Ukraine war is losing its sparkle. Where’s the Lady with the Lamp?

M. K. Bhadrakumar

Indian Punchline | August 02, 2022

Cargo ship Razoni carrying 26000 tonnes of maize sailing from Odessa Port toward Bosphorus, Aug 1, 2022 

The Russian Defence Ministry announced yesterday that at around 9.20 a.m. Moscow time, Razoni, ship flying the flag of Sierra Leone, left Odessa port in Ukraine as part of the recent grain deal. Razoni is carrying a cargo of maize to Istanbul port. 

The MOD said the “control of the humanitarian operation for the departure of the first ship carrying agricultural products was planned with the active participation of Russian officers who are part of the Joint Coordination Centre in Istanbul.” 

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said yesterday, “this is a good and important first step” that the first ship with 26-, 27,000 tons of grain sailed out of Odessa.

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Calling Putin ‘Hitler’ to Smear Diplomacy as ‘Appeasement’

Joshua Cho

FAIR | July 21, 2022

Earlier this month, a New York Times (7/2/22) report, “How the Russian Media Spread False Claims About Ukrainian Nazis,” argued that falsely branding people as Nazis is inherently propagandistic:

The lie that the government and culture of Ukraine are filled with dangerous “Nazis” has become a central theme of Kremlin propaganda about the war.

NYT chart of Russian articles about Ukraine that mention Nazism

The New York Times (7/2/22) attributed a spike in mentions of Nazism at the start of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine to Putin describing Ukraine as “full of Nazis,” but did not discuss Western media comparing Putin to Hitler.

To say Ukraine is “filled” with Nazis is an obvious exaggeration, although even a relatively small number of Nazis has wielded disproportionate influence in the Ukrainian government (Kyiv Post3/26/19Euronews8/4/21). Nevertheless, FAIR (3/7/141/15/221/28/222/23/22) has covered the Western media’s denial of the far-right’s role in the Ukrainian 2014 coup, as well as their complicity in amplifying Ukrainian neo-Nazi publicity stunts during the war. 

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Ukraine’s ‘Great Game’ surfaces in Transcaucasia

M. K. Bhadrakumar

Indian Punchline | July 16, 2022

Presidents of Russia, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Iran and Kazakhstan (clockwise from left) took part in the 6th Caspian Summit, Ashgabat, June 29, 2022

If the metaphor of the “Great Game” can be applied to the Ukrainian crisis, with the expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) at it core, it has begun causing reverberations across the entire Eurasian space. The great game lurking in the shade in the Caucasus and Central Asian regions in recent years is visibly accelerating. 

The edge of the game is above everything else the targeting of Russia and China by the United States. This unfolding game cannot be underestimated, as its outcome may impact the shaping of a new model of the world order. 

Starting with the Caspian Summit in Ashgabat on June 29, the inter-connected templates of the great game in the Caucasus began surfacing. The fact that the summit was scheduled at all despite the raging conflict in Ukraine — and that Russian President Vladimir Putin took time out to attend it — testified to the high importance of the event. 

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Ukraine peace talks in the cards?

M. K. Bhadrakumar

Indian Punchline | July 16, 2022

A goods yard in Kaliningrad, the Russian exclave that has become increasingly isolated since the start of Ukraine war

Finance ministers are the pangolins in the world of international diplomacy, solitary animals and predatory, unlike foreign ministers who are like glowworms, mesmerising and gorgeous animals that create light through their tail. While the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken attending G20 foreign ministers meeting in Bali a week ago staged a dramatic walkout when Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov rose to speak, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen simply sat through the speech by Russian minister Anton Siluanov at the meeting of G20 finance ministers and central bank chiefs that began in Bali on Friday. 

Indeed, Yellen said her piece — calling Russia’s war in Ukraine the “greatest challenge” to the global economy and all that — while Russian Deputy Finance Minister Timur Maksimov who was present, calmly listened. But a joint communique is unlikely, as the US is pressing G20 allies for a price cap on Russian oil, where consensus is lacking. All the same, the moderation in Yellen’s behaviour catches attention, as she realises, perhaps, that she no longer sets the global agenda. 

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Real debt trap: Sri Lanka owes vast majority to West, not China

Sri Lanka owes 81% of its external debt to US and European financial institutions and Western allies Japan and India. China owns just 10%. But Washington blames imaginary “Chinese debt traps” for the nation’s crisis, as it considers a 17th IMF structural adjustment program.

Benjamin Norton

Multipolarista | July 11, 2022

Facing a deep economic crisis and bankruptcy, Sri Lanka was rocked by large protests this July, which led to the resignation of the government.

