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The Chinese Dimension of Russia’s Coal Business in a New Environment

By Petr Konovalov – New Eastern Outlook – 16.05.2022

Various projects to do away with coal and switch to other fuels that emit less combustion gases have long been discussed in developed countries. Some experts have even begun to predict the imminent demise of the entire global coal industry. One of the reasons for these forecasts has been statements by China, the world’s main coal consumer, that it also wants to reduce its use of coal as much as possible, along with Western countries.

However, despite all these claims, coal is still the cheapest and most transportable fuel, which no country with a developed industry can do without. The global coal trade continues to grow, generating good revenues for its main suppliers, including Russia.

In 2020, the Russian Federation produced about 401 million tons of coal, 199 million of which was exported to other countries.

In 2021, tensions between the PRC and Australia escalated, causing China to stop importing Australian coal and contributing to an increase in Chinese coal purchases from Russia.

By the end of 2021, Russian coal production was about 440 million tons per year, with 227 million tons exported. Thus, both Russian coal production and exports have shown significant growth. Of the above-mentioned coal exports, 129 million tons were sold to the Asia-Pacific region, which is particularly noteworthy because it is specifically this region that has major coal consumers such as China, South Korea and Japan, making the APR market particularly attractive for all coal exporters. China received 53 million tons of Russian coal, 20 million tons more than in 2020, earning Russia $7.4 billion.

In total, the Russian Federation accounted for more than 16% of the global coal market in 2021, 12% of the APR market and 15% of the Chinese market.

Since the Chinese coal situation came rather unexpectedly, the Russian Federation could not fully replace Australia on the Chinese market: most of Russia’s coal exports had already been allocated to other buyers and there was not enough time to multiply production. As a result, faced with an energy crisis, China started importing Australian coal again in late 2021, partly lifting the restrictions. However, the situation at the end of 2021 and beginning of 2022 still looked encouraging for the Russian coal sector. First, experience has shown that China cannot do without coal; Chinese decarbonization projects, which Beijing has been talking about for years, will not be implemented anytime soon – until then, the Celestial Empire will be importing coal. Second, having experienced power shortages without Australian coal, Beijing was able to see that its reliance on one supplier, Australia, was excessive. The tensions with Canberra in 2020-2021 are just one part of the larger political and economic confrontation between China and the West, and there could be many more conflicts ahead for the PRC and Australia. Therefore, to secure its energy sector, China needs to diversify its coal imports, including by further increasing supplies from Russia.

In February 2022, the media reported that Beijing and Moscow were negotiating an intergovernmental agreement under which coal supplies from Russia to China could be increased to 100 million tons per year.

However, at the end of February, a special operation by Russian troops in Ukraine began and the situation changed dramatically. The West has unleashed a torrent of sanctions on Russia, including Western countries starting to reduce imports of Russian hydrocarbons. In March 2022, for example, Russian coal shipments to the EU dropped by around 50%.

Although China is not an ally of the West, Russian coal exports to the Celestial Empire are also on the decline, as Chinese banks have reduced funding for related operations for fear of Western sanctions. The disconnection of a number of Russian banks from the SWIFT international payment system and the fact that most of the coal purchase contracts were in dollars also played a role: the Chinese side has had difficulty making payments.

Some pro-Western media have concluded that the Russian coal industry has suffered serious damage, that trade with China will not compensate for this damage, and that coal exports may not recover to their previous levels. However, such conclusions are rather premature.

Thus, despite the overall decline in the Russian coal exports to the PRC, exports of coking coal, a type of hard coal particularly valuable for the steel industry, increased in the first quarter of 2022. It can be assumed that the decline in Chinese purchases of other types of coal, which are used for winter heating, for example, may be due to the approaching summer period.

China now has a considerable supply of different types of coal, and in the run-up to the warm season, when there is no need for mass home heating, it can afford to reduce coal imports to explore new conditions. By autumn, however, it can be expected that Chinese-Russian coal cooperation will intensify.

As for sanctions-related difficulties, talks began as early as March between Russia and China on settlements in national currencies and on the use of CIPS, China’s equivalent of SWIFT.

It should further be noted that the Chinese side’s caution over the threat of Western sanctions is also a temporary phenomenon, as the PRC’s relations with the West are not good at all, and China may soon fall under its own sanctions regardless of its relations with Russia. Especially in view of certain features of Chinese foreign policy: on May 6, 2022, for example, some 15 Chinese planes entered the airspace of the partially recognized state of Taiwan, which the PRC considers part of its territory. The Taiwanese have scrambled their warplanes and put their air defense forces on alert. Fortunately, the incident ended peacefully. However, since Taiwan is under the protection of the US military, there is no doubt that the incident will further strain Chinese-US relations, and if it continues, the PRC will soon find itself in the same “sanctions boat” as Russia. In this case, Chinese coal imports from Australia are likely to suffer again.

It can therefore be assumed that China is seeking economic independence from the US and its allies, including from Australian coal supplies, and the Chinese leadership is already working out how to circumvent Western sanctions. One can fully expect that joint efforts in this area will soon allow Russia and China to move towards more intensive trade, including in coal and other energy sources.

May 16, 2022 Posted by | Economics, Russophobia | , , | Leave a comment

Ukraine War

BY ISRAEL SHAMIR • UNZ REVIEW • MAY 14, 2022

The immediate beginning of the trouble was a Geneva summit between two presidents that apparently went wrong. We don’t know what went wrong. The pro-Western Russian officials ran away to Georgia and Israel; they are being replaced by anti-Western officials. This East-West break will not be reversed with ease.

