HANOI (Reuters) – A high-profile former Vietnamese oil executive was sentenced to life in jail for embezzlement on Monday, two weeks after was also imprisoned for life on similar charges in a separate case, state media reported.
Even well into 2017, variations of the “secular stagnation” thesis remained popular within the economics community. Accelerating synchronized global growth notwithstanding, there’s been this enduring notion that economies are burdened by “insufficient aggregate demand.” The “natural rate” (R-Star) has sunk to a historical low. Conviction in the central bank community has held firm – as years have passed – that the only remedy for this backdrop is extraordinarily low rates and aggressive “money” printing. Over-liquefied financial markets have enjoyed quite a prolonged celebration.
Going back to early CBBs, I’ve found it useful to caricature the analysis into two distinctly separate systems, the “Real Economy Sphere” and the “Financial Sphere.” It’s been my long-held view that financial and monetary policy innovations fueled momentous “Financial Sphere” inflation. This financial Bubble has created increasingly systemic maladjustment and structural impairment within both the Real Economy and Financial Spheres. I believe finance today is fundamentally unstable, though the associated acute fragility remains suppressed so long as securities prices are inflating.
[ZH: This week’s sudden burst of volatility across all asset-classes highlights this Minskian fragility]
The mortgage finance Bubble period engendered major U.S. structural economic impairment. This became immediately apparent with the collapse of the Bubble. As was the case with previous burst Bubble episodes, the solution to systemic problems was only cheaper “money” in only great quantities. Moreover, it had become a global phenomenon that demanded a coordinated central bank response.
Where has all this led us? Global “Financial Sphere” inflation has been nothing short of spectacular. QE has added an astounding $14 TN to central bank balance sheets globally since the crisis. The Chinese banking system has inflated to an almost unbelievable $38 TN, surging from about $6.0 TN back in 2007. In the U.S., the value of total securities-to-GDP now easily exceeds previous Bubble peaks (1999 and 2007). And since 2008, U.S. non-financial debt has inflated from $35 TN to $49 TN. It has been referred to as a “beautiful deleveraging.” It may at this time appear an exquisite monetary inflation, but it’s no deleveraging. We’ll see how long this beauty endures.
The end result has been way too much “money” slushing around global securities and asset markets – “hot money” of epic proportions. This has led to unprecedented price distortions across asset classes – unparalleled global Bubbles in sovereign debt, corporate Credit, equities and real estate – deeply systemic Bubbles in both (so-called) “risk free” and risk markets. And so long as securities prices are heading higher, it’s all widely perceived as a virtually sublime market environment. Yet this could not be further detached from the reality of a dysfunctional “Financial Sphere” of acutely speculative markets fueling precarious Bubbles – all dependent upon unyielding aggressive monetary stimulus.
I have posited that aggressive tax cuts at this late stage of the cycle come replete with unappreciated risks. Global central bankers for far too long stuck with reckless stimulus measures. A powerful inflationary/speculative bias has enveloped asset markets globally. Meanwhile, various inflationary manifestations have taken hold in the global economy, largely masked by relatively contained consumer price aggregates. Meanwhile, global financial markets turned euphoric and speculative blow-off dynamics took hold. A confluence of developments has created extraordinary financial, market, economic, political and geopolitical uncertainties – held at bay by history’s greatest Bubble.
Bloomberg: “U.S. Average Hourly Earnings Rose 2.9% Y/Y, Most Since 2009.” Average hourly earnings gains have been slowly trending higher for the past several years. Wage gains have now attained decent momentum, which creates uncertainty as to how the tax cuts and associated booming markets will impact compensation gains going forward.
February 2 – Bloomberg (Rich Miller): “As Jerome Powell prepares to take over as chairman of the Federal Reserve on Feb. 5, some of his colleagues are publicly agitating for a radical rethink of the central bank’s playbook for guiding monetary policy. Behind the push for reconsideration of the Fed’s 2% inflation target: a fear of running out of monetary ammunition in the next recession. With interest rates near historically low levels—and likely to remain that way for the foreseeable future—these officials worry the Fed will have little leeway to aid the economy when a downturn inevitably hits. They argue that revamping the inflation objective beforehand could help counteract that. ‘The most important issue on the table right now is that we need to consider the possibility of a new economic normal that forces us to reevaluate our targets,’ Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia President Patrick Harker said in a Jan. 5 speech.”
