Aletho News

ΑΛΗΘΩΣ

$65 billion in Western ‘aid for Ukraine’ is neither aid nor is it for Ukraine

By Drago Bosnic | May 20, 2022

In recent weeks, much has been said about the political West’s (primarily US) “aid” to the embattled Kiev regime. The US Congress has so far approved or is in the process of approving at least $54 billion to Ukraine. In addition, various reports put the amount of EU “aid” at up to €10 billion thus far, although the actual number is most likely orders of magnitude greater. When put together, this pushes the publicly acknowledged figure to a staggering $65 billion, which is equivalent to Russia’s annual military spending in nominal USD exchange rates.

The number seems rather impressive and may give an outlook that Ukraine will be able to defeat Russian forces. However, the situation on the ground says otherwise. With the political West’s postindustrial economy, their ability to mass-produce affordable and easily replaceable military hardware has increasingly been called into question. Thus, most of the “aid” from the US/EU is essentially a half measure. Throwing money at a problem is highly unlikely to resolve it, as actual situations require genuine, not monetary action.

The amount of hardware Ukraine lost so far is difficult to determine, as both sides provide diametrically opposing data, while independent confirmation from the ground is virtually impossible due to ongoing military operations. However, war footage taken by civilians, alternative media embedded with frontline troops, and soldiers themselves, clearly shows that Ukraine’s losses in manpower and equipment have been massive.

To replace lost hardware, the Kiev regime will require enormous resources. However, this will be quite challenging, as the country’s Military-Industrial Complex has been virtually annihilated by Russia’s long-range strikes. Thus, the regime will need to acquire additional military hardware elsewhere. The political West is the go-to address for this purpose, as Ukraine has been getting NATO weapons for years. Still, this hardware has had a limited impact on the battlefield. To change that, NATO powers decided to ramp up the so-called “lethal aid”.

However, in reality, the prospect of Ukraine getting the promised “aid” is rather grim. An obvious question arises, what will happen to nearly $65 billion? The first go-to address for such a question should be the US Congress. With the lawmaking body trying to fast track the deal, some US congressmen have voiced concerns that corrupt officials would be able to steal the “aid”, as was the case for decades during numerous US invasions across the globe. However, corruption and embezzlement, which geopolitical expert Paul Antonopoulos recently covered in a superb analysis, is the lesser problem in this situation.

Mainstream media have been portraying the political West as if it will be sending actual, physical money to the Kiev regime. However, nothing could be further from the truth. The funds will essentially stay in the “donor” countries. The largest share of those funds will officially be allocated to arming, or rather, rearming the Kiev regime forces. But who exactly, or more precisely, which companies will be producing weapons for the Ukrainian military? It’s safe to assume we all know the answer – the US Military-Industrial Complex, the largest and most powerful arms manufacturing cartel on the planet. Household names such as Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Boeing, BAE Systems, General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman, to name a few, will be getting the vast majority of those funds.

For instance, the “Phoenix Ghost” drones, manufactured by the California-based Aevex Aerospace and “Switchblade” drones, manufactured by AeroVironment, both designed to strike tanks and other armored vehicles, as well as infantry units. M113 armored vehicle is also being sent and while old, largely obsolete and not in production since 2007, it’s quite numerous, and getting rid of it will make way for the acquisition of its immediate successor, the AMPV (Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle), a turretless variant of the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, produced by the BAE Systems.

Another BAE Systems product is the M777 howitzer, a towed 155 mm artillery piece designed for direct fire support. Ukrainian troops are already using them, while recent videos released by the Russian military show some have already been destroyed in battle. Interestingly, the howitzers delivered to Ukraine lack digital fire-control systems.

The much-touted “Stinger” MANPADS (produced by Raytheon) and “Javelin” ATGMs (co-produced by Lockheed Martin and Raytheon) have been sent in the thousands. However, their effectiveness has been questionable at best, despite Western media trying to portray them as supposed “game-changers”. Russian tanks have been filmed surviving up to 7 “Javelin” hits, even continuing to fight, much to the frustration of Ukrainian forces, which have recently been ordered to stop publicly complaining about the lackluster performance of Western weapons.

Raytheon’s AN/MPQ-64 “Sentinel”, an X-band range-gated, pulse-Doppler radar used to alert and cue short-range air defense systems has also been sent. In addition, 40 million rounds of small arms ammunition, 5,000 assault and battle rifles, 1,000 pistols, 400 machine guns and 400 shotguns have been sent to Ukraine, along with more than 1 million grenades, mortars and 200,000 artillery rounds. These deliveries have been completed by early May. The actual number is most certainly much higher as of this writing.

The weapons in question are not changing the strategic balance between Russia and the Kiev regime, but are prolonging the fight, resulting in even higher military and civilian casualties. Also, logistics-wise, having so many different types of weapons creates a lot of problems for the Ukrainian military, which is barely holding together as it is. There are also issues of training and doctrinal incompatibility.

M777 howitzers are immobile when deployed and are designed with air dominance in mind. US troops are supposed to use them from a safe distance, serving as fire support by striking very specific targets during overseas operations, which is completely opposite to what is going on in Ukraine, where the other side (Russia) enjoys air dominance and uses massed artillery to punch holes in Ukrainian lines, followed by massive and well-coordinated armor assaults. Thus, US weapons not only fail in providing an effective counter to Russian troops, but are even getting Ukrainian forces killed, as they are still not accustomed to using them.

And last, but not least, the “aid” provided (and soon to be provided) by NATO countries are essentially long-term loans which will have to be repaid in the following decades. The WWII-era Lend-Lease program for the USSR, estimated at $160 billion in present-day USD, was repaid in full only in 2006. Thus, we can assume Ukraine will be paying off the current $65 billion “aid” for the rest of this century. That is, provided there will be a viable Ukrainian state to do so after the conflict ends.

