Vince Dhimos answered a question on Quora
Many Russians refuse to acknowledge that through language, history, politics and culture, Ukraine is a sovereign state independent of Russia. What is a nation-state and who gets to determine its right to exist?
Vince Dhimos, Editor-in-Chief at New Silk Strategies (2016-present)
A nation-state is a sovereign state (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nation_state) with an independent government. It differs from a non-state nation, for example, in the case of Wales, which is a nation with a clear-cut national sense of identity and even a national anthem, a very beautiful one. Have a listen to the above-linked video.
Oh, did I forget to mention, it is in Welsh. One of the reasons it is so downright beautiful. Recall that the word “bard” is Welsh. However, very sadly, Wales is not a nation-state. Its government is in London and it is therefore ruled by aliens who have a history of persecuting Welsh national leaders like Owain Glyndŵr. Ironically, though, this beautiful country (did you see those radiant faces in the video?), has arguably the strongest sense of national identity of any nation in Europe. The point I am trying to make is that this notion of a nation-state can be blurred and that the definition promoted by the Establishment can seem considerably less appealing and appropriate than any number of definitions accepted by this or that grassroots group.
Now, please do not take the following to be my personal opinion of this Russia vs Ukraine controversy. It is only intended to add to your knowledge so that you can form your own opinion in this extremely complex issue. The last thing I want is to be called a pro-Ukraine troll or a Kiev stooge (it happens all the time).
Any state with its own independent government is technically called a nation-state. But despite the name “nation-state,” most of the so-called “nations” in Europe, both national and EU, are beholden to two overweening autocratic powers, ie, the EU, which has deceived many countries into believing they could be both sovereign and yet bound by laws and trade rules made in Brussels by aliens, and also to the US via NATO, which has deceived its member states into believing that Russia is still a dangerous enemy when in fact it is the most orderly nation in the world and has the world’s best economy, as shown here (I had given an address at Quora in the original article):
My contention is that there are virtually no states in Europe that are actually nation-states. Most are ruled by aliens, ie, the EU and/or the US/NATO, and have lost their sovereignty without even realizing it.
So what has the US done to Ukraine? And is it a true nation-state or is is a vassal state of the US and, in part, the EU (which participated in the Maidan illegal and violent coup and falsely promised to make Ukraine an associate member of the EU)?
For those who care to know, you will need to dig deep into the history of the coup. Here are some articles to help you understand:
Ukraine’s Post-Maidan "Democratic Deficit" - Global Research
The US/NATO Orchestration of the 2014 Maidan Coup in Ukraine - Global Research
Worth pointing out is this quote from Consortium News (The Mess that Nuland Made):
“Carl Gershman, the neocon president of the U.S.-taxpayer-funded National Endowment for Democracy, explained the [US coup] plan in a Post op-ed on Sept. 26, 2013. Gershman called Ukraine “the biggest prize” and an important interim step toward toppling Putin, who “may find himself on the losing end not just in the near abroad but within Russia itself.”
For her part, Nuland passed out cookies to anti-Yanukovych demonstrators at the Maidan square, reminded Ukrainian business leaders that the U.S. had invested $5 billion in their “European aspirations,” declared “fuck the EU” for its less aggressive approach, and discussed with U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt who the new leaders of Ukraine should be. “Yats is the guy,” she said, referring to Arseniy Yatsenyuk.” [Indeed, Yats was elected, thanks to the US State Department’s meddling, though he quickly failed and was thrown out. So if we define nation-state as a self-governed state, then the notion of self-government becomes blurred in the case of Ukraine. Again, you decide].
Ok, it is worth noting that this Victoria Nuland was then the Assistant Secretary of State to Obama. This was interference in the affairs of another country by the US, a violation of the UN’s principle of non-interference.
Here is a paper by the UN on the princile of non-interference to help you assess what the US did in the Maidan:
While the Security Council clearly spells out that this principle militates in particular against interference “by force” I would point out that over 100 people, including Ukraine police officers, were shot by the coup participants, who were encouraged by the US. However, it is up to the reader whether you think this is interference by force.
Now as for the part of the question relating to history and culture, let us consider Vladimir I, grand prince of Kiev (Kyiv) and first Christian ruler in Kievan Rus, whose military conquests consolidated the provinces of Kiev and Novgorod into a single state, around the year 1000. Now there is no question that Novgorod was Russian, and the expression “Kievan Rus” above indicates that Kiev was then Russia.
So you need to ask yourself: is 1000 years long enough to establish that Kiev has historically been intimately associated with Russia? Yes? No?
As for the so-called “annexation” of Crimea, a more apt word would be “accession,” because a referendum showed that over 90% of Crimeans wanted to be Russian. But is this just Russian propaganda? The Ukrainian press reported that this referendum forced them at gunpoint to vote for the accession to the RF.
Again, there is no arguing about this because of the high emotions on both sides. So let’s take a look at a video of Putin’s first visit to Sevastopol, Crimea, in 2014 after the referendum.
Did you see any guns pointed at those cheering folks?
As for the use of language in Ukraine, in the upper left corner of this page is a map of Ukraine showing that the East speaks mostly Russian, while the centre has 25.6% speakers of mostly Russian.
The problem with all of these surveys is that they focused on which language the respondents considered their native language. What they all missed is the percentages that were able to communicate readily in Russian even though it was not their native language. Here is what I found out in the early 70s when I visited Kiev. Every single shop keeper and person on the street with whom I spoke was able to communicate perfectly in Russian. Based on the surveys, many of them would probably list Ukrainian as their “native” language in a poll. But that would not reflect the reality.
I think we can safely conclude from all this that the issue is extremely complex, and anyone who insists that all Ukrainians must be forced to speak only Ukrainian or anyone who insists that all Ukrainians must speak only Russian, is hopelessly biased and not worth listening to.
And that is exactly the position of the Russian government.
In the question and answer segment of a press conference filmed on video, Putin was once asked a question that revealed an anti-Ukrainian bias on the part of the Russian querier. He immediately shot back that he would not tolerate any expression of prejudice toward the Ukrainian people.
“They are our Slavic brothers,” he said.
Until now, outgoing President Pososhenko had shown extreme hostility to Russia and Russians.
So what will the new Ukrainiain President Volodymyr Zelensky say?
Below is our translation from the German of an article in Contra-Magazin, with commentary by Vince Dhimos. It is good to see that there are Germans pushing back against the new unfree-market ideology that prevails in the US. The anti-Russia sanctions alone have cost Europe an estimated €30billion, one of the main reasons that the European economy is sagging. But none of this anti-everyone policy has helped Trump either. While Trump had promised that his tariffs on Chinese and other goods would help lower the trade deficit with China, the deficit for 2018 rose to historic highs.
If anything, Trump has proven by negative example the soundness of the old free trade policies that he has scrapped.
It is time for Germany to free itself from the USA
March 30, 2019
Against its own economic interests, Germany is constantly under pressure from the US. That must come to an end.
Wolfgang Kubicki, Deputy Leader of the Free Democrats (FDP), called last week to expel the US Ambassador in Germany because he was behaving like a "high commissioner of an occupying power," says RT. Who would have thought that in 2019 we would have a German politician from a party who demands that the American ambassador be thrown out for interference in his country's affairs?
Last week, Ambassador Grenell criticized Germany's military spending plans within NATO as inadequate, reiterating President Trump's call for European NATO members to spend more on defence.
The premise behind this is to protect NATO's action in Europe. Therefore, Europeans should reach their fair share, ie 2% of GDP, as their goal. But surely NATO's aggressive operations since the end of the Cold War have made Europe less secure.
While it is true that Berlin has not reached the new NATO spending target of 2% (only six Member States by 2018), Grenell seems to overlook the fact that Germany was the second largest troop supplier for the Alliance's military operations in Afghanistan. Moreover, no country in NATO was generous enough to accept "refugees" who had fled conflict that the US and other NATO powers had inflicted on it.
How many refugees have the US accepted? If anything, the German government should express its concern to the US Ambassador that his country was not doing enough and not the other way around.
