Sanctions

What it really takes for a US-Iran deal

Off the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
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Originally published in Ron July 1, 2015

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U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and U.S. Under Secretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman (L-3rd L) meet with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (2nd R) at a hotel in Vienna, Austria June 28, 2015 (Reuters / Carlos Barria)

 

 

The next important step is what happens at the UN Security Council (UNSC). All the concerned parties at the UNSC will endorse a declaration, and a resolution – which is still being negotiated – will render null and void all previous sanctions resolutions.

As it stands, all the parties – except the US government – want to go to the UNSC as soon as possible. Washington remains, at best, reticent.

Iranian negotiators have made it very clear at the table that Tehran will start implementing its nuclear restriction commitments – removal of a number of centrifuges, removal of the core of Arak’s reactor, disposal of uranium stock, etc. – immediately. The IAEA will be constantly checking Iran has complied with an extensive list.

But it has to be a parallel process; the US and the EU must for their part and “take physical action”, tackling the complex mechanism of lifting all economic sanctions. Once again; a UNSC signature instantly erases all previous sanctions.

And here is something crucial; all of this has been agreed in Lausanne. The work must be simultaneous, as stressed, in tandem, by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and EU representative Federica Mogherini.

Those fateful parameters

Meanwhile, we have the media centrifuges spinning like mad, as I described here. On the negotiating table, there are still skirmishes related to the US desire in trying to “prove a negative” – as in the “possible military dimensions” (PMD) of Iran’s nuclear program. Logically, you don't need to be a neo-Wittgenstein to see that’s impossible.

The deadline extension from June 30 to July 7 is mostly about finding – rather, finding again – a “reasonable common narrative” inbuilt in the Lausanne framework, and even before.

This means Washington should make the political decision to tone down repeated attempts to introduce new demands. Iranian officials admit, “we may have had disagreements on how we do simultaneous work,” but that’s part of Lausanne. New demands are not.

In Lausanne, US Secretary of State John Kerry and Foreign Minister Zarif agreed on a “set of parameters” – after an excruciating nine hours of debate. They also agreed, crucially, that both sides would refrain from humiliating one another publicly.

The recent record shows that’s been the case – as far as negotiators and diplomats are concerned. On the other hand, US corporate media predictably has been wreaking the proverbial havoc.

Which brings us to the clincher; Iranian negotiators have yet to detect a readiness of the US government to really change the “culture of sanctions” in the UNSC. And here a diplomatic consensus emerges, involving, very significantly, Russia and Germany; this agreement will be made – or broken – on one crucial point; whether the Obama administration wants to lift the sanctions or keep them.

Watch the BRICS front

The least one can say about what’s really happening in the Palais Coburg since this past weekend is that the Obama administration’s position is oscillating wildly. There seems to be – finally – some movement on the American side in the sense they feel a strategic interest in changing the situation.

That will depend, of course, on the Obama administration’s evaluation of all factions operating in the Beltway establishment. Diplomats in Vienna agree Kerry is personally involved in trying to change the equation. So this means the ball is really in the US court.

But all’s still murky; even oscillating wildly; the Americans continue to entertain what an Iranian official described to me as “buyer’s remorse” regarding what they agreed on Lausanne in the first place.

Serious, key sticking points remain. The duration of the sanctions; confidentiality issues – as in the US, especially, respecting terms of access to Iranian military installations; and what’s defined as “managed access” under certain conditions.

Also very crucial is the BRICS front at the P5+1. Neither China nor Russia wants to see any exacerbation of tensions, in Southwest Asia and beyond, because a deal is not clinched. The bottom line; with their eye in the Big Picture – as in Eurasia integration – both are committed to facilitate a deal.

Until next Tuesday, all remains in play. Obama has been spinning he doesn’t want a “bad deal”. That’s not the issue. The issue is Obama himself making the fateful political decision of abandoning the weapon of choice of US foreign policy; sanctions. Has he got what it takes to pull it off?


Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

Iran nuclear deadline: Showdown in Vienna

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Originally published in Asia Times on June 26, 2015

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This is it? No one knows. As foreign ministers gather in Vienna ahead of the June 30 deadline, an Iranian government source tells Asia Times it’s a “done deal.” For days, there have been no leaks, certainly to prevent hardliners on both sides – Iran and especially the U.S. – from ruining it at five seconds to midnight.

Realistically, all the myriad complex components are not there for a conclusive nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1. Not yet. Iranian deputy lead negotiator Seyed Abbas Araqchi said earlier this week that “progress is not as expected.” Both presidents, Obama and Rouhani, badly want it, while both hardcore lobbies — in Washington and Tehran — are keen on derailing it.

Witness an open letter by the usual suspects, some of them former Obama advisers, stating, “the agreement will not prevent Iran from having a nuclear weapons capability” – which is a flat-out lie; and predicting the deal will “fall short of meeting the administration’s own standard of a ‘good’ agreement,” which implies they are fully briefed on all the negotiation’s nuances, and they’re not.

Predictably, the open letter was published by the neocon-infested and rabid anti-Iran WINEP think tank; signatories include disgraced former Iraq and Afghanistan surge schemer Gen. David Petraeus and Dennis Ross – who never “negotiated” anything that didn’t put Israel’s interests ahead of the US.

Bets can be made that the June 30 deadline won’t hold; this may go on until the end of next week at least. As a nail-biting finish that is not – yet – a finish, it’s unrivalled. Especially for global businesses – not least the energy industry – who are getting ready for a tectonic geopolitical shift; Iran finally “rehabilitated” in the West (yes, because with the East it’s always been business as usual.)

It’s a gas, gas, gas

It’s no surprise Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei had to lay down Iran’s red lines ahead of June 30. After all, the April 2 Lausanne “package” which is the basis for the current negotiations leading to a possible final Vienna deal is deliberately hazy – and subject to conflicting interpretations, especially over the timing for sanctions to be totally lifted.

Khamenei insists sanctions by the UN and the US should be lifted as soon as a deal is signed; Washington will never agree, as the State Department insists this is first of all about IAEA “verification”, then easing of sanctions.

The same applies for Tehran not accepting to be restricted on nuclear research and development for ten years. Even Russia and China agree Iran must comply with “verification” – under the framework of a civilian nuclear program.

The point is not the Supreme Leader is plying a D.O.A. deal. The point is Khamenei, for complex internal purposes, must keep potentially unruly ultra-conservatives and hardliners on board. And because the Lausanne package’s rhetoric is deliberately pliable, he can play along with the red lines – always emphasizing Iran’s “heroic,” or “brave and faithful” negotiators, led by Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

The fact also remains that no one knows which will be the language on the final deal – until a detailed written agreement is endorsed by the Iranian Parliament and the US Congress. So for the moment, we’re in Nietzsche territory; there are no facts, only interpretations.

But what the business world is salivating for, are facts. Every energy major has its eyes set on Tehran, discussing post-sanctions serious business. Italy’s ENI has been talking. Same for Shell. Same for BP (although they don’t acknowledge it.) In the case of Shell there’s the matter of the $2 billion it owes to the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) – unpaid because of sanctions.

Iran holds at least 30 million barrels of oil in storage. So will there be an oil flood in the weeks to come (with the Chinese buying everything)? It depends on what sanctions are to be immediately lifted. And this means oil prices falling – which is something Russia and Saudi Arabia, considering the recent meeting in St. Petersburg between Putin and the House of Saud, are not exactly keen on at the moment.

It will be a slow process. According to Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh, Iran is ready to increase production by around one million barrels a day after sanctions are lifted. Currently, Iran produces around 2.7 million barrels a day and exports 1 million. Realistically, Iran may add 600,000 barrels a day by the end of 2017. Further than that, it needs a lot of infrastructure investment.

Same for the gas industry. At the World Gas Conference earlier this month in Paris, NIOC’s Azizollah Ramezani said Iran will increase production from 800 million to 1.2 billion cubic meters a day up to 2020. But for that to happen, it needs at least $100 billion in investment from European energy majors. It’s all there, tantalizingly, on the horizon, a Chinese-style “win-win” for both Iran and Europe. But first, the showdown in Vienna.


Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

American Dreaming – From G1 To Bilderberg

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Published on Russia Today on June 11, 2015

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What’s the connection between the G7 summit in Germany, President Putin’s visit to Italy, the Bilderberg club meeting in Austria, and the TTIP – the US-EU free trade deal – negotiations in Washington?

We start at the G7 in the Bavarian Alps – rather G1 with an added bunch of “junior partners” – as US President Barack Obama gloated about his neo-con induced feat; regiment the EU to soon extend sanctions on Russia even as the austerity-ravaged EU is arguably hurting even more than Russia.

Predictably, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande caved in – even after being forced by realpolitik to talk to Russia and jointly carve the Minsk-2 agreement.

The hypocrisy-meter in the Bavarian Alps had already exploded with a bang right at the pre-dinner speech by EU Council President Donald Tusk, former Prime Minister of Poland and certified Russophobe/warmonger: “All of us would have preferred to have Russia round the G7 table. But our group is not only a group (that shares) political or economic interests, but first of all this is a community of values. And that is why Russia is not among us.”

So this was all about civilized “values” against “Russian aggression.”

The “civilized” G1 + junior partners could not possibly argue whether they would collectively risk a nuclear war on European soil over a Kiev-installed ‘Banderastan’, sorry, “Russian aggression.”

Instead, the real fun was happening behind the scenes. Washington factions were blaming Germany for making the West lose Russia to China, while adult minds in the EU – away from the Bavarian Alps – blamed Washington.

Even juicier is a contrarian view circulating among powerful Masters of the Universe in the US corporate world, not politics. They fear that in the next two to three years France will eventually re-ally with Russia (plenty of historical precedents). And they – once again – identify Germany as the key problem, as in Berlin forcing Washington to get involved in a Prussian ‘Mitteleuropa’ Americans fought two wars to prevent.

 

As for the Russians – from President Putin and Foreign Minister Lavrov downwards – a consensus has emerged; it’s pointless to discuss anything substantial considering the pitiful intellectual pedigree – or downright neo-con stupidity – of the self-described “Don’t Do Stupid Stuff” Obama administration policy makers and advisers. As for the “junior partners” – mostly EU minions – they are irrelevant, mere Washington vassals.

It would be wishful thinking to expect the civilized “values” gang to propose alternatives for the overwhelming majority of citizens of G7 nations getting anything other than Mac-jobs, or barely surviving as hostages of finance-junkie turbo-capitalism which only benefits the one percent.Rather easier to designate the proverbial scapegoat – Russia – and proceed with NATO-infused fear/warmongering rhetoric.

Iron Lady Merkel also found time to pontificate on climate change – instilling all and sundry to invest in a “low-carbon global economy.” Few noticed that the alleged deadline for full “decarbonization” was set for the end of the 21st century, when this planet will be in deep, deep trouble.

 

G7 summit at the Elmau castle in Kruen near Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany (Reuters / Christian Hartmann)

 

 

 

 

 

G7 summit at the Elmau castle in Kruen near Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany (Reuters / Christian Hartmann)

 

Achtung! Bilderberg!

Obama’s neocon-induced newspeak continues to rule that Russia dreams of recreating the Soviet empire. Now compare it to what President Putin is telling Europe.

Last week, Putin found time to give an interview to the Milan-based Corriere della Sera at 2 am; the interview was published as the Bavarian Alps show went on, and ahead of Putin’s June 10 visit to Italy. Russia’s geopolitical interests and US- Russia relations are depicted in excruciating detail.

So Putin was a persona non grata at the G1 plus junior partners? Well, in Italy he visited the Milan Expo; met Prime Minister Renzi and Pope Francis; reminded everyone about the “privileged economic and political ties” between Italy and Russia; and stressed the 400 Italian companies active in Russia and the million Russian tourists who visit Italy every year.

Crucially, he also evoked that consensus; Russia had represented an alternative view as a member of the G8, but now “other powers” felt they no longer needed it. The bottom line: it’s impossible to have an adult conversation with Obama and friends.

And right on cue, from Berlin –where he was displaying his sterling foreign policy credentials, Jeb Bush, brother of destroyer of Iraq Dubya Bush, fully scripted by his neocon advisers, declared Putin a bully and rallied Europe to fight, what else, “Russian aggression.”

 

 

The rhetorical haze over what was really discussed in the Bavarian Alps only began to dissipate at the first chords of the real sound of music; the Bilderberg Group meeting starting this Thursday at the Interalpen-Hotel Tyrol in Austria, only three days after the G1 plus junior partners.

Possible conspiracies aside, Bilderberg may be defined as an ultra-select bunch of elite lobbyists – politicians, US corporate honchos, EU officials, captains of industry, heads of intelligence agencies, European royals – organized annually in a sort of informal think tank/policy-forming format, to advance globalization and all crucial matters related to the overall Atlanticist agenda. Call it the prime Atlanticist Masters of the Universe talkfest.

