Category Archives: Geopolitics

Trump vs. His Own Administration? by Ron Paul

Trump and the members of his administration are often not on the same page. From Ron Paul at ronpaulinstitute.org:

Are President Trump’s senior cabinet members working against him? It’s hard not to conclude that many of the more hawkish neocons that Trump has (mistakenly, in my view) appointed to top jobs are actively working to undermine the president’s stated agenda. Especially when it seems Trump is trying to seek dialogue with countries the neocons see as adversaries needing to be regime-changed.

Remember just as President Trump was organizing an historic summit meeting with Kim Jong-Un, his National Security Advisor, John Bolton, nearly blew the whole thing up by making repeated references to the “Libya model” and how it should be applied to North Korea. As if Kim would jump at the chance to be bombed, overthrown, and murdered at the hands of a US-backed mob!

It seems that Trump’s appointees are again working at cross-purposes to him. Last week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that he was invoking a 1991 US law against the use of chemical weapons to announce yet another round of sanctions on Russia over what he claims is Putin’s involvement in the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter in the UK.

The alleged poisoning took place in March and only now did the State Department make its determination that Russia was behind it and thus subject to the 1991 sanction law. Was there new information that came to light that pointed to Russian involvement? According to a State Department briefing there was none. The State Department just decided to take the British government’s word for it.

Where do we get authority to prosecute Russia for an alleged crime committed in the UK, by the way?

President Trump’s own Administration is forcing him to accept the State Department determination and agree to sanctions that may well include, according to the 1991 law, a complete break of diplomatic relations with Russia. This would be a de facto declaration of war. Over unproven allegations.

Trump has authority to reject the imposition of new sanctions, but with his Democrat opponents continuing to charge that he is in league with the Russian president, how could he waive sanctions just before the November US Congressional elections? That would be a windfall for the Democrats seeking to take control of the House and Senate.

To continue reading: Trump vs. His Own Administration?

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How the Global Trade Contraction Begins, by MN Gordon

Like almost all financial measures, global trade doesn’t proceed ever upward, a straight line on a graph from lower left to upper right. From MN Gordon at economicprism.com:

The world grows increasingly at odds with itself, with each passing day.  Divided special elections.  Speech censorship by Silicon Valley social media companies.  Increased shrieking from Anderson Cooper.  You name it, a great pileup’s upon us.

From our perch overlooking San Pedro Bay, the main port of entry for Chinese made goods into the USA, facets of the mounting economic catastrophe come into focus.  These elements, even for the most untrained of eyes, are impossible to miss.

To meet the relentless expansion of international trade, berths have been widened, and channels have been deepened to accommodate the definitive absurdity of perpetual credit creation: The CMA CGM Benjamin Franklin.  This mega container ship, if you’re unfamiliar with it, is over 20 stories tall, the width of a 12 lane freeway, and longer than four football fields.  It has enough cargo space to hold 90 million pairs of ‘Made In China’ shoes.

The secondary distortions of this mammoth – next generation – cargo ship will provide historical evidence to future generations of a political economy that went seriously awry.  For example, at the Port of Long Beach the Gerald Desmond Bridge replacement is currently being constructed at a cost of $1.5 billion.  With two towers stretching 515 feet into the sky, this will be the second tallest cable-stayed bridge in the United States.

The purpose of the bridge replacement is to provide greater clearance into the Port’s Inner Harbor for mega container ships.  As the new bridge deck goes up, it dwarfs the prior edifice like some futuristic motorway traversing up to the heavens.  We’re certainly eager to drive it when it’s complete in late-2019.

Episodes of Global Trade Contraction

The general philosophy of the bridge’s proponents appears to be that global trade expands in perpetuity.  Hence, more and more space will be needed for more and more next generation container ships.  There’s even 50-years of data to support this belief.  But that doesn’t mean what is will always be.

To continue reading: How the Global Trade Contraction Begins

The Real Reason Why US-Turkey Relations Have Hit an All-Time Low, by Jim Carey

This is an excellent survey and analysis of the US-Turkey relationship. From Jim Carey at theantimedia.com:

Over the past week, US-Turkey relations have hit an all-time low, but how did these two allies end up at odds with each other?

If you’ve been watching the news over the past week you may think the current hostility between Washington and Ankara is about the US pastor, Andrew Brunson. Brunson, who has been in police custody or under house arrest in Turkey since October 2016, has now apparently become a high priority for the Trump Regime.

