countries, are actively trying to get ahead of us”. This is from the report of the US Department of Energy published last Thursday. Thus, the US officially recognizes its defeat in the field of nuclear energy. The loss of leadership endangers national interests and the security of the country.

DOE suggests a strategy for restoring the American leadership in this area. It includes a number of measures to improve the situation. Russia and China named as the countries that must be watched closely, as Russia has been way ahead of the US for a long time, whereas China has the ability to advance very so quickly that it couldn’t be overtaken.

The US dropped behind Russia in nuclear energy some time ago. Two and a half years ago, two American companies that mine uranium, Energy Fuels and Ur-Energy, warned that the share of the American-produced uranium on the US market dropped from 49% to 5%. They demanded that Trump introduce a quota of 25% for the American-produced uranium and impose tariffs on imported uranium. Trump then refused to introduce these limitations, but created a working group on nuclear fuel. This group was tasked with preparing a report on the US leadership in nuclear energy. The report cited above is the result of this group’s work. The previous report was submitted to Trump in 2019, but he sent it back for improvements.

“The US was not just a world leader – the US created nuclear energy as such. Even today, the US has more reactors in operation than anyone else (96 out of 442 operating in the world). However, after mid-1990s the US stopped building nuclear power plants. From 1996 to 2020, only one generating unit was built, and it was not built from scratch, but previously started construction was completed” – says Alexander Uvarov, director of Atominfo Center, editor-in-chief of Atominfo portal.

The US has lost many of its capabilities a long time ago.

The only thing that the US can still do is to produce nuclear fuel. However, the US have serious problems with uranium mining, and (which is even more important) with uranium enrichment and construction of nuclear power plants.

“Today, the US does not have commercial technologies of uranium enrichment. Old plants are closed, new ones have not been not built” – says Alexander Uvarov.

By official statistics for 2018 (stats for 2019 will be published in May), 52% of uranium enrichment for the US was done by other countries, whereas the remaining 48% were done by an American company. However, this is just a statistical trick, says Uvarov. American company in question is actually a plant of the European company URENCO built in the US. This plant belongs to URENCO USA, so it can be counted in statistics as American. But the Americans have no access to the technology used in this plant. At some point, the Russian Rosatom wanted to build an enrichment plant in the US. If it had, this plant would have also been counted as “American” in stats.

It is important to note that generation of nuclear fuel includes more than just mining (in case of the US – buying) uranium. Uranium mining in the US fell catastrophically – to 5-10%. The next step, uranium enrichment, is a lot more expensive and technologically challenging. The company enriching uranium needs complex technology and equipment. In contrast to the US, Russia has that.

What’s more, the US started using Russian companies to enrich uranium almost immediately after the end of Cold War, mostly because Russian technology was better and cheaper than the American one. Every year saw an increase in the Russian export of enriched uranium. In essence, Russia exports this high-tech service, which is honorable and very profitable. Next, enriched uranium is converted into a state suitable for making tablets out of it that are then incorporated into fuel rods, which we call nuclear fuel.

The American company Westinghouse that produces nuclear fuel and tries to substitute it for Russian fuel in the Ukrainian nuclear power plants, depends on the enrichment services, performed by Russian company Techsnabexport, among others.

“Right now, the US is almost completely dependent on imported uranium, most of which is supplied by subsidiaries of the Russian Rosatom”, – last year report said.

Meanwhile, the US lost not only its own mining and enrichment of uranium, it is way behind in nuclear power plant construction, including those that work on fast neutrons. “These reactors are built by Russia (BN-800 built, Brest-300 and MBIR are at different stages of construction), China (CDFR-600), and India. The US does not build them at all,” – says Uvarov.

The US does not have commercial technologies for the nuclear power plant construction, as it has not been doing this for a long time. The existing US nuclear power plants are reaching the end of their service. This means that they will need to be modernized and rebuilt, which makes the American market attractive for the market leaders – Russia, Europe, as well as ascending China.

Russia is actively building its nuclear power plants in every corner of the planet. Foreign orders for the next 10 years amount to $140 billion, says the head of Rosatom Alexey Likhachev. The key advantage of Rosatom is that is covers everything: construction, credit financing, fuel supply, training of local specialists, repairs, and utilization of spent fuel for the whole lifetime or the reactors (40-60 years).

As far as China is concerned, in the nuclear energy the US clearly acts proactively. For example, Huawei is hardly Apple yet, but Americans are scared of the technological supremacy of China, which, in contrast to Japan, does not intend to toe the line.

“First, this is a general trend of the US fight against China, which covers a lot more than nuclear energy. Second, Chinese nuclear energy is rapidly developing and, in many aspects, China will become a dangerous competitor. The US is already behind China in the capabilities of the nuclear industry and nuclear power plant construction. China has built 48 reactors, 45 of which were built in the last 20 years. And they have no intention of stopping” – says Uvarov.

With regard to Russia, the Americans have been a long time keeping the Russian nuclear energy industry on a tight leash preventing their dominance on the American market. First, Rosatom, in contrast to European URENCO, was not allowed to build an uranium enrichment plan in the US. Second, Russia has been limited in supplying enriched uranium to the US by a quota of 20%. That’s exactly why European URANCO enriches almost half of uranium used in the US, whereas Russia – only 20%. Now DOE demands that this quota is reduced starting from 2021, as the report says.

Interestingly, the US introduced these limitations long before 2014 sanctions, while the US promoted globalization and free markets within WTO. In early 1990s, the Americans conducted so-called anti-dumping investigation and allowed Russia to export to the US only uranium diluted from military grade enrichment. Tariffs were imposed on the rest. When Russian stocks of military grade uranium were exhausted, the US conducted another anti-dumping investigation and limited Russia by a 20% quota until 2020.

Starting in 2021, Russia could have increased the export of enriched uranium, but, likely, it won’t be allowed to do that, like it has not been allowed to do so ever since 1990s.

In its report, DOE proposes to renew the agreement, but reduce Russian quota, says Uvarov.

DOE also pro-actively demands that Russia (and also China) should not be allowed to supply ready nuclear fuel to the US, even though now neither Russia, nor China exports ready-to-use nuclear fuel.

Apparently, DOE is worried that Rosatom will finalize its project of producing fuel for nuclear reactors of Western design. This is the Rosatom’s project “TVS-Square”. “This project was Rosatom’s response to the Westinghouse’s actions in Ukraine. It is not completed on the industrial scale yet. But DOE clearly has that project in mind when demanding a pro-active ban on import of Russian nuclear fuel. They to include China as well for a good measure,” – says Uvarov.

Trump: Live by the Oil, Die by the Oil

Source

Trump: Live by the Oil, Die by the Oil

Tom LuongoApril 23, 2020

From the very beginning I’ve been a staunch critic of President Trump’s “Energy Dominance” policy. And I was so for a myriad of reasons, but mostly because it was stupid.

Not just stupid, monumentally stupid. Breathtakingly stupid.

And I don’t say this as someone who hates Trump without reservation. In fact, I continue to hope he will wake up one day and stop being the Donald Trump I know and be the Donald Trump he needs to be.

I don’t have Trump Derangement Syndrome of any sort. Neither MAGApede nor Q-Tard, an Orange Man Bad cultist or NPC Soy Boy, I see Trump for what he is – a well-intentioned, if miseducated man with severe personal deficiencies which manifest themselves in occasionally brilliant but mostly disastrous behavior.

Energy Dominance was always a misguided and Quixotic endeavor. Why? Because Trump could never turn financial engineering a shale boom into a sustainable advantage over lower-cost producers like Russia and the OPEC nations.

The policy of blasting open the U.S. oil spigots to produce a production boom built on an endless supply of near-zero cost credit was always going to run into a wall of oversupply and not enough demand.

The dramatic collapse of U.S. oil prices in the futures markets which saw the May contract close on April 20th at $-40.57 per barrel is the Shale Miracle hitting the fan of low demand and leaving the producers and consumers in a state which can only happen thanks to biblical levels of government intervention.

A broken market.

The next morning, ever needing to look like the good guy, Trump tweets out:Donald J. Trump@realDonaldTrump

We will never let the great U.S. Oil & Gas Industry down. I have instructed the Secretary of Energy and Secretary of the Treasury to formulate a plan which will make funds available so that these very important companies and jobs will be secured long into the future!163KTwitter Ads info and privacy56.6K people are talking about this

It’s clear from this statement that Trump is ready to throw more trillions at the oil industry to keep it and the millions of jobs from disappearing as he does what he always does when confronted with a real problem, doubles down on the behavior that caused it in the first place.

Politicians, even the best ones, are ultimately vandals. They have no other tool than to reallocate scarce capital towards their ends rather than that demanded by the market.

And the main reason why Trump was never going to win the Energy Dominance War he started was because the world doesn’t want the type and kind of oil the U.S. produces at the quantities needed to “Win!”

Ultra-light sweet crude coming from the Bakken, Eagle Ford and Permian simply isn’t that high in demand for export. It’s of limited usage. And, in the end, if the price is right enough, offering oil for sale in ‘not-dollars’ only makes that demand curve even more elastic.

The collapse in oil prices which Trump is desperate to stop won’t simply because Trump stands there like King Canute, arms outstretched. He and his terrible energy policy stand naked now that the tide has gone out.

And the reason for this is simple. There is more to the world economy than money. Money is what makes the economy work but it, in and of itself, is incapable of creating wealth. All money does is act as a means to express our needs and desires at the moment of the trade.

Trump’s vandalizing the world’s energy markets for the past three and a half years now comes back to bite him. To prop up surging U.S. production he has:

Supported a disastrous war against the people of Yemen

Repurposed U.S. troops clinging to positions in Syria while stealing their oil

Nearly started a shooting war with Iran…. Twice.

Embargoed Venezuela, stole its money, attempted a failed coup and brought even more support to President Maduro from Russia and China.

Spent billions pointing missiles at Russia via NATO.

Supported a vicious war to prevent the secession of the Donbass.

Delayed the construction of Nordstream 2.

Sowed chaos enough to set Turkey to claiming the Eastern Mediterranean while fighting a losing war in Libya.

Started a massive trade war with China.

Spent trillions throwing the U.S. budget deficit for 2020 out beyond 20% of the U.S.’s 2019 GDP.

I could go on, but I think you get the point. None of these acts are defensible as anything other than immoral and counterproductive.

Having antagonized literally more than three-quarters of the world with this insanity, Trump will now turn his destructive gaze on the very people he purports to serve, the American people. Saving jobs through subsidies is capital destructive. It doesn’t matter who does it, Trump, Putin, Xi or FDR.

