In which the EU continues to slam their foot on the accelerator as they head towards the brick wall, the fight for the Pacific continues, the US accuses China of doing what it’s probably doing, the American bourgeoisie start salivating about the recession that may or may not be coming, Biden is sending the next Super Duper Gamechanging Weapon to Ukraine, and China continues to do a hecking 1984.
- Ukrainian refugees losing benefits in Europe RT
Millions of Ukrainians rushed westward in late February after Russia launched an offensive against their country. Initially welcomed with open arms by European nations, they are now seeing the support dwindle – at least when it comes to the benefits offered by host countries.
Starting next month, Germany’s Deutsche Bahn railway company will no longer give free tickets to anyone possessing a Ukrainian passport.
Popular holiday destinations are reportedly planning to displace thousands of Ukrainian refugees that were given lodging at beachfront hotels. In Spain, as the tourist season gets underway, rooms currently occupied by refugees will need to be vacated to accommodate paying visitors, some of whom made their bookings months ago. According to the newspaper El Pais, as many as 12,000 people face eviction.
Some host nations are also reducing the cash aid that they pay to refugees. In Bulgaria, the daily allowance will go down from around $22 per person to $8 next month.
In some cases, the assistance that Ukrainian refugees are receiving in European countries exposes them to local crime. Stanimir Stanev, a senior Bulgarian police official, revealed in a report to the country’s parliament this week that cars from Ukraine are being targeted by thieves interested in their license plates. Because the government decided not to collect road tolls and parking fees from refugees, some crooks are taking advantage of this by replacing their plates with stolen Ukrainian ones, Stanev said.
- Europe’s Push to Punish Putin Is Falling Short of the Rhetoric Bloomberg
Diplomats and officials are getting increasingly frustrated the EU may be reaching the limits of the short-term pain it can inflict on Russia already three months after its invasion of Ukraine.
Member states are failing to deliver on promises to hit President Vladimir Putin where it hurts: the lucrative energy industry. The focus has been on Hungary’s refusal to back sanctions, but other countries are yielding to Putin’s demands for gas payments in rubles.
- EU may clinch summit deal to embargo Russian oil shipments Reuters
EU countries scrambled on Friday to reach a deal that would embargo seaborne deliveries of Russian oil but still allow deliveries by pipeline, a compromise to win over Hungary and unblock new sanctions against Moscow, officials said.
According to the Brussels-based Bruegel think-tank, only a quarter of Russian oil bought by the 27-nation bloc, Russia’s biggest oil customer, is delivered by pipeline.
Three-quarters of the Russian oil for Europe is delivered by tankers, so an embargo on seaborne deliveries would still have a massive impact on Russia’s revenues from oil, reducing its ability to finance its war in Ukraine.
But it would also create competition problems in the EU, because Hungary, Slovakia and Czechia would get cheaper Russian oil for their refineries - which can sell their products all over the EU - while other countries' refineries would have to pay more for imported Brent crude.
Officials had no immediate solution to that problem yet.
- Brent could push past $150 per barrel if Russian oil exports shrink, Bank of America says Reuters
Global oil benchmark Brent crude could rise past $150 a barrel if there is a sharp contraction in Russian oil exports, Bank of America (BofA) Global Research said on Friday.
Oil prices surged after Russian’s Ukraine invasion, which Moscow calls a “special operation”, and are currently just below the $120 a barrel level.
- Russia has incited genocide in Ukraine, independent experts conclude WaPo
Russia is responsible for inciting genocide and perpetrating atrocities that show an “intent to destroy” the Ukrainian people, a new legal analysis signed by more than 30 independent experts concluded.
The report, published Friday by the Washington-based New Lines Institute for Strategy and Policy and the Montreal-based Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights, also concludes that there is “serious risk of genocide in Ukraine,” and that states have a legal obligation to prevent genocide from occurring.
It cited denials from high-level Russian officials and state media commentators of the existence of a distinct Ukrainian identity, and dehumanizing claims that Ukrainians are Nazis and “are therefore deserving of punishment.” The report also points to Russian authorities’ rewarding soldiers suspected of mass killings in Ukraine, among other evidence.
- Western allies are considering lifting sanctions on Russian oligarchs who voluntarily donate some of their fortune to fund Ukraine, report says Business Insider
I guarantee that almost none of that money will go to Ukraine.
- Putin Assures Austria Gas Deliveries, Ready To Talk Prisoner Swap With Ukraine OilPrice
Russian President Vladimir Putin reported to Austria on Friday that Russia would meet its natural gas delivery commitments and was ready to negotiate a prisoner swap with Ukraine, according to Reuters.
Austria gets 80% of its natural gas from Russia, and it could take years for Austria to wean itself off Russian natural gas.
- Putin orders copyright royalties in rubles RT
Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree stating that certain foreign copyright holders may be paid in rubles, expanding on previous counter-measures against companies based in ‘unfriendly countries’ that are currently imposing sanctions on Moscow.
- Belarus pushes to expand its military RT
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has instructed the government in Minsk to create a militia in order to expand the armed forces and deter outside meddling, Defense Minister Viktor Khrenin said on Friday. Lukashenko has already announced the creation of a southern military command on the border with Ukraine.
