There is a famous old anecdote in which Zmei Gorinich, the three-headed Russian dragon, sits hungrily down to table, and proceeds to stuff each of his mouths with food presented to him by villagers too terrified to do otherwise. At night, however, the dragon’s stomach rumbles, then swells, and finally explodes. With his death, the villagers celebrate their liberation. The moral of the story: don’t eat through three mouths if you’ve got only one arse.
So far as is known, Oleg Deripaska has only one arse. But a recent investigation of the feeding and digestion habits of United Company Rusal, the aluminium monopoly which Deripaska controls, was intended to count the dozens of throats through which sale revenues of the company’s production units are passed, before the earnings disappear abroad. (more…)
Alrosa, the Russian diamond miner, signed an agreement on Wednesday [November 28] to supply selected rough diamonds to Tiffany of New York. Signing with Alrosa chief executive Fyodor Andreyev was Andrew Hart, president of Laurelton Diamonds, a Belgian subsidiary of Tiffany, as well as executive vice president of Tiffany Corporation in New York. The Alrosa press release reports that there had been single-lot supply deals on spot market terms between the two in the past, but this is the first long-term agreement between them. According to Andreyev, it “will make our partnership permanent and serve to increase the supply of diamonds to Tiffany.”
This is the second time in a month when Alrosa has publicized diamond supply contracts. On November 13 Alrosa announced it had signed a two-year contract with Conroy Cheng, executive director of Chow Tai Fook, the Chinese diamond-cutter and jewellery manufacturer of China. (more…)
Reporters can hardly call themselves investigative journalists if their object is to report the obvious in plain sight — that people keep their purposes and their assets to themselves. But when reporters hide their own purposes and fortunes as assiduously as those they investigate, the purpose of the chase has been compromised, and the outcome isn’t so much an exposé as a cliché.
For the Guardian newspaper of London, there may be no cliché about Russia that isn’t worth repeating and reporting again, and again. But when the paper’s team of investigative reporters discovered this week that according to the headline, “Russians profit from Britain’s offshore secrecy”, was this an investigation of the wealthiest Russians living and working in London – Roman Abramovich and Oleg Deripaska? Was it an expose of how Alisher Usmanov managed to sell almost $1.7 billion worth of shares in his Megafon company on the London Stock Exchange before the price plummeted? Not at all. (more…)
Not even the two people usually familiar with the matter were able to convince Bloomberg that there has been genuine demand in the London market for Megafon shares at Alisher Usmanov’s asking price. Instead, as the company and its underwriters tried to sign buyers before the subscription book closed this afternoon, brokerage sources claimed the initial public offering (IPO) was anchored by an order for $170 million. That’s 10% of the shares on offer – if the company is following its undertaking to sell 15% at a base valuation of $11 billion.
While speculation of the identity of the “anchor investor” focused on major investment funds, a source really familiar with the matter claimed that she “wouldn’t be surprised if it is ‘friends and family’. That seems to be the tactic these days.” (more…)
The International Trade Administration (ITA) of the US Department of Commerce has revealed that the new reference prices it set early this month for imports to the US of Russian-made rolled steel products will rise by 47% over the prevailing regime. However, the US evidence suggests the impact on Russian exporters will be slight.
According to Mara Lee, a spokesman for ITA, through September 30 just 257,445 tonnes of Russian hot-rolled steel subject to the reference pricing were imported, at a value of $168 million. That represents an average landed price of $652.55 per tonne. The spokesman said her agency will not speculate on what impact the hike in the reference prices will have on the volume of Russian shipments after the new price controls take effect on November 15. But depending on the category of the steel product and the US demand, there remains enough margin in the new pricing to allow some Russian exports to squeak through. At the same time, most of the surge of Russian steel sales to the US over the past two years has come in the form of semi-finished products, and they aren’t affected at all by the price controls. (more…)
For a country of Russia’s physical size, trains are an obvious strategic necessity. So it’s peculiar that there is a monopoly for pulling and pushing those trains from place to place, and that this monopoly for building locomotives should be held by a single man, who, with Kremlin approval, has buried his interest in a secretive private company in The Netherlands. That company is called Breakers Investments. The man who controls it is Iskander Makhmudov (image), otherwise known as the heir to Mikhail Chernoy’s (Cherney) copper and coal businesses.
