“Just because we have the best hammer does not mean that every problem is a nail…This weekend, Ukrainians voted by the millions. Yesterday, I spoke to their next president. We don’t know how the situation will play out, and there will remain grave challenges ahead, but standing with our allies on behalf of international order, working with international institutions, has given a chance for the Ukrainian people to choose their future — without us firing a shot.” — President Barack Obama, West Point, May 28, 2014
There has long been a fear on the Russian side that South Africa will sell as much platinum and palladium as it can mine, threatening the market price of both metals, and leaving Russia holding very large, very secret stocks of dwindling value. From the Russian point of view, that’s not a unilateral sacrifice Russia should accept; nor a unilateral advantage South Africa should be allowed to take.
Together, Russia and South Africa (SA) produce almost 90% of the world’s platinum supply (5.7 million ounces); 80% of the palladium supply (6.4 million oz). So there has been a natural inclination for the principal producers – Norilsk Nickel in Russia; Anglo Platinum, Impala, Lonmin and Northam in South Africa – to test the scope for price-supportive cooperation in the market, instead of price-damaging competition. The Russian and South African governments have naturally inclined in the same direction. (more…)
Radoslaw Sikorski (Radek for short) commenced his campaign to be elected High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy for the European Union in 2009. For openers, he engaged an American graduate student to pronounce him “a strong contender for the position”, “steely-eyed”, and “a dark horse candidate”. Five years is a long time in politics, and in the meantime Sikorski’s campaign to be elected NATO secretary-general, replacing the Dane, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, was lost.
From the jaws of this defeat Sikorski has now engaged the deputy editor of the Financial Times, John Thornhill, to promote Sikorski as a runner for Catherine Ashton’s post as the current High Representative (aka foreign minister). According to Thornhill’s promo, published on May 24, Sikorski has suffered so much for his all-European convictions recently, he now has “a slight tic under his right eye”. (more…)
Russian Customs reports this week that imports of steel pipes from Ukraine have dropped by 50% or more, compared to 2013. Steel industry sources in Moscow are predicting the Russian market may have closed to Ukrainian steelmakers, as Gazprom and Rosneft, the largest buyers of pipes, are directed by the Kremlin to buy instead from domestic pipemills.
By contrast, Interpipe, based in Dniepropetrovsk and owned by Victor Pinchuk (image), is reporting that within two years it expects the current conflict to have blown over. Sales to the Russian market, Pinchuk’s principal income-earner, will recover to the tonnage and revenue levels the company was achieving before July of 2013, according to the latest Interpipe forecast. That is when the Kremlin halted favourable import-quota arrangements for Ukrainian pipes, and imposed penalty import duties. Interpipe was already loss-making before the Russian market began to close. The year-end loss for 2013 has not yet been released by Interpipe. Counting both operating losses and writedowns of asset value, industry analysts and traders say this week the loss figure is between $100 and $200 million. “A perfect storm” is the way Interpipe is describing its financial situation to creditors. (more…)
Two Russian steelmaking oligarchs, Alexei Mordashov (above, left) of Severstal, and Igor Zyuzin (right) of Mechel, went to court early this month over a debt of $4 million. The debt stems from a contract for delivery of Mechel-made metallurgical coke to Severstal’s steelmill in Dearborn, Michigan. The court is the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, in Chicago. The claim was filed by Severstal’s local lawyers on May 5.
Russian reporting of the case this week noted the irony in the situation that both Mordashov and Zyuzin are trying to sell the companies which are now facing each other in court as plaintiff and defendant. As yet unreported is the Kremlin directive, informally but directly from President Vladimir Putin to the control shareholders of Russia’s large metals and minerals companies, not to take their business disputes to foreign courts. The order, confirmed by insiders at a well-known metal company, has been put in the context of the threat the Russian economy is now facing from US sanctions over the conflict in Ukraine. (more…)
Hercules can thank the lucky stars on Mount Olympus that his name isn’t used these days for the clinical condition of megalomania turning homicidal, accompanied by manic-depressive swings, transvestism, sadism, etc. A number of generals in the last world war – George Patton, Curtis LeMay – thought they were herculean in one sense, and were herculean in the other.* (more…)
If the programme of US sanctions cuts Russian military industries off from imports from the Ukraine, the new costs imposed on the Russian side may turn out to be less than the price of the sacrifice on the Ukrainian side. According to Russian military sources, that’s because, starting last year the Kremlin ordered the transfer to Russia of as much Ukrainian military design and production capacity as can be bought with hard currency across the frontier. The immediate priority, the sources say, are Ukrainian companies producing engines for aircraft, ships and submarines; turbines for power plants; and electronic components and control systems for guided munitions.
