Link back to the discussion thread.
- Energy Crisis Hits European Factories Where It Hurts Oil Price
European commodity producers and manufacturers are reeling from high energy prices, thanks in large part to the Ukraine crisis. Europe’s industrial energy costs have skyrocketed in the wake of Russia’s war on Ukraine, severely denting manufacturers' ability to compete in the global marketplace, with natural gas three times more expensive in Europe than in the U.S.
In fact, the situation has grown so bleak that energy-intensive industries such as steel, chemical, and fertilizer manufacturing are shutting their European factories amid soaring oil and gas costs as well as growing concerns that Russia may cut off its supply.
- ‘Justice’ for Ukraine overshadowed by cost of living concerns, polling shows The Guardian
Europe’s unity over the war in Ukraine is at risk as public attention increasingly shifts from the battlefield to cost of living concerns, polling across 10 European countries suggests, with the divide deepening between voters who want a swift end to the conflict and those who want Russia punished.
The survey in nine EU member states – Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain and Sweden – plus the UK found support for Ukraine remained high, but that preoccupations have shifted to the conflict’s wider impacts.
The survey found that despite strong support across Europe for Ukraine’s bid to join the EU and the west’s policy of severing ties with Moscow, many voters in Europe want the war to end as soon as possible – even if that means Ukraine losing territory.
That view often did not reflect the position of national governments, the authors said, cautioning EU leaders against “maximalist positions” over the war and suggesting they remain tough on Russia but cautious about the dangers of escalation.
More than 80% in Poland, Sweden, the UK (83%) and Finland (90%) said they held Russia responsible, along with strong majorities in Italy (56%), France (62%) and Germany (66%), while majorities or pluralities also saw Russia as the main block to peace.
There was strong support for cutting links with Russia. A majority across the 10 countries felt governments should sever economic and cultural relations with Moscow, with most – rising to 71% in Poland – also favouring an end to diplomatic ties.
Similarly, 58% across the 10 countries – rising to 77% in Finland – wanted the EU to reduce its dependence on Russian energy, even at the expense of the bloc’s climate goals, suggesting public support for a new round of EU sanctions, including on oil.
But ECFR’s polling showed a clear divide between Europeans who want peace as soon as possible (35% across the 10 countries), and those who want justice – defined as restoring Ukraine’s territorial integrity and holding Russia to account (22%).
A third “swing” group, who share the anti-Russian feelings of justice supporters but also the peace camp’s fears of escalation, accounted for about 20% of voters, the report found – with major distribution differences between countries.
The peace camp – whose backers also tended to believe Ukraine would be worse off than Russia at the end of the conflict – was most strongly supported in Italy (52%), the polling found, while Poland had the biggest justice camp, at 41%.
Asked what worried them most about the war, respondents in Germany, Italy and France were most concerned about the cost of living and energy prices, while respondents in Sweden, the UK and Poland were most concerned about the threat of nuclear war.
- Triple-whammy for European gas supplies sends prices soaring CNN
Europe’s natural gas supply has suffered its third blow in 48 hours, sending prices rocketing 42% higher from where they were at the start of the week.
Italian energy giant ENI said Wednesday that Gazprom, Russia’s state gas producer, would cut its supplies by 15%. It did not know the reason, an ENI spokesperson told CNN Business.
The news comes the same day Gazprom said it would cut flows through its Nord Stream 1 pipeline — a major artery linking Russia’s gas to Germany — for the second time in two days, and a major liquefied natural gas (LNG) producer in the United States said it would remain offline until September.
On Tuesday, Gazprom said it would reduce gas deliveries via Nord Stream 1 by 40% because Siemens Energy had delayed the return of turbines required to conduct repairs on the pipeline. Then, on Wednesday, Gazprom said it would cut supplies by another third to 67 million cubic meters starting Thursday.
Siemens had taken the turbines to one of its Canadian factories for maintenance. It said in a statement on Tuesday that it was “impossible” to return the equipment to Russia because of sanctions Canada had imposed on the country over its invasion of Ukraine.
- Europe’s Warm Embrace Of LNG Raises Methane Emissions Concerns Forbes
Europe is desperately seeking more natural gas imports in the name of national security but is scrambling to explain how this production fits into the global need to reduce damaging methane and greenhouse gas emissions.
- The Baltic states want more NATO. They won’t get all they seek Reuters
Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have been calling for their region to receive the biggest build-up of combat-ready NATO forces in Europe since the end of the Cold War, to be agreed at a summit on June 28-30 in Madrid.
It will not happen, interviews with seven senior diplomats and officials from leading NATO allies show.
This is partly because the proposals come as the NATO alliance faces a slew of demands not seen in decades: from countering Russia and China in the Arctic to quelling Islamic insurgencies in the Sahel, and tackling new frontiers in space.
Since Russia invaded, the U.S. Congress has approved extra funds and the Pentagon sent F-35 stealth fighters, as well as attack helicopters, to Estonia; Britain doubled its force presence at Estonia’s Tapa military base to around 1,700 personnel.
But for many people in the region, which has been occupied by both Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany and which lies within striking distance of a Russian garrison at St. Petersburg, that is not enough. For instance, 84.6% of Latvian respondents to a Benu Aptiekas/Gemius poll in May said they were highly anxious about Russia’s invasion.
- Cede France to Putin, Not Ukraine—Mayor of Occupied City Newsweek
The mayor of occupied Ukrainian city Melitopol has dismissed any suggestion Kyiv surrender territory in pursuit of a peace deal with Russia, as Ukrainian resistance continues on the southern front and behind enemy lines.
Ivan Fedorov condemned Western politicians—particularly French President Emmanuel Macron—who are accused of advocating for Ukrainian concessions to end the invasion.
“We can give permission to Putin to exchange some part of Ukraine for some part for France, and it will be a great deal,” Fedorov said, when questioned about Macron’s recent urging of Western partners not to be tempted by possible “humiliation” of Russia.
Russia’s Invasion Of Ukraine Has Caused Almost $4.3 Billion In Agricultural Damage, Study Finds Forbes
Ukraine Using Artificial Intelligence to Catch People Sabotaging War Effort Newsweek
Artificial intelligence has become one of Ukraine’s most “effective tools” in identifying potential saboteurs amid the ongoing war with Russia, according to the Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs.
The ministry issued a report Wednesday on law enforcement’s anti-sabotage activities aimed at stopping people in Ukraine who may compromise the counteroffensive or aid Russia in its assault. Officers have been using software on tablets to check if a person they view as “suspicious” is already listed in databases, including a police database of about 2 million people suspected of holding positions in paramilitary units from the far-right faction known as the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR).
Isn’t this just social credit scores?
- How Ukraine wants to make Russia pay for war’s environmental damage Politico
The destruction unleashed by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is vast — but Ukraine’s environment ministry is determined to chart the specific toll on the environment and amass evidence to eventually take Russia to court.
“It is crucial for us to record in detail and collect evidence to hold Russia accountable,” Ruslan Strelets, Ukraine’s environment minister, told POLITICO in an interview over Zoom.
Since the start of the war, Russian forces have hit chemical plants, oil depots, water facilities and even nuclear power plants as well as fields, forests and wildlife reserves. Those attacks have led to an increase in air, water and soil pollution that risk having long-term negative effects on people’s health and the country’s economy.
As part of a special task force, coordinated by the Ecological Inspectorate of Ukraine, a state body, around 100 people are collecting evidence of environmental damage caused by Russia. They provide pictures, videos and satellite images, and travel to polluted areas, when possible, to collect samples.
Sitting in his office in Kyiv, a Ukrainian flag and a map of the country behind him, Strelets said the ministry is working with law firms Baker McKenzie and Hogan Lovells to build solid cases. He added he is “fully aware that getting compensation for the damage to the environment from Russia can take years.”
According to the ministry’s count, which it publishes on its official website, Russian forces have committed 257 instances of environmental crime since the start of the war in Ukraine. It estimates the total damage at 13.2 billion hryvnia (€4.2 billion).
- Ukraine needs extra $5bn per month, lawmaker says RT
The Ukrainian government requires another $5 billion each month to avoid steep budget cuts, a senior lawmaker said, appealing for more assistance from foreign countries despite billions in aid already provided by the United States and European allies.
The head of Kiev’s parliamentary Committee on Finance, Tax and Customs Policy, Danylo Hetmantsev, addressed the looming shortfalls in comments to local media on Tuesday, highlighting mounting economic troubles linked to the conflict with Russia.
“We have to borrow $5 billion monthly. If we do not get it, we will have to cut spending,” he said. “We have no potential in the economy to raise taxes. We cannot do without the help of our partners as long as the fighting continues.”
- Ikea to sell factories and cut jobs in Russia over its invasion of Ukraine CBS
Ikea plans to sell factories, shut down offices and reduce its workforce of nearly 28,000 in Russia over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, the Swedish furniture retailer announced on Wednesday.
The world’s biggest furniture brand in early March said it would temporarily close stores and postpone sourcing in Russia as it and other corporations moved to comply with Western sanctions.
“The circumstances have not improved, and the devastating war continues,” Ikea said in the statement. “Businesses and supply chains across the world have been heavily impacted and we do not see that it is possible to resume operations any time soon.”
The company will begin looking for buyers of its four factories in Russia, permanently close two purchase and logistics offices in Moscow and Minsk, and reduce staff, it said.
I do want to see what the Russian or Chinese version of IKEA would be called. And whether they’d keep the stupid names for furniture or not.
- In Moscow, Shoppers Feel Far Less Pain than Americans from Ukraine War Newsweek
As the Russian army intensifies its artillery assaults in eastern Ukraine, life in the Russian capital remains relatively unchanged. Despite the exodus of Western brands from the Russian market, the parks and cafes of Moscow remain as crowded as ever.
“I haven’t noticed any change in consumer behavior,” Iakov Yakubovich, head of Moscow’s Tsverskoy Municipal District, told Newsweek. “Other than the obvious rise in price of many goods and services, there’s no difference that’s visible to the naked eye.”
On the streets themselves, Moscow’s annual season of bicycle-lane installation and sidewalk enlargement is already underway.
“We recently allocated an 8% increase to the budget for the improvement of public services,” Yakubovich said.
