Russia

Error message

Deprecated function: The each() function is deprecated. This message will be suppressed on further calls in _menu_load_objects() (line 579 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/menu.inc).

They’re Just Outright Telling Us That Peace In Ukraine Is Not An Option

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 25/05/2022 - 2:34am in

Tags 

Russia, War, peace, News

Listen to a reading of this article:

https://medium.com/media/87d84ee46a129a86adc5bb751bc39f36/href

US Senator Joe Manchin said at the World Economic Forum on Monday that he opposes any kind of peace agreement between Ukraine and Russia.

Manchin, who at the moment is one of the most powerful elected officials in Washington, added that only the complete forcible ejection of Russia from all of Ukraine is acceptable, that the war should ideally be used to remove Putin from power, and that he and the strategists he talks to see this war as an “opportunity”.

“I am totally committed, as one person, to seeing Ukraine to the end with a win, not basically with some kind of a treaty; I don’t think that is where we are and where we should be,” Manchin said.

“I mean basically moving Putin back to Russia and hopefully getting rid of Putin,” Manchin added when asked what he meant by a win for Ukraine.

body[data-twttr-rendered="true"] {background-color: transparent;}.twitter-tweet {margin: auto !important;}

function notifyResize(height) {height = height ? height : document.documentElement.offsetHeight; var resized = false; if (window.donkey && donkey.resize) {donkey.resize(height);resized = true;}if (parent && parent._resizeIframe) {var obj = {iframe: window.frameElement, height: height}; parent._resizeIframe(obj); resized = true;}if (window.location && window.location.hash === "#amp=1" && window.parent && window.parent.postMessage) {window.parent.postMessage({sentinel: "amp", type: "embed-size", height: height}, "*");}if (window.webkit && window.webkit.messageHandlers && window.webkit.messageHandlers.resize) {window.webkit.messageHandlers.resize.postMessage(height); resized = true;}return resized;}twttr.events.bind('rendered', function (event) {notifyResize();}); twttr.events.bind('resize', function (event) {notifyResize();});if (parent && parent._resizeIframe) {var maxWidth = parseInt(window.frameElement.getAttribute("width")); if ( 500 < maxWidth) {window.frameElement.setAttribute("width", "500");}}

Manchin clarified that he did not mean pushing Putin back to “pre-February”, ostensibly meaning with Russia still controlling the largely Moscow-loyal Crimea and supporting separatist territories in the Donbass, but with Kyiv fully reclaiming all parts of the nation.

“Oh no, I think Ukraine is determined to take their country back,” Manchin said when asked to clarify, further clarifying that he wants his call for regime change in Russia to be carried out by “the Russian people.”

“I believe strongly that I have never seen, and the people I talk strategically have never seen, an opportunity more than this, to do what needs to be done,” Manchin later added. “And Ukraine has the determination to do it. We should have the commitment to support it.”

body[data-twttr-rendered="true"] {background-color: transparent;}.twitter-tweet {margin: auto !important;}

function notifyResize(height) {height = height ? height : document.documentElement.offsetHeight; var resized = false; if (window.donkey && donkey.resize) {donkey.resize(height);resized = true;}if (parent && parent._resizeIframe) {var obj = {iframe: window.frameElement, height: height}; parent._resizeIframe(obj); resized = true;}if (window.location && window.location.hash === "#amp=1" && window.parent && window.parent.postMessage) {window.parent.postMessage({sentinel: "amp", type: "embed-size", height: height}, "*");}if (window.webkit && window.webkit.messageHandlers && window.webkit.messageHandlers.resize) {window.webkit.messageHandlers.resize.postMessage(height); resized = true;}return resized;}twttr.events.bind('rendered', function (event) {notifyResize();}); twttr.events.bind('resize', function (event) {notifyResize();});if (parent && parent._resizeIframe) {var maxWidth = parseInt(window.frameElement.getAttribute("width")); if ( 500 < maxWidth) {window.frameElement.setAttribute("width", "500");}}

Manchin’s comments fit in perfectly with what we know about the US-centralized empire’s real agendas in Ukraine.

Earlier this month Ukrainian media reported that UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the nation’s president Volodymyr Zelensky on behalf of NATO powers that “even if Ukraine is ready to sign some agreements on guarantees with Putin, they are not.”

Last month US Secretary of “Defense” Lloyd Austin acknowledged that the goal in this war is not peace in Ukraine or the mere military defeat of Russia but to actually weaken Russia as a nation, saying “We want to see Russia weakened to the degree that it can’t do the kinds of things that it has done in invading Ukraine.”

Last week The New York Times reported that the Biden administration is developing plans to “further choke Russia’s oil revenues with the long-term goal of destroying the country’s central role in the global energy economy.”

Just the other day Ukraine’s military intelligence chief announced that the mission has already creeped forward from the goal of defeating the Russian invaders to reclaiming the Crimean territory which was annexed by the Russian Federation in 2014.

Two months ago Biden himself acknowledged what the real game is here with an open call for regime change, saying of Putin, “For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power.”

Statements from the Biden administration in fact indicate that they expect this war to drag on for a long time, making it abundantly clear that a swift end to minimize the death and destruction is not just uninteresting but undesirable for the US empire.

This is not a proxy war with peace as an option anywhere within sight. It’s not about saving Ukrainian lives. It’s not even about beating Russia in Ukraine. It’s about achieving regime change in Moscow, no matter how many lives need to be destroyed in the process.

Peace is not on the menu.

body[data-twttr-rendered="true"] {background-color: transparent;}.twitter-tweet {margin: auto !important;}

function notifyResize(height) {height = height ? height : document.documentElement.offsetHeight; var resized = false; if (window.donkey && donkey.resize) {donkey.resize(height);resized = true;}if (parent && parent._resizeIframe) {var obj = {iframe: window.frameElement, height: height}; parent._resizeIframe(obj); resized = true;}if (window.location && window.location.hash === "#amp=1" && window.parent && window.parent.postMessage) {window.parent.postMessage({sentinel: "amp", type: "embed-size", height: height}, "*");}if (window.webkit && window.webkit.messageHandlers && window.webkit.messageHandlers.resize) {window.webkit.messageHandlers.resize.postMessage(height); resized = true;}return resized;}twttr.events.bind('rendered', function (event) {notifyResize();}); twttr.events.bind('resize', function (event) {notifyResize();});if (parent && parent._resizeIframe) {var maxWidth = parseInt(window.frameElement.getAttribute("width")); if ( 500 < maxWidth) {window.frameElement.setAttribute("width", "500");}}

This war could easily have been prevented with a little diplomacy and reasonable compromise. As the University of Ottawa’s Ivan Katchanovski recently explained to The Maple, “an agreement in which Ukraine promised to remain a neutral country and the fulfilment of the Minsk accords could have stopped Putin’s invasion.”

We know now that the US intelligence cartel had good visibility into what the Kremlin had planned for Ukraine, so they would have known exactly what could have been done to prevent the invasion. They knowingly chose to do none of those things, because the goal was to provoke this war the entire time and then weaponize it against Moscow.

That’s why the Biden administration has been hindering diplomatic efforts to negotiate an end to this war, why it has refused to provide Ukraine with any kind of diplomatic negotiating power regarding the possible rollback of sanctions and other US measures to help secure peace, and why Washington’s top diplomats have consistently been conspicuously absent from any kind of dialogue with their counterparts in Moscow.

Empire spinmeisters and their propagandized victims like to claim that Ukrainian forces are fighting for “peace” in Ukraine. The other day Kyiv Independent’s Illia Ponomarenko, who has called the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion his “brothers in arms,” tweeted this:

body[data-twttr-rendered="true"] {background-color: transparent;}.twitter-tweet {margin: auto !important;}

function notifyResize(height) {height = height ? height : document.documentElement.offsetHeight; var resized = false; if (window.donkey && donkey.resize) {donkey.resize(height);resized = true;}if (parent && parent._resizeIframe) {var obj = {iframe: window.frameElement, height: height}; parent._resizeIframe(obj); resized = true;}if (window.location && window.location.hash === "#amp=1" && window.parent && window.parent.postMessage) {window.parent.postMessage({sentinel: "amp", type: "embed-size", height: height}, "*");}if (window.webkit && window.webkit.messageHandlers && window.webkit.messageHandlers.resize) {window.webkit.messageHandlers.resize.postMessage(height); resized = true;}return resized;}twttr.events.bind('rendered', function (event) {notifyResize();}); twttr.events.bind('resize', function (event) {notifyResize();});if (parent && parent._resizeIframe) {var maxWidth = parseInt(window.frameElement.getAttribute("width")); if ( 500 < maxWidth) {window.frameElement.setAttribute("width", "500");}}

But anyone who understands this war knows this is ridiculous. Peace is not the goal in Ukraine. Most of the Ukrainians doing the fighting surely believe they are fighting for peace in their homeland, and peace is surely their intention, but that’s not something the empire will allow if the empire gets any say in the matter.

Even if Ukraine does somehow avoid being used as cannon fodder to draw Moscow into a long and costly slog as US officials have admitted was done in both Afghanistan and in Syria, and even if they do somehow manage to deliver a crushing and conclusive defeat to Moscow in the near term (which is far less probable than the western media would have you believe), that wouldn’t be the end of the war. The war would just change shape as the empire and its proxies go on the offensive against Moscow.

This war does not end with Russia being driven from Ukraine, it ends with regime change and the balkanization of the Russian Federation. Really it doesn’t end until the rise of China has been stopped and US unipolar hegemony secured. Or when the empire collapses. Or when we all die in a nuclear holocaust.

body[data-twttr-rendered="true"] {background-color: transparent;}.twitter-tweet {margin: auto !important;}

function notifyResize(height) {height = height ? height : document.documentElement.offsetHeight; var resized = false; if (window.donkey && donkey.resize) {donkey.resize(height);resized = true;}if (parent && parent._resizeIframe) {var obj = {iframe: window.frameElement, height: height}; parent._resizeIframe(obj); resized = true;}if (window.location && window.location.hash === "#amp=1" && window.parent && window.parent.postMessage) {window.parent.postMessage({sentinel: "amp", type: "embed-size", height: height}, "*");}if (window.webkit && window.webkit.messageHandlers && window.webkit.messageHandlers.resize) {window.webkit.messageHandlers.resize.postMessage(height); resized = true;}return resized;}twttr.events.bind('rendered', function (event) {notifyResize();}); twttr.events.bind('resize', function (event) {notifyResize();});if (parent && parent._resizeIframe) {var maxWidth = parseInt(window.frameElement.getAttribute("width")); if ( 500 < maxWidth) {window.frameElement.setAttribute("width", "500");}}

All forward motion in this war has nothing but violence as far as the eye can see on its trajectory into the future. No matter how much wealth and war machinery you pour into this conflict, that trajectory of death and destruction will just keep stretching out to the horizon. As Chris Hedges recently explained, war is the only path the empire has left open to itself.

I’ve seen some cute kids in my time, but nobody’s as adorable as people who think the US pours weapons into foreign nations in order to achieve peace.

_______________

My work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, following me on Facebook, Twitter, Soundcloud or YouTube, or throwing some money into my tip jar on Ko-fi, Patreon or Paypal. If you want to read more you can buy my books. The best way to make sure you see the stuff I publish is to subscribe to the mailing list for at my website or on Substack, which will get you an email notification for everything I publish. Everyone, racist platforms excluded, has my permission to republish, use or translate any part of this work (or anything else I’ve written) in any way they like free of charge. For more info on who I am, where I stand, and what I’m trying to do with this platform, click here. All works co-authored with my American husband Tim Foley.

Bitcoin donations:1Ac7PCQXoQoLA9Sh8fhAgiU3PHA2EX5Zm2

Chris Hedges: No Way Out but War

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 24/05/2022 - 4:53am in

PRINCETON, NEW JERSEY (Scheerpost) — The United States, as the near unanimous vote to provide nearly $40 billion in aid to Ukraine illustrates, is trapped in the death spiral of unchecked militarism. No high speed trains. No universal health care. No viable Covid relief program. No respite from 8.3 percent inflation. No infrastructure programs to repair decaying roads and bridges, which require $41.8 billion to fix the 43,586 structurally deficient bridges, on average 68 years old. No forgiveness of $1.7 trillion in student debt. No addressing income inequality. No program to feed the 17 million children who go to bed each night hungry. No rational gun control or curbing of the epidemic of nihilistic violence and mass shootings. No help for the 100,000 Americans who die each year of drug overdoses. No minimum wage of $15 an hour to counter 44 years of wage stagnation. No respite from gas prices that are projected to hit $6 a gallon.

The permanent war economy, implanted since the end of World War II, has destroyed the private economy, bankrupted the nation, and squandered trillions of dollars of taxpayer money. The monopolization of capital by the military has driven the US debt to $30 trillion, $ 6 trillion more than the US GDP of $ 24 trillion. Servicing this debt costs $300 billion a year. We spent more on the military, $ 813 billion for fiscal year 2023, than the next nine countries, including China and Russia, combined.

We are paying a heavy social, political, and economic cost for our militarism. Washington watches passively as the U.S. rots, morally, politically, economically, and physically, while China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, India, and other countries extract themselves from the tyranny of the U.S. dollar and the international Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), a messaging network banks and other financial institutions use to send and receive information, such as money transfer instructions. Once the U.S. dollar is no longer the world’s reserve currency, once there is an alternative to SWIFT, it will precipitate an internal economic collapse. It will force the immediate contraction of the U.S. empire shuttering most of its nearly 800 overseas military installations. It will signal the death of Pax Americana.

