Russia ‘would really not want’ Cold War 2.0

Russia ‘would really not want’ Cold War 2.0

April 09, 2021

The Triple Yoda, Nikolai Patrushev, hopes cooler heads can avoid sanctions such as the SWIFT ‘nuclear option’

By Pepe Escobar posted with permission and first posted at Asia Times

The Beltway was always fond of describing the late Andrew Marshall – who identified emerging or future threats for the Pentagon and whose proteges included Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz – as Yoda.

Well, if that’s the case, then Chinese national security supremo Yang Jiechi – who recently made shark fin’s soup out of Tony Blinken in Alaska – is Double Yoda. And Nikolai Patrushev – Secretary of the Security Council of the Russian Federation – is Triple Yoda.

Amid current ice-cold US-Russia relations – plunged into their worst state since the end of the Cold War – Triple Yoda, discreet, diplomatic and always sharp as a dagger, remains a soothing voice of reason, as demonstrated in a stunning interview by Kommersant daily.

Patrushev, born in 1951, is an army general who worked for KGB counter-intel in Leningrad, during the USSR days. Starting in 1994 he was the head of quite a few FSB departments. From 1999 to 2008 he was the FSB director, and led counter-terror ops in the North Caucasus from 2001 to 2003. Since May 2008 he is Russia’s top security advisor.

Patrushev rarely talks to the media. Thus the importance, for global public opinion, of highlighting some of his key insights. Let us hope the Beltway will be listening.

Patrushev clearly states that Russia does not want Cold War 2.0: “We would really not want that.” And he hopes that “common sense will prevail in Washington.”

Patrushev speaks

On Biden declaring Putin a “killer”: “I would not like to draw parallels, but exactly 75 years ago, in March 1946, Churchill delivered the famous Fulton speech in the presence of President Truman, in which he declared our country, his recent ally in the anti-Hitler coalition, an enemy. This marked the beginning of the Cold War.”

On Ukraine and Donbass: “I am convinced that this is a consequence of serious internal problems in Ukraine, from which the authorities are trying to divert attention in this way. They solve their problems at the expense of Donbass, while capital from the country has been flowing abroad for a long time … and Kiev is selling to foreigners – as they say now, at democratic prices – those remnants of industry that were able to stay afloat.”

On the first order of business for the US and Russia: It’s “the sphere of strategic stability and arms control. There is already a positive example here. It is our common decision to extend the Treaty on Strategic Offensive Arms, which was certainly not easy for the US administration.”

On possible areas of cooperation: “There is a certain potential for joint work on such issues as the fight against international terrorism and extremism … as well as Syria, the Middle East settlement, the nuclear problem of the Korean peninsula, the JCPOA with Iran … It is long overdue to discuss cyber-security issues, especially in view of Russia’s concerns and the accusations that have been brought forward to us for several years now.”

On contacts with Washington: “They continue. At the end of March, I had a telephone conversation with the assistant to the president of the United States for national security, Mr Sullivan .… By the way, it was held in a calm, business-like atmosphere, and we communicated quite thoroughly and constructively.”

On having no illusions about US apologies: “The United States dropped atomic bombs on Japan completely unnecessarily – although they knew perfectly well that the Red Army was starting hostilities against the Japanese grouping in Manchuria; they knew that Tokyo was ready to surrender. And the Japanese, and indeed the whole world, have been told for three quarters of a century that atomic strikes were inevitable … a kind of punishment from above. Remember what Obama said in his speech at the Hiroshima mourning event? ‘Death fell from heaven.’ And he did not want to say that this death fell from an American plane on the orders of the American president.”

On improvement of relations: “Given the unprecedentedly difficult nature of the internal situation in the United States today, the prospects for the further development of relations can hardly be called encouraging.”

On the US seeing Russia as a “threat,” and whether it is reciprocal: “We now see the main threat in a pandemic. For the United States, by the way, it turned out to be the moment of truth. The problems that American politicians were hiding from their fellow citizens became obvious, including by diverting their attention to the legends of ‘aggressive Russia.’”

On US bio-labs: “I suggest that you pay attention to the fact that numbers of biological laboratories under US control are growing by leaps and bounds across the world. And – by a strange coincidence – mainly at the Russian and Chinese borders … Of course, we and our Chinese partners have questions. We are told that there are peaceful sanitary and epidemiological stations near our borders, but for some reason they are more reminiscent of Fort Detrick in Maryland, where Americans have been working in the field of military biology for decades. By the way, it is necessary to pay attention to the fact that outbreaks of diseases uncharacteristic of these regions are recorded in the adjacent areas.”

On US accusations that Russia uses chemical weapons: “There is zero evidence, there is no argumentation either; some speculation does not even withstand an elementary test … When chemical incidents occurred in Syria, conclusions were drawn instantly and based on the information of the notorious ‘White Helmets.’ The organization worked so ‘well’ that it sometimes published its reports even before the incidents themselves.”

On NATO: “The question arises: who is holding back whom? Are Washington and Brussels holding back Russia, or is it their task to hold back the development of Germany, France, Italy and other European states? On the whole, NATO can hardly be called a military-political bloc. Remember how in the days of feudalism the vassals were obliged to appear to the master with their armies at his first  request? Only today they still have to buy weapons from the patron, regardless of their financial situation; otherwise questions about their loyalty will arise.”

On Europe: “Engaging with Europe is important. But being together with Europe at any cost is not a fix for Russian geopolitics. Nevertheless we keep the doors open, because we understand perfectly well that there is a momentary situation that Western politicians are guided by, and at the same time there are historical ties that have been developing between Russians and Europeans for centuries.”

On multipolarity: “There are a number of problems in the world today that, in principle, cannot be resolved without normal cooperation between the world’s leading players – Russia, the USA, the EU, China and India.”

The SWIFT ‘nuclear option’

Patrushev’s insights are particularly relevant as the Russia-China strategic partnership is solidifying by the minute; Foreign Minister Lavrov, in Pakistan, has called for literally everyone, “including the European Union,” to join Russia’s vision of a Greater Eurasia; and everyone is waiting for a face-off in the Donbass.

Patrushev’s diplomatic finesse still cannot erase the uneasy feeling in chancelleries across Eurasia about the distinct possibility of an incoming flare-up in the Donbass – with some extremely worrying consequences.

Dangerous scenarios are being openly discussed in Brussels corridors, especially one that sees the US/NATO combo expecting a de facto partition after a short hot war – with Novorossiya absorbing even Odessa.

If that is established as a fact on the ground, a new harsh round of US sanctions will follow. Iron Curtain 2.0 would be in effect; pressure for cancelation of Nord Stream 2 would reach fever pitch; and even the expulsion of Russia from SWIFT would be considered.

Dmitri Medvedev, currently Deputy Chairman of Russia’s Security Council, once called the latter “the nuclear option.” Patrushev was diplomatic enough not to address its volcanic consequences.

Raging Twenties Book Review – Pepe Escobar – the philosopher, the court jester, the mystic, the historian.

Raging Twenties Book Review – Pepe Escobar – the philosopher, the court jester, the mystic, the historian.

April 08, 2021

By Larchmonter445 for the Saker Blog

Early on in the introduction to “Raging Twenties”, Pepe Escobar points to the change, the disruption that confronts the Established Elites who for 30 years ruled the globe with a free hand: “The Empire we have been taught to accept as a fact of life is irretrievably losing its leadership position—and will have to deal with much pain implicit in the acceptance of an increasingly multipolar world.”

Escobar’s concept from “Raging Twenties” that impressed is: “We are all being carried forward through the tides by a harpooned whale, with no idea how, where, or when our journey ends. Like Melville’s Ishmael, we’ve got to stay cool as we relentlessly fight the winds of fallacy, fiction, fraud and farce that the expiring system manipulates non-stop.”

This is the vision of Pepe’s book “Raging Twenties”, a volume of works dedicated to the Covid-19 pandemic’s impact on people, governments and world affairs, especially the macro world economy.

Escobar is a man of many journeys, an adventurer, explorer, mapper and story-teller. For decades he has traveled the capitals of the globe and trekked the backroads of the third and fourth worlds more than any writer in our lifetime.

His professional vocation is understanding the human condition and transmitting via his writings that understanding of facts, people, events and situations. He has a unique quality to absorb information he personally gathers, demonstrating his grasp of geopolitical, philosophical and historical context, from ancient to modern.

Focusing on this decade, the “Raging Twenties”, a collection of Pepe’s definitive prose, is a “voice-over” that narrates the change in our world from a single-polar hegemon to a multi-polar world order in the time of a pandemic. He teases apart the complexities that often are unknown, misunderstood or misconstrued. His “voice” is pleasing though authoritative, yet instantly familiar. Writing that talks, as if it were an audio track, is his style.

“For the first time in two millennia, China is able to combine the dynamism of political and economic expansion both on the continental and maritime realms, something that the civilization-state did not experience since the short expeditionary stretch led by Admiral Zheng He in the Indian Ocean in the early 15th century. Eurasia, in the recent past, was under Western and Soviet colonization. Now it’s going all-out multipolar—a series of complex, evolving permutations led by Russia-China-Iran-Turkey-India-Pakistan-Kazakhstan.”

Escobar is a man comfortable in any of the five civilizations on Earth. He moves easily in the West, China, Russia, India or Iran, and most parts neighboring these giant cultures. He presents his narratives, tales of his travels and meetings in differing performances. Escobar has mastered four story-telling voices–philosopher, court jester, mystic, historian. He moves through these presenters seamlessly, embellishing his writing with intellectual depth and artful illumination.

In Chapter 8, “How the Riddler may teach us to fight a disease”, we perceive the Philosopher investigating the nature of our universe through the eyes of Heraclitus, the Riddler. “In his heart of hearts a contemptuous aristocrat, this master of paradox despised all so-called wise men and the mobs that adored them. Heraclitus was the definitive precursor of social distancing.”

“Heraclitus was a Taoist and a Buddhist. If opposites are ultimately the same, this implies the unity of all things. Heraclitus even foresaw the reaction we should have towards COVID-19: ‘It is disease that makes health sweet and good, hunger satiety, weariness rest.’ The Tao would approve it. In the Heraclitus framework of serial cosmic recycling, disease gives health its full significance.”

The Court Jester authors Chapter 5, entitled “We are all Stoics now”. Imagine a Court Jester flowing with Stoicism as pop culture in Ancient Greece. Pepe brings it to you. Escobar marks the first punk in History, Diogenes the Cynic. “It’s enlightening to know that the upper classes of the Roman empire, their 1%, regarded Zeno’s insights as quite solid, while—predictably—deriding the first punk in History, Diogenes the Cynic, who masturbated in the public square and carried a lantern trying to find a real man.”

He follows the transition from Greece to Rome as the ideas of the Stoics migrate over the centuries and better suit the Roman minds of Seneca, Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius, the trio we view as role models of Stoicism.

“The Stoics were very big on ataraxia (freedom of disturbance) as the ideal state of our mind. The wise man cannot possibly be troubled because the key to wisdom is knowing what not to care about.”

Have you ever read such a ‘take’ on Stoics, Cynics, Epicureans, Humanists, and Skeptics? Pepe ties it into the impact of the pandemic.

“Perhaps the ultimate Stoic secret is the distinction by Epictetus between things that are under our control—our thoughts and desires—and what is not: our bodies, our families, our property, our lot in life, all elements that the expansion of COVID-19 now put in check.”

“What the postmodern world retains from the Stoics is the notion of resigned acceptance—which makes total sense if the world really works according to their insights. If Fate—once again, Zeus, not the Christian God—rules the world, and practically everything that happens is out of our hands, then realpolitik means to accept “everything to happen as it actually does happen”, in the immortal words of Epictetus. Thus, it’s pointless to get excited about stuff we cannot change. And it’s pointless to be attached to things that we will eventually lose. But try selling this notion to the Masters of the Universe of financial capitalism.” You can hear Pepe’s laughter.

“So, The Way—according to the Stoics—is to own only the essentials, and to travel light. Lao Tzu would approve it. After all, anything we may lose is more or less gone already—thus we are already protected from the worst blows in life.”

As with each of the personas of Pepe we perceive in his collected work, he changes from one to another in mid-flight. The Court Jester can be seen and felt throughout “Raging Twenties”. Just take a tour of the Chapter Headings and the section sub-headings. Pepe does floor gymnastics, handstands and backflips, cartwheels and tumblesaults with terminology and labels. That big Escobar smile and hearty chest laugh abound: “Remember Pax Mongolica”, “The Sirens and La Dolce Vita”, “The Westlessness Myth”, “East is East, West is More”, “Barbarism With A Human Face”, “Enter The Triad”, “The City In A Time of Plague”, “Show Me Your Fragility”, “Barbarism Begins At Home”, “Flying Dragon, Crashing Eagle”, “Blake Meet Burroughs”.

The modern Mystic is with us in Chapter 10, “How Confucious, Buddha and The Tao Are Winning This War”, as well as the anchor chapter, “Eurasia, The Hegemon and the Three Sovereigns”. The Mystic appears most definitely in Chapter 25, a retrospective column Pepe chose to explore the digital ether that has wrapped around our brains. “Kim No-Vax Does Darpa” is a trip back into the early days of AI,3 research financed by Darpa, the teat that nearly all US computer scientists sought to suck. Reading this nostalgia spotlights the many dead-ends of US technology that generated the perverse present High-Tech Silicon Valley feudalism.

Travel with the Mystic to Venice, Chapter 3, “The Sirens and La Dolce Vita”. Pepe floats in Venice waterways to retrace selected steps with Ezra Pound. In “The Cantos”, we find The Sirens, sculptures that represent to Pound the beautiful culture, a time and place of the best which preceded a time (the present) of tawdry cheapness. The Mystic smoothly elides into “La Dolce Vita”, the Fellini film, that epitomizes the glitzy ugliness oncoming in the sixties. A period of trash culture that now envelopes the globe, foretold by Pound, embossed by Fellini and absorbed by us.

Pepe the Historian appears nearly everywhere in the pages of “Raging Twenties”. In a most clever Chapter 13, “Siren Call of A ‘System Leader’”, Pepe wends through the Mongol age of Genghis Khan, to the death of Kublai Khan and the end of that Empire right into the 21st Century where the USA Empire, like the last great Khan, faces China. However, China is a part of Eurasia, the vast resource of the multi-polar sovereigns China, Russia, Iran, India, their neighbors and friends, arrayed ready to construct a new world based on four civilizations, not an ideology like the failed Empire of the USA.

The Historian gathers from Thucydides and others regarding plagues. Pertinently, Escobar delivers the connection of the fall of empires and plagues as cause. “Predictably eyeing the Decline and Fall of the American Empire, a serious academic debate is raging around the working hypothesis of historian Kyle Harper, according to whom viruses and pandemics—especially the Justinian plague in the 6th century—led to the end of the Roman Empire.”

Escobar’s journalistic roots remain in real politic while consistently pointing out the gap between the twisted souls that feel the need to lie, cheat and murder to achieve their ends. With acerbic ink, he writes: “Those were the days when NATO, with full impunity, could bomb Serbia, miserably lose a war on Afghanistan, turn Libya into a militia hell and plot myriad interventions across the Global South. And of course, none of that had any connection whatsoever with the bombed and the invaded forced into becoming refugees in Europe.”

Pepe’s economic interest in Belt and Road and the China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination for a new era opens our eyes to the real geo-political shifts. The pandemic has fractured world trade. “Soon we will be facing three major, interlocking debates: the management of the crisis, in many cases appalling; the search for future models; and the reconfiguration of the world-system.”

Peering over our Covid masks, we read Chapter 12, “How To Think Post-Planet Lockdown”. Pepe’s main insight remains valid: the state of exception has been completely normalized. And it gets worse: “A new despotism, which in terms of pervasive controls and cessation of every political activity, will be worse that the totalitarianisms we have known so far.”

“As dystopia and mass paranoia seem to be the law of the (bewildered) land, Michel Foucault’s analyses of biopolitics have never been so timely, as states across the world take over biopower—the control of people’s life and bodies.”

Pepe gives us, among many, Giorgio Agamben, who redoubles his analyses of science as the religion of our time: “The analogy with religion is taken literally; theologians declared that they could not clearly define what is God, but in his name they dictated rules of conduct to men and did not hesitate to burn heretics. Virologists admit they don’t know exactly what is a virus, but in its name they pretend to decide how human beings shall live.”

In the section, “Enter the triad”, Chapter 10, Pepe postulates: “I offer as a working hypothesis that the Asia triad of Confucius, Buddha and Lao Tzu has been absolutely essential in shaping the perception and serene response of hundreds of millions of people across various Asian nations to COVID-19—compared to the being is the greatest joy.” It also helps to know that “life is a series of natural and spontaneous choices. Don’t resist them—that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” Buddhism runs in parallel to the Tao: “All conditioned things are impermanent—when one sees this with wisdom, one turns away from suffering.” And to keep our vicissitudes in perspective, it helps to know that, “better it is to live one day seeing the rise and fall of things than to live a hundred years without ever seeing the rise and fall of things.”

Quo Vadis. Where are you marching?

Pepe shows us the way, the paths we are on. He offers, too, a pantheon of “travelers” who opine from the high clouds of history, from books on dusty shelves of libraries, from blogs and videos on digital platforms, all snatched by his rapier mind to weave affirmation into his ideas and analysis. In sum, a feast awaits the reader, taken as a banquet or a serial read chapter by chapter. Enjoy.

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Where you can buy RAGING TWENTIES by Pepe Escobar

How Eurasia will be interconnected

How Eurasia will be interconnected

April 04, 2021

by Pepe Escobar posted with permission and first posted at Asia Times

The extraordinary confluence between the signing of the Iran-China strategic partnership deal and the Ever Given saga in the Suez Canal is bound to spawn a renewed drive to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and all interconnected corridors of Eurasia integration.

This is the most important geo-economic development in Southwest Asia in ages – even more crucial than the geopolitical and military support to Damascus by Russia since 2015.

Multiple overland railway corridors across Eurasia featuring cargo trains crammed with freight – the most iconic of which is arguably Chongqin-Duisburg – are a key plank of BRI. In a few years, this will all be conducted on high-speed rail.

The key overland corridor is Xinjiang-Kazakhstan – and then onwards to Russia and beyond; the other one traverses Central Asia and Iran, all the way to Turkey, the Balkans, and Eastern Europe. It may take time – in terms of volume – to compete with maritime routes, but the substantial reduction in shipping time is already propelling a massive cargo surge.

The Iran-China strategic connection is bound to accelerate all interconnected corridors leading to and crisscrossing Southwest Asia.

Crucially, multiple BRI trade connectivity corridors are directly linked to establishing alternative routes to oil and gas transit, controlled or “supervised” by the Hegemon since 1945: Suez, Malacca, Hormuz, Bab al Mandeb.

Informal conversations with Persian Gulf traders have revealed huge skepticism about the foremost reason for the Ever Given saga. Merchant marine pilots agree that winds in a desert storm were not enough to harass a state of the art mega-container ship equipped with very complex navigation systems. The pilot error scenario – induced or not – is being seriously considered.

Then there’s the predominant shoptalk: stalled Ever Given was Japanese owned, leased from Taiwan, UK-insured, with an all-Indian crew, transporting Chinese merchandise to Europe. No wonder cynics, addressing the whole episode, are asking, Cui Bono?

Persian Gulf traders, in hush hush mode, also drop hints about the project for Haifa to eventually become the main port in the region, in close cooperation with the Emirates via a railway to be built between Jabal Ali in Dubai to Haifa, bypassing Suez.

Back to facts on the ground, the most interesting short-term development is how Iran’s oil and gas may be shipped to Xinjiang via the Caspian Sea and Kazakhstan – using a to-be-built Trans-Caspian pipeline.

That falls right into classic BRI territory. Actually more than that, because Kazakhstan is a partner not only of BRI but also the Russia-led Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU).

From Beijing’s point of view, Iran is also absolutely essential for the development of a land corridor from the Persian Gulf to the Black Sea and further to Europe via the Danube.

It’s obviously no accident that the Hegemon is on high alert in all points of this trade corridor. “Maximum pressure” sanctions and hybrid war against Iran; an attempt to manipulate the Armenia-Azerbaijan war; the post-color revolution environment in both Georgia and Ukraine – which border the Black Sea; NATO’s overarching shadow over the Balkans; it’s all part of the plot.

Now get me some Lapis Lazuli

Another fascinating chapter of Iran-China concerns Afghanistan. According to Tehran sources, part of the strategic agreement deals with Iran’s area of influence in Afghanistan and the evolution of still another connectivity corridor all the way to Xinjiang.

And here we go back to the always intriguing

Lapis Lazuli corridor – which was conceptualized in 2012, initially for increased connectivity between Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey.

Lapis Lazuli, wonderfully evocative, harks back to the export of an array of semiprecious stones via the Ancient Silk Roads to the Caucasus, Russia, the Balkans and North Africa.

Now the Afghan government sees the ambitious 21st century remix as departing from Herat (a key area of Persian influence), continuing to the Caspian Sea port of Turkmenbashi in Turkmenistan, via a Trans-Caspian pipeline to Baku, onwards to Tblisi and the Georgian ports of Poti and Batumi in the Black Sea, and finally connected to Kars and Istanbul.

This is really serious business; a drive that may potentially link the

Eastern Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean.

Since Russia, Iran, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan signed the Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea in 2018, in the Kazakh port of Aktau, what’s interesting is that their major issues are now discussed at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), where Russia and Kazakhstan are full members; Iran will soon be; Azerbaijan is a dialogue partner; and Turkmenistan is a permanent guest.

One of the key connectivity problems to be addressed is the viability of building a canal from the Caspian Sea to Iran’s shores in the Persian Gulf. That would cost at least US$7 billion. Another issue is the imperative transition towards container cargo transport in the Caspian. In SCO terms, that will increase Russian trade with India via Iran as well as offering an extra corridor for China trade with Europe.

With Azerbaijan prevailing over Armenia in the Nagorno-Karabakh flare up, while finally sealing a deal with Turkmenistan over their respective status in the Caspian Sea, impetus for the western part of Lapis Lazuli is now in the cards.

The eastern part is a much more complicated affair, involving an absolutely crucial issue now on the table not only for Beijing but for the SCO: the integration of Afghanistan to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

In late 2020, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan agreed to build what analyst Andrew Korybko delightfully described as the PAKAFUZ railwayPAKAFUZ will be a key step to expand CPEC to Central Asia, via Afghanistan. Russia is more than interested.

This can become a classic case of the evolving BRI-EAEU melting pot. Crunch time – serious decisions included – will happen this summer, when Uzbekistan plans to host a conference called “Central and South Asia: Regional Interconnectedness. Challenges and Opportunities”.

So everything will be proceeding interconnected: a Trans-Caspian link; the expansion of CPEC; Af-Pak connected to Central Asia; an extra Pakistan-Iran corridor (via Balochistan, including the finally possible conclusion of the IP gas pipeline) all the way to Azerbaijan and Turkey; China deeply involved in all these projects.

Beijing will be building roads and pipelines in Iran, including one to ship Iranian natural gas to Turkey. Iran-China, in terms of projected investment, is nearly ten times more ambitious than CPEC. Call it CIEC (China-Iran Economic Corridor).

In a nutshell: the Chinese and Persian civilization-states are on the road to emulate the very close relationship they enjoyed during the Silk Road-era Yuan dynasty in the 13th century.

INSTC or bust

An extra piece of the puzzle concerns how the International North-South Transportation Corridor (INSTC) will mix with BRI and the EAEU. Crucially, INSTC also happens to be an alternative to Suez.

Iran, Russia and India have been discussing the intricacies of this 7,200 km-long ship/rail/road trade corridor since 2002. INSTC technically starts in Mumbai and goes all the way via the Indian Ocean to Iran, the Caspian Sea, and then to Moscow. As a measure of its appeal, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine, Oman, and Syria are all INSTC members.

Much to the delight of Indian analysts, INSTC reduces transit time from West India to Western Russia from 40 to 20 days, while cutting costs by as much as 60%. It’s already operational – but not as a continuous, free flow sea and rail link.

New Delhi already spent $500 million on a crucial project: the expansion of Chabahar port in Iran, which was supposed to become its entry point for a made in India Silk Road to Afghanistan and onward to Central Asia. But then it all got derailed by New Delhi’s flirting with the losing Quad proposition.

India also invested $1.6 billion in a railway between Zahedan, the key city in southeast Iran, and the Hajigak iron/steel mining in central Afghanistan. This all falls into a possible Iran-India free trade agreement which is being negotiated since 2019 (for the moment, on stand-by). Iran and Russia already clinched a similar agreement. And India wants the same with the EAEU as a whole.

Following the Iran-China strategic partnership, chairman of the Iranian Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, Mojtaba Zonnour, has already hinted that the next step should be an

Iran-Russia strategic cooperation deal, privileging “rail services, roads, refineries, petrochemicals, automobiles, oil, gas, environment and knowledge-based companies”.

What Moscow is already seriously considering is to build a canal between the Caspian and the Sea of Azov, north of the Black Sea. Meanwhile, the already built Caspian port of Lagan is a certified game-changer.

Lagan directly connects with multiple BRI nodes. There’s rail connectivity to the Trans-Siberian all the way to China. Across the Caspian, connectivity includes Turkmenbashi in Turkmenistan and Baku in Azerbaijan, which is the starting point of the BTK railway through to the Black Sea and then all the way from Turkey to Europe.

On the Iranian stretch of the Caspian, Amirabad port links to the INSTC, Chabahar port and further on to India. It’s not an accident that several Iranian companies, as well China’s Poly Group and China Energy Engineering Group International want to invest in Lagan.

What we see in play here is Iran at the center of a maze progressively interconnected with Russia, China and Central Asia. When the Caspian Sea is finally linked to international waters, we will see a de facto alternative trade/transport corridor to Suez.

Post-Iran-China, it’s not far-fetched anymore to even consider the possible emergence in a not too distant future of a Himalaya Silk Road uniting BRICS members China and India (think, for instance, of the power of Himalayan ice converging into a shared Hydropower Tunnel).

As it stands, Russia is very much focused on limitless possibilities in Southwest Asia, as Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov made it clear in the 10th Middle East conference at the Valdai club. The Hegemon’s treats on multiple fronts – Ukraine, Belarus, Syria, Nord Stream 2 – pale in comparison.

The new architecture of 21st century geopolitics is already taking shape, with China providing multiple trade corridors for non-stop economic development while Russia is the reliable provider of energy and security goods, as well as the conceptualizer of a Greater Eurasia home, with “strategic partnership” Sino/Russian diplomacy playing the very long game.

Southwest Asia and Greater Eurasia have already seen which way the (desert) winds are blowing. And soon will the masters of international capital. Russia, China, Iran, India, Central Asia, Vietnam, Indonesia, the Korean Peninsula, everyone will experience a capital surge – financial vultures included. Following the Greed is Good gospel, Eurasia is about to become the ultimate Greed frontier.

Iran-China: the 21st century Silk Road connection

Newly announced China-Iran strategic partnership deal shatters US sanctions while paving the Belt and Road from East to West

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (R) and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi sign a historic partnership agreement between the two sides in Tehran on March 27, 2021. (Photo by Tasnim)
Iran-China: the 21st century Silk Road connection

March 29, 2021

By Pepe Escobar posted with permission and first posted at Asia Times

The timing could not have been more spectacular, following what we examined in three previous columns: the virtual Quad and the 2+2 US-China summit in Alaska; the Lavrov-Wang Yi strategic partnership meeting in Guilin; and the NATO summit of Foreign Ministers in Brussels – key steps unveiling the birth of a new paradigm in international relations.

The officially named Sino-Iranian Comprehensive Strategic Partnership was first announced over five years ago, when President Xi Jinping visited Tehran. The result of plenty of closed-door discussions since 2016, Tehran now describes the agreement as “a complete roadmap with strategic political and economic clauses covering trade, economic and transportation cooperation.”

Once again, this is “win-win” in action: Iran, in close partnership with Chibrlna, shatters the glass of US sanctions and turbo-charges domestic investment in infrastructure, while China secures long-term, key energy imports that it treats as a matter of national security.

If a loser would have to be identified in the process, it’s certainly the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” drive against all things Iran.

As Prof. Mohammad Marandi of the University of Tehran described it to me, “It’s basically a road map. It’s especially important coming at a time when US hostility towards China altogether is increasing. The fact that this trip to Iran [by Foreign Minister Wang Yi] and the signing of the agreement took place literally days after the events in Alaska makes it even more significant, symbolically speaking.”

Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh confirmed the deal was indeed a “roadmap” for trade, economic and transportation cooperation, with a “special focus on the private sectors of the two sides.”

Marandi also notes how this is a “comprehensive understanding of what can happen between Iran and China – Iran being rich in oil and gas and the only energy-producing country that can say ‘No’ to the Americans and can take an independent stance on its partnerships with others, especially China.”

China is Iran’s largest oil importer. And crucially, bill settlements bypass the US dollar.

Marandi hits the heart of the matter when he confirms how the strategic deal actually secures, for good, Iran’s very important role in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI):

The Chinese are getting more wary about sea trade. Even the incident in the Suez Canal reinforces that, it increases Iran’s importance to China. Iran would like to use the same Belt and Road network the Chinese want to develop. For Iran, China’s economic progress is quite important, especially in high-tech fields and AI, which is something the Iranians are pursuing as well and leading the region, by far. When it comes to data technology, Iran is third in the world. This is a very appropriate time for West Asia and East Asia to move closer to one another – and since the Iranians have great influence among its allies in the Mediterranean, the Red Sea, the Hindu Kush, Central Asia and the Persian Gulf, Iran is the ideal partner for China.

In a nutshell, from Beijing’s point of view, the astonishing Evergreen saga in the Suez Canal now more than ever reiterates the crucial importance of the overland, trade/connectivity BRI corridors across Eurasia.

