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Saved Stories – None: The Post-Soviet Legacy Of The Karabakh Conflict – OpEd

An Armenian soldier in Nagorno-Karabakh fires artillery towards Azerbaijan positions. Photo Credit: Armenian Defense Ministry

By Leila Alieva*

Until the most recent outbreak of fighting on September 27, the Karabakh conflict had experienced 26 years of a status quo with periodic ceasefire violations, the most intense of which happened in 2016. The root of the conflict lay in the demand for Karabakh’s autonomy within Azerbaijan by its majority Armenian population, and was complicated by the involvement of Armenia and Russia, as well as the violent deportation of minority populations.

The most recent round of talks in Washington saw the defence ministries of both countries merely blaming the other for violating the ceasefire. The discussions did not last long, undermining any hopes of an effective agreement.

This lack of progress in negotiations and the US’s decreasing interest in the region, alongside Turkey’s assertive policies, Aliyev’s desire to boost his ratings and the increasingly nationalistic rhetoric from Armenian prime minister Nikol Pashinyan, all make further ceasefire violations extremely likely.

And Russia’s role in the Karabakh conflict, as in the other secessionist conflicts in the region, has been key.

Abulfaz Elchibey, the second president of Azerbaijan, quickly declared that the road to national security and prosperity lay in independence from Russia and removed Soviet military bases from the country. In contrast, Armenia continued two centuries of dependence by signing a defence and security agreement with Russia that entrenched Moscow’s control.

In the initial war of the 1990s, Russia used the advancement of troops to pressure insurgent Azerbaijan who had refused Russia’s peacekeepers, border troops and military bases.

The Soviet legacy has also been apparent since the 1994 ceasefire. The two parties have been involved in negotiations under the auspices of the OSCE Minsk group, consisting of representatives of the US, Russia and France.

One proposal, from US co-chairman Jack Maresca, suggested cooperation in strategic energy projects, which would allow compromise in exchange for oil transit via Armenia’s territory. The failure of this “peace pipeline” was largely due to the lasting influence of a centralised Soviet Union in which all economic relations were mediated by Moscow.

This meant that Azerbaijan was an energy donor to resource-poor Armenia, often at the expense of its own citizens. Thus, energy cooperation could not become the regulator of political relations for countries that continued to rely on Russia in economic and security areas.

After the 2018 Velvet Revolution, Pashinyan tried to move Armenia out of Russia’s sphere of influence but failed to extend this to the security area. This meant he effectively allowed Russia to preserve its power over the Karabakh conflict.

In the meantime, the EU, US and other Western players seemed resigned to playing the role of tolerating Russia’s actions, thus allowing it to continue its colonial logic.

A further Soviet legacy that affected attempts to broker a viable peace was a security discourse based on historical grievances. These narratives reflect the victimisation felt by both parties while ignoring much longer historical periods of cooperation and coexistence. Before and after the Bolshevik era, the nations traded and intermingled, forming friendships and intermarrying especially in the urban centres of the South Caucasus. This version of events helped Russian politicians justify their monopoly on Armenian security and aided Yerevan in consolidating power in Karabakh for nearly three decades.

One way to address the violence committed by both sides would be to create joint independent commissions, which might also serve as a way to undermine the symbolic power of victimisation and narrative of endless conflict.

States need to be held responsible for violations of International law. While the occupation of nearly 20 per cent of Azerbaijan’s territories and the resulting IDP and refugee crisis were met with four UN security council resolutions demanding that the Armenians withdraw, in reality none were ever implemented.

The military gains instead became a part of the negotiation package, with Armenia creating a buffer security zone for the population of Nagorny Karabakh. This sent a clear signal that the law can be subject to alteration by force.

The EU and US could now help the two countries see that they have no choice but future co-existence, and underscore the necessity to build the foundation for this cooperation.  This must be based in accountability.

Neither Armenia nor Azerbaijan were held responsible for the rights of the minorities on each other’s territories or for crimes against humanity committed during the war. This meant that the possibility of a military solution to the conflict remained a viable option – and it also served as a way that political leaders could distract their populations from domestic tensions.

Nationalist rhetoric and policy is and has been used by all regional actors as a convenient way of boosting domestics ratings instead of reforming and liberalising their own governance. But this war is also fuelled by deep structural deficiencies.

The revision of Armenia’s security paradigm and democratic changes in Azerbaijan could help deconstruct traditional, harmful narratives. The protection of minority rights should be a norm across the South Caucacus – and minimizing Russia’s presence in key areas would be the most reliable way to future peaceful co-existence and cooperation.