Drago Bosnic is an independent geopolitical and military analyst.

May 20, 2022 Posted by | Corruption, Militarism | , , , | 1 Comment

The imminent global food crisis is being blamed on Russia, but the truth is rather more complex

Just-in-time supply chains and globalism may lead to global hunger

By Dr. Mathew Maavak | Samizdat | May 18, 2022

The ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict is undoubtedly impacting global grain supplies, as well as the means of growing crops around the world. But is the looming global food crisis solely Russia’s fault – as spun by the Western media machine?

Only a few months ago, Covid-19, government-imposed lockdowns and climate change were repeatedly blamed for this scenario.

A recent White House Joint Statement by US President Joe Biden and EU leader Ursula von der Leyen clearly singled out the supposed new culprit: “We are deeply concerned by how Putin’s war in Ukraine has caused major disruptions to international food and agriculture supply chains, and the threat it poses to global food security. We recognize that many countries around the world have relied on imported food staples and fertilizer inputs from Ukraine and Russia, with Putin’s aggression disrupting that trade.”

The concept of global food security these days appear as fleeting as Biden’s mnemonic prowess. It has been 12 years since the world was shaken by the Arab Spring, a series of events in which hunger played a significant role, and which, in turn, led to violent uprisings and yet-unresolved civil wars in Libya, Yemen and Syria. Big Tech, Western officials and influencers fuelled this mayhem in the name of ‘freedom and democracy’ but never proffered any concrete solutions. Instead, global hunger grew unabated, while its root causes were explicated through the lens of ‘climate change’ and ‘global governance’.

In the meantime, right at the doorsteps of the Tech giants, the streets of San Francisco were increasingly populated by the homeless and strewn with human faeces and discarded needles from drug abuse. Even a new urban art genre emerged in the form of poop graffiti! Nothing better represents the disconnect between the lofty promises and septic realities of Silicon Valley.

Here is something else for the reader to ponder: Contact-tracing technologies that were used to lock down societies were never trialled to connect the poor to nearby farmers markets, food banks and soup kitchens. A rational person cannot be blamed for suspecting that the intention all along was to eviscerate small-scale farmers, grocers and traders during lockdowns and thereby render citizens prostrate before governments and Big Business. As for technocrats who lap up the smarmy fantasies of the World Economic Forum (WEF), what lessons have they learnt since the fateful Arab Spring?

Here we look at two inexcusable failings of the purveyors of global governance. These are linked to the very issues which Biden and von der Leyen are using to scapegoat Russia.

National granaries

The Arab Spring and its bloody aftermath should have taught governments a lesson about the imperative of establishing new national granaries. Well-maintained facilities can store wheat and corn, amongst other goods, for more than 10 years. Individuals can extend this shelf-life to a whopping 31 years under proper conditions.

Grain stats worldwide also raise questions over government commitments to food security. Global wheat production, for instance, has steadily increased during the last decade. According to a Statista.com brief on Jan 27: “The global production volume of wheat came to about over 772 million metric tons in the marketing year of 2020/21. This was an increase of about ten million tons compared to the previous year. Wheat stocks is [sic] also estimated to increase to about 294 million metric tons worldwide by 2021.”

Dr. Mathew Maavak is a Malaysian expert on risk foresight and governance.

May 18, 2022 Posted by | Malthusian Ideology, Phony Scarcity | , | 1 Comment

EU unveils rationing plan

Samizdat | May 18, 2022

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced on Wednesday that the EU would raise its renewable energy targets and invest billions of euros in clean energy in a bid to break away from Russian oil and gas imports. Consumers will pay a price, however, with the EU’s plan including energy rationing and compulsory solar panels on homes.

Von der Leyen’s ‘REPowerEU’ plan would cut the EU’s reliance on Russian gas by 66% this year and eliminate it entirely by 2027, the bloc’s policy chief told reporters in Brussels.

Under the plan, the EU will increase its Energy Efficiency Target from 9% to 13%, and raise from 40% to 45% the amount of its power generated by renewables by 2030. At present, the EU sources 22% of its energy from renewables.

To achieve this, von der Leyen said that the EU would speed up the permitting procedure for renewable projects such as wind farms and would make €300 billion ($315 billion) available in grants and loans. Of this funding, 95% would be set aside for green energy, while 5% would be used to upgrade Europe’s gas and oil infrastructure to receive imports from sources other than Russia.

However, some of the immediate costs will be borne by consumers. According to the European Commission’s website, households and industry will be required to make “behavioral changes” – such as turning down air conditioning and switching off lights – to reduce demand for oil and gas by 5%. Furthermore, commercial and public buildings will be required to install rooftop solar panels by 2025, with these panels to be made mandatory on residential buildings by 2029.

Some individual member states have already asked their citizens to curtail their energy use. Germany, which depends on Russia for more than half of its gas and was already facing the world’s highest energy costs due to its flawed transition to wind power, has asked its population to shower less and swap their cars for bicycles in order to save costs.

With consumers across the EU already grappling with skyrocketing inflation and record fuel prices, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday that European countries are committing economic “suicide” by trying to wean themselves off Russian oil and gas, accusing them of caving to pressure “from their American overlord” without “paying any attention to the damage that they have already caused their own economy.”

May 18, 2022 Posted by | Malthusian Ideology, Phony Scarcity, Russophobia | | 2 Comments

EU to pay Ukraine’s budget

Samizdat | May 18, 2022

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Wednesday proposed an aid package of 9 billion euros ($9.5 billion) to keep Ukraine’s government running, and said that the EU would lead reconstruction efforts in Ukraine after hostilities cease. Her announcement came a day after the US called on Europe to open its coffers for Kiev.

