Massenbach-Letter. NEWS 25.8.17

Massenbach-Letter. News

· Coal Makes a Comeback – Trump’s policies and exports to Europe are helping the industry.

· Dmitri Trenin (Carnegie Moscow): Ideological, Geopolitical, and Economic Drivers of Russian Foreign Policy

· Guadalcanal: The Battle That Sealed the Pacific War

· Japan woos Russia with deeper economic ties in face of rising China ( September 1, 2016 / 6:45 AM / a year ago )


· Mattis and Tillerson: “We’re Holding Pyongyang to Account”




· DB-Research- Staat oder Private, Umverteilung oder Wachstum: Wer gewinnt beim Steuerpuzzle der Parteien?

Massenbach*Coal Makes a Comeback – Trump’s policies and exports to Europe are helping the industry.

Not long ago liberals hailed the demise of coal as inevitable while the Obama Administration strangled the industry with regulation. But don’t look now, Tom Steyer, because coal is showing signs of a revival and breathing economic life into West Virginia and other coal states.

Former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy proclaimed in 2015 that coal “is no longer marketable.” She planned to be the lead undertaker. The Obama Administration worked tirelessly to fulfill her mission and may have succeeded had Hillary Clinton become President. “We’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of work,” the 2016 Democratic nominee famously promised.

Yet the Trump Presidency seems to have lifted animal spirits and coal. Weekly coal production has increased by 14.5% nationwide over last year with even bigger bumps in West Virginia (19%), Pennsylvania (19.7%) and Wyoming (19.8%). Exports were up 58% during the first quarter from last year. Apparently coal can be marketable if regulators let it be.


The Obama Administration first targeted coal consumption with rules on mercury emissions and ash disposal that would have made it next to impossible to build a new coal-burning power plant. Then came the 2015 Clean Power Plan that would have forced the existing fleet of coal plants into early retirement.

Finally, the Obama anti-coal warriors sought to shut down coal’s export potential. Thick-seamed coal on federal land in the Powder River Basin overlying Wyoming and Montana is relatively clean-burning and inexpensive to mine. The Obama Interior Department suspended new coal leases on federal land last winter and then reassessed royalty payments—thereby reducing investment and profitability. In December came the coup de grâce: Interior’s stream rule usurping state authority over permitting.


President Trump has called a cease fire to his predecessor’s “war on coal.” In February he signed a resolution repealing the stream rule under the Congressional Review Act. The Supreme Court stayed the Clean Power Plan in February 2016, and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is dismantling the power rule as well as the ash and mercury rules. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has re-opened leases and rescinded the royalty revaluation.

Meanwhile, coal is becoming more competitive as a fuel source relative to natural gas, whose price has risen 63% since March 2016 amid an expanding market. The Energy Information Administration says the U.S. will be a net exporter of natural gas this year.

Growing pipeline networks have boosted gas exports to Mexico and are providing new domestic outlets for gas trapped in the Marcellus and Utica Shales. Pipeline export capacity to Mexico is expected to nearly double by 2019. Several interstate pipelines are under review to deliver gas to the Midwest, eastern Canada and Gulf Coast for export. Liquefied natural gas exports have increased six-fold in the last year, and five new terminal projects are expected to be completed within three years. While coal and natural gas compete as electric power fuels, they can both prosper if energy markets expand.

This is all horrifying to the climate-change lobby, but they might note that U.S. coal exports are rising to countries that claim climate-change virtue. Exports to France increased 214% during the first quarter of this year amid a nuclear power plant outage. Other European countries like Germany and the U.K. are utilizing U.S. coal to stabilize unreliable renewable sources and make up for electric capacity lost from the shutdown of nuclear plants. First-quarter coal exports were up 94% to Germany and 282% to the U.K. Et tu, Angela Merkel ?

Coking coal used to make steel is also currently a hot commodity, and its price can soar whenever a storm hits Australia and shuts down mines as one did this spring. Metallurgical exports to China rose 357% during the first quarter. As much as Mr. Trump denounces China’s overproduction of steel, U.S. coal miners are benefitting.


