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NATO Says China"s Role In Ukraine War A "Challenge" To The Alliance

NATO Says China"s Role In Ukraine War A "Challenge" To The Alliance.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeSep 22nd, 2022

Escobar: "Samarkand Spirit" To Be Driven By "Responsible Powers" Russia & China

Escobar: 'Samarkand Spirit' To Be Driven By "Responsible Powers" Russia & China Authored by Pepe Escobar, The SCO summit of Asian power players delineated a road map for strengthening the multipolar world... Amidst serious tremors in the world of geopolitics, it is so fitting that this year’s Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) heads of state summit should have taken place in Samarkand – the ultimate Silk Road crossroads for 2,500 years. When in 329 BC Alexander the Great reached the then Sogdian city of Marakanda, part of the Achaemenid empire, he was stunned: “Everything I have heard about Samarkand it’s true, except it is even more beautiful than I had imagined.” Fast forward to an Op-Ed by Uzbekistan’s President Shavkat Mirziyoyev published ahead of the SCO summit, where he stresses how Samarkand now “can become a platform that is able to unite and reconcile states with various foreign policy priorities.” After all, historically, the world from the point of view of the Silk Road landmark has always been “perceived as one and indivisible, not divided. This is the essence of a unique phenomenon – the ‘Samarkand spirit’.” And here Mirziyoyev ties the “Samarkand Spirit” to the original SCO “Shanghai Spirit” established in early 2001, a few months before the events of September 11, when the world was forced into strife and endless war, almost overnight. All these years, the culture of the SCO has been evolving in a distinctive Chinese way. Initially, the Shanghai Five were focused on fighting terrorism – months before the US war of terror (italics mine) metastasized from Afghanistan to Iraq and beyond. Over the years, the initial “three no’s” – no alliance, no confrontation, no targeting any third party – ended up equipping a fast, hybrid vehicle whose ‘four wheels’ are ‘politics, security, economy, and humanities,’ complete with a Global Development Initiative, all of which contrast sharply with the priorities of a hegemonic, confrontational west. Arguably the biggest takeaway of this week’s Samarkand summit is that Chinese President Xi Jinping presented China and Russia, together, as “responsible global powers” bent on securing the emergence of multipolarity, and refusing the arbitrary “order” imposed by the United States and its unipolar worldview. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov pronounced Xi’s bilateral conversation with President Vladimir Putin as “excellent.” Xi Jinping, previous to their meeting, and addressing Putin directly, had already stressed the common Russia-China objectives: “In the face of the colossal changes of our time on a global scale, unprecedented in history, we are ready with our Russian colleagues to set an example of a responsible world power and play a leading role in order to put such a rapidly changing world on the trajectory of sustainable and positive development.” Later, in the preamble to the heads of state meeting, Xi went straight to the point: it is important to “prevent attempts by external forces to organize ‘color revolutions’ in the SCO countries.” Well, Europe wouldn’t be able to tell, because it has been color-revolutionized non-stop since 1945. Putin, for his part, sent a message that will be ringing all across the Global South: “Fundamental transformations have been outlined in world politics and economics, and they are irreversible.” (italics mine) Iran: it’s showtime Iran was the guest star of the Samarkand show, officially embraced as the 9th member of the SCO. President Ebrahim Raisi, significantly, stressed before meeting Putin that “Iran does not recognize sanctions against Russia.” Their strategic partnership will be enhanced. On the business front, a hefty delegation comprising leaders of 80 large Russian companies will be visiting Tehran next week. The increasing Russia-China-Iran interpolation – the three top drivers of Eurasia integration – scares the hell out of the usual suspects, who may be starting to grasp how the SCO represents, in the long run, a serious challenge to their geoeconomic game. So, as every grain of sand in every Heartland desert is already aware, the geopolitical pressure against the trio will increase exponentially. And then there was the mega-crucial Samarkand trilateral: Russia-China-Mongolia. There were no official leaks, but this trio arguably discussed the Power of Siberia-2 gas pipeline – the interconnector to be built across Mongolia; and Mongolia’s enhanced role in a crucial Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) connectivity corridor, now that China is not using the Trans-Siberian route for exports to Europe because of sanctions. Putin briefed Xi on all aspects of Russia’s Special Military Operation (SMO) in Ukraine, and arguably answered some really tough questions, many of them circulating wildly on the Chinese web for months now. Which brings us to Putin’s presser at the end of the summit – with virtually all questions predictably revolving around the military theater in Ukraine. The key takeaway from the Russian president: “There are no changes on the SMO plan. The main tasks are being implemented.” On peace prospects, it is Ukraine that “is not ready to talk to Russia.” And overall, “it is regrettable that the west had the idea to use Ukraine to try to collapse Russia.” On the fertilizer soap opera, Putin remarked, “food supply, energy supply, they (the west) created these problems, and now are trying to resolve them at the expense of someone else” – meaning the poorest nations. “European countries are former colonial powers and they still have this paradigm of colonial philosophy. The time has come to change their behavior, to become more civilized.” On his meeting with Xi Jinping: “It was just a regular meeting, it’s been quite some time we haven’t had a meeting face to face.” They talked about how to “expand trade turnover” and circumvent the “trade wars caused by our so-called partners,” with “expansion of settlements in national currencies not progressing as fast as we want.” Strenghtening multipolarity Putin’s bilateral with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi could not have been more cordial – on a “very special friendship” register – with Modi calling for serious solutions to the food and fuel crises, actually addressing the west. Meanwhile, the State Bank of India will be opening special rupee accounts to handle Russia-related trade. This is Xi’s first foreign trip since the Covid pandemic. He could do it because he’s totally confident of being awarded a third term during the Communist Party Congress next month in Beijing. Xi now controls and/or has allies placed in at least 90 percent of the Politburo. The other serious reason was to recharge the appeal of BRI in close connection to the SCO. China’s ambitious BRI project was officially launched by Xi in Astana (now Nur-Sultan) nine years ago. It will remain the overarching Chinese foreign policy concept for decades ahead. BRI’s emphasis on trade and connectivity ties in with the SCO’s evolving multilateral cooperation mechanisms, congregating nations focusing on economic development independent from the hazy, hegemonic “rules-based order.” Even India under Modi is having second thoughts about relying on western blocs, where New Delhi is at best a neo-colonized “partner.” So Xi and Putin, in Samarkand, for all practical purposes delineated a road map for strengthening multipolarity – as stressed by the final  Samarkand declaration  signed by all SCO members. The Kazakh puzzle  There will be bumps on the road aplenty. It’s no accident that Xi started his trip in Kazakhstan – China’s mega-strategic western rear, sharing a very long border with Xinjiang. The tri-border at the dry port of Khorgos – for lorries, buses and trains, separately – is quite something, an absolutely key BRI node. The administration of President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev in Nur-Sultan (soon to be re-named Astana again) is quite tricky, swinging between eastern and western political orientations, and infiltrated by Americans as much as during the era of predecessor Nursultan Nazarbayev, Kazakhstan’s first post-USSR president. Earlier this month, for instance, Nur-Sultan, in partnership with Ankara and British Petroleum (BP) – which virtually rules Azerbaijan – agreed to increase the volume of oil on the Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline to up to 4 million tons a month by the end of this year. Chevron and ExxonMobil, very active in Kazakhstan, are part of the deal. The avowed agenda of the usual suspects is to “ultimately disconnect the economies of Central Asian countries from the Russian economy.” As Kazakhstan is a member not only of the Russian-led Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU), but also the BRI, it is fair to assume that Xi – as well as Putin – discussed some pretty serious issues with Tokayev, told him to grasp which way the wind is blowing, and advised him to keep the internal political situation under control (see the aborted coup in January, when Tokayev was de facto saved by the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization [CSTO]). There’s no question Central Asia, historically known as a “box of gems” at the center of the Heartland, striding the Ancient Silk Roads and blessed with immense natural wealth – fossil fuels, rare earth metals, fertile agrarian lands – will be used by the usual suspects as a Pandora’s box, releasing all manner of toxic tricks against legitimate Eurasian integration. That’s in sharp contrast with West Asia, where Iran in the SCO will turbo-charge its key role of crossroads connectivity between Eurasia and Africa, in connection with the BRI and the International North-South Transportation Corridor (INSTC). So it’s no wonder that the UAE, Bahrain and Kuwait, all in West Asia, do recognize which way the wind is blowing. The three Persian Gulf states received official SCO ‘partner status’ in Samarkand, alongside the Maldives and Myanmar. A cohesion of goals Samarkand also gave an extra impulse to integration along the Russian-conceptualized Greater Eurasia Partnership  – which includes the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) – and that, just two weeks after the game-changing Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) held in Vladivostok, on Russia’s strategic Pacific coast. Moscow’s priority at the EAEU is to implement a union-state with Belarus (which looks bound to become a new SCO member before 2024), side-by-side with closer integration with the BRI. Serbia, Singapore and Iran have trade agreements with the EAEU too. The Greater Eurasian Partnership was proposed by Putin in 2015 – and it’s getting sharper as the EAEU commission, led by Sergey Glazyev, actively designs a new financial system, based on gold and natural resources and counter-acting the Bretton Woods system. Once the new framework is ready to be tested, the key disseminator is likely to be the SCO. So here we see in play the full cohesion of goals – and the interaction mechanisms – deployed by the Greater Eurasia Partnership, BRI, EAEU, SCO, BRICS+ and the INSTC. It’s a titanic struggle to unite all these organizations and take into account the geoeconomic priorities of each member and associate partner, but that’s exactly what’s happening, at breakneck speed. In this connectivity feast, practical imperatives range from fighting local bottlenecks to setting up complex multi-party corridors – from the Caucasus to Central Asia, from Iran to India, everything discussed in multiple roundtables. Successes are already notable: from Russia and Iran introducing direct settlements in rubles and rials, to Russia and China increasing their trade in rubles and yuan to 20 percent – and counting. An Eastern Commodity Exchange may be soon established in Vladivostok to facilitate trade in futures and derivatives with the Asia-Pacific. China is the undisputed primary creditor/investor in infrastructure across Central Asia. Beijing’s priorities may be importing gas from Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan and oil from Kazakhstan, but connectivity is not far behind. The $5 billion construction of the 600 km-long Pakistan-Afghanistan-Uzbekistan (Pakafuz) railway will deliver cargo from Central Asia to the Indian Ocean in only three days instead of 30. And that railway will be linked to Kazakhstan and the already in progress 4,380 km-long Chinese-built railway from Lanzhou to Tashkent, a BRI project. Nur-Sultan is also interested in a Turkmenistan-Iran-Türkiye railway, which would connect its port of Aktau on the Caspian Sea with the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean Sea. Türkiye, meanwhile, still a SCO observer and constantly hedging its bets, slowly but surely is trying to strategically advance its own Pax Turcica, from technological development to defense cooperation, all that under a sort of politico-economic-security package. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan did discuss it in Samarkand with Putin, as the latter later announced that 25 percent of Russian gas bought by Ankara will be paid in rubles. Welcome to Great Game 2.0 Russia, even more than China, knows that the usual suspects are going for broke. In 2022 alone, there was a failed coup in Kazakhstan in January; troubles in Badakhshan, in Tajikistan, in May; troubles in Karakalpakstan in Uzbekistan in June; the non-stop border clashes between Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan (both presidents, in Samarkand, at least agreed on a ceasefire and to remove troops from their borders). And then there is recently-liberated Afghanistan – with no less than 11 provinces crisscrossed by ISIS-Khorasan and its Tajik and Uzbek associates. Thousands of would-be Heartland jihadis have made the trip to Idlib in Syria and then back to Afghanistan – ‘encouraged’ by the usual suspects, who will use every trick under the sun to harass and ‘isolate’ Russia from Central Asia. So Russia and China should be ready to be involved in a sort of immensely complex, rolling Great Game 2.0 on steroids, with the US/NATO fighting united Eurasia and Turkiye in the middle. On a brighter note, Samarkand proved that at least consensus exists among all the players at different institutional organizations that: technological sovereignty will determine sovereignty; and that regionalization – in this case Eurasian – is bound to replace US-ruled globalization. These players also understand that the Mackinder and Spykman era is coming to a close – when Eurasia was ‘contained’ in a semi-disassembled shape so western maritime powers could exercise total domination, contrary to the national interests of Global South actors. It’s now a completely different ball game. As much as the Greater Eurasia Partnership is fully supported by China, both favor the interconnection of BRI and EAEU projects, while the SCO shapes a common environment. Yes, this is an Eurasian civilizational project for the 21st century and beyond. Under the aegis of the ‘Spirit of Samarkand.’ Tyler Durden Sat, 09/17/2022 - 23:30.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeSep 18th, 2022

The Specter Of Germany Is Rising

The Specter Of Germany Is Rising Authored by Diana Johnstone via ConsortiumNews.com, The European Union is girding for a long war against Russia that appears clearly contrary to European economic interests and social stability. A war that is apparently irrational – as many are – has deep emotional roots and claims ideological justification. Such wars are hard to end because they extend outside the range of rationality. Olaf Scholz, Federal Chancellor of Germany, meets Volodymyr Zelenskyy, President of Ukraine, in Kiev, Feb. 14, 2022. (President of Ukraine) For decades after the Soviet Union entered Berlin and decisively defeated the Third Reich, Soviet leaders worried about the threat of “German revanchism.” Since World War II could be seen as German revenge for being deprived of victory in World War I, couldn’t aggressive German Drang nach Osten be revived, especially if it enjoyed Anglo-American support? There had always been a minority in U.S. and U.K. power circles that would have liked to complete Hitler’s war against the Soviet Union. It was not the desire to spread communism, but the need for a buffer zone to stand in the way of such dangers that was the primary motivation for the ongoing Soviet political and military clampdown on the tier of countries from Poland to Bulgaria that the Red Army had wrested from Nazi occupation. This concern waned considerably in the early 1980s as a young German generation took to the streets in peace demonstrations against the stationing of nuclear “Euromissiles” which could increase the risk of nuclear war on German soil. The movement created the image of a new peaceful Germany. I believe that Mikhail Gorbachev took this transformation seriously. On June 15, 1989, Gorbachev came to Bonn, which was then the modest capital of a deceptively modest West Germany. Apparently delighted with the warm and friendly welcome, Gorbachev stopped to shake hands with people along the way in that peaceful university town that had been the scene of large peace demonstrations. I was there and experienced his unusually warm, firm handshake and eager smile. I have no doubt that Gorbachev sincerely believed in a “common European home” where East and West Europe could live happily side by side united by some sort of democratic socialism. Gorbachov on June 13, 1989 in the market-square in Bonn. (Jüppsche/Wikimedia Commons) Gorbachev died at age 91 two weeks ago, on Aug. 30. His dream of Russia and Germany living happily in their “common European home” had soon been fatally undermined by the Clinton administration’s go-ahead to eastward expansion of NATO. But the day before Gorbachev’s death, leading German politicians in Prague wiped out any hope of such a happy end by proclaiming their leadership of a Europe dedicated to combating the Russian enemy. These were politicians from the very parties – the SPD (Social Democratic Party) and the Greens – that took the lead in the 1980s peace movement. German Europe Must Expand Eastward German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is a colorless SPD politician, but his Aug. 29 speech in Prague was inflammatory in its implications. Scholz called for an expanded, militarized European Union under German leadership. He claimed that the Russian operation in Ukraine raised the question of “where the dividing line will be in the future between this free Europe and a neo-imperial autocracy.” We cannot simply watch, he said, “as free countries are wiped off the map and disappear behind walls or iron curtains.” (Note: the conflict in Ukraine is clearly the unfinished business of the collapse of the Soviet Union, aggravated by malicious outside provocation. As in the Cold War, Moscow’s defensive reactions are interpreted as harbingers of Russian invasion of Europe, and thus a pretext for arms buildups.) To meet this imaginary threat, Germany will lead an expanded, militarized EU. First, Scholz told his European audience in the Czech capital, “I am committed to the enlargement of the European Union to include the states of the Western Balkans, Ukraine, Moldova and, in the long term, Georgia”. Worrying about Russia moving the dividing line West is a bit odd while planning to incorporate three former Soviet States, one of which (Georgia) is geographically and culturally very remote from Europe but on Russia’s doorstep. In the “Western Balkans”, Albania and four extremely weak statelets left from former Yugoslavia (North Macedonia, Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina and widely unrecognized Kosovo) mainly produce emigrants and are far from EU economic and social standards. Kosovo and Bosnia are militarily occupied de facto NATO protectorates. Serbia, more solid than the others, shows no signs of renouncing its beneficial relations with Russia and China, and popular enthusiasm for “Europe” among Serbs has faded. Adding these member states will achieve “a stronger, more sovereign, geopolitical European Union,” said Scholz. A “more geopolitical Germany” is more like it. As the EU grows eastward, Germany is “in the center” and will do everything to bring them all together. So, in addition to enlargement, Scholz calls for “a gradual shift to majority decisions in common foreign policy” to replace the unanimity required today. What this means should be obvious to the French. Historically, the French have defended the consensus rule so as not to be dragged into a foreign policy they don’t want. French leaders have exalted the mythical “Franco-German couple” as guarantor of European harmony, mainly to keep German ambitions under control. But Scholz says he doesn’t want “an EU of exclusive states or directorates,” which implies the final divorce of that “couple.” With an EU of 30 or 36 states, he notes, “fast and pragmatic action is needed.” And he can be sure that German influence on most of these poor, indebted and often corrupt new Member States will produce the needed majority. France has always hoped for an EU security force separate from NATO in which the French military would play a leading role. But Germany has other ideas. “NATO remains the guarantor of our security,” said Scholz, rejoicing that President Biden is “a convinced trans-atlanticist.” “Every improvement, every unification of European defense structures within the EU framework strengthens NATO,” Scholz said. “Together with other EU partners, Germany will therefore ensure that the EU’s planned rapid reaction force is operational in 2025 and will then also provide its core. This requires a clear command structure. Germany will face up to this responsibility “when we lead the rapid reaction force in 2025,” Scholz said. It has already been decided that Germany will support Lithuania with a rapidly deployable brigade and NATO with further forces in a high state of readiness. Serving to Lead … Where? Robert Habeck speaking at protest before Green Party headquarters, Berlin, Oct. 28, 2020. (Leonhard Lenz/Wikimedia Commons) In short, Germany’s military buildup will give substance to Robert Habeck’s notorious statement in Washington last March that: “The stronger Germany serves, the greater its role.” The Green’s Habeck is Germany’s economics minister and the second most powerful figure in Germany’s current government. The remark was well understood in Washington: by serving the U.S.-led Western empire, Germany is strengthening its role as European leader. Just as the U.S. arms, trains and occupies Germany, Germany will provide the same services for smaller EU states, notably to its east. Since the start of the Russian operation in Ukraine, German politician Ursula von der Leyen has used her position as head of the EU Commission to impose ever more drastic sanctions on Russia, leading to the threat of a serious European energy crisis this winter. Her hostility to Russia seems boundless. In Kiev last April she called for rapid EU membership for Ukraine, notoriously the most corrupt country in Europe and far from meeting EU standards. She proclaimed that “Russia will descend into economic, financial and technological decay, while Ukraine is marching towards a European future.” For von der Leyen, Ukraine is “fighting our war.” All of this goes far beyond her authority to speak for the EU’s 27 Members, but nobody stops her. Germany’s Green Party foreign minister Annalena Baerbock is every bit as intent on “ruining Russia.” Proponent of a “feminist foreign policy”, Baerbock expresses policy in personal terms. “If I give the promise to people in Ukraine, we stand with you as long as you need us,” she told the U.S. National Endowment for Democracy (NED)-sponsored Forum 2000 in Prague on Aug. 31, speaking in English. “Then I want to deliver no matter what my German voters think, but I want to deliver to the people of Ukraine.” “People will go on the street and say, we cannot pay our energy prices, and I will say, ‘Yes I know so we will help you with social measures. […] We will stand with Ukraine and this means the sanctions will stay also til winter time even if it gets really tough for politicians.’” Certainly, support for Ukraine is strong in Germany, but perhaps because of the looming energy shortage, a recent Forsa poll indicates that some 77 percent of Germans would favor diplomatic efforts to end the war – which should be the business of the foreign minister. But Baerbock shows no interest in diplomacy, only in “strategic failure” for Russia – however long it takes. In the 1980s peace movement, a generation of Germans was distancing itself from that of their parents and vowed to overcome “enemy images” inherited from past wars. Curiously, Baerbock, born in 1980, has referred to her grandfather who fought in the Wehrmacht as somehow having contributed to European unity. Is this the generational pendulum? The Little Revanchists Stepan Bandera torchlight parade in Kiev, Jan. 1, 2020. (A1/Wikimedia Commons) There is reason to surmise that current German Russophobia draws much of its legitimization from the Russophobia of former Nazi allies in smaller European countries. While German anti-Russian revanchism may have taken a couple of generations to assert itself, there were a number of smaller, more obscure revanchisms that flourished at the end of the European war that were incorporated into United States Cold War operations. Those little revanchisms were not subjected to the denazification gestures or Holocaust guilt imposed on Germany. Rather, they were welcomed by the C.I.A., Radio Free Europe and Congressional committees for their fervent anticommunism. They were strengthened politically in the United States by anticommunist diasporas from Eastern Europe. Of these, the Ukrainian diaspora was surely the largest, the most intensely political and the most influential, in both Canada and the American Middle West. Ukrainian fascists who had previously collaborated with Nazi invaders were the most numerous and active, leading the Bloc of Anti-Bolshevik Nations with links to German, British and U.S. Intelligence. Eastern European Galicia, not to be confused with Spanish Galicia, has been back and forth part of Russia and Poland for centuries. After World War II it was divided between Poland and Ukraine. Ukrainian Galicia is the center of a virulent brand of Ukrainian nationalism, whose principal World War II hero was Stepan Bandera. This nationalism can properly be called “fascist” not simply because of superficial signs – its symbols, salutes or tatoos – but because it has always been fundamentally racist and violent. Incited by Western powers, Poland, Lithuania and the Habsburg Empire, the key to Ukrainian nationalism was that it was Western, and thus superior. Since Ukrainians and Russians stem from the same population, pro-Western Ukrainian ultra-nationalism was built on imaginary myths of racial differences: Ukrainians were the true Western whatever-it-was, whereas Russians were mixed with “Mongols” and thus an inferior race. Banderist Ukrainian nationalists have openly called for elimination of Russians as such, as inferior beings. So long as the Soviet Union existed, Ukrainian racial hatred of Russians had anticommunism as its cover, and Western intelligence agencies could support them on the “pure” ideological grounds of the fight against Bolshevism and Communism. But now that Russia is no longer ruled by communists, the mask has fallen, and the racist nature of Ukrainian ultra-nationalism is visible – for all who want to see it. However, Western leaders and media are determined not to notice. Ukraine is not just like any Western country. It is deeply and dramatically divided between Donbass in the East, Russian territories given to Ukraine by the Soviet Union, and the anti-Russian West, where Galacia is located. Russia’s defense of Donbass, wise or unwise, by no means indicates a Russian intention to invade other countries. This false alarm is the pretext for the remilitarization of Germany in alliance with the Anglo-Saxon powers against Russia. The Yugoslav Prelude Cutting firewood in Sarajevo during wars that broke up Yugoslavia, 1993. (Christian Maréchal/Wikimedia Commons) This process began in the 1990s, with the breakup of Yugoslavia. Yugoslavia was not a member of the Soviet bloc. Precisely for that reason, the country got loans from the West which in the 1970s led to a debt crisis in which the leaders of each of the six federated republics wanted to shove the debt onto others. This favored separatist tendencies in the relatively rich Slovenian and Croatian republics, tendencies enforced by ethnic chauvinism and encouragement from outside powers, especially Germany. During World War II, German occupation had split the country apart. Serbia, allied to France and Britain in World War I, was subject to a punishing occupation. Idyllic Slovenia was absorbed into the Third Reich, while Germany supported an independent Croatia, ruled by the fascist Ustasha party, which included most of Bosnia, scene of the bloodiest internal fighting. When the war ended, many Croatian Ustasha emigrated to Germany, the United States and Canada, never giving up the hope of reviving secessionist Croatian nationalism. In Washington in the 1990s, members of Congress got their impressions of Yugoslavia from a single expert: 35-year-old Croatian-American Mira Baratta, assistant to Sen. Bob Dole (Republican presidential candidate in 1996). Baratta’s grandfather had been an important Ustasha officer in Bosnia and her father was active in the Croatian diaspora in California. Baratta won over not only Dole but virtually the whole Congress to the Croatian version of Yugoslav conflicts blaming everything on the Serbs. In Europe, Germans and Austrians, most notably Otto von Habsburg, heir to the defunct Austro-Hungarian Empire and member of the European Parliament from Bavaria, succeeded in portraying Serbs as the villains, thus achieving an effective revenge against their historic World War I enemy, Serbia. In the West, it became usual to identify Serbia as “Russia’s historic ally”, forgetting that in recent history Serbia’s closest allies were Britain and especially France. In September 1991, a leading German Christian Democratic politician and constitutional lawyer explained why Germany should promote the breakup of Yugoslavia by recognizing the Slovenian and Croat secessionist Yugoslav republics. (Former CDU Minister of Defense Rupert Scholz at the 6th Fürstenfeldbrucker Symposium for the Leadership of the German Military and Business, held September 23 – 24, 1991.) By ending the division of Germany, Rupert Scholz said, “We have, so to speak, overcome and mastered the most important consequences of the Second World War … but in other areas we are still dealing with the consequences of the First World War” – which, he noted “started in Serbia.” “Yugoslavia, as a consequence of the First World War, is a very artificial construction, never compatible with the idea of self-determination,” Rupert Scholz said. He concluded: “In my opinion, Slovenia and Croatia must be immediately recognized internationally. (…) When this recognition has taken place, the Yugoslavian conflict will no longer be a domestic Yugoslav problem, where no international intervention can be permitted.” And indeed, recognition was followed by massive Western intervention which continues to this day. By taking sides, Germany, the United States and NATO ultimately produced a disastrous result, a half dozen statelets, with many unsettled issues and heavily dependent on Western powers. Bosnia-Herzegovina is under military occupation as well as the dictates of a “High Representative” who happens to be German. It has lost about half its population to emigration. Only Serbia shows signs of independence, refusing to join in Western sanctions on Russia, despite heavy pressure. For Washington strategists the breakup of Yugoslavia was an exercise in using ethnic divisions to break up larger entities, the USSR and then Russia. Humanitarian Bombing Western politicians and media persuaded the public that the 1999 NATO bombing of Serbia was a “humanitarian” war, generously waged to “protect the Kosovars” (after multiple assassinations by armed secessionists provoked Serbian authorities into the inevitable repression used as pretext for the bombing). But the real point of the Kosovo war was that it transformed NATO from a defensive into an aggressive alliance, ready to wage war anywhere, without U.N. mandate, on whatever pretext it chose. This lesson was clear to the Russians. After the Kosovo war, NATO could no longer credibly claim that it was a purely “defensive” alliance. As soon as Serbian President Milosevic, to save his country’s infrastructure from NATO destruction, agreed to allow NATO troops to enter Kosovo, the U.S. unceremoniously grabbed a huge swath territory to build the its first big U.S. military base in the Balkans. NATO troops are still there. Just as the United States rushed to build that base in Kosovo, it was clear what to expect of the U.S. after it succeeded in 2014 to install a government in Kiev eager to join NATO. This would be the opportunity for the U.S. to take over the Russian naval base in Crimea. Since it was known that the majority of the population in Crimea wanted to return to Russia (as it had from 1783 to 1954), Putin was able to forestall this threat by holding a popular referendum confirming its return. East European Revanchism Captures the EU The call by German Chancellor Scholz to enlarge the European Union by up to nine new members recalls the enlargements of 2004 and 2007 that brought in twelve new members, nine of them from the former Soviet bloc, including the three Baltic States once part of the Soviet Union. That enlargement already shifted the balance eastward and enhanced German influence. In particular, the political elites of Poland and especially the three Baltic States, were heavily under the influence of the United States and Britain, where many had lived in exile during Soviet rule. They brought into EU institutions a new wave of fanatic anticommunism, not always distinguishable from Russophobia. The European Parliament, obsessed with virtue signaling in regard to human rights, was particularly receptive to the zealous anti-totalitarianism of its new Eastern European members.  European Parliament in Strasbourg, France. (UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe) Revanchism and the Memory Weapon As an aspect of anti-communist lustration, or purges, Eastern European States sponsored “Memory Institutes” devoted to denouncing the crimes of communism. Of course, such campaigns were used by far-right politicians to cast suspicion on the left in general. As explained by European scholar Zoltan Dujisin, “anticommunist memory entrepreneurs” at the head of these institutes succeeded in lifting their public information activities from the national, to the European Union level, using Western bans on Holocaust denial to complain, that while Nazi crimes had been condemned and punished at Nuremberg, communist crimes had not. The tactic of the anti-communist entrepreneurs was to demand that references to the Holocaust be accompanied by denunciations of the Gulag. This campaign had to deal with a delicate contradiction since it tended to challenge the uniqueness of the Holocaust, a dogma essential to gaining financial and political support from West European memory institutes. In 2008, the EP adopted a resolution establishing August 23 as “European Day of Remembrance for the victims of Stalinism and Nazism” – for the first time adopting what had been a fairly isolated far right equation of. A 2009 EP resolution on “European Conscience and Totalitarianism” called for support of national institutes specializing in totalitarian history. Dujisin explains, “Europe is now haunted by the specter of a new memory. The Holocaust’s singular standing as a negative founding formula of European integration, the culmination of long-standing efforts from prominent Western leaders … is increasingly challenged by a memory of communism, which disputes its uniqueness.” East European memory institutes together formed the “Platform of European Memory and Conscience,” which between 2012 and 2016 organized a series of exhibits on “Totalitarianism in Europe: Fascism—Nazism—Communism,” traveling to museums, memorials, foundations, city halls, parliaments, cultural centers, and universities in 15 European countries, supposedly to “improve public awareness and education about the gravest crimes committed by the totalitarian dictatorships.” Under this influence, the European Parliament on Sept. 19, 2019 adopted a resolution “on the importance of European Remembrance for the Future of Europe” that went far beyond equating political crimes by proclaiming a distinctly Polish interpretation of history as European Union policy. It goes so far as to proclaim that the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact is responsible for World War II – and thus Soviet Russia is as guilty of the war as Nazi Germany. The resolution, “Stresses that the Second World War, the most devastating war in Europe’s history, was started as an immediate result of the notorious Nazi-Soviet Treaty on Non-Aggression of 23 August 1939, also known as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, and its secret protocols, whereby two totalitarian regimes that shared the goal of world conquest divided Europe into two zones of influence;” It further: “Recalls that the Nazi and communist regimes carried out mass murders, genocide and deportations and caused a loss of life and freedom in the 20th century on a scale unseen in human history, and recalls the horrific crime of the Holocaust perpetrated by the Nazi regime; condemns in the strongest terms the acts of aggression, crimes against humanity and mass human rights violations perpetrated by the Nazi, communist and other totalitarian regimes;” This of course not only directly contradicts the Russian celebration of the “Great Patriotic War” to defeat the Nazi invasion, it also took issue with the recent efforts of Russian President Vladimir Putin to put the Molotov-Ribbentrop agreement in the context of prior refusals of Eastern European states, notably Poland, to ally with Moscow against Hitler. But the EP resolution: “Is deeply concerned about the efforts of the current Russian leadership to distort historical facts and whitewash crimes committed by the Soviet totalitarian regime and considers them a dangerous component of the information war waged against democratic Europe that aims to divide Europe, and therefore calls on the Commission to decisively counteract these efforts;” Thus the importance of Memory for the future, turns out to be an ideological declaration of war against Russia based on interpretations of World War II, especially since the memory entrepreneurs implicitly suggest that the past crimes of communism deserve punishment – like the crimes of Nazism. It is not impossible that this line of thought arouses some tacit satisfaction among certain individuals in Germany. When Western leaders speak of “economic war against Russia,” or “ruining Russia” by arming and supporting Ukraine, one wonders whether they are consciously preparing World War III, or trying to provide a new ending to World War II. Or will the two merge? As it shapes up, with NATO openly trying to “overextend” and thus defeat Russia with a war of attrition in Ukraine, it is somewhat as if Britain and the United States, some 80 years later, switched sides and joined German-dominated Europe to wage war against Russia, alongside the heirs to Eastern European anticommunism, some of whom were allied to Nazi Germany. History may help understand events, but the cult of memory easily becomes the cult of revenge. Revenge is a circle with no end. It uses the past to kill the future. Europe needs clear heads looking to the future, able to understand the present. Tyler Durden Tue, 09/13/2022 - 02:00.....»»

