“IF YOU LIKED WHAT WE DID TO THE MIDDLE EAST, YOU’LL LOVE WHAT WE’RE ABOUT TO DO TO LATIN AMERICA”

“If You Liked What We Did To The Middle East, You’ll LOVE What We’re About To Do To Latin America”

Written by J.Hawk exclusively for SouthFront

Latin America in the Crosshairs

Latin America has been regarded as the exclusive stomping ground of US economic interests, US military, and US intelligence services for much of the 19th and 20th centuries, to the point that the US public has grown to view meddling in its neighbors’ domestic politics as some sort of birthright which is still faintly rooted in the 19th century “white man’s burden” racialist policies. That the majority of Democratic Party presidential candidates supports the military coup in Bolivia, the escalating repressions in Chile, and the plundering of Brazil by the Bolsonaro regime is actually unremarkable in that regard. Such policies have long been the norm.

However, if one were to take a quick survey of recent developments in the “information battlefield” in the United States, one would be struck by the rapid elevation of Latin America as a place where direct US military action is needed. It is not just Trump who, in the aftermath of an apparently cartel-related murder of an American Mormon family in Mexico, “offered” Mexico the “help” of the US military in fighting the cartels. The latest boy-wonder of the US Establishment, “Mayor Pete” Buttigieg likewise allowed he is “open” to the idea of sending US troops to Mexico. Neither of these statements was seen as in any way controversial by the mainstream media—even though the US public is broadly anti-war and skeptical of additional international entanglements, the Washington Establishment views the sovereignty of other countries as nothing more than legal fiction.

These politicians’ statements do not stand in isolation. Hollywood has long been “joined at the hip” with the US national security establishment and can be always relied upon to propagate the latest set of Washington talking points. While Russian villains remain the staple of US movies and video games, Latin America is gradually reclaiming its role as a battlefield and source of threats to the United States which it lost after 9/11. There are now at least two currently running US TV series which specifically focus on direct US interventions in Latin America. America’s favorite CIA analyst Jack Ryan (who, it should be noted, became President on the pages of Tom Clancy’s novels after the rest of the US government was conveniently eliminated by a Boeing 747 flown into the Capitol  by a suicide pilot) is now bravely thwarting Russian plots in Venezuela. Going considerably further, Last Ship’s current season actually posits the emergence of Gran Colombia, a veritable Latin American empire which launches a Pearl Harbor-style surprise air raid which destroys the just-rebuilt US Navy with the assistance of a cyber-strike. In retaliation, United States employs the full range of its conventional capabilities, starting with CIA covert operatives working with some modern equivalent of the Nicaraguan Contras whose connections to the drug cartels are not even concealed, and ending with US Marines landing on the shores of Latin American countries in order to “liberate” them from their own governments.

There are other indications US establishment is bracing for a major deterioration of the political situation “south of the border”, up to and including a major refugee crisis comparable to what Europe has experienced. While Donald Trump has been roundly condemned for his immigration policies, particularly the deportations of Latin American refugees, the construction of a major barrier on the US-Mexico border, and the efforts to transform Mexico into a holding tank for refugees seeking admission into the United States, no senior Democratic Party politician or candidate has promised to reverse these policies.

From the Shores of Tripoli to the Halls of Montezuma?

The rekindling of interest in Latin America is a logical consequences of the drift toward a global multi-polar system. It means, first, a retrenchment in the Middle East due to the demonstrated power of Russia and China which has proved sufficient to thwart not only covert US plots but also overt uses of economic and military capabilities. This power transition has meant that even long-standing US allies such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia are adopting a multi-vector foreign policy no longer wholly centered on their relationship with the United States. It certainly does not help that the United States has proved of limited utility in resolving the many international conflicts and rivalries in that region, not only the obvious Iran-Saudi Arabia one, but also the lower-intensity Saudi Arabia—Turkey one. Since Russia is literally the only international power capable to credibly negotiate with each of these three regional rivals, its reputation as an honest broker backed up by non-trivial “hard power” has elevated its standing in the region to the detriment of the United States.

The second implication is an even closer binding of Latin American states to the United States, with the remarkably compliant Organization of American States (OAS) which has never seen a military coup it did not like, serving as the overt instrument of control. Conversely, regional organizations which have proven resistant to US control such as Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of our America-Trade between Peoples (ALBA-TCP) and  the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), both of which actually condemned the coup in Bolivia in strong terms, will find themselves the target of US pressure. Post-coup Bolivia’s announced departure from both of these organizations is unlikely to be an aberration, particularly since it follows on the heels of Lenin Moreno’s Ecuador’s departure from ALBA in 2018. The remaining ALBA states include Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela (in addition to several small island states), all of which are continuing targets of US regime change policies.

UNASUR also appears headed for extinction. As many as six countries, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Paraguay and Peru, suspended their membership in 2018. Chile moreover launched PROSUR, an organization explicitly intended to target Venezuela, with the initial states invited to join the new organization being  Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, Uruguay, Paraguay, Peru, Guyana and Suriname, none of which can be described as pursuing policies contrary to US wishes.

Good-bye NAFTA, Hello USMC!

Trump Administration’s regional trade war that resulted in the launch of the US, Mexico, Canada (hence the “USMC” abbreviation) intended to replace the North America Free Trade Association (NAFTA) is indicative of the future US policy course. It’s doubtful few in the region failed to note the new trade pact’s abbreviation is exactly the same as that of the US Marine Corps which has a long and dark history of invasions and occupations of Latin American states. Consistent with the plot of “Last Ship”, USMC will find itself once again the final arbiter of trade arrangements in Latin America in the #MAGA era that will not end with Trump.

Economic developments in countries that have suffered right-wing regime shifts in the last few years show the direction in which Latin America will evolve. In Brazil, Boeing was allowed to acquire the commercial aircraft division of EMBRAER which hitherto was able to compete, as an independent actor, against both Boeing and Airbus even in their own home markets. The more strengthens Boeing by making it more competitive against Airbus in certain niches it lacked, and strips Brazil of a major industrial asset. Bolsonaro also aims to privatize another of Brazil’s economic “crown jewels”, the Petrobras energy firm which is all but guaranteed to fall into the hands of Washington-favored energy firms.  US interest in the lithium reserves in Bolivia and neighboring countries has also been well documented. Preventing Morales’ Bolivia from entering into a development deal with China was one of the main motives behind the coup. Like Bolsonaro’s Brazil, Moreno’s Ecuador is pursuing plans to allow oil drilling in the Amazon region.

 The Ghost of Che

The famed Argentinian revolutionary Che Guevara suffered a heroic death in Bolivia, attempting to mobilize an indigenous rebellion against the post-conquistador elite. The inevitable backlash to the ever more evident US efforts to ruthlessly exploit Latin America in order to compensate for the loss of influence and business elsewhere in the world means that the United States will find itself with several insurgencies and refugee crises not halfway around the world but in its own geopolitical backyard, whose intensity will eclipse the Cold War-era struggles.  Should United States insist on pursuing its current course, it risks losing power and influence in Latin America in the same way as it did in the Middle East.

