- Western Balkans come one step closer to EU accession RT
On Friday, the Bulgarian parliament voted to lift the veto on North Macedonia’s EU accession talks, leaving a ball on Skopje’s side.
Following Thursday’s summit between 27 EU leaders and six heads of government from the Western Balkans, the removal of the veto, related to a longstanding cultural and linguistic dispute between Sofia and Skopje, was supported by 170 Bulgarian MPs, with 37 voting against and 21 abstaining.
The decision was hailed as a “historic” one by Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov. Writing on Twitter, he confirmed that the parliament approved a French compromise proposal. The prime minister also stressed that the “integration of the Western Balkans is the strategic interest of the EU.”
- German sugar maker Suedzucker to raise prices, shift to coal power, newspaper reports Reuters
German sugar producer Suedzucker plans “significant” price hikes to offset rising costs and prepares to shift to coal as Russian gas supplies to Western Europe slow in the wake of the Ukraine war, the Mannheimer Morgen newspaper reported on Saturday.
“The costs of beet cultivation and energy are rising, and these are two significant blocks of production,” Chief Executive Niels Poerksen said in an interview with the newspaper.
“If there was no price increase, it would be difficult to come out of the business with any profit,” he said.
The company is also ramping up stocks for use at the plants where coal can also be used as not all Suedzucker factories are equipped to run on other energy sources if there is no more gas, Poerksen told the newspaper.
- Germany’s top energy regulator said the country can last just 2.5 months without Russian gas, and there will be a ‘difficult’ autumn and winter ahead Fortune
With Russian gas flows drying up, imports-reliant Germany is bracing for rationing measures and an economic slowdown. And officials warn that a harsh winter of gas shortages will be in the cards if Russia turns off the taps.
Germany currently relies on Russia for 35% of its natural gas imports, meaning that even a small shift in supply could send prices soaring. That happened last week, when gas prices in Germany went up 24% after Russian company Gazprom halted gas flows along the Nord Stream 1 pipeline connecting the two countries.
The grace period would be around 10 weeks, according to Klaus Müller, head of the country’s top regulatory office for electricity and gas.
“If the storage facilities in Germany were mathematically 100% full … we could do without Russian gas completely … for just about two-and-a-half months and then the storage tanks will be empty,” Müller said Thursday on ZDF’s political talk show Maybrit Illner.
- German vice chancellor reduces shower time ‘again’ RT
German Vice Chancellor and Economy Minister Robert Habeck says he has had to once again “drastically reduce” the time he spends in the shower in an effort to cope with what he describes as an acute energy crisis.
Not heating apartments in winter would also greatly help Germany to overcome the difficulties allegedly caused by Russia, the minister told Der Spiegel magazine in an interview published on Friday.
The minister apparently takes pride in his ability to have a “quick shower,” as he told Der Spiegel that he just “had to laugh” when his “Dutch colleague” told him about a planned campaign to encourage people to reduce the average shower time from 10 to five minutes. “I’ve never showered for five minutes in my life,” Habeck said, claiming he completes the task faster.
The minister also said he barely heats his apartment in winter since he “gets up at six and leaves by seven,” before returning “late.” Still, Habeck admitted he was a “bad example” because he enjoys a ministerial salary that “others only dream of.”
He said he is aware of people who “did not heat all the rooms in their apartments last winter.” Habeck warned that the worst is yet to come, since energy companies are “gradually” increasing prices for end consumers. “More people will be affected,” he said, adding that “we are already [in a situation] in which Germany has never been,” which he described as “a gas crisis.”
- As Russia Chokes Ukraine’s Grain Exports, Romania Tries to Fill In NYT
In many ways, Romania is well positioned. Its port in Constanta, on the western coast of the Black Sea, has provided a critical — although tiny — transit point for Ukrainian grain since the war began. Romania’s own farm output is dwarfed by Ukraine’s, but it is one of the largest grain exporters in the European Union. Last year, it sent 60 percent of its wheat abroad, mostly to Egypt and the rest of the Middle East. This year, the government has allocated 500 million euros ($527 million) to support farming and keep production up.
Still, this Eastern European nation faces many challenges: Its farmers, while benefiting from higher prices, are dealing with spiraling costs of diesel, pesticides and fertilizer. Transportation infrastructure across the country and at its ports is neglected and outdated, slowing the transit of its own exports while also stymieing Romania’s efforts to help Ukraine do an end run around Russian blockades.
Even before the war, though, the global food system was under stress. Covid-19 and related supply chain blockages had bumped up prices of fuel and fertilizer, while brutal dry spells and unseasonal floods had shrunk harvests.
Since the war began, roughly two dozen countries, including India, have tried to bulk up their own food supplies by limiting exports, which in turn has exacerbated global shortages. This year, droughts in Europe, the United States, North Africa and the Horn of Africa have all taken additional tolls on harvests. In Italy, water has been rationed in the farm-producing Po Valley after river levels dropped enough to reveal a barge that had sunk in World War II.
During a visit to Kyiv last week, Romania’s president, Klaus Iohannis, said that since the beginning of the invasion more than a million tons of Ukrainian grain had passed through Constanta to locations around the world.
But logistical problems prevent more grain from making the journey. Ukraine’s rail gauges are wider than those elsewhere in Europe. Shipments have to be transferred at the border to Romanian trains, or each railway car has to be lifted off a Ukrainian undercarriage and wheels to one that can be used on Romanian tracks.
- Europe’s youngest democracy is a new front in the U.S.-Russia battle of ideas WaPo
Russia’s war on Ukraine is forcing all European countries to reconsider their strategic and military relationships. For Kosovo, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggression confirms the belief that it needs a more robust partnership with the United States and its allies.
Last month, on the day that Sweden and Finland simultaneously submitted their requests to join NATO, Kosovar Prime Minister Albin Kurti was in Washington to make his case for increased cooperation.
For a country of fewer than 2 million inhabitants that declared its independence from Serbia in 2008, the stakes couldn’t be higher. With 48 Serbian military installations staring across Kosovo’s borders, according to Kurti, it’s little wonder that he sees the fate of his country as a defining front in the ideological confrontation of our times. He considers his region an active but sometimes overlooked battleground in the developing tensions between the United States and Russia.
“There are these two poles in the world. It’s the U.S. and Russia,” Kurti told me. “Putin’s attack on Ukraine is an attempt to sit down with President Biden for a Yalta 2 kind of conference. This is my impression. Let’s divide the world, because if we do not divide the world, we will keep fighting. … This is how he wants to, I believe, frame it.”
The seven nations that comprise the Western Balkans are an integral part of that discussion, both because of their geographic location and the contemporary regional conflicts following the dissolution of Yugoslavia in 1992. With large populations of ethnic Serbs living within Kosovo’s borders and vice versa, the potential for civil strife is always present.
Kurti told me he continues to make good-faith attempts at de-escalation with Serbia, but those have led nowhere so far. At the heart of the tension is Serbia’s continued unwillingness to recognize Kosovo as an independent sovereign state.
“I cannot recognize a Serbia which does not recognize me. So there is needed mutual recognition, and we are ready to engage in this dialogue,” Kurti explained.
Kurti said that a peace and non-aggression declaration proposed by Kosovo in 2021 was rejected by Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, as was a plan to reciprocally protect minority rights within each other’s borders. Instead, Serbian authorities reportedly began removing Albanians in southern Serbia from voter lists, citing residency claims.
“President Vucic said that, in contrast to Kosovo, Serbia is an example of how minorities should be treated,” Kurti told me. He added, somewhat sarcastically: “I said, ‘Then let’s see how Serbia treats minorities, and I can replicate the model in Kosovo.’ And then he got very angry because I said, ‘Let’s do this reciprocity thing.’ ”
The Kremlin’s support for Serbia is a powerful incentive to Vucic to maintain the status quo. Kosovo is fertile ground for online disinformation campaigns because of weak regulation and nearly nonexistent libel laws, and reports suggest Russian disinformation has attempted to undermine Kosovo’s engagement with the West and boost Serbian narratives about the government.
“Russia is absolutely a threat, doing everything in its power to harm Kosovo,” Reuf Bajrovic, a fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute and former minister of energy for Bosnia and Herzegovina, told me. “It has been slowed because of the heroic Ukrainian efforts to defend itself. … As long as Ukraine is standing, we don’t need to worry about this in the near term, but the threat remains.”
“President Putin wants to turn Kosovo into a failed state. … After [what Putin considers] the failure of Afghanistan and Iraq as expressions of U.S. and NATO interventions, only Kosovo has been left,” Kurti said. “He wants to consider Kosovo a temporary success. So defending Kosovo is very important.”
What would that look like for Kosovo? A permanent American military presence. Entry into the European Union and recognition from remaining countries of its legitimacy as a nation.
