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Collapse is inevitable… A view from Russia

The President of the United States in an address to the nation publicly acknowledged the fall of the American economy, blaming Russia for this. Collapse is inevitable…

US President Joe Biden warned his fellow citizens in a recent address to the nation that they would have to suffer for democracy in Ukraine.

At the same time, he deftly linked official inflation, gigantic by the standards of the United States, with the events taking place around Ukraine. Well, as always, only Russia is to blame for this.

A very strange explanation of the situation, given that the liberals assured us that the Russian economy is only a statistical error in the overall world economy. And, in general – since 2018, Apple Corporation alone is worth more than the entire Russian economy! If you are to believe these “evaluations”.

But the US government knows better. Since the average American has to suffer for democracy in Ukraine (through frenzied inflation and rising prices for everything), then let him suffer.

Russia’s actions really affect inflation in the United States regardless. That could lead to the collapse of not only their economy, but also to the collapse of the entire modern financial system. This is due to the fact that Russia has gained sovereignty and no longer sells its natural resources for almost free, especially energy. Something that was happening during the last decade of the last century. Arrival of Putin changed that situation.

In Russia today, too, high inflation, which is 8.7%. In the US, inflation is 7.5%. But there is one big difference: in Russia, inflation is in rubles, while in the US it is in dollars.

What does it mean?

Prices for goods are always rising with us, as there is inflation. But they grow in rubles, while in dollars they, on the contrary, fall.

  • For example, just yesterday the dollar exchange rate was 77 rubles, and today it costs 80 rubles.

That is, goods produced within Russia fell in price against the dollar.

Let’s take gasoline as an example.

In 2014, a liter of 95th gasoline cost 35 rubles, or 1 dollar (the dollar exchange rate was also 35 rubles then).

Today, a liter of AI-95 gasoline costs 53 rubles, that is, $0.69 at a dollar rate of 77 rubles (or $0.66 at a rate of 80 rubles).

By manipulating the ruble exchange rate, it is possible to minimize the damage from dollar inflation within the Russian economy. Another thing is that the real incomes of citizens will decline, but the economy will only develop and grow. That is why, even with high oil prices, the ruble still does not return to its previous values ​​​​of 50 or even 30 rubles per dollar. And this will not happen as long as the US economy (and with it the EU economy) is in crisis.

  • However, the crisis in the United States did not arise because of the situation in Ukraine, as Joe Biden talks about it. Ukraine is just a good excuse to divert the attention of US citizens from the really fundamental economic problems.

The United States, like no one else, knows how to manipulate inflation and dispel any threats and risks to its economy in the global financial system.

Their freshly printed candy wrappers are supplied by market demand and supply

US economists are very smart people. They have built an economic model in which the US economy will grow and develop in almost any circumstances. And if something goes wrong, you can always print more money and pour it into the economy. Like doping.

The worst nightmare for the US economy is the deficit generated by excessive inflation. And this can happen only in one case. It is when there is not enough goods in the world that the United States needs. And it cannot be bought for any money. Under such conditions the more dollars are printed, the more expensive the desired product will be, and the more expensive the product, the more inflation will be. And it goes in spiral.

Look at the US inflation chart:

US inflation chart. 
The modern Bretton Woods financial system based on the US dollar originated in 1945

1. 1951-1954: Anglo-Iranian Oil Company in Abadan (oil crisis)

2. Arab-Jewish war (oil crisis of 1973-1974)

3. Islamic revolution in Iran (oil crisis of 1979-1980)

4. The global financial crisis of 2008 (a lot of oil)

5. Present time (physically there is not enough oil).

The real cause of the inflation

The cause of inflation in the US is the global energy crisis. All statements that US inflation is a temporary event were based on the erroneous hope that demand for hydrocarbons would soon stabilize. Today, however, it has become clear that this will not happen. As a result, the States even had to unpack their strategic oil reserves and enter the world market with it. However, all this was in vain, as the price of oil is already approaching $100 per barrel. Price of oil started rising before Ukrainian crisis. It is true that current crisis is certainly making it even worse.

Such high inflation in the USA has not been seen for more than 42 years!

The world simply no longer has enough energy resources to meet all the needs of the world economy. Russia controls around 23% of energy exports in the entire world economy (oil, gas, coal, electricity). Any provocation of Russia will only raise energy prices.

The United States is well aware of this.. Without long-term access to resources, it is impossible to contain inflation, since energy is the basis for the production of any product and service. It seems that fracking is approaching its maximum. It probably already happened. Not to mention that energy acquired by that methodology is expensive. Only weak Russia would allow plundering of its resources as during Yeltsin era. All sanctions introduced by US and EU against Russia since 2014 simply failed.