While there are fears about the future, a visitor to Moscow today could be forgiven for assuming that nothing of particular significance is happening in the country.
But underneath the surface, as in the U.S., inflation fears are growing.
“There is a sense that nervousness has increased, that people don’t know what the inflation might mean for their savings,” Yakubovich said. “But there are very few clear, visible signs that anything is different.” Scenes of Muscovites enjoying the summer months in relative prosperity was not the picture most envisioned when Western countries imposed sweeping sanctions against Russia following its February 24 invasion of Ukraine.
As those sanctions have all but stopped the flow of goods coming in from the West, Russian retailers have begun seeking substitutes. On June 12, at the site where the first McDonald’s franchise in Moscow opened in 1990, a new fast food chain called “Vkusno i tochka” (“Tasty, Period”) opened the doors of its flagship outlet. The menu options bear a striking resemblance to those available at McDonald’s, which ceased its Russian operations back in May.
While it will be more difficult for Russian import substitution to deliver similar quality alternatives to consumers in spheres that require more technical sophistication than burger production, imports from the East are already beginning to fill the void.
“Alexander,” who asked that Newsweek not use his real name, is a shipping entrepreneur whose firm specializes in transporting goods from China to Russia. He has already seen at least one shortage come and go.
“In March, there was a major deficit of paper in Russia,” he told Newsweek. “We got an order for 350 trucks to ship paper products, and now there is no deficit.”
But Alexander does see a change in the quality of the available goods — and not for the better.
“We’re getting more orders for the cheapest types of shoes,” he said. “Before, such goods only sold in the provinces, but now we are delivering them to Moscow as well. It’s a sign that, even in the capital, people are looking to economize.”
For now though, Alexander sees no sign that the Russian economy is on the verge of collapse.
In purely material terms, Russia’s full scale invasion of Ukraine has been more costly for Russians than it has been for citizens of any country other than Ukraine itself, where the economy is projected to shrink by 45.1%. And yet, after surviving early doomsday predictions about the potentially crippling effects of Western economic sanctions, Russian consumers are comparatively content with their present economic condition. Rather than sparking a widespread anti-Kremlin uprising, the moderate decline in the standard of living has resulted in minimal visible disruptions on the streets of Moscow.
- Russia says West, unlike China, ‘shoot themselves in the head’ over Ukraine Reuters
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Russia’s strategic partnership with China had withstood attempts by the West to sow discord while the United States and its European allies had destroyed their relationship with Moscow.
“Energy supplies are steadily increasing: China knows what it wants and doesn’t shoot itself in the foot. While to the west of Moscow, they shoot themselves in the head,” Zakharova told reporters.
“The West isolated itself from us,” Zakharova said.
She cast the European Union as plotting a “suicidal” course by trying to diversify away from Russian energy which has supplied Germany since the height of the Cold War.
- Alexei Navalny moved to infamous maximum security prison, says aide Politico
The IK-6 penal colony, where Navalny has been moved, is a maximum security jail in Melekhovo, 250 kilometers east of Moscow, and has been the subject of several investigations into the abuse of inmates. “IK-6 in Melekhovo is a monstrous place,” Yarmysh tweeted in May, when it was rumored that Navalny could be transferred there.
- Gazprom Reduces Gas Flows To Italy Oil Price
Russia’s Gazprom has reduced the flow of gas to Italy, an Eni spokesman has said, according to Reuters. Gazprom did not give a reason for the reduction.
“Eni confirms that Gazprom has communicated a limited reduction in gas supplies for today, amounting to approximately 15%,” the spokesman for Eni said, adding that the company was constantly monitoring the situation.
It could just be that Russia is anti-Italian, which is perfectly reasonable.
- Germany’s Steel Workers Win Highest Pay Rise in 30 Years Bloomberg
Germany’s biggest union said it has won a 6.5% pay rise – the biggest in 30 years – for steel workers in the northwest of the country, setting the stage for upcoming talks in the metals- and electronics industries.
The 18-month deal for about 68,000 steel industry employees includes one-off payments of 500 euros ($524) for June and July, IG Metall said Wednesday. The agreement marks the latest example of accelerating wage growth in Europe’s biggest economy.
- EU sues UK after plan to override deal on Northern Ireland Reuters
The European Commission launched two new legal proceedings against Britain on Wednesday after London published plans to override some post-Brexit rules governing Northern Irish trade, and resumed another challenge it had previously paused.
The proceedings could result in the European Court of Justice (ECJ) imposing fines, although these would likely be more than a year away.
London has proposed scrapping some checks on goods from the rest of the United Kingdom arriving in the British province and challenged the role of the ECJ to decide on parts of the post-Brexit arrangement agreed by the EU and Britain.
- Retiring Older Workers Pose ‘Substantial’ Threat To UK Economy Bloomberg
Most older workers who dropped out of the UK labor force during the pandemic chose to retire in a trend that will have a “substantial” economic impact if it continues, the Institute for Fiscal Studies warned.
Analysis by the think tank found that more than 250,000 people aged 50 to 69 quit work in the last two years, of whom 53% said they had “retired.” No more than 13% did so for any other reason, including sickness or concerns about Covid when working close to other people.
A sharp rise in inactivity, those who neither have nor want a job, has been a main cause of worker shortages in the UK that have sparked travel chaos. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has said persistent shortages could force firms to shut operations permanently.
The loss of older staff has been a large part of the problem, reversing a decades-long trend that has seen people working longer into life. Economic inactivity for those between 50 and 69 fell from 47% in 2000 to 35% by early 2020. It has since increased to 36.5%.
- UK could leave top human rights court RT
The British government won’t rule out leaving the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) over the decision that blocked a flight that would have taken a group of asylum seekers to Rwanda, Downing Street said on Wednesday. Preparations for another flight are already underway, and it might take off before the UK Supreme Court finishes a judicial review of the policy, which the ECHR insisted must happen first.
Asia and Oceania
- Laos Finance Minister Guarantees Three-month Fuel Supply Laotian Times
- China’s Belt and Road initiative a big help: official Phnom Penh Post
- Australia commits to reducing greenhouse emissions by 43% Seattle Times
Australia’s new government on Thursday formally committed to a more ambitious greenhouse gas reduction target of 43% by the end of the decade in fulfillment of a key election pledge.
- Coldest start to winter in decades for eastern Australia with power grid under strain The Guardian
Eastern Australia’s giant cold snap is finally breaking down but not before temperatures reached lows not seen for seven decades or longer and pushed the country’s main electricity grid to the brink.
The extended chill was caused by an unusual weather pattern that locked in cool pools of air over southern and eastern states, triggering the deepest snow dumps in the alps since 1968, according to Ben Domensino, a senior meteorologist at Weatherzone.
“Because it was so persistent over two weeks, we haven’t seen a start to winter that cold in decades for most of south-eastern Australia,” Domensino said.
- China rejects ‘major emitter’ label in talks to step up climate action Climate Home News
The US proposed that a “work programme” to accelerate emission cuts and close the gap to global climate goals lead to “concrete actions by major emitters with capabilities”.
A group of “like-minded” countries, including China and India, and the Arab group objected to the language. It was deleted from the latest version of the informal notes encapsulating the discussions.
“There is a ping pong fight between the US and China,” Eddy Perez, international climate diplomacy manager of Climate Action Network Canada, told Climate Home, describing the spat as deeply political.
The US has repeatedly sought to make China own up to being the world’s largest emitter. In 2019, it contributed more than 27% of global emissions.
Washington argues that the less greenhouse gas China emits, the lower the losses and damages experienced by vulnerable communities on the climate frontlines.
On a historical emissions basis, China comes a distant second to the US.
While the language of “major emitter” is used in forums such as the G20, to which China is a member, Beijing argues it has no meaning in the formal UN climate process. Using the term would create a new categorisation of countries, which isn’t part of the Paris Agreement, it says.
- US Empire Is Changing Its Strategies in the Middle East Jacobin
This is a lengthy article, which is a transcript of a panel by the US Committee to End Political Repression in Egypt, cosponsored by various left-wing organizations.
- Suffering at Extreme Levels in Gaza After 15 Years as World’s Largest ‘Open-Air Prison’ Common Dreams
“Over 800,000 young Palestinians have spent their entire lives trapped within Gaza,” said one aid agency. “They have known nothing else.”
Marking 15 years since Israel began imposing its land, air, and sea blockade on Gaza, Oxfam International said Wednesday that the international community is complicit in Palestinians' ongoing suffering and demanded the United Nations and its member states “become the diplomatic power brokers needed to end this blockade now.”
The international humanitarian group noted that governments have spent “an estimated $5.7 billion in Gaza just to help keep an incredibly resilient population afloat” as 2.1 million Palestinians face power cuts, undrinkable water, and restricted movement.
“The humanitarian relief effort has long become a permanent operation,” said Oxfam International executive director Gabriela Bucher. “We are collectively forced into being de facto enablers of an open-air prison.”
- US Asks Israel to Dial Back Oppression of Palestinians—But Just During Biden’s Visit Common Dreams
The United States is asking Israel to refrain from certain violations of international law in Palestine during President Joe Biden’s visit to the apartheid state next month, according to a report published Wednesday.
Axios reports U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs Barbara Leaf has asked the Israeli government to stop evicting Palestinians and demolishing their homes in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem—actions condemned as ethnic cleansing by human rights advocates.
Leaf also asked Israel to not make any decisions on building or expanding its exclusively Jewish settlements in the occupied territories, and to reduce military operations in the West Bank, until after Biden’s visit. Like the occupation, settlements are illegal under international law and constitute a form of apartheid, according to United Nations officials and human rights groups.
“The U.S. wants the visit to take place in a good atmosphere different than the one now,” said Hussein al-Sheikh, an adviser to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and the official in charge of contact with the Biden administration. “If the Israelis don’t stop their unilateral action the situation deteriorates and becomes much worse.”
- Pakistan’s New Budget Aims to Please the IMF The Diplomat
On June 10, Pakistan’s newly elected government presented a 9.52 trillion Pakistani rupee ($47 billion) budget for the fiscal year 2022-23. The budget aims at tight fiscal consolidation and to achieve 5 percent economic growth, which is lower than the 5.97 percent growth in the outgoing year.
