viernes, 31 de agosto de 2018
Para poner las cosas un poquito en perspectiva: no sólo el peso argentino entró en caída libre, sino el de otras naciones del "sur global", incluyendo algunas sumamente díscolas con el Imperio (no es nuestro caso, aclaremos). La nota que sigue es de Pepe Escobar para Asia Times:
Título: Crashing currency chaos spreads across the Global South
Texto: The Iranian rial: crash. The Turkish lira: crash. The Argentine peso: crash. The Brazilian real: crash. There are multiple, complex, parallel vectors at play in this wilderness of crashing currencies. Turkey’s case is heavily influenced by the bubble of easy credit created by European banks.
Argentina’s problem is mostly to do with the neoliberal austerity of President Mauricio Macri’s government admitting it won’t be able to fulfill payment targets agreed with the IMF less than three months ago.
Iran’s has to do with harsh United States sanctions imposed after the Trump administration’s unilateral pullout from the Iran nuclear deal.
Brazil’s has to do with what the Goddess of the Market considers anathema: a victory by the imprisoned Lula (former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva) or his appointed candidate in the presidential election next October.
This is a serious currency crisis affecting key emerging markets. Three of these – Brazil, Argentina and Turkey – are G20 members, and Iran, absent external pressure, would have everything to qualify as a member. Two – Iran and Turkey – are under US sanctions while the other two, at least for the moment, are firmly within Washington’s orbit.
Now, compare it with currencies that are gaining against the US dollar: the Ukrainian hryvnia, the Georgian lari and the Colombian peso. Not exactly G20 heavyweights – and all of them also inside Washington’s influence.
Behold the axis of gold
Independent analysts from Russia and Turkey to Brazil and Iran largely agree that the overwhelming factor in the current currency crisis is a reversing of the US Federal Reserve quantitative easing (QE) policy.
As investment banker and risk manager Jim Rickards noted, QE for all practical purposes represented the Fed declaring a currency war against the whole planet – printing US dollars at will on a trillion-dollar scale. That meant mounting US debt was devalued so foreign creditors were paid back with cheaper US dollars.
Now, the Fed has dramatically reversed course and is all-out invested in quantitative tightening (QT).
No more liquid dollars flooding emerging markets such as Turkey, Brazil, Argentina, Indonesia or India. US interest rates are up. The Fed stopped buying new bonds. The US Treasury is issuing new bond debt. Thus QT, combined with a global, targeted trade war against major emerging markets, spells out the new normal: the weaponization of the US dollar.
It’s no wonder that Russia, China, Turkey, Iran – nearly every major regional player invested in Eurasia integration – is buying gold with the aim of progressively getting out of US dollar hegemony. As JP Morgan himself coined it over a century ago, “Gold is money. All else is credit.”
Every currency war though is not about gold; it’s about the US dollar. Yet the US dollar now is like an inscrutable visitor from outer space, dependent on massive leverage; a galaxy of dodgy derivatives; the QE printing scheme; and gold not being awarded its true importance.
That is about to change. Russia and China are heavily invested in buying gold. Russia has dumped US Treasuries en masse. And what the BRICS had been discussing since the mid-2000s is now in motion; the drive to build alternative payment systems to the US dollar-subordinated SWIFT.
Germany appears to be coming around to the idea. If that does happen, it could possibly lead the way towards Europe redefining itself geopolitically in terms of its military and strategic independence.
When and if that happens, arguably at some point in the next decade, US foreign policy configured as an avalanche of sanctions may be effectively neutralized.
It will be a long, protracted affair – but some elements are already visible, as in China using US trading markets to help the emergence of a wider platform transference. After all key emerging markets cannot wiggle out of the US dollar system without full yuan convertibility.
And then there are nations contemplating the creation of their own cryptocurrencies. Digital finance is the way to go.
Some nations, for instance, could use a cryptocurrency denominated in SDRs (special drawing rights) – which is, in practice, the world money as designated by the IMF. They could back their new digital coins with gold.
Mired-in-crisis Venezuela is at least showing the way. The “sovereign bolivar” started circulating last week – pegged to a new cryptocurrency, the petro, which is worth 3,600 sovereign bolivars.
The new cryptocurrency is already posing a fascinating question: “Is the petro a forward sale of oil or an external debt backed by oil?” After all, BRICS members are buying a large chunk of the 100 million petros – confident that they are backed by a surefire reserve, the Ayacucho block of the Orinoco Oil Belt.
Venezuelan economist Tony Boza nailed it when he stressed the peg between the petro and international oil prices: “We are not going to be subject to the value of our currency being determined by a website, the oil market will determine it.”
A Persian cryptocurrency?
And that brings us to the key question of the US economic war on Iran. Persian Gulf traders are virtually unanimous: the global oil market is tightening, fast, and it will run short in the next two months.
Iran oil exports will likely drop to just over 2 million barrels a day in August. Compare it to a peak of 3.1 million barrels a day in April.
It looks like a lot of players are folding even before Trump’s oil sanctions kick in.
It also looks like the mood in Tehran is “we will survive,” but it’s not exactly clear the Iranian leadership is really aware of the nature of the incoming tempest.
The latest Oxford Economics report seems pretty realistic: “We expect the sanctions to tip the economy back into recession, with GDP now seen contracting by 3.7% in 2019, the worst economic performance in six years. For 2020, we see growth of 0.5%, driven by a modest recovery in private consumption and net exports.”
The authors of the report, Mohamed Bardastani and Maya Senussi, say “the other signatories to the original deal [the JCPOA, especially the EU-3] have yet to spell out a clear strategy that would allow them to circumvent US sanctions and continue importing Iranian oil.”
The report also admits the obvious: there will be no internal push in Iran for regime change (that’s a thing only happening in warped US neocon minds) while “both reformers and conservatives are united in defying the sanctions.”
But defying how? Tehran has not come up with a win-win roadmap capable of being sold to anyone – from JCPOA members to energy importers such as Japan, South Korea and Turkey. That would represent true Eurasia integration. Just having Ayatollah Khamenei saying Iran is ready to pull out of the JCPOA is not good enough.
What about a Persian cryptocurrency?
jueves, 30 de agosto de 2018
Muchos se preguntan qué está pasando en la Argentina en estos días. Si, es cierto que el mejor equipo de los últimos 50 años no es de gran ayuda. Pero también está el factor externo. La foto de arriba muestra a los mandatarios de los BRICS reunidos en Julio pasado. La nota que sigue es de TeleSur del 27 de Julio de ese mes, encabezada por la foto de arriba y la siguiente leyenda: "Entre los mandatarios invitados a la X Cumbre están los de Argentina y Turquía, Mauricio Macri y Recep Tayyip Erdogan, respectivamente".
