NSS translation with a commentary by Vince Dhimos.
Further below is our translation of an analysis by Ivan Danilov pointing out that the sanctions threatened by US legislators against Saudi Arabia could have far-reaching consequences, notably driving Saudi into the Russian camp, an incalculable loss for the US. Though Danilov does not mention it, this could also have a devastating effect on the greenback. The proposed sanctions were aimed at hurting Trump, and indeed, they may affect the GOP’s chances in the November elections, potentially making him an even lamer duck than he has been, and increasing the chances of impeachment. Danilov realizes that the legislators’ crazed drive to bring down Trump has blinded them to the potential unexpected consequences for the US and world economy.
Trump’s reaction to the suspicion that Saudi crown prince MBS murdered journalist Jamal Kashoggi has been tepid to lukewarm. He has said that if Saudi is found to have murdered Washington Post journalist Jamal Kashoggi, “there will be severe punishment.” But he immediately followed this up saying he would not cancel arms sales to the Saudis, as demanded by a bipartisan group of senators, because “I don't want to hurt jobs.” Of course, since the Saudis have given millions in gifts to US presidents, including Obama (details here) and Trump himself (details here), Trump could also be looking out for number 1.
He is right, of course, to treat the Saudis with kid gloves, because, as New Silk Strategies reported in our 3-part series on the petrodollar (Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3), there is a myth widely believed by investors in US Treasuries, that the Saudis are needed to prop up the dollar by buying enormous sums of these Treasuries. The myth loses some of its pizzaz if we remember that China and Japan each hold twice as much in Treasuries as Saudi. And even so, US Social Security payees hold several times as much as all three. Thus, theoretically, the US economy would not need Saudi cooperation, but investors are driven not by reality but by perception. Thus, if the Saudis were to back out of the petrodollar agreement, a lot of earth-shaking events could be triggered, though some would be positive. Minus the incentive to “protect” the Saudis and their oil field, the US would have less motive to wage its endess wars. Anyway, Trump’s nervousness about sullying the Saudis is further evidence of just how much US presidents fear the loss of the Saudi relationship.
As Danilov points out, Trump also needs Riyadh to make up for the loss of Iranian oil in the world markets in order to keep oil prices from spiralling into the stratosphere, thus harming the economy by making everything too expensive.
Author Danilov correctly points out that if the US sanctions Saudi too severely and winds up alienating them, they could be driven into Russia’s arms. He doesn’t mention it but it could also drive them toward the Chinese. At any rate, if the US dollar survives this attack by the legislators, it will be a gratifying relief for the world economy.
The US wants to transfer the "oil kingdom" to Putin
Ivan Danilov, author of the blog Crimson Alter
US senators and congressmen want to push the price of oil far beyond $100 a barrel. The introduction of US sanctions against Saudi Arabia in accordance with the so-called "Magnitsky Act" will entail such consequences on the oil market that the current price increase will seem petty and insignificant. And if the sanctions are really strong, then $100 is not the limit. This will not be very profitable for the American economy, but when it comes to annoying the allies of President Trump, many American politicians and officials simply refuse to apply the brakes, and use common sense and an elementary sense of self-preservation.
President Trump will be against this scenario, but under current political conditions he often has his hands tied. The scandal surrounding the alleged murder of Saudi journalist and dissident Jamal Khashoggi (Kashikchi) in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul may serve as an ideal pretext for new sanctions, and there are already enough people who want to introduce them. In some ways, Riyadh is faced with the problem that Moscow is experiencing in its relations with the current American elite, which perceives sanctions as a way to resolve internal political conflicts and ignores any foreign policy consequences.
It is worth reviewing the plot of the scandal: in Istanbul after a visit to the Saudi consulate, the Saudi dissident and journalist Jamal Khashoggi disappeared. The Turkish authorities, the Western media, as well as some Western intelligence agencies suspect (or even argue) that he was killed on the premises of the consulate. The incident elicited international resonance because Khashoggi was not just an opponent of the Saudi leadership, but also came from a very rich family, and was a resident of the United States and a political columnist for the very famous and influential American publisher The Washington Post, considered one of the mouthpieces of the US Democratic Party. The disappearance of a dissident so deeply integrated in the American establishment could not go unnoticed, but the scandal quickly went beyond the diplomatic realm.
Considering that for Trump, the issue of cooperation and maintaining good relations with Saudi Arabia is of critical importance, his opponents in the American establishment immediately took the opportunity to strike at US-Saudi relations. Without the assistance of Saudi Arabia, Trump could not impose sanctions on Iran without causing catastrophic consequences for the oil market. Riyadh compensated part of the "fallen out" from the Iranian oil market. Because Trump does not want to notice the scandal and spoil relations with Riyadh, but they are trying to make him do it.
Senators Bob Corker, Bob Menendez (Chairman of the Senate’s Foreign Policy Committee), Lindsay Graham and Patrick Leahy (Chairman of the Senate Foreign Programs and Operations Committee) wrote a letter to Donald Trump requesting him to investigate a dissident’s disappearance in accordance with the “global Magnitsky Act,” which was actually adopted in Obama administration to back with legislation attempts to “punish” Russia for an independent foreign and domestic policy. By and large, they are trying to oblige the US president to launch a process that, within 120 days (this is precisely the term under the “Magnitsky Act”), end with the imposition of sanctions against Riyadh.
Journalists have already taken an interest in Trump’s response, and it was predictably negative. He pointed out several important points: the missing dissident is not a US citizen, and Saudi Arabia buys American goods and services (mostly weapons) for $120 billion a year, therefore, such a client should not be disregarded. Besides this, statements by the American leader remained the key role of Saudi Arabia in restraining the rise in oil prices after the introduction of tough anti-Iran sanctions. Moreover, it is impossible not to notice that this is far from the first scandal associated with the peculiarities of the observance of human rights in this region, but all of Trump's predecessors had also turned a blind eye to previous scandals. So, the current episode has a purely political background.
Turkey is not satisfied with Saudi Arabia’s explanations in the Kashoggi case.
The influential Republican senator Lindsey Graham has already “responded” to the president, referring to the quote of the late Republican senator and sworn enemy Trump John McCain, who said that in some cases it is necessary to focus exclusively on values and principles. Under the pretext of protecting values and principles, they are now demanding of the American leader to spoil relations with Riyadh. Moreover, the first real sanctions have already been introduced. Due to public and media pressure, Western companies such as the Virgin Group, founded by billionaire Richard Branson, and the Bloomberg agency, founded by Michael Bloomberg, are refusing joint projects with Saudi public and private entities. Even the first wrestling event, which the Saudi authorities have been organizing for several years, is at risk. Further pressure on US companies working with Saudi partners will only increase. Similar appeals are already being heard in the European Union, particularly since the European Parliament’s Human Rights Committee has weighed in on the scandal.
If you look at things pragmatically (and this is exactly how you should look at everything related to foreign policy), the isolation of Saudi Arabia, as well as possible American and European (formal and informal) sanctions against Saudi Arabia, provide quite extensive opportunities for Russia.
Their specific form depends on the specific problems that our Saudi partners will face.
The United States began to use the language of ultimatums even to partners, said Bogdanov [CEO of oil and gas company Surgutneftegas].
If they are disconnected from SWIFT, then you need to help them use the Russian equivalent.
If they are denied access to the real estate markets in San Francisco and London, then Russia can show the potential of Sochi and St. Petersburg.
If they are barred from investing in US and European securities, then they can and should be offered excellent investment opportunities in our companies and securities, including Russian bonds.
If the Americans and Europeans turn out to be completely reckless with their sanctions bacchanalia, then there may even be a chance for the accelerated creation of a "petro-rouble system." Sometimes errors of geopolitical opponents create conditions such that it is a sin not to take advantage of them. Russia will not miss the chance.
Danilov includes Kashoggi’s Turkish family name Kashikchi because his grandfather Muhammed Kashikchi (Kaşıkçı) was Turkish. Apparently this is common knowledge in Russia.
I answered the following question on Quora (the response appearing below has been further amplified):
What is the most likely reason President Carter signed over the Panama Canal to the Panamanians?
Vince Dhimos, lives in Panama City, Panama
There are three main factors in the handover of the Panama Canal to Panama by Jimmy Carter:
1—To quote Wikipedia: Demands for the United States to hand over the canal to Panama increased after the Suez Crisis in 1956, when the United States used financial and diplomatic pressure to force France and the UK to abandon their attempt to retake control of the Suez Canal, previously nationalized by the Nasser regime in Egypt.
