How St. Petersburg is mapping the Eurasian Century

How St. Petersburg is mapping the Eurasian Century

June 04, 2021

By Pepe Escobar with permission and first posted at Asia Times

It’s impossible to understand the finer points of what’s happening on the ground in Russia and across Eurasia, business-wise, without following the annual St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF).

So let’s cut to the chase, and offer a few choice examples of what is discussed on top panels.

The Russian Far East – Here’s a discussion on the – largely successful – strategies boosting productive investment in industry and infrastructure across the Russian Far East. Manufacturing in Russia grew by 12.2% between 2015 and 2020; in the Far East it was almost double, 23.1%. And from 2018 to 2020, per capita investment in fixed capital was 40% higher than the national average. The next steps center on improving infrastructure; opening global markets to Russian companies; and most of all, finding the necessary funds (China? South Korea?) for advanced tech.

St. Isaac’s cathedral, St. Petersburg

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) – As I’ve seen for myself in previous editions of the forum, there’s nothing remotely similar in the West in terms of seriously discussing an organization like the SCO – which has progressively evolved from its initial security focus towards a wide-ranging politico-economic role.

Russia presided the SCO in 2019-2020, when foreign policy got a fresh impetus and the socioeconomic consequences of Covid-19 were seriously addressed. Now the collective emphasis should be on how to turn these member nations – especially the Central Asian “stans” – more attractive for global investors. Panelists include former SCO secretary-general Rashid Alimov, and the current one, Vladimir Norov.

Eurasian partnership – This discussion involves what should be one of the key nodes of the Eurasian Century: the International North-South Transportation Corridor (INSTC). An important historical precedent apply: the 8th-9th centuries Volga trade route that connected Western Europe to Persia – and could now be extended, in a variation of the Maritime Silk Road, all the way to ports in India. That raises a number of questions, ranging from the development of trade and technology to the harmonic implementation of digital platforms. Here one finds panelists from Russia, India, Iran, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan.

The Greater Eurasian partnership – Greater Eurasia is the overarching Russian concept applied to the consolidation of the Eurasian Century. This discussion is largely focused on Big Tech, including full digitalization, automated managing systems and Green growth. The question is how a radical tech transition could work for pan-Eurasia interests.

And that’s where the Russian-led Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU) comes in: how the EAEU’s drive for a Greater Eurasian Partnership should work in practice. Panelists include the chairman of the board of the Eurasian Economic Commission, Mikhail Myasnikovich, and a relic from the Yeltsin past: Anatoliy Chubais, who is now Putin’s special representative for “relations with international organizations to achieve sustainable development goals.”

Gotta ditch all those greenbacks

Arguably the most eye-catching panel on SPIEF was on the post-Covid-19 “new normal” (or abnormal), and how economics will be reshaped. An important sub-section is how Russia can possibly capitalize on it, in terms of productive growth. That was a unique opportunity to see IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva, Russian Central Bank governor Elvira Nabiullina and Russian Minister of Finance Anton Siluanov debating on the same table.

It was Siluanov who in fact commanded all the SPIEF-related headlines when he announced that Russia will totally ditch the US dollar in the structure of the National Wealth Fund (NWF) – the de facto Russian sovereign wealth fund – as well as reduce the share of the British pound. The NWF will have more euros and yuan, more gold, and the yen’s share remains stable.

This ongoing de-dollarization process has been more than predictable. In May, for the first time, less than 50% of Russian exports were denominated in US dollars.

Siluanov explained that the sales of roughly $119 billion in liquid assets will go through the Russian Central Bank, and not through financial markets. In practice, that will be a simple technical transfer of euros to the NWF. The Central Bank after all has been steadily getting rid of the US dollars for years now.

Sooner or later, China will follow. In parallel, some nations across Eurasia, in an extremely discreet manner, are also bypassing what is de facto the currency of a debt-based economy – to the tune of tens of trillions of dollars, as Michael Hudson has been explaining in detail. Not to mention that transacting US dollars exposes whole nations to an extra-territorial, extortionary judicial machine.

