Link back to the discussion thread.



  • Sixteen ships loaded with grain ready to leave Ukraine’s Odesa Al Jazeera


  • Nord Stream gas row deepens as Gazprom airs new complaints on turbine Reuters

Delivery of a Nord Stream 1 gas turbine to Germany from Canada after maintenance was not in line with the contract, Gazprom’s senior manager said on Friday, stepping up criticism of manufacturer Siemens Energy.

The comments signalled a deepening of a row in which Russia has cited turbine problems as its reason for cutting gas supply via Nord Stream 1 - its main gas link to Europe - to just 20% of capacity from Wednesday.

Vitaly Markelov, Gazprom’s deputy chief executive, also said Russia had complained repeatedly to Siemens Energy about problems with other turbines.

“We have repeatedly applied to the Russian representative office of Siemens about this, sent 10 letters. Siemens fixed no more than a quarter of the identified bugs,” he said in a TV interview.

He cited the serial numbers of three other engines that needed repair by Siemens because of faults in May and June that had put them in a state of forced downtime.

  • Russia Asks For LNG Payments Via Moscow Bank Oil Price

Russian Sakhalin Energy Investments Co is asking the buyers of its liquefied natural gas to pay for it via the Moscow branch of an international bank, Reuters has reported, citing unnamed sources.

The source added that the Russian company was also in talks to change the currency, in which the payments for LNG are made from U.S. dollars. Some buyers of Sakhalin LNG were already making their payments via the designated bank, but in dollars, the sources also said.

  • Russia’s oil exports to China via ‘dark’ ship-to-ship transfers have surged as trading secrecy grows Business Insider

The amount of Russian oil involved in “dark” ship-to-ship transfers has risen sharply over the last few months, as Western sanctions lead to higher levels of secrecy in global crude markets and a redirection of supplies towards Asia.

According to Vortexa, the volume of Russian crude moved via such transfers hit 182,000 barrels a day in the first 18 days of July, up dramatically from 44,000 barrels a day in June. The vast majority of the oil has been heading to China, the commodities data company told Insider.

  • Russia supports ‘one China’ policy on Taiwan, Lavrov says Reuters

Russia supports Beijing’s “One China” policy on the issue of Taiwan, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday after Chinese President Xi Jinping warned U.S. President Joe Biden not to play with fire over the island.

“Our position on the existence of only one China remains unchanged,” Lavrov told reporters in Tashkent. “We have no problem with upholding the principle of China’s sovereignty.”

  • Japanese firms in no rush to leave Russia – media RT

Japanese companies are no in a hurry to quit the Russian market, amid fears of being unable to return and having to find new suppliers, the Japan Times reported this week, citing a survey from the statistics center Teikoku Databank.

According to the report, within the past month no Japanese companies have announced a suspension or cessation of operations in Russia.

Since Russia became subject to numerous sanctions due to its military operation in Ukraine, 74, or about 40%, of the 168 listed Japanese companies working in Russia announced intentions to leave the country.

Of these, however, most said they would only halt some form of operation, while a mere five companies said they would withdraw from the Russian market completely.

  • Kremlin propagandist bizarrely claims Putin is so popular he would beat Biden in a US presidential election, report says Business Insider

A Kremlin propagandist has bizarrely claimed that Russian President Vladimir Putin is so popular that Americans would overwhelmingly choose to vote for him over President Joe Biden.

Yaakov Kedmi, a regular commentator on Russian state media, appeared on Thursday’s episode of “This Evening with Vladimir Solovyov” and argued that Putin’s global popularity is soaring, according to the Daily Beast.

While Putin’s approval ratings in Russia have shot up since he ordered the invasion of Ukraine, the unprovoked war has caused his international reputation to suffer. Nonetheless, Kedmi opined on Russian state media that Putin is electable in Western nations.

“It was said that [the West] is winning a propaganda war but I’m not so sure about that,” Kedmi said, per the Daily Beast. “Look at any country in Europe. Look at France: who is more popular — Macron or Putin?”

After other commentators responded that the answer was Putin, Kedmi suggested that the Russian leader is also more popular in Germany, Italy, and the US than their current leaders, per the Daily Beast.

Kedmi said: “If tomorrow Putin announced his candidacy for the president of the United States, who in the US could compete with him in popularity?”

According to the Daily Beast, foreign policy analyst Alexander Kamkin responded: “And Trump would become his vice president.”

While President Joe Biden’s approval ratings sunk to a record low earlier this month, a Pew Research Center poll from last month shows that Putin’s reputation is significantly worse.

