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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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Is this man the puppet master of Ukraine’s new president or an overhyped bogeyman?

Smiling to himself, Kolomoisky would be within his rights to think that he has never had it so good.

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Via RT…


It doesn’t actually matter if Ukrainian-Israeli billionaire Igor Kolomoisky is the real power behind Volodymyr Zelensky – the president elect has to get rid of the oligarch if he is to make a break with the country’s corrupt past.

The plots, deceits and conflicts of interest in Ukrainian politics are so transparent and hyperbolic, that to say that novice politician Zelensky was a protégé of his long-time employer was not something that required months of local investigative journalism – it was just out there.

Zelensky’s comedy troupe has been on Kolomoisky’s top-rated channel for the past eight years, and his media asset spent every possible resource promoting the contender against incumbent Petro Poroshenko, a personal enemy of the tycoon, who hasn’t even risked entering Ukraine in the past months.

Similarly, the millions and the nous needed to run a presidential campaign in a country of nearly 50 million people had to come from somewhere, and Kolomoisky’s lieutenants were said to be in all key posts. The two issued half-hearted denials that one was a frontman for the other, insisting that they were business partners with a cordial working relationship, but voters had to take their word for it.

Now that the supposed scheme has paid off with Zelensky’s spectacular victory in Sunday’s run-off, Ukrainian voters are asking: what does Kolomoisky want now, and will he be allowed to run the show?

‘One-of-a-kind chancer’

Born in 1963, in a family of two Jewish engineers, Kolomoisky is the type of businessman that was once the staple of the post-Soviet public sphere, but represents a dying breed.

That is, he is not an entrepreneur in the established Western sense at all – he did not go from a Soviet bloc apartment to Lake Geneva villas by inventing a new product, or even setting up an efficient business structure in an existing field.

Rather he is an opportunist who got wealthy by skilfully reading trends as the Soviet economy opened up – selling Western-made computers in the late 1980s – and later when independent Ukraine transitioned to a market economy and Kolomoisky managed to get his hands on a large amount of privatisation vouchers that put many of the juiciest local metals and energy concerns into his hands, which he then modernised.

What he possesses is a chutzpah and unscrupulousness that is rare even among his peers. Vladimir Putin once called him a “one-of-a-kind chancer” who managed to “swindle [Chelsea owner] Roman Abramovich himself.” In the perma-chaos of Ukrainian law and politics, where all moves are always on the table, his tactical acumen has got him ahead.

Kolomoisky’s lifeblood is connections and power rather than any pure profit on the balance sheet, though no one actually knows how that would read, as the Privat Group he part-owns is reported to own over 100 businesses in dozens of Ukrainian spheres through a complex network of offshore companies and obscure intermediaries (“There is no Privat Group, it is a media confection,” the oligarch himself says, straight-faced.)

Unsurprisingly, he has been dabbling in politics for decades, particularly following the first Orange Revolution in 2004. Though the vehicles for his support have not been noted for a particular ideological consistency – in reportedly backing Viktor Yushchenko, then Yulia Tymoshenko, he was merely putting his millions on what he thought would be a winning horse.

Grasp exceeds reach

But at some point in the post-Maidan euphoria, Kolomoisky’s narcissism got the better of him, and he accepted a post as the governor of his home region of Dnepropetrovsk, in 2014.

The qualities that might have made him a tolerable rogue on TV, began to grate in a more official role. From his penchant for using the political arena to settle his business disputes, to creating his own paramilitary force by sponsoring anti-Russian battalions out of his own pocket, to his somewhat charmless habit of grilling and threatening to put in prison those less powerful than him in fits of pique (“You wait for me out here like a wife for a cheating husband,” begins a viral expletive-strewn rant against an overwhelmed Radio Free Europe reporter).

There is a temptation here for a comparison with a Donald Trump given a developing country to play with, but for all of the shenanigans, his ideological views have always been relatively straightforward. Despite his Russia-loathing patriotism, not even his fans know what Kolomoisky stands for.

The oligarch fell out with fellow billionaire Poroshenko in early 2015, following a battle over the control of a large oil transport company between the state and the governor. The following year, his Privat Bank, which at one point handled one in four financial transactions in the country was nationalized, though the government said that Kolomoisky had turned it into a mere shell by giving $5 billion of its savings to Privat Group companies.

Other significant assets were seized, the government took to London to launch a case against his international companies, and though never banished, Kolomoisky himself decided it would be safer if he spent as long as necessary jetting between his adopted homes in Switzerland and Tel Aviv, with the occasional trip to London for the foreseeable future.

But the adventurer falls – and rises again. The London case has been dropped due to lack of jurisdiction, and only last week a ruling came shockingly overturning the three-year-old nationalization of Privat Bank.

Smiling to himself, Kolomoisky would be within his rights to think that he has never had it so good.

Own man

Zelensky must disabuse him of that notion.

It doesn’t matter that they are friends. Or what handshake agreements they made beforehand. Or that he travelled to Geneva and Tel-Aviv 13 times in the past two years. Or what kompromat Kolomoisky may or may not have on him. It doesn’t matter that his head of security is the man who, for years, guarded the oligarch, and that he may quite genuinely fear for his own safety (it’s not like nothing bad has ever happened to Ukrainian presidents).

Volodymyr Zelensky is now the leader of a large country, with the backing of 13.5 million voters. It is to them that he promised a break with past bribery, graft and cronyism. Even by tolerating one man – and one who makes Poroshenko look wholesome – next to him, he discredits all of that. He will have the support of the people if he pits himself against the puppet master – no one would have elected Kolomoisky in his stead.