As both the E.U. and NATO see some of their members backslide on democratic commitments — think Hungary, Poland and Turkey — the United States and its European partners should make every possible investment in fostering liberal ideals. Supporting these values in Kosovo, Europe’s youngest democracy, would go a long way toward securing the continent’s democratic future.
Asia and Oceania
- US launches new alliance in Pacific RT
The US, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and the UK have formed a new group to boost economic and security ties with Pacific island nations.
In a joint statement on Friday, the members said the informal alliance, dubbed Partners in the Blue Pacific (PBP), was aimed at increasing the effectiveness of their ongoing efforts “to support prosperity, resilience, and security” in the region.
Pig boop palls.
The group will operate “according to principles of Pacific regionalism, sovereignty, transparency, accountability, and most of all, [will be] led and guided by the Pacific islands,” the statement read.
PBP’s core goals also include the expansion of opportunities for cooperation between the Pacific island nations and the rest of the world, it added.
The alliance was needed because the region is facing “most urgent challenges,” including the climate crisis, Covid-19, and “growing pressure on the rules-based free and open international order.”
This may refer to China’s intensified attempts to bolster its influence in the Pacific and reach out to local players.
- Asia LNG spot prices continue rising Bangkok Post
Asian liquefied natural gas (LNG) spot prices continued its upward trend this week as fears of further market tightening following a major outage at a Freeport plant and reduced Russian gas flows to Europe pushed buyers to cover short-term needs.
The average LNG price for August delivery into north-east Asia was estimated at US$37 per million British thermal units (mmBtu), up $0.5 or 1.4% from the previous week, industry sources said.
“The market is back in a bullish mood, with prices up 60% in a couple of weeks, and we expect this to continue,” said Alex Froley, LNG analyst at data intelligence firm ICIS.
Froley attributed the jump to lower Russian flows to Europe and the closure of a 15 million tonne per annum plant operated by Freeport LNG in the United States, as “neither of those gas sources look set to pick back up again in the near term”.
Asian demand usually picks up at this time of year ahead of the summer cooling season and in preparation for restocking ahead of winter.
- China to advance joint oil, gas search talks with PH under next admin Inquirer
After the Duterte government ended joint oil and gas exploration talks with China, Beijing said it is ready to advance negotiations in the next administration.
“China stands ready to work in concert with the new Philippine government to advance negotiations on joint development and strive to take early substantive steps so as to deliver tangible benefits to both countries and peoples,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said in a press briefing on Friday.
- American allies in the Middle East pressure Biden to come up with strategy for containing Iran CNN
President Joe Biden is under increasing pressure from the US' key Middle East allies to come up with a viable plan to constrain Iran, with hopes for reviving the 2015 nuclear deal fading as Biden prepares for his first trip as President to Israel and Saudi Arabia next month.
On a visit to Washington earlier this month, Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Defense Minister Khalid bin Salman – Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s brother – told Biden’s senior national security officials that he was pleased the US-Saudi relationship was getting back on track, sources familiar with the discussions said.
But he expressed concerns that the US had still not articulated a comprehensive strategy for dealing with Iran’s nuclear ambitions, ballistic missile arsenal and support for regional militant groups, the sources said. And the administration has not yet told its allies, including Saudi Arabia, what a possible “Plan B” would be should the nuclear talks fail, regional officials said.
“The situation with Iran is getting very hot,” said one senior administration official, referring to the country’s recent decision to dismantle some of its nuclear monitoring cameras and a spate of covert, offensive Israeli operations inside Iran’s borders. On Monday, three Iranian ships hounded a pair of US Navy vessels in an “unsafe and unprofessional manner,” coming within 50 yards of the US ships in the Strait of Hormuz, the Navy said in a statement.
- Jordan’s King Abdullah says he would support a ‘Middle East Nato’ MEE
Jordan’s King Abdullah said he would support the formation of a Middle East military alliance similar to Nato, as the US looks to shore up its alliances in the region.
“I would be one of the first people that would endorse a Middle East Nato,” King Abdullah told CNBC in an interview broadcast on Friday.
Jordan is designated a major non-Nato ally and often takes part in military exercises with the alliance. The country hosts around 3,000 US troops and its Muwaffaq Salti air base was an important launching pad during the campaign to defeat the Islamic State group.
The monarch said Jordan worked actively with Nato and saw itself as a partner of the alliance, having fought “shoulder-to-shoulder” with Nato troops for decades.
“I’d like to see more countries in the area come into that mix,” he said. But the framework of such a military alliance must be very clear, and its role should be well defined, he added.
All we need now is a South American NATO to counter Venezuela and Cuba, and an African NATO to counter Somalia, and all the countries that the US hates will be covered.
- As Europe Opens Door to Ukraine, Nearby Georgia Falls From Favor WSJ
Years before the war in Ukraine, Georgia was the victim of Russian aggression that prompted Washington and Brussels to swing behind it.
The Black Sea republic was ahead of other ex-Soviet states on democratic reforms, with ambitions to join the European Union.
Washington poured in billions of dollars, trying to shore up a potential partner in the region after Russia invaded in 2008. Georgia responded by committing thousands of troops to U.S.-led missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. In Georgia’s capital, Tbilisi, the airport highway begins with George W. Bush Street.
But when EU leaders cracked open Thursday the door to membership for Ukraine and Moldova, they snubbed Georgia. Instead of granting immediate candidate status, as the bloc did with Ukraine and Moldova, the EU gave Georgia a list of reforms to complete before being offered a pathway to membership, from lessening the sway of domestic oligarchs to improving judicial independence and tackling corruption.
The three countries all applied for EU membership in the weeks after Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24. While Ukraine and Moldova face many of the same problems as Brussels flagged in Georgia, EU leaders see the other governments as firmly committed to change and unquestionably opposed to Moscow’s influence.
Georgia “must now come together politically,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Wednesday. “It must design a clear path towards structural reform and towards the European Union.”
The ruling Georgian Dream party’s chairman called the Commission’s decision “heartbreaking.” Other party members said people and organizations in the West and Georgia’s opposition party had sabotaged its bid and were trying to drag it into war with Russia.
- Gaza’s food crisis worsens as Ukraine war hits blockaded economy hard MEE
Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Palestinians in the coastal enclave have been facing a growing food crisis.
The hardest hit are those poor families who could barely afford their basic needs even before the impact of the conflict reached them.
Gaza’s economy was already devastated by the Israeli-led, 15-year-long blockade, which had massively impacted residents' purchasing power, and the recent price hikes will only make matters worse.
In April, Oxfam warned that the wheat flour reserves in the Palestinian territories could be exhausted within three weeks, adding that the cost of wheat has surged by 25 percent.
“Many families are eating less and lower quality food items. Families are cutting out more expensive food such as fruit, meat, and chicken that are necessary for a healthy diet,” Oxfam said in a statement.
Madhoun, who works as a waiter and receives a salary of 1,000 Shekels ($290) a month, felt the impact of price rises first-hand.
“A bundle of bread used to cost me seven Shekels ($2) and lasted for around four days. Now it costs eight Shekels and lasts only for two days,” said the 46-year-old man.
- EU top diplomat visits Iran in bid to revive nuclear talks Iraqi News
European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell was due to meet Iran’s top diplomat on Saturday after arriving for talks on efforts to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
Borrell flew in to Tehran on Friday night for a surprise visit aimed at getting the talks back on track three months after they stalled amid differences between Iran and the United States.
“Diplomacy is the only way to go back to full implementation of the deal and to reverse current tensions,” Borrell tweeted on Friday.
- Iran sees no benefit from Ukraine war as Russia undercuts it on steel and oil MEE
In the beginning, Iran saw Russia’s war in Ukraine as an opportunity.
A global rise in steel and oil prices was assumed by Tehran to be a good thing. It would lead to more money for sanctioned Iran from its main sources of income.
Instead, Iran’s share in these key markets is being lost - to Russia. Facing western sanctions itself, Russia is offering attractive discounts on both commodities, snatching away custom from Iran in the process.
Over the past few months, Iran’s oil exports to China have dropped. At the same time, China has imported more oil from Russia. Western sanctions on Russia mean that, with little demand for it in Europe, Moscow’s crude oil is now heading to China.
Iran’s oil exports to China had fallen by 34 percent as of May, said Hamid Hosseini, president of the Oil and Gas Exporters' Union in Iran.
An Iranian energy analyst, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Middle East Eye: “Following the start of the Ukraine-Russia war, Moscow focused on India and China, which are Iran’s oil main markets.
“Iran could have revived its lost oil markets amid the rising price of oil in the world, but what we are witnessing now is the worst scenario, as even our main markets are being overtaken.”
He continued: “Coordination with the Russians could have made it possible for Iran to reduce its losses, but I have heard that the Russians aren’t even willing to coordinate with Tehran over discounts and prices.”