To make things clear – not that they are big fans of transparency – the composition of the steering committee is here. And this is what they will be discussing in Austria.

Naturally they will be talking about “Russian aggression” (as in who cares about failed Ukraine; what we need is to prevent Russia from doing business with Europe).

Naturally they will be talking about Syria (as in the partition of the country, with the Caliphate already a fact of post-Sykes-Picot life).

Naturally they will be talking about Iran (as in let’s do business, buy their energy and bribe them into joining our club).

But the real deal is really the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) – the alleged “free trade” deal between the US and the EU. Virtually all major business/finance lobbyists for the TTIP will be under the same Austrian roof.

And not by accident Bilderberg starts one day before “fast track” presidential authority is to be debated at the US Congress.

 

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) meets Pope Francis during a private meeting at Vatican City, June 10, 2015 (Reuters / Gregorio Borgia)

 

 

 

 

 

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) meets Pope Francis during a private meeting at Vatican City, June 10, 2015 (Reuters / Gregorio Borgia)

 

WikiLeaks and a ton of BRICS

Enter WikiLeaks, with what in a fairer world would be a crucial spanner in the works.

The fast track authority would extend US presidential powers for no less than six years; that includes the next White House tenant, which might well be ‘The Hillarator’ or Jeb “Putin is a bully” Bush.

This presidential authority to negotiate dodgy deals includes not only the TTIP but also the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA).

WikiLeaks, just in time, published the Healthcare Annex to the secret draft “Transparency” chapter of the TPP, along with each country’s negotiating position. No wonder this draft is secret. And there’s nothing “transparent” about it; it’s an undisguised hold-up of national healthcare authorities by Big Pharma.

The bottom line is that these three mega-deals – TTP, TTIP and TiSA – are the ultimate template of what could be politely described as global corporate governance, a Bilderberg wet dream. The losers: nation-states, and the very concept of Western democracy. The winners: mega-corporations.

Julian Assange, in a statement, succinctly nailed itIt is a mistake to think of the TPP as a single treaty. In reality there are three conjoined mega-agreements, the TiSA, the TPP and the TTIP, all of which strategically assemble into a grand unified treaty, partitioning the world into the West versus the rest. This 'Great Treaty' is described by the Pentagon as the economic core to the US military's 'Asia Pivot.' The architects are aiming no lower than the arc of history. The Great Treaty is taking shape in complete secrecy, because along with its undebated geostrategic ambitions it locks into place an aggressive new form of transnational corporatism for which there is little public support."

 

So this is the real Atlanticist agenda – the final touches being applied in the arc spanning the G1 + added junior partners to Bilderberg (expect a lot of crucial phone calls from Austria to Washington this Friday). NATO on trade. Pivoting to Asia excluding Russia and China. The West vs. the rest.

Now for the counterpunch. As the show in the Bavarian Alps unrolled, the first BRICS Parliamentarian Forum was taking place in Moscow – ahead of the BRICS summit in Ufa next month.

Neocons – with Obama in tow – knock themselves out dreaming that Russia has become “isolated” from the rest of the world because of their sanctions. Since then Moscow has signed major economic/strategic contracts with at least twenty nations. Next month, Russia will host the BRICS summit – 45 percent of the world’s population, a GDP equivalent to the EU, and soon bigger than the current G7 – as well as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit, when India and Pakistan, currently observers, will be accepted as full members.

G1 plus junior partners? Bilderberg? Get a job; you’re not the only show in town, any town.

 

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

Why NATO Is Terrified of Russia

Off the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
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naryshkin-nato-oust-states.si.si

Originally published in RT on May 1, 2015

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The twin-pronged attack – oil price war/raid on the ruble – aimed at destroying the Russian economy and place it into a form of Western natural resource vassalage has failed.

Natural resources were also essentially the reason for reducing Iran to a Western vassalage. That never had anything to do with Tehran developing a nuclear weapon, which was banned by both the leader of the Islamic revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini, and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.

The ‘New Great Game’ in Eurasia was always about control of the Eurasian land mass. Minor setbacks to the American elite project do not mean the game will be restricted to a mere “war of attrition”. Rather the contrary.

All about PGS

In Ukraine, the Kremlin has been more than explicit there are two definitive red lines. Ukraine won’t join NATO. And Moscow won’t allow the popular republics of Donetsk and Lugansk to be crushed.

We are coming closer to a potentially explosive deadline – when EU sanctions expire in July. An EU in turmoil but still enslaved to NATO – see the pathetic “Dragoon Ride” convoy from the Baltics to Poland or the “Atlantic Resolve” NATO show-off exercise – may decide to expand them, and even try to exclude Russia from SWIFT.

Only fools believe Washington is going to risk American lives over Ukraine or even Poland. Yet let’s plan a few steps ahead. If it ever comes to the unthinkable – a war between NATO and Russia in Ukraine – Russian defense circles are sure of conventional and nuclear superiority on sea and land. And the Pentagon knows it. Russia would reduce NATO forces to smithereens in a matter of hours. And then would come Washington’s stark choice: accept ignominious defeat or escalate to tactical nuclear weapons.

The Pentagon knows that Russia has the air and missile defense capabilities to counter anything embedded in the US Prompt Global Strike (PGS). Simultaneously though, Moscow is saying it would rather not use these capabilities.

Major General Kirill Makarov, Russia’s Aerospace Defense Forces’ deputy chief, has been very clear about the PGS threat. Moscow’s December 2014 new military doctrine qualifies PGS as well as NATO’s current military buildup as the top two security threats to Russia.

Unlike non-stop Pentagon/NATO bragging/demonizing, what Russian defense circles don’t need to advertise is how they are now a couple of generations ahead of the US in their advanced weaponry.

The bottom line is that while the Pentagon was mired in the Afghanistan and Iraq quagmires, they completely missed Russia’s technological jump ahead. The same applies to China’s ability to hit US satellites and thus pulverize American ICBM satellite guidance systems.

The current privileged scenario is Russia playing for time until it has totally sealed Russia’s air space to American ICBMs, stealth aircraft and cruise missiles – via the S-500 system.

This has not escaped the attention of the British Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) – as it gamed sometime ago whether Washington might launch a first strike against Russia.According to the JIC, Washington might go rogue if “a) an extreme government were to take over in the United States, b) and there was increased lack of confidence by the United States in some if not all of her Western allies owing to political developments in their countries, c) and there was some sudden advance in the USA in the sphere of weapons, etc. that the counsels of impatience may get the upper hand.”

US ‘Think Tankland’ spinning that Russian military planners should take advantage of their superiority to launch a first strike nuclear attack against the US is bogus; the Russian doctrine is eminently defensive.

Yet that does not exclude Washington doing the unthinkable the next time the Pentagon thinks of itself to be in the position Russia is now in.

SWIFT changes

The whole game used to be about who ruled the waves – the geopolitical gift the US inherited from Great Britain. Control of the seas meant the US inheriting five empires; Japan, Germany, Great Britain, France, the Netherlands. All those massive US carrier task forces patrolling the oceans to guarantee “free trade” – as the hegemonic propaganda machine goes – could be turned against China in a flash. It’s a mechanism similar to the carefully choreographed “leading from behind” financial op to simultaneously crash the ruble/launch an oil war and thus smash Russia into submission.

Washington’s master plan remains deceptively simple; to “neutralize” China by Japan, and Russia by Germany, with the US backing its two anchors, Germany and Japan. Russia is the de facto only BRICS nation blocking the master plan.

This was the case until Beijing launched the New Silk Road(s), which essentially mean the linking of all Eurasia into a “win-win” trade/commerce bonanza on high-speed rail, and in the process diverting freight tonnage overland and away from the seas.

So NATO’s non-stop Russia demonizing is in fact quaint. Think about NATO picking a fight against the constantly evolving, complex Russia-China strategic partnership. And in a not so remote future, as I indicated here, Germany, Russia and China have what it takes to be the essential pillars of a fully integrated Eurasia.

As it stands, the key shadow play is Moscow and Beijing silently preparing their own SWIFT system while Russia prepares to seal its air space with S-500s. Western Ukraine is doomed; leave it to the austerity-ravaged EU – which, by the way, doesn’t want it. And all this while the same EU tries to handicap the US commercially with a rigged euro that still doesn’t allow it to penetrate more US markets.

As for an irrelevant NATO, all it can do is cry, cry, cry.


Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

The Anti-Empire Report #138

From the Keyboard of William Blum
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Art: Anthony Freda

Art: Anthony Freda

Published originally in The Anti-Empire Report April 2, 2015

Cold War 2.0, part I

In last month’s Anti-Empire Report I brought you the latest adventure of US State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki trying to defend the indefensible. She said then: “As a matter of longstanding policy, the United States does not support political transitions by non-constitutional means,” which prompted me to inform my readers: “If you know how to contact Ms. Psaki, tell her to have a look at my list of more than 50 governments the United States has attempted to overthrow since the end of the Second World War.”

On March 13 her regular attack on all things Russian included this exchange with Associated Press writer Matthew Lee:

Lee: On this issue, did you get any more about this request to the Vietnamese on Cam Ranh Bay and not allowing the Russians to – and not wanting them to allow – you not wanting them to refuel Russian planes there?

Psaki: Well, just to be clear – and maybe I wasn’t as clear yesterday, so let me try to do this again – it’s – our concern is about activities they might conduct in the region, and the question is: Why are they in the region? It’s not about specifically refueling or telling the Vietnamese not to allow them to refuel. [emphasis added]

Lee: So there hasn’t been a request to stop refueling them, or there has?

Psaki: It’s more about concerns. It’s not as much about Vietnam as much as it – as it is about concerns about what activities they would be in the region for.

Lee: Okay. Well, you – I mean, there are U.S. planes flying over there all the time.

Psaki: Sure, there are.

Lee: So you don’t want Russian planes flying there, but it’s okay for U.S. planes to fly there? I mean, I just – it gets to the point where you – the suggestion is that everything the Russians are doing all the time everywhere is somehow nefarious and designed to provoke. But you can’t – but you don’t seem to be able to understand or accept that American planes flying all over the place, including in that area, is annoying to the Chinese, for one, but also for the Russians. But the suggestion is always that the American flights are good and beneficial and don’t cause tension, and that other people’s flights do cause tension. So can you explain what the basis is for your concern that the Russian flights there in the Southeast Asia area are – raise tensions?

Psaki: There just aren’t more details I can go into.

Cold War 2.0, part II

On Saturday, the Obama administration released a series of satellite images that it said showed the Russian army had joined the rebels in a full-scale assault to surround troops in the area around the city. Russia has denied that it is a party to the conflict, and it was impossible to verify the three grainy black-and-white satellite images posted to Twitter by the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt.

According to the United States, the images, commissioned from the private Digital Globe satellite company, showed artillery systems and multiple-rocket launchers Thursday in the area near Debaltseve.
“We are confident these are Russian military, not separatist, systems,” Pyatt tweeted. (Washington Post, February 15, 2015)

When the time comes to list the ways in which the United States gradually sunk into the quicksand, slowly metamorphosing into a Third-World state, Washington’s campaign of 2014-15 to convince the world that Russia had repeatedly invaded Ukraine will deserve to be near the top of the list. Numerous examples like the above can be given. If I were still the jingoistic nationalist I was raised to be I think I would feel somewhat embarrassed now by the blatant obviousness of it all.

For a short visual history of the decline and fall of the American Empire, see the video “Imperial Decay” by Class War Films (8:50 minutes).

During Cold War 1.0 the American media loved to poke fun at the Soviet media for failing to match the glorious standards of the Western press. One of the most common putdowns was about the two main Russian newspapers – Pravda (meaning “truth” in Russian) and Izvestia (meaning “news”). We were told, endlessly, that there was “no truth in Pravda and no news in Izvestia.”

As cynical as I’ve been for years about the American mainstream media’s treatment of ODE (Officially Designated Enemies), current news coverage of Russia exceeds my worst expectations. I’m astonished every day at the obvious disregard of any kind of objectivity or fairness concerning Russia. Perhaps the most important example of this bias is the failure to remind their audience that the US and NATO have surrounded Russia – with Washington’s coup in Ukraine as the latest example – and that Moscow, for some odd reason, feels threatened by this. (Look for the map online of NATO bases and Russia, with a caption like: “Why did you place your country in the middle of our bases?”)

Cold War 2.0, part III

Following the murder of Russian opposition leader, and former Deputy Prime Minister, Boris Nemtsov in Moscow on February 27, the West had a field day. Ranging from strong innuendo to outright accusation of murder, the Western media and politicians did not miss an opportunity to treat Vladimir Putin as a football practice dummy.

The European Parliament adopted a resolution urging an international investigation into Nemtsov’s death and suggested that the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the European Council, and the United Nations could play a role in the probe.

US Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham introduced a Senate Resolution condemning the Nemtsov murder. The Resolution also called on President Obama and the international community to pursue an independent investigation into the murder and redouble efforts to advance free speech, human rights, and the rule of law in Russia. In addition, it urged Obama to continue to sanction human rights violators in the Russian Federation and to increase US support to human rights activists in Russia.

So it went … all over the West.

Meanwhile, in the same time period in Ukraine, outside of the pro-Russian area in the southeast, the following was reported:

  • January 29: Former Chairman of the local government of the Kharkov region, Alexey Kolesnik, hanged himself.
  • February 24: Stanislav Melnik, a member of the opposition party (Partia Regionov), shot himself.
  • February 25: The Mayor of Melitopol, Sergey Valter, hanged himself a few hours before his trial.
  • February 26: Alexander Bordiuga, deputy director of the Melitopol police, was found dead in his garage.
  • February 26: Alexander Peklushenko, former member of the Ukrainian parliament, and former mayor of Zaporizhi, was found shot to death.
  • February 28: Mikhail Chechetov, former member of parliament, member of the opposition party (Partia Regionov), “fell” from the window of his 17th floor apartment in Kiev.
  • March 14: The 32-year-old prosecutor in Odessa, Sergey Melnichuk, “fell” to his death from the 9th floor.

The Partia Regionov directly accused the Ukrainian government in the deaths of their party members and appealed to the West to react to these events. “We appeal to the European Union, PACE [Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe], and European and international human rights organizations to immediately react to the situation in Ukraine, and give a legal assessment of the criminal actions of the Ukrainian government, which cynically murders its political opponents.”

We cannot conclude from the above that the Ukrainian government was responsible for all, or even any, of these deaths. But neither can we conclude that the Russian government was responsible for the death of Boris Nemtsov, the American media and politicians notwithstanding. A search of the mammoth Nexus news database found no mention of any of the Ukrainian deceased except for the last one above, Sergey Melnichuk, but this clearly is not the same person. It thus appears that none of the deaths on the above list was ascribed to the Western-allied Ukrainian government.

Where are the demands for international investigations of any of the deaths? In the United States or in Europe? Where is Senator McCain?

Torture via sanctions

Discussions on constraining Iran’s nuclear program have been going on for well over a year between Iran and the P5+1 (the five nuclear powers of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany), led by the United States. Throughout this period a significant stumbling block to reaching an agreement has been the pronouncements of Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The IAEA is the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog, and its inspections are considered a key safeguard against countries using civilian nuclear energy technology to produce weapons. Amano has consistently accused Iran of failing to reply fully and substantially to queries about “possible military dimensions” of present and past nuclear activities, or failing to provide sufficient access to nuclear facilities.

Failure by Iran to comply fully with IAEA demands undermine Tehran’s efforts to win the lifting of crippling UN, US and other sanctions, which currently prohibit foreign companies from doing business with Iran and deny access to the global financial system. Media coverage of the negotiations regularly emphasize Amano’s claims of Iran’s insufficient responses to IAEA’s demands. It is thus worth inquiring just who is this man Amano.

In 2009 Japanese diplomat Yukiya Amano became the head of the IAEA. What the Western media routinely fail to remind its audience is that a US embassy cable of October 2009 (released by Wikileaks in 2010) said Amano “took pains to emphasize his support for U.S. strategic objectives for the Agency. Amano reminded the [American] ambassador on several occasions that … he was solidly in the U.S. court on every key strategic decision, from high-level personnel appointments to the handling of Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program.”

Even if Iran makes a superior effort to satisfy IAEA and Washington’s demands on all issues, it would remain questionable to what extent and how rapidly the sanctions would be removed, particularly under a Republican-controlled Congress. Iran specialist and author Gareth Porter recently wrote that “the United States and its allies have made no effort to hide the fact that they intend to maintain the ‘sanctions architecture’ in place for many years after the implementation of the agreement has begun. Last November, administration officials explained that US sanctions would only be removed after the International Atomic Energy Agency had verified that ‘Tehran is abiding by the terms of a deal over an extended period of time’ in order to ‘maintain leverage on Iran to honour the accord’.”

To appreciate the extraordinary degree of pressure and extortion the United States can impose upon another country we should consider the case of Libya in the decade-plus following the destruction of PanAm Flight 103 in 1988 over Scotland. To force Libya to “accept responsibility” for the crime, Washington imposed heavy sanctions on the Gaddafi regime, including a ban on international flights to Libya and payment of billions of dollars to the families of the victims. Libya eventually did “accept responsibility” for the crime, although it was innocent. As difficult as this may be to believe, it’s true.Read my account of it here.

Even after Libya accepted responsibility it still took years for the US to wipe out the sanctions, and it’s not clear that at the time of Gaddafi’s death in 2011 all of them had been removed. Once a nation becomes an Officially Designated Enemy of the empire the methods of torture can be exquisite and endless. Cuba is presently negotiating the end of US sanctions against Havana. They will need to be extremely careful.

“Like others of his ilk – such as David Horowitz and Christopher Hitchens – he learned too much in college and too little since.” Sam Smith

I’ve never been too impressed by what college a person went to, or even if they attended college at all. Gore Vidal did not attend any college; neither did H. L. Mencken; nor did Edward Snowden, who has demonstrated a highly articulate and educated mind. Among the many other notables who skipped a college education are George Bernard Shaw, Ernest Hemingway, and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

Then we have graduates from Ivy League colleges like George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Tom Cotton. I don’t have to present the case for Bush’s less-than educated mind; we’re all only too familiar with its beauty. But Obama has matched Georgie Boy for stupidity and inanity time and time again. My favorite, which he’s used on at least five occasions, is his reply to questions about why his administration has not prosecuted Bush, Cheney, et al for torture and other war crimes: “I prefer to look forward rather than backwards”. Picture a defendant before a judge asking to be found innocent on such grounds. It simply makes laws, law enforcement, crime, justice, and facts irrelevant. Picture Chelsea Manning and other whistle blowers using this argument. Picture the reaction to this by Barack Obama, who has become the leading persecutor of whistleblowers in American history.

Is there anyone left who still thinks that Barack Obama is some kind of improvement intellectually over George W. Bush? Probably two types still think so: (1) Those to whom color matters a lot; (2) Those who are very impressed by the ability to put together grammatically correct sentences.

And now we have Mr. Cotton, Senator from Arkansas and graduate of Harvard undergraduate and law schools. He’ll be entertaining us for years to come with gems like his remark on “Face the Nation” (March 15): “Moreover, we have to stand up to Iran’s attempts to drive for regional dominance. They already control Tehran and, increasingly, they control Damascus and Beirut and Baghdad. And now, Sana’a as well.”

Heavens, Iran controls Tehran! Who knew? Next thing we’ll hear is that Russia controls Moscow! Sarah Palin, move over. Our boy Cotton is ready for Saturday Night Live.


Notes

  1. Washington Post, February 15, 2015, “Amid doubts, truce in Ukraine appears to take hold
  2. RT, March 12, 2015, “EU lawmakers demand international investigation into Nemtsov’s death
  3. John McCain website, Press Release, “Senators John Mccain And Lindsey Graham Introduce Resolution Condemning Murder Of Russian Opposition Leader Boris Nemtsov
  4. Research for this section was done by a person who was raised in the Soviet Union and now lives in the United States.
  5. Middle East Eye, March 27, 2015, “Sanctions and the fate of the nuclear talks

William Blum is an author, historian, and renowned critic of U.S. foreign policy. He is the author of Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II and Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower, among others.

Any part of this report may be disseminated without permission, provided attribution to William Blum as author and a link to this website are given.

 

From Minsk to Brussels, it’s all about Germany

Off the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
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Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) talks to France's President Francois Hollande during a meeting with the media after peace talks on resolving the Ukrainian crisis in Minsk, February 12, 2015. (Reuters / Grigory Dukor)

Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) talks to France’s President Francois Hollande during a meeting with the media after peace talks on resolving the Ukrainian crisis in Minsk, February 12, 2015. (Reuters / Grigory Dukor)

Originally published in RT on February 13, 2015

Germany holds the key to where Europe goes next. A fragile deal may have been reached on Ukraine, but there’s still no deal with Greece. In both cases, there’s much more than meets the eye.

Let’s start with the grueling Eurogroup negotiation in Brussels over the Greek debt.

Greek officials swear they never received a draft of a possible agreement leaked by Eurogroup bureaucrats to the Financial Times. This draft, crucially, referred to an agreement “amending and extending and successfully concluding,” the current austerity-heavy bailout.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble cut off “amending”. This is the draft that was leaked. But then Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis called Prime Minister Tsipras – and the statement, still not signed, was rejected. So this was a top Tsipras decision.

Tsipras could not possibly balk – not after previously raising the stakes – as in promising to boost the Greek minimum wage and halt privatizations. He’s still betting the house that the Troika won’t allow a ‘Grexit’. Yet he may be wrong; the possibility of ‘Grexit’ is hovering around 35 percent to 40 percent, and it will be much higher if no deal is reached on the next crunch meeting, Monday.

Tsipras and Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem at least agreed that Greek officials and the Troika (EC, ECB, IMF) should start talking “at a technical level.” Translation: they will be comparing the current austerity nightmare with new Greek proposals.

Athens essentially has only two choices. Either the Troika accedes to some form of debt repudiation – real or as a sleight of hand (that’s Syriza’s proposal – an arrangement that fosters growth); or ‘Grexit’ ensues, with Athens creating its own central bank and currency as an independent nation. There’s no third choice; a debt of 175 percent of Greece’s GDP is totally unpayable.

As much as the Troika and its institutional derivatives spin ‘Grexit’ won’t be a big deal, the fact is a Greek debt default could have a more devastating effect than the Lehman Brothers case. It was not the fundamentals at Lehman that caused widespread panic when it went down; but the fear that their derivative exposures would bring down the system.

And cutting through all the spin, what remains, essentially, is what European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told Le Figaro a few days ago; it’s out of the question to suppress the Greek debt and, most of all, “there can be no democratic option against European treaties.” There it is, crystal clear: EU institutions work against democracy.

Plan B remains a distinct possibility. Moscow has already invited Tsipras to meet with Putin. And Beijing has invited Tsipras to meet with Prime Minister Li Keqiang. These are the “R” and the “C” in BRICS in action.

It’s worth remembering Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos when he articulated if not a majority view, at least a substantial perception among Greek public opinion; “We want a deal. But if there is no deal, and if we see that Germany remains rigid and wants to blow Europe apart, then we will have to go to Plan B… We have other ways of finding money. It could be the United States at best, it could be Russia, it could be China or other countries.”

Alea jacta est. Troika or RC?

And it’s all about NATO

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras addresses a news conference after a European Union leaders summit in Brussels February 12, 2015. (Reuters / Francois Lenoir)

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras addresses a news conference after a European Union leaders summit in Brussels February 12, 2015. (Reuters / Francois Lenoir)

Then there’s Minsk. What was achieved after nearly 17 hours of a grueling marathon is not exactly, in French President Francois Hollande’s words, a “global” agreement and a “global ceasefire” in Ukraine.

There’s every possibility the ceasefire will be nullified only a few minutes after its implementation at midnight this Saturday – irony of ironies, at the end of Valentine’s Day. Significantly, the final statement bears no important signatures: Putin, Merkel, Hollande and Poroshenko.

German Foreign Minister Steinmeier was cautious, warning Minsk 2.0 is not exactly a breakthrough, but at least de-escalates matters. Merkel preferred to spin that Putin had to pressure the Eastern Ukraine federalists of the DNR and the LNR to agree to the ceasefire.

Predictably, like clockwork, even before the ceasefire, the IMF – under Washington’s orders – suddenly announced it would continue to rape, sorry, help bailout bankrupt, failed state Ukraine with a tranche of$17.5 billion, part of a large $40 billion, four-year “rescue” package. Translation: Kiev’s goons now have fresh cash to throw at a war they don’t want to give up on.

Poroshenko himself took no time to torpedo the ceasefire – spinning there’s no autonomy granted to the areas controlled by the federalists, and refusing to confirm Putin’s assertion that Kiev has agreed to terminate the vicious economic blockade of Donbass.

The precise contours of the demilitarized zone – bordering one frontline in September and a very different frontline five months later – remain a mystery. And Washington immediately turned the “withdrawal of foreign forces” clause into a joke. The Pentagon has already announced it will begin training Ukraine’s National Guard next month.

Minsk 2.0 hardly qualifies as a band-aid. Ukraine is unredeemable. It would only come back from the dead if a tsunami of cash – almost equivalent to the cost of German reunification – were poured in. Needless to add, no one in Europe wants to dish out even a few devalued euro.

