By Darini Rajasingham-Senanayake*
Topped off by a curious ‘coup’ attempt in Russia, June was a fascinating month with new geopolitical, economic developments, twists and turns on many fronts: As US President Joe Biden wooed, wined and dined India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi (who was once refused a visa to America), France’s Emmanuel Macron sought an invite from South African President Cyril Ramaphosa to the BRICS summit scheduled for August. However, France is hardly an ’emerging economy’.
Perhaps Macron’s interest in BRICS was due to India’s Foreign Minister, Dr Jaishankar’s recent comment that ‘Europe has to grow out of the mindset that Europe’s problems are the world’s problems but the world’s problems are not Europe’s problems’. He was tired of lectures about India’s purchase of Russian oil bucking Western sanctions.
‘Curiouser and curious cried Alice of the smiling cat in Wonderland as Joe Biden wooed the Indian defence establishment with a promise of technology transfer and Macron tried to stay relevant vis-à-vis the Global South in his complex pas de deux of corporation and competition with Biden.
Simultaneously, debt trapped Sri Lanka’s US “Force” backed President Ranil Rajapakse tangoed at the colonial Club de Paris while attending Macron’s June ‘Summit for a New Global Financing Pact’ which smelt like old wine in new bottles, albeit with a ‘climate resilience’ Greenwash label!
Bond scams and Financial Corruption are off the Charts
It has been clear for some decades that the Washington twins (World Bank and IMF) and OECD’s colonial Club de Paris dominated global financial architecture is no longer fit for purpose, as evident in the current world inequality and poverty pandemic.
However, at Macron’s summit for a new Global Financial Pact, the chief problem of systemic corruption in the global financial system was neatly side-stepped with the ‘climate catastrophe’ narrative to distract: There was no mention of global-local networks of financial corruption, shadowy off-shore bank accounts, bond scams or bond crimes like the killing of a primary witness in a court case on the 2015 Bondscam at the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL), in which the Sri Lankan President was a respondent. Macron’s hot air Summit for a “New global financing pact” was staged to promote Green and Blue bonds as the new frontier to save the planet!
The Club de Paris represents predatory Eurobond hedge funds like BlackRock (which is Sri Lanka’s main private creditor) and their derivatives corruption racket with global-local networks of rating agencies, accounting companies, legal firms, consultants and neoliberal think tanks that are part of the IMF gravy train, or ‘bailout business” as the Transnational Institute in Amsterdam termed it.
This gravy train games the (debt) data and crafts narratives to a debt trap, pump, and dump vulnerable countries and their currencies against the ‘exorbitantly privileged and extravagantly printed US dollar, enabling the greatest transfer of wealth in human history to the global one per cent.
Sri Lanka’s first Eurobond Debt Default that enabled the Washington Twins (World Bank and IMF), the takeover of the strategic island’s economic sovereignty and policy autonomy is located in the Global Transition and Power-Shift from West to East, North to South. Given the island’s geostrategic location at the Center of the Indian Ocean, it has become a hybrid economic proxy war site in many ways, like Ukraine, Taiwan, and others, as the BRICS’ economic growth outstripped the traditional G-7 block. Cold War 2 ramps up between the US-led ‘West’ and the ‘Rest’ led by China for a Multipolar world in the Asian 21st century.
Remarkably, the purportedly bankrupt Sri Lankan rupee started appreciating steeply against the US dollar when the IMF started mission creep into Domestic debt restructuring (DDR), conflating and inflating the country’s quantum of debt.
French Spring in Colombo: Sri Lanka heads to Argentina
Meanwhile, June in Colombo saw a ‘French Spring’ culture and soft-power charm offensive unfolded for the local ‘twitterrati’ on the lawn of the Sri Lanka Foundation, to the strains of Edith Piaf’s classic ‘Quand il me prend dans ses bras’, as IMF mission creep to restructure Sri Lanka’s internal or Domestic debt (DDR), rather than the much-hyped external debt that was the cause of the Default got going.
This would, among other things, inflate debt numbers, conflate internal and external and deepen the debt trap narrative. ‘DDR’ was needed ironically to impress the colonial club’s predatory creditors regarding Sri Lanka’s bona fides!