“Is the Fed’s Inflation Target Kaput?”, was the headline from the above Bloomberg article. There is a contingent in the FOMC that would welcome an inflation overshoot above target, believing this would place the Fed in a better position to confront the next downturn. With yields now surging, these inflation doves could be a growing bond market concern.
Interestingly, markets were said to have come under pressure Friday on hawkish headlines from neutral/dovish Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan: “If We Wait to See Actual Inflation, We’ll Be Too Late; We’ll Likely Overshoot Full Employment This Year; We Central Bankers Must Be Very Vigilant; Base Case Is For 3 Rate Hikes in 2018, Could Be More.”
[ZH: something changed this week]
Are Kaplan’s comments to be interpreted bullish or bearish for the struggling bond market? Are bonds under pressure because of heightened concerns for future inflation – or is it instead more because of a fear of tighter monetary policy? Confused by the spike in yields back in 1994, the Fed questioned whether the bond market preferred a slow approach with rate hikes or, instead, more aggressive tightening measures that would keep a lid on inflation.
Just as a carefree Janet Yellen packs her bookcase for the Brookings Institute, the Powell Fed’s job has suddenly morphed from easy to challenging. With tax cut stimulus in the pipeline and signs of a backdrop supportive to higher inflation, a growing contingent within the FOMC may view more aggressive tightening measures as necessary support for an increasingly skittish bond market. At the minimum, the backdrop might have central bankers thinking twice before coming hastily to rescue vulnerable stock markets.
The marketplace has begun to ponder risk again.
February 1 – Bloomberg (Sarah Ponczek and Lu Wang): “Coordinated selling in stocks and bonds is making life miserable for investors in one of the most popular asset allocation strategies: those lumped together under the rubric of 60/40 mutual funds. Counter to their owners’ hope, that pain in one will be assuaged by the other, this week has seen both fixed-income and equities tumbling as concern has built about the pace of Federal Reserve interest rate increases. Funds that blend assets have borne the brunt, suffering their worst weekly performance since Feb 2009.”
Stock prices have been going up for a long time – and seemingly straight up for a while now. Bonds, well, they’ve been in a 30-year bull market. Myriad strategies melding stocks and fixed-income have done exceptionally well. And so long as bonds rally when stocks suffer their occasional (mild and temporary) pullbacks, one could cling to the view that diversified stock/bond holdings were a low risk portfolio strategy (even at inflated prices for both). And for some time now, leveraging a portfolio of stocks and bonds has been pure genius. The above Bloomberg story ran Thursday. By Friday’s close, scores of perceived low-risk strategies were probably questioning underlying premises. A day that saw heavy losses in equities, along with losses in Treasuries, corporate Credit and commodities, must have been particularly rough for leveraged “risk parity” strategies.
It’s worth noting that the U.S. dollar caught a bid in Friday’s “Risk Off” market dynamic. Just when the speculator Crowd was comfortably positioned for dollar weakness (in currencies, commodities and elsewhere), the trade abruptly reverses. It’s my view that heightened currency market volatility and uncertainty had begun to impact the general risk-taking and liquidity backdrop. And this week we see the VIX surge to 17.31, the high since the election.
The cost of market risk protection just jumped meaningfully. Past spikes in market volatility were rather brief affairs – mere opportunities to sell volatility (derivatives/options) for fun and hefty profit. I believe markets have now entered a period of heightened volatility. To go along with currency market volatility, there’s now significant bond market and policy uncertainty. The premise that Treasuries – and, only to a somewhat lesser extent, corporate Credit – will rally reliably on equity market weakness is now suspect. Indeed, faith that central bankers are right there to backstop the risk markets at the first indication of trouble may even be in some doubt with bond yields rising on inflation concerns. When push comes to shove, central bankers will foremost champion bond markets.
