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Kevin Lindemann and Cathy Campo
Internationalists must listen to the Ukrainians
Contemptuous Denial of Agency in the Name of Geopolitics and/or Peace
by Gilbert Achcar, Anti-Capitalist Resistance, April 13
. . .
True internationalists, antiwar advocates, and
anti-imperialists...must therefore support the Ukrainians’ right to
get the weapons they need for their defense. The opposite position
amounts to support for Russia’s imperialist aggression, whatever claim
to the contrary may go along with it.
# # #
(Fwd) Will Russia lose? Yes, as already is evident on the battlefield (Cockburn); No, as might happen in our deglobalised wallets (Escobar)
(There’s a wonderful fantasy doing the rounds, namely that from the ashes of the Russian economy will spring forth a New New World Financial Order. A Bretton Woods III. A post-Bretton Woods. Once again we can thank The Cradle's Pepe Escobar for the most eloquent expression of this theory, in two new columns below.
Also below, a sense from Patrick Cockburn of why the Russian army is bogged down.
But first, Escobar’s interview contains pleasing predictions of mass Global South debt default against Western banksters, with policy options coming from “a man living right in the eye of our current geopolitical and geoeconomic hurricane, one of the most influential economists in the world”, Sergey Glazyev:
And there’s more, from the other side of the Iron Curtain:
Why is this an utter fantasy? I’ll be among the first to line up behind a progressive deglobalisation stance in the image of Samir Amin, Walden Bello, John Maynard Keynes, etc, e.g. here. However, what are these weird subimperialist vehicles that Escobar thinks are moving in this direction?
Recall the non-existent BRICS Contingent Reserve Arrangement and BRICS alternative credit rating agency which Escobar enthused over here and here, and the hope the BRICS New Development Bank would serve as alternative to the World Bank - when in fact it has been an amplifier. Thanks to the subimperialist and not anti-imperialist posture of the BRICS, these were fantasies all, raising expectations and wasting our time.)
Photograph Source: Mvs.gov.ua – CC BY 4.0
As Russia appoints a veteran of the war in Syria as its overall military commander in Ukraine, who is expected imminently to launch an offensive in the Donbas industrial area, pundits ask if the tactics that proved successful in Syria could now be employed in Ukraine.
The new appointee is General Alexander Dvornikov, who was sent to Syria in September 2015 when Russia intervened directly in the war to stop a rebel offensive backed by Saudi Arabia which was making ground against the forces of President Bashar al-Assad.
Russian air support for the Syrian army was of crucial assistance for the Assad government and continues to this day with 182 Russian air strikes since the start of April according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Gen Dvornikov, who became commander of the southern district in Russia in 2016, was credited by Moscow with turning the tide in Syria. Critics accused him of inflicting heavy civilian loss of life by bombarding villages, towns and cities, making them uninhabitable.
These may have been his tactics, but they had been used by the Syrian government since at least 2012. The appointment of Gen Dvornikov was confirmed by an unnamed US official, but not by Moscow which does not announce such appointments.
Long before Russians intervened directly in Syria, I would drive nervously through districts in north Damascus where every structure had been smashed by shellfire and bombs and the ruins then levelled by bulldozers to prevent them being used for cover by snipers.
Surviving inhabitants had fled and nobody knew how many had died: in Daraya, once an opposition stronghold in south Damascus, the tall apartment blocks were still standing, but gutted and emptied of people.
Above the entrance to a bunker, said to be too dangerous to enter, somebody has written on the wall “the martyrs of Syria are so many that they will build a new Syria in heaven”.
The Russians fine-tuned and reinforced what the Syrian government was already doing, suggesting that it rely less on massive but ill-directed firepower and more on squads of infantry with snipers’ rifles and machine guns.
This is effective, but the problem for the Syrian army – and the same may be true of the Russians in Ukraine – was that they were short of infantry and wanted to keep their casualties low. Simple lack of numbers may also explain the Russian failure to make headway in north Ukraine and the reliance on vulnerable columns of tanks and armoured vehicles that proved easy for Ukrainian forces to ambush.
A key difference between the military landscape in Syria and Ukraine is that Syria is a jigsaw puzzle of hostile communities divided by religious and, on occasion, by ethnic allegiances.
In a Damascus district named Barzeh, artillery fire had reduced anti-government Sunni Arab neighbourhoods to a tangle of broken concrete beams and collapsed floors, while nearby tall blocks populated by pro-government members of the Alawite community, who believe in a variant of Shi’ism, were unscathed.
In Ukraine so far, Russia does not appear to have succeeded in mobilising local support outside the Donbas self-declared republics of Donetsk and Luhansk where fighting is expected to escalate in the near future.
But one parallel between Syria and Ukraine which works all too well is that modern urban warfare everywhere inevitably involves heavy civilian casualties, and this is true regardless of who is doing the attacking.
Whole districts of Damascus, Homs and East Aleppo have been wrecked or levelled by Syrian government/Russian bombardment, but the same is true of Raqqa, formerly the Islamic State de facto capital in northeast Syria, which was subjected to intense airstrikes and artillery fire by the Americans in support of Kurdish-led forces.
The city of Mosul, the Isis headquarters in Iraq, suffered a nine-month siege in 2016/17 by Iraqi troops backed by American airstrikes and much of the Old City was annihilated. I was in touch by mobile phone with a number of civilians who lived there during the siege. When it ended, I tried to find out what had happened to them to discuss their experiences, but they all turned out to be dead or missing.
Air forces the world over tend to be dishonest about their ability to distinguish civilian from military targets. But investigation on the ground after airstrikes has invariably shown that civilian and military personnel were in the same place or one can be easily mistaken for the other.
This happens naturally but also as a result of deliberate choice with jihadis in northern Syria sometimes occupying one floor of a five-storey building while floors above and below them are occupied by the normal residents.
The most striking contrast between the Russian armed forces’ intervention in Syria in 2015 and in Ukraine in 2022 is in the level of military competence.
Western governments had hoped that Russia would become bogged down in the Syrian quagmire, but instead it made political and military gains using airpower and a modest number of advisers.
Contrast this with the Russian invasion of Ukraine on 24 February, which stumbled from the beginning. Its troops failed to achieve their objectives, though the precise nature of these is still unclear. Too few Russian troops advanced on too many fronts to enjoy a battle-winning superiority in numbers and were forced to retreat after suffering heavy losses.
But triumphalism on the part of Ukrainian leaders and western military experts could still turn out to be dangerously premature – and the Russian success in Syria was not as atypical as it now appears to be.
Patrick Cockburn is the author of War in the Age of Trump (Verso).
The world’s new monetary system, underpinned by a digital currency, will be backed by a basket of new foreign currencies and natural resources. And it will liberate the Global South from both western debt and IMF-induced austerity
By Pepe Escobar
April 14 2022
Leading Russian economist Sergey Glazyev says a complete overhaul of the western-dominated global monetary and financial system is under works. And the world’s rising powers are buying into it.
Photo Credit: The Cradle
Sergey Glazyev is a man living right in the eye of our current geopolitical and geoeconomic hurricane. One of the most influential economists in the world, a member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, and a former adviser to the Kremlin from 2012 to 2019, for the past three years he has helmed Moscow’s uber strategic portfolio as Minister in Charge of Integration and Macroeconomics of the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU).
Glazyev’s recent intellectual production has been nothing short of transformative, epitomized by his essay Sanctions and Sovereignty and an extensive discussion of the new, emerging geoeconomic paradigm in an interview to a Russian business magazine.
In another of his recent essays, Glazyev comments on how “I grew up in Zaporozhye, near which heavy fighting is now taking place in order to destroy the Ukrainian Nazis, who never existed in my small Motherland. I studied at a Ukrainian school and I know Ukrainian literature and language well, which from a scientific point of view is a dialect of Russian. I did not notice anything Russophobic in Ukrainian culture. In the 17 years of my life in Zaporozhye, I have never met a single Banderist.”
Glazyev was gracious to take some time from his packed schedule to provide detailed answers to a first series of questions in what we expect to become a running conversation, especially focused to the Global South. This is his first interview with a foreign publication since the start of Operation Z. Many thanks to Alexey Subottin for the Russian-English translation.
The Cradle:You are at the forefront of a game-changing geoeconomic development: the design of a new monetary/financial system via an association between the EAEU and China, bypassing the US dollar, with a draft soon to be concluded. Could you possibly advance some of the features of this system – which is certainly not a Bretton Woods III – but seems to be a clear alternative to the Washington consensus and very close to the necessities of the Global South?
Glazyev: In a bout of Russophobic hysteria, the ruling elite of the United States played its last “trump ace” in the hybrid war against Russia. Having “frozen” Russian foreign exchange reserves in custody accounts of western central banks, financial regulators of the US, EU, and the UK undermined the status of the dollar, euro, and pound as global reserve currencies. This step sharply accelerated the ongoing dismantling of the dollar-based economic world order.
Over a decade ago, my colleagues at the Astana Economic Forum and I proposed to transition to a new global economic system based on a new synthetic trading currency based on an index of currencies of participating countries. Later, we proposed to expand the underlying currency basket by adding around twenty exchange-traded commodities. A monetary unit based on such an expanded basket was mathematically modeled and demonstrated a high degree of resilience and stability.
At around the same time, we proposed to create a wide international coalition of resistance in the hybrid war for global dominance that the financial and power elite of the US unleashed on the countries that remained outside of its control. My book The Last World War: the USA to Move and Lose, published in 2016, scientifically explained the nature of this coming war and argued for its inevitability – a conclusion based on objective laws of long-term economic development. Based on the same objective laws, the book argued the inevitability of the defeat of the old dominant power.
Currently, the US is fighting to maintain its dominance, but just as Britain previously, which provoked two world wars but was unable to keep its empire and its central position in the world due to the obsolescence of its colonial economic system, it is destined to fail. The British colonial economic system based on slave labor was overtaken by structurally more efficient economic systems of the US and the USSR. Both the US and the USSR were more efficient at managing human capital in vertically integrated systems, which split the world into their zones of influence. A transition to a new world economic order started after the disintegration of the USSR. This transition is now reaching its conclusion with the imminent disintegration of the dollar-based global economic system, which provided the foundation of the United States’ global dominance.
The new convergent economic system that emerged in the PRC (People’s Republic of China) and India is the next inevitable stage of development, combining the benefits of both centralized strategic planning and market economy, and of both state control of the monetary and physical infrastructure and entrepreneurship. The new economic system united various strata of their societies around the goal of increasing common wellbeing in a way that is substantially stronger than the Anglo-Saxon and European alternatives. This is the main reason why Washington will not be able to win the global hybrid war that it started. This is also the main reason why the current dollar-centric global financial system will be superseded by a new one, based on a consensus of the countries who join the new world economic order.
In the first phase of the transition, these countries fall back on using their national currencies and clearing mechanisms, backed by bilateral currency swaps. At this point, price formation is still mostly driven by prices at various exchanges, denominated in dollars. This phase is almost over: after Russia’s reserves in dollars, euro, pound, and yen were “frozen,” it is unlikely that any sovereign country will continue accumulating reserves in these currencies. Their immediate replacement is national currencies and gold.
The second stage of the transition will involve new pricing mechanisms that do not reference the dollar. Price formation in national currencies involves substantial overheads, however, it will still be more attractive than pricing in ‘un-anchored’ and treacherous currencies like dollars, pounds, euro, and yen. The only remaining global currency candidate – the yuan – won’t be taking their place due to its inconvertibility and the restricted external access to the Chinese capital markets. The use of gold as the price reference is constrained by the inconvenience of its use for payments.
The third and the final stage on the new economic order transition will involve a creation of a new digital payment currency founded through an international agreement based on principles of transparency, fairness, goodwill, and efficiency. I expect that the model of such a monetary unit that we developed will play its role at this stage. A currency like this can be issued by a pool of currency reserves of BRICS countries, which all interested countries will be able to join. The weight of each currency in the basket could be proportional to the GDP of each country (based on purchasing power parity, for example), its share in international trade, as well as the population and territory size of participating countries.
In addition, the basket could contain an index of prices of main exchange-traded commodities: gold and other precious metals, key industrial metals, hydrocarbons, grains, sugar, as well as water and other natural resources. To provide backing and to make the currency more resilient, relevant international resource reserves can be created in due course. This new currency would be used exclusively for cross-border payments and issued to the participating countries based on a pre-defined formula. Participating countries would instead use their national currencies for credit creation, in order to finance national investments and industry, as well as for sovereign wealth reserves. Capital account cross-border flows would remain governed by national currency regulations.
The Cradle: Michael Hudson specifically asks that if this new system enables nations in the Global South to suspend dollarized debt and is based on the ability to pay (in foreign exchange), can these loans be tied to either raw materials or, for China, tangible equity ownership in the capital infrastructure financed by foreign non-dollar credit?
Glazyev: Transition to the new world economic order will likely be accompanied by systematic refusal to honor obligations in dollars, euro, pound, and yen. In this respect, it will be no different from the example set by the countries issuing these currencies who thought it appropriate to steal foreign exchange reserves of Iraq, Iran, Venezuela, Afghanistan, and Russia to the tune of trillions of dollars. Since the US, Britain, EU, and Japan refused to honor their obligations and confiscated wealth of other nations which was held in their currencies, why should other countries be obliged to pay them back and to service their loans?
In any case, participation in the new economic system will not be constrained by the obligations in the old one. Countries of the Global South can be full participants of the new system regardless of their accumulated debts in dollars, euro, pound, and yen. Even if they were to default on their obligations in those currencies, this would have no bearing on their credit rating in the new financial system. Nationalization of extraction industry, likewise, would not cause a disruption. Further, should these countries reserve a portion of their natural resources for the backing of the new economic system, their respective weight in the currency basket of the new monetary unit would increase accordingly, providing that nation with larger currency reserves and credit capacity. In addition, bilateral swap lines with trading partner countries would provide them with adequate financing for co-investments and trade financing.
The Cradle: In one of your latest essays, The Economics of the Russian Victory, you call for “an accelerated formation of a new technological paradigm and the formation of institutions of a new world economic order.” Among the recommendations, you specifically propose the creation of “a payment and settlement system in the national currencies of the EAEU member states” and the development and implementation of “an independent system of international settlements in the EAEU, SCO and BRICS, which could eliminate critical dependence of the US-controlled SWIFT system.” Is it possible to foresee a concerted joint drive by the EAEU and China to “sell” the new system to SCO members, other BRICS members, ASEAN members and nations in West Asia, Africa and Latin America? And will that result in a bipolar geoeconomy – the West versus The Rest?
