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Global Economy Confounds Washington’s War Mentality by Finian Cunningham

by Finian Cunningham
Writer, Dandelion Salad
East Africa
Crossposted from Strategic Culture Foundation
April 25, 2014

Capitalism and its imperialist proclivity have been associated with the structural causes of conflict and war over recent centuries. But given today’s imperative realities of a globalized economy, capitalism – or at least large sections of it – cannot afford such a conflict or desire it. In this regard, we may be witnessing a seminal shift, whereby Washington’s threatened sanctions towards Russia, and the war that that entails, are seen as an untenable political agenda divorced from the all-important economic realm.

In pushing this agenda, Washington may be the one that finds itself isolated, not Moscow.

When Russia hosts the 21st World Oil Congress in mid-June there will be 500 company leaders in attendance, representing a who’s who of industry corporations. Also attending the summit will be 50 government ministers and delegates from over 100 countries.

So much for Washington’s threats of economic sanctions to isolate Russia… As far as the world’s oil industry is concerned – arguably the planet’s primary lucrative economic activity – it will be business very much as usual with Russia. This reflects Russia’s position in the global economy as the top producer of oil and gas, boasting two of the globe’s leading companies, Rosneft and Gazprom. Russian total hydrocarbon trade is reckoned to be worth some $1 trillion a year. What’s more, Moscow announced recently that it is set to no longer use the US dollar for its international oil and gas trade.

The World Oil Congress to be hosted by Russia also reflects the reality of a globalized economy. This is especially true for the oil and gas industries, with multinational corporations typically working together in sensitive strategic partnerships that transcend national boundaries and governments.

When US President Barack Obama talks about ratcheting up economic sanctions against Russia over alleged violations of Ukrainian sovereignty, there is more than a sense that this is a politically driven agenda not shared by much of the world’s economic and trade sectors. Indeed several recent business press reports show that business leaders and investors are increasingly concerned by, and even vocally opposed to, Washington’s adversarial stance towards Moscow.

Within hours of Washington and Moscow signing the Geneva document on April 17, aimed at de-escalating tensions over Ukraine, President Obama was already talking down a possible diplomatic resolution and said that his administration was drawing up a raft of harder-hitting economic sanctions against Russia.

“We are coordinating now with our European allies,” said the American president. “My hope is that we actually do see follow-through over the next several days [for a diplomatic resolution] but I don’t think given past performance that we can count on that. And we have to be prepared to potentially respond to what continue to be efforts of interference by the Russians.”

However, American government-owned news service Voice of America reported, on the same day, that “many global companies are lobbying against sanctions”. VOA quoted Ben Kumar, an analyst at London investment management firm 7IM, as saying: “You have this globalization now which means that everyone is linked to everyone else. Companies like BP [British Petroleum] – all the major energy companies are so multinational that if you start to threaten to shut down trade links they will kick up a fuss.”

It is a fair deduction that within international business, European companies are a lot more ill at ease compared with American counterparts at the prospect of further US-led sanctions on Russia. European trade with Russia is tenfold that of American-Russian commerce. Europe’s biggest economy Germany is most exposed having the largest bilateral partnerships with Russia.

More than 6,200 German companies have long-term investments and trade deals in Russia. Some of these firms are world leaders, such as Opel, Daimler and Volkswagen for cars, BASF for chemicals and Siemens for energy infrastructure. It is estimated that total German investment in Russia stands at around $30 billion. Even with the diplomatic sanctions that Washington has imposed to date, they are hitting German businesses because of resulting devaluation of the Russian currency, the ruble, which makes German exports more expensive.

“Compared with a year ago our products in ruble terms have become 25 per cent more expensive,” Wolfgang Eisser, managing director of Diosna, a machinery firm, told the Financial Times. “We see some projects have been delayed. Although business volume hasn’t fallen to zero it is smaller. The fear is that the currency could devalue further if the crisis escalates.”

The vulnerability of Germany’s economy would explain why Chancellor Angela Merkel has been less vocal than Washington and other European allies in criticism of Russian President Vladimir Putin over the Ukraine crisis. Merkel has pointedly said she is opposed to the implementation of economic sanctions despite Obama’s assurance cited above about the US “coordinating with our European allies”.

