Voices from Russia

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Why Washington is Terrified of Russia and China


The Russia-China strategic partnership, uniting the Pentagon’s avowed top two “existential” threats to America, didn’t come with a formal treaty signed with pomp, circumstance… and a military parade. Enveloped in layers of subtle sophistication, there’s no way to know the deeper terms Beijing and Moscow agreed upon behind those innumerable Putin-Xi high-level meetings. Off the record, diplomats occasionally let it slip there might’ve been a coded message delivered to NATO to the effect that if it seriously harassed one of the strategic members… be it in the Ukraine or in the South China Sea… NATO would have to deal with both. For now, let’s concentrate on two instances of how the partnership works in practice, and why Washington is clueless on how to deal with it.

Exhibit A is the imminent visit to Moscow by the Director of the General Office of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), Li Zhanshu, invited by the head of the Presidential Administration in the Kremlin, A E Vaino. Beijing stressed the talks will revolve around… what else… the Russia-China strategic partnership, “as previously agreed on by the countries’ leaders”. This happens just after President Putin received China’s First Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli, one of the top seven in the Politburo and one of the drivers of China’s economic policies, in Moscow. They discussed Chinese investments in Russia and the key energy angle of the partnership. However, most of all they prepared Putin’s next visit to Beijing, which will be particularly momentous, for the One Belt, One Road (OBOR) summit on 14-15 May, steered by Xi Jinping. The General Office of the CCP… directly subordinate to Xi… only holds this kind of ultra-high-level annual consultations with Moscow and no other player. Needless to add, Li reports directly to Xi as much as Vaino reports directly to Putin. That’s as highly strategic as it gets.

That also happens to tie directly to one of the latest episodes featuring The Hollow (Trump) Men, in this case, Trump’s bumbling/bombastic National Security Advisor Lieutenant-General H R McMaster. In a nutshell, McMaster’s spin, loyally regurgitated by US corporate media, is that Trump developed such a “special chemistry” with Xi after their Tomahawks-with-chocolate cake summit in Mar-a-Lago that Trump managed to split the Russia-China entente on Syria and isolate Russia in the UN Security Council. It would have taken only a few minutes for McMaster to read the BRICS joint communiqué on Syria for him to learn that the BRICS are behind Russia. No wonder a vastly-experienced Indian geopolitical observer felt compelled to note:

Trump and McMaster look somewhat like two country bumpkins who lost their way in the metropolis.

Follow the Money

Exhibit B centres in Russia and China quietly advancing their agreement to replace the US Dollar’s reserve status with a gold-backed system. That also involves the key participation of Kazakhstan… very much interested in using gold as currency along OBOR. Kazakhstan couldn’t be more strategically positioned; a key hub of OBOR; a key member of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAES); member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (ShOS); and not by accident the smelter of most of Russia’s gold. In parallel, Russia and China are advancing their own payment systems. With the Yuan now enjoying the status of a global currency, China has swiftly promoted their payment system, CIPS, careful not to frontally antagonise the internationally-accepted SWIFT, controlled by the USA.

On the other hand, Russia emphasises the creation of “an alternative”, in the words of Russian Central Bank’s Elvira Nabiullina, in the form of the Mir payment system, a Russian version of Visa/ MasterCard. What this implies is that were Washington inclined to exclude Russia from SWIFT, even temporarily, at least 90 percent of ATMs in Russia would be able to operate on Mir. China’s UnionPay cards are already an established fixture all across Asia… enthusiastically adopted by HSBC, amongst others. Combine “alternative” payment systems with a developing gold-backed system… and “toxic” does not even begin to spell out the reaction of the US Federal Reserve. It’s not just about Russia and China; it’s about the BRICS. What First Deputy Governor of Russia’s Central Bank Sergey Shvetsov outlined is just the beginning:

The BRICS countries are large economies with large reserves of gold and an impressive volume of production and consumption of this precious metal. In China, the gold trade is in Shanghai, in Russia, it’s in Moscow. Our idea is to create a link between the two cities in order to increase trade between the two markets.