If Trump tariffs on imports it will only keep the cost of energy for Americans higher than it should be at a time when they need it to be as cheap as possible.

The incentive to improve performance by these companies, shutter expensive wells, default on debt or shift capital away from the unproductive will not happen. The healthy cleansing of bankruptcy is averted. The vultures who profited on the way up will not go bankrupt because the bust is avoided and those that were prudent waiting for this moment will not be rewarded with the reins of the means of production.

And again, we see another one-way trade for Wall St.

All Trump will do here is entrench the very powers that he thinks he’s been fighting, destroying small businesses, nationalizing, in effect, whole swaths of the U.S. economy and setting up the day when everyone else around the world shrugs when he bark.

Because the net effect has been to see the rise in more of the oil trade conducted in currencies other than the U.S. dollar. That trend will continue in a deflating price environment where the need to service dollar-denominated debt is soaking up the supply of dollars faster than the Fed can monetize the debt issued by the U.S. Treasury.

The oil trade will shift from dollars. Dollars will be used to pay off debt, the world will decouple from the dollar and all those dollars currently hoarded overseas and whose demand today will be supply tomorrow will ensure the U.S. economy suffers the worst kind of depression, one of rising commodity prices, falling asset prices and falling wages.

So, Trump will continue to be, as I put it recently, The Master of the Seen, choosing, as always, to ignore the unseen effects of propping up firms that should rightly go the way of all bad ideas, like Marxism.

The U.S. had a grenade dropped on its budget. It looks like a nuclear bomb, but that’s only because of the continued arrogance and necessity of politicians, like Trump, needing to be ‘seen’ doing something caused far more damage than it would have if they hadn’t intervened in the first place.

The adage, “never let a crisis go to waste,” is apropos here. Politicians use the cover of crisis to act. They have to be ‘seen’ acting rather than not. Trump is acutely aware of this because he truly can’t stand criticism.

A man without principles, Trump acts mostly out of his need to deflect criticism and be ‘seen’ by his base as their champion.

But no, Trump outs himself as the biggest Marxist of all time, defending the workers while robbing them of their future through the destruction of their real wealth. His policy mistakes become our real problems. And he compounded those problems by listening to the medical complex vultures about COVID-19 and now he’s trapped but everyone else will pay the price.

He is someone without the sense or the understanding that sometimes the best thing to do is admit defeat, reverse course and put down the scepter of power. But Trump doesn’t know how to do that. He doesn’t know how to actually lead.

Energy Dominance will turn into an Energy Albatross and it will weigh on Trump’s neck in his second term that will see him leave office reviled as the great destroyer of not only the U.S.’s wealth, but more importantly, its standing in the world.

«لعنة النفط» تصيب الولايات المتحدة

وليد شرارة

 الأربعاء 22 نيسان 2020

بين الأسباب الوجيهة التي تقدم عادة لتفسير «الشقاء العربي»، أي التدخلات الاستعمارية المستمرة لضرب محاولات الاستقلال والسيطرة على الموارد الوطنية الهادفة إلى إطلاق عملية تنمية حقيقية في بلدان المنطقة العربية والإسلامية، وفي الجنوب عامة، ما اصطلح على تسميته «لعنة النفط». لا يمكن الفصل بين سياسات الحرب والسيطرة الغربية، خاصة الأميركية، على المنطقة وشعوبها وتطلعاتها القومية، وبين امتلاكها مخزوناً هائلاً من هذه السلعة الاستراتيجية، بالنسبة إلى الرأسمالية الامبريالية المعاصرة، وتحولها من «نعمة» إلى «لعنة». رأت الأدبيات السياسية الأميركية السائدة والخطاب الرسمي منذ الخمسينيات الجزء النفطي من العالم العربي، أي دول الخليج والعراق، «منطقة مصالح قومية حيوية»! وبدأت تدخلاتها في الإقليم عبر مشاركة مخابراتها الحاسمة في إسقاط حكومة محمد مصدق الوطنية في إيران سنة 1953 بعد تأميم الأخيرة شركة النفط «الأنجلو-فارسية» التي أضحت اليوم شركة «بريتيش بتروليوم» المعروفة. العودة إلى هذه الوقائع ضرورية للتذكير بالطبيعة الاستعمارية لهذه السلعة «الاستراتيجية».

استندت الهيمنة الأميركية على العالم إلى ركيزتين أساسيتين: التفوق العسكري النوعي على جميع بلدانه الأخرى، وانتشار شبكة قواعد في أرجاء المعمورة، خاصة في الدول المنتجة للنفط أو في جوارها، للتحكم في الطرق والمضائق التي يتدفق من خلالها، بـ«أسعار مناسبة»، نحو المراكز الرأسمالية. بهذا المعنى، كانت الولايات المتحدة «شرطي الرأسمالية العالمية» خلال حقبة تشارف على الأفول. فالتغيرات الكبرى التي شهدتها موازين القوى الدولية، وأهمها تراجع قدرات واشنطن على السيطرة والريادة، وتخبطها خلال الجائحة الحالية آخرُ تجلياته، والصعود السريع والمستمر لـ«المنافسين غير الغربيين»، دفعت النخب الحاكمة الأميركية ودولتهم العميقة إلى اتخاذ قرار تطوير صناعة النفط الأميركية عبر الاستخراج الباهظ الكلفة للنفط الصخري. بحجة ضرورة تأمين الاكتفاء الذاتي الكامل في ميدان الطاقة، وتجنّب الاعتماد على النفط المستورد من بقاع مضطربة وخطيرة كالشرق الأوسط، وكذلك انطلاقاً من إمكانية تحول الولايات المتحدة إلى أحد أبرز المنتجين للنفط، وهي صارت أولهم سنة 2018، بررت هذه النخب قرارها الذي دخل حيز التنفيذ منذ أواسط العقد الأول من الألفية الثانية، خلال إدارة جورج بوش الابن، والتزمت به إدارتا باراك أوباما ودونالد ترامب. هذا القرار وسياقاته الجيوسياسية هما اللذان يسمحان بإدراك فعلي للخلفيات البنوية للانهيار التاريخي لأسعار النفط الأميركي، لا القراءات الاقتصادوية التي تكون غالباً ظرفية ومختزلة.
القراءة الاقتصادية الرائجة عن أسباب انهيار أسعار النفط الأميركي تربط بينه وبين تبعات جائحة كورونا على الاقتصاد العالمي، وكذلك نتائج «حرب الأسعار» بين روسيا والسعودية، والتي توقفت بعد التوصل إلى اتفاق جديد بينهما آخر الشهر الماضي. فمع تفشّي الفيروس، تراجع النشاط الاقتصادي ومعدلات الإنتاج على صعيد الكوكب بصورة كبيرة، ومعهما حركة انتقال الأشخاص داخل أو بين بلدانه، ما قاد إلى انخفاض الطلب على النفط بنسبة 30% في بضعة أسابيع، ومن ثم أسعاره. تبع هذا حرب الأسعار السعودية ــ الروسية، التي بدأت مع رفع الطرفين مستويات إنتاجهما من النفط والتنافس على تخفيض سعره إلى درجة تضخم فيها العرض في السوق العالمي على نحو غير مسبوق. تلازم هذين التطورين كان له آثار كارثية في صناعة النفط الصخري الأميركية الباهظة، التي لا تستطيع احتمال انحدار مماثل لأسعار النفط. ما زاد الأمر سوءاً لها وللصناعة النفطية الأميركية عامة هو امتلاء المخزون النفطي الاستراتيجي للبلاد بنسبة 70 إلى 80%، مع ما يترتب على ذلك من انخفاض في الطلب الداخلي.

إن تحول النفط إلى «منتج مالي» يخضع للمضاربة في البورصات، يعني في الظروف الحالية أن مضاربين اشتروا عقوداً نفطية، ولا يمتلكون قدرة على بيعها بأسعار مناسبة أو على تخزين النفط، يوافقون على بيعها بأسعار بخسة. وتقدر إدارة المعلومات عن النفط، وهي وكالة مستقلة للإحصاءات في وزارة الطاقة الأميركية، أن الولايات المتحدة ستعود مستورداً صافياً للنفط خلال هذه السنة. يعني هذا الكلام أن مشروع الاعتماد على الذات في الحقل النفطي فشل فشلاً مدوياً.

ما لا تتطرق إليه القراءة الاقتصادوية هو الدور الحاسم للعوامل السياسية والجيوسياسية في إيصال الأمور إلى ما هي عليه. يجري الحديث عن الاقتصاد العالمي كأنه فضاء منفصل عن موازين القوى والصراعات بين اللاعبين الدوليين، تحكمه اليد الخفية للسوق وقانون العرض والطلب بمعزل عن العوامل الأخرى. تقر القراءة المشار إليها بأن بين دوافع موسكو والرياض في زيادة إنتاج النفط وتخفيض أسعاره، على رغم تنازعهما، رغبة مشتركة واضحة في توجيه ضربة قوية إلى صناعة النفط الصخري الأميركية المنافسة. هل كانت روسيا مستعدة منذ عشرين سنة مثلاً لاتخاذ مثل هذا القرار في ظل اختلال موازين القوى بينها وبين الولايات المتحدة؟ لم تتوقف الأخيرة عن مساعيها لمحاصرة روسيا عبر توسيع «الناتو» شرقاً ونشر البطاريات المضادة للصواريخ في جوارها وتنظيم الثورات الملونة في هذا الجوار، من دون أن نشهد رداً روسياً مباشراً. القرار بتخفيض أسعار النفط سياسي بامتياز، وهو رد على العقوبات الأميركية المفروضة على الشركات العاملة في مشروع «أنبوب السيل الشمالي 2» بين روسيا وألمانيا. التغير المستمر في موازين القوى الدولية والفرصة التي وفرتها الجائحة وتبعاتها على أميركا جعلا ما كان مستحيلاً في الماضي ممكناً حالياً. الأمر نفسه ينطبق على السعودية، على رغم العلاقة الحميمة التي تجمع وليّ عهدها، محمد بن سلمان، بترامب وفريقه، والتي لم تكن لتتجرأ على الإقدام على خطوة تمثّل مساساً بالمصالح الأميركية منذ بضع سنوات، ها هي تقوم بذلك اليوم نتيجة إدراكها لتراجع قوة الحليف وسطوته.