Through the procurement of locomotives by state-owned Russian Railways (RZhD), money is moved from state-regulated transport tariffs collected by the rail operating units and from the state-subsidized RZhD investment budget through the Transmash group of companies; then in the form of dividends from Transmash’s profits it is paid into Breakers Investments. What remains a mystery is how the large profits declared by Transmash disappear when the balance-sheets of Breakers Investments show a loss. (more…)
That’s one of the opening lines in the US Department of Justice’s guide to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the law enacted in Washington in 1977 to prohibit US individuals and companies from offering inducements of value to the officials of foreign governments. “Corruption impedes economic growth,” says the guide, “by diverting public resources from important priorities such as health, education, and infrastructure. It undermines democratic values and public accountability and weakens the rule of law… International corruption also undercuts good governance and impedes U.S. efforts to promote freedom and democracy, end poverty, and combat crime and terrorism across the globe. Corruption is also bad for business.”
When the US Congress was defining the corruption the statute was meant to prevent, it sought “to make clear that the offer, payment, promise, or gift, must be intended to induce the recipient to misuse his official position; for example, wrongfully to direct business to the payor or his client, to obtain preferential legislation or regulations, or to induce a foreign official to fail to perform an official function.” (more…)
The deadline for Canadian shareholders to accept or reject Alexei Mordashov’s takeover terms for High River Gold (HRG) is fixed for next Tuesday, November 27. The latest count to be released to the market suggests he will fail because the holdout shareholders are convinced the offer price is too low. The price point isn’t news. The shareholder count may be.
According to Chris Charlwood, one of the coordinators of the HRG minorities, “we have collected confirmations from shareholders with approximately 90.2 million shares (10.73% of total HRG shares and 43% of the minorities rremaining) that they will not tender to Nord Gold’s offer. This includes shares owned in funds managed by Eric Sprott (HRG’s largest minority shareholder). Nord Gold would have needed 90% of minority to tender to the current offer in order to squeeze the rest out. With 43% of the minority indicating they will not tender, this should prevent this from happening on the Nov. 27th expiry date.” (more…)
Going or coming, Russian users of private jet aircraft think they are screwed.
If they fly on foreign-made planes which are registered in Russia, they are obliged under the current tax regulations to pay 18% value-added tax (VAT) on the customs-declared value of the aircraft, plus 2.2% annual property tax. If they try to avoid the VAT, and fly foreign-owned, foreign-registered aircraft, and if they are individuals, then their right to fly in style is subject to special permits issued by Rosaviatsia, the Russian aviation authority. Its rules require that the use of the aircraft is private, not commercial, and this is defined in government decrees as meaning that the flier isn’t aiming to derive income from his use of the aircraft. In addition, Russian Customs, which must issue permits for these aircraft to fly into Russian airports and pick up or drop passengers, requires that individual aircraft don’t operate inside Russia for more than 30 consecutive days; don’t accumulate more than 180 days of operation in a calendar year; and don’t carry more than 19 passengers at a time.
So what’s a Russian oligarch, or individual wealthy enough to prefer private jetting to regularly scheduled commercial airlines, to do? (more…)
If you are a steelmill owner working at safe distance when the bombs, rockets and body-packs explode in your market, the more destruction the better for demand, sales, and profit margins, especially at this point in the current cycle of the steel trade. Magnitogorsk Metallurgical Combine (MMK), the Russian steelmaker owned by Victor Rashnikov (right), has a near front-seat on the battlefield now extending from Iraq to Iran and Syria, because it is the sole owner of MMK-Metalurji (aka Atakas), a 2.3-million tonne capacity steel complex, in Turkey. In addition to losing revenues from direct sales to Iran because of US and European sanctions, MMK has been losing money hand over fist at Metalurji. In response, MMK’s management has been issuing contradictory signals of what it aims to do next.
