|Thursday 24th of October 2019
No one really seems to know. @TheBondFreak
No one really seems to know. I've heard US Treasury issuance has
finally saturated the market, and the Fed has to fund it. I've heard
the big banks, probably led my JPM, are flexing their muscles against
reserve regulations. I've heard everyone is avoiding a big name out
Pushkin was a great-grandson of Ibrahim Hannibal, who was born near Lake Chad but captured as a boy and taken to Moscow.
As President Vladimir Putin hosts African leaders for the first
Russia-Africa Summit in Sochi on Wednesday and Thursday, here is a
look at these connections, starting with beloved 19th-century poet
- Russia's 'Moor' -
Pushkin, who lived from 1799 to 1837, was a rare mixed-race aristocrat
in tsarist-era Saint Petersburg.
Though schoolchildren in Russia focus on reciting his poems rather
than learning about his ancestry, Pushkin was a great-grandson of
Ibrahim Hannibal, who was born near Lake Chad but captured as a boy
and taken to Moscow.
Hannibal was baptised and given the name Abraham and brought up in the
Russian court, growing close to Tsar Peter the Great. He had a career
in the military and was one of the first people to cultivate potatoes
Pushkin was curious about his African relative, who died in 1781 in
his 80s, and dedicated a novel to him. Unfortunately the work, called
"The Moor of Peter the Great" was never finished.
Trump's real liability isn't impeachment. It's China and the economy. What the Trump administration has been doing so far, vis-a-vis China, is an own goal - ein Eigentor @asiatimesonline
Law & Politics
You have compared the situation that the US is facing toward China to
the siege and conquest of Baghdad by the Mongols in 1258.
The Mongols, by themselves, did not have the capability to penetrate
the twelve-foot-thick walls of the city of Baghdad. But they hired a
thousand Chinese siege engineers. Within three weeks, the Chinese
mercenaries breached the walls, at which point the Mongol horsemen
went in and killed the entire population of Baghdad.
Who are today’s Chinese siege engineers who are breaching the American fortress?
Huawei very much is the spearhead, because in the Chinese model of
economic expansion and the development of world economic power,
broadband is the opener to everything else.
It’s a company with a lot of very talented people. Ten years ago – if
you asked people, “What Chinese products do you buy?” – you wouldn’t
mention a single brand name. But everyone now knows Huawei. They
produce the world’s best smartphones. They certainly dominate 5G
internet. But Huawei is not a Chinese company. It is an imperial
The Chinese empire is doing better than us because it’s absorbed the
talent of a very large number of others. Fifty percent of their
engineers are foreign. They bankrupted their competition and hired
their talent. They have 50,000 foreign employees, and a very
disproportionate amount of their research and development (R&D) is
conducted by foreign employees.
I’ve seen this personally. I worked for several years as an investment
banker in Hong Kong for a Chinese-owned boutique. During that time, I
collaborated with people from Huawei. I introduced them to foreign
governments. Huawei was very clear about its objectives. They’d tell,
for example, the government of Mexico, “Let us build a national
broadband network. Once you get broadband, you get e-commerce and
e-finance, and then we’ll supply the logistics and the financing for
that, and we’ll integrate you into the world market.”
A very senior Cabinet-level US official told me recently that the
Chinese were way ahead of us before we figured out what was going on,
but now we’re catching up. That statement is wrong on two grounds.
First, they haven’t figured out what is going on. Secondly, they’re
not catching up. Two years ago, the US Intelligence community realized
that what 5G would do is not only give China a great deal of economic
power, which by itself is a national security concern, but it would
also, within the next several years, eliminate America’s advantage in
The Chinese have pioneered a communications technique called “quantum
communications” which uses the entanglement of electrons at a distance
to create a communications signal. The quantum system is such that if
you interfere with it in any way, the signal disappears. The quantum
state is destroyed. So, it’s like a letter that disappears the moment
you look at it. It’s theoretically impossible to hack. The 5G
bandwidth is so powerful that you can integrate quantum communications
into ordinary 5G communications and make it standard. We already know
that the Chinese are using quantum communications for sensitive data
transmission inside China through fiber optic cable. But there are a
half-dozen major groups working on embedding quantum communications in
5G. SK Telecom is working on it. Toshiba is working on it. There’s a
group at the University of Bristol, which claims very good results.
So, the result is America’s ability to eavesdrop on everyone else will
disappear in two or three years.
