CLAIRE BERLINSKI, PARIS
🗞🌾 The World Bank’s oracle despairs. 🇷🇺 Russian mines will take months to clear. 🇨🇳 China moves into Cambodia. 🇮🇷Iran threatens to leave the NPT. 🦷Patrice Lumumba’s tooth … and more.
This one’s all gloom, folks. Buckle up. But there’s a talking grey parrot at the end.
- Russia continues to attempt assaults against the Severodonetsk pocket from three directions although Ukrainian defenses are holding. It is unlikely that either side has gained significant ground in the last 24 hours.
- While Russia is concentrating its offensive on the central Donbas sector, it has remained on the defensive on its flanks. Ukrainian forces have recently achieved some success by counter-attacking in the south-western Kherson region, including regaining a foothold on the eastern bank of the Ingulets River.
- With the frontage of the occupied zone stretching for over 500 kilometers, both Russia and Ukraine face similar challenges in maintaining a defensive line while freeing up capable combat units for offensive operations.
- In the occupied Kherson region, Russia is forcibly aligning its administration with that of the Russian Federation by introducing the Russian ruble as legal tender and employing Russian teachers to introduce the Russian curriculum and language to schools.
- Russia will highly likely claim its occupation of Kherson as evidence of delivering improved governance and living standards to the Ukrainian people.
- Russian forces have likely established control over the majority of the residential sector of Severodonetsk and conducted assaults against Ukrainian positions in the industrial zone in the past 24 hours. The operational environment within the city remains fluid.
- Russian forces continued efforts to advance on Slovyansk southeast from the Izyum area and west from Lyman, attempting to break through Ukrainian defenses that have halted most direct frontal assaults from Izyum.
- Russian forces are likely attempting to reinforce their operations in the Severodonetsk-Lysychansk area from both the Toshkivka-Ustynivka area in the south and Kupyansk from the northwest.
- Russian forces began withdrawing troops from positions in Zaporizhia Oblast, likely either to rotate damaged units into rear areas or to reinforce Russian defenses in northwestern Kherson Oblast, though ISW cannot currently confirm the destination of these forces.
- Russian forces failed to regain advanced positions on the western (now Ukrainian-occupied) bank of the Ihulets River on June 7.
- Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced that Russian forces restored transit connections between newly occupied cities and Crimea.
- Russian occupation authorities continue to face challenges suppressing Ukrainian resistance and finding partisan supporters despite increasingly draconian occupation measures and attempts to bribe Ukrainian civilians.
The fight for Severodonetsk is a Russian information operation in the form of a battle. One of its main purposes for Moscow is to create the impression that Russia has regained its strength and will now overwhelm Ukraine. That impression is false. The Russian military in Ukraine is increasingly a spent force that cannot achieve a decisive victory if Ukrainians hold on.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is therefore trying to turn his invasion of Ukraine into a brutal contest of wills. He’s betting his army on breaking Ukrainians’ collective will to fight on in their country. His own won’t likely break. Fortunately, Ukraine doesn’t need it to. If Ukrainians can weather the current Russian storm and then counterattack the exhausted Russian forces they still have every chance to free their people and all their land.
The days-long battle for the industrial city has emerged as pivotal, with Russia focusing its offensive might in the hope of achieving one of its stated aims—to fully capture surrounding Luhansk province on behalf of Russian-speaking separatists.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Moscow’s forces hold nearly all of Luhansk province. And it appears that Russia now occupies roughly half of Donetsk province, according to Ukrainian officials and military analysts.
According to the Ukrainian Grain Producers Association, which brings together the country’s major grain players, grain and oilseed production is expected to account for 66.5 million tons this year, down by nearly 40 percent from 2021. Of those volumes, the UGA estimates that 30 million tons are intended for export to Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Europe. But with the Black Sea ports blockaded by the Russian navy, exports could be limited to 18 million tons, or even 12 million …
Turkey and Ukraine have managed to draw up a roadmap with the aim of opening a “grain corridor” between Ukrainian ports and world markets. A “monitoring system” is being considered, which could involve the Turkish navy escorting bulk carriers from Ukraine. Sponsored by the United Nations, this humanitarian operation could allow up to 20 million tons of grain to be removed from silos and sheds, according to the Turkish side.
The Europeans would like to reach an agreement allowing cargo ships to leave the port of Odessa, via the Black Sea, which presupposes the approval of Russia and Turkey, not to mention a demining of the port. … The problem is that the wagons and trucks are waiting for two or even four weeks at the borders of Poland, Romania or Bulgaria due to a lack of infrastructure. The different rail gauges between the networks require transshipment before loading to the EU.
[T]he effects of the siege will take months to rectify because insurance underwriters will seek guarantees for the safe passage of food before exports can fully resume. Marine war losses are already approaching US$1 billion, leaving the insurance industry skittish about the future. Even if Russia’s blockade is negotiated, vessels face sky-high insurance costs due to the continuing conflict and the presence of sea mines. To avoid the expense, the mines will need to be cleared, which could take until the end of the year.
Poverty rates below the US$5.50 per day threshold are projected to increase from about 2 percent to 20 percent of the population in 2022. Growth is expected to resume in 2023 but remain weak, with reconstruction efforts gathering momentum toward the end of the forecast period. The repercussions of the war are expected to reverberate beyond the short term, with economic activity scarred by the destruction of productive capacity, damage to arable land, and reduced labor supply—especially if refugees do not return.