I always love the tone that Business Insider has when they’re talking about this kind of thing. It’s like, dudes on a talkshow talking shit about other countries and probably not literally believing that Putin would win against Biden, it’s just an exaggerated example to demonstrate a general point, and Business Insider is like “NO! NO NO NO! THAT’S NOT TRUE! A-ACTUALLY, ACCORDING TO THE L-LATEST POLLS, IT’S THE OPPOSITE! YOU CAN’T SAY THAT! Y-YOU’RE LYING!” It’s like if you were talking about how, idk, Alaska is a really big state and to be hyperbolic you said that it was like the size of a continent, that’s how long it takes to drive across it, and a guy climbs in through your window and went “STOP SPREADING LIES! ALASKA IS SIGNIFICANTLY SMALLER THAN EVEN AUSTRALIA!"

United Kingdom

  • Britain’s trains disrupted in second widespread strike in a week Al Jazeera

About 5,000 railway workers across almost a quarter of Britain’s network have gone on strike as part of a campaign for higher pay after the country’s inflation rate hit its highest in 40 years.

The 24-hour walkout on Saturday is the second industrial action this week after another 40,000 workers staged a nationwide strike on Wednesday.

  • Stagflation is engulfing the UK economy, showing what could lie in store for the US and Europe Business Insider

Talk of “stagflation” — the dreaded combination of stagnant growth and rampant inflation — is growing louder in the US after the economy shrank for two quarters running.

Sure, inflation is red-hot, and the economy is dangerously close to a recession. Yet many still expect the next two years to deliver relatively strong growth, and that’s after a rapid rebound from the coronavirus crisis.

Over the pond in the UK, however, things are different. Economists say Britain is barreling towards a period of stagflation, with growth expected to slow to a crawl next year.

UK inflation rocketed to a new 40-year high of 9.4% in June as fuel prices surged, official data showed. That’s higher than in any of the other G7 countries — Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the US. It’s likely to top double figures before the year is out.

Soaring prices, rising interest rates, tax hikes, and Brexit are all hitting the UK economy at once. The country’s gross domestic product will grow just 0.7% next year, for the worst performance in the G7, private-sector economists polled by Bloomberg predict.

The Bank of England is even more pessimistic. It thinks GDP is likely to shrink slightly in 2023, and grow just 0.25% the following year.

Meanwhile, economists expect the US economy — which fared much better during COVID — to expand 1.3% in 2023. And they think eurozone GDP will increase by the same amount.


  • Ditch neckties to save energy – Spanish PM RT

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez revealed on Friday that he had stopped wearing a necktie in a bid to save energy and urged ministers to follow his lead.

Sanchez showed up at a press conference dedicated to the government’s energy saving plans wearing a white shirt, unbuttoned at the top, and a blue jacket.

He made a point of mentioning his less official look, saying: “I don’t wear a tie, that means that we can all save from an energy point of view and I have asked all ministers and all public officials to do the same.”

He urged private companies to allow their staff to work without ties, “as long as it is possible,” adding that this way the whole nation “will save.” Energy saving, according to Sanchez, is a national priority because it helps reduce dependency on Russia and “bend the inflation curve.”

Sanchez did not elaborate about how exactly forgoing a tie helps save energy, but his move came a few days after the Ministry of Environmental Transition issued a recommendation to set air conditioners to 27 degrees Celsius – significantly higher than people normally set them, especially during Spanish heatwaves, when air temperatures can exceed 40 degrees Celsius.

“If you combine it with a fan, you will reduce electricity consumption almost in half,” the ministry said.

“I’m not even sure why we put these mini gas-powered generators inside of our neckties anyway, to be honest."


  • Check out photos of the world’s first hydrogen-powered passenger train that’s up and running in Germany as Europe tries to wean itself off of Russian oil Business Insider

The world’s first train powered by hydrogen officially started picking up passengers in Germany last Monday.

The train cost $86 million, according to a report by Fuel Cell Works, and will begin by transporting passengers between two stops just outside of Hamburg.

Fuel Cell Works says initial service on the train is “preliminary,” and older diesel-fueled trains will serve as a backup in case there are adjustments needed in the first few months of service.

  • German Cities Begin Turning Off Lights To Save Energy Oil Prices

Berlin, Germany’s capital, and other cities have started turning off the spotlights on historic monuments and municipal buildings in an effort to conserve energy ahead of winter.

“In view of the war against Ukraine and Russia’s energy policy threats, it is important that we use our energy as carefully as possible,” Berlin’s environment senator, Bettina Jarasch said, as quoted by Insider.

Munich is also starting to turn off its spotlights, while Hanover has gone a big step further, turning off the hot water in all public buildings to conserve energy.

“The situation is unpredictable,” according to the mayor of the city.


  • Gazprom stops Latvia’s gas in latest Russian cut to EU EU Reporter

Russian energy giant Gazprom says it has suspended gas supplies to Latvia - the latest EU country to experience such action amid tensions over Ukraine.