Money for the aid package would be borrowed by the Commission on global financial markets and would be repayable by Kiev. As per the EU’s rules on macro-financial assistance, the Ukrainian government would be free to use the cash as it sees fit.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has claimed that Ukraine needs around $7 billion per month to pay its soldiers, civilians and pensioners, and to keep essential services running. The proposed EU package will therefore keep Ukraine functioning for just over a month.

Hours before von der Leyen’s announcement, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told the Brussels Economic Forum that “the bilateral and multilateral support announced so far will not be sufficient to address Ukraine’s needs, even in the short term.”

“I sincerely ask all our partners to join us in increasing their financial support to Ukraine,” she continued, adding that aside from keeping the country afloat in the short term, “massive support” would be needed to rebuild Ukraine once the fighting ends.

Von der Leyen said on Wednesday that the EU will lead this reconstruction effort, but would not be the sole contributor.

“That is why we propose a reconstruction platform as part of this plan jointly led by Ukraine and the Commission and bringing together EU Member States, other bilateral or international donors, international financial institutions, and other like-minded partners,” she said.

While von der Leyen’s aid package is in line with what Yellen requested, it must still be approved by both the European Parliament and European Council. However, none of the Commission’s aid packages to Ukraine thus far – which include four consecutive €500 million ($520 million) packages of military aid and €1.2 billion ($1.26 billion) worth of emergency loans – have faced any resistance from either body.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused EU leaders of acting on behalf of their “American overlord” with regard to Ukraine, and committing economic “suicide” by cutting themselves off from Russian energy resources amid inflation and record high fuel costs.

May 18, 2022 Posted by | Economics | , , | 3 Comments

EU Introducing ‘Suicidal’ Sanctions on Russian Oil and Gas Under Pressure From US Overlords: Putin

By Ilya Tsukanov | Samizdat | May 17, 2022

The European Union is introducing sanctions against the Russian oil and gas sector for “absolutely political reasons” and under pressure from the bloc’s American overlords, notwithstanding the impact on its collective economic competitiveness, Russian President Vladimir Putin has said.

“Rejection of Russian energy resources means that Europe will systemically become the region with the highest energy costs in the world. Yes, of course prices will rise and resources will go to this region, but it will not be possible to radically alter the situation. This will seriously – and according to some experts irrevocably – undermine the competitiveness of a significant part of European industry, which is already losing the competition to companies in other regions of the world,” Putin said, speaking at a meeting with officials devoted to energy issues on Tuesday.

Putin suggested that the Western political class had speculated “on the absolutely natural concerns of many people on the planet with climate issues,” downplaying the importance of traditional, hydrocarbon sources of energy, while simultaneously overestimating the effectiveness of alternative energy in filling the gap.

This, he said, helped to spark the current energy crunch that Western officials are now trying to blame on Russia.

“Today we see that for absolutely political reasons, due to their own ambitions and under pressure from their American overlords, European countries are imposing more and more sanctions on the oil and gas market. All of this causes inflation, and instead of admitting their mistakes, they are looking for the guilty party in another place,” Putin said.

“One gets the impression that our Western colleagues, politicians and economists have simply forgotten the foundations of the elementary laws of economics, or, to their detriment, prefer to deliberately ignore them,” Putin suggested.

“Obviously, together with Russian energy resources, economic activity will also be leaving Europe for other regions of the world. Such an economic auto-da-fe, or suicide, is of course the internal affair of European countries. We must proceed pragmatically and proceed primarily from our own economic interests,” he added.

Putin called on authorities to “act proactively” in light of the “ill-conceived and chaotic” decisions being taken by some of Russia’s Western “partners,” and to use them to Moscow’s advantage. He also warned that Russia should not expect the West to make such mistakes “endlessly.”

Putin promised that the Russian state would do “everything that depends on us” to create the proper conditions for the work of domestic energy companies, ranging from improving logistical capabilities to providing a system of payment in national currencies and improving the availability of credit and insurance services, to stimulating the processing of raw materials and the creation of new domestic technologies.

He urged Russian oil companies not to sit on their assets – including revenues gained from rising energy prices, and said that the changes currently being experienced by the global oil market have a “tectonic nature,” and that “doing business as before, according to the old model, of course, seems unlikely. In the new conditions, it is important not only to extract oil, but to build the entire vertical chain up to the end consumer.”

Countries worldwide have experienced economic shocks associated with rising energy costs over the past year, with the United States and the the European Union bearing the brunt of the burden, particularly after regional leaders began slapping sanctions and other restrictions on Russian oil and gas amid the crisis in Ukraine starting in February. Many EU countries depend on Russian gas for more 40 percent or more of their natural gas needs and a similar amount of oil. In the wake of the Russian military operation in Ukraine, the bloc has promised to replace supplies from Russia with fuel sourced from the US, Africa and the Middle East, and to ramp up investments in alternative energy. However, economists, businesses and opposition leaders have warned that these measures won’t save the region from a recession, a depression, or worse – its deindustrialization amid the intensifying global economic competition between China and the United States.

May 17, 2022 Posted by | Economics, Malthusian Ideology, Phony Scarcity | , | 1 Comment

Europe looks to Israel for natural gas

Samizdat | May 16, 2022

Deliveries of Israeli natural gas via Turkey to Europe are being considered as an alternative to Russian energy supply, Turkish newspaper Yeni Şafak reported on Monday.

“Israeli gas is considered as an option, its route is planned via Turkey, through the Eastern Mediterranean,” the paper reported, adding that, in case of such an agreement, “it is expected that the Turkish ship will be on duty during transmission periods.”

