U.S. Leaders Are Split On China Policy

Richard D. Wolff – Photo: YouTube

On the one hand, U.S. policy aims to constrain China’s economic, political, and military development because it has now become the United States’ chief economic competitor and thus enemy. On the other hand, U.S. policy seeks to secure the many benefits to the United States of its companies’ trade with and investments in China. U.S. debates over “decoupling” the two countries’ economies versus the milder version of the same thing—“de-risking”—exemplify, on both sides, U.S. policy’s split approach to China.

The difficult reality for the United States is economic dependence on the world’s number two economy that deepens with China’s relentless march toward becoming the world’s number one. Likewise, China’s stunningly rapid growth over recent decades entangled it in a complex economic codependence with the U.S. market, the U.S. dollar, and U.S. interest rates. In stark contrast, neither the Soviet Union nor Russia ever offered the U.S. economic opportunities or competitive challenges comparable to what China now does. In this context, consider World Bank 2022 data on GDPs in Russia, Germany, China, and the United States: $1.5 trillion, $3.9 trillion, $14.7 trillion, and $20.9 trillion, respectively.

The political right wings of both major U.S. political parties and the military-industrial complex have long prevailed in shaping how U.S. mainstream media treat the country’s foreign policies. Over the last decade especially, the media has increasingly accused China of aggressively expanding its global influence, of authoritarianism at home, and of policies targeting the United States. Over recent decades, big business interests promote a quite different U.S. foreign policy prioritizing profitable coexistence between the United States and China. U.S. policy splits and oscillates between these two poles. One day Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase bank and U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen go to Beijing to support mutuality of interests while at the same time, President Biden labels Xi Jinping a “dictator.”

The history and legacy of the Cold War accustomed U.S. media, politicians, and academics to traffic in hyperbolic denunciations of communism plus parties and governments they link to it. Right-wing political forces have always been eager to update anti-Soviet, Cold War logics and slogans for use against China’s government and Communist Party as continuing villains. Old (Taiwan and Hong Kong) and new issues (Uyghurs) mark an ongoing campaign.

Yet as the Cold War wound down and then collapsed with the USSR’s demise, Nixon and Kissinger reconnected with a China already launched on an economic development surge that never stopped. Capitalists from the system’s old centers in the G7 (Western Europe, North America, and Japan) poured investments into China to profit from its relatively much lower wages and its rapidly growing internal market. Over the last 50 years, consumer goods and capital goods flowed out of factories in China to markets around the world. China became deeply entangled in global supply chains. Exports from China brought an inflow of payments in U.S. dollars. China lent many of those dollars back to the U.S. Treasury to fund its growing budget deficits. China joined Japan as the two major creditor countries of the United States, the world’s greatest debtor country.

China’s investment of its accumulating dollars in U.S. Treasury bonds helped to enable the fast-rising U.S. national debt over the last half-century. That helped keep U.S. interest rates low to fuel U.S. economic growth and its recoveries from several economic crashes. China’s relatively low-priced exports reflected its low wages and active government development supports. Those exports to the United States helped prevent inflation over most of those years. In turn, low prices reduced pressures from employees for higher wages and thereby supported U.S. capitalists’ profits. In these and still other ways, U.S.-China connections became deeply embedded in the functioning and success of U.S. capitalism. Cutting those connections would risk very adverse economic consequences for the United States.

Moreover, many proposals favoring such cutting are ineffective and ill-informed fantasies. If the U.S. government could force United States and other multinational corporations to close up shop in China, they would most likely move to other low-wage Asian locations. They would not return to the United States because its wages and other expenses are too high and thus non-competitive. Where they do go will entail sourcing inputs from China, already their most competitive producer. In short, forcing capitalists to leave China will help the United States minimally and hurt the Chinese minimally as well. Closing off the China market for U.S. microchip-makers is likewise a faulty fantasy. Without access to the booming Chinese market, U.S.-based companies will be uncompetitive with other chip-makers based in countries not closed out of the Chinese market.