Category: dealsSource: nytSep 13th, 2022

Dueling bids for US-made fighter jets could inflame tensions between 2 of NATO"s least friendly members

Turkey and Greece have both asked to buy new US fighter jets, and they might not both get what they want. Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, left, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul on March 13, 2022.Xinhua via Getty Images Greece and Turkey have both asked to buy US-made fighter jets. Athens and Ankara have differing relationships with the US and may get different responses. That divergence may worsen the already fraught ties between the two NATO allies. Turkey and Greece, two of NATO's most valuable but least friendly allies, are pursuing new US-made fighter jets, but their diverging relationships with Washington mean they might not both get what they want.In June, Greece submitted a request to the US for the purchase of 20 F-35 stealth fighters with the option for 20 more jets in the future. The request comes as Athens's ties with Washington, especially their defense relationship, grow closer.Turkey had already requested to buy new US-made F-16s and F-16 upgrade kits last year, but in July, US lawmakers approved an amendment making that purchase harder by requiring President Joe Biden — who has expressed support for the sale — to certify to Congress that it is essential to US national security.Greece and Turkey's location next to each other in southeastern Europe, bordering the Black Sea and the Eastern Mediterranean Sea, makes them strategically important NATO members amid heightened tensions in those regions.But their relationships with the rest of the alliance are heading in opposite directions, and their own longstanding rivalry may only worsen if one of them gets new jets and the other doesn't.Congressional oppositionMitsotakis after giving an address to a joint session of Congress on May 17, 2022.Win McNamee/Getty ImagesGreece and Turkey have a very poor relationship and have often come close to open conflict in recent decades.The neighbors are at loggerheads over a number of issues, including ethnically divided Cyprus, opposing maritime claims in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean, and Turkey's recent challenge of the sovereignty of a number of Greek islands.Turkey's relationships with other NATO members, particularly the US, have also deteriorated. Ankara was part of the F-35 program but was booted from it by the US for buying Russia's S-400 surface-to-air missile system, which the US believed could compromise Western platforms, including the F-35."Turkey has not endeared itself to the US of late," said Andrew Novo, a senior fellow with the Center for European Policy Analysis and a professor at the National Defense University."Numerous Turkish policies have been a cause for concern," Novo told Insider, citing the S-400 purchase, the blocking of Sweden's and Finland's bids for NATO membership, provocations against Greece and Cyprus, Turkish attacks on US-allied Kurdish fighters in Syria and Iraq, and Ankara's involvement in Libya's civil war.Erdogan meets with then-Vice President Joe Biden in March 2016.Joshua Roberts/ReutersUS lawmakers have also expressed concern about erosion of democracy under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan."How do you reward a nation that does all of those things?" Sen. Bob Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told Politico in July. "I don't see it. Now, if they want to start changing their ways, that's a different story."The House amendment regarding Turkey's F-16 request also requires Biden to describe steps being taken "to ensure that such F-16s are not used by Turkey for repeated unauthorized territorial overflights of Greece."The amendment could be "a practical way to try and reign in Turkish military capabilities in order to constrain Ankara from becoming even more independent on the international scene in using its military," Novo said."It could be a useful bargaining chip against something more substantive that Washington would like from Ankara," he added.Tense Aegean skiesA Hellenic Air Force F-16 with the Zeus solo display team at an airshow in November 2016.George Panagakis/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty ImagesAthens and Ankara frequently accuse each other of flying into the other's airspace. Their jets regularly engage each other over the Aegean and both sides have lost pilots and jets in those encounters."Greece acquiring F-35s is not something Turkey would like to see as it would provide Greece a superior combat aircraft platform," Novo said.The Hellenic Air Force has a fighter fleet of nearly 200 aircraft, more than half of them F-16s. The Turkish fighter fleet is slightly larger and made up mostly of F-16s. This had created a rough parity, but the situation is now changing.Greece is upgrading 84 of its F-16s to the latest Viper configuration and recently ordered 24 French Rafales, which are slightly more advanced than the F-16 but not as sophisticated as the F-35.The Turkish Air Force on the other hand is still recovering from the 2016 attempted coup against Erdogan, which led to hundreds of its pilots being dismissed.Turkish Air Force F-16s in Poland in August 2021.Cuneyt Karadag/Anadolu Agency via Getty ImagesParticipating in the F-35 program would have given Turkey an advantage over Greece's F-16s, Novo told Insider. But if Greece's F-35 request is approved, "it would certainly make Turkey think twice about challenging Greece in the skies" and would improve "Greece's deterrent capabilities significantly," he added.The inability to upgrade and expand its F-16 fleet has led Turkey to explore alternatives.Ankara is reportedly looking at Eurofighter Typhoons — a 4.5-generation jet like the Rafale — instead of advanced F-16s. Turkish Aerospace Industries, which is mostly state-owned, is working with British firm BAE Systems to develop the TF-X, a fifth-generation stealth aircraft scheduled to enter service in 2028.Turkey is also developing the HÜRJET light combat aircraft in order to decrease its air force's reliance on the US.The US has long sought to support Greece and Turkey and to contain their longstanding rivalry, viewing the two countries as an important bulwark in southeastern Europe.While there are calls for the US to maintain its role as an even-handed mediator, the growing ties with Athens and increasing tension with Ankara appear to reflect a changing calculus in Washington.Constantine Atlamazoglou works on transatlantic and European security. He holds a master's degree in security studies and European affairs from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. You can contact him on LinkedIn.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: smallbizSource: nytAug 4th, 2022

US Marines just ate all the eggs in one of southeastern Europe"s most strategically important port cities

The US military is expanding its cooperation with Greece, and US sailors and Marines have been really enjoying their time there. Sailors and Marines from USS Arlington and the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit train with the Greek military on May 17, 2022.US Navy photo US sailors and Marines aboard USS Arlington visited the Greek port of Alexandroupoli in late May. They appeared to enjoy their stay — local media reported that they overwhelmed many restaurants. The visit reflects the US military's increasing interest in Greece amid growing tension in the region. At the end of May, US Navy amphibious transport dock USS Arlington arrived in the Greek city of Alexandroupoli for a port call.The 1,500 officers and enlisted Marines aboard the ship spent three days in the northeastern Greek city, and during their stay they reportedly ate all of Alexandroupoli's eggs.Giorgos Alavantas, a restaurant owner, said 6,000 to 7,000 eggs were eaten during one day of the US visit. "In other words, we don't have eggs," Alavantas said, according to local media."I serve 16 different types of meat at my restaurant, and they tried them all," Georgios Davis, a former president of the Alexandroupoli hospitality association, told Greek newspaper Kathimerini.The visit by sailors and Marines comes amid expanding cooperation between the US and Greek militaries, and it highlights the increasing importance of Europe's southeastern corner to the US and to the NATO alliance.A security node in the AegeanA US Army M1A2 tank is unloaded in Alexandroupoli, July 20, 2021.US Army/Andre CameronAlexandroupoli is close to Greece's border with Bulgaria and Turkey and about 60 miles from the Dardanelles, the maritime entryway to the Black Sea.The city's location and its expanding road and railroad network provide a land route around the Bosporus and allow quick access to the Black Sea, the Balkans, and other destinations around NATO's southeastern flank.The significance of Alexandroupoli was cemented in the updated Mutual Defense Cooperation Agreement signed between Greece and the US in October. Under the agreement, the US received priority access to the port, which has been especially valuable amid the war in Ukraine."That access allows us to continue to provide military assistance to Ukraine and to counter malign actors and exercise and operate in the Balkans and Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea region," Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said during a recent visit by the Greek defense minister to Washington DC.Sailors from USS Arlington present a plaque to John Bogdis, general secretary for the municipality of Alexandroupoli, during a community-relations project, May 23, 2022.US Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Cameron RossThe increased US presence is meant to support NATO allies in the region and to counter Russia's influence in a part of Europe where Moscow has traditionally held sway because of ethnic and economic ties."Greece is a key hub for supporting and ... projecting allied presence in a region facing various forms of revisionism," Greek Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos said while in Washington.Since October 2021, the US has disembarked equipment and troops in Alexandroupoli numerous times, including what were its two largest disembarkation operations in Greece ever.The port was has also been used for exercises and has supported the regular rotation of US troops and equipment in Europe through Operation Atlantic Resolve.On August 3, Alexandroupoli's port authority chairman announced that the Italian army will use the port to move equipment to Europe. Britain is also planning to do the same.Shutting off Russian gasAlexandroupoli in July 2016.Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty ImagesAlexandroupoli also has a role in European energy security, with plans to build a Floating Storage and Regasification Unit (FSRU) for liquefied natural gas in the sea a few miles south of the city.The regional FSRU project will begin operations by the end 2023 and be a convergence point for regional gas pipeline networks running from Italy and Bulgaria to Turkey and Georgia.The city's FSRU facility will be part of the EU's Southern Energy Corridor, an initiative to bring Azeri gas through Turkey to Europe and help the continent decouple itself from Russian natural gas."As Europe is now moving rapidly to reduce its vulnerability to Russian energy blackmail and get away from Russian gas, the Alexandroupoli FSRU becomes more and more important," Geoffrey Pyatt, then the US ambassador to Greece, said in May.Not everyone is happy with Alexandroupoli's growing geostrategic importance.A pressure pointTurkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin in St. Petersburg in August 2016.REUTERS/Sergei KarpukhinRussia and Turkey have both expressed dissatisfaction at the enhanced US presence in Alexandroupoli.In December, Kremlin Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov told Greek media that "the problem is very simple. More and more NATO and US troops are gathering in your territory. Hundreds, thousands of units of military equipment are transported through Alexandroupoli.""This worries us, you have to understand us," he added.Greece had maintained a working relationship with Russia, but Moscow's invasion of Ukraine and Athens's support for Kyiv have led their relationship to deteriorate. Each has expelled some of the other's diplomats, and Russia recently declared Greece an unfriendly state.Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has also expressed his opposition to the US presence. "Establishing a base there bothers us and our people," Erdogan reportedly told President Joe Biden in October, shortly before the US and Greece signed the updated defense-cooperation agreement.Greece and Turkey are both NATO allies but have disputes over a number of issues. Their relationship has deteriorated further in recent months, following Turkey's challenge of the sovereignty of a number of Greek islands.In June, Erdogan reiterated his opposition to US bases in Greece. "Against whom were they established? The answer they give is 'against Russia.' We don't buy it," Erdogan said.The US military currently uses a Greek army base near Alexandroupoli and has not yet established its own base in the city. However, as Alexandroupoli's infrastructure expands and tensions in the region deepen, its importance will keep increasing.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderAug 3rd, 2022

Sheryl Sandberg has officially stepped down as Meta"s COO. Here"s how she got her start in tech and became No. 2 at one of the world"s most influential companies.

After getting her start at Google, Sandberg, 52, has spent the past 14 years as Mark Zuckerberg's second-in-command. Sheryl Sandberg, Meta's chief operating officer.Lino Mirgeler/picture alliance via Getty Images Sheryl Sandberg has stepped down as Meta's chief operating officer after 14 years at the company. During her tenure, Sandberg pioneered her own brand of feminism and weathered high-profile scandals. Here's how Sandberg got her start in tech and became Meta's second-in-command. Sheryl Sandberg was born on August 28, 1969, in Washington, D.C. Her father was an ophthalmologist and her mother taught French at a local college. She has two younger siblings: a brother named David and a sister named Michelle.An aerial view of Washington, D.C.Getty ImagesSource: The New YorkerThe family moved to North Miami Beach when Sheryl was 2 years old. Her parents helped create the South Florida Conference on Soviet Jewry and turned their home into a safe haven for Soviet Jews looking to escape anti-Semitism.People on the beach in Miami Beach, Florida.CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via Getty ImagesSource: The New YorkerSandberg always shone in school, and was in the National Honor Society. "In public schools, for a girl to be smart was not good for your social life," her mother, Adele, told The New Yorker. She also taught aerobics while in high school.CBS 60 MinutesSource: The New Yorker, BloombergShe went on to attend Harvard University, where both of her siblings also went. She majored in economics, and started an organization at college called Women in Economics and Government. She graduated with her undergraduate degree in 1991.Students gather on Harvard's campus.Charles Krupa/APSource: Miami Herald, CNN MoneyAt college, Sandberg researched with future US Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, who would serve as an important mentor for Sandberg in the beginning phases of her career. Summers served as her thesis advisor in college, then hired her to work for him at the World Bank after she graduated.Larry Summers.Hyungwon Kang/ReutersSource: The New Yorker, CNN MoneySandberg stayed at the World Bank for a year, during which she traveled to India to help curb the spread of leprosy. She then returned to Harvard to get an MBA, and worked for a year at the global consulting firm McKinsey & Company.Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg.Reuters / Mike SegarSource: CNN Money, GuardianSandberg said her parents instilled in her that the time to find a man was in college, because "the good ones go young." At age 24, Sandberg married a businessman named Brian Kraff, but they got divorced after only a year. Sandberg told Cosmopolitan she was nervous her divorce would prevent her from ever meeting someone else.Paul Morigi/ Getty ImagesSource: Cosmopolitan, The New YorkerNot long after Sandberg finished up her MBA in 1995, her mentor, Summers, joined President Bill Clinton's administration. Sandberg followed Summers to D.C. to work for him, and eventually became his chief of staff when he was named Treasury secretary in 1999.Larry Summers.REUTERS/Mark WilsonSource: CNN MoneyBut after the Democrats lost the 2000 election, Sandberg decided to move to Silicon Valley to join the booming tech industry. At the time, Google was a small company with less than 300 people that wasn't making a profit. However, she found the company's mission attractive: "to make the world's information freely available."Google cofounders Larry Page and Sergey Brin.GettySource: The New Yorker, CNN Money When courting her, Eric Schmidt — Google's CEO at the time — reportedly called her every week, and told her, "Don't be an idiot ... This is a rocket ship. Get on it." Sandberg joined Google as the business-unit general manager in 2001 and took over the company's ad program, which had four people working on it at the time.Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt and Sheryl Sandberg.CBS 60 MinutesSource: The New YorkerIn 2004, Sandberg married her longtime best friend Dave Goldberg, whom she had met a decade before and dated for five years. They had a son in 2005, and a daughter born two years later. "The most important career choice you'll make is who you marry," Sandberg said at Insider's Ignition conference in 2011. Goldberg became the CEO of SurveyMonkey in 2009.Sandberg and Dave Goldberg.Kevork Djansezian / Getty ImagesSource: Guardian, Business InsiderSandberg and her family have lived in a 9,200-square-foot mansion in Menlo Park since 2013. The home has six bedrooms, a wine room, gym, movie theater, basketball court, and a giant waterfall. It's only a 20-minute drive from Meta's headquarters.Meta headquarters in Menlo Park, California.Liu Guanguan/China News Service via Getty ImagesSource: InsiderGoogle grew immensely during Sandberg's time there, and she was instrumental in landing a deal with AOL to make Google its search engine. She was eventually promoted to Google's vice president for global online sales and operations.Small toy figures are seen in front of Google logo in this illustration pictureReutersSource: The New YorkerBut after nearly seven years at Google, Sandberg was ready for a new challenge. Schmidt proposed she become chief financial officer, but she turned it down for more responsibility. She asked about becoming chief operating officer, but Google executives reportedly didn't want to rock the boat and mess with the three men already in charge of decision-making: Schmidt and Google's two cofounders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin.Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg.ReutersSource: The New YorkerFortunately, someone else was pursuing her: Mark Zuckerberg, the 23-year-old whose company, Facebook, was still relatively new. He introduced himself to Sandberg at a Christmas party in 2007, and started to court her to come work at Facebook."Charlie Rose"/PBSSource: New YorkerSandberg began to meet with Zuckerberg for dinner once or twice a week, first at a cafe in Menlo Park and then at Sandberg's home. Sandberg returned to that restaurant, Flea Street Cafe, for an interview with Oprah in 2013. After six weeks of dinner meetings, Zuckerberg eventually offered her the position as Facebook's chief operating officer.Sheryl Sandberg and Oprah.YouTube, OWN TVSource: Fortune, The New Yorker Zuckerberg told The New Yorker that Sandberg "handles things I don't want to." "There are people who are really good managers, people who can manage a big organization," Zuckerberg said in 2011. "And then there are people who are very analytic or focused on strategy. Those two types don't usually tend to be in the same person."Sheryl Sandberg and, in the background, Mark Zuckerberg.David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty ImagesSource: The New YorkerSandberg is known by many as an advocate for women's rights in the workplace. Sandberg has campaigned against using the word "bossy," arguing that it damages women's confidence and desire to pursue leadership roles. She has also partnered with Getty Images to take stock photos that are meant to change the perception of women in the workforce.Allison Shelley/Getty ImagesSource: InsiderIn March 2013, Sandberg published "Lean In," a best-selling book that recounts some of her own personal work experience as well as advice for women to pursue top positions in their field. "A truly equal world would be one where women ran half our countries and companies and men ran half our homes," Sandberg wrote in the book.Amazon, AP ImagesBut not everyone has been so crazy about Sandberg's advice to lean in. Some critics have said that it's not enough to tell women to have confidence if they're not being given the opportunity to succeed. Others say it's unfair to use Sandberg as a model for all women, as she is able to afford a nanny and a staff at work.Joe Raedle/Getty ImagesSource: The New YorkerSandberg announced in 2014 she and her husband would sign onto the Giving Pledge, a commitment by billionaires to donate at least half of their fortune during their lifetime or upon their death. The Giving Pledge was launched by Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, and Melinda French Gates.Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg at the 2018 Code conferenceGreg Sandoval/Business InsiderSource: ForbesTragedy stuck in 2015 when Goldberg, Sandberg's husband, died suddenly after he collapsed while on vacation with his family in Mexico. Reports first indicated he died from head trauma after falling while on the treadmill, but Sandberg later revealed his death was due to a cardiac arrhythmia.Dave Goldberg.SurveyMonkey/GettySource: Insider"[Dave] showed me the internet for the first time, planned fun outings, took me to temple for the Jewish holidays, introduced me to much cooler music than I had ever heard. He gave me the experience of being deeply understood, truly supported and completely and utterly loved — and I will carry that with me always," Sandberg wrote on Facebook a day after Goldberg's death.Sheryl Sandberg and Dave Goldberg.Getty Images, Kevork DjansezianSource: InsiderFollowing Goldberg's death, Sandberg penned an essay about dealing with grief and "kick(ing) the s--t" out of option B in life when plan A is no longer available. Two years later, Sandberg turned that lesson into a book about her personal experience dealing with death and other stories of adversity.Justin Sullivan/Getty ImagesSource: InsiderSandberg also joined the board of directors of SurveyMonkey — the company her late husband served as CEO for — two months after his death. When SurveyMonkey went public in 2018, the company said Sandberg would donate her 10% stake to the charity she founded in her husband's honor: The Sheryl Sandberg and Dave Goldberg Family Foundation.Dave Goldberg.Business Insider VideoSource: InsiderA year after Goldberg's death, Sandberg began dating longtime friend Bobby Kotick, the CEO of video gaming company Activision Blizzard. Kotick was reportedly a "huge source of strength" for Sandberg in the wake of her late husband's death. However, the couple split in early 2019.Bobby Kotick and Sheryl Sandberg.Drew Angerer/Getty ImagesSource: Page SixSandberg publicly backed Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election. In return, Sandberg was reportedly on Clinton's shortlist for one of two cabinet positions: Treasury secretary and Commerce secretary, neither of which came to fruition after Clinton's defeat.Hillary Clinton.Mark Sagliocco/Getty ImagesSource: InsiderSandberg spoke out against former President Donald Trump's policies on abortion and immigration. A day after Trump reinstated the global gag rule that banned federally funded groups from discussing abortion, Sandberg donated $1 million to Planned Parenthood.Sheryl Sandberg, Mike Pence, and Donald Trump.Getty / Drew AngererSource: InsiderSandberg, and Facebook, drew heavy scrutiny in the wake of the 2016 election. Facebook revealed that Russia paid for thousands of ads on the platform to interfere with and manipulate political sentiment. The New York Times later reported that Sandberg tried to downplay implicating Russia in spreading misinformation on Facebook.GettySource: The New York TimesThen in March 2018, details about the Cambridge Analytica scandal surfaced. The data-analytics company had harvested data from 87 million Facebook users and used it to target voters during the 2016 election. Sandberg admitted that Facebook knew about the improper data use back in 2015, but didn't make it public.Robert Galbraith/ReutersSource: InsiderZuckerberg reportedly blamed Sandberg for the fallout from the Cambridge Analytica scandal and told her she should have been more aggressive in dealing with the "troublesome content." After meeting with Zuckerberg, Sandberg had told friends she worried whether she'd keep her job at Facebook, according to a Wall Street Journal report.Facebook's executives have repeatedly pledged to do better about cleaning up the platform, but the company has a long way to go.Drew Angerer/Getty Images; The Asahi Shimbun/Getty ImagesSource: The Wall Street JournalA bombshell New York Times report later revealed that Facebook directed a PR firm called Definers Public Affairs to conduct an "aggressive lobbying campaign" to blame billionaire George Soros — a Facebook critic — for spreading anti-Facebook sentiment. Both Zuckerberg and Sandberg denied knowing about Definers' activities, and communications head Elliot Schrage instead took the fall. However, Sandberg later admitted she had received a "small number of emails where Definers was referenced."George Soros.Sean Gallup/Getty ImagesSource: InsiderThe New York Times report put mounting scrutiny on Sandberg's role at Facebook. Although Facebook staffers threw their support behind Sandberg, investors reportedly questioned whether they should be worried Sandberg would leave the company.Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of FacebookKrista Kennell / ShutterstockSource: InsiderDespite the speculation, Sandberg remained at the company. In 2018, she was called to testify before Congress alongside then-Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey regarding Russian interference in the US election.Sheryl Sandberg and then-Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey.Drew Angerer/Getty ImagesSource: InsiderThrough it all, Sandberg's net worth has continued to rise. She's currently worth an estimated $1.6 billion, making her one of the 20 richest self-made women in the US.Sheryl Sandberg Facebook COO.Richard Bord/Getty Images for Cannes LionsSource: ForbesIn early 2020, Sandberg announced that she had gotten engaged to Tom Bernthal, the founder and CEO of a consulting firm in Los Angeles. The couple reportedly met through the brother of Sandberg's late husband, and started dating in spring 2019. Engaged!!! @tom_bernthal, you are my everything. I could not love you more. A post shared by Sheryl Sandberg (@sherylsandberg) on Feb 3, 2020 at 10:00am PSTFeb 3, 2020 at 10:00am PST Source: People, Insider In April, The Wall Street Journal reported that while she was dating Kotick, Sandberg pushed the UK tabloid the Daily Mail to drop reporting on a temporary restraining order filed against him by a former girlfriend. Sandberg reportedly worried that the Mail's story would damage her reputation as a champion of women.Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick.Michael Kovac/Getty Images for Vanity FairSource: Insider, The Wall Street JournalIn June, Sandberg announced that she would step down as COO later this year, writing in a Facebook post that "it is time for me to write the next chapter of my life." Zuckerberg wrote that Sandberg is "a superstar who defined the COO role in her own unique way." She officially left her role on August 1, and her last day at Meta will be September 30.Facebook executives Sheryl Sandberg and Mark Zuckerberg walk together at the Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference.Kevin Dietsch/Getty ImagesSource: Insider, SECMadeline Stone and Paige Leskin contributed to an earlier version of this article.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderAug 3rd, 2022