The report also highlighted that “focusing on deep-water drilling for the extraction of oil and natural gas from the seas, Turkey has included a fourth drilling vessel in its fleet.”

The new drilling ship, which left South Korea on March 7, is expected to arrive in Turkey on May 19. “A new generation ship that will serve in the Eastern Mediterranean, will begin its first mission in July after two months of preparatory work, it will facilitate deep-sea exploration and dredging in the Mediterranean,” the newspaper said.

The ship can reportedly operate at depths of up to 3,600 meters, and is capable of drilling up to 12,200 meters.

In March, media reported that a Turkey-Israel gas pipeline was being discussed behind the scenes as one of Europe’s alternatives to Russian energy. The idea, first conceived years ago, is to build a subsea pipeline from Turkey to Israel’s largest offshore natural gas field, Leviathan. Gas would flow to Turkey and on to southern Europe looking to diversify away from Russia.

Industry officials, however, have warned of production restraints and geopolitical factors that could leave the plan dead in the water. Lebanon has claimed that the gas field extends into its waters.

May 16, 2022 Posted by | Russophobia | , , | 2 Comments

What Sanctions? Russian Oil Revenues Soar 50%, Hitting A Record High

By Tyler Durden | Zero Hedge | May 12, 2022

And the sanctions hits just keep on coming.

A few weeks after we learned that Russia’s current account just hit an all time high thanks due to soaring commodity exports (just as the US trade deficit blew out to a record high on its own) we learned that contrary to the intentions of European countries, a calculation by a German think tank found that Russia’s oil and gas revenues hit a record high in April, rising to 1.8 trillion rubles in a single month, after 1.2 trillion in March, leading to the following stunning statistics “After only 4 months, Russia’s federal budget has now already received 50% of the planned oil and gas revenue for 2022 (9.5 trillion).”

Today, Bloomberg confirmed this stunning statistic and, citing the latest IEA report, writes that Russia’s oil revenues are up 50% this year “even as trade restrictions following the invasion of Ukraine spurred many refiners to shun its supplies.” Apparently the restrictions – which pushed the price of oil to the highest level in a decade and boosted revenue for oil exporters – is precisely what Putin was hoping for.

Moscow earned roughly $20 billion each month in 2022 from combined sales of crude and products amounting to about 8 million barrels a day, the Paris-based IEA said in its monthly market report.

As we have documented frequently, Russian shipments have continued to flow freely even as the European Union edges towards an import ban, and international oil majors such as Shell and TotalEnergies have pledged to cease purchases. Countering these self-imposed sanctions, Asia has remained a grateful and keen customer, with China and India picking up cargoes no longer wanted in Europe, and doing so at a huge discount to spot.

Even as Russia has kept oil output steady, reduced flows of Russian refined products such as diesel, fuel oil and naphtha have aggravated tightness in global markets, the IEA noted, echoing what we have said virtually every day for the past month. Stockpiles have declined for seven consecutive quarters, with reserves of so-called middle distillates at their lowest since 2008.

For all the disruption, Moscow has continued to enjoy a financial windfall compared with the first four months of 2021. Despite the EU’s public censure of the Kremlin’s aggression, total oil export revenues were up 50% this year.

Hilariously, despite all the posturing and rhetoric, the bloc remained the largest market for Russian exports in April, taking 43% of the country’s exports, the IEA said.

There is some hope yet that Europe’s sanctions won’t be all for nothing: supplies were down 1 million barrels a day last month, and these losses could triple in the second half of the year, the agency estimates. EU sanctions against Russian state-linked enterprises such as production giant Rosneft PJSC will take effect on May 15, and the bloc is moving towards a full ban on the country’s supplies.

“If agreed, the new embargoes would accelerate the reorientation of trade flows that is already underway and will force Russian oil companies to shut in more wells,” the IEA said.

May 12, 2022 Posted by | Economics, Malthusian Ideology, Phony Scarcity, Russophobia | | 1 Comment

Russia stops gas transit through Poland

Moscow’s counter-sanctions ban the use of the Polish section of the Yamal-Europe pipeline

Samizdat | May 12, 2022

Russian energy major Gazprom said on Thursday it will not be able to use the Polish section of the Yamal-Europe pipeline for gas transit to Europe due to Moscow’s retaliatory sanctions.

Company spokesman Sergey Kupriyanov specified that the site belongs to EuRoPol GAZ, which is a joint venture between Gazprom and Polish gas major PGNiG. The latter is the operator of the Polish part of the Yamal-Europe gas pipeline.

On Wednesday, Moscow approved a list of companies in respect of which it will apply special economic measures. The list consists of 31 firms, including Polish EuRoPol GAZ, as well as the former German unit of Gazprom. The Russian-owned subsidiary was seized by the German authorities last month and could potentially be nationalized.

“For Gazprom, this means a ban on the use of a gas pipeline owned by EuRoPol GAZ to transport Russian gas through Poland,” the company said on its official Telegram channel.

Russian President Vladimir Putin decreed on May 3 that no Russian entity will be allowed to make deals with those on the sanctions list, or even fulfil its obligations under existing deals.

The decree forbids the export of products and raw materials to people and entities on the sanctions list.

Putin said the decree was in response to the illegal actions of the US and its allies meant to deprive Russia and its citizens and legal entities of property rights or to restrict their property rights.

The Yamal-Europe gas pipeline passes through Russia, Belarus, Poland, and Germany. Russia supplies nearly 40% of Europe’s overall gas demand, and this route accounts for nearly 15% of the country’s westbound deliveries. The pipeline has been operating in reverse mode recently, sending gas from Germany to Poland after Warsaw refused to accept Moscow’s demand to pay in rubles.

