Russia’s Economic War Front, The New Tributary System & The Russian Kowtow

Yves here. We’ve pointed out that Russia has yet to deploy some significant economic sanctions against the West, presumably because Russia still hopes to negotiate a peace and have the US and Europe drop the choke chain….although even then, they would need to wait a bit until tempers have cooled and unwind them slowly. We’ve mentioned having Russia seize Western assets and break patents as possible countermeasures.

We need to remind readers that even hard core Tory and Russia hater Ambrose Evans-Pritchard said that Russia would eventually win any sanctions war, it had too large a position in too many essential commodities.

This article is a translation of an article describing the possibilities, by Olga Samofalova, translated and introduced by John Helmer.

By John Helmer, the longest continuously serving foreign correspondent in Russia, and the only western journalist to direct his own bureau independent of single national or commercial ties. Helmer has also been a professor of political science, and an advisor to government heads in Greece, the United States, and Asia. He is the first and only member of a US presidential administration (Jimmy Carter) to establish himself in Russia. Originally published at Dances with Bears

The ancient difference between the confiscation of your assets and a tax by force was the mandate of Heaven. This was the public announcement from God, transmitted through fellows wearing funny hats and costumes accompanied by drumbeats and whistles. When God wants to stick you up, they said, you’d better hand over your money or your life.

These days the rulers of the US, the European Union (EU) and Canada call this the “Rules Based Order”. That’s to say:  I make the rules, you take my orders. The meaning is still the ancient one – your money or your life.

The Chinese empire has been famous for a dress-up ceremony in which those who made the rules received the agreement of those who took the orders. It was called the kowtow. Nine kowtow was the standard,  plus expensive gifts.   The Roman empire and most of its successors, called it tributum, tribute.  Over the years, other names for it have been tax, protection money, and a gender specific form of kowtow popular in England and France called the ius primae noctis, droit de seigneur, or lord’s right.

The quaintness of the ceremony varies from place to place.  The British empire demanded its colonial peoples wave a small Union Jack in the left-hand corner of their independence flag. They also required their subject children’s pilgrimage at least once in their lives to the fence of Buckingham Palace in London for at least one performance of the Changing of the Guard.

In keeping with the times since 1945, the US empire has been more straightforward. It doesn’t require pilgrimages to the White House fence for children of tender age.  It does require you keep the US dollar in your pocket, or the local currency whose value is fixed in proportion, and whose state surpluses of taxation and pension funds must be stored in US Treasury notes, as well as the dollar.

In Russia, starting in 1991, Boris Yeltsin innovated on these measures by inviting US advisors  to run the Russian economy, which Yeltsin paid for by imposing a 100% tax on ordinary Russians’ salaries. This started the system of oligarchs whom Yeltsin allowed to dispatch and store, tax free, in the US, UK and EU as much state capital and income as they could carry off.  How that system has worked for the past thirty years, oligarch by oligarch, has been the subject of analysis here.    The effort has not gone without recognition.

At this very moment, the oligarchs are facing a Christian tax, but it’s not the Russian one you might think they have earned.  Instead, the 100% tax is being imposed in the form of  confiscation statutes by the US, UK and EU.   This is  not economic warfare so much as the application of the principle that what the oligarchs have been doing to Russians should now be done to them, according to the Mandate of Heaven as recorded in the Gospel of Matthew 7:12, Luke 6:31.

The Mandate of Heaven can also be found on the bottom of the US dollar note. That’s the signature line where the Treasurer of the United States and the Secretary of the Treasury promise to pay “all debts public and private”. Like other US treaty signatures, this no longer applies to  Russians, common ones, oligarchs, or the state, according to this novelty in the Rules Based Order. Russians must now sell everything in the country of value for US dollars – oil, gas, coal, uranium, aluminium, titanium, wheat, potash, urea, bank loan debts, airplane leases, etc. But  those dollars cannot be used by Russians to buy anything else. That value has been confiscated.

The response is still being formulated in Moscow. Russian government officials, members of the State Duma, the Central Bank of Russia, the General Staff, the oligarchs and their lobbyists have yet to agree. The terms of the debate are still largely secret; here was an opening shot against the Central Bank by Sergei Glazyev.

To avoid the time-demanding task of reading through this website archive, here’s a 15-minute  guide in pictures to the way the tributary system works, and the Chinese way of doing things. The ancient way, not the way of the partnership between President Vladimir Putin and President Xi Jinping.

To follow the current US dollar pricing of the Russian commodity exports which dominate the world, and whose prices are accelerating past previous record highs, according to the new Mandate of Heaven, click on Trading Economics for each commodity report and chart.

Now to understand what Russians propose to do, what form their kowtow will take, or not, here is what Vzglyad (“Viewpoint”), the leading Moscow source for security strategy and tactics, is reporting from Olga Samofalova. Her report has been translated and reproduced here without editing; the illustrations have been added. Click to read the original in Russian.

“What is Russia’s economic response that frightens the West — Russia has economic trump cards up its sleeve

By Olga Samofalova

The West’s tough sanctions war with Russia may lead to an equally tough economic response from Moscow. And in the form of an answer which six days ago seemed beyond belief. However, right now Russia’s refusal to pay Western debts and impose an embargo on the sale of oil and gas to Europe look like the scenarios that will work effectively. Notwithstanding, for the time being, Russian gas transit through Ukraine continues to move; the volume has even doubled.

So far, Russia has responded only to the part of the Western sanctions where it is easiest to do so. For example, in response to the EU ban on Russian aircraft flying, Moscow immediately banned flights to European carriers and added a ban on flying over Russian territory. This will make flights from Europe to Asia longer and more expensive.

With retaliatory sanctions, which are more difficult to decide on because they strike unpleasantly at Russian business, Moscow is in no hurry. It is better to calculate all the consequences once again.

For example, it is difficult to respond symmetrically to the ban on selling and servicing Airbus aircraft to Russia. ‘This actually deprives the Russian market of about 40% of passenger traffic. In response, it is possible to prohibit the supply of titanium to Europe, since titanium, which is needed in the production of airbuses, is of two-thirds Russian origin,’ says Exante analyst Vladimir Ananyev.

There has been no response to the sanctions against Russia’s largest banks and Russian reserves. Here Moscow has thrown all its efforts into mitigating the consequences on the economy and the ruble from the economic restrictions of the West. Also, it’s difficult to respond without hurting yourself.

Russia may refuse to pay its foreign debts, Oxford Economics admits.  According to their estimates, payments by Russian borrowers on debt obligations in hard currency this year amount to about $55 billion, and sovereign bonds amount to $2.6 billion. If Russia is deprived of access to its accumulated foreign exchange reserves of $640 billion and to SWIFT payment systems, then Russia may well be unwilling to pay its debts.

‘The logic is this: why send money abroad if our assets are frozen there? Formally, this will mean the defaults of our issuers. Although in market conditions, without sanctions, nothing like this would have happened. But in such conflicts, economic logic no longer works. The confrontation can grow to the rupture of all economic ties with the West — the arrest of everything Russian abroad and the arrest of everything foreign in Russia,’ says Ananyev.

