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World energy use threatens water | The Japan Times

World energy use threatens water | The Japan Times.

Water and sand are mixed and pumped into a well during a fracking simulation at the Marcellus Shale formation in Camptown, Pennsylvania. | BLOOMBERG

Crisis brewing across most of globe: U.N.

World energy use threatens water

REUTERS

OSLO – Rising demand for energy, from biofuels to shale gas, is a threat to freshwater supplies, according to a United Nations report released Friday.

The report urged energy companies to do more to limit their use of water in everything from cooling coal-fired power plants to irrigation for crops grown to produce biofuels.

“Demand for energy and freshwater will increase significantly in the coming decades,” U.N. agencies said in the World Water Development Report. “This increase will present big challenges and strain resources in nearly all regions.”

By 2030, the world will need 40 percent more water and 50 percent more energy than now, the report said. Water is under pressure from factors such as a rising population, pollution and droughts, floods and heat waves linked to global warming.

Around the world, about 770 million of the world’s 7 billion people now lack access to safe drinking water, it said. And the energy sector accounts for about 15 percent of water withdrawals from sources such as rivers, lakes and aquifers.

“This interdependence calls for vastly improved cooperation” between water and energy, said UNESCO head Irina Bokova.

The report lamented the water sector’s lack of influence compared to what it called the “great political clout” of energy. March 22 is World Water Day in the U.N. calendar.

All energy production uses water, often as a coolant, it said. The least amount of water is used in wind and solar power, while heavy users include hydraulic fracking to produce shale gas or the extraction of oil from tar sands.

The report said that hydropower dams are sometimes built with little thought for other water users, and it urged caution about biofuels, partly because of water use required for irrigation.

World energy use threatens water | The Japan Times

World energy use threatens water | The Japan Times.

Water and sand are mixed and pumped into a well during a fracking simulation at the Marcellus Shale formation in Camptown, Pennsylvania. | BLOOMBERG

Crisis brewing across most of globe: U.N.

World energy use threatens water

REUTERS

OSLO – Rising demand for energy, from biofuels to shale gas, is a threat to freshwater supplies, according to a United Nations report released Friday.

The report urged energy companies to do more to limit their use of water in everything from cooling coal-fired power plants to irrigation for crops grown to produce biofuels.

“Demand for energy and freshwater will increase significantly in the coming decades,” U.N. agencies said in the World Water Development Report. “This increase will present big challenges and strain resources in nearly all regions.”

By 2030, the world will need 40 percent more water and 50 percent more energy than now, the report said. Water is under pressure from factors such as a rising population, pollution and droughts, floods and heat waves linked to global warming.

Around the world, about 770 million of the world’s 7 billion people now lack access to safe drinking water, it said. And the energy sector accounts for about 15 percent of water withdrawals from sources such as rivers, lakes and aquifers.

“This interdependence calls for vastly improved cooperation” between water and energy, said UNESCO head Irina Bokova.

The report lamented the water sector’s lack of influence compared to what it called the “great political clout” of energy. March 22 is World Water Day in the U.N. calendar.

All energy production uses water, often as a coolant, it said. The least amount of water is used in wind and solar power, while heavy users include hydraulic fracking to produce shale gas or the extraction of oil from tar sands.

The report said that hydropower dams are sometimes built with little thought for other water users, and it urged caution about biofuels, partly because of water use required for irrigation.

Crimea Names Ruble Currency; Applies To Join Russia, Expects To Become Region Of Russian Federation By Thursday | Zero Hedge

Crimea Names Ruble Currency; Applies To Join Russia, Expects To Become Region Of Russian Federation By Thursday | Zero Hedge.

First, for those who have missed this weekend’s developing story surrounding events in Crimea, here is the 30 second summary, courtesy of Bloomberg:

  • U.S., EU warn Russia not to annex Crimea after 95.5% of voters backed leaving Ukraine to join Russia in referendum.
  • Ukrainian govt, EU, U.S. consider vote illegal
  • Russia said vote  “fully met international norms”
  • Russia deployed about 60,000 troops along Ukrainian border, Ukrainian government said yday; Ukraine closed border crossings and will mobilize as many as 15,000 volunteers in next 15 days
  • Obama spoke with Putin, said referendum would never be recognized by intl community; U.S. prepared to impose “additional costs” on Russia for its actions
  • Putin told Obama Kiev regime unable to curb radical, ultra- nationalists groups that are destabilizing situation, terrorizing peaceful residents
  • EU ministers meet today to discuss sanctions that target Russian individuals rather than businesses; EU leaders to meet March 20-21 in Brussels to discuss further measures
  • “We are all reluctant to impose sanctions because Russia will probably respond and we’ll all suffer as a result,” Poland Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski said on CNN. “But Russia is leaving us with no choice.”
  • Russian lawmakers to consider bill on March 21 that would allow Russia to incorporate parts of countries where residents want to secede, says a Kremlin adviser
  • Russia vetoed UN Security Council resolution declaring referendum illegal; China abstained from voting
  • Crimeans celebrate vote

And here is the latest : just hours ago, Crimea’s parliament officially applied to become part of Russia. The parliament “made a proposal to the Russian Federation to admit the Republic of Crimea as a new subject with the status of a republic,” according to a statement on its website. A Crimean parliamentary delegation was expected to arrive in Moscow on Monday to discuss the procedures required for the Black Sea peninsula to become part of the Russian Federation.

“If everything’s signed we’ll become a fully fledged region of the Russian Federation Wednesday or Thursday,” First Deputy Prime Minister Rustam Termigaliyev says in interview at govt headquarters in Simferopol. Termigaliyev added that Crimea will promptly get $1b aid from Russia in near-term, and that Hryvnia reserves enough for 10 days, then Crimea will switch to ruble. April pensions “most likely” to be paid in rubles. Crimea can be self-sufficient in natural gas after today’s nationalization of Chernomoreneftegaz. Crimea risks 150,000 hectares being left without water if Ukraine shuts off supply, though that’s “not critical,”  says Termigaliyev.