EDITORIAL Henry Kissinger Gets It… US ‘Exceptionalism’ Is Over

Image result for Henry Kissinger Gets It… US ‘Exceptionalism’ Is Over
November 29, 2019

Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger made prudent remarks recently when he said the United States is no longer a uni-power and that it must recognize the reality of China as an equal rival.

The furor over a new law passed by the US this week regarding Hong Kong and undermining Beijing’s authority underlines Kissinger’s warning.

If the US cannot find some modus vivendi with China, then the outcome could be a catastrophic conflict worst than any previous world war, he admonished.

Speaking publicly in New York on November 14, the veteran diplomat urged the US and China to resolve their ongoing economic tensions cooperatively and mutually, adding: “It is no longer possible to think that one side can dominate the other.”

A key remark made by Kissinger was the following: “So those countries that used to be exceptional and used to be unique, have to get used to the fact that they have a rival.”

In other words, he is negating the erroneous consensus held in Washington which asserts that the US is somehow “exceptional”, a “uni-power” and the “indispensable nation”. This consensus has grown since the early 1990s after the collapse of the Soviet Union, when the US viewed itself as the sole super-power. That morphed into a more virulent ideology of “full-spectrum dominance”. Thence, the past three decades of unrelenting US criminal wars and regime-change operations across the planet, throwing the whole world into chaos.

Kissinger’s frank assessment is a breath of fresh air amid the stale and impossibly arrogant self-regard held by too many American politicians who view their nation as an unparalleled power which brooks no other.

The seasoned statesman, who is 96-years-old and retains an admirable acumen for international politics, ended his remarks on an optimistic note by saying: “I am confident the leaders on both sides [US and China] will realize the future of the world depends on the two sides working out solutions and managing the inevitable difficulties.”

Aptly, Kissinger’s caution about danger of conflict was reiterated separately by veteran journalist John Pilger, who warned in an exclusive interview for Strategic Culture Foundation this week that, presumed “American exceptionalism is driving the world to war.”

Henry Kissinger is indeed a controversial figure. Many US scholars regard him as one of the most outstanding Secretaries of State during the post-Second World War period. He served in the Nixon and Ford administrations during the 1970s and went on to write tomes about geopolitics and international relations. Against that, his reputation was badly tarnished by the US war in Vietnam and the horrendous civilian death toll from relentless aerial bombing across Indochina, believed to have been countenanced by Kissinger.

Kissinger has also been accused of supporting the military coup in Chile in 1973 against elected President Allende, and for backing the dirty war by Argentina’s fascist generals during the 1970s against workers and leftists.

To his credit, however, Kissinger was and is a practitioner of “realpolitik” which views international relations through a pragmatic lens. Another realpolitik US state planner was the late Zbigniew Brzezinski, who died in 2017 at the age of 89. Both advocated a policy of detente with the Soviet Union and China.

President Richard Nixon’s groundbreaking visit to China in 1972 is credited to the advice given by Kissinger who was then National Security Advisor to the White House.

That same year, the US and the Soviet Union signed the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty, also under the guidance of Kissinger on the American side. The US would later withdrew from the treaty in 2002, a move which has presaged a long deterioration in bilateral relations between the US and Russia to the present day.

For all their faults, at least people like Kissinger and Brzezinski were motivated by practical goal-orientated policy. They were willing to engage with adversaries to find some modus vivendi. Such an attitude is too often missing in recent Washington administrations which seem to be guided by an ideology of unipolar dominance by the US over the rest of the world. The current Washington consensus is one of hyper-ideological unrealism and hubris, which leads to a zero-sum mentality of antagonism towards China and Russia.

At times, President Donald Trump appears to subscribe to realpolitik pragmatism. At other times, he swings to the hyper-ideological mentality as expressed by his Vice President Mike Pence, as well as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Mike Esper. The latter has labeled China as the US’s “greatest long-term threat”.

This week President Trump signed into law “The Human Rights and Democracy Bill”, which will impose sanctions on China over alleged repression in its Hong Kong territory. Beijing has reacted furiously to the legislation, condemning it as a violation of its sovereignty.

This is exactly the kind of baleful move that Kissinger warned against in order to avoid a further poisoning in bilateral relations already tense from the past 16 months of US-China trade war.

One discerns the difference between Kissinger and more recent US politicians: the former has copious historical knowledge and appreciation of other cultures. His shrewd, wily, maybe even Machiavellian streak, informs Kissinger to acknowledge and respect other powers in a complex world. That is contrasted with the puritanical banality and ignorance manifest in Trump’s administration and in the Congress.

Greeting Kissinger last Friday, November 22, during a visit to Beijing, President Xi Jinping thanked him for his historic contribution in normalizing US-China relations during 1970s.

“At present, Sino-US relations are at a critical juncture facing some difficulties and challenges,” said Xi, calling on the two countries to deepen communication on strategic issues. It was an echo of the realpolitik views Kissinger had enunciated the week before.

While sharing a public stage with Kissinger, the Chinese leader added: “The two sides should proceed from the fundamental interests of the two peoples and the people of the world, respect each other, seek common ground while reserving differences, pursue win-win results in cooperation, and promote bilateral ties to develop in the right direction.”

Likewise, China and Russia have continually urged for a multipolar world order for cooperation and partnership in development. But the present and recent US governments refuse to contemplate any other order other than a presumed unipolar dominance. Hence the ongoing US trade strife with China and Washington’s relentless demonization of Russia.

This “exceptional” ideological mantra of the US is leading to more tensions, and ultimately is a path to the abyss.

Henry Kissinger gets it. It’s a pity America’s present crop of politicians and thinkers are so impoverished in their intellect.

The views of individual contributors do not necessarily represent those of the Strategic Culture Foundation.

Venezuela Offers to Pay Companies in Yuan as Workaround to US Sanctions – Report

 A sculpture is seen outside a building of Venezuela's state oil company PDVSA in Caracas, Venezuela June 14, 2016

Hyperinflation and severe pressure from the United States have complicated the use of bolivars and dollars for the Venezuelan government and affiliated entities.

Venezuela’s authorities and the state-run oil and gas giant, PDVSA, are considering paying to suppliers and contracts using the Chinese currency, Reuters reports, citing government officials and sources from private companies.

The Caracas government is said to have offered at least four companies working with the public sector the chance to make transactions in yuan to their accounts in China.

The companies that have been approached are not identified, but are understood to be looking into the proposals.

Venezuelan authorities have normally paid private entities in the local currency, the bolivar, or in US dollars. However, the bolivar has lost over 99 percent of its value in the past years, while increasingly severe US sanctions have effectively cut Nicolas Maduro’s administration from the American financial system.

Those sanctions, imposed on the Venezuelan government, the central bank and PDVSA, were aimed to force Maduro out of power, but he has proved resilient to US pressure.

According to Reuters, PDVSA and the central bank have long had accounts in China; the latter, for instance, is said to have at least $700 million there due to lucrative oil shipments.

“Paying suppliers in yuan would allow Venezuela to take advantage of the funds it has available in China, without touching the US financial system,” the report says. “However, two of the sources said the process of opening accounts at Chinese banks was proving complicated.”

