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Democrats Are Doomed

Unless They Make the Minimum Wage the #1 November Election Issue

By RALPH NADER | CounterPunch | September 1, 2014

If you were the Democrats and you were looking for a good vote-getting midterm election issue, what criteria would you use? How about an issue with 70-80 percent support in polls? How about one that is bipartisan — supported by Republicans like Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, Rick Santorum and Bill O’Reilly? How about one that is national in scope, with plenty of local, grassroots energy? What about one that is simple and easy to understand, unlike Obamacare. What about one that offers tax savings and stimulates our economy understandably and is concrete — a real pocketbook issue. What about one with a big constituency, specifically 30 million hard-pressed workers and their families, needing the necessities of life?

If the Democrats want any chance of succeeding in defeating the cruelest, anti-worker, anti-consumer, corporatist Republican Party in history this November, they have to get into serious high visibility mode about raising the federal minimum wage. No more lip service or half measures! As corporate profits and CEO pay soar ever higher, 30 million hardworking Americans — two-thirds women and two-thirds employed by large corporations like Walmart and McDonald’s — are making less today, adjusted for inflation, than they did in 1968! Raising the stagnant minimum wage, which has been stuck at a paltry $7.25 per hour since 2009 must be the front burner issue for the upcoming November elections.

With polls predicting that the Republicans are likely to control the House and Senate next year, President Obama better barnstorm the country and meet with hard-pressed workers of all backgrounds for a $10.10 federal minimum wage.

Just take a look at recent polling data which shows that over 70% of Americans are in favor of raising the minimum wage. That’s nearly three out of every four Americans. With such overwhelming public support, where is the Democratic leadership in Congress? Why are they just talking about it but avoiding an all-out offensive on this decisively winning election issue? If they are not willing to vigorously act in the interest of these American people, then why don’t they escalate the media buys and the grassroots organizing in the interest of the survival of the party? The minimum wage is buried as one of seven points in House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) so-called “Middle-Class Jumpstart” package.

Last March, Democrats in the House of Representatives proposed an amendment to a bill that would raise the federal minimum wage. It was unanimously voted down by the clenched-teeth Republicans. Following in April, the Senate tried to bring legislation raising the federal minimum wage to a vote. Yet again, corporatist Republicans opposed raising the federal minimum wage by threatening to filibuster. The Senate leadership was short of the 60 votes necessary to defeat the emailed intention to filibuster.

Speaker John Boehner once told The Weekly Standard that he’d “commit suicide” before voting on a clean minimum wage bill. And just this week, a leaked audio from a meeting of wealthy conservative funders revealed U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) vowing to block any vote on the minimum wage. “We’re not going to be debating all of these gosh darn proposals,” McConnell told the audience of millionaires and billionaires. “These people believe in all the wrong things.” Shouldn’t these cruel words be widely disseminated to beat McConnell in Kentucky and his party of plutocrats in November?

The Democrats should be steamrolling these Wall Street Republicans.

The Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013 (H.R. 1010), sponsored by Rep. George Miller (D-CA), seeks to partially rectify the dramatic decline in the purchasing power of the minimum wage by modestly raising it to $10.10 over three years. Most Congressional observers believe that if H.R. 1010 is brought to a roll call vote, it will pass. Thus, simply forcing a minimum wage raise vote past corporatists like House Speaker Boehner and McConnell is all that is standing between 30 million Americans and fairer wages.

The benefits are many. The low wages offered by America’s profitable corporations do not just affect workers; they affect all taxpayers as well. Workers making $7.25 an hour often cannot afford to buy food, pay rent, or get adequate healthcare. As a result, these employees must turn to taxpayer-funded government safety nets such as food stamps, Medicaid, the earned income tax credit, and housing-assistance programs. A $10.10 minimum wage would make life easier for these workers and their families. It would even strengthen the economy by increasing the consumer spending of millions of Americans. Therefore it’s no surprise that some prominent out-of-office Republicans like Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Tim Pawlenty have expressed their support for raising the federal minimum wage.

Earlier this year, Rep. Tim Bishop (D-NY) filed a discharge petition to force an up or down vote on H.R. 1010. To date, 195 House members have signed the petition. Only 23 more member signatures are needed to bring H.R. 1010 to a vote.

There has been a stunningly insufficient effort by House Democrats, the few concerned Republicans, labor unions and poverty organizations to mount a serious effort find and persuade 23 more House members needed to activate the discharge petition to get the vote. Shockingly, few progressive leaders have raised the discharge petition to the press nor pressured non-signers publicly since March. The silence from Democratic leadership and the White House is shameful. What are they waiting for? (U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez is a notable exception — he made a cross-country speaking tour this past week on the occasion of Labor Day discussing the benefits of raising the minimum wage, among other issues.)

The Time for a Raise campaign just released a study identifying 55 Members of Congress who have yet to sign H.R. 1010′s discharge petition to bring a federal minimum wage raise to a vote, but who could be susceptible to pressure on the issue. Visit Give1010AVote.org to see the report.

Here’s a fact that might jolt some apathetic citizens into action, as well as make some members of Congress sweat: While tens of millions of Americans live on a poverty-level $7.25 per hour, their hired hands in Congress, working a 40-hour work week, are making $83 per hour plus generous healthcare and pension benefits. How can these elected officials “represent” millions of Americans earning poverty-level wages? They can’t when they are beholden to the Walmarts and the Wall Streeters.

Labor Day weekend is an opportune time to press members of Congress to get serious about the necessities of 30 million long-suffering American workers. It only takes five minutes for you to call, write or email your member of Congress and ask them to sign Rep. Bishop’s discharge petition, if they have yet to. Even better, rally around the local offices of your Senators and Representatives. It’s time to get serious; it’s time to give $10.10 a vote in September.

Ralph Nader’s latest book is: Unstoppable: the Emerging Left-Right Alliance to Dismantle the Corporate State.

September 1, 2014 Posted by | Economics | | Leave a comment

US sanctions contravene Iran nuclear deal: FM spokeswoman

Press TV – August 30, 2014

Iran’s Foreign Ministry has condemned the US administration’s new round of sanctions against Iranian individuals and firms, saying they contravene an interim accord reached last year between Iran and six powers.

“The move is in complete contrast with the current process of resolution of [Iran’s] nuclear issue,” Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham said on Saturday.

On Friday, the US imposed sanctions on over 25 Iranian individuals and companies, including shipping firms, oil companies, airlines and six banks.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran rejects any one-sided and unacceptable interpretations of the Geneva [nuclear] deal by the US and strongly believes that the imposed sanctions are against the US commitments in the deal,” Afkham said.

She noted that the sanctions will have “negative and unconstructive impacts” on the process of the nuclear talks between Iran and the six powers, saying, the recent sanctions will question the “seriousness, honesty and goodwill” of Washington and other negotiating states.

