Link back to the discussion thread.
- European Manufacturers Reel From Russian Gas Shutoff WSJ
European industry thrived for decades on a steady supply of cheap Russian gas, which flowed uninterrupted throughout the Cold War and other times of tension between Moscow and the West.
Since invading Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin has weaponized the country’s vast stores of energy to undermine support for Kyiv. He turned off the taps to the biggest natural-gas pipeline, Nord Stream, completely this month.
Yeah, yeah. Get to the point.
The impact has pushed Europe to the brink of recession and threatens to inflict lasting harm on its manufacturing businesses. Unlike the U.S., Europe leaned on manufacturing and heavy industry to keep its economy chugging in recent decades. A bigger chunk of its economy comes from the likes of steelmakers, chemicals producers and car makers.
Europe’s energy crisis has left few businesses untouched, from steel and aluminum to cars, glass, ceramics, sugar and toilet-paper makers. Some industries, such as the energy-intensive metals sector, are shutting factories that analysts and executives say might never reopen, imperiling thousands of jobs.
The question is whether the current pain is temporary, or marks the start of a new era of deindustrialization in Europe. The bloc has scoured the world for alternative gas supplies, striking deals to buy gas from the U.S., Qatar and elsewhere. But the continent might never again have access to the cheap Russian gas that helped it compete with the resource-rich U.S. and offset high labor costs, rigid employment rules and stringent environmental regulations.
In the city of Žiar nad Hronom, Slovakia, built around a 70-year-old aluminum factory that supplies car-part makers across the continent, some fear for their financial future. “This is probably the end of metal production in Europe,” said Milan Veselý, who has worked at Slovalco, majority owned by Norway’s Norsk Hydro AS A, all his adult life, following in his parents’ footsteps.
Slovalco is among the companies hit by volatility in electricity prices across Europe caused by low Russian supplies of power-generating gas. For years the factory was by far the biggest buyer of power in Slovakia, consuming 9% of the country’s electricity, most of it from nuclear energy. Before energy prices started rising last year, Slovalco paid about €45 (about $45) for each megawatt-hour of power. In 2022 so far it has paid €75, in a deal locked in last year. In late August, prices hit €1,000 across Europe.
Slovalco didn’t renew its power contract for 2023, which would have cost €2.5 billion euros at the recent peak in power markets. Mr. Veselý, the plant’s manager, is winding down primary-metals production, leaving a small recycling operation. He is also dismissing 300 of 450 workers. “The volatility of the price of electricity these days—it’s crazy,” he said. “This is the way we are actually killing industry.”
Factory curtailments and closures have saved fuel in Europe’s quest to reduce demand. Along with the hunt for non-Russian supplies, that’s enabled the European Union to sock away enough gas to fill over 80% of its storage capacity, probably enough to get to spring without government-enforced quotas even if Mr. Putin cuts supplies to zero, analysts say.
The judgment most governments have made is that slowing and shutting factories now is preferable to cutting off power to hospitals and schools over winter. Europe consumed 10% less gas than the average for the time of year in August, according to commodities-data firm ICIS. The EU is aiming for demand reductions of 15%.
The factory closures come at a ruinous cost. Companies in energy-intensive industries say they face going bust this winter without government support. Complex supply chains in sectors such as the auto and food industries are getting gummed up, adding to inflationary pressures just as pandemic snarl-ups show signs of easing.
Norwegian fertilizer giant Yara International AS A, which uses gas as an ingredient, has cut crop-boosting ammonia production by 65% across its European factories.
“We think about things we wouldn’t dare to think about a year ago,” said Michael Schlaug, general director of Yara’s Sluiskil facility in the Netherlands, which stopped the second of three ammonia plants in late August. Engineers are rejigging machinery to accommodate imported ammonia with higher water content as the facility turns to shipments from the U.S., Trinidad and elsewhere to replace products it previously made.
Dutch fertilizer company OCI NV is importing more ammonia through Rotterdam. It plans to triple its capacity at the port by next year and is expanding its Beaumont, Texas, facility to produce ammonia that can be transported to Europe and Asia.
“It really tips the scales in the U.S.’s favor,” Chief Executive Ahmed El-Hoshy said of energy costs.
