US Sanctions on Russia and the Battle for Oil and Natural Gas. Impacts on Global Energy Security | Igor Alexeev


oilcorps  (Global Research, April 13, 2014)
After a series of headline-grabbing statements about the possibility of “switching” European consumers over to American gas, the US media hastened to announce the launch of Obama’s oil and gas offensive against Russia. In reality the EU is not currently prepared, neither technically nor in terms of price, to buy its energy resources from the US.  It would take at least ten years to adapt even the technically advanced German energy system to work with American gas supply. In a crisis, when it is particularly urgent to see a quick return on an investment, such projects are unrealistic.

Whether German industry is ready to pay more for gas from overseas just for the dubious pleasure of “punishing” someone is a big question. Unlike EU officials, the German government is not publicly calling into question either its long-term contracts with Russia or the future of the South Stream pipeline. On March 13, 2014, the chairman of the board of Gazprom, Alexei Miller, attended a meeting with the Vice-Chancellor and Minister of Economics and Energy of Germany Sigmar Gabriel. “Germany is Russia’s number one partner in Europe’s gas and energy market,” Miller stated. “Russian gas accounts for 40% of all German imports. And we’re also noting an upwards tick in the quantity of gas supplies coming from Russia.  Last year, shipments totaled more than 40 billion cubic meters and we’ve seen a 20% annual increase.” Looking at these statistics, it’s clear that all the talk about Atlantic solidarity is having zero effect on the German government’s rational decision making. “We don’t need conflict escalation”, said Sigmar Gabriel during an expert roundtable on energy policy later in March. “Russia met its obligations under the gas contracts even in the darkest years of the Cold War”.

Sigmar Gabriel knows what he’s talking about. For Europe to be able to fully utilize gas supplies from the US, it will be necessary to build expensive facilities to decompress and store the gas. Moreover, in order to incorporate the “American” gas into the existing local energy systems, the European countries would need to construct new pumping stations. The associated infrastructure will further add to the price for the end consumer. Neither the bosses of the German industry nor the responsible political leaders will support such policy.

So who’s behind the demands that Russia be punished?

Barack Obama continues to look outside of Europe for ways to pressure Moscow. It is no coincidence that the US president’s recent statements on energy policy coincided with his visit to Saudi Arabia. President Obama came to Riyadh to bring down prices in exchange for the development of Saudi Arabian facilities to extract and liquefy gas for delivery to Europe. It’s unlikely that even Charles Maurice de Talleyrand himself could have persuaded the Saudis to dump as many resources as possible onto the market in exchange for the nebulous promise of American help to obtain new gas facilities at some unspecified date in the future.

Qatar’s position needs to be kept in mind too. There are serious personal disagreements between the Saudis and the hypersensitive former emir of Qatar as no one in the Middle East needs a new competitor in the gas industry. Obama’s attempt to repeat Ronald Reagan’s oil trick in the Middle East and “shake down” global prices will face many obstacles. A hike in oil prices below $80 would expose yet another issue that was a real controversy during Obama’s reelection campaign, namely – what to do about Iraq. Even a 10% drop in oil prices would finish off the Iraqi economy, still reeling from the US invasion. And Israel is closely monitoring the White House’s attempts to initiate a rapprochement with Iran. If Uncle Sam tries to levy energy sanctions against Russia using his political positions in the Middle East, he will quickly find he has loaded a gun only to shoot himself in the foot.

The US Secretary of Energy, Ernest Moniz, an Obama appointee and shale enthusiast, has jumped right into the discussion of “punishing” Russia. He promised to consider new efforts to ship LNG from the USA to Europe. In this particular case his verbal intervention is unlikely to reflect the position of the CEOs of the oil majors. They know very well that the industry’s real break-even points are nowhere near where they were 30 years ago due to inflation and higher operation costs. Today one facility—Cheniere’s $10 billion Sabine Pass terminal in Cameron Parish—has the required approvals from the Energy Department and U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

In early March, the American economist Philip Verleger, who worked in the White House and the US Treasury in the 1970s, spoke as an expert on the issue of using energy as way to “punish” Russia. In the March 3, 2014 newsletter that he publishes for his clients, Verleger wrote that the US has a tool it can use to influence Russia – its Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR). US Reserve currently contains almost 700 million barrels of oil, five million of which were unloaded onto the market during the Washington visit of the interim Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk. “It almost defies logic to think there isn’t a link,” noted John Kingston, the director of Platts’ news division. Tapping the SPR to manipulate the global market would be a highly extraordinary decision. The only way to exert any real pressure on global oil prices would be to open up at least 50% of the entire SPR and grant export licenses to anyone who wanted one. The American DoE is obviously not ready for such draconian measures.

Looking at the 2014 report written by the DoE analysts who are known for their almost religious faith in alternative energy, the minimum price for oil in 2015 will be $89.75/barr. The Russian national budget in 2014, which was saddled with expenses related to the Olympics, was drawn up based on an average price of $93 per barrel. Ergo, even $80-90 would hardly spell disaster for Moscow, much less $100 a barrel. In addition, the “nonmarket” pressure by the US could be balanced by the exporter nations. For example, the idea of “energy currency” has long been a hot topic within OPEC and the Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF).

For the first time ever in the history of US-Russian relations we are seeing a public debate about a threat of economic sanctions that may have a long-range negative effect on global energy security. The Obama administration acts as if it is guided by a chapter out of an old Soviet textbook on political economy. At the moment, apparently, the sacred dogma of the free market, from Samuelson to Friedman, can be conveniently overlooked for the sake of punishing a sovereign nation. When the head of the most influential state in the world talks about manipulating market prices to punish recalcitrant players, what kind of “global free market” and fair play are we really talking about?

