Monday, December 22, 2014

China Pledges To Help Russia Overcome Economic Hardships

China Pledges To Help Russia Overcome Economic Hardships

China’s foreign minister has pledged support to Russia as it faces an economic downturn due to sanctions and a drop in oil prices. Boosting trade in yuan is a solution proposed by Beijing’s commerce minister.
Russia has the capability and the wisdom to overcome the existing hardship in the economic situation," Foreign Minister Wang Yi told journalists, China Daily reported Monday. “If the Russian side needs it, we will provide necessary assistance within our capacity."

The offer of help comes as Russians are still recovering from the shock of the ruble’s worst crash in years last Tuesday, when it lost over 20 percent against the US dollar and the euro. The Russian currency bounced back the next day, but it still has lost almost half of its value since March.

At his annual end-of-year press conference on Thursday, Vladimir Putin acknowledged the ruble has been tumbling along with the price of oil, and estimated that Western sanctions account for 25-30 percent of the Russian economic crisis. However, the president’s economic forecast is that the slump will not be a lasting one

Chinese Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng proposed on Saturday to expand the use of the yuan in trade with Russia.

He said the use of the Chinese currency has been increasing for several years but western sanctions on Russia had made the trend more prominent, Reuters cited Hong Kong’s Phoenix TV as saying.
Gao said this year’s trade between China and Russia could reach $100 billion, approximately 10 percent growth compared to last year. 
The minister said he did not expect cooperation on energy and manufacturing projects with Russia to be greatly affected by the current crisis.
Many Chinese people still view Russia as the big brother, and the two countries are strategically important to each other,” Jin Canrong, Associate Dean of the School of International Studies at Renmin University in Beijing, told Bloomberg. “For the sake of national interests, China should deepen cooperation with Russia when such cooperation is in need.
China has been increasingly seeking deals in its own currency to challenge the US dollar’s dominance on the international market. 
And Beijing is not alone in attempts to counter the influence of Western-based lending institutions and the US currency.
BRICS, the group of emerging economies that comprises Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, accounting for one-fifth of global economic output, has been pursuing the same goal. The five nationsagreed in July to increase mutual trade in local currencies, and also to create a BRICS Development Bank with investment equivalent to $100 billion as an alternative to the Western-controlled World Bank.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lumped together unilateral diplomatic moves by the Palestinian Authority and rocket fire from Gaza terror groups Sunday, saying they added up to Israel being attacked simultaneously on two fronts.

Netanyahu called on “those responsible in the international community” to reject the Palestinians’ petition to the UN Security Council for an Israeli withdrawal from lands captured in 1967, speaking a day after reports surfaced that a political rival had told Washington letting the bid go through would help Netanyahu at the polls.

The prime minister also accused the PA of attempting to undermine Israel’s very existence, and asserted that Ramallah hoped to deprive the Jewish state of the ability to ensure its own security.

On Wednesday, Jordan submitted a draft resolution to the UN Security Council defining the terms for Palestinian statehood as well as an Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines, in a move one Israeli minister said was tantamount to a declaration of war.

“Israel is being attacked simultaneously on two fronts,” Netanyahu said during a Hanukkah candle lighting with soldiers at an army base Sunday night.
“It is attacked by the terrorism of Hamas and other terrorist organizations, and is also subject to the diplomatic offensive led by the Palestinian Authority, which is intended to strip us of our right to defend ourselves and directed at eliminating the legitimacy of our existence,” he said.
Israel, the prime minister said, was pushing back on both fronts.
Netanyahu’s comments came two days after a rocket was fired into southern Israel from the Gaza Strip, landing in an open area and causing no damage. The Israeli air forcelater responded to the attack, hitting a Hamas factory that was producing cement to rebuild the terror tunnels destroyed and damaged in last summer’s war, according to Israeli officials.
Addressing the Palestinians’ diplomatic bid, Netanyahu called the conditions set forth in the UN Security Council draft resolution “unacceptable.”
“We expect those responsible from the international community to reject the bid, but in any case, we will oppose it and obviously we will not follow any diktats,” he said.
The statement came a day after reports surfaced that Hatnua party head Tzipi Livni had asked US Secretary of State John Kerry to delay the Palestinian UN bid for statehood until after elections, lest it strengthen Israel’s right-wing, including Netanyahu.

NORTH Korea has threatened to hit back at the White House and other US targets if Washington sanctions it for an alleged hacking attack.
The country’s top military body, the National Defence Commission (NDC), again denied involvement in the hacking of Sony Pictures, which prompted executives to halt the release of a film seen by Pyongyang as mocking the North’s leader.
US President Barack Obama said on Friday it was confirmed that the North carried out the hacking.

“We will respond proportionately and we’ll respond in a place and time and manner that we choose,” he said.
The North’s NDC, in a statement on the official news agency, said its army and people “are fully ready to stand in confrontation with the US in all war spaces including cyber warfare space to blow up those citadels”.
“Our toughest counteraction will be boldly taken against the White House, the Pentagon and the whole US mainland, the cesspool of terrorism, by far surpassing the ‘symmetric counteraction’ declared by Obama,” it said.
The North, which has in the past made statements threatening the US mainland, accused the Obama administration of being “deeply involved” in the making of the comedy movie The Interview, which concerns a fictional CIA plot to kill Pyongyang’s leader Kim Jong-Un.

