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Regional geopolitics

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  • Re: Regional geopolitics

    Originally posted by Mher View Post
    Should Putin Let the Ruble Bottom Out?
    The Russian president is just the latest in a long line of national leaders with a sentimental, ill-fated attachment to propping up their countries’ currencies.

    One can almost excuse Vladimir Putin for trying so hard. This is a man, after all, who famously built his public image in part on feats of derring-do: riding shirtless across Siberia, hang-gliding with migrating birds, and releasing a caged leopard into a natural reserve. So perhaps it isn’t surprising that the Russian president would leap with similar brashness into his country’s economic crisis, precipitated by tumbling global oil prices and Western sanctions. Why not use sheer financial force to wrestle the depreciating ruble back to safety?

    At 1 a.m. Moscow time on Dec. 16, Russia’s central bank announced a massive hike in the country’s interest rate, from 10.5 to 17 percent. Early indicators of the government’s move were mildly positive, with the ruble opening the next morning up 
10 percent against the dollar. Within hours, though, the weight of the foreign exchange market reasserted itself, hammering the ruble to less than half its starting value in 2014 and raising the dual specters of inflation and recession. Over the following weeks, Putin and his lieutenants proved almost wholly incapable of controlling the two economic forces that mattered most to them: As of mid-
January, spot prices for Brent European crude oil hovered near the historically low level of $46 a barrel, and the ruble was stubbornly slumped at 65 to the dollar.

    It’s clear why falling oil prices and a declining ruble would strike fear into even the leopard-friendly Putin. The Russian economy remains overwhelmingly dependent on oil and natural gas, which in 2013 accounted for 68 percent of the country’s export revenues and 50 percent of its federal budget. Diminishing global energy prices could lead to a 
4.5 percent GDP contraction in 2015, according to the country’s central bank. A declining ruble would similarly wallop the country’s holders of hard-currency debt, $130 billion of which come due this year.

    What’s not clear is how Putin and his colleagues could realistically have expected to achieve anything by hiking the interest rate. Unless the increase was intended to attract foreign capital — a very unlikely event — it could only have led to higher inflation and greater downward pressure on the ruble. The country’s international debt was destined to become harder to service; the prices of imported goods were likely to rise; and Russian holders of foreign debt were going to face difficulties in accessing foreign currencies.

    Yet Putin is hardly the first national leader to chase a stronger currency at the risk of a weaker economy. In the 1920s, Winston Churchill drew down his country’s reserve holdings to bolster the British pound, long after the nexus of global financial power had shifted from Britain to the United States. The result was a marked decline in British industrial competitiveness and a sagging economy that contributed to the unfurling of the Great Depression. Half a century later, U.S. President Richard Nixon struggled to maintain the dollar’s position as the world’s reserve currency despite the growing financial cost to the United States of doing so. And Mexican President José López Portillo pledged to “defend the peso like a dog” shortly before being forced by his country’s collapsing economy to let the currency float, and plunge. In all these cases and many others like them (Russia in 1998, Indonesia in 1997, the United Kingdom in 1992), intervention led solely and inevitably to malaise: higher inflation rates, slower growth, rising unemployment, and capital flight.

    Why such a long line of clearly ill-fated policies? Probably because, like many of their citizens, national leaders often seem to feel a physical, sentimental attachment to their currencies. It’s an odd vestige, arguably, in a world marked by increasing cross-border flows of foreign exchange, but a powerful one nonetheless. In theory, the value of any currency is an impersonal, apolitical fact — the result of supply and demand in the open marketplace. In practice, though, leaders often associate strong currencies with national strength more generally and thus view declining currencies (and particularly rapidly declining ones) as insults to their prowess.

    As a result, in the optics of intervention, a national leader is seeking to convey a certain element of power-broking — to display muscle and an implicit promise that the state is not being abandoned to ruinous outside forces. Think again of Churchill, who in 1925 risked Britain’s gold to prop up the beloved pound. The economic wisdom was clear: Intervention would not work. That same year, economist John Maynard Keynes had warned that returning Britain to the gold standard at an artificially inflated rate would lead inevitably to unemployment, class conflict, and prolonged strikes. Yet Churchill proceeded, unwilling to let the pound fall below what he considered its rightful level.

    For Putin, too, sitting by as the ruble declined was probably never an option — and still isn’t. He likely will keep indulging in efforts to pump up the ruble and draw down Russia’s hard-currency reserves accordingly. (In a surprise move, the central bank cut interest rates in late January — but only by 2 percentage points.) Because neither of these measures will do anything to redress the country’s underlying economic woes, however, Russia will probably be consigned to muddling through until global oil prices eventually rise again.

    What Russia should do is diversify its economy away from anything that involves extracting resources out of the ground and selling them at volatile, internationally set prices. The country should follow the Norwegian example of isolating energy revenues in a sovereign wealth fund, investing the proceeds for the long term, and insulating its broader economy from dependence on commodity markets. It should consider strategies like those employed in Chile, where copper revenues are carefully invested in a broader range of industries and where export earnings during booms are reliably saved for less felicitous days.

