I did this.
Changes to the format: I’m just giving the source at the end rather than numbering (looks better, but takes way longer), I’m linking back to the megathread in this piece, and I’m also putting a copy of the bulletins in the megathread itself for mobile users. You can’t pin comments, so if you wanna find it, you gotta either search the megathread, search my account, or hope it’s near the top somewhere.
Link back to the discussion thread.
The EU proposes a total ban on Russian oil imports, cutting out crude within 6 months src
Oil and natural gas jump in Europe after EU unveils plans to phase out Russian crude within 6 months src
Also: Oil jumps 3% as EU plans ban on Russian oil src
Germany warns EU to expect economic cost from Russian oil embargo src
Beer prices in Germany will rise by 30%, says German media.
British Petroleum (BP) lost $25 billion due to it pulling out of Russia, with a loss of $20.4 billion for the quarter; but by a different measure, its net profit increased due to high oil and gas prices. src
‘Risky’ fourth straight rate hike expected from Bank of England as inflation soars src
Brexit Made Boris Johnson. Now He Has to Face Its Costs src
Norway’s Equinor posts strong Q1, to exit Russian ventures src
German Exports to Russia Sink to Two-Decade Low After Invasion src
Reports that Italy is open to paying for Russian gas in rubles misleading. It doesn’t explain how it’s misleading, it just says that the reports that Italy might temporarily allow gas-for-rubles were wrong, or something. src
Bulgarian industry prepares to protest over gas costs: The country’s energy regulator predicted a 35% rise in prices following the suspension of Russian supplies src
On May 2, Germany stopped giving Russian gas to Poland, Gazprom reported. Now Warsaw is taking Russian gas intended for Italy and France in reverse.
Asia and Oceania
China’s manufacturing slowdown due to the lockdown will likely affect the US soon, as China’s manufacturing figures correlate very closely with US manufacturing, albeit with a 3 month lag. src
China’s yuan ‘far from a top global reserve’, as investors dump assets amid Ukraine war. I don’t think China even wants the yuan to be a global reserve currency, right? src
China addresses food security concerns
… the Russia-Ukraine conflict cramped China-bound exports of wheat, corn, and sunflower oil from the two farm-rich countries. The conflict has also driven up prices of soybeans as a substitute. Meanwhile, four-fifths of US soybeans are processed into livestock feed in China and the rest into vegetable oil.
“It’s supply and demand, which augurs another good year for farmers in the US heartland, whether it’s due to volume or value,”
- Kazakhstan maintains plans on up to 100 mln tonnes of oil output per year, says ministry src
Libya eyes buying grain and flour from Russia src
Nigeria buys emergency Canadian potash to replace lost Russian supply. src
Uche Orji, the head of NSIA, declined to comment on prices. However, spot prices today are up more than 250% for deliveries to west Africa compared to last year, according to commodities pricing agency Argus Media, dealing a further blow to the country’s finances.
- Nigeria oil minister says Russia interested in gas pipeline to Morocco src
Sylva said President Muhammadu Buhari’s government hoped to at least kickstart the project before leaving office in May 2023. He did not say how much it will cost.
Nigeria is rich in hydrocarbons but produces little electricity, making its industries uncompetitive.
Drought-Hit Zimbabweans Cut Poverty, Poaching With Larger Goats src
Use of Cryptocurrency Is Not Allowed in Uganda, Says Bank of Uganda src
If Bread Is Expensive, Eat Cassava, Museveni Tells Ugandans src
Addressing worker’s unions and government officials during the Labour Day Celebrations at the Kololo Ceremonial Grounds on Sunday, the president said Africans should stop complaining about the scarcity of wheat and go with the flow.
“If there is no bread eat muwogo (cassava). Africans really confuse themselves. If you’re complaining that there’s no bread or wheat, please eat muwogo. I don’t eat bread myself,” he said.