The bigger story is that there’s still demand for U.S. coal if regulators allow energy markets to work. The Energy Information Administration in June projected that U.S. coal power generation will increase by 13% by 2025 “as the existing fleet of coal-fired generators can be more fully utilized and fewer coal-fired generators are retired.” With the Obama Clean Power Plan, the EIA had forecast a 2% to 16% decline.

Coal production will likely never return to its heyday of decades ago. Recent bankruptcies that have made coal companies leaner and more competitive also mean that fewer workers are needed to produce the same output. But even the current modest rebound is helping coal states.

During the first quarter, West Virginia (3%) ranked second in the nation in GDP growth after Texas (3.9%), according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. New Mexico, another heavy mining state, came in third (2.8%). Mining resurgences began in West Virginia, Kentucky and New Mexico last summer after the Clean Power Plan was stayed. After plummeting last year, Wyoming and Montana’s mining industries grew during the first quarter.

Two or three quarters of economic data don’t make a long-term trend, but all of this is still good news for coal states that have experienced two years of little or negative growth and years of political assault.


From our Russian News Desk. (The views expressed are the author‘s own.)

Carnegie Moscow Center: Looking out Five Years – Ideological, Geopolitical, and Economic Drivers of Russian Foreign Policy

By Dmitri Trenin

Putin has embraced patriotism and Eurasianism, but Russia must soon confront economic, security, and demographic headwinds, as well as the imperative of reform.

  • In the near to medium term, Russia is likely to face the challenge of Islamist radicalism on its southern borders. The Middle East is generating instability that is already spreading to other parts of the Muslim world, including Central Asia and areas of the Caucasus.
  • Moscow’s main current concern and policy driver is the setting in of the long cycle of low energy and other commodity prices.. This situation objectively pushes the Kremlin toward diversifying the Russian economy.
  • Reform, however, would be exceedingly difficult under conditions of confrontation with the United States, which are unlikely to ease considerably in the next five years. Even if the EU sanctions are formally lifted, the political risks for Europeans of doing business with Russia will be high, resulting in continuing serious impediments to economic relations. Japan’s willingness to reach out to Russia as a hedge against China’s rise will be tempered by Washington’s opposition to such rapprochement. Ways around the sanctions regime will have to be found that operate below Washington’s radar.

This is the third article in a series looking ahead at the drivers of Russian foreign policy from 2017 to 2022.

In 2016, Putin came up with Russia’s national idea: patriotism. In the Kremlin’s version, Russian patriotism is above all about the state, which is the highest civic value. Attitudes toward the state have become the main criteria in judging historical and contemporary figures and ordinary citizens. The Russian state is believed to be the center of a Russian world, a civilization that traces its spiritual and temporal roots to Byzantium and Orthodox Christianity. Besides the Russian Federation, the Russian world encompasses Ukraine (minus its Greek Catholic western regions), Belarus, and Moldova, as well as the Russian diaspora around the world. Its central pillar and main source of cohesion is the Russian Orthodox Church. For Putin, his continued presidency is a God-given mission.

Thus, Russia has pivoted away from the European choice that Putin announced in the early 2000s and that the country had de facto pursued since the toppling of the Communist system in 1991. This pivot to Russia’s own cultural and historical heritage, with an emphasis on the imperial period, is often described as Eurasianism. The European cultural influence remains, but in its classical rather than the contemporary, EU-shaped form. The Kremlin’s current attitudes to the EU can be compared with the views on Europe exhibited in the nineteenth century by Emperor Alexander III and his grandfather, Emperor Nicholas I: Russia is in, but not of, Europe. The present-day Russian Federation sees itself as occupying a unique central position in northern Eurasia, equidistant from Asia, North America, the Middle East, and Europe.