U.S. capitalism needs the inflow of most Chinese exports and needs inclusion in China’s markets. U.S. megabanks need access to China’s fast-growing markets or else European, Japanese, and Chinese banks will eventually outcompete the U.S. banks. Even if the United States could force or maneuver G7 banks to join a U.S.-led exit from China, China’s banks and those of its allies in India, Russia, Brazil, and South Africa (the BRICS) would control access to the profitable financing of China’s growth. In terms of aggregate GDPs, the BRICS are already a bigger economic system, taken together, than the G7 taken together, and the gap between them keeps widening.

Were the United States to pursue its resumed Cold War crusade against China—economically, politically, and/or militarily without nuclear warfare—the results could risk major dislocations, losses, and costly adjustments for U.S. capitalism. With nuclear warfare, of course, the risks are still larger. Other than extreme parts of the U.S. right wing, no one wants to take such risks. The United States’ G7 allies surely do not. Already they are imagining their desired futures in a bipolar world split between falling and rising hegemons and perhaps counterhegemonic groupings of other nations. Most of the world recognizes China’s relentless growth and expansion as the major dynamic of today’s world economy. Most likewise see the United States as the major antagonist tilting against China’s rise into a global superpower position.

What many observers of the China-U.S. clash miss are those of its causes and shapers located in the extreme tensions and contradictions besetting the employer-employee class conflicts within both superpowers. Those class conflicts in the United States respond to this basic question: whose wealth, income, and social position will have to bear the major burden of accommodating the costs of declining hegemony? Will the redistribution of wealth upward across the last 3-40 years persist, be stopped, or be reversed? Are rising labor militancy across the United States and the quasi-fascistic resurging U.S. right wing foretastes of struggles to come?

China’s remarkable ascension rapidly transformed a rural, poor, agricultural economy into an urban, middle-income, and industrial economy. The parallel transformation in Western Europe took centuries and occasioned profound, bitter, and violent class struggles. In China, the transformation took a few decades and was likely the more profoundly traumatic for that reason. Will similar class struggles erupt there? Are they building beneath the surface of Chinese society already? Might the Global South be where global capitalism—the system defined by its employer-versus-employee productive core—goes finally to play the endgame of its profit-maximization fetish?

Both the United States and China display economic systems organized around workplace organizations where a small number of employers dominate a large number of hired employees. In the United States, those workplace organizations are mostly private enterprises. China displays a hybrid system whose enterprises are both private and state-owned and operated, but where both types of workplace organizations share the employer-versus-employee organization. That organization typically features the employer class accumulating far more wealth than the employee class. Moreover, that wealthy class of employers can and usually does buy dominant political power as well. The resulting mix of economic and political inequality provokes tensions, conflicts, and social change.

That reality is already well established in both the United States and China. Thus, for example, the United States has not raised its federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour since 2009. Both major political parties are responsible. Yellen gives speeches bemoaning the deepening inequalities in the United States, but the deepening persists. In the tradition of blaming the victim, American capitalism tends to fault the poor for their poverty. Xi Jinping also worries openly about deepening inequalities: likely more urgent in nations calling themselves socialist. Even though China has taken significant steps to reduce its recently extreme economic inequalities, they remain a serious social problem there too. The U.S.-China clash depends as much on each nation’s internal class conflicts and struggles as it depends on their policies toward one another.

China adjusts to the twists and turns in the United States’ split policy approach. It prepares for both eventualities: cutthroat competition abetted by intense economic nationalism possibly including military warfare or a conjointly planned peaceful economic coexistence. As China awaits the United States’ decisions on which way to guide the United States’ economic future, China’s growth will likely continue, matching and then surpassing the United States’ global economic footprint. China’s stunning economic growth success across the last 30 years secures China’s remarkable hybrid economy of private and state enterprises supervised by and subordinated to a powerful political party. An anxious world awaits the next chapter in capitalism’s always dangerously uneven mix of class and national struggles.