- Namibia: Three-Months Relief for Motorists… As Government Reduces Levies src
The Great Resignation continues, as a record number of workers quit (4.5 million) and a record number of job openings got posted (200,000 more than February and 11.5 million overall). Haven’t these workers seen the latest headlines about how the US is doing fine with inflation and the economy is pretty great? src
U.S. manufacturing activity slowest in more than one and half years as workers quit src
Long-term U.S. LNG deals pick up as demand increases src
Fed decision day rattles markets as investors worry that a giant ‘once-in-a-generation’ rate hike will actually be one of several this year. Add this to the mountain of once-in-a-generation things that has happened in the last two decades. src
- Venezuela makes bid to revive the bolivar by putting a 3% tax on everyday purchases in dollars. This resulted in a slight shift away from the dollar. src
Policy makers tend to wrongly assume that it is possible to revert dollarization once inflation is under control, said Daniel Cadenas, economist and professor at the Venezuela’s Central University, pointing to cases such as Peru, where the use of the dollar is still common despite decades to combat it.
“Dollarization is not going to be reversed,” he said. “The cost for economic actors of going back to thinking in bolivars is higher than the benefits. As long as it remains so, dollarization will persist.”
- El Salvador’s $1 billion bitcoin bond reportedly hasn’t lured a single investor, and markets are bracing for a default despite their Finance Minister saying that there won’t be one. src
- AMD says data center boom will boost revenue src
“Each of our businesses grew by a significant double digit percentage year-over-year, led by EPYC server processor revenue more than doubling for the third straight quarter,” said AMD chief executive Lisa Su in its statement.
The Aerospace Industry Is Grappling With A Titanium Supply Shortage src
New Lockdowns In China Are Hindering Global Steel Supply src
Natural gas prices soared 9% to their highest level since 2008 on Tuesday, as US gas companies see a spike in demand. About 30% of US liquified natural gas export capacity has been secured since February 24th. src
Gary Cohn, vice-chairman of IBM and former economic advisor to Trump, has said that ending globalization is impossible and would result in astronomical inflation. src
“Those who want to end globalization, good luck. It’s impossible,” he said. “We could go through thousands of things in this country that we just assume show up every day, that we do not have or we do not manufacture.”
“Do I think that a vast majority of things that come through ports in this country are going to stop coming through? I don’t,” Cohn said. “The inflation that would create in the system would be just astronomical.”
Nutrien, the largest fertilizer company in the world, is looking at whether they could ramp up potash production, as disruptions “could last well beyond 2022”. It has already said it would multiply its potash production by 15 times, with most of that in the second half of 2022. src
World Hunger to Worsen After Spiking 25% Before Ukraine War src
Why the Conflict in Ukraine Is a Disaster for the Poor of This Planet src
Diplomatically and Politically
Involving Ukraine or Russia
- Putin signed an executive order giving Russia the authority to halt exports and cancel contracts to retaliate against ‘unfriendly actions’ src
Ukraine Wars: Putin Strikes Back
Russia will take further steps to reduce dollar monopoly as main reserve currency src
The Non-Independence Of Western-Funded ‘Independent Media’ In Ukraine src
Ukraine conflict rare ‘inflection point’ in history, says Biden src
President Joe Biden on Tuesday described the conflict in Ukraine as a historic “inflection point [that] comes along every six or eight generations,” and described the US’ role in the conflict as fighting the first “real battle” in a civilizational struggle versus Russia and China. Biden also promised to send billions more dollars worth of aid to Kiev.
Biden, known for his frequent verbal slip-ups, appeared to confuse Russia for Ukraine when he said that prior to the launch of Russia’s military operation in February, “we made sure Russia had javelins and other weapons … so Ukraine was ready for whatever happened.”
Biden also told his audience that Ukrainian parents are naming their newborn children “Javelin or Javelina” in honor of the American-made missiles.
Ukraine’s Defense Intelligence Chief has said that the Russian invasion would likely end with Putin’s death, and that Ukraine would win. src
Russian media ran simulations of how their nukes could obliterate the UK and Ireland. ‘Just one launch, Boris, and England is no more’ src src2
“It actually seems like they’re raving on the British Isles,” Kiselyov said. “Why threaten never-ending Russia with nuclear weapons when you’re on an island that is so small? The island is so small that one Sarmat missile is sufficient to sink it once and for all.”
