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No more sectoral sanctions against Russia: US gives up targeting Russia’s sovereign debt

US Treasury admits further sectoral sanctions against Russia’s sovereign debt would backfire

Alexander Mercouris

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In a recent article for RussiaFeed I discussed the possible additional sectoral sanctions against Russia which were being discussed in the US, and I said that none of them would do significant long term harm to Russia, but all of them risked doing real harm to the US.

As a self-sufficient continental economy sanctions on Russia almost by definition can have only a limited impact, and one which over time must diminish anyway.

As it happens the most effective sanctions the West could have imposed on Russia, both in terms of their impact on the Russian economy and their limited impact on the economies of the West, were the sectoral sanctions which were imposed in 2014.

Those sanctions did stop for a time the flow of capital from the West into Russia at a time when Russia was facing heavy debt repayments and when the price of its main export products – oil and gas – was collapsing.  The result was to deepen the recession caused by the collapse of oil and gas prices whilst further lowering the value of the rouble in a way which intensified the inflation spike.

With oil prices now rising, most short term Russian foreign debt repaid, and with the rouble floating, none of the sanctions discussed in this article look like they can have anything like the impact on Russia that the sanctions imposed in 2014 did.

The fact that the Russian economy successfully – in fact almost effortlessly – adjusted to those sanctions despite the difficult conditions ought to serve as a warning that further sanctions against Russia will not work, and if they are of the sort discussed in this article are counter-productive.

I also discussed at length in the same article the one set of sanctions the US seemed to be most actively considering, which was a prohibition on US investors buying Russian sovereign debt.

I said why this would be counterproductive and would not work and why it would only harm US investors if it was not backed by a freeze on Russian gold and foreign currency reserves held abroad and specifically in the US

The US cannot prevent Russia from floating bonds in the international money markets – in Asia if not in Europe – and the Democratic Senators’ assumption that prohibiting US investors from buying such bonds will dissuade other international investors from doing so is also almost certainly wrong (the cited authority for the claim are not ‘economists’ but two articles in Bloomberg Markets).

The problem anyway is that with Russia now expected to run a budget surplus next year, and with Russia’s trading position also in healthy surplus, and with Russia’s gold and foreign currency reserves now standing at more than $430 billion and growing, it is not obvious that Russia needs to borrow at all.

Unless this measure is combined with a freezing of Russian gold and foreign currency reserves, it is difficult to see how this could be more than a pinprick, just as the Democratic Senators report Russian Central Bank Chair Nabiullina having said.

However if the US were to freeze Russian gold and foreign currency reserves this step would not be necessary anyway, since US investors would not want to buy Russian foreign debt in those circumstances if the Russian reserves were frozen.

At that point of course the US would be facing all the consequences outlined in (2).

Needless to say, if US investors were prohibited from buying Russian debt but no action was taken against Russia’s reserves, then the US would simply be forcing its own investors to forego an opportunity to make money by buying into a strong financial asset which was being bought by other international investors elsewhere.  Again it is not obvious how this would benefit the US.

As to the suggestion that the US freeze Russian gold and foreign currency reserves held abroad and specifically on US territory – which would be the indispensable step if a prohibition on US investors buying Russian sovereign debt were to have any effect – I said why that would be totally counterproductive first and foremost for the US itself

Russia does keep some of its foreign currency reserves in the US with the IMF, but it is not clear how great the amount is and claims that it is much as a third of the reserves is probably an overstatement.

There is no doubt that such a step would have a serious impact, causing the value of the rouble to fall, at least for a short time.

However Russia runs a trade surplus and has paid off most of its foreign debt and the Central Bank since 2014 has been letting the rouble float.

The economy would swiftly adjust as it did to the crisis of 2014, with the Russian trade surplus growing still further as Russia’s trade position benefitted from the rouble’s fall and from the surge in oil prices which would be likely follow such a measure.

Doubtless inflation in Russia would be higher, though it would be unlikely to go as high as it did during the inflation spike of 2015.  However the political impact of the increase in inflation within Russia would be mitigated with the Russian government in a position to blame the US for causing it.  Besides as happened following the inflation spike of 2015, once the economy adjusted inflation would fall back again.

