How the New Silk Roads are merging into Greater Eurasia

December 13, 2018How the New Silk Roads are merging into Greater Eurasia

Russia is keen to push economic integration with parts of Asia and this fits in with China’s Belt and Road Initiative

by Pepe Escobar (cross-posted with The Asia Times by special agreement with the author)

The concept of Greater Eurasia has been discussed at the highest levels of Russian academia and policy-making for some time. This week the policy was presented at the Council of Ministers and looks set to be enshrined, without fanfare, as the main guideline of Russian foreign policy for the foreseeable future.

President Putin is unconditionally engaged to make it a success. Already at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum in 2016, Putin referred to an emerging “Eurasian partnership”.

I was privileged over the past week to engage in excellent discussions in Moscow with some of the top Russian analysts and policymakers involved in advancing Greater Eurasia.

Three particularly stand out: Yaroslav Lissovolik, program director of the Valdai Discussion Club and an expert on the politics and economics of the Global South; Glenn Diesen, author of the seminal Russia’s Geoeconomic Strategy for a Greater Eurasia; and the legendary Professor Sergey Karaganov, dean of the Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs at the National Research University Higher School of Economics and honorary chairman of the Presidium of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, who received me in his office for an off-the-record conversation.

The framework for Great Eurasia has been dissected in detail by the indispensable Valdai Discussion Club, particularly on Rediscovering the Identity, the sixth part of a series called Toward the Great Ocean, published last September, and authored by an academic who’s who on the Russian Far East, led by Leonid Blyakher of the Pacific National University in Khabarovsk and coordinated by Karaganov, director of the project.

The conceptual heart of Greater Eurasia is Russia’s Turn to the East, or pivot to Asia, home of the economic and technological markets of the future. This implies Greater Eurasia proceeding in symbiosis with China’s New Silk Roads, or Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). And yet this advanced stage of the Russia-China strategic partnership does not mean Moscow will neglect its myriad close ties to Europe.

Russian Far East experts are very much aware of the “Eurocentrism of a considerable portion of Russian elites.” They know how almost the entire economic, demographic and ideological environment in Russia has been closely intertwined with Europe for three centuries. They recognize that Russia has borrowed Europe’s high culture and its system of military organization. But now, they argue, it’s time, as a great Eurasian power, to profit from “an original and self-sustained fusion of many civilizations”; Russia not just as a trade or connectivity point, but as a “civilizational bridge”.

Legacy of Genghis Khan 

What my conversations, especially with Lissovolik, Diesen and Karaganov, have revealed is something absolutely groundbreaking – and virtually ignored across the West; Russia is aiming to establish a new paradigm not only in geopolitics and geoeconomics, but also on a cultural and ideological level.

Conditions are certainly ripe for it. Northeast Asia is immersed in a power vacuum. The Trump administration’s priority – as well as the US National Security Strategy’s – is containment of China. Both Japan and South Korea, slowly but surely, are getting closer to Russia.

Culturally, retracing Russia’s past, Greater Eurasia analysts may puzzle misinformed Western eyes. ‘Towards the Great Ocean’, the Valdai report supervised by Karaganov, notes the influence of Byzantium, which “preserved classical culture and made it embrace the best of the Orient culture at a time when Europe was sinking into the Dark Ages.” Byzantium inspired Russia to adopt Orthodox Christianity.

It also stresses the role of the Mongols over Russia’s political system. “The political traditions of most Asian countries are based on the legacy of the Mongols. Arguably, both Russia and China are rooted in Genghis Khan’s empire,” it says.

If the current Russian political system may be deemed authoritarian – or, as claimed in Paris and Berlin, an exponent of “illiberalism” – top Russian academics argue that a market economy protected by lean, mean military power performs way more efficiently than crisis-ridden Western liberal democracy.

As China heads West in myriad forms, Greater Eurasia and the Belt and Road Initiative are bound to merge. Eurasia is crisscrossed by mighty mountain ranges such as the Pamirs and deserts like the Taklamakan and the Karakum. The best ground route runs via Russia or via Kazakhstan to Russia. In crucial soft power terms, Russian remains the lingua franca in Mongolia, Central Asia and the Caucasus.

And that leads us to the utmost importance of an upgraded Trans-Siberian railway – Eurasia’s current connectivity core. In parallel, the transportation systems of the Central Asian “stans” are closely integrated with the Russian network of roads; all that is bound to be enhanced in the near future by Chinese-built high-speed rail.

Iran and Turkey are conducting their own versions of a pivot to Asia. A free-trade agreement between Iran and the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU) was approved in early December. Iran and India are also bound to strike a free-trade agreement. Iran is a big player in the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC), which is essential in driving closer economic integration between Russia and India.

The Caspian Sea, after a recent deal between its five littoral states, is re-emerging as a major trading post in Central Eurasia. Russia and Iran are involved in a joint project to build a gas pipeline to India.

Kazakhstan shows how Greater Eurasia and BRI are complementary; Astana is both a member of BRI and the EAEU. The same applies to gateway Vladivostok, Eurasia’s entry point for both South Korea and Japan, as well as Russia’s entry point to Northeast Asia.

Ultimately, Russia’s regional aim is to connect China’s northern provinces with Eurasia via the Trans-Siberian and the Chinese Eastern Railway – with Chita in China and Khabarovsk in Russia totally inter-connected.

And all across the spectrum, Moscow aims at maximizing return on the crown jewels of the Russian Far East; agriculture, water resources, minerals, lumber, oil and gas. Construction of liquefied natural gas (LNG) plants in Yamal vastly benefits China, Japan and South Korea.

Community spirit

Eurasianism, as initially conceptualized in the early 20th century by the geographer PN Savitsky, the geopolitician GV Vernadsky and the cultural historian VN Ilyn, among others, regarded Russian culture as a unique, complex combination of East and West, and the Russian people as belonging to “a fully original Eurasian community”.

That certainly still applies. But as Valdai Club analysts argue, the upgraded concept of Greater Eurasia “is not targeted against Europe or the West”; it aims to include at least a significant part of the EU.

The Chinese leadership describes BRI not only as connectivity corridors, but also as a “community”. Russians use a similar term applied to Greater Eurasia; sobornost (“community spirit”).

As Alexander Lukin of the Higher School of Economics and an expert on the SCO has constantly stressed, including in his book China and Russia: The New Rapprochement, this is all about the interconnection of Greater Eurasia, BRI, EAEU, SCO, INSTC, BRICS, BRICS Plus and ASEAN.

The cream of the crop of Russian intellectuals – at the Valdai Club and the Higher School of Economics – as well as top Chinese analysts, are in sync. Karaganov himself constantly reiterates that the concept of Greater Eurasia was arrived at, “jointly and officially”, by the Russia-China partnership; “a common space for economic, logistic and information cooperation, peace and security from Shanghai to Lisbon and New Delhi to Murmansk”.

The concept of Greater Eurasia is, of course, a work in progress. What my conversations in Moscow revealed is its extraordinary ambition; positioning Russia as a key geoeconomic and geopolitical crossroads linking the economic systems of North Eurasia, Central and Southwest Asia.

As Diesen notes, Russia and China have become inevitable allies because of their “shared objective of restructuring global value-chains and developing a multipolar world”. It’s no wonder Beijing’s drive to develop state-of-the-art national technological platforms is provoking so much anger in Washington. And in terms of the big picture, it makes perfect sense for BRI to be harmonized with Russia’s economic connectivity drive for Greater Eurasia.

That’s irreversible. The dogs of demonization, containment, sanctions and even war may bark all they want, but the Eurasia integration caravan keeps moving along.

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Lavrov’s interview and answers to questions for the programme “Moscow. Kremlin. Putin”

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December 03, 2018Lavrov’s interview and answers to questions for the programme “Moscow. Kremlin. Putin”

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s interview and answers to questions for the programme “Moscow. Kremlin. Putin” on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, December 2, 2018

Question: It was a highly unusual G20 summit, with very many factors.  I don’t remember Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel having to overcome so many obstacles just to get to a meeting. The death of President George H.W. Bush cast a pall over the event. And then there is this strange situation with presidents Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump and the US president’s reaction to the incident in the Black Sea.

What are your feelings over this? Have these events spoiled the G20 meeting or prevented the participants from implementing the agenda?

Sergey Lavrov: I believe that all these circumstances have had their effect on the events that are taking place in Buenos Aires. However, they have hardly had any serious effect on the agenda.