And I like this addition by the article:
Of course, the fact that the U.K. is geographically smaller than Russia is irrelevant for purposes of mutual destruction. However many ICBMs Russia has, what matters is that Britain has four Vanguard-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines, each armed with up to 16 American-made Trident II missiles equipped with multiple nuclear warheads. That arsenal is probably sufficient to turn Russia into a nearly pre-industrial state.
Who Will Pay For Ukraine’s Marshall Plan? Great timing by MSM, given that Michael Roberts was talking about a potential Marshall Plan for Ukraine a couple days ago. And it comes to similar conclusions - that Ukraine is, more or less, fucked. src
The CIA is using Instagram to teach Russians how to share state secrets with it src
Modi, Macron put Ukraine rift aside to take Indo-French ties to next level src
Europe Is Better Than the U.S. at Talking to India src
Why have America’s European allies reacted so differently to India’s position on Ukraine? Partly, it’s because Europe thinks about its relationship with India the way the U.S. once did — as a partnership that goes beyond the transactional, in which each partner does not always have to agree. Partly, it is because Brussels has succeeded Washington as the location where consequential decisions affecting countries such as India are made. The U.S. has unquestionably turned inward under successive presidents. Meanwhile, the EU has taken the lead in setting regulations for big tech and for climate finance, and has developed its own strategy for engaging the Indo-Pacific region.
- ‘Embarrassed to be British’: Brexit study reveals impact on UK citizens in EU src
Brexit, and the British government’s handling of the Covid pandemic, strongly affected 80% of respondents’ feelings towards the UK, with responses including “deep shame”, “disappointment”, “a shit show”, “embarrassed to be British”, “shambolic”, and “like watching a house on fire”.
Just over 30% still felt very or extremely emotionally attached to the UK, compared with 75% who said they felt a very or extreme emotional attachment to the EU, and 59% who felt the same in relation to their country of residence.
50% of Italians are against the supply of heavy weapons to Kiev.
Would a Sinn Féin victory open the door to a united Ireland? src
Asia and Oceania
Japan Says It Needs Nuclear Power. Can Host Towns Ever Trust It Again? src
Beijing closes 10% of subway stations to stem COVID spread src
Chinese aircraft carrier leads large strike group into western Pacific as Taiwan tensions rise src
North Korea fires ballistic missile amid rising animosities src
Joining ASEAN or not should not matter to Timor-Leste src
Japan, Indonesia confirm cooperation toward free, open Indo-Pacific src
Sri Lanka opposition declares no confidence in government src
The Chinese government has decided to provide emergency humanitarian aid to Sri Lanka again, including medicine, food, and fuels, which are urgently needed now, according to Chinese Embassy in Sri Lanka on Wednesday.
Large protests in Yerevan, demanding the resignation of PM Pashinyan. I’m not sure where the dividing line between the Middle East and Asia is, but whatever.
US representative to the UN: There is a possibility that we will not reach an agreement on the Iranian nuclear deal.
Russian paramilitaries killing and torturing civilians in CAR src
Sergei Lavrov: Wagner in Mali and Libya on a “commercial basis” src
In an interview with Italian television Mediaset, Lavrov reiterated Moscow’s position that Wagner “has nothing to do with the Russian state”.
Wagner, which is reputedly close to President Vladimir Putin, is accused of employing mercenaries who have committed abuses in Mali, Libya and Syria.
- Al-Shabab Raids African Union Military Base src
- US issues visas in Cuba for first time in more than four years src
Washington closed its consular services in Havana in 2017 after US personnel suffered from mystery illnesses.
They’ve finally cured Havana Syndrome!
- White House will host first food insecurity conference in 50 years src
The White House hopes this year’s conference will result in a plan to help reduce rates of diabetes, obesity and hypertension among Americans and accelerate efforts to end hunger across the nation.
If you asked the average American to please eat less than one steak per day, they’d give themselves chronic diarrhoea just to own you. And hunger builds, like, character, or something. I’m not sure what can be done by the government here.