This week MMK suspended crude steel production at MMK-Metalurji, leaving the rolling lines to continue working with stockpiled semi-finished steel. But the company doesn’t want to admit it. There has been no public announcement on the MMK website. Polina Rudyaeva, a spokesman for MMK headquarters in Moscow, said the company isn’t commenting on the issue for the time being. (more…)
The November 15 announcement by Megafon, the telephone property of Alisher Usmanov and Andrei Skoch, reveals a discount on last month’s valuation targets of up to 20%, depending on how the assets for sale are counted. To attract buyers for shares at bargain-basement prices, the company is promising to pay out more than 50% of its net profit in dividends, a temptation which wasn’t enough in last month’s offer to convince investors to buy into Megafon at the bottom of the valuation range of $11 billion. So uncertain is the future that the minority Swedish shareholder, TeliaSonera, confirms that it has agreed to retain its Megafon shares for no longer than next May, and may then sell out entirely.
Megafon says it has commenced a roadshow of presentations to investors today, and plans to start selling shares and General Depositary Receipts (GDRs) on the London Stock Exchange on November 28. The company has issued an Intention to List (ITL) document, but it is refusing to release the prospectus, or provide details of what it claims in that document about the risks the company faces, and what it reveals of the business practices and litigation record of Usmanov and Skoch. (more…)
The rising cost line in the latest loss-making financial report of United Company Rusal, the Russian state aluminium monopoly, is under investigation as Rusal’s Latvian bank operations are probed, as well as tax payments in Cyprus. The evidence is being gathered in Cyprus; and by lawyers in London and New York, where Rusal and its chief executive Oleg Deripaska have been accused in court papers of violations of the company’s shareholder charter and management violations.
Deripaska denies the claims, while the company reports that as of September 30, it is counting provisions for possible lawsuit awards of $203 million.
In its report for the September quarter, released on November 12, Rusal says its revenues dropped to $2.5 billion, a decline of 19% compared to the second quarter. Cost of sales came to $2.3 billion, almost unchanged on the quarter. Over the 9-month period, revenues are down 13% to $8.3 billion, while cost of sales has grown 7% to $7 billion. The bottom-line for the latest quarter is an operating loss of $27 million, and an after-tax loss of $118 million. Rusal has now moved from profit-making at the half-way mark of the year into the red. A statement by chief executive Deripaska, posted on the company website, explains the company was “seriously hit by the bottomed LME aluminium price as a result of investor sentiment. The period under review has seen RUSAL continue to focus on cost controls as well as increase production of value added products.” (more…)
The value difference and profit opportunity between a genuine piece of art and a fake are so large, there’s no deterring entrepreneurial forgers. Until now, the cleverest schemes have, ethnically speaking, been the specialty of Englishmen, Americans, and well-known art auction houses, museum curators and experts in connoisseurship. That last term is upper-class slang for hucksterism.
But when American Tom Wolfe (centre, right), exponent of what was called the New Journalism fifty years ago, exposes a Russian oligarch for a plot to make hundreds of millions of dollars in fakes through donating some to a Miami art museum, and selling others on the side, he has created a 700-page scapegoat for many things, including the loss of Wolfe’s talent. (more…)
The Fitch ratings agency has issued a downgrade for Sovcomflot, the state-owned tanker group, claiming the failure of the company to privatize and sell shares, planned for this year, is weakening its ability to cover its current debts, as revenues remain under pressure from poor freight rates. But the debt picture is worsening as more than another billion dollars in bills for the new fleet commissioned by chief executive Sergei Frank (image second from right) come due next year, and in 2014.
Sovcomflot has reported that as of June 30 it must repay short-term loans of $253.3 million over the next twelve months, and is carrying longer-term debts of $2.3 billion; the latter figure is up 8% compared to the debt level on June 30, 2011. In its financial report for the first half of this year, Sovcomflot says its Time Charter Equivalent revenues came to $500.5 million, a year-on-year gain of 4%, but net profit fell 21% to $50.9 million. (more…)
Novolipetsk Metallurgical Combine (NLMK), owned by Vladimir Lisin, has done something that no Russian steelmaker is on record as doing in the current downturn for steel production, sales, and profits; nor in the downturns which have preceded – 1991-93, 1998-99 and 2008-09. It is negotiating with steelworkers and their unions before deciding on how to cut costs. There’s a catch — that’s happening in Belgium, not in Russia.