JCPOA? What JCPOA?

It’s fascinating to watch how Wang Yi, as he met Ali Larijani, special adviser to Ayatollah Khamenei, framed it all in a single sentence:

“Iran decides independently on its relations with other countries and is not like some countries that change their position with one phone call.”

It’s never enough to stress the sealing of the partnership was the culmination of a five-year-long process, including frequent diplomatic and presidential trips, which started even before the Trump “maximum pressure” interregnum.

Wang Yi, who has a very close relationship with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, once again stressed, “relations between the two countries have now reached the level of strategic partnership” and “will not be affected by the current situation, but will be permanent”.

Zarif for his part stressed that Washington should get serious about its return to the Iran nuclear deal; lift all unilateral sanctions; and be back to the JCPOA as it was clinched in Vienna in 2015. In realpolitik terms, Zarif knows that’s not going to happen – considering the prevailing mood in the Beltway. So he was left to praise China as a “reliable partner” on the dossier – as much as Russia.

Beijing is articulating a quite subtle charm offensive in Southwest Asia. Before going to Tehran, Wang Yi went to Saudi Arabia and met with Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. The official spin is that China, as a “pragmatic partner”, supports Riyadh’s steps to diversify its economy and “find a path of development that fits its own conditions”.

What Wang Yi meant is that something called the China-Saudi Arabia High-Level Joint Committee should be working overtime. Yet there have been no leaks on the absolutely crucial issue: the role of oil in the Beijing-Riyadh relationship, and the fateful day when China will decide to buy Saudi oil priced exclusively in yuan.

On the (Silk) road again

It’s absolutely essential to place the importance of the Iran-China deal in a historical context.

The deal goes a long way to renew the spirit of Eurasia as a geo-historic entity, or as crack French geopolitician Christian Grataloup frames it, “a system of inter-relations from one Eurasian end to another” taking place across the hard node of world history.

Via the BRI concept, China is reconnecting with the vast intermediary region between Asia and Europe through which relations between continents were woven by more or less durable empires with diverse Eurasian dimensions: the Persians, the Greco-Romans, and the Arabs.

Persians, crucially, were the first to develop a creative role in Eurasia.

Northern Iranians, during the first millennium B.C., experts on horseback nomadism, were the prime power in the steppe core of Central Eurasia.

Historically, it’s well established that the Scythians constituted the first pastoral nomadic nation. They took over the Western steppe – as a major power – while other steppe Iranians moved East as far away as China. Scythians were not only fabulous warriors – as the myth goes, but most of all very savvy traders connecting Greece, Persia and the east of Asia: something described, among others, by Herodotus.

So an ultra-dynamic, overland international trade network across Central Eurasia developed as a direct consequence of the drive, among others, by Scythians, Sogdians and the Hsiung-Nu (who were always harassing the Chinese in their northern frontier). Different powers across Central Eurasia, in different epochs, always traded with everyone on their borders – wherever they were, from Europe to East Asia.

Essentially Iranian domination of Central Eurasia may have started as early as 1,600 B.C. – when Indo-Europeans showed up in upper Mesopotamia and the Aegean Sea in Greece while others journeyed as far as India and China.

It’s fully established, among others by an unimpeachable scholarly source, Nicola di Cosmo, in his Ancient China and Its Enemies: The Rise of Nomadic Power in East Asian History (Cambridge University Press): pastoral nomadic lifestyle on horseback was developed by Iranians of the steppe early in the first millennium B.C.

Jump cut to the end of the first century B.C., when Rome was starting to collect its precious silk from East Asia via multiple intermediaries, in what is described by historians as the first Silk Road.

A fascinating story features a Macedonian, Maes Titianos, who lived in Antioch in Roman Syria, and organized a caravan for his agents to reach beyond Central Asia, all the way to Seres (China) and its imperial capital Chang’an. The trip lasted over a year and was the precursor to Marco Polo’s travels in the 13th century. Marco Polo actually followed roads and tracks that were very well known for centuries, plied by numerous caravans of Eurasian merchants.

Up to the caravan organized by Titianos, Bactria – in today’s Afghanistan– was the limes of the known world for imperial Rome, and the revolving door, in connectivity terms, between China, India and Persia under the Parthians.

And to illustrate the “people to people contacts” very dear to the concept of 21st century BRI, after the 3rd century Manicheism – persecuted by the Roman empire – fully developed in Persia along the Silk Road thanks to Sogdian merchants. From the 8th to the 9th century it even became the official religion among the Uighurs and even reached China. Marco Polo met Manicheans in the Yuan court in the 13th century.

Ruling the Heartland

The Silk Roads were a fabulous vortex of peoples, religions and cultures – something attested by the exceptional collection of Manichean, Zoroastrian, Buddhist and Christian manuscripts, written in Chinese, Tibetan, Sanskrit, Syriac, Sogdian, Persian and Uighur, discovered in the beginning of the 20th century in the Buddhist grottoes of Dunhuang by European orientalists Aurel Stein and Paul Pelliot, following the steps of Chinese pilgrim Xuanzang. In the Chinese unconscious, this is still very much alive.

By now it’s firmly established that the Silk Roads may have started to slowly disappear from history with the Western maritime push to the East since the late 15th century. But the death blow came in the late 17th century, when the Russians and the Manchu in China divided Central Asia. The Qing dynasty destroyed the last nomadic pastoral empire, the Junghars, while the Russians colonized most of Central Eurasia. The Silk Road economy – actually the trade-based economy of the Eurasian heartland – collapsed.

Now, the vastly ambitious Chinese BRI project is inverting the expansion and construction of a Eurasian space to East to West. Since the 15th century – with the end of the Mongol Empire of the Steppes – the process was always from West to East, and maritime, driven by Western colonialism.

The China-Iran partnership may have the capacity to become the emblem of a global phenomenon as far-reaching as the Western colonial enterprises from the 15th to the 20th centuries. Geoeconomically, China is consolidating a first step to solidify its role as builder and renovator of infrastructure. The next step is to build its role in management.

Mackinder, Mahan, Spykman – the whole conceptual “rule the waves” apparatus is being surpassed. China may have been an – exhausted – Rimland power up to the mid-20th century. Now it’s clearly positioned as a Heartland power. Side by side with “strategic partner” Russia. And side by side with another “strategic partner” that happened to be the first historical Eurasian power: Iran.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to media questions following talks with Foreign Minister of China Wang Yi, Guilin, March 23, 2021

March 23, 2021

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to media questions following talks with Foreign Minister of China Wang Yi, Guilin, March 23, 2021

Ladies and gentlemen,

It gives me great pleasure to be in this wonderful place, enjoying the unique nature of this province. We really do admire these landscapes, but I can assure you that this has not prevented us from holding extremely business-like and practical talks. They were held in a traditionally friendly and trust-based manner.

We pointed out once again that Russia and China continue their close and fruitful cooperation in virtually all spheres on the international stage despite the coronavirus pandemic, in all the spheres which have been identified as our priorities during contacts between President of Russia Vladimir Putin and President of China Xi Jinping.

We will continue to strengthen our relations of comprehensive partnership and strategic interaction. We have had a useful discussion on ways to boost our practical cooperation in the conditions created by the current epidemiological restrictions.

We highlighted the preparations being made for Russian-Chinese contacts at the high and highest levels. We have submitted to our partners a draft joint statement of our heads of state on the 20th anniversary of the Treaty on Good-Neighbourliness and Friendly Cooperation between the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China.

We discussed our positions on the main international topics and found them similar. Moscow and Beijing stand for developing interstate relations on the principles of mutual respect and a balance of each other’s interests, justice and non-interference in others’ internal affairs. We reject zero sum political games and the illegal unilateral sanctions, which our Western colleagues have been using increasingly more often.

We share the opinion that Russian-Chinese foreign policy interaction remains a vital factor in global affairs. We pointed out the destructive character of US aspiration to undermine the UN-centric international legal framework by using the military-political alliances of the Cold War period and creating similar closed alliances. We noted the growing importance of the joint activities of Russia, China and a wide range of other countries to preserve the current system of international law in the context of the increasing Western attempts to promote its concept of a rules-based international order.

We expressed our appreciation for the high level of coordination at various multilateral platforms, including the UN, the G20, the SCO, BRICS, RIC, APEC, as well as EAS and other ASEAN-based regional cooperation bodies. We spoke about the preparations for the summit of the UN Security Council permanent members, which has been proposed by President Putin and supported by President Xi Jinping.

As Minister Wang Yi said, we have signed a joint statement, which reflects the views of Russia and China on vital issues such as democracy, human rights, international law and the necessity to find collective approaches to solving global problems.

We signed an annual plan for consultations between our foreign ministries. It stipulates numerous contacts this year at the level of deputy foreign ministers and the heads of relevant departments designed to hold practical discussions on a wide range of global and regional matters.

Speaking on behalf of our delegation, I would like to once again express our deep gratitude to our Chinese friends for their hospitality and for substantive joint work.

Question: How does Russia plan on moving away from using international payment systems controlled by the West? Are there any specific agreements with China to create a common system as opposed to the Western ones? What can it be based on? Russia’s Mir card or China’s UnionPay system?

Sergey Lavrov: This work has been underway for quite a long time now in different areas. We have our own financial messaging system. The respective financial departments of Russia and China plan to expand its use.

For many years now we have been trying to transfer trade to settlements in national currencies. There’s a corresponding mechanism which is quite effective. We are switching to the national currency in our trade with other major partners.

This is the imperative of our time. The people behind the global monetary system suddenly decided they were unhappy with the way other countries, in particular China, are using this system. China is beating the West at its own game. Hence, the reaction of the United States. Wang Yi covered this in detail. You cannot do global business by means of ultimatums and sanctions, or force other countries to behave as expected of them. We have a proverb: You can’t force your love on another person. Unfortunately, the United States has not learned this and is acting from the opposite position.

I’m convinced that Russia and China will do their best to ensure their safety and protection against the threats coming from the states that are unfriendly towards our respective countries. This also applies to ways of conducting trade, mutual settlements and everything else that makes us stronger.

Question (translated from Chinese and addressed to Wang Yi): Chinese and Russian vaccines are being delivered to dozens of countries all around the world. There are unfounded speculations that China is promoting “vaccine diplomacy” and Russia is trying to increase its influence. What can you say about this?

Sergey Lavrov (speaking after Wang Yi): I fully support what Wang Yi said. From the outset of the pandemic, Russia and China have been showing an example of openness, cooperation and mutual assistance. This interaction continues to this day, including in the sphere of vaccine production and distribution. Our respective institutions remain in contact on these matters.

On March 22, President Vladimir Putin chaired a meeting on vaccine production and distribution. He clearly spoke in favour of everyone being guided solely by considerations of humanity and the interest of saving lives rather than geopolitical or commercial approaches to overcoming competition. Everyone, including our partners in the West who are trying to portray Russia and China as vaccine diplomacy scammers, must keep this in mind. This is not true.

Question: China and Russia are under sanctions pressure from the United States and the EU. Do our countries plan to share their experience of confronting this pressure? How justified is the opinion that both countries’ tense relations with the Western powers make them move ever closer to one another?

Sergey Lavrov: We have covered Russia and China’s reaction to sanctions and the illegitimate unilateral restrictions already today. We share the understanding that these methods are unacceptable in international life. We have more than once stated our position on this score, including in the Joint Statement. I’m convinced that this approach will be reiterated in a clear and unambiguous manner in the document on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Treaty on Good-Neighbourliness and Friendly Cooperation between Russia and China that our leaders will approve.

In addition to our principled approaches that are set forth in public documents, we closely cooperate with many countries at the UN in order to counter these practices. As you are aware, the UN has a Special Rapporteur on unilateral coercive measures. This is already a fairly serious practical move to clarify the unacceptability of this policy. The United States, Europe and the West in general are, in fact, replacing diplomacy, the art which they are losing, with the steps seeking to impose their own rules on everyone else. In their opinion, these rules rather than international law must underlie the international order. Sanctions are among these rules.

Russia and China do not ally against anyone. Geographically, our country is located on the vast Eurasian continent. China is our good neighbour, as is the EU. We have always been interested in promoting our relations across all areas. Europe has severed these relations and destroyed the mechanisms that have been created over many years. There are only a few European partner countries that have a desire to act based on their national interests.

Objectively, this led to cooperation between Russia and China developing faster than what is left of relations with the European countries. Importantly, there are no relations with the EU as an organisation. The infrastructure was destroyed by unilateral decisions made by Brussels. If and when the Europeans decide to eliminate this anomaly in contacts with their largest neighbour, we will be ready to build up relations between us on the basis of equality and a search for a balance of interests. But so far, all has been quiet on the Western front, whereas the East offers a very intense agenda, which is getting more varied every single year.


Further press conferences by Mr.Lavrov during this auspicious visit to China.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s opening remarks during talks with Foreign Minister of the People’s Republic of China Wang Yi, Guilin, March 23, 2021 – https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy/news/-/asset_publisher/cKNonkJE02Bw/content/id/4647593

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s interview with Chinese media, Moscow, March 22, 2021-https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy/news/-/asset_publisher/cKNonkJE02Bw/content/id/4646592

Complete press conference:  Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi take part in a joint press conference after holding bilateral talks in Guilin, China on Tuesday, March 23.

22.25

For Leviathan, it’s so cold in Alaska

For Leviathan, it’s so cold in Alaska

March 18, 2021

Wang Yi and Yang Jiechi will seek to make shark’s fin soup out of Antony Blinken and Jake Sullivan at the Anchorage summit

By Pepe Escobar with permission and first posted at Asia Times.

Leviathan seems to be positioning itself for a geopolitical Kill Bill rampage – yet brandishing a rusty samurai high-carbon-steel sword.

Predictably, US deep state masters have not factored in that they could eventually be neutralized by a geopolitical Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique.

In a searing, concise essay, Alastair Crooke pointed to the heart of the matter. These are the two key insights – including a nifty Orwellian allusion:

1. “Once control over the justifying myth of America was lost, the mask was off.”

2. “The US thinks to lead the maritime and rimland powers in imposing a searing psychological, technological and economic defeat on the Russia-China-Iran alliance. In the past, the outcome might have been predictable. This time Eurasia may very well stand solid against a weakened Oceania (and a faint-hearted Europe).”

And that brings us to two interconnected summits: the Quad and the China-US 2+2 in Alaska.

The virtual Quad last Friday came and went like a drifting cloud. When you had India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying the Quad is “a force for global good,” no wonder rows of eyebrows across the Global South were raised.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi remarked last year that the Quad was part of a drive to create an “Asian NATO.”

It is. But the hegemon, lording over India, Japan and Australia, mustn’t spell it out. Thus the vague rhetoric about “free and open Indo-Pacific,” “democratic values,” “territorial integrity” – all code to characterize containment of China, especially in the South China Sea.

The exceptionalist wet dream – routinely expressed in US Thinktankland – is to position an array of missiles in the first island chain, pointing towards China like a weaponized porcupine. Beijing is very much aware of it.

Apart from a meek joint statement, the Quad promised to deliver 1 billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines throughout the “Indo-Pacific” by the end of… 2022.

The vaccine would be produced by India and financed by the US and Japan, with the logistics of distribution coming from Australia.

That was predictably billed as “countering China’s influence in the region.” Too little, too late. The bottom line is: The hegemon is furious because China’s vaccine diplomacy is a huge success – not only across Asia but all across the Global South.

This ain’t no ‘strategic dialogue’

US Secretary of State Tony Blinken is a mere apparatchik who was an enthusiastic cheerleader for shock and awe against Iraq 18 years ago, in 2003. At the time he was staff director for the Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, then chaired by Senator Joe Biden.

Now Blinken is running US foreign policy for a senile cardboard entity who mutters, live, on camera, “I’ll do whatever you want me to do, Nance” – as in Nancy Pelosi; and who characterizes the Russian president as “a killer,” “without a soul,” who will “pay a price.”

Paraphrasing Pulp Fiction: “Diplomacy’s dead, baby. Diplomacy’s dead.”

With that in mind, there’s little doubt that the formidable Yang Jiechi, director of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the CPC Central Committee, side by side with Foreign Minister Wang Yi, will make shark’s fin soup out of their interlocutors Blinken and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan at the 2+2 summit in Anchorage, Alaska.

Only two days before the start of the Two Sessions in Beijing, Blinken proclaimed that China is the “biggest geopolitical challenge of the 21st century.”

According to Blinken, China is the “only country with the economic, diplomatic, military and technological power to seriously challenge the stable and open international system – all the rules, values and relationships that make the world work the way we want it to, because it ultimately serves the interests and reflects the values of the American people.”

So Blinken tacitly admits what really matters is how the world works “the way we want it to” – “we” being the hegemon, which made those rules in the first place. And those rules serve the interests and reflect the values of the American people. As in: It’s our way or the highway.

Blinken could be excused because he’s just a wide-eyed novice on the big stage. But it gets way more embarrassing.

Here’s his foreign policy in a nutshell (“his” because the hologram at the White House needs 24/7 instructions in his earpiece to even know what time it is):

Sanctions, sanctions everywhere; Cold War 2.0 against Russia and “killer” Putin; China guilty of “genocide” in Xinjiang; a notorious apartheid state getting a free pass to do anything; Iran must blink first or there’s no return to the JCPOA; Random Guaido recognized as President of Venezuela, with regime change still the priority.

There’s a curious kabuki in play here. Following the proverbial revolving door logic in DC, before literally crossing the street to have full access to the White House, Blinken was a founding partner of WestExec Advisorswhose main line of business is to offer “geopolitical and policy expertise” to American multinationals, the overwhelming majority of which are interested in – where else – China.

So Alaska might point to some measure of trade-off on trade. The problem, though, seems insurmountable. Beijing does not want to eschew the profitable American market, while for Washington expansion of Chinese technology across the West is anathema.

Blinken himself pre-empted Alaska, saying this is no “strategic dialogue.” So we’re back to bolstering the Indo-Pacific racket; recriminations about the “loss of freedom” in Hong Kong – whose role of US/UK Fifth Column is now definitely over; Tibet; and the “invasion” of Taiwan, now on spin overdrive, with the Pentagon stating it is “probable” before 2027.

“Strategic dialogue” it ain’t.

A junkie on a bum trip

Wang Yi, at a press conference linked to the 13th National People’s Congress and the announcement of the next Five-Year Plan, said: “We will set an example of strategic mutual trust, by firmly supporting each other in upholding core and major interests, jointly opposing ‘color revolution’ and countering disinformation, and safeguarding national sovereignty and political security.”

That’s a sharp contrast with the post-truth “highly likely” school of spin privileged by (failed) Russiagate peddlers and assorted Sinophobes.

Top Chinese scholar Wang Jisi, who used to be close to the late Ezra Vogel, author of arguably the best Deng Xiaoping biography in English, has introduced an extra measure of sanity, recalling Vogel’s emphasis on the necessity of US and East Asia understanding each other’s culture.

According to Wang Jisi, “In my own experiences, I find one difference between the two countries most illuminating. We in China like the idea of “seeking common ground while reserving our differences.” We state that the common interests between our two countries far exceed our differences. We define common ground by a set of principles like mutual respect and cooperation. Americans, in contrast, tend to focus on hard issues like tensions over Taiwan and the South China Sea. It looks that the Chinese want to set up principles before trying to solve specific problems, but the Americans are eager to deal with problems before they are ready to improve the relationship.”

The real problem is that the hegemon seems congenitally incapable of trying to understand the Other. It always harks back to that notorious formulation by Zbigniew Brzezinski, with trademark imperial arrogance, in his 1997 magnum opus The Grand Chessboard:

“To put it in a terminology that harkens back to the more brutal age of ancient empires, the three grand imperatives of imperial geostrategy are to prevent collusion and maintain security dependence among the vassals, to keep tributaries pliant and protected and to keep the barbarians from coming together.”

Dr Zbig was referring, of course, to Eurasia. “Security dependence among vassals” applied mostly to Germany and Japan, key hubs in the Rimland.  “Tributaries pliant and protected” applied mostly to the Middle East.

And crucially, “keep the barbarians from coming together” applied to Russia, China and Iran. That was Pax Americana in a nutshell. And that’s what’s totally unraveling now.

Hence the Kill Bill logic. It goes back a long way. Less than two months after the collapse of the USSR, the 1992 Defense Planning Guidance preached total global dominance and, following Dr Zbig, the absolute imperative of preventing the emergence of any future peer competitor.

Especially Russia, defined as “the only power in the world with the capacity of destroying the United States.”

Then, in 2002, at the start of the “axis of evil” era, came the full spectrum dominance doctrine as the bedrock of the US National Security Strategy. Domination, domination everywhere: terrestrial, aerial, maritime, subterranean, cosmic, psychological, biological, cyber-technological.

And, not by accident, the Indo-Pacific strategy – which guides the Quad – is all about “how to maintain US strategic primacy.”

This mindset is what enables US Think Tankland to formulate risible “analyses” in which the only “win” for the US imperatively requires a failed Chinese “regime.”

After all, Leviathan is congenitally incapable of accepting a “win-win”; it only runs on “zero-sum,” based on divide and rule.

And that’s what’s leading the Russia-China strategic partnership to progressively establish a wide-ranging, comprehensive security environment, spanning everything from high-tech weaponry to banking and finance, energy supplies and the flow of information.

To evoke yet another pop culture gem, a discombobulated Leviathan now is like Caroline, the junkie depicted in Lou Reed’s Berlin:

But she’s not afraid to die / All of her friends call her Alaska / When she takes speed / They laugh and ask her / What is in her mind / What is in her mind / She put her fist through the window pane / It was such a / funny feeling / It’s so cold / in Alaska.

China’s Economy of Peace

China’s Economy of Peace

December 14, 2020

by Peter Koenig for the Saker Blog

In the context of China’s webinar on 14 December 2020, on the topic of “China’s New Development Paradigm and High-Quality Belt and Road Cooperation”, organized by the China Center for Contemporary World Studies, International Department of CPC Central Committee and the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China, my presentation was on China’s Economy of Peace.
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China, about a decade ago, has deliberately embarked on an Economy of Peace. A strategy that China pursues, unimpressed by constant aggression from the west, which are mostly led by the United States. Is it perhaps this Chinese steadfast, non-aggressive way of constant forward-creation and embracing more and more allies on her way – that has made China such a success story? Overcoming violence by non-violence is engrained in 5000 years of Chinese history.

Despite relentlessly repeated assertions by the west, China’s objective is not to conquer the world or to “replace” the United States as the new empire. Quite to the contrary. The alliance China-Russia and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is seeking a multipolar world, with more justice for all – i. e. fairer trade in the sense of “win-win”, where all parties are benefitting equally. This is also a policy pursued by the recently signed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, or RCEP, the 15-country trade agreement signed at the 37th ASEAN Summit – 11 November 2020, in Vietnam, as well as by President Xi’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), launched in 2013 by the President himself.

China does not coerce cooperation – but offers peaceful cooperation. In 2014, Mr. Xi traveled to Germany to offer Madame Merkel for Germany to become – at that time – the western most link to the BRI, or the New Silk Road. This would have been an opening for all of Europe. However, Madame Merkel, having to follow Washington’s mandates – did not respond positively. President Jinping returned to Beijing, no hard feelings. And China continued her persistent course of connecting the countries of our Mother Earth with transport infrastructure, inter-country industrial ventures, education and research projects, as well as cultural exchanges to enrich the world – all the while respecting individual countries’ monetary and political sovereignty.

Many country leaders from Africa and the Global South in general express openly their contentment and satisfaction to have China as a partner and for dealing with China on the basis of equals. With the west, especially the US, there is bullying and coercion, unequal contracts, and often total disrespect for legally signed contracts.
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Meanwhile, the west lives in a permanent state of hypocrisy. It bashes China – actually without any reason, other than that the dying Anglo-Saxon-American empire mandates it to its partners, especially the European NATO allies – under threats of sanctions. Unfortunately, spineless Europe mostly complies.

Yet, having outsourced – for economic and profit reasons – most production processes to reliable, efficient and cheaper-labor China, the west depends very much on China for its supply chains. The covid-crisis, first wave, has clearly shown how dependent the west is on goods produced in China from sophisticated electronic equipment to pharmaceuticals.

As an example: About 90% or more of antibiotics or ingredients for antibiotics are Made in China. Similar percentages apply to other vital western imports. – But China does not “punish” or sanction. China creates and moves forward offering her alliance to the rest of the world.

China has also developed a new digital international Renminbi (RMB) or Yuan that may soon be rolled out for use of monetary transactions – of all kinds, including transfers, trade and even as a reserve currency. The yuan is already an ever-stronger reserve currency. This trend will be further enhanced through the RCEP and BRI.

Of course, the US is afraid that their dollar-hegemony they have built up since WWII with Fiat money backed by nothing, may suffer as international trading currency which the Anglo-American banking cartel practically imposed on the world, will come to an end; and the US-dollar’s standing as a reserve currency may rapidly decline.

And yes, the yuan will gradually replace the US dollar as reserve currency – and this – because countries’ treasurers realize that the yuan is a stable, gold-backed currency, also supported by a solid economy – the only economy of any importance in the world that will grow in the covid-year 2020, by perhaps as much as 3.5%, while western economies will falter badly. Predictions are dire for the US and Europe, between 12% (EU predictions) and up to 30% / 35% (US FED prediction).

The US dollar and its dominion over the international transfer system through SWIFT – has been used massively for sanctioning non-compliant countries, including totally illegal confiscation of assets – even countries reserve assets – case in point is Venezuela.

Escaping this coercive dollar dominion is the dream of many countries. Therefore, trading, investing and dealing with the Chinese currency, will be a welcome opportunity for many sovereign nations.
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China’s economic achievements and forward-looking perspectives may be summarized in two major events or global programs, the just signed free trade agreement with 14 countries – the 10 ASEAN countries, plus Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, altogether, including China 15 countries. The so-called Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, or RCEP, was in negotiations during eight years – and achieved to pull together a group of countries for free trade, of some 2.2 billion people, commanding about 30% of the world’s GDP. This is a never before reached agreement in size, value and tenor.

In addition to the largest such trade agreement in human history, it also links to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), or One Belt, One Road (OBOR), which in itself comprises already more than 130 countries and more than 30 international organizations. Also, China and Russia have a longstanding strategic partnership, containing bilateral agreements that too enter into this new trade fold – plus the countries of the Central Asia Economic Union (CAEU), consisting mostly of former Soviet Republics, are also integrated into this eastern trade block.

The myriad of agreements and sub-agreements between Asian-Pacific countries that will cooperate with RCEP, is bound together by the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), founded on 15 June 2001 in Shanghai as an intergovernmental organization, composed of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. The SCO is little known and little talked-about in the west.

The purpose of the SCO is to ensure security and maintain stability across the vast Eurasian region, join forces to counteract emerging challenges and threats, and enhance trade, as well as cultural and humanitarian cooperation.

Much of the funding for RCEP and BRI projects may come in the form of low-interest loans from China’s Asian Infrastructure and Investment Bank (AIIB) and other Chinese and participating countries’ national funding sources. In the hard times emerging from the covid crisis, many countries may need grant assistance to be able to recover as quickly as possible from their huge socioeconomic losses, created by the pandemic. In this sense, it is likely that the new Silk Road may support a special “Health Road” across the Asian Continent.

The RCEP may, as “byproduct”, integrate the huge Continent of Eurasia that spans all the way from western Europe to what is called Asia and covering the Middle East as well as North Africa, of some 55 million square kilometers (km2), and a population of about 5.4 billion people, close to 70% of the world population – See map (Wikipedia).

The crux of the RCEP agreement’s trade deals is that they will be carried out in local currencies and in yuan – no US-dollars. The RCEP is a massive instrument for dedollarizing, primarily the Asia-Pacific Region, and gradually the rest of the world.

Much of the BRI infrastructure investments, or New Silk Road, may be funded by other currencies than the US-dollar. China’s new digital Renminbi (RMB) or yuan may soon become legal tender for international payments and transfers, and will drastically reduce the use of the US-dollar.

The US-dollar is already in massive decline. When some 20-25 years ago about 90% of all worldwide held reserve-assets were denominated in US-dollars, this proportion has shrunk by today to below 60% – and keeps declining. The emerging international RMB / yuan, together with a RCEP- and BRI-strengthened Chinese economy, may further contribute to a dedollarization, as well as dehegemonization of the United States in the world. And as said before, the international digital RMB / yuan may progressively also be replacing the US-dollar, as well as euro reserves in countries’ coffers around the globe. The US-dollar may eventually return to be just a local US-currency, as it should be.

Under China’s philosophy, the unilateral world may transform into a multi-polar world. The RCEP and New Silk Road combination are rapidly pursuing this noble objective, a goal that will bring much more equilibrium into the world.

Maybe for a few years more to come, the west, led by the US – and always backed by the Pentagon and NATO, may not shy away from threatening countries participating in China’s projects, but to no avail. Under Tao philosophy, China will move forward with her partners, like steadily flowing water, constantly creating, avoiding obstacles, in pursuit of her honorable goal – a world in Peace with a bright common future.

*****
Peter Koenig is a geopolitical analyst and a former Senior Economist at the World Bank and the World Health Organization (WHO), where he has worked for over 30 years on water and environment around the world. He lectures at universities in the US, Europe and South America. He writes regularly for online journals such as Global Research; New Eastern Outlook (NEO), Information Clearing House (ICH) and more. He is the author of Implosion – An Economic Thriller about War, Environmental Destruction and Corporate Greed; and  co-author of Cynthia McKinney’s book “When China Sneezes: From the Coronavirus Lockdown to the Global Politico-Economic Crisis” (Clarity Press – November 1, 2020)

NATO’s Attempted Infringement Of Russia’s Airspace & Maritime Borders Is Very Dangerous

By Andrew Korybko

Source

Recent attempted infringements of Russia’s airspace and maritime borders by NATO are very dangerous instances of de-facto brinksmanship intended to provoke the Eurasian Great Power into reacting in a way that could then be manipulated as the “plausible pretext” for imposing further pressure upon it.

