As you can tell, this week we've been primarily focused on geopolitics and financial news (as distinct from last week's focus on some technological issues and their implications). And this has certainly been a week of geopolitical news, all of them summing to the same thing: Mr. Putin is battening down the hatches for a long-term contest with the West and with the USA in particular.
The first indicator is a highly significant one, as Russia's State Duma is considering legislation banning "undesirable foreign groups":
There are two points to note here. The first is that the legislation is being sponsored by members of parties other than Mr. Putin's:
"The head of the committee, MP Vladimir Pligin (United Russia) told the TASS news agency that it would recommend the legislature hold the first hearing on the motion on January 20.
"The initiative, dubbed by the mass media as the “Undesirable Groups Bill” was drafted in late November last year by two opposition lawmakers, Aleksandr Tarnavskiy from the leftist party Fair Russia and Anton Ishchenko of the nationalist Liberal-Democratic Party of Russia.
“'Today we live in a period when some foreign organizations behave not in the best way. The reasons may vary, some act on requests of intelligence services, others have different motives. Sometimes it is even economic, they create problems for Russia in order to cheaply purchase Russian assets,' MP Tarnavskiy said as he presented the bill to the parliamentary committee. 'The main objective of the motion is to demonstrate the existence of groups that are unfriendly to Russia,' he added."(Emphases in the original)
The real source of concern here is this:
"The main criteria for putting an organization, which can be a foreign or international NGO as well as a company on the list is, “the threat to the defense capability or security of the Russian State,” or “the threat to public order and people’s health.”
It doesn't take much to realize that the real target here is to prevent the operation, within the Russian Federation, of NGOs or Non-Government Institutions, i.e., the fronts behind which the USA and the west have sponsored the various "color revolutions" and meddled in the internal politics of other sovereign nations, the most recent example of which is, of course, the Ukraine. What Russia is doing is simply removing the ability and opportunity for such organizations to meddle in the internal affairs of Russia and to sponsor "regime change" in that country. There's more about what this portends, but that will have to wait for my high octane speculation, which we'll get to in a moment.
But in order to see what those high octane speculations involve, one must next look at this story, a continuation of a story we blogged about last year, and which has now come home to roost:
You'll note one important component of this cooperation is not only that Masercard base its Russian clearing operations in Russia, but that it use Russian hardware and software in its operations:
"The NSPC mandates that MasterCard will have to team up with Russia’s Central Bank locally, maintain a domestic processing center in the country and use Russian technology for its operations. Meanwhile, the implementation deadline for switching to a local partner for payment processing was postponed to Mar 2015 from Oct 2014. While minimal effect is anticipated on MasterCard’s top line in 2014, amendments in Russian payments laws are likely to weigh on the company’s revenues in 2015."
I'll leave it to the reader to work out all the implications of that, and the reasons behind it, for they directly influence today's high octane speculations, which in turn concern this third article from our friends at ZeroHedge:
Zero Hedge is indeed asking the right question: Is Mr. Putin Creating a New World Order? At the minimum, as we've been arguing here - and as many other websites and bloggers have been arguing - Mr. Putin at the very minimum means to have a say and influence in whatever world order may emerge in the coming decades, and that the American "neo-cons'" version of a unipolar world order (a euphemism for hegemony) is simply out of the question, a sentiment which has played well in Beijing, New Delhi, and Brasilia. We've seen the recent responses of Russia to the West's sanctions: (1) an invitation to Europe to abandon its relationship with Washington and to join a wider Eurasian "customs union," (2) de-coupling from the dollar and selling Russia's dollar reserves, and (3) a reminder to Europe where the energy side of its bread is buttered, with the recent stoppage of energy shipments through the Ukraine.
But, in my opinion, there's a "flip side" to this that few analysts in the West "get," and it was brought home to me in a major way by a comment made to me by former Assistant Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Catherine Austin Fitts, and with it, my high octane speculation of the day: Consider things from Mr. Putin's point of view for a moment (and this is a point I've made before on this site). After the collapse of the Soviet Union, it looked, for a few years, as if Russia would become the showcase of the "post-modern" western state, as oligarchs moved to plunder the Russian economy for far-off western masters under the Yeltsin regime. Then in stepped Mr. Putin, who put a stop to it (More or less, and that, in any case, is the short "Cliff notes" version). And the instrumentality was to reassert a strong Russian state as a counterbalance to the corporate interests. Or, to put it in terms that make globaloney-ists go purple with apoplexy, Mr. Putin reasserted the concept of national sovereignty(and with it cultural identity), and has been using the vocabulary and even the words "sovereign nations" in his talks and remarks. Add to this a circumstances that Russians know all too well: the imposition of Marxism on Russia largely by the West, through the Kaiser's smuggling of Lenin into Russia during World War One, to American financing of Leon Trotsky's return, at approximately the same time. Marxism, in other words, was a Western import, an attempt by the high financial corporatists and syndicalists of the west to force Russia and its Orthodox culture into a western "post-modernist" secular mold.
Thus, what Mr. Putin's Russia represents is, in a certain sense, (here comes my high octane speculation) something beyond and therefore, in a wider historical sense,ahead of the West and its elites, stuck as they are in the globalist dogma that the nation state is a thing of the past, and the trans-national corporation is the wave of the future, for Russia is in a kind of "post-post modernist state". This highlights Mr. Putin's dilemma, for he represents a sovereign state, trying to negotiate with "states" in the west that have, in effect, lost much of their sovereignty and whose governments represented hollowed out institutions captive to a variety of high financial and and trans-national corporate interests, and largely unresponsive to their own culture, institutions, and people, a fact that is perhaps reflected in Mr. Putin's oft-used deliberate choice of words, "our partners in the West," and, you'll note, curiously and simultaneously avoiding the use of those words "sovereign nations" in his references to the West, as if describing not diplomatic relations, but corporate ones. This has put Russia in the odd position of being able to negotiate with other nations whose state institutions remain rather strong (China for instance), while simultaneously attempting to speak directly to the growing cynicism in the West's populations while conducting "diplomacy" with governments that are much less sovereign than the corporations propping them up. In short, in those upcoming "peace talks" about the Ukraine, Mr. Putin - unlike Frau Merkel or M. Hollande - represents a real state, whereas his western counterparts are merely emissaries of various financial factions.
Mr. Putin's rhetoric has perhaps escaped this type of analysis in the past, but, if I'm correct, we'll see more rhetorical signals from him and his advisers this year along these lines, and Russia will continue to assert, and reassert, its national and cultural sovereignty, vis-a-vis the NGOs and corporations of the West.
In short, it's going to be an interesting year.
See you on the flip side....