While calling themselves conservatives, Russian leaders essentially remain pragmatic. They are prepared to do deals with anyone, irrespective of their counterparts’ ideology, which they privately view with cynicism. What they vehemently reject is revolution. In the Kremlin’s view, U.S. and EU support for democracy and human rights is a tool of foreign policy that is more effective in destroying authoritarian regimes than in subsequently building democratic systems of governance on their ruins. One reason many Russian officials preferred Donald Trump to Hillary Clinton in the 2016 U.S. presidential election is that they expected Trump, when elected, to stop meddling in Russian domestic affairs.

In Russia, the Kremlin employs a number of liberals in the economic policy department, consistent with Putin’s basic preference for the market over total state control of the economy. With his policies in Crimea and Ukraine, Putin has been able to turn himself into a hero for nationalists, who are also managed on the Kremlin’s behalf by veteran political operator Vladimir Zhirinovsky and his Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR). The Communist Party is thoroughly domesticated in the Duma, while its founder, Vladimir Lenin, is often reviled as a traitor for his collusion with Germany against the domestic Russian regime during World War I. All these groups basically support the Kremlin’s current foreign policy.

Moscow’s main current concern and policy driver is the setting in of the long cycle of low energy and other commodity prices. The sharp drop in the oil price in 2014 and 2015 has markedly devalued Russia’s geopolitical importance vis-à-vis its principal customers in Europe and Asia. The idea of an energy superpower, popular in the mid-2000s, has been finally and completely dispelled. This situation objectively pushes the Kremlin toward diversifying the Russian economy. Successful diversification, however, would require the country to adopt a wholly different politico-economic model, with a business-friendly environment, support for entrepreneurship, and an emphasis on technological innovation.

Such a model would end the domination of the ruling moneyed elites and therefore cannot be adopted by them. Thus, Russia finds itself again at a crossroads with a three-way choice: reform the economy and dismantle the existing politico-economic setup; go for a wholesale economic mobilization dominated by the state; or keep the system intact and face the prospect of continued decline and possibly an upheaval in the end. It is likely that the choice will be put off for as long as possible, given its consequences for the elites. It may not be made by the end of the present decade, but it can hardly be postponed beyond 2025 or 2030.

In the near to medium term, Russia is likely to face the challenge of Islamist radicalism on its southern borders. The Middle East is generating instability that is already spreading to other parts of the Muslim world, including Central Asia and areas of the Caucasus. Former Soviet countries in the region that have survived their first twenty-five years of independence exhibit some of the features that helped produce the Arab Spring. In Afghanistan, the Islamic State has built a presence with a view to expanding its influence through the whole country and beyond. Russia, which since 2015 has been directly involved in the war in Syria, may have to fight closer to home, always mindful of the dangers of Islamic State–induced extremism and terrorism in Russia itself. In 2017, Russia experienced its first major terrorist attack in three and a half years in the Saint Petersburg Metro attack of April 3.

In the long term, demographics remain one of Russia’s main concerns. The rate of population decline has slowed down, and the incorporation of Crimea has added over 2 million people to Russia’s total population, which now stands at 144 million. But there is a growing shortage of workers, strategically important regions such as the Russian Far East remain sparsely populated, and immigration from Central Asia presents both an integration and a security challenge.

Geopolitically, Putin has become used to punching far above Russia’s economic weight. This has produced some stunning successes, but it is not sustainable in the long term without reforms that would unchain Russia’s still huge potential for growth and development, or economic mobilization, which would produce a short-term effect but would ultimately result in Russia’s economic and political collapse.

Reform, however, would be exceedingly difficult under conditions of confrontation with the United States, which are unlikely to ease considerably in the next five years. Even if the EU sanctions are formally lifted, the political risks for Europeans of doing business with Russia will be high, resulting in continuing serious impediments to economic relations. Japan’s willingness to reach out to Russia as a hedge against China’s rise will be tempered by Washington’s opposition to such rapprochement. Ways around the sanctions regime will have to be found that operate below Washington’s radar.