The spokeswoman stated that the new US sanctions cast doubt on the negotiating parties’ “commitment to a possible final deal” that requires the lifting of all “illegal and illegitimate” sanctions against Tehran.

“While the Islamic Republic of Iran has taken confidence-building steps in compliance with its commitment to the deal…and it has been reflected in numerous reports issued by the International Atomic Energy Agency, Tehran expects reciprocal actions from the US and other member states of the P5+1,” Afkham added.

Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council – Russia, China, France, Britain and the US — plus Germany are in talks to reach a final agreement aimed at resolving the standoff over Tehran’s civilian nuclear work.

The two sides signed a historic interim deal in Geneva last November. The agreement entered into force on January 20 and expired six months later. In July, Tehran and the six states agreed to extend their discussions until November 24 in a bid to work out a final accord.

August 30, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Economics | , , | 2 Comments

Please make your comment after we make our decision

By Pete Dolack | Systemic Disorder | August 27, 2014

Taking a page from their United States counterparts, European Union trade negotiators apparently interpret the word “consultation” as a synonym for “ignore.” Fresh evidence for this attitude toward the public was provided thanks to a leak of the final text of the proposed “free trade” agreement between Canada and the EU.

Although the E.U. trade office, the European Commission Directorate General for Trade, promotes a process of public consultation on its web site, it isn’t the public who gets listened to. The final text of the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) includes language mirroring corporate wish lists unchanged from previous drafts despite the fact that the E.U. trade office has not had time to analyze comments submitted by the public.

This farce of a “consultation” process mirrors the secretive negotiations in the better known Trans-Pacific and Transatlantic trade agreements. Corporate lobbyists are well represented in these talks, but the public, watchdog groups and even parliamentarians and legislators are barred from seeing the text. The CETA text is also secret, but was leaked by the German television news program Tagesschau, which published the entire 521-page document on its web site. Yep, 521 pages.

Critical to understanding the CETA text is Section 33, the portion simply labeled “dispute settlement.” Under that bland heading a reader finds the muscle — what is known as an “investor-state dispute mechanism.” These “mechanisms,” found in many bilateral and multilateral trade deals, are corporate-dominated secret tribunals that hand down one-sided decisions with no oversight, no public notice and no appeals. Governments that agree to these mechanisms legally bind themselves to mandatory arbitration with “investors” in these secret tribunals on which most of the judges are corporate lawyers who represent the “investors” in other legal proceedings.

Kenneth Haar, a spokesman for the watchdog group Corporate Europe Observatory, in an interview with the EurActiv news site, called the dispute mechanism “an outright danger to democracy,” and said:

“The Commission is not really serious about its own consultation. It’s more about image than substance. … I think those who chose to respond to the Commission’s consultation are being ridiculed.”

Decisions will be final and unaccountable

Employing the standard sweeping language, CETA’s Article 14.2 (the articles here are numbered “14” even though they are found in Section 33) states: “[T]his Chapter applies to any dispute concerning the interpretation or application of the provisions of this Agreement” [page 472]. Article 14.10 goes on to declare, “The ruling of the arbitration panel shall be binding on the Parties. … The panel shall interpret the provisions referred to in Article 14.2 in accordance with customary rules of interpretation of public international law” [page 476].

“Customary” international law is whatever one of these secret tribunals says it is. Environmental regulations, “buy local” laws or any other government action that a corporation claims will hurt its profits can be, and frequently are, ruled illegal by these tribunals when adjudicating disputes under existing trade agreements. Such rulings set precedents that become “customary” international law.

In case these “customary” laws are not clear, on page 480 of the CETA text is Article 14.16, which would supersede national law:

“No Party may provide for a right of action under its domestic law against the other Party on the ground that a measure of the other Party is inconsistent with this Agreement.”

Your law was passed in a democratic process? Too bad — it will be overruled if an “investor” doesn’t like it.

CETA’s proposed rules are consistent with what is being secretly negotiated in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership between the U.S. and E.U., and in the Trans-Pacific Partnership being negotiated among 12 Pacific Rim countries. A majority of the world’s economy would be removed from any possibility of democratic control should these three trade deals come into effect.

The watchdog group Council of Canadians warns:

“The Harper government has thrown Canadian municipalities under the bus, forever banning ‘buy local’ and other sustainable purchasing policies that help create jobs, protect the environment and support local farmers and businesses. The Harper government has also agreed to lengthen patents and give new monopoly protections to already profitable brand name drug companies, which will needlessly add hundreds of millions to the cost of prescription drugs in Canada.”

Not even water would be exempt. If a water system is privatized and a local government chooses to re-municipalize it because rates have risen while service declines (as has routinely occurred on both sides of the Atlantic), the investor would be able to hold out for an extra windfall under the terms of the trade deal.

Only corporate lobbyists need apply

Although the public, and public-interest groups, are not heard, corporate lobbyists are. For example, there are 605 “advisers” with access to the text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and who shape U.S. negotiating positions. Virtually every one is an executive of a multi-national corporation or a corporate lobbyist working for an industry association.

It is little different in Europe. Corporate Europe Observatory reports that 92 percent of the closed-doors meetings of the E.U. trade office have been with corporate lobbyists, while only four percent have been with public-interest groups. The trade office has gone so far as to actively solicit the involvement of corporate lobbyists. That perspectives other than those of multi-national capital are not considered can be inferred from the very way public input is solicited, the Observatory said:

“How would the average citizen respond to questions such as: ‘If you are concerned by barriers to investment, what are the estimated additional costs for your business (in percentage of the investment) resulting from the barriers?’ So, clearly, the close involvement of business lobbyists in drawing up the EU’s position for the [Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership] talks is a result of the privileged access granted to them.”

It’s no different for CETA, and the same dynamic exists across the Atlantic. Former U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk once admitted that if people knew what was in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, it would never pass. It is important to remember that these massive “free trade” deals are not simply business as usual — they go well beyond even the draconian rules of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

So although the competitive pressures of each country attempting to give an advantage to its multi-national corporations does mean that maneuvering through differing interests requires lengthy negotiations — not to mention the sometimes conflicting interests of various industries — at bottom there is a unifying class interest in the overall project. It is true that the U.S. adopts the hardest line in the trade negotiations it participates in (before we even get to the military muscle it applies to force open Southern countries), yet the absence of the U.S. from a Canada-European Union trade deal has made no practical difference to its outcome.

That different countries, different administrations, reach similar one-sided “free trade” agreements in which “investors” are allowed to overrule national laws, and labor, safety and environmental regulations are “harmonized” at the lowest level, is a product of capitalist competition. The rigors of that structural competition mandate expansion and growth — as local markets mature, capital has no choice, if it is to survive relentless pressure from competitors, other than opening new markets and relentlessly cutting costs to maintain profit levels. “Free trade” agreements represent one of the most effective ways to accomplish that.

