Category Archives: Russian Federation
Russia, officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation, is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects. From northwest to southeast, Russia shares borders with Norway, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland (both via Kaliningrad Oblast), Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, China, Mongolia, and North Korea.
09.12.2015 Author: Henry Kamens
Before oil is sold, it is tested. Oil test labs know exactly where the oil they test comes from and where it goes. We knew this even before the Las Vegas Sun broke a story about it.
But even though this story provided confirmation that there is no mystery about the oil sales funding ISIS, or the mechanism behind them, it hasn’t prevented these sales and transports continuing. This is because the logistics behind them are so sophisticated, and overseen at such a high level, that it is very difficult to isolate and expose the weak links in the chain.
When Bob Woodward of Watergate fame investigated drug use in Hollywood for a biography he found it more difficult to get to the truth than he had with Watergate, because the film industry closed ranks. Imagine how hard it is to expose what world governments are doing to support terrorism, when they try so hard to pretend they are doing the opposite. But maybe, just maybe, enough fingers are pointing in one direction to make it easier for other players to find an alternative, and sacrifice an ally along the way.
Would-be emperor with no clothes
We don’t know all the players involved in the transport and sale of ISIS oil. Inevitably, many are actually reputable oil testing and transport companies who go through the same procedures every day without them being called into question. But a few names which keep cropping up are a bit less than reputable, largely due to the concerns over their existing connections and how they maintain the bottom line.
One of these is Genel Energy Plc. This is one of the Rothschild companies, which should start alarm bells ringing in itself. Giving it the benefit of the doubt, we can say that it has made vast investments in Syria and Northern Iraq and it would make more business sense if it could deal with one compliant government in these countries rather than two unreliable ones. Taking a less charitable line, we can suggest, as some pundits have, that there has long been a Rothschild plan to create a Kurdish state for this purpose, and it was in the works even before the 9/11 attacks.
However, no one is going to sacrifice the Rothschilds, who can buy and sell any country on earth, and through investing in military actions. So if one of the players has to be cut out for being an embarrassment, it would have to be one the West already has plenty against. This is where, once again, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan comes in. He and his clan have made a lot of money by abusing their authority to become major components in this business. But if anyone has to take a fall to keep the operation running, they are the prime targets, and they know it.
Divorce of convenience
Turkey is a US ally because of where it is. It may be under constant disapproval for being everything the West claims to oppose, but as long as it is useful that doesn’t matter, unless, of course, you have the misfortune to live there.
One of Turkey’s most useful features is its ports – or rather, certain ports not actually in Turkey. Under the Treaty of Kars, signed in 1921, the area now known as the Adjarian Autonomous Region was ceded by the transitional Turkish state to the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic. However, one clause of that agreement states that Turkey has the right to transport goods in and out of the port of Batumi without paying any duties and can use the port whenever it wants without paying any duties. In effect, this means it retains control of Batumi’s port facilities, and can classify them as a “strategic interest”.
This arrangement has several useful aspects. Firstly, the Georgian authorities cannot police the port. Turkey can do whatever it wants there, transporting goods which would be too risky to move elsewhere, and Georgia’s best bet is to claim a piece of the inevitable action. Secondly, as the port is a “strategic interest” any threat to it can be met with a military response, under another clause of the Kars treaty. Get too close, Turkey sends troops in, you risk World War Three over some dodgy goods.
Thirdly, the port was once in the Soviet Union and is now very close to Russia. People, as well as goods, can be smuggled through it, and this has created the smoke-and-mirrors world Batumi presents today, in which no one knows who really controls what. It has long been known as a can of worms best steered clear of, and this is the advice routinely given to reporters, diplomats, businessmen and even Black Sea holidaymakers who get too close to something they aren’t even aware of.
The nature of this port operation was confirmed in 2007. In that year Georgia embarked on an investigation into alleged Russian spies in its Ministry of Defence, including links to Saybolt Georgia. This was conducted with the help of Turkish and Israeli intelligence, but focused not of the Georgian MoD itself but on Batumi, where a thorough investigation was done into everything no one else is allowed to get near. It goes deeper than that … but let’s start with pipeline wars and all kinds of intrigue for the record.