In other news, the west continues dithering and considering just how best to telegraph to the world that it is completely helpless in stopping the annexation of Crimea, which is now a fact, and that it is praying that Putin does nothing to annex any of the other Pro-Russian cities in east Ukraine in the coming days, as once again, it has absolutely no stopping power with Putin continuing to hold all the chips.

Crimea Names Ruble Currency; Applies To Join Russia, Expects To Become Region Of Russian Federation By Thursday | Zero Hedge

Crimea Names Ruble Currency; Applies To Join Russia, Expects To Become Region Of Russian Federation By Thursday | Zero Hedge.

First, for those who have missed this weekend’s developing story surrounding events in Crimea, here is the 30 second summary, courtesy of Bloomberg:

  • U.S., EU warn Russia not to annex Crimea after 95.5% of voters backed leaving Ukraine to join Russia in referendum.
  • Ukrainian govt, EU, U.S. consider vote illegal
  • Russia said vote  “fully met international norms”
  • Russia deployed about 60,000 troops along Ukrainian border, Ukrainian government said yday; Ukraine closed border crossings and will mobilize as many as 15,000 volunteers in next 15 days
  • Obama spoke with Putin, said referendum would never be recognized by intl community; U.S. prepared to impose “additional costs” on Russia for its actions
  • Putin told Obama Kiev regime unable to curb radical, ultra- nationalists groups that are destabilizing situation, terrorizing peaceful residents
  • EU ministers meet today to discuss sanctions that target Russian individuals rather than businesses; EU leaders to meet March 20-21 in Brussels to discuss further measures
  • “We are all reluctant to impose sanctions because Russia will probably respond and we’ll all suffer as a result,” Poland Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski said on CNN. “But Russia is leaving us with no choice.”
  • Russian lawmakers to consider bill on March 21 that would allow Russia to incorporate parts of countries where residents want to secede, says a Kremlin adviser
  • Russia vetoed UN Security Council resolution declaring referendum illegal; China abstained from voting
  • Crimeans celebrate vote

And here is the latest : just hours ago, Crimea’s parliament officially applied to become part of Russia. The parliament “made a proposal to the Russian Federation to admit the Republic of Crimea as a new subject with the status of a republic,” according to a statement on its website. A Crimean parliamentary delegation was expected to arrive in Moscow on Monday to discuss the procedures required for the Black Sea peninsula to become part of the Russian Federation.

“If everything’s signed we’ll become a fully fledged region of the Russian Federation Wednesday or Thursday,” First Deputy Prime Minister Rustam Termigaliyev says in interview at govt headquarters in Simferopol. Termigaliyev added that Crimea will promptly get $1b aid from Russia in near-term, and that Hryvnia reserves enough for 10 days, then Crimea will switch to ruble. April pensions “most likely” to be paid in rubles. Crimea can be self-sufficient in natural gas after today’s nationalization of Chernomoreneftegaz. Crimea risks 150,000 hectares being left without water if Ukraine shuts off supply, though that’s “not critical,”  says Termigaliyev.

In other news, the west continues dithering and considering just how best to telegraph to the world that it is completely helpless in stopping the annexation of Crimea, which is now a fact, and that it is praying that Putin does nothing to annex any of the other Pro-Russian cities in east Ukraine in the coming days, as once again, it has absolutely no stopping power with Putin continuing to hold all the chips.

Michael Jacobs points to grounds for optimism that a comprehensive emissions-reduction plan can be agreed this year. – Project Syndicate

Michael Jacobs points to grounds for optimism that a comprehensive emissions-reduction plan can be agreed this year. – Project Syndicate.

MAR 7, 2014 1

The Climate-Change Agenda Heats Up

LONDON – For many people around the world this year, the weather has become anything but a topic for small talk. Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, America’s record-breaking freeze, California’s year-long drought, and flooding in Europe have put the long-term dangers of climate change back on the political agenda. In response, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has sent an urgent letter to government, business, civil society, and finance leaders, urging them to attend a special Climate Summit in New York in September.

The event will be the first time that world leaders have met to discuss global warming since the UN’s fateful Copenhagen climate-change summit in 2009. Amid high expectations – and subsequent recriminations – that meeting failed to achieve a comprehensive, legally-binding agreement to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. So, at September’s summit, leaders will be asked to re-boot the diplomatic process. The goal is a new agreement in 2015 to prevent average global temperatures from rising by two degrees Celsius, the level that the international community has deemed “dangerous” to human society.

At first sight, that looks like a hard task. Since Copenhagen, climate change has slipped down the global agenda, as the restoration of economic growth, voter concern about jobs and living standards, and violent conflict in key trouble spots have taken precedence.

But the tide may be turning. More people are grasping the true extent of the dangers ahead. In its latest authoritative assessment, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded last year that scientists are now 95% certain that human activities are the principal cause of rising temperatures. Over the next two months the IPCC will release further reports detailing the human and economic impacts of probable climate change and the costs and benefits of combating it. US Secretary of State John Kerry recently described climate change as “perhaps the world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction,” warning of “a tipping-point of no return.” Few serious commentators now dispute the science.

So the key question now is how the world’s leaders will respond. There are grounds for cautious optimism.

First, New York will not be like Copenhagen. Leaders are not being asked to negotiate a new agreement themselves; that job will remain with their professional negotiators and environment ministers. Moreover, the process will not be concluded this year but at the UN climate conference in Paris in December 2015. That provides plenty of time to translate political commitments made in New York into a legally-binding accord.

Second, the world’s two largest greenhouse-gas emitters, the United States and China, are now more committed to action than they were five years ago. US President Barack Obama has announced a far-reaching plan that authorizes the Environment Protection Agency to take dramatic measures in the next few months to limit power-station emissions, virtually ending coal-fired electricity generation altogether.