Glazyev: Indeed, this is the direction where we are headed. Disappointingly, monetary authorities of Russia are still a part of the Washington paradigm and play by the rules of the dollar-based system, even after Russian foreign exchange reserves were captured by the west. On the other hand, the recent sanctions prompted extensive soul searching among the rest of the non-dollar-block countries. western ‘agents of influence’ still control central banks of most countries, forcing them to apply suicidal policies prescribed by the IMF. However, such policies at this point are so obviously contrary to the national interests of these non-western countries that their authorities are growing justifiably concerned about financial security.
You correctly highlight potentially central roles of China and Russia in the genesis of the new world economic order. Unfortunately, current leadership of the CBR (Central Bank of Russia) remains trapped inside the intellectual cul-de-sac of the Washington paradigm and is unable to become a founding partner in the creation of a new global economic and financial framework. At the same time, the CBR already had to face the reality and create a national system for interbank messaging which is not dependent on SWIFT, and opened it up for foreign banks as well. Cross-currency swap lines have been already set up with key participating nations. Most transactions between member states of the EAEU are already denominated in national currencies and the share of their currencies in internal trade is growing at a rapid pace.
A similar transition is taking place in trade with China, Iran, and Turkey. India indicated that it is ready to switch to payments in national currencies as well. A lot of effort is put in developing clearing mechanisms for national currency payments. In parallel, there is an ongoing effort to develop a digital non-banking payment system, which would be linked to gold and other exchange-traded commodities – ‘stablecoins.’
Recent US and European sanctions imposed on the banking channels have caused a rapid increase in these efforts. The group of countries working on the new financial system only needs to announce the completion of the framework and readiness of the new trade currency and the process of formation of the new world financial order will accelerate further from there. The best way to bring it about would be to announce it at the SCO or BRICS regular meetings. We are working on that.
The Cradle: This has been an absolutely key issue in discussions by independent analysts across the west. Was the Russian Central Bank advising Russian gold producers to sell their gold in the London market to get a higher price than the Russian government or Central Bank would pay? Was there no anticipation whatsoever that the coming alternative to the US dollar will have to be based largely on gold? How would you characterize what happened? How much practical damage has this inflicted on the Russian economy short-term and mid-term?
Glazyev: The monetary policy of the CBR, implemented in line with the IMF recommendations, has been devastating for the Russian economy. Combined disasters of the “freezing” of circa $400 billion of foreign exchange reserves and over a trillion dollars siphoned from the economy by oligarchs into western offshore destinations, came with the backdrop of equally disastrous policies of the CBR, which included excessively high real rates combined with a managed float of the exchange rate. We estimate this caused under-investment of circa 20 trillion rubles and under-production of circa 50 trillion rubles in goods.
Following Washington’s recommendations, the CBR stopped buying gold over the last two years, effectively forcing domestic gold miners to export full volumes of production, which added up to 500 tons of gold. These days the mistake and the harm it caused are very much obvious. Presently, the CBR resumed gold purchases, and, hopefully, will continue with sound policies in the interest of the national economy instead of ‘targeting inflation’ for the benefit of international speculators, as had been the case during the last decade.
The Cradle: The Fed as well as the ECB were not consulted on the freeze of Russian foreign reserves. Word in New York and Frankfurt is that they would have opposed it were they to have been asked. Did you personally expect the freeze? And did the Russian leadership expect it?
Glazyev: My book “The Last World War” that I already mentioned, which was published as far back as 2015, argued that the likelihood of this happening eventually is very high. In this hybrid war, economic warfare and informational/cognitive warfare are key theaters of conflict. On both of these fronts, the US and NATO countries have overwhelming superiority and I did not have any doubt that they would take full advantage of this in due course.
I have been arguing for a long time for replacement of dollars, euro, pounds, and yen in our foreign exchange reserves with gold, which is produced in abundance in Russia. Unfortunately, western agents of influence which occupy key roles at central banks of most countries, as well as rating agencies and key publications, were successful in silencing my ideas. To give you an example, I have no doubt that high-ranking officials at the Fed and the ECB were involved in developing anti-Russian financial sanctions. These sanctions have been consistently escalating and are being implemented almost instantly, despite the well-known difficulties with bureaucratic decision making in the EU.
The Cradle: Elvira Nabiullina has been reconfirmed as the head of the Russian Central Bank. What would you do differently, compared to her previous actions? What is the main guiding principle involved in your different approaches?
Glazyev: The difference between our approaches is very simple. Her policies are an orthodox implementation of IMF recommendations and dogmas of the Washington paradigm, while my recommendations are based on the scientific method and empirical evidence accumulated over the last hundred years in leading countries.
The Cradle: The Russia-China strategic partnership seems to be increasingly ironclad – as Presidents Putin and Xi themselves constantly reaffirm. But there are rumbles against it not only in the west but also in some Russian policy circles. In this extremely delicate historical juncture, how reliable is China as an all-season ally to Russia?
Glazyev: The foundation of Russian-Chinese strategic partnership is common sense, common interests, and the experience of cooperation over hundreds of years. The US ruling elite started a global hybrid war aimed at defending its hegemonic position in the world, targeting China as the key economic competitor and Russia as the key counter-balancing force. Initially, the US geopolitical efforts were aiming to create a conflict between Russia and China. Agents of western influence were amplifying xenophobic ideas in our media and blocking any attempts to transition to payments in national currencies. On the Chinese side, agents of western influence were pushing the government to fall in line with the demands of the US interests.
However, sovereign interests of Russia and China logically led to their growing strategic partnership and cooperation, in order to address common threats emanating from Washington. The US tariff war with China and financial sanctions war with Russia validated these concerns and demonstrated the clear and present danger our two countries are facing. Common interests of survival and resistance are uniting China and Russia, and our two countries are largely symbiotic economically. They complement and increase competitive advantages of each other. These common interests will persist over the long run.
The Chinese government and the Chinese people remember very well the role of the Soviet Union in the liberation of their country from the Japanese occupation and in the post-war industrialization of China. Our two countries have a strong historical foundation for strategic partnership and we are destined to cooperate closely in our common interests. I hope that the strategic partnership of Russia and the PRC, which is enhanced by the coupling of the One Belt One Road with the Eurasian Economic Union, will become the foundation of President Vladimir Putin’s project of the Greater Eurasian Partnership and the nucleus of the new world economic order.
Washington’s competition with rising power Russia is so fierce, it is willing to sacrifice Europe
By Pepe Escobar
April 07 2022
Photo Credit: The Cradle
The stunning spectacle of the European Union (EU) committing slow motion hara-kiri is something for the ages. Like a cheap Kurosawa remake, the movie is actually about the US-detonated demolition of the EU, complete with the rerouting of some key Russian commodities exports to the US at the expense of Europeans.
It helps to have a 5th columnist actress strategically placed – in this case astonishingly incompetent European Commission head Ursula von der Lugen – with her vociferous announcement of a crushing new sanctions package: Russian ships banned from EU ports; road transportation companies from Russia and Belarus prohibited from entering the EU; no more coal imports (over 4.4 billion euros a year).
In practice, that translates into Washington shaking down its wealthiest western clients/puppets. Russia, of course, is too powerful to directly challenge militarily, and the US badly needs some of its key exports, especially minerals. So, the Americans will instead nudge the EU into imposing ever-increasing sanctions that will willfully collapse their national economies, while allowing the US to scoop everything up.
Cue to the coming catastrophic economic consequences felt by Europeans in their daily life (but not by the wealthiest five percent): inflation devouring salaries and savings; next winter energy bills packing a mean punch; products disappearing from supermarkets; holiday bookings almost frozen. France’s Le Petit Roi Emmanuel Macron – perhaps facing a nasty electoral surprise – has even announced: “food stamps like in WWII are possible.”
We have Germany facing the returning ghost of Weimar hyperinflation. BlackRock President Rob Kapito said, in Texas,”for the first time, this generation is going to go into a store and not be able to get what they want.” African farmers are unable to afford fertilizer at all this year, reducing agricultural production by an amount capable of feeding 100 million people.
Zoltan Poszar, former NY Fed and US Treasury guru, current Credit Suisse grand vizir, has been on a streak, stressing how commodity reserves – and, here, Russia is unrivaled – will be an essential feature of what he calls Bretton Woods III (although, what’s being designed by Russia, China, Iran and the Eurasia Economic Union is a post-Bretton Woods).
Poszar remarks that wars, historically, are won by those who have more food and energy supplies, in the past to power horses and soldiers; today to feed soldiers and fuel tanks and fighter jets. China, incidentally, has amassed large stocks of virtually everything.
Poszar notes how our current Bretton Woods II system has a deflationary impulse (globalization, open trade, just-in-time supply chains) while Bretton Woods 3 will provide an inflationary impulse (de-globalization, autarky, hoarding of raw materials) of supply chains and extra military spending to be able to protect what will remain of seaborne trade.
The implications are of course overwhelming. What’s implicit, ominously, is that this state of affairs may even lead to WWIII.
Rublegas or American LNG?
The Russian roundtable Valdai Club has conducted an essential expert discussion on what we at The Cradle have defined as Rublegas – the real geoeconomic game-changer at the heart of the post-petrodollar era. Alexander Losev, a member of the Russian Council for Foreign and Defense Policy, offered the contours of the Big Picture. But it was up to Alexey Gromov, Chief Energy Director of the Institute of Energy and Finance, to come up with crucial nitty-gritty.
Russia, so far, was selling 155 billion cubic meters of gas to Europe each year. The EU rhetorically promises to get rid of it by 2027, and reduce supply by the end of 2022 by 100 billion cubic meters. Gromov asked “how,” and remarked, “any expert has no answer. Most of Russia’s natural gas is shipped over pipelines. This cannot simply be replaced by Liquified Natural Gas (LNG).”
The risible European answer has been “start saving,” as in “prepare to be worse off” and “reduce the temperature in households.” Gromov noted how, in Russia, “22 to 25 degrees in winter is the norm. Europe is promoting 16 degrees as ‘healthy’, and wearing sweaters at night.”
The EU won’t be able to get the gas it needs from Norway or Algeria (which is privileging domestic consumption). Azerbaijan would be able to provide at best 10 billion cubic meters a year, but “that will take 2 or 3 years” to happen.
Gromov stressed how “there’s no surplus in the market today for US and Qatar LNG,” and how prices for Asian customers are always higher. The bottom line is that “by the end of 2022, Europe won’t be able to significantly reduce” what it buys from Russia: “they might cut by 50 billion cubic meters, maximum.” And prices in the spot market will be higher – at least $1,300 per cubic meter.
An important development is that “Russia changed the logistical supply chains to Asia already.” That applies for gas and oil as well: ”You can impose sanctions if there’s a surplus in the market. Now there’s a shortage of at least 1.5 million barrels of oil a day. We’ll be sending our supplies to Asia – with a discount.” As it stands, Asia is already paying a premium, from 3 to 5 dollars more per barrel of oil.
On oil shipments, Gromov also commented on the key issue of insurance: “Insurance premiums are higher. Before Ukraine, it was all based on the Free on Board (FOB) system. Now buyers are saying ‘we don’t want to take the risk of taking your cargo to our ports.’ So they are applying the Cost, Insurance and Freight (CIF) system, where the seller has to insure and transport the cargo. That of course impacts revenues.”
An absolutely key issue for Russia is how to make the transition to China as its key gas customer. It’s all about the Power of Siberia 2, a new 2600-km pipeline originating in the Russian Bovanenkovo and Kharasavey gas fields in Yamal, in northwest Siberia – which will reach full capacity only in 2024. And, first, the interconnector through Mongolia must be built – “we need 3 years to build this pipeline” – so everything will be in place only around 2025.
On the Yamal pipeline, “most of the gas goes to Asia. If the Europeans don’t buy anymore we can redirect.” And then there’s the Arctic LNG 2 project – which is even larger than Yamal: “the first phase should be finished soon, it’s 80 percent ready.” An extra problem may be posed by the Russian “Unfriendlies” in Asia: Japan and South Korea. LNG infrastructure produced in Russia still depends on foreign technologies.
That’s what leads Gromov to note that, “the model of mobilization-based economy is not so good.” But that’s what Russia needs to deal with at least in the short to medium term.
The positives are that the new paradigm will allow “more cooperation within the BRICS (the emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa that have been meeting annually since 2009);” the expansion of the International North South Transportation Corridor (INSTC); and more interaction and integration with “Pakistan, India, Afghanistan and Iran.”
Only in terms of Iran and Russia, swaps in the Caspian Sea are already in the works, as Iran produces more than it needs, and is set to increase cooperation with Russia in the framework of their strengthened strategic partnership.
It was up to Chinese energy expert Fu Chengyu to offer a concise explanation of why the EU drive of replacing Russian gas with American LNG is, well, a pipe dream. Essentially the US offer is “too limited and too costly.”
Fu Chengyu showed how a lengthy, tricky process depends on four contracts: between the gas developer and the LNG company; between the LNG company and the buyer company; between the LNG buyer and the cargo company (which builds vessels); and between the buyer and the end user.
“Each contract,” he pointed out, “takes a long time to finish. Without all these signed contracts, no party will invest – be it investment on infrastructure or gas field development.” So actual delivery of American LNG to Europe assumes all these interconnected resources are available – and moving like clockwork.
Fu Chengyu’s verdict is stark: this EU obsession on ditching Russian gas will provoke “an impact on global economic growth, and recession. They are pushing their own people – and the world. In the energy sector, we will all be harmed.”
It was quite enlightening to juxtapose the coming geoeconomic turbulence – the EU obsession in bypassing Russian gas and the onset of Rublegas – with the real reasons behind Operation Z in Ukraine, completely obscured by western media and analysts.
A US Deep State old pro, now retired, and quite familiar with the inner workings of the old OSS, the CIA precursor, all the way to the neocon dementia of today, provided some sobering insights:
“The whole Ukraine issue is over hypersonic missiles that can reach Moscow in less than four minutes. The US wants them there, in Poland, Romania, Baltic States, Sweden, Finland. This is in direct violation of the agreements in 1991 that NATO will not expand in Eastern Europe. The US does not have hypersonic missiles now but should – in a year or two. This is an existential threat to Russia. So they had to go into the Ukraine to stop this. Next will be Poland and Romania where launchers have been built in Romania and are being built in Poland.”