US dollar is not only currency but commodity as well

Remember the times when the price of oil reached the mark of more than $140 per barrel? But even then there was no such inflation in the US. Why? It’s simple: oil can be arbitrarily expensive – the United States will always buy it and in any quantity. But what to do if there is no physical oil? Then the price is absolutely not important – it still will not be enough for everyone.

Importance of “petro-dollar”

How is oil (and most other goods) traded on international markets? Saudi Arabia has made agreement with US that all oil trading will be in US dollar. Other oil producers (including USSR) followed. That means that anyone with need to buy oil would have to pay it in US dollar. Many were forced to buy US dollar making it become some sort of a commodity. That is aloso one of the reasons of it being “reserve currency”.

US and the rest of the “west” relied od cheap energy and commodities to support their growth, high living standard and world domination. In their greed they “exported” manufacturing industries to developing countries (China being one of them some 20 years ago). That made American rich class even richer. It also deprived American government revenue from taxes. Accelerated development of the “third world” countries also means higher demand for energy and resources.

V.V. Putin, in a recent address to the people of Russia, during which recognition of the independence of the DPR and LPR was announced, confirmed what has been obvious for a long time – US sanctions are aimed at curbing the development of Russia. Nothing to do with democracy, human rights, ot any other reasons that CNN/BBC would like you to believe.

As long as there is government in Moscow that will not allow pillaging of Russian natural resources, there will be pressure through sanctions and attempts to surreound it with unfriendly regimes in their neighborhood. Prices of natural gas went through the roof not because of Russia using it as a weapon but because someone in EU decided to go “green” overnight. It failed miserably.

Aquarius Engines – revolutionary ultra-efficient engine

Technologies and machines old and ancient make a strong impression. Modern developments sometimes make one wonder – and why this is not yet in our modern life? Today we will look at a very young device, which is already being called in the media as a revolutionary super-efficient engine.

The developers of this mechanism are Aquarius Engines from Israel. They have developed a two-way linear free-piston motor (FPLE). Yes, this engine has only one piston, but it works for two. And – this is the only moving part in the entire engine! Cool? And here’s another fact – Aquarius Engines consists of only two dozen parts!

Aquarius Engines dimensions – 105x65x53 cm, weight – 10.5 kg (with a generator – about 100 kg)

At the same time, it has a significantly lower weight, size, volume, and cost than conventional “usual” internal combustion engines. It can operate on any type of fuel – gasoline, diesel, hydrogen. It is effectively converting mechanical energy into electricity. In it, due to friction, only 2% of mechanical energy is lost. In a conventional engine, this is about 15%. Aquarius Engines is the power-to-weight champion.

It is worth saying that the Israeli company presents the engine not in its “pure form”, but as a system consisting of a power plant and a generator powered by it. Such a scheme, when installed on a hybrid (or electric) car, allows it to overcome more than one and a half thousand kilometers. 

According to preliminary test estimates from the German concern FEV, the efficiency of the resulting mechanism is two times higher than the conventional internal combustion engines that currently exist.

Could it get into mass production?

Despite the difficulties of implementing such an installation, which breaks today’s standards in the automotive industry, Aquarius Engines specialists hope that within ten years they will be able to introduce their development into mass production of cars. Negotiations with Peugeot give some confidence that this is quite possible.

Another area of ​​application for this ultra-efficient installation could be in the operation of conventional power generators. Negotiations on testing installations, held with the Finnish corporation Nokia, led to a positive result. Nokia wants to try them on remote communication towers.

Photos from open sources on the Internet and the official website of the project –https://www.aquariusengines.com/

Argentina joins China’s Belt and Road Initiative

The Latin American country is seeking a way out of US and IMF ‘debt diplomacy’

Argentine President Alberto Fernandez added another event to a highly politicized Winter Olympics when he met in Beijing last week with Chinese President Xi Jinping and agreed to join China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

Argentina becomes the 20th of 33 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean to sign up for the Belt & Road. An official seal on what was already an extensive and growing economic relationship.

In addition to expanding trade and investment opportunities with China, joining the Belt & Road should make it easier for Argentina to obtain funding from the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the BRICS New Development Bank.

And this should reduce its dependence on the International Monetary Fund (IMF), a top priority for Fernandez.

Prior to the February 6 meeting in Beijing, Fernandez dropped by Moscow. There he told Russian President Vladimir Putin: “I am determined that Argentina has to stop being dependent on the Fund and the United States. Here I believe that Russia has an important place.”

Coming in the midst of the Ukraine crisis, this was the first of two diplomatic slaps in the face of the US government, which is boycotting the games in Beijing. Fernandez attended the opening ceremony.

The UK had a slap of its own when China took the opportunity to support Argentina’s position on the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas). That is another story. It does underline the Global South versus Imperial North nature of the dispute.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Argentina and China. More recently, relations between the two countries have advanced considerably during and after the presidency of leftist Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, who led Argentina from 2007 to 2015.