Democrat or Republican. It does not matter. War is the raison d’état of the state. Extravagant military expenditures are justified in the name of “national security.” The nearly $40 billion allocated for Ukraine, most of it going into the hands of weapons manufacturers such as Raytheon Technologies, General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman, BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin, and Boeing, is only the beginning. Military strategists, who say the war will be long and protracted, are talking about infusions of $4 or $5 billion in military aid a month to Ukraine. We face existential threats. But these do not count. The proposed budget for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in fiscal year 2023 is $10.675 billion. The proposed budget for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is $11.881 billion. Ukraine alone gets more than double that amount. Pandemics and the climate emergency are afterthoughts. War is all that matters. This is a recipe for collective suicide.

There were three restraints to the avarice and bloodlust of the permanent war economy that no longer exist. The first was the old liberal wing of the Democratic Party, led by politicians such as Senator George McGovern, Senator Eugene McCarthy, and Senator J. William Fulbright, who wrote The Pentagon Propaganda Machine. The self-identified progressives, a pitiful minority, in Congress today, from Barbara Lee, who was the single vote in the House and the Senate opposing a broad, open-ended authorization allowing the president to wage war in Afghanistan or anywhere else, to Ilhan Omar now dutifully line up to fund the latest proxy war. The second restraint was an independent media and academia, including journalists such as I.F Stone and Neil Sheehan along with scholars such as Seymour Melman, author of The Permanent War Economy and Pentagon Capitalism: The Political Economy of War. Third, and perhaps most important, was an organized anti-war movement, led by religious leaders such as Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King Jr. and Phil and Dan Berrigan as well as groups such as Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). They understood that unchecked militarism was a fatal disease.

None of these opposition forces, which did not reverse the permanent war economy but curbed its excesses, now exist. The two ruling parties have been bought by corporations, especially military contractors. The press is anemic and obsequious to the war industry. Propagandists for permanent war, largely from right-wing think tanks lavishly funded by the war industry, along with former military and intelligence officials, are exclusively quoted or interviewed as military experts. NBC’s “Meet the Press” aired a segment May 13 where officials from Center for a New American Security (CNAS) simulated what a war with China over Taiwan might look like. The co-founder of CNAS, Michèle Flournoy, who appeared in the “Meet the Press” war games segment and was considered by Biden to run the Pentagon, wrote in 2020 in Foreign Affairs that the U.S. needs to develop “the capability to credibly threaten to sink all of China’s military vessels, submarines and merchant ships in the South China Sea within 72 hours.”

The handful of anti-militarists and critics of empire from the left, such as Noam Chomsky, and the right, such as Ron Paul, have been declared persona non grata by a compliant media. The liberal class has retreated into boutique activism where issues of class, capitalism and militarism are jettisoned for “cancel culture,” multiculturalism and identity politics. Liberals are cheerleading the war in Ukraine. At least the inception of the war with Iraq saw them join significant street protests. Ukraine is embraced as the latest crusade for freedom and democracy against the new Hitler. There is little hope, I fear, of rolling back or restraining the disasters being orchestrated on a national and global level.  The neoconservatives and liberal interventionists chant in unison for war. Biden has appointed these war mongers, whose attitude to nuclear war is terrifyingly cavalier, to run the Pentagon, the National Security Council, and the State Department.

Since all we do is war, all proposed solutions are military. This military adventurism accelerates the decline, as the defeat in Vietnam and the squandering of $8 trillion in the futile wars in the Middle East illustrate. War and sanctions, it is believed, will cripple Russia, rich in gas and natural resources. War, or the threat of war, will curb the growing economic and military clout of China.

These are demented and dangerous fantasies, perpetrated by a ruling class that has severed itself from reality. No longer able to salvage their own society and economy, they seek to destroy those of their global competitors, especially Russia and China. Once the militarists cripple Russia, the plan goes, they will focus military aggression on the Indo-Pacific, dominating what Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, referring to the Pacific, called “the American Sea.”

You cannot talk about war without talking about markets. The U.S., whose growth rate has fallen to below 2 percent, while China’s growth rate is 8.1 percent, has turned to military aggression to bolster its sagging economy. If the U.S. can sever Russian gas supplies to Europe, it will force Europeans to buy from the United States. U.S. firms, at the same time, would be happy to replace the Chinese Communist Party, even if they must do it through the threat of war, to open unfettered access to Chinese markets. War, if it did break out with China, would devastate the Chinese, American, and global economies, destroying free trade between countries as in World War I. But that doesn’t mean it won’t happen.

Washington is desperately trying to build military and economic alliances to ward off a rising China, whose economy is expected by 2028 to overtake that of the United States, according to the UK’s Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR). The White House has said Biden’s current visit to Asia is about sending a “powerful message” to Beijing and others about what the world could look like if democracies “stand together to shape the rules of the road.” The Biden administration has invited South Korea and Japan to attend the NATO summit in Madrid.

But fewer and fewer nations, even among European allies, are willing to be dominated by the United States. Washington’s veneer of democracy and supposed respect for human rights and civil liberties is so badly tarnished as to be irrecoverable. Its economic decline, with China’s manufacturing 70 percent higher than that of the U.S., is irreversible. War is a desperate Hail Mary, one employed by dying empires throughout history with catastrophic consequences. “It was the rise of Athens and the fear that this instilled in Sparta that made war inevitable,” Thucydides noted in the History of the Peloponnesian War.

A key component to the sustenance of the permanent war state was the creation of the All-Volunteer Force. Without conscripts, the burden of fighting wars falls to the poor, the working class, and military families. This All-Volunteer Force allows the children of the middle class, who led the Vietnam anti-war movement, to avoid service. It protects the military from internal revolts, carried out by troops during the Vietnam War, which jeopardized the cohesion of the armed forces.

The All-Volunteer Force, by limiting the pool of available troops, also makes the global ambitions of the militarists impossible. Desperate to maintain or increase troop levels in Iraq and Afghanistan, the military instituted the stop-loss policy that arbitrarily extended active-duty contracts. Its slang term was the backdoor draft. The effort to bolster the number of troops by hiring private military contractors, as well, had a negligible effect. Increased troop levels would not have won the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan but the tiny percentage of those willing to serve in the military (only 7 percent of the U.S. population are veterans) is an unacknowledged Achilles heel for the militarists.

“As a consequence, the problem of too much war and too few soldiers eludes serious scrutiny,” writes historian and retired Army Colonel Andrew Bacevich in After the Apocalypse: America’s Role in a World Transformed. “Expectations of technology bridging that gap provide an excuse to avoid asking the most fundamental questions: Does the United States possess the military wherewithal to oblige adversaries to endorse its claim of being history’s indispensable nation? And if the answer is no, as the post-9/11 wars in Afghanistan and Iraq suggest, wouldn’t it make sense for Washington to temper its ambitions accordingly?”

This question, as Bacevich points out, is “anathema.” The military strategists work from the supposition that the coming wars won’t look anything like past wars. They invest in imaginary theories of future wars that ignore the lessons of the past, ensuring more fiascos.

The political class is as self-deluded as the generals. It refuses to accept the emergence of a multi-polar world and the palpable decline of American power. It speaks in the outdated language of American exceptionalism and triumphalism, believing it has the right to impose its will as the leader of the “free world.” In his 1992 Defense Planning Guidance memorandum, U.S. Under Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz argued that the U.S. must ensure no rival superpower again arises. The U.S. should project its military strength to dominate a unipolar world in perpetuity. On February 19, 1998, on NBC’s “Today Show”, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright gave the Democratic version of this doctrine of unipolarity. “If we have to use force it is because we are Americans; we are the indispensable nation,” she said. “We stand tall, and we see further than other countries into the future.”

This demented vision of unrivaled U.S. global supremacy, not to mention unrivaled goodness and virtue, blinds the establishment Republicans and Democrats. The military strikes they casually used to assert the doctrine of unipolarity, especially in the Middle East, swiftly spawned jihadist terror and prolonged warfare. None of them saw it coming until the hijacked jets slammed into the World Trade Center twin towers. That they cling to this absurd hallucination is the triumph of hope over experience.

There is a deep loathing among the public for these elitist Ivy League architects of American imperialism. Imperialism was tolerated when it was able to project power abroad and produce rising living standards at home. It was tolerated when it restrained itself to covert interventions in countries such as Iran, Guatemala, and Indonesia. It went off the rails in Vietnam. The military defeats that followed accompanied a steady decline in living standards, wage stagnation, a crumbling infrastructure and eventually a series of economic policies and trade deals, orchestrated by the same ruling class, which deindustrialized and impoverished the country.

The establishment oligarchs, now united in the Democratic Party, distrust Donald Trump. He commits the heresy of questioning the sanctity of the American empire. Trump derided the invasion of Iraq as a “big, fat mistake.” He promised “to keep us out of endless war.” Trump was repeatedly questioned about his relationship with Vladimir Putin. Putin was “a killer,” one interviewer told him. “There are a lot of killers,” Trump retorted. “You think our country’s so innocent?” Trump dared to speak a truth that was to be forever unspoken, the militarists had sold out the American people.

Noam Chomsky took some heat for pointing out, correctly, that Trump is the “one statesman” who has laid out a “sensible” proposition to resolve the Russia-Ukraine crisis. The proposed solution included “facilitating negotiations instead of undermining them and moving toward establishing some kind of accommodation in Europe…in which there are no military alliances but just mutual accommodation.”

Trump is too unfocused and mercurial to offer serious policy solutions. He did set a timetable to withdraw from Afghanistan, but he also ratcheted up the economic war against Venezuela and reinstituted crushing sanctions against Cuba and Iran, which the Obama administration had ended. He increased the military budget. He apparently flirted with carrying out a missile strike on Mexico to “destroy the drug labs.” But he acknowledges a distaste for imperial mismanagement that resonates with the public, one that has every right to loath the smug mandarins that plunge us into one war after another. Trump lies like he breathes. But so do they.

The 57 Republicans who refused to support the $40 billion aid package to Ukraine, along with many of the 19 bills that included an earlier $13.6 billion in aid for Ukraine, come out of the kooky conspiratorial world of Trump. They, like Trump, repeat this heresy. They too are attacked and censored. But the longer Biden and the ruling class continue to pour resources into war at our expense, the more these proto fascists, already set to wipe out Democratic gains in the House and the Senate this fall, will be ascendant. Marjorie Taylor Greene, during the debate on the aid package to Ukraine, which most members were not given time to closely examine, said: “$40 billion dollars but there’s no baby formula for American mothers and babies.”

“An unknown amount of money to the CIA and Ukraine supplemental bill but there’s no formula for American babies,” she added. “Stop funding regime change and money laundering scams. A US politician covers up their crimes in countries like Ukraine.”

Democrat Jamie Raskin immediately attacked Greene for parroting the propaganda of Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Greene, like Trump, spoke a truth that resonates with a beleaguered public. The opposition to permanent war should have come from the tiny progressive wing of the Democratic Party, which unfortunately sold out to the craven Democratic Party leadership to save their political careers. Greene is demented, but Raskin and the Democrats peddle their own brand of lunacy. We are going to pay a very steep price for this burlesque.

Feature photo | Original illustration by Mr. Fish

Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist who was a foreign correspondent for fifteen years for The New York Times, where he served as the Middle East Bureau Chief and Balkan Bureau Chief for the paper. He previously worked overseas for The Dallas Morning News, The Christian Science Monitor, and NPR. He is the host of show The Chris Hedges Report.

The post Chris Hedges: No Way Out but War appeared first on MintPress News.

‘I Do Not Even Know What Justice Is For Me’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 24/05/2022 - 2:27am in

Ignatius Ivlev-Yorke and Chris York meet the widow of a man killed in cold blood by a Russian soldier given a life sentence by a Ukrainian court

GET THE CURRENT EDITION OF BYLINE TIMES NOW

The Ukrainian widow of a man gunned down in cold blood by a Russian soldier said last week that she would like to see his killer spend the rest of his life in prison. Today, a court in Kyiv granted her wish.

Twenty-one-year-old Vadim Shishimarin has been sentenced to life imprisonment, showing no emotion as the verdict was read.

Speaking to Byline Times after the verdict was handed down, Kateryna Shelipova said the court “gave him what he deserved” and “thank god it’s over”. Asked if she was happy with the outcome, she paused and sounding less than convinced, said: “Well, yes.”

Kateryna met Oleksandr Shelypov at a wedding in 1980. He was the best man and she was the maid of honour. They immediately hit it off but had to wait two years until he came out of the army before they married in 1982. They would have celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary later this year, with their son and two granddaughters, in their home village of Chupakhivka.

But the unimaginably horrific events of 28 February now mean that this will never happen.

Home to little more than 2,000 people, Chupakhivka sits on the bank of the Tashan river in Sumy province, 290km due east of Kyiv and just 70km from the border with Russia.

Four days after the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, on 28 February, Russian soldiers entered the town. One of those soldiers was 21-year-old tank-unit sergeant Shishimarin.

The day had begun badly for his unit. A friendly fire incident the night before meant that a small convoy, of which Shishimarin was part, was tasked with evacuating the wounded men when it came under fire from Ukrainian forces. Shishimarin and four other soldiers stole a car and began to drive through Chupakhivka.