From a completely different geopolitical perspective, what’s really telling is that his analysis happens to dovetail with Zoltan Poszar’s geoeconomics: “The US and NATO are totally belligerent. This presents a real danger to Russia. The idea that nuclear war is unthinkable is a myth. If you look at the firebombing of Tokyo against Hiroshima and Nagasaki, more people died in Tokyo than Hiroshima and Nagasaki. These cities were rebuilt. The radiation goes away and life can restart. The difference between firebombing and nuclear bombing is only efficiency. NATO provocations are so extreme, Russia had to place their nuclear missiles on standby alert. This is a gravely serious matter. But the US ignored it.”
BRICS fantasies and unintended revelations
by Patrick Bond
25 October 2016
As the leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa meet this weekend (8th-9th of september) for a summit in India, one consistency is observable from all the BRICS elites: A stream of anti-imperialist chatter even when the intent is to assimilate into imperialism. The BRICS’ real agenda is sub-imperialism: five countries’ feet joining those of the US and EU, firmly astride the throats of the world’s poorest people.
GOA, INDIA - A Brazilian leader’s faux pas spoke volumes about the Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa (BRICS) heads of state summit in Goa, at a well-protected beach resort this weekend. In Brasilia last month, foreign minister (and occasional presidential candidate) José Serra told an interviewer that the BRICS included Argentina. And as he stumbled while spelling out the acronym, Serra also had to be prompted to recall that South Africa is a member (because in English it is the “S” in BRICS, but in Portuguese the country is “Africa do Sul”).
Well-known journalist Luis Nassif disgustedly concluded that the politician – who has a doctorate in economics from Cornell University and was implicated in various corruption scandals, including favours western oil companies against Brazil’s own Petrobras – is “neurologically damaged.”
With men like Serra and his president Michel Temer (also corrupt and widely despised) at the helm, so too is the BRICS bloc damaged goods. Former Goldman Sachs investment strategist Jim O’Neill recently offered faint praise, that “some of the BRICS are kind of doing basically what I thought they would do” though he conceded that Brazil, Russia and South Africa suffer the “commodities curse.”
BRICS as a project is now being written off, unfairly I think (given its sub-imperial accomplishments), because of divergent economic interests and zany geopolitical circumstances.
The latter inconsistencies start with anti-Washington regimes in Beijing (with sabre rattling over a few rocks in the South China Sea) and Moscow (whose sabres are sticking out of victims in eastern Ukraine and Syria, not to mention allegations of Russian-hacked emails repeatedly wounding Hillary Clinton). These defensive gestures are justified given the prolific record of malevolent destruction meted out by Washington, especially since the Bush-Obama regime began in 2001.
Yet not only does BRICS also contain Temer’s right-wing coup ‘government’ in Brasilia with its strong pro-imperial bias, but also the far-right Hindi nationalist government in New Delhi. As Brazilian commentator Pepe Escobar recently explained to Russia Today, “The cozying up to the Pentagon happens just a few months after Prime Minister Narendra Modi – who had been denied a US visa for nearly a decade – addressed a joint meeting of Congress in a blaze of glory, declaring that India and the US are natural allies.”
Meanwhile in between, Pretoria politicians, as usual, are talking left while walking right. Indeed after the dust of ideological confusion settles, at least one consistency is observable from all the BRICS elites: a stream of anti-imperialist chatter even when the intent is to assimilate into imperialism.
Last week, for example, African National Congress general secretary Gwede Mantashe pronounced, “South Africa will continue to call for the transformation of the Bretton Woods Institutions and oligopolistic credit ratings industry.”
He is worried because in December, it is widely anticipated that Standard&Poors, Fitch and Moody’s will deliver Pretoria a junk-bond rating and with it a run on the currency. Indeed the run just restarted following this week’s surreal accusations by the national prosecutor that finance minister Pravin Gordhan committed fraud by helping a friend secure a $75 000 early pension – a gambit seen as a crude excuse for the crony capitalist faction of the ANC to insist Jacob Zuma fire Gordhan, who is mainly backed by neoliberals and big business but also by democrats worried about the slide into a corrupt dictatorship.
Calling for ‘transformation’ of the erratic New York rating agencies is absolutely valid, yet the real problem is what lies behind them: international financiers who now have Pretoria under the thumb of foreign debt.
That debt load recently hit a historic record of 44% of GDP, and to repay interest while permitting massive corporate profit outflows, will mean yet more borrowing from Western – or BRICS – lenders. South Africa’s energy parastatal Eskom is in the process of negotiating a $5 billion loan from China, for example, so it can argue the case for self-financing a nuclear programme, likely to be acquired from Russia or China. Will a new BRICS credit rating agency be a solution, or will it be just an excuse to put future generations of South Africans deeper into a debt that must be repaid, not with rands (which can be printed) but with hard currency ($ or yuan)?
Hatred of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) is also easy to articulate from Brazil. As BRICS New Development Bank (NDB) vice president Paulo Nogueira Batista remarked last week, “The Washington institutions fundamentally reflect the point of view, the interest, the ideology of the North Atlantic powers, the Europeans on one hand the Americans on the other.”
But here the BRICS are at their most self-delusional and self-destructive, for they have had the chance to change the Bretton Woods Institutions in two ways: contesting their leadership and changing their voting power. The past months are revealing on both counts.
First, no doubt that both World Bank President Jim Kim and IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde need to be replaced. They won’t be, though, because the BRICS failed to put up a fight. In 2011 Lagarde was contested by a Mexican and in 2012 Kim fought a Colombian and Nigerian – but with divergent BRICS’ country backing, so neither stood a chance.
In 2016, both were allowed to retain their posts, even though former French Finance Minister Lagarde is subject to an upcoming corruption trial based on her €400 million largesse to a generous party donor, Adidas founder Bernard Tapie; and even though Kim is described by University of Pennsylvania political scientist Devesh Kapur as “among the worst presidents in World Bank history. His administration has been marked by authoritarianism and capriciousness, and he has forced out senior managers at unprecedented rates, sometimes requiring the Bank to reach quiet settlements with those affected. In four years, the president’s office has had five chiefs-of-staff, and several of the Bank’s senior women have left, hinting at a capricious leadership culture.”
His critics on the left (from where Kim entered politics) are just as forthright, especially when it comes to his support for damaging mega-hydro projects and disastrous roll-back of social and environmental standards.
If ever there was a case for the BRICS making a stand against the imperialist multilateral banking tradition – that a European leads the IMF and a US citizen leads the World Bank – this was the year. But as Kapur remarked, the “World Bank’s recipe for irrelevance“ was partly cooked up within the BRICS kitchen because “in the World Bank Group’s official leadership, the first three people listed after the president – hailing from Brazil, China, and India, respectively – are carefully distributed by nationality.”
The same kind of sub-imperialist assimilation was on display when the IMF included the Chinese yuan in its basket of currencies last November and a month later when voting power was rearranged, giving China an increase of 37%, Brazil 23%, India 11%, and Russia 8% – but at the expense of Nigeria (which lost 41%), Libya (39%), Morocco (27%), Gabon (26%), Algeria (26%), Namibia (26%) and even South Africa (21%).
On top of that, last month the World Bank and NDB officials signed a deal for “co-financing of projects; facilitation of knowledge exchange… advisory services; and facilitating secondments and staff exchanges... We greatly appreciate timely support offered by the World Bank Group throughout our establishment process, and look forward to advancing and deepening our co-operation.”
So, will the Bretton Woods Institutions save the BRICS NDB and Contingent Reserve Arrangement from irrelevance – especially since the latter BRICS agency explicitly relies upon the IMF for policing structural adjustment loans?
Tough questions about the bloc’s coherence are being asked; e.g. in South Africa, Megan van Wyngaardt of Creamer Media recently enquired, “With each BRICS country facing challenges, could it disband?” Institute for Global Dialogue researcher Francis Kornegay replied, “BRICS is increasingly taking the form of RICs” due to the Brazilian and South African crises.
In contrast, a group of several hundred activists from India have gathered for two days prior to the summit in a more optimistic mode. The ‘People’s Forum on BRICS’ aims “to connect local voices and concerns of Goa to the global scenario and critically engage with BRICS in this endeavour… to share analysis, struggle notes and build solidarity in the struggle for a more just and equitable society.”
Especially in the wake of a massive national strike day last month by more than 150 million Indian workers opposed to Modi’s neoliberalism, such a society appears nowhere on the BRICS’ leaders radar screen, aside from rhetoric.
BRICS leaders are protected from this rabble by Modi’s proto-fascistic police state. And to top off the Taj Exotica 7-star resort’s aesthetics, sand sculptures have been constructed for the leaders’ delight: the Taj Mahal, the Great Wall of China, Russia’s Saint Basil Cathedral, Rio de Janeiro’s Christ the Redeemer statue and, representing South Africa, it is the Afrikaans Language monument near Stellenbosch.
What?! All these memorial structures have dubious origins in patriarchy and the religious oppression of the poor. But it was 40 years ago this year that the final leg of the anti-apartheid struggle kicked off in Soweto, as students poured into the street (much as they are this week against the apartheid-economics of high university tuition fees). Their immediate grievance was being forced to learn Afrikaans.
The language monument contains a telling inscription by Nicolaas Petrus van Wyk Louw – “Afrikaans stands with one leg in Africa and with the other in the west” – that somehow also speaks to the BRICS’ real agenda, sub-imperialism: five countries’ feet joining those of the US and EU, firmly astride the throats of the world’s poorest people.
From: Bond, Patrick <pbond@...>
(A long background paper on foibles of these Multilateral Development Banks - including the NDB - co-authored with an Australian colleague and just published, is below this fresh, encouraging news.
Of course, what really would be an honest approach to Moscow’s NDB borrowing, would be a corruption audit and then reparations payments to victims.
Putin and his son-in-law would feature in any such probe, as Kevin Bloom’s report on a 2019 Ilya Matveev Johannesburg lecture, confirms in the box below.
After all, so many South Africans are concerned about Odious Debts loaded up during the RamaZupta governments - as foreign financial liabilities soared from $70 to $170 billion. So whatever more democratic, development government might take over in Moscow after Putin crashes his regime, will be asked to repay stinkingly fraudulent loans. Same for a post-ANC government in South Africa. And like the pressure that Ukraine’s foreign debt will put on whatever government survives there, all of this will be a future source of terrible economic pain.
So it’s great to see that at least two loan spigots from Shanghai and Beijing are being turned to the right. My guess is that this is not happening out of choice or ethics: the Western credit ratings agencies these banksters have been courting for ever-higher investment-grade ratings, would otherwise be rapidly downgrading these two dirty institutions, thus causing their borrowing rates to rise. And perhaps Putin’s state will end up in default mode even if Moscow began last week with $600 billion in hard currency and gold reserves. Looks like the financial damage is really piling up on Russian capitalism, at such a fast rate, and with some of that stash frozen, that it won’t be enough.)
New Development Bank puts new transactions in Russia on hold amid Ukraine invasion
Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa - known together as BRICS - are members of the New Development Bank.
Published on Mar 04, 2022 05:13 PM IST
By Sutirtho Patranobis
The New Development Bank (NDB), the China-based multilateral bank established by the BRICS countries, on Thursday said it has put new transactions in Russia on hold, even as Russia escalates its attack on Ukraine.
“In light of unfolding uncertainties and restrictions, NDB has put new transactions in Russia on hold. NDB will continue to conduct business in full conformity with the highest compliance standards as an international institution,” the bank said in a statement posted on its website.
“The NDB applies sound banking principles in all its operations, as stated in its Articles of Agreement,” it said.
Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa or BRICS are the founding members of the NDB.
It is the second China-based multilateral bank after the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) to stop its projects in Russia and Belarus following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
The NDB was established in 2015 by the BRICS countries to mobilise resources for infrastructure and sustainable development projects in BRICS and other emerging economies. The multilateral development bank has its headquarters at Shanghai.
The US and Europe have imposed economic sanctions on Russia in their attempts to deepen the country’s economic isolation following the attack on Ukraine.
The China-backed AIIB said on Thursday that it has put on hold and is reviewing all activities relating to Russia and Belarus in the wake of the current conflict in Ukraine.
In a statement announcing the freeze and review, the AIIB referred to the situation as “war in Ukraine”, the closest to “invasion” that any Chinese government-affiliated institution has until now described the situation in the east European country.
“As the war in Ukraine unfolds, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) extends its thoughts and sympathy to everyone affected. Our hearts go out to all who are suffering,” read a statement published on the website of the Beijing-based lender.
Officially, China has continued to refer to Russia’s actions in Ukraine as a “special military operation” and also strongly opposed economic sanctions against its strategic ally. China is a major buyer of Russian oil and gas and has refrained from criticising Moscow’s attack on Ukraine.
Beijing opposes the sanctions, Guo Shuqing, the chairman of the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission, said on Thursday.
“We will not join such sanctions, and we will keep normal economic, trade and financial exchange with all the relevant parties. We disapprove of the financial sanctions, particularly those launched unilaterally, because they don’t have much legal basis and will not have good effects,” Guo said at a press conference.
China-based AIIB and NDB halt work in Russia as sanctions hit
By Shabtai Gold // 03 March 2022
Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank headquarters in Beijing. Photo by: Tingshu Wang / Reuters
Separately, the New Development Bank — which finances projects in emerging and developing markets and is sometimes known as the “BRICS bank,” in reference to founding members Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa — said Thursday that it had “put new transactions in Russia on hold” amid “unfolding uncertainties and restrictions.”
The moves, which come a week after Moscow invaded its southwestern neighbor, follow a total halt to all World Bank activity in both Russia and Belarus.
NDB, like AIIB, is headquartered in China, which has been a staunch ally of Moscow, though it abstained this week in a United Nations General Assembly vote condemning the Russian invasion of its neighbor.
The bank said its moves come amid the need to “safeguard the financial integrity of AIIB, against the backdrop of the evolving economic and financial situation.”
In recent days, the United States, European nations, and key Asian allies have all imposed tough sanctions on Russia, including measures directly choking off parts of its banking system, deeping the country’s economic isolation.
Moody’s ratings agency joined Fitch Ratings in downgrading Russian sovereign debt to “junk” status, a sign of growing worries over Russia’s ability and willingness to meet its obligations. Investors are increasingly downbeat on the country, with one saying it is simply “uninvestible.”
