Russians like their own country and wish the rest of the world would leave it alone. That’s an unforgivable sin to the world’s globalists. From Tom Luongo at tomluongo.me:
Despite what American and European commentators may think, there really is a deep desire among people to vote for their own sovereignty. And that impulse was on full display last week with the announcement of the results of Russia’s public vote to approve the changes to its constitution.
The final tally put the vote at 78% in favor with a 65% voter turnout for the referendum. These are the most sweeping changes to Russia’s constitution since it was ratified back in 1993, which vested the President with immense power.
And while the final package of reforms differed in one important aspect from the original one – allowing for a president to serve more than two ‘consecutive’ terms – the over-arching theme of the changes was to devolve power out of the presidency putting more power in the hands of the elected representatives in the Duma.
The president’s cabinet is to be drawn from the Duma rather than the appointed by the president, while the State Council has been officially added to the constitution which can implement presidential edicts directly to the regions. In effect, there is now a greater balance (and tension) between these various branches of government as the president loses control over appointing his cabinet but strengthens his ability to bypass the elected parliament.
What was clear at the outset of this process was that Putin was trying to prepare his succession while minimizing the potential for another ‘foreign puppet’ to wield the immense power of the Russian presidency, as it was under Boris Yeltsin.
Vladimir Putin no longer makes the mistake of believing that the US president exercises any meaningful control over US military and foreign policy. From Ray McGovern at consortiumnews.com:
Whatever hopes Russia’s leader may have had for a more workable relationship with the U.S. have been “trumpled,” so to speak.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and U.S. President Donald Trump during G20 Summit in Osaka, June 28, 2019. (White House/ Shealah Craighead)
Russian hopes dashed: Whatever hopes Russian President Vladimir Putin may have had for a more workable relationship with the Trump administration have been “trumpled,” so to speak. This came through loudly and clearly in acerbic remarks by Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov in an interview Friday with The National Interest.
Ryabkov lamented the sad state of Russia-U.S. relations, while pointing, not very subtly, to China as Russia’s ace in the hole. He was simply acknowledging that what the Soviets used to call “the correlation of forces” has changed markedly, and strongly implied that the U.S. should draw the appropriate conclusions.
No amateur diplomat, Ryabkov used unusually sharp, almost certainly pre-authorized, words to drive home his message:
“We don’t believe the U.S. in its current shape is a counterpart that is reliable, so we have no confidence, no trust whatsoever. So our own calculations and conclusions are less related to what America is doing … we cherish our close and friendly relations with China. We do regard this as a comprehensive strategic partnership in different areas, and we intend to develop it further.”
In other words: We Russians and Chinese will stand together as the U.S. tries to paint both of us as arch-villains, all the while isolating itself and painting itself into a corner.
Ray McGovern is one of those nut jobs who think it would be better for the US if it had a least a measure of comity with the world’s other big nuclear power. From McGovern at consortiumnews.com:
As the 75th anniversary of World War II’s end is marked on Friday, few Americans know the Soviet Union’s major role in that victory, making them vulnerable to today’s anti-Russian messaging.
From left to right: Joseph Stalin, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Winston Churchill on the portico of the Soviet Embassy during the Tehran Conference. (Wikimedia Commons) .
Announcing Germany’s surrender and the end of war in Europe 75 years ago on May 8, 1945, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was quick to acknowledge the vital role played by the Soviet Union in the Allied victory over Germany: “Today, perhaps, we shall think mostly of ourselves. Tomorrow we shall pay a particular tribute to our Russian comrades, whose prowess in the field has been one of the grand contributions to the general victory.”
Churchill was more colloquial when he addressed the House of Commons in October 1944, stating that the Soviets had “torn the guts out of the filthy Nazis.” More than 80 percent of the German soldiers killed in World War II died fighting the Red Army.
The Soviets forced the Germans to retreat long before Allied troops invaded Normandy — a reality that today would surprise many Americans. Before Normandy, the U.S. and Britain were providing the Soviets with key logistical and other support. But it was the Soviet army that held off and decimated several of the Wehrmacht’s strongest divisions.
While it may stun those who still read the Kremlin-baiting Washington Post, it was still possible five years ago to place in that august newspaper an “other-side-of-the-story” article describing who actually did the heavy lifting to defeat the Nazis.