Kateryna Shelipova. Photo: Ignatius Ivlev-Yorke

Meanwhile, already used to the sounds and routines of the war, Oleksandr and Kateryna took shelter in their home. Over a freshly prepared lunch of tomatoes, cucumber and sausage last week, Kateryna went over what happened the day her husband was killed.

“I don’t know what day of the week it was, but it was the 28 February," she told Byline Times. "There were tanks on the street that night. We hid in the cellar and he sat on the stairs all night and read. In the morning, he told me ‘I’m very cold, I’ll go to bed for a bit'. 

“While he slept, I made breakfast. When it was ready, I woke him up and told him to come eat. He said ‘let it cool down a bit, I’ll lie for a tad longer’. Later, he got up and ate breakfast and told me a tank had been blown up during the night – we didn’t know whose. ‘I’ll go and have look’ he said. I told him not to go but he said ‘it’s fine, everyone is looking so I’ll go’. He took his bicycle and left. 

“And then... I was in the yard and I heard the burst of a machine gun. I went in the house and told the girls 'girls, something is happening. Someone is shooting. Either our guys or the Russians, I heard a machine gun’. We stayed inside for a bit and then I went to get water from the well. As soon I came out the house, I heard more shooting, much closer this time. I opened the gate and looked out – and there it was, the barrel of a machine gun. I quickly shut the gate and leaned against the fence.”

At this point, Kateryna didn’t know who, if anyone, had been shot. But she did see who had fired. Pointing to a photo of Shishimarin, she said: “Yes. The little one. Him, yes. I’m sure it was him, I don’t know if he noticed me, but I saw him clear as day. They were driving past just as I peered out from the gate. They were driving slow, the car had flat tyres – they had taken a civilian car from someone.”

Kateryna said she stood there for five minutes before going back into the house.

“I told the girls I heard shots right next to the house, but I had no idea what had been shot at," she said. "I went into the house and said ‘girls, my gramps has been gone for a long time. I'll call him, I wonder where he is. There’s shooting going on here, and he’s not home’. I didn’t even stop to think that it could have been him who had been killed.

"Then I went outside. I came out the gate and saw… they’d shot him in the head. His brains were splattered all around. I started to scream, the neighbours ran up, but... well, he’d been shot in the head.” 

During the trial, Shishimarin told the court that an officer sitting in the front of the car they were in had ordered him to shoot Oleksandr, but that he had hesitated. It was only after another soldier shouted at him, saying that he could give away their positions, that he released a volley of bullets from his rifle. Why did he do it? “So that [the soldiers] would leave me alone”, he would later tell the court. Oleksandr was killed instantly.

Kateryna asked Shishimarin during the trial what he had felt towards her husband when he shot him. “Fear,” he answered.

“He was just talking to a friend on the phone,” Kateryna told Byline Times of Oleksandr's last movements. “A friend called him, he pulled out the phone, they started to speak, the friend told me at his funeral. Then shots were fired, and the line went dead. I guess they saw the phone in his hands and shot him. Perhaps they thought he was reporting their positions to someone.

"The soldier who killed him said the commanding officer had ordered him to shoot. Well, say you had to shoot, but why shoot a person – why couldn’t you have missed?”

Kateryna is struggling with her feelings towards the man who killed her husband. On the one hand, she sees a young boy caught up in a tragic war. On the other, she sees a soldier in an army committing unspeakable atrocities on her country, her people and her family.

“I do not even know what justice is for me," she said. "I would like him to get life imprisonment, but... even after he does the time, he’s not a person anymore. I hope he gets the punishment he deserves, and that's it. 

“I feel sorry for him, as a child. Very. He’s a young, green child. But then I saw what they did in Bucha, in Hostomel, in Mariupol... there is no excuse for them. No, I do not forgive them. It is important that he is found guilty. They committed a very great atrocity. You can't forgive them for that. We have forgiven so much already.

“I believe that soldiers should fight with soldiers – not civilians, not children. And the children, so many children have died. Are they to blame for this? Of course not. I also have two granddaughters. God forbid that something... No, it's unforgivable.”

Even before his life sentence was handed down, there was talk that Shishimarin could be exchanged for Ukrainian prisoners of war – something Kateryna supports. 

“It’s not for me to decide, but I would like to see him exchanged for our boys," she told Byline Times. "If we can get even one of our boys back, then that’s a life we have saved.”

Regardless of Shishimarin’s fate, Kateryna Shelipova now has to rebuild her life without the person she has shared it with for more than four decades. All this in the shadow of the ongoing war, suffering and hardships inflicted upon Ukraine by Russia’s invasion.

Asked what she will do now the trial is over, she said: “I will live on slowly, day by day, waiting for victory.”

ShareEmailTwitterFacebook

SIGN-UP TO EMAIL UPDATES

OUR JOURNALISM RELIES ON YOU

Byline Times is funded by its subscribers. Receive our monthly print edition and help to support fearless, independent journalism.

SUBSCRIBE TO THE PRINT EDITION OF BYLINE TIMES FROM AS LITTLE AS £3.50 A MONTH

BECOME A PATRON OF BYLINE TV

SUBSCRIBE TO BYLINE TIMES & GET THIS MONTH’S DIGITAL EDITION IMMEDIATELY

Boris Johnson Refuses to Join Canada in Sanctioning Alexander Lebedev

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 23/05/2022 - 10:14pm in

Canada has sanctioned Johnson's associate, the former KGB officer Alexander Lebedev, who it says is one of the "key members of President Putin’s inner circle", reports Adam Bienkov

GET THE CURRENT EDITION OF BYLINE TIMES NOW

Boris Johnson is refusing to impose sanctions on the Russian oligarch and former KGB officer Alexander Lebedev, despite one of the UK's closest allies identifying him as as a key member of "President Putin’s inner circle".

The Canadian Government announced on Friday that it had imposed sanctions on Lebedev, who they said was among those who had "directly enabled Vladimir Putin’s senseless war in Ukraine".

In a statement justifying the sanctions, Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mélanie Joly, said that "the Putin regime must, and will, answer for their unjustifiable acts."

Alexander Lebedev is the father of Johnson's close friend Evgeny Lebedev, who owns the Evening Standard and Independent newspapers.

Asked by Byline Times on Monday whether the UK would be joining their ally in sanctioning Alexander Lebedev, Johnson's spokesman said they would not comment on the "different judgement" taken by Canada.

"It’s not for me to comment on a different judgement of a different country," Johnson's spokesman said, before adding that "we will, and have taken significant action against Putin’s inner circle."

Johnson has met with Alexander Lebedev on multiple occasions, including at a party held by his son Evgeny in his Italian villa.

In 2018 the then Foreign Secretary left his security detail behind in order to attend the event, held just days after a Nato meeting to discuss Russia's poisoning of Sergei Skripal in the UK.

Johnson ennobled Alexander's son Evgeny in 2020, despite warnings by the UK's security services.

Multiple reports suggest that MI6 initially advised against Lebedev's appointment due to concerns about Alexander Lebedev's suspected links to Putin.

As Byline Times first reported, this advice was changed following a private meeting between Evgeny Lebedev and Johnson, of which no minutes were kept.

SUBSCRIBE TO FEARLESS, INDEPENDENT JOURNALISM FOR AS LITTLE AS £3 A MONTH

Alexander Lebedev and Evgeny Lebedev. Photo: WENN Rights Ltd / Alamy

The Prime Minister recently refused to comply with a vote by MPs ordering him to release details of the advice he received from the security services against placing Evgeny in the House of Lords.

The Labour Party accused the government of a "cover-up" for refusing to release the information.

Correspondence revealed by Byline Times earlier this year showed how Evgeny Lebedev built a close relationship with Johnson over the course of a decade.

The letters show that Lebedev lobbied Johnson to support a new Russian arts festival while he was Mayor of London, which he said had “substantial support from the Russian Government”.

Johnson, who attended dozens of dinners, parties, drinks and meetings with Lebedev during that period also told the newspaper proprietor that he would “thrilled” to secure his support.

ShareEmailTwitterFacebook

SIGN-UP TO EMAIL UPDATES

OUR JOURNALISM RELIES ON YOU

Byline Times is funded by its subscribers. Receive our monthly print edition and help to support fearless, independent journalism.

SUBSCRIBE TO THE PRINT EDITION OF BYLINE TIMES FROM AS LITTLE AS £3.50 A MONTH

BECOME A PATRON OF BYLINE TV

SUBSCRIBE TO BYLINE TIMES & GET THIS MONTH’S DIGITAL EDITION IMMEDIATELY

Disaster Capitalism in Ukraine

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 20/05/2022 - 6:45pm in

A number of dominant agricultural commodity traders are set to make big money thanks to Russia’s invasion, reports Dimitris Dimitriadis

While 44 million people are “marching towards starvation” and Ukrainian food exports – enough to feed 400 million people in 2021 – are prevented from leaving the country, an industry of grain traders and middlemen is making a lot of money.

The invasion of Ukraine, which has conspired with Coronavirus and climate change, has created a perfect storm for global food insecurity. It has been a boon for agricultural commodity traders – an industry dominated by a quartet of companies commonly referred to as ABCD: Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), Bunge, Cargill, and Louis Dreyfus. 

The ability of the sector to capitalise on the global crisis has led experts to question the ethics of so-called 'disaster capitalism'.

The gains made by at least two of the agri-giants are sizeable. Share prices for Bunge and ADM have soared by an average increase of 11% since the outbreak of the conflict, easily outstripping the FTSE 100 which has risen by less than 3% over the same period. This is consistent with a longer-term share price increase of more than 50% in the last three years, as demand for foodstuffs exploded in response to pandemic-inflicted lockdowns. 

The ABCD, which control anywhere between 75% and 90% of the agricultural trade market, have been well positioned to profit from Ukraine’s export standstill and accelerating food inflation that global bodies say threaten famines in some of the world’s most vulnerable countries. 

Following the invasion of Ukraine, the world’s sixth-largest wheat exporter, food commodity prices soared to record high levels, with the FAO Food Price Index reporting a 13% jump in March. But the worst may be yet to come, as the UN warns that food and feed inflation could climb to 22% this year – that is, if the conflict continues to prevent Ukraine’s exports from being released into global markets.

This will impact not only nations with a strong wheat import dependence on Ukraine – like Tunisia, Egypt and Lebanon – but also many countries in sub-Saharan Africa that are already plagued by conflict, climate change and acute hunger crises. 

But amid every disaster, lurks opportunity.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine, the overall market capitalisation – a total value of a company’s shares and a proxy for investor confidence – for agricultural commodity traders has risen by 10%. This puts it firmly among the winners’ club alongside the fertiliser industry, which has seen an overall increase of 27% – an uptick that is bested only by the coal, offshore oil drilling and alternative fuels sectors, according to market data.  

It is also little wonder that, as oil and gas prices have surged following the invasion. Oil giant Saudi Aramco just reported an 82% jump in profits – recording the highest net earnings since its listing in 2019. 

Bunge, meanwhile, the world’s largest oilseed processor and a grain and fertiliser trader, recently reported higher-than-expected quarterly earnings of $4.26 per share (up from $3.13 in the same period last year), after the conflict in Ukraine sent food commodity prices soaring.    

Its competitor, another supply chain middleman, ADM, also posted earnings of $1.90 per share, beating expectations of $1.41, adding that its profits for 2022 would confidently top last year’s – at $2.9 billion.    

Meanwhile, Louis Dreyfus reported a jump in profit for 2021 – which reached $697 million, up 82.5% from the previous year – on the back of recovering global demand for staple crops, but said the Ukraine conflict could have a “material impact” on its operations locally.  

Cargill, America’s largest privately held business, last year announced a net income of $5 billion, the largest profit in its 156-year history. While its earnings in the last few months of 2022 are not known, the company – which is controlled by a dynasty of billionaires – has not pulled out from Russia, where it has done business for nearly half a century. It also continues to serve the other side of the conflict: Ukraine.  

The ‘Gatekeepers’

This is emblematic of a market that has no “national loyalties” or “flags”, according to Dr Fadhel Kaboub, Associate Economics Professor at Denison University, adding that these traders do not tend to shy away from conflict zones. 

Instead, he says, their scale and resources allows them to incur the cost of doing business in wartime and operate at the grey periphery of sanctions. Food and medicines are not included in global restrictions.

Cagrill says on its website that “food is a basic human right” and that it does everything it can to “nourish the world”, adding that the region [Ukraine-Russia] “plays a significant role in our global food system”. 

Proponents of the agricultural trade industry claim that profits alone do not necessarily indicate wrongdoing or malfeasance. They add that the sector in fact helps restore stability in the food markets by using its scale and access to information to match demand with supply – in this case, shipping food and other commodities where they are most needed.   

But Kaboub says that the ABCD traders are “gatekeepers” of a world order that continues to prevent the Global South from developing its own food sovereignty, while giving big producing countries and traders immense influence and leverage over prices. 

“In a world where you have countries independently controlling their own food security, those companies wouldn’t have that much power,” he says.

“The ABCD traders are not just covering the cost of doing business, they’re taking advantage of a real crisis to surcharge.”

Some critics go even further and allege that agricultural traders not only capitalise on disruption but also often promote it through “predatory” practices that can accentuate market volatility. 