If freezing the Russian state’s foreign currency reserves in the US would only have a short term impact on the Russian economy, it would nonetheless constitute a colossal shock across the world financial system.

It would show that the US is prepared to abuse its position at the core of the world finance system and as the host of institutions such as the IMF to target not just the financial reserves of the smaller economies such as Libya, Venezuela or Iran but also the reserves of big G20 economies such as Russia.

The Chinese especially – who have been on the receiving end of similar threats against their reserves for some time – would be horrified.

It would be difficult to imagine any step the US might take that would galvanise more countries like China and Russia to set up their own alternatives to the world financial system and its institutions which have historically been under the control of the US.  Such moves are already underway and following the freezing (ie. seizure) of whatever proportion of Russia’s reserves are on US territory that process would be bound to accelerate.

It is impossible to see how that would benefit the US.

On 1st February 2018 Russian Central Bank Chair Nabiullina made the same points about the limited effect of the sanctions being discussed on the Russian economy.  Here is how Interfax reports her comments

We saw this risk previously, we see it now. We evaluated it, evaluated the effect of two possible scenarios: a scenario when there is a ban on purchase of new [obligations] and a ban on ownership [of existing obligations]. Of course, both of these decisions might trigger some volatility on the sovereign debt market, but in our view, even if there is initial short-term volatility, the markets will arrive at equilibrium.  We do not see any great effects either for the economy, financial stability or the financial sector.

(bold italics added)

A short while earlier – on 16th January 2018 – Russian Finance Minister Siluanov made the same point.  Here is how Interfax reports his comments

If these sanctions are introduced, those primarily suffering would be foreign investors, who are happy to invest in Russian obligations and receive a steady, reliable, guaranteed high return.  [Russian sovereign bonds would in that case be placed] among our Russian investors, using Russian infrastructure, which is very important.  We will also be engaged in not increasing budget imbalances, in order to carry out this borrowing in minimal volumes.

The US Treasury Department has now released a report which concedes all these points and which says that sanctions against Russia’s sovereign debt would be counterproductive, would have only a limited impact on Russia, and would harm the US.

The report concedes the Russian government’s very limited dependence on foreign borrowing and its invulnerability to sanctions on Russia’s sovereign debt

According to public information from the Russian Finance Ministry, Russia plans to issue roughly $17 billion annually in net new domestic bonds [NB: this refers to rouble bonds which the Russian government issues internally in Russia’s own domestic money markets, and which are invulnerable to sanctions – AM] to finance its fiscal deficits over 2018-2019, but to taper issuance beyond 2019 as the Russian budget comes into balance.  On the external side, Russia’s persistent current account surplus, supported by energy exports, its ample foreign exchange reserves, and its manageable schedule of dollar-denominated bond redemptions limit the need for Eurobond issuance in upcoming years.  However, Russia plans to continue to maintain a presence in this market to support a benchmark yield curve and to reach new investors.  Future external debt issuances will continue to be primarily denominated in US dollars.

In other words Russia does not need to borrow externally at all since it has very limited foreign debt, very large foreign currency reserves (which actually exceed the amount of its foreign debt), and a budget which is almost balanced and which will be in surplus from next year.

To the extent that Russia needs to borrow at all in order to cover its budget deficit, it can do so without difficulty on its own internal rouble denominated money markets.

The only reason Russia continues to float dollar denominated Eurobonds in the international money markets is not because it needs to do so in order to raise money to cover its budget or trade deficits or to pay its foreign debt.

It is in order to impress on foreign investors the strength and credit worthiness of the Russian economy as confirmed by the low interest Russia pays on its Eurobonds.

The US Treasury report does say that despite this invulnerability sanctions on Russia’s sovereign debt would nonetheless have a negative impact on Russia’s economy

Expanding Directive 1 to include dealings in new Russian sovereign debt and the full range of related derivatives would likely raise borrowing costs for Russia; prompt Russian authorities to alter their fiscal and monetary strategies; put downward pressure on Russian economic growth; destabilize financial markets, including Russia’s repurchase market, which is critical for overnight bank funding; increase strain on Russia’s banking sector; and lead to Russian retaliation against US interests.