However, instead of such a drastic response, we can use the tactics of a graduated escalation of  strikes. For example, Russia has export goods in its arsenal without which the European economy and the life of Europeans can deteriorate sharply. Among the relatively strong retaliatory measures may be a ban on Russia’s export of fertilizers to the EU.

‘Fertilizer prices are rising in the world. Therefore, the ban on their export will be a real gift for farmers and local consumers. It will restrain prices within the country, and on the other hand, it will sharply increase the costs of European agricultural companies. This will result in even greater food inflation in the European countries’, says Ananyev.



Europe also values Russian metals very much. And this means that it is possible to introduce a ban on the export of a particular metal step by step. ‘The ban on the export of palladium will hit the European automotive industry, as this metal is used in catalysts for cleaning exhaust gases. At the same time, the ban on the export of nickel and cobalt will negatively affect the already expensive production of electric vehicles,’ Ananyev notes.

Probably, according to this logic the authorities can come up with a number of similar bans on the export of goods important to Europeans from Russia.

Russia’s toughest response to Western sanctions may be the refusal to supply Russian hydrocarbons — oil, gas and coal. This is a powerful trump card up Moscow’s sleeve, which, in practice, is helping to restrain European politicians from total economic sanctions. Not all Russian banks fall under the restrictions, but not everyone is disconnected from SWIFT either. Export operations are becoming more complicated, but even with tough sanctions, Brussels is leaving a window of opportunity for quite normal mutual trade.

Now, generally speaking, Russian hydrocarbons have gone beyond the limits of the overall geopolitical situation. Brussels has limited itself, in fact, to the formal revocation of the certification of the Nord Stream–2 project on the first day of Russia’s special operation, and that’s it. But this gas pipeline has not been launched yet, so ‘stopping’ it is the easiest thing for Europe.

Other gas pipelines continue to operate and pump gas to Europe. Moreover, Russian gas continues to flow through the Ukrainian gas transmission system without interruptions, as has been reported by the Ukrainian GTS operator itself.

‘The supply of Russian Urals oil is also going on as if nothing has happened. The publications of foreign media that allegedly the markets are already afraid to buy Russian oil (in particular, China) do not correspond to reality. It has been speculation that they were just afraid that the money for the goods would get stuck because of the sanctions. But the fears have quickly passed. Statistics show that both yesterday and today purchases of Russian oil have even increased. Oil shipments are proceeding on a normal schedule both through the ESPO [Eastern Siberia Pacific Ocean] pipeline and through the [Pacific] port of Kozmino, and through Novorossiysk [Black Sea], and through Ust-Luga [Baltic],’ says Igor Yushkov, an expert at the Financial University under the Government of the Russian Federation  [FNEB] and the National Energy Security Fund.

Gas supplies to Europe are not just going through the Ukrainian pipeline, they have also grown. The Europeans have increased their supply requests, and Gazprom has begun pumping through the Ukrainian pipeline instead of 50 million cubic meters of gas per day, as it was before the start of Russia’s special operation in Ukraine, all 109 million cubic meters of gas per day, an increase of two times, the expert notes.  This is the mandatory maximum which is fixed in the contract.

‘Europe has started to buy more imported gas for economic reasons. Their underground storage facilities have been depleted, there is almost nothing there. Therefore, Europeans are switching to current imports. The Europeans are trying to take the supply of hydrocarbons beyond the curbs of the sanctions,” the expert of the FNEB believes.

But Russia can stop the supply of hydrocarbons as a retaliatory measure if it considers Western sanctions to be catastrophic for the Russian economy, Yushkov warns. ‘If earlier this measure looked fantastic and delusional, now this option can be considered as a working one, but still as a last resort,’ the expert says.

‘Already the game is going on without rules. The most pessimistic scenario of the conflict is the seizure by the West of all accounts and property of all Russian residents. Then the response can be absolutely anything, up to the refusal to supply energy resources. The logic is this: why sell oil and gas if the currency earned for them is frozen on the accounts?’ says Ananyev. This is certainly the most extreme step that Moscow might take. Because it seriously hits not only Europe and the global economy, but also Russia itself.

After Western sanctions against Russian reserves, the Central Bank of Russia partially loses its role as a supplier of currency to the domestic market. Instead, export companies should now saturate the Russian market with currency and, in fact, be responsible for the ruble exchange rate. To do this, they have been required  to sell 80% of their foreign exchange earnings [to the Central Bank].

‘Hydrocarbon exporters are becoming currency donors to the Russian market. This currency will then be bought by companies which will purchase goods for import. This fact also indicates that the scenario of stopping the export of hydrocarbons is not considered as the main one,”’ Yushkov believes.

However, if that is implemented, then Armageddon will happen. Not only Russia and Europe will suffer, but also the entire world economy. But as in any confrontation, there will be those who will earn good money on this.

‘Stopping oil supplies to the United States and the European Union in the first stage will cause a global shortage of black gold. Then the global restructuring of the market will begin. Russia will send all its oil to Asian markets in order to maintain export volumes. And those suppliers which  were on the Asian market will send their oil to the European and American markets to replace Russian raw materials.

But while this redistribution of oil and supplies is happening, there will be a shock on the world market and gas prices will soar to $150-$200 per thousand cubic meters’, says Yushkov.

This will affect not only the global energy sector, but also the entire global economy. ‘With such oil and gas prices, it will become generally unprofitable to transport many goods by sea or over long distances, because the cost of delivery will seriously increase, the freight rate for tankers will become more expensive,’ the expert of the National Oil and Gas Company notes.

The problems with supply disruptions and rising food prices which the world has faced during the pandemic may not seem like problems at all compared to what might come next in the world.

Stopping gas supplies to Europe is even more disastrous in terms of consequences for both sides. Russia will not be able to transfer West Siberian gas, which goes through pipelines to Europe, to other markets. There is no gas pipeline for such a volume to China or other Asian countries. To send gas by sea by tankers, it needs to be liquefied, but Russia does not have so many LNG plants for this, or gas carriers too. This means that Russia will have to stop production. ‘In the western direction, if without Turkey, there is about 150 billion cubic meters of gas from Russia. Where will we put so much gas if we don’t supply it to Europe? Nowhere. We’ll have to stop lifting the gas. This means that the world market will lose these volumes, and immediately there will be a large deficit of gas in the supply-demand balance of the European Union,’ says Yushkov.

‘No matter what anyone says, Europe will have nowhere to take such volumes of gas from. The world is not able to increase production by 150 billion cubic meters. Europeans will try to switch to other energy sources. An attempt to switch to coal will fail, since Russia is also the largest supplier of coal to the EU. The Europeans will try to launch everything that is possible: all the shut-down nuclear power plants [to reopen], the closed coal deposits in Germany and Poland.’

‘But this will not save Europe from being plunged into darkness. Electricity will be supplied by the hour in portions and only to individual consumers. If this happens during the heating season, then Europeans will also remain without heating. The world energy crisis of 1973 will seem like flower show,’ Yushkov argues.