Russians are very similar to Ukrainians. Both are stubborn fighters. Throughout the 20th century they chose different strategies: Russians became internationalists, Ukrainians preferred nationalism. The Ukrainian nationalism was anti-Russian, while Russians harbored no negative feeling towards Ukrainians. It was natural for Ukrainians to flirt with anti-Russian powers. Yet when Ukrainian officials began to declare themselves NATO allies, even the most international Russians became alarmed.

Both Rome’s Pope and Noam Chomsky were capable of understanding the immediate casus belli behind Ukraine: NATO had barked at Putin’s door, and he reacted. In December 2021 Putin diplomatically proposed that NATO withdraw to its mid-1990’s line, and moreover he suggested that peaceful discussion about NATO’s borders might prevent future conflict. Putin proposed an international agreement on NATO’s borders, a political solution that everyone could agree on. This proposal was disregarded with nonchalance; NATO refused to discuss the idea. Putin was rightfully irritated. Further attempts to argue across the West/East divide weren’t successful. The West declined Putin’s politics. And the war began.

NATO began shipping in armaments and ammunition, and deployed their spies. Their intelligence gathering allowed them to sink a big Russian ship named Moscow. They provided the coordinates in real-time for Russian ships and planes. From the very beginning it was clear that Russia fights NATO more than Ukrainians, who they consider to be brothers. This wartime pathos was quite an unexpected development. Putin had always been known as a soft leader; he refused to be drawn into wars. Russia has avoided war for many years under Putin’s rule; and generations of Russians have become used to a peaceful and prosperous life. Suddenly, by circumstances beyond their control, they have been switched to life under war and sanctions.

Fortunately for everyone, the war in Ukraine has practically dried up. The Ukrainian leadership desperately begs for UN help to keep the war going, as if the Azov Battalion and the rest of the violent, cruel, thuggish militants need to be paid to shoot people. US Democrats have drafted a nearly $40 billion Ukraine War aid package, which was recently single-handedly blocked by Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky. The Ukraine War has become a political football in the USA. Both the Neocons on the right and the Neoliberals on the left hope to ride this war into Congress.In hindsight there were plenty of warnings. Russians were blocked from the Olympic games by an international conspiracy of blatant hypocrisy. Russian athletes were accused of doping. Now, Western athletes also use doping, but they know how to get around the rules. The Norwegians claimed they have asthma, and they need special performance-enhancing drugs to heal it. The Americans had excuses of their own, and so did the athletes of many other nations. Russian RUSADA man Mr. Grigori Rodchenkov was bribed by the US to deliver proof of Russian doping. The Russians claim the evidence was falsified. In any case the Russian official defected westward, in a step unseen since the Cold War. Russia was tagged as a pariah throughout the games; she was not allowed to play her national anthem nor display her flag. Russians have been persecuted by the Olympic establishment for generations. There is an undeclared war against Russian athletes; here is the full story. The pattern is undeniable. Russian athletes are routinely penalized for activities that other nations practice with impunity. This has to stop.

Russians are unhappy with war as a solution for the Ukraine crisis. They speak of “betrayal”, and that means the political steam behind the offensive is getting thin. Instead, Russians think they can derail the NATO war and the international sanctions by judiciously withholding Europe’s gas and oil. The Arab Oil Embargo brought the US to its knees in the 1970’s using just that strategy. NATO exists to fight wars; bringing war to NATO simply feeds it. The only way to defeat NATO is to starve it. Russia has great quantities of oil, gas and wheat. She produces aluminum, iron, coal, steel, titanium and cheap electricity. The Russian economy has been called “bulletproof” because of its ability to withstand geopolitical shocks.

How exactly are sanctions hurting Russia? Banking freezes are simply pushing Russia into the waiting arms of China, which literally has an unlimited need for Russian energy and commodities. The US Petrodollar is on the cusp of being denominated in Roubles. Stories of boycotts by Twitter, Facebook and Pornhub underscore the ludicrous nature of Western sanctions. “EU blacklists Abramovich, targets energy, luxury sectors…” It seems that only Russia’s Jewish Mafia will be hurt by the international sanctions. The efficacy of Western sanctions is being wildly exaggerated by the Western media and the implacable coming of winter has always been a harbinger of Russian victory. As Biden says, “It will be a very Dark Winter.”

Germany needs Russian energy. It always has. It always will. There is simply no other option for Germany. As the home base of NATO, Germany is in a unique position to forge a lasting peace with Russia. Germans might benefit greatly from increased trade to the East along such routes as the China-Europe Railway Express, but they remain choked by their old millstones. The business of war is no longer profitable. The big players are now supplying China with everything it needs to manufacture the world’s wealth, and Russia is in a unique position to be a major producer. The rest of Europe is also conveniently located to benefit from the new Chinese empire, if they could only cease squabbling long enough to draw a profit. The dying Anglo-American empire is the only entity that profits from division along the Eurasian continent.

May 15, 2022 Posted by | Economics | , , , | 2 Comments

The US Army Invaded Russia In 1918 – Russians Remember

Samizdat | October 2018

The 8000 expeditionary force, support of the White movement, and the most serious intentions, on August 15th, 1918, the US State Department officially declared the severance of diplomatic relations with Russia, after which the Americans disembarked in Vladivostok. This marked the beginning of the full-scale intervention of the Entente countries in a country that was already submerged in civil war. The material of RIA covers what memory the overseas military personnel in the Far East left behind.