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, for its part, is still weighing measures against Russia and Belarus, including cutting off finance. Belarus is allied with Moscow in the invasion, including allowing its territory to be used as a staging ground.
In a statement Thursday, AIIB was cautious, expressing concern for “all who are suffering” and reaffirming a commitment to multilateralism. The bank said that “international law lies at the very core of our institution.”
AIIB pledged to help its members deal with the war’s fallout, citing commodity price shocks and financial market volatility. Commodity prices have been soaring over the past week, including huge spikes in oil and gas, along with wheat, corn, and other staple foods.
The World Bank has warned that sustained inflation will hurt the world’s poor, coming on the back of already elevated prices. The Washington-based anti-poverty lender said in a statement Wednesday that it was cutting off Moscow.
“Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine and hostilities against the people of Ukraine, the World Bank Group has stopped all its programs in Russia and Belarus with immediate effect,” it said.
The move includes World Bank advisory services to Russia. New investments in the country were already stopped in 2014, the year that Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula.
The lender is also working on a $3 billion support package for Ukraine, the first tranche of which will be for at least $350 million and could still be approved by the board this week. The International Monetary Fund is also devising support for the country.
Eric LeCompte, executive director at the Jubilee USA Network, told Devex that Ukraine has payments due on IMF loans, which the country will now struggle to make given the dire circumstances.
IMF could “give Ukraine some breathing space,” by agreeing to delay repayments, said LeCompte, whose organization advocates for poverty reduction around debt issues.
“The IMF will likely take that action, but it should do it sooner rather than later, to signal support,” he said.
Analysts have noted that institutional support to Ukraine is not without risks either, given the heavy Russian bombardments and uncertain future. There are also debates about using concessional lending instruments, generally reserved for the world’s lowest-income nations, in what is officially a middle-income country in Europe.
With more than 1 million people having already fled Ukraine to neighboring countries, there are growing expectations that host countries in Europe could need support. The World Bank and IMF, in a joint statement this week, said they were assessing needs and were prepared to step in.
Edition 1st Edition
First Published 2022
MULTILATERAL DEVELOPMENT BANKS, OLD AND NEW
Susan Engel and Patrick Bond
When the topic of multilateral development banks (MDBs) arises, most people think of the original project lender – one of two ‘Bretton Woods Institutions’ – based in Washington, DC: the World Bank. Its 1944 mandate was to lend for ‘reconstruction or development.’ In some ways, the vision of its twin, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), was also ‘developmental,’ although most of the pathbreaking designs of British economist (and lead negotiator of the debtor states) John Maynard Keynes were rejected. Those visions included the IMF managing a world currency and imposing penalties for excessive trade surpluses, so as to limit 1920s-style uneven development. By the 1960s, both the Bank and IMF had become focused on project-management and orthodox financial values, reminiscent of US banks, with all the national, class, race, gender and ecological biases those entail.
Subsequently, more than thirty MDBs were created, of which two thirds were between 1956 and 1979 (Bazbauers and Engel 2021, 2). From 1980-1997, six MDBs were created, and from 1998-2015, another four were established, including the New Development Bank (NDB, 2014) of the Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa (BRICS) grouping and the China-backed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB, 2015). These latter two have garnered the most attention, because their backers are considered potential threats to the current economic hegemon, the US. Given that these and other countries’ challenges to the slowly-reforming Bretton Woods development finance system failed since the early 1980s, when periodic financial crises began threatening poor countries’ stability, there were great expectations that the AIIB and NDB would chart a different path. Yet, the latest MDBs have instead facilitated, relegitimized and recapitalized global and regional financial maldevelopment. Once a threat to extant multilateral norms, they soon found themselves amplifying some of the most dangerous development finance trends.
This chapter starts by summarizing central functions of multilateral development banking, and follows with comparisons to the two new MDBs. The third section briefly reflects on MDB responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, focusing on the World Bank and NDB, while the final section considers pedagogical approaches to the MDBs.
The Multilateral Development Bank Model
The creation of MDBs can be traced to number of precedents including growing international monetary cooperation and the rise of export-import banks, but most explicitly from a proposal by Mexico’s delegation to 1939 negotiations over inter-American financial cooperation. The Party of the Mexican Revolution government led by Lázaro Cárdenas was still drawing inspiration from the 1910-20 struggle for sovereignty, and boldly proposed that an Inter-American Bank be tasked with channeling investment to promote economic development (Bazbauers and Engel 2021). Although the proposal failed, one of the Americans involved in the negotiations, Harry Dexter White, became a principal architect for the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) – or World Bank – negotiated at the Bretton Woods Hotel in New Hampshire in 1944 and in Savannah, Georgia in 1946. The World Bank was established at a time the previously-dominant global private banks were in retreat following the 1929-33 world financial crash that had resulted from their exploitative, crisis-prone character (Oliver 1975). This also led to new regulations on banks such as the US Glass-Steagall Act, which split stock market investments from lending to avoid conflicts of interest.
The IBRD established an International Finance Corporation in 1956 to manage for-profit lending to and ownership-investments in the private sector, as well as an International Development Association wing in 1960 to provide concessional loans below 1% interest with a grace period, to very poor countries. That aside, the ‘World Bank Group’ increasingly reflected banking norms more so than developmental ones. With a fierce post-War ideological battle between ‘modernizationists’ based at the U.S. State Department (led by W.W. Rostow) and ‘dependistas’ at the UN Commission on Latin America (led by Raul Prebisch), the main Bank officers periodically shifted their orientation between lending for mega-projects and for basic needs and from the 1980s began imposing macro-economic conditionality. Overall, though, its development model has prioritized growth over human wellbeing and ecological sustainability. When the Bank deems that austerity policies are required, then invariably social policy, civil service wages and parastatal ownership are usually on the chopping block. Other MDBs have largely followed the model established by World Bank.
Seven key factors fundamentally shape the work of the World Bank and all the MDBs, including the two latest ones. First, MDBs aim to promote business interests more than poverty reduction or sustainability. In many countries, uneven development means that economic growth occurs at the expense of unsustainable resource extraction and does not result in re-investment of profit within those economies and societies. Indeed, if ‘natural capital depletion’ were recognized as a debit in national wealth accounts of most African countries, as it should be the case (Daly 1996), the continent’s actual net growth is negative: the profits from extracting non-renewable minerals are largely exported and the debits to the extracted wealth leave 88 per cent of African countries as net losers even when royalties, taxes, foreign exchange revenue, physical capital, jobs, backward/forward linkages and infrastructure are factored in, which even the Bank concedes (Bond 2016).
Second, the ideology behind its commitment to economic growth is market-centric. Most MDBs, the World Bank in particular, have traditionally been hostile to the kind of state-led development – including extensive parastatal corporations – that propelled much of East Asia to middle- and even high-income status. For states where capitalist development is not a viable pathway (e.g., small island developing states), the banks still promote this rather than sustainability and wellbeing. The World Bank’s leadership in development thinking over the decades has been questioned because so many Asian experiences contradict the neoliberal ideology (Wade 2006, George and Sabelli 1994). After one maverick chief economist, Joseph Stiglitz, encouraged the Bank to consider an augmented or ‘post-Washington Consensus’ view of development (Engel 2010), the Bank briefly abandoned heterodoxy. This followed the mid-2010s fall in commodity prices and the re-emergence of debt crisis (Güven 2018). The novelty of a 2012-19 Bank president who was a once-leftist NGO leader and medical anthropologist, Jim Yong Kim, soon wore off, and public-private partnerships – especially with Wall Street investment banks – took priority. And partly due to competition with Chinese state capital in poorer countries, infrastructure regained a predominance in Bank lending patterns during the 2010s.
Third, MDBs are structured much like private banks with the main difference being that their shareholders are members of the interstate system. Some MDBs also have other development bank representatives as board members and a few non-state members. The richest states have the largest shareholdings in most MDBs and hence the most say because votes are closely linked to shares. Despite rounds of reforms aiming to balance ownership quotas at the Bank (and IMF), most recently in 2015, the US (17.4 per cent), Japan (6.5 per cent) and Europe still dominate, although China is now the third largest shareholder (6.4 per cent).
The World Bank and IMF suffer a democratic deficit and lack of meritocracy, because most borrowing states have little say in the two institutions. Although management personnel from poorer countries – albeit mainly with status quo perspectives – are found in the second and third tiers of power, the tradition that top leaders are respectively from the US and Europe has not yet been seriously challenged. Excessively slow reform of the Bretton Woods Institutions was one reason China decided to establish a new bank, the AIIB, of which it is the largest shareholder. The NDB is an exception to the weighted shareholding system as the five founding states having equal shareholdings, though this may change if other states join. The BRICS also initiated a $100 billion ‘Contingent Reserve Arrangement’ (CRA) in 2014 at the same time the NDB was announced, with a wealth-biased shareholding (e.g., China offering the CRA notional reserves amounting to $41 billion, South Africa $5 billion and the other three $18 billion each). However, even in the worst days of the Covid-19 crisis when South Africa’s finance minister claimed to require a $4.3 billion IMF loan, nothing about the CRA was ever mentioned and it seems to have disappeared from once-celebratory accounts of BRICS alternatives.
Fourth, MDBs raise most of their funds from private capital markets and on-lend them at a small margin. This means their actions are profoundly shaped by the analysis and views of rating agencies and private investors (Bond and Brown 2020). But given the ratings agencies’ exceptionally dubious track records – e.g., in their investment-grade ratings of Lehman Brothers and AIG just before both collapsed in 2008 – should they be trusted? To protect its AAA credit rating, in the midst of the Covid-19 crisis in 2020, the Bank refused its borrowers debt cancellation – preferring mere deferment of payments. Its middle-income borrowers, meanwhile, suffered an average ‘Ba2’ credit rating but rarely fell behind on payments, so Moody’s Investors Service (2020) was impressed with ‘only 0.2% of total outstanding development assets qualifying as non-performing over the past three fiscal years.’ The Bank’s callable capital was then a comfortable 1.14 times the amount of the Bank’s total outstanding debt and it had just issued $54 billion in medium- and long-term securities in 2019, borrowing at the world’s cheapest rates (Bond and Brown 2020).
Ratings agencies’ analyses of MDBs focus on the creditworthiness of their major shareholders and the volume of their paid-in capital to the banks, because they would be responsible for paying out most of the callable capital should it be required (Humphrey 2014, Ben-Artzi 2016). MDBs without rich states as shareholders have found it difficult to access financial markets, which has constrained their growth. In some cases, rich states were admitted and even allowed to dominate, so as to facilitate asset growth, e.g. the African Development Bank. In such cases, MDBs place conservative banking priorities above other ideals to remain afloat ‑ a point too often missed in analysis of their developmental ideologies and investment agendas (Engel and Bazbauers 2020). Even one of the five leading NDB officials, Leslie Maasdorp (2020) acknowledged the influence of credit rating agencies over an institution which had a strong state-donated capital base:
I think we recognized in 2015 when we started here, as we studied the business model of the multilateral banks in general, we recognized how central and critical a very high credit rating is to the effective functioning of the institution. So we really sought to create a triple-A institution from scratch. And how do you do that? You mirror and create a balance sheet that looks like a triple-A institution.
Fifth, MDBs mostly still fund individual projects, and project quality is a problem (George and Sabelli 1994). The model for project lending established by the World Bank’s (2012) Articles of Agreement is to only lend where the project cannot otherwise find support through the market. In that sense, such MDBs always fund second-best projects, or projects that require interest rates artificially lower than market rates to make them viable. Further, MDB projects are often large and complex, and infrastructure in particular is prone to cost overruns, shortfalls in the promised benefits, or inadequate costing of social and ecological damage. This means many projects are more a case of ‘survival of the unfittest’ (Flyvbjerg 2009). State-led big infrastructure projects involve multiple layers of principals and agents, often with different objectives opening up space for delusion, deception or even corruption (Flyvbjerg, Garbuio, and Lovallo 2009). Displacement of local residents, or ignoring their concerns in public participation processes, are typical problems. MDB financing of mega-projects amplifies existing power relations in a society and economy, no matter how skewed these are.
The main beneficiaries of MDB procurement have historically been core capitalist states and their corporations: the US, Germany, Japan, the UK, France and Italy. By the mid-2000s, private and parastatal firms from China, India and Brazil emerged as major beneficiaries, especially in civil works contacts (Bracking 2009). Around this time, more attention was paid to corruption, with blacklisting of guilty firms increasingly common. Still, the process left much to be desired, as in 2010 the Bank’s largest-ever loan – $3.75 billion to the South African electricity supplier Eskom for a coal-fired power plant – was bedeviled by a bribery-type relationship between the main beneficiary (Hitachi) and the country’s ruling party, which led to successful US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) prosecution of the former in 2015. Civil society groups had warned the Bank president not to lend for this project, but Robert Zoellick was politically inclined to do so, and taxpayers and Eskom customers subsequently repaid the tainted loan, instead of the Bank taking lender liability. The Bank’s “Vice President: Integrity” at the time was a South African political apparatchik from the ruling party, and he turned down a 2015 request by the country’s lead opposition party to follow the US FCPA lead and investigate the massive loan’s obvious corruption. Nor did the Bank’s Inspection Panel agree to intervene after communities and environmentalists offered well-documented critiques of Medupi’s local ecological damages (Bond 2014).
Sixth, MDB macroeconomic ideology remains suffused with neoliberal dogma. As the 1980s Third World Debt crisis followed the Paul ‘Volcker Shock’ – the US Federal Reserve chair’s tripling of interest rates, leading to foreign debt repayment problems that threatened the world’s largest commercial lenders – the MDBs provided budget support to desperate borrowers. The new MDB funding essentially bailed out the commercial banks. Morevoer, structural adjustment lending came with excessive ‘Washington Consensus’ conditionality, following ‘ten commandments’ promoted by John Williamson (2004): fiscal discipline, public expenditure reorientation, more reliance upon value added taxes and lower marginal income tax rates, higher interest rates, a lower currency valuation, liberalized trade and foreign investment, privatization, deregulation and stronger property rights. An attempt to introduce a post-Washington Consensus by then World Bank Chief Economist Joseph Stiglitz (1998) failed to stick and he was fired shortly thereafter. Although neoliberal ideology was discredited by the 2007-09 world financial meltdown and then went into (another temporary) retreat in some Global North settings due to COVID-19, which required dramatic fiscal and monetary loosening, it prevails elsewhere. In most poorer and even middle-income countries, austerity was imposed from 2021 onwards, withwell-worn Washington Consensus ideological conditions attached to World Bank and IMF pandemic lending (Glennie 2021, Bretton Woods Observer 2021).
