According to Alastair Crooke, writing at Strategic Culture, on June 5th: “Trump’s US aims for ‘domination’, not through the globalists’ permanent infrastructure of the US defence umbrella, but through the smart leveraging of the US dollar and financial clearing monopoly, by ring-fencing, and holding tight, US technology, and by dominating the energy market, which in turn represents the on/off valve to economic growth for US rivals. In this way, Trump can ‘bring the troops home’, and yet America keeps its hegemony [America’s control of the world, global empire]. Military conflict becomes a last resort.”
He bases that crucially upon a landmark 6 November 2017 article by Chris Cook, at Seeking Alpha, which laid out, and to a significant extent documented, a formidable and complex geostrategy driving U.S. President Donald Trump’s foreign policies. Cook headlined there “Energy Dominance And America First”, and noted that,“Towards the tail end of the Clinton administration and the Dot Com boom in 2000,[Trump’s U.S. Treasury Secretary until April 2018] Gary Cohn of Goldman Sachs had dinner with his counterpart at Morgan Stanley, John Shapiro. From this dinner was hatched an audacious plan to take control of the global oil market through a new electronic global market platform.”
This “global market platform,” which had been started months earlier in 2000 by Jeffrey Sprecher, is “ICE,” or InterContinental Exchange, and it uses financial derivatives in order to provide to Wall Street banks control over the future direction of commodites prices (so that the insiders can game the markets), by means of the financial-futures markets, locking in future purchase-and-sale agreements. It also entails Wall Street’s buying enormous commodities-storage warehouses and stashing them with such commodities — such as, in that case, aluminum), and so it influences also the real estate markets, and doesn’t only manipulate the commodities markets. Those vast storehouses (and the operation of the U.S. Government’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve, to carry out a similar price-manipulation function in the oil business) are crucial in order for the entire scheme to be able to function, because without control over the storehousing of physical commodities, such futures-price manipulations aren’t possible. Consequently, ICE couldn’t get off the ground without major Wall Street partners, which are willing to do that. Cohn and Shapiro (Goldman, and Morgan Stanley) backed Sprecher’s operation; and Wikipedia states that,
“Wall Street bankers, particularly Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, backed him and he launched ICE in 2000 (giving 80 percent control to the two banks who, in turn, spread out the control among Shell, Total, and British Petroleum).”
This is today’s financial world — a world in which billionaires control the future directions of commodities-prices, and thus manipulate markets, and even determine the economic fates of nations. It’s not the myth of capitalism; it is the reality of capitalism. It functions by means of corruption, as it always has, but the corrupt methods constantly evolve.
However, Trump’s geostrategy goes beyond merely this, especially by bringing into the entire operation the world’s wealthiest person, the trillionaire King Saud, who, as the sole owner of the Saudi Government, which in turns owns the world’s largest corporation Aramco, which in turn dominates the oil market and which is also #6 in the natural-gas market (far behind the three giants, which King Saud is trying to destroy — Russia, Iran, and Qatar — so that the Sauds will become able to dominate even there). Trump’s geostrategy ties King Saud even more tightly than before, into America’s aristocracy.
King Saud, as Cook noted, is trying to disinvest in petroleum and reposition increasingly into natural gas, because outside the United States and around the world, people are seriously concerned to minimize global warming so as to postpone global burnout from uncontrollably soaring atmospheric carbon. Petroleum has an even worse carbon footprint than does natural gas; and therefore natural gas is the world’s “transition fuel” to a ‘survivable’ future, while solar and other alternatives take hold (even if too late). Despite all of the carbon-fuels industries’ propaganda, people outside the United States are determined to delay global burnout, and the insiders know this. King Saud knows that his petroleum-laden portfolio will have to diversify fast, because the long-term future for petroleum-prices is decline. And he won’t be able to control prices at all in the natural-gas business unless he’s got America’s aristocracy on his side, in the effort to keep those prices up (at least while the Sauds will be increasing their profits from natural gas). Unlike his dominance over OPEC, Saudi Arabia has no such position to control natural gas-prices. He thus needs Wall Street’s cooperation.
Cook said:“The second objective was a switch from oil to natural gas, and when the U.S. [military] was obliged to leave Saudi Arabia, they [the U.S.] thereupon established their biggest regional base in Qatar, who co-own with Iran the greatest single natural gas reserve on the planet – South Pars.
In the four months since President Trump’s announcement, the market strategy developed by Gary Cohn is now being implemented and its elements are emerging into view.