Speculation emerged over the summer that Venezuelan public entities, including PDSVA and the Social Security Institute, which supervises all social insurance programmes, have started paying suppliers and contractors in euros.

The central bank, meanwhile, was also reported to have started receiving euros in cash this year for the sale of some of its gold reserves.

Iran, Russia, China, Syria and Hezbollah Are the US’s Enemies in Lebanon

Iran, Russia, China, Syria and Hezbollah Are the US’s Enemies in Lebanon

By Elijah J. Magnier:  @ejmalrai

The testimony of former  US Under Secretary of State and Ambassador to Lebanon, Jeffery Feltman to the US Congress created a storm in a teacup in Lebanon, even though in the US administration he no longer holds any official position. Feltman, who works for The Bookings Institution, presented his detailed knowledge based on close attention to events in Lebanon, particularly in the current context of the ongoing protests that hit that country. However, he falls short of fully understanding the situation. He expressed some wishful thinking in his reading of the events in Lebanon. He showed the complexity of the situation in the country, and advised Congress on how to “defeat Hezbollah and Iran in Lebanon” and how to “keep Syria, Russia and China from gaining a foothold in Lebanon”. However, his misreading of local dynamics and the power of Hezbollah actually serve Lebanon positively but only if, Congress gives credit to his words.

It is not unusual for the “Axis of the Resistance” (Iran, Syria, Iraq, Palestine, Hezbollah and Yemen) to allow misunderstandings and underestimations of its power to be pronounced without reaction or rectification. Iran, for instance, uses this method to show how hurtful are some of the procedures aimed at curbing its power, magnifying the effects, so that actors, particularly if they are a superpower like the US, believe its sanctions or methods are effective. President Donald Trump believed the Iranian regime would fall within months due to his most severe sanctions. And yet, the Iranian government is not hiding the effect of sanctions on its economy but instead is far from declaring its defeat, producing its yearly non-oil dependent budget, and is adapting to Trump’s economic punishment.

This approach – in the Axis of the resistance’ understanding – convinces the actors to avoid adding more harsh measures and may satisfy the US administration or its Middle Eastern partners, blurring the reality. Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu, for instance, has been bragging about his efficiency in intercepting all weapon supplies to Hezbollah by bombing shipments travelling from Syria to Lebanon. Yet he is the first to acknowledge that Hezbollah has received the latest precision and most accurate missiles from Iran, via Syria, adding lethal firepower to its 150,000 missiles and arsenal.

During his testimony, the former US diplomat praised and magnified the role of the Lebanese Army in defeating al-Qaeda and the “Islamic State” on the borders between Lebanon and Syria. His view (even if somewhat distant from reality) might serve to soften the harsh stance of the US that has aimed in recent years to impoverish Lebanon. But it was Hezbollah that defeated the jihadists, and not the “orphan” 12 hellfire missiles conditionally given by the US to the army and the army’s limited participation in occupying spots cleared of Jihadists by Hezbollah during its advance. The Lebanese Army losses were caused by a vehicle stepping on a sideroad mine left behind by the jihadists.

If the US administration believed Hezbollah could be defeated by the Lebanese Army, and that a healthy Lebanon is necessary to curb Hezbollah’s influence, that could only have positive repercussions for the country. However, Feltman’s wishful thinking is in a different category from the US plans to impose further sanctions on Lebanon. Not because there are within the US decision-makers who are cleverer than Feltman, but because the Trump administration is largely manipulated by Israel’s desire to bring Lebanon to its knees and in consequence impose more sanctions on the Shia and on Christians, all classified as Hezbollah’s allies.

Feltman erroneously claimed that the “civil war is the expression of Iran’s influence”. His analysis of Hezbollah and Iran’s influence is off track. Iran – which forces stepped in Lebanon following the Israeli invasion in 1982 and not when the civil war flared up in 1975 – wants Lebanon and Iraq to be stable because any civil war will distract Iran’s partners from the main objectives: solidarity among all members of the Axis of the resistance to stand against their common enemies, deterrence against Israel, and support for the Palestinian cause.

Feltman, a knowledgeable former US diplomat (by contrast with other officials within the US administration) still wrongly believes Syrian hegemony is a possible scenario to be repeated in Lebanon. The relationship between Syria and its allies in Lebanon, particularly Hezbollah, has changed. For many years now President Bashar al-Assad is no longer directly engaged in Lebanese politics, although Lebanon remains very important for Syria due to security, commercial and neighbourhood factors. Although there are many Lebanese still visiting Damascus, however, Assad understands that Lebanese politicians are divided and that the “Axis of the resistance” is strong enough to prevent hostile behaviour against Syria.

In Lebanon, Hezbollah never controlled or enjoyed the support of all the Shia. Even its close partner the Amal movement – although not unfriendly to Hezbollah – competes with Hezbollah for influence in the south of Lebanon and within all institutional positions allocated for Shia. There are many Lebanese Shia who are declared enemies of Hezbollah. This phenomenon is not widespread but not uncommon. Still, Hezbollah has the support of the majority of the Shia due to its protection to its allies among the Christian minorities from jihadists, its deterrent role against Israel’s aggression and plans to annex more Lebanese (land and water) territory.

Protestors in Lebanon have hit the streets for less than 40 days to protest against poor public services, the mismanagement of economic resources and the corruption of all political leaders currently in power. However, the crisis deepened when it became clear that no government will be formed anytime soon. Caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri wants to accommodate the US wish to exclude Hezbollah and its Christian partner the “National Patriotic Movement” in a technocrat cabinet, and have a free hand in appointing any minister in the future government – even though he controls only 21 out of 128 MPs while his political opponents hold the majority of the Parliamentary seats (more than half) – and who refuse to be excluded.

Hariri is not exempt from corruption but is trying to ride the horse of reforms. His political opponents insist on re-nominating him as Prime Minister so that he will assume responsibility for corruption during his father’s rule before him and his handling of the many governments he led after his father’s assassination. His supporters were pushed on the streets to contribute by closing main roads in Lebanon: a signal aiming to put pressure but which contributed to crippling the country.

In less than two months of a road closure, Lebanon has lost around $2 billion worth of economic exchange and commerce. Its currency has devaluated 33% to the dollar in the black market.

Only in the last week, the Lebanese Army took the decision to keep all main roads open, avoiding a possible escalation of the situation. The Shia cities and main axis linking Beirut to the south of Lebanon and to the Bekaa Valley had been closed for many days. Such a situation was just about to trigger a reaction that could have taken the country to a dangerous state.

Lebanon is on the verge of total bankruptcy. There is no longer any trust in the Lebanese Lira, nor in the banking system. The US (is withholding for now) support – unrelated to its financial crisis – for the Lebanese Army in the amount of $105 million dollars doesn’t even cover a small part of the country’s $85 billion dollars deficit.

Only China and Russia, the countries Feltman fears most, can bring financial hope to Lebanon. China has invested in Haifa harbour with a 25-year contract to expand its shipping capability, and in modernizing electricity power plants and public transport in Israel, spending $12.19 billion between 2005 and 2019.