Difficult relations with the US

She had difficult relations with the US, which she blamed for Argentina’s sovereign debt default in 2014, and she put relations with China on the course they are on today, as is demonstrated by this statement from the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs:

On April 23, 2014, President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner of Argentina met with Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the Pink House in Buenos Aires.

Cristina said that the Chinese government promotes reforms with keen determination, and the whole country is dedicated to the national construction with concerted efforts, by which China has scored great achievements well-known worldwide and become a model for developing countries. The Argentinian side highly values Argentina-China strategic partnership, and is willing to strongly boost political mutual trust between the two countries and to deepen cooperation in economy, trade, infrastructure, agriculture, hydroelectricity, scien-tech and other fields, so as to promote Argentina-China relations for greater development.

Wang Yi said that … China views China-Argentina relations from a strategic and long-term perspective, and stands ready to work with Argentina in maintaining high-level exchanges and deepening strategic communication.

Argentina has the reputation of being an economic basket case, but it has a fairly sophisticated economy and now runs a trade surplus, with exports exceeding imports by 23% in 2021.

Exports were led by agricultural products (35.5%), industrial manufacturing (29.1%) and primary goods (26.9%). Imports were led by intermediate products (36.9%), capital goods (18.8%) and parts and accessories for capital goods (18.1%), according to statistics from Trading Economics.

Argentina’s top three export markets are Brazil, China and the US. Its top three sources of imports are China, Brazil and the US. Total trade with China has expanded by several times in the past 20 years and is now nearly double the total trade with the US.

Significant trade is already in place

Argentina is a major exporter of soybeans and soybean-derived products, corn and beef, competing with the United States in China and other markets. Like Brazil, it offers China an alternative to dependence on the US in the middle of a long-term trade dispute and increasingly acrimonious rivalry.

Also in January, China’s Zijin Mining announced it had completed the purchase of Neo Lithium of Canada and its 3Q lithium brine project in Argentina. According to the press release, the project “is one of the largest and highest-grade projects of its kind in the world. The property is the fifth-largest lithium brine project in the world, and ranks among the top three in terms of grades.”

The Canadian government approved the deal without a security review and “the project has been approved by the Environmental and Mining Authority in Catamarca Province, Argentina.”  

Canadian conservatives and American China-bashers were outraged. Florida Congressman Michael Waltz, a Republican member of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, said:

Was the Biden administration notified and, if it was, why did it green-light this acquisition? And if it wasn’t, why wasn’t it in accordance with the agreement [the Canada-US Joint Action Plan on Critical Minerals]? Obviously, we’re NATO allies. We, I think, have a common view of the Chinese Communist Party as an increasingly dangerous and threatening adversary.

5G rollout with Huawei and Nokia

In addition to that, Telecom Argentina began to roll out 5G telecom services last year in partnership with Huawei and Nokia.

The Americans didn’t like that either. But what more attractive alternative to any Chinese project in Argentina have they offered?

On the other hand, the United States is closely identified with the IMF, which is not popular in Argentina. Here’s how Fernandez explained it to Putin:

Argentina has experienced a very special situation as a result of its indebtedness and the economic situation that I inherited. From the 1990s onwards [actually since the Latin American debt crisis of 1982], Argentina has looked to the United States, and the Argentine economy depends a great deal on the IMF debt and the US influence in the Fund …  In 2015 we had a government that once again turned its gaze to the United States and generated the tremendous debt we have.

Not a word about financial irresponsibility

Not a word about financial irresponsibility and the workings of Argentine democracy, but that is not the point.

The final sentence of Fernandez’s comment refers to Mauricio Macri, the center-right businessman and politician who succeeded Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner in the presidency in 2015 and served until 2019.

Macri repaired relations with the US and liberalized the economy. And when a severe drought crippled the agricultural sector, inflation ran out of control and the government could not meet its obligations, he turned to the IMF.

That led to an even worse disaster.

On December 22, 2021, the IMF published the following press release and staff report: Argentina: Ex-Post Evaluation of Exceptional Access Under the 2018 Stand-By Arrangement. Its summary:

On June 20, 2018, the Executive Board approved the largest stand-by arrangement in the Fund’s history, in support of Argentina’s 2018-21 economic program. After an augmentation in October 2018, access under the arrangement amounted to US$57 billion … The program saw only four of the planned twelve reviews completed, and did not fulfil the objectives of restoring confidence in fiscal and external viability while fostering economic growth. The arrangement was canceled on July 24, 2020.

IMF Country Report No. 2021/279

The IMF defines “stand-by arrangement” as follows:

In an economic crisis, countries often need financing to help them overcome their balance of payments problems. Since its creation in June 1952, the IMF’s Stand-By Arrangement (SBA) has been the workhorse lending instrument for emerging and advanced market countries.