Byline:
Richard D. Wolff

Author Bio:
Richard D. Wolff is professor of economics emeritus at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and a visiting professor in the Graduate Program in International Affairs of the New School University, in New York. Wolff’s weekly show, “Economic Update,” is syndicated by more than 100 radio stations and goes to 55 million TV receivers via Free Speech TV. His three recent books with Democracy at Work are The Sickness Is the System: When Capitalism Fails to Save Us From Pandemics or Itself, Understanding Socialism, and Understanding Marxism, the latter of which is now available in a newly released 2021 hardcover edition with a new introduction by the author.

Source:
Independent Media Institute

Credit Line:
This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

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Niger Is The Fourth Country In The Sahel To Experience An Anti-Western Coup

Niger – wikipedia.org

At 3 a.m. on July 26, 2023, the presidential guard detained President Mohamed Bazoum in Niamey, the capital of Niger. Troops, led by Brigadier General Abdourahmane Tchiani closed the country’s borders and declared a curfew. The coup d’état was immediately condemned by the Economic Community of West African States, by the African Union, and by the European Union. Both France and the United States—which have military bases in Niger—said that they were watching the situation closely. A tussle between the Army—which claimed to be pro-Bazoum—and the presidential guard threatened the capital, but it soon fizzled out. On July 27, General Abdou Sidikou Issa of the army released a statement saying that he would accept the situation to “avoid a deadly confrontation between the different forces which… could cause a bloodbath.” Brigadier General Tchiani went on television on July 28 to announce that he was the new president of the National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland (Conseil National pour la Sauvegarde de la Patrie or CNSP).

The coup in Niger follows similar coups in Mali (August 2020 and May 2021) and Burkina Faso (January 2022 and September 2022), and Guinea (September 2021). Each of these coups was led by military officers angered by the presence of French and U.S. troops and by the permanent economic crises inflicted on their countries. This region of Africa—the Sahel—has faced a cascade of crises: the desiccation of the land due to the climate catastrophe, the rise of Islamic militancy due to the 2011 NATO war in Libya, the increase in smuggling networks to traffic weapons, humans, and drugs across the desert, the appropriation of natural resources—including uranium and gold—by Western companies that have simply not paid adequately for these riches, and the entrenchment of Western military forces through the construction of bases and the operation of these armies with impunity.

Two days after the coup, the CNSP announced the names of the 10 officers who lead the CNSP. They come from the entire range of the armed forces, from the army (General Mohamed Toumba) to the Air Force (Colonel Major Amadou Abouramane) to the national police (Deputy General Manager Assahaba Ebankawel). It is by now clear that one of the most influential members of the CNSP is General Salifou Mody, former chief of staff of the military and leader in the Supreme Council for the Restoration of Democracy, which led the February 2010 coup against President Mamadou Tandja and which governed Niger until Bazoum’s predecessor Mahamadou Issoufou won the 2011 presidential election. It was during Issoufou’s time in office that the United States government built the world’s largest drone base in Agadez and that the French special forces garrisoned the city of Irlit on behalf of the uranium mining company Orano (formerly a part of Areva).

It is important to note that General Salifou Mody is perceived as an influential member of CNSP given his influence in the army and his international contacts. On February 28, 2023, Mody met with the United States Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley during the African Chiefs of Defense Conference in Rome to discuss “regional stability, including counterterrorism cooperation and the continued fight against violent extremism in the region.” On March 9, Mody visited Mali to meet with Colonel Assimi Goïta and the Chief of Staff of the Malian army General Oumar Diarra to strengthen military cooperation between Niger and Mali. A few days later on March 16, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Niger to meet with Bazoum. In what many in Niger perceived as a sidelining of Mody, he was appointed on June 1 as the Nigerien ambassador to the United Arab Emirates. Mody, it is said in Niamey, is the voice in the ear of Brigadier General Tchiani, the titular head of state.

Corruption and the West
A highly informed source in Niger tells us that the reason why the military moved against Bazoum is that “he’s corrupt, a pawn of France. Nigerians were fed up with him and his gang. They are in the process of arresting the members of the deposed system, who embezzled public funds, many of whom have taken refuge in foreign embassies.” The issue of corruption hangs over Niger, a country with one of the world’s most lucrative uranium deposits. The “corruption” that is talked about in Niger is not about petty bribes by government officials, but about an entire structure—developed during French colonial rule—that prevents Niger from establishing sovereignty over its raw materials and over its development.