Gazprom accused Latvia of violating conditions of purchase but gave no details of that alleged violation.

Latvia relies on neighbouring Russia for natural gas imports, but gas forms only 26% of its energy consumption.


  • European Parliament leaders condemn Prime Minister Orbán’s recent racist declarations EU Reporter

European Parliament political group leaders adopted a statement on Friday (29 July) condemning the openly racist declarations by PM Viktor Orbán and underlined that these declarations are in breach of EU values.

Statement of the Conference of Presidents:

“We, the leaders of the Political Groups of the European Parliament, strongly condemn the recent openly racist declaration by Prime Minister Orbán about not wanting to become “peoples of mixed race”. Such unacceptable statements, which clearly constitute a breach of our values, also enshrined in the EU Treaties, have no place in our societies. We, as well, deeply regret the persistence in defending these inexcusable statements by Prime Minister Orbán on further occasions. Racism and discrimination, in all forms, must be unequivocally condemned and effectively tackled at all levels.”

The statement continues but that’s the gist of it.

Asia and Oceania


  • China has nuclear power lead and should sell to the developed world, policy researcher says SCMP

China should make full use of its strengths in global nuclear energy cooperation and market the technology to the developed world, a senior energy policy researcher at the country’s top economic planner said.

Zhou Dadi, from the National Development and Reform Commission’s Energy Research Institute, said China cooperates with developed nations on nuclear energy by importing their technology and building demonstration projects. But it should also promote Chinese nuclear technology and construction capabilities, not only to developing countries but to developed ones as well, to contribute to the global low-carbon system, Zhou said.

Zhou’s remarks came at a web seminar co-sponsored by the International Energy Agency (IEA) and the China Institute of Nuclear Industry Strategy, a subsidiary of the state-owned China National Nuclear Corporation, one of the country’s two major atomic power producers.

  • China announces military exercise opposite Taiwan Politico

China said it was conducting military exercises Saturday off its coast opposite Taiwan after warning Speaker Nancy Pelosi to scrap plans to visit the island democracy, which Beijing claims as part of its territory.

The ruling Communist Party’s military wing, the People’s Liberation Army, was conducting “live-fire exercises” near the Pingtan islands off Fujian province from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., the official Xinhua News Agency said. The Maritime Safety Administration warned ships to avoid the area.

Such exercises usually involve artillery. The one-sentence announcement gave no indication whether Saturday’s exercise also might include missiles, fighter planes or other weapons.

Middle East


  • Iran, Russia take major step for de-dollarizing mutual trade Tehran Times

Iran and Russia have taken significant steps for removing the U.S. dollar from their bilateral trade, launching a settlement system to use their national currencies in economic exchanges, renowned American business magazine Forbes admitted in an article piece published on Friday.

Iran’s Integrated Forex Market launched the Ruble/Rial currency pair earlier this month, following a visit of Central Bank of Iran (CBI) Governor Ali Saleh-Abadi to Moscow.

The new arrangement means the two countries can now settle trading debts in each other’s currencies. The first trade took place on July 19, the day that Russia’s President Vladimir Putin arrived in Iran for talks with Leader of the Islamic Revolution Seyyed Ali Khamenei and President Ebrahim Raisi.

As reported, the new monetary system could significantly reduce the two sides’ demand for dollars. Bilateral trade between Iran and Russia stood at four billion dollars in 2021 but the two countries say they are hoping to ramp up bilateral trade to eight billion dollars in the short term.

The new trading arrangement allows them to avoid the use of dollars and, by doing so, also sidestep the impact of the U.S. sanctions.


  • Protesters storm Iraq parliament again amid unrest over Iran-backed groups Guardian

Thousands of protesters have breached Iraq’s parliament for a second time this week.

The protesters, who are followers of an influential Shia cleric, are demonstrating against formation of the next government by Iran-backed parties.

About 125 people were injured in the violence – 100 civilians and 25 members of the security forces, the Ministry of Health said.

Iraqi security forces used teargas and sound bombs to try to repel the demonstrators. As the numbers inside the parliament swelled, the police backed off.

An expected parliament session did not take place and there were no lawmakers in the hall.

Saudi Arabia

  • Saudi Arabia, Russia Meet To Discuss Cooperation Ahead Of OPEC+ Meeting Oil Price

Saudi Arabia’s Energy Minister Abdulaziz bin Salman met today in Riyadh with Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister and top OPEC+ negotiator Alexander Novak to discuss further cooperation between the two countries ahead of next week’s monthly OPEC+ meeting.

According to a tweet by the Saudi Energy Ministry, “The meeting discussed the latest developments in the work of the Saudi-Russian joint committee, and discussed opportunities for cooperation between the two countries within its framework.

