Research & Insights #25

#UkraineWar – “If Russia wins, the imperial system of the United States will collapse,” announces Emmanuel Todd

Anthropologist and demographer Emmanuel Todd believes that World War III has begun. “It is obvious that the conflict, by moving from a limited territorial war to a global economic confrontation, between the whole of the West on the one hand and Russia backed by China on the other, has become a world war.” The man who predicted the fall of the Soviet Union in 1976 by observing the rise in infant mortality believes that the United States is in many ways on the decline. “In America, mortality is rising and life expectancy is falling. All the newspapers write: the West is normal and Putin is a mental patient. Russians are bloodthirsty monsters. Demographics say otherwise: Russia is more stable and its society has become more civilized.”

#EconomicSanctions – “The impact of sanctions against Russia is disappearing” – Jacques Sapir

According to the French economist, the sanctions aimed at depriving the Russian economy of its imports of goods and services are no longer effective. The recent study by the American think tank “Silverado” confirms that Russian imports from various countries, including China, have replaced those from Western countries. It remains difficult to estimate the share of imports from friendly countries (e.g. Turkey, Armenia or Kazakhstan) which are, in reality, goods supplied by countries supposedly applying sanctions against Russia. As Jacques Sapir points out, “if imports from EU countries have fallen sharply, they have fallen only slightly in the case of the USA”. The latest IMF forecasts predict a growth of 0.3% of GDP in the Russian economy in 2023.

#UkraineWar – Is it in America’s interest to keep the war in Ukraine going?

A recently released study by the Rand Corporation assesses that a prolonged conflict in Ukraine would not benefit the United States. The think tank that advises the U.S. military reveals that restoring full territorial control of Ukraine is not that important, and imposes costs that far outweigh the benefits. According to the organization, the excessive focus on Ukraine distracts from the second front of the war against a new player: China. “The ability of the United States to focus on its other global priorities – in particular, competition with China – will remain limited as long as the war absorbs senior U.S. policymakers’ time and military resources. A longer war that increases Russia’s dependence on China will give the latter advantages in its competition with the United States.”

#De-dollarization – “Gold is money. Everything else is credit.” J.P. Morgan

In 2022, central banks bought 1,136 tons of gold, the highest level in 55 years, according to the World Gold Council. The organization attributes the spike to geopolitical tensions and high inflation, noting that the majority of these purchases were unreported. Central banks are net buyers of the yellow metal for the 13th consecutive year. One has to go back to 1967 to find such a volume of purchases. This dynamic led a few years later to the end of the Bretton Woods Agreement. On August 15, 1971, U.S. President Richard Nixon announced on television the end of the convertibility of the dollar into gold. In concrete terms, the United States defaulted on its promise to exchange its dollars at a fixed rate for gold ($35 per ounce).

#MultipolarWorld – For Zoltan Pozsar, a multipolar world requires a new international monetary system

The monetary order based on the US dollar since 1945 is threatened by de-dollarization and central bank digital currencies (CBDCs), according to Zoltan Pozsar, economist at Credit Suisse. While de-dollarization is a frequently discussed topic, CBDCs are expected to accelerate this transition. Indeed, he says, the Chinese have realized “that financial sanctions are implemented through the balance sheets of western banks, and that these institutions form the backbone of the correspondent banking system that underpins the dollar.” To internationalize the renminbi without risking Washington’s sanctions, China must develop a new correspondent financial network, “all without referencing the dollar or touching the western banking system”. According to the IMF, more than half of the world’s central banks are exploring or developing digital currencies.

#NordStream – Who sabotaged the Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines?

Recently heard on the Senate floor, U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland said, “Senator Cruz, like you, I am, and I think the administration is, very gratified to know that Nord Stream 2 is now, as you like to say, a hunk of metal at the bottom of the sea.” In the absence of conclusive evidence, German experts have made no progress in their investigation. Prosecutor General Peter Frank told the newspaper “Welt am Sonntag” that “Russia’s responsibility for the Nord Stream explosions cannot be proven.” Meanwhile, the German export-based economic model is in crisis. According to German economist Holger Zschaepitz: “The country’s export surplus has been more than halved year-on-year in 2022 due to rising energy costs, the lowest figure since 2000 and the fifth consecutive decline.”

#EconomicWar – Europe increases sanctions against Russian oil

Since February 5, the European Union has banned almost all maritime imports of Russian refined oil. This new measure comes two months after the one targeting crude oil. In addition, companies based in the EU, the G7 and Australia are prohibited from providing services allowing the transport of Russian oil by sea (trade, freight, insurance, shipowners, etc.) if the price per barrel exceeds a revisable ceiling. The purpose of these sanctions is to limit Russia’s oil revenues, while maintaining Russian energy supplies to the market. Russia is circumventing these sanctions by developing its own fleet of tankers, which it operates and insures itself, as do its main customers, China and India. According to trading giant Trafigura, the “shadow fleet” of vessels carrying Russian oil around the world totals about 600 tankers.