May 12, 2022 Posted by | Economics | , , | 1 Comment

Ukraine’s partial gas cut to Europe could force activation of Nord Stream 2

Kiev attempts to blackmail Europe by partially halting gas flow from Russia

By Paul Antonopoulos | Aletho News | May 12, 2022

Ukraine’s decision to partially disable the flow of gas earmarked for Europe will be short-lived as it will not only cause major problems for the European economy, but it will also leave Kiev without billions of dollars in transit tax revenue – something it desperately needs as the economy is in ruin.

The Ukrainian gas transmission system operator (GTSOU) said it decided to suspend operations at a major transit point because of “interference by the occupying forces.” The decision to stop flows from Sokhranivka halts about a third of the Russian gas that arrives in Europe via Ukraine as the measuring station handles as much as 32.6 million cubic meters per day, according to GTSOU.

“As a result of the Russian Federation’s military aggression against Ukraine, several GTS facilities are located in territory temporarily controlled by Russian troops and the occupation administration,” the company said.

Kiev’s idea of transferring gas supplies from Sohranovka to the Suja gas station, which is in Ukrainian-controlled territory, has been dismissed by the Russian state gas company Gazprom as “technically impossible.” In addition, Gazprom said that it fulfills all its obligations to European consumers and delivers gas for transit in accordance with all contracts.

The disrupted transit of one-third of the gas that Europe needs would cause major damage to the continent’s economy. Europe already has less gas than it currently needs and the problem is not just that the price of gas will go up, but there will not be enough needed for industrial production.

If Russian gas does not arrive via Ukraine in the agreed quantity, Europe would have to consider extracting from reserves in underground storage facilities. The price of such gas will certainly be higher than in the case of gas arriving via Ukraine. Therefore, Kiev’s attempts to coax Europe into further involvement in the war with Russia will receive little accolade as it threatens Europe’s economy at a time when it is already suffering.

Kiev’s decision to reduce gas flows to European markets also means that it will suffer as it will lose transit fees that it desperately needs as its economy has stagnated. Another outcome that Ukraine did not consider is that it could force Europe to challenge the US’ opposition to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. If Russian gas does not arrive via Ukraine, it could be the very catalyst needed to activate Nord Stream 2.

If Ukraine were to remain committed to reducing Russian gas flows to Europe, even at the expense of billions of dollars in transit fees, the question begs whether the EU would be willing to potentially run out of gas and/or see prices rise even further, or activate Nord Stream 2. Activating Nord Stream 2 would effectively mean the US’ failure after so much effort was made to prevent the pipeline from functioning.

For this reason, Ukraine’s decision to halt a third of Russian gas flows to Europe is likely a bluff as it needs all the money it can receive at the moment. At the same time, the Europeans hope to slowly wean themselves off Russian energy, understanding that an immediate cut is not sustainable and would collapse their economies.

Kiev’s incessant demand that Brussels put an embargo on Russian energy imports to the EU will be challenged so long as there are leaders, like Hungary’s Viktor Orban, who prioritize their state’s economy and people’s welfare, or entire major industries are threatened, such as Germany’s manufacturing and Greece’s shipping.

It is quite possible that this disunity and lack of consensus on the embargo in a situation where energy cannot be undermined, could force a rethink of Europe’s policies towards Moscow.

“We will have a peace to build tomorrow, let us never forget that,” Macron said in Strasbourg on May 9, adding: “We will have to do this with Ukraine and Russia around the table. The end of the discussion and the negotiation will be set by Ukraine and Russia. But it will not be done in denial, nor in exclusion of each other, nor even in humiliation.”

On the same day, he said in a tweet: “We are not at war with Russia. We work as Europeans for the preservation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. For the return of peace to our continent. We will be there to rebuild Ukraine, as Europeans, always.”

However, despite the rhetoric of pan-Europeanism, Macron has already proven in deed that Europe’s elite are still very much under the orbit of Washington. If Ukraine are to partially halt the flow of Russian gas to Europe, the next test of Europe’s so-called “strategic autonomy” would be whether it activates Nord Stream 2 to protect their economic interests or continue following Washington’s demands on keeping the pipeline closed.

Paul Antonopoulos is an independent geopolitical analyst.

May 12, 2022 Posted by | Economics, Malthusian Ideology, Phony Scarcity | , , | 3 Comments

EU, UK join US in launching online ‘disinformation’ policies, ‘one-world governance’ of social media

By Michael Nevradakis, Ph.D. | The Defender | May 11, 2022

The European Union’s Digital Services Act (DSA) and the U.K.’s proposed Online Safety Bill are among the latest government policies designed to hold social media companies responsible for hate speech and “disinformation” posted by users.

Experts interviewed by The Defender expressed concerns about the potential slippery slope of regulations — in the U.S. and overseas — which, under the guise of “combating disinformation,” stifle the spread of information deemed inconvenient for governments and other powerful actors.

As reported by The Defender, in the U.S., these proposals include a government “disinformation board” and a bill pending before Congress, the Digital Services Oversight and Safety Act.

The EU’s new regulations, experts said, may have far-reaching impacts beyond Europe.

Michael Rectenwald, author of “Google Archipelago: The Digital Gulag and the Simulation of Freedom,” said he can foresee a future in which such regulations might affect all speech — not just speech on social media platforms.

Rectenwald told The Defender :

“[T]he EU’s DSA represents a major step toward one-world governance of social media and Internet search and one step closer to global government.

“Since the distinction between ‘on-line’ and ‘off-line’ activity will lose all meaning as the Internet includes the Internet of Things and Bodies, the DSA may become the law of the land.”