With economic ties to the West constrained by politics, Russia has moved actively to explore opportunities elsewhere. This has not been easy, as current Russian exports to non-Western countries are dominated by products whose price structures have collapsed and will not recover much in the foreseeable future. It is not clear whether Russia and China will be able to significantly upgrade their economic relations by 2021. However, if Russia manages to come up with more products that can find markets in China, India, Iran, Southeast Asia, and the Gulf Arab states, it can partly compensate for the losses in trade with the West and diversify its economic relations.



Vatikanischer Kardinalstaatssekretär in Moskau eingetroffen Der zweithöchste Vertreter des Vatikans nach Papst Franziskus, Kardinalstaatssekretär Pietro Parolin, hat an diesem Montag seinen dreitägigen Staatsbesuch in Russland begonnen. Er traf in Moskau nach Angaben russischer Medien zuerst mit dem Außenamtschef der russisch-orthodoxen Kirche, Metropolit Hilarion, zusammen. Höhepunkte seines Besuchsprogramms in Russland sind ein Treffen mit Staatspräsident Wladimir Putin am Mittwoch in Sotschi und eine Begegnung mit dem russisch-orthodoxen Patriarchen Kyrill I. am Dienstag in Moskau.

(rv/kna/ria nowosti)

Hier mehr in Text und Ton (Link:


Fortschritte und Konflikte

Mit Blick auf das Verhältnis von Vatikan und Russland spricht der Außenamtschef des Moskauer Patriarchates von einem „bedeutenden Fortschritt in den letzten zehn Jahren“. In einem Interview mit der italienischen Zeitung „Il Sole 24 Ore“, das wenige Tage vor der Russland-Reise des vatikanischen Kardinalstaatssekretärs Pietro Parolin veröffentlicht wurde, verweist er auf den gemeinsamen Ursprung des Glaubens und Herausforderungen wie Extremismus und Christenverfolgung, die beide Kirchen umtreiben. Das Verhältnis habe sich intensiviert; in dieser Optik sei auch der Besuch von Kardinalstaatssekretär Pietro Parolin in Russland zu sehen, der an diesem Montag beginnt.

Krisengebiete Syrien und Ukraine

Was den Kampf gegen Extremismus in Syrien betrifft, spricht Hilarion in dem Interview von „ähnlichen Positionen“ Russlands und des Vatikan. Er nennt den Brief des Papstes an Wladimir Putin vom September 2013, in dem Franziskus den Präsidenten zum Friedenseinsatz für das zerrüttete Land aufrief. Es sei „zu großem Teil der damals übereinstimmenden Position Russlands und des Vatikan zu verdanken, dass es gelang, eine Militärintervention in syrischem Territorium zu vermeiden“, formuliert der Metropolit, ohne auf die international umstrittenen Luftangriffe einzugehen, die Russland seit September 2015 in Syrien durchführt.

Im Ukraine-Konflikt habe der Heilige Stuhl eine „ausgewogene Position“ eingenommen, so der Metropolit weiter – „indem er unilaterale Bewertungen vermieden hat“. Der Vatikan trete für das Ende der Kämpfe in der Ostukraine ein, rufe zu Dialog auf und beharre auf dem Einhalten des Minsk-Abkommens. Gleichwohl sieht Hilarion den Krieg an Russlands Rand sowohl als derzeit größte Herausforderung in den Beziehungen beider Kirchen.


Hier lesen Sie mehr (Link:


Policy= res publica

Freudenberg-Pilster* DB-Research- Staat oder Private, Umverteilung oder Wachstum: Wer gewinnt beim Steuerpuzzle der Parteien?