As for LNG, Asia will not just give away the gas it needs and has contracted for. A price war will begin for suppliers who will earn good money on this. But consumers will definitely feel the withdrawal of 150 billion cubic meters of Russian gas from the market. There are more European buyers than Asian ones. Europe accounts for about 70% of Russian gas supplies and 50% of oil. Hydrocarbons bring in almost half of the state’s budget revenues. This will be a serious blow to Russia.

‘But when there is an economic war, cars, flights abroad,  are no longer needed, and basic needs like food, light in homes,  and fuel come to the fore. And Russia is provided with all this, unlike most countries of the world and Europe. The availability of a resource base allows us to set up any form of production, though  it will take time and organization. But at least that is real, whereas without raw materials any industry becomes useless,’ Ananyev concludes.”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. bwilli123

    Yves/Lambert I cannot see any of the images posted above in either Firefox, or Safari on Mac. Right clicking on an image brings up Cloudflare saying host is not responding. At the same time (from Australia) I can successfully view the both article & images directly at

  2. Stove Goblin

    Russia exports a lot of commodities, including titanium sponge, because the energy costs to forge such material from raw elements is low. However, Russia imports most of its titanium minerals that are forged into a tradable commodity from… Ukraine. Russia’s production has a lot less of the worldwide market share than state media claims here. The US purchases titanium sponge from Japan, who has no mineral wealth at all, and Kazakhstan.

    Russia’s GDP is between Italy and South Korea. But it is Russia’s conveniently located hydrocarbons that are the finger around which global business yo-yo’s. — As it was said in the 2002-03 run up to the Iraq invasion, “no blood for oil”.

    1. lance ringquist

      i have friends that still cannot figure out russias economy, going way back to 1917. the small military budget of russia has out produced the technology of americas massive military budget and GDP.

      even after gorby sold out his country, about 60-65% of russias economy like chinas, needs no stinkin profits. so no profits, or small profits means low GDP, yet that low GDP has not much of a affect on russias ability to innovate.

      as i stated yesterday, russia needs to bone up on MMT and autarky pronto, and it looks like they are. although they are hesitant, i would not be.

      there is no working with free traders. their world wide view is whats mine is mine, whats yours is mine.

      and since what we got today took centuries to accomplish for the free trading parasites, they will not give it up period, that is why they are so hysterical, paranoid, and very very dangerous.

      world wide views of the supremacy of western GDP may end with millions, or billions being incenerrated due to arrogance from a system that will implode the minute plunder has been exhausted.

      1. Dftbs

        Maybe dollar denominated gdp isn’t an accurate measurement. To illustrate the point here is a quote from Patrick Armstrong that gets to the deep truths about National economies.

        What the people in the West do not understand is the ruble is the currency the Russians use inside the country but the price of oil and gas is the Russian currency outside the country.

        In the real world power isn’t measured by Marvel Movies, Instagram influencers and NFTs. And we’re being quickly reintroduced to reality.

  3. The Rev Kev

    What a mess. This is how you create a massive inflation as you have massive amounts money chasing massive amounts of goods that suddenly are no longer there. The thing that bothers me is this. There must be some economic office or bureau in Washington that could have looked at what Russia exported/manufactured, worked out how much could be substituted, how much could not be substituted at all, and what would be the effect on the world economy. Short answer? Russia can hurt us a lot more than we can hurt them. Just the markets for grains has gone ballistic as the northern Black Sea region has become a no-go zone. So the question is whether any hypothetical report on an economic ban of Russia was done, if it was distributed or whether if such a report may have been suppressed in Washington.

    1. Brian Beijer

      Could it be that all of these analyses were done, and TPTB answer was, “We think the price is worth it”.
      After all, it won’t be them who suffer.

      Lesley Stahl on U.S. sanctions against Iraq: We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?

      Secretary of State Madeleine Albright: I think this is a very hard choice, but the price–we think the price is worth it.

      —60 Minutes (5/12/96)

      1. Dean

        The view of the elites articulated succinctly and cloaked in economic terms:

        Half a million dead children was worth the price.

    2. lance ringquist

      just about any brains left in the american government was pushed out by nafta billy clinton in 1993.

      this mess we are in today, is actually viewed as nirvana by the free traders. this scenario where a few can dictate to the world has taken centuries to achieve by the true believers, its like a religion passed down from generation, to generation, and they are not about to give it up period, because of their feverish beliefs tells them that this is the way it should be.

      remember when nafta billy clinton told the truth what kosovo was really about.

      so beware, many will perish on the funeral pyre of free trade economics.

        1. lance ringquist

          Clearly this is fascism,

          “bill clinton did this,
          NATO bombed Yugoslavia for 78 days following accusations that Milošević was ethnically cleansing Albanians in Kosovo.
          The late Milošević was quietly and de facto cleared of all charges by the Hague Tribunal in 2016, but by the time the truth came out, Yugoslavia was long gone, broken into seven, more manageable and exploitable, countries. One of those profiteers, Albright’s financial management company, was involved in the privatization of Kosovo’s telecommunications company. From Wikipedia, one can learn that she too likely profits well from her war mongering, along with other untouchables”

          bill clinton did this to the mexicans,
          “There’s no other option for us. It’s either certain death in our villages where we can’t survive, largely due to NAFTA, or maybe dying on the road.”

          “a bill clinton mouth piece,
          In a March 28 New York Times article, Thomas Friedman wrote:
          “For globalization to work, America can’t be afraid to act like the almighty superpower that it is… The hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist. McDonald’s cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas, the designer of the F-15. And the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley’s technologies is called the United States Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.”
          As NATO troops entered Kosovo, the same newspaper announced Kosovo’s new currency will be the U.S. dollar or German mark, currencies of the two countries most responsible for Yugoslavia’s break-up. And after months of being told that Slobodan Milosevic was the problem, we heard Washington Balkans expert, Daniel Serwer, explain:
          “It’s not a single person that’s at issue, there’s a regime in place in Belgrade that is incompatible with the kind of economy that the World Bank… has to insist on…”

          ” Bill Clinton elaborated:
          “If we’re going to have a strong economic relationship that includes our ability to sell around the world Europe has got to be the key; that’s what this Kosovo thing is all about… It’s globalism versus tribalism.”
          “Tribalism” was the word used by 19th century free trade liberals to describe nationalism. And this war was all about threatening any nation which might have ideas of independence.”

    3. drumlin woodchuckles

      Such an analysis would run counter to Free Traidor Ideology and Interest. So to prevent the gathering of any data which might call Free Trade into doubt, such a study might well be prevented from ever happening.

    4. Mikeyjoe

      Has prices are up 40 cents in NY in one week. Traffic volume for commuting is still the same of course. But traffic volume for non-committing on the weekend is much lower.

    5. mike elwin

      Given how much damage Russia can do to our economies, the question occurs: why didn’t Putin use Russia’s economic might instead of its military? He wouldn’t have engendered nearly the reaction he has, he wouldn’t have thrown away decades of good will Russia had earned, etc.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        The US had refused since 2014 to implement the Minsk Accord, which would have considerably de-escalated the situation.