Ambassador Grenell has not only criticized defence spending. Earlier this month, he warned the German economics minister that the US would be prepared to restrict its communication with Germany if Berlin allowed "untrusted providers," such as the Chinese operators (Huawei), to build 5G mobile networks in the country.
Grenell also does not like the fact that Germany is involved in the Russia-led gas pipeline project Nord Stream 2. This 1,200 km long pipeline, which would transport gas directly from Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea, is good news for Russia. Germany and European consumers could lower their gas bills.
For the US, that's bad, because they want to sell the Europeans their more expensive fracked LNG. It is not good news for the US vassal state Ukraine, which will lose transit fees.
One of the main reasons for the recent tensions was the attempt to persuade Germany to drop its stake in Nord Stream 2, which is currently 70 percent completed. At the end of 2018, Ambassador Grenell warned that German companies involved in Nord Stream 2 could face sanctions. The US really hate it when there is a competitor in town. The Europeans should not buy the cheapest gas, but should kindly buy what the US wants to sell.
If the pressure on Germany to spend more money on defence and withdraw from Nord Stream 2 is not enough, there would also be the question of "illegal" trade with Iran. America wants everyone to follow its own line in dealing with Iran, no matter how great the financial success. To enforce this, secondary sanctions are threatened again.
Data from last October showed that German exports to Iran fell 4% in the first eight months of the year.
But that's not good enough for Washington. In February, Vice President Mike Pence accused Germany (along with Britain and France) of "violating" sanctions on Iran by expanding non-dollar trade. "Unfortunately, some of our leading European partners were not very cooperative," said Pence.
Germany was Iran's most important trading partner in Europe. The value of German exports to the Islamic Republic in the seven months from January to October 2017 was 2.358 billion euros. However, it is expected that Berlin will sacrifice this very lucrative business at the behest of the anti-Iranian hawks in Washington.
While the protracted Brexit saga is making headlines in European politics, perhaps the more important story is the US's attempt to make Germany, the EU's largest economy, commit something like a major economic self-injury (or even Harakiri?).
It is time for Germany to free herself from the liberator.
Vince Dhimos answered a question at Quora (the following is only part of a dialogue with one of the other respondents).
The different policies of the different presidents make it appear as if it would, theoretically, be possible for the US to get a winning streak and find just the right president to make major progress toward shaping a foreign policy that would make America proud and keep us out of war.
Unfortunately, the US is hardwired into policies that are not of the public’s making or of any president’s making. (I had written about this at Quora:
This circumstance makes the policies of different presidents look erratic, both between different presidents and, often, within the same administration.
You could compare the apparently erratic US foreign policy with the course of a sailboat that is tacking to sail against the wind. Pretend that common sense and the natural interests of the American people toward economic, social and technological progress and world peace and harmony with other nations, is the head wind that the Establishment (or Deep State or Elite or whatever you want to call that supra-governmental cabal that keeps Americans under its heel at all times) needs to overcome. The Establishment cabal is doing exactly what a good sailor does when he or she wants to travel upwind or in any direction roughly against the wind. It’s called tacking and it entails first setting the sail and rudder so as to take the craft crosswise against the wind but in a somewhat forward direction, say, to the left of a straight line heading in the desired direction, then shifting the sail and rudder so that the boat travels slantwise to the right but also in the general forward direction. If this is done judiciously, the net result will be to head the boat in the desired direction but against the wind. If the boat were viewed from a high enough vantage point, the observer would not even notice the leftward and rightward shifts away from the straight line. The boat would appear to be going straight toward its destination.
For the sake of simplicity, let us compare Obama and Trump, two seemingly diametrically opposed presidents heading in two apparently different directions. You need to understand that the different directions of these 2 men are an illusion, even if the public, and each one of them, considers each one unique and independent. In the grand scheme of things, they are tacking against the wind and moving forward in the same direction against the head winds of common sense and natural interests of the American people. The left and right tilts, respectively, of the two men do not affect the outcomes of their foreign policies in the long run because someone else is pulling the strings.
Now I have said before at Quora (https://www.quora.com/Is-China-a...) that no politician or other official in the US is working for the US or to further the interests of the American people. Generally speaking we can say, in terms of foreign policy, that, aside from the arms manufacturers, they are working for the Saudis and Israel, which despite minor differences, both have a common denominator, namely, the desire to create targeted chaos in the Muslim World, for the purpose of achieving roughly the same end. For Saudi, the ultimate goal is a uniformly Sunni, and specifically Wahhabi (Salafist), Muslim World where Shariah law prevails and where Christianity is eliminated. For Israel the goal is to gain more territory, particularly in the surrounding Shiite countries. Recall that Israel is already squatting on Palestinian land and part of the Golan Heights, and Trump is obliging Israel by pretending to have the authority to grant the latter Syrian land to Israel. He not only does not have this authority, but the UN, the EU and the Arab League are protesting vociferously this brash decision. (Note that, in the case of Saudi and the Gulf statelets, the policies of the royals do not necessarily match those of the grassroots in those countries, which is a major weakness of these countries and could potentially cause uncontrollable uprisings).
Obama engaged in something euphemistically called the War on Terror, which he picked up from GW Bush. I say euphemistic because the real goal for both Bush and Obama was to overthrow Basher al-Assad as president of Syria while simply pretending to control terrorists, while in fact the terrorists played the essential role of pressuring Assad and his troops. Therefore, since they were intentionally dragging their feet, neither Bush nor Obama made any real progress in defeating ISIS or al-Qaeda from 2001 when Bush declared the War on Terror, until the Russians entered Syria in September 2015. Before that, in the background, they were helping the Saudis and Gulf statelets to train, arm and fund these terrorists under new names that we can call rebrandings. There was Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, al-Nusra, Sufian al-Thawry Brigade and others, all of which generally shared the Salafist (Wahhabi) ideology that demanded vengeance against non-Wahhabists, eg, Shiites, Christians, Yazidis, etc) simply for adhering to the wrong religions. The Land of the Free, whose constitution protected freedom of religion and forbade any favoritism toward any one religion, was actively supporting Wahhabism, the most intolerant and violent religion in the world, with its military, which according to the same constitution, was to be reserved for protection of the American people and their interests. It was beyond outrageous but the people said nothing in protest.
Obama clearly was doing Saudi’s bidding when he had his fighter jets stand down as those miles-long rows of white Toyota trucks poured into Syria from Iraq. They knew they were safe from the US, which was a de facto ally. At Deir Ezzor, the most oil-rich province in Syria, Obama’s air force killed around 100 Syrian soldiers who were engaged in fighting ISIS. Then, in the Trump era, an unknown number of Russian mercenaries, estimated at around 100 – also engaged against ISIS – were killed in this same province, and then a series of “mistakes” were made by US forces that killed both civilians and US-backed fighters such as Kurds, for example, on Oct 2018. The Kurds were engaged against ISIS at the time and were scared off by this attack, which killed several of them, as reported here: https://www.independent.ng/isis-.... The result was that ISIS took about 700 civilian hostages—a huge setback for the Syrian people. The phony War on Terror became only phonier under Trump (though to his credit, he actually has started killing ISIS terrorists these days).
Obama may be the only president who actually acted clearly against the general will of the Establishment cabal when he arranged for the famous “Iran deal,” an amazing feat since Israelis and Saudis both are intent on opposing Iran and both political parties are intent on pleasing their foreign bosses and the arms lobbies. Without his minority status Obama couldn’t have pulled it off. But later, Trump’s campaign made it clear that he intended to prevent the Iranians from getting food and medicine (by means of sanctions on Iran and any country doing business with it) and possibly provoke a war in the process.
In this, Obama was opposing the Establishment while Trump was pleasing them (even as his brain-dead followers believed he was opposing the Deep State (which was in reality the Establishment, which can’t get enough war). The net result was to please Israel and Saudi by keeping the pressure on Iran. One president bucked the current but the next made up for it.
Just another quick example: while a semi-alert analyst might think that Trump’s policies would be the antithesis of Bush’s because during Trump’s campaign, he had criticized Bush’s decision to invade Iraq based on unfounded charges of WMDs. But in fact, Venezuela is Trump’s Iraq and an economic crisis due in large part to US measures imposed for years (as I described here on Quora: https://www.quora.com/Should-the...) is Trump’s WMDs. Just another pretext for war. The details have changed but not the general policy of keeping the war machine running.