For months there have been public demonstrations in the traditional steelmaking Wallonia (Walloon) region of Belgium, between Liege and La Louviere, 112 kilometres to the southeast. Unions, regional government, political parties of the right and left, and consultancy studies have recommended a variety of options for reviving the steelmills and keeping steelworkers employed in the region; none would cost less than €300 million. There is also sharp local argument over whether the region would be better off in the long run doing without the steelmills. (more…)
Roman Abramovich was recently able to bamboozle a British judge with no experience of Russia, when the credibility standard was set by Boris Berezovsky. But can his winsome personality persuade President Vladimir Putin and energy chief Igor Sechin that Russia badly needs to acquire an Australian company that has adapted Soviet technology for turning coal into gas; should lend Abramovich up to $2 billion to buy the asset; and maybe several hundred more million dollars to flip the asset to Evraz, the Russian steel and coalmining group which Abramovich’s holding, Millhouse, already controls?
Abramovich’s last attempt at spending a Russian dividend stream on foreign assets was aborted when Evraz withdrew its bid to buy Scaw Metals, a South African steelmaker owned by Anglo American. That deal, worth between $500 million and $700 million, didn’t happen at the same time as Victor Rashnikov was extricating Magnitogorsk Metallurgical Combine from its $560 million commitment to buy Flinders Mining, an Australian iron-ore project. (more…)
The result of the US presidential election, giving Barack Obama victory in both the popular vote and an even bigger one in the Electoral College vote by state, shows that one traditional rule of thumb still applies — incumbents must be down by a 5% margin in the polls at the end of the party conventions for the challenger to be likely to win on Election Day. This is because far more voters have decided their vote well in advance than they admit to the pollsters, and because they can be shaken from their intention only by October surprises or obvious mishaps. Accordingly, Mitt Romney was bound to fail. (more…)
It’s more serious than a case of when the cat’s away, the mice will play.
Arguments over Igor Sechin’s appointment to run the country delayed the announcement of Dmitry Medvedev’s government for several weeks in May. Now that Sechin’s at Rosneft in charge of constructing the most powerful energy-producing and trading platform in the world, he hasn’t had the time to supervise the Russian mining and minerals sector, as he used to do during President Putin’s second term and his prime ministry. In allocating Sechin’s time cost-effectively, there’s no comparison between running Rosneft and sorting out the problems of Norilsk Nickel, Rusal, Urals Mining and Metals, and Metalloinvest. (more…)
It happened at the same time in February, when the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) was rehearsing members of the Pussy Riot group, recording voice-over of a script against then presidential candidate Vladimir Putin , and fabricating a performance in Christ the Saviour Cathedral for which two members of the group are serving 2-year prison terms, and one is on probation. The BBC has acknowledged “errors” were made by their Moscow correspondent Steven Rosenberg in his compilations and broadcasts about the incident, the prequels and sequels.
This YouTube version of the February 21 incident has recorded 75,110 views. The BBC rehearsal version, posted on February 20, has so far drawn 84,336 views. An extra English-language version has recorded just 3,132 views. And this is the YouTube clip posted by Pussy Riot itself. The views total 2,364,707. (more…)
If Russia’s leading oil trader Gunvor can lose its allocations of crude oil from Rosneft and Surgutneftegas in a flash, and Novatek almost a third of its domestic gas sales in another instant, then Gennady Timchenko, a control shareholder of both companies, has some explaining to do in public. That is, if he intends investors on the London Stock Exchange (LSE) to buy shares in another company he controls in the Russian oil and gas business, IG Seismic Services (IGSS).
The answer to that question also helps answer the last question Timchenko was reluctant to answer – is he running away from trouble in Geneva, or running towards trouble in Moscow? Or both? (more…)
Severstal reconfirmed this week that the control shareholder and executive chairman, Alexei Mordashov, has ruled out buying brownfield projects or loss-making steelmills. The company is not saying, however, whether it will agree to buy from ArcelorMittal parts of the Florange steelmill in northeastern France. Two blast furnaces at the struggling site have been shut down for the past fourteen months, but operations have continued at the downstream hot and cold rolling mills and coating lines, as well as at the upstream coke plant. Full capacity production at Lorange is 2.5 million tonnes per annum.
