- CounterPunch.org - https://www.counterpunch.org -

The West Can’t Stop Pillaging Other Countries’ Bank Accounts

Frans Hogenberg – Geheugen van Nederland – Public Domain

With the explanation that it had to punish Russia for its war in Ukraine, the west stole over $300 billion of Moscow’s money. With the explanation that 9-11 families deserved compensation, the U.S. stole $7 billion from Afghanistan (oh no, it had nothing to do with revenge for losing the war, how could you even think such a thing?) With the explanation that, well, it just didn’t like Venezuela, the U.K., or rather the Bank of England, stole roughly $2 billion of that country’s gold.

See a pattern? Leave your nation’s money in a western bank, and it might not be yours for very long, especially if you in any way bother western politicos, like having an economic system they disapprove of, or sending them packing when they invade your country, or telling NATO where to get off when it threatens to absorb a neighboring nation and plant missiles there. In this last instance, it would have been far better had Moscow waged economic war on NATO countries, instead of an actual war on Kiev. But as it happened, Ukraine got clobbered militarily and dreadfully, and the west launched an economic blitzkrieg on Moscow, accidentally firing all its financial missiles at itself.

The west’s larcenous behavior erodes trust in its financial system, to understate matters. Keep your savings in dollars or in western banks and you could lose them, if say, you don’t let NATO invade your country and topple your government, or balkanize your country, or even if you don’t privatize your ports, or worse, you let China invest in them. Not saying these last two have happened, but if the past is precedent, they sure could. All over the world, in recent months, countries finally got the message, and some feel vulnerable. So things have begun to change in ways that do not bode well for Washington’s global financial hegemony. It is certainly likely, for example, that Chinese leaders look at their more than one trillion dollars in U.S. debt and now think “Gee, maybe that’s not such a great idea.” Indeed, compared to May, 2021, China’s holdings in U.S. treasury securities this year fell by 9 percent.

All this is of a piece with the eye-popping news, scarcely mentioned in western media, that Russia, China and the rest of the BRICS countries – Brazil, India and South Africa – “are officially working on their own ‘new global reserve currency,’” as Information Clearing House reported on July 25. Currently the dollar holds that primo place. The dollar is the world’s reserve currency, with all the many privileges that entails, privileges which, if completely lost, would entail a western financial contraction the like of which the world has probably never seen.

But maybe they won’t be completely lost. There will be the west and then also, separately, the rest – with the rest, of course, being far bigger, population-, resources- and ultimately wealth-wise. “The issue of creating an international reserve currency based on a basket of currencies of our countries is being worked out,” said Vladimir Putin at a BRICS meeting in June. Moscow began dumping its U.S. treasuries back in 2018. The west’s ill-advised economic war on Russia has now accelerated developments that will – surprise! – backfire massively.

Meanwhile, with western banking dangers in mind, some years back China inaugurated the Cross-Border Interbank Payment System (CIPS) possibly to help sidestep the western Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) messaging system and to process payments in yuan. “The system has an expansive network of 1280 financial institutions,” Insider reported back on April 28, noting that Russia started the System for Transfer of Financial Messages (SPFS) even earlier, back in 2014. Both countries, but Russia particularly, due to the west’s economic war against it, have begun to de-dollarize their trade and these two organizations help them do that. If innovations like these take hold, along with the new BRICS reserve currency for over half the world, and the dollar loses its dominance, “it will hurt the U.S. economy,” mainly through inflation, to put it mildly.

So China now uses CIPS when settling direct trades with Russia, while Russia recently began conducting its considerable oil trade with India in rupees and rubles. Moscow now transacts as many of its other foreign deals in rubles as it can, and that’s a lot. To repeat, it does so in response to the west’s economic war against it. The idiot Eurocrats who wage that war, instead of promoting peace negotiations between Russia and Ukraine, seem blind to the possibility that Moscow can fight back economically, and when it does, they scream. Too bad back in January, Russia didn’t do as anti-war activist Scott Horton recently suggested in a debate, namely, instead of invading Ukraine, just cut off all gas to Europe, all of it, and say it wouldn’t come back on until NATO pledged not to let Kiev join, and until Kiev pledged to stop killing Russian-speaking Ukrainians in the Donbass.