Even Merkel’s more gung-ho Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has lately expressed apprehensions about economic sanctions being pushed ahead of diplomatic attempts to “normalize” East-West relations.

“I would like them [Washington] to apply similar efforts, like in discussing the sanctions, to avoid further aggravation,” Steinmeier told German media earlier this week.

Another calculation disturbing Western companies and investors is the fear that Russia may orient its huge economic potential more towards Asia. Russia is reportedly lining up gargantuan oil and gas deals with China and India, among other mega projects. Former World Bank economist Peter Koenig said that the unfolding Eurasian direction represents a new axis in the world economy.

“China will re-open the old Silk Road as a new trading route linking Germany, Russia and China, allowing to connect and develop new markets along the road, especially in Central Asia,” said Koenig.

He said that in addition to this paradigm shift in the global economy is the recent announcement by Russia that it is to ditch the US dollar as the means of international payments in its energy trade, moving instead to the “petroruble”, exchanging local currencies or a mixture of barter. That will reinforce a dynamic already under way in which China and the other emerging economies of the so-called BRICS nations are to drop the dollar as the international reserve currency, to be replaced by a basket of currencies.

This is the backdrop to what German industries and investors are worried about losing out on if Washington pushes ahead with sanctions on Russia. It’s not only German firms. Multinational companies, the world over, are leery at the repercussions of the Washington-led sanctions agenda against Russia.

The irony of this is that it is the international business class that may be the restraining factor for de-escalating the conflict between Washington and Moscow. These firms are hard-nosed capitalist enterprises where monetary profit is the all-important bottom line.

This structural change is testified by the forthcoming 21st World Oil Congress to be hosted by Russia, with all the industry players in full attendance from over 100 nations. Could it be that globalized capitalism has moved away from its historical incendiary role when it was previously tightly associated with nation states? This would not be out of any ethical evaluation, but simply due to economic imperatives stemming from today’s globalized nature of capital.

There are, to be sure, still plenty of capitalist forces that stand to gain from East-West conflict. American arms manufacturers and Wall Street banks riding on the opportunities of a possible devastating war in Europe will only be too glad of Washington’s bellicose attitude towards Russia. Nonetheless, the world’s energy companies and other important trade and finance sectors across many different countries constitute a powerful counter-lobby.

Obama’s threats of ramping up sanctions against Russia are therefore in danger of sounding hollow and politically isolated. At this historical juncture of sluggish growth worldwide, or even perhaps a further financial crash, the world economy literally cannot afford Washington’s reckless political agenda. We can be sure that many top corporations, including American ones, are having a stern word in Obama’s ear.


Finian Cunningham, is a columnist at Press TV, the Strategic Culture Foundation and a Writer on Dandelion Salad. He can be reached at cunninghamfinian@gmail.com.

see

Capitalism: The Systematic Poverty and Exploitation of Human Beings by Finian Cunningham

Ukraine: Anti-fascists Resist U.S.-backed Offensive by Greg Butterfield

Michael Hudson: This Is Risking A Threat Of War

Robert Parry: Evidence for Russian Involvement in East Ukraine Based on Shoddy Journalism

Doomed US Targets China and Russia by Finian Cunningham

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14 Responses

  1. […] Global Economy Confounds Washington’s War Mentality by Finian Cunningham […]

  2. I think the fact of the matter is that it suits the US to undermine the autonomy of .Europe.and the Euro.

    Right now the media propaganda mill is working overtime in support of the “brave” US stand against Russian “tyranny.” The only mainstream channel worth following at present is RT.

    • David ….. we all know that the West is evil . but for those to who are Putin’s cheerleaders , like Finian , maybe he ought to see this video of recent ( post prison time ) Pussy Riot being whipped in public by Putin’s thugs just for singing a song .

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FFrZfluKDrc after seeing this , how can anyone with a social conscience ever support Putin ? one can never cheerlead for this ugly oppressor than they can for Obama and his torture Gitmo open for business drone striking .

      There is no mainstream channel worth following . ..anywhere . NONE .

      • Absolutely not relevant to this blog post. I’ve mentioned that before to you, Rocket.

