Sanctions and Stones Won’t Break Our Bones, But Oil Prices Hurt.

Disclaimer: This article is originally from December.

In December, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting countries met in Vienna to “discuss” decreasing oil prices. The emphasis in the sentence should be put on the word discuss because, despite the increasingly unnecessary amounts of oil being pumped everyday by OPEC countries, no action was taken to stop such an economically disadvantageous situation.

Currently, the price of oil is lower than $65 per barrel; its lowest in an estimated five years. Countries such as Russia, Venezuela, and Iran suffered the most due to the dropping oil-prices, because their national budgets require their oil to be sold for at least $95 per barrel to be sustainable. Russia loses an estimated $12-14 billion a year in revenue for each $10 drop in the price of the oil per barrel. However it seems as if the countries of the OPEC, especially Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Kuwait are not concerned with the economies of those countries, and in fact a number of them are quite satisfied with economic downward spiral that Russia, Iran and Venezuela are in. With countries choosing to ignore the troubles of others, it seems as if every man for himself. At a closer look, however, one finds that all men are for dear Uncle Sam, attending to his every whim.

The US at the present moment is trying to punish Russia for its ‘annexation’ of the Crimean Peninsula. In its pursuit to punish Russia, particularly Vladimir Putin, the American government along with its European ‘colleagues’ (read: puppets) has attempted numerous attacks, mostly in the form of anti-Russia propaganda and sanctions, directed to harm Russia, its economy, and those people who happen to be in President Putin’s immediate circle.

Well, it is an acknowledged fact that US is trying to force the Russian Federation into a corner, however, their sanctions were not having a major impact on Russia’s policies, until the crash of the oil prices, which dragged the Russian currency, the Ruble, down with it. Russia’s economy is in a recession due to the oil prices’ 40% decrease. The budget is cut, and although the Prime Minister Medvedev announced that the government reserve funds are not going to be used in the near future, those reserves might eventually be forced prop up the Russian Ruble and it’s economy. As Vladimir Putin had put it in his annual press conference on 18th December, “Sometimes I think, maybe they’ll let the bear eat berries and honey in the forest, maybe they will leave it in peace. They will not. Because they will always try to put him on a chain, and as soon as they succeed in doing so they tear out his fangs and his claws.”

The present conditions of the oil market are depended on a number of factors, the main one of them being the dollar and the output of OPEC’s oil supplies. With the US Dollar being one of the most stable, tradable currencies on the market at the present time, it is no wonder that all countries, especially the European and Middle Eastern ones, are dependent on the Dollar, and thus are mere pawns of US. Saudi Arabia, although being a prosperous wealthy country, is dependent on the dollar, as it had negotiated a deal with the USA, which allows the former to sell their oil only in dollars, thus tying this Middle Eastern country with USA.

Although most people assume that Saudi Arabia, as the biggest, and most influential oil exporter in the Middle East, is causing the decrease in the oil prices to overwhelm the US shale oil production, thus causing it to shrink under the massive weight of the low oil prices, these outcomes might not be the main objective of their actions. Saudi Arabia has been a long-time opposition to the Assad’s regime and the Muslim Shias, thus imposing a financial crisis on Russia and Iran would kill 4 birds with one stone. Russia, who supported the Assad regime and had taken a part in the Ukrainian turmoil, would financially suffer due to the oil price drop, which is beneficial for both the US and Saudi Arabia. Venezuela is the country that suffers the most due to the astoundingly low oil prices. It has also been the subject of the American sanctions and an overall annoyance to America. Venezuela’s economic destruction would be quite beneficial for the USA, as it would allow for a perfect example of what USA can do to their adversaries. Due to the decreasing oil prices, Iran is more likely to cave under pressure to USA in their talks about the nuclear build up in Iran, and it would be weakened as Shia Muslim state in the Middle East, allowing Saudi Arabia to remain in dominance of this region. Once again, these outcomes are beneficial for both USA and Saudi Arabia. US shale oil price would suffer a major setback, even if it is only 15% of it’s value lost, which allows Saudi Arabia to regain it’s supremacy and totalitarian control of the oil industry, as the expensive-to-produce shale oil would have to decrease their price to match the dropping oil prices. This outcome might not be beneficial for USA, but for an economy as strong as Uncle Sam’s this is just a piece of cake to handle, especially since the dropping oil prices fill the pockets of the US citizens with an additional $75 billion to spend on other services and allows for cheaper oil imports.