        France and Germany tried to revive it.

        On Feb 15, Zelensky said no.

        On Feb 17, at the Munich security conference, Zelensky escalated by saying Ukraine wanted nukes. Kamala Harris was on the stage. There was no climbdown in the next couple of days.

        Russia had concluded the Ukrainian neoNazis were also a big part of its problem, and they were becoming more and more embedded in the military and indoctrinating soldiers. One can surmise Russia felt it had to take matters into its own hand, since the US wasn’t even willing to agree that Russia had the right to security guarantees, as in a right to exist.

        Russia has not used any of its economic weapons. The damage being done is the direct result of US sanctions. That’s why India and Saudi Arabia are siding with Russia. If Russia had pulled that trigger, it would have alienated India and the global South.

  4. David Jones

    I think one of the most important points linked to this is that the use of economic sanctions by the US etc. may be subject to diminishing returns.

    Put yourself in the position of a small/ medium sized country.After watching what the Empire has done to Russia,Cuba, Venezuela, etc. would you really recommend that your countries wealth reside in the West where it is capable of being stolen at whim?

    1. lance ringquist

      it all depends on the leadership, if you get a nafta type like what trudeau of canada is, or gorby or yeltsin, they will have no quibbles at all about their countries and peoples wealth getting err, redistributed to the free trade oligarchs, its a natural progression to them.

      they view this as a fact of nature. they will say it to your face with a complete straight face, because they believe it is so.

    2. Polar Socialist

      You mean the delegation USA send to Venezuela to courtship Maduro to gain access to Venezuelan crude may have a lot of groweling and convincing to do.

      Almost like the past decades are coming home to roost.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        For the first time in years, Venezuela has a very strong hand. Heavy venezuelan crude is important in the mix balance for fracked tight oil. The US needs Venezuela to keep pumping, and high prices should be helping Caracas a lot. I hope they play this hand well.

  5. Turn720

    “The British empire demanded its colonial peoples wave a small Union Jack in the left-hand corner of their independence flag. They also required their subject children’s pilgrimage at least once in their lives to the fence of Buckingham Palace in London for at least one performance of the Changing of the Guard.”

    This is absurd – bad enough to make you question the legitimacy of anything said.

      1. Greg

        Except enough commonwealth flags have a jack in the corner that it’s not clear it is a joke. And the changing of the guard thing is just really weird. Like the sort of thing you’d see claimed on Fox or some other insular American media.

        1. jonhoops

          The changing of the guard bit was way over the top to signal that he was joking on these details, but in a sense not joking about the power relation between the Empire and it’s colonies. At a certain point Britain ceded home rule to their colonies and they became “Dominions” , but they were still essentially colonies until Britain lost it’s pre-eminent position between the wars to the US. After WWII those colonies became more truly independent. It is worth noting that the Head of State for Canada, Australia and New Zealand is still the Queen.

    1. Altandmain

      The flag part is no joke. Many British Commonwealths do indeed have a Union Jack.

      In fact, I live in a place that has one.

      Many nations, such as Australia have a union jack in their flag.

  6. Tom Stone

    The breathtaking stupidity and incompetence of US Foreign policy is once more on display.

    1. Screwball

      Sure is, and the stupidity is spreading. Small town Ohio here. Our Mayor is Tweeting about this again. He’s never weighted in foreign policy before, but he is now – again. He posted a link to a Politico article on how Putin underestimated how hard the Ukrainians were willing to fight, then called Putin a dictator surrounded by yes men who provide unquestioning loyalty and ego stroking.


      He’s only in his late 20s. Young for a mayor of a small town. Changed his background to a “we stand with Ukraine” banner. So he’s all in with war and sanctions.

      He’s not old enough to remember the Cuban Missile crisis of 1962. Too bad, maybe he would be so war-mongerish. It scares me when so many seem to be on the warmongering wagon. This isn’t a game, and they don’t seem to understand that.

      My PMC friends are equally, if not more so – nuts. They have a theory that this is a plot from Putin to get Trump back in the Whitehouse. Putin will ask for peace negotiations, but only if Trump is the negotiator. They will come to an agreement, Russia will stop the war, and Trump will be the hero and get re-elected in November. They would rather send Hillary.

      Is that crazy or what? But that is how unhinged these people are. From the PMC class to my goofy Mayor. Where is the exit door off this crazy ride?

      I went to Gas Buddy and took a screenshot of the local gas prices, all around $3.75 a gallon. I posted it to the mayors Tweet and said “your move general.”

      1. ArvidMartensen

        The military didn’t spend hundreds of millions to develop and grow the Internet as a public service. They did it to progressively indoctrinate the young people into thinking that anyone who doesn’t believe in US “democracy” is evil, mad, psychopathic, racist, sexist, etc etc, But most of all, immoral, so as to use young people’s idealism against them.
        So now all over the world we are seeing the results of the Pentagon’s communications system, ie the internet. Young people everywhere are heeding the call and no understanding of the issues is needed. Except maybe not so much in countries with large populations of non-English speaking peoples.
        But like the stock market, when the market soars to the greatest heights ever and everybody knows that it will continue to go up forever, then is the exact time to sell because it is in delusion territory and ready to fall hard.

        1. oknotko

          You think it’s the young people that are so blindly patriotic? I think you’ve got that backwards. It’s the older generations who are largely stuck in the good Vs evil, cowboys and Indians version of reality.
          It’s the red scare all over again.
          The internet allows a far greater set of viewpoints to be heard and shown rather than just consuming one of four or five corporate owned TV stations or newspapers.

  7. David

    As often with Helmer, much of this is very sensible and informative, and then you come across garbage like the following:

    “The British empire demanded its colonial peoples wave a small Union Jack in the left-hand corner of their independence flag. They also required their subject children’s pilgrimage at least once in their lives to the fence of Buckingham Palace in London for at least one performance of the Changing of the Guard.”

    Leaving aside the confusion for a minute (“colonial peoples” don’t have independence by definition) and supposing charitably that he means the Commonwealth (which can’t impose anything) a quick glance a Wikipedia would show the the overwhelming majority of Commonwealth countries don’t have the Union Jack in their flags at all. The ones that do – Australia, New Zealand, Canada as I recall – were Dominions, which gives them a special status. And the idea of millions of colonial subjects in the 1950s going to London … I must have missed that. Satire, you may say? Perhaps, but it’s so poorly expressed that it doesn’t work as satire, it just shows ignorance. Oh, and on examination the droit de seigneur seems largely to have been a myth.

    This is what annoys me about Helmer: he seems to operate without a self-checking mechanism of any kind, in almost stream-of-consciousness mode, and clearly never has anyone read his articles before they’re published. Far too often, when I know something about the subject, I realise he’s wrong. I just hope his grip on Russia is better than his grip on English history.