While attention was fixed on U.S. bond yields and equities, it’s worth noting developments with another 2018 Theme:
February 2 – Wall Street Journal (Shen Hong): “Chinese stocks had their worst week since 2016, with fresh concerns about Beijing’s campaign to cut financial risk and predictions of a slowing economy helping erase half of the market’s year-to-date gains in just a few days… Mr. Zhang [chief executive of CYAMLAN Investment] said the increasingly frequent market intervention by the ‘national team’ to prop up the major indexes could prove counterproductive. ‘It’s OK to bring in the national team when there’s a huge crisis but if it’s there everyday, it will create even more jitters,’ Mr. Zhang said. ‘If you see policemen everywhere, don’t you feel less safe?’”
The Shanghai Composite dropped 2.7% this week. Losses would have been headline-making if not for a 2.1% rally off of Friday morning lows.
The Shenzhen Exchange A index sank 6.6% this week, and China’s growth stock ChiNext Index was hit 6.3%. The small cap CSI 500 index fell 5.9%, and that was despite a 2.1% rally off Friday’s lows (attributed to “national team” buying). Financial stress has been quietly gaining momentum in China, with HNA and small bank liquidity issues the most prominent. As global liquidity tightens, I would expect Chinese Credit issues to be added to a suddenly lengthening list of global concerns.
Unless risk markets can quickly regain upside momentum, I expect “Risk Off” dynamics to gather force. “Risk On” melt-up dynamics were surely fueled by myriad sources of speculative leverage, including derivative strategies (i.e. in-the-money call options). As confirmed this week, euphoric speculative blow-offs are prone to abrupt reversals. Derivative players that were aggressively buying S&P futures to dynamically hedge derivative exposures one day can turn aggressive sellers just a session or two later. And in the event of an unanticipated bout of self-reinforcing de-risking/de-leveraging, it might not take long for the most abundant market liquidity backdrop imaginable to morph into an inhospitable liquidity quandary.
February 1 – Bloomberg (Sarah Ponczek): “When stocks fall, investors typically pull money out of the market. But when U.S. equities suffered their worst two-day slump since May, some traders didn’t blink an eye. Exchange-traded funds took in $78.5 billion in January, exceeding the previous monthly record by nearly 30%. ETFs saw close to $4 billion a day in inflows even on the stock market’s down days, according to Eric Balchunas, a Bloomberg Intelligence senior ETF analyst…”
Adding January’s $79 billion ETF inflow to 2017’s record $476 billion puts the 13-month total easily over half a Trillion. If the ETF Complex is hit by significant outflows, it’s not clear who will take the other side of the trade. This is especially the case if the hedge funds move to hedge market risk and reduce net long exposures. And let there be no doubt, the leveraged speculators will be following ETF flows like hawks (“predators”).
And I’m having difficulty clearing some earlier (Bloomberg) interview comments from my mind:
January 24 – Bloomberg (Nishant Kumar and Erik Schatzker): “Billionaire hedge-fund manager Ray Dalio said that the bond market has slipped into a bear phase and warned that a rise in yields could spark the biggest crisis for fixed-income investors in almost 40 years. ‘A 1% rise in bond yields will produce the largest bear market in bonds that we have seen since 1980 to 1981,’ Bridgewater Associates founder Dalio said… in Davos…”
Dalio: “’There is a lot of cash on the sidelines’. … We’re going to be inundated with cash, he said. “If you’re holding cash, you’re going to feel pretty stupid.’”
Here I am, as usual, plugging away late into Friday night. So, who am I to take exception to insight from a billionaire hedge fund genius. But to discuss the possibility of the worst bond bear market since 1981 – and then suggest those holding cash “are going to feel pretty stupid”? Seems to be a disconnect there somewhere. Going forward, I expect stupid cash to outperform scores of brilliant strategies.
The historic “Financial Sphere” Bubble has ensured that ungodly amounts of “money” and leverage have accumulated in The Grand Crowded Trade of Financial Speculation.
And as we detailed earlier – it doesn’t get any more crowded that record long equities and record short bonds!
Avatar enables pupil to watch and participate in lessons from home via a tablet
The Pentagon’s official outline for its use of nuclear force was denounced as “radical” and “extreme” by prominent anti-nuclear weapons groups when it was released Friday afternoon—confirming peace advocates’ worst fears that the Trump administration would seek to expand the use of nuclear force.
“Who in their right mind thinks we should expand the list of scenarios in which we might launch nuclear weapons?” asked Peace Action in a statement.
“Who let Dr. Strangelove write the Nuclear Posture Review?”
The Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) calls for the development of smaller warheads that the military believes would be seen as more “usable” against other nations.
“In support of a strong and credible nuclear deterrent, the United States must…maintain a nuclear force with a diverse, flexible range of nuclear yield and delivery modes that are ready, capable, and credible,” reads the report, which serves as the first updated document the U.S. has released regarding its perceived nuclear threats since 2010.
In addition to “diversifying” its nuclear arsenal, the Pentagon notes that it will seek to “expand the range of credible U.S. options for responding to nuclear or non-nuclear strategic attack,” raising concerns that President Donald Trump will argue for the use of nuclear force as a deterrent—a significant departure from previous administrations which saw nuclear weapons as an option only for retaliation.
“The risk of use for nuclear weapons has always been unacceptably high,” said Beatrice Fihn, executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).
“The new Trump Nuclear Doctrine is to deliberately increase that risk. It is an all-out attempt to take nuclear weapons out of the silos and onto the battlefield. This policy is a shift from one where the use of nuclear weapons is possible to one where the use of nuclear weapons is likely.”
Derek Johnson, head of Global Zero, called the NPR “a radical plan written by extreme elements and nuclear ideologues in Trump’s inner circle who believe nuclear weapons are a wonder drug that can solve our national security challenges.”
“Trump’s insistence that we need more and better weapons is already spurring countries to follow in his footsteps,” he added. “Nuclear arms-racing is a steep and slippery slope; we’d do well to learn the lessons of the former Soviet Union, whose collapse was accelerated by its unsustainable nuclear ambitions.”
As Paul Craig Roberts summed up so eloquently, the new US nuclear posture is a reckless, irresponsible, and destabilizing departure from the previous attitude toward nuclear weapons. The use of even a small part of the existing arsenal of the United States would be sufficient to destroy life on earth. Yet, the posture review calls for more weapons, speaks of nuclear weapons as “usable,” and justifies their use in First Strikes even against countries that do not have nuclear weapons.
This is an insane escalation. It tells every country that the US government believes in the first use of nuclear weapons against any and every country. Nuclear powers such as Russia and China must see this to be a massive increase in the threat level from the United States. Those responsible for this document should be committed to insane aslyums, not left in policy positions where they can put it into action.
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Drone racing is a high-tech sport sweeping across the United States. Millennials are rushing to become the next drone pilot building these fast and agile multi-rotor crafts in their parents’ basements.
All of these drones are controlled through FPV (First Person View) systems. FPV is a type of flying system where pilots use cameras to fly drones as if they were sitting in the cockpit. Some pilots fly using FPV monitors, whereas others use specialized goggles to give them a more immersive experience.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Michael Huerta said back in March 2017 that more than 777,000 drone registrations have been filed with the agency.
With that being said, the Federal Aviation Administration has created a list of rules called the Small Unmanned Aircraft Regulations (Part 107), which outlines what not to do while piloting a drone in U.S. airspace.
Granted, in the latest installment of absolute foolishness, the Federal Aviation Administration is investigating an incident in which someone piloted a racing drone feet from a jetliner on approach to land at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas.
Ian Gregor, public affairs for the FAA Western-Pacific Region said, “We became aware of this incident this afternoon and we are investigating.”
A person who goes by the name, ‘James Jayo Older’ posted the video online to a Facebook group called “1% FPV.” In the post, he said, “Found the SD card.. 1%ers only.” The video shows the racing drone hovering in the flight path and then dive bombing the jetliner in a swoop maneuver.
By using landmarks in the video, the incident occurred approximately 3.14 miles away from McCarran International Airport, which could be a violation of FAA rules if the operator failed to the call air traffic control tower.
Nevertheless, dive bombing a jetliner is an unsafe practice, and the operator “could face fines from of up to $1,437 per violation, while businesses that fly unsafely can face fines of up to $32,666 per violation.,” said Las Vegas Now.
To make matters worse, the operator could also “face federal criminal penalties including fines of up to $250,000 and/or imprisonment for up to three years,” added Las Vegas Now.
Drone organizations have already condemned the incident.