In China, worsening air pollution and growing concerns about energy security have led the government to consider a cap on coal use and an absolute reduction in emissions within the next 10-15 years. The government is experimenting with carbon pricing, and investing heavily in low-carbon wind, solar, and nuclear energy.

Further, the two countries are actively cooperating. Last year Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping committed to phase out hydrofluorcarbons, a potent greenhouse gas. In February, they announced their intention to work together on climate policy – a marked contrast to Sino-US tensions over Pacific security and trade issues. With the European Union also preparing to commit to new 2030 climate targets, hopes for a global deal are rising.

A third cause for optimism is the re-appraisal of climate-change economics. Five years ago, policies aimed at cutting greenhouse-gas emissions were seen as a cost burden on the economy. Negotiations were therefore a zero-sum game, with countries seeking to minimize their obligations while asking others to do more.

However, new evidence may be altering the economic calculus. According to research conducted by the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, far from hurting the economy, well-designed climate policy may actually boost growth. Chaired by former Mexican President Felipe Calderón and comprising former prime ministers, presidents, and finance ministers, the Commission is analyzing how investments in clean-energy infrastructure, agricultural productivity, and urban transport could stimulate sluggish economies. Its conclusions will be presented at September’s summit; if accepted, the Commission’s work could mark a turning point, transforming the way in which climate policy is perceived by the world’s economic policymakers.

None of this guarantees success. Powerful vested interests – not least the world’s fossil-fuel industries – will no doubt seek to limit progress, and most governments are not yet focused on the problem. But one thing is certain: the reality of climate change is making it impossible to ignore.

Read more at http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/michael-jacobs-points-to-grounds-for-optimism-that-a-comprehensive-emissions-reduction-plan-can-be-agreed-this-year#wHVjLcSRmu8rQqB0.99

What Happens After Sunday’s Crimea Referendum Vote? | Zero Hedge

What Happens After Sunday’s Crimea Referendum Vote? | Zero Hedge.

Given this morning’s UN vote declaring the Crimea referendum invalid (and Russia’s obvious veto – along with China’s abstention), and on the heels of Lavrov’s words Friday that Russia would decide how to respond to the Crimean vote after the referendum had been held, it is thought-provoking to consider Putin’s options given the vote’s outcome is a near-certainty voting in favor of accession to the Russian Federation (especially in light of this morning’s images across Crimea). Europe’s Council on Foreign Relations notes “not knowing Vladimir Putin’s strategy makes it hard for Europe and the West to come up with meaningful and workable responses. In a way, we are all speculating and trying to get a glimpse into Putin’s soul. The five points below attempt to reinforce or refute some aspects of the conventional wisdom that has emerged from all this speculation.”

 

Via CEFR,

1. Has Putin always wanted to invade Crimea?  

Russian diplomats (who probably hate their jobs these days) have made elaborate attempts to demonstrate that no international law has been broken in Crimea. But the breach is blatant and the pretext used to justify invasion is thinner than thin – and Moscow knows it.

It is true that some hawkish groups in Moscow probably could not care less about international law. They would approve of any means to reunify Slavic lands. However, the bulk of the establishment has in fact always maintained a different position. For example, the Russian foreign ministry has traditionally adhered to a rigidly legalistic view of world affairs: in effect, post-1945 international law, with its strict emphasis on state sovereignty, non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries, and the inviolability of borders. Newer and softer concepts, such as the responsibility to protect, are alien to them.

Putin himself has always passionately belonged to that legalistic camp, as evidenced by his positions on Libya, on Syria, and on multiple other issues. Therefore, deciding to invade Crimea cannot have been easy for him. He must consider that something extremely important is at stake. The corollary is that in defending his conception of what is at stake, he may well be ready to go further than many of us assume.

2. Is Putin out of touch with reality?

Angela Merkel’s statement that Putin is out of touch with reality, which was leaked to the New York Times, gave rise to a considerable amount of conjecture and comment. Some people concluded that Putin has gone mad. In fact, while he may be living in his own version of reality, it looks like Putin’s world has actually been around for a long time.

Putin seems to sincerely believe that dangerous extremist groups have taken power in Kiev. He may genuinely not realise that the events in Kiev represented a classic popular revolution. As pointed out by Fiona Hill, it is possible that the whole concept of popular revolutions is alien to Putin. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, when Russia was having its own revolution, Putin was not there – he was serving the KGB in Dresden. He did not personally witness the fact that a massive number of people were involved in the overthrow of the Soviet Union. His being abroad for these pivotal events, as well as his KGB schooling and worldview, may have made it easy for him to see the collapse of the Soviet Union as the result of a conspiracy by a few combined with betrayal by others.

Similarly, Putin may see current events in Ukraine as a conspiracy by the West, which was definitely his view of the Orange revolution of 2004. Or he may see the situation as the result of recklessness: actions along the same lines as Western involvement in Libya and Syria. As Putin sees it, in both places the West has supported marginal and extremist groups against legitimate leaders, in a naïve hope that democracy will somehow take root in the ruins of the old regimes. It may well be that he saw the West applying the same logic to Ukraine and decided that he could not allow anything of the kind to happen in Ukraine.

Added to this, he likely feels a sense of betrayal over the West’s (as he sees it) geopolitical incursion into Ukraine, and over the West’s failure (as he sees it) to support Viktor Yanukovych after the agreement of February 21. All this comes together to form the reality in which Putin lives.

This means that what we are seeing as Putin’s revisionism may still be inspired largely by his conservatism. Also, much of his reality is indeed based on false premises. But understanding this does not make it easier to set the record straight and make Putin see sense – as multiple Western interlocutors have by now discovered.

