Link back to the discussion thread.
- European power prices soar to a record high as Russia slashes natural gas supplies, pushing the continent to the brink of recession Business Insider
The cost of buying electricity in Europe soared to a record high on Wednesday after Russia slashed the flow of natural gas into the continent, piling pressure on the continent’s already fragile economy.
German power for delivery next year, the benchmark European price, shot up to a record 388 euros ($394) per megawatt hour on Wednesday — more than 400% higher than a year earlier. It later pared its gains slightly.
The surge in electricity prices came as European natural gas prices — which are a key input in power generation — rose for the sixth day in a row as Russia followed through on its promise to further choke off supplies.
Dutch TTF natural gas futures, the European benchmark, were 2% higher on Wednesday at 203.50 euros per megawatt hour. That was more than 26% higher than Friday’s close and roughly 780% above a year earlier.
- Ukraine aims for $15-20b IMF loan by year-end, says central bank governor Jakarta Post
Ukraine aims to strike a deal for a $15-$20 billion program with the International Monetary Fund before year-end to help shore up its war-torn economy, the country’s central bank governor Kyrylo Shevchenko told Reuters.
- Ukraine to ask for free gas RT
Free?! Isn’t that… communism?!?
Ukraine will ask the US for natural gas deliveries on the same principle as applied to weapons and ammunition, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denis Shmigal said on Tuesday. This “gas lend-lease” will be needed for the coming winter, he said. Meanwhile, the European Union has imposed gas rationing.
“The government of Ukraine has decided to apply to the government of the United States of America to provide our state with a ‘gas lend-lease’ for a stable heating season,” Shmigal announced during a cabinet meeting, according to a video posted to his Telegram channel.
“Preparations for the most difficult winter in our history continue, and we are looking for all possible tools to be ready for any scenario,” he added.
While Shmigal did not elaborate on how the proposed arrangement would work, his use of the term “lend-lease” suggests that Kiev expects to get deliveries of US liquefied natural gas (LNG) for free. The US has long sought to sell its LNG on the European market, but it could not compete with the Russian gas on price.
- Ukraine Government Issues Blacklist Of ‘Russian Propagandists’ Popular Resistance
The Government of Ukraine has issued a blacklist of individuals who they judge to be “promoting Russian propaganda” — including a number of prominent Western intellectuals.
The “Center for Countering Disinformation,” established in 2021 under Volodymyr Zelensky and headed by former lawyer Polina Lysenko, sits within the National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine. Its stated aim is to detect and counter “propaganda” and “destructive disinformation” and to prevent the “manipulation of public opinion.”
On July 14th it published on its website a list of politicians, academics, activists that are “promoting Russian propaganda” — including several high-profile Western intellectuals and politicians. Republican Senator Rand Paul, former Democrat Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, military and geopolitical analyst Edward N. Luttwak, realist political scientist John Mearsheimer and heterodox journalist Glenn Greenwald were all included on the list. The list does not explain what the consequences are for anyone mentioned.
This reminds me of that deranged fucking twitter post where it was just like, a dude posting images of random public people and podcasters and shit and being like “This was your fault” about… the repealing of Roe vs Wade, I think?
- Major elevator maker quits Russia RT
The world’s largest elevator and escalator maker, US-based Otis, will sell its business in Russia, the company announced on Wednesday.
The firm said that “supply chain disruptions and mounting regulations” caused by the “ongoing crisis in Eastern Europe” mean that its business in Russia “is no longer sustainable”, and the company has reached an agreement “to sell 100% of its interest in the Otis Russia business”, reads the statement published on its website.
The company’s assets in Russia include an elevator equipment factory in Saint-Petersburg with annual capacity of up to 7000 lifts, and a wide service network.
According to Otis, the buyer is Ice Development, a Russian-based investment company that oversees large-scale residential construction, and the agreement is expected to close imminently. The sum has not been disclosed.
“Upon transfer of ownership, Ice Development expects to resume full production at the Otis St. Petersburg manufacturing site, under a new brand name.” Otis said.
- Despite sweeping sanctions, Russia’s economic outlook has improved since April — but it’s gotten worse for almost every other country Business Insider
Russia’s economy is holding up better than expected amid sweeping sanctions over its invasion of Ukraine, according to the International Monetary Fund’s World Economic Outlook report issued on Tuesday.
The IMF slashed growth forecasts for almost every country, but upgraded Russia’s economic forecast — with the country’s economy still contracting, but by 6% — an improvement from the IMF’s April forecast of an 8.5% contraction.
That’s because Russia’s crude-oil and non-energy exports have been “holding up better than expected,” the IMF wrote in its report. “In addition, domestic demand is also showing some resilience thanks to containment of the effect of the sanctions on the domestic financial sector and a lower-than-anticipated weakening of the labor market,” added the IMF.
Still, “that’s still a fairly sizable recession in Russia in 2022,” IMF chief economist Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas told the AFP. And “there is no rebound” for Russia with the country’s economy expected to contract by 3.5% in 2023 — down from IMF’s April forecast of a 2.3% contraction, as sanctions gnaw their way through the economy, Gourinchas added to the news agency.
@granit has been posting about how Russia’s economy is in the process of recovering quite well, aside from the mining sector, so I think this is still copium by the IMF. Still, one really wonders how much these numbers truly mean, given that, as the libs say, Russia has a GDP the size of Italy and yet has caused all this trouble for the world.
Overall, the IMF warned of a gloomy economic outlook with global growth likely to hit 3.2% this year — down from 6.1% in 2021 due to higher-than-expected inflation, a slowdown in China, and fallout from the war in Ukraine.
- Western energy firms to exit Russian oil project RT
The Russian government has issued an order for the shares held by Norway’s energy company Equinor and France’s TotalEnergies in a major oil field, to be transferred to the project’s operator, state-run Zarubezhneft.
The European companies decided to pull out of the Kharyaga oil project due to international sanctions against Russia. Equinor held a 30% stake in the field, and Total owned 20%. The terms of the equity transfers have not been disclosed.
Both firms had been part of the Kharyaga onshore oil development, located in Russia’s Arctic, for over 20 years. It is one of three production sharing projects in Russia, with two others – Sakhalin 1 and Sakhalin 2 – operating larger offshore oil and gas deposits near Sakhalin Island in Russia’s Far East.
- Baltic state wants US rocket system RT
Latvia has asked to purchase the US-made High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), a military spokesperson told Defense News. Poland and other partners have made similar requests for the long-range weapon, which was recently shipped to the Ukrainian battlefield.
The Latvian Ministry of Defense “sent a letter of request to the US about the availability and prices of HIMARS,” the spokesperson said on Tuesday, adding that the acquisition is “a joint project of the Baltic States” and that officials expect to receive American “co-financing” for the weapon.
The reported request comes after the other Baltic nations – Estonia and Lithuania – also asked about the HIMARS, with Lithuanian Defense Minister Arvydas Anusauskas noting in June that, “together with the Latvian and Estonian allies,” his country was “looking into developing a HIMARS artillery rocket system capability.” He voiced hopes for a contract sometime this year, while the Pentagon confirmed that it had approved a sale to Estonia for six HIMARS units on July 15.
Neighboring Poland, meanwhile, raised the issue back in May, when Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak declared that Warsaw was seeking hundreds of HIMARS launchers from the United States. He has received no public response to date.