Of course, the specifics are different, making it look like these presidents’ policies were dissimilar. But the truth is, they were the same policies with the same goals and desired outcomes that were quite pleasing to their arms lobbyist, Israeli and Saudi bosses, who desire not only benefits for themselves but also are happy to see resources claimed by the US as part of the spoils belonging to the Israel-Saudi-US alliance. More power to one means more power to all.
The spoiler here is Russia, which is expected to be the new leader of a reorganized OPEC. In a shocking unprecedented move, Saudi oil minister Khaled al-Falih has already warned the US to back off of its sanctions against Russia (as reported here: http://vestnikkavkaza.net/news/K...). This has portentous implications for the US, which now no longer can count as heavily on Saudi to prop up the US dollar. Though no one knows what is coming next, Saudi could, for example, bolt at any time and start accepting the yuan, the rouble or other currency as tender for its oil trade.
This could turn the financial and energy world completely upside down.
Vince Dhimos anwered a question at Quora: Why do people who know nothing about foreign policy feel so emboldened as to comment on the subject?
Why do people who know nothing about foreign policy feel so emboldened to comment on the subject?
Vince Dhimos, Editor-in-Chief at New Silk Strategies (2016-present)
Answered just now
Because all mainstream reports on foreign policy are written by illiterate but articulate nincompoops with zero knowledge of the culture and history of the countries they write about, for the purpose of sustaining the Establishment narrative instead of the true details. It will work as long as the public refuses to go after the details. These journos are chosen precisely because they are the kind of people with zero interest in cultural and historical details, or knowledge of foreign languages, that might leak into their writings and make their readers actually think – the last thing the Establishment wants because independent thinking is like acid to the current war-supporting narrative.
Sensing this, I personally decided a while back to go after details that were missing in the press. There were lots of them. For ex, which Middle East countries are majority-Shiite and which are majority-Sunni? Reading mainstream news might reveal such details about a few countries, but these details get short shrift, with the focus being on the supposed crimes or misdemeanours of which the leaders of impugned countries are accused. If you don’t know about the Shia-Sunni divide, you will not get far in terms of being your own analyst and you risk being carried away by the fake narrative, which, though devoid of important and relevant detail, is usually couched in excellent prose intended to mislead you very convincingly. All mainstream newspapers and magazines should therefore carry a warning label with a skull and crossbones icon, it’s that dangerous – because it is intended to lead to wars that kill thousands of civilians who are not your enemy and keep adding to the unpayable US debt.
Once I had muddled through this chore of investigating Sunni vs Shia countries (using Wikipedia as a starter), I then sought the answers to the question as to which of the 2 groups group, if any, was supported by the US and which was the target of its wrath. I discovered, that in most cases (exception: Iraq), the US waged war on predominantly Shiite nations. I then recalled that Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia, was the country that the US considered its favourite ally -- despite the horrible human-rights record of that country -- and that every war against other countries in the region benefitted the Sunni Wahhabist religion to which the elites and populace adhered. I investigated further and found that the terror groups ISIS and al-Qaeda, known to be funded by the Saudis, were also devotees of the Wahhabist sect of Sunni. Now I was getting somewhere.
Because my search terms included the words ”US” and “Saudi,” I inevitably stumbled across that fact that Richard Nixon had signed a petrodollar agreement with the Saudis in 1973. I found it to be confirmed by Bloomberg and I started to realize that all the US-waged wars in the region favoured the Saudi Wahhabists, leading me to realize that the wars, regardless of the announced pretexts, such as alleged WMDs or alleged chemical weapons, were in fact all aimed at spreading Wahhabist terror on behalf of the Saudi signatory to the petrodollar agreement.
But when I thought about Iraq, I had to ask myself why the US, assuming it was acting on behalf of Saudi, would attack a country that is run by the Sunni Saddam Hussein. But then I realized that Saddam is a secularist who made major concessions to the Shia — unsurprising because Iraq is 2/3 Shiite. He even had a Christian in his cabinet. But of course, Saudi wants strict Shariah law and Hussein refused to play along. So he had to go and the US was the hit-man thanks to the petrodollar agreement. Of course, Saddam was also ant-Israel, and Saudi does not tolerate that either since both countries are anti-Iran and thus bonded.
Of course, anyone who looks at US foreign and military policies will quickly realize that, despite being a nominally “Christian” nation, aside from the US support for Sunni Wahhabism, the US policies were totally immoral and sharply deviated from the teachings of Christ. This circumstance also applied equally to US policy strongly favouring Israel—which was how Trump won the support of AIPAC.
This led me to infer that Saudi Arabia had been chosen as an ally not only because it had such a large oil supply but also for some hidden, perhaps spiritual, reason. Further research in this direction led me to write my article titled:
Murder and displacement of Christians is hardwired into Western government policy:
I eventually accumulated enough information to post the following at Quora:
But lately, since Putin waded into the Syrian conflict in 2015, the Saudis have been forced to back away from their prior stance. Meanwhile, they have admitted Assad back into the Arab League, an amazing accomplishment of the Russians.
But just yesterday, I read that Khalid al-Falih, the Saudi oil minister, has warned the US to back off of their sanctions on Russia.
It seems OPEC is to be reorganized into a 10-nation club with RUSSIA as the head!
Look for the petrodollar agreement to start unravelling, and look for Venezuela — already head of OPEC — to be strongly defended by Saudi against US aggression.
This would be a geopolitical plate shift.
If both Russia and Saudi team up to defend Venezuela, that country can prosper despite US sanctions.
Video above thanks to The Guardian. Putin high-fives MBS at the G20. Now we know what's behind that grin.
The initially secretive petrodollar agreement signed between President Nixon and King Faisal made the US a mercenary in the hire of the most vicious, brutal and intolerant regime in the world at that time, in exchange for the Saudis using their oil revenues to prop up the US dollar, which was falling following Nixon's decision to break with Bretton Woods and take the USD off the gold standard. The agreement itself was not the problem, it was the way it was encorced - out of desperation. The US made the egregious error of helping Saudi spread its vile terroristic Wahhabism around the globe using a million and one excuses (alleged WMDs in Iraq, alleged chemical weapons in Syria) to re-arrange the Middle East according to the Saudi will instead of adopting a rational approach and protecting the Saudis as promised, but according to American principles of morality based on Christian teachings. That is why the US failed. Its client was a heinous bully who dictated a violent and intolerant religion to the Middle East and the US, its new guardian, instead of setting limits, itself acted like a heinous bully, taking sides in a religious dispute that had lasted for centuries and could not be resolved by force. It thereby lost the respect of its client and the rest of the world.
Putin is now the de facto head of OPEC and is taking over the role of protecting Saudi, under a deal similar to the Nixon-Faisal deal, but with a major difference. The US is therefore no longer needed by the Saudis and they no longer have an obligation to prop up the dollar (though they have a pragmatic reason to keep the dollar stable for the sake of the world economy). And Putin will base his actions essentially on liberal Christian principles, meaning he will try not to harm any group and will respect all sovereignties. the real source of lasting respect - which the US failed to recognize. And as head of OPEC, he will be extending his protection to the other members. Including Venezuela. Indeed, the Venezuelan oil company that the US has tried to sabotage is now operating under the aegis of Rosneft, having moved its European office to Moscow.
Oh, and OPEC now has its own air force - the Russian one.
Below is our translation of an article from politpuzzle.ru that signals a geopolitical plate shift.
Saudi is no longer talking like a US ally. In fact, it just moved very close to Russia. The Saudi energy minister just told the US to back off of its sanctions on Russia.
They had warned before that if they levelled sanctions at Saudi over the Kashoggi affair, oil could hit $100 or $200 a barrel. The New York Times sneered:
“While Saudi Arabia is still the leading producer in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and can exert enormous influence over oil prices, it is no longer the energy superpower that American motorists feared during the Arab oil embargo era of the 1970s.”