Título: Brics se compromete a ampliar lazos de cooperación multilateral
Subtítulo: Los líderes del bloque reafirmaron su intención de cooperar con países de África y su apuesta por el libre comercio.
Texto: La X Cumbre del Brics (Brasil, Rusia, India, China y Sudáfrica) finalizó este viernes con más de 20 veinte países invitados, donde reafirmaron su postura de ampliar lazos de cooperación con países emergentes, especialmente de África.
Desde la ciudad de Johannesburgo, Sudáfrica, los líderes apostaron por el multilateralismo, el libre comercio y ser una plataforma de cooperación que no solo beneficie a las cinco naciones que integran el bloque, sino a otros.
El mandatario de Rusia, Vladímir Putin, señaló que "África es uno de los lugares para hacer negocios más vibrantes del mundo".
Brics aboga por fortalecer multilateralismo y democracia global
Asimismo el presidente de facto brasileño Michel Temer indicó "queremos que la agenda del Brics para África sea tan intensa como intensa es la conexión histórica y afectiva que Brasil tiene con este continente".
Por su parte, el jefe de Estado de China, Xi Jinping, recalcó que "debemos expandir la cooperación" hacía otros países.
Entre los países invitados al evento estuvieron los presidentes de Argentina, Mauricio Macri, y de Turquía, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Ahora pasemos a dos títulos centrales del Zero Hedge de hoy:
Título: Argentine Central Bank Emergency-Hikes Rates To 60% To Stop Peso Collapse
Título: Lira Plummets After Turkish Central Bank Deputy Governor Quits
En esa misma reunión de los BRICS, TeleSur posteaba también la siguiente nota: "Putin: EE.UU. comete un grave error al usar el dólar como arma política"
miércoles, 29 de agosto de 2018
Reproducimos una interesante nota de Pepe Escobar para Asia Times en la que se comentan las nuevas movidas ruso-alemanas en relación con las sanciones del Imperio. La nota es útil, además, para disipar dudas entre los que piensan que el petróleo y el gas son cosa del pasado:
Título: Putin’s Wedding Trip Seals Marriage of Convenience with Merkel
Subtítulo: Meeting in Berlin could signal a switch in strategy for Germany when it comes to the US dollar and energy security
Texto: It was supposed to be a low-key, traditional Austrian wedding until Vladimir Putin pulled up in a black limo. The bride was Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl, a top energy analyst and former professor at the Diplomatic Academy in Vienna and the European Business School in Frankfurt.
She knows all there is to know about multiple aspects of Eurasia integration, which is close to the Russian President’s heart. So close, in fact, that he stole the show by arriving in a convoy, bearing lavish flowers and the Kuban Cossack Choir.
After a swirl on the dance floor with the blond-haired, but not blushing, bride, he dashed off to Germany for the real business.
This was a three-hour, multi-themed, face-to-face meeting north of Berlin with Chancellor Angela Merkel. There were no translators as both are fluent in Russian and German as I pointed out in Asia Times.
But it was Russian analyst Rostislav Ishchenko in a text featuring a Pushkin analogy – and beautifully translated into English – who unlocked these chain of events.
And that brings us to German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, who wrote in the business paper Handelsblatt about the idea of a European Union payment system bypassing the US dollar, and ultimately, the Iran sanctions.
An alternative system is exactly what the BRICS, namely Brazil, Russia, of course, India, China and South Africa, as well as the China-Russia-Iran triumvirate, have been discussing, and slowly implementing for years.
Now, let us see if we can decode this brand new EU-wide controversy from three different angles. First up, is an aristocratic German financier now based in Switzerland, who insisted on anonymity.
He stressed: “Too many European [and Swiss] financial institutions [and regulators] are run by Americans. And they are extremely afraid of the American rhetoric of locking them out of Wall Street if they misbehave.”
But wait, there is a snag. Since the days of the Treaty of Rome, the EU has struggled to agree on “even a single important decision related to money, banking, taxes, subsidies … you name it,” he continued. “[Moreover,] the trust by other nations in an ‘EU-leadership’ is even lower than the feared, yet customarily obeyed, US global-leadership.”
“[And] even if they could have a vague attempt at such a large-scale revolution before the croissants are eaten, New York currency traders would have nuked the euro before Brussels had finished its after-lunch siesta,” he added.
Not exactly an EU independence manifesto. As for future prospects for the union, the financier warned: “In the economy of the future, Europe will be an also-ran. On a five-to-10-year horizon, I see Chinese monetary dominance as inevitable. Forget Europe.”
What the German elite really thinks
Now, compare it with a sharp, shorter-term view by German politico-economic analyst Peter Spengler. He correctly argues that SWIFT, the global banking payments system, is not the problem.
“SWIFT, the world’s largest cooperative payment network, operates under Belgian – that is EU law – which the US Treasury warriors, plus the British GCHQ and the NSA, have been breaking for more than 10 years now, despite protests from the European Parliament,” he said.
“Europe and associated countries and currencies do not need another system, but international law enforcement, and the elimination of the US dollar and hence the New York Fed from payment transactions for real neutral and multilateral clearing.”
It is no secret in Brussels that the EU has been excruciatingly slow in admitting its dependence on Washington. It will be a long and winding road towards “liberation,” even though it has already started.
Still, according to a newsletter circulating among select EU financial circles, German Foreign Minister Maas “did not launch this trial balloon without permission from Merkel.”
“Germany is in deep fear of the Strait of Hormuz being shut, stranding a major supply of her natural gas and oil, and placing her totally dependent on oil and natural gas from Russia,” the newsletter states. “That is why Germany has to hold up the Iranian nuclear deal against all costs.
“Hence, the meeting of Merkel and Putin and the floating of a new currency plan to break the control over Germany and the world of the SWIFT-CHIPS dollar system.”
In practice, “what is prompting Merkel to threaten to move away from the US dollar” is fear, according to the newsletter. There are serious concerns about losing energy shipments from Russia, some of the Central Asian ‘Stans’ and especially Strait of Hormuz-transited oil and natural gas.
Those nightmares could turn into reality if President Donald Trump’s administration succeeded in totally blocking Iran’s energy exports and Iran responded by blocking the Strait.
So, Berlin is now engaged in a wobbly “bend-not-break” strategy. Merkel has acknowledged that relations with Washington are fractious while emphasizing the importance of both trade with Iran and US security cooperation.
Nord Stream 2, which was extensively discussed with Putin in Berlin, is a done deal, no matter what Washington says. But that is still not enough for Germany’s domestic needs.
On Saturday, Merkel goes to Azerbaijan to check whether the Caspian-to-Europe Southern Gas Corridor requires further investment and whether it will start delivering energy before 2020.