Popular revolts against these agreements must be continued, and strengthened, but there will be no end to them as long as economic and social decisions are allowed to be made by “markets,” which are not disembodied entities sitting dispassionately on an Olympian throne but rather are the aggregate interests of the most powerful industrialists and financiers.

August 29, 2014 Posted by | Economics, Deception | , , | Leave a comment

Russian gas sector should not be sanctioned – EU energy chief

RT | August 28, 2014

Russian gas sector should not be subjected to EU sanctions despite the situation in Ukraine, EU Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger said Thursday.

“Gas is not a suitable sector for sanctions, as in this case everyone will lose – Russia, Ukraine and the European Union,” RIA Novosti cites Oettinger as saying.

EU Energy Commissioner insisted on a quick resolution of the gas dispute between Russia and Ukraine.

“We need a solution that prevents an escalation between Ukraine and Russia,” he told German broadcaster ARD. “We need Ukraine as a transit country. Ukraine needs gas in winter. In a long and cold winter, Ukraine will not have enough stored gas of its own.”

He also acknowledged that in case Ukraine is left without gas supplies in winter it may steal Russian transit gas on its way to the West.

According to Oettinger by the end of October the European Union should develop a concept that provides each bloc member with warm homes, financing of infrastructure and maintenance of industry for the period from November to March.

On Friday, Oettinger is expected to meet with Russian Energy Minister Aleksander Novak to discuss future Russian gas deliveries to Europe.

The agenda includes talks about safe transit of Russian gas to Europe via Ukraine, legal and technical aspects of the South Stream project, Gazprom’s access to the full capacity of the OPAL pipeline and issues related to the continuation of the Russia-EU Energy Dialogue, the Russian Energy Ministry said in a statement Monday.

August 28, 2014 Posted by | Economics | , , , , | Leave a comment

Switzerland mirrors EU sanctions against Russia

RT | August 28, 2014

Switzerland has issued an expanded sanctions list against Russia which includes 5 banks, several companies and 11 Russian citizens. The move comes as the country doesn’t want to be used to bypass European sanctions on Moscow.

On Wednesday the Swiss Federal Council decided to widen its policy against Russia and to take all the measures required “to ensure that the most recent sanctions imposed by the European Union cannot be circumvented via Swiss territory,” the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs said in a statement.

The cabinet didn’t name the five Russian banks, but in July, the European Union sharply reduced the abilities of Sberbank, VTB, Gazprombank, Vnesheconombank and the Russian Agricultural Bank.

The affected financial institutions will have limited access to the capital markets of Switzerland. Moreover, Russian banks will require approval to issue long-term financial instruments in Switzerland, the statement said.

Bern also said it had added a further 11 individuals and a number of firms to the list without specifying them.

In addition, Switzerland has banned the import of materials for military purposes, the export of equipment for the oil industry, and limited the opportunity for investment in Crimea and Sevastopol.

The statement also said that the cabinet won’t try to promote any agricultural exports to Russia. Following the Russian food embargo, several European agricultural producers tried to re-export their goods through Switzerland, which were not included in the Russia ban.

August 28, 2014 Posted by | Economics | , , , | Leave a comment

Billionaires Make War on Iran

And the United States Government is Helping

By Philip Giraldi • Unz Review • August 26, 2014

There is a group of Jewish American billionaires who are apparently doing their best to make sure that negotiations with Iran go nowhere in the mistaken belief that they are doing what is best for Israel. And they would also appear to be assisted in their efforts by the White House, which is at the same time claiming that it wants the talks to be successful. The odd relationship is currently playing out in a Manhattan courtroom where the Justice Department is seeking to quash a lawsuit that it fears might expose the extent to which the government has hypocritically played fast and loose with classified information while simultaneously sending journalists and whistleblowers to jail over allegations that they have done the same.

The power and wealth of the anti-Iran groups as well as their unrivaled access to the United States government means that a policy of détente with Iran, which would be a no brainer based on both American and Iranian interests, only proceeds by fits and starts with the US Congress and much of the media lined up solidly to stop the effort. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and its affiliated educational foundation, which have focused on the “Iranian threat” over the past three years, have a combined budget of more than $90 million while AIPAC’s spin-off the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP) has $8.7 million.

The American Enterprise Institute’s (AEI) efforts are more diversified but uniformly hawkish when it comes to the Middle East. It has a budget of $45 million. Identified multi-million dollar donor/supporters of AIPAC, AEI, and WINEP include Sheldon Adelson of Las Vegas Sands, Paul Singer of Elliot Management hedge fund and Bernard Marcus of Home Depot.

Other right wing think tanks including Heritage and Hudson in Washington also support unrelenting pressure directed against Iran. Even the more centrist Brookings Institute is hard core when it comes to Middle Eastern politics by virtue of its Saban Institute funded by Israeli-American billionaire Haim Saban. And then there are the mainstream Jewish organizations to include the Anti Defamation League, the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations and the American Jewish Congress, all of which have vast resources and unparalleled access to the White House, Congress and the media.

All the pro-Israel anti-Iran groups engage in pressure tactics on Capitol Hill and have been effective in dominating the political debate. Of thirty-six outside witnesses brought in to testify at seven Senate hearings on Iran since 2012 only one might be characterized as sensitive to Iranian concerns. The enormous lobbying effort enables the anti-Iran groups to define the actual policies, move their drafts of legislation through congress, and eventually see their bills pass with overwhelming majorities in both the House and Senate. It is democracy in action if one accepts that popular rule ought to be guided by money and pressure groups rather than by national interests.

Less well known is United Against Nuclear Iran, which has a budget just shy of $2 million. UANI is involved in the New York lawsuit. The group, which has somehow obtained a 501[c]3 “educational” tax status that inter alia allows it to conceal its donors, has offices in Rockefeller Center in New York City. It is active on Capitol Hill providing “expert testimony” on Iran for congressional committees, to include “help” in drafting legislation. At a July Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Iran all three outside witnesses were from UANI. It is also active in the media but is perhaps best known for its “name and shame” initiatives in which it exposes companies that it claims are doing business with Tehran in violation of US sanctions.

UANI is being sued by a Greek billionaire Victor Restis whom it had outed in 2013. Restis, claiming the exposure was fraudulent and carried out to damage his business, has filed suit demanding that UANI and billionaire Thomas Kaplan turn over documents and details of relationships regarding UANI donors who it is claimed are linked to the case. Kaplan, a New York City resident, made his initial fortune on energy exploration and development. More recently he has been involved in commodities trading in precious metals. His wife Daphne is Israeli and his involvement in various Jewish philanthropies both in the US and in Israel have invited comparison with controversial deceased commodities trader Marc Rich, who reportedly worked closely with the Israeli government on a number of projects.

