Shaping the Future: Moscow and Beijing’s Multipolar World Order

Shaping the Future: Moscow and Beijing’s Multipolar World Order

Shaping the Future: Moscow and Beijing’s Multipolar World Order

Once in a while, think tanks such as the Brookings Institute are able to deal with highly strategic and current issues. Often, the conferences held by such organizations are based on false pretences and copious banality, the sole intention being to undermine and downplay the efforts of strategic opponents of the US. Recently, the Brookings Institute’s International Strategy and Strategy Project held a lecture on May 9, 2017 where it invited Bobo Lo, an analyst at Lowy Institute for International Policy, to speak. The topic of the subject, extremely interesting to the author and mentioned in the past, is the strategic partnership between China and Russia.

The main assumption Bobo Lo starts with to define relations between Moscow and Beijing is that the two countries base their collaboration on convenience and a convergence of interests rather than on an alliance. He goes on to say that the major frictions in the relationship concern the fate that Putin and Xi hold for Europe, in particular for the European Union, in addition to differences of opinions surrounding the Chinese role in the Pacific. In the first case, Lo states that Russia wants to end the European project while China hopes for a strong and prosperous Europe. With regard to the situation in the Pacific, according to this report, Moscow wants a balance of power between powers without hegemonic domination being transferred from Washington to Beijing.

The only merit in Lo’s analysis is his identification of the United States as the major cause of the strategic proximity between Moscow and Beijing, certainly a hypothesis that is little questioned by US policy makers. Lo believes Washington’s obsession with China-Russia cooperation is counterproductive, though he also believes that the United States doesn’t actually possess capabilities to sabotage or delimit the many areas of cooperation between Beijing and Moscow.

What is missing in Lo’s analysis are two essential factors governing how Moscow and Beijing have structured their relationship. China and Russia have different tasks in ushering in their world order, namely, by preserving global stability through military and economic means. Their overall relationship of mutual cooperation goes beyond the region of Eurasia and focuses on the whole process of a sustainable globalization as well as on how to create an environment where everyone can prosper in a viable and sustainable way. Doing this entails a departure from the current belligerent and chaotic unipolar world order.

Moscow and Beijing: Security and Economy

Beijing has been the world’s economic engine for over two decades and shows no signs of slowing down, at least not too much. Moscow, contrary to western media propaganda, has returned to play a role not only on a regional scale but as a global power. Both of these paths of military and economic growth for China and Russia have set things on a collision course with the United States, the current global superpower that tends to dominate international relations with economic, political and military bullying thanks to a complicit media and corrupt politicians.

In the case of Beijing, the process of globalization has immensely enhanced the country, allowing the Asian giant to become the world’s factory, enabling Western countries to outsource to low-cost labor. In this process of economic growth, Beijing has over the years gone from being a simple paradise for low-cost outsourcing for private companies to being a global leader in investment and long-term projects. The dividends of years of wealth accumulation at the expense of Western nations has allowed Beijing to be more than just a strategic partner for other nations. China drives the process of globalization, as recently pointed out by Xi Jinping in Davos in a historic speech. China’s transition from a harmless partner of the West to regional power with enormous foreign economic investments place the country on a collision course with Washington. Inevitably, Beijing will become the Asian hegemon, something US policymakers have always guaranteed will not be tolerated.

The danger Washington sees is that of China emerging as a regional superpower that will call the shots in the Pacific, the most important region of the planet. The United States has many vested interests in the region and undeniably sees its future as the leader of the world order in jeopardy. Obama’s pivot to Asia was precisely for the purposes of containing China and limiting its economic power so as to attenuate Beijing’s ambitions.

Unsurprisingly, Washington’s concerns with Moscow relate to its resurgence in military capabilities. Russia is able to oppose certain objectives of the United States (see Ukraine or Syria) by military means. The possibility of the Kremlin limiting American influence in Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Eurasia in general is cause for concern for American policy makers, who continue to fail to contain Russia and limit Moscow’s spheres of influence.

In this context, the strategic division of labor between Russia and China comes into play to ensure the stability of the Eurasian region as a whole; in Asia, in the Middle East and in Europe. To succeed in this task, Moscow has mainly assumed the military burden, shared with other friendly nations belonging to the affected areas. In the Middle East, for example, Tehran’s partnership with Moscow is viewed positively by Beijing, given its intention to stabilize the region and to eradicate the problem of terrorism, something about which nations like China and Russia are particularly concerned.

The influence of Islamist extremists in the Caucasian regions in Russia or in the autonomous region of Xinjiang in China are something that both Putin and Xi are aware can be exploited by opposing Western countries. In North Africa, Egypt has signed several contracts for the purchase of military vehicles from Moscow, as well as having bought the two Mistral ships from France, thereby relying on military supplies from Moscow. It is therefore not surprising that Moscow and Egypt cooperated with the situation in Libya and in North Africa in general.

