History Is Going Russia’s and China’s Way, not Obama’s
Feb. 17 (EIRNS)—After another failed “summit” attempt to turn the ASEAN countries against China, Barack Obama spent his Feb. 16 press conference denouncing and attempting to denigrate Russia, and particularly Russian President Putin’s success in changing the situation in the Mideast.
The Obama Administration is trying to insist, through the media, that the Syria ceasefire the U.S. Secretary of State negotiated with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov, will fail! This, because Obama cannot abide the successful economic and political roles that Russia and China are now playing in the world, and his own failures.
What Putin’s successful role represents, is the transfer of influence on human affairs from the British imperial system—for which Obama has been a willing factor—to the growing Eurasian nations.
It also represents a nearly 20-year successful fight against all jihadi terrorism, both in Russia and internationally—a cooperation which has been offered to the United States continuously since 9/11, and always rejected by Bush and Obama.
China and Russia and India have become the primary agents of changing the future of civilization. The nations of Europe and the United States are headed downward, and will go down unless they radically change their policies on the crisis enveloping their banking systems.
The United States has been, since the death of President Franklin Roosevelt, in a long decline of economic productivity; and since the murders of JFK and RFK, in an accelerating loss of scientific and technological progress, and of conditions of life for most of its citizens.
The issue is not what Obama says; it is what to do with Obama. Will the United States be intelligent enough to join with Russia and China in collaboration in space programs, in international credit banks, in great infrastructure projects, in defeating British-Saudi-spawned terrorism? If not, the United States will be destroyed as a power.
President Putin does not exercise great power, but efficient power, and exercises it intelligently. Increasingly, Russia, China, and India are directing the future history of the planet.
And the United States has—Obama! Were he dumped now, the United States has a historically tested policy of economic recovery which could restore its future: the policy of FDR. Shut down Wall Street’s failing casino banking system, then create national credit to restore productivity and productive employment. It’s the only alternative, and it will not be done with Obama in office.
COLLAPSING WESTERN FINANCIAL SYSTEM
Iran Surprise: Putin’s Oil Price Agreement Makes First Progress
Feb. 17 (EIRNS)—In an unexpected development today, Iran publicly supported the “Russian-Saudi” agreement to restrain oil production. Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh was quoted by official SHANA, Petroenergy Information Network: “The decision that was taken for the OPEC and non-OPEC members to keep their production ceiling to stabilize the market and prices for the benefit of producers and consumers, is supported by us,”
The oil production “freeze” agreement is the first fruit of more than three months of public suggestions made by Russian officials, including President Vladimir Putin personally on two occasions. The fact that the initial agreement announced Feb. 16 was between Russia and Saudi Arabia (with Venezuela, Qatar, and Kuwait joining) was an ironic display of Putin’s progress; the support of Iran, which has just been ramping up its oil exports from a low level after years of sanctions on them, is an indication of the depth of Russia’s relationship with Iran.
The agreement, trashed by London bank analysts and the like as meaningless, has nonetheless led to a significant oil price rise over the past 10 days. It does not yet begin to reduce the sharp oversupply of nearly 2 million barrels/day, between production and global consumption—which is stagnant in its best months, declining in others due to economic collapse. More than 3 billion barrels are stored in the industrial countries alone; U.A.E. announced a deal this week with India, to provide India with oil free (and free shipping) if India will store it.
The huge factor in this global oversupply, which has helped the oil price plunge by 75% since mid-2014, is United States fantasy of being the “new Saudi Arabia” under Bush, and particularly the anti-nuclear, anti-fusion power Obama. Based on economically extremely inefficient shale oil/gas production, the United States went from 2 million bpd a decade ago to 9 million bpd recently.
Now that that foolish surge has begun to bankrupt itself—and help bankrupt Wall Street and European giants like Deutsche Bank, more than three-quarters of U.S. shale rigs have been shut down and oil production has dropped by nearly 10%.