- Boris Johnson gives Churchill award to Ukraine’s Zelenskyy Euro News
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy with the Sir Winston Churchill Leadership Award, drawing comparisons between the two leaders in times of crises.
They’re both deeply awful people, to be fair.
- UK workers stage nationwide train strike as inflation worsens Al Jazeera
Some 40,000 railway workers in the United Kingdom have staged a walkout over pay, job security and working conditions as the country battles its worst cost of living crisis in decades.
The nationwide 24-hour strike on Wednesday brought the rail network to a virtual standstill, with only one in five trains running.
Mick Lynch, general secretary of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT), said strikes were necessary as wages have failed to keep pace with UK inflation, currently at a 40-year high and set to worsen.
“Network Rail have not made any improvement on their previous pay offer and the train companies have not offered us anything new,” Lynch said.
- Drought threatens Spain’s ‘green gold’ harvest Inquirer
Global warming is hitting Spain harder than most European nations.
The country has suffered three intense heatwaves since May, damaging crops already grappling with an unusually dry winter.
“Olive trees are very resistant to water scarcity,” said Juan Carlos Hervas, an expert with the COAG farmers’ union.
But when droughts become extreme, the trees “activate mechanisms to protect themselves. They don’t die but no longer produce anything,” he added.
Hervas predicts the olive harvest from unirrigated land will come in at less than 20 percent of the average of the last five years.
The harvest from irrigated land will be just 50 to 60 percent of this average, he said.
But water reserves are dwindling.
The Guadalquivir river, which provides Andalusia with a large part of its water, is in “an absolutely dramatic situation” due to the lack of rain, said Rosario Jimenez, a hydrology professor at the University of Jaen.
Reservoirs fed by the river are at just 30 percent of their capacity, according to Spain’s ecological transition ministry.
“Some are even at 10 percent capacity — that is practically dried up,” said Jimenez.
Asia and Oceania
- China’s Wuhan shuts down district of 1 million people over 4 asymptomatic Covid cases CNN
The Chinese metropolis of Wuhan has shut down a district of almost a million people after detecting four asymptomatic Covid cases, as the original epicenter of the pandemic takes no chances in preventing another outbreak under China’s stringent zero-Covid policy.
Authorities in Wuhan’s Jiangxia district, home to more than 970,000 people, announced Wednesday its main urban areas would enforce three days of “temporary control measures.”
Entertainment venues – including bars, cinemas and internet cafes – small clinics and agricultural product marketplaces were closed; restaurant dining and large gatherings, from performances to conferences, were suspended; all places of worship were shut and religious activities banned; while tutoring institutions and tourist attractions halted operations, according to a government statement.
All public transport, from buses to subway services, were suspended, and residents were urged not to leave the district unless absolutely necessary.
- China says US will ‘bear all consequences’ if Pelosi visits Taiwan Iraqi News
China warned Wednesday that Washington would “bear the consequences” if US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visits Taiwan, with tensions soaring ahead of an expected phone call between the two countries’ leaders.
Beijing has hit back hard against the United States after reports emerged last week that Pelosi, a Democrat who is second in line to the presidency, could visit the self-ruled island of Taiwan in August.
The potential visit is likely to dominate a phone call between Chinese President Xi Jinping and US counterpart Joe Biden, which the US leader has said he expects will take place this week.
Oh, to be a fly on the wall…
- Japan to join ‘Garuda Shield’ military drills in Indonesia for first time Jakarta Post
Japanese defence forces will participate for the first time in military exercises in Indonesia next month alongside the United States and Australia, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said on Wednesday after talks with President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo.
Japan’s involvement comes as Washington and its regional allies step up efforts to counter China’s growing assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific region.
- Australia’s prices rise at fastest pace in over two decades Al Jazeera
Australia’s prices rose more than 6 percent in the second quarter, the biggest spike in two decades, bolstering the case for interest rate hikes by the country’s central bank.
Inflation for the year through June rose to 6.1 percent, the highest since 2001 and up from 5.1 percent in the second quarter, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said on Wednesday.
- Bangladesh to buy Turkey’s Bayraktar TB2 combat drone MEE
Bangladesh is set to buy the Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 armed drones, which have been used effectively by Ukraine to fend off the Russian invasion, according to the Bangladeshi daily newspaper Prothom Alo.
Man, I guess the advertisments paid off. Even Putin seems to want them. They seem pretty terrible to me, but hey, what do I know - maybe Ukraine is just using them badly or something.
- The Trans-Afghan Railway Line: Back on Track? The Diplomat
The Trans-Afghan railway project is gathering momentum as Uzbekistan prioritizes access to Pakistan’s seaports of Karachi, Gwadar, and Qasim, as part of Tashkent’s bid to diversify its supply routes and increase volumes of Euro-Asian trade. The geopolitical realignment and instability caused by the prolonged Russia-Ukraine conflict have overturned global calculations about supply routes, especially in Uzbekistan, meaning infrastructure projects previously thought unfeasible are now making progress. One possible beneficiary is the Trans-Afghan Railway project, strongly pushed by Uzbekistan, which could now undergo a radical change to connect Tashkent with major potential export markets, including China and the EU.
Uzbekistan had already built a 75-kilometer rail link connecting Hairatan on the Uzbekistan-Afghanistan border to the city of Mazar-e-Sharif in northern Afghanistan back in 2011. However, due to high charges and operational issues, the section from Hairatan to Mazar-e-Sharif remains underutilized. Instead, most rail freight from Uzbekistan to Afghanistan is currently transferred to road transport near the border at Termez or Hairatan.
The Trans-Afghan railway project, first proposed in December 2018 by Uzbekistan, aims at extending the Afghan rail network from Mazar-e-Sharif to Kabul and then to Nangarhar province, where the railway would cross the Torkham border and run into Pakistan via Peshawar. Once in Pakistan, goods will be offloaded to connect with the Pakistan rail system and from there will eventually travel down to the Pakistani seaports of Karachi, Gwadar, and Qasim.
The railway would have a planned capacity of up to 20 million tons of cargo per annum, and once operational it would slice the travel time for goods transiting from Uzbekistan to Pakistan from 35 days to just 3 to 5 days. The railway line is planned to be 573 km and will be built with a 1,520 mm Russian gauge at an estimated cost of $4.8 billion. The time frame for the construction is approximately five years.
In February 2021 the plan for construction of the line was drawn up between Uzbekistan, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. The Uzbek Ministry of Investment and Foreign Affairs reported that with this route in place, by 2025 the volume of trade of India and Pakistan with Afghanistan and the CIS countries could reach $20 billion and $6 billion, respectively.
On July 19 it was announced that feasibility studies in Afghanistan along the proposed rail link have begun. At the same time, Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev announced that Kazakhstan is ready to assist with the construction of the railway project with the supply of rolling stock and tracks.
Russia also has a role to play in this proposed railway project. For example, in October 2021, the first deputy general director of Russian Railways, Sergey Pavlov, met with Khusnutdin Khosilov, the chairman of Uzbekistan’s national railway company, O‘zbekiston Temir Yo‘llari. It was agreed that Russian Railways will help Uzbekistan conduct the feasibility study and develop a digital model of the railway line using the Russian broad gauge.
- Misery for millions as monsoon pounds Pakistan port city Inquirer
The monsoon, which usually lasts from June to September, is essential for irrigating crops and replenishing lakes and dams across the Indian subcontinent, but also brings a wave of destruction each year.