In Southeast Asia, Moscow seeks to coordinate efforts to reach an agreement between Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. The entry into the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) of New Delhi and Islamabad (Tehran will be next), with the blessing of Beijing as the protagonist of the 2017 SCO meeting, is a keystone achievement and the right prism through which to observe the evolution of the region. Moscow is essentially acting as a mediator between the parties and is also able to engage with India in spite of the dominating presence of China. The ultimate goal of Moscow and Beijing is to eradicate the terrorist phenomenon in the Asian region with a view to what is happening in North Africa and the Middle East with Iran and Egypt.

Heading to a Multipolar World Order

The turning point in relations between Moscow and Beijing concerns the ability to engage third countries in military or economic ways, depending on these countries’ needs and objectives. Clearly in the military field it is Moscow that is leading, with arms sold to current and future partners and security cooperation (such as with ex-Soviet Central-Asian republics or in the Donbass) and targeted interventions if needed, as in Syria. Beijing, on the other hand, acts in a different way, focusing on the economic arena, in particular with the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) at its center.

Initiatives such as the One Belt One Road (OBOR) and the Maritime Silk Road have the same strategic aim of the Russian military initiative, namely, ensuring the independence of the region from a geo-economic perspective, reaching win-win arrangements for all partners involved. Naturally, the win-win agreement does not mean that China wins and then wins again; rather, a series of bilateral concessions can come to satisfy all actors involved. An important example in this regard that explains the Sino-Russian partnership concerns the integration of the Eurasian Union with the Chinese Silk Road. The Russian concerns over the predominant status of the Chinese colossus in Central Asia have been assuaged by a number of solutions, such as the support of the OBOR infrastructure program to that of the Eurasian Union. Beijing is not interested in replacing Moscow’s leading role the post-Soviet nations in Central Asia but rather with providing significant energy and economic development to particularly underdeveloped nations that are in need of important economic investment, something only Beijing is able to guarantee.

The linking of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) with the One Belt One Road initiative guarantees Moscow a primary role in the transit of goods from east to west, thereby becoming the connecting point between China and Europe while expanding the role and function of the EEU. All participants in these initiatives have a unique opportunity to expand their economic condition through this whole range of connections. Beijing guarantees the money for troubled countries, and Moscow the security. The SCO will play a major role in reducing and preventing terrorist influence in the region, a prerequisite for the success of any projects. Also, the AIIB, and to some extent the BRICS Development Bank, will also have to step in and offer alternative economic guarantees to countries potentially involved in these projects, in order to free them from the existing international financial institutions.

One Belt One Road, and all the related projects, represent a unique occasion whereby all relevant players share common goals and benefits from such transformative geo-economic relationships. This security-economy relationship between Moscow and Beijing is  the heart of the evolution of the current world order, from the unipolar to the multipolar world. The US cannot oppose China on the economic front and Russia on the military front. It all comes down to how much China and Russia can continue to provide and guarantee economic and security umbrellas for the rest of the world.

India, Pakistan to Become Full Fledged SCO Members

India, Pakistan to Become Full Fledged SCO Members

PETER KORZUN | 26.04.2017 | WORLD

India, Pakistan to Become Full Fledged SCO Members

The meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) member states wrapped up in Astana on April 21. The participants confirmed the unanimous decision to grant full-fledged membership to India and Pakistan at the SCO Astana summit on June 8-9, 2017.

The SCO was established in 2001 as a multi-purpose regional organization active in three main fields: economic, military-political and humanitarian. The SCO members now are Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Iran, Mongolia and Belarus are the SCO observer-countries, while Azerbaijan, Turkey, Sri Lanka, Armenia, Cambodia and Nepal are dialogue partners. Although Russia and China are the most important SCO members, the organization operates by consensus.

Since its formation, it annually brings together heads of states to discuss regional security issues and inter-regional cooperation. The SCO is gradually moving to the establishment of an economic integration union, including the creation of a free trade zone, bank and fund for development and strengthening of transport cooperation. The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, Silk Road Fund and Silk Road Economic Belt projects have been launched to this end. Since its establishment, the SCO has concluded several wide-ranging agreements on security, trade and investment, connectivity, energy, the SCO Bank, culture, etc.

Meanwhile, Iran looks to be the next candidate in line for the full SCO membership. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called for Iran’s speedy accession to the organization. He expressed hope that the upcoming summit would launch the procedure to admit Iran into the organization as a full member. If Iran joins the group, the SCO would control around a fifth of the world’s oil and represent nearly a half of the global population.

With the Iran nuclear deal in place and international sanctions lifted, there is no hurdle on the way to membership. The move would make Iran a partner of Russia and China, the two leading powers in the organization. The move is opposed by Tajikistan. Russia-mediated talks are on the way to remove the reasons for the objections.

Membership of India will add significant heft and muscle to the SCO, particularly in the backdrop of the global economic slowdown. India is the fastest expanding global economy today with an annual GDP growth of 7.5 percent. It represents the third largest economy ($8 trillion dollars) in PPP terms and 7th largest ($2.3 trillion dollars) in nominal dollar terms.

The Pakistani economy is the 24th-largest in the world in terms of purchasing power and the 41st-largest in terms of nominal GDP (World Bank). It is ranked among the emerging and growth-leading economies, and is backed by one of the world’s largest and fastest-growing middle classes.

