In which I get a bit angry at a Dipshittery article.
- Russia Cuts Gas Supply To Seized German Gazprom Unit OilPrice
Germany, which has long remained the largest buyer of Russian natural gas, has belatedly and bluntly stated as fact what’s long been among its greatest ‘worst case scenario’ fears, that Moscow is using its energy exports as a “weapon”.
However, Moscow is arguing that its latest actions to reduce supplies - estimated by Berlin officials at this point to have been at about a 3% reduction of normal deliveries - is a natural and inevitable response to Germany seizing Gazprom subsidiaries in the country to “ensure supply” against the backdrop of the Ukraine invasion.
… after Gazprom Germania was seized by the German state amid heightened pressure for European companies to cut off relations with Russian entities, in an escalation that raised the alarm over whether owners of vital European energy infrastructure would survive. Yesterday Moscow made the dramatic move to impose sanctions on the owner of the Polish part of the Yamal pipeline that delivers gas to Europe.
- How Russian Is It?: A Very Crude Question WaPo
Sunday is the day when European Union regulations prohibiting dealings with Russian state energy companies come into effect. That should trigger a further decline in the volume of crude and refined products bought and traded by European companies, but it won’t bring flows to a halt. Even when, or if, the EU finally imposes sanctions on the purchase of the country’s oil, it won’t stop “Russian” crude leaving Russian ports, nor the products made from it from fueling European cars and trucks.
There will also be exemptions for crude that transits Russia, mostly from Kazakhstan, but also in much smaller quantities from Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan. I dealt with the case of CPC Blend crude from Kazakhstan here, but traders will be still be able to lift what looks to outsiders like Russian Urals or Siberian Light crude. This isn’t an attempt to evade sanctions.
While most of the molecules in those cargoes will have been pumped from the ground in Russia, the legal provenance will be elsewhere. Kazakhstan, for example, pumps crude into the Russian pipeline system. That crude is blended with volumes from Russian oil fields to make the standardized exports grades — REBCO (Urals) and Siberian Light. Kazakhstan is then allocated the same amount of crude as it put in the system to be loaded onto tankers at Russian ports.
While Europe may stop buying Russian crude, it’s unlikely to be able to avoid diesel fuel made from that crude. The direct diesel trade between Russia and European countries may halt, but product made from Russian crude in overseas refineries will still arrive at European ports. Russian crude processed in overseas refineries ceases to be Russian. Diesel produced at, say, an Indian refinery is Indian diesel, no matter whether the crude came from Saudi Arabia, Russia, or anywhere else.
EU Considers Gas Price Cap in Russian Supply Disruption Scenario Bloomberg
Missing Billions Threaten to Break Britain’s Energy Market Bloomberg
Utilities are now on the hook for billions of pounds of unpaid bills after the prices of gas and electricity soared as households already struggling with the cost of living go into debt.
It’s too early to put an overall figure on what customers owe, but the picture is bleak based on recent estimates. Companies such as Iberdrola SA’s Scottish Power are warning the market is no longer sustainable.
Back to the bad old days of the 1990s as recession looms for UK Guardian
Sanctioned Russian oligarchs may resort to payment systems like those used by terrorists, experts say BusinessInsider
Bulgaria’s natural gas price surges RT
Asia and Oceania
Malaysia says US Indo-Pacific economic plan only a ‘good beginning’ JakartaPost
India bans wheat exports amid soaring global prices WaPo
India open to exporting wheat to needy nations despite ban SeattleTimes
Food protests continue across Iran as one person reported dead Guardian
Iran Says It Can Double Oil Exports If Market Needs More Barrels Bloomberg
Libya Suffers a Permanent Humanitarian Catastrophe under the Dictate of US Interests NEO
Europe Looks To African Gas To Reduce Dependence On Russian Imports OilPrice
Africa is conservatively forecast to reach peak gas production at 470 billion cubic meters (Bcm) by the late 2030s, equivalent to about 75% of the expected amount of gas produced by Russia in 2022, according to Rystad Energy research. In early March, the European Union announced it aims to reduce its dependence on Russian gas by two-thirds by the end of this year alone and is currently headed for a supply crunch that will reverberate around the globe.
Projects in Africa are, however, historically seen as having increased risk and can be delayed or go unsanctioned due to high development costs, challenges accessing financing, issues with fiscal regimes and other above-the-ground risks. Recent signals from oil and gas majors such as BP, Eni, Equinor, Shell, ExxonMobil and Equinor indicate a shift, however, in strategy towards further investment in Africa, with several projects that were previously on ice – including liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects – as they consider restarting or accelerating previously shelved projects in response to rising global demand.