Many in Germany believe that if ‘push comes to shove,’ the US would not have the military capability to keep the Strait of Hormuz open. And in this case, the EU’s biggest economy could face an energy crisis.
As the newsletter argues, that is why the dismantling of US dollar control of world finance is now being floated by Germany as a matter of safeguarding future growth.
Now, imagine all this being discussed in the open at the planned, one-off, Russia-Germany-France-Turkey summit. And all this because Putin went to a wedding.
martes, 28 de agosto de 2018
Más observadores se suman a la ola de los que se dan cuenta que el actual orden global ha entrado en la fase terminal de su existencia. Hoy le toca a Michael Krieger, para el blog Liberty Blitzkrieg:
Título: The Tectonic Plates of Geopolitics Are Starting to Shift
Texto: "The United States is currently waging economic warfare against one tenth of the world’s countries with cumulative population of nearly 2 billion people and combined gross domestic product (GDP) of more than $15 trillion.
These include Russia, Iran, Venezuela, Cuba, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Myanmar, the Democratic Republic of Congo, North Korea and others on which Washington has imposed sanctions over the years, but also countries like China, Pakistan and Turkey which are not under full sanctions but rather targets of other punitive economic measures.
In addition, thousands of individuals from scores of countries are included in the Treasury Department’s list of Specially Designated Nationals who are effectively blocked from the U.S.-dominated global financial system. Many of those designated are either part of or closely linked to their countries’ leadership…
But in recent months it seems that America’s unwavering commitment to fight all of the world’s scourges has brought all those governments and the wealthy individuals who support them to a critical mass, joining forces to create a parallel financial system which would be out of reach of America’s long arm. Should they succeed, the impact on America’s global posture would be transformational."
– From the recent article: The Anti-Dollar Awakening Could Be Ruder and Sooner Than Most Economists Predict (CNBC)
The peak of American empire has already come and gone, a reality not yet widely appreciated due to the continued dominance of the global financial system by the U.S. dollar, still the world’s preeminent reserve currency. U.S. leaders have always used the USD as a weapon, but it’s only in recent years that geopolitical rivals and long-standing allies alike have started to come to an increasingly vocal understanding that the unipolar role played by the U.S. in the world’s centralized financial system is well past its expiration date.
I think history will show Trump’s decision to unilaterally scrap the Iran deal (JCPOA) was the catalyst that caused much of rest of the world to get serious about creating alternative financial rails on which to conduct global business. Nation-states the world over are coming to the obvious conclusion that it’s virtually impossible to execute independent foreign policy in the content of a global financial system so completely dominated by the U.S.
European countries that entered the Iran deal wish to remain in it, but this has been complicated by the Trump administration’s decision to use the global financial system as a weapon. Although this angered leaders across the pond back in May when it first went down, it was unclear whether they’d just roll over as usual. Months later, it appears perhaps not.
First, we saw comments last week from Germany’s foreign minister Heiko Maas. Here are a few excerpts from his widely read column published last week at Handelsblatt.
Via Business Insider:
The US monopoly over the global payments infrastructure has been challenged by Germany’s foreign minister, Heiko Maas, who has suggested that the European Union should set up its own payment system that would give Brussels independence from Washington.
Maas wrote in the German daily Handelsblatt on Tuesday that the EU should “strengthen European autonomy by creating payment channels that are independent of the United States – a European Monetary Fund and an independent SWIFT system.”
“Europe should not allow the U.S. to act over our heads and at our expense,” Maas wrote.
Maas called for a “balanced partnership” with the U.S., in which Europe would fill gaps in the world left by the American withdrawal. He said Europe must “form a counterweight when the U.S. crosses red lines.”
“It is high time to re-evaluate our partnership…The Europeans must become a mainstay of the international order, a partner for all who are committed to this order,” Maas wrote.
Those are strong words, words that have not been walked back since. In fact, other historic U.S. allies feel emboldened to echo similar sentiments. As reported by Bloomberg earlier today:
“With Germany, we are determined to work on an independent European or Franco-German financing tool which would allow us to avoid being the collateral victims of U.S. extra-territorial sanctions,” French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said Monday during a meeting with press association AJEF. “I want Europe to be a sovereign continent not a vassal, and that means having totally independent financing instruments that do not today exist.”
“We have to react and strengthen Europe’s autonomy and sovereignty in trade, economic and finance policy,” Maas said in a speech in Berlin. Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland also spoke at the event and said that her nation shares the goal of preserving a multilateral world order.
If this sort of talk was merely limited to a couple of European nations expressing frustration with SWIFT, I probably wouldn’t have written this post. Where it gets really interesting is when you compare the sentiments highlighted above with the extraordinary statement made by Pakistan’s recently elected Prime Minster Imran Khan in the clip below.
But that’s not all. Take a look at the following excerpts from an article written by Daniel Sneider, Lecturer in East Asian Studies at Stanford University, in Tokyo Business Daily.
Inside the national security bureaucracy, there is growing alarm over relations with South Korea. On the surface, President Moon and his government continue to support U.S. diplomacy and reinforce its messages to Pyongyang. But things are starting to shift, with Seoul telling administration officials that the nuclear issue is basically between the U.S. and North Korea and that they want to separate their engagement with the North from progress on that issue.
“We have a big problem coming with South Korea,” a senior official involved in the talks told me. “It has reached the point where the South Koreans are determined to press ahead. They no longer feel the need to act in parallel with us.”
Moon is planning a visit next month to Pyongyang. He is eager to proceed with projects such as rail and pipe lines that will run from South, through the North, to Russia and China, as he outlined in a recent address.
Taken together, we can see a big picture starting to emerge. Countries around the world, including many longstanding U.S. allies, are starting to very publicly express frustration with U.S. imperial bullying, as well as deep concern with the limits placed on national sovereignty by a unipolar world centralized in Washington D.C.
We’re beginning to see the emergence of a global consensus related to two crucial geopolitical perspectives:
1. A growing understanding that a world unilaterally controlled by an imperial U.S. which demands all other nations accept vassal status is no longer tenable.
2. Recognition that a more multi-polar world cannot truly come into being without displacing, or at the very least creating, a viable alternative(s) to the USD-centric global financial system.
These developments have not been lost on many in the beltway, which is precisely why U.S. tech giants are being rapidly weaponized in a struggle to maintain imperial dominance. While the seemingly coordinated deplatforming of Alex Jones was the canary in the coal mine, the tech giants have also moved against several countries seen as problematic when it comes to achieving full spectrum dominance of the U.S. empire, including Venezuela, Iran and of course Russia.
As I tweeted last week:
Notice how the tech giants are only really targeting imperial America's geopolitical rivals.