But the author didn’t note that they may not be dealing with just Saudi Arabia. The Saudis are joining forces with Russia in a new project that could turn the oil and financial world on its head. Our translation says:
“Earlier, Riyadh and its allies from the Gulf countries announced plans to transform the intergovernmental organization OPEC in order to create an alliance with a group of ten countries headed by Russia.” Yes, that’s right. The US won’t be dealing with Riyadh so much as it will with Moscow.
There are no doubt several reasons for this about-face in Saudi-US relations. For one thing, the US Senate unanimously found in December 2018 that the heretofore-untouchable crown prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) was responsible for the murder of Jamal Kashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last October 2. Very few sentient humans doubt his culpability, of course, but neither did many doubt that the Saudis were responsible for funding, training and arming Al-Qaeda and ISIS, costing hundreds of thousands of lives in Syria, Iraq, Libya and elsewhere, including Western countries, which paid trillions to pretend-fight terror as a result. Yet none of these suddenly courageous senators had dared to breathe a word about this much more grievous Saudi crime of terror, which had been perpetrated for over a decade. Nor had they ever condemned Israel (Saudi’s partner) for its crimes, such as shooting unarmed protesters (which they are still doing unabated),stealing Palestinian land for Jewish settlement, launching deadly missile strikes at Syria, etc. In fact, they are right now rewarding Israel for these crimes by declaring the Syrian Golan Heights to be part of Israel and trying to pass a blatantly unconstitutional law banning any support for the BDS (Bloycott, Divestment and Sanction) movement aimed at preventing Israel from illegally occupying Arab lands! So why did the senators suddenly discover morality in the midst of the Kashoggi affair? Did they come to Jesus? No. Most still worship Israel as before, ignoring the teachings of Christ while calling themselves "Christian" Zioniists. But after all, it is generally believed among the Elites, that Saudi is propping up the dollar under the petrodollar agreement signed by Nixon and King Faisal in 1973 – in exchange for the US military killing hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians throughout the world unfortunate enough to subscribe to the wrong kind of Islam (Shiites) or to the wrong religion (Yazidis, Christians), or to punish Muslim leaders like Saddam Hussein for being too secular when they are supposed to be enforcing Shariah per Saudi dictates. (For those who have not read our analyses of the petrodollar and the theory behind it, you can find two of them here and here, for example. It is the scandal of the century that no one dares to mention).
Two things recently changed the whole equation for both the Saudis and the US:
1) Trump, who made no bones of his grovelling adoration of the Saudis during his first state visit, became as president a thorn in the side to the Establishment due to his brazen statements aimed at just about everyone. The senators’ show of new-found bravery against MBS was aimed at showing the public how supposedly cowardly Trump was for not condemning MBS. It was a slap in Trump's face.
2) The likelihood of MBS’s involvement in the murder of Kashoggi was strongly highlighted by Erdoğan and could no longer be hidden from the public. If the Senate had tried to ignore it, despite the public outcry, it would have further tarnished their already abysmal reputation, which is another reason why they acted to condemn MBS.
3) Trump had warned of “severe punishment” if the Saudis turned out to be involved in the murder of Kashoggi. It was pure bluster and he, of course, did nothing even when they were proved to be behind the murder, but his promise of punishment was an embarrassment to MBS, who is already hypersensitive to criticism (after all, that’s why the outspoken journo Kashoggi died in the first place), and who took it as an unforgivable insult.
4) On the other hand, when Putin waltzed into the G20 summit (see video linked above), where most other world “leaders” were shunning MBS, he famously high-fived the latter, grinning from ear to ear. This greeting was face-saving for MBS, who was obviously grateful for it. Putin then pulled up a chair right beside the beleaguered prince, still smiling. And you know what? Putin was doing nothing less than courting the prince. And for a very good reason. We seem to be seeing the outcome according to the report below. (The US presstitutes feigned horror that Putin would be friendly with the murderer but they had ignored the Saudi support for terror since the days of Dubbya so their show of morality was a sham).
From all of the above, it is not surprising that MBS would figure he had only one true friend in the non-Arab world and that was Vladimir Putin.
Now Putin, Xi and others know that Saudi is the linchpin on which the financial world, and hence the US dollar, turns. Yet the West is so cock-sure of its power that it doesn’t bother to use diplomacy with MBS, just takes him for granted. BIG mistake. The translated article below shows us what can happen to an arrogant superpower that thinks it can do as it pleases, with impunity.
Putin and Xi have their long knives out. And now they’ve got a powerful partner who may turn out to be an ally in their de-dollarization campaign. And de-dollarization is the key to the multipolar world they seek.
It is my opinion – not forecast, mind you, just opinion – that the Saudis may be about to make a move.
If they do what I think they may do, then Judgment Day will have arrived for the hegemon in Washington.
To understand why I say that, let’s look what the Saudi oil minister actually said, quoting from the translation below, with my notes in brackets:
“During a speech at a press conference in Baku on March 17, the Minister of Energy, Industry and Mineral Resources of Saudi Arabia, Khalid Al-Falih, called on the United States to refrain from anti-Russian sanctions. According to him, if Washington implements new measures, the consequences of this decision will affect the whole world. He also noted the role of Moscow in the international arena. [This is a clever double entendre, with a sophisticated and devious Middle Eastern twist intended as a subtle warning that either the Saudis will produce consequences for the world economy or the implementation of the measures would have natural consequences of their own. The reader/listener is not so sure and that is the intent. Of course, if the Saudis are not amused by the hegemon's mistreatment of their oil producing partner, then they could start eroding the dollar. In fact, they are the real hegemon, not the US, because they decide the fate of the West].
“Russia is a big supplier of gas to Europe, and oil to China. If this (the imposition of sanctions - ed.) Happens, the consequences will affect Europe, China and the whole world,” the Saudi minister threatened.
Al-Falih notes that today Russia is acting as a technology leader and the largest supplier of energy resources in the world. In addition, Moscow occupies an important place in the space industry. He concluded that despite disputes in foreign policy, Saudi Arabia is determined to continue cooperation with the Russian Federation.” [And that too carries an undisguised threat. In fact that “cooperation” referred to here could include anything. It may even include a means of protecting their high-ranking OPEC partner Venezuela. Since MBS has been deeply insulted by the accusation of the US Senate and Trump’s threat (albeit insincere) of “severe punishment,” he is most likely looking for a way to avenge himself. Weakening the dollar would not be a bad choice of vendettas. Nor would cooperating with Russia in helping Venezuela bypass sanctions. After all, Venezuelan oil company PDVSA is now operating under the aegis of Rosneft.]
Putin’s critics, even Russians who are fond of him, have been asking why he allows the Israelis, for example, to ride roughshod over Syria, pretending they suspect Iran is cooking up an attack. Iran is doing no such thing. The only real aggressor in the region is Israel, despite the Iranians’ flippant rhetoric about wiping out Israel. Sure, they might like to, but not with the US protecting them. But now, if Putin and Xi can persuade MBS to use the rouble or the yuan instead of the dollar, then that turns the financial world on its head. It will make investors think twice and thrice about buying Treasuries. And what is the hegemon without his fistful of dollars? He’s just an arrogant nation that no one trusts or likes and a whole lot of people everywhere want him to fail. They may get their wish.
Saudi Arabia threatened Washington with consequences over new sanctions against Russia
Russia, 18 Mar 2019
Saudi Arabia has warned Washington against new economic restrictions against Russia. If the US launches such measures, the consequences are guaranteed to affect the whole world.
In February of this year, an updated bill was published on the US Congress website, according to which additional sanctions are being imposed against Russia. The ban covers transactions with the sovereign debt of the Russian Federation with a maturity of more than 14 days. In addition, the restrictions will affect investment in energy projects outside the Russian Federation worth more than $250 million.
During a speech at a press conference in Baku [Azerbaijani capital] on March 17, the Minister of Energy, Industry and Mineral Resources of Saudi Arabia, Khalid Al-Falih, called on the United States to refrain from anti-Russian sanctions. According to him, if Washington implements new measures, the consequences of this decision will affect the whole world. He also noted the role of Moscow in the international arena.
“Russia is a big supplier of gas to Europe, and oil to China. If this (the imposition of sanctions - ed.) happens, the consequences will affect Europe, China and the whole world,” the Saudi minister threatened.