Seit 2010 ist das Steueraufkommen in Deutschland um ein Drittel auf EUR 706 Mrd. gestiegen. Wenn Deutschland im internationalen Vergleich mit einer Aufkommensquote von 22,9% des BIP gleichwohl als Niedrigsteuerland erscheint, trügt das Bild, weil der deutsche Sozialstaat weitgehend über zusätzliche Abgaben finanziert wird. Bei der Gesamtbelastung liegt Deutschland über dem OECD-Durchschnitt und die Steuerstruktur ist ungünstig. Es erscheint sinnvoll, v.a. die steile Progression der Einkommensteuer bei geringeren und mittleren Einkommen abzuflachen. Mit Reformvorschlägen für die Einkommensteuer werben die Parteien um die Medianwähler und die eigene Klientel. Unter dem Strich ergeben sich unterschiedliche Entlastungseffekte.

****************************************************************************************************************** Politics: From Vision to Action

Barandat*Guadalcanal: The Battle That Sealed the Pacific War

By George Friedman

About 75 years ago, U.S. Marines landed on the islands of Guadalcanal, Tulagi and Florida in the British Solomon Islands. Their mission was to block the Japanese from building an airfield on the island and, after blocking them, to build their own base to fly from while the Marines drove the remaining Japanese out. The U.S. Navy would land the Marines on the island, block Japanese resupply and reinforcements from landing, and secure the American line of supply from Australia and New Caledonia.

Two months earlier, the Japanese had suffered a strategic defeat at Midway, losing a substantial portion of their fleet in the process. Japan was not without resources, but its primary thinking was now the strategic defensive. It sought to secure its gains by two means: reinforcing the layers of islands it had, and conducting regional offensives in defense of its holdings.

The American fleet wasn’t ready for major operations, nor did the U.S. Air Force yet exist in force, but the U.S. strategy had become obvious. There were two lines of attack available. First, there was a western offensive, running from Australia to New Guinea to the Philippines to Taiwan and Okinawa. Second, there was an offensive from the east: Hawaii-Gilbert Islands-Carolines-Marshalls-Marianas-Bonin-Okinawa. Put in terms of the critical and famous islands, this was an offensive through Tarawa, Saipan and Iwo Jima to Okinawa – and many other brutal but less famous islands.

(click to enlarge)

Two island groups were the key: New Caledonia and Fiji. Together, they made both offensives possible. They were directly on the line of supply to Australia and to the southern flank of any attack on the Gilberts. Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto had considered a direct assault on these islands as an alternative to Midway, but he had hoped to force the U.S. fleet into defending Midway, destroying the fleet and later taking the southern islands. He succeeded in getting Adm. Chester Nimitz to engage his fleet. He didn’t anticipate defeat.

Two months after Midway, the importance of New Caledonia and Fiji to Japan was greater than ever, but its available force had shrunk. The Japanese had to move away from large-scale carrier operations, but they had a solid alternative. On both sides, land-based aircraft based on the small Pacific islands made the movement of naval vessels dangerous. Airfields built on select islands enabled aircraft to block critical passages and make enemy offensives dangerous.

American strategy later in the war was to neutralize Japan’s land-based aircraft and take the islands as bases for their own aircraft. The U.S. Navy delivered the firepower and troops who landed on an island, and in many cases the airfield was seized or created, blocking forces for hundreds of miles around. This was the island-hopping strategy the U.S., always on the offensive after Midway, adopted. It was the strategy that Japanese land-based aircraft tried to resist. The naval war undergirded an air war, the bases won by the blood of the infantry.

The Battle Begins

In August 1942, Japan was still on the offensive. It wanted to isolate Australia and then flank the assault on the Gilberts. It wanted to capture New Caledonia and Fiji. But the key to that was Vanuatu, and the only asset the Japanese had to support an offensive was an air base in the Solomon Islands. The ideal spot for an island base was Guadalcanal. If Japan couldn’t mount an invasion on New Caledonia or Fiji, aircraft from Guadalcanal could interdict supplies to Australia by threatening New Caledonia.

Australian coast watchers – plantation owners who stayed behind after the Japanese had landed in the Solomons – observed the movement of ships and noted the construction underway on Guadalcanal. They recognized that Japan was building an airfield there, and they knew that if it were completed, a strategic threat might materialize. They also realized that if they waited until the airfield was finished, an invasion would be incredibly costly, if not impossible.