Granting New Delhi and Islamabad the status of full SCO member states in the near future will make the organization a global (Trans-Asian) political structure. It will boost the group’s potential and provide a fresh impetus to further securing its role on the regional and international arena. The accession will bring together three largest and most powerful Eurasian states and four nuclear powers. With the integration of new members, the group will unite 50 percent of Eurasian territory, 43 percent of the population on the planet and 24 percent of global GDP. Just think about it! The SCO will become a regional organization covering the widest land area with the biggest population in the world.

True, India and Pakistan have a history of conflict and are at loggerheads over security issues. The membership will help build bridges. The territorial disputes and nuclear arms will remain, but the very fact of being united in the same organization pursuing common goals will help them start a dialogue. For instance, all SCO members are interested in addressing the problem of Afghanistan. India and Pakistan can make a big contribution to finding proper solutions.

The fantasy of Indian and Pakistani military participating together in a joint SCO military exercise would become reality and a landmark event. Having joined, both countries will enjoy greater access to resources and energy import projects within the grouping’s framework. They will play their cards strongly with other multilateral donors including the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and Asian Development Bank.

The two nations are seeking greater engagement in the Eurasian region. Central Asian countries are rich in hydrocarbons to make them attractive for energy-starved India and Pakistan. Both New Delhi and Islamabad are pushing ahead with infrastructure projects aimed at deepening their connectivity to the region. India is developing the Chabahar port in Iran that would grant it land access to Afghanistan and Eurasia. Islamabad is resting its hopes on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) – a plan to develop Pakistani infrastructure and broaden economic links with the help of China.

The new members’ accession could be a prelude to the formation of large Eurasian partnership. Over the 16 years of its existence, the SCO has become a consolidated, full-fledged, and very influential international association fully independent from the influence of the West, offering an alternative to the outdated vision of a unipolar world dominated by the US.

The Double-Triple-Quadruple-Crossing Trump:

April 18, 2017

by Ghassan Kadi

Trumps recent and sudden 180 degree turn on a number of international issues is mind-boggling, to say the least. But, if we connect the dots it becomes easier to get into the mind of the pragmatic billionaire-turned-President.

First and foremost, we must thank Obama for the “if” state of mind he gave us about Trump. Many analysts, including myself, felt hopeful when Clinton was defeated and Trump won. Given the Obama disappointment, we all learnt to reserve our enthusiasm and make optimistic statements on the condition of “if” Trump kept his promises; which we now know he obviously did not. Whether he did not, could not or did not want to in the first place, makes no difference at all because, at the end of the day, he did not keep his promises of reducing world tension and conflict.

When analysts sit and try to explain why was it that the Trump administration suddenly decided to bomb Syria, with the “chemical attack” as aside, they have been forgetting that, out of the blue, and for no reason at all, and just a few days before this incident, the Trump administration made very strong pro-Assad statements.

That was a prelude for the upcoming Xi Jinping visit. Trump wanted to present to the rest of the world that he was working against ISIS primarily, with Russia and even with Assad.

That was all meant to change the moment the Chinese Tiger laid foot on American soil.

The scenario that I am speculating on involves a direct American role in the Chemical attack, otherwise the timing would have been an almost impossible feat.

Let’s wind back the clock a bit. Soon after his inauguration, Trump told the Russians to tell the Syrians that he was prepared to stop total support for ISIS and have it eradicated on condition that Syria and Russia guarantee that they will reciprocate by kicking Iran and Hezbollah off Syrian soil. I have written a whole article about this called “The Race for Raqqa”.

The Russians and the Syrians were not either prepared to back-stab their allies or prepared to give America a central and pivotal role in the Levant. In other words, Trump’s outcries fell on deaf ears to his sheer dismay, the accomplished business man, who is not used to taking “no” for an answer. That “no” that Trump received from Russia marked a pivotal point in as far as his future relationship with Russia is concerned. For a simple minded person who judges complex international events and diplomats as being “bad”, “good” and “tough” amongst other school playground expressions, he had to make a stand to prove that he was “tough”.

Trump’s message to Xi Jinping was clear, stop supporting Russia and the USA will give you a “better deal”. The Chinese leader’s response was even clearer; don’t blame America’s problems on China and don’t interfere with our international diplomacy.

In the middle of the negotiations between the two leaders, Trump wanted to give his Chinese counterpart a clear preparedness on his part to dump Russia and any future collaboration with Russia as a prelude for closer and better relationships with China. What better way did he have than do a 180 degree turn and attack Syria, with Russian troops on the ground, and only a few days after endorsing Assad’s Presidency and fate?

The Tomahawks that hit Syria were not launched to inflict major damage because Trump clearly cannot afford to escalate the situation there between America and Russia to the point of no return. Trump’s attack on Syria was simply a message for China, telling China

“for me to gain your support I am prepared to do crazy things, including dumping Russia”.

When Tillerson went to Moscow a few days after the attack on a pre-scheduled visit, he had nothing to say in defense of that attack and left Moscow “agreeing” that this should not happen again in a manner as if he was saying it shouldn’t have happened in the first place.

The big fish that Trump wants to fry is not Syria. Even though in his stumbling, awkward arrogance, he may attack Syria again if he feels he needs to.