    Until that happens, Russia and its chest-thumping leader will be caught in a cage of their own making, acting symbolically but without any real effect. And the country will remain on the long list of states making policies based on nostalgia rather than sense.
    Long term investments into the economy (especially to diversify) are always a good idea. The world used to be focused on just the long run and now it seems focused on only the short run. Both are important with the long run being more important. I think Russia is more diversified then most other petro states.
    Hayastan or Bust.


    • Re: Regional geopolitics

      Khamenei sends Iranian navy to Bab el-Mandeb Straits. Iran arms store for Hamas bombed in Libya

      March 31, 2015

      Control of the Red Sea Bab el-Mandeb Straits passed Tuesday, March 31 to pro-Iranian Yemeni forces when the Yemeni Army’s 117th Brigade loyal to the former Yemeni President Ali Saleh handed positions guarding the waterway to two Houthi commando battalions trained by Iranian Revolutionary Guards. This is revealed by DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources.
      In another development Tuesday involving Iran’s spreading tentacles, DEBKAfile’s military sources reveal that unidentified aircraft bombed Burak, a small military base in the Fezzan province of southwestern Libya, which serves Iran as a transit store for arms purchased in Sudan for the Palestinian Hamas.
      The weapons, which recently reached the Libyan base through Chad, were destroyed. They were scheduled to be smuggled through Egypt and Sinai and onto Gaza. Western military sources attributed responsibility for the bombardment to the Egyptian or Israeli air forces. Both Israel and Egypt have declined to comment on the report.
      To strengthen Iran’s grip on the key Red Sea gateway, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has ordered two naval task forces to sail to the Red Sea. They are to fend off a Saudi-Egyptian offensive to dislodge the Houthi battalions now holding a point linking the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf.
      The naval task forces are being sent to draw a sea shield around the Houthi forces to defend them against Saudi-Egyptian assaults. This maneuver was orchestrated by the Al Qods Brigades chief Gen. Qassem Soleimani.
      Our sources report that the 33rd task force set out on its mission Tuesday night from the Gulf port of Bandar Abbas.


      • Re: Regional geopolitics

        Thats good....Iran showing muscle.
        B0zkurt Hunter


        • Re: Regional geopolitics

          Ex-DefMin's French Arms Deal Claims Reignite Georgian Political Crisis
          April 3, 2015,
          by Joshua Kucera

          Georgia's former defense minister has claimed that his firing last year was the result of dispute with other officials, led by former prime minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, over signing an agreement to acquire air defense systems from France. But the prime minister, and France's ambassador to Tbilisi, have denied the claims.

          The dispute has reignited the political crisis that blew up last year, when Defense Minister Irakli Alasania -- one of the country's most popular political figures and probably the most pro-Western official then in the government -- was unexpectedly fired. And it again raises allegations that Russia might be exerting pressure on Tbilisi behind the scenes, especially in the sensitive sphere of arms procurements from the West.

          Alasania made the claim last week, and Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili responded by calling the allegations "immoral" and said that such speculation is "not the business of a real man." The defense ministry also denied that any such agreement with France had been made.

          Alasania then said that, since the agreement he signed was valid until the end of March, he would wait until April, when the alleged agreement expired, to provide all the details. And he made good on his promise at a press conference on April 3.

          "In October last year, while serving as defense minister, I was supposed to sign a contract for air defense systems in Paris but was forbidden to do so at the last moment at Prime Minister Garibashvili's and former Prime Minister Ivanishvili's demand, and to make it more convincing, five of my subordinates were detained the same day in Tbilisi on a fabricated charge of stealing money from the military budget," Alasania said. "Despite all this, I still signed a memorandum with my French partners, which envisioned the postponement of the contract's signature for six months. This memorandum expired at the end of March this year."

          Was this Russia's doing? Alasania "was asked whether the government’s decision was made based on Russia’s possible critical position toward the air defense treaty," Democracy and Freedom Watch reported. "To this, he answered that it would be logical to see ‘cause and effect’ results here."

          But the French embassy supported Garibashvili's and the defense ministry's claims. "Some discussions started last year between the government of Georgia and some French industrialists in the normal framework of our defense cooperation. I insist on the term 'discussions' because nothing committing was signed by the Georgian side - no agreement, no treaty, not commitment, whatsoever. The only thing I can say now is that those discussions which started last year are continuing," the Georgian Defense Ministry quoted Renaud as saying, Interfax reported.

          So what's going on? Either Alasania is lying about a highly sensitive issue, or the current government is (abetted the French embassy, to boot). And Russia is either plotting behind the scenes to block Georgia's military deals with the West, or someone wants us to believe they are. The plot thickens...