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Way Down in Venezuela, Capital Won’t Let the People Go | CHRIS GILBERT


(The Greanville Post, 13 April 2014)

Can Maduro Avoid the Trap?
veneuzela-protests

It was shortly after Moses’s encounter with the Burning Bush that God promised to take the people of Israel to the land of milk and honey. God, who could be extremely cryptic in his explanations (“I am that I am”), did not beat around the bush – of the either burning or extinguished variety – when it came to capturing his audience. For that reason, he did not offer houris (which might lose their charm in a few weeks) or freedom and democracy (which can ring hollow on an empty stomach) but two simple use-values: milk and honey.

In this sense – and in very few others – God is like the Venezuelan opposition. Freedom, Dictatorship, Regime Change are just words after all. Milk, sugar, and flour are things, the reality or absence of which is quite palpable. The Venezuelan opposition knows that in certain moments it can appear to be a matter of supreme indifference whether a land is run by Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, or Jebusites as long as… it is flowing with milk and honey.

The Bible, or at least most of the Old Testament, was written by hungry people. In a well-fed society, a pomegranate might inspire thoughts a beloved’s rosy cheeks, but theSong of Songs presents just the opposite fantasy; the whole of the beloved’s body transports the lover to thinking about sheep, goats, fruit and, yes, milk and honey. Or again, the despicable Esau forgoes his birthright not for a lentil field or shares in a lentil business but for a plate of lentils. All of this, along with the handful of prophets who like Ezekiel actually chow down on their prophetic calling, points to the presence of hunger, not of the passing sort but of a gnawing and persistent kind: a people who can’t get food off their minds.

In the drama called Food on the Mind that is taking place now in Venezuela, Act II “The Peace Conference” began on February 27 with Lorenzo Mendoza entering from stage right. Mendoza, who descends from the oldest Venezuelan oligarchy and perhaps even Bolívar’s sister, knows how to speak to his people. His blue-blooded family has never really left the government, usually naming or occupying the position of Minister of Agriculture, except under Chávez. Mendoza is a seasoned player who knows his part well and is also aware that to cut through the apparent conflict and bring people out of their 14-year apostasy, moralizing jeremiads will accomplish very little. Instead he proposes something more concrete. Mendoza says: The economy is what we need to talk about, not politics.

His words – which taste like milk and honey – are received by a great many in Venezuela as the possible basis of a new covenant. Indeed, Beer, Flour, Butter, Cooking Oil should all flow freely. Private business is part of the solution not the problem, Mendoza says; and he seems to be speaking the truth as these very foodstuffs in the brands sold by his giant Polar corporation (Maizeite oil, Mavesa margarine, PAN cornmeal) miraculously reappear in Caracas just two or three days after his speaking. Precisely in what the new covenant consists, on the other hand, is something which will be revealed in future days.

Humor aside, the real question and the point of this extended comparison is to reflect on why it is that private business is God and also why we, for all practical purposes, are Egyptian slaves. Or put more concretely: how is it that Mendoza and company (really the whole businessman’s class here), who have been offstage for most of the political process, can wield such tremendous power – a power amounting to control over eating or not eating, life and death? This is a power beside which political slogans, even the most carefully-forged ones, can taste like… something considerably more bitter than milk or honey.

The explanation is that capitalist society separates the political and economic spheres to a degree never before attained in history. In fact, in political terms all that a businessman needs to make profit and exercise his Olympian class power is the rule of law and formal equality before the law. The large differences in property holdings will take care of the rest. Because he has the means of production in his hands, a capitalist – or rather his social class – can legally kill a thousand poor souls by simply not hiring them or can legally make a million go hungry by just raising prices or cutting production. Alongside this kind of despotic economic power, mere political power can seem pathetic and trifling.

Today in Venezuela the capitalist class is back in action, trying to discipline the institutions of political power which, with Chávez, escaped a bit from their usually restricted field of operation. The government, which feels cornered, calls the opposition’s activity “economic warfare,” but the truth is that this is just business as usual for the capitalist class. Speculating, playing with prices, and tinkering with supply and demand is not strictly speaking a perversion of capitalism but an integral part thereof. (Is not the formula for both productive and commercial capital, M – C – M’, simply the quotidian form of speculation that makes capitalism’s world go round?)

Desperately, the government complains about the street-blocking guarimabas and other forms of violent protest. It tries to make visible the difficult situation and its faceless enemy by pointing to the violence which is overt and illegal, but the real problem is elsewhere – in the completely legal form of (economic) violence, sanctioned by the empire of law. In fact, Mendoza and company know that unless President Maduro opts – as he is very unlikely to do – for the most radical heresy, which is to deny the sacredness of private property, they will retain the upper hand.

Mendoza is popularly reckoned to be a straight shooter. That may be the case, but the opposition as a whole, which has become more sophisticated in its 14-year struggle, is in fact making a complex feint. With the guarimba, which is a blocking of streets by armed youngsters that often results in loss of life, they hope to provoke Maduro into adopting their project – the defense of a form of politics that confines itself to establishing rule of law and order while letting the economy to itself – as his own program. That way the government’s attempt to control prices, although recently upheld as constitutional by the Venezuelan Supreme Court, will simply fall into the background, and the capitalists’ economic dictatorship will continue unfettered.

Will Maduro fall into this trap? So far, he seems to be taking the bait by railing primarily against the guarimba and calling for universal disarmament. It is of no help that behind Maduro are many people – among his chief cadres, not in his rank and file – whose class interest is not too different from those he confronts in the opposition. But when Maduro initiates the negotiations that are taking place this week with his first talking point as “national pacification” and his second as “the opposition should join in combating criminality,” he gives every indication of assuming the exact role that not history but rather one social class, the most powerful worldwide, is trying to assign him.

Chris Gilbert is professor of Political Science in the Universidad Bolivariana de Venezuela

 

 

 

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Ukraine: Lies and Realities | ANDRE VLTCHEK


Will the Government Listen?

 

Kiev.

Two beautiful Slavic sisters, Ukraine and Russia, pitched against each other: long hair flying in the wind, gray-blue eyes staring forward accusatively, but in the same time with anticipation and love.