China has signed a contract with Iraq to develop and complete 80 oil wells in the giant Majnoon Basra oil field at $54 million and another contract to drill 43 oil wells at $255 million to increase oil production rates to 400,000 barrels per day. It has signed a contract of $1.39 billion for housing, education and medical care for projects in Najaf, Karbalaa and Basra. The trade volume between Iraq and China surpassed $30 billion in 2017. China imports $20 billions of crude oil from Iraq every year, with a 10% increase in trade, rising every year.

Unlike Israel, the US’s top partner, Lebanese pro-US politicians are very sensitive about hurting Washington and therefore reject any Russian donation or important economic deals with China even though they could boost the crumbling Lebanese economy.

The fragility of the political and economic equilibrium in Lebanon contains danger signals which are a warning of possible financial disintegration. The US administration behaves like a bull in a china shop in the Middle East, imposing sanctions indiscriminately but obtaining little in return. Its aggressive and arrogant decisions are making enemies for Trump and feeding the US’s misunderstanding of Middle Eastern dynamics. Iran, Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen and Syria are the most obvious examples of where the Trump administration is “shooting in the water” and thereby significantly contributing to the success of Iran and its allies. Now Trump’s “policies”–identified as “the biggest source of global instability” – are making room for Russia and China to be present in more and more countries of the Middle East.

Proofread byMaurice Brasher and C.G.B 

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Copyright ©  https://ejmagnier.com, 2019

Iran’s ‘only crime is we decided not to fold’

Foreign Minister Zarif sketches Iran-US relations for diplomats, former presidents and analysts

Global Research, November 26, 2019

Just in time to shine a light on what’s behind the latest sanctions from Washington, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in a speech at the annual Astana Club meeting in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan delivered a searing account of Iran-US relations to a select audience of high-ranking diplomats, former Presidents and analysts.

Zarif was the main speaker in a panel titled “The New Concept of Nuclear Disarmament.” Keeping to a frantic schedule, he rushed in and out of the round table to squeeze in a private conversation with Kazakh First President Nursultan Nazarbayev.

During the panel, moderator Jonathan Granoff, President of the Global Security Institute, managed to keep a Pentagon analyst’s questioning of Zafir from turning into a shouting match.

Previously, I had extensively discussed with Syed Rasoul Mousavi, minister for West Asia at the Iran Foreign Ministry, myriad details on Iran’s stance everywhere from the Persian Gulf to Afghanistan. I was at the James Bond-ish round table of the Astana Club, as I moderated two other panels, one on multipolar Eurasia and the post-INF environment and another on Central Asia (the subject of further columns).

Zarif’s intervention was extremely forceful. He stressed how Iran “complied with every agreement and it got nothing;” how “our people believe we have not gained from being part of” the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action; how inflation is out of control; how the value of the rial dropped 70% “because of ‘coercive measures’ – not sanctions because they are illegal.”

He spoke without notes, exhibiting absolute mastery of the inextricable swamp that is US-Iran relations. It turned out, in the end, to be a bombshell. Here are highlights.

Zarif’s story began back during 1968 negotiations of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty,  with the stance of the “Non-Aligned Movement to accept its provisions only if at a later date” – which happened to be 2020 – “there would be nuclear disarmament.” Out of 180 non-aligned countries, “90 countries co-sponsored the indefinite extension of the NPT.”

Moving to the state of play now, he mentioned how the United States and France are “relying on nuclear weapons as a means of deterrence, which is disastrous for the entire world.” Iran on the other hand “is a country that believes nuclear weapons should never be owned by any country,” due to “strategic calculations based on our religious beliefs.”

Zarif stressed how “from 2003 to 2012 Iran was under the most severe UN sanctions that have ever be imposed on any country that did not have nuclear weapons. The sanctions that were imposed on Iran from 2009 to 2012 were greater than the sanctions that were imposed on North Korea, which had nuclear weapons.”

Discussing the negotiations for the JCPOA that started in 2012, Zarif noted that Iran had started from the premise that “we should be able to develop as much nuclear energy as we wanted” while the US had started under the premise that Iran should never have any centrifuges.” That was the “zero-enrichment” option.

Zarif, in public, always comes back to the point that “in every zero-sum game everybody loses.” He admits the JCPOA is “a difficult agreement. It’s not a perfect agreement. It has elements I don’t like and it has elements the United Stares does not like.” In the end, “we reached the semblance of a balance.”

Zarif offered a quite enlightening parallel between the NPT and the JCPOA:

“The NPT was based on three pillars: non-proliferation, disarmament and access to nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. Basically the disarmament part of NPT is all but dead, non-proliferation is barely surviving and peaceful use of nuclear energy is under serious threat,” he observed.

Meanwhile,

“JCPOA was based on two pillars: economic normalization of Iran, which is reflected in Security Council resolution 2231, and – at the same time – Iran observing certain limits on nuclear development.”

Crucially, Zarif stressed there is nothing “sunset” about these limits, as Washington argues: “We will be committed to not producing nuclear weapons forever.”

All about distrust

Then came Trump’s fateful May 2018 decision:

“When President Trump decided to withdraw from the JCPOA, we triggered the dispute resolution mechanism.”

Referring to a common narrative that describes him and John Kerry as obsessed with sacrificing everything to get a deal, Zarif said:

“We negotiated this deal based on distrust. That’s why you have a mechanism for disputes.”

Still, “the commitments of the EU and the commitments of the United States are independent. Unfortunately the EU believed they could procrastinate. Now we are at a situation where Iran is receiving no benefit, nobody is implementing their part of the bargain, only Russia and China are fulfilling partially their commitments, because the United States even prevents them from fully fulfilling their commitments. France proposed last year to provide $15 billion to Iran for the oil we could sell from August to December. The United States prevented the European Union even from addressing this.”

The bottom line, then, is that “other members of the JCPOA are in fact not implementing their commitments.” The solution “is very easy. Go back to the non-zero sum. Go back to implementing your commitments. Iran agreed that it would negotiate from Day One.”

Zarif made the prediction that

“if the Europeans still believe that they can take us to the Security Council and snap back resolutions they’re dead wrong. Because that is a remedy if there was a violation of the JCPOA. There was no violation of the JCPOA. We took these actions in response to European and American non-compliance. This is one of the few diplomatic achievements of the last many decades. We simply need to make sure that the two pillars exist: that there is a semblance of balance.”

This led him to a possible ray of light among so much doom and gloom:

“If what was promised to Iran in terms of economic normalization is delivered, even partially, we are prepared to show good faith and come back to the implementation of the JCPOA. If it’s not, then unfortunately we will continue this path, which is a path of zero-sum, a path leading to a loss for everybody, but a path that we have no other choice but to follow.”

Time for HOPE

Zarif identifies three major problems in our current geopolitical madness: a “zero-sum mentality on international relations that doesn’t work anymore;” winning by excluding others (“We need to establish dialogue, we need to establish cooperation”); and “the belief that the more arms we purchase, the more security we can bring to our people.”