It is as if Trump is courting two potential partners; Russia and China. He tried to strike a military deal with Russia on Syria but he failed. But he also tried to strike a much more complex deal with China but this is also failing.

Ideally, Trump wants China to let go of its Island development program in the South China Sea and abandon its BRICS based economic and other strategic alliances with Russia. China is not biting.

Comes the MOAB.

There was no strategic or logical explanation or gain behind Trump’s orders to drop a MOAB on Afghanistan. It was a simple show of force and determined mentality of aggression at any cost.

Trump now wants to bring the war closer to China’s borders. He wants to turn Korea into Obama’s Ukraine. The stalemate in Ukraine will eventually give way. If NATO was going to do something against Russia it would have done it already. The new hotspot is Korea.

What Trump hopes for is a that a war against North Korea will give him enough justification to blockade China’s sea trade routes all the way down to the South China Sea under the guise of military necessity.

Trump seems confident that he can blow a devastating strike on North Korea and then follow this up with a blockade that covers the entire China Sea, north, middle and south. In his short-sightedness and arrogance, he thinks that nuclear North Korea is not going to be able to retaliate and that China will sit idle.

What is to happen in the next few days, weeks or months is going to be pivotal in deciding the short term future of humanity on this planet.

At best, the bottom line behind Trump’s new moves, if he is truly continuing to uphold the slogan of “make America great again”, is that he realized now that the American economy has been destroyed beyond repair and that he needs drastic measures, including limited nuclear wars, to restore America’s dominion. By the same token, by now, Trump would have realized that it is really the Deep State that is in charge and for him to secure his survival as President, he has to tow the line.

Irrespective of what is driving Trump; the Deep State, financial pragmatism, the shrinking global influence of the United States or any other factor or combination of the above, Trump is playing a very dangerous game which may prove to be a decisive game of Russian Roulette of global reach.

Trump is up against Russia and China, not to forget the smaller powers of North Korea and Iran. In the Levant you can add the Syrian Army and Hezbollah to the equation. Is the ailing USA up to the task? Rational thinking implies the contrary. Irrespective, the consequences of the interaction of all of those powers at play is something that we as citizens of the world have no other option but to sit back and watch.

Pentagon – and Daesh – Target Iran

By Pepe Escobar

April 03, 2017Information Clearing House” –  “Sputnik” – CENTCOM commander Army Gen. Joseph Votel channeled his full Dr. Strangelove in front of the US House Armed Services Committee this past Wednesday.

“We need to look at opportunities where we can disrupt [Iran] through military means or other means.”

As Orwellian as our times may be, this still ranks as a declaration of war. With the inbuilt consequence of smashing to bits the UN nuclear deal struck with Iran in the summer of 2015.

Joseph Strangelove did not bother to chainsaw his words.

Iran is one of the greatest threats to the US today (Pentagon official doctrine; number four after Russia, China and North Korea). Iran has increased its “destabilizing role” and poses “the greatest long-term threat to stability” in the entire Middle East.

Iran is sneaky; “I believe that Iran is operating in what I call a gray zone.” And that’s “an area between normal competition between states — and it’s just short of open conflict.”

Iran is involved in “lethal aid facilitation”; the use of “surrogate forces”; plenty of “cyber activities.”

The US has “not seen any improvement in Iran’s behavior.” The naughty boy/country in question still poses “credible threats” through its “nuclear weapons potential” and “robust” ballistic missile program.

So this is it; we’re going to take them out.

CENTCOM’s Endless Jihad

The easy way out would be to characterize this juvenile mobster-style outburst as brought to you by the House of Saud petrodollar fund.

Or to be reminded that Joseph Strangelove was addressing the very same crowd who despite acronym-laden 17 multibillion dollar intel agencies telling them over and over, via National Intelligence assessments, that Iran did not have, and was not planning to have, nuclear weapons, still mightily denounced Iran’s “nuclear threat.”

But reality always tops fiction.

No one less than the Islamic State/Daesh released a video in Farsi – complete with a message to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei —   declaring war on Iran because they are apostate Shi’ites and because they “tolerate” Jews.

No, this is not a Monty Python sketch. In fact, we have been propelled to the curioser and curioser situation of a CENTCOM that invaded and occupied Afghanistan and Iraq; distributed death and destruction free of charge; provoked a myriad, monster refugee crisis; is back at war in Iraq; is still implicated in regime change by all means in Syria; and “leads from behind” the Saudi destruction of Yemen, is now de facto, on the record, allied with Daesh – which it let fester – to take out Iran.

Feel free to call it CENTCOM’s jihad.

Joseph Strangelove’s performance took place right on cue as the neocon/neoliberalcon axis hysterically peddling its Russophobia – and Iranophobia — across the Beltway and beyond was celebrating a tasty geopolitical candy: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin in the magnificent Grand Kremlin Palace in Moscow. Or, in neocon shorthand, “the mullahs” meet “Hitler”.

There were predictable developments; Foreign Minister Javad Zarif confirmed the Russian military may use air bases in Iran on a “case by case basis” – essentially against Salafi-jihadis in Syria, as was the case in August last year, when Tu-22M3 long-range bombers and Su-34s flew missions from Hamadan airbase.