Make no mistake about it, these companies are working on behalf of military industrial complex agendas and nothing else.
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5:36 PM - Aug 23, 2018
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It’s really undeniable at this point. U.S. tech giants are merely extensions of the U.S. shadow government — complicit organs of the imperial state masquerading as private companies.
While unquestionably disturbing, I see recent moves by the tech giants as part of a desperate response to the huge cracks developing beneath the post-World War II geopolitical paradigm. A status quo confident in its position or role in the world would never resort to such blatant attempts at censorship. This is all rooted in fear, insecurity and a futile desire to hold onto a world that is vanishing.
I’ve discussed these themes continually over the years, but it’s nevertheless extraordinary to see it begin to play out. The tectonic plates of geopolitics are finally starting to shift. Slowly at first, rapidly later, and I expect the world to be entirely different in structure by around 2025.
lunes, 27 de agosto de 2018
No tienen pinta de oligarcas ni de magnates del petróleo. Van caminando por las rutas de América Latina, sobre todo de América del Sur, con unos pocos bolsos en la mano. Son los desesperados, los que ya no tienen nada que perder. Flaco favor le está haciendo el gobierno de Nicolás Maduro a la revolución bolivariana en Venezuela. Sí, las políticas imperiales de ahogamiento existen; sí, miles de venezolanos atentan contra el actual gobierno. Pero eso no alcanza a describir un estado de cosas que linda con la catástrofe social. Datos recientes de las Naciones Unidas señalan que casi 2,5 millones de venezolanos abandonaron su país desde 2014 en adelante. América Latina enfrenta un desafío: asimilar a los inmigrantes que llegan en oleadas crecientes. La nota que sigue es de Naiara Galarraga Cortázar para el diario español El País:
Título: Dónde está ese 7% de venezolanos forzado a huir
Subtítulo: Latinoamérica empieza a imponer restricciones tras dar a cientos de miles de recién llegados permisos para trabajar y acceder a los servicios básicos
Texto: América Latina no había vivido un éxodo migratorio de esta magnitud. Siete de cada cien venezolanos (2,3 millones de personas) han abandonado su país desde 2014, según los datos más recientes de la ONU, que señala que los que huyen lo hacen impulsados por la falta de alimentos, por el hambre. Los países de la región, con Colombia, Perú y Chile a la cabeza, los han ido acogiendo con regularizaciones ordinarias o extraordinarias que les dan acceso a trabajar y servicios básicos. Pero, en vista de que las llegadas lejos de aminorar se aceleran hasta adquirir un ritmo vertiginoso, han empezado a imponer restricciones porque temen un colapso de los servicios públicos. A partir del sábado, los venezolanos necesitan mostrar su pasaporte para entrar en Perú. Ecuador impuso idéntica medida una semana antes pero el Supremo la ha dejado en suspenso por 45 días.
Feline Freier, una profesora de Ciencias Políticas de la Universidad de Pacífico de Lima que investiga este éxodo, considera que exigirles el pasaporte a los venezolanos “es casi cínico” porque las dificultades para obtener el documento son casi insalvables para quienes aún no han marchado: desde el elevadísimo precio en el mercado negro hasta la falta de papel para imprimirlo. Esta académica critica que “los políticos digan que quieren flujos ordenados (de migrantes), pero con esta medida los empujan hacia cauces irregulares, en brazos de los traficantes de personas” porque, insiste, los factores que los llevan a salir de Venezuela siguen ahí: “Muchos no han salido hasta ahora porque no podían reunir los 130 dólares del autobús y para eso tuvieron que vender todo lo que tenían” y recuerda a una familia que entrevistó que “llevaba meses comiendo solo maicena”. Algunos de los desesperados sin pasaporte que se toparon con los nuevos requisitos en la frontera cruzaron ilegalmente esta semana.
La decisión de las autoridades venezolanas de quitarle cinco ceros al bolívar no ha logrado frenar su depreciación. Hasta ahora las medidas económicas adoptadas por Nicolás Maduro han fracasado. Nadie anticipa que la emigración disminuya a corto plazo.
Solo recientemente, hacia 2010, Venezuela dejó de ser un país de destino para convertirse en un país de origen de emigrantes. Y a partir del 2017 el flujo se ha incrementado a países de acogida tradicionales como Estados Unidos, España o Colombia pero al mismo tiempo los destinos se han diversificado al resto de Sudamérica, según un análisis de la Organización Internacional para las Migraciones (OIM). Las salidas hacia el sur de continente aumentaron más de un 900% entre 2015 y 2017.
“En general la inmigración venezolana ha sido bien recibida y los Estados han realizado grandes esfuerzos para solucionar” los desafíos que entraña, afirma el análisis de la OIM.
Colombia, con la que tiene más de 2.000 kilómetros de frontera, acoge a 870.000 venezolanos en su territorio, lo que la convierte en el principal destino pero es cada vez más a menudo un país de tránsito, escala para un destino más allá. Perú ha sustituido en los últimos meses a Chile como el país donde más ha aumentado la presencia de migrantes venezolanos. Rondan las 400.000 personas, según las autoridades peruanas, aunque la OIM en su último recuento regional, de julio, las cifra en 354.000. En todo caso supone un aumento del 15.000% en tres años. La OIM ha dibujado un perfil de los arribados a Perú: solteros, de entre 18 y 29 años y con estudios universitarios.
Gradualmente, los países latinoamericanos fueron dando permisos de residencia a los venezolanos que llegaban a sus fronteras. Colombia, Perú, Ecuador, Argentina. Brasil, Uruguay y Chile han aprobado normas ad hoc para este colectivo, según la OIM, que destaca que este último país ha concedido 120.000 autorizaciones para residir. Las medidas especiales de regularización “indican la voluntad de integrar a los migrantes en la vida social”.
La profesora Freier explica que los Gobiernos lo abordaron al principio como un asunto de política exterior. “Los Gobiernos de centroderecha fueron los que abrieron los brazos aunque son los de centroizquierda los que lideraron la liberalización de las políticas migratorias en los últimos años en la región, pero a medida que los números han ido cambiando, se ha convertido en un asunto de política interna”. Al incesante flujo le han seguido restricciones en muchos países y una creciente xenofobia y agresividad hacia los recién llegados.