Vaycheslav Boguslayev, chairman of the board of Motor Sich, the principal supplier of engines for Russian combat helicopters, has confirmed a plan to establish a “joint engineering centre” with Russian aircraft engine manufacturers. Motor Sich will not comment in detail on what this centre will do, and how far it may go to substitute for manufacture of the engines on Ukrainian territory. According to a recent statement by Boguslayev provided by his Moscow spokesman, 51% of the new enterprise will be owned by the Russian side, 49% by Motor Sich. (more…)
The USS Vella Gulf is the latest US Navy warship to be deployed in what Washington is calling its “mission to reassure NATO allies and Black Sea partners of America’s commitment to strengthen and improve interoperability while working towards mutual goals in the region… It demonstrates our commitment to our … allies to enhance security, readiness and capabilities.” (more…)
The oligarchs of Ukraine, who control the eastern regions’ principal assets, employment, tax base, and income, are at risk of being politically and financially squeezed to death. Unless they can quickly become Maoists — at least according to Mao Zedong’s Red Book saying: 枪杆子里面出政权 (“Every Communist must grasp the truth: Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.”)
In short, the oligarchs must take power from barrels of guns they disclaimed having at their disposal until now. The first of the new Ukro-Maoists has been Igor Kolomoisky (left), acting governor of Dniepropetrovsk region since March 2. The second, according to his announcement of May 10, is Rinat Akhmetov (right). (more…)
The latest but one in the US Navy deployments to the Black Sea ended on Monday when the frigate, USS Taylor, sailed south through the Bosphorus Straits. Three days before on May 9 the cruiser, USS Vella Gulf, had been reported as due to steam north through the straits and into the Black Sea. According to the US Navy spokesman in Washington on May 13, it is now under way in the eastern Mediterranean, destination undisclosed.
For its return voyage to the Mediterranean the Taylor had stopped at the Georgian port of Batumi, and was refuelled there. According to the bunker supplier, Marine Supply & Service, “generally, physical bunker supply by tankers is not available in Georgian ports since beginning of 2013. Vessels arriving to Georgian ports are supplied with MGO (Marine Gasoil) by tank trucks, while IFO (Fuel oil) delivery still does not exist.” (more…)
The disclosure that Severstal is planning to sell its remaining two US steelmills has taken the Russian steel industry by surprise, triggering speculation the Kremlin has asked for the move as part of the ongoing conflict between the US and Russia in Ukraine.
For the time being, Severstal’s owner and chief executive Alexei Mordashov is making no official statement. Assessments in Moscow are divided over whether Mordashov has discussed the US asset sale plan with President Vladimir Putin as part of Russia’s reaction to the threat of US sanctions against the energy and metals sectors of the Russian economy. Russian steel industry sources believe Mordashov has authorized the press leak to advertise his asset sale in an attempt to lift the price. (more…)
If the presidential election goes ahead on May 25, half the voters of eastern Ukraine will not vote. Of the half who do, half will vote for the frontrunner and US-backed candidate, Petro Poroshenko. The other half will divide between three or four candidates, including the Communist Party’s Petro Simonenko, the former Kharkov governor Mikhail Dobkin, and the wealthy banker Sergei Tigipko. Among the half who don’t like the choice of candidates and don’t want to vote at all, less than half of them support the building takeovers and other semi-military displays of resistance to Kiev.
For eastern Ukraine, this is an outcome of no peace, no war. Except for the fighters on either side of the barricades, it’s also an outcome of no work, no money. (more…)
When Alexander Shokhin was a junior official in the international economic department of the Soviet Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the 1980s, it was plain he was short-sighted. That was because of the glasses he wore – the old Soviet type, super-thick. He’s come a long way since then, and so has sight-correction technology. When Shokhin met President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin on February 14, his eyewear was much improved. His short-sightedness wasn’t.
Now president of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs (RUIE), the principal business lobby in Moscow, Shokhin tried telling Putin his clients would agree to paying more Russian tax on their corporate, and maybe personal incomes, if Putin agreed to let them keep legal title of their assets abroad, under the jurisdiction of foreign courts, not Russian. Putin rejected the offer. It was one week before the Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovich was ousted from office in Kiev, and the international position of Russian capital was to be exposed to unprecedented restrictions and risks – from a US Government attack on offshorization, not from the Kremlin’s. (more…)
In the wake of the lethal Odessa fire on May 2, President Vladimir Putin and Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed by telephone on Sunday afternoon “to take effective measures, including through the OSCE in the first place, aimed at easing tensions in Ukraine. In this connection, Swiss Federal President and OSCE Chairperson-in-Office Didier Burkhalter will arrive in Moscow on May 7.”
This amounts to an invitation for the Swiss to exercise their longstanding neutrality in European conflicts to keep the warring sides apart in eastern and southern Ukraine; prevent the violence; and create the conditions in which a durable settlement between the Ukrainian regions may be negotiated on a new constitutional basis. In short, an international police force. (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.