Zimbabwe Allows Import of Basic Commodities to Curb Price Hikes Bloomberg
Kenya’s Fuel Crisis - How the Country’s Subsidy System Works AllAfrica
Oil is an essential commodity for Kenya’s transport and industrial production, electricity generation and water provision. In 2008, as the world grappled with high oil prices, Kenya introduced price controls to cushion the blow for its citizens. The controls worked for over 10 years. But, since the start of April, there have been intermittent fuel shortages in the country. Job Omagwa has studied oil marketing and price controls in Kenya. We asked him to unpack the current fuel shortage.
- West Africa: Innoson Says Close to Huge Gas Find in Sierra Leone AllAfrica
The Innoson Oil & Gas limited announced Saturday it is on the verge of discovering a huge deposit of 8.2 trillion cubic feet (TCF) and 234 MMbbl of gas and condensate in its Sierra Leonean basin.
I’m officially saying that Caribbean = North America and south of Mexico = South America. Also, everything between Turkey and India is the Middle East - I ain’t getting into arguments as to whether Georgia or Azerbaijan is European or not, they’re in the Middle East region.
Cuba sees hints of recovery, announces “audacious” measures to tame inflation Reuters
The Fed Sure Sounds as If It Expects a Recession Bloomberg
If you think gas prices are bad, diesel is in its worst crisis since the 1970s and has even raised fears of localized rationing BusinessInsider
El Salvador’s President Went All In on Bitcoin. Then It Tanked. WSJ
Argentina wheat crop estimates for 2022/23 lowered, given fears of dry climate MercoPress
- Rising Food Prices Roil Developing World WSJ
Even in the world’s richest nations, higher food prices are causing strain. Norwegian food-bank charity Matsentralen Norge says it has distributed 28% more food compared with the same period in 2021, a year that in itself saw sharply higher demand. U.S. grocery prices in April were up 10.8% over the past 12 months, the largest annual increase since November 1980, according to the Labor Department.
U.K. supermarkets have rationed sunflower oil. John Allan, chairman of British grocery giant Tesco PLC, told the British Broadcasting Corp. this week that the country is seeing “real food poverty” for the first time in a generation.
But it is in the world’s poorest countries where the effects of the Ukraine conflict on food prices are being felt most sharply.
A drought is ravishing northern Kenya. But local farmers asked Craig Redmond, a senior official at Mercy Corps, a nonprofit that helps distribute aid, about the war in Ukraine during a recent visit there.
India is a crucial supplier of wheat to its neighbors. Afghanistan recently received large consignments of wheat from India on humanitarian grounds. Bangladesh is another big importer of Indian wheat. Prices, meanwhile, have soared inside the country, helping trigger Saturday’s export restrictions. … Sri Lanka relies on Ukraine and Russia for 45% of its wheat. … Iran, meanwhile, has faced protests in recent days after sudden price increases on staples such as sugar and cooking oil. … Across Africa, severe weather has disrupted local harvests. Food prices on the continent were already at a 10-year high before the invasion.
For Cameroon, one of Africa’s top wheat importers, Covid-19 lockdowns and violence by Boko Haram, a Nigerian terrorist group active in several neighboring countries, have cut local production in half, according to the country’s trade ministry. Meanwhile, the country has suffered a 60% slump in wheat imports since Russia invaded Ukraine.
Around half of the 26 million people in the country who consume bread daily no longer have a regular supply, according to the government. A 9-ounce loaf of bread that used to cost the equivalent of 25 U.S. cents now sells for 90 cents.
Countries are scrambling to adapt. Egypt, the world’s largest importer of wheat, is turning to countries from Paraguay to India, to diversify away from Ukraine. The Democratic Republic of Congo is putting millions of dollars into a project to get bakeries in sub-Saharan Africa’s largest nation to switch from wheat to flour made from cassava, a plant with starchy roots readily available across the country.
In Brazil, the cost of carrots and tomatoes has more than doubled from this time last year, while roast coffee is up nearly 70%. Maria do Socorro da Costa Alves, a 65-year-old retiree in São Paulo, said she is forgetting what meat tastes like. Not long ago, Ms. Alves was eating meat at least once a week. With food prices skyrocketing, she is only buying beef once a month. “First came the pandemic and now the war,” said Ms. Alves, as she shopped for bargains at a local supermarket. “Sometimes we can’t afford the basics, and I fear things may get even worse.”
- Dollar’s Strength Pushes World Economy Deeper Into Slowdown Bloomberg
The soaring dollar is propelling the global economy deeper into a synchronized slowdown by driving up borrowing costs and stoking financial-market volatility – and there’s little respite on the horizon.
A rising currency should help the Fed cool prices and support American demand for goods from abroad, but it also threatens to drive up the import prices of foreign economies, further fueling their inflation rates, and sap them of capital.