Kaboub pointed to a long and dark history of Wall Street speculators that in some cases have helped create food crises only to be allowed by the authorities to walk away with a “slap on the wrist” or a hefty fine. 

Meanwhile, the UN World Food Programme has urged that, unless the Black Sea ports of Odesa are allowed to operate and export food produced in Ukraine, the global hunger crisis could spiral out of control. 

As many as an additional 47 million people could face acute hunger if the conflict continues, the body says. That’s on top of the 276 million people who already found themselves in this dire situation at the start of 2022. 

The risk of famine has been compounded by droughts across the Horn of Africa, with countries like Ethiopia and Somalia – which heavily rely on wheat from the Black Sea – seeing the cost of a food basket rising by 66% and 36% respectively in April, according to the UN

There are only modest grounds for optimism. While using its Black Sea ports is out of the question – at least for the time being – Ukraine is assessing whether it can export its food supply via neighbouring countries like Poland, Latvia and Lithuania.

However, transporting the wheat is proving a Herculean operation: Ukraine’s railway system is not (fully) compatible with that of its EU neighbours – meaning that trains are probably a non-starter. The fall-back is using trucks but that is bound to be much slower and more arduous. 

Until then, the hope is that other countries will increase their wheat exports and ease the shortages. But India, the world’s second-largest wheat producer, has been hit with an unexpected and prolonged heatwave , which is threatening the bulk of its crops in the north. 

“Experts don’t see prices coming down in the next six months and it could be potentially a much worse situation beyond then,” says Kaboub. 

This article was produced by the Byline Intelligence Team – a collaborative investigative project formed by Byline Times with The Citizens. If you would like to find out more about the Intelligence Team and how to fund its work, click on the button below.

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THE BYLINE INTELLIGENCE TEAM

ShareEmailTwitterFacebook

SIGN-UP TO EMAIL UPDATES

OUR JOURNALISM RELIES ON YOU

Byline Times is funded by its subscribers. Receive our monthly print edition and help to support fearless, independent journalism.

SUBSCRIBE TO THE PRINT EDITION OF BYLINE TIMES FROM AS LITTLE AS £3.50 A MONTH

BECOME A PATRON OF BYLINE TV

SUBSCRIBE TO BYLINE TIMES & GET THIS MONTH’S DIGITAL EDITION IMMEDIATELY

Crimean Tatars Are Still Waiting for Justice

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 19/05/2022 - 4:00am in

Tags 

Russia

Photo credit: Jiri Flogel / Shutterstock.com This year, May 18 commemorates 78  years since almost 200,000 Crimean Tatars were torn...

Read More

How the Russian Public Sees Events in Ukraine Today

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 13/05/2022 - 10:00pm in

People who give interviews and speak about a catastrophe in Russia project something into the future, and do not describe what is happening right now. The situation is very different in different cities and even different institutions. In Saint Petersburg and Moscow, you have more freedom than, for example, in Kazan....

Read More

What Man Has Made of Man: Confessions of an Optimist

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 13/05/2022 - 9:04pm in

Alexandra Hall Hall considers the mistakes she has made in believing that the arc of history was travelling in a more progressive direction

GET THE CURRENT EDITION OF BYLINE TIMES NOW

Lines Written in Early Spring

I heard a thousand blended notes,

While in a grove I sat reclined,

In that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts

Bring sad thoughts to the mind.

To her fair works did Nature link

The human soul that through me ran;

And much it grieved my heart to think

What man has made of man.

By William Wordsworth

Much has been written about the many misjudgements of Russian President Vladimir Putin in launching his invasion of Ukraine. He is regarded as having over-estimated the strength and capability of his own military, and the ease with which they would be able to defeat Ukrainian forces. He under-estimated the courage and resilience of the Ukrainian people, and the inspiring leadership of President Volodymyr Zelensky. He also grossly miscalculated the reaction of the West. He believed that NATO had become so divided, distracted and demoralised by problems at home and abroad that it would never be able to muster the will or the unity to mount a strong or sustained response to support Ukraine.

Putin is now suffering the consequences of his many errors. His forces are suffering numerous setbacks in Ukraine. Russia’s economy is being buffeted by sanctions. Russia’s international standing is undermined. Putin’s personal legacy, at least outside Russia, is in tatters. But while there is a certain grim satisfaction in seeing Putin proved wrong on so many counts, I ask, who amongst us can really claim to have got many of the big calls right either?

Certainly, I would argue that many of us have also been surprised by how things have turned out in Ukraine so far. I don’t think many of us expected the Russian army to fare so badly, or the Ukrainians to mount such a heroic resistance. The very fact that Zelensky apparently rejected a US proposal to take refuge in a neighbouring country – prompting his famous statement “I need weapons, not a ride” – suggests many assumed his Government would crumble.

I think many of us have also been pleasantly surprised by the robustness of the Western response to the conflict. Who could have imagined, just a few weeks ago, millions of Ukrainian refugees being welcomed into private homes across Europe with minimal popular backlash; Germany blocking Nordstream 2 and sending weapons to Ukraine; the UK clamping down on Russian money and oligarchs; the EU imposing punishing sanctions and working to end its dependency on Russian oil and gas; the US overcoming its domestic political divides to lead a strong international response; and Sweden and Finland talking about joining NATO?

Yet, as I survey the current geopolitical scene, I feel no sense of smugness or superiority, but instead a deep worry about the many other misjudgments I have made, which have far less positive implications.

For example, high on feelings of national pride, and the emotions generated by the spirit and success of the London Olympics in 2012, I did not foresee that four years later my country would descend into bitter infighting and rancour over the Brexit referendum. I also never imagined that six years later, Brexit would still not be “done”; that people would still be arguing over the rights and wrongs of that vote; and that our society would if anything be even more divided.

I also misjudged the extent to which Brexit-supporting politicians on both sides of the Chamber were willing to mislead the British public by claiming we could “have our cake and eat it”. Or, for that matter, how easily so many people were gulled by these false promises and lies.

I misjudged the extent to which Brexiters were willing to slander and insult political opponents as “enemies of the people” or “out of touch elites”. I also never anticipated that they would claim a mandate to drive through the hardest form of Brexit, instead of trying to lead a process of national consultation and reconciliation, to bridge some of the Brexit divides.

George Orwell’s books 1984 and Animal Farm are still on bestseller lists, not as cautionary tales about what once happened in the past, but as a troubling sign of what many fear might be happening in the present.

I miscalculated the extent to which Brexit politicians were willing to act so duplicitously, claiming the intention to sustain a good relationship with the EU, while continuing to blame the EU for some of the entirely foreseen negative impacts of Brexit, such as greater red tape and bureaucracy. I miscalculated the ability of opposition political parties to highlight the flaws and inconsistencies in the Government’s approach. I miscalculated their ability to offer a credible alternative, attractive to the electorate.

I underestimated our current Government’s brazenness in continuing to downplay the impact of Brexit on the Good Friday Agreement. I underestimated their lack of shame in misrespresenting some of the details of the Northern Ireland Protocol. I underestimated their shamelessness in trying to shift onto the EU the responsibility for fixing the current problems with the Protocol, even though these were created by our own Government, through its own choices.

I never anticipated that having sold the Withdrawal Agreement to the British people as a great success, barely two years later the politicians who negotiated it would be trying to walk away from its terms. I never believed that a country which presented itself to the world as a ‘force for good’ and a stalwart defender of international law, would itself threaten to renege on a treaty that it had signed. I underestimated the extent to which a British government would be willing to act in such bad faith towards neighbours and allies.

I am also guilty of being complacent about the strength of our own democracy. I had assumed that the kind of populist demagoguery seen in some other Western democracies recently would not be possible in the UK. I over-relied on a sense of innate decency amongst most British politicians, to act as a check on executive overreach, and prevent breaches of the norms and conventions of our unwritten constitution.

In particular, I had always assumed that British politicians would honour the convention to treat their political opponents with respect. I assumed that a UK Prime Minister would never wilfully lie to the Queen, or prorogue Parliament unlawfully. I assumed that a UK Prime Minister asking for great sacrifices of the British public during a pandemic crisis would scrupulously adhere to those same rules himself. I assumed that politicians found guilty of breaking the law or lying to Parliament would step down, in accordance with the Ministerial Code. I misjudged the extent to which Brexit had so poisoned our politics that it has become almost impossible to acknowledge any good in the other side, or accept any mistakes as honest ones.

I also always trusted that even if parliamentary standards began to erode, other institutions in our democracy would hold our government to account. I assumed that our free press would always expose wrongdoing. But I underestimated the extent to which much of our press has been taken over by vested interests, with unhealthy connections and loyalty to certain political parties. I misjudged the extent to which this would lead many of our newspapers to shamefully slant their coverage of events to the benefit of one political party or another.

I also overestimated the extent to which our society has become more tolerant and accepting of diversity. I never anticipated any UK Government indulging in grotesque dog-whistle racist politics, and tacitly encouraging hostility towards migrants. I never imagined that a country which had helped to draft both the European Convention on Human Rights and the UN Convention on Refugees would ever seek to evade its obligations under those treaties.

On the international level, I never expected in my lifetime to see a conflict in Europe reminiscent of the horrors of World War Two. I never expected to see a Russian President celebrate his country’s defeat of Naziism while allowing his troops to use Nazi methods of brutality themselves. I never expected to see the Taliban return to power in Afghanistan, and in less than a year remove the right to education for women and girls, and require them to be veiled from head to toe. I never expected a politician from the National Front, deeply opposed to the EU, coming so close to winning the presidency in France. I never expected ‘genocide’ to be a term which applied to conflicts in the 21st Century. I never expected our global community to be struggling to protect the very climate we all depend on for survival.

But, then again, I never expected to see an American President reject the outcome of an election and encourage a physical assault on the buildings at the heart of American democracy. I never expected medieval attitudes to women to resurface in America – with a leaked Supreme Court memorandum on abortion containing references to judicial rulings from the 13th Century.

I never expected common-sense education and discussion about sexual orientation and preferences to be recharacterised as “grooming” of young children by sexual predators. I never expected the long-overdue debate about the history of racism and slavery in America to be badged as extremist, or harmful to white people. I never expected Americans to be campaigning to remove books from libraries, or a state governor to set up a hotline for pupils to report teachers allegedly deviating from approved educational material.

I never expected America to remain so tolerant of the shockingly high number of mass shootings caused by the widespread private ownership of guns.  I could never have imagined living in a country where state officials matter-of-factly debate different methods of executing people sentenced to death.

In fact, when I step back to reflect, I realise I have been guilty of gross naïvety on many, many fronts.

Above all, I trusted in human beings learning from past mistakes and becoming better over time. I repeatedly and misguidedly trusted in the slogan ‘never again’. I put misplaced confidence in democracy, good governance, respect for human rights and peace steadily spreading around the world, as nations and communities became better educated and more intertwined. I trusted that nationalism, racism, misogyny and other prejudices would recede, and tolerance, diversity and mutual respect for each other would spread.

I never expected the degree to which, in the 21st Century, we would still have so many charlatans and corrupt officials in public office. I never thought we would still have so many dictatorships and military-led regimes around the world, still able to brutalise and suppress their people with impunity. I never expected ‘great power’ politics to be an ongoing theme.

And I could never imagine living at a time when words have become so twisted, trust in institutions has become so eroded, and truth has become so relative, that facts are no longer facts, but merely interpretations. George Orwell’s books 1984 and Animal Farm are still on bestseller lists, not as cautionary tales about what once happened in the past, but as a troubling sign of what many fear might be happening in the present.

SUBSCRIBE TO FEARLESS, INDEPENDENT JOURNALISM FOR AS LITTLE AS £3 A MONTH

So, yes, Putin has got many things wrong in his lifetime. Hopefully, perhaps that also means he may misjudge the strength of his own position at home. Conventional wisdom says it will be hard for any internal opposition to overthrow him, but perhaps we will be proved wrong here too.

But if I have learned anything from the last few years, it is that wishful thinking is a mistake. It is wiser not to rely on man’s better nature prevailing, or to assume that bad things won’t happen. The lesson from history is that bad people frequently get away with things they shouldn’t; and, while we can certainly hope and strive for the best, we should always be prepared for the worst.

As William Wordsworth wrote at the end of his famous poem:

“Have I not reason to lament

What man has made of man?”

Alexandra Hall Hall is a former British diplomat with more than 30 years experience, with postings in Bangkok, Washington, Delhi, Bogota and Tbilisi. She resigned from the Foreign Office in December 2019 because she felt unable to represent the Government’s position on Brexit with integrity

ShareEmailTwitterFacebook

SIGN-UP TO EMAIL UPDATES

OUR JOURNALISM RELIES ON YOU

Byline Times is funded by its subscribers. Receive our monthly print edition and help to support fearless, independent journalism.

SUBSCRIBE TO THE PRINT EDITION OF BYLINE TIMES FROM AS LITTLE AS £3.50 A MONTH

BECOME A PATRON OF BYLINE TV

SUBSCRIBE TO BYLINE TIMES & GET THIS MONTH’S DIGITAL EDITION IMMEDIATELY

Calling to Account the Hereditary Warrior Class

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 13/05/2022 - 6:46am in

Tags 

Interviews, Russia

Transcript
BENJAMIN NORTON: Hey, everyone. I’m Ben Norton, and this is the Multipolarista podcast. And I have the great pleasure of being joined today by one of my favorite guests, one of I think the most important economists in the world today. I’m speaking with Professor Michael Hudson.

