Iran general and 10,000 troops, within six miles of Israeli border

This dangerous development may lead to a fast-spreading regional war in the Middle East. An Iranian blitzkrieg against the Golan Heights would trigger Israeli defenses in depth in Syria. Iran could potentially bring more than 100,000 Basiji into the battle, as well as IRGC troops. If Israel is directly threatened, it may well resort to unconventional weapons, and even launch a counter-attack against Iran itself. In previous wars Israel has counter-attacked into Syria and Egypt.

This news comes amid signs of further American concessions in nuclear negotiations with Iran. However, Iran’s aggression in Syria may torpedo the nuclear talks. Nobody could possibly believe in Iranian good faith in the face of an attack against Israel, more than 1,000 miles from the Iranian border.

In a separate report, Grand Ayatollah Khamenei published a February 8 statement on his website that “Iran has enriched uranium to the 20-percent level” — after promising the United States that it would not do so.

Blog: Iran general and 10,000 troops, within six miles of Israeli border

Is China’s 1929 moment coming? – The Washington Post

It’s weird to worry about China when it’s still growing more than 7 percent a year, but it’s a little less so when you consider how mammoth its credit bubble has gotten.

The numbers are historic. China’s total debt has sprouted from 153 percent of gross domestic product in 2008 to 282 percent today. That, according to Goldman Sachs, makes China’s borrowing binge bigger than 96 percent of all others on record. The problem is that, despite all this debt, growth is slowing and profits are falling, which makes it harder for companies to pay back what they owe. So does the fact that inflation is down to just 0.8 percent. It’s no surprise, then, that China’s central bank just eased policy for the third time in as many months, cutting its benchmark rates by a quarter of a percentage point, to try to avoid the kind of low growth, low inflation trap that the rest of the world has fallen into.

But it might be too late for that.

Is China’s 1929 moment coming? – The Washington Post

This is what happens to countries that heavily focus on economic stability. Instead of little crashes they get big ones.

Why Sanctions on Russia Will Backfire – NYTimes.com

The American government tends to see sanctions against Russia as a low-cost policy that will eventually force Vladimir Putin to change course in Ukraine.

But this conventional wisdom obscures significant costs. Just as using drones to target suspected terrorists in Pakistan may have created more converts to Islamic militancy than it has eliminated, sanctions advocates haven’t reckoned with the unintended consequences of the policy — consequences that could prove far more damaging to American interests than the Kremlin’s aggression in Ukraine.

First, by employing commercial and financial sanctions on Russia for its actions in Ukraine, the United States — the architect and largest beneficiary of the globalized system of trade and finance — is exploiting post-Soviet Russia’s integration into that system. Years of mutually beneficial progress that brought 140 million Russians into the orbit of global economic governance are now in doubt. Even if sanctions succeed in changing the Kremlin’s behavior and are then lifted, the American objective of integrating Russia into the global economy has been fundamentally undermined.

Second, the use of sanctions broadcasts to others the strategic hazard of integrating into the American-led global financial system. Whatever the outcome of Russia’s intervention in Ukraine and whatever Mr. Putin’s ultimate fate, other non-allies of the United States have now learned the lesson that hard-won institutional integration can be turned against those states that achieve it.

Why Sanctions on Russia Will Backfire – NYTimes.com

Russia: The Age of Mythology with Nuclear Rockets | FrontPage Magazine

The ballistic missile with Obama’s name on it, paraded in the streets of Moscow this Monday, was only an imitation – but the sentiment was genuine.

Looking like a gigantic allegorical suppository for the American president, the green twelve-foot rocket emblazoned with the hammer and sickle over a red star brought up Cold War memories of real intercontinental missiles the Soviet government would parade in Red Square as a vague threat to its enemies. There was no vagueness this time: in large print letters, the message on the rocket said, “To be delivered to Obama in person.”

According to a running joke among his critics, Putin has turned Russia into a Burkina Faso with nuclear rockets. And if you’re a member of the Russian parliament, you can even have a personal rocket, or at least a cargo-cult imitation thereof, or perhaps a rocket-shaped voodoo doll, on which you can write the name of your true enemy: Barack Obama.

Russia: The Age of Mythology with Nuclear Rockets | FrontPage Magazine

Russian Economy Was Doomed Before Ukraine | Opinion | The Moscow Times

The conventional assessment of the likely effects of Western sanctions on Russia holds that sanctions should weaken the existing system of government and strengthen the cause of reformers currently outside the inner circle of power. However, what we are instead seeing is a “circling of the wagons” as the system of revenue sharing for key political and social constituencies is reconfigured to further entrench the current system of rule.

As a result, the prevailing system of political economy that is in such urgent need of transformation may in fact be preserved in a more ossified form.

While Russia may have “won” Crimea, and may even succeed in ensuring that Ukraine is not “won” by the West, the price of victory may be the deterioration of the long-term prospects for socioeconomic development.

Russian Economy Was Doomed Before Ukraine | Opinion | The Moscow Times

BBC News – Baltic states shiver as Russia flexes muscles

“The West talks so much about the impending threat of attack by Russia on the Baltics. We’re afraid this will just make it more likely that Putin will do something!”

22-year-law graduate Lukas Borusevicius and his friend Laurynas Juozapaitas came to meet me in a pub in Vilnius to discuss relations with Russia and Lithuania’s sudden re-introduction of military conscription.

The violence in Ukraine and fear of regional spillover have come as quite a shock here. The 25 years since breaking away from the Soviet Union have been relatively peaceful. Until now.