- Queen’s funeral set to knock UK economy after rebound Iraqi News
The UK’s recession-threatened economy rebounded in July, data showed Monday, but is set to receive a further hit from a public holiday marking next week’s funeral of Queen Elizabeth II.
British gross domestic product expanded 0.2 percent after a drop of 0.6 percent in June, the Office for National Statistics said in a statement.
June’s big decline had been attributed partly to an extra public holiday for the queen’s Platinum Jubilee marking 70 years on the throne before her passing last week.
Another public holiday is scheduled next Monday for the queen’s state funeral.
“The feeble 0.2-percent bounce back in July was driven by weak GDP in June due in part to the loss of working days from the Jubilee long weekend,” noted Yael Selfin, chief economist at KPMG UK.
- UK economy grows more slowly than expected amid cost of living crisis Guardian
The UK economy grew more slowly than expected in July as worker shortages and soaring costs weighed on activity amid the heightened risk of recession.
The Office for National Statistics said gross domestic product (GDP) rose by 0.2% in July, after a sharp fall of 0.6% in June when the additional bank holiday for the Queen’s platinum jubilee led to a decline in activity.
City economists had forecast a stronger 0.4% recovery after the fall a month earlier. Reflecting weakness in the economy, GDP growth was flat over the three months to July, with a slump in the UK’s dominant service sector offset by stronger activity in industrial production and construction.
Yael Selfin, the chief economist at KPMG UK, said the “feeble” growth rate in July suggested the economy remained smaller than in May, reflecting a weak summer amid growing concerns over the cost of living.
“This ties into a downbeat outlook for the UK economy which could see another shallow recession from the end of this year, driven by the ongoing squeeze on households’ income and a rising cost burden for businesses,” she said.
- Economists Warn Energy Bill Price Caps Could Lead To Blackouts In UK Oil Price
Economists are warning prime minister Liz Truss’s decision to freeze energy bills for everyone in the UK at £2,500 raises the risk of blackouts.
Experts at the economic think tank the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) said energy supplies may run dry due to the government propping up energy spending.
“Households, businesses or governments… will have to reduce their energy use” to correct the UK energy market or supplies would have to be rationed, the IFS said.
“The less UK households reduce their energy demand, the greater demands placed on others… there is simply not enough energy to go round, which would require rationing or increase the risk of blackouts,” the organisation added.
- Greek PM says pensions to rise for first time in more than a decade EU Reporter
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitchellsotakis announced on Saturday (10 September) that the minimum wage would rise next year and that pensions would go up for the first time in more than a decade since the financial crisis.
In return for severe austerity measures, including a series wage and pension cuts, the euro zone’s largest indebted country received over €260 billion in international loans between 2010-2015.
After its third bailout, Greece was able to exit its creditors' enhanced surveillance last month. This gave it more freedom in implementing its economic policy.
Mitsotakis stated that pensions would increase over 1.5 million pensioners after many years during his annual economic speech in Thessaloniki.
- Swedes head to polls in close-run election marked by crime, energy crisis EU Reporter
Opinion polls show that the centre-left is running neck-and–neck with the right-wing bloc. The Sweden Democrats appear to have just overtaken Moderates as second largest party behind the Social Democrats.
Many centre-left voters, as well as some right-leaning voters, are deeply disturbed by the possibility of Jimmie Akesson’s Sweden Democrats influencing government policy and joining the cabinet. The election is seen partly in a referendum on whether or not to grant them this power.
Kristersson would like to form a government together with the small Christian Democrats, possibly the Liberals, and rely only on the support of the Sweden Democrat in parliament. These are not assurances that the centre-left takes at face value.
The election is characterized by uncertainty, as both the blocs are expected to engage in long and difficult negotiations to form a government within a politically charged and polarised environment.
If she is to be reelected as prime minister, Andersson will need support from the Centre Party, the Left and possibly the Green Party.
Asia and Oceania
- Mongolia completes rail crossing with China to boost coal exports Iraqi News
Mongolia has launched a rail line that could help boost coal exports to China to 50 million tonnes a year, the country’s president said, ending a decade-long wait for the crossing.
A ceremony to mark the launch of the rail service between the Tavan Tolgoi coal field and Gashuun Sukhait on the Chinese border was held on Friday.
Mongolian President Ukhnaa Khurelsukh was among the dignitaries in attendance, according to his website.