Among other things, Lukashenko has tasked the military with “creating a people’s militia in our country,” Khrenin said on Friday, speaking at a meeting of governors and military commissioners of Belarusian regions. After the matter is discussed with the governors, it will be regulated by law, Khrenin added, after which the numerical strength of the Belarusian armed forces will increase “many times.”
- Sun-Starved Sweden Turns to Solar to Fill Power Void Bloomberg
Sweden, known for its long dark winters with barely any daylight, is seeing a solar power boom.
Harnessing whatever sunshine the country gets is emerging as the quickest solution to fill part of the void left by two closed nuclear reactors in southern Sweden, where the biggest cities and industries are located. With shortages piling up in the region and consumers keen to secure green energy at stable prices, solar is quickly catching up with wind as developers put panels on rooftops and underutilized land in populated areas.
- Poland is running out of coal RT
Polish companies have limited the sale of coal in the country after blocking imports from Russia, Deputy Minister of State Assets Piotr Pyzik said during his speech in Parliament on Friday.
He explained that the demand for raw materials in the country is far exceeding domestic output. “Companies… have decided to introduce sales restrictions in order to provide fuel for the next heating season to as many customers as possible,” Pyzik explained.
He acknowledged that the situation in the country is difficult, and that consumers are facing difficulties with coal purchases.
Poland has been importing Russian coal for years, which accounts for about 20% of the nation’s domestic consumption. Some 9.4 million tons was imported to Poland in 2020 and used mostly to heat individual households. The nation also imports some 50% of its gas and over 60% of the oil it refines from Russia.
However, since the start of the military conflict in Ukraine, Warsaw has been calling for a complete ban on Russian energy. In March, Warsaw said it will end all Russian energy imports, including oil, gas, and coal by the end of 2022.
Asia and Oceania
- ‘Anti-China’: The Quad launches maritime surveillance plan Al Jazeera
By monitoring radio frequencies and radar signals, the initiative will also help countries track boats even when they try to avoid detection by turning off their transponders, known as Automatic Information Systems (AIS). This intelligence will then be shared across an existing network of regional surveillance centres based in India, Singapore, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands.
Greg Poling, fellow for Southeast Asia at the US-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, described the IPMDA as “ambitious” and said it “could be enormously helpful” to developing states across the Indian Ocean, Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands. “This effort could seriously lower the cost and increase the capabilities of monitoring illegal fishing and Chinese maritime militia behaviour,” he said.
- China’s industrial profits slump in April as COVID curbs squeeze firms Reuters
Profits shrank 8.5% from a year earlier, swinging from a 12.2% gain in March, according to Reuters' calculations based on National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) data released on Friday. The slump is the biggest since March 2020.
- China’s largest oil trader is hiring tankers to carry even more discounted Russian crude Business Insider
China’s largest oil trader has hired at least 10 tankers to increase its Russian crude imports, according to Bloomberg.
- China’s food security push poses threat to US, officials warn RT
China’s efforts to achieve food security represent a threat to the US, according to a federal agency focused on trade with Beijing. Officials warn that Chinese firms could attempt to steal intellectual property, cut into Washington’s foodstuff exports profits, undermine American supply chains, and even target US genetically modified crops with biological warfare.
Arguing that China is “hungry” for American intellectual property, the document goes on to warn of potential “military applications” of agricultural technologies, even suggesting the People’s Liberation Army could someday attempt to wage biological warfare against genetically modified American crops.
America doth protest too much, methinks.
- ‘Empress of terror’: Japanese Red Army founder released from prison The Guardian
Once described as “the empress of terror”, Fusako Shigenobu founded the Japanese Red Army, a radical leftist group that carried out armed attacks worldwide in support of the Palestinian cause.
- North Korea says Covid ‘under control’ Bangkok Post
North Korea says its Covid-19 outbreak has been brought under control, with state media reporting falling caseloads for a seventh straight day Friday as healthcare workers “intensify” testing and treatment.
- Recession fears? Some businesses in Singapore bracing for troubled times ahead CNA
While reiterating an earlier 3 to 5 per cent growth projection for 2022, the Ministry of Trade and Industry said on May 25 that “the external economic environment has unfortunately deteriorated”.
More than half of the large companies and 60 per cent of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) polled by the Singapore Business Federation (SBF) last month said they have been negatively hit by the ongoing Ukraine war.
- Myanmar Central Bank Orders Government Agencies to Stop Using Foreign Currencies The Diplomat
On Wednesday, in the latest move designed to shore up its rickety currency, Myanmar’s central bank ordered ministries and other government agencies to cease using foreign currencies for domestic transactions.
In a statement, Win Thaw, the deputy governor of the Central Bank of Myanmar (CBM), said that the use of foreign currencies for domestic payments could lead to higher demand for dollars and cause exchange rate instability.
- Samoa signs China bilateral agreement during Pacific push by Beijing The Guardian
Samoa signed a bilateral agreement with China on Saturday, promising “greater collaboration”, as Beijing’s foreign minister continues a tour of the Pacific that has sparked concern among western allies.
The Samoan release said China would continue to provide infrastructural development support to various Samoan sectors and there would be a new framework for future projects “to be determined and mutually agreed”.
