Link back to the discussion thread.
- EU faces several ‘terrible winters’ without price cap: minister Euro News
The EU will endure several “terrible” winters without controls on natural gas prices, Belgium’s energy minister warned on Sunday.
“The next 5 to 10 winters will be terrible if nothing is done,” Tinne Van der Straeten wrote on Twitter. “We must act at the source, at European level, and work on freezing gas prices.”
Belgium’s energy minister called for an EU-wide price cap on gas, adding that “the time for talking is over, now is the time to decide.”
Support for price controls at the EU level has grown across the bloc, amid surging energy costs sparked by the Ukraine war.
“There is an urgent need to introduce a European price cap,” claimed Van der Straeten. “This can reduce the energy bill by 770 euros per year per family.”
So either the European citizens pay for it and get increasingly angry and desperate, or the EU government pays for it and gets increasingly bankrupt? Putler, I hate to say it: you’ve been owned.
- EU’s Borrell: visa ban for all Russians would lack necessary support Inquirer
European Union foreign ministers meeting later this week, are unlikely to unanimously back a visa ban on all Russians, as would be needed to put in place such a ban, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told Austria’s ORF TV on Sunday.
“I don’t think that to cut the relationship with the Russian civilian population will help and I don’t think that this idea will have the required unanimity,” Borrell, who chairs EU foreign ministers’ meetings, told the national broadcaster.
“I think that we have to review the way that some Russians get a visa, certainly the oligarchs not. We have to be more selective. But I am not in favor of stopping delivering visas to all Russians.”
- EU to discuss visa ban for Russians, training of Ukraine troops at Prague meetings Reuters
European Union defence and foreign ministers, meeting in Prague this week, will discuss options for setting up an EU military training mission for Ukrainian forces and also look into calls by some members to ban Russian tourists from entering the bloc.
Several EU countries have been training Ukrainian troops for a while, mainly enabling them to operate weapons Western nations are delivering to Ukraine to help its fight against Russia’s invasion.
It is not clear yet where an EU training programme could be based and what mandate it might have, EU diplomats told Reuters ahead of the defence ministers' meeting on Monday and Tuesday.
The bloc’s foreign policy and security chief, Josep Borrell, has given few details of his plans so far, merely stating such a programme would not be based in Ukraine but in neighbouring countries.
At a joint session with U.N. and NATO representatives, defence ministers will also discuss the future of the EU’s suspended training mission in Mali and the U.N peacekeeping force MINUSMA, as concerns are growing over an increasing Russian presence in the West African country.
- Russia can afford complete halt in gas supplies to EU – Bloomberg RT
Russia can shut down its natural gas exports to the EU entirely for more than a year, without inflicting significant damage on the national economy, Bloomberg has reported, citing strategists at Capital Economics.
In light of the current price situation, Russia’s “balance of payments is in such a strong position that, if oil prices and oil exports remain at current levels, Russia could keep gas exports to Europe at 20% of normal levels for at least three years,” analysts at the consultancy said in a note seen by the agency.
A year-long supply cut-off by Russia could happen “without adverse consequences for its economy,” Liam Peach, one of the economists at Capital Economic said.
According to Peach, despite reduced volumes, Russia’s quarterly earnings generated by gas exports could amount to $20 billion.
“Whether or not Russia turns off the taps completely will be a political decision and the length of any cut-off would depend on the size of offsetting oil revenues,” Peach said.
- Sanctioned Russian diamonds flowing to global market – Bloomberg RT
Russian mining giant Alrosa has quietly revived exports to almost pre-sanctions levels, Bloomberg reported on Tuesday, noting that the company is selling more than $250 million-worth of diamonds per month.
According to the report, citing people familiar with the matter, the Russian firm’s sales are currently only about $50 to $100 million a month below pre-sanctions levels.
The sales have restarted as some Indian banks become more comfortable with how to facilitate transactions in currencies other than US dollars, the sources explained to Bloomberg.
They said that most of the Russian gems are heading to manufacturers in India, “where hundreds of mostly family-owned businesses cut and polish rough stones into the finished products, ready to be used in earrings and engagement rings.” The sources also said Alrosa has been selling diamonds to buyers in India and Europe, mostly in exchange for Indian rupees.
- West’s Sanctions Against Russia Limit Agricultural Exports TeleSUR
On Friday, the Russian Foreign Ministry said that the sanctions imposed on the Russian federation continue affecting exports.
In light of the Russian special military operation in Ukraine, Western countries have imposed several sanctions, which continue to restrain the Russian agricultural produce and fertilizers exports to the international market, according to Friday’s statement of the Russian Foreign Ministry.
The Ministry said that to implement a memorandum between Russia and the UN regarding exports of Russian agricultural products and fertilizers, there is much to be done.
“Despite statements made by Washington and Brussels that anti-Russian sanctions do not apply to foodstuffs and fertilizers, blocking obstacles to banking settlements, insurance and carriage of cargo occurred as a result of their introduction still remain in place,” said the Ministry.
The Russian Ministry highlighted that Russia’s share in the global food market structure is much greater than in Ukraine. “In 2021, grain exports stood at 43 mln tonnes, while it is planned to increase this figure to 50 mln tonnes of products in this year,” it emphasized.
“For the time being, 7-8 mln tonnes of fertilizers and raw materials sufficient to produce food for 100 mln people remain blocked at shipping terminals because of Western sanctions,” said the Russian Foreign Ministry.
- Russia to launch yuan bond sales – media RT
Russia is planning to resume local bond sales after a six-month pause, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday. The Kremlin also reportedly wants Chinese yuan-denominated debt to help the recovery of the Russian market.
The report highlighted that ruble bonds, also referred to as OFZs, could potentially be back on the market in the second half of September. Meanwhile, the debut of yuan bonds on the Russian market won’t happen until next year, it said.
“A long-mulled plan to debut Chinese currency notes locally is being dusted off with fresh urgency as yuan trading volumes surge after sanctions shut Russia out of its traditional markets in the US and Europe,” an unnamed source told the outlet.
According to Bloomberg data, trading volumes between the Russian ruble and the Chinese currency have grown 40-fold since the start of the year.
“With hundreds of millions of dollars coming into government coffers from energy revenue each day, the government has no need to borrow now, and sales of yuan debt would serve solely as a benchmark for companies looking to tap the market,” the source was quoted as saying.
Russia’s biggest gold miner, Polyus and aluminum giant Rusal International have reportedly already started transacting in the yuan.