If Donald Trump wished Vladimir Putin a happy birthday on the appropriate date, the entire US military-industrial-intelligence complex would be in an uproar. From Thomas Knapp at antiwar.com:
On April 25, 2020, US president Donald Trump and Russian president Vladimir Putin issued a joint statement commemorating the 75th anniversary of “Elbe Day” – the day, presaging the end of World War 2 in Europe, when Russian and US troops met near the German towns of Strehla and Torgau.
The Wall Street Journal reports that this congenial interaction between the two presidents “stirs concern among” members of Congress and officials at the US Departments of State and Defense.
What’s inherently controversial about the Trump/Putin statement that wasn’t controversial about the similar 65th anniversary message from Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev?
The supposed concern appears to have little, if anything, to do with actual foreign policy matters.
Yes, the US is still at odds with Russia on various issues – Russian support for new states which seceded from Ukraine after a US-backed coup in that country, and Russian support for Syria’s government against US-backed rebels, to name two.
After system overload comes chaos, the betting favorite at SLL for a long time. From Alastair Crooke at strategic-culture.org:
Some have queried how it could be that President Putin would co-operate with President Trump to have OPEC+ push oil prices higher – when those higher prices precisely would only help sustain U.S. oil production. In effect, President Putin was being asked to underwrite a subsidy to the U.S. economy – at the expense of Russia’s own oil and gas sales – since U.S. shale production simply is not economic at these prices. In other words, Russia seemed to be shooting itself in the foot.
Well, the calculus for Moscow on whether to cut production (to help Trump) was never simple. There were geo-political and domestic economic considerations – as well as the industry ones – to weigh. But, perhaps one issue trumped all others?
Since 2007, President Putin has been pointing to one overarching threat to global trade: And that problem was simply, the U.S. dollar.
And now, that dollar is in crisis. We are referring, here, not so much to America’s domestic financial crisis (although the monetisation of U.S. debt is connected to threat to the global system), but rather, how the international trading system is poised to blow apart, with grave consequences for everyone.
Who wants to put US shale oil drillers out of business more, Russia or Saudi Arabia? From Tyler Durden at zerohedge.com:
While it appears an expected emergency virtual OPEC+ meeting planned for Monday has been postponed, pushed back to later in the week to allow more time for negotiations, it’s likely that we’ll actually see the heated blame-game for the collapse in oil prices ratchet up — and oh,in the meantimeoil is set to crater come Monday as the feud is only expected to get uglier.
Indeed the aggressive war of words has started, with Putin offering a biting Russian narrative aimed at the Saudis in remarks Friday: “It was the pullout by our partners from Saudi Arabia from the OPEC+ deal, their increase in production and their announcement that they were even ready to give discounts on oil” that drove the crash alongside the double-whammy of the coronavirus-driven drop in demand, Putin said according to Bloomberg.
“This was apparently linked to efforts by our partners from Saudi Arabia to eliminate competitors who produce so-called shale oil,” Putin continued. “To do that, the price needs to be below $40 a barrel. And they succeeded in that. But we don’t need that, we never set such a goal.”
Editor’s Note: Vladimir Pozner is Russia’s most influential TV political-talk-show host, journalist and broadcaster.
Pozner has hosted several shows on Russian television, where he has interviewed famous figures such as Hillary Clinton, Alain Delon, President Dimitri Medvedev and Sting.
Pozner has appeared on a wide range of networks, including NBC, CBS, CNN and the BBC. In his long career, he has been a journalist, editor (Soviet Life Magazine and Sputnik Magazine) and TV and radio commentator, covering all major events in Russia.
Pozner has appeared on The Phil Donahue Show and Ted Koppel’s Nightline.
He co-hosted a show with Phil Donahue called Pozner/Donahue. It was the first televised bi-lateral discussion (or “spacebridge”) between audiences in the Soviet Union and the US, carried via satellite.
In 1997, he returned to Moscow as an independent journalist.
Doug Casey’s friend Mark Gould sat down with Pozner in Moscow to help us better understand the relationship between the US and Russia.
International Man: Naturally, Americans have a lot of misconceptions about Russia. The US government and media offer an overly simplistic and unfavorable view of the country.