    1. flora

      I don’t disagree with you. I only note that I think Helmer is writing from Moscow and it wouldn’t surprise me if he includes these sorts of nonsense paras about the west to ‘please’ his host country in order to get his articles published, much the way the US MSM all fell in line with certain obligatory paras about out-of-favor US politicians, for example, to avoid being cancelled. This is just a little idea about context. I could be all wrong.

        1. BRL

          The Crown’s negotiations with “colonial peoples” included insisting that they agreed to the inclusion of the Union Flag in their Independence flag. Literally true. The subsequent sentence is a lighter shade of irony hinting at the fact that the major cities of the made life in the UK more tolerable as we became visibly multi-cultural in just over a decade and helped to take us out of the drab ‘fifties into the swinging sixties.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        Does that mean we have to perform “kremlinology” on everything Helmer writes, to try and outguess which is sincerely meant as against which is just “necessary hat-tipping propaganda” to placate his Russian hosts?

        1. Greg

          Either interpretation requires a dance of translation that renders the information value of what he has to say much lower than it could be.
          I’m inclined to write him off as another casualty of full-bore infowar for a few months and check back later to see if he’s become more useful again.

    2. The View From Howe Street.

      I took it for what it is, a joke but if Helmer’s sense of humor hurts how his points hit he might think of restraining himself. The quality of one’s communication is only as good as the understanding it creates. Or some other Tony Robbins quote.

      As for the Mandate of Heaven video, I was not reincarnated to ancient China. To be clear.

  8. John B

    It’s important not to exaggerate the damage to Western interests Russia could inflict with patent or other IP retaliation. Russia itself is not a very major market for Western IP or products embodying it. Russia could try to export products in competition with Western companies (like a Russian version of Windows or Humira, a Crohn’s drug) but few large countries would accept that, given international IP agreements, aggressive US IP policy, and the IP concerns of their own industries.

    Of course, some people would buy unlicensed Russian goods, especially in poor countries. Western corporations might indeed complain this was costing them trillions of dollars, but that would be a deliberate exaggeration by those corporations. For example, if a pharmaceutical company sells an AIDS drug under license for $100,000, and someone else sells an unlicensed version of that drug to Sudan, the pharmaceutical company will complain it lost $100,000. Yet there is no chance many Sudanese would pay $100,000 for that drug. Maybe $1. So the company’s real loss — the amount of money it could realistically have sold the drug for — is only $1. The unlicensed sale may save a life at a cost to big pharma of only $1 but IP industries and lobbyists do not like that calculation and prefer to publicize larger figures. In that sense, if Russia were to abrogate Western IP rights and start exporting, the benefit to the human species might be incalculable, but the real cost to Western corporations would be relatively slight.

    1. Greg

      It sounds very similar to the “street value” calculations that drug enforcement agencies and police perform.

  9. Susan the other

    It is amusing to look at the evolution of politics. Whether Chinese or American. The whole idea of a tribute is still very much alive and not even quaint yet. The US tried to achieve its tribute the way the British Empire did it. Not with direct trade but with tariffs and currencies that had fictitious purchasing power. Extraction. And terrorizing anyone who stepped out of line. If Helmer is applying this history of dominance by politics (now by finance rather than bloody murder) to Russia’s overwhelming advantage in commodities it seems pretty logical. That “tribute” was a privilege and paid to establish trading relationships with the Emperor (I think China refers to the US as “the old emperor”) would imply that we are all gonna pay tribute one way or another to Russia because Russia has all the natural resources. And a massive military complex. So tribute has shifted away from the financialized tribute the West has been enjoying with the southern Hemisphere – aka the “strong dollar” which has been as pure a fiction as the Mandate of Heaven – to actual trade in essential goods and resources. And there’s no faster way for us imperious fools to make this as clear as the Mandate of Heaven than by cutting Russia off from Swift or boycotting their commodities. To spite our face. There is no face-saving to be had here.

  10. Charlie Sheldon

    I studied Russian language in college, took an intensive class that met nine times a week, six mornings at 8am, speaking only, no writing or paper. Our teacher drove from New York City (I bet the Russian community there) to New Haven every day for the 8am class, he was a Cossack named Dujin, and I think he was a Ukranian, because he was one of those Russians who joined the Germans to fight the communists. He was very proud that he rode in the last cavalry charge, ever. He was a short, brick-like, man, very proud, with a wonderful laugh. For some reason he would talk with me after class, now and then, in English, and he was a fount of information. This was a rather long time ago (1966) but even then I remember thinking, this guy has a baseline of life that is more basic, and tougher, than his life today, even driving all that way every day. I went to Russia again in 1994, Kamchatka, in the east, was there for two weeks, managed to recover enough forgotten language to converse like a four year old. The Empire had fallen, but recently, the land was awash in hustlers and con men, inflation was rampant, yet the people were proud, facing whatever reality now before them. I stayed one night with a couple that had one little boy. The husband was a hunter of the great bear. The only toys the little boy had were two plastic cowboys and Indians. They had a VCR though and they knew who Arnold was. I remember thinking, those two weeks in a country that seemed faded, right in the heart of one launching point into the Gulag (Magadan), that these people had lived generations with uncertainty and difficulty and change. We took a bus up the peninsula to a place called Milkovo, and the bus would storp and pick up people, too. On the bus with us were our Russian colleagues or handlers, and we speculated as to who was the KGB person. We stopped once by a small military outpost and a man in his 50s, wearing a uniform, got on, and he had some English. He gave me a new card – “consultant” – and I asked him what he had been doing and he said, “Protecting my country from you,” with a huge smile. When we landed in Magadan from Alaska, going in, when we landed we passed broken down Russian military jets all along the runway. One of our members, after a week in country and more adventures than I have time to relate here, said, “We spent our lives afraid of these guys?”

    All of this to say that in the last 30 years I think the guiding Western assumption was that the Russians like everyone else would leap at becoming just like we Americans – big box stores, piles of goodies, democracy, buddies. I don’t think there is much question that people, given the chance, will grab many of the “benefits” of Western culture, all the low price shit, the brands, the toys and tools. But I think the parallel assumption – that people everywhere will adopt the same values – is dead wrong, because in the last 30 years China has grabbed the goodies yet kept a different system (politically) as has Russia and many of its former vassals.

    Then even later I changed careers once again and went back to sea as a merchant sailor and I ended up sailing with Eastern Europeans and Russians (notice the distinction, made even in MSM, yet they are the same people!). One of these guys was a Pole who had been a kid fishing on Georges Bank back when I had been there losing lobster gear to the Russian fleet in 1972-1973; another was a Russian who was another fount of information.

    So my extremely small, unscientific sample of Russian language, culture and people over a period of nearly 50 years showed me again and again these were and are a proud people, with a long and great tradition of suffering, triumph, and failure, of injustice and horror and struggle, always surviving, suffering it out, with a wonderful and very dark, and funny, sense of humor.

