Thursday, January 29, 2015

If you don't know about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), it's high time that you learn and pass on your knowledge to others. In short, it is a plan by the super rich to get enormously richer by robbing us 99 percent. And so far they've been given carte blanche to screw us to the limit by our corrupt Congress and President Obama.









TPP = NAFTA on steroids


Republicans in Congress want to work with the Obama administration to fast-track the passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

The TPP is the largest—and worst—trade deal you’ve never heard of, having been devised in secret by representatives of some of the world’s largest corporations.

It’s so big and has the potential to do so much damage, it’s been likened to “NAFTA on steroids.”

http://youtu.be/3O_Sbbeqfdw

Robert Reich takes on the Trans-Pacific Partnership

MoveOn.org






Published on Jan 29, 2015
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is the largest--and worst--trade deal you've never heard of and Republicans in Congress want to work with the Obama administration to "fast track" its passage.

Will you help spread the word about fast track and the TPP by watching and sharing the video right now?  If so, click here.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Paul Craig Roberts laments the fact that American neoconservatives have constructed an unopposed fifth column within Russia that may yet turn Mother Russia into another vassal of Criminal America. He believes that "To survive Washington, Russia desperately needs people who are not romantic about the West." and "To dramatize the situation, if President Putin will grant me Russian citizenship and allow me to appoint Michael Hudson and Nomi Prins as my deputies, I will take over the operation of the Russian central bank and put the West out of operation."


Russia In The Cross Hairs — Paul Craig Roberts

January 13, 2015 | Original Here                                            Go here to sign up to receive email notice of this news letter

Russia In The Cross Hairs

Paul Craig Roberts

Washington’s attack on Russia has moved beyond the boundary of the absurd into the realm of insanity.

The New Chief of the US Broadcasting Board of Governors, Andrew Lack, has declared the Russian news service, RT, which broadcasts in multiple languages, to be a terrorist organization equivalent to Boko Haram and the Islamic State, and Standard and Poor’s just downgraded Russia’s credit rating to junk status.

Today RT International interviewed me about these insane developments.

In prior days when America was still a sane country, Lack’s charge would have led to him being laughed out of office. He would have had to resign and disappear from public life. Today in the make-believe world that Western propaganda has created, Lack’s statement is taken seriously. Yet another terrorist threat has been identified–RT. (Although both Boko Haram and the Islamic State employ terror, strictly speaking they are political organizations seeking to rule, not terror organizations, but this distinction would be over Lack’s head. Yes, I know. There is a good joke that could be made here about what Lack lacks. Appropriately named and all that.)

Nevertheless, whatever Lack might lack, I doubt he believes his nonsensical statement that RT is a terrorist organization. So what is his game?

The answer is that the Western presstitute media by becoming Ministries of Propaganda for Washington, have created large markets for RT, Press TV, and Al Jazeera. As more and more of the peoples of the world turn to these more honest news sources, Washington’s ability to fabricate self-serving explanations has declined.

RT in particular has a large Western audience. The contrast between RT’s truthful reporting and the lies spewed by US media is undermining Washington’s control of the explanation. This is no longer acceptable.

Lark has sent a message to RT. The message is: pull in your horns; stop reporting differently from our line; stop contesting the facts as Washington states them and the presstitutes report them; get on board or else.

In other words, the “free speech” that Washington and its EU, Canadian, and Australian puppet states tout means: free speech for Washington’s propaganda and lies, but not for any truth. Truth is terrorism, because truth is the major threat to Washington.

Washington would prefer to avoid the embarrassment of actually shutting down RT as its UK vassal did to Press TV. Washington simply wants to shut up RT. Lark’s message to RT is: self-censure.

In my opinion, RT already understates in its coverage and reporting as does Al Jazeera. Both news organizations understand that they cannot be too forthright, at least not too often or on too many occasions.

I have often wondered why the Russian government allows 20 percent of the Russian media to function as Washington’s fifth column inside Russia. I suspect the reason is that by tolerating Washington’s blatant propaganda inside Russia, the Russian government hopes that some factual news can be reported in the US via RT and other Russian news organizations.

These hopes, like other Russian hopes about the West, are likely to be disappointed in the end. If RT is closed down or assimilated into the Western presstitute media, nothing will be said about it, but if the Russian government closes down Washington’s agents, blatant liars all, in the Russian media, we will hear forever about the evil Russians suppressing “free speech.” Remember, the only allowable “free speech” is Washington’s propaganda.

Only time will tell whether RT decides to be closed down for telling the truth or whether it adds its voice to Washington’s propaganda.

The other item in the interview was the downgrading of Russian credit to junk status.

Standard and Poor’s downgrade is, without any doubt, a political act. It proves what we already know, and that is that the American rating firms are corrupt political operations. Remember the Investment Grade rating the American rating agencies gave to obvious subprime junk? These rating agencies are paid by Wall Street, and like Wall Street they serve the US government.

A look at the facts serves to establish the political nature of the ruling. Don’t expect the corrupt US financial press to look at the facts. But right now, we will look at the facts.

