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.

Why Washington is Terrified of Russia, China

By Pepe Escobar

April 22, 2017 “Information Clearing House” –  “Sputnik” – The Russia-China strategic partnership, uniting the Pentagon’s avowed top two “existential” threats to America, does not come with a formal treaty signed with pomp, circumstance – and a military parade.

Enveloped in layers of subtle sophistication, there’s no way to know the deeper terms Beijing and Moscow have agreed upon behind those innumerable Putin-Xi Jinping high-level meetings.

Diplomats, off the record, occasionally let it slip there may have been a coded message delivered to NATO to the effect that if one of the strategic members is seriously harassed — be it in Ukraine or in the South China Sea – NATO will have to deal with both.

For now, let’s concentrate on two instances of how the partnership works in practice, and why Washington is clueless on how to deal with it.

Exhibit A is the imminent visit to Moscow by the Director of the General Office of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), Li Zhanshu, invited by the head of the Presidential Administration in the Kremlin, Anton Vaino. Beijing stressed the talks will revolve around – what else — the Russia-China strategic partnership, “as previously agreed on by the countries’ leaders.”

This happens just after China’s First Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli, one of the top seven in the Politburo and one of the drivers of China’s economic policies, was received in Moscow by President Putin. They discussed Chinese investments in Russia and the key energy angle of the partnership.

But most of all they prepared Putin’s next visit to Beijing, which will be particularly momentous, in the cadre of the One Belt, One Road (OBOR) summit on May 14-15, steered by Xi Jinping.

The General Office of the CCP – directly subordinated to Xi — only holds this kind of ultra-high-level annual consultations with Moscow, and no other player. Needless to add, Li Zhanshu reports directly to Xi as much as Vaino reports directly to Putin. That is as highly strategic as it gets.

That also happens to tie directly to one of the latest episodes featuring The Hollow (Trump) Men, in this case Trump’s bumbling/bombastic National Security Advisor Lt. Gen. HR McMaster.

In a nutshell, McMaster’s spin, jolly regurgitated by US corporate media, is that Trump has developed such a “special chemistry” with Xi after their Tomahawks-with-chocolate cake summit in Mar-a-Lago that Trump has managed to split the Russia-China entente on Syria and isolate Russia in the UN Security Council.

It would have taken only a few minutes for McMaster to read the BRICS joint communiqué on Syria for him to learn that the BRICS are behind Russia.

No wonder a vastly experienced Indian geopolitical observer felt compelled to note that, “Trump and McMaster look somewhat like two country bumpkins who lost their way in the metropolis.”

Follow the money

Exhibit B centers on Russia and China quietly advancing their agreement to progressively replace the US dollar’s reserve status with a gold-backed system.

That also involves the key participation of Kazakhstan – very much interested in using gold as currency along OBOR. Kazakhstan could not be more strategically positioned; a key hub of OBOR; a key member of the Eurasia Economic Union (EEU); member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO); and not by accident the smelter of most of Russia’s gold.

In parallel, Russia and China are advancing their own payment systems. With the yuan now enjoying the status of a global currency, China has been swiftly promoting their payment system, CIPS, careful not to frontally antagonize the internationally accepted SWIFT, controlled by the US.

Russia, on the other hand, has stressed the creation of “an alternative,” in the words of Russian Central Bank’s Elvira Nabiullina, in the form of the Mir payment system — a Russian version of Visa/ MasterCard. What’s implied is that were Washington feel inclined to somehow exclude Russia from SWIFT, even temporarily, at least 90 percent of ATMs in Russia would be able to operate on Mir.

China’s UnionPay cards are already an established fixture all across Asia – enthusiastically adopted by HSBC, among others. Combine “alternative” payment systems with a developing gold-backed system – and “toxic” does not even begin to spell out the reaction of the US Federal Reserve.

And it’s not just about Russia and China; it’s about the BRICS.

What First Deputy Governor of Russia’s Central Bank Sergey Shvetsov has outlined is just the beginning: “BRICS countries are large economies with large reserves of gold and an impressive volume of production and consumption of this precious metal. In China, the gold trade is conducted in Shanghai, in Russia it is in Moscow. Our idea is to create a link between the two cities in order to increase trade between the two markets.”

Russia and China already have established systems to do global trade bypassing the US dollar. What Washington did to Iran — cutting their banks off SWIFT – is now unthinkable against Russia and China.

So we’re already on our way, slowly but surely, towards a BRICS “gold marketplace.” A “new financial architecture” is being built. That will imply the eventual inability of the US Fed to export inflation to other nations – especially those included in BRICS, EEU and SCO.