Heavily dependent on mining, Mongolia has long sought cheaper and more efficient ways to export its minerals abroad and has a national strategy to expand its rail network connections with Russia and China.
Mining makes up a quarter of the country’s gross domestic product.
- Tata in talks to manufacture iPhones for Apple in India ANN
Tata Group is in discussions with a Taiwanese supplier Wistron to Apple in order to build an electronics manufacturing joint venture in India and assemble iPhones here, Bloomberg reported on Friday.
According to the report, the discussions with Wistron are aimed at making Tata a force in technology manufacturing and the Group wants to tap the Taiwanese company’s expertise in product development, supply chain, and assembly.
If the agreement is successful, Tata might become the first Indian business to manufacture iPhones, which are now largely put together in China and India by Taiwanese manufacturing behemoths like Wistron and Foxconn Technology Group, the report said.
- India is quietly laying claim to economic superpower status Guardian
The rise of China has been the biggest story in the global economy in recent decades. But amid concern about its stumbling property market and global fears about inflation, the emergence of its neighbour, India, as a potential new economic superpower may be going under the radar.
You won’t find mention of it in Liz Truss’s blueprint for a “modern brilliant Britain”, but the UK has just been overtaken by India as the world’s fifth biggest economy. The nation of 1.4 billion people is on track to move into third place behind the US and China by 2030, according to economists.
And while the world became familiar with Chinese business titans such as Alibaba founder Jack Ma, the staggering wealth accumulated in recent years by Indian billionaires Gautam Adani and Mukesh Ambani has been less well publicised.
Adani, in particular, has come to represent India’s growing economic strength thanks to the rapid expansion of his Adani Group conglomerate, which covers everything from ports to airports, and solar power to television. Having entered the global Top 10 when he became Asia’s richest person in February, he is now ranked third with a fortune of $143bn (£123bn) and is closing fast on second-placed Amazon boss Jeff Bezos.
India was for many years seen as the poor relation to China, held back by a sclerotic, sprawling state sector and labyrinthine bureaucracy. It still has enormous problems of poverty and poor infrastructure, but it is beginning to emerge as a rival to its large neighbour with the kind of economic growth figures that were once the pride of Beijing.
Gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 13.8% in the second quarter of this year as pandemic controls were lifted and manufacturing and services boomed. Although double-digit growth is unlikely to be repeated in subsequent quarters, India is still on track to expand by 7% this year as it benefits from economic liberalisation in the private sector, a rapidly growing working population, and the realignment of global supply chains away from China.
“India has overtaken the UK to become the world’s fifth-largest economy,” says Shilan Shah, senior India economist at the consultancy Capital Economics, citing recent updated figures from the International Monetary Fund. “Looking ahead, India looks set to continue its march up the global rankings. In all, we think India will overtake Germany and Japan to become the third-largest economy in the world within the next decade.”
- Indonesia considering buying Russian oil as fuel prices soar Jakarta Post
President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo is considering joining India and China in buying Russian oil to offset increasing pressure of rising energy costs, the Financial Times reported on Monday.
“We always monitor all of the options. If there is the country (and) they give a better price, of course,” Jokowi said in an interview with the Financial Times when he was asked whether Indonesia would buy oil from Russia.
Earlier this month, Jokowi hiked subsidised fuel prices by 30 percent and said that the price hike was his “last option” due to fiscal pressures, sparking protests across the nation of 270 million people.
Any move to purchase Russian crude at prices above the cap agreed by G7 countries could subject Indonesia to US sanctions.
In August, Tourism Minister Sandiaga Uno said that Indonesia had been offered Russian crude at a 30 percent discount. Following this, the country’s state-owned oil company, Pertamina said it was reviewing the risks of buying Russian oil.
Indonesia posted an annual inflation rate of 4.69 percent in August, above the central bank’s target range of 2 percent - 4 percent for a third straight month, due to high food prices.
- Europe’s ‘patronising’ efforts to counter Russia and China in Africa falling flat SCMP
Western nations may have come up with various initiatives to counter growing Chinese and Russian influence in Africa, but African leaders have been “disappointed” by the way they go about it.