Is EU’s Digital Services Act on collision course with Musk’s Twitter plans?

In timing that coincided with Elon Musk’s intent to purchase Twitter, the EU announced April 23 the passage of the Digital Services Act (DSA).

The DSA seeks to tackle the spread of “misinformation and illegal content” and will apply “to all online intermediaries providing services in the EU,” in proportion to “the nature of the services concerned” and the number of users of each platform.

According to the DSA, “very large online platforms” (VLOPs) and “very large online search engines” (VLOSEs) — those with more than 45 million monthly active users in the EU — will be subject to the most stringent of the DSA’s requirements.

Big Tech companies will be obliged to perform annual risk assessments to ascertain the extent to which their platforms “contribute to the spread of divisive material that can affect issues like health,” and independent audits to determine the steps the companies are taking to prevent their platforms from being “abused.”

These steps come as part of a broader crackdown on the “spread of disinformation” called for by the Act, requiring platforms to “flag hate speech, eliminate any kind of terrorist propaganda” and implement “frameworks to quickly take down illicit content.”

Regarding alleged “disinformation,” these platforms will be mandated to create a “crisis response mechanism” to combat the spread of such content, with the Act specifically citing the conflict between Russia and Ukraine and the “manipulation” of online content that has ensued.

The DSA also will ban certain types of advertising on digital platforms, including targeted ads tailored to children or to people of specific ethnicities or sexual orientations.

Tech companies also will be required to increase transparency in the form of providing regulators and researchers “access to data on how their systems recommend content to users.”

This latter point appears similar to Musk’s plans to make Twitter’s algorithms “open source to increase trust.”

Companies violating the provisions of the DSA would risk fines of up to 6% of their total global annual revenue, while repeat offenses may result in the platforms being banned from the EU — despite the “open internet” principle professed by the principle of “net neutrality” enshrined in EU law.

According to Techcrunch, the DSA will not fully come into effect until early 2024. However, rules for VLOPs have a shorter implementation period and may be enforced by early 2023.

A spokesperson for the European Commission — the EU’s executive branch — said the new regulations will ensure Big Tech’s “power over public debate is subject to democratically validated rules, in particular on transparency and accountability.”

Margrethe Vestager, the vice president of the European Commission, added, “With today’s agreement we ensure that platforms are held accountable for the risks their services can pose to society and citizens,” and, “With the DSA we help create a safe and accountable online environment.”

Directly addressing Musk, the European Commission’s internal market commissioner, Thierry Breton, tweeted, “Be it cars or social media, any company operating in Europe needs to comply with our rules — regardless of their shareholding. Mr. Musk knows this well,” adding, “[Musk] is familiar with European rules on automotive [referring to Musk’s ownership of Tesla Motors], and will quickly adapt to the Digital Services Act.”

Separately, Breton stated, “We welcome everyone. We are open but on our conditions. At least we know what to tell him: ‘Elon, there are rules. You are welcome but these are our rules. It’s not your rules which will apply here.’”

Breton’s warning to Musk bears a striking resemblance to the statements of then-German finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, who in 2015 warned the newly elected left-wing Greek government not to entertain thoughts about renegotiating the austerity measures imposed on the country by the EU and International Monetary Fund, stating, “Elections change nothing. There are rules.”

Voice of America, a media outlet reflective of official U.S. government policy, reported “the job of reining in a Musk-led Twitter could fall to Europe,” referring to the DSA.

According to Gizmodo, the EU’s new legislation “could have global reverberations,” adding, “Lawmakers are also hoping it could serve as a model for other countries like India and Japan.”

However, Gizmodo warns the success of the DSA in accomplishing its objectives is far from guaranteed, referring to the example of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR): “Some predicted [the GDPR] would fundamentally shift online privacy protection worldwide, and instead [it] basically just gave us those insufferable cookie permission pop-ups.”

While the DSA would apply to all 27 EU member states, some of these countries have already enacted similar domestic legislation. For instance, Germany has regulations in place that require digital platforms to remove hate speech within 24 hours or face fines of up to €50 million ($56 million).

Techcrunch, in reporting on the passage of the DSA, referred to legislation in countries not frequently noted for their democratic traditions or respect for free speech, such as China, TurkeyIndia and Nigeria.

As Techcrunch stated, platforms in these countries found to be “non-compliant” with domestic mandates may face fines, police raids, shutdowns and prison sentences for their executives.

Similar regulations pending in U.K.

Legislation similar to the DSA, the Online Safety Bill, is pending in the U.K. It would require Big Tech platforms to moderate “illegal” and “harmful” content in order to be allowed to operate in the U.K.

The bill would require digital platforms to protect users from such “harmful” content, with the threat of fines of up to 10% of global turnover for companies found in violation, as well as potential prison time for senior managers of these companies in cases of non-compliance.

A spokesperson for the U.K. government said:

“Twitter and all social media platforms must protect their users from harm on their sites.

“We are introducing new online safety laws to safeguard children, prevent abusive behaviour and protect free speech.

“All tech firms with users in the U.K. will need to comply with the new laws or face hefty fines and having their sites blocked.”

Max Blain, a spokesperson for U.K. prime minister Boris Johnson, said, “Regardless of ownership, all social media platforms must be responsible” for “protecting” users.

As The Defender recently reported, Damian Collins, a member of the British parliament with the British Labour Party who led a parliamentary committee that developed the Online Safety Bill, is a board member of the Center for Combating Digital Hate, which partners with prominent “fact-checking” firm NewsGuard.

As previously reported by The Defender, NewsGuard, in turn, closely collaborates with the World Health Organization (WHO), which also recently expressed concerns about Musk’s purchase of Twitter.