3. Does Putin want to use Crimea as leverage over Ukraine? 

Some analysts assume that Russia will stop short of incorporating Crimea, but will instead keep it in a Transnistria-style legal limbo in order to use it as leverage over Kiev. It seems likely that obtaining leverage over all of Ukraine, as opposed to just Crimea, is Moscow’s real goal. But it is hard to predict exactly what Moscow will see as sufficient and reliable leverage.The government that came to power in Kiev in late February is weak. Contrary to Moscow’s claims, it is not illegitimate – it is as legitimate as it can be under the circumstances. However, it still does not represent the whole of society in the ways that a government should. In theory, it would have been easy for Moscow to gain leverage over the new government by using a mixture of legitimate and more shady means. But Moscow did not even make the attempt.

By now, it is unclear just how much the “Transnistrianisation” of Crimea would add to Moscow’s leverage. Kiev is now considerably less amenable to making a deal with Moscow than it would have been less than a month ago. Many in the nationalist camp may be secretly relieved to see Crimea go, taking with it its two million Russian voters and Russian base.

As recently as a week or so ago, Russia could probably have counted on the West to put pressure on Kiev. The West is terrified by what Moscow is doing and it does not know how to respond. So, many would have been relieved if, instead of annexing Crimea, Russia stopped at “Transnistrianisation”. The West would have been ready to put pressure on Kiev to accept Moscow’s conditions – thereby, of course, contributing to prolonged bad governance in Ukraine and, consequently, to more trouble down the road. But Moscow did not try to use the West either – and now it could be too late for that as well. The build-up of Russian troops at Ukraine’s borders has probably made the West more determined to counter Russia and less likely to go for unholy compromises. And, likewise, the massing of troops could indicate that Moscow is not interested in making use of Western pressure. The sort of control over Kiev that the Kremlin has in mind may be of a much harder sort than mere co-option and coercion.

4. Is Putin acting only in response to domestic pressures?

Some analysts claim that the whole Crimea affair was begun in order to impress the domestic public, who have increasingly fallen out of love with Putin. Others, even those who do not share that interpretation, claim that Putin cannot back down because of domestic pressures. It is true that the invasion has boosted Putin’s ratings. And the domestic media-propaganda machine has created a powerful momentum for annexation, which has the support of many in Russian society. But it is still hard to believe that any of this constitutes serious limitations of action for Putin, especially given that he does not have to face the ballot box any time soon.

Russian society has no capacity for an informed and critical discussion about foreign policy. The state-controlled media is masterful in justifying the regime’s actions, whatever they may be. Portraying a climb-down as a victory would be easy. (This kind of method is described well in an old Soviet joke about a 100-metre race between Ronald Reagan and Leonid Brezhnev: after Reagan’s win, the Soviet news agency reported that “in yesterday’s race between the heads of state the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the USSR achieved a precious second place. The president of the Imperialist United States finished second-last.”)

In short, for the moment at least, Putin is in no way hostage to his domestic constituency. But that does not mean that he will want to de-escalate or back down.

5. Will sanctions stop Putin?

Different people see different logic behind Western sanctions on Russia. Some hope that sanctions, or the threat of them, will force Moscow to back down. Others hope that sanctions will alienate Russian elites from Putin and leave him with little domestic support. Others simply believe that people who were instrumental in acting against sovereignty and territorial integrity deserve to be punished. And some look at the situation from a long-term perspective and think that sanctions should be applied to erode the economic foundations of an increasingly aggressive regime.

Much of this reasoning seems accurate and justified. But even so, the calculation that sanctions will make Putin reverse course does not ring true. Ever since the domestic protests of 2011-2012, Putin has lost trust in the members of his elite who keep their money in the West and so are vulnerable to Western pressures. Losing their support, therefore, does not really matter to him. They have no leverage over him. In any case, “repatriating money” has been an unofficial policy for quite a while.

Sanctions, as well as Putin’s growing alienation from Russian elites, may well have effects in the medium term. But they will not stop Putin on Sunday or in the days ahead. Even so, this does not mean that sanctions are futile or unnecessary – especially because it seems more and more likely that we are now facing a longer-term battle between Russia and the West.

What Happens After Sunday's Crimea Referendum Vote? | Zero Hedge

What Happens After Sunday’s Crimea Referendum Vote? | Zero Hedge.

Given this morning’s UN vote declaring the Crimea referendum invalid (and Russia’s obvious veto – along with China’s abstention), and on the heels of Lavrov’s words Friday that Russia would decide how to respond to the Crimean vote after the referendum had been held, it is thought-provoking to consider Putin’s options given the vote’s outcome is a near-certainty voting in favor of accession to the Russian Federation (especially in light of this morning’s images across Crimea). Europe’s Council on Foreign Relations notes “not knowing Vladimir Putin’s strategy makes it hard for Europe and the West to come up with meaningful and workable responses. In a way, we are all speculating and trying to get a glimpse into Putin’s soul. The five points below attempt to reinforce or refute some aspects of the conventional wisdom that has emerged from all this speculation.”

 

Via CEFR,

1. Has Putin always wanted to invade Crimea?  

Russian diplomats (who probably hate their jobs these days) have made elaborate attempts to demonstrate that no international law has been broken in Crimea. But the breach is blatant and the pretext used to justify invasion is thinner than thin – and Moscow knows it.

It is true that some hawkish groups in Moscow probably could not care less about international law. They would approve of any means to reunify Slavic lands. However, the bulk of the establishment has in fact always maintained a different position. For example, the Russian foreign ministry has traditionally adhered to a rigidly legalistic view of world affairs: in effect, post-1945 international law, with its strict emphasis on state sovereignty, non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries, and the inviolability of borders. Newer and softer concepts, such as the responsibility to protect, are alien to them.

Putin himself has always passionately belonged to that legalistic camp, as evidenced by his positions on Libya, on Syria, and on multiple other issues. Therefore, deciding to invade Crimea cannot have been easy for him. He must consider that something extremely important is at stake. The corollary is that in defending his conception of what is at stake, he may well be ready to go further than many of us assume.