In other words, the world started to warm up to the idea that France and UK should relinquish their claim to the Suez Canal, essentially because it was not located in their territory or vicinity. This made their ownership a form of colonialism and that ancient construct was losing support in the world. This set an international precedent that would naturally apply to the Panama Canal.
2—The murder of several teenagers at Balboa High School, founded for US sons and daughters of US service personal in the Canal Zone, on Jan 9, 1964. (Many of my details hereinafter are from the site of Panamanian newspaper La Crítica. Unfortunately, US outlets were not inclined to publish much detail on this embarrassing story).
The students were from another school but went to Balboa HS carrying a Panamanian flag, in protest of the fact that that school was illegally flying only the US flag and not the Panamanian flag. Now here’s a fact that seems trivial, but is instructive in retrospect: The school was required under a bilateral agreement, carrying the strength of US law, to fly both flags but was in flagrant violation. The decision to illegally fly only the US flag, was made by the US students, whose parents were certainly staunch US patriots. Thus the violence that ensued and that ultimately led to the transfer of the canal to Panama was in fact caused by high school kids.
(Moral: Be careful what you teach your kids. Blind nationalism can lead to a major loss for the country you think you are defending. I can’t help but think of the loss of US allies and the trust of the world due to the numerous sanctions and tariffs recently applied everywhere against almost all exporters to the US.)
The demonstrators demanded that their flag be hoisted together with the US flag. This was the point at which a wise decision could possibly have prevented bloodshed. Instead, the representative of the school insisted that they could not raise the flag on the flag pole (which had two sets of cords to accommodate 2 flags) but would be allowed to stand in front of the flag pole holding the flag and sing the Panamanian anthem. This was acceptable to some of the demonstrators but not to their leaders. Nonetheless, the demonstrators sang their anthem while the US students, steeped in the conviction that the Great USA is sovereign over all other nations, tried to drown out their voices by singing the Star Spangled Banner. After a lengthy heated discussion between the Panamanian students and the students of Balboa HS, mostly Americans (though some foreigners were admitted, upon paying tuition), the demonstrators later insisted, against the Balboa HS representative’s wishes, on hoisting their national flag. Panamanian guards at the school, loyal to the US, finally ordered the demonstrators to leave at gunpoint. In the ensuing struggle, a police officer struck the Panamanian flag with a night stick, causing it to tear, and was then punched in the face by a demonstrator. In the further confusion, the demonstrators reacted violently. Ultimately, some of the demonstrators were shot and killed. This bloody incident led to subsequent rioting throughout the country, extending as far as the city of Colon, 40 mile miles (80 by the circuitous land route) to the north of the site of the initial demonstrations. 20 Panamanians, who had entered the Canal Zone in contrvention of prevailing US law, and 4 Americans were killed. In this subsequent riot in the Canal Zone, one of the student organizers, Ascanio Arosemena, was shot to death as he was helping the wounded. The shooters were mostly US military. This student is now famous post-mortem in Panama, where Martyrs’ Day is celebrated every year and Ascanio’s martyrdom is commemorated in particular. A theatre not far from the initial protest was named for him. Panama briefly suspended relations with the US over these incidents. An avenue along the route from downtown Panama City to the scene is now named Avenida de los Mártires (Avenue of the Martyrs), one wall of which is prominently decorated with anti-US graffiti that perpetually reminds visitors and residents alike of the way their one-time benefactor treated Panamanians. A rather complete history of the incidents is found in this academic thesis.
3— Panama strongman Omar Torrijos. Omar, a high-ranking military leader, rose to power when he overthrew President Arnulfo Arias, who was unwilling to cooperate with the military. It happened on the 11th day of Arias’ third term. Deposing the oligarch Arias had become a de rigueur ritual. He had been deposed twice before. But don’t cry for Arias, folks. During his first term he started implementing the platform of a Nazi party in Panama. He adored Adolf Hitler, and to please his idol, he ordered the killing of a group of Jewish immigrants from Switzerland in the province of Chiriquí, forced foreign business people to transfer ownership of their companies to Panamanian hands, and divested black West Indians – all either the labourers who built the canal or descendants of them – of their citizenship. He also organized state visits to Berlin. Encyclopaedia Britannica writes of Arias, “During his dictatorial and corrupt second term, he replaced the constitution, dissolved the National Assembly and the Supreme Court, and was finally physically deposed by the national police.”
Partly as a result of the massacre described above, triggered by proud patriotic US high school students, popular strong man Omar Torrijos took up the cause of recovering the Canal Zone for Panama. He campaigned around the world for this cause and was ultimately successful in convincing Jimmy Carter to hand over the canal. It was a brash move on Carter’s part since a compromise agreement could probably have been reached, since Carter held all the cards. At any rate, the canal reverted to Panama on Nov 24, 1999 under the Torrijos-Carter agreement, long after Omar’s death.
Torrijos was loved by the people and is hated to this day by the US-backed oligarchs. He was an educated man but very much a man of the people, who loved to meet and socialize with his indigenous friends in the Comarcas (reservations for the indigenous). At the same time, aside from recovering the canal for Panama, he was a man of vision who initiated more infrastructure projects for the country than any president. He founded the Universidad Tecnológica, ie, the first higher school of technology in Panama; he was responsible for the construction of: a national stadium, a national swimming pool, a national gymnasium, later transformed into an arena where international sports events are held; major street and highway projects all over the country; rural aqueducts in areas with fewer than 500 persons;and numerous quite decent housing projects afordable for purchase by the poor; he initiated education reform and fought for the rights of (woefully underpaid) teachers to strike. This reform was vigorously opposed by the Catholic Church, which continues to run private schools and seriously underpays its teachers to this day (my wife is one of them). The Church charged that the notion of “reform” smacked of communism, probably in hopes that they US would intervene on their part; Torrijos also established a program to provide free text books for students.
Though Torrijos established relations with Cuba, when asked about which side of the political spectrum he sided with, he famously said “ni con la derecha, ni con la izquierda,” neither with the right, nor with the left. He was in almost every sense the Panamanian Putin.
Omar Torrijos died in a mysterious plane crash in 1981. When I first started coming to Panama, I would ask every taxi driver how Torrijos had died. They all said the CIA killed him, a common belief in the country. Indeed ex-CIA chief Bush Senior was vice-president by the time Torrijos was killed. It is not known for certain what caused his plane to go down, although the weather was bad when it took off.
However, after the 1964 murders and after the Bush Sr. invasion from Dec 20 1989 to Jan 31, 1990, which killed at least 4000, mostly civilians, the US lost much of its lustre here. US citizens are still treated with respect but the US government is not trusted by the grassroots — just mostly by the oligarchy, who have always dominated the presidency.
The following is our translation from the Russian site topcor.ru. The second sentence of the first paragraph will confuse many Western consumers of US msm. It says:
“Of course, little thought [in Israel] is given to the fact that the bombing of a neighbouring state in itself cannot but lead to serious consequences.”
This article, written for a Russian audience familiar with Middle East current affairs, will confuse some readers because the Western media almost completely ignore the fact that Israel has been firing missiles into Syria at important weapons manufacturing or storing facilities for a very long time, endangering civilians (eg, at an international airport), Russian personnel, etc., and disrupting the war against terrorists there. The Israelis admitted it, as reported by the Times of Israel (we could not find any mention of this in the Anglo press).
Though most Westerners are loathe to admit it, US ally Israel has long been on the side of the terrorists in Syria, if only indirectly.
For one thing, as reported by Middle East Monitor, Israeli and US made weapons have been found in areas surrendered by ISIS (Daesh).
Further according to the Times of Israel, Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon let slip a revealing truth about the Isreali leadership when he said
“In Syria, if the choice is between Iran and the Islamic State, I choose the Islamic State. They don’t have the capabilities that Iran has.” (This too was hushed by the English-language press).