As U.S., EU  sign commitment to ‘democratic values’ on the internet as they prepare policies to regulate online speech

Overshadowed by the news of Musk’s Twitter purchase and developments such as the DSA and the Biden administration’s “disinformation board,” several dozen countries quietly signed the “Declaration for the Future of the Internet” April 28.

Fifty-six countries and entities, including the U.S. and the EU, signed this declaration, described as “a political commitment to push rules for the internet that are underpinned by democratic values” and a response to Russia “wielding internet disruptions as a part of its escalating attacks on Ukraine.”

U.S. News reports that the declaration — which is not legally binding — is the first of its kind globally, and “protects human rights, promotes free flow of information, protects the privacy of users, and sets rules for a growing global digital economy among steps to counter what two Biden administration officials called a ‘dangerous new model’ of internet policy from countries such as Russia and China.”

According to the U.S. State Department, the declaration’s principles include:

  • Protect human rights and fundamental freedoms of all people.
  • Promote a global Internet that advances the free flow of information.
  • Advance inclusive and affordable connectivity so that all people can benefit from the digital economy.
  • Promote trust in the global digital ecosystem, including through protection of privacy.
  • Protect and strengthen the multi-stakeholder approach to governance that keeps the Internet running for the benefit of all.

In turn, the declaration was described by the EU as being “in line with the rights and principles strongly anchored in the EU.”

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, known for her strong support of digital “vaccine passports” throughout the EU, stated:

“Today, for the first time, like-minded countries from all over the world are setting out a shared vision for the future of the Internet, to make sure that the values we hold true offline are also protected online, to make the Internet a safe place and trusted space for everyone, and to ensure that the Internet serves our individual freedom.

“Because the future of the Internet is also the future of democracy, of humankind.”

Thierry Breton remarked:

“This Declaration will ensure that the Internet and the use of digital technologies reinforce, not weaken, democracy and respect for human rights.”

According to the State Department, “[t]he Declaration remains open to all governments or relevant authorities willing to commit and implement its vision and principles.”

What does all this mean for Musk, Twitter and the future of free speech online?

Social media analysts and experts expressed varying opinions and predictions as to what regulations such as the DSA may mean for the global operations of digital platforms such as Twitter — especially if Musk attempts to make good on his pledges to “restore free speech.”

Vasilis Vasilopoulos, data protection officer with Greek public broadcaster ERT and a Ph.D. candidate in journalism and mass media studies at Greece’s Aristotle University, told The Defender there are some positive elements to the DSA.

However, the boundaries of what is considered free speech should also be expanded, albeit within certain limits, he said.

Vasilopoulos added:

“The DSA is not the only means through which the problem of unethical [social media] algorithms with deceptive motives, or the unethical use of social media platforms, can be solved.

“[I]t is obvious that these platforms have surpassed the limits to democracy that we believed existed, and therefore, it is important that instead of imposing restrictions, we expand these boundaries, in favor of humanity and not capital or power.”

Matthew Spitzer, professor at Northwestern University’s Pritzker School of Law, said the EU’s proposals in particular may clash with Musk’s stated goals for Twitter, telling The Defender :

“[The DSA] may interfere with one of Elon Musk’s stated goals for buying Twitter. He seems to want less content moderation. But this regulation requires a lot of it.

“Second, this regulation dovetails with Musk’s stated desire for increased transparency. He had promised more transparency.”

Spitzer added his view that the DSA will likely increase the cost of operation for all social media companies, especially if they must also conform to domestic laws passed by various EU member states.

He added that U.S. tech companies may represent an easy target for European regulators, telling The Defender :

“[T]here will be conflicts between the USA and Europe … all of the target companies started in the USA. They are easy political targets in Europe.”

Referring specifically to Elon Musk and Twitter, Rectenwald said:

“If Musk is to have his way, the platform would no longer discriminate against content based on ‘wokeness,’ political beliefs, or the adherence to official state narratives and dictates.

“This could include the restoration of banned accounts on request by users and dramatic changes to Twitter’s discriminatory, leftist algorithms.”

According to Rectenwald, the EU’s regulations may “hamstring” Musk’s vision for Twitter and lead to a one-size-fits-all approach to content moderation, resulting in a “slippery slope” wherein “any information and opinion that differs from WHO-established official narratives regarding pandemics or other health-related crises” would be restricted.

Rectenwald said:

“Most likely, in order to meet the EU’s regulatory requirements and to streamline their efforts, VLOPs and VLOSEs will simply apply one set of rules to all online content.”

He also added that further pressures on platforms like Twitter may come not from EU regulators, but from the tech industry itself:

“[P]ressure to conform to ‘woke’ dictates will come from the Big Tech ‘woke’ cartel, including threats to remove the Twitter app from the Apple Store for failure to censor ‘hate speech,’ and the flight of ‘woke’ advertisers.

“Most likely, Musk’s purchase of Twitter will make no difference as free speech is further curtailed.”

Michael Nevradakis, Ph.D., is an independent journalist and researcher based in Athens, Greece.

May 11, 2022 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , | Leave a comment

“Political European community” demands policy capitulation without EU benefits

Macron’s “European community” aims to completely align non-EU members with Brussels

Paul Antonopoulos | May 11, 2022

French President Emmanuel Macron said non-European Union countries, like the UK and Ukraine, could be offered a closer relationship with the bloc as part of a new type of “political European community”.

Speaking to the European parliament in Strasbourg on May 9, Macron said such an initiative would allow countries to decide on the level of integration they wanted with the EU. However, this loose form of political association is a rather hopeful attempt to unite all of Europe against Russia under the guise of aligning political and energy demands, but without giving non-EU countries like Ukraine participation in its institutions and financial funds.