صحيح أن حرب أسعار النفط توقفت بعد الاتفاق بين أطراف «أوبك+» آخر الشهر الماضي، وبعد طلب أميركي عاجل، لكن مفاعيلها المهولة على صناعة النفط الصخري قد تؤدي إلى ألا تتعافى مستقبلاً، وهذا غاية بذاته للطرفين الروسي والسعودي كما أسلفنا. حتى قرار النخب الأميركية الاستثمار المكثف في قطاع النفط الصخري الباهظ، الذي اتُّخذ قبل عقد ونيف، هو قرار جيواستراتيجي وليس اقتصادياً، ووثيق الصلة باستشعارها العجز عن إمكانية المضي في تحمل أعباء وأكلاف قيام بلادهم بدور «شرطي الرأسمالية العالمية» إلى ما لا نهاية، وتأمين إمكانية الاعتماد على الذات في حقل الطاقة، في مواجهة احتمالات لتطورات غير منتظرة في الشرق الأوسط، وانقلاب في تحالفات بلدانه باتجاه منافسيها الدوليين. التوقعات بالنسبة إلى تبعات انهيار أسعار النفط على الاقتصاد والاجتماع الأميركيين شديدة التشاؤم، وإن تفاوتت مستوياته. المؤكد أن «لعنة النفط»، بعد «لعنة كورونا»، ستسرّع وتيرة الانتقال إلى حقبة «ما بعد الغرب» 

مقالات متعلقة

Is Putin Laying a Petroleum Trap for Trump?

The president is heralding a deal that commits Russia to cuts in oil production, but a closer look reveals a more complicated path.

By Scott Ritter

Global Research, April 15, 2020

The American Conservative 14 April 2020

Rod Rosenstein

The G20 met in virtual session on April 10, ostensibly to address the crippling one-two punch brought on by the economic impact of coronavirus and the simultaneous collapse of the price of oil resulting from Russia and Saudi Arabia flooding an already depressed market.

In the end, the world’s leading oil producers finalized an agreement on sweeping oil production cuts, building on a previous agreement between Russia and Saudi Arabia to stop their price war. The United States is taking credit for this breakthrough, however, citing the role it played in helping bring Mexico to closure.

But the U.S. contribution was, and is, illusory—President Trump is in no position to promise cuts in U.S. oil production, and as such remains unable to meaningfully contribute to the global oil production reduction scheme. Void of any substantive final agreement, global energy markets will continue to suffer as production far outstrips demand. For U.S. oil producers, who have already seen a 2.5-3 million barrel per day decrease in production, the results will be catastrophic, driving many into bankruptcy and helping push the U.S. economy into a tailspin that will lead to a depression potentially worse than that of the 1930’s.

Trump’s only recourse may be to turn to Russia for help in offsetting needed U.S. oil production quotas, which appears to have been the Russian plan all along.

On Monday March 30, President Trump spoke on the phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The suppressed price of oil, and Russia’s role in facilitating that vis-à-vis its refusal to cut its oil production, thereby triggering a price war with Saudi Arabia, was the dominant topic. A Kremlin read-out of the call noted that “opinions on the current state of global oil markets were exchanged. It was agreed there would be Russo-American consultations about this through the ministers of energy.”

During the call, Trump mentioned America’s need for life-saving medical supplies, including ventilators and personal protective equipment. Putin asked if Russia could be of assistance, and Trump said yes.

The decision to allow Russian aid (purchased by the U.S.) into the country, however, directly contradicted guidance that had been issued by the U.S. State Department a full week before Trump’s phone call with Putin. On March 22, the State Department sent out an internal email to all U.S. Embassies with guidance on how to proceed with seeking out critical support. “Depending on critical needs, the United States could seek to purchase many of these items in the hundreds of millions with purchases of higher end equipment such as ventilators in the hundreds of thousands,” the email stated. The email noted that the request applies to all countries “minus Moscow,” indicating the United States would not ask Russia for support.

While the two leaders, according to the White House, “agreed to work closely together through the G20 to drive the international campaign to defeat the virus and reinvigorate the global economy,” the March 30 phone call apparently did not directly touch upon U.S. sanctions on Russia. In fact, Trump told  Fox News prior to the leaders’ exchangethat he fully expected Putin to bring it up. He did not say how he might respond if Putin did.

Trump’s confidence in a Putin sanction request most likely stemmed from a statement made by the Russian President to a virtual meeting of G20 leaders on March 22, where he noted that “ideally we should introduce a…joint moratorium on restrictions on essential goods as well as on financial transactions for their purchase.” Putin’s comments were more pointed toward the lifting of sanctions for humanitarian purposes on nations like Iran and Venezuela, but his conclusion hinted at a larger purpose: “These matters should be freed of any politics.”Economic Warfare against Russia: Moscow Condemns New “Draconian” Sanctions, Weighs Banning Rocket Engines to US

Russia has been operating under U.S. and European sanctions following its annexation of Crimea in 2014 and its role in the Ukraine crisis. But the sanctions that have angered Russia the most—and which have contributed to Russia’s price war with Saudi Arabia targeting U.S. oil producers—were those levied against NordStream 2, the Russian pipeline intended to supply Germany, and Europe, with natural gas. Trump signed a bill authorizing these sanctions in December 2019. Russia immediately condemned this action.

Instead of asking Trump outright to lift sanctions, Putin got Trump to help underscore Russia’s position that sanctions were an unnecessary impediment to relations between the U.S. and Russia during the coronavirus pandemic. In agreeing to allow the Russian AN-124 aircraft to deliver medical supplies to the U.S., Trump unwittingly played into a carefully laid bit of Russian propaganda.

Among the aid Russia delivered were boxes of Aventa-M ventilators, produced by the Ural Instrument Engineering Plant (UPZ). UPZ is a subsidiary of Concern Radio-Electronic Technologies (KRET) which, along with its parent holding company ROSTEC, has been under U.S. sanctions since 2014. According to the State Department, which payed for 50 percent of the equipment on the flight, the sanctions do not apply to the purchase of medical equipment. But by purchasing critical medical equipment from sanctioned companies, the State Department simultaneously violated its own guidance against buying Russian equipment while underscoring Putin’s point—sanctions should be waived for humanitarian purposes.

But Putin’s trap had one more twist. According to the Russians, half of the aid shipment was paid for by the U.S. State Department, and the other half by the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), a Russian sovereign wealth fund which, like ROSTEC, was placed on the U.S. lending blacklist in 2014 following Russia’s intervention in Crimea. The arrival of an airplane full of critical medical equipment ostensibly paid in part by a sanctioned Russian sovereign wealth fund provided a window of opportunity for Kirill Dmitriev, the CEO of RDIF, to gain access to the U.S. mainstream media to push the Russian line.

On April 5, Dmitriev published an OpEd on the CNBC web page titled “The US and Russia should work together to defeat the coronavirus.” Dmitriev likened the current global struggle against the coronavirus pandemic to the fight against Nazi Germany. “During World War II, American and Russian soldiers fought side by side against a common enemy,” he wrote. “We achieved victory together. Just as our grandfathers stood shoulder to shoulder to defend our values and secure peace for future generations, now our countries must show unity and leadership to win the war against the coronavirus.”

But Dmitriev’s true target was oil, and by extension, sanctions. “In times like this,” he noted, “new approaches to explore close collaboration between the U.S., Russia and other countries are needed to stabilize energy and other markets, to coordinate policy responses and to revitalize economic activity. For example, Russia proposed to jointly undertake significant oil output cuts with the U.S., Saudi Arabia and other countries to stabilize markets and secure employment in the oil industry.”

Getting the U.S. to lift sanctions was a big ask, something Dmitriev acknowledged. “To change the views on Russia in an election year may be an insurmountable challenge. But so it also seemed in 1941, when the U.S. and the Soviet Union put behind the differences of the past to fight the common enemy.”

While the “common enemy” referred to by Dmitriev was clearly the coronavirus pandemic, he could also have been speaking about Senator Ted Cruz, and others of his ilk, who led the charge to sanction NordStream 2. The current oil crisis has hit Texas particularly hard. In an indication of things to come, Whiting Petroleum, a major player in the shale oil industry,filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Whiting specialized in North Dakota fracking, which required oil prices of $60 per barrel to be economically viable. The current price of sub-$25 doomed the company. Texas fracking is slightly cheaper, with a profitability margin of around $49. With oil prices depressed, Texas companies are feeling the pinch, and are on the verge of collapse.

Trump agreed to participate in the G20 meeting because of the promise of a Russian-Saudi production cut; on this, Putin delivered. But the Russians made any final agreement contingent upon Trump agreeing to significant reduction in U.S. oil production. This was never a possibility—whereas both Russia and Saudi Arabia have national oil companies whose operations are a matter of national policy, the U.S. oil industry is privately owned in its entirety, and dependent on supply and demand equations derived from a free market to determine profitability.

While the G20 meeting resulted in collective cuts of close to 10 million barrels a day, the drop in demand for oil brought on by the coronavirus pandemic has created a glut in which the world produces some 27.4 million barrels per day in excess of global needs. The bottom line is the G20 cuts won’t solve the problem of too much oil, and without additional cuts, the bottom will continue to fall out of the oil market, dooming U.S. producers.

Trump cannot turn on or off the U.S. oil-producing spigot, a fact Russia knows only too well. When Trump attempted to gain credit for a 2.5-million-barrel reduction in production brought on by bankruptcy, Russia refused to allow it. Likewise, when Trump promised cuts in oil production to help Mexico meet G20 targets, it was a promise the American president is unable to deliver on. In getting the U.S. to agree to attend a G20 summit on oil production, the Russians lured the U.S. into a policy trap from which there is no escape.

Void of any final agreement, the U.S. oil industry will inevitably collapse. Trump claims that the G20 virtual summit came up with cuts totaling up to 20 million barrels per day, without explaining how he came up with this number. This number is fictional; the U.S. production crisis is not. Trump’s only hope is for a further softening of the Russian position on production. But this will not come without a price, and that price will be the lifting of energy-sector sanctions targeting Russia.

*

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Scott Ritter is a former Marine Corps intelligence officer who served in the former Soviet Union implementing arms control treaties, in the Persian Gulf during Operation Desert Storm, and in Iraq overseeing the disarmament of WMD. He is the author of several books, including his forthcoming, Scorpion King: America’s Embrace of Nuclear Weapons From FDR to Trump (2020).

Featured image: President Donald J. Trump and President Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation | July 16, 2018 (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)The original source of this article is The American ConservativeCopyright © Scott RitterThe American Conservative, 2020

How black swans are shaping planet panic

March 11, 2020

by Pepe Escobar – posted with permission

Is the planet under the spell of a pair of black swans – a Wall Street meltdown, caused by an alleged oil war between Russia and the House of Saud, plus the uncontrolled spread of Covid-19 – leading to an all-out “cross-asset pandemonium” as billed by Nomura?