- How the oil and gas industry is trying to hold US public schools hostage src
Here in New Mexico – the fastest-warming and most water-stressed state in the continental US, where wildfires have recently devoured over 120,000 acres and remain uncontained – the oil and gas industry is coming out in force to deepen the region’s dependence on fossil fuels. Their latest tactic: to position oil and gas as a patron saint of education. Powerful interest groups have deployed a months-long campaign to depict schools and children’s wellbeing as under threat if government officials infringe upon fossil fuel production.
“Without oil and gas, we would not have the resources to provide an exemplary education for our students,” she says. “The partnership we have with the oil and gas industry makes me a better teacher.”
She said, blinking in Morse Code.
- Ron DeSantis Likens U.S. Abortion Laws to North Korea, China. src
“As Governor DeSantis noted today, abortion in most European countries is restricted after the first trimester (similar to Florida’s recently passed pro-life law). The position of Democrats in America today more closely resembles abortion policy in China and North Korea,” the statement said.
- Silicon curtain descending: The US is building a ‘digital alliance’ in the Asia-Pacific region with the aim of isolating China src
- BRICS+ 2.0: Toward a polycentric world order. An interview with Yaroslav Lissvolik, program director at the Valdai Discussion Club in Russia. src
Slovakia to repair damaged Ukrainian military equipment src. Of course, Ukraine can still do it and everything, but uh, this is, uh, just Ukraine thinking about boosting Slovakia’s industry. Yeah.
U.S.-Pledged Mi-17 Helicopters Arrive in Ukraine With 11 More to Go src
Britain’s Napoleonic Posturing will be Exposed by Battlefield Reality src
“Britain has always stood up to bullies,” said Truss. “We have always been risk takers.” This is a rather serious misreading of British foreign policy, which historically has tended to be cautious and avoid risky leaps in the dark. Overall, Truss’s reduction of foreign policy to a series of triumphalist slogans could be set to music and take its place in an updated version of “Oh! What a Lovely War”.
But if the British Government’s actions in a military conflict – in which it is becoming more engaged by the day – is as inept as its performance in times of peace, then we face a dark and uncertain future.
- Putin tells Macron West could use its influence to stop “atrocities” in Ukraine src
Putin told Macron that the West could help end “war crimes (and) massive shelling of towns and settlements in Donbas”, leading to civilian casualties.
“The West could help put an end to these atrocities by exerting appropriate influence on the Kyiv authorities and by halting arms deliveries to Ukraine”, RIA news agency cited the Kremlin as saying.
Can Western Tanks, Artillery, and Missiles Save Ukraine? Don’t Count On It. src
Kadyrov: “It’s time to start the second stage of the special operation not only in the Donbass, but throughout the whole of Ukraine.”
- Air raid sirens and missiles in every Ukraine oblast other than Kherson (and DPR and LPR). Missile strikes in basically every city in Ukraine. Looks like they’re hitting infrastructure and western military shipments.
- Lviv has been hit with more missiles, damaging two power substations and knocking out part of the city’s electricity, and well as railway infrastructure.
- Ukraine hits an oil depot in DPR.
- Ukrainians strike Russian positions on Snake Island with military drone src
The military strikes appear to have targeted an area between a building and a communications tower, and another area that appears to have contained ammunition or another explosive. A number of explosions are seen after the initial one in the second area.
Snake Island, and the Ukrainian border guards on it, gained significant notoriety at the beginning of the Russian invasion when the island was targeted by Russian soldiers and the Ukrainian guards refused to surrender.
…and then they did surrender. It doesn’t mention that they did, in fact, surrender. Oh, it’s a “legend”, of course. It’s probably where the Ghost of Kiev is hiding.
- Almost all the cities in the south of Ukraine that came under the control of the Russian military are connected to the Russian Internet
Dipshittery and Cope
The Pope says the Russians are learning that ‘their tanks are useless’ in Ukraine Does putting the Pope on the Dipshittery and Cope list mean that I go to hell? Oh god. src
Tesla most ‘future-ready’ carmaker, China’s BYD rising src
Elon Musk’s electric vehicle (EV) company ranked first for readiness to navigate future crises for a fourth consecutive year
The index, which has been compiled annually since 2010, bases its results on a combination of financial fundamentals, investors’ expectations of future growth, business diversity, employee diversity, research and development, early results of innovation efforts, and cash and debt.
