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From CAATSA waiver for India to chastened visit to Saudi Arabia: Why Biden is making conciliatory noises

Author: Rajeev Srinivasan
Publication: Firstpost.com
Date: July 27, 2022
URL:      https://www.firstpost.com/opinion/from-caatsa-waiver-for-india-to-chastened-visit-to-saudi-arabia-why-biden-is-making-conciliatory-noises-10961801.html

It is time for the Great Reset. And that may not help the wokes; they are being consigned to the trash-heap of history at a record pace

Samuel Johnson once said: “When a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully”. Going by POTUS Joe Biden’s recent hyperactivity, it seems that the prospect of imminent electoral catastrophe has the same effect. For, the hitherto imperious Democrats have been backpedaling so furiously that it is a wonder to watch.

Consider just a few events: the importunate, chastened visit to Saudi Arabia (after having trashed it for the Jamal Ahmad Khashoggi murder); the CAATSA waiver for India (after blood-curdling threats by the sorely missed Daleep Singh et al regarding Ukraine); and the noises being made by several parties about bringing hostilities to an end in Ukraine.

Behind all these is the realisation that pandemic management has been royally screwed up (the much-vaccinated and Pfizer-oral-vaccine-medicated Biden himself caught the Wuhan virus), and that Anthony Fauci, Peter Daszak et al surreptitiously funding gain-of-function research in Wuhan was a major mistake. To be fair, even formerly lionised New Zealand now has significant numbers of COVID deaths, but that is hardly comforting.

Printing trillions of dollars as the panacea for COVID was an even greater mistake, because the blowback has been raging inflation at 9.1 per cent, hitting the average voter in the pocketbook. I personally endured the previous bout of high US inflation in the late 1970s, but as a poor student it didn’t affect me much; as a family man I am sure I would have been pinched badly if I were a US resident and voter. I remember petrol at $1-2, not $5 as it is now.

This does not bode well for the Biden Democrats in the November midterm elections.
From CAATSA waiver for India to chastened visit to Saudi Arabia Why Biden is making conciliatory noises

Inflation is not fun, as the Turkish voter is also finding out. Someone will take the blame.
The Economist @TheEconomist

The politics of inflation are bad everywhere, but especially fraught in Turkey. Most voters seem to blame Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Lessons from Turkey on the evils of high inflation
It hurts investment and makes most people poorer

 Jul 24, 2022

I don’t think blaming Vladimir Putin for inflation is quite working; nor is blaming Donald Trump, who, after all, was the only recent POTUS who didn’t go to war. Biden’s ratings may continue on a downward trajectory. The abortion rights issue roused some of the faithful, but I don’t think this has staying power till November.

Thus the U-turns, amusing to the impartial observer.

The energy squeeze (and related inflation) explains the Saudi visit. The European Union, in particular Germany, is in bad shape, as is evident from the Euro dropping to a historical low of parity to the dollar. Germany’s GDP shrank for the first time in, well… a long time. If there is no renewed supply of Russian gas, Europe is going to freeze this winter. So it is imperative for NATO to beg or cajole or threaten OPEC, especially the Saudis, into increasing production.

There had earlier been the unedifying spectacle of Biden seeking help from Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and even Iran, all of whom his staff had demonised earlier. If I am not mistaken, the Saudis and the Venezuelans literally refused to take his phone call, which is humiliating.

There is a subtle reason the Saudis are important to Biden: petrodollars. Who outside the US is going to want all those trillions printed by the US Fed other than to buy petroleum products? The fact is that, having been lured by the siren-song of the Chinese, the US has de-industrialised to such an extent that there's not much global demand for dollars to buy American goods, except for armaments and high technology.

If petroleum were to be traded in any other currency than the US dollar, it would depreciate, maybe even collapse. That is a scary prospect, which could trigger a serious global recession. Saudis have to be mollified and/or terrified so they don't even think of accepting other currencies in payment. Both Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein talked about accepting payment in Euros, etc, and we all know what happened to them.

Besides, there is an interesting little trick: the ‘Tipu Technique’. I believe the British tacitly encouraged Tipu to invade and loot the temples of Kerala, which had grown rich through centuries of lucrative spice trading. The British saw this opportunity, and allowed Tipu to haul the loot to Srirangapatnam. Then they killed him, and took all the riches in one fell swoop instead of piecemeal. And the clever British came out smelling of roses, as the good guys.

