Posts Tagged Russia
The Russian economy remains in a shambles as the West’s economic sanctions, imposed after the invasion of Crimea in 2014, continue to serve their intended purpose. Obviously the drop in global oil prices, by 50% over the past few years, didn’t help Russia either. Economic, as well as political concerns certainly led to protests marches throughout Russia. That’s where Exxon-Mobil may come in handy–at least, on the economic front.
Some 45 % of Russian Energy production is exported, and that provides 70% of Russia’s overall earnings. Prior to the section imposition, Exxon-Mobil had intended to transfer state-of-the-art drilling technology, for use in both the Arctic Ocean and the Black Sea. Exxon had applied for a sanctions waiver, from the U. S. Treasury, during the Obama Administration. The company, however, has raised the issue again.
As the very recent Chairman and CEO of Exxon-Mobil, current Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, had been very much in favor of providing the drilling waiver. Although any decision now will be made by the treasury Department, and he supposedly has recused himself, there will always be the suspicion–rightfully or not–than he had plan a finger ion the sale. Remember that, when he left Exxon-Mobil, he obviously receivers an extremely lucrative severance package.
OK, OK! Don’t get excited. But, I do believe that Donald Trump has made a great point! A really good one, for ONCE! And, let’s get this whole mess over with at one time! If President Barack Obama were, indeed, tapping the phone lines at Trump Tower, he was surely trying to prove that the Trump Campaign, and then the Trump Transition Team, had been cozying-up to Vladimir Putin, and his Russian Goon Squad!
Director James Comey, of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, has suggested that the investigation be scrapped, since a President cannot direct wire taps. He claims that electronic surveillance now requires the approval of the FISA Court, which was established by the Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Act of 1978. That Act was passed, following the GOP’s Watergate Break-in of the Democratic National Committee.
Let’s expand the wire tape investigation; however, and appoint a Special Investigator, just like when the Republicans went after President Bill Clinton. Also, as Judge Ken Starr did at that time, let’s expand the Investigation to determine both: what role President Obama had in those illegal wire taps, and also to eliminate this Russo-Trumpian Conspiracy Theory, which has been hanging around for just too damn long! But, Donald, this was a great stroke of genius on your part: demanding a Special Investigator.
Oh, by the way, in order to get this whole investigation started-off, please forward a copy of the Report and the Intelligence that you have available. They surely will be invaluable to determining Obama’s fate. And that way, you can get back to doing the People’s Business–Making America Great Again!
The controlling manner with which Donald Trump seems intent on forcing his ideas into all segments of the American Economy, at least to me, is reminiscent of the old Soviet Five-Year Plans. Who knew better than the apparatchiks, in Moscow, the number, size and cut of women’s brassieres that would be needed in Vladivostok, several years hence? Surely, their Command Economy knew better than that Capitalist “Invisible hand of the Markets.”
Just like the micromanagers in the Kremlin, or their counterparts at Beijing’s Central Party Committee, Donald Trump has been using old-fashioned jaw-boning: letting corporate CEOs what how he expects them to manage their companies; apparently offering tax incentives and promises to de-regulate, but only time will tell if it is working.
Surely, when GM committed to attend, Ford showed-up, as well. He started going through the Industries, one-by-one, and then the Unions. But, will smiles and small talk really convert to obedience? I doubt it! So far, all D. J. Trump has accomplished is more photo-ops.
Now, let’s get back to the Real World. If a corporate CEO makes a dumb business decision at the “suggestion” of the President, he or she could be sued by the company’s shareholders. And, assuming that the Board of Directors approved it, they would also be included in that suit! Until we have a Dictatorship, following instructions of the Tenant in The Oval Office doesn’t qualify as a rational business decision.
I have written about my supermarket before; but, the same goes for all, except the very smallest, businesses. Their computer systems, tied to the cash registers, keep track of their sales on a daily, even hourly, basis.
Inventories—by individual locations—are automatically reported to the Regional or Home Office. When required, inventories would automatically be replenished, with shipments from the appropriate warehouses. That even goes for women’s brassieres.
America doesn’t need the slight-of-hand of Donald Trump to keep individual companies, their industries or the overall Economy humming along. And, in case corporate leadership cowers to Mr. Trump’s browbeating, and indulges his ideas, there is still a Court of Law to bring him back down to earth. And Donald, lest you forget, Micromanagement, like Command Economies have never worked efficiently!
German Chancellor Angela Merkel appears resigned to the fact that the sole Leadership of Europe is being thrust upon her. In more normal times, the German Chancellor would share that role with the President of France, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and the President of the United States. So much has changed, however, during the past six months.