Well, I think this is a moot question anyway because the development
of cryptography — particularly quantum cryptography — will eliminate
the US ability to eavesdrop in any case. I think all that has happened
is the US intelligence agencies look for a way to delay the 5G rollout
until they’ve figured out how to address this problem. They are
basically floundering. Remember, we spend $80 billion a year on our
intelligence services. The vast majority goes for signals
intelligence. [“SIGINT” is intelligence derived from electronic
signals and systems used by foreign targets, such as communications
systems, radars and weapons systems.] All of a sudden, the screens
will go dark at the National Security Agency. They will lose an
enormous amount of power.
And, now, China is turning outward and asserting its power globally.
The combination of telecommunications, logistics, e-finance,
e-commerce and the other applications, artificial intelligence, are
the instruments of Chinese expansion. The Chinese understanding is
that every smartphone is a data gatherer. It’ll gather data on health,
on consumer transactions, on the environmental traffic patterns. All
of this data can be uploaded to the Cloud. It can be processed by
Chinese computers, and it can give China massive advantages in terms
of industrial controls, health systems, the environment, urban
planning and, of course, social and political control.
They want to have everybody in the world pay rent to the Chinese
Empire. They want to control the key technologies, the finance and the
logistics, and make everyone dependent on them. Basically, make
everyone else a tenant farmer.
Well, it’s very preliminary, because basically what China wants to do
is to transform other countries the way they transformed themselves.
This is not easy to do. You have political obstacles, cultural
obstacles. For example, in a country like Pakistan, where they’ve
invested enormously, you have 50% illiteracy and a great deal of
political instability, massive infrastructure deficits. No one is
going to make Pakistan look like China anytime soon. A country like
Brazil, for example, where China is building a national broadband
network — that’s a candidate. The whole of Southeast Asia — Vietnam,
Malaysia, Cambodia, Thailand — these are candidates to be transformed
into economic adjuncts of the Chinese Empire. If you include
Indonesia, Southeast Asia is already 600 million people.
You have called Trump’s strategy of economically confronting China a failure.
I think it has been a complete failure. Now, I voted for Trump. I will
almost certainly vote for Trump again. I would like to see him
re-elected. But I’m distressed that he may be his own worst enemy.
He ran on a platform of reviving American industry. American
manufacturing is the weakest sector of the economy. And because his
re-election depends on victory in several manufacturing states, I
think his re-election is in greater jeopardy than it might have been.
So, I think the tariffs hurt.
09-JUL-2018 :: Tariff wars, who blinks first?
Law & Politics
James Dean was an iconic American actor, who tapped into the universal
yearning and angst of nearly every adolescent human being with a raw
connection that has surely not been surpassed since. In one of his
most consequential films, Rebel without a Cause, two players (read,
teenage boys) decide to settle a dispute (read, teenage girl) by way
of near-death experiences. Each speeds an automobile towards a cliff.
A simple rule governs the challenge: the first to jump out of his
automo- bile is the chicken and, by univer- sally accepted social
convention, concedes the object in dispute. The second to jump is
victorious, and, depending on context, becomes gang leader, prom king,
etc. Jimmie (James Dean), to settle a dispute (read, teenage girl)
with Buzz, the leader of a local gang, agrees to a “Chickie Run.” Both
race stolen cars towards the edge of a cliff. The first to eject out
of his car is branded a “chickie.” Seconds into the race, Buzz
discovers that his jacket is stuck on the door handle, making jumping
out of the car so- mewhat difficult. Jimmie jumps out an instant
before the cars reach the edge of the cliff. Buzz, still unable to
free his jacket from the door handle, fails to escape. While he won’t
be branded a “chickie,” he suffers a worse fate.
So Xi and @POTUS are here
10-DEC-2018 :: Truce dinner @Huawei
Law & Politics
Sirloin steaks, Catena Zapata Nicolas Malbec  Huawei
Technologies Co. and Wanzhou Meng You will recall that Presidents
Trump and Xi Jinping enjoyed a much anticipated ''Truce'' Dinner at
the G20 in Buenos Aires and quaffed a Catena Zapata Nicolas Malbec
 wine with their sirloin steaks and finished it all off with
caramel rolled pancakes, crispy chocolate and fresh cream, a dinner
that ran over by 60 minutes and one where the dinner Guests broke out
into spontaneous applause thereafter.
OCT 15 :: "I cannot help asking those who have caused the situation, do you realise now what you've done?"
Law & Politics
Let us return to UNGA, where Putin set out his stall and I quote: ‘’I
cannot help asking those who have caused the situation, do you realise
now what you’ve done?’’
Within 24 hours of delivering that speech, Russia instructed that the
US should vacate Syrian Air Space.
This message was not delivered to Ashton Carter by his Russian
counterpart Shoigu. It was delivered to the US Embassy in Baghdad. And
pretty soon after that message was delivered, Russia began its
intervention on the side of President Bashar Assad of Syria.