But why did this take so long? Vice President Mike Pence has known about Brunson since day one of the administration thanks to his ties to the US evangelical community but neither he or the President have previously expressed this level of outrage. There have already been low key talks between Washington and Ankara in the past concerning the return of Brunson to the US, but what the Western media isn’t reporting now is how these talks to return a US national fit into the bigger geopolitical picture of US-Turkey relations.

Andrew Brunson and Fethullah Gulen: “A Pastor for a Pastor”

Behind the general request by the US to return Andrew Brunson is a several-year-long process involving several closed-door meetings about the pastor between US and Turkish officials. During all of these meetings, the US demand was the same as it is now, but they weren’t the only one who wanted something out of the negotiations.

You aren’t hearing much about Ankara’s demands right now but Turkish President Recep Erdogan has previously said he would be willing to return the US pastor in exchange for Turkey’s own expat “pastor,” Fethullah Gulen. Erdogan made this perfectly clear at a rally for Turkish police officers in March, saying that the trade should be a no-brainer since “the one that we have [in our hands – Brunson] is being tried, the one you have [in your hands – Gulen] is not being tried.”

Gulen is the exiled cleric and former-Erdogan ally alleged to be behind a failed coup in July 2016 with supposed US assistance. Turkey has been asking for the return of Gulen since before the dust even settled after the coup attempt but the US has so far refused to extradite the charter-school magnate and religious leader.

To continue reading: The Real Reason Why US-Turkey Relations Have Hit an All-Time Low

Why Trump Cancelled the Iran Deal, by Eric Zuesse

Trump is aligning with Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, and Israel to maintain US economic and financial preeminence, which means opposing Iran at every juncture. From Eric Zuesse at strategic-culture.org:

The following is entirely from open online sources that I have been finding to be trustworthy on these matters in the past. These sources will be linked-to here; none of this information is secret, even though some details in my resulting analysis of it will be entirely new.

It explains how and why the bottom-line difference between Donald Trump and Barack Obama, regarding US national security policies, turns out to be their different respective estimations of the biggest danger threatening the maintenance of the US dollar as the world’s leading or reserve currency. This has been the overriding foreign-policy concern for both Presidents.

Obama placed as being the top threat to the dollar, a breakaway of the EU (America’s largest market both for exports and for imports) from alliance with the United States. He was internationally a Europhile. Trump, however, places as being the top threat to the dollar, a breakaway of Saudi Arabia and of the other Gulf Arab oil monarchies from the U.S. Trump is internationally a Sunni-phile: specifically a protector of fundamentalist Sunni monarchs — but especially of the Sauds themselves — and they hate Shia and especially the main Shia nation, Iran.

Here’s how that change, to Saudi Arabia as being America’s main ally, has happened — actually it’s a culmination of decades. Trump is merely the latest part of that process of change. Here is from the US State Department’s official historian, regarding this history:

By the 1960s, a surplus of US dollars caused by foreign aid, military spending, and foreign investment threatened this system [the FDR-established 1944 Bretton Woods gold-based US dollar as the world’s reserve currency], as the United States did not have enough gold to cover the volume of dollars in worldwide circulation at the rate of $35 per ounce; as a result, the dollar was overvalued. Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson adopted a series of measures to support the dollar and sustain Bretton Woods: foreign investment disincentives; restrictions on foreign lending; efforts to stem the official outflow of dollars; international monetary reform; and cooperation with other countries. Nothing worked. Meanwhile, traders in foreign exchange markets, believing that the dollar’s overvaluation would one day compel the US government to devalue it, proved increasingly inclined to sell dollars. This resulted in periodic runs on the dollar.

To continue reading: Why Trump Cancelled the Iran Deal

 

Latest Sanctions Against Russia Show Trump Not in Control of his Administration, by F. Michael Maloof

The Skripal poisoning story is full of holes, but that’s not stopping the Trump administration from levying additional sanctions against Russia. From F. Michael Maloof at rt.com:

US President Donald Trump is not in control of his own administration, as evidenced by the latest round of sanctions imposed against Russia for the alleged involvement in the poisoning of the Skripals in the UK in March.

The sanctions came the same day that US Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., announced on a trip to Moscow that he had handed over a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin from Trump calling for better relations between the two countries.

For that reason, the timing appears to be suspect, suggesting strongly that Trump has his own foreign policy while the Trump administration, comprised mainly of bureaucrats referred to as the Deep State, have their own. Right now, they appear to be in control, not President Trump, over his own administration, and it is having the adverse effect of further alienating Washington and Moscow.

The neocons, led by National Security Advisor John Bolton, along with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley, comprise the Trump “war cabinet” ostensibly aimed at directing a harder line toward Syria, North Korea, Iran but also Russia.