- Kiribati focuses on trade not security for China visit to remote Pacific island Reuters
Kiribati was focused on trade and tourism opportunities with China, and wasn’t keen on a security arrangement, according to a Kiribati official, who was not authorised to speak to media.
The official said a controversial plan to reopen a protected marine zone for fishing, and to upgrade an airstrip on Canton island, weren’t among agreements due to be signed.
- Iran says forces seize two Greek tankers Reuters
Iranian forces seized two Greek tankers in the Gulf on Friday, Iranian state media reported, shortly after Tehran warned it would take “punitive action” against Athens over the confiscation of Iranian oil by the United States from a tanker held off the Greek coast.
- Imran Khan Pauses Long March to Islamabad The Diplomat
Clashes between police and supporters of former Prime Minister Imran Khan erupted across several cities of Pakistan on Wednesday after the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) began its much-awaited long march to Islamabad. Across the country, police resorted to firing tear gas shells to disperse the protesters. In response to the police’s violence, PTI workers set fire to trees and police vehicles in the capital, forcing the government to call the military to protect the capital’s Red Zone, which houses important government buildings.
- Landmines Still Haunt Civilians in Northern Yemen TeleSUR
Earlier this week, Project Masam announced that its 32 teams working in liberated areas of Yemen had reached a significant milestone after clearing 5,060 landmines since mid-2018.
Demining experts say that over one million landmines have been laid since the outbreak of the civil war in 2014, when the Houthi militia took control of several northern provinces and forced the Saudi-backed Yemeni government out of the capital, Sanaa. Most of these landmines were homemade from plastic in the form of small rocks, food cans, and water bottles.
- ‘We don’t have food’: African leaders meet as crises grow Seattle Times
African leaders gathered for a summit Friday in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, to address growing humanitarian needs on the continent, which is also facing increased violent extremism, climate change challenges and a run of military coups.
Leaders called for increased mobilization to resolve a humanitarian crisis that has left millions displaced and more than 280 million suffering from malnourishment.
- Russia Asks for Investigation of US-funded Biolabs in Nigeria TeleSUR
“Against the background of numerous cases of U.S. violations of biosafety requirements and facts of negligent storage of pathogenic biomaterials, we call on the leadership of the World Health Organization to investigate the activities of U.S.-funded Nigerian laboratories in Abuja, Zaria, and Lagos and inform the world community about its results,” the official said.
- DR Congo: Soldiers, civilians sentenced to death for selling arms Al Jazeera
A military court in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has sentenced to death eight soldiers and three civilians for selling arms to a violent rebel group.
- Russia aims to conclude free trade agreement with Egypt Egypt Independent
Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that negotiations are actively underway to conclude a full free trade agreement with Iran, adding that similar negotiations are planned with Egypt, Indonesia and the UAE, RIA Novosti reported.
The Russian President made the statement in a speech at the meeting of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council on Friday.
The Eurasian Economic Union includes Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan.
The daily pendulum has swung back to “not a recession”, as predicted.
- A recession just isn’t in the cards, BofA says. Instead, get ready for ‘extended weakness’ Fortune
Bank of America research economists say consumers shouldn’t expect a recession in 2022; instead, they should prepare for a growth slowdown.
Harris and his team see U.S. GDP growth falling to 2.6% this year and 1.5% in 2023, but argue inflation will moderate from current levels and the economic slowdown will largely be a result of the Federal Reserve raising interest rates. That means it will be easier to reverse if a recession rears its head.
“The nasty selloff in the equity market seems to have brought the perma-bears out of hibernation. By some accounts, only two outcomes are plausible: mild or major recession,” they wrote. “Our base case remains an extended period of weak growth, and we think any recession is likely to be mild.”
- Americans’ savings rates hit Great Recession–era lows Fortune
So much for all the extra cash we were stashing away during the pandemic.
Following a banner year for household finances in the U.S., Americans' savings rates are in free fall, hitting lows not seen since the Great Recession.
The personal savings rate was 4.4% in April, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, the lowest rate recorded since September 2008. This isn’t just a reflection of the impact that inflation is having on households. Consumers are spending more on goods and services than they were before the coronavirus pandemic, even when adjusted for inflation.
- Why this is a critical moment for American workers to push for wage gains CNBC
Economic data has shown during this inflationary period that while nominal wages are higher American workers are not experiencing real wage gains.
A new CNBC|Momentive national survey of workers shows that two-thirds say their pay isn’t keeping up with higher prices.
Middle-income Americans are now the most squeezed, according to the survey, and the percentage of workers thinking about quitting is at a four-year high.
US Fuel Prices Sharply Up Ahead of Memorial Day TeleSUR
A recession could end the Great Resignation and cut workers' bargaining power, warn business leaders at Davos. “Okay, what’s the bad news then?" Business Insider
Coram Williams, finance chief of the Adecco Group, told Insider: “If some of the things that people are talking about come to fruition – if the levels of inflation are sustained, if interest rates continue to rise, if energy prices don’t come down – I think it by definition shifts some of the balance.”