- Samsung in talks to hike chipmaking prices by up to 20% Reuters
Samsung Electronics (005930.KS) is in talks with clients about hiking prices for chip contract manufacturing by up to 20% this year, Bloomberg reported on Friday.
The move, expected to be applied from the second half of this year, is part of an industry-wide push to raise prices to cover rising materials and logistics costs, Bloomberg said, citing people familiar with the matter.
Diplomatically and Politically
Involving Ukraine or Russia
- Russia Cuts Off Electricity to Finland as Tensions Grow Over NATO Expansion CommonDreams
The small portion of electricity supplied to Finland by Russia was cut off Saturday just hours before Russian President Vladimir Putin told his Finnish counterpart directly that it would be a “mistake” for his country to join NATO.
Putin tells Finland that swapping neutrality for Nato is a mistake Inquirer
Moscow set to call referendum on Mariupol joining Russia, says Ukraine Guardian
Russia forges new partnerships in face of West’s ‘total hybrid war,’ Lavrov says Reuters
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Saturday that Moscow was the target of “total hybrid war” by the West but would withstand sanctions by forging deeper partnerships with China, India and others.
“The collective West has declared total hybrid war on us and it is hard to predict how long all this will last but it is clear the consequences will be felt by everyone, without exception,” he said.
“We did everything to avoid a direct clash - but now that the challenge has been thrown down, we of course accept it. We are no strangers to sanctions: they were almost always there in one form or another.”
G7 ‘will never recognize’ redrawn borders in Ukraine Politico
Turkey ready to send ship for evacuation of people from Azovstal TASS
Scottish support for monarchy falls to 45%. The fact that it’s even that high is astounding to me. Guardian
Finland ‘not afraid’ of Russia RT
There’s “no panic” in Helsinki over any “nasty” response to its NATO bid, says the Finnish minister for European affairs
Sweden plans to apply for NATO membership on May 17 TASS
Turkey clarifies position on new NATO members RT
Turkey is not seeking to outright shoot down the accession of Sweden and Finland to the US-led NATO bloc, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s top adviser Ibrahim Kalin told Reuters on Saturday. Nonetheless, Ankara’s concerns about organizations it deems to be “terrorist” that are operating in these countries must be addressed, the official said.
Kalin explained that Ankara is particularly concerned about the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), recognized as a terrorist organization in Turkey, as well as in the EU and the US. The issue relates primarily to Sweden, the official clarified.
“What needs to be done is clear: they have to stop allowing PKK outlets, activities, organizations, individuals and other types of presence to…exist in those countries,” Kalin said. “Of course we want to have a discussion, a negotiation with [our] Swedish counterparts.”
Asia and Oceania
- A Ruling Family on the Run as Sri Lanka Plunges Into Economic Ruin NYT
Once empowered by triumphant ethnic nationalism after a brutal civil war, the Rajapaksa dynasty has been undone by what its own allies call incompetence and denial.
- Sri Lanka anti-govt campaign continues despite new PM Inquirer
Saudi oil giant Aramco’s first-quarter profits surge 80% SeattleTimes
Iraq’s prized rice crop threatened by drought IraqiNews
- Summit Of The Americas Is Shaping Up To Show US Has Become Isolated PopularResistance
US observers are becoming increasingly worried that next month’s Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles is about to be one of the Biden Administration’s worst-ever foreign policy embarrassments following last August’s chaotic evacuation from Afghanistan. Politico headlined a piece about how “Biden’s Americas summit is drawing jeers and threats of boycott”, which reported that several Latin American leaders are threatening to boycott the event if Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela aren’t invited to attend. While Antigua, Barbuda, and Bolivia might not be a big deal in the grand scheme of US strategy towards the hemisphere, Brazil and Mexico’s abstention would make the event utterly meaningless since they alone count for half of the region’s population as Politico reminded their audience.
- West must not lift sanctions on Maduro, says Venezuelan opposition Guardian
- Missiles hit military target in Lviv region hours after Ukraine wins Eurovision. I do like the idea that these two events are connected, like, Putin was so angry that his country couldn’t take part in a singing contest that he shot a missile at Ukraine. France24
- Ukrainians Lie in Azovstal Plant Without Limbs: ‘Impossible to Save’ Newsweek
A Ukrainian fighter trapped in Mariupol’s Azovstal steel plant said that several wounded people are lying without limbs and have no access to medicine or sanitary conditions.
The unidentified fighter called the situation “just awful” and said that up to 600 fighters are wounded within the plant. Azovstal is the last holdout against Russian forces in the southern port city, and hundreds of Ukrainian fighters are trapped within its massive structure.
“Fighters are simply lying without limbs, without arms, without legs,” the fighter said in a broadcast on Ukrainian television, CNN reported Saturday. “They are dying in large numbers because we can’t provide medical care. There are simply no medicines. Those with severe wounds…it is almost impossible to save them.”