- In Poland, where coal is king, homeowners queue for days to buy fuel EU Reporter
Artur, 57 years old, is a pensioner who drove from Swidnik to purchase several tonnes of coal for his family.
After three nights of sleep in his tiny red hatchback, he stated that “toilets were up today, but no running water” after waking up to find a queue of trucks, private cars, and tractors towing trailers.
“This is beyond imagination. People are sleeping in cars. Although I can recall the communist era, it was not something that crossed my mind that we might return to something worse.
Ah, brain-poisoned boomers in eastern European states who have been brushing their teeth with lead toothbrushes for the last 30 years are truly a unique set of human beings.
Artur’s household is among the 3.8 million Polish households that depend on coal heating. Now, they face price rises and shortages as a result of an embargo imposed by the European Union and Poland on Russian coal after the invasion of Ukraine in February.
Poland prohibited purchases in April with immediate effect, and the bloc ordered their eradication by August.
Poland produces more than 50 million tonnes of coal each year from its own mines, but imported coal from Russia is a staple household item due to the low prices and the ease of use of Russian coal lumps.
- 50,000 Ukrainian refugees face homelessness in UK RT
Some 50,000 Ukrainians could be homeless in the UK next year, as the government’s scheme to match refugees with British families breaks down, The Guardian reported on Sunday. With the cost of living spiraling, the opposition wants the government to boost payments to host families.
Analysis by the Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats and children’s charity Barnardos found that, based on feedback from British hosts, between 15,000 and 21,000 Ukrainians could be homeless by the winter, rising to more than 50,000 by mid-2023, the newspaper reported.
To date, 83,900 refugees have arrived in the UK since March under the government’s Homes for Ukraine scheme, under which British households are paid £350 ($411) per month to house refugees for six months. However, as of earlier this month, 1,330 Ukrainian households in England – 385 single refugees and 945 families with children – have left the scheme and are now homeless.
It is unclear why these matches did not work out, but campaigners told The Guardian that some hosts signed up enthusiastically without understanding “the implications and consequences of this sort of responsibility,” while others are finding that due to the rising cost of living in the UK, £350 per month is no longer sufficient to support new additions to the household.
- Energy bills may force Brits to return to the office RT
A growing number of UK residents may soon stop working from home and go back to the office due to rising household energy bills, CNBC reported on Thursday, citing analysts.
According to the report, a survey by MoneySuperMarket showed that 14% of 2,000 UK residents plan to spend more time working from the office to lower energy bills. The figure is much higher (23%) among young adults aged between 18 and 24.
According to the UK Office for National Statistics, around one in seven UK residents worked from home between April 28 and May 8. However, various forecasts show that the energy price cap, which currently stands at £1,971 ($2,329) a year, could soon jump as high as £6,089 ($7,195) due to a shortage of gas and other economic pressures.
“The massive energy bill hikes that are coming in October and January are going to push workers to think about how they can keep costs down. It might be that they would rather use their office’s energy rather than their own,” Matt Copeland, head of policy and public affairs at fuel poverty charity National Energy Action, told CNBC.
Another expert added that commuting expenses may soon be less significant than the money Brits will have to spend on heating their homes.
- One in four Britons won’t turn on heating this winter – study RT
Nearly one in four adults in Britain do not plan on turning on their heating this winter as energy bills are set to skyrocket, The Independent reported on Monday, citing researcher Savanta ComRes.
According to a survey conducted by the firm on July 29 and 30, before the new price cap was announced, the figure is even higher for parents with children under 18.
The study shows that 23% of those polled (more than 2,000 adults) said they will not turn their heating on at all. Seven in ten (69%) indicated they would switch their heating on less, and one in ten (11%) said they would take out a loan, with the latter figure rising for those with children under 18 (17%).
The research comes amid warnings of a dire winter, as the energy price cap is set to rise 80% by October, pushing the average household’s yearly bill up from £1,971 to £3,549 ($2,300 to $4,150).
- Irish farmers say they will be forced to cull cows to meet climate targets Guardian
Instead of cutting emissions, Ireland has continued increasing them and the biggest contributor is agriculture. Ireland’s 135,000 farms produce 37.5% of national emissions, the highest proportion in the European Union, and most of that comes from methane associated with belching by ruminant animals.
Under a new government plan, agriculture must reduce emissions by 25% by 2030. Other sectors face even higher targets – transport must reduce emissions by 50%, commercial and public buildings by 40% – but the loudest protests have come from farmers.
Cutting emissions by a quarter will drive many farms into bankruptcy and could force the culling of hundreds of thousands of cows, they say. “The mood is hugely frustrated,” said Pat McCormack, head of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association. “It’s very hard to quantify but there will be increased costs and reduced output.”
Farmers and their allies have accused the coalition government, which includes the Green party, of scapegoating rural Ireland and leaving farmers little option but to cull herds. So far there have been no Dutch-style protests.
Until recently, the government had encouraged dairy farmers to expand to exploit the end of EU milk quotas. Farmers invested in new equipment and the dairy herd grew by almost half in the past decade. Irish butter, cheese and other produce – 90% is exported – filled supermarket shelves around the world.
Farmers hope that proposed changes in calculating methane emissions, greater efficiencies, new technologies, and other measures could avert the need to reduce herds.
John Sweeney, a climate expert at Maynooth University, is sceptical. “Various tried and untried methods have been advanced to suggest compliance with the 25% emissions ceiling.” They were insufficient, he said. “Only a reduction in numbers can achieve the targets in the short term.”
Sweeney estimates Ireland will need to reduce its number of cattle by 1 million by 2030. “The use of emotive words like ‘cull’ is unhelpful and inflames a process which can be managed in a more gradual manner,” he said.
Farmers were getting off lightly compared with other sectors, said Sweeney. “Agriculture has received a very generous emission ceiling, largely due to the powerful lobby groups it possesses.” The rest of society faces a 60% reduction in emissions to soak up the slack from agriculture.
I think this article highlights how climate initiatives are extremely difficult to pull off without hurting people with neoliberal governments in charge. If there was an extremely strong social safety net, as well as intelligently-planned UBIs and so on, I feel it would be much more successful - though it will always feel bad to end a multi-generational family line of important labour that people feel proud doing, like farming.
- Austria backs EU cap to end ‘madness’ of runaway power prices Reuters
Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer backs a European Union-wide cap on runaway electricity prices, he said in a statement issued by his office on Sunday.