2. Is Putin out of touch with reality?

Angela Merkel’s statement that Putin is out of touch with reality, which was leaked to the New York Times, gave rise to a considerable amount of conjecture and comment. Some people concluded that Putin has gone mad. In fact, while he may be living in his own version of reality, it looks like Putin’s world has actually been around for a long time.

Putin seems to sincerely believe that dangerous extremist groups have taken power in Kiev. He may genuinely not realise that the events in Kiev represented a classic popular revolution. As pointed out by Fiona Hill, it is possible that the whole concept of popular revolutions is alien to Putin. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, when Russia was having its own revolution, Putin was not there – he was serving the KGB in Dresden. He did not personally witness the fact that a massive number of people were involved in the overthrow of the Soviet Union. His being abroad for these pivotal events, as well as his KGB schooling and worldview, may have made it easy for him to see the collapse of the Soviet Union as the result of a conspiracy by a few combined with betrayal by others.

Similarly, Putin may see current events in Ukraine as a conspiracy by the West, which was definitely his view of the Orange revolution of 2004. Or he may see the situation as the result of recklessness: actions along the same lines as Western involvement in Libya and Syria. As Putin sees it, in both places the West has supported marginal and extremist groups against legitimate leaders, in a naïve hope that democracy will somehow take root in the ruins of the old regimes. It may well be that he saw the West applying the same logic to Ukraine and decided that he could not allow anything of the kind to happen in Ukraine.

Added to this, he likely feels a sense of betrayal over the West’s (as he sees it) geopolitical incursion into Ukraine, and over the West’s failure (as he sees it) to support Viktor Yanukovych after the agreement of February 21. All this comes together to form the reality in which Putin lives.

This means that what we are seeing as Putin’s revisionism may still be inspired largely by his conservatism. Also, much of his reality is indeed based on false premises. But understanding this does not make it easier to set the record straight and make Putin see sense – as multiple Western interlocutors have by now discovered.

3. Does Putin want to use Crimea as leverage over Ukraine? 

Some analysts assume that Russia will stop short of incorporating Crimea, but will instead keep it in a Transnistria-style legal limbo in order to use it as leverage over Kiev. It seems likely that obtaining leverage over all of Ukraine, as opposed to just Crimea, is Moscow’s real goal. But it is hard to predict exactly what Moscow will see as sufficient and reliable leverage.The government that came to power in Kiev in late February is weak. Contrary to Moscow’s claims, it is not illegitimate – it is as legitimate as it can be under the circumstances. However, it still does not represent the whole of society in the ways that a government should. In theory, it would have been easy for Moscow to gain leverage over the new government by using a mixture of legitimate and more shady means. But Moscow did not even make the attempt.

By now, it is unclear just how much the “Transnistrianisation” of Crimea would add to Moscow’s leverage. Kiev is now considerably less amenable to making a deal with Moscow than it would have been less than a month ago. Many in the nationalist camp may be secretly relieved to see Crimea go, taking with it its two million Russian voters and Russian base.

As recently as a week or so ago, Russia could probably have counted on the West to put pressure on Kiev. The West is terrified by what Moscow is doing and it does not know how to respond. So, many would have been relieved if, instead of annexing Crimea, Russia stopped at “Transnistrianisation”. The West would have been ready to put pressure on Kiev to accept Moscow’s conditions – thereby, of course, contributing to prolonged bad governance in Ukraine and, consequently, to more trouble down the road. But Moscow did not try to use the West either – and now it could be too late for that as well. The build-up of Russian troops at Ukraine’s borders has probably made the West more determined to counter Russia and less likely to go for unholy compromises. And, likewise, the massing of troops could indicate that Moscow is not interested in making use of Western pressure. The sort of control over Kiev that the Kremlin has in mind may be of a much harder sort than mere co-option and coercion.

4. Is Putin acting only in response to domestic pressures?

Some analysts claim that the whole Crimea affair was begun in order to impress the domestic public, who have increasingly fallen out of love with Putin. Others, even those who do not share that interpretation, claim that Putin cannot back down because of domestic pressures. It is true that the invasion has boosted Putin’s ratings. And the domestic media-propaganda machine has created a powerful momentum for annexation, which has the support of many in Russian society. But it is still hard to believe that any of this constitutes serious limitations of action for Putin, especially given that he does not have to face the ballot box any time soon.

Russian society has no capacity for an informed and critical discussion about foreign policy. The state-controlled media is masterful in justifying the regime’s actions, whatever they may be. Portraying a climb-down as a victory would be easy. (This kind of method is described well in an old Soviet joke about a 100-metre race between Ronald Reagan and Leonid Brezhnev: after Reagan’s win, the Soviet news agency reported that “in yesterday’s race between the heads of state the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the USSR achieved a precious second place. The president of the Imperialist United States finished second-last.”)

In short, for the moment at least, Putin is in no way hostage to his domestic constituency. But that does not mean that he will want to de-escalate or back down.

5. Will sanctions stop Putin?

Different people see different logic behind Western sanctions on Russia. Some hope that sanctions, or the threat of them, will force Moscow to back down. Others hope that sanctions will alienate Russian elites from Putin and leave him with little domestic support. Others simply believe that people who were instrumental in acting against sovereignty and territorial integrity deserve to be punished. And some look at the situation from a long-term perspective and think that sanctions should be applied to erode the economic foundations of an increasingly aggressive regime.

Much of this reasoning seems accurate and justified. But even so, the calculation that sanctions will make Putin reverse course does not ring true. Ever since the domestic protests of 2011-2012, Putin has lost trust in the members of his elite who keep their money in the West and so are vulnerable to Western pressures. Losing their support, therefore, does not really matter to him. They have no leverage over him. In any case, “repatriating money” has been an unofficial policy for quite a while.

Sanctions, as well as Putin’s growing alienation from Russian elites, may well have effects in the medium term. But they will not stop Putin on Sunday or in the days ahead. Even so, this does not mean that sanctions are futile or unnecessary – especially because it seems more and more likely that we are now facing a longer-term battle between Russia and the West.