*Dr Leila Alieva is an affiliate of Russian and East European Studies, Oxford University School for Global and Area Studies, and a part-time tutor at the Oxford Department for Continued Education. She was also founder and president of two think-tanks in Azerbaijan.

This publication was prepared under the “Giving Voice, Driving Change – from the Borderland to the Steppes Project” implemented with the financial support of the Foreign Ministry of Norway.

The article The Post-Soviet Legacy Of The Karabakh Conflict – OpEd appeared first on Eurasia Review.

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Saved Stories – None: Bolivarian Socialism And The Anti-Blockade Law In Venezuela – OpEd

Flag of Venezuela.

In 2017, Atilio Boron – an Argentine political scientist and Professor at the University of Buenos Aires – wrote, “Revolutions aren’t carried out neatly and with the inexorable logic of trigonometric theorems. Revolution is like an immense cauldron in which historical processes are forged, with all their human limitations and social contradictions.” This statement has assumed renewed significance as leftists debate the contentious anti-blockade law passed by the Venezuelan National Constituent Assembly (ANC) on October 8, 2020. 

The law opens the door for privatization in strategic economic sectors and grants the government the option to act with confidentiality and secrecy while the US blockade and sanctions are in effect. However, it was clarified that the state-run oil company Petroleum of Venezuela (PDVSA) will not be privatized and full sovereignty over hydrocarbons and other natural resources will not be given up. Furthermore, while the law favors private initiatives, the Chavista organizer Oliver Rivas says that “it is also the case that it allows for the participation of the state and organized popular power”. 

The Bolivarian Revolution

Behind the intense discussion of the anti-blockade law, one can observe the problems posed by advancing socialism through the electoral system and within the contradictory and unfavorable context of representative democracy and property regimes that support capitalism. Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution – initiated in 1998 by the late socialist president Hugo Chavez – attempted to facilitate transformational social changes by operating inside the bourgeoisie state apparatuses and gradually subverting it. 

Venezuela’s “process of change [el proceso]” turned out to be extremely difficult. As Juan Carlos Monedero says, “Even when popular parties with redistributive agendas have won electoral majorities and gained, in principle, access to the governmental levers of power, they face a host of obstacles in implementing their campaign promises. They do not enter into full possession of the state, as if it were a new home: the rooms may be booby-trapped, the stairs barricaded; there may be snipers in the kitchen—shooters who are unseen because they are taken for granted, and all the more effective because unseen.”

The debate around the anti-blockade law is a contemporary manifestation of the sustained efforts to negotiate through the obstacles set up by the pre-existing bourgeoisie state. When Chavez came to power, a new economic model – ideologically oiled with the aspirations of an ultimate transition to socialism – was adopted. This growth model consisted of a combination of commercial surpluses (guaranteed by oil exports) and subsequent expansion of domestic demand by means of cheaper imports (which acted as indirect subsidies to domestic consumption), public investments, and social expenditures. All this was interspersed with increasing expropriations, nationalizations and the augmentation of worker presence on state company boards. 

In addition to oil revenues, Chavez also tried to diversify the economy. He invested billions of dollars from oil revenues in agriculture, massive educational programs and in new industrial production facilities, “ranging from cell-phones to automobiles to bicycles to petrochemical products.” Yet, the final result of these diversification efforts turned out to be limited due to two reasons. Firstly, the presence of an overvalued currency that makes imports significantly cheaper than domestically produced goods acted as an impediment in the development of diversified productive forces. Overvaluation took place in 2003 when the government established currency controls in the midst of increasing political tension and under the pressure of massive capital flight. Under the new rules, companies that wanted to import goods and services had to buy dollars from a state administration called CADIVI. While the measure helped to fight capital outflow, the exchange rate between the bolivar and the dollar overvalued the former, thus encouraging capitalists to change their bolivars for dollars which are sold cheaply by the State and import products from elsewhere than to produce them in the country. In this way, the policy of an overvalued bolivar discouraged diversification. 

Secondly, the combined effects of a US-backed imperialist offensive and an internal counter-revolution carried out by a murderous, coup-mongering opposition greatly damaged Venezuela’s over-all progress in the diversification of production. Reactionary groups manufactured a series of macro-economically destabilizing offensives, aimed at the violent destruction of the Chavista administration. Anti-Chavista attacks have taken the form of induced shortages, speculation, financial shocks, sanctions on production, violent uprisings (guarimbas), paramilitary activity, assassinations of Chavista leaders and organized disinformation campaigns.  