He added that the plant’s hospital ward is “completely unsanitary,” with swarming flies and “disgusting” odors. The fighter said he even witnessed a medic perform a surgery on a soldier with a bad leg wound without any anesthesia.
Those who are trapped inside have recently made pleas to the international community for help. Earlier this week, a Ukrainian marine commander even asked tech billionaire Elon Musk to help people escape.
“@elonmusk people say you come from another planet to teach people to believe in the impossible,” Major Serhiy Volyna wrote on Twitter. “Our planets are next to each other, as I live where it is nearly impossible to survive. Help us get out of Azovstal to a mediating country. If not you, then who? Give me a hint.”
Dipshittery and Cope
- NY Times Shifts Prowar Narrative, Documents Failure Of US In Ukraine. I was struggling where to put this, but I think I’ll put it here, as a charm, a talisman against the dipshittery lurking below this article. Congratulations to Popular Resistance for not bending to the US narrative. PopularResistance
The New York Times has a job to do – and it has done that job spectacularly well over the past few months. The Times is a leader, in the opinion of this writer, the leader in spelling out the US narrative on the war in Ukraine, a tale designed to keep up morale, give the war a high moral purpose and justify the untold billions pouring from the taxpayers’ pockets into Joe Biden’s proxy war on Russia. Day in and day out in page after page of word and picture it has been instructing one and all, including politicians and lower level opinion shapers, exactly what to think about the war in Ukraine.
So, when the Times says that things are not going well for the US and its man in Kiev, Volodymyr Zelensky, it is a man bites dog kind of story. It tells us that some truths have gone from uncomfortable to undeniable. Such was nature of the page one story on May 11, headlined “Russians Hold Much of the East, Setbacks Aside.”
Even that anti-narrative headline softens the bitter truth. The first paragraph of the story fesses up more completely, stating, “Obscured in the daily fighting is the geographic reality that Russia has made gains on the ground.” Not “holding” ground but “gaining” ground. Not exactly a morale booster.
The Times goes on, “The Russian Defense Ministry said Tuesday that its forces in eastern Ukraine had advanced to the border between Donetsk and Luhansk, the two Russian-speaking provinces where Moscow-backed separatists have been fighting Ukraine’s army for eight years.”
The Times continues: “…. the Donbas seizure, combined with the Russian invasion’s early success in seizing parts of southern Ukraine adjoining the Crimean peninsula ….gives the Kremlin enormous leverage in any future negotiation to halt the conflict.”
“And the Russians enjoy the added advantage of naval dominance in the Black Sea, the only maritime route for Ukrainian trade, which they have paralyzed with an embargo that could eventually starve Ukraine economically and is already contributing to a global grain shortage.”
More, “Russia has all but achieved one of its primary objectives: seizing a land bridge connecting Russian territory to the Crimean peninsula.” And, “The last stronghold of Ukrainian resistance in this area, at the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, has been whittled to a few hundred hungry troops now confined mostly to bunkers.”
“The war has “put Ukraine’s economy under enormous stress, with the heavy devastation of infrastructure and production capacities,” the bank said in an economic update. It estimated that 30 percent to 50 percent of Ukrainian businesses have shut down, 10 percent of the population has fled the country and a further 15 percent is displaced internally.”
So, in a panic the US continues to throw mountains of cash at the problem, about $63 billion if one includes the recent infusion of about $40 million about to whistle through the Senate and already passed by the House with only 57 Nays, all Republican.
But why this abrupt shift in tone by the Times. Lax editorial oversight? this does not appear to be the case, because right on cue on the same day we are treated to an Opinion piece entitled: “America and Its Allies Want to Bleed Russia. They Really Shouldn’t.” It suggests that it is time for the U.S. to wave the white flag.
- Ukraine Is in Worse Shape than You Think. Acceptance. Kinda. Yahoo
It has been said that, given how massively Ukrainian troops were believed be outmatched early in Russia’s invasion, not losing the war is itself a form of victory for Ukraine. The difference between expectations and the surprising resilience of Ukraine’s military makes it easy to misinterpret the current situation in Ukraine’s favor. But not winning is still not winning. Ukraine is in far worse shape than commonly believed and needs, and will continue to need, a staggering amount of aid and support to actually win.
We love an underdog. We love a plucky little guy who beats the odds. It fuels hope for our ordinary selves and allows us to feel we are on the morally superior side. This is why Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has appealed so successfully to the world. His defiance against the odds gave us someone to root for against a bully. While cheering on the scrappy, outmatched Ukrainians, we could also assuage some of our shame at leaving them—to whom we had made promises of protection, “security guarantees”—to die alone in the snow and the mud.