This was evident at the African Adaptation Summit in Rotterdam last week when European leaders failed to turn up for a meeting to fundraise for Africa’s climate adaptation projects.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, the only European leader to attend in person, said: “I would have loved to have more of my European colleagues here.”
Six African heads of state were present, including the current African Union chairman and Senegal’s President Macky Sall, as well as leaders from Ghana, Gabon, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Ethiopia.
Sall said: “I cannot help but note, with some bitterness, the absence of leaders from the industrial world. I think if we made the effort to leave Africa to come to Rotterdam, it would be easier for the Europeans and others to be here.
“This leaves a bad taste in our mouths. I am a bit disappointed, to be honest.”
In another incident, at the EU-Africa Summit in Brussels in February, around 40 African leaders were invited by the European Union, but at one point only the Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Croo was reportedly present from the other side.
“It was a very bad form on the part of the Europeans. They could have coordinated to have substantive representation throughout the event,” W. Gyude Moore, a former minister of public works in Liberia, said. “Could you imagine where Africans hosted 40 European leaders at an event in Accra and then left them in the room with the president of Ghana?”
During that event, the EU announced that it would mobilise a financing package worth around US$150 billion for projects on the continent. The amount is half of what the bloc has allocated for the Global Gateway Initiative, which is touted as an alternative to China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
As part of the EU-Africa Summit, some deals were signed in Senegal, but progress has been overshadowed by the events in Ukraine and Covid-19. “There is a long history of unfulfilled commitments, so this might just be par for the course,” Moore said.
Observers say the EU is nervous about the fact that it is losing influence in Africa with the growing presence of China, Russia, Türkiye and other global players. But the EU is internally divided and not able to live up to its ambitions to become a stronger global player, according to Geert Laporte, the director of European Think Tanks Group.
Laporte said the new “scramble for Africa” among global players was already going on. “With the war in Ukraine, interests in Africa have grown and the Africans have skilfully managed not to take positions so as to avoid becoming again drawn into a new cold war,” Laporte said.
He said several African leaders and their populations had lost trust in Europe with “Europe patronising, overpromising and underdelivering”.
“To turn the tide, the EU is copying China and other global players with big funding promises (Global Gateway) mainly in visible infrastructure type of initiatives. But with the war at home it is not obvious that the EU will be able to keep its promises,” Laporte noted.
The continent has recently witnessed a procession of high-profile visitors from France, the United States and Russia, but observers said America and Europe were known to make promises that they did not deliver.
Adams Bodomo, a professor of African studies at the University of Vienna, said, “the US and EU have never hidden the fact that they want to counter China”.
Each of their master plans about Africa was always constructed as an alternative to the belt and road, Bodomo argued, but the EU and EU were more talk than action. “China plans and builds but the US plans and bombs,” he added.
Bodomo said Russia’s inroads into Africa were designed to show that it was a viable alternative to Western powers in Africa, and to leverage its good relations with the continent with an eye on votes at the United Nations.
In August, when US Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited South Africa, Naledi Pandor, South Africa’s minister for international relations and cooperation, said it was “patronising” for some European countries to force countries to condemn Russia.
“And one thing I definitely dislike is being told ‘either you choose this or else’. When a minister speaks to me like that … I definitely will not be bullied in that way, nor would I expect any other African country worth its salt to agree to be treated [that way],” Pandor said.
South Africa is among dozens of African countries that abstained from voting on the UN resolution condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
- COP27: Egypt creating climate of fear for environmentalists ahead of conference MEE
In a stinging report, Human Right Watch (HRW) on Monday accused the Egyptian government of “severely curtailing” the rights of environmental groups in the country and their ability to carry out their work of protecting the natural environment.
“The Egyptian government has imposed arbitrary funding, research, and registration obstacles that have debilitated local environmental groups, forcing some activists into exile and others to steer clear of important work,” said Richard Pearshouse, environment director at HRW.
“The government should immediately lift its onerous restrictions on independent nongovernmental organisations, including environmental groups.”
The report comes at a sensitive time for Egypt as it prepares to host the United Nations climate change conference, COP27, in Sharm el-Sheikh in November.
Egypt is making considerable efforts for the conference, including turning Sharm el-Sheikh into a “green city”.
Cairo hopes to use the conference to focus the international community’s attention on the necessity of offering financial support to African countries so that they can adapt and manage the effects of climate change.