It seems like almost every week that Russian media reports on NATO’s attempted infringement of Russian airspace and maritime borders, but two ultra-dangerous developments occurred over the past week which signify that this trend will intensify. The Russian Navy threatened to ram the USS John McCain after it aggressively passed into the country’s territorial waters near Peter the Great Bay off Vladivostok, after which it thankfully reversed its course. The second incident involved the US launching rockets into the Black Sea from Romania that are capable of reaching Crimea in a wartime scenario. These two events deserve to be discussed more in detail because of their significance to NATO’s grand strategy.

The transatlantic alliance intends to provoke the Eurasian Great Power into reacting in a way that could then be manipulated as the “plausible pretext” for imposing further pressure upon it. It amounts to de-facto brinksmanship and is therefore incredibly dangerous since both parties are nuclear powers. Furthermore, it’s the definition of unprovoked aggression since Russia doesn’t partake in symmetrical provocations against NATO. If anything, every time that it’s been dishonestly accused of such was just the country carrying out military exercises within its own borders which just so happen to abut several NATO states after the bloc extended its frontiers eastward following the end of the Old Cold War.

It’s the eastern expansion of NATO and the alliance’s recent activities in the Arctic Ocean that represent the greatest threat to peace between the two. On the eastern front, the US is once again provoking Russia in order to craft the false impression among the Japanese that Moscow is a military threat to their interests. Washington is greatly perturbed by their past couple years of technically fruitless but nevertheless highly symbolic talks over signing a peace treaty to end the Second World War and resolve what Tokyo subjectively regards as the “Northern Territories Dispute”. Moscow’s reclamation of control over the Kuril Islands following that conflict was agreed to by the Allies, but then America went back on its word in order to divide and rule the two.

Their mutual intent to enter into a rapprochement with one another could in theory occur in parallel with a similar rapprochement between Japan and China, which might altogether reduce Tokyo’s need to retain as robust of an American military presence on its islands. That in turn would weaken the US’ military posturing and therefore reduce the viability of its grand strategic designs to “contain” both multipolar countries in that theater. As regards the Arctic and Eastern European fronts, these are also part of the same “containment” policy, albeit aimed most directly against Russia and only tangentially against China’s “Polar Silk Road”.

It’s understandable that the US will continue to compete with these two rival Great Powers, but such competition must be responsibly regulated in order to avoid the unintended scenario of a war by miscalculation. It’s for that reason why the world should be alarmed by American brinksmanship against them, especially the latest developments with respect to Russia that were earlier described. All that it takes is one wrong move for everything to spiral out of control and beyond the point of no return. Regrettably, while Biden might ease some pressure on China, he’ll likely compensate by doubling down against Russia.

Trump should also take responsibility for this as well since it’s occurring during his presidency after all, even if it might possibly be in its final months if he isn’t able to thwart the Democrats’ illegal seizure of power following their large-scale defrauding of this month’s elections. He capitulated to hostile “deep state” pressure early on into this term perhaps out of the mistaken belief that “compromising” with his enemies in the permanent military, intelligence, and diplomatic bureaucracies would result in them easing their pressure upon him on other fronts, but this gamble obviously failed since it only emboldened them to pressure him even more.

It’s unfortunate that Trump was never able to actualize his intended rapprochement with Russia for the aforementioned reasons, but he could have rebelliously defied the “deep state” after this month’s fraudulent elections by reversing his currently aggressive policy against Moscow if he truly had the political will to do so. He doesn’t, though, and this might nowadays be due more to his support of the military-industrial complex than any “deep state” pressure like it initially was. After all, war is a very profitable business, and artificially amplifying the so-called “Russia threat” by provoking Moscow into various responses could pay off handsomely.

It’s therefore extremely unlikely that this dangerous trend will change anytime in the coming future. To the contrary, it’ll likely only intensify and get much worse under a possible Biden Administration. Nevertheless, Russia doesn’t lack the resolve to defend its legitimate interests and will always do what’s needed in this respect, albeit responsibly (so long as it’s realistic to react in such a way) in order to avoid falling into the Americans’ trap. The ones who should be the most worried, then, are the US’ NATO and other “allied” vassals who stand to lose the most by getting caught in any potential crossfire for facilitating American aggression.

Syria’s International Conference On Refugees Is A Masterclass In Balancing

By Andrew Korybko

Source

The kinetic phase of the Hybrid War of Terror on Syria has mostly drawn to a close, as evidenced by the milestone event of the country hosting an international conference on the return of refugees, which resulted in several significant outcomes that speak to the masterful execution of its “balancing” strategy and raise hope that the Arab Republic will eventually transform into the Eastern Mediterranean terminal point of China’s visionary W-CPEC+ corridor across Eurasia.

Strategically Disarming “Weapons Of Mass Migration”

Syria’s international conference on the return of refugees is a milestone event for the country’s war which shows that the kinetic phase of the Hybrid War of Terror against it has mostly drawn to a close. President Assad’s keynote speech saw the Syrian leader thanking his Russian and Iranian wartime allies for their help getting to this point and encouraging his compatriots abroad to finally return home. He claimed that some of their host countries are exploiting them for financial and other reasons, strongly hinting that they’re being used against their will as “Weapons of Mass Migration” like Ivy League scholar Kelly M. Greenhill earlier described such a phenomenon. In connection with that, President Assad condemned those states which continue to impose illegal sanctions against the Arab Republic, which has disincentivized some refugees from returning home and thus results in artificially perpetuating this historic humanitarian crisis that was initially sparked by their external war of regime change aggression against his people through terrorist means.

Syria’s “Balancing” Act

Thankfully, Syria can count on its Russian and Iranian wartime allies to help reconstruct the ruined country and thus facilitate the return of millions of refugees to their homeland. To this end, Russia promised to allocate $1 billion as well as open up a trade mission in Damascus while Iran suggested setting up an international fund for this purpose. Both countries seem poised to enter into a “friendly competition” with one another for reconstruction contracts and market space which can only work out to Syria’s ultimate benefit. The Arab Republic is therefore expected to retain its carefully calibrated “balancing” act between them, wisely doing its utmost to prevent the emergence of any complete dependence on either of them in the future. This strategy is consistent with what it’s always pursued over the decades and represents its masterful execution which too many other small- and medium-sized states previously attempted but to no avail. Even worse, many of Syria’s peers saw this strategy backfire on them, thus leading to either their ruin or full dependence on one partner.

Full credit goes to Syria’s world-class diplomats for being able to manage such a difficult policy with such success. Not only are they “balancing” between Russia and Iran, but they also managed to attract the important participation of other countries in their international refugee conference, most curious of which for some observers is Pakistan. Those who only casually follow Syrian affairs might have missed it, but Islamabad recently dispatched massive medical aid to the Arab Republic. This and its participation in the international conference show that the “global pivot state” (which the author previously referred to it as) is capable of bold foreign policy moves independent of its close American, Saudi, and Turkish partners. Pakistan, just like Syria, is also practicing its own “balancing” act between its aforementioned three traditional partners and its three newest ones of Russia, China, and Iran. In fact, it can be argued that Pakistan and Syria are in the process of synergizing their respective “balancing” strategies for the betterment of Eurasia.

Pakistan’s Serendipitous Chance In Syria”

To explain, not only is Syria “balancing” between Russia and Iran, but also between India and Pakistan too. Although Damascus and Delhi have a long history of close relations, Presidential Advisor Bouthaina Shabaan told the Hindustan Times in August 2017 that her country is becoming hesitant about India’s role in its reconstruction after Prime Minister Modi’s highly publicized trip to “Israel” where he did everything from sign intergovernmental deals solidifying their de-facto alliance to even walking barefoot with Netanyahu along the beach. The author realized at the time that this is “Pakistan’s Serendipitous Chance In Syria” whereby Islamabad could flex its anti-Zionist credentials to present itself as a much more credible partner than pro-Zionist Delhi in pursuit of strengthening the two state’s historic relations that reached their high point in 1974 after a Pakistani pilot flying a Syrian jet shot down an “Israeli” fighter flying over the occupied Golan Heights. Syria’s diplomats were evidently receptive to Pakistan’s outreaches, hence the steady improvement of ties.

The Winding Road To W-CPEC+

It’s not just nostalgia for their Old Cold War-era ties nor their shared hatred of “Israel” that’s bringing them closer together nowadays, but pro-Chinese Silk Road pragmatism. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is the flagship project of China’s Belt & Road Initiative (BRI), and its western branch corridor (W-CPEC+) through Iran has the chance of not only reaching Russia by running parallel with the stalled North-South Transport Corridor (NSTC) across Azerbaijan but can also extend as far as Syria via Iraq. China is the little-discussed third economic force apart from Russia and Iran which is engaged in a “friendly competition” with its partners to develop Syria, and the improvement of Syrian-Pakistani relations as is presently happening could result in W-CPEC+ extending from the Pacific Ocean to the Eastern Mediterranean through Iran, Iraq, and Syria, all of which are allied with one another. It’ll of course take a lot of political will from all sides — not least of all Pakistan — to see this ambitious vision through, but if successful, then it could revolutionize Mideast geopolitics.

All five countries — China, Pakistan, Iran, Russia, and Syria — would benefit from this outcome. The People’s Republic is the world’s second-largest economy and actively eyeing more positions in the Eastern Mediterranean to complement its prospective ones in “Israel”, albeit via more geopolitically reliable mainland routes than the maritime ones connecting it to the self-professed “Jewish State”. Pakistan has an interest in bolstering its credential as the “global pivot state” by having CPEC serve as the platform for integrating Eurasia more closely together. Iran, which is desperately seeking all manner of sanctions relief, is reportedly negotiating a gargantuan economic agreement with China and would certainly benefit by facilitating more East-West trade through its territory. As for Russia, its recent control over Tartus means that it could profit from any Syrian export of Chinese products through that port. As for the Arab Republic itself, its expected benefit is that this vision would accelerate its reconstruction and allow it to finally actualize its pre-war “Five Seas Strategy”.

Concluding Thoughts

All told, Syria’s international conference on the return of refugees was about much more than just its titular topic. Reading between the lines of the details that have since been revealed about this milestone event, it was actually a masterclass in Syria’s “balancing” strategy. The Arab Republic proved that its diplomats are among the most highly skilled in the world after successfully “balancing” between Russia and Iran, as well as India and Pakistan, all with the aim of fulfilling its visionary “Five Seas Strategy” which some argue was partially responsible for provoking the Hybrid War of Terror that’s been viciously waged against it for almost an entire decade already. In the best-case scenario, Syria will eventually serve as the Eastern Mediterranean terminal point of the W-CPEC+ corridor connecting that strategic body of water with the Pacific Ocean via a several-country-long mainland commercial corridor. The successful fulfillment of this vision would revolutionize not only Mideast geopolitics, but also Eurasian geopolitics as a whole, which thus makes it an urgent priority for all.

How Geopolitical Economy Crossed the Atlantic – West to East

How Geopolitical Economy Crossed the Atlantic – West to East

by Francis Lee for the Saker Blog

Europe is tending to bring the society and culture of the continent into harmony with those of the United States, exulting the characteristics of the latter into models and objects of an uncritical and overwhelming admiration … There is no longer at present a European project. A North American project … under American command has replaced it … The hegemonism of the United States is clearly visible behind the disappearance of the European project in favour of a return to Atlanticism – political, economic, cultural, and militaristic.

Samir Amin (The Liberal Virus 2004)

According to current orthodox economic trade theory – see the works of David Ricardo (1772-1823) and his theory of comparative advantage – this is a hypothesis which in policy terms is predicated upon the free movement of labour, capital and commodities, which it is argued will result in flows into the most optimal investment and growth areas. This process will be seen to maximise social welfare in terms of income and output. Like many economic theories which have come and gone this particular addition to the collection may seem disarmingly plausible; in practise, however, the theory begs a number of key questions.

The current conventional wisdom as applicable to the free-trade paradigm rests on a one-size fits all prescriptive model; that is to say that always and everywhere it is regarded as the policy of choice. Free-up the dead hand of state controlled, interventionist policies, and the markets will deliver the goods, so it is argued. This is, it should be understood, not an empirical assessment but a purely theoretical paradigm, which is to say the least, questionable. The quasi-religious belief in the efficacy of free trade/markets and factor input movement is the cornerstone of trade agreements such as free-trade areas like NAFTA, on the Mexican/American border and trading blocs like the EU in Europe and MERCOSUR in Latin America.

This theory, which was effectively mobilized and globalized by the Anglo-American economic establishment (the Reagan-Thatcher axis) continues to be taught in schools and university courses so that generation after generation of students are infected by what has become known as the Washington Consensus, Neo-liberalism, Globalization call it what you will. However, in the cold and unforgiving world of actually-existing capitalism free-trade and free-markets have never to any great extent really existed. It cannot be emphasised enough that orthodox economic theory is, as Amin states elsewhere, a purely ideological construct bearing only a tenuous connection with the real world.

At the outset it should be made clear that capitalist development was and is a function of the market and state relationship. Public authority has always actively intervened in shaping and promoting the economic policies of the domestic and international economy contrary to hyper-globalist assertions which we might call ‘state-denial’. It should be stated unequivocally that the state and its role is and remains the most significant force in shaping both the national and world economy. This was evident as far back as Tudor England and beyond when the English monarchs banned the importation of woollen cloth in an early version of infant industry protection transforming England from an importing wool country into the most formidable wool and later manufacturing country in the world.

Mercantilism and its influence*

The same mercantilist policies initially carried out in England (as it then was) were then also in time operationalised in both the United States and Germany who played catch-up with the UK in the late 19th century. The architect of US mercantilism was Alexander Hamilton (born 1755 or thereabouts – died 1804) who overcame the free-trade preferences of Thomas Jefferson in the early stages of US economic development; but it was the civil war – 1861-65 – essentially a conflict between the protectionist north and the free-trading south, which settled the issue. Ex Commander-in-Chief of the Union Army of the Potomac, Ulysses Simpson Grant, later to become US President argued that:

“For centuries England has relied on protection, has carried it to extremes and has obtained satisfactory results from it. There is no doubt that it is to this system that it owes its present strength. After two centuries, England has found it convenient to adopt free trade because it thinks that protection can no longer offer it anything. Very well then, gentlemen, my knowledge of our country leads me to believe that within 200 years, when America has gotten out of protection all that it can offer, it too will adopt free trade.”(1)

In Germany, Friedrich List (1789-1846) who also had scant regard for any ‘free-market’ nonsense and the Ricardian corollary of comparative advantage was instrumental in promoting a system of political guidance from above as a policy for economic development.

‘’ … the first stage (of such a long-term policy) is one of adopting free-trade with more advanced nations as a means of raising themselves from a state of barbarism, and of making advances in agriculture; in the second stage, promoting the growth of manufactures, fisheries, navigation and foreign trade by means of commercial restrictions; and in the last stage, on after reaching the highest degree of wealth and power by gradually reverting to the principle of free-trade and of unrestricted competition in the home and in foreign markets’’. (2)

This was the policy instrumentalised by Bismarck during the middle and late 19th century which enabled Germany to outperform its European rivals, principally the UK. And still today in many ways German nationalist mercantilism which it rests upon has dominated the EU and is even now still much in evidence.

The peculiarities of financialised capitalism in Germany stands in marked contrast to that of the Anglo-American world. During the last 4 decades the German service sector has become proportionately larger, as should be expected from a financialised economy, but Germany has also systematically defended its industrial sector, not least by manipulating the exchange rate to protect its export industries. The distinctive feature of German financialization is a maintenance of a strong industrial base, in spite of weak aggregate investment. Additionally, the German financial system has retained much of its historic character as ‘bank-based’ in contrast to the ‘market-based’ system of the US/UK. Germany has a small stock-market in comparison to the Anglo-American model and a larger more diffused and competitive banking model – the Sparkassen which stands in sharp contrast to the liberalised and oligopolistic banking systems in the US/UK.

Generally speaking the reversion to free-trade from protectionism has been fraught with difficulties. The mutual benefits of free-trade only exists between highly developed nations, or between nations of roughly equal levels of development. There is no question that free trade can ever become a source of growth and development between nations of unequal economic status; such development has never worked for the less developed party in the trade relationship and in all probability never will. (See the Prebisch-Singer hypothesis.) The advantages will accrue to the more productive economy.

It is easy enough to cite examples of this phenomenon: Why for example do Portugal, Spain, Ireland, Latvia, Italy, run chronic negative trade figures on their respective current accounts? The answer is that their productivity levels are lower and therefore their costs are higher than Germany’s. This means that there is a structural problem of trade relations between Germany together with the core states (Holland, Scandinavia, Austria, and so forth) and the EU’s less developed peripheral states (See above). Moreover, given that they use the same currency free markets only work for the core of the EU. Germany and the core states run surpluses on their current account whilst the periphery runs chronic trade deficits. One nation’s surplus is another’s deficit. Hence given the policy prescriptions stipulated by the ruling institutions of global capitalism, and their applications, the increasing divergence between developed, semi-developed and under-developed states becomes apparent and understandable.

Furthermore, simply opening up a developing economy to global market forces will almost certainly lead to further disaster. There is always the danger of local businesses being wiped out by more efficient foreign competition before they can get a toehold into the wider world. This was certainly the case in Russia during the Yeltsin years. The imposition of the economic ‘shock therapy’, turned out to be all shock and no therapy. ‘Experts’ from the west in the shape of neo-liberal economists such as Jeffrey Sachs and Andrei Shleifer, and the lawyer Jonathan Hay, had a degree of influence over Russia’s economic policy that was unprecedented for a sovereign independent state. Together with Yagor Gaidar and Anatoli Chubais they formulated decisions that were inserted directly into Presidential decrees. The lesson learnt was that a prerequisite for positive and beneficial engagement with the global economy is the development of robust internal structures; the development of a national economy starts with internal integration and then moves on to external integration.

Strange as it may seem the development strategies employed in the East Asian states and economies were in flat contradiction to the IMF/World Bank prescriptions and met – mirabile dictu – with considerable success. These policies carried out by South Korea and Japan were in fact based on the exclusion of inward investment of western capital inflows particularly those of a short-term speculative nature (i.e. ’’Hot Money’’). The strategy was supplemented by an extensive programme of export driven development and gradually opening up the domestic economy for trade. A policy which is still extant with China now included.

What Price Comparative Advantage?

Yet the Ricardian ideology still holds sway in the textbooks and institutions seemingly unaware of the negative outcome of such policies. This is perhaps a classical example of the dissociation of theory from empirical reality; a hidebound and utterly incapable of reform of the institutions of global capitalism and their spokespersons are aptly personified in the words of one of Samuel Becket’s characters in one of his plays ‘’I must go on, I can’t go on, I’ll go on.’’ Neo-liberalism, in fact, proved extremely difficult to implement technically but then practical results have little to do with the persuasiveness of ideologies.

Suffice it to say that this ideological paradigm both permeates and is pretty much obligatory in the ruling institutions of global capitalism – the IMF, World Bank and WTO and in addition to other auguste bodies such as the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) the OECD and G7. Any questioning of the holy script is treated as blasphemy and relegated to mocking footnotes or treated as being non-existent.

With an unchanging policy consensus the EU defenders of the faith are completely sold on the putative beneficial outcomes to be derived from the holy trinity of free-movement of labour, capital, and commodities. And of course, this sacred trinity is crucial to an understanding of the results of these policies which have had extremely deleterious effects in practice, both in the developing world but more recently particularly in Europe. This meant that in Euroland the deficit countries could not devalue their currencies in order to rectify their trade deficits and would be forced into what became known as ‘internal devaluation’, more commonly understood as austerity.

In addition to this has been the lack of fiscal transfers from the more developed to the less developed or one state to another. Fiscal transfers within sovereign states, from Vermont to Louisiana or Surrey to Merseyside, or the North to the South of Italy, is quite normal, but fiscal transfers between sovereign states, for example, Finland and Greece, is more problematic. In the same spirit this lack of mutualization of public debt, i.e., allowing the debt of one-member state to be considered as an obligation of another and proposed to correct it through the issue of Eurobonds. However the members of the EU have neither the legitimacy nor the desire to carry the costs and burdens of each other’s actions. Nation states are not, after all, registered charities and charity stops at their borders.

‘’So long as a country is a member of the EU – even if it is not bound by a specific programme imposing austerity measures because of its huge debt, and so forth – it will still be bound by the catastrophic neoliberal rules imposed by the various EU treaties. That is to say the EU treaties that followed the Treaty of Maastricht, which institutionalised the opening and liberalisation of the markets for commodities, capital, and labour, and which, indirectly, also imply privatisations and the phasing out of the welfare state. (my emphasis – FL). This on top of the severe restrictions imposed on fiscal policy through the stringent rules and upon budget deficits and debt-to-GDP ratios (through the Stability and Growth Pact) which indirectly impose austerity.’’(3)

We should be by now also familiar with the imposition of the holy trinity of privatisation-liberalisation-deregulation policies and the effects which these policies have visited upon the world courtesy of the so-called ‘Washington Consensus’.

The problem is that there seems to be an invincible barrier of learnt ignorance nurtured within the governing institutions which direct and administer the global economy and its policies, and the shutting down or even the possibility of transcending what amounts to a religious dogma the consequences of which are manifest.

‘’We are now being asked to believe that these policies which have further impoverished people and are devastating the planet will in fact lead to diametrically different and highly beneficial outcomes, if only they can be accelerated and applied everywhere, freely and without restrictions; that is when they are globalized.’’ (4)

You see, the problem is easily solved by a more radical implementation of the existing – failed!- policies. Words fail one!

Predictably the result of the above guiding principles have reduced annual GDP growth figures for the Euro area which have been uniformly poor. These indicators were already baked in the cake and there were serious reservations regarding the sustainability of the global system as far back as 2019 which were bound to give rise to weak levels of investment and growth with the corollary of increasing unemployment – and so it turned out. From January 2018 Euro growth had slowed down to an average of 0.3% and then with the onset of the pandemic collapsed to a negative -3.6. As follows all are the latest figures for the 4 major EU countries: the UK -1.7%, France -5.0% Germany -2.2% and Italy -5.4% as of March 2020. GDP growth in the EU had been on a downward trajectory from 2.7% in 2017 to 1.3% in early 2020 and since the Covid-19 has plummeted to minus -3.6% (5)

IMF/WB Shock Therapy – Eastern Europe

A person sitting at a table Description automatically generated

Latvia. Soup de Jour: Russophobia. Enjoy.

Looking back and having witnessed the great Soviet meltdown with its attendant economic cataclysm the ex-Soviet satellites and republics have more recently received less attention in the business and financial media. What attention they have received paints a rosy picture of full-employment and runaway growth which have been a function of the rapid shock therapy which caused such mayhem in Russia in the 1990s. So much for the hype. What did in fact happen was rather different.

If anything the implantation of the neo-liberal virus and shock-therapy in the newly emerged post-communist states of Eastern Europe, together with an additional virulent and counter-productive Russophobic hostility should stand as a model for a botched and bungled attempt at social and economic development. The subsequent economic and social ravages has reduced these states to an almost Latin-American relationship with Western Europe.

The bald fact is that in economic terms there is little comparison to be made between Eastern and even Central Europe to Western Europe. This gap has not significantly changed and the only ex-soviet satellite comparable is Czechia reputed to be the success story. Czechia just squeezes into the bottom of the income hierarchy of the west as measured in GDP per capita of Purchasing Power Parity (PPP). The only western states which fall below the Czechia are Portugal $30,622.00 and Greece $27,812.00. (6)

These states, the ex-soviet Republics and satellites, having thrown off the yoke of communism wanted to taste the joys of western consumerism and national self-determination, apparently, and as subsequent events turned out, also for the imposition of the yoke of US imperialism, which for bizarre reasons they found liberating. Suffice it to say that their geopolitical outlook was unashamedly Atlanticist, and their economics were neo-liberal; this much to the dismay of the European Gaullists and socialists.

But this really was manna from heaven for the British and German Atlanticists. Their object all along had been to smash the Delors’ vision of Euro-deepening with the policy tool of Euro-widening. German big business in particular saw juicy opportunities to outsource its operations to a new low-wage, East European hinterland thereby lowering its costs, as well as opening up new markets in which to sell their products. European banks also saw opportunities to extend credit – a move that they would later regret bitterly – to these newly emerging states. From the British viewpoint Euro-widening effectively meant political and institutional dilution as well as economic and financial deregulation. The cheap armies of labour in the East would provide the perfect instrument for downward harmonisation of wage levels and workers’ rights and benefits in the West.

This was indeed a deep-going change in both the economic configuration and geopolitics of the EU. But I cannot recall any discussion prior to the event. Such big policy decisions, taken behind closed doors with minimal consultation (if any) to all those who would be affected only served to distance the electorates of the west further from the EU political and bureaucratic elites. Pretty much par for the EU.

A case study by Michael Hudson (7) is illustrative of the whole process which happened, and is still happening in Eastern Europe, he writes with reference to Latvia:

‘’Post-soviet economies were free of public debt, real estate and personal debt or other bank loans obtained with their political independence in 1991 … like other post-soviet economies Latvians wanted to achieve the type of prosperity they saw in Western Europe. If Latvia had actually followed the policies that had built up the western industrial nations, the state would have taxed wealth and income progressively to invest in public infrastructure. Instead Latvia’s ‘miracle’ assumed largely predatory forms of rent-seeking and insider privatisations. (My emphasis – FL).

Accepting US and Swedish advice to impose the world’s lopsided and set of neoliberal tax and financial policies, Latvia imposed the heaviest taxes on labour. Employers must pay a flat 25% tax on wages plus a 25% social service tax, whilst wage earners pay another 11% service tax … Persons who advocated taxing real estate and financial wealth, or even supported public spending, protecting consumers and other regulation were accused of threatening a return to communism. A black and white contrast is drawn either soviet style socialism, or neoliberal ideology denying that there is any such thing as a viable mixed economy (Op.cit. pp.286/287)

There followed a period of phony, debt-fuelled growth which inevitably popped in 2008 when in Warren Buffet’s amusing little quip ‘’You only see who’s been swimming naked when the tide’s gone out.’’ And in the fullness of time the tide went out for Latvia. By 2008 it had become common knowledge that the post-soviet economies had not really grown at all but had simply been financialised and indebted.

Eastern Europe – A Demographic Disaster Zone

If the economic problems of Eastern Europe were not bad enough there was the second wave of bad news. To wit, an unmitigated fall in population levels which have already have now resulted from a massive exodus of young and talented migrants from the Baltics and others to the more salubrious climes of Western Europe, mainly Germany and the Scandinavian states. The depopulation phenomenon was not a policy as such, but it emerged as the unanticipated corollary to other parts of the neoliberal policy baggage.

In addition to mass migration there has been a fall in the fertility rate (8) and a rise in the death rate as well as the exodus of skilled and ambitious young workers looking for a better life in Western Europe. For population growth to stabilise a fertility rate minimum of 2.1 babies for every one child-bearing woman per annum is needed. Suffice it to say that even Western Europe has not managed to hit this target let alone the Eastern periphery.

Post-independence from the Soviet bloc in 1991, the population of Latvia has been diminishing annually at the rate of 23,000 people a year. These frightening figures were unveiled last March by a professor at the University of Latvia, demographer Peteris Zvidriņš who would note that the sad reality is that Latvia loses a small town every two weeks. In raw figures, that is 55 people a day, or 1,650 people a month. Another Latvian demographer, who heads a local office of the International Organization for Migration of the United Nations, Ilmar Mezhs, has recently told Skaties.lv that most of those who are leaving Latvia are not planning to go back. Referring to the forecasts of Eurostat, Mezhs suggested that in sixty years in the place of 2.7 million people who had previously resided in Latvia, one would find less than a million people still dwelling in this country. According to preliminary reports, the country’s population has already been reduced to 1.946 million people. Latvia has been plagued by high mortality rates along with the massive exodus of its people since 1991. According to LTV7, a local media station, the situation in maternity wards across Latvia is critical: low salaries often go hand-in-hand with a shortage of medical personnel, especially young professionals. If the situation is not addressed urgently, as various Latvian media sources report, there will be no qualified doctors left in hospitals.

The latest Eurostat report on the situation in Lithuania shows that up to 29% of the inhabitants are living on the verge of poverty, with the situation remaining unchanged for eight consecutive years. At the same time, Lithuania is among the top five states of the EU where people are being employed for meagre salaries. The sad reality of this trend is evident in historical records showing an unprecedented drop in the population of this Baltic country, falling from 3.7 million back in 1990 to 2.8 million in 2016 – a 25% decline. Income inequality and the striking poverty of some Lithuanian residents is only getting worse over time, putting Lithuania on the list of the poorest EU states. A typical resident would pay a third of his monthly salary in a bid to get access to healthcare services.

It’s not surprising that for many years Lithuania has had the largest number of suicide cases in the EU. Therefore, it is quite understandable why Lithuania remains a country that consumes more alcohol than any other, as it’s been stated by the World Health Organization (WHO). A similar situation can be seen in other Eastern European countries, that are being described, according to Der Spiegel, as so-called “second speed EU states … Apart from migration additional factors exacerbate the problem namely: low birth and increasing death rates.

The long list of domestic social problems in the Baltic states has been largely ignored by media engaged in a massive Russophobia campaign promoted by Washington. Rolandas Paksas, the former president of Lithuania summed up the results of the post-Soviet period in the history of the republic in March. In his opinion, nothing has been done in the past twenty-seven years of independence nor has anything been built. Therefore, as Paksas points out, every year there are fewer and fewer people in Lithuania, and the life of those who remain is only becoming more difficult.