Already, Russia and China established systems for global trade bypassing the US Dollar. What Washington did to Iran… cutting their banks off SWIFT… is now unthinkable against Russia and China. Thus, we’re already on our way, slowly but surely, towards a BRICS “gold marketplace”. We’re building a “new financial architecture”. That’d imply the eventual inability of the US Fed to export inflation to other nations… especially those in the BRICS, EEU, and SCO.

The Hollow Men

Trump’s Generals, led by “Mad Dog” Mattis, may spin all they want about their need to dominate the planet with their sophisticated AirSeaLandSpaceCyber commands. Yet, that may be not enough to counter the myriad ways the Russia-China strategic partnership is developing. Therefore, more on than off, we’ll have Hollow Men like Vice-President Mike Pence, with empurpled solemnity, threatening the DPRK:

The shield stands guard and the sword stands ready.

Forget this doesn’t even qualify as a lousy line in a cheap remake of a Hollywood B-movie; what we have here is Aspiring Commander-in-Chief Pence warning Russia and China there may be some nuclear nitty-gritty very close to their borders between the USA and the DPRK. Not gonna happen. Therefore, here’s to the great T S Eliot, who saw it all decades in advance:

We are the hollow men

We are the stuffed men

Leaning together

Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!

Our dried voices, when

We whisper together

Are quiet and meaningless

As wind in dry grass

Or rats’ feet over broken glass

In our dry cellar.

21 April 2017

Pepe Escobar

Sputnik International



Tuesday, 30 September 2014

30 September 2014. As Seen by Vitaly Podvitsky. A Rising Sun. 2014

00 Vitlay Podvitsky. A Rising Sun. 2014


The agreement between Russia and China to trade in national currencies, and not in dollars, is a declaration of economic war. Look for the BRICS to abandon the dollar in their intra-bloc trade… this will decrease American influence. There is nothing that Washington can do to prevent it.


Tuesday, 26 August 2014

EU Pressure on Argentina to Halt Food Imports to Russia Might Backfire

00 San Telmo Market. Buenos Aires ARGENTINA. 26.08.14


Peter Koenig, a former World Bank economist, thinks that Argentina would laugh at the EU’s “ridiculously stupid” request not to increase food exports to Russia. A short while ago, the Financial Times reported that the EU was going to try to talk Latin Americans out of supplying Russia with foodstuffs. Several European diplomats visited the region and singled out Argentina as an obvious target for European pressure. Brussels failed to understand that Russia doesn’t need to import foodstuffs from Latin America. In fact, Koenig said that Moscow could help Argentina and other Latin American countries “free themselves from the economic and political pressures constantly exerted … by Washington”.

Commenting on Western sanctions imposed on Russia over the Ukrainian crisis, Koenig said that they’d positively affect Russia, as well as Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Peru, etc. They’d encourage those countries to “finally escape the claws of the predator empire of Washington, and go the way of independence, namely, towards a new area of economic sovereignty and a new world monetary system”. Koenig pointed up that sanctions promote greater integration of the BRICS countries. Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa are likely to “come to a consensus … and issue their own currency, backed by about one-third of the world’s economic output and about half the world’s population”. Over the last few years, Russia and China “forged a solid political and economic alliance”. Therefore, they could be the first countries to introduce a new currency “delinked from the corrupt predatory western monetary system”. That currency could replace the dollar as a global reserve currency. Russia and China have a combined GDP of 21.1 trillion USD (762 trillion Roubles. 130 trillion Renminbi. 1.28 quadrillion INR. 23.2 trillion CAD. 22.7 trillion AUD. 16 trillion Euros. 12.72 trillion UK Pounds), about 27 percent of world economic output. Therefore, “a Sino-Russian currency would be backed by solid economic output and commodities”. On the other hand, Koenig explained that the US GDP (17 trillion USD (614 trillion Roubles. 105 trillion Renminbi. 1.03 quadrillion INR. 18.7 trillion CAD. 18.3 trillion AUD. 12.9 trillion Euros. 10.3 trillion UK Pounds)) is “mostly based on the output of the financial services industry and its military industrial complex, meaning it’s a GDP of destruction and overconsumption, as well as hollow financial and legal services”.