But, as Rouhani and Putin made it quite clear, the meeting went way beyond cooperating on a real, on the ground, war on terror.

The partnership now encompasses increased trade; energy investments; scientific exchanges; Russia building two new nuclear power plants in Bushehr, site of Iran’s first reactor; the upcoming membership of Iran in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO); and in the near future, the possibility of Russia-China helping Iranian banking institutions.

As the White House tries to get its act together before Secretary of State “T.Rex” Tillerson’s first official trip to Russia, in two weeks time, Russian “overtures to Iran” is now being packaged as one of the key problems preventing some sort of deal – alongside the same old “Russian aggression” meme in Ukraine, Eastern Europe and cyberspace.

For the Pentagon, Iran-Russia cooperation is anathema – in Syria or anywhere else, especially after Aleppo. That happens to mesh quite well with the White House Richelieu/Macchiavelli Steve Bannon’s worldview; Bannon was a naval officer during the Iran hostage crisis and regards Iran as an existential threat as much as the Pentagon brass.

So the picture now sold to internal US public opinion could not be more frightful; Iran “destabilizes” the entire Middle East while Russia “destabilizes” Eastern Europe, the Western Balkans, Ukraine, actually the whole planet.
What Nuclear Deal?

At least Washington’s road map ahead on Iran is now being fully laid out; more – and tougher – sanctions; non-stop harassment coupled with brainwashing of Western public opinion; covert ops; and last but not least, outright war.

Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is avidly promoting the Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Bill which, if approved, will bury the American commitment to the UN-sponsored nuclear deal; brand the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organization; and open the gates to yet another sanctions flood.

It might as well be a case of all bark, no bite. Anyone who’s seen the writing on the wall across the Beltway knows that the Iran-Russia strategic partnership is one of the three key nodes, along with China, in the big story of the young 21st century; Eurasia integration, with Russia and Iran closing the energy equation and China as the investment locomotive. And there’s not much they can do to prevent it.

So once again the dogs of demonization bark while the Eurasian caravan passes.

Pepe Escobar is an independent geopolitical analyst. https://www.facebook.com/pepe.escobar.77377?

The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Information Clearing House.

Turkey, NATO: Getting Closer to Divorce

Turkey, NATO: Getting Closer to Divorce

PETER KORZUN | 24.03.2017 | WORLD

Turkey, NATO: Getting Closer to Divorce

Turkey has been a NATO ally since 1952, and US aircraft have used Incirlik Air Base in the south during the operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. The base is home to a stockpile of US tactical nuclear weapons. A perusal of media reports leads to the conclusion that Turkey and NATO are heading for a major rift or even a breakup – a problem the North Atlantic alliance hasn’t experienced in its nearly seven decades of existence.

Germany and the Netherlands have blocked Turkish ministers from staging rallies to court the vote of expatriate Turks in the April 16 referendum on giving President Erdogan greater powers. Denmark is siding with its north European neighbors. Turkey faces deep differences with the USA, accusing it of being behind the failed plot in 2016. Both countries have opposing views on the role of Kurds in Syria. Former State Secretary John Kerry came close to threatening Turkey with the loss of its NATO membership.

Add to this the perennial tension between Turkey and Greece and the problem of Cyprus to get the whole picture. According to Bloomberg, «All in all, Turkey appears to have more disputes than friendships with its NATO allies. And its engagement with the alliance itself, which it joined in 1952, isn’t particularly strong».

The NATO annual report for 2016 says Turkey only took part in four of the 18 key NATO exercises held last year. Despite having the fourth-strongest military in the bloc (after the US, France and the UK but ahead of Germany) and the second-highest number of military personnel (after the US), its involvement in NATO’s deployments is small, amounting to just 4 percent of the personnel in the mission to train the Afghan security forces, and 7 percent of the Kosovo force.

Ankara has recently blocked some rolling programs with NATO, including political events, civilian projects and military training, in an escalation of a diplomatic dispute with a number of European states.

Turkey is unable to block cooperation with full-fledged NATO members. The move to block the activities is apparently aimed at Austria, which is not a member of NATO but is a partner country. It has banned Turkish referendum rallies on its territory. Austria has called for the EU to end accession talks with Turkey over alleged human rights violations after the aborted coup.

As a result, a very important NATO project to threaten Russia is in jeopardy. This month, Brigadier General Vladimir Chachibaia, new Chief of General Staff of Georgian Armed Forces, proposed to turn the port of Poti into a NATO military base. This, he argued, would help the alliance get around the provisions of Montreux Convention, which limit non-Black Sea powers access to the Black Sea.

Increasing the number of port calls is a way to boost the bloc’s naval presence, but the passage of naval ships not belonging to Black Sea states is restricted by the Convention. Strengthening the naval forces of Georgia and Ukraine and building a bloc’s «coast guard» base in Georgia would boost NATO’s sea power in the region. Poti could become a home port for the ships of Black Sea NATO members. Georgian military expert Irakli Aladashvili told Russian Kommersant daily that the facility would be protected by ground based weapons systems and land forces.

Ukraine’s plans to buy old ships from NATO members could also be suspended.