It is increasingly clear that the Euro-American jazz ensemble would play as other post-colony sinks in global networks of financial corruption and debt amid Parisian climate change summits with French fishing fleets extending their reach and catch into the Central Indian Ocean. This was in the wake of the Credit Suisse Tuna Bondscam in Mozambique as fish had become unaffordable in debt-trapped Sri Lanka![i]
Was Macron’s pivot to the BRICs also due to recent setbacks in Africa, Burkina Faso and Mali, where France was accused of neocolonial meddling? Hardly surprising then that Macron’s request for an invite to the BRICS Summit in South Africa in August elicited a rather cool reply from President Ramphosa, who replied that he’d follow up on Macron.
However, President Ranil Rajapakse seemed oblivious to Macron’s pivot to the BRICS and persisted in promoting the myth that “there is no alternative” (TINA) to the IMF’s agenda of more Eurobond debt-trap borrowing from Colonial Club lenders to deepen the debt trap in the long term.
The President (who was once called “bond scam Ranil” due to his role in CBSL bond scams) that destroyed the reputation of the country’s heist financial institution back in 2015 has been deaf to local civil society and Opposition calls for a ban on borrowing from predatory Eurobond lenders, and the call to seek help from Global South bi-lateral lenders and join the BRICS New Development (NDB), bank to avoid Argentina’s fate.
Argentina has been pumped and dumped by predatory Eurobond hedge funds for decades with IMF help and advice and is now on its 9th Default and 22nd IMF bailout and again rocked by protests. Thus, seeking alternatives to the IMF and Colonial Club, Argentina recently applied to join the NDB, but the Sri Lanka president, business community and related think tanks, corporate media, journalists, and bond traders seem to have not heard of the BRICS, NDB or even the ‘Global South’!
Gotterdemmerung: Regime Change in Nuclear-armed Moscow?
Meanwhile, in the Russian theatre, an exuberant President Zelenskyy claimed that Wagner Group boss Yevgeny Prigozhin’s short march to Moscow in June was the long-awaited NATO-backed Ukrainian counter-offensive, only ‘just started’ against Russia. That news item and visuals soon disappeared, with the ‘coup’ story fizzling out in less than 24 hours and the global corporate media frenzy of speculation about Mr Putin’s demise and Russia’s dissolution.
The curious ‘coup’ to take down Russian President Vladimir Putin was apparently checkmated by President Lukashenko, who appeared from nowhere to whisk off Prigozhin to exile in Belarus! The rest of the world heaved a sigh of relief that Russia’s nuclear arsenal remained in Mr Putin’s experienced hands.
Prigozhin meanwhile sounded like a tragi-comic antihero in a Wagner Opera –Gotterdemmerung perhaps? He lamented that the plan was never to unseat Mr Putin, who had helped his star to rise once. Nor was the plan to create civil war in beloved mother Russia, but to save his men. After all, Putin’s approval ratings are pretty high among the Russian public despite the United States and its NATO ally’s take on him.
Of course, there was no mention that the Wagner Group followed in the distinguished tradition of US and UK military contractors like Blackwater, storied in Scarhill’s (2008) book; “Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s most powerful mercenary army” well-known for dark deeds in Iraq and Afghanistan, that fought shoulder to shoulder with the US military.[ii]
Closer home, Phil Miller’s book ‘Keenie Meenie”, The British Mercenaries who got away with war crimes in Sri Lanka based on de-classified Documents also provided perspective on the external actors in Sri Lanka’s purportedly internal ethnoreligious conflict.
Blackwater has since been renamed “Academi”, of all things so that links to BlackRock and Blackstone hedge funds are elusive.
Meanwhile, in a script that read like a dystopian fairy tale, US President Biden, who had been busy scenario mapping and modelling a post-Putin Russia and world order with Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau and other NATO supporters of the War Machine, then proceeded to plausibly deny that western intelligence agencies had anything to do with the Wagner ‘coup’.
Cold War propaganda and disinformation were subsequently amplified by Kash Patel, former Deputy Director of National Intelligence, who suggested that Mr Putin had staged the whole show—a new Wagner opera starring Prigozhin. Mr Putin, it seems, had nothing better to do than stage his own goals and black opera.
*The writer is a social and medical anthropologist with expertise in international development and political-economic analysis.