Cold War Lessons For US-China Today

Cold War Lessons For US-China Today By Jordan Schneider and Irene Zhang of ChinaTalk How did the Cold War affect US diplomacy and its actions abroad? And what lessons about gently coaxing Gorbachev back into the bosom of the international community need to be relearned? Hal Brands (@HalBrands), professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, is the author of Twilight Struggle: What the Cold War Teaches Us about Great-Power Rivalry Today. Along with co-host Emily Jin (@ew_jin) of the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), we discussed: How the US capitalized on Soviet heavy-handedness in the developing world The US’s never-ending cycles of self-confidence and self-doubt Today’s Sinologists versus Cold War Sovietologists Why the only person who can stop the war in Ukraine is the one who started it Applied history, and why the Cold War? Jordan Schneider: Applied history, what is it and why isn't it more of a thing? Hal Brands: Applied history is basically just a fancy way of saying that you study history not for its own sake, even though that's important, but for what it can teach you about how to handle the problems of today and tomorrow. This is actually the oldest possible use of history; there's literally nothing new about it. If you go back and read Thucydides, he doesn't use the term applied history, but he says that his History of the Peloponnesian War was meant to serve as a guide to statecraft and subsequent eras. In fact, I would say that this is why most people read history. It's mostly professional historians who think that history should be studied for its own sake. The challenge, I think, is that within the historical profession, there has long been a concern that doing history with an eye to shaping policy risks is diluting or compromising the scholarly objectivity on which good history is supposed to depend. I think that that's a fair point, and there are good examples of people who have allowed the quest for influence or whatnot to distort their historical work. But I think there are ways of balancing that challenge. In fact, I would say that it's hard for me to justify the doing of history if you're not trying to make a point that's relevant today. Jordan Schneider: Why spend part of our marginal 10 hours of reading time a week on the Cold War? Hal Brands: Part of it is that we all know something about the Cold War and we all probably have an image of the Cold War in our heads. It occurred within the living memory of a lot of US policymakers right now. I guarantee Joe Biden has some understanding of the Cold War, and that understanding probably plays some role in his policy decisions on issues from Afghanistan to Ukraine. One of the arguments I'm making in the book is that the Cold War actually isn't that exceptional. There are aspects of the Cold War that are exceptional: it’s the only great power rivalry that played out in the shadow of nuclear weapons, to give you one example. But then, it's part of this much longer phenomenon of protracted great-power competition that goes back to the beginning of recorded history. So it ought to be able to teach us something interesting about that larger phenomenon at a time when it's coming back to life in the form of the US’ relationships with China and Russia today. American Exceptionalism and the Pitfalls of Ideology Jordan Schneider: The day after Biden's State of the Union, I was thinking: Biden is saying this stuff about how we're the best country and we can do anything, and I'm like, oh, I really hope so. To what extent did folks back then buy this? Throughout the entirety of the Cold War, how did that sine wave flow in and out over time? Hal Brands: I don't think they bought it any more than they buy it today. There was never an uncritical belief that the United States could do everything and that its influence was entirely benevolent and benign. It’s quite often the opposite. The United States went through periods of intense self-doubt during the Cold War, and even times when the country was tearing itself apart over things that it had done overseas — just look at the domestic bombings, some of which were related to the blowback over the Vietnam War throughout much of the 1970s. There are big debates in the United States over whether we should have NATO anymore, and whether we should still have alliance commitments around the globe. We go through these cycles of self-confidence, and then a lack of self-confidence. This is normal; when threats are running high and we're feeling good about ourselves, we embrace a very expansive conception of what we think we can achieve in the world. Then, when something goes wrong, like the Vietnam War, we decide that we are really unable to accomplish anything. It typically takes some sort of advance by the bad guys to shake us out of that. That’s a normal part of American history. We see that cycle repeatedly during the Cold War. Vietnam War protest in Washington, D.C., October 21, 1967. Emily Jin: Fusing geopolitics with values or ideology, while powerful for holding a nation together, is also possibly going to lead to bad policies. How would you design an approach that actually leaves room for both unity and clear-headedness, that could detect bad policies? Hal Brands: You probably can't. If you want a political consensus strong enough to sustain American participation in a long-term competition, you have to tap into that ideological fervor that is very deeply rooted in the American psyche. This is what Harry Truman understood. It's what Ronald Reagan understood. It's what all of the policymakers who really spoke to Americans best about the Cold War and what it represented understood, and they weren't entirely wrong about that. I think that they were right in thinking that what was ultimately at stake in the Cold War was a contest between two fundamentally different visions about how people in societies should be organized. But it's like any pep talk: it's easy to take it a little bit too far and hard to downshift into a lower gear at a particular time. The way that I try to frame this is that any political consensus that was strong enough to inspire the sort of investments that the United States was going to need to win the Cold War was also going to be strong enough that people like Joe McCarthy could abuse it, or strong enough to lend itself to red-baiting. Jordan Schneider: This seems to be the dilemma: on the one hand, you get the Vietnam War, driven by this ideological fear that, that if we screw this up, the whole world's going to know that we're a paper tiger and America doesn't stand for anything. And on the other hand, you get these conversations that you bring to light very well through archival work, where leaders basically say that these are trade-offs that that we have to make because there's a bigger bad behind all of this, and we’ve got to make sure that we're doing everything we possibly can so that Marxist-Leninism doesn't take over the planet. Hal Brands: Jeane Kirkpatrick had a saying in the early eighties: there are degrees of evil in the world. So the alternative to working with Efrain Rios Montt in Guatemala might be something even worse than that. There's a certain amount of truth in that, obviously. The challenge, of course, is that there is always a point at which means can corrupt ends, right? There's always a point at which the way you pursue a certain goal can undermine the worthiness of the goal itself. I think it's a fair question to ask whether the United States occasionally got itself in positions where its own conduct was so bad, or had backed people whose conduct was so bad, that it undermined the larger moral cause it was trying to support. President John F. Kennedy hosts Suharto in Washington, D.C., 1961. (AP) Jordan Schneider: On your degrees-of-evil scale, I'm not sure how much further Suharto can fall down. And it's not just him: there were plenty of others, and one wonders if less death and awfulness would have befallen these countries if their left-leaning alternatives had stayed in power. I grant you that these were difficult decisions, but I do think in retrospect that there were plenty of these battles which the US could have just decided not to fight. Hal Brands: It's important that we not overstate how much control the United States had in some of these situations. My friend Ray Takeyh has shown pretty conclusively that the United States had a nontrivial, but perhaps non-decisive, role in the 1953 coup in Iran. The United States was deeply involved in de-stabilizing Salvador Allende’s government and Chile in the early 1970s, but as far as we can tell was not deeply directly involved in the coup that actually overthrew him in September 1973 (although we certainly supported it after the fact). So in many cases, the choice wasn't: should you go make people do these terrible things in the Third World or not? It was: given the trend of events, should you support actors who are doing morally questionable things, or should you refrain entirely? Parallels Between Sovietology and Pekingnology Jordan Schneider: The current job market for China analysts, as Emily and I can attest to, is shockingly thin, and it breaks my heart when listeners reach out to me for career advice. The supply exceeds demand and salaries are low. The market is growing at 5 or 10% a year, not at the pace that it seemed like in the 40s and 50s when the US really spun up a remarkable effort to bone up on all things Soviet. What are some of the interesting takeaways and lessons you had looking into how America tried to grok the Soviet Union? Hal Brands: In some ways, I think we're a little bit better off today than we were at the beginning of the Cold War. I think it was Richard Helms who later wrote, “in the beginning, we knew nothing.” We had a few dozen Soviet analysts in the United States. George Kennan was a brilliant guy, but one reason why he seemed so brilliant was that nobody else knew anything about the Soviet Union. You couldn't travel there. It was difficult to get basic information about the government and the economy. So he stood out because he was a big fish in a very small pond. I think we're in better shape today: we have a lot more China expertise in the United States now than we had Soviet expertise in 1947. An April 1962 propaganda poster celebrating Sino-Soviet collaboration; caption reads “The friendship between Chinese and Soviet peoples is everlasting.” Do we have more China expertise in the United States than we had Soviet expertise in 1971 or 1983? Probably not, because we haven't made the same generational investments in that expertise that we did during the Cold War. I also worry that some of the expertise we have either isn't in the areas where we would want it to be, because the Chinese have created really good disincentives to aspiring academics studying particular aspects of Chinese politics and society, or maybe some of it is a waste in assets because it's getting harder and harder for people to go to China to do fieldwork. But I think what the Cold War does teach us is that you can overcome this: it just takes a lot of time, a lot of money, and a lot of energy. And that's what we did during the Cold War: we basically created an entirely new academic field of Sovietologists. You had academic institutions, philanthropic foundations, and government all come together to create the money and the brainpower you needed to really study a very hard target from an intelligence perspective. This is really when it becomes common for academics to go between academia and government, or for people to spend time at Rand or Brookings, and then serve as consultants for the executive branch. Over time, I think the strength of that arrangement helped us create a very deep pool of Soviet expertise. We didn't always have all the expertise we needed and I'm not claiming that the record was perfect in any way, but we also created a nice ecosystem where real debate could occur. This was one of the great differences between the US and Soviet approaches to intelligence. The Soviet Union was clearly better than us at human intelligence, for instance, but they were terrible at analysis because there was no incentive to engage in honest debate or criticism within the Soviet government. It was different in the United States. We had a de-centralized approach to intelligence in a way that would pit different intelligence institutions against each other. You had outside experts who could argue with the government when they thought the government was getting things wrong. Overall, if not in every circumstance, I think that improved our hit rate over the course of the Cold War. Jordan Schneider: There hasn't been much room in academia for folks doing Pekingnology and writing about the party qua the party, which is a real misstep. That’s something that, hopefully, both the US government and philanthropic money start to address them. Hal Brands: One of the things we eventually figured out during the Cold War was that it costs more not to have this expertise than to have it. By the time you get to the later parts of the Cold War, in administration after administration, you're seeing specific cases of this payoff. You look at Zbigniew Brzezinski, the National Security Advisor under Carter and a product of American Sovietology; Richard Pipes, a product of American Sovietology; Jack Matlock, same deal. They were running incredibly important parts of US policy while drawing on this intellectual capital that the country had invested into. Emily Jin: One of my hypotheses of why there might be a lack of super concentrated expertise or analytical energy going into this, besides everything that you mentioned (which I agree with), is this idea that maybe the United States has forgotten how to deal with tragedy. I'm, specifically thinking about your 2019 book with Charles et al., where you talk about the Athenians looking at tragedy as a vehicle for collective action. How receptive is the American public and the American government to prolonged competition today? How does that influence the investment that goes into this expertise? Hal Brands: I think our problem is we're pursuing Cold War objectives with post-Cold War levels of urgency and investment. We have convinced ourselves that we face a problem in China and Russia, but I don't know that we have been honest with ourselves about what level of investment, energy, and sacrifice it's going to be. It's going to be necessary to deal with those problems effectively, because as you say, we’ve forgotten how bad the penalty is for getting these things wrong in a way that the WWII generation would have found much more difficult to forget. Now, maybe the Ukraine crisis is helping to remind us of this a little bit, and the Chinese seem determined to remind us of it with some of the more outrageous things that they do. But I do think this is a real problem. It’s one thing to say that you're doing great-power competition. It's another thing to do it effectively. I think we're between those two things at the moment. Economic Determinism: How Much Does Wealth Matter? Jordan Schneider: At the end of the day, the balance of the offering America had to the rest of the world and to the Soviet people, just by having a GDP per capita multiples ahead of what the Soviet system could offer, seemed to be the trump card that a lot of these debates came down to. How much does the marginal stuff matter, relative to just making sure that you're the richer country than your adversary? Hal Brands: Being rich, powerful, and attractive is rarely a disadvantage, in geopolitics as in life. In 1945, the United States had half of global production because the rest of the world had been destroyed after WWII. So the story of the first 25 years of the Cold War was everybody else catching up with the United States. For the most part, that's a good thing because a lot of the countries catching up with us were Japan, West Germany, and other allies. So that actually strengthens us in the Cold War. World powers’ respective shares of global GDP, from 1AD to the present. Notice the US’ peak near 1950. (Source: World Economic Forum) I think you can make the argument that so long as the Western world held together, it was going to win in the end because the power imbalance was so severe, but it wasn't a given that the Western world would hold together. The Western world could have fallen apart in the late 1940s, if you had economic collapse in Western Europe and a bunch of communist parties had come to power; in the early 1950s, had you not strengthened NATO and fortified the hard power backbone of the free world. There are a variety of times in the 1970s, for instance, when it looked like the Soviet Union was getting the advantage. No matter how rich and powerful and attractive you are, there still come these critical junctures where it takes good, bold, or prudent decision-making to get what you need. Kill Adversaries With Kindness Jordan Schneider: One of the chapters that I really liked was the one on the conclusion of the Cold War, and how Reagan and George H.W. Bush in the closing years of the conflict killed with kindness. What went on in 1984-92? Hal Brands: Because Soviet power was collapsing in the 80s and early 90s, Americans were playing pretty ruthlessly, but they were also going out of their way to make sure that they did not humiliate a weakened superpower and to give Gorbachev the sense that he could strengthen his own prestige and position through a partnership with the West. Reagan uses a lot of pageantry at summits and things like that, to send Gorbachev the message that if you change Soviet foreign policy in ways that we deem constructive, you will be welcomed back into the world as a legitimate member of the international community. Bush goes out of his way to portray Gorbachev as a partner in the diplomacy surrounding German unification in 1990 for exactly the same reason. Over time, Gorbachev comes to see that his best alternative lies in giving the West a lot of what it wants. Because it's giving him some of what he needs as well: prestige, economic resources, and other things. It's ultimately a pretty ruthless policy, where we get everything we can out of Gorbachev while he is still in power. But one of the reasons that it's acceptable to Gorbachev is that we treated him with a lot of kindness. Photo of Reagan and Vice President Bush meeting Gorbachev at the Governors Island Summit on December 7, 1988. (Source: National Archives) Jordan Schneider: Thinking about that and the lessons with regards to the war in Ukraine, as hard as it: unless Putin gets toppled (which, maybe there’s a 10% chance), he's going to be the one that's going to end this war. The lessons from that moment of figuring out how to give folks off-ramps is a tricky thing to think about, especially when you see the images you see on TV, but that's important when understanding how conflicts end. Hal Brands: It’s particularly difficult because you've got to create enough pain that Putin wants the off-ramp first, then offer the off-ramp once he believes that it’s desirable to take it. That balancing act is particularly tough. Book Recommendations Hal Brands: One book I'm reading right now is called Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom by Steven Platt. It's a masterful account of the Taiping Rebellion in China in the 1850s and 1860s, which was a much bigger global deal than anybody remembers. The reason it's relevant today is it actually has some long-lasting implications for what you might think of as the Chinese worldview. It’s useful in understanding the historical background to Chinese decision-making. Another book that I was just leafing through this morning is an oldie, but a goodie: it's John Gaddis’ Strategies of Containment, which was first written in the early 1980s. It was the first book to systematically study American strategy during the Cold War. I'm biased — he was my dissertation advisor — but every time I read it, I'm still impressed by the number and the quality of the insights in there. Tyler Durden Mon, 08/01/2022 - 23:40.....»»

Category: dealsSource: nytAug 2nd, 2022

Russian state news is one of Putin"s greatest weapons during his struggling Ukraine war

Here's why Russian state TV routinely airs wildly false claims like World War III has started and Ukraine is a Nazi state. Russian President Vladimir Putin looks on during the Victory Day military parade marking the 77th anniversary of the end of World War II in Moscow, Russia, Monday, May 9, 2022.Mikhail Metzel, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP Putin's crackdown on the free press accelerated following the war in Ukraine. Getting access to independent news is not impossible in Russia, but it's become more and more difficult. State news is dominated by Kremlin propagandists who echo Putin's outlandish, false talking points. By virtually eliminating the independent press in Russia and ensuring state media echoes Kremlin talking points, Russian President Vladimir Putin has gone to extraordinary lengths to keep the Russian populace in the dark on the human toll from the Ukraine war.  Putin's crackdown on the free press — and dissent more generally — began years ago. But the Kremlin's efforts to control the media landscape in Russia reached new heights after Putin ordered a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in late February. "Obviously, this is not the first media crackdown under Putin. But there is a difference in degree in terms of what happened after the war versus before," Maya Vinokour, an assistant professor in the Department of Russian and Slavic Studies at New York University, told Insider. "Any major independent outlet that you can name has now been shuttered."In this vacuum of independent media, the cries of Russian state TV personalities resound: that Russia is blameless and the West is the real instigator, that Ukraine is a Nazi state, that World War III has begun. Some experts say Putin's regime has been remarkably, unsettlingly effective in controlling the Russian populace's perception of the war, while others warn that Moscow has isolated the country to such an extent that it's hard to know what people there truly believe anymore. Among other steps to tighten his grip over the narrative, Putin signed a law barring the media from calling the Ukraine war a "war," instead requiring journalists and pundits to refer to the full-scale invasion as a "special operation." Russian journalists who haven't fallen in line have been placed on wanted lists. Russia's media regulator, Roskomnadzor, blocked access to independent news websites over their coverage of the war. Major social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook have also been blocked in Russia in relation to the war. Facing pressure from the government over their reporting, multiple prominent print, radio, and TV outlets — including Echo of Moscow, Novaya Gazeta, and TV Rain — closed up shop or suspended operations since the war began. Vinokour said that some of these outlets have reconstituted in various ways outside of Russia, and there are Russians who access banned websites via virtual private networks. Many Russians are also active on Telegram, a social media and chat app that's not been banned, where independent news sources are fighting to counter the often false, conspiratorial posts from Russian state outlets.In short, independent Russian outlets aiming to offer accurate reporting that challenge the government do still exist and have an audience. But a survey from Levada, the only independent pollster in Russia, found a majority of Russians get their news from state-run television — where they are being fed a constant stream of propaganda.State TV channels like Channel One and Russia-1 effectively exist to parrot the government's talking points. They feature pro-Putin hosts like Vladimir Solovyov, who constantly vilifies the West while boasting about Russia's supposed military prowess. Meanwhile, Russia was forced to retreat from its assault on Kyiv after staggering losses, and the toll continues to mount — including over 1,000 tanks and a flagship cruiser.—Julia Davis (@JuliaDavisNews) April 20, 2022 The State Department has described Solovyov as possibly "the most energetic Kremlin propagandist around today," adding that the Russian host, his producers, and guests "flood Russian-language audiences with Guinness World Record-breaking diatribes of anti-Western and anti-Ukraine disinformation, hatred, and vitriol on a daily basis."Kremlin propagandists like Solovyov routinely pepper Russian audiences with an array of false, baseless, outlandish assertions. "Russian propaganda is not super well-crafted," Vinokour said. As world leaders accuse Moscow of committing genocide in Ukraine, Russian state news has portrayed apparent atrocities committed by Russian troops in Ukraine as staged or fake. Olga Skabeyeva, who hosts "60 Minutes" on Russia-1, pushed a baseless conspiracy theory that Ukrainians were behind a massacre of civilians in Bucha. Skabeyeva, who has been referred to as the "iron doll of Putin TV," has also told Russians that they're already in the midst of  "World War III."Indeed, state news agencies have repeatedly blamed the war on NATO, often portraying the conflict as the beginning of a wider war against the alliance. In the reality viewers won't hear on Russian TV, the invasion of Ukraine was unprovoked. Though Ukraine has received significant levels of support from NATO, including lethal aid, it is not a member of the alliance and was not on the formal path to join it when Russia invaded.Russian state media has also spent a fair amount of time and energy promoting the Kremlin's bogus claim that the war in Ukraine is being waged to liberate it from Nazis. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is Jewish, highlighting how absurd such claims are. Russia-1 host Olga Skabeyeva has played a key role in the Kremlin's propaganda strategy amid the war in Ukraine.YouTube/UATV EnglishThough Moscow's propaganda on the Ukraine war is not especially sophisticated, that doesn't mean it hasn't been successful. A number of Russia watchers have said that Putin's close control over media has given him a major advantage in terms of keeping the public on his side. Russian journalist Alexey Kovalyov, who previously worked for state news agency RIA Novosti and now works as an editor for the independent, Latvia-based outlet Meduza, in April told Al Jazeera that Russian state news has been "terrifyingly effective" in molding public opinion on the Ukraine war throughout Russia."There are quite a few heartbreaking accounts of people living in Ukraine under the Russian bombs, they're calling their family members in Russia and telling them they're being bombed by the Russian army, and their own family members refuse to believe them," Kovalyov said. And though the war has been disastrous for Russia on many levels — with the Russian military failing to achieve major objectives and losing an estimate of 15,000 troops in three months — there are signs that many Russians have been convinced otherwise. A Levada poll conducted in late May found 77% of Russians support the actions of the Russian armed forces in Ukraine, and 73% believe that the "special operation" is moving forward successfully. But the lack of reliable pollsters in Russia — on top of the fear induced by the dangers of speaking out against the war or the Kremlin — makes it difficult to gauge the true level of support among the Russian public for Putin's so-called "special operation" in Ukraine. Government-backed polls can't be trusted, and experts like Vinokour are skeptical that any broad-based conclusions can be drawn on levels of public support for the war."The whole idea of polling in inside of what is now a personal authoritarian regime seems suspect to me," Vinokour said.It seems that by vying to control what the Russian public knows about the Ukraine war, Putin has also made it much harder for the wider world to understand what's happening in Russia and how Russians truly feel. Even so, it will be hard for the Russian media to blot out its leader's mistakes and the losses on the scale of the Soviet Union's failed incursion in Afghanistan forever."It is Orwell 1984," Russian journalist Yevgenia Albats, who hosted a show on Echo of Moscow before it shut down, told NPR in March. "In this world... lies are truth and war is peace."Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderJun 12th, 2022

Sheryl Sandberg is stepping down as Meta"s COO. Here"s how she got her start in tech and became No. 2 at one of the world"s most influential companies.

Sandberg, 52, confirmed in a Facebook post that she'll be stepping down from her role as Meta's second-in-command later this year. Sheryl Sandberg, Meta's chief operating officer.Lino Mirgeler/picture alliance via Getty Images Sheryl Sandberg is stepping down as Meta's chief operating officer after 14 years at the company. During her tenure, Sandberg pioneered her own brand of feminism and weathered high-profile scandals. Here's how Sandberg got her start in tech and became Meta's second-in-command. Sheryl Sandberg was born on August 28, 1969, in Washington, D.C. Her father was an ophthalmologist and her mother taught French at a local college. She has two younger siblings: a brother named David and a sister named Michelle.An aerial view of Washington, D.C.Getty ImagesSource: The New YorkerThe family moved to North Miami Beach when Sheryl was 2 years old. Her parents helped create the South Florida Conference on Soviet Jewry and turned their home into a safe haven for Soviet Jews looking to escape anti-Semitism.People on the beach in Miami Beach, Florida.CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via Getty ImagesSource: The New YorkerSandberg always shone in school, and was in the National Honor Society. "In public schools, for a girl to be smart was not good for your social life," her mother, Adele, told The New Yorker. She also taught aerobics while in high school.CBS 60 MinutesSource: The New Yorker, BloombergShe went on to attend Harvard University, where both of her siblings also went. She majored in economics, and started an organization at college called Women in Economics and Government. She graduated with her undergraduate degree in 1991.Students gather on Harvard's campus.Charles Krupa/APSource: Miami Herald, CNN MoneyAt college, Sandberg researched with future US Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, who would serve as an important mentor for Sandberg in the beginning phases of her career. Summers served as her thesis advisor in college, then hired her to work for him at the World Bank after she graduated.Larry Summers.Hyungwon Kang/ReutersSource: The New Yorker, CNN MoneySandberg stayed at the World Bank for a year, during which she traveled to India to help curb the spread of leprosy. She then returned to Harvard to get an MBA, and worked for a year at the global consulting firm McKinsey & Company.Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg.Reuters / Mike SegarSource: CNN Money, GuardianSandberg said her parents instilled in her that the time to find a man was in college, because "the good ones go young." At age 24, Sandberg married a businessman named Brian Kraff, but they got divorced after only a year. Sandberg told Cosmopolitan she was nervous her divorce would prevent her from ever meeting someone else.Paul Morigi/ Getty ImagesSource: Cosmopolitan, The New YorkerNot long after Sandberg finished up her MBA in 1995, her mentor, Summers, joined President Bill Clinton's administration. Sandberg followed Summers to D.C. to work for him, and eventually became his chief of staff when he was named Treasury secretary in 1999.Larry Summers.REUTERS/Mark WilsonSource: CNN MoneyBut after the Democrats lost the 2000 election, Sandberg decided to move to Silicon Valley to join the booming tech industry. At the time, Google was a small company with less than 300 people that wasn't making a profit. However, she found the company's mission attractive: "to make the world's information freely available."Google cofounders Larry Page and Sergey Brin.GettySource: The New Yorker, CNN Money When courting her, Eric Schmidt — Google's CEO at the time — reportedly called her every week, and told her, "Don't be an idiot ... This is a rocket ship. Get on it." Sandberg joined Google as the business-unit general manager in 2001 and took over the company's ad program, which had four people working on it at the time.Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt and Sheryl Sandberg.CBS 60 MinutesSource: The New YorkerIn 2004, Sandberg married her longtime best friend Dave Goldberg, whom she had met a decade before and dated for five years. They had a son in 2005, and a daughter born two years later. "The most important career choice you'll make is who you marry," Sandberg said at Insider's Ignition conference in 2011. Goldberg became the CEO of SurveyMonkey in 2009.Sandberg and Dave Goldberg.Kevork Djansezian / Getty ImagesSource: Guardian, Business InsiderSandberg and her family have lived in a 9,200-square-foot mansion in Menlo Park since 2013. The home has six bedrooms, a wine room, gym, movie theater, basketball court, and a giant waterfall. It's only a 20-minute drive from Meta's headquarters.Meta headquarters in Menlo Park, California.Liu Guanguan/China News Service via Getty ImagesSource: InsiderGoogle grew immensely during Sandberg's time there, and she was instrumental in landing a deal with AOL to make Google its search engine. She was eventually promoted to Google's vice president for global online sales and operations.Small toy figures are seen in front of Google logo in this illustration pictureReutersSource: The New YorkerBut after nearly seven years at Google, Sandberg was ready for a new challenge. Schmidt proposed she become chief financial officer, but she turned it down for more responsibility. She asked about becoming chief operating officer, but Google executives reportedly didn't want to rock the boat and mess with the three men already in charge of decision-making: Schmidt and Google's two cofounders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin.Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg.ReutersSource: The New YorkerFortunately, someone else was pursuing her: Mark Zuckerberg, the 23-year-old whose company, Facebook, was still relatively new. He introduced himself to Sandberg at a Christmas party in 2007, and started to court her to come work at Facebook."Charlie Rose"/PBSSource: New YorkerSandberg began to meet with Zuckerberg for dinner once or twice a week, first at a cafe in Menlo Park and then at Sandberg's home. Sandberg returned to that restaurant, Flea Street Cafe, for an interview with Oprah in 2013. After six weeks of dinner meetings, Zuckerberg eventually offered her the position as Facebook's chief operating officer.Sheryl Sandberg and Oprah.YouTube, OWN TVSource: Fortune, The New Yorker Zuckerberg told The New Yorker that Sandberg "handles things I don't want to." "There are people who are really good managers, people who can manage a big organization," Zuckerberg said in 2011. "And then there are people who are very analytic or focused on strategy. Those two types don't usually tend to be in the same person."Sheryl Sandberg and, in the background, Mark Zuckerberg.David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty ImagesSource: The New YorkerSandberg is known by many as an advocate for women's rights in the workplace. Sandberg has campaigned against using the word "bossy," arguing that it damages women's confidence and desire to pursue leadership roles. She has also partnered with Getty Images to take stock photos that are meant to change the perception of women in the workforce.Allison Shelley/Getty ImagesSource: InsiderIn March 2013, Sandberg published "Lean In," a best-selling book that recounts some of her own personal work experience as well as advice for women to pursue top positions in their field. "A truly equal world would be one where women ran half our countries and companies and men ran half our homes," Sandberg wrote in the book.Amazon, AP ImagesBut not everyone has been so crazy about Sandberg's advice to lean in. Some critics have said that it's not enough to tell women to have confidence if they're not being given the opportunity to succeed. Others say it's unfair to use Sandberg as a model for all women, as she is able to afford a nanny and a staff at work.Joe Raedle/Getty ImagesSource: The New YorkerSandberg announced in 2014 she and her husband would sign onto the Giving Pledge, a commitment by billionaires to donate at least half of their fortune during their lifetime or upon their death. The Giving Pledge was launched by Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, and Melinda French Gates.Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg at the 2018 Code conferenceGreg Sandoval/Business InsiderSource: ForbesTragedy stuck in 2015 when Goldberg, Sandberg's husband, died suddenly after he collapsed while on vacation with his family in Mexico. Reports first indicated he died from head trauma after falling while on the treadmill, but Sandberg later revealed his death was due to a cardiac arrhythmia.Dave Goldberg.SurveyMonkey/GettySource: Insider"[Dave] showed me the internet for the first time, planned fun outings, took me to temple for the Jewish holidays, introduced me to much cooler music than I had ever heard. He gave me the experience of being deeply understood, truly supported and completely and utterly loved — and I will carry that with me always," Sandberg wrote on Facebook a day after Goldberg's death.Sheryl Sandberg and Dave Goldberg.Getty Images, Kevork DjansezianSource: InsiderFollowing Goldberg's death, Sandberg penned an essay about dealing with grief and "kick(ing) the s--t" out of option B in life when plan A is no longer available. Two years later, Sandberg turned that lesson into a book about her personal experience dealing with death and other stories of adversity.Justin Sullivan/Getty ImagesSource: InsiderSandberg also joined the board of directors of SurveyMonkey — the company her late husband served as CEO for — two months after his death. When SurveyMonkey went public in 2018, the company said Sandberg would donate her 10% stake to the charity she founded in her husband's honor: The Sheryl Sandberg and Dave Goldberg Family Foundation.Dave Goldberg.Business Insider VideoSource: InsiderA year after Goldberg's death, Sandberg began dating longtime friend Bobby Kotick, the CEO of video gaming company Activision Blizzard. Kotick was reportedly a "huge source of strength" for Sandberg in the wake of her late husband's death. However, the couple split in early 2019.Bobby Kotick and Sheryl Sandberg.Drew Angerer/Getty ImagesSource: Page SixSandberg publicly backed Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election. In return, Sandberg was reportedly on Clinton's shortlist for one of two cabinet positions: Treasury secretary and Commerce secretary, neither of which came to fruition after Clinton's defeat.Hillary Clinton.Mark Sagliocco/Getty ImagesSource: InsiderSandberg spoke out against former President Donald Trump's policies on abortion and immigration. A day after Trump reinstated the global gag rule that banned federally funded groups from discussing abortion, Sandberg donated $1 million to Planned Parenthood.Sheryl Sandberg, Mike Pence, and Donald Trump.Getty / Drew AngererSource: InsiderSandberg, and Facebook, drew heavy scrutiny in the wake of the 2016 election. Facebook revealed that Russia paid for thousands of ads on the platform to interfere with and manipulate political sentiment. The New York Times later reported that Sandberg tried to downplay implicating Russia in spreading misinformation on Facebook.GettySource: The New York TimesThen in March 2018, details about the Cambridge Analytica scandal surfaced. The data-analytics company had harvested data from 87 million Facebook users and used it to target voters during the 2016 election. Sandberg admitted that Facebook knew about the improper data use back in 2015, but didn't make it public.Robert Galbraith/ReutersSource: InsiderZuckerberg reportedly blamed Sandberg for the fallout from the Cambridge Analytica scandal and told her she should have been more aggressive in dealing with the "troublesome content." After meeting with Zuckerberg, Sandberg had told friends she worried whether she'd keep her job at Facebook, according to a Wall Street Journal report.Facebook's executives have repeatedly pledged to do better about cleaning up the platform, but the company has a long way to go.Drew Angerer/Getty Images; The Asahi Shimbun/Getty ImagesSource: The Wall Street JournalA bombshell New York Times report later revealed that Facebook directed a PR firm called Definers Public Affairs to conduct an "aggressive lobbying campaign" to blame billionaire George Soros — a Facebook critic — for spreading anti-Facebook sentiment. Both Zuckerberg and Sandberg denied knowing about Definers' activities, and communications head Elliot Schrage instead took the fall. However, Sandberg later admitted she had received a "small number of emails where Definers was referenced."George Soros.Sean Gallup/Getty ImagesSource: InsiderThe New York Times report put mounting scrutiny on Sandberg's role at Facebook. Although Facebook staffers threw their support behind Sandberg, investors reportedly questioned whether they should be worried Sandberg would leave the company.Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of FacebookKrista Kennell / ShutterstockSource: InsiderDespite the speculation, Sandberg remained at the company. In 2018, she was called to testify before Congress alongside then-Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey regarding Russian interference in the US election.Sheryl Sandberg and then-Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey.Drew Angerer/Getty ImagesSource: InsiderThrough it all, Sandberg's net worth has continued to rise. She's currently worth an estimated $1.6 billion, making her one of the 20 richest self-made women in the US.Sheryl Sandberg Facebook COO.Richard Bord/Getty Images for Cannes LionsSource: ForbesIn early 2020, Sandberg announced that she had gotten engaged to Tom Bernthal, the founder and CEO of a consulting firm in Los Angeles. The couple reportedly met through the brother of Sandberg's late husband, and started dating in spring 2019. Engaged!!! @tom_bernthal, you are my everything. I could not love you more. A post shared by Sheryl Sandberg (@sherylsandberg) on Feb 3, 2020 at 10:00am PSTFeb 3, 2020 at 10:00am PST Source: People, Insider In April, The Wall Street Journal reported that while she was dating Kotick, Sandberg pushed the UK tabloid the Daily Mail to drop reporting on a temporary restraining order filed against him by a former girlfriend. Sandberg reportedly worried that the Mail's story would damage her reputation as a champion of women.Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick.Michael Kovac/Getty Images for Vanity FairSource: Insider, The Wall Street JournalOn Wednesday, Sandberg announced that she would step down as COO later this year, writing in a Facebook post that "it is time for me to write the next chapter of my life." Zuckerberg wrote that Sandberg is "a superstar who defined the COO role in her own unique way."Facebook executives Sheryl Sandberg and Mark Zuckerberg walk together at the Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference.Kevin Dietsch/Getty ImagesSource: InsiderMadeline Stone and Paige Leskin contributed to an earlier version of this article.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderJun 1st, 2022