At the heart of the “corruption” is the so-called “joint venture” between Niger and France called Société des mines de l’Aïr (Somaïr), which owns and operates the uranium industry in the country. Strikingly, 85 percent of Somaïr is owned by France’s Atomic Energy Commission and two French companies, while only 15 percent is owned by Niger’s government. Niger produces over 5 percent of the world’s uranium, but its uranium is of a very high quality. Half of Niger’s export receipts are from sales of uranium, oil, and gold. One in three lightbulbs in France are powered by uranium from Niger, at the same time as 42 percent of the African country’s population lived below the poverty line. The people of Niger have watched their wealth slip through their fingers for decades. As a mark of the government’s weakness, over the course of the past decade, Niger has lost over $906 million in only 10 arbitration cases brought by multinational corporations before the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes and the International Chamber of Commerce.

France stopped using the franc in 2002 when it switched to the Euro system. But, fourteen former French colonies continued to use the Communauté Financiére Africaine (CFA), which gives immense advantages to France (50 percent of the reserves of these countries have to be held in the French Treasury and France’s devaluations of the CFA—as in 1994—have catastrophic effects on the country’s that use it). In 2015, Chad’s president Idriss Déby Itno said that the CFA “pulls African economies down” and that the “time had come to cut the cord that prevents Africa from developing.” Talk now across the Sahel is for not only the removal of French troops—as has taken place in Burkina Faso and in Mali—but of a break with the French economic hold on the region.

The New Non-Alignment
At the 2023 Russia-Africa Summit in July, Burkina Faso’s leader, President Ibrahim Traoré wore a red beret that echoed the uniform of the assassinated socialist leader of his country, Thomas Sankara. Traoré reacted strongly to the condemnation of the military coups in the Sahel, including to a recent visit to his country by an African Union delegation. “A slave that does not rebel does not deserve pity,” he said. “The African Union must stop condemning Africans who decide to fight against their own puppet regimes of the West.”

In February, Burkina Faso had hosted a meeting that included the governments of Mali and Guinea. On the agenda is the creation of a new federation of these states. It is likely that Niger will be invited into these conversations.

Byline:

Vijay Prashad and Kambale Musavuli

Author Bio:

Vijay Prashad is an Indian historian, editor, and journalist. He is a writing fellow and chief correspondent at Globetrotter. He is an editor of LeftWord Books and the director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. He has written more than 20 books, including The Darker Nations and The Poorer Nations. His latest books are Struggle Makes Us Human: Learning from Movements for Socialism and (with Noam Chomsky) The Withdrawal: Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, and the Fragility of U.S. Power.

Kambale Musavuli, a native of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), is a leading political and cultural Congolese voice. Based in Accra, Ghana, he is a policy analyst with the Center for Research on the Congo-Kinshasa.

Source:
Globetrotter

This article was produced by Globetrotter

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A Brief Neocolonial History Of The Five UN Security Council Permanent Members

John P. Ruehl

Understanding the actions and justifications behind territorial colonial behavior by the UN Security Council since 1945.

One of the underlying principles of the UN Charter is the protection of the sovereign rights of states. Yet since 1945, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (Soviet Union/Russia, France, UK, U.S., and China) have consistently used military force to undermine this notion. And while acts of seizing territory have grown rare, ongoing military domination allows imperialism to further manifest through economic, political, and cultural control.

System justification theory helps explain how policymakers and the public defend and rationalize unfair systems through the surprising capacity to find logical and moral coherence in any society. Reframing” neocolonial policies to reinforce system-justifying narratives, often by highlighting the need to defend historical and cultural ties and maintain geopolitical stability, has been essential to sustaining the status quo of international affairs.

Naturally, the five UNSC members have often accused one another of imperialism and colonialism to deflect criticism from their own practices. Yet prolonging these relationships in former colonies or spheres of influence simply perpetuates dependency, hinders economic development, and encourages instability through inequality and exploitation.