Or, as German analyst Peter Spengler suggests, whatever the averted climax in the Strait of Hormuz has not brought about so far “might now come through market forces”?

Let’s start with what really happened after five hours of relatively polite discussions last Friday in Vienna. What turned into a de facto OPEC+ meltdown was quite the game-changing plot twist.

OPEC+ includes Russia, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan. Essentially, after enduring years of OPEC price-fixing – the result of relentless US pressure over Saudi Arabia – while patiently rebuilding its foreign exchange reserves, Moscow saw the perfect window of opportunity to strike, targeting the US shale industry.

Shares of some of these US producers plunged as much as 50% on “Black Monday.” They simply cannot survive with a barrel of oil in the $30s – and that’s where this is going. After all these companies are drowning in debt.

A $30 barrel of oil has to be seen as a precious gift/stimulus package for a global economy in turmoil – especially from the point of view of oil importers and consumers. This is what Russia made possible.

And the stimulus may last for a while. Russia’s National Wealth Fund has made it clear it has enough reserves (over $150 billion) to cover a budget deficit from six to ten years – even with oil at $25 a barrel. Goldman Sachs has already gamed a possible Brent crude at $20 a barrel.

As Persian Gulf traders stress, the key to what is perceived in the US as an “oil war” between Moscow and Riyadh is mostly about derivatives. Essentially, banks won’t be able to pay those speculators who hold derivative insurance against a steep decline in the price of oil. Added stress comes from traders panicking with Covid-19 spreading across nations that are visibly unprepared to deal with it.

Watch the Russian game

Moscow must have gamed beforehand that Russian stocks traded in London – such as Gazprom, Rosneft, Novatek and Gazprom Neft – would collapse. According to Lukoil’s co-owner Leonid Fedun, Russia may lose up to $150 million a day from now on. The question is for how long this will be acceptable.

Still, from the beginning Rosneft’s position was that for Russia, the deal with OPEC+ was “meaningless” and only “cleared the way” for American shale oil.

The consensus among Russian energy giants was that the current market setup – massive “negative oil demand,”positive “supply shock” and no swing producer – inevitably had to crash the price of oil. They were watching, helplessly, as the US was already selling oil for a lower price than OPEC.

Moscow’s move against the US fracking industry was payback for the Trump administration messing with Nord Stream 2. The inevitable, steep devaluation of the ruble was gamed.

Still, what happened post-Vienna essentially has little to do with a Russia-Saudi trade war. The Russian Energy Ministry is phlegmatic: Move on, nothing to see here. Riyadh, significantly, has been emitting signs the OPEC+ deal may be back in the cards in the near future. A feasible scenario is that this sort of shock therapy will go on until 2022, and then Russia and OPEC will be back to the table to work out a new deal.

There are no definitive numbers, but the oil market accounts for less than 10% of Russia’s GDP (it used to be 16% in 2012). Iran’s oil exports in 2019 plunged by a whopping 70 %, and still Tehran was able to adapt. Yet oil accounts for over 50% of Saudi GDP. Riyadh needs oil at no less than $85 a barrel to pay its bills. The 2020 budget, with crude priced at $62-63 a barrel, still has a $ 50 billion deficit.

Aramco says it will be offering no fewer than 300,000 barrels of oil a day beyond its “maximum sustained capacity” starting April 1. It says it will be able to produce a whopping 12.3 million barrels a day.

Persian Gulf traders say openly that this is unsustainable. It is. But the House of Saud, in desperation, will be digging into its strategic reserves to dump as much crude as possible as soon as possible – and keep the price war full tilt. The (oily) irony is that the top price war victims are an industry belonging to the American protector.

Saudi-occupied Arabia is a mess. King Salman is in a coma. Every grain of sand in the Nefud desert knows Jared of Arabia Kushner’s whatsapp pal MBS has been de facto ruler for the past five years, but the timing of his new purge in Riyadh speaks volumes. Princes Mohammed bin Nayef, the king’s nephew, and Ahmed bin Abdulaziz, his younger brother, are now really in detention.

The CIA is fuming: Nayef was and remains Langley’s top asset. When Saudi regime spin denounced “Americans” as partners in a possible coup against MBS, that word needed to be read as “CIA.” It’s just a matter of time before the US Deep State, in conjunction with disgruntled National Guard elements, comes for MBS’s head – even as he articulates taking over total power before the G-20 in Riyadh next November.

Black Hawk down?

So what happens next? Amid a tsunami of scenarios, from New York to all points Asia, the most optimistic say that China is about to win the “people’s war” against Covid-19 – and the latest figures confirm it. In this case, global oil demand may increase by at least 480,000 barrels a day.

Well, that’s way more complicated.

The game now points to a confluence of Wall Street in panic; Covid-19 mass hysteria; lingering, myriad aftershocks of Trump’s global trade mess; the US election circus; total political instability in Europe. These interlocked crises do spell Perfect Storm. Yet the market angle is easily explained: that may be the beginning of the end of Wall Street artificially inflated by tens of trillions of US dollars pumped by the Fed through quantitative easings and repos since 2008. Call it the calling of the central bankers’ bluff.

A case can be made that the current financial panic will only subside when the ultimate black swan – Covid-19 – is contained. Borrowing from the famous Hollywood adage, “No one knows anything,” all bets are off. Amid thick fog, and discounting the usual amount of disinformation, a Rabobank analyst, among others, came up with four plausible Covid-19 scenarios. He now reckons it’s getting “ugly” and the fourth scenario – the “unthinkable” – is not far-fetched anymore.

This implies a global economic crisis of, yes, unthinkable magnitude.

To a great extent it will all depend on how fast China – the inescapable crucial link in the global just-in-time supply chain – gets back to a new normal, offsetting interminable weeks of serial lockdowns.

Despised, discriminated against, demonized 24/7 by the “system leader,” China has gone full Nietzsche – about to prove that whatever does not kill you makes you stronger when it comes to a “people’s war” against Covid-19. On the US front, there’s scant hope that the gleaming Black “helicopter money” Hawk will crash down for good. The ultimate Black Swan will have the last word.

Gas dominates on the region’s map ….we are lost الغاز يرسم خرائط المنطقة ونحن تائهون

Written by Nasser Kandil,

It seems that all the conflicts in our region are taking place in countries none of which is living in enviable economic or social conditions, where the political authorities in most of the surrounding countries do not seem that they got popular satisfaction or having the legitimacy to be fine in front of any bomb caused by real essential crises or cross – fabricated ones. Iran which has experienced suffocated financial crisis and remained sticking to its political regime and the popular rally around it that was exploded surprisingly in the funeral of the Commander Qassem Soleimani cannot ignore the demonstrations after the crash of the Ukrainian plane or the increase of fuel price. On the other bank, the occupation entity lives a political disability during the readiness for the early elections for the third time after a year of inability to form new government, in addition to the increase of unemployment, decline of growth, and the increase of the budget deficit. The reports of the International Monetary Fund talked about the urgent need to a set of reforms especially the privatization .In Turkey as in Egypt, there is a deterioration in the currency exchange and a mutual concern between the two governments from the opposite regional policies and roles in the region, but there is a recognition that they have internal political movement against the regime that cannot be ignored. While countries as Iraq, Jordan, Palestine are experiencing conditions that are getting worse politically and economically, in addition to what is taking place in Sudan and Algeria politically and socially and what is experienced by Tunisia economically, socially, and politically. Syria is still confronting the open ten- years war against it along with the financial and economic blockade and political and livelihood crises.

Currently, Lebanon is not a rare case, but no one as Lebanon lives in a state of loss and strategic negligence regarding the issues that draw the maps of the new region and determine its alliances and choices no matter whether they are right or no. Iran which lives under siege, pursuit and threat forms a third party in an international alliance with China and Russia to rearrange the situation in Asia and a regional superpower in the decision-making centers. While Israel which is lost politically does not forget to take the initiative to lead an alliance for gas and oil through a project of pumping gas to Europe in which Greece, Cyprus, and Italy participate. Egypt, Jordan and Palestine join Israel and its allies in the Eastern Mediterranean pipeline. Iraq has great options as to oust the American troops and a strategic economic treaty with China. Turkey which is a member in the NATO heads towards Russia to meet the new maps of oil, it extends towards Libya and forms a passage for the Russian role in the northern coast of Africa, where Africa forms a partner in the South Stream pipeline to transfer the Russian gas to Europe. Syria which is tired is present in the new strategic scene, its military political alliance with Russia and Iran becomes an economic one and it extends in oil and gas, so it imposes on Turkey not to tamper in the Syrian interior, so this makes the Syrian gas a natural member in the club headed by Moscow and which includes Ankara and searches for a share in Libya.

The Lebanese people think that the talk about these maps is a luxury, since the priority is to resolve their current issues whether if they are among those who advocate the call for the radical change of the political and economic regime or among those who are worried from the turning of the crises into financial collapse, social bomb, and political and security chaos. But in fact they ignore that the new maps do not wait. Lebanon is a productive country of oil and gas. If its financial pressures and the social mobility resulting from these financial conditions are not employed to serve imposing unfair and harsh options on Lebanon before demarcating the final maps, they will be subject to this employment at any case in order to solve the current problems and to seek for an appropriate time to discuss the options related to these maps. Everyone knows that there are two gas alliances in the region one is led by Israel and the other is led by Russia. Lebanon has to choose one. The ongoing political and media battles which ignore this fact aims at exerting pressure on Lebanon to join one of these two alliances contrary to its will and its real interest. It is known that what is intended is not the alliance led by Russia, since David Satterfield’s paper of demarcating our maritime borders that satisfies Israel is waiting for a signature in Lebanon as each one of Jeffrey Feltman and David Schenker told us while they were talking about the financial crisis, the popular movement, and the Lebanese government.