Following the British Brexit vote in late June, Prime Minister Theresa May has taken the reins of Great Britain, as it prepares to exit the European Union. It will, however, continue on as the most important European military force in NATO. In Paris, it seems obvious that Francois Hollande will soon be ousted as the President of France. And of course, the Election Victory of Donald Trump, in the United States—with his uncertain commitment to the Atlantic Alliance, and his growing fondness for Russian President Vladimir Putin—have left Merkel as the only experienced Head of State, in both the E. U. and NATO!
With eleven years of leading Europe’s largest nation, as well as the dominant economy, Mrs. Merkel is generally unflappable, decisive and able to quickly grasp complex issues. But, her aides now believe that she has recently been showing signs of stress and anxiety, ever since the American Election on November 8. An interesting article, from popular German periodical “Spiegel”, is linked as follows: http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/donald-trump-angela-merkel-anticipates-frosty-relations-with-u-s-a-1128442.html. Be sure to click on the second part, at the bottom!
While watching a video of Trump’s rally in Pennsylvania, as part of his “Victory Tour”, she was flabbergasted that he: claimed a landslide victory, when there was none; blasted the Press for reporting the Truth, as it should; and the audacity to suggest that he had matured as a statesman, even when he hasn’t. Chancellor Merkel recommended that the entire National Executive Committee of the Christian Democratic Union, her party, watch the entire hour-long video of that address.
Mrs. Merkel quoted one particular remark in her recommendation, something that truly caught her attention. She cited it verbatim: “There is no such thing as a global anthem, a global currency, a global flag. We salute one flag, and that is the American flag.” Germany has been trying to make amends for what another demagogue, Adolf Hitler, did in the late 1930s and early 1940s. Never again!
Part of Angela Merkel’s anxiety is that most people, perhaps even his closest associates, don’t have any idea of what Trump’s intentions are, or what he might actually do. When various representatives of the German Foreign Ministry have contacted Trump confidantes, such as Jared Kushner, his son-in-law, or Secretary Henry Kissinger, they just couldn’t fill-in the blanks either!
The only positive note in Germany’s confusion is the high praise that every General who knows Retired General John Mathis, from Afghanistan or NATO Headquarters, in Brussels, has for Donald trump’s nominee for Secretary of Defense. They described General Mathis as a man who is not easily intimidated, and who is a champion of the Trans-Atlantic Alliance. They also believe that he will make that clear to Trump.
When it comes to Mr. Trump’s appointee for National Security Advisor, Retired General Michael Flynn, however, the German Officers unanimously hold him in contempt. One even suggested that Flynn seemed to have given very little thought to killing Afghan civilians, in Kabul, as so-called “collateral damage”. The Germans are quite concerned about Flynn coordinating National Security Policy for the President, which they believe will not be overly friendly toward the trans-Atlantic alliance.
There might be one other serious problem, just waiting to happen—a potential nuclear arms race in the Middle East. Consider the facts:
1. Donald Trump has vowed to repudiate the Nuclear Agreement with Iran. Approximately three years ago, in an address to the U. N. General Assembly, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that Iran was just two-or-three months away from building a nuclear bomb. Once formal negotiations, over the Nuclear Arms Agreement, began in June of 2014, however, Iran closed its labs and sent almost all of the centrifuges and plutonium out of the country. So, here we are today, and without a Nuclear-Armed Iran!
2. Early in 2016, Donald Trump suggested that he would help Japan and Saudi Arabia build a nuclear bomb. Does that really mean “build”, or perhaps just sell or give one to the Saudis?
3. Israel has already had a nuclear arsenal—not just one bomb, or two—for several decades!
Consider that, if the United States pulls back—away from Europe, the Middle East, Asia-Pacific, and let’s not forget Latin America—wouldn’t that leave us embracing the same Protectionist-Isolationist Policies, which led to the great Depression and World War II? No one really knows what “Make America Great Again” is really supposed to mean. Perhaps, not even Donald Trump!
This is why Germany is concerned. Just think back to Trump’s remark, in Pennsylvania: “There is no such thing as a global anthem, a global currency, a global flag. We salute one flag, and that is the American flag.” Like Germany, the whole world should definitely be concerned. Scared even!
The Russian Economy is in a shambles. Too much of its budget has historically been used to upgrade its military technology, to the detriment of the needs of the Russian People. The Energy Sector accounts for 47.5% of its Economic Production, and it has failed to diversify much of the rest beyond banking and commodities.