The HRW report, however, casts serious doubt on the government’s willingness to take tangible action in the country over climate change.
- China competition spurs Biden push for domestic biotech subsidies WaPo
President Biden will issue an executive order Monday intended to boost the domestic biotechnology industry, which encompasses everything from pharmaceutical manufacturing to plastics to innovative fuels, according to White House officials.
Speaking on a background call Sunday, administration officials said the executive order is partly a reaction to competition from China, which they said has a robust development program in biotechnology. The United States needs to safeguard against losing dominance in biotech manufacturing as it did in manufacturing of semiconductor chips, said one of the officials.
“The United States really has the best biotechnology innovators in the world, but we risk falling behind” unless the government helps ensure growth in the sector with targeted investments, including training programs for skilled workers, the official said.
Biden is expected to discuss the executive order during a trip to Boston Monday where he is scheduled to outline efforts to fight cancer, which is a particular personal interest of the president.
- ‘Certainly a risk’ of US recession, Yellen says Inquirer
The United States faces “a risk” of recession as its battle against inflation could slow the nation’s economy, but a serious downturn can still be avoided, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Sunday.
An American recession “is a risk when the Fed is tightening monetary policy to address inflation,” President Joe Biden’s leader on financial, economic and tax policy told CNN, referring to the US Federal Reserve.
“So it’s certainly a risk that we’re monitoring,” Yellen added, but “we’ve got a good strong labor market, and I believe it’s possible to maintain that.”
Antigua and Barbuda
- Antigua and Barbuda Announces Referendum To Become a Republic TeleSUR
The Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Gaston Browne, announced that he will call a referendum in the country within three years for the population to decide whether it wants to remain united to the British monarchy or proclaim a republic.
“It does not represent any form of disrespect to the monarch. This is not an act of hostility, nor any difference between Antigua and Barbuda and the monarchy,” he said.
“It is a final step in completing the circle of independence to become a truly sovereign nation,” he asserted.
The Caribbean country is one of the 14 nations that maintains the British monarchy as its head of state.
- Venezuela Denounces Acts of Sabotage at Thermoelectric Plant TeleSUR
The Minister for Electric Energy, Nestor Reverol, informed that in the early hours of Saturday morning, two individuals committed acts of sabotage at the Josefa Camejo Thermoelectric Plant, located in Punto Fijo, Falcón state, northwest Venezuela.
Reverol detailed in declarations to a local television station that two people were arrested and that they are with burns and with a reserved diagnosis.
In this regard, he detailed that, in order to solve the situation, work was carried out by the Fire Department, Security agencies and workers of the National Electric System (SEN).
In the early hours of Saturday morning, the governor of the state of Falcón, Victor Clark, reported on the attack.
Through his account on the social network Instagram, Clark said that in the plant “individuals who attacked the high power line and auxiliary services system have been found in flagrante delicto, who are injured with serious burns due to the strong explosion they caused”.
He added that the situation caused damage to three turbines of the plant, leaving the region without electric service.
- In Chile, Pinochet’s Admirers Are Celebrating the No Vote on the New Constitution Jacobin
- 50 million trapped in modern slavery due to pandemic, war, climate crisis, report finds CNN
From the pandemic to the climate crisis, disasters of the past five years have upended daily life, and a new report shows that in many countries the ensuing economic uncertainty has pushed millions into modern slavery.
An estimated 50 million people worldwide are believed to be victims of forced marriage and forced labor – up 25% from the last estimate in 2016 – according to a new report published Monday by the International Labour Organization (ILO), Walk Free and the International Organisation for Migration.
The Ukraine War
Russia got kicked in the balls by Ukraine but luckily (and also embarrassingly) didn’t actually seem to have many troops in the area they lost, so it was mostly just territorial losses. Large ones, though. Russia is reporting that total Ukrainian deaths - not casualties, just deaths - amount to over 4000 in the Kharkiv and Kherson counteroffensives combined. Whether that’ll end up meaning anything is yet to be seen - if the cost of winning back like 5% of the total occupied territory ends up being like 10,000 soldiers then that’s not “Dang, guess we won’t get it back”, that’s “Alright, cool! Just gotta send a couple hundred thousand dudes into the meatgrinder and we’ve pushed back Russia!”. The challenge for Ukraine is now to hold that territory.