Al-Falih notes that today Russia is acting as a technology leader and the largest supplier of energy resources in the world. In addition, Moscow occupies an important place in the space industry. [This may be a hint that Russia is capable of challenging the US as the new protector not only of Saudi but also the rest of OPEC - including Venezuela. In other words, hands off Venezuela]. He concluded that despite disputes in foreign policy, Saudi Arabia is determined to continue cooperation with the Russian Federation.
Earlier, Riyadh and its allies from the Gulf countries announced plans to transform the intergovernmental organization OPEC in order to create an alliance with a group of ten countries headed by Russia.
Author: Ilya Alexandrov
I answered a question in Spanish on Quora. Translation of question:
How do you explain that the US claims to aid the Venezuelan people by imposing sanctions that prevent the government from importing foods and medicines?
The main source of the confusion that reigns among Venezuelans is that their economic crisis is due to several factors and most Venezuelans attribute it either to Maduro alone or to the US alone based on their political perspective (patriots vs traitors). These factors include:
1. The drop in oil prices due to an increase in extraction by the Saudis in 2014. (Oil market expert Andrew Topf wrote for oilprice.com in 2014 that Saudi Arabia has a long history of manipulating oil prices for political reasons and attributed the 2014 price reduction to a US-Saudi plot with the goal of harming Russia, Syria and Iran (but it is also possible that they had Venezuela in their sights.) Anyway we can say beyond the shadow of doubt that there was manipulation by the US and/or its allies.
2. Management errors by President Maduro. For example, the president maintained a protected dollar exchange rate for many years, causing hyperinflation of consumer prices. Recently, after consultation with President Putin in Moscow, he eliminated that policy and reinstated a floating rate. (https://www.bbc.com/mundo/noticias-america-latina-47153468). Another mistake was the lack of diversification of the economy. Venezuela needs to develop, for example, agriculture in order to reduce its dependence on imports. In addition, more jobs are needed. Putin is helping the people with the construction of a Kalashnikov plant, which will create jobs. China is also negotiating for the development of new industrial projects, including some not related to petroleum.
3. The sanctions, and an embargo, by the US. Many think that all American measures against Venezuela began in recent months. This is far from the truth and this myth is pure pro-Washington propaganda, which has spread throughout the West to exonerate the US and blame the government of Nicolás Maduro for the economic crisis that the country is suffering.
Venezuela has been harmed in international trade and investment since the time of President Pérez:
Our translation of a passage from the above-linked article:
"The secret agreements with the United States of 1990 and 1991 on Foreign Investment signed during the government of Carlos Andrés Pérez, consist of 3 instruments from which a series of laws, norms and procedures were generated that reconstructed the commercial and investment relationship in favour of US capital ... "
Later during the government of George W. Bush, sanctions were imposed against PDVSA due to the fact that that company insisted on being sovereign.
Our translation of a passage from the above-linked article:
"... the sanctions [were] imposed to prohibit PDVSA from receiving loans from the Bank of Exports and Imports (Eximbank) of the United States."
Since oil exports were the source of income for the entire country, these sanctions were an existential threat to the Venezuelan people themselves and not just to the government.
Obama also imposed high tariffs on Venezuelan exports:
"There is a commercial blockade in progress initiated with the Obama Decree that the US uses as a legal basis. The first measure has been to remove Venezuela from the General System of Tariff Preferences of the USA, to be executed in 2017, affecting 4400 Venezuelan products that will now pay high tariffs in that market.
"Its validity and the secrecy about the companies that are protected under its terms constitute a clear disadvantage for the nation."
On top of that, a devastating Trump sanction came into effect in August of 2017! The media spread very little information about this, so that the people would mistakenly believe that the crisis caused by these measures was the result of an alleged mismanagement by Maduro.
Our translation of quotes:
"The US Government adopted a set of measures in August 2017 that prohibits transactions and financial agreements with the Government of Venezuela and with the Venezuelan state oil corporation (PDVSA)."
This measure practically blocked the vital income of the Venezuelan people, severely worsening the life, safety and health of Venezuelans.
But we may wonder why the US invests so much energy and effort in harming the Venezuelan people. The answer is that Washington wants to overthrow any government that does not bow to the US and that it does not serve the interests of the US, defending its own sovereign interests instead. It has always been like this. The US does not tolerate complete sovereignty of any other country.
And if there are Venezuelans who think that a US puppet government, for example, the government headed by Juan Guaidó, could get the US to change its policy toward the people in order to restore their prosperity, they are skating on thin ice.
Iraq: an example from recent history of what may await Venezuela
The US imposed severe sanctions on Iraq in 1991 after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, and waged war on Saddam Hussein twice. However, after the last war in 2003, the UN (mainly controlled by the US) waited 7 years to lift the sanctions, until December 2010. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-12004115). Apparently, the US wanted to punish the Iraqi people for what their president had supposedly done! So will the poor Venezuelans have to continue to groan under sanctions and suffer a severe economic crisis even if the country bows to the hegemon of the north?
This vindictive behaviour of Washington is constant and no country can escape it.
Another example: Ukraine
In 2014, the USA, through governmental and non-governmental organizations (USAID, NED, a George Soros Open Society foundation, etc), supported by representatives of European governments (Germany, Holland, for example), instigated an illegal and violent coup against the legitimate government of Ukraine. As a result, democratically elected President Viktor Yanukovich - who had good relations with Moscow, and was later replaced by a puppet named by the State Department - was overthrown - illegally, because the coup violated the Ukrainian constitution. (This mirrors the appointment of Guaidó by Mike Pence, a flagrant violation of the Venezuelan constitution, which demands independence and prohibits foreign meddling in its official policies).
The Ukrainian coup was successful largely because the Europeans who participated in the coup had promised to admit Ukraine as an "associate member" of the EU.
The gullible Ukrainians were hopeful of receiving aid, investments and loans from the EU. They made the mistake of trusting the US and its allies.
Their hopes were dashed. Europe denied them aid and membership in the EU based on the high rate of corruption in the country and also because there were major fascist elements in the government and (para)military, which spooked Germany in particular. President Poroshenko, known for being a drunkard and mentally unstable, broke all treaties with Russia, which were sources of much income for the people, and stopped paying for the Russian gas that the country onsumed - which led to the suspension of the supply. It also threatens Russia constantly with making war and to this day continues illegally shelling the Russian-speaking Donbass in violation of the Minsk treaty. Thanks to the disastrous economic management of the US-backed government, Ukraine could not pay its foreign debts. Finally, in 2018, the IMF declared that Ukraine - which before the coup enjoyed a certain prosperity - was the poorest country in Europe, attributing that status to the high degree of corruption that reigns in the country.
And what is the USA - the country that brought Ukraine into this situation – doing to solve its crisis?
Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Instead it is sending lethal arms to Kiev to kill innocent civilians in Donbass.
So, Venezuelans, do you want to bet on the support of the great northern hegemon to help you resolve your crisis? Think about it!
Below is our translation of an article from News Rambler followed by a translation of another one, also from the News Rambler.
European representative office of PDVSA moving to Moscow
Venezuela moves office of US-sanctioned oil and gas company PDVSA from Lisbon to Moscow
March 1, 2019
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro decided to close the office of the national oil company PDVSA (Petroleros de Venezuela) in Lisbon and move the representative office to Moscow. Earlier, the United States imposed PDVSA sanctions with the aim of increasing pressure on Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to give up his post in favour of opposition leader Juan Guaidó.
"President Nicolas Maduro ordered the PDVSA office in Lisbon to close this office and move the office to Moscow," said Venezuelan executive vice president Delcy Rodriguez at a press conference following talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday, reports TASS.
According to Rodriguez, "The West is excluding itself from the life of the world community, because now it is making attempts to sabotage the life of the international community. A number of countries, speaking from a position of respect for international law and strengthening bilateral relations, are fighting against this," the politician continued.
“Venezuela will take legal steps to guarantee our right to defence, litigation and return of our legitimate assets and legitimate interests in those countries where it is necessary,” Rodriguez emphasized.