Trump is probably not going to be able to negotiate much of a cease fire with Vladimir Putin in Putin’s war on US shale oil. From Moon of Alabama at moonofalabama.org:
Three weeks ago, when the Russian and Saudi war on U.S. shale oil started, we wrote:
In the first week of January crude oil reached $69/bl but it has since dropped to $45/bl as the coronavirus crisis destroyed the global demand. The Saudis tried to make a deal with Russia, the second largest exporter after Saudi Arabia, to together cut oil production to keep the price up. But Russia rejected a new OPEC cut. It wants to keep its production up and it will use the crisis to further undermine U.S. oil fracking production. As the whole fracking boom in the U.S. is build on fraud the move might well be successful.
Russia does not have a budget deficit and is well positioned to survive lower crude oil prices without much damage. Saudi Arabia is not.
Only a week later oil was already at $30/barrel and we predicted that it would go down to $20/bl.
On Monday the U.S. WTI oil price index reached that mark. Oil prices in other places are falling even further:
Canadian heavy crude has become so cheap that the cost of shipping it to refineries exceeds the value of the oil itself, a situation that may result in even more oil-sands producers shutting operations.Western Canadian Select crude in Alberta dropped to a record-low close of $5.06 a barrel on Friday, according to Bloomberg data going back to 2008 …
The corona virus crisis has led to drop in global demand by some 20%. The world production and consumption in normal times was at about 100 million barrel per day. Consumption is now below 80 million bl/d. But after the OPEC+ agreement failed Saudi and Russia both started to pump as much as they could to regain market shares. Together they are increasing their production by some 3-4 million barrels per day. All that oil has to go somewhere.
MBS is playing tiddlywinks; Vladimir Putin is playing nine-dimensional chess. From Simon Watkins at oilprice.com:
One might reasonably posit that when Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) signalled that Saudi Arabia was once again going to produce oil to the maximum to crash oil prices in a full-scale oil price war, Russian President Vladimir Putin probably fell off the horse he was riding bare-chested somewhere in Siberia because he was laughing so much. There is a phrase in Russian intelligence circles for clueless people that are ruthlessly used without their knowledge in covert operations, which is ‘a useful idiot’, and it is hard to think of anyone more ‘useful’ in this context to the Russians than whoever came up with Saudi’s latest ‘plan’. Whichever way the oil price war pans out, Russia wins.
In purely basic oil economics terms, Russia has a budget breakeven price of US$40 per barrel of Brent this year: Saudi’s is US$84. Russia can produce over 11 million barrels per day (mbpd) of oil without figuratively breaking sweat; Saudi’s average from 1973 to right now is just over 8 mbpd. Russia’s major oil producer, Rosneft, has been begging President Putin to allow it to produce and sell more oil since the OPEC+ arrangement was first agreed in December 2016; Saudi’s major oil producer, Aramco, only suffers value-destruction in such a scenario. This includes for those people who were sufficiently trusting of MbS to buy shares in Aramco’s recent IPO. Russia can cope with oil prices as low as US$25 per barrel from a budget and foreign asset reserves perspective for up to 10 years; Saudi can manage 2 years at most.
Maybe demonizing Vladimir Putin, groundlessly blaming him for conspiracies to interfere in US politics, moving huge NATO forces to Eastern Europe’s border with Russia, abrogating long-standing arms control treaties, and trying to throw monkey wrenches into the Nord Stream 2 pipeline weren’t such good ideas after all. From Tom Luongo at tomluongo.me:
I am an avid board game player. I’m not much for the classics like chess or go, preferring the more modern ones. But, regardless, as a person who appreciates the delicate balance between strategy and tactics, I have to say I am impressed with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s sense of timing.
Because if there was ever a moment where Putin and Russia could inflict maximum pain on the United States via its Achilles’ heel, the financial markets and its unquenchable thirst for debt, it was this month just as the coronavirus was reaching its shores.
Like I said, I’m a huge game player and I especially love games where there is a delicate balance between player power that has to be maintained while it’s not one’s turn. Attacks have to be thwarted just enough to stop the person from advancing but not so much that they can’t help you defend on the next player’s turn.
All of that in the service of keeping the game alive until you find the perfect moment to punch through and achieve victory. Having watched Putin play this game for the past eight years, I firmly believe there is no one in a position of power today who has a firmer grasp of this than him.
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