The Tucker Carlson origin story

Tucker Carlson's journey from prep school provocateur to Fox News flamethrower, according to his friends and former classmates. Tucker Carlson during a CNN National Town Meeting on coverage of the White House sex scandal, on January 28, 1998.Richard Ellis/Getty Images Tucker Carlson is remembered as a provocateur and gleeful contrarian by those who knew him in his early days. His bohemian artist mother abandoned her young family and cut Tucker and his brother out of her will. At a Rhode Island prep school and at Trinity College, classmates remember him as a skilled debater who could both amuse and infuriate his audiences. On Oct. 29, 1984, New York police killed an elderly Black woman named Eleanor Bumpurs in her own home. Bumpers, who lived in a public housing complex in the Bronx, had fallen four months behind on her rent. When officials from the city housing authority tried to evict her, she refused, and they called the police. Five officers responded by storming into her apartment. Bumpurs, who had a history of mental illness, grabbed a butcher knife as two officers pushed her against a wall with their plastic shields and a metal pole. A third officer fired two shots from his 12-gauge shotgun, striking Bumpurs in her hand and chest.Eleanor Bumpurs' death dominated the city's news for two months and led the NYPD to revise its guidelines for responding to emotionally disturbed individuals.At St. George's prep school, some 175 miles away in Rhode Island, the incident deeply haunted Richard Wayner. He was one of the school's few Black students and had grown up in a residential tower not far from where Bumpurs had lived. He earned straight As and was so admired that in 1984 his peers elected him senior prefect, the prep equivalent of student body president, making him the first Black class leader in the school's 125-year history. Harvard soon beckoned.Wayner was frustrated with how the St. George's community seemed to ignore the conversations about racial justice that were happening outside the cloistered confines of Aquidneck Island. It bothered Wayne that almost no one at St. George's seemed to know anything about Bumpurs' killing. "You had your crew, you put your head down, and you tried to get through three or four years of prep school with your psyche intact," Wayner said of those days.As senior prefect, one of the duties was to deliver an address each week at the mandatory Sunday chapel service. One Sunday, perched from the chapel podium, Wayner described the shooting as a sea of white faces stared back at him. He concluded with the words: "Does anyone think that woman deserved to die?"Near the front of the chapel, a single hand went up for a few brief seconds. It was Tucker Carlson.Eleanor Bumpurs was shot and killed by the New York Police Department on October 29, 1984APThen a sophomore, Tucker had a reputation as a gleeful contrarian – an indefatigable debater and verbal jouster who, according to some, could also be a bit of a jerk. "Tucker was just sort of fearless," said Ian Toll, a St. George's alumnus who would go on to be a military historian. "Whether it was a legitimate shooting may have been a point of debate but the fact was that Tucker was an underclassmen and the culture was to defer to the seniors." Wayner himself never saw Tucker's hand go up, and the two kept in touch over the years. (Note on style: Tucker Carlson and the members of his family are referred to here by their first names to avoid confusion.)  Four decades later, glimmers of that prep school provocateur appear on Tucker's Prime Time show on Fox, which garners an average of between 3 to 4 million viewers a night. His furrowed visage and spoiling-for-a-fight demeanor are all too familiar to those who have known him for decades. In the words of Roger Stone, a Republican political operative, frequent guest, and longtime friend of Tucker's: "Tucker Carlson is the single most influential conservative journalist in America… It is his courage and his willingness to talk about issues that no one else is willing to cover that has led to this development."Tucker's name has even been floated as a possible Republican presidential candidate in 2024. "I mean, I guess if, like, I was the last person on earth, I could do it. But, I mean, it seems pretty unlikely that I would be that guy." he said on the "Ruthless" podcast in June, dismissing this possibility.Tucker's four decades in Washington, and his transition from conservative magazine writer to right-wing television pundit, have been well documented. But less well known are his early years and how they shaped him: his bohemian artist mother, who abandoned her young family and cut Tucker and his brother out of her will; the Rhode Island prep school where he met his future spouse; and his formation into a contrarian debater who could both amuse and infuriate his audience with his attention-getting tactics.Tucker declined to participate in an interview with Insider, saying in a statement. "Your level of interest in the boring details of my life is creepy as hell, and also pathetic," he wrote. "You owe it to yourself and the country to do something useful with your talents. Please reassess."California roots Tucker Carlson's West Coast roots burrow as deep as a giant redwood. He was born in San Francisco in May 1969 as the excesses of the Sixties peaked and the conservative backlash to the counterculture and the Civil Rights movement started to take shape. Tucker's mother, Lisa McNear Lombardi, born in San Francisco in 1945, came from one of the state's storied frontier families. Lisa's mother, Mary Nickel James, was a cattle baron heiress. Her great-great-grandfather had owned 3 million acres of ranchland, making him among the largest landowners west of the Mississippi. Her father Oliver Lombardi was an insurance broker and descendant of Italian-speaking Swiss immigrants. Lisa enrolled at UC Berkeley, where she majored in architecture. She met Richard Carlson, a San Francisco TV journalist from a considerably less prosperous background, while still in college. Lisa and Richard eloped in Reno, Nevada in 1967. The couple didn't notify Lisa's mother, who was traveling in Europe with her new husband at the time. "Family members have been unable to locate them to reveal the nuptials," a gossip item published in the San Francisco Examiner dished.Tucker arrived two years later. A second son, Buckley, was born two years after that. As Richard's career began to flourish, the family moved first to Los Angeles and then, in 1975, to La Jolla, a moneyed, beach-front enclave about 12 miles north of San Diego. When Lisa and Richard divorced a year later, in 1976, Richard got full custody of their sons, then 6 and 4. According to three of Tucker's childhood classmates, Lisa disappeared from her sons' lives. They don't recall Tucker talking about her, or seeing her at school events. Marc Sterne, Tucker's boarding school roommate who went on to be executive producer of the Tony Kornheiser Show, says the two didn't talk much about Tucker's relationship with his mother and he got the impression that Tucker and Richard were exceptionally close. When Sterne's own parents split up that year, he said Tucker was supportive and understanding. Lisa spent the next two decades as an artist – moving first to Los Angeles, where she befriended the painter David Hockney, and later split her time between France and South Carolina with her husband, British painter Michael Vaughan. In 1979, Richard Carlson married Patricia Swanson, heiress to the Swanson frozen foods empire that perfected the frozen Salisbury steak for hassle-free dinners. She soon legally adopted Tucker and Buckley.  When Lisa died in 2011, her estate was initially divided equally between Tucker, his brother Buckley, and Vaughan. But in 2013, Vaughan's daughter from another marriage found a one-page handwritten document in Lisa's art studio in France that left her assets to her surviving husband with an addendum that stated, "I leave my sons Tucker Swanson McNear Carlson and Buckley Swanson Peck Carlson one dollar each." A protracted battle over Lombardi's estate involving Vaughan and the Carlson brothers wound up in probate court. The Carlsons asserted the will was forged but a forensic witness determined that Lisa had written the note. The case eventually went to the California Appellate Court, which allowed the Carlson brothers to keep their shares in 2019."Lisa was basically sort of a hippie and a free spirit," said one attorney who  represented the Vaughan family and recalled having conversations about the case. "She was very liberal and she did not agree with Tucker's politics. But she stuck the will in the book, everyone forgot about it, and then she passed away."In a 2017 interview with The New Yorker, Tucker described the dissolution of his family as a "totally bizarre situation — which I never talk about, because it was actually not really part of my life at all." Several pieces of art produced by Tucker's mother, Lisa Lombardi, and her then-partner Mo Mcdermott in the home of a California collector.Ted Soqui for InsiderLisa When Lisa left her husband and two young sons, she was escaping suburban family life in favor of the more bohemian existence as an artist. One of Tucker and Buckley's former teachers said their mother's absence "left some sour grapes." "I felt they sided with the father," Rusty Rushton, a former St. George's English teacher said. After the divorce, Lisa returned to Los Angeles and tried to break into the city's thriving contemporary art scene. She befriended Mo McDermott, an LA-based British sculptor, model, and longtime assistant to David Hockney, one of the most influential artists of the 20th century. A few years before he met Lisa, the scene was captured in Jack Hazan's 1974 groundbreaking documentary "A Bigger Splash," which followed Hockney and his coterie of gay male friends idly lounging around the pool in his Hollywood Hills home."When love goes wrong, there's more than two people who suffer," said McDermott, playing a slightly exaggerated version of himself, in a voiceover in the documentary.Lisa and McDermott became a couple and Lisa won admission into Hockney's entourage. Hockney lived a far more reclusive lifestyle than his pop art compatriot Andy Warhol but some four dozen or so artists, photographers, and writers regularly passed through his properties."She was more like a hippie, arty kind of person. I couldn't ever imagine her being a mother," said Joan Quinn, the then-West Coast editor of Andy Warhol's Interview Magazine, who knew Lisa during those years and still owns several of her works. "She was very nervous all the time… She was ill-content."The pair were often seen at Hockney's Hollywood Hills home and at Friday night gallery openings on La Cienega Boulevard. They collaborated on playful, large-scale wood sculptures of animals, vegetables, and trees. A handful of their pieces could be seen around Hockney's hillside ranch."Hockney had me over to meet them. He wanted a gallery to handle their work," said Molly Barnes, who owns a gallery in West Hollywood and gave the pair shows in 1983 and 1984. "They were brilliant and David loved Mo. He thought they were the best artists around.""She was quiet and intellectual and somewhat withdrawn," Barnes said. "She had come from a lot of money and that reflected on her personality. She wasn't a snob in any way but she had the manners of a private school girl and someone who was fighting the establishment."A sculpture by Tucker's mother, Lisa Lombardi, and her then-partner Mo Mcdermott in the home of a California collector.Ted Soqui for InsiderNone of them recall Lisa discussing her two sons. McDermott died in 1988. After his death, Hockney discovered that McDermott had been stealing drawings from him and selling them. Hockney said the betrayal helped bring on a heart attack. "I believe I had a broken heart," Hockney told The Guardian in 1995. (Hockney did not answer multiple inquiries about Lisa or McDermott.)In 1987, Lisa met Vaughan, one of Hockney's peers in the British art scene known as the "Bradford Mafia." They married in February 1989 and for years afterward they lived in homes in the Pyrenees of southwest France and South Carolina's Sea Islands.Lisa continued to make art, primarily oversized, wooden sculptures of everyday household items like peeled lemons and dice, but she exhibited her work infrequently. She died of cancer in 2011, at which point Carlson was a decade into his media career and a regular contributor on Fox News. Richard In contrast to Lisa's privileged upbringing, Richard's childhood was full of loss. Richard's mother was a 15-year-old high school girl who had starved herself during her pregnancy, and he was born with a condition called rickets. Six weeks later, his mother left him at an orphanage in Boston called The Home for Little Wanderers. Richard's father, who was 18, tried to convince her to kidnap the infant and marry him, but she refused. He shot and killed himself two blocks from her home.A Massachusetts couple fostered Richard for two years until he was adopted by a wool broker and his wife, which he described in a 2009 reflection for the Washington Post. His adoptive parents died when he was still a teenager and Richard was sent to the Naval Academy Preparatory School. He later enlisted in the Marines and enrolled in an ROTC program at the University of Mississippi to pay for college.In 1962, Richard developed an itch for journalism while working as a cop in Ocean City, Maryland at the age of 21, and the future NBC political correspondent Catherine Mackin, helped him get a copy boy job at the Los Angeles Times. Richard moved to San Francisco three years later and his career blossomed. He started producing television news features with his friend, Lance Brisson, the son of actress Rosalind Russell. They filmed migrant farm workers in the Imperial Valley living in cardboard abodes in 110 degree weather, traipsed the Sierra Nevada mountains to visit a hermit, and covered the Zodiac Killer and Bay Area riots (during one demonstration in 1966, they sent television feeds from their car where they trapped for four hours  and a crowd roughed up Brisson, which required four stitches under his left eye). Another time, they rented a helicopter in search of a Soviet trawler but they had to jump into the Pacific Ocean when the chopper ran low on fuel near the shore and crashed.In 1969, Richard and Brisson co-wrote an article for Look Magazine that claimed San Francisco Mayor Joseph Alioto had mafia ties. Alioto sued the magazine's owner for libel and won a $350,000 judgment when a judge determined the article's allegations were made with "actual malice" and "reckless disregard for whether they were true or not." (Richard was not a defendant in the case and has stood by his story. Brisson declined an interview.)Richard moved back to Los Angeles to join KABC's investigative team two years later. One series of stories that delved into a three-wheeled sports car called the Dale and the fraudulent marketing practices of its founder, Geraldine Elizabeth Carmichael, won a Peabody award in 1975. The series also outed Carmichael as a transgender woman. (Richard's role in Carmichael's downfall was explored in the HBO documentary "The Lady and the Dale.") Soon after arriving as an anchor for KFMB-TV, San Diego's CBS affiliate, Richard ran a story revealing that tennis pro Renee Richards, who had just won a tournament at the La Jolla Tennis Club, was a transgender woman."I said, 'You can't do this. I am a private person,'" Richards, who years later would advise Caitlyn Jenner about her transition, urged the television journalist to drop his story, according to a 2015 interview. "His reply? 'Dr. Richards, you were a private person until you won that tournament yesterday.'" By the time he left the anchor chair in 1977 to take a public relations job with San Diego Savings and Loan, Richard had soured on journalism. "I have seen a lot of arrogance and hypocrisy in the press and I don't like it," he told San Diego Magazine in 1977. "Television news is insipid, sophomoric, and superficial… There are so many things I think are important and interesting but the media can be counted on to do handstands on that kind of scandal and sexual sensation."Years later, Richard said that he never tried to encourage his eldest son in politics or journalism, but that Tucker had a clear interest in both from an early age. "I never thought he was going to be a reporter or a writer. I never encouraged him to do that," Richard told CSPAN of his eldest son in 2006. "I actually attempted not to encourage him politically, either. I decided those are the things that should be left up to them."A LaJolla, California post card.Found Image Holdings/Corbis via Getty ImagesA La Jolla childhoodAfter the divorce, Richard and his boys stayed in La Jolla in a house overlooking the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club. Friends of Tucker's would later say that the trauma of their mother's absence brought the three of them closer together.  "They both really admired their dad. He was a great source of wisdom. He's one of the great raconteurs you'll ever meet. They loved that glow that came from him," said Sterne, Tucker's boarding school roommate. "They both looked up to him, it was clear from my eyes."In an essay included in his book "The Long Slide: Thirty Years in American Journalism," Tucker described Richard as a kind parent who imbued family outings with a deeper message.One of Tucker's earliest memories, he writes, was from just after the divorce, when Tucker was seven and Buckley was five: the brothers gripping the edge of a luggage rack on the roof of his family's 1976 Ford Country Squire station wagon, while their father gunned the engine down a dirt road."I've sometimes wondered what car surfing was meant to teach us," Tucker wrote. "Was he trying to instill in us a proper sense of fatalism, the acknowledgement that there is only so much in life you can control? Or was it a lesson about the importance of risk?... Unless you're willing to ride the roof of a speeding station wagon, in other words, you're probably not going to leave your mark on the world."More often, the boys were left unsupervised and found their own trouble. Tucker once took a supermarket shopping cart and raced it down a hill in front of their house with Buckley in its basket. The cart tipped over, leaving Buckley with a bloody nose. He also recalled building makeshift hand grenades with hydrochloric acid and aluminum foil – using a recipe from their father's copy of "The Anarchist Cookbook"  and tossing them onto a nearby golf course."No one I know had a father like mine," Tucker wrote. "My father was funnier and more outrageous, more creative  and less willing to conform, than anyone I knew or have known since. My brother and I had the best time growing up."Richard sent Tucker to La Jolla Country Day, an upscale, largely white private school with a reputation as one of the best in Southern California, for elementary and middle school. In his book, "Ship of Fools: How a Selfish Ruling Class Is Bringing America to the Brink of Revolution," Tucker described his first grade teacher Marianna Raymond as "a living parody of earth-mother liberalism" who "wore long Indian-print skirts," and sobbed at her desk over the world's unfairness. "As a conservative, I had contempt for the whiny mawkishness of liberals. Stop blubbering and teach us to read. That was my position," he wrote. "Mrs. Raymond never did teach us; my father had to hire a tutor to get me through phonics.""I beg to differ," Raymond countered in an interview, saying that she was also Tucker's tutor during the summer after first grade and was even hired again. "I'm a great teacher. I'm sure he liked me." For her part, she remembered Tucker as a fair-haired tot who was "very sweet" and "very polite." (When The Washington Post reached out her her, she said Carlson's characterization had been "shocking.")  Friends from La Jolla remember that Tucker loved swimming the mile-and-a-half distance between La Jolla Shores Park and La Jolla Cove, jumping off cliffs that jut out into the Pacific Ocean, riffing on the drums, and playing Atari and BB gun games at the mall with his friends. "He was a happy kid. We were young, so we used to go to the beach. We did normal kid stuff," said Richard Borkum, a friend who is now a San Diego-based attorney. When they weren't at the beach or the mall, Borkum and another friend, Javier Susteata, would hang out at the Carlson home listening to The Who, AC/DC, and other classic rock bands. Borkum said the adults at the Carlson household largely left them alone. "I'm Jewish and Javier was Mexican and I'm not sure they were too happy we were going to their house," Borkum said.Another friend, Warren Barrett, remembers jamming with Tucker and going snow camping at Big Bear and snorkeling off Catalina Island with him in middle school."Tucker and I literally ate lunch together every day for two years," Barrett said. "He was completely the opposite of now. He was a cool southern California surfer kid. He was the nicest guy, played drums, and had a bunch of friends. And then something must have happened in his life that turned him into this evil diabolical shithead he is today."LaJolla is a upscale beach community outside of San Diego. Carlson and his family moved their in 1975.Slim Aarons/Hulton Archive/Getty ImagesSan Diego's next mayorRichard, meanwhile, was exploring a second career in public service. By 1980, he had risen to vice president of a bank headed by Gordon Luce, a California Republican power broker and former Reagan cabinet official. The following year, Richard's public profile got a boost when he tangled with another veteran television journalist, CBS's Mike Wallace. The 60 Minutes star had interviewed Richard for a story about low-income Californians who faced foreclosures from the bank after borrowing money to buy air conditioners without realizing they put their homes up for collateral. Richard had his own film crew tape the interview, and caught Wallace saying that people who had been defrauded were "probably too busy eating their watermelon and tacos." The remark made national headlines and Wallace was forced to apologize.Pete Wilson, the U.S. Senator and former San Diego mayor, encouraged Richard to run for office. In 1984, Richard entered the race to challenge San Diego Mayor Roger Hedgecock's re-election. "He was a very well-regarded guy," Hedgecock told Insider. "He had an almost Walter Cronkite-like appearance, but because he was in local news he was all about not offending anybody. He didn't have particularly strong views. He was nice looking, articulate, and made good appearances, but what he had to say was not particularly memorable other than he wanted me out of office."Sometimes Tucker tagged along for campaign events. "He would always show up in a sport coat, slacks and a bowtie and I thought that's really nice clothing for someone who is a kid," Hedgecock remembers. He was a very polite young man who didn't say much."Five days before voters went to the polls, Hedgecock went on trial for 15 counts of conspiracy and perjury, an issue that Richard highlighted in his television campaign ads. Richard still lost to Hedgecock 58 to 42 percent despite pouring nearly $800,000 into the race and outspending Hedgecock two to one. (Hedgecock was found guilty of violating campaign finance laws and resigned from office in 1985 but his convictions were overturned on appeal five years later.)People are seen near a beach in La Jolla, California, on April 15, 2020.Gregory Bull/AP PhotoPrep school In the fall of 1983, a teenaged Tucker traded one idyllic beachfront community for another.At 14, Tucker moved across the country to Middletown, Rhode Island, to attend St. George's School. (Buckley would follow him two years later.) The 125-year-old boarding school sits atop a hill overlooking the majestic Atlantic Ocean, and is on the other side of Aquidneck Island where Richard Carlson went to naval school. The private school was known as a repository for children of wealthy East Coast families who were not as academically inclined as those who attended Exeter or Andover. Its campus had dorms named after titans of industry, verdant athletic fields, and a white-sand beach.Senators Claiborne Pell and Prescott Bush graduated, as did Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, and poet Ogden Nash. Tucker's class included "Modern Family" actor Julie Bowen; Dede Gardner, the two-time Oscar-winning producer of "12 Years a Slave" and "Moonlight"; and former DC Entertainment president Diane Nelson. Billy Bush – "Extra" host, and cousin to George W. Bush – was three years behind him.Tuition at St. George's cost $13,000 per year in the 1980s (it's now up to $67,000 for boarding school students) and student schedules were tightly regimented with breakfast, classes, athletics, dinner, and study hall encompassing each day. Students were required to take religion classes, and attend chapel twice a week. Faculty and staff would canvass the dorms on Thursdays and Sundays to ensure no one skipped the Episcopal service. Tucker impressed his new chums as an hyper-articulate merrymaker who frequently challenged upperclassmen who enforced dorm rules and the school's liberal faculty members."He was kind of a California surfer kid. He was funny, very intelligent, and genuinely well-liked," said Bryce Traister, who was one year ahead of Tucker and is now a professor at the University of British Columbia. "There were people who didn't like Tucker because they thought he was a bullshitter but he was very charming. He was a rascal and a fast-talker, as full of shit as he is today."Back then Tucker was an iconoclast more in the mold of Ferris Bueller than preppy neocon Alex P. Keaton, even if his wardrobe resembled the "Family Ties" star. Students were required to wear jackets, ties, and khakis, although most came to class disheveled. Tucker wore well-tailored coats and chinos, pairing his outfit with a ribbon-banded watch and colorful bowtie which would later become his signature. "He was always a very sharp dresser. He had a great rack of ties. He always knew how to tie a bowtie but he didn't exclusively wear a bowtie," said Sterne, Tucker's freshman year roommate. "He always had great clothes. It was a lot of Brooks Brothers." Their crew crew held court in each others' dorm rooms at Auchincloss, the freshman hall, kicking around a Hacky Sack and playing soccer, talking about Adolph Huxley, George Orwell, and Hemingway, and dancing to Tom Petty, the Grateful Dead, and U2 on the campus lawn. Televisions weren't allowed so students listened to their Sony Walkman swapping cassette recordings of live concerts. Tucker introduced several bands to his friends."He loved classic rock and he was and still is a big fan of Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead," said Sterne, who saw a Dead show with Tucker at RFK Stadium in 1986.Sometimes the clique got slices at Aquidneck Pizza and played arcade games in town, hung out in history instructor William Schenck's office, and smoked pot and Marlborough Red cigarettes on a porch in the main building's common room that faced the ocean, according to multiple sources. When the school administrators banned smoking indoors the following year so they congregated behind the dumpster behind the dining hall. Vodka (often the brand Popov) mixed with Kool-Aid was the drink of choice and students stockpiled bottles under their beds.Tucker was an enthusiastic drinker, half a dozen classmates recall. In his book, "The Long Slide," Tucker credits Hunter S. Thompson's "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" for enticing him to try drugs in 10th grade, The experience gave him "double vision and a headache." By the time he got to college, Tucker writes, "I switched to beer."By the late 1990s Tucker stopped smoking. He eventually cut alcohol too in 2002 after drinking so much while covering George W. Bush in New Hampshire during the 2000 primary that he accidentally got on the wrong plane, according to a friend.Most of Tucker's fellow students remember him best as a skilled speaker."He was always eager to take the less palatable side of the argument and argue that side," said Mahlon Stewart, who attended prep school and college with Tucker and is now a geriatric specialist at Columbia University. "Back then it was comedic. I thought it was an act.""His confidence was just amazing. He could just put out some positions and be willing to argue anything no matter how outlandish," Keller Kimbrough, a former classmate who's now a professor at the University of Colorado. "We were talking about politics and religion one time Tucker pulled this card out of his wallet and said, 'Well actually I'm an ordained minister, I'm an authority on the subject.' This was a stunt. He could literally play the religion card." "When he got the job at Fox I just thought 'Wow that's perfect for him, that's exactly what he can do.'"Their dorm room discourses were never serious. Tucker would pick a side in a debate between whether the color red or blue were better, and the crowd would erupt whenever he made a good point, friends said.  "Even at age 15 he was verbally dexterous and a great debater," Ian Toll said. "His conservative politics was fully formed even back then. He believed in strong defense and minimal government."His teachers saw a pupil who was primed for law school."Language and speaking came naturally to him. He took pleasure in it," said Rusty Rushton, Tucker's former English teacher. Tucker's politics, though, "seemed fluid to me," Rushton said. "I don't think of him as a deeply ensconced ideologue."He ditched soccer after sophomore year to act in a school theater production of Ayn Rand's courtroom thriller "Night of January 16th" (Julie Bowen starred as the prosecuting attorney. Tucker played a juror). But Tucker found his voice in competitive debate when he eventually joined the school's debate club. The team traveled to other private school campuses to compete against schools like Andover, Exeter, and Roxbury Latin in tournaments."He won some debate and basically did a victory lap afterward and got in the face of all the faculty there," one alum from a rival school who debated against Tucker said. "After defeating the student team, he started challenging the faculty, and said, 'Do any of you want to take me on? Are any of you capable of debating me?'"SusieIn the fall of Tucker's sophomore year, a new headmaster arrived at St. George's, Rev. George Andrews II. Andrews' daughter, Susie – who Tucker would eventually marry – was in Tucker's class. According to school tradition, a rotating group of underclassmen was charged with serving their classmates dinner and, one night in late September, Tucker and Susie had the shift at the same time. "They were sitting at a table at the far end of Queen Hall just leaning in, talking to each other," Sterne recalled. "You could see the sparks flying, which was cool."Susie floated between the school's friend groups easily. When she was seen mingling with Tucker, some questioned what she saw in him."People were saying, 'Come on Susie, why are you dating Tucker?' He's such a loser slacker and she was so sweet," Traister said. The pair started dating at the age of 15 and quickly became inseparable. Tucker gained notoriety on campus for repeatedly sneaking into Susie's room on the second floor of Memorial Schoolhouse, the school's stately administrative office that housed the headmaster's quarters. He had less time for his dumpster buddies now that the couple hung out on the campus lawn, attended chapel and an interdenominational campus ministry organization called FOCUS. His senior yearbook included a photo of Tucker squinting in concern to a classmate, with the caption "What do you mean you told Susie?While Susie was universally liked within the St. George's community, her father was polarizing.Andrews led the school during a turbulent period – it was later revealed – when its choirmaster Franklin Coleman was accused of abusing or having inappropriate conduct with at least 10 male students, according to an independent investigation by the law firm Foley Hoag in 2016. (Two attorneys representing several victims said 40 alumni contacted them with credible accounts of molestation and rape accusations at the hands of St. George's employees between 1974 and 2004 after a 2015 school-issued report detailed 26 accounts of abuse in the 1970s and 1980s. (Coleman was never criminally charged and he has not responded to Insider's attempts to reach him.) Over his eight-year tenure as school music director, from 1980 to 1988, Coleman invited groups of boys to his apartment for private parties. Sometimes he shared alcohol and pot with some of them, gave them back and neck rubs, showed pornographic videos, traveled with them on choral trips and stayed in their hotel rooms, and appeared nude around some of them, the report found. Several of Tucker's classmates and former faculty said they had no reason to believe he would have been aware of the accusations. "There were rumors circulating wildly that Coleman was bad news. The idea was he would cultivate relationships with young men," Ian Toll, a St. George's alum, said. "Anyone who was there at that time would have likely been aware of those rumors."Andrews told Foley Hoag investigators he was not aware of any complaints about Coleman until May 1988 (by then, Tucker had finished his freshman year in college) when school psychiatrist Peter Kosseff wrote a report detailing a firsthand account of misconduct. But Andrews acknowledged to investigators the school could have been aware of "prior questionable conduct" before then, the report said. Andrews fired Coleman in May 1988 after the school confronted Coleman with allegations of misconduct and he did not deny them. According to the investigation, Andrews told students Coleman resigned due to "emotional stress" and that he had the "highest regard and respect for him." On the advice of a school attorney, Andrews did not report the music teacher to child protective services. He also knew that his faculty dean wrote Coleman a letter of recommendation for a job at another school, according to investigators. Andrews left the school a few weeks after Coleman departed. By September 1989, he was named headmaster at St. Andrew's School in Boca Raton, Florida which he led for 18 years. (Andrews declined to speak about Tucker or his tenure at either school.) St. George's, meanwhile, reached an undisclosed settlement with up to 30 abuse survivors in 2016. Coleman found work as a choir director at Tampa Preparatory School in Tampa Bay, Florida before he retired in 2008. Tucker Carlson attended St. George’s School, a boarding school starting at age 14.Dina Rudick/The Boston Globe via Getty ImagesTrinity In the fall of 1987, Tucker enrolled at Trinity College in Hartford, CT, where Rev. Andrews had also attended.Nearly two-thirds of Trinity's student body back then originated from private schools and many came from wealthy backgrounds. Tuition in 1987 cost $11,700 plus an additional $3,720 for room and board—around $27,839 in today's dollars."When the Gulf War broke out" in 1990, one Trinity alum who knew Tucker recalled, "there was a big plywood sign in front of the student center that read, 'Blood for Oil,' and someone else threw a bucket of paint on it."The posh campus was situated in the middle of Hartford, Connecticut, the state's capital and one of its poorest cities. Discussions about race and inequality were sometimes at the forefront of campus politics, but many students avoided engaging in them entirely."There were issues about whether black students should only date other black students, that kind of thing," said Kathleen Werthman, a classmate of Tucker's who now works at a Florida nonprofit for people with disabilities. "My sophomore year, for new students, they had a speaker talking about racism, and one of the students said, 'I never met a black student, how are you supposed to talk to them?' And the idea that only white people can be racist was challenged too."Susie was at Vanderbilt in Nashville, Tennessee. His brother remained in Rhode Island and other prep school friends had fanned out across the East Coast. Tucker moved into a four-bedroom dormitory overlooking the main quad. One suitemate, Neil Patel, was an economics major from Massachusetts who played intramural softball. (They would co-found the Daily Caller together two decades years later.) Other roommates played on the varsity soccer team and they formed a tight-knit group."I remember being struck by him. He was the same way he is now," said Rev. Billy Cerveny, a college friend of Tucker's who's now a pastor at Redbird Nashville. "He was a force of nature. He had a sense of presence and gravitas. You might get into an argument with him, but you end up loving the guy."Tucker often went out of his way to amuse his friends. Once during the spring semester, several activists set up a podium and microphone beneath his dorm window to protest the CIA's on-campus recruitment visits. The demonstration was open-mic so Tucker went up to the stage and told the crowd of about 15 people, "I think you're all a bunch of greasy chicken fuckers.""I think people laughed. He did," Cerveny said. "There was always a small collection of people any time there was an issue who tried to stir the pot in that way. Some people were dismissive and other people loved it, thinking 'Oh we're getting a fight here.'"As a sophomore, Tucker and his friends moved into a dingy three-story house on Crescent Street on the edge of the campus. He ditched his tailored jackets, khakis, and bowties for oversized Levi jeans, t-shirts, and untucked oxford shirts. Tucker commandeered a low-ceilinged room above the front porch with so many windows he had to hang up tapestries to keep out the sun. The tiny alcove had barely enough space for an eight-foot futon and several bookshelves Tucker built himself stacked with books he collected. Friends remember Tucker receiving an 8-by-10 manilla envelope that his father sent through the mail once or twice a month containing dozens of articles from newspapers and magazines.One of Tucker's friends, Cerveny, remembered stopping by Richard's home in Washington, D.C. and finding evidence of his hobbies, including the world's second largest collection of walking sticks."His house was filled with rare canes he collected from all over the world," Cerveny said. "The hallways had really amazing rows of canes hung on hooks that were specially made to mount these things on the house. One used to be a functional shotgun, another one was made out of a giraffe. His dad would pull out newspaper clippings of WWII Navy aircraft carriers. It changed the way I thought about a lot of things. I had never seen anything like that. Who collects canes?"During sophomore year, Tucker's friends decided to rush Delta Phi, a well-to-do fraternity also known as St. Elmo's. The Greek scene had a large presence on campus — about 20 percent of men joined them even though Trinity was a liberal arts school — and St. Elmo's had a reputation as freewheeling scamps. Once a year, a St. Elmo's brother would ride his motorcycle naked through the campus cafeteria. (Faculty voted in 1992 to abolish Greek life saying they were sexist and racist, and school administrators instead forced fraternities to become co-ed.)But Tucker refused to come aboard. Some classmates thought it was because he didn't want to be hazed."Tucker was not a joiner like that," Mahlon Stewart said. "He wouldn't have set himself up for whatever humiliation would have been involved. He would not have put up with that." But Cerveny, who pledged the fraternity, said it was a matter of faith."I remember explicitly him saying 'Look, I want to focus on what my faith is about and I thought this would be a big distraction,'" Cerveny said. "But he was very much in the mix with us. When we moved to a fraternity house [on Broad Street], we asked him to live with us."Tucker occasionally dropped in on his friends' fraternity events and occasionally brought Susie when she visited or Buckley when he drifted into town. Other times they hung out at Baker's Cafe on New Britain Avenue. Mostly Tucker stayed in his room."He was basically a hermit. It wasn't like he was going to a ton of parties" one Trinity St. Elmo's brother said. "He was not a part of the organizational effort of throwing big parties, or encouraging me to join the fraternity." Susie, who didn't drink or smoke, was a moderating influence. "Tucker and Susie had their moral compass pointing north even back then," Sterne said. "Tucker's faith was not something he was focused on in his early years but when he met Susie and he became close to her family, that started to blossom and grow in him. Now it's a huge part of his life."By the time his crew moved to another house on Broad Street, they each acquired vintage motorcycles and tinkered with them in their garage. Tucker owned a 1968 flathead Harley Davidson that barely ran and relied on a red Jeep 4X4 to transport friends around town (the Volkswagen van he had freshman year blew up). He smoked Camel unfiltered cigarettes, sipped bourbon, and occasionally brewed beer in the basement, including a batch he named "Coal Porter," according to GQ.When he wasn't reading outside of his courses or tinkering with his carburetor, Tucker took classes in the humanities and ultimately majored in history. Tucker dabbled in other fields including Russian history, Jewish history, Women's Studies, and Religious Studies, sitting in the back of lecture halls with his friends. Ron Kiener, who taught an introductory level course in Judaism, recalled Tucker performing "poorly" but earning a credit. "He did not get a stellar grade from me," Kiener said. "Based on what he says now he surely didn't get very much out of my courses."But Leslie Desmangles, who led courses in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Myth, Rite, and Sacrament, said Tucker was engaged and likely did just enough to pass his courses even if he wasn't very studious or vocal in class discussions."He was interested in understanding the nature of religious belief and studying different cultures and religions but I'm not sure if he had an interest in diversity," Desmangles said. "He was genuinely interested in ritual since a lot of the Episcopal church is highly ritualistic."Tucker's fascination with religion extended to his extracurricular activities too. He and several friends joined Christian Fellowship, a Bible study group that met weekly and helped the school chaplain lead Sunday services. Some members even volunteered with ConnPIRG, a student advocacy group on hunger and environmental issues, and traveled to Washington D.C. to protest the Gulf War. But Tucker steered clear of campus activism. He spent his free time reading and seeing Blues Traveler, Widespread Panic, and Sting perform when they came through Connecticut. Sometimes he skipped school to follow his favorite band, the Grateful Dead, on tour.He took an interest in Central American politics too. At the end of freshman year, Tucker and Patel traveled to Nicaragua. "We did not have a place to stay or any set plans," Tucker told the Trinity Tripod, his college paper, in March 1990. "It was very spontaneous. We are both extremely political and we felt that getting to know the country and some of its citizens would give us a better perspective on the situation." In February 1990, Tucker returned with three friends to Managua for 10 days to observe Nicaragua's elections. The National Opposition Union's Violetta Chamoro, which was backed by the U.S. government, defeated the leftist Sandinista National Liberation Front Daniel Ortega who had been in power since 1979. A month later Tucker and his classmate Jennifer Barr, who was separately in Nicaragua to observe elections and distribute medical supplies to the Sandinistas, shared their perspectives about their visits to a small crowd at the Faculty Club for the school's Latin America Week. Tucker thought press coverage of the election was too left-leaning and criticized the media for skewing a conservative victory, according to Barr."I don't think it was necessarily true," Barr said. "He was dismissive [about my views]. I did get a sense that he believed in what he was saying, and it was very different from my experience and my understanding of the race."Tucker's stance on U.S. politics at the time was less didactic. As the 1992 presidential election loomed his senior year, Tucker touted the independent candidacy of Ross Perot, a Texas business magnate, to his friends although it did not appear that Tucker was an ardent supporter."Tucker would go on and on about how Ross Perot was the answer to this or that, as a joke, and every one would participate" one St. Elmo's brother said. "He liked the way Ross Perot was basically throwing a wrench into the system. He wasn't a serious Ross Perot proponent. He was cheering on somebody who was screwing up the system."In Tucker's college yearbook, below his tousle-haired, bowtie wearing thumbnail photo, was a list of his extra-curricular activities: "History; Christian Fellowship 1 2 3 4, Jesse Helms Foundation, Dan White Society." Neither of the latter two – named, respectively, after the ultra-conservative North Carolina Senator, and a San Francisco supervisor who assassinated Harvey Milk in 1978 – ever existed. Tucker admired Helms for being a "bull in the china shop" of Congress, one classmate said. Some friends believed Tucker slipped in the off-color references as a lark."It's like a joke you and a friend would put in a series of anagrams that only you and two friends would remember and no one else would," the St. Elmo's friend said. "It's so niche that only someone like Tucker is thinking things like that or would even know the name of the person who killed Harvey Milk. He paid attention to things like that."Others claimed Tucker was the victim of a prank."It would not at all surprise me if one of the other guys in the [fraternity] house filled it in for him, and not just an inside joke, but pegging him with something that he got grief for," another close friend said. Protesters rally against Fox News outside the Fox News headquarters at the News Corporation building, March 13, 2019 in New York City.Drew Angerer/Getty ImagesAn outsider among insidersBy the spring of 1991, Tucker's academic performance had caught up with him. He had accumulated a 1.9 grade point average and may have finished with a 2.1 GPA, according to one faculty member who viewed a copy of his transcript. Tucker would eventually graduate from Trinity a year late. Falling behind was not uncommon. About 80 percent of Trinity students completed their degrees in four years, according to Trinity College records. (A Trinity spokeswoman would not comment on Tucker's transcript due to FERPA laws, which protect student privacy.Tucker's post-collegiate plans fell through too. Tucker applied to the CIA that spring. The spy agency passed."He mentioned that he had applied and they rejected him because of his drug use," another college friend said, while declining to be named. "He was too honest on his application. I also probably should say I don't know whether he was telling the truth or not." Once the school year was over, Tucker and Neil Patel hit the road on a cross-country motorcycle ride. After that: Washington DC.  Tucker's family left Southern California for Georgetown after President Reagan named his father head of Voice of America. In June 1991, President George H.W. Bush appointed Richard ambassador to the Seychelles and the Carlson family upgraded to a nicer house in Georgetown with a pool in the basement. That summer, with Tucker's father and stepmother often out of town, the Carlson household was the center of Tucker's social lives, the place they retired to after a night drinking at Georgetown college dive bars like Charing Cross and Third Edition, and pubs like Martin's Tavern and The Tombs, immortalized in St. Elmo's Fire. In August, Tucker and Susie got married in St. George's chapel and held a reception at the Clambake Club of Newport, overlooking the Narragansett Bay. Back in Washington, Tucker's prep school, college, and his father's Washington-based networks began to mesh. Tucker took a $14,000-a-year job as an assistant editor and fact checker of Policy Review, a quarterly journal published at the time by the Heritage Foundation, the nation's leading conservative think tank. For the next three decades, Tucker thrived in the Beltway: He joined The Weekly Standard and wrote for several magazines before appearing on cable news networks as a right-of-center analyst and host at CNN, PBS, and MSNBC. His father embarked on a third career as a television executive where he ran the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and his brother became a political operative and a pollster. By the time Tucker reached the core of the conservative media sphere, a slot on Fox News's primetime opinion lineup, he shed friends from his youth who couldn't grapple with the hard-right turn he veered once he became the face of the network.One friend was not surprised with Tucker's act. In the spring of 2016, during the heat of Donald Trump's presidential campaign against Hilary Clinton and a few months before "Tucker Carlson Tonight" premiered on Fox, Tucker had lunch with his old prep school classmate Richard Wayner who made the speech about Eleanor Bumpurs all those years ago. Wayner believed Tucker's gesture from his pew was never serious. "As a 9th or 10th grader in a chapel full of people in a conversation, he was trying to get attention," Wayner said.The two stayed in touch over the years and Tucker at one point suggested he write a handful of pieces for the Daily Caller, the conservative news and opinion site that Tucker co-founded and ran in the 2010s. As they settled into their table at a Midtown Manhattan steakhouse, the two chatted about Wayner's experience on the board of St. George's (which Susie was about to join) and their respective careers. Tucker was floating around at Fox, and Wayner, now an investor and former Goldman Sachs investment banker, said the conversation drifted toward salaries."He was asking, 'How much do you make on Wall Street' and was like, 'Wow, Wall Street guys make a lot.'" Wayner said. When they left the restaurant and headed back toward the Fox News headquarters, several people recognized Tucker on the street even though he had jettisoned his trademark bowtie years ago. Wayner saw Tucker making the pragmatic decision to follow a business model that has made his conservative media counterparts a lot of money."I don't think he has a mission. I don't think he has a plan," Wayner said. "Where he is right now is about as great as whatever he thought he could be.""Tucker knows better. He does. He can get some attention, money, or both." he added. "To me, that's a shame. Because he knows better." Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderMay 5th, 2022