A medida que la crisis económica se ha ido agudizando en Venezuela, ha variado el perfil de quienes deciden buscar prosperidad y seguridad en nuevos horizontes, sostiene esta experta, que basa su análisis en las solicitudes de asilo. Explica que, en 2001, tras la llegada de Hugo Chávez al poder “salió la gente rica, se iban como estudiantes, como trabajadores con visado a Estados Unidos y a España”. A ellos les sigue en 2014-2015 a esos mismos destinos “una segunda ola de clase media alta” y “sale gente con recursos que no puede pagar vuelos ni trámites de visado” que se dirige a otros países de la región. A la velocidad a la que avanza la inflación cada vez es más difícil reunir el dinero necesario para emigrar. Por eso, cada vez más venezolanos caminan en busca de un país de acogida, no tienen dinero para llegar por otros medios.
domingo, 26 de agosto de 2018
Compartimos una linda nota de Diana Johnstone (foto) publicada anteayer en el sitio web del Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity. Cuenta cómo se cocinan las cosas en el Imperio para que siempre parezca que sus gobiernos promueven la democracia y la libertad mientras saquean a los pueblos que no se les someten. Nada nuevo, pero conviene recordarlo:
Título: Unipolarism vs. Multipolarism - The Real Russian Interference in US Politics
Texto: The Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union was ostensibly a conflict between two ideologies, two socio-economic systems.
All that seems to be over. The day of a new socialism may dawn unexpectedly, but today capitalism rules the world. Now the United States and Russia are engaged in a no-holds-barred fight between capitalists. At first glance, it may seem to be a classic clash between rival capitalists. And yet, once again an ideological conflict is emerging, one which divides capitalists themselves, even in Russia and in the United States itself. It is the conflict between globalists and sovereignists, between a unipolar and a multipolar world. The conflict will not be confined to the two main nuclear powers.
The defeat of communism was brutally announced in a certain “capitalist manifesto” dating from the early 1990s that proclaimed: “Our guiding light is Profit, acquired in a strictly legal way. Our Lord is His Majesty, Money, for it is only He who can lead us to wealth as the norm in life.”
The authors of this bold tract were Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who went on to become the richest man in Russia, before spending ten years in a Russian jail, and his business partner at the time, Leonid Nevzlin, who has since retired comfortably to Israel.
Loans For Shares
Those were the good old days in the 1990s when the Clinton administration was propping up Yeltsin as he let Russia be ripped off by the joint efforts of such ambitious well-placed Russians and their Western sponsors, notably using the “loans for shares” trick.
In a 2012 Vanity Fair article on her hero, Khodorkovsky, the vehemently anti-Putin journalist Masha Gessen frankly summed up how this worked:
The new oligarchs—a dozen men who had begun to exercise the power that money brought—concocted a scheme. They would lend the government money, which it badly needed, and in return the government would put up as collateral blocks of stock amounting to a controlling interest in the major state-owned companies. When the government defaulted, as both the oligarchs and the government knew it would, the oligarchs would take them over. By this maneuver the Yeltsin administration privatized oil, gas, minerals, and other enterprises without parliamentary approval.
This worked so well that from his position in the Communist youth organization, Khodorkovsky used his connections to get control of Russia’s petroleum company Yukos and become the richest oligarch in Russia, worth some $15 billion, of which he still controls a chunk despite his years in jail (2003-2013). His arrest made him a hero of democracy in the United States, where he had many friends, especially those business partners who were helping him sell pieces of Yukos to Chevron and Exxon. Khodorkovsky, a charming and generous young man, easily convinced his American partners that he was Russia’s number one champion of democracy and the rule of law, especially of those laws which allow domestic capital to flee to foreign banks and foreign capital to take control of Russian resources.
Vladimir Putin didn’t see it that way. Without restoring socialism, he dispossessed Khodorkovsky of Yukos and essentially transformed the oil and gas industry from the “open society” model tolerated by Yeltsin to a national capitalist industry. Khodorkovsky and his partner Platon Lebedev were accused of having stolen all the oil that Yukos had produced in the years 1998 to 2003, tried, convicted and sentenced to 14 years of prison each. This shift ruined US plans, already underway, to “balkanize” Russia between its many provinces, thereby allowing Western capital to pursue its capture of the Russian economy.
The dispossession of Khodorkovsky was certainly a major milestone in the conflict between President Putin and Washington. On November 18, 2005, the Senate unanimously adopted resolution 322 introduced by Joe Biden denouncing the treatment of the Khodorkovsky and Lebedev as politically motivated.
Who Influences Whom?
Now let’s take a look at the history of Russian influence in the United States. It is obvious that a Russian who can get the Senate to adopt a resolution in his favor has a certain influence. But when the “deep state” growls about Russian influence, it isn’t talking about Khodorkovsky. It’s talking about a joking response Trump made to a reporter’s snide question during the presidential campaign. In a variation of the classic “when did you stop beating your wife?” the reporter asked if he would call on Russian President Vladimir Putin to “stay out” of the election.
Since a stupid question does not deserve a serious answer, Trump said he had “nothing to do with Putin” before adding, “Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”
Aha! Went the Trump haters. This proves it! Irony is almost as unwelcome in American politics as honesty.
When President Trump revoked his security clearance earlier this month, former CIA chef John Brennan got his chance to spew out his hatred in the complacent pages of the New York Times.
Someone supposed to be smart enough to head an intelligence agency actually took Trump’s joking invitation as a genuine request. “By issuing such a statement,” Brennan wrote, “Mr. Trump was not only encouraging a foreign nation to collect intelligence against a United States citizen, but also openly authorizing his followers to work with our primary global adversary against his political opponent.”
The Russians, Brennan declared, “troll political, business, and cultural waters in search of gullible or unprincipled individuals who become pliant in the hands of their Russian puppet masters.”
Which Russians do that? And who are those “individuals”?
'The Fixer in Chief'
To understand the way Washington works, nothing is more instructive than to examine the career of lawyer Jonathan M. Winer, who proudly repeats that in early 2017, the head of the Carnegie Endowment Bill Burns introduced him as “the Fixer in Chief”. Winer has long been unknown to the general public, but this may soon change.
Let’s see what the fixer has fixed.
Under the presidency of fellow Yalie Bill Clinton, Winer served as the State Department's first Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Law Enforcement, from 1994-1999. One may question the selectivity of Bill Clinton’s concern for international law enforcement, which certainly did not cover violating international law by bombing defenseless countries. In any case, in 1999, Winer was awarded for “virtually unprecedented achievements”. Later we shall examine one of those important achievements.
At the end of the Clinton administration, from 2008 to 2013, the Fixer in Chief worked as high up consultant at one of the world’s most powerful PR and lobbying firms, APCO Worldwide. This is how the Washington revolving door functions: after a few years in government finding out how things work, one then goes into highly paid “consultancy” to sell this insider information and influential contacts to private clients.
APCO got off to a big start some thirty years ago lobbying for Philip Morris and the tobacco industry in general.
In 2002, APCO launched something called the “Friends of Science” to promote skepticism concerning the harmful effects of smoking. In 1993, the campaign described its goals and objectives “encouraging the public to question – from the grassroots up – the validity of scientific studies.”