Just as it happened in 2008, when the G20 convened at the top level to discuss the root causes of a crisis that had spread to nearly all the countries, we are now amid a period of transformation in the global economy. There is, first of all, the digital transformation, an unprecedented rise in protectionist policies, up to trade wars, the sovereign debts of many countries and a shadow over the future of free multilateral trade, as well as many other factors. There is also the problem with the reliability of reserve currencies and the obligations of the countries that have them. It is these factors that influenced the preparations for the summit and discussions at it.

I have not mentioned the sanctions, the restrictive, prohibitive or punishing duties and tariffs, all of which created a serious and contradictory background for and influenced the essence of the discussions. It is good that a final declaration has been adopted. This is better than nothing. However, all the sharp angles which I mentioned have been smoothed over. But I don’t think this is connected to the circumstances we were talking about.

Anyway, the G20 has made rather useful decisions. We have outlined our position on the digital economy and the need to start adjusting the labour and education markets to it. We have also put forth our views on the situation when it comes to food security. Russia as a major grain producer is playing an increasing role in these matters.

There was also a thorough discussion on migration, refugees and approaches to this new problem. I would like to say in this connection that we have rejected the attempts to force the “concept of equal responsibility” on the G20 and the international community as a whole for the refugees who fled their homes, for various reasons, in the hope of finding a better future in foreign countries. We clearly pointed out to our colleagues that the root cause of this unprecedented wave of migration in Europe and other countries is the irresponsible policy of flagrant military interference in the internal affairs of sovereign states, primarily in the Middle East and North Africa. The most serious factor is, of course, the aggression against Libya, which has destroyed the country and has turned it into a black hole for the transfer of illegal weapons, drugs and organised crime to southern Africa. The northbound transit, above all via Libya, has brought migrants to Europe where they have become a major problem, including for the EU.

Another subject on which Russian delegates spoke actively here is the fight against terrorism. We drew the international attention to a new phenomenon of the so-called foreign terrorist fighters who return back to their home or other countries after completing criminal jobs in Libya, Syria, Iraq or some other places. It is vitally important to trace the movement of these dangerous people. Several years ago, Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) created a database of foreign terrorist fighters. This database involves 42 security services from 35 countries, including G20 members, such as the BRICS countries, Turkey and South Korea. The UN Security Council Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC), Interpol, the CIS Anti-Terrorism Centre, the SCO Regional Anti-Terrorism Structure (RATS) and other international organisations have joined this database. We actively promoted this experience at the G20 summit where it aroused keen interest.

Question: Have you managed to bring across to our European partners the truth on what really happened in the Black Sea (and not in the Sea of Azov, as they usually write)? Have they finally heard our position?

Sergey Lavrov: I think they could not but hear it because President Vladimir Putin, while meeting with President of France Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, personally explained “in lay terms” how all this happened, how the provocation had been planned and how its execution was attempted, as well as how responsibly the Russian border guards performed their functions trying to prevent any undesirable incidents. Regrettably, the [Ukrainian] agents provocateurs (and the provocation, carried out by two craft and a tug, was controlled by two Ukrainian Security Service officers) did their best to fulfill the order, which was found after the Russian border guards stepped on board these fire-support craft. It said in no uncertain terms that they should secretly penetrate the neutral waters, perform a breakthrough under the Crimean Bridge without giving any previous notice or hiring a pilot, and sail through the Kerch Strait to the Sea of Azov. President Putin personally told his interlocutors about this. I did not hear from them a response that would be based on different facts.

Question: It is important to note a totally different level of cooperation between Russia, India and China. One gets the impression that this time a unique mutual understanding took shape within the G20 between the three countries that together account for one-third of the world population. They have a totally different point of view than, for example, America and its partners, whom it is easier to call “satellites.”

Sergey Lavrov: It was the first Russia-India-China summit (RIC Group, as we call it) since 2006. The leaders of our three countries have agreed that this format should be maintained, including by holding regular summits in addition to ministerial and expert contacts that, basically, have not been discontinued during these years. What unites our countries was emphasised at the RIC meeting. This is primarily the striving not to allow the disintegration of multilateral universal organisations that are based on the UN Charter and the principles enshrined in it, such as equality, respect for sovereignty, and non-interference in internal affairs. Generally, an intention was voiced to defend the foundations of the multilateral, open economic and trade system. Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi clearly spoke out against the sanctions that were increasingly often used in this sphere by the United States in the hope of enhancing its competitiveness and getting unfair competitive advantages.

As I said, the [three] leaders have agreed to continue holding summits, while instructing their foreign ministers to prepare for the RIC leaders proposals on how to make this cooperation more effective and promote it in new spheres.

Question: Is there any hope that these three countries – Russia, India and China – will have a common understanding and will vote unanimously in the UN Security Council?

Sergey Lavrov: India is not yet a full member of the UN Security Council, but it was elected several times as a non-permanent member for two years. We have identical views on the overwhelming majority of subjects. It is notable that our countries’ positions often overlap not only in the UN Security Council but also during voting on matters of fundamental importance at the UN.

Another example has to do with the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and concerns a scandalous process which the West has launched in gross violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). When the Western countries proposed giving the OPCW’s Technical Secretariat the prerogatives that actually belong to the UN Security Council, India, Russia and other like-minded countries unanimously voted against this. The BRICS countries co-authored a statement in which they sharply criticised such inappropriate actions and demanded that all states respect the CWC and their obligations under it. I have mentioned BRICS for a reason, because President of Russia Vladimir Putin, President of China Xi Jinping and Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi have said that these three countries are the driving force behind such organisations as BRICS and the SCO, which India has recently joined. We are connected geographically and politically, share common views on the key aspects of the world order, want all disputes to be settled peacefully and would like to have a free, open and fair trade and economic system, which, taken together, makes us allies in these matters.

Question: Presidents Putin and Trump have held a short meeting after all. As for US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, was he evading you, or did he have to meet with you?

Sergey Lavrov: Of course, I did not pursue him, and he did not try to meet with me. To be quite frank, I do not even know if he is here, because I have not seen the full US delegation. US National Security Adviser John Bolton said in a conversation with Presidential Aide Yury Ushakov, who deals with political matters, that they [the US administration] would like to resume and normalise our dialogue. We are ready to do this as soon as our colleagues are.

Question: As far as I know, there have been very interesting discussions on Syria. Has Russia managed to move the Western countries towards the realistic Russian view on the Syrian problem?

Sergey Lavrov: I don’t know how close we have managed to move them towards our position, but it is becoming increasingly clear that they don’t have any alternative strategy or tactic on this matter. Likewise, it is becoming clear that unacceptable things are taking place on the eastern bank of the Euphrates. The United States is trying to create quasi-public structures there, investing hundreds of millions of dollars so that the people could resume a normal peaceful way of life in these regions. At the same time, they refuse to rebuild the infrastructure in the regions that are controlled by the Syrian government. It is becoming obvious to everyone that the developments on the eastern bank of the Euphrates run contrary to the general commitment to Syria’s territorial integrity as sealed in a relevant UN Security Council resolution, although the United States has been trying to present its activities there as a temporary solution.

The US activities on the eastern bank of the Euphrates and in other Syrian regions where it has special forces and advisers include playing the Kurdish card. It is a very dangerous game, considering that the Kurdish question is very acute in several countries apart from Syria, such as Iraq, Iran and, obviously, Turkey. President Putin discussed this matter at a meeting with President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the last day of the G20 session. They have confirmed their commitments regarding the Idlib de-escalation zone. We pointed out that not all extremists have heeded the demand to leave the 20-mile demilitarised zone, despite the active and consistent operations of our Turkish colleagues. We have coordinated further moves to ensure compliance with the agreement on the demilitarised zone and also to prevent the extremists from sabotaging this crucial agreement, which all sides welcomed.

The third aspect of the Syrian subject is the political process. The overwhelming majority of countries agree that the Constitution Committee, which is being created at the initiative of the three guarantor countries of the Astana process as per the decisions of the Syrian National Dialogue Congress held in Sochi, is the only viable method to start implementing UN Security Council Resolution 2254, under which all Syrian sides must hold negotiations to coordinate common and mutually acceptable views on life in their country and on its future development. This is exactly what is stipulated in the above-mentioned UN Security Council resolution. After they reach this understanding, they should adopt a new constitution and hold elections based on its provisions. However, as I have said before, no reasonable alternatives have been proposed over the past years to the initiatives advanced by the three Astana countries on combating terrorism, creating conditions for the return of the refugees and internally displaced persons back home, providing humanitarian aid and launching a political process.

Question: When the death of President George H.W. Bush was announced, President Putin expressed his condolences in a very emotional message. George Bush Sr. believed that one of the worst mistakes of his presidency was failure to prevent the Soviet Union’s dissolution. Did you meet with him? What are your impressions of him?