Goldman Warns "Dollar Dominance On A Downtrend"

Goldman Warns 'Dollar Dominance On A Downtrend' As we have noted numerous times in the past (since 2014), nothing lasts forever... And while he falls short of the apocalyptic views of The World Bank's former chief economist: "The dominance of the greenback is the root cause of global financial and economic crises," Justin Yifu Lin told Bruegel, a Brussels-based policy-research think tank. "The solution to this is to replace the national currency with a global currency." ...and Zoltan Poszar's recent warnings of the backlash against US weaponization of the dollar against Russia, noting that "...wars tend to turn into major junctures for global currencies, and with Russia losing access to its foreign currency reserves, a message has been sent to all countries that they can’t count on these money stashes to actually be theirs in the event of tension... it may make less and less sense for global reserve managers to hold dollars for safety, as they could be taken away right when they’re most needed." ...and Dylan Grice's fears over the end of dollar hegemony... never seen weaponization of money on this scale before…you only get to play the card once. china will make it a priority to need no USD before going for Taiwan. it’s a turning point in monetary history: the end of USD hegemony & the acceleration towards a bipolar monetary order — Dylan Grice (@dylangrice) February 27, 2022 Goldman Sachs' Zach Pandl argues that the Dollar’s role as the dominant international currency will likely continue to decline over the coming years, reinforcing his view that the Dollar will weaken over the medium term. Within a country’s borders, the typical money medium used by households and firms is largely dictated by government rules and regulations. At an international level, by contrast, currency users have a choice. For over six decades, the US Dollar has been the world’s dominant international currency, reflecting both the convenience of using the US currency and a lack of suitable alternatives. But the Dollar’s international role is now under pressure on both fronts. US foreign policy choices may discourage heavy reliance on the Dollar in some cases, while policy changes by other governments, as well as technological innovation, may help facilitate diversification away from it. The Dollar’s share of global foreign exchange reserves peaked at around 85% in the 1970s and fell to below 60% last year, a downward trend we expect to continue over the coming years as other nations pivot toward other fiat currencies and, potentially, alternative money mediums. US foreign policy doing the Dollar no favors Pressures on the Dollar’s dominant international role partly stem from US foreign policy choices, in particular, the US’ aggressive use of extraterritorial financial sanctions. Given that all transactions in Dollars eventually pass through the US financial system, preventing US banks and their subsidiaries from transacting with a sanctioned entity effectively shuts that entity out of the global financial system. For example, an EU business could be prevented from trading with Iran, even if it’s legal under domestic EU law, because its bank could run afoul of US sanctions. For this reason, the EU Commission has said that US sanctions and trade disputes with other countries represent a threat to the EU’s economic and monetary sovereignty. Overuse of sanctions by the US could discourage other countries from transacting in the Dollar in the first place, a risk that US officials are well aware of. Former Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said in 2016 that the US “must be conscious of the risk that overuse of sanctions could undermine our leadership position within the global economy, and the effectiveness of our sanctions themselves… if they excessively interfere with the flow of funds worldwide, financial transactions may begin to move outside of the United States entirely—which could threaten the central role of the US financial system globally.” Similarly, former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger said in 2014: “I do have a number of problems with the sanctions [on Russia for its annexation of Crimea]. When we talk about a global economy and then use sanctions within the global economy, then the temptation will be that big countries thinking of their future will try to protect themselves against potential dangers, and as they do, they will create a mercantilist global economy." Will the recent imposition of sanctions on Russia’s central bank over the war in Ukraine be the straw that breaks the camel’s back? Countries hold foreign exchange reserves as a store of value to use in times of crisis. But when the Russian government recently needed its reserves to stabilize the country’s financial system, they were immobilized by Western sanctions. As a result, other nations may worry that the value of their Dollar-denominated financial assets is only as solid as their relationship with the US at the time, which may motivate sovereign investors to search for alternative assets, including a more diversified mix of foreign currency holdings. Dollar facing stiffer competition Competition for the Dollar has also gotten stiffer, especially from China, which has taken significant steps to modernize and open up its financial system, leading to a wave of fixed income portfolio inflows in recent years. Since 2016, mutual fund and ETF holdings of Chinese bonds have increased sixfold and official reserve allocations to the Yuan have increased almost fourfold. We expect both of these trends to continue over the coming years, due to likely increases in China’s weight in major benchmark indices, as well as the Yuan’s relatively high nominal and real yields, its relatively cheap valuation, and China’s increasing strategic importance. The Bank of Israel, for instance, cited related considerations when explaining the ramp-up of its Yuan-denominated reserve assets this year. And China’s efforts to develop the first major central bank digital currency (CBDC) may also help facilitate international use of the Yuan, perhaps first by Chinese tourists abroad and partner countries in the Belt and Road Initiative. Separately, recent institutional upgrades to the EU—as well as the prospect of positive cash yields—could help the Euro compete with the Dollar in international currency choice over time. While the Euro functions as an international currency today, primarily in trade with its regional neighbors, it has fallen well short of the project’s initial aspirations, and is generally thought to be “punching below its weight”, for several reasons. First, the Euro area has lower macroeconomic stability than other highly-developed economies, due in large part to an incomplete fiscal union and therefore more persistent internal imbalances. Second, the Euro area lacks a large supply of the type of high-quality government bonds sought by sovereign investors. And third, Europe lacks the geopolitical reach of the US, in part because foreign affairs and defense policy are still conducted at the member state level. While the European Union has a coordinator for regional foreign policy, and arguably some aspects of “soft power”, it lacks the type of global military arrangements that help underpin Dollar dominance. However, Europe tends to take steps forward in times of crisis, and the policy responses to recent disruptions are likely building a better foundation for the single currency for the future. While not billed as an effort to speed up Euro internationalization, the EU Recovery Fund/NGEU project— Europe’s response to the Covid pandemic—helps address the Euro’s structural weaknesses, and may therefore have positive implications for the currency’s global use over time. The program addresses macroeconomic instability through intraregional transfers—in effect, a step toward fiscal federalism— and also creates a new supply of highly-rated government bonds, which should be attractive to sovereigns and other international investors. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine presents new challenges for the EU and Euro area, and may damage economic growth over the short term, but could be positive for the Euro over the long term if it results in an increase in defense spending and more “hard power” for the region. Lastly, while cryptocurrencies are still in their infancy today, the technology could eventually be applied to certain types of international payments, possibly displacing the Dollar. The Western conflict with Russia, for example, demonstrates the key challenge that cryptocurrency networks like Bitcoin aim to solve: the need for parties who may not know or trust each other to transact value. Gold often served this role as an alternative international money medium to fiat currency in the past. Before Bitcoin, there was no digital equivalent to gold, because digital payments required a centralized intermediary. While there is no guarantee that Bitcoin will serve this purpose in the future, its foundational blockchain technology demonstrates that a scarce digital medium can be created through cryptographic algorithms and the careful use of economic incentives, and some market participants may prefer this type of digital medium to traditional fiat currencies for certain types of international payments. Declining dominance, eventually a declining Dollar In recent days and weeks, the Dollar has continued to appreciate as markets have discounted even more monetary tightening by the Fed, and, over the near term, the outlook for rate hikes in the US relative to other economies will likely remain the primary driver of Dollar exchange rates. But over a medium-term horizon, the balance of risk around the Dollar is skewed significantly to the downside, in our view, due to the currency’s high valuation (more than 10% overvalued on our standard models) and three potential structural changes in global capital flows: (i) fixed income flows back to the Euro area as the ECB exits negative rates, (ii) outflows from US equities on any sustained underperformance, and (iii) de-Dollarization efforts by official institutions designed to reduce exposure to Dollar-centric payment networks. The Dollar maintains its role as the world’s leading international currency for many reasons - with reinforcing complementarities or “network effects” a key factor - so this structure will not change overnight. But the shifting tactical and structural trends reinforce our conviction in a weaker Dollar over the medium term. Tyler Durden Tue, 05/03/2022 - 21:25.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeMay 3rd, 2022

Here"s The Biggest Geopolitical Factor The Markets Haven"t Priced-In... Yet

Here's The Biggest Geopolitical Factor The Markets Haven't Priced-In... Yet Via InternationalMan.com, International Man: What’s your take on the situation with Russia, and what comes next? Nick Giambruno: Let me first say as an American citizen, I don’t think the US should be a global empire. If it were up to me, I’d make the US more like how Switzerland used to be—neutral and staying out of the conflicts of other nations. Sadly, Switzerland has shed most of its independence over the years, but that’s a story for another day. Anyways, be that as it may, if you are inclined to want the US government to rule the world, you have to look at the other big powers in the world—Russia and China. So, logically you wouldn’t want Russia and China to team up. You’d want to split them apart. It’s just basic strategy. Nonetheless, the folks in charge of the US government are bungling this basic geopolitical strategy. Instead, they are causing Russia and China to get together in an alliance against the United States. If Russia and China come together, you have a credible challenger to the US empire. That’s a historical development that changes the whole geopolitical game, and I think that’s what we’re seeing right before our eyes. That, of course, has enormous implications, including for your portfolio. International Man: What do these sanctions against Russia mean for the US dollar’s role as the world’s reserve currency? Nick Giambruno: Before I get into that, allow me to make one point clear. The notion that a group of politicians can tell you with whom you can and cannot transact is absurd. Free men should be able to conduct business with whomever they like without busybodies interfering. If you want to purchase a Cuban cigar, Cuban rum, or Russian vodka, who is anyone to tell you that’s forbidden? So I reject the concept of sanctions. But, of course, I understand they are a practical reality and wouldn’t advise anyone to openly break them unless they prefer to become an outlaw or a martyr. The US government has gone overboard with the sanctions. They can wield this financial weapon because the US dollar is the world’s reserve currency. That means they can cut them off from the US financial system and a large portion of international trade at the push of a button. Sanctions are like an “easy button” to cause economic pain to coerce another country into behaving a certain way. It’s an expedient option but not one that has been thought out well. Remember, Russia is not a tiny, feeble country that can’t punch back. Russia is the world’s largest exporter of natural gas, lumber, wheat, fertilizer, and palladium (a crucial component in cars). It is the second-largest exporter of oil and aluminum and the third-largest exporter of nickel and coal. Russia is a major producer and processor of uranium for nuclear power plants. Enriched uranium from Russia and its allies provides electricity to 20% of the homes in the US. Aside from China, Russia produces more gold than any other country, accounting for more than 10% of global production. These are just a handful of examples. There are many strategic commodities that Russia dominates. In short, Russia is not just an oil and gas powerhouse but a commodity powerhouse. Europe cannot survive without Russian commodities. Taking Russian commodities off of global markets would cause an across-the-board price shock that would decimate financial markets, banks, and practically every industry. That’s one reason why the US government’s Russia sanctions are shortsighted. Another reason is that it only makes sense to use sanctions to the extent it doesn’t incentivize the other big powers in the world to create alternative financial institutions. But that is precisely what is happening, and it’s undermining the US dollar’s role as the world’s reserve currency. Although they are often the most opportunistic and unprincipled people, those in charge of the US government are not necessarily the smartest. If they were competent geopolitical strategists that wanted to maintain American hegemony, they would not be doing such counterproductive things. In short, they have the big picture strategy backward. China will be the bigger challenger to the US soon. So it would make much more geopolitical sense to ally with Russia to knock China down a peg or two. I am, of course, not advocating this but simply pointing out the basic strategy and power dynamics at play and how the US government is fumbling it. In any case, splitting Russia off from China is improbable to happen now. That means we will see Russia and China team up to form a credible geopolitical, economic, and financial partnership to the detriment of the US. I don’t like the game of global empire. I don’t like other countries dominating others and all the wars it causes. However, you have to understand how the power structures of the world work so you can make the right investment decisions. International Man: Given that big picture backdrop, How can our readers position themselves to profit? Nick Giambruno: Here’s the bottom line. The US government is bungling the geopolitical strategy on several levels. It will foster the partnership of Russia and China, which can act as a counterweight to the US. They are creating an alternative monetary and economic system outside of the dollar that billions of people worldwide could use. It’s a nightmare scenario for US strategists unfolding right now. With Russia and China teamed up economically and militarily, what you have is not just a credible challenge to the US. You have something that could be more powerful than the West. That will have enormous implications for the stock market, the US dollar, the euro, and monetary alternatives such as gold, silver, and Bitcoin. I don’t think financial markets have priced in the implications of the US screwing up the big picture geopolitical strategy. In other words, there is an enormous information asymmetry in the market. But that’s actually a good thing. If the market had priced this in, there wouldn’t be an opportunity for astute investors who can see the true big picture and know how to position themselves for big profits as this all plays out. *  *  * The economic trajectory is troubling. Unfortunately, there’s little any individual can practically do to change the course of these trends in motion. The best you can and should do is to stay informed so that you can protect yourself in the best way possible, and even profit from the situation. That’s precisely why bestselling author Doug Casey and his colleagues just released an urgent new PDF report that explains what could come next and what you can do about it. Click here to download it now. Tyler Durden Thu, 04/28/2022 - 13:25.....»»

Category: dealsSource: nytApr 28th, 2022

China Would Support Russia Even If It Used Tactical Nuclear Weapons In Ukraine War: Former Defense Official

China Would Support Russia Even If It Used Tactical Nuclear Weapons In Ukraine War: Former Defense Official Authored by Andrew Thornbrooke via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours), The Chinese Communist Party would continue to support Vladimir Putin’s regime in Russia in the event that it used tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine, according to former Assistant Secretary of Defense Graham Allison. A rocket launches from missile system as part of a ground-based intercontinental ballistic missile test launched from the Plesetsk facility in northwestern Russia on Dec. 9, 2020. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP) “The answer is yes,” Allison said when asked if China would continue its support of Russia regardless of escalations by Putin. “Even if it comes to Putin’s use of tactical nuclear weapons on a target in Ukraine.” Allison, a professor at Harvard University, delivered the remarks as part of an April 19 lecture on the strategic situation between China, Russia, Ukraine, and the United States at the Institute for International and Strategic Studies, a security-focused think tank. He warned that the United States and China were headed towards a “catastrophic outcome,” due to their increasingly antagonistic rivalry, and that China’s burgeoning alliance with Russia complicated international security given increasing fears that Russia could deploy a tactical nuclear weapon in Ukraine. Allison, who has been a member of the Secretary of Defense’s Defense Policy Board since 1985, cautioned that tensions would continue to worsen due to a lack of understanding in Washington about China’s strategic thinking vis-à-vis Russia. “Expect things to get worse before they get worse,” Allison said. “Most people in Washington still cannot accept the fact that Xi has built with Putin’s Russia a functional alliance that is operationally more significant than most of the U.S. treaty alliances.” The budding alliance between Xi and Putin was solidified on Feb. 4, with the announcement of a “no-limits” partnership, which China later reaffirmed amid Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine. Allison said that the greatest challenge would now be to manage the world’s fiercest rivalry between the Chinese regime and the United States without a catastrophic war. It was a point that U.S. military leadership has itself warned of, now that the United States must strategically consider the combined nuclear power of both China and Russia in the event of military hostilities. To that end, Allison said that policymakers should expect Russia to become “locked into China as a dependency,” and that Xi had done “brilliantly” in manipulating and managing Putin’s ego as a now-junior partner in the arrangement. An arrangement, Allison argued, that could now outlive both leaders. “Xi has done this … but this will institutionalize Russia’s role as a vassal state, basically providing natural resources for [China],” Allison said. Allison said that what Chinese communist leadership wanted most was “benign inattention” from the international community, which would allow it to continue to expand its nuclear arsenal and economic coercion with less interference. As such, he said that China would use Russia to keep the international community’s eyes averted from its own actions, and would not interfere with any of Russia’s aggressive actions. When asked if China could actually leverage its partnership with Russia to displace the United States as the world’s greatest power, Allison’s response was less than optimistic. “Is that conceivable?” Allison said. “Unfortunately, it is.” “The Chinese study war way, way, way more seriously than we do.” Tyler Durden Sat, 04/23/2022 - 22:30.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeApr 23rd, 2022

Putin"s suspected purge of his inner circle was fueled by a misinformation bubble he created

"He got the bad advice that he asked for, even if he didn't realize he was asking for it," an expert told Insider of Putin's culture of fear. Russian President Vladimir Putin looks up at a joint press conference with German Chancellor O. Scholz (SPD) after several hours of one-on-one talks in the Kremlin.Photo by Kay Nietfeld/picture alliance via Getty Images Reports say Russian President Vladimir Putin blames high-level officials for failings in Ukraine. But experts told Insider Putin is responsible for creating a culture that allows misinformation. "That only happened because he didn't want to hear the truth," said Russia expert Robert English. When his country's forces first invaded Ukraine in the early hours of February 24, Russian President Vladimir Putin was, by many accounts, anticipating a certain and speedy victory. Reports suggest that the longtime leader was expecting to roll into the neighboring territory, flatten a modest resistance, and be met by scores of grateful Ukrainians bearing bread and salt, the traditional Ukrainian greeting custom.The reality of Ukraine's resistance has been much bloodier and bleaker for the Russian interlopers — an unexpected failure that has led Putin to begin ousting high-level officials he blames for the losses, according to experts."I think that he is lashing out and scapegoating people whom he thinks probably misled him," said Simon Miles, assistant professor at Duke University's Sanford School of Public Policy and a historian of the Soviet Union and US-Soviet relations.In mid-March, Ukrainian media reported that Putin fired Roman Gavrilov, the deputy chief of the Russian national guard, while Russian reports claimed Gavrilov had resigned. The cause of Gavrilov's departure was not immediately clear, with one source telling the outlet Bellingcat that his dismissal was due to "leaks of military info that led to loss of life," while two others said it was for "wasteful squandering of fuel." Days later, reports emerged claiming Putin had placed under house arrest two senior officials with the FSB, Russia's security service, over intelligence failings in Ukraine. One such official has since been sent to Lefortovo prison, an infamous FSB jail on the outskirts of Moscow, according to Andrei Soldatov, a Russian journalist and leading expert on Russian intelligence.But experts told Insider that if Putin is upset with the information or advice he's gotten from advisers, the longtime president himself is responsible for creating an autocratic culture of fear that allowed misinformation to filter directly to him. "That only happened because he didn't want to hear the truth," said Robert English, a professor at the University of Southern California who studies Russia, the Soviet Union, and eastern Europe. "It happened because he was more comfortable surrounding himself with 'yes-men' and sycophants instead of intelligent, independent people who would challenge his prejudice."A Ukrainian serviceman walks amid destroyed Russian tanks in Bucha, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, April 6, 2022.AP Photo/Felipe Dana, FilePutin thought taking Ukraine would be easy. He was wrong.Despite Putin's expectations going into the invasion that Ukrainians would welcome Russia, "there was no bread and salt, quite famously," Miles said. After a stalemate earlier this month forced Russia to retreat from the areas around Kyiv and instead focus on the east, many have wondered how Putin got it so wrong.Soldatov told The New Yorker in March that some of the firings in Russia's intelligence community may be a result of failed political warfare within Ukraine, his sources have suggested.He said the foreign-intelligence branch of the FSB was likely tasked with setting up networks of pro-Kremlin political groups within Ukraine before the invasion, but those groups failed to materialize.The cause of these Russian missteps, according to experts, is likely flawed or overinflated information delivered to Putin from the country's intelligence apparatus and his advisers."They probably told him that they had much more extensive networks and penetration of Ukraine's government – that they had laid the groundwork for a much more effective internal opposition to Zelenskyy, which would be triggered by Russian troops coming across the border," Miles said. But that, "as we know, didn't materialize at all."Putin may have also overestimated opposition within Ukraine to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, which was "not completely crazy," said Daniel Treisman, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, whose work focuses on Russian politics and economics."Opinion polls suggested Zelenksyy wasn't very popular," Treisman told Insider. Though Zelenskyy has received overwhelming support from around the world and in Ukraine, prior to the war, his approval rating was about 30%, while the Ukrainian parliament's was even lower. "Putin believed that a much larger part of the Ukrainian population felt tied to Russia and alienated by the Ukrainian government administration," Treisman said, adding that he was "probably given a very misleading view of the Ukraine public opinion" by those around him.Vladimir Putin.Pool Sputnik, APBad news doesn't filter up in autocratic regimesLast month, a US official said Putin's top advisors are purposely feeding him bad information about the war because they are "too afraid to tell him the truth." When all state power lies in the hands of a single individual, advisors and employees have an outsized incentive to prove their value to the man in charge – even at the expense of accuracy and accountability, Miles told Insider."I would suspect that he was getting very overly-inflated stories from those figures in the FSB who are now allegedly under house arrest," Miles said referring to Russia's early military failures in Ukraine. "And when his intelligence services gave him information, they let him believe that they did so with high confidence."Miles added that bad news does not filter up very well in authoritarian regimes. "No one wants to own responsibility for saying things are not going well," Miles said. "Also, no one wants to own the risk of proposing the alternative way to do it."Putin's reputation for firing those who disagree with him goes back years. In 2004, weeks before his re-election, the first-term president abruptly fired Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov and the rest of his cabinet. Though publicly loyal to Putin, Kasyanov had challenged Putin's approach to dealing with oil industry oligarchs, The Washington Post reported at the time.More recently, a viral video taken days before the invasion showed Putin pressing Russia's spy chief to clearly say "yes or no" on whether he supported recent actions by Russia in Ukraine. Sergei Naryshkin, chief of Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service, stammered and appeared to stumble over his words as Putin cut him off multiple times, providing a rare glimpse into the internal dynamics of the Kremlin."He got the bad advice that he asked for, even if he didn't realize he was asking for it," English said of Putin."He was, because he fired independent thinkers, he pushed aside people who disagreed with him, and he gradually promoted people who fed his ego, who fed his pride."Putin's isolation is decades in the makingPutin's misinformation problem lies not only with the individual people in his circle but with the circle itself — in particular, its shrinking size. Much post-invasion reporting has remarked on Putin's increasing isolation in the months leading up to Russia's assault on Ukraine.But his shift toward isolation has actually been building for decades, experts said. "When he started out in the early 2000s, he had a broad range of different types of advisers with different views," Treisman said. "Now it's narrowed down to this hard-line, Russian nationalist friends and advisers."In recent years, Putin's social isolation turned physical as well. For much of Putin's reign, he has lived at the suburban, presidential compound located an hour outside of Moscow, Miles said. Lately, Putin rarely went into the Kremlin except for official business. But Putin's isolationist streak intensified with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The 69-year-old has been exceptionally cautious in dealing with the virus, forcing people to take multiple tests and isolate for days in order to be granted a face-to-face meeting."So the isolation is not new. And I think that that isolation was a key role in his decision to launch this," Miles said, referring to the war.Russia's President Vladimir Putin holds a meeting of the Russian Security Council at Moscow's Kremlin.Alexei NikolskybackslashTASS via Getty ImagesA simple, timeless talePutin's apparent confidence, and miscalculation, going into the invasion of Ukraine was reminiscent of a prior era in Russia's history. Soviet Union intelligence and military officials were initially reluctant to invade Afghanistan in 1979, a conflict that would ultimately contribute to the fall of the USSR. The officials understood what would happen as a result of the invasion, English said."In the end, they were ignored, and a small group, four senior figures, kind of impulsively decided, and they did it in a kind of delusion that seems somewhat similar to Putin's delusion," English said.Soviet leaders decided to go to war despite many indications they could fail, not unlike Putin. Some even believed that when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan they would be welcomed as liberators, similar to Putin's expectation in Ukraine. Neither happened.The regimes of both the USSR and Russia today suffered from a fear of stepping too far out of line, which led to bad or incomplete information reaching the top, according to English."You don't rise up through the Communist party system if you're an independent, critical thinker and you don't rise up through the Putin administration if you're an independent, critical thinker either," he said.English added that both cases illustrate that bad things happen "when autocrats with their egos and their prejudices get in power and they don't have anyone to check them."And when things go wrong the leader blames the people around them – even though they didn't really have a choice because they were afraid, protecting their careers and their families by telling the person in charge what they want to hear, according to English, who said such a dynamic is far from unique to Russia."It happened in Soviet times, it happened in ancient times," English said, adding: "It's a simple, timeless tale."Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderApr 18th, 2022

The Commodity-Currency Revolution Begins...