This was, remains, and will continue to be, essentially about NATO expansion. Washington and the Kiev marionettes will never allow any constitutional reform that lets the Donbass block NATO embedded in Ukraine. So the ‘Empire of Chaos’, in a nutshell, won’t cease from using Ukraine to bully Russia. The ‘Empire of Chaos’ is not exactly in the business of nation building – quite the contrary.

Crossing the German bridge

And that brings us to the crucial role played by Germany – with France as sidekick.

Chancellor Merkel had to go to Moscow to negotiate with Putin because she saw which way the wind was blowing – counterproductive sanctions; Ukrainian economy in free fall; Kiev’s goons defeated on the battlefield. That was as much an imperative as a crucial demarcation away from the imperial NATO expansion obsession.

As Immanuel Wallerstein has observed Moscow is pursuing “a careful policy. Not totally in control of the Donetsk-Lugansk autonomists, Russia is nonetheless making sure that the autonomists cannot be eliminated militarily. The Russian price for real peace is a commitment by NATO that Ukraine is not a potential member.”

So Merkel may have defused the Obama administration’s drive to weaponize Kiev – but only for a moment. There’s no evidence – yet – that the Obama administration and its embedded neo-con cells have admitted that the self-proclaimed People’s Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk (DPR and LPR) are essentially “lost” to Kiev’s influence.

Hollande provided the perfect cover for Merkel. It was Hollande who publicly supported autonomy – as in federalization – for the DPR and the LPR. At the same time, both Merkel and Hollande know that Kiev will never de facto accept it (and even a substantial portion of the Donbass only accepts federalization as a stepping stone to eventual secession and union with Russia.)

Merkel – at least in terms of German public opinion – did manage to achieve her goal, emerging as a victor (“The world chancellor,” as the tabloid Bild coined it) after her frequent-flyer marathon. Putin also emerged a victor of sorts – as Merkel essentially rehashed proposals he made months ago. So yes, whichever angle we look at it, this was in fact a Moscow-Berlin deal.It’s easy to see who is extremely disgruntled and will do everything to bomb it; Washington, Kiev, London, Warsaw and the hysterical “Russia is invading” Baltic states.

Last but not least, let’s call attention to the monumental white elephant in the room. Minsk 2.0 was conducted in the total absence of the ‘Empire of Chaos’ and the (increasingly irrelevant) “special relationship” British minions.

Slowly but surely, public opinion across Europe – and especially Germany – is experiencing a tectonic shift. The obsession by the ‘Empire of Chaos’ to further weaponize Kiev has horrified millions – resurrecting the specter of a war in Europe’s eastern borderlands. Not only in Germany but also in France, Italy, Spain, there is a growing continental consensus against NATO.

Even at the height of a vicious Russia demonization campaign unleashed by virtually the whole German corporate media, a Deutschland Trend survey revealed that most Germans are against NATO troops in Eastern Europe. And no less than 49 percent would rather see Germany position itself as a bridge between East and West. The leadership in Beijing definitely took note.

So it’s tempting to hop on the Merkel/Hollande peace train as the heart of Europe finally exercising their sovereignty and frontally defying the ‘Empire of Chaos’. Perhaps that could be the embryo of a German-French partnership for peace in Europe and even beyond, from the Middle East to Africa.

That would frontally antagonize NATO’s screenplay – which implies the ’Empire of Chaos’ ruling uncontested over Europe, the Middle East and even across Eurasia, with continental European powers, especially Germany, France and yes, Russia, at the margins.

Sooner or later European politicians will have to wake up and smell the coffee; the notion of a German-French-Russian pan-European peace/trade partnership is way more popular than reflected in failed corporate media.

Now it’s up to Germany to clean up its act on Greece. The choice is stark. The EU may embark on a quadruple-dip recession as the ECB further destroys what is left of the European middle class. Or Germany, reflecting the thinking among its captains of industry, may tell the EU – Troika included – that the way to go is to shift the strategic, trade and political focus from West to the East. That would start by stuffing the corporate US-devised TTIP treaty – that’s NATO on trade. After all, this is going to be the Eurasian century – and this train has already left the station.

 

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

2015: Grounds for Optimism

From the keyboard of Dmitry Orlov
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orlov 2

Published at Club Orlov on January 6, 2015

 

This may seem like an odd line of reasoning to pursue given what everyone else seems to be saying. Some are thinking that 2015 will be a repeat of 2014 with a few incremental changes (always a safe bet, but makes for boring reading) while others are warning of the potential for a nuclear confrontation between the US and Russia (always a possibility, on par with an asteroid strike or a supernova in our galactic vicinity). But this is all more of the same. The interesting question to ask is, How has the ground shifted in 2014, if indeed it has?

To my mind, the really interesting development of 2014 is that the world as a whole (with a few minor exceptions) has become quite lucid on the topic of what the United States, as a global empire, is and stands for. It is now very commonly and completely understood that:

1. The United States is an evil empire, attempting not so much to rule the world as to disrupt it to its short-term advantage.

2. The United States is failing, as an empire and as a country, and no amount of fraud, mayhem, torture and murder is going to save it.

3. The United States is still quite powerful and can cause massive damage on its way down. This damage must be contained, while plans are drawn up for an international arrangement that will arise upon its demise.

Looking back on 2013 and before, such sentiments were already being expressed, but on the fringes and quietly. The difference is that in 2014 they became commonplace knowledge, and their expressions thundered from presidential podiums. What’s more, there just isn’t that much of a counterargument being voiced. I don’t hear a single voice out there arguing that the US is a benevolent force that is on the up-and-up, would never hurt a fly and is the permanent center of the universe. Yes, some people can still think that, but it’s hard to see value in such “thought.”

There are still a few holdouts: the UK, Canada and Australia especially. But even there the true picture is being distorted because of their Murdockified national media. Judging from what I hear from the people there, they are almost uniformly nauseated by the subservient pro-US antics of their national leaders. As for the EU, the image of political uniformity presented by Brussels is largely a fiction. In the core countries of Western Europe, business leaders are almost uniformly in favor of close cooperation with Russia and against sanctions. Along the fringe, entire countries appear to be on the verge of switching sides. Hungary—never a friend of Russia—now seems more pro-Russian than ever. Bulgaria, which has had a love/hate attitude toward Russia for centuries now, seems to be edging back closer to love. Even the Poles are scratching their heads and wondering if close cooperation with the US is in their national interest.

Another major shift I have observed is that a significant percentage of the thinking people in the US no longer trusts their national media. There is a certain pattern to the kinds of messages that can go viral and spread wildly via tweets and social media. Fringe messages must, by definition, stay on the fringe. And yet last year something snapped: a few times I ran a story in an attempt to plug a gaping hole in the US mass media’s coverage of events in the Ukraine, and the response was overwhelming, with hundreds of thousands of new readers showing up. What’s more, a lot of them have kept coming back for more. I take this to mean that what I have to say, while by no means mainstream, is no longer on the fringe, and that bloggers have an increasingly important role in helping plug the giant holes in national media coverage.

Of course, the national media still has an important role to play. For instance, I have no idea how big Kim Kardashian’s derrière is—but I hear it’s big in the media. Can it sing? And so if you are looking for authoritative information on that important subject, then American national media is your friend. But for most non-ass-related things, it seems to me that the Americans who run the nation’s political and media circuses broke a fundamental rule, which they apparently forgot, because it was first expressed by an American by the name of Abe Lincoln: “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.” In case somebody out there in the media realm is tired of playing it safe and printing stuff that’s only fit for wiping your Kardashian with, here are a some points for you to try to refute:

1. Economic inequality has to increase continuously, until the whole thing crashes, because that is the only way to continue propping the financial bubble while the real, physical, productive economy is actually shrinking. The rich can’t possibly spend all of their money in the real economy. Instead, the poor things have to content themselves with investing in various luxury items, which they can’t use all the same time, and so most of them sit and slowly decay. Or they put their money into paper wealth of various kinds—and that, of course, is very good for the financial bubble. In any event, if you have a financial bubble you need to prop up no matter what, in the face of serious physical limitations on land, energy, fresh water, high-grade ores and other essential industrial feedstocks, then your best bet is to do the reverse-Robin-Hood thing and go rob the poor and give to the rich.

2. Worldwide chaos must be driven up because that’s the only way the US military can justify its existence. It is a very expensive military, but not a particularly effective one. (Just the new F-35 fighter cost over a trillion to develop—and yet it is a complete dud of a project and may never even go into production.) But in spite of this lavish spending the US military is incapable of scoring a decisive victory in just about any conflict, against any adversary, no matter how weak and impoverished, and their end result is always some sort of ongoing low-grade conflict that can flare up again at any time. Nevertheless, it can still threaten the weak and the poor, and use these threats to its financial advantage. But the only way to make these threats effective is to destroy some country on a semi-regular basis: “Nice country you got there! We’d hate to see it go the way of Libya.” A military confrontation with any of the real military powers—Russia, China, India, even Iran—is, of course, entirely out of the question, because a single humiliating military defeat for the US (which is inevitable given its track record against smaller, weaker adversaries) would be sufficient to undermine the entire program of US militarism.

3. As another American (Dwight Eisenhower) once put it: “If you can’t solve a problem, enlarge it.” But it stands to reason that you do have to solve a problem once in a while; you can’t just go on enlarging every problem you see ad infinitum. Now, what problems has the US solved lately? Anything good happening in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria or Ukraine? No, worse than ever. How about financial reform in the wake of the narrowly averted collapse in 2008? No, and there is another big one coming up in the form of the fracas in the fracking patch due to low oil prices. Anything good to report on health care reform? No, it’s more ridiculously bloated and expensive than ever. Student debt repayable now? No, not by a long shot. How about an effort to reduce carbon emissions, to postpone (no longer to avoid!) the eastern seaboard, where half of everything is, going underwater? No, not a glimmer of hope. Problems with runaway public debt or unfunded government liabilities solved? No, there have been no efforts in that direction at all. Is the country still on course for national bankruptcy and collapse? All systems check, go with throttle up!

Now, your mileage may vary, but I have discovered that a surprising number of people around the world (though not especially in the US) is now very much clued into these things. And that is something that makes me feel optimistic about 2015.

 

 

Dmitry Orlov is a Russian-American engineer and a writer on subjects related to “potential economic, ecological and political decline and collapse in the United States,” something he has called “permanent crisis”. He  has written The Five Stages of Collapse and Reinventing Collapse, continues to write regularly on his “Club Orlov” blog and at EnergyBulletin.Net.

Peculiarities of Russian National Character

From the keyboard of Dmitry Orlov
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Ancient Slavic god Zimnik: a squat old man, long hair the color of snow, wears a white coat, always barefoot. Carries an iron staff, one swing with which instantly freezes everything solid. Can summon snowstorms, ice storms and blizzards. Goes around taking whatever he likes, especially children who misbehave.

Ancient Slavic god Zimnik: a squat old man, long hair the color of snow, wears a white coat, always barefoot. Carries an iron staff, one swing with which instantly freezes everything solid. Can summon snowstorms, ice storms and blizzards. Goes around taking whatever he likes, especially children who misbehave.

Originally published at Club Orlov on January 13, 2015

Recent events, such as the overthrow of the government in Ukraine, the secession of Crimea and its decision to join the Russian Federation, the subsequent military campaign against civilians in Eastern Ukraine, western sanctions against Russia, and, most recently, the attack on the ruble, have caused a certain phase transition to occur within Russian society, which, I believe, is very poorly, if at all, understood in the west. This lack of understanding puts Europe at a significant disadvantage in being able to negotiate an end to this crisis.

Whereas prior to these events the Russians were rather content to consider themselves “just another European country,” they have now remembered that they are a distinct civilization, with different civilizational roots (Byzantium rather than Rome)—one that has been subject to concerted western efforts to destroy it once or twice a century, be it by Sweden, Poland, France, Germany, or some combination of the above. This has conditioned the Russian character in a specific set of ways which, if not adequately understood, is likely to lead to disaster for Europe and the world.

Lest you think that Byzantium is some minor cultural influence on Russia, it is, in fact, rather key. Byzantine cultural influences, which came along with Orthodox Christianity, first through Crimea (the birthplace of Christianity in Russia), then through the Russian capital Kiev (the same Kiev that is now the capital of Ukraine), allowed Russia to leapfrog across a millennium or so of cultural development. Such influences include the opaque and ponderously bureaucratic nature of Russian governance, which the westerners, who love transparency (if only in others) find so unnerving, along with many other things. Russians sometimes like to call Moscow the Third Rome—third after Rome itself and Constantinople—and this is not an entirely empty claim. But this is not to say that Russian civilization is derivative; yes, it has managed to absorb the entire classical heritage, viewed through a distinctly eastern lens, but its vast northern environment has transformed that heritage into something radically different.

Since this subject is of overwhelming complexity, I will focus on just four factors, which I find essential for understanding the transformation we are currently witnessing.