Unfortunately, the stand-by arrangement required fiscal and monetary austerity, which caused a recession. Argentina’s GDP dropped by 2.6% in 2018 and by another 2.1% in 2019. Then, with the onset of the pandemic, it plummeted 9.9% in 2020. Poverty increased by an estimated 50% and capital flowed out of the country.

In this situation, Fernandez headed to Moscow and Beijing to broaden his options, stirring up opposition to his leadership on the right as well.

But default has been averted, the IMF has abandoned “tough love” for what could be called constructive sympathy, and currency swaps between the Argentine and Chinese central banks have added to Argentina’s foreign currency reserves.

This should stabilize the economic situation and allow the Chinese to continue expanding their role in Argentina’s economy. They are not wasting any time.

On January 19, agreements aimed at upgrading Argentina’s railway system were signed by the Minister of Transport, the president of the national railway company and representatives of engineering contractor China Railway International Group and rolling stock maker CRRC Qindao Sifang.

German, Swedish subs better for Australian needs

New German, Swedish subs offer alternatives to Taiwan’s Indigenous Submarine Program and Australia’s nuclear ones under AUKUS

Last month Germany and Sweden, two world leaders in conventional submarine design, unveiled three models that could prove to be better strategic choices than Taiwan’s Indigenous Defense Submarine program and Australia’s plan to acquire nuclear-powered submarines under its AUKUS alliance. 

Germany’s ThyssenKrupp Maritime Systems (TKMS) in cooperation with Fincantieri of Italy started construction of the U212 Near Future Submarine (NFS) for the Italian Navy. The first U212 NFS is scheduled to be launched in 2026, with its acceptance into the Italian Navy in 2027. Work on the second unit is scheduled to start in 2029. 

The U212 NFS is a design evolution of the U212A, which first entered Italian Navy service in 2006. At present, the Italian Navy operates four U212A units. Compared with the U212A, the U212 NFS is 1.2 meters longer, has enhanced hydrodynamics and silence in a 59-meter hull, and surface displacement of 1,600 tons.

Designed to operate in tropical waters

The new class is also designed to operate in tropical waters, meaning that it is optimized for operations in the warmer southern and eastern parts of the Mediterranean off North Africa and Turkey. This also means that the design could be sold to tropical climate clients such as Taiwan and Indonesia.

The first two boats of the U212 NFS use the same Siemens hydrogen fuel cell air-independent propulsion (AIP) technology from their U212A predecessors, but introduce lithium-iron-phosphate batteries for its new energy storage and management system, which is billed to be a “game-changer” in underwater warfare. Fincantieri is also developing a new type of AIP system for the third U212 NFS.  

In terms of sensors, the U212 NFS also features a new sail mast design which can accommodate seven electrical masts with one extra space for an optional mast, allowing for future development of the class as a fully electric submarine. 

A fully electric submarine such as the SMX31E New Full Electric Concept completely eliminates any need to surface during operations, meaning it can stay submerged as long as today’s nuclear submarines, which are only limited by crew endurance and supplies.

Current AIP technologies significantly minimize but do not eliminate the need for conventional submarines to periodically surface to run their diesel engines to charge their batteries. 

The Italian Todaro class U212A submarine. Photo: Fincantieri

Other sensors include six non-penetrating electrically hoisted masts and the new generation optical penetrating attack periscope, all provided by L3Harris, low probability of intercept radar by GEM Elettronica, Link 11/16 datalinks from Leonardo and a digital sonar suite by ELAC Sonar. 

Rated to be cyber-secure

Compared with the U212A, the U212 NFS features more Italian-made technology, such as an integrated platform control system (IPCS) provided by Fincantieri Seastema, steering and diving control system by Avio Aero, and combat management system (CMS) by Leonardo.

These systems are rated to be cyber-secure by the Organization for Joint Armament Cooperation (OCCAR), making the U212 NFS the second cyber-secure design by Fincantieri after the Thaon di Revel class offshore patrol vessel (OPV).

The class is designed with open architecture in mind, enabling easy software upgrades such as third-party software, remote computing, extensive acoustic processing know-how and submarine mission-specific applications. 

The Leonardo Black Shark Advanced (BSA) torpedo is projected to be the main armament of the U212 NFS, with the class also designed to deploy long-range cruise missiles. The U212 NFS also retains the special forces support capability of the U212A and can operate alongside unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs), which extends the surveillance capability of the class. 

Germany and Israel signed a deal for three Dakar0-class submarines from TKMS. These boats are intended to replace three of Israel’s older Dolphin class boats which entered service in the 1990s.