One single moment, one wrong move, one word, and two countries, two allies, two almost identical cultures, can easily dash at each other’s throats… Different words, different gestures, and they can also fall into each other’s arms, instantly.

Is there going to be a war, a battle or an embrace? Is there going to be an insult or reconciliatory words?

Ironically, there is no ‘self-grown dispute’ between two nations. The seeds of mistrust, and possible tragedy, are sown by the outsiders, and nurtured by their malignant propaganda.

As Sergei Kirichuk, leader of progressive movement ‘Borotba’, explained:

“We have extensive invasion of western imperialism here. Imperialists were acting through huge network of NGOs and through the western-oriented politicians integrated into western establishment. Western diplomats declared that they invested more that 5 billions of dollars to ‘development of democracy in Ukraine’. What kind of investment is it? How was this amount spent? We don’t really know, but we can see the wide net of the US agents operating inside many key organizations and movements.

We can see that those ‘western democracies’ had not been concerned at all about growing of the far-right, Nazi movements. They had been ready to use the Nazis as a real armed force in overthrowing of Yanucovich.

President Yanucovich was actually totally pro-western politician, to start with. And his ‘guilt’ consisted only of his attempt to minimize the devastating aftermath that would come after implementation of the free trade zone with EU, on which the West was insisting.”

***

Now Maidan, the main square of Kiev where the ‘revolution’ took place, is scarred, burned down, eerie.

PointofNoReturn300

Right-wingers, ultra-nationalists, young and not so young men with shaved heads, are watching pedestrians with confused, often provocative eyes.

Many of them are now controlling the traffic and, like in Thailand where the right-wingers also recently ‘protested, are deciding who can pass and who cannot. The law is clearly and patently in their hands, or more precisely, in Maidan area, they are the law.

Religious symbols are suddenly everywhere, while monuments to heroes of the revolution and the WWII are desecrated.

At the makeshift stage used by right-wing extremists, there is a huge crucifixion as well as Virgin Marry.

But many right-wingers are at total disarray, they are outraged, as one of their leaders, Aleksandr Muzychko, was murdered just one day earlier.

Oleh Odnorozhenko is speaking. He is angry, irritated, accusing the state, the same government his people brought to power through the coup just a short time ago, of political murder. He is calling for ‘the second stage of the revolution’, as if one past stage would not be terrible enough, already.

My friend Alexander is explaining to me: “This is going to be a tremendous mess. The West used all fascist and ultra-nationalist forces to destroy legitimate government of Ukraine, but paradoxically, these ultra right-wingers are essentially against both NATO and all those agreements with the European Union.”

Afghanistan, Al-Qaida, scenario, in brief and on smaller scale: use any force, any radicals, as long as you can manage to destroy the Soviet Union and later, Russia.

“They are going to get into each other’s hair very soon”, predicts Alexandr, former military intelligence officer.

***

The car is negotiating a bumpy four-lane highway between Kiev and Odessa. There are three of us on board – my translator, Dimitry from the Liva.com site, a driver, and me. Having left Kiev in the morning, we are literally flying at 160km/h towards Odessa.

The wide fields of Ukraine, formerly known as the ‘breadbasket’ of the Soviet Union, look depressingly unkempt. Some are burnt.

“What are they growing here?” I ask.

Nobody knows, but both of my friends agree that almost everything in Ukraine is now collapsing, after the decomposition of the USSR, and this includes both industry and agriculture. The roads are not an exception, either.

“They only built facades during the last decades”, explains Dimitry. “The core, the essence had been constructed in the Soviet era. And now everything is crumbling.”

***

I have no idea where the official numbers come from; those that say that Ukraine is evenly divided between those who support the West, and those who feel their identity is closely linked with Russia. Maybe this might be the case in Western Ukraine, in Lvov, or even in the capital – Kiev. But Western Ukraine has only a few key cities. The majority of people in this country of around forty-four million are concentrated in the south, east and southeast, around the enormous industrial and mining centers of Donetsk, Dnepropetrovsk, and Krivoi Rog. There is Odessa in the south, and Kharkov ‘the second capital’ in the east. And people in all those parts of the country mainly speak Russian. And they see, what has recently happened in Kiev as an unceremonious coup, orchestrated and supported by the West.

***

Before reaching Odessa we leave the highway and drive northeast, towards Moldova and its small separatist enclave, called Transnistria.

There, the river Kuchurgan separates the Ukrainian town of Kuchurgan and the Transnistrian city of Pervomaisc.

I see no Russian tanks at Pervomaisc, no artillery. There is absolutely no military movement whatsoever, despite the countless Western mass media reports testifying (in abstract terms) to the contrary.

I cross the bridge on foot and ask the Transnistrian border guard, whether he has recently seen any foreign correspondents arriving from the United States or the European Union, attempting to cross the border and verify the facts. He gives me a bewildered look.

I watch beautiful white birds resting on the surface of the river, and then I return to Ukraine.

There, two ladies who run the ‘Camelot Bar’ served us the most delicious Russo/Ukrainian feast of an enormous borscht soup, and pelmeni.

Russian television station blasts away, and the two women cannot stop talking; they are frank, proud, and fearless. I turn on my film camera, but they don’t mind:

“Look what is happening in Kiev”, exclaims Alexandra Tsyganskaya, the owner of the restaurant. “The US and the West were planning this; preparing this, for months, perhaps years! Now people in Ukraine are so scared, most of them are only whispering. They are petrified. There is such tension everywhere, that all it would take is to light a match and everything will explode.”

Her friend, Evgenia Chernova, agrees: “In Odessa, Russian-speaking people get arrested, and they are taken all the way to Kiev. The same is happening in Kharkov, in Donetsk, and elsewhere. They call it freedom of speech! All Russian television channels are banned. What you see here is broadcasted from across the border. They treat people like cattle. But our people are not used to this: they will rebel, they will resist! And if they push them to the edge, it will be terrible!”

Both women definitely agree on one thing: “We say, ‘don’t provoke Russia!’ It is a great nation, our historical ally. It has been helping us for decades.”