The United States imposed sanctions against the Venezuelan state oil and gas company PDVSA on January 29. This was done with the aim of increasing pressure on Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to give up his post in favour of opposition leader Juan Guaidó, who declared himself the interim head of state and was immediately recognized by the United States and several other countries.
MOSCOW, March 1. / TASS /. The relocation of the European representative office of the Venezuelan PDVSA from Lisbon to Moscow is quite possible and technically easy, according to experts consulted by TASS. In addition, the sanction risks for Russia, although this political gesture of Venezuela, hardly carries, they note.
The briefing by the Executive Vice President of Venezuela, Delcy Rodriguez, after talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, ended today with a clear statement that the state-owned oil company PDVSA will transfer its office from Lisbon to Moscow.
“The word office here should be understood as simply moving the European representative office. This is not the company moving. The word office in English is not necessarily headquarters. It can also mean representative office,” said Sergey Pikin, director of the Energy Development Fund.
According to the expert, for Russian companies working with PDVSA, this also has its plus. “It will be easier for them to communicate because they will be in the same city. This is just for convenience of interaction. But on key issues, Caracas still retains representation on operational issues,” he noted.
Sergey Khestanov, associate professor at the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, also sees no obstacles to the relocation of the Lisbon office. “The event is unlikely to somehow affect the sanctions process, since oil supplies are subject to restrictions, and the relocation of the office does not affect this,” he said. At the same time, it is difficult to predict how the American and European authorities will react to this possible event, the expert added.
"A large Russian business is likely to be very careful in any statements and, even more, actions that directly or indirectly support the Venezuelan authorities. The probability of helping the Venezuelan authorities is not very high, but the chances of provoking additional sanctions, restrictions or any other hostile actions –are very, very real. Such an arangement will force our business to be very, very careful,” added Khestanov.
Finam analyst Alexei Kalachev recalled that Gazprombank had frozen PDVSA accounts. “Nobody wants to fall under additional sanctions. If they transfer the office, it will be an event,” he believes.
Since the Venezuelan company is a partner of large Russian companies, we can expect that the office will be looking for the same class, that is, A / B +, says Konstantin Losyukov, director of office real estate at Knight Frank.
“Theoretically, PDVSA can rent premises from their own Russian partners through their subsidiaries dealing with office real estate. However, it is difficult to assess the impact of the company's relocation on the Moscow office real estate market, since the scope of the request is not completely clear,” he concluded.
Below is a translation of an article from rueconomics.ru with commentary by Vince Dhimos.
Federico Pieraccini is one of the extremely rare writers of our era to state, in February 2019, what many of us already know, namely that Israel and Saudi Arabia are the states that shape US foreign policy.
In January I listed at New Silk Strategies the agents constituting the de facto government of the US, with Israel and Saudi heading the list, and the American people were not on the list. Lincoln was wrong about the government of, by and for the people. The US was never really ruled by its people, many of whom were slaves until the 60s, and others were the indigenous people who were completely disenfranchised. But the movers and shakers within the US were big business, the bankers and elected officials who ignored the Constitution in various ways, the biggest transgressors perhaps being the lawmakers who gave the bankers all power over the monetary system in 1913, in violation of Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution. Within less than 2 decades, the newly created FRB had given the nation its first Great Depression.
In his article entitled "Russia and China Are Containing the US to Reshape the World Order," Pieraccini, one of the rare commentators of our era, reflected my thinking, writing in February 2019 that Israel and Saudi Arabia are the states that shape US foreign policy.
“The foreign-policy decisions of Israel and Saudi Arabia have been supported by Washington for decades, for two very specific reasons: the influence of the Israel lobby in the US, and the need to ensure that Saudi Arabia and the OPEC countries sell oil in US dollars, thereby preserving the role of the US dollar as the global reserve currency.”
Vladimir Putin, the new sheriff in the Middle East, could upend all of that, acting as an arbiter, and it is not all that hard for him to get that job because only an unbiased party can arbitrate between factions, and the US has long forfeited its title by rigidly, and absurdly, defending only Israel and Saudi to keep ignorant fanatics happy in the first case and to prop up the dollar in the second. As a result of this rigid one-sidedness, the US is no longer trusted in the Middle East (or most of the rest of the world for that matter).
Each step taken by Vladimir Putin in the Middle East brings the world closer to the dream of a multipolar world. We showed here how this is playing out in Lebanon.
The translation of a Russian expert opinion appearing below shows how Russian involvement in Syria impacted the Saudi situation and is making Riyadh dependent on Russia for help with its economy, damaged by its fruitless support of terrorism in Syria.
Both Putin and Xi Jinping have been gently pushing Riyadh to accept RMB and euros for its oil, knowing that this would greatly weaken the petrodollar agreement with the US and leave the US dollar in a precarious position. The fact that Putin has considerable clout with Riyadh due to Russia’s position in OPEC should keep Washington and Wall Street awake at night.
Balmasov: Saudis in negotiations with Russia on oil want to monetize their defeat in Syria
5 March 2019
Negotiations between Russia and Saudi Arabia on the fate of the oil market, as well as on other issues are crucial for Saudi politics, says Sergey Balmasov, an expert at the Middle East Institute.
Thus, the expert commented on Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s statement during his visit to Riyadh. Lavrov had noted that Moscow and Riyadh agreed to continue coordinating their steps on the world energy market in accordance with the OPEC + agreement. In addition, Lavrov met with Saudi King Salman and Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir.
The parties discussed cooperation in the energy sector, the peaceful use of the atom, industry, agriculture and transport infrastructure. Naturally, in addition to the economy, Lavrov and Al-Jubeir discussed the current situation in Syria.
Russia continues rapprochement with Saudi Arabia
“Relations between Russia and Saudi Arabia are not surprising, since in recent years the major powers have chosen a multi-vectorial course in their foreign policy. Since in our globalized age, it is no longer possible to build rigid alliances, such negotiations are unsurprising and logical despite our friction with the Saudis,” states Balmasov.
As for the Saudi foreign policy, the expert notes that Riyadh’s main task is the survival of the kingdom in its present form, since it is becoming more and more difficult for monarchical regimes.
“The situation surrounding Saudi Arabia is complicated - oil prices are at a level that is significantly lower than the figures that were laid down in the Saudi state budget five years ago, and this has been going on for more than a year. In addition, the situation along the Saudi Arabian borders is becomes more complicated,” Balmasov concluded.
The fact is that the situation in Yemen is one of the many manifestations of these unhealthy tendencies, because in Saudi Arabia there are also negative processes that are especially manifested in one of the Shiite-populated provinces of the country.
“Various disturbances take place there regularly, and this is now the main problem for the Saudis, which is pushing the situation in Syria to the back burner. Yes, and Saudi Arabia, which is one of the skirmishers of the Syrian events, has lost in Syria. Now they want to monetize this loss, since Riyadh’s losses in Syria are quite large. Negotiations with Russia on oil play a major role here,” concludes Balmasov.
After all, Saudi Arabia has received nothing in Syria except numerous expenses. And, as the political scientist notes, even Turkey has managed to pinch off something from the Syrian pie, but the Saudis themselves can only chalk up huge expenses to their balance sheet.
“Today, even in Lebanon, for the Saudis, the situation has become more complicated, although this country was for them a kind of rest home. It also goes along with the deterioration of the overall foreign policy situation around Saudi Arabia,” Balmasov said.
Russia is pursuing a multi-vectorial policy in the Middle East
Interestingly, this meeting of Lavrov with the King of Saudi Arabia, Salman and Foreign Minister Al-Jubeir, took place against the background of confirmation by the Kremlin that Russian President Vladimir Putin would be visiting neighbouring Qatar in the near future.
This is important in the sense that due to the recent deterioration of the geopolitical situation in the Middle East, the former allied monarchies of Riyadh and Doha broke off diplomatic relations and are now locked in grim conflict. So, the visit of the head of the Russian state to Qatar will be a challenge for Saudi Arabia, which is sensitive to such situations.
"The situation that has now developed between Saudi Arabia and Qatar is a showdown between them. It is a local conflict, involving the struggle for leadership among the modern monarchies of the Persian Gulf," Balmasov summarized.
