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Washington publishes bizarre ‘non-sanctions’ list, leaving some off

US announces no new anti Russian sanctions but produces list cobbled together from Kremlin directory and Forbes Russia rich list

Alexander Mercouris

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Six months after President Trump very grudgingly signed into law a bipartisan bill voted for overwhelmingly seeking sanctions against US ‘enemies’ such as Russia and Iran, the Trump administration, as it was legally mandated to do, has produced its ‘name and shame’ list of prominent Russians.

The best thing that can be said about the list is that it is bizarre.  The senior Russian government officials named in the list appear to have been indiscriminately chosen because they appear in the Kremlin’s and the Russian government’s directories of prominent officials.  As for the wealthy individuals in the list, it seems that they have simply been transplanted onto the list from Forbes.

Some attempt does seem to have been made to keep certain Russian officials of actual or reputed pro-Western views off the list.  Russia’s Central Bank Chair Elvira Nabiullina is not on the list, and nor is the liberal former Finance Minister Alexey Kudrin.  Unsurprisingly, neither is Anatoly Chubais, the ultra liberal Yeltsin official who masterminded Russia’s disastrous and hugely corrupt privatisation drive in the 1990s.

All I would say about the exclusion of Nabiullina and Kudrin from the list is that irrespective of their views both are currently loyal to Putin, and their exclusion from the list will cause them nothing but trouble in Russia.

As for Chubais, any list genuinely intended to ‘name and shame’ individuals responsible for creating corruption in Russia should certainly include him.  Arguably no other single individual bears a heavier weight of responsibility for the explosion of corruption which took place in Russia than him.

Not all prominent people in Russia who might be broadly described as pro-Western liberals have however managed to avoid inclusion in the list.

German Gref, Russia’s liberal former Economics Minister and close ally of Alexey Kudrin, who is now Chair of Sberbank, is included in the list.  Presumably he is there because Sberbank – Russia’s biggest bank – forms such an essential part of Russia’s financial architecture.

Sberbank by the way is one of the state owned Russian banks which were targeted by the sectoral sanctions imposed on Russia by the US and the EU in July 2014.  Far from being hurt by the sanctions it is now in rude health.

As for the other wealthy Russians in the list, it seems that anyone in Russia who is or is reputed to be a billionaire is automatically included.  These seems to be the case irrespective of whether they are pro-Putin or not.

Putin himself – much to his chagrin – is not on the list.  It is not clear why.

To say that publication of the list has been an anti-climax would be an understatement.  After months of speculation about what new ferocious sanctions the US was about to impose on Russia and on the people named in the list, it is not an exaggeration to say that a mountain has moved and produced a mouse.

Some Democratic Congressmen were unable to hide their anger, and in testimony before the Senate Banking Committee US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin tried to appease them by assuring them that more sanctions against Russia were indeed on the way.  Whether however they will ever come and how severe they will be if they do is however another matter.

Alongside the ‘name and shame’ list but attracting far less publicity was a classified report the US Treasury Department provided to Congress which was described by Bloomberg in this way

An accompanying report on the effect on Russia’s sovereign debt from possible U.S. sanctions was classified, Senator Bob Corker confirmed in a statement on Tuesday. Congress had requested an unclassified version of the report.

The fact that this report was classified shows the sensitivity and legal difficulty of action against the sovereign debt of Russia, one of the world’s leading economic powers.

It is known that some Democratic Congressmen have been lobbying for action against Russia’s sovereign debt.  As I discussed recently, in practical terms that means action to stop US investors buying Russian sovereign bonds.  As I also discussed recently, that would be unlikely to deter other foreign investors, and given the current state of the Russian economy it would have only a limited effect anyway.

The fact that this report is classified suggests that the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve Board are advising against it.

It is clear that other wilder proposals to seize Russia’s financial reserves in the US or to disconnect Russian banks from the SWIFT interbank payment system have been dropped.

Why after all the threats and bluster has the US come up with so little?