Crimea Military Post Taken Over By Russians

Crimea Military Post Taken Over By Russians.

 

A woman passes by a WWII memorial, the actual Russian tank that was first to enter Simferopol in 1944 as the Red Army was advancing, in Simferopol, Ukraine, Friday, March 7, 2014. Ukraine lurched toward breakup Thursday as lawmakers in Crimea unanimously declared they wanted to join Russia and would put the decision to voters in 10 days. President Barack Obama condemned the move and the West answered with the first real sanctions against Russia. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)


MOSCOW/SEVASTOPOL, Ukraine, March 8 (Reuters) – Russia said any U.S. sanctions imposed on Moscow over the crisis in Ukraine will boomerang back on the United States and that Crimea has the right to self-determination as armed men tried to seize another Ukrainian military base on the peninsula.

In a telephone conversation with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned against “hasty and reckless steps” that could harm Russian-American relations, the foreign ministry said on Friday.

“Sanctions … would inevitably hit the United States like a boomerang,” it added.

Kerry stressed the importance of resolving the situation through diplomacy and said he and Lavrov would continue to consult, the State Department said.

It was the second tense, high-level exchange between the former Cold War foes in 24 hours over the pro-Russian takeover of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said after an hour-long call with U.S. President Barack Obama that their positions on the former Soviet republic were still far apart. Obama announced the first sanctions against Russia on Thursday.

Putin, who later opened the Paralympic Games in Sochi which have been boycotted by a string of Western dignitaries, said Ukraine’s new, pro-Western authorities had acted illegitimately over the eastern, southeastern and Crimea regions.

“Russia cannot ignore calls for help and it acts accordingly, in full compliance with international law,” he said.

Serhiy Astakhov, an aide to the Ukrainian border guards’ commander, said 30,000 Russian soldiers were now in Crimea, compared with the 11,000 permanently based with the Russian Black Sea fleet in the port of Sevastopol before the crisis.

The Pentagon estimated as many as 20,000 Russian troops may be in Crimea.

On Friday evening armed men drove a truck into a Ukrainian missile defence post in Sevastopol, according to a Reuters reporter at the scene. But no shots were fired and Crimea’s pro-Russian premier said later the standoff was over.

Putin denies the forces with no national insignia that are surrounding Ukrainian troops in their bases are under Moscow’s command, although their vehicles have Russian military plates. The West has ridiculed his assertion.

The most serious East-West confrontation since the end of the Cold War escalated on Thursday when Crimea’s parliament, dominated by ethnic Russians, voted to join Russia and set a referendum for March 16. The conflict resulted from the overthrow last month of President Viktor Yanukovich after protests in Kiev that led to violence.

JETS, DESTROYER

Turkey scrambled jets after a Russian surveillance plane flew along its Black Sea coast and a U.S. warship passed through Turkey’s Bosphorus straits on its way to the Black Sea, although the U.S. military said it was a routine deployment.

The head of Russia’s upper house of parliament said after meeting visiting Crimean lawmakers on Friday that Crimea had a right to self-determination, and ruled out any risk of war between “the two brotherly nations”.

European Union leaders and Obama said the referendum plan was illegitimate and would violate Ukraine’s constitution. Obama called German Chancellor Angela Merkel from his Florida vacation on Friday to discuss the situation in Ukraine.

“The leaders reiterated their grave concern over Russia’s clear violation of international law through its military intervention in Ukraine,” the White House said in a statement.

Obama ordered visa bans and asset freezes on Thursday against so far unidentified people deemed responsible for threatening Ukraine’s sovereignty. Earlier in the week, a Kremlin aide said Moscow might refuse to pay off any loans to U.S. banks, the top four of which have around $24 billion in exposure to Russia.

Japan endorsed the Western position that the actions of Russia constitute “a threat to international peace and security,” after Obama spoke to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

China, often a Russian ally in blocking Western moves in the U.N. Security Council, was more cautious, saying economic sanctions were not the best way to solve the crisis and avoiding comment on the Crimean referendum.

The EU, Russia’s biggest economic partner and energy customer, adopted a three-stage plan to try to force a negotiated solution but stopped short of immediate sanctions.

The Russian Foreign Ministry responded angrily on Friday, calling the EU decision to freeze talks on visa-free travel and on a broad new pact governing Russia-EU ties “extremely unconstructive.” It pledged to retaliate.

“GUERRILLA WAR?”

Senior Ukrainian opposition politician Yulia Tymoshenko, freed from prison after Yanukovich’s overthrow, met Merkel in Dublin and appealed for immediate EU sanctions against Russia, warning that Crimea might otherwise slide into a guerrilla war.

Brussels and Washington rushed to strengthen the new authorities in economically shattered Ukraine, announcing both political and financial assistance. The regional director of the International Monetary Fund said talks with Kiev on a loan agreement were going well and praised the new government’s openness to economic reform and transparency.

The European Commission has said Ukraine could receive up to 11 billion euros ($15 billion) in the next couple of years provided it reaches agreement with the IMF, which requires painful economic reforms such as ending gas subsidies.

Promises of billions of dollars in Western aid for the Kiev government, and the perception that Russian troops are not likely to go beyond Crimea into other parts of Ukraine, have helped reverse a rout in the local hryvnia currency.

In the past two days it has traded above 9.0 to the dollar for the first time since the Crimea crisis began last week. Local dealers said emergency currency restrictions imposed last week were also supporting the hryvnia.

Russian gas monopoly Gazprom said Ukraine had not paid its $440 million gas bill for February, bringing its arrears to $1.89 billion and hinted it could turn off the taps as it did in 2009, when a halt in Russian deliveries to Ukraine reduced supplies to Europe during a cold snap.