“I hate them. They are bastards and degenerates. They want death for us, for Russia. And, as long as I live, I will do everything to make them disappear.”This most recent—quite terse—message from Dmitri Medvedev via the social network Telegram, on Tuesday, June 7, has the merit of clarity, even it is not entirely clear to whom “they” refers, and against whom the former Russian prime minister directs such fierce hatred. The Ukrainians? Unlikely, as the Russian public discourse persists in presenting the neighboring country as a friendly victim, in a way, of a misunderstanding. The West? More likely, as this discourse has become a constant for the current number two in the Russian Security Council, whose virulence is proportional to the “liberal” image he has been presenting until now.
🦇🌪 Russia’s ambassador to the UN stormed out of a Security Council meeting when the president of the European Council blamed Russia for rising global food prices:
[European Council President Charles] Michel’s remarks weren’t limited to the food crisis. Michel also accused members of Russia’s military of committing war crimes. He brought up reports of sexual violence by Russian soldiers, calling it “a tactic of torture, terror and repression.” Earlier in the meeting, [Vassily] Nebenzia had “categorically refuted” the accusations. Nebenzia stormed out as Michel was speaking, prompting the European Council’s leader to tell the ambassador: “You may leave the room, maybe it’s easier not to listen to the truth.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the Russian military would need to check commercial ships taking the grain to make sure they don’t carry weapons. He added that after they are loaded with grain, Russia would help escort the ships to international waters. Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said Tuesday that technical details were still being worked out. …
🇷🇸🛫⛔️ But he’s not in Serbia:
Serbia and Russia confirmed Monday that a planned visit by Russia’s foreign minister to the Balkan country will not take place … The announcement followed reports that Serbia’s neighbors—Bulgaria, North Macedonia and Montenegro—had refused to allow Sergey Lavrov’s plane to fly through their airspace to reach Serbia.
“An unthinkable thing has happened,” Lavrov said during an online news conference Monday. “A sovereign state has been deprived of its right to conduct foreign policies.”
Shortly before invading Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin traveled to the Winter Olympics in Beijing to proclaim the “no limits” friendship with China’s Xi Jinping, but there’s no doubting who the real superpower is in that duo these days. China’s US$18-trillion economy is now ten times mightier than Russia’s. Beijing will hold nearly all the good cards in setting the terms of any financial lifelines from big brother. As Russia faces a sharply contracting economy under sanctions and an impending oil embargo from Europe, China is the obvious potential benefactor for Putin to turn toward. …
… The time when the Soviet Union was ideologically—and economically—superior to Communist China is long gone. Huawei Technologies builds Russia’s 5G networks, while Russia requires Chinese cooperation on everything from aircraft parts to currency swaps.
Present-day Russia is a Bonapartist regime, very similar to the French regime of 1848–1870 famously described by Marx, but also to the inter war Germany. It relies on plebiscites by benefiting from a sudden introduction of universal suffrage and aggressively boosts resentment and revanchism in society after a major defeat (in Russia’s case, after the Cold War). Ruled by a leader with almost unlimited power, such regimes tend to degenerate into electoral monarchies that repress all internal divisions and are hostile to their neighbors. They are economically stable, which helps them depoliticize the masses, trading absolute civic disengagement for relative well-being and supporting escapism into private life. All this leads them to become militarily aggressive, externalizing internal conflicts, overestimating threats from the outside, and ending up bolstering strong military alliances against them. They are driven by suicidal tendencies and are heading inevitably towards defeat—but that comes at a high price for everyone, especially now, in the nuclear age.
… now the situation in Russia has changed, and I am not sure everyone outside Russia understands that. There is an ongoing shift here from authoritarianism to totalitarianism. It is a question of how society is politically structured and what power relies on. In other words, it is not a question of quantity, but of quality. And in this regard, yes, just very recently there are clearly more similarities whith what is classically described as fascism.
No reprieve for Russian opposition activist @vkaramurza, remanded in custody for a further 2 months today accused of ‘discrediting the Russian military’ & facing up to 10 yrs in prison
Kara-Murza said Russia was committing war crimes in Ukraine. Russia denies it’s even at war. https://t.co/TNJwVaJ6OL
— Sarah Rainsford (@sarahrainsford) June 8, 2022
By abandoning all reason and transforming his country into an international pariah overnight, Vladimir Putin has confirmed that modern Russia is built on lies, blind obedience, and violence. The great irony is that he has even managed to fool himself.
Shortly after Russia launched its brutal war against Ukraine, rumors began circulating about Vladimir Putin’s health. It’s not the first time. …
We cannot know whether these rumors, some of which can reasonably be assumed to originate with Russia’s intelligence services, are designed to cause diversion, distraction, to unmask those Russian individuals and groups hoping to take power, or to offer false hope that change is around the corner. But we can be sure that while the Russian dictator was supposedly suffering from an exotic range of cancers and other life-limiting illnesses, both physical and mental, Putin and his regime have committed countless atrocities, assassinations, acts of sabotage, operations to subvert democracy, chemical and radiological warfare attacks and war crimes in Ukraine, Syria, Chechnya, Georgia, the Czech Republic, Germany, the UK, the US, and numerous other countries.
