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Posts Tagged ‘Russia’

US nukes in Poland would not be a deterrent, but a MASSIVE provocation for Russia — RT Op-ed

Posted by M. C. on May 20, 2020

If NATO were to deploy nuclear weapons on Polish soil as part of any upgraded nuclear-sharing agreement, the threat to Russia would be intolerable – every launch of a Polish fighter-bomber would be seen as a potential existential threat, forcing Russia to increase its alert status along its western frontier, as well as its capability to rapidly neutralize such a threat should an actual war break out. 

This does not mean that Russia would choose a preemptive nuclear attack – far from it. Instead, Russia would rely on the abilities of the front-line formations of its 1st Guards Tank Army and 20th Combined Arms Army to conduct deep penetration offensive operations designed to capture and/or destroy any forward-deployed nuclear weapons before they could be used. Far from deterring a war with Russia, any deployment of nuclear weapons by the US on Polish soil only increases the likelihood of the very conflict NATO purports to seek to avoid.

https://www.rt.com/op-ed/489068-nato-nuclear-poland-russia/

Scott Ritter

The US has promoted the deployment of US nuclear weapons on Polish soil as part of NATO’s ‘nuclear sharing’ arrangement. Such a move would only increase the chances of the very war such a deployment seeks to deter.

For the second time in little more than a year, the US ambassadors to Germany and Poland have commented on matters of NATO security in a manner which undermines the unity of the alliance while threatening European security by seeking to alter the balance of power in a way that is unduly provocative to Russia.

Richard Grenell, the US ambassador to Germany and the acting director of national intelligence, put matters into motion by writing an OpEd for the German newspaper Die Welt, criticizing politicians from within Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling coalition who were openly calling for the US to withdraw its nuclear weapons from German soil.

Adding fuel to the fire, the US ambassador to Poland, Georgette Mosbacher, tweeted out two days later that “If Germany wants to diminish nuclear capability and weaken NATO, perhaps Poland – which pays its fair share, understands the risks, and is on NATO’s eastern flank – could house the capabilities here.”

The action that provoked the Grenell-Mosbacher media blitz were comments made by Rolf Mützenich, the chairman of the Social Democratic Party in Germany’s parliament, calling for Germany to withdraw from its decades-old nuclear-sharing arrangement with NATO, noting that the deal had outlived its utility.

The US currently maintains a force of some 20 B-61 nuclear bombs on German soil, where they are earmarked for delivery by German aircraft during war. Since 1979, Germany has maintained a force of Tornado fighter-bombers dedicated to the nuclear-sharing mission. The decision by Germany to buy 30 US-manufactured F/A-18 Super Hornet aircraft to replace the Tornado in its nuclear delivery mission prompted Mützenich’s outburst.

Grenell and Mosbacher last teamed up to shake the foundations of NATO-based European security in September 2019, when Grenell’s comments made during the course of an interview with a German newspaper sparked controversy among German politicians sensitive to US criticism of German defense spending levels. “It is actually offensive to assume that the US taxpayer must continue to pay to have 50,000-plus Americans in Germany,” Grenell said, “but the Germans get to spend their surplus on domestic programs.”

 

Grenell’s comments were in the context of President Donald Trump’s ongoing insistence that America’s NATO allies pay their fair share of the cost of NATO by increasing their respective defense spending to levels matching two percent of their GDP. Germany’s defense budget in 2019 was approximately €43 billion, representing 1.2 percent of GDP. German lawmakers were quick to criticize Grenell’s comments, noting that while Germany’s defense expenditures were far short of what had been promised, it would not allow itself to be “blackmailed” by the US over matters relating to its national security.

Mosbacher then jumped into the controversy, tweeting“Poland meets its 2% of GDP spending obligation towards NATO. Germany does not. We would welcome American troops in Germany to come to Poland.”

Some left-wing German politicians proposed that Germany take Grenell up on his offer and begin to negotiate the withdrawal of US troops from German soil (there are some 52,000 Americans – 35,000 soldiers and 17,000 civilians – stationed in Germany today).

But these same politicians made a comment that has proved prescient. “If the Americans pull out their troops,” they noted, “then they should take their nuclear weapons with them. Take them home, of course, and not to Poland, which would be a dramatic escalation in relations to Russia.”

This, of course, is precisely what the Grenell-Mosbacher tag team has proposed today.

“NATO’s nuclear sharing,” the current NATO secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, wrote in an OpEd published in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, “is a multilateral arrangement that ensures the benefits, responsibilities and risks of nuclear deterrence are shared among allies.” 

“Politically,” Stoltenberg said, “this is significant. It means that participating allies, like Germany, make joint decisions on nuclear policy and planning, and maintain appropriate equipment.”

For its part, Russia has declared the US-NATO nuclear-sharing arrangement as operating in violation of relevant provisions of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) which prohibits the transfer by a nuclear weapons state of nuclear weapons to a non-nuclear weapons state. While the US challenges this Russian interpretation, the point is that the issue of NATO’s nuclear arsenal is an extremely sensitive one to Russia, made even more so when viewed in the context of the expansion of NATO that brought Poland and other eastern European countries into its fold.

Poland, along with the Czech Republic and Hungary, joined NATO in March of 1999, making a mockery of every assurance that had been given to the former Soviet president, Mikhail Gorbachev, that NATO would never expand eastwards if Germany were allowed to unify.

Russian President Vladimir Putin pointedly referred to these guarantees during his speech to the Munich Security Conference in February of 2007, in the context of NATO’s continued expansion. “[W]e have the right to ask: against whom is this expansion intended? And what happened to the assurances our western partners made after the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact? Where are those declarations today? No one even remembers them.”

Russia remembers. For example, on February 6, 1990, when the former West German foreign minister, Hans-Dietrich Genscher, met with then-British Foreign Minister Douglas Hurd, Genscher told Hurd that “The Russians must have some assurance that if, for example, the Polish Government left the Warsaw Pact one day, they would not join NATO the next.”

These assurances were made by the former US secretary of state, James Baker, to the former Soviet foreign minister, Eduard Shevardnadze, in February 1990, when Baker noted that before Germany could reunify, “There would, of course, have to be iron-clad guarantees that NATO’s jurisdiction or forces would not move eastward.”

These assurances were given, only to be violated during the administration of President Bill Clinton. Today, over 4,500 US troops are stationed on Polish soil, including a reinforced battalion-sized ‘battlegroup’ stationed along the so-called Suwalki Gap separating Poland from the Baltic nations.

“If Russian forces ever established control over the Suwalki region, or even threatened the free movement of NATO personnel and equipment through it, they would effectively cut the Baltic States off from the rest of the Alliance,” a NATO report written in 2018 noted. “Deterring any potential action – or even the threat of action – against Suwalki is therefore essential for NATO’s credibility and Western cohesion.” 

For its part, Russia has repeatedly declared that it has no desire to enter a conflict with NATO. However, NATO’s expansion in Poland and other eastern European countries has increasingly placed Russian security interests at risk. The deployment of Aegis Ashore launchers onto Polish soil in an ostensible anti-missile role, while declared by NATO to be exclusively oriented toward protecting Europe from Iranian missiles, is viewed by Russia as a threat to its own strategic missile capability. In response, Russia has deployed nuclear-capable short-range missiles in its Kaliningrad exclave between Poland and Lithuania.

If NATO were to deploy nuclear weapons on Polish soil as part of any upgraded nuclear-sharing agreement, the threat to Russia would be intolerable – every launch of a Polish fighter-bomber would be seen as a potential existential threat, forcing Russia to increase its alert status along its western frontier, as well as its capability to rapidly neutralize such a threat should an actual war break out.