Firstly, there has been a massive inflow of Managed Money into the oil market, particularly the Brent contract, which has seen the Brent oil price increase by 35% since the starting point, which I believe can be dated to the August Brent/BFOE Crude Oil option expiry on June 27th 2017. …
The dominant market narrative is that the backwardation in Brent is evidence of surging global oil demand which has emptied inventories and is leading the price to new sunlit uplands. However, I see the market rather differently.
Firstly, whether the Brent spot month is supported by financial, rather than physical demand, the result will still be a backwardation, and because few oil producers expect a price over $60 to be sustainable they therefore hedge and depress the forward price. In support of this view, I am far from the only market observer who believes that Aramco, and Rosneft would not be selling equity if either Saudi Arabia or Russia believed the oil price trajectory will be positive even in the medium term. …
This still leaves open the $64 billion question of which market participant is motivated and able to support the ICE Brent term structure for years into the future by swapping dollar risk (T-Bills) for long term oil risk (oil reserves leased via prepay purchase/resale contracts).
My conclusion by a process of elimination is that this Big Long can only be Saudi Arabia and regional allies, with Saudi Arabia now under the management of the thrusting young Mohammad bin Salman.”
However, I do not agree with Alastaire Crooke’s “In this way, Trump can ‘bring the troops home’, and yet America keeps its hegemony [America’s control of the world, global empire]. Military conflict becomes a last resort.” I explained at Strategic Culture on March 25th “How the Military Controls America” and noted there that “on 21 May 2017, US President Donald Trump sold to the Saud family, who own Saudi Arabia, an all-time-record $350 billion of US arms-makers’ products.” This means that not only Wall Street — the main institutional agency for America’s aristocracy — and not only American Big Oil likewise, are committed to the royal Saud family, but U.S. corporations such as Lockheed Martin also are. Vast profits are to be made, by insiders, in invasions and occupations, just as in gas and oil, and in brokerage.
Although Trump routinely talks about withdrawing U.S. troops, he does the exact opposite. And even if this trend reverses and America’s troop-numbers head down, while the U.S. economy becomes increasingly dependent upon Big Oil and Big Minerals and Big Money and Big Military, America’s military budget is, under Trump, the only portion of the entire U.S. federal Government that’s increasing; so, “Military conflict becomes a last resort” does not seem likely, in such a context. Rather, the reverse would seem to be the far likelier case.
War against King Saud’s chosen enemies (Iran, Qatar, Syria) and possibly even against the U.S. aristocracy’s chosen enemy, Russia (and against Russia’s allies: China, Iran, and Syria) — seems more likely, not less likely, with Trump’s geostrategy.
In fact, on 29 June 2017, when President Trump first announced his “Unleashing American Energy Event,” the President spoke his usual platitudes about the supposed necessity to increase coal-production, and what he said was telecast and publicized; but his U.S. Energy Secretary, the barely literate former Governor of Texas, Rick Perry, also delivered a speech, which was never telecast nor published, except that a few days later, on July 3rd, an excerpt from it was somehow published on the website of Liquified Natural Gas Global, and it was this:“I want to address what Mr. Cohn was talking about from a standpoint of how important American energy is as an option, not as the only option, but as an option to our allies and to count[r]ies around the world.
At the G7 it was really kind of interesting. The first thing they beat on the table talking about the Paris accord, you can’t get out of it, and I was kind of like OK. Then we would go into our bilats and they’d go, how about some of that LNG you’ve got? How do we buy your LNG, how do we buy your coal? And it was really interesting, it was a political issue for them. This whole Paris thing is a public relation[s], political issue for them. We made the right decision, the President made the right decision on this. I think it was one of the most powerful messages that early on in this administration that was sent.
We are in a position to be able to clearly create a hell of a lot more friends by being able to deliver to them energy and not being held hostage by some countries, Russia in particular. Whether it is Poland, Ukraine, the entirety of the EU. Totally get it, if we can lay in American LNG, if we can be able to have an alternative to Russian anthracite coal that they control in the Ukraine. That singularly will have more to do with keeping our allies free and building their confidence in us than practically anything else that I have seen out there. It is a positive message around the world right now.”
If that was more the reality of Trump’s “Unleashing American Energy” policy than just the pro-global-burnout cheerleading of Trump’s mere words, then it seems to be — in the policy’s actual intent and implementation — more like “send more troops in” than “bring the troops home,” to and from anywhere. It is more like energy policy in support of the military policy, than military policy in support of the energy policy.