The next OPEC+ meeting, scheduled for August 3, should see the end of the record production cuts that the extended cartel agreed in 2020 amid the demand destruction wrought on the oil industry by pandemic lockdowns around the world.

At the time, the group agreed to remove a combined 9.7 million barrels daily from global oil supply. Since then, OPEC+ has been gradually reversing the cuts but underperforming, prompting worry that not all of its members are capable of increasing their output in line with demand growth.

North America

United States

  • US food banks strain under increased demand RT

Food banks across the US are struggling as the demand for their services to feed Americans in need soars amid record inflation, Fox News reported on Saturday, citing Atlanta Community Food Bank CEO Kyle Waid.

“It’s kind of a perfect storm of higher demand, higher cost to operate, less federal support. That’s really putting a lot of pressure on food banks, food pantries across the country,” Waid told the news outlet.

According to him, the demand at the food bank he represents dropped last year when Covid-19 pandemic shutdowns were lifted and people returned to work, but has started rising again over the past couple of months.

“We’re seeing folks who are turning to food pantries for the first time in their lives. The inflationary environment has really put a lot of pressure on them. These are folks that are used to being on the other side of the line helping to pass out food to people in need rather than being in the line themselves,” Waid said.

Recent media reports suggest that Atlanta is not alone in facing increased demand for free food. The Meridian Foodbank in Boise, Idaho reported this week that it is now serving 4,200 people every month, compared with 2,800 the same time last year. The Allentown Area Ecumenical Food Bank in Pennsylvania said on Thursday that “since October, we’ve tripled the number of families we’re serving every month,” while roughly 300 of the 1,800 families it fed in July were first-timers.

  • Top Us Diplomat Travels to Asia, Africa As Global Powers Fight for Influence All Africa

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken travels to East Asia and Africa next week seeking to counter the influence of Russia and China in a fight for global influence.

Blinken begins his travels Tuesday on a tour that will take him to Cambodia, the Philippines, South Africa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda.

During his first stop in Cambodia, he will attend a Southeast Asian regional security forum where both the Russian and Chinese foreign ministers are expected to be in attendance.

When asked if Blinken would hold direct meetings with either Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov or Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and Pacific Affairs Daniel Kritenbrink said there were no plans for formal meetings at this time.

  • U.S. says it will limit size of semiconductor chips grants Reuters

The U.S. Commerce Department said late on Friday it will limit the size of government subsidizes for semiconductor manufacturing and will not let firms use funding to “pad their bottom line.”

On Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives gave final approval to legislation that provides $52 billion in government funding to boost semiconductor manufacturing and research. President Joe Biden is expected to sign the legislation early next week.

The Commerce Department Friday told chips companies awards will be “no larger than is necessary to ensure the project happens here in the United States” and added it will discourage “race-to-the-bottom subsidy competitions between states and localities.”

Commerce said applicants must supply detailed financial information and projections for proposed projects and capital investment plans: “The department will go over these with a fine-tooth comb and make sure that companies are not padding their models to ask for outsized incentives.”

Companies winning funding will be prohibited for 10 years “from engaging in significant transactions in China or other countries of concern involving any leading-edge semiconductor manufacturing capacity or material expansions of legacy semiconductor manufacturing capacity designed to export to the U.S. and other countries.”

  • The U.S. has admitted 100,000 Ukrainian migrants. It must keep going. WaPo

There is almost definitely a bad take somewhere in the depths of this article, but I’ve had enough of Dipshittery and Cope this week. So, yes, I agree. the US must admit more Ukrainian migrants than just 100,000. On to the next article.

  • US Air Force grounds F-35 fighter jet fleet to investigate faulty ejector seats, report says Business Insider

The US Air Force has temporarily grounded its fleet of Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter amid concerns that the ejector may be faulty.

Bloomberg reported that a potentially faulty component in the mechanism that could endanger pilots in an emergency was being investigated.

Since Thursday, Air Force has grounded almost 300 jets, according to the report.

An Air Force spokeswoman, Alexi Worley, told Bloomberg the issue involved the explosive cartridges inside ejection seats that propel both the seat and the pilot from the jet.


  • Mexican manufacturing tumbles as price hikes bite Reuters

Mexico’s manufacturing sector declined in July, with demand for the country’s goods hit by inflation after a long pandemic-driven downturn, a survey showed on Friday, despite hopes for a recovery.

The seasonally adjusted S&P Global Mexico Manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) fell to 48.5 in July from 52.2 in June.

Aside from a brief hiatus in May and June, Mexico’s PMI has lingered below the 50-point threshold that separates growth from contraction since March 2020. It hit a record low of 35.0 in April 2020 during the initial enactment of the country’s COVID-19 containment measures.