Claire—I spent a decade hearing from everyone I knew that Erdoğan was on death’s door. Everyone had heard this from someone who had heard it, I was assured, firsthand—and from Erdoğan’s personal physician, at that. (That personal physician really got around.) Cancer, I was told. He was a goner, for sure. He had only months to live.
But as you can see, he’s still very much around. These rumors are a standard feature of authoritarian leadership.
One day, Putin will die, and then everyone can say, “I told you so.” But until then, enough with this speculation. It’s just a way of denying the problem.
While the Western media presented this attack as a complete surprise, Putin had been planning it since his 2014 seizure of Crimea. …
For Putin, the next steps seem obvious: unilaterally declare a ceasefire, ease the international interventions on behalf of Ukraine, and provide time to regroup and prepare for a new drive westward through Odesa to Moldova and Transnistria, perhaps next year. If a ceasefire is declared, the world will sigh with relief, stock markets will rebound, worries about world food shortages will diminish, and diplomats will go back to sleep. But the war will only be in hibernation; the action will resume at a later date. After a hundred days of war, the battle for Ukraine is only getting started.
European Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis recently argued, unequivocally, for the pursuit of the “the aggressor pays” principle. Less popular, but also gaining more traction, is the idea to use at least part of the Russian assets frozen by Western authorities—around US$600 billion in total—for reconstruction. ….
[I]t’s imperative that the EU and other Western authorities execute this in a careful and well-considered way. Before anything else, authorities must make sure the confiscation isn’t carried out in a judicial vacuum … a strong judicial case justifying the confiscation of Russian assets can and should be built—and it should be defended publicly.
The United States, under the guise of slogans in defense of democracy, unleashed cyber aggression against Russia and its allies, said Ambassador-at-Large of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Andrei Krutskikh in response to a question from Kommersant about the possibility of resuming cooperation between the two countries in the field of cybersecurity.
“Attacks using ICT on critical infrastructure facilities in Russia are constantly increasing. … we do not recommend that the United States provoke Russia to retaliate—the rebuff will certainly follow, be firm and decisive. However, the result of this “fail” may be catastrophic, because there will be no winners in a direct cyber clash of states.” (In Russian.)
On Monday, June 6, after a tense day in Westminster, the British prime minister won a vote of confidence organized against him by his own parliamentary majority. But while 211 Conservative MPs wanted him to remain leader of the party, 148 other MPs—41 percent of those voting—voted in favor of him leaving Downing Street. The victory was much tighter than Mr. Johnson’s acolytes expected. At the start of the day, they had been counting on a subdued rebellion of under 100 votes of no confidence.
Brexit merged two antithetical forces: a Conservative party that traditionally convenes around pillars of the British establishment and a demagogic insurrection that defines itself as a scourge of the establishment. Johnson’s campaigning talent was to represent both things at once. But it was an illusion, a spell that can’t be recast once broken.
There are plenty of things that this Conservative government should be criticized for. … But whatever anybody thinks of Johnson and his government, the relentless, overblown campaign being waged against him over Partygate is a serious cause for concern.
After a truly bruising 48 hours, many in Westminster believe the British prime minister now faces a humiliating end to his colorful—and consequential—premiership. … But Johnson’s colleagues, critics and biographers all agree on one thing: It will be almost impossible to persuade this particular prime minister to quit. “He never left any of his wives—they always ended up divorcing him.”
The Protocol was introduced following Brexit to prevent a hard Irish border. It means that for trade in goods, Northern Ireland is aligned to the rules of the EU’s customs union and single market. This has meant customs and regulatory checks on some imports to Northern Ireland from mainland Britain.
The vote specifically targeted Justice Minister Morgan Johansson over his record on violent crime, but [Prime Minister Magdalena] Andersson said last week that the whole government would resign if Johansson lost the support of parliament. In the end, 174 of 349 lawmakers voted against Johansson. Under the Swedish system, 175 or more votes are needed to remove a minister.
“We must not humiliate Russia so that when the fighting stops, we can build a way out through diplomatic channels,” said the French president in an interview given to a group of regional newspapers published on Saturday, June 4. He repeated, as he has since the beginning of the invasion: “I am convinced that France’s role is that of a mediating power.” …
“Calls to avoid humiliating Russia can only humiliate France. (…) We would all do better to focus on how to put Russia in its place,” said Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba. … “The French president is still looking for ways to spare the war criminal Putin from humiliation. What would he say to this little girl in Ukraine?” asked the chairman of the Estonian parliament’s foreign affairs commission, Marko Mihkelson, on his Facebook page, alongside a photo of a young amputee on her hospital bed.
Meanwhile on Russian state TV, they’re making fun of Macron (as usual), praising Putin (as always) and bashing all European leaders. In other words, it’s just another day in Moscow. They couldn’t care less if anyone feels humiliated. In fact, they probably see it as a bonus. pic.twitter.com/r9XmuqgHvi
— Julia Davis (@JuliaDavisNews) June 6, 2022
In Eastern Europe excluding Ukraine, GDP is projected to contract by 5.6 percent in 2022 as the recession deepens in Belarus. Private consumption will be set back by recessions in Russia and Ukraine, as 50 percent and 15 percent of remittances are sourced from Russia and Ukraine, respectively. The influx of refugees to Moldova has at times exceeded 15 percent of Moldova’s population; although a large share have transited to the EU, the remaining refugees will likely have high fiscal costs, squeezing resources for long-term development priorities.