Austria’s conservative-led government was initially sceptical at the idea of capping power prices but it has warmed to the idea as they have continued to rise in line with soaring gas prices following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“We must finally stop the madness that is taking place in energy markets. And that can only happen through a European solution,” the statement quoted Nehammer as saying, adding that he would seek to convince holdouts in the bloc.
- Protesters march in Belgrade against planned gay Pride event Inquirer
Thousands of religious and right-wing opponents of a European gay Pride event to be hosted by Belgrade protested through the Serbian capital on Sunday, even though the government has said it would scrap or delay the Pride event.
Belgrade is due to host the EuroPride march on Sept. 17, an event staged in a different European city each year. But President Aleksandar Vucic said on Saturday it would be cancelled or postponed, citing reasons such as threats from right-wing activists.
Sunday’s protest against the EuroPride event, held during a procession to mark a religious holiday, was led by clergy from the Serbian Orthodox Church, some of whose bishops say the Pride event threatens traditional family values and should be banned.
“Save our children and family,” read one of the banners held up by protesters on Sunday, some of whom also carried crosses.
Others who joined Sunday’s march chanted slogans in support of far-right or nationalist causes.
The fall of the Soviet Union and its consequences has been a disaster for the human race.
Some waved Russian flags, a show of support for Moscow, Serbia’s traditional ally, as the Belgrade government tries to balance its ambition to join the European Union with its longstanding ties with Russia and China.
The president said on Saturday EuroPride would be scrapped or held later for safety reasons. Alongside threats from what he said were right-wing “hooligans”, he cited issues such as an ongoing dispute with Kosovo and the energy crisis.
“It will happen but in some other and happier time,” he said of the EuroPride event.
- Seven nations ready to revoke recognition of Kosovo RT
Belgrade has convinced seven nations to withdraw their recognition of Kosovo, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic claimed on Saturday. He did not name any of the countries, but hailed this as an achievement of Serbian diplomacy, showing that Belgrade enjoys the support of the majority of the world.
“At this moment, in my drawer and in the drawer of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, there are seven documents confirming Kosovo’s derecognition,” Vucic said during an address to the nation. He noted that Pristina is seeking recognition from Vietnam and Kenya, and that Belgrade has “also worked” with these nations. It remains unclear, however, if the positions of these two nations on Kosovo has changed in any way.
Instead, Vucic said that his nation’s diplomats “did not sit idly by” in the face of Kosovo’s “constant” attempts to win over the international community for its cause. “Now, the number of countries that have withdrawn their recognition has increased from four to seven,” he added.
Serbia’s foreign minister, Nikola Selakovic, said in May that four nations had withdrawn their recognition of Kosovo but did not name them either. These nations would be named when necessary, he said at the time.
Asia and Oceania
- China deploys ships and jets near Taiwan — Taipei RT
A sizable group of Chinese military vessels and aircraft has been detected around Taiwan amid heightened tensions in the region, the self-governed island’s Defense Ministry claimed on Sunday.
According to the ministry, eight Chinese Navy vessels and 23 aircraft were detected in Taiwan’s vicinity. Ten planes, it stated, “had flown on the east part of the median line of the Taiwan Strait,” which in practice serves as an unofficial barrier between mainland China and the island.
The Taiwanese military added that local combat air patrol has been given relevant instructions, and that Beijing’s activities are being closely monitored.
The apparent Chinese deployment comes a day after the US sent two warships to the Taiwan Strait, in what the Navy called a “routine” transit mission, meant to “demonstrate the United States' commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific.”
Beijing responded by putting its military on high alert and signaling its readiness “to stop any provocations in a timely manner.” Earlier, China also castigated the US, branding it “the destroyer of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.”
- Japanese Isn’t a Good Look in China Anymore Bloomberg
A Chinese brand is ditching its Japanese motif. It’s a bad omen for the relationship between the two countries.
*It’s genuinely incredible how like, Japan has had (and will likely continue to have) the direct descendants of the Japanese equivalent of Nazi politicians and high-ranked officers remain in charge of the country to the present day, with views that ultimately end up being quite anti-China (like Shinzo Abe - I hope he’s having a great time being poked by demons in the same lava pool as Thatcher and Reagan) and journalists are treating this like “Well, both sides really need to come together to sort this out, and by both sides I mean China needs to bend to Japan’s whims.”
It’s a bad time to be a Japanese brand in China. Even a fake one.
Miniso Group Holding Ltd., a Chinese retailer of cheap household goods with around 3,000 stores in the mainland, made it big off an aesthetic that could charitably be described as an homage to modern Japanese branding.
While not a direct knockoff of any one Japanese brand, Miniso’s look is nonetheless familiar: The logo bears more than a passing resemblance to Uniqlo’s, and uses Japanese katakana characters. Its store interior, products and English name are reminiscent of Daiso, the Hiroshima-based retailer that defined the 100-yen (73 cents) store, while the Chinese characters used in its native name are evocative of Muji’s.
But facing an online backlash, Miniso has now decided the look that catapulted it to fame was “wrong,” and it’s ditching the branding in a process of de-Japanification.
Miniso’s image is no coincidence: It unashamedly rode on the coattails of Japanese brands’ reputation for quality and value. For years, Chinese consumers couldn’t get enough of Fast Retailing Co.’s Uniqlo or Ryohin Keikaku Co.’s Muji — but in an increasingly isolated and nationalist China, looking Japanese now seems to be more of a risk.
Muji is itself facing issues in China amid declining sales, with the hashtag “Why Chinese people don’t like to buy Muji anymore” recently trending on the microblogging website, Weibo. Earlier in August, a woman was detained by police in the Chinese city of Suzhou for nothing more than wearing a Japanese kimono. The message was clear: looking Japanese isn’t good for you.
While isolated, the episodes have echoes of the periodic flareups of anti-Japanese sentiment in the country’s recent past. Demonstrations erupted in the early 2000s over historical grievances; In 2012, riots broke out in multiple cities protesting Japan’s purchase (from a private owner) of the Senkaku Islands, which Tokyo controls but China also claims. Japanese businesses and factories were attacked and burned; a man was beaten nearly to death, his only crime seemingly driving a Toyota.
Perhaps not coincidentally, rising nationalism in 2012 preceded the key Communist Party Congress which brought Xi Jinping to power. The five-yearly meeting is happening this year too, with Xi expected to secure a third term.