France
In response to comments made by Russia’s foreign ministry in February 2023, which singled out France for continuing to treat African countries “from the point of view of its colonial past,” the French foreign ministry chastised Russia for its “neocolonial political involvement” in Africa. The previous June, French President Emmanuel Macron meanwhile accused Russia of being “one of the last colonial imperial powers” during a visit to Benin, a former French colony that last saw an attempted coup by French mercenaries in 1977.

Independence movements in European colonies grew substantially during World War II, and Paris granted greater autonomy to its possessions, most of them in Africa, in 1945. Yet France was intent on keeping most of its empire and became embroiled in independence conflicts in Algeria and Indochina. Growing public sentiment in France, since referred to as “utilitarian anti-colonialism,” meanwhile promoted decolonization, believing that the empire was actually holding back France economically and because “the emancipation of colonial people was unavoidable,” according to French journalist Raymond Cartier.

France left Indochina in defeat in 1954, while in 1960, 14 of France’s former colonies gained independence. And after Algeria won its independence in 1962, France’s empire was all but gone. But like other newly independent states, many former French colonies were unstable and vulnerable to or reliant on French military power. France has launched dozens of military interventions and coups since the 1960s in Africa to stabilize friendly governments, topple hostile ones, and support its interests.

French military dominance has been able to secure a hospitable environment for French multinational companies and preferential trade agreements and currency arrangements. More recently, the French military has consistently intervened in Côte d’Ivoire since 2002, as well as in the countries of the Sahel region (particularly Mali) since 2013, and the Central African Republic (CAR) since 2016. The French-led campaigns have received significant U.S. help. Speaking in 2019 on the French deployments, Macron stated that the French military was not there “for neo-colonialist, imperialist, or economic reasons. We’re there for our collective security and the region.”

But growing anti-French sentiment in former colonies in recent years has undermined Paris’ historical military dominance. Closer relations between Mali and Russia saw France pull the last of its troops out of the country in 2022, with Russian private military company (PMC) forces replacing them. A similar situation occurred in the CAR months later, and in 2023, French troops pulled out of Burkina Faso, with Russian PMC liaisons having reportedly been observed in the country.

Frustration with the negative effects of France’s ongoing influence in former colonies has also been directly tied to problems in immigrant communities living in France. The fatal shooting of a North African teenager by police in the suburbs of Paris in June 2023 caused nights of rioting, with Russia and China accusing France of authoritarianism for its security response.

UK
Shortly after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson denounced the Russian president for still believing in “imperial conquest.” Yet like France, the UK has often been accused of using military force to help promote British interests in its former empire, including the dominant role of British banks and financial services and other firms, for decades.

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Of War And Peace The Truth Just Twists

These are, not for the first time, difficult times for a pacifist. The war that started with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine illustrates once again that as an idealist, or utopian if you like, you are left empty-handed.

If we can learn anything from history, it is this: war is of all times, violence is a part of human existence. Most people will answer in the negative when asked if they want war. For an idealist, that is a hopeful sign. They think they can draw the conclusion that humankind is naturally inclined to the good.

But alas, Stanley Kubrick is right: You’re an idealist, and I pity you as I would the village idiot. An idealist has no weapons. They only have words and dreams. And those are no match for a hail of bullets. Hope is a bankrupt concept in times of war.

Nevertheless, Willem de Haan writes in his contribution (see below):
Pacifism is not a popular concept in times of war, but among the people who believed in it and practiced it were Jesus of Nazareth and Albert Einstein, John Lennon and Mother Theresa. Call them idealists, but the world would be a far worse place without them.
Kubrick would shake his head if he read this.

Still, it doesn’t hurt to make these kinds of voices heard as well.
The shaking of my head a little pityingly happens to me too, however.
But I don’t want to give up on all dreams.