Sergey Lavrov: I did not meet with him often, but we did meet. I believe that George Bush Sr greatly contributed to the development of the United States and ensured that his country responsibly played its role in the world, considering its weight in international affairs.

I remember very well how President George H.W. Bush visited Moscow, I believe it was in 1991, and then he went to Ukraine where he encouraged the Soviet republics’ political forces to act responsibly and do their duty by preserving the country rather than create huge, tragic problems for millions of people who became citizens of different states the next morning after the Soviet Union collapsed.

Mr Bush was a great politician. I believe that every word that will be said about his achievements reflect the people’s true attitude to this man. However, one comment among the great number of condolence messages can be connected to your question about the link between President Bush and the demise of the Soviet Union. I watched CNN and Fox News on the day he died, and I heard a commentator say that George Bush Sr made history by helping Mikhail Gorbachev soft-land the Soviet Union. In fact, George Bush Sr never did that; he simply wanted to protect the millions of people who had lived in one country for decades or even centuries from political games. This is what we can say confidently about him.

***

Question: Do you think there is a connection between the provocation in the Kerch Strait and the US cancellation of the planned meeting between our presidents?

Sergey Lavrov: I don’t believe in the conspiracy theories. However, there have been too many coincidences, when a provocation that takes place ahead of a major event is used for fanning hysteria over sanctions. British Prime Minister Theresa May has demanded that Brussels further worsen its Russia policy, even though Britain has almost exited the EU.

We know our partners very well, and we have masses of questions about the adequacy of their approach to serious problems. There are very serious and very real threats. The fight against these challenges cannot be improved by making sacrifices to immediate geopolitical considerations.

Question: When will President Putin and President Trump hold a full-scale meeting after all?

Sergey Lavrov: I won’t even try to guess.

“RIC”: BRICS after Bolsonaro

November 08, 2018

by Ghassan Kadi for The Saker Blog

BRICS is the acronym of the “alliance” that includes Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

In reality, and with all due respect to Brazil and South Africa, BRICS is about RIC.

With Russia, India and China, in any order, there lies the future of Eurasia; the virtually unchartered quarter that houses over one third of the entire world population; a huge chunk of landmass, rich in resources, not only human resources, and just waiting for the right moment to make its mark in history.

The so-called “Silk Road”, or in reality silk roads, was historically the network of caravan paths that ancient traders took on their journeys from east to west, linking worlds largely unknown to each other, long before Vasco da Gama’s highly documented trips.

And whilst the ancient cultures of India and China flourished in their own right, apart from Alexander’s conquest, the Muslim and subsequent Mongol conquests, there was little historic geopolitical interaction between that far Far East and the Middle East; let alone Europe. The long icy and hard terrain made it very difficult, even for the brave at heart, to take the journey from Beijing to Vienna. The temptations to make that trip did not match the hardship of the journey for the averagely motivated traveler.

But this is all about to change. The new “Silk Road”, the network of super highways that the “RIC” nations are intent to build is going to change this status quo and shorten land distances.

The Trans-Siberian railway is a Russian route and constructing it linked Vladivostok with Moscow, but it was not intended to link China with Europe. If anything, it helped bolster the isolation of the USSR. But the new “Silk Road” project will change the transportation map of the world upside down once and for ever.

The determination to build this massive road network does not need either Brazil or South Africa; again with all due respect to both nations.

By taking many considerations into account, we must be realistic and say that the electoral win of Brazilian candidate Bolsonaro will not affect the prospect of the “Silk Road” one way or the other. The repercussions of his election will affect Brazil more than any other country. Purportedly, his policies will affect global climate, but this is another issue. His fiscal and international policy making decisions may put Brazil under the American sphere of influence, and this unfortunately can and will affect Brazil very adversely, but the damage is likely to be restricted to Brazil only.

With or without Brazil, BRICS can survive, but for it to survive and make a difference, it will need to become more serious about conducting its business.

The first step towards becoming more proactive is best done by establishing proper trust and conciliation between the three major players; Russia, China and India.

The love-hate relationship that marred the Soviet-Maoist era took a while to heal. The Russians and the Chinese seem to have gone many steps ahead towards establishing trust and confidence in each other. But China and India continue to have serious problems, and for as long as they have border and sovereignty disputes, this hinders them from becoming effective partners in every way.

Furthermore, BRICS needs a preamble and a Statement of Purpose. At the moment, it doesn’t have one. With all of its hypocrisies, the Western alliance camouflages itself behind the veil of Christian values, democracy and the “free world” slogans. Thus far, the only undeclared statement of purpose for BRICS seems to be that of defiance to the Western alliance.

The BRICS alliance will face a struggle founding an attractive preamble. Orthodox Christian Russia, predominantly Hindu India and Communist/Taoist/Buddhist China have little in common religiously speaking. Perhaps the BRICS leaders should be using common political grounds instead. They certainly cannot use democracy; not only because such an adoption would make them look as copycats, but also because they have different ideas about democracy, and Russia and China definitely do not endorse Western-style democracy.

In reality however, BRICS can use abstract lofty principles as their preamble; principles such as morality, honesty, and if they want to be less “theological” as it were, they could use principles such as “International law”, “International equality” and the like.

Apart from accumulating gold, building bridges and super road networks, planning fiscal measures to cushion the effects of a possible collapse of the Western economy on their own economies, developing state-of-the-art hypersonic weaponry and giving a clear message announcing that the world is no longer unipolar, the BRICS alliance ought to make clear statements about what kind of alternative world it envisions.

This is very important, because a significant percentage of the world population does not know what to expect if the BRICS alliance becomes the new dominant financial and military power. They have special concerns about China because they don’t know much about China, and they worry not only about whether or not China will be a new colonial super power, but they also worry about one day waking up and seeing traffic signals in Mandarin; so to speak.

To many people across the globe, the Chinese culture, language and modus operandi look like something from another planet.

The Cyrillic Russian and the Devanagari Indian scripts are no less daunting than the Mandarin script, but many Indians and Russians speak English and the West has had much more cultural interaction with both Russia and India than it ever did with China.

Furthermore, for the BRICS alliance to become more viable, it will need to develop a military alliance akin to that of NATO. When and if such an alliance is forged, then members will be protected as any attack on one will be considered as an attack on the whole coalition. Such an alliance will not increase the chances of war. Quite the contrary in fact, as it can lead to much needed stability. If for argument sake North Korea were a member, it would not be in a situation where it can claim that it needs nuclear weapons for self-defense, and secondly, the West would not be threatening to attack for fear of a major global escalation. The Cold-War, costly and potentially disastrous as it was, presents a successful model of nuclear deterrence. And in retrospect, had Vietnam been a member of the Warsaw Pact (or a similar one that included the USSR), it is possible that America’s war on Vietnam would have been averted. A more realistically plausible scenario is the case of former Yugoslavia. Had the Warsaw Pact been still standing, NATO would have never attacked Serbia back in 1999.

To be able to afford a more effective military deterrent, be a viable stand-alone economic power and to be attractive to the rest of the world, the BRICS coalition will ultimately need more member nations. Ideally, it would be of huge significance if Japan could be convinced to join it. The inclusion of Japan will not only add a huge financial power to the group, but it will also generate an in-house regional security to the China Sea region. Baby steps have been recently made between China and Japan towards conciliation, and much more needs to be done. It will take a lot of work and good intentions on both sides to undo a long history of hostilities and distrust.

Other nations that can and arguably should enter the coalition are; Venezuela, Mexico, Argentina, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Korea, Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia, and post Erdogan Turkey. Why post Erdogan? Because Erdogan’s Turkey can turn BRICS into a bag of TRICS.

Resource-rich Australia has much to gain in joining such an alliance as this will not only bolster its own security, but it will also secure economic stability and on-going trade.

Thus far, all the official visits that the RIC leaders have exchanged, all the business deals they made, all the projects they are embarking on, huge as they are, are only baby steps towards turning their alliance into one that can lead the world and establish the necessary moral, financial and security foundations that are capable of underpinning it.

Over and above establishing a new world reserve currency, setting up an alternative to the US-based Internet and WWW, SWIFT, etc, the brave new world will need hope, trust, morality and concrete assurances for a long-awaited change for the better. These are the real challenges facing the BRICS alliance now; not the Bolsonaro win.

Welcome to the Jungle

October 31, 2018

by Pepe Escobar (cross-posted with Consortium News by special agreement with the author)

A troubling new era has begun in Brazil with the election on Sunday of the far-right Jair Bolsonaro as president, writes Pepe Escobar.