Translated by Lina Shehadeh,

الغاز يرسم خرائط المنطقة ونحن تائهون

ناصر قنديل

تبدو كل صراعات المنطقة تدور في بلدان ليس بينها مَن يعيش في ظروف اقتصادية واجتماعية يُحسد عليها، ومثلها لا تبدو السلطات السياسية في أغلب الدول والكيانات المحيطة بنا موضع رضى شعبي أو تحظى بالمشروعية التي تتيح لها الاسترخاء أمام أي انفجار تسببه أزمات حقيقية وراسخة أو مفتعلة وعابرة، فإيران التي تعرف أزمة مالية خانقة مقابل تماسك نظامها السياسي والالتفاف الشعبي حوله الذي تفجّر في جنازة القائد قاسم سليماني بصورة مدهشة، لا تستطيع تجاهل الاحتجاجات التي خرجت بعد سقوط الطائرة الأوكرانية ولا التي سبقتها على خلفية زيادة أسعار المحروقات، وعلى ضفة العداء التام لإيران يقف كيان الاحتلال الذي يعيش شللاً سياسياً مع الاستعداد لانتخابات مبكرة للمرة الثالثة بعد عجز يستمر لعام كامل عن تشكيل حكومة جديدة، ويتسع الحديث فيه عن زيادة أرقام البطالة وتراجع النمو وزيادة عجز الموازنة. وتتحدث تقارير صندوق النقد الدولي عن الحاجة الملحة لجملة إصلاحات تقترح في طليعتها الخصخصة، وفي تركيا كما في مصر تدهور في سعر صرف العملة وقلق متبادل بين الحكومتين من السياسات الإقليمية والأدوار في المنطقة لكل منهما تجاه الأخرى، لكن فيهما تسليم بوجود حراك سياسي داخلي مناهض للحكم لا يمكن تجاهله. والباقي من العراق إلى الأردن وفلسطين في أوضاع تزداد سوءاً وتأزماً سياسياً واقتصادياً. هذا عدا ما يجري في السودان والجزائر سياسياً واجتماعياً وما تعانيه تونس اقتصادياً واجتماعيا ولا يبعد كثيراً عن السياسة وتجاذباتها، فيما سورية تواصل مواجهة الحرب المفتوحة عليها منذ عشر سنوات وفوقها الحصار المالي والاقتصادي والأزمات السياسية والمعيشية.

لبنان في حالته الراهنة ليس كائناً فريداً في المنطقة، لكن لا أحد كلبنان يعيش حالة التيه والضياع والتغافل الاستراتيجي تجاه القضايا التي ترسم خرائط المنطقة الجديدة، وتحدّد تحالفاتها وخياراتها، بغض النظر عن صحة أو عدم صحة هذه الخيارات، لكنها ترسم بوجودها صورة قيادة تتحمل مسؤوليتها في قراءة اللحظة التاريخية، إيران التي تعيش الحصار والملاحقة والتهديد تشكل ركناً ثالثاً في حلف دولي مع كل من الصين وروسيا لإعادة ترتيب وضع آسيا، وتدق بيد غليظة على أبواب مركز صنع القرار الدولي كقوة إقليمية عظمى، و”إسرائيل” الضائعة سياسياً لا تنسى المبادرة لقيادة حلف للنفط والغاز يتوّج ببناء مشروع لضخ الغاز نحو أوروبا، تشاركها فيه اليونان وقبرص وإيطاليا، بينما مصر تنضم مع الأردن وفلسطين إلى منتدى شرق المتوسط مع “إسرائيل” وحلفائها في الأنبوب، فيما يذهب العراق لخيارات كبرى بحجم العزم على إخراج القوات الأميركية، بالتوازي مع معاهدة اقتصادية استراتيجية مع الصين، وتركيا العضو في حلف الناتو تدير ظهرها للحلف وتتوجه صوب روسيا لملاقاة خرائط الغاز الجديدة فتتمدد نحو ليبيا، وتشكل رأس جسر للدور الروسي في الساحل الشمالي لأفريقيا، وتشكل شريكاً في أنبوب السيل الجنوبي لروسيا لنقل الغاز الروسي نحو أوروبا، وسورية المتعبة ليست غائبة أبداً عن هذا المشهد الاستراتيجي الجديد، فحلفها السياسي العسكري مع روسيا وإيران يصير حلفاً اقتصادياً ويمتد في النفط والغاز، فيفرض على تركيا التموضع خارج حسابات العبث بالداخل السوري، ويجعل الغاز السوري عضواً طبيعياً في النادي الذي تقوده موسكو ويضمّ أنقرة، ويبحث عن نصيب في ليبيا.

يتخيّل اللبنانيون أن الحديث عن هذه الخرائط ترف، وأن الأولوية هي لحسم ملفاتهم الراهنة سواء كانوا من دعاة التغيير الجذري للنظام السياسي والاقتصادي، أو من أهل النظام القلقين من تحول الأزمات إلى انهيار مالي وانفجار اجتماعي وفوضى سياسية وأمنية، لكن الحقيقة التي يجهلونها ويتجاهلونها هي أن الخرائط الجديدة لا ترحم ولا تنتظر، ولبنان دولة منتجة للنفط والغاز، وبعض مما يشهده من ضغوط مالية ومن توظيف للحراك الاجتماعي الناتج عن هذه الأوضاع المالية، إن لم يكن مصمماً لتوظيفه في خدمة فرض خيارات ظالمة وقاسية على لبنان في الربع الأخير من الساعة الذي يسبق ترسيم الخرائط النهائية، فهو بكل الأحوال قابل لمثل هذا التوظيف، ليبدو الترف أو السذاجة، في افتراض معالجات للمشاكل الراهنة واستلحاق وقت مناسب لمناقشة الخيارات المرتبطة بهذه الخرائط، ولبنان وكل متابع فيه يعلم، أن ثمة حلفاً للغاز تقوده “إسرائيل” وآخر تقوده روسيا في المنطقة، وان على لبنان الانضمام إلى أحدهما وأن المعارك السياسية والإعلامية الدائرة والتي تتجاهل هذا الاستحقاق في الظاهر تهدف لخدمة الضغط على لبنان للانضمام إلى أحد هذين الحلفين رغماً عنه وضد مصلحته الحقيقية. ومعلوم أن المعني ليس الحلف الذي تقوده روسيا، وأن ورقة ديفيد ساترفيلد لترسيم حدودنا البحرية بما يرضي “إسرائيل” تنتظر من يوقعها في لبنان، كما قال لنا كل من جيفري فيلتمان وديفيد شينكر، فيما كانا يتحدثان عن الأزمة المالية والحراك الشعبي والحكومة اللبنانية.

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Merkel trod on holy Ukrainian toes

January 14, 2020

Rostislav Ishenko, 13 Jan 2020

Translated by Nikolai

The visit by the Federal Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel to Russia and her negotiations with Vladimir Putin were full of negative signals for Ukraine.

Merkel busily carved on the crossroad milestone:

– go right – lose your head;

– go left – lose your life;

– go straight – be forever lost;

– stay in place – death will reach you;

– turn back – you will not reach home.

The fact alone that Berlin and Moscow discussed virtually all pressing topics of the global agenda (including Syria, Libya and Iran) should have put Kiev on notice. After all, if these two countries have so many areas of common interest, Ukraine cannot count on exclusive German support. The contrary is rather probable – if Berlin can agree with Moscow on all other key points of the international agenda, then it can quite easily sacrifice Ukrainian interests in favor of full understanding.

In addition, the chancellor also discussed the Ukrainian problem in separate with the president of Russia. By all appearances, they did not spend a lot of time on this discussion. As a result, during the press conference they were brief and clear in announcing their united position – Ukraine must fulfill the Minsk agreements. During the last year, such statements became common, so I will remind that it was not so long ago (in 2018) that Berlin usually stated in such cases that it expects Russia to constructively work with the DNR/LNR, who in turn must fulfill the Minsk agreements. And in 2015-2017 Berlin (in chorus with Paris) demanded that the Minsk agreements were Russia’s responsibility to implement.

France and Germany went over to Moscow’s point of view sort of casually and discretely. Moreover, being more involved in the Ukrainian crisis, Berlin was more stoic than Paris.

Zelensky, when striving for the “Normandy format” meeting, was clearly counting on that he would be accommodated (as a young, popular “new formation politician” as he was called in Ukraine) and allowed to at least partially rework the Minsk agreements, or even better – declare them null and void and begin prolonged, tedious and pointless negotiations on the new format for regulation of the crisis. It was not a coincidence that right after the meeting in Paris the Ukrainian media and diplomats attempted to propose their own version for the translation of Merkel’s words at the press conference and tried to attribute to the federal chancellor a statement supposedly saying that the Minsk agreements are not dogma and can be modernized. They broadcasted this so often and with such certainty, that they even convinced some Russian experts, who began to accept Merkel’s phrase as “ambiguous”.

And so now, the German leader says unequivocally that the Minsk agreements must be implemented without any modernization, that Russia and Germany, in fact, have the same view on this topic. The caringly constructed concept of zelensky diplomacy comes crashing down. The people at home can be still indoctrinated about the “great leap forward” achieved. But the concurring and unequivocal position of Berlin and Moscow means that there will not be a new meeting in Berlin in the “Normandy format” without corresponding steps made by Kiev (doing their homework, as they were told in Paris). Pity for Zelensky, who was so convincing in Paris, saying how he already did everything he could and that he is prevented from moving forward by evil radicals, so everyone should just “understand and forgive” him and get busy reconsidering the “Minsk” in the interests of Kiev.

This is a fiasco. Now, the minister of foreign affairs of Ukraine Vadim Pristaiko and company have to think on how to rationalize before the people taking it all in and frozen in expectations of further diplomatic breakthroughs that the April “Normandy format” meeting is cancelled or postponed to an unclear date. Remember, Kiev already voiced a wealth of demands for the “modernization” of the Minsk agreements, which they were planning on stating and pressing in Berlin. And the April meeting was presented by Ukrainian propaganda as 100% arranged. Mind you, April is very soon: February 23rd, March 8th, then the May holidays are already near – April will arrive suddenly.

Something has to be done and decided with this. But what? The fact is, it is very hard to move Merkel from a position taken in advance. However, if she did change her mind, it is even harder to bring her back around.

Well, Merkel changed her mind, seriously and decisively. This is indicated by another topic discussed by the two leaders. I think no one was surprised upon hearing at the press conference that the chiefs of the two countries discussed the fate of the Nord Stream II gas pipeline. At this time Merkel again stated that the pipeline will be finished despite American sanctions. Putin in turn stated the probable timetable for the end of works: end of this year – first half of next year. This means that during 2022 the gas pipeline must reach its design capacity no matter what.

I will note that for the first time the federal chancellor did not say anything about the Ukrainian transit. This can be because the transit agreement has been signed. However, it has been signed only for five years. And by the end of 2022, when Nord Stream II reaches peak flowrate, three of these years will already have passed. Previously, in 2016, 2017, 2018 and in 2019 Merkel each time packed up the startup of Nord Stream II with the preservation of the Ukrainian transit. She was not talking about prolonging it for five years but about guaranteeing significant transit volumes through the Ukrainian gas transmission network (GTN).