He was adamant that there’s a possibility of implementing “a new paradigm of cooperation in our region,” referring to Nazarbayev’s efforts: a real Eurasian model of security. But that, Zarif explained, “requires a neighborhood policy. We need to look at our neighbors as our friends, as our partners, as people without whom we cannot have security. We cannot have security in Iran if Afghanistan is in turmoil. We cannot have security in Iran if Iraq is in turmoil. We cannot have security in Iran if Syria is in turmoil. You cannot have security in Kazakhstan if the Persian Gulf region is in turmoil.”

He noted that, based on just such thinking, “resident Rouhani this year, in the UN General Assembly, offered a new approach to security in the Persian Gulf region, called HOPE, which is the acronym for Hormuz Peace Initiative – or Hormuz Peace Endeavor so we can have the HOPE abbreviation.”

HOPE, explained Zarif, “is based on international law, respect of territorial integrity; based on accepting a series of principles and a series of confidence building measures; and we can build on it as you [addressing Nazarbayev] built on it in Eurasia and Central Asia. We are proud to be a part of the Eurasia Economic Union, we are neighbors in the Caspian, we have concluded last year, with your leadership, the legal convention of the Caspian Sea, these are important development that happened on the northern part of Iran. We need to repeat them in the southern part of Iran, with the same mentality that we can’t exclude our neighbors. We are either doomed or privileged to live together for the rest of our lives. We are bound by geography. We are bound by tradition, culture, religion and history.” To succeed, “we need to change our mindset.”

Age of hegemony gone

It all comes down to the main reason US foreign policy just can’t get enough of Iran demonization. Zarif has no doubts:

“There is still an arms embargo against Iran on the way. But we are capable of shooting down a US drone spying in our territory. We are trying simply to be independent. We never said we will annihilate Israel. Somebody said Israel will be annihilated. We never said we will do it.”

It was, Zarif said, Benjamin Netanyahu who took ownership of that threat, saying,

“I was the only one against the JCPOA.” Netanyahu “managed to destroy the JCPOA. What is the problem? The problem is we decided not to fold. That is our only crime. We had a revolution against a government that was supported by the United States, imposed on our country by the United States, [that] tortured our people with the help of the United States, and never received a single human rights condemnation, and now people are worried why they say ‘Death to America’? We say death to these policies, because they have brought nothing but this farce. What did they bring to us? If somebody came to the United States, removed your president, imposed a dictator who killed your people, wouldn’t you say death to that country?”

Zarif inevitably had to evoke Mike Pompeo:

“Today the Secretary of State of the United States says publicly: ‘If Iran wants to eat, it has to obey the United States.’ This is a war crime. Starvation is a crime against humanity. It’s a newspeak headline. If Iran wants its people to eat, it has to follow what he said. He says, ‘Death to the entire Iranian people.’”

By then the atmosphere across the huge round table was electric. One could hear a pin drop – or, rather, the mini sonic booms coming from high up in the shallow dome via the system devised by star architect Norman Foster, heating the high-performance glass to melt the snow.

Zarif went all in:

“What did we do the United States? What did we do to Israel? Did we make their people starve? Who is making our people starve? Just tell me. Who is violating the nuclear agreement? Because they did not like Obama? Is that a reason to destroy the world, just because you don’t like a president?”

Iran’s only crime, he said, “is that we decided to be our own boss. And that crime – we are proud of it. And we will continue to be. Because we have seven millennia of civilization. We had an empire that ruled the world, and the life of that empire was probably seven times the entire life of the United States. So – with all due respect to the United States empire; I owe my education to the United States – we don’t believe that the United States is an empire that will last. The age of empires is long gone. The age of hegemony is long gone. We now have to live in a world without hegemony. – regional hegemony or global hegemony.”

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This article was originally published on Asia Times.

Pepe Escobar is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

Featured image: Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, at the annual Astana Club meeting in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan last week. Photo: Asia Times / Pepe Escobar

The Road Toward Greater Eurasia

Kazakhstan’s first president has road map for 21st century: global alliance of leaders for nuclear-free world

Global Research, November 26, 2019

The Astana Club is one of the most crucial annual meetings in Eurasia, alongside the Boao forum in China and the Valdai discussions in Russia. China, Russia and Kazakhstan are all at the forefront of Eurasia integration. No wonder, then, that the 5th meeting of the Astana Club had to focus on Greater Eurasia – synonymous, it may be hoped, with a “new architecture of global cooperation.”

Astana Club congregates a fascinating mix of Eurasia-wide notables with Europeans and Americans. Virtually all relevant shades of the geopolitical spectrum are represented. Panels are very well structured (I moderated two of them). Discussions are frank and non-denial denials are heavily discouraged. Here is just a taste of what was discussed in Nur-Sultan, under the spectacular shallow dome designed by Norman Foster.

Great stabilizer

Vladimir Yakunin, chairman of the Dialogue of Civilizations Research Institute in Moscow, bets that China is “ready to prepare Eurasia for the future” even while there’s “no hint it will be treated by the West in a positive way.” Yakunin sees the New Silk Roads, or Belt and Road Initiative, as a “civilizational dialogue basis for China” even as Russia continues to assert itself again as a global power.

Wang Huiyao, from the Center for China and Globalization and a counselor of China’s State Council, sees China as “the biggest stabilizer” in international relations and trade as “the biggest mechanism for prosperity,” as demonstrated once again at the latest Shanghai Expo.

Senior Pakistani diplomat Iftekhar Chowdury, now at the Institute of South Asian Studies at the National University of Singapore, argues that the “liberal world order is not universal”; now it all comes down to “liberal capitalism against China.” Huiyao, for his part, is not fazed: he stresses that China already sees a “Eurasia 3D” as a new negotiation platform.

Huiyao points out how the “wrong methodology” is being applied as a “stabilizer of the world economy.” He emphasizes the role of the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank  and especially Belt & Road as “a new impetus for developing the world in the next decades,” drawing on “Chinese culture, tradition, values” – plus a hybrid economy not only featuring state-owned enterprises. Belt & Road, he insists, is a “real international development plan.” In contrast, the great danger is “unilateralism”: “Do we have only one form of history?”

Jacob Frenkel, Chairman of JP Morgan International, clear-headed and didactic unlike many bankers, actually quotes from a Chinese proverb: “The honey is sweet, but the bee stings.” He emphasizes that “words matter. When you use ‘war’ in commerce, there are consequences” – especially when there are “millions of boats” navigating “the same ocean.”

Wang lends backing to Frenkel when he underlines the unintended consequences for third countries from the US-China trade war. Frenkel sees tariffs as “the wrong instruments” and stresses that businessmen “don’t believe in IMF models.” Boris Tadic, former President of Serbia, concentrates on how “arrogant big powers are ignoring smaller countries.”

The redoubtable Li Wei, President of the Development Research Center of the State Council Chair and a sterling negotiator, stresses that under serious “anti-globalist tendencies,” the need is for “new principles of coexistence.” China and the US should “stop exchanging punches; there have been 13 meetings to discuss the trade war.” What’s needed, says Li, in a new first stage of discussion, is for Xi and Trump to sign a memorandum of understanding.