This year’s monsoon is being felt hardest in cities, where poor infrastructure and services lead to clogged drains and culverts — and the collapse of the sewage system.
The result is widespread flooding, particularly in low-lying areas, and usually in poor neighbourhoods.
Sardar Sarfaraz, director of the Pakistan Meteorological Department, told AFP an “unprecedented” 568 millimeters (22.3 inches) of rain had fallen in the city this month — nearly triple Karachi’s recent averages and more than four times that of two decades ago.
Environmentalist Arif Zubair conceded monsoons can regularly cause natural havoc, but is clear what is to blame for the worsening situation — climate change.
Over 300 people have died as a result of the heavy monsoon rains this year, which have also washed away more than 600 kilometers (375 miles) of roads and 50 bridges, according to the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA).
It said more than 10,000 homes had been damaged — with Baluchistan province the worst hit.
- Iran’s Oil Revenues Soar By 580% As Crude Prices Rally Oil Price
Iran’s revenues from exports of oil and condensate surged by 580% during the first four months of the current Iranian year that begins on March 21, Iranian Minister of Economic Affairs and Finance, Seyyed Ehsan Khandouzi, said on Tuesday.
Between March 21 and July 21, international crude oil prices have largely held above $100 per barrel after the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the sanctions on Russian oil exports upended global trade flows.
“Due to the increase in oil exports and our new budget’s currency conversion rate, we saw a 580% increase in the treasury’s income from the export of oil and condensate in the first four months of this year,” the Iranian finance minister was quoted as saying by local news agency IRNA.
- Rising anti-refugee sentiment leads to debate in Turkey Al Jazeera
With the Turkish government struggling to deal with one of the most serious economic crises the country has faced in decades, another troubling problem is rearing its head – the rise of anti-refugee sentiment in the country.
According to the Turkish government, approximately 3.7 million Syrian refugees out of a total of 5.5 million foreigners are living in Turkey.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has proudly spoken of his country’s success in hosting refugees, often slamming developed countries for not doing enough to help people in need fleeing from crisis areas.
“Countries like us, which are neighbours to the crisis areas, bear the real burden on the issue of migration and refugees, not developed societies that have a loud voice,” he said in June, adding that Ankara has not rejected anyone, and had a long history of welcoming people seeking refuge.
However, rising reports of violence, abuse and crime between Syrian and Turkish communities in various cities across the country have made it hard to ignore the increased tension.
- East African Governments Clash With Environmentalists Over New Oil Pipeline Oil Price
East Africa seems to be split in favour of and against the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) being built in Uganda and Tanzania. Environmentalists are concerned about the damage the pipeline and the development of an oil and gas industry could cause to the countries. But the governments of the East African states are hopeful about how the industry could support their economies, as oil majors look to Africa to develop new, low-carbon oil operations.
In 2015, French oil major Total (now TotalEnergies) and China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) agreed on a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the two governments to develop a 1,443km-long pipeline for the transportation of oil from Uganda to Tanzania’s Port of Tanga for export.
Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni strongly supports the expansion of the country’s oil industry, seeing the resource as something that should be developed nationally to support the economy while the global demand is high. The $10 billion development includes the construction of EACOP, the Kingfisher Lake Albert project and Tilenga, the Murchison Falls project. One of the most controversial areas of the project is the planned construction of 10 well pads, a feeder pipeline, and a refinery in and around the Murchison Falls national park, with the potential to be the first oil project within a protected area in East Africa.
Uganda expects to have an output of 230,000 bpd of oil by 2025. The construction of the pipeline will make it easier to transport crude from Uganda to the non-oil-producing state of Tanzania, and for it to be exported to other countries. Ghana and the Democratic Republic of Congo are now looking to Uganda to see how it cultivates its oil sector to learn from in the development own energy industries.
- Kenya holds single-candidate presidential ‘debate’ Inquirer
Kenya’s Deputy President William Ruto appeared alone at a presidential debate Tuesday ahead of April 9 polls, after his main rival pulled out at the weekend.
Former prime minister Raila Odinga, 77, would not take part, his campaign team said Sunday, accusing Ruto, 55, of trying to avoid certain topics such as corruption.
Organizers said the event would still go ahead, and insisted the moderators would not share any of the questions with the candidates beforehand, hoping Odinga would change his mind.
But on Tuesday Ruto found himself alone on stage, opposite an empty pulpit, fielding questions from two journalists.
“My competitor is not here because he doesn’t have a plan, he doesn’t have an agenda,” he alleged.
He “is not here because he doesn’t want to answer difficult questions.”
- Cameroonians hold varied opinions after French president’s visit Al Jazeera
Cameroonians are holding varied opinions following the just concluded diplomatic visit by French President Emmanuel Macron.
Macron on Tuesday declared his country would support Africa’s need for security as he embarked on a three-nation tour aimed at renewing France’s relations with the continent.
“I followed French President Emmanuel Macron’s speech, Etienne Enouga a merchant says. And the only thing that we Cameroonian youth ask this president is for mutual respect towards our leaders, because they are elected by us and it is inadmissible that during one of his walks in France, he made disparaging remarks towards our President of the Republic.”
Cameroon is also faced with insurgency in the southern English-speaking majority region where some insurgents seek to secede among other demands.
Some Cameroonians, like reporter Noumsi Clément, now hope that France will help mediate the crisis for a better stability in the central African country: “We hope that France will really support Cameroon in this fight against insecurity in the northwest and southwest and even in the far north, because Cameroon needs it. And it is important that Cameroon, being the leader of Central Africa, remains a haven for peace as it has always been.”
Just like any other country in the world, Cameroon’s economy has been ravaged by both Covid 19 and the war in Ukraine. Apart from that, unemployment, instability and lack of funds are hindering its growth.
“We need development, we need to build ourselves, to invest in innovation, in new technologies, in agriculture, in everything that can contribute to the development of our country, Oumarou Yaya, an agricultural technician, lists. Even at the political level, it can accompany us. Even peace is very important for us.”
- Libya Raises Oil Production To 1.1 Million Bpd Oil Price
Libya, plagued by port blockades and protests at oil facilities in recent months, has now managed to raise its oil production to 1.1 million barrels per day (bpd), the oil minister of the Tripoli-based government said in a text message sent to Reuters on Tuesday.
Libya’s oil production has recovered in recent days after the country resumed oil exports last week. Last Wednesday, the first tankers arrived in Libya to load oil for export, ending a force majeure on key oilfields and ports that had been in place since April.
South Africa says Israel should be labelled ‘apartheid state’ MEE
South Africa turns to renewables, gas and batteries to end power cuts Climate Change News
South Africa’s president Cyril Ramaphosa has promised to end the country’s frequent electricity black-outs by mobilising investment in renewables, gas and batteries.
I’ll believe it when I see it, but still, a good thing if they actually do it.
In a prime-time address to the nation on Monday, Ramaphosa said: “After more than a decade without reliable electricity supply, South Africans are justifiably frustrated and angry. They are fed up.”
Ramaphosa blamed the power cuts on the country’s old and unreliable coal power plants, on the “design flaws” in two new coal power plants and on “extensive theft, fraud and sabotage” and “years of state capture and mismanagement” under his predecessor Jacob Zuma.
After talking to trade unions, business, experts and opposition parties, Ramaphosa said he planned to fix the black-outs by improving the existing power plants, encouraging investment in renewables, flexible gas generators and battery storage and enabling businesses and households to sell rooftop solar to the grid.