The Justice department would like to the see the UANI lawsuit go away as it is aware that what is being described as “law enforcement” documents would include both privileged and classified Treasury Department work product relating to individuals and companies that it has investigated for sanctions busting. Passing either intelligence related or law enforcement documents to a private organization is illegal but the Justice Department’s only apparent concern is that the activity might be exposed. There is no indication that it would go after UANI for having acquired the information and it perhaps should be presumed that the source of the leak is the Treasury Department itself.

Who or what provided the documents to a private advocacy group that is also a tax exempt foundation supported by prominent businessmen with interests in the Middle East is consequently not completely clear but Restis is assuming that the truth will out if he can get hold of the evidence. The lawsuit claims that UANI intimidates its targets by defaming their business practices as well as by demanding both examination of their books and an audit carried out by one of its own accountants followed by review from an “independent counsel.”

Kaplan is named in the suit as he appears to be the gray eminence behind UANI. He once boasted “we’ve (UANI) done more to bring Iran to heel than any other private sector initiative.” Kaplan also employs as a director or officer in six of his companies the Executive Director of UANI Mark Wallace and reportedly arranged the awarding of the Executive Director position at Harvard’s Belfer Center to its President Gary Samore.

Kaplan is a business competitor to Restis, whose lawyers are apparently seeking to demonstrate two things: first, that the US government has been feeding sometimes only partially vetted information to UANI to help in its “name and shame” program and second, that UANI is itself supported by partisan business interests like Kaplan as well as by foreign sources, which apparently is meant to imply Israel. Or even the Israeli intelligence service Mossad. Meir Dagan, former head of Mossad, is on the UANI advisory board, which also includes ex-Senator Joseph Lieberman and former Senior Diplomat Dennis Ross, both of whom have frequently been accused of favoring Israeli interests and both of whom might well have easy access to US government generated information.

And then there is the Muhadedin-e-Khalq, the Iranian terrorist group that has assassinated at least six Americans and is now assisting the Israeli government in killing Iranian scientists, a prima facie definition of what constitutes terrorism. The group was on the State Department terrorist list from 1997 until 2012, when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton de-listed it in response to demands coming from friends of Israel in Congress as well as from a large group of ex government officials, many of whom were paid large honoraria by the group to serve as advocates. The paid American shills included former CIA Directors James Woolsey and Porter Goss, New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, former Vermont Governor Howard Dean, former Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation Louis Freeh and former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton. The promoters of MEK in congress and elsewhere claimed to be primarily motivated by MEK’s being an enemy of the current regime in Tehran, though its virulent anti-Americanism and terrorist history make it a somewhat unlikely poster child for the “Iranian resistance.”

Supporters of MEK also ignore the fact that the group is run like a cult, routinely executes internal dissidents, and has virtually no political support within Iran. But such are the ways of the corrupt Washington punditocracy, lionizing an organization that it should be shunning. MEK’s political arm is located in Paris and it has long been assumed that it is funded by the Israeli government and by at least some of the same gaggle of billionaires, possibly including their Israeli counterparts, who support the anti-Iranian agenda in the United States.

Iranian negotiators have accepted that their country should have only limited uranium enrichment capabilities coupled with a rigorous inspection regime but the talks in Geneva drag on and on as the United States continues to hesitate, raising new objections regularly in spite of claims that it operates in good faith and seeks a settlement. That an agreement is within reach is undoubtedly true and it would even be good for Israel as it would remove the regional nuclear option while making much less likely another pointless and devastating war. But the men who write the checks do not see it that way and, unfortunately, they are the ones who all too often both pay the piper and call the tune.

August 27, 2014 Posted by | "Hope and Change", Deception, Economics, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

US judge lifts order on Kurdish crude

Press TV – August 26, 2014

A US court has scrapped an order to seize one million barrels of oil, disputed between the Iraqi government and the autonomous Kurdistan region.

“Kurdistan’s unauthorized export of oil over land -– and later overseas –- may violate Iraqi law, but it does not violate US maritime law,” US District Judge Gray Miller said on Monday.

A tanker carrying crude oil from Iraq’s Kurdistan region has been waiting in international waters off the coast of Texas for a month now.

The ruling follows a long-running dispute between Erbil and Baghdad over the ownership of the cargo. With the new ruling, the Kurdish government will be able to sell $100 million worth of crude oil.

Judge Miller said “he lacked authority under federal laws governing property stolen at sea to decide the dispute.”

Miller threw out a seizure order issued July 28 by a Houston magistrate judge, who questioned US jurisdiction in the matter while agreeing to store the cargo onshore at Iraq’s expense as the debate continued in that nation’s Supreme Court.

Iraq had failed to convince the district judge that “the oil was misappropriated when it was loaded into a tanker in the Mediterranean Sea after being pumped across Turkey in an Iraq-owned pipeline.”

August 26, 2014 Posted by | Economics | , | Leave a comment

Russia will do whatever necessary to protect its legitimate interests – Lavrov

RT | August 25, 2014

Russia doesn’t want to escalate tit-for-tat sanctions with the West, but is ready to do whatever is necessary to protect its legitimate interests, including those of national security in all its dimensions, Russia’s FM told The Daily Telegraph.

Peace in Ukraine can only be attained through a broad national dialogue that includes all regions and its terms cannot simply be dictated by a “government of the winners,” Russian FM Sergey Lavrov said in an interview with The Daily Telegraph.

“The point is for Kiev to stop war games and to abandon the illusion that the deep crisis in Ukraine can be resolved by winning the war against your own people,” Lavrov said, reiterating that with support from US and EU, Kiev continues to ignore its numerous commitments to a “government of national unity.”

“Unfortunately, the logic of “the winner takes it all” remains the thrust of Kiev’s actions resulting in thousands of victims among civilians, hundreds of thousands of refugees and displaced persons, as well as almost totally destroyed social infrastructure in many cities and towns in Eastern Ukraine.”

A house in Donetsk destroyed by shelling. (RIA Novosti / Maks Vetrov)

A house in Donetsk destroyed by shelling. (RIA Novosti / Maks Vetrov)

Speaking further on the humanitarian catastrophe, Lavrov once again said it is “crucial to ensure immediate supply of humanitarian aid to the people of south-eastern Ukraine.”

The first convoy of Russian aid was ready to move as early as 17 August, but was delayed “primarily due to procrastination tactics employed by Kiev authorities,” he added, urging the Ukrainian government “to deliver on its promises and to facilitate safe and unhindered passage of future humanitarian assistance.”

Lavrov also spoke about the “meaningless tit-for-tat vicious circle” started by unilateral sanctions imposed on Russia, and called them “counterproductive” and “contradicting” the norms and principles of the international law.

“It is absolutely unacceptable to talk to Russia – and to anyone, for that matter – in the language of ultimatums and coercive measures,” the minister said, emphasizing that Russia’s response was balanced.