Some of this is no doubt true, though it undoubtedly underestimates the extent to which the Russian economy – as Nabiullina and Siluanov have said – would rapidly adjust to these sanctions.

It also seriously underestimates the action the Russian authorities would themselves take to mitigate the effect of the sanctions.  By way of example, the assumption that Russia’s repurchase market would be destabilised by sanctions on Russia’s sovereign debt almost certainly underestimates the steps Russia’s Finance Ministry and Central Bank would immediately take to support it.

It is a certainty that more than four years after sanctions began to be imposed Russia’s Finance Ministry and Central Bank have game-planned for all conceivable scenarios, and are prepared to counter them.  Given Russia’s exceptionally strong financial position they have all the available means to do so, and that already makes any plans for new sanctions look unviable.

However the key point is that even the US Treasury report now admits that additional sanctions on Russia’s sovereign debt such as those which are being proposed would have extremely negative consequences for the US and world economies irrespective of whatever effect they might have on Russia

However, because the Russian economy has extensive real and financial sector linkages to global businesses and investors, the effect of the sanctions would not be limited to Russian authorities and businesses.  In particular, expanding sanctions could hinder the competitiveness of large US asset managers and potentially have negative spillover effects on global financial markets and businesses, although competitive distortions could be partially mitigated if the EU implemented similar sanctions.  Expanding US sanctions to include dealings in new Russian sovereign debt without corresponding measures by the EU and other US partners could undermine efforts to maintain unity on Russia sanctions.  Given the size of Russia’s economy, its interconnectedness and prevalence in global asset markets, and the likely over-compliance by global firms to US sanctions, the magnitude and scope of consequences from expanding sanctions to sovereign debt and derivatives is uncertain and the effects could be borne by both the Russian Federation and US investors and businesses.

In plain English, if the sanctions are limited to prohibiting US investors from buying Russian sovereign debt they will fail, and US investors will be the losers; whereas if the US were to succeed in strong arming its allies (ie. Japan and the EU) into supporting the sanctions then because of the Russian economy’s great size and sophistication the damage done to the world financial system and to the world economy would be extensive, and might call into question the US’s management of the world financial system and the reserve currency status of the US dollar.

The last words in the preceding paragraph of course do not appear anywhere in the US Treasury report.  US officials invariably avoid discussing the US’s role in managing the world financial system or the reserve currency status of the US dollar in discussions of this sort, since for completely understandable reasons they do not want to give the slightest hint that they might ever be questioned.  However concern for them is implicit in the whole paragraph from the US Treasury’s report which I have just quoted.

I return to my original point in my article discussing the proposed additional sectoral sanctions which I wrote when reports first circulated that these sanctions were being considered.

The sectoral sanctions which were imposed in Russia in July 2014 were calibrated to do the greatest possible harm to Russia and the least possible harm to the US and its allies.  Indeed I can remember no less a person than Barack Obama saying precisely that about them at the time.

The fact that those sanctions have failed is not a reason to double-down on still more sanctions.

No sanctions the West can now impose on Russia can harm Russia more than did the sanctions which the West imposed on Russia in July 2014.

On the contrary any further sectoral sanctions the West now imposes on Russia look more likely to harm the West than to harm Russia, especially over the medium and long term.

Rather the fact that the sectoral sanctions imposed on Russia in July 2014 failed should be a reason not for doubling down on still more sanctions, but rather for drawing back and reconsidering whether imposing sanctions on Russia is a good idea in the first place.

That in the present fraught atmosphere is something Western leaders seem unable to do.

However it does for the moment seem that the folly of imposing more sectoral sanctions is simply too obvious, and has for the moment been abandoned.

Following publication of the US Treasury report US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has now admitted as much, and in testimony to the House Financial Services Committee on 6th February 2018 has said that the only further sanctions the US Treasury is now considering are sanctions against individual Russian persons (“oligarchs”) and businesses

We’re targeting specific sanctions to bad individuals and companies as opposed to sanctions on debt.