Reaction to the speech was broadly positive. The opposition Democratic Alliance said the plan was “straight out of the DA playbook” and should have come much sooner.
CNN Poll: 75% of Democratic voters want someone other than Biden in 2024 CNN
Terminated Chipotle Workers Accuse Company Of Union Busting Popular Resistance
Workers who had hoped to form the first union at a Chipotle Mexican Grill believe the company closed their restaurant and terminated their jobs this week, because they were poised to form the first union among the chain’s 3,000 establishments.
Chipotle closed its Augusta restaurant on Tuesday after two-thirds of its employees had pledged to form an independent union, Chipotle United, and just two-and-a-half hours before workers were scheduled to meet with the National Labor Relations Board about their union election.
“They knew they would lose,” Brandi McNease, who worked the Augusta restaurant for more than three years and led the union drive, said in an interview Friday. “I was just so angry. No. We had a fair fight going. We were doing things the right way, and you just took your bat and ball and went home?
“McNease said she believes the abrupt closure without warning communicated by a company email was meant to quash the union drive.
McNease said, “They could not have a unionized Chipotle store, because they’ve seen saw what Starbucks has done, and they’re scared.”
- CIA director admits media myth ‘Havana Syndrome’ is not foreign attack Multipolarista
Top Western corporate media outlets have spent years spreading a conspiracy theory called “Havana Syndrome,” claiming without any evidence that Russia, China, and/or Cuba were systematically attacking US spies and diplomats with futuristic microwave technology and directed-energy weapons.
The CIA itself admitted in January 2022 that there was absolutely no proof of this, and its scientific experts concluded that Havana Syndrome is not caused by attacks by foreign adversaries. They found normal medical explanations for the condition’s very vague symptoms.
CIA Director William Burns himself has now publicly acknowledged that Havana Syndrome is not a result of attacks, in comments first reported by Kawsachun News.
In an interview with NBC News Correspondent Andrea Mitchell at the Aspen Security Forum on July 20, the CIA director rejected the myriad mainstream media articles that blamed Havana Syndrome on Russia, China, and/or Cuba.
“We don’t assess that a foreign player or the Russians or anyone else is behind or is responsible for a sustained global campaign on the scale of what has been reported to harm U.S. personnel, with a weapon or some kind of external device,” Burns said.
“In the majority of incidents – and we’ve, you know, investigated each one as thoroughly as we possibly can, and we’re still working on a number of them – that, you know, you could find reasonable alternative explanations, whether it was other environmental factors, or preexisting medical conditions, or other kind of medical explanations,” he added.
- “Brazil needs fertilizers to help feed the world, we can’t condemn Russia” admits Bolsonaro MercoPress
Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro reiterated his opposition to economic sanctions against Russia and described the Brazilian government’s position in the Ukrainian conflict as one of “equilibrium” since Brazil needs a steady supply of Russian fertilizers for its powerful agribusiness sector.
“We are not going to adhere to sanctions against Russia. We will continue with our equilibrium position because without that delicate equilibrium, in this issue today we would not have fertilizers for are agriculture,” underscored Bolsonaro.
The Ukraine War
- Russia is deploying more forces to bolster southern flank, according to Ukraine and geolocated videos CNN
The Russian military is deploying additional forces to its southern flank, bolstering its positions in the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions, according to Ukrainian officials and videos posted on social media that were geolocated by CNN. Analysts suggest the move is presumably to try and counter an eventual Ukrainian counteroffensive.
Several posts on Ukrainian social media accounts reference the movement of heavy military equipment on top of trains or clogging up highways through the Crimean peninsula and into the Kherson region. CNN geolocated several videos, filmed in the past few days, which show convoys crossing from Crimea into Kherson. Other videos showed the convoys heading toward Crimea, across the Kerch straight, from Krasnodar in Russia.
The spokespeople for the Ukrainian General Staff and the Ukrainian Operational Command South declined to comment, but the Office of the Ukrainian President in Crimea said the “movement of military equipment, ammunition, and personnel of the Russian army continues throughout the territory of the occupied Crimean peninsula.”
“Every day, about 50 wagons with echelons of Russian military equipment move towards Dzhankoi, queues of military equipment are also noticed at the administrative border with occupied Crimea, near the settlements of Armiansk and Krasnoperekopsk,” the office said in a statement on Facebook on Monday.
The Russian defense ministry denied Moscow is deploying additional forces to Ukraine.
“A number of foreign media outlets are spreading false information about alleged mobilization activities,” the ministry said in a statement on Tuesday. “We draw your attention to the fact that only a part of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation is involved in the conduct of a special military operation, the number of which is quite sufficient to fulfil all the tasks set by the Supreme Commander-in-Chief.”
- Ukraine strikes key bridge with US-made HIMARS missiles RT
Traffic on the Antonovsky Bridge over the Dnepr River in Russia-controlled Kherson Region has been halted after Ukrainian attacks, according to local authorities.
The 1366-meter bridge has been bombed three times by Ukrainian forces in the past 24 hours.
In the latest overnight strike “the bridge was hit, but it’s not destroyed. Only some new holes have appeared,” Kirill Stremousov, deputy head of the Kherson Region administration, said.
“We’ve halted all traffic [over the bridge] and are going to fix it now,” the official added.
According to Stremousov, pontoon crossings over the Dnieper will be set up in the area pending repairs on the Antonovsky Bridge.
The Ukrainian strike was carried out with use of US-supplied HIMARS multiple rocket launch systems, he claimed.
The attack on the only bridge over the Dnepr in the region has “only complicated the life of peaceful civilians,” Stremousov insisted, while denying that the structure had any military significance.
“The hysteria in the Ukrainian media that the outcome of virtually the whole conflict will be decided on this bridge is nothing, but a bluff,” he said.
Additionally, Defense Politics Asia has a video showing Russia fixing the bridge and establishing a pontoon bridge further along the river, for those interested.
- Russia plans military exercises in east of country from Aug. 30 Reuters
Russia plans to hold strategic military exercises in the east of the country starting next month, the defence ministry said, thousands of miles from the war it is waging in Ukraine.
The “Vostok” (East) exercises will take place from Aug. 30 to Sept. 5 and will include military contingents from other countries, the ministry said, without naming them.
The drills will send a message that Russia, despite the costly five-month war in Ukraine, remains focused on the defence of its entire territory and capable in military terms of sustaining “business as usual”.
Dipshittery and Cope
For bad takes, awful analysis that makes you wonder why these people get paid, predictions that reveal a staggering lack of knowledge, and hope for a future that would be worse than the present.
- Germany’s Gepard Tanks Finally Reach Ukraine WSJ
The cheetah is the world’s fastest animal and can reach a speed of up to 70 miles an hour. If Germany’s Gepard (“Cheetah”) anti-aircraft tanks had traveled at that pace, they would have finished the 1,100-mile journey to Ukraine in about 16 hours. Instead it took three months for the first three Gepards to arrive in Ukraine on Monday, after Berlin said in April it would send them.
What a disgrace for German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on the global stage, and what a political embarrassment at home. Even Berlin’s announcement of this military aid came two months into Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Mr. Scholz’s main strategy, if that’s what it is, has been to delay the tanks and other heavy weapons, presumably in the hope that a negotiated settlement at some point would make them moot.
