A Declining Empire & Its Delusional Allies

Featuring Ben Nortan and Håkan Julander

by Kate Horgan
Published: Updated:
The Project Censored Show
The Official Project Censored Show
A Declining Empire & Its Delusional Allies
Loading
/

In the first part of the program, Eleanor Goldfield speaks with journalist and analyst Ben Norton about the ongoing proxy war between Russia and NATO happening in Ukraine, the US’ bludgeoning of multiple peace deals, and the ultimately pointless struggle against a multipolar world. Ben also highlights the recent media kerfuffle on the petrodollar: what it is, why it matters, and where our economy is headed. Next up, Eleanor speaks with Swedish actor, writer and activist Håkan Julander about Sweden’s fall from grace – the country that isn’t what you think it is. Håkan outlines the abysmal state of Swedish media, the selling of Sweden’s soul to a declining empire, where hope lies, and more.

 

Notes: 

Ben Norton is editor-in-chief of Geopolitical Economy. For more on Håkan Julander, visit here and on rumble.

 

Video of the Interview with Ben Norton

Video of the Interview with Håkan Julander

Below is a Rough Transcript of the Interview with Ben Norton

Eleanor Goldfield: Thanks everyone for joining us at the Project Censored Radio Show. We’re very glad to welcome back on the program Ben Norton, who is a journalist and analyst whose work focuses primarily on geopolitics, international political economy, and US foreign policy.

He’s the founder and editor in chief of the independent news site Geopolitical Economy Report. And he lived and reported for from Latin America for several years and is currently based in Beijing, China.

Ben, thanks so much for joining us.

Ben Norton: It’s a pleasure. Thanks for having me.

Eleanor Goldfield: Absolutely. So Ben, you’ve written quite a bit about this on your website, Geopolitical Economy Report: Ukraine, which has fallen from the corporate headlines. You know, no longer is Zelensky appearing at the opening of the New York stock exchange and being visited by Bon Jovi and things like that.

But as is so often the case with news coverage, just because something isn’t in the corporate media doesn’t mean that it’s not still taking up massive amounts of political and economic bandwidth. So, as you have reported on, you’ve got the likes of Boris Johnson, the former prime minister in the UK, saying that if Ukraine loses the war, it’ll be the “end of Western hegemony,” which Boris, I would love to see that.

You’ve also got Lindsey Graham calling Ukraine a gold mine that the U.S. can’t afford to lose. And then you’ve got Ukraine using U.S. weapons to actually fire into Russia, a move earlier in June that easily could have pushed Russia to retaliate directly against the United States.

So Ben, with all these corporate cameras off,what is going on in the shadows in Ukraine? And what is the U.S. pushing and indeed paying towards vis a vis Ukraine?

 

Ben Norton: Well, thanks, Eleanor. I think you provided the perfect context for all of these very important issues that are related to Ukraine because, of course, when we talk about the war in Ukraine, it’s not just Russia and Ukraine. This is an international conflict. And really the best way to understand it is it’s a proxy war between Russia and NATO that’s happening in Ukraine. And it’s very tragic for the people of Ukraine. I mean, many thousands of Ukrainians have lost their lives. Russians are losing their lives. And meanwhile, basically no one in the U.S. is losing their lives. There have been some U.S. mercenaries who have gone but the U.S. keeps stoking these conflicts, pushing for more and more war, and the U.S. doesn’t suffer.

And meanwhile, there are some people who criticize it because the U.S. is spending billions of dollars. And that’s a rightful criticism. I mean, tens of billions of dollars in weapons and military assistance. But we should not forget that those are huge contracts that go to the U.S. military industrial complex. So it’s not like the U.S. is acting out of the kindness of its heart because it loves Ukrainians. Ukrainians are fighting and dying on behalf of the U.S. You know, the famous saying is, the U.S. is willing to fight until the last Ukrainian, and that tens of billions of dollars of military assistance largely goes to U.S. weapons companies, big contractors, the Beltway bandits, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, BIA systems, all of these big companies, right? They’re the ones who are making so much money, huge profits. Their stocks are at record highs.

And what we also see is that in Europe, we see countries re-militarizing, and this is an excuse that they’re using for their own military industrial complexes. And at the same time, what we also see is that the vast majority of the world population is not on board with this Western war drive.

This point is so critical, and we’re talking about corporate media coverage. When there is coverage of the war in Ukraine, which of course is not as much as there used to be, but when there is, it’s portrayed as though the entire world opposes Russia and sides with Ukraine. In reality, the vast majority of the world population is neutral and is definitely not allied with Ukraine.

And we actually saw a very clear example of this on June 15th and June 16th in Switzerland, there was a conference held which was hilariously called The Ukraine peace summit, but it was not a peace summit. It was a war summit because in order to have a peace summit, if you actually want to have peace talks in a war, you have to invite both sides or all sides of the war to sit down and talk. Russia was not invited to the so called peace summit. So in reality, it was the Western powers and a few allies.

Now, 160 countries were invited, not Russia, 160 countries out of the 194 recognized by the UN. And of those 160, only 90 agreed to attend the conference, and of those 90, only 78 actually signed the final declaration, and over half of them were Europe.

Basically, every single country in Europe, including very small countries like Andorra, and Malta, and Luxembourg, they signed this agreement. And then the U. S., Canada, Australia, South Korea, Japan. And then a few allies like the far right regime in Argentina, led by this maniac, Javier Millet.

Israel attended the conference and they signed it while they’re carrying out horrific war crimes and crimes against humanity. Netanyahu, there’s an arrest warrant out for him from the international criminal court. Meanwhile, Israel was at the so called peace summit that was not for peace because one side of the war was not invited. So that I think represents what is actually happening.

I created a map at Geopolitical Economy Report looking at the vote, and you can see that it represented around a little less than 20 percent of the world population was at the summit. 80 percent was not represented, including China, Russia, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Brazil. Brazil attended the summit but did not sign the agreement. So what we’re really seeing is that the global south is not on board with this war.