“The nation doesn’t exist”

Immediately after the October revolution Soviet Russia concluded a truce with Germany on the Eastern front and actually withdrew from the war. The Entente countries perceived it literally with hostility. Under the pretext of the inadmissibility of power in the former empire being captured by the “pro-German party”, the western powers were preparing themselves to intervene in a Russia that was already gripped by civil war.

In December of 1917 the US, Great Britain, France, and their allies held a conference, during which a decision was made concerning the differentiation of zones of interests on the territory of the former Russian Empire and the establishment of contacts with national and democratic governments. In other words, “western partners” planned to divide up the largest state on the planet among themselves, and it is the representatives of the White movement that were supposed to help them with this. Interventionists came into contacts with them even before the intervention.

Ukraine, Bessarabia, and Crimea were in the French sphere of influence. England reserved the right for “Cossack and Caucasian regions”, Armenia, Georgia, and Kurdistan. The US, which kept neutrality during the first years of Soviet power, as a result agreed to help Great Britain and France “explore” the Russian Primorye. The Americans wanted to kill two rabbits with one stone — to get access to the rich resources of the Far East and to prevent Japan – which also had its sights on “dividing the skin of the not yet killed bear” – from entrenching itself there.

The possible resistance of Russians wasn’t taken into account. The Republican senator from the State of Washington Miles Poindexter, calling for intervention, directly said: “Russia became simply a geographical concept, and it will never be anything else. Its force of unity, organisation, and restoration left forever. The nation doesn’t exist …” The ambassador of the US in Russia David Francis also called for intervention: “I insist on the need to take Vladivostok under control, and give Murmansk and Arkhangelsk to Great Britain and France”.

Occupation

Already on August 3rd, 1918 the US Department of Defense gives the order to General William Graves about sending the 27th and 31st infantry regiments to Vladivostok, and also volunteers from the 13th and 62nd regiments. In total in the middle of the month the Americans disembarked about 8,000 military personnel in the Far East. Canadians, Italians, and Brits were also included in the expeditionary force. Formally the contingent had to provide safe passage for the Czechoslovak corps from the depths of Russia. In reality more mercantile aspirations prevailed.

“Interventionists on the territory of Russia defended the interests of their capital [finance],” said the military historian Boris Yulin. “Gold mines, wood, and coal — they had plans for all of this. I am sure that civil war in the country was so long and bloody only because of the intervention of foreign powers.

If it wasn’t for the Czechoslovak Legion and interventionists, it would’ve ended without big blood already in 1918. The leaders of the White movement provided the American, English, French, Japanese with concessions, and promised to pay imperial debts. In fact, they provided foreigners with control over Russian territory”.

The American interventionists used the “invitation” in full. They took away wood, furs, and gold from the Far East. American firms received permission from Kolchak’s government to carry out trade operations in exchange for “City Bank” and “Guaranty Trust” credits. One company alone sent from Vladivostok to the US 15,700 poods of wool, 20,500 sheep skins, and 10,200 large dry skins. Everything that represented at least some value was taken away.

They did not stand on ceremony with the local population who supported the Red partisans. In the Russian state historical archive of the Far East “Acts concerning the tortured and shot peasants were preserved in the Olginsky district in 1918-1920”. Here is an excerpt from this document:

“Having captured the peasants I. Gonevchuk, S. Gorshkov, P. Oparin, and Z. Murashko, the Americans buried them alive for having ties to local partisans.

And they finished off the wife of the partisan E. Boychuk as follows: they pricked her body with bayonets and drowned her body in a rubbish pit. They mutilated the peasant Bochkarev with bayonets and knives to the point where he became unrecognisable: his nose, lips, and ears had been cut off, his jaw had been unhinged, his face and eyes had been pricked by bayonets, his entire body had been cut up. Near Sviyagino station the partisan N. Myasnikov was tortured in the same brutal way – according to the testimony of an eyewitness, at first they chopped off his ears, then his nose, hands, legs, and then chopped him into pieces alive”.

Nineteen months

The historian Fedor Nesterov in the book “Link of times” wrote: “The adherents of the Soviet power were pricked, cut up, shot in groups, hung, sank in the Amur, taken away in torturous ‘death trains’, and starved in concentration camps everywhere where where the bayonet of the overseas ‘liberators of Russia’ could reach”. According to him, many peasants who in the beginning didn’t support the Soviet power eventually rose up against the “guests” and came over to the side of the partisans.

Resistance to the occupiers spread. The battle at the village of Romanovka near Vladivostok in 1919 on June 25th history made history: Bolshevist units under Yakov Tryapitsyn’s command attacked the positions of the US army and destroyed more than 20 soldiers of the enemy.

After Kolchak’s troops had been defeated, foreign intervention in Russia lost its meaning. In 19 months of staying in the country, the American contingent in the Far East lost [were killed – ed] nearly 200 soldiers and officers. The last overseas serviceman went home on April 1st, 1920.

It should be noted that even when the civil war ended and the Americans and the majority of European powers recognised the USSR, no western politician condemned the bloody campaign in Russia. The double-faced attitude towards the occupation of the territories of a sovereign state was characterised more exhaustively by Winston Churchill in the four-volume work “The World Crisis”.