If you’ve seen any of the interviews I’ve done with Professor Hudson over the past few years, you probably know that he’s a brilliant analyst. He always has, I think, the best analysis to understand what’s going on economically and also politically, geopolitically, in the world today.

And right now is, I think, a very important moment to have Professor Hudson on today. We’re going to talk about the economic war on Russia and the process of economic decoupling between Russia and China and the West, which is something that Professor Hudson has talked about for many years. And that really has accelerated with the Western sanctions on Russia over Ukraine.

We’re also going to talk about the decline in U.S. dollar hegemony. A recent report from the International Monetary Fund, which is dominated by the U.S., acknowledged that the use of the dollar in foreign bank reserves is gradually declining.

Now, it’s not going to disappear overnight. But even the IMF is acknowledging that dollar hegemony is eroding. And, of course, the IMF acknowledged that the Western sanctions on Russia are going to further erode the hegemony of the U.S. dollar.

We now see Russia doing business with China in the Chinese yuan. Russia is also doing business with India with the Indian rupee. And of course Russia has been telling Europe that if it wants to buy Russian energy, it has to do so with Russian rubles.

So there’s so much to talk about today, Professor Hudson, but I want to begin in the first half of this interview today talking about a new book that you’re just about to publish.

Today is Monday, May 9th. You said on Wednesday, May 11th, the book comes out. And it’s called “The Destiny of Civilization: Finance Capitalism, Industrial Capitalism or Socialism.”

And everything that I just prefaced this interview with, discussing the economic war in Russia and sanctions and decoupling, this is all deeply related to what you talk about in this book. And I had the pleasure of getting an early copy and reading through it. It’s a really important book, I think.

And you talk about this fundamental divide internationally – and this is a divide that actually goes back historically as well – between these three models for different economic systems you discuss: finance capitalism, industrial capitalism, and socialism.

And your argument is that the U.S. empire has been a force for imposing neoliberalism, which is a particular form of finance capitalism, which is nonproductive, in which finance capital destroys productive industries in pursuit of rent-seeking, and what you call the rentier class.

So instead of producing, as the classical bourgeois economists had said capitalism would be a productive system instead, finance capitalism is fundamentally a system of destruction and debt.

And your argument is that this is deeply rooted in U.S. foreign policy. This is the U.S. foreign policy strategy for expanding its economic power, is imposing this finance capitalist model on the world.

So can you expand further on your argument about the fight between finance capitalism, industrial capitalism, and socialism, and why you decided to publish this book now?

MICHAEL HUDSON: Well the book came out of a series of 10 lectures that I did for my Chinese audience. I’ve been a professor at Peking University for a number of years in economics, and have professorships at other universities, Wuhan and Hong Kong.

And I have a fairly large audience of about 65,000 people per lecture there. And I was asked to give my general overview, sort of a history of economic development in the West, for the Chinese.

And in order to understand today’s finance capitalism, you have to understand what industrial capitalism was, as it was described in the 19th century.

And it’s often forgotten, or played down, that industrial capitalism was revolutionary. What it was trying to do – from the physiocrats in France in the late 18th century to Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill, Marx, and the whole late-19th century flowering of socialism – the ideal of classical value theory and rent theory, was to say what is the actual value, the cost value of producing goods and services?

And what is earned by the capitalist, when he employs labor to make a profit, and what is unearned? And what is unearned was the landlord class. That was the hereditary warrior class that conquered all of the European kingdoms in the Middle Ages.

And the attempt by England’s industrialists was saying, look, we cannot become the workshop of the world; we cannot undersell foreign countries if we have a landlord class ripping off all of the money in land rent.

And if we have predatory banking, or the wealthy people just lend really for buying property, or making distressed loans or predatory loans that have nothing to do with financing actual capital formation.

Well, what made this capitalism revolutionary was the British industrialists and advocates of industry, even the bankers in Ricardo’s time, said, well, in order to overthrow the landlord class, which controls the House of Lords and all of the upper chambers of government in Europe, we have to have democratic reform.

If we have democratic reform and give voting to the people, they’re going to vote against the landlord class, and then we can have an efficient economy where our prices of our exports and our goods and services reflect the actual cost of production, not the rake off for the rentiers class, not the rake off of what landlords take, not the rake off of what predatory bankers take.

And the whole long 19th century leading up to World War One was this revolutionary value theory that depicted land rent and monopoly rent and financial returns as being unearned income and wanting to strip it away.

And all of this seemed to be moving toward socialism. The industrialists were all in favor of government public utilities, of government enterprise, because they said, if the government doesn’t provide health care, then individuals are going to have to pay it, and it’ll cost a lot of money, like it does in the United States.

And so you had the conservative prime minister of England, Benjamin Disraeli, saying, health, all is health, we’ve got to provide public health for the people.

And it was the conservative Bismarck in Germany that said, we’ve got to provide pensions. If labor has to save up for the pensions, then it’s not going to have enough money to buy the goods and services that we Germans are producing. We have got to make pensions public.

So all of this move towards socialism was not only in favor of increasing living standards, which soared in the 19th century, but also in freeing the economy from the rentier class, from the landlords, from the bankers.

And for the classical economists, a free market was a market free from landlords, free from bankers, free from monopolists.

Well, needless to say, the rentiers fought back. And by after World War Two, we’ve seen a continual anti-classical theory replacing the classical idea of free markets with a value of free theory, saying, well, everybody earns whatever they they have. All wealth is earned, not unearned. And if Goldman Sachs partners are paid more than anyone else, that’s because they’re so productive.

So you had a move rejecting classical economics, a junk economics, and a kind of artificial economics that doesn’t really talk about how finance capitalism has worked.

And as it turns out, the business plan of finance capitalism was so predatory that it was anti-industrial.

That’s why President Clinton in the United States moved to invite China into the International Labor Organization, saying, well, we can fight wage rises in America by a race to the bottom. We can we can hire Asians to do work, and that will cause unemployment here. And that’s wonderful for the industrialists. It will basically cut wages and keep American wages down.

Well, that basically is the strategy of finance capitalism, and the aim of finance capitalism is not to invest in factories, and plant equipment, and research and development, but to live in the short term, but to make money by financial engineering, not industrial engineering.

And it becomes predatory, and so you have the whole ideological attack on public enterprise. You have Frederick Hayek’s “The Road to Serfdom,” where you say, if government provides public healthcare, that’s “the road to serfdom,” where actually it’s finance capitalism that is the road to debt peonage and serfdom.

And you have now a whole disparagement of government. And all of this is a counter-revolution to the revolutionary impetus of industrial capitalism in its early stages.

And it’s true that corporations now are just as right-wing as the the banks and the hedge funds. But that’s because corporate industry has been taken over by the financial sector, and the heads of almost every industrial corporation are rewarded the how high they can push the stock price, to exercise the stock options they’re paid in.

And you increase the stock price not by investing more, not by hiring more labor or increasing productivity or increasing sales, but simply by using whatever income you have to buy back your stocks. And by buying back your stocks, this forces up their price.

And, most of all, by giving political contributions in this country to the Democrats and Republicans alike, who appoint Federal Reserve heads that have spent $7-9 trillion buying up stocks and bonds to increase the price of buying a retirement income, to increase Wall Street prices, to increase housing prices, and make America even less competitive industrially.

So finance capitalism is what has essentially de-industrialized the United States and turned the Midwest into a Rust Belt.

Well, the alternative, obviously, are the societies that have not followed this neoliberal finance capitalist plan. And the most successful economy, obviously, has been China, which is why it has been spending so much time there.

And China has done exactly what 19th-century United States, Germany, England, and France did. It has kept basic utilities, basic needs, housing, and above all, finance and banking, in the public domain, as public utilities.

Instead of having an independent financial sector operating on its own self-interest, the Bank of China creates the money. And the Bank of China lends money by deciding, where do we need to have investment in real estate to provide housing for the population at as low a price as we can make it? How do we build up the industry? How do we provide an educational system with training? How do we provide health?

And the fact is that the central planning in an efficient socialist style, not the Stalinist planning that everybody refers to of Russia, but a mixed economy as you have in China, which is truly a mixed economy, with guidance, like the French planification.

Well, that is obviously the way in which you survive and you avoid the kind of overloading the economy with debt service, with high rents, with high payments to the health-care monopoly in the United States, by avoiding all of this payment to a rentier class that has what the classical economists call unearned income, predatory income.

And instead of unseating them, we’ve put them in charge, and made the banks and Wall Street, and the city of London, and the Paris Bourse, the central planners.

So we do have central planning much more centralized than anything that was dreamed by the socialists. But the planning, the centralized planning is done by the financial sector.

And financial planning is short-termism; it’s short-term planning; it’s take your money and run. And that’s what is stripping and impoverishing the global economy today.

BENJAMIN NORTON: Absolutely. And, in your book, you write about the important distinction between the classical economic idea of a so-called free market, and how, you argue that, neoliberals turn that idea on its head.

So this is what you write in your book. And this is, again, Michael Hudson’s new book, “The Destiny of Civilization,” which is out this week. You write:

“The neoliberal ideology inverts the classical idea of a free market from one that is free from economic rent to one that is free for the rentier classes” – that is the rent-extracting classes – “to extract rent and gain dominance.”

So they they completely flip the idea of what it means to have a free market.

And then you note that, “in contrast to classical political economy, this neoliberal ideology promotes tax favoritism for rentiers, privatization, financialization, and deregulation.” And you discuss all of that.

That is, of course, what we could call the Washington consensus.

And then you argue that “U.S. foreign policy seeks to extend this neoliberal rentier program throughout the world.”

And you have a very interesting section of your book where you discuss this concept as “free-trade imperialism.”

So can you talk about what your idea of “free-trade imperialism” is and how it relates to U.S. foreign policy?

MICHAEL HUDSON: Well, the Nobel Prize is given basically for junk economics. And probably the worst junk economist of the century was Paul Samuelson.

He made the absurd claim that he proved mathematically that, if you have free trade then, and don’t have tariffs, and don’t have any government protection, then everyone will become more equal. At least the proportions between labor and capital will be more equal. Well, the reality is just the opposite.

And the term “free-trade imperialism” was actually created by a British historian of trade theory who pointed out that, wait a minute, when England went for free trade, the idea was, if we have free trade, we can stifle other countries from being able to industrialize, because if we have free trade, then we can tell America, we will open our doors to your markets – meaning the markets of the slave South, that Britain supported – and in exchange, you will open your markets to our industrial goods.

And America followed that until the Civil War, which was fought not only over slavery, but by the Republican Party after 1853 that said very explicitly, if we’re going to win the election – the Whigs never could win – if we, the new party, are going to win the election and industrialize America, we’ve got to integrate ourselves with the anti-slavery issue, with emancipation, but for us, the economic war of America is a war of, either we’re going to have protective tariffs in the North, or we’re going to end up as a non-industrial, raw materials-producing society, as the South wants.

And that was the debate from 1815, when the Napoleonic wars ended and world trade began again, until really the Civil War.

And America became strong in the way that Germany became strong too, by having protective tariffs, in order to have prices large enough to nurture what was called infant industry, to nurture American manufacturing.

And I wrote a long book about this, published some years ago based on my PhD dissertation, “America’s Protectionist Takeoff.”

Well, the English tried to fight against other countries protecting their economy, saying that if you just have free trade, you’ll get rich. Whereas the reality is, if we have free trade, you’ll get poor, if you’re not already able to have industrial and labor productivity and agricultural productivity on par with the most advanced countries.

Free trade was an attempt to prevent other countries from investing government money and building up their agriculture, and building up their industry, and building up their productivity, and creating a school system, to raise wages, to make wages more productive.

And the American protectionists said, well, we’re going to have a high-wage economy because high-wage labor undersells pauper labor. And skilled, well-fed, well-rested American labor can produce much more than the pauper labor of other countries that have free trade.

Well, what the leading American protectionist economist, Erasmus Peshine Smith, went to Japan and helped industrial help Japan break away from British free trade, helped Japan industrialize.

And other American economists, other foreign economists, all picked up the ideas of the American protectionist, like Friedrich List went to Germany promoting protectionism.

And Peshine Smith’s book, “The Manual of Political Economy,” was translated into all the foreign languages – Japanese, Italian, French, German.

And you had Europe realizing that free trade polarizes economies. Well, it was this that after World War One, and especially World War Two, when you had orthodox economics turning into basically propaganda.

That’s where you and Samuelson and others try to convince other countries, governments are bad, leave everything to the wealthy people, to the finance people, trickle-down economies, it’s all going to trickle down, don’t worry, just give more money to the rich, and don’t have any government interference with markets.

Whereas America had got rich by interfering with markets, to shape them in the years leading up to World War One.

But after World War One, America had already achieved its industrial dominance. And it was after World War One that America said, ok, now our protective tariffs have enabled us to outproduce all the other countries, and our protectionist agriculture especially – the most protected sector in America, has always been agriculture, since the 1930s.

Basically it said, well, now we can outproduce other countries, we can undersell them, now we can tell them to go for free trade.

And after World War Two, the Americans created the World Bank for economic impoverishment, and the International Monetary Austerity Fund.

And the World Bank’s leading objective was to prevent other countries from investing in their own food production.