Indeed, we will put the facts in context with the US debt situation.

According to the debt clocks available online, the Russian national debt as a percentage of Russian GDP is 11 percent. The American national debt as a percentage of US GDP is 105 percent, about ten times higher. My coauthors, Dave Kranzler, John Williams, and I have shown that when measured correctly, the US debt as a percent of GDP is much higher than the official figure.

The Russian national debt per capita is $1,645. The US national debt per capita is
$56,952.


The size of Russia’s national debt is $235 billion, less than one quarter of a trillion. The size of the US national debt is $18 trillion, 76.6 times larger than the Russian debt.

Putting this in perspective: according to the debt clocks, US GDP is $17.3 trillion and Russian GDP is $2.1 trillion. So, US GDP is 8 times greater than Russian GDP, but US national debt is 76.6 times greater than Russia’s debt.

Clearly, it is the US credit rating that should have been downgraded to junk status. But this cannot happen. Any US credit rating agency that told the truth would be closed and prosecuted. It wouldn’t matter what the absurd charges are. The rating agencies would be guilty of being anti-American, terrorist organizations like RT, etc. and so on, and they know it. Never expect any truth from any Wall Street denizen. They lie for a living.

According to this site: http://people.howstuffworks.com/5-united-states-debt-holders.htm#page=4 the US owes Russia as of January 2013 $162.9 billion. As the Russian national debt is $235 billion, 69 percent of the Russian national debt is covered by US debt obligations to Russia.

If this is a Russian Crisis, I am Alexander the Great.

As Russia has enough US dollar holdings to redeem its entire national debt and have a couple hundred billion dollars left, what is Russia’s problem?

One of Russia’s problems is its central bank. For the most part, Russian economists are the same neoliberal incompetents that exist in the Western world. The Russian economists are enamored of their contacts with the “superior” West and with the prestige that they image these contacts give them. As long as the Russian economists agree with the Western ones, they get invited to conferences abroad. These Russian economists are de facto American agents whether they realize it or not.

Currently, the Russian central bank is squandering the large Russian holdings of foreign reserves in support of the Western attack on the ruble. This is a fools’ game that no central bank should play. The Russian central bank should remember, or learn if it does not know, Soros’ attack on the Bank of England.

Russian foreign reserves should be used to retire the outstanding national debt, thus making Russia the only country in the world without a national debt. The remaining dollars should be dumped in coordinated actions with China to destroy the dollar, the power basis of American Imperialism.

Alternatively, the Russian government should announce that its reply to the economic warfare being conducted against Russia by the government in Washington and Wall Street rating agencies is default on its loans to Western creditors. Russia has nothing to lose as Russia is already cut off from Western credit by US sanctions. Russian default would cause consternation and crisis in the European banking system, which is exactly what Russia wants in order to break up Europe’s support of US sanctions.

In my opinion, the neoliberal economists who control Russian economic policy are a much greater threat to the sovereignty of Russia than economic sanctions and US missile bases. To survive Washington, Russia desperately needs people who are not romantic about the West.

To dramatize the situation, if President Putin will grant me Russian citizenship and allow me to appoint Michael Hudson and Nomi Prins as my deputies, I will take over the operation of the Russian central bank and put the West out of operation.

But that would require Russia taking risks associated with victory. The Atlanticist Integrationists inside the Russian government want victory for the West, not for Russia. A country imbued with treason inside the government itself has reduced chance against Washington, a determined player.

Another fifth column operating against Russia from within are the US and German funded NGOs. These American agents masquerade as “human rights organizations,” as “women’s rights organizations,” as “democracy organizations,” and whatever other cant titles that serve in a politically correct age and are unchallengeable.

Yet another threat to Russia comes from the percentage of the Russian youth who lust for the depraved culture of the West. Sexual license, pornography, drugs, self-absorption. These are the West’s cultural offerings. And, of course, killing Muslims.

If Russians want to kill people for the fun of it and to solidify US hegemony over themselves and the world, they should support “Atlanticist integration” and turn their backs on Russian nationalism. Why be Russian if you can be American serfs?

What better result for the American neoconservatives than to have Russia support Washington’s hegemony over the world? That is what the neoliberal Russian economists and the “European Integrationists” support. These Russians are willing to be American serfs in order to be part of the West and to be paid well for their treason.

As I was interviewed about these developments by RT, the news anchor kept trying to confront Washington’s charges with the facts. It is astonishing that the Russian journalists do not understand that facts have nothing to do with it. The Russian journalists, those independent of American bribes, think that facts matter in the disputes about Russian actions. They think that the assaults on civilians by the American supported Ukrainian Nazis is a fact. But, of course no such fact exists in the Western media. In the Western media the Russians, and only the Russians, are responsible for violence in Ukraine.

Washington’s story line is that it is the evil Putin’s intent on restoring the Soviet Empire that is the cause of the conflict. This media line in the West has no relationship to any facts.