Frustrated Ukrainians, Germans and NATO allies have been treated to a range of German government excuses for the slow-roll. Berlin has fretted that Germany didn’t have equipment to send without diminishing its own military readiness, or that the Ukrainians wouldn’t know how to use German weapons, or even that providing heavy weapons would provoke a Russian nuclear attack. None of that has stopped others, including more vulnerable Poland and the Baltic states, from sending weapons.
The good news is that Mr. Scholz at least finds himself increasingly isolated within his own administration on arming Ukraine. Leaders of the Green Party, part of the coalition government with Mr. Scholz’s Social Democrats (SPD), have demanded accelerated arms shipments for months.
The third coalition partner, the Free Democratic Party (FDP), agrees. Over the weekend Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, the FDP chairwoman of the parliament’s defense committee, called for Mr. Scholz to scrap the complicated “circular exchange” whereby Germany sends new weapons to Eastern NATO members so they can send their older weapons to Ukraine.
Mr. Scholz’s initial response to the Ukraine invasion was exactly correct. He said in February that Europe is under threat and Germany must rearm to help its allies and deter Vladimir Putin. But it’s hard to separate that declared resolve from his timidity on military aid to Ukraine. Allies and the Kremlin are watching Berlin’s actions closely, and it would help Mr. Scholz’s credibility if the next batch of Cheetahs move less like turtles.
- With Draghi Gone, Putin May Make Moves on Italy Bloomberg
Putin Derangement Syndrome continues to spread like a disease.
An uninvited guest from the cold north has turned up amid the heat of Italian politics. So, what to do with Vladimir Putin?
It is no secret that ties between Italy and Russia have been a little too friendly in the recent past, confusing allies and hurting Rome’s credibility. For example, there’s Matteo Salvini of the League, who once showed up in Red Square dressed in a white t-shirt with Putin’s face on it. He has a history of downplaying the Kremlin’s hostilities and openly flirting with Russian nationalist parties.
There is also an entire catalogue of photographs of Putin and Silvio Berlusconi — the former Italian premier and founder of Forza Italia — dressed in linen shirts, all hugs and smiles, enjoying lunch together over the years, be it on the Italian coast or the Black Sea. The amici have exchanged compliments for decades and even shared a view of the world that put Italy at odds with the rest of the G7 countries.
If being in a photograph with somebody evil is enough to show that you have been corrupted by them and share their qualities, then I think that should be taken to its logical conclusion. Everybody who has ever been photographed with Epstein or Maxwell - to prison!
The Italian political class has a bizarre fascination with Russia. But, no matter who leads the next Italian government, this is not the time to undo Mario Draghi’s hawkish turn on Russia.
To be fair, Berlusconi isn’t as happy with Putin these days. He’s told his supporters he was saddened by Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. That is also likely to be due to Draghi who, during his time as premier, silenced any ambiguity left over from previous governments.
He shifted Italy away from Russia-friendly statements to become one of the most outspoken critics of Putin in the European Council. He played a key role in designing sanctions targeting the Russian Central Bank and advocated for Ukraine’s candidate status to the European Union. His new approach was epitomized by his trip — alongside President Emmanuel Macron of France and Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany — to Kyiv to reaffirm their joint support for Ukraine’s sovereignty. It is an image that will go down in Italian history.
Some in Italy argue that Draghi’s stance accelerated his fall from grace because it heightened tensions within his coalition. But Draghi has been unrepentant about changing course on Russia, reiterating it was the right and honorable thing to do. His successor should stay the course.
If polls are correct, the next government might well be a right-wing coalition led by Brothers of Italy alongside the League and Forza Italia. That’s a combination toxic enough on the foreign policy front to raise eyebrows in Washington and Brussels. Berlusconi and Salvini will play central roles in such a government.
Giorgia Meloni, the head of Brothers of Italy, is untested on the international stage and lacks experience outside of Italy. Nonetheless, Meloni is trying to soften her image to broaden her appeal at home and look less radical abroad. In one of her first interviews since the Sept. 25 elections were called, Meloni told the Italian newspaper La Stampa that her policy would not change from that of Draghi: maintaining sanctions on Russia and advocating for more weapons to Ukraine so it can fight back. She also reiterated Italy’s atlantismo, a term used in the country to define having strong ties with the US and NATO.
On the surface, Meloni is playing the moderate card. The question is whether she means business or these are just tactics to market herself and paint Brothers of Italy in a more palatable light. That’s easier said than done. A recent study by the European Council on Foreign Relations portrayed her voters as more skeptical about the war in Ukraine than her statements would suggest: More than half of her voters are against sending weapons to Ukraine and more than 30% of her supporters blame the West and Ukraine for the war. So, given her split base, it’s not for sure that Meloni will continue the path laid out by Draghi. And doing so may only get harder as the economic impact of sanctions gets tougher to manage without resolute leadership. Hers is already questionable.
- McDonald’s says cutting off its Russian business has actually helped improve its operating profitability Business Insider
“I’m not even mad! I’m actually laughing!"
- Russia Will Miss the World Order Putin Upended WSJ, by Alexander Baunov, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (I also puked in my mouth a little).
I derive a strange pleasure from reading awful opinions, but my least favourite type are those delivered smugly. State your bad take simply and without much spite or smugness and I will love reading and laughing at it. But these are just annoying. It replaces true conviction, even to something bad, with just a know-it-all, high horse attitude. It’s very Reddit.
Vladimir Putin is said to be challenging the world order, and he seems to be proud to do so. But Russia is hardly the only country dissatisfied with the world order. Take the U.S., supposedly the global hegemon. For more than 60 years, America has had to put up with an ideological enemy just over the water in Cuba. The U.S. is unable to force its own companies to return production to its shores from developing countries. Now it faces humiliation daily. Americans wake up every morning to news of Russian airstrikes against a country they and their allies support. U.S. leaders know from experience that forceful intervention can make things even worse.
The US is only unhappy with the world order insofar as it doesn’t serve them enough. “All these stupid dirty little proles across the world keep RESISTING! Why do they desire a wage!? Why do these vermin keep BREEDING? Good job to Bill Gates on keeping their birthing rates down!” Otherwise, the capitalists in their ivory towers built on top of more ivory towers are pretty satisfied with the current arrangement.
In his fight to change the world order, Mr. Putin wasn’t afraid to destroy the existing one. Russia has staked everything on its size and might, banking on the prospect that attempts to exclude it from the world order will lead to that order’s collapse—or at least that the economic costs will force the West to adapt to Russian needs.
“They’ll come crawling back,” Russians say about sanctions and the exodus of Western brands, from Coca-Cola to Boeing. The source of this self-confidence is unclear. None of those companies, or the Western economy as a whole, rely on the Russian market for their success. Russia played no role in the postwar economic miracles of Japan, Spain, South Korea or West Germany. Without a presence in the Russian market the Asian tigers became tigers and Western Europe turned into a continent populated by the middle class. Even China achieved an economic boom, and not by supplying down jackets to the Russian market in the 1990s. There’s hope that the Russian replacement for McDonald’s will be able to reproduce the familiar flavors of the U.S. chain, but no prospect it will become a global company itself.
They’ll come crawling back because a) most businesses haven’t left, only the big ones, and b) capitalism must find a niche to exploit in order to maintain the facade of infinite growth. It is an ever-multiplying cancer that will grow until the entire body is pure tumour.
