Putin and the Current Russian Economy

In Search of Putin’s Russia – Part 2 Arising from the Ruble

Al Jazeera (2015)

Film Review

In the second episode of In Search of Putin’s Russia, Russian journalist filmmaker Andrei Nekrasov examines Russia’s 2014 economic crisis, which he blames on falling oil prices and US and EU sanctions.

Overall he feels the sanctions (and more importantly Russian counter sanctions) have helped strengthen Russia’s domestic food and industrial production. At the same time the sanctions have hurt many ordinary Russians, in part due to really low salaries. For example, the average Russian teacher earns $300 a month.

The drop in the value of the ruble has led to many home foreclosures. Ever since the Soviet collapse, Russian banks only issue mortgages in foreign currencies. Because Russians are paid in rubles, they could no longer keep up with payments when the value of the ruble dropped 40% in 2014.

Access to health care is also a major issue owing to the collapse of the state-run Soviet health care system. This is especially true in rural areas where people are too poor to pay privately for care.

Most health care funding seems to come from charities, which also raise funds to keep children out of orphanages when their parents are too poor to provide for them. Russia’s current economic crisis has placed a growing number of families in this predicament.

 

 

Hidden History: Exposing the Roots of the Korean Conflict

Imposed Divide: Exposing the Roots of the Korean Conflict

RT (2018)

Film Review

This documentary dispels many myths promoted by Western media about the real purpose of US sanctions against North Korea. Predictably the real purpose of North Korean sanctions isn’t to end the North’s nuclear program but, as in Russia, Venezuela, Iraq, Syria etc., to cause sufficient civilian misery to bring about regime change – either through popular uprising or a military coup.

The film begins by describing Korea’s historical division along the 38th parallel. During World War II, the entire Korean peninsula was occupied by Japan. When the latter surrendered on August 14, 1945, Soviet troops accepted their surrender north of the parallel and US troops in the South.

While Soviet troops withdrew, US troops continued its occupation of South Korea,  installing a series of puppet dictators to brutally suppress any dissent through surveillance, arrest, torture and assassination. Under US pressure, in 1948 the UN issued a declaration of two separate states – the socialist Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in the north, and the capitalist Republic of Korea in the south.

In 1950, North Korea attempted to reunify Korea by invading and “liberating.” the south. They were welcomed and supported by resistance fighters opposed to US occupation. With the help of UN forces, by 1953 the Americans drove North Korean troops north of the 38th parallel. They abandoned their plan to invade the North when Communist Chinese troops entered the Korean War on the side of the North Vietnamese. Instead the US unleashed a massive carpet bombing campaign that destroyed all major North Korean towns and killed 20% of their population.

After a July 1953 truce restored the original North/South boundary, the US maintained a permanent military presence (ie occupation)* in South Korea. A growing number of South Korean civilians have joined the movement protesting continued US occupation. South Korea’s National Security Act, which criminalizes praise of North Korea, criticism of the US and all human rights campaigns and protests, is equally unpopular.

This documentary also explodes Western myths about the origin of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. The latter was the North’s response to a 1958 US decision to install tactical nuclear weapons in South Korea. They were removed in 1991 as part of President Bush Senior’s decision to eliminate America’s total arsenal of short range nuclear weapons.

In 1994 President Clinton signed an agreement to build North Korea a light water nuclear reactor in return for their commitment to end their nuclear weapons program. His Republican congress refused to ratify the treaty.

 

 

Rendition: How the CIA and MI6 Kidnapped and Rendered Dissidents to Libya to be Tortured

Libya’s Muamar Gaddafi, Torture, Rendition and the West

Al Jazeera (2018)

Film Review

This documentary is about a secret agreement between US, UK and German intelligence to kidnap anti-Gaddafi dissidents around the world and fly them to Libya – to be imprisoned, tortured and/or killed by Gaddafi’s security officials.

Following the 2011 Libyan revolution, rebels captured a trove of security documents verifying these secret agreements. One document reveals the CIA, as well as UK and German intelligence, met with Libyan intelligence officials one week after 9-11 (while Libya was still under UN sanctions) to agree the details of the program. Documents also reveal that western intelligence officers were fully aware that Gaddafi tortured and murdered dissidents he detained in his prisons.

Western intelligence referred to the secret kidnappings – of victims that included pregnant women and children as young as six – as extraordinary rendition.

Following the invasion of Iraq in 2003, Gaddafi claimed to have a nuclear weapons program and offered to give it up to have Libyan sanctions lifted. There followed an eight year period of improved relations involving billions in oil deals for British Petroleum, as well as Gaddafi’s alleged funding of French president Nicolas Sarkozy’s 2007 presidential campaign .

The film focuses on two anti-Gaddafi dissidents kidnapped and “rendered” to Libya by UK intelligence. Both filed suit against the British government in 2012. One withdrew from the lawsuit in 2015 after receiving a 2.2 million pound settlement. The other received a full apology from Prime Minister Theresa May in May 2018.


*Sarkozy has been indicted for violating French campaign financing laws but has yet to go to trial.

 

Syria Already Planning Its Economic Future

 

Guest Post by Sophie Mengel Inside Syria Media Center.

Last Monday the EU Council extended sanctions against the Syrian government for another year, until June 1, 2018. The event occurred as recent Syrian Arab Army successes raise hopes for an end to the Syrian conflict. It’s clearly not enough to talk about food relief and delivery of basic necessities. Manufacturing and foreign trade have also taken major hits in Syria.

 

World Bank: Total economic damage by city

Bilateral Ties Between Syria and Iran

Not so long ago, at a Damascus meeting between Syrian Prime Minister Imad Khamis and Iranian Ambassador Javad Torkabadi, Khamis highlighted the full-scale economic war the West and their Middle East allies have unleashed against Syria. Tehran, with its long experiencing countering “sanctions war,” and Damascus have become a model of strategic cooperation, both militarily and economically.  However, strong economic ties between Iran and Syria alone will not solve the problem of Syrian economic degradation.

Courting Qatar

Despite their past support for anti-government terrorists, the current economic boycott of Qatar by its “friendly neighbors” is leading to hope of future Qatari investment in the Syrian economy. For Qatar to invest in Syrian zones of influence or to offer Syria offer a kind of Marshall Plan would go a long way towards repairing Qatar’s international image. It would also allow the country to bypass limitations Saudi Arabia seeks to impose on Qatar’s foreign policy, while making it more independent of the US and the EU.

All this would likely depend on consummating an agreement for Iran to purchase LNG from Qatar for onward transport to external consumers. Iran, which is getting closer to Qatar and has strong positions in Syria, has great potential as an intermediary.

Syria is Already Planning Its Economic Future

Despite the ongoing fighting in Syria, the country is already planning its economic future. Syria is rich in energy resources and minerals, including rare-earth metals. At the same time, the country has an advantageous geographical location for transporting goods to the Mediterranean pass through its territory. All this gives Damascus the potential for rapid economic development.

Stability in the region and restoration of foreign trade would enable the Syrians to have a source of stable foreign direct investment. The country has been in the grip of war for more than six years, but is full of enthusiasm to rebuild the economy. The hope of a new life and recent successes on the battlefield inspire optimism on the part of Syrian citizens, as well as the countries such as Iran, China, India, Russia and Armenia that support them.

Follow the latest developments by reading Inside Syria Media Center.