The Americans weren’t ready for such an operation. The Marines available for it were unseasoned and few in number. Army support was not yet available. The U.S. Navy consisted of cruisers and destroyers and too few aircraft carriers to risk any of them. The only positive was that Japanese intelligence had underestimated the size of the available U.S. force.

Nimitz and Gen. Douglas MacArthur understood the potential significance of the Japanese move, and they understood that they were in no position to launch a counterattack. They also knew that if they waited until they were ready, an invasion would be impossible. Japanese aircraft would devastate the landing force, and no carrier would be able to get close without being sunk.

If Japan established its air base in Guadalcanal, it could launch a massive operation against U.S.-Australian supply lines, forcing the U.S. to abort the future New Guinea attack and exposing the western flank of any future U.S. offensive. Japan would then be able to concentrate on the islands of the Central Pacific, making the eastern offensive problematic for the United States.

Nimitz, in strategic command and a meticulous planner, had to shoot from the hip. He had to launch the first Allied offensive of the Pacific War.

The Invasion

The plan was that the Marines would land nearby on Tulagi and the island of Florida as well as on Guadalcanal. Their mission was to capture the airfield before it was activated by the Japanese. Having done that, Navy construction brigades known as Seabees would land and prepare the base for American aircraft, which would then support the Marines in holding the island and, after reinforcement, project power northward.

The Americans didn’t want to take the island, and they didn’t want to start the offensive here. It was the Japanese that forced the Americans’ hand. The Japanese forces on the island were unequal to the task, but the Marines were in even worse shape. The Marines had a huge advantage, however. Their mission was to take and hold Henderson Field, the name they gave the airfield under construction. Then they would be on the defensive. The Japanese would have to dislodge them, moving through the swamps and elephant grass that could slice a man open. Given the available forces and the tactical and strategic reality, the Marines were in a powerful position.

The Japanese understood as much. They realized that if they lost the airfield, the situation in the Solomons would reverse, New Caledonia would be secure, and any hope of isolating Australia would be lost. They had to reinforce Guadalcanal and keep sending supplies to it. The U.S. had to do the same. This was a naval problem, and the Japanese navy had the cruisers and destroyers to protect supply ships. The Americans focused on cutting off Japan’s supply route.

During the invasion, the Americans and Australians sent in cruisers and destroyers. The U.S. also sent in an aircraft carrier to provide air support for the Marines. But the commander withdrew the carrier, afraid to lose it. He was bitterly chastised by the Marines, who felt abandoned, but in my view he did what was strategically necessary. It would be almost a year before a large number of carriers were available. The U.S. could not afford to lose any, lest Yamamoto take another shot at the Central Pacific. But though he was right, the decision left only surface vessels and some submarines to maintain the U.S. lines of supply and to sever the Japanese line of supply.

The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Wasp (CV-7) burning and listing after she was torpedoed by the Japanese submarine I-19, on Sept. 15, 1942, while operating in the Southwestern Pacific in support of forces on Guadalcanal. U.S. NAVY

Most of the attention around Guadalcanal focuses on the Marines, but it was fundamentally a naval battle. This is because the Japanese had concentrated on naval technology before the war. They had a torpedo with a much greater range than American torpedoes. They also had flashless powder. When the U.S. fired, the Japanese could count the guns and the range. When the Japanese fired, the Americans couldn’t see them. The water off Guadalcanal was nicknamed Iron Bottom Sound because of the number of ships sunk.

In spite of all this, the supplies, from bullets to aviation fuel, made it in. The Marines pushed forward toward Japanese lines, with or without air support. They moved to tactical defensive positions during the night and absorbed countless Japanese attacks, slowly winning a war of attrition. The Japanese sent replacements, but the U.S. Navy and aircraft slowly choked the Japanese supply effort. Finally, the Japanese evacuated the island of surviving troops.

