Archive for September, 2019

Look who’s not laughing!


International politics is a daunting subject for many. Understanding what is happening requires knowledge of history, firsthand experience with various countries and cultures, some understanding of foreign languages (since the information that’s available in English tends to be incomplete and slanted in a particular direction) and much else. But there is another approach that can produce good results even for a seven-year-old: reading facial expressions and body language of world leaders.

When everything is routine, world leaders generally manage to remain poker-faced or (in the case of American politicians) grinning stupidly with a vacant-eyed stare. But when things get interesting all sorts of ticks and grimaces and strange gestures and postures start showing up. And when you see one of the “world leaders” (in quotes because I use the term facetiously) looking like his entire life is flashing before his eyes at a joint press conference, you can be sure that something very funky is going down.

To wit: here is the Ukraine’s new, popularly elected president, Vladimir Zelensky, appearing next to Donald Trump and looking for all the world as if he really doesn’t want to be there. A bright seven-year-old will tell you that much (I checked) but we adults wish to know more. And so I will oblige and fill you in on some of the salient details.

So why is “Ze” (as hip young Ukrainians like to call him) looking so sad? Unless you’ve been held incommunicado in a log cabin up in the mountains, you probably know that Trump is in the process of being impeached by the lower chamber of the US parliament (or whatever they call it) which is held by his enemies. The impeachment is guaranteed to end up as a dead letter because the upper chamber (which is held by his friends) will never allow it. The rationale for the impeachment is that Trump is alleged to have coerced Zelensky to dig up dirt on his rival Joe Biden during a secret phone call, the allegation having been made in an anonymous secret memo that has turned out to contain only hearsay evidence.

Now, this is all just too funny because Joe Biden, being a senile old coot, has already voluntarily confessed, on camera and for all to see, to successfully strong-arming the Ukraine’s previous horribly corrupt oligarch-president, Petro Poroshenko into firing his chief prosecutor, who was investigating various shady dealings of Joe Biden’s coke fiend son Hunter with a Ukrainian gas company Burisma Holdings. And the fired prosecutor is now on record stating that he was fired for exactly that reason, so that’s that.

Still, the concoction that Trump tried to coerce Zelensky to dig up dirt on Biden (rather than merely ask him nicely) could have been given some legs (by carefully filtering out all relevant information in the US mass-media). But then Trump did something unspeakable: he removed the top secret classification from the transcript of his phone call with Ze and released it, as well as the anonymous secret memo. US presidents have the authority to release secret information at their sole discretion.

Let’s pause on this point for a moment. There is an excellent reason why telephone conversations between heads of state are considered top secret: if they weren’t, then it would make no sense for heads of state to ever talk to one another privately. They could just make public pronouncements, no deals would ever be negotiated, and international relations would fall apart completely.

Trump’s willingness to declassify and publish the transcript of a telephone conversation with the leader of a supposedly sovereign nation signals two things: the nation in question isn’t sovereign, and its leader is not a real leader. Certain things Trump said during his joint press conference with Zelensky clarified his position on the Ukraine. He said that supporting the Ukraine is a European problem, not a US problem. He also said that Zelensky should sort out his problems by talking to Putin.

Clearly, Trump views the Ukraine as a bit of Obama’s legacy that he is willing to sell for a dollar—except that nobody would want to buy it because it’s broken. Still, Trump was nice enough to say that the Ukraine has a bright future because of all the beautiful prostitutes I mean models… beauty pageant contestants… whatever. I am sure Trump was speaking from firsthand experience.

How broken is the Ukraine? Well, here is a newsflash: the Ukraine just lost a nuclear power plant. Khmelnitskaya Atomic Energy Station is no more. Its two reactors are down, probably permanently. One is supposedly shut down for \”routine maintenance\”—but nothing is particularly routine in that country these days. The other reactor has a completely totaled generator due to overheating caused by a wadded up rag that was left inside the cooling circuit for one of the shaft bearings.

The Ukraine used to have six plants with 15 reactors; now it\’s down to five plants and just nine reactors. These have been running flat out due to shortages of gas and coal, generating over half of the country’s electricity. This outage will require an additional million tonnes of coal (200-300 freight trains with 50 cars in each) and this coal can only come from… Russia, of course! Because Ukrainian coal is too low-quality—50% ash—and the Ukraine’s Soviet-era power plants can only burn it by mixing it with higher-quality Russian coal. But it can’t do so because Ukrainian railways are woefully short of locomotives and rolling stock and have been unable to bring the wheat harvest to the docks for shipping, never mind ship in an extra million tonnes of coal. Oh, and Russia would need to be paid for the coal, but the Ukrainians don\’t have any money left.