The world has changed in many ways as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but it’s hardly become more accommodating to Moscow’s ambitions. Finland and Sweden are set to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
Finland and Sweden were already deeply integrated with NATO and are literaly Western countries. Them joining, provided they fulfil Erdogan’s blood price, would not make any significant difference to global geopolitics. Let me know when Georgia is joining NATO and then we can talk about actual changes to the region’s balance of power.
The Nord Stream 2 pipeline, due to start transporting Russian gas any minute before the war, stands idle.
Nord Stream 2 not being on right now is to Germany’s detriment MUCH more than to Russia’s.
The number of countries lifting visa requirements for Russian nationals had been growing every year; no more.
I doubt that many Russians are wanting to go abroad to the West much now, given the Western world’s commitment to thinking of them as subhuman, bloody-hungry orcs.
The state-owned media company RT had some success on the global information market; now it is blocked throughout the European Union.
Oh no, I can’t quote RT and have everybody across the political spectrum say “Dang, can’t argue against that…” It’s not as if Russiagate has been a thing since 2016.
Some Western officials had tacitly recognized Crimea’s de facto status as a Russian possession.
Okay, now you’re really reaching the bottom of the barrel. “Great JOB Putin, now the West won’t ever identify Crimea as being your possession! You’ve been owned.” is a joke I’d make to make fun of the people who were 100% confident that if just another year had gone by, NATO would have been democratically voted out of power in Europe, and Russia just ruined that.
Lithuania was a reliable transit hub for all goods entering the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad; now it is trying to limit the transit by interpreting EU sanctions as strictly as possible.
Not anymore, it isn’t. I guess this was written a few days ago. I’ll let that slide.
Even sympathetic China has more leverage to buy Russian oil and gas with huge discounts.
…which is also making Russia a ton of oil revenue, more than previous years.
By changing the world order, Russia has discovered that it wasn’t only a victim but a part of it—and even a beneficiary.
Well, at least it wasn’t a long article.
- Can the West muster the will to face down Russia? WaPo
Russia has oil, gas, nickel and palladium. But its most strategic commodity is a capacity for suffering. Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine because he thought the West was soft. He is betting that Russia can absorb more pain than decadent democracies will tolerate.
A perfect Dipshittery article really gives you the whole vibe from the starting paragraph. Anybody who takes seriously the whole “tough times make tough people” etc model of history and also thinks of themselves as a serious thinker should currently be jumping around in a circus. This journalist has done me the favour of revealing from the very beginning that he is a moron, and nothing he says should be taken seriously.
On the economic side of the war, Putin may yet be vindicated. The West has clobbered Russia with sanctions, causing its economy to shrink and its imports to plummet. The middle class has lost access to foreign currency and foreign goods, and hundreds of thousands of skilled workers have quit the country. Russia is adapting, but it is paying a price. The new “sanction-proof” model of the Lada car lacks air bags, good brakes and a modern seat-belt system.
Yet five months into the invasion, Putin’s grip on power appears rock solid. Liberal dissent has been brutally crushed. Hopes that Russia’s oligarchs or military might turn on the regime have so far come to nothing. Polling data, for what it is worth, shows a sharp jump in Putin’s public approval since the conflict started. Putin is squeezing the civilian economy to feed his war machine, and nobody is stopping him.
In contrast, Putin’s counter-sanctions on the West are hitting their target. He is blocking grain exports from Ukraine. He has slashed gas exports to the European Union and promises to cut them further. Russian oil exports have slowed, although this, ironically, is the result of Western sanctions. The result is higher inflation plus lower growth in Europe and, to a lesser extent, in the United States. The pain is modest relative to what Russia is having to endure. But the political effects are larger.
In the United States, expensive energy and food have added to inflation. The Federal Reserve has belatedly raised interest rates: Counting the three-quarters-of-a-point hike expected Wednesday, tightening so far this year amounts to 1.75 percentage points. That’s nothing compared with Russia’s initial response to Western sanctions, which was to hike interest rates by more than 10 points. But the U.S. economic gloom has contributed to the deep slump in President Biden’s approval rating. The midterm elections may empower Trumpian Republicans, who have no stomach for standing up to Russia.
Europe is experiencing a similar dynamic, most obviously in Italy. Last week, Italy’s government collapsed after one of the coalition parties withdrew its support, in part because it favored a softer line on Putin. Italy relied on Russia for 38 percent of its gas before Putin invaded Ukraine in February, and adapting to reduced supply may strain Italian systems to the breaking point. The European Central Bank has raised its interest rate by a mere 0.5 percentage points, and already there is talk that higher interest costs and lower growth will test Italy’s capacity to service its enormous government debt. A replay of the euro crisis seems possible.
The question for the West is whether it can muster the political will to face down Russia. It has by far the stronger hand. Militarily, it can supply Ukraine with more of the missiles that recently have changed the tide of the war. Economically, it can resolve to endure some short-term pain to contain Putin’s expansionism. The hard thing is to choose to do so.
And yet it shouldn’t be so difficult. If the West can project its thinking as little as one year into the future, the case for resilience should be overwhelming. One year from now, Europe will have had time to break its energy dependence on Russia by developing new sources. One year from now, Western central banks should have contained the worst of the inflation. Italy’s financial burden can be managed if sounder European economies put aside parochialism and come to its aid.
Meanwhile, as the West masters its challenges, Russia would weaken. By turning energy into a weapon, Putin has forfeited his credibility as a reliable gas supplier to Europe, rendering huge pipeline investments almost worthless. By confirming himself as a pariah, Putin has cut off Russia’s access to high-tech parts. The Lada won’t be the only machine that is rebuilt to Soviet standards.
Before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the West emboldened Putin by appearing incapable of sacrifice. Europe complacently allowed itself to become more dependent on Russian gas. The United States abandoned its relatively low-cost engagement in Afghanistan.
Sorry to butt in here - I’m sorry, what? Can we get an instant replay on that sentence? The subjugation of a country and the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people for the sole purpose of funnelling more profits to military contractors and exploit Afghanistan’s mineral resources is just a “low-cost engagement”? The violation of a nation-state’s sovereignty in an illegal invasion that killed many more civilians than the Ukraine War will is referred to as just a little project on the side that we threw away because we got bored? I bet this person has argued that Russia invading Ukraine is bad and illegal and wrong regardless of the reasoning by Russia, even if Ukraine was threatening to join NATO, even if Ukraine was threatening to get nukes, which WAS THE JUSTIFICATION FOR THE UNITED STATES INVADING IRAQ!
Then, after the invasion, the inspiring courage of the Ukrainian people shook the West out of its torpor: The world’s democracies hit Russia with far-reaching sanctions; Germany promised to increase military spending; Sweden and Finland applied to join NATO. Now, as it weathers inflation and probable recessions, the West must choose which version of itself to be. The one that has the courage to display its latent strength? Or the one that vindicates a dictator’s contemptuous suspicion?
- The U.S. is a lot stronger than Russia. We should act like it. WaPo, by Maximum Boot.
Dude, I also hate it when you write the same article as somebody else at the exact same time. I hate it when this happens repeatedly for months. If I didn’t believe in the honour and righteousness and prestige of the western media, then I would conclude that some higher entity, such as a government, was… encouraging these to be written.
The war in Ukraine has now entered its third phase.
Big if true.