          • Re: Regional geopolitics


            • Re: Regional geopolitics


              • Re: Regional geopolitics

                Մոսկվան ցույց է տվել Հայաստանի դեմ նոր հարվածի ուղղությունը

                ՀԱՅԿԱԶՆ ՂԱՀՐԻՅԱՆ, Գլխավոր խմբագիր
                Քաղաքականություն - 07 Ապրիլի 2015,

                Արեւմուտք-Իրան համաձայնությունների հեռանկարը լիովին փոխելու է միջազգային քաղաքականության ուղղությունները եւ ուժերի դասավորությունը: Ներկայում արդեն ուրվագծվում են այդ իրադարձության հետեւանքով հնարավոր նոր դաշինքները:
                Մասնավորապես, համաձայնությունից քաղաքականապես ու տնտեսապես տուժելու են Ռուսաստանը, Իսրայելը, Թուրքիան, Ադրբեջանը, Սաուդյան Արաբիան ու նրա արբանյակները: Եթե Իրանը վերադառնա էներգետիկ մեծ շուկա, այս երկրները, որոնք արդեն տուժում են էներգակիրների գների անկումից, լրացուցիչ բարդություններ են ունենալու: Իր հերթին, Թուրքիան կարող է վերջնականապես կորցնել իր քաղաքական նշանակությունն Արեւմուտքում:
                Հայաստանում Իրան-Արեւմուտք համաձայնությունները հիմնականում գնահատվեցին դրական, այն առումով, որ մեր երկիրը ստանում է քաղաքական ու տնտեսական նոր հնարավորություններ, որոնք օգտագործելու դեպքում կարելի է լուծել բազմաթիվ խնդիրներ:
                Հայաստանում նաեւ շատերն են իրավացիորեն նշում, որ Ռուսաստանը ձգտելու է խոչընդոտել այս իրողություններին, մասնավորապես՝ Իրանի հետ Հայաստանի ինքնուրույն կապերին: Թերեւս, այդ պատճառով են Նալբանդյանին շտապ կանչել Մոսկվա:
                Բանն այն է, որ Իրանի «բացումից» հետո Ռուսաստանն ամենաշատն է տուժելու թե տնտեսապես, թե իր ավանդական դիրքերը կորցնելու տեսակետից: Ռուսաստանի միջազգային մեկուսացումն ավելի է խորանալու, եթե իհարկե Մոսկվան չփոխի իր քաղաքականությունը եւ համարժեք չլինի նոր ուղղություններին, ինչը սակայն անհնար է թվում:
                Եվ ահա, ռուսական քարոզչա-փորձագիտական մեքենան գործի է դրվել այդ ուղղությամբ, ինչպես նաեւ Հայաստանի հասցեին հերթական սպառնալիքներին: Օրինակ, Ռուսաստանի «Ազգային էներգետիկ անվտանգության հիմնադրամի» հիմնադիր և գլխավոր տնօրեն Կոնստանտին Սիմոնովը 168 ժամ թերթին տված հարցազրույցում փորձել է «հիրմնավորել», որ Հայաստանը որեւէ տնտեսական օգուտ չի ստանալու Իրանի շուրջ տեղի ունեցող զարգացումներից:
                «Նայեք քարտեզին, ինչի՞ համար պետք է Իրանից գազ արտահանվի Հայաստանի և Վրաստանի միջոցով: Ի՞նչ իմաստ կա: Իհարկե, եթե նման պրոյեկտներ իրագործվեն, ապա Իրանը կնախընտրի Թուրքիայով միանգամից Եվրոպական միություն դուրս գալ: Ծիծաղելի է, ինչո՞ւ Հայաստանը, եթե Իրանն ուղիղ սահման ունի Թուրքիայի հետ, քարտեզին պետք է նայել: Իրանական գազ չի կարող Արևմուտք արտահանվել Հայաստանի միջոցով», ասել է նա:
                Այս մեջբերումից մոտավորապես պարզ է դառնում, թե Մոսկվան ինչ մեթոդներով է փորձելու խոչընդոտել մասնավորապես հայ-իրանական ծրագրերին: Մոսկվան, փակելով Հայաստանը, կարող է պայմանավորվել Թուրքիայի հետ, որպեսզի վերջինս նույնպես «փակի» իրանական էներգակիրների ճանապարհը: Թուրքիան, որ ստանում է քաղաքական առեւտրի լայն հնարավորություն, առաջ կքաշի իր պահանջները: Պարզ է, թե որոնք են լինելու այդ պահանջները մասնավորապես հայկական թեմայով:
                - See more at:


                • Re: Regional geopolitics

                  The fate of Football Diplomacy and the future of Armenia-Turkey relations
                  - Analysis by Richard Giragosian


                  • Re: Regional geopolitics

                    ^ Great vid, thanks for sharing!


                    • Re: Regional geopolitics

                      Originally posted by Shant03 View Post
                      ^ Great vid, thanks for sharing!
                      Yes great indeed. I have been saying a long time that the protocol process was a clear victory for Armenia and it is nice to see someone who knows something say it to. I disagree with Richard that our foreign policy success rests on the failure of others rather then success of our leaders. Our leaders are the ones who decided on when and how to sign on, they demanded certain terms and agreed and disagreed to other terms. Our government has done very well with geopolitics and even the EEU move is proving to be a good one. I wish our leaders were half as good at domestic policies as they are in foreign affairs.
                      Hayastan or Bust.