It was later alleged that Russia had set up a spying facility in Batumi, disguised as an oil testing laboratory. But that would have nothing to do with the Ministry of Defence. The ministry’s name had been used to justify bringing in outside intelligence services for another purpose, Georgia having its own intelligence service, which calls in the CIA, not Turkey and Israel, when it wants extra help. So several of the managers of Saybolt Georgia, Armen Gevorkian, director and Ruben Shikoian, his deputy were arrested based on trumped up spy charges. The purpose was to secure actual control of oil exports from Georgia, and this was done in collaboration with Turkish intelligence—as now there would be no oversight.
When the long-preplanned Georgia-Russia war came the following year some regional analysts wondered why Georgia’s largest seaport was not being bombed by Russian planes. Israel is, of course, always seeking friendly terms with Russia as well as being a US ally, and secures a regular supply of oil through Batumi. They also asked why the war only lasted eight days, despite the Western protestations of support for Georgia. Turkey’s behind-the-scenes reminders of its right to intervene to protect its interests, and the disruption this would cause to global oil supplies, go a long way to explaining this.
So it is hardly surprising, given this background, that influential people in the Turkish state use the port for their own purposes. These include the son of President Erdogan. Bilal Erdogan owns the BMZ group, a marine transport company. Of all the companies he might own, this is the one he considers the most useful and unimpeachable.
Both Russia and Syria have openly accused the Erdogan family of transporting undocumented crude oil deriving from ISIS. Russia has also stated that the shooting down of its plane was retaliation for Russia bombing truckloads of oil supplies near the Syrian border.
Obviously the Erdogans deny all this. But Turkey is known to have smuggled Kurdish crude oil through another port, Ceyhan, for years. That port is state-owned. It is also Turkish state policy to support the Syrian opposition through oil sales, alongside the Western powers who arm, fund and train them, and therefore a state-controlled oil smuggling mechanism must exist and be part of a wider Western oil supply operation.
Turkey is serving a purpose, in exchange for the usual payoffs. But maybe the gravy train is about to come to an end. It is possible for test labs to tell exactly where the oil came from. Exactly!
Proof of the pudding
All the information now being released in the Western media conveniently smears Turkey. It is not the only country involved of course. But it is the one which will suffer most when the West tries to continue its game by investigating the allegations which are now being made.
When oil tankers arrive at their destinations the oil they carry can be retested. If results are falsified in Batumi or elsewhere, this will be picked up later on. At the moment the BTC oil pipeline, which passes through Batumi and Ceyhan (the ‘B’ and ‘C’ of its name) does not keep backup samples after testing, which suggests that some of the oil going through it is not what it is purported to be. But this must have been exposed elsewhere, by end users who may now be being given the signal that to maintain their existing supplies, it is in their interests to say what they know.
After all, this process has been gone through before. One of the oil testing labs in Batumi was once run in collaboration with a company called Saybolt Georgia. It parent company, based in The Netherlands, has a sordid history, having been implicated in Food for Oil deals with Iraq between 1996 and 2003.
Saybolt was set up as a scapegoat by US testing company Intertek Caleb Brett, working with US and Turkish intelligence. These parties raised no objection when it hired the son of Alex Bakradze, the former Head of State Security for former Adjarian ruler Aslan Abashidze. When the time came, Caleb Brett dropped the word and it was reported that Saybolt wasn’t all it presented itself as. Saying it was obliged to investigate its own allegations, it discovered that the head of the testing had had no qualifications whatsoever and removed several staff for having failed drug tests, which were of course undertaken in-house.
Thereafter Saybolt’s history revealed, and its connection with Bakradze and the reviled regime his father worked for made public knowledge. Caleb Brett did not pretend this was anything other than a plot: one of its management told one of the dismissed employees, “I can continue to list all non-conformities in QHSE/Compliance, Georgian Branch to explain the departure of one testing employee who was terminated and to share it with the media”.
It is no coincidence that both the BTC pipeline and the smaller Baku-Supsa pipeline are often down for repairs. The oil is merely abstracted from the point at which the repairs are being made, usually before it arrives to Georgian pumping station number 2, and sold on to third parties who use other routes controlled by the same logistics mechanism, off the books. Employing incompetents appears, on the surface, to give a very good reason for undertaking repairs. The repairs themselves also involve filling the pipeline with oil which has not been documented or tested, as theoretically, it isn’t being sent there, until the next political realignment of the logistics arrangements needs to take place.