In my opinion, Russia is in grave danger. Russians are relying on facts, and Washington is relying on propaganda. For Washington, facts are not relevant. Russian voices are small compared to Western voices.

The lack of a Russian voice is due to Russia itself. Russia accepted living in a world controlled by US financial, legal, and telecommunication services. Living in this world means that the only voice is Washington’s.

Why Russia agreed to this strategic disadvantage is a mystery. But as a result of this strategic mistake, Russia is at a disadvantage.

Considering the inroads that Washington has into the Russian government itself, the economically powerful oligarchs and state employees with Western connections, as well as into the Russian media and Russian youth, with the hundreds of American and German financed NGOs that can put Russians into the streets to protest any defense of Russia, Russia’s future as a sovereign country is in doubt.

The American neoconservatives are relentless. Their Russian opponent is weakened by the success inside Russia of Western cold war propaganda that portrays the US as the savior and future of mankind.

The darkness from Sauron America continues to spread over the world.



Monday, January 26, 2015

Paul Craig Roberts (slightly edited for this over view): “The new principle in Europe that the IMF has relentlessly applied to Latin American and Third World debtors, is that when foreign lenders make mistakes and over-lend to foreign governments, loading them up with debt, the bankers’ mistakes are rectified by robbing the poor populations. Pensions, social services, and public employment are cut, valuable resources are sold off to foreigners for pennies on the dollar, and the government is forced to support US foreign policy. The EU and the euro were deception and trickery. Countries lost their sovereignty. So much for Western 'self-rule,' 'freedom,' and 'democracy.' In the entire West there is nothing but the looting of people by the One Percent who control the governments. In America, the looting does not rely on indebtedness because the US dollar is the reserve currency and the US can print all the money needed in order to pay its bills and redeem its debt. In America the looting of labor has been through jobs offshoring.”


Freedom, Where Are You? Not in America or Europe — PCR

January 25, 2015 | Original Here                                            Go here to sign up to receive email notice of this news letter

Freedom, Where Are You?
Not in America or Europe


Paul Craig Roberts

When the former Goldman Sachs executive who runs the European Central Bank (ECB) announced that he was going to print 720 billion euros annually with which to purchase bad debts from the politically connected big banks, the euro sank and the stock market and Swiss franc shot up. As in the US, quantitative easing (QE) serves to enrich the already rich. It has no other purpose.

The well-heeled financial institutions that bought up the troubled sovereign debt of Greece, Italy, Portugal, and Spain at low prices will now sell the bonds to the ECB for high prices. And despite depression level unemployment in most of Europe and austerity imposed on citizens, the stock market rose in anticipation that much of the 60 billion new euros that will be created each month will find its way into equity prices. Liquidity fuels the stock market.

Where else can the money to go? Some will go into Swiss francs and some into gold while gold is still available, but for the most part the ECB is running the printing press in order to boost the wealth of the stock-owning One Percent. The Federal Reserve and the ECB have taken the West back to the days when a handful of aristocrats owned everything.

The stock markets are bubbles blown by central bank money creation. On the basis of traditional reasoning there is no sound reason to be in equities, and sound investors have avoided them.

But there is no return anywhere else, and as the central banks are run by the rich for the rich, sound reasoning has proved to be a mistake for the past six years. This shows that corruption can prevail for an indeterminable period over fundamentals.

As I demonstrated in my book, The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism, first Goldman Sachs deceived lenders into over-lending to the Greek government. Then Goldman Sachs former executives took over Greece’s financial affairs and forced austerity upon the population in order to prevent losses to the foreign lenders.

This established a new principle in Europe, one that the IMF has relentlessly applied to Latin American and Third World debtors. The principle is that when foreign lenders make mistakes and over-lend to foreign governments, loading them up with debt, the bankers’ mistakes are rectified by robbing the poor populations. Pensions, social services, and public employment are cut, valuable resources are sold off to foreigners for pennies on the dollar, and the government is forced to support US foreign policy. John Perkins’ Confessions of an Economic Hit Man describes the process perfectly. If you haven’t read Perkins book, you have little idea how corrupt and vicious the United States is. Indeed, Perkins shows that over-lending is intentional in order to set up the country for looting.

This is what Goldman Sachs did to Greece, intentionally or unintentionally.

It took the Greeks a long time to realize it. Apparently, 36.5 percent of the population was awoken by rising poverty, unemployment, and suicide rates. That figure, a little over one-third of the vote, was enough to put Syriza in power in the just concluded Greek election, throwing out the corrupt New Democracy party that has consistently sold out the Greek people to the foreign banks. Nevertheless, 27.7 percent of the Greeks, if the vote reporting is correct, voted for the party that has sacrificed the Greek people to the banksters. Even in Greece, a country accustomed to outpourings of people into the streets, a significant percentage of the population is sufficiently brainwashed to vote against their own interests.

Can Syriza do anything? It remains to be seen, but probably not. If the political party had received 55% or 65% or 75% of the vote, yes. But the largest vote at 36.5% does not show a unified country aware of its plight and its looting at the hands of rich banksters. The vote shows that a significant percentage of the Greek population supports foreign looting of Greece.