“I don’t know whether it will be a soft or a hard landing,” Williams added. “But it’s clearly going to take some of the froth out of the world economy. And that means that you have some aspect of rebalancing within labor markets, which probably shifts the pendulum slightly for slightly more back towards the employer.”
“We only have one steel-spiked boot pressing down on the neck of labor rather than both of them, which needs immediate correction."
- Bolivia wants better gas deal with Brazil MercoPress
Bolivia’s Minister of Hydrocarbons and Energy Franklin Molina said the agreement with Brazil for the sale of cooking gas signed during the arguably illegitimate administration of Janine Áñez was detrimental to his country and will now seek to reach a new, more favorable deal.
Molina made those remarks after Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro decried Bolivia’s decision to refunnel 30% of the gas originally bound for South America’s largest country to Argentina, where President Alberto Fernández has a lot more in common with Bolivian leader Luis Arce Catacora and also to former President Evo Morales Ayma.
“Everything is orchestrated,” Bolsonaro complained, arguing that angered Brazilians who would have to pay higher gas bills would turn to “you know whom” (leftwing presidential candidate and former two-time head of state Luiz Inácio Lula Da Silva) and said his own country’s state-run oil company Petrobras was behind the maneuver.
- Venezuela to Increase Cooperation With the Eurasian Union TeleSUR
On Thursday, Venezuela’s Vice President Delcy Rodriguez ratified President Nicolas Maduro’s administration’s interest in strengthening investments and cooperation with Eurasian nations.
“Venezuela has a secure relationship with other economic blocs in the world,” she said during her virtual participation in the 2022 Eurasian Economic Forum that will take place in 2022 in Bishkek, the capital city of Kyrgyzstan.
Currently, Venezuela has the world’s largest oil reserves and is “a country where investments can be made with total security and transparency,” Rodriguez said, recalling that her country also has the world’s first diamond reserve, the fourth gold reserve, and the fifth gas reserve.
“We have to highlight that Venezuela has increased its non-traditional exports by 76 percent,” she said, noting that her country ranks eighth among the Latin American countries with the highest increase in exports, according to data from the Economic Commission for Latin America. and the Caribbean (ECLAC).
“Venezuela is heading victoriously along the path of economic rebirth and social well-being,” the Bolivarian leader said, emphasizing that the more than 500 arbitrary US sanctions have not managed to undermine the capacity for recovery and progress of Venezuelans.
- Oil Prices Are Set To Surge Even Higher This Summer OilPrice
The Ukraine War
Russian MoD confirms the full capture of the city of Lyman.
Russia says that they have captured the first line of neighbourhoods in Severodonetsk. There’s also footage of the Russian capture of the Mir hotel, on the edge of the city. It’s unclear to me what the situation is exactly - all I can say for sure is that there are definitely Russian forces fighting in the city, and they are making gains. Urban warfare is chaotic and difficult, of course. There was similar ambiguity for a while in Mariupol, before the Nazis were pushed into Azovstal.
Ukraine disputes Russian claims that a number of villages near Popasna have been taken by Russian forces.
Ukraine has attempted to breach the Kherson front at Davydiv Brid with 10 units of mechanized infantry, though with mixed success - while they punched through and reached a village in Russian territory, Russia reports that they have been “scattered” and are “encircled”, and that Ukraine clearly expected less troops there than there actually were (implying some degree of reinforcement by Russia in this area). Clashes continue.
Russia “has the advantage” in Luhansk region, Ukraine says Reuters
Kremlin Officials Hopeful Russia Can Win Ukraine War in Months Newsweek
“According to Meduza sources, despite the fact that the results of the Russian army are clearly not in line with Moscow’s original plans, the Kremlin is again discussing a possible assault on Kyiv—and even hoping for a full-scale victory in the war,” the Russian- and English-language news website wrote on Friday.
One source close to the Kremlin was quoted by Meduza as saying, “We are going to kill [the Ukrainians] anyway. Most likely, by the autumn everything will be over.”
“Sooner or later, Europe will get tired of helping - this is both money and the production of weapons, which they themselves need more. Closer to autumn, it will be necessary to negotiate [with Russia] on gas and oil for the heating season,” another said.
- US buys more Stingers to refill stock sent to Ukraine Al Jazeera
The United States military has signed a contract for $687m worth of anti-craft Stinger missiles to replenish US stocks sent to Ukraine, sources told the Reuters news agency in an exclusive report.
The contract for a total of 1,468 Stingers was awarded on Wednesday, according to a document reviewed by the news agency. There was no timeline for completion of the work, but it was estimated delivery could take up to 30 months.
- Ukrainians question the ease of Russian capture of Kherson Al Jazeera
Many civilians in Kherson say they believe key civilian and military officials ‘surrendered’ the region and that they feel abandoned.
After days of fighting that killed hundreds of Ukrainian servicemen, barely trained militias and civilians, Russians seized the Antonovskiy bridge and rolled into the city of Kherson. It took Moscow only a week to seize Kherson, which became its biggest, most strategic and economically valuable war trophy.
Many civilians in Kherson are adamant that key civilian and military officials “surrendered” the region.