As EIR Founding Editor Lyndon LaRouche noted today, “That adds to Putin’s evident ability to do what he is doing.”
The initiative still has many steps to go, but has some importance for Russia’s economy and government revenue.
‘We’re Insolvent,’ Puerto Rican Officials Declare; Debt Moratorium on the Table
Feb. 17 (EIRNS)—Following yesterday’s release by the Puerto Rican government of the Consolidated Annual Financial Report (CAFR) for fiscal year 2014, top level government officials announced very simply that the island government is “insolvent,” and is considering a moratorium on payments due on May 1 and July 1, among others. “The Commonwealth’s management believes that there is substantial doubt as to the ability of the primary government” and other governmental entities “to continue as a going concern,” the report warned.
In an interview yesterday with Puerto Rico radio WUNO, Finance Secretary Juan Zaragoza put it this way: “If by insolvent, we mean we’re unable to make debt payments when they’re due, yes, we are insolvent.” In a press conference yesterday, island daily Primera Horareported, Chief of Staff to Gov. Alejandro García Padilla, Grace Santana said that the emergency measures under consideration “will affect the rights of creditors and the payments due in May and July 1.” The Government Development Bank (BGF) has $422 million coming due May 1, and the government and several agencies combined must pay $2 billion on July 1, $805 million of which are General Obligation (GO) bonds, which carry a constitutional mandate of payment.
The CAFR, whose release Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) demanded to see whether Puerto Rico was being sufficiently “transparent” about its finances, confirms “the critical nature of the crisis,” said BGF President Melba Acosta; but, she emphasized, as did Santana, under no circumstances will public employees be fired, or their wages reduced, as this would worsen the crisis. She added, however, if Puerto Rico’s financial situation doesn’t improve in the immediate future, it may be necessary to place some public agencies in receivership. Whatever measures are required to guarantee continued essential services, will be taken, she admonished.
Gov. García Padilla issued a statement yesterday accompanying the release of the CAFR, again demanding that Congress act and grant the Commonwealth bankruptcy protection and the ability to restructure its debts. At a White House seminar with Puerto Rican labor and business leaders yesterday, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew also urged Congress to act swiftly.
STRATEGIC WAR DANGER
Obama Proposes a U.S. Defense Budget for World War III
Feb. 17 (EIRNS)—Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s preview of Obama’s 2017 Defense Budget to the Washington Economic Club on Feb. 2, and a Washington Post editorial today, “A New Age of Deterrence,” both indicate Obama’s intention to start a war against Russia and China.
Obama is presenting a World War III budget to Congress. In 2013, Russia was barely mentioned in Obama’s budget, the Post admits. In his 2017 budget, Obama proposes to spend $3.4 billion for the “European Reassurance Initiative,” way up from $789 million of 2013, to fund more rotational forces in Europe; more training and exercises; more pre-positioned equipment, all of which, “by the end of 2017 will let us rapidly form a highly capable combined-arms ground force that can respond theater-wide if necessary.”
“The shift is late,” the Post laments, “and only a downpayment. But the recognition that Russia has evolved from hoped-for partner to serious threat is welcome.”
The intent of the increased spending is to reassure allies made nervous in the face of Russia’s new aggressiveness and “send a strong message of deterrence. Russia and its militia proxies are occupying parts of three former Soviet Republics—Moldova, Georgia, and Ukraine—and its military has taken the initiative in Syria. … Across Europe, the Russians are waging a nasty information war, using overt and covert methods to undermine NATO and the European Union.” The Post throws in the wild claim that many Western officials believe that Putin is “deliberately exacerbating the refugee crisis that threatens European unity, a tactic they refer to as the “weaponization of migration.”
In the last decade, “Russia was making impressive advances in electronic warfare and other military technologies. Like China, Russia has a smaller defense budget than that of the U.S., but has been sinking resources into weapons systems that are ‘asymmetric,’ meaning a relatively small investment can undermine a formidable conventional U.S. capability. … Russia has reportedly developed a new unmanned nuclear-capable underwater drone, while China is improving its anti-satellite capacity. Both have leapfrogged technology hurdles. … How to respond?”