South America


  • UK rules on Venezuela’s gold RT

The UK High Court rebuffed a demand by the Venezuelan government to be granted access to some $1 billion worth of the country’s gold reserves that are currently stored at the Bank of England, Reuters reported on Friday.

According to the report, Britain’s top court rejected a recent decision by the Venezuelan Supreme Court, which had backed President Nicolas Maduro’s request to have the gold repatriated from the UK. However, London recognizes opposition figure Juan Guaido as the legitimate Venezuelan president.

“I have… concluded that the Guaido Board succeeds: that the STJ {Venezuelan Supreme Court} judgments are not capable of being recognized,” the judge was cited as saying, effectively giving Guaido free reign over the assets.

Both Maduro and Guaido appointed boards to the Central Bank of Venezuela (BCV), but issued conflicting instructions for the gold reserves. Lawyers representing Maduro’s BCV board said he planned to sell some of the gold to finance Venezuela’s campaign against the Covid-19 pandemic and support the country’s healthcare system. However, according to Guaido, Maduro seeks the gold in order to pay off his administration’s foreign debts.



The Ukraine War

Russia appears to have ended their operational pause and is now striking on a wide front in many places at once. Go check out Defense Politics Asia’s youtube channel, plus any other links in the megathread link section (and whatever you may personally use) to see all the deets.

  • German weapons failing in Ukraine RT

German artillery guns are breaking down a month after they were delivered to Ukraine, Der Spiegel reported on Friday. The weapons are reportedly struggling to deal with the high rate of fire the Ukrainian military favors.

Some of the seven Panzerhaubitze 2000 guns sent to Ukraine at the end of June are showing signs of “wear and tear,” the German news site reported, citing anonymous sources. Some of the hardware is displaying error messages and is in need of repair.

The German military believes that the problems stem from the sheer number of shells fired on a daily basis by Ukrainian forces, which is damaging the howitzers’ loading mechanism. Discharging 100 rounds per day is considered high-intensity use, the report noted, adding that the Ukrainians are firing “far more” than this number.

I guess, using the advice of that US general when he was shown images of damaged Russian artillery: it indicates that the equipment is low quality and there’s probably an issue with the Slavic brainpan related to following instructions, like my latest phrenological studies have measured.

Climate and Space

Rich countries have fallen almost $17bn short of their pledge to collectively deliver $100 billion of climate finance a year by 2020, according to the latest data by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

The data shows that in 2020, rich nations mobilised $83.3 billion of climate finance, a 4% increase on the previous year but short of the $100bn target that they set themselves in 2009.

2020 was the deadline for achieving the $100bn climate finance goal. Developed countries are now only expected to meet it in 2023. Previous research suggests that the US is responsible for the vast majority of the shortfall.

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.


  • Putin, Nukes and Keeping the West Strong for Ukraine Bloomberg

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has raised a whole bunch of important questions, including “What the hell was Putin thinking?”


But among others are: 1) Would Russian President Vladimir Putin actually use a nuclear weapon? and 2) Why has the North Atlantic Treaty Organization been so unified in backing Ukraine?

I have both answers! 1) No, unless you shot nukes at him first. 2) Because that’s literally entire fucking purpose of NATO is to attempt to constrain Russia from becoming a stronger force on the world stage and thus challenge western hegemony. Do I get a prize? Can this article stop now? Please?

Luckily enough, I was able to talk with someone who could give insight into all of them: Rose Gottemoeller. She has served first as under secretary of state for arms control and international security under President Barack Obama, then as deputy secretary general of NATO from 2016 to 2019. I spoke with Gottemoeller, now a lecturer at Stanford University and a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, at the Aspen Security Forum, an annual foreign-policy bacchanal held in the Colorado resort town. Here is a lightly edited transcript of our conversation.

Ah, an unbiased source, finally.

Tobin Harshaw: I mostly want to talk NATO and nukes. But first, you and I sat through an interview with the Chinese ambassador, Qin Gang. Among other things, he said there was a plot to make Hong Kong the 51st American state, and that putting the Uyghurs of Western China into camps was about “saving people’s lives.”

Rose Gottemoeller: Terrorism prevention, he said.

TH: He tried to shame us by quoting Abraham Lincoln’s “House Divided” speech. Do the Chinese believe this stuff? And if so, how do you deal with a rival that lives in an alternate reality?

RG: We’ve had a lot of experience dealing with propaganda. Certainly the Nazis, and then the Soviet Union for 70 years. You try to carve out an area where you can come up with some sensible and mutually useful initiatives on the foundation of reality. That often means a sharp contradiction on their part, because they’re contradicting what they’ve said in other spaces and other places. But, eventually, I hope we’ll be able to deal with the Chinese despite this other crazy stuff.