Turkey’s action encompasses many more areas of NATO’s activities. The programs cover most of Europe, plus many countries in the Middle East and Asia. Kosovo, Georgia, Ukraine and Afghanistan are affected. Austria is one of the biggest providers of troops in Kosovo. «It is a very unfortunate situation and it means some cooperation programs can’t be launched», said NATO’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg during a visit to Copenhagen.

Last November, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey could become part of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). The idea had been discussed with Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Kazakh counterpart Nursultan Nazarbayev.

Established in 1996, the SCO is a political, military and economic organization comprising Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Iran, Mongolia, Belarus and Afghanistan are granted observer status. India and Pakistan are set to join this year to make the SCO a powerful group with global influence. Turkey’s accession would be a milestone bringing together the Shanghai Pact and the Cooperation Council of Turkic-Speaking States (CCTS) – an international organization of Turkic countries, comprising Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkey. The General Secretariat is in İstanbul, Turkey. Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan are possible future members of the council.

Turkey is developing military cooperation with Russia. This January, Russian and Turkish air forces launched a joint operation against Islamic State (IS) militants holding the town of al-Bab northeast of Aleppo. The parties have agreed to form a joint military and intelligence mechanism to coordinate their activities in the Middle East. If peace efforts to stop hostilities in Syria succeed, Russia and Turley lead the crisis management process. It could be a start on the way to forming a broader alliance against global terrorism.

Russia and Turkey have been getting increasingly close recently, especially after the two countries brokered a Syria truce in late December to join together in the Astana process. Turkey is in talks with Russia on purchasing the advanced long-range S-400 air defense systems to protect its skies. This issue was on the agenda during the President Erdogan’s visit to Moscow on March 9-10, 2017. Ankara also seeks procurement deals in electronic systems, ammunitions and missile technology.

Both nations are parties to the ambitious Turkish Stream natural gas pipeline project. It should be noted that Russia, not the US or any other NATO member, was the first country to be visited by the Turkish president after the failed coup last year.

Ankara is also getting closer to Beijing. The two countries are closely cooperating to implement China’s the One Belt One Road project. Turkey is again taking the position as a key investment and cooperation partner that will help bridge the East and the West.

Turkey is distancing itself from the West while getting closer with the partners outside NATO and the EU. The abovementioned events conform to the trend. NATO stands to lose its second largest military power as well as one of its key airbases, while Russia, China and other countries are developing the relationship of alliance with the country, which enjoys a unique geographic location between Europe, the Middle East and Asia. It gives it easy access to strategically important areas and major energy resources. Turkey is a founding member of the OECD (1961) and the G-20 major economies (1999), it has the world’s 15th largest GDP-PPP and 15th largest Nominal GDP. The development is a major loss for the West and a major win for those who strive for a multipolar world.

‘The time to invest in Iran is now’

March 08, 2017

by Pepe Escobar for the Asia Times‘The time to invest in Iran is now’

The shift in the global balance of financing power towards Russia, India and China — especially China — is opening up opportunities for Tehran

It’s a beautiful late winter morning, the snowy Alborz mountains glittering under the sun, and Professor Mohammad Marandi from the faculty of world studies at the University of Tehran is taking me on the road, westbound.

Sprawling west Tehran is a decentralization/connectivity spectacular, with its brand new highways, metro lines, artificial lakes and megamalls. While not on the epic scale of the construction rush in Beijing or Shanghai, it is similar in spirit and comparable to what’s going on in Istanbul.

The professor — arguably Iran’s leading political and cultural analyst —and I had been on a running conversation for days on all aspects of an evolving Russia-China-Iran strategic partnership, the massive Eurasia integration project pushed by China, and its myriad interconnected challenges.

Watching west Tehran go by, it was hard not to connect this new normal to the atmosphere of excitement surrounding the Iran nuclear deal struck in Vienna in the summer of 2015. But this had actually started even before President Hassan Rouhani came to power in 2013, “linked to Iran’s stability and rising regional status,” Marandi said.

Cue to the former head of the Iranian National Security Council’s Foreign Relations Committee and professor at Princeton, Seyed Hosein Mousavian. He has been adamant that “America’s four-decade push for regime change in Iran is a failure.” On the nuclear deal, Mousavian noted, regarding the Trump administration rumble, “it is 170 pages, too much technicalities, they might not have time to go through different resolutions – and therefore they really don’t know what they’re talking about.”

The implementation of the deal should have signaled the acceptance of Iran by the West – hence renewed trade and commerce. Instead, the new normal points towards the China-driven New Silk Roads, Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and the Russia-driven Eurasia Economic Union; and towards Iran, alongside other emerging economies, seeking infrastructure finance and foreign investment from BRICS nations, especially the RIC triumvirate. In sum: look east.

Tehran did sign a rash of memorandums of understanding with French industry. But the heart of the trade and investment action is China. When President Xi Jinping visited Tehran in January last year, Rouhani said, “Iran and China have agreed to increase trade to US$600 billion in the next 10 years.”

Most deals, of course, involve oil and gas – but crucially they also span cooperation on nuclear energy and Iran’s positioning as an absolutely crucial hub of One Belt, One Road.