Finance Minister Miftah Ismail, who presented the budget vowed to remove fuel and energy subsides to revive the International Monetary Fund (IMF)’s stalled $6 billion bailout package. The revival of the IMF program is crucial for Pakistan as the country faces a balance of payments problem. There are concerns that Pakistan may face a default like situation if the IMF bailout package is not revived in the coming weeks.
Earlier, Ismail had said that reforms, which were being introduced in the new budget will please the IMF, taking the country closer to finalizing a staff level agreement with the lender. However, it appears that the proposed budget has not pleased the IMF.
In a statement following the budget presentation, the bank’s resident representative in Pakistan said that additional measures will be needed to bring the budget in line with the main objectives of the IMF program. “Our preliminary estimate is that additional measures will be needed to strengthen the budget and bring it in line with key program objectives,” Esther Perez Ruiz told Reuters.
Reportedly, the IMF is demanding a further boost in tax rates and wants the country to collect more direct taxes and remove remaining fuel subsidies. As per the proposed budget, the government aims to collect Rs 7 trillion ($34.6 billion) in taxes through the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR). Pakistan has increased the tax rate on banking companies from 39 percent to 42 percent, which is likely to bring Rs 15-20 billion ($74.2-$98 million) in additional revenue. The tax on immovable property assessed above Rs 25 million ($0.127 million), will also be subject to tax now. “The major part of the wealth of rich people is parked in the real estate sector in Pakistan. This is a double-faceted menace,” the finance minister said in his budget speech, pointing out that “it leads to the accumulation of unproductive assets and raises the prices of housing for the poor and lower-income groups.”
- Iran is determined to boost regional ties Tehran Times
Nearly a year into his administration, Iranian President Ayatollah Ebrahim Raisi has come a long way in delivering on his campaign promise of cementing Iran’s relations with neighboring countries and regional powers.
A flurry of diplomatic visits over the last few days indicated that Iran is forging ahead with what came to be known as “neighborhood policy,” a foreign policy shift brought about by President Raisi that aims to shore up Iran’s regional standing.
Over the last few days, Iran made great strides toward achieving that objective. Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian traveled to India and held high-level talks with the Indian leaders. Pakistan’s foreign minister arrived in Tehran. Turkmen President Serdar Berdimuhamedow also came to Iran and met with President Raisi and Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei, the Leader of the Islamic Revolution of Iran.
Also, the speaker of the Armenian parliament and the Russian foreign minister are expected to visit Iran soon. In addition, Amir Abdollahian will embark on a tour of African countries in the coming days.
This kind of diplomacy is in line with the neighborhood policy, which is strongly backed by the Leader. In his meeting with President Berdimuhamedow, Ayatollah Khamenei said “it is the Islamic Republic of Iran’s policy to expand ties with neighboring countries and this is a completely correct policy.”
- UAE bans exports of Indian wheat RT
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has introduced a four-month halt to exports and re-exports of wheat and wheat flour produced in India, state news agency WAM reported on Wednesday, citing the country’s Economy Ministry.
The Gulf nation says it is seeking to secure domestic supplies due to interruptions to global trade flows. The resolution applies to all wheat varieties: hard, ordinary, and soft wheat, as well as wheat spelt flour.
“Companies wishing to export/re-export wheat and wheat flour varieties of Indian origin, which were imported into the country before May 13, must submit a request to the ministry to obtain permission to export,” it said, adding that India had approved exports of wheat to the UAE for domestic consumption only.
- Turkey wants ‘concrete steps’ from Sweden, Finland over NATO bids Al Jazeera
According to a statement by Turkey’s Communications Directorate on Wednesday, Erdogan told NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg in a phone call that no progress can be achieved without seeing “concrete steps” by both Finland and Sweden that would meet Turkey’s “rightful expectations”.
The steps could include written commitments to a paradigm shift in fighting “terrorism” and defence industry cooperation, it said.
Turkey’s expectations were not met by documents from Sweden, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said, adding any negotiations on the northern European countries’ bid to join NATO would have to address Turkey’s demands first.
Meanwhile, Stoltenberg said on Twitter he held a “constructive conversation” with Erdogan ahead of the NATO summit in Madrid that will be held June 29-30.
“We discussed the importance of addressing Turkey’s legitimate security concerns on the fight against terrorism and making progress in the NATO accession process for Finland and Sweden,” he added.
- Saudi embassy in Washington now on ‘Jamal Khashoggi Way’ Bangkok Post
The street in front of Saudi Arabia’s embassy in Washington was renamed Wednesday for Jamal Khashoggi as activists vowed never to forget the slain journalist despite President Joe Biden’s planned visit to the kingdom.
The capital’s local government changed signs on one block in front of the imposing embassy to read “Jamal Khashoggi Way” in honour of the Saudi dissident who was strangled to death and dismembered inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018.
The street will serve as “a constant reminder, a memorial to Jamal Khashoggi’s memory that cannot be covered up,” said Phil Mendelson, president of the District of Columbia Council that voted unanimously to rename the stretch of New Hampshire Avenue which also lies along the storied Watergate building.
It looks like Saudi Arabia has finally been held accountable. I give Biden permission to negotiate with MBS.
- Libya oil output strangled from infighting in world starved of energy WaPo
Libya’s oil production has almost completely halted because of a political stalemate, officials told media, during a time of heightened global concerns over the supply of crude.
The Libyan Ministry of Oil and Gas told news outlets this week that the country’s oil output has fallen more than 85 percent, with production now at 100,000 to 150,000 barrels a day, according to Reuters — a shocking drop from a once robust output of 1.2 million barrels per day last year.
- South Africa Ponders Buying Russian Oil, Signifying Potential Win for Putin Newsweek
South African officials are openly considering importing Russian oil to ease record fuel prices, a move that would help Moscow sidestep sanctions imposed by Westerns powers for its invasion of Ukraine.
Gwede Mantashe, minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, said during a parliamentary debate Wednesday that it was time for South Africa to turn to Russia for its fuel needs. Mantashe’s remarks, which were met with applause, point to possible limits of efforts to economically squeeze as fuel prices continue to soar.
“We should consider importing crude oil from Russia at a low price because it is not sanctioned,” said Mantashe.
- Tunisian general strike to cancel international flights, and halt land and sea transportation MEE
Tunisia’s most powerful labour union on Wednesday announced a general strike that will result in the cancellation of all international flights to and from Tunisia and halt land and sea transportation.
The Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT) said the action would take place on Thursday 16 June, and would include 15 transportation companies and the cancellation of 49 flights.
The union’s statement said that state-owned companies' employees should not cross the picket line, in protest against President Kais Saied’s decision to freeze wages as part of the government deal to secure a $4bn loan from the International Monetary Fund.
The UGTT said in a statement that “no one can deny the unprecedented deterioration in the social situation of wage earners of all kinds”. It added that the strike comes “in light of low wages, the high cost of living, the deterioration of purchasing power, the decline in social services, the high tax burden, the rampant monopoly and smuggling, and the increase in unemployment among the children of wage earners and needy and marginalised families”.
The strike will involve around 700,00o people.
- Zambia: IMF support to bail out debt agreed by September Africa News
In 2020, the southern African country became the first on the continent to default on its estimated $17.3 billion foreign debt during the pandemic.
In December, the government secured a $1.4 billion bailout from the International Monetary Fund, but the three-year agreement in principle was given in exchange for the government’s commitment to undertake deep economic reforms.
“Creditors must deliberate and decide. However, we can expect this to go to the IMF board in early September,” the Fund’s deputy managing director Antoinette Monsio Sayeh told a news conference.
- Fed announces largest interest rate hike since 1990s RT
The US Federal Reserve has announced a 0.75% interest rate hike, the largest increase in 28 years, as the central bank’s chairman stressed the need to avoid a recession and tame runaway price inflation.
The Fed’s Open Market Committee announced the decision on Wednesday, saying it would raise short-term rates by 75 basis points in a move aimed at reducing inflation to 2%. Prior projections suggested that figure could reach 3.4% by the end of the year.
“We’re not trying to induce a recession now, let’s be clear about that,” Fed Chairman Jerome Powell told reporters following the committee meeting, but noted that spikes in certain commodity prices could “take the decision out of our hands.”
The risk of recession is growing. Here’s why recessions may be inevitable CNBC
Markets can have a strong rebound in the 2nd half of the year as inflation peaks and the US avoids recession, says Leuthold’s Jim Paulse Business Insider
‘The economy is going to collapse,’ says Wall Street veteran Novogratz. ‘We are going to go into a really fast recession.’ MarketWatch
‘Numbers don’t lie’: Kevin O’Leary says there’s no evidence of a recession right now CNBC
Even the Fed isn’t sure it can avoid a recession anymore CNN
US Faces a Fed-Triggered Recession and Biden’s Presidency May Not Survive Bloomberg
Soaring prices are hurting Americans. The cure is going to hurt, too. It may take a recession to stamp out inflation – and it’s likely to happen on President Joe Biden’s watch.
A downturn by the start of 2024, barely even on the radar just a few months ago, is now close to a three-in-four probability, according to the latest estimates by Bloomberg Economics.
On Wednesday the Fed delivered its biggest interest-rate hike in almost three decades, as it takes the fight against inflation into overdrive. When central bankers try this hard to slow the economy down, they often end up tipping it into outright reverse.
Investors are rushing to bet on that kind of bad outcome, sending stocks and bonds plunging. American households, watching their retirement funds dwindle as their grocery and utility bills soar, say they feel gloomier about the economy than at any time in more than four decades.
All of this, it’s worth pointing out, is happening at a time when US consumers are still flush with cash and jobless rates are near historic lows. Fed Chair Jerome Powell said Wednesday there’s “no sign” of a broader slowdown. The Fed’s own projections, and others highlighted by the administration, suggest a recession remains unlikely, showing how different economic models can produce a wide range of outcomes.
Still, the mood has turned sour at an alarming pace – putting Biden at risk of joining an unenvied club. From Jimmy Carter to George H.W. Bush to Donald Trump, one-term US presidents of the past half-century all had their re-election hopes fatally injured by the lingering effects of a recession.
