Voices from Russia

Monday, 15 October 2012

Russian Railways Completes Iranian Project


In a statement on Monday, Russian Railways said that it completed an electrification project on the TabrizAzarshahr railway in Iran. Forty-six kilometres of railway line and five railway stations in northwest Iran were electrified under a joint Russian-Iranian railroad project, which started four years ago. The new infrastructure is designed to transport students of the Pedagogical University of Azarshahr. Due to electrification, fuel consumption would see a significant reduction and passenger comfort would increase. IRNA reported that Vladimir Yakunin, President of Russian Railways, said at the opening ceremony of the railway project that it was a starting point for further bilateral cooperation between the two nations.

15 October 2012



Editor’s Note:

Iran is NOT isolated… this proves it. Ergo, Wet Willy and Bibi the Bobo are liars. Iran’s not going to be attacked any time soon or any time later. Willy’s not overly bright is he? He’s a textbook example of an “empty suit stuffed with cash”… and he’ll find that he won’t be able to “buy” the election… fancy that…




Thursday, 16 August 2012

The “Not-so-Special” Relationship


The Special Relationship is a phrase used to describe the exceptionally-close relation between the USA and Great Britain. Winston Churchill first coined it in a speech in 1946, and the Special Relationship covers the political, economic, diplomatic, cultural, military, and cultural spheres. The Special Relationship came into being at the same time as the Bretton Woods agreement, which, many believe (including me), is no longer relevant in the 21st century economy. Whilst we continue to hear that the USA and Great Britain still enjoy exceptionally close ties, much closer than with any other country, the evidence is mounting to suggest that the Special Relationship is, in fact, not so “special” anymore.

The latest episode in the not-so-Special Relationship is the attack on British banks by the Americans. The USA is accusing Britain’s Standard Chartered Bank of laundering some 250 billion dollars of transactions over 10 years for the Iranian régime, hiding some 60,000 transactions from American regulators. They did it with the help of American consultancies and accounting firms, but the most striking thing is that, throughout this 10-year period, the Special Relationship was continually held up as the basis for everything that’s gone on between the USA and Great Britain.

The Standard Chartered Bank affair comes hot on the heels of another British bank under immense pressure from the United States, HSBC. HSBC stands accused of laundering drug cartel money, specifically in Mexico. Rumours have long been abounded about banks laundering drug money, especially American banks. However, yet again, another British bank is getting all the limelight in the USA for all the wrong reasons, with no sign of the Special Relationship coming to the rescue!

Of course, another big British bank recently coming under the glare of publicity was Barclays; they blew the whistle on themselves over the Libor scandal. This time, Barclay’s American CEO Bob Diamond fell on the British Sword when it came time for heads to roll in the Libor scandal. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke came out and said that he believed that Libor is structurally floored, which is true, yet, despite the Special Relationship, he was unable to voice his concerns prior to the scandal erupting or to work together to create a better system.

If we go back to the invasion of Iraq in 2003,  Tony Blair used the Special Relationship to justify why he was so economical with the truth to the British cabinet about the legality of going to war. In fact, many would say that he simply lied under the cover of the Special Relationship. His premiership never recovered from this, nor it would seem has the Special Relationship.

In 2010, BP suffered a horrendous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico on their Deep Water Horizon platform, which resulted in nearly 5 million barrels of oil flowing into the ocean. BP had partners on the platform, one of which was the American oil services company Halliburton, which had connections to former-Vice President Dick Cheney. Far from stepping in to offer support to BP and taking some of the responsibility, the USA and Halliburton did the opposite, ensuring that BP took the blame publicly. One of the results of the Gulf oil spill was that the CEO of BP changed. It went from being headed by a British national to being led by a US national. Far from the Special Relationship offering economic support, in fact, it did the opposite, and a prize British asset remains under the leadership of an American.

The latest rumour is that New York is trying to edge London out as a global financial capital. This could explain why British banks are coming under attack from the United States. This is despite the fact that in 2008 the American banking system gave us Bernie Madoff, AIG, “too big to fail”, subprime lending, a frozen derivatives market, and a nation full of underwater mortgages. A defaulting European Union would be a disaster for the American banks that have underwritten all the credit default swaps on European debt, of course. It’d be like a biblical moment, insofar as credit default swaps are like insuring against a flood in the desert, and, right now, the clouds over the desert are very, very dark.

Whatever the truth is, the shape of the financial system is changing, and the Special Relationship really isn’t so special anymore. Instead of all capital flows going via either London or New York, the 21st century market model will see capital flows going directly between trading partners, on a peer-to-peer basis, and the USA and Great Britain will have to compete with each other for a piece of these flows, whether they are with Russia/Eurasian Union, China, the Middle East, Africa, or South Asia.

It seems that the US/Anglo banking cabal already understands the changing world, and whatever the rules of the Special Relationship were in the past, they no longer hold in a world of not-so-Special Relationships.

16 August 2012

Sam Barden



Wednesday, 4 July 2012

US Sanctions No Hurdle to Beneficial Ties


The USA welcomed the EU embargo on Iran that came into effect on 1 July. Two days before, the Americans slapped economic sanctions on banks and companies that engaged in trade with Iran. However, they exempted nearly 20 countries, including China, from them. Beijing said that it does not intend to scale down oil imports from Iran. The USA postponed the imposition of sanctions against China and exempted another 18 countries, including Japan, South Korea, Britain, and a number of EU countries. In explanation, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that the countries in question have substantially cut down oil shipments from Iran, thereby demonstrating what breaches of international nuclear commitments could lead to. According to Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hong Lei, Beijing imports Iranian oil in accordance with the law and is strongly against unilateral restrictions against any other countries.