The United States is mulling whether or not to place North Korea back onto its list of state sponsors of terrorism, US President Barack Obama said in an interview aired on Sunday.

“We’re going to review those through a process that’s already in place,” the US president said in an pre-taped interview on CNN. “And we don’t make those judgments just based on the news of the day. We look systematically at what’s been done and based on those facts, we’ll make those determinations in the future.”
Mr Obama’s remarks, in the interview which taped on Friday, followed a call from a leading US senator to re-consider North Korea’s terror designation.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Robert Menendez wrote to Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday, saying the Pyongyang regime had set a “dangerous precedent” through cyber attacks that were “able to inflict significant economic damage on a major international company.” The State Department rescinded its designation of North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism in October 2008.
Currently, the list includes just four countries: Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria.

Meanwhile, the United States has asked China to help block cyber attacks from North Korea as it weighs a response to the crippling hack of Sony Pictures.
“We have discussed this issue with the Chinese to share information, express our concerns about this attack and to ask for their co-operation,” a senior US administration official told AFP.

On December 18 President Vladimir Putin gave his traditional end-of-year holiday speech. Think of it as a Russian version of the American State-of-the-Union address always given by our President. In it Putin expressed dismay and concern at the manner in which Russia’s “Western partners” were behaving, even going so far as to declare Western intentions as being purposely aimed at controlling Russian national resources and leaving Russia a de facto vassal state. He vividly used the analogy of a chained bear, with Western powers looking to declaw and defang Russian power so as to make it compliant and impotent. There was even a dramatic use of old-school symbology in this expansive three-hour speech. The traditional reaction of American power to such openly bravado displays of defiance and strength is usually one of disdain and dismissal. In most cases it is fairly harmless to disregard such acts of macho. But in this case I believe there are certain signals within the speech that indicate America would do well to pay closer attention and not simply think these are the desperate actions of a man pushed to his wits’ end by sanctions that are having the desired effect on Russia.

America needs to disabuse itself of the notion that the sanctions are causing a precipitous decline in the popularity of Putin. It is not uncommon today to find numerous media accounts in the West testifying to this very issue, with many supposedly Western experts on Russian politics declaring predictions about when, not if, Putin will finally be ousted by a dissatisfied populace. Most survey polling data in Russia today, and no not all of these polling facilities are simple sycophants of the Russian government, have President Putin hovering as high as 80% approval during these difficult times, marked most powerfully by the decline of the Russian ruble. In America, where economic problems immediately and automatically translate into dismal popularity ratings for its politicians, it is easy to see where such assumptions come from. Inexplicably, we in the West seem to ignore the fact that it is relatively easy to characterize and position the decline of the ruble as a direct consequence of Western interference in the Russian economy, i.e. a result of Western sanctions against Russia. Putin for his part took a relatively stable and steady approach to the ruble crisis, saying he did not approve the Central Bank overreacting and burning through Russia’s hard-earned cash reserves and that slow progressive countermeasures would be enacted that would see the return of a healthy ruble over the course of the next two years.

But the year 2014, looking deeper within Putin’s speech, may end up being a watershed turning point year for the Russian Federation. Putin emphasized that it is necessary and indeed essential that Russia strengthen its domestic economy and domestic sources of economic production so as to not be as vulnerable and dependent upon a world market that is too often connected to the priorities and interests of the United States. If Russia truly does make inroads to enact measures that might achieve this goal long-term, then the entire nature of the Russian-American global relationship could change fundamentally.

So here we sit, once again looking at a Cold War-like detente between Russia and America with the latter side utterly confident that its maneuvers and actions will have the desired deterrent effect on the former, bringing it to heel and making it more compliant with Western interests. But what we might be seeing instead is the impetus for creating a new Russian strategy for an economic future that will engender greater political power and more global independence. America right now sits in a position of strength, convinced it has Russia on the ropes and backed into a corner. Anyone who has even the slightest familiarity with Russian history knows that it has been just such occurrences in the past where the Russian state has usually acted in a completely unanticipated and antithetical way. Acting against the expectations of foreigners is almost a rite of passage for Russia. I do not believe the current situation in Russia is going to result in the ouster of President Putin, in the collapse of the Russian economy, or even in something as symbolically simple as Russia capitulating to Western demands on Ukraine. I find it much more likely that the events of 2014 will make the more nuanced thinkers and more profound strategic analysts in Russia devise an alternative path towards a future that will make it less vulnerable and less dependent on what it considers to be the whims of Western strategy. The recent massive economic cooperation agreement signed with China easily fits into this perspective.

So it might end up painfully surprising for the United States if its actions, done very much in the style of the Cold War, create motivations in Russia that really were not there beforehand. The greatest irony in all of this might be seeing old American punishment creating new Russian strength. Most disturbing of all, while this irony could create a more level global playing field between Russia and America, I fear this equality would not create a stronger cooperative partnership between the two countries.

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