Voters are telling Democratic pollsters they see economic storms brewing. Key decisions on issues like student loans are paralyzed by inflation fears, according to one person familiar with White House deliberations. The administration is casting around for outside-the box fixes to show they’re fighting for hard-pressed households, from a windfall tax on oil profits to commitments by retailers to cut prices if China tariffs are removed. And its economists are laying out arguments for why the soaring cost of living isn’t Biden’s fault — and the economy is much better than voters seem to think it is.
Nearly two-thirds of millennial millionaires believe U.S. economy will be stronger by end of 2022, CNBC survey finds CNBC
Biden slaps oil companies for profiteering at the pump. Al Jazeera
President Biden chastised some of the largest oil companies for profiteering off surging energy prices and “worsening that pain” for consumers, as he increased the pressure on them to boost refining capacity to bring down costs at the pump for millions of Americans.
With the average price of gas in the United States topping $5 a gallon for the first time, Mr. Biden pointed the finger at energy firms in a letter to seven top executives dated Tuesday, demanding that they explain their decision to limit refining capacity and announcing that his administration would hold an “emergency meeting” to discuss ways of stemming the crisis.
“At a time of war, refinery profit margins well above normal being passed directly onto American families are not acceptable,” Mr. Biden said in the three-page letter. “There is no question that Vladimir Putin is principally responsible for the intense financial pain the American people and their families are bearing. But amid a war that has raised gasoline prices more than $1.70 per gallon, historically high refinery profit margins are worsening that pain.”
The letter, which went to executives at BP, Chevron, Exxon Mobil, Marathon Petroleum, Phillips 66, Shell and Valero Energy, extends an effort by the president in recent weeks to pin at least some of the blame for high gas prices on firms raking in billions of dollars of profit while deflecting any responsibility from his administration. Rising gas prices have contributed to a sour political environment that has seen Mr. Biden’s approval ratings slide lower in advance of the fall midterm election campaign.
“The president should do something about this, Mack!”
Meta’s Silicon Valley home, Menlo Park, plans to electrify 95% of its buildings CNBC
Monthly car payments hit record high of $712 in May ABC
US prison workers produce $11bn worth of goods and services a year for pittance The Guardian
Incarcerated workers in the US produce at least $11bn in goods and services annually but receive just pennies an hour in wages for their prison jobs, according to a new report from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
Nearly two-thirds of all prisoners in the US, which imprisons more of its population than any other country in the world, have jobs in state and federal prisons. That figure amounts to roughly 800,000 people, researchers estimated in the report, which is based on extensive public records requests, questionnaires and interviews with incarcerated workers.
ACLU researchers say the findings outlined in Wednesday’s report raise concerns about the systemic exploitation of prisoners, who are compelled to work sometimes difficult and dangerous jobs without basic labor protections and little or no training while making close to nothing.
- Spy agencies’ focus on China could snare Chinese Americans, report says NBC
As U.S. intelligence agencies ramp up their efforts against China, top officials acknowledge they may also end up collecting more phone calls and emails from Chinese Americans, raising new concerns about spying affecting civil liberties.
As one example, people who speak to relatives or contacts in China could be more likely to have their communications swept up, though intelligence agencies can’t quantify how often due in part to civil liberties concerns.
There’s a long history of U.S. government discrimination against groups of citizens in the name of national security. Japanese Americans were forced into internment camps during World War II, Black leaders were spied upon during the civil rights movement of the 1960s, and mosques were surveilled after the Sept. 11 attacks. Chinese Americans have faced discrimination going back to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, the first law to explicitly ban immigration from a specific ethnic community.
- US has not fully investigated own role in Yemen rights abuses, watchdog finds The Guardian
The US government has not fully investigated its own role in perpetuating human rights abuses in Yemen, according to a congressional watchdog report that offered a damning assessment of both the Trump and Biden administrations’ commitment to tracking violations of humanitarian law.
A report by the Government Accountability Office, which examined US weapons sales to the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, also raised serious doubts about one of Joe Biden’s first foreign policy as president, when he announced that his administration was ending US support for Saudi offensive operations in Yemen.
At the time, in February 2021, the move was seen as an attempt to show the world that the US would no longer be an unquestioning ally to its allies in the Gulf.
But the GAO found that the Biden administration’s move to classify weapons as offensive or defensive was largely meaningless. When asked by the GAO how they had distinguished between equipment used for defensive purposes and offensive purposes, state department officials “could not provide a definition for equipment that is defensive in nature”.
This has absolutely shocked me. Are you telling me that Biden was lying when he said he would tone down American support to the Saudis? What the fuck? I thought we were pushing him left! I thought he was the most progressive president since FDR!
- ‘Disgusting’: Starbucks Threatens Trans Health Benefits as Union Celebrates 150 Wins Common Dreams
Starbucks management has reportedly threatened employees with the loss of trans-inclusive health benefits if they vote to unionize their shops, drawing a formal complaint from workers as the union officially reached 150 election victories across the United States on Tuesday.
Just last month, Starbucks—which has offered trans-inclusive benefits since 2012—announced it would cover travel expenses for employees who obtain gender-affirming care out of state, a decision that came as a growing number of Republican-controlled state legislatures moved to pass anti-trans legislation.
But it now appears that Starbucks is trying to wield those health benefits as a weapon against union organizing, which has reached hundreds of the company’s locations across the United States.
- Island at the End of the World Pitches $6 Billion Hydrogen Dream Bloomberg
An island region famed for its location at the very tip of South America wants to diversify its economy away from fossil fuels to tap the global clean-energy transition.
Argentine province Tierra del Fuego – which translates to land of fire – is trying to lure investments in hydrogen or ammonium, with its base case targeting $6 billion of spending on wind farms and electrolyzers.
“Tierra del Fuego has the potential with its resources to do this,” Governor Gustavo Melella said in an interview on Tuesday. Melella, a former Salesian priest who switched course to politics in the mid-2000s, highlighted the province’s strong Patagonian winds and attractive geography since hydrogen producers could ship through both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
The provincial government recently completed a pre-feasibility study and is working on environmental considerations and infrastructure to pave the way for hydrogen projects, with the fuel viewed as crucial to reducing the reliance on carbon of heavy industries like steelmaking. Some companies are also betting that hydrogen fuel cells will be a better choice than batteries to power trucks and ships.
- Ramen a leg: noodle prices heat up as wheat supply goes to pot The Guardian
That title has the same degree of sanity damage as a Dipshittery and Cope article.
The world’s hundreds of millions of noodle eaters face a rise in the price of their favourite meal as producers look set to heap surging wheat, energy and transport costs on to consumers.
Factors ranging from the war in Ukraine to droughts and floods in the past year have combined to cause a price squeeze that could see the cost of wheat rise 30% this year in China, while also adding to already rising prices in South Korea and Japan.
In China, the world’s largest consumer of noodles, food inflation is rising at the quickest pace for almost two years as large cities such as Shanghai open up after lockdowns.
Widespread floods in the country’s wheat belt in 2021 have caused a shortage of the basic ingredient of noodles, exacerbated by supply chain problems and now the war in Ukraine.
Prices of refined flour are already up more than 10% in China since the beginning of the year, to record highs, according to data from Mysteel, a China-based consultancy, and may rise further if wheat costs keep climbing.
“Food flour prices have basically stabilised at the moment,” a trader with a major milling plant in China told Reuters. “But higher wheat prices will eventually be passed on to end products.”
Mama Lai and her husband have run their food stall in a small Taipei street market for more than three decades, but she has rarely seen such high price increases.
Wearing a face mask and a backwards baseball cap, Lai doles out dish after dish of noodles and soup for about 60NTD each ($2) to queues of customers.
“Compared to past decades, I feel the noodle prices have increased a lot more in the last two to three years,” she says. “It keeps going up. I didn’t really feel the price increases until the last five years.”
The Ukraine War
- Russian telegram:
Pushilin RIA Novosti about whether it is necessary to take Odessa during the special operation: it is necessary to liberate all Russian cities
Pushilin: A referendum on the accession of the DPR to Russia will be held after the completion of the NWO.
Pushilin: In connection with the supply of Western weapons to Ukraine, DPR troops will not stop at the borders of the Donetsk People’s Republic.
Syria recognizes the DPR and LPR.
- U.S. probing how American electronics wound up in Russian military gear WaPo
Federal agents have begun questioning U.S. technology companies on how their computer chips ended up in Russian military equipment recovered in Ukraine.
Commerce Department agents who enforce export controls are conducting the inquiries together with the FBI, paying joint visits to companies to ask about Western chips and components found in Russian radar systems, drones, tanks, ground-control equipment and littoral ships, according to people familiar with the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive investigations.
“Our goal is to actually try to track that back, all the way back to the U.S. supplier” to determine “how did it find its way into that weapons system,” one Commerce Department official said of the probes.
“Just because a chip, a company’s chip, is found in a weapon system doesn’t mean we’ve opened up an investigation on that company,” the official added. “What we’ve done, though, is we’ve opened up an investigation on how that company’s chip got into that system.”
It isn’t clear which specific components are being probed. But investigators from a variety of countries have identified Western electronics in Russian weaponry found in Ukraine. Many of those components appear to have been manufactured years ago, before the United States tightened export restrictions after Russia seized Crimea in 2014. But others were manufactured as recently as 2020, according to Conflict Armament Research (CAR), a research group in London that has examined some of the parts.
I guess the FBI hates the free market.
- Two U.S. veterans fighting in Ukraine have gone missing, family members say. NYT
Two U.S. veterans who volunteered to fight in Ukraine have gone missing, their families said on Wednesday.
One man was named Alex Drueke, 39, a former U.S. Army staff sergeant who served two tours in Iraq, his family said in a statement. The other was named Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh, 27, a former Marine, Darla Black, the mother of Mr. Huynh’s fiancée, Joy Black, said in a phone interview.
The U.S. State Department said on Wednesday that it was “aware of unconfirmed reports of two U.S. citizens captured in Ukraine.”
- US unveils fresh $1bn military aid to Ukraine as grain piles up Bangkok Post
The US administration of President Joe Biden on Wednesday announced an additional $1 billion in security aid for Ukraine, the largest single package of weapons and equipment offered to the Eastern European country in the war against Russia.