    So I would say, yes, the understanding these people can survive on less than others is correct, just as it is correct to know that if all fails the Russians will have the land, the forests, the energy supplies, the fields, and the generations-long character to somehow prevail. And if it comes to pass we end up with totally isolated blocs, a full repudiation of the global economic system that has been evolving since at least the end of WW2, you can be sure those in the Russian bloc will handle things a heck of a lot better than we Americans or the Europeans. At least, I think that is the case. What I know, however, is that these sanctions against Russia – the Russian people – will almost certainly bring them in a very short time not to overthrowing Putin but instead expressing their love of their nation in a wave of support to withstand this attack on their being.

    1. Rainlover

      This past year I finally got around to reading John Reed’s 10 Days That Shook The World. I was struck by the unabashed emotion that the Russian workers showed in those days and how they would break out in song during practically any activity in spite of their physical misery. Reed wrote in detail about the suffering of the front line soldiers and yet, knowing this, young men were still rushing off to the front lines to defend Mother Russia.

      Reed also recorded the spirit of mutual aid among the workers who would share their last potato. For me, it was a window into Russian culture at a very particular time, yet informed by centuries of history. Americans lack this embodied sense of community and that lack may be their downfall.

      1. JBird4049

        >>>Americans lack this embodied sense of community and that lack may be their downfall.

        We Americans had this sense of community, to a lesser extent true, but still there and strong. However, it has been destroyed in the past century because those who rule us wanted to control us, which meant weakening us. This is one of the reasons for shipping all of the industry overseas. No industry, no unions. No unions, no strength.

        Liquid modernity as well has destroyed much of the culture that made our community, but its effects were enhanced and aimed at the social glue. I do not know just how much of this was deliberate or just incidental to greed; like how the gold miners of California were destroying whole mountains using hydraulic mining to wear them down and screen out the gold. That the silt was filling up the streams, rivers, and even the bays was not the point, but extracting the gold was. California’s legislature banned it in the 19th century despite the laissez-faire, free market, no regulation ideology and the massive exploitation of the environment then.

        However it happened, it happened, and needs to be reversed like with the destruction of manufacturing in the past and the growing destruction of science and education. We do live in interesting times don’t we?

      1. Tom Doak

        Yes. Just donate a few million dollars to the PAC of the next two Presidents, and maybe you’ll get there!

    2. UnhingedBecauseLucid

      If they could only ditch the cartoonishly infantile Orwellian indoctrination and governance style, everyone, themselves included, would be better off…

    3. russophilately

      I cannot but laugh that these hoary Orientalist cliches about Russia, the Russian soul and ability to suffer are treated as magnificent insights, when if they were proffered up about many other nationalities/ethnic groups/races, they’d be laughed at or worse. Particularly when the evidence is a Russian class 50+ years ago, a trip to wilder parts 30-odd years later, and some encounters with ship crewmen. It’s the slavic version of the Noble Savage – just a-loving that suffering!
      First, just about every one of these cliches would apply to Ukrainians as well (not to mention several other nationalities such as Belarusians, with minor adjustments to culinary tastes and other stereotypes). A few choice and rich ones were left out of course, like vodka-opera-bears-need for rule by authoritarian strongmen (and ‘a people not suited for democracy.’)
      Second, and the worst generalization, the Russian people will proudly bear more suffering in the form of sanctions etc due to love of nation (compared to some other people I guess who are guilty of insufficient patriotism and excessive love of non-suffering) rather than overthrowing their leaders… [checks history books for popular uprisings, revolts, etc.; cross-references with brutal suppression. Yep, that checks out, none of those in Russian history.] Again, compared to whom – the Ukrainians? Belarusians?
      Perhaps the relevant metrics are not willingness or desire to overthrow leaders or swallow suffering, but ability to influence policy, belief in that ability, avenues and methods to express dissent, and the various measures ruling regimes have deployed against – just for some examples of relevant factors. Russians exceed primarily by the sheer quantity of such suffering – not clear to me the ability or willingness is so much higher, just more ‘opportunity’.
      But probably my lack of exposure to Russia (in 15+ years of living and working there, fluency) is insufficient to have appreciated the deep truth of these stereotypes.

      1. lemele

        Brilliant! This articles anecdotal and touching folk tales celebrating misery and powerlessness are pure race propaganda and myths. I guess this new war is just another Olympic festival to convene and contest the politics of submission and pain! What is going on here? My 95 year old, Auschwitz surviving, Jewish mom breaks down and cries when she sees images of Roma and mentally handicapped kids gassed by the Nazis at the Holocaust museum, not the cattle car she was stuffed in at 13, because it’s just human suffering period that moves her. It’s not them or us to her. I think we can all agree humans have suffered a lot, and the “special operation” is just causing more. It needs to stop now. And regarding Russians having defendend their homeland, and thinking Americans won’t… it’s just plain absurd. Sorry but I don’t believe Putins invoking Russia’s entitlement to Ukraine and the superior capacity of the Russian souls capacity to endure misery is going to be enough to sustain his soldiers and citizens through the fallout (maybe literal radioactive fallout) his insane aggresion will bring. He’ll be dumped by 2023.

    4. The View From Howe Street

      My father was 12 years old when the German Army invaded the Netherlands in 1940 and 17 when they were pushed out. I’m turning 60 this year and the ripples from my fathers young life during that occupation still have deep effects on me and my worldview in another country on another continent. His 39 year old grand daughter has completed a PhD in political science in Canadian and European universities and is similarly predisposed to these strong feelings.

      With so many Russian dead in WWII I can only imagine that “serious people” still form the bulk of Russia’s population..

    5. judy2shoes

      Charlie Sheldon, you have a keen eye for detail and a way with words that draw me in as a good novel or historical tale would. I remember you from the time you commented on the port crisis in CA, and I’m glad you’re back.

  11. Alex Cox

    Thanks for republishing this. I tried to read it this morning on John Helmer’s site, but the colour scheme makes it very difficult on the eyes…

    I assume Helmer was joking when he said that all colonial children were forced to visit Buckingham Palace. However it’s worth noting (for those whom he drives mad) that he is only introducing an article by another writer, Olga Samofalova. What she has to say about Russia’s economic position is very worth reading.

    Since I don’t understand economics, maybe an NC commenter can enlighten me: why do sanctions-prone countries continue to keep large foreign reserves abroad? After the Bank of England stole the Venezuelan gold reserves and gifted them to Juan Guaido, keeping your gold and cash abroad seems highly risky.

    1. Grebo

      Countries want to keep their gold where it is least likely to be stolen. The US and UK are no longer on that list.

      Countries need foreign reserves to buy things from countries that won’t take their money. Unless they stuff their vaults with cash those reserves can only exist on the ledgers of the bank that issued them.

  12. Richard


    Marvelous! Please keep posting this during these turbulent times. We in the west have some trouble in our understandings, here and there, and only those well travelled can bring their valid perspective home to us .

    Your contribution is so much appreciated

  13. nothing but the truth

    why should Russia (or anyone else not in NATO) settle oil (or whatever) in anything now except gold?

    1. Tom Pfotzer

      Gold seems problematic to me as trade medium, because somebody’s got to be in physical possession of that gold, and move it from one country’s ledger account / store-room to another.