Koenig thought that Argentina could become the first country “to free itself from the economic sledgehammer of the immoral USA and at the same time enter into trade agreements with Russia and China”. That could be reasonable, considering that “90 percent of Argentina’s foreign trade takes place outside of the realm of the US dollar”, and that it’s likely to be an outsider in a dollar-based financial system. Koenig is confident that it’s only a matter of time until much of the rest of the world “jumps on the occasion and abandons the dollar. All it needs is one country that dares to take this first step, fearless of sanctions”. Koenig also said that if Brussels keeps on pushing Argentina, thus, “helping Obama and his blood-thirsty NATO war machine engage Russia in World War III”, Europe runs the risk of destruction. He asked, “Don’t they realise that Russia not only wants to save Europe from another humanitarian disaster, but would like to help them out of their Wall Street imposed economic disaster?” Koenig maintains that Europe must realise it should “get rid of their Washington-imposed neoliberal thieves” and seek a healthy alliance with the East. He emphasised that it’s never too late to make the right choice.

26 August 2014

Stanislav Fisher

Rossiya Segodnya


Saturday, 26 April 2014

¡Viva Putinismo!

00 Putin vs Obama. 11.11.13


Tell me your Ukraine and I’ll tell you who you are. The Ukrainian crisis is a political Rorschach test, not just for people, but also for states. What it reveals to us isn’t encouraging for the West. It turns out that Vladimir Putin has more admirers around the world than you might expect for someone using a neo-Soviet combination of violence and the big lie to dismember a neighbouring sovereign state. When I say admirers, I don’t just mean the governments of Venezuela and Syria, two of his most vocal supporters. Russia’s strongman garners tacit support, and even some quiet plaudits, from some of the world’s most important emerging powers, starting with China and India.

During a recent visit to China, people kept asking me what was going on in the Ukraine, and I kept asking in return about the Chinese attitude to it. Didn’t a country which so consistently defended the principle of respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of existing states (be they former Yugoslavia or Iraq), and which itself has a couple of prospective Crimeas (Tibet, Xinjiang), feel uneasy about Russia simply grabbing a chunk of a neighbouring country? They replied, “Well, that’s a slight concern, but the Ukraine’s a long way away and, frankly speaking, the positives of the crisis outweighed the negatives for China. The USA would have another strategic distraction (after al-Qaeda, Afghanistan, and Iraq) to hinder its “pivot” to the Asia-Pacific region and divert its attention from China. Cold-shouldered by the West, Russia would be more dependent on a good relationship with Beijing. As for the Ukraine, which already sells China higher-grade military equipment than Russia has so far been willing to share with its great Asian ally… why, the new Ukrainian authorities already quietly assured the Chinese authorities that Beijing’s failure to condemn Crimea’s annexation wouldn’t affect their future relations. What’s not to like in all that?”

Beside this realpolitik, some told me that there’s also an emotional part. Chinese leaders such as Xi Jinping, who grew up under Chairman Mao, still instinctively warmed to the idea of another non-western leader standing up to the capitalist and imperialist West. One well-informed observer said, “Xi likes Putin’s Russia”. Chinese media commentary became more cautious since Putin moved on from Crimea to stirring the pot in eastern Ukraine. The nationalist Global Times, which last month spoke of “Crimea’s return to Russia”, now warns, “The Ukraine’s eastern region is different from the Crimea. The region’s secession from the Ukraine strikes a direct blow to territorial integrity guaranteed by international law” (but then, Putin isn’t aiming at outright secession… just a Finlandised Greater Bosnia, a neutral country with a “federalism” so far-reaching that the eastern regions would become Bosnia-style entities, within a Russian sphere of influence). However, this growing concern didn’t apparently cool the warmth of the welcome given to Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Beijing on Tuesday. President Xi said that relations between China and Russia “are at their best” and played “an irreplaceable role in maintaining world peace and stability”. The Chinese Foreign Ministry pronounced China-Russia to be the “major-country relationship that boasts the richest contents, the highest level, and the greatest strategic significance”. Cry your eyes out, USA. Beijing looks forward to welcoming President Putin for a major summit next month.