A top official in Kyiv had a far more vulgar answer to why Kherson was taken over so humiliatingly quickly. “We f*cked up,” presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych, a charismatic public speaker known for his optimistic spiels, said in televised remarks on May 9. “Who, what and how – yes, we will sort it out, and law enforcement agencies are sorting it out, too. Because the biggest question is where there was incompetence and where there was treason,” he said.
- Those American Rockets Ukraine Has Been Begging For? They’re Perfect For Shooting Russian Artillery. Forbes
What about if they’re under heavy fire from missiles and Russian aircraft?
Ukraine keeps handy a long list of weapons it wants from its foreign allies—a list that Ukrainian defense minister Oleksii Reznikov consults at regular meetings of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, a virtual confab of dozens of top military officials.
At the top of that list is an American-made mobile rocket launcher—the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, made by Lockheed Martin.
Now it looks like Kyiv might finally get its truck-mounted HIMARS. The administration of President Joe Biden plans to sign off on the transfer next week, CNN reported.
HIMARS is high-end artillery. It’s not for no reason the U.S. Marine Corps is replacing many of its M-777 howitzers with new HIMARS. Coincidentally, Ukraine is getting 100 of the redundant M777s.
It’s unclear how many HIMARS the U.S. government might give to Ukraine, and how quickly. The Army has 375 HIMARS. The Marine Corps has 40. The president through his “drawdown” authority can take launchers from the Army and Marines and give them to Ukraine.
The more HIMARS Ukraine gets, the fewer the United States has … until Lockheed Martin makes more. Lockheed builds around 30 HIMARS annually. If the Pentagon is willing to accept modest risk for a year, then 30 might be the right number of launchers to give away.
Climate and Space
-‘We are in danger now’: Vanuatu declares climate emergency Al Jazeera
Beekeepers and communists: how environmentalists started a global conversation The Guardian
Scientists Say Tundra Could Be Lost in 30 Years as Trees Take Over Newsweek
The unique vegetation of the Arctic tundra could disappear by the year 2050 if no substantial reduction in global warming is achieved, scientists have warned.
- Hydrogen may be a climate solution. There’s debate over how clean it will truly be NPR
What the market wants is energy that doesn’t create carbon pollution. Wholey thinks hydrogen, the most common element in the universe, could be the answer.
When it’s used to fuel a car or power plant, hydrogen’s chief byproduct is water — not climate-warming carbon dioxide. But finding a clean and cheap source for making hydrogen has eluded scientists and policymakers for decades.
“I think hydrogen is crucial,” says Paulina Jaramillo, a professor of engineering and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University and a co-author of a recent U.N. report on climate change. She says hydrogen can be a clean alternative for industries such as steel mills, fertilizer plants or shipping.
The big problem is getting hydrogen. It can be made in a number of ways — each with its own color-coded designation. There’s gray hydrogen, which is how most hydrogen is made today, through heating natural gas. This creates lots of carbon dioxide, the driving force in climate change, which the United Nations has called a “threat to human well-being and (the) health of the planet.” Blue hydrogen, where that CO2 is captured and stored underground, is being pushed by big oil and gas companies as a lower-carbon energy source.
The infrastructure bill mandates four hubs for “clean” hydrogen, including at least one for blue hydrogen and another for green hydrogen. That’s the process in which renewable energy is used to extract hydrogen from water using electrolysis, so it gives off no carbon dioxide. Another hub will produce pink hydrogen, which uses electrolysis powered by nuclear energy.
Julie McNamara, deputy policy director for climate and energy with the Union of Concerned Scientists, wants better methane safeguards on any federal funding for blue hydrogen.
“It’s one of the most important things to get right, because the government is now investing $8 billion to catalyze an industry that might not be clean at all if they don’t get this right,” says McNamara.
Another advantage, says Bridget van Dorsten, an analyst with the Wood Mackenzie energy research consultancy, is the fossil fuel industry’s political power in the United States. She says that makes blue hydrogen more likely than a full push for green hydrogen.
“Do you think that a natural gas industry would be more amenable to [a plan of] ‘Hey, we’re going to totally get rid of all of your infrastructure’?” van Dorsten asks.
“Or do you think that they would prefer, ‘Hey, you know what, that investment that you made in all of that infrastructure, you can keep it. You’ve just got to pay more to add carbon capture on to it.’ Because I think they’d be interested in the latter,” she says.
Dipshittery and Cope
- Putin’s Unconditional Surrender Should Not Be the Goal Bloomberg
Nothing creates confusion more than war. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has said that “diplomacy leads to peace, and peace is desirable for every human being.” Yet Ukrainian officials have furiously denounced suggestions — most recently from 99-year-old former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger — that they settle for a return to the status quo ante, leaving Vladimir Putin in control of large swathes of Ukrainian territory.
The idea that Putin is a reincarnation of Adolf Hitler is, however, just a mirror image of Putin’s propaganda that Russia is fighting the Nazis in Ukraine. This war, although horrifying enough, is not World War II. And the Allied demand in 1945 for the unconditional surrender of Germany and Japan is the wrong model to apply in Ukraine.
Yet conditions today are quite different. In 1945, the Allied forces were on the verge of defeating utterly devastated enemies. However inept its armed forces may appear to be, Russia is far from devastated. And Ukraine, however brave its soldiers and effective its Western arms, is far from dominant. Neither side is in any position to demand an unconditional surrender.