In general terms Eastern Europe’s population is shrinking like no other regional population in modern history. The population has declined dramatically in war ridden countries like Syria as well as in some advanced economies in peacetime, like Japan. But a population drop throughout a whole region and over decades has never been observed in the world since the 1950s with the exception of Southern Europe in the last five years and Eastern Europe over the last 25 consecutive years. The UN estimated that there were about 292 million people in Eastern Europe last year, 18 million less than in the early 1990s, that’s more than the population of the Netherlands disappearing from the region. The fall corresponds to a drop of six per cent – moreover, the trend continues

  • Lithuania 12%
  • Latvia 12%
  • Ukraine 9%
  • Hungary 8.5%
  • Romania 7%
  • Bulgaria 6%
  • Estonia 1.5%
  • Poland 0.5%
  • Russia, slight increase
  • Slovakia, slight increase
  • Czech Republic, slight increase.

But the most drastic consequences of the “post-communist breakdown” have been experienced by Ukraine – once one of the most developed republics of the USSR. If in the early 1990s there were 52 million people in the republic, now the population does not exceed 42 million. So much for the revolution of dignity and prospect of freedom democracy and abundance promised by the EU. The Kiev Institute of Demography estimates a population of 32 million by 2050 or perhaps sooner. According to recent polls, 35% of Ukrainians declared their readiness to emigrate usually to other Eastern European states; particularly Russia and Poland. The process accelerated after Ukraine received a visa-free regime with the EU: about 100,000 people leave the country every month. Ukraine is not so much a failing state, it is more a dying state.

In geopolitical terms a recognisable global configuration has since the 1990s come into being. This consists of a top down US-Zionist structure resting upon a West European layer of semi-comprador states, which in turns rests upon completely comprador regimes in Eastern Europe as was the case during their years of Soviet domination.

Unfortunately for them neo-liberalism and Russophobia didn’t put food on the table. The peoples of Eastern Europe have been subjected to a three-card confidence trick of ‘find the lady’ a card game practised by petty thieves on dumb overseas tourists in the streets of central London during the tourist season. It may work for a time, but ultimately the deteriorating conditions of life are and will be such that there will be a search for alternatives. But given their abject servility ‘will be’ should be perhaps be less likely than ‘may be’.

NOTES

*Mercantilism: economic theory and practice common in Europe from the 16th to the 18th century that promoted governmental regulation of a nation’s economy for the purpose of augmenting state power at the expense of rival national powers. It was the economic counterpart of political absolutism. Its 17th-century publicists—most notably Thomas Mun in England, Jean-Baptiste Colbert in France, and Antonio Serra in Italy.

  1. Monthly Review Press – 1967
  2. National System of Political Economy – Friedrich List – p.141 – 1841
  3. The New World Order in Action – Takis Fotopolous – pp.156/157
  4. The Case Against the Global Economy – Jerry Mander, et al.
  5. Source: – Trading Economics.
  6. Source: – Pocket World in Figures – The Economist 2020 edition.
  7. Killing the Host – Michael Hudson -2015
  8. The total fertility rate in a specific year is defined as the total number of children that would be born to each woman if she were to live to the end of her child-bearing years and give birth to children in alignment with the prevailing age-specific fertility rates. It is calculated by totalling the age-specific fertility rates as defined over five-year intervals. Assuming no net migration and unchanged mortality, a total fertility rate of 2.1 children per woman ensures a broadly stable population.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to questions during the online session “Russia and the post-COVID World”

Source

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to questions during the online session “Russia and the post-COVID World”

10 July 2020 15:55

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to questions during the online session “Russia and the post-COVID World,” held as part of the Primakov Readings international forum, Moscow, July 10, 2020

First of all, I would like to express my gratitude for inviting me to once again speak at the Primakov Readings. This is a young, but also one of the most respected platforms for discussing international matters. Unfortunately, we cannot meet in person due to the coronavirus pandemic. Nevertheless, thanks to modern technology we could keep it on schedule. I am glad that my colleagues were able to take part in the preceding sessions of these readings. Judging by their feedback, this was a useful experience.

I will not delve into the question of how the coronavirus has affected every aspect of our lives, and what it will bring in the future. We already feel its effect on the economy and in personal contacts, from official visits and talks, to humanitarian, cultural and education exchanges. There seems to be a consensus that it will take quite some time for things to get back to normal. How long it will take and what the new norm will be is anybody’s guess. That said, all tend to agree that things will change.

By the way, I cannot fail to mention that our foreign service has had to face serious challenges. There were confirmed cases both at the Foreign Ministry head offices and our representative offices in the regions, as well as in our affiliated institutions. Thank goodness, we did not face a massive outbreak or severe cases. There were also people in our missions abroad affected by the pandemic. When borders closed, all our foreign missions without exception were mobilised to assist Russian nationals stranded abroad. Along with other agencies represented in the Emergency Response Centre, primarily the Transport Ministry, the Federal Air Agency, the Federal Service for Supervision of Consumer Protection and Welfare and the Communications Ministry, we complied repatriation lists. This was a lot of work, fraught with many mistakes, mostly unintentional rather than deliberate, that had to be rectified. At the same time we had to make arrangements to pay support allowances to those stranded abroad without funds. We have already done a great deal on this front, although there are still people asking to be repatriated, and some have come forward only recently. It seems that looking at the developments in the countries where they are staying and considering the uncertainty as to when all this will come to an end, they finally opted to return home.

Speaking of other ways in which the pandemic influenced our work and the way we perform our professional duties, the virus has aggravated other pre-existing challenges and threats. They have not gone away, including international terrorism. As you know, some speculate that terrorists are thinking about somehow using the strain of this virus, or maybe even creating new strains to achieve their malicious ends. Drug trafficking, cybercrime, environmental issues, climate and, of course, the many conflicts around the world – all these problems are still with us. And all this overlaps with the specific nature of the Trump administration and its deliberate policy of undermining all legal and contractual frameworks without exception on arms control and international cooperation, for example, regarding UNESCO, the WHO, the UN Human Rights Council, etc.

Of course, we keep a close eye on all these developments and analyse them. We still believe that sustainable solutions to various crises, conflicts and problems in the interests of all countries, and taking into consideration each and everyone’s concerns can only result from collective efforts based on the principles enshrined in the UN Charter, by respecting UN Security Council prerogatives, mobilising consensus-based associations, including the G20, as well as BRICS, the SCO and associations on the post-Soviet space. Unfortunately, not everyone has been ready to work together during the pandemic, to engage in collective efforts and approaches. We are witnessing attempts to push through narrow-minded agendas, and use this crisis to continue strangling unwanted regimes. The call from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet to suspend unilateral sanctions, at least during the pandemic, that impede the distribution of medial and other humanitarian goods, and other essential items to the corresponding countries, was completely ignored. The same goes for attempts to assign blame for the infection in the midst of the pandemic, when what we need is to think about how we can help medical workers, doctors and virologists. You know very well what I am referring to.

Like 75 years ago, when Victory over a common enemy was won only by working together and rising above the ideological differences of the time, we now also need to realise that we will resolve these issues only if we cooperate. I’m sure we’ll talk about the future of the WHO later. We are in favour of resolving any issues based on the UN Charter, which is a collective security platform.

Our Western colleagues – I’ve already mentioned this many times – are trying to actively introduce the concept of a “rules-based order” into diplomatic, political and practical usage. This is not international law. This is something else (we can also talk about this in more detail during the discussion). Clearly, this is an attempt to regain the dominance that the historical West has enjoyed for almost 500 years now. This attempt takes the form of convening a “group of interests” and various partnerships, where convenient countries are invited that either share the attempts to adopt unilateral approaches to international affairs, or will yield to pressure and join these initiatives. Not everyone is invited. Those who have their own outlook on things and are ready to defend it are left out. Later, when a concept, say, on chemical weapons, is fabricated, or an attempt is made to create a club of the select few who will decide on who is to blame for violating cybersecurity, they will start selling it as universally applicable norms. We are witnessing this now as it’s happening. These are very serious problems.

I would like to conclude my opening remarks. Our main goal, as before, is to protect our national interests and create the most favourable external conditions for the country’s development. You may have noticed that we come up with ideas that unite. Convening a summit of the UN Security Council permanent members is our top priority. This effort is ongoing. We are now focusing on the substantive part of the event, because, of course, it will play the decisive part.

The current hardships in international relations increase the importance of these discussions and, in general, the contribution of the expert community, and academic and political circles, into the efforts to analyse the situation and make reasonable realistic forecasts. I’d be remiss not to mention the case study concept that Yevgeny Primakov introduced into our foreign policy and political science. We appreciate the fact that the participants and organisers of the Primakov Readings always help us draw from a rich well of ideas, from which we then pick the ones that we submit to the President to determine our policies in specific circumstances.

Question: Five years ago, an IMEMO strategic forecast assumed that a new bipolarity might emerge as one of the four scenarios for the future world order.   At that time, this hypothesis was based on the relative dynamics of the synergetic power of China and the United States.  The COVID-19 pandemic has provided plenty of evidence of this theory. Of course, a different – asymmetrical – bipolarity is emerging, where the strategic parity is between Russia and the US, and the economic parity is between China and the United States, which is distinct from what was the case in the 20th century.

Do you think that the US-PRC conflict has passed the point of no return? It is obvious that any exacerbation of this confrontation is not in Russia’s interests. Will Russia be able to act as a swing power in order to maintain stability of the world system, including based on your unique experience of multilateral diplomacy?

Sergey Lavrov: I remember the forecast you have mentioned. I would like to say that, certainly, a lot has changed over these past five years, primarily in terms of confirming that the confrontation, rivalry, antagonism, and the struggle for leadership between the United States and China have, of course, been mounting. Before I pass directly to an analysis of this bipolar process, I would like to note that the real situation in the world as a whole is much more complicated. After all, the world is growing more polycentric than it was previously. There are numerous players apart from the US and China, without whom it is very difficult to promote one’s interests, if some or other capital suddenly decides to do this single-handedly.  I think we will yet discuss some other possible options in this sense. Let me mention the fact that Dean of the Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs at the National Research University – Higher School of Economics   Sergey Karaganov has commented on this subject in an article for Russia in Global Affairs, a journal published by Fyodor Lukyanov.

It is quite clear that we should take into consideration, in our practical work, the entire diversity and totality of political, economic, military, historical, and ideological factors that are manifesting themselves in the multipolar world, a world that Yevgeny Primakov predicted. We are assessing the US-Chinese controversy against this backdrop and through this prism.  That it is not existing in a vacuum is, as a minimum, confirmed by the fact that each of the sides is seeking to recruit as many supporters of their approaches as possible to the WHO or any other subject that in some way or other is associated with Washington and Beijing as defining contradictions in their approaches.

The Americans are certainly perceiving the growth of the PRC’s total state power as a threat to their claims to retaining the world leadership against all odds. Back in 2017, the US National Security Strategy listed China, along with Russia, among the main threats. It was for the first time that China was put before Russia as a threat to the United States.

Russia and China were directly accused of seeking to challenge the American influence, values and prosperity.  It is quite clear that the US is waging a struggle by absolutely unsavoury methods, as is obvious and clear to everyone. They are putting forward unilateral demands that take into account solely the US interests. If demands are turned down, they say the refusal is unacceptable and introduce sanctions.

If a discussion is suggested, the discussion rapidly degenerates into delivering an ultimatum and ends up in selfsame sanctions – trade wars, tariffs, and lots more.

A highly indicative fact is how the Americans and the Chinese managed to come to terms on phase one of the trade talks in January and what the fate of this agreement is now. The US authorities are accusing Beijing of drawing off jobs and glutting the market, while showing reluctance to buy US products. According to the Americans, China is implementing the Belt and Road project intended to steamroll all world economy mechanisms, production chains, and so on.  China allegedly was concealing information on COVID-19 and is engaging in cyber espionage. Notice how zealously the Americans are forcing their allies and others to give up any collaboration with Huawei and other Chinese digital giants and companies. China’s hi-tech companies are being squeezed out of the world markets.  China is being charged with expansionism in the South China Sea, problems on the actual control line with India, human rights violations, and [misbehaviour with regard to] Tibet, the Xinjiang-Uyghur Autonomous Region, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. All of this is taking place simultaneously. A powerful wave of fault-finding, a perfect storm is being raised. I hope, of course, that common sense will prevail and the situation will not pass the point of no return mentioned by Mr Dynkin.

We hope that there are people in the United States, who are figuring out how to reassure the world of the dollar system’s reliability in the post-election period. The US Secretary of the Treasury is speaking about this all but openly. He is warning that they should be wary of overstepping the red line, after which people will just start fleeing from America, saying that the dollar is no good anymore because it is being brazenly abused.

There is, of course, hope that the Chinese possess a political, diplomatic and foreign policy culture that always seeks to avoid various imbroglios.  But there are also some very alarming signs that, despite these rays of hope, which must be nurtured and cherished, US and Chinese officials start getting personal, occasionally in a very harsh form. This bespeaks a high degree of tension on both sides. And, of course, this is really alarming.

I do hope that our Chinese and US partners have some diplomatic methods, ways of classical diplomacy tucked up their sleeve. People should not insult each other in public or accuse each other of all sins, as the Americans are doing on every street corner. A better option is to sit down [to the negotiating table] and recognise that your opposite number is a great power and that every state, be it a great power or otherwise, has interests that must be respected.  The world certainly should seek to function based on a search for a balance of these interests.

Now let me pass to the second question – that this aggravation is not in Russia’s interests. I think that it is totally at variance with our interests, the interests of the European Union, and those of other countries as well. If you take the EU, China-EU trade is absolutely comparable with trade between China and the US. I think it is also necessary to pay attention to the EU’s increasingly publicised aspirations as regards a strategic autonomy not only in the military-political and security sphere but also in trade and the economy. Incidentally, the EU also wants to start repatriating its industries and localise as many trade and distributive chains as possible on its territory. In this regard, it is entering direct competition with the Americans.

The EU is unlikely to support the United States on every count in its desire to bleed the Chinese economy white by “pumping over” all development-friendly processes to its territory. There will be a lot of wrinkles, tension and clashes of interests.

Today, unlike in 2014, when the EU, under atrocious US pressure, introduced sanctions against Russia, it is showing signs of sound pragmatism towards our country. Specifically, they have publicly announced that they will revise the notorious “five principles” that Federica Mogherini formulated several years ago to guide relations with Russia.  They also say that it is necessary to overhaul their entire approach so that it should be more consistent with EU interests.

Incidentally, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell gave a talk recently on EU and China and on EU and Russia. Asked, why not impose sanctions on China for Hong Kong and human rights, he said that sanctions were not a method to be used in relations with China. We inquired whether sanctions were, in his opinion, a method that could be used in relations with Russia?  Our European friends will be thinking about this. It is a tough question.

I think that the European Union and Russia have a stake in cooperating, but not to the detriment of anyone else.  Basically, we do not ally with others to organise some actions against a third party.  We prefer pragmatism and shared benefit. I think Brussels will be doing something to overcome the myopia of the recent period.  The survey of EU policy vis-à-vis Russia will give more heed to an analysis of the real benefits inherent in promoting relations with Russia and the EAEU.

I do not see any benefits that Russia could derive from a trade war between Washington and Beijing. We will not benefit from relations with the EU and India either. Relations with India are traditionally friendly and other than time-serving. I do not envisage any changes in this area. We have proclaimed a “specially privileged strategic partnership” with India. I do not see any reasons why our Indian friends should sacrifice the gains that exist in the context of our partnership and prospects that it opens.

Question: You have mentioned Russian-US relations. Of course, international security and strategic stability depend on them. The situation is rather alarming now because of a deep crisis in the arms control regime. It is possible that the last key treaty in this sphere will expire in six months. There are many reasons for this, both geopolitical and technological. I believe we have to admit that public opinion is not pressuring the political elites to maintain arms control as much as during the Cold War, when large-scale demonstrations were held, as we well remember. The highest priority threats for the public now are the pandemic, climate change and terrorism. The fear of a nuclear war has receded into the background. What can be done to change this, or will it take a new Cuban crisis for the public to become aware of the nuclear conflict threat and to start expressing its opinion?

Jointly with our academic community we are now holding many videoconferences with American experts. You have said that there are rational people in the United States. It can be said that these conferences offer an opportunity to coordinate a number of new proposals, which could be used to formulate our initiatives. Of course, we update the Foreign Ministry and Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov about our activities. But it seems that today we need to think about some radical action, possibly in connection with the proposed summit of the five nuclear states, in order to create conditions that will help prevent the dismantling of the arms control regime and launch the creation of a new system of international security and strategic stability suited to the conditions of the 21st century.

Sergey Lavrov: I fully agree with you. Nuclear risks have increased dramatically, and the situation in the sphere of international security and strategic stability is visibly deteriorating. The reasons for this are obvious to everyone.  The United States wants to regain global domination and attain victory in what it describes as great-power rivalry. It has replaced the term “strategic stability” with “strategic rivalry.” It wants to win, whatever the price, as the saying goes. It is dismantling the arms control architecture so as to have the freedom to choose any instrument, including military force, to put pressure on its geopolitical opponents, and it wants to be able to use these instruments anywhere around the world. This is especially alarming in light of the changes in the doctrines of the US military-political authorities. These changes have allowed the limited use of nuclear weapons. It is notable that, like in the case of other strategic stability topics, the Americans have once again alleged that it is the Russian doctrine that permits the limited use of nuclear weapons and escalation for the sake of de-escalation and victory. They have recently issued comments on our doctrines, claiming that there are some secret parts where all of this is stipulated. This is not true. Meanwhile, we can see that the United States has adopted a number of practical programmes to support their doctrines with military and technical capabilities. This concerns the creation of low-yield nuclear warheads. American experts and officials are openly discussing this.

In this context, we are especially alarmed by the Americans’ failure to reaffirm – for two years now – the fundamental principle that there can be no winners in a nuclear war and that therefore it must never be unleashed. Early in the autumn of 2018, we submitted to the American side our written proposal that has been formulated as the confirmation of what People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs Maxim Litvinov and US President Franklin Roosevelt had coordinated and the notes they exchanged. We have reminded them about this proposal several times. They have replied that they are analysing it. Of course, we will raise the issue of the inadmissibility of fighting a nuclear war and winning it at the upcoming summit meeting of the five nuclear powers. It is important for our arguments to be no weaker than the arguments in the relevant Soviet-US documents. The slackening of these formulations has shown that the Americans would like to dilute the fact that there is no alternative to this principle and it cannot be repealed.

You have said that civil society is not paying sufficient attention to these threats, and I fully agree with you on this count. It is vital to attract public attention to this problem, to tell the people about the risks in understandable terms, because technicalities are often difficult to understand, and the form in which the analysis of this situation is presented to people is very important. Of course, we should count not only on official establishments but also on civil society and its politically active part – the NGOs and the academic and expert community.

I have said that I agree with you on this count, but I would also like to caution against going too far with raising public awareness of nuclear risks, so as not to play into the hands of those who want to prohibit all nuclear weapons and not to raise other concerns. The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons openly contradicts the Non-Proliferation Treaty, creating confusion and problems. The necessary balance can be found with the help of top quality professionals, and I believe that we have more of them than any other country.

As for public sentiments, they do not always determine the reality. During the election campaign of US President Donald Trump, public sentiments were largely in tune with his declared plans and his calls for normalising Russian-US relations. Since then, the public has calmed down, and nobody is staging any riots over this matter.

Of course, it is vital to continue to interact directly with the nuclear powers and their authorities. We would like reasonable approaches to take priority.

You have mentioned that political consultations are underway between you, your colleagues and American experts. We appreciate this. Your contribution and assessments, as well as the information we receive following such consultations are taken into account and have a significant influence on the essence of our approaches, including in situations when we submit several alternatives to the leadership; this helps us analyse the possible scenarios and all their pros and cons.

The United States, as well as Britain and France, which are playing along with it, would like to limit the summit’s agenda to arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation. China sees this as an attempt to press through the idea of expanding the number of negotiating parties at the talks on nuclear weapons by one means or another. China has put forth its position on the idea of multilateral talks clearly and more than once. We respect this position. By the way, the Americans are clever at twisting things. They use only the parts of our statements and those of the Chinese that suit their position. The Chinese have said recently that they will join the arms control talks as soon as the Americans reduce their capability to the level of China’s arsenal. A day later, Special Presidential Envoy for Arms Control Marshall Billingslea announced that the United States welcomed China’s readiness to join the multilateral talks and invited Beijing to Vienna. The next round of Russian-US consultations at the level of experts will be held in late July, following on from the late June meeting between Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov and US Special Presidential Envoy for Arms Control Marshall Billingslea, when the Americans made a show with Chinese flags. The Americans have once again stated publicly that they would like to invite the Chinese to Vienna but it would be better if Russia met with China before that so as to tell Beijing what Washington expects from it. I think everyone can see that this is impolite and undiplomatic. When we say that we proceed from the assumption that China is free to take whatever stand it deems necessary, it shows our respect for China’s position. I would like to add that the Americans have not put on paper anything of what they said about the need for transitioning to a multilateral format. Let them at least document what they have in mind. But they seem to be categorically averse to this.

We are ready to take part in multilateral talks, but it should be a voluntary and independent decision of everyone. Only voluntary participation can be effective.

None of the reservations are being taken into account. They say that Russia supports their call for multilateral talks. What do we hear when we add that multilateral talks must also include Britain and France? Special Envoy Billingslea didn’t blink when he said the other day in reply to a question about the possible involvement of Britain and France that they are sovereign states who are free to decide whether to join the talks or not, and that the United States will not make the decision for them. Why has it actually made the decision for China then?

Knowing the US negotiating party, I am not optimistic about the New START, for example, but it’s good that we have started talking. Sergey Ryabkov and Marshall Billingslea have agreed to set up three working groups within the framework of the process they are supervising. They will hold a meeting of the working group on space, nuclear and weapons transparency plus nuclear doctrines in Vienna between July 27 and 30. We’ll see what comes of it. We never refuse to talk, and we will try to make negotiations result-oriented.

Question: Extending the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty is one of the critical items on the agenda of Russia-US relations, primarily in the sphere of arms control. If Russia fails to reach an agreement with Washington to renew this treaty before February 2021, what will it do next? If there’s a pause in the dialogue with Washington in the sphere of arms control, and if the treaty is not renewed, what will the arms control system become and will the multilateral formats that we are talking about now be possible in the future?

Sergey Lavrov: It appears that the United States has already decided not to renew this treaty. The fact that it insists that there’s no alternative to taking the deal to the trilateral format suggests that everything has been already decided. In addition to this, they want the latest Russian weapons to be part of the deal which, by and large, is nothing short of trying to force an open door. We told the Americans earlier on that when Avangard and Sarmat become fully deployed, they will be subject to the restrictions established by the treaty for as long as it remains valid. The other systems are new. They do not fit into the three categories covered by START-3, but we are ready to start talking about including the weapons that are not classical from the START-3 perspective in the discussion, of course, within the context of a principled discussion of all, without exceptions, variables that affect strategic stability that way or another. This includes missile defence, where we are now able to see that the once existing allegations that it was designed solely to stop the missile threat coming from Iran and North Korea, were lies. No one is even trying to bring this up anymore. Everything is being done solely in terms of containing Russia and China. Other factors include high-precision non-nuclear weapons known as a programme of instant global strike, openly promoted plans by the Americans and the French to launch weapons into space, the developments related to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and a number of other factors too. We are ready to discuss new weapons, but to do so not in order to humour someone or to respond to someone’s initiatives, but to really reduce the threat to global stability and security.

To this end, we need to look at all the things that create these threats, pushing us to create antidotes, as was the case with our hypersonic weapons, which were developed in response to the global deployment of the US missile defence system.

Speaking specifically about the START-3 Treaty, we need an extension as much as the Americans do. They see some kind of a game in our calls to extend it for five more years without any preconditions. Russia, they say, has modernised its entire nuclear arsenal, but we are just beginning the modernisation, so they want to “tie our hands.” This is absolutely not so. We need to extend the START-3 Treaty as much as the Americans. If they refuse to do so, we will not insist. We know and we firmly believe that we will be able to ensure our security in the long run, even in the absence of this treaty. I think it is premature to discuss our actions if this treaty expires without any further action, but we are indeed ready for any turn of events. If the renewal is turned down, our options may be different, but I can assure you that overall we will continue the dialogue with the United States on strategic issues and new weapons control tools based on the facts that underlie strategic stability, as I just mentioned.

With regard to the multilateral talks, we already said back in 2010, when we were signing START-3, that the signing of this treaty puts an end to the possibility for further bilateral reductions and that, talking about future reductions, I emphasise this term, we will need to take into account the arsenals of other nuclear powers and start looking for other forms of discussions, if we’re talking about reductions. If we are talking about control, I think the bilateral Russian-American track has far more to offer. Losing all forms of control and transparency would probably be an unreasonable and irresponsible thing to do in the face of our nations and other nations as well. I believe the fact that there’s a transparency group (this is a broad term that includes measures of trust and verification) among the Russian-American working groups which will be meeting in Vienna soon, is a good sign.

Question: The Eurasian countries regard Russia as a mainstay that can connect the EU and Asian countries. How do you see Russia’s role in this space?

Sergey Lavrov: The situation on the Eurasian continent is fully affected by almost all global factors. This is where a number of the most important world centres are located, including China, Russia, India and the European Union if we are talking about the continent as a whole. For various reasons, each of these actors is motivated to pursue a foreign policy independent from the United States. This includes the EU.

Calls for strategic autonomy extend to the development area as such. We in Eurasia feel the influence of forces that would like to put together interest-based blocs and try to introduce elements of confrontation into various processes. We increasingly see centripetal tendencies. I am referring to ASEAN in the east and the EU in the west of our continent.

Located in the centre is the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and the Eurasian Economic Union. We would like to promote unifying, not divisive approaches in this space  and intensify trans-regional collaboration based on equality, mutual benefit, and most importantly, we would like to realise the obvious comparative advantages of cooperation on the continent via integration entities created in the West, East, and Centre, with respect for each of these unions and the search for natural forms of collaboration. This is the goal of what we call the Greater Eurasian Partnership that President Vladimir Putin suggested establishing at the Russia-ASEAN summit in Sochi a few years ago. We think this is an absolutely realistic action plan.

Let me note parenthetically that there are opposing approaches. They are mostly promoted by the United States through so-called Indo-Pacific concepts aimed at undermining the central systematic role of ASEAN in the Asia-Pacific region. I am referring to an attempt to put together a group of countries that would openly – this is not even hidden – contain China’s development.

I would favour identifying points of contact among all integration processes. Of course, there is China’s Belt and Road concept. The EAEU has an agreement with China that includes identifying points of contact and the harmonisation of any project that will be implemented as part of Eurasian integration and China’s project. Of course, there is a clash of economic interests in a number of cases, but the sides’ willingness to be guided by international legal principles, respect for each other, and mutual benefit makes it possible to agree on these economic interests based on the search for balance. It is in this way that our relations with our EAEU partners, China within the SCO, and ASEAN, are built. We invite the European Union, as has been repeatedly stated, to consider how it can become part of the development of our common geopolitical and primarily geo-economic space with benefits for itself and for others.

Question: The Middle East and North Africa remain a troubled region. New divides continue to crop up there; the potential for conflict remains and the old conflicts that everyone knows about persist. The humanitarian situation is aggravated due to the West’s unfair sanctions against a certain part of the region. Various asymmetries are growing deeper. What are Russia’s strategic interests in the region today? What do we want to achieve there, given the post-COVID nature of the era we are now entering?

Sergey Lavrov: We have very good relations in this region, possibly the best in the history of relations between this country, in its various capacities, and the region. I mean relations with all sides: the Arab countries, regardless of the conflict potential within the Arab world, and Israel. We will proceed from the need to promote positive contact with all these countries and seek to understand their problems and needs, and take this into account in our relations not only with a specific country but also with the countries that this particular partner has problems with.

In the beginning, I was asked whether Russia was ready to perform as a balancing influence in relations between the United States and China. If they ask us to, if they are interested, we would not decline this. We have established contacts with both sides and our historical development record enables us to see that we have potential.

If there is interest in mediation services that we can offer in this region or elsewhere, we are always ready to try to help, but of course, we will not push ourselves on anyone. Our own interest is primarily in precluding new military crises and in settling old crises so that the Middle East and North Africa become a zone of peace and stability. Unlike certain major countries outside the region, we have no strategic interest in maintaining controlled chaos. We have no such interest whatsoever.

We are not interested in engineering head-on clashes between countries in the region so as to create a pretext and a motive for continuing, and sometimes expanding, our military presence there. We are interested in promoting mutually beneficial trade, economic, investment and other ties with these states. In this respect, we would not like any other country in the region to have the same fate as Libya, which was robbed of its statehood and now no one knows how to “sew it together.” This is why we will be actively involved in efforts to reestablish an international legal approach to avoid any further toothpowder-filled test tubes passed off as VX and lies about weapons of mass destruction in other countries in the region as is now happening in Syria. Some have already started talking about “undiscovered” chemical weapons in Libya. All of these are inventions. How they are concocted is no secret.

We would like to derive economic benefits from our relations with the countries in the region. For this, we primarily have much in common in our approaches to problems in the contemporary world: international law, the UN Charter, and inter-civilisational dialogue, something that is also important, considering the Muslim population in the Russian Federation. Russia’s Muslim republics maintain good ties with the Gulf countries and other countries in the Arab world. We would like to support and develop all this. We will not gain anything from the chaos that continues in the region. As soon as the situation stabilises, the Russian Federation’s reliability as a partner in economic cooperation, military-technical cooperation, and the political area will always ensure us important advantages.