The guiding line of the World Bank was, we’ve got to provide infrastructure for building up plantation agriculture in Latin America, and Africa, and other countries, so that they will grow tropical export crops, but they cannot be permitted to grow grain or wheat to feed themselves; they must be dependent on the United States.

And so the function of free trade, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund has been to finance dependency, backed up by the American support of dictatorships throughout Latin America who agree to have client oligarchies supporting pro-American trade patterns and avoiding any kind of self-reliance, so that the United States can do what it has recently done to Russia and other countries, impose sanctions – say, well, now that you depended on us for your grain, we can now impose sanctions, and you can’t feed yourself if you don’t follow the policies we want.

That was the policy that America tried to use against China after Mao’s revolution. And fortunately for China, Canada broke that monopoly, and said, well, we’re going to sell grain to China. And China was always very friendly to Canada in those earlier decades.

So basically, free trade means no government, no socialism. It means central planning essentially by Wall Street – countries should let American firms come in, buy control of their raw materials, resources, control of their oil and gas, and mineral rights, and forests and plantations, and basically let other countries send their whole economic surplus to the United States, where it will be duly financialized to buy out other countries’ raw materials and rent yielding resources.

BENJAMIN NORTON: Yeah, and in your book, you have a very funny passage that I think really encapsulates this ideology that you’re talking about here.

You referred to Charles Wilson, who was the secretary of defense under Eisenhower in the U.S., and he was also the former CEO of General Motors.

And he famously said, “What’s good for General Motors is good for the country.” And that idea has morphed into the idea that, “What’s good for Wall Street is good for America.”

And then you note that “this merged with evangelistic U.S. foreign policy that says ‘What’s good for America is good for the world.’ And therefore the logical syllogism is clear: ‘What’s good for Wall Street is good for the world.’”

And you describe this, you link it to the new cold war, this idea that what’s good for the U.S. is good for the world and what’s good for Wall Street is good for the U.S., therefore, what’s good for Wall Street is good for the world.

You argue, “We must recognize how finance capitalism has gained power over industrial economies, above all in the United States, from which it seeks to project itself globally, led by the financialized U.S. economy. Today’s new Cold War is a fight to impose rentier-based finance capitalism on the entire world.”

And this is such an important analysis. Because among those very few people of us who talk about this idea of the new cold war and how dangerous it is, there are very few people who frame it in economic terms.

Usually we frame it in political terms, right, the geopolitical interests between the US and the EU on one side, and China and Russia on the other.

And going back to Brzezinski and The Grand Chessboard, his 1997 book, where he talks about the importance of preventing near strategic competitors from emerging in Eurasia. That’s of course a geopolitical discussion and economics is part of it, but it’s often not at the forefront.

But your analysis I think is even more important, and more accurate, because your argument is not only is it geopolitical, but the geopolitical struggle is rooted in economics. And this is an economic struggle between systems.

So talk talk more about the new cold war and how you see it.

MICHAEL HUDSON: Well, as we’re seeing now, the world is dividing into two parts. We can see that in the fight against Russia, which is also a fight against China, and against India, as you noted. And it seems Indonesia and other countries as well.

The United States is pushing a world that can be controlled by American investors. The ideal of the American neoliberal plan is to do to other countries what it did to Russia after 1991: take all of your public domain, your oil companies, your nickel mines, your electric utilities, give them all to the wealthy oligarchy, that can only make money once it’s taken control of these companies, by selling the stocks to the West.

The West will buy out oil, just like Mikhail Khodorkovsky tried to sell Yukos oil to Standard Oil in the West. And we’ve got to put an oligarchy that will sell all of the national domain, all of the patrimony and natural resources, and all the companies, to American investors on the cheap.

The Russian stock market led all the stock markets in the world from 1994 up to about 1998. This was a huge rip off. The United States wants to be able to do that to the rest of the world.

And it was furious when Russia said, we’ve lost more population as a result of neoliberalism than we did in all of World War Two fighting against Nazism. We’ve got to stop.

And Russia began to say, we’ve got to use Russia’s population, and industry, and natural resources for Russia’s benefit, not for the United States’ benefit.

Well, the United States was absolutely furious with this. And the fury has erupted in the NATO war against Russia in the last few months, and what’s ongoing now.

And the United States says, U.S. State Department officials have said, what we want to do is carve up Russia into maybe four different countries: Siberia, western Russia, southern Russia or Central Asia, maybe northern Russia.

And once we’ve done that, we cut Russia off from China, then we go into China. We finance, we send ISIS and al-Qaeda into the Uyghur areas, the Muslim areas, and we start a color revolution there. And then we break up China, into a northern part, a southern part, a central part.

And once we break them up, we can more or less control them. And we can then come in, buy up their resources, and take over their industry, their labor, and their government, and get richer to obtain from China, Russia, India, Indonesia, and Iran the wealth that we’re no longer producing in the United States, now that we de-industrialized.

So the world is dividing into two parts. And it’s not simply the United States and its European satellites on the one hand versus the non-white population on the other hand; it’s finance capitalism versus the rest of the world, which is protecting itself by socialism, which in many ways fulfills what was the ideal of industrial capitalism during the 19th century, when industrial capitalism was actually progressive.

And it was progressive. That’s part of the whole theme of my book. It was revolutionary. It tried to free economies from the legacy of feudalism, from the legacy of hereditary landlords.

And now the financial class is no longer the landlord class, but the landlord class pays most of its rent to the financial class in the form of mortgage interest, as it borrows money to buy property and housing and commercial sites on credit.

And you have the kind of financialization that has increased housing prices in the United States to over 40% of income, that is officially guaranteed for mortgages. That has priced American labor out of the market.

Privatized health care, 18% of GDP, that is pricing America out of the world market. Debt, auto debt, student debt, which in other countries education is free; that’s pricing America out of the market.

So you have a basically un-competitive economy that’s committing financial suicide, following the same dynamic that destroyed the Roman empire, where a predatory oligarchy took over and maintained power by an assassination policy of its critics, just very similar to what America has been doing in Latin America and other countries.

So you’re having history repeat itself with this same kind of world split. And this split couldn’t have occurred back in the 1970s, with the Bandung Conference in Indonesia. There were other attempts by the Non-Aligned nations to break free of American imperialism, but they didn’t have a critical mass.

So right now, for the first time, you have a critical mass. And you have the ability of China, Iran, Russia, India, other countries together to be self-sufficient. They don’t need relations with the United States.

They can handle their own; they can create their own monetary system outside of the International Monetary Fund, which is basically an arm of the Defense Department. They can give loans to build up the infrastructure of countries outside of the World Bank, which is basically an arm of the Defense Department, the deep state.

So you have the American economy – essentially a merger between the military-industrial complex and the Wall Street FIRE sector, finance, insurance, and real estate – really cannot develop any more than the Roman Empire could develop, by trying to obtain militarily what it could not produce at home anymore.

Well, China and other countries, now that they have their industrial base, the raw materials, the food, the ability to feed themselves, the agriculture, and the technology, they can go their own way.

And so we’re seeing in the last few months the beginning of a war that is going to go on for, I think, 20 years, maybe 30 or 40 years. The world is splitting away.

And it won’t be a pretty sight, because the United States and its European satellites are trying to fight to prevent an inevitable break away they cannot prevent, any more than Europe’s landlord class could prevent industrial capitalism from developing in the 19th century.

BENJAMIN NORTON: Yeah, and this is a good segue to what I wanted to ask you about, Professor Hudson, which is the economic war on Russia.

And I should say, of course, that today is May 9th. Today is Victory Day in Russia, celebrating the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two. Not the US and British victory over Nazi Germany, the Soviet victory, in which 27 million Soviets died.

And actually I should say that, here on YouTube, in the comment section, there are some Russians who are your fans, Professor Hudson, saying they’re thanking you for your cogent analysis of Russia.

But on the subject of Russia, Professor Hudson, we now have seen that since Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine on February 24th, we saw really what could be referred to as financial shock-and-awe. That’s a term that’s been used.

Just as when the U.S. invaded Iraq, it waged a military shock-and-awe campaign on Iraq. Well, now it is waging economic or financial shock-and-awe on Russia.

And Russia has been referred to as the most heavily sanctioned country in history. Which I think is probably accurate, although maybe the DPRK, maybe North Korea, is more sanctioned. But I mean we’re talking about levels of sanctions not seen against a country of this size ever.

And you can also refer to it as the contemporary equivalent of medieval siege warfare against Russia.

Joe Biden, in a speech in Poland, made it clear what Washington’s goal is: it’s regime change. The U.S. wants to overthrow the Russian government, as it did in the Soviet Union in 1991, and clearly install a a pliant alcoholic neoliberal puppet like Boris Yeltsin.

So can you talk about, from an economic perspective, what do you see as the effects of this economic war on Russia?

And specifically in terms of the concept of decoupling, which you have talked about for years, and you have said that the Western sanctions on Russia and China were accelerating that process of decoupling. And this was before the financial shock-and-awe we’ve seen.

So you talked about a move away from this neoliberal globalization where everything is interconnected, or at least capital is interconnected globally, to the creation of a kind of, what you could say is kind of an economic iron curtain.

But how do you see that also in terms of integrating the Eurasian economies more deeply?

And also what is the effect on the European economies, which my impression is that Europe is going to become what you call an economic dead zone, more and more reliant on the U.S., whereas Russia, China, and Iran, and even potentially India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia – we’re seeing much more economic integration of Asia, which is, of course, where the majority of humanity lives.

MICHAEL HUDSON: Well you have used the words shock-and-awe, picking it up from the U.S. statements of shock-and-awe. There hasn’t been any shock-and-awe; there’s been a self-defeating piffle, and laughter.

That’s not all. There was an attempt to grab $300 billion of Russia’s foreign reserves, saying, well, any country that leaves their reserves in American banks or in the American Monetary Fund to stabilize their currency, we can grab if we don’t like their policy.

So the idea was, now Russia is going to go broke. It can’t afford to buy anything without U.S. dollars. And the people are going to get so angry, they’re going to vote against Putin. And then we can pour in our money to twerps like Navalny and other right-wingers who have promised to be the new Yeltsins.

Well, it didn’t work that way. They did grab the $300 billion of Russia’s reserves. Russia immediately said, ok, we have our own money. We now, fortunately, have enough oil and gas that we don’t have to sell to Europe and Germany. If they want to freeze in the dark and let their pipes burst when the weather gets cold, that’s their problem. We’ll sell to India, and China, and other countries.

And there was, for a few days, the ruble plunged, by saying, uh oh, what is Russia going to do? So all the foreign exchange traders thought, you can trust Biden to have a really brilliant policies.

I think Paul Krugman, the Nobel Prize winner, said Biden is the greatest American president since Roosevelt, or since Truman, that he was so smart. Well, that’s why Krugman got the Nobel Prize, for making statements like that.

So immediately Russia said, well, obviously we can’t get paid in dollars anymore, or in euros, because, you’ll just grab them, so you’ll have to buy oil and gas in rubles. We’re going to price it in our own currency. Just like China had talked about pricing its exports in yuan.

And so what has happened is that immediately the ruble not only recovered, but is now selling at a higher rate than it was before the American sanctions. So there was no shock at all. The Americans felt shock.

The Americans are shocked. The Americans are awed. The Russians are laughing and everything is going their way.

So it’s almost as if – I would not accuse Biden of being on the pay of Russia, and I would not say that the leaders of Congress are the Russian agents, but if they were Russian agents, if they were paid by Russia, they could not have done a better job of helping Russia catalyzing its protectionism that it wouldn’t do itself.

The fact is that President Putin and many of the people around him still were neoliberals. I mean, they began as neoliberals, in the ’90s.

They began by hoping that they could make an arrangement with Germany and Europe, that Europe would develop their industry and make Russia as efficient an economy as Germany or the United States. Well, obviously that hasn’t happened.

All the same, they didn’t think of imposing protective tariffs as the United States did. They didn’t protect their agriculture. They bought grain, and cheese, and other agricultural products from the Baltics, and from other countries.

Well, now that, once the Americans put on the sanctions, beginning already under the Trump administration, all of a sudden Russia had to produce its own food.

And it did. It made the investment. It is now the largest agricultural exporter in the world, not a food-deficit country. It’s not importing any more cheese from Lithuania and the Baltics. It has its own cheese segment.

And the sanctions are forcing Russia to do exactly what the United States, Germany, and other protectionist countries did in the 19th century, developing their own industry by isolating it from low-priced foreign imports that would be priced so low that the Russians otherwise could not afford to make the investment in factories, plants, equipment, research, and development.

So what the United States has done is actually catalyze Russia moving together.

And also, for three or four years, I have been talking with Russians, and with the Chinese, and other countries about the need to de-dollarize. If you want to develop your own economy, you have to develop your economy in your own interest with public spending and planning, independent from the United States.

Well, now everybody thought that, well, in a few years it may take a decade for China, Russia, Iran, all these countries to break away from the U.S. But America said, we’re going to help you, we’re going to speed up the breakaway process. We’re going to isolate you. So you’ve got to band together against us.

So that’s exactly what it has done. You can just imagine how the Russians are crying all the way to the bank about this.

And how China is watching what the Americans are doing to Russia, and listening to President Biden saying, you know, Russia is not our real enemy, our real enemy of China. And when we’re finished with Russia, then we’re going to go against China and do the same thing to it.