The Hollow Men

Trump’s Generals, led by “Mad Dog” Mattis, may spin all they want about their need to dominate the planet with their sophisticated AirSeaLandSpaceCyber commands. Yet that may be not enough to counter the myriad ways the Russia-China strategic partnership is developing.

So more on than off, we will have Hollow Men like Vice-President Mike Pence, with empurpled solemnity, threatening North Korea; “The shield stands guard and the sword stands ready.” Forget this does not even qualify as a lousy line in a cheap remake of a Hollywood B-movie; what we have here is Aspiring Commander-in-Chief Pence warning Russia and China there may be some nuclear nitty-gritty very close to their borders between the US and North Korea.

Not gonna happen. So here’s to the great T. S. Eliot, who saw it all decades in advance: “We are the hollow men / We are the stuffed men/ Leaning together
 / Headpiece filled with straw. Alas! / Our dried voices, when
 / We whisper together 
/ Are quiet and meaningless
 / As wind in dry grass / 
Or rats’ feet over broken glass / 
In our dry cellar.”

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

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.

‘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.

Signs of the Times: A Cashless Society in India

A good portion of this video by Sheikh Imran Hosein is devoted to discussion around current events in India, where the government has taken major steps toward transformation of the entire country into a cashless society. This “demonetization,” as it’s called, has implications not only for the people of India, but for all of us. The following article will offer a bit more insight into that.

You will perhaps not be terribly surprised to learn that a US government agency, USAID, seems to have been a key player in engineering events in India. This of course is the same agency that has engineered regime changes in other countries. In this case, however, they seem to be quite fond of the Modi government of India.

The Truth About ‘Digital India’

By Ajiesh Thuvanoor Kayi

India is descending into one of the most unfavorable entanglements since her independence. This historic conspiracy gripping the subcontinent is utter cosmic. Since the announcement of so-called “Demonetization,” we have come up with several articles shedding light on possible issues. Some of the theories and predictions drafted in the 3rd week of Demonetization seem to be becoming more true and are still gaining momentum. Surprisingly, the most intriguing information of all is the whole lot of Indian population inadvertently or knowingly continuing endorse this mission – most are unaware of the real plot while others are obsessed with irrational character adoration. The “soft coup” timetable initiated the United States is in action and Indians live in an exaggerated bubble which will soon be deflated. The Indian public is largely ignorant and unconcerned, and their reliance on fallible Indian mainstream media throttles further Information Blockade. A series of corroboratory reports rightly available but in bits and pieces need to be a pieced together for an aggregated view.

The threatening geopolitical environment posed by the Asian Block/BRICS union compelled the United States to initiate strategic partnership with India. This is intended to counter the Chinese military and economic dominance in Asia and elsewhere. During the reign of Obama, the Indian Prime Minister visited Washington over 18 times within a mere span of two years. USAID under the Obama Administration successfully plucked a deal with the Indian Finance Ministry. This ministry covering the banking sector is already facing a series of internal yet undisclosed crises. The deal was to destroy the cash ecosystem in India and push digital payment methods, a multifaceted program with several goals. The project’s catalyst was commissioned in November 2015 by the government of India and USAID in order to destroy cash, targeting low-income groups. It is not evidently clear if the CIA is directly involved, but the fact is prevalent that the CIA is a constant factor in USAID.

Continued here

Game-changers ahead on the (long) Maritime Silk Road

February 04, 2017

by Pepe Escobar for the Asia Times

Game-changers ahead on the (long) Maritime Silk RoadFrom the Bab al-Mandab to the strait of Malacca, from the strait of Hormuz to the strait of Lombok, all the way to the key logistical hub of Diego Garcia 2,500 miles southeast of Hormuz, the question pops up: How will the unpredictable new normal in Washington – which is not exactly China-friendly – affect the wider Indian Ocean?

At play are way more than key chokepoints in an area that straddles naval supply chains and through which also flows almost 40% of the oil that powers Asian-Pacific economies. This is about the future of the Maritime Silk Road, a key component of the Chinese One Belt, One Road (OBOR), and thus about how Big Power politics will unfold in a key realm of the Rimland.

India imports almost 80% of its energy from the Middle East via the Indian Ocean. Thus, for Delhi, protection of supply chains must be the norm, as in the current drive to develop three carrier battle groups and at least 160 naval vessels, including submarines, before 2022. That also implies boosting a cooperation agreement with the nations bordering the strait of Malacca – Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia – and developing military infrastructure in the Andaman and Nicobar islands.

