First published at Axis of Ligic, 2016-02-24.
Miles Report No. 69 - Rosemary Barton, Bill Browder, and Russia
I have just listened to Rosemary Barton interviewing Bill Browder on Power and Politics (CBC, Tuesday, February 23). It was obvious that Browder was totally against Putin and Russia, making some serious errors in argument and judgement with his responses to Rosemary Barton’s questions.
According to Wikipedia, Browder is a trained economist from the Chicago school, one of the powerful neoliberal schools that ignores reality for its economic theorizing (see “Killing the Host,” Michael Hudson). He also apparently had a run in with the Russian system a few years ago - and whether he was rightly or wrongly sanctioned by Russia, the result is that he has put on his blinders and is not reading the Russian situation geopolitically at all correctly.
Most of what Browder says us ingenuous at best and outright false at worst. I did not catch all of the conversation, but came in when he said that Putin is a war criminal, only understands power, and is running a rogue mafia state.
If that is true - a big if - then all recent U.S. presidents and all recent Canadian PMs are also war criminals for all the bombing and death and destruction they have caused throughout the Middle East - Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, and - before Russia - Syria as well. The country that most understands power is the U.S. as they have tried to be the global hegemon since the end of WW II. Putin, by standing up to them with his own power base, has demonstrated that, yes, it is no longer a unipolar world.
As for a rogue mafia state, the U.S. has been the global rogue state along with its desire to be global hegemon, killing millions directly or indirectly throughout the world. Its mafia status is exercised financially with the trillions of dollars created to prevent the big banks from failing in spite of their fraud in reaping trillions from the system.
Syria - duh!
Ms Barton then asked about the situation is Syria. Browder’s initial response was that the west was caught “flat footed” by Russia’s actions. Well of course, as the U.S. was not actually trying to defeat ISIS but to contain it and use it and its allies to destroy the Assad government. Along comes Russia, a Syrian ally since WW II - and note a non-aggressive ally vis a vis Israel - and demonstrates that a combination of air power and effective ground forces can actually defeat ISIS and other terrorist groups.
Of course these “moderate” terrorists are supported by the U.S./Turkey/Saudi Arabia but they were unable to be located/distinguished by the U.S. when Russia started their bombing campaign.
Browder goes on to say that the bombing in Syria was being used as a way to get sanctions lifted as per the Ukrainian situation. Several things go against this. First of all is the location of Russia’s only overseas naval base in Syria (as compared to the militarized world of the U.S. with over 750 military bases of all kinds scattered over more than 150 countries). For geopolitical reasons they obviously want to keep that. Secondly, Syria is blocking the route for western allied oil to pass through - a route the U.S. wants in order to contain Russia geopolitically and to weaken them financially via oil revenues.
Another argument is the sanction argument itself. Browder says Russia needs more money and lifting sanctions is the way to get it. Certainly it is one way, but as I will argue below, the Russian economy is in better shape than most western mainstream media have shown (Rosemary Barton included). It is actually strengthening internally, and is strengthening in relation with other nations opposed to U.S. hegemony.
It is a lie on Browder’s part to say that Russia - by implication - has created the refugee problem and has killed hundreds of thousands. The refugee problem began with the advent of ISIS - actually well before that with the advent of the U.S. in the countries listed above, and with Israel in Palestine - and the majority of the civilian deaths have occurred at the hands of ISIS and its associated “moderate” groups - al-Qaeda, al Nusrah et al.
Assad is not a saint, but as with Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya the people are far worse off than they were under the dictatorships. The U.S. does not mind dictatorships, nor beheadings, nor civilian deaths as they support oligarchs, monarchies, and dictatorships around the world as long as they support the U.S. as global financial/military hegemon.
Russia’s financial problems
The final argument from Browder was that the Magnitsky Sanctions as per the U.S. House of Representatives should be put in place in Parliament (like the good sycophantic U.S. puppet that we are). From that he believes the financial distress should cause Russia to step back.
Allow some context to develop here. The U.S. has wanted to contain or dissolve the state of Russia since the end of the Cold War. Similarly, they do not want China to achieve superpower status along with its economic control of the U.S. China owns trillions of US$ debt and could destroy the U.S. financial system on a dime (so to speak) by selling it all off at once, or by stating that the yuan would be backed by gold reserves of which they have accumulated many thousands of tons more than their officially stated amount over the past decade.