Tesla car batteries do, to be fair, tend to experience very explosive future growth, all over the asphalt.
- Russia is losing on the electronic battlefield. Mandatory shit about how Russia is losing and incompetent, 1053 quintillion dead generals, Ukraine is amazing, etc. Then: src
Ukraine has tapped into Russian communications, blocked its signals, blinded its surveillance, and captured some its most advanced EW systems, experts say. The United States and its NATO partners have provided crucial EW equipment and training. But American experts say it’s the Ukrainians themselves who adapted these high-tech weapons to protect their homeland.
Yeah, of course. Also, weird that separatists who have been getting the shit blasted out of them for 8 years might not do so well in electronic warfare.
- Johnson tells Ukraine that West was ‘too slow’ to grasp Russia threat src
Speaking via video link from London, Johnson called for Ukraine’s “friends” to be “humble” about their failure to act in 2014 when Russian President Vladimir Putin annexed Crimea and invaded the Donbas.
“The truth is that we were too slow to grasp what was really happening and we collectively failed to impose the sanctions then that we should have put on Vladimir Putin,” Johnson said. “We cannot make the same mistake again.”
That’s one way of saying you didn’t give a shit.
“Your farmers kidnapped Russian tanks with their tractors. Your pensioners told Russian soldiers to ‘hop’ as we say, although they may have used more colorful language. Even in the parts of Ukraine that were temporarily captured, your populations, your indomitable populations turned out to protest, day after day,” he added.
The West needs to up its sanctions game against Russia src
Once this new principle of sanctioning positions is in place, the United States and European sanction lists should be expanded dramatically. Ukraine’s National Agency on Corruption Prevention has identified 9,000 individuals, while the Anti-Corruption Foundation founded by Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has recommended 6,000 people. Thousands of positions in the Russian government, Russian state-owned enterprises, including state-owned and state-controlled media, as well as all members of the corporate boards must be added immediately.
This list should include, at a minimum, those at the deputy minister level, all generals and colonels in the armed forces, police, and intelligence services, and anyone at the vice president level at state-owned enterprises. Senior officials and personalities being paid by Putin and state-controlled media companies also must be sanctioned, until they resign. Any member of United Russia and other political parties that support Putin’s invasion also should be placed automatically on the sanctions list. If these party members want to get off the sanctions list, all they have to do is resign.
Policies for sanctioning private sector individuals also must become more uniform. To eliminate subjectivity and lobbying efforts, all of Russia’s 100 richest people should be sanctioned, without exception. (And after they have been sanctioned, move on to the next 100.) However, these billionaires should be offered an off-ramp: if they denounce Putin and his war, suspend tax payments to the Russian government until the invasion ends, and pledge a significant fraction of their personal fortunes to a newly created Ukrainian Reconstruction Fund controlled by the government of Ukraine. High bar? Yes. But this is a horrific war.
Although their full effect might take years to be realized, sanctions, including individual sanctions, are working. But we need them to work better, faster and more justly to bring an end to this war. As long as figures like Gerhard Schroeder can evade accountability, the sanctions regime needs improvement.
Hey, wait a second, on April 22nd, NYT released an article about how sanctions don’t even work half the time, and might even make the country more “evil” or whatever! NYT
- Russian attacks on Ukraine grain network a move to cut competition src
Russian attacks on Ukraine’s grain infrastructure look like attempts to reduce the competition in Russia’s export markets, German Agriculture Minister Cem Oezdemir was reported as saying on Monday.
Ukraine could lose tens of millions of tonnes of grain due to Russia’s blockade of its Black Sea ports, triggering a food crisis that will hit Europe, Asia and Africa, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Monday.
Broke: Russia started this war because Putler is evil and wanted to do an authoritarianism, a totalitarianism, and a 1984 to even more people because he’s evil. Woke: Russia started this war due to a long series of NATO advancements that fundamentally threaten the security of Russia, and really, US/NATO started the war by making/allowing Ukraine to ignore the Minsk agreements. Bespoke: Russia started this war to sell more grain, due to pressure from whatever the Russian equivalent is of the United Fruit Company.