“Were they [the Allies] at war with Russia? Certainly not; but they shot Soviet Russians at sight. They stood as invaders on Russian soil. They armed the enemies of the Soviet Government. They blockaded the ports and sunk its battleships. They earnestly desired and schemed its downfall. But war – shocking! Interference – shame! It was, they repeated, a matter of indifference to them how Russians settled their own affairs. They were impartial – bang!”.


Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard

May 15, 2022 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , | 2 Comments

Ukraine and Western Geopolitical Mythology

eugyppius – May 12, 2022

A long time ago, everybody understood that war was an armed and violent enterprise undertaken by soldiers to achieve specific objectives. One was expected to hate the enemy and his goals, but even the most egregious jingoists were clear that the enemy had goals, and that their side did too. Now that Europe faces its most significant armed conflict since 1945, we are discouraged from understanding war in this way. The dominant message is that the Russian invasion of Ukraine is a bluntly evil thing, which the evil Vladimir Putin is perpetrating for vague evil expansionist purposes, or because he is crazy, or both. To judge from press reports, war is no longer something that soldiers wage, in battles, at the front; instead, it is an undifferentiated atrocity wrought upon civilians at home. For every sloppy, low-resolution piece the media publish on the strategic situation in Donbas, there are ten about mourning parents of fallen soldiers, about refugees, about air strikes on schools, about subway bomb shelters, about alleged war crimes against civilians.

I’m not saying that war isn’t violent, or that civilian casualties don’t matter. I’m saying that you can’t understand what is happening in this war as a mere series of atrocities, and I’m also saying that press narratives of Russian war crimes are a monumental hypocrisy. They proceed from the American empire, which since World War II has demonstrated ruthless, near-total indifference to the civilian victims of their air campaigns. What’s happening in the Ukraine is nothing compared to the brutal shock and awe tactics that killed hundreds of thousands of ordinary people in Iraq.

Recasting every global conflict as a 1940s morality play of genocidal evildoer vs. all that is righteous and good, is very dangerous. It has created a groundswell of popular demand for escalation against a nuclear-armed power, which the political actors themselves don’t always seem prudent enough to resist. Some Anglosphere politicians have taken this hysteria as permission to indulge their dangerous fantasies of regime change in Russia, while the intelligence services encourage still further escalation, by leaking stories about their role in helping the Ukrainians kill Russian generals and sink the Moskva. I’m not a geopolitical analyst, so I can’t realistically evaluate the risk of escalation, but I know that people massively underestimate the likelihood of rare catastrophic outcomes, and that nuclear war heads the list of both rare and catastrophic. To the extent the empire underestimates the risk, it will keep pushing.

If 1945 moralising has encouraged some British and American leaders to reprise their role as conquerors in Europe, it is increasingly inspiring German politicians to cultivate corresponding period fantasies of defeat and deindustrialisation. As I type these words, our Minister of Economic Affairs is assuring us that we can get through the coming winter just fine without Russian gas; two days ago, our Foreign Minister pledged in Kiew that Germany will end its dependence on Russian energy forever. The worst case scenario is that they actually do this. The more likely scenario, is that Russian oil and gas are merely laundered through third countries, so that we can appear virtuous while continuing our imports at considerable mark-up. That might stave off catastrophe, but it will also make millions of Germans drastically poorer and it won’t hurt Russia.

The politics of this war are the most bizarre thing I have ever seen. It is very strange indeed to be called a right-wing extremist in Germany for having pro-Russian sympathies. It is even stranger, for someone who is periodically accused of being a Nazi – despite totally disavowing National Socialism – to read editorials in mainstream newspapers insisting that the Azov battalion are not actually Neo-Nazis, even though this is what they claim to be. In the early days of the war, at the height of pro-Ukraine hysteria, a major German retailer was even caught selling the Azov flag in their online shop, complete with the Sonnenrad and the Wolfsangel. All of this confirms my long-running thesis, that the empire is firmly post-political. It employs political forms purely as a matter of expedience; its only real principles are expansion, assimilation and atomised consumerism.

Russia could lose, but they’re not losing right now. If they were, the New York Times wouldn’t be running articles with headlines like “Ukraine War’s Geographic Reality: Russia Has Seized Much of the East”. The danger is what happens next, when it becomes clear to all and sundry that the slow, grinding destruction of the Ukrainian army by Russian artillery is continuing apace, despite sanctions and weapons deliveries.

It has been a long, long time since the last major war – a much greater interval than Europe has ever seen before, thanks to nuclear deterrence. But the energies, ambitions and hatreds that cause war, and that war alone can dissipate, have been building under the surface this whole time, unabated. Sooner or later they will burst forth. The chances that this happens now, are not zero.

May 13, 2022 Posted by | Militarism, Russophobia | , | Leave a comment

Sanctions against Russia: Reactions from the Middle East

By Yuriy Zinin – New Eastern Outlook 12.05.2022

The Middle East media have not stopped commenting on recent developments in Ukraine through the prism of their perception in the region. Particular attention is paid to the topic of the sanctions imposed on Moscow and their resonance in the Arab world.

As can be seen, attitudes towards these measures are negative in the region. After all, a number of Arab countries that refused to follow the dictates of the US and the West in their policies have been subjected to sanctions.  Their inhumane nature has damaged the economy, led to the death and suffering of civilians, but has not caused the fall of regimes in Libya, Iraq, Syria. However, Arab lawyers remind that in the case of both the Arabs and Russia, the sanctions are unilateral and contrary to the letter and the spirit of the UN Charter.