But back to Russia. The U..S. spent $5 billion in covert money in Ukraine to replace a Russian leaning Oligarch with a western leaning oligarch. The latter, Poroshenko, was supported by several right wing organizations, several of which are demonstrably neoNazi supporters. When the U.S. backed coup worked, Russia very intelligently protected the Crimea - originally Russian territory before Khrushchev gave it to the Ukraine SSR. After a democratic vote, the Crimeans asked Russia to annex them into their country which obviously they did.
Browder I am sure would argue that this was done under duress of military occupation. That does not hold true unless one negates all the elections in Afghanistan, Iraq, and - oh, sorry, Libya is still trying to organize its power lords. For that matter, taking that to its logical extreme, Japan (49,00 U.S. troops) and Germany (38,000 U.S. troops) are still under occupation, and their foreign policy actions in support of the U.S. would indicate that the occupation has settled into the national political psyche quite well.
Again back to Russia. Russia’s debt to GDP ratio is very low; that of the U.S. is very high. Russia has ample foreign exchange reserves, they are stockpiling gold (did I mention China?), they are selling oil still in US$ but also in rubles and yuan.
Their domestic agriculture has improved significantly and their counter sanctions against the west have hurt mostly European countries but also some Canadian exports (e.g. pork). Similarly, their domestic industrial production has been re-aligned and is expected to create support for the GDP barring full economic fallout from the failing U.S. system. Russia’s military sales from domestic production is increasing, partly due to their demonstrated success in the Syrian war, which includes a range of electronic warfare devices that have so far stumped the west.
Finally, for all his supposed ‘ogre-ness’ Putin has the support of 90 per cent of the population, so when Browder argues about helping the “liberal” people in Russia, he is talking about a minority, a minority more than likely in the pocket of U.S. NGOs such as those funded by George Soros, another anti-Russian U.S. oligarch.
Did I mention China?
For all the efforts to geopolitically isolate Russia, nothing has worked. Russia’s trade with China with resources, military supplies, manufacturing goods, and agricultural goods has increased significantly. This applies to a lesser degree with other non U.S. hegemonic countries like India, Iran and others in Africa and Latin America.
China is the leading gold buyer (trading the lead sometimes with India) and is working as stated policy towards taking away the power of the US$ fiat currency. Which comes back to Syria, Saudi Arabia and oil - if oil transactions were not held in US$ there would be nothing left but a mountain of debt to back it. Russia knows this; China knows this - as does the U.S., which is why they destroy any government that tries to sell oil outside the US$ loop (it gets repetitive doesn’t it - Iraq, Libya, Syria, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia and on).
China’s finances may look like they are in tatters simply by looking at the stock market, but with gold as a possible backup, with the IMF allowing the yuan as part of the SDR ‘currency’ basket, and with the next G-20 summit being held in Hangzhou, China may well be poised to do away with US$ hegemony.
Frankly, I don’t think they will, as they have demonstrated long term strategies to siphon off as much gold as the can from the west - a collapsed US$ would cause the price of gold to sky-rocket, not good for amassing more of the same quite cheaply. After all it is simply a “barbaric relic” of exchange, a “pet rock” sort of.
Bowder - wilfully ignorant or an astrologer?
I have to wonder if Mr. Bowder’s problems with Russia have blinded him to what is actually occurring geopolitically, or if he is consciously swaying his message as per the western mainstream media onslaught against the ‘evil’ Putin, the ‘evil’ Russia.
Regardless of the merits of his complaint against Russia, one would hope that it would not block out the reality of what the U.S. is trying to do globally - mostly through military might and financial manipulation, operating synchronously. However if one is also a fully invested western oligarch, a true believer in the Chicago school of economic fairytales, it is easy to suspend one’s critical thinking skills in order to support a particular bias.
As for the sanctity of economics, it is, after all, nothing more than invented mathematical manipulations. That gives more credence to astrology, as it too is based on math, but on the real math involved with planetary motions, thus it is “highly technical and mathematical, and like economics it deals with forecasting.” (“The Bubble and Beyond,” Michael Hudson).