This week’s cover of The Economist, mouthpiece of the City of London, depicts a bear bleeding in the snow, headlined “Russia’s Wounded Economy.” Backed up by three pages of in-depth profiling of Russian economic weak points, the lead editorial serves to confirm Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s charge, that the purpose of the West’s economic sanctions against Russia is “regime change.” Speaking for a trans-Atlantic financial sector that is itself bankrupt, The Economist declares that Russia “is closer to crisis than the West or Vladimir Putin realize.”
The list of vulnerabilities includes dependence on oil exports, when oil prices are now 10 to 20 dollars/barrel below what Moscow had counted on; a 23% collapse in the ruble, bringing potential consumer price inflation despite efforts to substitute domestically produced goods for imports; and the Russian corporate foreign debt, of both state-owned and private companies, which is now over $500 billion, with $130 billion due before the end of 2015. The Economist suggests ways for “international finance” to exploit each of these, to breach “Russia’s defenses.” Continuing its propaganda campaign of recent weeks about vulnerabilities within the BRICS, The Economist suggests that if Russian companies default, then Brazil will be the next to suffer. “When economies are on an unsustainable course,” the editorial intones, “international finance often acts as a fast-forward button, pushing countries over the edge more quickly than politicians or investors expect…”
One of the back-up articles purports to find a Russian “weakness” in the fact that $170 billion of its reserves and “rainy day” assets are in the National Welfare Fund (NWF) and the Reserve Fund, and the NWF has been partially committed to infrastructure investment, so it won’t be available for bailouts!
The Economist’s international editor, Ed Lucas, is a notorious Putin-basher and author of books on the need to bring down Putin, also famous for the utterance in 2008, “I hate the Westphalian system” of sovereign nation-states. Lucas personally used his Twitter feed last December to fan the Maidan coup process in Ukraine, by putting out a false report that President Victor Yanukovych had pledged to join the Eurasian Customs Union as a full member.
Today economic issues were debated in the Russian Federation Council, as one of a series of top-level economic policy meetings, in advance of Putin’s Message to the Federal Assembly on Dec. 4. There are rumors of government and/or policy changes. One of the speakers was Academician Sergei Glazyev, adviser to Putin on Eurasian integration, who said that Russia is losing 11 trillion rubles (around $250 billion) this year through capital flight and currency speculation. He blasted the Central Bank for starving the Russian real economy of credit, and called for increased funding of development institutions (like the Development Bank, the Russian Direct Investment Fund, and others), a heavy tax on “dubious” cross-border capital movements, and the implementation of serious deoffshoreization at last. Russia has $500 billion parked in offshore tax havens, Glazyev said, adding, “These offshores are in British jurisdictions, so at any moment they can be cut off from our financial system by sanctions.”
One recent item in the dangerous Anglo-American drive to confront and even overthrow Russian President Vladimir Putin, was a Nov. 5 Wall Street Journal pot-boiler claiming that U.S. Federal Prosecutors were going after Gennadi Timchenko, co-founder and former co-owner of the Cyprus-registered and Geneva-based Gunvor Group, for money-laundering. For years, Timchenko has been called the Putin “crony,” whose supposed crimes might bring the Russian President down. None of the principals would comment on the alleged probe, and Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov said “We’re not aware of any investigation.” Nonetheless, the WSJ cited anonymous government sources who situated such a case within “a wider push by U.S. prosecutors to go after the proceeds of foreign corruption under the Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative.”
The renewed chatter against Timchenko coincides with his emergence as a promoter of Eurasian high-speed rail (HSR), one of the most promising real-economy projects on the agenda in Russia today. As detailed in EIR‘s just-released Special Report “The New Silk Road Becomes the World Land-Bridge,” the mid-October visit to Moscow by Prime Minister Li Keqiang saw the signing of a memorandum of understanding between Russian Railways, the Russian Ministry of Transport, and their Chinese partners, on cooperation to build the long-planned and oft-delayed Moscow-Kazan HSR, as part of a Beijing-Moscow HSR corridor.