Instead, the global south has been trying to broker peace, and in fact, China has played a key role in proposing numerous peace plans going back to 2023. And more recently, this May, China and Brazil jointly proposed a peace plan. They had numerous different steps calling for an international peace conference in which Ukraine and Russia are allowed to participate, calling for an immediate end to hostilities, calling for the release of political prisoners, calling for prisoner exchange, calling for, for instance, no attacks on nuclear plants, you know, very important steps to try to bring an end to this war. And can you guess what the response of the Western powers was?

Hell no, we are not going to support this peace proposal. The one that was made by China last year, the one that was recently made by China and Brazil, and there have been other peace proposals, for instance, by Mexico. Mexico has tried to negotiate peace with the Catholic Church and the Pope, and the U.S. has not supported that peace agreement either.

And if we even go back to the beginning of this new phase of the war that began in 2022 right after Russia sent its troops in in February. In March and April, there were negotiations held that were sponsored by Turkey and also by Belarus. And at those peace talks, Russia made it very clear that it did want to sign a peace agreement.

And we know this because the former German chancellor, that is their equivalent of the president, Gerhard Schroeder, he said he was involved in the negotiations and he admitted this and even Israel’s former prime minister, Naftali Bennett, also admitted that Russia wanted to sign a peace agreement back in March of 2022 and it was the US and Boris Johnson, who was British Prime Minister, who sabotaged those agreements, and Boris Johnson representing the US. Of course, he has a little more energy than Joe Biden, who’s often confused about where he is. Boris Johnson was sent in on behalf of the US. He went into Kiev and he told Zelensky, the NATO backed leader in Kiev, he said, you cannot sign any peace agreement with Russia. We are going to fight because we think Russia can lose. We think we can defeat Russia, that it will lose.

And US weapons lobbyist slash defense secretary Lloyd Austin, he admitted that the U.S. goal is to weaken Russia. U.S. President Joe Biden gave a speech in Poland in March 2022 and he said, Russia cannot be allowed to have Putin in power. He said, we have to overthrow the Russian government. So how can you have peace talks with one side of the war that refuses to invite you to the table and says that they will not accept your current government? Their only proposal is you need to overthrow your government. Well, obviously, if that’s the U.S. position, it’s impossible to have peace talks. So despite the fact that so many countries have been trying to push for peace, it has been the United States that has been principally the force opposed to peace.

Now, in Europe, there are some countries that have flirted with the idea of peace. But at the end of the day, you know, NATO is a US led military alliance. And increasingly in Europe, more and more people are saying that we basically have to follow what the US does. In fact, a major European think tank, which is called the European Council on Foreign Relations, it’s funded by European governments. They published a policy paper over a year ago now in which they said that the U.S. is turning Europe into a vassal and that Europe basically cannot have an independent foreign policy. So even if the leaders of France and Germany, for instance, which tend to be a little more independent, even if they wanted to sign a peace agreement with Russia, the U.S. along with the U.K. and some of the Eastern European countries, especially Poland, would say, absolutely not.

And they’re the ones who continue pushing for war.

Eleanor Goldfield: Yeah, absolutely. Ben, thank you so much for that context. And I do want to get into Europe as a vassal state or a U.S. colony in a second. But I also want to talk about, because it seems very clear that the U.S. is not going to win this proxy war, right?

I mean, it’s the old adage, don’t go up against Russia. You know, Napoleon learned that, Hitler learned that. But as you pointed out, and as you’ve written in Geopolitical Economy Report, a recent post here said that China and Russia strengthen their friendship and blast Western neocolonialism and U.S. militarism. I mean, the writing seems to be on the wall, but how far do you think the U. S. is going to push this? I mean, are we going to find ourselves in a new nuclear winter soon? What do you think the situation will be?

Ben Norton: Well, it’s very concerning. Great question, Eleanor, because what we’ve seen in just in the past few months is more and more discussion of nuclear weapons.

And there was a report in Reuters, the mainstream media outlet, that the Biden administration is considering setting up strategic nuclear weapons for potential use. That’s very dangerous. Furthermore, NATO now is also talking about more potential deployment of nuclear weapons.

The fact that they’re even talking about it is extremely concerning. No one should be talking about it. I mean, this is crazy. The U.S. and Russia have the most nuclear missiles on earth. They could destroy the planet many times over, hundreds of times. They could destroy the entire world. So this is very concerning.

And if you look at the peace proposals, the plans proposed by China and Brazil jointly, both of them have stressed the importance of the nuclear issue, opposing any discussion of nuclear weapons, calling for the end of nuclear proliferation and also, which is another important point, saying that nuclear energy plants should not be targets because obviously that could be a catastrophe as well. We all know from Chernobyl and also in Japan as well. So this is very dangerous, the nuclear issue, and the U. S. has been so flippant about this. I mean there are basically, there have been some articles in the mainstream media in the US and in the UK, where the politicians are just as crazy as in the US.

There was an op-Ed recently in a British newspaper saying that we should call Russia on its nuclear bluff, that Russia won’t use nuclear weapons because we also have nuclear weapons. So I mean this, this is just completely irresponsible.

Eleanor Goldfield: Yeah, absolutely. And, horrifying that these people all have nuclear weapons, nuclear codes.

I wanna get into what you mentioned about the vassal states because this is something that I’ve also been watching and discussing vis a vis Sweden. For those listening, I’m also Swedish. So, they’re called DCA agreements, and what one Swedish journalist called contempt for democracy and says the DCA agreement reads like a capitulation document after having lost the war.

Now, these are agreements that all NATO member states sign and they’re variations on a theme, but for instance, the one that Sweden has signed would give the U.S. Now, it specifically says the U.S. But these are NATO member states, right? Like, shouldn’t it be NATO as a whole? But this just again proves that NATO is just an arm of U.S. imperialism. The U.S. would then have full access to Swedish sea, land, and air space, along with 17 critical military bases, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but Sweden’s a small country, y’all. It would also have the right to add and to build up these bases, where no Swedes or Swedish officials would be allowed.

The U.S. is allowed access to private land, roads, and airfields. American military and their families are above Swedish law, and not even the Swedish Secret Service are allowed to inspect homes or vehicles under suspicion of breaking the law. And it goes on from there.