- Shanghai residents turn to NFTs to record COVID lockdown, combat censorship src NFTs are like a tumour that randomly springs up in areas otherwise completely unrelated to them.
Shanghai residents are turning to the blockchain to preserve memories of the city’s month-long COVID-19 lockdown, minting videos, photos and artworks capturing their ordeal as non-fungible tokens to ensure they can be shared and avoid deletion.
A Shanghai-based programmer told Reuters that he was among those in the city who viewed their effort to keep the video alive as part of a “people’s rebellion”.
- A Russian oligarch says Putin’s regime has been ‘dehumanized’ and Ukraine will win because ‘good always wins over evil’ Good hasn’t won over evil since the Soviets marched into Berlin, my guy. src
Tinkov added that he was proud because he managed to, even “in corrupt and archaic Russia,” build an “HONEST, free, and American type of business.”
Yeah, those two things are definitely at odds with each other.
“I lost everything, but I didn’t lose my soul,” Tinkov added. “I cannot earn money in a country that is at war with a neighbor, killing civilians and children.”
Vienna Must End Its Long Waltz with Putin. You absolutely do not gotta hand it to Orban, but this is a very idealist article compared to the material reality that if Austria and Hungary banned Russian gas and oil, their economies would collapse. Maybe with the benefit of hindsight they would have done something differently - though Orban maybe not, it’s hard to know exactly how much of his sorta pro-Putin behaviour is to avoid his country being fucked over once the conflict ends - but reality is what reality is. src
Critics from Ukraine to NATO have of late been chastising Germany for reacting too slowly and timidly against Russian aggression. Fair enough. Germany, as the largest economy in the European Union, bears disproportionate responsibility in helping to coordinate the Western response against the Kremlin’s atrocities and lies. But the attention given to Berlin obscures the not-so-helpful role played by several smaller European countries.
Most reprehensible among those is, of course, Hungary. Its prime minister, Viktor Orban, is an authoritarian right-wing populist who’s long been buddies with Russian President Vladimir Putin. While Orban has gone along with the EU sanctions passed so far, he’s blocked arms deliveries to Ukraine via Hungary and threatened to veto any European embargo of Russian oil and gas. Orban’s Hungary is the West’s weakest link.
For the title of second-weakest, there’s competition, but a strong contender is Austria. It shares not only a language, culture and history with its larger northern neighbor, Germany, but also a legacy of pro-Russian sentiment and cozy relations with Moscow. If Washington, Brussels and Berlin want to keep the West united against Putin, they’d do well to start by leaning on Vienna to choose a side and make it known.
Austria was part of the Third Reich that brought so much suffering and death to Europe, including Russia and Ukraine. Nonetheless, Austrian politics were not primarily shaped by post-war atonement as Germany’s were. Germans joke that their southern neighbors’ greatest achievement has been to convince the world that Beethoven was Austrian and Hitler German. Toward Moscow, in particular, Austrians always had fewer complexes.
Nonetheless, Austria and Germany after World War II were initially in similar situations. Both were occupied by the four Allied victors. But whereas the Iron Curtain ran through Germany, it always ran around Austria, because the Soviets didn’t impose socialism in their zone. The country became sovereign again in 1955 on the condition — imposed by Moscow — that it remain neutral in perpetuity. To this day, Austria is not a member of NATO, a status it shares with only five other EU members.
Just after independence, Vienna took over Austria’s energy infrastructure from the Russians. The Soviet Mineral Oil Administration became what is today OMV AG, the country’s oil and gas behemoth. In 1968, Austria became the first country in front of the Iron Curtain to sign a contract to get natural gas from the Soviet Union. It became the hub for Russian hydrocarbons flowing to western Europe.
At the same time, Vienna attracted probably the world’s greatest concentration of spies, and Soviet ones in particular. After the Cold War, it remained just as popular with Russian snoops. It’s still a preferred venue for spy exchanges.
Russian oligarchs also took to Austria — its companies, picturesque mountains and accommodating bureaucracy. As of 2020, Russian investment in the country was second only to German money. Ski resorts such as Lech became Russian haunts.