You could hear the squealing start immediately from Ankara to Riyadh,
from the GCC to Washington. All these capitals have assets on the
ground in Syria, and what is clear is that Russia is not making a
distinction between IS or the ‘’moderate opposition fighting Assad’’
[which really means ‘’our’’ terrorists].
Lavrov said: “If it looks like a terrorist, if it acts like a
terrorist, if it walks like a terrorist, if it fights like a
terrorist, it’s a terrorist, right?”
Putin fancies himself the fly-catcher and syria the fly-trap. The
speed of execution confirms that Russia is once again a geopolitical
actor that will have to be considered. It is a breath-taking rebound.
Vladimir Putin, Syria's pacifier-in-chief @asiatimesonline's Pepe Escobar
Law & Politics
The Russia-Turkey deal establishes a safe zone along the
Syrian-Turkish border – something Erdogan had been gunning for since
2014. There will be joint Russia-Turkey military patrols. The Kurdish
YPG (People’s Protection Units), part of the rebranded, US-aligned
Syrian Democratic Forces, will need to retreat and even disband,
especially in the stretch between Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ayn, and they
will have to abandon their much-cherished urban areas such as Kobane
and Manbij. The Syrian Arab Army will be back in the whole northeast.
And Syrian territorial integrity – a Putin imperative – will be
This is a Syria-Russia-Turkey win-win-win – and, inevitably, the end
of a separatist-controlled Syrian Kurdistan. Significantly, Erdogan’s
spokesman Fahrettin Altun stressed Syria’s “territorial integrity” and
“political unity.” That kind of rhetoric from Ankara was unheard of
until quite recently.
Putin immediately called Syrian President Bashar al Assad to detail
the key points of the memorandum of understanding. Kremlin spokesman
Dmitry Peskov once again stressed Putin’s main goal – Syrian
territorial integrity – and the very hard work ahead to form a Syrian
Constitutional Committee for the legal path towards a still-elusive
Russian military police and Syrian border guards are already arriving
to monitor the imperative YPG withdrawal – all the way to a depth of
30 kilometers from the Turkish border. The joint military patrols are
tentatively scheduled to start next Tuesday.
On the same day this was happening in Sochi, Assad was visiting the
frontline in Idlib – a de facto war zone that the Syrian army, allied
with Russian air power, will eventually clear of jihadi militias, many
supported by Turkey until literally yesterday. That graphically
illustrates how Damascus, slowly but surely, is recovering sovereign
territory after eight and a half years of war.
The Arab street is inundated with videos of the not exactly glorious
exit by US troops, leaving Syria pelted by rocks and rotten tomatoes
all the way to Iraqi Kurdistan, where they were greeted by a stark
reminder. “All US forces that withdrew from Syria received approval to
enter the Kurdistan region [only] so that they may be transported
outside Iraq. There is no permission granted for these forces to stay
inside Iraq,” the Iraqi military headquarters in Baghdad said.The
Pentagon said a “residual force” may remain in the Middle Euphrates
river valley, side by side with Syrian Democratic Forces militias,
near a few oilfields, to make sure the oil does not fall “into the
hands of ISIS/Daesh or others.” “Others” actually means the legitimate
owner, Damascus. There’s no way the Syrian army will accept that, as
it’s now fully engaged in a national drive to recover the country’s
sources of food, agriculture and energy. Syria’s northern provinces
have a wealth of water, hydropower dams, oil, gas and food.
As I have argued for years, Syria to a large extent has been a key
‘Pipelineistan’ war – not only in terms of pipelines inside Syria, and
the US preventing Damascus from commercializing its own natural
resources, but most of all around the fate of the Iran-Iraq-Syria gas
pipeline which was agreed in a memorandum of understanding signed in
This pipeline has, over the years, always been a red line, not only
for Washington but also for Doha, Riyadh and Ankara.
The situation should dramatically change when the $200 billion-worth
of reconstruction in Syria finally takes off after a comprehensive
peace deal is in place. It will be fascinating to watch the European
Union – after NATO plotted for an “Assad must go” regime change
operation for years – wooing Tehran, Baghdad and Damascus with
financial offers for their gas.
NATO explicitly supported the Turkish offensive “Operation Peace
Spring.” And we haven’t even seen the ultimate geoeconomic irony yet:
NATO member, Turkey, purged of its neo-Ottoman dreams, merrily
embracing the Gazprom-supported Iran-Iraq-Syria ‘Pipelineistan’ road
21-OCT-2019 :: "The New Economy of Anger."