Growth in Central Europe is forecast to weaken in 2022 alongside that in the euro area, slipping to 3.7 percent, as external demand slows and higher inflation, tighter monetary policies, and greater policy uncertainty dampen domestic demand.
Since May 23, strange drawings, reminiscent of propaganda images from the 1940s, have adorned bus stops in Sweden. The same images have been published in newspapers and social media. They depict the lid of a box, held by a stick, about to close on its prey. Underneath is printed a “like,” as found on Instagram. Another shows the head of a cat on the screen of a cell phone, whose shadow forms a monstrous silhouette. The message: “Bli inte lurad”— “Don’t be fooled.”
For decades, Moldova maintained close ties with Moscow and benefitted from cheap gas imports. In recent years, those relations have soured, the bills have soared and Chișinău has found itself trapped in a cycle of debt and division that threatens both its economic and political stability.
🚗🚔 A car plowed into a crowd on the Tauentzienstrasse in Berlin. At least one person is dead and eight injured. It isn’t yet clear whether the crash was intentional. The driver is in custody.
Growth in the East Asia and Pacific region is projected to decelerate to 4.4 percent in 2022 as slower growth in China more than offsets a rebound in the rest of the region. The region has so far been affected less than the rest of the world by the spillovers from the Russian Federation’s invasion of Ukraine, in terms of both output and inflation; however, the war’s effects on commodity prices and global demand are expected to dampen the recovery, especially in commodity-importing economies. Downside risks to the outlook include a lingering pandemic and resulting mobility restrictions, financial stress triggered by tightening global financial conditions, larger-than-expected spillovers from the war, and disruptions from natural disasters.
South Asia has endured significant adverse spillovers from the Russian Federation’s invasion of Ukraine. Growth is expected to slow from 7.6 percent in 2021 to 6.8 percent in 2022—0.8 percentage points below previous projections. … Afghanistan is facing a humanitarian crisis, and Sri Lanka is facing dual balance of payments and sovereign debt crises. Surging food costs in a region populated by more than one-third of the global poor and where one-fifth of calories come from wheat products pose significant challenges to poverty alleviation and food security.
There are four major factors driving Kishida’s robust response. First, the sheer scale of Russia’s actions—the destruction of Ukrainian cities, the large number of civilian casualties and mounting evidence of war crimes across the country—makes inaction impossible. … Second, the link between the situation in Europe and that in East Asia is at the forefront of the minds of policymakers in Tokyo. Third, [Prime Minister] Kishida’s response can also be seen as an antithesis to [Former Prime Minister] Abe’s reconciliatory approach to Moscow. … Fourth, and quite importantly, his strong public support enables Kishida to take a tough position.
🇨🇳 China’s revival of Maoist mobilization techniques is undermining effective governance:
Evolving from the revolutionary “mass campaigns” under Mao Zedong, the modern Chinese state continues to mobilize its grassroots cadres and citizens. Yet rather than seek to reshape ideology as in the past, the aim of present-day mobilization is mostly to reform the way people behave in public … civilians have mainly been mobilized into getting tested, undergoing quarantine, and handing over their geolocative data. …
[A] return to governance by mobilization suggests a shift away from the rational-bureaucratic approach to administration that has characterized China’s post-Mao era. At lower levels of government, officials are now incentivized to double down on Xi’s hardline approach, not because of any public health rationale, but as a way to show political loyalty to the center. Yet local officials are simultaneously (and somewhat paradoxically) being pressured to safeguard economic growth. This is reportedly leading to administrative paralysis, and evokes another resurgent Mao-era legacy: the “red versus expert” debate of the 1950s and 1960s.
Middle-class residents have been shocked by the destruction of livelihoods in some of the most modern cities of the world. A mood of unease has flowered, posing a rare challenge to the Party’s authority. For a country that relies on harmonious social stability, this is a growing problem for the president.
China is secretly building a naval facility in Cambodia for the exclusive use of its military, with both countries denying that is the case and taking extraordinary measures to conceal the operation, Western officials said. The military presence will be on the northern portion of Cambodia’s Ream Naval Base on the Gulf of Thailand, which is slated to be the site of a groundbreaking ceremony this week.
Of course they are going to build a base there. As always, you need to go to the map room …
Right in the center right of the Gulf of Thailand. Gives ready access to their sandbar bases in the South China Sea and just 450 nautical miles from the southern exit of same athwart shipping routes from and en route to the Singapore Strait. Get a handful of any competent maritime and international relations professionals together and ask them, “Where would you put bases if you were advising the Chinese?” This would be on the short list, especially if you know the long shared interests between China and Cambodia going back to—dusts off a library shelf—when they both decided they didn’t like Vietnamese.
Would you do anything different if you were a growing imperial power with eyes on sea control?
Provisional results from this weekend’s local elections in Cambodia are in, and as expected, the Cambodian People’s Party has engineered—“won” is not quite the right word—a convincing victory. …
The results are no surprise, given the extent of the CPP’s control over nearly every level of government and the coercive machinery of the state. Since the last commune election in 2017, the CPP has waged a fierce crackdown on the political opposition and the country’s independent press and civil society groups. This involved the court-ordered banning of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, which scored 43 percent of the popular vote at those elections, and the arrest of its president Kem Sokha for treason.