Nota bene – the ruble, despite sanctions and theft, is stronger than ever, at a seven-year high, while the Euro sank to a 20-year-low, the Russian central bank is cutting interest rates and Moscow is rolling in money. How much money? Russia’s account surplus this year January to July is $138.5 billion, roughly $100 billion higher than the same period last year and more than double the previous year. This skyrocketing surplus exemplifies yet again how the west shot itself in the head with its sanctions on Russian energy. They boomeranged, to say the least, regardless of what chumps like EU bigwig Josep Borrell claim. And western oil monopolies, which jacked up prices on the threat of those anti-Moscow sanctions, have been rather, er, reluctant to lower them, even as the price per barrel of oil sank somewhat, closer to pre-Ukraine war norms.

All this while China invests billions in Iran and you can bet those billions won’t be dollars. Nor will Russia’s recently inked natural gas deal with Iran. Meanwhile, Moscow recently did turn off the gas to Europe, for maintenance, and EU chieftains freaked out. Of course they did. Developments like these forecast trouble for the current crop of western political placeholders. Recent polls show the EU public wised up to the true cost of sanctions. Europeans don’t like going broke due to inflation or the prospect of freezing in winter so that birdbrains like EU grandees Borrell, Ursula Von Der Leyen and Charles Michel can preen over their economic war on Russia.

But Moscow started it, you say? So it did, after intense provocation over eight years from Washington’s team of imbecilic neocons. Indeed, NATO snagged the war in Ukraine it long lusted for and has no intention, nor does Joe “Russian Roulette” Biden, of negotiating a peace, no matter how many Ukrainians and Russians die. In fact, aside from neocon Victoria “Fuck the EU” Nuland, Biden is the westerner most responsible for turning Ukraine into a slaughterhouse today, having been Obama’s point man on Kiev. Part of his mission was to bring Kiev into NATO, regardless of a possible atomic apocalypse. So the only way that peace comes is with the defenestration of the current lousy gang of western rulers. Germans have already caught on that their chancellor Olaf Scholz is a novice who was played by Washington neocons into suicidally blocking the Russian gas pipeline, Nordstream 2. He and others like him in Europe may find that wild inflation and deindustrialization lose them their next election. Biden too. But getting rid of the bloodthirsty Eurocrat nitwits is another matter. They are accountable to no one, as far as anybody can tell, and want to string out the fighting until Ukraine becomes a graveyard.

Meanwhile, in other parts of the world, the five biggest Southeast Asian economies are set to sign onto integrating their mobile payment systems by November. That’s Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand. As Techwire Asia put it July 19: This new system “will then allow people to buy goods and services throughout the region by just scanning QR codes, bypassing the need for U.S. dollars as intermediary.” These transactions can be cross-border, will be more efficient, and crucially, omit any role for the dollar.

Gee, why might those enormous Southeast Asian countries want their transactions to skip the dollar? More to the point, why now? Well, if you tell your banks to swipe people’s money, pretty soon word gets around, and soon after that, people park their cash…elsewhere. Oh, and they also avoid business transactions in your currency. Worse, such pilfering inspires tit for tat reactions. In addition to $300 billion from Moscow, the west pirated other Russian property. Well, thereafter Russia signed a law nationalizing western assets, like airplanes, that happen to be in its territory.

By contrast, there’s little the Taliban can do to counter Biden’s theft of its national funds, which starves millions of Afghans…except to turn to China for help. As for Venezuela’s gold, which British bankers decided to plunder, at some point in time the west will want Caracas’ oil again, maybe that point in time is now. How will the west pay? In funds deposited in a British or American bank? I don’t think so. And that’s the minimal financial response to be expected from the Maduro government. They may even want their gold back.