Moreover, Syriza is up against the heavies: the German and Netherlands banks who hold Greece’s loans and the governments that back the banks, the European Union which is using the sovereign debt crisis to destroy the sovereignty of the individual countries that comprise the European Union, Washington which backs EU sovereign power over the individual countries as it is easier to control one government than a couple of dozen.

Already the Western financial presstitutes are warning Syriza not to endanger its membership in the common currency by diverting from the austerity model imposed from abroad on Greek citizens with the complicity of New Democracy.

Apparently, there is a lack of formal means of exiting the EU and the euro, but nevertheless Greece can be threatened with being thrown out. Greece should welcome being thrown out.

Exiting the EU and the euro is the best thing that can happen to Greece. A country without its own currency is not a sovereign country. It is a vassal state of another power. A country without its own currency cannot finance its own needs. Although the UK is a member of the EU, the UK kept its own currency and is not subject to control by the ECB. A country without its own money is powerless. It is a non-entity.

If the US did not have its own dollar, the US would be of no consequence whatsoever on the world scene.

The EU and the euro were deception and trickery. Countries lost their sovereignty. So much for Western “self-rule,” “freedom,” “democracy,” all slogans without content. In the entire West there is nothing but the looting of people by the One Percent who control the governments.

In America, the looting does not rely on indebtedness, because the US dollar is the reserve currency and the US can print all the money needed in order to pay its bills and redeem its debt. In America the looting of labor has been through jobs offshoring.

American corporations discovered, and if they did not they were informed by Wall Street to move offshore or be taken over, that they could raise profits by moving their manufacturing operations abroad. The lower labor cost resulted in higher profits, higher share prices, huge managerial bonuses based on “performance,” and shareholder capital gains. Offshoring greatly increased the inequality in income and wealth in the US. Capital succeeded in looting labor.

The displaced well-paid manufacturing workers, if they were able to find replacement jobs, worked part-time minimum wage jobs at Walmart and Home Depot.

Economists, if they are entitled to the designation, such as Michael Porter and Matthew Slaughter, promised Americans that the fictional “New Economy” would produce better, higher-paying, and cleaner jobs for Americans than the “dirty fingernail” jobs that we were fortunate our corporations were moving offshore.

Years later, as I have proven conclusively, there is no sign of these “New Economy” jobs. What we have instead is a sharp decline in the labor force participation rate as the unemployed cannot find jobs. The replacement jobs for the manufacturing jobs are mainly part-time domestic service jobs.

People have to hold 2 or 3 of these jobs to make ends meet. These part time jobs offer no medical or pension benefits.


Now that this fact, once controversial believe it or not, has proven completely true, the same bought-and-paid-for spokespersons for robbing labor and destroying unions claim, without a shred of evidence, that the offshored jobs are coming home.

According to these propagandists, we now have what is called “reshoring.” A “reshoring” propagandist claims that the growth of “reshoring” over the past four years is 1,775 percent, an 18 times increase. http://www.manufacturingnews.com/news/2015/A.T.Kearny-No-Data-Supporting-Reshoring-0112151.html

There is no sign whatsoever of these alleged “reshoring” jobs in the monthly BLS payroll jobs statistics.

What reshoring is all about is propaganda to counteract the belated realization that “free trade” agreements and job offshoring were not beneficial to the American economy or its work force, but were beneficial only to the super-rich.

Like people throughout history, the American people are being turned into serfs and slaves because the fools believe the lies that are fed to them. They sit in front of Fox News, CNN, and whatever. They read the New York Times. If you want to learn how badly Americans have been served by the so-called media, read Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States and Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick’s The Untold History of the United States.

The media helps the government, and the private interests that profit from their control of government, control the brainwashed public. We have to invade Afghanistan because a faction there fighting for political control of the country is protecting Osama bin Laden, whom the US accuses without any proof of embarrassing the mighty US with the 9/11 attack. We have to invade Iraq because Saddam has “weapons of mass destruction” that he surely has despite the reports to the contrary by the weapons inspectors. We have to overthrow Gaddafi because of a slate of lies that have best been forgotten. We have to overthrow Assad because he used chemical weapons even though all evidence is to the contrary. Russia is responsible for Ukraine problems, not because the US overthrew the elected democratic government but because Russia accepted a 97.6% vote of Crimeans to rejoin Russia where the province had resided for hundreds of years before a Ukrainian Soviet leader, Khrushchev, stuck Crimea into Ukraine, at the time a part of the Soviet Union along with Russia.

War, War, War, that is all Washington wants. It enriches the military/security complex, the largest component of the US GNP and the largest contributor, along with Wall Street and the Israel Lobby, to US political campaigns.