In an emergency session of the Vietnamese Communist Party’s Central Committee, Health Minister Nguyen Thanh Long and Chu Ngoc Anh, the party chairman of the capital Hanoi, were expelled for involvement in the Viet A Technologies Company scandal, in which officials were allegedly bribed to supply hospitals with vastly overpriced Covid19 test kits. … [they] are just the two latest victims of the VCP’s “blazing furnace” (dot lo) anti-corruption drive, which has netted dozens of officials, from high-ranking party apparatchiks and local officials to executives at leading state firms. “Never before in the 91-year history of the [VCP] … have so many officials been disciplined, expelled from the Party or imprisoned in connection with corruption.” …
Observers of Vietnamese politics have also pointed out the political valence of many recent anti-graft cases, which targeted the allies of former Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung. Indeed, writing about Trong’s anticorruption campaign in 2017, David Brown, a former US diplomat, asserted that the campaign looked “more like a vendetta than a housecleaning.”
India is looking to double down on its Russian oil imports with state-owned refiners eager to take more heavily-discounted supplies from Rosneft PJSC … An unprecedented amount of Russian crude was heading to India and China last month as European buyers scrambled for replacements and reached as far as United Arab Emirates for alternatives.
🇮🇳🕋 Two Indian officials denigrated Muhammed. The Islamic world went bonkers. The Washington Post approves:
Within hours, Muslims and allies took to social media to express anger at the insults and called for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP to take disciplinary action against the party members.
But this time, it was not just Indian Muslims speaking out. Over the past few days, the governments of Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Libya, Turkey, Maldives, Iraq, Indonesia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Pakistan and Malaysia issued stinging statements condemning the comments. Similar statements were made by the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the Gulf Cooperation Council. India’s turn toward intolerance and communalism is finally eliciting a response from the world.
🇮🇳😰 The BJP suspended the errant officials, who offered ritual apologies. Indian diplomats tried to placate the Arab world by calling them “fringe elements”
The Indian embassy in Doha on Sunday responded to the Qatar foreign ministry’s criticism of derogatory remarks made by now-suspended BJP spokespersons Nupur Sharma and Naveen Jindal against Prophet Mohammed and said the comments “do not in any manner reflect the views” of the Indian government.“These are the views of fringe elements.”
—with angry Islamic nations, where millions of Indians live and work, and rabid sections of its own base who are apoplectic about what they see as surrender. Online right-wing platforms are full of provocative outbursts about “betrayal.” Clearly, the BJP’s backers believe the last word has yet to be spoken.
Nether support nor condemnation: that’s the position the five Central Asian countries (Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Turkmenistan) have taken toward the former Russian overlord and his war in Ukraine. At the end of May, the Kyrgyz security services (GKNB) filed a complaint against a Kyrgyz national who was fighting in the ranks of the Ukrainian forces. The previous month, the same group had warned its citizens not to display the letter Z, a symbol of the Russian offensive, under penalty of legal action. None of the five Central Asian countries had their head of state appear alongside Vladimir Putin during this year’s May 9 parade on Red Square, which commemorates the victory over Nazism. Kazakhstan went so far as to cancel the military parade at home, for the first time since their independence in 1991.
Myanmar’s military regime has said that appeals by two prominent democracy activists against their death sentences have been rejected, paving the way for the country’s first executions in decades. Veteran democracy activist Kyaw Min Yu and Phyo Zeya Thaw, a lawmaker for the National League for Democracy, which the generals removed from power in a coup in February 2021, were sentenced to death by a military tribunal in January on charges of treason and terrorism.
MOFA protests and objects in the strongest terms to irresponsible and reckless statements and remarks made by Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs of France, Embassy of France in Yangon, United Nations Secretary General’s and US State Department’s Spokespersons. …. The Ministry underscores that in Myanmar, as an independent and sovereign state, the incumbent Government has every right to execute all powers and authorities vested by the State Constitution …
Furthermore, the Ministry expresses its utmost indignation and strong protest to the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs of the French Republic and the Embassy of France for referring to the State Administration Council as an ‘illegitimate military regime’ which is totally unacceptable to the Government of Myanmar. …
The Ministry regrets that the French Republic instead of promoting amity and mutual respect with Myanmar has issued a provocative statement which includes the above-mentioned unacceptable term that not only wantonly meddles in the internal affairs of Myanmar in the pretext of human rights and democracy but also flagrantly violates the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.
Troops torched hundreds of buildings in the villages of Kinn, Upper Kinn and Ke Taung over three days last week, residents and media reports said. On Thursday last week, Kinn residents fled as soldiers approached and began shooting into the air, said one resident who requested anonymity. “The next morning we saw smoke rising from our village before they left,” the resident said. “Over 200 houses were burned down … my house was totally burned down, only the concrete foundation is left.”
🌍 Middle East
🇮🇷💥🚃 Iran train crash kills at least 17 and injures dozens. A train derailed near the central Iranian city of Tabas after hitting an excavator.
A statement from the E3 Tuesday noted Iran’s nuclear program as more advanced than ever and expressed commitment to continued diplomacy. France, Germany, and the United Kingdom (the E3) were addressing this week’s quarterly board meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, where the three European states plan along with the United States to introduce a resolution critical of Iran focused on its alleged lack of cooperation with the agency.