Law & Politics
The real time Feed is a c21st Netflix and is both unputdownable and
incendiary. From Chile where Protestors burned down the headquarters
of ENEL [The Electricity Generating Co] after a proposed Price
increase and a state of Emergency has been imposed. All over Latin
America from Peru to Ecuador to Haiti to Honduras, Demonstrators have
taken to the Streets. The IMF cut the projected economic growth rate
for Latin America from 1.4 percent to 0.6 percent, citing domestic
policies and the U.S.-China trade war and clearly nose-diving economic
opportunity is creating tinder-dry conditions. Of course, no country
is as extreme as Venezuela where GDP is down from $350bn in 2012 to an
estimated $60bn in 2019. People have been pushed to the Edge and are
taking to the Streets.
Paul Virilio pronounced in his book Speed and Politics, “The
revolutionary contingent attains its ideal form not in the place of
production, but in the street, where for a moment it stops being a cog
in the technical machine and itself becomes a motor (machine of
attack), in other words a producer of speed.’’
This Phenomenon about which I am speaking is not limited to Latin
America. We have recently witnessed the ''WhatsApp'' Revolution in
Lebanon, where a proposed Tax on WhatsApp calls sent up to 17% of the
Lebanese Population into the street. Iraq is on a Knife Edge. Millions
of Algerians sent the wheelchair bound Bouteflika home not too long
ago. Hong Kong remains in open rebellion and trying to shake off the
''Crusher of Bones'' Xi Jinping and his Algorithmic Control.
The Phenomenon is spreading like wildfire in large part because of the
tinder dry conditions underfoot. Prolonged Stand-Offs eviscerate
economies, reducing opportunities and accelerate the negative Feedback
Antonio Gramsci wrote “The crisis consists precisely in the fact that
the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a
great variety of morbid symptoms appear....now is the time of
This level of unhappiness is unprecedented in a time of ''Peace'' and
in a time when our august Financial Institutions keep touting about
how it has never been so good for the Human Race.
Dr. Célestin Monga in a recent piece characterised the situation thus
The Great Discordance ''the planet is filled with rage and anger''
The New Economy of Anger ''Anger and discontent levels around the
world are high, despite the fact that most available indicators of
political and economic progress are better than they have even been''
Leadership in the c21st has become nationalistic and jingoistic,
horizons have been narrowed. President Trump is not John F Kennedy. Xi
Jinping is all about Han China. Narendra Modi is all about the
Hindutva. Boris is all about Brexit. In Africa, other than the Nobel
Prize Winner Abiy, who else is sketching out a horizon?
Todays leadership does not appreciate the humanity of all of its
Citizens, how can they appreciate the humanity of the World or as
Marshall McLuhan once put it
“There are no passengers on the Spaceship Earth. We are all crew.”
Ryszard Kapuściński wrote
“Revolution must be distinguished from revolt, coup d’état, palace
takeover. A coup or a palace takeover may be planned, but a
revolution—never. Its outbreak, the hour of that outbreak, takes
everyone, even those who have been striving for it, unawares. They
stand amazed at the spontaneity that appears suddenly and destroys
everything in its path. It demolishes so ruthlessly that in the end it
may annihilate the ideals that called it into being.”
This is a Revolution and it is a Global Phenomenon.
Ryszard Kapucinski also said: "If the crowd disperses, goes home, does
not reassemble, we say the revolution is over."
It is not over. More and more People are gathering in the Streets.
Unless we are now going to Xinjiang the Whole World [A Million People
Are Jailed at China's Gulags. I Managed to Escape. Here's What Really
Goes on Inside @haaretzcom “Children are being taken from their
parents, who are confined in concentration camps, and being put in
Chinese orphanages,” he says. “Women in the camps are receiving
inoculations that make them infertile''], the current modus operandi
is running on empty.
From Chile to Lebanon, Protests Flare Over Wallet Issues @nytimes
Law & Politics
In Chile, the spark was an increase in subway fares. In Lebanon, it
was a tax on WhatsApp calls. The government of Saudi Arabia moved
against hookah pipes. In India, it was about onions.
Small pocketbook items became the focus of popular fury across the
globe in recent weeks, as frustrated citizens filled the streets for
unexpected protests that tapped into a wellspring of bubbling
frustration at a class of political elites seen as irredeemably
corrupt or hopelessly unjust or both.
They followed mass demonstrations in Bolivia, Spain, Iraq and Russia
and before that the Czech Republic, Algeria, Sudan and Kazakhstan in
what has been a steady drumbeat of unrest over the past few months.
At first glance, many of the demonstrations were linked by little more
than tactics. Weeks of unremitting civil disobedience in Hong Kong set
the template for a confrontational approach driven by vastly different
economic or political demands.