This does not mean that Russia would choose a preemptive nuclear attack – far from it. Instead, Russia would rely on the abilities of the front-line formations of its 1st Guards Tank Army and 20th Combined Arms Army to conduct deep penetration offensive operations designed to capture and/or destroy any forward-deployed nuclear weapons before they could be used. Far from deterring a war with Russia, any deployment of nuclear weapons by the US on Polish soil only increases the likelihood of the very conflict NATO purports to seek to avoid.

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The Real Reason for the New Cold War with Russia

Posted by M. C. on April 4, 2020

The view at the top was that Russia had better behave now and do what we tell them to do. They lost the Cold War. They are no longer a superpower, and so they just better do what we tell them and shut up.

That attitude, which wasn’t evident immediately, gradually became more evident. It really broke out with the bombing of Yugoslavia in the late ’90s when Boris Yeltsin—who was supposedly a great friend of America—said, “No, this we will not stand for.”

As I’ve said before, I’m not a big fan of President Putin, but given the possibility, Putin would have worked to have a close relationship with the West.

He was told in no uncertain terms that there was no interest in that, and his reaction was as follows.

https://internationalman.com/articles/the-real-reason-for-the-new-cold-war-with-russia/

International Man

Editor’s Note: Vladimir Pozner is Russia’s most influential TV political-talk-show host, journalist and broadcaster.

Pozner has hosted several shows on Russian television, where he has interviewed famous figures such as Hillary Clinton, Alain Delon, President Dimitri Medvedev and Sting.

Pozner has appeared on a wide range of networks, including NBC, CBS, CNN and the BBC. In his long career, he has been a journalist, editor (Soviet Life Magazine and Sputnik Magazine) and TV and radio commentator, covering all major events in Russia.

Pozner has appeared on The Phil Donahue Show and Ted Koppel’s Nightline.

He co-hosted a show with Phil Donahue called Pozner/Donahue. It was the first televised bi-lateral discussion (or “spacebridge”) between audiences in the Soviet Union and the US, carried via satellite.

In 1997, he returned to Moscow as an independent journalist.

Doug Casey’s friend Mark Gould sat down with Pozner in Moscow to help us better understand the relationship between the US and Russia.

 —

International Man: Naturally, Americans have a lot of misconceptions about Russia. The US government and media offer an overly simplistic and unfavorable view of the country.

What does the US government and media get wrong?

Vladimir Pozner: That’s a very difficult question to answer. It’s not only what they get wrong, but what they deliberately say that is not true.

It’s a combination of things.

It’s one thing not to understand another country.

For instance, I was in Japan, and it took me a very long time to begin to understand things because the Japanese do things very differently—not good or bad, just different.

It’s another thing to have a prejudice about another people or another country and to present things in a negative light.

Broadly, the relationship between Russia and the United States has been a difficult one for most of the 20th century, starting with the Bolshevik revolution in Russia. It was very threatening to the United States and to capitalism.

The goal of having a world revolution and having socialism everywhere initiated things like the Red Scare in the United States back in the 1920s.

These things evolved over the years all the way up to the postwar period when you had Joe McCarthy and all of those things.

There was a deep ideological difference between the USSR and the United States, that pretty much, in my opinion, formatted the way people looked at “Russia,” because for most Americans, the USSR and Russia, was exactly the same thing.

Although, the USSR consisted of a lot of other countries that were not Russian at all, like Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, what have you.

So that’s one side of it. The negative attitude over a 70-plus-year period became part of the American outlook.

Then things changed. Suddenly the USSR became a different country. Gorbachev, Glasnost, and Perestroika… we were going to be friends.

Everyone was overjoyed on both sides of the fence. The American side was saying, “Now they’re going to be like us, finally.”

That was the average view.

The view at the top was that Russia had better behave now and do what we tell them to do. They lost the Cold War. They are no longer a superpower, and so they just better do what we tell them and shut up.

That attitude, which wasn’t evident immediately, gradually became more evident. It really broke out with the bombing of Yugoslavia in the late ’90s when Boris Yeltsin—who was supposedly a great friend of America—said, “No, this we will not stand for.”

The problem from that point on was that Russia was no longer willing to follow the American lead. This led to tremendous anger on the part of the American establishment, which was reflected in statements and in the media.

When Vladimir Putin came around, he initially wanted to be a member of the West. He officially proposed that Russia join NATO and that Russia become part of the European Union.

He was officially told, in politer terms, to go do “whatever.“ In fact, he was told that Ukraine and Georgia would become part of NATO well before Russia.

This is official. This isn‘t something that I‘m dreaming up.

Ultimately, in 2007, in Munich, Putin made a famous speech, saying that we no longer agree to be treated like a second-rate nation. We have our global aspirations and interests, and we are going to protect them.

From that point on, Putin became monster number one, and Russia became negative.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Russia and China Assist European Nations – LewRockwell

Posted by M. C. on March 26, 2020

US/NATO bombs Serbia, EU ignores it, Russia and China save it.

https://www.lewrockwell.com/2020/03/yvonne-lorenzo/russia-and-china-assist-european-nations/

By

Lew Rockwell recently in his powerful “War on China?” wrote that “People are understandably upset about the coronavirus epidemic, but if we’re not careful, an even greater danger lies ahead. Sinister forces in American political life are using the crisis to incite war with China and to stir up bad feelings towards the Chinese people. The Chinese people are in fact heroic. They are our friends, not our enemies. But the forces of evil want you to think otherwise.”

I don’t know if Washington would consider or China would be interested in providing medical protective gear and respirators to America, given recent statements by President Trump and Secretary of State Pompeo. But even if the Chinese government is “authoritarian,” certainly, as I and others have written recently, America too has an authoritarian bent as well.

As is documented both on China’s CGTN channel on YouTube, and on RT, both nations are helping, especially in the case of Serbia whose request for EU aid was refused. Today, as I write these words, is the anniversary of the NATO bombing campaign on Serbia. From the article:

“Twenty-one years ago, NATO, without obtaining permission to intervene from the United Nations, launched armed aggression against Serbia, thus crudely violating the UN Declaration, the Helsinki Accords, a number of other international conventions and its own act on the creation of NATO of 1949,” the statement runs. “It has been and will remain a crime against peace and humanity. The act of aggression, committed in alliance with the terrorist Kosovo Liberation Army, left an estimated 3,500-4,000 people dead and 12,500 others injured and caused tremendous economic damage. The use of depleted uranium rounds and other prohibited weapons was a long-term hazard to the people and the environment. NATO turned itself into an aggressive, interventionist alliance with an outspokenly expansionist policy targeting the East first and foremost.”

Therefore, I am not surprised that the EU refused Serbia’s request for assistance and China has been a major help, as these videos from CGTN show. This video posted on March 16th.

Serbia’s state of emergency: ‘China is the only country that can help’

This video also posted:

Serbian landmarks lit up red to salute China

“A number of landmarks in the Serbian capital were lit up in red on March 21 and 22 as a tribute to China. The local government used this gesture to thank the Chinese government for providing medical assistance and to pay tribute to the Chinese medical expert group.”

And this video was posted as well:

“Serbian president kisses Chinese national flag as support team arrives.”

“Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic greeted Chinese medics who arrived in Serbia on Saturday. He kissed the Chinese national flag in a show of gratitude for China’s timely support against the COVID-19 outbreak. Read the rest of this entry »

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Back to Work by March 30: A Coronavirus Imperative | The American Spectator

Posted by M. C. on March 24, 2020

An opinion piece by John P. A. Ioannidis, professor of medicine, epidemiology, and population health at Stanford University, is headlined, “A fiasco in the making? As the coronavirus pandemic takes hold, we are making decisions without reliable data.”

All healthy Americans who want to work must be allowed to return to work no later than March 30. This common-sense approach will allow new production and for the healthy to support those in need.

https://spectator.org/back-to-work-by-march-30-a-coronavirus-imperative/

China and Russia are open for business and working at close to capacity, as America shutters most all business and industry in states such as Pennsylvania, New York, California, New Jersey, and Connecticut. In many cases only select manufacturing companies are allowed to operate, which means most manufacturers will be short of parts and services necessary to produce goods.

Our leaders are creating an economic crisis and a major national security risk with limited data. The cure is far worse than any perceived impact by COVID-19. Our economy is both fragile and interdependent, an economic reality not understood by our leaders as they order mass closings of many states’ business and industry.

Thomas Sowell wrote, “There are no solutions. There are only tradeoffs.” Sowell was informing us that wise and sound judgments are imperative during any crisis.

An opinion piece by John P. A. Ioannidis, professor of medicine, epidemiology, and population health at Stanford University, is headlined, “A fiasco in the making? As the coronavirus pandemic takes hold, we are making decisions without reliable data.”

This season the flu has killed 22,000 Americans versus 388 dead from COVID-19. This the hard data available. There has been no national discussion about the flu but complete panic on the coronavirus.

The restaurant industry, which is the largest employer in America, is closed in most states. Now we will begin to witness the industries that support restaurants and hotels begin to shutter.

Marriott Corporate in Bethesda, Maryland, has furloughed 66 percent of its employees and cut the pay of the remaining employees by 20 percent. Such actions by major employers will have a devastating impact on the U.S. economy.

The Big Three automakers and their suppliers are closed, which means hundreds of thousands of workers are laid off and at home. This will quickly lead to more layoffs and many small business failures. There is no amount of government money that can make up for an economy closed and workers staying home.

We all know that food and supplies are critical to families. Most individuals assume these products and services will be available. But as we have witnessed, when demand exceeds supply and businesses are shuttered, supply runs out.

Supply of goods and services is quickly becoming a more important national issue than the COVID-19 panic. The virus will not adversely impact most Americans, but they will sustain substantial financial losses and at some point supplies will run out.

Schools can shut down, and sick people should stay home, along with older or at-risk individuals, until the panic subsides, but the healthy must be allowed to work.

Every family, state, city, and business can make the best decisions during this crisis, but we cannot have simplistic top-down mandates.

We are quickly moving toward a supply problem. Just-in-time inventory means we make products as needed. If the producers are closed, we run out of goods quickly.

Wiring $3,000 to most Americans may seem like a solution, but unless we have a supply of the goods families need, the money will not help. The best way for families to have income is for America to be open for business and not risk shortages and civil unrest. It is noteworthy that liquor, ammo, and guns sales are robust.

The federal government has no money and is $23 trillion in debt. Now Congress contemplates a $2 trillion economic bailout, which is pushing the limits of how much Congress can borrow and will eventually create a major financial meltdown. The solution is a robust economy producing goods, services, and financial stability.

All healthy Americans who want to work must be allowed to return to work no later than March 30. This common-sense approach will allow new production and for the healthy to support those in need.

I urge our President Trump to speak to Americans from a Midwest manufacturing plant, away from the Swamp, and appeal to all governors and Americans to overcome their fears and take reasonable precautions, but allow America to open for business by March 30.

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Trump is right about who’s to blame for bad relations with Russia

Posted by M. C. on March 23, 2020

The Chinese and Russians (and most of the rest of the world) simply cannot process the notion that the United States is run by clueless amateurs who stumble from one half-baked initiative to another, with no overall plan (except, of course, to persuade the Persians to become America’s friends rather than enemies).

People who were with Putin that night report his anger and disbelief at the unfolding ‘Orange’ revolution in Ukraine. ‘They lied to me,’ Putin said bitterly of the United States. ‘I’ll never trust them again.’ The Russians still can’t fathom why the West threw over a potential strategic alliance for Ukraine. They underestimate the stupidity of the West.”

http://www.atimes.com/article/trump-is-right-about-whos-to-blame-for-bad-relations-with-russia/

By DAVID P. GOLDMAN

July 17, 2018

US President Donald Trump offended the entire political spectrum with a tweet this morning blaming Washington for poor relations with Russia. “Our relationship with Russia has NEVER been worse thanks to many years of US foolishness and stupidity,” the president said, and he is entirely correct…

Full disclosure: I was a card-carrying member of the neoconservative cabal that planned to bring Western-style democracy and free markets to Russia after the fall of Communism. As chief economist for the supply-side consulting firm Polyconomics, I got an appointment as an adviser to Boris Yeltsin’s finance ministry and made several trips to Moscow.

Of course, the finance ministry really was a family office for Yeltsin’s oligarch friends, who were too busy stealing Russia’s economy to listen to advice. The experience cured me of the neoconservative delusion that democracy and free markets are the natural order of things.

Unfortunately, the delusion that the United States would remake Russia in its own image persisted through the Bush and Obama administrations. I have no reason to doubt the allegations that a dozen Russian intelligence officers meddled in the US elections of 2016, but this was equivalent of a fraternity prank compared to America’s longstanding efforts to intervene in Russian politics…

The Maidan coup was the second American attempt to install a Ukrainian government hostile to Moscow; the first occurred in 2004, when Condoleezza Rice was Secretary of State rather than Hillary Clinton. As I wrote in Asia Times a decade ago, “On the night of November 22, 2004, then-Russian president – now premier – Vladimir Putin watched the television news in his dacha near Moscow. People who were with Putin that night report his anger and disbelief at the unfolding ‘Orange’ revolution in Ukraine. ‘They lied to me,’ Putin said bitterly of the United States. ‘I’ll never trust them again.’ The Russians still can’t fathom why the West threw over a potential strategic alliance for Ukraine. They underestimate the stupidity of the West.”

American efforts to promote a democratic opposition to Putin have failed miserably, and as John Lloyd wrote recently at Reuters, the Russian president remains genuinely popular. This remains a source of perpetual frustration for the neoconservatives, who cannot fathom why dictatorships still exist…

Thanks to President Trump, Russia (as well as China) now understands that America’s intervention in Iraq was not a deliberate effort to destabilize the region, and that its support for Sunni jihadists in Syria was not a deliberate effort to create an Islamist monster with which to destabilize Russia. Under the headline “They’ll never believe we’re that stupid,” I wrote in May 2015:

“Beijing and Moscow made up their minds some time ago that the United States had deliberately unleashed chaos on the Levant as part of a malevolent plan of some kind. The Chinese and Russians (and most of the rest of the world) simply cannot process the notion that the United States is run by clueless amateurs who stumble from one half-baked initiative to another, with no overall plan (except, of course, to persuade the Persians to become America’s friends rather than enemies).

Incompetence has consequences. One of the consequences will be that our competitors and adversaries will take us for knaves instead of fools, or even worse, will recognize that we are fools after all.”

Be seeing you

Dems: please list all of Trump's ties to Russia here ...

