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5 unintended consequences of US sanctions

When it comes to sanctions, the law of unintended consequences works in Russia’s supreme short and long term favour.

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The latest round of US sanctions against Russia, Iran and North Korea are supposed to be a militant punitive measure designed to hurt three very different economies, though economies that in various ways have all learned to become increasingly self-sufficient over the years. Far from turning the economies of the aforementioned countries into 1990s Iraq, something very different is happening.

The real consequences of the sanctions are largely unintended from an official American point of view, even though in reality, the sanctions were all about Congress trying to limit the authority and slam the credibility of Donald Trump. This helps explain why few people in America have considered the following, although some voices outside of the Washington elite have voiced important concerns.

1. CONFIRMED: Russia and Iran strike $2.5 billion trade deal 

48 hours before Donald Trump’s self-described reluctant hand signed the sanctions, Iran and Russia struck a $2.5 billion deal wherein Russia will provide train carriages for Iranian rail networks.

As Forbes reports,

“Russia and Iran signed a $2.5 billion deal on Monday to start up a much-needed rail wagon production operation. The agreement was forged between the Industrial Development and Renovation Organization of Iran (IDRO) and Transmashholding, who is Russia’s largest rail equipment supplier. The two sides will set up a new joint venture, which will be 80% owned — although completely funded — by the Russian partner.

Iran is currently in the midsts of what could be called an infrastructure building bonanza. Emerging from decades of sanctions which left much of the country’s transportation infrastructure descending into proverbial ruins, Iran has embarked upon a near complete rebuild of its highway and rail networks. The country is expected to add on 15,000 kilometers of new rail lines in the next five years alone — a rapid expansion which is going to require 8,000-10,000 new wagons each year.

Reinvigorating the transport sector is a key part of Iran’s vision to leverage its geographic position to become a vibrant hub of trans-Eurasian trade, which plugs nicely into China’s Belt and Road Initiative and Russia’s continued economic activity in the post-Soviet neighborhood. Iran is also a core partner, along with Russia and India, in the emerging North-South Transport Corridor, which seeks to create a multimodal trade route that would cut the lead time between cities on the west coast of India and St. Petersburg in half, and has also worked out its territorial squabbles with Russia over the Caspian Sea”.

Thus, Russia and Iran have not only developed even closer economic ties, but are doing so in the medium and long term service of China’s One Belt–One Road initiative which both Moscow and Tehran have embraced.

2. The Death of Liberalism in Russia 

Ever since the end of the horrific 1990s in Russia which coincided with the year 2000 election of Vladimir Putin as President, liberalism (both social, economic and geo-political) has rapidly fallen out of favour.

Where the west still largely sees liberalism as a creed, Russia tends to see it as a failed experiment. That being said, even in recent years, moderate liberals in Russia have asserted that Russia’s relations with the west including and especially the United States, are somehow paramount to relations with Asian countries, fellow Eurasian states and the ‘global south’ of Latin America, Africa and, South Asia and South East Asia.

This sanctions prove once and for all that such a view is folly masquerading as strategy. Forgetting the fact that as a geographically, historically and temperamentally Eurasian state, Russia’s economy and pragmatic style of geo-politics is far more oriental than post-modern occidental, even if one desired to put the US on a paramount level vis-a-vis the rest of the Eurasian world, this has now been exposed as impossible.

If the most outwardly and by many accounts sincerely Russia friendly US leaders in decades, Donald Trump cannot even get a Congress controlled by his own party to refrain from passing punitive measures against Russia, then there truly is no hope for fully-fledged good and functional bilateral relations between Moscow and Washington at this time, this is especially true where America’s increasingly protectionist economy is concerned.

No matter what concessions Russian liberals would make to the US, nothing would be enough given the current political climate in the west. Many Russians have realised that surrendering one’s traditional interests and one’s dignity in the hope of good relations with the US is not only self-defeating but is furthermore, objective folly.

Even former President and current Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, often thought of as a closet-liberal has come out with a strongly worded statement to this effect.