Meanwhile, Russia has knocked out a significant amount of Ukraine’s electricity infrastructure. Estimates are 50%, though it’s unclear to me how much Ukraine has managed to bring back online now. It’s not good for Ukraine good no matter what, though. If they can’t push back Russia by winter, things are gonna get very difficult very quickly.
And yes, I’m still putting all the triumphalist NATO shit in Dipshittery and Cope. Strange how we never saw such massive extrapolations of victory from these people when Russia took Severodonetsk and Lysychansk, or hell, even at the beginning of the war when they took massive amounts of territory from Ukraine.
Russia gives up key towns as Ukrainian forces advance Jakarta Post
Russia accused of hitting power stations in eastern Ukraine Euro News
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.
- How the Ukraine Offensive Will Shift the Market Narrative Bloomberg
I don’t even wanna know what that means.
- Ukrainian Officials Drew on U.S. Intelligence to Plan Counteroffensive NYT
Bullshit. They’ve been drawing on US intelligence to do everything. Zelensky draws on US intelligence when he goes to take a piss.
Russian nationalists rage after stunning setback in Ukraine Inquirer
Pro-Russian bloggers on the front lines of the war are angry about the country’s military mistakes: ‘It’s time to punish the commanders who allowed these kinds of things’ Business Insider
Russia’s reliance on Wagner Group in Ukraine is wearing down Putin’s favorite mercenary group, the British military says Business Insider
Ukraine Routs Russian Forces in Northeast, Forcing a Retreat NYT
Amid Ukraine’s startling gains, liberated villages describe Russian troops dropping rifles and fleeing WaPo
Russia’s Retreat in Ukraine Pokes Holes in Putin’s Projection of Force NYT
The Russian Army Is Losing A Battalion Every Day As Ukrainian Counterattacks Accelerate Forbes
On the eastern front, a stunning week of Ukrainian success and Russian failures CNN
Ukrainian army ‘50 kilometres from border’ as counteroffensive continues EUro News
Ukraine intends to push Russia entirely out, Zelenskyy says as counteroffensive continues Politico
Ukraine’s Rout of Russian Forces Poses Challenge of How to Exploit Gains WSJ
Ukraine continues to make significant gains in the Kharkiv region, UK says Reuters
Ukraine’s military said it took back more than 700 square miles from Russia in less than 3 days Business Insider
Zelensky taunts Russia as his forces retake 2,000 sq km: ‘They made a good choice to run’ Fortune
Ukraine top general: 3,000 square kilometers of territory regained Politico
Ukraine: We have shown we can defeat Russians, we need more weapons EU Reporter
Ukraine accuses Russia of attacking power grid in revenge for offensive Inquirer
Eastern Ukraine suffers blackout, Kyiv blames Russia Al Jazeera
‘Vile And Cynical Revenge’: Ukraine Blames Russia For Power Blackouts As Ukrainian Troops Retake Territory Forbes
Ukrainian official claims southern offensive was ‘disinformation’ to distract Russia from real offensive in Kharkiv Business Insider
Putin Will Love Europe’s ‘Hot Autumn’ of Populist Protests Bloomberg
This fall, civil unrest is likely to heat up in 101 countries (out of 198 monitored), according to an index developed by Verisk Maplecroft, a research firm. Hotspots range from Sri Lanka and Algeria to relatively well-off Europe. The main driver is of course inflation, especially the soaring costs of food and energy (caused in large part by Putin). But other factors come into play. The Czechs and Germans have provided early glimpses of a particularly disturbing pattern.
Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Prague the other day. They demanded that the European Union drop sanctions against Russia, strike a new gas deal with Putin and stop arming Ukraine. Many blamed the EU and NATO, rather than Putin, for whatever is wrong in the world. Notable speakers included rabble-rousers from the far right and the far left.
Last Monday, the Czechs passed the baton northward, to the region that used to be East Germany, where thousands rallied in Leipzig and Magdeburg. Again, the demonstrators’ ostensible bugbears were inflation, energy prices, and an allegedly callous and inept political elite. But the protesters appeared at least as eager to express sympathy for Putin, indifference toward Ukraine, and vitriol toward the American-led West. As in Prague, they came disproportionately from the populist far right and the post-communist left.