Anyone or any organization that offers truth to the lies is demonized. Last week the new chief of the US Broadcasting Board of Governors, Andrew Lack, listed the Russian TV Internet service Russia Today as the equivalent of Boko Haram and the Islamic State terrorist groups. This absurd accusation is a prelude to closing down RT in the US just as Washington’s puppet UK government closed down Iran’s Press TV. http://rt.com/usa/225819-rt-isis-point-view-competition/

In other words, Anglo-Americans are not permitted any different news than what is served to them by “their” governments.

That is the state of “freedom” in the West today.



Sunday, January 25, 2015

Peter Koenig is an economist and geopolitical analyst with 30 years of World Bank experience around the globe who knows a false-flag attack when he sees one (e.g., the Boston Marathon bombing). He also knows that such attacks, when blamed on people of specific nationality or creed (and the alleged perps are killed before they can be interrogated), can inflame an entire populace, resulting in their demanding that all persons of such nationality or religious belief be destroyed. Here Koenig shows how the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris fits perfectly into this mold, and he urges all citizens of Mother Earth to beware of government propaganda and wake up to what your eyes and ears tell you (i.e., that your evil government is tricking you into endorsing its war on the entire planet, profiting the super-rich at the expense of the already poor).


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“Civilization” of the Neocons

By Peter Koenig

“We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if mankind is to survive.”          ~Albert Einstein

January 23, 2015 "ICH"- Imagine – a bunch of French, CIA and Mossad special forces, one of them or a combination of the three, attack a racist, Moslem-insulting publisher in Paris and a kosher supermarket at another end of town – killing altogether 17 people, notwithstanding the ‘suicide’ of the French police chief in charge of investigating the atrocity.

A million and a half people in Paris take to the streets – about 6 million throughout Europe – all screaming or carrying posters with a maddening, inexplicable “Je Suis Charlie” – depicting an utterly brainwashed mindset, brainwashed for decades with Washington directed mind control.

They do not know, do not want to know, that the Charlie massacre was yet another staged event, another false flag that will eventually give their masters green light to intensify their ‘wars on terror’ around the globe. Terrorists are mostly Muslims; so is their dictum. Before the massacre, the powers that be identified three Muslims as the perpetrators of the crime to come. Soon after the Charlie attack, they sent killer squads to massacre them, before anybody could question them. The fight on terror – don’t leave witnesses behind.

The millions of demonstrators’ war cry is literally asking the western armies, led by NATO to turn- and speed up their brutal killing machine in the Middle East – to exterminate the Moslem population.The western public has been told and is constantly being told by the western powers dominated main stream media that Muslims are at the heart of all evil; when in fact quite the contrary is true. The West under neoliberal leadership (sic) has become a horrifying merciless killing machine.

That’s Paris Charlie revisited and in a nutshell. – That’s our neoliberal ‘civilization’ – with a purpose. False flag written all over the walls of Charlie Hebdo’s blasphemous  infrastructure. Waging even more savage war on the 1.6 billion Muslims. Killing 17 people by Empire and its stooges, will allow Empire and its stooges to kill more millions, perhaps tens of millions, to exterminate this ‘evil’ Muslim sect of ‘terrorists’. A ‘terrorist’ is anybody who doesn’t bend to the empire’s boot. That doctrine has been impregnated in western minds ever since another false flag killed on 9/11 about 3,000 people in New York, allowing the beginning of the eternal war – wars, one succeeding the next – the criminal Bush-Blair legacy of the 21st Century.

The Afghanistan invasion of empire directed NATO forces was to control the TAPI pipeline project (Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India), for which the Taliban were unwilling to negotiate with the Bush family, nor with a secret Congressional commission in 2001. The project is as of this day a bone of contention – and a good reason for Obama to leave a permanent ‘residue’ of troops in Afghanistan.

To keep a roving mindless populace tight – local false flags, à la Boston Marathon bombing are necessary to intensify repression, abrogate ever more civil liberties – and this even on demand from the very people affected by the repression. They want more security, more protection.

As with Charlie Hebdo, the bad guys were pre-identified,so that when the secret special forces launched their ugly plot, they were easy to trace and chase – and kill. One of the designated ‘perpetrators’ in the Boston case and all of them in Paris. Dead men don’t talk.

The Bostonians literally invited armed police to take over their streets and invade their homes. In Paris the marchers of 1.5 million people were silently screaming, “Hollande go to war and free us from evil! “ – What a depressing joke this is. It would be laughable if it weren’t that serious. – It is one more step won by the neoliberal empire – a step towards full dominance and subjugation of the populace.

The Washington funded AlQaeda-turned-Taliban-turned-AlQaeda Osama BinLaden was made responsible for the Twin Tower’s collapse – in no time. And in no time, two years to be exact, the wind shifted. Iraq’s Saddam is the culprit.  The power of the msm – in combination with the brainless masses works wonders.

Saddam, the newly designated culprit of the New York 9/11 monstrosity triggered the war on Iraq – the empire taking over the country’s riches, her oil wells; at that time the world’s cheapest oil to bring to the surface – and making sure that Saddam would not tell who helped and incited him to wage an eight-year war against his neighbor Iran, and who gave him the poison to gas in 1988 the Kurds in the North, and especially, that he would not convert his forced dollar denominated sales of hydrocarbons into euros, as he unwittingly announced – he had to be executed. He received a world stage hanging, propaganda for justice, for American justice – justice of the exceptional people, supported and road-mapped, as always, by the banking backed ‘chosen people’.