“This pilot’s actions not only endangered the flying public but has the potential to discredit an entire sUAS industry,” Drone U said. “It is the opinion of Drone U and its members that the pilot receives swift and just punishment for this example of irresponsible and reckless flight. There is no excuse for this type of criminal behavior.”
“All drone and model aircraft pilots must stay well clear of manned aircraft. We condemn the type of operation depicted in this video,” said Chad Budreau, director of government affairs for the Academy of Model Aeronautics, in a statement.
“Anyone who violates aviation regulations or endangers public safety must be held accountable for their actions. We urge the FAA to take strong enforcement action against this drone pilot, and against any future violators,” he added.
The latest policy recommendations by the influential Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC), one of the most well-respected and listened-to experts in Russia – to say nothing of the entire former Soviet space – is causing quite a stir by waxing nostalgically about the Obama years and even suggesting that Moscow should embrace the American “deep state”.
Mr. Andrey Kortunov is one of the most brilliant minds in Russia and earned his place as the Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC), and his words accordingly carry much weight for the fact that they set the tone for countless other analysts in the country and even an untold number of policymakers who look to him for guidance.
That’s why it caused quite a stir when he published his latest recommendation earlier this week at the famous Valdai Club titled “Russian Approaches to the United States: Algorithm Change Is Overdue”, in which he waxed nostalgically about the Obama years and even suggested that Moscow should embrace the American “deep state”.
So as not to put words in his mouth, the relevant passages are republished in their entirety below:
“First, it is better to avoid demonizing the Deep State, which is perceived by many in Moscow as the center of world evil and the stronghold of the pathological haters of Russia. Of course, most of the State Department or the CIA officials, the Congress staff, experts from the main think tanks are not Vladimir Putin’s fans. But these people, at least, have considerable experience of interaction with Moscow and can hardly be considered stubborn paranoids, exalted conspiracy theorists or genetic Russophobes. Deep State consists of rationally thinking professionals, who are always easier to deal with than romantic amateurs are. With all its shortcomings, it is the Deep State that limits Donald Trump’s most exotic and potentially most dangerous foreign policy oddities.
Second, it’s time to change the attitude toward the Democratic Party leadership. For some reason (probably because of inertia) the Barack Obama administration is constantly remembered in Russia in the worst possible way, with the two latest presidents constantly juxtaposed. How is Obama bad, and Trump is good? The stubborn facts show otherwise. For example, Obama pursued a consistent policy of rapprochement with Iran, and Trump returned to the most severe pressure on Tehran. Obama followed the international consensus on the status of Jerusalem, and Trump destroyed this consensus. Obama did not resort to direct military action against Bashar Assad, and Trump did not hesitate to give an order to launch missiles against the Syrian Al- Shayrat airbase. Well, who after all created more problems for Russia — Democrats or Republicans?”
Mr. Kortunov did indeed talk about other aspects of US-Russian relations, including the need for a bottom-up approach to improving his country’s soft power in America, but none of those proposals are controversial, at least not when compared to what he wrote about above.
A diversity of respectful views in any discourse is symptomatic of a healthy democracy, and Russian society is no different in this respect, which is why the dialogue on this topic would be greatly enriched by presenting some counterpoints to Mr. Kortunov’s article.
The first is that the US’ military, intelligence, and diplomatic bureaucracies (“deep state”) are experienced and rational like Mr. Kortunov describes them as, but that they nevertheless bear primary responsibility for the deterioration in US-Russian relations under both the Obama and Trump Presidencies because the bulk of these professional bureaucrats always retain their jobs between leadership transitions in the country.
The President is supposed to determine the broad trajectory of their work in consultation with his closest advisors, some of whom are handpicked by him and approved by Congress to lead the relevant institutions of the “deep state” while others are more informal, but the rank-and-file members of the “deep state” are still largely more responsible for the execution of policy in practice than anyone else.
Unprecedentedly, many of them oppose President Trump’s stated desire to improve relations with Russia and have worked to unconstitutionally offset his plans, and the pressure that they’ve put on him to this end explains why he’s undertaken decisively anti-Russian policies during his first year in office despite his campaign pledge to do the opposite.
Seeing as how most of these “deep state” individuals naturally remained in the same positions that they had during the Obama Administration and would have probably still retained their jobs under Hillary’s Presidency, it’s inaccurate to attribute the deterioration of Russian-American ties to President Trump personally while overlooking the actions of the “deep state” that he’s still trying to reform to the best of his ability.