- Biden to send more weapons as Nato depot in Lviv is destroyed NZ Herald
The Russian military said it used long-range missiles to destroy a depot in the western Lviv region of Ukraine where ammunition for Nato-supplied weapons was stored, and the governor of a key eastern city acknowledged that Russian forces are advancing in heavy fighting.
- Top US general Mark Milley says the ‘numbers clearly favor the Russians’ in east Ukraine right now Yahoo
“I would say the numbers clearly favor the Russians, in terms of artillery,” Milley said, adding that the Russians “outnumber, outgun, and outrange” Ukrainian forces.
“The Ukrainians are fighting them street by street, house by house,” Milley said, stating that the fighting in the Donbas was “almost World War I-like.” But he also emphasized that the battle is “not a done deal” and said a Russian victory isn’t an “inevitability.”
“There are no inevitabilities in war,” Milley said. “War takes many, many turns.”
- Ukraine says Russian forces trying to attack simultaneously in nine directions Reuters
The head of Ukraine’s military on Wednesday said Russia had concentrated its main strike forces in the north of Luhansk region and were trying to attack simultaneously in nine directions.
“The fierce struggle for Luhansk region continues,” Valeriy Zaluzhny, commander-in-chief of the armed forces, said in an online message. The Russians were using aircraft, rocket-propelled grenades, and artillery, he added.
- Ukraine’s NATO Allies Strain to Keep Up Pressure on Russia WSJ
BRUSSELS — NATO defense ministers gathered here Wednesday amid widening rifts over how much military assistance to give Ukraine and how far to go in answering Kyiv’s increasingly urgent pleas for help to repel invading Russian forces.
To address the issue, the NATO meeting is being preceded by a separate gathering of what is being called the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, the roughly 50 countries that are providing lethal and nonlethal aid to Ukraine. The campaign, which began at the U.S. air base in Ramstein, Germany, in late April, has sought to promote and coordinate international contributions to Ukraine’s military and its civil-protection forces.
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is hosting the contact group meeting, supported by Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“We can’t underestimate the challenge Ukraine faces,” Mr. Austin said in remarks opening the contact group meeting. “We can’t afford to let up and we can’t afford to lose steam.”
Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov, who is attending the meeting, said on Twitter Monday after a meeting with U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bridget Brink that he was confident about “further fruitful cooperation.”
The contact group, which includes all 30 NATO countries, is meeting at the alliance’s headquarters, but its leaders are straining to make clear that it isn’t a NATO event. The meeting is separate because it includes non-NATO countries and because the alliance is making strenuous efforts not to get involved in combat with Russia. NATO fears that overt involvement beyond supplying Kyiv with equipment and financial support could bring Western countries into direct conflict with Russia and spark a wider war.
- Ukraine’s weapons wish list could leave US weakened RT
A new weaponry wish list, claimed to be sufficient to “throw Russia out of Ukraine,” was unveiled on Monday by Mikhail Podolyak, a top adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky. The new call has effectively pushed Ukraine’s demand for Western-made weapons to the limit, with even the US at risk of running out, multiple media outlets have suggested.
The demand includes 1,000 NATO-standard 155mm howitzers, 300 multiple-launch rocket systems, 500 tanks, 2,000 armored vehicles, and 1,000 drones. It is unclear what types of drones and armored vehicles Kiev needs to repel the ongoing Russian offensive that began in late February.
Fulfilling the demands would effectively require the US – the top supplier of weapons to Ukrainian troops over the course of the conflict – to disarm its own military, multiple Western media outlets pointed out.
The number of MLRS systems requested, for instance, amounts to roughly half of Washington’s remaining stock of such weapons, The Guardian reported, citing figures from the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS). The US Army has some 363 HIMARS wheeled rocket artillery pieces and 225 M270 MLRS tracked launchers, while the US Marines have a further 47.
The demand for 155mm artillery would effectively empty the US of active stock altogether, as it would require the Pentagon to surrender nearly all of its M777 howitzers, according to the article. However, the newspaper failed to mention that the US has other, older towed artillery systems in reserve which could potentially be supplied to Kiev.
The only demand that appears to be relatively easy to satisfy is the requirement for tanks, as the US Army alone is estimated to have a fleet of around 6,000 Abrams units in storage and on active duty, The Guardian noted.
The Financial Times took a different approach, interpreting Podolyak’s wish list as a complete Ukrainian wartime demand that has been partially fulfilled by previous deliveries from Western countries, rather than a completely new list. The newspaper also counted “pledged” hardware, citing figures from the Ukrainian government and Oryx website, which it described as a “respected open-source intelligence outfit.”
Even taking this approach, Podolyak’s wish list could only be covered partially with some 270 tanks “delivered or pledged” during the conflict. The newspaper also counted some 250 155mm howitzers on the list, apparently including both towed and self-propelled pieces. The multiple-launch rocket systems figure looks the most hopeless, with only around 50 pieces – apparently older Soviet-era launchers supplied by several European nations – included on the list.
Climate and Space
- ‘Off the Scale’: Warmer Arctic Ocean Fueling Climate Feedback Loop Faster Than Previously Known Common Dreams
“This is one of the scariest reports I have ever seen,” said one climate scientist in response to new study.
New scientific research published Wednesday shows the waters in the North Barents Sea are warming at a rate that is much more rapid than most climate models have predicted, with worrying implications about feedback loops for the larger Arctic region and far beyond.
Extending between the north coast of Norway and Russia in the eastern Arctic Ocean, the North Barents Sea has been warming at a rate nearly seven times that of the global average, the study shows. The researchers used temperature data over four decades to determine that the trends in the region—the “fastest warming place known on Earth”—should be seen as an “early warning” of what could happen elsewhere.
“We expected to see strong warming, but not on the scale we found,” Ketil Isaksen, a senior researcher at the Norwegian Meteorological Institute who led the study, told the Guardian. “We were all surprised. From what we know from all other observation points on the globe, these are the highest warming rates we have observed so far.”
“The broader message is that the feedback of melting sea ice is even higher than previously shown,” he said. “This is an early warning for what’s happening in the rest of the Arctic if this melting continues, and what is most likely to happen in the next decades.”
Bill Mcguire, emeritus professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University of College London, said the findings were among the most dire he’s ever seen.
- Privatization is a climate killer Canadian Dimension
Governments are trying to convince us that privatization and so-called public-private partnerships (P3s) are solutions to the climate crisis. The federal government has even set up institutions to pursue this dead-end, including the Canada Infrastructure Bank, the Canadian Innovation and Investment Agency, and the Canada Growth Fund.
But don’t believe the hype. As the Council of Canadians has written previously, P3s delay climate action, cost more, deliver less, and lack accountability. Privatization isn’t a climate solution; it’s climate injustice.
Here are six reasons why.
Privatization and emissions go hand in hand
Privatization undermines climate adaptation
Privatization delays climate action
Privatization costs more while delivering less
Privatization deepens inequality
Privatization is undemocratic
- China confirms water on the Moon RT
Indications that water could be present in the rocks gathered by Chang’e 5 lander on the Moon have been confirmed by testing on Earth, Chinese scientists have reported. They’ve shared their findings in an article, published this week in the magazine Nature Communications.
This data allowed Chinese researchers to suggest that molecules of water could be present at about 120 parts per million (ppm) in some type of moon rocks and at 180ppm in others.
Now, a team from the Chinese Academy of Sciences has confirmed the presence of water in the samples by directly studying the cargo that Chang’e-5 brought back to Earth.
The soil analyzed by the scientists turned out to be relatively dry – even by lunar standards – showing levels of water at 28.5 parts per million.
However, they also discovered that the mineral apatite was among the samples to boast an H2O content of 179ppm, which was consistent with earlier forecasts.
Telescope and satellite observations have long led scientists to suspect that water existed on the Moon, as either hydroxyl or H20 in the rocks.
The hope is that cosmonauts and astronauts, colonizing Earth’s satellite in the future, will be able to extract molecular oxygen and hydrogen out of the environment to produce water and pure oxygen for themselves.
Dipshittery and Cope
- Mélenchon’s lesson to the left: less socialism, more social democracy The Guardian
As far as I can tell, what this article is saying is “Huh, when leaders and parties become less left, they receive more votes and support! What? No, that’s not because those parties would have actually be successful (e.g. Corbyn, kinda Bernie) if they hadn’t been deliberately weakened by the capitalist establishment that fears genuine systematic change, it’s because more people wanna vote for more tepid policies!” Assuming the author is writing in completely good faith and genuinely wants a strong left, I think they’re unable to distinguish the difference between the difficulty in walking uphill with no external resistance, and the difficulty in boulders being thrown at you to stop your uphill climb at a lesser slope. If this is more cynical, and it’s saying “STOP DOING MAKING REVOLUTIONARY PARTIES AND DOING REVOLUTIONARY ACTS. Please. :)” then he can go swandive into a volcano.
In 2017, Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s La France Insoumise (Unsubmissive France) sat alongside Spain’s Podemos, Greece’s Syriza, the Bernie Sanders campaign in the US and Labour under Jeremy Corbyn as part of a worldwide “left populist wave” that combined charismatic leadership with radical policies. He channelled French citizens’ anger at austerity policies – blamed on Brussels bureaucrats – and proposed an exit from the EU (in case treaty change was not achieved) and Nato. Mélenchon held rallies looking like an enraged tribune of the people in a Mao suit, and took swipes at the French elite: “the caste and its puppets” and the “ignoble” politicians of the socialist party. While his presidential bid scored an impressive 19%, only 11% voted for the party in the parliamentary elections.
The situation is very different now. A more amiable Mélenchon leads the Nupes (Nouvelle Union populaire écologique et sociale) coalition that polled a hair ahead of Macron’s Ensemble coalition in the first round of the French parliamentary elections this week – 26.1% to 25.8%. This is a stunning result for the left after decades on the margins. While it remains unlikely that Mélenchon will win enough MPs in the second round to claim the role of prime minister in an uneasy co-habitation with president Macron, a powerful case has been made for the attractiveness of a left alternative to Macron’s neoliberal centrism.