It is possible to go on and on in this vein, piling up evidence that the country is going to the dogs. Over three million Ukrainians are currently in Russia, trying to make a living as guest workers or attempting to relocate to Russia permanently. Many more are working in Poland or other parts of the EU. The previous Ukrainian president, who was voted out overwhelmingly in favor of Ze, has a stack of criminal cases pending against him… and so on.

The heating season has started but the Ukraine’s natural gas reserves are far too low to last the winter and there is no agreement for new imports from Russia or any hint of an active negotiation. People in the east of the country (which was part of Russia until Lenin handed it over to the Ukraine) are scrambling to get Russian passports. The government is eager to lift the moratorium on selling farmland to foreigners; one of the few remaining Ukrainian assets is its fertile soil. The Ukraine has lost some of the most valuable parts of its territory when Crimea voted to secede and the heavily industrialized eastern regions seceded de facto. In short, this is a never-ending sob story.

Against this backdrop, there is the Ukraine as a political construct. It is conceived of as a pro-Western, pro-American and anti-Russian entity. The use of the Russian language (which previously accounted for around 95% of all language use) has been outlawed. A fake alternative history of the Ukraine has been concocted and is being taught in schools. Ukrainian nationalists regularly march around Kiev sporting Nazi insignia and carrying torches. World War II Nazi collaborators who were responsible for massacring Poles and Jews have been enshrined as national heroes. The official narrative, from which no Ukrainian politician can ever deviate, is that the Ukraine is at war with Russia. This is most amusing, because the converse is obviously not the case: if Russia were indeed at war with the Ukraine, then the Ukraine would have ceased to exist—a point I made in an article I published five years ago.

This political construct was engineered by US officials (with Canadians pitching in) based on Zbigniew Brzezinski’s “grand chessboard” theory that the loss of the Ukraine would thwart Russia’s imperial ambitions. They all somehow missed two obvious points: that Russia has no imperial ambitions (it has all the land and the resources it could ever want); and that for Russia the Ukraine has been a drain and a burden, so good riddance!

In previous eras the Ukrainian territory had been essential in military terms—as a land buffer between Russia and a hostile West. But now that a hypersonic rocket launched from the middle of Siberia can reliably blow up the Pentagon 18 minutes later, Russia does not need any land buffers to defend its territory. If attacked, Russia will obliterate those who ordered the attack, no matter where in the world they live.

While the Ukraine, as part of the Russian world, is important, an important requirement for being part of the Russian world is willingness to die for it. The people in Eastern Ukraine have demonstrated such valor, and so they are given humanitarian aid and other forms of assistance and are issued Russian passports soon after they ask for them (and submit all of the required paperwork). As far as the rest, they have demonstrated quite a bit of anti-Russian hostility and an overwhelming willingness to sit around and do nothing while their country is being looted and destroyed, and so they will get nothing.

The last remaining use Russia has for the Ukraine is as a natural gas conduit to Europe. But given the political situation and the decrepit state of the Ukrainian gas transit network, Russia has worked hard to build pipelines that circumvent the Ukraine. These are now close to completion, obviating the need for Ukrainian gas transit. It should be kept in mind that while Europe would freeze and go dark if deprived of Russian natural gas, Russia could stop its natural gas exports altogether and still run a trade surplus. The existing gas transit deal expires at the end of 2019, and the new deal has been stuck at the stage of general discussions and is unlikely to ever advance to the stage of actual negotiations.

Given all of this, let’s try to put ourselves in Zelensky’s shoes. He is a Russian Jew. His native language is Russian, as is the case for all Russian Jews, wherever they happen to live, Israel and the Ukraine included. He speaks passable Ukrainian, as a second language, but often lapses into Russian while trying to speak Ukrainian. His English is rudimentary. Good, native knowledge of Ukrainian is rare among Russian Jews. The Ukraine’s large Jewish population, centered on Odessa, is educated, middle-class and for at least the last century has been an integral part of the greater Russian culture. Historically there has been little love lost between the city-dwelling Jews and the Ukrainian-speaking peasants inhabiting the rural hinterlands, who weren’t even allowed into the cities until after the Russian Revolution.

Isn’t it hilarious that a Russian Jew has been elected to rule over a bunch of Russia-hating Nazis? Add to this the fact that Zelensky is a comedic actor. He starred in a television show called “Servant of the People” in which he played the Ukrainian president. His election campaign was a continuation of the show in real life, made effortless by the loathsome nature of his predecessor, and he was elected in a landslide and granted a large parliamentary majority.