The “deep state” is rational – too rational, it can be argued – because it embraces a Neo-Realist paradigm of International Relations that sometimes correlates with Trump’s own views on certain topics but other times contradicts them like in the case of Russia, and the internal power struggle between Trump and the “deep state” is what’s really to blame for the worsening of bilateral relations, not the “amateur” President’s “romanticism” like Mr. Kortunov insists.
For these reasons, it can be argued that Mr. Kortunov’s belief that the “deep state” “can hardly be considered stubborn paranoids, exalted conspiracy theorists or genetic Russophobes” isn’t exactly accurate, since it’s indeed full of “stubborn paranoids” under the dual influence of the neoconservatives’ Neo-Realism and the Obama-Clinton worldview of “militant liberalism”.
That said, the “conspiracy theories” that he references are just a “deep state” infowar distraction to deceive the voting masses while the assertion that such a thing as a “genetic Russophobe” exists wrongly implies that an individual’s political views are irreversibly predetermined by their DNA.
To flip around Mr. Kortunov’s last comment on the matter, it’s more realistic to assert that “with all his shortcomings, it is Donald Trump that limits the Deep State’s most exotic and potentially most dangerous foreign policy oddities.”
Relatedly, Mr. Kortunov’s views on the “deep state” clearly influence his attitude towards the Democrats and specifically the Obama Administration, which he thinks is unfairly “remembered in Russia in the worst possible way” because “the stubborn facts show otherwise” and apparently disprove the prevailing notion that “Obama (is) bad, and Trump is good.”
Mr. Kortunov thinks that Obama had pure intentions in signing the nuclear agreement with Iran, though it can cynically be argued that his “deep state” was in fact trying to co-opt the Islamic Republic’s “moderate/reformist” ruling elite in a bid to tip the scales to their favor in the country’s own “deep state” competition for influence with the “conservative/principalist” military-security faction, the failure of which would explain why Trump was tasked with “returning to the most severe pressure on Tehran.”
The enduring presence of most of the “deep state’s” personnel between presidential administrations doesn’t preclude the US from pivoting between policies but actually allows such moves to be more smoothly executed, as can be seen from the example of Nixon’s rapprochement with China in spite of Johnson’s antagonism towards it; Bush Sr. “betraying” Iraq even though Reagan aligned with it; Obama signing the nuclear deal against the former Bush Jr. Administration’s wishes; and Trump dismantling his predecessor’s plans.
Although the President might set the tone for the overall direction that each respective policy should go in and this sometimes reverses what the previous administration did, it’s ultimately the “deep state” that puts these ideas into practice and is able to maintain a degree of strategic continuity that advances America’s national interests regardless, though the case of Trump’s vision for US-Russia relations also shows that this same “deep state” can also conspire to obstruct the President’s will.
Another “stubborn fact” at variance with Mr. Kortunov’s nostalgia for Democrat rule is the practical significance of Obama “following the international consensus on the status of Jerusalem” and Trump “destroying” it since it inaccurately hints that the former was somehow ‘pro-Palestinian’ and that the latter’s announcement tangibly changed something on the ground, neither of which are true because Obama was actually very pro-Israel and Trump’s decision only stands to affect foreign aid recipients who voted against the US and the UN.
Looking beyond Obama’s highly publicized personal rivalry with Netanyahu and his populist rhetoric on the Palestinian issue, nothing that he did during his two terms had any influence on Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem and unilateral claim to the entirety of the city being its capital; likewise, Trump’s words didn’t change any of this reality either and only resulted in word games being played at the UN and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, neither of which did anything other than attempt to comfort the Palestinians.
As for Mr. Kortunov’s juxtaposition of Obama’s refusal to “resort to direct military action against Bashar Assad” with Trump “not hesitating to give an order to launch missiles against the Syrian Al- Shayrat airbase”, he’s totally overlooking the 44th President’s responsibility for the theater-wide “Arab Spring” Color Revolutions and the resultant Hybrid War of Terror on Syria which dealt incomparably more damage to Syria and its democratically elected President’s standing that Trump’s handful of one-off missiles.