Seventh, MDB loans add to countries’ debt burden, and their loan terms are not particularly concessional once currency mismatch is considered. The MDB share of developing country debt grew significantly after the outbreak of the 1980s Debt Crisis, as public banks took on the debt collection role of private banks through structural adjustment loans. Only with the highly-delimited Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative of 2005 (based on Washington Consensus prerequisites) was there even partial Global North write-down of unrepayable liabilities (Bond 2006). Long-standing complaints from organizations like the Jubilee South and pro-democracy movements about ‘odious debt’ taken out by prior dictators and still owed to MDBs and the IMF were ignored. Debt relief was terminated in 2015 even though developing country debt was again on the increase (Culpeper and Kappagoda 2016).
Many MDBs expanded their capital base and loan portfolios from the mid-2000s, especially after the 2007-09 crisis. For example, IMF recapitalisation, Special Drawing Right issuance and new borrowing powers raised nearly $1 trillion, reviving that institution’s prior influence. The Bretton Woods twins acquiesced to the emergence of the two new MDBs, the AIIB and NDB, which further expanded the total capitalization of MDBs looked at as a group. At the World Bank, Kim’s late-2010s ‘Maximising Finance for Development’ strategy aimed to leverage billions of dollars of MDB lending into trillions via hedge funds, private sector pension funds and the like, confirming that the ongoing Washington Consensus was also a Wall Street one. This expansion of debt relations took place in a context where there is still no orderly or humane mechanism for dealing with debt default or accountability for what should be lender liability (Soederberg 2006). The debt build up in emerging markets and developing economies from 2010-2018 was, according to World Bank researchers, the ‘largest, fastest and most broad-based increase’ ever (Kose et al. 2020, 111). The World Bank and IMF have been publicly warning about debt repayment capacity, especially in several African countries.
Yet the MDBs are banks and not donor agencies, and so if the valid warning by Maasdorp (2020) about inappropriate currency alignment was taken seriously, they would be faced with much lower levels of lending opportunities:
Given the Covid-19 crisis in the world we’re in today, it reinforces the need to ensure that there’s debt sustainability when a country – or a state-owned enterprise – has debt in a hard currency like US dollars or Euros. As their currency depreciates their cost increases. In other words, their overall indebtedness increases as they have to pay back more in their local currency and also as you know, many infrastructure loans, the actual infrastructure, the revenues are generated typically in local currency so you always have this foreign exchange mismatch which borrower countries have grappled with over the years.
The New MDBs
The 2010s rise of the BRICS and the establishment of two new MDBs fueled debate among scholars of international relations about potential reforms of global governance, including in financial markets. The Trump era (2017-20), Brexit and the rise of far-right leadership in several middle-tier countries (notably India, Brazil, the Philippines and Hungary) suggested that in contrast to the long period of fused neoconservative and neoliberal international leadership by the US and its allies (1980s-2010s), power within and between states had begun to shift. However, the idea that the BRICS would disrupt structural injustices imposed from the Global North was soon disabused, as they mostly became ever greater beneficiaries of, and participants in, the global capitalist order (Thakur 2014). While the three primary-product exporters – Russia, Brazil and South Africa – suffered from the peak and decline of the commodity super-cycle in 2015, and Russia was subject to sanctions for its annexation of Crimea, neither they, China nor India challenged global power. Moreover, the AIIB and the NDB facilitate the stabilization and integration of borrowers into global capitalism (Robinson 2014). Indeed, the BRICS can be understood as sub-imperialist powers that, as Ruy Mauro Marini (1965) first posited with respect to Brazil, facilitate imperialism’s expansion through newly-relegitimized and better-financed multilateralism. As David Harvey (2003, 185-6) pointed out, sub-imperial states and capital seek ‘spatio-temporal fixes’ (escape routes) for their ‘own surplus capital by defining territorial spheres of influence,’ within the imperialist order.
The BRICS have regularly articulated their dissatisfaction with the slow process of existing MDB reform, especially the informal provision that World Bank leadership is reserved for US citizens and IMF leadership for Europeans. Still, they only once offered alternative candidates – in 2012 when Zoellick was not reappointed. But South Africa promoted a Nigerian, Brazil promoted a Colombian and the other BRICS supported Kim’s appointment, thanks to horse-trading with the Barack Obama administration, even though the US candidate was objectively unqualified compared to the competitors. Notably, when Trump nominated David Malpass – a neoliberal, climate-denialist, renowned China-basher and former Bear Stearns chief economist who predicted in 2007 that financial markets would not suffer turbulence (shortly before Bear Stearns went bankrupt) (Malpass 2007) – to replace Kim in 2019, the BRICS acquiesced, failing to nominate an alternative.
Given the failure to reform either leadership or systems at the Bretton Woods institutions, there was initial hope that a new MDB, the Bank of the South would accompany the ‘Pink Tide’ of Latin American governments from 1998 when Hugo Chávez’s successful Venezuelan presidential campaign launched the idea. Chávez and Argentine leader Néstor Kirchner promoted the Banco del Sur in 2006, gaining endorsements in 2007 from other regional presidents Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (Brazil), Rafael Correa (Ecuador), Evo Morales (Bolivia), Nicanor Duarte (Paraguay), Tabaré Vázquez (Uruguay) and even right-wing Álvaro Uribe (Colombia), as well as Stiglitz. Former Ecuadorian Minister of Economic Planning Pedro Páez attempted to introduce into its provisional articles of agreement several important innovations in eco-social project assessment criteria as well as trade financing to support the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) Peoples’ Trade Treaty. However, the bank’s $20 billion capitalization never appeared, and its champion Chávez died in 2013.
When the two new MDBs of the BRICS and China were established in 2014-15 it was along the lines of the old MDBs. They have similar goals and language to the World Bank’s and Asian Development Bank’s founding charters but also claim to focus on infrastructure and sustainable development, as recommended by NDB advisors Nicolas Stern and Stiglitz (2011), though do not mention poverty reduction. The new NDBs conform with the ‘GDP-centred, Northern-development-model approach,’ as former ActionAid MDB analyst Sameer Dossani (2014) complained. Indeed, as Stern explained in an unguarded revelation, he hoped that the NDB would tie down member governments to more responsible partnership arrangements with Western corporations:
If you have a development bank that is part of a [major business] deal then it makes it more difficult for governments to be unreliable... What you had was the presence of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) reducing the potential for government-induced policy risk, and the presence of the EBRD in the deal making the government of the host country more confident about accepting that investment. And that is why Meles Zenawi, Joe Stiglitz and myself, nearly three years ago now, started the idea. And are there any press here, by the way? Ok, so this bit’s off the record. We started to move the idea of a BRICS-led development bank for those two reasons (Stern 2013, emphasis added).
Reflecting such pressure, the new MDBs adopted similar structures to the old ones. For example, they have limited paid in capital, so are reliant on capital markets to raise funds. Appointments of governors and staff to the new MDBs follow the old model insofar as they comprise largely of neoliberal economists, ex-bankers, or staff who have worked at other MDBs and are thus socialized into the epistemic community (Haas 1992). To illustrate, two initial lead South African appointments to the NDB were Vice President Maasdorp, who had been a key privatizer of South African state assets and an employee of major Western banks; and Tito Mboweni as a Director, at a time he was international advisor to Goldman Sachs, after having been celebrated as Euromoney Central Banker of the Year in 2001 and 2008 (in both years, the local currency collapsed by 30 percent in spite of extremely high local interest rates). There are undoubtedly staff in MDBs concerned about poverty and sustainability, and who are opposed to mindless privatization, systemic corruption and illicit financial flows – but there appear to be many more who are ideologically commitment to neoliberal models (Bond 2020).
However, a new banking reality has indeed dawned with acknowledgement of climate crisis, as expressed by Maasdorp (2020): “You’re going to see a much stronger and deeper focus on climate finance and on sustainability going forward and in our capital markets activity. We certainly intend to be much more active under our sustainable finance policy framework in terms of the issuance of green social sustainable and even blue [ocean-related] bonds into the future.” Stern and Stiglitz (2011) suggested the same agenda.
Both new MDBs have not only environmental but also social safeguards or frameworks – at least on paper. The AIIB’s Articles of Agreement refer to such policies, and the NDB postures that its Compliance Officer takes these into consideration, and has ‘zero tolerance’ for corruption, despite all evidence to the contrary (Bond 2020). Constructivist analysis explains the expansion of such safeguards and accountability mechanisms across the MDBs (Park 2014). But if done properly, with strong civil society watchdogging, such safeguards would threaten national sovereignty, which both the old and new MDBs need to respect to ensure ongoing borrowing. So there has been very little real progress in ensuring better accountability and even transparency. As Humphrey (2016) pointed out, typical MDB safeguards sidestep national frameworks and do not challenge local practices and power structures, which often feature elite arrangements damaging to local human and environmental wellbeing. Both old and new MDB safeguards are therefore often merely tokenistic one-size-fits-all policies, with insufficient political power and financial resources to make any difference.
As pointed out by various NGO watchdogs – NGO Forum on the ADB, the Bank Information Centre, the Bretton Woods Project and Inclusive Development International – project-affected communities find MDB processes extremely frustrating. They typically lead to limited reparations for harm and unsatisfactory meagre reforms, rather than the wholescale rethinking of megaprojects and recalibration of development philosophies that are required. If the safeguard systems were to mature, they would need to be expanded to projects funded through the MDBs’ financial intermediaries (e.g., national banks that on-lend to small and medium enterprises or to a particular sector). In the case of the AIIB, such on-lending comprises a significant percent of the bank’s portfolio. Watchdogs have also criticized financial intermediary lending that includes fossil fuel investments.
Like the old MDBs, the AIIB and NDB suffer from challenges with project quality and corruption, and they push countries into a neoliberal export orientation, in part because the MDBs frequently lend in inappropriate currencies. For example, the first four loans of the NDB to South Africa were US dollar denominated. They were for: 1) linking privatized renewable energy producers to the South African power grid (which Maasdorp admitted to Euromoney in 2019 was delayed by corruption); 2) expanding the Durban port (also curtailed by corruption within a few months of its announcement in 2018); 3) a major loan to Eskom for the same corrupt coal-fired power plant for which Hitachi had bribed the ruling party; and 4) an untransparent loan to the Development Bank of Southern Africa to on-lend to municipalities (Bond 2020). These loans were all capable of being financed with local currency and all were granted without a hint of community consultation. They demonstrate that South Africa’s new democratic leadership follows in the footsteps of apartheid (World Bank-financed) institutions, insofar as the ‘extractivist’ priorities are identical: an overreliance on coal-fired electricity, which provide subsidized power to Western and BRICS corporations’ operations (while households regularly suffer disconnections due to inability to pay). These economic structures lock South Africa further into a world economy which does not pay fair value for its non-renewable mineral resources (Bond 2018, 2020).
The new MDBs tie borrowers into transnational corporate networks and inappropriate hard-currency debt repayment no less than old MDBs do. The AIIB and NDB have memoranda of understanding with the World Bank and other MDBs so as to share lending strategies, staff and project co-financing opportunities. Partly this serves to win the confidence of the all-important credit rating agencies (Bond and Brown 2020). Partly, though, the mindset of the new MDBs mirrors the old. While the larger older-generation MDBs generate reams of extremely biased research output and project evaluations far more sophisticated than the new MDBs, there is no reason to expect that the AIIB and NDB will differ in any substantive ways when it comes to knowledge production. This was evident when both old and new MDBs united to offer and implement highly inappropriate COVID-19 financing.
The COVID-19 pandemic hit many of the world’s poorest and middle-income countries just as hard as it did the US, Great Britain, Italy and other rich countries that were unprepared for economic lockdown, social distancing requirements and severe health system stresses. In many of those rich countries, governments dispensed with some neoliberal precepts during 2020 in order to cushion the blows of lockdowns. The ‘fiscal space’ to do so in other countries was far less, however, so the World Bank and IMF roles were suddenly amplified, especially as a new round of debt crises caused a half-dozen sovereign defaults in 2020 alone, and enormous pressure to adopt austerity programs.
The World Bank committed to lending $160 billion to help states address the pandemic (including $12 billion for vaccines) from June 2020- June 2021 and other large MDBs promised a further $80 billion. The first borrowers were Lebanon, Cabo Verde, Mongolia, and Tajikistan. But the central contradiction, according to Oxfam (2020) was class bias, insofar as ‘just 8 of the 71 World Bank COVID-19 health projects include any plans to remove financial barriers to accessing health services’ (Oxfam 2020, 6). Oxfam found that two thirds have no plans ‘to increase the number of health workers, and that the 25 projects which do, have substantial shortcomings’ (Oxfam 2020, 7). The Kampala-based Initiative for Social and Economic Rights argued: ‘countries like Uganda that already borrowed to mitigate the pandemic can’t afford more loans. The World Bank in true solidarity should only provide grants to support COVID vaccination and strengthen public health systems, which are the first point of call for the poor’ (Bretton Woods Observer 2021).
Instead, the Bank lent and – along with G20 countries (representing rich and middle-income powers) – was reluctant to cancel debt. It endorsed the World Health Organisation’s Covid-19 Vaccine Global Access (Covax) project in April 2020, which uses donor funds to purchase vaccines from private firms (especially AstraZeneca) on the open market and pass these to poor countries. But that left Covax subject to artificial market distortions and to outbidding by rich countries, which obtained far greater quantities of vaccines at high prices, e.g. Canada had by early 2021 had reserved vaccines sufficient for five times its citizenry. In a system described as vaccine apartheid, the Northern countries enforced Trade Related Intellectual Property System (TRIPS) rules to prevent local generic production of vaccines in poor countries, something achieved two decades earlier with AIDS medicines. A waiver request from South Africa, India and more than one hundred other countries was rejected, and the next step proposed is ‘vaccine passports’ to regulate international migration, again favoring rich countries’ citizens.