The Commodity-Currency Revolution Begins... Authored by Alasdair Macleod via GoldMoney.com, We will look back at current events and realise that they marked the change from a dollar-based global economy underwritten by financial assets to commodity-backed currencies. We face a change from collateral being purely financial in nature to becoming commodity based. It is collateral that underwrites the whole financial system. The ending of the financially based system is being hastened by geopolitical developments. The West is desperately trying to sanction Russia into economic submission, but is only succeeding in driving up energy, commodity, and food prices against itself. Central banks will have no option but to inflate their currencies to pay for it all. Russia is linking the rouble to commodity prices through a moving gold peg instead, and China has already demonstrated an understanding of the West’s inflationary game by having stockpiled commodities and essential grains for the last two years and allowed her currency to rise against the dollar. China and Russia are not going down the path of the West’s inflating currencies. Instead, they are moving towards a sounder money strategy with the prospect of stable interest rates and prices while the West accelerates in the opposite direction. The Credit Suisse analyst, Zoltan Pozsar, calls it Bretton Woods III. This article looks at how it is likely to play out, concluding that the dollar and Western currencies, not the rouble, will have the greatest difficulty dealing with the end of fifty years of economic financialisation. Pure finance is being replaced with commodity finance It hasn’t hit the main-stream media yet, which is still reporting yesterday’s battle. But in March, the US Administration passed a death sentence on its own hegemony in a last desperate throw of the dollar dice. Not only did it misread the Russian situation with respect to its economy, but America mistakenly believed in its own power by sanctioning Russia and Putin’s oligarchs. It may have achieved a partial blockade on Russia’s export volumes, but compensation has come from higher unit prices, benefiting Russia, and costing the Western alliance. The consequence is a final battle in the financial war which has been brewing for decades. You do not sanction the world’s most important source of energy exports and the marginal supplier of a wide range of commodities and raw materials, including grains and fertilisers, without damaging everyone but the intended target. Worse still, the intended target has in China an extremely powerful friend, with which Russia is a partner in the world’s largest economic bloc — the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation — commanding a developing market of over 40% of the world’s population. That is the future, not the past: the past is Western wokery, punitive taxation, economies dominated by the state and its bureaucracy, anti-capitalistic socialism, and magic money trees to help pay for it all. Despite this enormous hole in the sanctions net, the West has given itself no political option but to attempt to tighten sanctions even more. But Russia’s response is devastating for the western financial system. In two simple announcements, tying the rouble to gold for domestic credit institutions and insisting that payments for energy will only be accepted in roubles, it is calling an end to the fiat dollar era that has ruled the world from the suspension of Bretton Woods in 1971 to today. Just over five decades ago, the dollar took over the role for itself as the global reserve asset from gold. After the seventies, which was a decade of currency, interest rate, and financial asset volatility, we all settled down into a world of increasing financialisation. London’s big bang in the early 1980s paved the way for regulated derivatives and the 1990s saw the rise of hedge funds and dotcoms. That was followed by an explosion in over-the-counter unregulated derivatives into the hundreds of trillions and securitisations which hit the speed-bump of the Lehman failure. Since then, the expansion of global credit for purely financial activities has been remarkable creating a financial asset bubble to rival anything seen in the history of financial excesses. And together with statistical suppression of the effect on consumer prices the switch of economic resources from Main Street to Wall Street has hidden the inflationary evidence of credit expansion from the public’s gaze. All that is coming to an end with a new commoditisation — what respected flows analyst Zoltan Pozsar at Credit Suisse calls Bretton Woods III. In his enumeration the first was suspended by President Nixon in 1971, and the second ran from then until now when the dollar has ruled indisputably. That brings us to Bretton Woods III. Russia’s insistence that importers of its energy pay in roubles and not in dollars or euros is a significant development, a direct challenge to the dollar’s role. There are no options for Russia’s “unfriendlies”, Russia’s description for the alliance united against it. The EU, which is the largest importer of Russian natural gas, either bites the bullet or scrambles for insufficient alternatives. The option is to buy natural gas and oil at reasonable rouble prices or drive prices up in euros and still not get enough to keep their economies going and the citizens warm and mobile. Either way, it seems Russia wins, and one way the EU loses. As to Pozsar’s belief that we are on the verge of Bretton Woods III, one can see the logic of his argument. The highly inflated financial bubble marks the end of an era, fifty years in the making. Negative interest rates in the EU and Japan are not just an anomaly, but the last throw of the dice for the yen and the euro. The ECB and the Bank of Japan have bond portfolios which have wiped out their equity, and then some. All Western central banks which have indulged in QE have the same problem. Contrastingly, the Russian central bank and the Peoples Bank of China have not conducted any QE and have clean balance sheets. Rising interest rates in Western currencies are made more certain and their height even greater by Russia’s aggressive response to Western sanctions. It hastens the bankruptcy of the entire Western banking system and by bursting the highly inflated financial bubble will leave little more than hollowed-out economies. Putin has taken as his model the 1973 Nixon/Kissinger agreement with the Saudis to only accept US dollars in payment for oil, and to use its dominant role in OPEC to force other members to follow suit. As the World’s largest energy exporter Russia now says she will only accept roubles, repeating for the rouble the petrodollar strategy. And even Saudi Arabia is now bending with the wind and accepting China’s renminbi for its oil, calling symbolic time on the Nixon/Kissinger petrodollar agreement. The West, by which we mean America, the EU, Britain, Japan, South Korea, and a few others have set themselves up to be the fall guys. That statement barely describes the strategic stupidity — an Ignoble Award is closer to the truth. By phasing out fossil fuels before they could be replaced entirely with green energy sources, an enormous shortfall in energy supplies has arisen. With an almost religious zeal, Germany has been cutting out nuclear generation. And even as recently as last month it still ruled out extending the lifespan of its nuclear facilities. The entire G7 membership were not only unprepared for Russia turning the tables on its members, but so far, they have yet to come up with an adequate response. Russia has effectively commoditised its currency, particularly for energy, gold, and food. It is following China down a similar path. In doing so it has undermined the dollar’s hegemony, perhaps fatally. As the driving force behind currency values, commodities will be the collateral replacing financial assets. It is interesting to observe the strength in the Mexican peso against the dollar (up 9.7% since November 2021) and the Brazilian real (up 21% over a year) And even the South African rand has risen by 11% in the last five months. That these flaky currencies are rising tells us that resource backing for currencies has its attractions beyond the rouble and renminbi. But having turned their backs on gold, the Americans and their Western epigones lack an adequate response. If anything, they are likely to continue the fight for dollar hegemony rather than accept reality. And the more America struggles to assert its authority, the greater the likelihood of a split in the Western partnership. Europe needs Russian energy desperately, and America does not. Europe cannot afford to support American policy unconditionally. That, of course, is Russia’s bet. Russia’s point of view For the second time in eight years, Russia has seen its currency undermined by Western action over Ukraine. Having experienced it in 2014, this time the Russian central bank was better prepared. It had diversified out of dollars adding official gold reserves. The commercial banking system was overhauled, and the Governor of the RCB, Elvira Nabiullina, by following classical monetary policies instead of the Keynesianism of her Western contempories, has contained the fall-out from the war in Ukraine. As Figure 1 shows, the rouble halved against the dollar in a knee-jerk reaction before recovering to pre-war levels. The link to commodities is gold, and the RCB announced that until end-June it stands ready to buy gold from Russian banks at 5,000 roubles per gramme. The stated purpose was to allow banks to lend against mine production, given that Russian-sourced gold is included in the sanctions. But the move has encouraged speculation that the rouble is going on a quasi- gold standard; never mind that a gold standard works the other way round with users of the currency able to exchange it for gold. Besides being with silver the international legal definition of money (the rest being currency and credit), gold is a good proxy for commodities, as shown in Figure 2 below. Priced in goldgrams, crude oil today is 30% below where it was in the 1950, long before Nixon suspended the Bretton Woods Agreement. Meanwhile, measured in depreciating fiat currencies the price has soared and been extremely volatile along the way. It is a similar story for other commodity prices, whereby maximum stability is to be found in prices measured in goldgrams. Taking up Pozsar’s point about currencies being increasingly linked to commodities in Bretton Woods III, it appears that Russia intends to use gold as proxy for commodities to stabilise the rouble. Instead of a fixed gold exchange rate, the RCB has wisely left itself the option to periodically revise the price it will pay for gold after 1 July. Table 1 shows how the RCB’s current fixed rouble gold exchange rate translates into US dollars. While non-Russian credit institutions do not have access to the facility, it appears that there is nothing to stop a Russian bank buying gold in another centre, such as Dubai, to sell to the Russian central bank for roubles. All that is needed is for the dollar/rouble rate to be favourable for the arbitrage and the ability to settle in a non-sanctioned currency, such as renminbi, or to have access to Eurodollars which it can exchange for Euroroubles (see below) from a bank outside the “unfriendlies” jurisdictions. The dollar/rouble rate can now easily be controlled by the RCB, because how demand for roubles in short supply is handled becomes a matter of policy. Gazprom’s payment arm (Gazprombank) is currently excused the West’s sanctions and EU gas and oil payments will be channelled through it. Broadly, there are four ways in which a Western consumer can acquire roubles: By buying roubles on the foreign exchanges. By depositing euros, dollars, or sterling with Gazprombank and have them do the conversion as agents. By Gazprombank increasing its balance sheet to provide credit, but collateral which is not sanctioned would be required. By foreign banks creating rouble credits which can be paid to Gazprombank against delivery of energy supplies. The last of these four is certainly possible, because that is the basis of Eurodollars, which circulate outside New York’s monetary system and have become central to international liquidity. To understand the creation of Eurodollars, and therefore the possibility of a developing Eurorouble market we must delve into the world of credit creation. There are two ways in which foreigners can hold dollar balances. The way commonly understood is through the correspondent banking system. Your bank, say in Europe, will run deposit accounts with their correspondent banks in New York (JPMorgan, Citi etc.). So, if you make a deposit in dollars, the credit to your account will reconcile with the change in your bank’s correspondent account in New York. Now let us assume that you approach your European bank for a dollar loan. If the loan is agreed, it appears as a dollar asset on your bank’s balance sheet, which through double-entry bookkeeping is matched by a dollar liability in favour of you, the borrower. It cannot be otherwise and is the basis of all bank credit creation. But note that in the creation of these balances the American banking system is not involved in any way, which is how and why Eurodollars circulate, being fungible with but separate in origin from dollars in the US. By the same method, we could see the birth and rapid expansion of a Eurorouble market. All that’s required is for a bank to create a loan in roubles, matched under double-entry bookkeeping with a deposit which can be used for payments. It doesn’t matter which currency the bank runs its balance sheet in, only that it has balance sheet space, access to rouble liquidity and is a credible counterparty. This suggests that Eurozone and Japanese banks can only have limited participation because they are already very highly leveraged. The banks best able to run Eurorouble balances are the Americans and Chinese because they have more conservative asset to equity ratios. Furthermore, the large Chinese banks are majority state-owned, and already have business and currency interests with Russia giving them a head start with respect to rouble liquidity. We have noticed that the large American banks are not shy of dealing with the Chinese despite the politics, so presumably would like the opportunity to participate in Euroroubles. But only this week, the US Government prohibited them from paying holders of Russia’s sovereign debt more than $600 million. So, we should assume the US banks cannot participate which leaves the field open to the Chinese mega-banks. And any attempt to increase sanctions on Russia, perhaps by adding Gazprombank to the sanctioned list, achieves nothing, definitely cuts out American banks from the action, and enhances the financial integration between Russia and China. The gulf between commodity-backed currencies and yesteryear’s financial fiat simply widens. For now, further sanctions are a matter for speculation. But Gazprombank with the assistance of the Russian central bank will have a key role in providing the international market for roubles with wholesale liquidity, at least until the market acquires depth in liquidity. In return, Gazprombank can act as a recycler of dollars and euros gained through trade surpluses without them entering the official reserves. Dollars, euros yen and sterling are the unfriendlies’ currencies, so the only retentions are likely to be renminbi and gold. In this manner we might expect roubles, gold and commodities to tend to rise in tandem. We can see the process by which, as Zoltan Pozsar put it, Bretton Woods III, a global currency regime based on commodities, can take over from Bretton Woods II, which has been characterised by the financialisation of currencies. And it’s not just Russia and her roubles. It’s a direction of travel shared by China. The economic effects of a strong currency backed by commodities defy monetary and economic beliefs prevalent in the West. But the consequences that flow from a stronger currency are desirable: falling interest rates, wealth remaining in the private sector and an escape route from the inevitable failure of Western currencies and their capital markets. The arguments in favour of decoupling from the dollar-dominated monetary system have suddenly become compelling. The consequences for the West Most Western commentary is gung-ho for further sanctions against Russia. Relatively few independent commentators have pointed out that by sanctioning Russia and freezing her foreign exchange reserves, America is destroying her own hegemony. The benefits of gold reserves have also been pointedly made to those that have them. Furthermore, central banks leaving their gold reserves vaulted at Western central banks exposes them to sanctions, should a nation fall foul of America. Doubtless, the issue is being discussed around the world and some requests for repatriation of bullion are bound to follow. There is also the problem of gold leases and swaps, vital for providing liquidity in bullion markets, but leads to false counting of reserves. This is because under the IMF’s accounting procedures, leased and swapped gold balances are recorded as if they were still under a central bank’s ownership and control, despite bullion being transferred to another party in unallocated accounts. No one knows the extent of swaps and leases, but it is likely to be significant, given the evidence of gold price interventions over the last fifty years. Countries which have been happy to earn fees and interest to cover storage costs and turn gold bullion storage into a profitable activity (measured in fiat) are at the margin now likely to not renew swap and lease agreements and demand reallocation of bullion into earmarked accounts, which would drain liquidity from bullion markets. A rising gold price will then be bound to ensue. Ever since the suspension of Bretton Woods in 1971, the US Government has tried to suppress gold relative to the dollar, encouraging the growth of gold derivatives to absorb demand. That gold has moved from $35 to $1920 today demonstrates the futility of these policies. But emotionally at least, the US establishment is still virulently anti-gold. As Figure 2 above clearly shows, the link between commodity prices and gold has endured through it all. It is this factor that completely escapes popular analysis with every commodity analyst assuming in their calculations a constant objective value for the dollar and other currencies, with price subjectivity confined to the commodity alone. The use of charts and other methods of forecasting commodity prices assume as an iron rule that price changes in transactions come only from fluctuations in commodity values. The truth behind prices measured in unbacked currencies is demonstrated by the cost of oil priced in gold having declined about 30% since the 1960s. That is reasonable given new extraction technologies and is consistent with prices tending to ease over time under a gold standard. It is only in fiat currencies that prices have soared. Clearly, gold is considerably more objective for transaction purposes than fiat currencies, which are definitely not. Therefore, if, as the chart in the tweet below suggests, the dollar price of oil doubles from here, it will only be because at the margin people prefer oil to dollars — not because they want oil beyond their immediate needs, but because they want dollars less. China recognised these dynamics following the Fed’s monetary policies of March 2020, when it reduced its funds rate to the zero bound and instituted QE at $120bn every month. The signal concerning the dollar’s future debasement was clear, and China began to stockpile oil, commodities, and food — just to get rid of dollars. This contributed to the rise in dollar commodity prices, which commenced from that moment, despite falling demand due to covid and supply chain problems. The effect of dollar debasement is reflected in Figure 3, which is of a popular commodity tracking ETF. A better understanding would be to regard the increase in the value of this commodity basket not as a near doubling since March 2020, but as a near halving of the dollar’s purchasing power with respect to it. Furthermore, the Chinese have been prescient enough to accumulate stocks of grains. The result is that 20% of the world’s population has access to 70% of the word’s maize stocks, 60% of rice, 50% of wheat and 35% of soybeans. The other 80% of the world’s population will almost certainly face acute shortages this year as exports of grain and fertiliser from Ukraine/Russia effectively cease. China’s actions show that she has to a degree already tied her currency to commodities, recognising the dollar would lose purchasing power. And this is partially reflected in the yuan’s exchange rate against the US dollar, which since May 2020 has gained over 11%. Implications for the dollar, euro and yen In this article the close relationship between gold, oil, and wider commodities has been shown. It appears that Russia has found a way of tying her currency not to the dollar, but to commodities through gold, and that China has effectively been doing the same thing for two years without the gold link. The logic is to escape the consequences of currency and credit expansion for the dollar and other Western currencies as their purchasing power is undermined. And the use of a gold peg is an interesting development in this context. We should bear in mind that according to the US Treasury TIC system foreigners own $33.24 trillion of financial securities and short-term assets including bank deposits. That is in addition to a few trillion, perhaps, in Eurodollars not recorded in the TIC statistics. These funds are only there in such quantities because of the financialisation of Western currencies, a situation we now expect to end. A change in the world’s currency order towards Pozsar’s Bretton Woods III can be expected to a substantial impact on these funds. To prevent foreign selling of the $6.97 trillion of short-term securities and cash, interest rates would have to be raised not just to tackle rising consumer prices (a Keynesian misunderstanding about the economic role of interest rates, disproved by Gibson’s paradox) but to protect the currency on the foreign exchanges, particularly relative to the rouble and the yuan. Unfortunately, sufficiently high interest rates to encourage short-term money and deposits to stay would destabilise the values of the foreign owned $26.27 trillion in long-term securities — bonds and equities. As the manager of US dollar interest rates, the dilemma for the Fed is made more acute by sanctions against Russia exposing the weakness of the dollar’s position. The fall in its purchasing power is magnified by soaring dollar prices for commodities, and the rise in consumer prices will be greater and sooner as a result. It is becoming possible to argue convincingly that interest rates for one-year dollar deposits should soon be in double figures, rather than the three per cent or so argued by monetary policy hawks. Whatever the numbers turn out to be, the consequences are bound to be catastrophic for financial assets and for the future of financially oriented currencies where financial assets are the principal form of collateral. It appears that Bretton Woods II is indeed over. That being the case, America will find it virtually impossible to retain the international capital flows which have allowed it to finance the twin deficits — the budget and trade gaps. And as securities’ values fall with rising interest rates, unless the US Government takes a very sharp knife to its spending at a time of stagnating or falling economic activity, the Fed will have to step up with enhanced QE. The excuse that QE stimulates the economy will have been worn out and exposed for what it is: the debasement of the currency as a means of hidden taxation. And the foreign capital that manages to escape from a dollar crisis is likely to seek a home elsewhere. But the other two major currencies in the dollar’s camp, the euro and yen, start from an even worse position. These are shown in Figure 4. With their purchasing power visibly collapsing the ECB and the Bank of Japan still have negative interest rates, seemingly trapped under the zero bound. Policy makers find themselves torn between the Scylla of consumer price inflation and the Charybdis of declining economic activity. A further problem is that these central banks have become substantial investors in government and other bonds (the BOJ even has equity ETFs on board) and rising bond yields are playing havoc with their balance sheets, wiping out their equity requiring a systemic recapitalisation. Not only are the ECB and BOJ technically bankrupt without massive capital injections, but their commercial banking networks are hugely overleveraged with their global systemically important banks — their G-SIBs — having assets relative to equity averaging over twenty times. And unlike the Brazilian real, the Mexican peso and even the South African rand, the yen and the euro are sliding against the dollar. The response from the BOJ is one of desperately hanging on to current policies. It is rigging the market by capping the yield on the 10-year JGB at 0.25%, which is where it is now. These currency developments are indicative of great upheavals and an approaching crisis. Financial bubbles are undoubtedly about to burst sinking fiat financial values and all that sail with them. Government bonds will be yesterday’s story because neither China nor Russia, whose currencies can be expected to survive the transition from financial to commodity orientation, run large budget deficits. That, indeed, will be part of their strength. The financial war, so long predicted and described in my essays for Goldmoney, appears to be reaching its climax. At the end it has boiled down to who understands money and currencies best. Led by America, the West has ignored the legal definition of money, substituting fiat dollars for it instead. Monetary policy lost its anchor in realism, drifting on a sea of crackpot inflationary beliefs instead. But Russia and China have not made the same mistake. China played along with the Keynesian game while it suited them. Consequently, while Russia may be struggling militarily, unless a miracle occurs the West seems bound to lose the financial war and we are, indeed, transiting into Pozsar’s Bretton Woods III. Tyler Durden Sat, 04/09/2022 - 09:20.....»»

Category: dealsSource: nytApr 9th, 2022

The Russia-Ukraine conflict could shake up the global balance of power in 3 big ways, Economist Intelligence Unit says

Russia's invasion stands to create new geopolitical partnerships and deepen divides between the East and West, the experts said Wednesday. Henning Dräger and his family traveled at the back of a United Nations convoy for several days as they fled the Russian invasion in Ukraine.Courtesy of Henning Dräger The Russia-Ukraine conflict could reshape the global balance of power, the Economist Intelligence Unit said Wednesday. The team sees new geopolitical alliances emerging and a new divide between the East and West. The new order could also force the US and EU to rethink their relationships with China, EIU added. A new world order is forming, and economists are starting to consider what it will look like.It's been a month since Russia began its invasion of Ukraine, and almost every corner of geopolitics has been affected. The West has united around Ukraine, dramatically escalating sanctions against Russia and cutting the country out of the global financial system, and NATO is the most visibly united it's been in decades. Yet China remains neutral, leaving the door open for a partnership with Russia that could offer the sanctioned country key economic support.Though the conflict is only weeks old, it already marks a "defining moment in the reshaping of the geopolitical order," the Economist Intelligence Unit said in a report published Wednesday. The invasion has already had massive implications outside Eastern Europe, from skyrocketing inflation to a historic refugee crisis. But as the conflict continues, it stands to shake up the world order with new alliances and divisions.Here are three ways the Russia-Ukraine conflict is poised to change the global balance of power, according to EIU.The end of the post-Cold War eraThe first decades after the Cold War were defined by NATO strength and US unilateralism. Yet the last two decades have seen China ride an unprecedented economic boom and Russia revive its own geopolitical power. That helped grow an "intra-Western rivalry" and erode the US's role as the leading global power, EIU's team said. Russia's invasion is the peak of that shift and hints that the post-Cold War period of US dominance is over."Russia's invasion of Ukraine is a flagrant challenge to the US's role as global policeman, and suggests that the world has become much more unstable and dangerous," the economists said.If the post-Cold War era was defined by US unilateralism, EIU sees the next decades as featuring two "hostile, competing camps." Russia's attack will accelerate a shift away from globalism and toward regionalism, the team said, with China and Russia rivaling the West. Some countries will try to straddle the divide, but that "balancing act" will get more difficult as time passes and the gap between the sparring groups widens, EIU said.A new dividing line in EuropeSmaller divides will emerge too, specifically between the EU and Russia. President Vladimir Putin already tested the international order when Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, but its push into Ukraine could establish a new de facto border in Europe."Russia's repudiation of the Western-led 'rules based order' signals a turning away from Europe and the creation of a new division of the continent, three decades after the fall of the Berlin Wall," EIU said.The "buffer zone" created by the invasion, should Russia succeed, is set to include part of Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan, the team added. That would push Russia's influence right up against the EU members of Poland, Romania, and Slovakia.NATO and the EU have warned that incursions into member states would result in swift military retaliation. The groups have so far avoided sending forces into Ukraine amid fears of escalating the conflict into a third World War. Yet as the invasion presses on and Russia shows no signs of withdrawing, the likelihood of a new dividing line grows.A reshuffling of partnerships with ChinaAmong the biggest unknowns in the conflict is where China will land. The economic powerhouse has refrained from backing or denouncing Russia's invasion, but its economic ties to Russia inherently erode the power of the West's sanctions.Russia has been building up its partnership with China since 2012, and the past decade has seen Russia grow increasingly reliant on trade with China. Presidents Putin and Xi Jinping already declared at the latest Winter Olympics that their alliance would "know no limits" and rival NATO, and it's likely those ties will only solidify further in the years ahead, EIU said."What began as a marriage of convenience has grown over the past decade into a strategic partnership," EIU said. "For China, an alliance with Russia offers security along its northern border, natural resources and a shared authoritarian approach and attitude to the West."That trend, however, could force the West to rethink its connections to China, the team added. The US will now have to focus on containing Russia while also relying less on China for trade. This puts Eastern allies like Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan in a bind, as their need for US protection is likely to grow, EIU said. A coalition against China in the Asia-Pacific region could emerge as geopolitical divides deepen, the team added. Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderMar 23rd, 2022

"Distrust and verify": How Biden crafted his strategy for confronting Putin — and the prospects for peace in Ukraine