1. Taking offense

Western nations have emerged in an environment of limited resources and relentless population pressure, and this has to a large degree determined the way in which they respond when they are offended. For quite a long time, while centralized authority was weak, conflicts were settled through bloody conflict, and even a minor affront could cause former friends to become instant adversaries and draw their swords. This is because it was an environment in which standing your ground was key to survival.

In contrast, Russia emerged as a nation in an environment of almost infinite, although mostly quite diffuse, resources. It also drew from the bounty of the trade route that led from the Vikings to the Greeks, which was so active that Arab geographers believed that there was a salt-water strait linking the Black Sea with the Baltic, whereas the route consisted of rivers with a considerable amount of portage. In this environment, it was important to avoid conflict, and people who would draw their swords at a single misspoken word were unlikely to do well in it.

Thus, a very different conflict resolution strategy has emerged, which survives to this day. If you insult, aggrieve or otherwise harm a Russian, you are unlikely to get a fight (unless it happens to be a demonstrative beating held in a public setting, or a calculated settling of scores through violence). Instead, more likely than not, the Russian will simply tell you to go to hell, and then refuse to have anything further to do with you. If physical proximity makes this difficult, the Russian will consider relocating, moving in any direction that happens to be away from you. So common is this speech act in practice that it has been abbreviated to a monosyllabic utterance: “Пшёл!” (“Pshol!”) and can be referred to simply as “послать” (literally, “to send”). In an environment where there is an almost infinite amount of free land to settle, such a strategy makes perfect sense. Russians live like settled people, but when they have to move, they move like nomads, whose main method of conflict resolution is voluntary relocation.

This response to grievance as something permanent is a major facet of the Russian culture, and westerners who do not understand it are unlikely to achieve an outcome they would like, or even understand. To a westerner, an insult can be resolved by saying something like “I am sorry!” To a Russian that’s pretty much just noise, especially if it is being emitted by somebody who has already been told to go to hell. A verbal apology that is not backed up by something tangible is one of these rules of politeness, which to the Russians are something of a luxury. Until a couple of decades ago, the standard Russian apology was “извиняюсь” (“izviniáius’”), which can be translated literally as “I excuse myself.” Russia is now a much more polite country, but the basic cultural pattern remains in place.

Although purely verbal apologies are worthless, restitution is not. Setting things right may involve parting with a prized possession, or making a significant new pledge, or announcing an important change of direction. The point is, these all involve taking pivotal actions, not just words, because beyond a certain point words can only make the situation worse, taking it from the “Go to hell” stage to the even less copacetic “Let me show you the way” stage.

2. Dealing with invaders

Russia has a long history of being invaded from every direction, but especially from the west, and Russian culture has evolved a certain mindset which is difficult for outsiders to comprehend. First of all, it is important to realize that when Russians fight off an invasion (and having the CIA and the US State Department run Ukraine with the help of Ukrainian Nazis qualifies as an invasion) they are not fighting for territory, at least not directly. Rather, they are fighting for Russia as a concept. And the concept states that Russia has been invaded numerous times, but never successfully. In the Russian mindset, invading Russia successfully involves killing just about every Russian, and, as they are fond of saying, “They can’t kill us all.” (“Нас всех не убьёшь.”) Population can be restored over time (it was down 22 million at the end of World War II) but the concept, once lost, would be lost forever. It may sound nonsensical to a westerner to hear Russians call their country “a country of princes, poets and saints,” but that’s what it is—it is a state of mind. Russia doesn’t have a history—it is its history.

Because the Russians fight for the concept of Russia rather than for any given chunk of Russian territory, they are always rather willing to retreat—at first. When Napoleon invaded Russia, fully planning to plunder his way across the countryside, he found the entire countryside torched by the retreating Russians. When he finally occupied Moscow, it too went up in flames. Napoleon camped out for a bit, but eventually, realizing that there was nothing more to be done (attack Siberia?) and that his army would starve and die of exposure if they remained, he beat a hasty and shameful retreat, eventually abandoning his men to their fate. As they retreated, another facet of Russian cultural heritage came to the fore: every peasant from every village that got torched as the Russians retreated was in the forefront as the Russians advanced, itching for a chance to take a pot shot at a French soldier.

Similarly, the German invasion during World War II was at first able to make rapid advances, taking a lot of territory, while the Russians equally swiftly retreated and evacuated their populations, relocating entire factories and other institutions to Siberia and resettling families in the interior of the country. Then the German advance stopped, reversed, and eventually turned into a rout. The standard pattern repeated itself, with the Russian army breaking the invader’s will while most of the locals that found themselves under occupation withheld cooperation, organized as partisans and inflicted maximum possible damage on the retreating invader.

Murmansk, 68°58′45″, pop. 300,000. January 12: first sunrise in 40 days. Length of day: 38 minutes


3. Dealing with foreign powers
Another Russian adaptation for dealing with invaders is to rely on the Russian climate to do the job. A standard way of ridding a Russian village house of vermin is simply to not heat it; a few days at 40 below or better and the cockroaches, bedbugs, lice, nits, weevils, mice, rats are all dead. It works with invaders too. Russia is the world’s most northern country. Canada is far north, but most of its population is spread along its southern border, and it has no major cities above the Arctic Circle, while Russia has two. Life in Russia in some ways resembles life in outer space or on the open ocean: impossible without life support. The Russian winter is simply not survivable without cooperation from the locals, and so all they have to do to wipe out an invader is withhold cooperation. And if you think that an invader can secure cooperation by shooting a few locals to scare the rest, see above under “Taking offense.”

Russia owns almost the entire northern portion of the Eurasian continent, which comprises something like 1/6 of the Earth’s dry surface. That, by Earth standards, is a lot of territory. This is not an aberration or an accident of history: throughout their history, the Russians were absolutely driven to provide for their collective security by gaining as much territory as possible. If you are wondering what motivated them to undertake such a quest, see “Dealing with invaders” above.

If you think that foreign powers repeatedly attempted to invade and conquer Russia in order to gain access to its vast natural resources, then you are wrong: the access was always there for the asking. The Russians are not exactly known for refusing to sell their natural resources—even to their potential enemies. No, what Russia’s enemies wanted was to be able to tap into Russia’s resources free of charge. To them, Russia’s existence was an inconvenience, which they attempted to eliminate through violence.

What they achieved instead was a higher price for themselves, once their invasion attempt failed. The calculus is simple: the foreigners want Russia’s resources; to defend them, Russia needs a strong, centralized state with a big, powerful military; ergo, the foreigners should be made to pay, to support Russia’s state and military. Consequently, most of the Russian state’s financial needs are addressed through export tariffs, on oil and natural gas especially, rather than by taxing the Russian population. After all, the Russian population is taxed heavily enough by having to fight off periodic invasions; why tax them more? Thus, the Russian state is a customs state: it uses customs duties and tariffs to extract funds from the enemies who would destroy it and use these funds to defend itself. Since there is no replacement for Russia’s natural resources, the more hostile the outside world acts toward Russia, the more it will end up paying for Russia’s national defense.

Note that this policy is directed at foreign powers, not at foreign-born people. Over the centuries, Russia has absorbed numerous immigrants: from Germany during the 30 years’ war; from France after the French revolution. More recent influxes have been from Vietnam, Korea, China and Central Asia. Last year Russia absorbed more immigrants than any other country except for the United States, which is dealing with an influx from countries on its southern border, whose populations its policies have done much to impoverish. Moreover, the Russians are absorbing this major influx, which includes close to a million from war-torn Ukraine, without much complaint. Russia is a nation of immigrants to a greater extent than most others, and is more of a melting pot than the United States.

4. Thanks, but we have our own

One more interesting Russian cultural trait is that Russians have always felt compelled to excel in all categories, from ballet and figure-skating to hockey and football to space flight and microchip manufacturing. You may think of champagne as a trademark French product, but last I checked “Советское шампанское” (“Soviet champagne”) was still selling briskly around New Year’s Eve, and not only in Russia but in Russian shops in the US because, you see, the French stuff may be nice, but it just doesn’t taste sufficiently Russian. For just about every thing you can imagine there is a Russian version of it, which the Russians often feel is better, and sometimes can claim they invented in the first place (the radio, for instance, was invented by Popov, not by Marconi). There are exceptions (tropical fruit is one example) and they are allowed provided they come from a “brotherly nation” such as Cuba. That was the pattern during the Soviet times, and it appears to be coming back to some extent now.

During the late Brezhnev/Andropov/Gorbachev “stagnation” period Russian innovation indeed stagnated, along with everything else, and Russia lost ground against the west technologically (but not culturally). After the Soviet collapse Russians became eager for western imports, and this was quite normal considering that Russia wasn’t producing much of anything at the time. Then, during the 1990s, there came the era of western compradors, who dumped imported products on Russia with the long-term goal of completely wiping out domestic industry and making Russia into a pure raw materials supplier, at which point it would be defenseless against an embargo and easily forced to surrender its sovereignty. This would be an invasion by non-military means, against which Russia would find itself defenseless.

This process ran quite far before it hit a couple of major snags. First, Russian manufacturing and non-hydrocarbon exports rebounded, doubling several times in the course of a decade. The surge included grain exports, weapons, and high-tech. Second, Russia found lots of better, cheaper, friendlier trading partners around the world. Still, Russia’s trade with the west, and with the EU specifically, is by no means insignificant. Third, the Russian defense industry has been able to maintain its standards, and its independence from imports. (This can hardly be said about the defense firms in the west, which depend on Russian titanium exports.)

And now there has come the perfect storm for the compradors: the ruble has partially devalued in response to lower oil prices, pricing out imports and helping domestic producers; sanctions have undermined Russia’s confidence in the reliability of the west as suppliers; and the conflict over Crimea has boosted the Russians’ confidence in their own abilities. The Russian government is seizing this opportunity to champion companies that can quickly effect import replacement for imports from the west. Russia’s central bank has been charged with financing them at interest rates that make import replacement even more attractive.

Some people have been drawing comparisons between the period we are in now and the last time oil prices dropped—all the way to $10/barrel—in some measure precipitating the Soviet collapse. But this analogy is false. At the time, the Soviet Union was economically stagnant and dependent on western credit to secure grain imports, without which it wouldn’t have been able to raise enough livestock to feed its population. It was led by the feckless and malleable Gorbachev—an appeaser, a capitulator, and a world-class windbag whose wife loved to go shopping in London. The Russian people despised him and referred to him as “Mishka the Marked,” thanks to his birthmark. And now Russia is resurgent, is one of the world’s largest grain exporters, and is being led by the defiant and implacable President Putin who enjoys an approval rating of over 80%. In comparing pre-collapse USSR to Russia today, commentators and analysts showcase their ignorance.

Conclusions

This part almost writes itself. It’s a recipe for disaster, so I’ll write it out as a recipe.

1. Take a nation of people who respond to offense by damning you to hell, and refusing to having anything more to do with you, rather than fighting. Make sure that this is a nation whose natural resources are essential for keeping your lights on and your houses heated, for making your passenger airliners and your jet fighters, and for a great many other things. Keep in mind, a quarter of the light bulbs in the US light up thanks to Russian nuclear fuel, whereas a cut-off of Russian gas to Europe would be a cataclysm of the first order.

2. Make them feel that they are being invaded by installing a government that is hostile to them in a territory that they consider part of their historical homeland. The only truly non-Russian part of the Ukraine is Galicia, which parted company many centuries ago and which, most Russians will tell you, “You can take to hell with you.” If you like your neo-Nazis, you can keep your neo-Nazis. Also keep in mind how the Russians deal with invaders: they freeze them out.

3. Impose economic and financial sanctions on Russia. Watch in dismay as your exporters start losing money when in instant retaliation Russia blocks your agricultural exports. Keep in mind that this is a country that, thanks to surviving a long string of invasion attempts, traditionally relies on potentially hostile foreign states to finance its defense against them. If they fail to do so, then it will resort to other ways of deterring them, such as freezing them out. “No gas for NATO members” seems like a catchy slogan. Hope and pray that it doesn’t catch on in Moscow.

4. Mount an attack on their national currency, causing it to lose part of its value on par with a lower price of oil. Watch in dismay as Russian officials laugh all the way to the central bank because the lower ruble has caused state revenues to remain unchanged in spite of lower oil prices, erasing a potential budget deficit. Watch in dismay as your exporters go bankrupt because their exports are priced out of the Russian market. Keep in mind, Russia has no national debt to speak of, runs a negligible budget deficit, has plentiful foreign currency reserves and ample gold reserves. Also keep in mind that your banks have loaned hundreds of billions of dollars to Russian businesses (which you have just deprived of access to your banking system by imposing sanctions). Hope and pray that Russia doesn’t put a freeze on debt repayments to western banks until the sanctions are lifted, since that would blow up your banks.