At variance with Ya’alon’s statement, ISIS does in fact have the capability of taking over large swaths of the Middle East with US assistance (or at least tacit permission) and without Russian intervention, just as it took over Syria before the Russian entry in 2015. Although Ya’alon is not necessarily admitting that he supports ISIS, he is in fact saying that he doesn’t care whether Syrians have to live under the yoke of an inhuman government that beheads people for being Shiite, Yazidi, Christian, Kurdish, or anything other than a ruthless, intolerant Wahhabist (Salafist) government. He would never admit, and he doesn’t care, that Iran, since the beginning of the war, has been contributing vital boots on the ground to fight ISIS. Israel knows very well that Iran cannot attack Israel proper unprovoked, despite Iran’s occasional attacks on terrorists in Golan. Why? Because the Iranian leadership knows that if Iran were to attack Israel, its current government would be overthrown and the country would be attacked and destroyed by the US and NATO. It’s obviously not going to happen. Israel’s fear of Iran and Syria stems from the fact that both countries refuse to acknowledge the existence of the Jewish state, and are capable of infecting the rest of the Muslim world with this viewpoint. And not because they are anti-Jewish. But because they remember the brutal and illegal tactics (as detailed in part by a Washington Post article) by which the first Zionists in the region displaced 700,000 Arabs. The issue has been falsely framed as “Israel’s right to exist.” In fact, for millions of Arabs, the real issue is “Israel’s right to displace us from our homes.” Everything changes when you frame the issue that way.
The Israeli military maintains regular forces in the Golan Heights, and when the Syrians get too close, its spokespeople warn that the “Israeli border” is being threatened. But the Golan is all Syrian territory. Under international law, Israel has no right to be there. Yet, sheltered by the US, they continue to say the Golan border is theirs. And the US press supports this lie with their silence.
Why Israel cannot destroy the S-300
September 25, 2018
The delivery of the S-300 system to Syria by Russia has seriously panicked Israel’s ruling circles. Israeli media is issuing increasingly panicky notes: "this will lead to serious consequences," "Israel is in for a nightmare." Of course, little thought is given to the fact that the bombing of a neighbouring state in itself cannot but lead to serious consequences. There are those who propose solving the problem with the old methods: continue bombing, including striking the Russian anti-aircraft missile systems.
For their part, the Syrians warmly greeted Russian Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu’s announcement that the S-300s would be supplied. For example, Riyad Haddad, the Syrian Ambassador in Moscow, stressed that these installations are necessary for his country to defend against Israeli aggression.
Following up on Shoigu, President Vladimir Putin confirmed the intention to transfer the S-300 air defence system to Syria. In a telephone conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he said that in the current situation, such deliveries are an appropriate measure that will prevent potential threats to Russian military personnel.
Of course, the Israeli leadership is trying to reassure Russia that there are no threats to its military, located in Syria, that targeted attacks on Russian targets have been ruled out. However, practice has shown otherwise. The downing of a Russian plane with military personnel on board speaks for itself - the threats are quite real. As for the targeted attacks, we cannot rule out attempts to destroy the Russian S-300s in Syria. Moreover, even long before the incident with the plane, the Israelis (including Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman) had already threatened to do this if Moscow dared to send the installations to Syria.
Some Israeli bloggers are already actively proposing ways to eliminate the C-300. They recall that there have already been already similar cases, only at a different time and with a different technique. For example, in 1969, the Israelis succeeded in capturing the P-12 radar station transferred to Egypt by the Soviet Union. And during the 1982 Lebanon war, anti-aircraft missile systems were destroyed with the help of massive air strikes and missile attacks. Another option is to use electronic jamming. This was used in 2007 during the Israeli raid on Syria: the air defence systems were “blinded.” A ground operation to destroy the S-300 with the killing of service personnel or the dispatching of a sabotage group in order to undermine the technology “interfering” with Israel is also not excluded.
The Russian newspaper “Vzglyad” cited the statements of several experts debating whether it is possible for the Israelis to destroy the Russian air defence system. An independent military expert Anton Lavrov believes that the option of a ground operation or sabotage is unlikely. Electronic warfare methods are also unrealistic — they are ineffective against the S-300. Most likely, Israel will strike from the air, for example, using F-35 fighter jets. He recalled that the Israelis have considerable experience in combatting Syrian air defence weapons. The expert added that as a result, a “major air battle” could flare up, but the air defence system could not hold up against hundreds of aircraft. It is also possible that Israel will enlist the United States on its side; moreover, Washington can independently strike at Syria with the help of cruise missiles.
Former Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Air Force Aytech Bizhev believes that Israel will not be able to destroy the S-300.
He states as follows as cited in Vzglyad:
“The complex is not a stand-alone. It is a fully integrated system. Its near border is guarded by the Pantsir air defence missile system, and there are many other means, radar combat weapons ... The complex is protected by other SAMs. In fact, it protects itself. But we also have Su-30 and Su-27 planes. They will chew up these Israeli F-16s in 30 seconds.”
More sober-minded Israelis believe that their leadership will not dare to bomb the S-300 due to political considerations, since this could lead to a direct clash with Russia.
In fact, until recently, Israel did not want to believe that Moscow would take the step of delivering modern anti-aircraft missile systems to Syria. They said that would be crossing a certain "red line" in Russian-Israeli relations. The fact that Tel Aviv itself crossed the “red line” is stubbornly denied, the incident with the Russian plane being blamed solely on the Syrians.
However, the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation provided additional data on the culpability of the Israeli side in the crash of the Il-20. The evidence, according to a statement by the official representative of the department, Igor Konashenkov, was obtained from the indicators of the command and control center of the S-400 system, which is based in Khmeymim.
Konashenkov pointed out that the screen shows that the Syrian C-200 rocket was originally headed specifically toward an Israeli aircraft. It was at an altitude of 9-10 kilometres, like the Il-20. While approaching an Israeli fighter, the rocket sharply changed course, because the Russian aircraft has a large reflecting surface. In addition, it reduced its speed.
“Today’s data no longer just suggests, but in fact proves that the blame for the tragedy with the Russian Il-20 aircraft rests entirely with the Israeli air force and with those who made the decision on this kind of activity”
Of course, Israel will continue to deny its guilt, and to declare its right to bomb Syrian territory with impunity. But statements are only statements, and the modern anti-aircraft missile systems, which Russia will give to Syria, are an effective way to cool the hot heads of the aggressors.
Finally, those who are concerned about the possibility of the newly installed air defence system in Syria being destroyed (as we all should be), may find some comfort in the statement of Russian defence minister Sergey Shoigu following installation of the system:
"Russian EW (electronic warfare) systems will suppress any communication radar and satellite navigation of combat aviation involved in attacks on Syria from the Eastern Mediterranean."
I answered another question on Quora.
QUESTION: Should the US invade Venezuela? (https://www.quora.com/Should-the-United-States-intervene-in-Venezuela)
VINCE: Do you mean should they intervene like the US did in Libya and leave a vacuum for terrorists to plunge the country into chaos? Or like they did in Afghanistan and leave a gaping unhealed wound for over a generation with no hope of the war ever ending? Or like they did in Panama, leaving 4000 dead Panamanians lying dead on the streets? Or like they did in Ukraine, completely wrecking the economy?
If the US intervenes in Panama, remember that this would be a Trump intervention. So you need to ask yourself: what is Trump’s ultimate aim for the US economy?
Answer: Trump is absolutely bound and determined to make the US the no. one exporter of hydrocarbons and he will stop at nothing short of fair and honest competition to make this happen. His new tax law of 2017 has already blessed US oil companies with welfare in the form of negative taxes. This was a desperate move in response to the fact that fracking companies weren’t making money.