Nuclear weapon upgrades, which Carter and the Post do not mention, are crucial to the nuclear enterprise. The plan calls for $13 billion for a new ballistic missile submarine over the next five years, to replace the current fleet of Ohio-class submarines. Of that amount, $4 billion will be spent on research and development, and the rest on procurement of long-lead items so that construction of the first new boats can begin in 2021.
The Pentagon’s plan will also underscore the need to fund all three legs of the U.S. strategic deterrent “triad”—not only the new submarines but also new nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missiles and a new bomber for the Air Force, an unnamed source told Reuters.
Russia Rejects Merkel’s Call for No-Fly Zone in Syria along Turkey Border
Feb. 17 (EIRNS)—German Chancellor Angela Merkel called today for consideration of a no-fly/safe zone along the Turkey-Syria border, inside Syria, “for refugees.” This drew a Russian response to the effect that only with the permission of the Syrian government, could such a zone be created.
“It would be helpful if there were an area in Syria where none of the parties to the conflict launched aerial attacks,” Merkel said before the German parliament on Feb. 17, according to Turkey’s Hurriyetdaily newspaper.
“We can’t negotiate with the terrorists of the Islamic State,” Merkel said, “but if we were able to reach an agreement between anti- and pro-Assad forces on a kind of no-fly zone, in the sense of a sanctuary for the many refugees, then this would save many lives, and aid the political process about Syria’s future.” She said the same thing in an interview with the Stuttgarter Zeitung Feb. 15, backing a late-December call for a no-fly zone proffered by Turkey.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said, “Only with the approval of the Syrian government, and an endorsement of the UN Security Council, could such a zone be created.”
Post-Coup Regime in Kiev Disintegrating?
Feb. 17 (EIRNS)—In the ongoing power struggle inside the post-coup regime in Kiev, fueled both by internal frictions over a whole set of issues and increased pressure from abroad (for instance by Germany) to finally fulfill the obligations from the Minsk II agreement, Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk was able to escape a no-confidence vote in the national parliament last night. However, his governing coalition keeps disintegrating: Today, the Fatherland party of Yulia Tymoshenko quit, pulling out 19 deputies of Ukraine’s parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, and rumors have it that also the Self-Defense Party with its 26 deputies may follow in the next days. Inside the Poroshenko Bloc, President Petro Poroshenko himself has called for Yatsenyuk’s dismissal.
So far, Yatsenyuk has been able to survive, even with more than 70% of the population being in favor of his dismissal according to latest opinion polls, with the help of U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and her networks in and outside Ukraine. Economically and socially, the Yatsenyuk regime is a disaster. One of the first prominent victims, ironically, is the oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky, formerly a strong backer of the same regime, which did not protect his Privatbank, the biggest privately-owned bank in the country, from hovering on the brink of open default.
As for the German anger about Yatsenyuk, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier is particularly infuriated at the Kiev regime’s refusal to hold regional elections in eastern Ukraine—thereby blocking progress on a key aspect of the Minsk II agreement which originally was to be fulfilled by the end of 2015. The Verkhovna Rada is still being run without the 27 deputies from eastern Ukraine, whose seats are kept empty.
In December, the timetable for Minsk II was extended by six months, but so were the EU sanctions against Russia.
UN, Syria Agree on UN Aid Convoys
Feb. 17 (EIRNS)—UN envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura arrived in Damascus, yesterday, where he met with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem and secured an agreement on sending relief supplies to besieged areas. His comments were not well received, there, however. “It is clear it is the duty of the government of Syria to want to reach every Syrian person wherever they are and allow the UN to bring humanitarian aid,” de Mistura said in a statement. “Tomorrow we test this.”