The party mobilizing Germans on the far right is the Alternative for Germany (AfD); representing those at the other extreme is The Left, a party that descends from the communist regime that ruled over East Germany. Both are largely irrelevant in the former West Germany, but part of the mainstream in alienated eastern regions. In the state assembly of Thuringia, the AfD and Left together would (if they collaborated) have a majority of seats.
For the fall, both parties are promising a “Hot Autumn against Cold Feet,” as one slogan has it, with rallies planned every Monday. Officially, though, they’re going out of their way to distance themselves from one another. In the conventional political spectrum, after all, they’re supposed to be diametrical opposites.
Oh no. Let’s not go into horseshoe theory, Kluth.
In reality, there’s suspicious overlap in their worldviews. Their supporters come from the same (mainly eastern German) milieus that also protested against refugees in 2015-2016 and against Covid rules more recently. They appear disproportionately eager to recycle conspiracy theories.
It’s hardly news that the hard left and right share a lot of psychological DNA — Benito Mussolini was a socialist before he stood for fascism.
Oh god. Oh no. This article was going along the tracks, rickety but staying on, and then - SMASH - trainwreck.
The mindset on both sides is authoritarian, populist and collectivist as opposed to individualist — the main difference being the targets of their resentment (the rich for the left, tribal outsiders for the right). And they’re all strangely pro-Russian.
These leanings make those on the political fringes all over Europe an ideal audience of “useful idiots” — the terminology is ascribed to Lenin — for the Kremlin’s propaganda in the West. That applies to populists from France to Italy and beyond. But Putin — who plied his trade as a KGB agent in East Germany during the 1980s — knows his useful idiots in central Europe best.
In places formerly held hostage by the Kremlin behind the Iron Curtain, this resurgent Russophilia is bitterly ironic — a case of collective Stockholm Syndrome. Hungary may be the worst example, but eastern Germany is also shocking. As though highlighting their cynicism, the AfD and Left have even chosen Mondays for this fall’s rallies, in a nod to the “Monday demonstrations” by East Germans in 1989 that led to the fall of the Berlin Wall.
This cocktail of gullibility and bad faith is, understandably, hard to bear for other Europeans who used to be behind the Iron Curtain, and were victims of the Tsars even before the Soviets. Besides the Ukrainians, these include the Poles, Lithuanians, Latvians and Estonians. They consider Putin an existential threat, and by extension the perceived wobbliness of their Western allies, notably Germany, a form of betrayal — hardly the first in their history.
In its protracted standoff against Putin and the brutish neo-imperialism he represents, the West can only win if it stays united. This is why Putin will do his utmost to keep spreading lies and disinformation in the West, in the hope of building a “fifth column” that fights for him from behind enemy lines. Western leaders — and not only those holding political office — must do everything they can to call out those lies and counter them with truth. The biggest test yet will come during this hot autumn.
Thanks for that lovely Monday brain damage, Kluth.
- UN members are considering action against China over its treatment of Uyghur Muslims, report says Business Insider
Multiple members of the UN Human Rights Council are considering bringing action against China over its treatment of Uyghur Muslims, Reuters reported.
Members of the UN committee are debating how to respond to UN report that said Uyghur people in China’s Xinjiang region face persecution or imprisonment for acts including “rejecting or refusing radio and television” being “young and middle-aged men with a big beard,” or “suddenly quit[ing] drinking and smoking.”
Some are even facing severe punishment for eating hot chip, charging they phone, and particularly harsh consequences for lying.
- China Is Winning the Post-Ukraine Game, at Russia’s Expense Bloomberg
- Do the seeds of democracy’s destruction lie within its own defense? WaPo
That headline is scientifically formulated to make every liberal idealist flock around the article like iron filings around a magnet. Alright, let’s get started.
If democracy is under threat in the United States, what ideological system threatens to displace it? As much as Americans admire the late Queen Elizabeth II, there is no movement for monarchy here. Fascism or communism? Well, maybe, but outside the overheated imaginations of partisans, neither has a significant social base.
How about some vaguely constituted thugocracy or autocracy? That’s more plausible, but recall that even the mob that tried to block the transfer of power in 2021 was animated by a delusion that it was saving democracy from fraud. Oligarchy? That’s always a tendency in democracies, but the rich are politically divided and probably couldn’t overpower popular participation in politics even if they wanted to.