But then his presidency turned into a continuation of his comedy show, with predictable results. In fact, this is all predictable. During the Ukraine’s few brief periods of political independence, Ukrainian politics has never failed to degenerate into a farce. A bunch of Ukrainian Nazi-worshiping nationalists being presided over by a Russian Jew (who is a professional comedian to boot) is, you must concede, a thoroughly farcical state of affairs.

But Zelensky isn’t laughing; in fact, seated next to Trump, he projected abject misery. Why is that? The reasons are clear. By publishing the transcript of their telephone conversation, Trump treated him as a nonentity to whom the usual rules of secrecy governing private communications between leaders of sovereign nations do not apply. And then upon reading the transcript it becomes clear that Zelensky had grovelled shamefully before Trump, had bad-mouthed Merkel and Macron and had generally made a fool of himself. The context in which the transcript was released thrust Zelensky into the middle of a bitter partisan fight within the United States, in which he has no good moves: if he refuses to investigate Burisma Holdings, which is at the heart of the Biden scandal, Trump will never talk to him again; if he allows the investigation to proceed, Trump’s sworn enemies will go after his scalp.

And then there is the fact that Trump, in a few short sentences, completely demolished the entire political construct of modern Ukraine. For Trump, it was an Obama/Clinton legacy project, and, as with everything those two had ever touched, a failure and an embarrassment. Therefore, Trump’s message is, you are dismissed, and if you want help, then talk to the Europeans (whom you just insulted). Then, Trump wants good relations with Russia and has no need for a Russophobic Ukraine remote-controlled by elements of the Deep State. In telling Zelensky to go and talk to Putin, Trump stymied an entire unproductive and harmful direction of US foreign policy. The fallout was quick: US special envoy to the Ukraine Kurt Volker swiftly resigned.

Zelensky is now completely isolated. He can’t talk to Trump because Trump isn’t interested. He can’t talk to the Europeans because he had just insulted them. And he’s been told to talk to Putin… except he can’t. First, Putin has been endlessly painted as the image of the enemy in the Ukrainian press, and if Zelensky tries to make peace with Putin he will be made to look like a traitor and may face rebellion from within his own ranks.

Second, Putin has made it clear that there is nothing for them to discuss until Zelensky fulfills his promises, as spelled out in the Minsk agreements. Namely, the Ukrainian side has to stand down militarily and pass legislation to put in place a federalized structure in which Donetsk and Lugansk, and other regions if they so wish, are granted wide autonomy. But if this were to happen, then the Ukraine, in its current conception as a monoethnic unitary state, will cease to exist because there is no common ground between the pro-Western Nazis and the Russians in the east.

Previously, the Ukrainian government thrashed between these two extremes as a sort of bipolar disorder. But over the past five years the battle lines between the two sides have hardened into actual battle lines, with actual trenches and redoubts and real military weapons being fired from both sides, and the only plausible way forward is through divorce due to irreconcilable differences. But here too is a problem: while the Russian east of the Ukraine can hope for some amount of Russian support, although even there it won’t be given unconditionally, the chance that the European Union, in its current state of disunity, and given the politically unsavory nature of Ukrainian Nazis, will step up and help western Ukraine, is virtually nil.

Given all of this, it seems perfectly clear why the clown-cum-president “Ze” is now a sad clown. It’s a sad situation for him. He is quite talented as an actor, and quite funny (but only when speaking Russian) but now he has been cast in a distinctly unfunny role, which he will nevertheless be forced to play for five long eye-watering, nose-bleeding years! What a fate!

This is a sad story about a sad president, but not every president in the world is sad. To compensate, next I will tell you the story of a happy, smiling, laughing president: Hassan Rouhani of Iran. I haven’t seen such a happy president in a long time, and will explain what must be making him so happy.

Sergei Lavrov: “World at a Crossroads and a System of International Relations for the Future”


Sergei Lavrov is a world-class diplomatic heavyweight and Russia\’s foreign minister. As the saying goes, if you don\’t deal with Lavrov, you\’ll end up dealing with Sergei Shoigu, defense minister. This speech is important in the context of the borderline nonexistent relations between Russia and the United States. It explains why that is and orders ways out. The question is, are American government officials capable of accepting reality and acquiescing to the fact that the world has changed and that they are no longer the ones calling the shots.

These days, the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly opens up. So does a new international “political season”.