Observers see duplicity in the authors of these coercive measures under the pretext of “taking over” Ukraine. They are annoyed that action of this kind has not been taken against Israel in many decades of occupation of Arab lands. They note that the media and politicians immediately rushed to condemn Russia in relation to Ukraine, but have been silent for 19 years on the US-British aggression in Iraq and the results of the disaster it has brought to its people. Those results include the destruction of the infrastructure of that country, the economic and humanitarian losses, the distress and impoverishment of the population, etc.

The headlines in the media – “Why is the world paying the price?”, “The conflict in Ukraine and its impact on our weak peoples”, “Will the Arabs starve?” and others – are telling.  Their authors do not hide their concern about the possible consequences of sanctions against Russia, the shadow of which is being cast over the political landscape in the region and wider world.

The rise in inflation that has plagued Europe is somehow being transferred to the Middle East region, pushing up consumer prices for the population. This exacerbates the external debt of a number of countries, especially where it is high: Egypt and Tunisia.

This year, according to the World Bank, global food prices are at their highest level since they began to be formally recorded 60 years ago. At the same time, the cost of grain has risen by 42% this year and that of sunflower oil by 30%, while energy prices have grown by 50%.

Arab countries are major importers of cereals and food products. Here Egypt leads the way (13 million tonnes per year). These countries meet 63% of their needs for grain, 65% for sugar, 55% for vegetable oil, etc. through imports. Meanwhile, they meet 42% of their grain needs from the Russian Federation and 40% from Ukraine.

Russia is also at the forefront of fertilizer production, especially in nitrogen. Fertilizer prices were already at an all-time high before the conflict erupted, affecting overall food security.

The effects, the Arab Monetary Fund suggests, will affect the Arabs in varying degrees. For example, the region’s oil-producing countries will earn more from the energy they sell in 2022 due to a surge in energy prices following the escalation of events in Ukraine. But they will have to increase the cost of importing foodstuffs, especially grain, as well as industrial products and equipment. Those members of the Arab world that import hydrocarbons will be more affected.

Media reports and analysts have sounded the alarm about supply chain disruptions, failures in the supply of some goods, especially foodstuffs.  General tensions could affect the tourism sector, a source of important foreign exchange earnings in a number of Arab countries. All this has the potential for food shortages, the threat of hunger, volatility due to possible outbreaks of discontent, etc.

A number of local analysts are outraged as to why the region should somehow “pay the bills of hatred” of the West towards Russia. Sanctions are designed to bleed Russia white and set it back, but they also make the world pay the price for the US to remain on the throne as the planet’s sole ruler, even if its allies suffer as a result.

Given the impact of the possible detrimental effects of the anti-Russian sanctions, local experts urge the authorities to monitor the situation and act wisely for the sake of their national interests.

In general, it is not in the interest of the Middle East and its individual states to spoil relations with Moscow, as each country has its own ties to Russia. One way or another, countries in the Middle East interact with the Kremlin and therefore need it, Al-Quds stresses.

Observers refer to the fact that their mutual trade has been growing markedly in recent years. They conclude that the Arabs should move in two directions: increasing trade with Moscow, which exceeded $18 billion in 2021, and following India and China in switching to local currencies. In addition, they advise to take advantage of the departure of American and European companies that are investing in the Russian market. Arab capital has great opportunities to take their place and compete successfully in this Russian market.

Russia is a strategic partner of the Gulf countries when it comes to oil and security issues. In these countries, as partners in the OPEC+ agreement, everyone has an interest in the stability of oil prices on world markets. Therefore, a win for one side at the expense of the other would not serve the interest of the balance sought in the hydrocarbon market, but would only risk increasing chaos in the field.

American politicians should understand, commentators argue, that Russia is an organic part of the OPEC+ alliance which will not oppose Moscow or take any part of its oil exports from the market. The Russian Federation will remain in OPEC even after the Ukrainian crisis is over.

Western attempts to press oil-producing countries to increase hydrocarbon production and exports must be seen in the context of the economic diversification policies implemented by a number of Arabian monarchies. They envisage a shift away from oil and gas dependence, innovation in everyday life, etc.

In recent years, Gulf countries have been implementing modernization programs called Qatar National Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia Vision 2030, and Oman Vision 2040, etc. They are dictated by pragmatic considerations and economic benefits that are emerging in the light of new realities.

Arab countries have been victims of the unipolar world since the end of the Cold War, when the era was marked by the US turning their region into a battle and rivalry field, a Jordanian political scientist believes.

Today, in light of the crisis in Ukraine and the accompanying changes looming, they have a chance to make things right. It is a matter of local players using their large financial, economic and natural resources to diversify politics and international relations more actively. So that as they shift their political navigation towards Russia and China, they can have their own say.

Yury Zinin is a senior researcher at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies of Moscow State Institute of International Relations of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MGIMO).

May 12, 2022 Posted by | Economics | , , | Leave a 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

Russia accuses Lithuania of extremism

Samizdat | May 11, 2022

The Lithuanian parliament’s resolution branding Russia a “supporter of terrorism” amounts to “provocation, extremism and political hypocrisy,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.