Key to this is Mélenchon’s own evolution from the populist insurgent accused of dividing the left and adopting a nationalist stance, to the politician who has managed to reunite the left for the first time in 20 years and convince the public it is fit for government. Other leftist projects that emerged in the turmoil of the 2010s may want to draw lessons from it.
Mélenchon’s 2022 strategy shifted from geopolitical issues in favour of bread-and-butter policies: raising the minimum wage to €1,500 a month after taxes, reducing pensionable age to 60 (Macron wants to raise it from 62 to 65), and the introduction of price controls to protect people from the cost of living crisis – pragmatic demands compared to the previous electoral cycle. As the University College London professor Philippe Marlière has noted, the Nupes programme is “radical reformist”, and contrary to the 1972 left unity programme, it does not specifically call for a “transitional break with capitalism”.
Alongside this, the 70-year-old Mélenchon has softened his revolutionary image. He has adopted a presidential tone, presenting himself as an able statesman who is aware of the need to find compromises with other parties and even certain sections of capital. The radical policies on the EU and Nato of 2017 that were particularly beloved by some left militants – but attracted wide criticism – has been bracketed as part of a common alliance programme. Furthermore, Mélenchon has emphasised his statesman credentials as a long-term politician and former minister and his readiness to govern.
Mélenchon’s trajectory exemplifies a more general trend in the European and international left: many former left populists have now de facto become radical reformists: toning down their more identitarian rhetoric and anti-establishment antagonism to focus on the concrete policy solutions they have on offer. In Spain, the left has moved from the charismatic, sometimes rambunctious leadership of Pablo Iglesias to the more reassuring figure of Yolanda Díaz. Díaz is a labour lawyer from a family of trade unionists but is widely respected for her administrative competence and for delivering an effective furlough programme during the pandemic and on her promise to pass reform on temporary contracts. Significantly, her keyword is “diálogo” (dialogue): she insists that while defending the interests of workers, she wants to find a compromise with entrepreneurs in the general interest of the country.
During the 2010s, Sanders launched strong attacks against the establishment of the Democratic party in the US. But he has since tried to forge an uneasy alliance with Joe Biden against the obstructionism of centrist Dems such as Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, who have stalled the US president’s flagship Build Back Better social package. He now heads the powerful budget committee in the Senate and has tried to redirect economic policy discussion in Congress in a more progressive direction.
In the UK there has not been such maturation of the left populism of the 2010s into radical social democracy. Rather, the Labour leader, Keir Starmer, has almost completely abandoned Jeremy Corbyn’s policies without even doing much to try to co-opt some of his more promising young leaders and thinkers, as Biden has tried to do on the other side of the Atlantic.
Former leaders of the 2010s left-populist movement softening their stances doesn’t mean their original movement was wrongheaded. It was a necessary moment of recomposition and reconstruction of a new left identity for the 21st century. But the focus is now shifting away from identity-building to the more painstaking task of coalition-building and policy delivery rather than charismatic appeals. Many involved are aware that they were perhaps wrong to frame as “radical” and “uncompromising” policies that were often quite commonsense social democratic offers – had they been given a softer branding, these may perhaps have proven appealing also to people who do not necessarily define themselves as “anti-capitalists”.
Various opinion polls show that in Europe and the US, there is a wide section of the electorate looking for politicians and parties offering redistributive socio-economic policies to fight against ballooning inequality. These are policies that were once offered by traditional centre-left parties and figures that have since mostly abandoned any pretence of being social democratic and enthusiastically embraced liberal pro-market policy – as is most evident precisely in the case of Macron. The new left that emerged over the course of the 2010s can now step into that void. Socialism may have to wait, but social democracy is there to be claimed.
- How problematic is corruption in Ukraine? Al Jazeera
Since its founding, Ukraine has been associated with corruption and oligarchy and Russia has used these talking points to partially justify its war against the country.
However, analysts say that Ukraine today has made significant strides to root out corruption as they note Russia is in no position to criticise.
WHATABOUTISM! That’s a whataboutism! Oh, right, only we’re not allowed to do that. Never mind.
According to Transparency International’s 2021 Corruption Perceptions Index, Ukraine ranked 122th out of 180 countries, near countries such as Zambia, Gabon and Mexico, while nations like Denmark and Finland ranked first. That year, Ukraine was the second most corrupt in Europe, ahead of Russia at 136.
But according to Koen Slootmaeckers, senior lecturer in international politics at City, University of London, “we need to be very careful on how we discuss the issue of corruption in Ukraine as if we are not, we only add to the Russia propaganda narrative which uses corruption as a justification of its own aggression.
“This is particularly the case when we start this conversation by comparing Ukraine to African countries where Western powers often use corruption to continue subordinating African nations and put them under special measures and development aid conditionality,” he told Al Jazeera.
While there is little doubt corruption has troubled Ukraine’s society and political landscape, everyday Ukrainians have repeatedly stood up against government wrongdoings and called for the rule of law, democracy and self-determination, such as during the Orange Revolution in 2004 and the pro-European protests of the Euromaidan movement some 10 years later.
The Orange Revolution was a series of strikes and protests linked to allegations of vote-rigging in favour of Viktor Yanukovych, a pro-Russian candidate in the 2004 presidential election.
The Euromaidan in 2013-2014 was the result of the government’s decision against signing the European Union-Ukraine Association Agreement with the bloc. Those protests ended with Yanukovych’s resignation.
- Putin Has Reason to Slow-Walk a Ukraine Grain Deal Bloomberg
Senior European officials see little chance Russia is willing to ease global food pressures by striking a deal to let Ukraine resume crucial grain exports, saying the Kremlin views the crisis as leverage against Kyiv and its allies.
Government and intelligence officials say United Nations-facilitated negotiations with Moscow and Kyiv are still struggling to make progress. They asked not to be identified discussing such sensitive matters. Many issues are unsolved, one person familiar with the discussions said, including how goods can move safety within and from Ukraine.
One of the people said the Kremlin had manufactured the debate as a means to get sanctions lifted and was intent on using the threat of global hunger as a bargaining tool in any future peace talks. The US has not sanctioned any Russian agricultural products in response to the war and says there is no link between the penalties on Moscow and grain or fertilizer exports from either Russia or Ukraine.
- Putin is ‘another Hitler in the making,’ Egyptian billionaire Sawiris says CNBC
Asked by CNBC’s Hadley Gamble if he expected civil unrest in Egypt due to food shortages triggered by the war, Sawiris, the chairman and CEO of Orascom Investment Holding, said he did not — he argued that people would know the crisis was caused by Putin and not their own government.
“I don’t think so,” Sawiris said Wednesday, “Because people understand that this crisis is not of our own making. I mean, it’s the making of a crazy man that woke up one day and decided to invade a peaceful country with no warning.”
- Ukraine says Russia eyes a ‘vast area from Warsaw to Sofia’ Reuters
“Russia is not interested only in our (cities of) Mariupol, Sievierodonetsk, Kharkiv and Kyiv. No, its ambitions are directed on a vast area from Warsaw to Sofia,” he said, without citing evidence for his assertion.
Does NATO exist or not? Is it a powerful defensive organization opposing, at threat of MAD, the pathetic, weak, incompetent Russian army or not? I’m aware that it’s a purely cynical move to try and scare other eastern European countries into sending you more aid, but you can’t logically hold all these contradictory positions in your head. Actually, if Putin does win in Ukraine and does, nonsensically, intend to keep going, then surely those eastern European countries would want their military equipment inside their own countries, and not broken and rusting in a Ukrainian field.
- Putin ‘sees his mission’ in Ukraine ‘as the recovery of Russian lands,’ but if he’s learned anything he won’t try to take Kyiv again: experts Business Insider
After a series of major setbacks in the early days of the Ukraine war, Russian forces are slowly but surely making progress in the eastern Donbas region and there are growing concerns in the West that Russia could soon seize it.
Though the Russian military has overwhelmingly shifted its attention to the Donbas since failing to take Kyiv, the Pentagon, Ukrainian government, and top experts are in agreement that Russian President Vladimir Putin has not given up on his bigger goal of conquering Ukraine as a whole.
“Of course they have the idea of occupying the whole country. They demonstrated this in the first weeks of the war. This is their objective,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Tuesday, per CNN.
Still, experts told Insider that they’re skeptical Russian forces have the troops and weaponry after suffering heavy losses to mount an effective assault on the Ukrainian capital or country’s center — even if the Donbas falls and provides Russia with a potential platform to push westward.
Steven Pifer, the former US ambassador to Ukraine, told Insider that Putin “sees his mission as the recovery of Russian lands” and this suggests that if Russia takes the Donbas then “he might return to that objective — now let’s try to go for Kyiv and such.” Putin recently compared himself to Peter the Great, suggesting that the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine that he ordered was simply a case of Russia moving to retake lands that have historic ties to Moscow.
“Whether everybody in Moscow shares that ambition is a very different question. But then you also have to ask — does the Russian military have the wherewithal to make that kind of offensive operation? There are a lot of Russian soldiers who are not particularly thrilled that they’re fighting in Ukraine,” Pifer said, adding, “The Ukrainians are getting battered and may have some morale issues, but I think most Ukrainians still think that this is an existential fight and that if they lose their democracy is gone and their vision of what Ukraine would be as an independent state.”
The Pentagon has offered a similar assessment. US Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl on Tuesday said Putin likely still has “designs on a significant portion of Ukraine, if not the whole country,” but added, “I do not think the Russians have the capacity to achieve those grandiose objectives.”
By the account of one Ukrainian official, 200 to 500 troops have been dying every day for the last week — a loss rate all but unsustainable for a military estimated to have had 250,000 troops prior to the war’s outbreak.
Rita Konaev, deputy director of analysis at Georgetown University’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology and an expert on the Russian military, told Insider that if Russia seizes the Donbas she does not “foresee a campaign to retake Kyiv again” or “some sort of a resurgence of a total war in the way that we’ve seen in February.”
But she added that “this is contingent that the Russians learn some sort of lessons” out of their past failures in the war so far.