It’s darkness at the break of (tropical) high noon.

Jean Baudrillard once defined Brazil as “the chlorophyll of our planet”. And yet a land vastly associated worldwide with the soft power of creative joie de vivre has elected a fascist for president.

Brazil is a land torn apart. Former paratrooper Jair Bolsonaro was elected with 55.63 percent of votes. Yet a record 31 million votes were ruled absent or null and void. No less than 46 million Brazilians voted for the Workers’ Party’s candidate, Fernando Haddad; a professor and former mayor of Sao Paulo, one of the crucial megalopolises of the Global South. The key startling fact is that over 76 million Brazilians did not vote for Bolsonaro.

His first speech as president exuded the feeling of a trashy jihad by a fundamentalist sect laced with omnipresent vulgarity and the exhortation of a God-given dictatorship as the path towards a new Brazilian Golden Age.

French-Brazilian sociologist Michael Lowy has described the Bolsonaro phenomenon as “pathological politics on a large scale”.

His ascension was facilitated by an unprecedented conjunction of toxic factors such as the massive social impact of crime in Brazil, leading to a widespread belief in violent repression as the only solution; the concerted rejection of the Workers’ Party, catalyzed by financial capital, rentiers, agribusiness and oligarchic interests; an evangelical tsunami; a “justice” system historically favoring the upper classes and embedded in State Department-funded “training” of judges and prosecutors, including the notorious Sergio Moro, whose single-minded goal during the alleged anti-corruption Car Wash investigation was to send Lula to prison; and the absolute aversion to democracy by vast sectors of the Brazilian ruling classes.

That is about to coalesce into a radically anti-popular, God-given, rolling neoliberal shock; paraphrasing Lenin, a case of fascism as the highest stage of neoliberalism. After all, when a fascist sells a “free market” agenda, all his sins are forgiven.

 

Bolsonaro: Leader of trashy jihad.

The Reign of BBBB

It’s impossible to understand the rise of Bolsonarism without the background of the extremely sophisticated Hybrid War unleashed on Brazil by the usual suspects. NSA spying – ranging from the Petrobras energy giant all the way to then President Dilma Rousseff’s mobile phone – was known since mid-2013 after Edward Snowden showed how Brazil was the most spied upon Latin American nation in the 2000’s.

The Pentagon-supplicant Superior War College in Rio has always been in favor of a gradual – but surefire – militarization of Brazilian politics aligned with U.S. national security interests. The curriculum of top U.S. military academies was uncritically adopted by the Superior War College.

The managers of Brazil’s industrial-military-technological complex largely survived the 1964-1985 dictatorship. They learned everything about psyops from the French in Algeria and the Americans in Vietnam. Over the years they evolved their conception of the enemy within; not only the proverbial “communists”, but also the Left as a whole as well as the vast masses of dispossessed Brazilians.

This led to the recent situation of generals threatening judges if they ever set Lula free. Bolsonaro’s running mate, the crude Generalito Hamilton Mourao, even threatened a military coup if the ticket did not win. Bolsonaro himself said he would never “accept” defeat.

This evolving militarization of politics perfectly meshed with the cartoonish BBBB (Bullet, Beef, Bible, Bank) Brazilian Congress.

Congress is virtually controlled by military, police and paramilitary forces; the powerful agribusiness and mining lobby, with their supreme goal of totally plundering the Amazon rainforest; evangelical factions; and banking/financial capital. Compare it with the fact that more than half of senators and one third of Congress are facing criminal investigations.

The Bolsonaro campaign used every trick in the book to flee any possibility of a TV debate, faithful to the notion that political dialogue is for suckers, especially when there’s nothing to debate.

After all, Bolsonaro’s top economic advisor, Chicago Boy Paulo Guedes – currently under investigation for securities fraud – had already promised to “cure” Brazil by bearing the usual gifts: privatize everything; destroy social spending; get rid of all labor laws as well as the minimum wage; let the beef lobby plunder the Amazon; and increase the weaponizing of all citizens to uber-NRA levels.

No wonder The Wall Street Journal normalized Bolsonaro as a “conservative populist” and the “Brazilian swamp-drainer”; this fact-free endorsement ignores that Bolsonaro is a lowly politico who has only passed two pieces of legislation in his 27 lackluster years in Congress.

WhatsApp Me to the Promised Land

Even as large misinformed masses progressively became aware of the massive Bolsonaro campaign manipulative scams on WhatsApp – a tropical post-Cambridge Analytica saga; and even as Bolsonaro pledged, on the record, that opponents would have only two options after Sunday’s elections, jail or exile, that was still not enough to arrest Brazil from inexorably slouching towards a dystopian, militarized BET (Banana Evangelical Theocracy).

In any mature democracy a bunch of businessmen – via black accounting – financing a multi-tentacle fake news campaign on WhatsApp against the Workers’ Party and Lula’s candidate Haddad would qualify as a major scandal.

WhatsApp is wildly popular in Brazil, much more than Facebook; so it had to be properly instrumentalized in this Brazilian remix of Cambridge Analytica-style Hybrid War.

The tactics were absolutely illegal because they qualified as undeclared campaign donations as well as corporate donations (forbidden by the Brazilian Supreme Court since 2015). The Brazilian Federal Police started an investigation that now is bound to head the same way of the Saudis investigating themselves on the Pulp Fiction fiasco in Istanbul.

The fake news tsunami was managed by the so-called Bolsominions. They are a hyper-loyal volunteer army, which purges anyone who dares to question the “Myth” (as the leader is referred to), while manipulating content 24/7 into memes, viral fake videos and assorted displays of “Bolso-swarm” ire.

Consider Washington’s outrage at Russians that may have interfered in U.S. elections allegedly using the same tactics the U.S. and its comprador elites used in Brazil.

Smashing the BRICS

Crushing the BRICS (Russian presidency)

 

On foreign policy, as far as Washington is concerned, Reichskommissar Bolsonaro may be very useful on three fronts.

The first one is geo-economic: to get the lion’s share of the vast pre-salt reserves for U.S. energy giants.

That would be the requisite follow-up to the coup de grace against Dilma Rousseff in 2013, when she approved a law orienting 75 percent of oil wealth royalties towards education and 25 percent to health care; a significant U.S.$ 122 billion over 10 years.

The other two fronts are geopolitical: blowing up the BRICS from the inside, and getting Brazil to do the dirty work in a Venezuela regime change ops, thus fulfilling the Beltway obsession on smashing the Venezuela-Cuba axis.

Using the pretext of mass immigration from Venezuela to the Brazilian stretch of the Amazon, Colombia – elevated to the status of key NATO partner, and egged on by Washington – is bound to count on Brazilian military support for regime change.

And then there’s the crucial China story.

China and Brazil are close BRICS partners. BRICS by now essentially means RC (Russia and China), much to the disgust of Moscow and Beijing, which counted on Haddad following in the footsteps of Lula, who was instrumental in enhancing BRICS geopolitical clout.

That brings us to a key point of inflexion in the rolling Hybrid War coup, when the Brazilian military became convinced that Rousseff’s cabinet was infiltrated by agents of Chinese intel.

Still, China remains Brazil’s top trade partner – ahead of the U.S., with bilateral trade reaching $75 billion last year. In parallel to being an avid consumer of Brazilian commodities, Beijing has already invested $124 billion in Brazilian companies and infrastructure projects since 2003.

Chicago Boy Guedes has recently met with Chinese diplomats. Bolsonaro is bound to receive a top Chinese delegation right at the start of his mandate. On the campaign trail, he hammered that “China is not buying in Brazil, China is buying Brazil”. Bolsonaro might attempt to pull a mini-Trump sanction overdrive on China. Yet he must be aware that the powerful agribusiness lobby has been profiting immensely from the U.S.-China trade war.

A mighty cliffhanger is guaranteed to come at the 2019 BRICS summit, which will take place in Brazil: picture tough guy Bolsonaro face to face with the real boss, Xi Jinping.

So what is the Brazilian military really up to? Answer: the Brazilian “Dependency Doctrine” – which is a true neocolonial mongrel.

On one level, the Brazilian military leadership is developmentalist, geared towards territorial integration, well-patrolled borders and fully disciplined, internal, social and economic “order.” At the same time they believe this should all be carried out under the supervision of the “indispensable nation.”

The military leaders reason that their own country is not knowledgeable enough to fight organized crime, cyber-security, bio-security, and, on the economy, to fully master a minimal state coupled with fiscal reform and austerity. For the bulk of the military elite, private foreign capital is always benign.