The Syrian government responded by saying that it was de Mistura, “who has been contradicting what happened during the meeting with the Syrian government,” who needed to be tested. “Delivering aid to areas besieged by terrorists has been the government’s commitment towards its people for years.” A Syrian Foreign Ministry source told official SANA news agency that what “de Mistura has declared about testing Syria’s seriousness has nothing to do with accuracy or objectivity, it only comes in the context of satisfying other parties.”
According to news reports, today, UN aid convoys were arriving at several besieged towns, including Zabadani and Madaya near the Lebanese border.
U.S. POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC
Fox News Discovers SAMs in a Prefecture-Level City of China’s Hainan Province—Shocking, Absolutely Shocking
Feb. 17 (EIRNS)—The Western press today exploded with the “shocking” news that a surface-to-air missile battery had been spotted on Woody (Yongxing) Island in the Paracel Islands. Taiwan’s government took note of the SAMs after Fox News broke the story, and Adm. Harry Harris, the commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, said the report “concerns me greatly,” and that it was an “indication of militarization of the South China Sea in ways that the president of China, that President Xi said he would not do.”
What is generally ignored in the hysterical accounts is that Yongxing Island is the largest of the contested islands in the entire South China Sea, that it is and has been relatively well developed, with about 2,000 residents, and that since 2012 it has been the Prefecture-level City within Hainan Province, with the responsibility of overseeing all Chinese territories within the South China Sea.
This makes Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s response to the furor rather self-evident: “We believe this is an attempt by certain Western media to create news stories,” Wang said. China’s construction of military infrastructure, he said, was “consistent with the right to self-preservation and self-protection that China is entitled to under international law, so there should be no question about that.”
It is also apparently the case that such minimal defensive capacities have been on the island, and perhaps others, for a long time.
Admiral Harris’s expression of deep “concern” about the militarization of the South China Sea is a fraud in light of the fact that he has oversight for the ongoing deployment of the world’s most advanced weaponry into the region: into the South China Sea, on the Island of Palawan in the Philippines; as well as the plan to deploy one of the most advanced ABM systems (THAAD) into South Korea; and the intentional provocation of sailing advanced warships through the territorial waters of Chinese-occupied islands in the region—including the U.S. guided-missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur intruding on Triton Island in the Paracels on Jan. 30, only about 100 miles from Woody (Yongxing) Island.
SCIENCE AND INFRASTRUCTURE
NASA Visits to India Will Upgrade Space Cooperation
Feb. 17 (EIRNS)—A series of meetings and events by high-level NASA visitors to India over the coming week aims to upgrade space cooperation, and engage young people and the public in the excitement of exploration in space, India’s Business Standard reports. U.S. Ambassador Richard Verma has been instrumental in promoting the cooperation.
The visit includes presentations today by Dr. Charles Elachi, the director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and his team to students, about Earth and space exploration. JPL and NASA are working with India on a joint synthetic aperture radar satellite (NISAR) for natural disaster and environmental monitoring.
On Feb. 22-25, the third meeting of the ISRO-NASA Mars Working Group will take place, which is coordinating observations and analysis from India’s Mars Orbiter Mission and NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft. Both spacecraft arrived in Mars orbit within days of each other in September 2014. NASA Deputy Administrator Dr. Dava Newman will lead this meeting, and Planetary Science Division Director Dr. Jim Green will lead the technical discussions.
The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, with government support, is organizing a National Conference on Export Controls Feb. 22-23 which will include international participants. Since aerospace technology is almost always dual use, export controls have often been an impediment to cooperation and to commercial sales.
The annual U.S.-India Space Security Dialogue will take place on Feb. 24, led on the U.S. side by Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control, Verification, and Compliance Frank Ross.
Indian-American astronaut Sunita Williams will visit Delhi from Feb. 25-26 to engage students and policymakers. The Observer Research Foundation will host the second-annual Kalpana Chawla Space Policy Dialogue Feb. 24-26, in honor of the Indian-American astronaut who died in the Columbia Space Shuttle accident on Feb. 1, 2003.