“In the best case scenario for Russia — that they retake the Donbas — I think the conflict freezes along the previous lines. But of course that will also depend on what Ukraine is willing to accept. And right now, despite the increasing urgency and despair that is coming from the frontlines in the Donbas, I’m not completely certain that the political tide has turned against the broader aim of expelling Russian troops from Ukraine altogether,” Konaev said.
- The U.S. overestimated Russia’s military might. Is it underestimating China’s? Politico
The U.S. failure to correctly predict how the Russian and Ukrainian militaries would perform in the early stages of their ongoing war is fueling fears in Washington that America may have major blindspots when it comes to the fighting force of an increasingly powerful adversary: China.
The concerns are rising as American spy agencies are reexamining how they assess foreign militaries, and, according to a Biden administration official, are a key driver of a number of ongoing classified reviews. U.S. lawmakers are among those who’ve requested the intelligence reviews, and some have concerns about China in particular.
China’s communist government is secretive about many of its military capabilities, and it is believed to be closely watching and learning from Russia’s botched opening act in Ukraine. The post-9/11 U.S. emphasis on counterterrorism and the Arab world has undercut efforts to spy on China, former officials and analysts say, leaving some agencies with too few Mandarin speakers. Beijing also has dismantled some American intelligence networks, including reportedly executing more than a dozen CIA sources starting in 2010.
Growing U.S. worries that China will sooner rather than later attack Taiwan as part of a broader effort to eclipse American power in the Pacific make the topic of Beijing’s military prowess more salient than ever, said lawmakers and eight current and former officials interviewed for this story. The concerns about a lack of U.S. understanding of China’s military are compounded by the fact that the People’s Liberation Army has not fought in a war in more than 40 years.
China has undertaken an extraordinary modernization of its armed forces over the past decade. The country now has the world’s largest navy in terms of ship numbers, with an overall force of roughly 355 vessels including more than 145 large warships as of 2021, according to the Pentagon’s most recent annual report on China’s military power. Meanwhile, the People’s Liberation Army has grown to roughly 975,000 active-duty personnel, and the nation’s aviation force totals over 2,800 aircraft, including stealth fighters and strategic bombers. China began fielding its first operational hypersonic weapons system, the DF-17, in 2020, and its nuclear arsenal is projected to grow to at least 1,000 warheads by 2030.
The U.S. closely tracks developments in China’s military might. But what officials know less about is what Beijing intends to do with this increasingly powerful fighting force.
“This is hard, but at the end of the day, I do think there’s lots of scope for us to ask if we can learn,” said Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee. “It would have been nice, at least on the non-human factors, to have had a clearer view of what was going to happen in Ukraine, and there’s probably lessons to be learned there with respect to China.”
Added Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.), another intelligence committee member concerned about the assessments: “I assume our military is going to school.”
This past winter, as Russia appeared on the verge of a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the widespread sense among U.S. officials was that Moscow’s modernized military would easily run over Ukraine’s forces, likely in days or weeks. These expectations were in part the result of intelligence reports, which, while rarely definitive and often full of caveats, apparently left an ominous impression of Russia’s abilities. Such views were echoed by outside analysts, some of whom have since admitted those initial assessments were incorrect.
Not only did the Ukrainian military hold ground and even push back the Russians, but the Russians appeared to make basic errors, such as failing to establish solid supply lines and undermining morale among the rank-and-file by not telling many of them about their true mission.
The twists and turns in the fight for Ukraine came months after the collapse of the U.S.-trained Afghan military during the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan. American officials’ assessments of that military, too, were overly optimistic at times and are another reason lawmakers are interested in a review.
“Within 12 months … we overestimated the Afghans’ will to fight, underestimated the Ukrainians’ will to fight,” said Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), during a hearing earlier this year. “We had testimony … that Kyiv was going to fall in three or four days and the war would last two weeks. That turned out to be grossly wrong.”
In response, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines indicated that U.S. spy agencies were reviewing where they erred. “It’s a combination of will to fight and capacity, in effect, and the two of them are issues that are … quite challenging to provide effective analysis on,” Haines said. “We’re looking at different methodologies for doing so.”
“Yeah, our made-up predic– I mean, uh thorough analysis was perhaps not as thorough as previously thought. We’re looking into why we made those predictions in the first place. I guess for starters, we simply didn’t anticipate the Ukrainian military to roll the +100% boost to Combat Strength military policy card at the beginning of the war.
- US says China’s support for Russia over Ukraine puts it on ‘wrong side of history’ The Guardian
Xi Jinping has assured Vladimir Putin of China’s support on Russian “sovereignty and security” prompting Washington to warn Beijing it risked ending up “on the wrong side of history”.
China has refused to condemn Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine and has been accused of providing diplomatic cover for Russia by blasting western sanctions and arms sales to Kyiv.
China is “willing to continue to offer mutual support [to Russia] on issues concerning core interests and major concerns such as sovereignty and security,” state broadcaster CCTV reported Xi as saying during a call with Putin.
It was the second reported call between the two leaders since Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine on 24 February.
But the United States swiftly weighed in with a frosty retort to Beijing’s expressed alignment with Moscow.
“China claims to be neutral, but its behavior makes clear that it is still investing in close ties to Russia,” a US state department spokesperson said.
Washington was “monitoring China’s activity closely”, including how, nearly four months into Russia’s war in Ukraine, the Asian giant was “still echoing Russian propaganda around the world” and suggesting Moscow’s atrocities in Ukraine were “staged,” the official said.
“Nations that side with Vladimir Putin will inevitably find themselves on the wrong side of history.”
Good Takes that are Dope
- The Trend Toward A Multipolar World Is Defined By Class Struggle Popular Resistance
In the post-Soviet era, it has become fashionable to strip all geopolitical developments of their class roots. Wars have been explained away by bourgeois propaganda: the War on Terror, Great Power Competition, and matters of “national security.” The Ukraine crisis is a case in point. Russia’s military operation in Ukraine has been labeled a war without a cause by Western detractors. But underneath the cacophony of capitalist ideology and propaganda is a class struggle occurring on the global stage for multipolarity where the Russia-Ukraine conflict is but one flashpoint.
Vladimir Lenin is perhaps the most well-known Marxist revolutionary to advance a modern theory of international relations rooted in the class struggle brought about by imperialism. Lenin concluded that the ascendency of monopoly and finance capital divided the world into colonies and oppressed nations. The self-determination of these nations would therefore form a core pillar in the struggle for socialism worldwide. Without self-determination, workers and oppressed people of the world would suffer immeasurable losses from the scourge of colonial domination and its triple evils of military occupation, economic plunder, and racial discrimination.
Multipolarity is in essence a continuation of the struggle for self-determination in the modern era. After years of imperialist ramblings about the “End of History” and “There is No Alternative” (TINA) to neoliberalism, the trend toward a multipolar world is demonstrating that the exact opposite is true. In all corners of the globe, the unipolar dominance of U.S. imperialism is collapsing upon its own contradictions. In Europe, U.S. imperialism threatens to shut the lights out and place what was once the center of capitalist development into a permanent state of decay. In Latin America, insurgent left-wing governments led by Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Bolivia, and others are rejecting U.S. domination in their pursuit of peoples-centered socialist development and integration. In Africa, Western plunder and militarization led by the U.S. has led many countries to pursue stronger relations with China and Russia.
China and Russia are in the vanguard of the multipolar world. China’s socialist governance system has balanced entrance into an unstable, capitalist dominated world economic system by maintaining state control of the commanding heights of the economy such as energy, land, transportation, natural resources, and finance. This has allowed China to ascend to the top of the economic ladder as a top innovator of high-technology and address socialist imperatives such as poverty, climate change, and public health. Russia has dug its way out of the disastrous collapse of the Soviet Union to regain national sovereignty and become a major economic and military power in rapid time.
While many differences exist between Russia and China, what binds them is a commitment to sovereign development and self-determination. China and Russia’s alliance has included steadfast resistance to U.S. and Western sanctions against not only their societies but also smaller nations in the Global South like the DPRK, Cuba, and Syria. China and Russia have led efforts to seek peaceful resolutions where the U.S. only makes war. While the U.S. has applied military force in its policy toward Syria, Ukraine, and the DPRK to name just a few, China and Russia have positioned themselves as anchors for peace on the UN Security Council and several other multilateral organizations. These include the BRICS, Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and the infrastructure projects of the Belt and Road Initiative and the Eurasian Economic Union which offer cooperative pathways to economic integration and development.
Russia and China’s efforts arguably form the foundations of multipolarity. But what is a multipolar world exactly? It is a world where multiple systems of development exist, sometimes in contradiction and conflict with each other, other times in cooperation. Some have viewed this development in abstract terms, stripping multipolarity of its class character. This is a monumental error. Multipolarity is not a benign development but an outgrowth of class struggle.
U.S. imperialism’s war against multipolarity is a war on self-determination and sovereignty. To U.S. imperialism, unity among the oppressed nations of the world is the foremost enemy to the unipolar dominance required to maximize capitalist profit. Thwarting such unity is the principal reason why the U.S. has militarily encircled both Russia and China and placed sanctions on key components of their economies. It is why Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela suffer under starvation U.S. sanctions and leftist movements throughout Latin America have been undermined for seeking collective liberation from the U.S.’s imperialist Monroe Doctrine. Furthermore, the U.S.’s militarization of Africa via the U.S. Africa Command is intimately linked to the U.S.-NATO war on Libya in 2011, a nation that had as a central goal the integration of the resource-rich African continent through an independent currency, military, and passport system.
U.S. wars in West and Central Asia cannot be separated from the class struggle embodied in multipolarity, either. These wars have one goal: to keep the region in chaos. Chaos holds the possibility that integration projects such as the China-led Belt and Road Initiative will be arrested in this key part of the world. The U.S. war on Syria and its continued destabilization campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, for example, are in part an attempt to block Russia and China’s vision for the integration of the region from East to West. Massive hunger, death, and terrorism that have resulted from these wars are merely collateral damage in the larger goal of thwarting genuine independence and self-determination.
Some may wonder in this intense New Cold War environment whether Russia can seriously be considered a champion of self-determination and sovereignty. After all, the ongoing Ukraine crisis has been portrayed by the West as an unquestionable example of Russian aggression that violates international law. Let’s be clear: Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine does not contradict the central premise that multipolarity is rooted in class struggle. U.S.-NATO encroachments along Russia’s borders since 1991 and the U.S.-backed coup in Ukraine in 2014 have created an untenable security situation. Rather than contradict Russia’s role in a multipolar world system, the Ukraine crisis has strengthened it by demonstrating just how enormous the stakes of this class struggle truly are.