Russia has been holding increasingly frequent snap military drills near its eastern European neighbours, not to mention overflights and naval exercises in the Baltic Sea.

BBC News – Baltic states shiver as Russia flexes muscles

A quarter of a century after the end of the cold war, the world faces a growing threat of nuclear conflict

“Although the world continues to comfort itself with the thought that mutually assured destruction is unlikely, the risk that somebody somewhere will use a nuclear weapon is growing apace.

After the end of the cold war the world clutched at the idea that nuclear annihilation was off the table. When Barack Obama, speaking in Prague in 2009, backed the aim to rid the world of nuclear weapons, he was treated not as a peacenik but as a statesman. Today his ambition seems a fantasy. Although the world continues to comfort itself with the thought that mutually assured destruction is unlikely, the risk that somebody somewhere will use a nuclear weapon is growing apace.

Just rhetoric, you may say. But the murder of Boris Nemtsov, an opposition leader, on the Kremlin’s doorstep on February 27th was only the latest sign that Mr Putin’s Russia is heading into the geopolitical badlands (see article). Resentful, nationalistic and violent, it wants to rewrite the Western norms that underpin the status quo. First in Georgia and now in Ukraine, Russia has shown it will escalate to extremes to assert its hold over its neighbours and convince the West that intervention is pointless. Even if Mr Putin is bluffing about nuclear weapons (and there is no reason to think he is), any nationalist leader who comes after him could be even more dangerous.

Towards midnight

China poses a more distant threat, but an unignorable one. Although Sino-American relations hardly look like the cold war, China seems destined to challenge the United States for supremacy in large parts of Asia; its military spending is growing by 10% or more a year. Nuclear expansion is designed to give China a chance to retaliate using a “second strike”, should America attempt to destroy its arsenal. Yet the two barely talk about nuclear contingencies—and a crisis over, say, Taiwan could escalate alarmingly. In addition Japan, seeing China’s conventional military strength, may feel it can no longer rely on America for protection. If so, Japan and South Korea could go for the bomb—creating, with North Korea, another petrifying regional stand-off.

Nuclear weapons: The new nuclear age | The Economist

Well, it appears that a few people are starting to wake up. There is probably not much time left to sleep. There is western tension with Russia, China and Iran. Effectively, regions surrounding Russia and China are at a tipping point where it won’t take a lot to start a war. And Israel is threatening to take on Iran. How long can it be before something happens? I am wondering if we will make it to the end of Obama’s term in office – January 20, 2017.

Liquidity evaporates in China as ‘fiscal cliff’ nears – Telegraph

Unless China changes course, it is set to tighten fiscal policy by 5.5pc of GDP this year, five times Britain’s austerity dose annually since the Lehman crisis

Nobody can fault China’s leaders for lack of bravery. The Politburo has kept its nerve as the world’s most giddy experiment in credit-driven growth faces assault on three major fronts at once.

Real interest rates have rocketed. The trade-weighted rise in the yuan over the past two years has been spectacular. Fiscal policy is about to tighten drastically as the authorities clamp down on big-spending local governments.

Put together, China is pursuing the most contractionary mix of economic policies in the G20, relative to the status quo ante. Collateral damage is already visible in the sliding global prices of iron ore, copper, nickel, lead and zinc over recent months, as well as thermal coal, oil, corn and even sugar.

Zhiwei Zhang, from Deutsche Bank, says China faces a “fiscal cliff” this year as Beijing attempts to rein in spending. “This year, China will likely face the worst fiscal challenge since 1981. This is not well recognised in the market,” he said.

Liquidity evaporates in China as ‘fiscal cliff’ nears – Telegraph

Lord Rothschild: ‘Investors face a geopolitical situation as dangerous as any since WW2′ – Telegraph

Chairman of the popular RIT Capital Partners investment trust warns savers of ‘chaos, extremism and aggression’ around the world, with ‘horrendous’ problems in Europe

Jacob Rothschild, the 78 year-old banker and chairman of RIT Capital Partners, has delivered savers in the £2.3bn trust a stark warning about global instability and the fragility of future returns.

He used his chairman’s statement in the trust’s 2014 annual report to outline his concerns, saying that on top of a “difficult economic background” investors face “a geopolitical situation perhaps as dangerous as any we have faced since World War II”.

He said this was the result of “chaos and extremism in the Middle East, Russian aggression and expansion, and a weakened Europe threatened by horrendous unemployment, in no small measure caused by a failure to tackle structural reforms in many of the countries which form part of the European Union”.

This was a much gloomier assessment of the world than the picture painted in his statement a year ago.

Lord Rothschild: ‘Investors face a geopolitical situation as dangerous as any since WW2′ – Telegraph

Russia Accuses U.S. of Plot to Oust Putin Via Opposition Aid – Bloomberg Business

Russia’s Security Council accused the U.S. of plotting to oust President Vladimir Putin by financing the opposition and encouraging mass demonstrations, less than a week after a protest leader was murdered near the Kremlin.

The U.S. is funding Russian political groups under the guise of promoting civil society, just as in the “color revolutions” in the former Soviet Union and the Arab world, council chief Nikolai Patrushev said in an e-mailed statement Wednesday. At the same time, the U.S. is using the sanctions imposed over the conflict in Ukraine as a “pretext” to inflict economic pain and stoke discontent, he said.

Russia Accuses U.S. of Plot to Oust Putin Via Opposition Aid – Bloomberg Business

Monitoring emerging risks.