Meeting of Pope and Patriarch of Russian Orthodox Church Exceeds All Expectations
Feb. 17 (EIRNS)—Francis, Pope of the Roman Catholic Church, and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow of the Russian Orthodox Church held a momentous meeting in Havana, Cuba Feb. 12, and signed a 30-pointJoint Declaration setting forth Christian approaches and proposed action to beat back a new Dark Age.
The two churches separated 1,000 years ago over the Filioquetheological doctrine, which holds that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. The communiqué’s 30 points do not resolve the historical, theological and national divisions in the churches, but treat them in an agapic, fraternal manner, and call on people of good will to act together on Christian principles now, especially in the Mideast.
The meeting place in Cuba is explained in Point 3 as “Far from the longstanding disputes of the ‘Old World,’ we experience with a particular sense of urgency the need for the shared labor of Catholics and Orthodox, who are called, with gentleness and respect, to give an explanation to the world of the hope in us.”
Notably absent is anything on “green,” “climate change” issues—Pope Francis has been led deep into this swamp by the British Royal Family and its advisors, but this statement is free of it. The focus is on “hot spots” where Christian believers and churches are under siege, as well as going beyond the centuries-old division in the Christian world.
There are strong passages in the 30 points of the persecution of ancient religious communities in the Middle East. It calls on all countries to embrace responsible and prudent action against terrorism, and says, “…In raising our voice in defense of persecuted Christians, we wish to express our compassion for the suffering experienced by the faithful of other religious traditions…”; and says in Point 17, “…We cannot remain indifferent to the destinies of millions of migrants and refugees knocking on the doors of wealthy nations.”
Andrei Zolotov, the Executive Editor of Russia Direct and a founding member of the Valdai International Discussion Club, said the joint declaration “went beyond expectations,” and even included the church situation in Ukraine. The document, he says, “deplores the hostility in Ukraine,” and the leaders “invite Churches in Ukraine to work toward social harmony, to refrain from taking part in confrontation, and not to support any further development of conflict.” The document proclaims traditional Christian values in the secular West. Marriage is reemphasized as solely a union of a man and a woman.”
Anthony Salvia writes in Russia Insider website, that regarding Ukraine, the statement calls for reconciliation—for the overcoming of the “schism” among Orthodox Ukrainian Christians through “existing canonical norms,” and for Catholic communities to contribute to peace in the face of ongoing tensions. “This is not a message proponents of Western global hegemony, who fear reconciliation will put an end to anti-Russian sanctions, want to hear,” says Salvia.
Alexander Baunov, a senior associate at the Carnegie Moscow Center, covered the meeting in an article titled, “The Only Thing To Be Said to That Is Amen.” He states, “This groundbreaking meeting would have been impossible without the blessing of President Vladimir Putin…. Putin needed this historic meeting to demonstrate that the religious establishment in the West is more sympathetic to him than the Western political elite.”
The final communiqué from the Russian side appears to be influenced by Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, who, as head of the Moscow Patriarchate International Relations Department, was prominently involved in negotiating it over the past two years.Metropolitan Hilarion is not only a musical composer, but a filmmaker, who has included performances of his own music, and continues to use some of the best of Western music and art, interwoven with his Orthodox presentation of Christianity, in his films, which feature Rembrandt works and J.S. Bach’s music.
Also, on Jan. 28 Pope Francis reached out to China, granting an interview about China to Francesco Sisci for Asia Times. He expressed his deep respect for China’s great culture and wisdom, saying: “I believe that the Chinese people are moving forward, and this is their greatness.” In the first Chinese New Year’s greeting to China from a Pope, Francis said, “I wish to convey my best wishes and greetings to President Xi Jinping and to all the Chinese people. And I wish to express my hope that they never lose their historical awareness of being a great people, with a great history of wisdom, and that they have much to offer to the world.”