      Who would you choose as your gold-clearing service/location? Which country and situation would you trust? Switzerland? London? Germany? The U.S.?

      Most of the potential service-providers just traded in their credibility. No way I’d use them if I was on the outs with the Empire.

      Maybe China?

      In Russia’s case, I think they should settle in a currency that will buy the stuff Russia needs, whatever that might be. Possibly China’s yuan. Is the Gold-backed Yuan going to get fast-tracked?

      If you’ve got insight into this, please comment. This may become a very pertinent subject in short order.

      1. Polar Socialist

        I saw somewhere today that Hong Kong banks are making good offers for US companies to buy Russian oil with dollars. If it works out, Hong Kong may have found a new niche for itself – instead of not being China’s portal to West anymore, it could (at least temporarily) become Russia’s portal to West. They should have the experience.

        Of course, I don’t have much of an idea how these things work.

        1. Tom Pfotzer

          My first reaction to your post was “great suggestion. Ticks all the boxes”.

          Then I wondered…Hmmm. How would China feel about this? Do they want Russia’s commerce propping up Hong Kong?

          I’m thinking that this might be the time China steps into the clearinghouse function. Looks like a long-term need, China and Russia need to cooperate, could get an awful lot of trading concentrated in one place, and Russia can provide a huge amount of immediate business for the facility.

          and, actually, China will be buying and selling a great deal to Russia.

          Makes the most sense to me for China to spin this function up pronto.

      2. lance ringquist

        i said that about keynes bancor, it was supposed to be a fix for free trade. but i said it was unworkable, for your reasons given.

        as long as the worlds countries exist, have sovereignty and democratic control, trade will and should be subject to the peoples wishes and desires, NOT NAFTA BILLY CLINTONS W.T.O. and other fascists rube goldberg contraptions.

        after this latest blowout of free trade economics, i see countries gaining back their independence and a strengthening of the nation state.

        that is if the free traders do not incenerrate the world in a jim jones moment.

  14. Anthony G Stegman

    I doubt that Russia will impose sanctions on the West, or withhold vital raw materials. Russia has never behaved in such a manner. Russians are cautious by nature. They also aren’t inclined to join suicide pacts (economic or otherwise). I think Russia will ride out the current sanctions regime without resorting to strict counter-measures. Russia is too important to the global economy to completely cut it off. They know it, and West knows it as well. To some degree I feel the current sanctions regime is more theater than anything else, and designed mostly for domestic consumption in the West.

    1. RobertC

      Anthony — this is a tough one. I concur with Russian caution and their fulfilling of signed contracts. But a problem is unsanctioned outputs might also require sanctioned inputs (eg, exported wheat requires wheat seed and ships). Even if much of the sanctions regime is theater, businesses acting as if it wasn’t and are rapidly moving to reduce their exposure even at a loss of capital assets. This is detrimental to existing trade flows which must be rebuilt at higher cost, even if Russia is able or willing to buy or sell. I believe the impact will be highest for Europe and MENA commodity producers and consumers and the households buying their products.

        1. RobertC

          Alex — I should have clarified my example was “What If” rather than specific. Be that as it may, I researched Russia’s wheat farming. Russia’s wheat suffers from ergot fungus which has led to bans by Egypt and China, both currently rescinded. Controlling ergot requires ergot free seed (seed); seed treatments to reduce germination of ergot particles (fungicide); and reduction of the grass weed population (herbicide). I haven’t been able to track if Russia is importing a specific seed, fungicide or herbicide but it’s likely it imports at one of those three. I’ll do better with my future examples.

          1. Yves Smith Post author

            This is the latest I could find on Russia wheat exports:

            Egypt ($2.55B), Turkey ($1.39B), Bangladesh ($525M), Nigeria ($394M), and Yemen ($317M). The fastest growing export markets for Wheat of Russia between 2018 and 2019 were Turkey ($449M), Bangladesh ($157M), and Azerbaijan ($140M).


            And Ukraine:

            The main destination of Wheat exports from Ukraine are: Egypt ($685M), Indonesia ($603M), Philippines ($242M), Turkey ($207M), and Tunisia ($196M).


            Recall Turkey is the world’s biggest flour exporter.

    2. Tom Pfotzer

      I think the current sanctions are unprecedented, and I don’t think it’s theater at all. The West is really spooked. The scale, immediacy and degree of coordination of the West’s actions tells me this was well-planned in advance. The West is playing for keeps on this one.

      And it may well be the West’s only real leverage. Once you use nukes, the game’s over for everyone, so that’s off the table till the very end of the crazy.

      And the Russian economy most certainly will not be completely cut off. Russia will trade directly with everyone except the countries that sanctioned it, and that’s a lot of the world’s population.

      So the question is “what currency will Russia trade in?”

      Will it be Euro, Dollars, or Yen? SWIFT? Airplanes carrying cash or gold bricks? A network of money-laundering banks to sweep the problem under the (very lumpy) rug?

      As I asked above, what are Russia’s alternatives? What will they demand as payment, and maybe more to the point, as payment-mechanism?

      We’re going to need an answer Monday morning, apparently. :)

  15. FDR

    What is a shame is that the US is using the Ukrainian people as fodder to expand US hegemony and empire.

    In the end Ukraine will remain caught between a regional power and a diminishing superpower but with tens of thousands dead, hundreds of thousands of refugees, and billions of dollars destroyed homes, businesses, government buildings. The infrastructure then will be rebuilt probably by Western banks and construction firms financed by the IMF that the Ukrainian will be asked to pay for through austerity measures.

  16. Acacia

    On the subject of sanctions:

    Visa and Mastercard Suspend Russian Operations | WSJ

    Among the debit and credit cards issued in Russia, Visa and Mastercard cards accounted for 74% of payment transactions in the country in 2020.

    However, reading this over, I really don’t see how Visa/MC will come out of this any better. Foreigners traveling to Russia won’t be using Visa/MC, and for Russians all CC transactions (and thus fees? unclear) will be handled by MIR, a competitor to Visa/MC.

    It rather looks like Visa/MC just lost millions of customers. If they climb down in the future, some of their customers will come back, but many probably never will.

  17. JB

    Some minutiae on Ukraine, from stuff I’ve been reading/researching:

    Russia have been trying to form the Eurasian Economic Union, sort of something in-between a copy of the EU (but learning from its mistakes) and restoring light levels of Soviet Union influence among Post-Soviet states – and Ukraine has been considered a critical potential member of such a union, due to the size of its economy.

    They are even considering currency centralization like the Euro – which is highly relevant to discussion about what an MMT path for Russia would be like – as a centralized currency could risk copying a major mistake of the EU which goes against that (but maybe it wouldn’t go against that, as I’d not be surprised if Russia ends up the unilateral leader of such a union).

    Viktor Yanukovych – who from my reading of his history leading Ukraine, looks like a lot like he was bribed by Russia, to bring the country away from the EU and into EAEU – is rumoured to be in Minsk/Belarus at the moment, with speculation that he may be declared President of Ukraine when Russia takes Kyiv (I’d take that speculation with a massive grain of salt, as I haven’t spent time verifying it more).