The idea that a defeat of the Russian army in Ukraine would result in a democratic transformation in Russia is equally farfetched. Nothing is impossible, of course. But circumstances in Putin’s Russia don’t remotely resemble those in Germany and Japan after their collapse. Both countries in 1945 were occupied by the Allies, who helped the Germans and Japanese restore democratic institutions that had previously existed. (This wasn’t true, of course, of the areas occupied by the Soviet Red Army.) There is no chance of Russia being occupied. And a humiliated Russia is hardly likely to become liberal very soon.
The Ukrainian demand that Russia withdraw all its troops from Ukrainian territory is an entirely legitimate position to adopt. But it is a position, not an ultimatum. Compromises can and should be reached once negotiations begin.
Helping Ukraine to fight back against a brutal invasion is essential. Giving Ukrainians the means to do so is a valid enterprise. They should be in the strongest possible position to negotiate. But it is not for those of us outside Ukraine to tell them what their endgame should look like.
- Zelensky promises Donbas will be “Ukrainian again,” as Russian forces continue to make gains CNN
“That’s why we have to increase our defense, increase our resistance, and Donbas will be Ukrainian again. Even if Russia will bring all suffering and ruination to Donbas, we will rebuild every town, every community. There’s no real alternative,” Zelensky stressed.
- Russia has fired hundreds of missiles in its war with Ukraine, but the US assesses most have failed, reports say Yahoo
Russia has fired off more than 1,100 missiles in its ongoing war with Ukraine, according to a US defense official, and over 2,100, according to Ukraine, but many of Russia’s missiles have apparently either failed on launch, malfunctioned in flight, or missed their targets, according to officials familiar with the intelligence.
A US official who spoke with Reuters on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the information revealed that US intelligence shows Russia’s day-to-day missile failure rate sometimes exceeded 50% for certain types of precision-guided munitions. Two other officials said the failure rate was sometimes as high as 60%.
- Russia is pulling old, obsolete tanks out of storage because it is losing so many in its war with Ukraine, intelligence suggests Business Insider
Russian armor losses have been substantial in the country’s brutal war against neighboring Ukraine, and the latest intelligence indicates it is having to pull old T-62 tanks out of storage to replace more modern equipment lost in battle.
And on Friday, the British defense ministry posted an intelligence update reporting that “Russia has likely moved 50-year-old T-62 tanks from deep storage,” noting that the move “highlights Russia’s shortage of modern, combat-ready equipment.”
- Imran Khan claims there’s a US conspiracy against him. Why do so many Pakistanis believe him? CNN
The president who replaced him is raising fuel prices to appease the IMF and running off to the arms of the US. Gee, who can say?
- Trump and Biden were both foolish about Afghanistan. Now we’re all paying the price CNN
Whether it’s providing a safe haven for terrorist groups like al Qaeda or installing officials who face United Nations sanctions in cabinet positions, the Taliban is up to its old ways, according to a new report issued by the UN on Friday. While the report does not mention former President Donald Trump or President Joe Biden by name, it is an indictment of their administrations' failed policies in Afghanistan.
The UN also points out that an astonishing 41 members of the Taliban who are on the UN sanctions list have been appointed to the cabinet and other senior-level positions in Afghanistan.
All of this demonstrates how deeply flawed a strategy it was for the Trump administration to negotiate a “peace” agreement with the Taliban – and how misguided it was for Biden to abide by that agreement once he assumed office.
In 2018, the Trump administration started negotiating directly with the Taliban, eventually coming to an agreement that the United States would withdraw from Afghanistan providing that the Taliban would not let the country become a haven for terrorists and agree to enter into genuine peace negotiations with the Afghan government.
The Trump team signed the agreement with the Taliban in 2020 and Biden, who said he was forced to either abide by that deal or escalate the fighting in Afghanistan, chose to pull out all US troops in August last year.
It’s worth noting this agreement wasn’t ratified by the US Senate, and instead was a deal negotiated with a terrorist/insurgent group that failed to stick to their end of the agreement. It was also a deal that had been struck without any substantive involvement of the elected Afghan government.
The UN report states that the Taliban “are, in large part, the same Taliban movement that was deposed in 2001.” The UN also notes that the top posts in the Taliban government “have been given to the Taliban’s ‘old guard.'” … the Taliban is in a stronger position today than the last time it was in power. That was before the 9/11 attacks, when it was fighting the Northern Alliance, a not insignificant opposition force.
You fucked up! You had de facto control of the country for the better part of two decades, and what did you do with that time? Nothing, clearly! The United States is directly responsible for the situation there!
- China’s lending policy could trigger new debt crisis - Germany’s Scholz Investing
A lack of transparency in China’s lending poses a threat to developing and emerging countries and could trigger a new debt crisis, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Friday.
“It really is a serious danger that the next big debt crisis in the global South will stem from loans that China has granted around the world and does not quite keep track of itself, because there are so many players involved,” Scholz said at a panel discussion at Germany’s Catholic Day in Stuttgart.
“That would then plunge both China and the global South into a major economic and financial crisis and not leave the rest of the world unaffected - to put it politely.”
