Feb 092023

Anthony Van Dyck Self portrait with sunflower 1632



More from Andrew Korybko on a interesting theme: how the sanctions on Russia created a whole new energy supply line.



Andrew Korybko:


Indian media revealed in mid-January that their country had been processing and re-exporting discounted Russian oil to the West, including the US, in a move that discredited the spirit of that de facto New Cold War bloc’s anti-Russian sanctions. Most observers brushed off those reports since they went against their worldview wherein it was taken for granted that the US-led West’s Golden Billion wouldn’t ever relieve pressure on Russia by having India serve as the middleman in their oil trade.

According to an expert quoted by Bloomberg in their latest report titled “Oil’s New Map: How India Turns Russia Crude Into The West’s Fuel”, “India’s willingness to buy more Russian crude at a steeper discount is a feature, not a bug, in the plan of Western nations to impose economic pain on Putin without imposing it on themselves.” Another one was cited as saying that “US treasury officials have two main goals: keep the market well supplied, and deprive Russia of oil revenue.”

That other expert added that “They are aware that Indian and Chinese refiners can earn bigger margins by buying discounted Russian crude and exporting products at market prices. They’re fine with that.” This insight from Bloomberg, which is held in high regard as one of the world’s premier business outlets, completely shifts the paradigm through which observers interpret the energy dimension of the Golden Billion’s anti-Russian sanctions.

The “official narrative” up until this point was that they were aimed bankrupting the Kremlin in the hopes that it would immediately stop its ongoing special operation and perhaps even “Balkanize” if the desired economic collapse catalyzed uncontrollable socio-political processes like during the late 1980s. The New York Times recently admitted that the anti-Russian sanctions failed, however, pointing to reputable evidence that this targeted state’s economy has stopped contracting and even began to grow.

In the face of these “politically inconvenient” facts, it was thus foreseeable in hindsight that the “official narrative” would have to more comprehensively change in an attempt for the Golden Billion to “save face” before its people, ergo Bloomberg’s latest contribution to this perception management end. The public is now being gaslighted into thinking that the sanctions were never meant to bankrupt the Kremlin, stop its special operation, or “Balkanize” Russia, but just erode a little bit of its revenue.

The reality is that the outcome reported upon by Bloomberg is indeed a “bug” and not a “feature” like they’re claiming in hindsight out of desperation to revise history for self-interested soft power reasons. The Golden Billion didn’t fully forecast the lasting consequences of their sanctions since they naively took for granted that they’d immediately bankrupt the Kremlin, stop its special operation, and subsequently “Balkanize” Russia, none of which ultimately transpired.

They can’t rescind their unilateral economic restrictions though since that would be an unprecedented soft power victory for Russia, hence why they began putting feelers out across the market to explore alternative workarounds for ensuring the reliability of their imports, albeit at a premium. India’s pragmatic policy of principled neutrality towards the Ukrainian Conflict in full defiance of US demands upon it to “isolate” Russia ended up being an inadvertent godsend for the West in this context.

Had that globally significant Great Power not ramped up its purchase of Russian oil to the extent that it did in order to withstand the systemic shocks caused by the West’s sanctions and which destabilized dozens of fellow Global South states, then there wouldn’t be excess supply for re-export. After helping them meet their needs, which wasn’t part of some “5D chess master plan” between India and the West but the organic outcome of how events unfolded, they reduced their pressure upon it as a quid pro quo.

It was difficult to explain late last year why the US noticeably began reducing pressure on India to distance itself from Russia, but it was thought at the time that this was simply a delayed recognition of geostrategic reality and was being done for pragmatism’s sake to retain their strategic ties. Now, however, it appears as though India’s indispensable role in the global energy market as the middleman in facilitating the now-taboo Russian-Western energy trade played a role in the US’ policy recalibration.

From this insight, it can be concluded that India succeeded not only in resisting US-led Western pressure upon it vis-à-vis its relations with Russia, but also unwittingly ended up doing the Golden Billion a favor in the process by placing itself in the position to ensure the reliability of their energy imports. This observation speaks to its newfound role as the kingmaker in the New Cold War, which will imbue it with increasingly more influence within the global systemic transition the longer that this struggle continues.




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Jul 122018

Russell Lee Gas station, Edcouch, Texas 1939

Ilargi: Someone linked to this almost 8 year old article from Nicole (July 19 2010), on Twitter. And yes, it’s even more relevant now than it was when she wrote it. So here’s a re-run:


… the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930 in the US, which drastically raised tariffs on imports, lead to retaliation by trading partners, and the resulting trade war dropped global trade by 66% between 1929 and 1934.