According to Balmasov, the basis of this conflict is the reluctance of Qatar, one of the most successful states in the region, to tolerate Saudi dictates. All this prevents Qatar from developing effectively.
“If we consider the interests of Russia in this situation, then first we need to understand what our country can gain from the quarrel between Qatar and Saudi Arabia. And most likely we can become an arbiter here, and this will be beneficial for us, since the quarrel is between states that have previously pursued an unfriendly policy towards Moscow, concludes Balmasov.
At the same time, Qatar is much more limited in capabilities than the Saudis, since in a quarrel with Saudi Arabia, Doha can only count on the help of Tehran, which is opposed to Riyadh, and, possibly, the Turks with their military base.
"In this regard, even the American military base is not a guarantee for Qatar, since no one can rule out that the United States, by virtue of its interests, will not conduct a regime change operation in this country," states Balmasov.
And in this situation, with Qatar and Saudi Arabia in difficult relations with the United States and with the conflict between them playing against their national interests, Russia can act as an effective arbiter.
Moreover, we have a lot of interests in the Middle East, including within the framework of regulation of the oil market.
Author: Dmitry Sikorsky
Russia is now the undisputed new sheriff in the Middle East. A poll among Arab youth shows that, whereas this group trusted the US first and Russia last before Russia entered the fray in Syria in September 2015, after that time the situation reversed itself, with Russia now enjoying the most trust and approval of any world power among this group. Unless a major sea change occurs in the muddle that is US foreign policy, Russia will continue to acquire more and more control in the region. This can be attributed more than anything to Putin’s ability to bridge seemingly irreconcilably sides of conflicts. (Unfortunately, the US has traditionally defended predominantly the Israeli side while alienating the Muslims, especially the Shiites, and of these, especially the Syrians and Iranians, apparently in order to maintain good relations with the terror-exporting Saudis and Gulf statelets in return for their charging only US dollars for their oil and keeping their reserves in US dollars – a realistic but immoral basis for a relationship with brutal dictatorial regimes. In the long run, such a situation will inevitably fail.)
However, now that the US has declared its intent to leave Syria, aside from differences between Russia and Turkey regarding control over the north of Syria, and the terrorist activity in Idlib Providence, the most troubling issue is the continued attacks on Syria by Israel, which though lessened in intensity since the arrival of the S-300 system to the Syrian army, still plague the region. In Syria, Israel is therefore a de facto proxy of the US, the last one standing.
One problem for Russia is the US, which, for both religious and political reasons, is bonded eternally to Israel like Prometheus to his eagle. Another problem for Russia is that it wants good relations with Israel, while generally supporting the security of the Shiite Crescent, which Israel considers its arch-enemy. A related problem is that, ever since Soviet days, Russia’s tolerance toward Jews has been spotlighted in its propaganda, in contrast to the anti-Semitism of the German fascists. Putin has decided to uphold this same narrative in his Russian Federation’s public image, to highlight the difference between his country and its enemies. This is one reason why Deputy Foreign Minister Ryabkov recently said Israel’s “security is of paramount importance to us,” while also rebuking Israel for its “unjustified” missile attacks on Syria.
In his autobiography First Person, Putin said one source of his motivation for joining the KGB was the Soviet film Shchit i Mech (Щит и Меч, meaning Shield and Sword, the nickname for the KGB). Vadim Kozhevnikov’s novel on which the film is based includes scenes of German mistreatment of Jews contrasted with the Soviets’ kindness toward the same group. Soviet literature repeats this theme in various forms. Being anti-Semitic is considered fascist in Russia.
Today, about 20% of Israel’s population was born in Russia, and if we consider the descendants of these ethnic Russians, Israel has a very significant population with ties to Russia – another important reason for Russia to be solicitous of Israel’s security.
Thus, the balancing act between Israel and the Muslims that Russia also feels obliged to protect couldn’t be more delicate. And in view of this, the Russians are doing an exemplary job in terms of diplomacy and are the logical first choice for a future role as arbiters between the Muslims and the Jews and between the Palestinians and Israel.
But having made impressive gains in protecting Syria from terror and uniting disparate factions in the nation, their next challenge is how to keep the Israelis from aggressing against Syria. Indeed, Israel seems to have taken over the role of a US proxy in the region, allowing the US to indirectly influence Syria via a third party.
The Israeli Air Force’s favourite tactic in its missile strikes has been to use Lebanese air space to launch the missiles from its aircraft. This was rendered more complicated by the S-300 system provided by Russia to the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), which theoretically can shoot down the offending aircraft. But the ever-resourceful Israelis found that they could continue these provocations by judicious positioning of the attacking aircraft in parts of Lebanese air space shared with commercial airliners, making it impossible for the Syrians to fire on them without endangering civilian lives. This Israeli strategy cost the Russians an Il-20 and its crew, putting the biggest strain on Israel-Russia relations since the Russians entered the war.
But what if Russia controlled Lebanese air space?
Very little is reported in the msm about Russian-Lebanese agreements that might make such arrangements possible, and when these reports emerge, they are often followed up by reports that the arrangements have been cancelled. I think this is due in part to the fact that neither Russia nor Lebanon wants Israel or the US to know what it is up to. It is also related to the reluctance of US media to invest many resources in translating news in Arabic or Hebrew to English, and this is due in turn to the lack of interest among the US public and US government and political influencers in events in the Middle East that they think don’t concern them – an indifference that can wind up giving Russia and its allies increased latitude in the development of their joint activities.
Tellingly, the reports are mostly from Middle Eastern sources.
Thus, Jerusalem Post reported in November 2018 that Lebanon was receiving military aid from Russia – that it had rejected this over “US concerns” but later admitted the accepted it. This aid was supposed to be for hardware but was scaled back to cartridges, again, apparently due to “US concerns.”
Israeli periodical Algemeiner reminds that Russo-Lebanese military contacts have been mixed, with the LAF turning down ten free Mig-29 fighter in favour of American and European hardware, of which $375 million were sent to Lebanon under the last 2 US administrations. I assume this is more indicative of Lebanon’s fear of the US and Israel than of a preference for Western arms. After all, Lebanon was almost utterly destroyed during the 2006 attack by Israel. But today, with Sheriff Putin in town, things will slowly change.
But we are not there yet. Israel continues to use Lebanese air space, illegally and probably against the will of the Lebanese. However, it is hard to say. Lebanon is an extremely complex country. Interestingly, its population is divided right down the middle by religion, in two ways. Firstly, remarkably, its Muslims are almost exactly half Sunni and half Shia. Secondly, its non-Muslim population, consisting mostly of Christians and Druze, is almost perfectly equal in size to its Muslim population. Its prime minister, Saad Hariri, was born in Saudi Arabia and spent considerable time there, but was educated in a US university. In a visit to Saudi Arabia in 2017, he surprisingly announced his resignation, citing fears of assassination (his father, Rafic Hariri, had been assassinated) due to the spread of Hezbollah in the Middle East. His father’s assassination was attributed to a Syrian plot with Hezbollah involvement. Rafic had had good relations with the Syria of Hafez Assad but the relationship soured when Bashir became president. The resignation was later rescinded. Iran initially suspected that the Saudis had pressured Hariri to quit his post.
I suspect that Hariri is the one who nixed Russian military cooperation. His ties to Saudi Arabia would militate against it and would make him very leery of Hezbollah, which has impressive political power in Lebanon. He would also balk at Russia’s close ties to Syria because of this father’s assassination (although he has a good relationship with Putin).
Whatever the case may be, Russia has, surprisingly, decided to start a working group with Israel to help stabilize the situation in Syria. According to Southfront:
“Putin also stressed that the normalization of the situation in Syria requires the full withdrawal of foreign armed forces from there and the restoration of statehood in full with the preservation of territorial integrity.”
I would respectfully disagree with Sheriff Putin on this. Putin has stated previously on more than one occasion that he respects the sovereignty of the Syrian people. If they are indeed sovereign, then they have the right to invite the Iranians into their country, even in a military capacity.
But on the other hand, if Putin can bring lasting peace to the Middle East, and particularly if he can tame the Israeli beast, and if compromising Syrian sovereignty is the only way to do this, then let’s wish him well and sit back and await the outcome of his decision. After all, nothing is set in stone and the situation could change in the future.