Retired Austrian politicians went on to soaring careers in Russian companies. Germany’s ex-chancellor Gerhard Schroeder deservedly hogs notoriety for his board memberships in Russian energy giants. But former Austrian chancellors such as Wolfgang Schuessel and Christian Kern have held similar positions — though unlike Schroeder, they’ve handed in their resignations since Feb. 24.
In brazenness, the closest analog to Schroeder in Austrian politics is Karin Kneissl. While she was foreign minister, in 2018, she invited Putin to her wedding. He showed up with a Cossack choir in tow, gave a pitch-perfect toast in German, and danced with the bride. Kneissl then curtsied before him all the way to the floor. The visuals said it all. To this day, she blogs for Russia Today, an arm of Putin’s propaganda machine, and sits on the board (chaired by Schroeder) of Rosneft, Russia’s oil leviathan.
There had been another excruciating moment, even by Austrian standards, in 2014, just a few months after Putin’s annexation of Crimea. While the rest of Europe was struggling to coordinate sanctions, Putin dropped by in Austria for another visit.
In his welcome address, the then-president of Austria’s main business lobby joked about how many times he’d already greeted the Russian president over the years, because both had been in office so long. “Dictatorship,” quipped Putin, bringing the house down, before adding: “But good dictatorship.” The hilarity grew from there. The speaker also reminded Putin that, a century earlier, part of Ukraine had been Austrian. “What are you offering?,” Putin deadpanned to the howls of Austrian industrialists.
All the while, Austria was making itself utterly dependent on Putin’s energy. Wherever a Siberian hydrocarbon molecule embarked on a trip to Europe, Austrian money, lobbying and cheering weren’t far. For example, Nord Stream 2, a geopolitically disastrous Russian pipeline under the Baltic, has been blamed mostly on German governments, but OMV was also a big investor (though it is writing down its Russian assets). Even today, about 80% of Austria’s gas comes from Russia.
That said, the brutality of Putin’s current war has shaken even Austria out of its long Russophile romance. In that sense, at least, it differs from Hungary. Last month, Chancellor Karl Nehammer became the first Western leader since Feb. 24 to meet Putin in Moscow. His access to the hermit despot was a legacy of their countries’ special relationship. But Nehammer made clear that “this is not a friendly visit.”
And yet, the rest of the West will be forgiven for wondering how much it can rely on Austria as the conflict drags on or escalates. Will Vienna support a boycott of Russian oil and gas? Will it bid adieu to its neutrality — as Sweden and Finland are about to do — to side with the West? Orban may be too far gone for Western appeals to reason. But in Vienna, there’s still a chance.
As Putin Gets Desperate, U.S. Should Remember Pearl Harbor src
The Western powers are tightening the screws on Russian President Vladimir Putin: The next move appears to be a phased-in European ban on purchases of Russian oil.
It’s the right policy, given that oil money is financing Putin’s war in Ukraine and keeping the Russian economy alive. But the risks may be substantial: Revisionist powers have sometimes become most violent when campaigns of economic strangulation against them are about to succeed.
The classic example is Japan before World War II. For a decade, Tokyo had been seeking a vast empire in Asia. It had embarked on a military rampage, seizing Manchuria, invading China and expanding into Southeast Asia.
The U.S. was initially slow to respond. But eventually, Japan’s bid for regional dominance, the brutality of its tactics in China — bombing of cities to incite terror, systematic killing of civilians, the use of biological weapons — made an enemy of Washington.
N-not that we would want anything like that to happen in China today, of course. Also, uh, you dropped nukes on Japan. And firebombs. And like, Agent Orange in Vietnam later.
By 1940, President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration was supporting the Chinese government financially. The next spring, American warplanes and volunteer pilots began arriving in China.
Most important, Washington took the fight to Japan economically. Roosevelt first constricted the export of aviation materials, high-octane gas, scrap metal and other goods to Tokyo. After Japanese forces moved into southern Indochina in mid-1941, FDR delivered the hammer blow: A full oil embargo.
Japan was vulnerable to economic coercion. Before World War II, writes historian Waldo Heinrichs, Japan “imported 80 percent of its oil products, 90 percent of its gasoline, 74 percent of its scrap iron and 60 percent of its machine tools” from the U.S.
