Posts Tagged Russia
Last January, I compared the current disastrous situation with Mexico, which Donald Trump created, when he announced his candidacy in June of 2015. Mr. Trump always seems to need objects, which he can later blame for his own mistakes or inadequacies. In fact, ever since Trump’s irrational attacks on Mexico began, the possible reaction could present a much clearer and more dangerous situation.
In October of 1962, President John F. Kennedy averted the Soviet Union’s installation of Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles in Cuba, by establishing a blockade of U. S. naval ships around the island nation. Allowing ICBMs, just 90 miles from our shares, would have been courting a similarly dangerous situation, between the two nuclear superpowers. Luckily, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev “blinked”, and the ships returned to Russia.
Given Trump’s raucous attacks over the past two years, current Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, who had previously been lagging in popularity, has dropped even farther in the polls. The Mexican economy has stagnated, partially due to a halt in corporate investments until Donald Trump decides, for sure, what the status of NAFTA will be! Keep in mind, as well, that Russia and now China, have b been building trading relationships throughout South America, and Mexico might be of interest to them.
Ironically, as America tries to determine whether there was any possible Russian involvement in our Election, last November, Donald Trump has apparently contributed toward a probable Presidential turn-over in Mexico. If Donald would have considered the facts—only 5.6 million undocumented Mexicans were in the U. S. in 2016, as compared to 6.4 million in 2009, according to a new Pew Research Report—we wouldn’t be in this situation.
Senior Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the leftist former Mayor of Mexico City, appears favored to win the Presidential Election on July 1. Andres Oppenheimer writes that, when he interviewed Lopez Obrador, two years ago for the Miami Herald, he sounded exactly like Communist Hugo Chavez, the deceased former President of Venezuela. Lopez Obrador further places the blame, for the current deadly riots in Venezuela, on the political opponents of current President, Nicolas Maduro.
U. S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s comment, earlier this week, announced that the Trump Regime would no longer insist that countries we deal with, must abide by our values. Those would include Democracy and Human Rights. In that case, Donald Trump; might develop a closer relationship with Mexico, if the favored Lopez Obrador, who might have Communist tendencies. is elected President. Of course, Donald might then have to accept the ramifications—of having either China or Russia, literally on our doorstep!
As I write this, it is already early Sunday morning in France, on the day of the Final Round of the French Presidential Election. The candidates from the two major parties have been eliminated, and the 2017 Presidential Election will choose between: Marion Anne “Marine” Le Pen, of Ultra-Right “Le Front National”, against Emmanuel (Jean-Michel Frederic) Macron of the Centrist “En Marche!” Party.
The Russian cyber-prints seem to be all over the French Election, as was the case in the U. S., Germany and perhaps elsewhere in Europe. Unlike Donald Trump, however, who sent his “Special Advisors” to meet with the Russians, Madam Le Pen made a personal visit to President Vladimir Putin, and even had her photograph taken with him. So, why does Russia care about the French Election?
President Putin seems to have two major problems with the Atlantic Alliance, which includes: Canada; the U. S; and Europe. Following the implosion of he Soviet Union, some of it’s former Soviet satellites either claimed independence, or joined NATO and/or the European Union. Additionally, when Russia annexed Crimea, and began interfering in Eastern Ukraine, the Alliance toughened its economic sanctions on Russia.
The sanctions have greatly hindered Russia’s trade: either for importing goods that its economy needs; or selling its exports—primarily oil and gas—to acquire necessary dollars, or other reserve currencies. The Russian economy, which had never diversified much beyond the energy sector, was further devastated when the price of oil—its major cash source—was cut in half, on local markets, from the $90 per barrel three years ago.
Although Monsieur Macron appears favored to win; as we saw in the U. S. Election, strange things can happen. If Marine Le Pen were to become President, and her avowed Referendum to leave the E. U. were successful, that would mean that two of the three major economies—and largest nations—would be gone.
Also, a FRexit would be even worse than Britain leaving, since breaking-up the 19 member Euro, the common currency, would cause even more of an upheaval—both for France and the E. U. At that point, losing 30% of the trade pact’s GDP—between France and U. K., would certainly cause the relevance of the E. U. to come into question. And then, nations that leave, as they look for trading options, might begin to cozy-up to Russia and, thus, reduce the impact of the economic sanctions.
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!