Okay, I’m just gonna skip past all this drivel and get to the NATO question, for the sake of our collective mental health.

TH: But if Russia is in NATO, why does NATO even exist?

RG: Well, you know the old saw: NATO was designed to keep the Germans down, the Americans in and the Soviets out of Europe.

The idea of Russian membership is a counterfactual, so it’s really hard to tell what would have happened. We would have seen an interesting extension of NATO into Asia. And that’s worrying the Chinese now. I’ve got all kinds of Chinese experts, interlocutors, etc., coming to me and asking: Will Article 5, the mutual-defense pledge in the NATO Charter, apply in the Pacific if somehow China and the US get into a tangle?

TH: Would it?

RG: No, Article 5 applies to the Supreme Allied Commander Europe, or SACEUR’s, area of operations, which is the North Atlantic and up into the Arctic. If it extended further it would have changed the dynamic hugely with China.

You didn’t answer the question. Why did NATO continue to exist from the fall of the USSR onwards? You can’t just justify it in hindsight by saying “Well, gee, thank god we didn’t break up NATO, given what’s happening in Ukraine!” especially when that period was 30 years long. As far as I can tell, she never answers the question.

Oh, here’s another great bit:

TH: I’m still amazed by the solidarity shown by the democratic world. There’s obviously Sweden and Finland wanting to join NATO. Also Japan, Singapore and South Korea jumped into the sanctions immediately. Did Putin anticipate any of this?

RG: No. He’s in a closed ecosystem that is just unbelievable. His very firm view was that the West is weak and its partners in Asia would not gather around. I think it surprised the hell out of him, frankly, that first NATO and the EU were so coherent in their response, then Asian partners joined in. I wish we saw more cooperation from the Southern Hemisphere, but that’s another question.

It’s extremely ironic that this only shows how much of an echo chamber these people are in. “Wow, huh, the international community all came together, and Putin didn’t expect THAT to happen at all! He’s a stupid dumb dictator!” He’s been transforming Russia into a self-sufficient fortress for over a decade PRECISELY for this eventually. The vast majority of the world’s population lives in countries that do not support the West’s approach to this war. These people are, in fact, the ones sitting in a “closed ecosystem that is just unbelievable”.


  • Iran Is Trying to Play the Saudis Against the US. It Won’t Work. Bloomberg

You know what? I don’t even know, nor especially care, if the author is right - I just think that, if you’re a journalist, making such a bold prediction in current conditions is a little… iffy.

With US President Joe Biden having departed the Middle East, the region’s two prime antagonists are thinking about just getting along. Iran and Saudi Arabia, having completed five rounds of talks in Iraq over the past year, both said last week they were moving toward higher-level negotiations on reconciliation. Paradoxically, this budding rapprochement between friend and foe offers important opportunities for Washington.

After severing diplomatic ties following a January 2016 mob attack on the Saudi Embassy in Tehran, the Riyadh government hoped sanctions on Iran by President Donald Trump’s administration might produce a change in Iranian conduct. Instead, Iran became more aggressive than ever, culminating with a devastating missile strike on Saudi Aramco facilities in September 2019.

The Trump administration, usually bellicose toward Iran, turned a blind eye, noting that no Americans had been killed. That proved a final straw for the Saudis. They were already upset that the Barack Obama administration’s 2015 nuclear deal with Iran ignored two main concerns — Iran’s drone and missile arsenal, and its network of armed gangs in Arab countries including Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen.

The Saudis concluded that Washington was no longer reliable, and that if they wanted their top security issues involving Tehran to be on the negotiating table, they were going to put them there by themselves. After the 2020 US election, that realization dovetailed with the Biden administration’s encouragement of diplomacy over the use of force in the region.

The formal reconciliation talks began in April 2021 at the Baghdad airport; Iraq constituting something approximating neutral ground. Initially, little progress was made. The Saudis focused on getting Iran to pressure its Houthi clients in Yemen to agree to a cease-fire and eventual peace settlement in a war that has turned into a quagmire for Riyadh. The Iranians wanted only to discuss restoring diplomatic relations.

But after the fifth round earlier this year, and amid the growing sense that Iran was stubbornly blocking Biden’s effort to revive the nuclear deal, there was a minor, but real, breakthrough. Responding to Iranian prodding, the Houthis finally agreed to a truce, which has lasted more than two months and allowed significant humanitarian relief into the beleaguered country.

AFAIK Saudi Arabia has continued to bomb Yemen and getting things in and out of the country still doesn’t seem particularly easy - but sure, we’ll go with that premise.

