Burning dollar
Get ready for what may well be the geoeconomic bombshell of 2024: the coming of a decentralized monetary ecosystem.

Welcome to The Unit - a concept that has already been discussed by the financial services and investments working group set up by the BRICS+ Business Council and has a serious shot at becoming official BRICS+ policy as early as in 2025.

According to Alexey Subbotin, founder of Arkhangelsk Capital Management and one of the Unit's conceptualizers, this is a new problem-solving system that addresses the key geoeconomic issue of these troubled times: a global crisis of trust.

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Bruno Martarello De Conti of the University of Campinas highlights the importance of BRICS amid the dysfunctionality of the current international monetary and financial system, particularly the dominance of the US dollar and its use as a geopolitical weapon.

"It's really necessary for the BRICS to construct alternatives for the use of the dollar So it can be done through the usage of local currencies for bilateral trade as Russia is doing with China for instance. But also this idea of developing a BRICS currency is a good idea," De Conti told Sputnik on the sidelines of the World Youth Festival in Russia's Sirius.

De Conti also advocates for the creation of a new international payment system to reduce the reliance on platforms like SWIFT, which can be weaponized. This transition, although complex, is crucial to ensure financial stability and sovereignty for the Global South and BRICS nations.
He knows all about it first-hand: a seasoned financial professional with experience in investment banking, asset management and corporate matters, Subbotin leads the Unit project under the auspices of IRIAS, an international intergovernmental organization set up in 1976 in accordance with the UN statute.

The Global Majority has had enough of the centrally controlled monetary framework put in place 80 years ago in Bretton Woods and its endemic flaws: chronic deficits fueling irresponsible military spending; speculative bubbles; politically motivated sanctions and secondary sanctions; abuse of settlement and payment infrastructure; protectionism; and the lack of fair arbitration.

In contrast, the Unit proposes a reliable, quick and economically efficient solution for cross-border payments. The โ€” transactional โ€” Unit is a game-changer as a new form of international currency that can be issued in a de-centralized way, and then recognized and regulated at national level.

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Pepe Escobar: State terror attack on Iranian Embassy is an attack on expanded BRICS and SCO

"The state terror attack on Damascus, which shredded the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Immunity, crucially was also an attack on both the expanded BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO)," says veteran geopolitical analyst Pepe Escobar in his op-ed for Sputnik.

He underscores that Iran is a member of both alliances and closely cooperates with Russia and China. That is why the Russian and Chinese presidents are closely watching the situation and "carefully considering all possible repercussions".

The analyst stresses that Western politics in the Middle East mirrors the Ukrainian crisis, in which "NATO's approaching cosmic humiliation".

However, there are "adults in the room" - Russia and China - who carefully establish the architecture of Eurasian security and will together oppose Western efforts "to slow down the natural course of history".

The Russia-China partnership is an example how global politics should be run, he says. Escobar recalls that before launching the special military operation, Vladimir Putin traveled to China to personally explain to Xi Jinping "why NATO/hegemon expansion into Ukraine was totally unacceptable for Russia".

While the world is torn apart by several conflicts instigated by the collective West, there are skillful and responsible grandmasters of the global chessboard, Escobar concludes. "

What is clear is that the Russia-China leadership, as well as Iran's, knows full well the dangers roaming the chessboard when the usual suspects seem to go all out gambling everything, even knowing that they are outgunned; outproduced; outnumbered; and outwitted."
The Unit offers a unique solution for bottlenecks in global financial infrastructure: it is eligible for traditional banking operations as well as for the newest forms of digital banking.

The Unit can also help to upend unfair pricing in commodity trading, by means of setting up a new โ€” fair and efficient โ€” Eurasian Mercantile Exchange where trading and settlement can be done in a new currency bridging trade flows and capital, thus paving the way to the development of new financial products for foreign direct investment (FDI).

The strength of the Unit, conceptually, is to remove direct dependency on the currency of other nations, and to offer especially to the Global Majority a new form of apolitical money - with huge potential for anchoring fair trade and investments.

It is indeed a new concept in terms of an international currency - anchored in gold (40%) and BRICS+ currencies (60%). It is neither crypto nor stablecoin - as it's shown here.

The Beauty of Going Fractal

The Global Majority will instantly grasp the primary purpose of the Unit: to harmonize trade and financial flows by keeping them outside of political pressure or "rules" that can be twisted at will. The inevitable consequence translates as financial sovereignty. What matters in the whole process are independent monetary policies focused on economic growth.

That's the key appeal for the Global Majority: a full ecosystem offering independent, complementary monetary infrastructure. And that surely can be extended to willing Unit partners in the collective West.

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"President Putin is once again quite sharp: he emphasized how a clear distinction applies between citizens of the world - including the Global North - and the intolerant, extremely aggressive Western plutocracy. Russia, a multinational, multicultural civilization-state, by principle welcomes all citizens of the world," says Pepe Escobar, veteran geopolitical analyst, sharing his impressions after visiting the World Youth Festival.

The World Youth Festival has made quite a splash in the media, highlighting how attractive Russia's vision of multipolarity and equity is to the rising Global South.

The festival serves as an open platform for young ambitious people who share Russia's traditional/family values, radiating throughout the festival. The cheerful ethos is in stark contrast to the West's artificial, cancel culture-obsessed "open society", Escobar stressed.
Now to the practical level: as Subbotin explains, the Unit ecosystem may be easily scalable because it comes from a fractal architecture supported by simple rules. New Unit nodes can be set up by either sovereign or private agents, following a detailed rule-book in custody of the UN-chartered IRIAS.

The Unit organizers employ a distributed ledger: a technology that ensures transparency, precluding capital controls or any exchange rate manipulation.

This means that connection is available to all open DEX and digital platforms operated by both commercial and Central Banks around the world.