In Moscow, a huge crowd gathered near the Kremlin at a government-sanctioned rally and concert billed as being “in support of the Crimean people.” Pop stars took to the stage and demonstrators held signs with slogans such as “Crimea is Russian land” and “We believe in Putin.”

IMPORTANT DIFFERENCES

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk said no one in the civilised world would recognise the result of the “so-called referendum” in Crimea.

He repeated Kiev’s willingness to negotiate with Russia if Moscow pulls its additional troops out of Crimea and said he had requested a telephone call with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.

But Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov ridiculed calls for Russia to join an international “contact group” with Ukraine proposed by the West, saying they “make us smile.”

Demonstrators encamped in Kiev’s central Independence Square to defend the revolution that ousted Yanukovich said they did not believe Crimea would be allowed to secede.

Alexander Zaporozhets, 40, from central Ukraine’s Kirovograd region, put his faith in international pressure.

“I don’t think the Russians will be allowed to take Crimea from us: you can’t behave like that to an independent state. We have the support of the whole world. But I think we are losing time. While the Russians are preparing, we are just talking.”

Unarmed military observers from the pan-European Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe were blocked from entering Crimea for a second day in a row on Friday, the OSCE said on Twitter.

The United Nations said it had sent its assistant secretary-general for human rights, Ivan Simonovic, to Kiev to conduct a preliminary humans rights assessment.

Ukrainian television has been replaced with Russian state channels in Crimea and the streets largely belong to people who support Moscow’s rule, some of whom have harassed journalists and occasional pro-Kiev protesters.

Part of the Crimea’s 2 million population opposes Moscow’s rule, including members of the region’s ethnic Russian majority. The last time Crimeans were asked, in 1991, they voted narrowly for independence along with the rest of Ukraine.

“With all these soldiers here, it is like we are living in a zoo,” Tatyana, 41, an ethnic Russian. “Everyone fully understands this is an occupation.” (Additional reporting by Alissa de Carbonnel in Simferopol, Lidia Kelly in Moscow, Luke Baker and Martin Santa in Brussels, Roberta Rampton and Doina Chiacu in Washington; Lina Kushch in Donetsk and Pavel Polityuk in Kiev, Writing by Paul Taylor and Philippa Fletcher; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Lisa Shumaker)

oftwominds-Charles Hugh Smith: The Dollar and the Deep State

oftwominds-Charles Hugh Smith: The Dollar and the Deep State.

If we consider the Fed’s policies (tapering, etc.) solely within the narrow confines of the corporatocracy or a strictly financial context, we are in effect touching the foot of the elephant and declaring the creature to be short and roundish.

I have been studying the Deep State for 40 years, before it had gained the nifty name “deep state.” What others describe as the Deep State I term the National Security State which enables the American Empire, a vast structure that incorporates hard and soft power–military, diplomatic, intelligence, finance, commercial, energy, media, higher education–in a system of global domination and influence.

Back in 2007 I drew a simplified chart of the Imperial structure, what I called the Elite Maintaining and Extending Global Dominance (EMEGD):

At a very superficial level, some pundits have sought a Master Control in the Trilateral Commission or similar elite gatherings. Such groups are certainly one cell within the Empire, but each is no more important than other parts, just as killer T-cells are just one of dozens of cell types in the immune system.

One key feature of the Deep State is that it makes decisions behind closed doors and the surface government simply ratifies or approves the decisions. A second key feature is that the Deep State decision-makers have access to an entire world of secret intelligence.

Here is an example from the late 1960s, when the mere existence of the National Security Agency (NSA) was a state secret. Though the Soviet Union made every effort to hide its failures in space, it was an ill-kept secret that a number of their manned flights failed in space and the astronauts died.

The NSA had tapped the main undersea cables, and may have already had other collection capabilities in place, for the U.S. intercepted a tearful phone call from Soviet Leader Brezhnev to the doomed astronauts, a call made once it had become clear there was no hope of their capsule returning to Earth.

Former congressional staff member Mike Lofgren described the Deep State in his recent essay Anatomy of the Deep State:

There is another, more shadowy, more indefinable government that is not explained in Civics 101 or observable to tourists at the White House or the Capitol. The subsurface part of the iceberg I shall call the Deep State, which operates according to its own compass heading regardless of who is formally in power.

The term “Deep State” was coined in Turkey and is said to be a system composed of high-level elements within the intelligence services, military, security, judiciary and organized crime.

I use the term to mean a hybrid association of elements of government and parts of top-level finance and industry that is effectively able to govern the United States without reference to the consent of the governed as expressed through the formal political process.

I would say that only senior military or intelligence officers have any realistic grasp of the true scope, power and complexity of the Deep State and its Empire.Those with no grasp of military matters cannot possibly understand the Deep State. If you don’t have any real sense of the scope of the National Security State, you are in effect touching the foot of the elephant and declaring the creature is perhaps two feet tall.

The Deep State arose in World War II, as the mechanisms of electoral governance had failed to prepare the nation for global war. The goal of winning the war relegated the conventional electoral government to rubber-stamping Deep State decisions and policies.

After the war, the need to stabilize (if not “win”) the Cold War actually extended the Deep State. Now, the global war on terror (GWOT) is the justification.

One way to understand the Deep State is to trace the vectors of dependency. The Deep State needs the nation to survive, but the nation does not need the Deep State to survive (despite the groupthink within the Deep State that “we are the only thing keeping this thing together.”)

The nation would survive without the Federal Reserve, but the Federal Reserve would not survive without the Deep State. The Fed is not the Deep State; it is merely a tool of the Deep State.

This brings us to the U.S. dollar and the Deep State. The Deep State doesn’t really care about the signal noise of the economy–mortgage rates, minimum wages, unemployment, etc., any more that it cares about the political circus (“step right up to the Clinton sideshow, folks”) or the bickering over regulations by various camps.

What the Deep State cares about are the U.S. dollar, water, energy, minerals and access to those commodities (alliances, sea lanes, etc.). As I have mentioned before, consider the trade enabled by the reserve currency (the dollar): we print/create money out of thin air and exchange this for oil, commodities, electronics, etc.