Well you can imagine what this is leading the Chinese government to try to plan to be sufficiently independent from the United States, so that similar type sanctions will not hurt it.

And President Xi in the last few weeks has said we’ve got to make China as independent as possible. We’ve got to make our own computer chips. We’ve got to not depend on the United States for anything, except maybe Walt Disney movies. That’s basically about it.

So it’s as if – you know, I had mentioned earlier that finance lives in the short term. American policy, being financial policy, lives in the short term. And it’s looking at if it can make a quick, a quick victory, and forget about what’s going to happen next.

I’m told that, years ago, already from the war with Iran, and then Iraq and Syria, in the State Department, if there were Arab specialists who spoke Arabic, they were all fired. Because they said, well, if you can speak Arabic, you must’ve learned Arabic because you’re sympathetic with them. You’re fired. We won’t have anyone who can read Arabic here.

Well, now in the last decade or so, they fired all the Russia specialists from the the State Department and CIA, saying, well, if you can read Russian, why would you want to learn Russian? You must like something in Russia. You wanted to learn it. You’re fired.

So they have people who have no idea of what’s happening in Russia, no idea what’s happening in these other countries. And they’re blinded by their ideology.

And if anyone would say, wait a minute now, public planning and making education a public utility is actually making them more competitive, well, that’s against the ideology. That’s not the corporate type.

And they’re taught, well, we really can’t trust people, maybe they’re tending toward socialism, and they’re out the door.

So you’re having American policy pretty much run by the blind, and the Europeans are simply taking orders, and money in little white envelopes from the United States, to just show their loyalty, and basically are willing to spend three to seven times as much for their energy, for their liquefied natural gas and oil, by buying from the United States, than they are by a long-term contract with Russia.

Europe is willing to spend now $5 trillion on putting together ports that can handle shipping tankers for liquefied natural gas instead of relying on the Russian pipeline, the Nord Stream Two, that’s already there.

So Europe is making an enormous sacrifice. If it doesn’t have Russian gas, and it refuses to pay rubles, it says, if you don’t give us our gas and oil for free, you’re attacking us, because we’ve been getting all of your oil and gas for free, because all the dollars, all the money we pay, you’ve recycled to the United States in your foreign reserves. Thank heavens, the U.S. can grab it all. If you don’t continue to give it to us for free, then you’re attacking us.

To the United States, other countries protecting their economy, other countries trying to raise their living standards, and especially other countries undertaking land reform, are viewed as enemies of the United States, because they’re an enemy of the neoliberal American financial system.

And the idea of the unipolar world where the United States gets all of the profits, and rents, and interests of the world economy, just as ancient Rome stripped its provinces by getting all of their wealth and income for themselves, not producing it at home, while impoverishing their own domestic population. It’s just an exact parallel.

So Europe is willing to say, well, ok, if we don’t have a Russian gas, well, that means that our chemical companies cannot buy the gas to make the fertilizer to make our crops grow, and our agricultural productivity is going to fall by about 50%.

We’re also going to spend a lot more money on America’s military, NATO arms to support NATO. So higher food, higher military spending, higher energy costs.

This ends Europe as an industrial rival to Asia, and Eurasia, I should say, because now the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative and other spending investment, capital investment, throughout Western Asia is creating a new productive plant that is not only self-sufficient, but is leaving the United States and Europe without any industrial competitive power. They’ve priced themselves out of the world market. They’re no longer competitive.

So the world is developing. And I’m sure the only way that the NATO countries can fight against it is militarily, by threatening to bomb. But they can’t fight economically. They can’t fight financially. They tried by disconnecting Russia from the SWIFT system. It put it in its own system very quickly.

It really is left without a strategy, except that it’s done a wonderful job of controlling the public relations dimension of this war, making it appear as if somehow other countries are the aggressors, in not letting America exploit them, and making it appear as if Russia is the aggressor in Ukraine, instead of NATO prodding and prodding Russia to say, we’re going to capture your port at Crimea, and we’re going to attack the Russian-speakers if you don’t fight back, and we’re going to keep bombing them year after year, from 2014 on, we’re going to keep bombing them until you protect them.

So all of this is treated as if America is purely defending itself. Well, this is what the Nazis said in World War Two. Hitler and Goebbels said, we can always mobilize a population to support our war by saying it’s a war to defend ourselves.

And that’s how the United States in Europe are doing it. Not only are they pulling a strategy out of Goebbels’ Nazi book, but a few weeks ago, Germany went to the museums, the military museums, where they had the old Panzer tanks from World War Two, and they sent the Panzer tanks, the Nazi tanks from World War II, to Ukraine, saying this is symbolic, now we can fight Russia with the same German Nazi tanks run by the neo-Nazi groups, that Zelensky is supporting, the same Nazi fight against Russia. We can reenact World War Two with the same tanks, even symbolically, to show that this is a fight of Naziism, and neoliberalism, against Eurasia.

BENJAMIN NORTON: We’ve also seen Germany not only re-militarizing, but also boosting its relations with Japan. There are some terrifying echoes of of World War Two.

But you mentioned something that I want to analyze a little bit more, which is the strength of the Russian ruble. I talked about the concept of financial shock-and-awe that was waged on Russia. And President Biden said, “the Russian ruble has become rubble,” he joked. He said the Russian ruble has become rubble.

Well, that’s actually not at all what happened. This is the value of the dollar to Russian rubles, right now [showing a graph]. Russian rubles are at 69 to the dollar. A few days ago, it was at 64, or 65 to the dollar, which is actually better than it was even before the Russian war in Ukraine, which began in February 24th.

And it did spike, and there was a peak here, at which it was devalued to 139 to the dollar, about half the value it has now. But in the months leading up to the Russian military intervention, in November and December, it was around 75 to the dollar.

So the ruble has actually strengthened despite these sanctions. And here’s a report from Reuters from five days ago, that was May 4th: the “Rouble leaps to over 2-year high vs dollar, euro as EU ups sanctions.” So the ruble is doing quite well.

And you talked about the Russian mechanism to force Europe to buy energy exports from Russia in the Russian ruble. And this graphic here, for people watching, it’s in Russian, but really it just shows this mechanism in which a European firm that wants to buy gas from Russia’s state owned gas giant Gazprom, it has to send the money in euros to the Gazprombank, which is the obviously the bank that works with Gazprom, and then it puts it in a special account in euros, and then that is sold in the Moscow exchange for Russian rubles.

And then those rubles are put in another special account, called a K account, that belongs to that European firm. It has two accounts, two special accounts with Gazprombank, one in euros, one in rubles. And then this special ruble account sends that money to Gazprom. And then once the money reaches Gazprom, that’s when Russia considers that the payment officially went through.

So this is the mechanism by which Russia is getting paid in rubles. And much of Europe claimed at first that they would not do so, but eventually they gave in. So that’s an incredible development.

And related to that, what I wanted to ask you about, is I think another reason that the Russian ruble has strengthened and stabilized is not only because Russia continues to maintain constant exports of energy to Europe and other parts of the world.

You can talk about the central bank policies. But one of the policies is that the Russian central bank has basically put the ruble on gold, which I think is a very interesting and historic development.

And we saw that from the beginning of April until the end of June, the Bank of Russia says that it’s going to buy gold at a fixed price of 5000 rubles per gram of gold. And then the question is whether or not in July, when this policy ends, if it’s going to continue, and if the ruble will basically become fixed, it become pegged to gold like the U.S. dollar was up until 1971.

So you don’t think it will be? So talk about this policy. Do you think that that the gold standard is going to come back? Or apparently you don’t think so.

MICHAEL HUDSON: No, Russia is not going on on the gold standard. What it is doing is investing, its foreign exchange in the only way that is not grabbable. It’s investing it in gold; it’s putting gold in its reserves.

It is not setting its exchange rate according to the price of gold, but it is buying gold with what it has been getting.

I want to go back to your talk about rubble. You talked about, “from ruble to rubble,” what President Biden said.

There have been a lot of pictures of rubble in the news for the last few days. For instance, there are talks of, here’s a Ukrainian picture, and look at this picture of a Russian tank, we shot it down, it’s rubble. Turns out it’s a Ukrainian tank, that they just say it was the Russian tank we shot down.

So basically, they’re taking their own destruction, and they’re saying that, while they’re being destroyed, they’re saying, no, this is a picture of Russia being destroyed, Russian assets, not Ukrainian assets being destroyed.

Well, the similar thing is with the Russian ruble. America says, look, we’ve isolated the the ruble. Well, what has happened? If you isolate the ruble and you say we’re not going to export anything more to Russia, so it’s not going to be able to spend any of its rubles on buying American or European products.

Well, meanwhile, Russia can continue to earn rubles from Germany and Europe, and it can continue to earn foreign exchange from other countries that it’s selling its agriculture to at rising prices, its oil and gas at rising prices, too. So obviously, the balance of payments is going way up.

And they believe that what is in store is a new monetary system that is an alternative to the dollar IMF system.

And in this system other countries will hold their reserves in each other’s currencies. In other words, Russia will hold Indian rupees and Chinese yuan. China will hold rupees and Russian rubles.

There will be the equivalent of what Keynes thought of as something like artificial special drawing rights that the banks will be able to create to help fund governments to undertake capital investment.

But for settlements settling balance of payments deficits among countries, once they don’t have enough foreign exchange to make a swap, they will use gold as the means of settlement, because gold is a pure asset. It’s not a liability.

Any foreign currency basically is held in a foreign country that has the power to do what America did to Russia and just grab it all, and say, we’re just wiping it all out.

It’s as if you have a bank account, and the bank says, we’ve just emptied out your account to give it to one of our friends, and you don’t have it anymore. You can’t do that if gold is held in your own country.

Venezuela made the problem of keeping its gold in England, trusting England, saying that, even if there is war, they’ll never interrupt gold and finance. And England just grabbed Venezuela’s gold.

So, obviously, countries are not going to leave their gold in other countries. Even little Germany has asked America to begin sending back the gold that it has in the Federal Reserve Bank of America because it’s worried that what if it ever buys Russian gas again? America will grab all of Germany’s gold, grab all the German money, and it’ll be like World War One all over again.

So this act that America did of grabbing Russian money, Afghanistan’s foreign reserves it grabbed, this is telling all the other countries, pull all your money out of dollars. What are they going to put it in? There’s not that much they can put it in that it is absolutely safe.

So gold is a flight to safety today, because it’s one of the things that all of the world realizes as having an international value for settling balance of payments deficits, that is independent of world politics.

So that’s the explanation. Russia is not going on gold. It’s going on an independent standard from the United States with gold as an element of its foreign reserve, just as it’s holding Chinese yuan and Indian rupees.

It’s not going on the rupee standard. It’s not going on the yuan standard. And it’s not going on the gold standard. But these are elements of its foreign reserves.

BENJAMIN NORTON: I have a question for you. It’s kind of a more technical question that I’ve always wondered. And I’ve tried to do research on this, because there’s not much information.

So we know that that the U.S. and European Union have frozen over $300 billion from Russia’s central bank foreign exchange reserves. And of course they did this after doing the same to Iran, to Venezuela, to Afghanistan, which is now threatening a famine in Afghanistan that could kill more people than died in the 20-year NATO-U.S. military occupation of Afghanistan, which is another topic that really needs to get more coverage.

And I should add, by the way, that the US and the EU, they’ve frozen nearly half of Russia’s central bank’s foreign exchange reserves, and are now saying they’re not going to give it back. So they stole it. I mean, they stole half of its reserves.

My question is, what is the mechanism by which they effectively freeze and steal those reserves?

Because my understanding is that there is of course a physical element of those reserves, which you’re talking about, which is gold. But not all of the $640 billion in Russia’s central bank reserves is physical currency, right? A lot of it is just computerized? It’s number in computers and bank accounts.

So when when the U.S. and the EU steal this money from central banks like in Russia or Afghanistan – obviously in the case of Venezuela, as you mentioned, they physically stole the gold. But if it’s not gold, is it physical cash stored in Moscow, like physical dollars and euros? Or it’s mostly just numbers in a computer, which is why they can steal it?

MICHAEL HUDSON: Every country needs to manage its exchange rates, and there’s always like an up-and-down and a zigzag in the flow of payments for imports and exports, investment, capital movements, debt service, all of that.

So countries want to stabilize their exchange rate. How do they do that? Well, most of the big exchange markets are in New York and in London.

So countries would leave their money in correspondent banks. Like when Iran, at the time under the shah, kept that foreign reserve in the Chase Manhattan Bank. So when Iran, after the revolution and Khomeini came in, and Iran wanted to pay interest on the foreign debt that the shah had run up, they told Chase, please, here’s our bondholders, please pay them.

Well Chase was told by the Treasury, don’t pay them, just take the money and hold it. So Chase said, we put a freeze on your account. And so Iran defaulted, and then Chase and the State Department said, oh, Iran defaulted, it missed the payment. Now, all the money that it’s due for foreign debt has to be paid all at once. And Chase paid all of the bondholders off. No more money in the account. It was all emptied out.

Suppose you had an account in Chase Manhattan. And they said, ok, now you’ve done something really bad, you put Michael Hudson on the show. We’re going to grab your account. We’re going to give it to Mr. Guaidó, because he needs the money in Venezuela because the people still are not voting for him. So all of a sudden, you won’t have money in your account. It’ll go to Mr. Guaidó’s account.