“It is not at all our choice, but there should be no doubt that we will do whatever is necessary to protect our legitimate interests, including the interests of national security in all its dimensions.”

Lavrov also touched on the topic of the dragging Malaysian MH17 airliner tragedy, reminding that a number of simple questions which could shed some light on the incident still remain unanswered.

“Unfortunately, from the very beginning we have been witnessing attempts to conceal evidence and to hinder the implementation” of the resolution adopted by the UN Security Council, the minister said. “Russia is the only country which officially presented to the international community the data related to the incident as received through our space monitoring capacity.”

“We hope to get answers to these and other questions both from the states which took the leading role in the international investigation and from those who made unsubstantiated public statements,” Lavrov said. “We must not allow the investigation of MH17 crash to be manipulated into oblivion like already happened to investigations of many Ukrainian tragedies, including the sniper assault against civilians in Kiev in February, massacres in Odessa and Mariupol in May and others.”

In the meantime, Lavrov once again rejected groundless speculation about Russian troops crossing into Ukrainian territory as obviously “part of an information war.”

“Unfortunately, the mass media continue to spread rumours, distorted information and even outright lies. Recently there were claims by Ukraine that its artillery destroyed an armoured column that had allegedly crossed from Russia into Ukraine,” he said. “No evidence, however, was presented, and even the US State Department could not confirm the incident.”

READ MORE: Malaysian Boeing disaster – Russia’s questions to Ukraine

August 25, 2014 Posted by | Economics | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Obama Buggers Europe: Sanctions Deepen the Recession

By James Petras :: 08.23.2014

Introduction

The Obama Administration actively pressured Europe to impose harsh sanctions on Russia in order to defend the violent takeover (‘regime change’) in the Ukraine. England, France, Germany and the rest of the European regimes gave in to Washington’s demands.

Russia responded by imposing reciprocal sanctions, especially on agriculture goods, and is establishing alternative trading partners and increasing trade with China, Iran, Latin America and Africa.

The sanctions policies occur at a time when Europe’s economies are in deep economic crisis, exacerbating long-term stagnation and chronic recession. This paper will identify and analyze the crisis and how US-led sanctions policy is fracturing the European Union. Secondly, we will analyze how Washington’s militarist imperial policies undermine Europe economically and destabilize the rest of the world militarily. Thirdly, we will discuss how the European leaders are prodded by Washington, to put it crudely, through an aggressive ‘buggering process’, to surrender their economic sovereignty and how capitulation to the US project in the Ukraine will lead to their long-term decline and decay. Finally, we will discuss the long-term perspectives for a re-aligned world economy where military conflicts can result in large-scale changes.

From Stagnation to Recession from Sanctions to Depression

Across Europe, without exception, recession stalks the economies. The dominant countries, Germany, France and Italy are mired in recession, acutely exacerbated by the sanctions against Russia dictated from Washington. From Nordic Finland, passing through the Baltic States to Central and Southern Europe, the Eurozone ‘recovery’ is ‘kaput’! The ‘triple whammy’ of capitalist disinvestment, economic sanctions and wars has provoked a deepening economic crisis.

Germany: Regime ‘Lick-Spittle’ Scares Industry and Financial Sectors

The German financial market’s confidence is collapsing as a result of Chancellor Merkel’s support for economic sanctions against Russia and President Putin’s reciprocal response. Several hundred thousand German industrial jobs are at risk; imports of Russian oil and gas are in danger; large-scale, long-term German investments and lucrative export markets are at stake. These fears and uncertainties have led to declining investment and an unprecedented negative growth of 0.2% in the German economy in the second quarter of 2014. The recession in Germany ripples throughout Europe – especially affecting Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Southern Europe.

Merkel’s servile capitulation to the US President’s command to sanction one of Germany’s major trade partners, Russia, may seriously harm its economic future. Germany’s industrial exports to Russia amount to 36 billion Euros; there are 20 billion Euros in annual investments; and over 400,000 German workers are employed in companies exporting to Russia . . . Joe Kaeser, CEO of Siemens, pointedly argued that “political tensions posed serious risks for Europe’s growth this year and next”. Sales in some sectors are down 15% since June 2014. Germany’s economy was already facing stagnation even before the coup in Kiev . . .but machinery exporters are especially concerned about losing the Russian market because other markets have declined. For example, German sales to Brazil are down nearly 20%.

In addition, German farmers suffer: Export of German meat and meat products to Russia amount to 276 million Euros or 21% of their non-EU exports. German dairy farmers earned $160 million Euros from trade with Russia, 14% of total exports to non-EU countries.

Merkel knowingly sacrificed German industry, agriculture and employment by submitting to Obama’s policy of ‘buggering his European allies’. On the other hand, Obama’s sanctions against Russia have virtually no impact on US economic interests. Only the Europeans will feel the pinch. Merkel’s support for the US-NATO coup in Kiev and the ongoing military assault against the anti-coup democrats in Eastern Ukraine is leading to a revival of the Cold War confrontational policies toward Russia, and has alienated the majority of German producers and exporters as well as the German public.

Italy: Capitalist Crises and Sanctions

Italy is stuck in a half decade of profound recession continuing throughout 2014. Its GDP fell by 0.2% in the second quarter, bringing the GDP below the level in the year 2000! The sanctions against Russia have cost Italy over $1 billion in lost exports, hitting Northern Italy most acutely and provoking the ire of the conservative Northern League. Big Italian energy companies, with major investments in Russia, face even bigger losses. Italian farmers, from Tuscany to Sicily, are experiencing major losses in agricultural exports. In other words, with sanctions Italy’s chronic sick economy has lost any chance for recovery and will likely pass from recession into depression.

France: From Zero Growth to Recession

France has entered a period of perpetual regression: Unemployment exceeds 11%, underemployment and ‘make work’ exceeds 20% . . . GDP hovers at recession levels, between zero and 0.5% . . . Austerity, involving large-scale cuts in social programs and tax write-offs for business, has eroded consumer spending without increasing capitalist investment. And Obama’s sanctions against Russia will further damage French exporters, especially its agricultural sector and weapons manufacturers. And ‘Hyper-Militarist-Socialist’ President Hollande has exacerbated France’s balance of payments and budget problems by sending the air force and ground troops to intervene on three continents. This has caused over 82% of French voters to choose alternative parties, propelling the nationalist right party, National Front, to the lead.

The ‘Backside of Europe’: Spain, Greece and Portugal

Deeply buried in a near decade-long depression with unemployment ranging from 26% in Greece and Spain to 16% in Portugal, Russia’s reciprocal sanctions against agricultural exports has hit their agro-export sectors most severely, causing mountains of grapes, tomatoes and other perishables to rot in the fields. Tons of Southern Europe’s produce will end up as compost. Tens of thousands of farmers face even greater problems and more will be forced into bankruptcy because of Washington’s dictates.