The economic sanctions, which were increased by the West in early 2014, after Russia annexed Crimea and began encouraging civil war in Eastern Ukraine, have surely hurt its trade activities. Slumping oil and gas prices during that period, by 35% and 22%, respectively, reduced the Russian access to Dollars. At the same time, the 87% decline of the Ruble, versus the Dollar, has made many imports cost-prohibitive.
Besides the inflation that the weak Ruble has caused, and the scarcity of consumer goods, unemployment has risen, wages have decreased, and there seems to be no relief in sight for the average Russian worker. Russians still make family outings to the malls, which were built during the oil boom; however, many stores are closed, and the shelves are quite empty in those that remain. It’s just something to do during those long Russian winters.
A friendly American President, who seems less inclined to cooperate with an apparently splintering European Union, might cause the sanctions to be eased—either nation by nation, or across-the-board. There has been talk about several European nations initiating more active trade with Russia. Such improved trade options might ease the Russian economy into a somewhat better situation.
Donald Trump, along with many of his Cabinet nominees, seems to be advocates of fossil fuels, and they claim that man-made climate change is a hoax. So far, Mr. Trump has not shown any interest in the Paris Accord. This scenario seems to suggest a reduced interest in alternative energy sources and, thus, an increased demand for gas, oil and coal.
Apparent Secretary of State-Designate Rex Tillerson, CEO of Exxon-Mobil, would certainly be Donald Trump’s go-to guy, with regard to Russia. His so-called personal relationship with Vladimir Putin has been a symbiotic one: Rex was selling and Vlad needed to buy! When the sanctions were increased in 2014, the transfer of vital technology, from Exxon-Mobil to Russia’s Rosneft Oil Company, was blocked. Such a transfer under a Trump Administration, might become more likely, and it would give Exxon-Mobil access to a sector in Russia’s Arctic Region.
We’ll never know, for sure, if Russia helped Donald Trump win the Election; but, Vladimir Putin surely needs Donald’s and Exxon-Mobil’s help now! Trust me!
WILL TRUMP’S NOMINATION OF REX TILLERSON, AS SECRETARY OF STATE, JUST BE THE FINAL NUDGE TO CAUSE THE ELECTORS TO ACT?
In his introduction of Tillerson, who has been the CEO and Chairman of Exxon-Mobil just since 2006, Donald Trump, in his normally ignorant flair for over-hype, boasted that Tillerson had “built a very large company”. As usual, facts just seem to escape Trump; because, Exxon (Esso, Standard Oil) has been around for more than a hundred years.
Mr. Tillerson has been touted by Trump for his Foreign Affairs experience. Well, yes, he did spend a significant portion of his career overseas, mostly in Russia and Yemen—two Petrodollar States. But, does Trump really believe that Putin and his Communist Cronies were: intent upon meeting the physical needs of the Russian people; maintaining democratic ideas, such as human rights and open media; having peaceful relations with neighboring countries; understanding the U. S. Laws, regarding the transfer of state-of-the-art technology to foreign governments; etc? Hell, Trump didn’t even know himself, until recently, that Russia had, in fact, invaded Ukraine—the Crimean Peninsula!
Mr. Tillerson, like any corporate executive, was primarily interested in generating revenue for Exxon-Mobil, and growing its market share overseas. Mr. Tillerson’s goal to rise through the ranks at Exxon, was based upon his meeting both personal and corporate goals. Besides, that’s what his paycheck, bonus and stock options were based upon! That’s just routine corporate goal-setting.
In fact, when the West increased the economic sanctions on Russia in 2014—after it had annexed Crimea and orchestrated the civil war in Eastern Ukraine—that hurt Mr. Tillerson, both personally and professionally. The increased sanctions blocked the planned transfer of advanced energy technology to Russia, as well as Exxon’s gaining access to key sections of the Russian Arctic for exploration. And so, Mr. Tillerson’s sole experience was as an Exxon-Man—not as someone who knew much more about Diplomacy than any other business traveller!
Rex Tillerson is just one more miscast nominee for key positions in the Trump Administration. Donald Trump has truly assembled a rogues’ gallery—of Goldman Sachs bankers, pro-Business/anti-Labor billionaires, and Beltway Insiders—rather than the types of people who would try to improve the lives of Working Class Americans—namely those who voted Trump into Office. In fact, just about every one of Trump’s nominees seems intent on working counter to the stated goals of the very departments which they are supposed to lead!
And that brings me to Donald Trump’s admiration for Russia, and its President, Vladimir Putin. In a prior blog post, I noted that the Pentagon, in its long-range National Defense planning–or “Third Offset Strategy”–lists Russia, far and away, as America’s most dangerous global adversary. But, why hasn’t any of this sunk-in for Donald Trump to process yet? The CIA’s Daily Intelligence Briefings, which he has declined, might have helped!