Unfortunately, Zelensky’s leadership and the outpouring of international military and humanitarian assistance it has elicited have not prevented a shocking level of destruction to Ukraine’s cities, economy, and society. The fact that Kyiv has not fallen and Russian troops have retreated to the east masks that Ukraine is in worse shape than portrayed in the media.
Nonetheless, Russia now controls significantly more Ukrainian territory than before February 24. Putin’s army holds Kherson, whatever is left of Mariupol, all the intervening territory, and now not only Luhansk and Donetsk but the entire Donbas Oblast. For example, whereas Ukrainian authorities controlled approximately 60% of Luhansk before the recent Russian invasion, now Russian forces control over 80% of the region. They also have about 70% of Zaporizhye region. Cumulatively, this accounts for an increase of Russian occupied territory from approximately 7%, including Crimea, before February more than double that now. Viewed this way, not losing looks a lot more like losing than winning.
The wording in this article is truly extraordinary.
- NATO sees Russia’s war faltering, mulls expanding alliance SeattleTimes
“The brutal invasion (by) Russia is losing momentum,” NATO Deputy-Secretary General Mircea Geoana told reporters. “We know that with the bravery of the Ukrainian people and army, and with our help, Ukraine can win this war.”
One key issue being discussed in Berlin is expansion of NATO beyond its current 30 member states. Finland and Sweden have already taken steps toward joining the alliance, while Georgia’s bid is again being discussed despite dire warnings from Moscow about the consequences if its neighbor becomes part of NATO.
Georgia expresses desire to join NATO, Russia invades Georgia by saying that they’re protecting South Ossetia, time is a flat circle, NATO should be ground to dust.
- Russia ‘refusing’ to take soldiers' corpses as it tries to hide scale of losses in Ukraine NZHerald
Russia is reportedly refusing to take bodies of its soldiers killed in fighting in Ukraine, with corpses piling up in refrigerated train cars outside the Ukrainian capital.
Col Volodymyr Lyamzin, Ukraine’s chief civil-military liaison officer, said several hundred bodies have been collected from the battlefield in the Kyiv and Chernihiv region and brought to a railyard outside the Ukrainian capital.
They are being kept on a train until the Russian government agrees to take them.
- Ukraine conflict: Russian chemical attack claim fact-checked BBC
Moscow has a history of falsely accusing its opponents of staging “provocations” which either never happened at all, or were subsequently carried out by themselves or their allies.
Oh my god. Oh my fucking god.
- ‘America First’ is America at its worst. Now, is this “America First is bad because it’s often a dogwhistle for enacting racist and sexist policies by bringing the frontier home, or is it bad because other countries yearn for freedom? Well, it’s in Dipshittery and Cope, so… WaPo
The history of U.S. foreign policy is, in part, a story of the ebb and flow of isolationist sentiment, sometimes elaborated into an ideology of “America First.” History also confirms that “America First” was America at its worst: the slogan of pre-World War II isolationists who urged the Roosevelt administration to avoid Europe’s troubles.
Literally the only war that the US has ever gotten into that was at all justified. Except the Civil War, on a technicality.
The United States’ postwar rise to global responsibility marginalized such ideology -
That’s one way to put it.
— until Donald Trump rode to the White House in 2016 decrying the allegedly unfair costs of U.S. security commitments and trade agreements, then governed accordingly.
So it is no surprise that opposition to the Biden administration’s request for $40 billion in aid to Ukraine would re-emerge, mostly in Republican circles, or that the objections would boil down to “what’s in it for us?” The Democratic-led House of Representatives approved the assistance with a large bipartisan majority on Tuesday, but all 57 votes against it came from the GOP’s ranks. The measure is expected to pass the Senate; it is backed by the bulk of the GOP, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who made a surprise solidarity visit to Kyiv with three GOP colleagues on Saturday.
But Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), saying, “My oath of office is to the U.S. Constitution, not to any foreign nation,” slowed it with procedural obstacles. Mr. Paul suggests — hyperbolically — that spending less than 0.2 percent of U.S. output helping Ukraine will fuel inflation. “We cannot save Ukraine by dooming the U.S. economy,” he said. Blake Masters, a Republican Senate candidate in Arizona, says America’s leaders “are buffoons who hate you so … they’ll keep defending Ukraine’s borders while turning their backs on ours.”
Heartbreaking. Like, it’s not sincere so they’re not actually making a great point, but on the surface.
To repeat, such claims tap a deep vein in public opinion, which is why Mr. Paul and other Republicans make them. Of course our government’s first duty is to its own citizens. All the more reason to tell the America Firsters that security engagement abroad is not a zero-sum enterprise, but an investment in stabilizing situations that might otherwise spiral out of control, at much greater cost to the United States than, say, $40 billion.