Chavez’s neo-developmental and state-driven plan was coupled with a communal-socialist architecture tasked with the facilitation of self-governance through participatory forums. The rationale behind this idea was clearly explained by President Chavez: “We have to head towards the creation of a communal state. And the old bourgeois state, which is still alive and kicking – this we have to progressively dismantle, at the same time as we build up the communal state, the socialist state, the Bolivarian state, a state that is capable of carrying through a revolution”. 

Communal councils (groupings of families involved in self-governance projects—in densely populated urban areas, two hundred to four hundred families; in rural areas, fifty to one hundred families) were established in 2006, followed by the creation of communes (self-governing units which aggregated smaller existing units) in 2010. There are more than 45,000 communal councils. Many have been joined together into larger communes, of which there are more than 1500. The communal councils are brought together with “social property enterprises” which are socialized units of production.

By unevenly reversing neoliberalism through (a) increased public spending (b) the construction of a participatory governance structure and (c) nationalization, appropriation and development of industries and companies, socialism was re-introduced into the political lexicon. The discursive and economic re-articulation of socialism antagonized and alienated the elites who had thought of the state as their instrument of self-enrichment. Therefore, the ties between the Chavistas and the private sector remained tenuous. In order to re-dominate the state, the capitalists ruthlessly unleashed an “economic war”, consisting of induced inflation, orchestrated shortages, a relative decrease of imports with respect to the foreign exchange delivered to the private sector, hoarding by oligopolistic companies that dominate the markets of specific goods and smuggling (mainly to Colombia). 

To achieve a minimal level of politico-economic stability, the Chavista administration has had to establish tactical alliances with the bourgeoisie. These alliances have a contradictory character. On the one hand, they slow down the tempo of revolution by giving concessions to the bourgeoisie. On the other hand, they prepare a semi-stable environment with reduced volatility, providing the government with an elbow room for future maneuvers. This conflictual framework of social transformation is summed up by the Marxist theorist Roland Boer in the following maxim: “what is possible in the existing conditions determines the conduct on the path, while the finally possible ensures that one does not mistake partial achievements for the goal itself, even concealing that goal”. 

The Contradictory Nature of the Anti-blockade Law

The concrete contextualization of the anti-blockade law in the richly-textured history of the Bolivarian Revolution makes it clear that it is an embodiment of the contradictory tendencies faced by a process of change. Due to blockade, sanctions and an economic war, Venezuela’s national wealth has rapidly depleted. To temporarily end the brutal counter-revolution being carried out by the bourgeoisie, the anti-blockade law will use capitalist methods to re-accumulate wealth and form tactical alliances with the bourgeoisie.

 It is important to remember that the economic strategy being implemented by the new law is internally contradictory and is a result of an economic impasse. The Marxist economist Ernest Mandel once wrote: “Growing productive forces with growing commodity-money relationships can in fact move a society farther from the socialist goal instead of bringing it closer. However, abolition of the commodity-money relationships without sufficient growth of the productive forces decays into rationalization of scarcity, which in turn moves socialism farther off, both objectively and subjectively.” Therefore, the anti-blockade law is an extremely delicate legal tool aimed at carefully re-configuring the correlation of class force. In the current conjuncture, Chavistas need to properly utilize the law so that it ultimately makes it possible to advance on the long road to socialism.

This article was also published at Green Left.

The article Bolivarian Socialism And The Anti-Blockade Law In Venezuela – OpEd appeared first on Eurasia Review.

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Saved Stories – None: Trump Fired, Biden Hired, What Next? – Analysis

The White House

After the tight 2020 election, there’s only one way President-elect Joe Biden can win over both Americans and other nations. He has to deliver in multiple fronts, amid a divided nation and huge challenges.

“Trump has launched ill-advised trade wars, against the United States’ friends and foes alike, that are hurting the American middle class,” President-elect Joe Biden wrote when he set the tone of his 2020 campaign. The next US president will have to “take immediate steps to renew US democracy and alliances, protect the US economic future, and once more have America lead the world.”

Internationally, the hope is that Biden would restore US multilateralism, moderate trade conflicts, alleviate economic damage and push real struggle against the pandemic. Most immediately, Biden will seize a series of executive orders to reverse Trump’s policies and bring an end to “the era of demonization.”

The premise is that the new White House can avoid violence and legal roadblocks during the transition. The legal issues must be cleared by early December when the states must certify their results prior to the meeting of the Electoral College.