The other obvious element in the background is the continued souring of bilateral relations, most recently over Taiwan. Chinese missiles fired over the island during Beijing’s military drills in response to the visit of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taipei landed in Japan’s exclusive economic zone. China has declared the Taiwan issue the “foundation” of relations with Japan — its former occupier — with Beijing and Tokyo next month set to mark 50 years since the normalization of relations.
The issue of Taiwan — as well as how China uses such international flareups for domestic purposes — is important, of course. But there’s something else here too: The relative lull in anti-Japanese sentiment over the past decade also coincided with a mass exchange between the two nations on a unprecedented scale, as increasingly wealthy Chinese flocked to a Japan that was building itself into a tourism paradise.
It’s harder to sell a narrative of Japanese-ness being “wrong” when millions are exposed first-hand to the country’s famed omotenashi tradition of hospitality— and snapping up Japanese rice cookers, heated toilet seats and baby formula to take back home. Respondents to the Genron survey regularly cited the quality of Japanese goods and the people’s high level of manners as reasons for holding a positive impression. Little wonder Miniso also capitalized on the fondness in this period.
Today, that pipeline for mutual relations has been shut. China is pursuing its Covid-Zero strategy, still mandating a weeklong stay at an isolation facility for anyone entering the country. Japan, for its part, shows little enthusiasm to return to the mass-tourism of 2019 — a decision that is growing increasingly difficult to justify with cases in the country already at record levels.
Without these on-the-ground interactions, Chinese attitudes to Japan seem to be reverting to the mean. The most recent Genron survey in 2021 found favorable impressions of Japan had plummeted back to 32%, with the next results due later this year likely to show a further decline.
Japan will eventually resume full-scale tourism, with the country soon to scrap a pre-departure PCR test requirement and politicians suggesting visa waivers will return next. But even when it does, there’s little hope that Chinese tourists, who made up a third of annual visitors, will be among those returning. Miniso’s about-face might only be the first sign that Asia’s two largest economies risk drifting further apart.
- Japan’s Drying Rice Paddies Are Now a National Security Threat Bloomberg
Russian missiles pounding Ukraine have spooked Japan into boosting defense spending. Now, with tensions rising over the Taiwan Strait, calls are growing to address another security threat: shriveling rice paddies.
For decades, Japanese consumers have been eating less rice and fish in favor of more bread, meat and edible oil, leading the country’s calorie-based food self-sufficiency ratio to slump to 37% in 2020 from 73% in 1965 — the lowest among major economies. Toshiyuki Ito, retired vice admiral for Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force, said the government’s abandonment of rice paddies and other agricultural land is leaving the country more vulnerable than ever.
“They don’t do anything for national security,” Ito, now a professor at Kanazawa Institute of Technology, said about Japan’s ministries responsible for food production. “They think only about economic efficiency.”
The impact of higher global grain prices, fertilizer shortages and fuel inflation, exacerbated by a weaker yen, have already been filtering through to Japanese consumers in recent months, with supermarkets marking up everything form instant ramen noodles to ice cream. But any major blockade or disruption to sea lanes around China and the Taiwan Strait could have bigger implications than just price inflation.
Unlike the US and EU, Japan would have little to fall back on in the event food imports were to dry up. To ensure the country’s national security, it’s crucial for Japan to increase the amount of rice and wheat grown domestically, according to Nobuhiro Suzuki, a professor of agricultural economics at the University of Tokyo.
“In terms of national security, food should come before weapons,” he said. “If you don’t have food, you can’t fight.”
Japan’s shift away from a rice-dominated diet was driven in part by higher per capita income. An expansion in global trade ushered in more imported foods, while exposure to travel and television encouraged more diverse eating habits. The growing ranks of working women and single people also brought about lifestyle changes and the embrace of fast food — the country boasts the third-largest number of McDonalds outlets after the US and China.
Per-capita seafood consumption has fallen to under 25 kilograms a year from over 40 kilograms two decades ago, and those who choose fish are increasingly opting for fattier imports, such as mackerel and salmon from Norway and Chile, according to government data. Another major factor behind the decline in the self-sufficiency ratio has been Japan’s near-total dependency on imported grains for animal feed. That means most domestically raised beef isn’t counted in self-sufficiency calculations.
The increased reliance on imports worries former agriculture minister Hiroshi Moriyama. In June, he led a group of ruling Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers that submitted a report to Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, calling for more government action on food security.
“Through the Ukraine situation, we’ve realized that what you can do domestically, you should,” he said in an interview. “You have to produce as much as you can at home, including fertilizers and seeds.”
- Laos Government Affirms Commitment to Preventing Default Laotian Times
The Government of Laos has reiterated its pledge to avoid default, with relevant agencies being directed to take more proactive measures to address the country’s economic problems.
Vientiane Times reports that ministries were told to address macroeconomic vulnerability and debt repayment at a two-day monthly cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Phankham Viphavanh last week.
Ministers were instructed to exert every effort to ensure a consistent supply of fuel across the country and to better control volatile currency exchange rates.
The responsible sectors should place a greater emphasis on establishing market pricing ceilings for goods and coming up with innovative solutions to pay off the nation’s public debt, particularly debts incurred by state enterprises,” said Government Spokesperson Mrs. Thippakone Chanthavongsa when speaking to the media.
She said that the country is committed to avoiding default, and therefore must not create new debts.
The government also spoke about the investment environment, saying that it must do more to encourage private investment in Laos and ensure that current investments progress well.
Cabinet members agreed that encouraging foreign investment would help bring more foreign currency into the county, enabling Laos to more easily pay its debts and import fuels.
Meanwhile, the cabinet meeting discussed ongoing problems with the Laos-China Railway, particularly issues pertaining to ticketing, with the railway company coming under fire from the public in recent weeks after admitting it has managed ticket sales poorly.
Cabinet members also discussed the impact of flooding upon the country, which has damaged roads and bridges in several provinces. Poorly maintained drainage systems in Vientiane Capital have also left residents knee-deep in water, with the meeting agreeing that the issue must be resolved.
Several key papers were approved during the meeting, including the five-year plan for passing and amending laws, as well as a strategic cooperation plan between the Government of Laos and the World Bank.
- Egypt dims lights to boost foreign reserves Africa News
An economic crisis spurred by the Ukraine war is casting darkness upon Egypt’s streets, as the government dims lights to free up energy for export and bolster hard currency reserves.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had an immediate impact on Egypt, the world’s biggest wheat importer which has relied on the ex-Soviet states for over 80 percent of its grain.