The Prime Minister wrote the following in a Facebook post in Russian and English. The English section is re-produced below:

“The US President’s signing of the package of new sanctions against Russia will have a few consequences. First, it ends hopes for improving our relations with the new US administration. Second, it is a declaration of a full-fledged economic war on Russia. Third, the Trump administration has shown its total weakness by handing over executive power to Congress in the most humiliating way. This changes the power balance in US political circles.

What does it mean for them? The US establishment fully outwitted Trump; the President is not happy about the new sanctions, yet he could not but sign the bill. The issue of new sanctions came about, primarily, as another way to knock Trump down a peg. New steps are to come, and they will ultimately aim to remove him from power. A non-systemic player has to be removed. Meanwhile, the interests of the US business community are all but ignored, with politics chosen over a pragmatic approach. Anti-Russian hysteria has become a key part of both US foreign policy (which has occurred many times) and domestic policy (which is a novelty).

The sanctions regime has been codified and will remain in effect for decades unless a miracle happens. This legislation is going to be harsher than the Jackson-Vanik amendment as it is overarching and cannot be lifted by a special presidential order without Congress’ approval. Thus, relations between Russia and the United States are going to be extremely tense regardless of Congress’ makeup and regardless of who is president. Lengthy arguments in international bodies and courts are ahead, as well as rising international tensions and refusal to settle major international issues.

What does it mean for us? We will steadily continue our work on developing the economy and social sector, take efforts to substitute imports, and solve major national tasks, relying mostly on ourselves. We have learned to do so in the past few years, in conditions of almost closed financial markets as well as foreign investors’ and creditors’ fear of investing in Russia upon penalty of sanctions against third parties and countries. To some extent, this has even been to our advantage, although sanctions are meaningless overall. We will cope”.

If even Medvedev is using such language, the message to Russians is clear: Look everywhere, but don’t look to America, not anytime soon, certainly.

3. North Korea and Russia 

Russia and her ally China are deeply angered with America’s aggressive posturing towards Pyongyang. China and Russia have issued a joint statement condemning American militarism over the Korean peninsula while also stating their sincere desire to see Pyongyang refrain from moves which have been viewed by Seoul and Washington as provocative. After all, Russia and China both border North Korea and neither want to see a war, let alone a nuclear war on their doorstep.

Crucially though, both Moscow and Beijing have condemned any further attempts to sanctions North Korea’s economy. Russia in particular ought to go in the opposite direction and try and work with Pyongyang to open up the North Korean economy to Russia. A prosperous North Korea which engages positively with a neighbour that has had historically good relations with Pyongyang, would be a healthy way to de-escalate conflict and gently persuade North Korea to focus on bilateral prosperity rather than the instruments of war.  If Russia and North Korea could reach such an agreement, China would almost certainly approve as Russia and China have developed a level of trust that currently does not exist between China and North Korea.

Such a suggestion was recently made by Russian opposition leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky, a man while in the opposition, has often predicted a great deal of geo-political events, most famously when he anticipated the current Ukraine crisis in the late 1990s.

The sanctions which are manifest of the impossibility of meaningful cooperation with Washington could hasten Russia’s desire to solve the largely US inspired crisis in Korea more rapidly than many anticipate at this time.

4. A boost for One Belt–One Road 

Russia has expressed a commitment to actively participate in China’s global trade, commerce and infrastructure trade initiative from the moment it was announced in late 2013. While the sanctions do not change this, it reinforces the central importance of One Belt–One Road to tapping Russia’s potential in the 21st century for what will certainly be to the economic benefit of all Russians.

While some have challenged One Belt–One Road on the basis of being overly ambitious, America which opposes the plan has increasingly nothing to offer as an alternative. Even if the US did have a counter-proposal for One Belt–One Road, it is clear now that such a proposal would never be offered to Russia with respect or seriousness.

Russia therefore now realises that the road which is open to Moscow is China’s plan and not a would-be western plan. One Belt–One Road is more suited to the Russian economy than any hypothetical western counter-proposals would have been in any case.

5. The Seduction of Europe 

If the US forces its EU partner into a trade war, Russia will be able to exploit this schism by seducing European markets with offers which from the perspective of Dollars and Cents, Europe would be hard pressed to refuse.