As I have said previously, such sanctions on individual Russian persons and businesses are wrong and unfair.

However they cannot affect the Russian economy or the political situation in Russia, and in political and economic terms they are pinpricks.

On the contrary, all such sanctions do is give added force to the campaign the Russian authorities have been waging for some time to persuade Russian businessmen to repatriate to Russia the money they have been squirrelling away abroad, and it is almost certainly not a coincidence that for the first time that campaign looks to be meeting with a measure of success.

Inevitably there have been suggestions that the US Treasury Department’s decision to give up on further sectoral sanctions against Russia was somehow inspired by the well-known wish of US President Trump for better relations with Russians.

I think that is very unlikely to be true, with the true reasons for the decision being set out in this and my previous article and in the US Treasury Department’s own report.  As I have said many times, there is no reason to look for a secret conspiratorial reason for a decision, when the straightforward and openly expressed reason is fully sufficient and satisfactory.

On 27th May 2016, shortly after The Duran was started, I wrote a long article for The Duran in which I pointed out that Western attempts to stop the Russian government raising funds by borrowing both internally on Russia’s own money markets and internationally were guaranteed to fail, and that the attempts being made to stop the Russian government doing this were merely making Russia stronger.

The US’s decision not to proceed with sectoral sanctions targeting Russia’s sovereign debt confirm this.

With further sectoral sanctions against Russia now conclusively off the agenda, this episode merely highlights how much stronger in financial terms Russia has become.

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May Forces Brexit Betrayal to its Crisis Point

We’re 29 months later and the U.K. is no closer to being out of the EU than the day of the vote. 

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Authored by Tom Luongo:


The only words that were left out of Theresa May’s announcement of achieving Cabinet approval over her Brexit deal were Mission Accomplished.

Theresa May was put in charge of the U.K. to betray Brexit from the beginning.  She always represented the interests of the European Union and those in British Parliament that backed remaining in the EU.

No one in British ‘high society’ wanted Brexit to pass.   No. One.

No one in Europe’s power elite wanted Brexit to pass.  No. One.

No one in the U.S.’s power elite wanted Brexit to pass.  No. One.

When it did pass The Davos Crowd began the process of sabotaging it.  The fear mongering has done nothing but intensify.  And May has done nothing but waffle back and forth, walking the political tight rope to remain in power while trying to sell EU slavery to the both sides in British Parliament.

We’re 29 months later and the U.K. is no closer to being out of the EU than the day of the vote.  Why?

Because Theresa May’s 585 page ‘deal’ is the worst of all possible outcomes.  If it passes it will leave the EU with near full control over British trade and tax policy while the British people and government have no say or vote in the matter.

It’s punishment for the people getting uppity about their future and wanting something different than what had been planned for them.

Mr. Juncker and his replacement will never have to suffer another one of Nigel Farage’s vicious farragoes detailing their venality ever again.  YouTube will get a whole lot less interesting.

It’s almost like this whole charade was designed this way.

Because it was.

May has tried to run out the clock and scare everyone into accepting a deal that is worse than the situation pre-Brexit because somehow a terrible deal is better than no deal.  But, that’s the opposite of the truth.

And she knows it.  She’s always known it but she’s gone into these negotiations like the fragile wisp of a thing she truly is.

There’s a reason I call her “The Gypsum Lady.” She’s simply the opposite of Margaret Thatcher who always knew what the EU was about and fought to her last political breath to avoid the trap the U.K. is now caught in.

The U.K. has had all of the leverage in Brexit talks but May has gone out of her way to not use any of it while the feckless and evil vampires in Europe purposefully complicate issues which are the height of irrelevancy.

She has caved on every issue to the point of further eroding what’s left of British sovereignty.  This deal leaves the U.K. at the mercy of Latvia or Greece in negotiating any trade agreement with Canada.  Because for a deal between member states to be approved, all members have to approve of it.

So, yeah, great job Mrs. May.  Mission Accomplished.  They are popping champagne corks in Brussels now.