On October 1, ArcelorMittal announced it intended “to permanently close the liquid phase [blast furnace production of steel at Lorange] and concentrate efforts and investment on the high-quality finishing operation, which employs more than 2,000 employees.” It claimed that 629 jobs would be lost in total. This triggered local demonstrations. ArcelorMittal is also claiming that it will continue to operate part of the Florange complex. “The company is proposing that in the future, slab for the Florange site will continue to be transported from Dunkerque, a world class site, thereby maintaining the industrial chain in France. ArcelorMittal will then focus on enhancing Florange’s position as a centre of excellence for developing high-quality value-added products for its customers, most notably in the automotive industry.” (more…)
The Ukraine war is splitting the communist parties of Europe between those taking the US side, and those on the Russian side.
In an unusual public criticism of the Greek Communist Party (KKE) and of smaller communist parties in Europe which have endorsed the Greek criticism of Russia for waging an “imperialist” war against the Ukraine, the Russian Communist Party (KPRF) has responded this week with a 3,300-word declaration: “The military conflict in Ukraine,” the party said, “cannot be described as an imperialist war, as our comrades would argue. It is essentially a national liberation war of the people of Donbass. From Russia’s point of view it is a struggle against an external threat to national security and against Fascism.”
By contrast, the Russian communists have not bothered to send advice, or air public criticism of the Cypriot communists and their party, the Progressive Party of Working People (AKEL). On March 2, AKEL issued a communiqué “condemn[ing] Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and calls for an immediate ceasefire and the withdrawal of the Russian troops from Ukrainian territories….[and] stresses that the Russian Federation’s action in recognising the Donetsk and Luhansk regions constitutes a violation of the principle of the territorial integrity of states.”
To the KPRF in Moscow the Cypriots are below contempt; the Greeks are a fraction above it.
A Greek-Cypriot veteran of Cypriot politics and unaffiliated academic explains: “The Cypriot communists do not allow themselves to suffer for what they profess to believe. Actually, they are a misnomer. They are the American party of the left in Cyprus, just as [President Nikos] Anastasiades is the American party of the right.” As for the Greek left, Alexis Tsipras of Syriza – with 85 seats of the Greek parliament’s 300, the leading party of the opposition – the KKE (with 15 seats), and Yanis Varoufakis of MeRA25 (9 seats), the source adds: “The communists are irrelevant in Europe and in the US, except in the very narrow context of Greek party politics.”
The war plan of the US and the European allies is destroying the Russian market for traditional French perfumes, the profits of the French and American conglomerates which own the best-known brands, the bonuses of their managers, and the dividends of their shareholders. The odour of these losses is too strong for artificial fresheners.
Givaudan, the Swiss-based world leader in production and supply of fragrances, oils and other beauty product ingredients, has long regarded the Russian market as potentially its largest in Europe; it is one of the fastest growing contributors to Givaudan’s profit worldwide. In the recovery from the pandemic of Givaudan’s Fragrance and Beauty division – it accounts for almost half the company’s total sales — the group reported “excellent double-digit growth in 2021, demonstrating strong consumer demand for these product categories.” Until this year, Givaudan reveals in its latest financial report, the growth rate for Russian demand was double-digit – much faster than the 6.3% sales growth in Europe overall; faster growth than in Germany, Belgium and Spain.
Between February 2014, when the coup in Kiev started the US war against Russia, and last December, when the Russian non-aggression treaties with the US and NATO were rejected, Givaudan’s share price jumped three and a half times – from 1,380 Swiss francs to 4,792 francs; from a company with a market capitalisation of 12.7 billion francs ($12.7 billion) to a value of 44.2 billion francs ($44.2 billion). Since the fighting began in eastern Ukraine this year until now, Givaudan has lost 24% of that value – that’s $10 billion.
The largest of Givaudan’s shareholders is Bill Gates. With his 14%, plus the 10% controlled by Black Rock of New York and MFS of Boston, the US has effective control over the company.
Now, according to the US war sanctions, trade with Russia and the required payment systems have been closed down, alongside the bans on the importation of the leading European perfumes. So in place of the French perfumers, instead of Givaudan, the Russian industry is reorganizing for its future growth with its own perfume brands manufactured from raw materials produced in Crimea and other regions, or supplied by India and China. Givaudan, L’Oréal (Lancome, Yves Saint Laurent), Kering (Balenciaga, Gucci), LVMH (Dior, Guerlain, Givenchy), Chanel, Estée Lauder, Clarins – they have all cut off their noses to spite the Russian face.