Ignorance is not bliss
Few would shed tears if the Erdogan family were brought down by oil testing as the case study shows in Georgia. Turkey would likewise present itself as cleansed of its rotten apples, with the same vigour the US displays when distancing itself from Richard Nixon, whose many crimes were not only known about but encouraged by many of those who vilify him today. Then it would continue as an ally on new terms, and we would be told that its ISIS-funding past had been forgotten.
The mechanism for doing this is there, as Caleb Brett tests everything which passes through the BTC pipeline and always has. It has enough knowledge to bring Turkey’s leadership down overnight, and the information we are now receiving indicates that it is interested in doing this. It would also implicate itself of course, and its US and Turkish intelligence partners, if the full extent of its institutional knowledge was revealed. But only the discredited Turks will reveal it, while the international logistics mechanism will be subtly rejigged, with different players, and supplies of ISIS oil to the West, which suit both parties, will continue.
Insider sources claim that these same companies, and players, are tied in with the tankers used today in the smuggling of ISIS oil, and that nexus will give us the link with a group of Georgians working out of the Ukrainian port of Odessa, including former Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvii.
When Jimmy Carter was US president he made a number of public addresses about energy, including his famous “malaise” speech. He eventually stopped doing it because the American people were no longer listening. You can get away with a lot if people aren’t really interested in what you’re doing. The progressive exposure of the Erdogan family’s oil smuggling for ISIS will bring down an ally which has pushed its luck too far, but that, rather than what they have done, will be the story.
The actual oil smuggling, and devastation it funds and causes, continue because none of us care enough to stop it. But that is no excuse for cynically exploiting the fact to destroy your own allies, simply because you have the power to do so.
Henry Kamens, columnist, expert on Central Asia and Caucasus, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.
10/12/2014 17:02 by Tyler Durden
We first exposed the “secret” US-Saudi deal in September which led to the inevitable bombing of Syria. We then progressed to explain the quid pro quo of the deal in lower oil prices (benefiting US consumers into an election and crushing Russian revenues). In today’s Wall Street Journal we get the final piece of the puzzle as it is clear that what Saudi Arabia loses in ‘price’ it will make up in ‘volume’ as The Kingdon is taking the unusual step of asking buyers to commit to maximum shipments if they want to get its crude. Simply put, “they are threatening [European] buyers” to discontinue sales if they don’t agree with the full fixed deliveries. The ‘oil weapon’ grows stronger…
Days after slashing prices in Asia, Saudi Arabia is now making an aggressive push in the European oil market, traders say.
The kingdom is taking the unusual step of asking buyers to commit to maximum shipments if they want to get its crude.
“The Saudi push is not just in Asia. It’s a global phenomenon,” one oil trader said. “They are using very aggressive tactics” in Europe too, the trader added.
This month, state-owned Saudi Aramco stunned the rest of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries by slashing its November prices to defend its market share in Asia’s growing market. The move, setting a price war in the oil-production group, was combined with a boost in the kingdom’s output in September.
But Riyadh is also moving to protect its sales to Europe, a declining market where it is facing rivalry from returning Libyan production.
After cutting its November prices there, Saudi Aramco is also asking refiners to commit to full, fixed deliveries in talks to renew contracts for next year, the traders say. They say the Saudi oil company had previously offered a formula allowing flexibility of more or less 10% of contracted volumes, the most commonly used in the industry.
“They are threatening buyers” to discontinue sales if they don’t agree with the fixed deliveries, another trader said.
* * *
Of course, the more pressure the US (prxied by Saudi Arabia) puts on Russia (and Iran) and implicitly Europe now (as they are forced to buy ‘more’ oil than needed, albeit at lower prices – but leaving their budgets bursting still further), the more the rest of the world is forced to consider alternatives to US hegemony and side with those that, for now, have not reached peak totalitarianism.
05/21/2014 by Tyler Durden
There was some trepidation yesterday when after the first day of Putin’s visit to China the two countries did not announce the completion of the long-awaited “holy grail” gas dead, and fears that it may get scuttled over price negotiations. It wasn’t: moments ago Russia’s Gazprom and China’s CNPC announced, that after a decade of negotiations, the two nations signed a 30 year gas contract amounting to around $400 billion. And with the west doing all it can to alienate Russia and to force it into China’s embrace, this is merely the beginning of what will be a far closer commercial (and political) relationship between China and Russia.