But when the Biden administration begins its work, it is expected to deliver. In a nation that’s highly polarized in terms of politics, economy, society, and attitudes toward the “forever wars,” that’s an overwhelming task. If, in addition to the House, Democrats can keep the control of the Senate, the task could be less challenging.

Here’s what’s ahead.

Another $2 trillion stimulus package

According to polls, every third American regards the coronavirus and health care the nation’s most immediate priority. That’s why, as the COVID-19 cases will exceed 10 million in America, President-elect Biden will launch his coronavirus task force.

Americans’ second priority is the economy. Following the 2020 election, the only real winner is campaign finance (in which Biden will seek to marginalize the role of big private money). Despite total campaign costs soaring to $14 billion, legislative ineffectiveness is likely to continue. 

Soon political spotlight  will shift to Capitol Hill. Senators will return on November 9 and House members a week later for “lame duck” session of Congress. At the top of the agenda will be the third wave of the coronavirus in the US, still another round of coronavirus aid and the contested economic stimulus.

While both Democrats and Republicans agree on the need for a new fiscal package, there’s been great disagreement about the details. In spring, Democrats’ starting bid was $3.5 trillion, as against the Republicans’ $1 trillion. After months of wheeling and dealing, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca) has slimmed her bid to $2.2 trillion, while Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has upped the White House’s offer to $1.9 trillion. 

The $2+ trillion compromise will not appeal to the progressive left, which considers it too little too late, or the Republican’s ultra-conservative right, which regards it as too much too soon.

Without new deal, government shutdown

In the past, the Senate’s Republican majority has bitterly fought large stimulus packages. As that majority has diminished, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), the pragmatic Washington insider, could prove more flexible.

Before the election, Congress could not pass a single one of the dozen appropriations bills. To avoid a government shutdown, Congress has approved a deal to finance government operations until December 11. 

If Congress fails to find a deal by then, a government shutdown will loom after December 12. 

Moreover, Capitol Hill is soon expected to witness a series of hearings focusing on financial regulators, particularly on the issue of lending to the ailing small-and-medium size entreprises (SMEs) amid the pandemic. 

Furthermore, the CEOs of Facebook and Twitter are expected to testify before the Senate, which is likely to be a prelude to the big tech’s primetime in early 2021. 

After 16-month investigation into the anti-competitive conduct by Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google, House Democrats say they’re ready to go after America’s monopolistic tech giants.

Economic erosion 

As a longer-term objective, Democrats support significant tax legislation, which further divided the divided Congress. With a narrow majority in the Senate, however, the new administration could test increases in the top individual tax rate, corporate tax rate, plus changes to the estate tax, the treatment of capital gains and so on.

But after four years of Trump excesses, economic erosion is the cold reality. 

True, until the third coronavirus wave fully kicked in and COVID-19 infection rates soared, retail sales increased 5.4% year-to-year still in September, but thanks to huge government support, low interest rates, and equally low inflation. 

Despite four years of misguided tariff wars, the recovery of US exports proved very slow contracting by almost 15% still in August. US real GDP is likely to contract by 4% to 5% in 2020. As a net effect, the trade deficits that Trump pledged to eliminate soared to $80 billion in August. 

US consumption-led recovery is leveraged to the hilt It relies far too much on costly fiscal stimuli that’s been necessitated by the failed response to the pandemic, and rapidly-rising debt, which both distort the real role of consumption. 

As a share of GDP, US fiscal stimulus packages (13%+) are currently twice as large as those in China (7%). Thanks to Federal Reserve and overactive printing presses, ordinary Americans and foreign investors will end up having to pay much of the bill. 

US national debt has soared to an $27.2 trillion, which puts US federal debt-to-GDP ratio at 128%. The ratio is at par with that of Italy amid its recent debt crisis. But unlike Italy, US is one of the world’s anchor economies.

What happens in America will not stay in America. 

Old new foreign policies

The Biden administration will seek to present a very different tone, rhetoric and multilateral stance. The substance is a different story. 

Last summer, Biden garnered a network of over 2,000 foreign policy advisors. Yet, his narrow inner circle comprises mainly veterans from the Obama and Clinton administrations, including his key adviser Antony Blinken, Hillary Clinton’s Jake Sullivan, as well as old hands Tom Donilon, Nicholas Burns, Kurt Campbell, and Michèle Flournoy, Blinken’s consultancy partner.