Below is our translation from RIA Novosti on a very uncharacteristic Trump tweet that reveals a fateful weakness in the strategy of “negotiating from a position of strength.”
I had written on Quora last October that shale drilling is a losing prospect because fracking (hydraulic fracturing) is simply too expensive a process to produce a profitable product. I saw no future in the shale industry on which Trump had pinned all his hopes in terms of making America great. It was blasphemy, of course. I was stepping on toes on both sides of the aisle. But the truth behind the truth is always blasphemy at first. The latest profit-loss statements from US oil companies bear me out. In fact they have significantly pared back their investment plans for 2019. It only took them the better part of a decade to figure out the obvious.
Ironically, while shale oil industry requires high oil prices, the price at the pump makes or breaks presidential elections. This presents a Gordian knot for Trump, who is damned if he supports US shale oil producers, damned if he doesn’t.
Even 2-D chess, to say nothing of the 3-D variety, requires foreseeing the opponent’s possible moves ahead of time. Applied to economics, it requires some knowledge of oil technology, which Trump clearly lacked, while applied to geopolitics, it means doing due diligence, ie, research on culture, attitudes, religion, history, etc, to foresee everything that could go wrong in implementing a plan involving foreign countries. In the case of US intervention in Venezuela, for example, it would have entailed examining the current attitudes of the Venezuelan people and the peoples in the countries considered potential allies in a possible military move against the country. It is vitally important to know the history of the Bolivarian Revolution and how it and its relation to Chavismo is perceived and appreciated by the people of Venezuela and surrounding countries. For many of them, even many who do not support Maduro, this revolution is sacred – just as sacred to them as the 1st and 2nd Amendment is to many Americans. It is also important to appreciate their religious views on war and peace. A detail that the incompetent US advisers surely overlooked was that Pope Francisco, during his extended visit to Panama, had clearly called for a peaceful resolution of the Venezuelan problem and had categorically opposed a military approach. This is an important reason why the Lima Group is opposing US military intervention in Venezuela. Further, if the US movers and shakers had known how strongly Venezuelan politicians and military leaders feel about traitors and betrayal of their country, they could have foreseen that the military would stick by Maduro. The fact that Guaidó “authorized” a US invasion and even continues to do so, out of desperation at this point, shows that during his years of study (and indoctrination) at George Washington University, he had adopted the US Establishment’s superficial – and now obsolescent – definition of “democracy” and a strong – likewise obsolescent – belief that the US is the moral leader of the world. He also forgot how his insistence on inviting a US bombardment would look to his millions of patriotic countrymen. He and his American keepers, as well as the Trump advisers are also way out of touch with the rest of the world, which is inexorably becoming multipolar. More importantly, they are out of touch with the Venezuelan people, who hate traitors.
In the translated article, Danilov points out the change in tone from “negotiating from a position of strength” – threats of sanctions or intervention— to pleading, almost grovelling. Not surprising since Trump is appealing not to Russia, China or a Third World country, but to a group that includes Saudi Arabia, the other signatory to the petrodollar agreement. No US president has ever sullied this dictatorship.
Donald Trump asks for lower oil prices
The US president is again trying to use his personal twitter as a reality control panel. At a quick glance it may seem that he is doing very well: for example, yesterday after his tweet that oil costs too much, the price of black gold on the exchanges in New York and London in fact fell by a few dollars. However, after a closer look at the situation, it is clear that the participants in the oil market are really scared - only they are not afraid of the US president’s tweets.
The most interesting thing about Donald Trump's “oil tweet” is the very pleading tone uncharacteristic of the American president: “Oil prices are getting too high. OPEC, please relax and calm down. The world cannot accept the price increase - (he. - Ed. ) fragile! " - writes the American leader. You need to be literally blind not to notice that Trump has departed from the traditional American approach in the sense of using threats and pressure, namely, he asks OPEC (obviously, meaning all participants of the “oil deal” in OPEC + Russia format) not to raise prices higher and to convince, not to intimidate, although in his case it would be logical to refer to possible sanctions or the so-called “NOPEC bill”, which now lies before the US Congress and, if adopted, may allow the US Department of Justice to try to punish the participant countries of the "oil deal". However, the president of the United States makes a very different reference, writing that the "world is fragile" and won’t pull through. This is most likely what frightened the market.
When the American leader publicly admits that the world economy is so fragile that it will shatter from the next increase in oil prices, then from the standpoint of many market participants, this situation is a reason to panic in advance. Oil prices often reflect expectations not only in terms of world production, but also relative to world oil demand. In fact, Trump said that there will be serious problems with demand in the global economy.
In addition to purely economic considerations, the American leader was probably guided by geopolitics, related to the situation in Venezuela. If you look at the crisis in this country from the point of view of its influence on the oil market, the picture is rather unpleasant for the USA: very tough sanctions were recently introduced against Caracas, which prevent Venezuela from exporting oil, which pushes up prices on the world market, and a certain progress in terms of the "colour revolution", which the State Department launched after Juan Guaidó was recognized as president of the country, is not being observed now. The recent failure of the Venezuelan border breakthrough scheme with the aid of a "humanitarian convoy," as well as reports by the American agency Bloomberg that even the US allies in the region - Peru and Colombia - do not support military intervention against Venezuela, indicate that American hopes for a speedy "flooding of the Venezuelan oil market " (which would already be under American control), most likely, will not happen. If this is a correct assessment of the situation, then Trump's appeal to OPEC countries via Twitter is rather a gesture of despair.
It is likely that concern about the "fragility of the world" in Trump’s case, means, above all, concern about the state of the American economy. The American President's “Oil Tweet” was published the same day as the poll of the American National Association for Business Economics (National Association for Business Economics), a reputable NGO that brings together experts on the impact of macroeconomic factors on the business environment. According to this survey, the US economy will enter recession in 2021. As reported by the business information agency Bloomberg, "ten percent (of the economists surveyed. - Approx. Ed.) predict a recession starting this year, and 42 percent call it for the beginning of next year." Translated from the language of economic predictions to the language of political perspectives, this means the following: looming large before Donald Trump is the prospect of holding an election campaign in a falling American economy, and any American political consultant will confirm that holding onto the presidency is an extremely difficult task, which in Trump’s case is aggravated by the fact that many voters tolerate him solely for economic reasons.
That is why, where many Russian commentators noticed a sign of some special “Trump force” that could affect the price of oil, American journalists saw only the president’s attempt to secure a convenient scenario for the upcoming election campaign, at least for a while. John Kemp, a columnist and energy analyst at Reuters, writes: "Fragile" is the most important word in President Trump's tweet. The President acknowledges that the global economy has slowed significantly since mid-2018. As a result, "the world cannot deal with a price increase." The White House is fully focused on avoiding a recession, maintaining economic growth until the end of 2020, and saving the presidential re-election campaign. Re-election is number one priority. Chinese trade negotiations must come to a successful conclusion for the same reason. The White House cannot afford to raise tariffs if such could push the economy into recession. The US president needs a deal as much as China. "
In terms of of preserving the world hegemon image, the actions of the Washington administration are extremely toxic - because everyone can see that the White House can no longer negotiate on issues important to it from a position of strength. Moreover, another important point is hidden in the petition of the American leader - if Trump is forced to appeal to OPEC countries to stop the price increase, this means that all the talk about "US energy self-sufficiency" and that if necessary the United States can flood the market with "cheap American shale oil" is in the realm of PR, not reality. The flagship of the American business press, the Wall Street Journal, explains why: "The once-powerful partnership between oil companies and (inanciers from. - Ed.) Wall Street is declining as the (shale. - Ed. .) industry is struggling to attract investors after nearly a decade of losing money. Frequent capital injections from Wall Street have supported the American shale boom. But this generosity is coming to an end."
It is not only the generosity of American financiers, who do not really want to invest in unprofitable "shale drillers," is ending. The historical period in which the United States could unilaterally dictate its will to the outside world is also coming to an end. The White House will have to learn again the forgotten art of negotiating. Only by now, partners willing to negotiate with Washington will be very hard to find.