The idea of fracking (hydraulic fracturing of rock to squeeze the last few drops of oil or puffs of gas out of a depleted deposit) looked good on paper but the process can’t compete economically with extraction of oil or gas from fresh non-depleted deposits – the kind they have in Russia – firstly because the process itself is costly and secondly in large part because fracked wells deplete quickly requiring constant re-drilling (details here: https://www.desmogblog.com/2018/05/04/wall-street-shale-oil-fracking-revolution-losing-billions-continental-resources). But instead of admitting that (which would have cost the GOP votes in November), he decided to have the US Taxpayer bail out the irresponsible, incompetent oil and gas CEOs who invested in the hair-brained scheme without conducting a thorough cost analysis. The US was back to Bush and the banker bailouts. So how does Trump deal with the competition in the hydrocarbons business? Well, to give you an idea of his approach, recall that he tried to slap sanctions on Europe for buying Russian natural gas. His idea was to ban the sale of cheap Russian gas and sell extravagantly expensive US LNG to Europe, on the pretext that Russia was supposedly an enemy. The only catch was that the Europeans aren’t brain dead yet. They know that Russia is not their enemy and that LNG is super expensive, unable to compete with pipeline-delivered gas that requires no cyber processing, loading onto expensive specially designed sea-going vessels and unloading at similarly expensive specially designed terminals in the receiving country. Like all normal people, they knew they couldn’t afford this. Only US oil execs and White House residents are ignorant of this basic fact. This heavy handed business dealing was clearly an attempt at unfair competition made in the USA, and the Europeans put up such a fuss that Trump’s sneaky plan fell through. But now he is so furious at Russia for competing with Great-Again USA that he and the legislators are preparing devastating sanctions aimed at completely ruining Russia. Further, given the failure to implement the sanctions, the administration’s interior secretary Ryan Zinke threatened to use the US Navy to blockade Russia’s trade routes, eliminating the un-American scheme of international free trade in a way almost certain to start a war with both Russia and China.
Need I remind the reader that the sanctions against Iran (scheduled to go into effect in November) under the transparent pretext that that country is developing missiles for self-defence (only America has a right to defend itself) are another way of eliminating major competition in the gas and oil business (and also of keeping Saudi and Tel Aviv happy).
Now, remember that China takes the opposite approach to economics. They believe that if you lift people out of poverty you wind up with a richer client who can buy more of your exports. This is based on the ancient Confucian concept of common sense. So they want to do in Venezuela what they are doing in Zambia, ie, improving the infrastructure through targeted investments (details here: http://www.newsilkstrategies.com/news--analysis/china-really-can-save-venezuela-if-the-us-allows-it ) and getting their investment back once the client country is back on its feet again. Xi Jinping proposed in his last meeting with Maduro a few weeks ago to invest in oil refining infrastructure in Venezuela.
Now, after what the Great-Again Nation tried to do to Russia and its European clients — for daring to compete with the US — ask yourself: will the US, after invading Venezuela, really help the country improve its oil-based economy and compete with the US at time when the US wants desperately to be the biggest oil exporter in the world? Or will they do what they always do and destroy as much infrastructure and kill as many Venezuelans as they can so that the country never gets back on its feet again? (Reminder: Here is how they “helped” Iraq: http://www.newsilkstrategies.com/international-relations/where-is-the-marshall-plan-for-iraq)
No, the US should not invade Venezuela. But it should by all means find a way to compete internationally without bullying its prospective clients, based on the ancient Confucian notion of common sense.
Firstly, most Westerners are incapable of understanding the Eastern (primarily Russian or Chinese) mentality. They’ve been conditioned by their politicians, msm and fear mongering fellow citizens to think China is aiming to take over the world and enslave everyone – as if the US hadn’t already done this throughout the world, with its endless wars and colour revolutions. They generally mistrust China because they assume that China is cynical, like Western countries, and only wants to exploit the client countries that China invests in. But this is not true. If it were, there would not be so many countries turning their backs on US influence and accepting Chinese investment. China, unlike the West, wants to have prosperous trading partners, not poverty-stricken debt slaves.
Let us take Zambia, for example. China is investing in Zambia in a way that is completely different from the other countries that invest in it. China was the only country that invested in Zambian infrastructure in a way that developed the country and allowed it to increase its productivity. The others simply invested in its resources, particularly copper, and left it caught in a debt trap. But Zambia had a problem with its copper extraction. That is, it had a shortage of electric power needed for mining operations. The other countries that invested there did absolutely nothing to resolve this problem. But China invested in a hydroelectric project that enabled mining operations to increase their productivity significantly. But the West ignores this major merit of Chinese investments and continues to slander the Chinese investors, saying they are just exploiting Zambia, just like the Western investors.
In Venezuela, China is using the same approach as in Zambia. Since Venezuela had poor infrastructure for processing its crude oil, China is investing over a billion dollars in facilities for refining Venezuelan crude oil. The target is to make Venezuela capable of selling many more millions of barrels of crude oil per day. No other country had the foresight to do this. Westerners think in terms of the short term. China is a long-term thinker. The western investors were all focused on exploiting the crude oil, but not helping Venezuela increase its production. This is why the Western investors all failed to make Zambia prosperous enough to get out of debt.
Western propagandists who want Venezuela to fail in order to bring the country under the control of the US are saying that China will not continue to help Venezuela because Venezuela has a history of not paying its debts. But Venezuela did not intentionally renege on its debts. For several years running, the oil prices were so low that Venezuela could not earn a profit from its oil fields. But about a year ago, the oil price rose drastically, and now oil companies everywhere are making profits. China knows that, thanks to these higher prices, an investment in Venezuelan oil refineries promises to be lucrative for both China and Venezuela. Therefore, Venezuela has concluded a mutually beneficial agreement with the Chinese lenders whereby Venezuela will never need to pay back its debt in money. China, as a country with a voracious appetite for oil and as an investor in oil, will simply repay itself with oil. Venezuela will never be in debt to China again under this agreement. Unless, of course, the US invades the country and destroys its new infrastructure.
The Eastern mindset and the Western mindset are in many ways like two different computer platforms, say a Mac on the one hand and a PC on the other. Trying to talk to a Westerner about the major events in the East such as the One-Belt One-Road initiative, the Shanghai gold exchange, the Shanghai oil futures market, the booming trade in arms and nuclear power plant construction offered by Russia, the concept of the multipolar world, and how these things will eventually replace the decrepit failed structures of the West is like inserting a PC-formatted disk into a Mac computer. Both the computer and the disk are perfectly designed and constructed. No flaws in either one. Yet the Mac cannot understand the information on the PC-formatted disk. There is no point in inserting it. Likewise, in most cases, a Western-“formatted” mind cannot accept information about the wonderful world of the East. Instead, Steve Bannon’s idea of “screwing up” the Chinese One-Belt One-Road initiative will be more likely to resonate with the average American.
The US is touted as being a “free” country and a “democracy.” But the emphasis is on individual freedom. Many Americans, esp libertarians, can’t conceive of a country where the citizens focus on freedom for their country rather than solely for themselves. Millennials? Well, they are probably even more individual-centred, ie, self-centered, so I understand. This emphasis on individual liberty has all but squeezed out the concept of national sovereignty. Nobody ever talks about respecting the sovereignty of other countries, though Trump and his followers talk a lot about American sovereignty. It is as if the term was invented solely for American consumption and could not possible apply to anywhere but America.
In reality, the US is run by a small coterie of psychopathic thieves called Washington, DC, and Wall Street, but these guys are slick enough to give their vassals the freedom to choose their own lifestyles, notably sexual orientations and the drug of their choice – they can even choose which gender they want for themselves and in many cases, the government will perform the operation and pick up the tab. Who could ask for more? Meanwhile, the aforementioned thieves take the tax money of these fawning vassals and squander it on eternal useless wars against countries that have never really seriously threatened the people of the US. And they invent excuses – WMDs, chemical weapons, etc. – to bomb thousands of innocent unarmed civilians from the air. They have so far killed hundreds of thousands from Korea to Kosovo, from Iraq to Libya, etc., all in the name of bringing these folks freedom and democracy with the immediate pretext – almost always unproven, but “highly likely” as they say in Mother England – that the leader of these people has used chemical weapons or WMDs on them and the US must “save” them. And incredibly, almost none of the “free” sheeple ever stop to think “hey, if we are killing them by the thousands how is that saving them?” But after all, with all these physical freedoms and pleasures galore, why would you want the freedom to think for yourself?
After all, if you did have this freedom, you might think dangerous thoughts like this: No leader in the Middle East, for ex, has killed even a thousand of his own people. After all, it would be foolish to kill potential voters. Yet the US kills many thousands of foreigners and the US sheeple are delighted that their tax money has “saved” this other country for “freedom” and “democracy” by massacring its citizens.
There is something seriously wrong with the average Westerner's mentality. They’ve got PC brains but the truth is in Mac format and is not recognized.