Earlier this week, the Baltic country’s lawmakers unanimously passed a resolution stating that “the Russian Federation, whose military forces deliberately and systematically bomb civilian targets, is a state that supports and practices terrorism.”

Since the beginning of the conflict in late February, Ukraine and Russia have accused each other of shelling residential areas. Kiev denies that it targets civilians, while Moscow insists that it only hits military targets.

On her show on Sputnik radio on Wednesday, Zakharova said the three Baltic countries, all NATO members, have expressed “neither concern, condemnation nor at least bewilderment” over the actions of the alliance in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Yugoslavia, which led to “hundreds of thousands of casualties among the civilian population,” and to the “emergence of conflicts in places where they were not even contemplated.”

Because of this, Zakharova argued, there is no point in believing that the Lithuanian parliament’s resolution has anything to do with pacifism or with any desire “to resolve the extremely difficult situation in Ukraine.”

“This should be treated exactly as an element of provocation, extremism and political hypocrisy,” the foreign ministry spokeswoman said, adding: if Lithuania is truly concerned of the fate of Ukraine and of “its own European continent,” it should not have engaged in “provocative activities” over the last eight years, but instead care about the fate of people in Donbass and urge Kiev to observe the Minsk agreements.

If Lithuania is really concerned now, it would call for a ceasefire, oppose the supply of weapons to Kiev, and offer intermediary services, Zakharova said. “Instead, they are doing exactly the opposite.”

Russia attacked the neighboring state following Ukraine’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, first signed in 2014, and Moscow’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. The German and French brokered protocols were designed to give the breakaway regions special status within the Ukrainian state.

The Kremlin has since demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists that the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two republics by force.

May 11, 2022 Posted by | Progressive Hypocrite | , , | 1 Comment

Who is winning? It is all down to timing

By Gilbert Doctorow | May 11, 2022

Over the course of the past couple of weeks, Johnson’s Russia List, the daily digest of news and commentary about Russia to which a great many American academics and international affairs professionals subscribe, has been filled with articles by respected experts from think tanks, from the universities all explaining why Russia is losing the war.  Some of these analysts specialize in military affairs: they tell us that the Russians do not have sufficient men and materiel to close the cauldron in the Donbas and achieve their objective of destroying Ukraine’s most effective fighting force. Being just a layman in these matters, I read their arguments with concern. This concern is amplified by the writings of other American experts published in JRL who explain how Russia’s failure at arms will precipitate regime change or chaos in the Russian Federation.

Against this background, I was amazed to read today’s Morning Briefing from The New York Times, which seemingly out of nowhere is telling a very different story. It is so remarkable that I copy it uncut below.

Russia makes gains in eastern Ukraine

More than two months into the war in Ukraine, Russia is making some significant territorial gains, even as its invasion has been marred by poor planning, flawed intelligence, low morale and brutal, indiscriminate violence against civilians. Follow the latest updates from the war.

Russian forces have advanced to the border between Donetsk and Luhansk, according to the Russian defense ministry — provinces where Moscow-backed separatists have been fighting Ukraine’s army for eight years. If confirmed, the news makes it more probable that Russia could entirely control the region, known as the Donbas, compared with just a third of it before the invasion.

If Russia can hold on to, or expand, the territory it occupies in the south and east, and maintain its dominion in the Black Sea, it could further undermine Ukraine’s already battered economy, improve Moscow’s leverage in any future negotiated settlement and potentially expand its capacity to stage broader assaults.

To be sure, Russia’s announcements yesterday of successes in reaching the western and northern territorial boundaries of what had been Lugansk oblast before the civil war that began in the summer of 2014 bear on the NYT’s article. However, by just following the daily maps of territories under the control of the Lugansk People’ Republic the “new” conclusion about the overall state of play could have been reached by any military professional without guidance from the Russian Ministry of Defense. I believe the greater factor in the NYT’s change of tune today about who is winning and who is losing the war was the successful passage yesterday of a new 40 billion aid package by Congress. From the standpoint of Washington, “mission accomplished” and now we can move on. The entire logic of that bill was to provide urgently needed assistance to back Kiev in what has been portrayed as a very successful defense and the start of a counter-offensive against the Russians to recover lost ground. If the Ukrainians are seen to be losing, and losing badly, why bother? In this regard, it is worth considering another item in the news today, this time in the pro-Kremlin Russian daily newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta: Quote A foolish PR stunt by the Kiev regime to seize Zmeiny Island [in the Black Sea, southwest of Odessa] on the eve of Victory Day led to the senseless death of more than 50 Ukrainian fighters and soldiers from elite subdivisions of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. In addition, the Ukrainian army lost 4 planes, 10 helicopters, 3 cutters and 30 drones. This was reported by the representative of the Russian Ministry of Defense, Major General Igor Konashenkov. In particular, during the attempt to seize the island, the Kiev regime lost in the area around the island three SU-24 bombers and one SU-27 fighter jet. Out of the 10 Ukrainian Air Force helicopters which were destroyed, three Mi-8 were shot down with a landing party on board along with one Mi-24 support helicopter. Additionally, six Mi-7 and Mi-24 helicopters which were detached to the operation were destroyed on ground near the city of Artsiz, Odessa oblast. Konashenkov said that three Ukrainian armored Centaur landing craft cutters were destroyed at sea together with their landing parties on board. “Thus, this military adventure ended in catastrophe for Ukraine.”