And Ben, I’m bringing this up firstly, because, as I said, this shows the clear face of NATO as just an arm of U.S. imperialism. But I think I feel that this also has something to do with why no European nation will really say boo to the U.S. no matter how much they destroy pipelines, economies, potential peace deals.

So do you feel that these kind of NATO agreements are what is allowing the U.S. to hold on to these allies in Europe in the face of an ever growing multipolar world?

Ben Norton: Well, that’s absolutely one of the most important details. If you look at this report that was published by the European Council of Foreign Relations, this is as mainstream as it gets. They point out that one of the biggest problems in Europe is that it doesn’t have any way to defend itself. And especially because the U.S. is provoking all of these wars around the world. The U.S. is safe in the other side of the world. I mean, the U.S. is probably one of the safest countries there can be because through settler colonialism, colonizers stole the land from indigenous peoples from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean.

So it’s very difficult. I mean, unless you think Canada is going to invade, which is never going to happen in a million years, right? It’s more likely that the U.S. invades Canada. So, I mean, obviously, the U.S. is always, in all of these conflicts, going back to World War 1, World War 2 and today, The U.S. has always been safe from these wars because there’s almost no fighting on U.S. soil. Obviously, I mean, there was in Hawaii, but that’s another colonized former country that was colonized by the U.S. and became a state only in the 1950s, very recently.

Anyway, getting back to the issue of Europe. So, Europe, on the other hand, does have more serious security concerns. The U.S. is provoking war with Russia, and if it’s this war continues to spread, it will be Europe that actually has to fight this war while the U.S. continues to fuel it and profit from it. So that’s a huge aspect and that’s why there were some European leaders who talked about the idea of European strategic autonomy, especially when Donald Trump was president because he’s so crazy and unpredictable.

Angela Merkel in Germany said, we need to actually have our own independent European standing army. And French president Macron also was interested in this idea. It never really went anywhere. You know, they constantly talk about this idea, but it doesn’t really happen. And now what we see with NATO expanding and bringing in new members, we see that these countries in the region are becoming even more dependent on the U.S. and more integrated into the U. S. militarily.

And Sweden, a country that you’re from, also has a history of Neutrality during the Cold War, the first Cold War, it was relatively neutral. I mean, not entirely, but at least compared to many other countries in Europe.

And you even had some lefty leaders like Olof Palme, who was later assassinated because of his politics. But Olof Palme was the best example in Europe of someone who did try to be relatively neutral. He was a friend of the Global South, of the anti colonial movements. And, in Latin America, in my experience, in fact, there are many different streets and buildings named after Olof Palma because of his role in trying to oppose these US wars and support the global south. And that’s why he was assassinated.

But anyway, the point is, is that Sweden now is just showing that it’s no longer even pretending to be neutral. You can criticize how much it actually was neutral, but it’s no longer pretending and is joining this warmongering Alliance.

You know, NATO is not a defensive alliance. NATO destroyed Yugoslavia, which no longer exists as a country. NATO in 2011 destroyed Libya, which had been the most prosperous country in Africa. Still today, 13 years later, it has no central government. And NATO brought slavery back to the African continent. After Libya was destroyed, there were open air slave markets. I mean, it’s just horrific what’s been going on. That was NATO’s doing.

And now, you know, NATO has been continuously expanding under Russia’s borders for decades. Even going back to the former Soviet Union, we have so much evidence. This is not just hearsay. It’s not just a rumor. We have evidence, for instance, that was found by a U.S. academic from the British National Archives, minutes of a meeting in which the representatives of the U.S., the U.K., France and Germany, in which they, that was West Germany at the time, they made an agreement with the former Soviet Union in which the former Soviet Union allowed Germany to be reunified in return for the promise that NATO would not expand one inch to the east.

And it expanded multiple times, adding more than a dozen new members, including numerous countries that are right on Russia’s borders. Like for instance, the Baltic States, Estonia, Latvia. And now, of course, Ukraine has said that it’s going to join. This is the root of all this conflict. Georgia, its leader is trying to join, the U.S. is blatantly meddling in Georgia’s internal politics, sanctioning members of the government, the elected parliament for not obediently following along.

Also, another element of this is simply a political class that sees their future across the Atlantic. Their ideology is Atlanticism. They believe that Europe has much more in common with the US and Canada than with anyone else, certainly with Russia, certainly with Asia, certainly with Africa. A lot of them also have kind of racist views saying, why would we have political and economic exchange with Africans? We should instead go all the way across the Atlantic ocean, which is much farther away than Africa or Asia, but anyway, whatever.

So there’s this culture element. There’s political loyalties. There’s the fact that a lot of these people also have dual passports with the U.S. They studied in the U.S. Their family members study in the U.S. They have family members in the U.S. like Ursula von der Leyen. So, we’ve seen generations of the cultivation of this relationship between Europe and the U.S. And it’s funny because it’s a love hate relationship. Europeans rightfully love to make fun of Americans for being ignorant and whatever, but at the same time, they’re completely subordinated to the U.S. government.

And finally, of course, is the economic element. The U.S., of course, historically, since World War II, major economic power. That’s changed with the rise of China, but it’s still a very powerful country economically. And a lot of the elites in Europe, they have invested in US assets, US stocks and bonds. They have fancy houses, luxurious McMansions in the US and there’s all this investment that they have in the US. And as their economies in Europe are stagnating, some of the rich elites from Europe are actually going to the U.S. Because although in the U. S., of course, there has been inflation, wages have been stagnant, there’s more and more homelessness and poverty, if you are very rich, you can live very well in the U.S. I mean, very, very rich, right? You can have your mansions in your gated communities.

And this is true, not just for Europeans, for the elites, you know, capitalist oligarchs all around the world. If your country has instability, if your economy is in stagnation, you can just move to the US and live in a gated community and pretend like nothing bad is happening.

So, essentially what we see is that the elites of Europe have sold out their people, and they’re all, their golden parachute is the U.S. If they have to flee the country, they can all go and live in a, you know, on a beach in Miami or whatever.