Phase one, beginning on Feb. 24, was Russia’s pell-mell attempt to take Kyiv. That resulted in failure thanks to terrible Russian logistics (remember the 40-mile convoy?) and a skillful Ukrainian defense making use of handheld weapons such as Stingers and Javelins supplied by the West.
Phase two began in mid-April, when Russian dictator Vladimir Putin concentrated his forces on Luhansk province in the eastern Donbas region. That phase, characterized by relentless Russian artillery bombardment, ended in early July with the retreat of Ukrainian forces from Luhansk.
I’m surprised he didn’t say that Russia also lost this one because Russia didn’t take enough land or whatever.
In the third phase of the war, Ukrainian troops are holding a strong defensive position in neighboring Donetsk province (also part of Donbas) and effectively hitting back with High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems and other longer-range weapons supplied by the West. The HIMARS, in particular, have been a game changer by allowing the Ukrainians to destroy more than 100 high-value targets such as Russian ammunition depots and command posts.
Do you think–
A Ukrainian battalion commander told The Post that since the HIMARS strikes began, Russian shelling has been “10 times less.” Another Ukrainian officer told the Wall Street Journal: “It was hell over here. Now, it’s like paradise. Super quiet. Everything changed when we got the HIMARS.” President Volodymyr Zelensky says Ukrainian fatalities are down from between 100 and 200 a day to 30 a day.
Do you think that it might be–
If Ukraine is able to fight back so effectively with only 12 HIMARS (soon to be 16), imagine what it could do with dozens more and, better still, Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMS), which use the same platform but have nearly quadruple the range. These rocket systems should be supplemented by Western tanks and fighter aircraft. If the West were to supply all these weapons, Ukraine could mount a counteroffensive to take back lost land in the south and east and help end the war.
Do you think that it might be because Russia is on an operational pause? Like, could that be the reason why they’re firing less?
The Biden administration is slowly supplying more HIMARS and, for the first time, is even discussing the provision of Western fighter aircraft (after nixing a Polish plan to send MiG-29s in March). But ATACMS appear to be off the table because, as national security adviser Jake Sullivan explained last week, the administration does not want to head “down the road towards a third world war.” Ukraine isn’t even allowed to use its HIMARS to end the shelling of its second-largest city, Kharkiv, because the Russian artillery batteries are located on Russian soil.
This strategic calculus makes no sense. Does Sullivan really believe that Putin will launch World War III if the United States supplies rockets with a range of about 180 miles but will hold off as long as we’re supplying only rockets with a range of about 50 miles? Or that the provision of HIMARS, NASAMS air-defense systems, 155mm howitzers, Phoenix Ghost drones, Javelins and Stingers isn’t too provocative — but fighter aircraft and tanks would be?
President Biden is right not to send U.S. forces into direct combat with the Russians, but everything else should be fair game, from ATACMS to F-16s to Abrams tanks. The Soviets didn’t hesitate to supply North Korea and North Vietnam with fighter aircraft to shoot down U.S. warplanes. (Soviet pilots even flew for North Korea.) Why shouldn’t we return the favor?
At the beginning of the war in Ukraine, some feared that Putin was acting so irrationally that he might resort to nuclear weapons. But if the past five months have taught us anything, it is that, while the Butcher of Bucha is evil, he is not suicidal or irrational.
I hate Max Boot’s writing style so much. He’s simultaneously my most and least favourite Dipshittery author. He’s a reliable source of writing to laugh at, but also he just has a way of putting words together that pisses me off. Every time I see his name, I feel elation and then dread.
Putin pulled back from Kyiv when it was revealed to be a losing cause and made sensible, if brutal, use of Russian artillery in Luhansk. Putin has basically ignored rumored Ukrainian strikes on military targets inside Russia. He hasn’t attacked Poland, which has become the main staging ground for weapons to Ukraine. He hasn’t lashed out since Finland and Sweden set about joining NATO, thereby putting more NATO troops on Russia’s border.
This is of a piece with Putin’s history. He is a classic bully who picks on the weak (Georgia, Ukraine, the Syrian rebels) while shying away from direct confrontations with the strong (the United States, NATO). Putin is rational enough to realize that if his military is having trouble handling Ukraine, it would have no chance in a war with the Atlantic alliance.
Yeah, I hate it when strong countries pick on the weak. Anyway, can I get a rundown from you of the last hundred years of American wars and conflicts, Mr Boot?
The United States matches Russia in nuclear forces and far exceeds it in conventional capabilities. Biden is in a far stronger position than Putin, but he is acting as if he were weaker. Stop letting Putin deter us from doing everything we can to aid Ukraine. Putin should be more afraid of us than we are of him.
The war has already proved costly to Russia: It has lost about 1,000 tanks, and roughly 60,000 soldiers have been killed or wounded. There won’t be much left of the Russian military if the Ukrainians are armed with lots more HIMARs and ATACMS, along with tanks and fighter aircraft. The fourth phase of the war could prove decisive — but only if the United States finally makes a commitment to help Ukraine win.
We’re at 60,000 casualties now? Jesus. They really are off in fantasy land. Brings me right back to March and April. Every day, another 1000 Russian casualties.
For when bad people accept reality, though often not fully and not for very long.
- Europe Is Faking Solidarity, and Putin Knows It Bloomberg
The 27 national leaders of the European Union love to extol the solidarity that binds their countries together. Even the words signal destiny. “Union” comes via French from the Latin unus for “one,” and solidarity from solidus for “firm, whole and undivided.” Like a good marriage, the bloc is meant to be a solidarity union.
“The dictionary defines ‘union’ as “the action of joining together or the fact of being joined together, especially in a political context.” In this essay, I will…"
In reality, it is no such thing, and Europe’s enemies know it. That includes Russian President Vladimir Putin and autocrats in China and afield. The EU’s biggest problem is the inability to see threats, responsibilities and sacrifices as shared.
Right now, the nail-biting is about Putin — both his physical warfare against Ukraine and his hybrid warfare against the EU. His weapon of choice is energy. Putin spent two decades making the EU vulnerable — that is, dependent on Russian natural gas and other hydrocarbons — by building a network of pipelines to gullible nations such as Germany. This year, following his invasion of Ukraine in February, he’s cocked these weapons and put his finger on the trigger.
Putin isn’t stupid, but I don’t think this was his intended result all along, for the last two decades. Yes, he may have hoped that their reliance on Russian energy would bring Europe towards Russia and away from the US, but it’s not as if for his entire rule of president, he was like “Oh, one day, one day I will cut it all off! And then I shall laugh evilly!"
In early summer, he throttled the gas flowing through Nord Stream 1, a big pipeline from Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea, to 60% of its capacity. This week, he further reduced that to 20%. He could turn it down more, or off. As a result, Europe’s storage tanks will be emptier than they should be going into winter. Putin is threatening to make Europeans shiver in unheated homes, and to force swathes of Europe’s industry to shut down.
As in any of its crises, the question for the EU is what to do about this mess. So the countries most affected — led by Germany in this case — are invoking that famous sense of solidarity.
Last week, the European Commission proposed that the entire bloc voluntarily reduce its gas consumption by 15%, with mandatory cuts to follow if necessary. The reaction was inevitable, understandable — and hardly reassuring.
Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece and several other member states don’t rely on Russian gas, and therefore aren’t really at much risk. Moreover, any gas savings they foist on their own companies and consumers wouldn’t help Germans, because there are no pipelines to carry spare gas from Madrid or Malta, say, to Bavaria or Berlin. So why should they say “yes” to coerced rationing?