Already, Europe is panicking over the idea that countries like Germany might have to purchase expensive American Liquefied Natural Gas which then has to be painstakingly shipped to Europe rather than the cheap and comparatively local alternative of Russian pipeline gas.

Russia could therefore tempt Europe with the carrot of cheap energy and goods while combining it with the stick of demanding Europe drop its own sanctions against Russia, most of which date back to 2014. Russia already has sympathetic ears in southern Europe on this matter and Germany may well be moving in this direction due to America’s blatant disregard for northern European concerns.

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santiago

You must mean the Talmud and Mishnah.

The Torah is what they don’t believe in anymore.

santiago
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santiago

I hear you and Vtran. Just one thing though. US citizens are heavily armed, specially compared to other regimes and countries, and it is supposedly so in order to fight against a Tyrannical government. SO……. the american people are lately at fault and should pay up accordingly so, if they were to content because of a Starbucks coffee and preferred that coffee rather than the lives it cost, then by all means they should not enjoy anything that brings them contentment, that would be completely just and deserving. When a politicians son is buying 2K sneakers because his corrupt daddy… Read more »

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It’s Back to the Iran-Contra Days Under Trump

Abrams and his cronies will not stop with Venezuela.

Strategic Culture Foundation

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Authored by Wayne Madsen, via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


Showing that he is adopting the neoconservative playbook every day he remains in office, Donald Trump handed the neocons a major win when he appointed Iran-contra scandal felon Elliott Abrams as his special envoy on Venezuela. Abrams pleaded guilty in 1991 to two counts of withholding information on the secret sale of US weapons for cash to help illegally supply weapons to the Nicaraguan right-wing contras, who were battling against the government of President Daniel Ortega. Abrams would have headed to a federal prison, but President George H. W. Bush, an unindicted co-conspirator in the scandal, issued pardons to Abrams and his five fellow conspirators – former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, former National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane, and former Central Intelligence Agency officials Alan Fiers, Duane “Dewey” Clarridge, and Clair George – on Christmas Eve 1991, during the final weeks of Bush’s lame duck administration.

Abrams escaped being charged with more serious crimes by Independent Counsel Lawrence Walsh because he cut a last-minute deal with federal prosecutors. Trump, who has made no secret of his disdain for cooperating federal witnesses, would have normally called Abrams a “rat,” a gangster term meaning informant. The man who helped engineer the pardons for Abrams and his five convicted friends was none other than Bush’s Attorney General, William Barr, who has just been sworn in as Trump’s Attorney General. Trump, who is always decrying the presence of the “deep state” that thwarts his very move, has become the chief guardian of that entity.

During a recent hearing of the US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, newly-minted congresswoman Ilhan Omar, Democrat of Minnesota, reminded her colleagues and the world about the sordid background of Abrams.

Omar zeroed in on Abrams’s criminal history:

“Mr. Abrams, in 1991 you pleaded guilty to two counts of withholding information from Congress regarding the Iran-Contra affair, for which you were later pardoned by President George H.W. Bush. I fail to understand why members of this committee or the American people should find any testimony you give today to be truthful.”

Abrams, as is the nature of neocons, refused to respond to Omar and cited her comments as “personal attacks.”

Abrams’s and his fellow criminals’ use of mercenaries and “death squads” to conduct secret wars in Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala during the Ronald Reagan administration in the 1980s has made a re-entrance under Trump. Abrams was brought on board by neocons like National Security Adviser John Bolton, Vice President Mike Pence, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to oversee a US military build-up in Colombia, said to be 5000 US troops, to support Venezuelan paramilitary and military efforts to topple President Nicolas Maduro. Abrams and Bolton are also believed to have retained the services of another unindicted conspirator in the Iran-contra affair, Michael Ledeen, a colleague of the disgraced and convicted former Trump National Security Adviser, retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn. Ledeen and Flynn co-authored a book titled, “The Field of Fight: How We Can Win the Global War Against Radical Islam and its Allies.” The book contains nothing more than the standard neocon tripe one might expect from the likes of Ledeen.