If this is indicative of the way the long-awaited Ukrainian counter-offensive in Donbas will be managed, it is unlikely the trajectory of the war sketched in today’s New York Times article will be changed in the coming weeks, with or without Mr. Biden’s package of 40 billion dollars of assistance.

©Gilbert Doctorow, 2022

May 11, 2022 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , | 1 Comment

Lavrov Regrets UN Missed Opportunity to Reach Political Solution on Ukraine

By Sofia Chegodaeva | Samizdat | May 11, 2022

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said that he regrets that the UN has missed the opportunity to reach a political solution on the Ukraine crisis.

“To my great regret, the secretariat of this organisation, including its secretary-general, missed the opportunity to achieve a political settlement when for seven long years they did not react in any way to the open, outright sabotage by the Kiev regime of Security Council Resolution 2202, which approved the Minsk Agreements on the settlement in Eastern Ukraine”.

The top Russian diplomat made his statement during a joint press conference with his Omani counterpart Sayyid Badr Albusaidi in Muscat.

Lavrov stressed that the UN should call on the Kiev authorities to stop preventing the evacuation of civilians from the zone of the military operation in Ukraine.

“Taking into account the interest shown by [UN Secretary-General] Antonio Guterres, we advised him first of all to turn his appeals to the Kiev authorities, to demand that they stop preventing civilians from leaving the areas of the military operation”, Lavrov said.

He added that a UN representative “is currently on the ground” and is “trying to help in solving the issues we have raised”.

On 26 April, UN chief Antonio Guterres visited Moscow and had talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Guterres said the crisis in Ukraine was his main concern, adding that he had arrived with a pragmatic position and with the intention to first of all assist in solving humanitarian issues in the conflict zone. The secretary-general confirmed that the UN was ready to work with the Russian and Ukrainian militaries, as well as with the Red Cross, to evacuate civilians from the Azovstal steel works in Mariupol, where the last remaining stronghold of Ukrainian neo-Nazis remains.

When he was asked about the prospect of a war in Europe, Lavrov reiterated that Russia is not seeking a war.

“If you are concerned about the prospect of a war in Europe, we absolutely do not want this, but I draw your attention to the fact that it is the West that constantly insists that Russia must be defeated in this situation”, Lavrov told reporters in Muscat.

In a separate development, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres held a press conference following his meeting with Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen on Wednesday. Speaking about the Ukraine crisis, Guterres said that the possibility of concluding peace or a general truce in Ukraine is not currently visible.

Russia and Ukraine have held several rounds of negotiations in the past two months, trying to hammer out an agreement that would result in a peaceful solution to the crisis. However, after some progress appeared to have been made during a Turkey-mediated meeting between Russian and Ukrainian delegations in Istanbul, Kiev suddenly backtracked on the previously agreed points, and the negotiations were stalled.

May 11, 2022 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | 1 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

Assad renews Syria’s bonds with Iran

BY M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | INDIAN PUNCHLINE | MAY 9, 2022 

The unannounced arrival of the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to Tehran on Sunday makes yet another wrinkle to the geopolitics of West Asia. In a short trip of a few hours, Assad had meetings with Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Ebrahim Raeisi and returned to Damascus. 

This is only the second trip by Assad to Iran in the past 11 years since the conflict erupted in Syria. The last occasion was in 2019, when he came accompanied by the charismatic commander of the IRGC’s elite Quds Force late Qassem Soleimani to mark Syria’s “victory” in the conflict. Much water has flowed down down the Euphrates and the Tigris since then. 

There is some speculation that Russia may redeploy its forces in Syria. The Israeli intelligence website DebkaFile reported cryptically on Friday that “Russian units deployed to Syria are assembling at the air bases of  Hmeimim, Qamishli, Deir e-Zor and T4, ready for some to transfer to the Ukraine warfront. DEBKAfile’s military sources report that the Russians are handing over key bases to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and Hizballah.” 

Prima facie, this is kite-flying, so to speak. There is no independent word from Moscow. Iran will be certainly in the loop on any big Russian troop withdrawal from Syria. The Turkish air space is closed to Russian [military] planes since April and on February 28 Ankara had restricted the passage of Russian warships through the Bosporus and Dardanelles Straits (unless they are returning to their bases in the Black Sea.) 

Analysts have interpreted the Turkish decisions as “anti-Russian” but they come under the ambit of Montreux Convention (1936) and on closer look, may even work to Moscow’s advantage since the door is also closed to any NATO naval build-up in the Black Sea. Russian papers have pointed out that Moscow has been using the air corridor via Iran and Iraq to supply its troops in Syria. 

Indeed, Turkey is doing a delicate trapeze act vis-a-vis Russia and Ukraine, being a Black Sea power with overlapping security concerns, while also a NATO power. Turkey has deftly created space to manoeuvre since NATO is technically not at war with Russia, and since Turkey is not a EU member country, it isn’t obliged to sanction Russia, either. 

Turkish leadership has actively nurtured contacts with the Kremlin, and the economic partnership continues, including over the construction of the massive $20 billion Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant (comprising four 1,200 MW VVER units), which is expected to meet ten percent of Turkey’s electricity demand when it is completed in 2025. 

Again, Russian carrier Aeroflot has just resumed flights to Turkey in anticipation of the tourist season. Believe it or not, Turkey has found an ingenuous formula to allow Russian tourists to travel to Turkey bypassing the suspension of Visa and Mastercard by making it possible to access their funds through Russia’s homegrown payments system called Mir! Some 4.7 million Russian tourists visited Turkey last year, accounting for 19% of the total tourist arrivals, fetching an annual income exceeding $10 billion. 