- China President Warned Biden Democracy Is Dying: ‘You Don’t Have the Time’ Newsweek
President Joe Biden revealed that after being elected to the White House, Chinese President Xi Jinping cautioned him that democracies are on the decline and that one day “autocracies will run the world.”
Xi Jinping went on to discuss the latest innovations in Orwellian strategies to be the most powerful totalitarian dictator possible, then told Biden that he was late to his eldritch ritual where he snaps Ughyur children in half and drinks their spinal fluid, and had to go.
- As U.N. Rights Chief Visits China, Some Fear She’ll Become Part of the Spin NYT
The news was given prime placement in Chinese state media: The United Nations’ human rights chief, on her long-awaited visit to the country, had spoken with China’s leader, Xi Jinping. An article plastered across the website of Xinhua, the state news agency, relayed Mr. Xi’s declaration that the Chinese people were enjoying “unprecedented” rights. Then the article quoted the U.N. official, Michelle Bachelet.
“I admire China’s efforts and achievements in eradicating poverty, protecting human rights and realizing economic and social development,” she said, according to Xinhua.
But within hours, Ms. Bachelet’s office issued a rebuttal. It pointed to “her actual opening remarks,” which made no mention of admiring China’s record on rights.
The government, before agreeing to allow Ms. Bachelet’s tour, which includes Xinjiang, insisted that the visit be “friendly.” Chinese officials have threatened Uyghurs overseas who asked Ms. Bachelet to seek information about their relatives. Even Ms. Bachelet has privately acknowledged the challenge of securing meetings free from official surveillance.
What Ms. Bachelet is able to see, and what she says about it, could have major implications for attempts to hold China accountable for its alleged abuses. Critics say a highly choreographed tour would only lend legitimacy to the government’s denials of wrongdoing in Xinjiang.
“This visit is already being used by China as propaganda to conceal its ongoing, heinous crimes,” said Mehmet Tohti, executive director of the Ottawa-based Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project.
Good Takes that are Dope
- The European Union Was Designed to Stifle Democracy Jacobin
Today, the structures of European capitalism and the transatlantic alliance should be under scrutiny like never before. After more than a decade of intense economic and political crisis, Western European powers and their US sponsor are now facing off against Russia in a brutal proxy war in Ukraine.
Amid the maelstrom, European powers are rearming at an incredible rate. Germany, so long reticent to commit to its full military potential, has broken its long postwar militarist taboo and tripled its defense budget. At the Conference on the Future of Europe in April, leading politicians voted to deepen integration and launch a joint European armed force, indicating the trend toward even less democracy and even more militarism.
Developments are now underway that will shape the future of European and, indeed, world civilization. However, the appreciation of the European Union from much of the Left has been ambivalent, confused, and ultimately self-destructive.
This failure of reckoning has consequences. Many of those who advanced the most overwrought fantasies about the possibility of EU reform have expressed similar confusions (or rather allegiances) in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, though now concerning another pillar of the Western order — NATO.
What are the intellectual roots of this stupefaction? Ever Closer Union? Europe in the West is the latest book of essays by Perry Anderson about Britain, Europe, and the United States. It seeks to examine the intellectual world of those sympathetic to the prevailing order. Although he completed the book before the February 2022 Russian invasion, the dangers of Euro-American overextension in Eastern Europe were already apparent to Anderson (giving the lie to the idea that the gruesome assault on Ukraine came from nowhere but Vladimir Putin’s black heart).
What emerges from Ever Closer Union? is a devastating criticism of the ruling liberal hegemony in European society: a chauvinistic worldview with an almost cultic belief in the rights of the powerful and a disdain for democracy. Socialists who want to understand the EU would do well to know the backdrop to this rapidly mutating behemoth.
It’s a long article, so I’ll stop there, but that’s the gist of it.
- Arsenal Of Autocracy? Popular Resistance
These are good times to be an arms maker. Not only are tens of billions of dollars in new military spending headed for the coffers of this country’s largest weapons contractors, but they’re being praised as defenders of freedom and democracy, thanks to their role in arming Ukraine to fight the Russians. The last time the industry gained such a sterling reputation was during World War II when it was lauded as the “arsenal of democracy” for fueling the fight against fascism.
The president has just approved a new $40 billion aid package for Ukraine rushed through Congress — an even higher figure, you’ll undoubtedly not be surprised to learn, than he asked for. More than half of that package will go for military purposes, which means the outlook for firms like Raytheon and Lockheed Martin couldn’t be brighter. Add to that new sales to NATO allies beefing up their military budgets in response to the Russian invasion, as well as the Pentagon’s own astronomical budget — slated to exceed $800 billion for 2023 — and the opportunities for profit seem nothing short of endless.
And it’s true that Ukraine does indeed need weapons to defend itself. In the context of a policy in Washington designed, as Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin recently put it all too bluntly, to “weaken Russia” rather than simply end the war, there is, however, a danger in sending too much, too fast. After all, escalating the conflict in this way could possibly lead to a direct confrontation between the U.S. and Russia, two nuclear-armed nations.
