Coal miner’s lament

coal

In news today from Reuters, US and Russian coal exports are way, way up because China has decided to sanction North Korean coal.

China banned all imports of North Korean coal on Feb. 26, cutting off the country’s most important export product. To curb coal traffic between the two countries, which continued despite the ban apparently, China’s customs department issued an official order on April 7 telling trading companies to return their North Korean coal cargoes.

Trump’s been talking about North Korea since before he was elected. I’ve always wondered why. Consensus states the North Korea is in pretty bad shape and that most of what they say is a lie. It’s doubtful they have anything like a functioning weapon. North Korea, which is hardly worth bothering about. That the POTUS was bothered, always made me wonder. I kind of get it now.

By casting North Korea as a problem, and getting China to agree and ban buying coal from NK, China then has to buy coal elsewhere, which potentially means US coal jobs. Is this what the POTUS meant when he said he would bring back coal jobs? Not so fast. It may sound good on the surface for American workers, but dig a little deeper.

China needs coking coal to make steel, China can’t stop buying this type of coal or its economy will suffer. So …. the US is one place they might buy it from. However, another place, that’s much closer geographically and less costly to buy from, is Russia.  Yes, you read that correctly Russia.

Russia’s coal exports are expected to rise by up to 3.3 pct in 2017 according to a UK Reuters report. Coal is a $10B industry in Russia, increasing it over 3% would be a major economic boost to the economy there. Why does such a boost matter? Because it helps Putin get around US sanctions and helps Putin make more money so he and his oligarchy can stay in office longer.

So, the upshot of Trump being tough on North Korea is Trump is helping Putin avoid the pain of sanctions. By the way, coaking coal prices were at an all time high since a hurricane hit Australia, blanking North Korea from the game … yeah, really good, for Russia.

In case anyone forgot, the sanctions were supposed to weaken the Russian economy and make the Russians rethink the Ukraine situation. In case anyone forgot, Russia invaded Ukraine. Russia is in an ongoing war against pro-West, pro-democracy Ukraine. Why? Because Ukrainians cast out their Pro-Putin, national wealth-stealing, puppet president a few years back.

Incredibly, our Mr Tillerson, at the G7 meeting, right before he flew to Moscow, seems uninformed about the whole Russia-Ukraine matter.  “U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson asked his European counterparts on Tuesday why American voters should care about the conflict in Ukraine, France’s foreign minister said.” Really? You have to ask why? Ugh.

Once again, the Trump administration is showing it’s Pro-Putin, anti-democracy stance. Russia wants Ukraine, Trump is okay with Russians annexing it — from the Ukrainians! This has been a core bargaining chip from the beginning. Trump for president, Ukraine for Russia. This shouldn’t surprise anyone. And yet ….

This is a bit more than removing the anti-Russian, pro-Ukraine plank from the GOP’s platform. This is actively undermining sanctions, actively helping Russia get around US sanctions on Ukraine by pushing China to reject North Korea and buy Russian coal. So, collusion with Russia? You bet, still, ongoing.

Finally, talking about Syria for a moment, Russia’s other abiding interest, if you were wondering about sudden visits from Jordan’s king, Egypt’s general president, and China’s president, to the US, consider Syria’s major import and export partners.

Syria exports primarily to Egypt (25%), Jordan (16%), Saudi Arabia (13%).  Syria imports primarily Turkey (30%) and China (22% — over 1 Billion dollars worth). If you’re interested in what Syria imports from Russia: Propellant Powders, Prepared Explosives, Explosive Ammunition (25.6%) & Postage Stamps (20%) . (This info is all from MIT). Russia’s main interest in Syria is being able to use it for military bases.

Remember Mike Flynn, who was helping both Russia and Turkey? Two countries with pretty warm ties. People were wondering about that. Wonder no more. He was representing two countries with major shared interests in Syria. And that was Trump’s first pick? So Syria was always on the table.

And now, Trump has met with all the principles likely to experience flux if there is a US intervention or regime change in Syria. Right before a low-level Sarin attack fortuitously happens on April 6, exactly while China’s Xi is visiting, and Trump can low-level bomb something.  And the very next day China’s customs department issued an official order on April 7 telling trading companies to return their North Korean coal cargoes.

Interesting.

Eric Trump said to a British newspaper “If there was anything that [the strike on] Syria did, it was to validate the fact that there is no Russia tie.” I’m not sure how Eric got there. Logically, because nothing he’s done has helped the US, it would appear that the POTUS had been planning on using Syria and using  North Korea from the start of his presidency for all sorts of reasons that principally benefit Putin.

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