Bolton, in particular, has been outspoken in calling for regime change in some of  these countries. Trump not so much so. In fact, he has said just the opposite. Nevertheless, their anti-Russian flair in Washington has breathed new life into the neocons who, along with the Democrats, Deep State and much of the mainstream media, have pushed the false narrative of collusion between Russia and Trump.

This persistent anti-Russian rant and repeated sanctions which have been imposed have had the effect of leading to further threats of sanctions for questionable reasons, raising the potential prospect of suspension of diplomatic ties.

To continue reading: Latest Sanctions Against Russia Show Trump Not in Control of his Administration

The Self-Imposed Impotence of the Russian and Chinese Governments, by Paul Craig Roberts

It’s SLL’s guess that Russia and China have their own reasons for what they do, and they have nothing to do with diffidence, impotence, or ignorance, as Paul Craig Roberts suggests. From Roberts at paulcraigroberts.com:

The Russian and Chinese governments are puzzling. They hold all the cards in the sanction wars and sit there with no wits whatsoever as to how to play them.

The Russians won’t get any help from the Western media which obscures the issue by stressing that the Russian government doesn’t want to deprive its citizens of consumer goods from the West, which is precisely what Washington’s sanctions intend to do.

The Russian and Chinese governments are in Washington’s hands because Russia and China, thinking that capitalism had won, quickly adopted American neoliberal economics, which is a propaganda device that serves only American interests.

For years NASA has been unable to function without Russian rocket engines. Despite all the sanctions, insults, military provocations, the Russian government still sends NASA the engines. Why? Because the Russian economists tell the government that foreign exchange is essential to Russia’s development.

Europe is dependent on Russian energy to run its factories and to keep warm in winter. But Russia does not turn off the energy in response to Europe’s participation in Washington’s sanctions, because the Russian economists tell the government that foreign exchange is essential to Russia’s development.

As Michael Hudson and I explained on a number of occasions, this is nonsense. Russia’s development is dependent in no way on the acquisition of foreign currencies.

The Russians are also convinced that they need foreign investment, which serves only to drain profits out of their economy.

The Russians are also convinced that they should freely trade their currency, thereby subjecting the ruble to manipulation on foreign exchange markets. If Washington wants to bring a currency crisis to Russia, all the Federal Reserve, its vassal Japanese, EU, and UK central banks have to do is to short the ruble. Hedge funds and speculators join in for the profits.

Neoliberal economics is a hoax, and the Russians have fallen for it.

So have the Chinese

To continue reading: The Self-Imposed Impotence of the Russian and Chinese Governments

Talk Cold Turkey, by Raúl Ilargi Meijer

Will Turkey turn to Russia and China as a way out of its financial problems? From Raúl Ilargi Meijer at theautomaticearth.com:

Recep Tayyip Erdogan became Prime Minister of Turkey in 2003. His AKP party had won a major election victory in 2002, but Erdogan was banned from political office until his predecessor Gül annulled the ban. Which he had gotten in 1997 for reciting an old poem to which he had added the lines “The mosques are our barracks, the domes our helmets, the minarets our bayonets and the faithful our soldiers….”

The Turkish courts of the time saw this as “an incitement to violence and religious or racial hatred..” and sentenced him to ten months in prison (of which he served four in 1999). The courts saw Erdogan as a threat to the secular Turkish state as defined by Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey in the 1920’s. Erdogan is trying to both turn the nation towards Islam and at the same time not appearing to insult Ataturk.

The reality is that many Turks today lean towards a religion-based society, and no longer understand why Ataturk insisted on a secular(ist) state. Which he did after many years of wars and conflicts as a result of religious -and other- struggles. Seeing how Turkey lies in the middle between Christian Europe and the Muslim world, it is not difficult to fathom why the ‘father’ of the country saw secularism as the best if not only option. But that was 90 years ago.

And it doesn’t serve Erdogan’s purposes. If he can appeal to the ‘silent’ religious crowd and gather their support, he has the power. To wit. In 2003, one of his first acts as prime minister was to have Turkey enter George W.’s coalition of the willing to invade Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. As a reward for that, negotiations for Turkey to join the EU started. These are officially still happening, but unofficially they’re dead.

In 2014 Erdogan finally got his dream job: president. Ironically, in order to get the job, Erdogan depended heavily on the movement of scholar and imam Fethullah Gülen, who, despite moving to Pennsylvania in 1999, still had (has?) considerable influence in Turkish society. Two years after becoming president, Erdogan accused Gülen of being the mastermind behind a ‘failed coup’ in 2016, after which tens of thousands of alleged Gülenists were arrested, fired, etc.

To continue reading: Talk Cold Turkey