Unlike the consensus Democrats, the party’s progressive left remains concerned for the “great horror show” looming ahead: the collusion between liberal interventionists and Republican neoconservatives (who voted Biden rather than Trump). 

  • The recent Washington Post op-ed by Blinken and the neoconservative Robert Kagan suggests that the nostalgia for the bygone “American Century” remains persistent, despite its dark track-record of forever wars from Vietnam to Iraq. 
  • Nonetheless, America’s “forever wars” could prove more subdued, especially in the Middle East, due to economic limitations.  
  • Unlike the Trump White House, the Biden administration is likely to honor the Iran nuclear deal and return to the negotiating table. 
  • In the Middle East, Trump’s loss spells great challenges to Israel’s controversial PM Netanyahu and the end to US sponsorship of the Saudis’ Yemen War. 
  • In North Korea, Biden will reinforce a more cautious line in nuclear talks. 
  • While the old Cold War will continue against Russia, Biden will support more diplomatic initiatives, especially in nuclear weapons issues.
  • In a tactic that’s likely to be framed as an “alliance of democracies,” the Biden White House will try to unite America’s allies to exercise greater pressure against Russia, China and several other nations. 
  • In public, Biden will seek distance from Trump’s trade and security hawks. In practice, his administration will coopt those aspects of the tariff wars which are seen as successful, while editing out the excesses. 
  • While Biden will try to unite America’s allies to pressure greater concessions from China, he supports global trade and needs China’s cooperation in a number of issues, particularly climate change. The balancing act will be challenging. 

President-elect Biden wants to be the president of all Americans.” The real question is whether that’s something all Americans want and whether he can restore US credibility after four years of domestic and international disasters. 

Based on Dr Steinbock’s global briefing on Nov 8, 2020

The article Trump Fired, Biden Hired, What Next? – Analysis appeared first on Eurasia Review.

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Saved Stories – None: The Guardian view on Joe Biden: cometh the hour, cometh the man | Editorial

If the 2020 election was a referendum on the Trump years, the pandemic provides a test of conservative principles

“This is the time to heal in America”. President-elect Joe Biden’s words were directed at a nation suffering after four years of Donald Trump’s dishonesty and fear-mongering. Mr Biden understands Trumpism is arsenic in the water supply of American political culture. It has sloshed around the country, flowing most freely wherever Republicans were in power. Even after the president had clearly lost the popular vote, his Republican enablers embraced his claims about a stolen election rather than denouncing them.

Yet Mr Biden wants America to come together not come apart. There is nothing to gain from trading incivilities with Republican opponents. He seeks to bridge divides. Under Mr Trump, the US has become more polarised between educated and less-educated voters; whites and people of colour; haves and have-nots; and urban and rural areas. Mr Biden is right: politics can’t be conducted in a furnace, it’s time to “lower the temperature”.

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Saved Stories – None: The U.S. must brake the runaway pandemic train

European actions may foreshadow what’s next for the United States.

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mikenov on Twitter: RT @thedailybeast: “Trump has sucked up all the oxygen for the last four years. He’s been a movie star and dictator and a cult leader and a…

“Trump has sucked up all the oxygen for the last four years. He’s been a movie star and dictator and a cult leader and a hideous distraction from our normal lives,” writes @mollyjongfast. trib.al/1DtD2NR


Retweeted by

Michael Novakhov (mikenov)
on Sunday, November 8th, 2020 9:21pm

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mikenov on Twitter: Coronavirus in mink – Google Search google.com/search?q=Coron… pic.twitter.com/8tkmJomUbU

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Mike Nova’s favorite articles on Inoreader: FOX News: Biden visits his late son Beau’s gravesite after being named president-elect

President-elect Joe Biden on Sunday visited the cemetery where several family members, including his late son Beau, are buried at the Catholic church near his home in Delaware.

AP20313612519571.jpg

AP20313612519571.jpg

22789 FOX News

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Mike Nova’s favorite articles on Inoreader: The Latest: Israel cautiously reopens after lockdown – PBS NewsHour

The Latest: Israel cautiously reopens after lockdown  PBS NewsHour

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Mike Nova’s favorite articles on Inoreader: 1. World and Politics from Michael_Novakhov (31 sites): Upstract | Syndicated: Alex Trebek, longtime “Jeopardy!” host, dies

Alex Trebek, the longtime host of “Jeopardy!”, has died, the show announced on Twitter.

221007 Upstract | Syndicated

6673159 1. World and Politics from Michael_Novakhov (31 sites)

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