5. Watch in dismay as Russia signs major natural gas export deals with everyone except you. Is there going to be enough gas left for you when they are done? Well, it appears that this no longer a concern for the Russians, because you have offended them, and, being who they are, they told you to go to hell (don’t forget to take Galicia with you) and will now deal with other, friendlier countries.

6. Continue to watch in dismay as Russia actively looks for ways to sever most of the trade links with you, finding suppliers in other parts of the world or organizing production for import replacement.

But now comes a surprise—an underreported one, to say the least. Russia has just offered the EU a deal. If the EU refuses to join the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the US (which, by the way, would hurt it economically) then it can join the Customs Union with Russia. Why freeze yourselves out when we can all freeze out Washington instead? This is the restitution Russia would accept for the EU’s offensive behavior with regard to the Ukraine and the sanctions. Coming from a customs state, it is a most generous offer. A lot went into making it: the recognition that the EU poses no military threat to Russia and not much of an economic one either; the fact that the European countries are all very cute and tiny and lovable, and make tasty cheeses and sausages; the understanding that their current crop of national politicians is feckless and beholden to Washington, and that they need a big push in order to understand where their nations’ true interests lie… Will the EU accept this offer, or will they accept Galicia as a new member and “freeze out”?

 

 

Dmitry Orlov is a Russian-American engineer and a writer on subjects related to “potential economic, ecological and political decline and collapse in the United States,” something he has called “permanent crisis”. He  has written The Five Stages of Collapse and Reinventing Collapse, continues to write regularly on his “Club Orlov” blog and at EnergyBulletin.Net.

Russia, China mock divide and rule

Off the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
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THE ROVING EYE

Map-New_Silk_Road

Originally published in Asia Times on December 23, 2014
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ROME and BEIJING – The Roman Empire did it. The British Empire copied it in style. The Empire of Chaos has always done it. They all do it. Divide et impera. Divide and rule – or divide and conquer. It’s nasty, brutish and effective. Not forever though, like diamonds, because empires do crumble.

A room with a view to the Pantheon may be a celebration of Venus – but also a glimpse on the works of Mars. I had been in Rome essentially for a symposium – Global WARning – organized by a very committed, talented group led by a former member of European Parliament, Giulietto Chiesa. Three days later, as the run on the rouble was unleashed, Chiesa was arrested and expelled from Estonia as persona non grata, yet another graphic illustration of the anti-Russia hysteria gripping the Baltic nations and the Orwellian grip NATO has on Europe’s weak links. [1] Dissent is simply not allowed.

At the symposium, held in a divinely frescoed former 15th century Dominican refectory now part of the Italian parliament’s library, Sergey Glazyev, on the phone from Moscow, gave a stark reading of Cold War 2.0. There’s no real “government” in Kiev; the US ambassador is in charge. An anti-Russia doctrine has been hatched in Washington to foment war in Europe – and European politicians are its collaborators. Washington wants a war in Europe because it is losing the competition with China.

Glazyev addressed the sanctions dementia: Russia is trying simultaneously to reorganize the politics of the International Monetary Fund, fight capital flight and minimize the effect of banks closing credit lines for many businessmen. Yet the end result of sanctions, he says, is that Europe will be the ultimate losers economically; bureaucracy in Europe has lost economic focus as American geopoliticians have taken over.

Only three days before the run on the rouble, I asked Rosneft’s Mikhail Leontyev (Press-Secretary – Director of the Information and Advertisement Department) about the growing rumors of the Russian government getting ready to apply currency controls. At the time, no one knew an attack on rouble would be so swift, and conceived as a checkmate to destroy the Russian economy. After sublime espressos at the Tazza d’Oro, right by the Pantheon, Leontyev told me that currency controls were indeed a possibility. But not yet.

What he did emphasize was this was outright financial war, helped by a fifth column in the Russian establishment. The only equal component in this asymmetrical war was nuclear forces. And yet Russia would not surrender. Leontyev characterized Europe not as a historical subject but as an object: “The European project is an American project.” And “democracy” had become fiction.

The run on the rouble came and went like a devastating economic hurricane. Yet you don’t threat a checkmate against a skilled chess player unless your firepower is stronger than Jupiter’s lightning bolt. Moscow survived. Gazprom heeded the request of President Vladimir Putin and will sell its US dollar reserves on the domestic market. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier went on the record against the EU further “turning the screw” as in more counterproductive sanctions against Moscow. And at his annual press conference, Putin emphasized how Russia would weather the storm. Yet I was especially intrigued by what he did not say. [2]

As Mars took over, in a frenetic acceleration of history, I retreated to my Pantheon room trying to channel Seneca; from euthymia – interior serenity – to that state of imperturbability the Stoics defined as aponia. Still, it’s hard to cultivate euthymia when Cold War 2.0 rages.

Show me your imperturbable missile
Russia could always deploy an economic “nuclear” option, declaring a moratorium on its foreign debt. Then, if Western banks seized Russian assets, Moscow could seize every Western investment in Russia. In any event, the Pentagon and NATO’s aim of a shooting war in the European theater would not happen; unless Washington was foolish enough to start it.

Still, that remains a serious possibility, with the Empire of Chaos accusing Russia of violating the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) even as it prepares to force Europe in 2015 to accept the deployment of US nuclear cruise missiles.

Russia could outmaneuver Western financial markets by cutting them off from its wealth of oil and natural gas. The markets would inevitably collapse – uncontrolled chaos for the Empire of Chaos (or “controlled chaos”, in Putin’s own words). Imagine the crumbling of the quadrillion-plus of derivatives. It would take years for the “West” to replace Russian oil and natural gas, but the EU’s economy would be instantly devastated.

Just this lightning-bolt Western attack on the rouble – and oil prices – using the crushing power of Wall Street firms had already shaken European banks exposed to Russia to the core; their credit default swaps soared. Imagine those banks collapsing in a Lehman Brothers-style house of cards if Russia decided to default – thus unleashing a chain reaction. Think about a non-nuclear MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) – in fact warless. Still, Russia is self-sufficient in all kinds of energy, mineral wealth and agriculture. Europe isn’t. This could become the lethal result of war by sanctions.

Essentially, the Empire of Chaos is bluffing, using Europe as pawns. The Empire of Chaos is as lousy at chess as it is at history. What it excels in is in upping the ante to force Russia to back down. Russia won’t back down.

Darkness dawns at the break of chaos
Paraphrasing Bob Dylan in When I Paint My Masterpiece, I left Rome and landed in Beijing. Today’s Marco Polos travel Air China; in 10 years, they will be zooming up in reverse, taking high-speed rail from Shanghai to Berlin. [3]

From a room in imperial Rome to a room in a peaceful hutong – a lateral reminiscence of imperial China. In Rome, the barbarians swarm inside the gates, softly pillaging the crumbs of such a rich heritage, and that includes the local Mafia. In Beijing, the barbarians are kept under strict surveillance; of course there’s a Panopticon element to it, essential to assure internal social peace. The leadership of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) – ever since the earth-shattering reforms by the Little Helmsman Deng Xiaoping – is perfectly conscious that its Mandate of Heaven is directly conditioned by the perfect fine-tuning of nationalism and what we could term “neoliberalism with Chinese characteristics”.

In a different vein of the “soft beds of the East” seducing Marcus Aurelius, the silky splendors of chic Beijing offer a glimpse of an extremely self-assured emerging power. After all, Europe is nothing but a catalogue of multiple sclerosis and Japan is under its sixth recession in 20 years.

To top it off, in 2014 President Xi Jinping has deployed unprecedented diplomatic/geostrategic frenzy – ultimately tied to the long-term project of slowly but surely keeping on erasing US supremacy in Asia and rearranging the global chessboard. What Xi said in Shanghai in May encapsulates the project; “It’s time for Asians to manage the affairs of Asia.” At the APEC meeting in November, he doubled down, promoting an “Asia-Pacific dream”.

Meanwhile, frenzy is the norm. Apart from the two monster, US$725 billion gas deals – Power of Siberia and Altai pipeline – and a recent New Silk Road-related offensive in Eastern Europe, [4] virtually no one in the West remembers that in September Chinese Prime Minister Li Keiqiang signed no fewer than 38 trade deals with the Russians, including a swap deal and a fiscal deal, which imply total economic interplay.

A case can be made that the geopolitical shift towards Russia-China integration is arguably the greatest strategic maneuver of the last 100 years. Xi’s ultimate master plan is unambiguous: a Russia-China-Germany trade/commerce alliance. German business/industry wants it badly, although German politicians still haven’t got the message. Xi – and Putin – are building a new economic reality on the Eurasian ground, crammed with crucial political, economic and strategic ramifications.

Of course, this will be an extremely rocky road. It has not leaked to Western corporate media yet, but independent-minded academics in Europe (yes, they do exist, almost like a secret society) are increasingly alarmed there is no alternative model to the chaotic, entropic hardcore neoliberalism/casino capitalism racket promoted by the Masters of the Universe.

Even if Eurasian integration prevails in the long run, and Wall Street becomes a sort of local stock exchange, the Chinese and the emerging multipolar world still seem to be locked into the existing neoliberal model.

And yet, as much as Lao Tzu, already an octogenarian, gave the young Confucius an intellectual slap on the face, the “West” could do with a wake-up call. Divide et impera? It’s not working. And it’s bound to fail miserably.

As it stands, what we do know is that 2015 will be a hair-raising year in myriad aspects. Because from Europe to Asia, from the ruins of the Roman empire to the re-emerging Middle Kingdom, we all still remain under the sign of a fearful, dangerous, rampantly irrational Empire of Chaos.

Notes:
1. See here.
2. What Putin is not telling us, Russia Today, December 18, 2014.
3. Eurasian Integration vs. the Empire of Chaos, TomDispatch, December 16, 2014.
4. China set to make tracks for Europe, China Daily, December 18, 2014. China’s Li cements new export corridor into Europe, Channel News Asia, December 16, 2014.

Pepe Escobar’s latest book, just out, is Empire of Chaos. Follow him on Facebook.

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades

Off the keyboard of RE

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Published on the Doomstead Diner on October 5, 2014

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I’ve spent the better part of the last decade Blogging Collapse.  It’s the Gift that Keeps on Giving, not a day or week goes by that something ever more egregious occurs in the Global Theatre, there is NEVER a shortage of Collapse stories to write on or examine.  Right now for example, ongoing we have:

1- Ebola Rising

plague

2- Hong Kong Occupy

04Occupy2RDV-tmagArticle

 

3- Oil Prices Collapsing

http://static1.businessinsider.com/image/53f5edf569bedd5b100120d6-1200-900/cotd-brent-oil-1.jpg

4- ISIS

isis

5- Ruskie Sanctions

http://www.usnews.com/dims4/USNEWS/be1ba1b/2147483647/resize/652x%3E/format/png/quality/85/?url=%2Fcmsmedia%2F09%2Fb4%2Fa84230e14cf9ac0e9054288e46b4%2F20140422edcmc-a.tif

6- CA Drought

http://sites.psu.edu/carlyjean/wp-content/uploads/sites/9696/2014/02/2014-01-05-Drought2013EarthDrReeseHalter2-thumb.jpg

 

http://www.occidentaldissent.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/snap.pngAnd those are just the relatively new ones!   Fukushima hasn’t stopped Nuke Puking into the Pacific, a few dozen new species go extinct every week and the number of people on SNAP Cards inexorably climbs while the number of people in the workforce inexorably declines.  The Greeks are about to Default (AGAIN!) too.

As a Blogger, you can randomly just pick one of the topics out of a hat and there is something to write about and examine on any given day.  With this explosion of collapse topics, you would think that this would translate to an explosion of Blogs and Bloggers writing about them, but the exact opposite is true.  The longer this goes on, the fewer people who write on them there are, and of those that do, the less often they publish.

Some of the folks I used to read regularly like Nicole Foss (Stoneleigh) of The Automatic Earth almost never publish anything new.  Other folks like George Mobus of Question Everything have turned towards topics of a theoretical nature that interest them, but are only tangentially related to collapse if at all.

Here on the Diner, my fellow Bloggers Lucid Dreams of Epiphany Now and William Hunter Duncan of Off the Grid in Minneapolis just about never publish anymore, concerned more with their own daily lives than the Big Problems of the world.  Jason Heppenstall of 22 Billion Energy Slaves still publishes occassionally, but his Blogs come sporadically, maybe one a month.

Discussion in the commentary of some Blogs and on Forums is settled into a kind of formula for each place and is generally entirely predictable wherever you go, if you have been following collapse for any length of time anyhow.

Why is this?  It’s obviously not due to a shortage of topics, that is for sure.  The most obvious reasons to me are Collapse Overload TM on the part of the readers and commentariat, and Collapse Burnout TM on the part of the Bloggers.  It’s been going on so long now that anyone concerned with these topics has pretty much shot their wad on their own opinions and ideas and has read everything anyone else had to say about it, formed their own opinion on where it is going and what it means, and now is just living their life as best they can in the face of it.