The Saudis’ securing and maintaining the cease-fire in the bloody conflict pleased the White House and Congress. Riyadh also took the opportunity to finally rid itself of the obstreperous Yemeni president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, replacing him with a new Presidential Leadership Council.

Another round of talks, which seems imminent, will come at a pivotal moment in US relations with friends and foes in the Middle East. Biden’s visit was intended to repair strained US-Saudi relations. But perhaps more importantly, the president encouraged Saudi Arabia to join other Arab countries, and even Israel, in building a set of informal cooperative security arrangements. These would include air- and missile-defense systems to offset Iran’s increasingly powerful arsenal.

The eventual aim of such expanded collaboration is for the US military to reduce its Middle East footprint, doing less with more, because regional cooperation could prove more effective and sustainable than outside intervention.

Not everything is going smoothly. There are already signs that the Houthis may break the uneasy truce in Yemen. Iran will play a central role in whether that happens, because it uses such militias to increase or relieve pressure on its adversaries, adjusting violence like turning a spigot.

Even if that is true, then Iran learned it from the best. America has been doing just that around the world for a century. If there’s even an inkling of racial or ethnic tension or divide, America is there whispering in both sides' ears that, hey, those guys over there with a different skin colour and different traditions look very suspicious, don’t they?

It’s also clear that Tehran hopes to use the reconciliation talks with Riyadh to drive a wedge between the US and Saudi Arabia. The idea is to make the Saudis choose between either rebuilding close cooperation with Washington or achieving rapprochement with Iran and extraction from the Yemen war.

It’s a crude trap. Washington can outflank Tehran by strengthening security commitments to Saudi Arabia, while making it clear it expects greater Saudi cooperation on energy production and pricing, keeping Russia and China at arm’s length, and being open to greater regional security coordination. The Gulf Arab countries still have major doubts about US commitment and reliability, but they understand there’s no practical alternative to American support.

Iranian media are playing up Saudi Arabia’s supposed enthusiasm for wide-ranging reconciliation, but in fact the Saudis remain highly skeptical. The US and Saudi Arabia can give the Iranians a set of clear choices: They can have relations restored with the Saudis, a renewed nuclear agreement with Washington, and respect for legitimate security concerns — but only on reasonable terms, starting with curbing violence by their regional proxies.

The partnership between Washington and Riyadh may not be as strong as it once was, but it’s clearly on the mend. And it’s certainly still strong enough to be able to show Iran that it can’t score cheap victories by trying to divide them.


For when people accept reality, though often not fully and not for very long.

  • The rouble is soaring and Putin is stronger than ever - our sanctions have backfired Guardian

This is a pretty good summary of the macro geopolitical situation, though it’s focussed on the western side of things. It’s not very often that authors actually talk about sanctions as if they’re something which you also NOT do. To say that the idea of revoking sanctions has been ignored by the media is an understatement - it’s actually genuinely eerie how completely silent most journalists seem to be on the idea. It’s not even “Well, we OBVIOUSLY shouldn’t undo the sanctions, you’re a Putin-lover if you want to do that”, they literally aren’t even mentioned. I absolutely hate using this word, but it really does seem to approach ‘Orwellian’. It’s not an elephant in the room - it’s a blue whale, crushing everybody against the walls, slowly suffocating people, and yet even acting as if it exists and could hypothetically be removed from the room is met with complete silence.

I quote in full:

Western sanctions against Russia are the most ill-conceived and counterproductive policy in recent international history. Military aid to Ukraine is justified, but the economic war is ineffective against the regime in Moscow, and devastating for its unintended targets. World energy prices are rocketing, inflation is soaring, supply chains are chaotic and millions are being starved of gas, grain and fertiliser. Yet Vladimir Putin’s barbarity only escalates – as does his hold over his own people.

To criticise western sanctions is close to anathema. Defence analysts are dumb on the subject. Strategy thinktanks are silent. Britain’s putative leaders, Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak, compete in belligerent rhetoric, promising ever tougher sanctions without a word of purpose. Yet, hint at scepticism on the subject and you will be excoriated as “pro-Putin” and anti-Ukraine. Sanctions are the war cry of the west’s crusade.

The reality of sanctions on Russia is that they invite retaliation. Putin is free to freeze Europe this winter. He has slashed supply from major pipelines such as Nord Stream 1 by up to 80%. World oil prices have surged and eastern Europe’s flow of wheat and other foodstuffs to Africa and Asia has been all but suspended.

Britain’s domestic gas bills face tripling inside a year. The chief beneficiary is none other than Russia, whose energy exports to Asia have soared, driving its balance of payments into unprecedented surplus. The rouble is one of the world’s strongest currencies this year, having strengthened since January by nearly 50%. Moscow’s overseas assets have been frozen and its oligarchs have relocated their yachts, but there is no sign that Putin cares. He has no electorate to worry him.