Their statement said Iran’s nuclear progress “is threatening international security and risks undermining the global nonproliferation regime,” highlighting Tehran’s accumulation of highly-enriched enriched uranium “fueling distrust as to Iran’s intentions.”
The article cited the stalling of talks on a return to the JCPOA nuclear talks, a wave of pressure on Iran, the continued reluctance of the US to lift sanctions, and recent reports by the International Atomic Energy Agency against Iran as a reason for Iran to withdraw from the NPT, calling such a move the “minimum solution for [Iran’s] diplomatic apparatus.”
“Withdrawal from the NPT as high-pressure leverage could be a strong response to the US and European approach to the Islamic Republic of Iran’s nuclear activities,” read the Kayhan article. “The West is concerned that the NPT—a treaty whose general spirit is to contain non-nuclear-weapon states—will fail and a domino effect will begin as countries withdraw from the treaty.”
🦇 Here’s more from Kayhan, a most interesting news organ. (Perhaps we should feature its perspective on global affairs more often, in a section reserved for its bracing views. Candidates for the name of the section?—Claire.)
The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran said Wednesday it would cut off several cameras and other monitoring equipment, leaving only that required under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and removing ones installed as part of the Additional Protocol. …
“The Islamic Republic until now has maintained extensive cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency, but the agency unfortunately without considering that this cooperation was due to Iran’s goodwill, not only has not been appreciative, but even has interpreted it as Iran’s duty,” the AEOI said. “For this reason it was decided to disconnect Additional Protocol OLEM [on-line enrichment monitors] and ‘flow meter’ instruments, issuing the order to officials.”
🇹🇷📉 Turkish growth is projected to slow sharply in 2022, to 2.3 percent, after surging last year.
🇷🇺🇸🇾🇹🇷🥷🏻 Russia and Syrian government forces have been bolstered in northern Syria where Turkey may soon launch an offensive against Kurdish fighters, Turkish and rebel Syrian officials said, as Ankara prepares for talks with Moscow.
As the clock ticks, Mr Biden needs help. Its murderous record notwithstanding, Riyadh is an obvious destination. Last week, the Saudi-led OPEC+ group of oil-producing nations announced plans to increase production in July and August, but not enough for analysts to predict a significant lowering of petrol prices in the US …
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman remains both the most influential figure in the kingdom, and entirely unrepentant over the role that US intelligence claims he played ordering Khashoggi’s brutal murder in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. The White House knows that the price of Saudi co-operation on oil will be a face-to-face meeting between the Crown Prince and his critic in the US Presidency, no matter how nightmarish that proves for the Americans to navigate.
Federal prosecutors have obtained records indicating that John R. Allen, the retired four-star Marine general who commanded all American troops in Afghanistan and now heads a venerable Washington think tank, secretly lobbied for the government of Qatar, lied to investigators about his role and tried to withhold evidence sought by a federal subpoena, according to court documents.
The court records are the latest evidence of a broad investigation by the Justice Department and FBI into the influence that wealthy Arab nations like Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia wield in Washington. (About time—Claire.)
Output in the Middle East and North Africa region is expected to expand by 5.3 percent in 2022—0.9 percentage point above previous projections, in part reflecting higher oil prices. This would be the region’s fastest growth in a decade; however, this rebound is expected to be short-lived. The region faces a growing divide between oil exporters—which on net should benefit from elevated oil prices and high Covid19 vaccination rates—and oil importers, which face higher food and energy prices, deteriorating external balances, and still-limited vaccination rates. Risks to the outlook are predominantly to the downside, with drought conditions, policy uncertainty, new outbreaks of Covid19, and geopolitical tensions threatening to raise prices further, erode real incomes, and aggravate social tensions.
The guilty plea resolves a criminal case that came to light in January after Fluke-Ekren, 42, who once lived in Kansas, was brought to the US to face accusations that she led an Islamic State unit of women and young girls in the Syrian city of Raqqa and trained them in the use of automatic rifles, grenades and suicide belts. It is the first prosecution in the US of a female Islamic State battalion leader.
Growth in Sub-Saharan Africa is projected to slow to 3.7 percent this year, reflecting forecast downgrades in over 60 percent of regional economies. … More people in Sub-Saharan Africa are expected to fall into extreme poverty, especially in countries reliant on imports of foods and fuel. … prolonged disruptions to the food supply across the region could significantly increase poverty, hunger, and malnutrition, while persistent inflation could ignite stagflation risks and further limit policy space to support recoveries. An elevated cost of living could increase the risk of social unrest, especially in low-income countries.
🇬🇳🤧 Absurd wealth, devastating poverty, drugs and corruption. The story of a ton of cocaine that went missing:
Guinea-Bissau is a major hub for cocaine from South America on its way onward to Europe. Elites from the military and politics control the drug trade—and while the country’s navy doesn’t possess even a single functioning ship, it holds sway over extremely well-established distribution channels.
Because of the state’s involvement in the drug trade, the United States has referred to Guinea-Bissau in the past as a “narco-state,” an appellation that people in the country aren’t particularly pleased about. Cocaine, though, holds a tight grip on Guinea-Bissau. The country “has the perfect conditions for drug trafficking … a bearable level of instability, a corruptible elite, and long-standing connections with Latin-American traffickers.”