In principle, Gazprom is interested in preserving the transit through the Ukrainian GTN (as is the GTN itself, which actually should be transferred under Gazprom’s control). First, demand for gas in Europe is rising, and the marine “Streams” are just not being built fast enough. Second, it is always better to use available infrastructure than build a new one. Third, Gazprom does not endeavor to move away from the Ukrainian monopoly on transit only to create a German or Turkish one. Of course, this does not mean that Gazprom is ready to start pumping 80-100 bln m3 yearly through the Ukrainian GTN, but it could quite do 30-40 bln.

However, Gazprom is not willing to tolerate Ukraine’s provocative behavior, who has been motivating “substantiated” (“market”) transit costs with its own need for cash and trying to block Gazprom from building gas pipelines going around its territory. Until now, this was a problem for Gazprom and Russia. However, after the frankly anti-European sanctions from the USA that were meant to put the brakes (if not stop completely) on the building of Nord Stream II, the position of Germany changed in a similar, almost unnoticed fashion, since Germany had determined this pipeline as one of the most important infrastructure projects both in concerning European energy safety and German economy.   

Statements by Berlin on the subject of Nord Stream II are now completely lacking mentions of the need to consider Kiev’s interests and provide guarantees of loading the Ukrainian GTN. It seems, the hard pro-American position accepted by Ukraine on this issue decidedly convinced Germany that Kiev is ready to completely irrationally make decisions that are harmful not only to itself (which is not a concern for Berlin), but also to Germany (which is a very strong concern) in order to protect the strategic interests of Washington.

As in the issue of the Minsk agreements, the positions of Moscow and Berlin are united and coordinated as never before concerning Nord Stream II. The fact that Ukraine is taking a pro-American orientation on this issue in only an additional push for Berlin to distance itself from Kiev. Especially since Germany has experience in dealing with Poland. The latter realized that the multi-billion giveaways from EU funds (mostly filled by German money) will soon end and started talking about receiving reparations for World War II (luckily they are not yet demanding Poland be returned to its borders of the times of Bolesław I the Brave and compensations from Germany, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Ukraine and Belarus for a millennium of “unlawful ownership” of “immemorial polish lands”).

All in all, Merkel’s visit to Russia does not bode anything good for Kiev. Rather it’s all bad. It seems, German politicians have finally understood the simple truth –support Ukraine or not, but you have to plan your future in such a way that the Ukrainian factor influences it as little as possible, or even better – does not influence it at all.

Source – https://ukraina.ru/opinion/20200113/1026284231.html

America Escalates its “Democratic” Oil War in the Near East

January 05, 2020

by Michael Hudson exclusively for the Saker Blog

The mainstream media are carefully sidestepping the method behind America’s seeming madness in assassinating Islamic Revolutionary Guard general Qassim Suleimani to start the New Year. The logic behind the assassination this was a long-standing application of U.S. global policy, not just a personality quirk of Donald Trump’s impulsive action. His assassination of Iranian military leader Suleimani was indeed a unilateral act of war in violation of international law, but it was a logical step in a long-standing U.S. strategy. It was explicitly authorized by the Senate in the funding bill for the Pentagon that it passed last year.

The assassination was intended to escalate America’s presence in Iraq to keep control the region’s oil reserves, and to back Saudi Arabia’s Wahabi troops (Isis, Al Quaeda in Iraq, Al Nusra and other divisions of what are actually America’s foreign legion) to support U.S. control o Near Eastern oil as a buttress o the U.S. dollar. That remains the key to understanding this policy, and why it is in the process of escalating, not dying down.

I sat in on discussions of this policy as it was formulated nearly fifty years ago when I worked at the Hudson Institute and attended meetings at the White House, met with generals at various armed forces think tanks and with diplomats at the United Nations. My role was as a balance-of-payments economist having specialized for a decade at Chase Manhattan, Arthur Andersen and oil companies in the oil industry and military spending. These were two of the three main dynamic of American foreign policy and diplomacy. (The third concern was how to wage war in a democracy where voters rejected the draft in the wake of the Vietnam War.)

The media and public discussion have diverted attention from this strategy by floundering speculation that President Trump did it, except to counter the (non-)threat of impeachment with a wag-the-dog attack, or to back Israeli lebensraum drives, or simply to surrender the White House to neocon hate-Iran syndrome. The actual context for the neocon’s action was the balance of payments, and the role of oil and energy as a long-term lever of American diplomacy.

The balance of payments dimension

The major deficit in the U.S. balance of payments has long been military spending abroad. The entire payments deficit, beginning with the Korean War in 1950-51 and extending through the Vietnam War of the 1960s, was responsible for forcing the dollar off gold in 1971. The problem facing America’s military strategists was how to continue supporting the 800 U.S. military bases around the world and allied troop support without losing America’s financial leverage.

The solution turned out to be to replace gold with U.S. Treasury securities (IOUs) as the basis of foreign central bank reserves. After 1971, foreign central banks had little option for what to do with their continuing dollar inflows except to recycle them to the U.S. economy by buying U.S. Treasury securities. The effect of U.S. foreign military spending thus did not undercut the dollar’s exchange rate, and did not even force the Treasury and Federal Reserve to raise interest rates to attract foreign exchange to offset the dollar outflows on military account. In fact, U.S. foreign military spending helped finance the domestic U.S. federal budget deficit.

Saudi Arabia and other Near Eastern OPEC countries quickly became a buttress of the dollar. After these countries quadrupled the price of oil (in retaliation for the United States quadrupling the price of its grain exports, a mainstay of the U.S. trade balance), U.S. banks were swamped with an inflow of much foreign deposits – which were lent out to Third World countries in an explosion of bad loans that blew up in 1972 with Mexico’s insolvency, and destroyed Third World government credit for a decade, forcing it into dependence on the United States via the IMF and World Bank).

To top matters, of course, what Saudi Arabia does not save in dollarized assets with its oil-export earnings is spent on buying hundreds of billion of dollars of U.S. arms exports. This locks them into dependence on U.S. supply o replacement parts and repairs, and enables the United States to turn off Saudi military hardware at any point of time, in the event that the Saudis may try to act independently of U.S. foreign policy.

So maintaining the dollar as the world’s reserve currency became a mainstay of U.S. military spending. Foreign countries to not have to pay the Pentagon directly for this spending. They simply finance the U.S. Treasury and U.S. banking system.

Fear of this development was a major reason why the United States moved against Libya, whose foreign reserves were held in gold, not dollars, an which was urging other African countries to follow suit in order to free themselves from “Dollar Diplomacy.” Hillary and Obama invaded, grabbed their gold supplies (we still have no idea who ended up with these billions of dollars worth of gold) and destroyed Libya’s government, its public education system, its public infrastructure and other non-neoliberal policies.

The great threat to this is dedollarization as China, Russia and other countries seek to avoid recycling dollars. Without the dollar’s function as the vehicle for world saving – in effect, without the Pentagon’s role in creating the Treasury debt that is the vehicle for world central bank reserves – the U.S. would find itself constrained militarily and hence diplomatically constrained, as it was under the gold exchange standard.

That is the same strategy that the U.S. has followed in Syria and Iraq. Iran was threatening this dollarization strategy and its buttress in U.S. oil diplomacy.

The oil industry as buttress of the U.S. balance of payments and foreign diplomacy

The trade balance is buttressed by oil and farm surpluses. Oil is the key, because it is imported by U.S. companies at almost no balance-of-payments cost (the payments end up in the oil industry’s head offices here as profits and payments to management), while profits on U.S. oil company sales to other countries are remitted to the United States (via offshore tax-avoidance centers, mainly Liberia and Panama for many years). And as noted above, OPEC countries have been told to keep their official reserves in the form of U.S. securities (stocks and bonds as well as Treasury IOUs, but not direct purchase of U.S. companies being deemed economically important). Financially, OPEC countries are client slates of the Dollar Area.

America’s attempt to maintain this buttress explains U.S. opposition to any foreign government steps to reverse global warming and the extreme weather caused by the world’s U.S.-sponsored dependence on oil. Any such moves by Europe and other countries would reduce dependence on U.S. oil sales, and hence on U.S. ability to control the global oil spigot as a means of control and coercion, are viewed as hostile acts.

Oil also explains U.S. opposition to Russian oil exports via Nordstream. U.S. strategists want to treat energy as a U.S. national monopoly. Other countries can benefit in the way that Saudi Arabia has done – by sending their surpluses to the U.S. economy – but not to support their own economic growth and diplomacy. Control of oil thus implies support for continued global warming as an inherent part of U.S. strategy.

How a “democratic” nation can wage international war and terrorism

The Vietnam War showed that modern democracies cannot field armies for any major military conflict, because this would require a draft of its citizens. That would lead any government attempting such a draft to be voted out of power. And without troops, it is not possible to invade a country to take it over.

The corollary of this perception is that democracies have only two choices when it comes to military strategy: They can only wage airpower, bombing opponents; or they can create a foreign legion, that is, hire mercenaries or back foreign governments that provide this military service.

Here once again Saudi Arabia plays a critical role, through its control of Wahabi Sunnis turned into terrorist jihadis willing to sabotage, bomb, assassinate, blow up and otherwise fight any target designated as an enemy of “Islam,” the euphemism for Saudi Arabia acting as U.S. client state. (Religion really is not the key; I know of no ISIS or similar Wahabi attack on Israeli targets.) The United States needs the Saudis to supply or finance Wahabi crazies. So in addition to playing a key role in the U.S. balance of payments by recycling its oil-export earnings are into U.S. stocks, bonds and other investments, Saudi Arabia provides manpower by supporting the Wahabi members of America’s foreign legion, ISIS and Al-Nusra/Al-Qaeda. Terrorism has become the “democratic” mode of today U.S. military policy.

What makes America’s oil war in the Near East “democratic” is that this is the only kind of war a democracy can fight – an air war, followed by a vicious terrorist army that makes up for the fact that no democracy can field its own army in today’s world. The corollary is that, terrorism has become the “democratic” mode of warfare.

From the U.S. vantage point, what is a “democracy”? In today’s Orwellian vocabulary, it means any country supporting U.S. foreign policy. Bolivia and Honduras have become “democracies” since their coups, along with Brazil. Chile under Pinochet was a Chicago-style free market democracy. So was Iran under the Shah, and Russia under Yeltsin – but not since it elected Vladimir Putin president, any more than is China under President Xi.

The antonym to “democracy” is “terrorist.” That simply means a nation willing to fight to become independent from U.S. neoliberal democracy. It does not include America’s proxy armies.