It can only be imagined that such a “political European community” would exclude Belarus and Russia, and perhaps maybe even Serbia. The guise of uniting Europe’s energy and political policies will obviously be aimed towards Russia. It is almost certain Ukraine will continue to serve as a hostile country against Russia, except still without the ability to participate in European institutions or financial funds.

“It is our historic obligation … to create what I would describe before you today as a European political community,” Macron said. “This new European organisation would allow democratic European nations … to find a new space for political cooperation, security, cooperation in energy, transport, investment, infrastructure, the movement of people.”

However, it is more likely that the French president’s proposal comes in light of the fact that fatigue from EU enlargement remains ongoing. The inability to realistically expand the EU for new members is certain given all the difficulties the bloc has – from institutional-political crises, to energy problems, to failing to influence events in Ukraine.

Since the EU has opted to blindly follow US policy in Ukraine, even to the very detriment of member-states economies and the living standards of citizens, this proposal for a “political European community” is now an attempt by Macron to create a political manoeuvre to offer not only Ukraine, but probably other member-hopefuls like Moldova and Georgia, the possibility of participating in some form of new political alliance instead of full EU membership.

In this way, these countries would adhere to the political line of the EU but be denied the benefits that these states would have if they had full membership. The “political European
community” is effectively a manoeuvre by Macron to continue the façade that he supports “strategic autonomy” from Washington, something that was proven to be nothing but bravado when this policy was first tested in the context of the Ukraine war. For this reason, Macron is attempting to create an ad hoc framework for the political binding of states that cannot be admitted to the EU and thus force them to be dictated by Brussels on foreign policy matters, a small show of so-called European power.

It is likely that the most targeted countries will be in the Balkans and the Caucasus, but also Ukraine.

Since Kiev has opted for war and is backed by NATO and the EU, inclusion in this new political alliance would be important because they know they cannot achieve full membership, even if some member states, such as Poland and Lithuania, push and give political support.

During his speech, the French president said “we all know perfectly that the process of allowing (Ukraine) to join would take several years, in fact probably several decades.” Macron has not hidden away from the fact that Ukraine’s accession to the EU will likely take decades, but to ensure that Kiev does not give up in this ambition, the “political European community” proposal hopes to entice a capitulation to Western Europe’s interests. The reality is that such a “community” will actually serve as another EU lobby to force states such as Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia to follow Brussel’s geopolitical policies and interests.

Given Macron said a fast-track procedure for Ukraine would lead to lowering standards, in addition to suggesting the country’s accession process could take decades, his statement explicitly rules out full membership only for the sake of joining the blocs political line, which is now one of confrontation with Russia.

There will be an expectation for states to follow the EU’s geopolitical line in the context of the “political European community”, even though this will not contribute to progressing toward their EU membership. At the same time though, it can be expected that non-member countries will be punished in their accession process if they do not follow the EU’s demands.

With sanctions increasingly becoming unpopular in Europe as food and energy prices rise, leading to more countries challenging further sanction packages, adding voices from anti-Russia countries could also be a desperate attempt to make Europe appear far more united than it is. None-the-less, although it is likely that Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova and even the UK would welcome a “political European community”, it remains to be seen how effective it will be, and whether it will make Europe anymore united against Russia.

Paul Antonopoulos is an independent geopolitical analyst.

May 11, 2022 Posted by | Economics, Russophobia | , | Leave a comment

Ukraine turns off Europe-bound gas

Samizdat | May 10, 2022

Russian gas conglomerate Gazprom has received no confirmation of force majeure or any obstacles to continued transit of gas through a junction in Lugansk Region, the company said on Tuesday, after Ukraine’s operator OGTSU announced it would halt further deliveries starting May 11, due to the presence of “Russian occupiers.”

Gas Transit Services of Ukraine (OGTSU) declared force majeure on Tuesday, saying that it was impossible to continue the transit of gas through a connection point and compressor station located in the Lugansk area. As OGTSU personnel “cannot carry out operational and technological control” over the Sokhranovka connector point and Novopskov compressor station, the company cannot continue to fulfill its contract obligations, it said.

Gas from this connection will not be accepted into the transit system of Ukraine starting at 7 am on Wednesday, OGTSU said. Sokhrankovka accounts for almost a third of the Russian gas that transits through Ukraine to Europe – up to 32.6 million cubic meters per day – according to the operators.

Gazprom has received no confirmation of force majeure or disruption of operations at Sokhranovka or Novopskov, company spokesman Sergey Kupriyanov said on Tuesday. He added that Ukrainian specialists have had full access to both facilities all along, and there had been no complaints about it previously.

Kupriyanov also said that Gazprom has been notified by Ukraine’s gas company Naftogaz that if Russia continues to supply gas through Sokhranovka, Kiev will reduce the volume at the point of exit by the same amount, effectively confiscating the gas.

While OGTSU has proposed to reroute the gas to Sudzha, a connector located in the Sumy region and controlled by the Ukrainian government, Kupriyanov said this was “technologically impossible.”

“The distribution of volumes is clearly spelled out in the cooperation agreement dated December 30, 2019, and the Ukrainian side is well aware of this,” he said.

Gazprom is fulfilling all of its obligations to its European customers, with all the transit services in accordance with the terms of the contract and paid in full, Kupriyanov pointed out. Moscow has continued gas deliveries to Europe, including transit through Ukraine, regardless of the ongoing military operation and the embargoes against Russia imposed by the US and its allies in the EU.

May 10, 2022 Posted by | Malthusian Ideology, Phony Scarcity | , | Leave a comment