Compared to it, Russia-Iran trade, at almost US$2 billion last year, is not exactly newsworthy, although rising rapidly.

Post-sanctions, Russia-Iran signed almost US$40 billion in MoUs – but projects are mostly still only on paper. The problem is the overwhelming majority of Iranian companies are cash-strapped, so financing should come from Russian sources. “Secret code” exports – as in weapons – are back, as in the US$900 million contract for the S-300 defense missile systems, the first batch delivered to Iran last April.

The real secret though in reference to incipient trade is that Russia and Iran do not have much to exchange at globally competitive rates. Russia exports mainly metals, wood, electrical machines, paper, grain, floating structures, mechanically engineered products and weapons. Iran exports agricultural and seafood products.

 

With India, the heart of the matter is the development of the port of Chabahar. Here’s where China’s Maritime Silk Road meets India’s drive to connect the Indian Ocean to Afghanistan bypassing Pakistan and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

Enter Indian investment on the Chabahar-Zahedan railway, ending in Sistan-Balochistan, close to the Pakistani border, as well as in the still-in-planning Chabahar-Hajigak railway, which translates as a direct connection to Afghanistan. All this spells out Iran blooming as a crucial integration/connectivity hub for China, India and the intersection of South and Central Asia.

 

On the energy front, the news is also encouraging. According to the head of National Iranian Oil Company, Ali Kardor, by next month Iran will be producing 4 million barrels of oil a day (there was a peak at 4.2 million before sanctions were tightened in 2011).

Iran used to be the second-largest OPEC producer. Sanctions forced it down to 2.5 million barrels a day and exports of just above 1 million. Now it’s back to OPEC’s number three, behind Saudi Arabia (10 million barrels a day) and Iraq (4.5 million).

Natural gas production will reach 1.3 billion cubic meters a day by 2021. For that to happen, NIOC needs to drill at least 500 new offshore wells. The problem is NIOC is deep in US$50 billion of debt; not only because of low oil prices but also bad financial and management decisions. Royal Dutch Shell and Total are keen to strike deals, but nothing has been signed yet.

Once again, I got a similar figure to what NIOC provided me roughly 10 years ago; Iran needs at least US$200 billion to upgrade its energy industry infrastructure, and to really start profiting from an astonishing US$7 trillion in gas reserves. It’s fair to assume substantial funds could be provided, eventually, by the AIIB and other sources from Russia and China. Deputy Oil Minister Amir Hossein Zamaninia expects major developments “in a few months.”

Socially, Iran is not a powder keg. The average standard of living improved roughly 70% since the Islamic revolution. Women accounted for 70% of Iran’s science and engineering students in 2015. The healthcare system, by 2014, was the 30th most efficient in the world, way ahead of the US (in 50th).

Much will depend on the upcoming presidential elections. Former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was politely dissuaded by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, in person, from running again. Marandi confirms President Rouhani, up for re-election, is way less popular than Foreign Minister Zarif, who in turn is less popular than the number one superstar: Major General Qassem Soleimani, the head of the elite Quds Force — who’s not running for office. The reason for Rouhani’s woes; his record on the economy has been far from stellar.

Tehran will soon drop the US dollar in its financial and foreign exchange reports. That will certainly imply more currency swap agreements, and Iran only accepting payment for oil and gas in euros or in a basket of currencies.

Iran trades mostly with China, the EU and the UAE. Trump claimed during his campaign that Iran was handed a US$150 billion gift by the nuclear deal. Not true. The Central Bank’s frozen oil funds repatriated since January 2016 from the UAE, Britain, India, Greece, Italy and Norway amount to less than US$10 billion. And only US$12 billion of blocked assets were released from Japan, South Korea and India, on installments.

Before we arrived back in Tehran, Marandi told me that all in all, “ I believe whoever invests now in Iran will have an amazing return. The time to invest is now.” The RIC in BRICS are doing it. Europeans are doing it – although not much so far. And Americans are not doing it – at their loss. We wrapped it up at a traditional Iranian restaurant downtown, serving first-class food to middle and upper middle class families. The bill: less than US$30 for two. A fabulous return on investment.

Venezuela – Washington’s Latest Defamation – To Bring NATO to South America?

February 17, 2017

by Peter KoenigVenezuela – Washington’s Latest Defamation – To Bring NATO to South America?

The Trump Administration has just accused Venezuela’s newly appointed Vice-President, Tareck El Aissami, of being involved in drug trafficking, thereby dishing out the usual criminal spiel – illegal sanctions against a foreign dignitary with travel bans and asset seizures. This is Washington’s abject behavior at its best, as are so many others around the world of similar nature.

Therefore, let me say upfront: We can protest as much as we want. The Anglo-Zionist empire in Washington and its European vassals do not care one bit. To the contrary, the more hapless protests there are, the more they laugh to themselves – ‘Bingo! We did it again. – Case closed. And sanctions stay. New ones are invented at will, wherever and whenever it pleases the empire. Because nothing happens from the opponents – other than hot air.

