The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Tag: Dollar Hegemony

Russian Debt Default + Consequences, Simply Explained

I don’t want to spend a lot of time on this, but the fundamentals are worth a quick review.

Russia had hundreds of billions of dollars on reserve at central banks. We have frozen them so they can’t spend them, and we’ve also forbidden banks, in general, to do almost any business with them in dollars.

So they have the money to avoid default, but are not allowed to use it to pay their debts.

This is like if you personally had an account at the bank for $10 million and they said, “We’ve frozen it so you can’t spend it, and we won’t accept money from anywhere else, but we still expect you to pay your mortgage.”

It’s obviously unfair, and everyone outside of the West knows it, as many countries have invaded other countries and none of them were hit this way. This punishment is so harsh because Russia is outside the club and didn’t have the nod or a similar punishment would have been doled out over Iraq, Libya, and Yemen, among many others.

It has made other countries scared for their money. Even countries that have license, like Saudi Arabia — who is currently bombing the hell out of Yemen with a sanction in sight.

Saudi Arabia is considering accepting the Yuan for oil payments.

Of course, the US is pushing back hard — that oil is priced in dollars, and it’s one of the main reasons the dollar is the global reserve currency.

But while the Sauds are in good for now, who is to say they always will be? What if one day the US decides to sanction them? Perhaps they see it as in their interest to diversify their reserves. Perhaps they also see Beijing as FAR less likely to sanction them? If they do, I agree. Just don’t piss China off about Taiwan, and the odds of China ever freezing your Yuan reserves or sanctioning you is essentially zero, not least because in order to grab reserve status from the US, they need to be more trustworthy.

I don’t know if the Sauds will do this yet; the pressure the US must be bringing is immense. But I do believe that when we look back on these massive sanctions, we will see that forcing Russia into default was the end of the dollar’s hegemony. This weapon has been used before, but only on marginal states. To do it to a Great Power is quite different.

The US can’t be trusted with your money. Before, people was perceived the US was the safest place.

For most countries, the dollar hegemony has been terrible; they sold American stuff and got numbers on a computer in return. (China on the other hand, played the game smart. They got the US industrial base in return and, even if the US freezes every dollar they have, they’ll still be ahead.)

Most countries will be better off in a de-dollarized world. But the US won’t, and if Europe stays a US satrapy (which most indications suggest it will) then it will be bad for them. Ironically, back in the early- to mid-2000s, the Europeans had the opportunity to make the Euro an independent reserve currency, but, as usual for Europe in the age of American dominance, they lacked the guts.

None of this will happen immediately. But I believe we’re either at, or within, a year of when we will be able to look back and see this as the tipping point.


Why Would Iran Attack Tankers?

Well, if it did.

Let me tell a story, possibly apocryphal. Back in the 1970s, the Russian (USSR) ambassador supposedly had a talk with the Pakistani leader of the day. This is what he is reputed to have said.

” I do not know who will be in charge in Moscow in ten, twenty, or even 50 years. But what I do know is that whoever is there will want the same things then, that we do today. You can trust us, not because we pretend we are your friends, but because we are consistent.

Anyway, remember, that we’ll come back to it.

In the meantime, on June 13th there were reports that two tankers had been sunk in the Gulf. Claims were made they were sunk by Iran.

I shrugged. Important people want war between Iran and the United States, and in such a situation it’s hard to know what’s true and what’s not. I moved on with my day.

(I am fundraising to determine how much I’ll write this year. If you value my writing and want more of it, please consider donating.)

But yesterday I discovered an interesting fact. Before the two tankers were sunk, something else happened:

On June 5, 2019, a huge fire consumed a storage facility for oil products at the Shahid Rajaee port in the southern Hormozgan Province. Located west of Bandar Abbas, the Shahid Rajaee port is Iran’s largest container shipping port. Reportedly, a vehicle used for transporting shipping containers exploded and caught fire. Since there were oil products near the site of the explosion, the blaze spread quickly to several tanks and storage sites and caused heavy damage to the port. The spreading fire set off huge explosions which shot fireballs and heavy smoke high into the air.

On June 7, 2019, six Iranian merchant ships were set ablaze almost simultaneously in two Persian Gulf ports.

First, five ships “caught fire” in the port of Nakhl Taghi in the Asaluyeh region of the Bushehr Province. Three of these ships were completely burned and the two others suffered major damage. Several port workers and sailors were injured. As well, at least one cargo ship burst into flames and burned completely at the port of Bualhir, near Delvar. The fire was attributed to “incendiary devices” of “unknown origin.” The local authorities in the Bushehr Province called the fires a “suspicious event” and went no further.

Oh hey.

So, assuming the Iranians did attack the ships, they were retaliating.

Iran has long said that if they can’t get their oil to customers, no one will get oil to customers through the Gulf.


But this has bigger consequences. The real problem is simpler: The US made a deal with the Iranians, under Obama, then repudiated it when the President changed.

The US has arrogated to itself the right to impose sanctions on anyone it wants, for any reason, with no recourse by the victim. It is using this “right” in an attempt to remove Iran’s government.

The US cannot be trusted. Every few years, it changes. You can’t make a deal and be sure it will be honored for any length of time, let alone 10, 20, or 50 years.

Americans who squeal about Trump being an aberration both miss the point (your system allowed him) and are wrong: Bush attacked Iraq based on lies, and everyone knows it. Hilary Clinton promised the Russians that Qaddafi would not be removed, then removed him and gloated about him being killed after being raped by a knife.

The US can’t be trusted.

So the larger consequence is that a coalition of countries, including multiple oil producers, China and Russia are moving to sell and buy oil in a bundle of currencies which does not include the US dollar, and where no payments go through the payment system which the US can control (systems like SWIFT, to slightly oversimplify).

Dollar hegemony is one of the main supports of American hegemony. Misuse of dollar hegemony to attack other countries has brought us to this point.

I’ve been a bit of a broken record on this issue, but that’s because it’s been the obvious consequence of the US Treasury’s misuse of its powers.

Other great powers and their allies can put up with a cruel, even an evil, hegemon. What they will not put up with is a capricious one whom they cannot predict.



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