In an exclusive interview, State Department spokesperson Ned Price reveals what the administration learned from Obama's dealings with Russia In an exclusive interview, State Department spokesperson Ned Price reveals what the administration learned from Obama's dealings with Russia.Olivier Douliery/Getty Images; Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images; Saul Loeb/Getty ImagesTowards the end of the Obama administration, the conventional wisdom in Washington was that the State Department was becoming increasingly irrelevant. The Pentagon, with 40 times the headcount and 15 times the budget, could run its own foreign policy out of six regional combatant commands. A succession of secretaries of state — Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Rex Tillerson and (to a lesser extent) Mike Pompeo — lacked clout with the presidents they served. That all changed when President Joe Biden appointed Antony Blinken, who has advised him on foreign policy for more than a decade, as secretary of state. Blinken's ties to Europe also run deep. He spent much of his childhood in Paris and speaks often of his stepfather's experiences surviving the Nazi death camps of Auschwitz and Dachau. The strength of Biden's relationship with Blinken is a key reason that State Department diplomacy has been the leading edge of the US response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. A few short weeks have gone a long way toward reversing the Trump-era perception of America as an unreliable NATO member reluctant to underwrite European security. Biden and Blinken have succeeded at building a broad international alliance that stepped up to help Ukraine by enforcing economic sanctions and sending arms. Working alongside Blinken to anchor Biden's Ukraine diplomacy is Ned Price, the State Department's spokesperson. In addition to fielding questions at daily press briefing, Price oversees a nonstop flow of official statements, meeting transcripts, and background briefings. He's privy to the administration's deliberations on Ukraine, and plays an integral role in articulating its strategy and mindset. In 2017, before his turn at the State Department podium, Price made a splash with a Washington Post op-ed in which he explained why he had left the CIA, where he had served as an analyst, citing Trump's "disturbing" behavior after taking office. For the rest of Trump's term, he was a kind of spokesperson-in-exile for former senior officials who wanted to sound the alarm about Trump's slapdash, bellicose approach to national security. The so-called "deep state" was often just Price, wearing colorful socks and moccasins, fielding calls as he prepped for another interview in the NBC green room. I spoke with him by phone on Wednesday, March 16.  It seems like there has been a lot of optimism that there might be a negotiated settlement. Are you seeing any baby steps towards a peace agreement? We are supporting our Ukrainian partners in their diplomacy with the Russian Federation, and there are a number of countries who have also engaged directly with the Russians. What we need to see is a change in course from Russia. We need to see actual signs of de-escalation. We need to see diminution of the violence. Ultimately, we need to see a withdrawal of Russian forces. Of course, we haven't seen any of those things. In recent days, we've even seen contrary indications. We've seen continued escalation. We've seen continued strikes against a maternity hospital, against residential buildings, against neighborhoods — all signs that the Russian Federation is not yet prepared to end the violence. I've heard you say from the podium that the US is looking for some show of good faith on the part of Russia. What would be a minimum scenario for what might count as that, for the administration?Well, we're not going to be prescriptive in terms of what de-escalation could look like. There are a number of ways the Russians could signal that they're serious about diplomacy. What we want to see is a diminution of the violence. What we want to see is humanitarian access — getting much-needed humanitarian supplies in, and civilian populations out. Every time there have been humanitarian corridors created, we have seen those efforts come to a screeching halt as a result of a Russian action. So there are a number of ways the Russians could signal that they're serious, that the Russians could bring this conflict to an end. But we haven't seen any of those yet.President Biden has said that he considers Vladimir Putin to be a war criminal. And we've heard a lot of discussion from the administration about accountability for Putin. Is there a point at which justice and diplomacy start to butt heads? Can you seek both goals at once — peace in the short term, and accountability for Putin in the long term?In the short term, those goals are actually complementary. I say that because there are a number of tactics we're pursuing to put pressure on Russia, to bring them to the negotiating table in good faith. One is to impose massive costs and consequences on the Russian economy. Another is the massive amounts of security assistance that we're providing our Ukrainian partners — $2 billion since the start of this administration. Those two lines of effort are actually reinforcing Ukraine at the negotiating table, and putting pressure on Russia at that negotiating table to demonstrate some degree of good faith. Price flanks Secretary of State Antony Blinken as he speaks from the podium in Foggy Bottom. The two men have anchored Biden's diplomacy over Ukraine.Andrew Harnik/AFP via Getty ImagesThis isn't the first rodeo for you, Secretary Blinken, and President Biden in terms of negotiating with the Russians. You were all in the loop when the Obama administration was trying to negotiate a peaceful resolution in Syria. Are there any big takeaways from that negotiation that are informing your approach now?A couple things. The hallmark of our strategy that's informed by previous efforts at diplomacy with Russia is having allies and partners squarely on your side. In the case of Syria, we saw the international community come together and condemn what the Assad regime was doing at the time. The United States alone, our economic might is sizeable. But when we work with Europe, when we work with our allies and partners, it's more than 60 percent of global GDP. When you wield that in the way we have, in terms of the economic sanctions, you see the implications of it quite clearly. The Russian stock market has been closed for weeks now. The ruble has gone through the floor. Russia's credit rating has junk status. Russia's on the verge of default. International companies are fleeing by the dozen. That speaks to the utility and effectiveness of working with our allies and partners. The other lesson that many have taken away from our previous forays may be a spin on "trust but verify." Today there may be quite a bit of skepticism with everything we've heard from Russia, so it may be more a strategy of distrust and verify.I heard Ben Rhodes, Obama's deputy national security adviser, say something to the effect of, "Going into the Syria negotiations, we felt that Vladimir Putin was willing to do the right thing for the Russian people. What we didn't realize was that he was only going to do the right thing for Vladimir Putin." Do you have a plan for how to get Putin back to a place where he has a broader interest in mind? Or is it more a matter of making sure that any solution is tied directly to his own self-interest?Clearly, Putin has demonstrated that it's going to be self-interest that motivates him. So that's why, for the first time, we've sanctioned Putin personally. We've gone after Russian oligarchs and his cronies to put pressure on him. Not only on his economy but on him personally, so that he hears directly from those around him. Whether they're in government, whether they're oligarchs who over the years have amassed fortunes in ill-begotten wealth, pilfered from the Russian people — all of that will put pressure on him personally. I think the point is right that we can't appeal to his better angels, to the welfare of the Russian people. Because what he seems to be prizing most are his own personal interests.Going back to Inauguration Day, how high was a Russian invasion of Ukraine on your list of possible threat scenarios?From Day One, we recognized that Russia would pose a challenge across any number of fronts. And early on in this administration, we responded to Russia's election interference. We responded to its use of chemical weapons against Alexei Navalny. We responded to the SolarWinds hack and to its human rights abuses at home.  We were also very aware of President Putin's track record — in 2014 in Ukraine, in 2008 in Georgia, in the continuing presence of Russian troops on sovereign Moldovan soil. So it was something that was always high on the agenda. In the early part of the administration, there were efforts to determine if we could have a relationship with Moscow that was more stable and more predictable. As time went on, it became clear that was not something President Putin was interested in.So there was outreach to Russia? Were there hints of a constructive conversation?One of the first things we did in the administration was to extend the New START Treaty,  to continue to impose caps on Russia's nuclear stockpile. There was also a summit between President Biden and President Putin in June of last year, to see if we could have a relationship that was more stable, and more predictable. I think Putin has made very clear that this is not something he is willing to entertain. There was an unprecedented release of US intelligence prior to the invasion, and you were a part of that. In some ways, the intel releases were a great success. They eliminated any Russian pretext for the invasion. Was there a hope that the release of that intelligence might cause Russia to turn aside and reconsider?That was one element of it. There was an element of deterrence, the possibility that by exposing Russia's plans, we'd be able to forestall aggression against Ukraine. But the other element is what we're seeing now — that the world would have its eyes wide open, knowing that this was Putin's intent all along. Now that we're hearing false claims about US chemical weapons labs, or the absurd idea that the United States or Ukraine would employ chemical or biological weapons, the international public is much more attuned to the fact that these are the tactics that the Russians engage in — disinformation, misinformation, propaganda. It's something that is well known and digested.Did you anticipate that there would be some doubt domestically about whether you had it right, given all the intelligence mistakes in the lead up to the US invasion of Iraq? People were being asked to take this on faith.Look, I don't want to characterize what the popular perception was.How can the intelligence community build back trust, post Iraq? I'm wondering if you have any thoughts on that dilemma. It's not for me to speak to. It's clear there's something of a bubble around Putin, and that material that reaches him is filtered, to some degree. And there's a lot of bad news, at least from where Putin stands, coming out of Ukraine, in terms of the situation on the battlefield. Are there things you can do to make sure that he's getting accurate information about where things actually stand on the ground?Secretary Blinken has made the point that an Achilles' heel of all autocrats is the fact that they often do not get accurate information from those around them. And that could well have been the case here, where President Putin was fed what he wanted to hear from his subordinates and loyalists in the government.I think Putin is all too aware of the fact that his soldiers are coming home in body bags, if they are coming home at all from Ukraine.Clearly this has not gone according to anyone's plan — or at least not according to anyone's plan in Russia.Is there a worry that the bubble isn't being pierced now? Peace negotiations might depend on Putin appreciating that Russia is not winning this war. I think he is all too aware of the fact that his soldiers are coming home in body bags, if they are coming home at all from Ukraine. That his economy is in tatters. That there have been signs of dissension across the country, some broadcast literally on national TV. So I think it's all too clear to him, the cost of this. If he thought this would be a feat he could undertake with ease, he now knows that he was sorely mistaken.How would you assess his position domestically, and his ability to stay in power if the status quo prevails?Look, that's going to be a question for the people of Russia. We've seen forms of dissent and opposition on a scale that we heretofore haven't seen. There have been protests across dozens of Russian cities, including Putin's hometown of Saint Petersburg. More than 15,000 people have been arrested for peacefully demonstrating. All of this is a signal that his war effort does not have universal support in Russia. Far from it.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderMar 17th, 2022

The struggle to give Ukraine more fighter jets shows how some NATO militaries still rely on Soviet-era weapons

The search for aircraft to give Ukraine highlights the role Soviet-era weapons still have in some NATO militaries. A Polish Air Force MiG-29 jet.REUTERS. The US and its allies have scrambled to supply Ukraine with arms and other aid as it fights off a Russian invasion. Providing fighter jets has been a challenge, in part because of limitations on what jets Ukrainian pilots can use. The search for aircraft to give Ukraine highlights the role Soviet-era weapons still have in some NATO militaries. Last week, the Polish government unexpectedly offered to transfer its entire operational MiG-29 fleet — 23 aircraft — to the US in order for it to deliver them to Ukraine.In exchange, Poland asked the US for used aircraft with corresponding operational capabilities, and Warsaw called on other NATO members that fly MiG-29s to do the same.The Biden administration appears to have rebuffed the proposal, though other US officials say it is still under discussion.While the jets may not change hands, the incident highlights the continued use of the Soviet-designed MiG-29 by NATO militaries, which is a logistical challenge and, increasingly, a geopolitical headache.A worthy contemporaryA MIG-29 performs at the Dubrovichi range near Ryazan, Russia, August 2, 2015.REUTERS/Maxim ShemetovThe MiG-29 was originally an air-superiority fighter designed by the Soviet Union in the 1970s in an effort to match the US-made F-15 and F-16, which had been introduced to Western air forces a few years before.The MiG-29 first entered service in 1982, and other multirole variants soon followed it.The common MiG-29A variant can reach speeds of Mach 2.3, or roughly 1,750 mph. Its range of only 900 miles reflected its main role as an air-superiority fighter. The F-15 has a top speed of 1,875 mph and a range of 3,450 miles, while F-16 can reach speeds of 1,345 mph and a range of 1,400 miles.The MiG has one 30 mm cannon and can carry a mix of six air-to-air radar-guided medium-range missiles or infrared-guided short-range missiles. In its multirole configuration, it can carry bombs and rockets to strike ground targets. MiG-29s also have a helmet-mounted aiming device that allows the pilot to direct missiles by simply looking at a target at close range.The F-15 and F-16 both have a 20 mm cannon and can carry a mix of eight and six medium- and short-range missiles, respectively. Both can also be equipped to strike ground targets. Current F-15 and F-16 variants have the Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System, with which a pilot can lock onto a target just by turning the helmet toward it.A jet of a different worldA US Air Force B-52H flies with Polish MiG-29s and US F-15Es, February 24, 2022.US Air Force/Airman 1st Class Zachary WrightThe MiG-29A was a capable jet and a worthy adversary. During the Cold War, it and other Soviet-designed aircraft were exported to Warsaw Pact and non-aligned countries, though non-aligned countries received an inferior version.As NATO expanded eastward after the Cold War, it incorporated former Soviet republics and Warsaw Pact members, some of which brought with them an inventory of MiG-29s.Those new NATO allies were also offered American equipment, including aircraft, for the first time, leading many to begin phasing out their Soviet-made aircraft for political and operational reasons.Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s the number of NATO countries using the MiG-29 dwindled. The Czech Republic traded its fleet to Poland in 1995. Germany gave all its operational MiG-29s to Poland in 2004. Romania retired its MiG-29s in 2003, and Hungary did so in 2010.That left three NATO militaries with MiG-29s: Slovakia, Bulgaria, and Poland, which had the largest fleet. At the same time, those three militaries began to struggle to maintain their jets.Limited western supportA Ukrainian pilot exits a MiG-29 at a base outside of Kyiv, November 23, 2016.Danil Shamkin/NurPhoto via Getty ImagesSince the MiG-29 was a Soviet creation, its avionics were incompatible with NATO standards.MiG-29s belonging to NATO members lacked Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) systems, leaving them unable to electronically identify other NATO aircraft as friendly or to be recognized as friendly themselves. NATO-compatible radios and improved navigation systems had to also be installed in the MiGs to obtain NATO certification.The manufacturer, the Russian Aircraft Corporation "MiG," could maintain the jets and upgrade them in order to extend their service lives, but relying on Russia to maintain their small MiG-29 fleets had for years been a point of contention among Bulgarian and Slovakian officials.Currently, the only Western company that can maintain MiG-29s without Russian technical input is Poland's Polska Grupa Zbrojeniowa. PGZ maintains and upgrades the Polish Air Force's MiG-29s, allowing it to continue operating them and reducing Warsaw's exposure to Moscow.PGZ does not have the Russian manufacturer's license to repair or produce MiG-29 engines. Bulgaria's 2015 decision to award its MiG-29 maintenance contract to Poland for the first time drew ire from Russia's United Aircraft Corporation. (MiG and Russia's five other major plane makers were merged into UAC by presidential decree in 2006.)A MiG-29.AP Photo/Efrem LukatskySlovakia, Bulgaria, and Poland already struggled to find replacement airframe and engine parts for the MiG-29 before sanctions imposed on Russia following its annexation of Crimea in 2014 further constricted supply.These factors mean that for NATO's MiG-29 users, the aircraft has approached the end of its service life as defense relations with Moscow become untenable.The MiG's days in NATO are numbered. Each of the alliance's three operators has made plans to replace them with US-made jets.Poland has kept its MiG-29s on operational parity with its F-16s, but it is fast modernizing its air force and has ordered 32 F-35As.Slovakia ordered 14 F-16s in 2018, and Bulgaria agreed to buy eight of the jets in 2019. Both countries were to receive their new fighters in the early 2020s, but supply-chain issues have delayed both deliveries until the middle of the decade.Constantine Atlamazoglou works on transatlantic and European security. He holds a master's degree in security studies and European affairs from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderMar 16th, 2022

Hundreds of CEOs Came Out Against Russia. Their Involvement Could Change War Forever

Traditionally, corporations that do business with countries that are considered international pariahs have drawn a bright line between matters of trade and matters of state. Many CEOs see it more or less as Mark Weil of global business service provider TMF group does: “If I start saying, I don’t much like that government—and there are… Traditionally, corporations that do business with countries that are considered international pariahs have drawn a bright line between matters of trade and matters of state. Many CEOs see it more or less as Mark Weil of global business service provider TMF group does: “If I start saying, I don’t much like that government—and there are plenty of governments whose actions one might choose not to like very much—we wouldn’t do business anywhere,” he says. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] Besides, trade between nations is supposed to be good for peace and prosperity, so those who help it along consider themselves the good guys. “We’re part of the cog of capitalism that spreads investment employment wealth,” says Weil of his company’s work providing compliance and administrative services around the world, including in Russia and Ukraine. “And generally there is some correlation between inward investment and prosperity and various freedoms.” But these calculations have changed since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24. The NATO countries and their western cousins quickly slammed an unprecedented suite of financial and economic penalties on Russia. While cutting off an aggressor from outside resources is almost as old a battle tool as battering rams, these economic restrictions were of a breadth and depth that had never been leveled against a country with such a large GDP before. And they were enhanced by the number of corporations and private enterprises that unilaterally announced they would suspend or completely terminate business dealings there. Having jumped in with both feet, the business world has become enmeshed in an international geopolitical conflict with a whole new force, which could have a significant impact on how wars are fought—and peace is negotiated—in the future. Read More: How Big Business Got Woke and Dumped Trump In the space of a few days the statements rolled in from energy companies, credit card companies, media companies, management firms, tech giants, and on Thursday, even banks. It wasn’t just that they announced their departures in their usual neutral corporate-speak; many of them shook the dust off their feet before leaving. “We are compelled to act following Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, and the unacceptable events that we have witnessed,” said Al Kelly, chairman and CEO of Visa Inc. Accenture, calling for an end to “unlawful and horrific attack on the people of Ukraine and their freedom,” said it was discontinuing its business in Russia. In an email to franchisees and employees about temporarily closing all its restaurants in Russia, McDonalds CEO Chris Kempczinski said the company “cannot ignore the needless human suffering unfolding in Ukraine.” On Mar. 4, TMF Group joined the boycott, sort of. Weil announced that TMF group be wrapping up any work with Russian clients, but would continue to serve clients who were doing business in Russia. “I found it a very difficult decision. Not because I was scared of the immediate consequences or thought it was a difficult moral judgment but it’s that sense of crossing a line,” he says. If he changes his company’s blanket “no politics” stance in this situation, then other situations are negotiable too. But the arguments on the counter side were too strong. He has an office in Ukraine, and was shocked at what was happening there. He wanted to communicate to his employees that he meant it when he said integrity was one of the company’s core values, and he wanted to get ahead of any trouble. “It was partly me thinking, why are we wasting our time waiting for sanctions?” How corporations became corporals What has surprised sanctions experts is how many of these corporations are, like TMF, imposing these restrictions on themselves, and how quickly they moved. In many cases they decided to exit Russia before being ordered to by any government. “I’m surprised at the scope and scale of what the private sector has done,” says Juan Zarate, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, who was a deputy national security adviser in the George W. Bush administration. “Even before sanctions really took full hold or before the full suite of sanctions were unrolled, you had the private sector making decisions to divest, to withdraw investments, to minimize exposure to Russia.” While businesses have increasingly become accustomed to what is known as de-risking or over-complying with international sanctions, the conflict in Ukraine has generated a different level of corporate behavior. “I’ve spent pretty much my entire career working around sanctions,” says Daniel Tannebaum, the Global Head of Sanctions at Oliver Wyman, “and we’ve not seen something quite like this in terms of the self-sanctioning.” Perhaps the most remarkable exits were those by the energy companies, who had sunk a lot of money into partnerships with Russia and were among the first to announce their exits. Many companies’ bottom lines would not be much affected by closing their Moscow offices. But Shell’s liquified natural gas joint venture with Gazprom, Sakhalin 2, was considered a jewel in its crown. “IKEA pulling out is not surprising to me. IKEA’s had problems with corruption and other issues in its dealings in Russia for a long time. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” says Zarate. “But BP and Shell and Exxon? Russia is a major partner, a major player in the energy market, that’s a big deal.” Read More: With the State of the World in the Hands of Big Business, Some Executives Think It Can Pay to Do Good The business sector’s swift buy-in to the economic isolation of Russia has made the sanctions more effective, says Bryan Early, an associate dean for research at Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy at SUNY Albany, because “economic sanctions tend to work better when they are imposed in packages that are large and highly disruptive and impose an immediate strong impact, as opposed to economic sanctions that are imposed through gradual escalation.” That way, the offending countries do not have time to figure out a workaround and find new trading partners or financiers before they start to feel the impact. The more businesses pull out, the less economic sense it makes for others to remain. The cost of doing business in Russia rises. It’s harder to find the goods and services needed to keep the business running. The number of people who can afford a given company’s products or require its services grows ever smaller. “Companies likely would not be able to earn any money in the Russian market going forward and even if they did earn that money they’d have no ability to actually bring that money back into the U.S. financial system,” says Leo Feler, senior economist at UCLA Anderson school of management. The net effect of so many companies exiting or pausing operations in Russia means the government sanctions might almost become a moot point. “It’s a chicken and egg story. If enough businesses abandon the Russian market on their own, the Russian market is also going to shrink,” says Feler. “You don’t need sanctions to do it if everyone’s self-sanctions.” The future of global warfare The longer term consequences of private enterprises essentially opting to add their power to the engines of war are unknown. “I think we’re an uncharted waters now, as to the effects of this,” says Zarate. Compliance experts are not sure how best to advise clients. “We’ve just not seen a situation where sanctions were literally brought to a gunfight in a very long time,” says Tannebaum. “So that is a bit of the challenge.” As an advisor to major financial services firms, which are mostly still doing business in Russia, Tannebaum says he’s in a lot of discussions about what move to make next and what the result would be without any clear answers. “This playbook is being written as we’re speaking,” he says. One sure outcome is that Russia will be more cut off to influence from the West than ever. “We’ve accelerated the isolation of a major global economy in a way that we haven’t in modern history,” says Zarate. This isolation may make the war and subsequent occupation in Ukraine logistically, financially, and politically punishing for Putin to complete. But it also may force Russian enterprises to seek trading partners elsewhere, notably China. The two main Russian banks, Sberbank and Tinkoff Bank are already said to be considering using cards powered by China’s UnionPay system after Mastercard and Visa removed access to their services. Read More: Henry Kissinger’s Last Crusade: Stopping Dangerous AI A warmer Chinese-Russian alliance could represent a significant shift in the global balance of power and trade. But analysts are dubious. “Thus far, China has neither condemned nor endorsed the actions in Ukraine. If you look at some of the underlying Chinese financial institutions, I don’t see the appetite of really welcoming with open arms kind of a mass volume of activity,” says Tannebaum. “This was more than the Chinese government had anticipated. I think that’s become extremely clear. So I’m not sure how much support China will provide.” The West’s other trading partners may be scrutinizing the dramatic, co-ordinated moves that America and European governments and private enterprises are prepared to make in concert and the devastation such acts can cause and consider their own vulnerability. Putin knew sanctions were coming, and tried to create some sanction-proof networks and firewalls, but they proved insufficient. “One of the lessons that you can glean from this is that it’s very, very difficult to disconnect yourself from the global economy or protect yourself in the case of an overwhelming desire to impose economic punishment for bad behavior,” says Early. “If there are countries that are considering doing something that would lead to global stigmatization and a global punishment, they might have learned some lessons from this that it’s a lot harder to protect yourself from from the exposure.” A shift in diplomatic leverage As the business world begins to flex its diplomatic muscles, actual diplomats and statesmen may find that they have less impact and control than they’re used to. Some of the levers of power have been transferred to a different operator, with different priorities. “The private sector has a voice in this now and is a prime agent in the isolation of the Russian economy. It will have a say in how Russia is reintegrated if ever,” says Zarate. “But it also makes diplomacy a bit more unwieldy.” Several experts pointed to the Iran nuclear deal, for which then Secretary of State John Kerry went on a global tour trying to persuade banks that the sanctions on Iran had been lifted and they should start doing business there. They all declined, which made it almost impossible for other businesses to set up shop, leading Iran to accuse the West of not holding up its end of the deal. Even if some negotiated settlement could be reached in Ukraine, in return for the lifting of sanctions, many companies may not choose to reinvest in Russia. “Diplomats don’t control the decision-making of McDonalds’ board or of BP’s CEO,” says Zarate, who wrote about the growing role of private enterprise in his book, Treasury’s War. Typically, removal of sanctions is accompanied by promises of foreign investment as inducements to persuade warring nations to lay down their arms. “The private sector has its own risk calculus and its own reputational calculus that may not coincide with the diplomatic off-ramps that are often discussed, in terms of turning off the pressure from sanctions or converting the pressure of sanctions into carrots.” It’s not just a matter of whether corporations will re-invest in Russia. The unusual and undiplomatic manner in which the corporations announced their exits—with terms of disgust and dismay rather than the usual oblique references to operational difficulties and the uncertainty of the situation—may make Russian authorities less than eager to welcome them back. If the negotiated settlement is imperfect, which all deals usually are, investors and employees may protest that the conditions that led to the exit have not improved significantly. It’s possible a desire among businesses to emphasize their ESG bona fides has scorched their bridges back to Moscow, and Moscow’s bridge out of the conflict. For CEOs and boards, the downstream question is whether corporate leaders have opened a door that will make future moral considerations about where to do business more complicated. If companies are prepared to make a stand on behalf of the Ukrainians, why are they not prepared to make a stand on behalf of the Uighurs, the Rohingya, or other oppressed peoples? Weil expects some blowback from his employees. “It feels like we made a tough, but correct choice,” he says. “But I know I’m going to get emails saying, ‘I can’t believe you haven’t done anything to look after [this oppressed group] and I’m going to stress to them, ‘Look, don’t expect me to be your ethical instrument. We can’t have what’s now nearly 10,000 employees having their individual preferences satisfied by the policies we adopt. You have to accept that this was exceptional.'”.....»»