- India flies tons of essentials to quake-rocked Afghanistan Yahoo
India sent family tents, blankets and other relief supplies for a team to distribute in eastern Afghan villages where a deadly earthquake collapsed thousands of timber and stone homes to rubble.
State media reported that close to 3,000 homes were destroyed or badly damaged, and the death toll rose to 1,150 people with scores more wounded after the magnitude 6 quake on Wednesday.
- US Prepares to Oust Erdoğan NEO
This is similar to what I think about the situation in Pakistan: I’m not sure how much of this is actually true, but even if there isn’t an explicit conspiracy to remove the leader from power, doing so would so strongly benefit the US and the West more generally, so it’s kind of a distinction without a difference. I obviously don’t support Erdogan remaining in power, but if the alternative is just gonna be a tepid neoliberal puppet who’s designed to harvest the country of all its wealth and send it west and otherwise not really do anything to improve the social or economic condition of the country and thus would not be any different from Erdogan other than slightly better rhetoric, then at least Erdogan is preventing Sweden and Finland from joining NATO. If the alternative is a genuine left movement then go ahead, get rid of Erdogan and put him in jail for the rest of his sorry life - it’s the minimum of what he deserves.
After Recep Tayyip Erdoğan officially announced his intention to run in the upcoming 2023 presidential elections in Turkey, the current White House administration gave a clear signal to its Western “allies” to intensify the campaign against the current Turkish leader and prepare measures to oust him. Although there is no talk of a coup d’état in Turkey yet, the ouster of Erdoğan as a result of the elections has become quite clear.
Not only the Americans, but also Western Europe, especially Germany, are now being blamed for stoking the internal political fire in Turkey. Not without explicit US involvement, as part of a provocative propaganda campaign against Erdoğan organized by the pro-Western opposition, there have recently been statements that the head of state is allegedly exporting millions of dollars to the US and preparing a plan to flee the country quickly. The ruling Justice and Development Party (JDP) responded swiftly with a statement by party spokesman Ömer Çelik, accusing the opposition of blatant lies and seeking to inflame the situation.
With explicit US support, the leaders of six opposition parties (Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu of the Republican People’s Party (RPP), Meral Akşener of the nationalist Good Party, Temel Karamollaoğlu of the conservative Happiness Party, Ahmet Davutoğlu of the Future Party, Gültekin Uysal of the Democratic Party and Ali Babacan of the Democracy and Progress Party) met in February this year to “devise a strategy for governing the state in the event that the current President Erdoğan is ousted.” They continue to coordinate their actions today to remove Erdoğan from power. As even Turkish experts point out, the six opposition parties have secured support not only from the United States, but also from Germany. Turkey’s Minister of Interior and Erdoğan himself have accused the opposition, united in a common National Alliance, of colluding with Western embassies.
The opposition is particularly betting on splitting Erdoğan’s alliance with Devlet Bahçeli’s Nationalist Movement Party (NMP), with which the ruling presidential Justice and Development Party (JDP), which long ago lost its monopoly on political power, was forced into an alliance earlier. And largely thanks to this alliance, the opposition parties failed to remove Erdoğan and the JDP from power in the 2019 elections, and Bahçeli, while keeping Erdoğan in power, took part in the formation of the then new government.
- In Africa, Eastern Europe battles Russian narrative on Ukraine WaPo
With fears growing of a severe food crisis sparked by the war in Ukraine, Kyiv and its Eastern European allies are opening a new front in their battle to build diplomatic alliances against the Kremlin: African nations, many of which depend on grain and fertilizer from Ukraine and Russia to feed their citizens.
The effort is a measure of how Russia’s war in Ukraine is shaping alliances far from the battlefield. The Kremlin has deep ties to many African nations dating back to the Soviet era, and has acted to utilize them in the current crisis, welcoming leaders from the continent to Russia and expanding its own propaganda efforts among local populations.
Central and Eastern European countries shared those ties until the collapse of Communism, but they have spent decades wiring themselves into Western institutions, to the neglect of relations with Africa.
In recent weeks, however, leaders of those countries have been knocking on doors in Africa. Polish President Andrzej Duda traveled to Cairo, the first such trip by a Polish head of state in 30 years. So did Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics, the first bilateral visit by a senior official from his country in memory. And Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke Monday to a gathering of African Union leaders, declared his plan to create a special Ukrainian envoy for Africa and said he would soon send his foreign minister on a tour across the continent.
“What Russia is doing in Ukraine is a 21st-century colonial war, like it or not,” said Rinkevics, who said he is hoping to find time to travel to several sub-Saharan African countries in the coming months. “This is something we will keep pushing … This is part of a battle of narratives.”
he sudden rush of activity is motivated both by humanitarian reasons and political necessity. Many citizens of African nations could soon go hungry because Ukraine’s grain and fertilizer exports are blockaded. Russia, meanwhile, has offered solutions: its own grain and fertilizer, plus some of Ukraine’s, which it has taken from territory it has captured during the four-month-long war.
Russians “need this crisis. They are deliberately exacerbating it. Because they are trying to use you and the suffering of the people to put pressure on the democracies that have imposed sanctions on Russia,” Zelensky told African leaders on Monday by video link, declaring that the continent had been “taken hostage” by Russia during the conflict.
The Kremlin has been successful in convincing some African nations otherwise, pinning responsibility for the war on Western efforts to expand NATO to Ukraine, and saying that the food crisis is the consequence of sanctions against Russia, not the invasion and the Kremlin’s blockade of Ukrainian ports.
“A cynical joke, or even a slogan, has been circulating lately in Moscow,” said one of the Kremlin’s top propagandists, Margarita Simonyan.
“Hunger is our last hope. What does this mean? This means that once hunger sets in, this will bring them to their senses. This is when they will lift sanctions and will be friends with us because they will understand that there is no way around it,” she said. “Achieving this through hunger is not something we want, but still …”
Some of the African response is shaped by the legacy of empire and colonialism. Ukraine’s biggest European backers are former colonial powers. Russia has had success in portraying the conflict as a response to a Western, imperialist effort to pull Ukraine into its orbit and away from Moscow. Even if that narrative isn’t guided by the facts, Western European leaders sometimes don’t have the credibility in Africa to challenge it effectively.
Eastern Europeans don’t have the same burden. Soviet leaders forcibly incorporated many of their nations into the Kremlin’s sphere, and their experience of shaking off the bonds of empire is similar to African independence efforts in the 1960s and 1970s.
“In the Middle East and in Africa, Central and Eastern Europeans are seen as a different type of European. We went through the same processes. We fought for our own independence. We can use these areas to be heard in our communication with those countries,” said Jedrzej Czerep, the head of the Middle East and Africa program at the Polish Institute of International Affairs.
What the fuck are you talking about? Yeah, the break-up of the USSR was a famously bloody affair that led to decades of war that killed tens of millions of people. The dictators of the USSR have covered up this gruesome history, up to and including the final days of the USSR, where millions died in a brutal civil war in Moscow as the regime was unwilling to let go of power. The official history is that almost nobody died, and the regime actually just collapsed without even really fighting back militarily, but we know better. Otherwise, how could it be simultaneously true that the USSR was a totalitarian dictatorship which oppressed its population with an iron fist, but also so weak that it was largely willing to give up power, or even unable to fight back again popular forces? That would be a contradiction, so history must be lying.
- Armed forces say more than 60 terrorists killed after Diallasougou massacre Africa News
- Libya’s oil industry is in disarray right when the world needs it more than ever CNN
Libya was thrust back into the spotlight last week when it announced that it is pumping a million fewer barrels of oil than it did last year.
That was big news for oil-consuming nations that are scrambling to look for additional supplies as crude from Russia, the world’s third-biggest producer, comes under Western sanctions. Any additional barrels from Libya could provide a much-needed reprieve from soaring global inflation, analysts say.
The Libyan oil ministry told CNN on Wednesday that production had shrunk to a near halt in June, to 100,000 barrels per day (bpd) from 1.2 million bpd last year. But on Monday, oil minister Mohamed Oun told CNN that production had climbed up to 800,000 barrels a day, saying some fields had come back online.
The fluctuating output and conflicting narratives surrounding the industry demonstrate the disarray Libya’s oil sector is in, with little clarity on who really is in control of the nation’s most valuable resource. It also highlights the strategic significance of a fragmented country on NATO’s southern flank where Western states are trying to regain a foothold.
The US ambassador to Libya, Richard Norland, told CNN on Thursday that due to the country’s political tensions “there are certain parties who seek to gain advantage by misrepresenting oil production figures.” The earlier figures provided by the oil ministry were “inaccurate,” he said, adding that “actual production is significantly higher.”