Reacting to the possibility of China and the US signing protocols, Yakunin has to come back to his main point: “The US is not willing to see China transform itself into a great power.”

Li, unfazed, has to mention that Xi Jinping actually launched Belt & Road in Kazakhstan – at the nearby Nazarbayev University, in 2013. He’s convinced that the initiative is capable of “fully answering all challenges of the present historical moment.”

From MAD to SAD

Terje Todd-Larsen, former Under Secretary General of the UN and President of the International Peace Institute, laments that with the multilateral system weakened, and no multilateral organization encompassing the Middle East and Northern Africa, there is no table capable anywhere of congregating Arabs, Iran, Israel and Turkey. The best hope lies with Kazakhstan – and there are precedents already, with Nur-Sultan hosting the Astana process for Syria.

On the nuclear weapons front, Yakunin notes how nations that subscribe to the Non Proliferation Treaty actually now expect a “formal affirmation they won’t be threatened.” He sees “lack of trust” as the greatest threat to the NPT: “The P5 members of the NPT did not live up to their promises.”

The legendary Mohamed El Baradei, former Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency and 2005 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, lays down the choice in stark terms: It’s either “maximum pressure, regime change and sanctions” or “dialogue, equity, cooperation, respect.” He stresses that “International institutions can’t deal with the world today – it’s way beyond them.” And the elephant in the room is, of course, nuclear weapons: “We seem frozen in place.”

El Baradei refutes the notion of the nuclear club as a model: “What is the logic and moral justification? This is an unsustainable regime.” On nuclear disarmament, it’s the nuclear states that have to start a new era. For the moment, what’s left is “to salvage the remains of nuclear arms control. We’ve gone from MAD to SAD – self-assured destruction.”

Back on the ground level, Dan Smith, director of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute introduces lethal autonomous weapons systems – as in robots with a very high degree of autonomy – into the conversation. Not that these entities would prevent, for instance, cyber-attacks, which “can be counter-productive and self-destructive, because there will be a counter-strike.”

Global alliance

The undisputed star of the show at the Astana Club is really Kazakh First President Nazarbayev. There’s a feeling among seasoned diplomats and analysts that when the history of Greater Eurasia is written, Nazarbayev will be on the front page. Global turmoil may not favor it too much at the moment, but as the Russians stress, the Eurasian Economic Union, for instance, is bound to survive sanctions and the trade war, and 2025 offers a tantalizing glimpse of the future via open market for gas and transportation. The EU and the EAEU have complementary economics, and Russia can play a major role.

Nazarbayev quotes from washed up theorist Francis Fukuyama to stress that “only three decades later,” his “anticipation did not come true.” He is keen to “critically reassess” the Eurasian model of security, now combining Europe and Asia, as most experts who prepared a detailed report on the Top Ten risks for Eurasia in 2020 agree.

Nazarbayev does have a road map for peace in the 21st century, via a manifesto he presented at the UN. That would be constituted as a global alliance of leaders for a nuclear-free world – complete with global summits dedicated to nuclear security. He can speak like that with the “moral right” of having closed one of the world’s major nuclear arsenals – Kazakhstan’s.

What’s key as much for Nazarbayev as for Xi and Putin is that Belt & Road, the Eurasian Economic Union, the European Union, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the Association of Southeast Asian Nation – all these initiatives and institutions – should be on overdrive, together, creating multiple negotiation tracks, all geared towards Greater Eurasia. And what better platform to advance it, conceptually, than the Astana Club?

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Note to readers: please click the share buttons above or below. Forward this article to your email lists. Crosspost on your blog site, internet forums. etc.

This article was originally published on Asia Times.

Pepe Escobar is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

Featured image is Asia Times

Can Russia (or Iran) survive without China?

 • NOVEMBER 21, 2019

In a recent article entitled “China, Bolivia and Venezuela are proof that social democracy cannot thrive in the global capitalist order” my China-based friend and correspondent Jeff J. Brown asked me an exceedingly interesting and important question.  He wrote:

Russia is a social democracy, with a large, successful people owned industrial sector and many social services for the 99% from the Soviet era. But, unlike Bolivia and Ukraine, it is avoiding the West’s color revolution poison pill, because since 1999, Russia has gone from strength to strength, under the inspired leadership of patriotic President Vladimir Putin. But like all social democracies, the problem is what happens if another Western whore Boris Yeltsin succeeds Putin, and returns Russia to its dystopian Wall Street rape of the 1990s? Then what? It only took Macri four short years to bring Argentina back onto its groveling knees. Without a 100% nationalized media, Russians had better be demanding that Putin & Russian Patriots Inc. work overtime to censor all the Western overthrow garbage that is put in Cyrillic ink and on the airwaves.  I would love to hear what my good friend Andrei Raevsky thinks about this at The Saker (http://thesaker.is/), because let’s be honest: without China’s, Russia’s and Iran’s continued anti-imperial independence and socialist success into the 21st century, humanity can kiss its ass goodbye!

Let’s begin by deconstructing the assumptions and implications of Jeff’s question.
China and Russia *could* be separated
The first assumptions Jeff makes are the following ones:

  1. Russia is a social democracy
  2. The Russian media is not 100% state controlled
  3. A new Eltsin might succeed Putin
  4. The West is saturating the Russian information space with garbage
  5. That western propaganda can still strongly impact Russia
  6. China and Russia *could* be separated (hence the need to prevent that as the central thesis of Jeff)

And, finally, considering the above, Jeff offers the following compelling implication for the China-Russia-Iran triangle:

  1. Considering the above, China’s independence and support for Russia and Iran are vital for the sovereignty and freedom, if not survival, of Russia and Iran

Now let’s begin by looking into Jeff’s assumptions:

Russia is a social democracy:

Yes and no.  If we define a social democracy as being a specific polity and system of laws, then Russia is a social democracy.  However, if we define social democracy as a specific polity, system of laws and social culture, then I would argue that to the extent that Russia is, indeed, a social democracy, she is a rather weird one.  What do I mean by that?

By that I mean that thanks to the nightmare of “democracy” under Eltsin and his US curators, and thanks to the recent explosion of “democracy” in the Ukraine, the Russian people have by and large come to consider the words “liberal” and “democracy” as four letter words.  For example, the word “либерал” (liberal) has now given birth to a derived word либераст which takes the first letters of the word “liberal” and adds the last letters of the word педераст (pederast – a rude word for homosexual [yes, in Russian homosexuality and pederasty are not separated!]) which results in the new word “liberast” the closest to which in English would be something like “libfag”, hardly a compliment. In some interpretations, a “liberast” is also somebody who has been “f**ked by democracy“.  Not much better…  As for the word “демократия” (democracy) for years it has already been called “дерьмократия” (using the first letters of дерьмо (der’mo or shit) and the last letter of democracy to create der’mokratia or “shitocracy”.  Finally, there is also the saying that “демократия, это власть демократов” (democracy is the rule of the democrats), which for a country which has undergone the 1990s and seen the Ukraine being comprehensively FUBARed is ominous; not funny at all.  All this is simply to show that culturally the Russian society is not at all your typical social democracy.  It is a sort of democracy in which the majority of the people do not believe in democracy.  This is very important, crucial even, and I will address this issue later.