An official investigation of the Iran-contra scandal by the late Republican Senator John Tower of Texas concluded that Abrams’s and Ledeen’s friend, Iranian-Jewish middleman Manucher Ghorbanifar, a long-time Mossad asset and well-known prevaricator, was extremely instrumental in establishing the back-channel arms deals with Iran. Ghorbanifar has long been on the CIA “burn list” as an untrustworthy charlatan, along with others in the Middle East of similar sketchy credentials, including the Iraq’s Ahmad Chalabi, Syria’s Farid “Frank” Ghadry, and Lebanon’s Samir “Sami” Geagea. These individuals, however, were warmly embraced by neocons like Abrams and his associates.

Abrams, whose links with Israeli intelligence has always been a point of consternation with US counter-intelligence officials, is part of an old cabal of right-wing anti-Soviet Democrats who coalesced around Senator Henry Jackson in the 1970s. Along with Abrams, this group of war hawks included Richard Perle, Frank Gaffney, William Kristol, Douglas Feith, Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Abram Shulsky, and Paul Wolfowitz. Later, this group would have its fingerprints on major US foreign policy debacles, ranging from Nicaragua and Grenada to Lebanon, Iraq, and Libya. Later, in December 2000, these neocons managed to convince president-elect George W. Bush of the need to “democratize” the Middle East. That policy would later bring not democracy but disaster to the Arab Middle East and North Africa.

Abrams and his cronies will not stop with Venezuela. They have old scores to settle with Nicaraguan President Ortega. The initiation of “regime change” operations in Nicaragua, supported by the CIA and the US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) in Miami, have been ongoing for more than a year.

The Trump administration has already achieved a regime change victory of sorts in El Salvador. Nayib Bukele, the former mayor of San Salvador, who was expelled from the formerly-ruling left-wing Farabundo Marti National Liberation (FMLN) party and joined the right-wing GANA party, was recently elected president of El Salvador. Bukele has quickly re-aligned his country’s policies with those of the Trump administration. Bukele has referred to President Maduro of Venezuela as a “dictator.” He has also criticized the former FMLN government’s recognition of China and severance of diplomatic ties with Taiwan. It will be interesting to see how a sycophant like Bukele will politically survive as Trump continues to call hapless asylum-seeking migrants from his country, who seek residency in the United States, “rapists, gang monsters, murderers, and drug smugglers.”

Another country heading for a US-installed “banana republic” dictator is Haiti. President Jovenal Moise has seen rioting in the streets of Port-au-Prince as the US State Department removed all “non-essential” personnel from the country. Moise, whose country has received $2 billion in oil relief from Venezuela, to help offset rising fuel prices, has continued to support the Maduro government. However, at the US-run and neo-colonial artifice, the Organization of American States (OAS), Moise’s envoys have been under tremendous pressure to cut ties with Venezuela and recognize the US puppet Juan Guaido as Venezuelan president. Moise’s refusal to do so resulted in armed gangs hitting the streets of Port-au-Prince demanding Moise’s resignation. It is the same neocon “regime change” playbook being used in Venezuela and Nicaragua.

There will be similar attempts to replace pro-Maduro governments in his remaining allies in the region. These include Suriname, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

Abrams was also brought in as an adviser on Middle East policy in the George W. Bush administration. The carnage of Iraq is a stark testament to his record. In 2005, it was reported that two key Bush White House officials – Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove and Deputy National Security Adviser Elliot Abrams – gave a “wink and a nod” for the assassinations by Israeli-paid operatives of three key Lebanese political figures seeking a rapprochement with Syria and Lebanese Hezbollah – Member of Parliament Elie Hobeika, former Lebanese Communist Party chief George Hawi, and former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

In 2008, a United Nations panel headed by former Canadian prosecutor Daniel Bellemare later concluded Hariri was assassinated by a “criminal network” and not by either Syrian and Lebanese intelligence or Lebanese Hezbollah as proffered by Abrams and his friends in Washington.

Representative Omar was spot on in questioning why Abrams, whose name is as disgraced as his two fellow conspirators – Oliver North and John Poindexter – whose criminal convictions were overturned on appeal, is working for the Trump administration on Venezuela. The answer is that the neocons, who can sense, like raptors, Trump’s political weakness, have filled the vacuum left by top-level vacancies in the administration.