For the most part this means finding or keeping a job and continuing to scratch out a living in the industrial economy.  Only a few people can afford to build their own Doomsteads © and try to become at least partially self-sufficient, and even that idea gets bollixed up by changing climate and precipitation patterns.  Diner Eddie who has a Doomstead © in Texas is quite aware that the progressing drought there makes that place likely unsustainable in the medium to long term.

http://www.wantchinatimes.com/newsphoto/2013-05-06/450/CFP433417743-182026_copy1.jpgBesides Collapse Overload TMCollapse Burnout TM in the long time Cognoscenti of Collapse TM is the more serious problem of Collapse Frustration TM.  For Doomophiles TM,  after years of jawboning Doom & Collapse on the net, the apparent inability to actually DO anything about it or even get the large majority of the population with their noses stuck in their I-Phones to even realize it is occurring leads many Doomers TM to throw up their hands and just give up!  Why bother talking about it or even DOING anything about it, because we are so seriously fucked here nothing makes a difference anyhow!

This is the meme over on Guy McPherson’s Nature Bats Last, where the Batters there have drawn the conclusion that not only are we economically fucked but we are all Doomed to Near Term Human Extinction by the now updated date of 2030.  Definitely, if we are all going to be extinct by 2030, there is not a whole lot of point to be blogging anymore, start working on your Bucket List instead!

The fact so many Bloggers have succumbed to Collapse Overload TMCollapse Burnout TM is actually a benefit for the Doomstead Diner ©, since newbies seeking out information about Collapse have fewer places to surf to on a daily basis these days, which translates to an ever rising Alexa Ranking for the Diner! Doom Surfers like the Diner so much they hang out for an amazing 17 Minutes a Day Time on Site now consuming Doom on the Diner! LOL. Most sites are lucky if they can keep short attention span readers on site for even 3 minutes! I personally battle the CO & CB Demons by sprinkling in some humor with the Doom, if you don’t look at the Lighter Side of Doom TM, you get Gloomy & Depressed and that makes it hard to keep going.

Besides Humor, the other way to battle against the Depressing Side of Doom is to NOT give in to the idea that everything is HOPELESS and there is nothing you can do, particularly if you are FRNs strapped without a lot of money to set up your own Doomstead ©.  There still are many strategies to explore, which is why we created the Non-Profit Sustaining Universal Needs Foundation, at SUN4Living.com.  While a case can be made that Collapse is inevitable and things are not going to be improving as time goes by here, there is still plenty to work out in terms of how to deal with it as it does progress.  I don’t see it as worthwhile to capitulate here as of yet, while the situation looks pretty grim, it is always Darkest Before the Dawn, as the saying goes.  Visit with us on SUN to help workout the logistics of a BETTER TOMORROW TM

In any event, the fact so many folks concerned with Collapse have left the stage or just sing the periodic aria has left a huge GAP in Collapse Analysis on the net, and a GREAT OPPORTUNITY for the Diner!  At the very least, I have got every good Collapse & Doom Term & Slogan either Trademarked or Copyrighted here!  LOL.

The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades.

http://www.cheatcc.com/imagesfeatures/futuresobrightwegottawearshades.jpg

This is not the time to GIVE UP!  So what if the Germans Bombed Pearl Harbor?  Are you going to let a few Dead Phytoplankton get you down?  How many people ever born get to live through the Collapse of their Civilization?  It’s like Winning the LOTTO!  Let’s get out there and grab this opportunity to build a BETTER TOMORROW TM

NOTHING IS OVER UNTIL WE DECIDE IT IS!

http://www.isd547.com/Elem/extras/images/dogreporter.jpgDon’t miss the latest New Feature on the Diner Blog, Knarf’s Knewz!

Knewz Storiez Carefully Curated and Selected from around the Web by a Buddhist Monk filling you in on some of the less  well known Collapse Shenanigans.

Find the latest in Collapse Storiez in Knarf’s Knewz Widget on the Diner Blog!

Classic Rant Series: TSA Follies & Myths of Transportation Security

Fed Gate, PIMPCO & Oil Prices

logopodcastOff the microphone of RE

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Aired on the Doomstead Diner on October 1, 2014

Discuss this Rant at the Podcast Table inside the Diner

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Don’t miss the latest high grossing Rants!

Volcanoes, Earthquakes, Arctic Oil and Hong Kong Riots

Financial WWIII: Secessions, Sanctions & Anti-Dollars

Snippet:

…The fact those revelations have produced basically ZERO in the way of prosecutions and perp walks has led to an even greater sense of invulnerability, so what do they care if they are recorded? “ You suckas are fucked and we are Masters of the Universe! Muuuhhhaahaaa!”

Why is nobody getting prosecuted here? Because EVERYBODY, and I mean EVERYBODY in the top echelon levels of Goobermint and Banking is FUCKING GUILTY! Everybody in the Department of Justice supposed to control criminal behavior is a fucking criminal. Everybody in Congress is a flunky criminal marionette or ventriloquist dummy with a Bankster behind him telling him how to vote and what to say. The fucking POTUS Obama-sama is a Rubber Stamp who signs whatever executive order his Caddy hands to him while out on the Back Nine to make certain your Pension Fund belongs to Goldman, not you.

Besides the fact that everybody in charge of running this Racket is a Criminal, the other main reason that nobody gets prosecuted is that the whole monetary system is a Criminal Racket, and has been so since the founding of the FSoA, and going well back before that too. If anybody really started to enforce laws against the main Racketeers in charge of the TBTF Banks and major Energy and Defense Corporations, the entire monetary system would collapse in a heartbeat. The only thing that keeps it running is Theft and Military Enforcers running the Protection Racket through the CIA…

For the rest, LISTEN TO THE RANT!!!

The US-EU-Russia Sanctions Puzzle

Off the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
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Originally published in Global Research on September 18, 2014

Whatever Russia does, doubt does not even enter the equation. The answer is sanctions. So here we go again. The US Treasury-EU latest sanction package targets Russian banking, the energy industry and the defense industry.

The sanctions are mean. The sanctions are nasty. And there’s no euphemism to describe them; they amount to a declaration of economic war.

Sberbank, Russia’s largest won’t be able to access Western capital for long-term funding, including every kind of borrowing over 30 days. And the current 90-day lending bans affecting six other large Russian banks – a previous sanctions package – will also be reduced to 30 days.

On the energy front, what the US-EU want is to shut down new Russian exploration projects in Siberia and the Arctic, barring Western Big Oil from selling equipment and technology to offshore, deepwater or shale gas projects.

This means Exxon and Shell, for instance, are frozen in their operations with five top Russian oil/gas/pipeline companies: Gazprom, Gazprom Neft, Lukoil, Surgutneftegaz, and Rosneft.

No one ever lost money betting on the stupidity of the usual, unknown “senior US officials” – who are now spinning the latest sanction package is to force Moscow to “respect international law and state sovereignty.” A cursory examination of the historical record allows this paragraph to be accompanied by roaring laughter.

And then there’s the US Treasury’s Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, David Cohen, who insists the package will further “isolate” Russia from the global financial system.

Members of the European Parliament stand to applaud during a voting session on the EU-Ukraine Association agreement at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, September 16, 2014. (Reuters/Vincent Kessler)

Members of the European Parliament stand to applaud during a voting session on the EU-Ukraine Association agreement at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, September 16, 2014. (Reuters/Vincent Kessler)

The package was also described by Western corporate media as capable of “unnerving already jittery financial markets.” Well, they were not exactly “unnerved.” In Russia, the stocks of companies on the sanctions list went up. In the US, energy stocks went down. Short translation; the “unnerved” markets interpreted the latest package as yet another own goal by Washington and Brussels.

Splitting up Eurasia

As for Russia’s “isolation”, companies are barred from, in Washington-Wall Street newspeak, “important dollar-denominated funding sources.” Or, euphemistically, “Western capital.” This means the US dollar and the euro. Anyone following superimposed moves towards a multipolar world knows Russia does not need more US dollars and euro.

Moscow might use both to cross-purchase goods and services in the US and the EU. Yet these goods and services may be bought elsewhere around the world. For that, you don’t need “Western capital” – as Moscow is fast advancing the use of national currencies with other trade partners. The Atlanticist gang assumes Moscow needs goods and services from the US and the EU much more than the other way around. That’s a fallacy.

Russia can sell its abundant energy resources in any currency apart from US dollars and euro. Russia can buy all the clothing it needs from Asia and South America. On the electronics and high-tech front, most of it is made in China anyway.

Crucially, on the energy front, it would be no less than thrilling to watch the EU – which still does not even have a common energy policy – trying to come up with alternative suppliers. Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Qatar, for a number of complex reasons – ranging from insufficient gas to be committed, to an absence of pipelines – are out of the picture.

The Obama administration, for its part, simply won’t allow the EU to start importing energy from Iran like, virtually, tomorrow. Even with a now quite wobbly nuclear deal reached before the end of 2014 – presumably opening the way to an end to sanctions.

The “irrational” markets see what’s really goin’ on; they are not “irrational” but moved by profit derived from realpolitik.

And all this while Moscow has not even counterpunched. And that could be quite lethal – targeting EU exporters to Russia and even energy supplies from Russia. Then the EU will retaliate. And Russia will counter-counterpunch. That’s exactly what Washington wants: a trade/economic war ravaging and splitting up Eurasia.

 

United States President Barack Obama (Reuters/Gary Cameron)

United States President Barack Obama (Reuters/Gary Cameron)

About that $20 trillion…

On the political front, Ukraine and EU had initially agreed to “postpone the EU Association Agreement until the end of 2016.” You can’t make this stuff up; that’s exactly what Yanukovich did last November, as he knew Kiev could not allow itself to lose most of its certified trading with Russia in favor of a vague “free trade” with the EU. This agreement to “postpone” the agreement was in fact overseen by astonishing mediocrity and outgoing European Commission (EC) President Jose Manuel Barroso.

But then the European Parliament, during a plenary session in Strasbourg, hurried up to ratify Ukraine’s Association Agreement as President Petro Poroshenko simultaneously submitted it to the Ukrainian Parliament. This does not mean the agreement goes immediately into effect. Economic “integration”with the EU – a euphemism for a one-way invasion of Ukraine by EU products – will start only in January 2016. And there’s no way a crisis-hit EU will incorporate Ukraine anytime soon – or ever.

On Thursday, Poroshenko meets his master, US President Barack Obama, and addresses a joint session of the US Congress. Expect “evil empire” rhetoric to reach interstellar levels.

But it’s on Saturday in Berlin that the real thing starts unfolding; energy negotiations between Russia, the EU and Ukraine. Needless to say, Moscow holds all the key cards.

Washington’s humongous debt is reaching almost $20 trillion – and counting. With a monster crisis approaching like a tsunami from hell, no wonder Washington had to resort to the perfect diversionary tactic; the return of the “evil empire.” It’s the Marvel Comics school of politics all over again.

Russia has a huge surplus of foreign capital – and is able to weather the storm. Germany – the EU’s top economy – on the other hand, is already suffering. Growth is already at a negative 0.2%. This is the way the hysterical sanction wind is blowing – further derailing EU economies. And no one is betting the EU will have the balls to stand up to Washington. Not in vassal-infested Brussels.

 

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

Financial WWIII: Secessions, Sanctions & Anti-Dollars

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Aired on the Doomstead Diner on September 13, 2014

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Don’t miss the earlier Rants in this series:

Secession: Scotland to Texas to Alaska…and BEYOND!

It’s SHOWTIME!

ANTI-DOLLAR III: Fining Putin

ANTI-DOLLARS II

ANTI-DOLLARS!

Financial WWIII

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braveheart…As interesting and topical as the last week before the Scottish Vote on Secession is, I don’t wanna bog down too much on this potential major Black Swan and rant on just this one all week, even though the ramifications are endless to this, no matter which way it goes though definitely greater if a YES Vote for secession prevails.

There are secessionary movements all over Europe these days, most well known are is the one in Catalonia trying to divorce from Spain, but really in many places in Europe you have Nation-States cobbled together with different tribal groups, like for instance the Flemish in the Netherlands and the Magyars in Hungary etc. If the Scots do manage to break away from the UK, this will breath new life into about all of these secessionary movements. Which of course goes a long way toward explaining WHY there is a snowball’s chance in hell the Scots will be able to pull off a secession merely by voting for it.