The USA, in their attempts to minimize the power of Russia, is causing harm not to Putin and his oligarchs, but quite the opposite. Not only did the aggressiveness of European countries and USA caused an increase of Putin’s popularity at home, but also harmed those people who had nothing to do with Ukraine or Putin whatsoever. The average common people of Russia are now struggling to keep their families from starving, as the Ruble fell an approximate 45% in it’s value in the past 3 months. When the Ruble averaged around 100 Rubles to 1 Euro on December 16, chaos swept over the nation as businesses had to shut down in the middle of the day because they were uncertain which prices to put up. An average annual earning of a Russian citizen in 2013 was estimated to be 30,000 Rubles per month. After devaluation, that salary, converted to euros, drops to 300 euros per month. While the common people struggle to figure out how much they will have to save to afford new clothes for their children this summer, the Russian oligarchs’ net worth haven’t decreased in their value. The reason for this is that they are aware. The oligarchs know what is happening in the world and they have been prepared for such turnout of events for weeks now. Most of their assets are in foreign currency, thus making them immune to the financial crisis that struck the common folk of Russia and SNG regions.

The conditions of the average people are never considered when countries start waging geopolitical wars with each other. The men and women of Russia and Iran, are the ones who struggle, not the politicians and millionaires. Knowing people, who are directly affected by the devaluation of the Russian currency and the decrease in the oil prices, had pushed me to realize that something must be done, before innocents suffer. It had also made me realize that in this situation I am powerless and al I can do is stand back and watch my country, my people be trumped under the big feet of the politics.

We Tortured Some Folks

We Tortured Some Folks

“So have you heard about the torture in Russia?” one of my fellow schoolmates mockingly asked me. My answer was a firm no at the time. However, I would also add the fact that even though I have not heard any official sources on massive torture in Russia, I have heard about the torture in America.

Even though ex-President Bush and a number of Republican politicians have tried to delay the release of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s CIA Torture Report by referring to the “national security”, which seems to be everyone’e favorite phrase once the problems in their depertment or administration surface.

The truth always comes out. And the truth is that the CIA used torture and inhumane ways of interrogation, misleading the Senate and the White House about their deeds, held innocent people for the CIA’s purposes, and exaggerated on the effectivness of the torture methods.

If you thought America was the land of the free and the home of the brave, then think again. Think of a man who was wrongfully held by the CIA in order to extract information from his family. Think of the men degraded and abused in the prisons of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay.

On the subject of the torture report, U.S. President Barack Obama remarked that, “The character of our country has to be measured in part not by what we do when things are easy, but what we do when things are hard.” Just to clarify to all the readers, what the US has done when things turned bad, was, and I am directly quoting President Obama, “We tortured some folks.” Quite ironic, and at the same time, so revealing, to have a country that fights the fight for human rights, so clearly abuse them.

The worst part of all these revelations is that after hanging out its dirty laundry, the US in fact expects people to forgive and forget, as President Obama has said,

“We crossed a line…it needs to be understood and accepted.” The problem is most people will do exactly that.

The Grand Dilemma

The Grand Dilemma

There must be a fault in the judicial systems around the world if criminals are set free, never to be prosecuted again, and the innocent people are either locked up or put to eternal sleep. The judicial system in the US is based on a jury procedure, where mostly ordinary citizens get to decide the fate of the accused, while remaining absolutely unacquainted with him/her. When described in these terms this system seems a rather bizarre way of putting criminals behind bars, but in reality most citizens agree with the way the courts are being run today.

However, no matter how accepted the system is, not all people agree, as massive riots and protests that have arisen around the world after trials that people thought unfair.

The idea of the unbiased jury, who should decide on a verdict for the prosecuted based on the evidence provided by both the prosecution and the defense, has never been so corrupted as in the case of the grand jury.