The session begins at a highly symbolic historical moment. Next year we will celebrate two great and interconnected anniversaries – the 75th Anniversary of the Victory in the Great Patriotic and Second World Wars, and the establishment of the UN.

Reflecting on the spiritual and moral significance of these landmark events, one needs to bear in mind the enormous political meaning of the Victory that ended one of the most brutal wars in the history of mankind.

The defeat of fascism in 1945 had fundamentally affected the further course of world history and created conditions for establishing a post-war world order. The UN Charter became its bearing frame and a key source of international law to this day. The UN-centric system still preserves its sustainability and has a great degree of resilience. It actually is kind of a safety net that ensures peaceful development of mankind amid largely natural divergence of interests and rivalries among leading powers. The War-time experience of ideology-free cooperation of states with different socioeconomic and political systems is still highly relevant.

It is regrettable that these obvious truths are being deliberately silenced or ignored by certain influential forces in the West. Moreover, some have intensified attempts at privatizing the Victory, expunging from memory the Soviet Union’s role in the defeat of Nazism, condemning to oblivion the Red Army’s feat of sacrifice and liberation, forgetting the many millions of Soviet citizens who perished during the War, wiping out from history the consequences of the ruinous policy of appeasement. From this perspective, it is easy to grasp the essence of the concept of expounding the equality of the totalitarian regimes. Its purpose is not just to belittle the Soviet contribution to the Victory, but also to retrospectively strip our country of its historic role as an architect and guarantor of the post-war world order, and label it a “revisionist power” that is posing a threat to the well-being of the so-called free world.

Interpreting the past in such a manner also means that some of our partners see the establishment of a transatlantic link and the permanent implanting of the US military presence in Europe as a major achievement of the post-war system of international relations. This is definitely not the scenario the Allies had in mind while creating the United Nations.

The Soviet Union disintegrated; the Berlin Wall, which had symbolically separated the two “camps,” fell; the irreconcilable ideological stand-off that defined the framework of world politics in virtually all spheres and regions became a thing of the past – yet, these tectonic shifts unfortunately failed to bring the triumph of a unifying agenda. Instead, all we could hear were triumphant pronouncements that the “end of history” had come and that from now on there would be only one global decision-making center.

It is obvious today that efforts to establish a unipolar model have failed. The transformation of the world order has become irreversible. New major players wielding a sustainable economic base seek to increase their influence on regional and global developments; they are fully entitled to claim a greater role in the decision-making process. There is a growing demand for more just and inclusive system. The overwhelming majority of members of the international community reject arrogant neocolonial policies that are employed all over again to empower certain countries to impose their will on others.

All that is greatly disturbing to those who for centuries have been accustomed to setting the patterns of global development by employing exclusive advantages. While the majority of states aspire to a more just system of international relations and genuine rather than declarative respect for the UN Charter principles, these demands come up against the policies desighned to preserve an order allowing a narrow group of countries and transnational corporations to reap from the fruits of globalization. The West’s response to the ongoing developments reveals true worldview of its proponents. Their rhetoric on liberalism, democracy and human rights goes hand in hand with the policies of inequality, injustice, selfishness and a belief in their own exceptionalism.

“Liberalism”, that the West claims to defend, focuses on individuals and their rights and freedoms. This begs the question: how does this correlate with the policy of sanctions, economic strangulation and overt military threats against a number of independent countries such as Cuba, Iran, Venezuela, North Korea or Syria? Sanctions directly strike at ordinary people and their well-being and violate their social and economic rights. How does the bombing of sovereign nations, the deliberate policy of destroying their statehood leading to the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives and condemning millions of Iraqis, Libyans, Syrians and representatives of other peoples to innumerable suffering add up to the imperative of protecting human rights? The reckless Arab Spring gamble destroyed the unique ethnic and religious mosaic in the Middle East and North Africa.

In Europe, the proponents of liberal concepts get along quite well with massive violations of the Russian-speaking population rights in a number of EU and EU-neighboring countries. Those countries violate multilateral international conventions by adopting laws that infringe language and education rights of ethnic minorities.

What is “liberal” about visa denials and other sanctions imposed by the West on residents of Russia’s Crimea? They are punished for their democratic vote in favour of reunification with their historical homeland. Does this not contradict the basic right of the people to free self-determination, let alone the right of the citizens to freedom of movement enshrined in international conventions?

Liberalism, or rather its real undistorted essence, has always been an important component of political philosophy both in Russia and worldwide. However, the multiplicity of development models does not allow us to say that the Western “basket” of liberal values has no alternative. And, of course, these values cannot be carried “on bayonets” – ignoring the history of states, their cultural and political identities. Grief and destruction caused by “liberal” aerial bombings are a clear indication of what this can lead to.