Suffice it to say having bankers who behave like armed robbers is bad for business. Claiming that some random Guaido is the true president of Venezuela and therefore the Bank of England can’t fork over the country’s monies to the, uh, actual government which won the elections and runs the country, does little to sooth nervous national depositors. This bad habit just makes U.S. or European-backed coups look too easy (regardless of brainless neocon John Bolton’s whining that coups are hard work): All these western kleptos have to do is say they don’t recognize a president, or dislike national resistance to invasion, so they’re confiscating the country’s money. Even the dimmest bulb in the batch can see the risk of that. And some people, like Chinese leaders, are very bright bulbs indeed.

China witnessed the west’s looting of Russian, Afghan and Venezuelan bank accounts, and now knows very well that Washington would repeat this chicanery should things heat up over Taiwan. And they’re heating up. Especially with House speaker Nancy “My Husband’s Stocks Are His Business” Pelosi threatening her Freedom Flight to Taiwan, a shameless stunt that may bamboozle credulous ignoramuses back home, but could also ignite an exchange of hostilities. Naturally, Pelosi’s biggest backers for this idiotic escapade are congressional Republicans. Pelosi herself speculated that the pentagon doesn’t want her to go because the People’s Liberation Army might shoot down her plane. You know where that leads: a volley of missiles between the U.S. and China. And if these two states start shooting at each other, World War III lurks right around the corner.

Indeed, China announced it would respond vigorously to Pelosi’s airborne antics. “If the U.S. insists on going its own way,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijan July 20, regarding Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, “China will take firm and forceful measures to firmly safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity. The U.S. must bear all the consequences of the visit.” That doesn’t sound good. Forceful measures probably involve…force. Beijing has already announced it will go to war should Taiwan declare its independence, something which Pelosi’s carefree jaunt would encourage. Lijan also cited the “grave impact” on Sino-American ties of Pelosi’s little tourist stop. A day or two after mentioning these “forceful measures,” China informed the white house that it might respond militarily to Pelosi’s planned East China Sea adventure, the Financial Times reported on July 24.

So the bellicose octogenarian House speaker may drag the U.S. into a nuclear inferno, because she wanted to put on a little skit in Taiwan, you know, like that warmonger Mike Pompeo did, when he jetted into Taiwan some months back and bellowed that the U.S. should recognize the island as independent (easy peasy, except of course, for igniting nuclear Armageddon). Several other limelight-hogging congress critters in recent months also alighted on the island, making sententious speeches about freedom and generally parading for the media circus. It’s a thing. Go to Taiwan, strut around the island, make all sorts of promises that Washington may or may not keep but that are darn sure to infuriate Beijing and who cares what happens to the security architecture between two nuclear superpowers? The show for the rubes back home in the Exceptional Empire must go on.

Meanwhile the mayhem continues elsewhere. When Biden’s team of financial shoplifters purloined Afghanistan’s funds back in February, their heist equaled roughly 40 percent of the Afghan economy and about 14 months of Afghan imports. According to UNICEF, “more than 23 million Afghans face acute hunger, including 9 million who are nearly famished.” The UN estimated that by the middle of 2022, that would be now, 97 percent of Afghans would be in poverty. These people not only need every penny of their $7 billion, they have an absolute moral right to it.

But don’t expect western rulers to comprehend that. It’s simply alien to their amoral code, aka the bogus “rules-based international order,” which translates to “whatever the U.S. empire says goes.” But Afghanistan’s absolute moral right to its own money is not alien to the rest of the world. On July 5, China’s Global Times ran a story on Chinese donations to the Afghan red crescent. Four days earlier, the same newspaper covered the earthquake and China’s aid to Afghanistan; on June 30, the headline read: “Sharp contrast: China brings hope with assistance vs. U.S. taking lives in chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan.”

The world watches in horror as the U.S. bullies starving Afghans by hijacking their funds. And in some places, the world has started rescuing its monies. Invasions, regime changes, inciting wars, arrogance and now grabbing nations’ savings right out of banks – this is not a long-term winning strategy for the U.S. or indeed for any country. Not to get too biblical about it, but really, pride goeth before a fall.