Now the East (Russia, China, Iran, and to some extent others) is not buying this nonsense because they have independently operating brains that do not buy the propaganda and are not fooled for a minute that the US and NATO are helping anyone but the arms makers, the bankers, the politicians, the Saudis and Tel Aviv. They know what is going on. Which is why they stick by their own leaders. Russians spend little to no time discussing the personal freedom to smoke dope or shoot up opiates or wear their mommies’ bra on Sunday and their daddies’ jock on Monday. But they know what it is to be free of the dangerous influence of US propaganda and wars. They know that it is more important for them to sacrifice a little comfort and “freedom” to keep their families and fellow Russians safe from aerial “democracy” bombs. This is why most Russians, for ex, pay attention when Putin talks about the multipolar world, where everyone respects the sovereignty of other countries as opposed to the unipolar world ruled by the US and NATO. Now here is the really hard part that many libertarians with a small "l" simply can’t wrap their minds around: If you have individual freedom to choose your lifestyle but your country is controlled by another country – the way Iraq is controlled by the US – you only think you have freedom. You are a sucker and your government will continue to give you the candy while sinking the dagger deeper and deeper into your back. In other words, without national sovereignty, that candy called freedom is poison. For those who dare to free their minds (and not just their libidos and their taste buds), linked below is Putin’s Munich speech where he introduced the world to the multipolar world where not only individuals, but also nations are free from the chains of US Hegemony. If you are a libertarian or a millennial, you may well have a learning impediment preventing you from understanding the point of this speech. Don’t worry. Take notes as you go. Then study the notes. If you still don’t quite get it, listen again. Putin is talking about a world that is now all around us but the msm and politicians (and their anti-Russia rhetoric) are telling you not to listen and that the US is your kind mama who will take care of you and keep giving you candy. It’s a lie.
Putin's Munich speech:
You now live in this new multipolar world but the candy has made you oblivious to it. Stop eating the candy.
NSS translation with a foreword by Vince Dhimos.
The following is our translation from Russian of a detailed analysis from EADaily of world oil prices and their potential effects on the Russian economy. Long story short, future oil prices depend a lot on the nature of the US sanctions in November.
Putin recently stated at an economic forum (quoted below):
“The market is balanced now. The fact that the price of oil is growing is not so much the result of our activities [as part of the OPEC + agreement], but the result of largely attendant circumstances, expectations of decisions on Iran - by the way, absolutely illegal decisions and harmful to the world economy,” said Vladimir Putin at a press conference at the annual Russian Energy Week forum, which opened in Moscow today.
Can you imagine Trump saying something this intelligent and insightful? Does he know or care that the high oil prices are harmful to the world economy? Does he know that the US is part of the world and that if you stick a pin in the world economy the US yells ouch? Putin’s finger is on the economic pulse of Russia and the world. Trump, in stark contrast, sees everything that happens as a sign that the US is getting greater and greater. His notion of the fracking industry is especially rose-coloured. He knows so little about economics that he thinks oil sales turnaround means profits. In other words, if you bought 5 marbles for a dollar and immediately sold them all for 80 cents, that in Trump’s world would be positive because you sold something and got money for it. And you could declare bankruptcy and not have to pay the person you bought them from. He believes devoutly that the stock prices signal a healthy economy when real economists know that the current high prices signal nothing but a bubble that is bound to pop at any time. The old America knew that a stock price must be governed by the price to earnings index, because if the price pulls too far away from the expected earnings per share, you are dealing with a casino, not a stock market, and suckers are given a false incentive that makes the owner rich. We are seeing a casino. Trump likes casinos. He is far removed from reality but he knows how to bait the hook.
The only way for oil companies to survive is off of government largesse, and Trump is their Santa Clause, having ushered in a new tax law that, instead of charging oil companies taxes, gives them US taxpayer money. The same people who voted for him and now worship him believing in his wisdom are now forking over their hard-earned money to the oil companies sucking at this administration’s teat!
“Thanks to the new tax law, [oil company] Continental took home an extra $700 million because its effective tax rate for 2017 was negative 406 percent.”
“To be clear — this bill which was signed at the end of 2017 was applied to the deferred tax liabilities that were already on the books — thus erasing a large chunk of the liabilities for these companies that had built up while the industry kept borrowing to drill more and ultimately lose more money. Simply a bailout of reckless financial behaviour by any other name."
Of course, Trump, who, according to the below analysis, caused the hike in oil prices with his reckless sanctions on Iran (levied not for the benefit of the US people but for Israel and the Saudis), is now begging OPEC to lower these prices so that US consumers can afford gas for their cars. But if Trump had had an ounce of consideration for the rest of the world, including other oil producers like Iran and Russia, there would be no crisis. Unfortunately, for Trump there is no way out of the hole he has dug. He can’t go to the taxpayer and say “sorry, folks, but US oil companies will never run in the black without taxpayer funded bailouts. The bailouts are permanent. Thanks for your hard work, suckers. Now get back to the ditches.” Remember that Trump supporters were furious at Obama for giving away tax money to people as a reward for sitting on their arses all day. They were right to be angry at incentives for loafing. But now, instead of giving money to the poor, the Trump administration is giving your earnings to irresponsible investors who should have known there was no profit in fracking to extract gas or oil. They knew what it cost to extract the hydrocarbons and they knew how much they could sell them for. It was simple math but they were too lazy to do the calculations. But worse, they knew the government would bail them out. Even a Democrat administration would do it, because the US is not a democracy or democratic republic, it is a dictatorship of the billionaires. There’s no difference between the political parties. We are back to Bush II and the bailouts. But don’t worry, it will get worse.
Oil phantom of a new crisis: the price per barrel is divorced from reality
The current level of oil prices above $80 a barrel with the prospect of growth to $100 is deemed an anomaly by many market participants and experts. The main factor pushing up prices is the upcoming introduction of US sanctions against Iran, and if this risk turns out to be overvalued, then after a few months oil may return to more usual levels in recent years. If growth continues for quite a long time, this does not bode well for the global and Russian economies. The events preceding the crises of 2008 and 2014 remind us that the acceleration of oil prices is a sure sign of impending economic cataclysms.
“The market is balanced now. The fact that the price of oil is growing is not so much the result of our activities [as part of the OPEC + agreement], but the result of largely attendant circumstances, expectations of decisions on Iran - by the way, absolutely illegal decisions and harmful to the world economy,” said Vladimir Putin at a press conference at the annual Russian Energy Week forum, which opened in Moscow today.
At the moment, due to uncertainty, there is a potential for rising oil prices, but everything will depend on trends at the beginning of November, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said on the sidelines of the forum, referring to November 4, the deadline that the US authorities provided to companies to curtail the purchase of Iranian oil and cooperation with Iranian counterparties. As a result, the balance in the global oil market may change dramatically in the direction of a supply shortage. “Factors on the supply side play a key role in raising current oil prices,” says Economic Development Minister Maxim Oreshkin, recalling also the situation in Venezuela, where over the past two years oil production has dropped by a million barrels a day.
Will the largest oil suppliers be able to compensate for the outliers if the effect of anti-Iran sanctions is fully manifested? Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Russia are in the most advantageous position to fill the gap and earn on Iran’s misadventures, according to today's Bloomberg newsletter, which a few days ago predicted the possibility of oil prices rising to $100 a barrel. In September, according to Bloomberg, based on tracking the movement of oil tankers, Iranian oil exports fell to 1.7 million barrels per day. Even if Donald Trump’s sanctions fail to achieve the goal and Iran is able to sell about 1 million barrels on the world market, as was the case with Obama, Iran’s partial withdrawal from the world market, the agency says, will still create a big hole in the oil supply.
These prospects forced even inveterate alarmists to change their positions. “For the time being we forecast some increase in the price of oil. I think this can happen even for two or three years, ” the head of the Accounts Chamber, Alexei Kudrin, said several days ago. When he was RF Finance Minister, Kudrin had regularly warned about the temporary nature of the rise in oil prices. In the next three years, Kudrin believes, the demand for oil will grow by more than 3 million barrels per year.
The new oil rally is accompanied by production growth, or statements to that effect, in many countries. At the end of September, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir said his country would continue to increase production to stabilize prices in the face of heightened demand for oil. Kazakhstan intends to increase oil production at its largest Kashagan field from 340–350 thousand barrels per day this year to 370 thousand barrels in 2019 and 450 thousand barrels in 2020, the country's energy minister Kanat Bozumbayev said during the Russian energy week. Libya has already brought production to 1.25 million barrels per day and plans further growth, said Mustafa Sanalla, head of the country's national oil corporation, at the same summit.