The Ukraine crisis has exposed how the U.S.’s war on multipolarity threatens to bring about a global war even more destructive than the prior two global conflicts of the 20th century fought among the capitalists for the domination of the planet. By waging ceaseless counter insurgency war maneuvers meant to provoke Russia and China, the U.S. empire is playing with fire. This is evident in the U.S.’s complete refusal to negotiate with Russia in December of 2021 to prevent the Ukraine crisis from escalating and its increased military expenditures to Ukraine and Taiwan over the same period. U.S. imperialism has been the instigator of war and the violator of self-determination all along, but the wall-to-wall misinformation of the Western media has convinced many in the North America and Europe to believe otherwise.
U.S. imperialism clearly views multipolarity not from the prism of peaceful coexistence but as a threat to the continued rule of its financial empire. Progressive and left forces in the West should too. Multipolarity is indeed a class war, one characterized by nations and peoples pursuing peaceful, sovereign, and people-centered development in the face of a hegemon willing to use the deadliest forms of economic, political, and military warfare to stop them.
The question becomes: which side are we on? The side of the imperialists led by the U.S. seeking maximum profit for the fewest people and nations or that of China, Russia, and its allies striving for self-determination and integration in an effort to meet the needs of the people and the planet? Our collective answer will determine whether progressive forces in the West stand by and watch the war on multipolarity or whether they are organized to follow Lenin’s advice and take up the struggle to defeat their own imperialist governments at the root of it.
- Why George Soros and Francis Fukuyama are ‘Putin’s useful idiots’ RT
There is a surprising debate taking place in in the West – they are arguing about French President Emmanuel Macron’s call not to humiliate Russia.
The point here is not that the question itself is ridiculous – generally speaking, the West cannot currently humble our country. Because you can only humiliate someone who depends on you (and with whom you have, if not common values, then at least a harmonized system), but nothing like this can be said about relations between Russia and those countries today.
No, the responses to Macron – and Hillary Clinton was the most recent to raise an objection, saying that this stage has already passed – are indicative of the fact that people who object to him live in some parallel universe. They are not even faced with the question of whether it is possible for Russia to win, because they are sure that it will lose, or even that it has already lost, and they only care to what extent it has been defeated, and how much it needs to be hurt.
It’s not just politicians who are talking about this, it’s also opinion leaders like the American philosopher Francis Fukuyama. His latest interview with Germany’s Die Welt is an example of the piling up of such statements.
He became famous in 1989 for prophesying “the end of history” and the advent of an era of the triumphant march of liberal democracy (that was literally all the nations of the world falling into line with the West towards the bright future of a united humanity). For him, it turns out that making speculative and self-defeating statements is a habit. And now Fukuyama, who, by the way, is very much loved in Kiev and was even recently hired as a consultant by the National Council for the Recovery of Ukraine, is again casting his policy formulations in stone.
The first of these, however, he revealed back in March, shortly after the start of Russia’s military operation. Back then, the professor stated:
“I think all of us have an interest in supporting [Kiev’s fight] because the broader liberal democratic order is really what’s at stake in this current war. It’s not a war just about this country, Ukraine. It’s really the attempt to roll back the entire expansion of the realm of liberal democracy that took place after 1991 and the collapse of the former Soviet Union.”
Thus, he’s now trying to tell us that the triumph of liberalism is now not a fait accompli. The problem is that the Russians are simply trying to undo the “inevitable,” to turn back time and the West should fight with them, win (through its Ukrainian proxies) and then return humanity to the right path of history.
By early June, Fukuyama was already convinced that everything was going great, Russia was practically defeated, and a new world order was coming (or rather, returning):
“Yes. This new order is taking shape. It is the result of several years of struggle by the Western democratic camp against authoritarian regimes, mainly against Russia and China. This war is the culmination of this process. Russia is heading for a rout. It has already suffered a series of battlefield defeats, and now it is about to be driven out of Donbass by the Ukrainian Army. This is a real disaster for Putin. He turns out to be just a shoddy leader. And not just as a warlord: It’s also a complete political debacle.”
He continued: “NATO will certainly expand by integrating Sweden and Finland. It’s been a long time since the West has been so united. Germany has reconsidered its Ostpolitik of the past 40 years and is supplying Ukraine with heavy weapons. The US has reasserted its leading role in the world, which was lost under [former President Donald] Trump. The West is providing massive aid to Ukraine… Russia will have a very hard time climbing out of this abyss into which it has fallen. It will be excluded from the international world order like North Korea.”
If you think that Fukuyama’s optimism is completely disconnected from reality, you just don’t understand what it is based on. And the professor has a holistic view of the Russian president:
“Putin rules alone, without any restraints, plus he is cut off from information and expert advice. He lives in a world of his own delusions. Ukraine is an example of this. Everything he has convinced himself about the subject is wrong, but he clings firmly to these illusions because he has created one-man domination. In addition, he clearly has mental problems. He is a paranoid person. He listens to no one and is guided by fantasies. However, this is a common threat in any authoritarian country…”
Of course, this is exactly what our own domestic Russian “anti-regime fighters,” most of whom have now departed abroad, have been saying for years: Putin is simply a paranoid dictator. During his numerous trips to Kiev in recent years, Fukuyama must have been told this a lot by his Ukrainian friends and our “political emigres.”
How can you not believe such informed people, who just happen to be like-minded, when they talk about the “triumph of liberalism”?
The only problem is that such “understanding” has nothing to do with the discipline of political science – which Fukuyama, we are assured, represents. To believe that Putin “attacked Ukraine” because he is “paranoid and cut off from information” is hardly a very academic approach.
Perhaps Fukuyama would rather leave the tabloids to analyze the history of Russia, the situation around its relations with the West, modern geopolitical processes and trends in general. After all, low-brow stuff like this is beneath the abilities of a mere Stanford professor, who clearly prefers to deal in gossip rather than actual scholarship.
Nevertheless, why should we care about Fukuyama and his next prophecy? There are two points of interest here.
First, we see the transformation of a professor – once hailed by the West as an oracle and influential philosopher – into a banal propagandist who is also poorly versed in the material at play, and has no sense of the course of history.
Despite all that – and this is the second point – Fukuyama remains for the West an authority and thinker with answers to important questions. This means the blind are leading the blind.
That is exactly what it is. George Soros, Fukuyama and other 1990s gurus of globalization are still in demand – not so much by the public but by those who define the discourse, the people who shape the agenda for the West.
This is both a very bad and a very good sign, from a Russian point of view. Bad, because it shows the weak levels of genuine expertise and intellectual heft available to decision makers in the Atlantic world.
The strength – and it is enormous strength – is still there, but the levels of intelligence are not up to scratch. However, in a situation of increased conflict and tension, this combination does not reduce, but instead increases, the risks of a confrontational scenario developing into an open conflict.
The good sign, on the other hand, is that a poor understanding of Russia, the things that really matter to us and our strategic goals – combined with elites betting on our defeat – is working for us as a whole. So the real “useful idiots of Putin” (as the West likes to call supporters of honest dialogue with Russia) are certainly not former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and one-time Italian leader Silvio Berlusconi, but rather instead Soros and Fukuyama.
- Behind the original neoliberal ‘color revolution’: How Serbians provoked violence to push regime change Multipolarista
When Serbia’s government was overthrown in 2000, it was the first example of a successful US-backed neoliberal color revolution.
The tactics used in this regime-change operation were subsequently repeated in countries around the world.
Journalist Brian Mier spoke with Serbian activist Ivan Zlatić, a member of the presidency of the Party of the Radical Left, about this foundational experience.
Zlatić explained how regime-change operatives intentionally “provoke violence” and then capitalize on the response of the government to discredit it and demand that it be toppled.
“Serbia was the color revolution zero,” Zlatić said.
“It was the first time that this format was utilized to provoke the reaction from the regime, or from the governing party, to go violently on young people. And then it provoked the reaction of a larger public, that, ‘We don’t want our kids to be beaten down by the police.'”
“It was very successful. I mean, this campaign was very successful to support the opposition parties, because all the people were enraged by how police is dealing with students and with these fine, nice young people who only want democracy and human rights, and la la la la la.”
“That actually enraged even those people who were supporting the regime politically, but were enraged with this police violence against students.”
- There Are Better Ways to Fight Inflation Than Attacking Working People With Higher Interest Rates Common Dreams
A deafening silence defines "debates” among U.S. leaders about stopping or slowing today’s inflation. Alternatives to the Federal Reserve’s raising of interest rates and curtailing money supply growth are ignored. It’s as if there were no other ways to rein in price increases except to add more interest costs to the already excess debts of workers and small and medium businesses. Were the last two and a half years of the deadly Covid-19 pandemic, plus the economic crash of 2020, not sufficient enough burdens on Americans without piling on the additional burden of inflation that has been imposed by U.S. capitalism?
As usual, the profit-driven concerns of big business and their result—a remarkably selective historical amnesia—fuel the silence about alternative anti-inflation policies. So too do the right-wing ideological blinders that now constrict U.S. politics. Yet, policy alternatives always exist, no matter how desperately partisans promoting one policy seek to obliterate debate and discussion of others. The narrow dogmatism of U.S. politics these days is on full display around the issue of an anti-inflation policy focused on raising interest rates.
The article goes on to describe various ways of fighting inflation.
Bloomerism and Hope
- China will support Russia on security, Xi tells Putin in birthday call CNN
Chinese leader Xi Jinping reiterated his support for Moscow on “sovereignty and security” matters in a call with counterpart Vladimir Putin on Wednesday, upholding his backing for the countries' partnership despite the global backlash against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Speaking on his 69th birthday, Xi also pledged to deepen strategic coordination between the two countries, according to China’s Foreign Ministry.
A separate readout from the Kremlin said the two leaders stressed their countries' relations were “were at an all-time high” and reaffirmed their commitment to “consistently deepen the comprehensive partnership.”