Tag Archives: Syria

TILLERSON – THE TOOTHLESS TIGER

THE G7 FAINTHEARTS –

For reasons of self-interest, the G7 foreign ministers refused to back UK Foreign Secretary Johnson’s proposed further sanctions against Russia for its complicity in the gas attack on innocent civilians last week in Syria. They have therefore denied the US Sec of State an important weapon with which to threaten the thug Putin on his mission today to Moscow. 

While Tillerson’s behind the scenes talks with Russian foreign minister Lavrov will no doubt be tough, the threat of added sanctions to an economy which is already under severe strain would have been crucial. In 2015 Russia was isolated with its economy in tatters. While a subsequent economic collapse was avoided, and oil prices rebounded somewhat, short term forecasts for the Russian economy remain dire. The ongoing Eastern Ukraine conflict and Western sanctions can only make the current economic situation worse. 

Unless oil prices plunge again, the IMF has forecast a return to growth. However, with oil and gas in 2015 accounting for some 44% of government revenues, the commodity price slump has hit hard with high inflation hurting families and government coffers taking a hit. The World Bank predicted that poverty rates were set to return to 2007 levels, threatening nearly ten years of gains.

According to The Times, Russia’s Reserve Fund had shrunk by two thirds since 2014 and was expected to run out by this year unless there was a ‘significant’ rise in oil prices. Once these reserves are fully drawn, the Russian government indicated that it may have to start drawing down from the National Wealth Fund to cover budget shortfalls. But this fund is meant to finance future pensions and investment projects.

It is apparent therefore that Putin can ill afford further stresses to his pro-market economic policies. Importantly, he has so far been able to avoid social unrest but this will not last forever. According to outside sources, nearly half of young people in Russia now look to the net and foreign reports for their daily dose of real news, not the fake stuff churned out by the Putin-controlled media.

As we all know, the West’s past policies in both Iraq and Libya can only be described as disastrous. So far our record in Syria has been far from inspiring. There is little doubt that the alternative to the Syrian tyrant Assad, as things now stand, is a radical Islamist regime. As unpalatable as it sounds, we may need to keep Assad on for the short term as his immediate overthrow would not be in anyone’s interest.

To avoid this chaotic scenario, let us hope that Tillerson tonight will manage to somehow engage Putin’s cooperation towards adopting a strategy on Syria which will at least lower the current bellicosity between the great powers. We might even dare to hope for something more. Could there still be a place for the old-fashioned stick AND carrot approach in international diplomacy?

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Goodbye to 2016

GOODBYE TO 2016 and here to just one of the many people making decisions vital to our well-being who continued to disappoint.

Thankfully, we will only have to put up with Barack Hussein Obama ll for the next two weeks. Arguably, the most disappointing leader of the USA in modern times, to almost the very end, he was reaching out to adversaries and alienating long-standing allies. His great failures as President obviously have yet to be fully assessed, but surely Obama’s passivity in the face of the 400,000 deaths in Syria, the wanton destruction of entire cities by the ruthless dictator Assad, the use of barrel bombs, sarin gas and chlorine gas against the civilian population, and countless other atrocities against ordinary men, women and children, must raise questions on his role in the Syrian conflict, and for the consequences to the future global influence of the United States. 

By his inaction, Obama has effectively allowed the tyrants now running Russia, Turkey and Iran to circumvent the interests and influence of the Western allies, and impose a solution on the Syrian people. The USA and even the United Nations have been excluded, the latter again proving to be throughout this major crisis a useless talking shop, good only for the high-salaried, chattering classes who comprise its benches. 

Obama proved time and again that he was either incapable of appreciating, or contemptuous towards, the concept of geostrategic thinking in foreign policy. In turn, his apparent lack of forward thinking on Syria had the most serious repercussions for many European nations, and greatly exacerbated their problems in struggling to assimilate Muslim arrivals from the Middle East/Africa, most of whom arrived on our European shores with totally alien cultural values. 

Furthermore, President Obama will be judged far from favourably by his failure to revive any kind of peace initiative between Israel and Palestine, the extremely controversial Iran nuclear deal, the failure of his policies in Asia, the collapse of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and the ineffectual manner in which he sought to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

Some may point to Obamacare as a signal domestic achievement in Obama’s presidency. This measure provided some 44 million Americans, or 16% of the population, with basic Medicare previously denied to them for a variety of reasons. At the end of 2015, the percentage of the population without adequate medical insurance cover had been reduced to around 10%. Regardless of the fact that this statistic alone amounts to nothing less than a disgrace for the richest nation in the world, the Act governing Obamacare looks very likely to be repealed with Trump’s arrival at the White House, supported by Republican majorities in both Houses.

During his watch,  Obama oversaw a huge reduction in the influence and status of the United States in the world, with the direct result that all of us now live in a far more dangerous place. Both Russia and China now strut the world stage with a hugely greater expansionist appetite than at any time since the days of Kruschev and his Cuban misadventure. 

And what of relations, always too easily combustible, between the white and black communities in the USA after eight years of Obama? I leave you to answer that one.

Some legacy!