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Russia Strikes Back Where It Hurts: American Oil | The American Conservative

Posted by M. C. on March 23, 2020

https://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/russia-strikes-back-where-it-hurts-american-oil/

Russia Strikes Back Where It Hurts: American Oil

Amid mounting sanctions aimed at crippling Moscow’s economy, Putin seems resolved to do the same to Trump’s re-election.

Russia and Saudi Arabia are engaged in an oil price war that has sent shockwaves around the world, causing the price of oil to tumble and threatening the financial stability, and even viability, of major international oil companies.

On the surface, this conflict appears to be a fight between two of the world’s largest producers of oil over market share. This may, in fact, be the motive driving Saudi Arabia, which reacted to Russia’s refusal to reduce its level of oil production by slashing the price it charged per barrel of oil and threatening to increase its oil production, thereby flooding the global market with cheap oil in an effort to attract customers away from competitors.

Russia’s motives appear to be far different—its target isn’t Saudi Arabia, but rather American shale oil. After absorbing American sanctions that targeted the Russian energy sector, and working with global partners (including Saudi Arabia) to keep oil prices stable by reducing oil production even as the United States increased the amount of shale oil it sold on the world market, Russia had had enough. The advent of the Coronavirus global pandemic had significantly reduced the demand for oil around the world, stressing the American shale producers. Russia had been preparing for the eventuality of oil-based economic warfare with the United States. With U.S. shale producers knocked back on their heels, Russia viewed the time as being ripe to strike back. Russia’s goal is simple: to make American shale oil producers “share the pain”.

The United States has been slapping sanctions on Russia for more than six years, ever since Russia took control (and later annexed) the Crimean Peninsula and threw its weight behind Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine. The first sanctions were issued on March 6, 2014, through Executive Order 13660, targeting “persons who have asserted governmental authority in the Crimean region without the authorization of the Government of Ukraine that undermine democratic processes and institutions in Ukraine; threaten its peace, security, stability, sovereignty, and territorial integrity; and contribute to the misappropriation of its assets.”

The most recent round of sanctions was announced by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on February 18, 2020, by sanctioning Rosneft Trading S.A., a Swiss-incorporated, Russian-owned oil brokerage firm, for operating in Venezuela’s oil sector. The U.S. also recently targeted the Russian Nord Stream 2 and Turk Stream gas pipeline projects.

Russia had been signaling its displeasure over U.S. sanctions from the very beginning. In July 2014, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that U.S. sanctions were “driving into a corner” relations between the two countries, threatening the “the long-term national interests of the U.S. government and people.” Russia opted to ride out U.S. sanctions, in hopes that there might be a change of administrations following the 2016 U.S. Presidential elections. Russian President Vladimir Putin made it clear that he hoped the U.S. might elect someone whose policies would be more friendly toward Russia, and that once the field of candidates narrowed down to a choice between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, Putin favored Trump.

“Yes, I did,” Putin remarked after the election, during a joint press conference with President Trump following a summit in Helsinki in July 2018. “Yes, I did. Because he talked about bringing the U.S.-Russia relationship back to normal.”

Putin’s comments only reinforced the opinions of those who embraced allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election as fact and concluded that Putin had some sort of hold over Trump. Trump’s continuous praise of Putin’s leadership style only reinforced these concerns.

Even before he was inaugurated, Trump singled out Putin’s refusal to respond in kind to President Obama’s levying of sanctions based upon the assessment of the U.S. intelligence community that Russia had interfered in the election. “Great move on delay (by V. Putin) – I always knew he was very smart!” Trump Tweeted. Trump viewed the Obama sanctions as an effort to sabotage any chance of a Trump administration repairing relations with Russia, and interpreted Putin’s refusal to engage, despite being pressured to do so by the Russian Parliament and Foreign Ministry, as a recognition of the same.

This sense of providing political space in the face of domestic pressure worked both ways. In January 2018, Putin tried to shield his relationship with President Trump by calling the release of a list containing some 200 names of persons close to the Russian government by the U.S. Treasury Department as a hostile and “stupid” move.

“Ordinary Russian citizens, employees and entire industries are behind each of those people and companies,” Putin remarked. “So all 146 million people have essentially been put on this list. What is the point of this? I don’t understand.”

From the Russian perspective, the list highlighted the reality that the U.S. viewed the entire Russian government as an enemy and is a byproduct of the “political paranoia” on the part of U.S. lawmakers. The consequences of this, senior Russian officials warned, “will be toxic and undermine prospects for cooperation for years ahead.”

While President Trump entered office fully intending to “get along with Russia,”  including the possibility of relaxing the Obama-era sanctions, the reality of U.S.-Russian relations, especially as viewed from Congress, has been the strengthening of the Obama sanctions regime. These sanctions, strengthened over time by new measures signed off by Trump, have had a negative impact on the Russian economy, slowing growth and driving away foreign investment.

While Putin continued to show constraint in the face of these mounting sanctions, the recent targeting of Russia’s energy sector represented a bridge too far. When Saudi pressure to cut oil production rates coincided with a global reduction in the demand for oil brought on by the Coronavirus crisis, Russia struck.

The timing of the Russian action is curious, especially given the amount of speculation that there was some sort of personal relationship between Trump and Putin that the Russian leader sought to preserve and carry over into a potential second term. But Putin had, for some time now, been signaling that his patience with Trump had run its course. When speaking to the press in June 2019 about the state of U.S.-Russian relations, Putin noted that “They (our relations) are going downhill, they are getting worse and worse,” adding that “The current [i.e., Trump] administration has approved, in my opinion, several dozen decisions on sanctions against Russia in recent years.”

By launching an oil price war on the eve of the American Presidential campaign season, Putin has sent as strong a signal as possible that he no longer views Trump as an asset, if in fact he ever did. Putin had hoped Trump could usher in positive change in the trajectory of relations between the two nations; this clearly had not happened. Instead, in the words of close Putin ally Igor Sechin, the chief executive of Russian oil giant Rosneft, the U.S. was using its considerable energy resources as a political weapon, ushering in an era of “power colonialism” that sought to expand U.S. oil production and market share at the expense of other nations.

From Russia’s perspective, the growth in U.S. oil production—which doubled in output from 2011 until 2019—and the emergence of the U.S. as a net exporter of oil, was directly linked to the suppression of oil export capability in nations such as Venezuela and Iran through the imposition of sanctions. While this could be tolerated when the target was a third party, once the U.S. set its sanctioning practices on Russian energy, the die was cast.

If the goal of the Russian-driven price war is to make U.S. shale companies “share the pain,” they have already succeeded. A similar price war, initiated by Saudi Arabia in 2014 for the express purpose of suppressing U.S. shale oil production, failed, but only because investors were willing to prop up the stricken shale producers with massive loans and infusion of capital. For shale oil producers, who use an expensive methodology of extraction known as “fracking,” to be economically viable, the breakeven price of oil per barrel needs to be between $40 and $60 dollars. This was the price range the Saudi’s were hoping to sustain when they proposed the cuts in oil production that Russia rejected.

The U.S. shale oil producers, saddled by massive debt and high operational expenses, will suffer greatly in any sustained oil price war. Already, with the price of oil down to below $35 per barrel, there is talk of bankruptcy and massive job layoffs—none of which bode well for Trump in the coming election.

It’s clear that Russia has no intention of backing off anytime soon.  According to the Russian Finance Ministry, said on Russia could weather oil prices of $25-30 per barrel for between six and ten years. One thing is for certain—U.S. shale oil companies cannot.