    So, the narrative on Ukraine is all weird – especially that of the Euromaidan coup (‘coup’?).

    Viktor was ousted in that alleged coup, exiled to Russia – but it is extremely clear that he was corrupt, and wrongly persecuted ex-Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko prior to Euromaidan (unity of voice in both the West and with Putin, that it was unjust) – as well as obviously cancelling attempted EU membership at the last minute, being extremely unpopular.

    So it doesn’t make sense to call that a coup, even with well-documented Western interference and funding of NGO’s around the time of Euromaidan. I think it can be pretty certain that Viktor would have been ousted, even absent any of the Western interference. Things turning violent and him being driven into exile, just works in his favour in trying to paint the ‘coup’ narrative – to try and justify the present: Lining him up to be declared President, again – as a figurehead for Russia.

    So yea, the narrative is fucky… Something is wrong with it, and I don’t trust it. There have been some major wrong calls on Ukraine, lately – which put holes in the narratives I’ve been reading from folk about it, for years.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      It is a coup because elections were scheduled for six weeks later. Yanukovych was clearly going to lose and there was no threat to cancel elections. So the coup prevented an orderly succession.

      The coup tore up the Constitution and installed a different one through no democratic process.

      1. Europotribitel

        “…elections were scheduled for six weeks later. Yanukovych was clearly going to lose.”
        Could you clarify what you mean by this? The presidential term in Ukraine is five years. Yanukovych was elected and took office in February 2010. The next presidential elections were due in March 2015 (I do not know the reason for the month discrepancy). Repeat: 2015.
        After Yanukovych fled on 21 Feb (2014), the next day by vote in the Rada the elections were moved to the earlier date of 25 May 2014. That doesn’t correspond to any ‘six weeks’ either. Nor do the Rada elections of 2014 (also moved to an earlier date), which were held in October 2014.
        The facts don’t seem to fit your argument, but perhaps I’ve missed something.

          1. Europotrebitel

            I admit I had forgotten this episode. I would say you considerably exaggerate when you say “there was a deal” and that “elections were scheduled” when it was clearly last minute, announced unilaterally (published on website of the presidential admin), and there was considerable opposition to it and others calling for his immediate resignation, no compromise.
            These are events that took place in a very short period of time and I certainly wasn’t close enough to say definitively.
            But as a core claim as evidence for “it was a coup”, it’s very thin gruel and substantially weaker evidence than as you presented it (as if it was a done deal with a definitive schedule and timeline). Not convincing.

            1. Yves Smith Post author

              No, the early elections were not a one-sided ploy. As Aljazeera and others reported, the opposition had SIGNED but there were details to be ironed out:

              This is from Aljazeera:

              Headline: Ukraine president, opposition agree to early elections, new government

              Subhead: Opposition signs President Viktor Yanukovich’s deal but says more talks needed to end protests

              Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich has signed a deal with the country’s opposition to hold presidential elections early, form a national unity government and make constitutional changes reducing his powers, according to a copy of the agreement obtained by Al Jazeera.


              So you are now refusing to back down.

              The plan was to temporarily re-implement the 2004 constitution and have a constitutional committee devise reforms.

              Even the Wikipedia writeup, if you look at it carefully, indicates the rollback to 2004 was done in a procedurally improper manner and no constitutional reform took place.

              1. Europotribitel

                Your original claims were “It is a coup because elections were scheduled for six weeks later.” I’d originally read that as meaning that they’d been scheduled for a date six weeks later – and I’d say that this is a natural inference (although not specifically claimed in your argument).

                Elections were neither scheduled, nor scheduled for six weeks later. Agreed? That’s just a fact.
                As for the agreement of the 21st, you clearly overstate how solid the agreement was, as it was at minimum overtaken by events within the very same day / 24 hours. My characterization as ‘unilaterally announced’ was incorrect, mea culpa, and any implication it was just a one-sided ploy (not my words) as well; but my other points (last minute, considerable opposition, and strong calls for Yanukovych’s immediate resignation) still correct.
                But the most the agreement seems to specifically provide for in terms of accelerated elections is before the end of 2014 (three months before scheduled anyway in 2015).
                I don’t see how the above provides some rock-solid logical proof that it was a coup either, per your claim. I suspect that can only be a matter of opinion (at least without a universally agreed definition of a coup, for one).
                But the characterization of ‘scheduled elections in six weeks’ is not true and can’t serve as the premise for logical proof of that.

                1. Yves Smith Post author

                  A democratically elected president was removed from office via force and the current constitution was overturned through an improper legislative process. And even the BBC conceded that the Maidan movement had the support of less than half the Ukrainians, so it can’t be depicted as reflecting the will of the people either:

                  If that isn’t a coup, you don’t consider anything to be a coup if the outcome favors US interests.

      2. JB

        Thank you for the context – this is a bit of a tricky/complex one, will try to look back at some of Ames writing from the time.

  18. Nose4Propaganda

    I think it might be a good idea to take a close look at John Helmer’s track record for analysis of the Russian economy over the past 20 years while keeping in mind that like all foreigners in Russia, especially those claiming to be foreign journalists — Helmer is a guest of the Putin government and is subject to frequent Russian government reviews of his work and of his residency status.
    As for Helmer’s promotion of Olga Samofalova’s work, that can be assessed by looking at the the periodical in which it is published:
    Hit translate into English after you log on and you will find headlines like “Refugees from Ukraine struck Europe with rudeness”, “Zelensky went for atomic blackmail”, “The US lost dominion over America,” “Biden became one of the victims of the Russian special operation”.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Your nose isn’t very good.

      You mistakenly assume Helmer is in Russia. His byline is carefully worded to obscure that he was in Russia for decades but hasn’t been for some years. And BTW he was personally targeted by Putin when he was in Russia and so can hardly be considered a lackey.

  19. David in Santa Cruz

    Remind me why it is such a “vital U.S. interest” that “Ukraine” not be a non-aligned, neutral, non-nuclear, but sovereign state?

    Worth demonstrating to China, India, and Our Friends the Saudis that the yanqui dollar is not a secure currency in which their trade and investment should be denominated? Worth losing access to technology, raw materials, and manufactured goods vital to American quality of life? Worth choking-off European access to oil and gas? Worth millions of Eastern Europeans being permanently displaced from their homes?

    Vladimir Putin isn’t my favorite world leader, but he isn’t Hitler and “Ukraine” isn’t the Sudetenland in 1938. The “leaders” of the “West” are insane…

  20. TG

    Seeing sunshine through clouds. Taking Russian energy off the market might be enough of an incentive for Russia to abandoned its reckless military adventurism, Germany and all those opposed to nuclear energy to do a 180 resulting in the deployment of next generation nuclear power which could just alter humanity’s collision course with global warming.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      It’s not taking it off the market. Fuel is fungible.

      Russia can send it to China and India, among others. Even if at a small de facto discount from market due to extra transit costs, with energy prices sky high, Russia gets a war windfall, thanks to the Saudis refusing to pump more.

Comments are closed.