And besides, doesn’t Germany bear responsibility? Many Europeans spent years warning Berlin against building two Baltic pipelines to Russia, and against simultaneously exiting nuclear power. Smugly, Germany ignored its partners and pooh-poohed the threat emanating from the Kremlin. Germans asking Spaniards to take shorter showers now seems a bit rich.
And hypocritical. A decade ago, during the euro crisis, the roles were reversed. Financial turmoil that had started in the US caused selloffs in the debt securities of member states like Greece, Spain and Portugal — even threatening an involuntary Grexit. But when these countries asked for solidarity from Germany and other northern countries, they instead got lectures on the evils of their profligacy for having borrowed too much in the first place.
The EU was no more enthusiastic about showing solidarity in 2015-16, when more than a million refugees crossed from Turkey to Greece, itself still reeling from the euro crisis. Some member states — including Germany — offered help, but others — led by Poland and Hungary — balked.
Ditto in 2020, when SARS-CoV-2 showed up. The instinctive reflex of member states was to slam their borders shut — even for masks and medical gear — turning the EU’s vaunted “single market” into a travesty. Europeans then came perilously close to fighting over vaccines. Eventually, Brussels got its act together, but Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, admitted that “we caught a glimpse of the abyss” — that is, an unraveling of the EU.
And what if the invaders were Russian soldiers instead of viruses? Given the EU’s track record, member states on the front line will be forgiven for finding talk about a “European Army” risible. Would the Dutch, Italians and Germans send their sons and daughters to die defending Estonians, Latvians or Poles? Yes, is the answer. But that’s because they’re in NATO and backed by the US, not because they’re in the EU and high on solidarity.
The major powers of the world understand this weakness of the EU. Europe’s friends in Washington worry about it; its foes in Moscow and Beijing try to exploit it. To add to the EU’s internal strife, Turkey and Belarus, for example, have tried to concoct renewed refugee crises.
European leaders are just as aware, and therefore want to de-emphasize the vulnerability. Take German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. In praising Europe’s “unity,” he doth protest too much. Betraying how little he thinks there is of it, he immediately segues to demanding the end of national vetoes and “individual member states egotistically blocking European decisions.” He had Hungary in mind just then, but others feel that way about Germany.
As is their wont, the EU 27 this week settled their latest spat about gas savings in the usual way: They fudged and wangled a compromise. Gas will be saved — somewhere, somehow — but so many countries will have opt-outs, loopholes and exceptions that you’d need a magnifying glass to find the solidarity. Putin saw nothing in Brussels this week to make him nervous.
Good Takes that are Dope
For good, or at least decent, analysis of an event or situation - particularly one that hasn’t been covered endlessly before or has a fresh angle.
- Does Economic Pain Mean NATO And The West Cut Ukraine Loose? Popular Resistance
Last Wednesday at the Aspen Security Forum, CIA Director William Burns argued that “Putin’s view of Americans is that we always suffer from attention deficit disorder, and we’ll get distracted by something else.” Burns thinks that Putin is wrong. But he might miss what Vladimir Putin actually thinks. The Russian president may not be banking on Americans simply getting distracted, but on U.S. and European populations focusing on a broader picture, favoring their own national interests and measuring the domestic pain caused by Western support for Ukraine’s war effort. If civil displeasure rises to sufficient levels, political support for Kyiv could rapidly evaporate in Western capitals.
The chances of that happening are higher than many believe.
This analysis is the third in a series of assessments of potential outcomes of the war between Russia and Ukraine. The first one looked at the potential for a protracted stalemate and a partial Russian victory. The second installment considered an outright Russian victory and an outright Ukrainian victory. In this final evaluation, we consider the implications of a collapse in Western public support for continuing the war and the impact on the battlefield of such a phenomenon.
It’s not a super long article but too long to really quote here, so I’ll just give the last few paragraphs.
Ukraine – already suffering severe battlefield losses and psychological trauma – may not be able to survive if they know they are on their own. Their morale would take a serious hit. Conversely, if Western populations demand their governments end any of the sanctions on Moscow, the Russian war effort will receive a major physical and emotional boost. In all probability, the combination of the loss of the physical necessities to continue fighting and the declining morale would result in Ukraine losing its war with Russia, or forcing it to sue for peace on the best terms available – which will result in the permanent loss of some of its pre-2014 territory.
The possibility that worsening economic conditions start to impose real pressures on Western governments this fall and winter is not minuscule. European capitals, Washington, and Kyiv must begin now, before the onset of these pressures, to game out how they will respond if the pressures become too acute for Western governments to withstand. It will not do to wait. Once they are faced with domestic pressure, most countries can be counted on to prioritize their own national interests above those of Ukraine.
Bloomerism and Hope
For events that show that a better, more equitable, and happier world is possible than the neoliberal hell we inhabit.
- US Railroad Workers Inch Closer To A Possible National Strike Popular Resistance
After waiting over two years to secure a new union contract, and still reeling from the impacts of Wall Street-ordered cost-cutting measures, 115,000 beleaguered workers who operate the nation’s freight railroads are inching closer towards a possible strike, which could come as soon as September.
In an effort to drive down operating expenses and reward their wealthy shareholders, in recent years railroad companies have implemented “precision scheduled railroading,” or PSR — a version of just-in-time, lean production that centers on reducing the workforce and closing facilities.
“For years, they cut and cut and cut. It didn’t matter which department or terminal, it was indiscriminate,” said Michael Paul Lindsey, an Idaho-based locomotive engineer with Union Pacific.
Over the past six years, the major Class I railroads like BNSF, Union Pacific, CSX and Norfolk Southern have slashed their collective workforce by 29 percent (around 45,000 workers), leaving the industry woefully understaffed and putting extra strain on workers already accustomed to long, irregular hours.
Lindsey said the severe staffing shortages have resulted in “constant chaos and crisis,” with workers being called at all hours, day and night, expected to take on assignments they were not initially scheduled for.
Cost-cutting has also meant freight trains are running with more cars and more cargo than existing infrastructure is equipped to handle, or else misrouting rail cars just to get them moving. This cost-cutting, along with a labor shortage, have been major contributors to the supply-chain crisis.
Meanwhile, the railroad companies remain highly profitable, with owners raking in $183 billion in stock buybacks and dividends since 2010.
Since January 2020, two coalitions of 12 rail unions — dubbed the “United Rail Unions” — have been in negotiations with the major railroad companies, represented by the National Carriers’ Conference Committee. The unions include the Teamsters-affiliated Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) and the Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers-Transportation Division (SMART-TD).
With bargaining kept behind closed doors, few specifics of the negotiations have been made public until recently. But in addition to raises and healthcare, workers say one of the major points of contention is staffing. While publicly acknowledging that the labor shortage constitutes a crisis and promising to hire and retain more employees, the railroads have demanded that freight train crews be reduced from two workers to only one.
The article continues, talking about the potential strike and Biden’s involvement for those interested. The last paragraph:
“Whether or not we actually go on strike, we need to utilize everything at our disposal to impress upon the rail carriers that we are ready, willing, able, mobilized, educated and vehement in our determination,” Kaminkow said. “Even if we do not strike, or if we do strike and are ordered back to work in a matter of hours, just knowing that we have that power, that we have the ability to stop the trains from moving — it shows us that we’re the ones that really run the railroad, not them.”