Category Archives: Russia

Michael Hudson: Europe to Pay for the Whole Mess in Ukraine

Yves here. This discussion with Michael Hudson on RT focuses on the real meaning of the Ukraine-Russia gas deal. One point that Hudson makes that readers might doubt is that Russia loves the US sanctions. I’m not sure “love” is the right word, but there is reason to think they aren’t working out as the US had hoped. First, they’ve greatly increased Putin’s popularity. Even the intelligentsia in Moscow, who were hostile to him, have largely rallied to his side in the face of foreign bullying. Second, the Western press may be overstating the amount of damage done to the economy by the sanctions. Arguably the biggest negative is the fall in the price of oil, which came about growth in Europe and China slowing, and the Saudis announcing that they’d allow the price to reset at a much lower level than most analysts anticipated. But the ruble has been falling, which blunts that effect, but increases the drain on FX reserves as Russia tries to keep it falling too far and will increase inflation. Third, the sanctions have allowed Russia to engage in protection of domestic industries as a retaliatory measure, for instance, blocking many food imports from Europe.

Now all good well-indoctrinated neoliberals will say, “Trade protectionism merely allows domestic producers to become inefficient and uncompetitive.” It’s not so simple. Development economists are increasingly of the view that trade restrictions can help smaller economies develop domestic businesses to the point where they can compete in international markets, while if they foreign firms in, they’ll find it nearly impossible to build any local champions.

A colleague who does business in Russia but has no deep loyalties there, says he sees no signs of negative impact of the sanctions in Moscow (he describes it as now looking like any post World War II European capital). This is confirmed by recent surveys in Russia, so the lack of meaningful impact on Russian citizens isn’t an artifact of his seeing only the better parts of Moscow. Note that the latest EU forecasts anticipate very weak growth this year and next, as opposed to outright recession.

This visitor describes how the sanctions are helping Russian businesses. One of his friends has the Papa Johns franchise. They used to get their cheese from the Netherlands, but those supplies were cut off by the Russian sanctions against Europe. So they had to buy cheese domestically. It was cheaper but not as good. So he is working with the local farmers and cheese-makers to bring the cheese up to the standard of the cheese he used to import. So he expects to eventually have cheese that is lower cost than what he brought in and of comparable quality. And if he succeeded, the cheesemakers will be more competitive in Europe when the sanctions are relaxed.

The shorter version of this story is that Russia has a large enough domestic market and enough resources that unlike Iran, it may be closer to being able to function as an autarky when its imports and exports are restricted. The open question is whether it can go through the pain of a reset, with some serious and painful short-term dislocations, and escape the slow strangulation that the US claims it has imposed.

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Ukraine Blowback: Will Australia, Brazil, and Russia Lose Out to Africa as Low Cost Suppliers of Iron Ore?

Yves here, as John Helmer explains in this post, one of the many focuses of economic warfare between the US and Russia is production of iron ore, in which Russia is a large player. Helmer describes how Urkaine is pushing to produce iron ore at the minehead, which means in Africa. Not only would Russia suffer, but Australia and Brazil would take collateral damage.

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European Union Court of Justice Imposes Anti-Rasmussen Rule – Sanctions Cannot Be Imposed by Reason of Fabrication, Lies, Dissimulation

Yves here. A new ruling by the European Union Court of Justice is tantamount to shutting the gate door after the horses are in the next county. Nevertheless, it’s a striking if not well publicized indictment of US casualness about lobbing charges against countries on its enemies list.

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What Drives Obama’s Foreign Policy?

The intensity of US efforts to foment conflict in Ukraine and the Middle East continue to be treated by Mr. Market as a nothingburger, as witnessed by a continued slide in oil prices and continued complacency in global stock markets. Yet it’s hard to miss that there are significant microeconomic implications of the uptick in warmongering. The Administration is clearly going all in for the guns part of the classic guns versus butter budgetary tradeoff.

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World Bank Pays $500 Million to Ukraine Central Bank Despite Warnings of World Bank Board and IMF Staff

Yves here. We are pleased to introduce Naked Capitalism readers to John Helmer, a Moscow-based analyst and journalist who, in the words of Mark Ames, “writes about the murky convoluted world of the extraction industry, its politics, and its oligarchs.” Given that the extraction industry is increasingly driving geopolitics, his beat overlaps with our “follow the big money” orientation. For instance, Helmer did original reporting on the IMF-Ukraine relationship which provided crucial to a recent Michael Hudson post on Ukraine that was first published at NC. Today he continues his look at how the US is funneling money into Ukraine, this time via a sus World Bank loan.

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Mathew D. Rose: Merkel’s Götterdämmerung, Victory in Ukraine and Draghi’s Old Trick

Yves here. Mathew’s post describes the political and ideological dynamics that continue to drive failed austerity policies in Europe. But even more important, it also explains why Europe, and German leaders in particular, have fallen in line with the US and are escalating the conflict with Russia over Ukraine. As we’ve discussed, they’ve convinced themselves that Russia will suffer from the economic sanctions imposed by the US and EU before Russia can play its energy card. And some analysts further believe that Russia would not dare restrict gas supplies to Europe, that it cannot afford to lose the income.

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New Zealand Companies Office’s $612Mn Money-Laundering Snooze

The Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project recently (21st August) published one of their periodic investigations, concerning a rather large moneylaundering scheme: Call it the Laundromat. It’s a complex system for laundering more than $20 billion in Russian money stolen from the government by corrupt politicians or earned through organized crime activity. It was designed to not only […]

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New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, the Whale Oil Blog, and International Organized Crime

A new book is causing a stir in New Zealand. It’s called “Dirty Politics“. From the blurb:

Early in 2014 Nicky Hager was leaked a large number of email and online conversations from Cameron Slater’s Whale Oil blog. Many of these were between Slater and his personal allies on the hard right, revealing an ugly and destructive style of politics. But there were also many communications with the prime minister’s office and other Cabinet ministers in the National Government. They show us a side of Prime Minister John Key and his government of which most New Zealanders are completely unaware.

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Is the West Risking Financial Blowback From Sanctions on Russia?

The spectacle of insanely authoritarian policing in Ferguson, as well as media jitters over ISIS and ongoing reports of action in Gaza and Ukraine, has shifted attention a bit away from simply lousy economic results from Europe. That fragility could play in a nasty way into blowback from sanctions against Russia.

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