China for its part advances a relentless economic / infrastructural drive from Myanmar to Pakistan, from Bangladesh to the Maldives, from Sri Lanka to Djibouti – a counterbalance to the impossibility of fully implementing “escape from Malacca”, the complex, multi-pronged Beijing strategy for diversifying energy supplies.

The privileged infrastructure connectivity hub remains the megaport of Gwadar in the Arabian Sea – which will be controlled for the next 40 years by a Chinese company. Gwadar is the naval destination of the US$46 billion (and counting) China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) originating in Xinjiang, which will be the economic New Silk Roads game-changer in South Asia.

This implies everyone jumping aboard the new Karakoram highway, currently under construction in Pakistan’s sublimely mountainous northern Gilgit-Baltistan, with the military watching over a frantic maze of Chinese engineers.

Islamabad/Rawalpindi took no prisoners in offering a sprawling support system to prevent possible interference by Uighur separatist groups. For all practical purposes, Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) is now focused on resident Uighurs in Pakistan like a laser, while not forgetting Balochistan’s separatist groups, who, with the right “incentive”, might also derail CPEC further on down the road.

Beijing treads a very fine – soft power – line. Islamabad offered the Chinese Navy a base in Gwadar, but was politely declined: the graphic message would totally freak out both Delhi and Washington. Gwadar will be inevitably developed over time as a trade hub for a vast swathe of South Asia, but Delhi’s anxieties relate to its virtually ready-to-roll capability for monitoring the Indian Navy in the Indian Ocean and the US Navy in the Persian Gulf.

Go North-South, young Eurasian

Gwadar happens to be not far away from Chabahar, in Iran – which is being designed as an Indian trade hub towards the markets of Central Asia, connecting India with Afghanistan via Iran and thus bypassing Pakistan. That’s the Southern – or Indian – Silk Road in action. Gwadar and Chabahar are the top two new hubs bound to link the Indian Ocean to central Eurasia, with Iran, India and Russia featuring as key members of the slowly-developing but potentially spectacular International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC).

Moreover, Iran, China and India may all eventually converge towards a free trade zone with the Russia-led Eurasia Economic Union (EEU), as the CPEC for its part will allow Russia and Central Asia to boost trade with the Indian Ocean Rimland.

Then there’s the fascinating case of Sri Lanka. According to the 
Institute of Policy Studies in Sri Lanka, from 2006 to 2015 China invested over US$5 billion, with Sri Lanka’s minister of development strategies and international trade adding that China has pledged over US$10 billion more up to 2019.

The key project is the deep-sea port at Hambantota – plus an international airport in nearby Mattala. Sri Lanka struck a deal with China Merchants Port Holdings at the end of 2016 to sell 80% of Hambantota for US$1.1 billion and to lease 15,000 acres of nearby land for 99 years.

Needless to add, the proverbial “concern” with this Chinese win-win was registered in both Delhi and Washington. The possibility that China will eventually acquire a permanent naval military base in the Indian Ocean is a full-time obsession of US Think Tankland. Colombo, though, has always been adamant: Chinese-financed infrastructure does not imply basing rights for the Chinese Navy.

In fact, any Chinese move – from leasing a Maldives island for 50 years for US$4 million to building a military base in Djibouti (officially a base for “technical and logistical support” to the Chinese Navy) by the end of 2017, close to the Americans and the French, is a source of “concern”.

Where China in South Asia is concerned, the Pentagon / Naval War College always fall back to the “string of pearls” threat. Especially now with the Maritime Silk Road, a “string of pearls” is a categorical imperative for Beijing. But that does not imply Chinese military hegemony.

For Beijing, conscious of cost-efficiency, the logistical nightmare of maintaining naval bases in foreign lands far, far away from the Middle Kingdom is definitely not a win-win. So the notion of having a Chinese carrier battle group in the Indian Ocean ready to confront the Indian Navy is idle geostrategic speculation. The very long game is all about establishing key trade nodes for the Maritime Silk Road.

I got a naval offer you can’t refuse

It will be fascinating to watch how mechanisms such as the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) develop.

Let’s see what Delhi – deeply committed to an official Make in India campaign – may offer in the way of “free” markets to Nepal (which is leaning towards China), Bangladesh (always in a complex relationship with Pakistan) and Sri Lanka.

Since 2008, China has been India’s largest trading partner. China and India will be involved in deeper cooperation inside the BRICS, and in managing the New Development Bank (NDB). Moreover, India is about to become a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

The notion of Delhi reigning supreme in the Indian Ocean is misguided. From now on, with the emphasis on the Maritime Silk Road, it will be more a case of serious India-China economic competition and/or cooperation, as both countries invest in the protection/expansion of their extensive, complex supply chains.