In this context of extreme global-health injustice, World Bank President David Malpass prioritized working with private health care. A contrasting strategy would have been what a respected NGO watchdog, the Bretton Woods Project (2021, 2) suggested: ‘support for enhanced distributed local production, the TRIPS waiver and… vaccine pricing… [to] address the costs and other structural barriers associated with the vaccination efforts.’ Bank lending for status quo politics could ‘exacerbate the debt load of some countries’ due to increased ‘borrowing to fund vaccine purchases and cutting essential services or support for vulnerable communities, while pharmaceutical companies continue to reap the rewards’ (Bretton Woods Project 2021, 2).
Addressing poor countries’ foreign exchange shortages, the World Bank did make front-end grants through the COVID-19 Fast Track Facility (though these were typically followed by loans). It also helped develop the G20 Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI) through which eligible countries can temporarily suspend (not repudiate or cancel) some bilateral – not MDB – debt repayments. But again, the conditionality of Bank lending included what the Bretton Woods Project (2021, 2) termed ‘the financialisation of healthcare. The Bank’s failed Pandemic Emergency Financing Facility bond is a clear case in point.’
As for MDB financing to the health sector, the World Bank has contributed to decades of under-investment in clinics and hospitals. From the 1980s, healthcare was typically among the social spending commitments poor countries had to cut, often accompanied by Bank conditionality pushing private-sector health provision. By the early 2000s, with much of the damage to public primary health care done, the Bank identified a minimal package of public health services covering a fraction of the disease burden for those that could not afford private insurance. The results in most countries include non-universal, fragmented health systems comprised of: (i) government-run health infrastructure and health workforce systems; (ii) bilateral and multilateral donor-funded projects and programs; and (iii) often quite substantial private health care services that focus on wealthy patients in urban areas (Schneider et al. 2006).
In a majority of Southern states, most hospital beds are located in the private system. The pandemic underscored this system’s profound weaknesses, such as the lack of coordination between the different parts of the system, the financial vulnerability of some private providers, and private providers which were unwilling to accept COVID-19 patients for treatment, without receiving price ‘premiums.’ In short, World Bank and other MDB funding to the health sector during the pandemic may serve private health care profits, leaving the health needs of many poor people unserved, especially in rural areas (Engel, Madkour, and Williams 2020). The poor will likely, as in the past, be left paying for debts that have not benefitted them.
Finally, the World Bank is also imposing what can only be described as neoliberal conditionality on other COVID-19 loans. Malpass (2020) called for structural reforms to end ‘excessive regulations, subsidies, licensing regimes, trade protection or litigiousness as obstacles...’ which exacerbates corporate domination of poor countries. As just one example, Ecuador (one of the countries that defaulted on debt in 2020) received three Development Policy Loans (formerly known as Structural Adjustment Loans) of $500 million each. While they do contain provisions for expanding social protection, they increase ‘targeting of the poor,’ which has a divisive impact compared to universal treatment plus cross-subsidization. But the main objectives of the loans are government fiscal consolidation, including cutting staffing and advancing private sector participation through reduced regulation. The loan documentation encouraged public-private partnerships, removing ‘distorting labour market regulation’ (i.e. wages and conditions for workers) (World Bank 2020b, 6), and expressed concern about regulation that gave the government a higher share of oil revenue as it supposedly ‘discouraged foreign direct investment’ (World Bank 2020a, 4).
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On 3/4/2022 6:50 AM, Bond, Patrick wrote:
(Open inter-state support for Putin is down to Belarus, North Korea, Eritrea and Syria. Bolsonaro supported the Western critique of his mate, surprisingly; but the three other BRICS abstained in the UN vote, although South Africa remains ‘on the record’ in calling for Russia to recall troops.
Below, this first writer’s BRICS-wobble is not too surprising because he has come from the Western-realist traditions of geopolitical reporting. Still, his retreat from earlier pro-BRICS analysis is telling. I remember, in an eTV debate with him in 2018, defending the BRICS New Development Bank even after I outlined various cases of corrupt lending in South Africa, as a net positive.
Yet at the same time, the rump pro-Russian sentiment in the Zuma wing of the party continues, witnessed in the warrior tweets of the former president’s daughter/influencer Duduzile, and cartoons below which reflect a sense that Ramaphosa de facto gives Putin way too much diplo-space.
This is at least one time when the overall theory of sub-imperialism is stressed and maybe even negated, by the way in which the ‘antagonistic’ part of Ruy Mauro Marini’s ‘antagonist collaboration’ within overall global regime maintenance is degenerating into utter chaos. Some even say, it’s a case of “inter-imperial rivalry,” but I think that misjudges the power balance.
What’s certain is that Putin and his oligarchs’ - and citizenry’s - ties to the Western capitalist economy are quickly breaking under unprecedented financial and investor/trade sanctions. This is proving very expensive indeed to ordinary Russians. So while Putin retains power, we can expect no further ‘deputy sheriff’ powers of participation for the rogue regime within the standard multilateral-imperial institutions: the IMF-WB, WTO and most importantly for all the big Western/BRICS fossil-addicts, the UNFCCC, which persists in keeping us on a trajectory of planetary destruction with no evident political will to impose binding cuts on earth-threatening greenhouse gas emissions.
Meantime, sanctions will apparently hit Russian GDP this year, from an earlier projection of 2% growth to a 7% decline. That will help lower emissions a tad. But if Europe can kick their Russian meth addiction and stop Nord Stream 1 as well, this is all to the benefit of humankind’s survival... so long as it pushes them to renewable energy, instead of just LNG imports from yankee/UK Big Oil.
Most importantly perhaps, if Russia’s tiny anti-war and progressive social movements and maybe even labour get a boost from Putin’s over-reach and certain loss of power and prestige, all the better then. What a terrible cost it would come for, though, in Ukranian lives and infrastructure - part of which apparently now includes the largest nuclear plant in Europe, ablaze thanks to what appears to be Russian military carelessness.
And while threats to deploy Moscow’s nuclear weapons are also rising, there’s no BRICS diplomacy to inject an iota of common sense and decency, it seems. What a worthless club of tsostsis, the BRICS turned out to be.)
BRICS — has South Africa caught a monster by the tail and should it let it go?
03 Mar 2022 2
It didn’t take a Nostrodamus to predict that South Africa might be biting off a bit more than it could chew when in 2011 it joined the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India and China) to create the BRICS (in effect replacing the lower case ‘s’ with an upper case ‘S’).
South Africa was from the start clearly a tiny Gulliver venturing into the land of the Brobdingnags. At the time, most commentators focused on the huge disparity in the size of South Africa’s economy — about $387-billion in 2019, versus those of China — $15.5 trillion; India — $3.26-trillion; Brazil — $2.1-trillion; and Russia — $1.68-trillion.
But the more problematic disparity was really political rather than economic. It was the possibility that little South Africa and its democratic values could get stomped on by the geopolitical machinations of its much larger and undemocratic BRICS partners, China and Russia.
In a column for The Star in January 2011 entitled “Let’s face it: We are the dwarf among the BRICS” I asked, “Will membership of BRICS gravitate South Africa away from its democratic values, both at home and abroad?”
Others asked the same. Now that concern seems to be materialising as the South African government struggles to reconcile its higher principles with its BRICS solidarity while the Russian military juggernaut rolls across Ukraine. This dilemma should be prompting the government to at least examine whether its BRICS membership is really worth the price.
BRICs was originally just an investment concept invented by Goldman Sachs economist Jim O’Neil who suggested to his clients in 2001 that there was rich picking to be had in these four rapidly emerging markets which he predicted would dominate the world economy by 2050.
Perhaps inspired by O’Neill, the BRICs began to evolve into a club of like-minded nations, first meeting informally on the margins of the G8 and the UN. South Africa’s interest was piqued when the four BRICs leaders — Russia’s Dmitry Medvedev, China’s Hu Jintao, India’s Manmohan Singh and Brazil’s Lula da Silva — met formally for their first summit in June 2009 in Yekaterinburg, Russia (was it a mere coincidence that this was the city where the Bolsheviks murdered Russia’s last Tsar, Nicholas II and his family, in 1918?).
Though largely still devoted to economic issues, especially in the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis, at Yekaterinburg the BRICs began to assume a political identity too. In their summit declaration, the leaders called for a “more democratic and just multipolar world order based on the rule of international law, equality, mutual respect, cooperation, coordinated action and collective decision-making of all states”.
They also called for a “comprehensive reform of the UN” to make it more democratic and efficient and they supported the aspirations of India and Brazil “to play a greater role in the United Nations”.
Neither then nor later did Russia and China, the two permanent members of the UN Security Council, ever translate this vague support into explicit backing for the ambitions of India and Brazil, and later South Africa, to become permanent members in an expanded UN Security Council.
But South Africa liked the idea of a club of emerging and developing nations to counter what it lamented as the uncontested dominance of the United States and the West.
And so it campaigned vigorously to join and was finally admitted in late 2010, taking its seat at the next summit in Sanya, China, in 2011.
China and Russia’s refusal to support the bid of the others to UN Security Council permanent membership remains an important indicator of the hierarchy of power in BRICS and should be kept in mind as one observes the three democracies in BRICS — South Africa, India and Brazil — manoeuvring around the machinations of Russia and China.
Already in 2014, soon after it joined BRICS, when Russia invaded and annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula, South Africa was put on the spot, caught between its BRICS solidarity and the ANC’s struggle-era friendship with Russia on the one hand and its principled opposition to blatant aggression on the other.
And so in the UN General Assembly vote rejecting Russia’s seizure of Crimea and upholding the territorial integrity of Ukraine, South Africa abstained. The resolution was overwhelmingly carried by 100 nations voting for, with 11 against and 58 abstentions.
This week, nearly eight years later, when the General Assembly again debated another, even larger, Russian incursion into Ukrainian territory, Pretoria once again abstained.
This time the resolution, condemning Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and demanding its withdrawal, was carried by an even larger margin of 141 votes for, only five in favour and 35 abstentions. The voting this time was clearly driven by global outrage at the sight of Russian tanks, missiles and aircraft killing hundreds of civilians and destroying apartments, houses, schools and hospitals.
As so often in the past at the UN, the explanation of the vote, offered by SA’s ambassador to the UN Mathu Joyini, made a certain amount of sense at a certain level of abstraction and read out of context. She said the resolution was not helpful to the peaceful resolution of the conflict, mainly because it did not address the root causes of the conflict which were related to the security concerns of the two parties.
This was a reference to Moscow’s professed concern that if Ukraine were allowed to join Nato, it would jeopardise Russia’s security.
Yet Joyini nowhere criticised Russia’s invasion or called for Russia to pull out of Ukraine.
South African officials explained that the General Assembly was “completely one-sided” so SA could not have voted for it.
They recalled, however, that SA had already demanded that Russia withdraw from Ukraine, in a statement issued by the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) on 24 February — the day the Russian tanks crossed the border and missiles rained down.
These officials denied media reports that President Cyril Ramaphosa was unhappy with the Dirco statement, insisting that he and Dirco Minister Naledi Pandor were in complete agreement on it.
They noted that the statement demanding Russia’s withdrawal was still on Dirco’s website and so remained valid.
”We could hardly do otherwise,” one official said about that statement. “Whatever Russia may think, what else could we call this but war?”
All of these ambiguities and ambivalences suggest that Ramaphosa and his government are trying to have their cake and eat it; to stick to their basic principles while at the same time expressing solidarity with their BRICS partner Russia.
But it is certain that very few of the uninitiated understood the nuances. They demanded an unequivocal condemnation of Russia for the atrocities it was committing in the eyes of the world. Instead, they got pedantic nit-picking.
Abstinence in the face of important decisions has always been South Africa’s problem at the UN. When it took up its non-permanent seat on the Security Council for the first time in 2007, it outraged many of South Africa’s friends by abstaining from a vote condemning the Myanmar junta for human rights atrocities.
South Africa’s ambassador Dumisani Kumalo offered an arcane, nit-picking procedural explanation about how human rights issues were supposed to be dealt with by the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, not the Security Council in New York.
South Africa also followed a policy of automatically abstaining by default on any issue which entailed criticism of a particular country (with one or two notable exceptions such as Israel).
Then, on Lindiwe Sisulu’s watch as international relations minister, SA provoked an outcry when it abstained from a resolution condemning the Myanmar junta for atrocities against the Rohingya Muslim minority. Sisulu ordered SA’s UN ambassador to reverse his decision and condemn Myanmar. She also rescinded the automatic abstention policy, insisting that each decision on such sensitive decisions should be cleared by Pretoria.
Abstentions have continued, though not quite on the same scale. Western countries have been pleased to see South Africa occasionally voting against China and Russia, for example when Pretoria insisted that the Sudanese military should cede power after the ouster of Omar al-Bashir in 2019 and Russia and China refused to “interfere”.
That, though, was a far less sensitive issue than voting for this week’s resolution condemning Russia’s aggression against Ukraine would have been.
That would have taken courage and independence South Africa evidently could not muster. It would not have been alone if it had. Though China and India also abstained, Brazil — despite President Jair Bolsonaro’s Trump-like bromance with Putin, surprisingly joined the vast majority in voting to condemn Russia’s aggression.
On Thursday, journalists asked US assistant secretary of state for Africa Molly Phee whether South Africa would suffer consequences for abstaining. She said the US had no intention of parsing the vote and singling out individual countries.
Nonetheless, just a moment later in her virtual briefing with African journalists, she said Washington would look for ways to reward African countries that had supported the General Assembly resolution.
Ultimately, though, the vote was not about pleasing the US or any other country, but about South Africa’s reputation in the eyes of the world. When everyone was watching, it showed itself to be standing on the wrong side of history. The nation of Mandela lost a little more of its already tarnished magic.
And is BRICS worth this loss of reputation anyway? The bloc is not what it used to be. India is now led by a Hindu nationalist, Brazil by a populist right-winger. China’s Ji Xinping has assumed imperial ambitions. And Putin this week already manifested such ambitions. These are not obvious champions of the values BRICS was created to espouse.
Internal tensions are growing. Despite their BRICS solidarity, Indian and Chinese troops clashed fatally along their disputed border in Kashmir two years ago. South African officials reveal that they often have to mediate between the two countries inside BRICS. And they add that Russia often plays a double game in this standoff, sometimes backing its old ally India and sometimes its new ally China.
Economically, there is still the New Development Bank that has loaned South Africa billions of dollars for infrastructure and Covid recovery. But South Africa had to put billions in to join the bank to qualify for these loans.