While Winer was at APCO, one of its major activities was hyping the Clinton Global Initiative, an international networking platform promoting the Clinton Foundation. APCO president and CEO Margery Kraus explained that the consultancy was there to “help other CGI members garner interest for the causes they are addressing, demonstrate their success and highlight the wide-ranging achievements of CGI as a whole.” Considering that only five percent of Clinton Foundation turnover went to donations, they needed all the PR they could get.
Significantly, donations to the Clinton Global Initiative have dried up since Hillary lost the presidential election. According to the Observer: “Foreign governments began pulling out of annual donations, signaling the organization’s clout was predicated on donor access to the Clintons, rather than its philanthropic work.”
This helps explain Hillary Clinton’s panic when she lost in 2016. How in the world can she ever reward her multi-million-dollar donors with the favors they expected?
As well as the tobacco industry and the Clinton Foundation, APCO also works for Khodorkovsky. To be precise, according to public listings, the fourth biggest of APCO’s many clients is the Corbiere Trust, owned by Khodorkovsky and registered in Guernsey. The trust tends and distributes some of the billions that the oligarch got out of Russia before he was jailed. Corbiere money was spent to lobby both for Resolution 322 (supporting Khodorkovky after his arrest in Russia) and for the Magnitsky Act (more later). Margery Kraus, APCO’s president and CEO, is a member of Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s son Pavel’s Institute of Modern Russia, devoted to “promoting democratic values” – in other words, to building political opposition to Vladimir Putin.
In 2009 Jonathan Winer went back to the State Department where he was given a distinguished service award for having somehow rescued thousands of stranded members of the Muhahedin-e Khalq from their bases in Iraq they were trying to overthrow the Iranian government. The MeK, once officially recognized as a terrorist organization by the State Department, has become a pet instrument in US and Israeli regime change operations directed at Iran.
However, it was Winer’s extracurricular activities at State that finally brought him into the public spotlight early this year – or rather, the spotlight of the House Intelligence Committee, whose chairman Devin Nunes (R-Cal) named him as one of a network promoting the notorious “Steele Dossier” which accused Trump of illicit financial dealing and compromising sexual activities in Russia. By Winer’s own account, he had been friends with former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele since his days at APCO. Back at State, he regularly channeled Steele reports, ostensibly drawn from contacts with friendly Russian intelligence agents, to Victoria Nuland, in charge of Russian affairs, and top Russian experts. These included the infamous “Steele dossier”. In September 2016, Winer’s old friend Sidney Blumenthal – a particularly close advisor to Hillary Clinton – gave him notes written by a more mysterious Clinton insider named Cody Shearer, repeating the salacious attacks.
All this dirt was spread through government agencies and mainstream media before being revealed publicly just before Trump’s inauguration, used to stimulate the “Russiagate” investigation by Robert Mueller. The dossier has been discredited but the investigation goes on and on.
So, it is all right to take seriously information allegedly obtained from “Russian agents” and spread it around, so long as it can damage Trump. As with so much else in Washington, double standards are the rule.
Jonathan Winer and the Magnitsky Act
Jonathan Winer played a major role in Congressional adoption of the “Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2012” (the Magnitsky Act), a measure that effectively ended post-Cold War hopes for normal relations between Washington and Moscow. This act was based on a highly contentious version of the November 16, 2009 death in prison of accountant Sergei Leonidovich Magnitsky, as told to Congress by hedge fund manager Bill Browder (grandson of Earl Browder, head of the Communist Party USA 1934-1945). According to Browder, Magnitsky was a lawyer beaten to death in prison as a result of his crusade for human rights.
However, as convincingly established by dissident Russian film-maker Andrei Nekrasov’s (banned) investigative documentary, the unfortunate Magnitsky was neither a human rights crusader, nor a lawyer, nor beaten to death. He was an accountant jailed for his role in Browder’s business dealings, who died of natural causes as a result of inadequate medical treatment. The case was hyped up as a major human rights drama by Browder in order to discredit Russian charges against himself.
In any case, by adopting a law punishing Magnitsky’s alleged persecutors, the US Congress acted as a supreme court judging internal Russian legal issues.
The Magnitsky Act also condemns legal prosecution of Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Browder, on a much smaller scale, also made a fortune ripping off Russians during the Yeltsin years, and later got into trouble with Russian tax collectors. Since Browder had given up his US citizenship in order to avoid paying US taxes, he had reason to fear Russian efforts to extradite him for tax evasion and other financial misdeeds.
It was Jonathan Winer who found a solution to Browder’s predicament.
As Winer tells it:
When Browder consulted me, […] I suggested creating a new law to impose economic and travel sanctions on human-rights violators involved in grand corruption. Browder decided this could secure a measure of justice for Magnitsky. He initiated a campaign that led to the enactment of the Magnitsky Act. Soon other countries enacted their own Magnitsky Acts, including Canada, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and most recently, the United Kingdom.
Russian authorities are still trying to pursue their case against Browder. In his press conference following the Helsinki meeting with Trump, Vladimir Putin suggested allowing US authorities to question the Russians named in the Mueller indictment in exchange for allowing Russian officials to question individuals involved in the Browder case, including Winer and former US ambassador to Moscow Michael McFaul. Putin observed that such an exchange was possible under the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty signed between the two countries in 1999, back in the Yeltsin days when America was posing as Russia’s best friend.
But the naïve Russians did not measure the craftiness of American lawyers.
As Winer wrote:
“Under that treaty, Russia’s procurator general can ask the US attorney general … to arrange for Americans to be ordered to testify to assist in a criminal case. But there is a fundamental exception: The attorney general can provide no such assistance in a politically motivated case.” (My emphasis.)
“I know this”, he wrote, “because I was among those who helped put it there. Back in 1999, when we were negotiating the agreement with Russia, I was the senior State Department official managing US-Russia law-enforcement relations.”
So, the Fixer in Chief could have said to the worried Browder, “No problem. All that we need to do is make your case a politically motivated case. Then they can’t touch you.”
Winer’s clever treaty is a perfect Catch-22. The treaty doesn’t apply to a case if it is politically motivated, and if it is Russian, it must be politically motivated.
In a July 15, 2016, complaint to the Justice Department, Browder’s Heritage Capital Management accused both American and Russian opponents of the Magnitsky Act of violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA; adopted in 19938 with Nazis in mind). Among the “lobbyists” cited was the late Ron Dellums (falsely identified in the complaint as a “former Republican congressman”).