‘A civil war’, I hear in Kuchurgan. ‘A civil war!’ I hear in Odessa. ‘A civil war!’ I hear in Kharkov.

And the same words in Odessa are even written on huge banners: “Kiev, people are not cattle!”

Odessa city, that architectural jewel, an enormous southern port, is now relatively quiet, but tense. I speak to the manager of the historic and magnificently restored Hotel Bristol, but she is very careful in choosing her words. I mention Western involvement in the coup, or in the ‘revolution’ as many in Kiev and in the West call it, but she simply nods, neutrally.

I cross the street and enter the Odessa Philharmonic Theatre. A young lady approaches me: “Would you like to have my ticket?” She asks in perfect Russian. “My boyfriend did not show up. Please enjoy.”

The performance is bizarre, and clearly ‘un-philharmonic’. Some renowned folk ensemble performs old Ukrainian traditional songs and dances, but why here and why now? Is it a patriotic gesture, or something else?

The city is subdued, as well as those famous Potemkin Stairs: Renowned for one of the most memorable scenes in world cinema that of, the silent film ‘Battleship Potemkin’ directed in 1925 by Sergei M. Eisenstein.

As Helen Grace once wrote:

The Odessa steps massacre in the film condenses the suppression, which actually occurred in the city, into one dramatised incident, and this remains one of the most powerful images of political violence ever realised.

One only hopes that Odessa never again falls victim to unbridled political cruelty, such as was visited on the people by the feudal, oppressive right-wing Tsarist regime, at the beginning of the 20th century!

***

Babushka looks exhausted and subdued. She is slowly digging into dark earth, all alone, clearly abandoned.

I spotted some collapsed houses in the village that we had passed just a few minutes earlier, and I asked the driver to make a U-turn, but he clearly did not see any urgency and continued to drive on: “You will see many villages like this”, he explained. Dimitry confirmed: “Such villages one are all over Ukraine. There are thousands of them; literally, you see them whenever you leave the main roads.”

This one, this village, is called Efremovka, and the name of a grandmother is Lyubov Mikhailovna.

We are somewhere between the cities of Nikolayev and Krivoi Rog.

All around us are the ruins of agricultural estates, of small factories, and houses that used to belong to farmers. Wires are missing from electric poles, and everything appears to be static, like in a horror science-fiction film. Only Lyubov Mikhailovna is digging, stubbornly.

I ask her how she is managing to survive, and she replies that she is not managing at all.

“How could one survive here on only one thousand Hryvnas per month (around US$80)?” she laments. “We are enduring only on what we grow here: cucumbers, tomatoes, potatoes…”

I ask her about the ruins of houses, all around this area, and she nods for a while, and only then begins speaking: “People abandoned their homes and their villages, because there are no jobs. After the Soviet Union collapsed, the entire Ukraine has been falling apart… People are leaving and they are dying. Young people try to go abroad…. The government is not even supplying us with gas and drinking water, anymore. We have to use the local well, but the water is contaminated by fertilizers – it is not clean…”

“Was it better before?” I ask.

Her face brightens up. She stops speaking for a while, searching her memory, recalling long bygone days. Then she answers: “How can you even ask? During the Soviet Union everything was better, much better! We all had jobs and there were decent salaries, pensions… We had all that we needed.”

Looking around me, I quickly recall that Ukraine is an absolute demographic disaster: even according to official statistics and censuses, the number of people living in this country fell from 48,457,102 in 2001 to 44,573,205 in 2013. Years after its ‘independence’, and especially those between 1999 and 2001, are often described as one of the worst demographic crises in modern world history. In 1991 the population of Ukraine was over 51.6 million!

Only those countries that are devastated by brutal civil wars are experiencing similar population decline.

***

Krivoi Rog or Kryvyi Rih as it is known in the Ukrainian language – is arguably the most important steel manufacturing city in Eastern Europe, and a large globally important, metallurgical center for what is known as the Kryvbas iron- ore mining region.

Here Krivorozhstal, one of the most important steel factories in the world, it had seen outrageous corruption scandals during its first wave of privatization. During the second privatization in 2005, the mammoth factory was taken over by the Indian multi-national giant, Mittal Steel (which paidUS$4.81 billion), and was renamed Arcelor Mittal Kryvyi Rih. Since then, production has declined significantly, and thousands of workers were unceremoniously fired.

According to the Arcelor Mittal Factbooks (2007 and 2008), steel production decreased from 8.1 million tons in 2007, to 6.2 million tones in 2008. In 2011, the workforce decreased from 55,000 to 37,000 tons, and the management is still hoping that even more dramatic job cuts (down to 15,000) can be negotiated.

By late afternoon, we arrived at the main gate of the factory. Hundreds of people were walking by; most of them looking exhausted, discouraged and unwilling to engage in any conversation.

Some shouted anti-coup slogans, but did not want to give their names or go on the record.

Finally, a group of tough looking steelworkers stops, and begins to discuss the situation at the factory with us, passionately:

“Do you realize how little we earn here? People at this plant, depending on their rank, bring home only some US$180, US$260, or at most some US$450 a month. Across the border, in Russia, in the city of Chelyabinsk, the salaries are three to four times higher!”

His friend is totally wound up and he screams: “We are ready! We will go! People are reaching the limit!”

It is hard to get any political sense from the group, but it is clear that opinions are divided: while some want more foreign investment, others are demanding immediate nationalization. They have absolutely no disputes with Russia, but some support the coup in Kiev, while others are against it.

It is clear that, more than ideology; these people want some practical improvement in their own lives and in the life of their city.

“All we have heard, for the past twenty years is that things will improve”, explains the first steel worker. “But look what is happening in reality. Mittal periodically fails to pay what is due. For instance, I am supposed to get 5,700 Hryvnas a month, but I get less than 5,000. And the technology at the plant is old, outdated. The profits that Mittal is making – at least if some of it would stay here, in Ukraine, and go to the building of the roads or improving the water supplies… But they take everything out of the country.”