Whether the oligarch is told to stay away, whether Ukraine enables the financial fraud investigation into him that has been opened by the FBI, or if he is just treated to the letter of the law, all will be good enough. This is the first and main test, and millions who were prepared to accept the legal fiction of the independent candidate two months ago, will now want to see reality to match. Zelensky’s TV president protagonist in Servant of the People – also broadcast by Kolomoisky’s channel, obviously, would never have compromised like that.

What hinges on this is not just the fate of Zelensky’s presidency, but the chance for Ukraine to restore battered faith in its democracy shaken by a succession of compromised failures at the helm.

Igor Ogorodnev

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Roger Waters – The People’s Champion for Freedom

In February 2019, Waters showed his support for the Venezuelan Maduro government and continues to be totally against US regime change plans there.

Richard Galustian

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Submitted by Richard Galustian 

Roger Waters is one of Britain’s most successful and talented musicians and composers but more importantly is an outstanding champion for freedom in the world, beyond compare to any other artist turned political activist.

By way of background, he co-founded the rock band Pink Floyd in 1965.

A landmark turning point of his political activism occurred in 1990, when Waters staged probably the largest rock concert in history, ‘The Wall – Live in Berlin’, with an attendance of nearly half a million people.

In more recent years Waters famously narrated the 2016 documentary ‘The Occupation of the American Mind: Israel’s Public Relations War in the United States’ about the insidious influence of Zionist Israel to shape American public opinion.

Waters has been an outspoken critic of America’s Neocons and particularly Donald Trump and his policies.

In 2017, Waters condemned Trump’s plan to build a wall separating the United States and Mexico, saying that his band’s iconic famous song, ‘The Wall’ is as he put it “very relevant now with Mr. Trump and all of this talk of building walls and creating as much enmity as possible between races and religions.”

In February 2019, Waters showed his support for the Venezuelan Maduro government and continues to be totally against US regime change plans there, or any place else for that matter.

Here below is a must see recent Roger Waters interview, via satellite from New York, where he speaks brilliantly, succinctly and honestly, unlike no other celebrity, about FREEDOM and the related issues of the day.

The only other artist turned activist, but purely for human rights reasons, as she is apolitical, is the incredible Carla Ortiz.

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ISIS Says Behind Sri Lanka Bombings; Was ‘Retaliation’ For New Zealand Mosque Massacre

ISIS’s claim couldn’t be confirmed and the group has been  known to make “opportunistic” claims in the past, according to WaPo. 

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Via Zerohedge…


Shortly after the death toll from Sunday’s Easter bombings in Sri Lanka climbed above the 300 mark, ISIS validated the Sri Lankan government’s suspicions that a domestic jihadi organization had help from an international terror network while planning the bombings were validated when ISIS took credit for the attacks.

The claim was made via a report from ISIS’s Amaq news agency. Though the group has lost almost all of the territory that was once part of its transnational caliphate, ISIS now boasts cells across the Muslim world, including in North Africa and elsewhere. Before ISIS took credit for the attack, a Sri Lankan official revealed that Sunday’s attacks were intended as retaliation for the killing of 50 Muslims during last month’s mass shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand.

However, the Sri Lankan government didn’t offer any evidence for that claim, or the claim that Sunday’s attacks were planned by two Islamic groups (though that now appears to have been substantiated by ISIS’s claim of responsibility). The group is believed to have worked with the National Tawheed Jamaath, according to the NYT.

“The preliminary investigations have revealed that what happened in Sri Lanka was in retaliation for the attack against Muslims in Christchurch,” State Minister of Defense Ruwan Wijewardene told the Parliament.

Meanwhile, the number of suspects arrested in connection with the attacks had increased to 40 from 24 as of Tuesday. The government had declared a national emergency that allowed it sweeping powers to interrogate and detain suspects.

On Monday, the FBI pledged to send agents to Sri Lanka and provide laboratory support for the investigation.

As the death toll in Sri Lanka climbs, the attack is cementing its position as the deadliest terror attack in the region.

  • 321 (as of now): Sri Lanka bombings, 2019
  • 257 Mumbai attacks, 1993
  • 189 Mumbai train blasts, 2006 166 Mumbai attacks, 2008
  • 151 APS/Peshawar school attack, 2014
  • 149 Mastung/Balochistan election rally attack, 2018

Meanwhile, funeral services for some of the bombing victims began on Tuesday.

Even before ISIS took credit for the attack, analysts told the Washington Post that its unprecedented violence suggested that a well-financed international organization was likely involved.

The bombings on Sunday, however, came with little precedent. Sri Lanka may have endured a ghastly civil war and suicide bombings in the past – some credit the Tamil Tigers with pioneering the tactic – but nothing of this scale. Analysts were stunned by the apparent level of coordination behind the strikes, which occurred around the same time on both sides of the country, and suggested the attacks carried the hallmarks of a more international plot.

“Sri Lanka has never seen this sort of attack – coordinated, multiple, high-casualty – ever before, even with the Tamil Tigers during the course of a brutal civil war,” Alan Keenan, a Sri Lanka expert at the International Crisis Group, told the Financial Times. “I’m not really convinced this is a Sri Lankan thing. I think the dynamics are global, not driven by some indigenous debate. It seems to me to be a different kind of ballgame.”

Hinting at possible ISIS involvement, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said during a Monday press conference that “radical Islamic terror” remained a threat even after ISIS’s defeats in Syria.

Of course, ISIS’s claim couldn’t be confirmed and the group has been  known to make “opportunistic” claims in the past, according to WaPo. The extremist group said the attacks were targeting Christians and “coalition countries” and were carried out by fighters from its organization.

Speculation that the government had advanced warning of the attacks, but failed to act amid a power struggle between the country’s president and prime minister, unnerved citizens and contributed to a brewing backlash. Following the bombings, schools and mass had been canceled until at least Monday, with masses called off “until further notice.”

 

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