EU Madness: Sanctioning A Critical Trading Partner has Consequences
Sanctioning A Critical Trading Partner has Consequences
[Image: from a reliable source, but with no attribution. "Presidents of Russia, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Iran and Kazakhstan (clockwise from left) took part in the 6th Caspian Summit, Ashgabat, June 29, 2022".]
Publication date: 2022-07-21
Update 2022-07-22: another video source is added, Lira’s “Roundtable #3”.
Update 2022-07-24: more sources; Pepe Escobar and Alexander Mercouris.
Update 2022-07-25: another source, Ben Norton.
During a recent "round table" discussion (see top of Sources) George Szamuely asked a very interesting question regarding the behaviour of leading European politicians. Why are they sacrificing their own economies and punishing their own people via the raft of sanctions they have placed on Russia? The standard response is one of various platitudes, "We need to protect the principles of Western Democracy". George asks why the natural follow up question of "why", or more precisely “how”, is not asked?
Ukraine Narrative Compliance versus Reality
Why do articles which are critical of NATO's response to the current conflict always begin by rolling out elements of the agreed western narrative before they offer a more nuanced analysis? How about this:
Even most of Kyiv’s friends expected Moscow to quickly overwhelm its neighbor. Instead, Ukraine rebuffed Russia’s overconfident, mismanaged opening offensive. Soon Kyiv and its allies began imagining victory, even recovering territory lost in 2014. However, Moscow’s offensive in Ukraine’s east now is making serious if costly gains.
[The second paragraph from an article at Antiwar published 2022-07-20.]
The "overconfident ... opening offensive" can easily be explained otherwise.
No one, without extremely high level clearance in Russia's Military, knows what their plans were. However, those with military training can intuit some insight. For the initial "offensive" against Kiev, Scott Ritter observed taking a large city of X million you need Y amount of troops. Russia's forces on the outskirts of Kiev were woefully short of the understood calculation. One interpretation is that they are idiots. Far more plausible is that their mission was not to take Kiev. Another purpose was at hand. Ritter’s proposed alternative is that the operation was designed to fix Ukrainian forces near Kiev and thus prevent them from reinforcing the Donbas and southern Ukraine.
An extremely important city was only minimally protected, the Kherson oblast’s capital. There were at least two prizes on offer. When Russia took Kherson, she secured the previously denied water resources for Crimea and a land bridge into Ukraine's south.
This analysis is more plausible than the "failed to take Kiev" version. However, it will take decades for sources to emerge and historians to pour over them to forge a clearer picture of strategy and motives. These future analyses may have nothing to do with any or the above. Plausible is interesting, but rubbish like the “failed to take Kiev” story are a twisted form of mainstream, western, narrative compliance.
What is clear is that the LPR and DPR militia forces, with the dominant support of their ally Russia, are making constant, inexorable gains. Luhansk has already been completely returned to rule from the oblast's capital. Two lines of defense, first from Siversk via Solidar to Bakhmut, and then from Slavansk to Kramatorsk, are the remaining challenges to complete returning the second key oblast, Donetsk, to its capital city's administration. Preparations for attacks on the first line have been under way for days. (All of the last six links are to Military Summary’s youtube channel which documents daily changes in the conflict).
For the successes in Luhansk, President Putin agreed to military recommendations to award two "Hero of Russia" medals to the generals in charge of the Luhansk campaign:
Putin met with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu on July 4 to discuss recent Russian gains in Luhansk Oblast and presented Colonel General Alexander Lapin and Major General Esedulla Abachev with the “Hero of Russia” award for their leadership during the Lysychansk operation.
Continuting to Support the Narrative
The second 'support the narrative' element of the introductory quote is "making serious if costly gains". War, or a "Special Military Operation", is costly both in human life and in finance and materials. Any nation which has been involved in long wars understands this, and Russia's citizenry and military are acutely aware of this. During WWII Russia lost more than 25 million, or 1 in 7, of their citizens.
How 'costly' would it have been to Russia to allow peoples who are related in language, by family, ethnicity, history and in many cases nationality to be murdered by Ukrainian military and paramilitary forces? She had provided varying degrees of support to the LPR and DPR militias over the 8 years since the 2014 coup and 'allowed' 14 000 people to be murdered by shells fired by Ukraine's forces at these people.
