Thorbjorn Waagstein

Thorbjorn Waagstein

Thorbjørn Waagstein, Economist, PhD, since 1999 working as international Development Consultant in Latin America, Africa and Asia.

Saturday, 21 October 2023 21:51
Published in Politics

What to do when you take other people’s land

History tells us that countries have routinely conquered land, where other people are living, so the case of the State of Israel is not unique. But the question arrives, what to do with the people on the conquered land. Here, the State of Israel is a very peculiar case, and at the root of the Palestinian tragedy.

General Mark Milley, chairman of the US’ joint chiefs of staff, said in February 2023 that Russia has already lost ‘strategically, operationally and tactically’. The war in Ukraine is in the US seen as 'a remarkably cost-effective way to degrade Russia’s military capabilities without risking a single (American) life'. So then everything is going according to plan. Or is it?

The Russian economy has apparently resisted the ‘sanctions from hell’ which were supposed to lead to an economic collapse. This has left a lot of economists and politicians perplexed. But it is no mystery. Sanctions hurt, but they also create opportunities, particularly in big and relatively advanced countries as Russia. The reason it is so difficult for many economists to understand is that they have enclosed themselves in a narrow neoliberal universe. What is happening in Russia has an important message for developing countries.

Monday, 03 July 2023 17:37
Published in Politics

What are the Ukrainians dying for?

The loss of lives of soldiers in the Ukraine war is horrific. We don’t know how many are dying, but nobody doubts the number is terrifying high. A recent study gives us a glimpse of what is going on. It shows that 63% of the Ukrainians respond that they have at least one close relative or friend who died, 78% if we include the injured. This is insane. The US, NATO and EU say this should continue for “as long as it takes”. Do they have a good reason for letting this bloodbath continue?

Friday, 16 June 2023 23:25
Published in Politics

The garden, the jungle and the civilisers

Most of the European and North American left considers itself as guardians of universal rights and values. They are campaigning for sanctions and – if needed – military intervention against countries or “regimes” that are not living up to these universal standards, and they expect their governments, the US, EU and NATO to carry out the necessary punitive measures to enforce the standards. They haven’t noted that this is no longer possible. It is imperial overreach.

The present international financial system centred around the US dollar is under pressure from several factors: the use of the dollar to punish other countries, the inflation in the US, the increasing US indebtedness, and the appearance of digital currencies and their potential for making international payments much faster and cheaper without using the dollar. The future is probably a fragmented and regionalised international financial system and a much reduced role of the dollar. But can it work?

Central Bank Digital Currencies are coming, and even if they initially will be used only domestically, they are bound to start playing a role in international payments too. This will diminish the need for US dollars in international trade and hence also lessen the US control with the international payment system. No surprise that the US is not at all enthusiastic about this development.

Despite much talk about the coming dedollarisation of the World Economy, the dollar continues to be the preferred currency for international trade and for building up foreign exchange reserves. There is no risk for the US that the Chinese Yuan will take over this role. But in the same way as US hegemony is about to give way to a multipolar world power system, the dollar hegemony will probably give way to a much more fragmented international financial system.

Saturday, 06 May 2023 17:32
Published in Politics

And what if Ukraine loses the war?

The mainstream thinking in the West is that Ukraine and NATO are winning the war. So the main discussions is how a desperate, defeated Russia will act. You know, wounded animals are dangerous. But what if – hypothetically, of course, against all the clever military expert opinions – it is the other way around? How will NATO react to being defeated in Ukraine? Will it be total war?

After China in December 2022 suddenly changed course from zero-Covid to total termination of all restrictions, all the usual Western China bashers were rejoicing. See, it was a failure! We handled the epidemic the right way, while Xi’s China bungled it! But if we make a comparison of the performance of the leading Western powers with China’s, it is hard to justify this rejoicing.

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