In Russia, according to the latest data of the Central Dispatching Office of the Fuel and Energy Complex, since the beginning of June, oil production increased by 2.4%, and in September alone, the average daily production increased by 1.2% to 1.548 million tons. “We have already increased 400 thousand barrels per day, as we agreed with our partners. If necessary, we can increase by another 200-300 thousand barrels per day, ”Putin said at a plenary session of the Russian energy week. “We expect approximately 555 million tons this year. We have forecasts that we can increase production, although incentive measures are being worked out now, ”added Alexander Novak.
After November 4, the next “Day X” for the world oil market should be December 6 - the next ministerial meeting in the OPEC + format is scheduled for this date. By and large, the objectives of the agreement to reduce oil production, achieved by OPEC and its partners at the end of 2016, were fulfilled a year ago, when oil steadily consolidated above $60 a barrel of Brent. Therefore, during the June meeting already, certain relief measures were taken under the agreement - the parties to the transaction decided to avoid over-fulfilment of its original conditions, which in practice would have led to an increase in production by 1 million barrels per day.
In June, the agreement by OPEC was exceeded by 47%; in July this figure dropped to 21%, and in August - to 10% with a simultaneous increase in oil production by 278 thousand barrels per day. The above-mentioned production growth in Russia is also associated with relief measures for the transaction. Now, the rise in oil prices, in anticipation of anti-Iranian sanctions, calls into question the need to extend the agreement on the same terms, although in its September forecast, OPEC lowered its estimate of oil demand in 2018 to 1.62 million barrels per day, and next year to 1.41 million barrels per day. Obviously, the fate of the OPEC + agreement will be clearer after November 4.
“So far, the rise in oil prices is based mainly on expectations of sanctions imposed against Iran,” commented Vasily Tanurkov, deputy director of the Corporate Ratings Group at the Analytical Credit Rating Agency (ACRA), commenting on the current situation. - If we want to talk facts, then the only thing worth noting is the decision of the parties to the OPEC + agreement to comply with the agreement, despite US pressure to increase production.
But at the end of the year the agreement expires, and at current prices there is a high probability that either it will be cancelled completely or the production quotas will be greatly increased. The fears about Iran look strongly inflated. Indeed, Iran can cut oil exports, but hardly catastrophically and hardly for long. Certain short-term problems may arise, for example, with tankers or insurance, but the most important thing in this story is that the only country that imposes sanctions on Iran is the United States, and China and the European Union take a special position. Therefore, it can be expected that if not in the next month, then by the end of the year oil prices will return to some more rational level. In the next six months, we can expect a decline in oil prices - it is too optimistic to expect that they will stay at the level of 85-90 dollars per barrel, although in the short term they could grow on expectations. "
The fact that the current level of oil prices is rather a deviation from the norm is also signalled by the Russian Ministry of Finance. Even in the mid-summer draft of the main guidelines of the budget, tax and customs tariff policy for 2019 and for the planned period 2020 and 2021, it was stated that high oil prices are supported mainly by temporary factors, including geopolitical ones, eg, by the collapse of oil production in Venezuela, by the administration’s policy USA, etc.
The unfolding situation is similar to the period of high oil prices of 2011–2013, the Ministry of Finance warns. At that time, according to the ministry, the marginal cost of oil extraction was about $ 80-90 per barrel, but actual prices were above long-term equilibrium, fluctuating around $ 110 per barrel. Geopolitics also contributed to this: the “Arab Spring” of 2011, which provoked the wars in Libya and Syria, and the US anti-Iran sanctions. Then, after a period of high prices in 2011–2013, OPEC’s price war with US shale oil followed, and the worldwide oil extraction cost fell to the current $50–60 dollars per barrel. “Thus, if the cost of oil continues to remain above long-term equilibrium levels, the price collapse will repeat again. There are enough resources for world extraction - the United States, Canada, other countries have the capacity and will increase production, ”the Ministry of Finance said in a document that considers the price of oil around $50 a barrel sufficient for balancing the world market.
So far, the rise in oil prices has one obvious plus. Their current level allows to impose a federal budget with a decent surplus. The base price of Urals oil, set in the fiscal rule that came into force this year, is generally $40 per barrel - all oil and gas revenues above this value are used by the Ministry of Finance to buy foreign currency. The average price of Urals in September was $78.06 per barrel, which is 1.4 times higher than in September 2017, and almost twice as high as the base value. As a result, in the next month, the Ministry of Finance will earmark a total of 475.7 billion roubles for the purchase of foreign currency from the beginning of currency interventions. In the draft federal budget for 2019, sent to the State Duma at the end of September, a 30 percent increase in revenues was allowed (about 20 trillion roubles against 15.3 trillion roubles in the budget for the current year), which, with an approximately 10 percent increase in expenses, gives a surplus of 1,9 trillion.
But high oil prices are only theoretically beneficial for Russia, since they are an obstacle to expanding the range of exported goods and carry new potential stress for the economy, warns Vasily Koltashov, head of the Center for Economic Research at the Institute of Globalization and Social Movements.
In addition, the increase in oil prices creates prerequisites for accelerating inflation, pushing up the cost of fuel by increasing the attractiveness of the export alternative for oil producers and fuel producers. In today's interview with the newspaper Vedomosti, the president of Lukoil, Vagit Alekperov, stated in plain text: “We do not believe it is necessary to raise the excise tax on gasoline by another 3 roubles starting January 1. Given the current situation in the foreign market, it is not necessary for the price to grow again. We need to move away from this, and start road funds at the expense of general budget revenues. ”
“It seems that so far fuel prices have not caught up with the incipient rise in oil prices,” says Vasily Tanurkov. “But at the same time, the rouble, the exchange rate of which is important for domestic fuel prices, has begun to strengthen, and the Central Bank has done everything it could to make the strengthening last until the end of the year. Therefore, it can be argued that the rouble is now inadequately cheap, especially in relation to oil prices. But a lot depends on what the new package of US sanctions, to be introduced in November, is like. So, for gasoline prices, uncertainty is even higher than for oil prices. The rouble exchange rate may continue to show greater volatility under the influence of geopolitics. ”
Volatility is the key word voiced in Vladimir Putin’s final speech at the plenary session of the Russian Energy Week. Under these conditions, the horizon of any forecasts is reduced to the limit.
“The price of oil can be higher in the framework of the large-scale speculative game that we are now seeing, and this is not a sluggish game, but a fast one,” says Vasily Koltashov. - the surprise will not be in the higher level of oil prices by itself, but whether it lasts for a long time. The inadequate level of oil prices creates a dangerous situation for the global economy. We have already done this more than once - it is worth remembering the oil rally before the 2008 crisis and the collapse of oil prices of 2014–2016. A high oil price level is unprofitable for the world economy, and this means that they will fall. Consequently, the question is how far they will fall and what will be consequences for the world economy. ”
At the same time, Koltashov notes, the new rise in oil prices coincided with the deepening problems of developing economies, which was reflected in the recent wave of devaluation of their currencies. “With a decrease in the purchasing power of a significant part of world currencies, an increase in oil prices indicates that the capital that had left emerging markets was used to speculate on oil and price scattering. This situation is alarming, because the level of risk is very significant. If the high oil price holds for a long time, then a series of defaults and political crises may follow, including a wave of consumer impoverishment, ”the expert suggests.
END OF TRANSLATION
I recently read on a public forum a statement by an American who pastes a pretty US flag icon on his page and starts out saying “I take great pride in my country.”
“For all the leftists and Europeans that love to call America as an uncultured, racist, sexist hellhole, I’d like you to point out the positive things of this great country.”
He says they talk as if America is the “worst country in the world” and proceeds to list various characteristics of this “worst country in the world,” including the considerable number of people who migrate to it; the “high GDP per capita”; the “worlds [sic] most powerful military including high tech weapons and a large amount of manpower”; “one of the highest living standards in the world”; the fact that “the US has shaped much of the modern world today,” brand names like “Nike, Apple, and Starbucks” that originated in America. That was about the extent of the merits he could think of.
Then for the sake of full disclosure, he admits “we do have our faults. Our healthcare system is expensive and broken. The political system equally terrible, and racism still is a barrier to African Americans.”
It occurred to me upon reading this that there are several impediments facing Americans who aspire to be good patriots but most do not acknowledge the existence of these impediments and therefore will never be able to reach their goal unless they wake up.