Today, Lumumba’s tooth is the center of attention, as the Belgian government gets ready to hand it over to his family as the independence leader’s only known remains. … For Belgian authorities, the handover is part of an ongoing effort to smooth relations with its former colony. …
But Lumumba’s tooth, and its troubled, terrible history, is also an unpleasant reminder of a history Belgian authorities were reluctant to take responsibility for—and still appear to want to keep at arm’s length.
[T]he first flight of refugees seeking asylum in the UK is set to depart to Kigali, Rwanda. The idea is that from there, these refugees, mostly from Syria, will be processed and offered the right to settle … Yet Rwanda has created, and continues to create, countless refugees of its own. At least 287,000 Rwandans live outside the country, having fled from the regime of President Paul Kagame—and it is estimated the figure could be as high as one million. “Kagame is a stooge: he’s a conman of the West in dubious business including, now, human trafficking.”
Growth in Latin America and the Caribbean is forecast to slow sharply in 2022 and remain weak in the following two years. Elevated inflation, tighter financial conditions, and policy uncertainty are expected to take a toll domestically, while slowing growth in key export markets, US monetary tightening, and global supply bottlenecks impart negative spillovers to the region. The largest economies in LAC will be some of the slowest growing this year, dragging region-wide growth down to 2.5 percent. Growth is set to slow further in 2023 to just 1.9 percent.
At a Senate Finance Committee meeting on Tuesday, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told lawmakers that “[t]here’s no question that we have huge inflation pressures, that inflation is really our top economic problem at this point and that it’s critical we address it.” She added that, “Putin’s war in Ukraine is having impacts on energy and food prices globally,” and that it is “virtually impossible for us to insulate ourselves.” (Paywalled.)
“All aspects of Turkey-Venezuela relations will be reviewed and steps to enhance the relations will be discussed during the visit,” the Turkish government said, adding the visit is at the invitation of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. “The two leaders are expected to exchange views on regional and global matters as well.”
Several thousand migrants, many from Venezuela, set off from southern Mexico early Monday aiming to reach the United States, timing their journey to coincide with the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles this week. Migration activists said the group could be one of the region’s largest migrant caravans in recent years.
[T]he White House said that Ms. Harris was unveiling another US$1.9 billion in commitments—in addition to US$1.2 billion announced last year—from businesses with the aim of creating economic opportunity in the impoverished so-called Northern Triangle of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Ms. Harris will also give details on the “Central American Service Corps” funded through US aid to provide opportunities for young people. The investments aim “to provide hope for people in the region to build safe and prosperous lives at home,” a White House statement said.
The organization of the summit has become a diplomatic nightmare. In the face of protests, Mr. Biden eased off, announcing relief from the sanctions imposed by his predecessor, Donald Trump, against Cuba and, to a lesser extent, those against Caracas. The presidents of the countries concerned are not convinced. One by one, Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega, Cuba’s Miguel Diaz-Canel and Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro announced that, in any case, they would not travel to Los Angeles.
🌎📑 The Biden administration unveiled a new proposal for a US economic partnership with Latin America:
Biden’s “Americas Partnership for Economic Prosperity,” which still appears to be a work in progress, stops short of offering tariff relief and, according to the US official, will initially focus on “like-minded partners” that already have US trade accords. Negotiations are expected to begin in early fall, the official added.
In recent weeks, the state company Yacimientos de Lithio Boliviano has fired at least three high-level employees and several more specialized administrators in the technical process of exploitation and production of the ore to replace them with people with no experience in the industry with political ties to the government …
… During his first visit to Russia, Foreign Minister Rogelio Mayta met with his counterpart Sergey Lavrov to discuss agreements on the exploitation of lithium and nuclear energy. … A source with knowledge of the process said that Minister of Hydrocarbons and Energy Franklin Molina has shown favoritism for the Russian company Uranium One …. (In Spanish.)
During 2018, a year before the so-called Chilean social explosion began, Carabineros spent US$360,000 on non-lethal weapons, according to information obtained from the institution itself. In 2019 and until October, the month that the protests began, no deterrent was purchased. But on October 18, with the beginning of the demonstrations, arms dealers expanded their business by 2,300 percent. In just five months and through at least 34 purchase orders, the police acquired non-lethal weapons and ammunition for a total of US$8,290,922—23 times what was disbursed from 2018 to October 2019. (In Spanish.)
Just over two years after Covid19 caused the deepest global recession since World War II, the world economy is again in danger. This time it is facing high inflation and slow growth at the same time. Even if a global recession is averted, the pain of stagflation could persist for several years—unless major supply increases are set in motion.
Amid the war in Ukraine, surging inflation, and rising interest rates, global economic growth is expected to slump in 2022. Several years of above-average inflation and below-average growth are now likely, with potentially destabilizing consequences for low- and middle-income economies. It’s a phenomenon—stagflation—that the world has not seen since the 1970s.
Our forecasts reflect a sizable downgrade to the outlook: global growth is expected to slow sharply from 5.7 percent in 2021 to 2.9 percent this year. This also reflects a nearly one-third cut to our January 2022 forecast for this year of 4.1 percent. The surge in energy and food prices, along with the supply and trade disruptions triggered by the war in Ukraine and the necessary interest rate normalization now underway, account for most of the downgrade.