By Nikolai Storozhenko, introduced and translated by John Helmer, Moscow @bears_with
This week President Joseph Biden stopped at an Illinois farm to say he’s going to help the Ukraine ship 20 million tonnes of wheat and corn out of storage into export, thereby relieving grain shortages in the international markets and lowering bread prices around the world. Biden was trying to play a hand in which his cards have already been clipped. By Biden.
The first Washington-Kiev war plan for eastern Ukraine has already lost about 40% of the Ukrainian wheat fields, 50% of the barley, and all of the grain export ports. Their second war plan to hold the western region defence lines with mobile armour, tanks, and artillery now risks the loss of the corn and rapeseed crop as well as the export route for trucks to Romania and Moldova. What will be saved in western Ukraine will be unable to grow enough to feed its own people. They will be forced to import US wheat, as well as US guns and the money to pay for both.
Biden told his audience that on the Delaware farms he used to represent in the US Senate “there are more chickens than there are Americans.” Blaming the Russians is the other card Biden has left.
The problem with living in exile is the meaning of the word. If you’re in exile, you mean you are forever looking backwards, in geography as well as in time. You’re not only out of place; you’re out of time — yesterday’s man.
Ovid, the Roman poet who was sent into exile from Rome by Caesar Augustus, for offences neither Augustus nor Ovid revealed, never stopped looking back to Rome. His exile, as Ovid described it, was “a barbarous coast, inured to rapine/stalked ever by bloodshed, murder, war.” In such a place or state, he said, “writing a poem you can read to no one is like dancing in the dark.”
The word itself, exsilium in Roman law, was the sentence of loss of citizenship as an alternative to loss of life, capital punishment. It meant being compelled to live outside Rome at a location decided by the emperor. The penalty took several degrees of isolation and severity. In Ovid’s case, he was ordered by Augustus to be shipped to the northeastern limit of the Roman empire, the Black Sea town called Tomis; it is now Constanta, Romania. Ovid’s last books, Tristia (“Sorrows”) and Epistulae ex Ponto (“Black Sea Letters”), were written from this exile, which began when he was 50 years old, in 8 AD, and ended when he died in Tomis nine years year later, in 17 AD.
In my case I’ve been driven into exile more than once. The current one is lasting the longest. This is the one from Moscow, which began with my expulsion by the Foreign Ministry on September 28, 2010. The official sentence is Article 27(1) of the law No. 114-FZ — “necessary for the purposes of defence capability or security of the state, or public order, or protection of health of the population.” The reason, a foreign ministry official told an immigration service official when they didn’t know they were being overheard, was: “Helmer writes bad things about Russia.”
Antonio Guterres is the Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN), who attempted last month to arrange the escape from Russian capture of Ukrainian soldiers and NATO commanders, knowing they had committed war crimes. He was asked to explain; he refuses.
Trevor Cadieu is a Canadian lieutenant-general who was appointed the chief of staff and head of the Canadian Armed Forces last August; was stopped in September; retired from the Army this past April, and went to the Ukraine, where he is in hiding. From whom he is hiding – Canadians or Russians – where he is hiding, and what he will say to explain are questions Cadieu isn’t answering, yet.
Antonio Guterres, the United Nations Secretary-General, is refusing this week to answer questions on the role he played in the recent attempt by US, British, Canadian and other foreign combatants to escape the bunkers under the Azovstal plant, using the human shield of civilians trying to evacuate.
In Guterres’s meeting with President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin on April 26 (lead image), Putin warned Guterres he had been “misled” in his efforts. “The simplest thing”, Putin told Guterres in the recorded part of their meeting, “for military personnel or members of the nationalist battalions is to release the civilians. It is a crime to keep civilians, if there are any there, as human shields.”
This war crime has been recognized since 1977 by the UN in Protocol 1 of the Geneva Convention. In US law for US soldiers and state officials, planning to employ or actually using human shields is a war crime to be prosecuted under 10 US Code Section 950t.
Instead, Guterres ignored the Kremlin warning and the war crime law, and authorized UN officials, together with Red Cross officials, to conceal what Guterres himself knew of the foreign military group trying to escape. Overnight from New York, Guterres has refused to say what he knew of the military escape operation, and what he had done to distinguish, or conceal the differences between the civilians and combatants in the evacuation plan over the weekend of April 30-May 1.May.