Yet in many of the restive countries, experts discern a pattern: a
louder-than-usual howl against elites in countries where democracy is
a source of disappointment, corruption is seen as brazen, and a tiny
political class lives large while the younger generation struggles to
“It’s young people who have had enough,” said Ali H. Soufan, chief
executive of The Soufan Group, a security intelligence consultancy.
“This new generation are not buying into what they see as the corrupt
order of the political and economic elite in their own countries. They
want a change.”
Few were as surprised as the leaders of those countries.
On Thursday, the President Sebastián Piñera of Chile boasted that his
country was an oasis of stability in Latin America. “We are ready to
do everything to not fall into populism, into demagoguery,” he said in
an interview published in The Financial Times.
The next day, protesters attacked factories, torched subway stations
and looted supermarkets in Chile’s worst upheaval in decades,
eventually forcing Mr. Piñera to deploy troops to the streets. By
Wednesday, at least 15 people were dead, and a clearly rattled Mr.
Piñera had spoken of “war against a powerful and implacable enemy.”
In Lebanon, Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri survived recent embarrassing
revelations about a $16 million gift to a bikini model whom he met at
a luxury resort in the Seychelles in 2013, a move that, for some
critics, epitomized Lebanon’s ruling class. Then last week he
announced the tax on WhatsApp calls, setting off a revolt.
Decades of discontent over inequality, stagnation and corruption
erupted into the open, drawing as much as a quarter of the country
into euphoric antigovernment demonstrations driven by chants of
With one of the highest levels of public debt and intractably low
employment, Lebanon seems incapable of providing basic public services
like electricity, clean drinking water or reliable internet service.
Austerity measures have hollowed out the middle class, while the
richest 0.1 percent of the population — which includes many
politicians — earns a tenth of the country’s national income, much of
it, critics say, from plundering the country’s resources.
On Monday Mr. Hariri scrapped the planned tax, announcing a hasty
reform package to rescue the country’s sclerotic economy and pledging
to recover public trust.
Although the recent scattering of mass protests appears dramatic,
scholars say it is a continuation of a rising trend. For decades,
societies across the world have become far likelier to pursue sweeping
political change by taking to the streets.
The rate of protest has accelerated sharply of late, as various
factors have converged: a slowing global economy, dizzying gaps
between rich and poor and a youth bulge that in many countries has
produced a restive new generation fizzing with frustrated ambition.
In addition, the expansion of democracy has stalled globally, leaving
citizens with unresponsive governments frustrated and activists sure
that street action is the only way to force change.
But as protest movements grow, their success rates are plunging. Only
20 years ago, 70 percent of protests demanding systemic political
change achieved it — a figure that had been growing steadily since the
1950s, according to a study by Erica Chenoweth, a Harvard University
In the mid-2000s, that trend reversed. Success rates now stand at 30
percent, the study said, a decline that Professor Chenoweth called
These two trends are closely linked. As protests become more frequent
but likelier to flounder, they stretch on and on, becoming more
contentious, more visible — and more apt to return to the streets when
their demands go unmet.
The result may be a world where popular uprisings lose their
prominence, becoming simply part of the landscape.
“Something has really shifted,” Professor Chenoweth said in an interview.
“You could say these protests mirror what’s going on in the United
States,” said Vali Nasr, a Middle East scholar who recently stepped
down as dean of Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies
In countries where elections are decisive, like the United States and
Britain, skepticism about the old political order has produced
populist, nationalist and anti-immigrant results at the polls.
“In other countries, where people don’t have a voice, you have massive
protests erupting,” he said.
The disparate outbreaks of unrest have not gone unnoticed at the
United Nations. Secretary General António Guterres raised them at a
meeting of the International Monetary Fund this past weekend, his
spokesman, Stéphane Dujarric, said on Tuesday.
Critics have accused the I.M.F. of exacerbating economic hardships in
countries like Ecuador through austerity measures imposed to reduce
“We are seeing demonstrations in different places, but there are some
commonalities,” Mr. Dujarric said, citing “people feeling they are
under extreme financial pressure, the issue of inequality, and a lot
of other structural issues.”
Some experts say the rash of global protests is too diverse to neatly
categorize or ascribe to a single theme. Michael Ignatieff, president
of Central European University, was in Barcelona last week as more
than 500,000 people thronged the streets after a court sentenced
former separatist leaders to prison.
While the Barcelona protests bore some resemblance to mass
demonstrations in other cities, Mr. Ignatieff said it would be a
mistake to lump them together.
“People are not being swept away by the madness of the crowds,” he
said. “This is politics, with specific causes and specific issues. If
you don’t acknowledge that, you make popular politics look like a
series of crazy fashions, like the same trousers or headgear.”