Andrei Volodin, the head of the Oriental Research Centre of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Diplomatic Academy, said, “Early this year, we saw a slight drop in oil supplies, but Washington had nothing to do with it. China saw a reduction in oil imports from Iran because the two sides were at odds over the price of oil at the beginning of the year. They settled the dispute by spring and Iranian oil shipments to China increased between April and June. If Beijing chooses to cut Iranian oil imports, it will do so because of economic slowdown, but nothing of the sort is observed at the moment”.

Whilst announcing sanctions against Iran’s trade partners, the USA can’t afford any drastic moves against China. Beijing and Washington boast close economic ties. China is the world’s number two economy capable of consistently upholding its interests. A VOR correspondent met with Oriental Studies expert Andrei Ostrovsky, who said, “The USA and China depend on one another. Naturally, the USA opted to extend the time frame for the introduction of sanctions. It has no other levers to resort to. China’s strong enough to take its own decisions and possesses sufficient potential to ignore threats”.

India and South Korea have exemption from the sanctions as well. Analyst Dmitri Abzalov said, “Apparently, Washington is powerless to exert concerted pressure on Tehran. China’s position is strong indeed. China holds the bulk of US debt, and no one wants to spoil relations with the world’s largest producer and creditor. Iran accounts for a considerable part of Chinese imports, and Beijing wishes to expand exports to Iran. This proves that Washington will find it more than challenging to mount overall resistance to Iran, particularly in the east. Looking to China, Iran switched to non-cash payments, and was able to adapt to a ban on transit operations. Without China, Washington’s efforts will be useless. Naturally, the USA opted for a transitional solution to save face”.

Washington might find it particularly troublesome to bicker with Beijing ahead of the election. By putting off the imposition of sanctions, President Obama has de facto postponed a solution to the issue for the next presidential term. The Republicans were quick to jump on this, accusing the current administration of betraying national interests. Mitt Romney’s supporters will surely exploit this over the next few months. Experts say, however, that even if the Republicans win the vote, they’ll have to take a pragmatic approach, and their vociferous statements will remain nothing more than words.

2 July 2012

Polina Chernitsa

Aleksandra Dibizheva

Voice of Russia World Service


Friday, 29 June 2012

Iran: Myths and Consequences

The real Iran… it’s not mad mullahs and Revolutionary Guards… it’s the people… just like the USA


The West is stepping up its efforts to tighten a grip on Iran in connection with its nuclear programme. The USA slapped sanctions on foreign state-run banks that clinched oil deals with Tehran and imposed restrictions on the operations of private financial institutions cooperating with the Islamic Republic. On 1 July, the EU’s launching an oil embargo against Iran. Such an abundance of “economic reprisals” against a major player on the world oil market could have lasting consequences. No more new oil from Iran will be available in Europe after 1 July. Countries will have to rely on the Iranian oil that they purchased under previous contracts. The EU has even banned crisis-struck Greece from importing Iranian oil on preferential terms. Washington’s restrictions on the banks that were “spotted” in partnership with Tehran pursue the same agenda… to slash Iranian oil sales.

The restrictions in question have already had a negative effect on the social and economic situation in Iran, which has seen a rise in food prices and a devaluation of the national currency. However, the embargo on Iranian oil led to an increase in oil prices throughout the EU this spring, to the disappointment of millions of European consumers. Oil prices might spike again after 1 July. The EU accounts for 20 percent of Iranian oil exports, this amounts to about 30 million tons (195 million bbl). Europe expects Saudi Arabia to fill the gap. Nevertheless, Iran has the resources to block the Strait of Hormuz, through which oil from Saudi Arabia and LNG from Qatar reaches world markets.

Yevgeni Satanovsky, of the Institute of the Middle East, said, “As for Iran, it could offset its losses by supplying oil to other countries. This means that the embargo might not prove as effective as planned. Some countries, including South Africa, have sharply increased Iranian oil imports. Consumption of Iranian oil hasn’t dropped in Turkey. South Korea cut Iranian oil supplies, but only slightly. Indian companies reduced the consumption of Iranian oil in the country’s state sector, but it’s increased in the private sector. China, even though it cut Iranian oil supplies, has exerted pressure on Iran to get it to slash oil prices so that Beijing could boost the consumption of Iranian oil for the same prices”.

Because of the embargo, Iran will lose 20 percent of the 100 billion USD (3.25 trillion Roubles. 79 billion Euros. 64 billion UK Pounds) it earns from oil exports annually. The loss is far from disastrous. In addition, sanctions will help to spur Iran’s efforts in other areas. Vitaly Bushuyev, General Director of the Institute of Energy Strategy, observed, “The role of Iran in the formation of world oil prices has been exaggerated. No radical fluctuations on the oil market have been predicted for the near future. Oil prices will range between 85 and 110 USD (2,760-3,570 Roubles. 67-87 Euros. 54-70 UK Pounds). Iran may affect that, but its influence won’t go further than causing one-time price volatility within a maximum variation of 3-5 dollars (97-162 Roubles. 2.50-4 Euros. 2-3.25 UK Pounds)”.

In other words, the western sanctions against Iran won’t trigger any upheavals on the world market or an economic collapse in Iran. Instead, they could hit the wallets of ordinary people in Europe. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that unless Iran takes specific steps to dispel the international community’s concerns regarding its nuclear programme, pressure on it will increase, and it’ll become more and more isolated. As an alternative to economic pressure, Washington might carry out air strikes against Iran’s military facilities. In this respect, attempts to exert pressure on Tehran through economic sanctions aren’t the worst option.

29 June 2012

Ilya Kharlamov

Voice of Russia World Service


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