Egypt, which turned to the International Monetary Fund for a loan after the war erupted, is pumping more natural gas abroad to increase its foreign currency reserves – a move that has come in for criticism.
And while the government announced electricity rationing this month, signs of wastage elicit scorn.
“I see streetlights still working during daylight hours… and we’re suffering from high electricity bills,” said a disgruntled Cairo resident in his 30s who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The country’s vital tourism sector has also been hit by the Ukraine conflict, cutting the flow of holidaymakers to a country still hurting from the 2011 revolution and Covid-19 pandemic.
Economic growth slowed to 3.2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2021-22 against 7.7 percent last year, although annual expansion was 6.6 percent.
Despite the better-than-expected annual figure, the government said growth had tapered off in the wake of “global political and economic developments”.
Egypt’s monetary policy has been caught between a rock and a hard place since Russia invaded Ukraine in February.
Inflation hit a three-year high of 14.6 percent in July after Egypt devalued the pound, pushing up the price of imports and depleting forex reserves by $7.8 billion since February to $33.1 billion in July.
- Senator Warren worries that Fed will tip U.S. economy into recession Reuters
Democratic U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren said on Sunday that she was very worried that the Federal Reserve was going to tip the nation’s economy into recession and that interest rate hikes would put people out of work.
“Do you know what’s worse than high prices and a strong economy? It’s high prices and millions of people out of work. I am very worried that the Fed is going to tip this economy into recession,” Warren told CNN on Sunday.
Isn’t that almost literally what they are claiming that they want to achieve? Like, that’s what a recession is. They want to make one happen to bring inflation down. There’s no reason to be “worried” about that being what the Fed is doing - that’s exactly what they’re doing.
- Oil Refinery Fire Sparks Fears Of A Fuel Shortage In Four States Oil Price
The federal government declared a regional emergency in the states of Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, and Wisconsin following a fire that broke out at a BP-owned refinery in Whiting, Indiana.
The fire erupted last week and was quickly extinguished but BP said it would need to shut down some units that were affected by the accident. The company is currently assessing the damage to establish when the shut-down units could be restarted.
According to the Department of Transportation and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the incident had affected the supply of gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel across the four states, which prompted the emergency declaration. The four states get a quarter of their fuel supply from the Whiting refinery.
The Whiting refinery - the largest refinery in the Midwest and the sixth-largest in the country - is capable of processing 440,000 barrels per day of crude oil.
- U.S. And Cuba Discuss Rehabilitation of Matanzas Fuel Base TeleSUR
Specialists from the United States (U.S.) and Cuba discussed possible ways of cooperation to rehabilitate the most affected areas of the Supertanker Base in the western province of Matanzas, which was partially destroyed by a fire on August 5.
The local Ministry of Foreign Affairs informed on Friday in a communiqué that the exchange between the two parties took place on Wednesday.
The deflagration, which lasted for almost a week, collapsed four of eight large tanks of that hydrocarbon deposit in Matanzas.
The Department of International Affairs of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment (Citma) hosted a virtual meeting between Cuban specialists involved in the rehabilitation of the areas affected by the accident at the Matanzas supertanker base and U.S. experts from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Both groups discussed possible ways of cooperation to achieve the rehabilitation of the most affected areas, the Foreign Ministry mentioned in the press release.
- Colombia, Venezuela restore full diplomatic relations Al Jazeera
Colombia and Venezuela have restored full diplomatic relations after a three-year break.
A new Colombian ambassador, Armando Benedetti, arrived in the Venezuelan capital, Caracas, on Sunday.
“Relations with Venezuela should never have been severed. We are brothers and an imaginary line cannot separate us,” the new envoy wrote on Twitter.
Benedetti was welcomed by Venezuela’s Deputy Foreign Minister Rander Pena Ramirez, who tweeted that “our historical ties summon us to work together for the happiness of our peoples”.
Colombia’s new left-wing president, Gustavo Petro, and Venezuela’s socialist President Nicolas Maduro announced on August 11 that they planned to restore diplomatic relations, which were severed in 2019.
Caracas had broken off ties with Bogota early that year after members of the Venezuelan opposition tried to cross from Colombian territory with trucks loaded with food and medicine.
It also closed the border, saying the aid masked an attempted coup by the opposition with support from the United States. Embassies and consulates in both countries were shut down, and flights between the neighbors were grounded.
- Will They Coup Lula? Jacobin
After four years of a right-wing Jair Bolsonaro government, Brazilians will vote for a new president on October 2, 2022. Former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva — currently high in the polls — is confronting an increasingly delirious incumbent, who appears to have threatened unconstitutional action should he lose.
Bolsonaro’s disastrous mismanagement led his approval to sharply decline (to below 20 percent in November 2021), compounded by having to face a presidential contest against a greatly strengthened Lula, who was fully exonerated in 2021 by the Supreme Court of all charges of corruption. The latest Datafolha poll (August 20, 2022) shows Lula with 47 percent of the vote intention against 32 percent for Bolsonaro.
In response, Bolsonaro and his supporters have gone berserk. Marcelo Arruda, a PT local leader, was murdered — shot three times — by a Bolsonaro supporter during his fiftieth birthday party on July 10. A PT election rally in Rio de Janeiro was also interrupted by the explosion of a homemade bomb. Since then, Lula has worn a bulletproof vest.
Bolsonaro has issued more than a dozen decrees in favor of Brazilians’ right to bear arms, leading to a boom in gun ownership. He has said that Brazil’s electronic voting system is not reliable, and has threatened not to recognize the results or cede power if he loses, hinting at a Brazilian storming of the Capitol à la Trump. One can only imagine what he will do if Lula does not win in the first round.
The stakes are high: Bolsonaro represents a grave threat to Brazil’s already battered and bruised democracy. Prominent figures in politics, business, science, and the arts have issued a citizens’ manifesto to defend the rule of law and oppose his “authoritarian delirium” that has been signed by more than a million people and endorsed by over five hundred civil society bodies. Private associations like the Brazilian Federation of Banks and the main trade union federations have issued a similar declaration. In Britain, parliamentarians have signed a special motion denouncing Bolsonaro’s election threats and threats of political violence.
In the face of this situation, we must support Brazilians’ struggle to defend their democracy, which has already been damaged by Dilma’s impeachment, by Lula’s imprisonment, and by the curtailing of social, economic, and political rights. We must redouble our solidarity, and condemn and oppose Bolsonaro’s assault.