TPTB that run the monetary system through the BIS simply cannot ALLOW such secessions, they aren’t geared up for that. They are geared for ever further consolidation into a New World Order, not only do they view Europe as a “single state”, the objective would be there to eventually bring Russia and China in as well, eventually running the entire world with a monetary and taxation system all determined by a few Clowns in Brussels. They did pretty good with this in the years since WWII, cobbling together the Euro as a cross border currency in Eurotrashland and developing Financial Warfare methods to drop on any Nation-State that would DARE to try to break free of the Hegemony over financial transactions Wall Street and the City of London have held onto for 300 years, but cracks in this edifice are appearing all over the place now as the realities of Irredeemable Debt and Resource Depletion become more apparent everywhere…

For the rest, LISTEN TO THE RANT!!!

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Obama’s ‘stupid stuff’ legacy

Off the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
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THE ROVING EYE

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Originally published in Asia Times on September 2, 2014
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But whether people see what’s happening in Ukraine, and Russia’s aggression towards its neighbors in the manner in which it’s financing and arming separatists; to what’s happened in Syria – the devastation that [President Bashar al-]Assad has wrought on his own people; to the failure in Iraq for Sunni and Shia and Kurd to compromise – although we’re trying to see if we can put together a government that actually can function; to ongoing terrorist threats; to what’s happening in Israel and Gaza – part of peoples’ concern is just the sense that around the world the old order isn’t holding and we’re not quite yet to where we need to be in terms of a new order that’s based on a set of different principles, that’s based on a sense of common humanity, that’s based on economies that work for all people. – President Barack Obama 

Looks like US President Barack Obama made a royal mess of what his mentor Dr Zbigniew “Grand Chessboard” Brzezinski taught him.

Dr Zbig always quotes Sir Halford John Mackinder’s three grand imperatives of imperial geostrategy; to prevent collusion and maintain security dependence among the vassals; to keep tributaries pliant and protected; and to keep the barbarians from coming together. 

After dabbling briefly with “leading from behind” – a non-starter – Obama finally went Mackinderesque with his stellar “Don’t Do Stupid Stuff” foreign policy doctrine. 

Nevertheless, an always alert former secretary of state Hillary Clinton said “Don’t do Stupid Stuff” isn’t a “foreign policy organizing principle”. Yet “Stupid Stuff” is all that the Obama foreign policy team knows how to do. 

Starting with Obama treating Russia under President Vladimir Putin the way Hillary’s husband treated Russia under vodka container Boris Yeltsin. Then came the decision – without any public debate – to start bombing Iraq all over again. And soon Syria. Bombs Away in Syraq! 

So “protect” Yazidis, yes. Protect Gazans, no. “Protect” Kiev’s bunch of neo-Nazis, fascists and shady oligarchs, yes. Protect Russophones in Eastern Ukraine, no. 

It all started with protecting Irbil – already protected by Sumerian goddess Ishtar for millennia. Then protecting Irbil and Baghdad. Then protecting all “strategic” sites in Iraq. 

Retired General Carter Ham of AFRICOM/”We came, we saw, he died” fame, was adamant that it will be “very difficult” to pull off so much protecting with only a few fighter jets. So drones will be needed. And troops on the ground. 

From protecting ExxonMobil and Chevron to double bombing in Syraq. No wonder the Return of the Living (Neo-Con) Dead are so excited. It’s the Greater Middle East all over again. And guess who will be part of the coalition of the willing to fight the Caliph? Britain, Australia, Turkey, Jordan and Gulf Cooperation Council stalwarts Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. 

Almost the same bunch (five among seven) that enabled the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in the first place, from “Assad must go” to “good” and “bad” jihadis, and finally to ISIS (now the Islamic State) configured as the sprawling abode – complete with flush private army – of Caliph Ibrahim. 

And no, there’s no strategy. Hee haw! 

Bye bye petrodollar 
Now let’s see the dividends of “Don’t Do Stupid Stuff” as applied to Ukraine. 

Back to the Mackinderesque Dr Zbig. Some vassals – the usual NATO/GCC suspects, but not all of them – may still believe they profit from “security dependence”, while others remain nervously pliant and, in theory, feel “protected” by the Empire of Chaos. 

But then the Empire of Chaos “encouraged” a de facto coup. And gave the green light for the new Kiev mob to do in Eastern Ukraine roughly what Israel does in Gaza. The idea in Ukraine was to bog down Russia in its western borderlands and cut off the economic/trade link between Russia and Germany. Cut Eurasia in half. 

But then Obama launched a Cold War 2.0 that could easily turn hot. He destroyed the relationship with chancellor Angela Merkel and Germany and amplified the strategic embrace between the Bear and the Dragon, with the result that Beijing started paying less attention to the “pivoting to Asia” because now it enjoys even more backing from Moscow. Meanwhile, Moscow further stalls Washington’s advances in Central Asia. 

Sanctions on Russia not only reinforce its internal market but also boost its foreign trade – way beyond European shores. Yet still it was not enough to totally sell out to Wall Street and totally wreck US foreign policy. With aides/advisors like National Security Advisor Susan Rice, Deputy National Security Advisor Benjamin Rhodes, US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, and Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, who needs enemies? 

Obama’s sanctions hysteria is leading the way to the progressive end of the US dollar as reserve currency, and the end of the petrodollar. 

Witness this – the most important news of these last few months after the Russia-China “gas deal of the century”. 

Obama is accelerating the now uncontrolled collapse of the Empire of Chaos. The new axis of the future – Beijing, Moscow, Berlin – is slowly but surely coming together. There’s nothing “barbarian” about them. And the bulk of the Global South supports them. 

“The old order isn’t holding” – indeed. “The Caliph is evil. So I’m applying more sanctions on Russia.” How’s that for Empire management? Good boy. Now pivot. With yourself. And with no strategy. 

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

West Isolating Itself with Sanctions Against Russia

Off the keyboard of Anthony Cartalucci

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Published on Land Destroyer on July 30, 2014

Sanctions

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July 30, 2014 (Tony Cartalucci – NEO) – Citing the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 as impetus, US President Barack Obama announced stronger sanctions against Russia leveled by both the US and EU. This comes after previous sanctions implemented before the downing of MH17 failed to garner support across Europe, leaving the US measures politically and economically impotent. In the wake of American sanctions, pundits, politicians, and corporate-lobbyists decried Europe’s desire to continue doing business with Russia, claiming US sanctions alone would only hurt US corporations leaving a void gladly filled by Europe and others. 

MH17 – The Convenient Impetus 

With the “serendipitous” downing of MH17, this geopolitical calculus changed abruptly, and US President Barack Obama, even while admitting investigations were ongoing, invoked the tragedy to justify both the pressure put on Europe to finally impose stronger sanctions against Russia, but also as a means to sell the decision to a public targeted by weeks of baseless anti-Russian propaganda 

Clearly MH17 is being exploited, and especially so since investigations are still under way and no conclusions – or even preliminary results – have been announced. At face value, the West exposes itself as shameless opportunists leveraging human misery to advance their geopolitical ambitions. But Washington, London, and Brussels’ actions also raise serious suspicion over their possible role in the downing of the aircraft. While evidence is forthcoming, a motive for the West to have shot the aircraft down and blame Russia has been demonstrably established. 

Despite the “convenience” of the MH17 tragedy and the expediency with which the West has exploited it, this latest attempt to ram through ineffectual sanctions indicate increased desperation from Washington, London, and Brussels, not a renewed initiative in Ukraine, or against Russia as a whole. 


Sanctions Don’t Work

Sanctions haven’t worked against nations many times smaller and economically weaker than Russia, and they won’t work against Russia. In fact, the sanctions will instead motivate Moscow to build stronger ties elsewhere, as well as become stronger internally. Many of the sanctions will not even bite for years to come – if ever. Europe was initially reluctant to level sanctions against Russia, not because of any particular affinity for Moscow, but because they would suffer economically as a result of implementing them. Western think-tanks bemoaned Europe’s insistence that the “pain” be shared equally – pain the sanctions were surely to cause all those who agreed to them. 

It took the shameless political exploitation of a tragedy to twist Europe’s collective arms into agreeing to the measures now being taken, measures that will immediately begin effecting European nations dependent on long-standing economic ties with Russia and ties that cannot be easily replaced.

Japan likewise, citing nothing other than a desire to “cooperate with G7,” issued new sanctions against Russia – Japan also being a nation that cannot afford narrowing prospects for its declining economy.

ITAR-TASS News Agency in an article titled, “Japan prepares to impose new sanctions on Russia,” stated:

“Japanese government is preparing to impose new sanctions on Russia, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference on Wednesday.

“We are preparing to take additional measures, including freezing of bank accounts. We intend to give a proper response with an emphasis on co-operation with G7 partners,” Suga said.

Russia responded by pointing out Japan’s inability to establish independent foreign policy of its own and instead pursue self-destructive edicts dictated by Washington. Indeed, what the West is doing is isolating itself from a growing mulipolar world that refuses to recognize or remain beholden to a waning unipolar international order centered around Wall Street and London. While the US, EU, and Japan constitute immense economies, technology and progress elsewhere has led to emerging economies that have the potential to eclipse them all. In China alone, Russia has been looking to hedge economic risk by developing ties with the growing nation.

Despite attempts to disrupt growing Russian-Chinese relations through terrorism and political subversion, sanctions against Russia and continued belligerence as part of the West’s “pivot to Asia” serve only to drive these two emerging powers closer together.

The Myth of Ukrainian Self-Determination 

In addition to citing MH17 as grounds for leveling new sanctions, Obama also claimed that Ukraine had a right to determine its own destiny and therefore continued interference from Russia could not be tolerated. This betrays the true genesis of the current Ukrainian conflict. The current regime occupying Kiev was installed by NATO to serve EU interests – with US Senator John McCain whose National Endowment for Democracy (NED) subsidiary, the International Republican Institute (IRI) funded the various fronts that led and supported the 2013-2014 “Euromaidan” mobs, literally taking to the stage during the protests to offer support for the Neo-Nazi Svoboda Party in Kiev

What the US means to say is Russia’s interference with NATO’s plans to subvert, overthrow, and replace political orders along Russia’s borders with belligerent NATO proxies will not be tolerated – a similar scenario that played out along Russia’s borders when Adolf Hitler’s Nazis likewise carried out a regional campaign of covert and outright military aggression ultimately aimed at Moscow itself.    

Rush to War? 

Provocations against Russia are increasing, as is the rhetoric to attempt to sell some sort of wider confrontation between NATO and Russia. Unfortunately for the West, sanctions, grisly disasters they “serendipitously” stood to benefit from but can’t, and even attempting to wind up their respective populations for a military confrontation with nuclear-armed Russia appear only as “bad, worse, and the worst” of all possible options. 
Analysts fear growing desperation from the West who can neither move forward, nor retreat, will resort to increasingly desperate and destructive tactics to change the tide in Ukraine, and against Russia and the growing multipolar order it represents. But when sanctions and what appears to have been a false flag attack have failed utterly, what is left besides war? However, even war is an untenable prospect for the West – that while feasible and likely to catch most off guard as an opinion not considered to be on the table – it is a prospect that could initially succeed but ultimately backfire just as Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union did during World War II. 

But when it’s not the money or the blood of the special interests driving this confrontation with Russia being spent, what does the West have to lose by trying?  Russia will have to continue being smart, patient, prudent, and let the West’s ill-intents destroy itself. No matter how weak or desperate the West may appear throughout was appears to be irreversible decline, the one mistake to be made would be underestimating what Washington, London, and Brussels could do in their death throes. From theaters along Russia’s immediate peripheries, to interests across the Middle East and North Africa – Syria included – maximum vigilance is required to guard against the vindictive spite of an antiquated, dying international order.

Fictional Wealth & Putin’s Billions

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Aired on the Doomstead Diner on May 5, 2013

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Over on Zero Hedge, the latest Hoopla is about where Vlad the Impaler’s Billions are. Folks in control of the Banking System over here wanna isolate Putin’s Billions and essentially not just cut off his Credit Card, but his access to his Bank Accounts too!

How much he actually has in digibits registered on the Bankster databases is subject of a lot of speculation, some of the Hedgies figure it is near $100B, making Vlad the Impaler pretty close to the richest registered Pigman on the face of the earth. This may or may not be true in the traditional sense, but Putin’s control over Russia is not dependent on money, it is dependent on his control over the state apparatus. Long as Vlad has control over that, he has access to various aircraft to fly in, boats to sail on, etc. Vlad does not NEED bank accounts, credit lines or Western Illuminati credit so long as he can maintain control over the Ruskie state apparatus. Of course though, maintaining said control if all his oligarch buddies have THEIR bank accounts frozen will become increasingly more difficult, and this is the current tactic being engaged in here by Western Illuminati…

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RE

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Technical Journals

The assessment of the effect of the electricity price on energy production is important when studyin [...]

Anticipating seasonal climate anomalies is essential for defining short-term adaptation measures. To [...]

The population that lives in cities has surpassed the one that lives in the countryside. Cities are [...]

Concerns exists regarding natural disasters, but what about the resulting power outages? This study [...]