The Pentagon, under James “Mad Dog” Mattis, will, of course, be watching closely. India’s NDTV recently reported that the US Pacific Command had tacitly admitted the obvious: that the US and India are sharing intel on Chinese warships and submarines in the Indo-Pacific. Moreover, there was a hint that Beijing could deploy a carrier battle group in the Indian Ocean today if it saw fit.

It’s unlikely Beijing will accept the challenge – just to be slapped with more charges of “Chinese aggression” and “threatening freedom of navigation”. Better invest in non-stop, cumulative Maritime Silk Road deals.

ترامب وأفول العولمة الأميركية

يناير 25, 2017

صفية سعاده

تقهقر الاقتصاد الأميركي

أحد الأسباب الرئيسة لفوز ترامب في الانتخابات الرئاسية على منافسته هيلاري كلينتون، هو الانهيار الاقتصادي الحاصل في الولايات المتحدة الأميركية. ولطالما كان الاقتصاد هو المحرك الفعلي في ترجيح كفة أصوات الأميركيين، إذ إنهم يعيشون في جزيرة قارة ضخمة، وبالتالي لا يأبهون كثيراً لمجريات السياسة الخارجية.

بعد إخفاق رئاسة بوش الابن في تحقيق انتصارات مدوية في افغانستان والعراق، وتوريط الجنود الأميركيين في هذين البلدين، بدأت ملامح فيتنام جديدة تتكوّن مع ما يعني ذلك من تآكل النفوذ الأميركي في مستنقعات آسيا الوسطى والغربية، وتراكم العجز المالي.

وصل باراك أوباما الى سدة الرئاسة، لأنه وعد الناخبين الأميركيين بأنه سينهي الحروب خارج الأراضي الأميركية، وسيعيد الجنود الأميركيين إلى الوطن. وسرعان ما واجهته أزمة سيولة مالية كادت تطيح بالمصارف الكبرى ليس فقط في الولايات المتحدة الأميركية، بل في العالم أجمع.

بسبب هذا الانهيار الذي تلافاه أوباما بحجز أموال المواطنين الأميركيين، أعادت دول العالم النظر في نظام معولم قد يطيح بها من دون أن تكون هي مسؤولة عن أخطاء ارتكبها النظام المالي الأميركي الذي أفلت العنان للمصارف الأميركية التي تتصرّف من دون أيّ ضوابط أو رقابة.

العامل الاول إذاً هو زعزعة ثقة العالم بالنظام المصرفي الأميركي، وبالتالي أخذ الاحتياطات اللازمة لدرء تبعات انهيار هذا النظام، كانت نتيجتها إنشاء نظام مالي بديل تترأسه كلّ من الصين وروسيا ويضمّ دولاً أخرى، يتبادل السلع على أساس عملات محلية غير الدولار، ويقوم بمشاريع إنمائية مستقلة.

بالإضافة الى تحوّل العالم باتجاه التفتيش عن حلول بديلة للنظام المالي الأميركي المعولم، نشأت أزمة اقتصادية كبرى داخل الولايات المتحدة الأميركية من جراء العولمة نفسها التي نادى بها، وشجّعها، ونشرها الرأسماليون الأميركيون في الدرجة الاولى.

لقد أخذ الرأسمال الأميركي يتسرّب خارج أراضي الولايات المتحدة الأميركية، ما يعود بالنفع على أقلية محدودة العدد من كبار الرأسماليين الأميركيين، لكنه يؤدّي الى إغلاق المصانع والمعامل والصناعات في أرجاء الدولة الأميركية. انتقل العمل من داخل هذه الأخيرة الى خارجها، وبشكل خاص الى غريمتها: الصين. فلا دولة تستطيع منافسة اليد العاملة الرخيصة الصينية، وأيّ منافسة للسوق الصينية محتومة بالفشل.

التتمة ص8

انهارت الطبقة الوسطى الأميركية، وأصبحت البطالة عالية، وتبخر الحلم الأميركي بإمكانية الحصول على منزل وسيارة لكلّ عائلة، وتشرّدت ألوف العائلات، خاصة أنّ الولايات المتحدة الأميركية ليست بدولة رعائية، فهي لا تؤمّن ضماناً صحياً مجانياً، ولا ضماناً اجتماعياً كما تفعل دول أوروبا، أو كندا أو اوستراليا، أو حتى دول أميركا اللاتينية، على فقرها، ككوبا مثلاً. هذه الشريحة هي التي صوّتت لدونالد ترامب، لأنّ هيلاري كلينتون أرادت أن تكمل مسيرة العولمة، فلقد وعد ترامب بإعادة تفعيل الاقتصاد والمصانع، وإعطاء الأولوية لرفاهية الشعب الأميركي.