Iran’s role as U.S. nemesis

What stands in the way of U.S. dollarization, oil and military strategy? Obviously, Russia and China have been targeted as long-term strategic enemies for seeking their own independent economic policies and diplomacy. But next to them, Iran has been in America’s gun sights for nearly seventy years.

America’s hatred of Iran is starts with its attempt to control its own oil production, exports and earnings. It goes back to 1953, when Mossadegh was overthrown because he wanted domestic sovereignty over Anglo-Persian oil. The CIA-MI6 coup replaced him with the pliant Shah, who imposed a police state to prevent Iranian independence from U.S. policy. The only physical places free from the police were the mosques. That made the Islamic Republic the path of least resistance to overthrowing the Shah and re-asserting Iranian sovereignty.

The United States came to terms with OPEC oil independence by 1974, but the antagonism toward Iran extends to demographic and religious considerations. Iranian support its Shi’ite population an those of Iraq and other countries – emphasizing support for the poor and for quasi-socialist policies instead of neoliberalism – has made it the main religious rival to Saudi Arabia’s Sunni sectarianism and its role as America’s Wahabi foreign legion.

America opposed General Suleimani above all because he was fighting against ISIS and other U.S.-backed terrorists in their attempt to break up Syria and replace Assad’s regime with a set of U.S.-compliant local leaders – the old British “divide and conquer” ploy. On occasion, Suleimani had cooperated with U.S. troops in fighting ISIS groups that got “out of line” meaning the U.S. party line. But every indication is that he was in Iraq to work with that government seeking to regain control of the oil fields that President Trump has bragged so loudly about grabbing.

Already in early 2018, President Trump asked Iraq to reimburse America for the cost of “saving its democracy” by bombing the remainder of Saddam’s economy. The reimbursement was to take the form of Iraqi Oil. More recently, in 2019, President Trump asked, why not simply grab Iraqi oil. The giant oil field has become the prize of the Bush-Cheney post 9-11 Oil War. “‘It was a very run-of-the-mill, low-key, meeting in general,” a source who was in the room told Axios.’ And then right at the end, Trump says something to the effect of, he gets a little smirk on his face and he says, ‘So what are we going to do about the oil?’”[1]

Trump’s idea that America should “get something” out of its military expenditure in destroying the Iraqi and Syrian economies simply reflects U.S. policy.

In late October, 2019, The New York Times reported that: “In recent days, Mr. Trump has settled on Syria’s oil reserves as a new rationale for appearing to reverse course and deploy hundreds of additional troops to the war-ravaged country. He has declared that the United States has “secured” oil fields in the country’s chaotic northeast and suggested that the seizure of the country’s main natural resource justifies America further extending its military presence there. ‘We have taken it and secured it,’ Mr. Trump said of Syria’s oil during remarks at the White House on Sunday, after announcing the killing of the Islamic State leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.” [2] A CIA official reminded the journalist that taking Iraq’s oil was a Trump campaign pledge.

That explains the invasion of Iraq for oil in 2003, and again this year, as President Trump has said: “Why don’t we simply take their oil?” It also explains the Obama-Hillary attack on Libya – not only for its oil, but for its investing its foreign reserves in gold instead of recycling its oil surplus revenue to the U.S. Treasury – and of course, for promoting a secular socialist state.

It explains why U.S. neocons feared Suleimani’s plan to help Iraq assert control of its oil and withstand the terrorist attacks supported by U.S. and Saudi’s on Iraq. That is what made his assassination an immediate drive.

American politicians have discredited themselves by starting off their condemnation of Trump by saying, as Elizabeth Warren did, how “bad” a person Suleimani was, how he had killed U.S. troops by masterminding the Iraqi defense of roadside bombing and other policies trying to repel the U.S. invasion to grab its oil. She was simply parroting the U.S. media’s depiction of Suleimani as a monster, diverting attention from the policy issue that explains why he was assassinated now.

The counter-strategy to U.S. oil, and dollar and global-warming diplomacy

This strategy will continue, until foreign countries reject it. If Europe and other regions fail to do so, they will suffer the consequences of this U.S. strategy in the form of a rising U.S.-sponsored war via terrorism, the flow of refugees, and accelerated global warming and extreme weather.

Russia, China and its allies already have been leading the way to dedollarization as a means to contain the balance-of-payments buttress of U.S. global military policy. But everyone now is speculating over what Iran’s response should be.

The pretense – or more accurately, the diversion – by the U.S. news media over the weekend has been to depict the United States as being under imminent attack. Mayor de Blasio has positioned policemen at conspicuous key intersections to let us know how imminent Iranian terrorism is – as if it were Iran, not Saudi Arabia that mounted 9/11, and as if Iran in fact has taken any forceful action against the United States. The media and talking heads on television have saturated the air waves with warnings of Islamic terrorism. Television anchors are suggesting just where the attacks are most likely to occur.

The message is that the assassination of General Soleimani was to protect us. As Donald Trump and various military spokesmen have said, he had killed Americans – and now they must be planning an enormous attack that will injure and kill many more innocent Americans. That stance has become America’s posture in the world: weak and threatened, requiring a strong defense – in the form of a strong offense.

But what is Iran’s actual interest? If it is indeed to undercut U.S. dollar and oil strategy, the first policy must be to get U.S. military forces out of the Near East, including U.S. occupation of its oil fields. It turns out that President Trump’s rash act has acted as a catalyst, bringing about just the opposite of what he wanted. On January 5 the Iraqi parliament met to insist that the United States leave. General Suleimani was an invited guest, not an Iranian invader. It is U.S. troops that are in Iraq in violation of international law. If they leave, Trump and the neocons lose control of oil – and also of their ability to interfere with Iranian-Iraqi-Syrian-Lebanese mutual defense.

Beyond Iraq looms Saudi Arabia. It has become the Great Satan, the supporter of Wahabi extremism, the terrorist legion of U.S. mercenary armies fighting to maintain control of Near Eastern oil and foreign exchange reserves, the cause of the great exodus of refugees to Turkey, Europe and wherever else it can flee from the arms and money provided by the U.S. backers of Isis, Al Qaeda in Iraq and their allied Saudi Wahabi legions.

The logical ideal, in principle, would be to destroy Saudi power. That power lies in its oil fields. They already have fallen under attack by modest Yemeni bombs. If U.S. neocons seriously threaten Iran, its response would be the wholesale bombing and destruction of Saudi oil fields, along with those of Kuwait and allied Near Eastern oil sheikhdoms. It would end the Saudi support for Wahabi terrorists, as well as for the U.S. dollar.

Such an act no doubt would be coordinated with a call for the Palestinian and other foreign workers in Saudi Arabia to rise up and drive out the monarchy and its thousands of family retainers.

Beyond Saudi Arabia, Iran and other advocates of a multilateral diplomatic break with U.S. neoliberal and neocon unilateralism should bring pressure on Europe to withdraw from NATO, inasmuch as that organization functions mainly as a U.S.-centric military tool of American dollar and oil diplomacy and hence opposing the climate change and military confrontation policies that threaten to make Europe part of the U.S. maelstrom.

Finally, what can U.S. anti-war opponents do to resist the neocon attempt to destroy any part of the world that resists U.S. neoliberal autocracy? This has been the most disappointing response over the weekend. They are flailing. It has not been helpful for Warren, Buttigieg and others to accuse Trump of acting rashly without thinking through the consequences of his actions. That approach shies away from recognizing that his action did indeed have a rationale—do draw a line in the sand, to say that yes, America WILL go to war, will fight Iran, will do anything at all to defend its control of Near Eastern oil and to dictate OPEC central bank policy, to defend its ISIS legions as if any opposition to this policy is an attack on the United States itself.

I can understand the emotional response or yet new calls for impeachment of Donald Trump. But that is an obvious non-starter, partly because it has been so obviously a partisan move by the Democratic Party. More important is the false and self-serving accusation that President Trump has overstepped his constitutional limit by committing an act of war against Iran by assassinating Soleimani.

Congress endorsed Trump’s assassination and is fully as guilty as he is for having approved the Pentagon’s budget with the Senate’s removal of the amendment to the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act that Bernie Sanders, Tom Udall and Ro Khanna inserted an amendment in the House of Representatives version, explicitly not authorizing the Pentagon to wage war against Iran or assassinate its officials. When this budget was sent to the Senate, the White House and Pentagon (a.k.a. the military-industrial complex and neoconservatives) removed that constraint. That was a red flag announcing that the Pentagon and White House did indeed intend to wage war against Iran and/or assassinate its officials. Congress lacked the courage to argue this point at the forefront of public discussion.

Behind all this is the Saudi-inspired 9/11 act taking away Congress’s sole power to wage war – its 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force, pulled out of the drawer ostensibly against Al Qaeda but actually the first step in America’s long support of the very group that was responsible for 9/11, the Saudi airplane hijackers.

The question is, how to get the world’s politicians – U.S., European and Asians – to see how America’s all-or-nothing policy is threatening new waves of war, refugees, disruption of the oil trade in the Strait of Hormuz, and ultimately global warming and neoliberal dollarization imposed on all countries. It is a sign of how little power exists in the United Nations that no countries are calling for a new Nurenberg-style war crimes trial, no threat to withdraw from NATO or even to avoid holding reserves in the form of money lent to the U.S. Treasury to fund America’s military budget.

Michael Hudson

  1. https://www.axios.com/trump-to-iraqi-pm-how-about-that-oil-1a31cbfa-f20c-4767-8d18-d518ed9a6543.html. The article adds: “In the March meeting, the Iraqi prime minister replied, ‘What do you mean?’ according to the source in the room. And Trump’s like, ‘Well, we did a lot, we did a lot over there, we spent trillions over there, and a lot of people have been talking about the oil.’” 
  2. Michael Crowly, “‘Keep the Oil’: Trump Revives Charged Slogan for new Syria Troop Mission,” The New York Times, October 26, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/26/us/politics/trump-syria-oil-fields.html. The article adds: “‘I said keep the oil,’ Mr. Trump recounted. ‘If they are going into Iraq, keep the oil. They never did. They never did.’” 

Pipeline News – Russia Will Persist! Gas Situation in Europe In Chaos

December 24, 2019

From Vesti news, starting with the Pipeline to the East, following up with the ‘agreement’ with the Ukraine and then at the 10:00 minute mark, quotes from the letter from the US authorities that went to Allseas.

The Russia-Germany Pipeline Nord Stream 2: Washington to “Free” Europe from Freedom to Decide for Itself

Global Research, December 23, 2019

Nord Stream 2 is a pipeline project extending from Russia to Germany that – when completed – will provide a secure means of exporting Russian natural gas to Western Europe – circumventing a  now volatile Ukraine all while tying Russia and Europe together further through mutually beneficial economic activity.