The next day, in Kharkov, Sergei Kirichuk, concludes:

“People all over the world are fighting against so-called ‘free market’, but in Ukraine, to bring it here, was the main reason for the ‘revolution’. It is really hard to believe.”

***

The border between Ukraine and Russia, near the town of Zhuravlevka, between Ukrainian Kharkov and the Russian city of Belgorod, is quiet. Good weather, wide fields and an almost flat landscape, guarantee good visibility for several kilometers. On the 28 of March, when Western and Ukrainian mass media were shouting about an enormous Russian military force right at the border, I only saw a few frustrated birds and an apparently unmanned watch tower.

The traffic at the border was light, but it was flowing – and several passenger cars were crossing from the Russian side to Ukraine.

What I saw, however, were several Ukrainian tanks along the M-20/E-105 highway, just a stone throw away from the borderline. There were tanks and there were armored vehicles, and quite a substantial movement of Ukrainian soldiers.

The local press was, however, not as aggressive, provocative:

“State of War!” shouted the headlines of Kyiv Post. “We lifted up to the sky 100 jet fighters, in order to scare Moscow”, declared ‘Today’.

***

The reality on the ground differed sharply from the ‘fairytales’, paid for and propagated by Western mass media outlets and by the ‘free Ukrainian press’.

In Kharkov, Soviet banners flew in the wind, next to many Russian flags. Thousands of people gathered in front of the giant statue of Lenin on those windy days of 28th and 29th of March.

There were fiery speeches and ovations. The outraged crowd met the proclamations that the Western powers had instigated the ‘fascist coup’ in Kiev, with loud shouts: “Russia, Russia!”

Old women, Communist leaders, and my friend Sergei Kirichuk, as well as people from international solidarity organizations, made fiery speeches. Apparently, the government in Kiev had already begun to cut the few social benefits that were left, including free medical assistance. Several hospitals were poised to close down, soon.

People were ready to fight; to defend themselves against those hated neo-liberal policies, for which (or against which) none of them had been allowed to vote for.

“In Crimea, people voted, overwhelmingly, to return to Russia”, explained a young man, a student, Alexei. “But the West calls it unconstitutional and undemocratic. In Ukraine itself, the democratically elected government has been overthrown and policies that nobody really wants are being pushed down our throats. And… this is called democracy!”

In an apartment of the Borodba movement, a young leader and history student, Irina Drazman, spoke about the way the West destroyed Ukraine. She reminded me of a Chilean student leader and now an MP – Ms. Camila Vallejo. Irina is only twenty, but coherent and as sharp as a razor.

“There is great nostalgia for the Soviet Union”, she explains. “If only it could be re-shaped and the concept improved, most of the people in Ukraine would be happy to be part of it again.”

And that is exactly what the West tries to prevent: A powerful and united country, one which can defend the interest of its people.

Standing in front of a police cordon in Kharkov, Alexandr Oleinik, a Ukrainian political analyst, explains:

“The essence of what is now happening is based on the doctrine of the United States, which has one major goal: To wipe out from the globe, first the Soviet Union, and then Russia, regardless of its form; whether socialist or capitalist… As is well known, these goals were already defined in the early 1980’s, by Zbigniew Brzezinski, in his report to the US Department of State, “Game Plan: A Geostrategic Framework for the Conduct of the U.S.-Soviet Contest”.

Besieged square in front of the court of justice may not be the most comfortable place for political discussions, but Mr. Oleinik has plenty to share:

“After destroying USSR, the US is, until now, making enormous effort to, in accordance with the ‘Brzezinski Doctrine’, to drag Russia, Ukraine and other post-Soviet countries, into exhausting regional conflicts, in order to out root from the consciousness of the people of these nations all thoughts about reunification (be it a customs union, common economic sphere, etc.). Series of ‘color revolutions’ from so-called American doctrine of ‘advancement of democracies’ became a clear proof of the essence of the geopolitical interests of the US. Libya, Tunis, Egypt, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and Yugoslavia – all this is from the same shelf.”

“Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, Ecuador, Zimbabwe, Eritrea, even China”, I continue.

Policemen are looking at us suspiciously, as both of us are naming dozens and dozens of countries located in all corners of the world.

***

In Kiev’s Maidan, the main square where the ‘revolution’ or the coup took place, the right-wing groupings are hanging around, aimlessly. Some men and women are frustrated. Many now even feel that they were fooled.

Thousands were paid to participate in what was thought would bring at least some social justice, some relief. But the interim government began taking dictate, almost immediately: from the United States, from European Union and from the institutions such as IMF and World Bank.

Now thousands of disgruntled ‘revolutionaries’ feel frustrated. Instead of saving the country, they sold all ideals, and betrayed their own people. And their own lives went from bad to worse.

The tension is growing and Ukraine is on the edge.

There is growing tension, even confrontation, between conservative, oppressive forces and those progressive ones. There is tension between Russian speakers and those who are insisting on purely Ukrainian language being used all over the country.

There are political assassinations; there is fear and uncertainty about the future.

There is increasing and negative role being played by the religions: from Protestant to Orthodox.

Nobody knows what will follow the coup. Confusion and frustration, as well as social collapse, may well cause a brutal civil war.

Protesters are now, this very moment, occupying government buildings in Donetsk and Lugansk, demanding referendum. Majority of people in these and other cities would rather join Russia then to live in pro-Western dictatorship, which Ukraine became after the coup.

Same tactics that were lauded by Western propaganda during the Maidan uprising are now hypocritically condemned in the east and south of the country.

Russia gained greatly, especially in the non-Western world. It is now recognized as the center of global ‘mutiny’ against global dictatorship of the US and EU. It opened one more front of resistance, and it stands alongside countries of Latin America.