It is possible that at a certain level President Trump’s well known wish for better relations with Russia has had a certain influence.  However the problem for the US is that ultimately Russia is simply not vulnerable to sanctions.  I discussed this recently in an article for RussiaFeed

Summary

What all these proposals have in common is that they highlight is the simple fact that the sectoral sanctions which were imposed by the West on Russia in 2014 have failed.

The sanctions did not break the Russian economy, or cause a popular revolution in Russia, or lead to an oligarchs’ coup against Putin – all things their advocates variously predicted would happen because of them.

Nor have they achieved their stated purpose, which is to force Russia to change its policies towards Ukraine….

The key point is that the Russian economy is many orders of magnitude bigger and more sophisticated than the sort of economies – such as those of Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea and Venezuela – upon which the US has imposed sanctions previously.  Applying the supposed lessons of the impact of sanctions on those economies in the case of Russia makes no sense, even if those lessons had been learnt correctly, which they have not. Unlike all those economies Russia’s economy is far bigger, already possessing the technology, capital and resources it needs to develop autonomously.

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…..are counter-productive.

As for the idea that slapping sanctions on wealthy Russians will provoke them into launching a coup against President Putin, to anyone genuinely familiar with the situation in Russia the idea is absurd.

What putting the names of such people on a ‘name and shame’ list and threatening them with sanctions is far more likely to do is get them finally to heed President Putin’s call to repatriate their money from abroad.

President Putin has been pushing hard for this ever since the first round of sanctions was imposed on Russia back in 2014.

Wealthy Russians and the Russian business community in general have however proved to deaf to these calls, presumably calculating that they would be exempted from Western sanctions which were intended to target only those people close to the Kremlin.

Now that they know that anyone listed in Forbes is a likely target they may finally reconsider.  That at least is what the Financial Times seems to think

The threat of further sanctions may inadvertently help the Kremlin achieve the long-elusive goal of getting oligarchs to repatriate capital stashed in the west: the finance ministry is preparing to issue a $3bn bond on discounted terms for Russia’s top businessmen. “Everyone is thinking long and hard about it,” says a former member of Mr Putin’s cabinet.

A sanctions policy that actually advances President Putin’s objectives makes little sense.  It is strange that no one in Washington seems to realise it.

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The Discarded Wisdom of America’s Founders

The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible.

Eric Zuesse

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A good example of the discarded wisdom of America’s Founders is George Washington’s Farewell Address to the nation, delivered by him not orally but instead solely in printed form, published in Philadelphia by David C. Claypoole’s American Daily Advertiser, on 19 September 1796, and distributed to the nation. The following extended excerpt from it is the most famous part of it, and is being blatantly raped by today’s U.S. Government, and therefore it might indicate the necessity for a second American Revolution, this one to disown and throw out not Britain’s Aristocracy, but America’s aristocracy. America’s Founders had done all they knew how to do to conquer Britain’s aristocracy, and they embodied in our Constitution all that they knew in order to prevent any aristocracy ever from arising in this nation; but the Founders clearly had failed in this their dearest hope, because a domestic U.S. aristocracy has arisen here and destroyed American democracy, as this nation’s Founders had feared, and as Washington in this document effectively affirms — and, by these words, proves — to have happened (they’ve taken over this country, in and by both of its Parties, and so we have here a profound and scathing, blistering, criticism of today’s American Government):

Observe good faith and justice towards all nations; cultivate peace and harmony with all. Religion and morality enjoin this conduct; and can it be, that good policy does not equally enjoin it? It will be worthy of a free, enlightened, and at no distant period, a great nation, to give to mankind the magnanimous and too novel example of a people always guided by an exalted justice and benevolence. Who can doubt that, in the course of time and things, the fruits of such a plan would richly repay any temporary advantages which might be lost by a steady adherence to it ? Can it be that Providence has not connected the permanent felicity of a nation with its virtue? The experiment, at least, is recommended by every sentiment which ennobles human nature. Alas! is it rendered impossible by its vices?