This sounds even better for the stockholders of Lockheed Martin and other weapons-firms than for the stockholders of ExxonMobil and other extractive firms. On 6 March 2018, Xinhua News Agency reported that, “U.S. President Donald Trump’s chief economic adviser Gary Cohn has summoned executives from U.S. companies that depend on aluminum and steel to meet with Trump this Thursday, in a bid to persuade the president to drop his tariff plan, media reported Tuesday.” After all: Goldman has warehouses full of aluminum, and has the futures-contracts which already commit the Wall Street firm to particular manipulations in the aluminum (and other) markets. Controlling the Government so that it does only what you want it to do, and only when you want the Government to do it, is difficult. In any aristocracy, some members need to make compromises with other members, no matter how united they all are against the publics’ interests. This is the way it’s done — by compromises with each other.
first published at strategic-culture.org
The Butina Case: The Americans Send a Signal
The arrest of Russian national Maria Butina in Washington is a significant blow for Russia–U.S. relations. It goes well beyond official diplomacy. The Americans are sending a signal to Russia that any Russian citizen dealing with the United States may very well end up behind bars, that their email and social media posts may be used against them, and that they should be quiet, avoid meetings and basically sit tight. Especially when gentlemen from the upper echelons are having an argument.
For both countries, this latest development is worse than the most severe political crises. After all, the fabric of relations in the ultra-mobile and transparent world of today is woven at the grassroots level and goes way beyond official diplomacy. This has been the spirit of Russia–U.S. relations for the past 25 years. On both sides, scientists, celebrities, businesspeople, students and public figures have communicated quite freely with government officials and members of political parties and movements. It was a useful, honest and interesting dialogue that allowed everyone to better understand and get to know each other, to go beyond stereotypes, propaganda, myths, clichés and, at times, outright lies. The dialogue itself may not have involved a great number of people, but it was a living process that gave people the opportunity to discuss common problems openly and in a creative manner. Diplomats can hardly afford such a luxury. This is why the activities of the expert and civilian track have been a vital boost for the official diplomatic courses pursued by both Russia and the United States.
The arrest of Maria Butina is a huge step backwards. It razes to the ground Russia–U.S. relations, killing off any good soil limiting them to clichéd official narrative. The American initiative is sure to be echoed in Russia, and with great pleasure. The groundwork is already done. This will probably facilitate the job for the intelligence services, making it easier to keep an eye on the officials. Everything is clear and understandable. But this further exacerbates relations between the two countries, which were already at their lowest ebb. The enthusiastic few who are still trying to do something for the Russia–U.S. dialogue, those who have become black sheep against the background of the throngs of Russophobes and Americaphobes or who are simply indifferent on both sides of the ocean, and those who need to be supported and kept by any means can easily end up behind bars to scare the rest.
It is quite easy to do this. They are exposed and vulnerable. And it is easy to carve out a career on the back of them. It is funny that the official document accusing Maria Butina of espionage contains excerpts from emails. I find it hard to believe that a special agent would coordinate actions with his or her “handler” in a non-encrypted format, testify voluntarily before Congress, offer to testify before the Special Counsel Investigation (headed by Robert Mueller’s team) and fail to hide their gadgets. These are the kind of “special agents” that the terrible and bloody Russian regime recruits!
From a formal standpoint, there is certain logic to the methods used by the American investigator. U.S. legislation contains provisions on lobbying activities which need to be observed just like any other law. It is high time that Russians formalized their activities in the United States, made them more professional and put them on a clear and formal track. Americans in Russia should do the same. Deviations from these norms are possible, but they do not require excessive repression. It is enough to explain the “rules of the game” to people, rather than drag them to prison. Especially if there is no malicious intent in their activities.
The issue of malicious intent is key to the case of Maria Butina. The investigator claims that Maria’s activities were directed against the United States, although this is not clear from the messages that have been submitted as evidence. The investigator’s arguments boil down to his extensive experience and a deep understanding of the case. And, of course, to the fact that Russia is an enemy of the United States and a threat to the national security. This means that any contact with officials is nothing short of evil. The media has happily jumped on the bandwagon, hyping against the backdrop of the meeting between Putin and Trump. Serious damage has been caused to Maria Butina’s reputation as a result. The least she can do is file a counterclaim. The final decision must be made by a U.S. court which at least appears to maintain a modicum of independence and impartiality.