The interdependence of the world’s economies, so long seen as an instrument of peace, has been made a weapon of war. Politicians around the Nato table have been wisely cautious about escalating military aid to Ukraine. They understand military deterrence. Yet they appear total ingenues on economics. Here they all parrot Dr Strangelove. They want to bomb Russia’s economy “back to the stone age”.

I would be intrigued to know if any paper was ever submitted to Boris Johnson’s cabinet forecasting the likely outcome for Britain of Russian sanctions. The assumption seems to be that if trade embargos hurt they are working. As they do not directly kill people, they are somehow an acceptable form of aggression. They are based on a neo-imperial assumption that western countries are entitled to order the world as they wish. They are enforced, if not through gunboats, then through capitalist muscle in a globalised economy. Since they are mostly imposed on small, weak states soon out of the headlines, their purpose has largely been of “feelgood” symbolism.

A rare student of this subject is the American economic historian Nicholas Mulder, who points out that more than 30 sanctions “wars” in the past 50 years have had minimal if not counterproductive impact. They are meant to “intimidate peoples into restraining their princes”. If anything they have had the opposite effect. From Cuba to Korea, Myanmar to Iran, Venezuela to Russia, autocratic regimes have been entrenched, elites strengthened and freedoms crushed. Sanctions seem to instil stability and self-reliance on even their weakest victim. Almost all the world’s oldest dictatorships have benefited from western sanctions.

Moscow is neither small nor weak. Another observer, the Royal United Services Institute’s Russia expert Richard Connolly, has charted Putin’s response to the sanctions imposed on him since his 2014 seizure of Crimea and Donbas. Their objective was to change Russia’s course in those regions and deter further aggression. Their failure could hardly be more glaring. Apologists excuse this as due to the embargos being too weak. The present ones, perhaps the toughest ever imposed on a major world power, may not be working yet, but will apparently work in time. They are said to be starving Russia of microchips and drone spares. They will soon have Putin begging for peace.

If Putin begs, it will be on the battlefield. At home, Connolly illustrates how Russia is “slowly adjusting to its new circumstances”. Sanctions have promoted trade with China, Iran and India. They have benefited “insiders connected to Putin and the ruling entourage, making huge profits from import substitution”. McDonald’s locations across the country have been replaced by a Russian-owned chain called Vkusno & tochka (“Tasty and that’s it”). Of course the economy is weaker, but Putin is, if anything, stronger while sanctions are cohering a new economic realm across Asia, embracing an ever enhanced role for China. Was this forecast?

Meanwhile, the west and its peoples have been plunged into recession. Leadership has been shaken and insecurity spread in Britain, France, Italy and the US. Gas-starved Germany and Hungary are close to dancing to Putin’s tune. Living costs are escalating everywhere. Yet still no one dares question sanctions. It is sacrilege to admit their failure or conceive retreat. The west has been enticed into the timeless irony of aggression. Eventually its most conspicuous victim is the aggressor. Perhaps, after all, we should stick to war.

Bloomerism and Hope

For events that show that a better, more equitable, and happier world is possible than the neoliberal hell we inhabit.

Hundreds joined international guests, solidarity campaigners and elected representatives for ¡Viva la solidaridad! Latin America’s Left Leads the Way: a session organised by Labour Friends of Progressive Latin America as part of this year’s Arise Festival.

Chairing the event, Arise’s Sam Browse went through examples of electoral successes and resilience in the face of aggression by the region’s left, and emphasised the importance of international co-operation amongst progressive forces: “those winning gains in the fight for a better future are an inspiration to us all”.

Secretary of the Presidency in Honduras Rodolfo Pastor outlined how the country faced “a dark period of history” following the coup against elected President Manuel Zelaya in 2009, with those who took power implementing “repression to benefit a small elite at the expense of our natural resources and the rights of the majority”.

Emphasising that last November’s electoral victory was “a product of those who resisted throughout those years”, he thanked those who offered international solidarity despite much of the media’s “deceptive” coverage of events and the stance of some governments: “the coup regime gained and held to power with brutal force and the support of the empire”. Pastor highlighted the situation faced by new President Xiomara Castro upon taking office: with debt at 50% of GDP, education, health and infrastructure having “collapsed” and in no position to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, and weakened democratic structures (also calling for former President Juan Orlando Hernández to face justice in Honduras in addition to his recent extradition to the US over drug trafficking and firearms charges).

Concluding by appealing for the continued support of those who have stood in solidarity with Honduran progressives over recent years, he called for movements to “stay connected across the world wherever struggles take place: the right are well organised and connected and we need to make sure we do the same”.

The article continues describing the session, for those interested.

Link back to the discussion thread.