The Beginning of the End

This ended Japanese strategic operations, which were already sparse after Midway. The U.S. no longer had to defend the line of supply to Australia, and American troops surged to Australian bases. As important, the U.S. had its first taste of amphibious warfare on any scale. The lessons learned about the need for air superiority and massive naval support, as well as the importance of not getting bogged down in attritional warfare, were all carried forward.

This was the moment that Japan might have sought out truce terms. It’s possible they would have gotten them. Guadalcanal made clear that the Japanese, even in defeat, could exact an enormous price – and the Japanese lines of defense hadn’t been pierced yet. There would be almost three years of war yet, and in 1942 the Americans could reasonably think there would be many more. The U.S. dreaded a separate peace between Russia and Germany and eagerly wanted to create a second front in Europe and lend-lease for the Russians.

For Japan, however, it was unthinkable – culturally and conceptually – to seek a truce. The Japanese had lost a battle on a Godforsaken island. Far from the Japanese leadership’s mind was any notion that Midway had closed to door to victory or that Guadalcanal had locked it.

The war went on for two and a half years. The United States never lost the initiative. Japanese forces were scattered on small islands, and the Japanese navy could not sortie to their defense. Having turned amphibious warfare into a replicable model, the U.S. chose which island to assault and never withdrew forces after it had landed. From this point on, the Japanese were simply waiting for the end, with many on both sides waiting to die.

Midway and Guadalcanal, in retrospect, ended the Pacific War, if not the death or the fear on both sides. Those battles would give the United States control of the Pacific, a control that has been in place for the past 70 years or so. And they would lead, in the circuitous path of history, to North Korea today. Whatever fears we have in 2017, they would have been very different had the battles of so many decades ago gone differently. That is the measure of the importance of these battles.

1942 was the year the outcome of World War II was defined. Two more battles, El Alamein and Stalingrad, came later in the year but not in importance.


Japan woos Russia with deeper economic ties in face of rising China

(September 1, 2016 / 6:45 AM / a year ago)

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan is hoping the lure of deeper economic ties with Russia will strengthen strategic relations in the face of a rising China, but skeptics question whether the approach will generate a breakthrough in a decades-old territorial dispute.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will meet Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of a business conference in Vladivostok to discuss, among other things, closer economic cooperation in such areas as energy and technology…

Japan has been eyeing closer ties with Russia to counter China’s growing clout, as well as its interest in Russia’s natural resources. In a sign of the focus on economic ties, Abe has given his trade minister Hiroshige Seko an additional portfolio in charge of economic cooperation with Russia, the main government spokesman in Tokyo said on Thursday.

Earlier attempts to schedule a visit by Putin were derailed by Russia’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region, which prompted Tokyo to join the United States and other Western countries in imposing sanctions on Moscow.

Former lawmaker Muneo Suzuki said broadening economic ties with an eye to the eventual resolution of the territorial row over islands in the western Pacific made sense because Russia’s energy resources and Japan’s technological expertise and investments were a good fit.

"What President Putin is hoping for is Japan’s technology. If Japan’s technology is sought after for the development of Russia’s Far East, we should make it available," said Suzuki, who has advised Japanese prime ministers on Russian relations.

"As for Japan, we are importing oil and gas from the Middle East, which is some 10,000 km away. It would be in our national interest to procure them stably from Vladivostok or Sakhalin, which are just a stone’s throw away," Suzuki told Reuters.


Japan claims sovereignty over a string of Russia-controlled western Pacific islands, called the Northern Territories in Japan and Southern Kuriles in Russia.

The row over the island chain, seized by troops of the former Soviet Union at the end of World War Two, has prevented a formal peace treaty between the two countries.

Critics say it is unlikely that economic cooperation would prompt Putin to hand over what Moscow regards as its own territory. Putin enjoys high approval ratings after the Crimea annexation despite Russia’s economic difficulties.