The deal envisions that the first of these new boats would be delivered to Israel in 2027, and includes provisions for the creation of a submarine training simulator in Israel and supply of spare parts. 

While Israel keeps the technical details of its new submarines classified, these new boats are said to be significantly more capable than the preceding Dolphin boats. The boats are said to be armed with 16 multipurpose torpedo tubes that can fire torpedoes, Turbo Popeye cruise missiles and even manned swimmer delivery systems, submersibles designed to stealthily insert special forces teams for covert underwater or amphibious operations.

Possibility of a vertical launch systems (VLS)?

Concept art of the Dakar class released by TKMS shows a much-enlarged sail, which has led to different speculation about the design’s capabilities. Speculations abound that this distinctive feature could be used to house vertical launch systems (VLS) for nuclear-tipped cruise or ballistic missiles. (Israel, of course, is tight-lipped about its alleged nuclear weapons program.) 

In comparison, South Korea’s Chang Bogo III submarine, which is based on the German U214 design, is armed with six VLS launchers for the Hyunmoo-2B ballistic missile. It is the first conventionally powered AIP submarine that is armed with such.

Sweden has also begun the construction of its A26 Blekinge class submarines. It is a follow-on design to Sweden’s Gotland boats, whose stealth capabilities were made famous in 2005 by sinking the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier during naval exercises.

The Swedish Navy has ordered two units, the HSwMS Blekinge and HSwMS Skåne, with the aft section of one boat already put in place. 

The class is built around Saab’s Ghost technology, which stands for Genuine Holistic Stealth. Ghost is a family of technologies meant to reduce the Blekinge boats’ detectable signatures.

Some of these technologies include rubberized mounts and baffles inside the submarine to reduce detectable machinery and crew noise, and careful design of all interior surfaces to minimize noise such as specific airflow speeds in air ducts, minimum bending radius on cables and pipes and the design of outboard holes and cavities.

In addition, the Blekinge class uses a new hull and fin shape to reduce hydrodynamic noise, and the boats’ mast has a unique shape to minimize radar signature. 

Extended operation time

The class features an improved version of the Stirling AIP engine fitted in the Gotland class, which is 30% smaller, yet delivers more power. The Stirling AIP engine works by heating and cooling gases in its cylinders to force pistons up and down.

In the case of the Gotland and Blekinge boats, liquid oxygen and diesel are used to heat the engine, while cold seawater is used for cooling. This technology allows the class to operate for an extended time without surfacing to recharge its batteries by running its diesel engines.  

A unique feature of the Blekinge boats is the Multi Mission Portal, which allows the launch and retrieval of diverse mission payloads, such as special forces or UUVs to extend the boats’ sensor range, which makes the class a potent underwater intelligence-gathering platform. 

Moreover, Sweden also offers the Oceanic Extended Range (XR) submarines, which are designed for navies whose capability requirements include extended missions or long-distance operations.

Notably, the Australian Collins-class was built according to this design philosophy. The Collins boats were built between 1993 to 2001, with Saab working alongside the Australian Submarine Corporation (ASC), providing technology transfer for design and construction using an advanced modular method. 

Offering more sensible alternatives to Australia and Taiwan

These new submarine designs may satisfy the submarine capability requirements of both Taiwan and Australia, offering more sensible alternatives considering the tactical, operational, strategic and political challenges they face in their respective submarine programs. 

In the case of Taiwan, it has a significant shipbuilding industry but has limited experience in building warships, and no experience in building submarines.

While countries such as Australia, Canada, India, Spain, the UK and the US are assisting Taiwan in building its own conventional submarines, this is not a guarantee of success. For instance, Australia’s Collins boats were built from the Saab Gotland class, and Australia received considerable technical assistance from Sweden and the US in this project.

However, the Collins class turned out to be plagued with various problems, which forced Australia to seek replacements.  

It may be more rational for Taiwan to harness its strengths, such as AI, software, semiconductors, electronics and the production of asymmetric weapons, which it can realistically manufacture such as torpedoes, naval mines and cruise missiles, rather than take huge risks by building its own submarines.

Also, should Taiwan persist in acquiring submarines, these subsystems can be integrated into an established, open-architecture submarine design suited for tropical operations. 

An Open Architecture design

Thus, the U212 NFS or a derivative of the class makes sense for Taiwan’s submarine capability requirements. It is an open-architecture design, as shown by the integration of Italian and US subsystems into a German hull, and is designed for tropical operations as well.

As such, Taiwanese subsystems and weapons can be fitted into this already established design. Such an arrangement fulfills Taiwan’s capability requirements for submarines and harnesses its stronger strategic sectors.  

Australia may have made a mistake in the first place in disqualifying TKMS in favor of DCNS from France, as the U214 class from TKMS has capabilities that far exceed those of the Collins class. Further, TKMS offered Australia the U216, which is a scaled-up version of the U214 built to Australian capability requirements. 