Stabilizing situations? What the fuck are you TALKING about? What place in the world have you stabilized in the last century? You spent 2 trillion dollars in Afghanistan - rather, the MIC gained 2 trillion dollars, we weren’t just airdropping money on the country - and then got fucking trounced by a terrorist group in a month. And now they’re re-oppressing the women in that country. You’ve not only not fixed anything, you’ve made basically the entire world objectively worse.
Russian aggression in Ukraine, which threatens not just that country but also the sanctity of international borders everywhere, represents such a situation.
Literally what effect would Russia invading Ukraine have on your sovereignty or whatever if you didn’t sanction Russia at all? The current global economic downturn was NOT caused by Russia invading Ukraine (aside from the decline in Ukraine’s agricultural output), it was caused by the sanctions you put on Russia. You are punishing the entire world population for a war on the other side of the planet from you, that you had a very significant part in escalating. It’s absolute circus clown shit to expand the European Bootlicking Brigade, which is an extension of your imperial authority, to the western border of Russia and then claim that because Russia retaliates, then that’s an attack on the US.
U.S. and NATO efforts are working. Russia’s war has stalled, as President Vladimir Putin backhandedly acknowledged by delivering a lackluster speech on Russia’s Victory Day on May 9. He could not credibly claim success or threaten escalation.
*ONLY WESTERN MEDIA WAS CLAIMING THAT PUTIN WOULD SAY ANYTHING AT ALL TO DO WITH THE UKRAINE WAR OR ESCALATE IT! AND THEN HE DOESN’T AND YOU’RE LIKE “Oh, because he didn’t mobilize his entire population, that must mean he’s losing! Also, if he did that, it would also mean he thinks he’s losing!”
Republican isolationist opposition to proposed aid for Ukraine, however, is music to Mr. Putin’s ears. It’s not too early to wonder — and worry — how much more powerful America Firsters will be if Republicans regain control of Congress in November.
- There Are Two Endgames in Ukraine. Both Carry Big Risks. This honestly isn’t the worst article ever. Like, it’s still bad, but it kinda straddles the line between Dipshittery and Acceptance. NYT
From the American perspective, this looks like strategic vindication. Despite some reckless braggadocio about our role in taking down Russian targets, we have steadily escalated our support for Ukraine — including the $40 billion package that will probably clear the Senate next week — without provoking reckless escalation from Russia in response. The risk that a proxy war would encourage Moscow to climb the ladder toward a larger conflict has been manifest in the constant saber-rattling on Russian state TV — but not, thus far, in the actual choices of the Kremlin. Putin obviously doesn’t like our armaments flowing into Ukraine, but he appears willing to fight the war on these terms rather than gambling at more existential stakes.
Our success, however, yields new strategic dilemmas. Two scenarios loom for the next six months of war. In the first, Russia and Ukraine trade territory in small increments, and the war gradually cools into a “frozen conflict” in a style familiar from other wars in Russia’s near abroad.
Under those circumstances, any lasting peace deal would probably require conceding Russian control over some conquered territory, in Crimea and the Donbas, if not the land bridge now mostly held by Russian forces in between. This would hand Moscow a clear reward for its aggression, notwithstanding everything else that Russia has lost in the course of its invasion. And depending on how much territory was ceded, it would leave Ukraine mutilated and weakened, notwithstanding its military success.
So such a deal might seem unacceptable in Kyiv, Washington or both. But then the alternative — a permanent stalemate that’s always poised for a return to low-grade war — would also leave Ukraine mutilated and weakened, reliant on streams of Western money and military equipment, and less able to confidently rebuild.
There is another scenario, however, in which this dilemma diminishes because the stalemate breaks in Ukraine’s favor. This is the future that the Ukrainian military claims is within reach — where with sufficient military aid and hardware they are able to turn their modest counteroffensives into major ones and push the Russians back not just to prewar lines but potentially out of Ukrainian territory entirely.
Clearly, this is the future America should want — except for the extremely important caveat that it’s also the future where Russian nuclear escalation suddenly becomes much more likely than it is right now.
We know that Russian military doctrine envisions using tactical nuclear weapons defensively, to turn the tide in a losing war. We should assume that Putin and his circle regard total defeat in Ukraine as a regime-threatening scenario. Combine those realities with a world where the Russians are suddenly being routed, their territorial gains evaporating, and you have the most nuclear-shadowed military situation since our naval blockade of Cuba in 1962.
- Good-cop France is offering Putin a way out. If only he’d take it. WaPo
Let’s put the best face possible on French whispers that the United States is too aggressive toward Russia. Let’s avoid the easy (and tempting) jokes about a Gallic flair for surrender. Likewise with any observation that it’s easy — perhaps a bit decadent — to take a moderate view concerning Russia from behind a barrier of Eastern European democracies that find Moscow’s ravaging of their neighbor Ukraine to be an immediate and urgent threat to their own safety.