Spanish farmers stand to lose 158 million Euros from the sanctions against their fresh fruit and nuts, or 22% of their total exports to non-EU countries; Greek farmers will lose 107 million Euros, 41% of exports to non-EU countries. Spanish meat exporters will lose 111 million Euros or 13% of their non-EU markets.

The European Union, for its part, offers meager relief – expecting thousands of hard-pressed farmers to submit to Obama’s demands. In the meantime, as Russia establishes alternative markets in Latin America, the EU has sent its emissaries overseas to beg the Latin American governments to reject multi-billion dollar agro-business deals with Russia and comply with the US-EU sanctions. So far, every country in Latin America has rejected the EU’s ‘charm’ offensive. Ecuadorean President Correa heaped scorn on the EU: “We do not have to ask anyone’s permission to export to friendly nations. As far as I know, Latin America is not part of the European Union”. Egypt and Turkey are stepping in to replace the farmers of Europe and the US by exporting their agricultural produce to Russia.

Hungary, Bulgaria, Poland, Finland, Lithuania, Denmark and the Netherlands

Hungary’s President Viktor Orban rages at the sanctions and threatens to break ranks, as Budapest tallies up its losses in exports, and the threat to its energy-dependent country. Bulgaria’s compliant President caved in to Brussels’ pressure and reneged on a $40 billion dollar pipeline deal signed between Russia and local Bulgarian business leaders precipitating a major banking crisis and the collapse of its second largest bank – Corbank. The deposits of hundreds of thousands of Bulgarians were frozen or just disappeared. When Brussels buggers the Bulgarians, they bankrupt their own banks.

Finland, once the poster-child of the ‘Third Way’ ideologues, is in a long-term depression. Its economy has shrunk for the past 4 consecutive years and even regime optimists estimate that they will need 10 years to recover. Finnish Prime Minister, Alex Stubbs, a free market ideologue, is a staunch supporter of sanctions against Russia although these will drastically cut into agricultural exports (dairy goods, meat, fish, etc.). Stubbs defends his catastrophic capitulation to NATO’s power grab in the Kiev by proclaiming that “our principles (sic) are not for sale; we believe in international institutions; we believe in the rule of law”.

Finland, under its ‘law-abiding’ President, will lose at least 253 million Euros this year or 68% of its exports to non-EU countries. In other words this political marionette has sacrificed the welfare of hundreds of thousands of Finnish dairy farmers and growers to support a NATO-imposed regime in Kiev, which has been sending units of neo-Nazis to slaughter Ukrainian resistance fighters and civilians.

Poland’s billion dollar agricultural export trade with Russia has collapsed, causing Warsaw to beg Washington and Brussels for emergency subsidies and pleading with the apple-exporting Americans to ‘eat Polish apples’. Polish fruit growers will lose 317 million Euros in sales or 61% of their exports to non-EU countries. Their meat exporters will lose 162 million Euros, 20% of its trade with non-EU countries. Dairy farmers will lose 142 million Euros, 32% of exports to non-EU countries.

The Poles, who at every turn have assumed the most reactionary Russophobic posture and were deeply implicated in organizing and training the neo-fascist gangs which overthrew the elected Ukraine government, are now pushing carts down the streets of Warsaw peddling apples and sausages, instead of stocking the supermarket shelves of Russia – and whining that New Yorkers should forsake Upstate apples to take up the slack!

Lithuania will lose 308 million Euros in fresh fruit exports to Russia or 81% of their exports to non-EU countries; dairy farmers will lose 161 million Euros in sales or 74% of non-EU exports. Denmark and Holland will lose over 800 million Euros in agro-exports to Russia –deepening their recession.

Conclusion

While the ever-persuasive con-man in Washington, President Obama has buggered EU leaders into pushing their own economies even deeper into recession, so he can launch a new Cold War with Russia, the US plunges deeper into military confrontations in Iraq, Ukraine and Syria. Obama appears to have lost control over military aid programs in the chaos: Netanyahu’s Zionist allies in Congress managed to by-pass the White House and State Department and approve additional shipments of Pentagon arms to Israel, undercutting any administration leverage over the ongoing Israeli genocide in Gaza.

Japan joins the US-EU sanctions against Russia exacerbating its own economic crisis: In 2014 Japan experienced its worst contraction since 2009, with a 7.1% drop in the second quarter. The increasingly unpopular, Japanese Prime Minister Abe is committed to a military build-up. More Japanese politicians visit Yasukuni Shrine, the militarist temple honoring its war criminals, re-awakening the horrific memories of Imperial Japan’s victims. There are increasingly bellicose Japanese confrontations with China over disputed piles of rock in the South China Sea . . . As Obama’s military pivot to Asia increases, so Japan’s economy sinks.

No European country can benefit from embracing the failed regime in Kiev. . . Ukraine’s currency is in free-fall – ranking below toilet paper. Its major industries, totally dependent on trade with Russia, are bankrupt or have been bombed by the NATO-putsch regime in Kiev. Its agricultural exports are devastated. Meanwhile Ukrainian families are advised to chop their own wood or dig their own coal in anticipation of a winter totally cut off from Russian gas because the oligarchs in Kiev have been unable or unwilling to pay the huge energy debt. For their staunch support of this bankrupt regime, ruled by a ‘Billionaire Oligarch’ in Kiev, for upholding the ‘principles’ so lauded by Finnish President Stubbs, one million European farmers will bury their own apples, pour their own milk in the streets and dump their grapes, oranges and tomatoes in rotting heaps. . . And this is so their leaders, Obama, Cameron, Merkel and Hollande can uphold their real ‘principles’ of territorial expansion, extend their military operations to the borders with Russia and posture as warriors while destroying their countries productive economies, bankrupting their farmers and manufacturers, driving millions more into unemployment and deepening the pains of recession.

Ukraine will join a growing list of countries, Libya, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen, that Washington and NATO have “saved” (to paraphrase an American general) . . . by being destroyed.

Once again the US military-driven empire-building policy trumps economic development: Destructive wars and sanctions destroy viable markets and impoverish entire sectors of the economy. Imposing sanctions abroad invites retaliation – the boomerang effect cripples domestic producers. As world trade and investment shrink, internal stagnation becomes endemic, recessions deepen and recovery becomes a distant chimera. The financial press, the Wall Street Journal and The Financial Times, which have become megaphones for the western warlords, no longer publish paeans to the free market but unleash vitriolic screeds crying for war and sanctions… which close markets and destroy investor confidence.

Buggered by Obama, European bootlickers bankrupt their own economies and then pass around the begging cup.

Italy faces the reality of a decade of stagnation.

Portugal’s economy crashes and crawls.