Still, within some regions, the protests are often similar to each other.
In the Middle East, the tumult has drawn inevitable comparisons with
the upheavals of the Arab Spring of 2011. But experts say these recent
protests are driven by a new generation that cares less about the old
sectarian or ideological divides.
Instead of calling for the head of a dictator as many Arabs did in
2011, the Lebanese have indicted an entire political class.
“They are stealing and pretending that they aren’t. Who’s responsible,
if not them?” Dany Yacoub, 22, said on Monday, the fourth day she had
spent protesting in central Beirut.
She studied to be a music teacher, but said she cannot find a job
because it takes political connections to get hired in a school. “We
don’t believe them anymore,” she said.
Many Arabs have been wary of popular protest since the Arab Spring
uprisings, heeding doom-tinged warnings from authoritarian leaders
that any upheaval could tip their societies into the same violent
chaos as Libya, Syria or Yemen.
But the recent wave of protests in Lebanon, Egypt and Iraq — as well
as revolts that toppled longstanding dictators in Algeria and Sudan
this year — suggest that wall of fear is starting to crumble.
“Syria has been the boogeyman for a very long time,” said Maha Yahya,
director of the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut. “But Algeria
and Sudan showed that chaos does not have to be the answer.”
Even in Saudi Arabia, where the threat of government repression makes
public protests practically unthinkable, an unusual rebellion erupted
on social media over a 100 percent tax on bills at restaurants with
water pipes, or hookahs.
The Arabic hashtag “tax on hookah restaurants” trended in the kingdom.
Some Twitter commentators said the tax contradicted the ruling
family’s desire to change Saudi Arabia’s ultraconservative image.
If protests are quicker to stir and more widespread than in earlier
decades, they are also more fragile. The painstaking mobilization that
once was a feature of grass-roots movements was slow but durable.
Protests that organize on social media can rise faster, but collapse
just as quickly.
Authoritarian governments have also learned to co-opt social media,
using it to disseminate propaganda, rally sympathizers or simply
spread confusion, Professor Chenoweth said.
And even where there is a spasm of protest, it takes a lot more for it
to snowball into a full opposition movement. The soaring price of
onions in India caused farmers to block highways and mount short-lived
But frustration has yet to sharpen into mass demonstrations because
there is nobody to channel it: India’s opposition is in disarray;
divisions of caste and religion dominate politics; and the government
of the Hindu nationalist prime minister, Narendra Modi, constantly
raises the threat of neighboring Pakistan to distract the public.
05-DEC-2016:: One common theme is a parabolic Putin rebound. #RussiaAfricaSummit
So much has happened in 2016, from the Brexit vote to President-elect
Trump, and it certainly feels like we have entered a new normal. One
common theme is a parabolic Putin rebound.
At this moment, President Putin has Fortress Europe surrounded. The
intellectual father of the new Zeitgeist that propelled Brexit, Le
Pen, the Five Star movement in Italy, Gert Wilders in the Netherlands,
is Vladimir Putin.
In the Middle East, it is Putin who is calling the shots in Aleppo,
and in a quite delicious irony it looks like he has pocketed Opec as
However, my starting point is the election of President Donald Trump
because hindsight will surely show that Russia ran a seriously
sophisticated programme of interference, mostly digital. Don DeLillo,
who is a prophetic 21st writer, writes as follows in one of his short
Russia in Africa: Weapons, Mercenaries, Spin Doctors. @WarsawInstitute
Russia’s expansion across the Dark Continent will be best exemplified
by the first-ever Russia-Africa summit, set to take place in the
resort town of Sochi in October 2019. It comes as the culmination of
years of Moscow’s heated political and economic efforts to nurture
ties with its African peers, and intends to give the green light to
open a new chapter.
Russia’s clout on African soil runs on many tracks, and its expansion
is geared primarily towards hybrid activities. In Moscow’s offer for
Africa are mercenaries, military equipment, mining investments,
nuclear power plants, and railway connections. Russian military
specialists help those politicians that show a pro-Russian attitude.
Their activities, or those of mercenaries, serve the Kremlin’s
political goals to the very same extent, by offering tangible
financial benefits to these business circles that hold close links to
Vladimir Putin. Africa is viewed as a prospective source of wealth for
Russian oligarchs –– a source of minerals and an outlet for
Russian-made military weapons. These investments should pay off, both
economically and –– more importantly –– politically.
