It was something to behold. Dmitri Medvedev, former Russian President, unrepentant Atlanticist, current deputy chairman of the Russian Security Council, decided to go totally unplugged in an outburst matching the combat star turn of Mr. Khinzal that delivered palpable shock and awe all across NATOstan.
Medvedev said “hellish” Western sanctions not only have failed to cripple Russia, but are instead “returning to the West like a boomerang.” Confidence in reserve currencies is “fading like the morning mist”, and ditching the US dollar and the euro is not unrealistic anymore: “The era of regional currencies is coming.”
After all, he added, “no matter if they want it or not, they’ll have to negotiate a new financial order (…) And the decisive voice will then be with those countries that have a strong and advanced economy, healthy public finances and a reliable monetary system.”
Medvedev relayed his succinct analysis even before D Day – as in the deadline this Thursday established by President Putin after which payments for Russian gas by “unfriendly nations” will only be accepted in rubles.
The G7, predictably, had struck a (collective) pose: we won’t pay. “We” means the 4 that are not large Russian gas importers. “We”, moreover, means the Empire of Lies dictating the rules. As for the 3 that will be in dire straits, not only they are major importers but also happen to be WWII losers – Germany, Italy and Japan, still de facto occupied territories. History does have a habit of playing perverted tricks.
Denial didn’t last long. Germany was the first to break – even before industrialists from Ruhr to Bavaria staged a mass revolt. Scholz, the puny Chancellor, called Putin, who had to explain the obvious: payments are being converted into rubles because the EU froze Russia’s foreign exchange reserves – in a crass violation of international law.
With Taoist patience, Putin also expressed hope this would not represent a deterioration in contract terms for European importers. Russian and German experts should sit down together and discuss the new terms.
Moscow is working on a set of documents defining the new deal. Essentially, that spells out no rubles, no gas. Contracts become null and void once you violate trust. The US and the EU broke legally biding agreements with unilateral sanctions and on top of it confiscated foreign reserves of a – nuclear – G20 nation.
The unilateral sanctions made dollars and euros worthless to Russia. Hysteria fits won’t cut it: this will be resolved – but under Russia’s terms. Period. The Foreign Ministry had already warned that refusal to pay for gas in rubles would lead to a serious global crisis of non-payments and serial global-level bankruptcies, a hellish chain reaction of blocked transactions, freezing of collateral assets and closures of credit lines.
What will happen next is partially predictable. EU companies will receive the new set of rules. They will have time to examine the documents and make a decision. Those that say “no” will be automatically excluded from receiving direct Russian gas shipments – all politico-economic consequences included.
There will be some compromise, of course. For instance, quite a few EU nations will accept to use rubles and increase their gas acquisitions so they may resell the surplus to their neighbors and make a profit. And some may also decide to buy gas on the go on energy exchanges.
So Russia is not imposing an ultimatum on anybody. The whole thing will take time – a rolling process. With some sideway action as well. The Duma is contemplating the extension of payment in rubles to other essential products – such as oil, metals, timber, wheat. It will depend on the collective voracity of the EU chihuahuas. Everyone knows that their non-stop hysteria may translate into a colossal rupture of supply chains across the West.
Bye bye oligarchs
While the Atlanticist ruling classes have gone totally berserk but still remain focused on fighting to the last European to extract any remaining, palpable EU wealth, Russia is playing it cool. Moscow has been quite lenient in fact, brandishing the specter of no gas in Spring rather than Winter.
The Russian Central Bank nationalized foreign exchange earnings of all major exporters. There was no default. The ruble keeps rising – and is now back to roughly the same level before Operation Z. Russia remains self-sufficient, food-wise. American hysteria over “isolated” Russia is laughable. Every actor that matters across Eurasia – not to mention the other 4 BRICS and virtually the whole Global South – did not demonize and/or sanction Russia.
As an extra bonus, arguably the last oligarch capable of influence in Moscow, Anatoly Chubais, is gone. Call it another momentous historical trickery: Western sanction hysteria de facto dismembered Russian oligarchy – Putin’s pet project since 2000. What that implies is the strengthening of the Russian state and the consolidation of Russian society.