Russia will have calculated, and be recalculating as events unfold, the 'cost' in both human and logistic terms for their operations. Her use of 'the cauldron' as a tactic is designed to minimize her and local former Ukrainian citizen losses. Ukraine is now fielding poorly trained volunteer units to defend their positions in Donetsk, among proper military formations. Many of these people are patriotic and signed up to defend their land, often in western Ukraine, and are now deployed defending land they don't know for residents they also do not know and who do not recognize them.
The 'cost', actually tragedy, of this whole situation is that Ukraine will have lost a great part of a generation of young men, for nothing. The reason they have died is because Ukraine chose not to engage in the UN Security Council's unanimously adopted Minsk II Accords. Given that the Ukraine government was under the influence of the USA it is reasonable to claim that this was Washington's desire, facilitated by Paris and Berlin. The European powers may not have understood the fire with which they played.
Sadly, the geographical scope of the Special Military Operation, or war, or invasion (call it what you wish), is expanding due to continued bellicose rhetoric from NATO member states and their continued supply of armaments instead of seeking dialogue and peace. When the warmonger and war criminal, (Heinz Alfred) Kissinger, is the only person in the room providing sensible advice for negotiation, one knows the situation is seriously awry.
EU Madness: Sanctioning A Critical Trading Partner has Consequences
[Image: a single frame from a Sky News Australia’s report on the French national Bastille Day celebrations in Paris during which the colours of the Ukranian flag are splashed across France’s most symbollic work of architecture.]
Ukraine is neither a member of NATO nor of the EU. These simple facts need be held in mind as one considers the actions by member nations of these two institutions in response to the conflict in Ukraine.
Recall also that the root causes of the current conflict are: the expansion of NATO and its emplacement of dual use missile silos in Romania (complete) and Poland (under construction) in direct violation of guarantees made to the USSR decades ago, further compounded by invitations for Georgia and Ukraine to join NATO in 2008, the USA managed coup in Ukraine in 2104, and lastly the denial of the Minsk II Accords by Ukraine.
Professor Emeritus Noam Chomsky states clearly his educated view of the situation:
Of course, it was provoked. Otherwise, they wouldn’t refer to it all the time as an unprovoked invasion.
He is not alone in this analysis. Indeed, the provocations were warned against back in 2008 by the USA Ambassador to Russia (now head of the CIA) William Burns, and by "the Dean" of Realpolitik, Professor John Mearsheimer.
Mainstream media outlets were warning back in 2015 and 2016 of the dangerous neo-Nazi paramilitaries which were being merged with the Ukrainian security services, both civilian and military. These warnings have all dried up in recent years, especially since the beginning of Russia's overt involvement in the conflict.
Recall also, that the Ukraine government is widely regarded as one of the most corrupt, if no the most corrupt, on the European continent.
These introductory points serve to prompt us to ask why the EU and NATO member countries have chosen to fund the Ukraine government either directly or with loans, and to deplete their own weapons stockpiles by arming this Nazi infiltrated, corrupt government?
Six sanctions packages have been issued by the EU against the Russian Federation (RF), one of its largest and most critical trading partners. The RF provides Germany with more than half of its natural gas supplies, and European high tech industries with essential metals (aluminium, titanium amongst others) and other essential commodities like Palladium and Neon, not to mention something as basic as grain.
When these sanctions began, independent analysts could foresee the damage that would come to EU members state economies, most especially Germany's. The mid-May forecast by the European Commission is a damning confirmation of these obvious predictions:
[Image: an annotated version of the graphic from the EU showing projected declines in growth rates for EU member economies, and the EU as a whole (far right) for Spring 2022, issued just before the end of this past spring. The “predictions” for 2023 have been removed, as they are guesswork and cloud the clear picture of the “red and blue”.. Blue is last year, Red (a well chosen colour) is for this. The most productive economies in Europe are highlighted in orange as per another EU report for 2020. This is how bad the EU itself sees its economic performance.]
The EU Commission is beginning to admit the errors in its ways and turn its supertanker sized stupidity around. The Russian banks' foreign currency reserves which it froze are being "released" for the purposes of purchasing food and fertilizer. This admission of idiocy is in itself inept. Even if fertilizer is received it is well past time to apply it to crops. As for food, the RF will play this to their political advantage choosing where to enter into contracts to supply its upcoming excess harvests. Political influence will be sought in various places, not least Africa, and the odd European state.
Many political analysts who saw the obvious myopia of these sanctions packages also see Russia turning its back on Europe and looking Eastward. There are more stable markets to be engaged and better cooperative trade and political alliances to be made. This is a European diplomatic and economic train wreck for which its leaders are beginning to pay a price.