The Bush-Blair led ‘coalition of the willing’ slaughtered more than a million and a half Iraqis, mostly civilians;women, children and elderly; creating other millions of refugees. Countless people murdered in Afghanistan. In parallel the NED-induced (National Endowment for Democracy) infamous machinery of ‘regime change’ produced the so-called Arab Spring which had nothing to do with spring, but everything with devastating one Middle Eastern and North African country after another. The obliteration of Libya and Syria through NATO bombing and NATO prompted civil wars, and more brutal and bloody conflicts all over Mother Earth.

Obama’s personally directed drone war on Yemen, Pakistan, Sudan, Somalia, Syria, Turkey – and the list goes on – is further fomenting and funding local unrest, killing masses of defenseless people.

It is American judgment over nations by war. ISIS, a US-EU-NATO creation, generously funded by the empire and its European and Middle Eastern stooges, as a rebel force to fight Syrian troops and to take over Iraq, is torturing and slaughtering in the (concealed) name of the neocon empire, other thousands of people.

ISIS, supplied with cutting-edge weaponry by the US and NATO, is assailing Iraq, where George W. Bush notoriously declared in May 2003, two months after his shock and awe invasion, “Mission Accomplished”.

Not to mention the horrifying eight more years of war Iraq and her people endured until Obama ceremoniously announced the end of war, pulling out US troops in 2011– not without leaving a core presence behind, though.

As Eduardo Galeano, the famous revolutionary Uruguayan writer and philosopher said – once US troops are in a country, they never leave. Hence, the more than thousand US military bases around the globe.

Wars must go on. The US neoliberal economy depends on them. The war machine and its ramifications contribute more than 50% to the US GDP.

Without wars, the country would collapse. All peace talks and negotiations initiated or feigned by Washington are fake, a deception, propaganda for the goodness of the naked emperor. Kudos for the exceptional nation.

World peace would mean a black hole for the United States, demise.

In both cases, Iraq and Syria, ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) – the Sunni caliphate having merged in 2013 with Syria’s al-Nusra Front – and whatever other names the ‘rebels’ may morph into –are paid to fight national armies unwilling to bend. In turn, they are justifying US interventions, bombing the same ISIS they created, though only a little bit, to make believe, lest ISIS might really be wiped out. Recent US helicopter food and ammunition drops behind ISIS Iraqi lines testify to the west’s double standards and deceit.

In reality, when bombing ISIS, NATO is bombing Iraq and Syria for regime change, and as an added icing on the cake, to grease the US war machine, the ever hungry military industrial complex.

Estimates have it that US carried out and inspired wars and conflicts around the globe have killed over ten million people in the last decade and a half.

That’s neoliberal ‘civilization’ – murdering 17 to kill millions – making billions by weapon manufacturing and selling, plus more billions by stealing hydrocarbon – the God of Energy of our ever growth-lusty western greed economy; and making even more billions by converting small-holder agriculture which still today feeds 80% of world population – into pesticide-implanted genetically modified food production, the Monsanto world.

As if this destruction, annihilation and misery of war and mass killing were not enough, there is reconstruction after war, another bonanza for the destroyer. The words of former World Bank president, Robert Zoellick, also known as the US neoliberal trade tsar, will not be forgotten, when he said in the midst of NATO devastating Libya in 2011 – “We hope that the World Bank will also be involved in the reconstruction of Libya.” Well, this wish has not come through yet, but in other war-torn zones it has.

After destruction comes reconstruction with all the neoliberal strings attached, financial robbery of public goods, reduction of pensions, minimum wages, social services, privatization of education and health, expropriation and privatization of natural resources by foreign corporations –and the list goes on, all requisites of extreme austerity measures as conditions for the sacrosanct IMF, World Bank and ECBso-called rescue packages.

At times, countries whose existence remains somehow important for the empire, like those in Southern Europe, will be driven into misery without physical war, just by financial abuse and economic slavery. Greece, Spain, Portugal, Ireland and even Italy, were driven to the abyss of suffocation by the all-powerful, but appallingly criminal troika, the IMF, ECB and the European Commission.

After coercing or replacing their elected governments with neoliberal puppets, mostly former Wall Street execs, as is the President of the ECB, they – the troika and their masters – forced these countries into debt, after debt and more debt – debt that is virtually unrecoverable in a generation; debt that causes astronomical levels of unemployment, Greece, Spain and Portugal, hovering above 25% and 65% among the young people, slashing social services, health care, pensions, leaving a huge proportion of their population in absolute poverty and in physical and mental misery.

And who funds all these atrocities – wars and financial devastation? – Wall Street, the extended arm of the Zionist-Anglo-Saxon controlled monetary system, and its puppets, the FED, IMF, World Bank, European Central Bank and their subordinate European mega-banks. Naturally.– Who else?