The oil cutoff was particularly devastating. It threatened to leave Japan’s ships and planes running on fumes and bring the war in China to a humiliating end. Japanese military officials, having promised glorious conquests, now feared that the country was facing strategic ruin at America’s hands. Japan was “like a fish in a pond from which the water was gradually being drained away,” as one War Ministry official later put it.
Rather than concede, Japan’s leaders risked everything, by seizing oil-rich colonies in Southeast Asia, attacking U.S. and Western possessions across much of the Asia-Pacific, and trying to wipe out the American fleet at Pearl Harbor.
At the time, few Japanese leaders believed that they could defeat America in a long war. Yet sometimes, said military strongman Hideki Tojo, “One must conjure up enough courage, close one’s eyes, and jump.”
As with any historical analogy, it’s important not to overdraw the contemporary parallels. The oil embargo and other sanctions imposed on Japan were more crippling than the punishments inflicted on Putin today. And one crucial reason Japan opted for war in 1941 was that it had a tempting window of military opportunity because the U.S. had been so slow to rearm after its post-World War I military drawdown.
As Japan’s rapid gains in the months after Pearl Harbor showed, Tokyo possessed — if only fleetingly — a degree of military superiority over Washington that Putin does not enjoy today.
But the Russian leader does have options for making things worse. He could, as Central Intelligence Agency Director Bill Burns warned, use tactical nuclear weapons inside Ukraine. Or he could launch cyberattacks, physical sabotage campaigns, or even conventional military strikes against the countries that are supplying Ukraine with weapons and choking Russia with sanctions.
The rhetoric out of Russia has certainly become more ominous as awareness of the country’s terrible predicament sets in. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov described the contest in Ukraine as a proxy war in which the U.S. and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization are trying to destroy Russia. The Russian Orthodox church has deemed the conflict a holy war.
The Russian government is increasingly invoking the memory of World War II, a zero-sum contest for national survival. Taking their cues from Putin, who has regularly hinted at the prospect of nuclear escalation, Russian propagandists are talking in apocalyptic tones.
Putin himself does not seem suicidal. But if he worries that he might not survive, politically or physically, a military defeat in Ukraine or the slow death of the Russian economy, his incentive to close his eyes and jump could be strong indeed.
As the war drags on, the U.S. and its friends will ratchet up the coercion of Russia, to increase the price Putin pays and gradually deprive him of the wherewithal to keep fighting. Yet the closer they get to succeeding, the more they will sharpen the choice Putin faces between accepting a humiliating defeat and intensifying his aggression in hopes of salvaging a victory.
Renewable electricity powered California just shy of 100% for the first time in history src
Climate change means 1 in 25 homes in Australia could become uninsurable by 2030, report warns src
Horn of Africa ravaged by worst drought in four decades src
Extreme Heat devastates Male Honeybees and threatens Fertilization of Crops src
Tunisian scientists alert on the degradation of Posidonia, the lungs of the Mediterranean Sea src
Natural Resources Must Be ‘Part of the Solution’ in Fight Against Deforestation src
New Forms of Urban Planning Are Emerging in Africa src
Zanzibar Embarks On Climate Change Mitigation src
DR Congo approves auction of oil blocks in one of the world’s largest carbon sinks src
Nine of the blocks are located in a region of the Congo Basin known as the Cuvette Centrale, an area about a third of the size of California which is home to the world’s largest tropical peatland complex. At least three of the blocks up for auction directly overlap with the peatlands, according to the Rainforest Foundation UK.
Scientists estimate the peatlands store the equivalent of three years of global CO2 emissions.
Left undisturbed, this tropical peat swamp forest is likely to remain a carbon sink and counteract some global heating. But if the peat is drained or the land converted to other use, it could become a significant source of emissions.
- Forest trees also take up nanoplastics src
We get closer to The Lorax every day!
I Thought I’d Mention
Cognitive loss from severe Covid equivalent to 20 years of ageing src
PayPal Has Begun Quietly Shuttering Left-Wing Media Accounts src