Numerous Western political leaders and media outlets blamed this uprising on a supposed Chinese “debt trap,” echoing a deceptive narrative that has been thoroughly debunked by mainstream academics.

In reality, the vast majority of the South Asian nation’s foreign debt is owed to the West.

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The Deeper Meaning of Ukraine

Alastair Crooke

Orinoco Tribune | July 09, 2022

The wider Ukraine meaning lies in this insight: Other leaders are no longer naïve when the West offers glass beads (or paper dollars) in exchange for their real riches

The West, in its cavalier manner, entered upon war with the Russia-China axis, without due care.  It expected easy ‘wins’ with sanctions imploding the Russian economy, and with military urban-war tactics borrowed from Syria, bleeding out the Russian army. Instead, it is turning-out to be a monumental débacle. More than that, its multiple failures and insultingly-cocksure propaganda are proving a breakpoint, ushering-in a new era rather than nailing down the old order, as the West had hoped.

Why is this new era so grave?  Firstly, because of that which lies ‘beneath’. The structural weaknesses and ‘dry rot’ that have been accumulating over decades, in damp basements. It was kept away, out of sight. The ‘children’ were removed from earshot, when ‘adults’ spoke amongst themselves, to acknowledge the decay and rot affecting their Mansions.

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Ukraine Update: Former U.S. Special-ops Soldiers Train Ukrainian Soldiers, Says New York Times

Countercurrents | July 06, 2022

A number of U.S. veterans are reportedly training Ukrainian soldiers near the frontlines of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, said the New York Times in an article — In Ukraine, U.S. Veterans Step In Where the Military Will Not — on July 3, 2022, Sunday (https://www.nytimes.com/2022/07/03/us/politics/american-combat-volunteers-ukraine.html).

“Americans are in Ukraine,” states the New York Times, noting that the exact number of U.S. citizens fighting on the front lines of the conflict is unknown.

The New York Times adds that some of these Americans are also volunteering for casualty evacuation teams and to be bomb disposal specialists, logistics experts and instructors.

The New York Times also claims that there are currently small teams of former special operations members providing training to Ukrainian soldiers and, in some cases, helping Kiev’s forces plan combat missions.

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Oil and Gas Workers Strike In Norway, Europe’s Energy Crisis May Escalate

Countercurrents | July 05, 2022

Oil and gas workers at state giant Equinor are on strike in Norway, the largest producer of oil and gas in Western Europe. The strike is escalating Europe’s natural-gas crisis a week before a key pipeline with Russia shuts for maintenance. Benchmark Dutch natural gas futures surged 10% on Monday on news of the strike in Norway.

Operator Equinor has initiated a shutdown of three fields in the North Sea as a result of the strike, the company said on Tuesday.

The striking workers are demanding wage increases to deal with rising inflation, which hit 5.7% in May — the highest since 1988, according to Norway’s statistics agency.

The strike that has started on Tuesday is expected to cut Norway’s gas production by 13% from Wednesday. Norway supplies 20% to 25% of EU and UK’s natural-gas demand, according to Norway’s Ministry of Petroleum and Energy.

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EU economies are down on their knees

M. K. Bhadrakumar

Indian Punchline | July 05, 2022

Russian President Vladimir Putin (L), at a meeting with Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu, revealed proposals of army commanders in Ukraine “for the development of offensive operations”, Moscow, July 4, 2022

On July 1 at the White House, US President Joe Biden made a startling disclosure that “the idea we’re going to be able to click a switch, bring down the cost of gasoline, is not likely in the near term.” 

American gas exporters have positioned themselves accordingly to fill the gap as Europe turns away from Russian imports. FT reported recently that “US liquefied natural gas producers have announced a string of deals to boost exports as the industry capitalises on shortages that have left Europe with a mounting energy crisis.” 

The deals are so lucrative that Cheniere, America’s leading gas exporter, has taken an investment decision to push ahead with a project that will boost its capacity more than 20 per cent by late 2025, anticipating long-term supply deals and locked in purchases of US gas over the coming decades. The US producers of gas are reportedly running plants flat-out to increase supplies to the EU. 

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Britain: Tens of thousands demand action to combat cost-of-living crisis

Morning Star | June 19, 2022

Thousands of protesters gathered in Parliament Square

TENS of thousands of protesters gathered in central London on Saturday to demand action to combat the cost-of-living crisis.

Trade unionists and campaigners from across the country marched from Portland Place to Parliament Square for a TUC-organised rally.

Banners such as “Cut war not welfare,” “End fuel poverty” and “Insulate homes now” highlighted widespread concern over soaring bills and spiralling inflation.

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