Sanctions – economic sanctions, as most of them are, can only stand and ‘succeed’, as long as countries, who oppose Washington’s dictate remain bound into the western, dollar-based, fraudulent monetary scheme. The system is entirely privatized by a small Zionist-led elite. FED, Wall Street, Bank for International Settlement (BIS), are all private institutions, largely controlled by the Rothschild, Rockefeller, Morgan et al clans. They are also supported by the Breton Woods Organizations, IMF and World Bank, conveniently created under the Charter of the UN.

Few progressive economists understand how this debt-based pyramid scam is manipulating the entire western economic system. When in a just world, it should be just the contrary, the economy that shapes, designs and decides the functioning of the monetary system and policy.

Even Russia, with Atlantists still largely commanding the central bank and much of the financial system, isn’t fully detached from the dollar dominion – yet.

‘Renegades’ of the US-globalized Deep State must de-dollarize and migrate towards the eastern SCO-based economy (SCO = Shanghai Cooperation Organization, including Russia, China, most of Central Asia, Pakistan, Iran; – and India for good or for bad, is a contender), where the future is, where huge and honest prospects of future economic development are emerging, especially the Chinese initiated New Silk Road, or OBOR – One Belt-One Road – that foresees an infrastructure, industrial and technological boom, connecting Vladivostok with Lisbon and Shanghai with Hamburg – and everything in between. China’s President Xi Jinping has opened the door for everyone to join – no force, sheer invitation.

This also means breaking loose from the IMF’s and World Bank’s debt tentacles and the rest of the western monetary gangsters. It doesn’t happen overnight, but steps towards regaining sovereignty should be initiated rather sooner than later – to reduce, speak withstand and eliminate sanction imposed damages. For Russia, despite the Atlantists, sanctions were a blessing. They are the best that could have happened to our economy, Mr. Putin said. They pushed us to promote an economy of self-reliance, especially in agriculture and industrial development. In 2015, Russia was the world’s first wheat exporter.

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Back to drugs and fighting drug lords. The Plan Colombia which started in 2000 and has since cost about US$ 20 billion, was officially designed precisely to fight the drug mafia’s coca plantations and drug cartels. Yet, since the Plan begun, the surface of coca plantations has more than doubled in Colombia; and output efficiency today is almost three times what it was in 2000.

Washington’s fake accusations and outrageous slandering of Venezuela’s Vice President, Mr. Tareck El Aissami, are totally absurd. They are aiming in a first instance at further bad-mouthing Venezuela among the uneducated MSM-brainwashed international public. It’s ‘false news’ propaganda, attempting to pull Venezuela into the drug ‘war’ playing out between Colombia, Mexico and Peru – all fomented by Washington.

Up to his recent assignment as Vice-President, Mr. El Aissami was Interior Minister, successfully fighting drug mafias, covertly promoted by the DEA and the CIA. Clamping down on the new Vice-President might be a punishment for his unwavering fight against the US backed drug lords, while he was Interior Minister. In fact, during his ministerial tenure, Tareck Al Aissami, a man of full integrity, has hit hard the cartels of international drug dealers, capturing 102 drug lords, of whom 21 were extradited to the United States. To make things even more ridiculous, apparently Tareck Al Aissimi does not even hold a US visa neither has he any assets in the USA that could be frozen as claimed.

The bigger and larger scale agenda behind this latest defamation scheme maybe a monstrous attempt to bring NATO to South America. Yes, you read right – Pentagon’s European military branch, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. They have absolutely nothing to do in Latin America, but as long as nobody screams murder and acts against it – the impunity of the empire is almost bottomless.

The little publicized fact is that President Manuel Santos of Colombia has recently invited NATO to come to Colombia to help him ‘fight organized crime’ – meaning, most likely a new FARC war, easily revived with a few false flags – as already happened recently (http://thesaker.is/colombia-inviting-nato-to-fight-organized-crime-a-menace-for-latin-america/ ).

This move has been under preparation since 2012 / 2013, right from the beginning of Peace Negotiations between the Santos Government and FARC. It started with a so-called ‘best practice technical assistance agreement’ between NATO and Colombia – extendable to real troops and armory movements into Colombia – meaning automatically NATO spreading all throughout Latin America. The Natoization of LATAM! – What a prospect!

Venezuela with Hugo Chavez was the only country protesting already during Colombia’s initial negotiations with Brussels / NATO. Today, except for Venezuela, I don’t know of any other Latin American country that shouted out in protest. Not that it mattered, as nothing matters to the exceptional nation. But it would help spread awareness about what Washington has in store as its latest oppressing atrocity for Latin America.

Might this be one of the chief purposes of this intimidating defamation launched against Venezuela and her Vice President, whose ethical integrity is proven beyond doubt?

Peter Koenig is an economist and geopolitical analyst. He is also a former World Bank staff and worked extensively around the world in the fields of environment and water resources. He lectures at universities in the US, Europe and South America. He writes regularly for Global Research, ICH, RT, Sputnik, PressTV, The 4th Media, TeleSUR, TruePublica, The Vineyard of The Saker Blog, and other internet sites. He is the author of Implosion – An Economic Thriller about War, Environmental Destruction and Corporate Greed – fiction based on facts and on 30 years of World Bank experience around the globe. He is also a co-author of The World Order and Revolution! – Essays from the Resistance.

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