And we see this in many countries in Europe right now, which are entering stagnation and recession, and their governments are not actually implementing policies to try to help people.

Germany entered recession and the response of the government was more austerity, more neoliberal dogma, which is crazy. And meanwhile, Germany’s industry is rapidly declining. There’s de-industrialization going on across Europe. And some of those jobs are going ironically to the US. So, I mean, the US is de industrializing Europe.

Europe is suffering the consequences of this war with Russia. And also the US is trying to start a war on China. Europe is also suffering because of that, because many countries in Europe, their largest trading partner is not the U.S., it’s actually China, and the U. S. is trying to force them to commit economic suicide to try to weaken China, just as they’re doing to try to weaken Russia. So Europe suffers the consequences, and the U.S. benefits.

And finally, one other point. You mentioned this issue of these NATO agreements, which essentially show how the U.S. controls NATO. Well, it’s not just that. It’s also the U.S. Military industrial complex always benefits. Because when a country joins NATO, part of the process of joining NATO is an idea known as interoperability.

What does that mean? It means that your military hardware has to be interoperable with the U.S. military hardware. So your military communication systems, your ammunition and all of this have to basically be the same as U.S. military equipment, which means huge guaranteed contracts for U.S. weapons corporations.

So Sweden and all these other countries that are joining NATO now are going to buy billions of dollars of weapons from U.S. weapons contractors. And now more and more countries in Europe are pledging to increase military spending to two or even 3 percent of GDP. And that means that they’re going to probably be spending much more on U.S. military hardware.

And of course, it’s not just Biden. Let’s not forget. It was Donald Trump who supposedly is a populist and anti establishment, which is just complete BS. That’s complete nonsense. He’s never been a populist. He’s a billionaire. He cut taxes on the rich. He’s now calling for decreasing taxes on big corporations.

And meanwhile, it was Trump who is the one pressuring Europe to increase its military spending as what NATO technically requires of these countries, two or 3 percent of military spending of GDP. So thanks to Trump, who, of course, also killed two different peace treaties with Russia, including the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, the INF Treaty, and the Open Skies Treaty.

And then Biden came in and now this war went to a whole other level. So this is bipartisan, of course. The Democrats are complicit, but the Republicans are complicit as well. And it was thanks to Trump that now Europe started this process of re militarizing that has only gotten worse under Biden.

Eleanor Goldfield: Yeah, absolutely.

Thank you so much for all of that context. I mean, it really does seem like this remarkably abusive relationship, and Europe just keeps taking it. You feel like you’re watching a Lifetime move, and you’re like, just leave. You don’t have to be with him. Just get out of this awful relationship.

But it seems like, as you said, they’re more interested in gated communities and being kings of a graveyard. And with that economic angle, I wanted to, before we end here, I wanted to talk to you about something that was reported a few days ago and then very quickly resulted in a slew of fake news claims.

And so I want to get your take on this, the petrodollar deal or the petrodollar pact. So I was wondering if you could firstly give folks an idea of what we’re talking about when we say the petrodollar pact, but also what is your take on all of this? It’s over. It’s not over. We’re fine. We’re not going to be fine.

What is going on right now with regards to that? And what does that mean for the U.S. economy and therefore also U.S. hegemony?

Ben Norton: Another great question. We could spend a whole other episode talking about this. I’ll try to keep it short. But before I do that, one quick thought in response to what you said, Eleanor, about the U.S. Europe alliance being an abusive relationship. That’s absolutely right. And in this abusive relationship, we should keep in mind, of course, it’s the U.S. that benefits. But this is the U.S. goal of trying to prevent Europe from integrating politically and economically with Asia, essentially. I mean, of course, Africa as well, which is, by the way, the fastest growing continent, it’s often forgotten, not mentioned in the media. But also Asia economically.

I mean, many economists say this is the Asian century. The 21st century is the Asian century. China is already the world’s largest economy. It continues to grow faster than any other major economy. India is growing quite quickly. Indonesia is growing very quickly. Vietnam. I mean, there’s so much potential in Asia. Also, a huge percentage of the world population, depending on how you measure it. Like probably around half of the world population, over half the world population is in Asia.

So anyway, the point is, is that Europe could have much better economic possibilities by integrating with Asia. There is so much in that relationship that could be complementary. Europe has a lot of manufacturing potential, especially Germany, France, to a lesser extent, Northern Italy.

There’s a lot of advanced manufacturing and a lot of countries, especially in Southeast Asia, that are industrializing, want more investment. Like, like there was a lot of German investment in China, which was part of the industrialization process. That could be, those could be great opportunities for Europe, but instead Europe is so wedded to the US it’s losing out on all of these economic opportunities. It’s de industrializing.

And of course, Russia. The whole point of the war in Ukraine is to prevent Russia from economically and politically integrating with Europe, especially Germany. And this is the whole point of NATO. In fact, what’s funny is if you go to the NATO website, you can find this famous quote, which is from Lord Ismay, who was the first ever NATO secretary general, that is the NATO leader. And he was a British Military officer who, by the way, oversaw colonial war crimes in the British colonies in Africa. But anyway, this is the first head of NATO. He had this famous quote in which he said that the point of NATO is to keep Russia out, Germany down, and the U.S. in. So that’s the idea: to keep Russia out, Germany down, to prevent Russia and Germany from becoming significant political and economic allies.

Because Russia is one of the world’s largest oil producers and gas producers. It has huge sums of natural resources. It has tons of minerals, everything that you would need for an industrial economy. Germany is a major industrial power, or at least it was historically. That’s going away pretty quickly in no small part because of the war in Ukraine and Western sanctions and Russia.

So that’s such a complimentary relationship. And if you read it, the famous book, The Grand Chessboard, by Brzezinski, the former U.S. imperial strategist, Zbigniew Brzezinski. In 1997, he published this book, The Grand Chessboard. And in this book, he famously said that the U.S. must do whatever it can In order to maintain its geopolitical supremacy is the term he used.