"The Crimea annexation painted him as a great leader who took back territory that was once lost, and triggered an upturn in his support rating," said Shigeki Hakamada, professor emeritus at Japan’s Aoyama Gakuin University.

"It is rather unthinkable that Putin makes a concession on what he himself said became Russian territory as a result of World War Two," he said.

Increased infrastructure investments on the disputed islands signal a clear reluctance on Russia’s part to hand the islands over, James Brown, associate professor at Temple University’s Japan campus, told reporters this week.

Hakamada said some promising comments could come from bilateral talks "to keep economic cooperation from Japan coming".

"But I don’t think there will be a real concession," he said.


*Massenbach’s Recommendation*

U.S. Embassy Berlin / Amerika Dienst

Der folgende Gastbeitrag von US-Verteidigungsminister Jim Mattis und US-Außenminister Rex Tillerson erschien am 15. August 2017 zunächst im Wall Street Journal.

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release

August 14, 2017

Mattis and Tillerson: “We’re Holding Pyongyang to Account”

“In response, the Trump administration, with the support of the international community, is applying diplomatic and economic pressure on North Korea to achieve the complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and a dismantling of the regime’s ballistic-missile programs. We are replacing the failed policy of ‘strategic patience,’ which expedited the North Korean threat, with a new policy of strategic accountability.”

We’re Holding Pyongyang to Account
By Jim Mattis and Rex Tillerson
Wall Street Journal
August 14, 2017

In the past few months, multiple illegal North Korean ballistic-missile and ICBM tests—coupled with the most recent bellicose language from Pyongyang about striking the U.S., Guam, our allies and our interests in the Asia-Pacific region—have escalated tensions between North Korea and America to levels not experienced since the Korean War.

In response, the Trump administration, with the support of the international community, is applying diplomatic and economic pressure on North Korea to achieve the complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and a dismantling of the regime’s ballistic-missile programs. We are replacing the failed policy of “strategic patience,” which expedited the North Korean threat, with a new policy of strategic accountability.

The object of our peaceful pressure campaign is the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. The U.S. has no interest in regime change or accelerated reunification of Korea. We do not seek an excuse to garrison U.S. troops north of the Demilitarized Zone. We have no desire to inflict harm on the long-suffering North Korean people, who are distinct from the hostile regime in Pyongyang.…

While diplomacy is our preferred means of changing North Korea’s course of action, it is backed by military options. The U.S. alliances with South Korea and Japan are strong. But Pyongyang has persistently rebuffed Seoul’s attempts to create conditions whereby peaceful dialogue can occur, and has instead proceeded on its reckless course of threats and provocation.
As a result of these dangers, South Korea’s new government is moving forward with the deployment of U.S. Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense against the threat. We commend South Korea’s decision to deploy this purely defensive capability.

Installing Thaad launchers on the Korean Peninsula and conducting joint military exercises are defensive preparations against the acute threat of military actions directed against the U.S., our allies and other nations. China’s demand for the U.S. and South Korea not to deploy Thaad is unrealistic. Technically astute Chinese military officers understand the system poses no danger to their homeland.…

The U.S. will continue to work with our allies and partners to deepen diplomatic and military cooperation, and to hold nations accountable to their commitments to isolate the regime. That will include rigorous enforcement of sanctions, leaving no North Korean source of revenue untouched. In particular, the U.S. will continue to request Chinese and Russian commitments not to provide the regime with economic lifelines and to persuade it to abandon its dangerous path.

As always, we will embrace military preparedness in the defense of our homeland, our citizens and our allies, and in the preservation of stability and security in Northeast Asia. And we will say again here: Any attack will be defeated, and any use of nuclear weapons will be met with an effective and overwhelming response.

North Korea now faces a choice. Take a new path toward peace, prosperity and international acceptance, or continue further down the dead alley of belligerence, poverty and isolation. The U.S. will aspire and work for the former, and will remain vigilant against the latter.

Read the full op-ed here. ( )


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