Germany’s manufacturing machinery grinds to a halt.

Finland’s ‘principled’ brown-nosing boomerangs.

England is converted into a money-laundering bankers’ city-state where one-third of its children live in poverty.

Poland consumes itself, drunk with weapons and rotting apples.

In a word, by submitting to Washington’s doctrine of permanent wars, Europe eschews the only road out of permanent crisis: peaceful co-existence. The mega-buggers in Washington and the bootlickers in Europe have chosen sanctions over trade and destruction over prosperity. They are paying a price: domestic unrest, displacement from markets by emerging economies and the ascendancy of chaos as a way of life in Western Europe.

August 25, 2014 Posted by | "Hope and Change", Economics | , | Leave a comment

Wall Street wins again: Bank of America settlement with US government is insufficient, critics say

RT | August 22, 2014

While the US government touted its “record” settlement reached this week with Bank of America for mortgage fraud that helped fuel the 2008 recession, the details of the agreement indicate yet another light punishment for an offending Wall Street titan.

Bank of America agreed to a $16.65 billion settlement with federal authorities for selling toxic mortgages and misleading investors, the US Justice Department announced Thursday.

“This historic resolution – the largest such settlement on record – goes far beyond ‘the cost of doing business,’” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement.

“Under the terms of this settlement, the bank has agreed to pay $7 billion in relief to struggling homeowners, borrowers, and communities affected by the bank’s conduct. This is appropriate given the size and scope of the wrongdoing at issue,” Holder added.

Yet the $7 billion in “relief” is considered a “soft money” fine, in which the bank will reduce some homeowners’ mortgages. Very few homeowners are eligible for the refinancing pursuant to the settlement, AP reported. Those who are eligible may need to wait years to see any settlement aid, as payouts will be ongoing through 2018.

Those already in the hole following a lost home due to foreclosure or a short sale – when a lender takes less money for a home than what the borrower owes – are unlikely to benefit from the terms of the settlement.

Outside of the $7 billion for consumers, the Bank of America settlement includes a $5 billion cash penalty and $4.6 billion in remediation payments. Large portions of the deal will be eligible to claim as business expenses, allowing the mega bank to treat them as tax write-offs.

The Bank of America settlement includes the appointment of an independent monitor to review the consumer relief portion of the agreement. It is yet to be determined when the monitor will be named.

The deal echoes similar agreements the government reached with other Wall Street players, like JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup, for crimes committed surrounding the recent economic recession.

JPMorgan Chase came to a $13 billion settlement in November. The $4 billion supposedly offered to homeowner relief has yet to benefit many in need, according to the advocacy group Home Defenders League. Citigroup reached a $7 billion deal with the government.

Critics of these deals have blasted the US government for its ongoing, lax attitude regarding mass crimes committed by powerful banks that, they say, are not adequately punished for wrongdoing.

“[T]he latest round of settlements deals with misconduct that even though the banks are getting off on the cheap again, the underlying abuses don’t strike at the heart of the too big to fail mortgage securitization complex,” said Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism.

“So the [Obama] Administration can feign being a little more bloody-minded. Even so, the greater and greater proportion in recent deals of funny money relative to real dough show that this is simply another variant of an exercise in optics.”

No major bank executive has faced criminal charges following the mortgage crisis. Without significant retribution for banks and executives that knowingly passed off fraudulent mortgages, Wall Street players will continue to act with impunity, argued Dean Baker, economist and director of the Center for Economic & Policy Research.

“Knowingly packaging and selling fraudulent mortgages is fraud. It is a serious crime that could be punished by years in jail,” Baker wrote. “The risk of jail time is likely to discourage bankers from engaging in this sort of behavior.”

William D. Cohan, a former senior mergers and acquisitions banker, wrote in the New York Times that, not only has the government barely punished those on the hook for Wall Street crimes, the Justice Department has also offered “sanitized” versions of events that led up to the crimes in its accounts given to the public following investigations.

“The American people are deprived of knowing precisely how bad things got inside these banks in the years leading up to the financial crisis, and the banks, knowing they will be saved the humiliation caused by the public airing of a trove of emails and documents, will no doubt soon be repeating their callous and indifferent behavior,” Cohan wrote.

Bank of America resisted the settlement at first, claiming nearly all bad mortgage securities under scrutiny came from Countrywide and Merrill Lynch. Both firms were purchased by Bank of America amid the 2008 financial crisis.

A federal judge in Manhattan ruled in a separate case that Bank of America was liable for the pre-merger mortgages, issuing a penalty of $1.3 billion. The ruling pushed the bank to agree to the settlement. Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan said Thursday that the deal is “in the best interests of our shareholders and allows us to continue to focus on the future.”

Meanwhile, consumers advocates said the faulty mortgages will continue to haunt homeowners and their own vision of the future.

“It is hard to see how these settlements provide relief commensurate with the harm caused,” said Kevin Stein, associate director of the California Reinvestment Coalition, according to AP. “Countless families and communities have been devastated by predatory loans that should not have been made.”

Following the Thursday announcement of the settlement, Bank of America’s stock rose more than 4 percent.

August 22, 2014 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Economics | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rosneft to take 30 percent stake in Norwegian driller

RT | August 22, 2014

Russia’s biggest oil company Rosneft has agreed to purchase a stake in Norway’s North Atlantic Drilling (NADL) through an asset swap, which appears to show businesses remain undeterred by political sanctions.

Rosneft has agreed to take a 30 percent of North Atlantic in return for 150 onshore drilling assets in Russia, and some cash. The final terms of the deal, including the amount of investments in the Norwegian company, will be set after it passes due diligence, which is expected to be done by the end of the year, Rosneft said in a statement Friday.

Rune Magnus Lundetrae, Chief Financial Officer of Seadrill, which owns 70 percent of North Atlantic, told Bloomberg Rosneft would also buy 100 million new shares at $9.25 apiece.

The deal comes amidst sanctions tension between Russia and the West and shows that foreign businesses still want to cooperate with Russia, leaving politics aside.

“We’re very pleased with the execution of this important transaction and welcome Rosneft as an equity partner and to our board of directors,” Alf Ragnar Lovdal, CEO of North Atlantic, said in a statement.

“We’re not very worried” that the sanctions will affect any part of these deals, Lundetrae told Bloomberg by phone. “Rosneft is a very good and constructive partner for us.”

Friday’s deal marks the second step under a framework agreement signed in May. Last month, just days before the EU imposed tighter economic sanctions against Russia; the two companies completed the lease of offshore rigs. Under the July agreement, Rosneft and NADL will cooperate in shelf drilling, with the Norwegian company providing Rosneft with six sea drilling units till 2022 to conduct shelf drilling in harsh weather conditions.

ExxonMobil and Norway’s Statoil have also confirmed they would continue offshore Arctic drilling with Rosneft, despite politicians in the EU and the US seeking to make Russia change its policy over Ukraine by putting on economic pressure.