The U.S. must prevent Russia and Germany from forming an alliance. And the U.S. has basically guaranteed that, and European elites have basically guaranteed that with this war in Ukraine. Now, and by extension, of course, China, because China and Russia are now very close allies. And if you integrate more with Russia, if Germany and Europe integrates more with Russia, by extension, they would integrate more with China.

But anyway, that’s not happening because of the war in Ukraine. This is the goal of the war in Ukraine, right? Now, finally,

Eleanor Goldfield: Sorry to interrupt, wasn’t one of the points of that proxy war also to destroy Russia economically? And in fact, Russia is doing better economically.

Ben Norton: That’s absolutely right. I mean, it was President Biden who said that the goal was to make the Russian ruble into rubble.

And by the way, the ruble is used by Russian civilians, over 100 million Russian civilians who that’s their currency. And the U.S. said, yeah, we want to collapse their currency and collapse their economy. But they didn’t do that, actually. And one of the reasons, the main reason that Russia was able to withstand these brutal sanctions is because of its economic relations with Asia.

Russia’s economy, it does have a lot of industrial base. But the heart of the Russian economy is fossil fuels and minerals. It’s like a lot of countries, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Iran, Iraq. These are countries that rely a lot on exporting primary products, raw materials, right?

Russia is one of those countries. And instead of sending that oil and gas to Europe, it simply redirected it to China and India and even Turkey. And ironically, now Europe is buying, I mean, Europe’s gas consumption has not decreased that much. Of course, we all want the world to go away from fossil fuels and move toward renewable energy as soon as possible.

And by the way, China is doing that at breakneck speed. China in 2023 installed more solar panel capacity than the entire world combined in one year. China installed more solar panel capacity than the U.S. has ever installed in history. So anyway, the point is, is that China has the potential. The U.S. just put 100 percent tariffs on Chinese electric vehicles, Chinese solar panels, and Chinese batteries, which would be needed for the renewable energy transition.

But the point is that regardless, that Europe, instead of decreasing its gas consumption, it’s been simply buying more and more liquefied natural gas from the U.S., from U.S. gas companies. So what we see is just simply a redirection of trade. The U.S. is sending its gas to Europe, which is more expensive, and Russia is sending its cheaper gas and oil to China and India at a discount.

So anyway, you’re absolutely right that this is the main goal. Let’s just try to suffocate Russia economically, which has not worked because Asia, again, the West is so, they’re living in this little bubble. They still believe that they control the world. It’s not 1950 anymore. But anyway, getting back to your question about – this is all related to the issue of the petrodollar, right?

So I could spend forever talking about this. I’ll briefly summarize it. So what is the petrodollar? Well, before World War II, but especially toward the end of World War II, the U.S. dollar became the global reserve currency. What does that mean? It means that if you want to do trade internationally, you’re probably going to invoice your trade in the dollar.

And if your central bank is holding foreign currencies to try to stabilize your local currency, which are called foreign exchange reserves, the majority of that is held in dollars. And that has been the case since right before World War Two in the interwar period, and then especially since 1944 at the famous Bretton Woods Conference, people met in New Hampshire in Bretton Woods, and they signed this agreement in which the U.S. dollar was officially made the global reserve currency in the international financial system, and other currencies were pegged to the U.S. dollar But at that time, the US dollar was set at a fixed exchange rate. What that meant is that if you had $35 anywhere in the world, you could exchange those $35 for one ounce of gold anywhere in the world.

It was a fixed rate. It was not all based on the market. And there were capital controls at the time, which today would be seen as crazy socialism, right? But this is the so called golden age of capitalism. But actually, it was very state led. It was the Keynesian era and there were capital controls and capitalists could not simply move their money around and hide their money in offshore tax shelters and all this.

So the point is, is that different currencies had a fixed exchange rate to the US dollar. That changed in 1971. Why? Because the U S ran out of gold because it was spending so much on its wars and then its military bases around the world, its empire, the Korean war, the Vietnam war. So in 1971, US president Richard Nixon ended the convertibility of the dollar into gold, which meant that you could no longer simply exchange your dollars for gold.

So what that meant is that the US dollar had an issue of inflation. So, in order to try to maintain the stability of the U.S. dollar, what happened is that the U.S. decided instead of basing the dollar on gold, we should try to base the dollar on oil. So, in 1974, just a few years after the dollar was taken off of gold, Richard Nixon sent his treasury secretary to Saudi Arabia to sign an agreement saying we will protect you in Saudi Arabia and your monarchy. We will prop up an absolute monarchy, a hereditary dictatorship. And in return, you should sell your oil in dollars. At that time, Saudi Arabia was the world’s largest oil producer. And it was also the leader of OPEC, the oil producing cartel, had a lot of political and economic influence in the oil market.

So by Saudi Arabia agreeing to price its oil in dollars, what that meant is that countries all around the world, if you wanted to import oil, you had to get access to dollars in order to buy that oil, right? So that meant that there was more demand for dollars around the world because If you want to pay for oil, you have to get access to dollars.

Therefore, there’s more demand for dollars. Therefore, there’s less inflation in the U.S. because there’s more international demand. So the U.S. could maintain huge trade deficits for many decades. It has the world’s largest trade deficit, and that is funded largely because people around the world want those dollars so they can buy oil or other commodities or products.

Well, that system is changing. It’s not going to happen overnight, but it is changing. And now what we don’t know, there’s a rumor going around that the agreement that the U.S. signed with Saudi Arabia in June, 1974 was a 50 year agreement. Now that’s that what we don’t know. It is true. It’s an objective fact that the U.S. did sign an agreement on June 8th, 1974 with Saudi Arabia that was reported by the New York Times. What we don’t know is if it was actually a 50 year agreement. That’s the rumor going around. And if it was a 50 year agreement, well, Saudi Arabia did not renew it. And what we do know, what is public information, which has been confirmed, is that also in June, Saudi Arabia’s central bank joined a system called Enbridge.

Enbridge is a way of using central bank digital currencies, which you know, libertarians hate, but actually this is a way to try to get around U.S. sanctions that other countries can use. And by the way, Wall Street also hates CBDCs, Central Bank Digital Currencies, because if people can have an account with the central bank, they don’t need the private commercial banks. It’s actually a way of like, backdoor nationalization of the banks.