So far there have been no public pricing details on the deal which accrording to Gazprom CEO Aleksey Miller is a “commercial secret”, and which is believed to involve Russia supplying 38 billion cubic metres of gas per year to China via a new eastern pipeline linking the countries.
According to Itar-Tass, the compromise between Russian gas export monopoly Gazprom and Chinese National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) on Russian gas price is estimated at $75 billion, citing the Deputy Head of the National Energy Security Fund Alexei Grivach. The differences on the price for 38 and 60 billion cubic meters supplies a year were $1.5 billion and $2.5 billion, he added, so the subject of the negotiations is quite a significant one.
Gazprom expected a base price of $400 for 1,000 cubic meters, an expert of the Eurasian Development Research Center of the Chinese State Council said in April, whereas the CNPC’s proposal was $350-360 for 1,000 cubic meters.
A memorandum of understanding was signed in the presence of Russian President Vladimir Putin and President of China Xi Jinping on the second day of Putin’s two-day state visit to Shanghai. The price China will pay for Russian gas remains a “commercial secret” according to Gazprom CEO Aleksey Miller. Gas will be delivered to China’s via the eastern ‘Power of Siberia’ pipeline.
RT producers were informed of the landmark energy deal prior to its signing after a conversation with Miller.
Under the long-term deal, Gazprom will begin providing China’s growing economy with 38 billion cubic meters of natural gas per year for the next 30 years, beginning in 2018. The details of the deal were discussed for more than 10 years, with Moscow and Beijing negotiating over gas prices and the pipeline route, as well as possible Chinese stakes in Russian projects.
Just ahead of Putin’s visit to Shanghai, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev gave reassurance that the agreed price would be fair.
“One side always wants to sell for a higher price, while the other wants to buy for a lower price,” Medvedev said. “I believe that in the long run, the price will be fair and totally comparable to the price of European supplies.”
A major breakthrough in negotiations came on Sunday as Gazprom chief Aleksey Miller sat down with his CNPC counterpart, Zhou Jiping, in Beijing to discuss final details, including price formulas.
Although Europe is still Russia’s largest energy market – buying more than 160 billion cubic meters of Russian natural gas in 2013 – Moscow will use every opportunity to diversify gas deliveries and boost its presence in Asian markets.
“I wouldn’t look for politics behind this, but I have no doubt that supplying energy to the Asia Pacific Region holds out a great promise in the future,” Medvedev said.
In October 2009, Gazprom and CNPC inked a framework agreement for the Altai project which envisions building a pipeline to supply natural gas from fields in Siberia via the western part of the Russia-China border.
In March 2013, Gazprom and CNPC signed a memorandum of understanding on Russian gas supplies to China along the so-called eastern ‘Power of Siberia’ route. When both pipelines are activated, Russia can supply Asia with 68 billion cubic meters of gas annually.
Last year, China consumed about 170 billion cubic meters of natural gas and is expected to consume 420 billion cubic meters per year by 2020.
Regardless of what the final price ended up being, and whether or not China got the upper hand in the negotiations, the final outcome is there and it is real: as a result of his disastrous foreign policy in the past two months, Barack Obama finally pushed Russia into China’s hands, culminating with a deal that was ten years in the making and was never certain, until the Ukraine crisis.
And yes, this was all predictable from day one. Here is what we said precisely two months ago:
If it was the intent of the West to bring Russia and China together – one a natural resource (if “somewhat” corrupt) superpower and the other a fixed capital / labor output (if “somewhat” capital misallocating and credit bubbleicious) powerhouse – in the process marginalizing the dollar and encouraging Ruble and Renminbi bilateral trade, then things are surely “going according to plan.”
For now there have been no major developments as a result of the shift in the geopolitical axis that has seen global US influence, away from the Group of 7 (most insolvent nations) of course, decline precipitously in the aftermath of the bungled Syrian intervention attempt and the bloodless Russian annexation of Crimea, but that will soon change. Because while the west is focused on day to day developments in Ukraine, and how to halt Russian expansion through appeasement (hardly a winning tactic as events in the 1930s demonstrated), Russia is once again thinking 3 steps ahead… and quite a few steps east.