An inevitable consequence is to see Latin American and African nations as untermenschen; a reaction against Lula’s and Dilma’s emphasis on the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) and closer energy and logistical integration with Africa.

Can’t Rule Out Military Coup

Despite this there is internal military dissent – which could even open a possible way towards the removal of Bolsonaro, a mere puppet, to the benefit of the real thing: a general.

When the Workers’ Party was in power, the Navy and the Air Force were quite pleased by strategic projects such as a nuclear submarine, a supersonic fighter jet and satellites launched by Made in Brazil rockets. Their reaction remains to be seen in the event Bolsonaro ditches these techno-breakthroughs for good.

The key question may be whether there is a direct connection between the cream of the crop of Brazilian military academies; the “dependency generals” and their psyops techniques; different evangelical factions; and the post-Cambridge Analytica tactics deployed by the Bolsonaro campaign. Would it be a nebula congregating all these cells, or is it a loose network?

Arguably the best answer is provided by war anthropologist Piero Leirner, who conducted deep research in the Brazilian Armed Forces and told me, “there’s no previous connection. Bolsonaro is a post-fact. The only possible connection is between certain campaign traits and psyops.” Leirner stresses, “Cambridge Analytica and Bannon represent the infrastructure, but the quality of information, to send contradictory signals and then an order resolution coming as a third way, this is military strategy from CIA psyop manuals.”

Brazilian Military: Keeping an eye on Bolsonaro. (Wikimedia Commons)

There are cracks though. Leirner sees the arch of disparate forces supporting Bolsonaro as a “bricolage” which sooner or later will disintegrate. What next? A sub-Pinochet General?

Why Bolsonaro is not Trump

In The Road to Somewhere; The Populist Revolt and the Future of Politics, David Goodhart shows that the driving force behind populism is not the fascist love of an ultra-nation. It’s anomie – that feeling of a vague existential threat posed by modernity. That applies to all forms of Right populism in the West.

Thus we have the opposition between “Somewheres” and “Anywheres”. We have “Somewheres” that want their nations’ democracy to be enjoyed only by the “home” ethnicity, with the national culture not contaminated by “foreign” influences.

And we have “Anywheres” who inhabit the roootless postmodern vortex of multiculturalism and foreign travel for business. These are a demographic minority – but a majority within political, economic, educational and professional elites.

This leads Goodhart to make a crucial distinction between populism and fascism – ideologically and psychologically.

The standard legal distinction can be found in German constitutional law. Right populism is “radical” – thus legal. Fascism is “extreme,” thus illegal.

Trump being labeled a “fascist” is false. Bolsonaro in the West has been labeled “The Tropical Trump.” The fact is Trump is a Right populist – who happens to deploy a few policies that could even be characterized as Old Left.

The record reveals Bolsonaro as a racist, misogynist, homophobic, weaponizing thug, favoring a white, patriarchal, hierarchical, hetero-normative and “homogenous” Brazil; an absurdity in a deeply unequal society still ravaged by the effects of slavery and where the majority of the population is mixed race. Besides, historically, fascism is a radical bourgeois Final Solution about total annihilation of the working class. That makes Bolsonaro an outright fascist.

Trump is even mode moderate than Bolsonaro. He does not incite supporters to literally exterminate his opponents. After all, Trump has to respect the framework of a republic with long-standing, even if flawed, democratic institutions.

That was never the case in the young Brazilian democracy – where a president may now behave as if human rights are a communist, and UN, plot. The Brazilian working classes, intellectual elites, social movements and all minorities have plenty of reasons to fear the New Order; in Bolsonaro’s own words, “they will be banned from our motherland.” The criminalization/dehumanization of any opposition means, literally, that tens of millions of Brazilians are worthless.

Talk to Nietzsche

The sophisticated Hybrid War rolling coup in Brazil that started in 2014, had a point of inflexion in 2016 and culminating in 2018 with impeaching a president; jailing another; smashing the Right and the Center-Right; and in a post-politics-on-steroids manner, opening the path to neo-fascism.

Bolsonaro though is a – mediocre – black void cipher. He does not have the political structure, the knowledge, not to mention the intelligence to have come so far, our of the blue, without a hyper-complex, state of the art, cross-border intel support system. No wonder he’s a Steve Bannon darling.

In contrast, the Left – as in Europe – once again was stuck in analog mode. No way any progressive front, especially in this case as it was constituted at the eleventh hour, could possibly combat the toxic tsunami of cultural war, identity politics and micro-targeted fake news.

They lost a major battle. At least they now know this is hardcore, all-out war. To destroy Lula – the world’s foremost political prisoner – the Brazilian elites had to destroy Brazil. Still, Nietzsche always prevails; whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. The vanguard of global resistance against neo-fascism as the higher stage of neoliberalism has now moved south of the Equator. No pasarán.

Pepe Escobar, a veteran Brazilian journalist, is the correspondent-at-large for Hong Kong-based Asia Times. His latest book is 2030. Follow him on Facebook.

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Brazilian Ambassador to Moscow Completes Mission, Predicts Future of Relations with RussiaBrazil and Iran Develop New Agribusiness Strategy and Boost Cooperation

Source

 

What will the dynamics of Russian-Brazilian relations in the context of succession of governments look like? The long history of friendship between the two peoples, which just celebrated 190 years, shows that it has always been solid, regardless of the politicians who were in power and the ideology that guided the states.

Today, at the headquarters of Russia’s Foreign Ministry, in the heart of Moscow, a solemn ceremony was held for the opening of the exhibition dedicated to the recent anniversary of the bilateral relationship between the two countries. The event provided a recapitulation presented in photos and documents of the Russian-Brazilian ties from its beginning, dated October 3, 1828, to the present Temer government.

In addition to numerous diplomats, including from other Latin American countries, professors, academics and journalists, the ceremony was attended by distinguished guests – Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and the Brazilian ambassador to Moscow, Antonio Luis Espinola Salgado, who is about to complete his diplomatic mission in the Russian capital.

“It is symbolic that Brazil was the first country in Latin America with which the Russian government established diplomatic ties. In fact, Brazil served as a ‘gateway’ to this unique region for Russia. We have accumulated considerable experience of constructive cooperation,” said the Russian official, speaking at the opening of the event.

Ekaterina_Nenakhova_SputnikBR@ESputnikbr
Sergei Lavrov stressed the importance of Russian-Brazilian interaction in issues such as peace, which is nourished by the ideological proximity of the doctrines of the two countries, reiterating the importance of close coordination in such platforms as the UN, G20 and BRICS. The minister also took the opportunity to underline the successes of cultural projects, such as the Bolshoi Theater School in Joinville, the only affiliate of this kind abroad.

“According to the Brazilian proverb, my friend is not the one who says he is going, but rather the one that says I am going with you. Nowadays there is a clear bilateral interest in moving forward and in deepening the Russian-Brazilian strategic partnership,” said the minister.

Ekaterina_Nenakhova_SputnikBR@ESputnikbr
Brazilian ambassador Antonio Luis Espinola Salgado evaluated the results of his two-year diplomatic mission, which began several months after the arrival of the Temer government.

“In the two years that I was here in front of the embassy in Moscow, relations between Russia and Brazil deepened, we had the visit of President Temer in June 2017, during which several documents were signed, political dialogue has been developing at many levels and on a range of topics, from disarmament, non-proliferation of arms and human rights to multilateral issues,” said the diplomat.

Brazil – Bolsonaro Towards a Military Dictatorship – Worse than 80 Years Ago

October 23, 2018

by Peter Koenig for The Saker Blog

Brazil – Bolsonaro Towards a Military Dictatorship – Worse than 80 Years Ago

One week before the second round of voting in Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, the extreme right-wing candidate from the Social Liberal Party (PSL), against Fernando Haddad from the Worker’s Party (PT), Lula’s Party, for Brazil’s Presidential run-off elections – Bolsonaro leads to polls by double digits, about 58 against 42. And the gap is growing, despite the fact that as recent as end of September 2018, Brazilian women campaigned massively against Bolsonaro with the hashtag #EleNao (Not Him). His misogynist record left him with only 27% of women supporters only a couple of weeks ago. Massive cheat-and lie-propaganda increased that ratio by now to 42%. – Does anybody seriously believe that Bolsonaro has changed his racist character and his women-degrading attitude? – It is mind-boggling how people fall for propaganda lies and manipulations.