In addition, Trump only ordered the attack because he was under intense “deep state” pressure to do so after having been caught in a Catch-22 trap where he was forced to “put his money where his mouth is” and respond to the false-flag chemical weapons attack that violated his “red line”, but truthfully speaking, what Mr. Kortunov might really resent is that it only took a few million dollars’ worth of missiles to call President Putin’s bluff in hinting at a military response to the exact same scenario in 2013 that got Obama to back down at the time.
To respond to Mr.Kortunov’s rhetorical question of “who after all created more problems for Russia — Democrats or Republicans?”, the reader should be reminded that the Obama Administration presided over or was outright responsible for the “Arab Spring” and its attendant regime changes, the War on Syria, the 2011-12 anti-government unrest in Moscow, EuroMaidan and the Ukrainian Civil War, the anti-Russian sanctions, and the fake news scheme of “Kremlin interference” in order to suppress Russia’s publicly funded international media outlets and harass their employees, among many other examples.
In comparison, Trump merely continued most of the policy trajectories that Obama and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton first initiated, and even then he’s tried to resist some of the “deep state’s” pressure when it comes to Russia, so as bad as he’s been for Moscow’s interests, one should wonder how much worse Hillary would have been she entered into the Presidency and allowed the “deep state” to do as it pleases.
Mr. Kortunov seems to have wanted to spark a serious conversation about how Russia’s “deep state” should respond to the disappointment that it experienced throughout Trump’s first year in office, and if that was his intention, then he remarkably succeeded by controversially reinterpreting the Obama years as something to apparently be nostalgic about and boldly suggesting that his government reconsider its negative attitude to Trump’s “deep state” foes.
In the spirit of dialogue that Mr. Kortunov implicitly encouraged by publishing such a provocative piece, it’s only fitting that a rebuttal be presented to challenge his premise that the Democrats and their “deep state” handlers are supposedly more preferable to Russia than Trump is, especially seeing as how he selectively pointed to a few decontextualized examples that were presumably cherry-picked in order to promote his argument.
With all due respect to this prestigious gentleman, his entire notion is flat-out wrong and shows that he doesn’t at all understand Trump’s “Kraken”-like leadership and his never-ending struggle to survive the “deep state’s” permanent Clintonian Counter-Revolution that’s being waged in trying to undermine the Second American Revolution that the President is trying to carry out in America’s domestic and foreign affairs.
Instead of ignoring the plethora of evidence proving the Obama Administration’s hostility to Russia and its international interests, Mr. Kortunov should have at least made a superficial reference to it because this glaring omission implies a deliberate partiality towards that political faction and the “deep state” in general, which is fine to have in principle but nevertheless casts doubt on how effective his proposals would be in the overall sense of things if they were ever put into practice.
Mr. Kortunov is evidently unaware that the same “deep state” that he finds attractive in contrast to Trump had a controlling influence in determining the Obama Administration’s anti-Russian policies that the 44th President’s Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ended up implementing with ruinous consequences for Moscow’s grand strategic interests, and that she would have given the “deep state” free rein to do whatever it wanted had she won unlike Trump’s willingness to challenge its most extreme tendencies (though with mixed results).
Having said that, pragmatic working relations between Russia and the US’ “deep states” are inevitable because there isn’t any alternative to interacting with any national counterpart’s collection of military, intelligence, and diplomatic figures no matter how much one may disagree with their policies unless ties between the two sides are formally suspended, which isn’t foreseeable but would in any case still allow for the existence of communication backchannels.
What Mr. Kortunov is lobbying for is something altogether different because he wants Russian decision makers to reconceptualize the American “deep state” as a ‘positive’, ‘moderating’, and ‘responsible’ force against what he characterizes as Trump’s ”romantic”, “amateurish”, “most exotic and potentially most dangerous foreign policy oddities”, which is ironically a very “romantic” and “exotic” view to have of the US’ most dangerous anti-Russian institutional forces.
In all actuality, however, the “deep state” and its Democrat allies are the real reason why Trump hasn’t been able to succeed in his pledge to improve Russian-American relations, and these two problems shouldn’t ever be confused as part of the solution that’s needed to reverse this downward spiral, nor should a tactical partnership with these two actors ever be considered if Moscow hopes to maintain the upper hand in the New Cold War.