Man, it took you only two paragraphs to say something so incredibly stupid that I would write it to satirize you. God help us for the rest of this article.
America’s democratic structure is indeed shuddering — but it is shuddering under its own weight. The threat to democracy isn’t (for now) a usurper system, but democratic ideology itself. At least that’s one way to read a significant new study on democratic attitudes published in the American Political Science Review by the Danish academic Suthan Krishnarajan.
Talk of the “defense of democracy” in the United States evokes a conveniently sharp division between citizens who favor democracy and those who don’t. Krishnarajan takes a more subtle approach. He shows that citizens who self-consciously support democracy can simultaneously support undemocratic actions on a large scale when it suits their political interests — and not recognize the contradiction.
Wow! Who could have seen THAT as a result of liberal democracy?
Democracy, of course, is a process defined by elements such as fair elections and free speech. Liberal or conservative outcomes — more or less immigration, or more or less social spending — can both emerge from the democratic process. In 2020 and 2021, Krishnarajan used a carefully constructed survey with “vignettes” designed to tease out how Americans’ views on democracy interacted with their partisanship. The result: Most people conflate the democratic process with their favored political outcomes.
Respondents “tend to delegitimize opposing views by perceiving them as undemocratic — even when they are not,” Krishnarajan found. “When confronted with a perfectly regular left-wing behavior” — such as implementing Obamacare — “48% of the right-wing citizens consider it to make the country ‘much less democratic,’ ” the paper says. “Conversely, when confronted with regular right-wing behavior” — such as repealing Obamacare — “46% of the left-wing citizens consider it to make the country ‘much less democratic.’”
Even as they overstated democratic transgressions by the opposing side, Americans were reluctant to identify bona fide abuses by their own side. “When leftists are confronted with undemocratic right-wing behavior” — like restricting the venues where liberal politicians can campaign — “62% of them perceive it to be highly undemocratic. When they are confronted with an identical left-wing undemocratic behavior, only 36% think so.” A similar gulf exists on the right.
What could possibly explain this?
This creates perverse incentives for envelope-pushing politicians. “The more unambiguously clear the undemocratic violation, the more people polarize in their perceptions of how undemocratic it is,” Krishnarajan writes. Moreover, “biases are not simply present at the poles of the political spectrum but exist even for citizens who simply lean either direction politically.”
Crucially, Krishnarajan finds in his analysis, respondents don’t see themselves as sacrificing their democratic values, even as their survey answers tell a different story. Motivated reasoning “relieves them of unwanted conclusions about the state of democracy by altering how they understand democracy in a given situation.” To the partisan mind — which is to say, most of our minds — violations of democratic norms are simply less salient when directed against a disfavored group.
Norm-breaking behavior, in other words, gets justified within a democratic frame, not outside it. That finding is consistent with how U.S. politics is practiced today: To take one example, presidents of both parties tend to claim the mantle of popular authorization when they sideline Congress and expand executive power.
If U.S. democracy is functioning poorly, the problem is not that Americans are embracing some nondemocratic system of government, or even turning away from democracy in the abstract. To the contrary, we are so ideologically invested in the purity of our democracy that much of what the other party does seems like a threat to it. And that sense of threat in turn justifies political hardball as a countermeasure — and makes citizens more tolerant of their own party’s abuses.
So the fight in America right now isn’t between democracy and non-democracy, but between two opposing visions of popular sovereignty. The concept of democracy, broadly agreed upon but fiercely contested in its particulars, never came with fixed guardrails. And the higher the perceived stakes rise, the more tempting the invitation to destroy political norms — and to rationalize their destruction as necessary for democracy.
I’m sorry, the last few paragraphs have completely stumped me. What the fuck are you talking about? Have liberals always been this obtuse and nonsensical or did I just not see it ~five years ago, when I was a lib?
The fact that democracy is primarily undermined not by its opponents but by its supporters could mean, as Krishnarajan writes, that the challenge is “more formidable than hitherto acknowledged.” The lack of any credible alternative in the United States shows the ongoing power of the democratic idea. But perhaps that idea has become too all-consuming if it can justify its own gradual destruction. To keep the best of their democracy, Americans might need to recover other kinds of political virtues.