Question: My question is related to the recent changes in Russia. The new wording of the Constitution, which has come into effect, includes a provision according to which any actions (with the exception of delimitation, demarcation and re-demarcation of the state border of the Russian Federation with adjacent states) aimed at alienating part of the Russian territory, as well as calls for such actions, shall be prohibited. This provision is understandable. This brings me to my question: Does this mean that our years-long talks with Japan on the so-called territorial dispute have become anti-constitutional because they contradict our Fundamental Law? As far as I recall, the terms “delimitation” and “demarcation” have never been applied to the Kuril Islands, or have they?

Sergey Lavrov: Yes, you are spot on. Our relations with Japan are based on a number of agreements. The Russian Federation as the successor state of the Soviet Union has reaffirmed its commitment to all of the agreements signed by the Soviet Union. President Vladimir Putin has confirmed this more than once. This includes the 1956 Declaration under which we are ready to discuss and are discussing with our Japanese colleagues the necessity of signing a peace treaty, but not a treaty that would have been signed the next day after the last shot, that is, immediately after the termination of the war, as some of our Japanese colleagues would like. The state of war between the Soviet Union and Japan was terminated by the 1956 Declaration, which provides for the end of the state of war and for the restoration of diplomatic relations. What else do we need? In other words, a peace treaty we are negotiating should be modern and comprehensive, and it should not reflect the situation of 60-70 years ago but the current state of affairs, when we believe that we should develop full-scale ties with Japan. This document must be essential and inclusive, that is, it should include issues of peace, friendship, neighbourliness, partnership and cooperation, and it should cover all spheres of our relations, including economic ties, which are improving but not in all economic sectors. It should be remembered that our Japanese neighbours have imposed sanctions on Russia, although they are not as all-embracing as the US restrictions, but anyway.

A peace treaty should also cover security topics, because Japan has a close military alliance with the United States, which has essentially declared Russia to be an enemy. Of course, a comprehensive peace treaty should also include our views on foreign policy interaction, where, to put it simply, we disagree on all disputable matters, as well as humanitarian and cultural ties and many other factors. We have offered a concept of such a treaty. Our Japanese colleagues have not responded to this concept so far.

It is clear that the outcome of WWII is the fundamental issue that should determine our relations. Japanese officials have stated more than once that they recognise the results of WWII excluding the decision concerning the South Kuril Islands, or the “Northern Territories,” as they say. This position contradicts the law. Japan’s position must be based on the fact that the country ratified the UN Charter, which essentially means that the actions taken by the winner countries with regard to the enemy countries are beyond discussion.

Of course, our Japanese neighbours keep saying that they would sign a peace treaty as soon as the territorial dispute is settled. This is not what we have agreed to do. We have agreed to focus on signing a peace treaty as stipulated in the 1956 Declaration.

Question: Russia often criticises the US for promoting non-inclusive associations in the Pacific and Indian Oceans to isolate “uncomfortable” states. I am primarily referring to the so-called Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or Quad. Obviously, the very existence of such formats turns the region from a zone of cooperation into a zone of confrontation. We are certainly not interested in that. However, for all its minuses, the Quad concept is obviously finding understanding from Russia’s strategic partners, for instance, India. The Quad Plus project, where the US plans to invite Vietnam, our strategic partner as well, is also under discussion. Apparently, there is a need to enhance security in the region. Can Russia offer an alternative to such formats to prevent our two strategic partners from being in a position where they have to deter a third one?

Sergey Lavrov: I talked about the appearance of concepts and strategies on forming what US diplomats call “a free and open Indo-Pacific” several years ago. When some initiative calls itself free and open, I always have the impression that this includes a tinge of PR because how can it be called open if every state the region without exception is not invited to join?

When the term “Indo-Pacific strategies” appeared we inquired if they did not deal with the Asia-Pacific Region the contours of which are clear: the APEC, and the mechanisms that were established around ASEAN (the ASEAN regional security forum, the meeting of the ASEAN defence ministers and the partner countries, which is very important and, of course, the East Asia Summit (EAS), a forum that will be a decade old this year). We asked why the established term, Asia-Pacific Region, was replaced with this “Indo-Pacific strategies.” Does this mean that these strategies will embrace more countries, including all Indian Ocean coastal states? We received a negative answer. But what does “Indo” mean then? Will the Persian Gulf, which is part of the Indian Ocean, take part in the new format? We got a negative answer again. The Gulf has too many problems to be involved in these initiatives.

As for the ideas pursued by this Quad, as I have said, they are not really hiding them. These ideas come down to attempts to deter China. Our specially privileged partner India is fully aware of this. Pursuing its multi-vector policy, India is certainly interested in developing relations with the US (and who isn’t?), Japan and Australia. We are also interested in this. But India does not want to benefit from this cooperation at the price of further aggravating its relations with China. They had sad incidents on the Line of Actual Control but we welcome their immediate contacts between militaries, which are ongoing. They reached agreements on de-escalating tensions. Their politicians and diplomats also met. We can see that neither India nor China want their relations to get worse. Therefore, before talking seriously about Indo-Pacific strategies as a future for our large region, it is necessary to explain the choice of wording. If this was done to please India because of the Indian Ocean, just say so.

There are things that have already been established. I mentioned a diverse network of institutions and mechanisms around ASEAN. ASEAN brings together a group of countries that promote unifying approaches in the context of their civilisations and cultures. Everything is aimed at searching for consensus based on a balance of interests. For decades, the members have been absolutely content with developing relations in this venue with its regional security forum, defence minister meetings and East Asia Summits. There is even an expression: “ASEAN-way.” They always emphasise that they want to handle matters in “the ASEAN-way.” This means never to seek confrontation or launch projects that will create problems for other members. Regrettably, Indo-Pacific strategies may pursue different goals, at least under their initial concept.

In the beginning of our conversation, I mentioned the tough claims made by the US against China. They sound like an ultimatum. This is a mechanism for exerting and intensifying pressure. We do not see anything positive in this. Any problems must be resolved peacefully, through talks. Let me repeat that ASEAN is an ideal venue where every participant can discuss its problems with another member without polemics or tension. We are actively forming bridges with ASEAN (I mentioned the EAEU and the SCO). Their secretariats have already signed related memorandums. We will continue promoting ASEAN’s core role in the South Pacific Region.

We will only welcome Indo-Pacific strategies if they become more understandable, if we are convinced that they lean towards joining the ASEAN-led processes rather than try to undermine its role and redirect the dialogue against China or someone else. However, we are not seeing this so far.

Question: A week ago, experts were polled on US allegations that Russian military intelligence, the GRU, had offered rewards to the Taliban for killing US troops in Afghanistan. All of the analysts agree that the allegation could be rooted in domestic, primarily political reasons. Your subordinate, Special Presidential Representative for Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov, has pointed out that one of the factions in the United States is against the planned troop withdrawal from Afghanistan because US security services have become deeply involved in the drug trade over the past few years. We have not asked you about this situation yet. What do you think about this uproar?

Sergey Lavrov: We have already responded to the hype in the United States over Russia’s alleged connection with the Taliban, who were allegedly financed to fight US troops and even offer bounties for the murder of American military personnel. I can only tell you once again that all this is a dirty speculation. No facts have been provided to prove anything. Moreover, responsible officials in the US administration, including the Secretary of Defence, have said that they know nothing about this.

These allegations fit in very well with the political fighting during an election year in the United States, as if they were invented – and it appears that this is so – for this purpose. The objective is to disgrace the US administration and to discredit everything it has been doing, especially with regard to Russia. I would like to repeat that there are no facts to prove these allegations. But there were facts in the late 1970s and 80s, when the US administration did not make a secret of helping the Mujahedeen, of supplying them with Stingers and other weapons, which they used against Soviet soldiers.

As I have said, we would like both Russia and the United States to draw lessons from the experience they have accumulated in that long-suffering country and to help launch an intra-Afghan dialogue together with the other countries that could help allay tensions there, primarily China, Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan’s other neighbours. We have been working actively towards this end.

As for the United States, we have been acting within the framework of this political process under the agreements being advocated by the United States in its dialogue with the Taliban and the Afghan Government. We are using our channels to make these agreements possible. There is a mechanism for consultations between Russia, the United States and China, which Pakistan sometimes joins and to which Iran has been invited. However, Iran has not acted on the invitation because of its problems with the United States and the actions Washington has been taking against Iran around the world. These consultations are a mechanism for cooperation that is being used to define the spheres where signals could be sent to the sides. This is being done within the framework of the logic of the so-called Moscow format, which brings together all of Afghanistan’s neighbours without exception, as well as the United States, Russia and China. This is more than adequate.

Now, regarding Afghanistan’s drugs and the possible involvement of the US military in the drug business. We have received numerous reports, including through the media, according to which NATO aircraft are being used to smuggle Afghan opiates to other countries, including to Europe. The governors of the concerned Afghan provinces have stated more than once that unmarked helicopters are flying in the area. It should be noted that the sky over Afghanistan is controlled by the NATO coalition. Other reports have mentioned other forms of smuggling opiates.

Of course, we cannot verify such information to the dot, but it has been reported so regularly that we cannot ignore it. If combat aircraft were used in Afghanistan (as I mentioned, it could only be NATO aircraft), the flights could only be made by military or intelligence personnel. These circumstances should be investigated, first of all in the United States. The Americans have agencies that are in charge of monitoring compliance with American laws. Second, investigations should also be held in the country where military personnel are deployed, that is, Afghanistan. This is exactly what Zamir Kabulov said. By the way, established facts show that over the 20 years of the deployment of the US and other coalition members in Afghanistan the volume of drugs smuggled into other countries, including in Europe and our neighbours, as well as into Russia, has increased several times over. Neither the United States nor the other members of the NATO coalition are seriously fighting this drug business. By the way, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction John Sopko noted in a recent report that there are opium poppy plantations right next to NATO bases. This is an established fact. And this is possibly not right from the viewpoint of the US stand on the drug business.

We have regularly tried to attract the UN Security Council’s attention to this issue when we listened to reports on NATO coalition operations in Afghanistan, and we also did this via bilateral channels when we urged our partners to combat the drug industry. They replied that the mandate of the NATO mission in Afghanistan did not include drugs, that it only stipulated counterterrorist activities. But it is a well-known fact that the drug business is used to finance terrorism and is the largest source of funds for terrorist organisations. You can reach your own conclusions. As I have pointed out, we take this problem very seriously.

QuestionA few hours after this meeting of the Primakov Readings is over, an extraordinary UN General Assembly session on combating the pandemic will begin at 10 am New York time. This session was convened by the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). How important is this session? Who will represent Russia? Do you think the UN is late in responding to the pandemic? What do you think about the Non-Aligned Movement’s principles in these conditions?

Sergey Lavrov: Of course, we are aware that a special session of the UN General Assembly on the subject of COVID-19 will be convened upon the initiative of the Non-Aligned Movement chaired by Azerbaijan this year. It will take place a little later. Today, on July 10, the procedural registration of the rules to be used for convening the session begins, since amid the coronavirus infection, all remotely held events are subject to coordination in terms of their organisational and procedural aspects. Only this matter will be discussed today. The date for convening the special session itself has not yet been determined.

I don’t think we have any reason to believe that the UN is slow or late in responding to the coronavirus infection challenges. The UN General Assembly met twice some time ago at an early stage of this situation. Two resolutions were adopted which were dedicated to the international community’s goals in fighting the coronavirus infection. Most recently, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution on COVID-19. We were unable to do this for a long time because the Americans strongly opposed mentioning the role of the World Health Organisation in the document. Eventually, we found words that allowed us to mention this role and to ensure consensus approval.

Let us remember that the World Health Assembly, by the way, with the participation of the Americans, held a special session in May. The WHA adopted a resolution supported by the US in which the WHO’s role was objectively reflected. It was agreed at that session that as soon as the pandemic and all major programmes are completed, an international assessment of the lessons we learned from the WHO’s work in this area would be made, but without pointing a finger at anyone. It is an objective scientific evaluation of independent professionals.

Of course, the Non-Aligned Movement is our close partner. We are a guest country that is regularly invited to NAM summits and ministerial meetings in this capacity. This body was created in a wholly different historical context at the height of the Cold War, when the developing countries that formed this movement wanted to emphasise the principle of neutrality with respect for the two military blocs. Nevertheless, the Non-Aligned Movement remains a significant factor in international politics even after the Cold War. I think this is good, since the attempts to cobble up certain blocks again (we have already discussed this today) continue. It is important that this neutrality, non-commitment and focus on advancing the principles of international law be preserved at the core of NAM activities.

By the way, another NAM summit was held in Baku in October 2019. We attended it as a guest. Important joint statements were agreed upon. We confirmed our support for strengthening multipolarity in the international arena and respect for the UN Charter principles. NAM statements in support of Palestine and Bolivia were adopted as well. Back then, these were important topics. We are interested in seeing our status in NAM help us actively work on issues of common interest.

Question: Did Dmitry Kozak give an ultimatum at the talks on the Minsk agreements, telling Kiev to draft amendments to the Constitution of Ukraine on the special status of Donbass as soon as possible? If so, why has this demand become so tough only now that these agreements are already five years old?

Sergey Lavrov: There were no demands or ultimatums. Working as Normandy format advisors, the assistants of the four leaders that are part of our Contact Group, we are trying to ensure, in cooperation with the OSCE, the direct dialogue that Kiev is required to conduct with Donetsk and Lugansk. Conceptually, we are striving for only one goal – we are asking our Ukrainian partners to reaffirm their full commitment to the Minsk agreements as they were drafted, signed and approved by the UN Security Council. When we are told that Kiev is committed to the Minsk agreements but that it is necessary to first establish control of the Ukrainian Army and border guards over the entire border, this has nothing to do with the Minsk agreements. This is a deliberate attempt to mislead the public. When we are told, at the top level, that the Minsk agreements must be preserved to continue the sanctions against Russia, we would like to know if Ukraine is primarily interested in these agreements because of the sanctions, why it signed them and whether it is still committed to what is written in them rather than this absolutely artificial and inadequate link with sanctions. The majority of EU members consider this link incoherent. This is an approach of principle. I talked with the foreign ministers of France and Germany. Mr Kozak spoke with his counterparts as well. We would like our French and German partners to continue to express their views about this as participants in the Normandy format. Every day, we hear Kiev’s official statements that simply discard the agreements that were reaffirmed by the UN Security Council after the talks in Minsk.

For all this, we continue to hold pragmatic conversation with a view to coordinating specific steps on promoting all aspects of the Minsk agreements: security, socio-economic, humanitarian and political issues. At the recent, fairly productive meeting of the leaders’ assistants of the Normandy format states, the participants reached a number of agreements on yet another detainee exchange, and the Contact Group’s security arrangements, including reconciliation of the texts of the orders that must be adopted by the parties to the conflict (Kiev, Donetsk and Lugansk) and describe in detail the actions to be banned by these orders. These issues were agreed upon. The third negotiated item on the political agenda is the presentation by Ukraine of its vision of the document that will contain amendments to the Constitution to reflect the special status of Donbass fully in line with the Minsk agreements.

Understandings were reached in these three areas and were supposed to be formalised in the decisions of the Contact Group that ended its session the other day. In Minsk, the Ukrainian delegation disavowed everything that was agreed upon in Berlin. We noted this, and Deputy Chief of the Presidential Executive Office Dmitry Kozak sent a related message to his colleagues. So, this is no surprise at all. We have always insisted that the Minsk agreements must be carried out in full and with the due succession of actions. It’s not that we are losing patience, but patience helps when there is a clear understanding of what comes next. President Vladimir Zelensky came to power under a slogan of quick peace in Donbass. However, at this point, we have no idea what the attitude of his administration is to the actions that must be taken under the Minsk agreements.

Question: Former US National Security Advisor John Bolton writes in his memoirs that US President Donald Trump was unhappy about the sanctions over Salisbury and Syria. Did you hear about this? Is the agreement with the US on the exchange of top level visits still valid? Is Russia’s participation in the extended G7 format being considered?

Sergey Lavrov: I haven’t read John Bolton’s memoirs but I’m familiar with some parts of his book. Clearly, Mr Bolton has his own view of Russia-US relations, the US mission in the world, and America’s vision of the world order and what it should be. Apparently, every author wants his or her book to sell well (and in America practically every person writes a book after serving in the government for one or two years). To achieve this, it is necessary to make it interesting, and “hot issues” are helpful in this respect. I’ll leave all this on the conscience of Mr Bolton: both his presentation of this material and the spicy and sensitive details. I’ll also leave on his conscience his obvious embellishment of US actions in different situations.

Nobody has signed any agreements on exchanging top level visits because such an agreement implies a certain date for a visit, and the name of the city and geographical location. But nobody is discounting the possibility of such meetings, either. We are willing to work with the Americans at all levels and President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin has good relations with US President Donald Trump. From time to time, I talk with US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo. Our deputies also maintain a dialogue. So, if the Americans are interested, we do not see any obstacles. We don’t want our relations to be seen as some appendage to the election campaign and the tough actions taken by the sides as regards each other on the eve of the US election.

As for the G7, I think we have already said everything we wanted to say on this issue. Russia was a full member of the G8. The G8 did not meet in 2014 and not due to any action on our part. Our partners — Europe, North America and Japan — decided not to hold this event in full. This is their choice. President Vladimir Putin said in one of his comments that as before we will be happy to host the entire G8 in the Russian Federation. If our colleagues do not want this, love cannot be forced.

As for the G7, the list of countries invited to attend, as mentioned by US President Donald Trump, shows that the G7 can no longer accomplish much on its own. But even the countries that were mentioned will not make any radical change because the list is incomplete. We are convinced that the serious issues of the world and global finances can hardly be resolved effectively. Apparently, these reasons — the need to involve the main players in world financial, economic and commodity markets — have prompted the resumption and upgrade of activities in the G20. This is an inclusive mechanism that relies on consensus and the principles of equality. We believe the G20 format must obviously be preserved, encouraged and actively used if we want to talk about the underlying causes of current economic problems rather than their use in foreign policy disputes or any other sort of rhetoric.

Question: In Russia, they always say that they are ready to work with any president that is elected by the American people. Can you predict potential development of bilateral relations if former US Vice President Joe Biden wins? Do you think some analysts are correct in believing that he could revise some of President Donald Trump’s decisions, which do not benefit Russia, such as withdrawal from the INF Treaty and the Open Skies Treaty?

Sergey Lavrov: We do not comment on election campaigns. This is done by the media in all countries. The election campaign in the US is creating much interest in the entire world. This is understandable, but officially we proceed from the correct assumption that the choice of the head of state is up to the American people. This is a domestic US affair.

As for how this or that outcome might affect Russia-US relations, if we reason in a perfectly abstract way, we can quote some analysts that have commented on how this will influence disarmament talks. There is an opinion that is probably buttressed by some facts, that the Democrats are less prone than the Republicans to destroy the agreements on strategic stability and disarmament that had been reached over the past few decades. But we have not forgotten that a major anti-Russia campaign was launched during the Democratic administration of Barrack Obama. Many elements of this campaign, including sanctions, are now an element of bipartisan consensus. I don’t want to guess. This situation is unpredictable. Let me repeat, let the American people make their decision.

The OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights that is in charge, among other things, of monitoring elections, has conducted such monitoring remotely and distributed a report that was recently presented at the OSCE Permanent Council. The report contains many critical remarks about the correlation of election processes to American laws. I will not go into details. You can read this report yourself. But the report mentions, in particular, that for a variety of reasons at least 2 million US citizens are deprived of the right of the vote to which they are entitled by law. Interestingly, the report notes such a congenital defect in US election legislation, notably, a two-stage election process.

At first, people elect the Electoral College that later on chooses the president. The report also noted that the creation of the electoral districts is unfair to different ethnic groups. This is an indicative observation on behalf of the OSCE. We have spoken about this for a long time. I also recall that when Condoleezza Rice was US Secretary of State, she complained about our elections. I replied that if she had specific grievances, we had international and domestic observers and many other mechanisms and the entire process would be analysed. I reminded her that in the US a nominee can win a popular vote but a different candidate can be elected president because of different shares of votes in the electoral districts and the Electoral College. This is what happened in 2000 when the Florida votes were recounted for such a long time. Eventually, this process was stopped by the Supreme Court. George Bush Jr became US President and Alexander Gore accepted his defeat. Ms Rice told me then that they know this is a problem but this is their problem and they will settle it themselves. They probably will respond to the OSCE report in the same way.

As for the prospects and the projection of this or other decision on treaties, including the Open Skies Treaty, in line with the current schedule and its own announced decision on withdrawal, the US is supposed to end its participation in the treaty on November 22 or two and a half weeks after the election. No matter who becomes president, the new administration will assume its duties on January 20. Therefore, this decision will not likely be revised if the treaty expires. If the new administration, Democratic or Republican, decides to return to the treaty, the talks will have to be started from scratch. Therefore, at the extraordinary conference of the signatories of the Open Skies Treaty that was held online on July 6 of this year, we urged all remaining parties to the treaty to try and preserve it. We are prepared to continue with it but will take our final decision on whether we should remain part of it after analysing all consequences of the US decision on withdrawing from it, that is unlikely to be revised. It is final and irreversible as we are seeing, in my opinion. This is also confirmed by what happened with the INF Treaty. The decision was announced. This was followed by attempts at persuading them to keep it but to no avail.

But let me return to what I said in replying to one of the questions. We are ready for a situation where nothing will be left of arms control due to the US’s persistent line to throw all of these agreements out. But we are also prepared not to start from scratch but continue our contacts with the Americans on all strategic stability issues. I am confident that all members of the international community will support this approach. That said, we will keep the door open for multilateral talks as well. Let me repeat that these talks must rely on common understanding, voluntary participation and a balanced lineup of participants.

Kazakhstan may hold the secret for Greater Eurasia

Source

July 06, 2020

Kazakhstan may hold the secret for Greater Eurasia

Submitted by Pepe Escobar – source Asia Times

The no holds barred US-China strategic competition may be leading us to the complete fragmentation of the current “world-system” – as Wallerstein defined it.

Yet compared to the South China Sea, the Korean peninsula, the Taiwan Straits, India-China’s Himalayan border, and selected latitudes of the Greater Middle East, Central Asia shines as a portrait of stability.

That’s quite intriguing, when we consider that the chessboard reveals the interests of top global players intersecting right in the heart of Eurasia.

And that brings us to a key question: How could Kazakhstan, the 9th largest country in the world, manage to remain neutral in the current, incandescent geopolitical juncture? What are the lineaments of what could be described as the Kazakh paradox?

These questions were somewhat answered by the office of First President Nursultan Nazarbayev. I had discussed some of them with analysts when I was in Kazakhstan late last year. Nazarbayev could not answer them directly because he has just recently recovered from Covid-19 and is currently in self-isolation.

It all harks back to what was Kazakhstan really like when the USSR dissolved in 1991. The Kazakhs inherited a quite complex ethno-demographic structure, with the Russian-speaking population concentrated in the north; unresolved territorial issues with China; and geographical proximity to extremely unstable Afghanistan, then in a lull before the all-out warlord conflagration of the early 1990s which created the conditions for the emergence of the Taliban.

To make it even harder, Kazakhstan was landlocked.

All of the above might have led to Kazakhstan either dispatched to political limbo or mired in a perpetual Balkan scenario.

Have soft power, will travel

Enter Nazarbayev as a fine political strategist. From the beginning, he saw Kazakhstan as a key player, not a pawn, in the Grand Chessboard in Eurasia.

A good example was setting up the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building measures in Asia (CICA) in 1992, based on the principle of “indivisibility of Asian security”, later proposed to the whole of Eurasia.

Nazarbayev also made the crucial decision to abandon what was at the time the fourth nuclear missile potential on the planet – and a major trump card in international relations. Every major player in the arc from the Middle East to Central Asia knew that selected Islamic nations were extremely interested in Kazakhstan’s nuclear arsenal.

Nazarbayev bet on soft power instead of nuclear power. Unlike the DPRK, for instance, he privileged Kazakhstan’s integration in the global economy in favorable terms instead of relying on nuclear power to establish national security. He was certainly paving the way for Kazakhstan to be regarded as a trustworthy, get down to business neutral player and a mediator in international relations.

The trust and goodwill towards Kazakhstan is something I have seen for myself in my pan-Eurasia travels and in conversations with analysts from Turkey and Lebanon to Russia and India.

The best current example is Astana, currently Nur-sultan, becoming the HQ of that complex work in progress: the Syrian peace process, coordinated by Iran, Turkey and Russia – following the crucial, successful Kazakh mediation to solve the Moscow-Ankara standoff after the downing of a Sukhoi Su-24M near the Syria-Turkish border in November 2015.

And on the turbulent matter of Ukraine post-Maidan in 2014, Kazakhstan simultaneously kept good relations with Kiev and the West and its strategic partnership with Russia.

As I discussed late last year, Nur-sultan is now actively taking the role of the new Geneva: the capital of diplomacy for the 21st century.

The secret of this Kazakh paradox is the capacity of delicately balancing relations with the three main players – Russia, China and the US – as well as leading regional powers. Nazarbayev’s office boldly argues that can be even translated to Nur-sultan placed as the ideal venue for US-China negotiations: “We are tightly embedded in the US-China-Russia triangle and have built trusting relationships with each of them.”

In the heart of Eurasia

And that brings us to why Kazakhstan – and Nazarbayev personally – are so much involved in promoting their special concept of Greater Eurasia – which overlaps with the Russian vision, discussed in extensive detail at the Valdai Club.

Nazarbayev managed to set a paradigm in which none of the big players feel compelled to exercize a monopoly on Kazak maneuvering. That inevitably led Kazakhstan to expand its foreign policy reach.

Strategically, Kazakhstan is smack in the geographical heart of Eurasia, with huge borders with Russia and China, as well as Iran in the Caspian Sea. Its territory is no less than a top strategic bridge uniting the whole of Eurasia.

The Kazakh approach goes way beyond connectivity (trade and transport), two key planks of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), to get closer to the converging vision of BRI and the Russian-led Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU): a single, integrated Eurasian space.

Nazarbayev sees the integration of the Central Asian “stans” with Russia and with Turkic-speaking countries, including of course Turkey, as the foundation for his concept of Greater Eurasia.

The inevitable corollary is that the Atlanticist order – as well as the Anglo-American predominance in international relations – is waning, and certainly does not suit Asia and Eurasia. A consensus is forming across many key latitudes that the driving force for the reboot of the global economy post-Covid-19 – and even a new paradigm – will come from Asia.

In parallel, Nazarbayev’s office make a crucial point: “A purely Asian or Eastern answer is unlikely to suit the collective West, which is also in search of optimal models of the world’s structure. The Chinese Belt and Road Initiative clearly showed that Western countries are not psychologically ready to see China as a leader.”

Nur-sultan nonetheless remains convinced that the only possible solution would be exactly a new paradigm in international relations. Nazarbayev argues that the keys to solve the current turmoil are not located in Moscow, Beijing or Washington, but in a strategic transit node, like Kazakhstan, where the interests of all global players intersect.

Thus the push for Kazakhstan – one of the key crossroads between Europe and Asia, alongside Turkey and Iran – to become the optimal mediator allowing Greater Eurasia to flourish in practice. That is the uplifting option: otherwise, we seem condemned to live through another Cold War.

Central Downtown Nur-Sultan: in center Bayterek tower

Bridging China’s past with humanity’s future – Part 2

Source

June 29, 2020

Bridging China’s past with humanity’s future – Part 2

by Straight-Bat for the Saker Blog

This will be presented in 3 parts and in 3 different blog posts

PART – 1 can be found here


PART – 2

5. POST-DENG CHINA

Post-Deng China witnessed three variants of socio-economic trajectories associated with three different Leaders. Even though the economic programme of reform initiated by Deng went on unhindered, there were significantly different style of implementation of the same. A brief recapitulation is noted below:

A.  Jiang Zemin (till 2003)

In 1997, after Deng’s departure Jiang Zemin became the paramount leader of China. Both – the economic reforms and the deep-rooted problems of economy – accentuated during Jiang’s stewardship. There was marked increase in political corruption, inter-regional imbalance and inter-class imbalance in growth, rural migration into urban areas, unemployment, inequality and wealth gap, and crime rates across China. During 1998 and 1999, many SOE were privatized with massive lay-offs and asset transfer to private businessmen, many others were restructured to make them profitable. The employee welfare and social welfare system which were embedded in SOE (since the Mao era) were completely dissolved – this also created a low-income urban working class. The government followed a policy of retaining the crucial sectors within state-owned enterprises while small and medium SOW were either privatised or closed down. Crucial sectors or ‘commanding heights’ were:

  • Nation-wide service networks like railways, aviation, telecommunication, electricity etc.
  • Mining and exploration coal, oil, and natural gas
  • Basic metal processing like steel, and aluminium
  • Basic hydrocarbon processing like refinery and petrochemicals
  • Heavy industrial machinery such as machine tools, power generation equipment, rolling stock
  • Infrastructure engineering and construction – roads, railways, ports, dams
  • Significant consumer durables like automobiles
  • Military machinery

Apart from reducing the number of SOE (from 262,000 units employing 113 million in 1995-1997 period to 110,000 units employing 64 million in 2007-2008) and restructuring bigger SOEs, the government reduced tariffs, trade barriers, regulations; reformed banking system. The average return on assets in SOEs soared from 0.2% in 1998 to 5% in 2007. In the same period, the SOEs’ profits rose from 0.3% to 6.6% of GDP. Funds continued to be poured into SEZ and export-oriented manufacturing industry. As per Chinese National Bureau of Statistics, Hong Kong-Taiwan-Japan-South Korea-Singapore contributed about 71% of the FDI that flowed into China between 1990 and 2004. To sum it up cogently, it can be said that government of China pursued neoliberal economic agenda along with consulting advice from USA bankers and capitalists. China joined World Trade Organization in December’2001. During the period 1990–2004, China’s economy grew at an average rate of 10% per year.