About the Ukraine on Rozenberg Quarterly:

Alexandra Boutri & CJ Polychroniou – Pushing For Regime Change In Russia Implies An Embrace Of War In Ukraine To The End
https://rozenbergquarterly.com/pushing-for-regime-change-in-russia-implies-an-embrace-of-war-in-ukraine-to-the-end/

C.J. Polychroniou – Chomsky: A Stronger NATO Is The Last Thing We Need As Russia-Ukraine War Turns 1
https://rozenbergquarterly.com/chomsky-a-stronger-nato-is-the-last-thing-we-need-as-russia-ukraine-war-turns-1/

C.J. Polychroniou – Chomsky: Advanced US Weaponry In Ukraine Is Sustaining Battlefield Stalemate
https://rozenbergquarterly.com/chomsky-advanced-us-weaponry-in-ukraine-is-sustaining-battlefield-stalemate/

C.J. Polychroniou – Chomsky: Options For Diplomacy Decline As Russia’s War On Ukraine Escalates
https://rozenbergquarterly.com/chomsky-options-for-diplomacy-decline-as-russias-war-on-ukraine-escalates/

C.J. Polychroniou – Noam Chomsky: The War In Ukraine Has Entered A New Phase
https://rozenbergquarterly.com/noam-chomsky-the-war-in-ukraine-has-entered-a-new-phase

C.J. Polychroniou – Chomsky: Six Months Into War, Diplomatic Settlement in Ukraine Is Still Possible
https://rozenbergquarterly.com/chomsky-six-months-into-war-diplomatic-settlement-in-ukraine-is-still-possible/

C.J. Polychroniou – The War In Ukraine Pushes The World Closer To The Edge Of A Climate Precipice
https://rozenbergquarterly.com/the-war-in-ukraine-pushes-the-world-closer-to-the-edge-of-a-climate-precipice/

John P. Ruehl – The Foreign Fighters On The Front Lines Of The Russia-Ukraine War
https://rozenbergquarterly.com/the-foreign-fighters-on-the-front-lines-of-the-russia-ukraine-war/

Krishen Mehta – Five Reasons Why Much Of The Global South Isn’t Automatically Supporting The West In Ukraine
https://rozenbergquarterly.com/five-reasons-why-much-of-the-global-south-isnt-automatically-supporting-the-west-in-ukraine/

Katrina vanden Heuvel & James W. Carden – The Case For Diplomacy In Ukraine
https://rozenbergquarterly.com/the-case-for-diplomacy-in-ukraine/

James W. Carden – The U.S. Foreign Policy Establishment Proves In Ukraine That It Forgot The Lessons of Vietnam
https://rozenbergquarterly.com/the-u-s-foreign-policy-establishment-proves-in-ukraine-that-it-forgot-the-lessons-of-vietnam/

John P. Ruehl – Why A Small City In Ukraine Is A Focal Point In The War
https://rozenbergquarterly.com/why-a-small-city-in-ukraine-is-a-focal-point-in-the-war

Heikki Patomäki & Tapio Kanninen – The Imperative Of De-Escalation In Ukraine: Negotiations And Possible Solutions
https://rozenbergquarterly.com/the-imperative-of-de-escalation-in-ukraine-negotiations-and-possible-solutions/

Willem de Haan – Stopping the War in Ukraine Now is the Only Option
https://rozenbergquarterly.com/stopping-the-war-in-ukraine-now-is-the-only-option/

Pitasanna Shanmugathas – Dimitri Lascaris – One Handshake At A Time
https://rozenbergquarterly.com/dimitri-lascaris-one-handshake-at-a-time/

Vijay Prashad – World Hunger And The War In Ukraine
https://rozenbergquarterly.com/world-hunger-and-the-war-in-ukraine/

John P. Ruehl – Why China’s Actions Toward Ukraine And Russia Could Shape The Course Of Future Geopolitics
https://rozenbergquarterly.com/why-chinas-actions-toward-ukraine-and-russia-could-shape-the-course-of-future-geopolitics/

C.J. Polychroniou – Noam Chomsky: Propaganda Wars Are Raging As Russia’s War On Ukraine Expands
https://rozenbergquarterly.com/noam-chomsky-propaganda-wars-are-raging-as-russias-war-on-ukraine-expands/