Yeah, since when has diplomacy helped?
Let’s assume that France is trying to play good cop to U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s bad cop in a joint effort to bring Vladimir Putin’s brutal war to the earliest possible conclusion. In that case, how might a good-cop, bad-cop scenario play out?
It goes into how Russia is epically failing in the war, same old shit, then:
Enter the good cop. In a speech shortly after Putin’s Victory Day fizzle, French President Emmanuel Macron offered an olive branch to Moscow while gently, and obliquely, scolding Austin. “We must, together, never cede to the temptation of humiliation, nor to a spirit of revenge,” Macron said, adding: “We are not at war with Russia. We are working in Europe for the preservation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, and for the return of peace on our continent.”
The point of a good-cop, bad-cop routine is to give a bad guy an illusion of control, a sense that he is choosing his destiny. The bad cop drives home the hopelessness of the miscreant’s situation. Then the good cop says: Let me help you keep your dignity. You don’t have to deal with the tough guy over there. You can choose to deal with me.
The good cop is offering Putin a way out. A graceful exit. The problem is Putin’s bloody-minded recalcitrance. He can’t bring himself to admit that he has blundered on an epic scale, at the cost of many thousands of lives, many ruined cities and the future of Russia as a global power.
The curse of totalitarian governments is that they kill people for telling the truth; do that enough times, and you end up with a nation of liars. Putin was lied to about the readiness of his military, lied to about the strength of the Ukrainian government and lied to about the weakness of the West. Now he is lying to himself about having viable alternatives other than surrender.
Whether to weaken Russia further is not principally a question for the United States. It’s a question for Vladimir Putin. Every day he continues to fight in Ukraine, he weakens Russia. Putin would be wise to accept the French invitation to negotiate the terms of his capitulation. Unfortunately, there’s no evidence remaining that he is capable of wisdom.
I can guarantee that Putin literally does not give a shit about any of this. They’re doing their good-cop bad-cop routine to a brick wall and then analyzing the reactions of the wall and, seeing none, concluding that it must be doing badly in this negotiation.
- Russian Coup Against Putin Already Under Way, Ukraine General Says Newsweek
Major General Kyrylo Budanov told British broadcaster Sky News that if Russia lost the war in Ukraine, Putin would be removed and his country would collapse.
“It will eventually lead to the change of leadership of the Russian Federation,” Budanov told the outlet, “this process has already been launched.”
When pressed on whether he believed a coup was already in train, he responded, “yes”, adding that “they are moving in this way and it is impossible to stop it.”
See, it’s very important that when you try and perform a secretive operation to remove somebody very important from power, that you tell the media about it. The very first step. You’re setting yourself up for failure if you don’t.
In the interview that Sky broadcast, Budanov did not offer any evidence for a coup.
- Russian oligarch secretly recorded saying Putin is ‘very ill with blood cancer,’ report says BusinessInsider
A Russian oligarch was secretly recorded saying Russian President Vladimir Putin is “very ill with blood cancer,” a report says. A Western venture capitalist taped the conversation in mid-March without the unnamed oligarch’s consent, and the recording was obtained by New Lines magazine. The oligarch claimed that Putin’s well-reported back problems are linked to blood cancer and claimed he underwent back surgery in October. In the 11-minute recording obtained by New Lines, the unnamed oligarch spoke critically about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and said, “We all hope” Putin dies from cancer or a coup. “He absolutely ruined Russia’s economy, Ukraine’s economy, and many other economies — ruined [them] absolutely,” the oligarch said. “The problem is with his head. One crazy guy can turn the world upside down.”
During his public appearance on Victory Day, Putin appeared to be limping and sat a blanket over his lap. Videos have also emerged showing him tightly gripping a table and appearing to shake uncontrollably.
He’s 69 years old.
- Ukraine’s military intelligence chief says he is ‘optimistic’ that Russia will be defeated by the end of the year BusinessInsider
“The breaking point will be in the second part of August,” Budanov told Sky News.
“Most of the active combat actions will have finished by the end of this year,” he continued. “As a result, we will renew Ukrainian power in all our territories that we have lost, including Donbas and the Crimea.”
A significant setback occurred this week when Ukraine stopped Russia from crossing a key bridge in the country’s east after a three-day battle with Russia suffering heavy equipment losses in a “highly risky” operation, UK intelligence said on Friday.
“I can confirm that they suffered heavy losses in manpower and armor, and I can say that when the artillery strikes happened, many of the crews abandoned their equipment,” Budanov told Sky News.
Author’s Note: this didn’t happen.