But, this is a Brexit people can be proud of.

Orwell would be proud of Theresa May for this one.

You people are leaving.  Let the EU worry about controlling their borders.  And if Ireland doesn’t like the diktats coming from Brussels than they can decide for themselves if staying in the EU is worth the trouble.

The entire Irish border issue is simply not May’s problem to solve.  Neither is the customs union or any of the other stuff.  These are the EU’s problems.   They are the ones who don’t want the Brits to leave.

Let them figure out how they are going to trade with the U.K.  It is so obvious that this entire Brexit ‘negotiation’ is about protecting the European project as a proxy for the right of German automakers to export their cars at advantageous exchange rates to the U.K. at everyone’s expense.

Same as it was in the days of The Iron Lady.

If all of this wasn’t so predictable it would be comical.

Because the only people more useless than Theresa May are the Tories who care only about keeping their current level of the perks of office.

The biggest takeaway from this Brexit fiasco is that even more people will check out of the political system. They will see it even more clearly for what it is, an irredeemable miasma of pelf and privilege that has zero interest in protecting the rights of its citizens or the value of their labor.

It doesn’t matter if it’s voter fraud in the U.S. or a drawn out betrayal of a binding referendum. There comes a point where those not at the political fringes look behind the veil and realize changing the nameplate above the door doesn’t change the policy.

And once they realize that confidence fails and systems collapse.

Brexit was the last gasp of a dying empire to assert its national relevancy.  Even if this deal is rejected by parliament the process has sown deep divisions which will lead to the next trap and the next and the next and the next.

By then Theresa May will be a distant memory, being properly rewarded by her masters for a job very well done.


Please support the production of independent and alternative political and financial commentary by joining my Patreon and subscribing to the Gold Goats ‘n Guns Investment Newsletter for just $12/month.

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The DOJ Is Preparing To Indict Julian Assange

Ecuador’s relationship with Assange has deteriorated considerably with the election of President Lenin Moreno.

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Via Zerohedge…


The US Justice Department is preparing to indict WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange which, after sensitive international negotiations, would likely trigger his extradition to the United States to stand trial, according to the Wall Street Journalciting people in Washington familiar with the matter.

Over the past year, U.S. prosecutors have discussed several types of charges they could potentially bring against Mr. Assange, the people said. Mr. Assange has lived in the Ecuadorean embassy in London since receiving political asylum from the South American country in 2012.

The people familiar with the case wouldn’t describe whether discussions were under way with the U.K. or Ecuador about Mr. Assange, but said they were encouraged by recent developments.

The exact charges Justice Department might pursue remain unclear, but they may involve the Espionage Act, which criminalizes the disclosure of national defense-related information. –WSJ

In short, the DOJ doesn’t appear to have a clear charge against Assange yet. Then there’s the optics of dragging Assange out of Ecuador’s London Embassy and into the United States, then prosecuting him, and if successful – jailing him.

Prosecuting someone for publishing truthful information would set a terrible and dangerous precedent,” said Assange lawyer Barry Pollack – who says he hasn’t heard anything about a US prosecution.

“We have heard nothing from authorities suggesting that a criminal case against Mr. Assange is imminent,” he added.

Moreover, assuming that even if the DOJ could mount a case, they would be required to prove that Russia was the source of a trove of emails damaging to Hillary Clinton that WikiLeaks released in the last few months of the 2016 election.

An indictment from special counsel Robert Mueller that portrayed WikiLeaks as a tool of Russian intelligence for releasing thousands of hacked Democratic emails during the 2016 presidential campaign has made it more difficult for Mr. Assange to mount a defense as a journalist. Public opinion of Mr. Assange in the U.S. has dropped since the campaign.

Prosecutors have considered publicly indicting Mr. Assange to try to trigger his removal from the embassy, the people said, because a detailed explanation of the evidence against Mr. Assange could give Ecuadorean authorities a reason to turn him over. –WSJ

It’s no secret that Assange and Hillary Clinton aren’t exactly exchanging Christmas cards, however would WikiLeaks’ release of damaging information that was hacked (or copied locally on a thumb drive by a well-meaning American), be illegal for Assange as a publisher?