- US, Morocco hold vast military exercise Africa News
The United States and Morocco on Monday, June 20 launched the vast annual “African Lion” military exercise, amid heightened tensions between the North African kingdom and neighbouring Algeria.
The exercise, which took off in the southern Moroccan region of Agadir, involves some 7500 personnel from 10 nations such as Brazil, France and the United Kingdom.
- Burkina Faso: 14 days to evacuate before vast army operation Al Jazeera
Burkina Faso’s army has given civilians two weeks to evacuate vast areas in northern and southeastern regions of the country in advance of military operations against rebel fighters.
The military evacuation order follows after a major attack by rebels on June 11 that left at least 100 civilians dead and displaced thousands more.
- Consumer Sentiment at Record Low Is Another Ominous Sign for Economy WSJ
Consumer sentiment fell to its lowest point on record, reflecting that elevated inflation is weighing on Americans’ moods and adding to indicators that point to a slowing in the world’s largest economy.
The University of Michigan’s gauge of consumer sentiment reached a final reading of 50 in June. That was the lowest reading on record going back to 1952, and down from both an initial reading earlier in the month and May’s 58.4 reading.
- Consumers have never hated the U.S. economy this much—it’s a huge recession warning sign Fortune
Americans have never been more pessimistic about the path ahead for the U.S. economy, according to the June edition of the University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers.
- Renters are being fleeced with huge rent hikes and evictions—and it’s only getting worse Popular Resistance
The US housing crisis has been decades in the making, but combined with an inflation squeeze and a systemic shortage of affordable housing, more renters have nowhere to go.
- IMF slashes U.S. growth forecast, sees ‘narrowing path’ to avoid recession Reuters
The International Monetary Fund on Friday slashed its U.S. economic growth forecast as aggressive Federal Reserve interest rate hikes cool demand but predicted that the United States would “narrowly” avoid a recession.
In an annual assessment of U.S. economic policies, the IMF said it now expects U.S. Gross Domestic Product to grow 2.9% in 2022, less than its most recent forecast of 3.7% in April.
For 2023, the IMF cut its U.S. growth forecast to 1.7% from 2.3% and it now expects growth to trough at 0.8% in 2024.
- Northrop and Raytheon win key U.S. hypersonic defense contracts Reuters
Raytheon Technologies Co and Northrop Grumman Corp have won U.S. contracts to continue developing missiles to intercept hypersonic weapons, the Pentagon said on Friday.
- U.S. oil refiners to meet Biden officials in high-stakes price talks Reuters
Major U.S. oil refiners will meet with U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm and other Biden officials on Thursday in an emergency meeting about how to lower record-high fuel prices that are squeezing American consumers.
The two sides are meeting with a promise to work together in good faith, but they appear far apart on solutions. The discussion comes at a tense moment for President Joe Biden and Big Oil, as the president has spent the last few weeks bashing its CEOs for reaping huge profits from a fuel supply crunch exacerabted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
- Another recession warning: Falling copper prices CNN
Some investors look to copper prices as a bellwether for the global economy. If you’re one of them, you have good reason to be worried.
What’s happening: Copper prices hit 16-month lows on Thursday as traders dumped the metal. They’ve dropped more than 11% in two weeks.
“Copper prices are just starting to account for the fact that global growth is slowing,” Daniel Ghali, director of commodity strategy at TD Securities, told me.
The metal is used in many construction materials, including electrical wires and water pipes. That means it’s often viewed as a proxy for economic activity, since demand tends to heat up when the economy is expanding and cool when it’s contracting. It’s affectionately referred to as “Dr. Copper” among traders because of its alleged talent for prognostication.
- Afghan held in Guantanamo prison freed Iraqi News
One of the last Afghan detainees held inside the Guantanamo Bay US detention centre in Cuba has been freed after 15 years following negotiations with Washington, authorities said on Friday.
- Latin America Boils Inside a Perfect Storm of Economic Crises Bloomberg
This is a long article, so I’ll only quote the first section of it, but it’s actually not that bad of a description of the current situation in South America (with all the Bloomberg brainworms we know and love).
When the police of El Puyo, a provincial capital in Ecuador’s Amazon region, were confronted this week by a crowd of protestors enraged by surging fuel prices, they opted to flee.
Political leaders across Latin America may not be following that example exactly, but in many cases voters have moved to encourage them.
The skyrocketing cost of living has hammered lower-income and middle-class households worldwide, but few areas have seen the magnitude of social and political upheaval now in evidence across this vast region.
Ecuador has experienced riots that have put the administration of President Guillermo Lasso up against the ropes. In Argentina, truckers are blocking roads around the country in protest against diesel shortages, hobbling the transport of grain to key ports.
Having spent close to $11 billion in energy subsidies last year, Buenos Aires is in a very tight spot. It needs to cut back in order to comply with an International Monetary Fund loan agreement. But discord over how to tackle that issue has helped fracture the government coalition, with some seeking to keep the benefits no matter the impact on the IMF deal.
In Brazil, President Jair Bolsonaro has been assailing Petrobras, the national oil company. Petrobras’s policy of passing higher crude costs on to drivers has badly damaged his popularity, with a growing number of citizens blaming the far-right incumbent for the country’s economic woes.
He now faces an uphill battle to beat left wing former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in October’s presidential election. Bolsonaro will likely need to do everything possible to dissuade truckers—one of his key constituencies—from paralyzing the country in protest.
Meanwhile in Mexico, the administration of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is spending billions of pesos every month to keep fuel prices contained, with the state now shouldering about 35% of the cost of gasoline in a bid to stave off widespread discontent.
Despite his effort, inflation there continues to climb. This week, the Mexican central bank accelerated the pace of interest-rate increases while warning of more tightening to come—regardless of a sluggish growth outlook.
Indeed, recent fuel-price spikes across Latin America, triggered in large part by Russia’s war on Ukraine, are adding extra instability to an already-complex political picture.
- Ecuador’s National Strike: Government and Indigenous Movements Very Far from Dialogue Popular Resistance
On the 10th day of the national strike in Ecuador, the president of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE), Leonidas Iza, presented four conditions to the government of Guillermo Lasso before entering negotiations. The most significant condition was the end of police repression and cancellation of the nationwide state of exception.
The indigenous leader also requested assurances that the government would not impose new decrees during the national strike, an end to attacks on demonstrators, respect for the humanitarian protection zones.
In response, Ecuador’s Minister of the Interior, Patricio Carrillo, said that the government would not give in to the requests made by the Indigenous movements as conditions to end the national strike, which began on June 13. In addition, Carrillo announced the administration’s decision to implement a night curfew in an attempt to reduce demonstrations.
Faced with the official refusal to accept the conditions proposed by CONAIE, protests spiraled out of control in the city of Puyo, and there were clashes and violence.
According to reports by the authorities, citizens entered a transportation ticket office and burned the facilities. In addition, several windows were destroyed by objects thrown from outside the building.
The Indigenous mobilization called for by CONAIE, which is now demanding Lasso’s resignation, subsequently spread to other sectors including teachers and taxi drivers. The indefinite mobilization originated as a protest against the neoliberal policies of Guillermo Lasso’s administration, which has yielded no results other than increased poverty and inequality within Ecuador.
After almost a year in power, the right-wing president’s disapproval figure stands at 71.2%, according to a poll conducted at the end of May. Meanwhile, human rights organizations have reported three deaths so far, more than 90 injured protesters, and more than 90 demonstrators imprisoned, in a context of increased militarization across the country.
- Brazil: Officials Working With Indigenous Peoples Go on Strike Popular Resistance
On Thursday, officials from the National Indian Foundation (FUNAI) paralyzed their activities and joined the national day of protests called to reject the murder of British journalist Dom Phillips and ethnologist Bruno Araujo-Pereira in the Brazilian Amazon.
Carrying banners calling for justice, human rights defenders and environmental activists gathered in Brasilia and other Brazilian cities to demand protection for the Indigenous Peoples and demand that the far-right President Jair Bolsonaro open an exhaustive investigation into “the chain of crime in the Amazon.”
In Rio de Janeiro, social activists paid tribute to Phillips and Araujo-Pereira with a remix version of the indigenous song “Wahanararai,” which the slain ethnologist sang during his last visit to the Ticuna people. Previously, social networks made a video of him and the Ticunas singing that song go viral.
Protesters also raised their voices against Bolsonaro, who had been reducing the budget that financed environmental protection. This policy facilitates the appropriation of Indigenous lands by companies and other criminals linked to the extraction of natural resources.
- Honduras enacts month-long gasoline price freeze in inflation fight Reuters
The Honduran government passed a month-long freeze on increases in gasoline and diesel prices on Friday, the country’s energy minister announced, making the Central American nation the latest to intervene as inflation causes gas prices to skyrocket worldwide.