But anyway, the point is, is that there’s a system called Enbridge, which is a central bank digital currency system that is used by China, Thailand, and the UAE. And some other countries are trying to join. Saudi Arabia has officially joined. What this means is that these countries can settle their trade imbalances using their own central bank digital currencies, and they don’t need any dollars. They can not only remove the dollar, but they can remove the SWIFT system, which is the interbank messaging system based in Europe, but controlled by the US, which the US uses to try to isolate countries like Russia, Iran, and Venezuela who were kicked off of SWIFT.

Well, you don’t need SWIFT and you don’t need dollars if you have Enbridge, and Saudi Arabia joined Enbridge. So what we don’t know is if Saudi Arabia will do this. Now there has been, there have been rumors, the Wall Street Journal reported that Saudi Arabia is considering selling China oil in Chinese currency, the renminbi, and also the United Arab Emirates has officially done transactions selling liquefied natural gas to China in renminbi, also known as Yuan.

So there is a precedent for this. And when president Xi of China visited Saudi Arabia in late 2022, he famously announced that China is working on trying to make agreements to buy oil and gas from the region using yuan, the Chinese currency.

So, of course, we don’t know. Saudi Arabia, you know, historically has been a US ally. And what it’s trying to do is what many countries in the global south are doing. They’re trying to play both sides to do what’s in their interest, right? So one day Saudi Arabia says, you know, we’re good friends with the West. The next day we say we’re good friends with the east, with China and Russia.

They’re playing both sides to do what’s in their interest. The UAE does the same thing. Turkey does the same thing. Egypt’s doing the same thing. So we’ll see what happens. Saudi Arabia said that it’s going to join BRICS and then it said it’s not going to join BRICS and we still don’t know if it is going to join.

So, it’s in the up in the air, but I think the point that people should take away, the most important point, is that across the global south, which is the global majority, they represent over 80 percent of the world population, there is this feeling in the air of rebellion against imperialism. We see this with institutions like BRICS. We see this definitely in Latin America, where there are many left wing governments in power. And we see this in Africa with these new revolutionary nationalist governments coming to power, kicking out the French, kicking out the U.S. And a lot of people in the global South recognize that they need to de-dollarize in order to be economically independent. Because if they still rely on the U. S. dollar and the US banking system, they could be the next Cuba, they could be the next Venezuela. The US could try to sanction them and blockade them and detach their banks from the international financial institutions. So what we’re seeing is more and more interest in creating new financial institutions.

And China has been playing a big role in this. And Latin America has played a big role in this. And even long time US allies are now hedging their bets and playing both sides. Obviously, Venezuela is very gung ho about this. They really want to create a new financial system. That’s not surprising.

But what is surprising is that even longtime U.S. allies like Saudi Arabia are also expressing interest. And I think that really reflects the spirit of the times. We are in a very exciting moment for geopolitics and there are so many exciting things happening. Unfortunately, that means that there are also some bad things happening.

So while there are good things happening, there’s the war in Ukraine, the war in Gaza, the potential for other wars that could happen because of course the U.S. is trying to prevent the creation of a more multipolar world, which really means a more democratic world. And the U.S. is trying to maintain a unipolar hegemonic system.

And that’s why we see these wars in this geopolitical uncertainty and all of these conflicts. So, you know, that’s why I want to thank you for having me. These are the kinds of things that I report on and it is a dangerous time, but it’s also an optimistic time for a lot of people. And what this also means is for people in the US, for people in the West, these political changes, it actually also opens up the possibility for more fundamental, even radical political change, because now the bipartisan establishment consensus is breaking apart very rapidly. Unfortunately, it means that the far right is rising, but it also means that there’s the possibility of real alternatives to the neoliberal establishment, real progressive alternatives that could emerge because we see those alternatives emerging in other countries.

Eleanor Goldfield: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, the recent EU parliamentary elections, the far right did get several gains, but the left did as well. So I think there’s definitely a powerful tug of war there. And obviously we know which side we’re on.

Ben, thank you so much for taking the time to sit down with us and give us so much important context and backstory in a digestible and timely fashion. Again, you can find all of Ben’s writing at his independent news site, Geopolitical Economy Report.

Ben, thanks again so much.

Ben Norton: It’s my pleasure. Thanks for having me, Eleanor, and keep up the great work.

 

Below is a Rough Transcript of the Interview with Håkan Julander

Eleanor Goldfield: Thanks everyone for joining us at the Project Censored Radio Show. We’re very glad to welcome to the show Håkan Julander, who’s a Swedish actor, writer, and a reluctant activist.

Håkan Julander: Yeah.

Eleanor Goldfield: Håkan, thank you so much for joining us.

Håkan Julander: Yeah. Yeah. I said reluctant because I really wasn’t an activist til in my forties, you know, it’s just cause I always tried to get out of them, not be a part of that because I was into my acting, my own stuff and somehow it went too crazy with everything.

So I can’t, I’m a reluctant activist, but I’m a happy activist.

Eleanor Goldfield: Well, I have heard tell of such things. Assata Shakur said something similar that if things were different, she’d be doing pottery or something. But alas, here we are in this world. And I want to talk to you about one of these crazy things that has pushed you to be an activist, namely the DCA agreement that Sweden signed with the U.S.

Actually last December, on December 5th, the U. S. and Sweden signed what’s known as a defense cooperation agreement, a DCA agreement.

Håkan Julander: Yeah.

Eleanor Goldfield: Signed by Secretary of Defense in the U. S., Lloyd Austin, and Swedish Defense Minister Pål Jonsson, and it basically allows for the U.S. to treat Sweden as a vassal state.

And I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about what this DCA agreement actually does.

Håkan Julander: Sure. Yeah, they signed it in December last year, but the Swedish parliament made a decision that it was okay just a week ago. And we needed, I think it was three fourths majority of approving the agreement and that was approved, of course.

It was just the Green Party and the Left party, but they’re really small and they’re not very green and they’re not very left. But, yeah.