The endgame is that everyone, essentially, may use the Unit for accounting, bookkeeping, pricing, settling, paying, saving and investing.

No wonder the institutional possibilities are quite enticing - as the Unit can be used for accounting and settlement for BRICS+; payment and pricing for the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU); or as a reserve currency for Sub-Saharan Africa.

And now comes the clincher: the Unit has already received backing by the BRICS Business Council and is on the agenda at the crucial ministerial meeting in Russia next month, which will work out the road map for the summit next October in Kazan.

That means the Unit has all it takes to be on the table as a serious subject discussed by BRICS+ and eventually be adopted as early as in 2025.

Will Musk and the NDB Be on Board?

As it stands, the priority for the Unit conceptualizers โ€” whom I followed for over a year during several, detailed meetings in Moscow โ€” is to inform the general public about the new system.

The Unit team is not interested at all in getting straight into political hot waters or to be cornered by ideologically-laden arguments. Direct references to inspiring but sometimes controversial concepts or authors like Zoltan Pozsar may bury the Unit concept into pigeon holes, thus limiting its potential impact.

What may lie ahead could be extraordinarily exciting, as the Unit appeal could extend all the way from Elon Musk to the BRICS's New Development Bank (NDB), hopefully engaging an array of crucial actors. After a positive evaluation by Finance Minister Anton Siluanov - who remains on the post in the new Russian government - it's not far-fetched to imagine Putin and Xi discussing it face to face this week in Beijing.

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The Decline of the West

Sputnik columnist Pepe Escobar reviews French historian Emmanuel Todd's latest book, which focuses on the key reasons that have led to the West's downfall.

Among them: the end of the nation-state; de-industrialization (which explains NATO's deficit in producing weapons for Ukraine); the "degree zero" of the West's religious matrix, Protestantism; the sharp increase of mortality rates in the US (much higher than in Russia), along with suicides and homicides; and the supremacy of an imperial nihilism expressed by the obsession with Forever Wars.

Unlike virtually any Western "analyst" across the mainstream NATOstan sphere, Todd understands that Moscow is set to win against the whole of NATO, not merely Ukraine, profiting from a window of opportunity identified by Putin in early 2022. Todd bets on a window of 5 years, that is, an endgame by 2027. Whatever the deadline, inbuilt in all this is a total Russia victory - with the winner dictating all terms. No negotiations, no ceasefire, no frozen conflict - as the Hegemon is now desperate spinning.

In tandem with several analysts in Russia, China, Iran, Todd is sure that the US obsession - since the 1990s - to cut off Germany from Russia will lead to failure: "Sooner or later, they will collaborate, as "their economic specializations define them as complementary". The defeat in Ukraine will open the path, as a "gravitational force" reciprocally seduces Germany and Russia.
As it stands, the major takeaway is that the Unit should be seen as a feasible, technical solution for the theoretically Unsolvable: a globally-recognized payment/trade system, immune to political pressure. It's the only game in town - there are no others.

Meanwhile, the Unit conceptualizers are open for constructive criticism and all manners of collaboration. Yet sooner or later the battle ranks will be lined up - and then it will be a matter of seriously upping the game.

"Academically Sound, Technologically Innovative"

Vasily Zhabykin, co-author of the Unit white paper and founder of CFA.Center, Unit's technological partner at Skolkovo Innovation Hub in Moscow, crucially stresses: the Unit "represents apolitical money and can be the connector between the Global South and the West."

He's keen to point out that
"the Unit can keep all the wheels turning unlike most of the other concepts that feature 'dollar killers', etc. We do not want to harm anybody. Our goal is to improve efficiency of currently broken capital and money flows. The Unit is rather the 'cure for centralized cancer'''.
Subbotin and the Unit team "are keen to meet new partners who share our approach and are ready to bring additional value to our project." If that's the case, they should "send us 3 bullet points on how can they help and improve the Unit."
A bold follow-up step should be, for instance, a virtual conference on the Unit, featuring leading Russian economist Sergey Glazyev, Yannis Varoufakis, Jeffrey Sachs and Michael Hudson, among others.

By email, Glazyev, a member of the Russian Academy of Sciences and the Minister of Integration and Macroeconomics of the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU) , summed up the Unit's potential:
"I have been following the development of Unit for more than a year and can confirm that Unit offers a very timely, feasible solution. It is academically sound, technologically innovative and at the same time complementary to the existing banking infrastructure.

Launching it under the auspices of an UN institution gives Unit legitimacy, which the current Bretton Woods framework is clearly lacking. Recent actions by the US administration and loud silence from IMF clearly indicate the need for change.

A decentralized approach to emission of potential global trade currency, whose intrinsic value is anchored in physical gold and BRICS+ currencies, makes Unit the most promising of several approaches being considered. It balances political priorities of all participants, while helping each sovereign economy develop along its optimal path.

The New Development Bank (NDB) and BRICS+ shall embrace the concept of Unit and help it to become the pinnacle of the new emerging global financial infrastructure, free from malign political interferences while focused instead on fair trade and sustainable economic growth."
A clear, practical example of possible Unit problem-solving concerns Russia-Iran trade relations. These are two top BRICS members. Russian trade with Iran is unprofitable due to sanctions - and both cannot make payments in US dollars or euros.

Russian companies suffer significant losses after switching to payments in national currencies. With each transfer, Russian businesses on average lose as much as 25% due to the discrepancy between the market rate in Iran and the state rate.

And here's the key takeaway: BRICS+ as well as the Global Majority can only be strengthened by developing closer geoeconomics ties. The removal of Western speculative capital shall free up local commodity trading, and enable the pooling of investable capital for sustainable development. To unlock such a vast potential, the Unit may well be the key.