The usual propaganda of deceit from the right has infiltrated every election in the last 5-10 years, starting with the sophisticated internet and propaganda fraud invented by Oxford Analytica (OA), which is largely believed having brought Trump to the White House, Macri to the Casa Rosada in Buenos Aires, Macron to the Elysée in Paris and Mme. Merkel for the fourth time to the German Federal Chanceller’s office in Berlin – among others. OA is also said having helped the BREXIT supporters. In the meantime, OA’s dirty election manipulation methods have been mainstreamed to the mainstream media – with lots and lots of corporate and banking money.

In fact, the frontrunner Bolsonaro is currently being accused by his opponent Fernando Haddad, of a ‘fraud and fake news’ campaign, and that just a few days before the run-off. The charge is that Bolsonaro is running a multi-million-dollar defamation campaign against Haddad, via whatsapp and other social media. This means sending out literally millions of tailor-made messages to potential groups of voters. That’s the way of the of OA’s algorithms.

According to RT, Haddad told a media conference in Rio,

“We have identified a campaign of slander and defamation via WhatsApp and, given the mass of messages, we know that there was dirty money behind it, because it wasn’t registered with the Supreme Electoral Tribunal.” This, after the Folha de S.Paulo newspaper uncovered a suspected election fraud. The publication alleges that a group of entrepreneurs are backing a multi-million-dollar slander campaign that would use several popular social media apps to reach out to Haddad supporters and smear his name with ‘fake news’.

We can only hope that the discovery of this slander and fraud may not be too late to stop Bolsonaro’s end run – and to inform voters. Leading to an indictment of Bolsonaro is hardly a realistic chance, as he is supported by the current corrupt and fascist-type Temer Government and all the high judges who have impeded Lula’s legitimate request for running for Presidency. Only voters’ consciousness may make a difference.

Imagine what happens, if Bolsonaro is elected? – It is hardly fathomable. Bolsonaro has already declared that if elected he will render full power to the military. “When I’m elected, those who will command are the (military) captains”. His word – in Portuguese.

He is a fascist no doubt. There were other fascist military governments in Brazil, like Getúlio Vargas, who reigned from 1930-1945 as a military dictator mostly by decree. He abrogated the 1891 Constitution and introduced a new one in 1934 which was overturned, when finally, in 1945 Vargas was deposed and a new democratization process began with a new Constitution being introduced in 1946. But that was not all for fascism and military dictatorship in Brazil. There was more to come in the decades preceding Lula.

Another brutal military government came to power in 1964 by a coup d’état by the Armed Forces. It ruled Brazil from 1 April 1964 to 15 March 1985 by President Joao Goulart. It came to an end when José Sarney took office on 15 March 1985. What’s important to know is that both the Vargas coup of 1930, as well as the 1964 military coup were supported by the US Embassy in Brazil and the State Department in Washington. Mr. Bolsonaro has already today – after the first election round – the full support of Washington. He was immediately congratulated by the Trump government after the October 7 election result were known.

If no miracle happens within the coming week, Brazil may be slanted to go back some 90 years, into a fierce military dictatorship. Worse, today with the neoliberal doctrine being the overarching last word on economic policies, also for the military. We are looking at full privatization of everything, of social services, water and health privatization has already begun; basic and profitable infrastructure, natural resources – and the IMF, World Bank, FED-Wall Street indebtment is already well under way and its future programmed, including a devastating austerity program which under unelected Mr. Corrupt Temer has already started.

In fact, economic disaster in terms of dependence on IMF, WB and the FED, may also loom under Haddad, who has already said he would work with the financial fiefdom of Washington. As Luiz Inacio Lula did, when he was elected in 2002. He was the “golden example boy” for the IMF, following strictly the rules he was taught would bring progress to his country. Later he realized what was actually going on within the financial sector of Brazil. He corrected some of the aberrations, but many stayed in place throughout Dilma Rousseff’s Presidency.

Brazil could become South America’s Greece – just multiplied by a factor of 100.

Just imagine the political and economic impact this would have on the Latin American region. Brazil is by far the largest economy of Latin America with a GDP of about 2.1 trillion US-dollars in 2017, a population of 210 million and a landmass 8.516 million km2 – and with the world’s largest known fresh water reserves. Trade without Brazil is unthinkable for Latin America and the world. Plus, a Bolsonaro regime would have full ideological and military support from Washington. In fact – Brazil may soon become the second South American NATO country after Colombia.

How would Venezuela feel, surrounded by two fierce militarized NATO countries? – Washington could just smile and watch, while Colombia and Brazil – and their NATO command – would do the rest. Or would they? – Venezuela is on the best way to detach herself from the dollar hegemony and ally with the East. And that not only in trade, but also in huge investments from China and Russia. Invading Venezuela would not be easy, despite NATO from the east and from the west and with the empire just across the Caribbean.

Back to Bolsonaro. It will not be as easy to thrash this fascist military doctrine, of a President, hitherto hardly known to the outside world, down the average Brazilians’ throats. Their vote and mind may be manipulated, but once they wake up – the election may be past, and the Temer policies implemented by factors of ten – social suffering will increase, à la Greece – people may simply not take it.

They will realize that this entire propaganda farce serves only a few Brazilian oligarchs, but mostly the transnational corporations and banks. – Will they take to the streets? Demand another government, fight for their rights? Brazilians are not (yet) the kind to double up and shut up, as the Greeks had to do, weakened by a Government of treason, by an absence of medical and other social services and by a low-low moral that is reflected in an exponentially rising suicide rate, according to the British Lancet. Brazilians may have learned a lesson.

Brazil and the BRICS. Already under Temer, Brazil’s role in the BRICS was merely anecdotal. It was clear that politically Brazil would and could no longer adhere to the principles that was behind the BRICS association, namely economic independence from the debt masters IMF, World Bank and FED. – What with Bolsonaro? – It would behoove the BRICS expulsing Brazil; sending Brazilians a warning now, before the run-off elections, that no fascist government could be admitted within the ranks of the BRICS. Fascism is the absolute antidote to the new alliances of SCO, BRICS, EEU, and newly the Caspian Sea Alliance (Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkmenistan).

But – and this is highly important – let’s not let it get out of hand. Let not Bolsonaro being elected this coming Sunday. Make the right choice now. Regardless what you are being manipulated to believe. Stand up Brazilians, Women and men – say #NAO Bolsonaro!

Peter Koenig is an economist and geopolitical analyst. He is also a water resources and environmental specialist. He worked for over 30 years with the World Bank and the World Health Organizationaround the world in the fields of environment and water. He lectures at universities in the US, Europe and South America. He writes regularly for Global Research; ICH; RT; Sputnik; PressTV; The 21st Century; TeleSUR; The Vineyard of The Saker Blog, the New Eastern Outlook (NEO); 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.

A Glimpse Beyond the Unipolar Moment

 

October 13, 2018

by Norman Ball for the Saker Blog

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“Potentially the most dangerous scenario would be a grand coalition of China, Russia and perhaps Iran, an ‘anti-hegemonic’ coalition, united not by ideology but by complementary grievances” —Zbigniew Brzezinski

Are we reaching the penultimate and petulant back-end of the American Empire’s Unipolar Moment, a denouement hastened by a raft of sanctions regimes as imperiously doled out as they are laden with unconsidered paradox?

Though the sun is prohibited from casting its light between them, Nation and Empire are not an organically indivisible formation. Indeed Americans, no less than others, should relish the prospect of a resumed, unalloyed nationhood after decades of Empire co-optation. Few Americans realize the skulking entity that looms in the shadows of their overrun and diminished formal institutions as being a separable imposition capable of (to use a Benjamin Netanyahu phrase) drying up and blowing away.

Empire overlay is an uninvited and usurping agent bent on hostile, world-conquering aims to which America plays safe harbor and unwitting hostage in equal parts. Though the mode of exploitation varies, no nation on the world stage is left untouched by transnational exploitation.

EMPIRE EXPANSION

America, like all nations, is a boundaried fixity; whereas Empire despite travelling under the former’s name is a projective and extraterritorial expanse whose designs exceed the devise and interests of the nation-host itself. Invariably Empire doesn’t so much succumb to overreach as it overreaches the capacities of its nation-host; wrecking the balance sheet, debauching the currency, taxing the capacities of the deputized military and (most importantly as we shall see) sullying the conceptual coordinates so central to a nation’s actionable sense of self.

Post-Empire, the nation-host suffers the aftermath of ruinous inflation or worse. Empire, a continuous organism, bides its time before alighting elsewhere. Thus unipolarity is an Empire project in the same manner a tapeworm mimics the appetites of its host, the afflicted nation being little more than a body-snatched, debt-amassing hostage-vessel.