In the execution of such a plan, nothing is more essential than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular nations, and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded; and that, in place of them, just and amicable feelings towards all should be cultivated. The nation which indulges towards another a habitual hatred or a habitual fondness is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest. Antipathy in one nation against another disposes each more readily to offer insult and injury, to lay hold of slight causes of umbrage, and to be haughty and intractable, when accidental or trifling occasions of dispute occur. Hence, frequent collisions, obstinate, envenomed, and bloody contests. The nation, prompted by ill-will and resentment, sometimes impels to war the government, contrary to the best calculations of policy. The government sometimes participates in the national propensity, and adopts through passion what reason would reject; at other times it makes the animosity of the nation subservient to projects of hostility instigated by pride, ambition, and other sinister and pernicious motives. The peace often, sometimes perhaps the liberty, of nations, has been the victim.

So likewise, a passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter without adequate inducement or justification. It leads also to concessions to the favorite nation of privileges denied to others which is apt doubly to injure the nation making the concessions; by unnecessarily parting with what ought to have been retained, and by exciting jealousy, ill-will, and a disposition to retaliate, in the parties from whom equal privileges are withheld. And it gives to ambitious, corrupted, or deluded citizens (who devote themselves to the favorite nation), facility to betray or sacrifice the interests of their own country, without odium, sometimes even with popularity; gilding, with the appearances of a virtuous sense of obligation, a commendable deference for public opinion, or a laudable zeal for public good, the base or foolish compliances of ambition, corruption, or infatuation.

As avenues to foreign influence in innumerable ways, such attachments are particularly alarming to the truly enlightened and independent patriot. How many opportunities do they afford to tamper with domestic factions, to practice the arts of seduction, to mislead public opinion, to influence or awe the public councils? Such an attachment of a small or weak towards a great and powerful nation dooms the former to be the satellite of the latter.

Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence (I conjure you to believe me, fellow-citizens) the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake, since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government. But that jealousy to be useful must be impartial; else it becomes the instrument of the very influence to be avoided, instead of a defense against it. Excessive partiality for one foreign nation and excessive dislike of another cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other. Real patriots who may resist the intrigues of the favorite are liable to become suspected and odious, while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people, to surrender their interests.

The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements, let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith. Here let us stop. Europe has a set of primary interests which to us have none; or a very remote relation. Hence she must be engaged in frequent controversies, the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence, therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves by artificial ties in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities.

Our detached and distant situation invites and enables us to pursue a different course. If we remain one people under an efficient government, the period is not far off when we may defy material injury from external annoyance; when we may take such an attitude as will cause the neutrality we may at any time resolve upon to be scrupulously respected; when belligerent nations, under the impossibility of making acquisitions upon us, will not lightly hazard the giving us provocation; when we may choose peace or war, as our interest, guided by justice, shall counsel.

Why forego the advantages of so peculiar a situation? Why quit our own to stand upon foreign ground? Why, by interweaving our destiny with that of any part of Europe, entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalship, interest, humor or caprice?

It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world; so far, I mean, as we are now at liberty to do it; for let me not be understood as capable of patronizing infidelity to existing engagements. I hold the maxim no less applicable to public than to private affairs, that honesty is always the best policy. I repeat it, therefore, let those engagements be observed in their genuine sense. But, in my opinion, it is unnecessary and would be unwise to extend them.

Taking care always to keep ourselves by suitable establishments on a respectable defensive posture, we may safely trust to temporary alliances for extraordinary emergencies.

Harmony, liberal intercourse with all nations, are recommended by policy, humanity, and interest. But even our commercial policy should hold an equal and impartial hand; neither seeking nor granting exclusive favors or preferences; consulting the natural course of things; diffusing and diversifying by gentle means the streams of commerce, but forcing nothing; establishing (with powers so disposed, in order to give trade a stable course, to define the rights of our merchants, and to enable the government to support them) conventional rules of intercourse, the best that present circumstances and mutual opinion will permit, but temporary, and liable to be from time to time abandoned or varied, as experience and circumstances shall dictate; constantly keeping in view that it is folly in one nation to look for disinterested favors from another; that it must pay with a portion of its independence for whatever it may accept under that character; that, by such acceptance, it may place itself in the condition of having given equivalents for nominal favors, and yet of being reproached with ingratitude for not giving more. There can be no greater error than to expect or calculate upon real favors from nation to nation. It is an illusion, which experience must cure, which a just pride ought to discard.