The picture is … not good. We’ve seen global food inflation drop a couple ticks in April and May of 2022 due to some softening in global oilseed markets (Indonesia has relaxed their palm oil export ban a bit, and we’ve seen some declining demand for oil seeds due to price) but the overall picture is still one of a stark increase in food costs. It’s a product of both an overall global inflationary environment, and a series of shortages due to conflict and poor weather (like the challenges facing Ukraine’s grain exports).
2021, shown as the orange line, saw a pretty steady and straightforward increase in food prices between January and December, well over 2020 (in pink). 2022 is the aggressive, near-vertical line in red. The flattening out we see is again in large part due to some relaxation in food oil prices, but the news is certainly not good for global consumers. … Vegetable oils, the top line in green, is showing the greatest year-on-year increase. But prices have risen steadily across all globally traded commodity groups like cereals (including wheat) and dairy. We’ll have to see how the sugar harvest plays out in Brazil this year, but meat prices are also slowly but steadily inching upwards—as much a product of rising feed import costs as it is growing demand for poultry and fears over a widening avian flu epidemic.
✍🏼 By the Cosmopolitan Globalists
Vladislav Davidzon writes, Severodonetsk will decide Ukraine’s future:
More than 100 days on, the fate of Russia’s campaign to capture the entirety of the Luhansk region still hangs in the balance. If the whole Luhansk region falls, the rest of Ukraine’s east may very likely follow. Both the Russian and Ukrainian forces have committed their forces here for strategic reasons—the territory is critical for a continued Russian advance in the direction of cities such as Dnipro. President Zelensky understands this, which is why he made an unannounced visit to Lysychansk at the weekend. …
… The Kremlin has now pivoted towards outlasting Kyiv in a prolonged war of attrition. Faced with a concentrated Russian counterattack around the Severodonetsk salient, the optimistic narrative surrounding Ukraine’s resistance has started to slip away. … As the slow grind in Luhansk indicates, the Ukrainians are in for a long and painful conflict of incremental losses and victories. The first 100 days of the war are over—they won’t be the last.
First, on asserting that Vladimir Putin = Hitler, I do not exaggerate. There is no reductio ad Hitlerum here. Sure, Putin may not (yet) have embarked on an outright genocidal campaign in the part of Ukraine that Russia has conquered—though some will argue that he indeed has, or is close to it—but everything else about him and his action–not to mention that of the barbarian hordes that is a.k.a. the Russian army—is pure post-1938 Third Reich. Second, there seems to be no limit to Putin’s evilness. When he is not pulverizing whole cities into rubble, sending the barbarian hordes to rape, loot, and pillage, and creating one of the world’s gravest refugee crises in 75 years—or, rather, while he is doing these things—he is brandishing the specter of worldwide famine in choking off Ukraine’s farms and agricultural exports. Russia’s holding Ukrainian grain hostage—or outright stealing it—is being widely reported (and is a lead story in France today). Le Monde’s grand reporter Luc Bronner had a lengthy must-read report last month, “War in Ukraine: storm warning in the world’s breadbasket,” in which we (or at least I) came to understand the centrality of Ukraine in feeding part of the world’s growing population. …
… That Vladimir Putin, who without doubt found Ukraine’s agricultural success—and consequent economic power—to be absolutely intolerable, would seek to wreck this: this alone qualifies him as the worst war criminal of our era.
No “off-ramps” for Putin, no taking care not to “humiliate” him, no arrogantly telling Ukrainian leaders that they “will have to make the painful territorial decisions that any compromise will demand.” Putin must lose this war. And Ukraine must win it.
🥢 Your stern scolding
A recurring rumor in the US and Western public opinion is that China is secretly building a naval base in Cambodia for the exclusive use of the People’s Liberation Army. This has been repeatedly debunked and refuted by China and Cambodia. Cambodia’s constitution does not permit foreign military bases on Cambodian soil. The US has turned a blind eye to Cambodia’s rumor-debunking voices with its insidious and poisonous intentions: to sow discord between China and Cambodia, to promote the “China threat theory,” and to stab the Hun Sen administration, which is not well received by Washington, by insinuating that it had violated the constitution. This shows US’ domineering attitude as it “calls a stag a horse.”
(Calls a stag a horse? I guess that’s bad?—Claire)
🦇 A dose of batsh*it
Tsargrad continues the discussion about Russia’s choice of the path of the Empire, which certainly needs a new Emperor.
Presenting the book “Empire. Image of the Future” during the book festival on Red Square, the founder of “First Russian” Konstantin Malofeev answered a dagger question about the new Emperor for Russia:
The answer was met with applause, and Tsargrad told about this part of the discussion earlier. However, it turned out that at the expert level, the discourse is no less relevant. In particular, political scientist, writer, publicist Roman Antonovsky spoke on the topic.
In an interview with Tsargrad, Roman Antonovsky stressed that the natural form of government for Russia is really an Empire – a Russian national state:
It is also important that the Emperor of Russia – the monarch, the king can be not a person attached to a certain dynasty, but the one who is granted by God, our interlocutor continued. In this case, Roman Antonovsky turned to the works of one of the main theorists of Russian monarchism, philosopher Ivan Solonevich, the author of the concept of people’s monarchy:
Today’s animal: The parrot
Claire Berlinski is the editor of the Cosmopolitan Globalist.