All of these neoliberal mayhems are guided by the invisible hand of the PNAC – the Plan of a New American Century, designed by Zionist Washington think tanks, the tail that wags the dog. The PNAC foresees the annihilation of the Middle East, the pocketing of Europe by implanting puppets – done! – and finally the encircling and eventual subjugation of Russia and China – the ascent of a Washington directed One World Order.

It shall not happen. There is hope in the solid alliance of Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping, of Russia and China; a strategic economic and defense pact, the western media are silent about. The less the public knows of the truth, the more it will adore the ‘exceptional nation’, as its one and only master – so goes the theory of western self-adulation.

Neoliberalism wants it all, the supremacy of the 1% – addressing the lowest common denominator in human kind – greed, using the main stream media concocting lies and deceptions to nurture more greed which in turn is the engine that fuels the neoliberal doctrine of private property, of privatization of public goods, privatization – stealing – of other countries natural resources, the steady pursuit of instant profit, of police and military oppression of the few who refuse to comply. A Win-Win-Win situation – energy, food and money, as per Kissinger’s infamous dogma– who controls energy controls continents, who controls food controls people, and who controls money controls the world.

Neoliberalism, the religion of the West, is the epitome of evil, of destruction of civilization itself. Neoliberalism – thanks to its unifying factor of greed, has ravaged the west like brushfire and taken over the world in less than 30 years, a feat grander than that achieved by mono-theistic Judo-Christianity in over 2000 years.

Citizens of Mother Earth – BEWARE ! – Wake up ! Open your eyes and ears ! – Become vanguards of a new world, new values – where the neocons and their globalization bite the dust, and where local production for local markets funded by local banks propels solidarity and harmony into new generations of mankind.

Peter Koenig is an economist and geopolitical analyst. He is also a former World Bank staff and worked extensively around the world in the fields of environment and water resources. He is the author of Implosion: An Economic Thriller about War, Environmental Destruction and Corporate Greed – fiction based on facts and on 30 years of World Bank experience around the globe.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Roving correspondent for Asia Times, Pepe Escobar, predicts the coming year for Russia, China, Iran, the EU, and what he terms the Empire of Chaos, aka the US. The primary loser will be the EU because of its kowtowing to the wishes of the Empire of Chaos. For no just reasons, both Iran and Russia are now subject to Western sanctions. While the US mainstream media claim that Russia is suffering, Russia's sale of its energy -- or sophisticated military gear -- may decline, yet will bring in the same amount of rubles -- given that the ruble has also declined. Because the EU is doing everything it can to cut itself off from its most stable supply of hydrocarbons, Moscow is redirecting energy to China and the rest of Asia. What a gift for Beijing!



OpEdNews Op Eds

2015 Will Be All About Iran, China and Russia

By (about the author)     Permalink 

opednews.com                    Headlined to H2 1/2/15                  Original Here

Reprinted from Sputnik

The Russia-China-Iran alliance is the future.
(image by YouTube)
Fasten your seat belts; 2015 will be a whirlwind pitting China, Russia and Iran against what I have described as the Empire of Chaos.

So yes -- it will be all about further moves towards the integration of Eurasia as the US is progressively squeezed out of Eurasia. We will see a complex geostrategic interplay progressively undermining the hegemony of the US dollar as a reserve currency and, most of all, the petrodollar.

For all the immense challenges the Chinese face, all over Beijing it's easy to detect unmistakable signs of a self-assured, self-confident, fully emerged commercial superpower. President Xi Jinping and the current leadership will keep investing heavily in the urbanization drive and the fight against corruption, including at the highest levels of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Internationally, the Chinese will accelerate their overwhelming push for new "Silk Roads" -- both overland and maritime -- which will underpin the long-term Chinese master strategy of unifying Eurasia with trade and commerce.

Global oil prices are bound to remain low. All bets are off on whether a nuclear deal will be reached by this summer between Iran and the P5+1. If sanctions (actually economic war) against Iran remain and continue to seriously hurt its economy, Tehran's reaction will be firm, and will include even more integration with Asia, not the West.

Washington is well-aware that a comprehensive deal with Iran cannot be reached without Russia's help. That would be the Obama administration's sole -- and I repeat -- sole foreign policy success. A return to the "Bomb Iran" hysteria would only suit the proverbial usual (neo-con) suspects. Still, by no accident, both Iran and Russia are now subject to Western sanctions. No matter how it was engineered, the fact that stands is that the current financial/strategic oil price collapse is a direct attack against (who else?) Iran and Russia.

That derivative war

Now let's take a look at Russian fundamentals. Russia's government debt totals only 13.4% of its GDP. Its budget deficit in relation to GDP is only 0.5%. If we assume a US GDP of $16.8 trillion (the figure for 2013), the US budget deficit totals 4% of GDP, versus 0.5% for Russia. The Fed is essentially a private corporation owned by regional US private banks, although it passes itself off as a state institution. US publicly held debt is equal to a whopping 74% of GDP in fiscal year 2014. Russia's is only 13.4%.