Daniel 2’s prophesied statue gives anthropic form (and thus systemic coherence) to Empire succession. Each empire ‘chapter’ pours into the next with corporeal fluidity, the respective statue material and animal totem befitting the situational needs of Empire in that historical moment. The anatomy suggests an eschatological continuum, hardly a severed procession of akimbo body parts. The purposeful succession of empires conducts human history to a terminus.

Usury is the arithmetically ordained travel-partner or Empire. Indeed the latter is more Babylonian mystery than secular-geopolitical formation. Through it, all earthly power and wealth is to be gathered under one aegis until no nation can lay claim to an autonomous storehouse. The whole purpose of human history is demonic consolidation by the God of this World.

In the same way, the events of the world prove less yielding to geopolitical analysis absent an explicit awareness of Paul’s Principalities or the slow-thighed onset of the Antichrist/Dajjal. As human history thins like gruel in the twilight, the spiritual backdrop moves inexorably to the fore.

(Understanding the present moment demands continual oscillation between the world-beyond and the world-at-hand. So be it.)

Sanctions negate the very notion of empiric expansion. Beneath all the bluster, continual recourse to a ‘remedy of retreat’ signals the exhaustion of Empire’s Pax Americana phase. Like medieval bleeding, the cure soon exceeds the lethality of the underlining disease.

For the moment, America’s economic activity, 25% of the world’s GDP, is a big party to be dis-invited from. Furthermore, 70% of that GDP is buffered from international trade disruptions as it consists of internal consumption. (In China, for example, the figure is closer to 40%). When push comes to shove the US economy is sufficiently self-contained such that a protracted period of inwardness is a viable course of action.

Joseph Micallef hardly overstate things trumpeting the arrival of American energy independence. One wonders how the Empire would coax the Nation to do its bidding absent the inducement of vulnerable overseas energy supplies. Of course this too argues for the end of the American phase of Empire:

“U.S. energy independence is going to be a game changer in international affairs and will have far-ranging consequences. It will drive a reorientation of U.S. foreign policy as profound as that driven by American dependence on foreign oil in the second half of the 20th century.”

While inconsistent with empiric expansion, sanctions and their threat can for a time inflict asymmetric damage on the sanctioned party –until some vague tipping point is reached.

Midwives to a nascent neo-nationalist era, President Trump and his formidable trade team have been leveraging (some would say weaponizing) America’s economic primacy in order to redirect product origination and trade flows.

For example the USMCA’s closing of the infamous NAFTA loophole or ‘trade toll’ will be a huge boon to US consumers and workers alike, not to mention an indirect trade assault on China which advantaged the loophole via finished goods assembly plants in Canada and Mexico. The so-called ‘regional vehicle content’ has been boosted from 62.5% to 75%.

What are the implications of this USMCA provision alone? Lexicology explains:

“Mexico and Canada are pushing for the smallest amount of North American parts in NAFTA automobile production. This means that Mexico and Canada can import the difference from China, Asia or Europe, finish the product with some basic assembly and then pass off the product to the American market- saving big money on tariffs for the original producing country in the process.”

The necessity of a resurgent manufacturing base is being characterized (correctly) as a national security (if not even a national dignity) issue with implications far beyond the usual econometric equilibrations.

What the world needs to understand is that the unacknowledged obverse of America First is Empire Never Again. America’s self-reclamation process on the trade front will be a boon for the planet. Re-nationalization is synonymous with ‘de-empirization’. As America reacquaints with nation-among-nations status, multipolar clusters will fill the void.

America the Empire routinely pulls the wool over America the Nation’s eyes. One deft bit of corporatist misdirection (articulated through that multinational stalking horse, the US Chamber of Commerce) has been to assure Americans they could thrive as a service-sector economy.

As nothing is gained alerting regular Americans to the divergent interests of Empire and Nation, the Empire is adept at posing as the Nation. (Besides, what people would knowingly seek empiric imprimatu anyway, a dubious appointment demanding more blood and treasure than it ever bestows?)

Globalists would have us favorably envision a world where the US holds the edge in 2030 Powerpoint presentations while China captures the high-performance medical device and industrial robotics markets. As Yogi Berra might say, “all left-handers over here to flip charts, all right-handers over there to flip burgers.  The rest of you come with me.” Yes, but where to exactly, Yogi? The Argentine Paradox circa 1950?

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The same can be said for Made in China 2025, from a Chinese perspective of course. Geopolitical hegemony is the goal, economic nationalism the rallying cry for respective domestic audiences. No wonder trade wars metastasize into shooting wars. No less than everything is at stake.

(Some expect that, with centuries of practice under its belt, the Chinese empire model, historically one of ebb-and-flow concentric flexibility, will improve upon the winner-take-all Western model. Time may tell.)

Parsimonious when it comes to sharing the planet’s ill-gotten gains with its erstwhile nation-host (American real incomes peaked in 1973), Empire is all too willing both to off-load the debt burden and share the vainglory of its overseas military exploits.

We seek evidence of the Heartland tiring of its conscription obligations, or that their nation’s subsidiary role has even dawned on the average American after nearly two decades of ruinously fruitless overseas campaigns. The enthusiastic reception afforded Clint Eastwood’s 2014 movie American Sniper —to belabor one cultural touchstone– is hardly a bullish indicator.

In fact, the Nation still wraps itself in the Empire’s exploits with a patriotic vigor that obliges it to insist, against all evidence, that Iraq and Afghanistan were missions of existential import to the safeguarding of American neighborhoods. That this misprision persists is a powerful testament to the Empire’s ability to enforce and sustain a narrative steeped in false consciousness to which clarifying epiphanies must forever be kept at bay. In recent months scores of alt-media sources have been exiled from Youtube in veiled recognition of their counter-narrative incursions. The Empire cannot relinquish narrative hegemony. The most decisive conflicts are conceptual.

Sartre famously called this insistent and externalized apparatus of persuasion America’s ‘implacable machine’. Eastwood, the Leni Riefenstahl of our time, fashions empire exploits into pastiches of Americana. This is pure propaganda. Empire is a rapaciously unnatural imposition. Rooted in no soil, it descends from above. Transnationalism sustains itself on grassroots alienation and collective misdirection.

The Vineyard’s Saker indirectly acknowledges this differentiated two-headedness when he says, “Russia does represent an existential threat, not for the United States as a country or for its people, but for the AngloZionist Empire, just as the latter represents an existential threat to Russia.” He might just as easily have extended the empire threat to America itself. Where Saker offers daylight, Eastwood extends the darkness of a confused nation.

It would surprise many Americans to know that their nation hosts one of the least democratically answerable national governments in the world (though far fewer would be surprised today than, say, two years ago). Trump, the exogenous usurper, is trying to reverse this expropriation of the country’s traditional Madisonian Institutions by the Security State’s Trumanite Network (what Michael Glennon calls our Double Government, the prior terminology being his).

How did the empire accomplish this parallel sovereignty?

The hijack occurred in two sizable chunks (the 1947 National Security Act and the USA Patriot Act of 2001). Yes, America has a divided government alright. Just not in the sense American civics classes define the concept.

Moreover this sovereignty split occurred without benefit of referendum or Constitutional Convention. The division was assented to –and furtively institutionalized– over the ensuing post-WW2 decades by the nation’s elected leadership, the latter bartering away democratic self-determination and their own discretionary power for more attractive post-public sector career vistas.

A further lubricant was mass fear, something the Security State excels at fanning. This is a toxic oroborus: fear rationalizes enhanced security measures, obliging it in turn to identify more threats and thus promulgate more fear.

America’s captured political system (captured, in the main, by treasonous greed) perennially offers no material recourse away from Empire objectives. Carroll Quigley exposed the degradation of choice mounted by the two-party charade decades ago. His protestations fell on deaf ears.

Then came Trump, arguably more detested by ‘Rino’ Republicans for helicoptering onto their half-acre of Quigleyan turf than the Democrats who openly shower their contempt upon him, aided by a not-so-secret confederation of Senior Executive Service (SES)personnel and an assorted Five Eyes gallery of International Men of Mystery.

That new attention is being drawn to this fissure is a function of the Trumanites’ open rebellion against Trump’s subversive (Madisonian revivalist) presidency. Trump has forced the Deep State to the surface, a process that compels an explicit –and never before attempted– referendum on globalism, something the movement cannot possibly prevail on as the closest thing it possesses to a natural constituency is a beholden media, George Soros’ checkbook and a traitorous ruling class.

These transnational Trumanites, the true empire-builders, seek geopolitical hegemony, (over)-employing trade sanctions as a tool towards that end. Whereas Trump, a businessman to his core, seeks only comparative advantage and level playing fields i.e. trade for its own sake. Trump has the inclinations of a competitor and possesses an abiding faith in the productive capacities of his fellow Americans. His America-first exertions are sincere.