Australia initially chose to settle on the DCNS Shortfin Barracuda as a replacement for its Collins boats.

However, the deal with DCNS ran into several problems, such as finding a sensible rationale to justify retrofitting a conventional propulsion system to a hull designed for nuclear propulsion, the incompatibility of US combat systems in a French-designed hull, long development time leading to obsolescence on delivery, the failure of DCNS to invest enough in Australian suppliers and labor and cost overruns.

These factors may have led Australia to drop its deal with DCNS and make a bold move to acquire nuclear submarines with technical assistance from the US and UK under AUKUS. 

Doubts about Australia’s plan to acquire nuclear submarines

It is highly likely that Australia’s plan to acquire nuclear submarines under AUKUS will not materialize, as political considerations regarding maintaining command and control should Australia lease a US Virginia class nuclear boat, vague terms in technology, cost and labor sharing within AUKUS, opposition to nuclear power in Australia and its lack of infrastructure to support nuclear submarines play out against its plan.

That said, Australia may have compounded its mistakes in its deal with DCNS by picking an equally unfeasible solution with AUKUS for its submarine capability requirements.  

In addition, should Australia choose to lease nuclear submarines from the US, it would not be until the 2030s when an aging US nuclear boat would be available for lease, and only in the 2040s would Australian nuclear boats have any strategic effect.

This leaves a huge capability gap between the planned obsolescence of Australia’s Collins boats in 2026, and before its planned nuclear submarines become fully operational in the 2040s.

By then, the geopolitical situation and China’s naval capabilities may have vastly changed. Australia’s only feasible choice to maintain its underwater warfare capabilities is to acquire conventional submarines to fill this capability gap. 

However, with the capabilities of today’s conventional submarines approaching those of their nuclear counterparts, perhaps Australia’s quest for nuclear submarines was an unnecessary venture in the first place. 

Considering Australia’s bad experiences with its Saab-built Collins boats and its deal with DCNS, it may well do for it to revisit talks with TKMS to acquire new conventional submarines that fulfill its capability requirements. 

Alfa Romeo first plug-in hybrid crossover – Quick preview

Can the compact Tonale help reverse the brand’s sales decline?

Alfa Romeo revealed its next model, called the Tonale. This attractive new crossover will come to the US in a couple of different powertrain options. One of them being the brand’s first-ever plug-in hybrid. But most of the news you’ll read about the Tonale will probably focus on the vehicle’s included non-fungible token. It will apparently use the blockchain to keep track of servicing records and accident history.

The Tonale is a smaller car than the Stelvio SUV, but it’s clearly part of the same family, thanks to the characteristic Alfa “trefoil” grille. Alfa namechecks the diminutive Giulia GT Junior as an inspiration for the line that runs down the side of the car. Although I’m not sure I see it. I do get the reference to the SZ, a composite-bodied sports car that Alfa Romeo built from 1989 to 1991, in the triple headlights.

2023 Alfa Romeo Tonale Veloce European spec

The plug-in hybrid Tonale combines a gasoline engine that drives the front wheels (via a six-speed automatic transmission) with an electric motor that drives the rear wheels. The engine is a 1.3 L turbocharged MultiAir four-cylinder that generates 180 hp (134 kW). The electric motor contributing another 120 hp (90 kW) to la festa. Total power output is 272 hp (203 kW). The 15.5 kWh lithium-ion traction battery has an electric-only range of 30 miles (48 km), Alfa says.

Alternatively, another powertrain option gives you a 2.0 L turbocharged four-cylinder engine. This variant drives all four wheels via a nine-speed automatic transmission and packs 256 hp (191 kW).

Great styling

It’s hard to make out too many styling details in the company-provided interior photos. We can see that Alfa is sticking with its excellent steering wheel design for at least a while longer. The infotainment screen stands proud on the dashboard and runs the Android-based Uconnect 5, with support for wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, plus Alexa integration.

The most controversial feature of the Tonale will probably be its NFT. Alfa says the NFT will be “a confidential and non-modifiable record of the main stages in the life of an individual vehicle”. And that “with the customer’s consent, the NFT will record vehicle data, generating a certificate that can be used to assure the car has been properly maintained.” The Italian automaker is not saying which blockchain it’s using to mint these NFTs.

The Tonale will be available in three different trims—Sprint, Ti, and Veloce. Alfa isn’t ready to tell us how much the Tonale will cost. Cars will arrive in North American dealerships in the first quarter of 2023.

Russia opens doors for Iran’s Eurasian integration

The January meeting between Raisi and Putin may have seemed disappointing, but now Russia is opening the door for Iran’s Eurasian integration.

On January 20, Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi traveled to Moscow to meet his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. The purpose of developing bilateral relations between the two countries at the highest level.