In a sign that the Trump administration might be waking up to the reality of the predicament it faces, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin quietly met with Russia’s Ambassador to the U.S., Anatoly Antonov. According to a read out from the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the two discussed economic sanctions, the Venezuelan economy, and the potential for “trade and investment.” Mnuchin, the Russians noted, emphasized the “importance of orderly energy markets.”

Russia is unlikely to fold anytime soon. As Admiral Josh Painter, a character in Tom Clancy’s “The Hunt for Red October,” famously said, “Russians don’t take a dump without a plan.”

Russia didn’t enter its current course of action on a whim. Its goals are clearly stated—to defeat U.S. shale oil—and the costs of this effort, both economically and politically (up to and including having Trump lose the 2020 Presidential election) have all been calculated and considered in advance. The Russian Bear can only be toyed with for so long without generating a response. We now know what that response is; when the Empire strikes back, it hits hard.

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US now openly admits its goal in Syria is to make it ‘difficult’ for Moscow and Damascus to defeat terrorists — RT Op-ed

Posted by M. C. on March 12, 2020

Russia and the Syrian government “are out to get a military victory in all of Syria,” Ambassador James Jeffrey told reporters on a conference call out of Brussels on Tuesday.

Our goal is to make it very difficult for them to do that by a variety of diplomatic, military, and other actions.

To illustrate these methods, Jeffrey cited the US threat to respond “in a very savage military way” against any chemical attacks, which he described as “a favorite tactic of the Syrian regime in making advances.” This is factually untrue, since the alleged attacks always happen after Syrian Army victories, as a pretext for US intervention. 

Remind me again…who did 9/11?

https://www.rt.com/op-ed/482787-syria-us-troops-terrorists/

Nebojsa Malic

The State Department’s special envoy for Syria has just admitted that the US aims to defend jihadist militants in Idlib against ‘Russian aggression,’ proving once again that the swamp in Foggy Bottom is alive and well.

Russia and the Syrian government “are out to get a military victory in all of Syria,” Ambassador James Jeffrey told reporters on a conference call out of Brussels on Tuesday.

Our goal is to make it very difficult for them to do that by a variety of diplomatic, military, and other actions.

To illustrate these methods, Jeffrey cited the US threat to respond “in a very savage military way” against any chemical attacks, which he described as “a favorite tactic of the Syrian regime in making advances.” This is factually untrue, since the alleged attacks always happen after Syrian Army victories, as a pretext for US intervention.

Jeffrey also noted that there are US and coalition troops in parts of Syria – officially there to fight Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS), but in actuality “guarding” the oil fields. He tellingly described their presence as “a complication” for the Syrian government.

 

Jeffrey and US ambassador to Turkey David Satterfield were in Brussels after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit, to discuss ways the US and NATO can help Ankara protect its pet militants in their last remaining redoubt – Syria’s Idlib province.

But while Satterfield described Idlib as containing “three million-plus innocent civilians, the majority of whom are women and children,” and accused “Russian aggression” of seeking to displace them, listen to how Jeffrey chose to describe the situation, when asked by a CNN reporter if NATO was considering sending in ground troops:

I think you can forget ground troops. Turkey has demonstrated ably that it and its opposition forces are more than capable of holding ground on their own.

This is either appallingly ignorant or downright delusional, as the Syrian army had successfully rolled up the Turkish-backed militants and the ceasefire Ankara agreed to in Moscow last week confirmed that.

The real revelation here is that the militants are described as Turkey’s “opposition.” Contrast this with the words of Colonel Myles Caggins, spokesman for the anti-ISIS coalition’s military arm, just three weeks ago:

“Idlib province seems to be a magnet for terrorist groups, especially because it is an ungoverned space in many ways,” Caggins told Sky News. “There are [a] variety of groups there — all of them are a nuisance, a menace and a threat to… hundreds of thousands of civilians who are just trying to make it through the winter.”

Bear in mind that Jeffrey doubles as Washington’s special envoy to the coalition against IS, that infamous Schroedinger entity that either doesn’t exist any more – when US President Donald Trump seeks to claim victory against the self-proclaimed caliphate – or is about to make a resurgence big time and requires US military presence in perpetuity to prevent that, as the State Department and the Pentagon prefer to see it.

Needless to say, this entrenched insistence on legacy policies doesn’t do much for Trump’s promise to pull out US troops from “endless wars” in the Middle East.

Neither Jeffrey nor Satterfield, nor any of the reporters asking them questions, mentioned even once the existence of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham – the latest incarnation of the notorious Al-Nusra, an Al-Qaeda affiliate whose fighters dominate the ranks of the militants in Idlib. Listening to them, one might think it doesn’t exist!

Jeffrey and Satterfield openly admit that an outright Syrian victory over these terrorists would deny the “international community” – as they style the US and its allies – the leverage to insist on regime change in Damascus. Which is incredibly rich in irony given that the sole legal pretext on which the US has any troops in Syria, in open violation of international law, is a congressional authorization to use force against… Al-Qaeda.

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How Turkey Lost a Battle of Wills, and Force, to Russia  | The American Conservative

Posted by M. C. on March 11, 2020

Putin seems to be able to keep things more under control in his back yard when there is no one putting obstacles in his path.

Some think he is today’s leading statesman.

https://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/how-turkey-lost-a-battle-of-wills-and-force-to-russia/

Erdogan talked tough, but in the end had to surrender gains to Moscow and Damascus.

President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan (L) and President of Russia Vladimir Putin (R) shake hands at the end of a joint news conference following an inter-delegation meeting at Kremlin Palace in Moscow, Russia on March 5, 2020. (Photo by Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

When the history of the Syrian conflict is written, the fighting that took place between the Syrian Army and its allies on the one side, and the Turkish military and Turkish-backed Syrian rebels on the other, from early February through early March 2020 in and around the Syrian town of Saraqib, will go down as one of the decisive encounters of that war.

Representing more than a clash of arms between the Syrian and Turkish militaries, the Battle for Saraqib was a test of political will between Turkish President Recep Erdogan and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin. History will show Turkey lost on both accounts.

The Battle for Saraqib had its roots in fighting that began back in December 2019, in the form of an offensive carried out by the Syrian Army, supported by the Russian Air Force, against pro-Turkish opposition forces in and around Idlib province. The Syrian-Russian offensive represented the collapse of the so-called Sochi Agreement of September 17, 2018, which established what were known as “de-escalation zones” separating the Syrian Army from anti-government rebel forces in Idlib. As part of the Sochi Agreement, Turkey set up a dozen “observation posts”—in reality, fortified compounds housing several hundred troops and their equipment—throughout the Idlib de-escalation zone.

In exchange for legitimizing the existence of fortified Turkish observation posts, the Sochi Agreement mandated specific actions on Turkey’s part, including overseeing the establishment of a “demilitarized zone” within the de-escalation zone where tanks, artillery and multiple rocket launchers were to be excluded, and from which all “radical terrorist groups” would be removed by October 15, 2018. Moreover, Turkey was responsible for restoring transit traffic on two strategic highways linking the city of Aleppo with Latakia (the M4 highway) and Damascus (the M5 highway.)

While Turkey established its fortified observation posts, it failed to live up to any of its commitments under the Sochi Agreement—no demilitarized zones were created, no heavy equipment evacuated, and no “radical terrorist groups” removed from the de-escalation zone. This last point was of particular note, since the most prominent of these “radical terrorist groups”—Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, or HTS—was also the largest and most effective of the anti-Assad groups operating in Idlib province.