When it comes to Russian-Iranian relations too, the picture is broadly similar to India’s — neither supporting Russia nor opposing it while refusing to censure Russian intervention and counselling ceasefire and dialogue as the only solution. 

According to Iranian media reports, Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak is due to visit Iran shortly in connection with the session of the Iran-Russia Joint Economic Committee. The discussions are expected to focus on “strengthening financial cooperation and resolving transit problems” between the two countries as well as cooperating in the fields of oil and gas and promoting trade and tourism. Tehran knows that such camaraderie with Moscow is contrary to the spirit of Western sanctions.   

Moscow has every intention to remain actively involved in Syria. Special Russian Presidential Representative for the Middle East and Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov disclosed to Tass last week that Russia is working on scheduling the next international meeting on Syria in the Astana format for the end of May in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan. Does that look like Russia washing its hands off Syria? To quote Bogdanov, “We already discussed this with partners Iran and Turkey as the guarantors of the Astana process plus with the Syrian government and opposition delegations.” 

The official Syrian news agency Sana described Assad’s trip to Tehran as a “working visit.” It quoted Assad as stressing to Khamenei about “the importance of continuing cooperation in order not to allow America to rebuild the international terrorist system that it used to harm the countries of the world,” adding that the US “is weaker than ever.”

There are four main takeaways from Assad’s talks with the Iranian leadership. First, Assad made it clear in no uncertain terms that no matter Syria’s normalisation with the UAE (or other Arab countries involved in the conflict), he continues to attribute the highest importance to Syria’s alliance with Iran. Assad underscored that Syria is ready for broader coordination with Iran in security, political and economic fields.

Second, Damascus needs Tehran’s help for finally freeing Syria from foreign occupation. Raisi told Assad, “The whole of the Syrian land must be liberated from foreign occupiers. This occupation should not be subject to the passage of time, and the occupying forces and their mercenaries should be expelled.” Sana cited Khamenei as stressing that Iran will “continue to support Syria to complete its victory over terrorism and liberate the rest of the country’s lands.” 

Third, the two countries have a consensus on the effectiveness and vibrancy of the resistance front. Assad acknowledged that the weakening of the US’ influence in West Asia and the end of Israel’s military supremacy regionally is a direct outcome of the strategic relations between Iran and Syria, “which must continue with strength.” 

Interestingly, Khamenei recalled that Soleimani had “a special liking towards Syria and literally sacrificed his life” for that country and viewed the issue of Syria as a “sacred duty and obligation”. Khamenei reminded Assad poignantly, “This bond is vital for both countries and we should not let it weaken. On the contrary, we should strengthen it as much as possible.” Raisi called Assad “one of the figures of the Resistance Front” like his father Hafez al-Assad.

Fourth, Assad sought and obtained assurances from the highest level of Iranian leadership that Iran will help Syria overcome its difficulties. This is particularly crucial at a juncture when regional politics is in flux and Russia is preoccupied in Ukraine. 

A resuscitation of the US-led regime change project in Syria is not to be expected and Washington no longer wields commanding influence over its Persian Gulf allies or Turkey to get them to act as its surrogates. But Assad’s challenge is that Syria is getting relegated to the back burner as new hotspots and topical issues draw the region’s attention — such as JCPOA, Yemen, Iran-Saudi normalisation, OPEC+, etc. 

Although the conflict has ended, Syria still remains under foreign occupation and its economy is in ruins. A frozen conflict may legitimise the status quo. Meanwhile, Israel is waiting in the wings. Assad’s visit to Tehran signals that Iran remains the mainstay of Syria’s future strategy to avoid such a dismal fate. Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian affirmed on Monday that Assad’s visit was held in an atmosphere of “fraternity and friendship,” and it opens a new chapter in the strategic ties.

May 9, 2022 Posted by | Solidarity and Activism | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kiev Plans False Flag Missile Strikes on Mass Gatherings in Western Ukraine on 8 May – MoD

By Tim Corso | Samizdat | May 7, 2022

The Russian Defence Ministry has stated that Ukrainian forces are planning a false flag operation involving missile strikes at gatherings of civilians in the Lvov and Volyn regions in Ukraine’s west. The ministry said that the goal of this operation is to falsely accuse Russia of causing civilian deaths.

“The Kiev regime plans to carry out yet another sophisticated provocation involving the death of civilians in the western regions of the country on May 8 during the Day of Remembrance and Reconciliation celebrated in Ukraine instead of the Victory Day […] It will be carried out in order to accuse the Russian Armed Forces of indiscriminate missile strikes”, the ministry said.

The ministry elaborated that Ukrainian forces will be using Tochka-U missiles for this purpose. Kiev has repeatedly accused Moscow of firing these missiles at Ukrainian civilian targets, but Moscow strongly denied these accusations, noting that the Russian Armed Forces stopped using Tochka-U missiles a long time ago, unlike its Ukrainian counterpart.

Russia has repeatedly stressed that its forces are only targeting military installations in Ukraine as they carry out the special military operation. Moscow accused Kiev’s forces of hitting civilian infrastructure to delay Russian forces’ advance and later accuse them of damaging these targets.

May 7, 2022 Posted by | False Flag Terrorism, War Crimes | , | 1 Comment