Inflation in the 12 months through May reached 9.09% and accumulated inflation for the first five months of the year hit 5.18%, central bank data showed, driven primarily by surging fuel prices following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
- Russia and China are brewing up a challenge to dollar dominance by creating a new reserve currency Business Insider
Russia is ready to develop a new global reserve currency alongside China and other BRICS nations, in a potential challenge to the dominance of the US dollar.
President Vladimir Putin signaled the new reserve currency would be based on a basket of currencies from the group’s members: Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa.
“The matter of creating the international reserve currency based on the basket of currencies of our countries is under review,” Putin told the BRICS Business Forum on Wednesday, according to a TASS report. “We are ready to openly work with all fair partners.”
The dollar has long been seen as the world’s reserve currency, but its dominance in share of international currency reserves is waning. Central banks are looking to diversify their holdings into currencies like the yuan, as well as into non-traditional areas like the the Swedish krona and the South Korean won, according to the International Monetary Fund.
“This is a move to address the perceived US-hegemony of the IMF,” ING’s global head of markets Chris Turner said in a note. “It will allow BRICS to build their own sphere of influence and unit of currency within that sphere.”
The Ukraine War
- Russian telegram:
Two French-supplied “Caesar” self propelled artillery systems donated to the Ukraine have been captured by Russia, and are reportedly being transported to a factory in the Urals for deconstruction. Russian media is reporting that these platforms were actually sold to the Russian army by disillusioned Ukrainian troops.
The Armed Forces of Ukraine are performing a professional tactical retreat, - the Pentagon commented on the withdrawal of Ukrainian troops from Severodonetsk.
The flight of the remnants of the Armed Forces of Ukraine from Severodonetsk is coming to an end. Kadyrov announces the release of hostages at the Azot plant and the Severodonetsk airport. There is also a cleansing of the village of Borovskoye.
Ukrainian Troops Retreat From Severodonetsk After Weeks of Brutal Battle WSJ
Boris Johnson says he fears Ukraine will be coerced to make a ‘bad peace’ Reuters
“Too many countries are saying this is a European war that is unnecessary … and so the pressure will grow to encourage - coerce, maybe - the Ukrainians to a bad peace,” he told broadcasters in the Rwandan capital Kigali, where he is attending a Commonwealth summit.
Johnson said the consequences of Russian President Vladimir Putin being able to get his way in Ukraine would be dangerous to international security and “a long-term economic disaster”.
- Ukraine reports ‘massive bombardment’ from Belarus France24
Ukraine said it came under “massive bombardment” Saturday from neighbouring Belarus, a Russian ally not officially involved in the conflict, the day after announcing a retreat from the strategic city of Severodonetsk.
Twenty rockets targeted the village of Desna in the northern Chernigiv region, Ukraine’s northern military command said in a statement, adding that infrastructure was hit, but no casualties had yet been reported. Belarus has provided logistic support to Moscow since the February 24 invasion, particularly in the first few weeks, and like Russia has been targeted by Western sanctions – but is officially not involved in the conflict.
“Today’s strike is directly linked to Kremlin efforts to pull Belarus as a co-belligerent into the war in Ukraine,” the Ukrainian intelligence service said. The strikes came ahead of a planned meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Belarussian counterpart and close ally Alexander Lukashenko in Saint Petersburg on Saturday.
- Russia targeted Ukrainian ammunition to weaken Kyiv on the battlefield WaPo
Ukraine is running out of shells for the majority of its artillery in part because of a clandestine Russian campaign of bullying and sabotage over the past eight years, including bombings of key munitions depots across Eastern Europe that officials have linked to Moscow, according to Ukrainian government officials and military analysts.
Fighting in eastern and southern Ukraine is now almost exclusively a near-constant exchange of artillery, and Ukraine’s shortage of shells has exacerbated what was already a mismatch on the battlefield against a Russian military with more weapons. Russia is firing more than 60,000 shells per day — 10 times more than the Ukrainians, Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar told The Washington Post.
Most of Ukraine’s artillery pieces date back to the Soviet Union, meaning they rely on the same 122mm- and 152mm-caliber rounds that Russia uses. But outside of Russia, very little supply exists — in large part because Russia spent years targeting Ukrainian and other Eastern European ammunition storage facilities and suppliers before launching its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in late February. Russia has also taken other steps to acquire the ammunition or otherwise prevent its sale to Ukraine.
“Even if everyone gives us this ammunition, it will still not be enough,” Malyar said, adding that Ukraine uses more of the 152mm shells than are produced globally in one day.
Howitzers used by NATO and the United States fire 105mm and 155mm shells. Western countries supplied Ukraine with plenty of those shells but only a limited number of systems to fire them. Despite U.S. and European pledges to send more artillery, Ukraine still does not have enough to replace its old Soviet-era equipment entirely with NATO-standard weaponry.
- Russian-appointed official in occupied Kherson killed in blast Al Jazeera
A senior official in the Russian-installed administration of Ukraine’s occupied Kherson region has been killed in an apparent assassination, the latest in a string of attacks against Russian-backed authorities.
Dmitry Savluchenko, head of the families, youth, and sports department of the Kherson military-civilian administration, was killed in a bomb blast on Friday.
The deputy leader of the Kherson region, Kirill Stremousov, confirmed the identity of the deceased to the RIA Novosti news agency.
The press service of the city’s civilian and military administration told Russia’s TASS news agency it was a “targeted assassination”, adding that the official was the only person killed in the blast.
- Ukraine replenishes combat losses with convicts and women RT
A large-scale hunt for conscripts is underway across Ukraine amid the military conflict with Russia, a source within Kiev’s military has told RT Russian. Ukraine is reportedly unscrupulous about those being recruited and the means of delivering draft notices to them.
The military recruiters are now allowed to hand out draft notices to people not only at their place of residence, but also in the streets, restaurants, entertainment facilities and anywhere else.
“Ukraine needs fresh manpower,” an employee of an active recruiting station in Kiev, who chose to remain anonymous, told RT. Draft notices are “being given in public places – everyone knows that. It happens at malls, recreation areas, gas stations – it doesn’t matter where. The goal is to recruit as many people as possible for the military reserve,” he said.
A man from the south-eastern Zaporozhye Region recalled how he and his friend were stopped at a checkpoint and told to present their military IDs, which they didn’t have. The duo was only released by the troops by promising they would go to the recruitment stations right away and obtain the necessary papers.
“Now we are hiding in a small village. We mainly stay indoors. There’s no talk of going to the city,” he revealed. The man he knew could face criminal charges over this behavior, but he said that it was still better than going to the front.
According to the law, which has been put forward by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukrainian women who hold certain jobs should now also obtain military registration, and are faced with a fine if they fail to do so. Getting a new job has also been made impossible for them without the relevant papers from the recruitment station.
Those women can only be assigned civilian roles in the Defense Ministry, but in some parts of Ukraine, volunteer female units are being formed with the aim of actually going to the front. The mayor of the western city of Ivano-Frankivsk announced in April that the local all-women battalion would “fight alongside men.”
Inmates of Ukrainian prisons have also been used as a source of manpower by Kiev authorities. In late May, the country’s justice minister announced that 363 convicts were released so they could join the military. Prisoners went through thorough screenings to ensure they posed no danger, he insisted.
Earlier this month, Zelensky’s top aide Mikhail Podolyak revealed that the Ukrainian military was losing up to 100 to 200 troops daily in the battle for the Donbass. Defense Minister Alexey Reznikov refused to give an exact number of Kiev troops killed in the fighting, but said he hoped the figure was below 100,000.
Climate and Space
- Almost half of rivers contaminated by drugs – study RT
A shocking 43.5% of the world’s waterways are contaminated with drugs, according to a research team who published their findings on Wednesday in the journal Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry.
Led by the University of York’s Alejandra Bouzas-Monroy, the researchers analyzed 1,052 samples across 104 countries and found 23 separate pharmaceutical compounds at levels exceeding those considered “safe.” These included antidepressants, antihistamines, benzodiazepines, painkillers, and stimulants.
More than a third (34.1%) of the sites where multiple samples were taken had more than one location with drug concentrations found to be of “ecological concern.”
Dipshittery and Cope
- U.S. Defense Companies Are World-Class Innovators. Why Doesn’t Washington Know That? Forbes
Alright, which defense company paid this journalist to write this article?
The U.S. Department of Defense is a huge consumer of technology, and as a result America is home to many of the world’s biggest makers of military hardware.
If you were to infer from this that Americans have a love affair with defense companies, you’d be wrong. It is a longstanding tradition in the domestic political culture to view military contractors with suspicion.
That tradition is not confined to one party. During the 1920s, Republicans led the charge in labeling military suppliers like Dupont as “merchants of death.” Fifty years later, during the Vietnam War, it was Democrats who took the lead in condemning the “military-industrial complex.”