Its generally peaceful and measured approach is in direct contrast to brutal and destabilizing methods used by the US and EU all over the globe. Except in those few fully indoctrinated modern-day colonies (which the West calls ‘democracies’ just because the people there can stick a piece of paper to a carton box, and most are stupidly doing so), the world is waking up to reality that there actually is, suddenly, some strong and determined resistance to Western imperialism.

After decades of total darkness, the hope is emerging.

In the meantime, two beautiful Slavic countries are still facing each other. But the people, particularly those in Ukraine, are now waving Russian flags and shout to the faces of riot police that is obedient to Kiev: “Russia! Russia!”

No matter what the propaganda says, reality is well known. For decades, after destruction of the USSR, Ukraine mainly obeyed the West and Russia went its own, determinedly independent way.

The result is: Ukraine is on its knees (although not as horribly yet as some East European countries like Bulgaria, that actually became full members of the EU). Wages for workers and pensions for elderly are now approximately 3-4 times higher in Russia than in Ukraine.

And Russia has its own, independent voice, flying all over the world though the outlets like RT and Voice of Russia, while Ukraine is a clearly a colony.

It is obvious in what direction the majority of Ukrainians is now looking with hope. The government should listen. It should also call referendum, soon. It should use ‘direct democracy’, not some rigged multi-party charade like in Indonesia.

Two countries that share both history and the future, should embrace. And face the wind, and tremors, together! They should never fight each other – Russia and Ukraine are soul mates, not enemies. Those who are dividing them should be exposed, shamed, and expelled!

Ukrainean armored vehicle on Russian border

Ukraine or Russia,  could you really tell difference

student leader Irina Drazman in Kharkov copy

so called Maidan revolutionaries

right wingers took over the city

political analyst Alexandr Oleinik  copy

oro Western paramilitaries controlling city council of Kiyev

Maidan mess

leader of Borodba - Sergei Kirichuk  copy

grandmother from Efremovka

Andre Vltchek is a novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He has covered wars and conflicts in dozens of countries. His discussion with Noam Chomsky On Western Terrorism is now going to print. His critically acclaimed political novel Point of No Return is now re-edited and available. Oceania is his book on Western imperialism in the South Pacific. His provocative book about post-Suharto Indonesia and the market-fundamentalist model is called “Indonesia – The Archipelago of Fear”. He has just completed the feature documentary, “Rwanda Gambit” about Rwandan history and the plunder of DR Congo. After living for many years in Latin America and Oceania, Vltchek presently resides and works in East Asia and Africa. He can be reached through his website or his Twitter.

 

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Ukraine and Syria, In Orwellian Times | GILBERT MERCIER


Revolution is Imperialism

We live in the times that George Orwell predicted in his groundbreaking novel 1984.  A time of deception, where nothing is what it seems to be. Lost in a deep fog of propaganda that passes for information, we have to decipher through conflicting narratives, where stories are planted to hide other ones. In this fictional conundrum, reality has become surreal, and words have lost their meaning. In our Orwellian lexicon, a pro-capitalist and neo-colonialist such as French President Francois Hollande is called a socialist; violent imperialist  interventions conducted by the United States and its allies, or even the United Nations, worldwide are called humanitarian missions or peacekeeping missions; policies of regime change, already conducted in Iraq and Libya, and underway in Ukraine, Syria, Venezuela, and even Cuba, are called promoting democracy or strengthening civil society. In Orwellian times, a phony revolution in Kiev is concocted by neocons in Washington DC with help from so-called humanitarian non-g0vernmental organizations (NGO), and USAID takes on the CIA’s role to promote supposedly spontaneous protests in Cuba. In Orwellian times, a big lie often repeated becomes the truth. When policymakers are spin masters, truth is the first casualty.

Smoke and Mirrors: Spin as Policy

Public policy with the welfare of millions at stake should be a serious matter. But this has been treated with contempt by the so-called public servants who should take it most to heart. Politicians, especially the heads of state, are marketed and sold to the public like big-ticket items. Most citizens have become consumers of political products. As in advertising, political campaigns are tested on focus groups. Once a political brand is established, consumers develop a relationship to the brand either of trust and  fidelity or hostility. In the United States, Bush, Clinton and Kennedy are well-known political brands. In France, the brand Le Pen is trending strongly. The symbiosis of politics and marketing is symptomatic of this age. Once addicted to a brand, the political consumer will keep buying it (voting for it). In Orwellian times, branding is king.

Putin: The New Bogeyman

Before the referendum in Crimea, Hillary Clinton compared Vladimir Putin’s actions to those of Adolf  Hitler in the buildup to World War II. Historically, this was a grossly inaccurate comparison, but to the average Clinton consumer, it conveyed the simple equation: Putin=Hitler. The West always needs a bogeyman, an enemy number one. Russian President Vladimir Putin, the current popular leader of the former “evil empire” could not have been a better candidate.  To stay on message, the sycophant Western mainstream media hint that Putin’s hidden agenda is to restore the Soviet Union, and that the neo-Nazis in Ukraine and Jihadists in Syria are revolutionaries. In Orwellian times,  information is mostly propaganda and conventions such as calling the US president the “leader of the free world” have become as oxymoronic as the coal industry’s advertisements of “clean coal.” When NATO declares that it wants to “promote stability in Eastern Europe,” it is doing exactly the opposite by provoking Moscow.

Ukraine crisis: a new raison d’etre for NATO NATO has received a big boost from the Ukrainian crisis: a reclaimed raison d’etre, and it will likely recruit new members such as Sweden and Finland. The military alliance plans to reinforce its ties with Armenia, Moldova and Azerbaijan as well as present a stronger presence in the Baltic states. The US has stationed six F15 in Lithuania, and plans to send sixteen F16 and four C-130 to Poland. More AWACS surveillance flights and a stronger presence in the Eastern Baltic sea, regular air patrol over Baltic states, and a boost of the number of troops in Romania are also on NATO’s agenda. Russia legitimately views NATO’s actions as a strategy of encirclement. At the end of the USSR in 1991, US President George Bush Sr., German Chancellor Helmut Khol and US Secretary of State James Baker gave the Soviet Premier, Mikhail Gorbachev, a formal guarantee that there would never be an Eastern expansion of NATO to include former members of the Warsaw Pact. But under Vladimir Putin, Russia has been investing in its military, and Western analysts, including the powerful puppet masters of the Council on Foreign Relations took notice and were impressed by the Russian troops’ performance in Crimea.