The West’s unwillingness to accept today\’s realities, when after centuries of economic, political and military domination it is losing the prerogative of being the only one to shape the global agenda, gave rise to the concept of a “rules-based order.” These “rules” are being invented and selectively combined depending on the fleeting needs of the people behind it, and the West persistently introduces this language into everyday usage. The concept is by no means abstract and is actively being implemented. Its purpose is to replace the universally agreed international legal instruments and mechanisms with narrow formats, where alternative, non-consensual methods for resolving various international problems are developed in circumvention of a legitimate multilateral framework. In other words, the expectation is to usurp the decision-making process on key issues.

The intentions of those who initiated this “rules-based order” concept affect the exceptional powers of the UN Security Council. A recent example: when the United States and its allies failed to convince the Security Council to approve politicized decisions that accused, without any proof, the Syrian government of using prohibited toxic substances, they started to promote the “rules” they needed through the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). By manipulating the existing procedures in flagrant violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention, they managed (with the votes of a minority of the countries participating in this Convention) to license the OPCW Technical Secretariat to identify those responsible for the use of chemical weapons, which was a direct intrusion in the prerogatives of the UN Security Council. One can also observe similar attempts to “privatize” the secretariats of international organizations in order to advance interests outside of the framework of universal intergovernmental mechanisms in such areas as biological non-proliferation, peacekeeping, prevention of doping in sports and others.

The initiatives to regulate journalism seeking to suppress media freedom in an arbitrary way, the interventionist ideology of “responsibility to protect”, which justifies violent “humanitarian interventions” without UN Security Council approval under the pretext of an imminent threat to the safety of civilians are part of the same policy.

Separately, attention should be paid to the controversial concept of “countering violent extremism”, which lays the blame for the dissemination of radical ideologies and expansion of the social base of terrorism on political regimes that the West has proclaimed undemocratic, illiberal or authoritarian. This concept provides for direct outreach to civil society over the head of legitimate governments. Obviously, the true goal is to withdraw counterterrorism efforts from beneath the UN umbrella and to obtain a tool of interference in the internal affairs of states.

The introduction of such new concepts is a dangerous phenomenon of revisionism, which rejects the principles of international law embodied in the UN Charter and paves the way back to the times of confrontation and antagonism. It is for a reason that the West is openly discussing a new divide between “the rules-based liberal order” and “authoritarian powers.”

Revisionism clearly manifests itself in the area of strategic stability. The US torpedoing first the ABM Treaty and now the INF Treaty (a decision that enjoys unanimous NATO members’ support) have generated risks of dismantling the entire architecture of nuclear arms control agreements. The prospects of the Treaty on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (The New START) are vague – because the US has not given a clear answer to the Russian proposal to agree to extend the New START beyond its expiry date in February 2021.

Now we are witnessing alarming signs that a media campaign in the United States is being launched to lay the groundwork for abandoning the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (which has not been ratified by the United States). This calls into question the future of this treaty, which is vital for international peace and security. Washington has embarked upon the implementation of its plans to deploy weapons in outer space, rejecting proposals to agree on a universal moratorium on such activities.

There is one more example of introducing revisionist “rules”: the US withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran’s nuclear program, a multilateral agreement approved by the UN Security Council that is of key importance for the nuclear non-proliferation.

Yet another example is Washington’s open refusal to implement unanimous UN Security Council resolutions on the settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In the economic field, the “rules” consist of protectionist barriers, sanctions, abuse of the status of the US dollar as the principle means of payment, ensuring competitive advantages by non-market methods, and extraterritorial use of US laws, even towards the United States’ closest allies.

At the same time, our American colleagues are persistently trying to mobilise all of their foreign partners to contain Russia and China. Simultaneously they do not conceal their wish to sow discord between Moscow and Beijing and undermine multilateral alliances and regional integration projects in Eurasia and Asia-Pacific that are operating outside of the US oversight. Pressure is exerted on those countries that do not play by the rules imposed on them and dare make the “wrong choice” of cooperating with US “adversaries”.