One more comment from me: Trump may be on to something with some of his tariff actions, but he risks having the US run headfirst into the brittleness of just-in-time supply lines.



Nicole Foss: As the world has become a smaller and smaller place over the last few decades, we think less about the differences between locations. Global trade has allowed us to circumvent many local constraints, evening out surpluses and shortages in a more homogenized world.

We have a just-in-time world built on comparative advantage, in the name of economic efficiency. Under this economic principle, every location should specialize in whatever activity it executes most efficiently and the resulting products from all areas would then be traded. The idea is that all will then be better off than they would have been had they attempted to cover all bases themselves for reasons of self-sufficiency.

Where countries had been inclined towards more expensive self-sufficiency, market forces have often made this approach untenable, as large cost differences can make countries or industries uncompetitive. Local production has been progressively out-sourced as a result.

By ‘better off’, economists mean that goods will be cheaper for all, thanks to global wage arbitrage and economies of scale. Globalization has indeed delivered falling prices for many consumer goods, particularly electronics. In an era of massive credit expansion (effectively inflation), such as we have lived through for decades, one would normally have expected prices to rise, as a lagging indicator of money supply expansion, but prices do not always follow money supply changes where other major complicating factors exist.

In recent years, the major complicating factors have been the ability to produce goods in places where wages are exceptionally low, the ability to transport those goods to consumer markets extremely cheaply and ready access to letters of credit.

For nominal prices (unadjusted for changes in the money supply) to fall during an inflationary period, real (inflation adjusted) prices must be going through the floor. This has been the effect of trade as we have known it, and it is all many of us have known. What we are not generally aware of is the vulnerability of the global trade system, due to the fragility of the critical factors underpinning it.


By producing goods, particularly essential goods, in distant locations, we create long and potentially precarious supply lines. While relative stability reigns, this vulnerability does not cause trouble and we enjoy cheap and plentiful goods. However, if these supply lines are disrupted, critical shortages could result. In a very complex just-in-time system, this may not take very long at all. Such as system is very brittle, as it has almost no redundancy, and therefore almost no resilience. When Jim Kunstler refers to efficiency as “the straightest path to hell”, it is this brittleness he is referring to.

The most ephemeral critical factor for trade is the availability of letters of credit. These became scarce during the first phase of the credit crunch in 2008, and the result was goods stuck in port even though there was robust demand for them elsewhere. Goods simply do not move without letters of credit, and these can dry up extremely quickly as a systemic loss of confidence results in a systemic loss of liquidity. In a very real way, confidence IS liquidity.

The Baltic Dry shipping index fell 96% in 2008 as a result, meaning that shipping companies were suffering. Although the index has recovered slightly during the recent long rally, it is still very depressed in comparison with its previous heights. Now that the rally appears to be over, on the balance of probabilities, letters of credit for shipping will come under renewed pressure, and goods will once again have difficulty moving. As demand also starts to fall, due to the loss of purchasing power in the depressionary era we are moving into, this will get far worse.




In a depression, trade is very adversely affected. One reason for this a highly protectionist beggar-thy-neighbour economic policies. For instance, the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930 in the US, which drastically raised tariffs on imports, lead to retaliation by trading partners, and the resulting trade war dropped global trade by 66% between 1929 and 1934.




Thanks to globalization, we are much more dependent on trade than people were in the 1930s. The combination of credit drying up on the one hand and global trade wars on the other is an extreme threat to our vulnerable supply lines. Add to that the general upheaval created by severe economic disruption, which can easily lead to increased physical risks to transporting goods, and the longer term potential for much higher energy prices, and we could see an outright collapse of global trade in the approaching years.

The benefits of self-sufficiency will be seen in places where it still exists. So long as the whole supply chain is local, localized production means being able to maintain access to essential goods at a time when obtaining them from overseas may be difficult or impossible. It is currently more expensive, but the relative security it can provide can be priceless in a dangerous world. The ability to produce locally does not arise overnight however, especially where there are no stockpiles of components. In places where it has been lost, it will take time to regain. There is no time to lose.

We will be returning to a world of much greater diversity as we lose the homogenizing effect of trade. That means the existing disparities between areas will matter far more in the future than they have in the recent past. We will need to think again about the pros and cons of our local regions – what they can provide and what they cannot, and for how many people. Some areas will be in a great deal of trouble when they lose the ability to compensate for deficiencies through trade. As the global village ceases to exist, the world will once again be a very large and variable place.