The latest wrinkle in this longstanding bipartisan bias is the charge that traditional defense companies are not innovative, and that if the Pentagon wants cutting-edge technology it needs to turn to commercial companies in Austin, Boston and Silicon Valley.
The allegation is basically wrong, but everybody in Washington seems to have embraced it. Republicans and Democrats alike believe that if the military is seeking innovative solutions to its challenges, Silicon Valley is the place to be.
Doubts about the defense industry’s ability to innovate are commonplace among analysts. For instance, the prestigious Boston Consulting Group regularly releases a ranking of the world’s most innovative companies.
Apple, Amazon and Alphabet generally top the list. No major military contractor manages to make it into the ranks of top fifty innovators. Coca-Cola and Pepsi do, but not Lockheed or Raytheon.
The companies that get positive coverage in the media when discussing defense acquisition tend to be small commercial enterprises with outspoken leaders, like Palantir.
Meanwhile, the big, traditional contractors are derided in the media on a regular basis for cost overruns, schedule delays and supposed performance shortfalls in their signature products.
Coverage of the Pentagon’s biggest weapon program, the F-35, is a case in point. Many members of Congress apparently believe the program is a mess. You would never guess from reading most of the coverage that F-35 outperforms legacy fighters on any mission you can name by a country mile; that it the most survivable fighter ever built; that it costs less to produce than an empty jetliner; and that it is the most reliable tactical aircraft in the joint fleet.
Having spent much of my professional life working with big defense companies, I have a pretty good idea of what they are capable of achieving. The best aren’t just innovative, they are among the most innovative enterprises in the world.
Holy shit, what dude?
All of these companies have contributed to my think tank at one time or another, so I have a fairly detailed grasp of their accomplishments. The mystery is why much of official Washington thinks the government needs to go elsewhere to find creative engineers and scientists.
No, you’re not supposed to admit that you’re taking money from them. What are you doing?
- Pentagon Mulls Using Elon Musk’s Rockets to Deploy Troops From Space Newsweek
The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has been in discussions with Elon Musk’s SpaceX to potentially use rockets to rapidly deploy military personnel and cargo across the planet, documents reportedly show.
Specifically, the Pentagon has investigated whether it could use SpaceX’s upcoming Starship rocket—a super-heavy lift vehicle designed to go on long-distance spaceflights—for point-to-point military transport direct from the U.S.
That’s according to a research agreement between the U.S. Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM) and SpaceX that was obtained by The Intercept via a Freedom of Information Act request and published this month.
- Analysis: Russia’s grinding battlefield gains seen driven by new tactics Reuters
It took Russia weeks of fierce fighting, an untold number of casualties, and relentless shelling before the exhausted Ukrainian defenders of Sievierodonetsk received orders to quit its smouldering wreckage.
Love the work “untold” is doing there. “It’s probably above 0, but we don’t know for sure, so let’s use a word that means ‘unknown but probably very high’ for plausible deniability."
“Remaining in positions smashed to pieces over many months just for the sake of staying there does not make sense,” Serhiy Gaidai, governor of the wider region, said on Ukrainian television on Friday.
The alternative is…?
With a reported 90% of the industrial city’s buildings damaged, most of its around 100,000 residents long gone, and with limited strategic value beyond a sprawling chemicals plant, it does not look like much of a prize.
Every single village, town, and city Russia captures ends up not being a significant capture! It’s incredible how bad Russia is at this! Why don’t they figure out which settlements are significant and then go for those instead? What an incompetent army, spending time capturing such worthless targets. They might occupy a quarter of Ukraine, but all of it is completely strategically unimportant. Only the uncaptured stuff is important, until it then captured, after which it is then unimportant.
But its capture, if and when officially confirmed, is likely to be hailed by Russia as evidence that its switch from its early and unsuccessful attempts at “lightning warfare” to a much slower grinding offensive which relies more on long-range shelling rather than close-quarters combat, is paying off.
Sievierodonetsk would be the biggest Ukrainian city Russia has captured since it took the port of Mariupol last month.
“Our military has changed tactics,” said one Russian government official.
“They know how to do it now. Yes it’s slow, but the strategy works and it means far less casualties,” said the official, who declined to be named because they were not authorised to speak on the subject.
- Zelenskyy vows to fight for 2 Americans missing in Ukraine, saying he’ll ‘get them back’ Business Insider
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has vowed to fight for two missing Americans in Ukraine, saying he will “get them back.”
Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh, 27, and Alexander Drueke, 39, both from Alabama, appear to have been captured by Russian forces while fighting for Ukraine and have been missing since last week. While their location is unknown, Russia has said it is not ruling out the death penalty for either man.
“What can I say? They are heroes, and for me, they seem like Ukrainians because they give the main things they had: their lives,” Zelenskyy told NBC News.“I’m sure we’ll fight for them and get them back, and of course, they will come back to their families.”
He added: “To me, it is a great honor that in the world there are some soldiers that are not afraid, and they came to support us and our sovereignty and independence.”
- Russian Jets Are Flying So Low To Dodge Ukrainian Air-Defenses That They’re Running Into The Ground Forbes
Desperate to avoid surface-to-air missiles in the lethal air space over Ukraine, Russian and Ukrainian pilots have revived a classic tactic—flying really, really low.
But the same low flying that helps pilots to dodge enemy air-defenses also exposes them to a separate risk: collisions with the terrain. In just the past week or so, the Russian air force has lost two Su-25 attack planes, and at least one pilot, in crashes during low-level flights to or from the war zone.
The sky over Ukraine—in particular, eastern Ukraine where the fighting is the most intensive—is some of the most dangerous in the world for crews on both sides of the conflict. In four months of warfare, the Ukrainian and Russian air forces have written off around a fifth of their deployed fixed-wing aircraft, as well as many helicopters.
Ukraine has lost 39 manned aircraft that independent analysts can confirm; Russia has lost 81. It’s unclear how many aviators have died, but it’s likely most of the shoot-downs and crashes involved at least one fatality.
- How Russia’s war in Ukraine is starving kids to death 3,000 miles away CBS
No, you’re starving kids to death 3,000 miles away, and you’ve been doing it for decades, if not centuries! Utterly infuriating.
Unprecedented rainfall has inundated the northern part of South Sudan for almost three years, bursting the banks of the Nile River and submerging the surrounding land, along with the farms and homes on it. South Sudan is on the front line of climate change, which has brought the devastating floods, and along with it, famine.
The situation in the country was already dire, but the war raging 3,000 miles away in Ukraine has made it much worse.
That war has sent food and fuel prices soaring, and it has also sapped funding to aid organizations like the United Nations' World Food Program (WFP).
THE SANCTIONS HAVE SENT FOOD AND FUEL PRICES SOARING! YOU’RE THE ONES WHO HAVE BEEN TRYING TO CUT OFF RUSSIAN OIL AND GAS! UKRAINE’S GAS PRODUCTION IS ALMOST NOTHING COMPARED TO RUSSIA’S! SO THE ONLY EXPLANATION FOR THE FUEL SHORTAGES IS BECAUSE YOU’RE CUTTING THEM OFF! IT’S YOUR FAULT, YOU DEMONIC FUCKING MASS MURDERERS! EVERY SINGLE LEADER AND BUSINESSMAN IN THE WEST FOR THE LAST HUNDRED YEARS SHOULD HAVE BEEN PUT IN PRISON FOR THE REST OF THEIR LIVES, AND THAT’S LESS THAN THE MINIMUM OF WHAT THEY DESERVE FOR THE GENOCIDE OF THE POOR AND HUNGRY THEY’RE CAUSED OVER THE LAST FEW HUNDRED YEARS! BILLIONS HAVE BEEN MURDERED ON THE ALTAR OF CAPITAL FOR THIS SATANIC SYSTEM! AND SUDDENLY, IN THE LAST FOUR MONTHS, IT’S MADE THE FAULT OF A SINGLE MAN!
Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance
- U.S.-Led Alliance Faces Frustration, and Pain of its Own, Over Russia Sanctions NYT
Four months into the war in Ukraine, the countries aligned against Russia face growing economic pain even as sanctions and energy embargoes are showing little impact on Russian President Vladimir V. Putin’s military campaign or his political standing at home.
U.S. officials vowed that Russia’s financial system would be battered if it attacked Ukraine, and President Biden boasted in March that sanctions were “crushing the Russian economy” and that “the ruble is reduced to rubble.” But Russian oil revenues have set records as crude prices surge. And after plunging in February, the ruble hit a seven-year high against the dollar this week.