Category: topSource: timeMar 11th, 2022

The UK And Its Lost Opportunities

The UK And Its Lost Opportunities Authored by Alasdair Macleod via GoldMoney.com, Two years after leaving the EU Britain has made almost none of the promised progress towards economic liberalisation. While Brussels hasn’t been helpful, libertarian ministers in the Tory government have been both conquered by the bureaucracy of the civil service and even turned into high spending statists. There has been no attempt to reduce the state’s suffocating dominance over the economy. On current policies, the private sector is set to continue its long-term decline, with higher taxes and ever-increasing regulation. But it needn’t be so. This article looks at the dangers and opportunities that Britain faces, principally inflation, the challenge of government spending, of maintaining a balanced budget, trade policy and why Britain should just declare unilateral free trade, foreign policy in a world where the future is American decline and a rising Russia—China partnership, and the economic craziness of the green agenda. There is no sign that these important issues are being addressed in a constructive and statesman-like manner. Fortunately or unfortunately, rising interest rates threaten to bring forward a crisis of bank credit of such magnitude that fiat currencies are likely to be undermined. Most of the policies recommended herein should be incorporated after the banking and currency crisis has passed as part of a reset designed to avoid repeating the mistakes of big government, Keynesianism, and the socialisation of economic resources. Decline and fall “This is the week a government that began with such promise finally lost its soul. Its great policy relaunch is a tragic mush, proof that it no longer believes in anything, not even in its self-preservation.” Allister Heath, Editor of The Sunday Telegraph writing in today’s Daily Telegraph 3 February Two years ago this week, Britain formally left the EU. Yet, it is estimated there are 20,000 pieces of primary EU legislation still on the statute books. And only now is there going to be an effort to remove or replace them with UK legislation. Obviously, going through them one by one would tie the legislative calendar up for years, so it is proposed to deal with them through an omnibus Brexit Freedoms Bill. Excuse me for being cynical, but one wonders that if the Prime Minister had not come under pressure from Partygate, would this distraction from it have got to first base? After two years of inaction, why now? And it transpires that instead of doing away with unnecessary regulations as suggested in the Brexit Freedoms Bill, legislative priority will be given to the economically destructive green agenda. This underlines Allister Heath’s comment above. There is also irrefutable evidence that a remain-supporting civil service has continually frustrated the executive over Brexit and has discouraged all meaningful economic reform. The way the Brexit Freedoms Bill is likely to play out is for every piece of EU legislation dropped, new UK regulations of similar or even tighter restrictions on production freedom will be introduced — drafted by the civil service bureaucracy with its Remainer sympathies. For improvement, read deterioration. It will require ministers in all departments to strongly resist this tendency — there’s not much hope of that. The track record of British government is not good. Since Margaret Thatcher was elected, successive conservative administrations have pledged to reduce unnecessary state intervention and ended up fostering the opposite. They raise taxes every time they are elected, even though they market themselves as the low tax party. While the number of quangos (quasi-autonomous national government organisations) has been reduced, in practice it is because they have been merged rather than abandoned and their remits have remained intact. Another measure of government intervention, the proportion of government spending to total GDP, has risen from about 40% to over 50% in 2020. An unfair comparison given the impact of covid, some would say. But there is little sign that the explosion of government spending will come back to former levels. Like the unelected bureaucracy in Brussels from which the nation sought to escape, the UK’s civil service has no concept of the economic benefits of free markets. Without having any skin in the game, they believe that government agencies are in the best position to decide economic outcomes for the common good. Decades of Keynesian reasoning, belief in bureaucratic process and never having had to work in a competitive environment have all fostered an arrogance of purpose in support of increasing statist economic management. It is a delusion that will end in crisis, as it did in 1975 when under a Labour government Britain was driven to borrow funds from the IMF that were reserved for third world nations. Against this background of restrictions to economic progress, the nation is unprepared to deal with some major issues appearing on the horizon. This article examines some of them: inflation, state spending, trade policies, foreign policies, and the economic harm from the green agenda. These are just some of the areas where policies can be improved for the good of the nation and create opportunities for greatness through economic strength. Inflation In common with other central banks, the Bank of England would have us believe that inflation is of prices only, failing to mention changes in the quantity of currency and credit in circulation. Yet even schoolchildren in primary education will tell you that if a cake is cut into a greater number of pieces, you do not end up with more cake; you end up with smaller pieces. It is the same with the money supply, or more correctly the quantity of currency and credit. Instead, central banks seem to believe in the parable of the feeding of the five thousand: five loaves and two fishes can be subdivided to satisfy the multitudes with some left over. The source of an increase in the general price level is increasing quantities of currency and credit, leading to each unit buying less, just like the smaller slices of cake. And measured by the Bank of England’s M4 (the broadest measure of currency and credit) the currency cake has been subdivided into many more smaller pieces in recent times. Figure 1 shows that M4 has increased from £1.82 trillion at the time of the Lehman failure to £2.96 trillion last September, an increase of 63%. But the rate of increase accelerated substantially in the first six months of 2020 to an annualised rate of 19.3%. This is the engine driving prices of goods higher, and to a lesser extent, services. At that time, currency inflation was everywhere, leading to significantly higher commodity prices. The commodity inputs to industry represent sharply rising production costs, coupled with skill shortages and supply chain disruptions. But these are merely the evidence of the currency cake being more thinly sliced. Buying and installing a new kitchen in your house requires more of the smaller slices of the currency cake than it did last year. All else being equal, there are still significant price effects to come with past currency debasements yet to work their way through to prices. And given that monetary policy is to meet rising prices by raising interest rates while still inflating, higher interest rates will follow as well. The effect on bond yields and equity prices will be beyond doubt. But all else is never equal, and the effect of higher production costs will be to close uneconomic production and put overindebted manufacturers out of business. This development is already becoming evident globally, with the post-pandemic bounce-back already fading. Being undermined, the effect on financial collateral values is likely to make banks more cautious, reduce bank lending, and at the margin increase the rate of foreclosures. The problem is that most currency in circulation is the counterpart of bank credit. A bond and equity bear market will lead to a contraction of bank credit, triggering policies designed to counter deflation. What will the Bank of England do? Undoubtedly, it will want to increase its monetary stimulation at a time of rising interest rates and falling financial values. The Bank will also find itself replacing contracting bank credit to keep the illusion of prosperity alive. The issuance of base currency will not be a trivial matter. But according to the Keynesians, who can only equate price levels with consumer demand, inflation during an economic slump should never happen. Worse, it will come at a time when UK banks are highly leveraged at record levels — Barclay’s, for example, has a ratio of assets to equity of about twenty times. And as the European financial centre, London is highly exposed to counterparty risk from the Eurozone which, being in a desperately fragile condition, is a major systemic threat. With these increased dangers so obviously present, it would behove the Bank and the Treasury to rebuild the national gold reserves, so foolishly sold down by Gordon Brown when he was Chancellor. It is the only insurance policy against a systemic and currency collapse that is becoming more likely as inflationary policies are pursued. Government spending As mentioned above, in 2020 the government’s share of GDP rose to over 50% and there appears to be no attempt to rein it in. And for all the rhetoric about post-Brexit Britain being an attractive place to do business, any government taking half of everyone’s income and profits in the form of taxes will fail to attract as many international businesses to locate in Britain as would otherwise be possible. Government spending is inherently wasteful. To enhance economic performance, the solution is to cut government spending to as low as possible in the shortest possible time and to reduce taxes with it. But instead, the Treasury is seeking to cover the budget deficit, which was £250bn in the last fiscal year (11.7% of GDP) by increasing taxes without reforming wasteful government spending. The civil service has protected its practices by seeing off attempts by government appointees, such as Dominic Cummings, to remodel the civil service on more effective lines. Critics of the Treasury’s policies say it is better to cut taxes to encourage growth which in future will generate the taxes to cover the deficit. But with the state already taking half of everyone’s income on average in taxes, the increase in the deficit while maintaining government spending will only add to inflationary pressures. The transfer of wealth from the private sector to the public sector by the expansion of currency will more than negate any benefit to the private sector from lower taxes. And the higher interest rates from yet higher price inflation will bankrupt overindebted borrowers in a highly leveraged economy. Those who think the Bank of England is clueless about finances and economics should not omit the Treasury from their criticisms. About the only thing the Treasury gets right is the necessity to eliminate the budget deficit, albeit by the wrong approach which is simply to increase the tax burden on the private sector. But in this objective it has consistently failed, as shown in Figure 2. From the seventies, budget deficits have only been eliminated briefly in the boom times of fiscal 1989/90 and 2000/01. The OBR’s forecast of a return to near balance in 2023/24 is a demonstration of wishful thinking. On the verge of a new downturn in production brought about by unsustainable cost pressures, the deficit is likely to decline only marginally, if at all. Budget deficits create an additional problem, because without an increase in consumer savings (discouraged by the Keynesians), national accounting shows that a twin trade deficit is the consequence. And without the trade deficit contracting, the Remainers in the establishment are bound to claim that Brexit has not delivered the benefits in trade promised by the Brexiteers. Trade policy Besides gaining political independence, Brexit was said to lead to an opportunity for better terms of trade than could be obtained as a member of the EU. Britain’s industrial history and heritage is as an entrepôt, whereby goods were imported, processed, and re-exported to international markets. The concept of freeports was promoted with this in mind. The UK government has so far made laborious progress in signing trade agreements in a protectionist world. A far better approach would be to abandon trade agreements and tariffs altogether, with the sole exception of protecting some agricultural produce, for which special treatment can be justified. Today, agriculture is a small part of the economy, and the benefits to the consumer of scrapping tariffs are relatively minor, but risk fundamentally bankrupting important parts of the rural economy. To understand why Britain should abandon trade agreements for tariff free trade, we should refer to David Ricardo’s theory of comparative advantage. Ricardo argued that if a distant producer was better at producing a good or service than a local one which is therefore unable to compete, then it is better to reap the benefit of the distant production and for the local producer to either find a better way of manufacturing the product, or to deploy the capital of production elsewhere. The theory was put to the test by Robert Peel, who as Prime Minister rescinded and finally repealed the Corn Laws between 1846—1849. The consequence for the British economy was that lower food prices in what was for most of the population a subsistence economy allowed the labouring masses to buy other things to improve their standard of living. Not only did living standards improve, but employment was created in the woollen, cotton, and tobacco industries and much else besides. Furthermore, other countries began to adopt free trade policies, which combined with sound money led to widespread economic improvement. By the First World War, over 80% of the world’s shipping then afloat, central to international trade, had been built in Britain. The situation today is different, in that the effect of removing food tariffs from what has become a relatively small sector is far too emotive for the potential gain. This is less true of industry, despite the undoubted cries that would emanate from protectionists. But a Glaswegian is perfectly free to buy a product made in Birmingham, or to contract for a service provided from London, even if there is an equivalent available in Glasgow. But what’s the difference between our Glaswegian buying something from Birmingham, compared with Stuttgart, or Lyons, or China? The answer is none, other than he gets more choice, and the signal sent to domestic manufacturers is they are uncompetitive. And it’s no good claiming that foreigners are unfair competition. If a foreign manufacturer is subsidised in its production, that is all to the benefit of UK consumers. Tariffs are a tax on consumers and lead to less efficient domestic production. The benefit for Britain is that if it becomes a genuinely free trade centre, international manufacturing and service activities would gravitate to the UK, providing additional employment — all the empirical evidence confirms this is what happens. It would be a direct challenge to the EU’s Fortress Europe trade policies designed to keep foreigners out. And to the degree that tariff reform is promoted, Britain would be doing the world a favour, because as in Robert Peel’s time, other nations would likely follow suit. The dirty truth about tariffs is that they are a tax on one’s own people as well as an unnecessary restriction of trade. Instead of recognising this truth and the evidence of its own experience, Britain is pursuing a halfway-house of laborious trade agreements. Through limited relief on taxes, the half-hearted proposal to set up free ports is an admission of the burden the government places on business in the normal course: otherwise, why are free ports an incentive? Far better to reduce taxes on all production and remove the tariff burdens on everyone. This conservative administration started with constructive trade policies, but the permanent establishment has whittled them down to the point where they are likely to be minimised and ineffective, confirming in its Remainer yearnings that Brexit was a political and economic blunder. Foreign policy One of the opportunities presented by Brexit was for the UK government to think through its foreign policy agenda, and how Britain can best serve itself and the rest of the world. The history of its foreign policy might have provided a guide, though it seems to have been ignored. Instead, Britain is sticking to the Foreign Office’s and intelligence services’ status quo, which is basically to be unquestioningly allied through the five-eyes partnership with America. Admittedly, it would have been difficult to do otherwise in the wake of President Trump’s successful takedown of Huawei, spreading fear of Chinese spying in a modern version of reds under the bed. But the reality of modern geopolitics is that Halford Mackinder’s Heartland Theory, first presented to the Royal Geographical Society in London in 1904, is coming true: “Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland; who rules the Heartland commands the World-Island; who rules the World-Island commands the world.” — Mackinder, Democratic Ideals and Reality, p. 150 There can be no doubt that the alliance between Putin’s Russia and Xi’s China together with the other members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation are proving Mackinder’s prophecy and that they are destined to become the dominant geopolitical force in the world. Therefore, Britain remains hitched in the long term to the eventual loser when it should be reconsidering its relationship with Eastern European nations, for which read Russia. A substantial rethink over foreign policy is due, and instead of the status quo, there is profit to be had in studying the status quo ante — Britain’s foreign policies at the time of the Napoleonic wars and subsequently. Lord Liverpool was Prime Minister, with Castlereagh as Foreign Secretary and Wellington as commander-in-chief of the army. They had an iron rule never to interfere in a foreign state’s domestic policies but only to act to protect British interests. Those interests principally concern trade, and they guided foreign policy and protected British property in the colonies until the First World War. Compared with the foreign policy principals of the nineteenth century, the support given to American hegemony in attacking nations in the Middle East and North Africa on purely political grounds has been a disaster, leading to unnecessary deaths and the displacement of millions of refugees. Some of these ventures could have been prevented if Britain had not joined in. Britain’s refusal to support a Syrian invasion after a parliamentary vote turned it down was a rare example of Britain standing up for its own interests, no thanks to a government which would otherwise have sent the troops in. The US is dragging its heels with respect to a trade agreement with the UK, and that should be considered as well. A modern Castlereagh would take these factors into consideration in proposing a new treaty securing trade and defence considerations for both European nations and Russia, thereby respecting their sovereignties. There are enough elements in play for a sensible outcome, particularly if America is made to accept that its role in Europe is divisive and that it has no option but to accommodate compromise. The British government is in a unique position to broker a deal, if it can demonstrate political independence from all parties, including America. The green agenda The government’s green agenda, whereby the nation is mandated to cut carbon emissions by 78% from 1990 levels by 2035 with a target of net zero by 2050 is a deliberate policy of economic destruction. After the boost to non-fossil fuel investment, initially funded by yet more government spending, the costs imposed on the population to replace domestic heating by gas and oil with heat pumps is prohibitive and impractical. It can only be achieved by the destruction and rebuilding of swathes of existing residential and commercial properties. The energy available will be overdependent on unreliable wind and solar panel sources, and the available supply will be facing far larger demands on the grid than imposed today. Keynesians advising the government seem to believe that all the investment and rebuilding to new ecological standards stimulates economic activity — this has been argued by them before in the context of post-war reconstruction. But then Bastiat’s broken window fallacy, whereby the alternative use of economic resources is not being considered, appears to have passed them by. The green replacement of transport logistics, which is well over 95% diesel driven, is a destruction of efficient and current capacity to be replaced by electrical powered transportation whose energy source is to be shared with all other energy demands. The only possible solution to the problem created by climate change activism involves the rapid development of nuclear energy. But besides taking decades from drawing board to switch on, nuclear is stymied on cost grounds, with wind and solar being far cheaper on a per therm basis. Furthermore, only 16% of Britain’s electricity supply is nuclear, and almost half of that is due to be decommissioned by 2025, with only one new plant under construction. The UK government’s green policies are propelling the nation into an energy disaster, when it has substantial fossil fuel reserves available in the form of coal and natural gas. Coal driven electricity supply has been reduced to under 3%. Instead of being phased out it should be brought back into supply production, because scrubbers remove almost all particulates and sulphates, and doubtless can be further developed to deal with CO2 emissions as well. There are good reasons to reinstate coal and for that matter gas fracking. China and India retain and are increasing their coal powered supplies, giving them a significant energy price advantage for their own economies over the West. And while they have signed up to eventually reducing their coal dependency, it is a promise to do so at a vanishingly future date. On energy grounds alone, Britain along with other European nations are committing themselves to swapping their economic status with emerging nations, so that when the latter have fully emerged, Britain and Europe will then have the third world status. Whatever climate change debate merits, it is an argument which is not to be confused with economics. It must be admitted that in the enthusiasm for doing away with fossil fuels and primary and reliable sources of energy, under this current government the outlook for Britain’s economy is of an accelerated decline. The likely outcome of government policies From what started as a government of ministers with a strong libertarian approach, two years later we see the opportunity to improve Britain’s economic consequences sadly squandered. Politically, the position is fragile, with the Prime Minister struggling to survive in the wake of the report on Partygate and the ongoing police investigation. Furthermore, he appears to have found it far easier and more pleasurable to increase spending than address wasteful government spending. It is difficult to be optimistic, with the signs that the permanent civil service establishment remains firmly in charge and is increasing its economic and bureaucratic influence over weak ministries. Perhaps the most important of the difficulties outlined above is monetary inflation, likely to lead to higher interest rates in the coming months. This is not a trend isolated to sterling, and even on a best-case basis whereby a Conservative government addresses the issues raised in this article, it is very likely that attempts at economic, monetary, trade policy, foreign policy, and administrative reforms will be overtaken by the repetitive cycle of bank lending contraction. So highly geared have banks in the Eurozone become, for which London acts as the principal financial centre, that rising interest rates seem sure to trigger a global banking crisis with London as an epicentre on a scale larger than that of thirteen years ago when Lehman failed. Such an event is likely to destroy not only banking and central banking as we know it today, but currencies, the debasement of which socialising governments increasingly rely upon. Nevertheless, the issues raised in this article will remain and need to be addressed after a currency and credit crisis has passed and economic stability begins to return. The role for a British government with respect to foreign policy will become more important, particularly for post-crisis European political stability when the euro and possibly the entire Brussels construct have been destroyed. In this event the threat of another European war cannot be dismissed, and we will need the wisdom of a modern Lord Liverpool and Viscount Castlereagh. The destruction of the fiat currency system will provide opportunities for a reset, based on the lessons learned. The post-crisis government must learn from the mistakes of past errors and be the servant of the people and not its master. It must not interfere in the economy, and keep its size to the minimum possible, taxing no more than 10—15% of everyone’s income and profits. It must restrict its role to providing a framework for contract and criminal law and the policing of the latter, as well as the defence of the realm. It must not respond to any demands for special treatment from either businesses or individuals. Individuals must take full responsibility for their own actions, and any welfare strictly limited. And most importantly, the state must ensure that currency is sound, backed by and exchangeable for gold coin. Tyler Durden Sun, 02/06/2022 - 07:35.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeFeb 6th, 2022

Around The World

Around The World Via Academy Securities, In this month’s edition of Around the World with Academy Securities, our Geopolitical Intelligence Group (GIG) focuses on providing their perspective on the following geopolitical risks and potential surprises for 2022: 1. Will Russia Invade Ukraine in 2022? 2. Will there be a China | Taiwan Conflict in 2022? 3. Potential for Military Action against Iran in 2022. 4. Risk of a Major Cyber Attack in 2022. In this report, we examine the potential geopolitical surprises/risks that we could see in 2022. We open with the high likelihood of a Russian incursion into Ukraine next year. Next, we review the tension between China and Taiwan and conclude that while an invasion in 2022 is unlikely, the risks grow over the next 3-5 years. We also revisit the Iranian nuclear discussions and while a return to the old JCPOA is unlikely, the chance of a U.S. attack on Iran is low next year. However, Israeli covert activities will continue against Iran’s nuclear facilities and there is a risk of a military strike if Iran gets close to a nuclear breakout. Finally, considering the high-profile ransomware attacks that occurred in 2021, we review the chances of a more significant cyber-attack on critical infrastructure in 2022. In addition to these areas, other risks our GIG sees in 2022 include the growth of Chinese influence in Central/South America (including in Nicaragua where the government there just flipped from supporting Taiwan to China) and a possible shift of support from Taiwan to China in Honduras as well. While the U.S. stands ready to “surge” economic aide to Honduras to encourage the new government there to maintain its ties with Taiwan, the fact that China is moving into the Western hemisphere and courting countries for support is concerning. Our GIG is also worried that the withdrawal from Afghanistan and a “fractured” NATO alliance could embolden our adversaries to act against U.S interests globally in 2022. Front and Center: Will Russia Invade Ukraine in 2022? In our last ATW and recent SITREP, we addressed the recent buildup of Russian troops on the Ukrainian border. Currently, there are ~100k troops near the Ukrainian border and the concern is that Putin could be in a position to invade by January 2022. While U.S. intelligence does not believe that Putin has made a final decision on whether to invade Ukraine, preparations are being made, including moving more Russian troops to the border and establishing the supply lines that could support a larger incursion into the country. In the December 7th virtual summit with President Putin, President Biden made it clear that there would be severe economic consequences if Russia were to move forward with an invasion. While it would require getting Germany to agree, there is a high likelihood that the Nord Stream 2 would not be granted final approvals if an invasion were to occur. With the high price of energy and a frigid winter heading to Europe, this would have both political and economic implications. In addition, the G7 (Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the U.S.) came out on December 13th with a statement that read, “Any use of force to change borders is strictly prohibited under international law…Russia should be in no doubt that further military aggression against Ukraine would have massive consequences and severe costs in response.” backslashWhile a move into Ukraine would come at a high cost, the fact that Ukraine appears to be moving away from Russia and closer to the West could be worth the risk for Putin. While not a NATO member, the U.S. has shown its support for Ukrainian independence and has supplied Ukraine with $2.5b in military support, including Javelin anti-tank systems. Putin views the collapse of the Soviet Union 30 years ago as the largest geopolitical disaster of the 20th Century. Putin is worried that the positioning of NATO missiles (pointed at Russia) in Ukraine could be an option one day and he will do everything in his power to convince the West that he is capable of mounting an invasion to bring Ukraine back into the Russian sphere of influence. To ease tensions, President Biden has been trying to organize a meeting including a few key European NATO members with Putin directly. This offer has angered some of the Eastern European NATO allies (i.e., the Baltic states). This concerns them because not only do these countries’ leaders feel that Russia should not have a say on who is included in NATO, but they also believe that Putin will use this meeting to further drive a wedge in between the West/East members of NATO. Putin has already demanded that NATO rescind the offer made in 2008 to include Ukraine and Georgia in the alliance at some point and that NATO should agree not to hold military exercises/deploy military forces to countries that border Russia. Our GIG will continue to closely monitor the situation, but chances are high that Putin takes advantage of a fractured NATO and executes a military incursion into Ukraine. In 2022, our GIG believes that there is a high chance of a Russian incursion into Ukraine after certain conditions are met and preparations are complete. “Russia has already taken parts of the Donbass region and Crimea from Ukraine. Putin wants all the previous Soviet Bloc countries back under his control. Ukraine is his biggest prize. He remains focused on intimidation, coercion, and influence operations to weaken and overthrow the Zelensky government. His approach is aimed at targeting Ukraine itself, NATO, and the EU. Expect him to continue to push on these doors and see how far he can get. I don’t see a cross-border invasion until a series of influence operations by Russia show weakness by the West. He is on that path.” - General Robert Walsh  “If we define "advance" as some number of Russian troops crossing the internationally recognized border between Ukraine and Russia, I'd say that the chances are high (with a moderate chance of a full-scale invasion in 2022). However, Russians in general absolutely hate to lose face in public. So, until someone comes up with a way for Putin to withdraw his troops from the border without losing face, the troops will remain there, and the threat of invasion will remain high.” - Captain Wendy Lawrence “Russia will continue to increase gray zone activity in Ukraine to set the conditions for Russia/Russian citizens to look like the victim and then take action to secure a portion of Ukraine, much like they did with Crimea.” - General KK Chinn “In 2022, there is more than a 50% chance (of invasion) as there is little downside from Putin’s perspective. The way this is developing is that Russia is testing the West (probing for weaknesses) and may attack if an opportunity presents itself. At the same time, Russian authorities understand that any attempt to occupy Ukrainian territory would face widespread public opposition and trigger sweeping western sanctions that could batter the Russian economy. The chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan may embolden Putin. The situation is complicated by the fact that Ukraine is a former part of the Soviet Union and it is not a member of NATO, and therefore the U.S. has no formal defense treaty obligations with Ukraine. However, it’s important to note that the U.S. and Ukraine did sign a strategic defense framework this past August that reiterates the DoD’s continued support for Ukraine’s right to decide its own foreign policy, free from outside interference, including Ukraine’s NATO aspirations. Right now, we really don’t know if the Russian troop buildup is a warning to NATO to back down or an actual buildup to launch an invasion. Putin is an expert at brinkmanship. His economy is not big enough to gain influence on the world stage so he’s using his military strength to wield power. That’s why you see pressure growing in the West to deter Putin from taking any aggressive action. He will push the EU and U.S. right up to the brink and then may blink or press into Ukraine. I think he just may push into Ukraine using tactics that are confusing and less than a conventional invasion, but none the less, Putin will use Russian forces on Ukrainian soil.” - General David Deptula Will there be a China | Taiwan Conflict in 2022? As we discussed in our previous ATW, President Biden met virtually with President Xi and discussed a wide range of topics including Taiwan, cyber, human rights, trade, Iran, and nuclear weapons. The goal of the meeting was to keep the lines of communication open and prevent a military accident that could quickly escalate. Dozens of incursions into the Taiwanese Air Defense Identification Zone this year have caused tensions to rise between China and Taiwan and even resulted in U.S. Secretary of Defense Austin calling these incursions “rehearsals” of China’s future intentions. With the U.S. shoring up its partnerships in the region, including the “Quad” and the nuclear submarine deal with Australia and the UK, China is feeling the pressure. While the risk of a nearterm crisis over Taiwan is slim with the upcoming Winter Olympics in Beijing, China continues to speak out against what it perceives as the U.S. overstepping its boundaries. The U.S. inviting Taiwan to the December 9th Summit for Democracy and diplomatically boycotting the Winter Games over human rights concerns have further enflamed the tension. China’s Xi believes that a unification with Taiwan must be “fulfilled,” and China’s military capabilities have grown over the past few years. The August 2021 Chinese test of a hypersonic missile, their development of the DF-21D medium range ballistic anti-ship missile, and their desire to drastically expand their nuclear capabilities have demonstrated that China’s military is not anywhere near the same force that quickly backed down during the 1996 Taiwan Strait Crisis. China has also expanded their reach into the South China Sea in “plain sight”. Making the situation even more complicated, Chinese and Russian joint naval exercises were conducted in October of this year. These actions reinforced the concern that U.S. adversaries will continue to engage with one another as they see a growing threat from U.S. partnerships in the region. In addition, during a virtual meeting between Xi and Putin on December 14th, regarding the situation on the Ukrainian border, Xi supported Putin’s request for security guarantees from the West. In 2022, our GIG sees a low chance of a Chinese move on Taiwan, but the risk rises significantly by 2025. However, there is a moderate/high risk of an incident involving China and one of our allies/partners in the region next year. “In the South China Sea, China’s military is itching to demonstrate their newly developed military capabilities. However, they will not go to war in the near-term until they feel that they have a “full domination” capability which will take years to develop. Expect small and more serious confrontational events to occur where China begins to intimidate and confront the Quad countries and their partners like we are already seeing with the Philippian Navy and Marine Corps. With respect to Taiwan, I don’t see this occurring in 2022 with the Beijing Olympics and the Chinese Communist Party holding its 20th National Party Congress. The intimidation campaign will continue to keep pushing on Taiwan to weaken their resolve along with their regional partners’ willingness to come to their aid.” - General Robert Walsh “It is not in the self-interest of China to invade Taiwan and be seen as the aggressor. China will continue to work gray zone activities to set conditions for them to be viewed as the victim of aggression and over time through the democratic process, slowly gain control of Taiwan by 2049. In the interim, it is important for the U.S./its allies and partners to remain united in confronting China. However, after the Olympics, there is a strong likelihood that there will be an incident that occurs between China and a member of the Quad/smaller nations in the region. China will continue to project their image as the dominant power player in the region and that they are the primary security provider in Asia. Look for rivals to acquiesce on territorial claims and China to project power to protect oil and natural resources within their nine-dash line.” - General KK Chinn “It depends on the definition of “confrontation,” but the likelihood of ships and aircraft "playing chicken" with each other is high and I think that China will be the aggressor. With respect to Taiwan, I suspect what China is doing right now is more of a pressure campaign than an actual preparation for an invasion.” - Captain Wendy Lawrence “Taiwan is an emotional issue for the PRC. If they were smart, they would back off today and take the long view. Within the next 100-200 years, Taiwan will assimilate into the PRC. However, the PRC sees the U.S. as unlikely to respond, and even if the U.S. does, the PRC feels that they will be able to defeat them, especially if they wait 2-3 years. They know that the U.S. has plans to recapitalize and grow their forces to meet the challenges that the PRC presents, but not until the early 2030s, so they may be willing to apply maximum pressure (to include military action) against Taiwan before 2030. How the U.S. works with the Quad could be key and a form of “containment” of the PRC and may be effective if orchestrated correctly.” - General David Deptula “Every century there has been a different leading state: U.S. (20th century), Britain (19th), France (18th), Netherlands (17th), Spain (16th). Who will it be in the 21st century? China’s 100-year plan/vision (1949-2049) ends with China being the dominant power in the world. Can the U.S. with its allies and partners unite the smaller and surrounding countries around China to choose sovereignty, freedom, democracy, and make the U.S. their primary security partner or will these countries choose their biggest trading partner (China)? Our strategic center of gravity is our allies and partners, and we need to leverage them to challenge both China and Russia with overwhelming threats in all domains to lend credence to conventional deterrence. Smaller countries matter because they have a vote in multilateral organizations like the UN. However, when under China’s control, they self-censure or support China’s action or get penalized economically. We must counter China’s political and economic influence by conducting strong messaging campaigns against China, reassuring allies that December 17, 2021 Around the World with Academy Securities 5 they can count on the U.S. as part of their larger national security strategy, which includes the deterrence umbrella, and that we will fulfill our long-term security commitments. The Arctic and Antarctica will become regions of great power competition between Russia, China, and the U.S. Both regions have the strong potential for oil and rare earth minerals that China will need in the future to fuel their growing economy. In Latin America in 2021, the leftist populist regimes (Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba, Bolivia, Argentina, Peru) leveraged or deepened relationships with China, Russia, Iran, and other U.S. rivals. There is a strong potential for this to continue in 2022 with the potential that Honduras, Chile, Colombia, and Brazil turn to China. The region is being enabled by money from our adversaries and we need to develop a strategy or risk losing the region. China flipped Nicaragua to sever diplomatic ties with Taiwan and we can expect Honduras to be next, leaving only Guatemala and Belize in Central America maintaining diplomatic ties with Taiwan. No surprise this was announced at the same time as the Biden administration’s Summit for Democracy. The harsh reality is that countries have options today and U.S. influence has diminished significantly in the Central America region and there is the risk that El Salvador, Costa Rica, Panama, and potentially Honduras could support China in the near future.” - General KK Chinn Potential for Military Action against Iran in 2022 n our October ATW and our most recent webinar, we discussed the likelihood of re-entering a nuclear deal with Iran. On December 4th, the talks adjourned allowing representatives from the parties involved, including Russia, China, Britain, France, and Germany to brief their respective governments. However, there was little optimism in a deal being reached. This development was not surprising as the new hard line chief negotiator, Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri Kani, believes the previous deal went too far in restricting Iran’s nuclear program and wants all sanctions to be removed and for the U.S. to agree not to leave the deal again. The state of the negotiations has deteriorated to the point that it is frustrating all parties involved, including China and Russia. Earlier this year, China signed a 25-year economic agreement with Iran and continues to buy Iranian oil in defiance of U.S. sanctions. China took a larger role in the negotiations in Vienna, which means that a breakthrough is possible, or the discussions are close to falling apart. China can use their leverage to their advantage, especially when it comes to other issues of tension with the U.S. However, if these talks do fail, besides sanctions targeting the oil sales to China, covert operations (led by Israel) will likely continue in Iran utilizing the vast network its intelligence service has built. Israel used its network to execute attacks on the nuclear facility at Natanz that not only damaged the buildings in the complex, but also the centrifuge systems. In addition, the Israelis have been conducting joint training exercises with the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet as well as with the UAE and Bahrain. Our GIG believes there is a low/moderate chance of a military attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities in 2022, but only after all available diplomatic means have been exhausted and Iran is close to a nuclear breakout, which would force Israel to take military action. “The JCPOA is DOA (i.e., not going to happen). However, the U.S. will take no action against Iran during a Biden administration because they have no stomach for it. Biden’s entire national security team is not interested in poking the Iranian beehive. To Israel however, Iran’s nuclear threat is real and they will take whatever action is necessary to nip it in the bud. Israel’s F-35s will be key in any military action along with cyber and Special Operations Forces.” - General David Deptula “There will be a miscalculation by Iran/Iranian proxies at some point in 2022 that will lead to the U.S. conducting military action against Iran. Israel will never allow Iran to develop into a nuclear capable country and will do whatever is necessary to stop Iran from attaining the capability through either covert or overt action.” - General KK Chinn “With respect to Israel, (an attack on Iran) is less likely now that Netanyahu is no longer in charge. But like Russia under Putin, it seems to me that Israel doesn't really care what the rest of the world thinks, especially when it comes to what the country perceives as self-preservation. If Iran attacks U.S. troops or assets, the U.S. will respond. If Iran doesn't instigate, then there is a low probability of U.S. action. Regarding the JCPOA, Iran will drag out negotiations, but I think something will get done by the end of the year.” - Captain Wendy Lawrence “I don’t see an attack by the U.S. on Iran happening in 2022. Also, the U.S. initiated JCPOA negotiations will force Israel to back off their own desire to attack Iran. Israel still respects the Biden administration enough to not act unilaterally. Biden is putting his reputation on the line to solve the nuclear weapons problem diplomatically through the JCPOA negotiations and the strategy he set during his election campaign. The Biden administration wants the JCPOA too much to let details get in the way. They will move throughout 2022 towards a renewed agreement even if they must concede leverage and concessions to Iran. This same negotiating group in the Biden administration negotiated the original agreement during the Obama administration and they are determined to get back to their original plan and reverse the Trump administration’s actions.” - General Robert Walsh Risk of a Major Cyber Attack in 2022 As we reported in our July and May ATWs, a cyber-attack on U.S. critical infrastructure orchestrated by a criminal group/state sponsor came to fruition in 2021. In May, a ransomware attack by a Russian criminal gang called Darkside took down the 5,500-mile Colonial Pipeline which supplies 45% of the East Coast’s fuel. While Putin denied supporting the attack, the event highlighted the vulnerabilities of critical infrastructure. In July, the Biden administration (and European allies) took the significant step of accusing China of the massive hack of the Microsoft Exchange email system. This email system is used by some of the world’s largest companies, including many defense firms. Cyber-attacks have become a global threat to critical infrastructure and in December, Israel led a 10-country exercise (including U.S., UK, United Arab Emirates, Germany, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Thailand, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank) that tried to increase cooperation between different entities in protecting the global financial system. In addition, the U.S. Cyber Command/NSA led by Gen. Paul M. Nakasone is getting more involved in gathering intelligence and “imposing costs” on entities tied to ransomware attacks on critical infrastructure. Our GIG believes there is a moderate/high risk of a cyber-attack on U.S. critical infrastructure in 2022 and that probability increases in the event of a military conflict. “There is a chance of a significant attack, but a critical cyber-attack against U.S. infrastructure will most likely be held as part of the initiation of, or along with, a major conflict somewhere else to distract and degrade a U.S. response. For example, a PRC move against Taiwan in the mid-2020s.” - General David Deptula “There is a small chance of an attack across the U.S. in an integrated fashion to deny or disrupt critical infrastructure that has regional or national strategic effects. However, there is a 50% chance we could see another Colonial Pipeline ransomware type attack that is more focused on individual companies for monetary gain.” - General Robert Walsh “If you think about it, how far away are we from digital risk leading to physical casualties in the future – hospitals, etc. There will be attacks and in a perfect world we will be able to defend against them so it will not cause a massive financial upheaval in the markets.” - General KK Chinn Tyler Durden Fri, 12/17/2021 - 18:05.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeDec 17th, 2021