Of course, for special interests residing across the Atlantic in Washington and on Wall Street, Russia and Europe building closer ties through constructive economic activity undermines a long-standing strategy of coercing Europe via the constant threat of a supposedly hostile Kremlin Washington claims undermines a free and united Europe.

Ironically, in order to preserve Europe’s “freedom” the US has now resorted to punishing interests in Europe – and in Germany specifically – for freely choosing to do business with Russia. It not only fully illustrates the supreme hypocrisy that lies at the very root of Washington’s current foreign policy, but also threatens to undermine legitimate US business interests seeking – just as Russia does – to build constructive economic ties with companies and nations around the globe.

Sanctions Approved

The BBC in its article, “Nord Stream 2: Trump approves sanctions on Russia gas pipeline,” would report:

President Donald Trump has signed a law that will impose sanctions on any firm that helps Russia’s state-owned gas company, Gazprom, finish a pipeline into the European Union. 

The sanctions target firms building Nord Stream 2, an undersea pipeline that will allow Russia to increase gas exports to Germany. 

The US considers the project a security risk to Europe. 

Both Russia and the EU have strongly condemned the US sanctions.

It may or may not confound objective observers to see the US unilaterally leveling sanctions against foreign companies because of what Washington claims are security threats to the nations these companies reside in.

It is clearly the business of Germany and Germany alone to determine what may or may not be a security risk. The US deciding not only unilaterally that the Nord Stream 2 project is a security risk – but in contradiction to Berlin’s own assessments of these supposed risks – exposes what is a US foreign policy rooted in singular self-interests poorly hidden behind notions of global peace, stability, and progress.

Were Russia the “threat” that Washington claims it is, clearly Germany would not have invested the immense amount of time, energy, and resources required merely to approve of the Nord Stream 2 project – let alone all the time, energy, and resources required to build and operate it.

Stated Motives. Admitted “Hidden” Motives. Larger, Unspoken Motives 

The BBC article gives a glimpse of what is truly motivating Washington’s current posture regarding Nord Stream 2. In its article, it notes that:

The Trump administration fears the pipeline will tighten Russia’s grip over Europe’s energy supply and reduce its own share of the lucrative European market for American liquefied natural gas.

And indeed, US energy interests do stand to lose against Russian natural gas – but only because US energy interests are unable to fairly compete against Russia’s ability to deliver cheaper energy through much more practical means.

There is also another motivation driving Washington’s current foreign policy – unmentioned by the BBC – but one that eclipses the interests of American big-energy – no matter how large these interests may be.

The alleged spectre of a malign Russia preying on Europe serves as – and has served for decades as the foundation of the US-led NATO alliance, the US military presence in Europe and the billions upon billions of dollars of weapon sales, contracts, and all the political influence that constitutes both.

Europe and Russia building a significant pipeline and cooperating over something as key to Europe’s economic security and survival as energy demand obviously and completely undermines NATO’s pretense to exist – and thus threatens the immense racket that constitutes NATO’s continued existence. This not only threatens Washington’s grip on Europe, but all the other wars NATO is used as a vehicle to carry both the American nation and its Western allies into across the globe.

The Western intervention in Serbia in the 1990s, the Afghan war stretching from 2001 to present day, and more recently the Western intervention in Libya beginning in 2011 are all examples of US belligerence made possible by NATO – and belligerence that would be exponentially more difficult to continue onward with if NATO was weakened or rendered entirely unnecessary and disbanded.

Not Serving European Interests, or even US Interests 

One must be careful when saying “the US is imposing sanctions on Germany.” The US is not. A small handful of special interests in Washington, directed by an even smaller handful of interests on Wall Street are imposing sanctions on Europe over the Nord Stream 2 project.

They are doing so clearly to the detriment of Russia. But also obviously to the detriment of Germany and the European companies involved in completing, operating, and receiving benefits from the pipeline when it opens.

They are also imposing sanctions on Europe to the detriment of the American people, American businesses at large, and the American nation itself both as it stands internationally today and to the detriment of how it will stand internationally in the future.

While the US arms and energy industries certainly stand to gain from a status quo in Europe which includes the perpetuation of the artificial wedge driven between Europe and Russia, it benefits nearly no one else.

And while these two industries do certainly employ a lot of Americans, they are unsustainable businesses demonstrably unable to compete fairly – and now – not even effectively able to cheat. The future is bleak for those employed or otherwise dependent on these two industries as they currently exist. Washington’s policies pushed forward on behalf of big-energy and arms manufacturers are pushed forward at the cost of nearly everyone else.

For a world eager to do business with the United States – a nation still populated by talented people capable of contributing to the global economy – policies like sanctions aimed at Germany and other nation’s involved with Nord Stream 2 give pause for thought and force potential business partners of the US to reevaluate future joint-ventures.

Thus, despite the short-term self-serving nature of US sanctions regarding Nord Stream 2, the sanctions only serve to accelerate America’s overall decline. A Washington fixated on such methods to “compete” with Russia and to maintain influence over Europe is not able to focus on or invest in truly needed strategies to improve genuine American competitiveness – competitiveness that serves as the only true and sustainable means of creating and maintaining influence globally.

For the American people and American business owners, divesting away from Washington’s current policies and finding ways to circumvent them just as the rest of the world is finding ways to circumvent US sanctions will hopefully help build bridges, or at least prepare the ground to do so – so when the current circle of special interests misleading the US into further decline fade away, something better can be put in their place.

Nord Stream 2 is just one sign of the shape of things to come. The US will only face more “Nord Stream 2’s” in the future not only in the form of Russian-European cooperation, but also in Asia centered around China and its own rise upon the international stage. Washington doubling down on a losing strategy will only accelerate America’s current woes – not fix them. Until Washington understands this, or until the American people find a way to work around Washington’s agenda – these woes will only multiply and to everyone’s detriment.

*

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Tony Cartalucci is a Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer, especially for the online magazine New Eastern Outlook” where this article was originally published. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

Featured image is from Stefan Sauer/dpa

Munich Conference Showed That America Is Losing Ground

Source

February 18, 2019

Munich Conference Showed That America Is Losing Ground

by Ruslan Ostashko

Translated by Scott and captioned by Leo.

The annual Security Conference, traditionally hosted by Germany in Munich, this time was not attended by neither the leader of Russia nor by the head of the United States. The latter was replaced by Vice President Mike Pence, who tried to convince the audience that America is strong. This came out not very convincing.

It has been 12 years since Vladimir Putin delivered his famous “Munich speech.” It was dubbed the starting point for a new “Cold War” between Russia and the West. A year and a half later an “Olympic war” commenced and ended with bringing Georgia to its senses despite it being pumped up by the “most advanced” American weapons. And going on further, everything following was deepening of the conflict.

Now, after 12 years, we can sum up some results. The first and the main result: a “unipolar world” has been destroyed. Flown in from Washington, the Vice President of the United States, of course, puffed up his cheeks. But his demands weren’t concerning Russia, but the European vassals of America, who reacted to Pence’s demands without usual enthusiasm. Here’s what was written on this by my friend and colleague Ivan Danilov.

“By and large, on the Munich stage, the world was shown a completely different America, its new image only seen so far by very few people: it’s an image of a Hegemon affronted by the entire world, which is experiencing mental suffering from the fact that its desires are no longer fulfilled like before. Pence presented Germany in particular and the European Union as a whole a fairly large list of grievances that cause irritation in Washington. Vice President of the US criticized the Nord Stream 2 and virtually accused Germany that support for this project, Berlin contributes to the increasing dependency of the EU on Russia.’We cannot protect the West if our allies depend on the East,’ he said. The European Union was required to immediately abandon attempts to circumvent American sanctions against Iran and possibly join them.”

The fact that Pence did not want to talk about cooperation, and demanded submission, has been noticed even by the American media. The New York Times wrote  that the Vice President of the United States “focused on the list of requirements for American allies.”

How exactly these same allies took Pence’s demands is clearly demonstrated in the title of the German magazine Spiegel: Münchner Sicherheitskonferenz Trumps Bauchrednerpuppe. l

“America is not the leader, it is losing ground,” the newspaper writes in response to Pence’s words that ‘the US has become the leader of the free world.’ If we translate from politically correct into Russian, the German journalists actually declared that the “king of democracy” is naked.

The Russian delegation, that had enough of the slogan “America is the strongest,” was adding fuel to the fire. This is what Deputy foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said:

“The West, with its self-conceit, self-aggrandizement, and its belief in the infallibility of its own approaches to civilization, world development, values, should stop and think for a moment: if you value your world order so much, can you increase the risks of your existence for the sake of the pursuit of ephemeral establishment of a universal, God forbid, New Order for the rest of the world?”

It sounds sarcastic and in its form and in its content. Actually, our delegation headed by Sergey Lavrov, focused on shaking the “Euro-Atlantic unity” in Munich. For example, the Russian Foreign Minister sarcastically pointed to the duality of the behavior of representatives of the EU. They were publicly stigmatizing Moscow, but in private whined about the fact that they needed the normalization of relations with Russia.

“Apparently, while this has not happened, they somehow have to be guided by their mutual responsibility and follow the course, which is fixed in the European Union under the pressure of an aggressive Russophobic minority. But we patiently explain our readiness to resume relations on an equal basis to the extent and with such speed in which it will be convenient to our partners.”

That is, the second result of the “Cold War 2.0” can be formulated as follows: “the US sustainable sovereignty over the EU is no more.” Sergey Lavrov used constructive terms to describe the situation:

“The common European house needs major repairs. The tasks are really large-scale. They can only be effectively addressed together, on a universal basis.”

The participants of the conference who listened to these words burst into thunderous applause. They only applauded more to Angela Merkel, while Mike Pence did not receive any applause at all.

*Clip plays*

I thank you for your attention, and I’m ready to answer your questions.

*Loud applause*

Finally, about the third result of the Cold War 2.0. It’s the fact that the plan to strangle Russia with the notorious “isolation” failed. Moreover, as admitted by the same Lavrov before leaving for Moscow, Russian diplomats would not mind a bit of “isolation.”

“We would even like to see some isolation, because the negotiations went back-to-back for more than two dozen meetings. Our entire delegation worked without a break.”

What is 12 years on the historical scale? Nothing. To destroy in such a short period of time all that the United States has built up over the decades since the creation of NATO and to the peak of its power at the beginning of the XXI century – is something remarkable. It will take another 12 years to compare the “overhaul” of the world order with the situation today. Do you have any predictions about what our country will achieve by February 2031?

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