The Ukraine War
- U.N. Inspectors Head to Ukraine Nuclear Plant as Safety Fears Grow WSJ
United Nations atomic-energy inspectors are heading to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant amid fears that fighting in the area has damaged power lines and caused fires at the facility that could lead to nuclear catastrophe.
The International Atomic Energy Agency said Monday that a team led by its director general, Rafael Grossi, was heading to the plant to assess damage, check safety and security systems and evaluate staff conditions. The inspection will begin on Wednesday and last until Saturday, according to an internal Ukrainian government document seen by The Wall Street Journal.
Renewed shelling around the plant hit buildings some 100 yards from the reactor complex and damaged water pipelines that have now been repaired, the IAEA said, noting that it didn’t know the full extent of the damage.
- Ukrainian Suicide Drone Shot Down Over Zaporozhie Power Plant TeleSUR
Russian servicemen on Sunday shot down a kamikaze drone of the Ukrainian Armed Forces over the Zaporozhie nuclear power plant.
Its target was a spent nuclear fuel storage facility, the Energodar Military-Civilian Administration reported.
“The drone crashed on the roof of the nuclear power plant building. There was a detonation of a transported cargo after the impact on the roof, but sources in the Military-Civil Administration said there was no damage to infrastructure and no human casualties,” the statement clarified.
This Thursday, the leader of Zaporozhie, Yevgeny Balitsky, reported that the region suffered 29 bombings in a single day, specifying that 17 of them were carried out against the nuclear power plant.
“There were bombings during the day, there were 29, we recorded every attack,” Balitsky explained, specifying that nine of them hit the industrial zone, 17 directly against the nuclear power plant and three more in the area of the town of Kamenka-Dneprovskaya.
- Moscow urges ‘all nations’ to pressure Kiev over nuclear site RT
Making Ukraine cease its attacks on the Russian-controlled Zaporozhye nuclear power plant will require a joint effort from the whole international community, Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov has said.
“We still believe that all countries are obliged to put pressure on the Ukrainian side, so that it stops endangering the European continent by shelling the territory of the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant and adjacent areas,” Peskov told the media on Monday.
The statement came hours after International Atomic Energy Agency head Rafael Grossi announced that IAEA experts would visit the nuclear plant this week to assess the security situation and establish a permanent presence at the facility.
“We’ve been waiting for this mission for a long time. We believe it to be necessary,” the Kremlin spokesman said, adding that Moscow was ready to cooperate with the UN atomic agency.
- Swedish PM sets out further military aid package to Ukraine Reuters
Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said on Monday Sweden would provide a further 500 million crowns ($46.75 million) in military assistance to Ukraine to help it defend itself against Russia’s invasion.
The United States is at like $50 billion or some stupid number! You gotta get those figures way up, Sweden! Start pulling your own weight!
Andersson told reporters after hosting Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba for talks that her government would provide a total additional aid package of 1 billion crowns, both military and civilian assistance, to Ukraine.
Kuleba called on Sweden to provide the country with weapons such as howitzers and shells. “As long as the war continues, we will be asking for more weapons”," Kuleba told reporters.
“Every euro, every bullet, every shell matters.”
Sweden’s prime minister did not give details of the military package, but said it would be similar to previous aid which has included anti-tank weapons, personal protective equipment, and mine clearance equipment.
- Pentagon signs air defense system deal with Ukraine RT
The Pentagon has signed a $182-million deal with US arms manufacturer Raytheon to produce NASAMS (National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems) for the Ukrainian military.
The work on short-and medium-range air defense weaponry will be conducted at Raytheon’s facilities in Tewksbury, Massachusetts, with an estimated completion date of August 23, 2024, the US Department of Defense said in a statement on Friday.
Dipshittery and Cope
I don’t read any of these unless they’re particularly interesting. I’m happy for them tho. Or sorry that happened.
- Former US ambassador to Russia says he doesn’t see Putin recovering from his mistakes in the Ukraine war Business Insider
Yeah, I agree - he should have authorized a strike on Kiev while Boris Johnson, Scholz, Macron, or Draghli were there. Poor decision making on his part.
- Russia Moves to Reinforce Its Stalled Assault on Ukraine WSJ
Russia is trying to clear the outtake of all the bones of Ukrainian conscripts forced at gunpoint by their government to get pummelled to death by Russian artillery fire. Give them a minute to shovel all the gore out and the machine will keep on trucking along.
- Russia, Ukraine trade claims of nuclear plant attacks Politico
“Say the line, media."
…sigh… “Which side is shelling the plant is unclear…"
- The ‘MacGyvered’ Weapons in Ukraine’s Arsenal NYT
The Ukrainian military has battled Russia with retrofitted equipment, including missiles and rocket systems mounted on trucks and speedboats, experts and officials say.
Something something technical. Hopefully I earn some clout with the Well There’s Your Problem podcast fans.
- Russia Is Sending A Fresh Army Corps To Ukraine. Its Troops Are ‘Unfit And Old.’ Forbes
They’re wearing barrels and suspenders, it’s just disgusting. They don’t even have pants on. In fact, all of Russia’s tanks have been destroyed, so they’re on horseback and firing arrows from giant bows.
- Xi Jinping’s Vision for Tech Self-Reliance in China Runs Into Reality NYT
I personally believe that the country which possesses the vast majority of currently mined minerals needed for computing in its own borders will be able to work it out.
- In backing Taiwan, the U.S. must strike a hard balance WaPo
Isn’t this similar to another recent article on Taiwan? It all kinda blends together for me. One of these days I’m gonna post the same article in two different updates, as they repeat themselves so often, and most outlets have basically the same kinds of journalists, opinions, and writing styles. It’s probably already happened.
- Trump must be held to account to restore America’s democratic luster, WaPo, by Maximum Boot.
What wisdom is he handing down to us mere mortals today?
I’ve been critical of President Biden for not doing more for Ukraine, but the United States is sending more aid than any other country — by far. America’s total commitment to Ukraine — $44.3 billion — is nearly seven times greater than the No. 2 donor, Britain. Without U.S. help, Ukraine would likely have lost the war already.
This is a reminder that the United States remains, as Secretary of State Madeleine Albright had called it, the “indispensable nation.” But how long can we continue defending democracy abroad while enduring a democratic crisis at home?