While Europe is furiously scrambling to find alternative sources of energy should Gazprom pull the plug on natgas exports to Germany and Europe (the imminent surge in Ukraine gas prices by 40% is probably the best indication of what the outcome would be), Russia is preparing the announcement of the “Holy Grail” energy deal with none other than China, a move which would send geopolitical shockwaves around the world and bind the two nations in a commodity-backed axis. One which, as some especially on these pages, have suggested would lay the groundwork for a new joint, commodity-backed reserve currency that bypasses the dollar, something which Russia implied moments ago when its finance minister Siluanov said that Russia may refrain from foreign borrowing this year. Translated: bypass western purchases of Russian debt, funded by Chinese purchases of US Treasurys, and go straight to the source.
Here is what will likely happen next, as explained by Reuters:
Igor Sechin gathered media in Tokyo the next day to warn Western governments that more sanctions over Moscow’s seizure of the Black Sea peninsula from Ukraine would be counter-productive.
The underlying message from the head of Russia’s biggest oil company, Rosneft, was clear: If Europe and the United States isolate Russia, Moscow will look East for new business, energy deals, military contracts and political alliances.
The Holy Grail for Moscow is a natural gas supply deal with China that is apparently now close after years of negotiations. If it can be signed when Putin visits China in May, he will be able to hold it up to show that global power has shifted eastwards and he does not need the West.
* * *
To summarize: while the biggest geopolitical tectonic shift since the cold war accelerates with the inevitable firming of the “Asian axis”, the west monetizes its debt, revels in the paper wealth created from an all time high manipulated stock market while at the same time trying to explain why 6.5% unemployment is really indicative of a weak economy, blames the weather for every disappointing economic data point, and every single person is transfixed with finding a missing airplane.
To conclude with the traditional geopolitical balance of power summary: Putin wins (again), Obama loses (again), and the monument to the dollar’s status as world’s reserve currency gets yet another tarnishing blow.
April 29, 2014
The Ministry of Finance (MoF) on President Putin’s order yesterday accelerated the opening of the St. Petersburg Exchange (SPE), where prices for Russian oil and natural gas will be set in rubles instead of US dollars.
Putin’s order regarding the SPE was in direct response to the US placing sanctions yesterday upon Igor Sechin the CEO of the Russian energy giant Rosneft and a nominated board member of the SPE, and of which Deputy Minister for foreign relations, Sergey Ryabkov, had warned: “A response of Moscow will follow, and it will be painfully felt in Washington DC.”
Sechin, was directly threatened by the Obama regime earlier this month due to his October 2013 remarks at the World Energy Congress in Korea where he called for a “global mechanism to trade natural gas” and went on suggesting that “it was advisable to create an international exchange for the participating countries, where transactions could be registered with the use of regional currencies”.
Sechin, as one of the most influential leaders of the global energy trading community now has the perfect instrument to make this plan a reality with the SPE where reference prices for Russian oil and natural gas will be set in rubles instead of US dollars and could literally destroy the petrodollar.
As we reported earlier already Russia and India are planning to remove the Dollar, meanwhile many speculators believe that the Yuan may already have become a de facto reserve currency. Also to be noted is the epic $30 Billion Oil Pipeline undertaken by Russia, India, China that could shift the Geopolitical balance.
The use of this “Financial Nuclear Weapon” (the sale of oil in a currency other than the US dollar) which was previously deployed by Saddam Hussein, resulted in the total destruction of Iraq, but it failed to deter other countries angry with the highhandedness of the US.
Libya made another attempt and it resulted in the destruction of the country and the brutal murder of its leader Muammar Gaddafi.
Next was Iran. The US and the global financial war party found it much more difficult to isolate and annihilate Iran, even when it was threatened with outright nuclear attack by US and Israel. And in spite of unprecedented sanctions against Iran (which constitute economic warfare and are war crimes in itself), Iran stood defiant.
The leading members of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) Russia and China restrained themselves so as to preserve global stability.
However, the war party faction of the US took such restraint as weakness and went on a spree of regime change throughout the world to undermine the growing strength of BRICS.