It isn’t just China. A friend of mine has just returned from India. He noted that, with the likely electoral success of Narendra Modi and the growth of India’s own “crony capitalism”, liberal Indian friends fear that the world’s largest democracy might be getting its own version of Putinismo. In any case, so far, India effectively sides with Russia and not the West over the Ukraine. Last month, President Putin thanked India for its “restrained and objective” stance on Crimea. India’s postcolonial obsession with sovereignty, and resentment of any hint of Western liberal imperialism, plays out… rather illogically… in support for a country that’s just dramatically violated its neighbour’s sovereignty. An Indian satirical magazine even suggested that India hired Putin as “the chief strategic consultant to bring a once-for-all end to the Kashmir issue”. Oh, and by the way, India gets a lot of its arms from Russia. It isn’t just India. Russia’s two other partners in the so-called BRICS group, Brazil and South Africa, both abstained on the UN General Assembly resolution criticising the Crimea referendum. They also joined Russia in expressing “concern” at the Australian Foreign Minister’s suggestion that Putin might be barred from attending a G-20 summit in November. The Russian ambassador to South Africa expressed appreciation for its “balanced” attitude.

What the West faces here is the uncoiling of two giant springs. One, which has been extensively commented upon, is the coiled spring of Mother Russia’s resentment at the way her empire shrank over the last 25 years… all the way back from the heart of Germany to the heart of Kievan Rus. The other is the coiled spring of resentment at centuries of Western colonial domination. This takes very different forms in different BRICS countries and members of the G-20. They certainly don’t all have China’s monolithic relentless narrative of national humiliation since Britain’s Opium Wars. However, one way or another, they do share a strong and prickly concern for their own sovereignty, a resistance to North Americans and Europeans telling them what’s good for them, and a certain instinctive glee, or Schadenfreude, at seeing Uncle Sam (not to mention little John Bull) being poked in the eye by that pugnacious Russian. ¡Viva Putinismo!

Obviously, this isn’t the immediate issue on the ground in the Ukraine, but it’s another big vista opened up by the East European crisis. In this broader geopolitical sense, take note… as we go deeper into the 21st century, there will be more Ukraines.


Note this:

Putin isn’t aiming at outright secession… just a Finlandised Greater Bosnia, a neutral country with a “federalism” so far-reaching that the eastern regions would become Bosnia-style entities, within a Russian sphere of influence.

I think that this is what VVP wants… but the American intervention may lead to the Ukraine breaking apart because the Kiev junta won’t compromise due to American “support”. The junta doesn’t realise that the USA isn’t going to commit serious military forces or aid, and that it isn’t going to go to war over the East Bank. It’ll refuse to recognise the 11 May referendums… that’ll lead to the eastern regions seceding. In short, the USA will bring about the very situation that it claims that it wants to avoid. Of course, that leads to the question, is it a matter of incompetence or it is a matter of not wishing to put more assets into an unthrifty entity? I think that it’s a combination of the two… that means confusion and bloodshed in the near term. Mark this down well… Nuland, Zbig, Biden, Kerry, and all the neocons will sleep very well. It doesn’t affect their pay packet and status quo, so, it doesn’t matter…


21 April 2014

Timothy Garton Ash

Professor of European Studies at Oxford University

Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University



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