The UK currently has no Prime Minister. French President Macron's political party lost its majority in their parliament. Italian President Mario Dragi has resigned, but is not being allowed to leave so quickly. To say that German Chancellor Scholz is under pressure would be quite the understatement.
USA President Biden is also under immense political pressure. The question is not whether the Democratic Party will lose their slimmest of control over the Senate but by how much?
The Shifting Sands of Geopolitics
Three recent diplomatic events highlight the continued changes in geopolitical and geoeconomic alliances, indicating a further weakening of the USA's global influence.
The upcoming mid-term elections in the USA will likely change the arrangements of which of the "two parties of the same" hold the balance of power in the legislative branch. Indeed, the outcome may even see a change in the executive from Biden to Harris. Future events will inform if these changes promote any change in policy to reduce or accelerate the USA's decline in international influence. If previous behaviour is an indicator, policy will be towards short term financial gain for large players rather than improving national stability or improving international influence.
6th Caspian Summit
[Image: as used above in the title image.]
On 2022-06-29, despite the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, President Putin attended the 6th Caspian Summit in Ashgabat, the Turkmenistan capital. At the summit all nations which border the Caspian Sea were in attendance.
The 6th Summit saw at least two significant outcomes:
No military bases of any "ex-Regional Powers" (read NATO) are to be stationed in any of the attending nations (littoral to the Caspian Sea)
The Caspian Sea "could" become a regional transport hub for the central Asian and Caucuses region
This is, purely and simply, a furthering of the trade corridors within central Asia, including Iran, in accordance with the SCO/EAEU/BRI agenda. In this case, the "corridor" is the International North-South Transportation Corridor (INTSC) which joins Russia via Iran to India, wherein the Caspian Sea will serve as an essential conduit. Iran's application to the join the SCO (which coordinates the BRI) as a full member was received months ago. This is expected to be formally accepted in September, 2022. This cements Iran as a key player in the regional trade network. This is as surprising as the sun rising tomorrow.
Just as the incompetence of the "cold-war thinking" USA bureaucrats' threats against China and Russia have driven them together, the USA's withdrawal from the JCPOA, and prolonged failure to re-establish it, has also driven Iran towards the other two regional powers.
The Astana Process
The recent meeting in Iran's capital, Tehran, between the leaders of Iran, the Russian Federation and Turkiye ostensibly concerned the still unresolved conflict in Syria. A joint declaration told the USA to withdraw its illegal occupying forces in Syria, and to stop stealing Syria's wealth in oil and grains.
A recent under and poorly reported conflict occurred at the UN in which Russia called out the Secretary General's office for a lack of a promised response on the use of the "aid corridor" into Idlib, Syria, from Turkiye. Russia well knows (as does Syria) that this aid is being horded by the Islamic Jihadist groups which "rule" this Syrian territory. They then sell this to civilians via a controlled "black market" to fund their operations. The UN Secretary General's refusal to honor its commitment to provide a report on the crossing frustrated Russia. Russia’s response was during the process to extend the validity of this “aid corridor”. Instead of approving the expected 12 month extension, Russia only offered 6 months. Russia seems to be attempting to have the aid supplies redirected via Damascus which will defund the terrorists and empower the Syrian government. Should this change of delivery occur, Turkiye will need to coordinate aid via this crossing to the insurgents it supports in Idlib, rather than the UN. This is a window into the political manouverings of Russia and Turkiye, sometimes in unison, sometimes at odds.
This very small spat played at the UN shows a pattern. China has recently committed to rebuilding some of Syria's public infrastructure, particularly schools. Russia is reassuring Syria that despite her challenges in Ukraine, she has not forgotten her commitment to Syria. This in itself sends a message to the "non-aligned" that if you enter into agreement with the Russian Federation she will not forget the commitments made. This support is not free. It is a trade. Countries should consider their positions carefully before entering into these arrangements. In this case, Syria was left little choice due to "Operation Sycamore" and other USA (and Saudi and Turkish) actions. The end result for Syria is clear. She knows who her allies are; Iran and Russia with support from China and Hezbollah.
On a higher regional level, the Tehran meeting continues the west Asian integration process. One could say that some elements of dialogue were delicate, with Iran "perhaps" offering military drones to Russia, while earlier in the year Turkiye had been selling hers to Ukraine. Nonetheless, diplomacy is afoot with each nation seeking to better its influence and position with nobody murdering each others' officials with flying death machines as the USA did to Suleiman and Al Mahundis a year and a half ago.