First published in our partner RIAC
The ‘Reverse Nixon’ and New Nero: Where to Focus After the Trump-Putin Summit
It would be too easy to simply jump on all of the stereotypical bandwagoning going on across most of the world’s media (especially the American) coming out of the Trump-Putin summit that took place this week briefly in Helsinki. It was most certainly NOT a bravura performance by the American president, but honestly that really is low-hanging fruit to focus any commentary on. Instead, let us consider some more subtle but nevertheless crucially important takeaways as we move on from Helsinki and are still left to consider what’s next for the incredibly poor Russian-American relationship.
1.Trump has unfortunately become the ‘reverse Nixon’
While most millennials may not recall or understand the importance of this historical reference, it bears repeating: Nixon, as Vice-President to Eisenhower, was an adamant opponent of establishing relations with China. Flash forward 15 years or so to his own presidency and suddenly Nixon himself was going over to China and opening up a new world of diplomatic contact and relations. “Only Nixon could go to China” was the refrain, meaning it was exactly because of his historical animosity toward the country that the American people would trust him making new maneuvers toward China. With Trump, alas, it is the exact reverse: even if he had an important policy innovation or sound diplomatic strategy for creating new relations with Russia, it wouldn’t matter. If only Nixon could go to China, then today literally ANYONE can go to Russia except Trump.
2.The ‘Putin smirk’ lives!!!!
Putin has a long-established and well-deserved reputation for teasing and even somewhat bullying/lecturing Western media, especially when American/British journalists think they have damning information or uncomfortable questions for him. There are few world leaders today who relish the opportunity to go toe-to-toe with foreign journalists as much as Putin. This is simply unquestionable fact. He also loves having the upper hand or at least giving the impression that he does on the world stage. Make no mistake: while he has steadfastly denied any direct Russian meddling in the American elections of 2016, he has absolutely LOVED every single minute of hand-wringing and treason-talking that has taken place in America because of the possibility. The Helsinki Summit proved this beyond measure. It is quite possible this was one of the quietest summit performances ever given by Putin. The reason for it was embarrassingly simple: all he really needed to do was sit there and look bemused 80% of the time while Trump mangled his own native English language trying to do verbal acrobatics around awkward questions about election interference. If Putin is famous for his ‘I know something you don’t know’ smirk, then the Helsinki Summit gave us all one of the most permanent exhibitions of said trademark in recent memory.
3.The regression of President Trump’s relationship with his own Intelligence Community will continue
Trump’s uncomfortable declaration that Putin gave him a very strong and powerful denial of election meddling (and therefore that should be good enough for all present to believe) had one very significant but little identified post-summit domestic consequence: it was yet another example of the Commander-in-Chief basically throwing his own Intelligence Community and the analysis of all 17 of its member agencies under the bus in favor of a foreign leader’s opinion who had every reason to not tell the truth. Trump’s relationship with the IC has been complicated even before his presidency began but has only become more antagonistic and unfriendly in his first year in the Oval Office. The Helsinki Summit did nothing to repair that relationship or even give anyone reason to search for a kernel of hope that a new more positive foundation could be established. If the IC in general felt the President of the United States was not in its corner before the summit, then it had no doubt of that impression walking away from it.
4.The summit only deepened Trump’s political Catch-22
Most media and pundit circles in America are flabbergasted by Trump’s refusal to believe the obvious when it concerns an attempt by Russian intelligence to hack/influence the 2016 election. But for Trump it is not so simple as admitting to the obvious: he clearly has made his own mental connection whereby admitting that Russia meddled leads to a semi-confession that he may not have legitimately won the election. Many Americans, if not most, on the liberal side also want to believe in this connection. Unfortunately, that connection is most likely NOT true. It is entirely plausible (even likely) that Russia to some degree attempted to meddle in the election AND Trump legitimately won the electoral college that gave him the presidency. Current American media seem to be treating the two as if they cannot be mutually exclusive when in all likelihood they are just that: Russia meddled; Trump won the electoral college. If we could get into a time machine, go back in time, and zap Russia with a special ‘removal of meddling’ laser beam it would not mean we would be analyzing the foreign policy of President Hillary Clinton today. It would most likely still be President Trump’s foreign policy. But Trump, despite his constant lamentations of so-called fake news and trying to make all mainstream media appear like sycophants of the Democratic Party, has clearly given in to the overall media impression that the admission of one sin (Russian meddling) results in the confession of another (he did not legitimately win the presidency). Consequently, stuck in this Catch-22, he continues to side with the ridiculous statement of ‘not having enough facts’ to know what really happened and it seems like it should be ok for him to just believe Putin at his word.