Globally, BRICS seems to have lost its lustre. In 2015 Goldman Sachs, which invented the concept, closed its dedicated BRICS investment fund. That may have been a symbolic turning point. DM
How Putin is selling the lie
Pro-Russian simpering on social media is driven by the simplest of impulses: the desire for power. Populists and politicians long to live in a dictatorship where they are in ultimate control
03 March 2022 - 05:00 Chris Roper
South Africans have provided some truly ridiculous hot takes on the Russian invasion of Ukraine. In many cases, I had to double-check whether they were intended as satire or not.
One of the prime idiots on Twitter is former president Jacob Zuma’s daughter and chief bullshit artist, Duduzile Zuma-Sambudla — she of the Capitalise The Start Of Every Word To Illustrate The Ponderous And Plodding Nature Of What Passes For Thinking In My Head tweets.
But even by Zuma-Sambudla’s dismal standards, her pro-Vladimir Putin tweets are crazy. An early tweet shows a picture of the Russian president with the words: “My Leader … I STAND WITH RUSSIA!!!” Then, a pic of Putin being saluted by Russian soldiers, captioned: “We See You And We Salute You Leadership. Amandla!!!”
There are several in the same vein. One shows Zuma and Putin clinking wine glasses, smiling evilly (excuse the editorialising), with Dudu gushing, “We Love You Both LOUDLY And UNAPOLOGETICALLY SO… I’ll Drink To That!!!”
Indeed you will, Ms Zuma-Sambudla, indeed you will.
The Queen of Capitalisation doesn’t seem to realise that a neutral observer will construe that she’s baldly admitting Zuma is in the pocket of Russia, bought and paid for. She apparently really does think SA is a province of Russia.
Responding to a news story revealing that Russian forces had captured the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, she crows: “Halala Putin!!! We Are Led.” She has taken to saying goodnight to Putin (“You Are In Our Midnight Prayers Mr President”) and wishing him a cheery good morning (“Good Morning Mr President In You We Trust.”)
That last tweet is accompanied by a close-up of a smiling Putin wearing mirrored sunglasses. Reflected in the lenses is a mushroom cloud from a nuclear explosion.
As it is, Putin has ordered his nuclear forces to be put on “high alert”, which must really excite the counterfeit Ivanka no end.
The idea that people are dying in their hundreds doesn’t seem to occur to Zuma-Sambudla. It’s possibly a family trait — her father didn’t seem to mind that he was condemning millions of people to increasing poverty by selling SA to any and all bidders. If he’d held out for the highest bidder, I might have a fraction more respect for him.
For the Queen of Capitalisation, it’s all just a way to keep the good ol’ family business rolling. That would be the business of living off ill-gotten gains, and of evading any accountability whatsoever.
Though Zuma-Sambudlamight have the most pleasing oeuvre of buffoonery, she has some stiff competitors. As you’d expect, it’s the usual knee-jerk nonsense from both the RET (Russian Economic Transformation) remoras and their right-wing doppelgängers in the alt.white playpen. In each case, they’ve thought only about how to use a bloody war to advance their own parochial interests, rather than show any empathy with the people dying. In some cases, it’s almost laughably obvious.
The notorious “Man’s NOT Barry Roux” Twitter account (1.4-million followers and counting), tweeted: “Dear Vladimir Putin. I hope this letter finds u in good health. On Behalf of SA I would like to distance ourselves from [international relations & co-operation minister] Naledi Pandor’s statement on Russia & Ukraine conflict. Naledi is from Zimbabwe. Her real surname is Pumba, not Pandor. #worldwar3. Sincerely Your Boy.”
It’s ridiculous, but also chilling. Here is the thread binding together despots — actual and aspirational — and the hate speech that results in the killing of people defined as “not us”. And it is a global thread, as studies of the negative effects of American right-wing and QAnon mis/disinformation on the SA information landscape have shown.
The SACP, a bunch of intellectual midges who Karl Marx would sneer at, has chosen to parrot the Russian misinformation word for word, just in English.
For them, Ukraine is the occupying power of a Russian country, and what Russia is doing is liberation.
It’s instructive watching the SABC’s Peter Ndoro trying to patiently explain to the SACP that, uh, Russia is the country doing the invading. No, says the SACP’s Alex Mashilo, dressed in a fetching red EFF-like shirt, blinged up with a gold hammer and sickle badge, it’s not an invasion, it’s a military operation.
As you’d expect, the sudden love for Russia by the alt.white is exemplified by those masters of unethical marketing, the American conservatives. Tucker Carlson, the main stench in the Fox News burrow, provided a list of issues that our local alt.white losers will, I’m sure, leap at, when he rhetorically asked: “Has Putin ever called me a racist? Has he threatened to get me fired for disagreeing with him? Has he shipped every middle-class job in my town to Russia? Did he manufacture a worldwide pandemic that wrecked my business and kept me indoors for two years? Is he teaching my children to embrace racial discrimination? Is he making fentanyl? Is he trying to snuff out Christianity?”
The implication being that Putin is not our enemy, the woke mob is.
What it means:
Extremists on the Left and Right alike are using a deadly war to advance their own interests
From politicians andcriminal-adjacent propagandists, you expect this crassness. But it’s a little more distressing when it comes from journalists.
A recent TimesLive story carried the following blurb: “Forget Russia and Ukraine, Hollywood actor Tom Cruise has invaded the hearts of Hoedspruit locals with his stay in the area while filming Mission: Impossible 8.”
I don’t really want to lambast the author of this nonsense. The only reason you can’t find dozens of examples online of stupid things I’ve written over the years is that I had editors who scratched them out, and told me I was forgetting about the real world while trying to concoct pretty sentences. (Yes, before you point it out, you’ll definitely find some examples — but believe me, there could have been a whole lot more.)
The idea that the invasion of Ukraine, the killing of people and the destruction of a country is a fun metaphor for how a teeny Scientologist is making the people of Hoedspruit happy by waving to them is, of course, a spectacularly bad take. (TimesLive has since altered the story.) And yet the tie-in between the world of entertainment and realpolitik is not as tenuous as you might think.
By now, you’ll have read the stories about Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky’s past as a comedian. His last role was in a satirical TV show called Servant of the People, in which he played a high school teacher who becomes the Ukrainian president after his rant about corruption goes viral. That show apparently helped energise a real-life presidential campaign, which ended in him being elected president of Ukraine a month after the show’s finale.
You might even have watched the clip doing the rounds on social media that shows him competing in, and apparently winning, a 2006 Ukrainian version of Dancing with the Stars.
As with the invasion of Hoedspruit, the impulse is to humanise the adversaries, to make comprehensible the weight of the hard news. But if we do that, we risk softening the edges of nuance, and then we’re back to that age-old weapon of those who seek to divide us: reducing complexity to good vs evil, to us vs them.
Behind all the pro-Russia simpering is a very simple driver. The populists and politicians yearn to be living in a dictatorship that they control.
EFF leader Julius Malema, responding to the announcement that the EU has banned Russian propaganda outlets RT and Sputnik, plaintively wrote: “That time you are not allowed to ban eNCA, but they are allowed to do the same thing without so-called Sanef [the SA National Editors Forum] crying about media freedom. SIES!”
Poor guy. How he longs to be Putin.
By the time you read this, Zelensky and his family might be dead. Hundreds certainly will be, both Ukrainian and Russian. That’s the stark reality.
The way in which the narrow-minded egoists of the various factions of the Left and Right are shamelessly using the Russian invasion of Ukraine to push their narcissistic agendas is disgusting. They’re showing their true colours, which are those of the avaricious chameleon, changing as they see potential profit.
On 2/24/2022 10:28 PM, Bond, Patrick wrote:
(When bricks start to spall, there goes the wall, as in the pic at right.
Brazil, India, China and South Africa are facing a massive credibility crisis over Russia’s war on Ukraine.
There they go, collapsing inward and outward, with Brasilia’s schizophrenia most explicit: the military-sourced Brazilian Vice President calls the Russian neo-czar a “Hitler” and the far-right populist Brazilian President is unable to express criticism, having just last week hung out in Moscow with Putin. Modi’s stuck in similar quicksand, but at least is publicly trying to extricate himself.
And in spite of the frightened Globe&Mail correspondent’s analysis, Humpty Dumpty probably cannot be put back together again.
There are, still, myopic BRICS-from-the-middle analysts who make claims like this, at the SA Institute for International Affairs whose seminar yesterday was covered by Xinhua, below:
Sanusha Naidu, senior researcher at Institute for Global Dialogue concurred with other experts. She pointed out that while BRICS made progress in building institutions like Contingent Reserve Arrangement...
Ahem, that CRA is a total myth, it doesn’t exist. That’s why SA went begging for a $4.3 billion loan from the IMF 18 months ago.
And nor does any prospect of unity among these five sub-imperial tsotsi regimes, appear to exist.
So the alternative is to shame these thugs, as does the foundation set up by the late Desmond Tutu: “We further call on the African Union, BRICS economic block, and all other countries to consider the strongest possible sanctions on Putin’s regime, so that Russia will feel the full brunt of their violent action.” A nice fantasy, one at last we can agree with!)
‘They’re Playing Really Dirty’: Amazon Lashes Back in Staten Island Warehouses | Luis Feliz Leon | Labor Notes
Kevin Lindemann and Cathy Campo
Re: No, Left-Wing Opponents of War Aren’t Isolationists
toggle quoted messageShow quoted text
"After all, the criticism goes, we’re supposed to be “internationalists.” But if we’re willing to “abandon” the Ukrainian people by criticizing the US government coming to their aid — or, in earlier versions of this accusation, if we oppose the military “liberation” of Iraqis or Afghans — aren’t we showing ourselves to be not internationalists but “isolationists”?"
Completely dishonest. Apples and oranges. It is Russia engaged in the Bush-style "liberation" of Ukraine a la Iraq and Afghanistan. No-one on the left is arguing for a US invasion. But at present "coming to their aid" has simply meant providing weapons. Those arguing against this (or in the case of some Greek leftists. blocking it) are arguing for more Ukrainians being defenceless and getting slaughtered, and for total Ukrainian surrender to the terms imposed by Russian imperialism. Why don't they argue the same for Palestine - if the Palestinians would simply totally surrender to Israel's terms (remarkably similar to Russian terms), all would be OK.
I must say the ironic 'tankie pacifists' who argue that "more arms means more killing" etc are simply arguing for total Ukrainian defeat, and their pacifist arguments don;t make sense on their own terms, the argument is as illogical as malevolent. If warplanes are bombing my village or town and killing my children, my neighbours etc, and we have no weapons to fire at them, then that means a LOT MORE people get killed than if we are flush with high grade anti-aircraft missiles that can simply blow the warplane out of the sky, save the children's lives and allow them to enjoy a fireworks display. The tankie pacifists simply mean that more weapons in the hands of the defenders means more Russian troops die, not Ukrainian civilians.
On Fri, Apr 15, 2022 at 1:42 PM Charles Keener via groups.io <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
No, Left-Wing Opponents of War Aren’t Isolationists
No, Left-Wing Opponents of War Aren’t Isolationists (jacobinmag.com)
The Left’s opposition to wars allegedly fought for democracy or human rights isn’t tantamount to “isolationism.” Opposing war has always been at the heart of socialist internationalism.
As the Russian government’s criminal war in Ukraine continues, socialists in the US have forcefully condemned the invasion while focusing most of our energy on opposing the potentially catastrophic escalation in tensions between Russia and the United States. This in turn has resurrected a common accusation from the post-9/11 years — that in taking such a strong antiwar stance, the Left isn’t being true to our own values.
After all, the criticism goes, we’re supposed to be “internationalists.” But if we’re willing to “abandon” the Ukrainian people by criticizing the US government coming to their aid — or, in earlier versions of this accusation, if we oppose the military “liberation” of Iraqis or Afghans — aren’t we showing ourselves to be not internationalists but “isolationists”?
Absolutely not. Opposition to war and the militarism of our own government has always been at the heart of what leftists mean by “internationalism.”
The Secret of Ukraine’s Military Success: Years of NATO Training - WSJ
Today’s Wall Street Journal traces the strong links between the US-led NATO alliance and Ukraine, its de facto member and forward outpost, asserting that the ties were forged as a defensive response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.toggle quoted messageShow quoted text
But as Tony Woods writes in the latest New Left Review, the relationship goes back a decade earlier, to the "Orange Revolution” which brought Viktor Yushchenko to power.
"Alongside moves to integrate more closely with the EU, Yushchenko stepped up Ukraine’s push for full NATO membership”, Woods writes. "At the time, there was no popular mandate for such a course, and the Ukrainian constitution barred foreign military bases. But the Ukrainian government’s aspiration was approved at NATO’s Bucharest summit in April 2008, together with that of Georgia. The official communique stated flatly that ‘these countries will become members of NATO.’
“But the process was shorn of an explicit timeline in the face of objections to Ukrainian or Georgian membership from Putin. This was a key turning point, and one where the historically culpable role of the US in driving NATO expansion needs to be emphasized. Sufficiently aware of Russian concerns to hold back from offering Ukraine and Georgia an immediate path to membership, the Bush administration overrode French and German misgivings to insist that the process would advance all the same. This left the two aspirant states in a waiting room, with none of the supposed benefits of membership, while continuing to amplify Russian concerns."
* * *
The Secret of Ukraine’s Military Success: Years of NATO Training
To advance the approach, NATO introduced the idea of noncommissioned officers: experienced soldiers promoted to ranks of authority who serve as vital links between top brass and ground troops. NATO countries also helped Ukrainian military leaders adopt an approach called mission command, where higher-ups set combat goals and devolve decision-making as far down the chain of command as possible, even to individual soldiers.
Re: A Hunger Within the US Left for “Action” on Ukraine Is Driving Us Astray
"The left is not sufficiently empowered..." This is a defeatist argument if there ever was one. The left becomes empowered when it fights to lead just struggles that masses of people are involved in, or want to be involved in. The left will never be empowered by sitting on its hands when there is a crisis.
A Hunger Within the US Left for “Action” on Ukraine Is Driving Us Astray
A Hunger Within the US Left for “Action” on Ukraine Is Driving Us Astray (truthout.org)
In the absence of any viable alternatives, and hardly any decent media coverage, an entirely justified and deeply human sense of moral catastrophe is being funneled into unreasonable actionism — an “act first, ask questions later” approach to foreign policy.