Biden officials say Russia’s economy is nevertheless incurring damage that will compound over time, especially as restrictions on technology exports to Russia gradually stunt the growth of its industries from aerospace to computing. And on Thursday, a White House spokesman said that leaders of the Group of 7 industrial nations, set to begin meetings in Madrid on Sunday, will discuss new plans to further “tighten the screws” on Russia’s economy.
But it is unclear which side has more time to spare. The Ukrainian government says as many as 200 of its soldiers are being killed daily, and thousands of civilians have died as Russia seizes territory in eastern Ukraine. Mr. Putin continues to enjoy near-dictatorial power, and he is unlikely to enter serious peace talks with Ukraine while his military makes gains.
“Russia’s financial system is back to business as usual after a few weeks of severe bank runs,” Elina Ribakova, deputy chief economist at the Institute of International Finance, wrote on Twitter last week, adding that those who thought “that cutting Russia from financing for a few weeks at the beginning of the war would stop the war have proven naïve.”
Few if any Biden officials expected sanctions to halt the war immediately. But the administration and its European counterparts also did not expect the economic pressure they now are experiencing. Despite initial assurances that sanctions would not touch Russian energy exports, America has since banned imported Russian oil, and the European Union has announced plans to reduce its imports by 90 percent this year. Partly as a result of those actions, energy prices have surged in the U.S. and Europe, with regular gasoline averaging well above $5 per gallon in some states.
Now Mr. Biden is bracing for midterm elections this fall in which Republicans are likely to capitalize on the rising cost of living. Summer’s end will also bring cooler temperatures to Europe amid rising alarms that Moscow is choking off natural gas supplies.
And in a stinging twist, the sanctions and related embargoes are allowing America’s top strategic competitor, China, to buy massive amounts of oil at heavily discounted prices, as Russia seeks willing customers to replace lost revenue.
Biden officials initially presented the threat of “massive” economic penalties as a means of deterring Mr. Putin from invading. After that failed, their precise rationale has been unclear. In remarks to reporters in Germany on Friday, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said the United States was “raising the costs on Russia to bring the war to an end more swiftly through unprecedented sanctions and export controls.” But U.S. officials have not publicly offered to lift sanctions in return for Russian battlefield concessions.
“Sanctions are certainly not deterring Russian forces from the kind of military operation they’re carrying out,” said Alina Polyakova, president of the Center for European Policy Analysis.
“Most governments broadly miscalculated the perspectives or the worldview of the Russian elite and what Putin cares about,” she added. “It has been clear for a very long time that Putin and the people around him don’t care about economic growth. What Putin and the elites care about is revenue, and they’re still getting revenue from energy sales.”
U.S. officials warn against underestimating the economic shock Russia has suffered. Mr. Blinken said in Berlin on Friday that many economists predict Russia’s gross domestic product will contract 10 to 15 percent this year. Moscow has “prevented an economic meltdown so far by taking extraordinary measures to prop up its currency, but those tactics are unsustainable as the full impact of Western sanctions and trade restrictions begins to take hold,” he added.
Mr. Blinken also noted that export controls mean that Russia has few things it can buy with its oil revenue. And he said that inventories of items like iPhones will soon run out, leaving Russians increasingly deprived.
A senior State Department official said the impact of sanctions is clear on the ground in Moscow: Luxury stores around Red Square, including ones selling furs, Gucci bags and Lamborghinis, have closed for now. Inflation is high, and people are worried about their jobs, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk more freely about sensitive policy matters. Many wealthy Russians have left for Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.
A key question now is whether patience with the sanctions might run out in Western capitals. Speaking to reporters last week, Mr. Biden said that “at some point, this is going to be a bit of a waiting game: What the Russians can sustain and what Europe is going to be prepared to sustain.” Mr. Biden said that would be a topic of discussion at the Group of 7 summit.
“Overall, I think we’ve reached the political limits of sanctions,” said Gerard DiPippo, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a former senior U.S. intelligence officer on economic issues. “New sanctions are probably not necessary and certainly not sufficient to achieve an acceptable end to the conflict. But Ukrainian victories on the battlefield probably are both necessary and sufficient. That should be the focus of U.S. policy.”
- World leaders are facing crises on all fronts. Putin will be watching if they fail CNN
This is your brain on Great Man Theory.
What a difference a year makes. Enormous challenges, some of them barely imaginable when the G7 leaders last met 12 months ago, are bearing down on the world’s most prosperous democratic nations as they prepare to meet in Germany.
Optimism was in the air at the Cornish beach resort of Carbis Bay in 2021 as the G7’s presidents, prime ministers and chancellor met face-to-face for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic began.
Together they vowed to “beat Covid-19 and build back better,” to “reinvigorate economies,” to “protect our planet” and to “strengthen partnerships.”
But global events have since overtaken their best efforts, and it is far from clear if they will be able to build on those goals this year. Russia’s unprompted invasion of Ukraine is a large and singular cloud, but other thunderheads are gathering too.
Over the next few days, the leaders of Japan, Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, the European Union and host Germany will meet amid the seclusion of Bavaria’s luxurious Schloss Elmau retreat.
The spa resort, nestled in a peaceful valley, usually offers well-heeled visitors a brief chance to escape from the cares of the world – but even Schloss Elmau can’t shield the world’s leaders from the problems gathering on their horizon.
Russian President Vladmir Putin’s officials are hinting at nuclear Armageddon, China has become increasingly assertive, a global food crunch is on the way, oil prices are spiking, and a global economic slowdown and a cost-of-living crisis are looming. Climate change aspirations are also being confounded and supply chain problems are hobbling hopes of a post-pandemic return to normality.
And on top of all that, last year’s summit host, the UK, is threatening to break international laws over its Brexit agreement with the EU – not to mention its controversial plan to deport asylum-seekers to Rwanda – despite the risk of rocking the world order it helped build, and diluting the G7’s already limited effectiveness.
Although G7 leaders can look back with some satisfaction at their unity in the face of Russia’s unprecedented aggression – as seen in that “strengthening partnerships” goal set in Carbis Bay – the scale of looming crises dwarfs even that.
Putin is not entirely to blame for the coming storm but his unjustified war in Ukraine is inextricably linked to many of the crises that are brewing. Without it, the fixes required would be easier and fewer, their impact less pernicious.
The article describes the varying crises faced by the West for a while, then:
What G7 leaders can do to head off a season of despair could well be limited by the global rifts which Russia is intentionally exploiting.
Just weeks before Putin’s forces invaded Ukraine he went to China and met President Xi Jinping; the pair promised deeper cooperation and, despite warnings from G7 nations and others, Xi has doubled down on that commitment and become more assertive over the future of Taiwan.
Consensus at the UN and the G20, two other deep-pocketed global crisis firefighters, is in tatters. Votes at the UN Security Council show veto-wielding Russia and China will prevent any censure of Putin’s invasion; meanwhile, the US has suggested it won’t attend the G20 Leaders' summit in Indonesia this November if Russia goes, and the UK has done the same.
China has refused to denounce Russia over its invasion of Ukraine and both have become bellicose towards what they see as the vested interests of the world’s leading democracies – the G7 nations – against them.
They know developing world problems impact G7 nations before them – as most migrants choose to go to developed countries that will protect their rights – and seem willing to leverage world crises to their advantage, leaving the G7 to weather the coming storm alone.
But so far, despite differing relations with Russia, the G7 is holding together.
France’s Emmanuel Macron has talked to Putin more than any other G7 leader over the past year, and insists that Russia “should not be humiliated,” while Biden accuses Russia of having “fueled a global energy crisis,” by invading Ukraine and his defense chief Lloyd Austin says Putin should be “weakened.”
What’s clear is that this G7 has more riding on it than past meetings: Success will come in mitigating the crises, not stopping them. Failure is exactly what Putin wants.
Good Takes that are Dope
- Deciphering the Chinese economic miracle: lessons for the developing world Popular Resistance
A very long article, from which I will just take this summary:
This article aims to decipher the formula behind China’s historic economic success and offer fundamental hints to guide developing countries in their endeavors to reach an advanced stage of economic development. This article suggests that the Chinese economic miracle can be explained by a four-fold formula: a) devising an autocentric economic model aspiring to improve national autonomy and cushion the impact of foreign interference, b) insisting on socialism and the leadership of the CPC, which allows for strategic coherence and long-term planning to overcome free-market anarchy, c) creating a state-driven industrial base fueled by national science and technology policies, and d) adopting a balanced approach to development centered on attaining a higher sociocultural and ecological quality of life. This formula is derived using the method of descriptive case study, which is a research method that consists of an intense historical study of “a single instance of an event or phenomenon” by “get[ing] the history down for the possible benefit of later policymakers” and drawing “memorable analogies that later practitioners use to identify… strategies that work” (Odell, 2001: 162). The present article provides an intense study of the phenomenon called the “Chinese economic miracle” by distilling policy lessons for developing countries. It is structured in three sections. The first sheds light on the Mao Zedong era, which was characterized by a centrally planned economy and a big push strategy, whereas the second addresses the Deng Xiaoping and Jiang Zemin eras with a special focus on reform and opening-up. The subsequent section shifts the focus to the Hu Jintao and Xi Jinping eras by revisiting the success of China’s social development strategies. It also points to the leading role of the state in China’s economic development and its contribution to innovation and technology.