C.J. Polychroniou – Chomsky: US Policy Toward Russia Is Blocking Paths To De-Escalation In Ukraine
https://rozenbergquarterly.com/chomsky-us-policy-toward-russia-is-blocking-paths-to-de-escalation-in-ukraine/

C.J. Polychroniou – Chomsky: Peace Talks In Ukraine “Will Get Nowhere” If US Keeps Refusing To Join
https://rozenbergquarterly.com/chomsky-peace-talks-in-ukraine-will-get-nowhere-if-us-keeps-refusing-to-join/

John P. Ruehl – Conflict, Migration, And Demography In Russia And Its Border Regions
https://rozenbergquarterly.com/conflict-migration-and-demography-in-russia-and-its-border-regions/

And more …

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Dimitri Lascaris – One Handshake At A Time

Dimitri Lascaris

Dimitri Lascaris was one of Canada’s leading plaintiff-side securities class action litigators, representing plaintiffs in class actions against multimillion dollar companies before he retired at the age of 52 to devote the remainder of his life to peace and social justice activism. Mr. Lascaris is a member of the Green Party of Canada, and in 2020, he finished second in the party’s leadership race. In April 2023, Mr.Lascaris visited Moscow and Russian-occupied Crimea and engaged in a fact-finding expedition to better understand the views of Russians in the context of their country’s recent invasion of Ukraine. Shortly after Lascaris returned to Canada, at the behest of the Canada-Wide Peace and Justice Network, he engaged in a nationwide peace tour, calling for his government to stop fueling the war in Ukraine. In this interview with Pitasanna Shanmugathas, Lascaris discussed the views of the Russians he spoke to and his experiences during his trip to Russia. He also explained why he subsequently engaged in a Canada-wide peace tour, shared his thoughts on the censorship and ridicule he faced for his decision to visit Russia and embark on the Canada-wide peace tour, and offered advice to the social justice minded law students.

This interview has been edited for the purposes of flow and concision.

Pitasanna Shanmugathas: Mr. Lascaris, on April 1, 2023, you landed in Moscow for the first time in your life. Ten days later you were on a train heading to Russian-occupied Crimea. To readers who might be curious, explain why a Canadian born and educated man like yourself decided to visit Russia especially in the context of the country’s recent invasion of Ukraine. 

Why I went there was not for personal profit. I paid money out of my own pocket to travel there—I was not paid a dime for anything that I did or said while I was there or after I came back to Canada. All the articles I have written about my time in Russia, I do not even solicit donations on my website, nor have I accepted any for the writing of those articles. I went there for one purpose and one purpose only: because I feel we are living through the most dangerous moment in human history. We are on course for a nuclear war. And by the way, a poll that just came out showed that most Canadians agree with me that we are on trajectory for a nuclear war with Russia. And I, as a matter of conscience, felt I had to do something to try to facilitate a dialogue with this country with which we are at war, and that’s why I went. I don’t purport to be able to solve this war; I am just one citizen; I am one voice. But I thought, I am in a position to go and try and stimulate some sort of a peace dialogue and if I can do that, I am going to do it.

What were some of the takeaways you had while in Moscow, as well as other parts of the country, in terms of the views Russians held with respect to their country’s invasion of Ukraine? Are Russians supportive of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine?

First, let me say, I didn’t conduct any kind of a poll. I did speak with dozens and dozens of people from across the socioeconomic strata of Russia—people who were university professors, people who were journalists, volunteers in charitable organizations, just people I met on the ground. But, of course, I don’t have any kind of scientific polling data to offer you. I can only relay to you what I heard. And, of course, it may be that some of these people didn’t feel free to speak, although they were speaking to me in a private setting, not publicly. So, my feeling was that, for the most part, people were telling me how they really felt. What I heard consistently was that NATO is at fault for this, NATO constitutes an existential threat to Russia, this war is an existential threat to Russia. This is not primarily a war between Russia and Ukraine; it is primarily a war between NATO and Russia which is being fought on Ukrainian soil.
The people doing the fighting and dying on behalf of NATO are overwhelmingly of Ukrainian origin, effectively [being used as] cannon fodder for a NATO war. That was the view expressed to me over and over again.