So, what do we have as a result? In politics, erosion of the international legal basis, growth of instability and unsustainability, chaotic fragmentation of the global landscape and deepening mistrust between those involved in the international life. In the area of security, blurring of the dividing line between military and non-military means of achieving foreign policy goals, militarization of international relations, increased reliance on nuclear weapons in US security doctrines, lowering the threshold for the use of such armaments, the emergence of new hotbeds of armed conflicts, the persistence of the global terrorist threat, and militarization of the cyberspace. In the world economy, increased volatility, tougher competition for markets, energy resources and their supply routes, trade wars and undermining the multilateral trade system. We can add a surge of migration and deepening of ethnic and religious strife. Do we need such a “rules-based” world order?

Against this background, attempts by Western liberal ideologues to portray Russia as a “revisionist force” are simply absurd. We were among the first to draw attention to the transformation of the global political and economic systems that cannot remain static due to the objective march of history. It would be appropriate to mention here that the concept of multipolarity in international relations that accurately reflects emerging economic and geopolitical realities was formulated two decades ago by the outstanding Russian statesman Yevgeny Primakov. His intellectual legacy remains relevant now as we mark the 90th anniversary of his birth.

As is evident from the experience of recent years, using unilateral tools to address global problems is doomed to failure. The West-promoted “order” does not meet the needs of humankind’s harmonious development. This “order” is non-inclusive, aims to revise the key international legal mechanisms, rejects the principle of collective action in the relations between states, and by definition cannot generate solutions to global problems that would be viable and stable in the long term rather than seek a propaganda effect within an electoral cycle in this or that country.

What is being proposed by Russia? First of all, it is necessary to keep abreast of the times and recognise the obvious: the emergence of a polycentric world architecture is an irreversible process, no matter how hard anyone tries to artificially hold it back (let alone send it in reverse). Most countries don’t want to be held hostage to someone else’s geopolitical calculations and are determined to conduct nationally oriented domestic and foreign policies. It is our common interest to ensure that multipolarity is not based on a stark balance of power like it was at the earlier stages of human history (for example, in the 19th and the first half of the 20th century), but rather bears a just, democratic and unifying nature, takes into account the approaches and concerns of all those taking part in the international relations without an exception, and ensures a stable and secure future.

There are some people in the West who often speculate that polycentric world order inevitably leads to more chaos and confrontation because the “centers of power” will fail to come to terms among themselves and take responsible decisions. But, firstly, why not try? What if it works? For this, all that is necessary is to start talks on the understanding that the parties should seek a balance of interests. Attempts to invent ones’ own “rules” and impose them on all others as the absolute truth should be stopped. From now on, all parties should strictly comply with the principles enshrined in the UN Charter, starting with the respect for the sovereign equality of states regardless of their size, system of government or development model. Paradoxically, countries that portray themselves as paragons of democracy actually care about it only as they demand from other countries to “put their house in order” on a West-inspired pattern. But as soon as the need arises for democracy in intergovernmental relations, they immediately evade honest talk or attempt to interpret international legal norms at their own discretion.

No doubt, life does not stand still. While taking good care of the post-WWII system of international relations that relies on the United Nations, it is also necessary to cautiously though gradually adjust it to the realities of the current geopolitical landscape. This is completely relevant for the UN Security Council, where, judging by today’s standards, the West is unfairly overrepresented. We are confident that reforming the Security Council shall take into account interests of the Asian, the African and the Latin American nations whilst any such design must rest upon the principle of the broadest consensus among the UN member states. The same approach should apply to refining the world trade system, with special attention paid to harmonizing the integration projects in various regions.

We should use to the fullest the potential of the G20, an ambitious, all-encompassing global governance body that represents the interests of all key players and takes unanimous decisions. Other associations are playing a growing role as well, alliances projecting the spirit of a true and democratic multipolarity, based on voluntary participation, consensus, values of equality and sound pragmatism, and refraining from confrontation and bloc approaches. These include BRICS and the SCO, which our country is an active member of and which Russia will chair in 2020.

It is evident that without collective effort and without unbiased partnership under the central coordinating role of the UN it is impossible to curb confrontational tendencies, build up trust and cope with common threats and challenges. It is high time to come to terms on uniform interpretation of the principles and norms of international law rather than try to follow the old saying “might goes before right”. It is more difficult to broker deals than to put forward demands. But patiently negotiated trade-offs will be a much more reliable vehicle for predictable handling of international affairs. Such an approach is badly needed to launch substantive talks on the terms and conditions of a reliable and just system of equal and indivisible security in the Euro-Atlantic and Eurasia. This objective has been declared multiple times at the top level in the OSCE documents. It is necessary to move from words to deeds. The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) have repeatedly expressed their readiness to contribute to such efforts.