A very interesting observation can be made related to the foreign relations during Jiang era – all foreign trips by the leadership and communication with foreign media were consciously made to revolve around China’s (the then) economic growth model and the imperatives. Incidents like USA bombing of China embassy in Belgrade, and collision with USA aircraft near Hainan Island were played down after some exchange of documents. Apparently, the top leadership aimed only at maintaining the stability of the government and the economy.

Very significant transformation took place in the CPC itself – from being a party of predominantly peasants and workers, CPC converted itself to a party with large number of middle-class petty bourgeois. This class evolved during the industrial restructuring of 1990s, who came out as the main beneficiary due to their entrepreneurship and connection with the then local and central leadership of CPC, and more importantly this class acted as a robust base of CPC in the urban regions of China.

B. Hu Jintao (2003 to 2012)

Hu Jintao had to continuously swim against the tide of domino effect from the (capitalist) economic reform and opening which was primarily initiated by Deng in 1979. During October’2003 Third Plenum, amendments to the constitution were discussed – an overarching government economic policy would be introduced to reduce unemployment rate, to re-balance income distribution, and to protect the environment. Also private property rights would be protected. Due to widespread poverty, inequality, and discontent the Chinese Government was forced to seek a balanced society above all. Using the concept of “socialist harmonious society”, balanced wealth distribution, improved education, and improved healthcare were assigned high priority.

During 1995, exports from East Asian countries to China were not very significant percentage of their total exports (Japan exported 4.95%, South Korea exported 7.0%, Taiwan exported 0.3%, Singapore exported 2.3%). In 1995, Chinese total exports were worth about 149 billion USD. However, by 2013 there was an explosive growth in exports from East Asian countries to China as a percentage of their total exports – (Japan exported 18.1%, South Korea exported 26.1%, Taiwan exported 26.8%, Singapore exported 11.8%). And, in 2013, Chinese exports to the world were worth about 2210 billion USD (a little over 30% of the value were exported by wholly foreign-owned enterprises, and 12% of the value were exported by joint ventures between foreign-owned and China-owned enterprises). Apparently, during this period China evolved as ‘core’ and East Asia as ‘periphery’ in a new sub-system within the overall world-system (with USA and west Europe as ‘core’ and rest of the world as ‘periphery’).

China’s GDP grew 10.1%, in 2004, and 10.4% in 2005 in spite of attempts by the government to cool the economy. And, in 2006 trade crossed USD 1760 billion, making China third-largest trading nation in the world. Again, in 2007 China registered 13% growth in GDP (USD 3552 billion) becoming world’s third largest economy by GDP. According to UN estimates in 2007, around 130 million people in rural areas of the backward inland provinces still lived in poverty, on consumption of less than $1 a day, while about 35% of the Chinese population lived under $2 a day. Chinese government’s official Gini index peaked at 0.49 in 2008– 2009 and thereafter declined only marginally, to 0.47 in 2014. The Global Financial Crisis in 2008 revealed the innate weakness of Chinese economy – export-oriented economy depends upon economic conditions in foreign countries much more than internal consumption. Government of China took highly effective policy decisions about economic stimulus and implemented those effectively (however, it also increased the already high debt burden). The stimulus (about US$600 billion at the then-current exchange rate) involved state investments into physical infrastructure like railway network, roads, bridges and ports, urban housing complex, easing credit restrictions and lowering tax on real estate. As per National Bureau of Statistics of China, in 2010, GDP of China was Yuan 40850 billion, which can be broken down into following expenditure categories:

  1. Household Consumption Expenditure – Yuan 14146.55 billion (34.63% of GDP)
  2. Government Consumption Expenditure – Yuan 6011.59 billion (14.71% of GDP)
  3. Gross (Fixed) capital formation – Yuan 19186.69 billion (46.96% of GDP)
  4. Net Exports of Goods and Services – Yuan 1505.71 billion (3.68% of GDP)

Household consumption has not increased substantially with economic growth – may be one of the reasons were wages and salaries of working class didn’t move upwards with same pace. Even though the reforms helped to improve the socio-economic indicators, taking into consideration the difference between coastal region and inland regions as well as between urban and rural regions, China could hardly overcome the poverty and inequality predominantly in the inland and rural regions.

By 2011, there were less than 10 out of 40 major industrial sectors in which SOE accounted for more than 20 percent of output. Another significant statistics of 2012 on industrial enterprises (as per National Bureau of Statistics, China) shows:

State-owned EnterprisesPrivate-owned EnterprisesPrivate-owned FDI Enterprises
Total Asset (billion Yuan)31,20915,25517,232
Profit (billion Yuan)1,5182,0191,397

The above statistics might suggest at the first glance that, state-owned enterprises are laggard in profitability. However, such conclusion will be clearly wrong if it is noted that there exist wide difference of asset ownership across various sectors – in mining and extraction of coal, petroleum, natural gas etc. SOE commands 93% of sector-specific assets, while in textiles sector Private enterprises commands 90% of sector-specific assets. Different sectors of industry have different profit-capital asset employed ratio.

C. Xi Jinping (2013 onwards)

Since around 2010, Chinese government and CPC has been busy implementing economic policies that will pursue ‘economic growth based on domestic consumption’ while maintaining the decades old export-oriented economy. With Xi Jinping at the top chair, a long pending but top priority task was undertaken – war against corruption and nepotism. CPC took strong measures so that corrupt among ruling party cadres and government officials were identified and punished, Marxist principles were enforced as guideline for CPC so that the society and economy can be steered towards equality and justice. CPC has also became proactive in taking actions to enhance its geopolitical and geo-economic base throughout the world. Simultaneously, Chinese government has taken concrete measures to modernize all wings of military through research and development of 5th generation stealth military aircrafts, naval ships, nuclear submarines, hypersonic missiles, anti-satellite missiles, as well as procuring most lethal S400 air defence system and electronic warfare systems from Russia.

However, China has performed extremely well in reduction of poverty. In 2015, World Bank Group estimated that only 0.7% of Chinese citizens live below extreme poverty line of $1.9 (2011 PPP) per day, while 7.0% of Chinese population live below lower-middle poverty line of $3.2 (2011 PPP) per day. Such rapid poverty-reduction is an unparalleled achievement in the history of mankind.

As per National Bureau of Statistics of China, in 2019, GDP of China was Yuan 99492.74 billion (by expenditure approach), which can be broken down into following categories:

  1. Household Consumption Expenditure – Yuan 38589.56 billion (38.78% of GDP)
  2. Government Consumption Expenditure – Yuan 16559.90 billion (16.64% of GDP)
  3. Gross (Fixed) capital formation – Yuan 42862.78 billion (43.08% of GDP)
  4. Net Exports of Goods and Services – Yuan 1480.50 billion (1.49% of GDP)

Compared to 2010 statistics, in 2019 the household consumption has moved upwards at almost 39% of GDP. However, the 2019 figures of household consumption below 50% of GDP can’t be considered as healthy neither gross capital formation more than 30% of GDP can be termed as balanced growth. This is not to say that, the period of 1970-1975 was better because household consumption component was around 60 – 65% of GDP (GDP itself was very low).

The inequality between urban and rural remained too glaring even in 2019 – as we can note in the following data as per National Bureau of Statistics of China (2019 data),

  1. Per Capita Disposable Income Nationwide – Yuan 30,733
  2. Per Capita Disposable Income of Urban Households – Yuan 42,359
  3. Per Capita Disposable Income of Rural Households – Yuan 16,021
  4. Per Capita Expenditure Nationwide – Yuan 21,559
  5. Per Capita Expenditure of Urban Households – Yuan 28,063
  6. Per Capita Expenditure of Rural Households – Yuan 13,328

The growth model chosen by Deng and reinforced by Jiang has already run out of steam. It had its own utility to provide mass employment and to build the fixed capital for the national economy. Chinese government need to pivot economic growth on domestic consumption as soon as possible without damaging the export sector much. To boost consumption, ‘demand’ for goods and services will have to be enhanced – in China, ‘purchasing power’ is the key for boosting demand and hence, domestic consumption. Income of ordinary citizens should be increased through forced regulations whereby the surplus from industrial operation (that is pocketed by the capitalists for accumulation of capital) will be distributed to the working class. Similarly for the agricultural sector, government should provide much higher procurement prices for agricultural produces. Another key area that needs government intervention is social security and welfare system, whereby housing-education-healthcare for all rural and urban people living with daily expenditure below USD 10 will be arranged by the government (against a token amount of annual insurance premium). Most of such people will be confident enough to spend instead of saving money for rainy day. The well-entrenched capitalist elites will resist because such steps would restrict their continuous capital accumulation process – however, China being a socialist peoples’ democracy, it has to give priority to the common people.

BRI – Challenge to Current World-system?

Belt and Road Initiative (formerly One Belt One Road – OBOR programme) of China actually is a framework wherein investments amounting to anything between one to two trillion USD in different countries of Asia, Europe, Africa, South America will be done in primarily government-to-government projects. When successfully implemented, may be around 2035, BRI will completely transform the economy and comfort of peoples in more than 100 countries. Investments are mainly channelled into physical infrastructure, mining and exploration, power generation, industrial production hub, agricultural production hub, and communication network. BRI, instead of moving away from existing liberal capitalist economy, predicates on existing capitalist system with more inclusive agenda compared to Zionist Capitalist dominated financial system – thus BRI projects attempt to alleviate poverty and unemployment in participating states without bothering about the government ideology.

BRI benefits China in primarily four ways:

  1. Corridors like CPEC (through Pakistan) and CMEC (through Myanmar), when fully established, will provide alternate trade routes for China-based companies to import energy and raw materials as well as export finished goods through Arabian Sea and Bay of Bengal respectively; the corridors will circumvent the ‘choke point’ of Malacca Strait
  2. China-Mongolia-Russia and China-Central Asia-West Asia corridors will be channel for further Chinese investments across Asia; in the long run exports and imports among these Eurasian states will experience quantum jump
  3. ‘State capitalism’ will get a boost with most of the BRI projects being G-to-G kind; most of the participant governments will control the new projects thereby reproducing the production relations of capitalist society with the ‘state’ playing the role of capitalist who will make ‘profit’ and accumulate ‘capital’
  4. Enhance Chinese ‘image’ through socio-cultural exchange
  5. Enhance Chinese ‘influence’ through government-to-government contacts

There are more BRI corridors as well as ‘Maritime Silk Road’ planned as part of BRI. I would not get into the details of such a mammoth programme (consisting of hundreds of gigantic projects) which itself is a separate subject. However, it will be very interesting to analyse if and how BRI will pose a challenge to the existing world-system coordinated by the Deep State.

BRI follows the traditional capitalist economic model of ‘profit’, but unlike the Zionist Capitalist propelled system, BRI system aim for nominal profit margins that will create a tremendous ‘pull factor’ among the developing countries to seek BRI projects. Another key difference is: BRI system is radically different from existing capitalist system by shunning hegemony and force BRI promotes harmonious global integration. In all probability, BRI will create a ‘benign core’ and ‘exultant periphery’ in a global scale which uncannily resembles the Confucian concepts of family and state governance. The existing hegemonic world order and the Deep State will find it very hard to digest such decline of their stature and the formation of a new core-periphery. However, by no means will this new development threaten to upend the existing Zionist Capitalist world order – the new core-periphery will form a significant non-imperial sub-system within the existing world-system. USA, 5-Eyes, and Israel will have to share the hegemony with China being the BRI core and Russia as the semi-periphery (with low population count and hence limited domestic market, Russia can’t play much bigger role).

In practice, post-WW II world order has seen the working of core-periphery system with USA (and NATO) enforcing their will on the weak countries on the ‘periphery’ whenever a threat to the primacy of ‘accumulation capital’ was perceived by the Deep State cabal. The Deep State capital, through control of the media and academia, ensure that such threat to capital gets portrayed as a threat to ‘democracy and human rights’ which in turn provides a moral high ground to the Hegemonic superpower to invade any country at will. In the BRI system such supremacy of capital is not expected simply because Chinese outlook on ‘world-system’ was built typically on Confucian praxis.

Significant observations on post-Deng China:

1. CPC central committee in a conference in 2015 formulated eight principles of ‘socialist political economy with Chinese characteristics’:

  1. Sustainability Led by Science and Technology
  2. Orienting Production to Improve the Livelihood of the People
  3. Public Ownership Precedence in National Property Rights
  4. The Primacy of Labour in the Distribution of Wealth
  5. The Market Principle Steered by the State
  6. Speedy Development with High Performance
  7. Balanced Development with Structural Coordination
  8. Economic Sovereignty and Openness

Undoubtedly the above eight principles (like Buddha’s ‘asta-marga’ teaching) are very sound principles – but these are not focussed to Marxist ideology in a sense that, any other liberal democratic capitalist political party can also follow such principles for an effective management of economy and society. CPC leadership should take into account the core ideology of Marx-Engels-Lenin-Mao to explore that, the owners of capital can never reconcile with the proletariat and petty-bourgeois (as petty-bourgeois, I’m meaning only the middle-income group of rural land-holding peasants and urban professionals and self-employed people who own very little capital to earn their livelihood) – the theory of historical materialism clearly and correctly predict that, in the long-run, the capitalists will continue to accumulate capital with endless exploitation of 90% of the population, eventually they will overrun the CPC setup (as insider like CPSU in Soviet Union, or as outsider like Solidarity Movement in Poland) and create a state which will be ‘liberal capitalist’ in letter and spirit. Mao and Deng differed only on strategy to achieve Marxist economy and classless society, they never differed in the end objective – successive CPC leaders shouldn’t forget to take note of that.

Questions will be raised, ‘why then Mao didn’t create a classless society since 1950 or why Mao also tried for accumulation of capital to begin with’ or for that matter, even before Mao, ‘why in 1921 Lenin was staking on new economic policy (NEP) to introduce free market and capitalism under state control’?

To seek the answer, let’s visit the greatest leader of transformation – Lenin. Lenin considered the NEP as a strategic retreat from principles of socialism – Bolshevik party leaders had to create the “material basis” of economic development in Soviet Union before they could initiate the first stage of socialism to be followed by the second stage. This was exactly the situation for Mao and Deng in China who wanted to first create the basic building block for Chinese economy for which the forces of production were either outdated or non-existent. Interestingly, both CPSU and CPC tried to create ‘communes’ as an ideal communist construct for the rural regions and agricultural sector – primarily due to mismanagement among the party members and lack of indoctrination among the rural population, both the experiments failed. More valid question however remains, ‘why both CPSU and CPC got lost in the quagmire of ‘initial capitalistic development’ and never returned to their end objectives’ even after there was basic level of ‘fixed capital formation’ in Soviet Union by 1960 and in China by 2010! May be because geopolitical events were unsurmountable. To best of my knowledge, this question remains unanswered till date.

2. Another issue related to very high exports and some trade surplus obscures two significant points:

(a) China (with a GDP of Yuan 99,492.74 billion i.e. USD 14,140 billion) in 2019 not only exported goods and services worth USD 2,486.69 billion, but the import was also huge at USD 2,135.74 billion (as per National Bureau of Statistics of China). Even if the overall export surplus is not substantial, when the values are grouped continent-wise, large imbalance due to export surplus can be noted for Oceanic and Pacific Islands (about USD 64 billion), Europe (about USD 95 billion), North America (about USD 330 billion), while marginal imbalance of USD 5 – 10 billion export/import surplus exists in case of Asia, Africa, Latin America. Moving deeper at a country-level, one would find more imbalances. The main reason is that, the sourcing requirements of China (energy, raw materials, manufacturing components, foodstuff, etc.) and sourcing countries are, most of the time different from the nature of exported item (manufactured finished goods), quantity and destination where export opportunity exist.

(b) More often than not, the economists forget to mention that the imports of China has multiple categories including import by foreign-owned export-oriented enterprises for value addition before exporting goods, import by Chinese-owned enterprises for value addition before dispatching for export as well as for domestic selling, import of plant and machinery etc. for capital formation, and import for direct household consumption. Contrary to that, export has almost single dimension – manufactured finished goods, primarily consumer goods with some industrial goods as well. There is overwhelming dependence on exports which jeopardise Chinese economy to the extent that, without continuous growth in demand from foreign countries, Chinese economy will encounter slow growth. In future, there can be scenarios where trade partner countries (other than USA) may reduce good imports from China in order to produce within their country (to reduce unemployment).

3. Trade surplus resulting from the exports and high internal savings empowered the east Asian countries like Japan and China to accumulate largest forex reserves (together they account for more than USD 6 trillion) which were used to purchase USA Treasury bonds. USA Treasury bonds are issued by USA government to cover fiscal deficit – thus China and Japan are largest creditors of USA. With this arrangement of deficit financing successive USA government has been reckless to cut taxes (of oligarchy) and increase direct government expenditure to keep voters happy. The prices of east Asian exports into USA were kept low to keep it attractive in the USA market. Finally, more demand of east Asian goods increased trade surplus and more trade surplus meant more purchase of Treasury bonds. A two-way mutual relation between USA and China-Japan thus helped USA engage in end-less wars as well as keep inflation within USA low, hence, even if USA leaders take anti-import posture that will be only to please the constituency of nationalist voters. However, China will not only be at the receiving end if and when exports get restricted suddenly, China should be prepared for the worst scenario when, in future, USA will simply refuse to pay for their debt.

China will have to take a serious initiative on how US Dollar can be removed from world’s reserve currency status. Along with Russia, China should look into the possibility of introducing a new international currency which will be backed by gold – this action will not lead to a socialist economy, but this action will certainly work towards curbing the USA government’s undue advantage of printing as much fiat Dollar as possible using the global reserve currency without gold-backing status.

4. Indisputably China achieved incredible feats in economic growth and socio-economic indicators during past few decades. But such achievements to a large extent depended also on credit policy (apart from FDI and export). As a result, China’s total debt burden including households, government (central, regional, local), non-financial industry sector (including real estate), and financial sector has been rising over the decades albeit slowly. Apparently, in 2019 beginning, Household debt rose to more than 50% of GDP, Government debt crossed 50% of GDP, Financial sector debt rose to more than 40%, non-financial Industry sector breached 150% of GDP. As a whole, Chinese government is in a precarious position to control such huge debt (total crossing 40 trillion USD) – with strict control economic growth will be at stake. Even though the government of China have been periodically trying to deleverage the economy with control measures, economic growth trounced all such attempts till date.

The problem of bad debt first hit the Jiang government in late 1990s. The non-performing loans (NPL) caught the leadership’s eyes back then. And to address the burning issue, in 1999 asset management company was created, which absorbed Yuan 2 trillion bad loans from state-owned banks leaving the banks normal and healthy. For Chinese government NPL issue will continue to be a thorn in the flesh.

5. Maritime border disputes in South China Sea and East China Sea have historical roots when Japan displaced European powers from these two sea regions. It is also true that, after WW II most of the littoral countries (except Vietnam and North Korea) were/are backed by the Deep State and were/are armed to the teeth. However, it will be a monumental milestone for Chinese diplomacy and indeed, image, if China can resolve the maritime border issues without conflict, and if required, sharing the under-sea resources with the littoral states.

On the land border disputes, China resolved all but the dispute with India. The land border was drawn by the British colonial power who ruled most of south Asia till 1947, but Chinese government never accepted the border. Chinese government should keep no stone unturned to bring India-Pakistan-China on the same discussion table with UNO as observer. It will be beneficial for all three countries if they settle the dispute once for all through mutual concessions using give-and-take policy. A border war for a land with little economic value (but high geopolitical strategic value) makes no sense.

6. During 1700 to 1840 China was world’s biggest economy and second largest land empire. However that position didn’t deter the European powers from rampaging at their will inside Chinese territory. Chinese empire lost the edge because of inability to keep track with global technological changes. For the European powers, advancements in few industrial and military technology proved decisive. Keeping such watershed moments in view, government of China should make extraordinary arrangements (like special task force etc.) to bridge manufacturing technology gaps which have been pointed out by McKinsey Global Institute in “China and the world” report published in July 2019, some of which are:

  1. Electronic Components
    1. Display
    2. Integrated circuits
  2. Pharmaceuticals
    1. Small-molecule drugs
    2. Biomolecule drugs
  3. Genomics
    1. Gene sequencing
    2. Gene editing

The above mentioned elements are not necessarily of military in nature – the backwardness in military technology are well-known which are being addressed by Chinese government since past two decades, jet engines with thrust-vectoring control technology among the most significant ones.

6. GEOPOLITICS 1930 ONWARDS

With the setting up of Bank for International Settlements (BIS) in Switzerland in 1930, the disputes and tussle among the most prominent Jewish and Anglo banker families (like Rothschild, Rockefeller, Morgan, Warburg, Lazard, et al.) over type of business, geographical region of influence, and share of banking sector operations got resolved. The Zionist Capitalist elites were fully united in words and deeds notwithstanding the occasional rivalry and difference of opinion between followers of two camps: Rothschild and Rockefeller. The long-term objective of the Zionist Capitalist Deep State clique (representing primarily the Jewish, Anglo, Dutch, French, German oligarch and aristocrat families who had accumulated wealth and have been engaged in business in banking-land-industry-trading) after WW I has been to establish a hegemonic world order which would:

  1. own ‘political process and power’ in every society/country on the earth
  2. own ‘economic process and wealth’ in every landmass/country/ocean on the earth
  3. control ‘socio-cultural process and population’ in every region/country on the earth

I find it difficult to consider that, ‘winning’ political power anywhere in the world, has ever been an objective of the Deep State – they want to ‘own’ the process through which any political party may be made to ‘win’ or ‘loose’ power depending on short-term and long-term interest of the Deep State.

The Zionist Capitalist Deep State crystallized in its existing form when WW II started in 1936 (with signing of anti-communist pact between Germany, Italy, and Japan). Expectations of the Zionist Capitalist Deep State were destruction of powerful societies (non- Anglo/Jewish/Dutch/French) who had potential to develop advanced economy, and expansion of Zionist Capitalist empire:

  1. combatants Fascist Germany and Communist Soviet Union decimating each other’s (i) military forces, (ii) physical infrastructure, and (iii) population across entire Eurasia;
  2. combatants Fascist Japan and Nationalist China decimating each other’s (i) military forces, (ii) physical infrastructure, and (iii) population across entire East Asia;
  3. stages (a) and (b) would be followed by occupation of whole Europe and Asia by the ‘benevolent’ Anglo-American military who would claim that they have ‘liberated’ these ancient civilizations from the ‘authoritarian dictatorships’ of fascism and communism;
  4. stage (c) would be followed by establishment of ‘liberal democratic capitalism’ version of empire (as against ‘colonial extractive capitalism’ version) in whole Europe and Asia to continue plunder of wealth in maximum possible way;

Unfortunately half of the objectives remained unfulfilled in the WW II that was over by 1945 – because of two political parties: Communist Party of Soviet Union (CPSU) and Communist Party of China (CPC) whose top leadership mobilised their countrymen in collective patriotic spirit, Soviet Union and China didn’t capitulate but their direct adversaries (Germany and Japan) were trounced. Phase II became a necessity for the Deep State.

WW II – Phase II:

Phase II of WW II was initiated as soon as phase I was over. ‘Operation Unthinkable’ was planned by most ardent imperialist Churchill in order to launch a surprise attack on Soviet Union to achieve the original objectives that Hitler failed to achieve, but dropped. Realising that a military block consisting of all societies that join together as Zionist Capitalist Deep State would be more effective to demolish: (a) morally and militarily supreme power like Soviet Union which recuperated economically,

(b) new power like Communist China (where by January’1949, Peoples Liberation Army already won three major campaigns in last strongholds of Kuo Mintang party in east and south regions of China), NATO was formed in April’1949.

To achieve the long-term objective of hegemonic world order as well as the four WW II objectives, the Deep State displayed creativity in designing and deploying diplomatic, political, economic, cultural tools and methods that proved to be highly durable and extremely effective:

  1. UNO and its key sister organizations were established to control the international political incidents in all regions across the globe
  2. Through WBG, IMF, ADB global banking and financial companies spread its tentacles to every region of the world to control natural resources and economy
  3. US Dollar as the foreign currency exchange basis across the globe – not only the gold backing was withdrawn from Dollar in 1971 by USA government, but the hegemon also manipulated the Arab rulers to use Dollar as currency for most crucial commodity trading (of petroleum)
  4. Trade pacts like GATT, WTO, and similar other pacts driven by USA-West Europe-Japan were implemented so that the hegemonic power maintains their hold over global trade
  5. Promotion of ‘periodic election’ plus ‘market economy’ plus ‘private ownership’ masquerading as ‘Democracy’ across the globe
  6. Promotion of literature-cinema-fine arts that revolves around sex-drug-commercial duplicity in all major languages across the globe
  7. Promotion of mainstream media for broadcasting and publishing round-the-clock propaganda on the above mentioned tools (i) to (vi) in all major languages across the globe
  8. Promotion of academic institutions and intellectual for propagating curriculum on the above mentioned tools (i) to (vi) in all major languages across the globe
  9. Promotion of religious fundamentalist groups (male chauvinists with belief in illusory past glory from society which profess religious faiths like Sunni Islam, in Catholic Christianity, in Puritan Christianity, Brahminical Hinduism etc.) as well as ethnic fundamentalist groups (believing superiority of his/her ethnicity) in all regions across the globe
  10. Development of highly complex computerised system and other industrial technology to replace human labour in every sphere of productive work as much as possible

During the ensuing four and a half decades- from 1945 to 1990- major tasks accomplished by Deep State were:

  1. The Zionist Capitalist elites located primarily on either side of the Atlantic (who were driving force for aristocratic groups like Bilderberg Club, Club of Rome, Trilateral Commission as well as think-tanks like Council for Foreign Relations) were immensely successful in mobilising most of the academic institutions and media entities across world to spread propaganda among the people world-wide about ‘failure’ of socialism/ communism/ Marxist principles in Soviet Union and east European countries as well as China. While it was true that these countries which were devastated during WW II couldn’t provide the standard of living as west European imperialist/colonialist countries could offer to their citizens, these socialist countries provided all basic amenities of life to all its citizens.
  2. In most unfortunate turn of history, in the second half of 1950s CPSU led by Khrushchev (a closet Zionist) denounced Stalin’s leadership in Soviet Union that not only defeated the most cruel war machinery ever built on earth but became the second superpower of the world by 1945 (in 22 years after Stalin got the top leader’s position). This created an unbridgeable ideological gap between CPSU and CPC that divided the entire socialist/communist movement across the globe. After removal of Khrushchev from the position of top leader in Soviet Union political situation was salvaged internally, however, China became completely blind about the changing landscape of Soviet Union. The lack of trust of Chinese leadership in Soviet leadership was utilised by the Deep State elites in the 1980s to bleed Soviet Union in Afghanistan and Angola.
  3. By 1960 most of the Asian, and African countries got freedom from the west European imperialist/ colonialist powers like UK, France, and Belgium etc. Most of these countries were ruled by nationalist party who heavily mixed socialist ideological tenets with their nationalist creed. Most of these countries, backed by Soviet Union, had highly corrupt ruling party. Such leaders easily became prey for the global capitalist-imperialist elites, and simultaneously those semi-literate societies came under the spell of ‘Hollywood’-promoted illusion and ‘drug-sex-violence’ kind of culture. The significant block led by Soviet Union and relatively small islands of Chinese sphere came to a crossroads – they were falling behind in harnessing technological progress in economic growth, which resulted in relatively low standard of living of majority population while government officials and ruling party leaders led much better life.
  4. Deep State tried hard to manipulate the policy of government and bureaucracy as well as to co-opt the key political parties across all countries so that they can create pro-USA, pro-5 Eyes, pro-Israel policies as well as anti-Soviet Union anti-China policies. Simultaneously, oligarch-aristocrat families and elite individuals with servility towards Zionist Capitalist ideology (i.e. capitalist enterprises, private ownership, European ‘liberal imperialism’) were promoted in political leadership-bureaucracy-judiciary in those countries so that they can convert the policies into actions to advance interests of global oligarchy.
  5. In many large countries across the world, the Zionist Capitalist Deep State manipulated domestic politics to overthrow patriotic and incorruptible leaders who couldn’t be co-opted by them – Congo, Iran, Indonesia, Chile, Guatemala, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, etc. The Deep State mainly mobilised the country’s military forces to grab state power by killing the top leader(s) and by creating a repressive environment. Sometimes that would include mass murder of leaders and members of socialist party/communist party – in Indonesia, in the 2nd half of 1960s, between one to two million members of communist party were killed by military junta. In all the above mentioned cases, soon after coming to power the military junta would create economic policies that would favour the MNC from USA, 5 Eyes, west European countries, and simultaneously reduce contacts with Soviet Union and China.
  6. Developing conventional, nuclear, biological, chemical, and other special weapons and building a military force based on land, marine, air, and space that will be able to dominate every other country in every region, and if necessary, the military force can take punitive actions against any country including carrying out ‘first strike’ against other nuclear powers like Soviet Union and China without any possibility of retaliatory strike. USA built over 700 military bases all over the world.