Timchenko chairs the Russian-Chinese Business Council. In that capacity, according to a PRNewswire release, today he addressed a group of Moscow-based Chinese journalists on the potential of the Beijing-Moscow HSR project. One of his talking points was this: “I would like to single out the high-speed link between Beijing and Moscow, which one could call a `high-speed silk road.’ The route is already under serious consideration, and the Russian government is allocating budgetary funds for the planning process. The Moscow-Kazan section, which is where I think construction will begin, will give a serious boost to the development of transport infrastructure…. Of course, this rail-link will have a huge investment effect, with new business and industrial centers developing along the route.”
Timchenko noted the more southerly Silk Road rail route to Europe, already built by China. He portrayed the Beijing-Moscow route as complementary to it, adding: “I am a genuine supporter of this project, but I understand that it requires huge amounts of investment. How much Chinese money today is invested in U.S. Treasuries? I believe it is more than USD 2 trillion. And what is this money doing? China is actually losing money on this investment, because of dollar inflation. Investment in the railway would pay for itself. Maybe not overnight, but we would create infrastructure connecting Asia with Europe for future generations.”
Back in 2009, Lyndon LaRouche said that China’s U.S. dollar reserves would be worth something real, if they were invested in infrastructure and other tangible production in Russia and elsewhere, including in cooperation with India, and that this would create an opportunity for the United States to change its own policies and join in economic cooperation with these other great powers. LaRouche’s statement was hotly debated in Russia at the time.
The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters, Francisco Goya.
Having the vicious witch-hunt in the mainstream media against critics of the anti-Russia confrontationism as a supportive background, no-brains like Christian Democrat Andreas Schockenhoff pop up to poison the debate even more. Schockenhoff, notorious for his anti-Russian diatribes, including coming out in favor of “Pussy Riot” against Putin, attacked the chairman of the German-Russia Forum Matthias Platzeck, in particular, for the latter’s alleged call for a diplomatic recognition of the Crimean unification with Russia—which Schockenhoff said disqualifies Platzeck at the Forum.
Apart from the fact that Platzeck never said that, but called for a new referendum of the population in Crimea to decide, the disqualification is clearly on Schockenhoff’s side, and should he be able with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s support to replace Platzeck at the Forum, this organization might as well be embargoed by Russia, for no longer being of any use. Schockenhoff also attacked Lothar de Maiziere, the German co-chairman of the St. Petersburg Dialogue. What is bad is that Platzeck also came under attack from inside his own Social Democrats.
Unfortunately, the Forum and the Dialogue had been subverted to a large extent already long before, with “civil society” aspects dominating the internal meetings and public sessions during the past couple of years. The only reasonable aspect remaining has been the Raw Materials Forum as a sub-branch of the St. Petersburg Dialogue, in which industrial interests that have good relations with Russia are prevalent.
James Carden, who served as an advisor to the U.S.-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission at the State Department from 2011-2012, took aim at the Obama Administration’s policy on Ukraine, in an essay published by The American Conservative on Nov. 21. He described it as the worst policy disaster since at least the 2003 invasion of Iraq and maybe since Vietnam, but “not one of the President’s men or women have been called to account.”
The list of those who should be held accountable, he wrote, should include “National Security Adviser Susan Rice, UN Ambassador Samantha Power, Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt, Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, and CIA Director John Brennan” and, not to mention, Tony Blinken, who is being promoted to the Sate Department’s no. 2 position—all of the people, in fact, who saner elements in the Democratic Party want to see purged from the White House. The policy of supporting the overthrow of the legally elected President of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, over his refusal to sign the EU Association Agreement has also been a disaster for Ukraine, which has suffered over 4,000 war dead, many thousands more wounded, a million people displaced, the loss of Crimea and the defacto partition of the country, Carden added.
One “curious aspect” of the whole affair, Carden noted, is that Putin is solely blamed for the disaster by policymakers and pundits alike. “But as was too often the case in the blood-soaked 20th century, a set of particular (to say nothing of peculiar) set of ideas can sometimes become the driver of events, and in the case of the year-long Ukraine crisis, it has been the Washington establishments misguided and ultimately dangerous belief that ‘democracy’ is some sort of panacea for what ails developing nations,” Carden wrote. “What the last year has shown is that our foreign policy has become hostage to our illusions,” Carden concludes. “And, tragically, for thousands of Ukrainians those illusions have proved to be fatal.”