- Western Sanctions on Russia Aren’t Working as Intended Jacobin
The unprecedented US-led sanctions levied against Russia as punishment for its aggression in Ukraine were hastily conceived in a panic atmosphere earlier this year, and warnings that they could backfire were ignored. Four months later, it seems even the White House is acknowledging it should have listened to those warnings.
Last week, Bloomberg reported that “some Biden administration officials are now privately expressing concern that rather than dissuading the Kremlin as intended, the penalties are instead exacerbating inflation, worsening food insecurity and punishing ordinary Russians more than Putin or his allies.” To that list, you could also add “making Russia richer.”
While a European ban on 90 percent of Russian oil imports was meant to be “a big blow to Putin’s war chest,” it’s instead combined with other sanctions and various supply-chain disruptions to send oil prices soaring further. The result has been record-high export revenues for the country over the course of the war that have far outstripped its war spending, with export prices on average 60 percent higher than 2021, even as Moscow has sold oil at a marked discount to international prices.
This is largely thanks to China and India, which have stepped into the vacuum left by Europe, Germany in particular, to gobble up cheap Russian oil. Countries like NATO members Bulgaria and Turkey have also stepped up the shipments of Russian oil they’re taking in. Together with other factors, it’s saved Russia’s currency, the ruble, from collapse, taken it to a seven-year high against the US dollar, and even allowed Moscow to cut interest rates to their prewar level. Ordinary Russians are feeling surprisingly optimistic about the economy.
Of course, it’s far from guaranteed this will last. The Russian economy is still under a great deal of pressure, and it’s clear ordinary Russians are starting to feel the pain. If and when oil prices fall, what might be just a temporary boon to the Russian economy could easily be undone. But there are other signs the sanctions are having unintended effects.
The most alarming thing for Western governments might be the economic retaliation they’re seeing from Moscow. Russia parried the sanctions by slashing or even cutting off entirely natural gas deliveries to European countries, putting further strain on European industry. Germany has been warned that a total cutoff of Russian gas supplies would plunge the country into a full-on recession, and institutions like the World Bank and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) have warned this could happen on a global scale thanks in part to these inflationary pressures.
It’s not just oil. Sanctions on Russia have also strangled the supply of fertilizer, sending food prices soaring and threatening the prospect of food shortages — so alarming that Washington is now quietly urging private industry to buy more fertilizer from Russia, something it’s not clear they’ll do anyway, for fear of running afoul of sanctions or being caught in literal crossfire in the Black Sea. Various major banks and numerous economists predict the same for the United States, where we’re already seeing the signs of an economic slowdown.
As a result, there’s political fallout on the horizon. The enthusiasm for hitting back at Russia that could be seen among European citizens in the war’s early days has given way to worries about the cost of Western sanctions; the city of Brussels was just brought to a standstill when 70-80,000 protesters convened to demand action on price rises. In late May, for the first time, polling showed that a majority of the US public saw limiting damage to the economy from the war as a higher priority than sanctioning Russia, and US president Joe Biden’s party is currently on track for a historic rout in November, largely on the back of Americans’ unhappiness with the cost-of-living crisis.
Meanwhile, if US policymakers were hoping the economic pressure would lead to a weakening of Putin’s regime — or at least, force him to change course — for the moment, the sanctions appear to be having the opposite effect. The disappearance of Russian anti-war protests is mostly due to their swift and brutal repression by the Kremlin. But there are also signs that the ferocity of the sanctions has engendered a rally-’round-the-flag effect among ordinary Russians, with focus group respondents convinced that Western governments would have found a pretext to sanction Russia no matter what.
Meanwhile, Putin is reportedly digging in for the long haul, sure that the West will blink first and that Russia’s role as a supplier of key commodities will sooner or later make the sanctions unbearable for Western voters. In other words, because they inflict damage on Western economies as well as Russia’s, the sanctions have given Putin a rationale for continuing with the war, despite Russia’s very limited gains so far.
So at this point at least, the sanctions have not shown any signs of achieving any of their objectives — which is good reason to ponder what might have been. When the invasion started, there was talk of applying “targeted sanctions” that would put pressure on the Russian elite while sparing ordinary people. But most Russian oligarchs, including the very wealthiest one, have not actually been sanctioned, putting the burden of Western sanctions overwhelmingly on the Russians least culpable for the war and those most likely to suffer from them.
Part of that reluctance may have to do with these tycoons’ control of key commodities. But part of it may also be, as Thomas Piketty has argued, that Washington and its allies don’t actually want to do something like create a global financial registry and use it to penalize wealthy Russians’ overseas holdings, since “western wealthy people fear that such transparency will ultimately harm them.” Sure enough, last year, Oxfam International accused the United States and the UK of being “the biggest blockers to transparency,” and just this year, the Tax Justice Network ranked Washington as the world’s leading perpetrator of financial secrecy.
Warnings about the risks of such scenarios were aired in advance of the sanctions policy’s promulgation, but amid a climate of martial fervor, the warnings were ignored. As a result, the sanctions hawks got exactly the policy that they wanted. Now they, and the rest of us, have to live with it.
Bloomerism and Hope
- By taking on American hegemony and challenging the dollar, BRICS members represent the best hope for a fairer world order RT
The 14th BRICS Summit in Beijing is just wrapping up amid a turbulent international geopolitical landscape, which highlights the importance of the organization in general. Given the combined challenges of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, global conflict, a looming economic crash and climate change – the current international system is failing and a new, multi-polar alternative must take its place.
It’s worth noting the context of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) format. Started in 2009 amid a financial crisis, the main goal of that year’s first BRICS (or BRIC as it was then) summit in Yekaterinburg was to improve the global economic situation and reform financial institutions.
Although these countries are not joined by any particular ideology, each saw the need to democratize the global economic system that had been crashed pretty much single-handedly by the United States in an extraordinarily irresponsible – even illegal by US law, in some instances – manner. The head of China’s Central Bank bluntly called for abandoning the dollar as the global reserve currency in 2009 because of a lack of faith in US monetary leadership.
That was 13 years ago, yet the necessity of a new reserve currency could not be more relevant these days. In fact, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced on June 22 just ahead of the latest BRICS summit that the group was indeed developing its own reserve currency based on a basket of their currencies. With this, Putin said the group is hoping to develop alternatives to the existing international payment scheme.
While this could be seen as provocative in the West, it is actually for the betterment of mankind and is not aimed strictly at one country or one coalition of countries. To note, India pushed back against any “anti-US” rhetoric in the group’s joint statement, being a country that is considered part of the Global South, e.g., a developing country, and also has strong relations with the West.
Yet, at the same time, it’s clear that all BRICS states, including India, would benefit from a democratized global economic and financial system. That is why New Delhi has not joined Western-led sanctions against Russia over the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, because doing so does not serve India’s economic interests – and it would also establish a bad precedent where countries could essentially be excluded from the international community over political disagreements.
Indeed, BRICS and its members have gone a long way to pursue zero-strings-attached development cooperation. China alone had already replaced the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank as the world’s largest net creditor at the beginning of the last decade, expanding investments in tangible assets across the Global South (and beyond) through the Belt and Road Initiative. But in a direct challenge to these two previously mentioned US-led institutions, which have morphed into weapons of economic coercion, BRICS established the New Development Bank in 2014.
At a minimum, BRICS has a serious role in balancing out the malignant influence of the US, NATO and the prevailing Western-led world system. Finance and economics are no small part of this, and BRICS’ drive to establish alternatives to the dollar-based Bretton Woods system, providing credit to the Global South without political conditions and establishing a new reserve currency, is an extraordinary push toward a multi-polar future.
- Trump made a secret call to Vladimir Putin just before the 2020 election, report says Yahoo
Former President Donald Trump made a mysterious call to Russian President Vladimir Putin just before the 2020 presidential election, a British filmmaker told Politico.
Alex Holder, who was filming Trump and his family for a documentary in the months before the Capitol riot, told the outlet that he had been scheduled to film an interview with Trump on October 25, 2020.
That interview was abruptly cancelled on the day, Holder said.
My memory is that the chief of staff sort of came over and said that the interview couldn’t happen today because the president was on the phone,” Holder told Politico.
“I believe, if I remember correctly, that he said that he was on the phone to the president of Russia, Vladimir Putin, which is why the interview had to be postponed.”
No official read out of such a call was ever made public.