The “straw that broke the camels’ back” was the unbridled and reckless coup against the elected President of Ukraine by US and NATO and orchestrated by the US State Department and led by the war-monger Victoria Nuland, who openly admitted that the US had disbursed through such organizations as the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) over $5 Billion to facilitate the coup. Further to this just a couple of days back as reported by Bodhita US backed elite ‘Rape-Murder’ Alpha Squads were captured in Ukraine.
Critical to understand about the current Ukrainian Crisis, is that it has “absolutely nothing” at all to do with either Ukraine or its people, but should be understood for what it really is…a “sledgehammer” the US is attempting to use against Russia to prevent the opening and expansion of the SPE.
By perpetually expanding the US money supply, it’s important to note, America’s standard of living for its elite classes increases as well. The only problem with this situation is that the only way that it can be sustained is if the demand for the dollar and for US debt securities remains consistently strong.
Grasping this last point is extremely important. For if the artificial global US dollar demand, made possible by the petrodollar system, were ever to crumble, foreign nations who had formerly found it beneficial to hold US dollars would suddenly find that they no longer needed the massive amounts that they were holding.
This massive amount of dollars, which would no longer be useful to foreign nations, would come rushing back to their place of origin… America.
Obviously, an influx of dollars into the American economy would lead to massive inflationary pressures within their economic system and collapse it, along with that of the EU too.
It is difficult to overstate the importance of this concept as the entire American monetary system literally hinges on this “dollars for oil” system. Without it, Washington would lose its permission slip to print excessive numbers of dollars.
With thousands of NATO-backed Romanian troops now moving to the Ukraine border, along with British and French fighter jets now being deployed to Lithuania and Poland to join their recently arrived US military allies, it cannot be ruled out that the US will attempt to start a war with Russia in order to protect their petrodollar scheme.
In spite of the fact that all Russian military forces have returned to their permanent bases and Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu assured his US counterpart Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel yesterday during an hour long phone conversation that Russia had no intention of invading Ukraine, Moscow has become increasingly “alarmed” by the combined US-NATO military buildup on its borders that Minister Shoigu called “unprecedented”.
As for the Ukrainian people themselves being used as pawns by the US against Russia in this “petrodollar war”, their lives are quickly turning from despair to outright misery as they are forced to swallow the “bitter pill” being forced upon them by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) which is forcing their fuel and energy costs to skyrocket and taxes being raised on everything from alcohol to tobacco, not to mention the tens-of-thousands of public jobs being made redundant (layoffs and firings) and the nearly 5% cut in payments to pensioners.
Even worse for these “US Pawns”, wages now in Ukraine are, as a rule, not enough to feed a family, and the devaluation of their currency will make it totally impossible for these people to absorb these costs.
On the other hand, Western currency speculators will be able to profit from fluctuations in Ukraine’s currency and multinational corporations stand to benefit from privatization of those state assets that haven’t already been sold off.
It is critically important to note that back in 2008, when the US brought the world to the very brink of total economic collapse, then Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev warned that Russia should seize opportunities created by the weak US dollar. “Today, the global economy is going through uneasy times,” he said. “The role of the key reserve currencies is under review. And we must take advantage of it.”
Six years later that is what Putin is doing…nobody can say that they weren’t warned.
04/04/2014 by Tyler Durden
On the heels of Russia’s potential “holy grail” gas deal with China, the news of a Russia-Iran oil “barter” deal, it appears the US is starting to get very concerned about its almighty Petrodollar
- *U.S. HAS WARNED RUSSIA, IRAN AGAINST POSSIBLE OIL BARTER DEAL
- *U.S. SAYS ANY SUCH DEAL WOULD TRIGGER SANCTIONS
- *U.S. HAS CONVEYED CONCERNS TO IRANIAN GOVT THROUGH ALL CHANNELS
We suspect these sanctions would have more teeth than some travel bans, but, as we noted previously, it is just as likely to be another epic geopolitical debacle resulting from what was originally intended to be a demonstration of strength and instead is rapidly turning out into a terminal confirmation of weakness.
As we explained earlier in the week,
Russia seems perfectly happy to telegraph that it is just as willing to use barter (and “heaven forbid” gold) and shortly other “regional” currencies, as it is to use the US Dollar, hardly the intended outcome of the western blocakde, which appears to have just backfired and further impacted the untouchable status of the Petrodollar.