Despite scant clues as to how the DOJ will prosecute Assange aside from rumors that it has to do with the Espionage Act, the US Government is cooking on something. John Demers – head of the DOJ’s national security division, said last week regarding an Assange case: “On that, I’ll just say, we’ll see.”

The U.S. hasn’t publicly commented on whether it has made, or plans to make, any extradition request. Any extradition request from the U.S. would likely go to British authorities, who have an outstanding arrest warrant for Mr. Assange related to a Swedish sexual assault case. Sweden has since dropped the probe, but the arrest warrant stands.

Any extradition and prosecution would involve multiple sensitive negotiations within the U.S. government and with other countries. –WSJ

Beginning in 2010, the Department of Justice beginning under the Obama administration has drawn a distinction between WikiLeaks and other news organizations – with former Attorney General Eric Holder insisting that Assange’s organization does not deserve the same first amendment protections during the Chelsea Manning case in which the former Army intelligence analyst was found guilty at a court-martial of leaking thousands of classified Afghan War Reports.

US officials have given mixed messages over Assange, with President Trump having said during the 2016 election “I love WikiLeaks,” only to have his former CIA Director, Mike Pompeo label WikiLeaks akin to a foreign “hostile intelligence service” and a US adversary. Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions has said that Assange’s arrest is a “priority.”

Ecuador’s relationship with Assange, meanwhile, has deteriorated considerably with the election of President Lenin Moreno – who called the WikiLeaks founder a “stone in our shoe,” adding that Assange’s stay at the London embassy is unsustainable.

Ecuador has been looking to improve relations with the U.S., hosting Vice President Mike Pence in 2018 amid interest in increasing trade.

Ecuador’s Foreign Relations Ministry declined to comment. This month, Foreign Relations Minister José Valencia told a radio station the government hadn’t received an extradition request for Mr. Assange.

Mr. Assange has clashed with his Ecuadorean hosts in over internet access, visitors, his cat and other issues. Last month, he sued Ecuador over the conditions of his confinement. At a hearing last month, at which a judge rejected Mr. Assange’s claims, Mr. Assange said he expected to be forced out of the embassy soon.  –WSJ

Assange and Ecuador seem to have worked things out for the time being; with his months-long communication blackout mostly lifted (with strict rules against Assange participating in political activities that would affect Ecuador’s international relations). Assange is now allowed Wi-Fi, but has to foot the bill for his own phone calls and other communication.

In October, a judge threw out a lawsuit Assange filed against Ecuador from implementing the stricter rules,.

“Ecuador hasn’t violated the rights of anyone,” Attorney General Íñigo Salvador said after the court ruling. “It has provided asylum to Mr. Assange, and he should comply with the rules to live harmoniously inside Ecuador’s public installations in London.”Assange’s attorneys say he will appeal the ruling – however it may be a moot point if he’s dragged into a US courtroom sooner than later.

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Trump Understands The Important Difference Between Nationalism And Globalism

President Trump’s nationalism heralds a return to the old U.S. doctrine of non-intervention.

The Duran

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Authored by Raheem Kassam, op-ed via The Daily Caller:


President Macron’s protests against nationalism this weekend stand in stark contrast with the words of France’s WWII resistance leader and the man who would then become president: General Charles de Gaulle.

Speaking to his men in 1913, de Gaulle reminded them:

“He who does not love his mother more than other mothers, and his fatherland more than other fatherlands, loves neither his mother nor his fatherland.”

This unquestionable invocation of nationalism reveals how far France has come in its pursuit of globalist goals, which de Gaulle described later in that same speech as the “appetite of vice.”

While this weekend the media have been sharpening their knives on Macron’s words, for use against President Trump, very few have taken the time to understand what really created the conditions for the wars of the 20th century. It was globalism’s grandfather: imperialism, not nationalism.

This appears to have been understood at least until the 1980s, though forgotten now. With historical revisionism applied to nationalism and the great wars, it is much harder to understand what President Trump means when he calls himself a “nationalist.” Though the fault is with us, not him.

Patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism: nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism … By pursuing our own interests first, with no regard to others,’ we erase the very thing that a nation holds most precious, that which gives it life and makes it great: its moral values,” President Macron declared from the pulpit of the Armistice 100 commemorations.

Had this been in reverse, there would no doubt have been shrieks of disgust aimed at Mr. Trump for “politicizing” such a somber occasion. No such shrieks for Mr. Macron, however, who languishes below 20 percent in national approval ratings in France.

With some context applied, it is remarkably easy to see how President Macron was being disingenuous.

Nationalism and patriotism are indeed distinct. But they are not opposites.

Nationalism is a philosophy of governance, or how human beings organize their affairs. Patriotism isn’t a governing philosophy. Sometimes viewed as subsidiary to the philosophy of nationalism, patriotism is better described as a form of devotion.

For all the grandstanding, Mr. Macron may as well have asserted that chicken is the opposite of hot sauce,so meaningless was the comparison.

Imperialism, we so quickly forget, was the order of the day heading into the 20th century. Humanity has known little else but empire since 2400 B.C. The advent of globalism, replete with its foreign power capitals and multi-national institutions is scarcely distinct.

Imperialism — as opposed to nationalism — seeks to impose a nation’s way of life, its currency, its traditions, its flags, its anthems, its demographics, and its rules and laws upon others wherever they may be.

Truly, President Trump’s nationalism heralds a return to the old U.S. doctrine of non-intervention, expounded by President George Washington in his farewell address of 1796:

” … It must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves, by artificial ties, in the ordinary vicissitudes of [Europe’s] politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities.”

It should not have to be pointed out that the great wars of the 20th century could not be considered “ordinary vicissitudes”, but rather, that imperialism had begun to run amok on the continent.

It was an imperialism rooted in nihilism, putting the totality of the state at its heart. Often using nationalism as nothing more than a method of appeal, socialism as a doctrine of governance, and Jews as a subject of derision and scapegoating.

Today’s imperialism is known as globalism.

It is what drives nations to project outward their will, usually with force; causes armies to cross borders in the hope of subjugating other human beings or the invaded nation’s natural resources; and defines a world, or region, or continent by its use of central authority and foreign capital control.

Instead of armies of soldiers, imperialists seek to dominate using armies of economists and bureaucrats. Instead of forced payments to a foreign capital, globalism figured out how to create economic reliance: first on sterling, then on the dollar, now for many on the Euro. This will soon be leapfrogged by China’s designs.

And while imperialism has served some good purposes throughout human history, it is only when grounded in something larger than man; whether that be natural law, God, or otherwise. But such things are scarcely long-lived.

While benevolent imperialism can create better conditions over a period of time, humanity’s instincts will always lean towards freedom and self-governance.

It is this fundamental distinction between the United States’ founding and that of the modern Republic of France that defines the two nations.

The people of France are “granted” their freedoms by the government, and the government creates the conditions and dictates the terms upon which those freedoms are exercised.

As Charles Kesler wrote for the Claremont Review of Books in May, “As a result, there are fewer and fewer levers by which the governed can make its consent count”.

France is the archetypal administrative state, while the United States was founded on natural law, a topic that scarcely gets enough attention anymore.

Nationalism – or nationism, if you will – therefore represents a break from the war-hungry norm of human history. Its presence in the 20th century has been rewritten and bastardized.

A nationalist has no intention of invading your country or changing your society. A nationalist cares just as much as anyone else about the plights of others around the world but believes putting one’s own country first is the way to progress. A nationalist would never seek to divide by race, gender, ethnicity, or sexual preference, or otherwise. This runs contrary to the idea of a united, contiguous nation at ease with itself.

Certainly nationalism’s could-be bastard child of chauvinism can give root to imperialistic tendencies. But if the nation can and indeed does look after its own, and says to the world around it, “these are our affairs, you may learn from them, you may seek advice, we may even assist if you so desperately need it and our affairs are in order,” then nationalism can be a great gift to the 21st century and beyond.

This is what President Trump understands.

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