Besides establishing a large group of Russian friends in Africa, it is
no less vital to deploy Moscow’s military forces to the continent,
albeit carefully. Russia’s fielding of its mercenaries and combat
advisors to the Dark Continent may give rise to building up its
military presence. Moscow holds interest in creating military
facilities in strategically important areas, also throughout the Horn
“Russia regards Africa as an important and active participant in the
emerging polycentric architecture of the world order and an ally in
protecting international law against attempts to undermine it,” said
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov back in November 2018
This related both to the areas of security and economy, as
exemplified by a massive surge in the value of Russian trade with
African countries that rose from $3.4 billion in 2015 to $14.5 billion
According to the Swedish think tank SIPRI, between 2012 and 2016
Russia had become the largest supplier of arms to Africa, accounting
for 35 percent of arms exports to the region, way ahead of China (17
percent), the United States (9.6 percent), and France (6.9 percent).
Exports of Russian-made weapons and military hardware to Africa amount
currently to $4.6 billion annually, with a contract portfolio worth
over $50 billion. The leading importers of Russian arms in Africa are
Algeria (helicopters, tanks, submarines), Egypt (aircraft, air defence
systems, helicopters), Angola (fighter jets, tanks, artillery systems,
arms and ammunition), and Uganda (tanks, air defence systems),
alongside Mali, Mozambique, Nigeria, Sudan, and Rwanda. In 2017,
Russian arms trade with Africa doubled compared with 2012.
Both Libya and Burundi have become a ground for Wagner Group
mercenaries. They have been confirmed to operate in the Central
African Republic and Sudan. They serve a dual role, as tools for
securing Russian companies’ commercial interests while actually
representing the Russian state in an effort to offer opportunities of
playing a substantial role in domestic affairs of countries to where
Russian mercenaries have been deployed. A leading figure is here
Yevgeny Prigozhin, a Russian businessman close to the Russian
president. His steps in Africa resemble those in Syria that was
flooded by hundreds of Wagner contractors in exchange for hydrocarbon
This is where Prigozhnin-affiliated people were fielded as hybrid
warfare experts. They backed a candidacy of a politician that held
close ties to the then leader of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Their practical efforts rose Felix Tshisekedi to power in January
2019, paving Russia’s way for pursuing its interests on Congolese
soil. Also, Russian specialists routinely look for offering
information and policy-related support in countries across the Dark
Continent. They use a social-media apparatus, also to promote
Gaddafi’s son in Libya, and know-how to back government-owned media.
Moscow is sending to Africa its spin doctors in a bid to keep African
leaders in power, which is also Prigozhin’s activity, besides his
private military company.
Russian independent information outlet Dozhd said on March 20, 2019,
that a group of between 100 and 200 Russian political marketing
experts might have been sent to take part in election campaigns
throughout the Dark Continent. Some of them have allegedly been
decorated with state awards for their efforts to nurture Russian
interests in Africa, though their names were not found on any official
ranking lists. A U.S.-based Bloomberg agency reported that Russian
political marketing pundits had been deployed to at least ten African
countries across the continent: Sudan, the Central African Republic,
Libya, Angola, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, the
Democratic Republic of Congo, and Madagascar, where Russian experts
worked at the presidential campaign of 6 candidates out of all 35
politicians running for office.
Christian Malanga, an opposition politician in the Democratic Republic
of Congo, put it bluntly, admitting that “China is the money and
Russia is the muscle.”
Does Africa Need Russia? The First Ever Russia-Africa Summit @GRTVnews @AKorybko
Moscow invaluably fills the much-needed niche of providing its
partners there with “Democratic Security”, or in other words, the
cost-effective and low-commitment capabilities needed to thwart Color
Revolutions and resolve Unconventional Wars (collectively referred to
as Hybrid War). To simplify, Russia’s “political technologists” have
reportedly devised bespoke solutions for confronting incipient and
ongoing Color Revolutions, just like its private military contractors
(PMCs) have supposedly done the same when it comes to ending
insurgencies, the latter of which has been powerfully on display in
the Central African Republic (CAR) since the beginning of 2018 and was
described at length in the author’s piece last summer concerning the
latest “UN Update On Russia’s Military Mission In The Central African
Republic“. Basically, Russian military advisors, arms shipments, and
PMC trainers succeeded in stopping a civil war that was bordering on
genocide despite the rest of the world having lost hope that this
Tensions rise between Ethiopia and Egypt over use of river Nile @FT
A dispute over the use of the water in the river Nile has raised
tensions between Egypt and Ethiopia threatening to provoke a new
crisis in relations as Addis Ababa nears completion of the continent’s
biggest hydroelectric project in the Ethiopian highlands.
After talks stalled earlier this month over the filling and operation
of the Grand Renaissance dam on the upper reaches of the Blue Nile,
Ethiopia has accused Egypt of seeking to frustrate the project and
block the country’s development.