As someone who has followed Washington’s arms production and its global weapons sales for decades now, my answer would be: far from it. At best, those firms are opportunists, selling their wares wherever they’re allowed to, regardless of whether their products will be used to push back a Russian invasion of Ukraine or fuel the world’s worst humanitarian catastrophe of this century in Yemen.
If they were truly to become part of an “arsenal of democracy,” those militarized mega-firms would have to trim their client lists considerably. I suspect, in fact, that if we were looking at their global sales in a more clear-eyed way, we would have to come up with a more apt term for them entirely. My own suggestion when it comes to Boeing, Raytheon, General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin, and similar firms would be “arsenal of autocracy.”
The article continues, discussing US arms companies.
Bloomerism and Hope
- Revolutionary Cuba Delivers Marching Orders To The US Left Popular Resistance
It has been jarring coming back to the US where the confusion about who is the aggressor in the Ukraine conflict is so profoundly deep and expansive among so much of the population, but particularly among the alleged left. Jarring after spending a week in Revolutionary Cuba to witness the 2022 May Day Celebration in the country. The first since the pandemic and since the 2021 US- right-wing supported protests that spawned the failed #SOSCuba campaign, more than 6 million Cuban workers participated in May Day celebrations across the country, with the vast majority of them parading jubilantly, defiantly, and triumphantly through Revolutionary Square.
I saw with my own eyes the celebration of worker solidarity and the indefatigable defense of the Cuban Revolution as waves of workers walked with signs and costumes and Cuban flags past the iconic images of Ernesto “Che” Guevara on the Ministry of the Interior building with the words he may be most famous for accompanying his image, “Hasta La Victoria Siempre,” or “Always onwards onto victory,” and another of Camilo Cienfuegos on the adjacent Telecommunications Building with the words “Vas Bien, Fidel,” or “You are doing well, Fidel,” underneath the image. Any picture or video captured of the May Day 2022 parade would reflect an unabated stream of masses of people holding banners, waving flags or scarves, and dancing to a vibrant live band between the billboards on one building at the entrance to the Plaza that read “Cuba vive y trabaja (Cuba lives and works)” and the imposing 109-meter tall José Marti memorial that overlooks the plaza. For a little over two hours, Cuban workers celebrated their country, their revolution, and their socialism, and they were especially jubilant when the announcers acknowledged the union or the company or the banner they carried, and they blew kisses and shouted “gracias” and “Bloqueo no! Cuba sí!” at the members of the foreign delegations that were in the stands as spectators.
The article goes on for a while discussing Cuba, then:
I felt that international left forces were given our marching orders from the political and ideological leaders of the country that continues to defend its revolution against US imperialism and aggression. The remarks from Cuban leaders and the panel discussions in the breakout sessions all conveyed the message to respect the diversity of culture and traditions in uniting in solidarity to defeat imperialism for all humanity. It seemed as though the call from the political leaders of Cuba was not just to focus on ending the blockade against Cuba, but to refocus our efforts on ending imperialism, because it is imperialism that ties all oppressed peoples around the world together, so only defeating imperialism will free us all, regardless of whatever cultural or traditional difference we may have. Not that some of us needed those marching orders, since many of us were even in Cuba because we are not just anti-war, we are ANTI-IMPERIALISTS, and we understand that it is imperialism that is the primary contradiction, the one connective tissue that causes all of our oppression and injustice the world over.
But I came back to a country where imperialism is a word and a concept that is grossly misunderstood, and the role of the US in conflicts the world over, and in Ukraine especially, is twisted into a macabre fairy tale narrative of “the US is good,” and whomever the US says is “bad” is vilified even by some on the so-called Left.
This well-oiled propaganda machine that has turned neo-Nazis in Ukraine into brave fighters and defenders, and that has reduced the former Soviet Red Army’s defeat of Nazi Germany into a crossed-out footnote in history that we are now told doesn’t mean what we think it means has clouded the minds of some on the US Left, but not in Cuba. Wherever I went in the country and was able to talk to regular Cubans or hear Cuban elected officials from small towns to larger cities speak, the violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty by the US-backed coup in 2014, the threat to Russia’s sovereignty by the expansion of NATO to former Warsaw Pact countries on Russia’s border, and the eight-year civil war against ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine that the US and NATO have armed, were all issues that were raised as the causes of the war. Whenever the issue was discussed by anyone in Cuba, words like “US war,” “US imperialist war” and “US proxy war” were used frequently by the Cuban common person and elected officials alike.
If we on the left in the US want to end the blockade against Cuba, end the repression of left movements in the Global South, if we want to end the repression and exploitation of Africa, and bring about justice for nations looted in the global human trafficking crime against humanity, we must also not be defeated by the false imperialist propaganda about Cuba coming from the United States. We must be united and remain strong in our efforts to defeat IMPERIALISM, because that is the primary contradiction for all of us, and its demise is the only hope for humanity.
- Trump weighs in on Texas school shooting RT
“If the United States has $40 billion to send to Ukraine, we should be able to do whatever it takes to keep our children safe at home,” Trump said on Friday in a speech at the National Rifle Association (NRA) convention in Houston. “We spent trillions in Iraq, trillions in Afghanistan, we got nothing.
“Before we nation-build the rest of the world, we should be building safe schools for our own children in our own nation.”