5.Is Putin the new Nero?
Remember the old adage, “Nero fiddled while Rome burned?” After the Helsinki Summit it seems at least plausible to ask if Putin is the new Nero, fiddling away happily oblivious while the American media burns. If the original point of Russian election meddling was not to actually sway the results of the election (no one in the Russian Intelligence Community really believes they could engineer that much power over the American electorate) but to just cause general chaos, havoc, and discontent within American society, then it is hard to imagine a more successful disinformation intelligence campaign than this one. American media is in a tizzy and the louder the cacophony of discontent rings after the Helsinki Summit, the crazier social media becomes in the never-ending battle between liberals and conservatives over what to do about it. Facebook alone has blown up since the Helsinki meeting with memes about treason, only to be countered by photographs of prominent Democratic congressmen/women smiling and laughing happily in the past during their own meetings with Putin. The discord and disconnect only grows. The anger and counter-anger only gets more intense and indignant. And all the while, in a lush suite of opulence deep inside the Kremlin, Vladimir Vladimirovich sits at his desk, smirking, fiddle in hand.
Shooting the Messenger: Corruption and Peace
It is the most natural of behaviors for the guilty to lay the blame elsewhere and to make the most noise. The Democratic Party leadership did the meddling — not the Russians — when it conspired with Hillary Clinton to deny Bernie Sanders the Democratic nomination. Thus Hillary was an illegitimate candidate to begin with.
Then there was the question of emails. Hillary refused to use the secure State Department server preferring a personal one. Why? Because she would then be selective in the emails that became public record. And an accurate historic picture of her tenure as Secretary of State is debatable if 33,000 emails were not surrendered. She said these were personal and not work related but the FBI later recovered about 17,000 and many of these were work related (para 7 from end of ABC report).
How did the Clintons become so rich? First, if you give commercial banks a license to gamble with depositors’ money, they ought to be grateful. Speaking fees are one answer, and heaven knows what else. That gambling can also lead to ruin proved true. Bankrupted, the banks sought help, and were rescued through the public purse. Turning losses public while bonuses and profits remained private emerged as a new capitalism for the very rich. The banks crooked schemes included certain risky mortgage-backed securities sold as safe that caused huge state pension funds losses, destroying state finances in some cases. People in those states are still suffering. Any surprise then if Donald Trump’s pejorative “crooked Hillary” resonates to this day.
Second, during Hillary Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State, there was talk of her either using the position, or of the position itself leading to favor seekers donating to the Clinton Foundation. During the 2016 election campaign, Trump said Hillary Clinton received tens of millions by countries that ‘treat women horribly … and countries that kill gays’. Politifact says the claim is half-true. He also asked that she return the $25 million Saudi Arabia gave to the foundation.
The Democrats continue to blame the Russians for the election loss despite their own meddling — nothing like shooting the messenger — and other issues like emails erupting just before the election. Hence the uproar over the Helsinki summit. Add the Ukraine and Crimea issue and assorted lobbies, and soon Republicans joined in. But anger and hysteria are their own catharsis, and after Trump had been accused of treason and called a traitor, there was little else except to cool off.
When Trump placed the blame for poor relations with Russia on ‘many years of US foolishness and stupidity,’ he was being mild. Others might have said worse. Look at the record. Years of recruiting Eastern bloc countries into NATO after promising not to; after all, Russia accepted peace and disbanded the Warsaw Pact. Then the blatant interference in Ukraine, toppling an elected government and dismembering the country leaving a trail of blood.
The fact is, one either supports peace or one does not. In the US unfortunately, there are plenty of supporters for war. Otherwise, why would we get Libya, Somalia, Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan (17 years and continuing), etc., etc., etc. And the Nobel Peace Laureate Barack Obama delivering the 2018 Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture. A supreme irony because the old man himself refused to meet Obama after what he had done to his friend Gaddafi. One has to be reminded, Gaddafi provide financial support to the ANC independence movement when no one else cared or dared. At the time in the West, Mandela was a terrorist. Gaddafi also helped the IRA. And what do we have in Libya now? A descent from a secular country supporting women’s rights and leading Africa in the Human Development Index to a disaster spawning fundamentalist extremists as far south as Nigeria. How soon the world forgets?
One may criticize Trump for much of his agenda — and I do often enough — but he has kept us mostly out of war. With Hillary the Hawk, we would have been mired in Syria up to our necks, in serious danger of a major conflagration with Russia.
Let’s support peace irrespective of who nurtures that gentle dove.
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