Trump’s oldest son, Donald, Jr., has boasted that the Trump Organization receives revenue from Russia on a regular basis. Shouldn’t we know, from whom and how much? And, when Donald hosted the 2013 Miss Universe Pageant, in Moscow, President Putin cancelled, but all of the Oligarchs—Putin’s closest friends—sat at Trump’s table.
Trump’s former Campaign Manager, Paul Manafort, had Viktor Yanukovych, the former President of Ukraine, as a client for his Kiev consulting business. Yanukovych, by the way, later fled to Moscow, when Ukraine shifted away from Russia, and toward the Western Alliance. And now, the CIA has reported that Russia, along with WikiLeaks, had conspired to block Secretary Hillary Clinton from winning the 2016 Election, while advancing Donald J. Jump toward the Presidency.
So, the question remains: why is Mr. Tillerson being nominated to become America’s Chief Diplomat, when he has no experience whatsoever in Foreign Relations? His primary, and perhaps only, credential appears to be his long relationship with Vladimir Putin? Granted, Rex Tillerson knows the Energy Business, inside-out. But, his close “personal” relationship with President Putin is presumably a symbiotic one—Russia has substantial oil and gas reserves; Energy is virtually Russia’s only source of Dollars; and Russia needs access to Exxon’s advanced technological engineering prowess. And, Exxon can help!
Initially, the early Nominations to Trump’s Inner Circle—Reince Priebus and Steve Bannon—were just ludicrous. And then, they shifted from ridiculous to highly-questionable. But now, Trump’s miscast team of Ideologues is beginning to look potentially dangerous—regardless of your political leanings.
Remember, the Electoral College, which votes on December 19, was devised by our Founding Fathers, specifically to serve as a check on the Presidential Election, in case the “Sense (Vote) of the People” might lead to Tumult and Disruption. If there ever were a case for the Electoral College to act: This is it!
THERE SHOULD BE A TRANS-PACIFIC SECURITY AND DEFENSE ORGANIZATION, PATTERNED ON NATO, BUT MODIFIED FOR THE REGION!
During World War II, the Axis Powers—Japan and Nazi Germany—rolled-over their neighbors in Asia and Europe, respectively. At first, America did not join the War, due to its Isolationist Policies. Afterward, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization was formed—including Europe and North America—with a stated goal to: “…safeguard the freedom and security of the member nations, through political and military means.”
China and Russia—the two current powers in their respective regions—have each stepped-up their aggressive behavior against their neighbors. The Asia-Pacific Region does not have an equivalent security treaty, similar to NATO. At the same time, with the splintering of the European Union, and the uncertainty over what a Trump Presidency might bring, the Atlantic Alliance needs to be re-invigorated, as it is showing signs of diminishing strength.
Neither of the two Socialist Leaders—Xi Jinping, of China, or Vladimir Putin, of Russia—are particularly friendly toward one another. But given their common political philosophy, each seems to believer in the old military strategy: Divide and Conquer! That’s why both nations are either befriending or intimidating their neighbors, one-by-one, as each pursues it particular agenda.
Let’s look at NATO first. Once the United Kingdom signaled its intention to leave the European Union last June, heads began to turn, questioning which nation(s) would be next? And although the E. U. is primarily a trade union, its potentially diminishing membership might cause some–including Russia–to question Europe’s cohesiveness.
The Southeast Asian Treaty Organization was formed in the mid-1950s; however, it lacked wide regional participation, and it accomplished very little. And so, SEATO was disbanded in 1976. There still needs to be some form of security organization, however, in the Pacific Region. And similar to NATO, Canada and the U. S. should be included.
It’s still too early to consider how a Donald Trump Administration might change the U. S. participation in the various international organizations—UN, WHO, IMF, World Bank, NATO, etc. Hopefully, America will continue to participate, and to contribute according to our level of ability. Since the Republican Party seems to favor International Trade, such as the TPP: hopefully, they will convince Donald Trump to remain in NATO, and to help establish a counterpart organization in the Pacific.
NOTE: The linked article, from “Foreign Policy”, by James Stavridis, is provided because it makes a good case for our continued support for NATO. Admiral Stavridis is the Dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, and had served as the NATO Supreme Allied Commander. The article is linked as follows: http://fletcher.tufts.edu/News-and-Media/2016/11/10/Dean-Stavridis-Foreign-Policy-Audit-NATO.