Well, what can I say? It’s like the end. Sweden is a neutral, used to be a neutral country. We’ve been, for 200 years, we’ve been on our own. Of course, since after the World War, we have had close relations with the West, with the NATO, but we have been an autonomous country.

But from now on, from a week ago, we lost our motherland, you can say, because this means we’re not a sovereign state anymore. This means that the U.S. has the right for 17 military bases where they can take their people, they can take their weapons. We’re not allowed to ask why or how much and what, and they have their own jurisdiction.

It’s like the capitulation of Japan or Germany or Iraq or, but we’ve not been in a war. We’ve not lost the war. We’re just so, so we just hate Russians that much. So we let anything happen, you know, and, our politicians right now are like this little elite clique that run the EU and everything and they have their, like Pål Jonnson, our defense minister, he’s from King’s College in London where all the spooks are educated and it’s just,

it’s really, really heartbreaking because this is such a big thing. Imagine you’ve been this Sweden, this famous country for being like the mediator and the common sense kind of cool people in the north, and now we’re just, as you said, a vassal state.

Yeah,

Eleanor Goldfield: and I, and I’m curious too, because the Swedes, the Swedish people had no vote on this.

Håkan Julander: Oh, definitely. Oh, yeah, sure. No. And the thing is, there was this poll made asking the Swedish people, I don’t know if this was a great poll or not, how many thousands of people, but the question was, do you know what DCA means?

And 75 percent said, no, we have no idea. They know about NATO, but NATO, and this is also new. NATO was just three, four months ago. Oh, when was it? I can’t, everything’s so crazy, but it was not so long ago. But DCA is so much more. It’s a bilateral and it’s American rules in Sweden. The agreement is written in English!

And of course, me and my friends, we try to do things, we’ve done demonstrations and we signed our lists and we, you know, the social media shit. But, it’s not a big interest since Russia, Ukraine, people don’t care.

And the media, you were talking, you were asking me about the media. The media in Sweden is terrible, terrible. It’s a lot worse than the United States. Because in U.S. you have media like you, you have, you know, Aaron Maté and Max Blumenthal and all these people, you know, Kim Iverson, you know, great media for people who want to know things.

Håkan Julander: In Sweden we have old people running blogs, which are great. And we have my little magazine comes out once a month, FiB Kulturfront. It’s an old magazine from the seventies. We all work for free. And we have nuanced news about what’s happening and that, but the Swedish BBC, what you can say, SVT, Swedish television, it’s like the BBC, they’re totally biased.

And the big newspaper, the legacy media is all, it’s the self censorship is enormous. If you say anything neutral about the Ukraine war, about the Syrian chemical bombs or the COVID or whatever, just another opinion. It doesn’t mean you have to be right about everything. It’s just, other opinions are not allowed. You don’t end up in prison, but you lose your job and you lose your friends and you lose your status.

I could never, never see this happen in Sweden, but when I was like young in the eighties and nineties, it was like nuclear free zone was the biggest thing. It was so important that we are the people that you know, the link between the superpowers. And just in two years, it’s just turn around like this now when we needed so much more this neutrality.

Eleanor Goldfield: Well, and so I’m curious, because most of what we talk about on the show is based in the US or around what’s happening with the US.

And so I think it, if you could share why you think it’s important for people to pay attention about this specific thing that’s happening with Sweden, and why it’s important to recognize what the US is doing to these NATO member states via these agreements. Why is it important for people outside of Sweden to pay attention to this?

Håkan Julander: I don’t know if it’s U.S. doing this to us. I think it’s us doing it to us and that we want the U. S. That’s the thing. We want the U.S. to come and support us against the terrible Russians. But it’s based on propaganda. It’s based on lies. It’s based on Idiocracy, technocracy, it’s based on the arms dealers and all that.

But why, why do you, because Sweden has this reputation of being a serious country. And it’s important to know that we’re not, we’re just a, a comparison, I don’t know, the Puerto Rico of Scandinavia. We’re just nothing, we just sold out our souls, sold out our souls, we just sold out everything to a declining empire.

This is, it’s not even smart if it would be like, okay, we’re safer now with the U.S. but we’re definitely not! It’s just crazy. But why should other people know about this?

Feel pity for us.

Eleanor Goldfield: Well, so the reason that I think it’s important to bring it up is because I think it’s important to recognize what the U.S. is doing. And I agree that Sweden did it to itself. I mean, Sweden could have said no, but this ties Europe and the U.S. together in a declining empire that will have ramifications for everybody involved.

And of course, as Asia and China and Russia and India and like the BRICS nations in general continue to rise, this will have a negative impact on everybody and now that Sweden has tied itself to the Titanic, as it sinks, this has again ramifications for everybody involved economically, politically, threat of nuclear war.

Håkan Julander: Yeah. But people don’t think about that. People don’t think it’s going to be a nuclear war. No way, no way, no way. I talked to this guy that he’s into finance and stuff. And he says, this is great because it’s money. It’s the Wallenberg family. It’s super big in Sweden. It’s our, I don’t know, Rothschilds or whatever. They own the weapon industry. They make the JAS Gripen, our fighter jets.

And wow, they’re going to make so much money and the stocks are going way up and all the infrastructure you will need for all these American troops. And you have to, all railroads in inland Sweden that’s just tourist railroads now, summertime, probably they’re going to make them, you know, bigger, they’re going to have like tanks on them or what have you.

So it’s a lot of infrastructure. And it’s like, it’s good for business. It’s good for business. That’s it. I think.

Eleanor Goldfield: So what is, what is going on? I mean, I know that you said that you’ve been doing some work with your fellow activists. What is the feeling on the ground with people?

I mean, 75 percent didn’t know what DCA meant. Do they know now?

Håkan Julander: No, no, they don’t. They don’t. They will know. That day when, you know, suddenly there are a lot of Americans in our streets and people who have their homes close to the bases, because in this agreement, you can make the borders bigger because you need a safe space for the base, I don’t know.