Egyptian officials said Addis Ababa’s plans would give Ethiopia
unfettered control over the flow of the river — a lifeline for 100m
Egyptians — threatening their nation’s already scarce water supplies.
The deadlock threatens to do further damage to relations between two
countries with a long history of mistrust. Cairo wants Ethiopia to
guarantee an agreed minimum flow of water from the dam in order to
maintain the level of its own High Aswan dam, farther downstream, and
ensure there is enough water for Egyptian power generation and
Addis Ababa said Egypt wants to control Ethiopia’s water system and
has rejected Cairo’s call for international mediation.
“Egypt wants to have veto power, telling Ethiopia what it can do,”
said Fesseha Shawel Gebre, the Ethiopian ambassador to London.
The east African nation has long charged that Egypt and Sudan have
divided the flow of the Nile between them under a 1959 agreement to
which Ethiopia was not a party.
By seeking to preserve the water rights guaranteed to Egypt under that
agreement, Cairo wanted to continue the unequitable use of the Nile
waters and leave Ethiopia “in the dark”, said Mr Fesseha.
The $4.8bn Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), near the border
with Sudan, will be the largest hydropower project in Africa when
completed in 2022.
A linchpin of Ethiopia’s economic development plans, at its peak it
will generate more than 6,000 megawatts of electricity, helping extend
power to the 65m Ethiopians who still live without electricity.
The filling of the reservoir is expected to begin in June, during the
next rainy season. Egypt fears it could face water shortages if that
process is not done slowly.
While Ethiopia wants to fill the reservoir within four years, Egypt
wants a slower pace that can be varied in response to droughts. Egypt
also wants Ethiopia to guarantee a minimum annual flow of 40bn cubic
metres of water in non-drought conditions and to keep water levels in
Egypt’s Aswan dam above 165 metres.
Cairo insists it wants to work out a “co-operative” approach to
minimise damage, and that its principal concern was the management of
the river during times of drought.
“Ethiopia is not offering clear procedures on what to do if we are
faced with certain hydrological conditions,” said an Egyptian official
close to the negotiations. “They say when there is a drought we will
In addition, it has proposed placing monitoring teams from the three
countries at the site of the Ethiopian dam and in Cairo and Sudan’s
capital, Khartoum. Ethiopia said such demands amounted to an attack on
“What Egypt wants is to make Ethiopia its hydrological colony,” said
Zerihun Abebe Yigzaw, a member of Ethiopia’s Nile negotiating
“What if we have a dry season, what if we do not have water in the
system at all, that means are we going to destroy all other dams in
the country, or divert all the water to the Renaissance dam to fulfil
International experts say it should be possible to reach an agreement
on the joint management of the river system and that there are
examples from other river basins such as the 1960 Indus Waters Treaty
between India and Pakistan.
“Agreements for filling the GERD should consider the possibility of
droughts occurring during the filling process, which may include
arrangements on how the three countries might adapt under these
conditions,” said Kevin Wheeler, of the Environmental Change Institute
at Oxford university.
“Considering shared drought management strategies over the long term —
after the filling process is complete — is also very important.”
Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the Egyptian president, and Abiy Ahmed,
Ethiopia’s prime minister, who was last week awarded the Nobel Peace
Prize, are due to discuss the impasse on the sidelines of a
Russia-Africa summit in Sochi next week.
For Egypt, an arid desert nation which depends on the Nile for almost
all of its water, the prospect of a reduced flow is seen as an
existential threat. The country is already under the internationally
recognised water poverty threshold and it has a young and fast-growing
“We want a fair agreement and we understand Ethiopia’s development
needs,” said the Egyptian official. “But Ethiopia has to understand
that we depend on the Nile for 97 per cent of our water.”
EIB cancels Sh19.5 billion Centum geothermal loan @BD_africa
The European Investment Bank (EIB) has cancelled a Sh19.5 billion loan
offer to a firm partly owned by Centum Investments over viability and
environmental concerns raised by lobbies.
The EIB East Africa head Catherine Collin had last year said the €155
million (Sh19.5 billion) generation financing package to Akiira
Geothermal Ltd “will be finalised soon.”
The Centum consortium was expected to contribute Sh11.7 billion or 30
per cent of the project’s cost of Sh39 billion while the rest would be
funded through commercial loans.
The EIB Deputy Head of Division Joan Manuel Sterlin Balenciaga,
however, said in communique dated October 10: “After careful
consideration and due to the fact that the EIB has seen no progress on
the Akiira Geothermal expansion project over the past three years, the
EIB has formally decided not to pursue the appraisal of the project.”