The Deep State operatives were very successful in their original plan of wrecking Soviet Union from within. In the beginning of 1980s two leaders got into powerful political positions in the Soviet block – Yuri Andropov became top leader of CPSU and Lech Walesa became top trade union leader in Poland, Such high-ranking anti-socialist leaders quickly made inroads into state structure and policies in Soviet Union and Poland. After Andropov handpicked Gorbachev to lead CPSU, it was only a matter of time for the Deep State to wrap-up the socialist experiment what was known as USSR. Gorbachev and his so-called reformist clique systematically incapacitated Soviet economy, and also actively promoted downfall of governments in every east European country which were led by socialist party aligned with CPSU. This clique was helped by professionals from USA and west Europe. They also pinned hope that CPC leader Zhao Ziyang will become the ‘Gorbachev of China’ to bring down the government ruled by CPC – however this was a complete failure as Zhao himself confided with Gorbachev that ‘Deng was the top leader’ in a meeting when Tiananmen Square protest was raging in Beijing in 1989. Without a single gun-shot being fired by the military wings of Zionist Capitalist cabal, the Soviet Union dissolved itself between 1990 to 1991 CE – the phase II of WW II came to an end. Instead of serious introspection and course correction among ruling party officials and government departments to design policies keeping pace with socio-economic changes and technological changes, all these ‘reformist’ leaders decided that the best way to (personal?) growth was to join hands with Zionist-Capitalist world order after bringing down the governments ruled by their own party communist/socialist party.

By 2020 whole Europe and half of Asia had been occupied by the ‘benevolent’ Anglo-American NATO military who claimed that they guarantee ‘independence’ of those ‘liberated countries’ from the clutch of ‘authoritarian’ communism, and they also ensure that ‘liberal democratic capitalism’ version of empire will suck the land and citizens dry. No wonder, Soviet WW II war memorials and monuments have been systematically destroyed in east Europe – how long the Deep State would tolerate anti-zionist anti-capitalist flag hoisted by Soviet Red Army in Europe with immense sacrifices and sufferings by Soviet leaders, soldiers and people?

Concomitant with the complete control of all political parties (across the wide spectrum of their professed ideology) on both sides of the Atlantic: North America, South America, Europe, the discerning Zionist Capitalist cabal maintains a complex cobweb connecting all key members and rotating them from one role to another. Thus a retired Director of intelligence department of USA will occupy the chair of Chairman of a big financial investment firm as well as the role of a university Professor! The cabal maintains a carefully constructed façade where professionals from different spheres of society jointly appear as a highly educated, experienced and intelligent wing – industrialists, bankers, politicians, bureaucrats, military officials, business managers, legal and media professionals, academicians, NGO managers, cinema directors and artists all walks of life are present.

[ Link: https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2016-06-10/does-bilderberg-really-run-world-one-chart-help-you-decide ]

Interlude?

After Soviet Union was pulled down, the corrupt and treacherous Soviet leaders and their lackeys backed by the Zionist Capitalist oligarchy and elites ripped apart the socio-economic fabric of Russian society. The state exchequer was looted blatantly, the natural resources were divided among the Soviet elites-turned-businessmen, the industrial capital largely destroyed or privatised without any meaningful payment to state, workers were retrenched or pauperised without regular wages, and peasants were left without proper means of cultivation. Not only peoples tried to earn livelihood offering sex-drug-smuggling etc., but steep drop in birth rates across all splinter provinces of USSR made it to appear like entire Eurasian landmass will get depopulated within two generations. The Deep State also tried to split Russia (which, after the USSR dissolution, became largest state in Eurasia) into 4 – 5 regions through creating and aiding regional separatist movements with help of the 5th column elites and oligarchy within Russia. Without funding, military capabilities of Russia went into oblivion. Technological research and development as well as manufacturing of defence machinery came to a dead end. Demoralised troops and open corruption became symbolic of Russian military.

So, were the different factions of Zionist Capitalist cabal content with the successful closure of the WW II by 1991? What were they thinking about the glaring failure of destroying the CPC rule in China? Apparently, the Deep State was not only happy with their performance in destroying the CPSU and Soviet Union, they were also very confident about China becoming a ‘normal country’ with full-scale liberal democratic capitalist system of economy and periodic elections to elect governments that will be run by the Zionist Capitalist world order staying behind the curtain (as it happened for all countries in the world in 1992 except China-Vietnam-North Korea-Iran-Zimbabwe-Angola-Cuba). We need to ask ourselves, how the Deep State was so confident that China will be on board with them.

1978 onwards the drive towards industrial capitalism in China using the global finance owned by the Zionist Capitalist bankers and industrialists was initiated by Deng and followed up by Jiang Zemin in such earnestness that, the Deep State representatives like Kissinger and Financial Institutions like JP Morgan had to conclude that Chinese acumen for business and trade will transform the society into a capitalist society. Japan was anyway part of the world order triad i.e. USA-West Europe-Japan, and with China’s entry, the triad would have become USA-West Europe-East Asia. Chinese government went all-out to create a ‘happy hunting ground’ for global Zionist Capitalist interests which wanted more and more profits towards endless accumulation of capital, and hence were busy shifting their manufacturing base to China to harness low-cost labour and slack regulations. By 2008, i.e. after 30 years of reform, China became third largest economy in terms of GDP nominal (as per IMF estimates USD 4604 billion) and largest export base in the world (In 2007-2008, its Export-to-GDP ratio reached 32%, and its Exim-to-GDP ratio was 59%), but it also became a society where inequality was one of the highest in the world – China’s Gini coefficient (a measure of inequality – ‘0’ represents perfect equality, ‘1’ represents perfect inequality) rose from about 0.3 in early 1980s to 0.49 in 2008. The media, academia, multilateral institutions funded by the Deep State went all-out to woo the CPC leaders towards ushering a new era of ‘political reforms’ after such a brilliant success of ‘economic reforms’ – by ‘political reforms’ they meant introduction of multi-party election system and privatisation of the state-owned enterprises. After one and a half decades of persuasion, by middle of 2000s the Deep State cabal understood that, CPC never ever had any such plan of changing their ideology of political economy.

And about the same time in 2007 Munich Security Conference, Putin as the leader of Russia, delivered his famous Munich speech. In no uncertain terms, Putin criticized USA’s hegemonic dominance and its “almost uncontained hyper use of force in international relations“. That speech came as a shocker to the Zionist Capitalist clique – it was like waking up from a slumber. All these years they thought WW II was over with Soviet Union completely decimated – after 16 years they had the ignominy of attending a conference on European soil, where a Russian leader was chastising them about use of force in settling disputes!

Actually 2000 onwards, there had been relentless sole-searching among top leadership of Russia. It was about the overall decay of Russia within a span of just 10 years – between 1985 and 1995. As a result, the Russian government and a section of ruling party led by Putin has been pushing economic policies that created new consumer goods industry and improved agricultural production, enhanced the oil-gas extraction operation. Within few years’ time Russia got on its feet and created an economy based on ‘domestic consumption’ and pushed export of oil-gas to earn foreign exchange. However, the Zionist Capitalist oligarchy led by powerful faction of the ruling party was deeply entrenched in the bureaucracy, academia and media who supported (and benefited from) their illegal amassing of wealth. Corruption, nepotism, extortion among ruling party cadres and government officials, mostly went unpunished. Outward flow of capital and tax breaks for rich businessmen were also happening albeit at a slow pace. But noticing the overall upswing in Russian society the Deep State got alarmed – ‘filthy’ Russian bear is again cooking up some curry that may prove difficult to digest in long run!

Part 1

Part 3 – pending


By profession I’m an Engineer and Consultant, but my first love was and is History and Political Science. In retired life, I’m pursuing higher study in Economics.

I’m one of the few decade-old members of The Saker blog-site. Hope that this website will continue to focus on truth and justice in public life and will support the struggle of common people across the world.

An Indian by nationality, I believe in humanity.

The deeper roots of Chinese demonization

The deeper roots of Chinese demonization

May 03, 2020

By Pepe Escobar – posted with permission

Hegel saw history moving east to west – ‘Europe thus absolutely being the end of history, Asia the beginning’

Fasten your seat belts: the US hybrid war against China is bound to go on frenetic overdrive, as economic reports are already identifying Covid-19 as the tipping point when the Asian – actually Eurasian – century truly began.

Immanuel Kant was the first thinker to actually
come up with a theory of the yellow race. Photo: Google Images

The US strategy remains, essentially, full spectrum dominance, with the National Security Strategy obsessed by the three top “threats” of China, Russia and Iran. China, in contrast, proposes a “community of shared destiny” for mankind, mostly addressing the Global South.

The predominant US narrative in the ongoing information war is now set in stone: Covid-19 was the result of a leak from a Chinese biowarfare lab. China is responsible. China lied. And China has to pay.

The new normal tactic of non-stop China demonization is deployed not only by crude functionaries of the industrial-military-surveillance-media complex. We need to dig much deeper to discover how these attitudes are deeply embedded in Western thinking – and later migrated to the “end of history” United States. (Here are sections of an excellent study, Unfabling the East: The Enlightenment’s Encounter with Asia , by Jurgen Osterhammel).Only Whites civilized

Way beyond the Renaissance, in the 17th and 18th centuries, whenever Europe referred to Asia it was essentially about religion conditioning trade. Christianity reigned supreme, so it was impossible to think by excluding God.

At the same time the doctors of the Church were deeply disturbed that in the Sinified world a very well organized society could function in the absence of a transcendent religion. That bothered them even more than those “savages” discovered in the Americas.

As it started to explore what was regarded as the “Far East,” Europe was mired in religious wars. But at the same time it was forced to confront another explanation of the world, and that fed some subversive anti-religious tendencies across the Enlightenment sphere.

It was at this stage that learned Europeans started questioning Chinese philosophy, which inevitably they had to degrade to the status of a mere worldly “wisdom” because it escaped the canons of Greek and Augustinian thought. This attitude, by the way, still reigns today.

So we had what in France was described as chinoiseries — a sort of ambiguous admiration, in which China was regarded as the supreme example of a pagan society.

But then the Church started to lose patience with the Jesuits’ fascination with China. The Sorbonne was punished. A papal bull, in 1725, outlawed Christians who were practicing Chinese rites. It’s quite interesting to note that Sinophile philosophers and Jesuits condemned by the Pope insisted that the “real faith” (Christianity) was “prefigured” in ancient Chinese, specifically Confucianist, texts.

The European vision of Asia and the “Far East” was mostly conceptualized by a mighty German triad: Kant, Herder and Schlegel. Kant, incidentally, was also a geographer, and Herder a historian and geographer. We can say that the triad was the precursor of modern Western Orientalism. It’s easy to imagine a Borges short story featuring these three.

As much as they may have been aware of China, India and Japan, for Kant and Herder God was above all. He had planned the development of the world in all its details. And that brings us to the tricky issue of race.

Breaking away from the monopoly of religion, references to race represented a real epistemological turnaround in relation to previous thinkers. Leibniz and Voltaire, for instance, were Sinophiles. Montesquieu and Diderot were Sinophobes. None explained cultural differences by race. Montesquieu developed a theory based on climate. But that did not have a racial connotation – it was more like an ethnic approach.

The big break came via French philosopher and traveler Francois Bernier (1620-1688), who spent 13 years traveling in Asia and in 1671 published a book called La Description des Etats du Grand Mogol, de l”Indoustan, du Royaume de Cachemire, etc. Voltaire, hilariously, called him Bernier-Mogol — as he became a star telling his tales to the royal court. In a subsequent book, Nouvelle Division de la Terre par les Differentes Especes ou Races d’Homme qui l’Habitent, published in 1684, the “Mogol” distinguished up to five human races.

This was all based on the color of the skin, not on families or the climate. The Europeans were mechanically placed on top, while other races were considered “ugly.” Afterward, the division of humanity in up to five races was picked up by David Hume — always based on the color of the skin. Hume proclaimed to the Anglo-Saxon world that only whites were civilized; others were inferiors. This attitude is still pervasive. See, for instance, this pathetic diatribe recently published in Britain.

Two Asias

The first thinker to actually come up with a theory of the yellow race was Kant, in his writings between 1775 and 1785, David Mungello argues in The Great Encounter of China and the West, 1500-1800.

Kant rates the “white race” as “superior,” the “black race” as “inferior” (by the way, Kant did not condemn slavery), the “copper race” as “feeble” and the “yellow race” as intermediary. The differences between them are due to a historical process that started with the “white race,” considered the most pure and original, the others being nothing but bastards.

Kant subdivided Asia by countries. For him, East Asia meant Tibet, China and Japan. He considered China in relatively positive terms, as a mix of white and yellow races.

Herder was definitely mellower. For him, Mesopotamia was the cradle of Western civilization, and the Garden of Eden was in Kashmir, “the world’s paradise.” His theory of historical evolution became a smash hit in the West: the East was a baby, Egypt was an infant, Greece was youth. Herder’s East Asia consisted of Tibet, China, Cochinchina, Tonkin, Laos, Korea, Eastern Tartary and Japan — countries and regions touched by Chinese civilization.

Schlegel was like the precursor of a Californian 60s hippie. He was a Sanskrit enthusiast and a serious student of Eastern cultures. He said that “in the East we should seek the most elevated romanticism.” India was the source of everything, “the whole history of the human spirit.” No wonder this insight became the mantra for a whole generation of Orientalists. That was also the start of a dualist vision of Asia across the West that’s still predominant today.

So by the 18th century we had fully established a vision of Asia as a land of servitude and cradle of despotism and paternalism in sharp contrast with a vision of Asia as a cradle of civilizations. Ambiguity became the new normal. Asia was respected as mother of civilizations — value systems included — and even mother of the West. In parallel, Asia was demeaned, despised or ignored because it had never reached the high level of the West, despite its head start.

Those Oriental despots

And that brings us to The Big Guy: Hegel. Hyper well informed – he read reports by ex-Jesuits sent from Beijing — Hegel does not write about the “Far East” but only the East, which includes East Asia, essentially the Chinese world. Hegel does not care much about religion as his predecessors did. He talks about the East from the point of view of the state and politics. In contrast to the myth-friendly Schlegel, Hegel sees the East as a state of nature in the process of reaching toward a beginning of history – unlike black Africa, which he saw wallowing in the mire of a bestial state.

To explain the historical bifurcation between a stagnant world and another one in motion, leading to the Western ideal, Hegel divided Asia in two.

One part was composed by China and Mongolia: a puerile world of patriarchal innocence, where contradictions do not develop, where the survival of great empires attests to that world’s “insubstantial,” immobile and ahistorical character.

The other part was Vorderasien (“Anterior Asia”), uniting the current Middle East and Central Asia, from Egypt to Persia. This is an already historical world.

These two huge regions are also subdivided. So in the end Hegel’s Asiatische Welt (Asian world) is divided into four: first, the plains of the Yellow and Blue rivers, the high plateaus, China and Mongolia; second, the valleys of the Ganges and the Indus; third, the plains of the Oxus (today the Amur-Darya) and the Jaxartes (today the Syr-Darya), the plateaus of Persia, the valleys of the Tigris and the Euphrates; and fourth, the Nile valley.

It’s fascinating to see how in the Philosophy of History (1822-1830) Hegel ends up separating India as a sort of intermediary in historical evolution. So we have in the end, as Jean-Marc Moura showed in L’Extreme Orient selon G. W. F. Hegel, Philosophie de l’Histoire et Imaginaire Exotique, a “fragmented East, of which India is the example, and an immobile East, blocked in chimera, of which the Far East is the illustration.”

To describe the relation between East and West, Hegel uses a couple of metaphors. One of them, quite famous, features the sun: “The history of the world voyages from east to west, Europe thus absolutely being the end of history, and Asia the beginning.” We all know where tawdry “end of history” spin-offs led us.

The other metaphor is Herder’s: the East is “history’s youth” — but with China taking a special place because of the importance of Confucianist principles systematically privileging the role of the family.

Nothing outlined above is of course neutral in terms of understanding Asia. The double metaphor — using the sun and maturity — could not but comfort the West in its narcissism, later inherited from Europe by the “exceptional” US. Implied in this vision is the inevitable superiority complex, in the case of the US even more acute because legitimized by the course of history.

Hegel thought that history must be evaluated under the framework of the development of freedom. Well, China and India being ahistorical, freedom does not exist, unless brought by an initiative coming from outside.

And that’s how the famous “Oriental despotism” evoked by Montesquieu and the possible, sometimes inevitable, and always valuable Western intervention are, in tandem, totally legitimized. We should not expect this Western frame of mind to change anytime soon, if ever. Especially as China is about to be back as Number One.

GEO-ECONOMIC BATTLE FOR RUSSIA

Geo-Economic Battle for Russia
REUTERS/Hyungwon Kang

As the world struggles to achieve any semblance of normality amid the developing economic and coronavirus (COVID-19) cries, China is playing towards increasing its influence throughout Eurasia.

In the first quarter of 2020, China bought a record high number of Russian oil (Urals) – 4 million tones. As a comparison, in the fourth quarter of 2019, China received only 2.5 million tones. The previous record of the supplies of Russian oil to China was registered in the third quarter of 2018 – 2.7 million tones. Therefore, China expanded its import of Russian crude by 1.6 times.

This decision of the Chinese leadership could be seen as a politically-motivated move; especially if one takes into the account the declining demand to oil supplies and massive discounts by Saudi Arabia on the Asian market.

Thus, Beijing is choosing to purchase Moscow’s crude oil, as a sort of a “grant” in the conditions of an economic crisis, taking place amid the coronavirus hysteria. How the liberal-controlled economic bloc of the Russian government pushed the country to the brink of the crisis despite years of preparations for the current situation is another question.

Some critics could call the purchase of Russian crude by China a sort of political bribe, which would ensure either Russia’s compliance, or at least Moscow not getting in the way, while Beijing works to realize its geopolitical agenda.

This, however, leads to a bit of eyebrow raising, as Moscow and Beijing have, for a while now, cooperated in various fields of interest, as well as various common regions of interest.

This support from China towards Russia is not unexpected, and it is not surprising, as it also fits into the expected format of new strategic partnerships in Eurasia, that wish to compete with the United States’ ambitions. Purchase of crude oil or not, it is apparent that when it comes to geopolitical activity, China expects that Russia to either support or simply does not stand against the Chinese national security interests.

For example, China formed two administrative units aimed at specifically managing the artificial islands it constructed in the South China Sea.

“The State Council has recently approved the establishment of the Xisha and Nansha districts under Sansha city.”

According to the notice, the Xisha administration will be based in Woody Island, also known as Yongxing Island. Meanwhile, the Nansha administration will be placed in the Fiery Cross Reef, referred to as Yongshu Reef in Chinese.

The US strongly opposes China’s attempt to seize a larger area under its jurisdiction in the South China Sea, not least because it is the region through which the most trade passes year-round.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan hosted a meeting with Chinese Ambassador Zhang Xiao.

Kazakhstan’s side reacted an article published on a Chinese website http://www.sohu.com titled “Why Kazakhstan is eager to return to China”.

“The meeting pointed out that an article of such content does not correspond to the spirit of eternal comprehensive strategic partnership reflected in the Joint Statement of the Republic of Kazakhstan and the People’s Republic of China, signed by the Heads of State on September 11, 2019. The parties agreed to closely cooperate in the fields of spreading information and mass media.”

Various plans of China’s territorial expansion are actively being discussed in the Chinese society itself. And this appears to be taking place into most directions. Alongside all of this, the intensification in the confrontation between China and the US appears to be all but avoidable.

Another important factor is that the increasing supplies of energy resources from Russia will allow China to be covered in the event of a new military conflict in the Persian Gulf (it will likely involve the US and Iran). In these conditions, Russia, as a key Chinese partner, becomes the apparent and vital supplier of energy resources by contrast with Saudi Arabia and other large oil suppliers.

The COVID-19 crisis has exacerbated the dire situation in which the markets and state economies already were. The crisis deepened the global and inter-regional competition, including those between the two key economic players: Beijing and Washington.

Russia is both an object and a subject of the global geo-economic standoff.

It is an object by virtue of its size – it has a massive market which needs materials (raw and otherwise), but it also produces its fair share of products and energy. It is a subject in terms of the simple fact that it is the world’s second largest military power and is one of the leaders on the international diplomatic scene.

Due to the same reasons, the US might also move towards easing the rhetoric towards Russia, and attempt to expand trade and economic cooperation, something which China would likely also plan to do. Even the media organization of Michael Bloomberg, a key Donald Trump competitor said that it was a possibility.

“Yet a small opening exists to professionalize a segment of bilateral U.S.-Russia ties. Russia has long been interested in pulling the United States into coordinating the global oil market. Although the United States does not need to join OPEC+ and its pledges to mandate production cuts, having regular exchanges about global energy trends could create a niche for constructive discussions between Russian and U.S. officials. It is not crazy to think that a dialogue around common energy interests could evolve into a more meaningful conversation about how to deal with Venezuela’s collapse, for instance,” one of the recent Bloomberg articles says.

However, in the current situation, it is understandable that the Russian leadership is more inclined towards cooperating with China. Beijing has demonstrated itself as a complicated, but also consistent and stable partner. In contrast, the US has spent the last almost 30 years in very apparent attempts to entirely undermine any semblance of Russian strategic power and shake the foundations of the Russian state itself.

MORE ON THE TOPIC:

Can “Coronavirus Diplomacy” Bring the European Union (EU) Closer to Eurasia?

By Paul Antonopoulos

Global Research, April 03, 2020

The European Union (EU) and the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), an association of post-Soviet states, effectively serve a similar function to each other as an economic bloc. Unlike the 27-member EU, the EEU has only 5-members as many post-Soviet states allege it is nothing but an attempt to revive the Soviet Union, which the countries of the West do not want to promote. The West’s resistance has brought no economic benefit to it and this geopolitical duel was reflected in the limited success of sanctions against Russia. However, the credibility of the EU and the liberal orders continues to diminish as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Therefore, the coronavirus pandemic actually creates a unique opportunity for the EU and EEU to integrate into a single system, or at least move closer together.

Russia’s dominance of the EEU is both a positive and a negative for Eurasian integration. Russia’s large market forms the basis of the integration potential of the EEU, however, limited economic growth, sanctions and its participation in global geopolitics create risks for the Eurasian integration process. However, Eurasian integration would be in the interest of EU as it will connect European states to new markets in Central and East Asia far more efficiently and quickly then by other means. The EU claims that it works towards common markets and efficiency but does not seriously consider connecting Lisbon on the Atlantic Ocean to Vladivostok on the Pacific Ocean.

The EU is losing its position as a top trading partner of the EEU, and it’s not just because of China’s growing importance. As a trading partner of the EEU, China has already surpassed most of Europe. The role of the EU as a trading partner of the whole EEU is due to the important role of the EU for Russia. However, Russia has been slowly turning eastward from the EU for years now as the future leading economies of the world will shift from the West to Asia.

Coronavirus is certainly accelerating this reality as the entirety of the Anglosphere and Western Europe head towards a severe recession unable to handle the economic pressures of the pandemic. This pandemic and economic downturn effectively means that only China and Russia will compete for investments in the extremely resource rich Central Asia. As EU economies begin to recover in the aftermath of the coronavirus and their energy demands are not being met access to Central Asia may become a priority. Ironically, Russia is the only means for the EU to enter the markets of the post-Soviet countries outside of Eastern Europe. Therefore, with the liberal order severely damaged in the face of coronavirus, it will have to be acknowledged in the West that the EEU project as a whole is a force for good and the EU will have to admit it made a mistake by not initially recognizing the EEU.

With this in mind, the EU must show independent foreign policy and resolve its disputes with Russia, even if Washington insists on enacting hostiles relations with Moscow. As the EU originally began as an economic union without much of a political nature, by returning to their roots will mean naturally a change in foreign policy. If the economy is the concentrated expression of politics, then mutual economic interests should be the foundation of reconciliation between Brussels and Moscow.

French President Emmanuel Macron is one of the leading voices in normalizing relations with Russia, despite his harsh rhetoric against Moscow time to time. Let’s consider Macron’s Facebook post from last year where he said

“progress on many political and economic issues is evident, for we’re trying to develop Franco-Russian relations. I’m convinced that, in this multilateral restructuring, we must develop a security and trust architecture between the European Union and Russia.”

With Macron stressing that Russia is part of Europe, he expanded on General de Gaulle’s famous phrase that Europe stretches “from Lisbon to the Urals,” to say that Europe extended to Vladivostok, close to the North Korean border. Macron is one of the most powerful voices in Europe and strongly endorses a weakening of U.S. influence in Europe through various means, including criticism of NATO and suggestion to have it replaced with a European military.

The EEU’s vision of Lisbon to Vladivostok as a common space is the best way to avoid a crisis on the Eurasian landmass. For countries like Ukraine who are stuck between both East and West, the integration of the EU and EEU would actually serve as a stabilizing factor. Therefore, as the coronavirus has exposed weaknesses in the liberal globalized order, an opportunity has actually emerged where the EU and EEU can more closely align and integrate.

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This article was originally published on InfoBrics.

Paul Antonopoulos is a Research Fellow at the Center for Syncretic Studies.

Featured image is from InfoBricsThe original source of this article is Global ResearchCopyright © Paul Antonopoulos, Global Research, 2020

THE INVISIBLE BUG THAT KILLED AN EMPIRE

THE INVISIBLE BUG THAT KILLED AN EMPIRE

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The liberal world order is a shambles. The coronavirus pandemic will spell the end of full-spectrum dominance by Britain, the United States, and those in the European Union tethered so inextricably to the NATO alliance. A quote below from a Reuters report citing French President Emmanual Macron, it sums up the fall of the mediocre empire created after World War 2.

“What’s at stake is the survival of the European project.”

It’s too bad my country has no statesmen to herald the coming of the end. I wonder when the first American governor will tell my countrymen what is at stake for them?

Macron was cited after the Reuters report framed the catastrophe in Italy, and how the European Union left the Italians to fend for themselves like castaways. To be honest, I never thought Macron had it in him, but he’s surprised even me. And when Russia and China came to the rescue, it was NATO and Poland that closed airspace to the Russian aid transports. Italy will never forget or forgive this. The story in Spain is a similar one, as is the one here in Greece. If not for the Greek authorities quick action to close businesses and borders, Europe’s summer vacationland would already be overwhelmed.

At a time when Germany and the Netherlands have split the EU into two parts by blocked a call from Italy, Spain, and France to issue joint debt to help finance a recovery, President Donald Trump and his opposition have splintered America into similar desperate parts. In the United States, hard-hit places like New York City cannot even get the needed equipment to treat the spiraling number of COVID-19 cases. ICU units are full, almost everyone has been exposed, and Governor Cuomo is begging for respirators that will never come. And this is just New York.

In the state of Georgia, Republican Governor Brian Kemp just held a “town hall” meeting with constituents before extending school closings. However, although Georgia’s COVID-19 spread is one of the fastest-growing and deadliest in the nation, Kemp has not expanded the state effort. This is a mistake on the level of criminal negligence if you factor in mathematical projections of how the disease is gripping the United States. While Donald Trump panders a “beautiful Easter” as his motivation to open back up sections of the U.S., it seems like the Republican party is willing to follow the unpredictable president over a cliff.

A report entitled “Hell is Coming: Here is the Mathematical Proof”, from a Wall Street expert, Inan Dogan, Ph.D., shows us the incontrovertible magnitude of the coronavirus pandemic, both in terms of human suffering, and where the mid-term economy of the world is concerned. Dogan puts forward the facts of the geometric spread of the disease along with the death spiral that only levels off after countries take drastic measures. The most telling figures, the fact the infection and death rates double every three days, is a metric that cannot be hidden. Simple math can be applied to any of the COVID-19 pandemic charts online. Dogan says 2 million Americans are already infected with the virus, and that testing and delay factors obscure the real gravity of the situation. The United States passed China and Italy with the most number of COVID-19 cases, and the disease spread curve confirms the totals doubling every three days. Dr. Dogan predicted the U.S. death toll on March 26th would be 900, the actual number was 1,201. I followed the trend and did the math too. Unless President Trump takes more drastic measures, America’s government will have fallen behind the rest of the world in the worst possible way, by letting her people down totally. As for the economic impacts, the situation is already far beyond estimating.

Anyone can follow the Bloomberg predictions or Wall Street ticker to determine the world is in a mess. Trump and the Congress printing out an extra $2 trillion is monumental enough to show this. But the macro-level view does not show the depth or scope of this pandemic. For instance, at the micro-economic level, farms and other producers around the world will be smashed by the pandemic. Here on Crete island, small farmers cannot ship their produce to places like Italy or the rest of the Balkans, since tight border restrictions prevent the trucks from rolling in. Many are already selling their products below the cost to produce them, just to keep their businesses alive. And this situation will only worsen in the months to come. What about American exports and imports?

The only good news Americans can cling to is the fact the United States is not nearly so dependent on exports as most other countries. Farms in America, for instance, are mostly owned by huge corporations that are far more capable of handling market fluctuations and individual farmers who once fed the country. Oil and gas are a huge problem, as are the travel, tourism, food, and entertainment sectors. The biggest problem for Trump and the other politicians is the joblessness that is about to shatter the incumbent president’s hopes of reelection. This is why Trump is so keen to reboot the country before Easter. He says he thinks it’s a “beautiful time” and that he thinks it would be a super timeline to try and reopen the U.S. by then, but what he means is that millions of Americans being jobless when the Easter Bunny shows up… Well, this is the level of “Trump” disasters the American leadership considers dire. This Moody’s outlook for China may be a premonition for America in the coming weeks:

“In recently released data from China (A1 stable) offers a glimpse into the impact of the unfolding consumption shock. The official data suggests a sharp contraction relative to last year in retail sales (-20.5%), industrial production (-13.5%), fixed-asset investment (-24.5%), and job losses (5 million) in January and February.”

Here’s the gist. President Trump and most of the leadership in the U.S. are dealing with this crisis from a “fantasy” perspective, or as if the country was somehow prepared for catastrophes like COVID-19. The United States spends untolled trillions on national defense, homeland security, cybersecurity, and an unspeakable list of programs. Pharmaceutical companies in the country rake in trillions as well, and when the American people call on the industry in a crisis?

“Easter would be a beautiful timeline. It’s a beautiful time of year.”