The objective of the December 2019 Syrian military offensive was to achieve through force of arms what Turkey had failed to do—restore transit traffic capability for both the M4 and M5 highways and, in doing so, evict HTS and other anti-Assad rebel groups from the de-escalation zones. By early February 2020 the Syrian Army had, through its advances, surrounded a number of Turkish observation posts, putting Turkey in the politically difficult situation of sitting and watching while the anti-Assad forces it had helped create, train and equip were being defeated on the field of battle.

Turkey sought to blunt the Syrian advance on Feb. 3, by reinforcing its observation post located near the strategic town of Saraqib, which overlooked the juncture of the M4 and M5 highways. Whomever controlled Saraqib likewise controlled both highways. When a large Turkish military convoy heading toward Saraqib was brought under Syrian artillery fire, killing five Turkish soldiers and three Turkish civilian contractors, Turkey responded by shelling Syrian Army positions, killing scores of Syrian soldiers. This was the opening round of what would become the Battle for Saraqib and represented the first large-scale combat between the Syrian and Turkish militaries since the Syrian crisis began in 2011.

The Syrian attack on the Turkish Army in Idlib was a red line for President Erdogan, who in a statement made before Turkish parliamentarians on Feb. 5, warned that “if the Syrian regime will not retreat from Turkish observation posts in Idlib in February, Turkey itself will be obliged to make this happen.” Erdogan backed up his rhetoric by deploying tens of thousands of Turkish troops, backed up by armor and artillery, to its border with Syria, while continuing to dispatch reinforcements to its beleaguered observation posts inside Idlib.

On Feb. 6, the Syrian Army captured Saraqib. Four days later, on Feb. 10, Turkish-backed rebels, backed by Turkish artillery, launched a counterattack against Syrian Army positions around Saraqib, which was beaten back by heavy Syrian artillery fire. In the process, the Turkish observation near the village of Taftanaz was hit by Syrian shells, killing five Turkish soldiers and wounding five others. The Turks responded by striking Syrian Army positions throughout Idlib province with sustained artillery and rocket fire.

Speaking to Turkish parliamentarians after the attack on Taftanaz, Erdogan declared that “we will strike regime forces everywhere from now on regardless of the Sochi deal if any tiny bit of harm comes to our soldiers at observation posts or elsewhere,” adding that“We are determined to push back (regime forces) behind the borders of the Sochi deal by the end of February.”

The capture of Saraqib and the vital M4-M5 highway juncture allowed the Syrian Army to seize control of the entire M5 highway for the first time since 2012. The Syrian Army then proceeded to push west, toward the city of Idlib, closing to within eight miles of the provincial capital. In order to blunt the Syrian advances, Turkey deployed hundreds of Special Forces who integrated into the ranks of the anti-regime units, helping coordinate their attacks with Turkish artillery and rocket supporting fires. Starting Feb. 16, the rebel fighters, supported by Turkish Special Forces, launched a relentless attack against Syrian Army positions in and around the village of Nayrab, located mid-way between Idlib and Saraqib. Nayrab eventually fell on the night of Feb. 24. The cost, however, was high—hundreds of rebel fighters were killed, along with two Turkish soldiers.

The Turks and their rebel allies then turned their sights on Saraqib itself, pushing out of Nayrab and securing a foothold in Saraqib’s eastern suburbs and cutting the M5 highway in several locations. The Syrian Army had shifted most of its offensive power to the southwest, where they were advancing toward the M4 highway. The Syrians called in fighters from Hezbollah and pro-Iranian militias to help stabilize the Saraqib front. The Turkish military, in an effort to break up Russian and Syrian aerial attacks, began employing man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS), firing more than 15. While none of these hit their targets, they did cause the Russians and Syrian to abort their attacks and leave the area.

In retaliation for the Turkish employment of MANPADS, Russia and Syrian aircraft struck a Turkish mechanized battalion operating in southern Idlib on Feb. 27, killing more than 33 Turkish soldiers, and wounding some 60 more. This attack sent shock waves through Turkey, with Erdogan threatening to punish all parties responsible, including the Russians (who denied their involvement in the attack, despite evidence to the contrary.)

On March 1 President Erdogan ordered Turkish forces to carry out a general offensive in Idlib, named Operation Spring Shield, intended to drive Syria and its allies back to the positions they held at the time of the Sochi Agreement in September 2018. The combined Turkish-rebel offensive immediately stalled in the face of steadfast Syrian resistance, backed by Russian air strikes. The Syrian Army recaptured Saraqib and took control of the entire M5 highway, reversing the earlier Turkish gains.

By March 4, the situation facing the Turkish-backed rebel fighters was so dire that they gave up all pretense of independent operations, and instead intermixed themselves within the Turkish outposts to avoid being targeted by the Russian Air Force. Erdogan, recognizing that the game was up, flew to Moscow on March 5 for an emergency summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, where they negotiated the terms of a new ceasefire agreement.

The Moscow Summit was a bitter pill for Erdogan to swallow. Although formulated as an “additional protocol” to the existing September 2018 Sochi Agreement, the deal struck between Erdogan and Putin in Moscow was very much a document of surrender for the Turks. His fiery rhetoric and threats to push the Syrian Army and its allies out of Idlib the contrary, Erdogan was compelled to accept a new “de-escalation” zone defined by the frontlines as they stood on March 6.

Moreover, the Turks were now compelled to share enforcement and monitoring of a 12-kilometer “demilitarized zone” straddling the M4 highway with Russian military patrols. Lastly, adding insult to injury, the Turks were denied a no-fly zone over Idlib, ceding control of the air to the Russian Air Force, while still being required to disarm and remove all persons belonging to terrorist organizations, which in this case meant HTS, the most numerous and effective of the anti-Assad rebel groups. In short, Russia secured for Syria all its hard-won victories, while ceding nothing to Turkey save a face-saving ceasefire.

For Syria and Russia, the Battle of Saraqib was about restoring Syrian sovereignty over the totality of Syrian territory; for Turkey, it was about securing lasting Turkish control and influence over the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib. Turkey lost on both accounts. While Turkey has been allowed to maintain its chain of fortified “observation posts”, the vast majority of these are surrounded by the Syrian Army, and of no military value.

Moreover, the dismal performance of the Turkish Army and its anti-Assad allies against the Syrian Army and its allies, including the Russian Air Force, in the Idlib campaign as a whole, and the Battle of Saraqib in particular, have put to rest any thoughts Erdogan might have retained about imposing Turkey’s will on either Damascus or Moscow; Turkey now knows that there will not be a Turkish military solution to the problem of Idlib.

 

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Russia Just Told the World, “No.”

Posted by M. C. on March 9, 2020

All of this adds up to Russia holding the whip hand over the global market for oil. 

The ability to say, “No.”

And they will have it for years to come as U.S. production implodes.  Because they can and do produce the marginal barrel of oil.  

https://tomluongo.me/2020/03/06/russia-just-told-the-world-no/

There is real power in the word “No.”

In fact, I’d argue that it is the single most powerful word in any language.

In the midst of the worst market meltdown in a dozen years which has at its source problems within global dollar-funding markets, Russia found itself in the position to exercise the Power of No.

Multiple overlapping crises are happening worldwide right now and they all interlock into a fabric of chaos.

Between political instability in Europe, presidential primary shenanigans in the U.S., coronavirus creating mass hysteria and Turkey’s military adventurism in Syria, the eastern Mediterranean and Libya, markets are finally calling the bluff of central bankers who have been propping up asset prices for years.

But, at its core, the current crisis stems from the simple truth that those prices around the world are vastly overvalued.