Well, that’s what happened with Russia. They took the money. They grabbed the money from Russia’s account. And they said, half the money we’re going to give to, I think, to the 9/11 people, because we all know that it was Russia that bombed the World Trade Center on 9/11.

And we’re going to give it to all sorts of other people who suffered all over the world. It’s all Russia’s fault.

BENJAMIN NORTON: But Professor Hudson, when you say that they seized Russia’s assets, you mean the assets held by the Russian central bank in foreign bank accounts?

MICHAEL HUDSON: Yes, yes.

BENJAMIN NORTON: And these are not physical assets, these are numbers in a computer, right?

MICHAEL HUDSON: In Venezuela’s case, Venezuela had used some of its oil company earnings to buy oil stations and refining companies and the United States actually grabbed the ownership of the gas stations and the refineries and distribution system that Venezuela had in America.

BENJAMIN NORTON: It’s called Citgo.

MICHAEL HUDSON: Citgo, yeah. Russia doesn’t really have any capital investments in the United States. It did have bank accounts, and that was all that the United States could grab.

BENJAMIN NORTON: So when you say that, when Russia, at least for now, the central bank is allowing convertibility of rubles at a set rate into gold, that’s a temporary policy to make sure that they have a physical asset that their central bank can hold on to, because if they have dollars or euros in their reserves, my understanding is that’s not physical cash, it’s actually just numbers in a computer, so they don’t have it physically in their bank reserves, so it’s easy to steal that money.

Obviously, if they had billions of dollars worth of cash, of paper cash, it would be much harder to steal it, but if it’s just on a bank account, if it’s numbers in a computer, then they can just freeze it.

So I think this is also a reflection of a point that you’ve also made about the financialization of the economy, is it’s also just a lot of this capital is not even physical capital.

MICHAEL HUDSON: Yes. Savings take the form – one person’s savings is another person’s debt. So these are Russia’s deposits in American banks that it used to buy or sell rubles, or to buy goods from America, or to receive payments in, if Russia exports something such as oil. Americans buyers of Russian oil would put the money into the Russian bank account.

They never dreamed that this would be grabbed. But now Russia says, ok, you’ve grabbed our money, now that means that we get to grab all of your assets in Russia. This is great! All of your stock holdings in nickel, and Yukos, and all these other companies, ok, you’ve got the money, we have the assets, look at us as just buying the assets on the cheap.

And the Western investors in Russia have all been selling their Russian assets to show that they’re good American citizens in NATO, and the Russians are buying up these European and American assets on the cheap, largely by borrowing money from the banks, that get the money from the central bank, now that they’re so wealthy, and all of the foreign exchange reserves is a result of the American shock-and-awe statement, that’s sort of shock-and-awe in reverse.

So Russia is coming through just fine. And you can imagine how the American strategists are gnashing the teeth. They don’t understand how Russia was able to avoid being bankrupted by this.

They really are not economists. They’re not really financiers. They’re foreign-policy strategists. They’re ideologues that are not very well educated in how to think about the future and how to recognize the fact that the world can actually change from what it is today into something else. And sometimes that change is not in America’s interests. That is sort of not a permitted thought over here.

So essentially, Americans and Europe are operating in the blind, and Russia and China, and Iran, and India, are all looking at how are we going to restructure the world so that we come out of it more prosperous than we were before, not more impoverished. That’s really what the world is dividing into.

BENJAMIN NORTON: Professor Hudson, I don’t know if this is directly related, but it’s it’s something that’s always been a very curious question in my mind.

Germany, back in 2016 and 2017, it moved, physically moved, its central bank’s gold reserves, which had been stored in New York, London, and Paris, and it physically moved those reserves, those gold reserves, to Frankfurt.

Now this was before the U.S. and Britain stole Venezuela’s gold reserves and other reserves. But do you know anything about what motivated Germany’s central bank to move the physical location of its gold reserves into Germany itself?

MICHAEL HUDSON: I don’t think it’s all moved yet. It’s still going on. Gold is very heavy, as heavy has lead, basically. And America said, well, we can only do a little bit, trickle by trickle. So America has been returning the gold very slowly.

So I think Germany, with all of its history of hyper inflation, I think just realizes that, now that gold is not used to settle balance of payments deficits anymore – the gold that Germany had in America was all of the exports that it made to the United States during the Vietnam War. This is Vietnam War gold.

You remember that President de Gaulle would every month cash in, the dollars that America spent in Vietnam would all be spent from Vietnam to Paris, the dollars would end up there, the central bank of Paris would essentially buy gold on the London exchange and keep the gold either in New York or in London.

Well, Germany, because America defeated Germany, and it wasn’t going to keep its gold in Russia, that defeated it even more, it said, well, ok, we’re cashing in our surplus dollars for gold, but we’re going to hold the gold in America.

But now it says, well, America is never going to settle its balance of payments deficits and its foreign debt in gold again, because it doesn’t have any balance of payments surplus, any ability to do that.

It’s going to spend its export surplus and its investment surplus on war. So it’s never going to be able to pay. That’s obvious. Let’s get the gold back.

That was the calculation that every country was making already a decade ago. They realized that America can never repay its foreign debt, unlike other countries.

When other countries can’t pay their foreign debt, they have to go to the International Monetary Fund, that tells them, well, we’ll make you a loan, but you have to sell off your natural resource reserves to the Americans, or we won’t lend you the money.

Well, basically, that’s not going to happen anymore. They realized that America is just going to say, haha, we’re just not going to pay.

Well, now other countries are saying, wait a minute, if America’s never going to repay its foreign debt, why do the Global South countries have to pay their debt to the IMF and the World Bank, all this dollar debt to dollar bondholders?

If America won’t pay, we don’t have to pay. Let’s have a clean slate. Let’s start from the beginning. And we’re only going to have debt and credit relations with friendly countries, not countries that want to go to war with us like America did in Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Iran, and now Russia.

So that’s basically what’s happening.

BENJAMIN NORTON: Great. And just to wrap up here, I have another question. And I know your time is limited, so I really appreciate you being here.

I have a quick question about the decline in U.S. dollar hegemony. We were talking about the strength of the ruble, the economic war on Russia; we talked about the bilateral trade that’s growing between Russia and China using the Chinese yuan, between Russia and India using the Indian rupee. And Iran also is talking about doing business with a basket of currencies.

I want to point to a report that was recently published by economists who work with the IMF. And I published an article about this over at Multipolarista.com, “IMF admits US dollar hegemony declining due to rise of Chinese yuan and sanctions on Russia.”

And there is this report that was published by the IMF, by these economists, and I cite you, Professor Hudson, in this report. It’s a working paper from the IMF, published in March, titled “The Stealth Erosion of Dollar Dominance.”

And here’s a graph, for people watching, here’s a graph from the report. And it shows not a large, but a noticeable and consistent decline in the use of the holding of the U.S. dollar in the foreign exchange reserves of central banks around the world. So this is around the world.

And it has declined in the past years from about 70% of central bank exchange reserves to about 60%. So a 10% decline. That’s not massive, but it’s steady and I think it’s going to accelerate.

And at the same time they’ve also found an increase in the use of what they call “non-traditional currencies” in the foreign exchange reserves of central banks around the world.

And here you can see this graph. I mean it looks like a significant influence because if you look at the y-axis it’s only from 90 to 100. But there is a significant increase in the use of other currencies in foreign exchange reserves, aside from the U.S. dollar, the euro, the Japanese yen, and the British pound. And the currency that is increasingly popular is the Chinese yuan.

So that’s one half of my question. The other half is about this interesting report that was published in the Financial Times, and it’s titled “Russia Sanctions Threaten to Erode Dominance of Dollar, says IMF.”

And the FT interviewed the IMF’s first deputy managing director, Gita Gopinath, who acknowledged that the sanctions imposed on Russia over its military intervention in Ukraine could lead to what she says “fragmentation at a smaller level.”

And she did say that the dollar is eroding influence, but “would remain the major global currency.”

So, that’s a two part question. I’m wondering if you could talk about the decline in U.S. dollar hegemony and how the sanctions will potentially erode that. And then the other half of the question is, can you comment on the declining use of dollars in foreign exchange reserves?

MICHAEL HUDSON: Well, this is what my book “Super Imperialism” was all about. When I first published it in 1972, I could see how the whole thing was unfolding for the next 50 years. And we just published last year a third edition of it, bringing it up to date.

Dollar hegemony means America’s entire balance of payments deficit in the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s was military. So the dollars that were being pumped into the world economy were the result of military spending.

But the dollars would end up in foreign central banks, especially from Asia to France, Germany, others. What were they going to do with it? Well after 1971 they could not buy gold anymore, so all they could do was buy U.S. Treasury securities. IOUs.

And so they re-lent to the Treasury all the money that America was spending militarily. And the more money America spent in waging its cold war militarily against the world, the more money central banks would lend to the U.S. government to finance the U.S. deficit that was spent largely on the military-industrial complex and foreign military operations.

So dollar hegemony was a free lunch financing America’s almost 800 military bases across the world, to fight against communism, defined as any country that doesn’t let American industry and finance buy control of its raw materials, agriculture, resources.

And this has now come to an end. Right now America has grabbed Afghanistan’s, and Russia’s gold. All of a sudden it’s obvious that, this summer, there’s going to be an enormous squeeze on Third World countries, on the Global South.

Their energy prices are going to go way up, and that’s going to hurt them just like the oil shock of 1974 and 1975 did.

They’re going to have to pay higher food costs, because of food prices are going to go way up now that the Ukraine war is erupting.

And a lot of their foreign debt, dollarized debt service, is coming due. And they’re facing a choice: if they pay the foreign debt, they can’t afford to buy the oil and energy that they need to run their factories and heat their homes. They can’t afford to buy the food to feed their people. Whose interests are they going to put first?

Well of course their leaders are going to put America’s interests first, and their own interests second, because their leaders, if they’re a client oligarchy, are put in power by the U.S. military, as sort of miniature Pinochets, throughout Latin America and other countries.

So suppose other countries decide, well, we’re going to feed ourselves and we’re not going to wreck our economy just to pay foreign bondholders. We’re a sovereign country. We’re going to put our national interests first.

Well, then the United States can say, aha, we’re going to grab all of your foreign assets in the United States.

Well, other countries can say, oh, they’re going to do to us just what they did to Afghanistan and Russia. Let’s move our money out of the United States quickly. If we don’t have dollars, well, it’s true, we can’t pay our dollar bondholders, but at least we can, in international markets, we can buy the food and the energy we need.

And so the tensions, the disruption of world prices, and inflation, and trade that is a result of the NATO attack on Russia, now threatens to drive all of the southern hemisphere countries into an alliance with Russia, China, India, and all the rest.

So America basically is creating a new Berlin Wall, but the wall is isolating itself from other countries, and driving other countries all together into what I hope will be a happy, self-sufficient, non-U.S. globalized economy.

BENJAMIN NORTON: Well, I want to thank you, Professor Michael Hudson. It’s always a real pleasure having you. I know you’re very busy, so thank you for giving us so much of your time.

I’ll say that the comment section here on YouTube has been very vibrant, with some interesting conversation. And what’s nice is there are people from all over the world, from the U.S., Latin America, Europe, and from Russia. So it’s good to see a mix of people.

And for anyone who wants to listen to this, you can check out the podcast version if you look up Multipolarista on Spotify, and iTunes, and all the other podcast platforms.

And I’ll just say, while I wrap up here, that today we were talking about, at the beginning of this discussion, a new book that Michael Hudson is publishing this week. It is called “The Destiny of Civilization: Finance Capitalism, Industrial Capitalism, or Socialism.”

It’s a very good book. I had the privilege of getting a review copy early. So definitely check out that book.

You can also find all of Professor Hudson’s writings at michael-hudson.com.

Thanks, Professor Hudson.

MICHAEL HUDSON: It’s really good to be here. It was a good discussion.

Photo by Sydney Moore on Unsplash

The post Calling to Account the Hereditary Warrior Class first appeared on Michael Hudson.

The economic and social consequences of the war on Europe and Italy

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 12/05/2022 - 11:00pm in

Tags 

Russia, War

By Sergio Cesaratto

With a certain pride I remember having already mentioned for some years, within the framework of my economic courses, political realism in international relations and International Political Economy. I did so in academic contexts in which an uncritical Europeanism based on liberal thinking prevailed (and prevails) according to which the world is divided into good and bad. The book, which I suggested for reading to my students (Sorensen 2005), published in Italian by Bocconi University Press (Egea), had some pages dedicated to the enlargement of NATO to the East, dutifully presenting the opposite thesis. In particular, an important letter addressed in 1997 to President Clinton by 50 eminent personalities opposed to such an enlargement was cited (McGuire 1998). Since those years the signs of growing Western aggression and mounting Russian anger have been evident. I had approached Political Realism at the suggestion of a book in which a profound Italian jurist and philosopher of law, the late Danilo Zolo (see e.g. Zolo 2009) expressed his scepticism about humanitarian wars. My interest as an economist was naturally directed towards the debate in the field of International Political Economy between, on the one hand, liberal and Marxists supporters of cosmopolitanism (albeit for different reasons) and, on the other, supporters of economic nationalism à la Robert Gilpin. A scholar, the latter, of liberal faith, but who did not confuse ideals with crude economic reality. As I find myself teaching International Economics again next year, I will not fail to make students think about these issues.
Read rest here.

Pages