Yet an honest appraisal reveals that the left is not sufficiently empowered to impose its political will. We should side with the brave journalists reporting the complexity and nuance that is required to understand the situation — or those who resign when doing so is impossible. It is also why we should support the peace protesters, the army deserters and the anti-imperialists in every camp. In that vein, we support the recent development of a transnational coalition of groups in a Permanent Assembly Against the War.
The notion that we need to support this or that capitalist bloc is but a symptom of the lack of an organized antiwar movement. Thus, the task of the left is not to choose sides amid inter-imperialist rivalry, but to raise mass consciousness regarding the history and present circumstances of international conflicts and to build a mass internationalist, anti-imperialist, antiwar movement capable of intervening on the side of peace, even when the ambitions of the world’s ruling classes demand bloodshed and war.
Russian Dissenters Are Helping Ukrainians Escape Putin’s War
Russian Dissenters Are Helping Ukrainians Escape Putin’s War (truthout.org)
Dissent looks different in Russia. It has to. Protesters are arrested for criticizing Vladimir Putin’s government. Under certain conditions like mass protests and arrests, prisons may enact fortress protocols to isolate prisoners from the outside world. As a result, detainees are denied access to lawyers and police can do as they please: threats, psychological pressure, physical abuse and torture are common allegations.
For Kultrab — a punk art fashion collective based in Russia — dissent is sometimes cynical, often underhanded. It’s hard to shop their online store without smiling — rainbow band tube socks with “FREE ROSSIA” on one band and “PUSSY RIOT” on the other, “Eat the Rich” on the heels. For the pandemic, a pink butterfly vulva face mask. A coffee mug with a child’s drawing of a smiling sun and orange flowers, “Fuck it” scribbled across the top. A long-sleeve leotard with a blurred hand extending an index finger telling you to be quiet. We are muted. You are muted. This is Russian dissent.
“Putin destroyed the independent press,” Alina Muzychenko, cofounder of Kultrab, says. “So we make our political message through branding.”
If Putin could force himself on Ukraine, Muzychenko, Eremeev, and a network of Russian expats reasoned, they could help Ukrainians escape. Their effort — Helping to Leave — started with three volunteers, Muzychenko, Eremeev and Yulia Lutikova, a 19-year-old Russian artist who moved to Tbilisi a year ago. Using the messaging app Telegram, Helping to Leave began collecting information from news sources, war zone maps and Ukrainians using the app, to provide safe, up-to-date information for Ukrainians who suddenly found themselves in a war zone.
Lutikova began collecting and publishing the aid and evacuation information the same day Russia invaded Ukraine. Muzychenko and Eremeev joined the next day.
Helping to Leave’s Telegram-based network has grown rapidly. In the beginning, volunteers and donors were mostly Russians. “Our first donation was from Russia. The Russians feel so ashamed and helpless that they were eager to donate,” Muzychenko explains.
Russian dissenters have begun displaying a white-blue-white flag — Russia’s flag without the red stripe. Emma Volodchinskaia, a Los Angeles-based volunteer, adds, “We take the blood off the Russian flag.”
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Corporate judge-shopping results in OK of Trump anti-worker rule | Mark Gruenberg | People's World
Kevin Lindemann and Cathy Campo
Don't forget the massacre of Jenin
Re: Very sophisticated defense of Russian actions by former NATO offficer
Well done, Michael!
I should point out that this text of Baud is promoted not only by
Stalinists but also Trotskyists like the IMT of Alan Woods. (https://www.marxist.com/nato-lies-exposed-former-agent-speaks-out.htm)
Am 14.04.2022 um 18:36 schrieb Michael Karadjis:
Students occupying the Sorbonne University in Paris
abraham Weizfeld PhD <saalaha@...>
Students occupy Sorbonne University as anger mounts at French elections
DDM: Of course Melancon should be in the presidential final in France. The responsible parties that took the necessary 2.3% needed to outvote the fascist party are: the French Communist Party, The Socialist Party and the Greens (those three together were each singularly responsible and collectively at 9%.
Students occupying the Sorbonne University in Paris (WSWS media).
On Wednesday afternoon, hundreds of students occupied the eastern wing of the Sorbonne University in the center of Paris. Students began the occupation after the Sorbonne administration took the anti-democratic decision to shut down an anti-fascist meeting and tried to lock out the students.
The occupation is an initial expression of opposition to the dead end of the French presidential elections, which has become a contest between the “president of the rich” Emmanuel Macron and neo-fascist candidate Marine Le Pen. In May 1968, a general strike that brought the capitalist state to its knees was triggered by a violent police assault on students occupying the same historic university building. Now, meetings are being organized at several French universities for students to decide on what action to take in the coming days.
The occupation arose from an anti-fascist meeting that was scheduled to be held in the university’s courtyard at 1:00 p.m. on Wednesday. Students taking part in the occupation told the WSWS that as people gathered to attend the meeting, the administration announced the meeting was not allowed to go ahead. Security guards then blocked off all entrances to the university, denying entry to hundreds of students.
In response, those students who had managed to enter the Sorbonne building held a general assembly in a lecture hall. There it was decided by those present to initiate an occupation of the main building on campus. After the occupation began, large numbers of students outside the building continued to try to enter throughout the afternoon but were continuously blocked by security guards. By early evening, around 300 students remained in the eastern wing of the Sorbonne and began receiving supplies from supporters locked outside.
Students occupying the Sorbonne University in Paris (WSWS media).
One speaker told the crowd: “We need to organize ourselves into action networks by district throughout France.” Similar general assembly meetings have been called at universities across the country in coming days.
A large amount of graffiti criticizing Macron and Le Pen, as well as the police, was visible on the walls of the university alongside a number of anarchist symbols.
The initial meeting was called by Coordination Antifasciste Inter-Universitaire (CAIU), who have since tweeted the occupiers’ “non-negotiable demands” to the Sorbonne president which were decided at a subsequent general assembly on Wednesday evening. These demands were for the cancellation of classes until Monday, student control over entrances to the university, allowing students to sleep on site, and the right of the occupation to continue until the second round of the presidential elections.
Students occupying the Sorbonne University in Paris (WSWS media).
The occupation and protests at the Sorbonne are part of a wave of actions taken by students and youth to oppose the “choice” between neo-fascist Le Pen and Macron, who has pursued fascistic policies throughout his presidency. At ENS Jourdan, also in Paris, and Science Po Nancy students have also occupied university buildings.
Students who have occupied the Logos building at ENS Jourdan since Monday published an article stating, “We refuse the possibility of ultra-liberalism and fascism in the second round.”
While so far, the police and gendarmerie have not intervened in the struggle, the development of the struggle will be closely watched by the state. Students who spoke to the WSWS pointed to individuals wearing plain clothes with earpieces in the area who did not seem to be associated with the university. This was in addition to dozens of security guards guarding the building’s entrances.
One occupier told the WSWS, “the occupation is to fight against Macron and Le Pen; these are two very right-wing candidates, and most of France is very left-wing. This is not reflected in the elections, so we have to take action.”
Two students outside the protest said they had come to the Sorbonne to try to join the protest as they “rejected the choice between Le Pen and Macron” and that they were particularly concerned by both candidates’ Islamophobic policies.
While the occupation was triggered by the result of the first round of the presidential election, it reflects the anger that has been mounting among students and youth over several years. During the pandemic, students have faced lost income, have lost countless family members and loved ones, and have been infected en masse by a highly dangerous virus because of Macron’s herd immunity policy. Job insecurity and Macron’s intention to “Americanize” universities through the introduction of exorbitant tuition fees has also caused outrage.
The university’s heavy-handed response to the students’ democratic right to hold a meeting reflects the ruling elite’s enormous fear of opposition among workers and youth. The level of class tensions in France and across Europe is extraordinary. With large sections of the working class and youth angry or embittered at the choice between the widely hated Macron and France’s foremost neo-fascist, French society is a powder keg.
Most students and young people’s instinctive desire to fight against the “choice” forced on them by the ruling class is a strong confirmation of the call launched by the Parti de l’égalité socialiste (PES) for an active boycott of the second round of the French election. This is the third time in the last 20 years that a fascist has reached the second round.
Millions of young people and students voted for Melancon on Sunday, hoping he would serve as a left-wing alternative to the continuous right-wing movement of the entire French bourgeoisie. His abrupt retirement on Sunday evening, before the final results had even been confirmed, shows that he is no ally of youth and workers in the class struggle. Despite having won the support of millions of workers and youth, Mélenchon ceded the battlefield to Macron and Le Pen.
Students currently engaged in or sympathetic to the occupations must expand their struggle. Workers and youth throughout France and internationally are facing the same issues of war, the pandemic and worsening poverty because of rapid inflation. The critical issue is for youth to turn to broader sections of the working class and to fight to mobilize workers against the rotten choice on offer in the elections.
DIRECT DEMOCRACY MOVEMENT - MOUVEMENT DE DEMOCRATIE DIRECTE
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الحركة الخضراء في الجماهيرية
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May the Great Socialist Arab Jamahiriya of Libya live.
The Revolutionist: Eugene V. Debs
The Revolutionist: Eugene V. Debs – Dandelion Salad (wordpress.com)
(287) The Revolutionist - Eugene V. Debs - YouTube
Alternately loved and reviled, Eugene Victor Debs was a passionate labor leader, a progressive political figure, and a formidable speaker in a time of great change in the United States.
WFYI’s documentary, The Revolutionist: Eugene V. Debs, tells the story of this Hoosier’s life. Born in Terre Haute in 1855, Eugene Debs emerged as a divisive figure when he led the nationwide Pullman Strike in 1894.
Seeking an alternative way for workers to gain power, he helped establish the Socialist Party in the United States and ran as its candidate for president five times. His campaign across the country drew massive crowds, and his oratory tested the limits of the First Amendment.
When he spoke out against America’s involvement in World War I, the Supreme Court upheld a guilty verdict that sentenced him to ten years in prison for violating the Espionage Act. From his cell, he ran for president for the final time, garnering nearly a million votes…and sparking a national conversation about the right to free speech.
The Revolutionist: Eugene V. Debs is narrated by actor Danny Glover and made its television premiere on WFYI Thursday, October 3, 2019.
Lyiv-based professor Volodymyr Dubovyk on the ongoing crisis in Ukraine
Russia Inflicts “Maximum Pain” as War Drags On, 11 Million Ukrainians Displaced | Democracy Now!
We speak with Lyiv-based professor Volodymyr Dubovyk about the ongoing crisis in Ukraine, where Russian attacks have displaced more than 11 million people, including two-thirds of Ukraine’s children. Russian forces “want to inflict the maximum pain on Ukraine,” says Dubovyk. President Biden described Russia’s actions in Ukraine as “genocide” on Tuesday, prompting State Department spokesperson Ned Price to say on Wednesday that international lawyers would have to determine whether Russia’s actions in Ukraine constitute genocide. Dubovyk says proving genocide is best left to experts, not politicians, but he rebukes French President Emmanuel Macron’s claim that Russia and Ukraine are incapable of such crimes because they are “brotherly nations.”
[Pchr_english] IOF Shoot and Injure 7 Palestinians, including 5 Students and University Security Officer During Incursion into Kadoorie University Campus in Tulkarm
abraham Weizfeld PhD <saalaha@...>
R E C O N C I L I A T I O N
C O N F ER E N C E
L I S T
قائمة مؤتمر المصالحة
since 1994 by the JPLO
Jewish People’s Liberation Organization
End Zionism & Judaeophobia
abraham Weizfeld Phd moderator-founder SaaLaHa@...
political declaration JPLO ( a Bundist chapter )
Sabra and Shatila (1984) 2009
The End of Zionism : and the liberation of the Jewish People 1989
Nation, Society and the State : the reconciliation of Palestinian and Jewish Nationhood
The Federation of Palestinian and Hebrew Nations
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H-Net Review [H-Early-America]: Sirota on Haefeli, 'Accidental Pluralism: America and the Religious Politics of English Expansion'
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Is there a battle between a pro-Imperialist majority in Anti-Capitalist Resistance and a Phil Hearse minority?
An open letter to Phil Hearse on Russia! by Anthony Brain
The majority of anti-Capitalist Resistance like James Burnham in 1940 have openly gone over to Imperialism by calling for NATO to arm Ukraine; for sanctions on Russia; and circulating statements from Imperialist thinktanks calling for "economic modernisation" within Russia. What they mean by "economic modernisation" is destroying any element of central planning and privitising what remains of nationalised industries.
Hearse effectively exposes Francis F's link to liberalism and Imperialist war crimes. Is Hearse partly in opposition to the ACR's rapid Imperialist turn? He then capitulates to Imperialism by supporting Putin to be tried by Imperialism. Putin's crime for Imperialism is that he blocked capitalist restoration and reversed some of the damage the Yeltsin wing of the Stalinist bureaucratic caste had done.
The ACR majority support forces to the right of capitalist restorationist Orban within Hungary who Imperialism does not like because despite being a capitalist has come under pressure of the ruling Stalinist caste to expropriate to a limited extent capitalist firms. For any Marxist it is the ruling class or caste in the degenerate workers' states which determine its class character and who rules society. Putin is a harderned Stalinist who represents the Stalinist caste. Orban is different to Putin in that he wants to restore capitalism. It is the Stalinist caste which prevents Orban doing this. That alongside workers resistance to market counter-reforms which make their lives worse.
I became a Marxist (which means Leninism-Trotskyism since 1903-5) since I have been 10 because it applied the formal logic of law of identity the similarity and difference of social phenomena and its living contradictions of contending class forces by understanding the laws of dialectical and historical materialism. I wrote a document in the ISG when I was 19 attacking the Stalinphobic majority who could not tell the difference in class character between fascism and Stalinism.
Hearse is saying quite correctly that ruling and middle class liberals support Imperialist wars. Is he digging at the ACR majority? In the past two years I have been writing on my blogs about the Communist Youth radicalisation across Europe. Last weekend I saw that in Bath and Richmond considerable number of 12 to 16 year olds are getting interested in Trotsky by watching a play on Animal Farm. On the French news they were discussing the history of French Presidential candidates since 1969 in the last few days. There are important battles by French workers to defend our democratic rights from fascist attempts to crush the organised working class around Le Pen. In this sort of Trotskyist or fascist polarisation and the danger of nuclear suicide by provoking Russia the workers and middle class need a more serious leadership. In the majority of cases 3rd campism reflects Imperialist social pressures. The ACR majority have drawn the logical conclusion of these class social pressures by joining the Imperialist camp.