The connective tissue of America is about to be put under coronavirus stress, whether or not every citizen comes down with the bug, every man, woman, and child will be affected. A $1200 loan from Uncle Sam is not going to help. And yes, the stimulus checks are a loan from the world central banks. The stock market rallied on the announcement of the stimulus package by the government, but the U.S. passing China in the number of cases is already pushing the Dow Jones back down as of Friday, March 27. And once the “lag” numbers start coming in, when Easter rolls over families because of the employment situation, and as more families are touched by the death toll, the situation is NOT going to get better anytime soon.

There is no happy ending to the story of the American hegemony that failed. Being a ruler can be a great thing when the sun is shining, but when catastrophe dashes hope kings usually head for asylum. It will be interesting to see where Donald Trump and the EU’s mediocre heads of state end up.


By Phil Butler
Source: New Eastern Outlook

The Coronavirus Pandemic Is Another Reminder of Western Barbarianism

The Coronavirus Pandemic Is Another Reminder of Western Barbarianism 

By Darko Lazar

During the NATO bombing of Serbia in 1999, the Western military alliance devastated the country’s civilian infrastructure. The long list of targets included 19 hospitals, 18 kindergartens, 176 cultural monuments and 44 bridges. 

Several weeks into the military campaign, which was fiercely opposed by Russia and China, a total of five satellite-guided bombs, delivered by American B-2 bombers, slammed into the Chinese embassy in Belgrade. 

The attack on the symbol of Chinese sovereignty in the heart of the Balkans killed three Chinese nationals and wounded twenty others. 

Washington and Brussels claimed the attack was a mistake. But NATO’s increasingly bloody push eastwards would have unintended consequences. 

The Belt and Road Initiative vs. Western dictates 

Just a few months after the bombing of Serbia, Russia’s President Boris Yeltsin was quietly pushed out of office and replaced by the relatively unknown Vladimir Putin.

When Putin won his first election in 2000, he is rumored to have had two inauguration ceremonies. One was held in full view of the global media and another unfolded in the Kremlin’s underground chambers. 

There he was joined by a small group of Russian military officers and operatives from the country’s security apparatus. These men understood that it was only a matter of time before NATO bombs started falling on downtown Moscow, and the decision had been made to confront Western expansionism. 

In the years that followed, China and Russia would join hands with Iran to suppress American influence though the creation of a Eurasian union made up of sovereign and independent nations. 

This ambitious scheme reached Serbia in the form of Russian military hardware and China’s Belt and Road Initiative. 

Beijing found a reliable partner in the government of Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, and in less than a decade, the Chinese poured billions of dollars in investments into the Balkan state. 

The investments propped up critical industries in Serbia, including a copper mine, a steelmaker, and a thermal power plant. While safeguarding tens of thousands of jobs and driving much-needed growth, the Chinese were also building new bridges, roads, and ports. 

Meanwhile, Vucic adopted an intelligent foreign policy – one made possible by the reemergence of a multipolar world. He reached out to both east and west and then took the best deal on the table. But the West had little to offer. 

Most of the exchanges with Brussels consisted of dictates. No longer able to bomb embassies, the West demanded Belgrade introduce ‘political reforms’ and restrict Chinese investments. 

Western political elites remained convinced that China and Russia have nothing to offer countries like Serbia that could rival joining ‘democratic’ Western alliances. 

The coronavirus pandemic delivered yet another serious blow to this arrogant and abominable point of view.     

Solidarity and fairytales

As coronavirus infections spiked dramatically across Europe earlier this month, Vucic declared that “European solidarity does not exist.” 

“This was a fairytale on paper,” Vucic said as he announced a state of emergency in his country. “Today I sent a special letter to the only ones who can help, and that is China.” 

He explained that he asked Chinese President Xi Jinping “not only as a dear friend, but as a brother” to provide Serbia desperately needed assistance after the EU imposed a ban on exports of medical equipment.  

Once again, when time came for building bridges instead of destroying them, the great humanitarians of the West had nothing to offer. Meanwhile, Chinese gear and experts flooded Serbia virtually overnight.

Beijing’s assistance and strict measures imposed by the government early on helped Serbia stave off disaster.   

But Serbia isn’t the only country receiving planeloads of supplies from the east. Chinese medical equipment is being sent to Iran, Iraq, and a number of European states including Italy where over 10,000 people have thus far perished due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Italy – the first EU state to embrace the Belt and Road Initiative in 2019 – turned to China after its plea for help from its European neighbors was refused. 

Similar acts of solidarity came from the Russians and some Latin American states. The Cubans flew their doctors to Italy and were asked to return to Brazil where they were expelled in 2018 and labeled “Communist spies” by the right-wing government of Jair Bolsonaro. 

Meanwhile, Western powerhouses are looking inwards. As they cling onto stocks depleted by years of healthcare cuts, the Trump administration was reportedly caught offering piles of money for ‘exclusive rights’ to a Covid-19 vaccine.

Imprisoned by their own twisted interpretations of human rights, many of these governments were slow to react. They hesitated in following the Chinese model and imposing drastic restrictions on freedom of movement. Instead they were worried about profits and how the stock markets would react. 

And even as the U.S. becomes the new epicenter of this pandemic, President Donald Trump expressed his readiness to potentially risk millions of American lives by reopening the country in just a few weeks.

This brutal face of capitalism is also on full display for Washington’s adversaries, namely Iran and Venezuela, where unilateral sanctions are preventing the delivery of desperately needed medical supplies.  

As such, Western governments and their policies are not only endangering individual nation states. At a time when a highly infectious disease is spreading at an unprecedented speed, these policies are threatening the entire global population. 

De omnibus dubitandum est

Despite extensive global coverage of this pandemic, very little is actually known about Covid-19. We don’t know how dangerous the virus is or its concrete consequences. And we certainly don’t have tangible details about what caused the outbreak. 

This leaves plenty of room for speculation, conspiracy theories, and even talk about aliens. Whatever the truth, biological warfare involving powerful political currents can never be ruled out. 

In an op-ed published more than two years ago, Al-Ahed pointed to the existence of hundreds of American military biological laboratories across the Eurasian continent. The labs were being used by the Pentagon to gather intelligence on microorganisms – vital for the creation of highly effective biological weapons. 

There is no doubt that the coronavirus transcends borders and religions and doesn’t discriminate between rich and poor. But that doesn’t mean that the virus isn’t helping further certain political agendas. 

The coronavirus has done what “Israel’s” politicians have failed to do for over a year. It’s brought an end to the political deadlock with indicted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu set to form the next government. 

By bringing the global economy to a screeching halt, Covid-19 has given birth to another Great Depression and paved the way for the collapse of certain governments. 

Equally important is the fact that the virus has the potential to determine the outcome of every single election process in the Western world for some time to come, including the U.S. presidential race. 

At times like these, it would be wise to remember the words of the late Danish philosopher Soren Aabye Kierkegaard who titled one of his books, De omnibus dubitandum est or “everything must be doubted”. 

في الذكرى الـ 62 لإقامة الجمهورية العربية المتحدة نحن والمشكّكون: لماذا دولة الوحدة قادمة؟

زياد حافظ

الذكرى الثانية والستون لإقامة الجمهورية العربية المتحدة ليست مناسبة لاستذكار حقبة كانت مليئة بالآمال فقط بل هي مناسبة للتأكيد أنّ تلك الآمال ما زالت موجودة. بل ربما هي أكثر من آمال إذ أصبحت أقرب للتحقيق الآن. وذلك خلافاً لما يظنّ المشكّكون واللذين يتلذّذون بجلد الذات تحت عباءة “الموضوعية” أو “الواقعية” أو أيّ مصطلح يمكن استحداثه لتبرير ثقافة الهزيمة المترسّخة ولتبرير عدم الإقدام على ما يلزم أو لتبرير الاستسلام لمشيئة تحالف الامبريالية والصهيونية والرجعية العربية. أولئك “الموضوعيين” يعتبرون أنّ حالة التجزئة والتمزّق قدر لا يمكن تجاهله خاصة في غياب ما يُسمّونه بـ “المشروع العربي”.

وإذا كنّا نعتقد أنّ معركتنا المفصلية هي مع العدو الصهيوني وحماته من الامبريالية والرجعية فإنّ خلافنا لا يقلّ حدّة مع “المشككين” الذين يعتبرون أنفسهم شهداء على زمن الانحطاط والتراجع وغياب أيّ آفاق للنهوض. فهؤلاء لا يرون التحوّلات في موازين القوّة على الصعيد العالمي والإقليمي. ولا يرون حتى التغييرات التي حصلت على الصعيد العربي وخاصة ظاهرة المقاومة التي ما زالوا يقلّلون من شأنها. ولا يستطيعون أن يروا الإنجازات التي تحقّقت في الميدان ضدّ العدو الصهيوني سواء في لبنان أو في فلسطين. فالعدو الصهيوني الذي كان يسرح ويمرح دون أيّ رادع لم يعد باستطاعته التقدّم شبراً واحداً في لبنان أو في قطاع غزّة بينما أصبح يعيش في “غيتو” المناطق المحتلّة خلف جدار يعتقد أنه سيحميه من انتفاضة شعب فلسطين أو ضربات مقاومته. ولا يستطيعون أن يروا أن سياسة المبنية على المعتقد الخاطئ أنّ الولايات المتحدة تملك 99 بالمائة من أوراق اللعبة وأنّ الحصول على الرضى الأميركي يمرّ عبر إرضاء الكيان الصهيوني، أيّ أنّ ذلك الرهان رهان خاطئ لم يعط أيّ نتيجة سواء في مصر أو في الأردن أو عند منظّري اتفاق أوسلو أو في دول الخليج. لا يرون في هذا الحال أنّ الكيان الذي أوجد من أجل حماية مصالح الاستعمار الأوروبي ومن بعد ذلك الامبريالية الأميركية أصبح بحاجة إلى حماية لا تستطيع الولايات المتحدة تأمينها رغم كلّ العنتريات والكلام عن الترسانات الفتّاكة التي تملكها. ومن سخرية القدر أن أصبح الكيان يفتخر بدعم بعض الأنظمة العربية كـ “إنجاز” يمكن الاعتماد عليه بينما تلك الأنظمة ما زالت تعتقد أنّ الكيان هو من يحمي عروشها وكراسي الحكم فيها.

يقولون لنا إنّ الوحدة غير ممكنة بسبب معاداة الغرب بشكل عام والولايات المتحدة بشكل خاص ومعها الصهيونية العالمية والرجعية العربية القابضة على منابع النفط والمال وبالتالي يدعون إلى “الواقعية” والابتعاد عن “المغامرات غير المحسوبة”. لا يستطيعون أن يتصّوروا أن سياسات “الواقعية” و”خيارات السلام” لم تؤدّ إلى الازدهار والاستقرار بل العكس إلى المزيد من البؤس والتوتّر. لا يستطيعون أن يفهموا أن لا تنمية ممكنة ضمن أطر الحدود التي رسمها المستعمر الأوروبي قبل أن يضطر إلى الخروج من الباب ليعود ويدخل من شبّاك التبعية الاقتصادية وأداته الفساد المتفشّي بين الزمر الحاكمة. لم يستطيعوا ان يفهموا أن معظم الدول التي رسم حدودها المستعمر الأوروبي رسمها لتكون دولاً فاشلة إذا ما عبّرت عن رغبة استقلالية. لكنّها نجحت ان تبقى مع منظومة فساد واستبداد إذا ارتضت بالتبعية السياسية والاقتصادية للغرب بشكل عام وللولايات المتحدة بشكل خاص ومعه الكيان الصهيوني والرجعية العربية. فالاختباء وراء بناء الدولة الوطنية وعدم مواجهة العدو الصهيوني والهيمنة الأميركية ساهم في تكريس التجزئة التي أرادها المستعمر القديم والجديد.

لم يفهموا أنّ الدعوة إلى الليبرالية السياسية والانفتاح كإحدى البدائل عن الوحدة دعوة زائفة مهمّتها تكريس هيمنة زمر الفساد والتبعية والاحتكار وذلك على حساب الوطن واستقلاله وتنميته وإبعاد أيّ عدالة اجتماعية وإلغاء الثقافة العربية وموروثها التاريخي والتنكّر للهوية وللغة وتشويه الدين. لم ينتبهوا أنّ التنمية المستدامة غير ممكنة في دولة التجزئة أو عبر “الشراكة” المزيّفة مع الغرب. لم ينظروا إلى أنّ النموذج الاقتصادي المتبع هدفه إدامة التوتر الاقتصادي والاجتماعي لمنع الشعوب عن مواجهة التحدّيات الكبرى كالاستقلال الوطني والحفاظ على الهوية والتجدّد الحضاري. فإلهاء الناس بالقضايا المعيشية وخلف قضايا وهمية افتراضية تملأ الفضاء الثقافي هو لتحويل الانتباه عمّا يٌحاك ضدّ الأمة بدءاً بما سمّوه “صفقة القرن” مروراً بدعوة “القطر أوّلا” على قاعدة أنّ “أوراق اللعبة بيد الولايات المتحدة” لتكريس التجزئة والتبعية.

لم ينتبهوا أنّ المستعمر القديم الجديد في تراجع بنيوي واستراتيجي يقابله محور صاعد يرفض الهيمنة الأميركية. ومحور المقاومة في الوطن العربي جزء من ذلك المحور وإن كانت له، أيّ محور المقاومة، خصوصيات تميّزه عن المحور الصاعد المتمثّل في الكتلة الأوراسية بقيادة الصين وروسيا. لم يلاحظوا أنّ الولايات المتحدة لم تربح حرباً واحدة بعد الحرب العالمية الثانية وهي الآن متورطّة بشكل أو بآخر بسبعة حروب لا تدري كيف تنهيها أو تخرج منها مع الحفاظ على ماء الوجه. لم يستوعبوا أنّ الكيان الصهيوني في تراجع عسكري منذ 1967. فهزم في معركة العبور (1973) وخسر حرب لبنان (2000 و2006) وخرج منه دون أيّ قيد أو شرط أو مفاوضة. كما خرج من غزّة ولم يعد قادراً على إعادة احتلالها (2008، 2012، 2014)، فلم يعد قادراً على مواجهة المقاومة إلاّ بكلفة عالية لا يستطيع تحمّلها لا بشرياً ولا سياسياً.

كما أنهم لم يستوعبوا خسارة العدوان الكوني على سورية وفشل العدوان العبثي على اليمن وترهّل قوى التحالف العدواني عليه. لم يروا إلاّ احتلال العراق وتمزيق ليبيا وانفصال السودان وهرولة بضع الدول للصلح مع الكيان الصهيوني وانتشار جماعات التعصّب والغلوّ والتوحّش في مختلف الأقطار العربية علما أنها فشلت في مشروعها العبثي. فالعراق يستعيد عافيته تدريجياً بعد مقاومة أوقفت المشروع الأميركي في العراق وبعد دحر جماعات التعصّب والغلو والتوحّش التي تنتقل من هزيمة إلى هزيمة في العراق وسورية وتضيق الأرض العربية بها. فهي أصبحت وقود التفاوض بين القوى المنتصرة في المنطقة إما لإنهائها أو إما لإعادة تصديرها إلى من موّلها ودعمها عسكرياً وسياسياً. وهذه الجماعات مرتبطة بالمحور المتراجع استراتيجياً، وبالتالي لا أفق لها كما لا أفق للعدو الصهيوني الذي برهن فعلاً أنّ كيانه أوهن من بيت العنكبوت. أما الهرولة لبعض المطبّعين فهي بين مطرقة الضغط الأميركي وسندان رأي الشعوب عندها الرافضة للتطبيع رغم الضجيج الإعلامي حوله من قبل قيادة الكيان.

الوحدة قادمة لأنّ شعوب الأمة موحّدة في مواجهة القضايا المصيرية بدءاً بقضية فلسطين وصولاً إلى رفض التبعية للخارج. فالمبادرة بيدها اليوم وليس بيد الحكّام الذين بدأوا يخشونها أكثر مما يخشون الولايات المتحدة. وإذا كانت فلسطين توحّد جماهير الأمة وبما أنّ تلك الجماهير تدعم خيار المقاومة فهذا يعني أنّ البعد الوحدوي لهذه الجماهير هو بُعد مقاوم. لذلك نقول بأنّ متن المشروع العربي الذي هو وحدة الأمة هو مشروع مقاوم. هو مشروع يوحّد الجماهير ضد المحتلّ أولا، وضدّ الذي يريد فرض هيمنته على مقدّرات الوطن ثانياً، وضدّ الاستبداد الذي يدعمه المستعمر القديم والامبريالية الجديدة ثالثا، وهو ضدّ الفساد الذي يشكّل أداة الاستبداد رابعاً. فالوحدة العربية آتية والدليل على ذلك أنّ جماهير الأمة خرجت لترفض صفقة القرن، وخرجت في اليمن تحت القصف، وخرجت في الجزائر والمغرب وتونس لترفض التطبيع مع الكيان، كما خرجت لترفض التبعية والفساد والاستبداد. فوحدة الجماهير مقدمّة لوحدة الحكومات. وكلّ ذلك رغم الحملات المغرضة ضدّ العروبة التي ينعوها موسميا! فالتجزئة قدر عندهم بينما الوحدة قادمة عندنا.

حاول أعداء الأمة نزع الهوية العربية عن الشعوب عبر استبدال خطاب الهويات الفرعية والدينية بالخطاب العروبي الذي يجمع بين مكوّنات الأمة. برهنت الوقائع خلال العقود الخمسة الماضية أنّ الخطاب العروبي الجامع هو الذي يستطيع الصمود أمام كلّ التحدّيات بينما الخطاب الديني، وخطاب الهويات الفرعية، وخطاب الليبرالية والانفتاح الزائفين، اصطدم بواقع الإقصاء والتجزئة. الخطاب العروبي في جوهره خطاب وحدوي بينما الخطابات الأخرى خطابات فرز وتجزئة. في المقابل الخطاب العروبي الوحدوي يجمع بين كلّ مكونات الأمة مهما تنوّعت العرقيات والأديان، ومهما اختلفت المذاهب السياسية. وتجسيداً لتلك الحقيقة فإنّ صوغ المشروع النهضوي العربي الذي أطلقه مركز دراسات الوحدة العربية في هذه المناسبة بالذات في شباط / فبراير 2010 من قبل مثقفين وناشطين من مختلف المذاهب السياسية والفكرية دليل على أنّ العروبة جامعة لمكوّنات الأمة. ما يبقى هو تجسيدها السياسي عبر إقامة دولة الوحدة.

لذلك توجد مؤسسات تحمل ذلك الفكر وتلك الرؤية. فدور مركز دراسات الوحدة العربية كخزّان فكري وبحثي وعلمي لقضايا الأمة ساهم في بلورة الخطاب العروبي المعاصر. والمؤتمر القومي العربي وشقيقه المؤتمر القومي الإسلامي يحملان ذلك الخطاب ومفهوم الكتلة التاريخية لمواجهة تحدّيات الأمة الداخلية والخارجية. والمؤسسات الشبابية كمخيّم الشباب القومي العربي المنبثق عن المؤتمر القومي العربي وندوة التواصل الفكري الشبابي العربي على سبيل المثال وليس الحصر تعيد إنتاج الكوادر الحاملة للخطاب العروبي. وإذا أضفنا المنتديات القومية العربية الناشطة في العديد من المدن العربية نرى أنّ الخطاب الوحدوي ما زال حيّاً وناشطاً رغم الاتهامات بأنه لغة خشبية. فإذا كان ذلك صحيحاً، أيّ انّ الخطاب الوحدوي خطاب خشبي، فلماذا يستمرّ المشكّكون والأعداء في مهاجمته؟ من جهة أخرى، فإذا كان متن الخطاب العروبي خشبياً، فهو من خشب النخلة، وخشب الزيتون، وخشب الأرز، خشب أصيل يمتد إلى قرون عديدة وربما لما قبل التاريخ! كما هو أيضاً خطاب المستقبل الذي يرى في الوحدة قوّة وفي القوّة نهضة، وفي النهضة تجدّداً حضارياً، ورسالة إلى العالم.

في ما يتعلّق بالوحدة نعي أنّ هناك مصالح محلّية تعارض الوحدة وفي مقدّمتها الرجعية العربية وأعوانها في كل قطر. فهي لا تنسجم مع الطرح الوحدوي لأنه يهدّدها ويذوّب رموزها في الوعاء الأكبر، وعاء الوطن العربي بأكمله. أولئك، مع المشكّكين، هم من يعملون على منع الوحدة في الحدّ الأقصى، أو تأخيرها في الحدّ الأدنى. لكن الحقائق المادية ستفرض حكمها. فالدولة القطرية، والأمثلة عديدة، لم تعد قادرة لا على حماية كيانها، ولا على حماية مواطنيها ولا حتى حكّامها، ولا على حماية حدودها. كما أنها لم تعد تستطيع القيام بالتنمية المستدامة والمستقلّة بسبب تدخّل الامبريالية وقوى العولمة التي تلغي الخصوصيات والموروث الثقافي بل تلغي المصالح الاقتصادية المحلّية التي هي من حقّ الشعوب.

لذلك، نستغلّ هذه المناسبة للتأكيد أنّ الوحدة ليست شتيمة ولا حلماً طوباوياً بل ضرورة وجودية لبقاء الأمة. كما أنها قدر على جماهير الأمة التي استطاعت رغم الغزوات الخارجية الحفاظ على الموروث التاريخي الذي يجمع. ومهمتنا اليوم هي أن نحوّل ذلك الموروث التاريخي الجامع إلى حقيقة مادية حيّة ومتطوّرة في الحاضر لنبني عليها المستقبل.

*كاتب اقتصادي سياسي والأمين العام السابق للمؤتمر القومي العربي

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Iran is in the face of confrontation: Al-Assad and Putin are reaping the positive outcome إيران في المواجهة: الأسد وبوتين على ضفاف الحصاد الإيجابي

Written by Nasser Kandil,

Since the Russian-Syrian-Iranian alliance was translated in the positioning of the Russian forces in Syria in 2015 and the start of the path of supporting the Syrian army to liberate the lands controlled by the terrorist groups starting from Aleppo, Badia, Deir Al Zour, Ghouta, Daraa, and ending in Idlib, it seems for everyone that the Russian-Syrian-Iranian coordination is present in every step. The Iranian escalation against the American presence in the region as a response to the assassination of the two leaders Qassem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi Al Muhandis along with considering Iraq as the most important political and military arena have been accompanied by a clear Russian movement on the Syrian and Libyan paths to resolve the inclusion of Turkey to a complete coalition with Russia. This movement is based on the projects of transferring gas to Europe and what it meant economically to Turkey in the light of the open conflict where Washington is sponsoring the Israeli oil pipeline and the inclusion of Greece and Cyprus to it, and the conflict on the position of Egypt between these two projects in the light of a Lebanese-Israeli conflict on demarcating the borders of gas fields and a prominent Syrian-Israeli conflict in addition to an Italian alliance with Turkey and Russia. Therefore, the cease-fire has been announced in Libya where each of the Russians and the Turks have relationships with the two parties of the conflict, Ankara is paying the bill of its role in Libya by preparing to leave Syria.

The American withdrawal from Iraq has become an inevitable fact according to the Russian-Turkish reading, this means the withdrawal from Syria too whether this requires an escalation or not by the resistance forces. Therefore, the understanding on the recognition of the central role of the Syrian state and its control on all the Syrian land is no longer a subject that bears maneuvering or postponing. On the basis of this Turkish recognition a high-level official meeting has been hold publically for the first time between Syria and Turkey represented by the head of the Syrian National Security Council, Major General Ali Mamlouk and the head of Turkish intelligence the General Haqan Fidan and under Russian sponsorship, the center of the meeting was the future of Idlib, and the Syrian demand of a Turkish withdrawal from all the Syrian territories within temporal timetable under coordination between Damascus, Ankara, and Moscow in a way that dispels all the fear of establishing cantons that have ethnic and national factions and represent a Syrian-Turkish threat as the Kurdish separatist project.

On the Israeli bank which represents the most important part of the American concerns. The approval of demand of the Syrian President of the unconditional release of the detainee Sidqi Al-Maqt and his return to his hometown in the occupied Golan under clear Russian pressures was only a sense by the occupation entity and its leaders that the issue of Golan will be opened soon after the departure of the Turkish and American troops and after the decisions of annexations affected by Al-Maqt’s return to Golan have become nothing but ink on paper, because the time of the Israeli choice between opening the issue of Golan politically with Moscow and confronting the threat of a resistance that could turn into a war is no longer far, after the bet on demanding from the Americans what is impossible and after they reached to the dilemma of the inevitable withdrawal due to their obedience to the Israeli advices of escalation in order to reach to negotiating paths.

The Iranians along with the resistance forces master the game of exchanging outcomes with Russia since their alliance with Syria. It seems clear that the Russian-Iranian understanding which achieved a cumulative success in containing Turkey is succeeding in doing the same thing according to the Iranian-Russian alliance with many countries at different proportions. The unified strong Syria has the main priority in the objectives of this strategic alliance.

Translated by Lina Shehadeh,

إيران في المواجهة: الأسد وبوتين على ضفاف الحصاد الإيجابي

ناصر قنديل

– منذ ترجم التحالف الروسي السوري الإيراني في تموضع القوات الروسية في سورية عام 2015 وانطلاق مسار دعم خطة الجيش السوري لتحرير الأراضي التي تسيطر عليها الجماعات الإرهابية، انطلاقاً من حلب وصولاً إلى البادية ودير الزور والغوطة ودرعا وانتهاءً بإدلب. ويبدو لكل مَن يتابع ما هو أبعد من ظواهر الأمور أن التنسيق الروسي السوري الإيراني قائم في كل خطوة. فالتصعيد الإيراني بوجه الوجود الأميركي في المنطقة كردّ على اغتيال القائدين قاسم سليماني وأبومهدي المهندس، واعتبار العراق ساحة المواجهة الأهم سياسياً وعسكرياً، رافقته حركة روسية واضحة على المسارين السوري والليبي لحسم ضمّ تركيا إلى تحالف كامل مع روسيا، تتأسس على مشاريع نقل الغاز إلى أوروبا وما يعنيه اقتصادياً لتركيا في ظل الصراع المفتوح مع رعاية واشنطن للأنبوب الإسرائيلي، وانضمام اليونان وقبرص إليه، والنزاع على موقع مصر بين المشروعين، في ظل صراع لبناني إسرائيلي على ترسيم حدود حقول الغاز، وصراع سوري إسرائيلي على كل شيء، وتموضع إيطالي مع تركيا وروسيا. فجاء الإعلان عن وقف إطلاق النار في ليبيا، حيث يتقاسم الروس والأتراك العلاقات بطرفي النزاع، وفي سورية حيث على أنقرة أن تدفع فاتورة دورها في ليبيا بالاستعداد للخروج من سورية.

– الانسحاب الأميركي من العراق بات حقيقة قادمة وفقاً للقراءة الروسية التركية. وهذا يعني الانسحاب الموازي من سورية حكماً، سواء استدعى ذلك من قوى المقاومة تصعيد العمليات أم لم يستدعِ، ولذلك فإن التفاهم على التسليم بمركزية دور الدولة السورية، وسيطرتها على كامل التراب الوطني السوري لم يعُد موضوعاً يحتمل المناورة والتأجيل، وعلى خلفية هذا الإقرار التركي نضجت الظروف لأول لقاء رسمي عالي المستوى علناً بين الدولتين السورية والتركية، برعاية روسية تمثل بلقاء رئيس مجلس الأمن الوطني السوري اللواء علي مملوك بالجنرال حقان فيدان رئيس المخابرات التركية، والمحور هو مستقبل إدلب، وترجمة المطالبة السورية بانسحاب تركي من كامل التراب السوري، ضمن جدول زمني يتم تنسيقه بين دمشق وأنقرة وموسكو، وبسط سلطة الدولة السورية وحدها على أراضيها بما يبدّد كل المخاوف من قيام كانتونات تحمل ألواناً عرقية وقومية، وتمثل مصدراً للقلق السوري والتركي كحال مشروع انفصالي كردي.

– على الضفة الإسرائيلية التي تمثل الوجه الأهم للهموم الأميركية، لم يكن القبول بطلب الرئيس السوري بالإفراج غير المشروط عن عميد الأسرى صدقي المقت وعودته إلى مسقط رأسه في الجولان المحتل، بضغوط روسية واضحة، إلا استشعاراً من كيان الاحتلال وقادته بأن ملف الجولان سيفتح قريباً بعد رحيل القوات التركية والأميركية، وأن قرارات الضمّ التي كسرتها عودة المقت إلى الجولان، باتت مجرد حبر على ورق، وأن زمن الاختيار الإسرائيلي بين فتح ملف الجولان سياسياً مع موسكو وبين مواجهة خطر مقاومة يمكن أن تتحوّل حرباً لم يعد بعيداً، بعدما صار الرهان على مطالبة الأميركيين بالأكثر مستحيلاً، وقد وصلوا بسبب إطاعتهم للنصائح الإسرائيلية بمفاعيل التصعيد لإنضاج مسارات تفاوضية، إلى المأزق الذي لا مفر منه إلا بالانسحاب.

– يجيد الإيرانيون ومعهم قوى المقاومة لعبة رمي الهدايا في حضن الروس منذ تحالفهم في سورية، ويبدو واضحاً، أن التفاهم الروسي الإيراني الذي حقق نجاحاً تراكمياً في احتواء تركيا، ينجح في فعل الشيء نفسه وفق معادلة المطرقة الإيرانية والسندان الروسي مع آخرين كثر ولو بنسب واتجاهات مختلفة، وتبقى لسورية الموحّدة والسيدة والقوية الأولوية في أهداف هذا التحالف الاستراتيجي.

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