        • It is relevant . these girls are not CIA plants , hey are among the many dissidents within Russia. A nation is known for how it treats its non violent dissenters . …..South Africa –Mandela, Burma –the female resitence leader etc…

          i could go on thru history . it is relevent . you might counter with the 80 per cent argument of how many votes Putin got elected fair and sqaure…but so was Adolf Hitler . He was elected too.

          Look at those Putin thugs beating up girls singing songs . the buck stops at the top . look at again . ..and then tell me you support this sicko . Look at this video …it is the same as the police doing it to the occupy Wall street here in the states. You posted that , why dont you post what Russia does by beating their dissidents ?

          Dandeloin Salad is a blog that does not believe in violence . Are there to be exceptions here ? mmm.

  3. The sharp difference of Europe’s interests from those of American imperialism is now openly stated by the NY Times’ front page on the subject of sanctions. Europe essentially doesn’t want any real ones, its trade with Russia being ten times American trade, about $400 billion to 40. That the rift is openly stated so early in the crisis is a very good sign, restricting the damage the US can do. Hopefully.

    US weakness is also carried over to Venezuela, where the US was mobilizing students to overthrow the regime. It is tending to die down, partially displaying the demoralization because of the displayed weakness of American power. A new hope for all of Latin America.

  4. […] Global Economy Confounds Washington’s War Mentality by Finian Cunningham […]

  5. Way to go, Finian. What is happening historically is the unification of what McKinder, a turn of the 20th century geographer, called the World Island. Railroads are linking Europe, Asia, and eventually Africa, which contain the homelands of 90% of the earth’s people. The new Silk Road, by rail, which is linking China and Germany, goes through Russia. Trade and other relations are being focused on the World Island, marginalizing the US which is not part of it.

    That is why the US is creating chaos in Ukraine. To prevent EU, and especially Germany, from snuggling up to Russia trade wise, and therefore also China. The US couldn’t give a rat’s ass for what is happening to the people of Ukraine, it’s concern is to create hostility between EU and Russia, to some extent by Nato which it largely controls.

    That is why Obama switched the focus of US hostility to Europe from east Asia, to delay the unification of the World Island for as long as possible. If this leads to war, so be it. As he is reported saying, he is good at killing.

    • Right on, folktruther! You said it well,

      Finian’s right on the mark, again!

      The only place the Dronebama needs to pivot is back to Chicago with his anti-union and public school closing colleague, Rahm the Mayor.

      • Frank –take a look at this , and tell me if you still like Putin …http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FFrZfluKDrc He is he Obama/Bush of Russia . ..brutal abuse to a few girls trying to sing songs in public . his treatment of them is deplorable ! and it is emblematic of his regime .

        to seek to be an apologist for this man is like my Obama supporter friends who are turning a blind eye to torture at Gitmo and drone strikes .

        • Absolutely not relevant to this blog post. I’ve mentioned that before to you, Rocket.

          • HAVE YOU WATCHED PUTIN ‘S THUGS BEAT UP GIRLS ? stop standing up for this oppressor . it is beneath the dignity of this blog .

            dont forget — a nation and its leader is judged by how they treat their non violent dissenters . OBAMA-PUTIN-OBAMA-PUTIN-OCCUPY WALL STREET – PUSSY RIOT . same thing . thugs are in control of both nations . violent thugs. violent . violent . let me say it one more time — violent .

            Finian seems to think that because Washington is wrong ( and it is ) that Moscow is right . Pussy riot is THE concrete evidence that Moscow is not right .

            all i ask for is fair and equal time to be presented . We must all continue to be critical of anything this president does , an also to Impeach him . But we must also be critical of ( regardless of ideology ) other nation leaders . And i have not read one critical article of Putin on this blog . Now i know that you dont approve of what Putin has done to Pussy Riot . ..so why not show what he has done to them >?

            the fist amendment is one the side o this blog , and yet Pussy riot who is practicing it as a peacable redress of grevances has not to my knowledge never been shown on this blog .

            if Pussy Riot was treated his way in America , you would post it . but you give Putin a free pass . I WONT !

  6. Didn’t think that stupidity could confound, but obviously it does.

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