A Boost for the Global Military-Industrial Complex

The 1991 agreement between Gorbachev and the West was never respected by any US administration, and it is the major issue with regard to Ukraine. Since 1945, and even more so since the collapse of the USSR, the US has behaved as a bully even as it presented itself as the voice and conscience of the international community.  If NATO is not stopped, its Eastward expansion might continue to include Montenegro, Macedonia, and Bosnia. Importantly, the tension with Russia will serve as a pretext to continue to base US ballistic nuclear weapons in Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy and Turkey for a long time. This revisited Cold War provides a unique opportunity to justify a boost in military spending everywhere: especially in the US and Russia. It is also a way for the US to legitimize and expand, almost 70 years after the end of World War II, the occupation by its troops of 900 US military bases in more than 150 countries. While tensions rise in Europe over Ukraine, the top five arms manufacturing and exporting countries, which are the US, Russia, Germany, France and China, will benefit most as their merchants of death justify a boost of military budgets by the new arms race, especially between the US, Russia and China.

For both Ukraine and Syria, balkanization or federation should be on the table As ethnic and pro-Russian arm themselves and take over official buildings in Donetsk, demanding independence from Kiev, Ukraine’s crisis enters a phase three. Phase one was the Western-sponsored Maidan pseudo revolution, phase two was the referendum that attached Crimea to the Russian federation. On April 12, 2014, protesters in Donetsk were joined by coalminers behind barricades made of stack tires and barbed wire. The support of coalminers, a work force of about 100,000, could be a tipping point for a push at either a full-on partition of Ukraine or a federation with considerable autonomy. Donetsk is the center of Eastern Ukraine’s coal-mining area; it is historically called the Donbass and 75 percent of the population are Russian speakers. The pro-Russian secession protest seems to be gaining momentum as armed separatists take over official buildings in the smaller towns of Slaviansk and Kramatorsk. Meanwhile the benefactors of the Euromaidan coup in Kiev threaten to crack down on the protesters in Eastern Ukraine, whom they call terrorists: a surreal irony from an illegitimate government.

Syria’s deadly three-year-old proxy war has almost disappeared from the news as the killings, displacements and destruction of the country continue. But this is about to change. On April 12, 2014, new accusations of the use of poison gas (presumably sarin gas) floated back and forth between Bashar al-Assad’s government and rebel forces. The attack, which is believed to have killed two people and injured many, was reported in the village of Kfar Zeita. The al-Assad administration immediately blamed the al-Qaeda affiliated al-Nusra Front while, predictably, the Western-backed Syrian National Coalition pointed the fingers towards the Syrian government. Since the grave crisis of fall 2013, when a NATO military attack was dissuaded by Russia and China, the al-Assad government agreed to decommission all of his chemical arsenal.

The deadline is approaching fast. So far, the political negotiations between al-Assad and the Syrian opposition, organized by Russia and the US have failed. The new tension between Russia and the West over Ukraine will make the already difficult task of a political solution for Syria almost impossible. Just like in Ukraine, a Balkanization, or loose federation of Syria along sectarian lines, as suggested in this publication on January 10, 2013, might be the only way out of a deadly crisis. In the Orwellian construct of most policymakers, it is common to pretend that gangrene is a trivial infection, as wrecking nations and  engineering permanent crisis is good for business, whereas in honest geopolitics you act quickly, inform the patient, and amputate the gangrenous arm or leg.

Gilbert Mercier is the Editor in Chief of News Junkie Post, where this essay originally appeared.

 

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War and the Demise of the US Dollar? Is the US or the World Coming to an End? It will be One or the Other | Dr. Paul Craig Roberts


(Global Research, April 10, 2014)

paulcroberts

2014 is shaping up as a year of reckoning for the United States.

Two pressures are building on the US dollar. One pressure comes from the Federal Reserve’s declining ability to rig the price of gold as Western gold supplies shrivel and market knowledge of the Fed’s illegal price rigging spreads. The evidence of massive amounts of naked shorts being dumped into the paper gold futures market at times of day when trading is thin is unequivocal. It has become obvious that the price of gold is being rigged in the futures market in order to protect the dollar’s value from QE.

The other pressure arises from the Obama regime’s foolish threats of sanctions on Russia. Other countries are no longer willing to tolerate Washington’s abuse of the world dollar standard. Washington uses the dollar-based international payments system to inflict damage on the economies of countries that resist Washington’s political hegemony.

Russia and China have had enough.  As I have reported and as Peter Koenig reports Russia and China are disconnecting their international trade from the dollar. Henceforth, Russia will conduct its trade, including the sale of oil and natural gas to Europe, in rubles and in the currencies of its BRICS partners. 

This means a big drop in the demand for US dollars and a corresponding drop in the dollar’s exchange value. 

As John Williams (shadowstats.com) has made clear, the US economy has not recovered from the downturn in 2008 and has weakened further. The vast majority of the US population is hard pressed from the lack of income growth for years. As the US is now an import-dependent economy, a drop in the dollar’s value will raise US prices and push living standards lower.

All evidence points to US economic failure in 2014, and that is the conclusion of John Williams’ April 9 report.

This year could also see the breakup of NATO and even the EU.  Washington’s reckless coup in Ukraine and threat of sanctions against Russia have pushed its NATO puppet states onto dangerous ground.  Washington misjudged the reaction in Ukraine to its overthrow of the elected democratic government and imposition of a stooge government. Crimea quickly departed Ukraine and rejoined Russia. Other former Russian territories in Ukraine might soon follow.