—————

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.

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Bruce Ohr Texts, Emails Reveal Steele’s Deep Ties to Obama DOJ, FBI

There are indications that the FBI knew that Steele was in contact with the media before the bureau submitted the first FISA application.

The Duran

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Authored by Sara Carter via SaraCarter.com:


A trove of emails and handwritten notes from Department of Justice official Bruce Ohr exposes the continuous contact and communication between the DOJ attorney and anti-Trump dossier author Christopher Steele, according to notes and documents obtained by SaraACarter.com. The emails and notes were written between 2016 and 2017.

The notes and emails also reveal that Ohr was in communication with Glenn Simpson, the founder of the embattled research firm Fusion GPS, which was paid by the Hillary Clinton campaign and DNC to hire Steele.

In one of Ohr’s handwritten notes listed as “Law enforcement Sensitive” from May 10, 2017, he writes “Call with Chris,” referencing Steele. He notes that Steele is “very concerned about Comey’s firing, afraid they will be exposed.” This call occurred months after FBI Director James Comey testified before the House Intelligence Committee and revealed for the first time that the FBI had an open counterintelligence investigation into President Donald Trump’s campaign and alleged collusion with Russia.

Steele is also extremely concerned about a letter sent from the Senate Judiciary Committee asking Comey for information on his involvement with Steele. Grassley sent 12 questions to Comey regarding the bureau and Steele’s relationship and wanted all information on any agreements they had during the investigation into alleged Russia-Trump collusion. Grassley also wanted to know if the FBI ever verified any of the information in Steele’s reports.

In Ohr’s notes from May 10, 2017, he goes onto write that Steele is concerned about a letter from the Senate Intelligence Committee, writing:

“Asked them 3 questions:

  1. What info (information) did you give to the U.S. govt (government)?
  2. What was the scope of yr (your) investigation?
  3. Do you have any other info that would assist in our question?”

SaraACarter.com first reported this week text messages between Steele and Ohr, revealing that Steele was anxious about Comey’s testimony and was hoping that “important firewalls will hold” when Comey testified.

Those text messages in March 2017 were shared only two days before Comey testified to lawmakers.

The House Intelligence Committee revealed in their Russia report earlier this year that Steele–who was working for the FBI as a Confidential Human Source (CHS)–had shopped his dossier to numerous news outlets in the summer of 2016.  According to the report, the FBI terminated Steele after discovering that he was leaking to news outlets, breaking a cardinal rule by the bureau to not reveal ongoing investigations and information to the media.

However, there is growing concern that the FBI was well aware that Steele was in contact with media outlets about his dossier before the FBI applied to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for its first warrant in the fall of 2016 to conduct surveillance on former Trump campaign volunteer advisor, Carter Page.

There are indications that the FBI knew that Steele was in contact with the media before the bureau submitted the first FISA application…

“There are indications that the FBI knew that Steele was in contact with the media before the bureau submitted the first FISA application and that question needs to be resolved,” said a congressional official with knowledge of the investigation.

The documents from March 2017, reveal how concerned Steele is with Grassley’s committee and the letter from the senator’s office seeking answers from Steele on the dossier.

In June 2017, Steele tells Ohr,  “We are frustrated with how long this reengagement with the Bureau and Mueller is taking.  Anything you can do to accelerate the process would be much appreciated.  There are some new, perishable, operational opportunities which we do not want to miss out on.”

In October 2017, Steele notes that he is concerned about the stories in the media about the bureau delivering information to Congress “about my work and relationship with them.  Very concerned about this.  People’s lives may be endangered.”

And in November 2017, Steele, who is trying to engage with Robert Mueller’s Special Counsel, writes to Ohr saying, “we were wondering if there was any response to the questions I raised last week.”

Ohr responds by saying, “I have passed on the questions (apparently to the special counsel) but haven’t gotten an answer yet.”

Steele then says,  “I am presuming you’ve heard nothing back from your SC (special counsel) colleagues on the issues you kindly put to them from me.  We have heard nothing from them either.  To say this is disappointing would be an understatement!  Certain people have been willing to risk everything to engage with them in an effort to help them reach the truth.  Also, we remain in the dark as to what work has been briefed to Congress about us, our assets and previous work.”