The Russian media is not 100% state controlled:

That is absolutely true!  However, it misses an important point: the real profile of the Russian media which is much more complex than “state controlled” vs “free media”.  To make a long story short, the main TV channels, while not really “controlled” by the state at all, are mostly pro-Kremlin.  But here we need to get the cause and effect right: these channels are not pro-Kremlin only because they get state funds or because of the political power of the Kremlin, the main reason why they are pro-Kremlin is the terrible rating of those media outlets who took a strong anti-Kremlin position.

To make my point, I want to mention the rabidly anti-Kremlin TV station which is very well known in Russia (Dozhd’ – see here for the (predictably complimentary) entry in Wikipedia for this TV channel).  In fact, Dozhd’ is just the best known of a fairly extensive anti-Kremlin media but, in reality, there are many more outlets which hold an anti-Kremlin pro-Empire line.  However, as I explained in a 2016 article entitled “Counter-Propaganda, Russian Style”  and then, again, in 2017, in the article “Revisiting Russian Counter-Propaganda Methods” the Kremlin has developed a very effective counter-propaganda strategy: instead of suppressing the Empire’s propaganda (like the Soviets did, most unsuccessfully), the Kremlin now directly funds that same propaganda!  Not only does the (state-owned) Gazprom finance Dozd’ – the western and Russian liberal guests which ridicule themselves on Russian TV are also generously paid for each of their appearances.  Even hardcore Ukronazi nutcases get invited regularly (when they truly overdo it they also get into fights, or get kicked out of the studios, which is all very much fin to watch and is therefore watched by millions).  The truth is that at this point the AngloZionist propaganda in Russia has much more of a very healthy “vaccination” effect then the ability to convince anybody beyond the “traditional” 2-4% of folks in Russia who still think that the West is some kind of heaven on earth and Russia an ugly, vicious and freedom crushing “Mordor”.

This being said, there is one channel through which the worst of the western consumer-society propaganda still permeates Russia: commercials.   Russian commercials are mostly absolutely disgusting; they basically vehiculate one crude and simple message “Russians must become US Americans”.  That propaganda via commercials is, I think the single most toxic and insidious form of de-russification I can think of and it is far more dangerous than any other means of “defacing” Russia.

Finally, and to my great regret, media outlets like RT and Sputnik have decided to “go native” I suppose and they now cater to western tastes much more than to Russian ones.  The quasi constant “reporting” about MMA fights, minimally clad ladies, sex in all its shapes and forms and Hollywood gossip – all of this just goes to show that the folks in charge of these media outlets have decided that catering the the lowest possible social common denominator is the way to promote Russia abroad.  I am not so sure.  What began with “Question More” and “Telling the Untold” now seems more preoccupied with trying to copy the yellow press in the UK than to challenge the Empire.  I very much regret that state of affairs.

Unfortunately, there are also a lot of 5th columnists and russophobes in these media outlets (especially in their online, Internet-based, websites; the actual radio/TV shows are mostly better).

So all is not rosy in the Russian media scene, but its not all bad either.

A new Eltsin might succeed Putin

Here I can only completely agree, and that is very scary.  Due to the lack of space, I will present my arguments in a short, bullet-point, list:

  • “Russia” is still very much a “one man show” meaning that Putin himself, as a person,  is still absolutely vital to the current functioning of Russia.  Not only are most Russians still strongly supportive of him personally, but there are no credible candidates to replace him.  Yes, there are a few potential candidates out there (in no special order: Ivanov, Shoigu and Rogozin would be the best known, but there are others, of course), but what makes it all worse is that historically, Russia, unlike China, has a very bad record of successions.
  • The 5th column is still there and while it keeps a very low profile (current events favor the Eurasian Sovereignists), it is still there, literally in all branches of power and very much inside the Moscow elites who hate Putin for putting an end to what they saw as the “Bonanza of the 1990s”.
  • There *is* a patriotic Russian opposition to Putin, and it is slowly growing, but it is poorly organized, has a lot of clueless nostalgics of the Soviet era and a lot of its criticisms are, frankly, naive or plain silly (along with very valid points too!).  I don’t see this opposition capable of producing a strong and credible leader.  But that might change in the future.
  • Thus the cornerstone of “Putinism” is Putin himself.  With him gone, for whatever reason, Putinism could very rapidly fade too.  This might be a good or a bad thing depending on the specific circumstances, but the chances that this might be a very bad thing are higher than the opposite being true.

“Putin The Man”, urgently needs to be replaced by “Putin The System”, but that is truly a herculean task because that means reforming/purging most of the immense and powerful Russian bureaucracy and find somewhere a new generation of men and women who could be both effective and trusted.  The problem is that in most cases when one man goes against a system, the system wins.  Putin is the proverbial case of a very good man in a very bad system.  True, he has successfully reformed the two branches of government which were most needed to make it possible for both him and Russia to survive the war the Empire was waging on Russia: the armed forces and the intelligence/security forces.  Other parts of the Russian state are still in a terrible shape (the entire legal system for starters!).

I think that the risk of an Eltsin-like prostitute coming to power is real, even if the bulk of the population would not necessarily approve of it (or be divided about it).  Long-term historical stability of a huge country like Russia cannot come from a man.  It can only come from institutions.  And just as Peter I destroyed the traditional Russian monarchy, so can one man destroy the current “new Russia” (for lack of a better descriptor), especially if this “new Russia” has only one man as its cornerstone.

Finally, history teaches us that every time that Russia is weak or disunited, the western powers immediately pounce and intervene, including with military means.  The Poles are still dreaming about yet another chance to prove Churchill’s diagnosis about Poland true and pounce on both the Ukraine and Russia if given the chance.

The West is saturating the Russian information space with garbage and western propaganda can still strongly impact Russia

As we have seen above, these are both at least partially true, but they are also not that much of a big deal.  This is clearly a source of potential concern, a danger, but not a threat (a danger being vague, a threat specific).  To the extend that this is a bad thing, this is mostly due to the hyper-materialistic consumer culture which currently competes against a much more traditional, Russian culture.  It is hard to say which one will win.  The former has much, much bigger financial means, the latter one has a strong ‘home turf advantage”.  Only time will show which will prevail.  So long as many Russians will  think “western propaganda lies” (which most understand) AND are attracted to western-style commercials (which are, in so many ways, an even much more effective and insidious form of propaganda), the jury will remain out on who will prevail should instability return to Russia.

China and Russia *could* be separated

This is probably the most important assumption made by Jeff.  First, since this is completely hypothetical, and since we are not future-seeing prophets let’s first agree to never say never and not dismiss this possibility out of hand.  This being said, I would like to remind everybody that Russia and China have gradually changed the labels which they applied to the other side.  The latest (as far as I know, Chinese speakers please correct me if needed!) expression used by Xi and other Chinese officials is “Comprehensive Strategic Partnership of Coordination for the New Era“.  There is a lot to unpack here, but let’s just say that this does not sound like the Chinese came up with that concept lightly or that they have many misgivings about the future of the relationship with Russia.  As for the Russians, they have now openly used the term “ally” on many occasions, including Putin.  In Russian that word “ally” (союзник) is a very strong one and contrasts sharply with the cynical and disgusted way the Russians always speak about their western “partners” (which often shocks those who don’t speak Russian).