“If Washington can’t stop this deal, it could serve as a signal to other countries that the United States won’t risk major diplomatic disputes at the expense of the sanctions regime,”
The US dollar’s position as the base currency for global energy trading gives the US a number of unfair advantages. It seems that Moscow is ready to take those advantages away.
The existence of “petrodollars” is one of the pillars of America’s economic might because it creates a significant external demand for American currency, allowing the US to accumulate enormous debts without defaulting. If a Japanese buyer want to buy a barrel of Saudi oil, he has to pay in dollars even if no American oil company ever touches the said barrel. Dollar has held a dominant position in global trading for such a long time that even Gazprom’s natural gas contracts for Europe are priced and paid for in US dollars. Until recently, a significant part of EU-China trade had been priced in dollars.
Lately, China has led the BRICS efforts to dislodge the dollar from its position as the main global currency, but the “sanctions war” between Washington and Moscow gave an impetus to the long-awaited scheme to launch the petroruble and switch all Russian energy exports away from the US currency .
The main supporters of this plan are Sergey Glaziev, the economic aide of the Russian President and Igor Sechin, the CEO of Rosneft, the biggest Russian oil company and a close ally of Vladimir Putin. Both have been very vocal in their quest to replace the dollar with the Russian ruble. Now, several top Russian officials are pushing the plan forward.
First, it was the Minister of Economy, Alexei Ulyukaev who told Russia 24 news channel that the Russian energy companies must should ditch the dollar. “ They must be braver in signing contracts in rubles and the currencies of partner-countries, ” he said.
Then, on March 2, Andrei Kostin, the CEO of state-owned VTB bank, told the press that Gazprom, Rosneft and Rosoboronexport, state company specialized in weapon exports, can start trading in rubles. “ I’ve spoken to Gazprom, to Rosneft and Rosoboronexport management and they don’t mind switching their exports to rubles. They only need a mechanism to do that ”, Kostin told the attendees of the annual Russian Bank Association meeting.
Judging by the statement made at the same meeting by Valentina Matviyenko, the speaker of Russia’s upper house of parliament, it is safe to assume that no resources will be spared to create such a mechanism. “ Some ‘hot headed’ decision-makers have already forgotten that the global economic crisis of 2008 – which is still taking its toll on the world – started with a collapse of certain credit institutions in the US, Great Britain and other countries. This is why we believe that any hostile financial actions are a double-edged sword and even the slightest error will send the boomerang back to the aborigines,” she said.
It seems that Moscow has decided who will be in charge of the “boomerang”. Igor Sechin, the CEO of Rosneft, has been nominated to chair the board of directors of Saint-Petersburg Commodity Exchange, a specialized commodity exchange. In October 2013, speaking at the World Energy Congress in Korea, Sechin called for a “global mechanism to trade natural gas” and went on suggesting that “ it was advisable to create an international exchange for the participating countries, where transactions could be registered with the use of regional currencies “. Now, one of the most influential leaders of the global energy trading community has the perfect instrument to make this plan a reality. A Russian commodity exchange where reference prices for Russian oil and natural gas will be set in rubles instead of dollars will be a strong blow to the petrodollar.
Rosneft has recently signed a series of big contracts for oil exports to China and is close to signing a “jumbo deal” with Indian companies. In both deals, there are no US dollars involved. Reuters reports, that Russia is close to entering a goods-for-oil swap transaction with Iran that will give Rosneft around 500,000 barrels of Iranian oil per day to sell in the global market. The White House and the russophobes in the Senate are livid and are trying to block the transaction because it opens up some very serious and nasty scenarios for the petrodollar. If Sechin decides to sell this Iranian oil for rubles, through a Russian exchange, such move will boost the chances of the “petroruble” and will hurt the petrodollar.
It can be said that the US sanctions have opened a Pandora’s box of troubles for the American currency. The Russian retaliation will surely be unpleasant for Washington, but what happens if other oil producers and consumers decide to follow the example set by Russia? During the last month, China opened two centers to process yuan-denominated trade flows, one in London and one in Frankfurt. Are the Chinese preparing a similar move against the greenback? We’ll soon find out.
Finally, those curious what may happen next, only not to Iran but to Russia, are encouraged to read “From Petrodollar To Petrogold: The US Is Now Trying To Cut Off Iran’s Access To Gold.”