It is important to increase our assistance to the peaceful resolution of numerous conflicts, be it in the Middle East, Africa, Asia, Latin America or the post-Soviet space. The main point is to live up to the earlier arrangements rather than to invent pretexts for refusing to adhere to the obligations.

As of today, it is especially relevant to counter religious and ethnic intolerance. We urge all the nations to work together to prepare for the World Conference on Interfaith and Inter-Ethnic Dialogue that will be held in Russia in May 2022 under the auspices of the Inter-Parliamentary Union and the UN. The OSCE that has formulated a principled position condemning anti-Semitism should act with equal resolve toward Christianophobia and Islamophobia.

Our unconditional priority is to continue providing assistance to the unhindered formation of the Greater Eurasian Partnership, a broad integration framework stretching from the Atlantic to the Pacific that involves the member states of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and all other countries of the Eurasian continent, including the EU countries. It would be unwise to contain the unifying processes or, worse still, to put up fences. It would be a mistake to reject the obvious strategic advantages of the common Eurasian region in an increasingly competitive world.

Consistent movement towards this constructive goal will allow us not only to keep up the dynamic development of the national economies and to remove obstacles to the movement of goods, capital, labor and services, but it will also create a solid foundation of security and stability throughout the vast region from Lisbon to Jakarta.

Will the multipolar world continue to take shape through cooperation and harmonization of interests or through confrontation and rivalry? This depends on all of us. Russia will continue to promote a positive and unifying agenda aimed at removing the old dividing lines and preventing the appearance of new ones. Russia has advanced initiatives to prevent an arms race in outer space, establish efficient mechanisms for combating terrorism, including chemical and biological terrorism, and to agree upon practical measures to prevent the use of cyberspace for undermining national security or for other criminal purposes.

Our proposals to launch a serious discussion on all aspects of strategic stability in the modern era are still on the table.

There have been ideas floated recently to modify the agenda and update the terms. The proposed subjects for discussion vary between “strategic rivalry” and “multilateral deterrence.” Terminology is negotiable, but it is not terms but the essence that really matters. It is now much more important to start a strategic dialogue on the existing threats and risks and to seek consensus on a commonly acceptable agenda. Yet another outstanding statesman from our country, Andrey Gromyko (his 110th birth anniversary we mark this year) said wisely: “Better to have ten years of negotiations than one day of war.”

Trouble at the Asset Detox


Remember the term “toxic assets”? Google Trends shows a huge spike for this search term in March of 2009 and then… nothing. We don’t call them “toxic assets” any more, we just call them “assets” now, please don’t talk back and just listen. There are some things you just have to accept as facts.

For instance, the size of the US sovereign debt doesn’t matter. For instance, Americans can print all the money they want. For instance, interest rates are set by the Federal Reserve and can always be set low enough so that interest payments on the federal debt can always be made. For instance, the US dollar is the world’s reserve currency—always was and always will be.

That’s why the US federal debt will NEVER be defaulted on no matter how huge it gets. These are articles of faith in the US financial system. You want your swipey-card to continue working at the supermarket, don’t you? If so, go on believing! Not only that, but keep clapping… because if you don’t, this is what will happen and children everywhere will burst into tears.

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Who Blew Up The Oil Market?


It couldn’t have happened to a nicer oil processing plant. There it was, sitting out in the Saudi desert, processing seven million barrels a day of crude oil, defended by hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of “made in the USA” weapons systems, and the Yemenis take it out using some drones they knocked together in a bombed-out garage, programmed by somebody’s nerdy AI-whiz nephew. And now, all of a sudden, 8% of global oil production can’t be shipped because until it’s processed it isn’t exactly oil. What happened, who is responsible, and what does it mean for you? Please allow me to lay it all out for you…

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Bolt-on, Bolt-off!


Lots of people have had lots of things to say about Trump’s firing of his odious, warmongering national security advisor John Bolton, but none of them stated the obvious. And so, once again, it is my turn to step into the breach and set everyone straight on the logic behind Trump’s madness, because it actually exists and is simple, rock-solid and effective. Furthermore, it will work every time, and there is nothing anyone can do to stop him.

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The Bolsheviks Are Coming! (Part I)


Suppose you are an American. And suppose you spent the last 60 years laying in quiet repose in a freezer chest after expertly injecting yourself with enough glycerine to keep ice crystals from disrupting your cellular membranes. Lord only knows why the heck you did that, but that’s all past tense now. Anyhow, now it’s 2019 and for some other unfathomable reason your great-grandchildren dig you out of the freezer chest, defrost you, zap you a few times with a cattle prod to get your heart pumping, walk you around for a bit while feeding you strong black coffee and here you are again, good as new and ready for action.