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Putin: If mid-range missiles deployed in Europe, Russia will station arms to strike decision centers

Putin: If US deploys mid-range missiles in Europe, Russia will be forced to respond.

RT

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Via RT…


If the US deploys intermediate-range missiles in Europe, Moscow will respond by stationing weapons aimed not only against missiles themselves, but also at command and control centers, from which a launch order would come.

The warning came from President Vladimir Putin, who announced Russia’s planned actions after the US withdraws from the INF Treaty – a Cold War-era agreement between Washington and Moscow which banned both sides form having ground-based cruise and ballistic missiles and developing relevant technology.

The US is set to unilaterally withdraw from the treaty in six months, which opens the possibility of once again deploying these missiles in Europe. Russia would see that as a major threat and respond with its own deployments, Putin said.

Intermediate-range missiles were banned and removed from Europe because they would leave a very short window of opportunity for the other side to decide whether to fire in retaliation after detecting a launch – mere minutes. This poses the threat of an accidental nuclear exchange triggered by a false launch warning, with the officer in charge having no time to double check.

“Russia will be forced to create and deploy weapon systems, which can be used not only against the territories from which this direct threat would be projected, but also against those territories where decision centers are located, from which an order to use those weapons against us may come.” The Russian president, who was delivering a keynote address to the Russian parliament on Wednesday, did not elaborate on whether any counter-deployment would only target US command-and-control sites in Europe or would also include targets on American soil.

He did say the Russian weapon system in terms of flight times and other specifications would “correspond” to those targeting Russia.

“We know how to do it and we will implement those plans without a delay once the relevant threats against us materialize,”he said.

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Labour MP split is a cheap and final ploy to derail BREXIT (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 179.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss a small group of UK Labour MPs decision to quit the party and sit as Independent MPs in the house of commons.

Their excuse for leaving Labour was directed at leader Jeremy Corbyn for presiding over an “institutionally anti-Semitic” party. The real reason they are leaving Labour is because they are staunch remain MPs and are hoping to derail Brexit.

The seven Labour MPs quitting the party to become ‘The Independent Group’, are Chuka Umunna, Luciana Berger, Chris Leslie, Angela Smith, Mike Gapes, Gavin Shuker and Ann Coffey.

RT reports that Luciana Berger, the MP for Liverpool Wavertree took to the stage first, to claim that she could not stay in the party any more because it had become “institutionally anti-Semitic.”

Chuka Umunna, MP for Streatham, a prominent ‘People’s Vote’ advocate appealed to all MPs, not just Labour, to join their group, as the current parties are part of the problem, not the solution.

He argued that “It is time we dumped this country’s old fashioned politics.” Umunna claimed the UK needed a political party “fit for the hear and now” and the “first step in leaving the tribal politics behind.”

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Via RT

Twitter has been rocked by the sudden departure of seven Labour MPs to form their own Independent Group, with party supporters feverishly debating whether the move is better for the party, or a wake-up call to Jeremy Corbyn.

Former shadow cabinet minister Chuka Umunna along with MPs Luciana Berger, Gavin Shuker, Angela Smith, Chris Leslie, Mike Gapes and Ann Coffey have all jumped ship in the biggest Labour Party split since 1981, when the so-called “gang of four” left to form the Social Democratic Party (SDP).

In a press conference, Umunna stated that the established parties “cannot be the change because they have become the problem” arguing that it is “time we dumped this country’s old-fashioned politics.”

Jewish MP Luciana Berger said she was “embarrassed and ashamed” at what the Labour Party had become and criticized her former party for becoming “sickeningly institutionally racist.”

“I am leaving behind a culture of bullying, bigotry and intimidation. I look forward to a future serving with colleagues who respect each other,” she added.

Reaction to the news online has been a mixture of shock and dismay, to outright derision. Some Labour supporters were quick to delight in the departures, suggesting the party will be stronger without detractors undermining it from within.

Others though said it was time for Jeremy Corbyn to take the criticism seriously.

Meanwhile, some Twitter users commented on Young Labour’s somewhat barbed response to the situation.

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