On the all-important Chinese-Russian front, permeating all the discussions at SPIEF, is the fact that a pool of Chinese technical knowhow and Russian energy is more than able to solidify a massive pan-Eurasian market capable of dwarfing the West. History tells us that in 1400, India and China were responsible for half of the world’s GDP.

As the West wallows in a self-induced Build Back Better collapse, the Eurasian caravan seems unstoppable. But then, there are those pesky US sanctions.

The Valdai Discussion Club Session dug deeper into the hysteria: sanctions serving a political agenda are threatening vast swathes of the world economic and financial infrastructure. So we’re back once again to the inescapable syndrome of the weaponized US dollar – deployed against India buying Iranian oil and Russian military hardware, or against Chinese tech companies.

Panelists including Russian Deputy Finance Minister Vladimir Kolychev and the UN Special Rapporteur on the “Negative Impact of Unilateral Coercive Measures on the Enjoyment of Human Rights”, Alena Douhan, debated the inevitable new escalation of anti-Russian sanctions.

Another running theme underneath the SPIEF debates is that, whatever happens on the sanctions front, Russia already has an alternative to SWIFT, and so does China. Both systems are compatible with SWIFT in software, so other nations may also be able use it.

No less than 30% of SWIFT’s traffic involves Russia. If that “nuclear “option” would ever come to pass, nations trading with Russia would almost certainly ditch SWIFT. On top of it, Russia, China and Iran – the “threat” trio to the Hegemon – have currency swap agreements, bilaterally and with other nations.

SPIEF this year has taken place only a few days before the G7, NATO and US-EU summits – which will graphically highlight European geopolitical irrelevancy, reduced to the status of a platform for US power projection.

And taking place less than two weeks before the Putin-Biden summit in Geneva, SPIEF most of all performed a public service for those who care to notice, charting some of the most important practical contours of the Eurasian Century.

US Deputy Secretary of State Was Afraid to Eat Russian Soup. Navalny and SWIFT (Ruslan Ostashko)

Source

Translated by Sasha and subtitled by Leonya.

During the US Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun’s visit in Moscow the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov treated him to shchi [soup] with forest mushrooms. The journalists noted however that during the public part of the negotiations, the Americans did not touch the treat. They must have heard plenty of their media’s fairy tales about the supposed poisoning of Navalny.

The Rubber Duckies Führer’s overdose on unknown substances had an interesting side effect: while the Western tabloids shriek about poisoning of the fighter with the regime, the US State Department threatens Russia with horrible punishments if the German medics part with the remnants of their consciences and write what our opponents want.

Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs:

“During his meeting with the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, ‘Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun declared a possibility of adopting by Washington of serious measures of the information about poisoning of the opposition figure Aleksei Navalny is confirmed,’” as the Russian Foreign Ministry informs: “Having qualified the event as an ‘incident’, the American party stressed that ‘in case of confirmation of the version about his poisoning as an oppositionist, Washington will put in place such measures, at whose background the reaction of the American society at the Russian interference in the presidential elections in USA in 2016 would grow dim.’ It was said in the message by the widespread Russian internal political department.”

I myself remembered this idiomatic expression: “You can’t scare a hedgehog with a naked butt.” The interesting side effect I mentioned above however is this. While trying to scare us, the representatives of the darned hegemon are themselves so frightened of us that while as a guest of Lavrov, they sat as if they’d ate manure. *Picture from Twitter* “’Shchi with forest mushrooms’: Sergei Lavrov treats the Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun to Russian cuisine.” Look at their faces in the photo, particularly in contrast to the satisfied expression of the Russian minister. *Twitter post by user Vladimir Kornilov* “I see the American distinguished guests do not risk trying Lavrov’s shchi with forest mushrooms. They even keep their hands away from the cutlery. They’d better cut to tea.”