Budanov described the “myth” of Russia’s supposed military might, which, he added, Europe sees as a powerful threat. “It is not as powerful as this,” he said. “It is a horde of people with weapons.”
Oh, thank god, guess you don’t need all that military aid then!
- North Korea sees a virus explosion. Its missiles won’t help. Says the United fucking States. WaPo
For two years, Mr. Kim strove to keep the pandemic at bay by physical means. He tightened border controls, essentially putting the whole nation in a quarantine. Inbound travel was all but prohibited, borders were guarded with a shoot-on-sight policy, and most trade with China was suspended. Until this week, North Korea insisted that it had zero infections. The virus might have been snaking through the provinces for weeks or months, but once it reached Pyongyang, it could no longer be ignored or concealed. Now, the state media have declared a “most serious national emergency.” As well they should. North Korea’s population is highly vulnerable.
First, as Chad O’Carroll pointed out in NK News, North Korea’s neighbors, China, Russia and South Korea, have been struggling with the highly contagious omicron variant. China’s Jilin province, one of the hardest-hit regions, borders North Korea. Second, North Korea has no vaccine strategy and no vaccines. It has turned down offers from the international distribution effort known as Covax, and has no domestic shot. Thus, its population of about 26 million is facing an outbreak that could cause hundreds of thousands of deaths. When omicron hit Hong Kong, it decimated elder-care homes, suggesting what could happen in North Korea. China had a good diagnostic test capability, but North Korea is lacking there, too, and thus can’t easily track the spread. One tool that the police state does have is to restrict movement. It has imposed tight limits on travel inside the country. But China’s experience shows that such draconian measures can lose their effectiveness over time, as the virus escapes and transmits anyway. Meanwhile, North Korea faces an equally serious food crisis. Mr. Kim put food shortages at the center of his remarks in January, and it does not appear to be easing.
Mr. Kim’s choices are tough. He can roll back the quarantine and lockdown, seeking vaccines, medicines and food, but that would be an embarrassing reversal. If he sticks to closure, the population could face a period of death and misery not unlike the famine of the 1990s. And if he keeps shooting off missiles — a nuclear-weapons test site is being refurbished, too — his isolation will only grow deeper.
- 4 reasons the economy looks like it’s crumbling — and what to do about it CNN
The American economy is super weird right now. Pretty much anyone who wants a job can have one. The economy is so hot that prices are surging faster than at any point since the 1980s. The housing market is on fire. Consumers are spending like crazy. Yet we keep hearing the word “recession” like it’s 2007 all over again. What gives? The truth is that we’re probably not in recession now (although it’s possible), but there are plenty of signs that one is around the corner.
Sign 1. The Fed is hiking rates
Sign 2. The stock market is in sell-everything mode
Sign 3. The bond market
Sign 4. Chaos around the globe
OK, so a recession could be coming soon. Here’s what not to do: Panic. Even if a recession is inevitable, there’s no telling how severe it will be. But it never hurts to plan for the worst. Here are a few ways financial advisers say you can insulate your finances from a downturn.
Lock in a new job now: With ultra-low unemployment and plenty of openings, it’s a job seeker’s market. That could change quickly in a recession.
Cash in on the housing boom: If you’ve been on the fence about selling your home, now may be the time to list. Home prices in the United States are up nearly 20% year over year, but mortgage rates are also rising, which will eventually curb demand.
Set some cash aside: It’s always a good idea to have liquid assets — cash, money market funds, etc — to cover urgent needs or unexpected emergencies.
Finally, some sage advice for any market: Don’t let your emotions get the better of you. “Stay invested, stay disciplined,” says certified financial planner Mari Adam. “History shows that what people — or even experts — think about the market is usually wrong. The best way to meet your long-term goals is just stay invested and stick to your allocation.”
Peru to Sue Repsol for 4.5 Billion USD for Oil Spill TeleSUR
$230M settlement reached over 2015 California oil spill ABC
We Can’t Drill Our Way to Energy Security NYT
Texas Faces Another Day of High Heat, Straining Power Grid Bloomberg
I Thought I’d Mention
- Trump Allies Warn of ‘Demonic Territory,’ ‘Satanic Portal’ Over Biden WH Newsweek
Prominent allies of former President Donald Trump warned of a “demonic territory” over the country and a “Satanic portal” over the White House as they spoke at a weekend conference.
“There is a Satanic portal above the White House, you can see it day and night,” the Trump ally claimed. “It exists. It is real. And it must be closed. And it will be closed by prayer,” he added, drawing claps and cheers. Stone went on to claim that this “portal” first appeared after President Joe Biden “became president, and it will be closed before he leaves.”
I don’t agree with the rest of the article, but, y’know, this part is probably true. Like, I haven’t personally looked at the White House in a while…