But people might have to move and the farms has to, you know, put down their business. And they will know. But these times are so, people are so unconnected to life, and are following the legacy media, the society, because in Sweden we have this great, great

tradition of following the state. I think it’s few countries on earth that have trusted the state so much as Sweden. And that’s still with us because we, because our state is good. It’s Olof Palme. It’s the mediator. But that reputation is still with us. But yeah, we’re gonna, it’s going to be a lot of trouble, of course.

Ah, but I think lots, most people think it’s worth the price because Russia is so bad. They can come any day now, they can take Gotland, our little island in the Baltic Sea, and it’s all about fear mongering.

And we used to have great journalists in Sweden, but they don’t dare to speak up their minds. They are following the news from the Guardian, from the New York Times, from the CNN, from the MSNBC. It’s all Trump is bad, Trump is bad, Trump is crazy, crazy. Everything’s like black and white. Biden is good. He’s not that old. It’s a fake news that he’s like rambling about and don’t know where to go and blah, blah, blah.

We’ve gotten so Americanized. It’s so terrible. So I’m in Georgia now, Georgia, Asia, or Georgia, East Europe or whatever, Caucasus. It’s so great to be in a country where, well, they have their political issues and stuff, but they’re like, they’re Georgians, you know. I don’t think, we’re not Swedish anymore.

Eleanor Goldfield: Well, and that’s the problem. The only people who claim, who are really proud to be Swedish, it seems, are the people on the far right.

Håkan Julander: Yeah.

Eleanor Goldfield: Who are, interestingly enough, the ones who are also the most eager to lick the boots of the U.S. So it’s like, I thought you wanted to be Swedish.

Håkan Julander: I know. That was so crazy for me too, that the Sweden Democrats, it’s our Le Pen party in Sweden, they have like 20%.

And they used to be, they come from the Nazi movement, but that was in the 90s. Now they are, you know, they have their cheap suits and they have the you know, Reich

Eleanor Goldfield: hitler hairdo.

Håkan Julander: Yeah. But anyways, yeah. But they’re kind of melting into the general idea about things. And they used to be really nationalists and against NATO, against EU. But they are totally for it now. They got bought from the industry. To be a serious party, you have to make certain agreements with the industries.

Now it’s only, the only thing they have is against Muslims, you know, it’s anti Russia, anti Palestine and anti Muslims.

That’s it.

Eleanor Goldfield: Well, I mean, it’s the same thing. Trump said that he didn’t want to be in NATO. He wanted to end wars. He wanted, you know, America first. And then of course he’s in office and he doesn’t do any of that. He promotes wars. He promotes the death squads. And so it’s a very common theme that these right wing extremists say that they want everything to be on the inside and they want to focus all of their work domestically, but then they don’t.

I mean, if the Sweden Democrats really cared that much, wouldn’t they make sure that the elderly in Sweden aren’t, you know, freezing to death in the wintertime?

Håkan Julander: That’s real politics. It’s not about real politics anymore. It’s just about ideas and ah, feelings. I think it’s like this war of cultures, isn’t it? It’s like, we are Western people. We’re like the Americans and the French and Italians, and maybe the Greeks, they’re a little bit in between, but we’re this way, and the Chinese and the Russians and the Indians and the Iranians and the Arabs and the, I don’t know, rest of the world is, you can’t trust them.

How, how do I know why the Sweden Democrats change side? But it’s to get more votes. It’s just to feel where the wind blows. But I say to my friends, I think if they would’ve been smart, they would have taken this really nationalist agenda and said no to NATO and no, to the US.

I think that would be really clever. But they don’t, they didn’t do that.

Eleanor Goldfield: So wrapping up here, Håkan, I know that it seems rather bleak, the outlook, but is there any kind of hope also in terms of organizing, what does it look like on the ground in Sweden?

Håkan Julander: Okay. It doesn’t look good. I’m sorry to say. It’s mostly old people. And I’m soon one of those too.

The good is, the good side is the Palestine movement, and the climate people. It would be nice, it would be great to have a real peace movement, like it was in the, like I imagine it was in the 70s, you know, an anti NATO, anti war, anti D.C.A., anti U.S.A., blah, blah, blah, as committed as the Palestine movement and the climate movement.

Something needs to happen before that changes, people don’t read the news, and read books and come to, come to conclusions, it’s this thing that happens seventh of October, and it’s years and years and years of climate change

that make people “oh.” But, okay it’s the Ukraine war but it’s like And its mil- I don’t know, hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people have died. But it’s, there is such in Sweden and in most countries in the west, the Russians are the bad guys. And the Ukrainians are the good guys. And you cannot get, even the peace people are like pro war, even the green party in Sweden and the left party and the anti imperialists are, yeah, let’s give them guns in Ukraine.

Something terrible has to happen before really, before it changes. I guess. I don’t know what. But I guess it’s in the time where things are as bleak as you can imagine. That’s the time when something flicks and change will come, I guess. That’s my hopeful, that’s my wish.

Well, and some hope is for people to physically interact with each other. I have this project together with my friends called the Dissident Club in Stockholm, and we have live shows in the theater where we invite very interesting people who have other points of view. So, real peace talkers, like Claire Daly, the Irish parliamentarian, Glenn Dees, they talk the truth about Ukraine and Nordstream, and we have people talking about the Sahel, what’s happening in Africa, the neocolonization, and how Burkina Faso and those countries are breaking free again, at last, you can say.

And there’s some young people actually coming to these gatherings and that’s how I think, to change the tide or the wave is you have to get physical again. You have to meet and you have to get away from the social web, social media and internet and when it’s possible to really meet people and see that we’re not so few that we think we are.

But to go demonstrating and stuff for peace today, I can’t see that in Sweden. We’re just too few. But I think if we can, I hope the Dissident Club will grow and maybe become like a social media thing, that we can make videos and make more pods.

And also, I also think that it’s important for the peace project that people from different ideologies, socialists and anarchists and conservatives and liberals can meet together because it’s like very close to the end of the world right now. And then we can agree on disagreeing on other stuff like economics and I don’t know, about the men and women and families and what is good and what is bad and stuff.

But, so yeah, I have some hope.