The Heritage Capital Management brief declared that: “While lawyers representing foreign principals are exempt from filing under FARA, this is only true if the attorney does not try to influence policy at the behest of his client.” However, by disseminating anti-Magnitsky material to Congress, any Russian lawyer was “clearly trying to influence policy” was therefore in violation of FARA filing requirements.”
Catch-22 all over again.
Needless to say, Khodorkovsky’s Corbiere Trust lobbied heavily to get Congress to pass the Magnitsky Act, which also repeated its defense of Khodorkovsky himself. This type of “Russian interference intended to influence policy” is not even noticed, while US authorities scour cyberspace for evidence of trolls.
The basic ideological conflict here is between Unipolar America and Multipolar Russia. Russia’s position, as Vladimir Putin made clear in his historic speech at the 2007 Munich security conference, is to allow countries to enjoy national sovereignty and develop in their own way. The current Russian government is against interference in other countries’ politics on principle. It would naturally prefer an American government willing to allow this.
The United States, in contrast, is in favor of interference in other countries on principle: because it seeks a Unipolar world, with a single “democratic” system, and considers itself the final authority as to which regime a country should have and how it should run its affairs.
So, if Russians were trying to interfere in US domestic politics, they would not be trying to change the US system but to prevent it from trying to change their own. Russian leaders clearly are sufficiently cultivated to realize that historic processes do not depend on some childish trick played on somebody’s computer.
US policy-makers practice interference every day. And they are perfectly willing to allow Russians to interfere in American politics – so long as those Russians are “unipolar” like themselves, like Khodorkovsky, who aspire to precisely the same unipolar world sought by the State Department and George Soros. Indeed, the American empire depends on such interference from Iraqis, Libyans, Iranians, Russians, Cubans – all those who come to Washington to try to get US power to settle old scores or overthrow the government in the country they came from. All those are perfectly welcome to lobby for a world ruled by America.
Russian interference in American politics is totally welcome so long as it helps turn public opinion against “multipolar” Putin, glorifies American democracy, serves US interests including the military-industrial complex, helps break down national borders (except those of the United States and Israel) and puts money in appropriate pockets in the halls of Congress.
viernes, 24 de agosto de 2018
El lenguaje de la diplomacia suele enmascarar giros profundos en la política internacional. Es por eso que hay que leer la nota que sigue con cuidado: se dicen cosas serias en un lenguaje suave, casi casual. La escribe nada menos que el ministro de Asuntos Exteriores de Alemania, Heiko Maas (foto) para el diario Handelsblatt Global:
Título: Making plans for a new world order
Epígrafe: Europe's relationship with the US was changing even before Donald Trump and his provocative Tweets came along. Germany now sees the current trans-Atlantic antipathy as a historic opportunity to redefine the EU's role, writes Germany's foreign minister.
Texto: Henry Kissinger was recently asked if Donald Trump could not unintentionally become the force behind the birth of a new western order. His answer: It would be ironic but not impossible. Instead of narrowing our view across the Atlantic to the ever-changing whims of the American President, we should adopt the idea that this could be the start of something new. We can’t not hear what’s going on across the Atlantic every day via Twitter. But a tunnel view into the Oval Office distracts from the fact that America is more than Trump. “Checks and balances” work, as US courts and Congress demonstrate almost daily. The Americans are debating politics with new passion. That too is America in 2018.
The fact that the Atlantic has widened politically is by no means solely due to Donald Trump. The US and Europe have been drifting apart for years. The overlapping of values and interests that shaped our relationship for two generations is decreasing. The binding force of the East-West conflict is history. These changes began well before Trump’s election — and will survive his presidency well into the future. That is why I am skeptical when some ardent trans-Atlanticist simply advises us to sit this presidency out.
Since the end of the Second World War, the partnership with the US has brought Germany a unique phase of peace and security. America became a place of longing. For me too, when I traveled from New York to LA over a few months as a high-school graduate, with Paul Auster’s “New York Trilogy” in my pocket and Bruce Springsteen’s music in my ears. But looking back does not lead to the future. It is high time to reassess our partnership — not to leave it behind, but to renew and preserve it.
Let’s use the idea of a balanced partnership as a blueprint, where we assume our equal share of responsibility. In which we form a counterweight when the US crosses the line. Where we put our weight when America retreats. And in which we can start a new conversation.
If we go it alone, we will fail in this task. The outstanding aim of our foreign policy is to build a sovereign, strong Europe. Only by joining forces with France and other European nations can a balance with the US be achieved. The European Union must become a cornerstone of the international order, a partner for all those who are committed to it. She is predestined for this, because compromise and balance lie in her DNA.
“Europe United” means this: We act with sovereignty at those points where nation-states alone cannot muster the level of power a united Europe can. We are not circling the wagons and keeping the rest of the world out. We are not demanding allegiance. Europe is building on the rule of law, respect for the weaker, and our experiences that show that international cooperation is not a zero-sum game.
A balanced partnership means that we Europeans take an equal share of the responsibility. Nowhere is the trans-Atlantic link more indispensable to us than in terms of security. Whether as a partner in NATO, or in the fight against terrorism, we need the US. We must draw the right conclusions from this. It is in our own interest to strengthen the European part of the North Atlantic Alliance. Not because Donald Trump is always setting new percentage targets, but because we can no longer rely on Washington to the same extent. But the dialectic of the trans-Atlantic also means this: If we take on more responsibility, then Americans and Europeans can continue to rely on each other in the future.
The German government is following this path. The turnaround in defense spending is a reality. Now it is important to build a European security and defense union step by step — as part of trans-Atlantic security and as a separate European project for the future. Increases in defense and security spending make sense from this perspective.
Exposing fake news
Another crucial point: Europe’s commitment must be part of a rationale based on diplomacy and civil crisis management. In the Middle East, the Horn of Africa and Africa’s Sahel areas, we are also using non-military means to combat the collapse of government structures. For me, these are examples of trans-Atlantic cooperation — and a blueprint for joint involvement in other crises elsewhere.
And where the USA crosses the line, we Europeans must form a counterweight — as difficult as that can be. That is also what balance is about.
It starts with us exposing fake news. Like this: If the current account balance of Europe and the US includes more than just trade in goods, then it is not the US that has a deficit, it’s Europe. One reason is the billions in profits that European subsidiaries of Internet giants such as Apple, Facebook and Google transfer to the US every year. So when we talk about fair rules, we must also talk about the fair taxation of profits like that.
It is also important to correct fake news because it can quickly result in the wrong policies. As Europeans, we have made it clear to the Americans that we consider the withdrawal from the nuclear agreement with Iran to be a mistake. Meanwhile, the first US sanctions have come back into force.