Interestingly, I never encountered hostility. No one expressed hostility to the peoples of the West. What they feel is that the governments of the West are acting in ways that are profoundly contrary, not only to the interests of the people in Russia, but [also to the interests of] the people of the West themselves. [They believe] this is going to end very badly if people don’t come to their senses.

Overwhelmingly, I heard support for what the Russian Federation’s government has done, which is reflected by the way in polls. You go to the polling of the Levada Center website, which is, by the way, very critical of Vladimir Putin, their polls show that currently support for the President is in excess of 80 percent in Russia. If there was criticism of Russian President Vladimir Putin, it is first and foremost that he should’ve acted sooner rather than wait until NATO built up the Ukrainian military into a formidable fighting force. And secondly, that the military under his command was not being aggressive enough in bringing this war to a rapid and successful conclusion for Russia.

I am sure there is anti-war sentiment in Russia. I am sure there are people there very critical of Vladimir Putin and do not support this invasion. But those people are frankly a minority based on everything I heard, everything I saw, and based upon the polling done. Read more

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A Global Green New Deal Is The Best Way To Save The Planet

What is urgently needed is a political platform that embraces a sound climate stabilization plan which ensures a just transition, creates a plethora of new jobs, reduces inequality, and promotes sustainable growth.

Another summer is upon us and heatwaves are scorching many parts of the world, smashing thousands of temperature records. Even the world’s ocean surface temperature is off the charts, reaching unprecedented levels, while sea ice level in the Antarctic has set a record low for the second year in a row.

Indeed, planet earth is screaming because “climate change is out of control” as U.N. General-Secretary António Guterres recently put it. Yet the global community’s response to the greatest existential threat facing humanity continues to be not merely unacceptably slow but borders on criminal negligence.

We know the reasons why.

Fossil fuels supply about 80% of the world’s energy, and contemporary politics is trapped in the short term, with little evidence that it can be repaired. Across the world, politicians continue to make enormous compromises to short term interests in the name of energy security. China and the U.S. are the world’s biggest carbon polluters. Yet President Joe Biden has signed off on a series of major fossil fuel projects, and China is building more new coal plants than the rest of the world. This is even while both countries are also pursuing aggressive clean energy transition policies—indeed they are competing with one another on these.

To add insult to injury, governments continue to subsidize fossil fuel production. In 2022, subsidies worldwide for fossil fuel consumption rose above $1 trillion, according to the International Energy Agency. And the world’s biggest banks have provided $5.5 trillion in finance to the fossil fuel industry over the past seven years.

As for global climate conferences, they have turned out to be not only ineffective but something of a cruel joke. They function in the absence of an “enforcement mechanism,” and empty words and promises are their hallmark feature. Greta Thunberg was indeed right on the mark when she chastised global leaders at the Youth4Climate event in Milan for their failure to address the climate emergency, dismissing their rhetoric as “blah, blah, blah.”

Moreover, data has shown that fossil fuel lobbyists attending the negotiations in climate conferences outnumber almost every national delegation. There were more than 500 fossil fuel lobbyists at the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland, and more than 600 at the COP27 summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. As for COP28, which will take place this year from November 30 until December 12, the host is the United Arab Emirates, one of the world’s major oil and gas producers, and will be presided by Sultan al-Jaber, the CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Company. At this global climate summit, fossil fuel companies are expected to have an even bigger voice. And their main focus is to promote carbon capture technologies. These technologies have yet to demonstrate their capacity at scale, while also offering their own dangerous side effects.

This is all pretty understandable. It’s capitalism at work.

But we should also be asking ourselves an additional question: Why is it that populations are not motivated enough to address the climate crisis? Not only that, but far-right and right-wing populist parties, which are hostile to climate and carbon-low energy, are growing in prominence and influence. The rise of far-right movements is felt not only in Europe and the United States, but also in Eurasia and South Asia, while right-wing platforms remain popular across Latin America in spite of the fact that the region has shifted to the left over the past two decades. Read more

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