Western government and central bank policies have used the power of the dollar to push the world to this state.

And that state is, at best, meta-stable.

But when this number of shits get this freaking real, well… meeting the fan was inevitable.

And all it took to push a correction into a full-scale panic was the Russians saying, “No.”

The reality has been evident in the commodity markets for months.  Copper and other industrial metals have all been in slumps while equity markets zoomed higher.

But it was oil that was the most confounding of all.

Most of 2019 we saw oil prices behaving oddly as events occurred with regularity to push prices higher but ultimately see them fall.

Since peaking after the killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani oil prices have been a one-way trade. Down.

Our inept leaders are trying to blame coronavirus as the proximate cause for all of the market’s jitters.

But that masks the truth. The problems have been there for months, pushed to the back burner by incessant Fed intervention in the dollar-funding markets.

The 2008 financial crisis was never dealt with, just papered over.

The repo crisis of last September never ended, it’s still there.

And it reappeared with ferocity this week as people sold dollars and bought U.S. treasuries pushing U.S. yields on the long end of the curve to absurd levels.

Credit markets are melting down. Stock markets are the tail, credit markets are the dog. And this dog was run over by a bus.

The Fed intervenes to keep short term interest rates from rising to preserve the fiction it is still in control.

The market wants higher rates for short-term access to dollars.

The Fed tried to help by cutting rates by 0.5% but all that did was tell people the Fed was as scared as they were.  The selling resumed and gold bounced back to it’s recent high near $1690, only to be swatted down on the New York open this morning.

That didn’t work either.

OOPS!

And into this mess OPEC tried to save itself by asking for a historic production cut.

OPEC needs this cut to remain relevant. The cartel is dying. It’s been dying for years, kept on life support by Russia’s willingness to trade favors to achieve other geostrategic goals.

I’ve said before that OPEC production cuts are not bullish for oil just like rate cuts are not inflationary during crisis periods.

But finally Russia said No. And they didn’t equivocate. They told everyone they are prepared for lower oil prices.

The panic was palpable in the reporting on the meeting.

“Regarding cuts in production, given today’s decision, from April 1, no one — neither OPEC countries nor OPEC+ countries — are obliged to lower production,” he told reporters after the meeting.

OPEC’s Secretary General Mohammed Barkindo said the meeting had been adjourned, although consultations would continue.

“At the end of the day, it was the general, painful decision of the joint conference to adjourn the meeting,” he told reporters.

Earlier, Oanda analyst Edward Moya had suggested that a failure to reach an agreement could spell the end of OPEC+.

“No-deal OPEC+ means the three-year experiment is over. OPEC+ is dead. The Saudis are all-in on stabling oil prices and they may need to do something extraordinary,” he said.

There comes a point where negotiating with your adversaries ends, where someone finally says, “Enough.” Russia has been attacked mercilessly by the West for the crime of being Russia.

And I’ve documented nearly every twist and turn of how they have skillfully buttressed their position waiting for the right moment to get maximum return to reverse the tables on their tormentors.

And, to me, this was that perfect moment for them to finally say “No,” to get maximum effect.

When dealing with a more-powerful enemy you have to target where they are most vulnerable to inflict the most damage.

For the West that place is in the financial markets.

Remember, the first basic fact of economics.  Prices are set at the margin. The only price that matters is the last one recorded.

That price sets the cost for the next unit of that good, in this case a barrel of oil, up for sale.

In a world of cartelized markets the world over, where prices are set by external actors, it is easy to forget that in the real economy (regardless of your political persuasion) the world is an auction and everything is up for bid.

High bid wins.

So, the most important geostrategic question is, “Who produces the marginal barrel of oil?”

For more than three years now, President Trump has supported his policy of Energy Dominance in a Quixotic quest for the U.S. to become that supplier.  Trillions of dollars have been spent on building up domestic production to their current, unsustainable levels.

This policy pre-dates Trump, certainly, but he has been its most ardent pursuer of it, sanctioning and embargoing everyone he can to keep them off the bid.

What he could never do, however, was push Russia off that bid.

The reason U.S. production rates are unsustainable is because their costs are higher per barrel than the marginal price especially when all other prices are deflating.  Simple, straightforward economics.

If they were, on balance, profitable then the industry as a whole would not have burned through a few hundred billion in free cash flow over the past decade.

That’s where the Russians’ power comes from.  Russia is one of the lowest cost producers in the world.  Even after paying their taxes to the government their costs are far lower, close to $20 per barrel break-even point, than anyone else in the world when one factors in external costs.

When you don’t owe anyone anything you are free to tell them, “No.”

Sure, the Saudis produce at similar cash costs to the Russians but once you factor in its budgetary needs, the numbers aren’t even close as they need something closer to $85 per barrel.

They can’t tell their people, “No,” you have to do without. Because the populace will revolt.

Russia can ride out, if not thrive, in this low price regime because :

  1. the ruble floats to absorb price shocks in dollars.
  2. A majority of their oil is now sold in non-dollar currencies – rubles, yuan, euros, etc. – to lessen their exposure to capital outflows
  3. the major oil firms have little dollar-denominated debt
  4. low extraction costs.
  5. its primary governmental budget ebbs and flows with oil prices.

All of this adds up to Russia holding the whip hand over the global market for oil.

The ability to say, “No.”

And they will have it for years to come as U.S. production implodes.  Because they can and do produce the marginal barrel of oil.

That is why oil prices plunged as much as 10% into today’s close on the news they would not cut production.

There is a cascade lurking beneath this market. There is a lot of bank and pension fund exposure in the U.S. to what is now soon-to-be non-performing fracking debt.

Liquidations will begin in earnest later this year.

But the market is handicapping this now.

I cannot overstate how important and far-reaching this move by Russia is.  If they don’t make a deal here they can break OPEC. If they do make a deal it will come with strings that ensure pressure is lifted in other areas of stress for them.

The knock-on effects of oil plunging from $70 per barrel to $45 over two months will be felt for months, if not years.

And it is no shock to me that Russia held their water here. If they didn’t, I would have been surprised.

This was Putin’s opportunity to finally strike back at Russia’s tormentors and inflict real pain for their unscrupulous behavior in places like Iran, Iraq, Syria, Ukraine, Yemen, Venezuela and Afghanistan.

He is now in a position to extract maximum concessions from the U.S. and the OPEC nations who are supporting U.S. belligerence against Russia’s allies in China, Iran and Syria.

We saw the beginnings of this in his dealings with Turkish President Erdogan in Moscow, extracting a ceasefire agreement that was nothing short of a Turkish surrender.

Erdogan asked to be saved from his own stupidity and Russia said, “No.”

This condition of producing the marginal barrel of oil in a deflationary world places Russia in the driver’s seat to drive U.S. foreign policy behavior in an election year.

Talk about meddling in our elections!

The Achilles’ heel of the U.S. empire is the debt.  The dollar has been its greatest weapon and it is still king.  And it is a weapon with a great deal of power but wielded only against the U.S.’s allies, not Russia.

Markets will adjust and calm down in a few days. The panic will subside. But it will come back soon enough in a more virulent form. Today is a replay of 2007-08 but this time Russia is far better prepared to fight back.

And when that happens, I suspect it won’t be the Saudis or the Turks that come running to Russia to save them, but the U.S. and Europe.

At which point, I have to wonder if Putin will channel his inner Rorschach.