If this isn’t the greatest trade on Earth–exchanging paper for real stuff– what is?While I am sympathetic to the strictly financial arguments that predict hyper-inflation and the destruction of the U.S. dollar, they are in effect touching the toe of the elephant.

The financial argument is this: we can print money but we can’t print more oil, coal, ground water, etc., and so eventually the claims on real wealth (i.e. dollars) will so far exceed the real wealth that the claims on wealth will collapse.

So far as this goes, it makes perfect sense. But let’s approach this from the geopolitical-strategic perspective of the Deep State: why would the Deep State allow policies that would bring about the destruction of its key global asset, the U.S. dollar?

There is simply no way the Deep State is going to support policies that would fatally weaken the dollar, or passively watch a subsidiary of the Deep State (the Fed) damage the Deep State itself.

The strictly financial arguments for hyper-inflation and the destruction of the U.S. dollar implicitly assume a system that operates like a line of dominoes: if the Fed prints money, that will inevitably start the dominoes falling, with the final domino being the reserve currency.

Setting aside the complexity of Triffin’s Paradox and other key dynamics within the reserve currency, we can safely predict that the Deep State will do whatever is necessary to maintain the dollar’s reserve status and purchasing power.

Understanding the “Exorbitant Privilege” of the U.S. Dollar (November 19, 2012)

What Will Benefit from Global Recession? The U.S. Dollar (October 9, 2012)

Recall Triffin’s primary point: countries like China that run trade surpluses cannot host reserve currencies, as that requires running large structural trade deficits.

In my view, the euro currency is a regional experiment in the “bancor” model,where a supra-national currency supposedly eliminates Triffin’s Paradox. It has failed, partly because supra-national currencies don’t resolve Triffin’s dilemma, they simply obfuscate it with sovereign credit imbalances that eventually moot the currency’s ability to function as intended.

Many people assume the corporatocracy rules the nation, but the corporatocracy is simply another tool of the Deep State. Many pundits declare that the Powers That Be want a weaker dollar to boost exports, but this sort of strictly financial concern is only of passing interest to the Deep State.
The corporatocracy (banking/financialization, etc.) has captured the machinery of regulation and governance, but these are surface effects of the electoral government that rubber-stamps policies set by the Deep State.

The corporatocracy is a useful global tool of the Deep State, but its lobbying of the visible government is mostly signal noise to the Deep State. The only sectors that matter are the defense, energy, agriculture and international financial sectors that supply the Imperial Project and project power.

What would best serve the Deep State is a dollar that increases in purchasing power and extends the Deep State’s power. It is widely assumed that the Fed creating a few trillion dollars has created a massive surplus of dollars that will guarantee a slide in the dollar’s purchasing power and its demise as the reserve currency.

Those who believe the Fed’s expansion of its balance sheet will weaken the dollar are forgetting that from the point of view of the outside world, the Fed’s actions are not so much expanding the supply of dollars as offsetting the contraction caused by deleveraging.

I would argue that the dollar will soon be scarce, and the simple but profound laws of supply and demand will push the dollar’s value not just higher but much higher. The problem going forward for exporting nations will be the scarcity of dollars.

If we consider the Fed’s policies (tapering, etc.) solely within the narrow confines of the corporatocracy or a strictly financial context, we are in effect touching the foot of the elephant and declaring the creature to be short and roundish. The elephant is the Deep State and its Imperial Project.

US/UN Fears Assad Win in Free Syrian Election? – LewRockwell.com

US/UN Fears Assad Win in Free Syrian Election? – LewRockwell.com.

Every now and then we have a chance to peek through a tiny window to see how “diplomacy” is done behind closed doors. Last week the leaked conversation between US diplomatsplotting the overthrow of Ukraine’s government was one such dramatic moment.

Another came Tuesday, in an interview with Iran’s Ambassador to Lebanon, Ghazanfar Roknabadi, which appeared in the respected Lebanese Daily Star newspaper. In a sweeping interview, the Ambassador discussed the recent bombing of the Iranian embassy in Beirut and the regional threat of the growing number of jihadist groups in Syria.

Then he let loose with this bombshell. Roknabadi told the Daily Star that the Iranian government had been under pressure to convince Syrian president Bashar al-Assad not to run again for president. As Syria’s only regional ally, Iran presumably has a good deal of influence with the Assad government.

Ambassador Roknabadi:

[U.N. Undersecretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey] Feltman, during a visit to Iran last summer, asked officials to convince Assad not to run in the elections. The Iranian officials asked him: ‘What’s the problem if he runs,’ to which Feltman responded: ‘If he runs, he will win the elections.’

Feltman is not just any UN bureaucrat. In the revolving door between the UN and US government, he previously served as US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs from August 2009 to June 2012 and as United States Ambassador to Lebanon from July 2004 to January 2008. Before that he served in post-”liberation” Iraq.

More recently, Feltman was an important cast member in the above-mentioned “Ukraine-gate” phone call between US undersecretary of State Victoria Nuland and US Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt. In the Ukraine drama, his former State Department colleagues agreed that Feltman could be trusted to appoint a UN official to “glue” together the deal they were cooking up.

If Ambassador Roknabadi is accurate in his account, this confirms much about the US government’s cynical regime-change ploy in Syria. Not that it is any surprise to those paying attention. It is in keeping with US ambivalence toward actual electoral democracy in those places which it purports to democratize. From Gaza to Egypt to Afghanistan to Libya to Iraq, it seems what US democratization efforts fear most is actual democracy.

No wonder Secretary Kerry keeps desperately clinging to the US misread of the “Geneva I” communiqué, claiming without evidence that it is a regime-change agreement among signatories. Assad must be kept out of the picture, because the US is terrified of his popularityin Syria.

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11:09 pm on February 12, 2014Email Daniel McAdams

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