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College offer courses on ‘queering’ children, the Bible

US Colleges are teaching students to “queer” Christianity and religion in general.

Campus Reform

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Authored by Celine Ryan via Campus Reform:


This school year, students across the country will attend courses on “Queering the Bible,” “Queering Childhood,” “Queering Theology,” and similar topics.

Students at Pomona College in Claremont, California, for instance, will have the opportunity to enroll in a brand new course titled “Queering Childhood,” which will examine “the figure of the Child and how this figuration is used by politics, law, and medicine to justify continued cultural investment in reproductive heteronormativity and productive ablebodiedness.”

The course description explains that students will examine the childhoods of “queer and crip children,” as well as “childhoods against which the figure of the Child is articulated,” with reference to work related to “gender studies, childhood studies, disability studies, and queer theory.”

Colleges are not only attempting to “queer” childhood, they are teaching students to “queer” Christianity and religion in general, as well.

This fall, Eugene Lang College will offer a course titled “Queering and Decolonizing Theology,” where students will explore topics such as “the sexual ethics and ritualization found in the S&M community,” and “transgender Christs.”

“Christian theology is often depicted as a violent colonial force standing in particular opposition to LGBTQI lives. However, over the last 30 years people of faith, activists, and theorists alike have rediscovered what is queer within Christianity, uncovered what is religious within secular queer communities, and used postcolonial theory to decolonize lived religious practices and theologies,” the course description asserts.

According to the college, the course “explores secular philosophies of queer and postcolonial theory as well as their critical and constructive application to religion,” focusing on topics like “the sexual ethics and ritualization found in the S&M community, transgender Christs, and the mestiza (or mixed) cultures of Latin America.”

Similarly, students at Harvard Divinity School will be able to attend a course on “Queer Theologies, Queer Religions” this fall, which will explore the “project of ‘queer theology’” and how it relates to “larger aspirations of queer religion or spirituality in America.”

In this course, students will begin by “sampling the efforts to revise traditional Christian theologies in order to accept or affirm same-sex loves.” After that, they will move on to examining “forgotten possibilities in historical engagements between advocates of homosexual rights and established religious bodies (chiefly churches and synagogues).”

“We will consider the boundaries between queer theology and queer theory or between it and other political theologies,” the course description explains.  “We will test the boundaries of ‘Christianity’ while considering the varied forms of queer religion outside familiar religious institutions—in spirituality or spiritualism, in magic or neo-paganism, in erotic asceticism.”

Swarthmore College students, meanwhile, will survey “queer and trans* readings of biblical texts” during a course titled “Queering the Bible,” which will introduce them to “the complexity of constructions of sex, gender, and identity in one of the most influential literary works produced in ancient times.”

“By reading the Bible with the methods of queer and trans* theoretical approaches,” the description promises, “this class destabilizes long held assumptions about what the [B]ible—and religion—says about gender and sexuality.”

The University of San Francisco is also getting into the act with a course on “Christian Feminist Theology” that aims to “develop an understanding of how feminist scholarship provides one fruitful means towards reappropriation of central Christian insights about God.”

The course will facilitate “critical reflection upon the experience of God, and insights from feminist thought,” according to the description.

In a similar vein, students enrolled in the University of Pennsylvania’s “Gender, Sexuality, and Religion” course “will read religion through a variety of feminist and queer theory lenses- exploring the key characteristics of diverse feminist analyses of religion, as well as limits of specific feminist approaches.”

“In this course we will learn about women’s and men’s rituals, social roles, and mythologies in specific religious traditions,” the course description explains. “We will also look at the central significance of gender to the field of religious studies generally, with particular attention to non-binary genders.”

To that end, the course will address questions such as “How important are the gender differences in deciding social roles, ritual activities, and spiritual vocations?” and “How does gender intersect with nationality, language, and politics?”

Campus Reform reached out to each of the schools mentioned in this report for additional comment on the courses in question, and is currently awaiting responses. This article will be updated if and when any of them provide a statement.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @celinedryan

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