Biden, MBS and Israel
Persons crowing about the murder of Jamal Khashoggi are well advised to learn more about the man and his family. The situation is much more interesting than "a journalist being murdered".
President Biden is feeling the political pinch of rising inflation and rises in fuel (gas) prices in the USA. His request to the Saudi Monarchy's Crown Prince to increase oil supply resulted in the Monarchy saying that they would undergo a process of expanding production capacity from 12 to 13 million barrels per day in some unspecified time. Translation: we offer nothing. Meanwhile Saudi Arabia will continue with its practice of selling oil to China (in non-USD) and buying cheap oil from Russia and on-selling that at a profit to European or other buyers.
Biden's visit to Israel was full of the usual media rubbish with "remembering the holocaust" while they fund and arm neo-Nazi's in Ukraine, with no mention of Israel's apartheid policies to its indigenous population.
A Bubble Bursting in Slow Motion
That independent journalists still feel a need to couch introductions to articles critical of "Western" foreign policy may seem puzzling. It seems most likely a self reserve, not quite censorship, based on what has been done to Julian Assange and the defunding and smearing of various independent outlets like Consortium News, The Grayzone and MintPress News. This is disappointing, but also quite understandable.
The EU's current backtracking on their historic sanctions packages against Russia exposes their malicious intentions or ineptitude. As a rule, one should always assume incompetence over malevolence until more evidence is obtained.
The USA's declining unipolar hegemony is on continued display. Diplomacy, even on sensitive topics, continues among non-vassal nations.
Roundtable #2: Dubovikova, Kurten, Szamuely, Gonzalo Lira hosts Maria Dubovikova, David Kurten and George Szamuely, Gonzalo Lira II youtube channel, 2022-07-19
Ukraine-US-Russia: Dangers of Tit-for-Tat, Ray McGovern, Antiwar, 2022-07-21
Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, July 4, Karolina Hird, George Barros, Grace Mappes, and Frederick W. Kagan, Institute for the Study of War (USA think tank), 2022-07-04
‘Not a Justification but a Provocation’: Chomsky on the Root Causes of the Russia Ukraine War, Ramzy Baroud, CounterPunch, 2022-06-28
Lavrov - Extended Range Weapons In Ukraine Will Lead To More Loss Of Its Land, b., MoonOfAlabama, 2022-07-20
Spring 2022 Economic Forecast: Russian invasion tests EU economic resilience, European Commission, 2022-05-16 (judged by the date of the associated press release)
Which EU countries had the highest GDP in 2020?, European Commission, 2021-12-20
EU to soften sanctions on Russian banks to allow food trade, Reuters, 2022-07-19
The EU Plans to Unfreeze Russian Funds to Allow Food Transactions, Lucas Leiroz de Almeida, Global Research, 2022-07-20
Russia teaches Europe ABC of gas trade, M. K. BHADRAKUMAR, his website, 2022-07-20
Ukraine’s ‘Great Game’ surfaces in Transcaucasia, M. K. BHADRAKUMAR, his website, 2022-07-19
The Power Troika Trumps Biden in West Asia, Pepe Escobar, Unz Review (originally published at The Cradle), 2022-07-20
For Those About to Rock, NAM 2.0 Salutes You, Pepe Escobar, Unz Review, 2022-07-22
Biden's Saudi 'reset' is about China & Russia, and CIA fallout with MBS, Ben Norton, Multipolarista, 2022-07-17
Roundtable #3: Armchair Warlord, HistoryLegends, The New Atlas, Gonzalo Lira live interviews Airchair Warlord (Tyler), HistoryLegends (Alex) and The New Atlas (Brian Berletic) on the Ukraine conflict, Gonzalo Lira II (youtube channel), 2022-07-21
This video, below, covers many of the topics covered in the article, with the independent views of the members of the round table.
Ukraine Kherson Attack Fails; EU Retreats on Russia Food Oil Exports; Ukraine Accepts Putin Demands, Alexander Mercouris, youtube (or rumble), 2022-07-23
Ukraine. Military Summary And Analysis 23.07.2022, Military Summary, youtube channel, 2022-07-23
Iran & Russia pledge to cut US dollar from global trade, strengthen China alliance, Ben Norton, Multipolarista, 2022-07-23
Secret Policeman's Ball: Monty Python 'Parrot Sketch', Secret Policeman, youtube channel, uploaded 2012-01-27
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