Protesters in Lugansk, Donetsk, and Kharkov are demanding their own referendums. Protesters have declared the Donetsk People’s Republic and Kharkov People’s Republic. Washington’s stooge government in Kiev has threatened to put the protests down with violence. http://rt.com/news/eastern-ukraine-violence-threats-405/  

Washington claims that the protests are  organized by Russia, but no one believes Washington, not even its Ukrainian stooges. 

Russian news reports have identified US mercenaries among the Kiev force that has been sent to put down the separatists in eastern Ukraine.  A member of the right-wing, neo-Nazi Fatherland Party in the Kiev parliament has called for shooting the protesters dead.

 Violence against the protesters is likely to bring in the Russian Army and result in the return to Russia of its former territories in Eastern Ukraine that were attached to Ukraine by the Soviet Communist Party. 

With Washington out on a limb issuing threats hand over fist, Washington is pushing Europe into two highly undesirable confrontations.  Europeans do not want a war with Russia over Washington’s coup in Kiev, and Europeans understand that any real sanctions on Russia, if observed, would do far more damage to Europeans. Within the EU, growing economic inequality among the countries, high unemployment, and stringent economic austerity imposed on poorer members have produced enormous strains. Europeans are in no mood to bear the brunt of a Washington-orchestrated conflict with Russia.  While Washington presents Europe with war and sacrifice, Russia and China offer trade and friendship.  Washington will do its best to keep European politicians bought-and-paid-for and in line with Washington’s policies, but the downside for Europe of going along with Washington is now much larger.

Across many fronts, Washington is emerging in the world’s eye as duplicitous, untrustworthy, and totally corrupt. A Securities and Exchange Commission prosecuting attorney, James Kidney used the occasion of his retirement to reveal that higher ups had squelched his prosecutions of Goldman Sachs and other “banks too big to fail,”because his SEC bosses were not focused on justice but “on getting high-paying jobs after their government service” by protecting the banks from prosecution for their illegal actions. http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/04/09/65578/   

The US Agency for International Development has been caught trying to use social media to overthrow the government of Cuba. http://rt.com/news/cuba-usaid-senate-zunzuneo-241/  

 This audacious recklessness comes on top of Washington’s overthrow of the Ukrainian government, the NSA spying scandal, Seymour Hersh’s investigative report that the Sarin gas attack in Syria was a false flag event arranged by NATO member Turkey in order to justify a US military attack on Syria, Washington’s forcing down Bolivian President Evo Morales’ presidential plane to be searched, Saddam Hussein’s “weapons of mass destruction,” the misuse of the Libyan no-fly resolution for military attack, and on and on.  Essentially, Washington has so badly damaged other countries’ confidence in the judgment and integrity of the US government that the world has lost its belief in US leadership. Washington is reduced to threats and bribes and increasingly presents as a bully.  

The self-inflicted hammer blows to Washington’s credibility have taken a toll.  The most serious blow of all is the dawning realization everywhere that Washington’s crackpot conspiracy theory of 9/11 is false.  Large numbers of independent experts as well as more than one hundred first responders have contradicted every aspect of Washington’s absurd conspiracy theory. No aware person believes that a few Saudi Arabians, who could not fly airplanes, operating without help from any intelligence agency, outwitted the entire National Security State, not only all 16 US intelligence agencies but also all intelligence agencies of NATO and Israel as well. 

Nothing worked on 9/11.  Airport security failed four times in one hour, more failures in one hour than have occurred during the other 116,232 hours of the 21st century combined. For the first time in history the US Air Force could not get interceptor fighters off the ground and into the sky. For the first time in history Air Traffic Control lost airliners for up to one hour and did not report it.  For the first time in history low temperature, short-lived, fires on a few floors caused massive steel structures to weaken and collapse. For the first time in history 3 skyscrapers fell at essentially free fall acceleration without the benefit of controlled demolition removing resistance from below. 

Two-thirds of Americans fell for this crackpot story.  The left-wing fell for it, because they saw the story as the oppressed striking back at America’s evil empire.  The right-wing fell for the story, because they saw it as the demonized Muslims striking out at American goodness. President George W. Bush expressed the right-wing view very well: “They hate us for our freedom and democracy.”

But no one else believed it, least of all the Italians.  Italians had been informed some years previously about government false flag events when their President revealed the truth about secret Operation Gladio. Operation Gladio was an operation run by the CIA and Italian intelligence during the second half of the 20th century to set off bombs that would kill European women and children in order to blame communists and, thereby, erode support for European communist parties. 

Italians were among the first to make video presentations challenging Washington’s crackpot story of 9/11.  The ultimate of this challenge is the 1 hour and 45 minute film, “Zero.” 

 You can watch it here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QU961SGps8g&feature=youtu.be  

Zero was produced as a film investigating 9/ll by the Italian company Telemaco. Many prominent people appear in the film along with independent experts.  Together, they disprove every assertion made by the US government regarding its explanation of 9/11.

The film was shown to the European parliament.

It is impossible for anyone who watches this film to believe one word of the official explanation of 9/11.  

The conclusion is increasingly difficult to avoid that elements of the US government blew up three New York skyscrapers in order to destroy Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Iran, and

 Hezbollah and to launch the US on the neoconservatives agenda of US world hegemony.

China and Russia protested but accepted Libya’s destruction even though it was to their own detriment. But Iran became a red line. Washington was blocked, so Washington

decided to cause major problems for Russia in Ukraine in order to distract Russia from Washington’s agenda elsewhere.  

China has been uncertain about the trade-offs between its trade surpluses with the US and Washington’s growing encirclement of China with naval and air bases.  China has come to the conclusion that China and Russia have the same enemy–Washington.

One of two things is likely: Either the US dollar will be abandoned and collapse in value, thus ending Washington’s superpower status and Washington’s threat to world peace, or Washington will lead its puppets into military conflict with Russia and China. The outcome of such a war would be far more devastating than the collapse of the US dollar.

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About the author:

Paul Craig Roberts, former Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury and Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal, has held numerous university appointments. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

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