And it is not all sweet talk either.  The Russians and the Chinese have had many and major joint military maneuvers, they have practiced the Russian equivalent of the US/NATO “Combined Joint Task Force” concept (see here for details).  Thus, while not formal allies, Russia and China do all the things which close allies do.  I would even argue that the “informal symbiosis” between Russia and China is far stronger than the NATO alliance.

It is my opinion that what Putin and Xi have done is something which has no previous equivalent in history, at least as far as I know.  Even though both Russia and China have been empires in the past, I strongly believe that both of these countries have entered a “post-imperial phase” in which the trappings of empire have been replaced by an acute sense that empires are extremely bad not only for the nations which it oppresses, but also for the nation which hosts it.  Both Russia and China have paid a horrendous price for their imperial years and both Russia and China completely understand that the people of the USA are also amongst the prime victims of the (transnational) Anglo-Zionist Empire, even if that is all too often forgotten.  Not only do they not want to repeat their own mistakes, they see the USA dying in the quicksands of imperialism and the last thing they want is to jump in and join the US.

I believe that the relationship between Russia and China is a symbiosis, which is much stronger than any alliances because while the latter can be broken, the former typically cannot (at least not without extremely severe consequences).  I also believe that Putin and Xi both understand that the fact that Russia and China are so completely different is not a problem, but a tremendous asset: they fit perfectly, like Lego or puzzle pieces.  What Russia has China does not and vice-versa.  And, just to clarify for the logically challenged: both sides also understand that they will never get from the other side by war what they could get by peaceful exchange.  Yes, the silly Polish dream of having Russia invaded by China several times (an old Polish joke of sorts) is only a reflection of the ancient Polish inferiority complex, not of geostrategic realities 🙂

Of course, in theory, anything could happen.  But I personally see no chain of events which could be sufficient to threaten the Sino-Russian symbiotic relationship, not even a collapse of “New Russia Putinism” (not elegant, but functional for our purposes) or the kind of chaos which a Eltsin type of comprador regime could try to reimpose on Russia.  At the end of the day, if Russia collapses then China will hold truly immense financial and economic power over Russia and will therefore be able to impose at least a China-friendly regime.  In that extremely unlikely case, Russia would, of course, lose her sovereignty, but not to the West, but to China.  That is not quite what Jeff had in mind.

Conclusion:

Yes, Russia and China need each other.  I would argue that they need each other.  Vitally.  And yes, the “loss” of one would threaten the other.  But that is not just true for Russia, it is also very true of China (which desperately needs Russian energy, high-tech, natural resources, weapons systems but most of all, Russian experience: for most of her existence Russia was threatened, invaded, attacked, sanctioned, boycotted and disparaged by a long succession of western states, and she defeated them all.  Sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly, but each time Russia prevailed.  The determination and ability to resist the West is something which is deeply embedded in the Russian cultural DNA (this in sharp contrast with the rest of the so-called “East European” countries).  Finally, and for all their very real recent advances, the Chinese armed forces are still far behind the Russian (or the USA for that matter) and in a one-on-one war against the USA China would definitely lose, especially if the USA goes “all out”.  Russia, on the other hand, has the means to turn the US and Europe into a post-industrial nuclear wasteland (using nuclear and, most importantly, non-nuclear munitions!).

I would also add something Jeff did not address: Iran.  I believe that both Russia and China also very much need Iran.  Okay, that is not a vital need, both Russia and China could survive without an allied Iran, but Iran offers immense advantages to both countries, if only because thanks to the truly phenomenal stupidity of the Neocons the USA’s breathtakingly stupid policies in the Middle-East (here is just the latest example) have turned Iran into a regional super-power eclipsing both Israel and the KSA.  Furthermore, if Russia has shown much more political and moral courage than China (which, lets be honest, has been pretty happy to have Russia taking the brunt of the Empire’s attacks), Iran has shown much more political and moral courage than Russia, especially concerning the slow-motion genocide perpetrated by the Zionist Entity in Palestine.

And this brings us full circle to the discussion of what kind of country Russia currently really is.  Russia is not the Soviet Union.  Neither is she pre-1917 Russia.  But what is she really?

Nobody really knows, I think.

It is a moving target, a process.  This process might lead to a new and stable “new Russia”, but that is by no means certain.  Paragraphs 1, 2 and 3 of Article 13 of the Russian Constitution say:

  1. In the Russian Federation ideological diversity shall be recognized
  2. No ideology may be established as state or obligatory one.
  3. In the Russian Federation political diversity and multi-party system shall be recognized.

In other words, not only is there no “no official ideology” in Russia, there is an explicit recognition for a multi-party political system (itself an ideological statement, by the way).  These are all potentially very dangerous and toxic items in the Russian Constitution which already are hindering a true national, cultural, psychological and spiritual rebirth of Russia.  Iran, in contrast, has succeeded in creating an Islamic Republic which is both truly and unapologetically Islamic and truly democratic, at least in the sense that, unlike western democracies which are mostly run by minorities and for minorities (or a coalition of minorities), in Iran the majority supports the system in place.

And since the vast majority of the Russian people do not want a single-party-system or a return to Soviet times yet don’t believe in (western style) democracy, Russian intellectuals would be well advised to take a very close and careful look at what I would call the “Iranian model”, not to simply copy it, but to see what aspects of this model could be adapted to Russian realities.  Historical Russia was an Orthodox monarchy.  That time is gone and will never return.  Soviet Russia was a Marxist atheistic state.  That time is also forever gone.  Modern Russia can only find references, lessons and implications in her past, but she cannot simply resurrect Czarist or Communist Russia.  Of course, neither can she reject her entire history and declare it all “bad” (which is what Russian “liberals” always do, which explains why they are so hated).

I don’t know what the future Russia will look like.  I am not even totally sure that this new Russia will ever really happen (though my gut feeling is that it will).  I hope that it will, but whether that happens or not will not be decided in China or by China (or any other country).  To conclude on a famous quote by Karl Marx “the emancipation of the workers must be the work of the workers themselves” (in Russian: “Освобождение рабочих должно быть делом самих рабочих”) which a famous Russian 1928 book turned into “the salvation of those who are drowning has to be the action of those drowning” (in Russian: “Спасение утопающих — дело рук самих утопающих”).  Whatever version you prefer (I prefer the 2nd one), the meaning is clear: you need to solve your problems by yourself or with those who share that problem with you.  In other words, Russians are the only ones who can save or destroy the Russian nation (I mean “Russian” in the traditional, Russian, multi-ethnic and multi-religious meaning of the words руссий and российский which in traditional Russian are both interchangeable or different depending on the context).

The Saker

PS: I leave you with a photo which, imho, speaks a thousand words

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