Next thing you know your great-grandkids (or so they say) start telling you about life in America in 2019. They tell you that rent now eats up half of their incomes and that they can’t even dream of ever buying a house, never mind hoping to ever own it free and clear. They tell you that their college tuitions will take them a lifetime to repay and will probably eventually come out of their retirement savings (if they ever have any, which they presently don’t). They tell you that instead of leaving an inheritance their parents passed away leaving them useless, run-down property encumbered with huge medical debts for their end-of-life palliative medical care. When you wonder where all the children have gone, they patiently explain to you that it is now too expensive to have children, even with both mommy and daddy working full-time, unless mommy is a single mother, in which case the government pays her based on how many children she has with random men who aren’t allowed to live with her (and spend most of their time in jail in any case).

All of this unwelcome new information leaves you somewhat bewildered, but having been a man of the world with a wide mental outlook and a head for numbers you decide to zoom out a bit and take in the big picture, to see if you can figure out what the hell happened to your country. And you discover that the US government has gone well over $20 trillion into debt and is on course to continue taking on around $1 trillion in new debt every year just to stay solvent. You discover that something like half of that debt is owned by foreign countries that are actively arguing among themselves about the best way to unload it and stock up on gold instead. You are shocked to discover that federal, state and local governments have taken on some truly ridiculous amount of liabilities, to the tune of hundreds of trillions depending on how you estimate them, with no conceivable way of covering them.

And then you hear that the best and brightest hope for the US being able to claw itself away from the edge of the largest financial abyss the planet has ever experienced is something called Modern Monetary Theory, according to which sovereign governments can print money at will to make sure that their resources (natural and labor) are fully utilized and can do this with no negative consequences whatsoever. Being of an analytical bent of mind, you find it extremely hard to see how a country that owes trillions to foreigners, imports half of everything it consumes, no longer manufactures much of anything and would be forced to declare sovereign default shortly after it stops borrowing larger and larger sums can be called sovereign. The term doesn’t apply to what to all appearances is a permanent custodial arrangement with private transnational and foreign entities, with ¾ of the roughly $2 trillion of US cash, mostly in bundles of $100 bills (which few Americans have ever seen) held abroad. And so, although realizing that you are perhaps being a bit too quick to jump to conclusions, you nevertheless cannot repress the feeling that in this case unconstrained money printing will give exactly the same result as it has in every other case—Weimar Germany, Zimbabwe, Venezuela, etc.—namely, hyperinflation and economic collapse.

Delving a bit into military matters, you discover that the US spends more on the military than the rest of the world combined, maintains a thousand military bases all over the planet, but hasn’t prevailed in a single military conflict since World War II. You also find that the US has fallen far behind both Russia and China in weapons development, to a point where most of what the US has is obsolete and completely useless. Finding it difficult to obtain useful information about the rest of the world from American mass media sources, you put your linguistic training to good use and find that around the world people are actively laughing at and ridiculing Americans for their boneheaded obstinacy in claiming military superiority when in fact they are now woefully inadequate on every level except when it comes to embezzling public funds—the one category where they are truly matchless. And so you reach an obvious conclusion: clearly, the United States has lost the Cold War.

Finally, you hear the worst news of all: the highest office in the land—the one in the White House—has been taken over by a tyrant and a usurper, a racist-sexist-misogynist-fascist-homophobe (yadda-yadda), a megalomaniacal vandal who was installed by the Russians. But this, you are told, is about to change: in 2020 there will be a glorious new election in which droves of young people will show up and vote for a thoroughly socialist administration that will destroy the old world order down to the foundation and erect a brave new world in its place. Scores of companies will be nationalized and forced to serve public needs instead of trying to be profitable. There will be free health care, free education, open borders and a guaranteed income for all. And Modern Monetary Theory will pay for all of it. In the process, greenhouse gas emissions, cow farts and all, will completely disappear; hot air exhaled by politicians will contain only noble gases; cows will be reprogrammed to produce soy milk. With help from magic elves, cars will be powered by wind generators and solar panels. Chains of tradition shall be rent asunder and a perfect new world shall be born full of racial and gender equality and guaranteed positive outcomes for everyone. Being well versed in history, you do not have to think too hard about what this new political movement should be called: Bolshevism. And since you already know how that story ends, you climb back into your freezer chest to wait things out.

Kollapsens fem stadier: Handbok för överlevare


My book The Five Stages of Collapse: Survivors\’ Toolkit is out in Swedish.

Collapse and the Technosphere