Firstly, while America touts itself as a democracy or democratic republic, depending on one’s party loyalties, it lacks the basic requisites for this form of government, the most obvious being that most Americans, despite exercising their right to vote, feel disenfranchised and unrepresented and/or betrayed, though most can’t articulate why they feel this way, with each political group attributing their misgivings to the opposing political party, with Republicans generally blaming Democrats and vice-versa, and the sought remedy being to support in the next election a candidate who says things that resonate with them. Which they invariable do, and then things just get worse. Indeed, the fact that the rich and powerful actually drive US politics was the conclusion of a joint Northwestern-Princeton study done last October, so they were right about their misgivings but not about the other party necessarily being the origin of them. Nor were the researchers who did that study necessarily on-target when they framed the issue as a specifically rich-poor dichotomy, ignoring other pertinent features of the power class that always gets its way in Washington – such as the heavy hand of AIPAC and the Saudis unduly influencing US foreign policy, the latter wielding the bludgeon of the petrodolllar.
Secondly, most self-styled or aspiring patriots miss the point that being dissatisfied with the direction the country is taking and the perpetual warsis not unpatriotic if the political class responsible for the misdirection and the wars is not acting in the people’s interests. The patriot in question did not address this issue and perhaps did not understand it well enough to address it. At any rate he did not list all those things that the “liberals and Europeans” complain about unjustly, just the racism and sexism but not the perennial wars and the government’s allegiance to the terror-supporting Saudis and the Israelis whose soldiers now have orders to shoot unarmed protesters to kill. Apparently, many people seeking the title of “patriot” are in perfect agreement with their government on foreign policy that kills innocents yet claim to be for the people and the Constitution. If the God they claim to believe in is real, then they are in trouble because He does not sanction killing anyone, even foreigners.
But in fact it is no longer possible to define and distinguish liberal left vs conservative right in America. At one time, for example, the left was anti-war, but today there is virtually no difference between the two parties in this respect. After 9-11, both parties, for example, favoured attacking first Afghanistan and then Iraq and bombing the latter to smithereens with no regard for life. The moral misgivings that had been expressed so profusely and articulately in the war years of the 60s were muted. To be anti-war was grossly unpatriotic after 9-11, and it was seen as slightly effeminate and even anti-Semitic, to oppose the war on Islam – er, that is, terrorism – at that time. And that attitude has not died out.
And of course there was a time when the left was for the worker and opposed to the mercenary interests of the very rich, but that is no longer the case. In 2008 when the banks and loan companies were in a precarious position, GW Bush and both political parties agreed to give the money of middle class and other taxpayers to the least-stable banks – ie, those most responsible for the housing crisis – as bailouts, under the pretext that the country was at economic risk. That was the poor helping the rich but neither party objected strenuously enough to prevent this gross injustice from happening. Nor do Trump supporters object to the current administration levying sanctions and killer tariffs against Russia and buyers of its energy products for the obvious reason of stifling free trade as it has generally been practiced for decades in the US. Again, free trade was once a sacred feature of right wing policies. You didn’t squeeze your competitor by punishing his customers. But now it is patriotic to do so.
Voters identifying as right-wingers used to be pro-war but when Trump ran for president, it was they who most strongly supported his campaign-trail opposition to a prolonged presence in Iraq and Syria and his criticism of pre-emptive strikes and long term military engagement and occupation in the Middle East. Of course, now that he has named 100% Neocons to his cabinet and as ambassadors to the UN and NATO, and now that he has saved all the beautiful babies in Syria with his Tomahwak attacks on beautiful babies, the excuse the acolytes have made for him is that the Deep State is holding a gun to his head to make him back away from his promises. Poor Trump. He'd make peace if only they'd let him. Some of my Evangelical friends think he is an agent of God Almighty. Some call him “a Cyrus,” others “a Nebuchadnezzar.” Anything but an entertainer who is not measuring up to the challenges of his career change.
Thus to accuse one’s adversaries of being liberals or acting like Europeans means nothing except that one is frustrated with the way things are going. Yet we all are frustrated and no one likes the course the US has taken, with the left and right both betraying their charter principles.
Thirdly, it is almost impossible for an American to self-identify as a patriot and not be a hypocrite because a patriot is by definition a person who loves his country, but if the right hates the left and the left hates the right, then unless an American’s politics fall outside that range, that person hates or at least deeply mistrusts and harbours some animus against about half of Americans. You can’t claim to love your country if you hate half its citizens.
Conclusion: Since harbouring an animus against your fellow citizens is clearly and by definition unpatriotic, it is time for Americans to start breaking down the barriers that they have erected between each other. For example, rationale people on both sides of the spectrum have to admit that, whatever Russia may have done in the past or even now, that country has long desired to be the friend of the US. The US’ posturing at the UN and NATO is unfitting, inappropriate, and even rude at times, not to mention the “s” word. For example, UN Ambassador Nikki Haley recently said “Russia will never be our friend,” and “we will slap them whenever it is necessary.” Needless to say, that is not how normal diplomats – or even normal responsible humans – talk to each other, particularly in the highest echelons in an official body as a representative of a nuclear power addressing another nuclear power. Even a Democrat or a Russia hater can appreciate the mindless recklessness of that kind of talk. Further, Navy Chief Ryan Zinke was not wearing his thinking cap when he suggested the best way to compete with China economically would be to lay a naval blockade on the entire country. Likewise, US NATO ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchinson said something so outlandish that I am compelled to break protocol and slap her with the “S” word. Hutchinson suggested just invading Russia and “taking out” a missile that allegedly represents a breach of a treaty with the US. Excuse me, Kay, I am going to call that just plain stupid. It betrays a fact that people everywhere are increasingly realizing: that the US military is all bark and no bite.
But Americans are mostly focused on side issues, like the myriad investigations into men manhandling women in the distant past or the tired old “highly likely” allegations against Russia. Russia poisoned so-and-so – there’s no proof but it’s highly likely so we are going to punish Russia. Russia meddled in the election, but it was a private firm that supposedly “done it.” We’re still going to punish the RF government for what the private company did. Can the US get back to real business, like healing the rift between Americans of various races and on both sides of the aisle, and patching up our relations with Russia? After all, Russia will restore normal relations in a heartbeat. Would you really prefer to keep provoking the nuclear armed bear? If so, I’m going to call stupid on you as well.
If the US continues this irresponsible behaviour, it will lose all but the most loyal friends, and even those will have second thoughts about their retarded friend.
Russia has delivered an S-300 system to Syria. It has promised “up to” 8 batteries in all to be delivered later. An S-300 battery is composed of launcher units with Flap Lid B radar and a command post.
The delivery of one battalion was made in response to the involvement of Israeli fighters in the shoot-down of a Russian Il-20 recon plane off the coast of Syria near Russia’s Khmeimim air base south-east of Latakia. The official report of the Russian Ministry of Defense is that Israel, while attacking Syrian targets near Latakia, used the Il-20 as cover in a deliberate attempt to induce Syrian air defences to down the plane, and consequently, the Il-20 was indeed downed by mistake by Syrian air defence troops firing at the Israeli planes behind it. There are various other versions, including one postulated by Fort Russ claiming the plane was hit by a missile that was observed by Russian radar operators to be launched around this time from the French frigate Auvergne. But the point is that the Israelis not only are not fighting terror, they are endangering the Syrians and Iranians who are genuinely fighting it and at best, are getting in the way.
Now the Isaeli response to this delivery has been ambivalent. On the one hand, Israeli officials immediately threatened to bomb the newly delivered Russian air defences. On the other hand, Israel immediately wanted to send a top-level delegation including defence minister Lieberman and Netanyahu himself. This offer was spurned. Moscow wanted to deal on a professional level – with military technical brass who understood the real threats everyone was facing and not with diplomats intent on damage control. Air Force head Maj. General Norkin wound up going. Apparently he understood the nitty-gritty explanations of his Russian counterparts because following the visit, the top brass and Netanyahu suddenly became very conciliatory and remembered their valuable relationship with Moscow. Norkin understood the nuts and bolts. Netanyahu understood the power.
So is everything hunky-dory now? Not exactly. People on all sides, notably the US, Russia, Syria and Israel, know that the S-300 is not a magic bullet. Indeed, there are questions about the radar incorporated in that system. Although the detection range reportedly exceeds that of the US Patriot System, for example, no one knows what kind of radar we are dealing with and exactly what it can do.