 

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Why Both Republicans and Democrats Want Russia to Become the Enemy of Choice — Strategic Culture

Posted by M. C. on February 7, 2020

Schiff also unleashed one of the most time honored but completely lame excuses for going to war, claiming that military assistance to Ukraine that had been delayed by Trump was essential for U.S. national security. He said “As one witness put it during our impeachment inquiry, the United States aids Ukraine and her people so that we can fight Russia over there, and we don’t have to fight Russia here.”

Schiff, a lawyer who has never had to put his life on the line for anything and whose son sports a MOSSAD t-shirt, is one of those sunshine soldiers who finds it quite acceptable if someone else does the dying.

All this because Russia offered a MUCH better financial deal to bankrupt Ukraine than the EU.

https://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2020/02/06/why-both-republicans-and-democrats-want-russia-to-become-the-enemy-of-choice/

 Philip Giraldi

One of the more interesting aspects of the nauseating impeachment trial in the Senate was the repeated vilification of Russia and its President Vladimir Putin. To hate Russia has become dogma on both sides of the political aisle, in part because no politician has really wanted to confront the lesson of the 2016 election, which was that most Americans think that the federal government is basically incompetent and staffed by career politicians like Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell who should return back home and get real jobs. Worse still, it is useless, and much like the one trick pony the only thing it can do is steal money from the taxpayers and waste it on various types of self-gratification that only politicians can appreciate. That means that the United States is engaged is fighting multiple wars against make-believe enemies while the country’s infrastructure rots and a host of officially certified grievance groups control the public space. It sure doesn’t look like Kansas anymore.

The fact that opinion polls in Europe suggest that many Europeans would rather have Vladimir Putin than their own hopelessly corrupt leaders is suggestive. One can buy a whole range of favorable t-shirts featuring Vladimir Putin on Ebay, also suggesting that most Americans find the official Russophobia narrative both mysterious and faintly amusing. They may not really be into the expressed desire of the huddled masses in D.C. to go to war to bring true U.S. style democracy to the un-enlightened.

One also must wonder if the Democrats are reading the tea leaves correctly. If they think that a slogan like “Honest Joe Biden will keep us safe from Moscow” will be a winner in 2020 they might again be missing the bigger picture. Since the focus on Trump’s decidedly erratic behavior will inevitably die down after the impeachment trial is completed, the Democrats will have to come up with something compelling if they really want to win the presidency and it sure won’t be the largely fictionalized Russian threat.

Nevertheless, someone should tell Congressman Adam Schiff, who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, to shut up as he is becoming an international embarrassment. His “closing arguments” speeches last week were respectively two-and-a-half hours and ninety minutes long and were inevitably praised by the mainstream media as “magisterial,” “powerful,” and “impressive.” The Washington Post’s resident Zionist extremist Jennifer Rubin labeled it “a grand slam” while legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin called it “dazzling.” Gail Collins of the New York Times dubbed it “a great job” and added that Schiff is now “a rock star.” Daily Beast enthused that the remarks “will go down in history” and progressive activist Ryan Knight called it “a closing statement for the ages.” Hollywood was also on board with actress Debra Messing tweeting “I am in tears. Thank you Chairman Schiff for fighting for our country.”

Actually, a better adjective would have been “scary” and not merely due to its elaboration of the alleged high crimes and misdemeanors committed by President Trump, much of which was undeniably true even if not necessarily impeachable. It was scary because it was a warmongers speech, full of allusions to Russia, to Moscow’s “interference” in 2016, and to the ridiculous proposition that if Trump were to be defeated in 2020 he might not concede and Russia could even intervene militarily in the United States in support of its puppet. Schiff insisted that Trump must be removed now to “assure the integrity” of the 2020 election. He elaborated somewhat ambiguously that “The president’s misconduct cannot be decided at the ballot box, for we cannot be assured that the vote will be fairly won.”

Schiff also unleashed one of the most time honored but completely lame excuses for going to war, claiming that military assistance to Ukraine that had been delayed by Trump was essential for U.S. national security. He said “As one witness put it during our impeachment inquiry, the United States aids Ukraine and her people so that we can fight Russia over there, and we don’t have to fight Russia here.”

Schiff, a lawyer who has never had to put his life on the line for anything and whose son sports a MOSSAD t-shirt, is one of those sunshine soldiers who finds it quite acceptable if someone else does the dying. Journalist Max Blumenthal observed that “Liberals used to mock Bush supporters when they used this jingoistic line during the war on Iraq. Now they deploy it to justify an imperialist proxy war against a nuclear power.” Aaron Mate at The Nation added that “For all the talk about Russia undermining faith in U.S. elections, how about Russiagaters like Schiff fear-mongering w/ hysterics like this? Let’s assume Ukraine did what Trump wanted: announce a probe of Burisma. Would that delegitimize a 2020 U.S. election? This is a joke.”

Over at Antiwar Daniel Lazare explains how the Wednesday speech was “a fear-mongering, sword-rattling harangue that will not only raise tensions with Russia for no good reason, but sends a chilling message to [Democratic Party] dissidents at home that if they deviate from Russiagate orthodoxy by one iota, they’ll be driven from the fold.”

The orthodoxy that Lazare was writing about includes the established Nancy Pelosi/Chuck Schumer narrative that Russia invaded “poor innocent Ukraine” in 2014, that it interfered in the 2016 election to defeat Hillary Clinton, and that it is currently trying to smear Joe Biden. One might add to that the growing consensus that Russia can and will interfere again in 2020 to help Trump. Absent from the narrative is the part how the U.S. intervened in Ukraine first to remove its government and the fact that there is something very unsavory about Joe Biden’s son taking a high-paying sinecure board position from a notably corrupt Ukrainian oligarch while his father was Vice President and allegedly directing U.S. assistance to a Ukrainian anti-corruption effort.

On Wednesday, Schiff maintained that “Russia is not a threat … to Eastern Europe alone. Ukraine has become the de facto proving ground for just the types of hybrid warfare that the twenty-first century will become defined by: cyberattacks, disinformation campaigns, efforts to undermine the legitimacy of state institutions, whether that is voting systems or financial markets. The Kremlin showed boldly in 2016 that with the malign skills it honed in Ukraine, they would not stay in Ukraine. Instead, Russia employed them here to attack our institutions, and they will do so again.” Not surprisingly, if one substitutes the “United States” for “Russia” and “Kremlin” and changes “Ukraine” to Iran or Venezuela, the Schiff comment actually becomes much more credible.

The compulsion on the part of the Democrats to bring down Trump to avoid having to deal with their own failings has brought about a shift in their established foreign policy, placing the neocons and their friends back in charge. For Schiff, who has enthusiastically supported every failed American military effort since 9/11, today’s Russia is the Soviet Union reborn, and don’t you forget it pardner! Newsweek is meanwhile reporting that the U.S. military is reading the tea leaves and is gearing up to fight the Russians. Per Schiff, Trump must be stopped as he is part of a grand Russian conspiracy to overthrow everything the United States stands for. If the Kremlin is not stopped now, it’s first major step, per Schiff, will be to “remake the map of Europe by dint of military force.”

Donald Trump’s erratic rule has certainly dismayed many of his former supporters, but the Democratic Party is offering nothing but another helping of George W. Bush/Barack Obama establishment war against the world. We Americans have had enough of that for the past nineteen years. Trump may indeed deserve to be removed based on his actions, but the argument that it is essential to do so because of Russia lurking is complete nonsense. Pretty scary that the apparent chief promoter of that point of view is someone who actually has power in the government, one Adam Schiff, head of the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee.

 

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