A grand jury is composed of common citizens, randomly chosen, unknown and inaccessible to the public, who only face the prosecution in a secret proceeding to decide whether the accused is to be charged with a crime. This form of the jury allows the prosecution to influence the jury in closed environments, allow for more evidence maneuvering, as there is no defense to ensure that exculpatory evidence is presented side by side with the evidence that shows the guilt of the accused. The grand jury’s function ends when the person is either put to trial or set free, which is where the normal jury comes in. The trial jury is not so different from the grand jury, except for the fact that they are not inaccessible and are public knowledge, and thus are less likely to cave under the influence of any of the two sides during the trial, since the defense is present in the courtroom. The jury nonetheless acquires a fair share of adverse attributes. Some of them being, undisclosed prejudices, aggressiveness and discriminating beliefs. When the jury are being chose for the trial, around 1/3 of them is eliminated during pre-trial questioning, and yet one can never be sure that the jury disclosed all that they might hold against the prosecuted party. If during one of those elimination sessions a man were faced with a question if he has anything against black people, 100% surely he would answer, “No”. Would this answer be 100% true? We will never know, and the black man being prosecuted for theft, which he did or did not do, will already be a criminal in the mind of that man of the jury.

However there are also positive sides to the idea of a jury, which have been accurately described by one of my teachers, “If I was on trial, I would want to be judged by my fellow peers. By those people next door.” Of course this depends on each individual, as in to whose hands they would want to place their fate. Many people believe that having people just like themselves sitting as the jury on the trial, allows for more real perspectives and more understanding, nevertheless as I have already pointed out the jury might poses a certain disposition to the subject matter of the trial, or might have limited knowledge of what is occurring before them, thus creating a bigger possibility of them making an uneducated decision. It can be clearly observed that general trial jury are in reality a no better substitution for a grand jury as both carry numerous disadvantages to them.

Just observing the recent example of Eric Garner’s death can make the case against the grand jury hearings. The case of Eric Garner was presented before the grand jury for strangling/chocking the unarmed black man, Eric Garner to death during his, Eric Garner’s arrest. Once again the grand jury failed to accuse a white police officer for causing a death of a black young man. Thousands of people found this grand jury trial not only unfair, but also simply discriminating, as Daniel Pantaleo (the accused) is a white man who had killed a black unarmed man, thus causing speculation that there was racism amongst the grand jury when the verdict was being decided on.

One might raise a similar question about the grand jury trial of Darren Wilson, which happened last month, and caused thousands of people to come out to the streets in protests, that later involved into setting-police-cars-and-buildings-on-fire rampage through the city, breaking out in Ferguson and other cities in America. The people of Ferguson, New York, Dallas and Los Angeles, certainly didn’t approve of the decision of the grand jury, but President Obama has addressed the protesters suggesting that all should accept the decision of the grand jury as the grand jury represents the US judicial branch and thus their decision carries a significant weight. I believe however that in case of tens of thousands of people standing against the 12 juries’ decision, a long time frustration with the current judicial system is reaching the surface of the society. My arguments and statements here are not in favor of the guilt of Darren Wilson; they are in favor of a fair system. Essentially, this case itself is a argument against the grand jury system as, the prosecutor, himself chose to have a grand jury hearing more similar to a common trial, by having witnesses and evidence presented from both the prosecutor’s and the defense’s sides. The way that the case of Michael Brown’s homicide was handled shows how the prosecutor felt it would be a more fair and clear grand jury hearing if most of the grand jury’s hearings attributes were taken away to make it more like a common trial.

Undoubtedly there are reasons why the government is using the grand and trial jury system in the courts, the way it does, but it does not mean the system is bulletproof. Men are human, and they possess feelings and thoughts, which cannot be altered, but can alter the life of others. We need to focus on bringing true justice, be it through revising or altering the system altogether.

Welcome to AIS Voices Blog

Dear Readers,

What we have here is a significant moment in the KSN History, as students of AIS are given a chance to speak out in such a personal way. My name is Sofia Pavlova and from this point on I will be your guide in this world of double-standards, hypocrisy and very rare honesty. Yes, this all might not sound very positive, but I am a declared sceptic, since I don’t believe everything I see or hear and I encourage you not to either. I want to welcome you to A Russian’s Perspective.

Yours Truly,

Sofia Pavlova.