Among the topics for discussion by the two leaders were their common regional and international issues. As well as the Vienna talks on Iran’s nuclear program, and regional cooperation in Eurasia.

Contrary to expectations and positive statements made before the meeting, the visit did not end with the announcement of a grand strategic agreement. Unlike the one between China and Iran a year ago.

However, the visit brought the negotiations between the two sides to a higher level and promoted Iran’s economic integration into the Russian-Chinese Eurasian architecture.

Big hopes, not grandiose announcements

In recent years, both improving relations between Tehran and Moscow and focusing on strategic partnership have become particularly important tasks for Iran.

Additionaly to working to build up trade and economic ties, which is a priority for Iran, which is under sanctions, an additional impetus may be given to the development of military-political cooperation in the future.

October 2021 – Interfax, citing Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian, announced that Tehran was ready to establish a strategic partnership with Moscow and that both sides were expected to sign documents on an agreement in the coming months.

According to the agencyTASS , both sides were close to completing work on a document on comprehensive cooperation for a period of 20 years.

Timing is important for both countries. Mojtaba Zulnur, chairman of Iran’s parliamentary committee on national security and foreign policy, told Mehr news agency that in order to overcome US sanctions, Iran seeks to conclude a partnership agreement with Russia. Similar to the agreement between Tehran and Beijing.

However, contrary to expectations and some statements made prior to the Iranian leader’s trip to Russia, the visit of President Raisi, at least for the moment,did not lead to a major breakthrough on this front. This process may take some time and may, at least for Moscow, be related to the outcome of negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program.

However, two recent events involving Russia and Iran have had significant resonance. First, the joint Russian-Chinese-Iranian naval exercises in the Indian Ocean. Second, Iran’s relationship with the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) along with the implementation of the North-South International Transport Corridor (ITC).

Will Iran join the EAEU in the near future?

Iranian political analyst and former editor-in-chief of the Fars news agency Mostafa Khoscheshm instead says that Russia appears to be pushing for Iran to join the EEU. “Negotiations,” he says, “are already underway . “

In 2019, the Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA), signed between Iran and the EAEU in 2018, came into force.

The agreement provided for lower tariffs on 862 types of goods. 502 of them were Iranian exports to the EAEU. As a result, trade increased by more than 84 percent between October 2019 and October 2020.

According toVali Kaleji , an Iranian expert on Central Asia and Caucasian studies, this trade volume was achieved at a time when the US under former President Donald Trump withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in May 2018 and followed a policy of “maximum pressure” against Iran .

In October 2021, Iran and the EAEU started negotiations on the transformation of the SPT intoFree Trade Agreement (FTA). If this is achieved, it will lead to a significant increase in the volume of trade between Iran and the EAEU, also known as the Union.

Both Moscow and Tehran have reasons to insist on further integration of Iran into the Union.

Both sides have reasons to support further integration

For Iran, this opportunity will provide improved access to Eurasian and European markets. It will also provide EAEU member states with greater access to the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean Sea. For this reason, Moscow may be thinking one step ahead.

Moscow views the signing of an FTA agreement with Iran as a decisive step for Iran’s accession to the Union.

Russia has concerns that if Iran reaches an agreement with the US on its nuclear issue, there could be positive shifts in Iranian policy towards the West. This may not serve Russian interests in Western Asia, especially in Syria.

For Russia, a nuclear Iran is preferable to a pro-Western one. For this reason, Russia would be happy to accelerate the integration of Iran into the Eurasian regional institutions.

Iran’s entry into the nine-member Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) should be viewed from this perspective. Moreover, with the accession of Tehran to the EAEU, neighboring and friendly countries such as Iraq and Syria may follow.

On December 27, 2021, Iran and Iraq agreed to build railroad linking the two countries. The 30-kilometer railway will be strategically important for Iran. It will connect the country to the Mediterranean Sea via the Iraqi and Syrian railways.

It would be a win-win situation for both China and Russia. The situation in which China, as part of its Belt and Road Initiative, and Russia, as part of itsThe North-South International Transport Corridor would have direct rail access to the Mediterranean.

Preventing Turkey access to the Caspian Sea

This route will also compete with India’s Arab-Mediterranean Corridor. One that is connecting India to the Israeli port of Haifa via various UAE, Saudi Arabian and Jordanian railways.

Thus, for China and Russia, strengthening the geopolitical and geo-economic position of Iran in the region is an important step. From Russia’s perspective, having a direct land route through the Levant to the Mediterranean would bolster its strong base in Syria.

It is for this reason that Iran acted prudently in response to the recent Azerbaijani provocations on the border with Armenia. Tehran feared that Turkey would gain direct access to the Caspian Sea and Central Asia through a possible “corridor” from southern Armenia.