On Thursday, the Financial Times reported Vitol, the world’s largest independent oil trader, was shelving its $2 billion deal with Rosneft.

August 22, 2014 Posted by | Economics | , , | Leave a comment

What will Poroshenko hear from Putin in Minsk?

By Pyotr AKOPOV* | August 22, 2014

Vladimir Putin and Petro Poroshenko’s upcoming summit in Minsk will be the first in-depth meeting between the leaders of Russia and Ukraine in six months. During that period Ukraine has become embroiled in a civil war and teeters on the verge of an economic meltdown – but officials in Kiev continue to blame everything on Russia. Is there any point in holding a meeting with a hostile Poroshenko?

On August 26 Minsk will host a summit between the leaders of the Customs Union (soon to be known as the Eurasian Economic Union) and the president of Ukraine. Putin, Lukashenko, and Nazarbayev will meet with Petro Poroshenko, who will not arrive on his own, but will be accompanied by representatives of the European Union.

Instead of European Commission President Barroso, those representatives will consist of three European Commissioners, led by Baroness Ashton, the European diplomatic leader. The agenda has yet to be announced – but during a time of war (a hot one in Ukraine and a cold one between Russia and the West), it would obviously be ridiculous to limit the discussions to the purely economic issues stemming from the new association between Ukraine and the EU. Especially since this will literally be the first opportunity for Poroshenko and Putin to meet – that 15-minute quadrilateral meeting with Merkel and Hollande in Normandy can hardly be considered an in-depth encounter. Even if no separate bilateral meeting is held in Minsk, negotiations between the Eurasian troika and Poroshenko will make it possible for everyone to look one another right in the eye and state exactly what it is they really want. What will the presidents of Russia and Ukraine talk about? Will they be able to reach any kind of agreement? And if not – what is the point of such a meeting?

Ukraine considers itself to be in a state of war against Russia – if not legally, then in fact. “We are defending ourselves against Russian aggression” is the position of the Ukrainian government and a sentiment shared by a majority of the Ukrainian population. And Kiev is requesting help – financial, military, and also political – from the West, claiming that the aggression from Moscow was provoked by the European leanings of the Ukrainian people. Poroshenko is threatening Russia with sanctions from Ukraine and demanding that Western sanctions against Russia be beefed up in order to force Moscow to withhold support from the insurgents in eastern Ukraine. Kiev cannot eradicate the rebels on its own – after flexing its military muscle for over three months, the only result is that the civil war in Ukraine can now unequivocally and conclusively be labeled a protracted and bloody affair. But Kiev cannot abandon its military operation because the personal interests of the ruling elite, as well as the position of the United States, encourage attempts to resolve the issue by force. Poroshenko does not run the country single-handedly – but in some manner he seems to personify the entire nation.

It’s no use talking about Ukraine with the one entity – Washington – upon which the government in Kiev is truly dependent. The US will not acknowledge its own momentous influence on Poroshenko, and it is easy to see that America will not only make no move to dampen Kiev’s bellicose fervor, but, on the contrary, is diligently fanning it. Given this environment, Russia can only speak with two of Washington’s vassals – the EU and Kiev. But it would be wrong to refuse to engage in a conversation even of this nature. War is war and talks are talks. Besides, it’s worth it, if only to remind Kiev once again what awaits them in the near future.

What will Poroshenko hear from Putin in Minsk? That the Ukrainian state stands poised between life and death. By spurning peace talks with Novorossiya, Kiev is digging its own grave. By committing herself to an armed response, Ukraine will not only be unable to preserve the unity of the country, she is destroying the last chances for her nation to be resurrected in any guise. Continuing down her path toward integration with Europe, which the Ukrainian parliament should conclusively ratify in September, will deal a mortal blow to the Ukrainian economy that is collapsing as a result of the war and the decline in trade with Russia. Even before the war began, we warned you that if you signed this agreement we would defend our markets. Ukraine is threatening us with sanctions? Are you trying to put the kiss of death on your export trade to Russia? And where are you going to sell your products? You think help will come from overseas? No, they don’t have that kind of money (so claim the European Commissioners with utter dejection). You’re threatening to block the passage of our gas into Europe, while at the same time preparing to have it shipped to you via Slovakia? How will you feed your people this fall, President Poroshenko?

And this is just a small sample of what Putin might say to Poroshenko – and what if he brings up the thousands of dead residents of Donetsk and Luhansk? After all, there must ultimately be some reckoning for all those Ukrainian citizens who have died and for the civil war.

Obviously Putin will be treated to a response citing Crimea and a demand for the return of the former border, or else … However, Poroshenko will be perfectly well aware that his proclamations are absolutely meaningless even as he speaks them – he can only recite his lines perfunctorily, for in fact he has no answers to Putin’s questions. No money, no country, and no exit strategy from this crisis that has already turned into such a calamity. He has nothing – except the hope of victory in his “anti-terrorist operation.” But if that does not materialize – and if Poroshenko finally figures that out from the look on Putin’s face – what can he do? There is no backup plan to rescue the country. Unless one counts the hope that the US and EU will help Kiev out by coming up with one – after all, we (pro-European Ukrainians) go joining them, or to be more precise, they come and fetch us.

And what could the US do? Contacts with Russia have for all practical purposes been severed, new sanctions won’t help, and the attempt to isolate Russia has come to naught. Europe wants only one thing – to wrap up this Ukrainian misadventure as quickly as possible and arrange a ceasefire with the Russians. Poroshenko’s belligerence will soon become an irritant for Europe – and even though she will remain submissive to the United States, EU leaders in many countries will find it increasingly difficult to curb the discontent of their national elites and the general public. In addition, at some point even Berlin will realize that the situation at the front in Novorossia could rapidly change in an extremely dangerous way for Kiev. And Poroshenko has poorly timed the new elections – at that point no one will have any idea who is in charge in Kiev. Putin will just wait for Ukraine to disintegrate and then move in and snatch up everything – that’s the fear in Europe. And they’re right – and that means that they themselves will push Kiev into talks to reach an agreement on a ceasefire at least, if nothing else.

The main question is whether Kiev has already perceived the full extent of the threat or whether they will continue to place their hopes in the West. If Poroshenko has already grasped the whole picture and will not wait for a disaster on the eastern front in order to recognize the necessity of negotiating – that means Putin’s reminders could serve as the final straw that brings Kiev back to reality. If not – that means we should soon expect to see serious losses at the front, the further decline of the hryvna (Ukrainian currency), the meltdown of the economy, and coercion from Berlin. And there’s no chance that Moscow will just sit idly by and wait.

* Translation by Oriental Review

Source in Russian: VZ.RU

August 22, 2014 Posted by | Economics | , , , | 1 Comment

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