You like dark humour? Remember that the Israeli defence ministry had admitted to firing over 200 missiles into Syria since 2017 on the pretext of targeting Iranians (who were, however, there legally at the request of the Syrian people), killing an untold number of combatants and bystanders alike, and on at least one occasion, it fired missiles into the vicinity of the Damascus International Airport. No amount of spin can honestly make this action anything but irresponsible and criminal. But after the Russians announced they would be sending the S-300 to Syria, can you guess what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in response? Yes, he said these purely defensive S-300 systems would “endanger the region.” So, Mr. Prime Minister, your approval of the attack on an airport full of international passengers, all non-combatants, none deserving of your intended punishment of Syrians and Iranians whose only “wrongdoing” was the elimination of terrorists to keep the Syrian people safe and secure, did not endanger the region, right? But defending against these missiles and the aircraft that irresponsibly fire them is a danger? Sure.
Shortly after the latest Israeli-Russian pow-wow in Moscow, Israel’s Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi said the S-300 system would not limit Israel’s freedom of operations. He stated, according to Haaretz, “You know that we have stealth fighters, the best planes in the world. These batteries are not even able to detect them.” He was referring to US-supplied F-35 stealth fighters.
He was, however, not necessarily correct. No one knows what kind of radar the S-300s in Syria are using. The Russians have almost certainly updated them. Russia has developed and apparently fielded, for example, the Struna-1 bistatic radar system, which at relatively low altitudes, not exceeding 7 km, can “see” the F-35 quite well. The only catch is that this system is not well adapted for guiding missiles to its target. On the other hand, if a system analogous to the Struna-1 could detect the rough position, speed and trajectory of a threat, it could perhaps be used to launch a heat-seeking missile in the general direction of the threat and bring it down. The threat could turn out to be an F-35. It would cost the Israelis a cool $125 million and a fine pilot who might better have been engaged in fighting ISIS or Al-Qaeda or one of their numerous rebrandings.
So what do we know about Russian air defence capabilities? A clue came in when the Syrian army fired an antiquated Soviet-era S-200 at an “invisible” Israeli F-35 and the plane had to make a forced landing. The Israeli air force did some quick damage control, claiming that the damage was only slight and explaining the direct hit by claiming that this plane had hit a bird not long ago and its stealth coating was damaged as a result. And the punch line? Don’t be drinking coffee as you read this — as the National Interest reported, “The plane reportedly landed safely, but the Israeli Air Force did admit that it wasn’t sure whether the plane will fly again.“
Sort of like: “our son took the family car out last night and grazed a stop sign, slightly scratching the paint on the left fender. He made it home safely but we aren’t sure the car will be drivable again!” LOL LOL LOL!
As you see, this whole story is both surrealistic and genuinely funny. It could have come from a novel co-authored, say, by Franz Kafka and Groucho Marx.
Let’s hope the sequel is also more entertaining than tragic.
This US-disseminated Sinophobic hysteria is worldwide, and to put it in perspective, the media and some political activists in Panama – which has just signed on to deals with China for several infrastructure projects – are currently raving about the fact that the Chinese are interested in building a new embassy on “reverted” land, ie, land once owned by US military and administrative personnel pertaining to the canal. Absurdly, they say this shows disrespect for the US, which has its embassy in the same area.
Now this petty charge is especially odd because every year, Panama also celebrates Martyrs’ Day, commemorating the deaths of school children gunned down in January 1964 by Canal Zone police and US soldiers as they “trespassed” on land reserved for US personnel, as a protest against the perceived violation of Panamanian sovereignty in areas closed off to Panamanians.
Panamanians also remember with sadness and anger the at least four thousand civilian deaths during the US invasion of Panama in 1989 (many Panamanians have seen the video “The Panama Deception” showing, among other things, that Noriega was originally a US puppet, who was trained at the CIA-run School of the Americas).
Yet the anti-China hysteria in Panama ignores the fact that, unlike the US, China had never threatened or harmed a single Panamanian. It is the typical “We had better be careful or they will own us” hysteria. Several years ago there was an outbreak of hysteria inside the US over a rumour that the “Chinese” controlled ship traffic through the canal. I drove down to the Miraflores Locks tourist centre and asked around to see if any of the canal employees or officials there knew anything about this. All of those queried looked genuinely surprised. None had ever seen Chinese workers or officials at the locks where the traffic is controlled. Clearly, this rumour was spread maliciously with the aim of making Americans and Panamanians leery of the Chinese, but as I learned from my research on Xi Jiinping, the Chinese have set for themselves the goal of actually lifting the poor in their areas of influence out of poverty (this article is the product of that research).
The image of a friend with a sincere desire to help is nurtured by the Chinese with all the resources at their disposal. They are deeply concerned about rumours that they might be considering harvesting resources (eg, copper) to the detriment of a client state and will do everything in their power to avoid the appearance of acting with ulterior motives. The sincerity that they project in meetings with Third World leaders and the success they enjoy in helping these nations develop is why they enjoy the trust of states that were once aligned with and dependent on the US. The US has never understood that projecting the utmost friendliness and understanding – devoid of ulterior political motives – in their interpersonal relations is the secret to success in international investment.
Nonetheless, Zambia has had major management and corruption problems and has assumed a lot of debt. When China lent the state money that could not be paid back, Chinese companies have been known to take over the bankrupted enterprises, such as TV and radio news channel ZNBC, which is now in Chinese hands.
But allegations that China loans are a “debt trap” are overshadowed by IMF loans, which have led to much more serious situations in debtor countries such as Greece, which, according to the site Trading Economics, has a debt to GDP ratio of about 180%, compared to the 55.6% for Zambia. By comparison, the public debt of the US – which controls IMF – is at 105.4%, expected to rise to 109% by 2020. Greece has already has a fund set aside for the fire.sale of some of its state assets, and has been eyed by various potential buyers of its infrastructure, eg, venues purpose-built for the 2004 Athens Olympic games, which have sat derelict and rotting for the past decade. Other assets moved to the fund include state utilities, including the water board and power transmission operator ADMIE.
The next anti-China report I happened upon on a Russian site was one from the site Varlamov, asserting that Chinese blogs were carrying inflammatory claims that Siberia belongs to China, based on supposed historical “facts,” eg, that the Chinese were the first to settle there hundreds of years ago (didn’t happen).
So I checked on site owner Ilya Varlamov and found in the Russian-language Wikipedia that he had ties to the Russian opposition and frequently participated as a photographer at their rallies at their request.
There were several Russian-language sites that carried this story (not all of them obviously opposed to the government) and one of them provided a link to the Chinese site that had originated the claim that Siberia was Chinese. The story was carried by Toutiao, a privately owned Chinese internet provider, which, it turned out, had been in trouble with the government and had had “inappropriate” material pulled. Toutiao used IA to gather and rank items by popularity. Further research showed that the Toutiao company had branched out around the world and carried fake news.
An article posted at Russian-language site lenta.ru debunked the myth that China is claiming Siberia and analysed the reasons for Russians’ distrust of the Chinese, which goes back centuries. But, unfortunately, the author did not consider the possibility that the Chinese blog content and the fact that it was picked up by Russian sites may have been a Western disinformation ruse, of the kind described by Ollie Richardson.
The Chinese-language site Sohu, owned by the government, also entered into detail on why Siberia is not Chinese and never was.
The pertinent article includes 4 bullet points showing that 1) China was traditionally an agricultural country and Siberia was simply too cold for its agricultural methods; 2) there is a natural law of conquest whereby conquerors generally stay in the same latitudes as their home country, eg, the US conquering the West, Russians conquering Siberia, China conquering Xinjiang, etc. 3) Siberia was barren in early times with almost no population, and the cost of occupation was beyond the means of the Chinese; 4) Siberian grassland was traditionally the domain of nomadic sheepherders. Further, Confucius taught against expansion, and during the Qing Dynasty when Russia had its eye on Siberia, China’s power was declining.
Regardless of whether these arguments seem plausible, it is very important that China decided to post this article in Chinese to its own people. They would never do this if they intended to take over Siberia, even in the distant future. The propaganda efforts to support the takeover of Tibet and Taiwan have always been consistent and there was never a time when the government wavered. This means that the Chinese government is definitely not interested in Siberia.