The declaration of economic war by the US and EU on Russia -- via the run on the ruble and the oil derivative attack -- was essentially a derivatives racket. Derivatives -- in theory -- may be multiplied to infinity. Derivative operators attacked both the ruble and oil prices in order to destroy the Russian economy. The problem is, the Russian economy is more soundly financed than America's.

Considering that this swift move was conceived as a checkmate, Moscow's defensive strategy was not that bad. On the key energy front, the problem remains the West's -- not Russia's. If the EU does not buy what Gazprom has to offer, it will collapse.

Moscow's key mistake was to allow Russia's domestic industry to be financed by external, dollar-denominated debt. Talk about a monster debt trap which can be easily manipulated by the West. The first step for Moscow should be to closely supervise its banks. Russian companies should borrow domestically and move to sell their assets abroad. Moscow should also consider implementing a system of currency controls so the basic interest rate can be brought down quickly.

And don't forget that Russia can always deploy a moratorium on debt and interest, affecting over $600 billion. That would shake the entire world's banking system to the core. Talk about an undisguised "message" forcing the US/EU economic warfare to dissolve.

Russia does not need to import any raw materials. Russia can easily reverse-engineer virtually any imported technology if it needs to. Most of all, Russia can generate -- from the sale of raw materials -- enough credit in US dollars or euros. Russia's sale of its energy wealth -- or sophisticated military gear -- may decline. However, they will bring in the same amount of rubles -- as the ruble has also declined.

Replacing imports with domestic Russian manufacturing makes total sense. There will be an inevitable "adjustment" phase -- but that won't take long. German car manufacturers, for instance, can no longer sell their cars in Russia due to the ruble's decline. This means they will have to relocate their factories to Russia. If they don't, Asia -- from South Korea to China -- will blow them out of the market.

Bear and dragon on the prowl

The EU's declaration of economic war against Russia makes no sense whatsoever. Russia controls, directly or indirectly, most of the oil and natural gas between Russia and China: roughly 25% of the world's supply. The Middle East is bound to remain a mess. Africa is unstable. The EU is doing everything it can to cut itself off from its most stable supply of hydrocarbons, prompting Moscow to redirect energy to China and the rest of Asia. What a gift for Beijing -- as it minimizes the alarm about the US Navy playing with "containment" across the high seas. 

Still, an unspoken axiom in Beijing is that the Chinese remain extremely worried about an Empire of Chaos losing more and more control, and dictating the stormy terms of the relationship between the EU and Russia. The bottom line is that Beijing would never allow itself to be in a position where the US could interfere with China's energy imports -- as was the case with Japan in July 1941 when the US declared war by imposing an oil embargo, cutting off 92% of Japanese oil imports.

Everyone knows a key plank of China's spectacular surge in industrial power was the requirement for manufacturers to produce in China. If Russia did the same, its economy would be growing at a rate of over 5% per year in no time. It could grow even more if bank credit was tied only to productive investment.

Now imagine Russia and China jointly investing in a new gold, oil and natural resource-backed monetary union as a crucial alternative to the failed debt "democracy" model pushed by the Masters of the Universe on Wall Street, the Western central bank cartel, and neoliberal politicians. They would be showing the Global South that financing prosperity and improved standards of living by saddling future generations with debt was never meant to work in the first place.

Until then, a storm will be threatening our very lives -- today and tomorrow. The Masters of the Universe/Washington combo won't give up their strategy to make Russia a pariah state cut off from trade, the transfer of funds, banking and Western credit markets and thus prone to regime change.

Further on down the road, if all goes according to plan, their target will be (who else?) China. And Beijing knows it. Meanwhile, expect a few bombshells to shake the EU to its foundations. Time may be running out -- but for the EU, not Russia. Still, the overall trend won't be altered; the Empire of Chaos is slowly but surely being squeezed out of Eurasia.



Pepe Escobar is the roving correspondent for Asia Times. His regular column, "The Roving Eye," is widely read. He is an analyst for the online news channel Real News, the roving correspondent for Asia Times/Hong Kong, an analyst for RT and TomDispatch, and a frequent contributor to websites and radio shows ranging from the US to East Asia. He argues that the world has become fragmented into "stans" -- we are now living an intestinal war, an undeclared global civil war. He has published three books on geopolitics, including the spectacularly-titled "Globalistan: How the Globalised World Is Dissolving Into Liquid War". His latest book is "Obama Does Globalistan."

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Russia and Russians: A delightfully witty history of a country comprising one sixth of the earth, the people who have lived there for centuries, and how they are adjusting to life without the West.


TUESDAY, JANUARY, 15, 2015                                                                                                                   Original Here

Peculiarities of Russian National Character

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

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

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

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

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

1. Taking offense

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

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

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

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

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

2. Dealing with invaders

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

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

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

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

3. Dealing with foreign powers

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


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


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


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


4. Thanks, but we have our own

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


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


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


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


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


Conclusions

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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