العودة إلى ترسيخ القومية

مسار العولمة الذي خطته أميركا يستوجب الهيمنة الاقتصادية الشاملة على العالم، ومن أجل بلوغ هذا الهدف كان من الضروري إلغاء دور الدول الوطنية/ القومية الأخرى عبر محاربة كلّ أشكال الأنظمة الاشتراكية أو القومية، ودفع دول العالم الثالث خاصة الى خصخصة ممتلكات الدولة، وتخلي الدولة عن لعب أيّ دور ناظم في المجتمع أو الاقتصاد. تحرير السوق أدّى الى القضاء على اقتصاد الدول النامية التي لا تستطيع منافسة الدول الصناعية الكبرى، وحوّلها مراكز استهلاك لا إنتاج.

أهداف العولمة اذاً تتضارب مع وجود الدولة القومية التي تدافع عن مواطنيها وعن حقوقهم المادية والمعنوية. فالعولمة تلغي نهائياً مفهوم الدولة الديمقراطية، حيث يقرّر الشعب مصيره، ويُستبدل ذلك بهيئات ناظمة عابرة للدول، كما حصل في الاتحاد الاوروبي، ومثال هذا الاتحاد هو الأقلّ بشاعة من أمثلة دول أفريقيا والعالم العربي. فلقد وجدت دول الاتحاد الأوروبي الفقيرة كاليونان واسبانيا وإيطاليا أنها خسرت قراراتها المستقلة واصبح البرلمان الاوروبي هو الذي يبادر الى توجيه مسار هذه الدول شاءت أم أبت. وفي وضع من هذا النوع يبدو جلياً أنّ الدول القوية هي التي ستطغى على الدول الضعيفة، وفي حالة الاتحاد الاوروبي، اصبحت المانيا هي القاطرة التي تملي على الجميع ما عليهم فعله. الا ان الاتحاد الاوروبي، بما فيه المانيا، هو بدوره فريسة النفوذ الأميركي.

التمرّد على العولمة حاصل اليوم في الدول المتقدّمة والتي عملت جاهدة لإرغام الجميع الدخول في شبكتها. تمرّد مواطنوها، من الولايات المتحدة الأميركية إلى بريطانيا، لأنّ شعوبها لا تريد أن تصادَر حرياتها وقراراتها ومصيرها.

ترامب يتكلم باسم هذا المنحى الجديد، وكما يشدّد على أهمية الحفاظ على قومية ومصالح الولايات المتحدة الأميركية، فإنه أيضاً يؤكد بأنه لن يتدخل في أمور الدول الأخرى، وليس في صدد شنّ حروب على دول لتغيير أنظمتها.

هذا الموقف يقود الى النتائج التالية والتي هي معاكسة تماماً للسياسات التي سبقته:

أولاً: الاعتراف بالدول الأخرى وقبول الاختلاف بين نظامه وأنظمتها.

ثانياً: الاعتراف بتعدّد الأقطاب في العالم، بالرغم من هدف ترامب جعل أميركا الأقوى والأفضل بين الدول.

ثالثاً: الالتزام بالقوانين الدولية في فضّ النزاعات بين الدول.

رابعاً: اعتراف ترامب ان لا وجود للدولة الديمقراطية الا في إطار الدولة القومية التي يقرّر شعبها مصيرها، ورفض خزعبلات الـ establishment الأميركي الذي يتظاهر بأنه يريد فرض الديمقراطية على الشعوب الأخرى بحدّ السلاح والدمار.

خامساً: يريد ترامب القضاء على الإرهاب التكفيري الآخذ في التفشي في العالم، وهو يقول صراحة إنه نتاج الإدارات الأميركية السابقة. أما لماذا أرادت هذه الإدارات دعم وتمويل الإرهاب التكفيري المبني على الفكر الوهابي الإلغائي، فلأنّ هدفها كان استعمار العالم ووضعه تحت الهيمنة الأميركية من دون اللجوء الى جنود أميركيين يقومون بهذه المهمة ويُقتلون، فالمواطنون الأميركيون يرفضون الحرب الا في حال الدفاع عن ارضهم القومية. هيمنة الإسلام السياسي الذي أدرجه أوباما تتطابق مع معايير العولمة العابرة للدول القومية، لكنه لا يتماشى البتة مع مفاهيم الدولة القومية العلمانية، وبالتالي يرفضه ترامب.

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