Biden was all too accurate in his blistering denunciation last week of “MAGA Republicans” who pose “a threat to our very democracy” and flirt with “semi-fascism.” The same conclusion has been reached by independent researchers who have found the GOP has more in common with authoritarian political parties in countries such as Hungary and Turkey than it does with center-right parties in Western Europe.
That’s a big problem because the GOP is not some fringe third party. As recently as 2018, it controlled both houses of Congress and the White House, and it is still on pace to take back control of the House in November, notwithstanding some encouraging political trends for Democrats.
And yet, no matter how much damaging information comes out about Donald Trump, the GOP remains a cult of personality for the disgraced former president. Even though the House Jan. 6 committee showed that the storming of the Capitol was part of an attempted coup d’etat by Trump, he is still viewed favorably by 80 percent of Republicans. It is the committee’s vice chair, Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.), who is the GOP pariah — not Trump.
Even Trump’s unauthorized removal of classified information — he kept more than 700 pages of classified material at Mar-a-Lago — has not dented his standing among Republicans. Just the opposite: The number of Republicans expressing a “very positive” view of Trump actually increased (from 45 percent to 57 percent) after a court-ordered FBI search of his property. The very same right-wingers who called for Hillary Clinton to be prosecuted for using a private email server for official emails are rushing to excuse Trump’s handling of mere “documents,” even if those documents have the potential to compromise highly sensitive intelligence-gathering methods or get human sources killed.
You know what? Never mind. I don’t care about this article at all. I think I’ve seen the same “America abroad good, great even! but America at home? America at home bad. frowney face.” article about 10 times in the last couple months, and they’re always completely incomprehensible because the domestic strife is always about Trump, and not like, the accelerating disaster that is living in the United States if you’re not in the top 5%. Let alone that every single poll of foreign opinion of America is the same 15 or so countries, as diverse as South Korea… and uh… Germany… hmmm… Canada… “If you ignore the opinions of 90% of the world’s population, EVERYBODY agrees that America is a shining beacon of hope for all the world to see."
- Opinion: Biden’s student loan forgiveness is unfair and unwise CNN
Alright, who’s the author of this dumpster fire?
“Charlie Dent is a former Republican congressman from Pennsylvania who served as chair of the House Ethics Committee from 2015 until 2017 and chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies from 2015 until 2018. He is a CNN political commentator.”
Yeah, that’ll do it.
- Biden’s student loan forgiveness may erase savings of climate, drugs law Inquirer
First: what the fuck are you talking about? If I could :jesse-wtf: here, I would. Second: even if we accept the economic reasoning here for just a second, it seems like a good trade to me.
- Europe Can’t Go Into Winter Thinking All Is Lost Bloomberg
Sure they can. It’s not far from the truth.
Europe is getting back to business after its summer break — but this year feels like jumping into a cold shower. Just listen to Emmanuel Macron. The French President told his ministers during their first formal gathering last week that a new paradigm is on the horizon — it’s the end of abundance in a care-free world.
That’s a sobering statement coming out of the country of opulence itself. French history is shaped by splendor; its national ethos pursues grandiosity in the values it represents and the role of puissance d’équilibre — a power of mediation — it seeks to play on the international scene. Luxury is also a veritable moneymaker for the French economy — the industry feeds on insatiable consumer demand.
All of this contrasts with Macron’s statements, which critics have called crude, pessimistic, even defeatist. Yet, although the message wasn’t the most palatable, it was an important one. The truth is, Macron’s words are merely catching up to the reality of what Europe faces. Russia is wreaking havoc on the energy market, inflation is rampant and governments are actively seeking demand destruction to avoid rationing. The opposite of abundance is scarcity. The flip-side to opulence is sobriety. Why sugarcoat things?
The French president has a habit of shaking public opinion with shock statements. He once described NATO as brain dead and suggested he would gladly emmerder (“piss off”) non-vaccinated people if that helped push up the vaccination rate in France. His tone and language are often divisive. The political left has already accused Macron of being out of touch — a recurring criticism — if he thinks the French working class lives in opulence, especially as the cost-of-living crisis bites into modest salaries. Marine le Pen, his political nemesis, said the crisis scenario he laid out isn’t just the result of the war, but also of his policies.
Some of Macron’s ministers rushed to clarify his comments hours later, suggesting the president isn’t defeatist but lucid. It was an exercise in damage control, but the tone had been set. Much of the ensuing TV commentary was spent debating what sacrifices will be demanded of the public. In that sense, Macron’s language contrasts with that of Joe Biden’s administration, which is reluctant to fuel recession talk, and even of the UK’s Liz Truss, frontrunner for Tory party leader, who refuses to believe a recession is inevitable despite the fact that the Bank of England predicts one. And the UK arguably faces a much bleaker picture than France.
In 1979, former US President Jimmy Carter pronounced what some described as the pinnacle of pessimism in politics. Against a background of inflation and pain at the gas pump, he argued that America was going through a “crisis of confidence” — in the future and the nation — that threatened the very social fabric of the country. As Europe struggles with the effects of Russia’s war in Ukraine, Carter’s speech rings relevant today. Much will be decided by the bloc’s resolve to stay united, have confidence and determination.
I’ve long argued that many Europeans are still in denial about how a severe winter could hobble the economy. For households and businesses, it could force draconian choices: Buy fuel or buy good, stay open or close shop. Still, a reality check doesn’t mean fatalism.
For Macron, who already went through a traumatic period of social unrest with the yellow vest protests in 2018, fatalism risks undermining his own government. The French have capped energy prices, absorbing much of the pain through the state-owned utility Électricité de France, which reported a loss of 5 billion euros ($5 billion) in the first six months of the year, and cushioning the blow for consumers. Despite the malaise, France currently has one of the lowest inflation rates in the euro area. In that sense, Macron is buying social peace, just like he did with his “whatever the cost” stimulus during the pandemic lockdowns. The government shouldn’t sound like it’s throwing in the towel now.
Defeatism also risks undermining public support for Ukraine. Russia wants to see Europe reach its breaking point and ease sanctions. Despite the obvious stress in the energy market, where both gas and forward electricity prices are pushing fresh highs almost weekly, the EU so far has signaled it won’t reverse course. Even Macron himself recently suggested there was no room for compromising with Vladimir Putin under the current circumstances. Ultimately, he argued, this is battle of values too.
That’s encouraging, but maintaining morale will get harder as the days get colder, especially if we’re told everything is doomed from the get-go. For Ukrainians, who are paying a heavy price in blood and destruction, that is a disservice.