By Vlad Shlepchenko, introduced & translated by John Helmer, Moscow @bears_with
The more western politicians announce pledges of fresh weapons for the Ukraine, the more Russian military analysts explain what options their official sources are considering to destroy the arms before they reach the eastern front, and to neutralize Poland’s role as the NATO hub for resupply and reinforcement of the last-ditch holdout of western Ukraine.
“I would like to note,” Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, repeated yesterday, “that any transport of the North Atlantic Alliance that arrived on the territory of the country with weapons or material means for the needs of the Ukrainian armed forces is considered by us as a legitimate target for destruction”. He means the Ukraine border is the red line.
Here’s a story the New York Times has just missed.
US politicians and media pundits are promoting the targeting of “enablers” of Russian oligarchs who stash their money in offshore accounts. A Times article of March 11 highlighted Michael Matlin, CEO of Concord Management as such an “enabler.” But the newspaper missed serious corruption Matlin was involved in. Maybe that’s because Matlin cheated Russia, and also because the Matlin story exposes the William Browder/Sergei Magnitsky hoax aimed at Russia.
In 1939 a little known writer in Moscow named Sigizmund Khrzhizhanovsky published his idea that the Americans, then the Germans would convert human hatred into a new source of energy powering everything which had been dependent until then on coal, gas, and oil.
Called yellow coal, this invention originated with Professor Leker at Harvard University. It was applied, first to running municipal trams, then to army weapons, and finally to cheap electrification of everything from domestic homes and office buildings to factory production lines. In Russian leker means a quack doctor.
The Harvard professor’s idea was to concentrate the neuro-muscular energy people produce when they hate each other. Generated as bile (yellow), accumulated and concentrated into kinetic spite in machines called myeloabsorberators, Krzhizhanovsky called this globalization process the bilificationof society.
In imperial history there is nothing new in cases of dementia in rulers attracting homicidal psychopaths to replace them. It’s as natural as honey attracts bees.
When US President Woodrow Wilson was incapacitated by a stroke on October 19, 1919, he was partially paralysed and blinded, and was no longer able to feed himself, sign his name, or speak normally; he was not demented.
While his wife and the Navy officer who was his personal physician concealed his condition, there is no evidence that either Edith Wilson or Admiral Cary Grayson were themselves clinical cases of disability, delusion, or derangement. They were simply liars driven by the ambition to hold on to the power of the president’s office and deceive everyone who got in their way.
The White House is always full of people like that. The 25th Amendment to the US Constitution is meant to put a damper on their homicidal tendencies.
What is unusual, probably exceptional in the current case of President Joseph Biden, not to mention the history of the United States, is the extent of the president’s personal incapacitation; combined with the clinical evidence of psychopathology in his Secretary of State Antony Blinken; and the delusional condition of the rivals to replace Biden, including Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
Like Rome during the first century AD, Washington is now in the ailing emperor-homicidal legionary phase. But give it another century or two, and the madness, bloodshed, and lies of the characters of the moment won’t matter quite as much as their images on display in the museums of their successors craving legitimacy, or of successor powers celebrating their superiority.
Exactly this has happened to the original Caesars, as a new book by Mary Beard, a Cambridge University professor of classics, explains. The biggest point of her book, she says, is “dynastic succession” – not only of the original Romans but of those modern rulers who acquired the Roman portraits in marble and later copies in paint, and the copies of those copies, with the idea of communicating “the idea of the direct transfer of power from ancient Romans to Franks and on to later German rulers.”
In the case she narrates of the most famous English owner of a series of the “Twelve Caesars”, King Charles I — instigator of the civil war of 1642-51 and the loser of both the war and his head – the display of his Caesars was intended to demonstrate the king’s self-serving “missing link” between his one-man rule and the ancient Romans who murdered their way to rule, and then apotheosized into immortal gods in what they hoped would be a natural death on a comfortable bed.
With the American and Russian successions due to take place in Washington and Moscow in two years’ time, Beard’s “Twelve Caesars, Images of Power from the Ancient World to the Modern”, is just the ticket from now to then.