I have a feeling these ferocious negotiators did not risk the tea either. They quite seriously believe over there that the polonium in Litvinenko’s tea was put there by the perfidious GRU, and not, for instance, by the man of a bright face named Berezovsky. Knowing Lavrov’s sense of humor, we can suppose that our diplomats deliberately chose a dish containing mushrooms as a treat. Perhaps they wanted to see the sour expressions of the sworn ‘partners’. Anyhow, the social networks audience appreciated the situation:

Russian Twitter users:

Oleg Ivanovich – “What can these savages understand about the Russian mushrooms. They should have waited in the corridor while Lavrov ate and didn’t spoil his appetite with their sour physiognomy.”

Svetlana Bezrodnaya – “Let them drink water from sealed bottles! While our man eats with pleasure. 🙂 ”

Aleksandr Kotov – “They probably don’t even know this dish at all. 🙂 ”

Natalya – “They think we will poison them with forest mushrooms… What is the tea for then? I’m just joking. In reality they are used to eating sandwiches from McDonald’s with their hands. They are not trained in etiquette. And so they are shy. Alright… let them wait for tea. Although neither do they drink tea – they swish Coca-Cola! Let them watch them eat then!”

Komandovat’ paradom budu ya – “Tea is the yummiest. From the Omsk airport.”

Prosta staraya sobaka – “They [the Americans] don’t eat anything in Russia except for McDonald’s. :)”

[bvxfyrf – “Ivan just listens and eats, while they have already shit themselves. Well done, Lavrov – you got to finish a meal in peace.”

Ekaterina Lavrikova – “Don’t feed these creatures. Let them bring their own hotdogs.”

dymkag – “Lyolik [Navalny] was poisoned by Lavrov. Let’s disperse.”

Viktor Domakur – “The highest master-class from a professional, most subtle… no unnecessary words and from the bottom of the heart! And gives them pears for dessert!”

I’m not sure about the dessert but I know another thing: the USA are far from being able to harm Russia with any sanctions. What will they do even if the German medics produce a lie that the Rubber Duckies Führer was poisoned by ‘Novichok’? [Ed. – The video was originally published on August 31st, 3 days before the Novichok story on Navalny! How predictable the MSM is…] Turn off the SWIFT, of which the stupid [liberal] creative class have been dreaming for years? That would be a shot in their own foot. As our spiteful fellow citizens rightfully note, they need this SWIFT more than we do.

Vkontakte DB:

“SWIFT is one of the systems (Russia and China already have their own and they are friends with each other) which allows money transfer between banks in different countries. If we suppose that the SWIFT is turned off then: Europe will not be able to receive either gas for heating nor fertilizers for the long depleted soils, or a multitude of essential goods. Because without the SWIFT it will not be able to pay for them in any other way but by pulling goods wagons with metal gold to the Russian border and signing barter acts. In the US, they will have to close down Boeing, for instance, and many similar enterprises which will be left and many similar enterprises which will be left without rolled titanium from Russia (which is physically irreplaceable, because the rerecapitalization of Apple doesn’t help to produce material value from numbers in bank accounts), or sapphire glass and other materials. The deliveries will not happen because there’ll be no payment mechanism.”

All the Western juridical persons’ branches and partner companies as well as owning stakes in Russian enterprises will become senseless, because there will be no way of exporting the profits. If any Russian company pays dividends in any way it will end up replenishing some account in a Russian bank. And it will be impossible to extract this money from there for export. There will no mechanism allowing transfer of the paid coupon profit from the account in Sberbank to Deutsche Bank. There will be no use for dealership networks or sales in general on the Russian territory. There will be no way of extracting the money.”

Just like that. Had they eaten the mushrooms offered by the Russian generosity, then they wouldn’t have started foaming at the mouth… Obama had already torn us into pieces for Crimea. Yet here we are, sitting and laughing. And where has that Obama gone?

Afterword of Ruslan Ostashko:

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