The two hosts are back after a hiatus to dive into things that matter.
US Debt Ceiling
The debt ceiling is in the news again. Fundamentally, the US has a legal mechanism that caps the total amount of debt that the US Treasury can issue. Congress has to approve spending beyond the debt ceiling and this sometimes causes friction with the president.
Republicans have a majority in the House of Representatives. They want the government to cut costs. Democrats in the White House want the House to raise revenues by raising taxes. If the two cannot agree, the government can grind to a halt and it has in the past.
This podcast examines the hullabaloo about the debt ceiling and makes sense of it all.
The Russia-Ukraine War has been in a stalemate for a while. In the early phases of the war, the Russians got a beating. Then, they regrouped and made some advances. For months, there has been a stalemate.
With spring thawing the snow, a Ukrainian offensive seems to be in the offing. Some believe that Ukraine has the advantage. After all, the country will be getting F-16 fighter jets. The US is still pouring in aid and arms. Others argue that there are too many different weapons needing different types of ammunition. The Russians are using prisoners as cannon fodder and killing the flower of Ukrainian youth.
The next few weeks might be a critical period of this war.
The Arctic Great Game
Once, great powers played the great game over Afghanistan. Now, it has shifted to the Arctic. As Atul Singh wrote in an earlier piece, “The melting of polar ice caps opens up new opportunities for resource extraction and sea routes. This has sharpened rivalries between the US-led West and a China-backed Russia. Tensions are increasing and so are the possibilities of conflict.”
Russia has used the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) astutely to claim the continental shelf. Note that the US does not recognize UNCLOS. Other Arctic powers such as Canada, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Iceland have been late to the party. So, Russia has the legal lead.
At the same time, Russia is building military bases in this region. As Singh wrote, “Russia has seven nuclear-powered icebreakers and around 30 diesel-powered ones. The US and China have just two diesel-powered icebreakers each in operation. The US is the global superpower but Russia is the Arctic superpower.”
China claims to be a near-Arctic power and is funding Russian military development. China is looking to bypass two choke points that could cut off its energy supplies, block its exports and bring its economy to a standstill. These choke points are the Suez Canal and the Straits of Malacca. China desperately wants another sea route.
The melting of the Arctic is opening up new trans-Arctic routes that China desperately craves. In the past, a Russian tanker sailed from Norway to South Korea in 19 days. A passage through the Suez Canal would have taken over 50 days. As the factory of the world with an insatiable appetite for commodities, the oil, gas and minerals along with a shorter sea route is China’s wet dream. No wonder the stage is set for yet another great game.
The views expressed in this article/podcast are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.