For Iran, this would be tantamount to expanding NATO into the Caspian Sea and further towards China. Consequently, the west-east trade route would pose a serious threat to Iran and Russia and isolate them in Eurasia.

According to Khoscheshm, “The hostility from the Western bloc has brought Iran and Eurasia closer to each other, and this has given the Russians and Chinese a strong motivation to accelerate Iran’s entry into the Eurasian bloc in order to strengthen joint economic and geopolitical cooperation and prevent US infiltration into the region.”

Thus, Iran’s accession to the EAEU is a win-win situation for both Moscow and Tehran. Russia would strengthen its geo-economic and geopolitical position in the Middle East, while Iran would have rail links with Russia and Europe and further expand Moscow’s influence in the region.

However, this ultimate goal may still take time to achieve and will face challenges from the US and its allies in the region.

Confidence in the face of uncertainty

The possible entry of Iran into the EAEU will attract investment from neighboring countries in the underdeveloped rail link between Iran and Russia in the Caucasus region.

The opening of communication channels between Armenia and Azerbaijan as part of a tripartite statement dated November 9 will facilitate trade and cargo transportation in the region within the North-South transport corridor.

Under such conditions, the rail network is very important, since the volume of goods transported by rail is much larger and faster than by land and road routes. However, the implementation of these projects is not yet certain.

The state-owned Russian railways halted their projects in Iran in April 2020 due to concerns about US sanctions. Such a decision would have an impact on other programs within the framework of the Russian-Iranian initiative to create a North-South transport corridor.

Both sides will have to wait to overcome US sanctions, as economic routes are always a win-win situation.

By joining the EAEU and integrating into the Eurasian regional organizations, Iran would strengthen its geo-economic position as a regional transport hub, opening the West Asian gate for Moscow’s railway access to the Eastern Mediterranean.

Russia and China oil supplies through Kazakhstan

Russia and China signed an agreement on oil supplies through the territory of Kazakhstan for 10 years. This became known as a result of the visit of the Russian delegation headed by President Vladimir Putin to Beijing. Rosneft revealed the details of the new agreement.

Rosneft and the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) have signed an agreement on the supply of oil to Chinese refineries through the territory of Kazakhstan. It will be valid for 10 years. The press service of Rosneft reported on the results of the visit of a Russian delegation led by President Vladimir Putin to Beijing on Friday.

It is specified that 100 million tons of Russian oil will be sent to refineries located in the northwestern part of China. Also during the visit, agreements were signed in the field of low-carbon development, digitalization and technological cooperation.

Rosneft’s total oil supplies to China since 2005 amounted to 442 million tons of oil. The company occupies a leading position among oil exporters to China. It is annually providing 7% of the country’s total demand for raw materials.

Russia and Mongolia moved on to the stage of designing the Soyuz Vostok gas pipeline to China. It is planned that its capacity will be up to 50 billion cubic meters of gas per year. The gas pipeline will pass through the territory of Mongolia. It will become a continuation of the Russian gas pipeline “Power of Siberia – 2”


China and Russia will strengthen integration cooperation in Eurasia

The leaders of Russia and China intend to intensify integration cooperation in Eurasia. According to a joint statement by Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping, published by the Kremlin press service on February 4. Moscow and Beijing have coordinated their positions on foreign policy issues.

Work on linking the development plans of the Eurasian Economic Union and the One Belt, One Road initiative is planned to be strengthened. It is noted that this is necessary to deepen practical cooperation between the EAEU and China, as well as to increase the level of interconnectedness between the Asia-Pacific and Eurasian regions.

“The parties confirm their focus on the parallel and coordinated formation of the Greater Eurasian Partnership and the construction of the Belt and Road in the interests of developing regional associations, bilateral and multilateral integration processes for the benefit of the peoples of the Eurasian continent,” the text says.

The statement also notes that Beijing  treats with understanding and supports” the proposals put forward by Moscow on the formation of long-term legally binding security guarantees in Europe. 

International Law rather than “certain rules developed in a closed circle”

Russia and China intend to jointly oppose attempts to replace international law with “certain rules developed in a “close circle” by individual countries or blocs of countries. “Putin and Jinping also stressed that countries are unanimous in understanding that “democracy is a universal human value, and not the privilege of individual states”. Therefore, attempts by “individual states to impose their” democratic standards on other countries … in fact, represent an example of trampling on democracy and retreat from its spirit and true values.

On the eve of the visit to Beijing for the opening of the Olympic Games, Putin published an article “Russia and China: A Strategic Partnership for the Future”. In that article he stated that Russian-Chinese relations have reached an unprecedented level of “comprehensive partnership and strategic interaction.” He emphasized that the foreign policy coordination of Russia and China is based on close, coinciding approaches to solving global and regional problems.