I’m so fucking sick of this narrative point. Every single policy action is now put in the terms of “But what would Ukrainians think of us if we did this?!”, as if anybody knew or cared about fucking anything to do Ukraine outside of Eastern Europe before 2022. It’s so unbelievably cynical. You know what would benefit Ukrainians the most right now? Peace. You know who isn’t letting Ukraine make peace, to surrender the Donbass without the tens or hundreds of thousands of lives that will inevitably be ended because Russia will take it regardless? Europe and the United States. I don’t give a shit if riding a bike to work or taking a cold shower is supposed to “make Putin angry” or whatever the propaganda campaign is nowadays. It’s more wide-ranging than personal discomfort, it’s the end of competetive European industry in the medium to long term. A rust belt spanning a continent.
- The West Needs Friendshoring, Not Reshoring Bloomberg
Just from the subhead alone, I know this article is going to be a typical Adrian Wooldridge article - mostly incomprehensible, and always stupid.
Redesigning global supply chains for a dangerous and unpredictable world shouldn’t mean forsaking the power of comparative advantage.
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.
- Why US hegemony is incompatible with a ‘rules-based international order’ Responsible Statecraft
There is no shortage of bad ideas circulating in U.S. foreign policy discourse. On occasion, however, a particularly poor argument can be helpful insofar as it reveals something noteworthy about the assumptions and ideology that produced it.
With an article in The National Interest entitled “Don’t Rule Out Intervention in the Solomon Islands,” Julian Spencer-Churchill provides such an example. The piece — which makes the case that Australia and the United States ought to consider military intervention to topple the government of the Solomon Islands in the wake of the small nation’s adoption of a security pact with China — presents an inartful mix of threat inflation, outright factual error, and regurgitations of basic international relations theory, and is not particularly worth engaging with in and of itself.
Yet Spencer-Churchill’s argument is useful in that it draws out some important contradictions in the strategy of liberal hegemony that drives U.S. foreign policy, and the “rules-based international order” it supposedly upholds.
The piece begins with a brief recitation of the origins and importance of self-determination and state sovereignty to the international system. This is immediately followed by a claim on behalf of the “coalition of democracies” to a right to violate these principles more or less at will.
This coalition, Spencer-Churchill writes, has “legally and morally valid justifications for intervention in a foreign country” first, “when there is a dire security threat that emerges within its sphere of influence” and second, “because liberal democracies have an unprecedented understanding of the world population’s aspirations for human rights-based rule of law and innovation-based prosperity for middle-income countries.” The policies of liberal democracies, he asserts “are moving in the broader direction of history.” The citation for this last statement is a link to a brief summary of Francis Fukuyama’s “End of History.”
The first claim bears a notable resemblance to Russia’s justifications of its ongoing aggressive war against Ukraine. Such claims of “dire security threats” can be asserted by great powers with little evidence and no need for ratification by any third party, and, as Spencer-Churchill demonstrates, it is easy to gin up a grave security threat out of developments that pose no significant danger.
The second claim is even more striking. In essence, Spencer-Churchill argues that all peoples self-evidently desire liberal democratic capitalism, and therefore capitalist democracies like the United States have a right to deliver this system to them by force, whether asked for or not.
This contention, of course, is nothing new. It has helped sell numerous U.S. military interventions since the Second World War and itself is only a refinement of the “civilizing missions” of earlier European imperialisms. Yet, in a year when the United States has rallied global opposition to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in the name of upholding the rules-based international order, state sovereignty, and self-determination, the absurdity of Spencer-Churchill’s claims is shown in stark relief.
In Spencer-Churchill’s formulation, the United States and its allies serve as the guarantors of a rules-based international order, but also enjoy license to violate these rules under broad circumstances of their own determination. While it is not often laid out so bluntly, this is largely how American foreign policy has operated for over seven decades. The United States points to a liberal order as the justification for and result of its predominant military power and global influence, and will invoke that order in the face of other parties’ abuses, but will accept no restraints on its own freedom of action.
This is well demonstrated by Washington’s habitual rejection of international treaties produced by the United Nations system (the creation of which, of course, was led by the U.S. itself). The U.S. will nonetheless wield these treaties against the behavior of other nations, as it does with China’s maritime claims and the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, which the United States has neither signed nor ratified.
When proponents of liberal hegemony acknowledge this tension, some argue that it is necessary, even beneficial to the project of building a stable, liberal world order. The international system is anarchic and actors worse than the United States abound, ready to fill any power vacuum left vacant by Washington or its close allies. Such an order needs a powerful state to enforce it, and sometimes it may be necessary to bend or even break rules in defense of higher principles.
In a recent article for The Atlantic, journalist Tom McTague made such a case, examining the “idea that convinces U.S. leaders that they never oppress, only liberate, and that their interventions can never be a threat to nearby powers, because America is not imperialist.” McTague recognizes that this – the notion that the U.S. is driven by universal values and acts in the universal interest – is both a “delusion” and “lies at the core of [the United States’] most costly foreign policy miscalculations.” Yet McTague asserts that this delusion is necessary to sustain America’s commitment to upholding global order and keeping more malicious powers at bay.
Never mind that some of the heroic interventions McTague cites — like the Korean War — were in fact atrocity-ridden debacles that could not credibly be presented as defenses of democracy at the time they actually took place, his larger case is also unpersuasive. Outside of the U.S. and Europe, what he calls the “necessary myth” of American benevolence has been hemorrhaging credibility, and the hypocrisy at the heart of the liberal international order is not a means to its perpetuation, but rather to its steady undoing.
Decades of lawless interventions in the Middle East, Asia, Africa, and Latin America have left nations of the Global South deeply and rightly skeptical of the United States as an upholder of international law. Younger Americans increasingly reject U.S. exceptionalism and global military dominance as well.
As America’s relative power declines and we move toward an increasingly multipolar international system, the contradictions inherent in Washington’s version of the liberal order will become even harder to ignore. A United States that faces more and greater challenges to its power will likely turn to increasingly coercive means to defend that power, rendering its “liberal” guise increasingly threadbare.
It is clear that, going forward, the laudable goal of creating a global order based on international law and mutually agreeable rules of conduct is incompatible with U.S. hegemony — or for that matter, the hypothetical hegemony of any other power. Any state possessing a preponderance of power will, as the U.S. has, reject external restraints on that power. Any “rules-based order” put forward by a hegemon will be wielded in service of hegemony, not the other way around.