They also charged the entire cost of their war with Tipu to Travancore, paupering the latter, while maintaining the fiction that they were ‘protecting’ Kerala. Absolutely brilliant tactics. Nice transfer of wealth from India to Britain.

This is similar to the American playbook in 1973, when OPEC suddenly tripled oil prices. The US didn’t invade, which is a surprise. Why? The reason is that though the US also had to pay higher prices (consumers and industry felt the pain), the Deep State (and the US economy) made most of it back by selling weapons aplenty to OPEC. It was, and is, a zero-sum dollar-recycling game for them.

But it was, and is, also a massive transfer of wealth to OPEC from developing countries who could least afford it. The Third World took it on the chin. Once again, brilliantly done.

Thus it is imperative for the US to maintain good relations with Saudi Arabia. Moral grandstanding by the Democrats has reached a point of seriously diminishing returns.

Onwards to the CAATSA (Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act). It is intended to deter other countries from doing things the US administration of the day doesn’t like, as in the fashionable ‘social-justice warrior’ tropes of the day, although sanctions are clearly a blunt instrument. India was threatened with these because it is buying Russian SA-400 anti-missile defense systems, instead of US analogs like THAAD and Patriot.

As Gautam Sen of the London School of Economics said in a penetrating commentary on Why the West is so uncomfortable with a rising India and happy to sponsor its enemies, India is important to American plans for continued world dominance, unfortunately in a negative way as a permanent vassal, a low-caste neo-feudal flunky that exports raw materials and labour and imports manufactured goods.

And weapons, especially weapons. There has been a full-court press on India to buy increasing amounts of US armaments, and the Ukraine war provided a good excuse to bully India (which is easily shamed by the West chiding it) into dumping perfectly good Russian weapons like the SA-400 (and presumably the Indo-Russian joint venture, BrahMos).

India becoming a minor exporter of weapons (not just a big consumer) is not part of the plan. India has been the third-biggest weapons buyer in the world, accounting for 11 per cent of global purchases in the recent past. Reversing itself on bullying India to buy nothing but American weapons is another tactical U-turn by the US.

Evidently Atlanticist-minded Biden is not serious about the Asia-Pacific, as seen in his evisceration of the Quad. But it must have dawned on his foreign policy types that India and Japan are the cornerstones of any possible response to China’s rampant imperialism in the region. Besides, India has endured American sanctions and technology denials before (supercomputers, cryogenic engines) without collapsing; and probably will do so again.

On balance, better not to piss India off totally. But Biden has no love lost for India: it was his Biden Amendment that messed up India’s cryogenic engine deal with Russia, which is the central theme of the movie Rocketry: The Nambi Effect. I wrote long ago about this in Who killed the ISRO’s cryogenic engine?, as it happened in my hometown. It ruined eminent aerospace engineer Nambi Narayanan’s career and delayed India’s heavy rocket GSLV by 19 years.

As far as the Ukraine war is concerned, even the war-mongering Deep State mouthpiece The Economist, which was gung-ho in the beginning, is now making conciliatory noises. Foreign Affairs, a notably optimistic outlet, had a story titled Ukraine’s Implausible Theories of Victory: The Fantasy of Russian Defeat and the Case for Diplomacy.

The fact is that Russia has (certainly in the short run) weathered the vaunted sanctions rather well, and the rouble is the best-performing currency against the dollar. The unintended consequence of the war has been widespread pain, especially in the ‘First World’, that is, Western Europe and North America. It would be better, as India has been saying all along, for there to be a negotiated settlement.

A stalemate is still a win for Russia, as it has captured the disputed Russian-speaking parts of eastern Ukraine, created a land bridge to Crimea, and now controls the ports on the Sea of Azov. That is the most likely outcome, as Europeans tire of the war, and Biden’s plans to fight Russia to the last Ukrainian seem to have unraveled.

It is time for the Great Reset. And that may not help the wokes; they are being consigned to the trash-heap of history at a record pace. It is the end of the Woke Century, after just a year and a half. And deservedly so.


-The writer has been a conservative columnist for over 25 years. His academic interest is innovation. Views expressed are personal.
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