We still don’t have all the facts, but a case can be made that after years of careful evaluation Putin opted to really go for broke and break the West’s back – using that trifecta (imminent blitzkrieg on Donbass; US bioweapon labs; Ukraine working on nuclear weapons) as the casus belli.
The freezing of foreign reserves had to have been forecasted, especially because the Russian Central Bank had been increasing its reserves of US Treasuries since November last year. Then there’s the serious possibility of Moscow being able to access “secret” offshore foreign reserves – a complex matrix built with Chinese insider help.
The sudden switch from dollars/euros to rubles was hardcore, Olympic-level geoeconomic judo. Putin enticed the collective West to unleash its demented hysteria sanction attack – and turned it against the opponent with a single, swift move.
And here we all are now trying to absorb so many in-synch game-changing developments following the weaponization of dollar assets: rupee-ruble with India, the Saudi petroyuan, co-badged Mir-UnionPay cards issued by Russian banks, the Russia-Iran SWIFT alternative, the EAEU-China project of an independent monetary/financial system.
Not to mention the master coup by the Russian Central Bank, pegging 1 gram of gold to 5,000 rubles – which is already around $60, and climbing.
Coupled with No Rubles No Gas, what we have here is energy de facto pegged to gold. The EU Chihuahuas and the Japanese colony will need to buy a lot of rubles in gold or buy a lot of gold to have their gas. And it gets better. Russia may re-peg the ruble to gold in the near future. Could go to 2,000 rubles, 1,000 rubles, even 500 rubles for a gram of gold.
Time to be sovereign
The Holy Grail in the evolving discussions about a multipolar world, since the BRICS summits in the 2000s featuring Putin, Hu Jintao and Lula, has always been how to bypass dollar hegemony. It’s now right in front of the whole Global South, as a benign apparition bearing a Cheshire cat’s smile: the golden ruble, or ruble backed by oil, gas, minerals, commodity exports.
The Russian Central Bank, unlike the Fed, does not practice QE and won’t export toxic inflation to the rest of the planet. The Russian Navy not only secures all Russian sea lines, but Russian nuclear-powered submarines are capable of popping up all over the planet unannounced.
Russia is far, far ahead already implementing the concept of “continental naval power”. December 2015, in the Syrian theater, was the strategic game-changer. The Black Sea-based submarine 4th division is the star of the show.
Russian naval fleets may now employ Kalibr missiles across a space comprehending Eastern Europe, West Asia and Central Asia. The Caspian Sea and the Black Sea, linked by the Don-Volga canal, offer a space of maneuver comparable to the Eastern Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf combined. 6,000 km-long. And you don’t even need to access warm waters.
That covers around 30 nations: the traditional Russian sphere of influence; historical borders of the Russian empire; and current political/energy rivalry spheres.
No wonder the Beltway is berserk.
Russia guarantees shipping across Asia, the Arctic and Europe, in tandem with the Eurasia-wide BRI railway network.
And last but not least, don’t mess with a Nuclear Bear.
Essentially, this is what hardcore power politics is all about. Medvedev was not bragging when he said the era of a single reserve currency is over. The advent of a resource-based global reserve currency means, in a nutshell, that 13% of the planet will not dominate the other 87% anymore.
It’s NATOstan vs. Eurasia redux. Cold War 2.0, 3.0, 4.0 and even 5.0. It doesn’t matter. All the previous Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) nations see which way the geopolitical and geo-economic winds are blowing: the time to assert their real sovereignty is at hand as the “rules-based international order” bites the dust.
Welcome to the birth of the new world system. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, in China, after meeting several counterparts from across Eurasia, could not have outlined it better:
“A new reality is being formed: the unipolar world is irrevocably becoming a thing of the past, a multipolar one is taking shape. It’s an objective process. It’s unstoppable. In this reality, more than one power will “rule” – it will be necessary to negotiate between all the key states that today have a decisive influence on the world economy and politics. At the same time, realizing their special situation, these countries ensure compliance with the basic principles of the UN Charter, including the fundamental one – the sovereign equality of states. No one on this Earth should be seen as a minor player. Everyone is equal and sovereign.”
Pepe Escobar is an independent geopolitical analyst. He writes for Asia Times Online, RT, OpEdNews, Sputnik, TomDispatch, China Central Television and before Al Jazeera. He has been foreign correspondent since 1985 and reported from Afghanistan in 2000.
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