In this situation, it is of strategic importance that we make it clear to Washington that we want to work together. But also: That we will not allow you to go over our heads, and at our expense. That is why it was right to protect European companies legally from sanctions. It is therefore essential that we strengthen European autonomy by establishing payment channels independent of the US, a European monetary fund and an independent SWIFT [payments] system. The devil is in thousands of details. But every day that the Iran agreement lasts, is better than the potentially explosive crisis that threatens the Middle East otherwise.
A balanced partnership also means that, as Europeans, we bring more weight to bear when the US withdraws. We are concerned about Washington’s withdrawal of affection, in financial and other terms, from the UN — and not only because we will soon be on the Security Council. Of course we can’ t fill all the gaps. But together with others, we can cushion the most damaging consequences of the thinking that says success is measured in dollars saved. That is why we have increased funding for relief organizations working with Palestinian refugees and sought support from Arab states.
We are striving for a multilateral alliance, a network of partners who, like us, are committed to sticking to the rules and to fair competition. I have made my first appointments with Japan, Canada and South Korea; more are to follow. This alliance is not a rigid, exclusive club for those with good intentions. What I have in mind is an association of states convinced of the benefits of multilateralism, who believe in international cooperation and the rule of the law. It is not directed against anyone, but sees itself as an alliance that supports and enhances a global, multilateral order. The door is wide open — above all to the US. The aim is to tackle the problems that none of us can tackle on our own, together — from climate change to fair trade.
I have no illusions that such an alliance can solve all the world’s problems. But it is not enough just to complain about the destruction of the multilateral order. We have to fight for it, especially because of the current trans-Atlantic situation.
Please, don’t abandon America
One final point is elementary: We must begin a new dialogue with the people on the other side of the Atlantic. Not only in New York, Washington or LA, but also in middle America, where the coast is far away and Europe is even further away. Starting in October, we will be hosting a “German Year in the US” for the first time ever. Not to celebrate the German-American friendship as nostalgia but to enable encounters that make people feel that we are moved to ask similar questions, that we’re still close.
Exchange creates new perspectives. I can’t let go of an encounter I had recently on one of my trips. A young US soldier used an unobserved moment to whisper to me: “Please, don’t abandon America.” An American soldier was asking a German politician not to let America down. The affection that lay in this request touched me deeply. Perhaps we now need to get used to the idea that Americans are going to say such things to us Europeans.
Anyway, it would be a nice, historical irony if Henry Kissinger turned out to be right. If the White House’s tweets actually led to a balanced partnership, a sovereign Europe and a global alliance for multilateralism. We’re working hard on that to happen.
miércoles, 22 de agosto de 2018
Este Fin de la Historia está más movido que nunca, chicos! Ahora dicen que Rusia invitó a una delegación de los talibanes, la guerrilla que domina el 40% del territorio de Afghanistán, a una serie de conversaciones en pro de la paz en ese país. Lo notable del caso es que (a) no fue invitado el corazón de Imperio, los EEUU, que hace 17 años que invadió (y aún permanece) en ese país; (b) tampoco fue invitado el gobierno afgano, considerado por muchos como un títere del Imperio. En cambio, sí fueron invitados alrededor de diez países, mayormente limítrofes de Afghanistán, incluyendo a Irán y China. Uno se imagina la cara de los chicos del Departamento de Estado leyendo las noticias como si fueran espectadores de una historia que se les escapa de las manos día tras día. La nota que sigue es de Amie Ferris-Rotman para el Washington Post de ayer:
Título: Russia invites Taliban to Moscow for Afghanistan peace talks, expects delegates to attend
Texto: Members of the Taliban are expected to come to Russia in early September for talks on the future of Afghanistan, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said Tuesday, announcing a visit that would mark a turning point in global attempts to publicly bring the insurgents to the negotiating table.
“Representatives of the Afghan government and the Taliban movement have been invited,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said, adding that “the initial response has been positive.”
Moscow has invited delegates from 11 countries, including regional heavyweights China, Iran and Pakistan, which border Afghanistan, to attend the Sept. 4 talks in the Russian capital. If the Taliban does come, it would mark its first attendance at such an event.
The radical Islamist movement rejected an offer to attend a similar meeting in Moscow last year, as did Washington.
The United States indicated Tuesday that it would not attend. “We support Afghan-owned and -led initiatives to advance a peace settlement in Afghanistan,” said a State Department spokesman. “We believe this initiative is unlikely to yield any progress toward that end.”
Back-channel diplomacy between the Taliban and a range of countries — including the United States, Turkey and Saudi Arabia — has taken place over several years, often under a shroud of secrecy, in an effort to end the crippling and costly 17-year war.
Taliban fighters gather with residents to celebrate a three-day cease-fire in June 2018 in Nangahar province, east of Kabul. (Ramat Gul/AP)
Taliban representatives said they held private talks last month with American diplomats, with no members of the Afghan government present, in the Qatari capital of Doha, where the group maintains a political office, the only one of its kind.
The Afghan leadership is not always consulted and included in talks, even though the Taliban and the government in Kabul held a maiden round of peace talks three years ago in Pakistan. Kabul’s ambassador to Russia, Abdul Qayyum Kochai, told reporters Monday that he often learned of Moscow’s interactions with the Taliban through media reports.
A brief cease-fire in June between the Taliban and U.S.-supported Afghan armed forces injected a dose of rare optimism into the weary populace of Afghanistan, where a homegrown peace activist movement has strengthened in recent months.
Following that success, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Sunday proposed a three-month, conditional truce, but the Taliban has since sent out conflicting signals in response. As Ghani delivered a speech Tuesday marking the beginning of the important Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, a sustained rocket attack shook Kabul. No casualties were reported, and the Taliban denied involvement.
A visit to Moscow by the Taliban for talks would be a major coup for Russia, coming as the country regains influence on the global stage. Nearly 40 years have passed since Moscow sent its own troops into Afghanistan, beginning a disastrous decade-long war that is seen as the precursor to the country’s endemic violence today.
British Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt spoke about how global responses to Russia and Syria affect credibility in the District on Aug. 21. (Reuters)
Moscow has long maintained that instability in Afghanistan, which bordered the Soviet Union and is still seen by Russia as well within its sphere of influence, poses a threat at home.
Engaging with the Taliban is necessary “in order to ensure the security of Russian citizens and also to encourage Taliban members to forgo the armed struggle and join the nationwide dialogue with the government,” Lavrov told reporters.
To its north, Afghanistan is bordered by the Muslim-majority countries of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan — former Soviet republics with which Russia maintains close ties. The Kremlin worries that violence could spill over into Central Asia from Afghanistan, especially with the emergence there of the Islamic State.
Those fears were realized last month when four cyclists, including two Americans, were killed in Tajikistan in an attack claimed by the Islamic State. It was the extremist group’s first deadly assault in Central Asia.