Despite a near-daily (and 92% negative) onslaught of CIA-Mockingbird anti-Trump vitriol, there is a dawning realization that the current President is as close to an anti-Empire crusader as any POTUS can possibly be, given the powerful institutional constraints (and Trumanite presence) he must work within. (The latter qualification cannot be emphasized enough.)

Just this week in his essay ‘Trump Has Done More to Take On and Take Down the American Empire Than Any Other President’, Gareth Porter concedes, with the obligatory reluctance attending any favorable Trump assessment that, “…[despite] Trump’s multiple serious personal and political failings…[his] unorthodox approach has already emboldened him to challenge the essential logic of the US military empire more than any previous president.”

Creditably, Porter manages to overcome his early subjectively-derived aversions with dispassionate analysis. More thinkers will follow. Trump will never inspire great wellsprings of affection. Yet shouldn’t likability deficits fall within the rehabilitative purview of Oprah Winfrey and her top shelf of gauzy sofa lens? History books are replete with highly eccentric, yet transformative, leaders. Who but the most media-besotted automatons really care?

As for our beleaguered trading partners, the list of American pariahs (sanctioned and tariffed) grows by the month: China, Russia, Iran, Turkey come immediately to mind, obviously in varying modes and degrees. What happens should the EU (the world’s 2nd largest ‘economy’) continue to trade with Iran under a “special payments entity” arrangement despite US warnings? For the record, India has no plans to cease its Iranian oil purchases. This comes at the cost of American producers as will European demand absorbed by the onset of Nordstream 2.

The US Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) maintains a list of sanctioned nations and programs.  It’s well worth a look.

Weapon system defections present a knottier dilemma as military and trade considerations commingle. The Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) of 2017 addresses punitive measures and waiver procedures; a bill opposed, it must be said, by President Trump. Turkey, a NATO member, is taking delivery of the Russian S400 missile defense system, playing havoc with weapons (F35) inter-operability, among other things.

Commenting on the likelihood that India will extract a waiver from the US for the purchase of a S400 system, Fort Russ’ Joaquin Flores suggests America’s quiet acquiescence may be the biggest news of all, indicative perhaps of a dawning realization in Washington that the sanction whip is losing its lash:

“But the real signal here is that the US is willing to publicly also disclose that a waiver is possible…that in its gambit to shore up the empire and force countries to choose Atlanticism over Multipolarity, it will not by way of hubris or over-playing, engender the very multipolarity [it] presently work[s] against.”

Flores surfaces the nub of the paradox: By waiving sanctions and allowing breakaways on a case-by-case basis, does unipolarity preserve itself by exception or compromise itself by non-inclusion? A contrary beast, this unipolarity.

First of all, absolute power is an unnatural configuration if it isn’t a fairy tale altogether. Kenneth Waltz, one of the 20th century’s leading scholars on International Relations, recognized unipolarity as being among the most tenuous of international power arrangements.

Fully consummated unipolarity contends with no nemesis at the gate, no rudely apparent countervailing force with which to remind itself that power consolidation is always an asymptotic function forever falling short of omnipotence. Whereas bipolarity increases overall system stability as each power has only the other to regard warily. A vigorous checkmate ensues. Like a two-headed Cerberus, power is affixed to one mode of action.

In short, power is a distributed resource requiring a corner of contested ground upon which to construct an antithetical lever. One can calibrate power only in the context of someone else existing beyond one’s own locus of control.

Until history fully resolves itself, the ascendant antithesis must germinate in a strange province that forever looms on the frontier of the prevailing thesis. In this way, ideas inhabit their own conceptually balkanized geographies.

Is internal contradiction the ultimate empire-killer? In his 2013 essay, ‘The Inevitable Has Happened in Egypt’, Alastair Crooke surfaces a dialectical reality, in the context of that particular moment’s crisis, the Muslim Brotherhood’s massacre at the hands of Egyptian President al-Sisi. Speaking to the larger demise of the USSR and the lessons drawn, in Sunni circles, from its collapse, he observed:

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One has to think Crooke intended ‘omnipotence’ instead of ‘omniscience’. Beyond that, he captures the Hegelian primacy of ideas (as opposed to the brute accouterments of tanks, planes and automobiles) as being the first-order Empire battleground.

As Flores suggests, the unipolar moment does have an antithetical nemesis. It exists, not for the moment at least, in the guise of a discrete nation-contender, but rather from amidst the inchoate forces of over-extension, hubris and internal contradiction.

One way for unipolarity to hasten its own demise is to persist in the practice of briskly escorting bad actors out of the Big Tent. At some point a critical mass of delinquent nations finds itself on the outside-looking-in; to which a new inside and fresh synthesis are baptized. The formative institutions, structures and initiatives already exist: OBOR, BRI, BRICS, AIIB, SCO.

The evolving role of the Shanghai Cooperative Organization (SCO) for example is on vivid exhibit his week with rather self-conscious pronouncements of multilateral cooperation, due no doubt to American trade frictions with key members Russia,  China and India. These are the formative orbits that can exert and accelerate gravitational tugs away from prevailing global governance models and power centers.

Left untended, yawning internal contradictions lead to a strange and strident logic rooted in self-injury and geopolitical masochism: By shooting myself in the foot, I promise you will bleed to death. A spiritual forebear? Bob Dylan with ‘it’s alright Ma, I’m only bleeding.’

Analyzed in myopic isolation, each sanction regime may indeed conform to a calculus of advantageously asymmetric bleeding. That is, Empire appears to crush each recalcitrant outlaw in serial procession.

Yet how fully considered is the cumulative effect of a dozen rocks being hurled simultaneously at a Goliath convinced of his insuperable size? Death ensues at the instigation of a thousand Davids. Perhaps the Empire’s quant-model betrays a methodological flaw in its singular regard for each battle to the exclusion of the cumulative toll of mounting departures.

Trumpism, the exuberant renewal of national self-confidence by a man who exudes it to the near-level of parody, obliquely acquiesces to the death of empire (without formally announcing it). Out of America’s re-acquaintance with itself springs a psychic reinvestment in the traditional facets of the American character, sublimated arguably since the Nixon Shock of 1970: enterprise, self-reliance, innovation and a can-do work ethic.

For those who doubt the powerful emotional and psychic ramifications of the Trump renationalization, watch this steel worker tear-up at the realization he’s been rescued from oblivion. Work is a moral calling that instills purposeful existence. Trade merely extends that calling beyond a nation’s borders. Fellow Glaswegian Adam Smith was not a Wall Street economist running balance-of-payment Excel spreadsheets for the ‘grand’ purpose of sector fund allocations. He was a moral philosopher.

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The American people, most of them anyway, could have frankly gone to hell as far as the bankers were concerned. The enterprise costs (a productively idled and hollowed-out nation) proved fantastically exorbitant. No privilege accrued to the common man. Middle America became the Military Industrial Praetorian Guard hiring pool.

Recalling Major General Smedley Butler (the bold-face mine):

“War is a racket. It always has been.

It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.”

Sanctions betray the unipolar moment’s faltering grasp. They are the unacknowledged road back from Empire to Nation. The contracting enterprise puts the best face on what can only be deemed a mutually assented to rejection. For, equally, the sanctioned nation is declining its prescribed role within the Empire playbook. Thus sanctions better resemble a divorce stemming from mutually irreconcilable differences than a unilateral flash of Empire pique.

Trump, almost certainly, is accepting of these geopolitical normalizations, which ultimately will entail the cessation of the US Dollar as reserve currency.

Hegemony is succumbing to variegation. There are other globally-aware approaches. Pope Francis’ polyhedral globalism for example combines comparative advantage with the inherent dignity of each nation’s native culture. Monoculture is a Unipolar aim. Global economies-of-scale seek to arbitrage away –to flatten– indigenous human character. Uniqueness is the lumpy stew that bedevils rote, commodity pricing.

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The sanctioned nation makes a calculation that its interests are better served relinquishing the benevolent gaze of Washington. In so doing, it embarks on a path alone.

But not so alone as to be lonely. Not anymore. Other diasporees have preceded it. As will a re-nationalized America in due course.

Norman Ball, MBA aka Full Spectrum Domino is an author, poet, political scientist and businessman whose writings have appeared in Counterpunch, Asia Times, Dissident Voice, Global Research and Russia Insider, among others. His last book ‘East-West Dialectics, Currency Resets & the Convergent Power of One’ is available on Amazon. He can be reached either via his Youtube channel, Facebook or gspressnow@gmail.com

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